In school we were introduced to Shakespeare’s sonnets with the usual explanation: Shakespeare wrote them as “poetic exercises on stock themes” to show off to his friends. My response? “If he didn’t really care about them, why should I?”
Several years later I met Oxford in an issue of the Atlantic Monthly.* Among the evidence presented I encountered samples of Oxford’s writing. It was a purely subjective response, but they hit deep: I had said Shakespeare’s words on stage, felt the flow of his consonants, vowels, and syllables. Oxford felt like Shakespeare to me.
I found Charlton Ogburn Jr.’s book. I read the sonnets with Oxford in mind. This time, instead of boredom, I felt drained by their funereal quality. Show-off hack work doesn’t bring people to tears; real life does.
For me, the big problem with traditional “Shakespeare” is: He simply doesn’t add up. He is not how real creative people are, or real human beings. I am an actor, artist, composer, sometime writer. For years my main circle of acquaintances has included actors, writers, theater people, storytellers . . . From his records nothing about Shaksper seems like the people I’ve spent my life around. I know no artists who do their creative work as just another in a wide portfolio of money-making business enterprises: “Let’s see . . . real estate . . . money-lending . . . grain dealing . . . sparkling Euphuistic comedy . . . classical poetry . . . .” Just no.
I am also a licensed therapist, with decades’ experience working with real human beings’ minds and emotions. “Shakespeare,” as presented, simply does not make sense — psychologically, artistically, or historically.
In reply to this — as if in paradoxical acknowledgment of it — I find traditional scholars can only make exceptions and excuses for him, throwing out vague non-explanations in a desperate attempt to somehow make him compatible with the rest of reality:
He was “universal” (whatever that means). He was an “unfathomable genius” (so — how convenient! — we shouldn’t even try to understand him by the standards of other human beings). But he also somehow “invented the Human” (whatever that means). Most absurd: unlike any other creative person in the history of the planet, “Shakespeare left no trace of himself in his works.”
Aside from the fact that Shakespeare once again has to be the one exception to the way the rest of humanity works, that’s just ludicrous. There is a very clear personality that shines through Shakespeare — a philosophical, introspective, complex, wild, witty, melancholy, cynical personality. Traditionalists’ problem: It is just not that of Shaksper. Hence they have to make their absurd claims.
Then there’s the old, “What does it matter who wrote them, as long as we have the works themselves?” Who else do scholars say that about? Nobody. That very statement proves the validity of the authorship question.
How did I become an Oxfordian? Simply . . . evidence. The more I learn about Oxford, the more Shakespeare makes sense and feels like a real human being to me. That’s all.
— Jonathan David Dixon
* See Tom Bethell, “The Case for Oxford”
“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: 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 Amanda Hinds.
You can join the SOF or renew your membership for 2016 at our membership page.