It’s been a busy and exciting few days. The launch of www.60minuteswithShakespeare.com http://shksp.re/60conf has attracted world-wide attention and is already appearing on school and college syllabuses (so far) across the U.K., the States, and Australia. Stephen Fry, one of our sixty contributors, Tweeted a recommendation of the site to his 3 million followers.
In the various radio interviews I’ve been involved with I’ve kept hearing anti-Shakespearians speak the same old rhetoric: ‘Shakespeare couldn’t have written the plays; he wasn’t educated enough; he wasn’t aristocratic; he wasn’t knowledgeable enough; he didn’t have the right kind of experience.’ ‘Couldn’t have?’ That isn’t evidence of anything. It’s just an unattractive mix of ignorance, jealousy, snobbery, and intellectual theft. And it denies the power of the human imagination.
‘Does it all really matter?’ has also been asked quite a bit in the last few days. The fact is it matters utterly, otherwise there would be no conspiracy theories in first place. And there would be no new film trying to insinuate itself into the popular imagination. As people we want to know as much as possible about the artist who produced the work. William Shakespeare was Stratford and London through and through. He didn’t go to university. He wasn’t an aristocrat. He was from fairly humble origins and worked hard at what he was good at. I think it matters who wrote the work, and that it’s time to jump off the fence.
The conspiracy theories started in the middle of the nineteenth century. It was the era of an inherited Gothic and Romantic imagination, reacting to Darwin, and alive to the beginnings of detective fiction. Gaps in the record began to make people uneasy. But there’s nothing unusual in those gaps. We don’t know very much about most people during Shakespeare’s time.
On Thursday last week, Stanley Wells and I hosted our first ever webinar, ‘Not at all anonymous: Shakespeare Bites Back.’ We had lots of registrations and the event was international in its scope. We look at the origins of the Shakespeare Authorship Conspiracy Theory, its development over time, and remind ourselves of the evidence for William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon as author of the plays and poems attributed to him.
And if you’d like to know why I am using the phrase ‘anti-Shakespearian’ rather than ‘anti-Stratfordian’, we discuss that, too. Log on to http://shksp.re/bitesback to find out more.