To the Editor:
I agree with Ron Rosenbaum [“The Shakespeare Code: Is Times Guy Kind of Bard ‘Creationist’?”, Edgy Enthusiast, Sept. 19] that the hallmarks of creation “science” are in abundance in the Shakespeare authorship debate. Witness the persistent calls by the Intelligent Design–ers for researchers to produce the so-called “missing link”—which Mr. Rosenbaum codifies in his repeated calls for the supporters of the theory of Edward de Vere as the author to produce “any positive evidence.”
There is, however, plenty of “positive evidence”—the Elizabethan satirist Thomas Nashe roasting de Vere as a prolific poet nicknamed “Gentle Master William”; the Jacobean poet John Davies commemorating Shakespeare as “our English Terence,” a Roman actor widely believed at the time to have been a front man for Roman aristocratic playwrights. But, ultimately, the proof for which Mr. Rosenbaum calls does not exist in a single documentary fossil, but rather is only to be found in the vast accumulation of connections and links.
There are two competing interpretations of the Shakespeare canon at play:
One says the works sprang fully formed from the pen of a man without any background, training or experience that the works suggest he had. Rather than asking why Shakespeare wrote what he did, one must instead read his scripture, secure in faith in the power of his incomprehensible genius.
The other approach says that the works developed over a long period of artistic gestation, that their primordial form was as skits and squibs by de Vere for Queen Elizabeth and that one can find in the mature “Shakespeare” works vestiges of the earlier and simpler forms that these plays had once assumed.
Now which of these two theories sounds like creationism to you?
Author, “Shakespeare” by Another Name: The Life of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, the Man Who Was Shakespeare
Ron Rosenbaum replies:
Mr. Anderson tellingly fails to refute (or even address) the conclusive evidence I cited: the abundant direct testimony of Shakespeare’s contemporaries to his authorship of the work. Instead, he gives us a reference from a “roasting” that doesn’t mention Shakespearean authorship (to say nothing of his citing “our English Terence”: wow, case closed!), followed by weak rhetorical ploys: His strained attempt to reverse the creationism/evolution analogy—an attempt which depends on denying that Shakespeare could have evolved “over a long period of artistic gestation”—is baseless.
Then there’s the tired Oxfordian chestnut: They tell us we don’t know anything for sure about Shakespeare, but they somehow do know for sure that he lacked the learning to write his work. They can’t have it both ways. And their argument reflects a deeply impoverished view of the artistic imagination which implies, in effect, that Shakespeare couldn’t have written plays set in Venice because he never spent a stint as a gondolier.