January 24, 2004
In the last issue of Phlit, I made some comments on Iraq. These comments prompted the following response from a Phlit subscriber in California:
The subscriber asked me to withhold their name, lest publication bring harm to someone in North Korea.
The harm inflicted by a despotism such as North Korea’s or Stalin’s or Saddam’s can’t be measured simply by the number of people killed, imprisoned, tortured, etc. Such despotisms reduce the entire population to a kind of slavery, and the first people to be killed are those who are the least servile — people of character, intelligence, etc.
One of the best literary works to emerge from a modern despotism is Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. Solzhenitsyn is still alive, and residing in Russia, and he tries to preserve the memory of those who suffered in the Gulag; many other Russians seem eager to forget the Gulag.1A I suspect that Solzhenitsyn is aware of the situation in North Korea, that he’s troubled by it, and that he would do what he could to publicize it.
Camps similar to those described by Solzhenitsyn still exist in Russia; they’re run by North Korean police, and manned by North Korean slave-workers. This from the New York Times:
A. A Consumer Culture The Wall Street Journal reported recently that parents are now giving their newborns brand names, they’re naming their babies “Lexus”, “Chanel”, “Porsche”, etc.2
B. Nietzsche says that the early Greeks had a Dionysian art that combined poetry, music, and dance.3 But over the course of time, poetry, music, and dance were separated, and became specialized. What we call “classical music” usually doesn’t include poetry or dance. Popular music, however, returns to the old tradition, the tradition in which poetry, music, and dance existed together. Elvis Presley said, “I can’t listen to music without moving. I tried, but I can’t do it.” Michael Jackson danced even in the recording studio. This popular tradition, this Dionysian tradition, has probably existed at all times — below the surface, on the fringe of society, underneath “higher culture.” In China, this popular tradition flourished among minority peoples, while majority Chinese (Han Chinese), were closer to the specialized Western tradition. In the center of China, people often listened to music silently, motionlessly, while on the periphery of China, minorities were “moving to the beat.”
C. In the last issue of Phlit, I mentioned that I applied for a job as a writing teacher at Harvard. Well, I didn’t get the job. They said they had more than 450 applicants, so I had only about a 1-in-100 chance of getting a job. It would have been a long commute anyway; as a fox once said, the grapes were probably sour anyway.
D. Esoterica Phlit often discusses the occult, so perhaps I should mention that an online journal, Esoterica, publishes articles on a variety of esoteric/occult subjects. The editor, Arthur Versluis of Michigan State University, says that the occult is beginning to be recognized, within academia, as a distinct field, an inter-disciplinary field that draws on art history, literary history, philosophy, etc. Versluis recently published a book called Shakespeare the Magus, which deals with Shakespeare’s interest in the occult.
E. Interest in the occult can be found in every country, and in every epoch of history. Paulo Fernandes, a Phlit subscriber in Brazil, tells me that primitive Polynesians “had practices that make their ancestors materialize and talk to them,” just as the American psychic John Edward talks to the dead every day on TV.
Perhaps the only societies that despised the occult, and regarded it as superstition, are modern Western societies (influenced by the Scientific Revolution), and classical societies (influenced by Greek philosophy and science). In both cases, contempt for the occult existed side-by-side with respect for the occult; however popular scientific-rational thinking was, it never completely supplanted the mystical tradition, the Hermetic tradition, the occult tradition.
Many of the most famous Greek thinkers, however, seem to have had little interest in the occult. The Greeks initiated two things that were hostile to the occult (or at least remote from the occult): logic and materialism. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle — all were fascinated by logic. Democritus and Epicurus developed the atomic tradition, and tried to reduce everything to atoms and the void; their materialist world-view left no space for the occult, for the invisible world. Marx and other modern thinkers continued this materialist tradition (when he was a student, Marx wrote his thesis on the Greek materialists). Marxists have only contempt for the occult.
I recently called Grace Calí, an Oxfordian (an “Oxfordian” is one who believes that “William Shakespeare” was the pen name of the Earl of Oxford). I asked Grace for a copy of her essay on The Tempest, which she was kind enough to send me.4 I had read the essay years ago, but then I had misplaced it, and I was eager to read it again since my book group is planning to read The Tempest.
Grace’s essay discusses the “Gosnold/Tempest Theory” — that is, the theory that The Tempest is based on a 1602 voyage by the English explorer Bartholomew Gosnold. Gosnold sailed to Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and the nearby Elizabeth Islands. Gosnold’s boat was shipwrecked on Cuttyhunk, one of the Elizabeth Islands. Gosnold’s account of his voyage contains some striking similarities to The Tempest; these similarities were first discovered by Edward Everett Hale, a 19th-century American writer. Hale noticed that
Hale wasn’t an Oxfordian (he died in 1909, eleven years before the Oxford theory was revealed to the world by its discoverer, J. Thomas Looney). But though Hale wasn’t an Oxfordian, his Gosnold/Tempest Theory strengthens the case for Oxford. Gosnold was from an aristocratic family based in Suffolk County, England. The Gosnold family seat is “less than 25 miles from Castle Hedingham, the ancient seat of the de Vere family [Edward de Vere = 17th Earl of Oxford] in the adjacent county of Essex.”6 The Gosnold and de Vere families were connected (as Grace discovered) by multiple marriage ties. Thus, it is reasonable to suppose that Edward de Vere knew about Gosnold’s 1602 voyage and shipwreck, especially since de Vere had a keen interest in voyages to the New World, and invested much of his inheritance in such voyages. Gosnold’s ship arrived back in England on July 23, 1602; since de Vere died on June 23, 1604, he would have had enough time to learn about Gosnold’s voyage, and then write The Tempest.
Stratfordians, who adhere to the traditional view of Shakespeare and reject the Oxford theory, argue that The Tempest is based on a 1609 shipwreck on Bermuda. They point out that Oxford died in 1604, hence he couldn’t have written The Tempest. (Stratfordians try to disqualify Oxford by arguing that several of the works of Shakespeare were written after Oxford’s death.) What evidence is there to support the Stratfordian view, to support the Tempest/Bermuda Theory? The play mentions “the still-vex’d Bermoothes” (I, ii). But how do we know that this is a reference to the 1609 shipwreck? Grace points out that “well before 1600, contemporary accounts appeared in London about several Bermuda shipwrecks.”7 Indeed, the Bermudas are named after a Spanish navigator who was shipwrecked there about 1503. Hence Edward de Vere may have thought of the Bermudas as “vex’d” (buffeted by storms) even if he didn’t live to hear about the 1609 shipwreck.
A close reading of the play shows that “the castaways were on an island different from Bermuda.”8 When Prospero asks Ariel about the state of the ship, he receives this response:
Safely in harbor
So the ship is in a deep nook, from which Ariel once set out for the Bermudas to fetch dew. The deep nook is not in Bermuda, “the castaways were on an island different from Bermuda.”
Grace points out that, while the play speaks of the Mediterranean, the plants and animals mentioned in the play are such as one would expect to find in a temperate climate, and are similar to those mentioned by Gosnold’s party. Grace also points out that Gosnold’s party was surprised to encounter a native American who spoke some English, just as Stephano, in The Tempest, is surprised to find that Caliban speaks his own language. “Where the devil should he learn our language?” Stephano asks. (The native Americans also wore some European clothing, suggesting earlier contact between them and European fishermen or explorers.)
The Tempest was once an argument against The Oxford Theory. Now, however, thanks to the Gosnold/Tempest Theory, The Tempest has become an argument for The Oxford Theory. Grace’s essay shows that The Oxford Theory has opened up a new world for Shakespeare researchers, and many discoveries remain to be made.
Gosnold’s voyage may have been sponsored, Grace says, by the 3rd Earl of Southampton, Henry Wriothesley. According to Wikipedia, Southampton “took a considerable share in promoting the colonial enterprises of the time, and was an active member of the Virginia Company’s governing council.” Stratfordians have long regarded Southampton as Shakespeare’s patron; they note that both “Venus and Adonis” and “The Rape of Lucrece” were dedicated to Southampton.
Oxfordians take a different view of Southampton. Grace argues that there were “strong parallel interests and tastes” between Southampton and de Vere. These parallel interests suggest, Grace argues, “a relationship akin to father and son.”9 Both Southampton and de Vere were interested in voyages to the New World, and both probably sponsored such voyages. Both attended Cambridge. Both studied law at Gray’s Inn. Both were raised as royal wards in the household of the Queen’s chief advisor, Lord Burghley. Both were generous patrons of literature (Southampton was a patron of Barnabe Barnes, Thomas Nashe, and Gervase Markham, among other writers).
Many scholars — Stratfordian as well as Oxfordian — believe that Southampton is the handsome young man addressed in Shakespeare’s sonnets, and they also believe that the aim of many of the sonnets was to encourage Southampton to marry Oxford’s daughter.10 Southampton was 23 years younger than Oxford (Southampton was born in 1573, and died in 1624). Some of the sonnets address a youth as one would address one’s own child. Sonnet 39, for example:
O, how thy worth with manners may I sing
When I called Grace, I asked her, “who do you think was Southampton’s father?” “Oxford.” “And who do you think was Southampton’s mother?” “Queen Elizabeth.” We know that Oxford was raised in the court circle, that he was close to the Queen, and that he was a handsome man. Is it really that far-fetched to suppose that Elizabeth became pregnant by Oxford? Many Oxfordians believe that Elizabeth did become pregnant by Oxford, that Elizabeth and Oxford were secretly married, and that Elizabeth secretly gave birth to Southampton. (Why secretly? Why not publicly? Perhaps Elizabeth wanted to preserve the appearance of a single woman, an eligible woman; this appearance was advantageous for diplomatic reasons.) Some Oxfordians reject this theory, and fear that it will bring discredit to The Oxford Theory. But Phlit never shies away from disreputable theories, cutting-edge theories.
In an earlier issue of Phlit, I mentioned that “an English professor at Berkeley, Alan Nelson, has researched the life of Edward de Vere, though he doesn’t believe that de Vere wrote the works attributed to Shakespeare.” I recently looked at the results of Prof. Nelson’s research, a 450-page biography of de Vere called Monstrous Adversary.
Nelson’s biography isn’t the first biography of de Vere. The first biography of de Vere was written in 1928 by an Oxfordian named Bernard Ward. Nelson refers to Ward’s biography as “the only documentary biography of Oxford until the present,” and Nelson says that he respects Ward as a historian. Nelson faults Ward, however, for (among other things) modernizing the spelling and punctuation of original documents. Nelson himself fills his biography with original documents, and leaves the poor reader to struggle with archaic language and spelling. Nelson doesn’t seem to understand that a collection of original documents does not a biography make.
Though Nelson intends to demolish The Oxford Theory, some of the documents he quotes strengthen it. For example, he quotes a letter that Oxford wrote while he was traveling in France in 1575: “perhaps I will bestow two or three months to see Constantinople, and some part of Greece.”12 (Nelson keeps the original spelling: “perhapes I will bestowe twoo or thre monthes to se Constantinople, and sum part of Grece.”) Oxford’s longing to travel suggests a person of culture; his longing to see Italy and Greece suggests a person with a passion for culture. Before he reached Italy, Oxford went to Strasbourg, and visited a scholar named Sturmius, whom Nelson describes as the “intellectual leader of European Protestantism.”13 This visit to Sturmius also suggests a person of culture.
In those days, traveling was more expensive, time-consuming and dangerous than it is today. Oxford made a will before he set out for the Continent. Once on the Continent, Oxford had to weave his way between Catholic Inquisitors and Turkish marauders. As he traveled, Oxford had to sell estates back home, to avoid running out of money; in As You Like It, Rosalind says to Jaques, “I fear you have sold your own lands to see other men’s.”14 Though Oxford never made it to Greece, the fact that he wanted to visit Greece, the birthplace and focal point of Western culture, is telling.
See Joyce section of Realms of Gold
I have little sympathy with nationalists in general, or with Irish nationalists in particular, but I admire eloquence wherever I find it, and while I was preparing my Joyce essay, I stumbled across a remarkable example of eloquence, a short speech by the Irish poet and nationalist Patrick Pearse, delivered at the funeral of a fellow-nationalist, O’Donovan Rossa, on August 1, 1915, in Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery. In the following two sentences, note the parallel structure, the repetition of certain words: “We know only one definition of freedom: it is Tone’s definition, it is Mitchel’s definition, it is Rossa’s definition. Let no man blaspheme the cause that the dead generations of Ireland served by giving it any other name and definition than their name and their definition.” Here’s the speech in full:
Less than a year after he delivered this eulogy, Pearse himself became one of the Fenian dead, executed by the British after the failed Easter Rising of 1916.
Pearse was a firm believer in reviving the Gaelic language, and he taught Gaelic. Joyce briefly studied Gaelic with him, but Joyce wasn’t a Pearse fan, so he left the class.
|1A.||This eagerness to forget the Gulag is the subject of a WeeklyStandard article by Dovid Margolin. back|
|1.|| NY Times, May 18, 2003, “Russia Turns to a Poor Neighbor for Cheap Labor”, by James Brooke back|
|2.|| this report appeared around 12/26/03 back|
|3.|| Twilight of the Idols, “Reconnaissance Raids of an Untimely Man,” #10, #11 back|
|4.|| Grace’s essay appeared in the Shakespeare Oxford Society Newsletter, Winter 1994, vol. 30, #1, pp. 14-18. If you’re interested in the Gosnold/Tempest Theory, you may want to look at Ruth Loyd Miller’s “Sources of The Tempest”, which can be found in her 2-volume edition of Looney’s “Shakespeare” Identified (Minos Publishing, 1975). back|
|5.|| “History Lights Up The Tempest: Bermuda Locale in Doubt”, by Grace Calí back|
|6.|| ibid back|
|7.|| ibid back|
|8.|| ibid back|
|9.|| ibid back|
|10.|| Apparently Oxford wasn’t concerned about in-breeding, about Southampton marrying his half-sister. back|
|11.|| Quoted in Shakespeare and the Tudor Rose, by Elisabeth Sears. The Sears book occupies a prominent place among the Oxfordian books dealing with The Oxford/Elizabeth/Southampton Theory. back|
|12.|| Ch. 24, p. 124 back|
|13.|| ibid, p. 125 back|
|14.|| IV, i, 21 back|