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PBS and Rubbo on Marlowe as Shakespeare

PBS maintained a lively dialogue on this program, but cut off the exchange with the posting of Diana Price's reply to a letter from me. Following is my reply to Price, which for some reason PBS would not post:

Diana Price repeats the canard that the First Folio is ALL Stratfordians have to show as evidence that Shakespeare was a writer - this despite my repeated citation of other evidence, including the Stratford Monument, the poem by William Basse, the testimony of Lieutenant Hamond, the testimony of Ben Jonson, the testimony of Leonard Digges (the stepson of one of the two overseers of Shakespeare's will), the testimony of Francis Meres (from whom we learn that Shakespeare was a different individual from Marlowe and the Earl of Oxford), and the testimony of The Return from Parnassus, which identifies Shakespeare and Jonson as playwrights who WERE NOT university men (which distinguishes them from both Marlowe and Oxford, who WERE university men).

Only the endlessly fertile brains of anti-Stratfordians find the evidence of the First Folio ambiguous: they obviously must do so as their hypothesis forces them to discount all evidence to their disliking: and the more compelling the evidence, the harder they must strive to discount it.

Price adopts a method which would not be accepted by any serious historical scholar: she decides IN ADVANCE what evidence is allowed to count; in particular, posthumous evidence simply doesn't count. She also conducts her argument in accordance with the following syllogism:

 All professional writers must necessarily leave a "paper trail".

 Shakespeare of Stratford did not leave a "paper trail".

 Therefore Shakespeare of Stratford was not a professional writer.

The first element of this syllogism is so obviously false that the conclusion necessarily suffers the same fate.

But even to identify Shakespeare as a "professional writer" is to misunderstand the historical facts. Apart from Venus and Adonis and Lucrece (1593 and 1594), there is no evidence whatever that Shakespeare wrote for money. Rather, he wrote plays for his company, probably without pay, and those plays attracted paying customers.

Shakespeare's income derived from the company's take at the "gate," a take shared with his company fellows including Burbage and also Heminges and Condell: the latter two (backed by Leonard Digges) credit their fellow, Master William Shakespeare the actor, with the authorship of the plays which made their company a success.

Alan H. Nelson
Professor of English

P.S. This will be my last reply to Rubbo or Price; but I wonder, in closing, whether Price would consider the Earl of Oxford a "professional writer"?

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