By Richard Allan Wagner
In the literary world, the emergence of the twentieth century brought about a legacy of extreme doubt with regard to the orthodox version of who was responsible for the collective works ascribed to some entity or person known as “Shakespeare”.
In truth, the conventional cover story about the Shakespeare authorship had been completely blown out of the water by many of the Nineteenth Century’s leading authors and literary scholars—the likes of which included Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charles Dickens, Thomas Carlyle, Henry James, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Lord Byron, Benjamin Disraeli and many more.
What was the great fallacy in the “orthodox myth” about Shakespeare all of these literary giants had come to discover?
After combing meticulously through the various “Shakespeare biographies”, they realized the story of Will “Shakespeare” from Stratford was, in essence, a hoax—at best, it was it was a jumble of unfounded, uninformed folklore about a mysterious man who (according to public record) was illiterate, unschooled, untravelled, and totally lacking any kind of background that could plausibly qualify him as the author of the Shakespearean works. Unlike most Elizabethan authors, the “Stratford man” was a virtual phantom. It was as if he had been invented out of thin air.
And yet, these numerous biographies filled with fanciful details of the phantom of Stratford’s life had taken root, blossoming over the centuries into voluminous books, but none of them were remotely verifiable. On this, author Ross Jackson states:
“Many books were written about Will Shaksper, and an uncritical and unquestioning
public consumed them with great interest. What the public did not notice was that these books invariably started out with the unstated but tenuous assumption that the man from Stratford wrote the works. These biographies were not based on the known facts Will Shaksper’s life… but consisted mainly of speculations about how ‘he must have done that’, how ‘he must have traveled there’, how ‘he must have known this person’, how ‘he must have been proficient in this language’, and how ‘he must have been the greatest genius that ever lived’, with little or no evidence to back up the assertions. Generations were brought up to accept this myth about Will Shaksper without question.”
Along with the folklore came a cottage industry based on the Stratford myth.
Chief among these entrepreneurs was an eighteenth century actor by the name of David Garrick who turned the country village of Stratford into the home base for what would become the “Stratford Shakespeare Enterprise”.
It’s important to note that, until Garrick’s involvement in the matter, more than a century after the initial publication of the Shakespearean literature, the Stratford man (whose name according to the record was Shaksper, not Shakespeare) had not been officially recognized as the author of the works now attributed to him.
In fact, when Shaksper of Stratford died in 1616, there was absolutely no mention, acknowledgement or praise of him as an author of anything. Even his last will and testament made no reference to a single thing that could conceivably connect him to a literary life—no books, no manuscripts, no notes, no letters, nothing! Additionally, the years following the Stratford man’s death (1616 -1623) saw the continued writing of various plays and Sonnets under the literary name of “Shakespeare”.
With little or no regard for the truth, Garrick understood the monetary value in creating an identity for the hitherto anonymous source of the Shakespearean works—based primarily on a highly cryptic passage from Leonard Diggs’ elegy to Shakespeare in the 1623 Folio in which mention is made of “Thy Stratford Moniment”.
True, in the Holy Trinity Church of Stratford, there exists a monument erected to Shakespeare. But that’s totally insufficient to establish Shaksper of Stratford as the author of the Shakespearean works.
Nevertheless, David Garrick took those tiny, specious seeds of information and ran with them.
Thereafter, massive (fictitious) biographies of Shakespeare, the presumed “author from Stratford”, began to surface, and the Stratfordian Empire came into existence. Garrick’s Stratford legacy became Big Business. In time, the Stratfordian version of history became so firmly embedded in the hallowed halls of colleges and universities that it was, and still is regarded as a sacrosanct and immutable body of academic knowledge. To this day, innumerable Ivory Tower careers and reputations hang in the balance. Needless to say, the Stratfordians vehemently cling to their orthodoxy with the ferocity of a mother bear guarding her cub—the truth be damned—staying on top is everything, no matter the cost.
Baconian Backlash: The Truth Comes Out
With glaring holes and inconsistencies in the traditional version of “Shakespeare’s life”, the question of who really wrote Shakespeare boiled down to basic sleuthing.
Serious (unbiased) scholars followed the academic trail of breadcrumbs, scrutinizing every detail.
Where would the facts lead?
Clearly, the trail wasn’t leading to the so-called “Bard of Stratford”—instead, it all began to conform to a very specific pattern which included the necessary qualifications for Authorship such as a thorough education in Languages, History, Classical Literature, Law, Geography and Customs, and the Sciences—and, more conclusively, a signature style of poetic autobiographical writing, along with a plethora of historic documents, artifacts, and a timeline that could only fit one particular person. Furthermore, this person would be (historically) recognized as a great Genius of the Elizabethan-Jacobian era.
Gradually the HARD FACTS of the puzzle began to fall into place.
Like a modern day DNA match, the trail led unequivocally to Sir Francis Bacon (see “BACON’S SMOKING GUNS: THE HARD EVIDENCE” in The LOST SECRET of William Shakespeare @ www.TheLostSecretOfWilliamShakespeare.com).
By the mid nineteenth century, the facts about Bacon had spread well beyond England.
In 1857 a well documented book about Bacon as the mastermind behind the authorship of the Shakespearean works titled The Philosophy of the Plays of Shakespeare Unfolded came to prominence. Its impact was immense and it shook the very foundation of the Stratfordian Establishment, which for more than one and a half centuries ruled, unchallenged, with absolute authority over all things relating to Shakespeare. The book’s author was a modest young woman by the name of Delia Bacon (no relationship to Francis Bacon). The Stratfordian reaction was vicious, and attempts to silence this New England school teacher were utterly ruthless as an all out propaganda war ensued against her. In short order, Delia Bacon was scorned and ridiculed as “the woman who hates Shakespeare”.
Despite the backing and support of Delia Bacon by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman and Nathaniel Hawthorne, she was never able to shake off the undeserved brand of “crackpot”.
Although their bullying tactics had proven effective in suppressing Delia Bacon’s public voice, the arrogant Strats soon found that her Baconian Doctrine refused to go away.
The greatest blow against the Stratfordian Empire came from Mark Twain whose essay titled Is Shakespeare Dead? severely lampooned the Strats as “Mindless Troglodytes”. In reference to the various biographies of the Stratford man, Twain wrote:
“We set down the ‘conjectures’ and ‘suppositions’, and ‘maybes’, and ‘perhapses’, and ‘doubtlesses’, and ‘rumors’, and ‘guesses’, and ‘probabilities’, and ‘likelihoods’, and ‘we are permitted to think’, and ‘we are warranted in believing’, and ‘might have
beens’, and ‘unquestionablys’, and ‘without a shadow of a doubt’—and behold!!
Materials? Why, we have enough to build a biography of Shakespeare.”
Twain then compared the Stratfordian myth of Shakespeare to a Brontosaurus skeleton which was on display at the New York Museum of Natural History.
The enormous skeleton only had nine actual bones while the rest of the colossal structure consisted of plaster.
Gradually the Baconian Doctrine became a prominent fixture in the public eye.
However, the Strats clung desperately to their academic stranglehold on Shakespearean curricula—their perverse perspective (appropriately nicknamed “Bardolatry”) remained the only version of the Shakespeare story being taught in schools and universities.
By the end of the nineteenth century, Baconians wrongly assumed that a progression of facts and funerals would eventually lay the Stratfordian myth to rest.
They had forgotten the brutal and unscrupulous tactics the Strats had used against Delia Bacon. No one seemed to grasp just how far the beleaguered Bardolators would go to hold on to their precious reign of power.
In 1916 the Strats were dealt yet another agonizing blow.
A highly publicized civil lawsuit raged in Chicago. The deciding element in the case hinged on which man the evidentiary facts clearly supported as the true author of the Shakespearean Canon:
Shaksper of Stratford or Francis Bacon?
In consideration of the facts, the presiding judge, Richard Stanley Tuthill (who had a solid reputation for fairness and impartiality) ruled that the evidence for Bacon’s authorship of Shakespeare was decisively overwhelming.
The Baconian Doctrine had gained the upper hand and spread with the momentum of a runaway freight train.
Headline from the Chicago Tribune (1916)
Reeling from another Baconian triumph in the saga of the Shakespeare Authorship Question, the bruised and battered Strats realized the jig was up as far as their current strategy was concerned.
The truth was now out in the open for all to see. The Strats had known all along that Bacon was the true author of Shakespeare. However, conceding to the truth had never an option. Winning and staying on top was, and still is, the ONLY option. The remaining question boiled down to how effectively the Strats could suppress the truth, and still retain the balance of power in their favor Clearly a more effective stratagem had to be implemented in order to derail the Baconian Train.
The Strats realized they were now in the war over Shakespeare for the long haul.
With their usual Truth Be Damned Agenda, they began to plot in ways that resembled the old Trojan Horse ploy. Was the “DIVIDE AND CONQUER” strategy that had served Great Britain so faithfully in establishing and maintaining her commonwealth of countries the answer? And were the underhanded techniques such as those used against Delia Bacon now more imperative than ever?
The Plot Thickens: The “Authorship Candidate” Shell Game Emerges
In the years following Judge Tuthill’s landmark decision favoring Bacon as the author of Shakespeare, alternate “candidates” for the Shakespeare authorship began to suspiciously crop up.
A book titled Sous le masque de William Shakespeare surfaced in 1918. Its author was a French literary scholar by the name of Abel Lefrac who insisted that William Stanley, the 6th Earl of Derby had been Shakespeare. Then, two years later, an English school teacher named Thomas Looney announced he had unveiled the “real Shakespeare” in his book Shakespeare Identified. Looney’s candidate was Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.
J. Thomas Looney
Soon, thereafter, a seemingly endless procession of “candidates” emerged, including (but not limited to) Christopher Marlowe, Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Fulke Greville, John Florio, Sir Philip Sidney, along with his sister Mary Sidney Herbert, Edmund Spenser, Anthony Munday, John Lyly, Robert Greene, Thomas Kyd, George Peele, Robert Burton, Thomas Nashe, and Arthur Golding.
Some people even claim that Queen Elizabeth I had been Shakespeare. The entire farce began to bear a striking resemblance to a scene from the movie Spartacus in which a multitude of men individually stand up and proclaim “I’m Spartacus”. Their purpose was to create sufficient confusion so as to divert attention away from the real Spartacus in order to prevent the Romans from correctly identifying him. And so it has become with regard to Bacon.
In recent years, many Shakespeare Authorship “Roundtable” groups have sprung up throughout the world.
Each roundtable consists of advocates representing the various Authorship candidates. Considering all such Roundtable representatives are committed to the proposition of agreeing to disagree, their purpose for existing is, to say the least, counterproductive. Authorship Roundtables constitute the ideal vehicle that absolutely guarantees nothing will ever be resolved. It’s all a futile exercise in organized chaos—a classic stalemate that facilitates the perfect divide and conquer scenario. The only group that benefits from such a set-up is the Strats. So long as the “Authorship Question” remains perpetually unresolved, the Strats enjoy the luxury of staying on top without having to lift a finger or be further subjected to the kind of humiliating defeat they suffered a century ago in Judge Tuthill’s courtroom.
Red Herring: Falling into the Oxfordian Trap
The publication and wide release of Looney’s Shakespeare Identified (in 1920) attracted a new generation of naïve followers who were seduced and misled by romanticized tales of a dashing, chivalrous Edward de Vere as the “leading candidate” for the Shakespeare authorship—the Oxfordian argument had arrived.
From cover to cover, Looney offered up wild and unsubstantiated claims of de Vere’s alleged authorship based entirely upon sweeping assumptions and fanciful accounts of Oxford’s supposed interaction with various people and events that are inked into the pages of Shakespeare.
Looney’s book can easily be construed as the work of a man who either has little or no regard for hard, tangible evidence, or it is the fabrication of one who is being purposefully directed (by some other motive or interest) to produce a highly deceptive piece of fiction.
It bears all of the mendacious elements and hallmarks of the Stratfordian account of Will Shaksper’s questionable life. Still, in spite of the inconsistencies in Looney’s story, the new Oxfordians seemed quite content to blindly follow the trail—as long as it led to de Vere. The Oxfordian version of the truth has never been concerned with the business of KNOWING, rather, it’s always been a matter of BELIEVING.
Like a catchy trend, the Oxfordian myth of Shakespeare’s authorship gradually began to supplant the Baconian doctrine—but more importantly it POSED as an antagonist to the Statfordian version of history, yet the Strats uncharacteristically and suspiciously made no attempt to refute it.
Furthermore, the funding for the production of Oxfordian literature and the recruitment of de Vere acolytes seemed to have no bounds—where was it all coming from?... and why?
In his online article titled why I’m not an Oxfordian, Jerome Harner makes a most astute distinction between Oxfordian “goats and sheep”. He states:
“There is evidence of goats mixed in with the sheep, who are fully conscious of how
preposterous the idea is that Edward de Vere wrote the Shakespeare works, are playing the whole thing for laughs.”
If the Oxfordian goats were playing it all for laughs, there was, on the other hand, a growing legion of sheep seriously swallowing the bait, hook, line and sinker.
In the decades following Looney, the ranks of Oxfordian romanticists swelled. The year 1984 saw the publication of Charlton Ogburn’s bombastic and deceptive 892 page book titled The Mysterious William Shakespeare—this would serve as the Oxfordian bible for nearly two decades. Then, in 2006, Mark Anderson’s Shakespeare By Another Name took center stage.
Anderson slyly and audaciously brought the Oxfordian ruse to a new level of absurdity. The pages of his book are marked by his superfluous use of auxiliary modifiers such as:
“probably”, “possibly”, “had probably”, “might have”, “may have”, “could have”,
“would have”, “may be”, may well be”, “would have been”, “could have been”,
“could be”, “had probably”, “may have met”, “would likely to have met”, “may be
referring to”, “could have acquainted himself with”, “may have crossed paths with”,
The obvious smoke and mirrors technique behind Anderson’s style betrays the great trick by which all Oxfordian methodology rests, i.e. fabricate supposed historical scenarios out of thin air by maneuvering the reader into creating connections between various people and events by erroneously ASSUMING such (unfounded) connections actually exist.
Whereas magicians are masters at sleight of hand, Oxfordians are masters at sleight of mind (see Why Edward de Vere Was Not Shakespeare).
From the Stratfordian perspective, de Vere is the perfect “alternate candidate” because (a) there’s something about his name and persona that many people find alluring, and (b) so long as people chase after the de Vere myth, the Strats rest easy, knowing full well the Oxie-Morons are barking up the wrong tree.
One is compelled to ask: Are the Oxfordian goats really Strats in sheep’s clothing, leading all of the unwitting lambs astray?—if that’s the case, the divide and conquer strategy is working like a charm.
Jerome Harner may be correct in his view that the goats are playing the whole charade for laughs.
However, the matter clearly runs much deeper, considering that the survival of the Strats depends on whether or not the perpetual state of confusion over the Authorship Question can stay indefinitely in motion—to that end, the Strats couldn’t ask for a better ally than the Oxie-Morons.
And what of the Baconians?
With all the facts in their favor—backed by a mountain of cold, hard evidence, one would think it would be something of a slam dunk to take up arms against a sea of Oxfordian mumbo jumbo and force their ridiculous house of cards to come tumbling down with a simple push. But now, instead mounting barbed steeds to fright the souls of FEARFUL Strats and Oxies, the Baconians stand by and caper nimbly to the pointless ramblings of Roundtable banter.
Moreover, Baconians are plagued by the worst disease of all—INDIFFERENCE—compounded by their conceited compulsion to nit-pick over trivial, petty details in an all out effort to outdo each other.
The only thing Baconians have standing in their way is each other. Getting Baconians to band together is like trying to herd cats.
The “leading” Baconian scholars exhibit a nasty tendency to shun one another, refusing the bother of reading each other’s work—each believing he or she has a complete lock on all things related to Bacon/Shakespeare—with nothing more to learn or discover.
FOR BACONIANS AND SHAKESPEARE, IT’S ALL BECOME A PATHETIC STAGNANT POND—WITH THE STRATS STILL IN CHARGE!
Until the Baconians are able to overcome their indifferent stagnation, THE TRUTH ABOUT SHAKESPEARE WILL NOT BE REALIZED!
IT’S HIGH TIME TO TRULY WAKE UP AND SMELL THE BACON!
For Baconians what does waking up really mean?
For a start, it means rediscovering the Baconian backbone that Mark Twain personified. The Declaration of Reasonable Doubt, promulgated by the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition, got the ball rolling as evidenced by the televised 60 Minutes report on the Shakespeare Authorship question. However, the SAC only brought out the obvious fact that the overwhelming evidence ruled out the Stratford man as the author of the Shakespearean works. The greater question focused on the identity of the real author. Without the full disclosure of facts and evidence pointing to the true Shakespeare, the SAC deferred, instead, to the usual Roundtable zoo of possible authorship candidates. Thus, the matter remains confused and stagnate in favor of the Strats who, because of these absurd conditions of academic engagement, enjoy the luxury of not having to prove anything. And so it goes.
What’s the Solution?
In order to bring the truth about Shakespeare out into the light for all to see, the Baconians MUST iron out their petty squabbles, and come together as an independent group and put forth a DECLARATION OF AUTHORSHIP that will complete and override the floundering declaration proffered by the SAC.
Then, hopefully, the business of Shakespeare can finally be put to rest.
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