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.”
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.