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Earl Showerman: How I Became an Oxfordian

The first requirement of becoming an Oxfordian is learning to love Shakespeare, both in production and on the page. I became possessed of Shakespeare’s magic by serendipity when I moved to Ashland, home of the renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival. My moment of initial conversion was in 1976 during the performance of the statue scene from The Winter’s Tale. To the accompaniment of Pachelbel’s Canon in D, Paulina’s mysterious restoration of Queen Hermione wracked me and evoked audible sobs from the audience, proof that theatrical awe and pity is very much a sacrament, a ritual of renewal that we inherited from the ancient Greek masters.

 Dr. Earl Showerman is a retired emergency physician.

Dr. Earl Showerman is a retired emergency physician.

A decade would pass before I happened upon a review of Charlton Ogburn’s The Mysterious William Shakespeare, published in Harvard Magazine which prompted me to purchase a copy as a gift for my wife, who had expressed skepticism over the biography of the divine Will. She soon proclaimed that Ogburn’s masterpiece was the greatest present she ever received from me. Over a decade would pass, however, before I too would turn to Ogburn to get an inkling of what fresh interpretive possibilities might become possible when one imagines the Earl of Oxford as Shakespeare.

By the turn of the century I found myself seated among other acolytes of the Earl at the annual De Vere Studies Conference at Concordia University, where I was privileged to witness the radical revisionist discourse of luminaries: Professor Dan Wright, Stephanie Hughes, Mark Anderson, Richard Paul Roe and Eddi Jolly, among many others. Eddi recently received her PhD from Brunel and published her book on the first two Quartos of Hamlet.

But it was not until I heard Dr. Frank Davis speak on Shakespeare’s medical knowledge and Concordia undergraduate Andrew Werth present his brilliant paper on Shakespeare’s knowledge of untranslated Greek literature that I became completely enthralled by the philological and psychological possibilities inherent in Oxfordian criticism. A brave new world of Shakespeare studies was being explored by scholars motivated by a love of the works and a passion to know the author and his sources. Their discoveries were revelatory.

My final initiation into becoming a fully-fledged Oxfordian began in 2004 when I retired from a 30-year career in medicine and began studying Shakespeare at Southern Oregon University. The excitement of making a meaningful discovery was almost immediate as my inquiries on the sources of Hamlet led me to Greek scholar Gilbert Murray’s century-old lecture to the British Academy, “Hamlet and Orestes: A Study in Traditional Types.” In his brilliant analysis Murray laid out a maze of parallels between Aeschylus, Euripides and Shakespeare, one which continues to inspire me over a decade later in exploring further arguments to establish Shakespeare’s knowledge and adaptations of Greek drama.

Becoming an Oxfordian has been a life-changing experience for me, one that has led me to delve into textual criticism, to reread the classics, to write, to travel and teach on behalf of the Earl, and to organize for the benefit of colleagues who are similarly possessed by this credible literary narrative that every year looms larger than the life spun by the purveyors of Shakespearean biographical fiction.

— Earl Showerman, M.D.

Andrew Werth’s article can be found in the Oxfordian.

The Mysterious William Shakespeare is available through Amazon.com.

“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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