Sunday, 15 July 2012

Did Shakespeare write Shakespeare?

Through a strange branch of innocuous connections did I happen upon Shakespeare.  I like so many others was bored to death by his literature as a school child, but, as with all things you sometimes need to sample them in the right environment to appreciate them.  This eventually happened with the works of William Shakespeare.

What I found with Shakespeare was I needed to hear someone else say the words, and cultivate the image of his plays in front of my eyes.  Unlike some who can just read it and get it, I needed to feel it through the actors portraying his genius on the stage; which is exactly how it is meant to be appreciated.  Then I could savour the wonder of his words, the delight in his creation and finally understand what all the fuss is about.

Recently on the BBC they have been showing some new adaptations of his history plays, Richard II, Henry IV parts 1 and 2 have been shown so far.  After each show they have had one of the great and good of the acting world tell their tale of the genius bard from Stratford.  On one of the documentaries Derek Jacobi mentioned he did not think Shakespeare had written Shakespeare, and he as with many others thinks they were written by a nobleman or aristocrat called Edward De Vere.  I remember hearing this before, but since at the time I was not interested in the works of the Elizabethan legend I thought nothing of it.

Now I cannot say I am an expert and to be honest in my opinion in this day and age, it has no real relevance who actually wrote the plays since he or she has been dead for 400 years.  Saying that if I was to choose between the man William Shakespeare, a workmanlike playwright, or some aristocratic lord or nobleman, I feel it seems more obvious that it is the former.    Why when most say the argument is likely the latter.  I doubt a man of wealth and status, a nobleman, an aristocrat would write so eloquently about the life of commoners.  An Earl would never write a play from the perspective of a commoner.  In Henry IV which I believe is one of Shakespeare’s earliest history plays, far too much time is taken on the goings on of mere common men and what they get up to.  Why would someone of title and position write a play that might be seen by the Queen of England?  It makes no sense.

Only someone with a commoner’s knowledge would write a play about a King from the perspective of a commoner.  As his plays progress and he becomes more popular and he starts to spend more time in the company of royalty then you see a change in his plays.

Also another thing which I feel is grossly miscalculated when considering the subject is that obviously Shakespeare was a genius, and the creation of genius does not distinguish between class and social standing, gender or geographical birth.  In a way Shakespeare being from a humble, common background makes his work all the more impressive and trying to deride the creator for lack of an education belittles what he achieved.

I remember when I was a child a teacher told me that Mozart as a child of 12, copied the work of another composer perfectly and caused a massive commotion because the piece was locked away and there was no way he could have seen it. He claimed to have only heard it once.  Genius works in mysterious ways and we cannot always fathom why or how it happens.

Shakespeare there is little doubt was a genius and so I suspect that whoever the person was who wrote the plays was more likely a playwright of common decent, working hard to perfect his craft, borrowing off others, adding his own ingredients, than some Earl who did it as a passing fancy then passed it off as someone else.

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