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Waugh battles Strats at The Globe; Barber calls for cease fire

Kevin Gilvary, John Casson, Bill Leahy, Hank Whittemore, Julia Cleave and Ros Barber Credit: Tim Pieraccini

Kevin Gilvary, John Casson, Bill Leahy, Hank Whittemore, Julia Cleave and Ros Barber
Credit: Tim Pieraccini

Dec. 10, 2013

Shakespeare Authorship Coalition Honorary President Alexander Waugh opened the 2013  Shakespearean Authorship Trust  conference titled “Much Ado about Italy” at Shakespeare’s Globe in London on November 24 with an excoriation of sloppy Stratfordian scholarship. He based his commentary on the chapter titled “Keeping Shakespeare Out of Italy” that he wrote for the SAC publication, Shakespeare Beyond Doubt? 

A video of Waugh’s conference presentation titled “No True Traveler?” is available on the Shakespearean Authorship Trust website along with videos of speakers Hank Whittemore, Kevin Gilvary, and the Q&A panel held at the end of the conference. Julia Cleave’s presentation of Professor Roger Prior’s discovery of the Bassano Fresco was not recorded; neither — because of a technical problem — was SAT director of research Ros Barber’s plea for a less combative approach to the Shakespeare authorship question.

In her report on the conference titled “SAT Conference 2013” featured on her website, Barber said:

My own presentation, ‘A New Approach to the Authorship Question’ was a plea to end the name-calling and antagonism that bedevils the authorship debate and approach it calmly and rationally on the evidence alone. Stratfordians are no more liars and fools (as I have seen them called on internet forums) than non-Stratfordians are snobs and conspiracy theorists: each side believes they are either defending, or seeking, The Truth. This led into an introduction to Shakespeare: The Evidence, a new authorship question resource which is sponsored by the SAT.

[SOF reported on The Evidence project in a Barber interview titled “Ros Barber Publishes the Evidence”].

Author and Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship member Hank Whittemore also spoke at the conference, presenting  a talk about his friend, retired attorney Richard Paul Roe and Roe’s creation of his extraordinary work, The Shakespeare Guide to Italy, published in 2011 by HarperCollins.

Although Whittemore performed his one-man show, “Shakespeare’s Treason,” at a SAT meeting in 2008, this was the first time he presented at an SAT conference. He said of his experience:

This event . . . attracts a wide array of audience members, from dedicated authorship researchers to members of the general public who are curious.  So there is no expectation of ground-breaking scholarship, although the presentations are all based on good research.  The atmosphere is congenial.

A major difference between a SAT conference and one of our [SOS/SF now SOF ] conferences is that we have settled on the Earl of Oxford as the principal author of the Shakespeare works.  At the SAT event there is a determined effort, it seems, to remain agnostic on that issue, entertaining all candidates and focusing mainly on other aspects. . . .

The bottom line, however, is that the audience for the SAT event appeared to be interested all through the day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a break for lunch and another short break later.  People enjoyed themselves, that was clear, and there was a lively question period.  One person, a Stratfordian, expressed annoyance at Alexander Waugh’s rather strong criticism of orthodox scholars.  Well, I enjoyed Waugh’s presentation and agreed with him, even though it might not have been the model of diplomacy.

What I mainly learned at the event was that Shakespeare’s knowledge and love of Italy is one aspect of the authorship debate that will win the day for us.  And, in my view, that the Italian connection is an incredibly strong point in Oxford’s favor.  I knew these things before, but came away feeling confident that we are nearing a great turning point in the movement.

Whittemore has made the entire text of his presentation on Roe and Shakespeare’s Guide to Italy available on his website in three installments headlined after the conference title, “Much Ado about Italy,” and dated Nov. 29, 30 and Dec. 1.

England’s DeVere Society vice-chair Eddi Jolly gave a full report of the conference on the DVS website with comment on DVS chairman Kevin Gilvary’s talk on Shakespeare and the Italian commedia. A text of Gilvary’s entire SAT talk is available on the DVS website under the title, “Writ in choice Italian – Shakespeare and the Italian Commedia”. Jolly said:

[Gilvary’s] focus was not so much on social and topographical references but on Shakespeare’s knowledge of Roman comedy, Italian novellas, Commedia Erudita and Commedia dell’ Arte. Examples of each group of Roman and Italian writers were given . . . The most striking Italian precedents (for this listener) are from the Commedia dell’ Arte. It included stock characters and scenarii with improvised movement and dialogue. KG’s outline of three Italian pastoral comedies, Il Mago, La Nave and the Three Satyrs immediately recalled The Tempest, for which some – many – believe there is no source. Some of the audience gasped at that. And yet Italian experts do see Shakespeare’s work as permeated by Italian influences – e.g. Richard Andrews, in his recent edition of The Commedia dell’ Arte of Flamineo Scala (Scarecrow Press, 2008).

Jolly also commented on the presentation of SAT trustee and conference organizer Julia Cleve who talked about the Italian investigations of the late orthodox Shakespearean scholar, Roger Prior. Jolly encouraged readers to investigate Prior’s work on Giulio Romano and Shakespeare, and Titian and Shakespeare. Cleave’s presentation was not filmed due to copyright issues regarding artworks illustrated in her talk.

Neue Shake-Speare Gesellschaft (New Shakespeare Society) board member Hanno Wember of Hamburg, Germany attended the London conference and reported on his experience. Of Alexander Waugh’s presentation, Wember said:

Alexander Waugh gave the opening lecture “Shakespeare – no Traveller?” He reported first about the ongoing discussion in The Spectator, concerning his remarks on an allusion to Shakespeare in William Covell ‘s “Polimanteia”. (See: Alexander Waugh ‘s diary: “Shakespeare was a nom de plume – get over it” .) The debate led to ever more furious attacks from the side of the Stratfordians which were marvelously rejected by non-Strafordians. Waugh invited all to participate in the blog and promised some amusement. The blog in The Spectator finally ended after about 4 weeks with over 680 posts. Numerous errors of the Stratfordians were detected, they left a lot of requests unanswered, and they had a severe lack of arguments and finally gave up in resignation. In Waugh’s presentation, it was enlightening to learn which stupidities the traditional Shakespeare scholars committed or still commit when it comes to the question “Shakespeare and Italy”.

Wember said of his experience at the SAT conference:

Participants in a SAT-conference should know that all candidates are treated there as equivalent. It is always possible to say “I think NN is the best candidate”, but a dispute about the candidates among the participants does not occur. Questions, even critical inquiries are always welcome, but the supporters of other candidates will always be treated with respect. Waugh said, “Every non-Stratfordian is my friend”. Thanks to the SAT, especially to SAT-trustee Prof. William Leahy, who led the conference with a lot of humor, for making such informative and inspiring meetings possible which find great interest — about 100 participants — and take place in The Globe, London!

About Linda Theil

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