Saturday, November 26, 2011
does it matter who wrote shakespeare's plays?
at twenty i found berkeley a bore, the teachers and institution very conservative. students continue to rebel. i did it my own way, stopping class attendance, saving up money from working the libraries, and preparing for a move to mexico city where i could be a real writer. i made the journey, but that's another story. while waiting, i read all of shakespeare, a play a day.
what i discovered, a continuous voice, similar images appearing and re-appearing, used this way and that in different contexts. so, i've never really doubted who penned the scripts - until this week. have you seen the movie anonymous? i enjoyed it immensely. edward de vere, earl of oxford, writes the plays, tries to get ben jonson to be his front man, signing his name to them. alas, a greedy buffoon, booming billy, snatches them up and takes the credit.
fitting all the facts together, i'm sure the movie-makers had a great time. de vere certainly more sympathetic than wee willy, and as an unknown playwright, i sympathize with a man who can never lay claim to his creations. yes, it shook my faith, despite visits to stratford, seeing the plays done under all kinds of circumstances and in many interpretations. if you look at jan kott's shakespeare, our contemporary you find him a post-war french existentialist. he can be stretched and bent, part of his claim to fame.
okay, how do i feel four days later? alas, the bookstore carries a book called contested will by james s. shapiro. this author seeks to debunk the debunkers by showing how historical climates since 1800 have led people to not believe in governments, identities, professed ideals. 'lying is what makes us human,' advanced one university lecturer in my own time. and then at the end, the author says it does matter who. bold bill could have interviewed plenty of foreigners about italy and any needed information. and to doubt the authorship to undermine belief in the imagination with the necessity for realist experience.
now i really am blowing in the wind. in college i took a course in shakespeare's contemporaries. no doubt he rode the wave of his contemporaries: marlow, jonson, etc. and a lot of his stage craft could easily have been picked up from them. however, couldn't a theater-going royal have done it all, including the grand tour of the continent and avid tutors? somehow i wish someone else would be proven, as this would knock the bard off his pedestal. imagine being a writer in english and everybody declaring, 'no one can match will, the greatest scribe ever!' wouldn't you be a bit resentful?
i haven't come to any conclusion, browsing thru the plays. many insights assert themselves. one, this guy creates scenes with incredible drive, energy, bold, blustery, characters ready and attempting to grab whatever they want. that's drama! also, he could be infinitely bawdy, down in the dirt funny. this really made me wonder if the earl could spatter himself so? yet, to say that demotes the power of his imagination. how much did high and low experience together in that time? the answer might provide an answer.
to prove my own credentials, i directed a one-person piece by susan aylworth, gertrude, hamlet's story from his mother's point of view performed by jodi rives. pictures here: www.pbase.com/gert and here's my theater doctrine: www.pbase.com/wwp/laugh