Tuesday, June 05, 2012

I Hate Anti-Stratfordians

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.


Johnny Liberty said...

But wait, there's more...
Bryson may have stirred your blood, but to rise to an unprecedented acme of outrage, you MUST see the film "Anonymous." The hatchet is buried in not only our Will (who is portrayed as a despicable, illiterate swine), but also Good Queen Bess, who is presented as a Tudor slut who had two bastards - ONE OF WHOM IS THE EARL OF ESSEX, for gosh sakes. How 'bout that Errol? You'd have liked that subtext when you and Bette Davis had at it.
On second thought, don't see the flick. You've already had your fair share of abuse via your Pasternak ordeal.

Justine said...

Glad to see you're out of jail, JL!

I know . . . not sure if I could handle "Anonymous" -- it sounds so gawd-awful.

Maybe, when I've done something very naughty, I'll take my punishment in movie form ("Anonymous") or book form (any Russian author but Chekhov) for my sins.

Love ya!

Howard Schumann said...

Understanding the authorship question requires an open mind, an ability to look beyond lazily accepted dogmas, and a willingness to do research to discover the evidence wherever it may take you. None of these attributes appear to be present in the above article.

Justine said...

Mr. Schumann (if that is, indeed your real name -- or could it be Edward de Vere? -- for if he could plan ahead to have plays performed regularly after his death, then certainly he could have planned blog commentary more than 400 years later),

First of all, thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

Secondly, you are correct. My mind on this topic is closed and locked. That does not mean it was always so (I've been reading up on this off and on for about 10 years), but I will confess that I turn a jaundiced eye to most conspiracy theories. I find that keeping an open mind to any sort of bosh and balderdash is not a virtue, but a failing of intellectual maturity. As the great GKC said, "The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid."

I will also confess a fondness for dogma, whether cultural or religious, finding the lack of dogma to be destructive to civilization. We need to have commonly accepted truths to engage fully in civilized society. It does not work for each man to decide his own reality. I would not put the query into the Authorship question as a central tenet to my own appreciation of Western cultural dogma -- it is too trivial for that.

Lastly, I think you give too much credit to my piece by referring to it as an article. More of a screed or rant or vague manifesto: it was mostly a cri de coeur of moral outrage at the injustice done to a man who must have worked his rear-end off all those years perfecting his craft into one of human history's highest forms of art, only to face suspicion and mud-slinging starting more than two centuries after his death, when neither he nor his friends can defend him. It is cruel; it is the worst form of elitism; it is against the very unconquerable spirit of man's creative force.

Everyone likes a mystery. Sometimes, though, the greatest mystery is in the unfathomable spark of genius that arises in the most unlikely of places. To deny it is to deny the very best that man has to offer in this world.

All my best,

Flicka Spumoni said...

Oh, Justine!
I'm standing up giving you a rousing round of applause and shouts of, "Bravo!". I've always hated the snobbery behind the anti-Shakespeare argument.
I think this, "Everyone likes a mystery. Sometimes, though, the greatest mystery is in the unfathomable spark of genius that arises in the most unlikely of places." deserves a place next to my very most beloved Chesterton quotes. Although I would amend (because I'm cheeky like that) the last sentence to read, "To deny it is to deny God, the very spark that lights man's imagination."
Hugs to you - you awesome genius.

Justine said...

Cheeky you are; but, absolutely correct!

Thanks for the input!