Saturday, April 18, 2009

SCOTUS Weighs In … On Authorship?

Bunch of people sending me this WSJ article.  It’s funny, I actually saw it last night around 11pm – on the new WSJ application for my iPhone.  But I was in no position to blog about it at the time.

Anyway, the article is about Justice John Paul Stevens, 34 years on the Supreme Court and an admitted Oxfordian. 

While it is interesting to see actual justices arguing the point – after all, they’re supposed to be some of the best at the art of the debate – I still disagree with some of the foundational points:

"Where are the books? You can't be a scholar of that depth and not have any books in your home," Justice Stevens says. "He never had any correspondence with his contemporaries, he never was shown to be present at any major event -- the coronation of James or any of that stuff. I think the evidence that he was not the author is beyond a reasonable doubt."

He was never shown to be present is evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that he must not have been there?  Really?  The fact that correspondence is lost means it never existed?  Because if that’s true then there’s no such thing as the Ur-Hamlet.

I also hate the argument that people who “like to think that a commoner can be such a brilliant writer,” which seems to imply that the authorship people think this can *not* be the case.

Then they just turn stupid, in my opinion.  Justice Stevens, upon realizing that the nearby Folger owns a  Bible that once belonged to De Vere (Oxford), makes this wild case that “since the ‘bed trick’, (where the man thinks the woman is someone else) came from the old testament, then Oxford would have underlined those passages in his Bible.”  Ummm…. what?  Given that they found no such underlining, should we therefore argue this as evidence that the author was NOT Oxford?

I think all this article ends up showing us is that our justices, while likely very smart men who can form a persuasive argument, are admittedly not as well schooled in their literature.  Stevens himself refers to his wife as “a much better expert in literature than I”, and she thinks he’s wrong.

The article fails to mention that Oxford died before several plays, including The Tempest and Macbeth, were written.


blog nerd said...

the lack of correspondence and his failure to attend public events (including C of E services which was an offense punishable by law) is part of the accumulating evidence offered on the part of Shakespeare's Catholic identity.

Correspondence was often written in code and then destroyed--so there are many deafening silences from historical figures of the time period.

There is also the matter of the letter from Southwell to his "worthy, good cosen WS," the poet who had recently written a poem about Venus and Adonis. Written at the same time that our WS wrote Venus and Adonis.

Interesting that he feels he's seen ALL the evidence and will allow his inductive reasoning to carry him in one direction only.

Willshill said...

Maybe it just "feels good" to ignore some of the evidence--or lack of it.
Hard to figure.
A funny human trait--zeal.
Produce a bandwagon, decorate it with pretty notions, write on it a catchy slogan with the mere semblance of a "cause", and there will always be those champing at the bit to jump on; even though it's moving much too fast for the bumpy road it's on and the wheels might be falling off. Perhaps the bunting is too attractive to resist?

catkins said...

A scholar of what depth? Ben Jonson quipped in the introduction to the First Folio that Shakespeare knew "small Latin and less Greek." All the scholarship our illustrious author needed was his grammar school educaton, Hollingshed's Chronicles, a few stolen plot lines, and a familiarity with his local ecology (something I would think Oxford lacked). For the last point, see the interesting book by Carolin Spurgeon, "Shakespeare's Imagery."
This speaks very poorly for the highest judicial officer of our nation, at least when it comes to his literary scholarship.

Willshill said...

catkins wrote:"This speaks very poorly for the highest judicial officer of our nation, at least when it comes to his literary scholarship."

All of a sudden it gives rise to the discomfiting notion of how much Our Honor might be in the habit of allowing fanciful induction based on doubtful sets of premises enter into his decision-making on other slightly more important matters.