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Did Shakespeare write Shakespeare?

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  • #16
    tenure

    Hello Sally. I largely agree.

    "Alternative authorship notions are of a common nature and all arise from the belief that an 'uneducated' man could not have been a literary genius"

    Hmm, and I though they arose from a desire to get tenure.

    Cheers.
    LC

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    • #17
      Originally posted by Henry Flower View Post
      Sally I do agree, though I want to pick you up on one point. It's absolutely standard to dismiss the proponents of the various alternative Shakespeares by alluding to their snobbery and boiling down their argument to the belief that no uneducated man could've been a literary genius.

      Even though I now believe firmly that Will Shaksper of Stratford was the player, dramatist and poet 'Shakespeare', I still think it's rather unfair to make this false accusation. Ogburn's magnum opus mentioned in my above post contains 900 pages of considerable scholarship, and not a little reasoning. The argument has never been that an uneducated man could not be a literary genius; the argument is thus:

      The notion that Shakespeare exhibits no great education but plenty of 'natural genius' is a myth: the range and density of his classical allusions, his allusions to the work of his contemporaries, his detailed engagement with scientific and philosophical thought both old and new, his absolutely natural understanding of and familiarity with the maneuverings of an Elizabethan court and of power politics, his intimate knowledge and easy familiarity with all sports enjoyed solely by the nobility - all of this and more points in their eyes to someone who had received an outstanding education, most likely the type of education more usually had by a nobleman than by a graduate of Stratford Grammar School.

      At no point have they simply decided that because Shakespeare was a great writer he must therefore have been an aristocrat. After all, they seem perfectly happy to leave the authorships of Marlowe and Johnson, and hundreds of others, completely unquestioned.

      It is something very specific about the type of knowledge and language employed by Shakespeare that gives them the notion that we are possibly looking at a highly-educated aristocrat as the author.

      As I've stated, I disagree, and I think there are alternative explanations. However, let's not simply repeat the lazy, illogical, and deeply unfair accusation that those who propose alternative candidates do so because they are elitists who think only bluebloods can be geniuses.
      I largely agree with this. While the original proponents of the Oxford theory were intellectual snobs I dont think this is the case now. Many modern Oxfordians are simply anti-authoritarian. The conspiracy is an attractive story for some, a moneymaking opportunity for others.
      Last edited by jason_c; 05-22-2012, 12:40 PM.

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      • #18
        The best evidence for Shakespeare's authorship of the plays are his two published poems, Venus and Adonis & The Rape of Lucrese imo. Oxford would have given his pound of flesh to be known as the author of these works. I've yet to be persuaded as to why Oxford would publish these two poems in someone else's name. If the Stratford man could write two excellent pieces of work such as this then its an easy jump to write the plays too.

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        • #19
          I don't credit Shakeaspeare doubters: literary snobs who cannot except the
          most intelligent voice in the English language was a lowly glove-makers son.
          SCORPIO

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          • #20
            Originally posted by Scorpio View Post
            I don't credit Shakeaspeare doubters: literary snobs who cannot except the
            most intelligent voice in the English language was a lowly glove-makers son.
            I think this is a bit ungenerous. Original Oxfordians may have had some snobbery about them, but modern ones less so. Poverty does not stop someone being a genius, but poverty can prevent them knowing the details of law, seamanship, falconry etc.

            Again, its not a theory I subscribe to, but the argument concerning knowledge is subtly different to the argument over class or genetics.

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            • #21
              However, let's not simply repeat the lazy, illogical, and deeply unfair accusation that those who propose alternative candidates do so because they are elitists who think only bluebloods can be geniuses.
              They ultimately do, I'm afraid. I've read the books Henry, and I stick by my view - although I'll concede that many subscribe to these theories simply because they are 'anti-establishment; it is nonetheless true that they are engendered by an unwillingnes, or inability, to accept that an 'ordinary' man could have achieved in Shakespearian fashion.

              Ergo, Shakespeare cannot be Shakespeare.

              The difficulty arises in part, I feel, from the apparent disparity between Shakespeare's dramatic works and what is known of his personal life. It is kind of mundane.

              Marlowe ought to make a much better Shakespeare, in theory.

              And Van Gogh ought to make a better Jack than some unknown nobody, I guess.

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              • #22
                Keats came from a humble background yet soaked his poetry in classical references. Of course, he wasn't a Shakespeare, but some people have minds like flypaper - they only have to hear or read something once, and it sticks. Then they go on to win quiz shows.

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                • #23
                  Sally,

                  I quite agree with you.

                  Don.
                  "To expose [the Senator] is rather like performing acts of charity among the deserving poor; it needs to be done and it makes one feel good, but it does nothing to end the problem."

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                  • #24
                    I've been performing Shakespeare since an age appropriate Juliet (super creepy by the way), and the question of authorship has always seemed moot to me. Sure you want the right guy to get credit, but nothing in any of the plays can rule out one kind of man, or guarantee another. But he was primarily a playwright. And this is where it gets tricky. The man behind Much Ado About Nothing is NOT the same man behind Henry V, though both were written by the same hand. The extraordinary thing about Shakespeare is not his use of language, his imagery, his creativity, etc. It is his mastery of both comedy and drama, and no playwright before or since has ever masterfully handled both. The use of language, imagery, etc. in both Much Ado About Nothing is the same. As individual as a signature. But the themes, emphasis and characterizations are radically different. Shakespeare does not have a comfort zone. He doesn't have universal themes. Your average writer has a niche. Morality plays, plays about class difference, religion, the nature of humanity, whatever. Shakespeare doesn't. He takes on every theme with similar ease, though not necessarily similar success *cough* Titus Andronicus *cough*

                    How on earth could one man be so diverse? How does a guy go from "ooh pretty fairy farce" to "characterization of the monster: wicked uncle"? Ask any writer, and they will tell you that comedy is harder. You really either have it or you don't. Comic sensibility cannot be faked. So clearly Shakespeare had it. Can a comic writer come up with the St. Crispin's Day speech? Maybe, but he couldn't also come up with the shattering of Lady Macbeth's mind, the horror of the unfolding events of Othello, or even the simple tragedy of a good man forced to do terrible things in Julius Caesar. Conversely, no mind that can encompass these tragedies can then put Dogberry in what is already a damned funny play.

                    I would posit that Shakespeare wrote his own comedies. They are naturally funny. Not forced funny like a Jerry Lewis movie. I think someone else wrote his great tragedies, and handed them off for him to "bard" up. Today in school we learn to "translate" Shakespeare. But back then, you still had to translate it to an extent, because while the language was modern, the format was unusual. You couldn't just write a play and pass it off as Shakespeare. It had to be in iambic pentameter, often rhyming, his style was unique. If someone wrote Hamlet the way it would have been spoken by real people, it wouldn't have gotten anywhere. Give it to Shakespeare to rewrite in his style, and it would be huge. It would explain his facility with every genre, which is not something that in truth, anybody has. Even if Shakespeare was really Marlowe (which I don't think he is) he couldn't have written all of Shakespeare's plays. Marlowe would have had to outsource the comedies.

                    By the way, worst part of Anonymous (which I walked out of)? De Vere growing Tudor roses in a pot. As though they were an actual flower. What you get a big movie script you don't even check Wikipedia anymore?
                    The early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

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                    • #25
                      Nah,,

                      I don't buy that Errata, sorry.

                      Why couldn't one man have been adept at comedy, and tragedy, and also have been a whizz at the soap opera of the day, the 'history' play? Eh?

                      Most of Shakespeare's ideas were nicked - oh, ok, then, 'derived' - in part or pretty much whole from tales that already existed. Well, that makes sense, doesn't it - I mean, who's going to be able to churn out works of dramatic wonder from scratch at that kind of pace?

                      So he already had the basic plot - as in Hamlet, e.g.

                      As for the comedy - a lot of that was really just the one joke; that marvel of contemporary humour, the 'supposes' - y'know, where everyone dresses up as everyone else and it all gets horribly confused but miraculously turns out alright in the end. It was ever so popular, I believe.

                      So he already had the device.

                      It seems to me that what Shakespeare was best at in dramatic terms was assimilating what was already there and giving it that old Shakespeare magic.

                      He did have one excellent advantage in turning his hand to this and that too - he was an actor - he had seen every type of play which he turned his hand to performed, and had probably performed in many himself. Shakespeare wasn't impossible, or even improbable, he was just very, very good at what he did.

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                      • #26
                        They ultimately do, I'm afraid. I've read the books Henry, and I stick by my view - although I'll concede that many subscribe to these theories simply because they are 'anti-establishment; it is nonetheless true that they are engendered by an unwillingnes, or inability, to accept that an 'ordinary' man could have achieved in Shakespearian fashion.
                        That's fine Sally, if you simply assert it often enough then doubtless it must be true.

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                        • #27
                          Originally posted by Sally View Post

                          He did have one excellent advantage in turning his hand to this and that too - he was an actor - he had seen every type of play which he turned his hand to performed, and had probably performed in many himself. Shakespeare wasn't impossible, or even improbable, he was just very, very good at what he did.
                          It isn't about the plot, which were often "nicked" as you say. It's the monologues. Or in some cases dialogues. The turns of phrase. His works are very emotive. Much Ado makes you laugh at loud. Henry V makes you swell with pride, Othello makes you cry. I'm a pretty good playwright when I have a mind to be, and I can do comedies, mostly absurdities. Tom Stoppard is one of the greatest contemporary playwrights, and he does paradox. That's what he does. Neil Simon does sentiment. Christopher Durang does comedy. They have niches. And these guys are brilliant. What reason would I have to believe that Shakespeare was five times better than the greatest theatrical minds of our generation? Especially at the pace he worked. He had to have had help. Some guy to write a rousing speech for him, or a brooding monologue. Had he simply aped what had come before, he would have been blasted for it. He had the originality of three men. I think he literally had to talents of at least two.
                          The early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

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                          • #28
                            Originally posted by Errata View Post
                            How on earth could one man be so diverse?
                            It's called being a genious, Errata. By the by, tremendous diversity exists already when comparing JUST his comedies. Compare Troilus and Cressida to As you like it. Compare the comedies of his youth to The tempest. Study his works a bit, and you'll see the commun denominators in structure, plot devices, way he presents the characters, the way he ends a play, figures of speech, metaphores in both his comedies and tragedies. This is all by the same author.

                            Originally posted by Errata View Post
                            Comic sensibility cannot be faked. So clearly Shakespeare had it. Can a comic writer come up with the St. Crispin's Day speech? {...}I would posit that Shakespeare wrote his own comedies. {...} I think someone else wrote his great tragedies, and handed them off for him to "bard" up.
                            Right on. And 2 different people wrote Chekhov's plays, Mozart's/Rossini's comic vs. tragic vs. historical operas, 2 different authors collaborated on Dickens novels.

                            Originally posted by Sally View Post
                            Why couldn't one man have been adept at comedy, and tragedy, and also have been a whizz at the soap opera of the day, the 'history' play?
                            Most of Shakespeare's ideas were nicked - oh, ok, then, 'derived' - in part or pretty much whole from tales that already existed. Well, that makes sense, doesn't it - I mean, who's going to be able to churn out works of dramatic wonder from scratch at that kind of pace?
                            As for the comedy - a lot of that was really just the one joke; that marvel of contemporary humour, the 'supposes' - y'know, where everyone dresses up as everyone else and it all gets horribly confused but miraculously turns out alright in the end. It was ever so popular, I believe.
                            So he already had the device. It seems to me that what Shakespeare was best at in dramatic terms was assimilating what was already there and giving it that old Shakespeare magic.
                            Precisely, Sally. Not unlike how Mozart and Rossini worked in assimilating tradition into deeper and more complex works than their contemporaries. Rossini in particular used collaborators for the insignificant parts and carefully adapted self borrowings from other works. It's a method many painters have also used for efficiency, particularly the ones who run a studio with apprentices.

                            Originally posted by Sally View Post
                            He did have one excellent advantage in turning his hand to this and that too - he was an actor - he had seen every type of play which he turned his hand to performed, and had probably performed in many himself. Shakespeare wasn't impossible, or even improbable, he was just very, very good at what he did.
                            Very well said. And precisely about the actor part. Just like Molière – who, him, has a niche and has simply written the same play about a dozen times, though incredibly well.

                            Originally posted by Errata View Post
                            You couldn't just write a play and pass it off as Shakespeare. It had to be in iambic pentameter, often rhyming, his style was unique.
                            It's not his speech that was unique, it's the structure of his plays and the complexity/depth of his characters that are characteristically Shakespearean. Have you read any Marlowe? He's what you would have called emotional. It's not the form, but the content that differentiates any contemporary playwrighter from Shakes. Not Iambic pentameter, which came naturally to Elizabethans, the way Aléxandrins came naturally to the French from the 17th century to the 1830s.
                            Best regards,
                            Maria

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                            • #29
                              I'm with you Maria!

                              Dave

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                              • #30
                                Originally posted by Henry Flower View Post
                                That's fine Sally, if you simply assert it often enough then doubtless it must be true.
                                Fiddlesticks Henry. It's my view; with which you are quite at liberty to disagree. If I'd wanted to deal in 'truth' I'd have become a philospher.

                                Now there are those who apparently believe that repetition is equal to corroboration; but I'm not one of them.

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