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Oxfordians and Me

May 23, 2013


I really wish Derek Jacobi wasn’t an Oxfordian.  It’s one of these things that depresses me unutterably.  Here he is posing with De Vere in a chummy proprietorial pose that must be a conscious echo of David Garrick’s famous “selfie” (actually by Joshua Reynolds) taken for the Shakespeare bicentenary commemorations that were hosted 5 years late in 1769.


About eighteen months ago, I became one of a number of participants in one of the more consuming and exhausting online arguments I can ever recall…   you can find it here

The debate became increasingly heated, especially as one of the Oxfordians made it clear that respected Shakespearean scholars, some of whom are friends of mine, are moral degenerates, not merely intellectually flawed.  The debate could not really end and had to be cut off at an arbitrary point for two reasons.  Firstly, Oxfordians accept as primary evidence (indeed as the only evidence) a bunch of anagrams, analogies and coincidences, that most scholars don’t.  The second reason is more theological.

At a key point in the debate I put it to the Oxfordians – “Look, there’s a deal of documentary evidence, solid legally verifiable paperwork, that Shakespeare wrote the plays that bear his name.  There’s no similar or corresponding stuff that says that anyone else did.  I therefore believe in Shakespeare’s authorship.  But mine is an evidential not a religious belief.  If evidence of a certain nature were to emerge – which pointed to the Earl of Oxford writing the plays, then I would have to reconsider my views to accommodate the new evidence.  Tell me – what kind of new evidence would make you reconsider your beliefs?”

The answer was “None” – no evidence, no matter what form it takes, could possibly convince an Oxfordian that Shakespeare was “Shakespeare”.

This religious confession revealed a lot.  It explains why evidence has to mean the opposite of what it seems.  For an Oxfordian, the fact that a sonnet concludes with the observation “my name is Will” proves beyond doubt that such a sonnet could not possibly have been written by someone called Will.  If we were to recover a letter from the Earl of Oxford tomorrow which declared “did see Romeo and Juliet last night by one Shakespeare of Warwickshire.  Would that I might write playes half so fine” that letter would instantly become proof positive that Oxford and not Shakespeare had written Romeo and Juliet.

Some of the Oxfordians on this thread really really hated the Warwickshire man, whom they preferred to call “Shagsper”.  Now not all Oxfordians are as bad… some merely enjoy the whiff of conspiracy – but the hardcore dedicated “scholars” seem to be motivated by something rather nastier.  For these Oxfordians, the idea that someone from a relatively ordinary background can achieve extraordinary things is so horrific, so disgusting, so impossible, that the universe itself recoils.   For such Oxfordians, the basic scumminess of most people is the great primary atomistic fact about the universe.  Indeed all empirical method and scientific deduction has to first of all acknowledge and wrap itself around this great foundational reality that genius is confined to a rarefied elite.

Anyhoo – the thread is preserved – unfortunately curtailed by a Guardian sub-editor in a way that gives an Oxfordian the last word.  There were plenty of sane and healthy correspondents sticking up for Will Shakespeare, people I would like to meet some time in so-called “real life”. But it had to end somehow.  The Oxfordians were doing my head in.


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  1. You know Conrad, it actually really, really distresses me that the amazingness of a person (Will) is denigrated in this way. ‘Genius’ is a term i know often overused when ‘marginally talented’ would be better terminology – but that is the wonderful and engaging thing about extraordinary ability – it arises, at all times, from the most extraordinary beginnings. Some men and women tower above their age, and there may have been no prior genetic or environmental influence to explain their arising.

    As something i looked at on this said, its extraordinary that if Shakespeare WASN’T Shakespeare there should have been a cover-up of the fact for 250 years, with all evidence at the time and near time saying that Shakespeare was……..Shakespeare. What WERE those 1850’s intelligentsia up to?

  2. I think they’re almost done. Anonymous demonstrated to a wider public what bunch of credulous airheads they all are. is an attempt to finish them off. Link us up.

  3. paul thompson permalink

    Hello Conrad Brunstrom,
    I was one of those arguing alongside you, under the name easilyled. I would just like you to know that your efforts were appreciated.
    I don’t have the detailed knowledge of many of the participants so I was mostly just mocking the more obvious daft claims. It was those like you who really know your stuff and were patient enough to go into great detail who really showed the anti-Shakespeareans up.

    Thanks for arguing so well.


  4. Hello Paul,

    It’s always a joint effort with these things. The thread’s been curtailed now – we got the last word on a number of the arguments – a bit miffed that Howard16 got away with declaring that Jonson said absolutely nothing about Shakespeare after Shakespeare’s death – an instantly refutable notion that it would have been fun to refute…

    Thanks for your own contributions likewise. Maybe see you next round.



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