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The Shakespeare Authorship Question: A Crackpot's View Kindle Edition
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Thank you Keir for your remarkable body of work!
Richard Allan Wagner
As a PhD in theatre studies, as well as a gifted lecturer and humorist, Cutler has for several years now added a significant dimension and a relatively new but influential voice to the unfolding saga of the authorship question.
In this book he is not afraid to tangle with some of the biggest names in the Shakespeare industry: Wells, Prosser, Bryson, Greenblatt, McCrea and Shapiro are all given some free publicity in the book before Cutler's incisive and often witty logic deconstructs their arguments and exposes the dishonest and sometimes fraudulent character of their posturing.
A self published book of about 50 pages, there are a few places where Cutler's volume might have benefited from stronger editorial review, and in at least one instance the book contains a statement of historical fact that has changed since Cutler originally wrote the book. These minor imperfections of form pale, however, beside the book's great merits, both of style and content. Cutler is an engaging, highly intelligent, and very well-informed scholar of the authorship question, who especially knows how to use humor for educational purposes.
One of the chief merits of the book is Cutler's skill in revealing the habit of Stratfordian biographers to endorse mutually contradictory positions whose only common element is that both positions conveniently "affirm that there is absolutely no authorship question."
Several impressive examples of this kind of specious reasoning, which is more and more earning orthodox Shakespeareans a reputation for theoretical inventiveness as special pleaders for a failing cause, are brilliantly essayed in Cutler's chapter, "Shakespeare as Religion."
Here we read, for example, of Warwick University Professor Dr. Carol Rutter's proclamation that the subject of Shakespearean authorship is a "question that shouldn't interest anybody." What a person is supposed to do who is interested in the question, Dr. Rutter does not venture to explain. She just wishes you would stop.
According to Holger Syme, professor at the University of Toronto, the authorship question is all about how smart Shakespeare was, and he's eager to tell us that he really wasn't that smart: "The notion that Shakespeare was extraordinarily erudite is a 20th century fiction, an effect of historical distance."
To Jay Halio at the University of Delaware, on the other hand, "Shakespeare's imagination carried him everywhere, through time as well as place, and has never been surpassed."
"So, according to these two 'experts,' the plays and poems are either so average that anyone from the period could have written them, or they are an achievement of such consummate genius that only one uniquely imaginative individual could be their creator. These two positions seem to contradict each other, but they share the same purpose, to affirm there is absolutely no authorship question."
Cutler's book contains 50 pages of similar deconstruction.
He begins by listing and discussing ten points against the Stratford attribution, and moves on from that to discuss and effectively dismantle several of the major canards on which orthodoxy depends, ending with three brilliant, rip-roaring book reviews of three recent books by prominent Stratfordians: Shakespeare: The World as Stage (Eminent Lives),Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare, and Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?
Along the way, Cutler recounts his own transition from a true-believing Stratfordian to a doubting Keir. Starting from the intent to produce a one-man comic monologue of the sort he has since become famous for, one he intended to base on the "laughability" of the anti-Stratfordian position, Cutler's research turned him the opposite direction: "I discovered that the case against Shakespeare's authorship is considerably stronger than any case that can be made for him....my one man show went entirely in the opposite direction from ridiculing the doubters, and instead, mocked the 'troglodytes' who content there is not question, and still believe the traditional story of Shakespeare."
The book will be useful for both the neophyte in authorship studies -- it makes a very useful introduction to the topic for newbies -- or the more experienced student or scholar in the field -- it contains a wealth of original and telling exchanges with orthodox proponents of the teflon author from Stratford. The arguments of these scholars are always presented fairly and respectfully before being dismantled, a habit which orthodox scholars and true-believers might wish to learn from Dr. Cutler.
I had not yet been introduced to any theories of perhaps, a perpetrated ruse. I had not yet learned much of the life of my new friend. How this relatively untraveled, under educated, commoner, with no military or medical background could achieve knowledge and experiences of such divine providence.
As I matured and experienced much of the world on my own I questioned many things and many preconceived notions I once previously held. Upon first hearing of the possibility of a different or even several contributor(s) to what is understood to be the "works of Shakespeare" I had an "Ah HA!" moment. Things were beginning to make sense for me and the plethora of questions were finding answers which were plausible. Dr, Cutler brings to life and reason, the purpose to even posing the question of "authorship". His dialogue does not try to force you to believe in one scribe over another but rather to open your mind to the facts involved in the questioning. He also plainly and clearly exposes the prejudicial opinions of the hardcore "Stratfordians" in several reviews of their works on the subject. This short but informative and eye opening view into the need to question the true authorship and expose the misinformation and/or lack of evidence supporting the Stratfordian belief in "The Man from Stratford upon-Avon" will perhaps have you considering being a "Crackpot" yourself...
Good scholarly information: he read 5 of the most tedious Shakespearean biographies, and came out alive. This is not a tale told by an idiot, but a succinct presentation of Socratic satiric common sense. If A, then B, not maybe B or quite likely F.
You will never go to Stratford-upon-Avon again and shed a tear for William Shakespeare, the myth.