If you’re a fan, you know who I’m talking about. Which plays have you watched/read? Which bits do you like?
So far, I’ve read Hamlet and Cheese; King Leer; Henry #5 and The Merchant of Veni$e, and seen A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Also I’ve read the kiddie illustrated version of Julius Caesar, Macbeth and Romeo & Juliet but haven’t got around to reading or watching the actual plays.
I’ve read Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer’s Night Dream, and Twelfth Night. I will admit I was nursing a crush on a classmate during most of the classes on Macbeth so I don’t remember it that well but it left a good impression…Twelfth Night cracked me up, j’adore love polygons. The more sides the better!!
I’ve read Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Othello, Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, King Lear, As You Like It, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, Coriolanus…
I love the witches in Macbeth! Lady Macbeth is one of my favourite characters… Then there’s Iago… And I think Portia and Cordelia are pretty cool too… And Melancholy Jacques, of course! I guess I like the tragedies the best… nothing more interesting than hamartia leading to self destruction… haven’t really read any of the histories… probably should get back to reading the bard… it’s been ages…
I love Shakespeare. Probably because, in retrospect, his plays were the only part of high school that held my interest. I read Midsummer Night’s Dream and Othello first. Reading Macbeth, and Lear, and productions I saw of Dream and the Winter’s Tale, seem to define my memory of moments in my teens.
My favourite play is the Winter’s Tale. It is magic, and the artistry is dizzying with every aspect of it turned towards a transfiguration of shattering, inconsolable pain into sweetness and light. I got to see it again recently, and the production was mostly so-so but I was just sitting there going “every stroke of this is so. freaking. amazing.”
I’ve read all of them, I think, except Henry IV and Two Gentlemen of Verona. I studied lit in undergrad and ended up focusing on renaissance drama. I’ve acted in Merchant of Venice and I’ve had opportunities to direct two Shakespeare productions.
I’m not sure but I think I haven’t even really heard of this one.
Wow! Merchant of Venice I forgot about for a bit but holy moly, I remember being in tears . We studied this and read the Jew of Malta and stuff and honestly the play just blew my mind. Had a great professor. Older guy almost retiring; A year later I quipped when I saw him wandering the halls kind of nostalgically and distractedly that “The way you are looking off into that fluorescent lighting, King Lear, has me concerned…” and I actually think this really ruined his day/week. I heard him bring it up once months later in a conversation between me and him and a colleague of his in something of a flattering way, like he was illustrating how i had destroyed him with a single sentence and that at the time he’d been in precisely a Lear-y way, or feeling ever closer to being the man in the storm, and so his teacher half was excited to brag about how he’d taught a student to bury him, but it was very clear to me that I had accidentally cut a little close to the bone Which i felt genuinely terrible for. I guess I was All impressed with the course a semester earlier and didn’t imagine he (king of the lit department) would be so impacted by a mumbled nothing from a barely-graduate student (Nothing can come from nothing …)The transition to grad school from undergrad is weird in that way though. I got the so and so fellowship from the college and then was offered a such and such one from the English department, each totaling like 3X the price of tuition, and was told I had to choose one, but I never let my peers know, haha, and I hadn’t imagined profs knew about that stuff but I didn’t know then how fragile academics are and how silent and isolation and other weird academic halmarks stem not from everybody being so busy with their own shit but rather the general defensive posture its best to settle into.
I’ve been wanting to get to this article by Stephen Greenblatt in the mid July New Yorker; I remember using I think some of his stuff when writing an essay I think about the authorship of the Merchant of Venice – a forgettable effort if I recall correctly, my essay, but failed essays are a great way for me to learn, especially when I’m ashamed of how bad they are and so I think about them for years …
Anyway Greenblatts piece might be about antisemitism and the Merchant of Venice from the look of it, and I love reading great historians of lit when they are great at exploring villainy and the banality of evil.
I have a perspective of this guy greenblatt as being head Shakespeare honcho for the same reason I think of TCBoyle as a great writer: or The Arcade fire as a Great rock band: Cuz I read one thing of his and it bent my head in an awesome direction for reasons I can’t recall that probably weren’t justified and likely had more to do with being 20 and assuming that the guy who wrote the intro to the book we happened to be using was The Shakespeare Guy. In my mind he holds a Chairship titled approximately Lord God Oxford Cambridge Stephen “B-Shakes” Greenblatt Chair of Final SaySos and plusn AntiSemitsm; he probably actually teaches in Phoenix at ASU. Whoever he is, the NYer don’t give a fuck, they’ll make me hunt through their nonsensical first 30% of pages for a contributors thing to figure out Who the Dude Is.
Looking for contributors…
Looks like he’s titled “the So and So University Professor of the Humanties” at a school back east, Boston area.
(I guess if you’re being funded by a big ole check from Family So-and-So it wouldn’t be cool not to mention nothing of the so and sos in your little bios. Nothing can come of nothing.)
Anyway don’t forget Romeo and Juliet. that’s the one that won me to the literary arts in ninth grade. I remember the day when it went from incomprehensible goblygook to like, this secret world of the most human stuff ever written down, in almost an instant. My head finally got in sync with the cadence of those lines and I’ve been chattering my teeth to the beat ever since. It was seriously like going from blindness to seeing.
With the caveat that we can’t know, except in the Ni sense (and in theory someone like the Walsingham family might have a document that would prove it). And I don’t discount the idea that some collaboration happened, with people like Nashe.
But yeah. Having studied Marlowe in depth and come to the authorship question with some care, I class Marlowe as plausible-and-likely-and-intuitively-correct, Shakespeare as plausible (his name did end up all over it!) and no other authorship candidate as plausible.
Yeah the Rubbo doc is cool. I think the clearest exposition of the case is a book by Daryl Pinksen called Marlowe’s Ghost.
Henry VI is a gimme in the sense that scholars generally assumed them to be Marlowe’s until the 40s or so. They are… uneven by the standard of his later work. I’m a bit skeptical of the computer analysis techniques as offering “proof,” per se. There’s a neat analysis someone did in the 20s that graphs how often a writer uses words of a given length-- it turns out that this is a pretty stable trait and generates a distinctive curve for each writer-- and Marlowe’s and Shakespeare’s are not only identical but very distinctive in most often using four-letter words (it’s three for all the other writers they checked).
Knowing how Elizabethan theatres worked and what the Marlowe arrangement would have to have been, you have to assume that some of the comic scenes (especially the ones with topical jokes) were worked up by actors or by a writer closer to the company. And it’s probably an imponderable of each play’s textual history what ended up being put in the Folio editors’ hands as the final versions.
Did you like the Ralph Fiennes film version of Coriolanus?
I find this so weird that you say stuff like this so confidently. Did you watch just the one documentary? Are the people who study this indefinitely settled? I recall reading Stephen Greenblatt while studying Christopher Marlow’s the Jew of Malta and the Merchant of Venice in 2009 and learning that there was for sure complexity in this argument, and not coming from some perspective of “protecting Shakespeare” but because it happened a long time ago and we know simply that it’s not as simple as “Dude named Shakespeare wrote this stuff.”
I find it really hard to care about authorship in this way though. Maybe that’s Ne. Always thinking nothing is original and there is no single point to hone in on.
But how do we gain the certainty around Christopher Marlow? I guess I’m wondering if you’re a scholar because I am curious if it’s changed in the last decade; but my presumption is that you’re just doing what you do, which triggers my shitty Fe tertiary like “Stop being a fucking dick all the time” and makes me want to try to fight you.
I can’t speak for RumDawg, although “just doing what you do” sounds right. It’s the kind of thing I might say to be provocative, but there’s no evidentiary basis for certainty.
That being said, I’m satisfied for my own purposes that Marlowe is the main author of the Shakespeare plays and poems. That’s after some graduate-level work on Marlowe, some experience adapting and directing Shakespeare, and finally a pretty comprehensive investigation of the so-called “authorship question.”
In my opinion there is no serious candidate for authorship other than Shakespeare and Marlowe-- in theory anything is “possible,” but there is no compelling reason to consider any other person.
The authorship question is kind of separate from authorship as a textual issue. It’s more of an epistemological issue-- who is the main author, how would we know, what counts as evidence, and how is our sense of evidence coloured by our assumptions? What is the best gloss on the concrete facts? As an interpreter of Shakespeare in performance I have also found the Marlovian theory a robust key to understanding the emotional and symbolic currents at work, which is the main reason it interests me.
It’s unlikely that there are many academics who regard this as a question, let alone conclude that someone other than William Shakespeare was the author. There are institutional reasons for that. It is notable, to someone acquainted with the relevant facts, that the highest-profile pro-Stratford voices (including Greenblatt) do not typically answer the case for Marlowe, demonstrate unfamiliarity with some of the relevant history, and rely to a large extent on assumptions stated as fact.
Unfortunately the case for Marlowe has the whiff of “conspiracy theory” because a) it overturns a lot of unsubstantiated “common knowledge”, b) constructs the set of facts we do have in a surprising way, and c) relies on Marlowe’s death having been falsified.
There’s a woman named Ros Barber who completed the first PhD on the authorship question, and she is a Marlovian (her academic opinion is that it’s possible and there are good reasons for believing it).
Perhaps the best way of framing the Marlowe hypothesis is that it’s the most elegant explanation for the following issues:
relatively, we know a lot about William Shakespeare as a person and surprisingly little (i.e. nothing) about him as an author. No writer’s papers or contemporary references, zero evidence of any schooling, nothing connecting him with London or the theatre before 1594. We do know he was a “Player” in the company that staged the plays after 1594, but it’s not clear this means anything more than that he had a financial share. By 1598 we know the plays were known as “Shakespeare plays” but that carries no necessary reference to authorship. His death in 1616 was unremarked, but the plays were collected and published by friends of the author in 1623.
similarly, it is generally agreed that e.g. the sonnets are intensely personal on the one hand, but on the other hand bear no discernible connection to Shakespeare’s life as we know it.
the Shakespeare poems and plays reflect an enormous debt and preoccupation with Marlowe and with no other author. This is uncontroversial among Shakespeare scholars (see e.g. Harold Bloom or Jonathan Bate).
Marlowe’s death in 1593 is generally regarded as suspicious (i.e. we have the inquest document, which differs from contemporary accounts of his death, and for various reasons scholars agree it does not accurately represent events). Marlowe worked as an intelligence agent, and the three men present at his death were also agents, including a very senior member of the network Marlowe worked for.
the first literary appearance of the name William Shakespeare is on the title page of the poem Venus and Adonis, which was probably commissioned by Marlowe’s employer and which was published weeks after Marlowe’s death in 1593. (The title page also quotes a poem of Ovid’s that Marlowe had translated.) This means that either the two greatest English dramatists, intensely similar to each other and preoccupied with each other’s work, had precisely non-overlapping careers (at least in the documentary record); or there was just one, whose work was published under a different name starting in 1593. The company that staged the Shakespeare plays was the same company (though under a different name) that staged the Marlowe plays.
also, the plays are ridiculously full of faked deaths and obsessed with banishment and return. Several bear references to Marlowe (As You Like It, probably Hamlet) or even apparently to the inquest document (Winter’s Tale and Cymbeline, e.g.). This is anecdotal, though.
to my Ni there are additional reasons to see an underlying unity between Marlowe’s work and the Shakespeare plays, viz. they share magical techniques and a common mythological matrix. There are also themes in the critical literature that make more sense if the Marlovian case is true-- for instance, Patrick Cheney’s monograph on Shakespeare’s unique “invisible authorship.”
Guess what, I overlooked this when I posted earlier. I was thinking “I mean maybe they’ve done some textual analysis since then but he could have mentioned it if that were the case.” Didn’t realize you had posted this comment with vid and additional stuff.
Wow sparrow, interesting summary. I enjoyed reading that. I think that my hazy view of authorship is related to my distaste for the original “Shakespeare didn’t write it” tidbit from rundawg. It’s meaningless to drop it in without context, like telling me that dr Seuss was a pen name or something, and I’m like, why does that matter? and if it doesn’t matter, why drop it into the conversation? Making the authorship controversy table stakes for a conversation about Shakespeare, I guess it seems quite hostile to me.
On the other hand, I didn’t see that additional comment and video were included so I got my panties in a bit of a twist thinking it was a total drive by troll move. I think it wasn’t quite.
At any rate lucky that it happened because your knowledge turns out to be vast and in my preferred format rather than video!