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Shakespeare authorship to be debated at Olde Cock April 30, 2014

Old Cock

The Central London Debating Society will host a debate on the Shakespeare authorship question at 7:30 p.m. April 30, 2014 at the The Olde Cock Tavern Pub, 22 Fleet Street, London. The event is being organized by London-based actor and poet, Alain English, who is an associate of the society. The speakers are: William Leahy, PhD, author of Shakespeare and his Authors; Alexander Waugh, co-author of Shakespeare beyond Doubt? Ros Barber, PhD, author of The Marlowe Papers and Shakespeare: The Evidence; Alan H. Nelson, PhD, author of Monstrous Adversary, and Duncan Salkeld, PhD, author of Shakespeare among the Courtesans.

Ros Barber spoke to us about the debate and her electronic book Shakespeare: the Evidence published November 2013 online by Lean Publications. (See http://www.shakespeareoxfordfellowship.org/ros-barber-publishes-the-evidence/ for background.)

SOF: How did you get involved in the great London debate coming up in April?

Barber: Alain English (the organiser) saw me speak at the Shakespearean Authorship Trust conference at The Globe in November, and approached me afterwards to ask if I’d be interested in taking part. It’s a great line-up.

SOF: What’s the debate format and how are you going to prepare for that?

Barber: Five minutes each, followed by questions from the floor. Bill Leahy, Alexander Waugh and I are co-ordinating [the non-Strat viewpoint] to ensure our five minute speeches cover different ground.

SOF: Do you know your fellow debaters?

Barber: I’ve known Bill since 2007, when he signed the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt at Chichester. He is now chair of the Shakespearean Authorship Trust and I am director of research, so we see each other a few times a year, and correspond by phone and e-mail. I met Alexander Waugh when he came to speak at the SAT conference in November, and we had lunch together – he is splendid chap. We’ve been corresponding by e-mail; he recently became a reader of Shakespeare: The Evidence and has been very helpful on a few points. I’ve never met Alan Nelson but I’ve met Duncan Salkeld a couple of times, and he engaged me in a Twitter battle on the authorship question last year. His chief argument for William Shakspere on Twitter was the fact that the names Bardolph and Fluellen appear alongside that of John Shakspere in a 1592 list of Stratford-upon-Avon recusants, so I’ve made sure that argument and counter-argument are included in the new release of Shakespeare: The Evidence, in time for the debate. Which gives you a clue about why this book exists at all: it began as my own debate prep, for the debate with Stanley Wells and Paul Edmondson in April 2013. [see http://bloggingshakespeare.com/proving-shakespeare-webinar-now-live and http://oberonshakespearestudygroup.blogspot.com/2013/05/barber-and-price-demolish-wells-and.html ] I hope it will prove equally useful for anyone who finds themselves having to defend their Shakespeare scepticism in any context, whether that is a public debate with academics or a casual conversation with a friend or stranger.

SOF: So, how is the great e-pub experiment progressing?

Barber: So far so good. I’ve had a great response from readers, and the sliding payment scale has led to some incredible generosity from supporters of the project. The highest anyone paid for it so far is an incredible $200! I was really moved by that. Some people don’t quite get what Shakespeare: The Evidence is, so I’ll try to clarify. It’s not an “unfinished book”! It’s a text-based hyperlinked resource that is growing month on month to become a comprehensive compendium of every piece of evidence, argument and counter-argument for and against the Stratford man’s authorship. Though, like a book, you only buy it once – no matter how substantial it becomes, all future instalments and updates are free. I think of it as a meeting place where the issue can be hammered out without rancour and name-calling. Readers are invited to contribute additional arguments and counter-arguments, or additional pieces of evidence, and suggest amendments and improvements. It’s a resource for researchers, but it’s also intended as a helpful way for those interested in the authorship question to clarify their thinking; to identify their strongest arguments and ditch the weak ones. I rather hope it might move the debate on from the current stalemate. Although most readers are Shakespeare sceptics, I have some Stratfordian readers too.

SOF: Making any money?

Barber: Since the first instalment was released in late November, a healthy four figures in royalties and growing. Royalties are split 50:50 between myself and the Shakespearean Authorship Trust, who seed-funded the project.

SOF: Getting any feedback?

Barber: The feedback has been amazing. Lots of people have tweeted or e-mailed me with their appreciation. With permission, I put a few of these (entirely unsolicited) comments on leanpub.com/shakespeare. “I think it is going to be of enormous value, and only wish I had had such a thing available years ago”… “Good stuff! Really enjoying the clarity it brings to the debate.” … “It is very useful indeed.” These quotes are from the Marlowe and Neville camps. I’m hoping Oxfordians will find it equally useful and perhaps say something quotable I can use on the sales page! But as I say, I haven’t touted for comments; I prefer spontaneous responses.

SOF: Any reviews? How does one review a book that is never completed?

Barber: Well I wouldn’t say “never completed”! At some point the whole debate will be encapsulated in its present state. Because although new material might come up for different candidates, I think the Shakspere/Shakespeare evidence is now fairly stable. So at that point, which I envisage as being in anything from 2-5 years, it will be ready for reviews. The more support the project receives now, the sooner it will be finished, as I will be able to concentrate more on writing it than on doing other work to generate income. What I will be doing in the interim is setting up a “Reviews” page on the new Shakespeare: The Evidence website, http://shakespeare-evidence.com. This will allow current readers of the book to review it as it grows. And these reviews, like all reader input, may influence the final work. In this way, with reader help, I hope to make it the very best that it can be.

SOF: What have you released and what is the forthcoming schedule?

Barber: Part I, the introduction, core evidence, and arguments against the authorship question, is complete pending feedback and suggestions. I’m mostly working on Part 2 (Stratfordian arguments). The chapter on direct lifetime mentions of Shakespeare is complete, dissecting the “publication evidence” arguments of Stanley Wells (with reference in particular to his chapter of Shakespeare Beyond Doubt). Some of the Italian evidence (on both sides) has been analysed. And I should warn readers, I am as liable to take apart weak non-Stratfordian arguments as Stratfordian ones. Roe’s argument regarding the Catalan derivation of Ariel and Caliban has no sound evidential basis. Nor is his sycamore argument as strong as some people imagine. I want to help non-Stratfordians (and indeed, Stratfordians) to focus on their strongest arguments. You can see the table of contents of Shakespeare: The Evidence in its current incarnation here: http://leanpub.com/Shakespeare (just scroll down). Last month I released a Part 3 (Non-Stratfordian) chapter ‘Hidden Author’, analysing the evidence that at that time there was one or more concealed authors, from texts by Robert Greene, Gabriel Harvey, Marston & Hall, Ben Jonson, and Francis Bacon. This month I am focusing on the ‘Warwickshire dialect’ claims of Michael Wood and Jonathan Bate. Each word they claim to be Warwickshire or Cotswolds dialect has been researched via Open Source Shakespeare, the OED, the English Dialect Dictionary, and Early English Books Online. The results are most illuminating.

SOF: What pleases you most about the material completed or forthcoming?

Barber: Sections such as the one coming out this week (on dialect) involve a considerable amount of detective work, which is my favourite kind of research. I love unmasking sloppy scholarship. I love being able to entirely dismember an argument, piece by piece, and summarising that demolition concisely. Last month’s Hidden Author chapter pleased me because so often Stratfordians will say the non-Stratfordian case is all about absence of evidence and this chapter summarises some positive evidence for the non-Stratfordian case to counter that charge.

SOF: Any other news?

Barber: I’m hoping you’ll see one or two pieces from me about the authorship question in mainstream publishing outlets this year. I can say no more.

***

See also: http://debating-london.blogspot.co.uk/,  http://www.taylor-walker.co.uk/pub/ye-olde-cock-tavern-holborn/c1188/ , http://goo.gl/maps/c66TQ,  https://www.facebook.com/alain.english.7 , https://www.facebook.com/groups/86014951647/ , https://www.facebook.com/events/509741549144377/

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