At first glance this book gives a staunch and, furthermore, untraveled Stratfordian such as myself pause. Roe seems to have it airtight that whomeverAt first glance this book gives a staunch and, furthermore, untraveled Stratfordian such as myself pause. Roe seems to have it airtight that whomever wrote Shakespeare must have been familiar with Italy-after all: 'The Sycamores!' But, I never take these things lying down and I assure you though it appears an insurmountable and perhaps even fatal argument against Will of Stratford, Richard Paul Roe's "life work" is just more bustle, disinformation, and possibly even a little stupidity. I will say however that to systematically take down this book chapter by chapter would be quite lengthy for any review, so I'll just stick to the preface and the Romeo and Juliet chapter for the most part as a microcosm of the whole. Now, that being said it is my personal opinion that the biggest lie in this book is his disingenuous remark early on: "To enhance objectivity, this book shuns all existing arguments about the identity of the playwright." (5) The point is to appear as some kind of moderating voice. Of course that's all BS because within his bibliography are J. Thomas Looney's book Shakespeare Identified, Charles Ogburn's texts, and Richard Whalen's Shakespeare, Who Was He? which do not find their way into the end notes of each chapter, but are still seeded within all the same. For instance there's Whalen's assertion that the "Bermoothes" line of The Tempest refers to the Bermudas in London (not true by the way), Looney mapped out Oxford's Italian travels, and Ogburn reintroduced the Oxfordian theory after it had largely fallen into obscurity. Roe obviously is working on an Oxfordian thesis here, he just doesn't want to say it. On the same page that he lies about maintaining some objectivity he also states that Romeo and Juliet is the first work written in the Shakespeare canon, also not true. The first play written is most likely The Two Gentlemen of Verona, but of course no one knows the plot to The Two Gentlemen quite like Romeo and Juliet, which is also the play Roe seems to have the most and "best" evidence for.
Let's start with Roe's sycamores. Yes, it's true the play mentions them growing on the western side of Verona, while the commonly ascribed fictional sources do not contain this information. This whole trip of Roe's was precisely aimed at going to the Western wall of Verona to locate some sycamore trees. Traveling via taxi Roe spots some, helpfully providing us with a picture that he's taken himself. Damning evidence you say? Six problems here. The first: Roe took a route along the perimeter of the town on the Viale Colonnello Galliano road. This is on the South side of the old city, not the West. The second is that maps of Verona were readily available to Will Shakespeare:
You will notice that the top part of the city on this map is a Western grove. They are NOT sycamores. The actual sycamores are located by the middle bridge on the North side of the city. At the very top of the map contains an image of two men by some actual sycamores looking over the city (not by the western side). I will grant Roe this: there is actually one sycamore rooted in the walls. It's just on the east side of the city. Third, the pictures contained within Roe's book are not actually sycamore trees at all, they are plane trees. Fourth, these trees are no older than 50 years. They are hardly contemporaneous to the play, and as the link showed earlier, there weren't any sycamore groves anyway in Shakespeare's time. Fifth, related to my fourth point, Verona has something of a tourist industry, obviously, and it so happens that this tourist industry is based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Accordingly the city has added things to the landscape to enhance that vision. The plane trees, which are easier to maintain than sycamore trees though appear very similar, are one such item. Juliet's balcony is another. Sixth, and finally, Oxford never went to Verona. He indeed traveled to Milan, and Venice, but not actually to Verona. A real traveler to Verona would have known that there was not actually a senate of Verona, or a Duke as the city was a Venetian dependency-these appear in Shakespeare's plays. A real traveler would have also realized that as a Jew Shylock would not have been allowed outside of the ghetto in Venice, nor would he have had a Christian servant on that note. Furthermore, Prospero's Isle would not have had a basis in Vulcano since the former island is far away from any land, and Vulcano is within eyesight of Sicily. Roe also utilizes modern translations of Virgil, Homer, Boccaccio, and Montaigne which is frankly not only cheating in a sense, since both Shakespeare and Oxford could read in Latin, and Greek, but both Boccaccio and Montaigne were translated into English by the late 16th century and if Roe was utilizing First Folio editions of the plays for purity, than he should have utilized the applicable translations, or original works. All in all, not nearly as monumental a book as Rylance, Jacobi, and Leahy would have it. It is in reality a rather poor piece of scholarship, albeit a decently written one. ...more