Friday, January 12, 2007

It’s an American question.

Two Brits have coldly admonished me, with sniffs and noses in the air, that the Shakespearean Authorship Question is “merely an American question.” End of discussion. And that is one of Peter Holland’s two “arguments” against the authorship issue in his article about WS in the Dictionary of National [British] Biography (his other argument is, “You’re just a snob”).

Claiming it to be merely an American question (because Americans are somehow prone as a nation to conspiracy theories, Holland claims) seems to be almost as popular a line as “You're just a snob,” particular with the British. It’s also an ad hominem argument, as if somehow being an “American question” automatically makes it an inferior or stupid question or you are an inferior or stupid American for thinking such a thing (and consequently, the speaker is the superior English person). AND IT DOES NOT ADDRESS THE ISSUE.

And like “You’re just a snob,” it skirts the issue without the speaker having to know anything about the question at all. Very convenient.

Funny, the Brits who told me this and the British Peter Holland all live in America.

You’re just a snob.

“You’re just a snob” if you think Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare. Criminy, how many times have I heard or read that stupid line. It’s the first and favorite thing a Shakespearean will tell you if you dare bring up the authorship issue. And I repeat: it’s a stupid line. And a rude one. “You’re just a snob” is an ad hominem argument; ad hominem means “to the man.” That is, it personally attacks the person bringing up the inquiry — IT DOES NOT ADDRESS THE ISSUE. It is a rude statement that is designed to make the person discussing authorship feel like a low-class, immoral elitist, but it has NOTHING to do with the very real issues surrounding the authorship. Here’s an equivalent argument: She says, “Santa Fe has an average of 300 sunny days a year.” He says, “You're just a slut.” Ad hominem.

Shakespeareans use that line regularly because it is an easy way to skirt the problems (and make you feel crummy and themselves feel superior). I particularly take offense at being told this for two reasons.
1. In my book, Sweet Swan of Avon: Did a Woman Write Shakespeare?, my argument is NOT that Shakespeare didn’t have any record of an education or a presence at court and therefore wasn’t qualified to write these works. My argument is that there is no clear documentation that he was a writer, along the lines of Diana Price’s book, Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography. So don’t yell at me for claiming WS couldn’t have written them without the education and background, because I don’t claim that. Of course he might have had an education “that would put many college graduates to shame today” and he might have had friends in the literati and he might have hung around at court and he might have studied rhetoric and poetry and French and Italian and alchemy, etc. etc. etc. It’s certainly possible that he might have done all these things.

2. Why on earth would *I* claim someone couldn't do something that they don’t have “appropriate credentials” for? H*ll, my first computer book was turned down by ten publishers because I don’t have a degree in computers. I had to self-publish my first two computer books which have now sold more than two million copies and are in many different languages. I had the same problem with the Sweet Swan of Avon — I don’t have the “appropriate background” in Shakespeare studies and had to essentially self-publish it. So far be it from ME to claim William Shakespeare didn't have the appropriate background.

The funny thing is that the author of the Shakespearean works is a huge snob. The lower classes are consistently belittled; the upper classes naturally speak better and are more refined and somehow very well educated even if they’ve grown up in a shepherd’s hut or in a cave. (I’m working on an essay about that and will eventually post it here.)

The brilliant writer Elliot Baker sent me a copy of a published letter of Delia Bacon’s in which she told someone sputtering about Shakespeare, “You do not know what is in those Plays if you think that booby wrote them.” I have to agree with her.