Friday, April 14, 2017

The Shakespeare Riddle by John Elfreth Watkins 1919

The Riddle of Shakespeare by John E Watkins 1919

See also Who Really Wrote Shakespeare's Plays? 50 Books on CDrom

THE world knows least him whom it knows beat. It is generally conceded that the superman who wrote under the name William Shakespeare, Shakspeare, Shakepear or Shaxper was the greatest author whom the world ever produced. Little is known of him as a man, save that he wae the third child of James Shakespare, a glover; that his grandfathers were husbandmen; that when eighteen he married Anne Hathaway; that five years later he joined a troop of strolling players and went to London, where, in two years more, he was engaged in revising plays; that he became one of the chief actors of the best company in London; that later he worked as a playwright; that at thirty-two he was able to buy a home at Stratford, where, at forty-aix, he finally retired and where, at fifty-two, he died.

All kinds of conflicting statements have been written concerning his private life. Some claim that he was the uneducated son of illiterate parents; that even his own daughters could neither read nor write. Others would have it that he was forced to leave home for deer-stealing in the park of Sir Thomas Lucy. Another story is that upon his arrival in London he lived upon tips given him for holding horses of rich patrons of the theater. According to still others, after hie return to Stratford he became a petty tradesman, selling corn and malt and lending small sums of money. It is claimed that during the time when he was supposed to be writing hie plays he lodged in the house of a humble hairdresser.

Yet, some of his biographers mention his having owned shares in two of the leading London theaters. No two accounts of his life agree. Every statement concerning him is qualified by clauses expressive of uncertainty.

Until sixty years ago, however, no one seems to have doubted that the great masterpieces published under his name were written by this man of mystery. Then there appeared from the pen of an American woman, Delia Bacon, an argument attempting to set forth proofs that Shakespeare could not have written these great works. Since then other writers have waged a propaganda purposed to deprive Shakespeare of the honors freely granted by three centuries of admirers. One of the most zealous of these was Ignatius Donnelly, once candidate for Vice-President of the United States. Another is Sir Edwin Durning Lawrence, Bart., who in recent years has circulated a million copies of articles attempting to deprive Shakeapeare of the credit so long granted to him. According to Sir Edwin, the real Shakespeare was but a "drunken, illiterate clown" who "waa totally unable to write a single letter of his own name and of whom we are told, if we understand what we are told, that he could not read a line of print."

While some of these propagandists claim that Marlowe was the real author of the Shakespeare plays, a vast majority credit them to Francis Bacon, the greatest English scholar and lawyer of hie day. According to the theory of the pro-Baconites, Bacon, by writing "Richard 11," greatly incensed Queen Elizabeth, who waa reported to have said, "Seest thou not that I am Richard II?" Bacon, afraid to recall his own identity, thereafter-'tis claimed-hid himself behind the toga of the Stratford actor.

It must be admitted that the author of Shakespeare's plays displayed the most profound classical learning and a deep knowledge of law as well as an intimate acquaintance with the details of royal etiquette and of court life. He must have been also an omniverous reader of history, who had mastered Latin, French, Italian and Spanish and who had devoured the world's literature, ancient and modern. To some who have sought the man Shakespeare in the chronicles of his time it seems inconceivable that a country lad of his parenthood and rearing could have acquired all of this knowledge, which, unquestionably, was at the fingerends of Lord Bacon

It is argued that Shakespeare'e name never appeared upon any play until after he had retired to Stratford, and this haa been seized upon as evidence of his having been sent there by Bacon that he might remain in obscurity while the great plays were being turned out under his signature-Stratford, then being farther from London, in time of travel, than Canada is today. Strangely enough, there are extant no samples of Shakespeare's writing except several alleged signatures, no two of which are very similar, nor is there in existence a single letter addressed to him save one asking for a loan of thirty pounds. And the only contemporary letters referring to him are unimportant missives pertaining to money. None of his alleged writings mention picturesque scenes associated with his life, such as Stratford, the Avon River, or the magnificent Warwickahire country, whereas these plays are replete with references to St. Alban's, Bacon's home. Bacon's qualifications for writing Shakespeare's plays have been summed up as follows: He was educated not only in English but in French, Latin, Italian and German; he was the compiler of a book of fifteen hundred and sixty axioms and phrases selected from the greatest authors and works of all times. Because literary geniuses were frowned upon in England during his generation, he spent several years in Paris where the literati were in high favor at court.

The vexed question of the authorship of Shakespeare's plays has been discussed in 20,000 separate volumes. In 1916 Judge Richard S. Tuthill, of the Chicago Circuit Court, in an injunction suit rendered a decision that "the name and character of Shakespeare were used as a mask by Francis Bacon to publish philosophical facts, stories and statements contributing to the library renaissance in England, which has been the glory of the world."

See also Who Really Wrote Shakespeare's Plays? 50 Books on CDrom

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