• “Under the listings of Shakespeare, the Internet abounds in essays, reviews, texts, and comments, almost anything one can imagine about his works and about works explaining his works. My Viking Edition of Shakespeare comes to 1,471 pages. I suspect that at least that number of pages of new materials about Shakespeare appears almost every month. In various universities, moreover, from here to India, we can find listed courses on “Shakespeare and . . . —You Name It.”
    • “I also found an essay informing me that Shakespeare was an “atheist,” while larger efforts were found devoted to the question of whether he was or was not a Catholic, or an Anglican, or a Puritan. Chesterton devoted several essays to the question of whether Shakespeare was in fact Francis Bacon, and if he was, what difference would it make? Some people think Shakespeare was neither himself nor Bacon. The leading candidate seems to be the Earl of Oxford, but all admit some mysteriousness about just who Shakespeare was if he was not Shakespeare, and even more if he was.”
    • “Mark Twain once wrote an essay entitled “Is Shakespeare Dead?”
    • “Twain himself did not think that Shakespeare could have written Shakespeare’s plays for the same reason that someone who had not worked a packet-boat on the Mississippi could not write accurately about what actually takes place on the water. “Shakespeare couldn’t have written Shakespeare’s words, for the reason that the man who wrote them was limitlessly familiar with the laws, and the law-courts, and law-proceedings, and lawyer-talk, and lawyer-ways—and if Shakespeare was possessed of the infinitely divided star-dust that constituted this vast wealth, HOW did he get it, and WHERE and WHEN?” The same argument can be applied to Shakespeare’s accurate knowledge of Italy, or the Bible, or the sea.”
    • “For Chesterton, Shakespeare was the sane man, Bacon the mad scientist:

      The truth is, I fear, that madness has a great advantage over sanity. Sanity is always careless. Madness is always careful. A lunatic might count all the railings along the front of Hyde Park; he might know the exact number of them, because he thought they were something else. A healthy man would not know the number of the railings, or perhaps even the shape of the railings; he would know nothing about them except the supreme, sublime, Platonic, and transcendent truth, that they were railings (CW, XXVII, 416).

      The point is that Shakespeare, as seen in his works, seems to be the sane one when it comes to that universal balance of knowing things that matter. This is the same sanity that Chesterton saw in Aquinas who affirmed, against all the doubters, that “eggs are eggs.”

    • “In the end, let it be said of all of us, “I do not profess to know much about Shakespeare outside such superfluous trifling, as reading his literary works.” “Mr. Shakespeare” is only “dead,” to use Twain’s word, if we do not read him, even if, or especially if, we may not know exactly who he was. On reading his literary works, what we do know is something about practically everything that is humanly important, and indeed, not a little of the supernatural.”

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