Initial Response

Part 1 of "Critically Examining Oxfordian Claims"

All right, I realize this is a troll, but I'm going to respond anyway, because if I don't, some people might actually take this stuff at face value. I've had some contact (via e-mail) with Mr. Anderson, the author of this article, and he seems like a nice enough fellow. But I hope you people out there realize that this article is wildly biased and highly misleading. I don't have the time right now to go through refuting it point by point (though maybe I will when I have time), so for now I'll just make a few comments.

  1. Anderson refers to the Stratford man as "Shaksper," a common Oxfordian ruse that I can't let go by. The man's name was "William Shakespeare"; that was by far the most common spelling used to refer to him during his lifetime, not even including references to him as a poet/playwright. In London, his name was spelled "Shakespeare" over 90 percent of the time; in Stratford, where all spelling was more erratic, the two most common spellings were "Shakespere" and "Shakespear," with "Shakespeare" coming in fourth place. True, he signed his name "Shakspere," but there's nothing unusual about that; Christopher Marlowe signed his name "Marley," Phillip Henslowe spelled his name a variety of ways from "Hinshley" to "Henslow," and the Earl of Oxford signed his name variously "Oxford," "Oxenford," and "Oxenforde." I've actually had Oxfordians tell me to my face that the Stratford man was never called "Shakespeare," which is a blatant lie. The more common claim is that his name was usually spelled without the first "e" (e.g. "Shakspere" and variants), which is equally false. Calling this man "William Shaksper" and implying that that was the name he went by is a gross perversion of the facts.

  2. We get the usual assertion that nobody referred to the identity of the author "Shakespeare"; well, of course they did, but Oxfordians dismiss all those references as ironic, or part of the conspiracy, or any of a number of things. By Oxfordian standards, nobody referred to the identities of the authors "Marlowe," "Webster," "Dekker," "Fletcher," or most of the other playwrights of the age either.

  3. Similarly, we get the claim that "nobody we know of ever corresponded with Shaksper [sic]," when in fact we do have a letter addressed to Shakespeare by Richard Quiney. That's more than we have for most of his contemporaries. Many of Shakespeare's contemporary playwrights have left us no trace at all of their handwriting, including such major figures as Robert Greene, John Webster, and Francis Beaumont; for several others, including Christopher Marlowe and John Fletcher, we have only a single signature. In this light, Shakespeare's six undisputed signatures start to look pretty good; yet, Anderson's article gives the impression that there is some mystery about them.

  4. Anderson claims that Hamlet is "essentially Edward de Vere's autobiography," to which I have two responses. First of all, the story of Hamlet was as old as the hills even in Shakespeare's day, and all of its major characters and plot devices come from Shakespeare's sources. Second, this play has been claimed as the life story of most Elizabethan noblemen, and in many cases the correspondences are closer that they are with Oxford. The Earl of Essex and King James are the two best examples I know of; both of them show more parallels to Hamlet than Oxford does, and I'm prepared to argue that in some detail. You can also make a pretty good case for the Earls of Rutland and Derby. Did all these men write Hamlet?

There's much more to dispute in this article, but I don't have time to address it now; I'll probably address at least some of it in a future post. And if and when any other Oxfordians out there decide to post, be aware that I'm going to be here keeping you honest, as time permits. I've seen all the Oxfordian arguments, and not one of them will hold water when confronted with facts and context. But let's try to keep any discussion on this issue civilized; it should be clear that I don't think much of Oxfordian claims, but I know that many Oxfordians are intelligent (if misinformed) people, and they deserve basic respect.

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