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Who Wrote the Works of William Shakespeare? June 13, 2008

Posted by audiobooksnow in Biographical, Classic Literature, Shakespeare.
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Wise scholars have been debating the authorship of William Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets for over two hundred years. The question repeatedly asked is, who wrote Shakespeare’s plays? Ten or more different people have been suggested as the legitimate author of Shakespeare’s works. The three most widely accepted candidates seem to be William Shakespeare, the actor, Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, and Sir Henry Neville, Ambassador to France and distant relative of William Shakespeare. 

The Stratfordian Case 

The abundant historical evidence shows that William Shakespeare (recorded as Shakespeare at his baptism) was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564. He moved to London, becoming a writer, an actor, and a part owner of the acting company, the King’s Men, which owned the Globe Theatre and the Blackfriars Theatre. He spent time in both London and Stratford, where he died in 1616. 

Shakespeare was probably educated in Stratford at The King’s New School, though there are no surviving records of his early education. At the school he would have received an excellent education, and he would have learned Latin and studied some Roman playwrights. There is no evidence or suggestion that Shakespeare received further formal education at a university. It is likely that he was self-educated during his years in London, much as fellow dramatist and friend Ben Jonson, and fellow writers John Webster, Thomas Dekker, and Edmund Spenser. 

In addition to the historical evidence referenced above, there is abundant written evidence that William Shakespeare was a poet and a playwright. For one, a couple of narrative poems, “Venus and Adonis” and also “The Rape of Lucrece” were published with a dedication to the Earl of Southampton, his patron, and were signed by William Shakespeare. Also, Thomas Thorpe published the volume, “Shake-speares Sonnets”. Though it is not known whether the publication of the volume was authorized, it is clearly attributed to be the work of Shakespeare. Also, many of his plays, including “Hamlet” and “King Lear,” were published during his lifetime and attributed to William Shakespeare. 

Further, the First Folio of 1623, the posthumous collection of Shakespeare’s plays published by his friends and fellow King’s Men actors, Heminges and Condell, is dedicated to Shakespeare. The Folio is titled, “Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies,” and Heminges and Condell dedicated the volume to Shakespeare. 

Finally, Shakespeare’s death was noted and mourned. William Basse wrote a famous elegy, copies of which still exist, where he says that Shakespeare deserves to be buried in Westminster Abbey next to Chaucer, Beaumont, and Spenser. A few years after his death a monument was erected in Stratford depicting Shakespeare as a writer sitting at his desk, pen in hand. 

The Anti-Stratfordians 
The Oxfordian Case 

The anti-Stratfordians, those who believe that someone other than Shakespeare of Stratford wrote the plays and sonnets attributed to him, make some strong arguments. They point to Shakespeare’s modest education and his lack of travel outside of Stratford and London. Scholars question how he could have written plays that required considerable geographical and political knowledge, and which required knowledge of French, Spanish, and Italian sources, languages that Shakespeare could not read. The vocabulary in his plays seems to be far greater than the modestly educated Shakespeare could have possessed. 

Also, the anti-Stratfordians point out that Shakespeare’s will did not mention any books, manuscripts, or a library. The will dealt in depth with household items but did not mention anything of literary importance. Numerous plays were unpublished and unperformed at the time of his death, and scholars believe it reasonable that the author would have made mention of them if they were truly his. 

The Oxfordians believe that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, is more likely to have been the true author of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets. For one, Edward de Vere was a talented and well-recognized poet and playwright whose word choices and phrases resembled those of Shakespeare. He was well enough educated, a Cambridge graduate at age 14, and widely enough traveled to have the knowledge to write the historical plays of Shakespeare. In many of the sonnets and plays are references to events that parallel de Vere’s own life. In fact, some consider the play “Hamlet” to be a near autobiography of de Vere’s life. 

It is true that Edward de Vere died in 1604, before eleven of Shakespeare’s works have traditionally been dated. The Oxfordians point out errors in the traditional dating of Shakespeare’s later plays and make convincing arguments that the plays were written before de Vere’s death and then published posthumously, not an unusual occurrence. 

The Nevillian Case 

Recently a strong case has been made for the idea that Sir Thomas Neville is the most likely author of Shakespeare’s works. Neville was educated at Merton College, Oxford, and was fluent in many languages. He traveled for four years on the continent of Europe directly after graduation and in the company of an Oxford scholar. He was the Ambassador to France for two years, and then he became involved with the Essex conspiracy to overthrow Queen Elizabeth I. Neville and his friend, Lord Southampton, were convicted, fined, and confined to the Tower of London. 

The Tower, for the rich like Neville, was more like a hotel than a prison. There is evidence to suggest that Neville wrote many of the Sonnets, including the ones that were addressed to Lord Southampton, while confined to the Tower. It is also here that Neville wrote the play, “Hamlet.” Later, he published “Shake-speares Sonnets” and wrote the dedication himself. He dedicated the sonnets to Lord Southampton. A notebook kept by Neville while in the Tower contained detailed notes that ended up as part of the play, “Henry VIII.” 

The Tower experience also explains the shift in the focus of Shakespeare’s plays from histories and comedies to the great tragedies, all of which were written after Neville was released from the Tower when James I became the king. 

Other evidence that Neville may have been the author of Shakespeare’s works includes a statistical correlation of word frequency between Neville’s private and diplomatic letters and the works of Shakespeare. Also, a document was discovered in 1867 that shows that Neville practiced writing William Shakespeare’s name. The document shows 17 attempts at duplicating the famous signature. 

Some scholars suggest that Sir Neville used the actor Shakespeare as a front man for the plays and sonnets. Neville and Shakespeare were distant relatives and knew each other, probably through Lord Southampton, Shakespeare’s patron and Neville’s good friend. The suggestion is that Neville needed a pseudonym for his plays and sonnets because some of the plays were politically too sensitive. Neville was descended from rivals of the Tudors and Henry VIII had executed his grandfather, so he was concerned that his plays would be seen as seditious. 

Scholars also suggest that Ben Jonson, who was employed at Gresham College, which was owned by the Neville family, knew of the front man arrangement. Since Jonson was involved with putting Shakespeare’s name on the First Folio, it is suggested that he did so at the request of the Neville family. The argument is that Shakespeare had agreed to the front man arrangement many years earlier, also at the request of Sir Neville and his family. 

The debate about the authorship of Shakespeare’s works continues without a resolution in sight. There are numerous other candidates, including the idea that the plays were written by a group of people. Perhaps someday the discovery of an original manuscript will be found and the question will be answered once and for all.

Shakespeare – The World as a Stage February 4, 2008

Posted by audiobooksnow in Biographical, Classic Literature, Shakespeare.
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Shakespeare’s life, despite the scrutiny of generations of biographers and scholars, is still a thicket of myths and traditions, some preposterous, some conflicting, arranged around the few scant facts known about the Bard – from his birth in Stratford to the bequest of his second best bed to his wife when he died.

Following his international bestsellers ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ and ‘The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid’, Bill Bryson has written a short biography of William Shakespeare for the Eminent Lives series – which seeks to pair great subjects with writers known for their strong sensibilities and sharp, lively points of view.

Reviews

Praise for ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ (HB):

‘A modern classic.’ The New York Times

‘It represents a wonderful education, and all schools would be better places if it were the core science reader on the curriculum.’ Times Literary Supplement

Praise for ‘The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid’:

‘Outlandishly and improbably entertaining…inevitably [I] would
be reduced to body-racking, tear-inducing, de-couching laughter.’ New York Times

‘Always witty and sometimes hilarious…wonderfully funny and
touching.’ Literary Review

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Classic Literature – quotes January 3, 2008

Posted by audiobooksnow in Biographical, Classic Literature, Shakespeare.
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A classic is something that everybody wants to have read, but nobody wants to read. Mark Twain 

Now in 2008 you don’t need to read – you could listen to all classic insted. In my audiobook store you find a lot of audiobooks by William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Hans Christian Andersen, Jules Verne, Rudyard Kipling, Charles Dickens, C. S. Lewis, Victor Hugo, Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemingway and many more.

Go to CIRCUM Online Audio Books – browse category select Arts & Drama and then select Classic Literature

-Goran

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A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare 1599 December 9, 2007

Posted by audiobooksnow in Arts & Drama Audio Books, Biographical, Classic Literature, Shakespeare.
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An intimate history of Shakespeare, following him through a single year that changed not only his fortunes but the course of literature.

How did Shakespeare go from being a talented poet and playwright to become one of the greatest writers who ever lived? In this one exhilarating year we follow what he reads and writes, what he sees, and who he works with as he invests in the new Globe Theatre and creates four of his most famous plays—Henry V, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and, most remarkably, Hamlet.

James Shapiro illuminates both Shakespeare’s staggering achievement and what Elizabethans experienced in the course of 1599: sending off an army to crush an Irish rebellion, weathering an Armada threat from Spain, gambling on a fledgling East India Company, and waiting to see who will succeed their aging and childless Queen.

This book brings the news and intrigue of the times together with a wonderful evocation of how Shakespeare worked as an actor, businessman, and playwright. The result is an exceptionally immediate and gripping account of an inspiring moment in history.

This audio includes a selection of scenes from Henry V, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and Hamlet featuring performances by Vanessa Redgrave, Paul Scofield, Ian Holm, and many more.

James Sharpiro, a professor at Columbia University in New York, is the author of Rival Playwrights, Shakespeare and the Jews, and Oherammergau: The Troubling Story of the World’s Most Famous Passion Play.

Listen to A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare 1599

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