Monday, April 24, 2017

Oberon Up North 2017 -- the Interlochen authorship symposium

Image of Marshall Fredericks' sculpture "Two Bears" at Interlochen Center for the Arts, photo by AJ Theil
by Linda Theil

Oberons returned to the happy scene of former visits when we attended the "Shakespeare Authorship Symposium" at Interlochen Center for the Arts on April 22, 2017. 

Interlochen theater-arts instructor, David Montee, PhD, welcomes attendees at the "Shakespeare Authorship Symposium" held in the Harvey Theater on the campus of Interlochen Center for the Arts on April 22, 2017.

Interlochen theater-arts instructor, David Montee, PhD, organized the event to supplement his student production of Cardenio by William Shakespare and John Fletcher that was presented this weekend at Interlochen.

Oberon chair Richard Joyrich, MD, delivers presentation at Interlochen "Shakespeare Authorship Symposium"April 22, 2017.

At the seminar, Oberon chair Richard Joyrich, MD, delivered an overview of the authorship question featuring John Shahan's "Declaration of Reasonable Doubt about the Identity of William Shakespeare"  from the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition. 
Oberons Rosey Hunter, Sharon Hunter, Linda Theil, and Alisa Theil, attended to support Joyrich's endeavor.

Sharon Hunter and Rosey Hunter attended Interlochen "Shakespeare Authorship Symposium" April 22, 2017.

The symposium was held at Interlochen's Harvey Theater where over 150 Interlochen students, teachers, and interested locals attended the event.

Sabrina Feldman, PhD, presented at Interlochen's "Shakespeare Authorship Symposium" April 22, 2017.

Sabrina Feldman, PhD, author of The Apocryphal Shakespeare and Thomas Sackville and the Shakespearean Glass Slipper, traveled from Pasadena, CA -- where she is manager of the Planetary Science Instrument Development Office at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory -- to present information about the Shakespeare apocrypha and her proposed candidate for the authorship, Thomas Sackville.

Scott Harman presented at Interlochen's "Shakespeare Authorship Symposium" April 22, 2017.
Teacher, actor and scholar Scott Harman, ably presented the case for the traditional Stratfordian candidate.

Retired Interlochen Center for the Arts research manager, Gordon Berg,
lunches with Oberons at the Interlochen cafeteria April 22, 2017.

Also in attendance at the symposium was beloved Oberon friend, Gordon Berg, now retired from his position as research manager at Interlochen Center for the Arts from 2007 to 2015. Berg was a colleague of Oberon members Tom and Joy Townsend and Mara Radzvickas with whom he worked at the advertising agency BBDO Detroit. He hosted us Oberons at a memorable visit to Interlochen in June, 2009 -- see "Oberon Up North 2009 -- Day 1" on the Oberon weblog.

Berg resides nearby in Traverse City where he recently received his certification as a volunteer with Hospice of Michigan. He uses his musical skills on the guitar and banjo in his volunteer service. Berg is also writing the story of his father Harry Berg's experience as an eight-year-old caught in the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926. 

It was so good to spend time with him during lunch break at the Interlochen cafeteria. He sent his greetings to absent Oberons, near and far.

Sharon Hunter, Linda Theil, Rosey Hunter, Richard Joyrich at the
 Hofbrau restaurant in Interlochen MI, April 23, 2017.

Oberons also paid several return visits to the nearby Hofbrau restaurant where, upon departure on Sunday, we enjoyed the most magnificent brunch ever witnessed by mankind (including the Palm Court brunch at the Netherland Plaza in Cincinnati).

David Montee is Lear at Interlochen Shakespeare Festival beginning June 30, 2017.
We are even now planning a return to Interlochen to see David Montee as Lear in the Interlochen Shakespeare Festival beginning June 30, 2017.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Oberon donates $500 to SOF's Shakespeare Identified Centennial Fund

Oberon Shakespeare Study Group donates $500 check to SOF Shakespeare Identified Centennial Fund

By Linda Theil

Oberon Shakespeare Study Group Chair Richard Joyrich, MD, sent a $500 check to the Shakespeare Oxford Society Shakespeare Identified Centennial Fund yesterday to honor the memory of Oberon members who have passed away. 

Oberons mourn the loss of our most recently deceased member, Reinaldo Perez, who died December 12, 2016. We continue to miss the friendship and insight of Oberon companions: R. Thomas Hunter (1942-2011), Ronald D. Halstead (1940-2014), and George Thomas Hunter (1923-2015).

In a letter to the SOF board of directors, Joyrich said:
All of these gentlemen were fine scholars and contributed greatly to our discussions at Oberon meetings as well as, in some cases, presenting papers at various authorship conferences. More information about each of them is available via the Oberon blog. . . . 
Although they held various viewpoints, they were all extremely interested in pursuing the authorship question and we at Oberon know that they would be pleased to help support the efforts of the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship and related organizations in celebrating the centennial of the work of J. Thomas Looney.
Oberon members are especially pleased to support the SOF Shakespeare Identified Centennial Fund project of working with the J. Thomas Looney family to place a headstone on Looney's grave in Saltwell Cemetery, Gateshead, England. 

The SOF shared this video to thank donors:

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Cardenio's timeline

David Montee, PhD, is the director of Interlochen Center for the Arts April 21, 22, 23, 2017 production of Gregory Doran's version of Cardenio, a lost play attributed to John Fletcher and William Shakespeare. In this post, Montee shares his program notes on the history of Shakespeare's "lost play". Montee recently became a signatory to John Shahan's "Declaration of Reasonable Doubt about the Identity of William Shakespeare." LT, ed

David Montee, PhD, author of Translating Shakespeare: a Guide for Young Actors (Smith & Kraus 2014)

Cardenio's timeline
by guest blogger David Montee, PhD

1564—1616:  William Shakespeare’s life and career.
1623:  The first publication of Shakespeare’s collected plays, the First Folio.
1727:  Theatre entrepreneur, playwright, and Shakespeare editor Lewis Theobald announces that he has found and purchased “at considerable cost” three copies of a manuscript of a hitherto unknown Shakespeare play.  He announces plans to produce the play (slightly adapted to suit the tastes and sensibilities of his current audiences) at the Drury Lane Theatre. The play opens successfully in December of that year.  The plot of the play roughly follows a sub-plot of Don Quixote found in Book One of that novel that details the narrative of the madman Cardenio, whom the errant knight of the novel’s title encounters in his various wanderings; but all the major characters’ names have been changed.  (By Theobald?) As the play involves delicate subjects (for the early 18th Century, anyway), there appears to be substantial evidence of Theobald’s morally conscientious editing, as key scenes in the story seem to be missing—such as Dorotea’s rape by Fernando.
1728:  The play is first published under the title of its Drury Lane adaptation, seeing print in January under the title Double Falsehood; or The Distressed Lovers. Although successful with the general public, it is subsequently attacked as a fraud by Theobald’s peers, led by rival Shakespeare editor (and adaptor) Alexander Pope.
1733:  Theobald publishes his edition of the Complete Works of Shakespeare, following the contents of the First Folio of 1623; he does not include Double Falsehood. In a Second Preface to Double Falsehood, he seems to suggest that he now believes the play was (perhaps) not written by Shakespeare, but instead by John Fletcher.
1744:  Lewis Theobald dies. There is no specific accounting of the fate of his three “manuscripts”.
1767:  Double Falsehood is successfully revived at the Covent Garden Theatre in London, which (perhaps?) obtains possession of Theobald’s three original adapted “manuscripts” of the play.
1782:  Nearly four decades after Theobald’s death, a 1653 notation in the London’s Stationer’s Register is discovered that notes the bookseller/publisher Humphrey Moseley’s plan to publish a play of “The History of Cardenio, by Mr. Fletcher and Mr. Shakespeare”. Soon thereafter, court records of James I are also found that indicate that a play called Cardenna was presented at court performances by the King’s Men (Shakespeare’s company) during the 1612-1613 season. This coincides with the time that Shakespeare was writing collaborative plays (including Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen) with his fellow King’s Men playwright, John Fletcher; and the story of Cardenio (as previously noted) parallels the plot of Double Falsehood. If Moseley every actually published The History of Cardenio, no surviving copies have yet been found.
1856:  The Covent Garden Theatre is destroyed by fire, along with its archives of plays and manuscripts—including (presumably) Theobald’s original Double Falsehood documents.
2010:  Following renewed interest in the mystery surrounding the “lost” Shakespeare play Cardenio, generated by “re-imagined” theatrical versions by Gregory Doran (Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company) and Gary Taylor (editor of The Oxford Shakespeare), the prestigious Arden Shakespeare includes Double Falsehood in its annotated editions of Shakespeare’s plays.
2015:  Reports of academic linguistic studies of the text of Double Falsehood are published in both The New Yorker and The Times; the conclusions presented are that “the voices of Shakespeare and Fletcher predominate, and that Theobald’s is minimally present” (Alastair Gee, The New Yorker, June 19, 2015).

See also:

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Montee visits Oberons

David Montee, PhD, visits Oberon meeting March 11, 2017 at Bloomfield Twp. Library, Bloomfield Hills, MI

by Linda Theil

David Montee, PhD, visited Oberons at our March 11, 2017 meeting to discuss the  "Shakespeare Authorship Symposium" that he has organized at Interlochen Center for the Arts from 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. April 22, 2017 in the Harvey Theater at Interlochen. Oberon chair Richard Joyrich, MD, will be one of three featured speakers at the symposium.

Montee and his colleagues at Interlochen organized the symposium to supplement Interlochen's student production of Gregory Doran's version of Cardenio, a lost play attributed to John Fletcher and William Shakespeare that Montee directs for presentation April 21, 22, 23, 2017. Montee said:

I think [the question of Cardenio's authorship] ties-in with the larger questions about the whole [Shakespeare] authorship question. It’s becoming kind of murky whether there is a single author in any of these plays. It's interesting to look at the authorship question particularly in light of Cardenio because obviously Cardenio is not by a single author and it brings up the subject of whether any of the plays are by a single author. 
Sabrina Feldman, author of Thomas Sackville and the Shakespearean Glass Slipper, will also present at the symposium, along with Scott Harman who teaches at the University of Wisconsin and at Interlochen during their summer arts camp. Oberon chair Richard Joyrich's presentation will cover the topic of whether there is reason to doubt a Stratfordian Shakespeare.

Montee said, "The strongest argument for me is how could this man [Shaksper from Stratford] not have left a single book with his name in it, or a single document signed by him [notwithstanding the signatures on his will]."

To learn more about the background of Cardenio, Montee recommends The Quest for Cardenio: Shakespeare, Fletcher, Cervantes, and the Lost Play by David Carnegie and Gary Taylor (Oxford University Press, 2014).

The public is invited to attend the April 22, 2017 "Shakespeare Authorship Symposium" at Interlochen. The cost is $25, those who wish to attend may register for the symposium online. Tickets for Cardenio -- which is running the entire weekend of April 21, 22, and 23, 2017 -- must be purchased separately, but are also available online at the same site as the symposium tickets.

Montee is the author of Translating Shakespeare: a Guide for Young Actors Smith & Kraus (2014).

Former Oberon chair, the late R. Thomas Hunter, PhD, saw Montee perform in a 2011 Interlochen production of Merchant of Venice, which he favorably reviewed here

Montee is currently studying for his debut as King Lear, in a production that will be presented the last weekend of June and the first weekend of July at Interlochen.

We are grateful for David Montee's visit with us, and we look forward to our visit to Interlochen on the spectacular Leelanau peninsula this spring. 

Oberon member Robin Browne discusses the Shakespeare authorship with Oberon guest David Montee, PhD at March 11, 2017 Oberon meeting at Bloomfield Township Library, Bloomfield Twp., MI.

Apres le Oberon, Richard Joyrich, MD, at Beau's on Telegraph in Bloomfield Hills, MI

Mara Radzvickas at Beau's on Telegraph in Bloomfield Hills, MI


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Richard Waugaman, MD, releases updated ebook

The erudite and accessible Richard Waugaman, M.D. has published a second and expanded edition of his first book, Newly Discovered Works by "William Shake-Speare": a.k.a. Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, now available as a Kindle edition from Amazon.

Waugaman said:
Two new chapters add 30% more material, and I've made other revisions throughout. Both new chapters attribute translations from Latin into English to de Vere -- the Metamorphoses traditionally attributed to his uncle; and a 1570 translation of Johann Sturm's short work on rhetoric. 
In both of these new chapters, I present detailed philological evidence for de Vere's authorship, including unusual spellings; word coinages including "to coin" a word and words starting "un-"; and especially the highly Shakespearean use of hendiadys -- "the figure of twins," as de Vere called it in the Arte of English Poesie

UPDATE Jan. 28, 2017: You can get the second edition of Richard Waugaman's ebook for free now through February 1, 2017. Click on

Monday, January 16, 2017

Joyrich will speak at Interlochen's "Shakespeare Authorship Symposium" April 22, 2017

by Linda Theil

Oberon chair Richard Joyrich, MD, will speak at the  "Shakespeare Authorship Symposium" hosted by Interlochen Center for the Arts at 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. April 22, 2017 in the Harvey Theater at Interlochen. Oberons plan to attend the day-long event, as well as the Interlochen production of Cardenio, attributed to John Fletcher and William Shakespeare, and directed by Interlochen instructor Dr. David Montee.

Montee said:
In honor of the Interlochen Theatre Division’s production of Cardenio, a “lost” play by William Shakespeare, and Shakespeare’s birthday/death day on April 23, we invite you to join us for a special day-long symposium on Saturday, April 22 to examine the authorship issue surrounding Shakespeare’s works. A distinguished panel of invited Shakespeare scholars, including Dr. Sabrina Feldman, author of The Apocryphal Shakespeare and The Shakespearean Glass Slipper, and Dr. Richard Joyrich, founding member of the Oberon Shakespeare Study Group, will join moderator, Academy Theatre Instructor, and director of Cardenio, Dr. David Montee, to provide a glimpse into the authorship controversy and different schools of thought. 
Panelists will examine the mysteries and controversies and will also explore the mechanics of playwright collaboration in the Elizabethan/Jacobean Theatre. Symposium participants will come away from the session with new insights on the revered bard that will be of benefit to both educators and enthusiasts alike. To conclude the day, participants will have an opportunity to enjoy a special 30-minute “behind-the-scenes” pre-performance introduction to Cardenio, as presented by Interlochen’s production designers. The day is sure to delight and stir the imagination of those in attendance.
The cost of attending the "Shakespeare Authorship Symposium" is $25; our readers may register for the symposium online. Tickets for Cardenio -- which is running the entire weekend of April 21, 22, and 23, 2017 -- must be purchased separately, but are also available online at the same site as the symposium tickets.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Rey Perez' final word to Oberons

by Linda Theil

Mara Radzvickas and Reinaldo Perez at Beau's in Bloomfield Twp. MI, June 26, 2015.

The obituary of our colleague Reinaldo Perez (1944-2016) has been published at Legacy website and will appear in the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press today, January 15, 2017. Although no information regarding memorial services is yet available, Perez' obituary informs us that his cremated remains will be interred in Orlando, Florida.

Perez' obituary was compiled by his longtime friend, Terry Shaw, who is also known to Oberon members. In her memorial essay, Shaw relates a story of Rey's final day before entering St. Joe Mercy Hospital Ann Arbor on October 26, 2017 where he passed away on December 12, 2016 due to complications from heart surgery. Shaw said:
The night before his surgery [Rey] spent several hours writing a vigorous response to a recent book about Shakespeare, resulting in only four hours of rest before he entered the hospital. He never spoke or wrote again.
Before departing for the hospital that morning, Rey sent us all an email of his heartfelt response to the news that the Oxford University Press new edition of Shakespeare’s complete works credits Christopher Marlowe as co-writer on Shakespeare's Henry VI plays -- a topic that we Oberons had been sharing emails about. (See more information on this news in the Oberon weblog posting "New Oxford Shakespeare adds Marlowe as co-writer".)

Because we value his voice and miss his presence, we share Rey Perez' final communication with us, here:
Hello Oberons, 
Wanted to share a few preliminary comments ("preliminary" is a euphemism for "might be wrong and I might need to take them back after reading more on the matter") about Marlowe as co-author with Shakespeare of the Henry VI plays. 
-- rightly or wrongly that Marlowe is being given credit as co-author with Shakespeare of the three Henry VI plays, as published by a major publisher such as Oxford University Press, is a major development. 
-- I agree with Richard [Joyrich] that it seems an attempt to bridge the gap between the lack of literary evidence connected with William Shaksper of Stratford and the works of Shakespeare the writer. We heard some mention of collaboration in brief comments made by Paul Edmondson at the Stratford, Ontario lecture that some of us attended. 
-- The [Oct 24, 2016] New York Times article writes:

"Speculation on whether Marlowe collaborated on the plays stretches back to the 18th century. About two dozen scholars contributed research for the new volume. They used the latest tools in text analysis to investigate the works. 
For the New Oxford Shakespeare scholars ran tests to determine whether authors like Marlowe could be reliably identified by the ways they used language — like frequent use of certain articles, and certain words commonly occurring in a row, or being close to each other in the text. Once this was determined, researchers applied these patterns back to texts, to see if they suggested an author other than Shakespeare. If results came out positive, further tests were run."
That is, they looked at Marlowe's writings and compared them to the works of Shakespeare.  As Tom [Townsend] mentions, there are no writings by the Stratford Man!
-- So, if we were to accept the conclusion of the textual study, namely that there are textual parallels between the plays and poems of Shakespeare and the writings of Marlowe, we Oxfordians can therefore conclude that this could be the result of collaboration between Oxford (aka Shakespeare) and Marlowe, or that one or the other borrowed or was influenced by the style of the other. That there are parallels between Marlowe's writings and the plays and poems of Shakespeare does not by itself depend on the identity of who Shakespeare was. Is there any evidence that Oxford and Marlowe met or knew each other?  As playwrights they likely would have known each others' works.
-- Might the text patterns identified as comparable between the works of Shakespeare-Oxford (de Vere) and the works of Marlowe be evidence of Marlowe's borrowing, imitating, or being influenced by the works of Shakespeare?  Shakespeare-Oxford (de Vere) was 14 years older that Marlowe. When there are textual similarities between works of two authors who overlapped in time how does one determine which is the author and which the co-author of specified passages? (This point could be invalidated if the diagnostic textual patterns are common and widely found throughout the works of one of the authors, but only found in one or a few passages among the works of the other. Hence the need to read the original study and not just the NYT article!)
-- Nevertheless, again, if we were to accept the results of the textual study, then we can indeed propose that it is Shakespeare-Oxford who should be listed as co-author of some of the works of Marlowe. Haven't eminent, tenured, published scholars identified textual patterns present in some works of both? I mean, what else can we laymen do but accept the truth from on high? 
Suggested future headline:"New Marlowe Edition Credits Shakespeare as Co-Author". 
Rey [Perez]

Monday, December 19, 2016

Reynaldo Perez memorial will be held January, 2017

Reinaldo Perez, 1944-2016

Our long-time friend and colleague Reinaldo Perez (1944-2016) passed away December 12, 2016 at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor due to complications from heart surgery performed October 26, 2016. Rey is deeply mourned by his Oberon friends.

Rey was retired from the University of Michigan where he taught in the language department at the Dearborn campus. A memorial gathering will be held in January 2017. More information will be added as it becomes available.

UPDATE January 14, 2017: The obituary of Reinaldo Perez has been published at Legacy website and will appear in the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press on January 15, 2017. No information is yet available regarding memorial services.

Pam Verilone and Rey Perez enjoy conversation during the Oberon party at Stage Deli -- annual holiday party on January 4, 2013 at the Stage Deli in West Bloomfield, Michigan

Rey Perez with his mother in his homeland, Cuba, where he
lived before moving to New York City at the age of 14.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Oberons met Nov. 19, 2016

Oberons met Nov. 19, 2016 at Bloomfield Twp. Library: Richard Joyrich, Robin Browne, Mara Radzvickas, Rosey Hunter (back) and Sharon Hunter (back). Photo credit: Linda Theil

by Linda Theil

Oberon's met on Saturday, November 19, 2016 at the Bloomfield Twp. library for the first time in several months. We were delighted to enjoy the company of Sharon Hunter, Robin Browne, Mara Radzvickas, Rosey Hunter, and our chairperson Richard Joyrich, MD for an afternoon of companionship. We missed our good friend Reynaldo Perez who suffered complications from surgery on October 26 2016 and is currently being cared for at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital at  5301 McAuley Dr, Ypsilanti, MI 48197. We send our love and support.

Joyrich reported on the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship's Nov. 3-6 conference in Boston where he retained his first vice-president position on the SOF board of trustees. 

Joyrich gave a PowerPoint review of our Oberon colleague Tom Townsend's conference presentation, "DeVere's Lesser Legacy: The Legal Compact of Equity" on the topic of equitly law and common law in Shakespeare's work and milieu. He enjoyed dinner in Boston with Tom and Joy Townsend, now relocated to Seattle. We send our hearty congratulations to Townsend on his intricate study of this topic.

Joyrich also told us that the upcoming 2016 edition of the SOF journal, Brief Chronicles edited by Roger Stritmatter and Michael Delahoyde, will be the final edition of that publication. He also said that the latest edition of SOF journal The Oxfordian, Vol. 18, is available to SOF members online. Because the newest edition is published, volume 17 is now available to the public online.

Oberon chairperson Richard Joyrich, MD, sports new SOF logo totebag 

Chairperson Joyrich returned from the conference with a nifty new tote bag embellished with the SOF logo now available to the public from Zazzle. Read more about SOF swag on their weblog post "Show your SOS support with style" by Theresa Lauricella.

Friday, October 28, 2016

New Oxford Shakespeare adds Marlowe as co-writer

Christopher Marlowe, 1564-1593
by Linda Theil

Oxford University Press raised a storm of major media coverage this week with the announcement that their new edition of Shakespeare’s complete works credits Christopher Marlowe as co-writer on Shakespeare's Henry VI plays. OUP editor Gary Taylor and others have recently devoted themselves to the notion of Shakespearean “collaboration”, but this is the first time that an academic publisher has broken the authorship taboo by admitting there may be unanswered questions about the origin of Shakespeare’s works.

Taylor, a staunch Stratfordian, doesn't realize that an emphasis on Shakespearean “collaboration” invites investigation of the entire Shakespeare authorship question by validating the search for authentic attribution. 

Oberon asked Dr. Ros Barber -- who wrote her 2012 doctoral dissertation and her award-winning novelThe Marlowe Paperson the topic of Marlowe writing Shakespeare -- what she made of the news from Oxford.

Oberon: Did you know this was coming?

Barber: No, not in such a formal manner regarding co-author attributions in the new Oxford Shakespeare. But I've been aware of some of the work that led up to it -- Craig & Kinney's work on Henry VI Part 2, John Nance's follow-on work. In addition, some of my own and Peter Farey's research on specific Kentish knowledge in Part 2 which I wrote up in Shakespeare: The Evidence is suggestive of Marlowe's authorship. 

Part 1 has long been considered co-authored (since the nineteenth century), but several hands have been suggested -- not just Marlowe but Kyd and Nash. Possibly Peele. Have they been written out of the equation? It is too patchy a play to be solely a Marlowe-Shakespeare project, especially when put up against Parts 2 and 3 (both of which were written earlier, scholars think). Part 3 was more of a surprise, and I haven't yet seen the underlying scholarship for giving Marlowe a co-authorship attribution on this play, but since Parts 2 and 3 are stylistically very similar and they were published very much as a pair, that doesn't feel very surprising.

Oberon: Do  you feel vindicated?

Barber: Certain scholars deciding that Marlowe co-authored three Shakespeare plays is not the same -- as I'm sure they would point out! -- as entertaining the idea that Marlowe might be the chief author of the Shakespeare canon. It's good that it raises Marlowe's profile and highlights his importance to the Shakespeare 'project' -- if I can call it that. It emphasises how close Marlowe's style is to 'early Shakespeare' -- something that other scholars have noted but not formalised with an attribution, generally explaining away (parallelisms, for example) as 'influence'.

But Gary Taylor et al are suggesting their methodologies can tell the difference between the hand of Marlowe and the hand of Shakespeare-influenced-by-Marlowe. If this were so, it would put paid to any wider authorship claims for Marlowe. However, nearly all the stylometric methodologies I've investigated are unconvincing:
  • They do not conform to proper scientific (or statistical) methods. 
  • They do not take into account, for example, the purpose of a particular scene (a court scene, for example, will have more formal language than a scene involving 'commoners').
  • They do not take into account genre when setting baseline standards (lumping the Shakespeare canon into one, rather than breaking it out into histories, comedies etc).
  • They do not consider that we have no 'clean' text that has not passed through several hands (including scribes).
  • And most important of all, they do not consider the fact that a single writer's style and word usage changes over time. 

Consider this from Peter Farey:

Suppose that there are two bodies of work, one which we will ascribe to playwright A and the other playwright B. 
We work out that the frequency with which they each use the words 'most' and 'then' differs greatly. In fact, if we add up the total for both words in a play by either of them and find what percentage of them are 'most' we can be fairly sure that:
* if it's less than 40%, it's by playwright A
* if it's more than 40%, it's by playwright B
(In fact this works for all of A's 21 plays bar one, and all of B's 16 except two. You would need to get a bit more complicated to get 100% in each case!)
Now let’s imagine that we have a play where we suspect collaboration between the two playwrights. We find that Acts 1 & 2 are well below 40% (so probably playwright A) and Acts 3 & 5 well above (playwright B). Act 4 is more doubtful at 43%. 
So does this tell us anything at all about whether the two playwrights are different people? No. In fact playwright A is Shakespeare before 1600, and playwright B is Shakespeare after 1600. And Twelfth Night (1601?) was the play in question, if you were wondering. 
What we can see, therefore, is that to claim that this tells us they were different people is circular reasoning. If you start with an assumption that they are two different people, and take no account of time, then it’s hardly surprising that this is just what the figures will seem to show.
Oberon: Are you surprised Gary Taylor was involved?

Barber: Not at all. He has been at the forefront of the co-authorship movement for many years. However, his attempts to gift 200 lines of Macbeth to Thomas Middleton, and give Middleton credit for parts of Measure for Measure have been entirely dismantled by other scholars, and I imagine the Marlowe attribution will be ripe for dismantling too.

Oberon: How does this data fit into your thesis?

Barber: It isn't data so much as an argument around that data, and that argument is entirely disconnected from my PhD thesis, which was looking at the relationship between Early Modern biography (Shakespeare and Marlowe biographies in particular) and fiction. I did mention in passing the fact that certain early Shakespeare plays (including the Henry VI trilogy) were sometimes attributed to Marlowe right up until 1920, and the similarity of 'early Shakespeare' stylistically to Marlowe. But the work of Gary Taylor et al is claiming they can distinguish between the two. 

Oberon: Do you plan to write about this?

Barber: When the underlying research is published, I'll take a good look at it and decide from there. 

Oberon: Are you excited, or is this not as important as we, here, think it is?

Barber: I have seriously mixed feelings about it (as you can probably tell). I need to drill down into the underlying research before make up my mind one way or another.  As you can tell, I don't have a lot of faith in stylometry, and I suspect that reducing Marlowe to co-author on three early and minor plays will be seen as destructive to the theory of his wider involvement. This announcement is important just because of the amount of press interest it has generated, but unfortunately that can have the detrimental effect of cementing something as 'true' that is actually unproven or even false. And I'm always against that, no matter what the subject area.

We are grateful to Dr. Barber for sharing her insight with us at Oberon. We also thank Richard Waugaman, PhD and Elizabeth Waugaman for their assistance with this article.

Additional information:

New Oxford Shakespeare: Modern Critical Edition: The Complete Works edited by Gary Taylor, et al, will to be published Dec. 27, 2016.

Download Ros Barber thesis, "Writing Marlowe as Writing Shakespeare" from the British Library EThOS system at
EThOS registration is free.

Media reports on OUP announcement:

Peter Farey citation: "Stylometrics and Edward II by Peter Farey" The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection weblog, Sept. 18, 2014.

Note: Because this article includes a written interview, we have left the authentic British spellings in place, Ed.

UPDATE 11/4/16: "How Statistics Solved a 175-Year-Old Mystery About Alexander Hamilton" by Ben Christopher, published Oct. 31, 2016 on the Priceonomics website, is an excellent explanation of the statistical methods used to determine the Marlowe attribution of the Shakespeare Henry VI plays. Well worth reading!