Shakespeare’s imagery and vast literary references include the legal and social elements of the Inns of Court, geography, history, war and weaponry, sports and games, classical mythology, drama, the natural world, sea-faring, hunting and falconry, astrology, medicine, art and culture, fashion, gardening and animal husbandry, fencing and fighting, the stage, religion, the occult/magic, paganism, folklore, metaphysics and oratory. Furthermore, to write so accurately about these subjects he would have had a library containing over 3,000 rare and largely unobtainable books and yet in the final last will and testament of the Stratford actor, William Shakspere there is no mention of any library, any books or original manuscripts. No, not even a bible. It was known that for three generations William Shakspere’s ancestors were totally illiterate. Why was it necessary to perpetuate the “Myth and Legend of William Shakespeare” as a “Dick Whittington Clone” and who was responsible for this grandiose conspiracy and fraud on the world? The answer to this and other pertinent questions with regard to the pseudonymous “Bard of Avon” are rather complex and convoluted and can only begin to be questioned in light of the “Shakespeare Authorship Controversy” itself. Certain people with serious doubts about Stratfordian authorship began to look around for other candidates who would match the complex criteria of a literary genius with contacts in Elizabethan court society. One academic in particular named John Thomas Looney examined the available evidence and listed the basic biographical criteria by which Shakespeare’s personality could be defined purely from the text of his plays (See also “Looney’s Revelations”). His conclusions were as follows:
- Of recognised genius and secretive.
- Apparent eccentricity.
- Unconventional status.
- Apparent sense of inadequacy.
- Of pronounced literary tastes.
- Enthusiasm for drama.
- A talent for lyricism in poetry.
- Of extraordinary education.
Furthermore, Thomas Looney ascertained that the author of the 1623 Folio would have been:
i. A man with strong feudal connections.
ii. A member of the higher aristocracy.
iii. A supporter of the Lancastrian cause.
iv. A man who had visited Italy and France.
v. A man of sporting ability.
vi. A man who loved music.
vii. Improvident in financial matters.
viii. Ambivalent towards women.
ix. Of Catholic belief, but touched with scepticism.
Mr. Looney finally pointed his finger towards the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere as the most likely character to have anonymously written the plays and poetry attributed to “William Shakspeare” (“Shakespeare Revealed”, Veritas Publications, 1920). Indeed, and stylometric analysis revealed that “Shakespeare” had collaborated with other writers which gave rise to “The Group Theory” (Celia Bacon) which included people such as Christopher Marlowe, John Fletcher, Sir Francis Bacon, the Earl of Rutland and the Earl of Derby. It seems that the “Facts & Fallacies About Shakespeare” began to be unearthed by alternative academics, so-called “Quackademics” who for example proposed Queen Elizabeth 1st, Lady Jane Grey and Emilia Lanier as the authors of the 1623 Folio. They asserted that it was quite common for aristocratic authors to use a pseudonym and they listed “Clues to Identifying Shake-speare the Man”. Meanwhile, the “Hunt For Shakespeare” continued with the publication of Charlton Ogburn’s controversial book “The Mysterious William Shakespeare” (Cardinal Press 1984) and how did he know so much about “Shakespeare the Swordsman” in the play “Romeo & Juliet”? how did aspects of the “Italian Commedia d’elle Arte” enter his dramatic portfolio (eg: “Love’s Labours Lost”, “The Merchant of Venice”, “A Comedy of Errors”, “King Lear” and “Two Gentlemen of Verona”.) where did he obtain minute and accurate detail about the medical and legal profession? (See also “Shakespeare’s Apothecary”). In the light of an absence of facts or answers Stratfordian academics say William Shakspere’s biography was subject to the “Lost Years Debate” (1587-97), although there remain “Glaring Disparities” in the facts garnered over time and the actual work of poetry and plays. His folio of work (at least 36 plays and seven volumes of poetry) reveals him to be a very complex figure, intimately acquainted with English and foreign courtly society in Europe, an highly educated man and prolific polymath and yet we have no factual evidence that William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon even attended school and certainly did not prove his worth at one of the Inns of Court or University. The only evidence that he had put pen to paper is the discovery of six “shaky signatures” made in the last four years of his life which appear in the purchase of a shared lease in the Blackfriar’s Gatehouse, as a witness in a case of breach of contract (Bellot & Mountjoy) and the three pages of his last will and testament. Hardly a conclusive testament to his career as a poet or playwright.
Well, we might also inquire how did a relatively unknown and uneducated actor from Stratford-on-Avon become a universally popular and illustrious author of some 38 plays and several volumes of poetry that have been poured over and studied for centuries? Having little or no primary education how would he become acquainted with the subtle techniques of classical poetry, English, Greek and Roman history, as well as the political, legal, and social mores of Elizabethan court society? Indeed, how was this relatively illiterate man, who could barely sign his own name, able to develop an extraordinary vocabulary of some 29,000 words of which 1,700 were presumed by academics to have been coined by him in such a short space of time. Why was his death in 1616 not eulogised and nationally mourned as a literary and dramatic genius? How could a man who had never known military service describe the historical battlefield so accurately and with such personal experience. If the man from Stratford had never travelled abroad how could he have known so much about the geography, customs and cultural traditions of towns and countryside in Venice, Padua, Antwerp and Rome? Furthermore, why was William Shakspere’s father, John initially refused a “Coat of Arms” and then much later the College of Arms finally granted his application but with the ambiguous and “tongue-in-cheek” motto “Not Without Right”? As coats of arms were usually awarded to illustrious military figures, and as far as is known William Shakspere had no inclination or interest in any military profession on land or sea, what, or should we ask “Who” persuaded the College of Arms to finally grant William Shakspere his coat of arms when they had previously denied that grant on the grounds that his mother Mary Arden was a close relative of the aristocratic Arden family of Park Hall?
William Shakspere’s social life appears rather mundane and to all intents does not reflect the life of a bohemian poet or playwright. He appears more interested in acquiring property by fair means or foul, lending small amounts of money and then harassing his borrowers who had defaulted on their loans, selling building materials, and finally as a landlord farmer with agricultural land tenanted by his relatives and friends. His close friends appear to be equally capable of deceiving the authorities and assisting his financial schemes to enclose land at Welcombe. The result of which several disputes arose in which the opponents to the scheme were killed and injured. Other vocations or professions ascribed to Shakespeare were that he worked as a glover and wool-brogger, a term used to describe a “wool merchant”, but he was also fined for hoarding grain during a dearth in Stratford for purely financial gain. Soon after acquiring his “coat of arms” he was involved in a street brawl in London and was bound over to keep the peace on forfeit of a surety. One of his ancestors was actually hanged three generations before for highway robbery. As a result Shakespeare academics were anxious to construct a “Viable Biography of William Shakspeare” to fill the enormous vacuum of what was actually known about the bucolic William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon. But all that they could come up with is a number of theories, suppositions and conjectures that for example he worked as a school teacher in Lancashire, that as a boy he poached deer from the nearby Charlecote estate or that his first job at the London theatres was looking after the horses for visitors while working as an apprentice poet and playwright. A study of Shakespeare’s Sonnets suggests someone who had an extra-marital affair so again academics had to survey the details of Shakspere’s life in order to link him to an Oxford landlady, Jeanne Davenant and an illegitimate son, William Davenant. Later academics coined the term “Dark Lady & the Rival Poet” to define the identity of the woman concerned and the poet who betrayed him. To substantiate any connection with a patron they turned to the “Dedication in the Sonnets” to explain the many references to “A Fair Youth” who Shakespeare implored to marry and procreate. No one in William Shakspere’s own family appears to correspond to a “Fair Youth”? Finally, even a ground penetrating radar test conducted on Shakespeare’s tomb soon after the discovery of Richard IIIrd’s body in a car park in Leicester revealed nothing but dust and rubble! So, where were the actual remains of Shakespeare’s body and how did it mysteriously disappear?
It is generally accepted by academics that the pseudonymous “William Shakespeare” must have had a good grasp of classical Latin, Greek, Italian, French and Spanish, that is those languages specifically taught in England’s schools, colleges or universities and which are found written and performed in Shakespeare’s plays. However, we are informed that William Shakspere left Stratford on Avon in 1587 without ever attending a college or university or being tutored in any language save his own native Warwickshire. How and why was this anonymuncule given credit for plays and poetry far beyond his personal capacity and comprehension? In actual fact no mention whatsoever is made of Stratford or Warwickshire in any of Shakespeare’s plays or poetry. So how could someone who was untutored in languages be able to read so many books in Greek, French and Latin and speak or write so innovatively, eloquently and articulately in the English language? For several centuries after the publication of the 1623 Folio of plays Shakespeare academics portrayed “Shakespeare” as a natural talent, a “working class hero”, born out of an Anglo-Saxon tradition while the text of the poetry and plays confirms someone acquainted with the literary subtleties of Euphuism, able to include several regional dialects and linguistic details of both French and Italian court society into his plays. It is well-known that the French language was spoken solely by aristocrats and the average man would not have been able to read, let alone write well in that language. And yet there are over one hundred and fifty references to words either constructed from the French language or taken directly from it.
Is it merely coincidence or deeply relevant to the Shakespeare Authorship debate that soon after the death of the Elizabethan actor William Shakspere, whose life embodied the legend of Dick Whittington, the country lad who made good in the capital, that this tale subsequently became a prominent theme in Jacobean theatre, culture and society? As a result of this picaresque theme, many people could readily accept that a relatively unknown person such as William Shakspere could ascend the heights of literary endeavour through his own personal efforts alone, unaided and un-mentored, and become the most renowned playwright, theatre manager and poet of Elizabethan England. The myth or legend of a “simple youth” who by dint of perseverance, self-reliance and ingenuity succeeds by becoming the greatest illustrious poet and playwright the world has ever known is more akin to the “American Dream”. To cast doubt on this ludicrous assertion is to deny the working class a “universal hero” to aspire to, applaud and to admire.
|The links to my publications “Shakespeare’s Qaballah”, a Companion to Shakespeare Studies and my anthology of poetry, “Parthenogenesis” are as follows:|