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The Shakespeare Myth or "Academic Bardolatory"

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Following the recent discovery of some 16th century floorboards on which apparently the "Bard" had stood on and acted his plays, would you believe it if the Folger Shakespeare Library would inevitably purchase a piece of the ancient stage to add to its dustbin of Shakespearean Relics? I would certainly accept such a cultural myth. And yet the myth of "Shakespeare" persists despite condemnations from alternative academics the BBC categorically refuses to accept otherwise pandering to the accepted notion that 'Shakespeare' is a clothes horse for minority issues with all-female casts and so forth. 

For well over 200 years well-known literary figures and theatrical commentators have cast serious doubts over the genuine authorship of Shakespeare’s Folio first collated by John Heminges and Henry Condell and which was finally published by Thomas Thorpe in 1623. Currently, many mundane facts that have been unearthed about the Stratford actor William Shakspere of Stratford upon Avon do not correspond exactly to the complex picture we have subsequently drawn of the renowned Elizabethan playwright and poet “William Shake-speare”. Shakespeare’s imagery and vast literary references include the legal and social elements of the Inns of Court, geography, history, war and weaponry, sports and games, classical mythology, drama, the natural world, sea-faring, hunting and falconry, astrology, medicine, art and culture, fashion, gardening and animal husbandry, fencing and fighting, heraldry, the stage, religion, the occult/magic, paganism, folklore, metaphysics and oratory. Furthermore, to write so accurately about these subjects he would have had access to a library containing over 3,000 books and yet in the final last will and testament of the Stratford actor, William Shakspere there is no mention of any library, any books or any original manuscripts. No, not even a bible.

So how did a relatively unknown and uneducated actor from Stratford-on-Avon become a universally popular and illustrious author of some 38 plays and several volumes of poetry? Having little or no primary education how would he become acquainted with the techniques of classical poetry, English, Greek and Roman history, as well as the political, legal, and social mores of Elizabethan court society? Indeed, how was this relatively illiterate man, who could barely sign his own name, able to develop an extraordinary vocabulary of some 29,000 words of which 1,700 were coined by him in such a short space of time. Why was his death in 1616 not eulogised and nationally mourned as a literary and dramatic genius? How could a man who had never known military service describe the historical battlefield so accurately and with such personal experience. If the man from Stratford had never travelled abroad how could he have known so much about the geography, customs and cultural traditions of towns and countryside in Venice, Padua, Antwerp and Rome?

It would appear that the author of the 1623 Folio excelled in making up new words for the English language in excess of 1,700 at the current count. Now the average person might use some 3-4,000 words in conversation, the Bible by comparison contains a vocabulary of some 8,000 words while the author John Milton used up to 8,000 words. Shakespeare on the other hand employed some 15,000 words to write the plays and poetry, which is well above the average number used by a playwright or poet from the time. It would seem that he acceded the average because his preoccupation or should we say “literary mission” was to become the “Logos Genius” of his age.

It is generally accepted by academics that the pseudonymous “William Shakespeare” must have had a good grasp of classical Latin, Greek, Italian, French and Spanish, that is those languages specifically taught in England’s schools, colleges or universities. However, we are informed that William Shakspere left Stratford on Avon in 1587 without ever attending a college or university or being tutored in any language save his own native Warwickshire. How and why was this "rustic anonymuncule" given credit for plays and poetry far beyond his personal capacity and comprehension? In actual fact no mention whatsoever is made of Stratford or Warwickshire in any of Shakespeare’s plays or poetry. So how could someone who was untutored in languages be able to read so many books in Greek, French and Latin and speak or write so innovatively, eloquently and articulately in the English language? Is it merely coincidence or deeply relevant to the Shakespeare Authorship debate that soon after the death of the Elizabethan actor William Shakspere, whose life embodied the legend of Dick Whittington, the country lad who made good in the capital, that this tale subsequently became a prominent theme in Jacobean theatre, culture and society? As a result of this picaresque theme, many people could readily accept that a relatively unknown person such as William Shakspere could ascend the heights of literary endeavour through his own efforts alone and become the most renowned playwright, theatre manager and poet of Elizabethan England.


The early 20th century comic actor and sceptic of the “Shakespeare myth”, Charlie Chaplin said of this biographical presumption:

“It is easy to imagine a farmer’s boy emigrating to London and becoming a successful actor and theatre owner; but for him to have become the great poet and dramatist, and to have had such intimate knowledge of foreign courts, cardinals and kings, is inconceivable to me. I am not concerned with who wrote the works of Shakespeare,...but I can hardly think it was the Stratford boy. Whoever wrote them had an aristocratic attitude.”

My view is that this Dick Whittington myth has been circulating within the human condition for as long as human beings began “telling stories”, or inventing narratives which eventually became, thanks to the Brothers Grimm our collection of fairy tales.

Dick Whittington & Shakspere

And a Happy Yuletide to all my readers, leonidas

Shakespeare MythLiterary FraudPants on Fire

◄ Bonfire Night

Shakespeare's Almanack ►


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Sat 9th Dec 2023 10:41

The pseudonymous Will Shakspere could not have written either the sonnets or any of the plays attributed to a man from Stratford. In the late 16th century Stratford had a population of 1,500-2,000, while Oxford had around 5,000-6,000, London had a population of some 200,000 which is significant when assessing the type and quality of education required to write classical poetry as exemplified in the Sonnets and plays. I have of course given all the supporting evidence to identify an aristocrat with a vast reference library to account for "Shakespeare's" literary sources (approx. 3,000). However, I also assert that it is simply impossible to appreciate or fully understand either the poetry or plays without knowing who the author actually was because the numerous allusions made in them refer specifically to an aristocrat, a prolific polymath who was connected closely to court society and who had travelled abroad. None of these unique attributes appear to endorse Will Shaksper as a poet or playwright. His family were illiterate for three generations and there is no evidence that their son was otherwise-since the school and parish records do not list his name? See:
Who Was William Shakespeare?

A Literary Genius or Fraud?
Dick Whittington & Shakspere
The “Lost Years” Debate?
The Meteoric Ascent of a Literary Genius
Nevertheless, I appreciate your comments and participation.

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M.C. Newberry

Thu 7th Dec 2023 18:07

Even if Will Shakespeare had not written any of the plays
attributed to him, I would prize his sonnets for what they
offer us. There has been a reported connection with a
member of the nobility ("W.H." - who may have been the young
Earl of Southampton), It is hardly new for theatricals, poets et
al to obtain admirers and friendships among the privileged
classes and these can work to the advantage of all those

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