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Elke Brackmann: How I Became an Oxfordian

Obediently and happily I followed the pattern of understanding the Bard’s life at my University of Innsbruck in the seventies. Absorbing everything that led to a more profound understanding of his works, I was mildly disappointed to learn all about his Ann Hathaway, his kids (one of them named Hamnet), his being an actor, and, as the reader might expect, his second-best bed. Not to forget his lack of geographical knowledge, but being a genius he was forgiven. No open questions, nothing. The lecturer was asleep and so was I.


Elke Brackmann has been a grammar school teacher for English and German in Innsbruck and Wuppertal for years and repeatedly performed Shakespeare plays with her students.

True, I was equally disappointed during my two pilgrimages (yes, I admit it) to Stratford. My feelings and utter gratitude for his works outshone my deeper instincts when reading “Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbear . . . .” The lines definitely lacked the spirit, elegance and philosophical depths I was used to, I felt, but bought a photograph of it anyway as a memory. Acting (lay theatre group), teaching and directing Shakespeare occupied me for some decades. It was my husband who, in 2007, thought he had found something that might interest me: An essay by Hanno Wember.[1] It was written matter-of-factly and puzzled me; should the question really be worth it? In addition a certain Walter Klier, whom I had known as a writer and fellow student, caught my attention.[2]  I ordered the book second hand. My husband was now bombarded with facts.

But I needed time to say good-bye to my old convictions – I had to digest everything slowly. Half a year later I felt the need to write a review for Klier. I contacted Hanno Wember as well and then Robert Detobel[3] came in, phoning me after reading my review. His single-mindedness, cautious way of doing research and strong desire of fighting for the truth inspired me.[4] Being a true Oxfordian, he is not easily led away by speculation. I am now working on a project with him called “A Biographical Approach to the Sonnets.”

Like generations of teachers I willingly accepted the notion that Shakespeare’s biography was irrelevant. In retrospect I am amazed at my gullibility. His immense knowledge acquired en passant, his death being unnoticed, his sonnets mirroring real experiences, the parallels between his life and his dramas – way beyond “Hamnet” as a parallel to Hamlet – how might this be overlooked?

Encountering Shakespeare’s works first made me enter a new world; nearly 30 years later another new world opened for me. Taboos prevented Oxford from publishing under his own name; taboos prevent academia from researching decently. New Shakespeare, new perspectives, new insights. What an enrichment again.

— Elke Brackmann

[1] Auf der Suche nach der Biografie von Shakespeare, in DieDrei, Juli 2007, pp. 57-62.

[2] Walter Klier: Der Fall Shakespeare, Verlag Uwe Laugwitz, Buchholz in der Nordheide 2004.

[3] Robert Detobel: Wie aus Shaxsper Shakespeare wurde, Verlag Uwe Laugwitz, Buchholz in der Nordheide 2005.

[4] Robert Detobel: Will – Wunsch und Wirklichkeit. James Shapiros Contested Will. Verlag Uwe Laugwitz, Buchholz in der Nordheide 2010.

“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.”).

Next week’s essay is by Heward Wilkinson.

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