Sunday, December 14, 2008

Marlowe in Munich: a question for Bastian Conrad


We caught up with Bastian Conrad,who runs an excellent Marlovian site based in Munich, Germany. He is a retired professor of neurology and former chair of the Clinical Department of Neurology of the Technical University of Munich, Bavaria. Prior to this, he served as head of the Department of Clinical Neurophysiology at the Univesity of Göttingen. Bastian is the author of several books on neurological topics.

Q: Bastian, thanks for joining us. What prompted you to create a Marlovian website?

Bastian: Well, I've been interested in the authorship question since I was fourteen, when my father read out of Calvin Hoffman's book to me and my sisters. During my career, there was not enough time to cultivate this hobby, but now in my retirement I enjoy studying, writing, and reflecting about unsolved questions.

I created the website for many reasons. One, the Marlowe theory is an absolutely exciting and fascinating story. Two, there is almost no knowledge in German-speaking countries about Marlowe, and I estimate one percent has ever heard of his name. Compare this to Shakespeare! Three, the reason why people cannot accept a real conspiracy theory is that they have not the time to deal with so many facts, arguments, and plausibilities; and hopefully I could facilitate the gathering of information for people. Four, today's altered possibilities of getting access to all existing sources via the new media (especially the Internet) will change the attitude and approaches toward the authorship problem in younger generations; they will see the problem with a fresh, unprejudiced eye, and it's thrilling that my website could be a conduit of data for them. And five, I did not want to write more books on brains and brain research, but figured it would be exciting to learn how to handle a website by myself, having some fun with computers, etc.

Q: And so it's been a long time since your father first read to you from Calvin Hoffman's The Murder of the Man Who Was "Shakespeare." Where do you stand on Calvin Hoffman's theory today?

Bastian: As you know, Carlo, Calvin Hoffman wasn't the first to argue for Marlowe. In 1819/20, William Taylor of Norwich (later identified) wrote anonymously in Monthly Review the idea that Shakespeare was a nom de guerre for Marlowe. And there were others before Hoffman, like Ziegler, Watterson, Webster, and Eagle. But Calvin Hoffman provided the first complete monograph which really brought it all to a head. For me, his is by far the most valuable and plausible hypothesis on the authorship issue. It is painful to learn how Calvin Hoffman and his book have been ridiculed by so-called experts.

In science, you regularly have to work with assumptions and hypotheses. To prove the first hypothesis of the anti-Stratfordians is to give arguments that the Stratford man could not have been the poet and playwright. Having studied the poems and plays of Shakespeare and having created a mental profile of its author, for me the written will of the Stratford man alone would be enough to exclude him forever from the authorship debate. But there is today, as you know, an additional wealth of cumulative negative evidence that works against Shakespeare, even much more than Calvin Hoffman knew at his time. Yet, as I tell my friends, if you choose to stay with Shakespeare after having studied this evidence, you have to leave your mind in the cloakroom. Let's face it, what we know of Shakespeare's private life does not fit with this notion of a highly distinguished and intellectual playwright/poet.

And so it was very important that Samuel Blumenfeld and Daryl Pinksen each published excellent books on the Marlowe theory this year, and they make a highly convincing case as to how a faked death could have been pulled off and how Marlowe's footprints are all over the Shakespeare canon.

I am very interested in scientific methods of how to prove or disprove a highly valuable hypothesis that Marlowe's death had to be faked, and how to demonstrate it on an academic level. Even if we were never to discover any new evidence, already today the positive cumulative evidence - the amount of facts and arguments that exist for a contemporary authorship debate - is so overwhelming that we are forced to take the hypothesis of Marlowe's staged death very seriously. Science often has to work with plausibilities.

© The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, December 2008

6 comments:

AndreRoma said...

thanks for posting this piece on Bastian, Carlo.

Anonymous said...

well stated by Mr. Conrad, Shakespeare's will is a clincher for me

KenneyTJ said...

good luck bastian; we Marlovians are glad to have you

Anonymous said...

I'm new to the Marlowe theory, all very fascinating

MarvelusAlbany said...

Everything about Shakes. private life points to him NOT being a writer.

Sebastian said...

keep it going bastian!