“Why should I believe you and not a Shakespeare expert?” and “If you have done no special research, what gives you the authority to talk knowledgeably about the Shakespeare authorship question?” and “Do you really HATE Shakespeare?” These are three questions I have received since my book about Shakespeare has come out, so let us talk about them.
First, and most important, I am a big fan of the works of Shakespeare. I did study Shakespeare in college and even won a Shakespeare sonnet-writing competition. Because winning that competition was so difficult, I simply have to disagree with those who think he was a businessman from Stratford-upon-Avon. Even writing one sonnet takes considerable thought and energy so I believe he would have been too busy selling grain, lending money and and purchasing real estate to be simultaneously writing sonnets and great masterpieces of the theater.
If I have done no special research what gives me the authority to write about the topic? Not long ago, a serial killer that had stumped detectives for over 20 years was arrested due to the detective efforts of a woman who was a fledgling TV actress. In fact, she had more experience in her hobby of helping adoptive kids find their “real” parents than capturing serial killers. Her name? Cece Moore. She is also known as “The Genetic Detective”. Cece got involved in using DNA to find and reunite adopted children with their real parents.
Cece discovered that putting her set of fresh eyes on an old “cold” case to review the DNA evidence and piece together the great-great-great grandfather’s history through documented birth and death records often led to the capture and arrest of the “real” killer. In other words, it did not take any “special” research of the subject’s many crimes. She did not need to look at the case files or read back the court testimony. She simply looked at the DNA evidence differently.
Similarly, when talking about my investigative skills and the 450-year-old cold case of William Shakespeare’s authorship, I did not really do any special research. I did not NEED to. I simply looked at the existing evidence a little differently. For example, take the “To the Reader” sonnet found in the First Folio. This poem was written by Ben Jonson, a close friend of William Shakespeare in 1623 – seven years after Shakespeare’s death.
People have looked at this poem for over 450 years and have not seen anything special in it. Shakespeare scholars claim that 77 people could be the “real” author, and there is not one shred of evidence to show any other name. Yet when I first looked at this poem, it took less than five minutes to see the name “de Vere.” It suddenly jumped out at me. Do you see it?
To be completely honest, my hobby is writing songs. (My wife claims that I have a ‘bad writing habit’.) The one word that seemed out of place was “drawne”. Do you see it above in the line “O, could he but have drawne his wit?” As a songwriter, I thought that the Renaissance word “draw’de” would have worked better. Why didn’t the poet use it? Then I realized, “draw’de = edward” spelled backward! And then looking down, I could see “de Vere” and then I noticed a few more words, and I realized someone was leaving us a message from the past: Hang Shakespeare but not de Vere.
How have modern scholars responded? It’s a mixed bag. Most modern scholars are now using Shakespeare to talk about race and social justice issues. I believe the works of Shakespeare were meant to inspire, involve and uplift all people so I do not agree with the social justice angle. Instead, my book uses Shakespeare to talk about mental health, because from reading the Sonnets, one can clearly see that the “real” author suffered from bipolar disorder.
You have to read my entire book – and not an old version of it. MOST people have been surprisingly supportive. Kirkus Reviews, for example, is NOT known to be kind to books involving Shakespearean conspiracy theories but here is what they had to say about my book. “A lively heterodox view of the bard.”
Most screenwriters barely receive credit for their work in Hollywood movies. Take Shindler’s List. It was Steven Spielberg the director who got all the glory for the film, not the screenwriter, Steven Zaillian. So even if Edward de Vere were to receive the writer’s credit for the Shakespeare canon, most likely Shakespeare fans would still want William Shakespeare to get the “director’s credit”. But at least, who wrote the plays, and how the plays came to be would finally be corrected and the life-story of a brilliant yet flawed playwright and 17th earl of Oxford could, at last, be told. More importantly, high school and college students suffering from bipolar depression might relate to this flawed man and voice THEIR feelings too.