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Thread: Did Shakespeare write the plays?

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    Registered User Emil Miller's Avatar
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    Did Shakespeare write the plays?

    This subject has been aired before on the forum but, in the light of the below mentioned report in the Evening Standard yesterday, would members care to comment ?

    Shakespeare did not write his own plays, claims Sir Derek Jacobi

    Two leading Shakespearean actors have joined the doubters who believe the bard did not write the plays.

    Sir Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance, also former artistic director of Shakespeare's Globe, believe his works were written by an aristocrat. They made the claims during a debate at Brunel University. Today is Shakespeare's birthday and also the day he died.

    Both actors are among a group of 1,400 people who signed a "declaration of reasonable doubt" into the works. Sir Derek said he was "99.9 per cent certain" the actual author of the plays and sonnets was Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford.

    The group says the case for Shakespeare writing his own material rests on testimony contained in the First Folio plays published in 1623, seven years after his death. But there is no corroborative documentary evidence from his life.

    Rylance said: "With the man from Stratford [Shakespeare] we don't know how he gathered the life experience and book learning that's very, very apparent in the work attributed to him."

    Oxford was well educated and travelled widely.

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    Card-carrying Medievalist Lokasenna's Avatar
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    I never much cared for Rylance, though I do like Derek Jacobi, which therefore rather surprises me.

    Regardless, the vast majority of academic thinking is against them. I really fail to see why people cannot accept that Shakespeare wrote the plays; plenty of historical evidence bares this out, whatever the declaration says.

    If the Earl of Oxford had written it, then why have a big conspiracy? Why would one of the greatest literary geniuses the world has ever produced choose a random man from Stratford as booby? Surely he could have worked under a pseudonym without needing a front-man?

    The Declaration's website is a joke - I don't know if that came across in your article Brian, but not only does it mention de Vere, but also suggests Marlowe, Bacon and Mary Sidney. Also, there list of "celebrity" doubters is very spurious - people who are quoted as merely marvelling at the mysterious life of Shakespeare are listed as adherents to the Declaration's cause, as are those who merely hypothesize what it would be like if he hadn't written them.

    Hmm... that was a longer post than I intended... I'll stop ranting now...
    "I should only believe in a God that would know how to dance. And when I saw my devil, I found him serious, thorough, profound, solemn: he was the spirit of gravity- through him all things fall. Not by wrath, but by laughter, do we slay. Come, let us slay the spirit of gravity!" - Nietzsche

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    Registered User Emil Miller's Avatar
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    I am not taking sides here, because I simply do not know the truth of the matter but according to Wickipedia, there are some impressive names among those supporting the Earl of Oxford as is shown in the list below.


    Notable Oxfordians include Sigmund Freud, diplomat and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Paul Nitze, Supreme Court Justices Harry Blackmun and John Paul Stevens, columnist Joseph Sobran, former British judge Christmas Humphreys, biographer and historian David McCullough, as well as actors Orson Welles, Sir John Gielgud, Michael York, Jeremy Irons, Mark Rylance (former Artistic Director of the Globe Theatre) and Sir Derek Jacobi, who supports the "group theory" with Oxford as the lead writer.[13]

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    Alea iacta est. mortalterror's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Bean View Post
    I am not taking sides here, because I simply do not know the truth of the matter but according to Wickipedia, there are some impressive names among those supporting the Earl of Oxford as is shown in the list below.
    But did you check Wikipedia's sample poetry for the Earl of Oxford? It's not very good and it's not very Shakespearean. It's one of those things I can't help but shake my head at. Likewise, when people offer Bacon or Marlowe as candidates, it makes me think they haven't read either. All of these men have unique voices and if you read enough of them, you ought to be able to tell them apart, without looking at a title page.
    "So-Crates: The only true wisdom consists in knowing that you know nothing." "That's us, dude!"- Bill and Ted
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    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    It's merely the English class system refusing to accept that someone not coming from the top bracket could have done something incredible. We know for an almost certain fact that Ben Jonson came from a poor background. Why is it such a stretch to accept Shakespeare? I know why - because people are elitists, and think only rich people can produce art like that. In other words, a great actor has now committed his name to the list of other elitists who believe in the "superiority" of the upper class intellect. It isn't surprising, given that England has a long history of the dominance of the "upper class" in the arts, and has a thoroughly ingrained class system, that perhaps only in the last few years has started to crumble. There is very little we know about Shakespeare, and there is even less linking him to other people. Yeah right, next we'll hear that his wife wrote all the tragedies, and brother the comedies. Quite simply, even smart people stoop to folly on this question, but even so, there is no proof, no point to even thinking of the theories as real scholarship, and no point even asking the question. We know next to nothing about Shakespeare as a person. What does it really matter if he was poor or not, his plays are essentially all we have to go by, in terms of understanding the dramatist, and even they tell us nothing. Just accept that he lived and died, and read the plays, instead of all this bickering over stupidity as the English class system tries to defend itself against proof that poor people actually, *gasp*, can write good literature.

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    Registered User Cicero's Avatar
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    I love these conspiracy theories

    Aliens build the pyramids, the freemasons were responsible for the French Revolution, the moonlanding was a fake, the CIA and not Bin Laden bombed the WTC... Shakespeare didn't write his plays...

    All these theories are so convincing in themselves that they don't need any scientific evidence whatsoever to support their claims

    But to be serious: I cannot believe how any reasonable person, let alone Derek Jacobi who should know better, can seriously think that Shakespeare didn't write his plays and come up with such crude theories concerning the "real" authorship of the dramas... unless some new and convincing evidence to the contrary turns up (for instance a letter in which Oxford describes how he wrote Romeo and Juliet...).

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    Registered User Emil Miller's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JBI View Post
    We know next to nothing about Shakespeare as a person. What does it really matter if he was poor or not, his plays are essentially all we have to go by, in terms of understanding the dramatist, and even they tell us nothing.
    If this is true, then isn't there a possibilty that he didn't write them ?

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    Shakespeare didn't write those plays......yeah right....excuse me while I just wave at the flying pigs hurtling past my window!!!

    Shakespeare wrote them, and I'll fight anyone who says differently .

    Seriously though, this is a real bugbear of mine. No-one questioned that he wrote them until 200 years after his death, and what's the name of the man who started it all, but Looney?

    Ben Johnson knew him, was his friend, and said of him, "he was not of an age, but for all time", so he knew he was something special. All this rubbish about not knowing enough about the man from Stratford is just hogwash. So he signed his name different ways, so what? He wasn't alone. He never went to University, so he couldn't possibly have enough education to write how he did.....hmmph, a grammar school education at that time would have been very good on the classics. It's pure snobbery. He must have been an aristocrat....a commoner couldn't write like that

    All of these daft theories reject the presence of genius. Why can't someone from his backgound be touched by that?

    There is absolutely no reason to believe that he didn't write them. Any serious Shakespeare scholar would laugh the suggestion off. Conspiracy theories are fun, but this one is absolutely, certainly, 100%, gold-plated, no-questions-asked, barking mad. I'm surprised at Jacobi, who is a very great actor, I've seen him on stage as Richard 111, and as Thomas a Becket, and how he can put his name to this sham whilst making his living from the Bard's great words is outrageous. He may come to regret his rashness.
    Last edited by wessexgirl; 04-24-2009 at 01:07 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cicero View Post
    All these theories are so convincing in themselves that they don't need any scientific evidence whatsoever to support their claims
    That made me laugh! Thanks Cicero.

    Would submit a longer comment about the actual topic but I don't really have time for the long rant I would probably produce! All I'll ask is why do people go to such lengths to come up with ridiculous answers to questions that never had any reason to be asked in the first place?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dark Lady View Post
    That made me laugh! Thanks Cicero.

    Would submit a longer comment about the actual topic but I don't really have time for the long rant I would probably produce! All I'll ask is why do people go to such lengths to come up with ridiculous answers to questions that never had any reason to be asked in the first place?
    Quite. I'm assuming from your moniker that you're a fan of the Bard too?

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    Registered User Emil Miller's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=wessexgirl;710007]Shakespeare wrote them, and I'll fight anyone who says differently.

    Then you will have to fight some pretty heavyweight authorities on Shakespeare such as Sir John Gielgud and Orson Welles if Wickipedia are to be believed.

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    [QUOTE=Brian Bean;710017]
    Quote Originally Posted by wessexgirl View Post
    Shakespeare wrote them, and I'll fight anyone who says differently.

    Then you will have to fight some pretty heavyweight authorities on Shakespeare such as Sir John Gielgud and Orson Welles if Wickipedia are to be believed.
    Bring them on, I think I would win, what with them being dead and all that .

    I know that lots of people have questioned this, but I think serious Shakespeare scholars know their stuff, and I wouldn't use Wikipedia in a serious argument. I did some work on this subject a while ago, so I know that there are "big" names on the side of the doubters, but it still doesn't make it plausible.

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    Registered User Stargazer86's Avatar
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    How funny...I was actually going to start a thread on this today.

    I've kind of always been on the Edward DeVere side for several reasons. When I'm off work I'll elaborate more.

    However, even valid arguments for DeVere, Bacon etc seem to get a little conspiracy theory at times, even to the point of being ridiculous. I vaugely remember watching a video on this and part of the argument being that the famous portrait of Shakespeare proves that Shakespeare himself could not have written the stories as it is half a picture reversed and put together (look at the location of the stripe on each sleeve). That's getting pretty silly about the whole matter.

    Part of me likes to think that the traditional story of Shakespeare and his writtings is true. It makes the writings more impressive to think that this man from humble upbringing and limited education produced such masterpieces (and was so prolific)

    I find this subject exceedingly interesting and plan to revisit this thread in the near future...

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    Card-carrying Medievalist Lokasenna's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wessexgirl View Post
    Ben Johnson knew him, was his friend, and said of him, "he was not of an age, but for all time", so he knew he was something special. All this rubbish about not knowing enough about the man from Stratford is just hogwash. So he signed his name different ways, so what? He wasn't alone. He never went to University, so he couldn't possibly have enough education to write how he did.....hmmph, a grammar school education at that time would have been very good on the classics. It's pure snobbery. He must have been an aristocrat....a commoner couldn't write like that

    All of these daft theories reject the presence of genius. Why can't someone from his backgound be touched by that?

    There is absolutely no reason to believe that he didn't write them. Any serious Shakespeare scholar would laugh the suggestion off.
    Nicely said. His grammar school education would have been excellent; this is historically proven. And he wasn't exactly from a poor background - his father was a successful businessman and alderman, and his maternal grandfather was a great landowner.

    Anyway, saying that only an aristocrat could write from the point of view of the aristocracy is patently absurd. It would be like saying that J K Rowling couldn't have really written Harry Potter because she isn't a wizard - balderdash!
    "I should only believe in a God that would know how to dance. And when I saw my devil, I found him serious, thorough, profound, solemn: he was the spirit of gravity- through him all things fall. Not by wrath, but by laughter, do we slay. Come, let us slay the spirit of gravity!" - Nietzsche

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    Quote Originally Posted by wessexgirl View Post
    I'm assuming from your moniker that you're a fan of the Bard too?
    I think that's the first time anyone has actually commented on it (although, being a literature website, many people here have allusions to various writers as their monikers so probably not surprising). Big fan. Haven't read all of his surviving works yet because I simply haven't had time but I intend to after I finish uni (only a few weeks left!). I can still vividly remember the first time I read any Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet back in first year of secondary school; mainly because I'd seen the Baz Luhrmann film and loved it. I owe a lot to that film!

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