11 November 2011

Why Shakespeare really is Shakespeare...

I haven't seen the new film Anonymous, which purports to explore the question of who "Shakespeare" was, but I am squarely in the camp that believes that the man known as William Shakespeare wrote the plays that are attributed to him.

I subscribe to The New York Review of Books, and in Nov. 24th's edition there's an essay by Garry Wills, "Shakespeare and Verdi in the Theater," where he touches upon the issue while discussing Verdi's three Shakespearean operas. I found his defense interesting since it comes from the POV of theatrical logistics rather than a historical or literary one:

"Thus, in the modern theater, performers are fitted to the play, but in Shakespeare's time, the play was fitted to the performers.... Nothing could be more absurd than the idea of the Earl of Oxford writing a long woman's part without knowing whether the troupe had a boy capable of performing it. Only Shakespeare, who knew and wrote for and acted with and coached John Rice, knew what he could do and how to pace him from play to play....

"Shakespeare was not a full-time writer without other responsibilities.... But what might look like a distraction for such authors...was a strength for Shakespeare, since it made him a day-by-day observer of what the troupe could accomplish, actor by actor. The company was, after all, mounting plays with bewildering rapidity, studying, memorizing, and rehearsing in the morning and evening while performing in the afternoon. Without that experience, Shakespeare could not have written as he did. Lord Bacon or the Earl of Oxford, writing in their homes, could not have known such things. As Ivor Brown says, 'Shakespeare was a smuch on and around a stage as in his study.'"