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Sam Saunders: How I Became an Oxfordian

Becoming an Oxfordian was not sudden. I had heard as a young man that Mark Twain did not  believe that ”Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare.” What convinced me it was not the man from Stratford, came later, reading Henry V.  I thought it odd when Harry Leroy said, “Every subject’s duty is the King’s but every subject’s soul is his own,” as his reason that the King need not feel sorry for his men that would be killed in battle. And I thought, “No commoner would make that excuse. Hence it is unlikely that a commoner wrote that play.”

Sam Saunders is a retired Professor of Applied Mathematics who worked at the Boeing Research Laboratory and at Washington State University. He lives with his wife Ruth Ann in Bellevue, WA.

I wondered about the identity of the aristocrat behind the Shakespeare pseudonym until, around 2001, when I read in the Literary Supplement to the Sunday New York Times that a “De Vere Studies Conference” on the SAQ was to be held at Concordia University in Portland. I wrote to Daniel Wright, the director, asking what professional or academic qualifications were required for attendance. He replied, “The requirement is very strict; you have to pay the registration fee.”

So, I was fully qualified, and ready to learn more about de Vere’s candidacy.  At that meeting, I witnessed a confluence of ignorant and erudite presentations involving passionately-held opinions regarding the de Vere authorship hypothesis. This hypothesis had just been decimated by an attack, using quantitative statistical methods, by the Shakespeare Group at the Pomona Colleges. This was devastating because we had no reply to the fact that the entire argument was based on a small selection of de Vere poetry. By now, I was convinced that de Vere was Shakespeare, and I began to think of ways I might contribute to the discussion.

That fall, my friend Mark Jackson, another new Oxfordian from Seattle, and I, with advice from Richard Whalen and Frank Davis (long-time Oxfordians we met at the Concordia conference), advertised in a local paper and started meetings of the Seattle Shakespeare Oxford Society. We have been meeting for 16 years, with members from Seattle, Bellevue, Port Angeles, and British Columbia. Luncheon meetings frequently are held before local performances of plays at The Seattle Shakespeare Company, and for a few years I invited audiences to my pre-performance presentations on the plays from an Oxfordian point of view.

I have written brief articles for the Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter, and delivered a conference paper that later was published in The Oxfordian, “Could Shakespeare Have Calculated the Odds in Hamlet’s Wager?” arguing that the odds have long been misunderstood by critics, and that the man from Stratford was unlikely to have had either the education or experience with fencing to have understood such a wager.

For the 2014 Concordia Conference, I wrote a critique to Peter Sturrock’s book AKA Shakespeare: A Scientific Approach to the Authorship Question.  My critique was a warning to Oxfordians against the misapplication of subjective probability to opinions, rather than events.

My wife, Ruth Ann, also an Oxfordian, has attended conferences, plays, and meetings. We recently moved into a retirement community in Bellevue, WA, where I have given presentations titled, “We and Shakespeare and our Magnificent Bastard Tongue, the English Language” and “Love’s Labor’s Lost.”

–Sam Saunders

“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 digital photo of yourself, to: info@shakespeareoxfordfellowship.org. Also include a sentence about yourself (e.g., “John J. Smith is a businessman in San Francisco.”)

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About Erik Eisenman

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