The photo? I want to draw you in against your better nature. Even though you fundamentally disagree with where I’m coming from, or can’t for the life of you understand why I’m spending my time on this rubbish. Because I appreciate most of my friends, and the visitors to this website, are orthodox in their Shakespeare leanings, and I entirely respect that, so rather than frighten you off with a more conventional ‘Who is Shakespeare?’ kind of image I thought I’d give you a rather arty naked lady.
But it’s interesting, isn’t it? The whole Shakespeare authorship controversy has been hotting up over the last month. And I’ve been keeping (relatively) quiet. Not because I’ve nothing to say on the matter, but because internet forums, blogs, online newspaper comments sections, are rarely the place to make good arguments. People feel very strongly on this matter, are often ill-informed and full of bluster, and I’d rather lay out my thinking in book form. It can’t be done in a blog post, or an online retort.
The cause of all the recent excitement was the release of Roland Emmerich’s Anonymous. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust acted angrily to this piece of Hollywood hokum (which has not yet reached Brighton after a scaled back release, and possibly may not do so until in DVD form) by blacking out Shakespeare’s name on pub and road signs across Warwickshire, covering up his statue, taking out 1/6 page colour ads in the Daily Telegraph (spotted over someone’s shoulder on a plane) and releasing a new website where 61 people, including Stephen Fry, Prince Charles, and the two people whom others might hold responsible for the fact that I have a PhD – supposedly speak up for the traditional candidate.*
I say supposedly, because not every response actually does that, even if they don’t realise it. Anyone who believes Shakespeare of Stratford was the same man as the author William Shakespeare naturally conflates the two, so items offered as evidence supporting the Stratford man’s authorship are often only evidence that there was an author known to world as William Shakespeare… which no Shakespeare sceptic disputes. Our future king, for example, speaks about the author’s interest in royalty, and how he therefore must have met both Elizabeth and James – without pointing to any primary source evidence that the author was the man from Stratford. As you might expect (he is heir to the throne, not a professional academic) and because there isn’t any (the whole reason the Shakespeare Authorship Question exists in the first place). A piece of embargoed news will soon be added HERE…
This month also sees the release of Richard Paul Roe’s The Shakespeare Guide To Italy: Retracing the Bard’s Unknown Travels (Harper Collins), the product of twenty year’s research. The paperback’s not out in the UK until next month, but I’m already reading it on my Kindle, and it makes fascinating reading. I was aware of previous research on the Italian content of the plays, specifically Ernest Grillo’s and Roger Prior’s. But up until now, when it came to demonstrating to the lay person why sceptics claim there is ‘reasonable doubt‘ about the traditional authorship attribution, there has been nothing so comprehensive or accessible as this book. Did the person who wrote these plays have first person knowledge of the Italian cities he wrote about? The kind of knowledge one could only get through being there, rather than gleaning from tavern conversation or book? Read Roe’s book and make up your own mind.
As a result of the recent kerfuffle I’ve received a few interesting invitations, not least of which is to speak on the Shakespeare authorship question at Sussex tomorrow in a lunchtime debate organised for English PostGrads (B274, 1pm, if you qualify). I am speaking for ten minutes on ‘Why we should ask the question’. Then Dr Peter Langman will speak for the same length of time on “Why we shouldn’t”. This is where we’re at in academia right now, and I must say, I find it rather heartening. To question the authorship of Shakespeare has long been an academic taboo, and the whole thrust of my research has been to argue that it is a taboo that needs to be broken. To debate it at all is a step in the right direction.
Though a great deal is going on in my life right now, much of it is of an embargoed nature, so my communications for now will remain sporadic. But one piece of news I can share is that after four car-free years I am finally back behind the wheel of an old Ford Escort convertible. I really couldn’t be happier.
* I originally included a link to the site here. However, as of 18 Feb 2013, I gather the website is on Google’s malware URL list and twenty pages have been the source of unwanted infections… so steer clear!