My Kingdom for a Conspiracy Theory

Once more, dear friends, once more they’re rattling Shakespeare’s bones. This just in from UPI:

            British actors Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance have renewed the debate on whether or not William Shakespeare was the true writer of his works. They have already received 300 signatures for their “declaration of reasonable doubt,” which was made in hopes of prompting further research into the issue, said the BBC Sunday.
“I subscribe to the group theory. I don’t think anybody could do it on their own,” said Jacobi.
The 287-member Shakespeare Authorship Coalition said it does not believe Shakespeare, a commoner born into an illiterate household, could have written plays about law.
Conspiracy theories have circulated that a number of writers could have used Shakespeare as a pen name, including playwright Christopher Marlowe, nobleman Edward de Vere and Francis Bacon.
“I think the leading light was probably de Vere as I agree that an author writes about his own experience, his own life and personalities,” said Jacobi.

This sort of speculation, I think it is safe to say, will be with us until Doomsday. Without going into the evidence, except to mention that nine of the plays, most notably The Tempest, were written after de Vere’s death, I will note that there is a hell of a lot more evidence for Shakespeare than against him. In fact, the anti-Stratfordians biggest gun always seems to be that Willy S. was an ill-educated commoner.

And that is precisely why he was eminently suited to have written the plays. People from privileged backgrounds and with the finest educations rarely show true genius in the arts. They may become very, very good at producing examples of what is acceptable to the current arbiters of taste, but they do not produce revolutions. Revolutions are produced by people like Beethoven, and Dali, and, yes, Kerouac, who do not fit in the world as it is, and whose struggle is against the arbiters of taste and the status quo.

Another thing the conspiracy theorists always bring up is that Will’s plays show too deep a knowledge of law and various other professions. Fiddlesticks. That’s called research, and I’m sure there were plenty of lawyers who liked to hang around the theatre whom Shakespeare could have gotten information from. Derek Jacobi, of all people, ought to be able to see that an actor does not have to actually live the life in order to play it, or even to write about it.

If there is one profession that is written about again and again in the plays, it is that of actor, and I’m not even talking about the obvious cases such as in Midsummer Night’s Dream. Characters are constantly playing roles, hiding behind subterfuge, masking their true motivations, in order to get what they want. You want examples? Iago, Richard III, Viola, Hamlet. Sometimes, characters even take on other motivations against their will, as in Midsummer.

That’s what Shakespeare was, by the way: an actor, and I suspect a damned good one.

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