Justice Stevens, who dropped out of graduate study in English to join the Navy in 1941, is an Oxfordian – that is, he believes the works ascribed to William Shakespeare actually were written by the 17th earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere. Several justices across the court’s ideological spectrum say he may be right.
This puts much of the court squarely outside mainstream academic opinion, which equates denial of Shakespeare’s authorship with the Flat Earth Society. (#)
The problem is that this is just a manifestation of a lingering equation of nobility with genius, among other heroic qualities. It’s a class prejudice for a class that no longer exists. It’s not like the greatest poets and dramatists of his day didn’t eulogize him and whatnot. Also, in that period, the education of the nobility was very poor, whereas the education of the nascent bourgeoisie was much better.
Nonetheless, since the 19th century, some have argued that only a nobleman could have produced writings so replete with intimate depictions of courtly life and exotic settings far beyond England. …
The bow-tied, 88-year-old Justice Stevens, who often leads the court’s liberal wing, says he became especially interested in Shakespeare when he attended the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933, where a replica Globe Theater presented many of the plays.
The fact that he went to a WORLD FAIR, in person, explains a lot.
The spread of Oxfordianism on the court “shows Justice Stevens’s power and influence,” Justice Kennedy says.
Now that is interesting, to trace the intellectual currents of the Supreme Court not based on promulgated legal doctrine, but crackpot and marginal literary authorship questions.
On the other hand, “a lot of people like to think its Shakespeare because…they like to think that a commoner can be such a brilliant writer,” [Justice Stevens] says. “Even though there is no Santa Claus, it’s still a wonderful myth.”
There we go, that is what worries me about this whole thing. It’s like he hasn’t read a book that’s less than two hundred years old. Just make a list of American authors. Commoners, indeed. Wearing those goddamn robes is going to somebody’s head.
Of course, Scalia is going to say something absolutely fucking infuriating about this:
“My wife, who is a much better expert in literature than I am, has berated me,” says Justice Scalia. “She thinks we Oxfordians are motivated by the fact that we can’t believe that a commoner could have done something like this, you know, it’s an aristocratic tendency.”
Justice Scalia prefers to turn the tables.
“It is probably more likely that the pro-Shakespearean people are affected by a democratic bias than the Oxfordians are affected by an aristocratic bias,” he says.