Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Foofy nihilism

Couldn't let today's New York Times commentary about the "Cobbe Portrait of Shakespeare" go unnoticed.

The thing about the Bard, commentator Verlyn Klinkenborg writes, is that if you "Go looking for the man... you will find only the person doing the looking."

Shakespeare is just one big hall-of-mirrors. Mm-kay?

The article's kicker offers up my favorite sentence:

Every claim to have found some relic of the original Shakespeare is just another reminder that his work needs no biography.

Shorter NYT: Bard's bio no workee. Bio = bad.

Thankfully, north of the border, a letter-writer to the Toronto Globe and Mail chimes in with a fine rejoinder to the Times' muddle-headed navel-gazing:

Too bad [the Cobbe] is not a portrait of Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, the man who wrote plays and poems under the nom de plume "Shakespeare." That would have been really interesting.


Karim said...

Wouldn't you say Cobbe is just out to make a profit, and that the news is just reporting? I think of it all as a large mess of words, but certain words - like "Shakespeare" - will grab your attention. I think you're about right, it seems that the portrait's subject is Overbury (but Computer Scientist that I am, I never say 100% unless I get ultimate proof, present overwhelming evidence regardless), but papers need to sell. "Overbury" means little - "Shakespeare" means a lot.

This is little to no damage, and not worthy speculating about.

Karim said...

(I mean, not worthy speculating about any longer. Apologies. The matter's cleared-up, so let's move on. Question, though: How'd you know it was Overbury? Seems like an odd choice of author to remember.)

Mark said...

The answer to your second question, Crumbs, is that there are other purported copies of the Cobbe portrait that have been identified as Overbury. And Overbury -- while obscure to us today -- was actually something of a mass media celebrity in the early 17th century. See my posting "Overbury Overdrive pt. 4" for more on that.

Mark said...

Overbury Overdrive pt. 4