Tag Archives: literature

Part 2 – An Interview with Author, Syril Levin Kline

Syril Levin Kline and her award-winning novel, "Shakespeare's Changeling: A Fault Against the Dead"

As promised, here is the continuation of my discussion with Syril Levin Kline, author of the award-winning, historical fiction Shakespeare’s Changeling: A Fault Against the Dead.


Fade: Who was your intended audience as you wrote this fascinating novel?

Kline: Everyone! Middle school and high school students will enjoy this book because it connects them to the actual author with the life experience to have created the Shakespeare canon. They will understand the meaning of scenes in the plays that traditional scholarship cannot and does not explain.

It provides students with a new template for understanding the history plays of Elizabethan England as a nation facing war that must use its theaters as mass media outlets that call the Queen’s subjects to arms.

It also shows the importance of Shaxper as a man working his way up in the world to become a prominent businessman and theater owner while helping his master, the true playwright, keep his identity hidden.

But Shakespeare’s Changeling is for anyone who loves a good mystery – and in this case, it’s a mystery that is over 400 years old!

Fade: How long have you been writing?  

Kline: Writing is one of my earliest memories. I wrote my first story when I was five and our Studebaker broke down. We had to walk through a field of very tall grass to get home, with my mom being very upset and my dad just shrugging it off.

The author and "friend" at a book signing event in 2014.

The author and “friend” at a book signing event in Middleburg, VA in 2014.

I wrote stories and plays in elementary school. When we studied conservation in the 5th grade, I researched Izaak Walton in the World Book Encyclopedia, which I used to read for fun. Walton published The Compleat Angler in 1653, and I used his dialogues between Piscator and Venator to write my own play with his characters.

I wrote for my middle school yearbook and literary journal, thanks to an excellent English teacher, Mildred Groner, who inspired me to become a writer. I wrote for my high school newspaper, and even wrote a humorous novel about my first year of college in a coed dorm in 1972.

As an adult, I wrote a thrice-weekly consumer Q&A column for a Midwestern newspaper, and during that time began my first draft of Shakespeare’s ChangelingI have also been a teacher, showing preschoolers how to write and illustrate their own storybooks.

Writers write. It’s what we do. Even as children, we search for and create our own images and symbols of meaning, and we scribble them on paper long before we can actually read any words.

Incidentally, there are several samples of Lord Oxford’s early juvenilia, but nothing known to have come from Shaxper of Stratford’s childhood quill.


Fade: In a conversation in the Epilogue between Susan de Vere and Ben Jonson, the characters discuss the existence of “dark and dangerous secrets” encoded between the lines of Shakespeare’s poetry.

Please give us an example of one of these with a brief interpretation.  

Kline: There are poems in which Lord Oxford’s name is encoded in acrostic. There are also hints such as the Induction to The Taming of The Shrew that imply an impostor posing as a noble author, but sometimes this scene is omitted and not performed because traditional Stratfordian interpretations don’t understand it or deliberately attempt to hide its meaning.

Sonnet 81 also causes us to wonder who the poet is memorializing, and several sonnets suggest a father talking to a beloved son, beseeching the fair youth to marry and have children to replicate his handsome features.

I must say that in my own research for this book, I’ve seen Stratfordian orthodoxy telling people what to think about Shakespeare, whereas the Oxfordian approach tantalizes inquiring minds to ask questions and look beyond the first blush of simple, spoon-fed meaning.

The 1623 First Folio dedication

The 1623 First Folio dedication


Fade: To me, learning about the historical backdrop and key players in Queen Elizabeth’s court, banishes boredom and brings the Shakespeare Canon to life.

Your book has made me want to research people such as the Lords Pembroke and Montgomery because of their connections to the First Folio as well as their familial bonds to the de Vere family.


What are some books youd like to recommend to Shakespeare fans curious about these and other key figures in the Shakespeare story?    

Kline: I’ve already mentioned Ogburn’s The Mysterious William Shakespeare and Price’s Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography. I’d also recommend Shakespeare Identified as Edward de Vere, the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford by J. Thomas Looney, and William Farina’s De Vere as Shakespeare.


A visit to the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship website will also direct interested readers to a variety of publications on the subject. Because there are so many books to read, I’m considering posting a link to our bibliography on my website http://www.shakespeareschangeling.com. Peter’s book will also be available sometime in the near future.

Fade: That is a fantastic idea!  In closing, I have one more question for you, Syril:

Do you think the Shakespeare Authorship Question will one day be added to the standard curriculum in literature classes?  

Kline: Yes. To this day, I thank Mrs. Groner, my 7th grade English teacher, for discussing it in our English class.

To reiterate my earlier comments, Shakespeare comes alive for students and people of all ages when they can see the connections between an author and his work and understand that genius is part nature and part nurture.

"Shakespeare's Changeling" Video Trailer

Shakespeare’s Changeling: A Fault Against the Dead Book Trailer

*** I would like to take this opportunity to thank Syril Levin Kline for this interview. May Shakespeare’s Changeling: A Fault Against the Dead take the Grand Prize at the Chanticleer Awards Gala! ***


Take the Bard to the Beach!

Google image

Google Images

Looking for a midsummer’s read? A break from the ordinary?  A book that you won’t find on HuffPo’s “Beach Reads” list nor the NY Times’s “Cool Books for Hot Summer Days?”

To me, summer is the best time to escape the everyday – to abandon inhibitions and expand horizons.

With that in mind, may I suggest a topic that exercises your cerebrum as you relax by the beach, pool, or in a shady mountain retreat.

Perhaps a controversial subject that will make you, heaven forbid, question what you’ve been taught about Shakespeare.  OK, you know where I’m going with this, right?

Make this the summer you explore the Shakespeare Authorship Question!

Four summers ago, instead of catching up on the Stephen King novels I’d missed during the school year, I read a book that set my intellect on fire:  Shakespeare’s Lost Kingdom by Charles Beauclerk. 51q22k7UsDL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

If the plays and poems of Shakespeare were written today…we would see them for what they are — shocking political works written by a court insider, someone shielded by the monarch in an unstable time of armada and reformation. (Beauclerk)

This was the first SAQ book I’d ever read, recommended to me by my former English professor, dear friend, and mentor, Sallie DelVecchio.

51D54szYB3L._AC_UL320_SR210,320_From there I read what is, in my opinion, the Oxfordian primer:  Mark Anderson’s Shakespeare by Another Name.

“This book, with fascinating specificity, suits ‘the action to the word, the word to the action.'” (Sir Derek Jacobi on SBAN)

But if you are new to the Oxfordian Theory and want something to whet your appetite for learning more about the movers and shakers of Queen Liz’s court, I strongly advise you start out with something entertaining.

51536URc07L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_A historical fiction novel that will introduce you to the theory that challenges Shakespeare Orthodoxy: Shakespeare’s Changeling: A Fault Against the Dead by Syril Levin Kline.

Kline’s novel engages your mind in a tantalizing way.  It introduces you to some key players in the Shakespeare backdrop without bogging you down with historical information overload.  Shakespeare’s Changeling: A Fault Against the Dead offers a storyline more fact-based than that of the country merchant turned London playwright.

In my upcoming posts, I will chat with Ms. Kline about her book, literary inspirations, and why she feels the SAQ should be taught in mainstream academia.

‘Til then, savor these “dog days” because summer’s lease hath all too short a date!

Google Images

Google Images

Reflections on my Southampton Project

Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton (circa 1618)

Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton (circa 1618)

After creating over 28 posts for my ongoing blog, Shakes-Query, I’ve completed my independent study focusing primarily on the assumption that Henry Wriothesley, the Third Earl of Southampton, was Shakespeare’s patron, as well as the poet’s muse.  I have read and referenced the following biographies:  The Life of Henry, Third Earl of Southampton Shakespeare’s Patron by Charlotte Carmichael Stopes, and Shakespeare and the Earl of Southampton, by J.P.V. Akrigg.

I also incorporated information from non-traditional Shakespearean sources including:  Charles Beauclerk’s Shakespeare’s Lost Kingdom and Hank Whittemore’s The Monument:  “Shake-Speare’s Sonnets” by Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.  Work on the project began during the summer but continued on throughout the fall semester.

As of this date, Shakes-Query has 183 followers and is constantly promoted via Facebook and Twitter.  My blog’s readership includes:  college and high school students, college professors, primary and secondary ed teachers, other WordPress bloggers, and professionals in various fields of expertise.  My goal was to offer an approachable discussion platform to discuss all things “Shakespearean” and to encourage interest in the Shakespeare Authorship Question, and I believe I achieve this goal in increments every time I blog.  I’ve never referred to myself as a professional educator but rather as a student who enjoys passing on the knowledge I glean along my academic journey on and off campus.

Unfortunately, I was not able to add any new insight to the already exhaustive biographical research of authors Stopes and Akrigg.  To do so, I would first need access to historical documents and correspondence located in the archives of England, then time to sort through this information and see if I could connect any dots that previous biographers failed to recognize.  Needless to say, that’s a feat that would require much more time than one semester allows, in addition to funding for an overseas literary expedition.

What I have learned was that the foundation for designating Southampton as Shakespeare’s Patron is based primarily on conjectureThere was never any evidence discovered that proves a relationship existed between William Shakspere of Stratford-Upon-Avon and Henry Wriothesley the Third Earl of Southampton In fact, based upon my knowledge of class prejudices of Elizabethan England, interclass intimacy between a nobleman and a businessman was highly unlikely.  The only factual evidence is that the writer of Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece dedicated these works to Southampton.  Mere speculation is all that connects Shakespeare’s Sonnets to this earl.

To me, there is reasonable doubt that “Shakespeare” was the man from Stratford and is most likely the pseudonym of someone else, most likely a member of the noble class.

I am grateful to the overwhelming literary information provided by my friends and mentors: Shelly Maycock, Professor of English at VA Tech; Sallie DelVecchio, Professor of English at Middlesex County College; Dr. Roger Stritmatter of Coppin State University; author Hank Whittemore; and other intellectual acquaintances of mine who continue to teach me, on a daily basis, about the many avenues and fine nuances yet to be explored in Shakespearean studies.

Keeping up with the new theories and scholarly discoveries is overwhelming at times, but always intellectually stimulating.  I’ve already learned so much about the key figures in Shakespeare’s world and will continue my research both on and off campus for years to come.

Finally, I would like to thank Professor Kathleen Webber for agreeing to mentor me in this academic endeavor.  Prior to taking her class, “Writing for Interactive Multimedia” at The College of New Jersey last semester, I never considered blogging.  Her class introduced me to the world of social media and taught me how to utilize its diverse outlets in both a professional and educational manner.  Shakes-Query was initiated as an assignment in Professor Webber’s class but continues to be a labor of love and an important part of my educational journey.

The Summer of Southampton

Henry Wriothesley and Trixie, c.1601-1603. Painted by John de Critz the Elder.

Henry Wriothesley and Trixie, c.1601-1603.
Painted by John de Critz the Elder.

After a month’s hiatus, I’ve returned to blog again!

And now, thanks to the English Department of The College of New Jersey, I can link my extracurricular interest in Shakespeare and the Authorship Question with my academic studies.

This summer semester, I will be researching the dashing nobleman pictured here: Henry Wriothesley, the Third Earl of Southampton.  Why?  For the same reason Charlotte Carmichael Stopes professed in her book,

The Life of Henry, Third Earl of Southampton, Shakespeare’s Patron

“I must confess that I did not start this work for [Wriothesley’s] sake, but in the hope that I might find more about Shakespeare…”(Stopes ).

Shakespeare’s narrative poems, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece, were both dedicated to Henry Wriothesley.  Additionally, many scholars identify Wriothesley as the “Fair Youth” in seventeen of Shakespeare’s sonnets.

Unfortunately, according to Ms. Stopes, her venture was not as fruitful as she’d anticipated.  But that was back in 1922.  Since then, documents and personal letters connected to the Third Earl of Southampton have surfaced, giving subsequent scholars the opportunity to draw their own conclusions.

What sort of relationship, if any, did the poet/playwright have with this nobleman?  Is there any proof that the writer and his muse ever even met?  I will do some digging and blog about my findings.  I will also post the seventeen “procreation sonnets” and include some interesting interpretations, as well.

Xavier Samuel as Southampton and Rhys Ifans as Oxford, in Sony Picture's 2011 film "Anonymous."

Xavier Samuel as Southampton and Rhys Ifans as Oxford, in Sony Picture’s 2011 film “Anonymous.”

Additionally, I will explain the Prince Tudor theory, since Southampton plays a role in this controversial concept that divides Oxfordians.  (Note: Those of you who’ve seen the 2011 film, Anonymous, viewed a dramatization of a Prince Tudor variant referred to as PT II.)

So, if you enjoy learning about the history that resides between the lines, I cordially invite you to follow my independent study project: The Summer of Southampton.

“Twenty-three days…” The Voyage of Cleomenes and Dion to Delphi (Part 2 of 2)

lhertzel_1303424945_quill-pen        Continued from “Twenty-three days…”  The Voyage of Cleomenes and Dion to Delphi (Part 1)

So, Cleomenes and Dion head off on their journey to summon the Oracle at Delphi for spiritual counsel on the matter of Hermione’s fate.

The map below comes from Richard P. Roe’s book, The Shakespeare Guide to Italy: Retracing the Bard’s Unknown Travels:

Palermo to Delphi & Return: Route of Cleomenes and Dion

Palermo to Delphi & Return: Route of Cleomenes and Dion

In Act 2 Scene 3, a servant notifies Leontes that “Cleomenes and Dion, / Being well arrived from Delphos, are both landed.”  Leontes remarks: “Twenty-three days / They have been absent.”  Why twenty-three days, you ask?  Read the excerpt below from Roe’s intriguing book:

By the fact of specifically numbering the days of the messengers’ trip so exactly, Leontes’ words make us certain that the playwright knew about this route, having traveled it himself.  And knowing the route, he also knew how long it took:  ten days of sailing, three days at Delphi, then ten days back to Sicily and the royal palace:  twenty-three days.  Not fifteen or forty or twenty:  exactly twenty-three.  (Roe 254)

Roe then describes the method of sailing used by Mediterranean sailors:  “coasting.”  Mediterranean sailors did not sail throughout the night as did the English.  They would travel close to the shoreline and “put in at nightfall safely near it, to eat and get a little sleep” (255).

So, if Shakespeare never set foot outside of England, how did he acquire this specific knowledge?  Over a few pints with a seafarer at the Mermaid Tavern?  Or, did the playwright actually spend time in Italy?


“Shakespeare and His Friends at the Mermaid Tavern” John Faed, 1851

“Twenty-three days…” The Voyage of Cleomenes and Dion to Delphi (Part 1 of 2)

As promised in my previous post, “What geographical error?” I want to share with you another interesting excerpt from The Shakespeare Guide to Italy: Retracing the Bard’s Unknown Travels that relates to Shakespeare’s romantic play, The Winter’s Tale.

The Winter's Tale, Leontes Nurses Suspicions of His Wife Hermione and Their Visitor Polixenes. Artist: M. Adamo

The Winter’s Tale, Leontes Nurses Suspicions of His Wife Hermione and Their Visitor Polixenes. Artist: M. Adamo

First, let’s set the scene:  Leontes is certain, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that his wife, Hermione, has been unfaithful.

But he’s failed to convince the others in his court who sympathize with their queen.

So, to obtain “a greater confirmation” (2.1.180), Leontes sends two of his lords, Cleomenes and Dion, on a voyage to request spiritual counsel from the Oracle at Delphi.

temple-of-apollo-in-delphi-greece_700x700_q85In Ancient Greece, the Oracle at Delphi acted as a medium between Apollo and humans.  She would channel answers to questions of great importance posed by Greek and foreign dignitaries.

Shakespeare requires that we suspend our disbelief, and imagine the Temple of Apollo as grand as it was in ancient times, rather than the ruins it would have been in the medieval setting of The Winter’s Tale.


To be continued…

What geographical error?

While scanning over various online lists of Shakespearean “facts,” I came across this interesting tidbit taken from “10 things you probably didn’t know about William Shakespeare:” books

“4. Although Shakespeare wrote plays set in France, Scotland, Italy, Cyprus and Vienna, among many other locations, it’s entirely possible that he never left England. That may account for the most embarrassing geographical cock-up of his career: grafting a sea-coast on to land-locked Bohemia (part of the present-day Czech Republic) in The Winter’s Tale” (Times Online, April 9, 2009).

There is no evidence that William Shaksper/Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon ever set foot outside of Merry Ol’ England, therefore orthodox scholars typically excuse the playwright’s supposed lack of geographical knowledge.  But, what if we were to learn that this alleged blooper was actually a true historical fact?

Kingdom of Bohemia

From “Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic Prague, March 2006”

I decided to look into this purported “geographical error,” and referred to Chapter 11 of The Shakespeare Guide to Italy by Richard Paul Roe.

Research into the history of Bohemia reveals that the kingdom of Bohemia under the rule of Ottakar II once included Carinthia and “Carniola, which in turn touched the Adriatic Sea” (Roe 251).  Therefore, from 1269 until Ottakar was killed in 1278, Bohemia was not landlocked.

The Winter’s Tale is a play that hearkens to the romantic tales of medieval times, so referring to the Bohemia of this period in history is not a stretch.

In my next post, I will discuss another curious detail in The Winter’s Tale that demonstrates the playwright’s uncanny knowledge of travel outside the boundaries of England.

In the meanwhile, check out the colorful scenic slideshow of the real-life settings of Shakespeare’s Italian Plays and retraceThe Bard’s Unknown Travels” in the linked blog post by Hilary Roe Metternich.

Shakespeare Performance Alerts for the East Coast!

Apologies for my long absence from blogging; my literature classes this semester leave me little time for recreational reading and writing!

But today I write of good news for Shakespeare lovers on the East Coast, particularly in the NY/NJ/PA area.  Spring has arrived, and before long, there will be opportunities to enjoy outdoor theatrical performances.


One not to be missed, is the 2013 Season of “Free Shakespeare in the Park.”  Yes, I said FREE!  Click on the link for details regarding the schedule of performances and location (Delacorte Theater in Central Park, NYC).

winters-tale-bgIf outdoor performances aren’t your thing, or you’re itchin’ for some Shakespeare right now, The Winter’s Tale is being performed at Princeton’s McCarter Theatre from April 2 through 21.  I have my ticket for the April 2nd performance, and can’t wait to see it!

othello_webOne more production I need to mention, is The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre’s staging of Othello starring Tony-nominated actor Forrest McClendon.  I will also be purchasing a ticket for this play which I’ve recently studied, yet never had the opportunity to see performed.

Remember Hamlet’s words everyone:  “The play’s the thing!”  Go see a performance, and watch Shakespeare’s words spring to life.

Deconstructing Royal Symbolism in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”


Title page of the first quarto, 1600

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays.  So, when my daughters both announced that they are reading it in their middle school literature classes, I was thrilled!  Unfortunately, they did not share my enthusiasm.

Since I’ve taken it upon myself to make Shakespeare as fun as possible, I ordered the film version on DVD, starring Kevin Kline and Michelle Pfeiffer, from Netflix.

Next, I dug out my old homework and searched for helpful notes to ease my daughters “suffering.”

In the process, I found a paper I’d written last semester and wanted to share it with my blog readers.  I hope it motivates others to read between the lines of the plays; I found the process fascinating.

Disclaimer:  this was my first attempt at Deconstruction, so bear with me!

“Deconstructing Royal Symbolism in A Midsummer Night’s Dream


The “Pelican Portrait” of Queen Elizabeth 1 c.1575 by Nicolas Hilliard.

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