(Posted on Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship by Tom Regnier; via Patricia N. Saffran.)
Price on Hand D in Sir Thomas More
Diana Price, author of the seminal anti-Stratfordian book Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography, takes on the often-asserted premise that “Hand D” in the Elizabethan manuscript of The Book of Sir Thomas More represents the handwriting of William Shakspere of Stratford. Price’s article, “Hand D and Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Literary Paper Trail,” relentlessly deconstructs the Stratfordian case for Hand D. The Stratfordians, Price argues, have broken all the rules about identifying handwriting when it comes to claiming that Hand D is Shakspere’s handwriting.
First, they start with too small a sample, since all they have to compare Hand D to are the six accepted signatures of the Stratford man and the words “By me” on his will. Taken together, these samples do not provide exemplars for even half of the letters of the alphabet. Second, many of the signatures look so different from each other that it suggests that some signatures, or parts of them, may have been written on Shakspere’s behalf by others. Price quotes one expert as stating that if the signature on the Blackfriars purchase had been the only one to survive, Shakspere’s handwriting would appear to be “that of an imperfectly educated man of inferior rank.” Furthermore,the signatures are very difficult to read, and experts disagree among themselves as to exactly which letters are inscribed in individual signatures. Finally, there may well be a gap of a decade or more between the time that the Thomas More manuscript was written and the times that the Shakspere signatures were created. Because a person’s handwriting changes over time, careful handwriting experts would not venture to compare samples that are made so many years apart. Yet in order to reach the desired conclusion, Stratfordians bend the rules so that what is really a very shaky proposition becomes an accepted fact.
As Price states in her conclusion, “In the years since 1923, many scholars, editors, and critics have claimed Hand D as Shakespeare’s, and the mere repetition of that claim has bestowed on it a misplaced legitimacy. David Hackett Fischer identifies the logical fallacy as ‘proof by repetition’ . . . . Yet despite deficient evidence and faulty arguments, the case for Hand D not only has survived, as of 2015, it is thriving . . . .”