An Anti-Stratfordian Tour de Farce
Although an intensely irritating waste of paper, despite appearances, there is a purpose in this type of publication.
Books like these are published to be reviewed here. To be cited in internet discussion. When they find themselves unable to explain why The Tempest is associated with Hallowmas rather than Shrovetide, these books provide Oxfordians with an out. "Have you read my book on The Tempest" they will say. Or "Have you read Stritmatter and Kositsky's book on The Tempest?" It's usually said with a patronising snort, implying both that the matter has been dealt with definitively and whoever they are arguing with is poorly read on the subject.
In other words, the book is intended to be cited for what it set out to achieve, rather than what it actually says.
It actually says very little.
The attempt to claim it as an earlier play, The Tragedy of Spanish Maze, is utterly unconvincing. The Tempest isn't a tragedy, it has no connections to Spain and it's not about a maze. Three strikes in just the five words of the title. It IS, however, the only unattributed play which serves their purpose of pretending that they have discovered a hitherto unknown performance of The Tempest which conveniently occurred closer to the lifetime of the Earl of Oxford.
The shrovetide connections which follow do not work at all and I have yet to understand what the chapter on the actual location of Propero's Island is doing in there. Perhaps to support the the invention of imaginary schools of critical thought - the so-called 'Mediterranean' and 'American' readings - with which the authors can take issue and claim to have defeated in a sort of complex straw man argument. And why, when proposing an actual location for The Tempest's remote and uninhabited island, do Oxfordians always choose islands that are large, populous and within permanent sight of the mainland, like Isola Vulcano or in the middle of a hugely busy shipping lane, like Lampedusa? Especially as neither can be connected to the Earl any more than they can to Shakespeare.
The longest and dullest argument in the book concerns the exact date at which Will may or may not have seen a letter from William Strachey with its news of things going wrong in Virginia. The authors spend the first part of the book dissecting the dates and provenance of this article as if this were enough to disprove the conventional dating by itself. Will could just as easily have used John Donne's The Storm as a first-hand source of sea-going peril, yet neither of the authors appear to even know that poem exists.
The whole of the second half of the book is taken up trying to repair the damage that Stratfordian rebuttals inflicted the first time they tried to dislodge The Tempest using their contentions about the Strachey letter. Their Jamestown chronology was roundly criticised in articles and its champions lost the online debate. They say:-
"This section is directed more towards the specialist reader who wants to situate the present debate over the origins and chronology of the Tempest in a wider historical framework, or to understand the flaws that permeate recent attempts to recuperate the declining orthodox paradigm"
'L'esprit d'escalier', Diderot called it. Thinking on the staircase of things one might have said in the drawing room.
It's full of indigestible, self-justifying sophistry and intrusive yet totally unwarranted triumphalism like the above example from the introduction. Declining orthodox paradigm indeed! It is, of course, totally unreadable. It's like watching Lenny Bruce nitpicking court transcripts to empty theatres at the end of his career. No sane person could possibly be interested.
The book is wholly dishonest in its purpose.
The Earl of Oxford is mentioned just once yet almost every line is vitiated by the presence of the authors' support for his candidacy.
It fails in its open objectives by failing to dislodge The Tempest from its very secure moorings at the end of Shakespeare's career. And the hidden agenda also fails as it does not advance the Earl's case by a single nanometre.