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    Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography: New Evidence of an Authorship Problem (Contributions in Drama and Theatre Studies)
    by Diana Price
    Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
    Hardcover (30 October, 2000)
    list price: $69.95 -- our price: $69.95
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    Reviews (15)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Important Work from Price
    Price: "If we had the sort of evidence for Shakespeare that we have for his colleagues--that is, straightforward, contemporaneous, and *personal* literary records for the man who allegedly wrote Shakespeare's plays--there would be no authorship debate."

    5-0 out of 5 stars Information not found in orthodox biographies
    I have been a Shakespeare fan for some time, but am relatively new to the question of who actually wrote the plays. I found this book an ideal beginning place for those also interested, for in providing uncomfortable documentary evidence that traditional scholarship typically ignores, it pushed me farther along in my suspicion that, whoever wrote the works of Shakespeare, it was not the man from Stratford.

    In very readable terms Price shows that there is indeed enormous room to doubt the traditional attribution of the plays.Rather than try to influence potential readers with only my opinions, I will let the book speak for itself by mentioning a few items which most impressed me, in the hope that this will convey the tone of the book as a whole:

    Traditional scholars express disbelief at the suggestion that the Stratfordian was a "front man" for a high-born anonymous author:"Why use an actual person?Why not just a false name?"However, Price renders this objection moot by quoting the Elizabethan Robert Greene, who wrote of poets who "for their calling and gravity, being loath to have any profane pamphlets pass under their hand, get some other Battillus to set his name to their verses."(Battillus was an ancient who put his name to the works of Virgil.)Thus, Price provides proof that in Elizabethan England front men WERE employed by anonymous authors to protect their reputations.Whether scholars want to believe it or not, it was done.

    Traditional scholars also protest that no one doubted Shakespeare's authorship during his lifetime.Price again quotes contemporary records to prove this another falsehood.Apparently the mystery surrounding the Shakespeare authorship dates back to the 1590's, for even as the works were printed some readers took the name "Shakespeare" to be a pseudonym for (variously) Francis Bacon, Samuel Daniel, and Edward Dyer.

    Traditional scholarship's claim that the actor Shakspere was also a writer is founded on an ambiguous passage about a "Shake-scene" from the 1592 pamphlet "Greene's Groatsworth of Wit."(Aside from this passage, they have *nothing* dating from Shakspere's life which clearly states that he was "Shakespeare.")However -- and for the first time that I've ever seen -- Price places the "Shake-scene" passage *within the context of the pamphlet as a whole*.I was shocked to learn that the whole first section of "Groatsworth" -- never mentioned by orthodox scholars -- deals with a seemingly autobiographical account of how Greene was misused and cheated by a greedy, moneylending actor who brokered plays and took credit for others' writings.Why have we never been told this in traditional biographies?!The description of the actor talliesexactly with the picture we get of the Stratfordian's character from his later business activities.

    (Price also shows that, despite scholars' claim that the "Shake-scene" passage represents Greene's envy that a mere actor should show success at playwrighting, that is apparently not how Elizabethans interpreted it.She quotes the one Elizabethan allusion we have to the passage -- and its author took the "Shake-scene" passage as representing an unethical moneylending actor who takes credit for others' writings.)

    Similarly, Price shows how traditional scholarship -- for no good reason -- rejects some records related to Shakspere, but accepts others on far weaker grounds.For example, Shakspere's first recorded activity in London is a 1592 document which shows him lending 7 pounds (a large sum of money then).Most biographers, if they mention it at all, reject this record as referring to "another Shakspere" -- even though it is perfectly congruent with Shakspere's later known moneylending activities.Apparently the only reason this record is rejected is that this *fact* about Shakspere's early London activity does not match scholars' *beliefs* about his supposed early writing career.

    Similarly, Price brings to light contradictions in the historical record which orthodox scholars gloss over.For example, biographers claim that during the Christmas season of 1597 Shakspere was fulfilling professional commitments by performing at Court with his theater company.(As it is documented that the company indeed did.It was their most important engagement.)They also acknowledge that the records show that Shakspere was regularly in Stratford, engaged in business.However, what they fail to mention is that the documents indicate Shakspere was doing mundane business in Stratford *at exactly the same time* that he was supposedly performing at Court as a key member of "his company."Price shows how traditional biographies typically deal with these incompatible records:by placing them in different chapters, apparently in the hope that no one will notice the obvious conflict in timing.

    And much more ...

    From what I have seen, this book has been a great embarrassment to traditional scholarship, for it clearly demonstrates how weak much of that scholarship has been, based on assumptions taken as fact, unquestioned received wisdom, and circular logic.And since Price quotes only orthodox sources, she shows how orthodoxy has painted *itself* into a number of mutually incompatible corners.Orthodox scholars seem to be becoming increasingly defensive and hysterical as popular interest in the authorship question, and doubts about the Stratfordian, continue to grow.A typical response appears on Price's website and comes from the authors of the Shakespeare Authorship Web Site:"[We] have both been far too busy with more important matters to write up a comprehensive response to Price (doing exciting real scholarship is somehow much more fulfilling than refuting pseudo-scholarship)."

    Apparently it is easier for orthodox scholars to resort to name-calling and bluster than to squarely address these tough questions for which they have no answers.This is an essential book for any open-minded Shakespeare fan.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Good overview of the questions, but......
    I'm not a scholar, but I found the book interesting in its scrutiny of the "facts" pertaining to Stratford's Shakspere.

    But to me it falls flat in refuting the First Folio evidence.

    And if Elizabethan noblemen were that disdainful of playwriting and thought poetry frivolous, why didn't this supposed "real" Shakespeare turn his creativity to accepted norms?

    Or if he was so brilliant as to be above those norms, why didn't he just use his own name and buck the system?

    Or why not just make up a name instead of attaching the authorship to a real "front man?"If I were the author of those plays, I might hide my real name, but it would drive me nuts to see them attributed to the Merchant of Stratford.

    And what about Ben Jonson's complicity in the conspiracy?I would think the production of a large book like the Folio was a big expensive undertaking--why would people who knew the truth fill it with lies?Why not just leave the introductory stuff mentioning Stratford and Avon out?

    But the book is definitely worth reading, as are the associated websites. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0313312028
    Sales Rank: 407882
    Subjects:  1. 1564-1616    2. Authorship    3. Biography    4. Biography & Autobiography    5. Biography/Autobiography    6. Drama    7. Dramatists, English    8. History    9. History and criticism    10. Literary    11. Plays / Drama    12. Playwriting    13. Shakespeare    14. Shakespeare, William,    15. Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616    16. English    17. Shakespeare studies & criticism    18. Shakespeare, William   


    The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History
    by Michael H. Hart
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (01 October, 1992)
    list price: $22.50 -- our price: $15.30
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    Reviews (60)

    1-0 out of 5 stars Blasphemy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I am appalled.Mr. Harts (If that is indeed is real name) book is a poorly researched load of tripe.Not only does he fail to recognize Gary Coleman as the most influencial human being in all recorded history, he doesn't even mention Coleman once in his book!!!!I'm not joking.Read the book yourself if you have to, Coleman's not in there.The horror.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, IfFlawed
    I am so intrigued by Michael Hart's book: The 100, that I had to buy one! Every time I go into the library I have to check it out. He presents a very intelligent, and compelling case for each of the persons listed. Of course, I have to take issue with his relatively low ranking of Jesus Christ, since his influence on the world is hardly confined to the religious.
    Do the trillions of dollars of annual revenue Christmas bringsthe world mean nothing? And what about the numerous charities that have improved the lifestyles of nations? These are all inspired by Christ's passionate teachings about helping those in need. And what about the 600 years between Jesus death and the birth of Islam? 600 years of influence on the world before Islam was even thought about! I must also take issue with Lincoln being listed so low, since the United States would not be the superpower it is today if he had not kept the Union together, that's if the United States would even exist at all, as I'm sure other European nations were just waiting for it to divide up into little weakened states so they could conquer it for their own profit. Still, I would recommend this book to anyone just on the basis of its educational value alone.

    1-0 out of 5 stars JFK and not Lincoln and FDR?
    It would help if such a historical list were written by a historian.Mr. Hart's degrees are in science, and his bias toward scientists in the list is overwhelming. He lists JFK because of his starting the mission to the moon. Certainly Lincoln, FDR, Teddy Roosevelt, Truman, and Reagan would rank as more influential U.S. presidents.And Madison as Father of the Constitution and the U.S. government has certainly had significant and long-lasting influence given the number of democracies in the world today.The effort to create such a list is certainly interesting, everyone will have different opinions, and the discussion promotes historical learning which is in such short supply today. But it would be better for an accomplished historian to create such a list rather than an author so taken up with scientific efforts to the detriment of other areas of human achievement. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0806513500
    Sales Rank: 96273
    Subjects:  1. Biography    2. Biography/Autobiography    3. History - General History    4. Reference    5. World - General   


    Shakespeare--Who Was He? : The Oxford Challenge to the Bard of Avon
    by Richard F. Whalen
    Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
    Hardcover (30 September, 1994)
    list price: $35.00 -- our price: $35.00
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    Reviews (12)

    4-0 out of 5 stars Read John Mitchell for an overview
    This book by Whalen is not an overview of all competing Shakespeare Authorship Controversy books--the book by John Michell _Who Wrote Shakespeare_ is.

    Rather, this book advances the thesis that the Earl of Oxford is the real Shakespeare.

    Disclaimer:I haven't read this book yet.

    1-0 out of 5 stars Snobbery
    No one in Shakespeare's lifetime, or the first two hundred years after his death, expressed the slightest doubt about his authorship. The "authorship controversy" only started when Shakespeare's plays were translated into other languages and European writers started to describe Shakespeare as a genius and a rival to Homer and the ancients. Academics then scooted off to Warwickshire to look for relics but came back embarrassed - Homer's English rival was the son of a glovemaker who had never even been to university.

    That's when theorists started proposing various aristocrats as alternative authors (the Earl of Shrewsbury, the Earl of Derby, the Earl of Oxford, etc, etc, etc). At the root of all these ridiculous theories there is nothing but snobbery. These "Oxfordians" just don't like the idea that the greatest writer of all time was a common man of the people.

    1-0 out of 5 stars Same old nonsense about Oxford
    If I were to attempt to prove someone other than Shakespeare wrote Shakepeare, just about the last Elizabethan nobleman I
    would nominate would be the 17th Earl of Oxford. In fact, I
    wouldn't nominate this murderer, depraved , writer of terrible
    verse as having done anything of value, aside from abandoning his kids, running thru his fortune, getting syphillus abroad,
    and ending up in virtually in the poor house. Whalen consistently avoids direct evidence and willingly accepts the most implausible scenarios, where conspirators keep up the conspiracy (which has no purpose, in any logical sense) even in their private diaries and personal copies of plays 25 years after the man is dead!!! By comparison, JFK conspiracy theories look plausible, all 2000 of them! ... Read more

    Isbn: 0275948501
    Sales Rank: 534403
    Subjects:  1. 1564-1616    2. Authorship    3. Biography    4. Drama    5. Dramatists, English    6. Early modern, 1500-1700    7. General    8. Great Britain    9. History - General History    10. History: World    11. Literary Criticism    12. Nobility    13. Oxford theory    14. Oxford, Edward De Vere,    15. Playwriting    16. Shakespeare    17. Shakespeare, William,    18. Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616    19. Oxford, Edward De Vere    20. Shakespeare, William   


    The mysterious William Shakespeare: The myth and the reality
    by Charlton Ogburn
    Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
    Hardcover (1984)
    list price: $25.00
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    Reviews (4)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Best big book on the subject
    Ogburn's a fabulous writer. One may read it for his style alone. Large book, many small chapters. Book II is something of the life of the 17th Earl of Oxford, but Book I is my favorite--I love Ogburn's quoting of the Orthodox scholars of Shaxberd (or Shagspere, or Shakesper, or Shakspre, or Shaxper, or Shaxpere, or Shexpere): did you know that the "university of life" is "more exacting" than the education you'd get at Cambridge? No? Important Stratfordian scholars would have you think so. They also say there is little "book learning" in the plays attributed to William Shakespeare. Then Ogburn lists all of the learning and various subjects Oxford was more or less an expert on...or had firsthand experience with (like travel, the law, falconry, botany, science, music, art, classical literature and philosophy, jousting, the military, etc.). The orthodox scholars now think that "Shakespeare" must have seen Italy in order to write about it as one who was there.


    5-0 out of 5 stars Not Believing the Impossible
    * We begin with the enormous amount of learning displayed in the plays and poems of William Shakeapeare: the arts, history, finance, law, military affairs, government, especially connected with royalty...not just aworld--a universe--of knowledge which Pgburn sees no way for WilliamShakespeare of Stratrord-upon-Avon to have acquired.* WilliamShakespeare was not enrolled in a univesity--according to univeristyrecords of the time--and when he might have been privately educated thoughtutors, he was forced (at 18) to marry a woman eight years his senior--andwas the father of three children (including twins) within two years.Howcould it have been possible, under these conditions, for any person to gainthe kind of knowledge which the writer of the plays and poems display?* Or we begin with a man whose ancestor was at the signing of the MagnaCarta, whose home Queen Elizabeth visited when he was a boy, who helddegrees from both Oxford and Cambridge, and whose Latin teacher was thegreatest Latin scholor in England, and who was close enough to the throneto be one of the carriers of the golden cloth above the queen's head inWestminster Abbey at the defeat of the Spanash Armada...Edward deVere, the17th Earl of Oxford.Though we cannot PROVE that Shakespeare did notwrite the plays--nor any other negative--it is simply impossible for me tobelive that he could possibly have written the plays, from the twinstandpoints of his lack of education and experience, exactly the twoqualities which were necessary for the plays' and poems' composition, andprecisely the two qualities which Edward deVere posssed.* Ogburn'sbook covers these two aspects of any writer's background necessary forcomposing the works of Shakeapeare--education and experience--and leaves itto the reader to either agree with him or disagree with him.Iwholeheartedly agree. * If Ogburn's treatse has flaws, which tome of thelength of his composition does not?But the problem of how WilliamShakespeare, growing up in a village of approximately 2500 people in thecountryside of England in the 17th century could have written the works ofShakespeare is a much larger question.Long live Edward deVere.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A scholarly factual investigation of its subject.
    For open minded scholars and lovers of 'Shakespeare' who are also lovers of justice, Ogburn's book is compelling reading.Effectively decimating the possibility that a Stratford merchant who never owned a book and couldbarely write his own name could have produced the flower of Englishliterature, Ogburn then introduces us to Edward De Vere, the 17th Earl ofOxford.The facts of this fascinating man's life would convince any butthe most prejudiced reader that De Vere was indeed the author of themajority of "Shakespearian" works.Though there may be minorflaws in Ogburn's work, (as there are in any work of this magnitude, evenShakespeare's) that is no reason to throw out the baby with the bathwater! Let's not lose sight of the fact that a major discovery has been made aboutthe world's most influential author.And with Oxford, a fascinating humanbeing as Shakespeare, the infinitely fascinating plays gain an even deeperemotional impact.Essential reading for anyone who cares about literature. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0396084419
    Sales Rank: 506887
    Subjects:  1. Biography / Autobiography    2. General    3. Authorship    4. Oxford theory    5. Oxford, Edward De Vere    6. Shakespeare, William   

    Blue Avenger Cracks the Code
    by Norma Howe
    Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
    Hardcover (01 September, 2000)
    list price: $17.00 -- our price: $17.00
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    Editorial Review

    Who can crack complicated ciphers faster than a speeding bullet? Or leaptall gondolas in a single bound? It's a supercomputer, it's an Olympic athlete,no, it's Blue Avenger, a.k.a. David Schumacher, Norma Howe's 16-year-oldself-made superhero. Blue is back for another round of everyday miracle makingin Howe's deliciously clever sequel to The Adventures of Blue Avenger.This time our hero is on the hunt for the true author of Shakespeare'splays--was it really William Shakespeare? Or could it have been the obscure 17thEarl of Oxford, Edward De Vere? While he searches for clues to the historymystery, Blue also manages to score a trip to Venice, foil the foul dog-nappingof his grammy's beloved Shih Tzu, and discover a sure-fire way of securing thecopyright of his friend Louie's stolen video game idea. But even as he saves theworld bit by bit, Blue can't help but wonder what it will take to finally winthe trust and love of his friend and crush, the fair Omaha Nebraska Brown.Cracking the code of her heart may end up becoming Blue's biggest challenge.

    Like its predecessor, Blue Avenger Cracks the Code is full of engaging,interlocking plot lines that Howe juggles nimbly and matches up neatly by book'send. Has learning through fiction ever been so fun? Full of facts and factoids,Code will have teens running out to research the 17th Earl of Oxford andtrying their hands at Francis Bacon's Bi-Lateral Cipher. As always, theAvenger's adventures are true Blue, and very cool. Stay tuned for the nextinstallment! (Ages 12 and older) --Jennifer Hubert ... Read more

    Reviews (3)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Blue Avenger Cracks the Code
    In Norma Howe's first book, THE ADVENTURES OF BLUE AVENGER, her main character David Schumacher changes his name to "Blue Avenger" and becomes a self-made hero. In the sequel, BLUE AVENGER CRACKS THE CODE, the adventure continues.

    The book opens as Blue is reading through his father's old books, which have remained untouched since his death three years before. The last book on his list is THE COMPLETE WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, and Blue begins to wonder who the real Bard was. Could it have actually been Shakespeare or was it Edward De Vere, the relatively unknown 17th Earl of Oxford? Blue, his best friend Louis DeSoto, and Louis's sister Drusie all travel to Venice in order to solve this enigma.

    The three friends navigate through many mysteries on this fateful trip. When the time comes for them to board the plane for their long journey home, you wonder if they will be able to resume their normal lives --- or will author extraordinaire Howe treat us to yet another installment? One can only hope that Blue will have more codes to crack in the near future.

    --- Reviewed by Audrey Marie Danielson

    5-0 out of 5 stars Da Blue Avenger Cracks the Code
    In this book, the sequel to The Adventures of Blue Avenger, Blue continues his journey to stop crime and corruption. His adventures take him from Oakland, California to Venice, Italy, and along the way he meets many new friends. The entire plot is tangled with the mystery of weather William Shakespeare famous shakespearian plays. Many think that Edward De Vere, an english Earl, was the actual author. So can Blue find enough evidense to prove that Edward De Vere really did write the Shakespearian plays? Or while trying to prove that Edward De Vere wrote them, will he prove that William Shakespeare Reallyh wrote the Shakespearian plays? Read this great book to find out! Hope you like the book!

    5-0 out of 5 stars Blue Avenger Strikes Again
    In this book, the sequel to The Adventures of Blue Avenger, Blue continues his exploits to save humanity from crime and corruption. His adventurestake him from Oakland, California, to Venice, Italy, and along the way hemeets many new friends. This book has many more characters than the first,which makes it even more interesting. The entire plot is intertwined withthe mystery of whether or not William Shakespeare really wrote the famedShakespearean plays. Many conjecture that Edward De Vere, an English earl,was actually the author of Shakespeare's plays. Although this book wasn'tas funny as the first, the mystery makes it an even better book. Both booksin the series are quick reads, but well worth the time for anyone,especially teenage readers. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0805063722
    Subjects:  1. 1564-1616    2. Action & Adventure    3. Authorship    4. Children's 12-Up - Fiction - General    5. Children: Young Adult (Gr. 7-9)    6. Fiction    7. High schools    8. Humorous Stories    9. Juvenile Fiction    10. Mysteries, Espionage, & Detective Stories    11. Schools    12. Shakespeare, William,    13. Juvenile Fiction / Mysteries & Detective Stories    14. Shakespeare, William   


    by Joseph Sobran
    Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
    Hardcover (07 May, 1997)
    list price: $25.00
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    Editorial Review

    The debate over the true authorship of Shakespeare's plays has raged for more than a century, fueled by fans like the National Review's Joseph Sobran, who cannot accept that a country bumpkin like William Shakespeare could ever have written the rich plays full of high literary references, intimate knowledge of court politics, and familiarity with personalities in foreign lands. Like many before him, Sobran fingers Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. Where Sobran makes a useful addition to the so-called Oxfordian debate is his sober, Holmes-like laying out of the evidence, especially as found in two useful appendices that contain the full text of the real Shakespeare's flatfooted will, contrasted with specimens of Oxford's own acknowledged poetry, which contains many locutions similar to those found in Shakespeare's plays. ... Read more

    Reviews (33)

    5-0 out of 5 stars well worth reading
    Persuasively argued, and finely detailed, Sobran's work makes a strong and reasoned case for recognizing Edward de Vere, the seventeenth Earl of Oxford, as the author of the Shakespeare plays.One wonders whether the authors of many of the "reviews" posted on Amazon.com have even read the book.

    1-0 out of 5 stars Another Oxfordian Dirge
    The very premise of this book should make anyone do a double-take: Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, moneymaking boor, and mediocre versifier, was actually the late, great William Shakespeare. For this there is no believable evidence, despite all of the author's incessant babbling and paper-thin research. His only true intention is to attribute the Shakespearean canon to an unremarkable, grammatically-challenged noblemen rather than that "illiterate bumpkin" from Stratford-upon-Avon, who, it should be mentioned, has ALL the evidence in his favor. That "illiterate bumpkin" had a monument dedicated to him, bequeathed money to the actors of the Globe Theatre (including the two, Heminges and Condell, who edited the First Folio), was the subject of numerous contemporary poetic tributes (including one by fellow writer William Basse that clearly reads: "William Shakespeare, he died in April 1616" ) and was a close friend of Stratforder Richard Field, the publisher of both "Venus and Adonis" and the "Rape of Lucrece." If you are interested in fairy tales and fantasies, read doggerel such as "Alias Shakespeare" and continue to believe that men of non-noble birth cannot be geniuses; if you are interested in reality, read books such as Irvin Matus' "Shakespeare, In Fact" and Alan H. Nelson's "Monstrous Adversary."

    Few things display the human proneness to madness quite like Oxfordianism. Peddled by otherwise intelligent people, it is more akin to a fervent religion than a rock-hard science: its firmest roots are distortion, mangled evidence, and, as critic Harold Bloom has previously stated, a none-too-concealed jealousy directed at William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon. Surely, they ask, Shakespeare's works are the products of a "learned" noblemen and world traveller and not some "third-rate," "illiterate," "dumb," "greedy," and "vulgar" play-actor from a country town? My answer, much like the one any logical person can glean from the historical record (not the pseudo-history concocted by Oxfordians), is a resounding 'no.'

    To reach a better understanding of Oxford's candidacy, one needs to examine his life objectively and free of Shakespearean trappings, unlike the methods utilized by hagiographers Charlton Ogburn, B.M. Ward, Daniel Wright, and the author at hand, Mr. Joseph Sobran. Since it is this man's life that Oxfordians find so closely "connected" to Shakespeare's works, a thorough examination thereof, rather than a blind canonization, is in order. The final results, as I shall demonstrate, reveal a misogynistic man of slight learning who was invariably consumed with moneymaking schemes, not imaginative writing and attentive reading. Like any good fairy-tale, Oxfordianism has conveniently buried the true details of the Earl's life and replaced them with outrageous fictions (including Streitz' insane claim that he was the son of Elizabeth I). Oxfordians, it should be noted, are the grand champions of out-of-contex musings, all with the intention of inflating the image of their weak candidate, including their oh-so-clever clipping of George Puttenham's list of Elizabethan dramatists, which, while mentioning Oxford as "the best for comedy among us" (along with a host of other obscure and average writers) goes on to mention, in a more prestigious category, an entirely separate author named Shakespeare, who Puttenham calls the best for both tragedy AND comedy. They also like to neglect all the listings of Shakespeare's name in poetic registries, all of which call him both "master" and "gentleman" (both middle-class titles).

    Oxenforde (the name under which de Vere signed his letters) was, as one scholar has already said, "born great, had more greatness thrust upon him, and achieved obscurity." He was extremely wealthy, he was the son-in-law of William Cecil, Lord Burghley, and he enjoyed a life of high privilege. Such characteristics are often utilized by Oxfordians to peg him as the man Shakespeare "should have been," never mind the vast evidence to the contrary. Throughout his 54 years, Oxford was perennially unpopular--he quarreled with the polymath Sir Philip Sidney, abused Italian teenagers, and pestered both Burghley and Queen Elizabeth for an endless string of noble offices. Thus, it seems that he is not the glowing, admirable "genius" constructed via Oxfordian fantasy, nor is it likely that he is the incredibly empathetic mind behind Shakespeare's work (it is worth noting that no one crafted a believable heroine quite like the Bard--yet if one reads Oxford's own "Sitting Alone in My Thought In Melancholy Mood," he/she will find that the Earl's portrayal of women falls shorts of Shakespeare's). Likewise, his poetry is wildly uneven, often unreadable, and dum-dee-dum in an undeniably commonplace way. Sure, Oxfordians have spliced them with the Sonnets to exhibit "similarities"--such absurd methods do not qualify as research, and could be just as easily used to "prove" that Coleridge wrote the Wordsworthian canon or that Francis Bacon authored "Don Quixote."

    It is true that virtue does not need to coincide with genius--was Oxford actually a disgruntled Earl who vented his frustration with the world via Shakespeare's tragedies (namely, Hamlet)? Again, the answer is no. As vigorous biographers such as Nelson have shown, Oxford's life is not the mirror of Hamlet, as so many Oxfordians like to believe. He was on amicable terms with stepfather Charles Tyrrel (the Oxfordian model for murderous Claudius), was literally begged by Burghley to marry daughter Anne (Oxfordians like to think that the mild-mannered Burghley is the model for the conniving Polonius--yet remember that Polonius never invited Hamlet to wed Ophelia, rather he did quite the contrary), and so on. As David Kathman has said before, one can find Shakespearean parallels in the life of any Elizabethan man or woman, and Oxford's merit no special attention--his father, unlike Hamlet Sr., died of natural causes, and none of his general parallels match those of either King James I or the Earl of Essex, both of whom had fathers who died via poisoning. Also, in regard to the supposed autobiography in Shakespeare, remember authors such as Rudyard Kipling and Stephen Crane, both of whom wrote strikingly of war and military affairs; according to Oxfordian methodology, they would have to have been soldiers, yet neither served a single day.

    Likewise, Shakespeare lived over 200 years before Romantic poet William Wordsworth would define poetry as "the recollection of emotion in moments of tranquility"--before then, literature was seldom overtly autobiographical. Shakespeare's works, like so many others of his era, are constructed upon ancient tales, many of them not original to the Bard (Hamlet has a history, documented by Saxon Grammaticus, the "Histories Tragiques" and Thomas Kyd, that precedes Shakespeare by decades). Even the bed-trick in "All's Well that Ends Well" is a Medieval creation, referenced in countless other dramas, and not unique to Oxford's life. And even if the plays and sonnets were autobiographical, there exist no clear parallel with Oxford, and the shadowy nature of William of Stratford's life doesn't eliminate him from being the alleged autobiographer (one sonnet, the only one written in eight-syllable lines, includes the words "hate away," which, according to a host of vigorous scholarship, is almost certainly a pun on the Warwickshire pronunciation of Anne Hathaway's surname). The Sonnets' dedication describing "our ever-living poet," often found so significant by Oxfordians, is a religious term used only to describe God, not a man, and thus it is likely that the poems are dedicated to the Lord Almighty--similarly, the mysterious "Mr. W.H." is thought by many scholars to have not even been a real person, and certainly not the Earl of Southampton (who is the subject of many strained Oxfordian connections and fantasies).

    Any Oxfordian ought to take a few hours one day and peruse Oxford's copious body of letters, none of which, it should be said, mention a literary life, a marked interest in the theater, or a pseudonym remarkably similar to the name of a middle-class London player. He never mentions an interest in learning or in further travels to Italy, a nation he said, in a letter dated 24 Sept 1575, that he would never care to see again, a far cry from Shakespeare's passionate love for that peninsula. Furthermore, Shakespeare often made glaring geographic errors when describing the continent, calling Bohemia a coastal nation and several landlocked Italian cities "seaports." A supposedly exuberant traveller like Oxford could have made no such mistakes. The Oxfordian claims that Shakespeare must have toured the world--and in the unlikely even that this claim has merit, there is no evidence that William of Stratford didn't travel--perfectly coincide with their dour image of Shakespeare as a man of knowledge rather than of imagination. Many authors, including Ben Jonson, were more erudite that Shakespeare, yet they never matched his imaginative prowess, which, as everyone knows, is the sole reason he endures in our hearts even until the present day.

    Rather, Oxford's letters concentrate on such unremarkable and unliterary things such as tin-mining (yes, you didn't misread that): he was virtually consumed with this affair throughout the 1590s, the time period in which Shakespeare supposedly penned some of his greatest works (it is perhaps worth noting that Shakespeare, in his vast 25,000 word vocabulary, found absolutely no room for the word "tin," which appears not once in the entire canon...what say you, you peddlers of Oxford's-autobiography-is-in Shakespeare?). Oxford was always lobbying for some new promotion or financial gift--it seems that he was the actual "money grubber" that Oxfordians so often call William of Stratford-upon-Avon. Furthermore, Oxford's letters exhibit a deficient literary skill--he is a rather clumsy speller, he misquotes all legal Latin (even adding 'y' to the Latin alphabet), and he is swamped with a thick Eastern dialect (Shakespeare's work are written in crisp, London English with a hint of Yorkish). For a supposedly trained lawyer, he doesn't know how to spell either "suit" or "attorney" and rarely drops any phrase that could be called even remotely Shakespearean (the only one Oxfordians can find is the mundane "I am that I am," a rather popular passage available to anyone with a copy of that rare book called the Bible).

    The Earl's education--often cited by Oxfordians as being unparalleled and of remarkable quality--is deficient. The only college he attended was Queen's College at Cambridge, at the tender age of 8, and he soon dropped out, having never attained a B.A. He later received degrees from Oxford and Cambridge, both of which were honorary and awarded to him as a member of Elizabeth's entourage, which frequented the nation's universities. His law education is similarly weak--a mere three years at Gray's Inn, no law book purchases, and no cases. Couple all this with William of Stratford's almost-certain attendance at the King's New School in Stratford (a rigorous, classically-oriented institution within walking distance of his house, offering free attendance thanks to John Shakespeare, William's father, who was the town Bailiff...17th century documenter Nicholas Rowe says Shakespeare was "bred at a free school") and the supposed disparity between the two men's education is suddenly not so great. Anyway, genius cannot be simply learned--writers such as Ben Jonson and Miguel de Cervantes never received college degrees, and yet their genius far supercedes that of any Harvard or Oxford graduate.

    Oxford's early death alone eliminates him as a possible Shakespearean candidate. He died in 1604, before 14 of Shakespeare's plays were even written. Oxfordians casually dismiss this by redating the plays according to their own whims, not to any tangible evidence; they fail to account for the Jacobean flavor of the later dramas, the influence of the 1605 Gunpowder Plot on "Macbeth," the influence of Richard Strachey upon "The Tempest," and the collaborations with Jacobean playwright John Fletcher on "Henry VIII." One reviewer says that Oxford had an "unparalled, creative body of work," a rather abrasive hyperbole for a man who wrote a mere 368 lines of mediocre lyric poetry (including the laughable "Were I King," parodied by Sir Philip Sidney for its shortcomings and more lazy alliteration that one can shake a spear, er, stick, at). But this hasn't stopped Oxfordians from attaching, with not a shade of evidence or sensibility, the Earl's name not only to the works of Shakespeare, but also those of Marlowe, Lyly, Greene, Golding, Kyd, and others. The madness, once ignited, cannot be quenched, and yet I know that I'm preaching to the Oxford-choir, people who honestly believe that the universal dramas of the Bard "have a cosmopolitan flavor" and an intimate knowledge of court-life, never mind the remarks of 17th century poet John Dryden, who said that he can find no evidence that "Shakespeare was ever conversant in a court."

    Oxfordians love to say that orthodox scholars are corrupting our "appreciation" of Shakespeare, as if instituting the chequered and very un-literary Oxford as the author would open new doors in that regard.The parallels everyone claims to find to the Earl's life are myths, concocted by those who have already made-up their minds and are thus reading with the sole intention of bolstering his case.If anything, the mystery and mystique of the true Shakespeare would be lost with Oxford wrongfully placed as the author.

    Oxfordians love to ridicule William Shakespeare of Stratford as an unlettered "grain merchant" incapable of writing immortal dramas, an ad-hominem claims backed by absolutely no substance. Yet Oxford's life speaks for itself: he was no Shakespeare, and his "case" has been inflated and cobbled together by amateur historians and susceptible readers. This is unsurprising to anyone who has dedicated serious time to the authorship debate--Oxfordianism is, by definition, one of the world's most visible (and deconstructible) paper tigers, bullet-proof on the surface but all mush underneath. As so many scholars (including Irvin Matus, David Kathman, Alan Nelson, and others) have demonstrated, Oxford was not, is not, and never will be a Shakespearean polymath, he has no connection to the Bard's works, and he is not much more that an unremarkable nobleman. Oxfordians do not love Shakespeare--they love pipe-dream fantasies and elaborate vendettas directed at the canon's true author. Nothing proves that William Shakespeare DIDN'T write his own works--yet everything, preeminently the Stratford Monument, his will, the First Folio, the dating of the works, and the poetic tributes proves that he DID write them--, and as such I'm much inclined to agree with the establishment in discarding Oxford's rather weak candidacy on the primary basis of his life.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Another, almost convincing, case for Oxford
    If I were a betting man, I still wouldn't bet on any of the possible answers to the "Who Wrote Shakespeare?" question. There are just too many gaps in our knowledge. But there is surely a mystery to be solved, and "Alias Shakespeare" by Joseph Sobran lays out an effective case that the Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere, is the most likely solution to that mystery.

    The book dispenses with the usual ad hominem attacks, amateur psychology, and farcical searches for hidden anagrams that have too often characterized all sides' arguments. He instead approaches this third-rail subject with refreshing objectivity and an apparently sincere search for the truth.

    Marshalling a series of arguments and associated facts that point to Oxford, the book is well-organized at the macro level. It fails at times however in structuring the particulars. Threads of the argument are sometimes introduced, developed to a certain level, dropped, and then picked up again at a later point.

    For example, Sobran [speaking of an introductory letter Oxford wrote to a friend's translation of "Cardanus Comfort"] writes "The whole letter, which especially foreshadows the [Shakespearean] Sonnets, is of utmost importance to the authorship question." Having raised our utmost curiosity, he abandons this argument with the parenthetical "See Appendix 3."

    But his logic, when ultimately reconstructed, seems unassailable. The aforementioned Sonnets are at the core of this logic, and he convincingly lays out the parallels between their content and the well-documented course of Oxford's life. He effectively exposes the circular reasoning used by the defenders of the man he calls Mr. Shakspere - that is, the actor from Stratford-on-Avon. Those defenders deny the obvious autobiographical nature of the Sonnets, on the basis that they don't match with the flimsy autobiography we have of Mr. Shakspere. In fact, this type of circular reasoning pervades their entire defense, whether dealing with the purported dates of the plays or the importance of the early long poems.

    There are, of course, legitimate counter-arguments. The problem is that arguments and counter-arguments in this matter are almost always qualitative and very difficult for the non-expert to evaluate. Sobran takes a stab at what is probably the only possible relevant quantitative approach: that of linguistic analysis. But here his use of such an approach amounts to no more than extensive word listings that he has found in common between Shakespeare and Oxford.

    The problem for his case is that a more sophisticated, computer-based linguistic analysis has already cast serious doubt on the possibility of Shakespeare's works having been written by Oxford. (Elliott and Valenza, 1991.) Of course, the specific methods used in that analysis are also very difficult for the non-expert to assess. But at least such an analysis takes us closer to a scientific approach with a testable hypothesis.

    Nonetheless, given an open mind, it would be hard to read "Alias Shakespeare" without agreeing with Sobran's conclusion. At a minimum, I doubt if any such reader will be laying odds on Mr. Shakspere being the true author. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0684826585
    Subjects:  1. 1564-1616    2. Authorship    3. Biography    4. Drama    5. Dramatists, English    6. Early modern,1500-1700    7. English dramatists    8. General    9. Great Britain    10. Literary Criticism    11. Literature - Classics / Criticism    12. Nobility    13. Oxford theory    14. Oxford, Edward De Vere,    15. Shakespeare    16. Shakespeare, William,    17. Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616    18. Biography & Autobiography / Literary    19. Oxford, Edward De Vere    20. Shakespeare, William   

    The Man Who Was Shakespeare: A Summary of the Case Unfolded in the Mysterious William Shakespeare : The Myth and the Reality
    by Charlton Ogburn, Epm Publications
    Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (01 June, 1995)
    list price: $6.95 -- our price: $6.95
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    Reviews (10)

    5-0 out of 5 stars An academic demolition of Stratford!
    This is a well-researched and well-written little book that largely demolishes the case supporting Will Shaksper of Stratford as the writer of the great poems and plays penned by "Will Shake-speare." Although he advocates the recognition of Edward deVere, Earl of Oxford, as the true author, Ogburn simply lacks the hard evidence required to develop a sufficient argument to ensure the triumph of his thesis.

    The true writer of the plays is acknowledged by most authorities to have been intimately acquainted with English Court life, civil law, military procedures, and to have possessed more than a passing familiarity with Italian customs and geography. It is impossible to connect the man from Stratford with any of this. In his lifetime, Shaksper was never publicly connected with the authorship of any of the plays or poems. When Shaksper died, no obituaries were written which mourned the passing of a great author. There is no evidence that the people of Stratford connected Shaksper with any of the writings. No monument was constructed in Shake-speare's honor in Stratford until decades later. Many years after Shaksper died and the plays had become attributed to him, a local priest scoured the countryside trying to collect Shake-speare memorabilia but found - absolutely nothing: no books; no letters; or no diaries!

    Shaksper's will, written by him, mentioned all of his possessions in great detail down to the disposition of his second-best bed, but was totally silent about any books, plays, poems, or literary works of any kind. Neither books, manuscripts, works-in-progress, fragments, nor any but a single letter (written to him) concerning a commercial transaction(there is no evidence that Shake-speare or Shaksper ever wrote a letter to anybody) have ever been found or referred to in any manner of surviving print. For an author who is estimated to have used more than 20,000 different words in his writings, as compared to the next most prolific wordsmith, John Milton (who used 12,000), Shaksper's school that he attended had only thirteen books in its library. Shaksper had no further formal education after leaving a remote public school which was hardly at the forefront of critical thinking. Shaksper's daughter and grand-daughter, whom he loved, died illiterate.

    In "The Tempest," Shake-speare wrote: "We are such stuff/ As dreams are made on and our little life/ Is rounded with a sleep..." But Shaksper composed and had the following verse placed upon his headstone as an epitaph: "Good friends for Iesus' [Jesus'] sake forbeare/ To digg the dust encloased heare:/ Blest be ye [the] man yt [that] spares thes stones/ And curst be he yt moves my bones." A comparison between these two passages leads to the same type of quandary which was encountered by such literary notables as Walt Whitman and Mark Twain. Whitman (who was gay) recognized that a large portion of Shake-speare's sonnets described an intense, passionate relationship between an older, notorious, lame man (the author) and a much younger nobleman. The author of the sonnets referred to both his and the young man's elevated social status several times. When the sonnets were published, the around 40 year-old Shaksper was neither as old as the sonnets implied nor hardly of an elevated social status - either the author was having a flight of fancy or was actually a nobleman, himself. In Elizabethan times, commoners did not socialize with or act in a familiar manner towards the nobility. Also, Shaksper's position as a commoner did not grant him the privilege to be notorious! Mark Twain felt that his research into Shake-speare's life uncovered serious irregularities in considering Shaksper to have written the plays. Twain wrote a humorous article detailing his research findings (some of which are inaccurate) titled, "Is Shakespeare Dead?" This article is available on the Internet and is worth reading.

    Through the years, other authors have been suggested as being the true Shake-speare: Marlowe; Bacon; deVere; etc. However, no further proof than supposition has ever been hurled against the edifice erected by the Stratfordians. Until such time as hard evidence is forthcoming - which is not very likely after the passing of four centuries, Will Shaksper's authenticitywill remain under a very small cloud to a small group of Shakespearean scholars. While I also entertain doubts about Shaksper, it should be duly noted that doubts aside, it is impossible to totally rule him out as being the true author! The Shake-speare authorship controversy is a fascinating puzzle which will never likely be satisfactorily resolved.

    1-0 out of 5 stars Bunk.
    What a crackpot this guy was. Read this if you want material for a parody of conspiracy theories.

    1-0 out of 5 stars oh, come off it!
    I too found this book exciting and controversial when I first read it. I admit, I was even taken in for a while. Ogburn's argument seemed so persuasive, his argument presented with such confidence and power. Surely he was right and the 'man from Stratford' couldn't possibly have written those plays. And then, having read it, I did some follow-up research of my own. To the reviewer below who states that there is no evidence ("none") to suggest that the Stratford poet is the true author, I have to tell you that that's complete nonsense. The trouble with Ogburn is that he's highly er...'imaginative' with his evidence, to the point of wilfully misleading the reader. One example will suffice to make my point: in the 1623 First Folio, Ben Jonson's well-known eulogy to the 'author' includes the phrase: 'Sweet swan of Avon'. Naturally, Stratfordians have reasonably assumed that this 'Avon' refers to the town of Shakespeeare's birth and death. Not so, says Ogburn. In fact the 17th Earl of Oxford owned a manor called Bilton, also situated on the river Avon. So Jonson MUST've been referring to the Earl. Closer analysis reveals the truth. Edward de Vere did indeed own a manor called Bilton, situated on the river Avon. Unfortunately for Ogburn and his cause, Oxford sold this manor in 1581 and it hadn't been reclaimed by him at his death in 1604. Does it seem likely that Jonson would refer to an old manor of Oxford's 42 YEARS after it left his hands? I don't think so. If we can believe that then to believe that Shakespeare is the true author is a cinch. Needless to say, this is a piece of information that Ogburn leaves out. All of Ogburn's, and the anti-Stratfordians', ideas can be refuted. Ogburn also completely misleads the reader over the issue of the non-appearance of Shakespeare in the diary of the impresario Philip Henslowe. No other actors, at the time when Shakespeare SHOULD'VE appeared in the diary, are mentioned either. Only later, after the mid-1590s, did Henslowe begin to include the names of actors in his diary, and by this time he had nothing further to do with Shakespeare, who was now acting with the Lord Chamberlain's Men. Having waded through all 750-odd pages of this book I was digusted to learn how I'd been mislead. It makes an interesting ... theory, but one that is in the same league as the idea that the moonlandings were faked in a hanger in Nevada. I have no academic axe to grind at all, but don't waste time reading this, especially when you can better spend the time reading Shakespeare himself. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0939009900
    Sales Rank: 238611
    Subjects:  1. 1564-1616    2. Authorship    3. Biography    4. Dramatists, English    5. Early modern,1500-1700    6. Great Britain    7. Literary Criticism    8. Literature - Classics / Criticism    9. Nobility    10. Oxford theory    11. Oxford, Edward De Vere,    12. Shakespeare    13. Shakespeare, William,    14. Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616    15. Oxford, Edward De Vere    16. Shakespeare, William   


    Shakespeare, in Fact
    by Irvin Leigh Matus
    Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
    Hardcover (01 July, 1994)
    list price: $19.95
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    Reviews (4)

    5-0 out of 5 stars The author's remarks regard an existing review
    I am writing in regarding to the following "review" of SHAKESPEARE, IN FACT by Irvin Leigh Matus posted on Amazon.com:


    0 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
    Nice try, Irv, April 23, 2003

    Reviewer: A reader

    You know, the Stratfordians change punctuation of 400-year-old documents in order to further their cause. This author can't be trusted. It's a book for those who want their myths propped up, not demolished. Nice going, Mr. Matus.


    I happen to be Irvin Leigh Matus - that Irvin Leigh Matus (just to make sure I am not confused with the untold other Irvin Leigh Matuses). I will here note this letter is not intended for publication on the Amazon website, or anywhere else.

    I feel some temptation to let this review remain online. I share Samuel Johnson's faith in the "common sense" of "common readers," which is justified by their unanimous rejection of this posting. I imagine with pleasure that its author may visit it from time to time to learn it has captured little interest and been judged to have no value. The results, however, do not negate the intentions of this "reviewer" or the substance of the review. Further, the small number who took the trouble to enter their negative opinion of the review undoubtedly do not reflect the far larger number who saw it and did not give their opinion, some of whom may have come away with a negative disposition toward the reliability of the book and its author.

    The only thing in my book that might be the candidate for his/her review is a lawsuit written in Latin, which is discussed on pages 39-40 of my book, in which I give a full account of its interpretation. It so happens, aware that the Latin used in legal documents was different from the classical Latin as it was then taught, I spent ten months seeking someone with expertise in these documents. The punctuation was not, as charged, changed - the document is in fact unpunctuated - and the punctuation added was supplied to me in written form by the scholar mentioned (who is not a Shakespearean but an expert in wills, deeds, lawsuits and similar documents; he requested anonymity after giving the information to me because he didn't wish to be hounded by the controversialists - which the review in question justifies).

    If this is indeed the item in question, perhaps Anonymous doubts the honesty of my claim that I consulted an experienced, respected archival scholar (page 40). I was in fact directed to him by the then rare books librarian of the Library of Congress' Law Library, and I still have the scholar's handwritten notes with his signature, which include his request that I "not cite this as a communication from me."

    Two things need to be noted about the content of Anonymous' charge. First, by not identifying the specific item at issue, it could be anything in my book. It is the rule of controversialist scholarship, the error rate of which hovers around 100 percent, that a single flaw in a work of orthodox scholarship, whether perceived or actual - or fabricated - is sufficient in their eyes to cast doubt upon the accuracy and authenticity of the entire work. Second, Anonymous' primary purpose is clearly to impugn both my standards of scholarship and my integrity as a scholar.

    It should be noted that in the ten years since the publication of my book, it has been reviewed and commented upon by scores of Shakespeareans and Oxfordians (many more of the latter) and this review is the only instance I know of in which my integrity has been attacked or I have been accused of falsifying facts. This is also the first time I have openly responded to a criticism of my book.

    To the point, even without the foregoing, I am surprised that Amazon.com would publish an unspecific charge of falsified data by someone unwilling to give either his/her name or email address. Whereas I understand that it may not be feasible to research the accuracy and authenticity of what reviewers say, the form and content of this review should have raised caution flags. Circulating such blind remarks invites all kinds and all degrees of false charges.

    This is especially significant because I suspect that more people may get opinion about a book from Amazon.com reviews than any other source. As you must be aware of Amazon.com's influence on the perception of a book, it should be especially wary of posting a review that contains statements that attack an author and his work anonymously. Nor should an allegation of scholarly malfeasance be put online that does not mention the specific item in which it is alleged to occur. There is, however, a compelling reason for not publishing such things on a website, which is that the publisher can be held accountable. Laws against libel do not stop at the portals of the Internet. Perhaps a still more compelling reason from Amazon's point of view is that it discourages sales of books, which authors don't much like either.

    I therefore request that this review be removed from the Amazon.com website.

    With my thanks for your attention,

    Irvin Leigh Matus

    5-0 out of 5 stars Matus demolishes every pro-Oxford argument
    No one in Shakespeare's lifetime, or the first two hundred years after his death, expressed the slightest doubt about his authorship.

    Irvin Leigh Matus should be commended for his industry.It must be hard work wading through the anti-Stratfordian swamp.

    5-0 out of 5 stars The Penultimate Word
    The review posted below by David Kathman succinctly summarizes the content of this scholarly polemic against the absurdities of the literary "Oxford Movement".I just wish to note that the 1999 paperback edition is a straight reprint of the 1994 hardbound.Therefore, while it addresses the orthodox Looney-Ogburn-Whalen school of anti-Stratfordianism, there is nothing about more recent mutations.Readers who want to keep up to date on the controversy should take a look at Professor Kathman's Shakespeare Authorship Web site, which discusses virtually all of the Oxfordian arguments and links to such interesting material as a complete edition of the Earl of Oxford's extant letters, which may prove disillusioning to those who cherish an image of the earl as a polymathic genius.

    Even though it does not swat the very latest fantasies of Authorship Cultism, "Shakespeare, In Fact" is both entertaining and useful.Reading it will leave one better informed about not only the narrow question of who wrote Shakespeare but also the broader context of the Elizabethan stage and Renaissance literature. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0826406246
    Sales Rank: 1216580
    Subjects:  1. 1564-1616    2. Authorship    3. Biography    4. Biography / Autobiography    5. Dramatists, English    6. Early modern, 1500-1700    7. English drama    8. General    9. Literary Criticism    10. Shakespeare    11. Shakespeare, William,    12. Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616    13. Oxford theory    14. Shakespeare, William   

    Director: Kenneth Branagh
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
    VHS Tape (18 April, 2000)
    list price: $24.98
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    Editorial Review

    Kenneth Branagh's four-hour production of Shakespeare's full text for Hamlet is visually lush (shot in 70mm, which is rarely done) and full of fascinating story moments that normally get cut from shorter stage versions. (Your idea of what kind of fellow Polonius is may change quite a bit.) The unexpurgated approach is truly enlightening, and Branagh intermittently succeeds at giving familiar moments in the drama an original cinematic spin, including Hamlet's spooky confrontation with his father's ghost (Brian Blessed). (Branagh also imposes some Hollywood glitter on the proceedings by casting the likes of Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Charlton Heston, and Jack Lemmon in the smaller parts.) The pre-Titanic Kate Winslet is very good as the doomed Ophelia, and Derek Jacobi delivers a wonderfully nuanced performance as Claudius, whose character is definitely filled out by the restored material. Branagh's own performance is a little revisionist--some viewers have quibbled with it while others seem fine with it. --Tom Keogh ... Read more


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    Reviews (205)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Doing the old bard proud...
    Hats off to Kenneth Branagh for a movie that brings new life and vivid images to a Shakespeare classic without ruining the original intent of the bard's play. Forget long overly-dramatic soliloquies that, while brilliant, can put you to sleep. Now the clever lines are delivered with witt and passion in a real and alive setting. The acting is superb. Kate Winslet is a gorgeous and believable Ophelia, refusing to play the role as an indifferent ninny but rather with a pitiable sensuality. Kenneth Branagh perfectly portrays the role of disturbed Hamlet. His excellent understanding of the complex character shines through every line he delivers.In addition, we get lavish sets, ornate costumes, a star-studded cast, and a sword-clashing, heart-pounding, tear-jerking finale. Don't miss this movie! Sure, it takes a little more effort to get through the fancy dialogue, but its WELL WORTH THE EFFORT!

    5-0 out of 5 stars A great way to make four hours fly by
    Kenneth Branagh's "Hamlet" hits all the marks.The acting is magnificent, the 70mm cinematography is gorgeous, the Oscar-nominated costumes and sets are stunning, and Patrick Doyle's score (also Oscar-nominated) is sensitive and moving.Oh yeah - the screenplay, by some guy named Will S., isn't too bad either. Film critics ribbed Branagh for receiving the films' fourth Oscar nod for "adapting" the screenplay, but his decision to use the full text was a gutsy one.I can't think of many better ways to make four hours fly by.

    Unfortunately, we'll have to wait until 2006 for a DVD release of Branagh's "Hamlet," arguably the greatest Shakespearean adaptation ever filmed.Hyperbole, you say?Perhaps, but the superlatives are warranted.Nearly every decision Branagh makes works brilliantly: the use of England's Blenheim Palace for exteriors, the Edwardian dress, and the staging of "To be or not to be" in a hall of mirrors, to name a few. This is a bold, ambitious, and successful attempt to match the grandeur and poetry of Shakespeare's language with equally eloquent imagery.

    The casting of Hollywood luminaries such as Robin Williams, Billy Crystal and Jack Lemmon in minor parts can be distracting, but that's nitpicking.The principal cast excels: Derek Jacobi captures the conflicted nature of Claudius; Kate Winslet acutely depicts Ophelia's descent into madness; Julie Christie brings passion to her portrayal of Gertrude; Richard Briers is pitch-perfect as the conniving Polonius; and Nicholas Farrell elevates the potentially thankless role of Horatio to the apotheosis of true friendship.Every speech, every line, every word is delivered with passion and conviction; there isn't a wasted moment in the entire film. The final scenes magnify the extent of Shakespeare's tragedy in a way not possible with theatrical adaptations.

    If you can't wait for the DVD and are trying to decide which version of the VHS tape to buy, I strongly recommend the widescreen edition.With a film of this ambition and scope, the differences between widescreen and full-frame are magnified.For example, when Player King (Charlton Heston) is reciting his speech, there is a brilliant repartee between Hamlet and Polonius that is undermined in the reformatted version.Instead of both actors sparring verbally within the frame, we get distracting cuts between Hamlet and Polonius, which disrupt the comic timing of the dialogue.The widescreen version preserves the actors' reaction shots and thus the comedy.

    In either version, "Hamlet" shines, but the widescreen version presents Branagh's masterpiece in its proper dimensions.The DVD version won't arrive a moment too soon, and will hopefully restore this "Hamlet" to its full glory.

    3-0 out of 5 stars Overall movie report

    Hamlet is set at the Elsinore mansion in Denmark where the play begins after Hamlet's father has died. The King's brother, Claudius soon takes the throne and marries Queen Gertrude. The ghost of Hamlet's father then appears before his son to tell him that Claudius murdered him and he wants Hamlet to seek his revenge (Piper).
    Hamlet asks a company to traveling players to perform a play for the king that will force him to betray his guilt on his brother's murder. Claudius's actions during the play confirm Hamlet's suspicions. When he later speaks with his mother, he insults her for the hasty remarriage and kills Polonius who was hiding behind a curtain by mistake. Claudius then sends Hamlet to England to have him murdered.
    When Hamlet returns from England, Ophelia has drowned herself in grief for her father's death while her brother, Laertes, and Claudius plot to kill Hamlet(...)


    This is just one of those movies you will either love or absolutely hate. I highly recomend it only if you have read a through summary, previouly viewed a different version, or read the play; Otherwise, the story itself may be just a little overwhelming.
    ... Read more

    Asin: 078062999X
    Subjects:  1. Feature Film-drama   

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    Books - History - Historical Study - The Shakespeare Mystery   (images)

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