Synopsis: This essay first establishes that Stratfordian scholars have, in order to mislead the general public, lied about the existence of an authorship problem. Proof of the lie is to be found in Sir Trevor Roper's opinion that the historical record concerning Shakspere's connection to the authorship of these works is so tenuous that it not only allows doubt, but encourages it. This section is followed by discussion of the primary record which suggests Shakspere was a producer, not a writer, of plays, as first discovered by the Rev Dr John Ward c 1662. Schoenbaum, who refuses to use Ward's proper titles, attempts to discredit Ward's discoveries and misrepresents the period of Ward's research by nearly half a century. Lastly this paper shows that New Place, supposedly the manorial home of the author, was a dilapidated income producing property for a litigious and truculent absentee landlord, who himself lived, for most of his life, as a tenant in rental rooms. This same man converted his birthplace into a tavern and died, so far as the record is concerned, without books or manuscripts in his possession. (To help clarify the distinction between the author and the actor this paper uses the forms Shakespeare and Shakspere, the latter adheres to the actor's own preference in extant documents.)
A New Place or
The man from Stratford continues to baffle or to mystify biographers and historians, if, that is, they aren’t Stratfordians. Who was he? What did he do? What was New Place? A manorial home, as Stratfordians believe, or was it, more likely, a tavern, an apartment house or a hostel? What was its condition? How could its owner, a ”hempen homespun,” have been the author of the world’s foremost dramatic canon? How could he have translated the source materials? What were the wellsprings of his phenomenal vocabulary, which evidence neologisms taken in from nearly all of the classical and European languages and a high command of those same languages in his remarkably erudite, diverse and extensive source materials? From whence came his 18,000 word vocabulary, over twice that of the New and Old Testaments? (29,066 words, if we count, as Marvin Spevack did, various forms of each word.  ) Why was Shakspere immune to prosecution, in that most intolerant of ages? An age that had chopped off John Stubbs’ right hand, tortured Thomas Kyd and arrested kind Christopher Marlowe for capital crimes of conscience. Who were his royal protectors? Who were his intellectual friends?
Did Shakespeare work by witchcraft or, like Iago, by wit? And if by wit where did he find the “dilatory time?” Dilatory, besides meaning “tardy” and “tending to delay,” means “behindhanded.” Was Shakespeare “behindhanded?” How could a Peter Quince, let alone a Bottom, have been responsible for Mid Summer Night’s Dream or Hamlet? Why would he have contrived to have both plays registered on days of importance to their plots? MSND appeared on 8 October, the date North gives as Theseus’ day, the same Theseus who is the ranking human in the play. (Fancy that.) Hamlet, perhaps the most complex play in the world, certainly the most influential, appeared on the forth Thursday of July and thus marks both of James’ ascension days. The indecisive James, one recalls, had suffered Hamlet’s fate, his mother quickly bedding and marrying the man who murdered his father. Lillian Winstanley, a Cambridge political historian and respected literary scholar, established, in the early 1920s, that Hamlet contains what was, in the early 1600s, secure diplomatic knowledge about James VI. (HSS, 1921) How did the unconnected player come by it? MSND's famous banquet scene is drawn straight of the the christening of Prince Henry, James's first born son, which took place in Scotland during the summer of 1594. (CW, Harrison)
This same sort of diplomatic intelligence
about James VI appears in Marlowe's Edward II. (CMERC)
Scholars know how the well connected Marlowe gained access to this information:
Marlowe, as a projector for the Cecils enjoyed direct access to this
particular stream of diplomatic intelligence. But how did Shakspere manage
it? When one is mouse-trapping kings it is not particularly prudent to expose either one’s
identity or one's home base.
Doesn't this exposure suggest or signal a problem with the First Folio's attribution of
the plays to the truculent Stratfordian slumlord who was
always ready to sue and frequently at odds with the tax authorities?
A man who was when the Folio appeared safely dead for seven full years.
Doesn't this exposure suggest or signal a problem with the First Folio's attribution of the plays to the truculent Stratfordian slumlord who was always ready to sue and frequently at odds with the tax authorities? A man who was when the Folio appeared safely dead for seven full years.
Stratfordians would have us believe that there are no biographic problems
in connecting the man from Stratford with the works.
Just last year I pointed out that the evidence is highly suggestive
that Othello had been revised, evidently by the author, on the
face of the1622 quarto. How did this happen if the author was actually
dead? Stratfordians postulate collation with a revised manuscript, but
these same authorities claim Shakspere never revised his works or presented
authorial fare copies to anyone. A 1634 edition of the Second Folio, called the Perkins Copy, contains over 20,000 emendations in a hand
writing as if it were the author's and in a script learned c. 1570s. It posses a host of problems for Oxfordians and
Stratfordians alike. The problems are so serious that Stratfordians have
labeled the emendations, now proven genuine, as Collier forgeries. (F&ME.
Ganzel) Indeed many modern authorities, including Dr David Kathman, would go even further in denying these problems.
In a recent interview Kathman stated that there are, well no problems at
all. Here’s the quote:
of mysteries…[but] the authorship of the plays is not a mystery to any scholar
who is knowledgeable about the subject… its
I mean the idea that William Shakespeare didn't write these plays, as the
anti‑Stratfordians believe, is just not something that any, you know,
historian or scholar actually believes."
Kathman said this in an radio exchange Mike Rubbo, an Emmy award winning film maker and Harvard lecturer, who had just premiered his documentary film on the authorship question, entitled Much Ado About Something. While Kathman boasted to his audience on hlas that the interview had aired on NPR, NPR has not yet claimed it.
This paper takes serious exception to Kathman’s claim that no
historian or scholar doubts these connections.
It will prove this outrageous claim to be an outright lie.
Moreover it shall, by a review of our primary historic evidence, show that any
modern historian, scholar and/or biographer
has all the evidence needed to assign the Stratfordian rustic to a purely
commercial and/or theatrical existence and to strip from him, forever, the title
To do so one must first counter Kathman’s claim that no real scholar has ever doubted Shakspere's authorship. Sir Hugh Trevor-Roper is by any consideration both a scholar and a historian knowledgeable in these matters. Roper’s first book was his award winning biography of Archbishop Laud, a man who was born, the record assures us, in Reading, England in 1573, or at a time when William Shakspere was but eight or nine. Here is the text of a biographical note in the new Phoenix edition of Roper's early biography of Laud:
Trevor-Roper is an historian and scholar noted for his works on aspects of the
Second World War and on Elizabethan history. He graduated from Christ Church
Oxford in 1936...from 1946 to 1957 he taught history at Christ Church...In 1957
he was appointed Regis Professor of Modern History and Fellow of Oriel College,
Oxford...in 1980 he was appointed Master of Peterhouse, Cambridge... he was
created a life peer in 1979.
By any objective standard, Sir Hugh Trevor-Roper fully and completely qualifies both as a scholar and as a historian knowledgeable in Elizabethan affairs and personalities. One should also point out that Roper's first work, an extension of his master's thesis, is far closer toward the subject at hand than Kathman’s dissertation on the morphology of Native American languages (UC). In any case Roper wrote of his own profound doubt about the connection between the Stratford man and the author in the following manner:
Of all the
immortal geniuses of literature, none is personally so elusive as William
Shakespeare. It is exasperating and almost incredible that he should be so.
After all, he lived in the full daylight of the English Renaissance, in
the well‑documented reigns of Queen Elizabeth and King James I…Since his
death, and particularly in the last century, he has been subjected to the
greatest battery of organized research that has ever been directed upon a single
person. Armies of scholars,
formidably equipped, have examined all the documents that could possibly contain
at least a mention of Shakespeare's name. One
hundredth of this labor applied to one of his insignificant contemporaries would
be sufficient to produce a substantial biography.
And yet the greatest of all Englishmen, after this tremendous
inquisition, still remains so close to a mystery that even his identity can
still be doubted.
Roper continued his observations and
impressions, gathered over three decades of studying and reflecting on
Elizabethan and Jacobean history:
During his lifetime nobody claimed to know him. Not a single tribute was paid to him at his death. As far as the records go, he was uneducated, had no literary friends, possessed at his death no books, and could not write. It is true, six of his signatures have been found, all spelt differently; but they are so ill‑formed that some graphologists suppose the hand to have been guided. Except for these signatures, no syllable of writing by Shakespeare has been identified. Seven years after his death, when his works were collected and published, the other poets claimed to have known him, a portrait of him was painted. The unskillful artist has painted the blank face of a country oaf.
Thus for Stratfordians to affirm that no
scholars have ever doubted the connection between William Shakspere of Stratford
and William Shakespeare the author is, simply put, an outright and egregious
lie. These observations of Roper date to the 1960s, so I must suppose that
Kathman and other Stratfordians have had ample opportunity to consider them.
As all should know, the list of scholars knowledgeable in this subject
who have doubted Shakspere’s claim is too lengthy to cite, but it includes
Queen Elizabeth I, Lords Campbell and Penzance, Judges Holmes and Webb, Sir
George Greewnwood, Frederic Boas, William Urrry, A. D. Wraight, Calvin Hoffman
and Charles Obburn, not to mention Professor Daniel Wright and myself.
So why the lie? It is, I
summit, the primary “scholarly” deception upon which the Stratfordian ruse
This curious paradigm or belief suggests an artless, rusticated and vulnerable actor's
authorship predicated solely on advertisements in the FF and forces Stratfordians to look askance
at and to label as “fraudulent” any responsible historic or biographic
effort that might endanger their paradigm or belief structure.
As a consequent this period of English history is not as well known as it should be.
For example the Essex Rebellion, which employed
presentations of Richard II, in order to foment the coup,
has never been
studied in detail, apparently because it exposes the Crown’s lack of interest
in and prosecution of the actual author of Richard II, who Queen
Elizabeth I. implied was Marlowe. (SL, Chambers, 176-7)
That rebellion remains the largest and most pernicious insurrection of
the period. It involved a member of the Privy Council and mustered armed men in
the streets of London bent on a raid on the Queen’s person. If one requires a modern parallel the case would be similar to a
revolt lead by General Colin Powell, Secretary of State, against George Bush,
Jr., President. In the new biography of Bacon, Hostage to Fortune,
the use of Richard II, during this rebellion, is omitted.
Scholars who differ from the orthodox view and who challenge this omission are condemned as “non” scholars
and “non” historians by Kathman and his following. It’s balderdash, pure and simple.
We’re not going to focus on these remarkable oversights, as tempting as they may be. Our focus is more limited. We are going to ask what does the historic record, to which Trevor-Roper alludes, tell us about William Shakspere? And we are going to limit our focus even further. We are going to ask what does it tell us that hasn’t been properly noticed? Or more accurately what has been cleverly discounted or concealed by generations of Stratfordian apologists. Before I bring up the question of just what was New Place, I would like to start by calling our attention to what the first person to investigate Shakspere on his home turf discovered about him and thus, indirectly, about New Place.
we note, lived in Stratford fully a half a century before the actor/investigator
Betterton, working for Rowe, reached the village c. 1708. (SL, 87) Betterton,
Rowe and villagers living there at that time confused the actor’s family with
the cobbler’s family of similar name, a confusion which has by no means been
entirely unraveled. (SL, 87)
Ward, we shall see, made NO similar mistakes.
The Rev Dr Ward left us a full and accurate record of his investigations in the form of
his Diary, which is still extant at the Folger.
Like Shakspere and her parents Elizabeth, Ward assures us, had the good since not to live in New
Like Shakspere and her parents Elizabeth, Ward assures us, had the good since not to live in New Place.
Now think about that for a moment. Scholars have an account of Shakspere’s life, extracted in Stratford while Shakespeare’s family and friends were still alive. Scholars have had it since 1839, when extracts of it were first published. (SL, 217) Moreover the account comes from a literate and competent person with a university education, not an actor sans a first name. Further the account is extant in his own hand. This probe was conducted by a man modern Stratfordians have labeled as the vicar of Stratford, John Ward. A man who had no interest, we must conclude, in the authorship controversy. We shall see he was also the doctor or physician of Stratford, an important distinction, one would suppose, because it increases both his educational level and his local status.
Yet Ward’s findings are
mentioned only in piecemeal in Schoenbaum’s Documentary Life
and every time they are assigned to the status of “mythos.”
This continues a tactic Schoenbaum devised and employed in his earlier
work Shakespeare’s Lives.
tactic was capitalized on to protect the Stratfordian strategy of preserving the
public’s necessary ignorance about the rustic, for if his real life became
public knowledge no serious reader would suppose him the author.
To follow this out we must correlate between both of Schoenbaum's works,
i.e., his Documentary Life and Shakespeare’s Lives.
It is a somewhat tedious process, but it is certain, once we carry this
out, that Schoenbaum repeatedly and systematically consigns Ward’s firsthand
account to a conjectural status. Indeed
when he introduces Ward, in Shakespeare’s Lives, it is in a
chapter headed, “Legends of
Death and Burial.” His clever wording implies there might be a cloud on the document itself,
a gross libel of Dr. Charles Severn, (217) who discovered Ward's Diary.
Notice the chapter heading concerns only Shakspere’s
“death and burial," which is hardly the important meat of Ward’s
Schoenbaum disparages Dr Severn’s scholarship
primarily on the grounds that Dr
Severn printed a letter as authentic which Schoenbaum believes was a forgery.
(A letter which has nothing to do with Ward’s Diary
or Severn’s observations on Shakspere based on that Diary.)
Severn was a member of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons and
Registrar to the Medical Society of London, when he discovered Ward's Diary. He
printed his findings in 1839. (SL,
216) Even Schoenbaum concedes the
Diary, found among the records of the Medical Society, is authentic.
He writes, “the duodecimo notebooks, excellently preserved in
their original binding, contained a diary in the legible hand of the Revd
John Ward, who, a half-century after Shakespeare’s death, had ministered as
spiritual and bodily physician to his Stratford parishioners.” (217)
Ward was thus more than merely the local vicar; he was also the local physician. Why aren’t we told this up front? Why does Schoenbaum persist in calling him simply the "Revd John Ward?" Even Chambers, who is usually quite candid about these matters, writes, “Ward (1629-81) was vicar of Stratford 1662-81.” (SL, 227) Earlier when he mentions Ward’s account of Shakspere’s death he notes in passing, "There is no reason to doubt this report. Ward had been a student of medicine, and became vicar of Stratford in 1662.”
|The Rev Dr John Ward's account of Shakspere's death, Folger MS. V.a.292, f.150.|
In any case as a physician, he would have known professionally of Dr John
Hall, Shakspere’s son-in-law, and of his wife, Susanna and of their daughter
Elizabeth. True John Hall had died in
1635, or twenty-eight years before Ward came to Stratford, but Ward can hardly
have been ignorant of him and indeed mentions him as a physician in his Diary.
Susanna died 11 July 1649, just fourteen years before Ward arrived.
Indeed this detailed personal knowledge of Shakspere’s family is
testified to writ large in the Diary, as Schoenbaum reluctantly concedes.
Yet what currency does Schoenbaum give Ward? He assigns his Diary
to the status of a "Legend." (SL) To
further obscure matters, Schoenbaum asserts that Ward was
working in Stratford “half a century after Shakespeare’s death.”
How accurate is that claim?
It is true that Shakspere died in 1616 and while it is certainly true that Ward was working there in 1666, Dr. Ward’s Diary places him there while Judith Shakspere Quiney lived and thus, confidently, as we have seen, before half a century had passed. Chamber’s dates him more accurately to 1662. Oddly Professor Schoenbaum writes (458), when he is discussing Elton’s biography of Shakspere, that Elton “devotes chapters to the Revd John Ward, who late in the seventeenth century made notes on Shakespeare’s death...” Schoenbaum knows these notes were not made “late in the seventeenth century.” In fact they were made closer to the middle of the 1600s than towards the close. He also knows they were not made by a humble victor, but a physician, whose personal notes were preserved by the Medical Society in London, a physician who made a personal effort to look into the Shakespeare Problem, a Diary that is anything other than a "legend."
Indeed it is hinted at by John
Aubrey, who notes that Jonson and Shakspere were drinking companions in
Stratford. Aubrey attributes his information to an actor, "Mr.
Beeston" of "Shoreditch" (BL, see SL, 229-30.)
Indeed it is hinted at by John Aubrey, who notes that Jonson and Shakspere were drinking companions in Stratford. Aubrey attributes his information to an actor, "Mr. Beeston" of "Shoreditch" (BL, see SL, 229-30.)
So why is this all important Diary assigned to a legendary and mythical status?
Is it because the facts unearthed by Ward contradict the Stratfordian
paradigm? We can
be certain that if Ward had found Shakspere attended the local
grammar school, traveled internationally, had a close circle of intellectual
Warwick friends, wrote plays in his study and left a large private library,
complete with manuscripts, to his rustic community that this Diary would not be
consigned to the status of a ledged. It
turns out the Diary was assigned to mythos, evidently, because what Ward learned was
destructive to the Stratfordian paradigm. It’s so volatile the venerable Schoenbaum will not quote it verbatim
in his Documentary Life. Here’s what Ward actually says:
Transcription from Rev Dr John Ward's Diary, following Chambers, Short Life:
had but 2 daughers, one whereof M. Hall, ye physitian, married, and
by her had one daugher, to wit, ye Lady Bernard of Abbingdon.....
have heard yt Mr. Shakespeare
was a natural wit, without any art at all; hee frequented ye plays all his
younger times, but in his elder days lived at Stratford: and supplied ye
stage with 2 plays every year, and for yt had an allowance so large, ht
hee spent att ye Rate of a 1,000 pounds a year as I
Remember to peruse
Shakespears plays, and bee versd in them, yt I may
Shakespear, Drayton and Ben
Johnson, had a merry meeting, and itt seems
This raw evidence is all
scholars have needed to deny the rustic the authorship of the plays now
widely attributed to him. First
Ward tells us a) Shakspere lacked “any art at all,” and b)
spent his youth frequenting plays “all his younger times.”
This means, if words have meaning, that Shakspere not only never
attended any school, but that he never obtained any art at all and thus could not
have written these artful plays. Second
Ward specifically tells us a) Shakspere “supplied ye stage with 2 plays
a year,” and b) that for this was provided with “an allowance
so large...he spent att ye Rate of 1,000 pounds a year...”
Is this not explosive evidence?
Ward tells us that Shakspere
wasn’t a writer, but a supplier or producer of plays. He
didn’t sell his works, he received an allowance
for producing the plays of others, an allowance in the neighborhood of a
thousand pounds a year.
Let us notice that Ward's finding
plays” a year agrees, very closely, with what modern scholars have deduced.
Shakespeare’s first work appeared in 1593 and he is said to have been
retired and in Stratford by 1611, or eighteen years later.
There are thirty-six plays in the First Folio or a number entirely
agreement with Ward’s “2 plays a year,” since 2 times 18 is 36.
quibbles a bit with this number. (SL, 116)
By using 1591 until 1613 as the shoulders of his compositional period and
adding Two Noble Kinsmen to
the canon, Chambers gives us 37 plays in a more leisurely 22 years.
It is certainly not a major
Or perhaps he knew something Chambers did not.
Or perhaps he knew something Chambers did not.
Furthermore, though Schoenbaum would quarrel with it, Ward’s figures on what Shakspere spent seems close to the mark.
We know for a fact Shakspere purchased Combe’s land in Stratford for L320
in 1602 and tithes in Stratford in 1605 for the sum of L440. We can
hardly suspect that these were his only expenditures during those years.
We also know that the average price paid for plays was under five pounds,
not five hundred, so we must conclude that Shakspere’s remarkable income
wasn’t dependent on selling plays. Why
haven't Stratfordians quested it? Shakspere’s
income seems to have been, as Ward discovered, an “allowance.”
Allowance is or was a word with a rather precise meaning, “a sum of
money granted periodically as a bounty.”
Now this amount
tallies rather closely with the expenses Shakspere must have incurred to produce
these plays and to manage the Globe Playhouse.
There were capital expenses, operational expenditures, props, costumes
and, of course, wages and other bribes. Ward
doesn’t say that Shakspere banked 1,000 pounds a year, he says he spent
We know the players shared in “shares” but this we suppose was taken
from the profits, not from the gross receipts.
I dare say anyone who considers it objectively would have little
difficulty concluding that the King’s Men spent, on the average, a thousand
pounds a year. Many of their performances were enacted before the King and
we have period accounts of the lavishness of the construes.
Are we to suppose these were simply donated?
Not according to the accounts ledgers of Henslowe and Alleyn. When the Essex conspirators produced Richard II they paid
two pounds sterling for the privilege (i.e., 40 shillings) just to supplement
the anticipated loss at the gate. So do the math.
A Conversion for Elizabethan Pounds to American Dollars and etc. c. 2002
|1 English Pound Sterling contains 12 troy ounces of
sterling silver. One English pound equals 20 shillings or 240
pence. The Latin terms for pounds, shillings and pennies were
libra, solidus and denarius, which gave rise to the symbols, L.,
s., d. A pound contains 20 shillings and/or 240 pence or 12
pence per shilling. (Thus a "six pence" is or was "half a
shilling" and a "twelve pence" a shilling.) At $5.00 a troy ounce, a pound of silver
now sells for
$60.00. So 1 Pound to Shakspere equals $60.00 to us. The
factor is, thus, 60 to 1. If Shakspere spent at the rate of L 1,000
per year, his US rate of spending was $60,000, while his present English
rate would be L 41,655. A century after Shakspere's death
Newton fixed the exchange rate between pounds sterling and gold at L
3, 17s, 101/2d. Or about four to one. Today the ratio
is 60 to one, with gold selling for about $300 an ounce to silver's $5.
This difference doesn't represent inflation as much as the relative
amounts of gold and silver being traded. New Place, which sold for L 60
pounds of silver, would sell today for $3,600.00, US, evidently because of
its remarkably poor condition. Consider it this way, no matter what the
average labor rate or cost of living might have been a pound of silver
then and now could be and would be traded by someone as astute as
Shakspere to the highest bidder. In today's market it would be
someone offering $60.00 US. He'd have taken not a penny less.
To put this into context, G. R. V. Akrigg notes period English
ambassadors, i.e., "lieger ambassadors," were given an allowance
of 4 Pounds per diem or 1460 Pounds per year. (Jacobean
Pageant The Court of King James I, 64) So Shakspere's 1000 Pound
allowance was by no means an unheard of amount.
Ward’s statements thus seem solid. Shakspere supplied or produced two
plays a year and for his effort received an allowance that allowed him to spend
at the rate of a thousand pounds a year. Producers
are primarily spenders, they disburse the funds required to bring a work to the
public. They run a risk that if it
is not popular that they, not the players, will loose their shirts. (As we know
from watching Shakespeare in Love.) So there is nothing here that should be consigned to the
status of a legend or a myth. We
have instead direct proof and solid evidence that the artless Stratfordian
depended on his natural wit and not his education or “art” to supply
stage with two plays a year. Plays
someone else wrote. Plays that
someone else furnished him along with a substantial allowance for producing
them. Do these facts not
devastate the Stratfordian myth? Was
this evidence not gathered by a man in Stratford within living memory of
Shakspere’s tenure there? A man
who lived there for twenty years? Wasn’t this testimony amassed by a man who knew Shakspere’s daughter
and granddaughter? Oddly Schoenbaum
reminds us of this, writing correctly enough:
Ward settled in Stratford, [in the early 1660s] relatives, friends, and
neighbors who knew the poet were still alive and could have imparted priceless
information. There was Thomas Hart,
for example, Shakespeare’s [sic] nephew, who dwelt in the ancestral house on
Henley Street. An entry in Ward’s
notebook refers to ‘Mrs Queeny’—presumably Shakespeare’s daughter
Judith, who married Thomas Quiney and died at the age of seventy-seven in 1662.
It is a pity that Ward records so little.” (DL,78)
What is a pity is that Schoenbaum
assigns Ward’s discoveries to the status of a ledged.
|From Rev Dr John Ward's Diary, c. 1662, Stratford on Avon:|
One must point out that Schoenbaum does not supply the all important transcript, leaving this chore to the expert with a magnifying glass. This is a tactic similar to his treatment of the Mountjoy Deposition which captured, in 1611, Shakspere’s own words and memories of London. A deposition take of him when he was but 47. These remarkable quotes are so uncharacteristic of the Author that Sir E. K. Chambers concludes from them that he may have been ill and suffering from an uncertain memory. Rather than allow readers to read them, as Chambers did, Schoenbaum merely discusses the deposition. He does not even ask why would a literate man submit to a deposition when written interrogatories were customary in such cases?
In fact the Mountjoy deposition, just like the will and Ward's account, shows us a simple or verbally challenged man, one who could not have been the Author. In the will, which Schoenbaum also fails to provide readers with a transcript, the Stratford rustic mistakenly calls his granddaughter, Elizabeth Hall, his “niece.” It is simply preposterous to believe that the Author of Shakespeare’s works didn’t know the difference between a granddaughter and a niece(/1). Schoenbaum knows of this problem, since he refers to it, but says nothing. Ward knew the difference, Schoenbaum writing, “but he correctly records that the dramatist [sic] had two daughters, one of whom married the physician Hall.” How bout those apples folks? Ward correctly knew the circumstances of Shakspere’s family, more correctly it would seem than Shakspere did. And notice that word “dramatist,” it isn’t Ward’s word.
It is true that Ward calls these plays “Shakespeares.” By what other
name could he have referred to them? They
were Shakspere’s plays, he “owned” them and had produced them, as Ward
tells us. Just as he owned and
remodeled New Place. Why
shouldn’t it be called “Shakspere’s pace.”
However his ownership of it doesn’t mean he built it.
Here are Ward’s own words:
Remember to peruse
Shakespears plays, and bee versd in them, yt I may
remark is pregnant with implications. Not authorship implications but
because it alerts us to a subculture versed in
“Shakespeare’s plays” present in
Stratford c. 1662. That’s an
important point. It was a culture that appears to have known the
number of plays and the amount the artless Shakspere received to produce them.
Surely it must have revolved around his own family? Yet this subculture proves to have been oral, not literate, and
we know this because by the
early 1700s, when Rowe sent his investigator, it had already confused and merged
Shakspere families and torn down New Place!
What more could skeptical scholars wish for?
Another interesting point about Ward’s notes is the fact that Ward
stipulates Shakspere “in his elder days lived at Stratford...”
This also confirms what scholars have discovered, though it is at odds with
Stanley Well’s belief that Shakspere spent most of his time home in Stratford
writing at New Place. (MAAS)
Not so says Ward. Ward claims Shakspere spend his retirement mainly or
primarily in Stratford.
Not so says Ward. Ward claims Shakspere spend his retirement mainly or primarily in Stratford.
Now its time to bring to our attention to
Shakspere’s purchase of New Place, which was formalized on 4 May 1597. We hear many marvelous things about New Place.
Stanley Wells imagines it the finest private home in Stratford. (MAAS) Its ten
fire places and five gables do attest to its size, but not to its condition. (DL, 173)
Nearing the century mark,
its condition was
cited as poor fifty years before Shakspere purchased it.
The deed price was for
L 60 pounds or to use our conversion rate of 60 to 1, $3,600.00.
Hardly a fortune.
I would invite the curious to travel to some small Washington or Oregon community such as Bucoda or Sioh and consider what $3,600.00 might buy one there in the way of property. A dilapidated “fix it upper” seems far more likely than The House On Falling Water. It is claimed, by Stratfordians, that these prices were “fictions,” scams that allowed purchasers to cheat the Crown, but this would involve a system of bribes that would be nearly as expensive as paying the fair market value. Stratfordians have claimed that Shakspere lavishly remolded New Place according "to his own mind." (DL, 178) The evidence they have for this, apart from gossip gathered over a century after the house was purchased by Shakspere, is a 1598 record from the community accounts for a purchase of stone from Shakspere used to repair Clopton Bridge, Clopton having built New Place. (DL, 178)
In discussing this evidence Schoenbaum duly notes that "the house had been described as run down a half century earlier" but then goes on to assert that it "underwent restoration by its new owner." (Ibid.) He then further concedes that the accounts' entry might just apply to Shakspere's father "in the absence of a Christian name....but most likely the stone was left over from the repairs executed a New Place." What a leap, even if the gossip about Shakspere remodeling New Place was true, we can hardly assume he'd completed these restorations within a year of his purchase. Restoration moves, even today, at a snail's pace.
Worse since Venture's sketch of New Place shows it to have been missing the stone or brick veneer, what seems more likely is that Shakspere sold it to the corporation for bridge repairs. It may have been an ornamental wall that was no longer needed or it may have been "pavers" or stepping stones. Or, more than likely, the "veneer" spoken of by mythical accounts. By selling the stone Shakspere could have had the timbers plastered after the custom of the times and this would account for Venture's sketch, which is by any analysis quite brickless. In any event, the payment to Shakspere for stone is no proof at all that either he or his father was actively engaged in remodeling New Place. Below is the Stratford corporation payment:
|"Shakspere" reimbursed for a load of stone sold to the village for bridge repairs, DL, 179:|
The fact that New Place was "pulled down" not too long after his granddaughter died is a fairly good indication that any repairs Shakspere made were “too little, too late,” as we shall see in a moment.
So lets take a sober look at “New Place” and see if we can’t
discern something the Stratfordians have been covering up for years.
I’ve found nine problems with the Stratfordian paradigm which
suggests that Shakspere used New Place as his private manorial type home, a place of
personal seclusion where he might write and contemplate the human condition ala
Wells and Schoenbaum.
L60 or $3,600.00
Type of construction
No foundation; brick veneer
Nearly 100 years
Condition prior to purchase
City, congested, noisy
No evidence of a library
No evidence of a performance hall
Name not changed
Lodging as an inn or rooming house
Shakspere lived elsewhere
In real-estate three things are said to be important “location, location and location.” New Place was a property in a rural farm community similar to Bucoda, Washington. It can by no stretch of the imagination be considered a country house, manor house or town house. One must thus ask why did Shakspere pick a property so dilapidated and one so centrally located in such an impoverished and ill-lettered community? Generally one moves to the country for seclusion. Particularly if one is a writer. However New Place sat precisely in the center of Stratford, on the main road. So seclusion is out. Worse it was located directly across the street from the school and from the guildhall. A school that was not known for its quiet and spacious grounds, but was, judging from the records, a rather rowdy and boisterous place, a place Shakspere neglected to mention in his will. (Consider that one for a moment, Edward Alleyn endowed a college that still stands (Dulwitch) but Shakspere neglected his own school.)
Given its size and location New Place seems to have been much more fit for
overnight guests and/or bachelor roomers working in the community, than for
quite contemplative afternoons. Indeed
we have ironclad proof that Shakspere was using New Place as a rooming house or
hostel, as evidenced by Greene’s residency there. This use of New Place, as what we call “income producing property,"
explains why Shakspere would have purchased the property.
Not for himself and his family, but as an income producing property.
At sixty pounds, it was cheep. Its
central location and size assured its new owner that it would be easy to rent
either in mass or “sublet” room by room.
Like any fixer/upper it could be superficially improved and rented out. Shakspere had experience as a renter or lodger in the
Mountjoy home, so he knew the ropes.
It would be a perfect place for his illiterate wife and daughter to
“manage,” they could change the sheets and supply the guests with meals.
This use of New Place, as what we call “income producing property," explains why Shakspere would have purchased the property. Not for himself and his family, but as an income producing property. At sixty pounds, it was cheep. Its central location and size assured its new owner that it would be easy to rent either in mass or “sublet” room by room. Like any fixer/upper it could be superficially improved and rented out. Shakspere had experience as a renter or lodger in the Mountjoy home, so he knew the ropes. It would be a perfect place for his illiterate wife and daughter to “manage,” they could change the sheets and supply the guests with meals.
Schoenbaum notes “the year after his decease  his daughter Susanna and
her husband [Dr Hall] were admitted as tenants of the cottage.” (D.L.,192) This
fact is certainly suggestive that Shakspere had been living in this same
cottage, i.e., not in New Place. It is said to have occupied a “quarter of an acre” or a
very modest lot of about
100 feet by 100 and stood near or adjacent to New Place.
The claim that New Place had an "extensive garden" is simply false,
the cottage and yard contained less than 10,000 square feet.
The claim that New Place had an "extensive garden" is simply false, the cottage and yard contained less than 10,000 square feet.
What concerns us most, however, is that later, when discussing New Place and Stratford, under the chapter heading "Stratford Again," Schoenbaum gives a contradictory account about were the Hall's moved after Shakspere's death. After dismissing as ledged the local story that the Halls lived in a large home then called the "Cambridge House" and now call "Hall's Croft," he writes, "When Shakespeare died, the Halls moved into New Place. There they stayed for the rest of their lives." (D.L., 237)
Obviously one of these two accounts is false. If we stick to the primary records, the Halls moved into the cottage after Shakspere died, as Schoenbaum initially reports, (DL, 192) not into New Place. (DL, 237) This is an important point, for this fact makes it appear that Shakspere was living in the cottage when he died and the Halls simply took his property over, as would be customary. We know that Shakspere lived modestly in London and that he purchased the Blackfriars Gate-House property on 11 March 1613, evidently as a multiple occupancy rental property. (DL, 224) It is not unusual for slumlords or landlords of this nature to reside in the more modest appearing of two dwellings, as it maximizes the cash flow. In any case we have caught the Stratfordians in yet another prevarication. Imagining New Place as a lavish town house, they have placed the Halls in it even though the record indicates they moved into the nearby cottage! So our suspicion stands: New Place wasn't Shakspere's home but a multiple occupancy rental property which he and/or his family managed from the nearby cottage.
We know that Shakspere worked in a similar fashion with the so-called
“birthplace” property that belonged to his father.
It was converted to a tavern or Ale
We can also conclude that New Place was not a solidly built home. How?
may go a bit further, a home is properly deconstructed not by razing but from the top
down a piece at a time.
Lumber, brick and other building materials were, in that age, extremely
labor-intensive materials and thus more expensive than they are now and thus
more worthy of the effort. Unless,
that is, their deterioration had proceeded to the point of no return.
The fact that New Place was razzed by being “pulled over” strongly
suggests, at least to an architectural historian or contractor, that it was neglected beyond the point
of salvage. I point out that
deconstructing homes is actually a lucrative trade. Moreover the outlay to maintain a house of historic interest
is almost always less than the return, so it seems odd that the community would
have allowed New Place to be destroyed if there had been any hope of saving or
According to the records, New Place continued a downward slide, falling into the hands of a William Underhill, sire of an unsavory family, whose grandsons would poisoned his son, William Underhill, Jr. William senior was, Schoenbaum tells us, an Inner Temple Lawyer and clerk of the assizes at Warwick. Fulke Underhill was, while "still a minor, executed at Warwick for poisoning his father." (DL, 173) Having recited this tale of moral and physical deterioration of New Place, a tale spanning half a century, Schoenbaum then contends without any support whatsoever that the L60 in silver "sexaginta libras sterlingorum," which Shakspere paid for New Place, was a legal fiction, "however decayed" was Sir Clopton's "Great House." (DL, 173). But was it? Whatever Schoenbaum's qualifications might be in biography they do not, it would seem, carry over into architectural and constructional matters. Speaking professionally, a home that has been in the process of deterioration for over half a century may not have been worth L 60.
Vertue sketch one notes there is no hint
of brick, not even as a "veneer."
A "veneer brick walls” is laid up in a single courses. They are not load bearing and cannot be
laid higher than a few feet. Load
bearing brick walls consist of
A Load Bearing Double BrickedMasonry Wall, supported by a foundation:
In a “pole barn” the load, i.e., the weight of the roof, walls, second and third story floors are carried by the poles, not the walls, which are, thus, non load bearing and thus do not require a foundation. A pole constructed house can be "pulled over," a load bearing wall cannot be so easily toppled.
A Sketch of New Place constructed from the memory of townsmen in 1737 by George Vertue, notice the vertical beams or posts and the cross beam bracing indicative of pole barn construction and lack of brick trim. British Library, MS. Portland Loan 29/246, p. 18.
|George Vertue's sketch of the front yard of New Place showing the modest front "courtyard" which Richard Grimmitt remembered as "a small kind of Green Court before they entere'd ye Home, which was bearing to the left and fronted with brick." (DL, 178)|
New Place as Imagined by Stratfordians in 1790:
|Notice that the actual type of ridge line and thus style of
roof is not shown in the Vertue sketch but it is shown in the drawing
above. Regardless of the precise style or shape of New Place's
original roof, the existence of gables on the third story are proof
positive that the ridge line ran parallel to the street and not front to
back. This means that New Place was not very "deep."
In fact it means that the front to back measurement was about half that of
the front elevation. Moreover the existence of third story
gables suggest that these were small rooms and not a cathedral ceiling
over a large master chamber hidden on the second floor. These small
rooms would have been built as guest or servant rooms. A central hall
running parallel to the street would have had windowless rooms on the back
for storage or overflow guests. Thus New Place appears to have had
what is called a Mansard Roof Truss or perhaps a Queen Post Roof
Truss. Francois Mansart (1598-1666) is credited with inventing this
style of root which provided more interior space than the Queen Post Roof
system However such roof were commonly in use long before Mansard's
day. Notice the profiles at the bottom, all are still quite common
of barns even of today. The important thing to keep in mind is
that regardless of the style of roof, the roof line of New Place paralleled
the street and thus the house was only half as deep and
it was wide. Given the dimensions of the lot and the
sketch it would be difficult to conclude that New Place's front elevation
was more than 36 feet, this suggests a depth of 25 to 30 feet or just just
about 1000 square feet per story.
|Below Venture's second sketch of New Place showing its "court yard" and "set back" from the main street, about twenty feet. Curiously Schoenbaum, who prints the sketch, alludes to it as if it were of the house itself and claims, falsely, that it shows "servants' quarters between the street and the front of New Place! (DL, 178) Venture's notes and sketch make it plain that the little green area was simply a modest front yard, perhaps with gardens. Venture wrote "there was before the House itself (that Shakespear livd in) within a little court yard grass growing there---before the real dwelling house. this outside being only a long gallery de....for servants." There is no mention of any tenements in front of the dwelling, nor could there have been any room for them, esthetic considerations aside.|
|Here is Venture's Original Note. It reads "This House of Shakespears was pulld down about 40 years ago and then was built a handsome brick house. by. and now in possession of the Cloptons."|
Vertue's note stipulates the Cloptons ended up with New Place's lot and raises the question was the land ever actually sold? Perhaps only the house was sold to Shakspere?
While no Stratfordian has remarked on it, two additional facts about New Place stand as odd. First is the lack of any mention of a library; second any remembrance that New Place was used as a performance hall, either inside or outside.
Taking them in order, a library as sizable as the one Shakespeare had free access to, one which alludes to four or five hundred volumes at a minimum, would constitute a large, distinctive feature of any home. Such a feature is likely to be remarked upon and remembered by locals, particularly in a bookless age in a bookless community. John Gresshop's library was carefully itemized after his death by his neighbors and the inventory is extant today. It even describes were the books were kept, such as "In the upper study by the schoole doore" and "In the lower study." (CMC, 108-122) So the lack of mention of any library at New Place is, at the very least, curious.
It seems obvious that Shakspere could have staged plays at New Place, had he wanted to, either in a large central room, similar to the one in Faversham, or outside in the “courtyard/ garden.” Doing so would have brought him additional revenues. Given his proclivity to sue, he was willing to put himself out for even small amounts of silver. So why didn't he produce plays in New Place?
In the sketch above one might imagine the door to the house as an exit door into a "green room" with a stage where the front porch might have been. About a hundred persons might thus view a play staged there in lawn galleries on the right and left and to the front. During the winter this could be reversed, if the inside downstairs had a paved floor and a great room facing the door. This would have provided a viable source of income for him and one must remark on its absence. We know troops of actors visited Stratford and were well received, without a cable or satellite dishes entertainment was scarce. On the other hand if New Place was rented and/or being used as a hostel or “bed and breakfast” property Shakspere wouldn’t have the room to stage plays there and would have been comfortable enough from its ordinary income. Generally one does what one knows best or that which is simplest. It is clear that renting out New Place would be less complicated than staging plays in it. So this analysis suggest Shakspere rented New Place out while he lived nearby in his cottage, otherwise he would have used it as a theater and this use would have been foundry remembered by the community. No one living in either Ashland or Stratford today is unaware of the theaters there.
A Manuscript c. 1622 shows a private staging of John Fletcher's Spanish Curate. The parallel character lists show Sr Thom Wotton replaced by Francis Manouch, Sr Warhm St Ledger by Thom. Slender, Sr Edward Dering by Mr Kemp and Mr Done by Jacke of the buttery. The manuscript is proof positive that these plays were, when the scripts were available, produced locally. (Folger Ms. V.b. 34)
Said differently New Place looks more like an income producing property than a lavish single-family residence as often suggested by Stratfordians, including Stanley Wells. (MABS) That income could have been produced by the leasing or renting of rooms or from the sale of beverages. The record supports this assumption. Schoenbaum, himself, writes that in 1614 “an unnamed preacher was entertained at New Place, the corporation paying 20d [pence] ‘for one quart of sack and one quart of clarrett winne’. (D.L., 230) Thomas Greene, the town clerk, seems also to have lived at New Place for an extended period of time. (D.L.,231) Oddly Schoenbaum calls him “Shakespeare’s house guest.” An extant letter from him from 1609 reads, “I preceyved I mighte stay another year at newe place.” (D.L., 231) The phrase, “another year” implies that Thomas Greene had already been at New Place for a year. Green’s correspondence suggest that Replingham may also have roomed or lived at New Place. (D.L., 232) Schoenbaum writes, “when [Greene] heard about it he was off to the Bear Inn and New Place in search of Replingham...[and] missed him at both places.” Were both inns? Or did Replingham live at New Place too?
Here’s what Schoenbaum says, “Visiting clergy
sometimes stopped to spend the night at inns, but they found entertainment in
private houses too, and New Place—just a stone’s throw from the Guild
Chapel—was a likely place for the stranger to spend the night.”
(D.L., 230) This, one suggests, makes the point.
|From the Stratford Records: the entertainment of a preacher at New Place in 1614, BTRO, Chamberlain's Accounts 1585-1619, p.266. DL, 230.|
Scholars know the birthplace house became an inn during this same period, though there is absolutely no indication of a sale. The reasonable conclusion is that the Hiccoxs were working for Shakspere. If the man was willing to capitalize on the economic possibilities of his father’s home, the home he was born in and to turn the same into a tavern, he seems quite likely to have been the sort of shrewd businessman who would have done the same thing to New Place.
Correspondence to my staff regarding the conversion of the Birthplace to a Tavern. Notice that the official description of it no longer contains the word "tavern" or "alehouse."
One must regard the lack of any evidence that New Place was used for performances, its lack of a library and/or study and the fact that it was rented out as income property as three more coffin nails in the Stratfordian case.
In closing I would call our attention to Shakspere’s well-established
financial, professional and social or family life.
Shakspere was a man of two communities.
In the days before motorways this meant he spent considerable time simply
comminuting and could not have lavished this personal time and attention on his
diverse properties. His Gatehouse Property in London was purchased in
1613, or while he was well into his retirement in Stratford. This is certainly indicated in the record.
On the other hand the Rev Dr John Ward actually lived in Stratford and
did so for nearly 20 years. He knew
both Shakspere’s daughter and granddaughter and many townsfolk who would have
personally know n
nthe actor. It is Ward who first tells us emphatically that Shakspere was without “any art at all” and simply “supplied the stage with 2 plays a year”. He sets his "allowance" for doing so at L 1,000 per year or about $60,000. This evidence. gathered from firsthand accounts in Stratford, shows us a shrewd businessman, a “natural wit,” who produced plays, bought and managed income property. A businessman who was himself modest in his needs, content to be a lodger in the Mountjoy's home or to live in a cottage in Stratford while others managed his properties as inns or taverns. The remains of that property are still extant in Stratford and they too display the same problems for the Stratfordian paradigm. Taken in tandem there is simply no primary evidence of a creative writer, who retired---in his late 40s---to Stratford, from whence to write. Emphatically there is no evidence of a spacious brick home nestled in comfortable seclusion, where whilst surrounded by his books, which he "treasured above all else," he wrote the world's foremost dramatic canon, as suggested by Stanley Wells. Nothing suggests a man even free enough to entertain his friends with the plays that were, we are told, the rage of his age. Rather the primary evidence assures scholars that New Place was an income producing property which Shakspere rented out, either room by room or night by night, a property in which ale, wine and sack flowed freely. Ward's account of the actor's early death, which Sir Edmund K. Chambers saw no reason to doubt, links it to binge dirking and alcoholism, sadly an occupational disease of such types. The Stratfordian claim that fifty-two, the age of Shakspere at the time of his death, represented the upper limit of an Elizabethan's lifespan is, along with other false facts, pure fiction. Elizabethans enjoyed the same lifespan we enjoy. (ADE, Harrison) True their life expectancy was much shorter than ours, but Shakspere who seems to have successfully reached his early fifties should have had twenty productive years ahead of him, had it not been cut short by drink.