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Shakespeare The Great, but how

How did Shakespeare become Shakespeare? Stephen Greenblatt thinks he knows, even though the ordinary biographical evidence is vague, to say the least. Although there are great dangers to doing what Greenblatt attempts, it is still irresistable reading. A sample: "After patiently sifting through most of the available biographical traces, readers rarely feel closer to understanding how the playwright’s achievements came about. If anything, Shakespeare often seems a drabber, duller person, and the inward springs of his art seem more obscure than ever. The work is so astonishing, so luminous, that it seems to have come from a god and not a mortal, let alone a mortal of provincial origins and modest education.

And yet one of the prime characteristics of Shakespeare’s art is the touch of the real. Even before a gifted actor makes Shakespeare’s words come alive, those words contain the vivid presence of actual, lived experience."

Greenblatt has a new book out, Will in the World, which Adam Gopnik considers favorably for The New Yorker. Also a good read. We are seeing Measure for Measure tonight with the Jane Austen Society, by the way. More on this later.

Discussions - 11 Comments

I haven’t read this book, nor do I intend to. It’s premise is fatally flawed. The idea that the man from Stratford with whom we are all familiar actually wrote the poems and plays of Shakespeare is firmly entrenched, even though it has been hotly debated for over two centuries. To this day no one has ever produced any evidence of any kind that Guillermo Shagsper ever wrote anything or even attended any school. The true poet, Edward de Vere, was uncovered by Looney in the 1920s. The definitive book on the subject is The Mysterious William Shakespeare, by Charlton Ogburn. There are also several books interpreting Shakespeare as written by de Vere which provide much illumination on the meanings of the plays and poems. Understanding who Shakespeare really was and why he wrote is essential to understanding the Renaissance. So much of what is taught and written today on the subject is simply wrong.

Thank you Scott Collier! The author of this book seems totally oblivious to the ongoing debate about the Shakespeare-authorship question. I personally have been following the controversy for close to twenty years. That the real author is Edward deVere, the 17th Earl of Oxford - writing under the pseudonym "William Shake-speare" - and is not William Shaksper of Stratford-on-Avon has been accepted by more and more researchers and scholars who have examined the evidence with an open mind.

To anyone wishing to read more about the controversy, here is a link to ther Shakespeare-Oxford Society website.
http://www.shakespeare-oxford.com/

Didn’t Ogburn participate in a debate on this topic several years ago? I had a transcript of the debate(I think it was moderated by some well known judges), but can’t find it. It must still be out there somewhere. Does anyone have a link to it?

First Jesus, then Socrates, then Homer, now Shakespeare didn’t exist. I don’t know what to believe anymore!

Well, Gary is of course correct; anyone familiar with the real evidence can come away with no other conclusion than that the poems and plays were written by De Vere under a pseudonym. Frank is also correct; Ogburn did appear in a debate on the subject; I believe it was on Firing Line, but I have no link. And Tony, sorry but the Easter Bunny doesn’t exist either. Jesus of course did exist, as did Socrates. Homer’s existence is open to debate, but he probably did live around 800-850 BC. (See Homer and the Origin of the Greek Alphabet.) As for Shakespeare, he certainly did exist; his name was Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford.

The Easter Bunny doesn’t exist? Damn.

Actually, I’ve read several books by academics from academic presses such as Oxford U. Press that deny the existence of all of the persons I’ve mentioned. And, countless people I encounter deny the existence and independent verification of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. So, clearly, there is ignorance on the part of the believers of these "myths" and the "de-bunkers" as well.

Well, Tony, if it makes you feel better, we really don’t know who Chaucer was and we certainly don’t know who wrote Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Mallory’s identity is undetermined; we’ve narrowed it down to 1 of 6 possible persons. Of course, Mark Twain’s existence is also highly questionable, since no such person ever existed. Samuel Clemens, however, we’re pretty sure lived.

Will Shakespeare was a real person, but I suspect Kit Marlowe actually wrote his plays.

The coincidences are too great - but comparing the prose of Tamburlaine to the many different Shakespeare plays did it for me.

So, you’re saying that pseudonyms are not real people? Wow, I didn’t know that. Thanks for the clarification. I learn so much by blogging!

Speculation as to the identity of the poet known as William Shake-speare has been going on for centuries. Some have postulated Bacon, others Marlowe, a few Ben Johnson. Only Thomas Looney in the 1920s correctly identified the poet as Edward de Vere. This identification was confirmed by the evidence presented by Ogburn Sr. in This Star of England, a multi-volume work, and Ogburn Jr. in The Mysterious William Shakespeare, the definitive argument. There are simply too many coincidences that cannot be explained away. Many events in the life of de Vere appear in the plays. The second quarto of Hamlet is largely biographical and introspective. This is perhaps the most unexplored area of literature and criticism, and the only reason why is because the so-called experts can’t or won’t admit that everything they learned about Shakespeare is simply wrong.

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