A new Roland Emmerich film - Anonymous - was released in October 2011. The seventeenth Earl of Oxford (1550-1604), says Emmerich, wrote the Shakespearian works. How could such a postulation come about and where does this doubt as to William Shaksper's authorship come from? (No offence is intended by calling the actor from Stratford-upon-Avon “Shaksper”; he certainly wouldn't have taken any, that's how he wrote it on his marriage license.) - After the academic world has been guessing and floundering for 150 years, the literary detective Kurt Kreiler surprises us with a book that addresses this subject after years of sound and thorough academic research. This is definitely the leading book on this subject. Chapters 1 and 2 explain why Will Shaksper from Stratford-upon-Avon was not an author. In chapter 3, ten works of the author William Shakespeare will be analysed with a view to determine what criteria the author must have had in order to write the works in question. Which foreign lands had the author visited? What historical references have been made? When were the pieces written? Chapter 4 examines the social perspectives of the “Author of the plays”. Chapter 5 examines what Shakespeare's literary contemporaries knew about him, with whom did they associate him, what qualities did they attribute to him? An analysis of the Harvey-Nashe-Quarrel show us that they both agree that the author “Master William” was the creator of the figure Falstaff and that this author was Eduard de Vere, Earl of Oxford. Chapter 6 deals with the first part of the biography of Eduard de Vere. Chapters 7 and 8 show that the the profile of the Author that was developed in chapters 3-5 correlates logically and universally with the biography of the Earl of Oxford. Chapter 9 is a continuation of the biography of the writer and spear shaker “William Shake-speare” up to his death in 1604. Chapter 10 shows why, how and for whom the dramatist Ben Jonson went about the task of procuring the nom de plume Shake-speare. By using the coincidental similarity between the names Shake-speare and Shaksper, Jonson posthumously set up a marionette to claim authorship of the Shakespearian works. Kurt Kreiler (b. 23 June 1950) is a German author and dramaturg. He read philology and philosophy at university, his studies culminating in a doctoral thesis on the short lived Bavarian Republic of People's Councils (1918/19). In 1983 he began his work as a writer for television and radio. In 2009 Insel Verlag published Kreiler’s: “The Man who invented Shakespeare”; a book that caused a considerable stir in Germany."
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The Man Behind
To the Reader
England will always be able to call Shaksper and Shakespeare her sons. One a successful manager, the other a successful dramatist. Two beautiful horses, so alike until they started running in different directions.
Will Shaksper removes his mask, takes a bow and takes his place behind the author. For four hundred years he has been walking in huge footprints without being cleansed from the bloodless ink of orthodoxy. May his ashes find eternal peace.
1. The Collapse of the Monument
...and if the people want to say that the moon’s made of green cheese; then I say ‘Let them’. There’ve always been idiots and there always will be.
Professor Stanley Wells, a pleasant elderly gentleman sits on a regency striped sofa in Stratford-upon-Avon and laughs about the gullibility of those who believe the theories that Master William Shaksper (1564 -1616), son of a glove maker, actor and theatre owner was not the author of the Shakespearian works.
“It’s a bit like saying, well perhaps that van Beethoven couldn’t have written Beethoven’s symphonies, because he was a man of the people.” The professor smiles and makes himself comfortable. “There is no reason to doubt that the plays were written by William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon. So anybody questioning that is refusing to face facts and thinking up fancy conspiracy theories.”
With an air of finality he tugged at his shirt collar:
“Yes, my opinion is, to use an English colloquialism, that is all a lot of crap.”
The six signatures: Willm Shackp / William Shaksper / Wm Shakspe re [?] / William Shackspere / Wllm. Shakspere / [by me William] Shakespe re [?]
Professor Wells has every reason to be indignant: As director of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, he is the guardian of the treasures that keep the memory of the man from Stratford alive. The many examples of handwriting, the letters (as you may already know there is the famous letter from Richard Quiney to mr wm Shackespre who “shall ffrende me muche in helpeing me out of all the debettes I owe in London I thancke god & muche quiet my mynde which wolde nott be indebeted”) and the rare books (so rare that not a single copy has been found). Be that as it may, Stratford is the undisputed owner of the house in which Shaksper was born (purchased by his father John Shaksper when William was eleven years old). Shaksper’s grave (which was discovered to be empty in1796) and the legendary bust of which Mark Twain said that it had the deep, deep, deep, subtle, subtle, subtle, expression of a bladder….
The Bust of Will Shaksper (1623)
Much to the chagrin of the professor, it has been said that William Shaksper was an unimportant personage who couldn’t possibly have written all those plays with their countless references to Latin, Italian, Spanish and French literature, simply because he never received the necessary education.
“The fact is that Shakespeare was born here in Stratford“, informs us the man on the sofa. “That his father was mayor or bailiff of Stratford, that gave Shakespeare the right to go to the grammar school here in Stratford. That school had pupils who were tutored by Oxford graduates, we know the name of the teachers, and that the
grammar school’s curriculum at Shakespeare’s time was a training in literature, it was a training in rhetoric and oratory. Pupils had to learn Latin, they had to listen to Latin, they had to speak Latin all the time while they were at school - and the books they studied were books like Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Cicero’s writings, Quintilian, the Latin playwrights like Plautus and Terence.“
The King’s New School enjoyed, no doubt, a good reputation, even though the ten hour day must have been tedious and boring; as described in Bill Bryson’s entertaining and refreshing, though not particularly factual, biography of Shaksper.
The son of the glove maker learned how to make convincing speeches in Latin; assuming of course that he attended the school at all. Even the guardian of the grail, Professor Stanley Wells has to admit: “We have no lists of pupils, of any pupils who went to the grammar school in Shakespeare’s time. So there is no mystery that he is not listed as a pupil in the grammar school. Nobody else is, but it must have had pupils.“
Nobody is going to maintain, out of pure spite, that the immortal bard didn’t attend Stratford’s illustrious institution of higher education. But is it all that convincing?
There is an interesting quote to be read from William Beeston (born c.1605, died 1682), the son of Christopher Beeston, a colleague of Will Shaksper of Stratford from the days when both were members of the Lord Chamberlain’s acting company. He said of Shaksper that he was “the more to be admired, because he was not a company keeper, lived in Shoreditch, wouldn’t be debauched, and if invited to writ, he was in paine” (Aubrey’s Brief Lives, ed. 1898). -There is a kindred sentence set down by John Ward on becoming rector of the Stratford church in 1662. “I have heard,” Ward wrote, “that Mr. Shakespear was a natural wit, without any art at all” (Diary of the Rev. John Ward, extending from 1648 to 1679, London 1839).
It is not certain that Will Shaksper (or Shakspere), the actor was enrolled in the grammar school, nor is it certain, assuming such an enrolment took place, that he continued to attend the grammar school after his father’s removal from public office in 1576. However, the question that concerns us most is: Could the grammar school at Stratford have provided him with the education required to be fluent in Italian, French and Spanish at the age of fourteen?
The Author, to call him so, was well acquainted with the following Italian works which had not been translated into English during Shaksper’s lifetime.
Bernardo Accolti, La Virginia (All’Well That’s Ends Well) Matteo Bandello, Le Novelle I.22 (Much Ado about Nothing, A Winter’s Tale) Matteo Bandello, Le Novelle II.36 (Two Gentlemen of Verona, Twelfth Night) Giovanni Boccaccio, The Decameron, III.3 (Measure for Measure) Giovanni Boccaccio, The Decameron, II.9 (Cymbeline) Giordano Bruno, Il Candelaio (Love’s Labours Lost) Giraldi Cinthio, Gli Hecatommithi, III.7 (Othello) Giraldi Cinthio, Gli Hecatommithi, V.8 (Twelfth Night) Ser Giovanni Fiorentino, Il Pecorone IV.1 (The Merchant of Venice) Giovanni Francesco Straparola, Le piacevoli nocci (Taming of the Shrew) Giorgio Vasari, Le Vite de’ più eccellenti pittori (A Winter’s Tale)
The Author had also read Dante and Petrarca, along with the French poets Salluste du Bartas and Pierre de Ronsard. He distilled “Hamlet” from a piece from François de Belleforest (ed. 1576) and he didn’t need to wait for John Florio to translate the essays of Michel de Montaigne. At the same time he was well acquainted with “Diana Enamorada” by Jorge de Montemayor and “Conde Lucanor” by Don Juan Manuel.
There are some indications that the poet was no stranger to the Greek language. In sonnets 153 and 154 we see the strong influence of the epigrams 626 and 627 from Marianus Scolasticus (6th century AD): Connected by a related theme, the two sonnets form a pair, as do the two epigrams. The sonnets imitate the pair-structure that we see in the epigrams.J.A.K. Thompson pointed out quotes from Sophocles’ “Ajax” and Euripides’ “Hekuba” in his book “Shakespeare and the Classics” (1952). Perhaps the learned writer studied the Greek works in the form of Latin translations -he most definitely readthe works of Plutarch, Livius, Seneca, Ovid, Virgil, Horaz, Plautus and Terence, effortlessly for his enjoyment. -An impressive feat for a grammar school boy from Stratford (although, as Bill Bryson points out, it is not even certain that he even went there).
The Author obviously loved browsing through shamelessly expensive books; such as the Geneva Bible (translated by William Whittingham, Geneva 1568), the works of Plutarch (translated into French by Jean Amyot, Paris 1567), in “The Anatomy of Man’s Body” (1577) from which he quotes in “Love’s Labours lost” or in divers publications from his favourite author, Chaucer. The author of the plays also had a thorough knowledge of medicine, law, natural science and philosophy. He never once praised his own vast wealth of knowledge however his agile mind could jump from French literature to haematology and to gravitation. (Regarding gravitation he was a follower of the teachings of Tycho Brahe.)
“There is no basis for questioning”, says Professor Stanley Wells. Well he would have to say that, he doesn’t want Stratford-upon-Avon to lose the millions of visitors who go there year for year. One can’t help asking: Why don’t the scholars of the English language around the world ask a little more discerningly: what do we know about the man with the golden ear-ring on the Chandos portrait? Why doesn’t he look like the wonderful bust in Trinity Church Stratford? (It’s safe to assume that the bust had to be an accurate likeness because it was subject to the scrutiny of relatives, friends and neighbours, so: who was the man on the Chandos portrait?)
Chandos portrait: The man with the ear-ring
What about the educations of other poets and dramatists? Did their school records get lost as well?
No they didn’t. Here’s a list of some Elizabethan literary personages with their respective educations.
John Lyly, novelist and dramatist (1554-1606), became a student at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he proceeded to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees and in 1574 applied to Lord Burghley „for the queen’s letters to Magdalen College to admit him fellow.“George Peele, dramatist (1556-1596), educated at Christ’s Hospital, entered Pembroke College, Oxford, in 1571. In 1574 he moved to Christ Church, taking his B.A. degree in 1577, and proceeding M.A. in 1579.Thomas Watson, lyrical poet and translator (1557-1592), was educated at Winchester College and Oxford University. He then spent seven years in France and Italy before studying law in London.Robert Greene, novelist, romancer and dramatist (1558-1592), attended Cambridge University, receiving a B.A. in 1580, and an M.A. in 1583 before moving to London, where he became the first professional author in England.George Chapman, poet dramatist and translator (1559-1634), spent, according to Wood, „some time in Oxon, where he was observed to be most excellent in the Latin and Greek tongues, but not in logic or philosophy.“Christopher Marlowe, dramatist, poet and translator (1564-1593), attended The King’s School, Canterbury and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge on a scholarship and received his B.A. degree in 1584, and an M.A. in 1587.Ben Jonson (1572-1637), Shakespeare’s jealous colleague, attended school in St. Martin’s Lane, and was later sent to Westminster School, where one of his teachers was the singular William Camden.
Only of Will Shaksper do we have to say: He might have gone to grammar school in Stratford, but the records got lost. He obviously went to school somewhere because he was very clever.
“We know more about Shakespeare than we know about any other dramatist of his period”, says Bill Bryson, quoting David Thomas, the happy go lucky archivist from the Public Records Office in Kew. Yes we know a lot about Will Shaksper of Stratford’s dealings with the law, his changes of address, his business partnerships, his financial transactions.
However, during the hundreds of years of groping through dust in the search of a further scrawled signature, five generations of book worms haven’t managed to come up with anything further than Shaksper's unforgivably arid biography:
“Guliemus filius Johannes Shaksper” was christened in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire (population 1500) on 26 April 1564.
His father, John Shaksper (1530-1601) married Mary Arden, the daughter of his land-lord, in 1557. As well as being a glove maker, he was also the bailiff, constable, Alderman and Chamberlain in Stratford on Avon. John and Mary Shaksper had eight children, five of whom survived. In the year 1570 John Shaksper was accused of usury because he loaned the sum of £ 220 to a certain Walter Mussum at an interest rate so high, that he was breaking the law. In 1571 he was accused of acting contrary to the monopoly laws when he dealt with “a couple of tons” of wool. In 1576 he resigned from all public offices. But only because of his father’s offices was William given a free education. John Shaksper was behind with his taxes in 1578 and he was forced to mortgage his wife’s estate in 1579. This points to the probability that John couldn’t pay his son’s school fees after 1576 and that Will Shaksper couldn’t have had any formal education after the age of twelve.
Permission to marry was granted to the eighteen year old “Wm Shaxpere” by the Bishop of Worcester on 27. November 1582. One day later two Stratford citizens, John Richardson and Fulk Sandells, both guarenteed with £ 40 each that there were no legal impediments to the marriage of “willm Shagspere” to “Anne hathwey”. The bride was three months pregnant.
The parish records of Stratford reveal that Will Shaksper of Stratford and Anne Hathaway had three children. Susanna was christened on 26 May 1583 and the twins Hamnet and Judith were christened on 2 February 1585.
(In one of John Shaksper’s court cases, in 1588, William is mentioned under the name “Williemo Shackespere filio”)
At some time in the nineties during “the lost years”, the young man abandoned his wife and children and went to seek his fortune in London. The Stratfordians would have us believe that he might have sought the company of a townsman, the printer Richard Field. And further, that on account of the close proximity of their houses and the trades of the two fathers (John Shaksper- glover, Henry Field -tanner) the Shaksper family and the Field family were friends. However John Shaksper took Henry Field to court over an unpaid debt in 1556. (Hardly a proof of friendship). – We are further led to believe that Will Shaksper wrote the poem “Venus and Adonis” on his kitchen table in Stratford before giving it to Richard Field to be printed, a pleasant myth, but hardly probable.
At the end of 1594 the “lost years” are over and we find Will Shaksper of Stratford in the theatre company “The Lord Chamberlain’s Men”. Apparently, he had taken part in two performances at the court of Queen Elizabeth I on 26 and 29 of December. On 15 March 1595 he received payment for the performances along with Richard Kempe and Richard Burbage. With the stroke of a pen the young, unknown actor is promoted to the status of “author”- in other words, the treasurer of the chamber holds William Shaksper for William Shakespeare, the author of “Venus and Adonis”, remarking generously: „To William Kempe, William Shakespeare & Richard Burbage, servaunts to the Lord Chamberleyne, upon the Councelle’s warrant dated at Whitehall xv. to Marcij 1594, for twoe severall comedies or enterludes shewed by them before her majestie in Christmas tyme ...“
We can safely assume that this entry into the court records was the result of the confusion caused by the similarities of the names of the young actor William Shaksper-Shaxpere- Shackesper and the mysterious author “William Shakespeare” whose distinguished poem “Venus and Adonis” was first published in 1593, and whose plays were often presented by “The Lord Chamberlain’s Men”. By the end of 1594, this company had at least eight of Shakespeare’s plays in its repertoire.
-Titus Andronicus (mentioned by Philip Henslowe in 1594, Quarto 1594) -The Taming of A Shrew (Quarto 1594) -The Comedy of Errors (performed in Gray’s Inn on 28 December 1594) -2Henry VI (Quarto 1594) -Hamlet (mentioned by Thomas Nashe in 1589 and Henslowe 1594) -Othello (alluded to by Nashe in 1592) -The Merry Wives of Windsor (alluded to by Nashe in 1593/96) In 1595, at least two further plays were added to the list:3Henry VI (Quarto 1595) and King Richard II (presented in the home of Sir Edward Hoby on 9 December 1595).The Two Gentlemen of VeronaandLove’s Labours losthad not been mentioned up to this point, but they may well have been written. Thomas Nashe quoted fromThe two Gentlemen of Veronain 1596 and fromRomeo and Julietin 1597.
At the end of the fifteen sixties, shortly after he had been appointed bailiff of Stratford, John Shaksper applied for his own coat of arms. Even though he paid 30 guineas for the heraldic documentation, the application was shelved after John was accused of moneylending at extortionate rates and breaking the monopoly regulations when buying and selling wool. In 1596 John’s successful son, William, himself a moneylender in London, revived the application. He had a coat of arms designed by the College of Heralds; the motto “Non sans droict” means “not without right” The sum of thirty guineas was paid for this service.
In September 1596 there is documentation of a court case involving moneylenders; “William Shaksper” and “Francis Langley” on one side and “William Wayte” and “William Gardiner” on the other side. The textile merchant and pawnbroker Francis Langley and his business partner William Shaksper had just built a theatre- The Swan. William Wayte and his step father William Gardiner had come to wealth through moneylending and financial manipulations. Gardiner had tried to sabotage Langley‘s theatre, Langley publicly called Gardiner and his stepfather “lying scoundrels”. The contesting parties reached a “surety of peace”. This was a legal tool used in Elizabethan England to prevent physical violence. Both parties deposited a sum of money with the court which would be forfeit in the case of an attack of any kind.
Will Shaksper of Stratford, now a theatre financier purchased “New Place”, the second largest house in Stratford on 4th May 1597, for the astonishingly low price of £ 60. At the same time he was 5 shillings in arrears with his taxes in Bishopsgate in London. (Tax records from 15-11-1597).
In 1598 Will Shaksper had a role in the play “Every Man in his Humour” in London as documented eighteen years later by the play’s author, Ben Jonson. There are letters in existence from the family Quiney-Sturley that show that Will Shaksper was also active as a moneylender. In 1598 the “countriman” Master Shaksper or “Schackespre” was approached for the sum of £ 30 against the usual securities. It was recorded on 4 February 1598 that Will Shaksper of Stratford also hoarded over three tons (“x quarters”) of malt in “New Place” in defiance of the law. Obviously, Shaksper commuted between London and Stratford during this period.
At the end of 1598, in a clandestine operation, the theatre company “The Lord Chamberlain’s Men” dissolved their old play house and used the timber to erect a new play house on the other side of the Thames. This was the birth of the famous “Globe” theatre.
The original lease agreement from 21 February 1599 is still in existence. The tenancy was divided as follows: Nicholas Brent (main tenant) 25%, Richard Burbage 12.5%, Cuthbert Burbage 12.5%; the remaining 50% was divided between five wealthy members of the Chamberlain’s Men: William Shaksper 10%, John Heminge(s) 10%, Augustine Phillips 10%, Thomas Pope 10% and William Kempe 10%. William Shaksper’s 10% brought him an income of £ 200 per annum. His acting talent not being impressive Will Shaksper centered his activities around Stratford (Nicholas Rowe writes in 1709: “Though I have inquired, I could never meet with any further account of him this way than that the top of his performance was the Ghost in his own Hamlet.”)
The tax records in Stratford reveal that, in the years that follow, Will Shaksper’s main activity was trading with various goods in Stratford. His involvement in the theatre seems to have declined. In 1603, after the death of Queen Elizabeth and the coronation of King James, the new King took over the patronage of the Chamberlain’s Men and their name was changed to “The King’s Men”. On 17 May 1603 warrants were written authorizing “Fletcher, Shakespeare... and the rest of theire Assosiates freely to use and exercise the Arte and faculty of playinge Comedies Tragedies histories Enterludes moralls pastoralls Stageplaies and suche others” both at the court of King James and for the general public.
Ben Jonson records that Will Shaksper was also in the cast of Ben Jonson’s “Sejanus” in 1603 — in 1616 Jonson says so.
Will Shaksper’s last public appearance, was in the royal procession of 15 March 1604. He marched along with Augustine Phillips, Lawrence Fletcher, John Heminge and Richard Burbage- they were allowed to march behind the King in the ranks of the servants.
In 1604 “Williemus Shexpere” takes the apothecary Philip Rogers to court to recover a debt of one pound fifteen shillings and ten pence. In August 1608 “Willielmo Shackespeare” takes John Addenbrooke to court over the sum of 6 pounds.
In either May or June of 1612 the “gentleman of Stratford upon Aven in the Countye of Warwicke” appeared before a court of law in London as a witness in a civil law case. Christopher Mountjoy, a tyre-marker in whose house Shaksper had temporarily lodged, was sued by his son-in-law and former apprentice Stephen Bellot over the amount of a portion for Mary Belott, née Mountjoy. Shaksper had negotiated the amount with Stephen Belott but could no longer remember the exact sum. He signed his testimony with “”Willm Shackp”.
Shaksper’s last recorded financial transaction was in 1613: together with William Johnson, John Jackson and John Heminge as trustees he bought the gate house from Blackfriars for the sum of £ 140. (The building is not be confused with the theatre in the liberty of the Blackfriars.)
The wealthy man made his last will and testament on 25 March 1616 and on 25 April 1616, notice of his burial was entered into the parish records.
The house “New Place”, along with all other properties, land and objects of value were left to Will Shaksper’s daughter, Susanna and her husband, the physician Dr. John Hall. The sum of £ 300 and a large silver-plated bowl were bequeathed to his other daughter, Judith. His wife, Anne became “his second best bed with the furniture”. In the second draft of the testament William Shaksper left the sum of one pound fifteen shillings and eight pence to each of his colleagues, John Heminge, Richard Burbage and Henry Condell to buy commemoration rings. There is no mention at all of books or manuscripts.
Will Shaksper’s last will and testament made the famous author Mark Twain laugh.
It named in minute detail every item of property that he owned in the world – houses, lands, sword, silver-gilt bowl, and so on – all the way down to his ‘second-best bed’ and its furniture. It carefully and calculatingly distributed his riches among the members of his family, overlooking no individual of it. Not even his wife. He left her that ‘second-best bed.’ And NOT ANOTHER THING; not even a penny to bless her lucky widowhood with. It was eminently and conspicuously a business man’s will, not a poet’s. ... If Shakspere had owned a dog – but we need not go into that: we know he would have mentioned it in his will. If a good dog, Susanna would have got it; if an inferior one his wife would have got a dower interest in it. I wish he had had a dog, just so we could see how painstakingly he would have divided that dog among the family, in his careful business way.
You have every right to ask: “Is that all?” Doesn’t any document exist from William Shaksper’s life time that proves that he wrote anything more than a shopping list? Does anything prove his authorship of such a huge and important body of work?
Does anything show that Will Shaksper assumed the nom de plume Shakespeare or Shake-speare -the bearer of the spear? The only answer that I can give to this question is: NO. The first time that William Shaksper was brought into connection with any form of authorship was the year 1623, seven years after his death. Before this time there had not been a syllable written about the matter. No praise, no criticism, no private correspondence, nothing- which is most astounding this age so full of dialogue and discussion.
Only Ben Jonson suggested in 1623 that William Shaksper, the actor, was also William Shakespeare, the author, when he spoke of “true filed lines,/ in each of them he seemed to shake a lance”.
On the other hand, there had been a lot of praise bestowed on the author “William Shakespeare”: In 1593 from Thomas Edwards who refers to him as “Adon”, the author of “Venus and Adonis”; from Henry Willobie in 1594 (he first writes the name with a hyphen: Shake-speare); from Francis Meres and Richard Barnfeld in 1598; from Gabriel Harvey in 1599; from John Weever and many others. Not one of these people ever even suggested that Shaksper, the actor, was also SHAKESPEARE, the author.
Will Shaksper never claimed to have been William Shakespeare the author; he never even wrote his name that way. That is why Willobie, Meres, Barnfield, Harvey and all the others wrote of William Shakespeare the author, and never of Will Shaksper the actor. That is why Professor Stanley Wells and all other English literature scholars would be well advised to realize once and for all: During his lifetime there was never a syllable written claiming that William Shaksper, the actor from Stratford was William Shakespeare the author.
In 1598 Will Shaksper played a part in “Every Man in his Honour” by Ben Jonson. In 1603, the same actor played a part in Sejanus by the same author. In 1616 (after the death of Will Shaksper) Ben Jonson put the names SHAKESPEARE and SHAKE-SPEARE on the cast lists of the two plays, in the Folio-edition of his works. This is the first time ever that any author had suggested that the actor Will Shaksper and the author William Shakespeare are one and the same person. He plays on this trick in 1623 in the foreword to “Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories & Tragedies.”
(The notorious forger John Payne Collier (1789-1883) inserted a childish anecdote about the actors “William Shakespeare” and James Burbage into a diary from John Manningham, thereby claiming to have made an important discovery. This forgery was denounced by Sydney Race in 1950.)
“Ah but...” resounds the unified voice of the academy; “Ah but.......what about Greene’s outburst against the “upstart crow”? The fact that the envious playwright calls his rival an “upstart” shows us that Shaksper, the man from the rank and file is meant and not his aristocratic ghost writer.
With the greatest respect, ladies and gentlemen, you are mistaken! In “Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit” (1592) the first author in England who could make a living out of writing gives a verbal trouncing to an actor who, overrating his own abilities, feels that he can compose blank verse as well as a dramatist. The fact of the matter is: Greene means neither Will Shaksper, the actor nor William Shakespeare, the poet. He is talking about an actor, one who shakes the scene and thinks himself the “onely Shake-scene in a countrey”. Greene’s tirade against the actors is part of a warning that he would have fellow dramatists heed. He warns them of “atheism, moneylenders and actors”. Greene’s warning goes out, in general, to “those gentlemen who spend their wits making plays”, and particularly to the Machiavellian and “famous grazer [shepherd] of tragedians” (Christopher Marlowe), “the young Juvenal, that biting satirist” (Thomas Nashe) and- “I would swear by sweet Saint George” -to the “nothing inferior” writer (George Peele). Robert Greene says that actors are nothing but burrs who cling on to a play and ruin it, enriching themselves at the cost of the author.
The well worn passage from “Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit” is as follows:
Unto none of you (like me) sought those burrs to cleave, those puppets (I mean) that spake from our mouths, those antics garnished in our colours. Is it not strange, that I, to whom they all have been beholding, is it not like that you, to whom they all have been beholding, shall (were you in that case as I am now) be both at once of them forsaken?
Yes, trust them not, for there is an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his ‘tiger’s heart wrapped in a player’s hide’ supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you, and, being an absolute Johannes factotum, is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country. O that I might entreat your rare wits to be employed in more profitable courses, and let those apes imitate your past excellence, and nevermore acquaint them with your admired inventions.
Greene’s rebuke of the acting profession reminds us of the entertaining poetry in Humphrey Coningsby’s lyrical miscellany (British Library, Harleian MS. 7392) that was compiled ten years earlier. The unknown author suggests a coat of arms for two actors, the brothers John and Laurence Dutton, who deserted their theatre company and laid claim to the title of “Gentlemen”. (In those days an honour.)
The wreathe is a chayne of chaungeable red, To shew they are vayne and fickle of head; The creste is a Castrylle [kestrel!] whose feathers ar blew, In signe that these fydlers will never be trew; Whereon is placed the horne of a goate, Because they ar chast [chased], to this is theyr lotte, For their bravery, indented and parted, And for their knavery inebulliated [boiled to vapour].
With the words “an upstart crow” Greene rebuked a contemporary ham actor, a notorious ranter (shake-scene) changing the words of the best dramatist in a clumsy way (“that ... supposes he is as able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you”). But whom did Greene mean when he spoke of “the best of you”?
The actor in question is said to have used the sentence “with his tiger’s heart wrapped in a player’s hide”. This is a parody on a quote from Shakespeare “O tiger’s heart wrapp’d in a woman’s hide!” (3Henry VI, I/4)
Greene took up, or probably invented this parody on a sentence of the “best” to show that the actor in question was indeed a disrespectful villain. And that “the best” was Shakespeare.
“Gotcha!” cries the auditorium. This parody on a quote from Shakespeare is the proof that the actor, who was the cause of Greene’s chagrin, and the author of the Shakespearian works, are indeed one and the same person.
If that is your opinion dear reader, then you really ought to think this thing through again. There’s no such thing as an author who gets on a stage and does a parody on his own work. There never has been. There is only one logical solution; the annoying actor and the author must have been two separate individuals; some professional truth-benders might have a problem with that, but there it is.
To sum up: The quote from “Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit”, which has been repeated ad nauseum, when interpreted correctly proves Greene’s adoration of a singular dramatist, later renowned as William Shakespeare.
(In any case we are surprised to see a reference to the author’s name “Shakespeare”, a name first made public in the summer of 1593 with the appearance of “Venus and Adonis”. In January 1593 Thomas Nashe made references to a certain “Master William” just three months after “Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit”.)
We can say with a high degree of certitude that the actor in question was the popular Edward Alleyn, a member of “The Admiral’s Men “. He was the son-in-law of Philip Henslowe who left James Burbage’s theatre company in 1592, ensuing the rivalry between the two leading theatre companies, “The Admiral’s Men” and “The Lord Chamberlain’s Men”.
The irony of the matter is that this self-satisfied address to the other leading playwrights of the day was, in all likelihood, not written by Robert Greene at all. “Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit” went to press two months after its young author’s death. The printer, Henry Chettle, was also a playwright. The main theme of “Greene’s Groatswort of Wit” is the life story of an actor which ends abruptly on page 39. The address to the playwrights, and the chiding of the annoying actor, seem to be grafted on to the end of the book. It is hard to imagine that Greene would have done such a thing on his death bed.
Greene writing from out of his funeral shroud, taken from John Dickenson‘s “Greene in Conceipt” (1598)
In view of the fact that Henry Chettle was known for his very liberal views in the matter of plagiarism, it would seem that Chettle used “Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit” to hide behind the name of Robert Greene and pontificate to his enemies: Christopher Marlowe and Edward Alleyn. Marlowe (“the famous grazer of tragedians”) and Nashe (“the young juvenile”) litigated against the publisher of the pamphlet. Marlowe threatened Chettle with vengeance. Nashe, a declared friend of Robert Greene called the publication a “scald trivial lying pamphlet”.
Who would have thought that reading could be so difficult?
Ironical though it may seem; the strongest argument for William Shaksper being the author of the Shakespearian works is often overlooked by those who wish to prove just that; (the Stratfordians).
In 1601 Ben Jonson, the author of “Every Man in his Humor” (1598) and Every Man Out of his Humor” (1599), staged a piece called “Poetaster”. In this work the character of “Falstaff” was ridiculed by the character”Captain Tucca”, furthermore, there were sarcastic parodies on the balcony scene in “Romeo and Juliet” and the welcome of the wandering players in “Hamlet”.
Shakespeare did not let the matter go unpunished. In 1601/2 he staged “Troilus and Cessida”; in this work the slow-witted anti-hero Ajax stands proxy for Ben Jonson. Shakespeare lambasted the self-enamoured young upstart Jonson with the words:
This man hath robb’d many beasts of their particular additions: he is as valiant as a lion, churlish as the bear, slow as the elephant- a man into whom nature hath so crowded humours that his valour is crushed into folly, his folly sauced with discretion. There is no man hath a virtue that he has not a glimpse of, nor any man an attaint but he carries some stain of it. (Troilus and Cressida, I/2)
This was indeed a ticking-off that the sensitive young Ben Jonson wouldn’t forget that soon.
For the Christmas festivities of 1602 the students of Cambridge University staged a very successful satire “The Return from Parnassus”, in which two somewhat older students go about discovering themselves and what are their vocations.
William Kempe dancing “the morris”
After many failed attempts to find a vocation, Philomusus and Studioso try the acting profession. They seek the advice of two members of Will Shaksper’s company “The Lord Chamberlain’s Men”; Richard Burbage and William Kempe, the clown and the tragedian respectively. The two young men perform for the actors, whereafter Burbage and Kempe discuss their talents.
KEMPE. The slaves are somewhat proud, and besides it is a good sport in a part to see them never speake in their walke, but at the end of the stage, just as though in walking with a fellow we should never speake but at a stile, a gate, or a ditch, where a man can go no further. BURBAGE. A little teaching will mend these faults, and it may bee besides they will be able to pen a part. KEMPE. Few of the University men plaies well, they smell too much of that writer Ovid, and that writer Metamorphosis, and talke too much of Proserpina and Juppiter. Why heres our fellow Shakespeare puts them all downe. Aye, and Ben Jonson too. O that Ben Jonson is a pestilent fellow ... but our fellow Shakespeare hath given him a purge that made him bewray his credit.
(The Return of Parnassus, IV/3)
„Our fellow Shakespeare“? When Kempe, the clown speaks of “our fellow Shakespeare” does he mean Will Shaksper, the actor or does he mean William Shakespeare, the author? In the satire, the words that are put into Kempe’s mouth suggest that he holds “Metamorphosis” for the name of an author even though everybody knows that the “Metamorphoses” are a piece written by the author Ovid- and in the same breath he says that Will Shaksper, the actor, is the author of the Shakespearian works.
This joke that the students make at Kempe’s and Shaksper’s expense is based on the fact that Will Shaksper, the actor’s being William Shakespeare, the author is no more likely than “Metamorphosis” being the name of an author; two huge deliberate blunders!
A modern day rapper might say, when discussing modern day myths in a similar way:
”Elvis is still alive, man,Paul McCartney lies in his grave, Milli Vanilli sings their own songs, man, And Will Shaksper writes his own plays.”
Ah but! I hear from Stratford “What about that monument and the strange looking bust in the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford?” -The bust was commissioned to a famous Anglo-Flemish sculptor family by the name of Janssen, presumably, six or seven years after Shaksper’s death. biblograpop
The family Janssens also made the monuments for the graves of Henry Wriothesley, second Earl of Southampton and for the third, fourth and fifth Earls of Rutland.
The businessman and actor, Will Shaksper, didn’t make any arrangements for a monument in his will. Such a monument, plus the transport from London would have cost somewhere between £ 50 and £ 60 (the price of a house). We can safely assume that his family didn’t decide to spend that much money, so there must have been an anonymous donor.
There has been considerable discussion as whether or not the pen and paper where featured in the original bust of Shaksper, or if they were added during the “cleaning and restoration” of 1748. Be that as it may, the only similarity that I can see between the bust and Droeshout’s engraving of 1623 is the hair loss.
Droeshout Engraving, 1623
Shaksper’s final resting place is graced with a rather flowery inscription; that was in all likelihood incomprehensible to Will Shaksper’s relatives:
IVDICIO PYLIUM, GENIO SOCRATEM, ARTE MARONEM, TERRA TEGIT, POPULUS MAERET, OLYMPUS HABET
(A Pylian in Judgement, a Socrates in genius, a Virgil in art,
The earth buries him, the people mourn him, Olympus possesses him.)
Furthermore there is an appellation in his name to the Stratford tourist:
STAY, PASSENGER, WHY GOEST THOU BY SO FAST? READ, IF YOU CANST, WHOM ENVIOUS DEATH HATH PLAST WITHIN THIS MONUMENT. SHAKSPEARE: WITH WHOM QUICK NATURE DIED; WHOSE NAME DOTH DECK THIS TOMB FAR MORE THAN COST: SITH ALL THAT HE HAS WRIT LEAVES LIVING ART, BUT PAGE, TO SERVE HIS WIT. OBIIT ANO. DOI 1616. AETATIS 53, DIE. 23 AP.
Or as our modern-day rapper might put it:
“Look at this slab, man, read what it says. My main man, William Shakespeare, is lying in this grave. He came out of Momma’s womb, Now he’s lying in this tomb, In the short time in between, he wrote some cool plays. We had to bury the flesh, the bones and the blood, We didn’t bury what he wrote, check it out, dude -It’s good.” Died 1616 A.D. At the age of 53 on 23 April.
The (shall-I-say-good?) intention of the commissioner of this bust is quite clear and the second inscription on the slab over the (empty?) grave makes it even more obvious:
Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbear To dig the dust enclosed here. Blessed be the man that spares these stones And cursed be he that moves my bones.
Which means: Naves and fools one and all; don’t meddle with my magic!
Staring at the bust and this sullen slab I remember the words of Trinculo after he had encountered the ugly Caliban: “A strange fish! Were I in England now, as once I was, and had but this fish painted, not a holiday fool there would but give a piece of silver.”
2. Invited to write, he was in pain
Contrary to Stratford-propaganda, the first point that must be made is that we know a lot less about the “author” William Shaksper, than we know about his literary contemporaries. Actually we don’t know anything about him whatsoever, because, as far as we know, he didn’t write anything.
The quick witted critic Bill Bryson says: “Huge gaps exist for nearly all figures from the period. Thomas Dekker was one of the leading playwrights of the day, but we know little of his life other than that he was born in London, wrote prolifically, and was often in debt.”
At least we know that Dekker was an author, we know the titles of twelve of his plays and many of his pamphlets, we know the names of authors with whom he worked (Jonson, Marston, Massinger, Middleton, Pickergill, Rowley and Webster), we know that Jonson ridiculed him in “Poetaster” and that Dekker returned the compliment by ridiculing Jonson in “Satiromastix. That is more than enough to join the inner circle of Elizabethan literary personages.
We can’t really be certain that Will Shaksper learned to read and write properly, he might have attended Grammar school up to the age of 12 and he might have learned a little Latin, but there is no indication of his having learned French and Italian and no indication that he travelled abroad or that he kept company with literary figures of his day. The only things in the realm of certainty are: He never called himself “Shakespeare”,even if others did so, be it ironically or erroneously,and he never laid claim to being the AUTHOR.
After Will Shaksper’s death he was “accused” of being the author of the Shakespearian works by Ben Jonson. If the matter had come to trial we would have to deliver the verdict of “Not guilty” on the grounds of “insufficient evidence”.
For example: In Shakespeare’s “Italian” plays- “Two Gentlemen of Verona”, “Twelfth Night”, “Much Ado about Nothing”, The Taming of the Shrew”, “All’s Well That Ends Well”, “The Merchant of Venice”, “Measure for Measure”, “Othello”, and “Romeo and Juliet” precise details of the geography of Italy are woven into the plays. The author knows how to travel from town to town, knows the names of side streets and piazzas, he knows where the courthouses are, he knows where the harbours are, he names churches where people get married, he’s familiar with the interior decoration of Italian houses, he uses colloquial Italian figures of speech and he can quote the inscription on Giulio Romanos grave.
Will Shaksper couldn’t possibly have visited Italy. If he had attempted such a journey without official permission, he would have been arrested at the border. Had he been given permission, for an official journey on government business, such permission would have been documented in full.
There are no indications that Will Shaksper, the actor, was also a poet and a playwright. Does anyproofexist, indicating that Shaksper did not write the plays and sonnets?
SHAKSPER would have had to have been a dreadful toady, indeed a traitor to his own class, to have written with such scathing contempt about the rebel Jack Cade and his followers. Using Sir Stafford as his mouth piece, he calls them: “Rebellious hinds, the filth and scum of Kent” (2Henry VI, IV/2).
SHAKSPER, a man of the people, must have been an arrogant fool towrite the story about the tinker in the induction to “The Taming of the Shrew”. A lord picks up a drunken tinker from the street in front of a tavern. („O monstrous beast, how like a swine he lies!“). The tinker is bathed, dressed in fine clothes, treated with the courtesy befitting a lord and then, having been shown a performance of “The Taming of the Shrew”,dumped before the tavern again.
SHAKSPER, the ex pupil of Stratford Grammar School (assuming, of course that he went there) must have been a ridiculous braggart to have Portia say of Baron Falconbridge: “You know I say nothing to him, for he understands not me, nor I him: he hath neither Latin, French, nor Italian, and you will come into the court and swear that I have a poor pennyworth in the English. He is a proper man’s picture; but alas, who can converse with a dumb-show? “
If indeed Will SHAKSPER were the author of “Venus and Adonis”; the fact that the introduction starts off as we would only expect from a courtier, with a passage taken from Ovid’s “Ars amatoria” would clearly indicate that he had lost his marbles: “Vilia miretur vulgus; mihi flavus Apollo / Pocular Castalia plena ministret aqua.” -In English: “Let vile people admire vile things; may fair-haired Apollo serve me goblets filled with Castalian water.” Or, to cite Marlowe’s translation: “Let base conceited wits admire vile things,/ Fair Phoebus lead me to the muses’ springs.”
Is that what we expect from the “upstart Crow” -or the “blue Kestrel”?
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