Wulf's Webden

The Webden on WordPress

Not Believing in Shakespeare

I have just finished reading Bill Bryson’s book on Shakespeare, which was up to his normal high standards of witty writing and research that revels in both major and minor facts. Most of the book had the expected structure: birth (which we don’t know much about), life (which we don’t know much about other than that Will came up with some brilliant plays and poems) and death (which we don’t know much about either). Bryson also touches on family and other aspects of the bards life but, as you have probably guessed, we don’t know a whole lot about those either.

He rounds up with an interesting chapter I hadn’t been expecting, devoted to exploring (exposing might be a better word) the many theories that have been put forward to suggest that Shakespeare was not the genius behind the corpus of work we attribute to his name. It is a popular idea — Hollywood even made a film about it last year (Anonymous; I haven’t seen it so have no opinion on whether or not it is a good piece of cinema). Although Bryson has spent most of his book admitting how little we really know, to the extent that even our popular picture of what he looked like is based on only the most tenuous of evidence, he has no patience with these naysayers. At the heart of his argument is that all these theories start by refusing to believe that Shakespeare really wrote his plays and then end up with an even more implausible authorship scenario.

Perhaps it is the mark of the highest levels of historically significant fame? No matter how wonderful your works, there will always be people who take against believing in your story? Reminds me of another character from history, about 2,000 years ago…

Comments are closed.