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400th Anniversary of Shakespeares (NB no apostrophe) First Folio

1623 - 2023


a figure  in a mask


Avon swan or upstart crow

now how would any of us know


kowtow & fawn to fictitious fantasy

this actor frontman

we mistakenly revere

 a mere man from Stratford

not the literary stratosphere


Folio = "A book made with large sheets of paper, especially as used in early printing" Oxford English Dictionary

(About 750 copies printed)


Authorship Doubt Controversy:

Francis Bacon

Christopher Marlowe


Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford?

 (NB spear)




Walt Whitman:

"I am firm against Shaksper - I mean the Avon man, the actor."

-  Traubel
"Conceived out of the fullest heat and pulse of European feudalism - personifying in unparall'd ways the medieval aristocracy, its towering spirit of ruthless and gigantic cast, its own peculiar air and arrogance (no mere imitation) - only one of the 'wolfish earls' so plenteous in the plays themselves, or some born descendent and knower, might seem to be the true author of those amazing works - works in some respects greater than anything else in recorded history."
- November Bough


"I no longer believe that William Shakespeare the actor from Stratford was the author of the works that have been ascribed to him."
- Autobiographical Study (1927), 130

"It is undeniably painful to all of us that even now we do not know who was the author of the Comedies, Tragedies and Sonnets of Shakespeare, whether it was in fact the untutored son of the provincial citizen of Stratford, who attained a modest position as an actor in London ... "
- Speech accepting the Goethe Prize, 1930.


"We will have a lot to discuss about. Shakespeare. I do not 'know what still attracts you to the man of Stratford. He seems to have nothing at all to justify his claim, whereas Oxford has almost everything. It is quite inconceivable to me that Shakespeare should have got everything secondhand - Hamlet's neurosis, Lear's madness, Macbeth's defiance and the character of Lady Macbeth, Othello's jealousy, etc. It almost irritates me that you should support the notion."
-  letter to Arnold Zweig, April 2, 1937


Charlie Chaplin:

"In the work of the greatest geniuses, humble beginnings will reveal themselves somewhere, but one cannot trace the slightest sign of them in Shakespeare... I am not concerned with who wrote the works of Shakespeare... but I can hardly think it was the Stratford boy. Whoever wrote them had an aristocratic attitude."
- My Autobiography, 364


Sh's 6 surviving signatures, rather ugly scrawls:

 Willm Shakp,William Shakspēr,Wm Shakspē,William Shakspere,Willm Shaksper,William Shakspeare

More creatively calligraphic:


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PS James Joyce had doubts about the authorship question.

Gary Goldstein in 'Who was James Joyce's Shakespeare':

"The Testimony of Joyce's Ulysses In Chapter 7 is a wonderful example of the wit that foreshadows the many Shakespearean allusions in Chapter 9. Clamn dever, Lenehan said to Mr. O'Madden Burke. (U 137) The original meaning of "damned clever" turns into an ingenious pun on Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford - "de Ver"- through the rhetorical devise of metathesis, which transposes sounds or letters in a word or phrase. Two chapters later, at the start of the Shakespeare chapter in Ulysses, Joyce dismisses Francis Bacon with dispatch. "Good Bacon: gone musty" (U 195). He then has a librarian spur on the conversation by declaring: "I hope Mr. Dedalus will work out his theory for the enlightenment of the public" (U 196). Joyce proceeds to do this by listing the Shakespeare authorship speculations of George Bernard Shaw and Frank Harris (U 196), Walt Whitman (U 201) and Samuel Taylor Coleridge (U 205). He then writes: Gentle Will is being roughly handled, gentle Mr. Best said gently. Which will? gagged sweetly Buck Mulligan. (U 206)

Joyce has his characters continue questioning the traditional authorship of the Shakespeare plays.

When Rutlandbaconsouthamptonshakespeare or another poet of the same name in the comedy of errors wrote Hamlet . . . (U 208) Joyce later has a character talk briefly about the theory that the Earl of Rutland had written the works of Shakespeare (U 214). Obviously exasperated with all the talk about Shakespeare's identity, someone exclaims: I believe, O Lord, help my unbelief. (U 214) Despite this ironic appeal to God or a nobleman, Joyce still hadn't closed the discussion on who wrote Shakespeare, for he issues a final comment on the matter at the end of the chapter. Manner of Oxenford. (U 217) The reference is to the 17th Earl of Oxford (1550-1604), for Oxford had signed his poetry, both in manuscript and published form, as E.O., E. of Ox., and Earle of Oxenford. "

"Is Oxford being revered by James Joyce or by a character in Wake? Either way, it lauds him in a way that no other Shakespeare claimant was ever praised in Joyce's works, including Bacon, Rutland, Southampton, and William Shakspere of Stratford. Joyce also included in Wake two puns that refer to J. Thomas Looney, probably commenting on Looney's situation after publication of his book, "Shakespeare Identified", which came under sustained public attack, along with its author. Note the line, "Loonacied! Marterdyed!"(FW 492.5), which precedes the previous explicit allusion to Oxford by just 11 lines. Equally resonant is the line, "Loonely in me loneness" (FW 627.34). As Joyce placed this statement on the next-to-last page of Wake, perhaps Joyce was comparing Looney's experience with his own artistic situation vis-a-vis contemporary critics, in whom Joyce and his creative works aroused an intense and antagonistic response.
"The preceding literary correspondences in Ulysses and Wake show that Joyce had extensive knowledge about Oxford which he chose to include in his two novels. It also shows that Joyce believed Shakespeare wrote in the Earl of Oxford's manner. Moreover, Joyce made his reverence for Oxford explicit in a willfully obscure book,  Finnegans Wake. Equally important, Joyce connects Oxford to Shakespeare in allusions in Wake. Finally, as both books were published seventeen years apart, the positive references to Oxford, spanning an entire generation of time, represent much more than an awareness of the debate of who wrote Shakespeare."


who was Shakespeare
could it have been Ed De Vere
no need to cry a tear
now let's be clear
have no fear
I know it's queer
in this anniversary year

PS First published 8th November 1623?






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