Despite the failure of early cipher-hunters such as Owen, Elizabeth Wells Gallup and Ignatius Donnelly to find anything meaningful, the idea that Shakespearean texts contain coded messages of authorship remains central. The Sonnets, with their apparently confiding, first-person voice, have proved fertile ground. Oxfordians find anagrams of “Vere” everywhere, especially in the line from Sonnet 76, “Every word doth almost tell my name”. In the famously puzzling dedication to the first edition of 1609 – ostensibly written by the publisher, Thomas Thorpe – the author is styled “our ever-living poet”. Oxfordians point out that the first three words are (almost) an anagram of one of Oxford’s mottoes, Vero nil verius (“Nothing truer than truth”). Yet the same dedicatory text, when examined by Brenda James in Henry Neville and the Shakespeare Code (2008), reveals an entirely different secret, achieved by putting the 144 letters of the dedication into a 12x12 matrix, and juggling them around according to certain cryptographic rules, whereupon there emerges first the encouraging message, “The wise Thorp hid thy poet”, and then the all-important name of the poet, “Nevill”.Of course, as Wilde might say, this (I mean the contumely heaped on the silly heads of Baconians or Earl-of-Essexists or whoever) is all really Caliban's rage at seeing his face in the mirror. It's what we all do, in one way or another: inserting texts into a 12x12 matrix, and juggling them around according to certain cryptographic rules. We're too clever to do so according to the logic of 'biography', of course; and we don't like to talk of 'conspiracy', but ideologically, hermeneutically, creatively it's our work. What's so very cool about the “Every word doth almost tell my name” line is the license implied by that almost.
Wednesday, 28 April 2010
The Shakespeare-didn't-write-Shakespeare crowd
What fun there is to be had at the expense of the daft Shakespeare-didn't-write-Shakespeare crowd!