State of the Debate, Feb. 2013

Posted By on February 3, 2013

From my very first acquaintance with the Shakespearean question it has been my observation that those on the orthodox part argue a bit like the advocates of Charles the wrestler in As You Like It. Your chances of saying anything worth the discipline’s paying attention to are the nine broken ribs before you.   If you point out, for example, the “dramaturgical” nature of the earl of Oxford’s echo poem (circa 1581), then it must be because you have a “hidden agenda.”  If you say that rereading Hamlet with Oxford in your mind makes the play more significant, both more pleasurable in its wry jests at contemporary figures and problems that remind us of our own shortcomings, and more deeply, profoundly saddening because you are touched by the real human suffering that nourishes that extraordinary text, then that is because you don’t understand literature the way real professionals do.

This, at least, is the message of the clique of Stratfordolators who control all internal discussion on Wikipedia related directly or indirectly to the category: Shakespeare, authorship.

Here I am reminded of one of my favorite lines from the Wizard of Oz, when Auntie Em says to Elvira Gulch: “For years, I’ve been wanting to tell you what I think of you, but now, being a Christian woman, I can’t say it…..”

I did however trawl up this little gem on the internet yesterday,  a 2004 “State of the debate” in which Lynne Kositsky and I served tea to the objections of David Kathman and Tom Reedy:  To my knowledge, neither Mr. Reedy nor Dr. Kathman have responded to our response, even though Mr. Reedy, we may be sure, remains active in authorship matters on the internet and is especially busy at Wikipedia.  I wonder why this would be?  Rather than passing judgement on the reasons I refer the reader to the transcript.



About the author

Roger Stritmatter is a native liberal humorist who lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Contrary to rumor, he does not live on North Avenue. He does, however, work on North Avenue. A pacifist by inclination, one of his heroes is John Brown. But he thinks that Fredrick Douglass, another of his heroes, made the right decision. Stritmatter's primary areas of interest include the nature of paradigm shifts, the history of ideas, forensic literary studies, MS studies, renaissance literature, and the history of the Shakespearean question, the latter a field in which he has published extensively.


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In "From Crackpot to Mainstream"Keir Cutler, PhD, takes down the recent Shakespeare Beyond Doubt (OUP, 2013)

Criticism of Cutler's "Is Shakespeare Dead?": "A magnificently witty performance!" (Winnipeg Sun). "Highly entertaining and engrossing!" (EYE Weekly). "Is Shakespeare Dead? marshals startling facts into an elegant and often tenacious argument that floats on a current of delicious irony" (Montreal Gazette).