While growing up in France in the sixties and seventies, I was not aware that there was an authorship controversy. As a teenager I attended a performance of Richard III at Stratford-upon-Avon and later at University I read some of Shakespeare’s plays — both of which made a powerful impression. I was taught the standard Stratfordian biography, which left me cold and — inchoately — dissatisfied. So I put the biography aside and found emotional and intellectual sustenance in Shakespeare’s works. I was a “Stratfordian by default,” as it were.
After I moved to NYC, I saw the Frontline documentary (early 1990s) which featured Charlton Ogburn. I was stunned. How come my teachers had never even broached the issue, even in passing? How come my books were silent on the topic? If Ogburn was right, this was an earthshaking discovery. It deserved discussion. The more prevalent the silence, the more it rankled.
I was also bewildered. The sudden change in perspective was dizzying, scary, but liberating too. I love a good puzzle and there was a mystery that I wanted to explore and understand. I bought Ogburn’s the mysterious William Shakespeare and struggled to orient myself amid all the historical characters and events, the pieces of evidence and arguments. Yes, it all made perfect sense: the accumulation of clues, cryptic allusions, echoes between life and works and multiple “coincidences” was persuasive. But it was also overwhelming: there was too much about Elizabethan history that I did not know. So I let Oxford’s story “lie fallow” for a few years: I needed time to adjust to this new world . . . and read up on England’s history. But without knowing it, I had become a “post-Stratfordian.”
Once retired, I could refocus my energies and started visiting all kinds of authorship websites, like a kid in a candy store. I read Looney’s elegant book, Beauclerk’s and Anderson’s biographies of Oxford, the authorship research of Diana Price, Stritmatter’s posts on Oxford’s Bible, Hank Whittemore’s interpretation of the Sonnets, Stephanie Hughes’s treasure trove at Politicworm. I was particularly thrilled to learn of Roe’s and Magri’s discoveries in Italy. I feel that, short of a “smoking gun,” it is only this kind of concrete and documented detail that has the power to nail the lid on Shakspere’s coffin.
From this growing abundance of riches, I got the sense that Oxfordian scholars, despite being ignored and vilified, had been making solid headway in their research. It was exhilarating to witness these breakthroughs, even if the battle is far from won in the general public, let alone academia . . .
I had to make whatever small contribution I could: I became a member of SOF, volunteered to write abstracts for the articles in the SOAR (Shakespeare Online Authorship Resources) database, attended my first SOF Conference in Ashland where I met fellow Oxfordians and assorted doubters, while continuing to read and learn . . .
I realized the other day I no longer think about Hamlet or Macbeth as “Shakespeare’s plays.” For me they are now Oxford’s plays. It is that simple.
— Catherine Hatinguais
“How I Became an Oxfordian” is edited by Bob Meyers. You may submit your essay on this topic (500 words or less in an editable format such as MS Word), along with a photo of yourself, to: email@example.com. Also include a sentence about yourself (e.g., “John J. Smith is a businessman in San Francisco.”).
Next week’s essay is by Gary Livacari.
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