Possibly My Last Word On The Subject

Thursday, 27 July 2017 11:19 am[personal profile] poliphilo
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The case against Shakespeare's authorship?

It doesn't really exist. The argument- used by the Oxfordians- that only an aristocrat could have had the experience of the world and depth of culture necessary to produce  such work- is pure snobbery. After all, our candidate, Kit Marlowe, was a cobbler's son- and came from even further down the social scale than the glove-making, landowning Shakespeares. 

It's just a feeling really. 

You look at the records of Shakespeare's life- which are fairly copious- and the picture emerges of an energetic, none too scrupulous businessman. He buys land and property, lends money, does a bit of  profiteering, applies for a coat of arms. No reason why a man who leaves this kind of paper trail shouldn't also have written King Lear, Twelfth Night and the Sonnets but somehow it doesn't quite fit. One loves the writer but doesn't entirely like the social-climbing chiseller he seems to have been.

Where did he get his education? Why is there no certain record of him as a writer before he was 29? Isn't it a little odd that so great a genius should have risen without trace?

Our man Kit on the other hand leaves a glittering trail. He goes to university, acquires aristocratic patrons, hangs out with the Luciferian genius Walter Raleigh, travels, does undercover work for the government, writes and publishes plays and poems, translates Ovid- and all before he reaches the age at which Shakespeare emerges from obscurity.  Kit at 29 is a man of whom great things might be expected and Shakespeare at the same age is nobody in particular.

And then there's the evidence of the work. Shakespeare is just so Marlovian. His first published work- Venus and Adonis- is heavily influenced by Marlowe's Hero and Leander- which hadn't been published yet, his historical plays plough the furrow that Kit initiated with his Edward II, the style of early Shakespeare- his quirks and quiddities, his vocabulary and all that sort of thing- is practically the same as Kit's. You could say that Shakespeare was imitating his predecessor but you don't expect an imitator to surpass their model- and Shakespeare just keeps on getting better and better.

Where one sticks- a bit- is with the testimony of Shakespeare's contemporaries. Ben Jonson liked and grudgingly admired the man. Hemming and Condell seem to have accepted his authorship. But did any of them stand looking over his shoulder while he wrote? Was there any need for them to be in on the secret? The Shakespeare they knew was a fellow-actor, astute man of the theatre, fun guy to be around. He could have been all these things and still acted as the front for another man's work. Would the deception have been so very hard to maintain? Shakespeare could well have been enough of a writer to effect revisions of Kit's work as it went through the process of production, cutting lines, adding lines, shoehorning in a song or a masque-  all that sort of thing. Perhaps he slipped one or two of his own compositions- the Hathaway sonnet for instance- in among Kit's papers- simply because he could. It would explain why there are things in the canon that fall so very far below the general standard.

Case proved? Hardly. Perhaps the document that'll clinch the matter is out there- somewhere- but more probably not. In the end what matters is the work itself and not the name on the title page. 

Still one does love a good mystery...




How It Might Have Been

Thursday, 27 July 2017 10:19 am[personal profile] poliphilo
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Kit is in big trouble. Archbishop Whitgift is running an English approximation of the Holy Inquisition and Kit has been informed against. A man called Baines has turned in a report of his blasphemous tavern talk which still exists- and it's spicy even by today's standards. Kit has been arrested, examined and is currently out on bail. If things go against him he could face the death penalty. Fortunately he has done the state good service (as an undercover agent) and has friends in high places.

The death in Deptford is faked up. The witnesses are all either government agents or professional conmen. The venue belongs to a relative of one of Kit's bosses. The inquest is irregular and the coroner is in on the fix. The body- probably that of a recently executed man- is hastily buried in a common grave. Kit, meanwhile, is on his way out of the country.

The rest is silence. Except that he goes on writing. He may have been in Italy, or Scotland or travelling around; he may have returned to England under a false name. There's no way of knowing. Meanwhile a man called Shakespeare has agreed to put his name to Kit's plays and poems.

Shakespeare is an actor and theatrical entrepreneur. Perhaps he does a bit of writing- botching up old plays and such. (There's a sonnet that puns on the name Hathaway- which doesn't fit with the rest and is altogether pretty feeble; maybe that's an example of Shakespeare's own work.) Anyway this scribbler- who has hitherto written nothing of note- starts producing masterpieces.  The man is witty and sociable and smooth. He passes. Not even his closest associates- Ben Jonson for instance- see any reason to question his authorship. The players notice that the scripts he turns in (and this is on the record) are singularly free of corrections and put it down to an extraordinary fluency of invention (Jonson grumbles about it.) Really it's because they're fair copies in Shakespeare's handwriting of Kit's original "foul papers".

The folio collection of "Shakespeare's Works" contains several plays that have never been published before and heavily revised versions of some that have. Maybe Kit has outlived Shakespeare and is still around in the early 1620s- overseeing the production of his magnum opus. 

And that's it. No-one guesses. No-one suspects. The man Shakespeare- who, in his lifetime, drew little attention to himself- begins to acquire a legend...



This is summary of other people's research and speculation. I claim none of it as original- except, perhaps, for the sideways glance at the "Hathaway" sonnet. 

Kit And Will

Wednesday, 26 July 2017 09:09 am[personal profile] poliphilo
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I've been looking at the case for Christopher Marlowe having faked his death and come back as Shakespeare. Verdict: unprovable but not implausible. There are no clinchers.

But.

Marlowe and Shakespeare were the same age. Marlowe died at 29 having already established himself as playwright, poet and man about town whereas Shakespeare was a late developer, and only appeared as an author- with the Marlovian Venus and Adonis- a couple of months after Marlowe's death. The one takes up where the other finishes.

I read Marlowe's Edward II. It's has all the qualities we call Shakespearian- the poetry, the stagecraft, the ability to see all sides of a question, the mastery of pathos- and resembles Richard II to the point of making the later play seem like an imitation or riposte- but one that improves on the original- which is not something one expects a mere copyist to pull off- unless of course- it were a case of a master in competition with himself.

So either we have two great writers- of an age- with remarkably similar skill-sets- the one beginning his career just as the other cashes in his chips- or else...

Unfiltered

Tuesday, 25 July 2017 10:39 am[personal profile] poliphilo
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The difference between Trump and most other heads of state is that they hide their uncouthness, incompetence and venality behind a curtain- and he doesn't. He's the first uncensored, unfiltered president of the modern age. There's no Vaseline on the lens. In place of the managed image, the crafted statements there's an orange man with silly hair who twitters...

He's embarrassing but he hasn't started a war yet. Now which, I wonder, is the greater crime...

Rossetti's Grave

Sunday, 23 July 2017 11:03 am[personal profile] poliphilo
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Dante Gabriel Rossetti had no particular connection with Birchington (near Margate) except that he was staying there when he died. He hadn't wanted to be buried with his wife- Lizzie Siddall (whose grave he'd unromantically dug up to retrieve the poems he'd romantically sealed in her coffin) and he was too rock and roll for the Abbey so they buried him where he dropped (so to speak)- by the south porch of Birchington church. The monument- which features the figures of Dante and Beatrice- with whom Rossetti had a life-long obsession- and St Luke, patron saint of painters- was designed by Rossetti's old mentor and mucker in the Pre-Raphaelite movement, Ford Madox Brown.

A Moustache For The Ages

Friday, 21 July 2017 01:41 pm[personal profile] poliphilo
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They dug up Salvador Dali to conduct a DNA test on behalf of a woman who claims to be his unacknowledged daughter and found him well-preserved, as hard as wood and with his famous moustache still intact. His embalmer- who also attended the exhumation- pronounced him good for a few more hundred years.

I don't think I can explain why but this makes be foolishly happy- especially the bit about the moustache.

Cutting The Grass

Wednesday, 19 July 2017 12:07 pm[personal profile] poliphilo
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You take out the old albums to look at something and- you know- other things catch your eye.

Here's my father cutting the lawn in his business suit in the Spring of 1973. It was a new mower and I suppose it had just been delivered and he couldn't wait before trying it out.



P.S. This was at the house they lived in before moving to the farm.

Looking Back 40 Years

Wednesday, 19 July 2017 10:44 am[personal profile] poliphilo
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I located my parents' photo album for the early 70s because I wanted to see pictures of the farm as it was when they first moved in. Essentially it was just a house in a field- with only a minimal wire fence to divide the grass that was the private garden from the grass where the sheep grazed. There were rose beds lining the path up to the front door- but otherwise nothing. All the trees, shrubs, flowerbeds we see today were put in by my parents.

I was explaining this to my mother while we sat out in the garden yesterday afternoon.  "You planted these trees," I'd say and she'd say "I see" in a tone that suggested we were talking about something that was interesting in the way that the Norman Conquest is interesting- but really nothing to do with her. 

Farm Life

Tuesday, 18 July 2017 10:23 am[personal profile] poliphilo
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The sky is full of clouds that make me think of Boris Johnson. Well, Boris Johnson as the cartoonists draw him- with hair going everyway like a dandelion head that's just been blown at. 

I dug up the third large metal object. It turned out to be a shovel head. Very rusty and encrusted- as though it had been underground for centuries. How long has it really been there? Well, at least since my parents moved in- which is over forty years. It could well be Victorian...

Chris who owns the horses keeps rotating them. He took Justin and his girls away and now we have Snowy (who is his favourite) and Snowy's new foal plus the foal's dad and a random female we've been calling Winnie. I just took them a bunch of carrot tops. Snowy is very tame and Winnie who isn't decided that if Snowy didn't mistrust me she wouldn't either. The stallion- a handsome beast with a white streak of distinction in the mane he wears over his eyes- held himself aloof. These are all cobs- somewhere between wild and domesticated. I don't suppose they've ever been ridden. 

After Wimbledon

Monday, 17 July 2017 11:11 am[personal profile] poliphilo
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One of the good things about the European tennis season- from the start of Roland-Garros to the close of Wimbledon- is knowing there'll always be something for my mother to watch in the afternoons that I won't have to close my ears to. Now that Wimbledon is over it's back to the quiz shows and the antique shows and the let's laugh at the proles shows like Judge Rinder...

It wasn't a classic Wimbledon. Again and again we were reminded that these are athletes working at the extreme limits of what is physically possible. Federer and Djokovic faced first round opponents who pulled out with injuries, Djokovic himself pulled out in the quarter finals with a bad elbow and Murray carried a hip injury through several rounds before it eventually did for him. Both finals- the men's and the women's- proved anticlimactic because Venus Williams was exhausted and Cilic hobbled by blisters. 

Federer was majestic. Not his fault that most of the serious competition limped off before he got a chance to have a crack at it. Never before has tennis seemed such an extreme sport, so attritional.

On the whole the women's matches were more entertaining. That's where the exciting younger players are- Ostapenko, Rybarikova, Muguruza- but what about the promising young men?  The best of the matches on the men's side was the one between Nadal (an ancient champion) and Muller (an ancient journeyman making good) and the championship was won by a man of 36. When the great era of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray closes- not quite yet but soon- who will there be to step into their shoes?




.

Playing At Archaeology

Sunday, 16 July 2017 12:31 pm[personal profile] poliphilo
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Dig down anywhere in my mother's front garden and you hit a layer of building rubble- brick, stone, slate, glass, metal. I can only guess at what it represents. Am I perhaps looking at the rough and ready surface of a buried farmyard? 

I've been prospecting out there with my metal detector- working my way along the edge of a flowerbed. I haven't got very far yet because the second time the detector went beep I found I'd lucked onto a big cache of large metallic objects- and I've been digging in the one spot ever since.  First up was a wedge shaped item which- when cleaned- turned into a rectangular piece of steel plate with holes in it and boltheads still attached. That was yesterday's find. This morning I scanned the diggings again and I was still getting strong responses so I dug some more and out came a brick-sized lump- which looks agricultural- but I'll need to remove the accretions before I can be sure of its shape. I scanned again and the machine is still beeping. It's like there's a whole tractor down there.  I've exposed the edge of whatever the new thing is- and tested it with a magnet to make sure its metal-  but extracting it can wait until tomorrow.

  

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