Finding Shakespeare and Conservatism

First up is an excerpt from a great article by Jonathan F. Keiler. He writes about having seen the episode of Firing Line, the late William Buckley’s talk show, where he interviewed Charlton Ogburn, author of the book The Mysterious William Shakespeare. The book is about the authorship question — was the Stratford-on-Avon Shakespeare really the guy who wrote all those plays and sonnets?

Following that are some additional links regarding Shakespeare.

Here’s Keiler:

That’s the point where I began to come around to the Oxfordian case, though it was not until after I’d bought and read Ogburn’s book (and many others) that I became fairly convinced. If you want to consider the case for the earl, I suggest you do the same. My point here is not to write a brief on Oxford’s behalf, though it is perhaps worth noting that a disproportionate number of lawyers appear to accept the Oxfordian case, including the late Antonin Scalia. Probably something to do with evaluating evidence and all that. But my real revelation was to see Buckley seemingly change his own mind about the matter as the discussion progressed, while the professor remained wedded to his dogmatic view, regardless of whether it was defensible or not.

In time, I saw that this was the conservative way – not dogmatism, but rather an open-minded consideration of evidence and a measured and rational approach to adjusting one’s views. The Shakespeare authorship controversy is a good example of that in many ways. For example, much of the reluctance to even consider Oxford’s case by orthodox and almost uniformly leftish professors is the aversion of accepting that an aristocrat was the author rather than a commoner. In fact, it makes a lot more sense for an aristocrat to have written the plays, given their largely aristocratic subject matter and points of view. But this would undermine conventional pieties that position Shakespeare as a hero of the underclass, a common man made great by an unexplained a priori genius, which might be conceivable in a mathematician but much less so in an author of Shakespeare’s viewpoints, erudition, and scope.

It was obvious to me, at least on that afternoon, that as Buckley warmed to Oxford’s case, it was not because he favored the aristocrat, but because Ogburn made a much better case for his man than the supercilious and obtuse professor.

Likewise, I prefer the idea of Shakespeare as an honest, stolid, middle-class English burgher over that of an occasionally violent, bisexual, aristocratic spendthrift – the latter accurately describing Oxford. But the evidence strongly suggests that is the case, and so that’s what I believe. Not because I think a lower-class person was intellectually incapable of writing the works, but because I believe that there is little evidence that William Shakspere of Stratford, regardless of his native intellect, had the opportunities, resources, experiences, or contacts necessary to write the plays and poems as they are.

Anyone is entitled to disagree, but not on the grounds that I am an elitist bigot. Though that is certainly where a leftist critic will probably start.

Read more: American Thinker

Within his article, Keiler links to several interesting pages — including these two:

The Case for Oxford: Were the works of Shakespeare really written by the Earl of Oxford?

Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship

There are other books on the topic, of course, and the book jacket pictured above is from the one I read, Alias Shakespeare.

And finally, there’s a terrific fictionalized account on the topic that I highly recommend called Anonymous. In my opinion the screenplay is brilliant on several levels, and to be honest, it took me more than one viewing to catch all the details.