Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Shakespeare Plays

The new movie Anonymous presents the view that Shakespeare did not write the plays attributed to him. This seems like a good time to go over the controversy.

First, it must be noted that every contemporary reference to the plays has Shakespeare as the author. Since the plays were written for the strengths of the company and the stage they were performing on, this makes an additional argument that the author of the plays was a member of the company.

The world seemed satisfied that the man whose name was on the plays was the author until the mid-19th century. At that time, an intellectual named Delia Bacon. At that time, Francis Bacon was regarded as the smartest man who had ever lived and Shakespeare the greatest writer. Delia thought that it was a paradox that out of all history, two so talented men were contemporaries. Her solution was that they were one and the same. For the next half-century, many educated people came to believe this theory.

Two things happened around the turn of the 20th century. The first was that Bacon was no longer held in such high regard. That opened the door to someone else being the author. The second was the idea that all great literature is semi-autobiographical. According to this, the plays were about kings and nobles so the author could not be the son of a back-woods glove-maker. He must be someone of high rank.

By the middle of the 20th century, opinion had centered on Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford. He was associated with the theater and wrote some poetry. Most important, some events in his life mirrored the plots of some of the plays.

A weak case can be built from there that de Vere wrote the plays. But that wasn't enough. Assuming that the plays and sonnets were all thinly-disguised biographies, the Oxfordians "discovered" that their man was both Queen Elizabeth's son and lover. And that was the basis for Anonymous.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So, mark, are you suggesting INCEST with your last two lines? Please clarify!