It is a habit of mine to note, with each book I buy, the date of purchase on its first blank page. And so I know that it was in May of 2003 that I bought a copy of the “Neues Shake-speare Journal” from one of those stacks of used books outside a bookshop in my home town of Freiburg, in the Black Forest. It was just curiosity, I had no idea what it was about, only that it was about Shakespeare, and ever since the days of my English studies I loved Shakespeare.
I had no idea that there was something like an authorship question; the topic had not been mentioned in the lectures I had attended at Freiburg University, 1977-1983. In retrospect, it is interesting to reflect on this happy, snug ignorance, on this “Is there a problem?!” attitude.
But of course I was soon to learn what was going on. In that little impressive volume I bought I read my first basic essays about the topic. I especially remember Robert Detobel’s “Über Shakespeares Authentizität und Tod” (“About Shakespeare’s Authenticity and Death”), because it was easily accessible as an introduction. I caught fire. Then, I was set ablaze by Mark Twain’s “Is Shakespeare Dead?”, which I read on the internet. There I also read excerpts of J.T. Looney’s work. His suggestion that Shakespeare must have been a pen name of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, seemed plausible to me, and I embraced it intuitively.
Following that, I also came across the Shakespeare books of Joseph Sobran (Alias Shakespeare), Walter Klier (The Shakespeare Conspiracy) and Kurt Kreiler (The Man Who Invented Shakespeare). Kreiler’s book especially painted a very moving portrait of Edward de Vere. I read a lot on the internet also – just a few days ago I devoured Sir George Greenwood’s “The Shakespeare Problem Restated.” Greenwood was an early 20th authorship skeptic and prolific author. I could actually hear his voice and was delighted by his combination of friendly sarcasm and immense authority and scholarship. I also find his strict focus on refuting the Stratfordian theory only (“It was not the Stratford rustic!”) very strong and useful, although I still favour Oxford. Strategically speaking, it is maybe easier to tackle the Stratfordian fortress first and then move on to the positive answers.
Just a few weeks ago, I wrote an essay “Nieder mit dem FAKEspeare!” (“Down with the FAKEspeare!”), which was published on the website of the “Neue Shakespeare-Gesellschaft”.
In the end, I think it’s interesting to reflect once more on this chance event of myself coming across a used book in Freiburg and so learning that there is an authorship debate after all! Because I really think that the vast majority of people out there, even those with an interest in literature, have no idea that there is such a thing as an authorship question. They take the name magic, the name voodoo for granted: “Shakespeare is Shakespeare, who else could he be?”
— Michael Schaefer
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