I feel a bit like the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz. I am a little rusty at this blogging thing. I am a little rusty at this writing thing as well. I get up every morning and say to myself, “I am going to do all of things I love today,” but while it may not be necessarily true that there aren’t enough hours in the day, it is true I do not have the stamina to utilize all of them!
I have been thinking about names all month. Ever since I saw the movie “Anonymous.” If you do not know what this movie is about, in a nutshell it is about Shake-speare. Not the man from Stratford who is the accepted and enshrined Shakespeare of Anne Hathaway’s cottage. No. This movie is the bull horn for an alternate theory to the identity of the man who pondered “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet…” And it wasn’t Will Shakspur, it was Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, at least that is what a growing number of dissenters say.
When the movie was first released last fall, I resisted it. I had heard the vague whisperings about the Bard not being the Bard for years. I had also heard the stock responses from Shakespearean scholars and believing blindly in ivy towers and scholarship, I was sure they knew what they were talking about. But, about seven years ago, I read Peter Ackroyd’s biography about Shakespeare. It was a great book about what was going on during the lifetime of the man from Stratford, but there wasn’t much there, there concerning old Will himself. It was a lot of “he was most likely here, he possibly did this and did that” and “we can assume he…” I remember thinking at the time – goodness, we certainly don’t know much about him.
So, last fall the movie premiered and I felt a faint rustling about this. But, I still thought it was most likely a bunch of hooey. You see, the movie Elizabeth was hooey, sort of like Braveheart was hooey and while I love the costumes in these historical films, I am tired of Hollywood messing with history, trying to fit the events of say,1560, into the politically correct sensibilities of the 21st century. I resisted going.
However, curiosity got the cat and I was longing for something besides Transformers or the usual Hollywood pap and I rented it (on my amazing Roku – best invention since sliced bread) and I watched it.
Perhaps it was the opening with Sir Derek Jacobi that made me want to find out more. He leant a certain credence to the whole idea that this Shakespeare authorship issue is indeed an issue. If a Shakespearean actor can appear in a movie, not as a character in the movie, but as a modern actor DOUBTING the accepted identity of Shakespeare, well, kind of like the movie Jerry Maquire, they had me at hello.
So, I have gone off on a book reading spree. Three at once! And a googling spree – There are many great places to learn about this without buying a single book. Here is a great place to start http://www.shakespeare-oxford.com/, and I will give you one more so you won’t be overwhelmed: http://politicworm.com/blog/. I am now a believer. And you can’t talk me out of it and here is why: if de Vere wrote the plays, they make more sense and are far, far more fascinating. Kind of like Emily Dickinson’s poems are fascinating because when read against the events of her life, they take on dual meanings.
I find myself picking up the plays and actually reading them! I have always disliked Hamlet, but since discovering de Vere, I now find it wonderfully fascinating since it is basically an allegory for his early life. It even includes the character Polonius, who just happened to mimic his father in law, the great William Cecil, Elizabeth I’s chief advisor. Even the scholars agree on this point. So, how did a rube from Stratford who we can’t even prove went to school know these intimate things about the chief councilor to the Queen of England? And how on earth did he get away with writing it? Hmm?
All of the Italy plays seem more relevant since I now know that de Vere spent a great deal of time in Italy in the very towns which populate Shakespeare’s plays. This is what clinched it for me. It is like an amazing mystery, with piles of circumstantial evidence. Trials have been decided on much less.
So, what is in a name? I would say it is the difference between some nice plays and some really juicy gossip and the inner workings of a totalitarian government seen through the eyes of a whistle-blower, that’s what. And it is juicy. It makes the plays better and I think the scholars need to take the splinter out of their eyes and get crackin’ on some real scholarship and end all the “we can assume” nonsense.