STANDISH OF DUXBURY
1.5. Interview via FAQs (2002)
Helen Moorwood 2013
1.5. (5) Mainly about William Stanley and other Authorship Candidates
How does William Stanley come into the picture?
He was proposed as an alternative authorship candidate in 1918 by a French Professor [see the website The URL of Derby2013] and with good reason, as it is impossible not to associate him and his brother Ferdinando closely with Love’s Labour’s Lost. Then there are all the Stanleys and Lancastrians with enhanced or gratuitous roles in his early King plays. Stanley also wrote plays and had a troupe of players. A good recent summary of these and other connections is in Michell. My findings are mainly in establishing that he really was the ‘great traveller' of ballad and legend, and his ancestry and biography presents so many parallels and contacts with people in Shakespeare’s circle that it becomes difficult to dismiss him to the sidelines. Professor Daugherty, his recent biographer (see Oxford Dictionary of National Biography),is convinced they were closely involved and that Stanley had Catholic sympathies. I agree. One comment by my husband several years ago was, “The answer to all of your questions is ‘The Earl of Derby’.” This is not quite true, but perhaps illustrates that they obviously played a central role in my research - and in Shakespeare’s biography. One of the first comments from Professor Daugherty, after establishing contact was, “Do you realise, Helen, that we are the only two people in the world interested in William Stanley?” I replied, “I can double that.” Meanwhile I can triple this number, and predict that many more will become interested in him.
So did William Stanley write any of Shakespeare’s plays?
I doubt it, but he might have provided an embryo version of Love’s Labour’s Lost, suggestions for the content of other early plays, and knowledge and stories that he brought back from his travels.
What about all the other authorship candidates?
Forget them, other than as ‘extras’ on the sidelines. The other two main earl candidates, Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxfordand Roger Manner, 5th Earl of Rutlanc, were both closely related to William Stanley (and the latter closely related to the Cheshire Ardernes), so Shakespeare would have known them well enough to pick up ideas from them, too. The only reason any alternative candidates were offered in the first place was because some people could not reconcile the ‘son of an illiterate wool-dealer’ in a small market-town in the Midlands with the genius and knowledge of Shakespeare. I sympathise with these doubts because the ‘conventional’ biography does present so many anomalies, but the answers don’t lie in alternative authorship candidates. Many of these anomalies are now explained by his parents and their religious leanings, which led to his upbringing in upper gentry and aristocratic circles.
How did you even think about researching Shakespeare's ancestry in the first place?
As mentioned, he and his associates, particularly the Earls of Derby, kept popping up all over the place in my Lancashire research. Almost by chance I visited Hoghton Towerin August 1999, alerted by announcements about the recent Shakespeare conference there and at Lancaster University. I bought the books on sale, read them (starting with Honigmann, 1985), and immediately realised I already had the answers to many questions and puzzles in the ‘Shakespeare in Lancashire’ episode, although many puzzles still remained. These remaining puzzles continued to haunt me and still haunt me today, but I have hopes that they might be resolved in the next few years.
How did you carry on from there in Germany?
I just kept on reading, with books and documents supplied by helpful bookshops and libraries on visits back to England, and other details provided by my ‘stalwarts’, as I came to call my main supporters. I also spent much time and money ordering facsimiles of original Shakespeare and Standish of Duxbury documents.