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As a great Shakespeare lover, a believer that he is not only the world’s greatest playwright but the world’s greatest poet, I admit to being irritated.  The director Mr. Roland Emmerich has said publicly he doesn’t support “lies being told to children,” i.e., Shakespeare wasn’t Shakespeare.

So in this Discussion post, I would like to challenge the Oxfordians, the Marlovians, the Bacons, or whomever else you support as the author of Shakespeare’s plays, to lay your best case here.

In spite of being somewhat biased, for perhaps just my love of the story of his life (what little we know), I cannot see any evidence for any other major secret author.  His history as a coauthor is substantially documented; the academic community has settled around seven different titles that almost certainly bear other hands (Timon, Pericles, Titus, Measure, Two Noble Kinsmen, Henry VIII, Double Falsehood and others including Edward III and Sir Thomas Moore).  I believe that Shakespeare was an incredible collaborator, and that in all likelihood there are probably many more passages, lines, gags, and other gems that came from his friends be they actors in his company, drinking partners, fellow playwrights, or all three.

Ultimately, there isn’t much to be that annoyed about in this debate.  But there is however an unmistakably judgmental tendency that runs through anti-Shakespeareans that seems to look down on his education.  The strong inference is that someone of lesser origin can’t be the best.  Well how many of you by the time you got to high school had to read, learn, recite, and often memorize selections from the following books (many in Latin):

“Lily’s Grammar,” Cato’s “Maxims,” “Pueriles Confabulatiunculae,” the Colloquies of Corderius, the Latin Testament, Aesop’s Fables, the Dialogues of Castelio, the Eclogues of Mantuanus, the Colloquies of Helvicus, the “Elements of Rhetoric,” Terence, “The Selected Epistles of Cicero,” Ovid’s “De Tristibus,” “Metamorphoses,” Buchanan’s Psalms, Livy’s Orations, Justin, Caesar, Florus, the Colloquies of Erasmus, Virgil, Horace, Juvenal, Persius, Lucan, Plautus, Martial, Cicero’s Oations and Seneca’s Tragedies.”

(from shakespeare-online.com)

There are also a fair amount of plays in there – Terence, Plautus, and of course Ovid, Virgil, the Fables, and so many others had to have become some fundamental part of his imagination.  Note also the Elements of Rhetoric.

So, I guess, why really have the conversation in the first place?  What’s the point in proving it’s not Shakespeare?  As Ayn Rand used to say, in logic one is never called upon to prove the negation of anything.  And it seems to me that the very great number of authorship subjects out there is indication enough that indeed this is the intention.  And why would someone do that?

As a friend of mine said at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, it’s not surprising that I as an American root for an ‘anyone can be the best’ story – it’s in my cultural DNA.  Brits are hard wired just a bit different, civically speaking.  They are subjects, you may recall, not citizens.  I clocked something significant then, but it still doesn’t change my mind.

BB

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  • Guy Fawkes

    I agree about the class snobbery of the Oxford/Bacon conspiracy theorists. The idea that “only an elite” like Oxford could have written the plays also cuts in the opposite direction. A nobleman could not have wirtten about the life of common people the way the plays show. It would have been easier for an educated tradesmen’s son to learn the inner workings of court and nobility than for a fancy titled fop like the Earl of Oxford to describe realistically the life of the commoners. Yet there is so much in the plays that proves the author knew first-hand what goes on in sleazy taverns, sailors’ quarters, common soldiers’ barracks, or sheepherding villages. Even the obsession with the theater business shows that the author was not a noble ghostwritier slumming with the actors — there is too much real jealousy and spite about rival companies, and too much awareness of the dependence of actors on paying audiences.

    Furthermore, the fact that the author collaborated on relatively uneven plays with others is powerful evidence that he did it to make money. Why would a nobleman hiding in the shadows for the sake of his secret art also team up with a mediocrity like Middleton to put out a potboiler like Double Falsehood? In a way, the more mediocre collaborations are stronger proof even than the master plays that the author was a commoner.

    • Barclayarts

      Great points here. I’d considered the commoner’s perspective, but your point about the lesser collaborations is a great one. He did so much coauthoring, we now know, that it truly doesn’t make any sense if he didn’t need the cash. Let’s forward that on to Mr. Emmerich….

  • Willy Waggledagger

    Although I applaud all efforts to flush these anti-Shakespeareans from their hidy-holes, I fear you may not get much response from them in print. They tend to gather together in small, dark, undisclosed locations, guarded by secret passwords like “piffle” while wearing smelly, ancient tweed with worn patches in appropriate places. They to congratulate each other on posessing the “secret truth”. No, you won’t hear much from them. Trotting their sad theories out in the open just causes discomfort and constant reminders of how much of this precious life they’ve wasted. Frankly, while this…what shall we call it…”movie”??…is so blatently bad in so many ways, that I think it may do more to damage their cause than promote it. So, I say more and more like it on the subject should be made. Even Rylance’s hysterical turn doing the prologue to Henry V…and later, taking rotten fruit for his rendition of Richard III…cannot save this misguided attempt to turn the tide of history. But please, let’s have the next bad movie about how Christopher Marlowe was really the writer of Shakespeare’s plays. At least, we might then look forward to a little more gratuitous sex and violence and a more handsome face to look at than Rhys Iffens. And what was that about? A militantly proud Welshman of comic genious defacing his own beautiful speech and natural intelligence to impersonate a sphincter-puckering, false-mustache-wearing English aristo… who sleeps with his mother to produce a daughter that he subsequently sleeps with? You couldn’t make this stuff up. Whoops. Someone has. Difficult to understand how this particular plot thread was overlooked in the Shakespearean canon. It has such cosmic, universal and yet contemporary significance. And such poetic power. No, I say more of the same.

    • Barclayarts

      Haha I love it!

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