Continuing his series titled `No doubts about Shakespeare’s authorship, V S Ravi, in part 4, discusses the author and his signatures.
The six authentic signatures of Shakespeare mentioned in Part 3, are Willm Shakp, William Shaksper, Wm Shakspe, in the three legal documents, William Shakspere on page 1, Willm Shakspere on page 2 and William Shakespearee page 3 of the Will. In addition three pages of the Play ” Sir Tomas Moore” are in Shakespeare’s handwriting. Thus the names in all the six signatures have been wrongly spelt by Shakespeare. It may be mentioned that Shakespeare was following breviographic conventions, a kind of scribal abbreviation in the form of easily written symbol, character or stroke, in spelling three of his signatures.
Read Part 1 Here; No Doubts About Shakespeare’s Authorship Part 1
Read Part 2 Here; No Doubts About Shakespeare’s Authorship Part 2
Read Part 3 Here; No Doubts About Shakespeare’s Authorship Part 3
Spencer sometimes spelt out his full name( writing his first name as Edmond or Edmund depending on his mood) but he also used quite frequently either of two abbreviations “Edm: Spser” or “Ed: spser”. In view of the fact that the two signatures of Shakespeare on the Blackfriar’s documents had to be squeezed into the small space provided by the seal tag, they may have been abbreviated.
A scrutiny of Shakespeare’s handwriting( the six signatures and the three pages of the play Sir Thomas Moore) reveals a few unique characteristics, such as horizontal strokes above the letters “m” and “p”and a long Italian “s” in the middle of his surname in his signature. A confusion arose due to the fact that three of the signatures were written towards the end of Shakespeare’s life, when his hand may have been shaking from a tremor or he was otherwise weak due to some ailment. Two of the signatures on the Blackfriars documents may have been written under conditions that constrained free movement of hand.
I am however inclined to believe that the poetic tribute of Ben Jonson alone is enough to demolish the theory of the authorship of De Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford and that no other corroboration is required. First of all the tribute is titled” To the Memory of My Beloved the Author, Mr. William Shakespeare.” The first line itself contains Shakespeare’s name. So also the 17th line mentions the name, and refers to Shakespeare as the” Soul of the age! The applause delight wonder of our stage”. In line 31 Jonson refers to Shakespeare having” small Latin and less Greek”. I am of the view that this was an intentional dig at all those who entertained a misconception of Bacon, with his superior knowledge of these two languages and college education, having been the real author of the Plays.
Then in the 20th line he dismisses Chaucer, Spenser, and Beaumont and in the 29th line he talks about Shakespeare outshining Lyle, Kyd and Marlowe. In another place in the poem Jonson says that “of all that insolent Greece or haughty sent forth”, Britain can boast of one Shakespeare, who can outweigh their galaxy of poets, Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripides, Aristophanes, and others. In other words Jonson had absolutely no doubt in his mind that Shakespeare,” the star of poets” was the real author of the Plays attributed to him . And he was sure of the distinct identity of the Bard of Avon.
In part 5, I shall discuss the theories put forth by supporters of the 17th Earl of Oxford to prove his authorship of Shakespeare’s plays and some of the arguments advanced by the Shakespearean Scholar Louis Marder( mentioned in Part 3) to shatter their claim.
To be continued…