previously unpublished; © the estate of eric sams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)
My 1995 book The Real Shakespeare 1564-94 (called RS1 from now on) offered 205 items of historical documentation together with inferences therefrom. The results refuted modern literary theories, for example by showing that certain so-called 'Bad Quartos' of the 1590s were Shakespeare's own early versions of plays he later revised, and hence not the 'memorial reconstructions' required by fashionable fiction. But the academic mind subconsciously suppresses all such uncongenial conclusions, even in the act of apparently accepting them. Thus one reviewer (Potter 1995) agreed that 'the only possible date' for texts unknown in print until the 1623 First Folio is 'before April 1616' (i.e. Shakespeare's death-date) without noticing that all 'memorial reconstruction' is thereby struck stone dead. That theory cannot even begin without antedating every Folio counterpart of every 'Bad Quarto' by some twenty years or more, whereas in history as in logic nothing can be ever be earlier than its only possible date. If that date might admittedly be any year up to 1616 then it cannot also fall between 1594 and 1609, as the theory requires.
So history has to be abolished, thus: 'The problem is that one can never be certain that the events about which one happens to know...were the really important ones...we need more information' (Potter 1995). Similarly, if it can be shown that 'Hamlet' was never a Danish but always a Stratford name, and we also believe that the early Hamlet c. 1589 was written by the non-Stratfordians Kyd or Bacon, we can always wonder whether they too had some good reason for using that name (Jackson 1979, Carr 1994 respectively). Logic needs no abolition; modern Shakespeareans overtly rely on feeling, not reason. Thus 'seems' becomes sufficient and decisive, as in 'Ironside seems to date from the later 1590s', so its hundreds of close canonical parallels are 'more likely' to be imitative than Shakespearean (Bate 1995, 81n). Once planted, the seed of 'seems' soon blossoms into further flowers of fancy, thus: 'other scholars have convincingly argued' that a 'truly execrable history play called Ironside' was 'not a juvenile work by [Shakespeare] but rather a second-rate imitation of him' (Bate 1995). In fact, no scholar has ever argued (though a few others have asserted) any such thing. On the contrary, all Ironside specialists have always assigned that play, execrable or not, to the 1580s (Sams 1985, 2/1986), which rules out imitation.
All concerned should surely rely solely on objective inference from documented data. Of course the facts might be misleading and the reasoning wrong. But at least rational discussion becomes possible. And there may be some measure of verification. Thus if coherence is a criterion, then the RS1 data can be defended against doubters. That book's redrawing of Shakespeare's portrait from the life, up to 1594, clearly disclosed such features as his disadvantaged country background, his familial Catholicism, his boyhood awareness of Tudor theatre, his long-lasting claims to gentility and property, his experience of law-clerking and its associated trade of money-lending, his association with Southampton and with Kyd, and his feud with Greene and Nashe, together with his early and pioneering start as a dramatist, his lost or forgotten plays from those first years, his personal involvement with his art-works, and his assiduity as a reviser. If these (and many other) novel and hence unwelcome conclusions had relied on the wrong events up to 1594, there is no reason why the same notes should be struck so often and so resonantly thereafter, in different and often unrelated historical sources. But in fact the same information constantly recurs; and its truth is the obvious explanation. Thus Catholicism is the key to many aspects of Shakespeare's career; so are law-clerking and money-lending. His early unknown plays and their reworking form a constant theme, which some will no doubt find wearisome or jarring; but his facility and his conscientiousness are alike well documented. So the rediscovery of the so-called 'Lost Years' 1582-92 should yield some twenty new and unacknowledged plays, even at the leisurely later rate of two per annum. This degree of corroboration in turn lends fresh colour to new nuances such as Greene's wicked observation that his love-sick shepherd Doron, an apparent lampoon on Shakespeare (RS1 66-7, 69, 85) had a brother called Moron; there is evidence that Shakespeare's brother Gilbert1 was thus unkindly assessed. It is surely also relevant that Doron is one form of the Greek for spear, as Shakespeare himself would hardly have known without being told;2 indeed, that name may well also hit at his lack of classical instruction, by implying that he would be the last person to recognise the obvious allusion. Once such possibilities are granted, new significance attaches to the name Mullidor, as Greene called a later love-sick shepherd in Never Too Late. The identity, in every sense, of these two characters is as manifest as their shared stem of _o_=spear; and Mullidor adds a ribald point. Shakespeare was 'passionate' (Meres 1598); his father was a wool-dealing farmer. He is presented as sex-obsessed by Willobie (RS1 99-100) and perhaps by Nashe, who like Greene treats him as a yokel (RS1 64-81); in the Parnassus plays he reverts to the shepherd's trade (RS1 3, 87). The 'mull' of Mullidor means 'grind' both politely and vulgarly in English as well as Greek; 'shake' clearly connotes analogous to-ing and fro-ing.
All such links, large or small, admittedly pose severe problems of presentation, especially when extended over a long time-span. In what follows, each separate topic discussed is arranged in chronological order of its later (and usually more definite) date. In this sequel, the historical fact-list continues with over 400 further references, 205-6183, up to Shakespeare's death and burial in 1616 (463, 464) and for a further 100 years, including the observations offered by his earliest biographers John Aubrey c. 1681 (608) and Nicholas Rowe 1709 (632) after due consultation.