Recently, Dr. Michael Egan, noted Shakespearean and author of The Tragedy of Richard II, Part One: A Newly Authenticated Play by William Shakespeare has taken the helm as the new editor of The Oxfordian, the annual journal focused on "proving" Edward de Vere is the true author of Shakespeare's plays. This is an unusual move for the Shakespeare Oxford Society, which hopes that Egan, a self-described agnostic on the authorship question, will "follow the evidence where it leads."
PlayShakespeare.com took a moment to chat with Dr. Egan about his newly appointed position and what he hopes to accomplish for the future.
PLAYSHAKESPEARE: Dr. Egan, how did this new position come about?
DR. EGAN: In 2006, I presented a paper about Richard II, Part One, to the Shakespeare Oxford Society/Shakespeare Fellowship convention in Ann Arbor, MI. I liked them and they liked me. Also, I think delegates were surprised at my open-mindeness on the so-called Authorship Question. Some months later the editorship of The Oxfordian became vacant, and they invited me to take the job. After thinking about it, I accepted.
PLAYSHAKESPEARE: Why did you agree? What attracted you the most?
DR. EGAN: I think there's a real question about the authorship of Shakespeare's plays—the disjunct between what we think we know about him and the mind and personality reflected in the Collected Works. Ascribing their astonishing range, wisdom and knowledge to genius is simply to invoke magic. One may be born with superior abilities but education must still be acquired. There's deep learning and experience in the plays and poems, together with remarkably detailed information of all kinds of esoterica. I'd like to know how they got there.
PLAYSHAKESPEARE: What do you feel only you can bring to the table?
DR. EGAN: What I bring to the table is scholarly detachment, a willingness to go wherever the evidence may lead. If this sounds elementary, I can only say that in the current world of Shakespeare attribution studies, scholarly objectivity is in cruelly short supply. The issues are debated with the acrimony, bitterness and dishonesty characteristic of religious or political sects. There's more jeering and silencing than discussion. Temperamentally, however, I'm not a joiner—I keep changing my mind when presented with new data. A nerd, in short, but in the present climate, that's an advantage.
PLAYSHAKESPEARE: If you're not an Oxfordian, why did you sign the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt?
DR. EGAN: Because you don't have to be an Oxfordian to be reasonably doubtful about the authorship of Shakespeare's plays.
PLAYSHAKESPEARE: What is your vision for the upcoming year?
DR. EGAN: I plan to run The Oxfordian as a research journal of the highest intellectual integrity. Its emphasis will continue to be on the Authorship Question. All views and theories—Stratfordian, Marlovian and whoever might be the latest candidate in a very full field—will be given a platform, so long as the quality of argumentation survives a rigorous peer-review process. That's where my scholarly detachment comes in. Everyone will be offered an equitable shake. I should add that it is the judgment of the Shakespeare Oxford Society that in a fair fight, as it were, Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, will emerge as the incontestable true author.
Editor's Note: Dr. Egan's edition of Richard II, Part One can be downloaded from our online library by clicking below (Registered users only. Register free now.)
document The Tragedy of Richard II, Pt. 1