I know, I know, hate is a strong word. But, I do hate anti-Stratfordians, and here is why:
I just finished Bill Bryson's updated and expanded illustrated edition of his Shakespeare biography. It is a nifty piece of work -- wry and inquisitive without falling into wild speculation; appreciative without being hagiographic; concise and yet very satisfying. The last chapter raised my blood pressure a bit, though: Claimants.
Now, Mr. Bryson does a nice smack-down of the anti-Stratfordian poppycock peddlers. He gives many different theories the once-over, finds each one severely and comically wanting, and dismisses each in turn. Mr. Bryson asserts with authority and incredulity at there having ever been any question of it Shakespeare's authorship of the plays attributed to him. And that is well and good.
But, I want revenge. Yes! Revenge! It absolutely infuriates me that so-called scholars and other people who ought to know better continue down this perfidious path unpunished, besmirching not only the name and reputation of one man, but the entire ideas of the individual human spirit and creative genius. William Shakespeare, the son of a glover (eew! tradesman!), was a provincial know-nothing who only attended grammar school and then trod the boards for a living. There is no way he could have written some of the most sublime artistic expressions of English language. Ergo, he must not have written them. Must have been an aristocrat . . . or two . . . or three!
That whole conjecture is repulsive to my American soul; but, it ought to repulse anyone who marvels at and is grateful for the great works of art that enrich our lives and expand our humanity. To think that it is only a certain "type" of person who can scale the heights of Mount Horeb to brush his fingers against the face of God, is to know nothing about art or about history. Tell me again of all the great poet kings. David. Yes, but according to the anti-Stratfordians, David could not have been king at all and written those glorious psalms because he was born an obscure shepherd boy in the wilderness of Judea. Must have been Saul -- oops, he had backwater roots, too. Um, Jonathan? He was born royal, so it must have been him. See how ridiculous that theory is?
Was William Shakespeare chosen by God in the same way as David or Abraham? Or, was it sheer human gumption and a ton of hard, diligent work that brought him to the summit of his art? Or both? I guess your opinion on that depends upon your opinion of creative work. I believe that all art wells up from the spring of our Creator God. I believe that there is no such thing as a thoroughly secular piece of art, because all creative expression in man is a reflection -- whether conscious or not -- of how he views and honors his Creator -- either to His glory or to man's damnation. I also believe in the 10,000 hour rule -- that excellence in anything comes at the price of, if not blood, then toil, sweat, and tears.
Those not of a spiritual bent might disagree with part of my premise. They would do well not to; but, that is up to them to decide. What is not up to them to decide is on whom the spark of genius will fall. I believe it falls on far more than we will ever remember in posterity, but few are willing to make the sacrifices to realize their own genius. William Shakespeare made those sacrifices. Interestingly, his friends made their own sacrifices, too, after Shakespeare's death -- ensuring that the Bard's works were collected and published and kept alive. Fall on your knees, you lovers of language, in gratitude for the people who saved Shakespeare for us, and the good God who covered it all with His blessing.
Anyway, to deny William Shakespeare credit for his achievements is the most base sort of robbery.
Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing;
'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.
I know that the villain Iago said that; that does not make it less true. I also know that those rascally anti-Stratfordians have parlayed their lies into, if not riches, then renown. But, they are trying to steal from the glover's son, the grammar-school boy, the actor, the playwright -- yes, and even from all in this world who yearn to reach that elusive summit, no matter how low our origins -- the only good name that should ever be attached to that very good body of work: William Shakespeare.