It was thanks to the New York Times. Much as I admire the important books by Mark Anderson, Thomas Looney, Charlton Ogburn, Joseph Sobran and others, it was the NYT that was pivotal in my own paradigm shift in becoming an authorship dissenter.
I knew from my psychoanalytic training that Sigmund Freud was a prominent advocate of the seemingly flaky theory that Edward de Vere wrote Shakespeare. I hadn’t taken that too seriously, until I read in a 2002 NYT article by William Niederkorn that new evidence supported Freud’s ostensibly improbable theory. As a physician, I’ve had lots of training in science, which teaches us to pay more attention to the evidence than to our theories. And here was exciting new evidence that contradicted what we’d all been taught about Shakespeare’s identity.
That article mentioned a 1570 Bible that was originally owned by de Vere. A Ph.D. dissertation revealed that hand-marked passages in it showed a significant correlation with Biblical echoes in Shakespeare. This information so grabbed my interest that I tore out the article and saved it. Re-reading it a few months later, I noticed that this de Vere Bible was at the Folger Shakespeare Library, some 20 miles from my home. So I went about getting credentialed as a “Reader” at the Folger, which was then difficult for anyone lacking a Ph.D. in a relevant field. Becoming a Reader required me to have two letters from people in my academic field. The chairs of the departments of psychiatry at the two medical schools where I volunteer as a faculty member wrote supportive letters.
My father later asked how I felt the first time I held de Vere’s Bible. I admitted I was afraid I might drop dead right there in my excitement.
I should explain why I cared so much about who wrote Shakespeare. As a psychoanalyst, I knew Freud was a genius, and that not all of his valid ideas have been readily accepted. It intrigued me that he may have put the Shakespeare scholars to shame if he was right about de Vere writing Shakespeare. I recalled how bitterly disappointed I was as a boy who loved reading Shakespeare, to be told we knew so little about his life. Practicing clinical psychoanalysis convinces me that everything we think and do is powerfully shaped by prior life experiences, so I could not accept the Stratfordian premise that the author’s biography is irrelevant to Shakespeare’s works. As Freud said, it is only normal to want to know more about the writers we most admire.
As I worked with de Vere’s Bible, I had the good fortune to meet the scholar featured in that 2002 NYT article. This was Roger Stritmatter, of course. He has been consistently generous in encouraging my work, and in publishing much of it in his various editorial capacities. His critical thinking has helped sharpen my interpretation of evidence.
I had not only become an Oxfordian, I had become an Oxfreudian.
So, I remain most grateful to William Niederkorn and to Roger Stritmatter for sparking an interest that has profoundly enriched my life during the past 14 years.
— Richard M. Waugaman, M.D.
You will find many of Richard Waugaman’s Shakespeare-related articles through his website The Oxfreudian.
“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.”).
You may join the SOF or renew your membership for 2016 at our membership page.