….here are two replies to reviews of Contested WIll in the Guardian.
5 Apr 2010, 8:47PM
Skip the popular biogs – the only motivation any of these writers had (whether defending or challenging Shakespeare’s authorship) was to MAKE MONEY. Shapiro deserves credit for examining the debate itself and not simply picking a side in it.
Why don’t you read some of the academic works that have never made any serious money for the professors and scholars who wrote and researched them?
For the record, most academics and scholars who have an understanding of: HOW these plays were written; edited; stitched together; performed; paid for; how much income they generated; where they were put on and how theaters come into being; what laws the plays and players were subject to; how they were printed; distributed; how the actors companies were formed and operated; how the plays were commented on; judged; and more factors besides – the vast majority of scholars who have researched these things tend to agree the plays were probably written by someone called William Shakespeare.
They agree this, usually over a pint, in the bar, after a hard day researching something MORE IMPORTANT.
AND THIS ONE:
6 Apr 2010, 5:05PM
I’ll advance two fairly recent works.
Shakespeare &Co by Stanley Wells and The Lodger by Charles Nicholl. They are both based entirely on the written details we do have and apply a modern attitude to forensic examination of scraps of evidence to build a bigger picture. They cover the much wider scene of the Elizabethan stage and the hand to mouth living of anyone in the trade.
London was a pretty small place at the time, total population of England not much more than 5 million yet thousands of London citizens would take their entertainment every afternoon in season in the playhouses. A boom economy, the city as a whole was a bustling centre for Huguenot and other immigrants. You could meet anyone in daily life, from translators to part time playwright-innkeepers looking for opportunities.
Written evidence on individuals was for the nobles, their law courts and their clergy. The rest passed their time in the undocumented way that they had for hundreds of years. A tradition that would continue until the Victorians’ love of record keeping industrialised the paper trails.
That someone from a Warwickshire town could make his way in the city, be a jobbing actor and playwright and leave as much or as little evidence as he did is not surprising. That the productivity, by Shakespeare, Marlowe, Fletcher and the rest, and quality that is higher than any period before or since may be harder to explain. It is, however, much more likely to be a happy product of professional writers and the hot house competition of playhouses than the jottings of titled part timers.
Man I’m starting to tire of this authorship question big time. But they won’t go away, and their conclusions are sooo outrageous and egregious, we must fight the fight.