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bear by san

March 2017



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bear by san

Only Magazine article on the National Portrait Gallery exhibition ("The other main contender, the so-called “Chandos Shakespeare” shows a rougher, meaner bard. One likely to hold a knife to your throat and whisper, “Where are the diamonds?”"), random snark, and sort of incidentally Justin MacGregor's new play Boxing Shakespeare.

Various conspiracy theories lurk in the pantaloons of academia. Some aspiring doctorates hold that Edward de Veres, 17th Duke of Oxford actually wrote all those plays, or that Francis Bacon didn’t have enough on his plate already but also produced dozens of future film vehicles for Kenneth Branagh and Judy Dench. Christopher Marlowe, assassinated in Deptford in 1593 while a secret agent for the queen, apparently faked his death so he could lurk in the shadows and pump out several plays a year under the name. Other possibilities include William Stanley, Squarepants Spongebob, Sir Walter Raleigh and Queen Elizabeth I– because god forbid some struggling, punk poet should produce transcendent works of art.

Because we at ebear central are obsessed. And this is a very funny article. (Although I should mention in passing that I don't know a single aspiring doctorate who thinks Oxford (Nicholl has a trenchant description of that particular nasty piece of work in the present slim volume, as well) wrote TPATWS (the plays attributed to William Shakespeare.) Because, quite frankly, it's a silly theory. (And I say that advisedly: my interest in the incestuous Elizabethan theatrical scene was rekindled by an Oxfordian colleague of kit_kindred's, who was the most interesting thing going at some buffet we attended. He spun kind of a captivating tale, and I started to research... and six months later, convinced myself firmly that he was, alas, far more interested in conspiracy theories than anything resembling Occam's Razor.))



You know, I can understand some of the controversy. After all, the first play was not that great, at least as far as I understand such things which is, let's face it, somewhat less than a dedicated scholar's understanding.

However, why on earth would someone write these great plays, and attribute them to Shakespeare? Why is it no one has accounted for ego? Somehow, I just can't see Bacon or Marlowe handing off these plays to Shakespeare if they were so well done.

Anyway, I still prefer the theory that WS cut a deal with Morpheus. :)

Actualy, there's nothing wrong with Titus Andronicus. Which, significantly, is not the "first play." It's just the first one we can attribute to him. (Some people suggest earlier unattributed plays as juvenilia candidates.

Anoher thing is to realize that in production, the scripts weren't attributed to anyone. Playmaker wasn't a glamorous profession, and scripts beloned to the playing companies that commissioned them. If you think of the guys writing them as modern-day television scriptwriters, churning out piecework as fast as they could. Sometimes a script would be split up between four or five different poets, with yet another guy to patch the pieces together into a working manuscript.

After THAT, it went to the state censor, and then the players performed rolling rewrites, and revisions with every performance.

The poets themselves knew each other, drank together, in many cases slept in the same rooms and the same beds and worked at the same tables. And on the same playscripts--we have surviving manuscripts with four or six men's hands on them. Scripts paid at a low rate: eight pound for a complete one, split up at a rate of a pound or so an act.

It's ridiculous to think of these scripts as Received Wisdom, in other words. And it's really silly to think that a conspiracy to conceal the real identity of Shakespeare existed, when, at the very least, a dozen or so men (some of whom did not like Shakespeare and publicly discussed their grudges against him) would have had to be in on it.


But, yanno, it seems to be a pretty fun hobby for some folks.