In 2009 I published The De Vere Code, which demonstrates that the poems published as Shake-speare's Sonnets in 1609 were in written, not by William Shaksper from Stratford-on-Avon, but by Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, a nobleman at the court of Queen Elizabeth I.

As the promotional bandwagon for Roland Emmerich's Stratford-baiting Anonymous gets under way, this blog will chronicle the next few months in the life of The De Vere Code, to see how its arguments, and the wider case for Edward de Vere, fare during this time of unprecedented scrutiny around all things Authorship…

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

What's in a name?

The luminosity of the combatants in the debate glows ever-brighter as Simon Schama pops his head above the parapet to offer his groatsworth on the authorship non-question in Newsweek – The Shakespeare Shakedown. Now, I happen to have read Rembrandt's Eyes and The Embarrassment of Riches, both by the aforementioned historian, and they were two of the most enjoyable history books I have read, for what it may be worth. So imagine my disappointment on reading the following in Schama's article:
"None of which would matter very much were there not something repellent at the heart of the theory, and that something is the toad, snobbery—the engine that drives the Oxfordian case against the son of the Stratford glover John Shakespeare. John was indeed illiterate. But his son was not, as we know incontrovertibly from no fewer than six surviving signatures in Shakespeare’s own flowing hand, the first from 1612, when he was giving evidence in a domestic lawsuit."
Where we might have hoped for some devastating synthesis of hitherto unconsidered or unconnected facts, we get the (repeated so sadly often in this blog) refrain: "snobs, snobs, yer all snobs!"

Furthermore, whilst I am endeavouring at all costs not to sully these posts with the actual arguments one way or the other in this struggle, it is hard to resist (so I won't) taking Schama to task on the one substantive claim he makes in the above:

"John was indeed illiterate. But his son was not, as we know incontrovertibly from no fewer than six surviving signatures in Shakespeare’s own flowing hand"

It is indeed very instructive to look at the Shakespeare signatures, as much for what it can tell us about historians as about the author of Cymbeline. But before we examine those of the Bard, here are a few signatures in the flowing hands of other noted writers of the period.

First, the beloved Queen herself:

Second (boo! hiss!) you know who…

Third, courtier poet (and mortal foe of the above) Sir Philip Sidney:

Fourth, bricklayer, murderer (and sometime poet) Ben Jonson:

All pretty natty eh? And lastly, not to be outdone, here's one by the Soul of the Age himself:

Actually, that's a bit cack, try this one:

Mmm, does that say Splatsyor? Not sure. What about this one?
Same handwriting so far? Well, to be fair they were all written at different times on different documents, so maybe the Bard alternated his (three) hands. But the remaining signatures all come from the same final document, Shakespeare's will:

 And he couldn't even do those three the same way? Remember this man wrote the best part of a million words, with a feather. One might reasonably expect him to have decided on one signature, or may be one spelling – even if he was determined not to be neat. 

Of course it is the discrepancies between these signatures, and the apparent absence of much art in any of them, that lead some to propose (and not just anti-Stratfordians, some sane people too) that they are all (with the possible exception of the last two) written by different hands. Perhaps they say, the signatures  were added by clerks, on behalf of the signatory, who did not apply the pen himself because he was elsewhere at the time, and at the end was too weak to hold a steady quill. Others go in a different direction, and infer that the glover's son wrote none of these signatures for the simple reason that he could not write at all.

But as to "Shakespeare’s own flowing hand" that demonstrates "incontrovertibly" the literacy of illiterate John Shakespeare's son, well, perhaps we need Rembrandt's discerning eyes, or at least those of a celebrated historian, to see it. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the pictures, I never saw his signature before and I agree here with Roland Emmerich, who said, that this looks like someone who could not write or how I think it looks like it comes from a person who just can write his own name and no more! I know a blind woman and she writes here name like that! She cannot see normal letters, blind people have their own font!
    I'm shocked about the stupidy and ignorance and agression from those people called "Stratfordians"! What's the problem, why is it impossible to discuss this topic? If somebody believes that not Oxford wrote all this and believes that for example it was S. or O. than let us discuss it! But if somebody wants to be very strict, ok, than you must say, there is no 100% proof of it that it was S. or O.!
    I'm suprised that Mr. Stephen Fry is so much on the S.-site, I heard a speech from him about that and all was he said or proofed was nothing! Just "Read the work of S. and everything is clear, if you believe otherwise than you are a looney!" That cames from a intelligent person, who is a writer of his own, who was a rector of a collage and a teacher???? That's shocking! What's all about? People react like they got personaly offended! Let us discuss, let us look at all what we had and speak about it but without agression and without others make fun of!