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Archive for September, 2009

Shakespeare – A Fraud?

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009
Signature of William Shakespeare from Page 3 o...

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My recent Blogs about the authenticity of William Shakespeare’s works have brought a number of comments and questions.  The most prevalent of these questions asks that, if Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, was the real author of most of Shakespeare’s work, was Shakespeare a fraud?  Personally, I don’t think so.

The Shakespeare – Oxford Society, which is dedicated to researching and honoring the true Bard, points out that there is significant evidence of Oxford’s status as one of several anonymous and pseudonymous Court writers of the 1580’s.  This was quite a common practice at the time; and, if the Earl of Oxford wanted to have his plays performed in front of the general public – a rabble of often low-class, loud, and drunken audiences – he would have been happy to ask William Shakespeare, a commoner actor/producer, to take title to these works for public performance.

On this basis, one should not accuse William Shakespeare of being a fraud.  He was just entering into a business arrangement that was common at the time.  We can be certain that neither he nor the Earl of Oxford would ever imagine that these literary works would receive world-wide distribution that would last four hundred years and be considered the work of a genius.

There should be a large amount of contemporary documents about the life of William Shakespeare, who would become renowned as the world’s greatest writer.  There are none.  Manuscripts, letters sent to him or about him between others, or printed stories or pamphlets are non-existent.  There are thus, no documents to show that William Shakespeare had any connection with the plays or poems performed as his work. 

Over the past couple of hundred years, many people have tried to identify the true author.  Amongst the most common are Francis Bacon, Marlowe, Derby and Rutland.  All of this has stirred the controversy, which incidentally never surrounded other great literary figures, such as Milton, Chaucer, Swift, Pope, etc.

The search for the real author has become the greatest manhunt in literary history.  And for the past one-hundred-fifty years or so, there have been many doubters.  Amongst them are, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldow Emerson, Sigmund Freud, Orson Welles, Sir John Gielgud, and even Supreme Court Justices, John Paul Stevens, and Harry Blackmun – all of whom have joined the ranks of those who give credit to the Earl of Oxford.

Some will say that it doesn’t really matter who the author is – it’s the work that counts.  I would agree, but nevertheless it would be good to give credit where credit is due.  Hopefully, sometime in the not too distant future, evidence will appear that will prove once and for all that the genius credited to William Shakespeare, the simple uneducated common man from Stratford, was really the acclaimed contemporary poet and author, Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford.


* Sources for the above from the Shakespeare – Oxford Society


Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden:


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Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of PRC

Monday, September 28th, 2009
Celebration of PRC's 60th Anniversary

Celebration of PRC's 60th Anniversary

The Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Chicago hosted a large party to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the PRC at the Hyatt Regency Hotel tonight. I was told that approximately 700 hundred people attended the celebration. Consul General Huang gave a bilingual speech, and representatives from the Illinois Governor’s Office and the Chicago Mayor’s Office also delivered greetings and congratulatory messages from the Governor and Mayor.

I had attended many similar celebrations before. Tonight’s event was by far the largest. When I had a chance to talk to Consul General Huang and his wife Lily Zhang, they beamed with enthusiasm. Over the weekend, they had hosted a large parade in Chinatown.

“Over 30,000 people showed up at the parade,” Consul General Huang said.

“Congratulations,” I said. “You organized a great celebration,” I continued. “Look at this crowd. I have never seen so many people at such events before.”

“It has nothing to do with me,” Consul General Huang said sincerely. “It’s all about China. It’s because China is a strong country now!”

Consul General Huang speaks excellent English. He has certainly further developed the relationship between China and the various communities in the Midwest, including business, education, and overseas Chinese. There is, however, truth in his statement. As China emerges in the world as a strong economic and political power, it draws the attention of more and more people like a magnet.

A friend of mine told me his encounters in New York City: when he waited in line for the ferry to go visit the Statue of Liberty in the late 1980s, street vendors made their sales pitch to him in Japanese, thinking he was a tourist from Japan; when he stood in line again a couple of years ago, the vendors came to him speaking Chinese.

“From their choice of language, I can tell the status of China has changed in the world!” he said.

Consul General Huang’s words resonates the same message.

As an overseas Chinese, I certainly share the same pride for the motherland, especially at the celebration of her 60th anniversary. It is a different China from the one I described in Mulberry Child.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China.

William Shakespeare – Did He or Didn’t He?

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009
Portrait of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxfor...
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My recent blog about the works of William Shakespeare and the long-running controversy over whether he was the true author of eighteen plays and hundreds of poems and sonnets appears to have stirred some interest.

I have received comments from those who support the theory that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, was the true author of Shakespeare’s Works.

The Shakespeare – Oxford Society, which is dedicated to researching and honoring the true Bard, presents a compelling case for doubts about Shakespeare’s authorship. They point out that his character, background, education, family, friends, behavior towards his debtors and neighbors and his attitude to money and property is in direct conflict with the character of someone who became the world’s greatest author.

It is also pointed out that there has been controversy over true authorship – almost incessantly since the death of William Shakespeare, and it has been impossible to prove that Shakespeare wrote the plays, poems and sonnets.

The two main issues that have kept this issue simmering for centuries are that the mismatch between the man and the work and the absence of a proper documentary record, showing that the Stratford actor/merchant wrote these works.

On the other hand, the Earl of Oxford was one of the leading patrons of the Elizabethan Age, and during his lifetime, thirty three works were dedicated to him, being either original or translated works of world literature. He was also an Elizabethan courtier, playwright, poet, sportsman, and sponsor of at least two acting companies and a company of musicians.  He was well traveled and closely favored by Queen Elizabeth.

Reading the history of the Earl, his undoubted talents and royal connections, it seems perfectly plausible that he could be the true author of Shakespeare’s work.  Many members of the aristocracy of the time had reputations as poets, playwrights, and authors.  Hardly any of them published their creative work.  It would have been considered unacceptable for an aristocrat to be writing for the public theatre, which provides an explanation why Oxford might have used Shakespeare as his “front man” for his numerous creative works.

Oxford’s advanced education, knowledge of aristocratic life, the military and the law, background and knowledge of theatre lead to considerable praise for Oxford’s plays and poems. The uncanny similarities between Oxford’s life and many of the Shakespearean plays, gives additional weight to those supporters of the Oxford theory.

Amazingly, since the plays were written only 400 years ago, there is no record that can prove the authorship.  This from a country where there are numerous records going back to Roman times, where history and events were recorded meticulously and where scholarship was rewarded and manuscripts closely guarded.

I have come down on the side of those who support the Oxford theory.  I would be interested to receive your comments and thoughts on this issue.


Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden:



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A Master Piece

Monday, September 21st, 2009
Bones of the Master

Bones of the Master

            My friend Amy recommended me George Crane’s book Bones of the Master: A Journey to Secret Mongolia (The Bones) several weeks ago and even brought me a copy when we met last time. I looked at the cover: the face of a monk over steep, bare mountain ranges, dotted with a few pine trees. I thought it was a martial arts story and put it aside. I had a pile of books on my desk to read. A monk’s journey to Inner Mongolia to look for his master’s bones didn’t sound so attractive to me.

            Over the weekend, after giving two talks on China in one day and attending a full day of interesting but intensive “life design” conference, I wanted to take a break. I picked up The Bones. A few pages into the story, I found myself fully engaged. I didn’t realize it was a nonfiction. The story began in 1959 when Monk Tsung Tsai escaped from imminent persecution and walked from Inner Mongolia to Hong Kong, experiencing/witnessing horrifying hardship, hunger, and death along his way. Most of the narrative, however, was set in the late 1990s when Tsung Tsai, accompanied by the author, embarked on a journey to Inner Mongolia to search for his mater’s bones for proper cremation and burial. Tsung Tsai is a Ch’an (禅) Master, and George Crane, a poet and non-believer. Through Tsung Tsai’s broken English, the philosophy and wisdom of Ch’an were expressed, though, as Ch’an, the essence was elusive and “empty.” The “nothingness” of Ch’an.

            The narrative was very well structured and the language precise and poetic. I would imagine Master Tsung Tsai would have approved it and say “the work beautiful.”  

Many questions remained unanswered though: Why did Tsung Tsai decide to come to the U.S. and settle in the Catskill Mountains, Upstate New York? How did he manage to support himself, even if he lived on noodles and greens? Why did Tsung Tsai request the author to perform the kneel-down ritual to the “Black Master?” Apparently this “Black Master,” once a student of Tsung Tsai, was no longer a monk—he was married and was surrounded by women. Was Tsung Tsai there to save the “Black Master” from his “troubles” versus being “chanted” by the Black Master to change? I could go on and on. Perhaps because I couldn’t understand the “emptiness,” or “nothingness” of the Ch’an, that I was lost. Or perhaps, it didn’t matter. We all live, suffer, and die and need to learn to be unattached to the material world.

I am very intrigued by the story and the Ch’an. I’m about to start my Asian Classics classes at the University of Chicago this week and the focus this year is on China. The first book we will read is Lao Zi’s Dao De Jing (in old spelling: Lao Tzu’s Tao Teh Ching). The story of Tsung Tsai certainly added another dimension for me to the reading. Thanks, Amy.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China.

Did He Write It? To Be or Not to Be

Friday, September 18th, 2009

Shakespeare Sep 18

Over Labor Day weekend, I was in Wisconsin at the “American Players Theater,” where local actor, James DeVita, was performing a One-Man-Show – “Acting Shakespeare.”  This incredible and entertaining performance was broadly based on the Broadway format presented by the renowned English Shakespearean actor, Sir Ian McKellen in the late 1980’s. 

James DeVita’s entertaining performance described how he became a Shakespearean actor and the trials and tribulations that he suffered along the way.  But he also brought to the audience’s attention some history and facts about William Shakespeare.

We’re told that the Bard’s education didn’t go beyond a primitive grammar school.  Thus, he probably finished his formal education at age fourteen.  At age eighteen when he was working in his father’s leather business, he married Anne Hathaway eight years his senior, who was already pregnant with his child.  At age twenty-one, he decided to leave his wife, child, and father’s business and go to London to become an actor.  During the next eighteen years, Shakespeare “wrote” thirty-seven plays and hundreds of sonnets. 

I have read a number of books about Shakespeare over the years. Some biographies cover his life and describe the brilliance of the man, but other books have endeavored to prove that Shakespeare didn’t write anything and that the plays that we are so familiar with were written by Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford. 

There are many mysteries surrounding the life of William Shakespeare.  Perhaps the most telling, which convinced me that this poorly educated man who had never left the shores of England could not have written all of those plays, is that when he died at the age of fifty-two back in Stratford-Upon-Avon, his Will made no mention of any of his plays, sonnets, or anything to do with his theatrical background, nor did he leave manuscripts, notes, or records relating to such a body of work, or mention any of his co-actors, producers and directors during his eighteen years in London. 

In addition, it is recognized his Will was poorly drawn, badly written and ungrammatical.  Could this really be William Shakespeare?  I decided there was a much better case to prove that De Vere was the true author of much of Shakespeare’s work; but, because of the fact that he was an aristocrat at the Court of Queen Elizabeth and a homosexual, he used Shakespeare as his “front man” at a time when anything to do with the theatre was considered low-class, rough, and tough. The theatre was banned from operating within the city limits, and no person of “class” would be seen at these entertainments.

So my conclusion is that William Shakespeare probably did not write these plays.  What do you think?


Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden:

A Child without Aspiration

Friday, September 4th, 2009

Asian children, especially Chinese, are known in the U.S. as academic high achievers. They come from cultures that value education and consider college degree a ticket to advance in life.

A recent encounter I had with a young man, Ning, the nephew of Mei, a close friend of mine, took me by surprise. Ning grew up in China. Last year, his parents sent him to the U.S. to pursue his college degree. Ning, the only child, showed no interest in study. Reportedly, he had failed every grade school he attended. Each time he reached a dead end, his parents would mobilize their network of connections and transfer him to another school. Knowing he could not get into a reputable college in China, Ning’s mother entrusted him to the hands of Mei.

Ning failed all three courses in his first year at a university.

“Life in the U.S. is too hard,” he lamented and begged to be allowed to go back to China.

His mother insisted that he stay and get a bachelor degree.    

Ning resisted passively. He wouldn’t register for his classes if my friend, his aunt, didn’t take him to do so. He couldn’t take care of himself either—he didn’t feel comfortable to go out to eat on his own and was upset that his aunt set him up in a school dorm instead of letting him stay in her home and taking care of his daily needs, including transportation. Out of compassion and family duty, Mei checked on him frequently. More often than not, she would find him sleeping in his dorm in the middle of the day, skipping his classes.  

“I don’t care if I sweep floors as a janitor in China,” Ning would say.

Ning’s mother, who had never been abroad, would not hear any of that. She begged Mei to help out her only son. Mei coached Ning, hired tutors for him, and even offered to accompany him to study in the library together, all to no avail.

“I’m at my wit’s end,” she said.

I stopped by Ning’s dorm once with my friend. He turned away before I could say hi when Mei introduced me.

“My room is a mess,” he mumbled.

I watched the unmade bed, the littered floor with socks, pants, t-shirts, instant noodles and water bottles. He blocked the sun by lowering the window blinds, and the small dorm was semi-dark and suffocating. I observed him from the doorway. To my surprise, he was tall and handsome. If I could ignore the brief one or two word syllables he uttered in responses to Mei’s questions, I would say he appeared very smart.

The deadline for class registration for the fall had come and gone, but he didn’t do a thing.

My friend gave a deep sigh when we reached her car.

“I’ll call his mother and ask her to send him to the military for some good training,” she said.

“Is this an example of the little “emperor and empress” generation?” “What can parents do if their child has no aspiration for life?” I wondered. “And how much is Ning’s problem resulted from his parents’ over protection and indulgency?” Seeing Mei’s anguish, I didn’t utter a word.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China.