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Shakespeare And Movie Versions > Shakespeare authorship

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message 1: by Diane (new)

Diane Dreher | 6 comments The movie, Anonymous, is fiction disguised as history--a dangerous combination. Contested Will by James Shapiro gives extensive historical evidence for Shakespeare's authorship of his plays. I'm concerned that the next generation will focus more on fantasy than Shakespeare. Check out my new blog post for Psychology Today

message 2: by Keith (new)

Keith | 1 comments This is the age of global warming deniers, evolution deniers and vaccination deniers, so the denial of Shakespeare's authorship is not surprising, but just as depressing. People are better informed today than ever before, but seem less knowledgable. Sigh ....

message 3: by Diane (new)

Diane Dreher | 6 comments Thanks, Keith. I agree wholeheartedly. We have lots of information out there but many people seem to have trouble discerning truth from fiction.
Peace to you,

message 4: by Justin (last edited Nov 08, 2011 12:45PM) (new)

Justin (jlevine630) Hi Diane,

It's difficult to maintain a truly gnostic position when it comes to Shakespeare when there is so little physical documentation (apart from the Complete Works) to build his life upon. However, the base argument (adapted from the aptly named J. Thomas Looney's Oxfordian theory) that a man of Shakespeare's socio-economic upbringing could not possibly produce the great(est) works of the English literary canon is infinitely narrow minded.

While Shapiro's books, including 1599, are fantastic resources, Stephen Greenblatt's Will in the World paints, I believe, the most fleshed portrait of what very well could have been a conceivable environment in influencing the life of Shakespeare.

On the note of the film, I admit I haven't seen it yet, but I am finding that the negative critical reception/analysis is more or less consistent.

message 5: by Diane (new)

Diane Dreher | 6 comments Hi Justin,
I agree with you about the narrow-minded motivation of many who doubt Shakespeare's authorship based upon his socio-economic status. The same doubts could be raised about Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, John Keats. Eloquence and genius are not class-based.

Yes, I like Will in the World a lot--a real tour de force. Shapiro and Greenblatt are both new historicists, committed to exploring the historical evidence.

message 6: by Jake (new)

Jake Maguire (souljake) | 29 comments Dear Diane,
I have great respect for educators like yourself and for the study of literature in general. I enjoyed your article and respect your point of view, however I do feel that the authorship question deserves a platform. I've read every play by Shakespeare more than once and have tried to do as much background reading as possible on the man and his times. I've read many books on the authorship subject, some of it was compelling, some not. I have a BA in Philosophy and consider my reasoning skills to be decent enough to explore the authorship debate without getting too carried away with it. I honestly believe its increased my appreciation of the works themselves by exploring the lives of the writers of that period who may OR may not have had a helping hand in writing them. I would never have stumbled across the writings of John Lyly, Thomas Nashe, Robert Greene, or even Sir Philip Sidney had it not been for the authorship debate, and I'm very grateful I did. Even though the movie was overflowing with mistakes, it made me want to know more about Lord Burghley and learn more about Ben Jonson's plays and what his life was like. Shakespeare was the greatest playwright to have ever written in the English language - whether he was a nobleman, or country gentleman doesn't matter that much to me in the end. What matters, I think, is that we keep the joy of exploring literature alive - even if some of the explorations lead to dead ends or into fantasy, at least we've exercised our brains a little and hopefully developed some critical thinking skills in the process. Anyway, thanks for your time, and please let me know if you'd like a copy of our "Renaissance Faire" documentary film, I'd be happy to send you a free copy.

message 7: by Diane (new)

Diane Dreher | 6 comments Dear Jacob,
Thanks for your thoughtful and wise response. What a beautiful thought--I share your hope that many more people will become more fascinated by the Renaissance by watching that film--and, yes, I'd LOVE a copy of your "Renaissance Faire" documentary.
My address is Diane Dreher, Dept of English Santa Clara University, 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara CA 95053.
Peace to you,

message 8: by Terence (new)

Terence (spocksbro) | 14 comments In Nov. 24's edition of the NYRB there's an essay by Garry Wills, "Shakespeare and Verdi in the Theater," where he touches upon the authorship question but not from a historical perspective. Rather he tackles it from the perspective of theater logistics:

"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.'"

message 9: by Diane (new)

Diane Dreher | 6 comments Bravo Gary Wills! Great reference, Terence.
I totally agree. Shakespeare knew his actors. James Shapiro refers to some of Shakespeare's comic scenes and how he wrote for the different clowns in the company as well.

message 10: by Shelley (new)

Shelley | 6 comments I just read the Gary Wills article too, and enjoyed it. For one thing, how could anybody think Queen Elizabeth was an airhead?

Rain: A Dust Bowl Story

message 11: by Jake (last edited Nov 12, 2011 04:33AM) (new)

Jake Maguire (souljake) | 29 comments As much as I liked the Wills article, it unfortunately fails to accurately portray the Earl of Oxford. As a boy, his father had an acting company so he was exposed to the stage very early and developed a strong appreciation for the dramatic arts. He considered many artists and writers his friends and whether or not he wrote the Shakespearean cannon, many literary works over the years were dedicated to him. In the 1570's he was involved with translations of Latin works into English, and earned a BA and an MA degree from Oxford. On his tour of Europe he saw Italian theatrical productions performed, in the 1580's he had an acting troupe and owned the lease at the Blackfriar's theatre where numerous plays were performed, including many plays said to be written by John Lyly and Antony Munday, both of which were his secretaries for a number of years. I think this gives him enough credibility and experience to write with certain actors in mind, and to spot any upcoming talent. We have proof from Lord Burghley's personal papers that the Earl spent an inordinate amount of time with writers, publishers, and actors - so I feel the argument made by Gary Wills is not an overly compelling one in the authorship debate.

message 12: by Martin (last edited Nov 20, 2011 11:08AM) (new)

Martin | 39 comments Hello Diane, welcome to Shakespeare fans, although there is little enough activity here at the moment.

In the past a group of us did some fairly in-depth readings of a number of the plays, and for me it was a formative experience. I am happy to say that the question of whether S wrote S never came up: it was simply taken for granted. It is of course distinct from to what extent the plays attributed to S in the canon might have been written by others. On the whole, our views were fairly conservative. Candyminx at the time posted something which has stuck in my mind,

"So why does it matter "who" wrote the plays? I think it matters only why we might doubt that one person was the overriding author.

I believe it's a form of cynicism to doubt that one person could have organized the content and themes and characters..."

the whole thread is here,

But this business of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. Your blog entry, I feel, is too generous to his champions:

"impassioned scholars have carried on their detective work, often to extremes, leaving a trail of forged documents, mysterious ciphers, and wild speculation..."

These people are not scholars, they are always amateurs, with no understanding of the Elizabethan period or S's poetry.

One could say so much about them, and why they are wrong, and how strange the phenomenon they create is. It is unique: no other major writer gets this treatment. But in brief, I think the reason is that S is a writer who is supremely life-affirming. This sets a challenge, and the people who can't rise to it turn his writings into a puzzle activity about something completely different. The Oxford nuts don't know what poetry is, or why drama is written, and spend their time looking for hidden messages and secret codes --- anything other than reading the text.

I suppose the Oxfordians think they're doing de Vere (an interesting poet in his own right) a favour by foisting S's works on him, but actually they do him a lot of harm. His reputation and what makes him interesting is lost in the fog of misinformation they create. S by comparison is quite unscathed.

But enough of this ... Newcomers, tell us what you make of the phoenix and the turtle, 'cos the rest of us are stuck!

message 13: by Diane (new)

Diane Dreher | 6 comments Thanks for the warm welcome, Martin. I share your admiration for Shakespeare's works as well as consternation about those (not "scholars," as you say,)who would reduce those magnificent plays to puzzles about authorship.

message 14: by Justin (new)

Justin (justinbienvenue) Hey everyone, I just joined this group. I am a Shakespeare fan and thought I'd check this group out. I probably won't be writing much at first but rather sit back and read in to get an idea but very interested to see what people are saying about the great William Shakespeare!

message 15: by Federica (new)

Federica Antonellina | 4 comments Hi! I'll read soon all the posts!
Can I ask you help?!
I'll do my thesis about the film and about the question of authorship.
I'll focus on the character of Shakespeare in the film, on the film and on the authors which are supposed to be Shakespeare.
Here in italy i Can t find material, there's someone Who as got something or ebook?

message 16: by Janine (new)

Janine | 3 comments Hi Diane,

Recently there was a book published called "Shakespeare Beyond Doubt", and it's sole purpose is to settle this whole authorship question issue. I, too, read Mr. Shapiro's book and loved it. I look forward to reading Shakespeare Beyond Doubt as soon as I conclude my Master's studies.
I thought "Anonymous" was at least a very well made film, in terms of the sets and costumes and whatnot, despite the content being obviously false.
Hopefully you either have a copy or can get one of Shakespeare Beyond Doubt, I think it'll prove to be one of the more definitive words on the subject.

message 17: by Federica (new)

Federica Antonellina | 4 comments I have nothing because i can't find the books here

message 18: by Federica (new)

Federica Antonellina | 4 comments Have you got a PDF copy of Mr Shapiro's book?!

message 19: by Janine (new)

Janine | 3 comments Frederica, you could try Project Gutenberg for a PDF of it, but I'm not 100% sure it's on there

message 20: by Federica (new)

Federica Antonellina | 4 comments Is a web site?

message 21: by Bob (new)

Bob Zaslow | 26 comments Frederica-

Try this web site for more information on deVere:

message 22: by Bryn (new)

Bryn Hammond (brynhammond) | 170 comments Link to Shakespeare Beyond Doubt: Evidence, Argument, Controversy (which my sister just read and loved).

message 23: by Gary (new)

Gary Hoffman | 7 comments "A Marlovian Review of Shakespeare Beyond Doubt" details the objections to Shakespeare Beyond Doubt from the "Marlowe is Shakespeare" perspective. A reasonable summary of the substance of the debate is Dr Rosalind Barber: Rethinking Shakepeare .

message 24: by Jon (new)

Jon Benson | 1 comments It's the 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare on April 23, 2016.

The Death of Shakespeare is a novel that imagines how the Earl of Oxford and William Shakespeare came to be partners in the creation of the plays people think were written by William. The book contains hand drawn maps and eight lineage charts of noble families involved in the background of the plays.

The Goodreads link is:

The Reader’s Companion to The Death of Shakespeare – Part One is a separate publication containing research keyed to each chapter in The Death of Shakespeare that explains the factual basis for the novel. There are more facts in The Death of Shakespeare than any recent “biography” of the man from Stratford.

The Goodreads link is:

Visit for more information.

If anyone sends us an email address (, we'll send you a free Kindle copy.


message 25: by Glenn (new)

Glenn (gedixon) | 2 comments The venerable British Library, this month, is displaying pretty solid proof of Shakespeare's authorship - three manuscript pages in his own handwriting.

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