Thursday, July 19, 2007

Ophelia was pregnant, yes... but there's more

(Creative Commons image by Colodio)

Readers in the San Diego area may want to mosey down to the Old Globe, where a bold interpretation of Hamlet is evidently being staged through Sept. 30—at least according to this review posted today in the Redland Daily Facts.

As the review points out (click on the above to see the passage), some renegade works of Shakespeare scholarship propose that Ophelia was pregnant at the time she took her own life, and indeed that in her madness, Ophelia handed out herbs commonly used for abortions.

Slightly glossed over in this review (and we're always grateful for ink, of course) is the fact that this interpretation of the Danish tragedy didn't just come out of nowhere. It was wholly biographically motivated. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the reason the author of Hamlet inserted those references to Ophelia's pregnancy and flirtation with abortion is that is exactly what happened in his troubled first marriage.

When Edward de Vere was traveling on the Continent in 1575, we now know that his wife, in her second trimester, asked Queen Elizabeth's physician to terminate her pregnancy. There's a whole epic tale behind that action that space does not permit delving into here. But suffice it to say, Hamlet ain't just blowing off steam when he asks the woman in his life why she's become a "breeder of sinners."

My question, then, is how does this controversial rendition actually fare as a piece of drama? Does a visibly pregnant Ophelia work as a directorial decision? The Redlands reviewer certainly liked it. To anyone who gets the chance to see the Old Globe Hamlet, please drop a line.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"Both daffy and dead"

(More will be posted in this space about Edward de Vere and Cervantes after I get past a big, ugly deadline later this week.)

One nice thing about deadlines is that they always seem to inspire newfound heights of procrastination. This usually means mucking about on the web. (And these days, it involves the best mucking-about-on-the-web book ever invented, Mark Frauenfelder's Rule The Web: How To Do Anything and Everything on the Internet—Better, Faster and Easier.)

So it was that I happened upon the quick and dirty way of finding out what Google thinks of someone. It's a site called Googlism. To churn out a list of all that Google can find about a person, just type in their name. Punching in the name "Edward de Vere," for instance, generates a list with anywhere from 13 to 18 variations on "Edward de Vere is better known to the world as 'William Shakespeare.'"

It also spurts out some comical non-sequitors such as "Edward de Vere is overwhelming" and "Edward de Vere is both daffy and dead."

Of course, the top alternate claimants to the Shakespeare laurels can also be checked out for their googlism scores:

Christopher Marlowe ("is an intensive orange")
Francis Bacon ("is now on")
William Stanley, Earl of Derby ("is still living"!!)

Alack, alack, though... Boosters of Mary Sidney, Henry Neville, Edward Dyer and even old Will Shakspere will have to do better. All Googlism can turn up for these names is "Sorry, Google doesn't know enough about this person yet."

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Miguel and William and lots-upon-LOTS of speculation

The Manchester Guardian/Observer ran an article today alerting their readers to a new movie due to be released (in English-language markets, at least) later this year. The movie, Miguel y William is based upon the (completely groundless) supposition that Will Shakspere slipped on his cloak of invisibility and hung out in Spain with Miguel de Cervantes sometime during the 1580s.

Wouldn't that be nice to hang one's hat on?

The article points out

'We did a lot of research during the screenwriting and there is very strong evidence that Shakespeare was well-versed in Cervantes' work,' said producer Antonio Sauro. ...

Competing theories that Shakespeare spent his time working in schools in Lancashire or Wales, or with a troupe of theatrical players, are based largely on a network of textual references. The truth of his missing years may never be known, and perhaps in this case hard proof does not matter. As the tag line of William and Miguel has it, 'In art and love everything is possible.'

Here's the thing: The Bard may indeed have known Cervantes work—and perhaps even Cervantes himself. But the likely solution to the puzzle comes, once again, when the lens is re-focused upon the life and times of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford.

Stay tuned to this space later this month, when evidence will be discussed that points to Edward de Vere crossing Cervantes' path at least once in his life.

In real-life biography, of course, not everything is possible. But in de Vere's biography, the face of "Shakespeare" shines through more and more.