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William Shakespeare: Did he write his plays?

Discussion in 'Drama and Poetry Books' started by Miss Shelf, Sep 17, 2005.

  1. Meadow337

    Meadow337 Former Moderator

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    yes well the 'feint' of heart annoyed me too! The problem is that it isn't just conspiracy theorist nuts asking the questions.

    There are serious sites like this one:

    http://www.authorshipstudies.org/

    or this one:

    http://www.shakespeareanauthorshiptrust.org.uk/

    or this one from Princeton

    http://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Shakespeare_authorship_question.html

    These guys come down firmly on the side of Shakespeare as author while acknowledging the debate

    http://www.folger.edu/template.cfm?cid=3944


    I just liked the site I linked to originally, not because it attempts to answer anything, but because it outlines the majority of the issues / questions around which the debate goes in a reasonably concise one page quick read.

    It really is a quite a major academic debate.
     
  2. beer good

    beer good Well-Known Member

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    Is it really, though?

    I'm just asking the question. I think it's an important question to ask. So important, in fact, that I won't accept any answers to it. :p

    But seriously, I'm mostly annoyed by the debate because I think it misses the point. The author is, in all senses of the word, dead. The reason Shakespeare is a household name in the first place is because someone wrote the plays and signed them by that name. Shakespeare the author is the same person - the person who wrote Shakespeare's plays - even if it turns out that Saddam Hussein's theory that they were written by Sheik Zephyr are true. The fact that so many people are so desperate to "prove" (while not accepting any actual proof to the contrary) that Shakespeare's plays (why not Milton's poetry, or Austen's novels?) were written by Someone Famous rather than just an ordinary man of the people is a bit troubling. I find myself wondering if, 500 years from now, people will be trying to prove that Prince Charles wrote The Remains Of The Day...
     
  3. Meadow337

    Meadow337 Former Moderator

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    hmm judging by the seriousness with which it is debated one gets the impression that there have been proverbial swords drawn in hallowed halls on the subject. For what should be a dry academic debate comparing texts and signatures and what not to have entered the public domain as it has indicates the degree to which it is debated.

    I suppose it isn't really that people are trying to prove some one famous wrote them just for the sake of it, it seems to me it is more like if Shakespeare (the guy from Stratford-upon-Avon) didn't write them (for any or all of the suggested reasons) then who is the most likely person and what evidence is there to support that.
     
  4. beer good

    beer good Well-Known Member

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    You know, the more I think about it, the more I want to ask questions here. Beware! Warning! Dangerous questions ahead! Things They Do Not Want You To Know!

    Seriously, how likely is it that a book about British class society, set at a very noble estate during and following WWII, focusing on the very British occupation of a butler of all people, was written by a Japanese immigrant whose parents had to work for a living? How on earth could he, going to an ordinary primary school in the 1960s, have learned about things like that? Isn't it much more likely that it was written by someone who actually had first-hand knowledge of that world?

    So if we assume that it wasn't written by Ishiguro (I'm not saying it wasn't, I'm just asking if it's really something we can believe), who's more likely as an author? Technically I suppose it could be any of millions of Brits, but it's clearly not another nobody, because what would be the point of setting up an elaborate and unlikely cover story in that case? Well, who do we know, from a cursory glance at famous Brits with that sort of background, who might have written it? If Prince Charles did write it - I'm not saying he did, I'm asking if we can know he didn't - aren't there a lot of things that would match up? I'm just asking. You have the big old castle that requires a huge staff to keep running - and really, how many Brits these days have first-hand knowledge of that? Having never lived in a house like that myself, I must say that the novel's description of it seems spot on. You have the noble family where members supported the Nazis and tried to keep Britain out of the war, something which can never be spoken about afterwards, just like Charles' great uncle Edward VIII. You have the stoic hero who sacrifices everything for a job waiting on someone else, even though he'll never get to live his own life - Charles' eternal wait as number one in line for the throne. You have the love of a lifetime that must be given up for the sake of duty - hell, Camilla Parker-Bowles even looks a bit like Emma Thompson. (Remember, the book came out in 1989, when Charles and Di were still officially a couple and the idea of a royal divorce seemed impossible.)

    By the way, do you know what the name "Kazuo Ishiguro" means? The first name means "First son" or "Leader" (much like "Charles" means "man" or "leader of an army"), and the last name "Black stone" (in addition to being an anagram of "Roguish I"). So if we assume that "First son and leader of the black stone" is indeed the pseudonym it appears to be, who else could it be but the first son and future leader of the white stone (Albion, named for the white cliffs of Dover) - or just plain Charlie Windsor, of a family who named themselves* after a mediaeval castle? Or are we supposed to believe this is all a coincidence? I suppose it's possible, but I'm just asking...

    * The House of Windsor changed their name from The House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha when German ancestry became politically uncomfortable in 1917. Does it mean anything that they have a history of changing their names?

    Also, the supposed author even writes his name in two different ways - either as "Kazuo Ishiguro", or as "石黒一雄". Does that add to the credibility of the official story? Speaking of which, every single copy of Remains of the Day lists Ishiguro as the author. Isn't that a bit convenient? What are the publishers trying to hide? And get this - Prince Charles' own publications are absolutely nothing like Remains of the Day. Are we supposed to believe that he's really that different as a writer, or is he deliberately trying to deflect suspicion from himself by limiting his "official" writings to children's books and studies of architecture?

    I'm not saying that this is a fact. I'm not claiming I have proof. I'm just asking if the official story doesn't look a little too simple, and the fact that I'm asking questions proves that there's something worth questioning. I will now demand that all appreciation of "Kazuo Ishiguro's" (whoever he may be) books cease until we've proven, once and for all, just who he is and all my questions have been answered to my satisfaction.
     
  5. Bookhooked

    Bookhooked New Member

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    Okay, I'm new here and this is an old thread and I haven't read every response so forgive me for repeating what others have said, BUT:

    I don't understand all of the "The Guy Named Shakespeare Didn't Write It" arguments. These arguments are based on elitism--the notion that a man from a provincial town who didn't have a university education and was a businessman and had bad spelling and was kind of cheap couldn't POSSIBLY have written these plays, sonnets and poems.

    To that argument let me offer another one. There was a man born in dire poverty, who lived in a tiny cabin during most of his formative years and never had more than six months of schooling. He worked various odd jobs before becoming a lawyer, and because he was committed to self-learning spent nearly all of his spare time reading any book he could get his hands on. Even though he was a lousy speller, he ended up writing some of the greatest essays, speeches and letters in American history and is considered to be one of the nation's best writers. Oh, and he happened to be president of the United States. And his name was Abraham Lincoln.

    Does anyone doubt that Lincoln wrote The Gettysburg Address, the "House Divided" speech or the second Inaugural Address? We have his own drafts to prove it. Yet, how could Lincoln have possibly have written these literary masterpieces? He wasn't raised in the city. He never had the kind of university education that would have exposed him to the kinds of philosophical and rhetorical devices he used in this prose. He wasn't a member of the aristocracy and didn't rub shoulders with the greatest literary and scientific thinkers of his day. So how could he have possibly left one of the greater literary legacies?

    But we all know that Lincoln did write all of his work. He may have gotten help every now and then from his advisors, but the voice is his own, and he left a documentary trail of how he wrote these pieces.

    If we can believe that Lincoln overcame his background to become both president and literary master, why can't people believe that the man named William Shakespeare didn't someone rise above his own humble origins and become a voracious, self-taught intellectual (all kinds of books would have been widely available to him; for more so than Lincoln had easy access to) who also happened to be--a GENIUS? Why is so hard for some to believe that a man can be both a petty money-grubbing entrepreneur and the kind of incredible, insightful creative mind that only comes along once every thousand years?

    And why is the lack of manuscripts so often used as a case against him? As the Folger school rightly argues, back then play manuscripts were like TV script drafts-only the formally printed versions had any value. And who is to say that Shakespeare didn't keep all of his manuscripts in a chest at his house in Avon and forget to tell his illiterate daughter not to throw them out after he died?

    There's far more evidence to support that the man named Shakespeare DID write his plays than there is to attribute their creation to someone else.
     
  6. Meadow337

    Meadow337 Former Moderator

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    I think for me the evidence has never been about things like manuscripts and so on. I have always questioned it because it seems like the man had two lives. There was the Shakespeare hobnobbing in London and putting on plays for royalty and there was the Shakespeare in Stratford-Upon-Avon who was taking his neighbours to court for a few shillings and who was pictured in his portrait with a sackcloth (working man) and not a quill and paper as you would expect for an actor, playwright, and theater owner. I know there are a great many other reasons why people question his authorship but for me that portrait has always been a bit odd.

    Could there not have been two people with the same or similar name? One was the illiterate argumentative person people have a hard time understanding why / how he wrote the plays, and the other the playwright and actor who lived and died in obscurity except for his plays.

    You had to do something to turn up in what records remain of the time. Spelling was fast and loose and an evolving thing at the time. If the Shakespeare who was the actor kept his nose clean, paid his taxes and didn't marry there would not have been many or any extant records of his life. The other Shakespeare married, didn't pay his taxes, went to court, bought property and left a will leaving traces of his existence resulting the various evidences that would indicate that A person signing himself Shakespeare wrote the plays but is still not the same person as the other Shakespeare?

    Perhaps a statistical unlikelihood to have two people of the same name, but how many Smith's, or Brown's are there? A coincidence of names is not entirely impossible.
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2013
  7. Bookhooked

    Bookhooked New Member

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    I recommend reading the book Will in the World by Stephen Greenblatt. Although speculative, he assumes that the penny pinching, litigious, provincial farmer-cum-actor-businessman is the same person who wrote the plays. He uses many examples from Shakespeare's work to illustrate the influence of Shakespeare's pastorol upbringing on his writing. For example, many of the plays and poems use intricate descriptions of farming methods and crops and other pastoral activities, one that a man brought up in an agricultural community would be more likely to know than an aristocrat who never left his castle to hobnob with the peasants. Greenblatt also makes some hard-to-prove claims--that Shakespeare and his father were closet Catholics based on some kind of Catholic tract hidden in the walls of his father's house, but, overall, his argument has more logic to it than those of the Oxfordians.

    And why couldn't the man who wrote the plays also have been a litigious, tax-dodging jerk? Certainly there was no money in writing plays and running a theater may not have been all that profitable either so it's quite likely that Shakespeare's main income came from his Stratford farming activities. We really don't know how often he traveled between London and Stratford--for all we know he may have spent several months there a year running his business ventures.

    As for his poor spelling, well, it was all over the place back then. In any case, for all we know he handed poorly spelled manuscripts to the printers, who corrected his terrible spelling in the printed quartos.
     
  8. Meadow337

    Meadow337 Former Moderator

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    While some aristocrats may have been like that, any landed gentry worth his salt, or at least one that wished to remain in possession of his lands and birthright, would have managed his estates himself and would have known all those details far better, in fact, than some guy doing it on a small part time scale in between running to London to write plays and manage a theater.
     
  9. Bookhooked

    Bookhooked New Member

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    Shakespeare CAME from an agricultural community. His father was a sheep shearer. So farming would not have been a 'part time' occupation for him growing up. He would have been 'hands deep' in it every day, and even if he never visited a farm once he went to London he still would have remembered everything from his days on the farm, even if he hated that lifestyle.

    If I ever had an in-depth question about how to plant and harvest crops of shear a sheep, I'd trust the opinions of the guy who spent the his childhood years doing this over the landed feudal overlord who never stepped foot on a pasture.
     
  10. Meadow337

    Meadow337 Former Moderator

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    Firstly way back then agriculture was a strictly specialised business, if you were a sheep shearer than that was all you knew. So assuming he knew much about any other form of agriculture is seriously stretching the bounds of reality. Secondly the people who DID have a broader knowledge of more than one area of knowledge would have been the gentry and estate managers.
     
  11. Bookhooked

    Bookhooked New Member

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    How does anyone know what a person growing up a farm region knew? Presumably, the Shakespeares made their money selling sheep but had their own farm to provide food, since subsistence farming was pretty much the way of life for those who didn't live in the city. It's far more likely that he was involved in many farming activities--perhaps even working for other farmers. Who knows?

    But let's take a look at the two leading contenders the anti-Stratfordians believe wrote his plays. Francis Bacon grew up in London and lived most of his life there. Although he was a man of science, he probably never worked a farm in his life.

    Then there's Edward de Vere. He did own vast tracts of land and did write plays and poetry, although none exist. He might have gained an deep understanding of farming, but here's the problem: Other than some not convincing 'evidence' (silly stuff about outlined Bibles and other far-fetched 'coincidences'), de Vere died in 1604. Which means he wrote all of the Shakespeare plays and kept them in a box to be published and performed years after he died--or he didn't write them at all.

    Compare this silliness to huge amount of documentary evidence from his own contemporaries that supports the idea that William Shakespeare of Avon DID write his own plays and wasn't just a front for someone else of some other guy named William Shakespeare.
     
  12. Meadow337

    Meadow337 Former Moderator

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    one knows because what a farm labourer knows hasn't changed much. A sheep-shearer was an itinerrant semi-skilled labourer. He would not have engaged in subsistence farming - very few did. Most farm land was owned by the gentry. Tenant farmers worked as unskilled farm hands or in skilled or semi-skilled area of expertise which was passed from Father to son or through an apprenticeship. Knowledge outside the inherited set of skills was limited. Even today it is landowners who have the knowledge. Try talking to Prince Charles about organic farming - the ideas, knowledge, management and implementation all comes from him. This situation has not changed in the last few hundred years.
     
  13. Matthew

    Matthew kickbox

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    He wrote them. Nothing else needs to be said.
     
  14. Meadow337

    Meadow337 Former Moderator

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    There are many who are of that opinion but there are also those who disagree. Certainly at very least there are questions.
     
  15. Matthew

    Matthew kickbox

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    First of all his peer Ben Johnson spoke highly of his plays. He has signed bills. He was educated but was also close enough to the common people to know what they were like and what they enjoyed.
     
  16. Meadow337

    Meadow337 Former Moderator

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    And that proves what exactly? We know a person called 'William Shakespeare' existed, but signing a bill does not a writer make.

    We also know the plays were performed, but again that is not any indication of who wrote them, no matter who liked them.
     
  17. Matthew

    Matthew kickbox

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    The analysis of the styles of the plays are consistant to support theat William is the author. Ben Johnson wrote about his plays in reviews but I guess you missed that point. The bills he signed were for the Rose and the Globe where he performed. In the play "As you like it" he is the William, a small role at the end, that he played and wrote for himself.

    What evidence is there for anyone else writing them? Who do you think wrote them?
     
  18. Henriettabookworm

    Henriettabookworm New Member

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    This nonsense has been done to death elsewhere by specialists in the field. Shakespeare's wife as author is one of the more lunatic theories.
     
  19. Henriettabookworm

    Henriettabookworm New Member

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    For goodness sake! "Shakespeare in Love" is Hollywood fiction. It is not, neither does it's writers claim it to be, an primary (or even secondary!) historical source.
     
  20. Henriettabookworm

    Henriettabookworm New Member

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    Of course women were "allowed to write" in the sixteenth century. We are talking about an era when women of certain classes were very well educated. Among other attributes a good education was an advantage in the marriage stakes for any girl
     

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