31 Comments

I enjoyed this conversation so much! It is weird to me that people say things like "I only care about the text, not the author". I can never read something that calls my attention, bad or good, that the first thing to comes to my mind is who the author might be. It can be with disgust or pleasant surprise, but I do get curious about the authorship.

Expand full comment

History and myth are so intertwined it becomes "reality". Human stories and story tellers, was the first from of propaganda. Think of all the characters in your mind, they are "real" memories. From Humpty Dumpty or Winston Smith reciting their "voice" brings out feelings that are real. Could the Bard be as mythical as Jesus or the Bible? David and Goliath? Jason and the Argonauts? The Joad's in Grapes of Wrath? Mr. Smith who goes to Washington? George Baily or Mr. Potts the banker? Uncle Sam? We have hard wired brains of Tribalism and oral stories who turn to our self made oracles like Joseph and his multicolored robe.

Expand full comment

Perhaps we in the 21st century are far too caught up in "identity" issues in literature--so that WHO writes becomes, at times, far too significant and obscures WHAT is written. And that compulsion to, at times, elevate the unknowns about the author's biography over the quality of their writing is perhaps what's behind this journalist's interest in who wrote the plays and sonnets we attribute to William Shakespeare. I've taught Shakespeare courses as Marjorie Garber's comments quoted here might suggest: it's the text that should intrigue us and ultimately tell us much more about ourselves than we could ever know about their author. That's the point.

Expand full comment

This made me chuckle. It made me think of people arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. It also sent my mind in a different direction. When we know who the authors are can we separate them from their work. Humans are humans creative and not. Can we admire the work by people who are liars, murders, abusers? Should we? Maybe not knowing who the real Shakespeare is not a bad thing. ;-)

Expand full comment

I enjoyed the interview but take issue with one aspect of the discussion. The lumping of Foucault into the postmodern morass is simply erroneous. I find it ironic that the interview focuses on Shakespeare scholars who have made careers out of obfuscating questions of Shakespeare's identity and at the same time makes claims about Foucault's purported postmodernism. Those erroneous critiques of Foucault are based on the very same sorts of claims of academics who have made their careers off of either cherry picking out of context quotations to affirm their own postmodern leanings or criticizing Foucault for being a postmodernist. Foucault on numerous occasions rejected postmodernism (the rejection of modernity), structuralism, scientific Marxism and other classifications that had been attributed to him. As an academic who has actually engaged with Foucault's voluminous writings, it is astounding to me, though perhaps unsurprising, that such polemical misreadings of him continue to flourish. For instance, one of Foucault's intellectual touchstones was Kant, particularly his notion of positive critique. Nietzsche's genealogy also significantly influenced Foucault. His later lectures returned to the ancients, particularly Epictetus, Fronto, Seneca, and others to discuss ethics and the search for truth. Hardly a postmodern preoccupation. Of course, by then, Foucault's repetition of the Socratic maxim "take care of yourself" had been reduced by many academics to proof that Foucault was a neoliberal. Perhaps those academics missed his lectures in The Birth of Biopolitics in which he savaged neoliberalism. I admire and respect your work. That said, with respect your misrepresentation of Foucault, which you have repeated in several interviews, is intellectually lazy and beneath you.

Expand full comment

I am not a fan of historical revisionism and this entire project of debunking. Myths (and traditions) are not per se a "bad" thing that require debunking.

Disappointed that Hedges is playing this game, for which there is no end to.

Expand full comment

I am surprised you’ll didn’t discuss the body of evidence that supports the Edward de Vere theory. I am fairly sure this is who Mark Rylance believed it was which must have been why he felt abused. Mark Rylance opens the wonderful movie, Anonymous, that explains in large part why the Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere promised Queen Elizabeth to keep their secret. The answer to the question as to why it remained a secret for so long according to the the Oxfordians is that Edward de Vere was Queen Elizabeth’s son which she had secretly at age 14 by Thomas Seymour who about that same time married Henry VIII’s last wife Katherine Parr. According to the Oxfordians’s theory which came to light in the thirties and was endorsed by many public intellectuals like Mark Twain, Sigmund Freud, I think, part of the reason it has been covered up for so long is that Edward de Vere, the real Shakespeare, had a child with his Mother, Queen Elizabeth, and this is why he wrote the plays to convince his mother, Queen Elizabeth, to see that she should acknowledge this truth before she died that Edward de Vere’s son was her son and that Essex, who was also her son with her true love, Robert would have been the best ones to acknowledge as her successors. The problem deVere was trying to show the world and the Queen in plays like Othello, Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, and ultimately Richard Iii is that she shouldn’t trust Robert Cecil - the evil manipulative hunchback who Oxfordians believe was also her son and the model for Richard III in that play which DeVere wrote to incite the people to follow Essex in the Essex Rebellion they tried to organize after showing Richard III but Robert Cecil was able to stop it and cult off Essex’s head before Elizabeth could stop him. The story as so beautifully told in Anonymous is that DeVere was able to save the life of their son but it was done by promising to keep his birthright anonymous. According to several excellent books that Oxfordian scholar have written, Shajespeare’s / deVere’s sonnets were written for his son. … This all still begs the question raised in your interview with the writer of this book which is why the Stratfordians are still keeping this so secret. I think it is because there is still a very powerful evil force run by descendants of the Monarchy that silences those who expose the truth about their dirty secrets. It sounds as if they are protecting their reign of secrecy by sending the message that we dare not say their name other wise they will do to us what they did to Mark Rylance and Julian Assange. I suggest people listen to the growing body of scholarship being uncovered by people like Mike McKibben and Douglas Gabriel that points to the English Crown as being the head of the Octopus that Danny Casolaro was about to expose which is why he like Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and those like you had to be removed from the platform they depend on to keep the dirty secret of the connections between Hitler Germany, Netanyahu’s snd the Rothschild’s Israrl and the AIPAC Mega Grouo that are the hidden rulers of the Fourth Reich that we are just living in.

Expand full comment

Who knows or cares where Picasso went to college?

Expand full comment

For decades the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship has maintained that Edward d Vere 17th Earl of Oxford is almost certainly the author of the plays attributed to William Shakespeare. Literary and academic scholars in the UK and US have scrupulously researched and presented material about de Vere to substantiate this claim. His place at Court during tumultuous times, his deep education giving him familiarity with the practice of the law, languages, history, religion, the classics and political situations reflected in the plays. His extensive European travels are evident in authentic detail in the plays (eg Hamlet) set in France and Italy and elsewhere. Those who deny the likelihood of the de Vere authorship, generally know as Stratfordians, have their entire academic careers invested in maintaining that the man named Shakespeare somehow acquired the huge body of knowledge needed to write the plays mysteriously. For several centuries Stratford on Avon flourished due to its global reputation as the home of Shakespeare. Economically this is huge as millions of tourists have flocked to revere the supposed birthplace and home of the author. Imagine the damage to the UK's tourist industry and reputation if this belief is challenged! Dozens of eminent writers, actors, and political figures for the past three hundred years have spoken out agains the authorship of the plays being accredited to this person! I suggest that those who read this interview access some of the many lectures by scholars who have presented their work during Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship conferences if you want to unravel this great conundrum. Fascinating and informative! Then you will be better informed about the topic.

Expand full comment

Genius from humble backgrounds: Newton, Erasmus, Luther, Samuel Johnson, Orwell… it happens a few times a century. Elite schooling back then was hardly worldly - more along the lines of rote memorization. This theme resurfaces every 20-30 years and aside from the cheap shots here she presents nothing new. Joe Sobran (National Review gadfly) made a stronger case 30 years ago, but also offered no counter evidence. Marlow? Dr Faustus (wonderful play) has no similarities to Hamlet. It’s all about the “English Departments” isn’t it, which lovers of Shakespeare couldn’t care less about. Come up with ONE piece of real evidence - not interviews with bureaucrats and actors - and someone might listen. Chris, there are surely more important conspiracy rabbit holes you can explore.

Expand full comment

This is a curious topic and curious ideas I think. There are questions that I would like pose. If the plays were written by courtiers or by Marlowe who was born and grew up in Canterbury, where did all the intimate knowledge of Warwickshire country life, flora and fauna so embedded in Shakespeare plays come from? I take some issue with Elizabeth Winkler’s summary dismissal of the education Shakespeare most likely received which was a thorough grounding in the knowledge of the time as I understand it. I also found the description of the Shakespeare properties as ‘fraudulent’ a simplistic response to the heartbreaking touristification of the town mostly to pander to the tastes of tourists a good many of whom are Americans seeking Disney Europe. Finally, it seems to me that the ‘authorship’ question, whether for or agin, is too sides of the same coin, a relentless search for biography, to make or debunk celebrity rather than directly address the work of art itself.

Expand full comment

We’re “talking” Literature here

THE Written Word which we hold Dear.

Our Words are phonetically Language based,

Alphabetically ordered and uttered

Pronounced and Expressed

In Accordance with One’s place

& taste.

Expand full comment

“It is the star to every wandering barque

Whose worth’s unknown although HIS height be taken.”

If ships are considered female, the use of “his” (height) here would seem to indicate a male author talking about the constancy of focus of a man in love despite his vicissitudes; having earlier found “alteration”, it’s an enforced wandering. The poet describes a man affirming his belief that society does not know his worth as one who loves, despite judging him on his appearance from the acreage of his sail.

An anthem for the constancy of unrequited love in Shakespeare’s perhaps most romantic of sonnets.

Expand full comment

#NEARLY two score years past

In an aeroplane’s seat

(not First Class)

The Travel zine before me claimed

to tell the truth of the great Bard’s fame.

Quite convincing was the story

attributing to the Earl of Oxford

the authorial Glory.

Expand full comment

Saying someone else wrote the plays is a conspiracy theory that goes back for centuries. Sir Francis Bacon is the most common suspect. After hundreds of years of unsubstantiated claims the scholars got sick and tired of it and it indeed became a taboo.

A similar thing accrued in physics. Physicists grew so weary of a century of bogus attempts to refute Special Relativity that today such is taboo. If you make any hint of doing this they will either cut you off completely or shower you with abuse until you go away. I purchased Reflections on Relativity, a book of well-founded but mildly unorthodox views of this. The author was so intimidated by the potential response to such minor deviation he published under an assumed name. It would have been a career ender.

Expand full comment

Then, there's this group of scholars who posit there was no one man, named: William Shakespeare;

rather all the plays and sonnets were written by a loose collection of British Lords, who, having to publish anything, had to do it anonymously, or through a 'ghost' author's name. Due to the Crown's

law being that as Lords, their writing was proscribed strictly to legal business. I find this notion to be

tempting, yet, upon serious consideration, it finally falls flat. Indeed. Over time and experience I tend

to believe in the occasional genius. After all, we do have a fair share of them over time. I thank God for it.

Expand full comment