Shakespeare Mystery

Charles Champlin's review of Charlton Ogburn's "The Mysterious William Shakespeare" (Book Review, Dec. 30) is riddled with internal contradictions. He supports the contention that the man whom we accept to be the author was morally unfit for the task, but he then goes on to attribute the works to an even greater scoundrel--the Earl of Oxford.

Oxford killed a cook in his guardian's house, plotted the assassination of Sir Philip Sidney, was ill-tempered, abandoned his wife and squandered a fortune. Does this make him more likely to have written Shakespeare's plays? JAMES P. BEDNARZ San Marino Isn't is possible that one boy from a small provincial town, unwilling to follow in his bourgeois father's footsteps and spurred by fantasies fueled by his public-school literacy, decides to leave his older wife (whom he was forced to marry after a youthful indiscretion), exchanging a meaningless go-nowhere existence for the trendy excitement of swingin' London Town, only to become (through his talent and wit) the darling of the chic elite, as well as the biggest box office sensation the English stage has ever known? CELESTE INNOCENTI Manhattan Beach Just as the anti-Stratfords downgrade the man, they overvalue the author. William Shakespeare was very much of what we call mass culture and would be producing much of the stuff most denounced today, if he were around. He only became popular with the truly refined when he had been dead a few centuries.

Motive has always been a sticking point, and Champlin is reduced to calling the wild speculations "possible," a category we accept only when there is no other choice. With De Vere, and the others, we lack any hard evidence as well. We are supposed to accept a speculative motive to explain another speculation.

Champlin calls the book "an engrossing detective story," which is correct, in that it has little to do with reality. The truth is less romantic. William Shakespeare was actually William Shakespeare. DAVID CARL ARGALL La Puente Whoever was the author of Shakespeare's works is a charming but frivolous mystery, perhaps forever buried in the dust of history. Why, however, is it always presumed the plays and sonnets were by one and the same? Or all the plays by one person, exclusively? "Hamlet" is known to be derived from "Brudenmord" (fratricide) and the legend of "Amleth" from 5th-Century Denmark, and no doubt from the lost play of Thomas Kyd's "The Revenge of Hamlet." One scene between Hamlet and his mother, Queen Gertrude, is word for word from a Greek play. MARK NICHOLS Beverly Hills

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