Thursday, September 13, 2007

"Maybe, one day, the truth will out."


Time magazine just published the best article yet on the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition.

I've already said my bit about the "snobbery" argument, below. But there's another old saw in the authorship wars that the author of the Time piece, Jumana Farouky, handily puts to rest:

As Shakespeare (or maybe Bacon or possibly De Vere) asked, "What's in a name?" The star-crossed lovers still die, there will always be something rotten in the state of Denmark, no matter who wrote the plays. So why all the fuss? Both sides argue that knowing the identity of the man behind Hamlet, King Lear and The Tempest is essential to understanding them. "Our interpretation of Shakespeare's works would be entirely different if we knew who wrote them," says Bill Rubinstein, history professor at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, and an academic adviser for the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition. "If he was heavily involved in politics, for example, every line in every play would have a different motivation."

3 comments:

Amy said...

The Time article author notes that "Doubters started questioning the true identity of the writer in the late 19th century." Was it not later than this? I don't have your book handy at the moment. When did people start making much of Shakespeare's identity and turning Stratford upon Avon into a tourist destination?

Amy said...

That is, the Time author seems to suggest that Shakespeare's identity was a resolved matter for three centuries until some whacky Victorians (probably the same ones who were into phrenology and conducting seances) decided that there was doubt. But didn't the rise of doubt directly correspond with the rise of proponents of certainty? My impression has been that it was less that Shakespeare's identity was a settled matter during the 17th and 19th centuries, and more that it was a non-issue.

And in my earlier comment, I meant "was it not earlier" rather than "later."

Mark said...

Amy- The standard story is that, yes, the first inklings of doubt about the standard story appeared in the early 19th century. But the first explicit study attributing the Shakespeare works to Edward de Vere (J. Thomas Looney's "Shakespeare" Identified) appeared in 1920.

But your latter point is well taken too, that the rise of doubt roughly coincides with the rise in a professional class of Shakespeareans who care about things like authorial biography.