Monday, March 21, 2016

Script Postscript

I showed a blown up color print out of the "hand D" page from the Thomas More manuscript and a blow up of the six signatures and showed them to a friend who does italic and half uncial and whatever other kinds of calligraphy and she said that there was no way that they were made by the same hand.  She said that they were written with a quill pen which doesn't allow the same kind of jotting off a signature that a ball point or modern pen does, that the letters have to be written deliberately or you screw up the quill.   She said the person who wrote the "hand D" was obviously someone used to writing, that it was a rather fine hand but that the signatures were anything but that.

I don't know what other people would say about it but blown up the differences are even more obvious as is the fact that if those were all Shaksper's signature, he probably couldn't do much more than that with a pen and the letters are more drawn out like shapes than like letters.  I wonder if that accounts for why he didn't seem to know how to spell his own name consistently.  My guess would be that he might be unique among those purported to be writers for whom signatures are available who didn't know how to spell his own name.   It is, beyond any rational doubt,  not the hand that wrote 900,000 fluent words.  I don't know what experts the Stratford establishment are relying on to push their promotion of "hand D" as being like the Shaksper(e) signatures and I'd like to see their arguments but I doubt they are universally accepted by people who study such stuff.

And now, for something completely different....


  1. "I'd like to see their arguments."

    There's a fairly good summary beginning at paragraph 11 in the following link:

    If you can get hold of it there is a summary of seemingly less technical arguments at pp. 18-22 in the introduction to the "Arden Shakespeare" volume of "Sir Thomas More," edited by John Jowett.

    1. I have only read through this paper that shows that there is entirely more evidence that "hand D" is that of Henry Neville, both examples of letter similarities and other evidence, though it could indicate that Neville was writing a text into the manuscript, not necessarily that he was the author. I'll try to get around to reading through it again but comparing it to what you give a link to would take more time than I've got this week.

    2. Thanks. I was honestly more interested in answering your question about the case "for" than taking a position, much less arguing it.

      As with most things like this I pretty much go with the flow, unless it involves something I feel strongly about. Admittedly, I like to think that Shakespeare contributed to the Thomas More play, and we do tend to more easily believe those things we like to think.

      I've always been less interested in the handwriting evidence that the claimed ability to distinguish authorship through the analysis of style and vocabulary, and this, not because of Shakespeare, but because of biblical scholarship that for over a century has confidently asserted non-Pauline authorship of most of the traditional Pauline letters.

      My own Greek has never been good enough to make fine distinctions between style and style, but I'm aware that time and circumstances can change much of how a writer expresses himself (in the extreme case, of course, one wonders how any sort of analysis could demonstrate that the same author wrote "The Dead" and "Finnegans Wake"). Now I'm reading that some allegedly "cutting edge" analysts have determined that the traditional Pauline corpus was indeed written by one writer, based on even more sophisticated models aided by computer sampling. Who knows? I like to think that Paul wrote the Pauline letters. I'll take comfort from this, even knowing that, next week, the "cutting edge" may well be slicing the other direction.

    3. I have to confess that, though I am honestly skeptical about the Shaksper man having written the works, it's more of a diversion for me than a cause. And, as I confessed a while back, it my enemies hadn't let me know that this bugs them I'd probably never have written about it twice.

      I'm a lot more interested in following up what I heard about Love's Labours Lost and goings on in the courts of France and Navarre. When I read the play its seemingly silly plot and constant jokes mostly irritated me but apparently it was written as one big inside joke that people familiar with the real people satirized in it in mind. I wonder if it might be more like one of those aristocratic plays that weren't intended to be acted for the general public.

      A lot of the scholarship that originates in the authorship question is as interesting as the authorship question. I didn't expect to get into this when my old friend and I decided to read all of those "bad plays" that most people, including us, never read. I think they might be "bad" only if you don't understand the background.

      My old Latin teacher, who was also a distinguished scholar of Greek was very skeptical about stylometric analysis. He made the same point, that he wrote differently depending on who he was sending a letter to.