Sunday, June 29, 2008

Who Wrote Shakspere's Plays

There is much interesting discussion on William Shakespeare in The Red Room

In answer to Thomas Huynh's post, the REAL Shakespeare:

Well, Thomas, what is a genius? I think the man was a working writer. Very good one. But like his friend Ben Johnson, who loved him, "this side of idolatory," I think he gains from editing. "Would he had crossed out a thousand." Lines, Ben meant.

I think Titus Andronicus is the work of a man whose friend at the studio says, "It's Vin Deisel, Willie. They want gratuitous violence. They want blood." They play is abysmal, and I'm glad I didn't write it. I think Merchant of Venice is the work of a man whose co-producers asked for an anti-semitic play. So he whacked a Jewish character into one of his silly romance plots. But, being the writer he is, he got under Shylock's skin (I mean, what a name?) and made him human, and ended up with a great tragedy stuck in a romantic adventure.

I think Will could have got the Venice stuff from talking to one person who'd been to Venice. There were quite a few around. Always a cosmopolitan town, London.

The other thing is, I don't think Will thought his texts were that important. Point was to get the thing into production, and rake in the ticket sales. He was a mainstream populist. If he lived now, he'd be writing television. So the texts do have bits written by other people. It was theatre. People collaborated.

The best book I've read about Will is A LIFE OF SHAKESPEARE, by Hesketh Pearson. Perhaps the best argument for Shakespeare as author is to read the plays and intuit the nature of the man behind them.

On the other hand, we know he was in an acting troupe. We know he had shares in a theatre. We know he went to the city and made money. If it wasn't from theatre, what was it from? We know he was successful enough as a playwright for at least one other writer to accuse him of upstart pretensions.

And Ben Johnson, a friend, and playwright, worshiped him this side of idolatry.

As a writer.

Let's apply Occam's Razor here, chaps.

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