previously unpublished; © the estate of eric sams
(Numbers in bold refer to the Documents section and bibliographical citations refer to the Bibliography of The Real Shakespeare II, on-line edition)
Here is a sequel to The Real Shakespeare (1995, 2/1996; RS1 from now on), which was founded upon 205 documents dated from 1500 to 1594. This fact-list is now extended to cover the rest of Shakespeare's lifetime (1564-1616) plus a further century for good measure, thus including John Aubrey’s notes (608) and Nicholas Rowe’s biography (632) within a total tally of 620.
A few extra items have been added since the original list was compiled. For example the 1596 first and 1599 second edition of Edward III are now included (as 223 and 275), because parts of that play have at last been accepted as Shakespeare's, by professional experts in standard editions (Tobin 1997; Evans 1997, Melchiori 1998).
My own edition (Sams 1996) offers evidence for that play's authorial unity. But its agreed authenticity, even in part, means that Shakespeare's hand has been identified and accepted by Academia, on internal stylistic evidence alone, for the first time in history. Previous advocates of Edward III, such as Ephraim Everitt (1954), Karl Wentersdorf (1960) and Eliot Slater (1982-3) are thereby vindicated.
So, therefore, is their approach, by way of vocabulary and diction. This book again1 accepts such testimony and treats its a priori rejection as irrational. But irrationality remains rampant throughout modern Shakespeare studies, whether literary or mathematical and whether orthodox or anti-Stratfordian.
The last-named heterodoxy, for example, arose a century and a half ago among a few anti-democratic Americans, who believed that the Bard knew so much about high life, Latin and the law that he could not possibly have begun as a mere untutored Warwickshire countryman. Thus Bacon was born. Shakespeare was duly created 1st Baron Verulam and Viscount St. Albans, and that pseudo-identification was embellished with pseudo-cryptography (refuted in Friedman 1957). Soon there were other candidates, some of whom (like the 17th Earl of Oxford) were in fact born noblemen. But none of them had ever been named earlier, by anyone, as authors of Shakespeare and no relevant evidence has ever been found in their own archives or anywhere else. Yet the Stratford commoner has been awarded the nobility prize for literature.
Such attitudes still persist. Thus a recent report from the so-called Shakespeare Clinic in California begins by asserting that 'Everyone knows about the big Shakespeare Authorship Questions: How could William Shakspere, that grubby, provincial, Stratford grain dealer, whose father and daughters signed with an X, possibly have been the same person as the glorious, learned, court-wise, god-like William Shakespeare, Soule of the Age, who wroteHamlet and the Sonnets?...Didn't Shakespeare's writing show him to be more like some nobler figure in disguise – an earl, maybe, or a committee of earls, or some other noted poet or playwright – than like that village merchant, Shakspere? And, if some nobler figure, which of the 58 “claimants” that have been suggested might he have been?' (Elliott and Valenza 1996, 191-220). These University professors, of American Political Institutions and Mathematics and Computer Science respectively, have now concluded, after years of subsidised 'stylometric' study, that Shakespeare of Stratford wrote all the works published under his name - except A Lover's Complaint, which is allegedly different. Note the typical assumption; he was capable of only one style, which can be infallibly identified by unvalidated non-literary tests applied under the aegis of non-literary academics.
British Shakespeareans, sick of Bacon, chose a different diet. They turned Shakespeare into a nobleman instead of turning noblemen into him. Their Bard is a well-educated young Latinist who preserved a polite silence until his late twenties and then wrote sophisticated plays about upper-class life (Wells 1986, xiv, 1). This view derives from Oxbridge snobbery of the 1920s. It assumed a late start and with one sole style, which was unfortunately full of faults. Thus The Two Gentlemen of Verona, first mentioned in 1598 (242), its author's thirty-fifth year, and first printed in 1623, seven years after his death, contains 'shallow, humdrum padding', with 'feeble', 'pasteboard' and 'brainless' characters. Other supposedly apprentice plays exhibit 'stiff, wooden, academic writing poor exposition, and some of the worst vices of school rhetoric' (Honan 1997, 117, 121).
So much for schools and academies. But the same source (ibid. 115) stresses that Shakespeare was 'a reviser, with a poet's concern for verbal style'. But a reviser's previously unpublished work cannot be rationally dated save by its publication date or its author's earlier demise. So the Two Gentlemen, faults and all, cannot rationally be classified as early work in its entirety. The date of its text lies between its first mention and its last chance of authorial revision, namely between 1598 and 1616. The same applies to all the other plays that remained unpublished until the First Folio of 1623. It is just irrational to assign a definite early date to a reviser's unpublished playscripts.
Yet the alleged 'late start' of the 'late developer' looks eerily retarded. Why assume that any early plays published under Shakespeare's name in his lifetime (such as the first versions of Hamlet or of 2-3 Henry VI) were anything other than his own early work before revision?
No doubt such versions can be adjudged inferior, especially in comparison with later masterpieces – which would explain why their distinguished author sometimes abandoned or rewrote them. But, on clear evidence (608), the real Shakespeare had exhibited boyhood talent for play-acting and -writing, at the very time when such activities were far better rewarded than they had ever been, or would be for centuries; and he had also become a husband, father and family provider while still in his teens. In the real world, where life and works belong together, this ranks among the earliest starts ever recorded. Is it not really rather obvious that John Aubrey was right in saying (608) and Nicholas Rowe in confirming (632) that Shakespeare came to London as a very young man, and was soon writing popular plays?
Yet most academic literati, like most academic statisticians, ignore or reject this plain testimony. Instead, Shakespeare's first creative decade is calmly called 'lost' by the very people who have lost it. Even the sensible and perceptive Ernst Honigmann, having seen and said that 'late start' is obvious nonsense, thereupon proceeded (1985, 128) to fill the ten-year gap by making Shakespeare write his world-famous works much earlier than their publication date. This notion rests uneasily upon the assumption that Shakespeare can never have written in ways one does not instantly recognise.
But he did; he wrote Edward III, which has remained officially unrecognised for the last 400 years and more. Its recent acceptance also confirms – though the fact has not yet sunk in – that Shakespeare lacked Latin and was therefore (since grammar schools taught Latin grammar) educationally disadvantaged, exactly as so many of his contemporaries confirmed. But never mind the centuries of total consensus, as summarised in RSI 18-19, 201-2; 'scholarship' has 'decided the question in the opposite direction' (Bate 1993, 7). Indeed it has; it now asserts that 'from the age of 7 until about 15' William memorised Latin almost daily' (Honan 1997, 45), which goes so far in the opposite direction that it vanishes in the distance, well out of earshot of all the extant evidence.
In other respects however RSI is being increasingly vindicated, especially in North America. Westward, the land is brightening. There, the once despised trickle of well-informed and powerfully-argued protest against Oxbridge theorising (e.g. Albright 1927, Greer 1933, Everitt 1954, Craig 1961, Pitcher 1961) has swollen to a steady stream of books and articles, many of which kindly include my own contributions among their sources.
In particular, the darkness of 'memorial reconstruction', a doctrine invented c. 1920, is at last being dispelled by professional Shakespeareans after more than seventy inglorious years, e.g. by Foster 1995, Bains 1995, Maguire 1997, DelVecchio and Hammond 1998. That last pair also discuss, and dismiss, the 'stylometry' that saddles Shakespeare with a 'collaborator' who allegedly wrote the first two acts of Pericles. As they sensibly say, 'much more refinement needs to be brought to statistical analysis of elements of usage and style before it can claim certainty'. Even in England, a Shakespeare Survey article has asked why anyone ever believed that the 1597 first edition of Romeo and Juliet was a 'memorial reconstruction' (Farley-Hills 1996). There too, Hamlet 1603 is now only a 'so-called' Bad Quarto and only 'said to be' reconstructed from actors' memories2 (Honan 1997, 275).
So there are encouraging signs that before long a whole new generation, world-wide, will wonder why so many fantasies of 'reconstruction' and 'collaboration' were suffered to infest so many editions and biographies for so long. Many a leading literary light will than be seen as a misleading ignis fatuus. Perhaps the profession will also perceive (to cite only a few of its present idées fixes) that
(a) Shakespeare's sadly short-lived only son 1585-96, was christened Hamlet, not 'Hamnet', (pace Schoenbaum 1975-91, Honan 1998 etc.);
(b) the early Hamlet written and acted no later than 1589 should be hailed as Shakespeare's own first inspiration and not attributed to 'Kyd' (pace Jenkins 1982-99) even tentatively (pace Honan 1998, 129);
(c) 'ne' in Henslowe's theatre diary is a sensible abbreviation for 'Newington Butts' (Frazer 1991) but not for 'new' (pace Honigmann 1982, 76-77, Bate 1997, 70, etc);
(d) the play famously ascribed to Shakespeare by Greene in 1592, by a parody of its line about a tiger's heart wrapped in a woman's hide, was The True Tragedy of Richard, Duke of York as published in 1595, not (pacealmost everyone, most recently Honan 1997, 160) 3 Henry VI, a text unknown in print or performance until 1623;
(e) The Stratford neighbours' recollections about the Shakespeares as family butchers (as all Tudor farmers, whittawers and glovers might obviously need to be), and other such testimony, should not continue to be brusquely dismissed, least of all out of hand, for no reason at all (as e.g. in Honan 1997, 416).
But here too a start has been made, in the States. Thus on (b) Harold Bloom agrees (1998, 402 etc.) that the 1589 Hamlet was Shakespeare's own early play, while (c) was first suggested from the University of Florida. But of course the world-wide hardened mind-sets will take years to soften and relax. While 'late start' held sway, for example, it was useless to wonder whether Shakespeare was already a player in 1581, when he was seventeen. Even the enquirer (Chambers 1930, I, 280) forgot about his own enquiry, which is not mentioned in his otherwise comprehensive Shakespeare compendium. The question was briefly revived (Baker 1937) and then dropped again. Chambers returned to the charge in wartime (1944), when much of the world was otherwise engaged. The handwriting and source-book studies of MacLaren (1949) and Keen and Lubbock (1953) offered further support for the proposition that the young Catholic Shakespeare had sought sanctuary in Lancashire with the influential Catholic families of Houghton and Hesketh; and had there become not only a player but a playwright, whose marginal annotations to a copy of Hall's Chronicles would later stand him in good stead. This claim created considerable interest among amateurs, but professionals remained sceptical or silent, because of 'late start' assumptions, anti-Catholic bias and insufficient handwriting expertise. Once remove the blockages, though, and fresh interest arid research can flow more freely. A University Professor who could read and research Tudor documents, and who had already reasoned that Shakespeare was a cradle Catholic whose playwriting career started early, wrote a well-received book (Honigmann 1985) about the Lancashire connection.
That thesis, supported and supplemented in RS1, has led directly to the admirable initiatives taken by Lancaster University's Shakespeare programme, including an international conference (Wilson 1997, Dutton 1998). A world-wide window is thereby opened upon the vast vista of Shakespeare's cradle Catholicism, which illuminates not only his works but his life. So does the concomitant acceptance of his early start as a player and a playwright.
As a much smaller yet penetrating point, the next millennium may acknowledge the originals of the characters created by Shakespeare's enemy Greene in his 1589 novella Menaphon, namely the simple shepherd-poet Doron and his brother Moron. 'Doron' was one form of the Greek for 'spear', as the uninstructed Shakespeare would not have known; and his brother Gilbert was unkindly rated a simpleton (Chambers 1930, ii, 278, 289). In his 1590 novella Never Too Late the well-educated Greene named another love-sick shepherd Mullidor (μθλλ-ωδρ), which adds its own ribald point (Reed 1902, 85)3 to the same stem. Such slighting references clearly confirm Shakespeare's initial rejection by the so-called University Wits, again because of his disadvantaged Catholic background, especially his lack of classical Latinity.
Two further failures have also to be reported. First, as already documented (Sams 1985, 2/1986 viii-xiii),Edmund Ironside is still excluded from the canon, as Edward III was until very recently. Why? Well, Ironside is 'usually dated in the mid 1690s' (Schoenbaum 2/1991, 533), or alternatively 'seems to date from the later 1590s' (Bate 1997, 81) or else 'perhaps dates from c. 1593-6' (Honan 1998, 435). Thus all the strong evidence in favour of this early play continues to be casually rejected in favour of weak conjecture, with the help of imaginary dates which serve solely to accommodate an equally imaginary 'imitator' or 'plagiarist'. The wild fantasy that this nameless thief was in fact Shakespeare himself (D. Foster 1988) has fortunately been forgotten, along with the earlier illusion (D. Foster 1987) that 'Mr. W.H.' in the Sonnets inscription was a 'misprint' for 'Mr. W. Sh.', also allegedly Shakespeare himself. But even within orthodox Academia, rumours of occasional disapproval have often been ranked as definite disproof. Thus one need only say that 'the Shakespeare establishment has remained unimpressed' (Schoenbaum 2/1991 loc. cit) by Ironside, which 'was quickly rejected by the academic community' (D. Foster again, 1997). What could be more conclusive? But such claims were in fact false; indeed, one acknowledged authority had already said (Jackson 1988, 226) that despite the alleged 'flaws in his methodology…Sams may nevertheless be right' in attributing Ironside to Shakespeare. This stands far aloof from the recent claim that this play is 'probably by Robert Greene' (Foster again, 1997 loc. cit.), a contention for which no published evidence has ever existed.
As in RS1 and my edition of Edward III, further evidential points are added in this volume, passim and also in an Appendix, in the hope that their cumulative weight will one day turn the scales for Ironside also. Meanwhile one can only repeat the late Samuel Schoenbaum's shamefully neglected warning (1966, 178) to himself and his profession: 'Intuitions, convictions and subjective judgements generally, carry no weight as evidence. This no matter how learned, respected or confident the authority'.
Another essential principle is Ockham's Razor, which again implores Academia, in vain, to stop making things up. That implement has recently been flourished at Shakespeare's Sonnets, which 'regularly outsell everything else he wrote' (Anthony Hecht in Evans 1996) yet 'are still the least investigated, aesthetically speaking' of all his works (Vendler 1997, xi). The unaesthetic laity tends to believe what the Sonnets say, namely that Shakespeare was deeply indebted to the benevolent encouragement and scholarly instruction of a handsome and much-loved young patron, the 'faire friend' of Sonnet 104.1. Here is the second failure; Academia still refuses to identify that paragon, whose 'name from hence immortall life shall have (Sonnet 81.5). As a result, it hasn't. Perhaps there was no such person? One modern poet had no doubt; 'when Shakespeare wrote "Two loves I have of comfort and dispaire"' (144.1), 'reader, he was not kidding' (Berryman 1976, 3). But the professional knows that poetry is fiction, which is kidding.
Here is a dire disaster for all Shakespeare-lovers. The ordinary reader is pro biography, Academia is anti. Between the two is a great gulf fixed, and common sense has disappeared into it. Amateurs (such as Drake 1817, Stopes 1922, Chambrun 1957, Rowse 1962-, Akrigg 1968, Wait 1972, Giroux 1982, Sams 1996, etc, etc) have always inferred a real-life Fair Friend, namely Henry Wriothesley, the third Earl of Southampton. But professors of English literature (most recently Honan 1998, 180, 424) dismiss any such real-life counterpart as an eighteenth-century myth, and complain that there is no positive proof for Southampton. This can hardly be (pace Rowse) because they are all hidebound, malevolent or just plain stupid. Nor, however, are they professors of history, or law, or logic, metaphysics, or philosophy; otherwise they would admit the massive contemporary evidence, and realise that their demand for strict proof often unreasonable, not to say irrational. As William Hughes says (1996 2/1997, 123-4) 'the first question we need to ask about a truth-claim is not: Can it be proven? but Are we justified in accepting it'?
As long as 'proof' is sought but fails to satisfy, so long will evidence be neglected and ignorance prevail. Meanwhile, anything goes. The Fair Friend might as well be Pembroke as Southampton. So that former candidature can be proposed or indeed espoused by professional literati (e.g. Chambers 1930, Seymour-Smith 1963, Dover Wilson 1963, 1966, Duncan-Jones 1997, Gibson 1997, Bate 1997,47, etc) without a blush, let alone loss of face. One myth is as good as another. Yet 'Pembroke' has exactly as much evidence in his favour as 'Bacon' or 'Oxford', namely none.
The laity now needs some respected Shakespearean to put Southampton on the map, as Ernst Honigmann has spoken for the Lancashire connection and 'early start', or Blakemore Evans for Edward III. Such a champion could become world-famous, like the Sonnets: and already the first contender has entered the lists, proclaiming in italics that 'All candidatures for the fair youth with the exception of Southampton's depend on things not known to exist; it is not necessary to postulate any of these as existing, since the origin of the sonnets can be explained with things we do know to exist'.
So says Professor Jonathan Bate in a recent book (1997, 47). According to its dust-jacket, he has been described as 'our finest Shakespeare scholar'. His dictum explicitly rests upon Ockham's Razor – rather uneasily, since that instrument is interpreted as 'Entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity' (Entia non sint multiplicanda praeter necessitatem). Unfortunately, that phrase should itself be excised. It occurs nowhere in William of Ockham's known works. Besides, the Razor's would-be wielders all too often interpret 'necessity' as meaning merely their own notions. Examples include Hosley (1963) and Bate himself (who proposes 'Pembroke' in the same breath, on the same page, by the same criterion). Thus the Razor is either employed solely for lip-service or else left to rust unused in a particular case, if not discarded altogether as disposable.
Such abuses can be suicidal. A far sharper and more authentic formulation is 'It is vain to invoke many causes for whatever can be explained by fewer' (Frustra fit per plura quod potest fieri per pauciora, a definition actually used by Ockham). Verifiable enumeration is far more objective than notional necessity. Thus defined, the Razor still works extremely well with a modern adaptor, as in military intelligence 1939-45 (Jones 1939, 88) and the scientific method passim.
Applied to the Sonnets, it reveals Southampton. Applied to the general corpus of Shakespeare studies, it cuts away all the non-stop invention of unevidenced dates, agents, actions and motives required by 'memorial reconstruction', 'plagiarism', 'collaboration', and other such theories, which also have no more facts in their favour than a belief in fairies. Its proper application would make the learned literary world a cleaner and saner place, in the next millennium.
Meanwhile the investigator can examine Shakespeare's works for some other evidence of personal allusions to actual people, places and events. It seems that no such factual study has ever been undertaken. A first attempt now follows (with lineation based as before on the 1973 Spevack Concordance).
1RS1 (1995, 2/1996), Shakespeare's Edward III(1996) and Shakespeare's Edmund Ironside(1985, 2/1986, supplemented by 1996, Appendix A), all contain a detailed index and bibliography; so their data and inferences are excluded from this new volume.