“True, Original Copies”: A Tale of a Shakespearean Paper Trail… or Two… or Three | Regina Buccola @ Roosevelt University

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    • I have noticed a curious set of coincidences related to the seemingly endless and boundless cultural preoccupation with not only Shakespeare but also with the Queen who ruled England for most of his life and the majority of his writing career, Elizabeth I.
    • I have begun to come to the conclusion that Queen Elizabeth and William Shakespeare maintain their cultural predominance precisely because of the co-dependent biographical lacuna they inhabit.  Not only is frustratingly little known about the personal lives of these two people, who lived in the same place at the same time, but what we do know about them seems to defy explanation, or belief.
    • Elizabeth deftly parried numerous marriage proposals from the crown heads of Europe, the appeals of her own Parliament that she marry and produce an heir, excommunication by the Pope along with exculpation for any Catholic who might find the opportunity to assassinate her heretic self,
    • Enter Shakespeare, pursued by a bear from the Warwickshire hills of Stratford-on-Avon to the seedy theater district of Southwark in London
    • Shakespeare’s plays made him and his theater company so successful that they were eventually able to afford the luxury of two theaters
    • Shakespeare was ultimately able to purchase a coat of arms for his father that enabled him to style himself the son of a gentleman (in other words, “old money”)
    • Who was this Queen, with the body of a weak and feeble woman, but the heart and stomach of a king – and a king of England, too?  Who was this man, who wrote such compelling lines for female characters meant to be played by boy actors and such racy Petrarchan sonnets about ménage a trois with a very un-Petrarchan “dark” lady and a winsome youth, “the master mistress of my passion”?  We don’t really know.
    • In fact, our lack of knowledge about these things makes us call into question the things that we do know: that the powerful, indomitable Queen remained single all of her life and vowed to die a virgin, and that the poet-playwright actually wrote the works attributed to him.
    • How did “gentle Shakespeare,” the unassuming “upstart crow” from the sleepy hamlet of Stratford write Hamlet, among other cultural touchstones?  To close the gap between our bookends, we must shelve the intertwined stories of Queen Elizabeth, William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and Thomas Middleton.
    • Enter Thomas Middleton, “our other Shakespeare.”  Rather than issuing a challenge to Shakespeare’s primacy, or even authenticity, there is a paradoxical way in which the presence of an “other Shakespeare” from the same place and roughly the same time ought to reinforce our belief in the possibility of the true original Shakespeare.
    • Spoiler alert: if you’ve not yet seen Anonymous, and have it saved in your Netflix queue, I am about to give away a major plot point.
    • Elizabeth embodies, within herself, the Madonna/Whore complex.  Anonymous is no different; indeed, early in the film, Elizabeth shoves the randy Earl of Oxford into her throne, and mounts him.  For you see, in the words of Shakespeare, “some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ‘em” (Twelfth Night 2.5.126-127).
    • If you want to read a lively and witty refutation of every theory put forward in support of any alternative author of the tragedies, comedies and histories of William Shakespeare, allow me to suggest James Shapiro’s Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? If you want to read a fantastic review of Anonymous, enumerating every absurdity the film commits, allow me to suggest “10 Things I Hate About Anonymous: And the stupid Shakespearean birther cult behind it” by Ron Rosenbaum in Slate

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Shakespeare and his stable of bards | Greatreporter

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    • Century-long speculation on the Shakespeare authorship may finally come to rest.

      Typical for the early theatre, the plays stem from a collaborative effort involving the finest playwrights and poets, as well as the royal court.

    • An independent review by Icons of Europe shows that William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was a prolific theatrical entrepreneur who managed a stable of playwrights and poets, notably the renown Ben Jonson. The courts of Queen Elizabeth and especially King James participated in this collaboration, typical for the era, by commissioning plays for their own entertainment and providing material for the dramatic content. Several lines of Jonson’s prefatory verse opening Shakespeare’s First Folio (1623) appear to heap sarcasm – and not praise as often observed – at Shakespeare’s alleged authorship.
    • Most recently, the movie Anonymous picked Vere as the true author. In response, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust launched a scholarly campaign to promote its own viewpoint that “Shakespeare was indeed the true author”.

      However, some of the Trust scholars admit: “None of Shakespeare’s plays is the product of an isolated genius… Collaboration was arguably the default form of writing in the early theatre”. The same scholars also name specific playwrights in Shakespeare’s stable of writers.

    • The full review is accessible at www.iconsofeurope.com/shakespeare.htm
      Its sources of information include the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey, and Shakespeare’s First Folio of 1623.

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