For one day Anonymous Venetian was neither the heart-rending film with Tony Musante and Florinda Bolkan nor one of Donna Leon’s great mysteries, but the premiere of Roland Emmerich’s anti-Shakespearian would-be blockbuster. Ca’Foscari University of Venice was given the privilege of the first Italian showing, and the house Shakespearians volunteered a round-table on the authorship discussion.
There were no straightforward anti-Shakespearians in the panel, but a nice gentleman who has been long pointing to the Florio family as the breeding ground for Hamlet & c. was sitting in the audience. Before the talk he approached me and with the courtesy that I had appreciated in previous correspondence (I had duly read and commented on his writings), he explained that he and his fellow researchers had recently parted ways from another investigator who roots for Florio. Whatever you think of it, in certain circles the only consensus that seems peacefully reacheable is on who did not write the plays.
As I said, no panelist had alternative candidates but one of my colleagues (an astute reader of the sonnets) presented the most tantalizing evidence against W.S., championing the right to doubt – even a tormenting doubt – against the tranquility of certitude and the lure of dogma. The second scholar elegantly summarized the birth of the controversy, with Delia Bacon, and its Victorian context. My focus was less on specific points than on a more general concern with how we investigate the past. I belong to a generation of students who felt that our primary intellectual duty was to debunk myths and deconstruct given narratives, and I still believe we must cherish scepticism and doubt. But it should alarm us when all truth-claims become equivalent and indistinguishable, all the more so in an information society where the diffusion and fragmentation of knowledge is unprecedented.
What is at stake in debating Shakespeare, then, is not only a family quarrel among theatre lovers, but the question of how we seek and approximate historical truth. I shared especially with the students my sense that we ought to pay close attention to the critical method used by anti-Shakespearians, because it often coincides with that employed by more dangerous revisionists, deniers and conspiracy theorists. This is why the inevitable lacunas, uncertainties and speculations on Shakespeare’s life offered by ‘traditional’ scholars like us should be definitely favoured over the smooth, perfect, unfalsifiable plots that point to other imaginary authors.
….And having said that, I finally offered the conclusive proof: Shakespeare was Italian, his real name was Crollalanza, from the northern region of Valtellina (famous for its bresaola)! And we can be sure of that because in 1936 the most famous Italian medium received this information from the man himself, who communicated with him “psychographically” through the sudden materialization of a parchment scroll inside a magic casket (see article). How the Oxfordians and the Stratfordians and the Marlovians cannot accept this inconvenient truth is yet another mystery. We’ll have to make a movie about that.