Monday, September 10, 2007

BBC: More of the same old nonsense about Shakespeare

Don't believe it:
Actors including Sir Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance have launched a debate over who really wrote the works of William Shakespeare.

Almost 300 people have signed a "declaration of reasonable doubt", which they hope will prompt further research into the issue.

"I subscribe to the group theory. I don't think anybody could do it on their own," Sir Derek said.

The group says there are no records of Shakespeare being paid for his work.

While documents do exist for Shakespeare, who was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564, all are non-literary.

In particular, his will, in which he left his wife "my second best bed with the furniture" contains none of his famous turns of phrase and it does not mention any books, plays or poems.

The 287-strong Shakespeare Authorship Coalition says it is not possible that the bard's plays - with their emphasis on law - could have been penned by a 16th Century commoner raised in an illiterate household.

The group asks if one man alone could have come up with his works
It asks why most of his plays are set among the upper classes, and why Stratford-upon-Avon is never referred to in any of his plays.

"How did he become so familiar with all things Italian so that even obscure details in these plays are accurate?" the group adds.

Conspiracy theories have circulated since the 18th Century about a number of figures who could have used Shakespeare as a pen-name, including playwright Christopher Marlowe, nobleman Edward de Vere and Francis Bacon.

"I think the leading light was probably de Vere as I agree that an author writes about his own experience, his own life and personalities," Sir Derek said. [...]
So de Vere was a Venetian Jew, a mythical ancient British king with three daughters, and a Moorish general? Shakespeare's plays were popular. They are intensely poetic, but they are not self-consciously learned (compare the plays of Ben Jonson) and they draw heavily on English sources, such as North's translation of Plutarch's Lives. People who complain that Shakespeare was a "commoner" are snobs.

If there was a conspiracy to falsely pass off William Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon as the author of the plays in the First Folio, then Shakespeare's fellow actors Heminges and Condell were in on it, as was Ben Jonson. And about being paid for his work, he was part owner of the acting company that performed his plays. The ideas in this article reappear periodically and serious scholars of Shakespeare generally do not take them seriously. You shouldn't either.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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