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Much Ado

March 07, 1993

Charles Champlin's article on the Shakespeare-De Vere controversy (Feb. 21) shows that, in an age of intellectual laziness, even intelligent people can be taken in by silly notions. All you need are an unprovable hypothesis and a pile of circumstantial evidence. Oliver Stone, for example, "proved" that nearly the entire government, including L.B.J., was in on President Kennedy's murder. De Vere's supporters are in the same league.

The anti-Shakespeare camp is filled with people troubled by the idea that genius can be bestowed on the low-born. Champlin's essay, sadly, betrays such a bias.

Champlin is being dishonest when he says Shakespeare's death "went unremarked in print by anyone." Or perhaps he simply forgot Ben Jonson's fulsome tribute. If Shakespeare was nothing more than a country bumpkin, how did a man of Jonson's vast intellect and sophistication fail to spot him for an impostor?

Fortunately, solid evidence for Shakespeare's authorship is not as hard to come by as the "Oxfordians" would have us believe. For example, Russel Fraser, in his book "Young Shakespeare," points out that Peto, Bardolph and Fluellen, characters in "Henry IV" and "Henry V," were originally real people, tax delinquents who came under the jurisdiction of Shakespeare's father, the bailiff of Stratford-upon-Avon. Obviously, Shakespeare reached into his memory when he needed names for these characters. If De Vere wrote these plays, this would be one of the great coincidences of history.

Other incidents can be found where Shakespeare used names and events from his childhood as fodder for his plays, for anyone not too lazy to do a little reading.

DANIEL BURNHAM

BISHOP

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