Monday, 11 April 2016

Shaxberd - who was he?

Shaxberd - from the Office of the Master of the Revels, 1605
Unfortunately my pictures are very weak.  I realise that some blogs win awards on the strength of their superb photographs, and I do wish I could be better at it;  my only defence is that usually I am so excited about what I am seeing that my hand shakes. 

Here is part of the displayed copy of the exhibition I referred to in my previous post.

Revels Office records 1604 to 1605

The listing in the margin on the right-hand page gives the names of the players. The King's Players, as Shakespeare's company was called, after their patron King James VI and I, from his accession in 1603, were very active.  Off the page (apologies), appear the names of the plays, the dates and the authors.

"Shakespeare," in the spelling variation "Shaxberd", (see top picture), is shown as the author of plays we now recognize to be his.  Documentary evidence, you might think, from contemporary sources.

Nevertheless, a substantial number of people, including Sigmund Freud and Mark Rylance, (described here by the Guardian as a bit of a fruit loop), believe that Shakespeare could not have been the author of these plays.  Someone else was, and used the name "Shakespeare" as a front.  The glover's son from Stratford-upon-Avon could not possibly have had the breadth of knowledge, nor the poetic, classical, and legal education to write the plays and the poems attributed to William Shakespeare.

Well, now that Richard III has been exhumed,  revealed to have suffered from scoliosis, (which some scholars insisted on for centuries, while others denied it), and laid to rest in peace, it was time for me to find a new conspiracy theory.

Some believe that Shakespeare was Marlowe.

Others, that he was the Earl of Oxford, and the film "Anonymous" takes this story to the limit, including the theory that Elizabeth I was actually Oxford/Shakespeare's mother.

Some champion Francis Bacon, and the latest theory I have come across is that Shakespeare was a woman

The thing is, that when I read the theories, much of it sounds quite plausible.  I'm currently reading Shakespeare's Lost Kingdom on my Kindle, and did not feel the urge to shout out "This is complete rubbish" until some way in.  I did, though.

Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford,  leading man of "Lost Kingdom", sounds like a reasonably viable candidate for authorship, until you pick up an actual piece of verse written by the Earl.

See below, from:  The Penguin Book of Elizabethan Verse:

"The Lively Lark Stretched Forth Her Wing" (first and second stanzas)

The lively lark stretched forth her wing,
The messenger of morning bright,
And with her cheerful voice did sing
The day's approach, discharging night
When that Aurora, blushing red,
Descried the guilt of Thetis' bed,

I went abroad to take the air,
And in the meads I met a knight
Clad in carnation colour fair:
I did salute this gentle wight,
Of him I did his name enquire,
He sighed, and said it was Desire."

Here, by comparison is part of one of Shakespeare's sonnets:

"Full many a glorious morning have I seen
Flatter the mountain-tops with sovereign eye,
Kissing with golden face the meadows green,
Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy"

Or this, from "Romeo and Juliet"

"But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou her maid art far more fair than she"

So, I could not be convinced.  Enjoyable though it is to read the long lists of Shakespearean characters who are "modelled" on Queen Elizabeth I and her courtiers.

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