Charles Champlin, SAR Benefactor and Advisor Dies at 88

Charles Champlin To whom we owe a great debt of honor

Charles Champlin
To whom we owe a great debt of honor

All of us at the Roundtable were saddened by the passing last month of LA Times film and arts critic Charles Champlin. His wide, varied and enduring contributions to LA culture were well articulated in the paper’s obituary, a link to which is included below. Champlin was 88.

http://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-charles-champlin-20141118-story.html#page=1

For us at the Roundtable the loss was also personal. Mr. Champlin was there at the very founding of the Roundtable in 1985. He served on the SAR board of advisors throughout our 30 year history, and was one of our most articulate and reasoned supporters. Writing that he “loves a good mystery, so why not this one?” he devoted several articles in the LA Times Calendar to the authorship question during the mid-1980s, despite the negative criticism from traditional scholars. Mr. Champlin’s support for the validity of ‘questioning’ provided much needed and appreciated encouragement to independent researchers whose work continues today.

In this our 30th year, the SAR and its members honor and remember Mr. Champlin, to whom we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude.

Censorship? Ridiculous!

KneauReeves

People who hold doubts about the authorship of the Shakespeare Canon are used to having insults thrown at them. Elitists! Whack Jobs! Cultish conspiracy theorists. I remember not too long ago Professor Stanley Wells called Mark Rylance, perhaps the finest Shakespearean actor of his generation, “anti-shakespeare.” Wells is a respected scholar, trustee of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford and a dogmatic defender of the orthodoxy. He knows that Rylance (not to mention Sir Derek Jacobi and others) has spent his entire adult life working to better understand the truths contained in Shakespeare’s writing. As part of that search Rylance also asked the question: is the case on authorship closed? Wells could have said Rylance was “anti-stratfordian,” which still would not have been an accurate description of his nuanced ideas about how the Canon came about. But no, Wells chose to call him “anti-Shakespeare” because he knew that in the incendiary atmosphere of authorship discourse, calling Rylance anti-Shakespeare might cause Mark more harm. It was a remark chosen carefully, not to rebut, but to harm. And it happens all the time. Read James Shapiro’s book, and you’ll get a heavy dose of the vipers tongue. When challenged, these orthodox scholars, robed in royal tenure, can get really nasty. They get to say things without fear of being called on it. They’re bullies.

Recently another respectable Shakespeare scholar got his collar in a ruffle and, like some NFL football players of late, lashed out with some excessive verbal smack against another scholar who held different views about how the Canon may have been created. “I simply find your reasoning and your evidence as unconvincing as those of Holocaust deniers, and other conspiracy theorists,” said Gary Taylor, a “distinguished” research professor at Florida State University.

So now, if one questions the orthodox view of the authorship of the Shakespeare Canon one risks, by Taylor’s infallible comparison, being associated with Holocaust deniers. That would include Rylance, Jacobi, 2 Justices of the United States Supreme Court, Alexander Waugh, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael York; not to mention Emerson, Freud, Walt Whitman, Orson Welles, Sir John Gielgud, and over 3000 other scholars and lay people who have signed the Declaration of Reasonable doubt. According to an on-line publication, “Times Higher Education,” here’s how the Taylor remark came down.

Richard Waugaman, a clinical professor of psychiatry and “faculty expert on Shakespeare” at Georgetown University in Washington DC. Waugaman, is also an “Oxfordian”. He believes that there is good evidence that the poems and plays attributed to William Shakespere of Stratford were actually written by Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. Waugamen submitted a scholarly paper to the Italian Journal Memoria di Shakespeare. The title of the paper was “The Psychology of Shakespearean Biography.” In his paper, Waugamen says he examines the Oxford case, but also explores “the conscious and unconscious psychological factors behind the taboo against openly discussing the authorship question”, citing examples from the history of science “where new discoveries that ultimately lead to paradigm shifts are often bitterly opposed by adherents of traditional theories”. The editors of MdS described the paper as “absolutely pertinent” to a 2015 issue on Shakespeare’s biography. In January of this year, the editors of the journal asked Waugaman to revise his paper, and things seemed to be headed toward publication.

Alexander Waugh

Alexander Waugh

On August 17, however, Professor Waugaman received an email from Rosy Colombo, Senior Professor of English at the Sapieza University of Rome. The email, which the Times Higher Education says they have seen, explained that the previous editors of Memoria di Shakespeare had stepped down and that she and her new fellow editor, Gary Taylor had “decided against publishing an article that has come out already”. Professor Waugaman responded that it seemed like “a breach of good faith with contributors” for “an article that was invited by a journal’s co-editors, be rejected by the next co-editors”. This generated an almost immediate reply from Professor Taylor, saying that his agreement to take over as co-editor had been “conditional on rejection of certain contributions, like yours, which seem to me profoundly unscholarly, and which would have the effect of undermining the credibility and status of other contributions to the volume. “I simply find your reasoning, and your evidence, as unconvincing as those of Holocaust deniers, and other conspiracy theorists,” he added.

And so it goes. Not meant to rebut, but to harm.

Times Higher Education reported that Professor Waugaman responded to Taylor by saying, “only assume your emotions have over-ridden your common decency. I know one fellow Oxfordian who lost more than 70 relatives in the Holocaust, and he finds that comparison especially disgusting.” To which Taylor quickly added, “Work like Waugaman’s is fundamentally unscholarly, irrational and illogical. I compared it to the work of Holocaust-deniers not because the damage to Shakespeare is comparable to the damage to the millions of people killed by the Nazis, but because Waugaman’s work depends upon the same kind of conspiratorial claims. You cannot reason with such claims, because they dismiss empirical evidence as just another conspiracy. The idea that anti-Stratfordian zealots are ‘censored’ is ridiculous.”

One can sense here Professor Taylor’s devotion not only to the efficaciousness of hysterical analogies, but to the highest standards of evidence and open-minded inquiry. Censorship? Ridiculous! Wells and Taylor and Shapiro ARE the academy!

In a way one can understand the hysteria. Since “The Life and Adventures of Common Sense,” by Herbert Lawrence was published in 1769 these poor guys have been under siege. In many cases their dissertations, not to mention their careers and livelihoods, demand that all challenges, no matter what the merits, be denounced. They know that even the slightest crack in the fortress that is Shakespeare scholarship and the huge industry that rests upon it, could, like Ptolemy’s geocentric cosmology and so many other historical certainties that could not hold up under careful scrutiny, crumble to dust.

lear2_372These members of the English department (And the hysterical ones are almost always from English departments. Drama and Comparative Literature Departments are not nearly as strident) are like raging Lears who have been denied. Because of tenure and the fog of age and too much Spanish sherry these scholars are used to being loved, especially by the post-docs whose careers and livelihood depend on their modern form patronage. If an undergraduate approached Taylor or Wells or Shapiro or Bates with the question, Sir, we have so few historical documents. There is so little evidence. How can we be sure about who William Shakespeare was and what he actually did in the world? The answer could very likely be, dear boy, do you also deny the Holocaust? Do you hate the Jews? Is that your point? If only these nobles of the academy would read their Lear.

http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/shakespeare

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews

About Hank Whittmore’s Blog on the Relevancy of Biography in Understanding Literature (and vice versa)

Hank Whittemore, an eloquent Oxfordian

Hank Whittemore, an eloquent Oxfordian

For those of us who have been involved for a while in the search for a credible story about how the works of William Shakespeare was created, Hank Whittemore is a renaissance man. First of all he’s a creative artist himself, and that adds something substantial to one’s understanding of how others create. Indeed, many of the distinguished people who have stood up to the stonewalling and intimidation and expressed doubt about the orthodox view have been artists themselves: Mark Rylance, Sir Derek Jacoby, Jeremy Irons, Michael York, Vanessa Redgrave, not to mention Mark Twain, Henry James, Walt Whitman and many others. As artists, its just very difficult for them to square the biographical facts we possess with the grandeur of the writing. It is easy to place Hank among the notables, because he’s not only been a successful writer throughout his adult life, but also a superlative actor of stage and screen. So when Hank talks, we listen.

Thomas Mallon

Thomas Mallon

Adam Kirsch

Adam Kirsch

And recently, in his blog, he responded to two essays in the “Bookends” section of the New York Times Book Review. The two essays, one by Thomas Mallon and the other by Adam Kirsh were reflections on the relevance of a biographical approach to literature. Both writers were asked to respond to the question, “When we read fiction, how relevant is the author’s biography?”

Not surprisingly the case of William Shakespeare came up, and Hank responded with great insight to their comments. Reading the two essays, followed by Hank’s own, provides a very edifying look into the place of biography in understanding and appreciating the works of great literary artists; and more specifically in understanding the inquiry into the authorship question itself.

The links to the Times and to Hanks blog are below.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/29/books/review/

 Hank’s Blog

Shakespeare by candlelight. Love it! And so did those jaunty Jacobeans

A bit like Blackfriars

Sam Wanamaker Playhouse: A bit like Blackfriars

After an almost inconceivable absence of a thousand years, public theater had its renaissance in London during the mid-16th and early17th centuries. At first it was all open-air theaters like The Red Lion, The Theater, The Globe and The Swan. Performances, including Shakespeare’s early plays, thus occurred only during the day.

But come on: once they got used to public theater again, the Jacobeans wanted to attend at night, too. So in 1608 they built Blackfriars, an enclosed theater, not on the West End, but on the north side of the river. It was all candlelight and new types of plays and a cool nocturnal ambiance ever after.

Fast forward 400 years.

In 1997, the Globe Theater was rebuilt and opened to much acclaim. A part of its mission was to discover more about how the original Elizabethan dramas were performed, and the creative process that led to them. Not just all-male casts and authentic costumes and music, but also the spirit of the plays and the mystery of the original spoken language. With Mark Rylance as its artistic director for the first ten yeas, much was revealed.

But still, it was appropriately open air.

Early this year, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse opened right next door, as a kind of annex to the Globe. Also inspired by the late great Sam Wanamaker, the new theater is smaller and enclosed and like Blackfriers lit entirely by candles; which will no doubt cast a new light on those illusive times. Hopefully it will also add to our understanding of the creative process that led to that brief renaissance in public theater, and to our ever inscrutable Canon. (In ways, that’s what the authorship inquiry is all about, too: how did it happen?)

There’s a great article about the new theater in The Economist, January 23, 2014. See link below.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2014/01/17th-century-theatre-london?zid=319&ah=17af09b0281b01505c226b1e574f5cc1

“Shakespeare’s Montaigne: The Florio Translation of the Essays, A Selection”; A new book by Professor Stephen Greenblatt

"I think Shakespeare loved Montaigne and also wanted to tear Montaigne to pieces." Stephen Greenblatt

“I think Shakespeare loved Montaigne and also wanted to tear Montaigne to pieces.” Stephen Greenblatt

Whenever Harvard Professor Stephen Greenblatt comes out with a new book – in this case, Shakespeare’s Montaigne: The Florio Translation of the Essays, A Selection – Charlie Rose invites him to sit “at this table”. And it always makes us crazy!

Out of one side of his learned mouth Mr. Greenblatt says, “We know almost nothing about William Shakespeare, despite the fact that I have written a biography about him. He’s very hidden. He conceals himself.”

Out of the other side he talks about Shakespeare as if he lived next door.

“I believe he thought money – which he was very interested in – was bound up in what his long term life would be. I think earlier in his life he thought poetry, lyric poetry, would probably carry him forward. And he was quite famous in his own lifetime as a great lyric poet. But I think he understood his long term prospects would be in the commercial theater; and that there was no gap; there was no division, between doing well in the commercial theater and having the life that’s led to this conversation 400 years later.”

In the admitted absence of any evidence, Mr. Greenblatt seems to know an awful lot about the great writer’s inner life: what Shakespeare thought about money; what he felt his prospects were as a lyric poet, and what he thought about the relationship between the Elizabethan market economy and the arts. Without any source documents whatsoever, it’s as if Mr. Greenblatt were practicing a kind of imaginative scholarship, and knew quite well that he was making up most of his assertions; an historical fiction of sorts, about which he seems quite proud. His conjectural point in this case was that the greedy, litigious shit we know as the Stratford man, could easily have also been the great lyric poet and playwright.

The part that makes us crazy is that the “made up” assertions give pause to neither Mr. Rose, nor Mr. Greenblatt, nor ninety-five percent of the other practicing Shakespeare scholars. And yet they control what the general public believes about William Shakespeare. And they stifle research.

That’s why we must continue to challenge the academy. That is why we must be steadfast in our inquiry!

Montaigne invented for the world what it means to be autobiographically frank.

Montaigne invented for the world what it means to be autobiographically frank.

On the other hand, Mr. Greenblatt IS an awesome intellectual and elegant writer. His “Shakespeare’s Montaigne: The Florio Translation of the Essays, A Selection” looks like a really fascinating book that could indeed shed light on the creative process that led to Shakespeare’s revolutionary depiction of the human character, what Harold Bloom called, “The Invention of the Human.”

No doubt, Shakespeare did read Montaigne, but not in the original French. He (or she) read him in the English translation made by the remarkable Elizabethan scholar, linguist and translator, John Florio. “Shakespeare’s Montaigne” was, in truth, Florio’s Montaigne. Mr. Greenblatt has done everyone a great service not only by reviving the translation, which does enable us to sort of “look over the shoulder” of the writer as he drew on Montaigne to create deeply human characters like Hamlet and Lear, but also by renewing our interest in John Florio himself.

Who IS John Florio?

Who IS John Florio?

Within the Shakespeare Authorship community , Florio is considered a credible candidate for the “true” writer of the poems and plays. Indeed, Montreal scholar and writer Lamberto Tassinari has beautifully documented the case for Florio in his book, “John Florio, The Man Who Was Shakespeare.”

Professor Greenblatt argues with his usual erudition that even though they never met, there was a close relationship between Montaigne and Shakespeare. And we agree. In addition, we suggest that there was probably an even closer relationship between Florio and the bard; that is, if they were not one and the same.

Is Hillary Clinton One of Us?

 

Hillary

I’m sure you’ve noticed that Hillary Clinton is just about everywhere these days, including in the New York Times Book Review.

On June 15, in conjunction with the rollout of her book, Hard Choices, there was an interview in the Review in which Ms Clinton spoke about the books she likes and the ones she doesn’t.

She’s a big reader. She  likes Laura Hillenbrand, Walter Isaacson, Hilary Mantel and Toni Morrison. Dostoevsky made a big impression on her. E.E. Cummings, T.S. Eliot, Seamus Heaney, Pablo Neruda, Mary Oliver and W.B. Yeats. She recommends Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice; Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa; and Shindler’s List, by Thomas Keneally. All laudable works.

But our interest was really piqued when we read the answer to this question: “You’re hosting a literary dinner party. Which three writers are invited? Instead of naming three writers, she named just one: William Shakespeare.

“I’d choose to have one guest for a long dinner: William Shakespeare. I’m curious to see who would show up and what he really wrote.”

We of course can’t say for sure, but it sure seems like she may have some doubts about who would walk into her dining room, and what manuscripts he might be carrying under his courtly arm.

Mark Rylance Celebrates his 3rd Tony; Comments on “Slander” from Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Mark Rylance accepts Tony (his 3rd)  for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play for ‘Twelfth Night’

Mark Rylance accepts Tony (his 3rd) for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play for ‘Twelfth Night’

           

               Mark Rylance has loved the works of Shakespeare since he was sixteen years old. He has devoted his life to performing the plays (staging over 55 of them) and interpreting their inexhaustible meanings. He helped create the “new” Globe Theater in London and was its artistic director for its first ten years. Mark believes there is both historical and literary merit to inquiring into the Shakespeare authorship question, and even looking at other writers besides the traditional man from Stratford. He has never been strident or overly zealous about the issue, but he has taken a very courageous stand (after all, the Shakespeare establishment launches fierce attacks against any public figure with the tenacity to question their feeble orthodox version of the story), and has encouraged research into this enigmatic question.

   

                 As a result, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (the people responsible for maintaining the legacy of the Stratford Man) has slandered Rylance by publically referring to him as “anti-Shakespearean.” It was of course absurd, but showed how shameless the Birthplace Trust can be when defending their “man.”

                  So it was a great thing for Mark to be recognized at the Tony Awards In New York for his Shakespeare work. He’s won previous Tonys for  Boeing-Boeing and Jerusalem, but it was especially gratifying for him – and a boost for the Shakespeare Canon overall – to be named best actor in a featured role for his portrayal of Olivia in the spectacular production of 12th Night. “It’s nice to be celebrated for my Shakespeare work at the moment,” he said, “because I love Shakespeare. I’ve loved him since I first came across the plays. And it hurts me to be slandered in that way.”  (see link below to his comments)

 Congratulations Mark!

For your artistry and unwavering courage.

                                    The Shakespeare Authorship Roundtable

http://www.bbcamerica.com/anglophenia/2014/06/watch-britains-mark-rylance-wins-tony-3-lovely-liked/

“Shakespeare and Others: . .” What Can We Learn from the Shakespeare Apocrypha?

Orthodox scholars do talk about the authorship question, but there are rules.  First and foremost: NEVER question the orthodoxy. That is, inquire as much as you like, but do not question the belief that “The Canon” was by and large written by the Shakspere from Stratford. Due in part to the growing pressure from outside the academy, things have opened up a little and lately it’s been allowed for scholars to talk  about “collaboration”, as long as the genius emanates solely from the orthodox .

Shake&OthersThat’s sort of what’s happening with “William Shakespeare & Others, Collaborative Plays” edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen. It is a handsome work published by MacMillan in coordination with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Called a supplement to the complete works the two edited a few years ago, it claims to be “ . . . the first edition in over 100 years of the fascinatingly varied body of plays that has become known as ‘The Shakespeare Apocrypha’.” It includes modernized texts of 10 plays that have been associated with Shakespeare, but are not a part of what we know as “The Canon.” Each play is accompanied by introductions, commentaries and an appendix of fascinating interviews with actors and directors.

The Apocrypha is a group of a dozen or so (depending whose counting) generally inferior plays (and some poems) that were either published under the name or initials of William Shakespeare, or for one reason or another, attributed in part to his hand. None of the Apocrypha appear in the 1623 First Folio.

The third folio of Shakespeare's plays listed several additional works attributed to the author

The third folio of Shakespeare’s plays listed several additional works attributed to the author

“The book does popularize one of the most interesting developments in the past 30 years of Shakespeare scholarship,” says Shakespeare scholar Gary Taylor in a review he wrote in the Washington Post (see link below). “We have always known that, like television and film today, the early modern entertainment industry often worked from co-written scripts. The explosive growth of computer databases, combined with new forensic technologies, has revolutionized our ability to identify empirically, with high levels of probability, who wrote what. Digital humanist Hugh Craig, in his essay on “Authorship” in the 2011 “Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare,” summarizes the emergent consensus that Shakespeare was part-author of as many as 15 plays, including 10 already printed in the RSC’s “Complete Works” and many other modern editions.” Indeed, it now seems that instead of the solitary genius of earlier generations, today we have Shakespeare, the great TV writer.

To emphasize the blurred lines that define rather vaguely what is to be included in the “Apocrypha,” Taylor goes on to say, “ . . . this volume mixes the five genuine additional plays with obviously spurious ones. In an excellent survey of “Authorship and Attribution, ” contributing editor Will Sharpe admits that four plays in this volume don’t belong here: It is ‘highly unlikely to almost impossible’ that Shakespeare wrote anything in ‘A Yorkshire Tragedy,’ ‘The London Prodigal,’ ‘Locrine’ or ‘Thomas Lord Cromwell’”

Taylor does a good job in his review of “unpacking” some of the ideas that Bate and Rasmussen attempt to demonstrate in their book. It is interesting to note that he admires the comments by actors and directors more than those made by scholars. It is very much worth reading.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/william-shakespeare-and-others-edited-by-jonathan-bate-and-eric-rasmussen/2013/12/30/4a1e86ce-6cd7-11e3-b405-7e360f7e9fd2_story.html

It seems odd, but since no one really knows much about William Shakespeare (no manuscripts survive, no letters, no first-hand evidence that he was even a writer), license has been given for a rather abundant speculation on the life and letters.  As longtime Roundtable member and authorship scholar Sabrina Feldman has pointed out, there is not another prominent figure in the annals of English literature who has been credited in his lifetime and for decades after with writing two distinctly different sets of literary works, the first being works of peerless genius which are called The Canon, and the second more or less inferior works which have come to be known as Apocryphal.

The reason Taylor and others, including T.S. Eliot, felt that it was impossible to imagine William Shakespeare writing any part of the inferior works associated with his name is precisely because they are SO BAD. Here’s an example from “Locrine”, as Humber wanders about starving in the wilderness:

My very entrails burn for want of drink.

My bowels cry, Humber give us some meat.

But wretched Humber can give you no meat;

These foul accursed groves afford no mat,

This fruitless soil, this ground, brings forth no meat.

The gods, hard hearted gods, yield me no meat.

 One can see why no serious-minded reader is willing to associate the revered William Shakespeare with lines such as these. But wait.

 What if . . .

ApocryphaBookWhich brings me once again to Dr. Sabrina Feldman. In addition to being a longtime member of the Roundtable and a genuine rocket scientist at Cal Tech, Sabrina is also one of the most original thinkers and researchers on the authorship question, especially authorship and The Apocrypha. Last year she published her remarkable book, “The Apocryphal William Shakespeare, Book One of A ‘Third Way’ Shakespeare Authorship Scenario”. In her book Sabrina turns on its head the idea that Shakespeare could not have written the inferior works contained in the Apocrypha. On the contrary, she suggests that those shoddy works (though often quite risqué and amusing) may be the ONLY things written by William Shakespeare of Stratford. Her point is this: Since we have no direct evidence (nothing in his own hand) of William Shakespeare ever having written anything except a very awkward last will and testament, and since the biographical evidence suggests that William Shakespeare was more a semi-literate business man than the greatest poet who has ever lived, perhaps it was the theater owner/land speculator that wrote the clumsy work and the genius of the Canon was created by . . . well, you have to read her book.

OR come to our next meeting on February 8th. With her meticulous evidence and scientific thinking Sabrina will give us a preview of “Book Two”; her theory about who the most likely candidate might be, and it isn’t Marlowe, Oxford or even Mary Sidney.

The huge surge in interest over the last decade in the authorship question has many reasons, but one of the most fundamental enigmas is the seeming discrepancy between what we know about the biographical facts of the Shakespeare from Stratford and the sheer number and brilliance of the plays themselves. It’s not to say that a successful theater and landowner/speculator could not have written the world’s finest dramatic works, but it just seems odd. It seems worth inquiring about. But for the orthodox scholar, the matter is settled. No room for doubt. That rather arrogant, academic resistance to inquiry is what has riled a lot of us and compelled is to press for better answers than the ones we have been given. As Sabrina has so brilliantly demonstrated in her research and Bate and Rasmussen (staunch Stratfordians both) in their handsome new supplement , the Apocrypha may represent a fruitful path to follow toward acquiring those answers.

A final note: For Bate and Rasmussen to omit from their commentary the original work done by Ms Feldman speaks directly to the myopia of current orthodox scholarship; and shows an inability on their part to think in any way other than the ordinary and pre-conceived.

SAC Challenges Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to Mock Trial! / Offers £40,000 Donation for “Proof” of Authorship

£40,000! That’s the wager. Did he, or didn’t he?

On December 6th The Shakespeare Authorship Coalition (SAC) challenged The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT) to a mock trial, before a neutral panel of judges, during which both sides of the “authorship issue” would be debated and judged by the impartial rules of logic and evidence. To show how serious they are, SAC put up £40,000 (that’s British Pounds!).

After a fair presentation of the facts, if the judges rule that the SBT proved “beyond a reasonable doubt” that their man wrote the plays,  then their organization (a charity) is £40,000 richer. If, on the other hand, the judges rule that there is “reasonable doubt” about the man to whom they attribute the works, then . . . well: in either case the truth will have been served.

Seems like an attractive offer. Are the defenders of the Shakespeare orthodoxy willing to subject their arguments to anything like impartial rules of evidence? Or will they decline the chance to add £40,000 to their Shakespeare charity. Will they? Or, won’t they? 

You couldn’t ask for a better debate. In this corner, The Shakespeare Authorship Coalition, a worldwide group  dedicated to increasing awareness of reasonable doubt about the identity of William Shakespeare. ( Shakespeare Authorship Coalition ) And in the opposing corner, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, who claim to be the world’s leading charity in promoting the works, life and times of William Shakespeare. ( http://www.shakespeare.org.uk/home.html ) They are linked to all the Stratford sites, and the tremendous Shakespeare PR machine.  (See our blog of August 8 for more on this running rivalry)

We of course encourage the SBT to accept the challenge and present their case in a fair and open public forum.

Below is a copy of the press release and the full-page ad placed December 6,in the Times Literary Supplement,

FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, 6TH DEC., 2013
                                                                  Contact Persons: U.K.: Alexander Waugh, SAC Honorary President
                                                                                                  U.S.: John M. Shahan, SAC Chairman and CEO
Taunton, Somerset, U.K., December 2, 2013 — Today the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition (SAC) announced an offer to donate £40,000 to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT) in Stratford if it proves ‘beyond doubt’ in a mock trial that William of Stratford wrote ‘Shakespeare.’ The donation offer, conveyed to the SBT in an open letter, appears in a full-page ad published today in the Times Literary Supplement (TLS) (text shown below). The Birthplace Trust hasn’t yet responded to the offer, so the SAC decided to put it on the public record. In addition to the £40,000, the SAC has offered to raise all of the money to pay for the mock trial. No deadline has been announcedfor when the offer expires.
The mock trial challenge was communicated to the SBT in the book Shakespeare Beyond Doubt? (Shahan and Waugh, eds.; 2013), written in response to the similarly-titled book, Shakespeare Beyond Doubt, edited by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells, both of the Birthplace Trust. Today’s TLS also includes a full-page ad for Shakespeare Beyond Doubt? ‘Our book presents a compelling case for reasonable doubt,’ said Alexander Waugh. ‘We only decided on the donation offer after it became clear that the SBT had no intention of defending its claim’, he added.
The open letter includes a list of those who pledged to put up the money — 40 pledges, totaling £40,000 (see list after the open letter below). Among the 43 people named are SAC patrons Derek Jacobi and Michael York; 23 Americans, 14 Brits, 3 Canadians, and 3 Dutch/Germans; 34 people with advanced degrees (23 doctorates); 17 current/former academics; authors of 10 authorship books; and 1 retired USAF general.
The following is the text of the open letter ad in today’s Times Literary Supplement:
***********************************************************************************************

SAC challenges Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to Mock Trial!

Offers £40,000 donation if they prove Shakspere wrote works.

Why would they decline if the case for him is “beyond doubt”?

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

 The following letter was sent to the Birthplace Trust on 8th November, 2013:

 Open Letter to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

c/o Peter Kyle, Chairman, Board of Trustees

Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon

 Re: £40,000 Donation Offer

 Dear Mr. Kyle,

 On 4th July, we wrote to you with the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition’s invitation to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to take part in a mock trial of its claim that the identity of the author of the works of William Shakespeare is ‘beyond doubt.’ On 6th September, you replied, rejecting our invitation.

While we understand the position the Trust is taking, we hope you agree that it would be desirable to resolve our diametrically opposed views—yours that it is ‘beyond doubt’ that Shakspere of Stratford was the author Shakespeare; ours that there is ‘reasonable doubt,’ and that the authorship issue should therefore be regarded as legitimate. While you say that you have ‘nothing to add,’ it yet remains for you to test your stated position against the opposing case in an orderly, objective and neutral forum that would be appropriate to and in keeping with the Parliamentary Charter under which the Birthplace Trust operates.

 As an inducement to participate, the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition hereby offers to donate £40,000 to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust if it proves, in a mock trial before a panel of neutral judges, that Shakspere of Stratford wrote the works you attribute to him.

 We are, of course, open to alternative formats, procedures and venues for the mock trial, as long as they are even-handed, they provide a valid test of the Birthplace Trust’s claim, and each side has ample opportunity to present evidence and for challenges and rebuttals. Both the Coalition and the Trust should be responsible for the costs of its own team. The Coalition will, however, undertake to raise the funds needed to pay the costs involved in putting on the mock trial after we have reached agreement on all necessary arrangements.

 A list of those who have pledged to contribute towards the £40,000 donation is enclosed. Once we’ve reached agreement on all of the important details (format, venue, dates, etc.), the SAC will collect the money pledged and place it in an escrow account before the trial.

Sincerely yours,

Alexander Waugh                                             John M. Shahan

Honorary President                                           Chairman and CEO

Shakespeare Authorship Coalition                     Shakespeare Authorship Coalition

 

[For the list of 40 pledges totaling £40,000, visit the SAC website at: doubtaboutwill.org;

and, while you are there, be sure to read and sign the ‘Declaration of Reasonable Doubt’.]

PBS Distributes “Last Will and Testament”

Buy this Movie!

Buy this Movie!

On October 15, PBS Distribution officially rolled out the DVD of Last Will and Testament, the remarkable documentary film that explores with beauty, intelligence and great depth the question of who wrote the works of William Shakespeare.

If you have an interest in the authorship question, you should order this film. Executive Producer, Roland Emmerich, who also produced and directed Anonymous, the full-length feature film on the subject, enlisted the estimable talents of director Lisa Wilson and Laura Wilson Mathias to make the non-fictional cinematic case for an author other than the man from Stratford. For over a year the movie has made the film festival circuit and debuted to excellent reviews in cities throughout the United States and Europe. (In fact the Canadian debut took place this weekend at the 2013 Annual Joint Oxfordian Shakespeare Conference in Toronto.)

And now you can order it on DVD from PBS.

www.shoppbs.org

http://www.firstfoliopictures.com/

Sir Derek Jacobi leads an impressive cast featuring Oscars-winning actress Vanessa Redgrave and Tony Awards-winning Mark Rylance on a quest to uncover the truth behind the elusive author, and discovers a forgotten nobleman whose story could rewrite history. It’s an awesome film. And now that PBS is rolling it out on DVD many more people will come to understand the controversy and why it has existed for over a hundred years.

Get the movie. Light the fire of genuine inquiry, and burn back the academic overgrowth of stodgy obstruction.

Run time is 85 minutes. It’s on www.shoppbs.org for $19.99.

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