YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, NY – May 20, 2009 – The Shakespeare Oxford Society today marks the 400th anniversary of the May 20, 1609, entry in the Stationer’s Register in London of “a booke called Shakespeares sonnettes.” At some point after the registration – probably sometime that summer – a book bearing the title SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS was published.
Unlike Shakespeare’s previous books of poetry – Venus and Adonis in 1593 and The Rape of Lucrece in 1594 – the Sonnets were published without a dedication from the poet himself. Instead, the 1609 Sonnets were published with a mysterious dedication over the initials “T.T.” – presumed by scholars to be the publisher Thomas Thorpe.
The Shakespeare Oxford Society believes the totality of the evidence surrounding the publication of the Sonnets in 1609 suggests the poet – who employed the penname William Shakespeare – was already dead at the time of publication. Posthumous publication of the Sonnets would, of course, eliminate the orthodox authorship candidate from Stratford-upon-Avon and strengthen the claim that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford (who died in 1604), was the true author of the Shakespeare works.
To support the posthumous publication theory, the Society’s president, Matthew Cossolotto, highlights the following points which he says will in elaborated upon in a research paper to be published later in 2009. The tentative title of the paper is: “My Name Be Buried: Was The 1609 Volume of Shakespeare’s Sonnets Published Posthumously?”
· Traditional scholars have been unable to provide answers to basic questions, including how the Sonnets came to be published in the first place and whether “Shakespeare” authorized the publication.
· Scholars have been baffled for centuries by the apparent absence of the poet in the publication and proofreading process.
· The 1609 volume does not include a dedication from the poet. If the author of the Sonnets was alive in 1609, and if he authorized the publication, why didn’t he write a dedication to a volume of poetry that he believed would outlive monuments?
· If these immortal poems had been pirated somehow and published unlawfully (as many scholars believe), why wouldn’t the famous playwright and poet – if indeed he was still alive at the time – publicly complain or otherwise assert his legal right to the poems?
· The poet’s apparent absence from the publication lends support to the posthumous publication theory.
· Following the publication of the Sonnets in 1609, William of Stratford makes no mention of the publication (or anything else vaguely literary for that matter) leading up to and even including his 1616 will.
· The title of the book – SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS – is itself unusual for several reasons. First, the name of the poet is hyphenated which could suggest it is a recognized pseudonym. Also, the title implies a kind of finality, suggesting that this collection is the be-all and the end-all of Shakespeare’s sonnet-writing career. If “Shakespeare” was indeed still alive in 1609, why would the publisher suggest by this title that the poet would not be writing any more sonnets. How would he know that, unless of course the poet was already deceased?
· The reference to “our ever-living poet” in the publisher’s dedication affords strong evidence that the poet was already dead (i.e. immortal) when the Sonnets were published in 1609.
· Several sonnets imply that the poet was anticipating his impending death and that he expected his name to be forgotten, or “buried” after his death. This would make no sense if the poet’s real name was William Shakespeare, a name that was extremely famous in 1609. For example, Sonnet 72 reads in part:
My name be buried where my body is,
And live no more to shame nor me nor you.
For I am shamed by that which I bring forth,
And so should you, to love things nothing worth.
The Declaration of Reasonable Doubt
There is a long and distinguished history of doubting the traditional “Stratfordian” attribution of the Shakespeare works. Noted doubters over the years include Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Henry James, Orson Welles, Sigmund Freud, and Charlie Chaplin. More recent skeptics include U.S. Supreme Court Justices Stevens and Scalia along with renowned Shakespearean actors Sir Derek Jacobi, Jeremy Irons, Michael York, and Mark Rylance. Visit www.doubtaboutwill.org for information about the “Declaration of Reasonable Doubt about the Identity of William Shakespeare.”
About The Shakespeare Oxford Society
Founded in 1957, New York-based Shakespeare Oxford Society is a nonprofit, educational organization dedicated to exploring the Shakespeare authorship question and researching the evidence that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford (1550 – 1604) is the true author of the poems and plays of “William Shakespeare.”