My book's lack of Stratfordian readership is not for lack of effort on my part, as I have repeatedly posted about the book and my ideas at various authorship forums; sent free copies to many Shakespeare scholars and literary critics who have written publicly on the authorship question, including James Shapiro, Stephen Greenblatt, and Ron Rosenbaum; offered free copies to others; and so on. The Shakespeare authorship question is even more taboo than I had realized when I first started researching the authorship question.
To my initial surprise, Oxfordians also tend not to be interested in The Apocryphal William Shakespeare. I've learned that it has two major strikes against it from an Oxfordian point of view. First, it introduces yet another authorship candidate, which they generally see as further muddying the waters and giving Stratfordians one more reason to dismiss the whole authorship topic -- since skeptics can't even agree amongst themselves on which alternative candidate is most likely to have been Shakespeare, obviously none of them were (so the argument goes). Second, it argues that William Shakespeare was capable of writing successful plays on his own, which they see as giving away the farm -- if a skeptic admits that William could write reasonably well, then isn't this akin to admitting he could write the canon? Obviously I disagree with both these points, and in particular I think that skeptics will never succeed in convincing the general public of an authorship problem without embracing WS as the main author of the apocryphal plays and main adapter of the bad quartos.
Rather than ask Stratfordians to engage with all my arguments, as an initial step I am curious about their response to a single question raised by The Apocryphal William Shakespeare. To my knowledge, not a single Shakespeare scholar has ever addressed this topic in any book or article since John Peachman's 2006 article on the connections between the play Guy, Earl of Warwick and the apocryphal Shakespeare play Mucedorus appeared. Mucedorus was attributed to William Shakespeare in a volume belonging to the library of King Charles II.
Traditional Shakespeare scholars and other Stratfordians, how do you explain the relationship between the play Guy, Earl of Warwick and Mucedorus? Alfred Harbage first noted in 1941 that the clown Philip Sparrow of Stratford-upon-Avon, one of two main characters in Guy, Earl of Warwick, appears to burlesque William Shakespeare. E. A. J. Honigmann in 1954, John Berryman in the later half of the twentieth century, Helen Cooper in 2006, and Katherine Duncan-Jones in 2009 agreed with this theory. Philip Sparrow is a provincial clown, food thief, and lack-Latin poet of lofty ambitions who cheerfully abandons his pregnant mistress Parnell in Stratford to follow Guy on his chivalrous adventures en route to the Holy Land. He serves Sir Guy much as Sancho Panza serves Don Quixote—as a comic sidekick whose bumbling antics are a foil to his master’s noble purposes. Philip’s last name Sparrow, then pronounced Spear-O, calls to mind Shake-Spear.
In addition to apparently making fun of William Shakespeare as the hungry, cheerfully amoral clown Philip Sparrow, the author of Guy Earl of Warwick scattered joking references throughout the play to Mucedorus, which as you know was attributed to Shakespeare in the seventeenth century. To sharpen the satire, all the verbal jabs point to the same scene in Mucedorus in which Mouse searches the forest for Mucedorus and the missing Princess Amadine. Long overlooked, these links between Guy Earl of Warwick and Mucedorus were first detailed by John Peachman in a 2006 scholarly article.
When the hard-of-hearing Mouse encounters Mucedorus in the woods disguised as a hermit, he wonders why Mucedorus claims to be an “emmet,” the old English word for ant:
Mouse: Here’s through the woods, and through the woods, to look out a shepherd & a stray king’s daughter, but soft who have we here, what art thou?
Mucedorus: I am an hermit.
Mouse: An emmet, I never saw such big emmet in all my life before.
In Guy Earl of Warwick, the hard-of-hearing Philip Sparrow becomes confused after he and Sir Guy encounter a hermit on the continent:
Guy: Ye cowardly Rogue wilt thou kill a Hermit?
Philip: An Emmot quotha, ’tis one of the foulest great Emmets that ever I saw.
In Mucedorus, Mucedorus insists to Mouse that he is not an emmot, he is a hermit:
Mucedorus: I tell you sir, I am an hermit, one that leads a solitary life within these woods.
Mouse: O I know thee now, thou art her that eats up all the hips and haws, we could not have one piece of fat bacon for thee [we ate no bacon because of you] all this year.
Just as Mouse talks about “hips and haws” in connection with a lack of food, when Philip becomes separated from Guy at the conclusion of their pilgrimage he wanders through the woods complaining that he has had nothing but hips and haws to eat for two weeks:
Philip: A Pilgrimage, quotha, marry here’s a Pilgrimage indeed, why? I have lost my Master, and have been this fortnight in a Wood, where I have eat nothing but Hips and Haws.
Back in the forest scene from Mucedorus, Mouse protests his bravery to Mucedorus:
Mouse: … I’ll prove mine office good, for look sir when any comes from under the sea or so, and a dog chance to blow his nose backward, then with a whip I give him the good time of the day…
Amused by the phrase “blow his nose backward,” the author of Guy Earl of Warwick had Philip repeat it:
Philip: I know if you hear my Master’s name you’ll blow your Nose backward, and then your Laundress will call you Sloven.
Mucedorus ends his forest conversation with the clueless Mouse by asking where he can find him at Court:
Mucedorus: But where shall I find you in the Court?
Mouse: Why, where it is best being, either in the kitching a eating or in the buttery drinking: but if you come I will provide for thee a piece of beef & brewis knockle deep in fat, pray you take pains remember maister mouse.
Likewise, William Shakespeare’s hungry counterpart Philip Sparrow longs for a piece of beef and brewis:
Philip: Have ye ever an Ambry in your Cottage, where a Man may find a good Bag-pudding, a piece of Beef, or a Platter of Bruis knockle deep in Fat; for I tell thee old fellow, I am sharp set, I have not eat a good Meal this Fortnight.
John Peachman, the independent scholar who discovered these parallels, was not sure what to make of them, but he speculated that William Shakespeare was associated with Mucedorus in the popular mind. He wrote, “The rarity of these parallels makes it almost certain that they are not coincidental. The hermit/emmet joke and the rather extraordinary phrase ‘blow your/his nose backward’ appear to be unique to these two plays. ‘Piece of beef and brewis knuckle deep in fat’, though not unique, is certainly rare, and ‘hips and haws’ is uncommon. That all the parallels occur in the one scene in Mucedorus, and in each case the lines involve the respective clowns Mouse and Sparrow, simply underlines how unlikely it is that the parallels are coincidental.”
Far from being coincidental, a logical inference is that the author of Guy Earl of Warwick used William’s comic alter-ego Philip Sparrow to ridicule William’s silly playwriting style in Mucedorus. But this conclusion would mean that William Shakespeare was the main author of the clunky passages in Mucedorus, not a poetic genius who helped polish a few lines and perhaps the epilogue in 1610. I have yet to see this intriguing problem addressed in the Stratfordian literature, including by Rasmussen and Bate.
I am not holding my breath for a serious answer, given the lack of previous Stratfordian interest in responding to any questions I have posed. I do think the relationship between the plays Guy Earl of Warwick and Mucedorus is a fascinating topic, though, and one which makes little or no sense given the traditional authorship belief.