Okay, I’m about to get off on a rant about the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’... You’d look at the topic here and think it otherwise, but essentially, I think a great deal of humanities disagreements boil down to economic bigotry, so why should this surprise me?
I ran across an article online about a set of scholars questioning the true identity of Shakespeare. Fun topic, thought I, let’s take a gander. I’m a huge Shakespeare fan, as uncommon as that is among most of my generation – I love seeing the plays performed live and I looked forward to covering them in class from my first introduction to Romeo and Juliet in Eighth grade. I still remember it, the teacher was bright enough to have us read both Romeo and Juliet and Westside Story to compare and contrast the two. We watched the latter to keep us interested, and I was hooked. I couldn’t even tell you how many I’ve read or adaptations I’ve seen, but I can recall being one of the only students not to groan at the thought of doing a paper on anything the great bard had wrought.
So there’s a little background for you – add to that the fact that I’m about to start reading Interred With Their Bones, which looks to be along the lines of The DaVinci Code for Shakespeare fans. I thought a post about the topic would lend to a nice little tie in to the book review that will appear on my blog later this month. Sounds nice and simple right?
Doubt about Will is the site where these scholars have put together a nifty little declaration on why they don’t believe the man credited with Shakespeare’s work could possibly be the true author. The point, I gather, is that the material and historical evidence should be openly discussed, rather than the current orthodox teaching that questioning his legitimacy is neither relevant nor called for...
I’m a fan of open thought. I’m a large fan of questioning. Tip my hat to anyone who uses their mind to reach further than what’s set out before them. Really, that’s not the problem. And they do offer a large selection of quotes by men they claim did not believe Shakespeare to be the true author. I’ll say the same thing here that I ventured to all of the claims that DaVinci really did believe the Magdalene theories – even the most brilliant men alive are not infallible. If they did believe this theory, it doesn’t necessitate that they were correct.
So how did I get started on the whole ‘have’ and ‘have nots’ bit? A large portion of the evidence that leads this society to believe the man from Stratford-Upon-Avon could not be our beloved Shakespeare depends on the fact that he was born of the lower class. Most of these assertions pertain to the fact that these scholars believe a man born where he was, who was not by any record University educated, could not possibly write these works. They point heavily to knowledge contained in the plays about life in the noble class and higher learning which would not be available to a man born into this writer’s circumstances.
They point to the fact that this man’s parents were not literate by any records they can find. Personally, I have a problem believing records of such a thing would still exist from this time period. They also point to the fact that both of his daughters were illiterate, as there are two documents found in which they signed their names with an ‘x’ – which begs me to question how the society knows who the signature belonged to, but I’ll digress. Note, for those of you keeping score, it was very uncommon in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries for women to be literate, possibly women of the elite, nobility, but Shakespeare was not of that class and neither were his daughters. I have to put in here, because it annoyed me that in their whole ‘logical, in search of truth and knowledge’ declaration they never thought to include the other side of the debate – which begs me to wonder whether this is more about overeducated cynicism than truth seeking. Is this, perhaps, a flexing of the intellectual biceps? Is this a show that they are more intelligent than the orthodox scholars who currently set curriculum and those who have come before? In the heat to show their educational superiority, perhaps they missed a few things common to humanity.
The biggest supposition here is that even if the man was a genius, he could not have written so accurately about a class of which he did not belong without leaving significant evidence of his life. That’s it in a nutshell, if Shakespeare didn’t leave breadcrumbs for the pseudo-intellectual elitists of the twenty first century to follow, he must not exist.
Snarf. I don’t actually mean to be this snippy but I find the whole premise to be terribly pompous. Could the Shakspere from Stratford really be the wrong Shakespeare? Certainly. Is it worth looking into? Yep. But if the only solid reasons for forming this formidable record of ‘proofs’ that it is logical to question is that these bunch of overeducated twits find it impossible to believe that an author might accurately capture lives that are foreign to their own, perhaps they should spend less time drafting declarations and more time in a fiction writing class.