The search for identity
We may not ‘know’ Shakspere, or Shakespeare as he became, but we
can explore ‘facts’ and evidenced ‘assumptions’ and ‘presumptions’
as fairly in this age as fifty years after his death, when the
‘identity’ questions slowly started to arise.
There are so many ‘hard facts’ missing, about the man Shaxpere,
Shakespere, Shakspere – even original name (the church record says
Shakspere); about that early education; about the ‘further
education’ within the Lost Years, say at 16, 1580 to 1592; about his
start in the theatre; and the general sketchiness thereafter of his
years in London...
The dismissal of ‘Shakspere’ as author, or
confirmation that he IS Shakespeare, may be argued but it does not
devalue or minimize the fact that we have the marvellous 1623 First
Folio and early source material still extant though, with one
arguable exception, not in Shakespeare’s own penmanship.
An expert scribe Ralph Crane was hired by publishers, after that
First Folio, to prepare fresh transcripts of some of the plays whose
penned versions had always been a headache to transcribe for usage
(they were described impossible to work with, in any confidence).
Crane’s labours may have compounded validity or questions
regarding what we have today, but ...how close we came, in those
early days, to losing this heritage completely.
The “Stratfordian” will return to “Do not get involved in the
Authorship Question – it is a red herring, a waste of time.”
Stratfordian orthodoxy continues, “Whether you read or attend a
performance, you need to hear the subtle sounds of Shakespeare’s
keen perceptions, insights and ... a still acuity in
observations..... and believe he was the master craftsman, the
supreme-ever in his field!”
Positively, the Stratfordian mind is “straightforward, sensible
and rather literal.” There is no reason to seek answers to a problem
which does not exist? Yet the Stratfordian case-by-inertia, many
say, presents a hollow picture of Shakespeare, the man and genius as
The Sonnets, for example, can be seen as a reflection of his
life experiences and perceptions, and in particular his pain over
the Youth and the Dark Lady... OR they can be a magnificent use and
display of dispassionate, unattached literary imaginative powers, in
all their brilliance and sophistication.
We just do not know the truth, so carefully hidden is the
identity of the human author. Even a Stratfordian has said, “He had
a career which leaves him not only without a private life but almost
without a private personality.” Many ‘rational’ people, practical
mostly and others very spiritual, have commented further...
author with ‘Stratfordian’ views (he believes Shakspere wrote
Shakespeare) was puzzled: “There is a most extraordinary gulf
between the Shakespeare of literature and the Shakespeare of
An Oxford University scholar has written, “The
relationship between an artist’s
biography and his writings is always a difficult subject, but with
Shakespeare there can be no other writer since the invention of
printing for whom we are unable to demonstrate any relationship at
A historian has said, “Since Shakespeare’s death, in 1616,
he has been subjected to the greatest battery of organised research
that has ever been directed upon a single person. Armies of scholars
have examined all the documents that could possibly have contained a
mention of his name... with no incontrovertible proof of anything.”
A slight exaggeration: towards the END of the 1700’s - not from
Shakespeare’s death - a scholarly clergyman based near Stratford
searched but could find neither books nor evidence of ‘Shakespeare’
in the county. That was the start of the “Shakespeare problem”.
In succinct metaphysical manner, another writer said recently
that “The sheer
sweep and majesty of his writings reflect such extraordinary depth,
scope, perception, humanity and wisdom. They give us entry into an
oceanic mind and heart that seem too universal to be attributed to
any one individual.”
Such talent or talents give us ‘access to the universal’, and
does this platform not leave behind the claim of ‘orthodoxy’ or
‘heretical’? We, and those of Court and ‘refinement’ in the more
expensive gallery seats of Shakespeare’s time, CAN appreciate the
universal dimensions of the writings.
Conversely, a humorous anti-Stratfordian author wrote an article
about “Thirty Six Plays in Search of an Author” !
So today, the Authorship Mystery is declared real by the anti-Stratfordians
(those who believe that one starting point: A. N. Other or maybe a
small collaboration of writers, wrote Shakespeare).
They claim that the Stratfordians (believing vehemently in one
author, or maybe, just maybe, one with a bit of collaboration) have
denied, ignored, ridiculed or trivialised the subject.
Yet Stratfordian laughter is not unexpected when 40 or more
Elizabethans are now included in the ‘heretic’ list of possible
authors of/contributors to “the real Shakespeare”.
The Stratfordian case, for one Shakespeare only, rests
considerably on statements made in and inferences from the First
Folio printing of 1623. (It is said that their ‘orthodoxy’ in
Shakespeare, as in a conventional religious or spiritual system
envisioning man’s dependence, or indeed Being, on a higher world,
cannot permit of any revision under any circumstances).
The ‘Heretics’ might remind us that TRUTH contains and is beyond
such man-made limitations – and that a considerable international
Shakespeare Industry has grown up, retaining the illusion (by
inertia?) of Shakespeare the genius as sole author of the canon and
Rather dismissively, the Stratfordians describe their opponents
as misguided, skeptics even impractical mystics; their viewpoint is
firm: “The burden of proof lies with those who wish to discredit the
That oft dismissive tone used by the Stratfordians is summed up
in Sir Sidney Lee’s 1898 put-down that Mark Twain was the
idiosyncratic American humourist unfit to comment on literary
history. Twain had published a four page “anti-biography” of all the
KNOWN facts about Shakespeare.
And had added that biographies of Shakespeare were constructed
layer on layer of conjecture, supposition, inference, theory, maybe,
perhaps, doubtless, and guesses... Lee’s biographical opus “Life of
Shakespeare”, second edition, ran to 720 pages, and used ‘doubtless’
some 61 times, “raising conjecture to the level of probability”.
Literary psychologists, baffled, today declare it all an ideological