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TOPIC: Did our playwright have to be a nobleman?

Did our playwright have to be a nobleman? 6 years 7 months ago #4919

  • Cary Barney
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Without going into all of the Oxfordian, Baconian, and now I guess Stanleyan, arguments, I'd like to address one argument champions of every Shakespeare "candidate" seem to make sooner or later: that the author of the plays had to be a member of the Court. Otherwise, the argument goes, how could he have come up with such convincing scenes of Court and Kings?

By this logic, every screenwriter who ever wrote for "Perry Mason" or "L.A. Law" had to be a lawyer; those who wrote for "Emergency" had to be doctors; those who wrote for "West Wing" White House staffers, those who wrote for "The Sopranos"...well, you get my point.

Shakespeare did not invent court scenes; he had plenty of antecedents to draw from, in both drama and narrative. If his were more convincing than his predecessors, it's still rather literal-minded to assume he had to have been of that world himself. Writers sensitive enough to the subtleties of human interaction are quite able to imagine themselves and their characters into an endless variety of social strata and situations.

Of course, if we wish to stick to the logic that dictates a noble-blooded playwright, we'd then have to explain how he was able to write Act 2 Scene 1 of Henry IV Part I.
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Did our playwright have to be a nobleman? 6 years 7 months ago #4920

  • Marcus Geduld
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I don't have a stake in the authorship question. I really don't care who wrote the plays. If I knew the answer it would have no affect on the way I direct or read them.

And though I hate to insult anyone, I'm not going to mince words: no one but an idiot says something like "the author ... had to be a member of the Court ... [or] how could he have come up with such convincing scenes of Court and Kings?"

Someone with a modicum of intelligence -- who thinks Shakespeare wasn't the author -- might say something like, "It's hard to understand how someone who didn't live in the court could know so much about it." But to use definitive language like "had to be" is moronic.

I'll bring up a more extreme analogy than your screenwriter one: what if you found out that your next-door neighbor successfully performed open-heart surgery on his wife. Would you say, "He HAS to have a degree in medicine"?

No. It's LIKELY he has one. It's strange if he doesn't. But It doesn't violate laws of physics. It's well within the bounds of human possibility. Maybe your neighbor's father was a heart surgeon and your neighbor spent his childhood observing in the operating room. Maybe he's a kook who reads medical books for fun and practices on animals.

Whoever wrote the plays was obviously a unique person. We shouldn't necessarily expect that he had the same sorts of information in his brain that the Average Elizabethan Joe had.

I am a professional computer programmer. I do not have a computer-science degree. I flunked math throughout high school. I never took a computer class. My degrees are in Theatre. But I just happen to be a geek who has done an huge amount of self-study. I read computer books for fun when I'm at the beach. And I managed to convince people to hire me despite my lack of the conventional background.

Shakespeare could have been best friends with a servant who worked in the palace; he could have been the secret lover of an aristocrat; he could have read a lot of contemporary books by aristocrats... or MAYBE he knew very little about aristocrats and somebody else wrote the plays. MAYBE.

I am NOT arguing that Shakespeare wrote the plays. Or that he didn't. Like I said, I have no stake in that matter. But I do have a stake in calling out stupidity.

It sure irks people that we know so little about Shakespeare. Well, that's too bad. When we don't know something... we don't know it. No amount of posturing and bold statements will magically make us know the answer.
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