Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Monday, April 19, 2010

Willem Shayskpeer - William Shake-Spear?

The works of the great playwright, William Shakespeare, are considered foremost in the canon of English literature, and they go beyond that, with the international recognition of storytelling genius. Words and phrases that can be found in Shakespeare's plays and poetry long ago entered the pantheon of common English usage, because no one since has ever come close to the lyric brilliance and the understanding of the human mind and character in the same close-scrutinised manner of transitioning life to the written page, to the stage.

He was one of a kind, just as Leonardo da Vinci was, just as Socrates and Plato were, just as Sir William Osler was, just as Johann Sebastien Bach was, and Albert Einstein as well, to name but a handful of the outstanding world figures who have helped make our world what it is today; pacifying our souls, healing our bodies, bringing us pleasure and joy, helping to make us wiser; at the very least more aware and educated, malleable and empathetic. More essentially civilized.

So why cannot we celebrate his genius without imputing it and his oeuvre to someone else? Why do we doubt that this single figure of literary genius was capable of producing the cornucopia of delectable reading material and viewing delight that we inherited from this extraordinary historical figure? Scholars who doubt his authorship of those great literary works ascribe them to other well-known figures of his day, coevals whose literary excellence was well celebrated at the time.

He was held to have been other than an individual who was well schooled, extensively travelled, the friend and colleague of great men who had experienced great adventures. Where then, might his creative vision and its grand scope have come from? James Corton Cowell, delivered an exposition in 1805, which he released as lectures that same year to University of London's Senate House Library, sharing his belief of Shakespeare the false.
There are, of course, many references to "William Shakespeare" the writer, during the 1564-1616 period. But in no instance is he characterized or identified with the locale of Stratford-on-Avon. Not even at the time of William Shakspere's death in April, 1616, was so much as one direct statement published to show that he had anything whatever to do with the creation of the works which had revolutionized the theatrical and literary worlds for all time. In fact, every reference to William of Stratford as a literary genius is posthumous. None of his contemporary relatives and associates at Stratford can be shown to have referred to him as a writer. All of the man's personal fame was thrust upon him after his death.
He was certainly convinced. Having inherited his unoriginal point of view from an earlier skeptic and personal friend, James Wilmot, an Oxford scholar who lived close to Stratford-upon-Avon, whose searches for the authenticity of Shakespeare's writing frustrated him with its empty-handed result. He transmitted his belief in Shakespeare's wrongly being attributed with the wealth of world literature he had penned.

Since 1850 thousands of books and articles have appeared in publication around the world, most of which claim to have obtained 'proof' of one kind or another, or brilliantly theorized that Shakespeare was not the originator of the literature attributed to him. Of course, William Shakespeare could have been imbued with the genius of his writing muse and used whatever was available around him to stimulate his ideas.

Exposure to others who had had unique experiences made available to him through the talk around taverns, drawing rooms, barber shops, travelling mendicants, religious figures, travelling actors and musicians might all have managed to transfer their personal experiences to his mill seeking adequate grist. Which is precisely what modern writers do, inhaling opportunities to expand on stories they have incubated within their minds through casual encounters of ideas.

As for the scorn placed upon him for an illiterate, not even knowing how to accurately spell his own name, why that too was the currency of the time when there was no acknowledged, institutionalized literary convention of 'correct' spelling. The first English dictionary came out in 1604, and it was a pathetic affair, consisting of a mere three thousand words. William Shakespeare wrote before the advent of proper dictionaries, and of a public awareness of spelling as we know it today.

It is hard to believe that even well known public figures like Sigmund Freud, Henry James and Mark Twain were all interested in the subject, they too expressing doubt that the brilliance ascribed to William Shakespeare was well attributed. Mark Twain is quite the one to cast doubt on the writing of another. Claiming to have written books like The Misanthrope, and The Devil's Race Track (and etcetera), when one has knowledge now that these books were really penned by Samuel Clemens...

So let's leave the Bard to rest in peace, with the full glory intact, of having distinguished himself in a way few other mortal pensmiths have, shall we not?

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