Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Welcome to the Club

The latest fad seems to be delving into the conspiracy theories that someone other than the Bard of Stratford on Avon wrote all those Shakespearean plays.

The new movie entitled Anonymous comes out October 8.  (The opening of the film has been delayed twice to try to find a better weekend with lesser competition.)  The film proposes that Edward de Verre, the 17th Earl of Oxford, wrote the works.

My book, The Shakespeare Conspiracy, of course, proposes that Christopher Marlowe was the real author.  You can check all this out on my web site:

For your information, the stage version of my novel will be presented October 21 in a staged reading by the Artists Ensemble Theatre company in Rockford, Illinois, west of Chicago.

And they're presently preparing to shoot the movie version of the novel in Winnipeg, Canada.  I wish I had more information on that, but I don't.

But new conspiracy accounts seem to be formulating daily.

A new book is out entitled The Consequences of Anonymity and Attribution.  The final chapter in the book is called  "The Anonymous Shakespeare: Heresy, Authorship, and the Anxiety of Orthodoxy" by Bruce Danner.

Professor Danner, of St. Lawrence University, Canton, New York, is a widely published mainstream Shakespeare scholar.

Danner lists some of the central problems with the legendary author.  He writes, "Stratfordians have not established the chronology of the plays; they are ignorant as to the author’s political, religious, and cultural opinions; they cannot establish the authorial text for the plays. Such facts provide the foundations of literary study… and yet these are just such definitive issues that the Shakespearean profession cannot resolve."

Welcome to the club, Professor Danner.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Theater in Shakespeare's Time Was Different

When we look at theater in the 21st century, we have a tendency to assume it's always been literature on a stage.

It hasn't.

Even our concept of productions at such cherished locations as the Globe Theatre in London convey the image of class and classic.


In Shakespeare's time, it was definitely a different ball game.

Until the coronation of England’s King James I, theater in England was considered akin to prostitution, thievery and vagrancy. All theaters in London were required to be built outside the city walls along with brothels, prisons and lunatic asylums. Theaters were usually considered to be disreputable places, dens of iniquity, and definitely low class.

Sure Royalty might occasionally be in the audience, but the overall image was closer to a night at a World Wrestling Association event than to a performance at the Old Vic.

Another common assumption about theater was that is was a breeding ground for the plague.

Consequently, whenever the plague flared up, they were the first places to be closed.

The epidemic which began in London in the summer of 1592 was one of the longest closures. More than 14% of the population of the city died during this period.

Whenever the theaters closed, the actors as well as all those connected with the company would be faced with two options: lose all income or begin touring the small countryside towns where the plague was not as virulent. In order to sustain at least a little income, most decided to tour.

By first day of the year, 1593, the deaths had lessened enough to allow theaters to reopen. But that did not last long. On January 21, the Privy Council prohibited any more performances as the number of deaths began to rise. This time the plague wiped out an additional ten per cent of London.

The only recourse that seemed to be considered was to get out of London or any big city.

Even after these especially severe epidemics, the plague was virtually always present and would mysteriously flare up every few years. Whenever the death toll in London reached forty, all public gatherings except for church services were banned within seven miles of the city.

Most problematic was the knowledge that the actors had no idea when the theaters would again be allowed to open.  So productions were on again and then off again.

No one knew for sure Romeo and Juliet would make it to the stage that day.

Want to know more?  Check out the web site for my book.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Laundry List of Conspiracy Believers

         It is amazing when anyone sees the list of the people who believe there was some conspiracy back in 1593 and that Shakespeare didn’t actually write the plays attributed to him.

         Of course not all the people on those lists believe that Marlowe was the real author.   Some believe it was Francis Bacon and other believe it was Edward de Verre, the 17 Earl of Oxford.  Those are the most popular candidates.  But almost everyone else is on the list of possible authors of the works -- including Sir Walter Raleigh, Queen Elizabeth I, King James I,  and even “a team of writers” – all contributing to the total “works of William Shakespere.”

         Two prominent contemporary figures in the anti-Stratfordian camp are Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance, both of whom, in 2007, issued a "A Declaration of Reasonable Doubt" that features the signatures of several high-profile doubters, as an attempt to rally the anti-Stratfordian cause.

             In recent years the Shakespeare authorship conspiracy has gained greater mainstream interest: the fact that Rylance even served as Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre between 1995-2005 reflects this. (Jacobi and Rylance will both appear in Anonymous, the “other” movie coming out about “the Shakespeare conspiracy.”  It opens October 8.  And the movie director Roland Emmerich’s signature is also featured on the 2007 declaration.)

            Some of those who think Shakespeare never wrote a word are some very famous actors, many of whom earned their stripes doing Shakespeare on Broadway or London:
            Mark Twain
            Orson Welles
            Charlie Chaplin
            Sir John Gielgud
            Sir Tyrone Guthrie
            Leslie Howard
            Jeremy Irons
            And Michael York.

            And the list includes some prominent writers, like
            Charles Dickens
            Walt Whitman
            Ralph Waldo Emerson
            Henry James
            William James
            And John Galsworthy.

            But famous is hardly the word for the list of other people who sincerely believe that Marlowe or others wrote the works:
            Sigmund Freud
            Clifton Fadiman
            Cecil Beaton, (Broadway costume designer who did the movie “My Fair Lady”)
            And Mortimer J. Adler.

            Even some U.S. Supreme Court judges have chimed in on their belief that Shakespeare was an actor but couldn’t have written the plays and poems:
            Sandra Day O’Connor
            Henry A. lackmun
            Lewis F. Powell, Jr.
            And John Paul Stevens.

            My question, of course, is this: “Is it possible that all those great people – and so many more on the lists – could all be wrong?”

            If you’re interested in seeing a more extensive list, you can go to the website: http//


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Sudden Flurry of Conspiracy Theories

When I published my novel, The Shakespeare Conspiracy, there were hardly any comments flying around about other conspiracies.

Today?  Not true.  The last six months have filled the air with them.  And MANY of them are about Shakespeare.  (Come on.  Does anyone still believe that unknown actor from Stratford wrote the stuff?)

The candidates for who really wrote those plays and poems is growing and growing.

I think my novel has enough factual information to prove it was Christopher Marlowe.

But, a myriad of other names flood the field:
            Francis Bacon
            Edward DeVerre, the 17the Earl of Oxford  (Note: he’s choice de jour of the movie coming out October 8, called Anonymous.)
            Sir Walter Raleigh
            Queen Elizabeth I
            Last week I read about some living writer added to the list. (Oh, how?)
            And on and on…

If you go to this site, you can watch more than dozen videos all proclaiming that Shakespeare didn’t write those plays.  The site also includes my video about that:

But Shakespeare conspiracies are only part of the new flurry. 

The latest one concerns Prince William and Prince Harry being related to almost every celebrity in the last four-hundred years – including the great Bard of Stratford.

There’s a web site entitled Famous Conspiracies.  Here are their 2011 top ten most popular conspiracies – in rank order:
            UFOs are real.
            The Destruction of the World Trade was plotted by the U.S. government.
            Elvis is still alive. (Well, we all know that.)
            Bin Ladin is not really dead.
            The moon landing was faked and filmed in New Mexico
            Paul McCartney is really dead. (I had never heard that one.)
            President Obama was born in Kenya. (When will they ever get off of that?)
            Shakespeare didn’t really write those plays. (Well, big news, huh?)
            The Mafia and J. Edgar Hoover had President Kennedy killed.
            There is a Zion plot to take over the world. (Has anyone ever heard that one before?)

And depending on which of the above theories you consider, some can appear quite stupid (Elvis) while others could really be true. 

But many believer in some of these conspiracy theories are not nuts or flakey people.  Some really big, big, smart names are among them.

Hey, that sounds like a good topic for the next blog.  Why not?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Two New Movies, Two Books, and Two New Plays All Ask the Same Question: “Did Shakespeare Write Those Plays?”

Saturday, June 4, is “National Marlowe Day” in England and the United States.  But this year the emphasis seems to more on Shakespeare – as in “Did Shakespeare really write those works – or did Marlowe?”

Two recently published books, two new stage plays, and two new movies all ask that same question.  And in five of the six cases, the answer is Christopher Marlowe.

For centuries, two questions have plagued historians:
·      How could Christopher Marlowe, a known spy and England’s foremost playwright, be suspiciously murdered and secretly buried in unmarked grave – just days before he was to be tried for treason and probably sentenced to death?
·      How could William Shakespeare replace Marlowe as England’s greatest playwright virtually overnight – when Shakespeare had never written anything before and was merely an unknown actor? 

The two books both try to answer those questions.  My book, The Shakespeare Conspiracy, is a historical novel that intertwines both of the above mysteries and then put the pieces together to offer the only possible solution.  The novel is a rapidly unfolding detective narrative -- filled with comedy, intrigue, murder and an illicit love story.  I’ve billed the novel as “the greatest literary deception of all time.”

The other novel, Blood and Ink, by D.K. Marley, tells how Marlowe sells his soul to see the one thing he desires most: his name immortalized.  By a twist of fate, he has a chance encounter with an unknown actor named William Shakespeare and this gives wing to one of England’s greatest secrets.

Marlowe also gets credit for all of Shakespeare’s works in two new plays, one in America and one in England, both with the same title, The Shakespeare Conspiracy.  The first is by Andrew Shepherd, opening June 6 at the Chelsea Theatre in London.  It’s billed as “a comedy-drama about Shakespearean characters running amok in modern society.”

The other play is a recently completed script of my book.  I wrote it in conjunction with the former chairman of the Theater Department of Rockford College in Illinois. It is scheduled for production on October 21 by the theater group “Actors’ Ensemble” in the Chicago, Illinois area.

The two movies on the theme differ as to “who” wrote Shakespeare’s works.  A new film, Anonymous, will be released September 30.  The film, directed by Roland Emmerich of 2012 fame, credits  Edward de Verre, the 17th Earl of Oxford, as the real author of Shakespeare’s works.

The movie stars the former artistic director of the Globe Theatre, Mark Rylance, in addition to Vanessa Redgrave, Joely Richardson and Sir Derek Jacobi.

The second movie, based on my book is scheduled for release in 2012 and, as in the book, credits Marlowe with the writings.  It is being produced by the Motion Picture Hall of Fame and Borone Films.

I am, of course, excited about the projects pertaining to my book.  But I also find it very exciting that there are – at this time – so many other projects which all seem to question if Shakespeare really wrote those works.

More information:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Dissenting Voices

  Not only is there much more activity lately on the subject of who really wrote the works of Shakespeare, but those who believe in the conspiracy theory (someone other than the Bard of Avon did the writing) have some pretty impressive credentials.

    Mark Rylance is presently starring on Broadway in the hit play Jerusalem.  It opened recently and got raves from all the major reviewers.

    Mr. Rylance was the artistic director of the Globe Theatre in London for ten years.  (It's hard to get more "Shakespearean" than that.)  He is one who (surprisingly) believes that Actor Shakespeare did not write the works.  (Just a side note.  Mr. Rylance sent me a very thoughtful note recently stating his appreciation for receiving a copy of my novel The Shakespeare Conspiracy.)

    The easiest way to see the growing list of "truthers" is to go the web site for the book:  There is a section there containing the list of non-believers (though they don't all agree on who actually did write the works.   They only agree that the actor named Shakespeare did not.)

Here are a few of the more famous "truthers."  To see the full list, check the web site.

Sir Derek Jacobi – Shakespearian actor, who is starring in the upcoming (September 30 release) movie Anonymous, which deals with the theory that Edward DeVerre, the 17th Earl of Oxford, wrote the works of Shakespeare.

Jeremy Irons – American actor, presently starring in the Showtime TV series The Borgias.

Mark Twain (1835 – 1910) Samuel Langhorne Clemens, the famous American writer, humorist, satirist, lecturer, best known for The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

Orson Welles, (1915 – 1985) actor, writer, director and producer best known for the landmark movie Citizen Kane and the panic-causing radio program War of the Worlds.

Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939) — Viennese psychotherapist, commonly referred to as "the father of psychoanalysis."

Charles "Charlie" Chaplin (1889 – 1977) — silent film actor. “The Little Tramp.”

Charles Dickens (1812 – 1870) — Foremost novelist of the Victorian era, and widely regarded as one of the greatest writers in the English language.

Sir John Gielgud (1904 – 2000) — English theatre and film actor, who starred and directed in many Royal Shakespeare Company productions at Stratford-upon-Avon.

Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892) — American Romantic poet, essayist, journalist and humanist, famous for his Leaves of Grass.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882) — American essayist, poet, and original formulator of the philosophy of Transcendentalism.

(Sir William) Tyrone Guthrie (1900 – 1971) — Tony Award-winning British theatre director who established the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Henry James (1843 – 1916) — American-born author, literary critic, who wrote 22 novels, 112 tales, several plays and essays,

Leslie Howard (1893 – 1943) — English stage and film actor and Academy Award nominee, best known as Ashley Wilkes in Gone with the Wind and Professor Higgins in Pygmalion.

Harry A. Blackmun (1908 – 1999) — Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1970 to 1994

Clifton Fadiman (1904 – 1999) — Noted intellectual, author, radio and television personality, oft-quoted wit.

Lewis F. Powell, Jr. (1907 – 1998) — Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1972 to 1987.

Cecil Beaton – Famous Broadway costume and scenic designer whose works include My Fair Lady on Broadway and movie.

Sandra Day O’Connor – U.S. Supreme Court Justice

John Paul Stevens – U.S. Supreme Court Justice

Mortimer J. Adler -- University of Chicago Editor of “The Great Books of the Western World.”

Michael York – Actor and author of A Shakespearean Actor Prepares

William Y. Elliott (1896 – 1979) — Harvard government professor, counselor to six presidents; a Roosevelt braintruster; a Rhodes Scholar and noted poet.

John Galsworthy (1867 – 1933) — English novelist and playwright, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1932. He is best known for The Forsyte Saga.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Freud, the Supreme Court, and Shakespeare

There seems to be a lot more attention lately to the subject of who really wrote the works of Shakespeare.

My novel, The Shakespeare Conspiracy, of course is the story of Christopher Marlowe really having written the works.  You can check the site:

But items seem to be popping up all over the internet about other theories.

Brian Sweeney today wrote that "A vigorous debate continues to rage as to the true identity of the author of the Shakespearian plays and sonnets, a debate that has gone to the highest court of the land.

"A Wall Street Journal article noted that liberal Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens rendered his verdict that 'beyond a reasonable doubt' the bard of Avon was not William Shakespeare and that the works ascribed to William Shakespeare were actually written by the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere.

"Remarkably, in rare agreement with his ideological counterpart, conservative Justice Antonin Scalia concurred with Stevens. Stevens was also enjoined in the decision by the late Harry Blackman. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who was always a swing vote on the court, stayed true to form with her nuanced opinion that Shakespeare did not write the Shakespeare plays but also did not render an opinion as to who did."

Jonathan Kay's new book Among theTruthers, states that "For a while, Sigmund Freud believed that Shakespeare wrote Hamlet after his [Shakespeare's] father died. When Freud wrote The Interpretation of Dreams, he cited the play as a key Oedpial work. But in 1919, historians discovered that Shakespeare wrote the play before his father died. How did Freud respond? He became obsessed with the conspiracy theory that the 17th Earl of Oxford had written the plays credited to "William Shakespeare."

The world seems to suddenly have become obsessed with the real author of the Shakespearean works.