Wednesday, July 8, 2009

William Shakespeare, Businessman – Forgotten Genius by Anthony Kellett

The world’s libraries are awash with portraits of Stratford’s William Shakespeare, contrived through painstaking, line-by-line analysis of the literary works he supposedly wrote. This is frequently clever stuff and very laudable . . . but somewhat irrelevant if you have the wrong man.

Imagine if we were to write a psychological analysis of screenwriter Ian McLellan Hunter by analyzing the text of the film Roman Holiday (1953). Prior to 1991, that would have seemed perfectly legitimate. The screenplay is obviously not autobiographical (there was nothing in Hunter’s life that would move him to write a story about a high-society figure hiding her identity!); but we had unequivocal proof that he had written the story. Hunter was known to William Wyler, the producer and director, and probably by Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn, too. The posters promoting the film all provided documentary evidence of his authorship, as did the film review in the New York Times. Certainly, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences “knew” he had written Roman Holiday and awarded him an Oscar for it. I assume the representatives of the motion picture industry, applauding as he went on stage to collect his award, believed the same. It was not until some forty years later that Dalton Trumbo (blacklisted as part of the House Committee on Un-American Activities’ communist witch hunt) was finally recognized as the true author and awarded a posthumous Oscar. As Daryl Pinksen highlights in his excellent book Marlowe’s Ghost, if this can happen in the 20th century with all the media coverage, security agencies, central government records, communication channels etc., then what would be possible in the late 16th century? Moreover, if it were not for a timely intervention, we may still not know the truth and scholars would simply hold up the posters and film reviews with a condescending grin to all those that questioned these “undoubted facts."

What is often obscured, by the uncloaking of these various deceptions, is the life of the front man who, to subsequent generations, is seen merely as a parasite, taking glory for others’ achievements. This is simply not true of Hunter, for example, who was a relatively successful writer in his own right. He wrote screenplays for at least twenty movies and co-wrote various works for the theatre, one (somewhat ironically) being a musical called Foxy based on Ben Jonson’s Volpone. He also wrote for television (including Robin Hood and The Defenders).

So, what does this have to do with William Shakespeare of Stratford? Well, I am of the opinion that it is time someone sung the praises of the Stratford merchant by looking at the life we know he had, rather than the starry-eyed, romantic intellectualizing we are normally fed. It is unfair that his real achievements are completely ignored and this “square peg” has been hijacked by Stratfordian academics to fit a “round hole” they have vacant. Shakespeare of Stratford did not write Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet or the plethora of other works ascribed to him. He was a trader, an opportunist and an entrepreneur; this man was a goal-setter with a single-minded determination to succeed - and succeed he did.

William’s father, John, was a glover by trade, but also an ambitious businessman, seizing any opportunity to increase his wealth and standing in the community. We see this through his lending (at substantial interest rates) and his dealings in wool, an illegal activity for those, like John Shakespeare, not chartered by the state to do so. Anti-Stratfordians are often labelled snobs for suggesting someone of William’s background could not have the skill-set required to write the plays. I find it somewhat amusing that these accusers are oblivious to their condescension towards the skills of the entrepreneur. It is assumed, when discussing the learning of the university wits, that their abilities were honed from years of dedicated study, an opinion with which I concur. However, when it comes to trading tithes, grains, wool, land etc., it seems to be dismissed as something anyone can choose to participate in on a whim. William, we are asked to believe, was a commodity dealer, property investor and moneylender in his spare time; presumably it was an impulsive decision, displaying the same blasé attitude with which he (for no apparent reason and with no prior display of aptitude) deigned to write plays and compete with the greatest literary minds in England. I often wonder why this same course is not more frequently followed by our modern academics, if for no other reason than to fund their research projects, rather than spending time soliciting funding from wealthy entrepreneurs.

In 16th-century England, wool (accounting for around three quarters of England’s foreign trade) was heavily controlled from London. John Shakespeare was involved in transactions as large as two tons of it, valued at hundreds of pounds at a time when a reasonable house could be bought for £30-£40. Trading on this scale requires a network of suppliers and customers and an awareness of volatile market conditions. Whilst the volume of wool traded in England was large, growth had stagnated by the second half of the century and the wool market was turbulent, in much the same way as the world’s stock markets are today. There were dramatic market slumps just at the time that John was seemingly most active. The years 1562-4 and 1571-3 saw particularly bad bear markets and these would have heightened John’s awareness to the fact that profit was hard won. Constant vigilance was essential to successful trading and he would have ensured William was minded of this fact. Subsequently, it seems that John’s carelessness (through either bad dealings and/or in evading the authorities) led directly to his downfall, and this too would have been an early lesson for an impressionable youngster.

John Shakespeare’s ambition for “position” within his community is clearly discernible. He was an alderman in 1565, a year after William’s birth, and was to rise to High Bailiff by 1569. Around this time, John applied for a coat of arms, reinforcing the assertion that he craved social rank. It is in this household and atmosphere that young William was raised. These values would have been instilled in him from an early age and, his actions show, they remained in focus for the rest of his life.

By 1576 (when his wool dealing brought about John’s fall from grace), William saw the effects that his father’s floundering business dealings had both on the family and his own life. John’s social standing was in tatters and he later avoided council meetings until he was eventually dismissed by the town authorities in 1586. William certainly would have witnessed his father’s humiliation, which would have taught him another valuable lesson: the value of income-generating assets and the security they bring. John had to sell property to cover his losses and focus on his glove-making business. William set out never to be in a similar position. He would avoid overt risk-taking and accumulate assets that generate income. He would protect those assets as best he could and work them to his advantage. William, we are told, was removed from school at 13 (I will not argue the point of school attendance, for the purpose of this article) and worked, in glove production, alongside his father. He was educated in the ways of business, buying raw materials and selling product on to customers. Equally important, William was learning a trade that might give him his opportunities in life.

William was married at age 18 and had a daughter shortly after his 19th birthday. He now had more reason to safeguard his future financial security and started looking for the opportunities to take advantage of his knowledge. This may have presented itself in 1587 (when it appears William was still residing in Stratford) with the visit of the Queen’s Men (one man short due to a fatal duel some days before in Thame). Perhaps William had some acting experience at this time or maybe the Queen’s Men just needed anyone to fill the less-demanding roles now vacant, as their previous, more experienced incumbent was required to replace William Knell (the recently deceased). Perhaps his ability to work leather (and sew presumably) would have been useful to a travelling theatre company to maintain its costumes, so he could fulfill a dual role. The specifics we may never know; but we do know William was probably in London connected to the theatre world by about 1593 or thereabouts.

Let us pause here to consider this man’s position. He knows (from bitter experience) that he must accumulate some wealth. He has learned, from his new associates, of the wealth of company shareholders such as Burbage and Alleyn. William would have noted that actors shared the assets - not writers. Playwrights were poorly paid and relied on the patronage of benevolent aristocrats for their day-to-day living. Moreover, when one considers the time involved in producing the sophisticated works being created by the university wits, the hourly rate would have been very unappealing to a business-minded, budding-entrepreneur like William. In fact, if he had bothered to write anything, it would have been masques for court consumption. Masques typically attracted triple the fee of a play and all for a fraction of the effort involved in a Shakespearean work. Furthermore, masque writing would have brought William to the attention of the aristocracy far more easily than playwriting, and would have sated his need for social status. Plays were predominantly fodder for the masses and, as we shall see, William was not so keen to ingratiate himself to them.

However, it would not have gone unnoticed that, though little was paid for plays by producers, few seemed to be publishing these plays for general consumption. If we were to believe the picture painted by The Arte of English Poesie, any self-respecting intellectual (with aristocratic connections) would have baulked at the idea of selling theatre plays to the masses. William, however, had no such hesitation; this would be a chance to supplement his income. The idea that this man, at this point, sat down and started writing plays to compete with a band of university educated, ground-breaking visionaries is frankly barmy. If anyone had suggested, to William, that he should study historical texts for the next several months and write plays based on them, he would have thought them insane. Why would he do that? He needs money now; he wants to start accumulating the assets he needs to secure his future. With plays just lying around, begging to be exploited, it would be a folly to consider writing new ones. Thereby, William hits on his first masterstroke. He approaches playwrights and asks them if he can sell their plays to other theatre companies and publishers. In exchange for this, William would take a hefty commission and give them money they would not otherwise have received. Authors would gladly agree and, if they wished to be disassociated with these plays, their names would remain either undisclosed or substituted for his (maybe by William himself or by the publishers, as William Shakespeare would be the only name they had available). We catch occasional glimpses of William’s play-brokering activities, such as when Henslowe’s Diary records payments to a group of writers for the play Sir John Oldcastle. It was likely William brokered the play for the anonymous first quarto in 1600. By the second printing (in the False Folio of 1619), it appears as by William Shakespeare, together with other plays William had probably brokered over the years such as A Yorkshire Tragedy, King Lear and Henry V.

The foresight of William here should not be understated. Arts in general had prospered since an earlier relaxation in censorship and a shift of focus from the church as being the main source of funding for visual and written works. The theatres were gaining huge popularity thanks to a number of factors, not least the quality of new works being produced by Marlowe and others. However, this would count for nothing without an audience, which grew from a burgeoning population with disposable income. Though published plays may have to sell through two or three editions to prove profitable, perhaps publishers too saw that this might be increasingly possible. Education flourished alongside Protestantism and publishing went through a boom in the latter part of the 16th century. Around 800 books were printed in the 1520s compared to 3000 in the 1590s and many of these seemed to trickle down to the lower levels of society. For example, 8% of Canterbury household inventories, in the 1560s, listed books. By 1620, that figure had risen to 45% and William was quick to recognize this although, conspicuously, he did not appear to follow the trend, for William did not mention a single book in his detailed will. That said, if I had made my millions by selling ladies underwear, I would not necessarily find it suitable for my personal use! Plays were simply another commodity to William and he knew what to do with commodities.

This idea catapulted the now 29-year-old William into the big league and enabled him to purchase a share in a theatre company, his first major asset and a considerable income-earning asset, too.

As with most successful traders, William was very familiar with his "products" and knew their “unique selling points” by rote. As such, he would be the perfect point of reference for George Buc, when he sought information about the origins of these plays. Specifically, when Buc wanted an author’s name, for the anonymously published George a Greene, whom else would he turn to but the trader in anonymous plays, William Shakespeare? Buc simply wrote (in his copy of the play) that it was written by a minister “Teste W. Shakespea” (as testified by W. Shakespeare). Some have questioned the authenticity of this reference to Shakespeare by Buc. I see no reason to doubt its validity, although the dates ascribed to Buc’s various inscriptions on his 1599 copy of George a Greene are still open to debate.

This was only the start and William continued to accumulate assets, which would both generate income and re-establish the social standing of his family directly. He purchased New Place in May 1597, the second largest house in Stratford, and probably revelled in the fact that it was built and occupied by Hugh Clopton (financier of Stratford’s Clopton Bridge) and a former Mayor of the City of London. Stratford’s largest house was occupied by John Combe, one of William’s few identifiable friends, and a useful one at that (the only kind of friend that would interest William). Combe was a “devilish usurer,” perhaps with whom he could discuss interest rates on loans to the local residents and thereby maximize returns. His completion of the quest for a family coat of arms (commenced by his father nearly 30 years earlier) finally realized his goal of restoring his family’s respectability.

Having secured a share in the theatre company, William was not required to spend all his time living and working in London and was therefore able to devote himself to expanding his business interests back in Stratford. He would have spent many hours developing business relationships for dealing in grains and keeping abreast of commodity prices to avoid the pitfalls to which his father fell foul.

It is sometimes assumed that William is buried in Stratford’s Holy Trinity Church due to either his social status or even his supposed literary achievements. In fact, the reason is that he purchased a 21-year lease to some of the tithe privileges (formerly owned by the Collegiate Church, based there until the Reformation) for £440 (yielding £43 per annum net) in 1605. Therefore, William secured a right to be buried there because he had a share in the revenues and administrative duties of the church. Even in death, William would continue his quest for status.

As mentioned earlier, William followed his father’s practice of money lending and was not averse to using the legal system to recover unpaid debts as they fell due.In 1604, he sued the apothecary, Rogers, for an unpaid debt. From August 1608 until June 1609, William pursued John Addenbrooke through the courts for the sum £6 (plus 24s damages). When Addenbrooke absconded, William sought to recover the full amount from Addenbrooke’s surety, the blacksmith Thomas Horneby. William purchased land near Stratford (including 107 acres from his fellow “loan shark” John Combe). In the winter of 1597/98, he owned 80 bushels of grain (or 640 gallons - showing the extent of William’s Stratford-based commodity trading within four or five years of arriving in London) which he hoarded during a famine, appearing to have no regard for the suffering of his fellow Stratford residents.

Amusingly, we are asked to believe that this man also wrote the sensitive, heartfelt and heart-rending plays and sonnets of the author Shakespeare. Can you really imagine our William, aged 33, writing Romeo and Juliet – a passionate love story about a girl roughly the same age as his own daughter? Moreover, we are asked to accept that William didn’t even bother publishing more than half the plays he wrote; valuable assets were simply left abandoned somewhere to gather dust – by the same man who sold stone to the Stratford Corporation for 10d. Can these two men really be the same person?

When he died, William did not have a single manuscript because assets were used to the full; and he had long since sold any rights he may have held. He did not own a single book because they held no interest for him. Time spent reading was time not earning money. It was about as fruitless a pastime as writing plays; after all, what did men like Robert Greene, Thomas Kyd or even the great Kit Marlowe get out of it? No, William had entered the theatre world as a trader and had shown that he could make it pay. He was one of the survivors.

Creators of true art focus on little other than the art itself. They have a burning desire to create, to the exclusion of all else. Great entrepreneurs have many of these same qualities: a single-minded and unwavering desire to create wealth, to which they are fully dedicated. Academics that have spent their entire lives in school have no spare time, or inclination, to develop and build a diversified business portfolio (even though, legitimately, they might see themselves as intellectually superior). Yet they imagine that a hard-nosed, multi-disciplined businessman could, and would, devote the thousands of hours of research and practice required to become proficient at writing dramatic blank verse. I am here to tell you that such a supposition is wrong.

This is the final insult to both great playwrights and this exceptional (albeit ruthless) entrepreneur. To suggest that a boy could go to school from ages 7-13, subsequently work as a glove-maker in Stratford for maybe nine years, and still write the detailed, historically aware and exquisitely perceptive works of Shakespeare is, to put it mildly, disrespectful to academics everywhere. Similarly, to say that the achievements of this successful entrepreneur, starting from such a low base and culminating in such financial success, could be achieved, in his spare time, by a prolific writer of the most sophisticated and brilliant plays, is a huge misapprehension (let alone a real stretch of the imagination) and I take exception to it.

Anthony Kellett

© Anthony Kellett, July 2009

Sources:

Miscellaneous Documents, Birthplace Museum, Stratford.

Miscellaneous Documents, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Records Office.

Bucholz, Robert and Newton Key. Early Modern England, 1485-1714. Wiley-Blackwell, 2003.

Greene, Robert. Groat’s-Worth of Wit (1592).keir cutler

Honan, Park. Shakespeare: A Life. Oxford, 2000.

Kozuka, Takashi and J.R. Mulryne. Shakespeare, Marlowe, Jonson: New Directions in Biography. Ashgate, 2006.

Lee, Sidney. A Life of William Shakespeare. Smith, Elder & Co., 1915.

Lee, Sidney. Stratford-on-Avon from the Earliest of Times to the Death of Shakespeare. Lippincott, 1907.

Phillips, Owen Hood. Shakespeare and the Lawyers. Methuen, 1972.

Pinksen, Daryl. Marlowe’s Ghost. IUniverse, 2008.

Puttenham, George. The Arte of English Poesie (1589). Cornell, 2007.who wrote shakespeare?

Rowse, A.L. and John Hedgecoe. In Shakespeare’s Land. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1986.

Thomson, Peter. Shakespeare's Professional Career. Cambridge, 1992.keir cutler video

Zell, Michael. "Accounts of a Sheep and Corn Farm, 1558-60." AgHistRev 27, 1979, p. 122.

Also by Anthony Kellett: "Shakespeare's Anonymous Death" and "Shakespeare Scholars: A Lament"

Click here for the blog's home page and recent content. roland emmerich's anonymous rylance

77 comments:

Jonathan said...

Alot to process but very impressive. When it's explained this way, I can't imagine this William writing Romeo and Juliet.

JosBayers said...

Carlo,
Probably the best thing you've ever posted, cheers to Mr. Kellett. Nice to see a piece on Shakespeare minus "starry-eyed" speculation. I find this article very logical. And, let me add, we're supposed to believe that he would then write under candlelight? (one of the points in Rubbo's film, if I recall). Being a businessman of Shakespeare's caliber was SERIOUS business--and very time-consuming.

Sam Blumenfeld said...

Anthony Kellett has provided a wonderful new slant on Shakespeare's biography based on the facts we do know about the man. Biographers of Shakespeare have always commented on the lack of documentary evidence concerning the Bard's life as a writer. At the same time they tell us that we have an abundance of documentary evidence concerning Shakespeare's nonliterary life, but somehow can't put two and two together. Thanks to Anthony, someone may now be able to write a true biography of Shakespeare as an entrepreneur, successful realtor and money lender at a time when it was not easy for a commoner to get rich.

JoyceKellerman said...

I echo Mr. Blumenfeld's thoughts.

Benavides said...

came to this site from a comment I saw on breitbart and I'm in paradise! as an English professor at a respected state college, I have tread carefully on the authorship matter so as not to upset my colleagues. shakespeare's bio defies common sense and things don't add up, as diana price has documented. here we are, bright, well-educated people who are asked accept on a leap of faith, really, that Will authored all those works. why are we so insistent on defending him? is it that we don't really want to admit that we've been wrong all these years?

XCat57 said...

No, can't envision "the Bard" composing the plays. Nice job. Fair disclosure, I'm an Oxford man (can't we all just get along?). But I'll study your website closely.

Sam Blumenfeld said...

To XCat57, welcome aboard. We love Oxfordians with open minds!

Anonymous said...

an agnostic visiting...

VallecitoCopy said...

Mr. Kellett,

I've enjoyed reading your two articles for this blog, they are great "ammunition" for me in my polite debates with my Stratfordian friends (and relatives!)

Judi said...

hoooray!

Anonymous said...

nicely written.

ParquVCBC said...

A great explanation that reconciles with the lack of literary life Shakespeare evidence seems to show.

SundanceKylie said...

a very fair assessment, going against many anti-Stratfordians who claim Shakespeare was a backward country simpleton of sorts.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
CARLO D. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sam Blumenfeld said...

According to Louis Ule's hard-to-get book, Christopher Marlowe (1564-1607) A Biography, soon after arriving in London, William Shakespeare became a literary broker. Which would account for why Thomas Walsingham and Ed Blount engaged him when they needed a name to put on Venus and Adonis. Apparently, literary brokering was part of the pawn and money lending businss. It is probable that Shakespeare was told he could make money at this sort of occupation by his fellow Stratfordian, Richard Field, who printed Venus and Adonis for publisher John Harrison. Walsingham and Blount may have asked Field about the availability of a broker, and he recommended Shakespeare, who needed some way to make a living. Obviously, someone other than Shakespeare wrote the dedication to the Earl of Southampton, which Shakespeare signed. His name was not on the title page. The poem had been registered anonymously on April 18, 1593, a month before Marlowe's alleged demise, and was published on September 22, 1593 with Shakespeare's name on the dedication page, which was the first time Shakespeare's name appeared on any publication. Apparently, Walsingham and Blount were pleased with Shakespeare as a discrete, reliable front and continued to use him. The fact that he was then given Marlowe's plays to front made it easy for Shakespeare to attach himself to the Globe Theatre. Fronting became so lucrative that he was able to buy a share in the theater. All of this confirms Anthony's thesis that Shakespeare was an astute businessman, who knew how to make money and took full advantage of the rare opportunity given him by Walsingham and Blount to front for the greatest literary genius of all time.

July 19, 2009

Barry S. Millen said...

BRAVO!

Cassidy said...

a terrific article

Anonymous said...

very illuminating

I.M. Serby said...

"He did not own a single book because they held no interest for him." This has always been a point of contention with me. What we know of him, Shakespeare did not act like a writer.

JPRWakeForest said...

a very informative and enlightening post.

RockawayBeach said...

I couldn't have said it any better, Mr. Kellett!

JackintheGreen89 said...

brilliant

Sebastian said...

How can we talk about Shakespeare's literary biography with a straight face? FACTS ARE STUBBORN THINGS!! And what are THE FACTS about Shakespeare's literary life? Great work, Mr. K.

Anonymous said...

mr kellett is a very convincing writer.

dresden doll said...

loved your opening...hooked me in.

alessandra said...

a wonderful article that grounds our doubts about shakespeare.

KF said...

one of the best articles I've read on the subject.

Anonymous said...

A very interesting article with plenty of food for thought. However, Marlowe combined writing with being a spy and Francis Bacon was a scientist and philosopher whilst pursuing a very active political career and wasn't Emily Bronte an astute manager of her family's investments?

Anthony Kellett said...

Thank you for raising this point, "Anonymous". It is one numerous people have made (using various examples) and I think the distinction is worthy of expansion. I am not saying that people cannot combine writing (in all its myriad forms) with other careers. Examples of this are too numerous for anyone to make such a claim. However, to date, no-one has been able to provide such an example that is not explicable using logic and common-sense. The authors proposed either write about themes on which they are experts already or invent some fictional story, the main elements of which, they would be expected to be capable of exploring. Who, amongst us, could not write a love story; irrespective of our numerous professions? Moreover, their style of writing and its literary competence will be commensurate with their education and subsequent study regime.

In this whole authorship debate, far too much is made of matching the works to the minutiae of an author’s biography (see any Oxfordian case), when that is not a requirement. No; the requirement is knowledge of the events (if they are factual), the ability to empathise with these characters and inhabit their world, together with an interest in the subject matter; notwithstanding that, one must then have the required literary talent to convey these ideas. In this last proviso, I think we can all agree that the “literary talent” required (to produce Shakespeare’s work) is of the highest order, and must have been honed through copious hours of practice and study. The same cannot be said of many authors; irrespective of how compelling or enjoyable their stories.

Anthony Kellett said...

To answer the specific points made by Anonymous;

Marlowe spent the majority of his life studying, translating and writing poetry and plays, with access to Cambridge University’s libraries and tutors. Moreover, his spying activities would have given him access to yet further repositories of knowledge and source material. Marlowe was inextricably linked to the works of Ovid from an early age. He originally entered university to study for a career in the church and his recruitment to Walsingham’s covert army, would involve Marlowe in political and royal intrigues. All of this would be sufficient to explain all his attributed plays (and many others); particularly when combined with his reported interest in sexuality.

Francis Bacon too spent his life studying with access to any source material he required. He studied at Cambridge and entered Gray’s Inn at 15. He studied in Poitiers and Paris and was an MP at 21. His father was Lord Keeper of the Great Seal and he had met Queen Elizabeth by age 15. His maternal Grandfather was the Humanist and scholar Anthony Cooke (tutor to Edward IV) and his uncle was Lord Burghley.

All Bacon’s myriad interests and how he chose to use the information he amassed is perfectly understandable and logical. Everyone that ever wrote a scientific work was (most likely) a scientist. Every other subject, on which Bacon embarked, we can explain how he gathered that knowledge and why he might write about it. Can you explain Shakespeare’s writings using similar logic?

I have no idea why you include Emily Bronte; are you sure she is the author you meant? I do not know much about her investing prowess. I do know she spent a lot of time going to varying educational institutions and returning to Yorkshire through homesickness or ill-health and tried to establish a school with her two sisters. She wrote one book (albeit wonderful) that was basically an invention set on the moors on which she lived; then died a year later at the age of 30. I can’t see that this does anything but support my view of Shakespeare.

PatB said...

Interesting contrast between Dalton Trumbo and Christopher Marlowe. Trumbo chose as his front-man Ian McClellan Hunter, someone with proven credentials as a screenwriter, rather than choosing, say, Jethro his gardener or Fat Freddie the local garage mechanic. No doubt he bore in mind that his front-man would have to stand up to questioning in daily conversation without revealing himself as an ignoramus. Marlowe, or his backers, seem to have gone in the opposite direction. They found themselves a property-developer/money-lender who had no literary interests, never read books, and who probably thought blank verse was some kind of invisible writing. This, they decided, was just the man to impersonate the greatest literary genius of the age. Marry, well bethought!

It's also lucky Marlowe found a front-man at the time he did, which just happened to coincide with an artistic change of direction. After seven tragedies in a row, with not a laugh in sight, he suddenly discovered, as "William Shakespeare", a flair for comedy. It was a fortuitous switch of name. If he'd put out The Comedy of Errors under his own name, people would have thought *he* was a front man!

Anthony Kellett said...

Dear PatB,

Regarding your first paragraph, I assume you are not commenting on my piece; since I do not make the claim that Shakespeare was a “front-man” (nor even use the expression). I have to say that I agree the Stratford man was an unlikely choice. This is one of the reasons I concluded that he was not one. Moreover, if he was proclaiming himself as such, then he must be considered one of the least successful ‘front-men’ in literary history; since no-one (that knew him) seemed to take him seriously. This is illustrated by the fact that not one single associate referred to the Stratford man, in connection with a Shakespeare play, sonnet or poem, during his entire lifetime; not much of a “front-man”. One can only conclude this was because he was likely known (by all around him) for exactly what he was; an agent for other’s works.

Anthony Kellett said...

Moving onto your second paragraph, Pat B, I am afraid I do not understand your point. First, when do you believe Marlowe “found” Shakespeare? How do you know there was “not a laugh in sight” in Marlowe’s original plays? What are the “seven tragedies”; since, surely, there are more than that (if Marlowe wrote Shakespeare’s canon)? What is a suitable number of tragedies to have written before moving on to comedy (I suppose four, would be about correct, would it)?

Verdi produced his first successful comic opera in his eightieth year; some 26 operas and 53 years after his previous attempt (the rather obscure and unsuccessful, ‘Un Giorno di Regno’). Nevertheless, his Falstaff is frequently referred to as a comic masterpiece.

I suggest you read things, as would an impartial juror; rather than someone that has already decided the verdict. In doing so, I am sure you will decide that it is far from certain that Shakespeare was the ‘culprit’. Judging evidence, against a predetermined verdict, always brings Collier to mind, who decided that Shakespeare would not have produced ‘Venus and Adonis’ at age 25 or 26 (never mind at 29). Most rational people would, therefore, have questioned Shakespeare’s authorship. However, burdened with the fact that Shakespeare must be the author, Collier decided that he must have written the poem around 1587. I wonder how Stanley Wells would judge this; since he seems to believe Marlowe showed Shakespeare his manuscript of Hero and Leander, before V&A was written. If the myriad of Stratfordian claims are combined, they, alone, would provide enough contradiction to doubt the Stratford man’s authorship.

PatB said...

"Regarding your first paragraph, I assume you are not commenting on my piece; since I do not make the claim that Shakespeare was a “front-man” (nor even use the expression)."

Then it must have been someone else who wrote, What is often obscured, by the uncloaking of these various deceptions, is the life of the front man who, to subsequent generations, is seen merely as a parasite, taking glory for others’ achievements. However, the author's name at the top of the article is given as Anthony Kellett. And if the story of Trumbo's front-man has no relevance to William's life, I'm wondering what the point of it was.

But if you don't think William fronted for Christopher Marlowe, then it's hard to see how you qualify as a Marlovian at all, unless you think he took the name "Shakespeare" without even consulting the man who owned it.

Moving on, I'd like to get a handle on this play-brokering racket. He approaches playwrights and asks them if he can sell their plays to other theatre companies and publishers.

Let me visualize that. William says to Mr Munday, "Let me sell your play for you, Tony. We'll split the fee fifty-fifty". And for some reason Mr Munday doesn't say, "Thanks, William, I think I'll just sell it myself and take the whole fee. Take care."

He says something else. But what and why? And whose name goes into Mr Henslowe's diary as the recipient of the money?

Anthony Kellett said...

It’s a fair cop, PatB, it appears I did use the expression “front man”; though clearly in the middle of a section about Hunter. Can you really see no point, in using an example of misattributed plays, in an article about William being wrongly designated as the author of Shakespeare’s canon? Whether one is openly claiming authorship, or simply allowing the occasional misattribution, is not really a major difference, is it? The point is that, if the true author cannot be easily identified in the 20th century, it is even more difficult in the 16th century.

Whether I am considered a ‘Marlovian’ is of no importance to me, whatsoever. Does it matter to you; or the content of the article?

You suggest that I could redeem myself (as a Marlovian) if I believe, “He [Marlowe] took the name ‘Shakespeare’ without even consulting the man who owned it.” My article tells you what I think. Why would believing that make me a Marlovian, whilst theorising that Shakespeare brokered plays, would not? What do you think a ‘Marlovian’ believes, exactly?

You say, “Let me visualize that. William says to Mr Munday, "Let me sell your play for you, Tony. We'll split the fee fifty-fifty". And for some reason Mr Munday doesn't say, "Thanks, William, I think I'll just sell it myself and take the whole fee. Take care."

So, you’re the type of person that sells your own houses; that buys your stocks straight from the market makers; that buys insurance direct from the insurance company. You can’t see why Hollywood uses casting agents; “Why don’t they just hire the actors themselves?” Why do football teams bother dealing with players’ agents, when they could just negotiate with the player? Why bother with an advertising agent, when you could book the ad space direct with the TV companies? “Travel agents; you must be kidding?” I suppose the literary agents of today are a waste of space too, are they?

You suggest William would have approached with, “We'll split the fee fifty-fifty". Yes; I’m sure that would have been the bargaining position. However, it is better to have, say, 80% of something; rather than 100% of nothing. I suggest you try it; it is frequently a rewarding attitude.

As for “whose name goes into Mr Henslowe's diary”, well, we know it wasn’t Shakespeare’s name, don’t we; even when Henslowe was producing ‘Shakespeare’s plays’. So, you tell me, who did Henslowe pay for those? Perhaps Shakespeare wasn’t as smart (as you suppose Munday to be), and got himself a broker?

PatB said...

Can you really see no point, in using an example of misattributed plays, in an article about William being wrongly designated as the author of Shakespeare’s canon?

There are two ways artistic works can be wrongly attributed. One is accidental, the other is deliberate. Since the Trumbo case falls under the latter heading, and involves the employment of a "front man", any reader would assume that paragraph to be your way of introducing the Shakespeare case, where you will proceed to demonstrate a similar deliberate deception. It doesn't demonstrate it, as it turns out. On the other hand there is nothing in the rest of the article that contradicts it either. It wasn't until you replied to my first post that I found out you rejected the "front man" theory. So I would say that first paragraph lays a false scent.

You suggest that I could redeem myself (as a Marlovian) if I believe, “He [Marlowe] took the name ‘Shakespeare’ without even consulting the man who owned it.” My article tells you what I think.

I'm afraid it doesn't. I still don't know whether you think Marlowe wrote under the name Shakespeare at all; and, if he did, whether he did so with Shakespeare's agreement or not.

Your article is mostly about William's business activities, notably his supposed play-broking. I have to say "supposed", because on that score you cite only one document in support of your thesis, which is an entry in Henslowe's diary that shows four other playwrights being paid for the play Sir John Oldcastle. Shakespeare's name is not mentioned. I notice in one of your other articles you have a go at Michael Wood for building an entire "Lancashire period" for William, based on nothing but a bequest to "William Shakeshaft". But you've built an entire play-broking career for William on even less. So it's a toss-up which of you is the more prone to turn wishful thinking into fact. However, there is one fact you should be apprised of: literary agents didn't exist until the late nineteenth century. If you think they existed three centuries before that, you should be able to name at least three. Can you?

Anthony Kellett said...

I can see the problem we have communicating. You are reading an article about William of Stratford and think it should be an article about his relationship with Christopher Marlowe. I wrote a few thousand words on a blog (with space restraints); it is not a book. I could not go into anywhere near the detail you seem to require; for which, I suggest you look elsewhere.

With such limited space, I must rely on the reader to take what I write and make certain assumptions, without me needing to list all the things I am ‘not’ saying. I do not mention Shakespeare’s relationship with Marlowe, at any stage; I merely tell you what I believe Shakespeare was doing. I therefore expect you to assume Marlowe (if he was the author of all 36 FF plays) was just another client (though probably less able to protest about Shakespeare’s name being attached to them). You can read other articles here, dealing with the way Marlowe seemed to respond to this practice.

However, you do show some understanding when you say, “Your article is mostly about William's business activities, notably his supposed play-broking”; which, considering the title, shows I am not completely incapable of communicating something, at least.

If I had the kind of proof that you seem to require, then we would not need this blog, would we? However, the fact that many thousands question Shakespeare’s authorship is a direct result of you not having sufficient proof to support his authorship either. If you did, then you would not ignore the dozens of questions I have already posed for you; none of which you seem to address.

I am proposing a theory based on the little evidence we have; just like every Stratfordian biographer seems to do, without the need for proof. They do it on the assumption that, the fact his name appears on a quarter of the First Folio plays during his lifetime (and one book 7 years later), means he wrote them. They seem to ignore the fact that (excluding the FF) his name was associated with almost as many plays written by others. I write my brief outline, on the basis that I am searching for a truth; to explain why no-one (that knew (or should have known) the Stratford man), seems to have any belief that he was the author of any of the FF plays. Moreover, no-one that knew the Stratford man, seems to mention the name ‘Shakespeare’ (during his lifetime), in connection with the authorship of those 36 plays. Most notable silences come from Southampton, Mary Sidney, any Pembroke, anyone in Stratford (including his bookish son-in-law), Spencer, Watson, Marlowe, Greene, Peele, Nashe, Kyd, Alleyn, Burbage, Henslowe, Queen Elizabeth, King James, Raleigh, Worcester, Derby, Northumberland, Bacon (Francis or Anthony), Neville, Greville, Buc, Tylney, Wotton, Florio; the list is goes on. Tell me; why do you think none of these people ever mention William, supposedly the most celebrated playwright in town, in connection with a single play?

It is my current opinion, that this is best explained by William being known to be selling the plays of others. This would explain why, when all around him are writing about each other’s works and connecting each other to them, the one person not being mentioned (or even mentioning anyone else, himself) is William Shakespeare of Stratford.

My explanation may be imperfect (I can see specific problems for which, it is difficult to envisage a mechanism), but it sounds a whole lot more plausible than Stratfordian dogma, to me.

Anthony Kellett said...

Pat B, you say, “However, there is one fact you should be apprised of: literary agents didn't exist until the late nineteenth century. If you think they existed three centuries before that, you should be able to name at least three. Can you?”

Thank you for this; it has provided me with material for numerous dinner party conversations and after-dinner speeches, for months to come. In particular, the archaeologists and palaeontologists, with whom I frequently work, will be rolling in the aisles. I have proposed Shakespeare was a play-broker. Your argument, against this, is that you have not identified a “literary agent” before the late nineteenth century and, therefore, I must be wrong. Do you want to reconsider that?

Then, your coup de grâce is that, if I am correct about Shakespeare’s activities, I must find another three, in order for it to be valid; is that really what you are saying?

Perhaps you expected to find (in your source material), “Shakespeare was the world’s first literary agent”. That would have been a surprise to me; had you done so.

Please tell me you are not responsible for the education of our youth; for that would be one more nail in the coffin of human advancement. I can hear the conversation now, “Dinosaurs emerged around 15 million years after the end-Permian mass extinction. I read it in a book; so you couldn’t have found one from only two million years after that event. If you did, you should be able to show me another three!”

“Literary agent” was your variation, which does not quite conjure up the same image, as I had in mind when I used “broker”. I was trying to convey something between an insurance broker and a pawnbroker. Notwithstanding that, in using the word “broker”, I was trying, in the limited space available, to convey the type of activity in which Shakespeare was involved. Of course we cannot apply exact modern definitions to Shakespeare’s activities (as I see them). There were no rules or job descriptions; he was at the cutting edge of this trade, if I am correct. Are you really so pedantic (and lacking in the ability to see beyond the OED) as to not grasp the type of image I am trying to convey; or are you just bloody-minded?

On May 8, 1594, Philip Henslowe recorded in his diary that he lent his nephew Francis Henslowe 15 pounds "to lay down for his share to the Queen's players when they broke and went into the country to play."

In 1594 the London printer, Thomas Creede, was involved in the publication of eight plays; three of these were registered on May 14th, 1594. On this same May 14th, five plays were registered by the printer, Adam Islip. Louis Ule reckons 14 plays were sold at this time (list available). Louis Ule further claims, “Of these fourteen plays, seven are known to have been acted by the Queen's company, namely: Selimus, the Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth, the Pedler's Prophecie, Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, Leir, the Tragedie of Richard the III, and Orlando Furioso.”

It seems likely, therefore, that Francis Henslowe (amongst others) had bought the Queen’s Men’s stock and sold them on. Now, we can (if you wish) argue about whether this is ‘broking’ or ‘trading’ or ‘agency’. Nevertheless, it appears to be the exchange of literary material (by persons other than authors) for the purpose of financial gain. You call it what you will; I am prepared to consider any suggestions.

In any event, can you jot down Francis Henslowe as one of my “three”; and I may look for more, one day.

Peter Farey said...

Pat B. said: However, there is one fact you should be apprised of: literary agents didn't exist until the late nineteenth century.

Whilst this may be so, the issue concerns literary "brokers" and we may therefore consider what Ben Jonson had in mind when he wrote:

Poor Poet-Ape, that would be thought our chief,
Whose works are e'en the frippery of wit,
From brokage is become so bold a thief,
As we, the robbed, leave rage, and pity it.

I would like to know just what you think "brokage" meant in this context.

Peter Farey

Anthony Kellett said...

That's funny you say that, Peter, since that Jonson piece contributed to putting the idea in my head; and I had completely forgotten about it. In my defence, this was a long time ago.

Did we ever reach some consensus, about to whom Jonson was referring? I know Marston and/or Dekker are popular candidates; but where do you stand on this issue?

PatB said...

“Literary agent” was your variation, which does not quite conjure up the same image, as I had in mind when I used “broker”.

No it was your variation. From your previous post: "I suppose the literary agents of today are a waste of space too, are they?" This in a whole paragraph listing player's agents, casting agents, advertising agents and travel agents as examples of people acting as middle-men. Agents were on your mind. Bearing in mind your denial that you had ever used the term "front-man", it appears you have difficulty remembering from one post to the next what you have written.

The rest of that post seems to consist of nothing but sarcasm - in places it's close to hysteria - and doesn't clarify anything about how you think William's play-broking actually worked. So I'll just retrieve something from your first reply.

Most notable silences come from Southampton, Mary Sidney, any Pembroke, anyone in Stratford (including his bookish son-in-law), Spencer, Watson, Marlowe, Greene, Peele, Nashe, Kyd, Alleyn, Burbage, Henslowe, Queen Elizabeth, King James, Raleigh, Worcester, Derby, Northumberland, Bacon (Francis or Anthony), Neville, Greville, Buc, Tylney, Wotton, Florio; the list is goes on. Tell me; why do you think none of these people ever mention William, supposedly the most celebrated playwright in town, in connection with a single play?

An eye-boggling list, but the most celebrated playwright in town at the time of his alleged death was Christopher Marlowe. I'd be more impressed if you were to contrast their silence on William with their voluminous praise of him. I'd love to know what Queen Elizabeth had to say about Tamburlaine. Or failing her, Raleigh. Or Derby, or Greville, or... Or any of them about any play of his.

As you say, your list goes on (and on and on), but I can't fail to notice that it isn't so long that it finds room for Francis Meres, who in 1598 identified Shakespeare as the author of twelve plays, which is twelve times as many as "a single play". Your list also fails to mention John Davies, who in "To Our English Terence" (1611) not only identified Shakespeare as a playwright, but also as an actor. And Shakespeare the actor connects directly to Shakespeare of Stratford.

I don't know whether it's that you are not familiar with the documentation yourself, or you think your readers aren't. But your inordinately long list of suspiciously silent witnesses is just another example of the kind of rhetorical gas that has given anti-Stratfordianism a bad name. It convinces no one but the gullible.

And in case you want to continue with references to "Stratfordian dogma" and to me as "pedantic" or "bloody-minded", I'll just make clear that my Stratfordianism is merely a matter of degree. I favour William, because he has the most evidence. But just because I find the evidence insufficient to be called conclusive doesn't mean I'm willing to give equal weight to rival candidates for whom there is no evidence.

PatB said...

“Literary agent” was your variation, which does not quite conjure up the same image, as I had in mind when I used “broker”.

No it was your variation. From your previous post: "I suppose the literary agents of today are a waste of space too, are they?" This in a whole paragraph listing player's agents, casting agents, advertising agents and travel agents as examples of people acting as middle-men. Agents were on your mind. Bearing in mind your denial that you had ever used the term "front-man", it appears you have difficulty remembering from one post to the next what you have written.

The rest of that post seems to consist of nothing but sarcasm - in places it's close to hysteria - and doesn't clarify anything about how you think William's play-broking actually worked. So I'll just retrieve something from your first reply.

Most notable silences come from Southampton, Mary Sidney, any Pembroke, anyone in Stratford (including his bookish son-in-law), Spencer, Watson, Marlowe, Greene, Peele, Nashe, Kyd, Alleyn, Burbage, Henslowe, Queen Elizabeth, King James, Raleigh, Worcester, Derby, Northumberland, Bacon (Francis or Anthony), Neville, Greville, Buc, Tylney, Wotton, Florio; the list is goes on. Tell me; why do you think none of these people ever mention William, supposedly the most celebrated playwright in town, in connection with a single play?

An eye-boggling list, but the most celebrated playwright in town at the time of his alleged death was Christopher Marlowe. I'd be more impressed if you were to contrast their silence on William with their voluminous praise of him. I'd love to know what Queen Elizabeth had to say about Tamburlaine. Or failing her, Raleigh. Or Derby, or Greville, or... Or any of them about any play of his.

PatB said...

To Peter Farey:

Let's not limit ourselves to a few lines, Peter. Let's have the whole poem.

Poor Poet Ape, that would be thought our chief,
Whose works are e’en the frippery of wit,
From Brokage is become so bold a thief
As we, the robbed, leave rage and pity it.
At first he made low shifts, would pick and glean,
Buy the reversion of old plays, now grown
To a little wealth, and credit on the scene,
He takes up all, makes each man’s wit his own,
And told of this, he slights it. Tut, such crimes
The sluggish, gaping auditor devours;
He marks not whose ‘twas first, and aftertimes
May judge it to be his, as well as ours.
Fool! as if half-eyes will not know a fleece
From locks of wool, or shreds from the whole piece.


The clue is in the last two lines. This is not someone putting his name to complete plays he didn't write. It's someone stealing bits and pieces from other people's work, a speech here, a scene there, but failing to make them cohere into a dramatic whole. In other words, an incompetent plagiarist. Who is he talking about? I don't know. But Jonson talks of "we the robbed", so it looks like someone had been lifting stuff from him. Perhaps a search of some of the minor playwrights' texts might turn up the culprit. What do you think?

MattF said...

Hi, Pat.

Regarding Davies Epigrams . . .not that crystal clear.

http://marlowe-shakespeare.blogspot.com/2009/04/davies-epigrams-and-marlowe-shakespeare.html

Cheers,
Matt

WeaverofDreams said...

Pat,

Why would anyone praise Marlowe at the time of his alleged death? Wasn't he persona non grata, with the accusations of heresy, etc. Who would be foolish enough to risk the wrath of Whitgift? This was quite the inquisition, after all. There had to be a lot of fear going around, especially given what happened to Marlowe's pal, Kyd. Whitgift and Joe McCarthy, quite a few parallels.

Thanks, Matt, for that info on Davies epigrams.

JosBayers said...

Pat,

Shakespeare the actor DOES NOT prove that he was a playwright (let's not assume the waiter is also the cook!). Shapiro tries that line (or should I say, faulty dialectic) in his latest book.

All of you could hyper-analyze this and that ad nauseam. Here's the gist Kellett seems to be making in his piece: it takes a heck of a lot of time to make money as a businessman. Correction. Takes a heck of a lot of time to become a really good businessman. So, when did Will have the time to write all the plays attributed to him in his First Folio oeuvre? A very legitimate question.

As for me, I've done a character sketch in my own mind of the type of person who could have written these masterpieces (in blank verse, by the way). Sorry, but Will doesn't fit the bill. Call me a snob. Fine. But the evidence regarding his life (the facts that we are damn certain of)just doesn't jive with a genius poet. Has anyone here tried to write a play in blank verse? Let me know how that turns out.

Ros Barber said...

In answer to your question, Jos, yes. A stage version of The Marlowe Papers (a novel in blank verse) is on its way.

Peter Farey said...

PatB said "Let's not limit ourselves to a few lines, Peter. Let's have the whole poem."

No, I would rather have an answer to my saying "I would like to know just what you think 'brokage' meant in this context." I was not claiming that the poem was about Shakespeare, only that it appeared to suggest that the brokerage of plays was something that went on at that time.

The Oxford English Dictionary gives the following relevant definitions of the word 'brokage':

1. a. The trade of a broker; the transaction of commercial business, as buying and selling, for other men. b. The premium or commission of a broker, brokerage; the gain or profit derived from acting as agent, middleman, or intermediary.

Peter Farey

PatB said...

From Peter Farey's post:

No, I would rather have an answer to my saying "I would like to know just what you think 'brokage' meant in this context."

Given that you posted only four lines of the poem, the phrase "in this context" defines a very restricted space. The whole poem is a more fruitful kind of "in this context".

Since the word existed, the thing existed. There was brokage. We need not doubt there were dealers in second-hand goods, dealers in stolen goods, scrapyard dealers, pawnbrokers. In other words, dealers in materials that did not originate with them. Jonson used it as a metaphor, as he used "ape", "auditor", "fleece". What kind of activity it was meant to represent is hinted at early on with the phrases "pick and glean" and "thief", and the last two lines confirm it: this broker is a dealer in stolen goods. The one thing he didn't mean was "agent" or "front-man".

PatB said...

WeaverofDreams, you ask, "Why would anyone praise Marlowe at the time of his alleged death? Wasn't he persona non grata, with the accusations of heresy, etc. Who would be foolish enough to risk the wrath of Whitgift?"

George Peele, apparently. He went into print shortly after Marlowe's death and called him "Marley, the Muses' darling". He wasn't arrested, so far as we know. Besides which, people had had plenty of time to praise Marlowe before that. With seven major plays to his credit, he had been the foremost English dramatist for several years with no accusations of heresy hanging over his head. If no one mentioned Marlowe in connection with a single play during those years, that was the nature of the times. There's no need to regard it as suspicious. Equally, if no one mentioned Shakespeare as the author of a specific play until 1598 (twelve plays, in fact), the same thing applies. At least he was connected with specific plays in his lifetime, unlike Marlowe who hadn't had even one published under his own name at the time of his alleged death.

Isabel Gortazar said...

Pat:
"George Peele, (...) called him "Marley, the Muses' darling".

Which is more than anybody ever said about William Shakespeare. Marlowe seems to have got more recognition in the five years of his career than WS in the twenty year of his.

I am intrigued to see that you give so much importance to Meres's list of plays "by Shakespeare". If the plays were supposed to be "by Shakespeare" what other name could he have given?

As for Meres' knowledge of Who was Who, which do you think were the plays that, according to Meres, made the Earl of Oxford deserve to be classified among "the best for Comedy"?

It took Shakespeare five years (the length of Marlowe's entire career), to get the first play (LLL, 1598) published under his name. If he had died in 1597, he would have been in the same predicament as Marlowe.

Dido was published in 1594, one year after he "disappeared"; but what is one year compared to the more than fifteen plays that were published for the first time in 1623, six years after WS's death?.

I honestly think you are wasting your time with this discussion. Kellet's article is very clear and makes its point admirably. Shakespeare -the man from Stratford- left his mark as a great businessman, he did not leave it as a poet. Many of us have had to adjust to this idea after a lifetime of "bardolatry". You'll probably get there as well, sooner or later.
Isabel

Daryl Pinksen said...

PatB,

Great discussion.

On the subject of what constitutes a play-broker, how about Edward Alleyn? On several occasions, Henslowe recorded payments to his son-in-law Edward Alleyn for "bookes," seven plays in all, on five separate occasions, in 1601-2. These were plays that Alleyn owned, but did not write (with the possible exception of Tambercam).

When it suited him, he turned around and sold them on to Henslowe. There is no mention of the playwrights in the transactions, just that monies were given to Alleyn for the books.

This may not be exactly what Anthony is arguing Shakespeare was, but with Alleyn we do have an actor/ company shareholder acquiring plays from playwrights, and then re-selling them at a later date.

Daryl

PatB said...

Interesting diversion, Daryl. I couldn't express any strong opinions about Alleyn's "bookes", because there's so little to go on. But I doubt he was being paid as the author, because the amounts, as far as I remember, were quite small. He was paid 40s for Tambercam, but that play was at least a decade old by then, and he was unlikely to have been the author. I could imagine him being paid to update it in some way, adding a scene or two, or an interlude, who knows. But if Henslow ever bought the play at all, it would have cost him a bit more than 40s, and he'd have paid for it back in '92 or before. What does occur to me though - could Alleyn be Poet-Ape? Are these "bookes" something to do with Jonson's reference to "the reversion of old plays"? Also, Jonson was writing in 1616, when Alleyn inherited all Henslowe's holdings, and was the king-pin of the London theatre world. That might explain Jonson's remark about the Poet-Ape "that would be thought our chief".

Daryl Pinksen said...

PatB,

We cannot prove that Alleyn wrote all or even part of Tambercam, but Henlsowe calls it "his (Alleyn's) booke," rather than "a booke," as he did for the other six plays that Alleyn sold him. This may mean nothing, or it may mean recognition of more than simple possession.

My impression is that Alleyn had bought these plays from writers (unnamed by Henslowe) years before, used them in his stage productions, and when he no longer had need for them, offered them to Henslowe at a discount. Henslowe had a bullpen of hacks that he could pay to gussy up old plays; Alleyn, multi-millionaire, didn't need the work.

(In Greene's Letter to the Playwrights, his final exhortation to Marlowe, Nashe and Peele is that they stop selling their plays to ungrateful actors. I think he was referring to Alleyn.)

I'm pretty certain that poet-ape is directed at John Marston, as part of Jonson's 'poetomachia' with Marston and Dekker. I've read Diana Price's attempt to link it to Shakespeare, but Bednarz and Shapiro convincingly identify it with Marston.

Daryl

Anthony Kellett said...

Yes, indeed; this has become interesting.

Your latest proposal, PatB, (Alleyn being possibly the ‘poet-ape’) does give food for thought. Your earlier analysis, concerning the poet-ape possibly having a former profession as a pawnbroker, could be applicable to Alleyn; since he went into business with Henslowe (a known pawnbroker).

Moreover, that partnership appears to have commenced around 1591 and would explain why Greene became even more vociferous about Alleyn, by the time he wrote Groat’s-worth, about a year later; when he painted an image of Alleyn, similar to Jonson’s poet-ape. I have not had time to think about the consequences (or problems) with this idea; but it seems worth exploring.

As for your point about Meres, we all know there were plays in circulation, with the name Shakespeare attached. I cannot imagine the myth about Shakespeare would have lasted this long, if not for that fact. Also, Meres is one of the ‘complications’ to my broking theory, to which, I alluded when I said, “I can see specific problems for which it is difficult to envisage a mechanism”.

The main problem is how did Meres come to associate all these plays with Shakespeare? It is unlikely to be because he saw them all in print with Shakespeare’s name attached. This may apply to some, but we are not aware they all existed in that form. It does appear that Meres only knows about plays that have been performed by the LCM; so perhaps he popped in to see the company and happened into Shakespeare; who claimed them all. Maybe the LCM’s unattributed plays, supplied by Shakespeare, were known as “Shakespeare plays” as a general catch-all (like MGM Musicals); and Meres was told this when he enquired. Perhaps he was hired to do this (though that seems very unlikely, for numerous reasons). I don’t know the answer.

However, we have nothing to suggest that Meres knew Shakespeare of Stratford or even that the ‘author’ was from Stratford (though, personally, I lean towards believing we are talking about the same man, even if Meres was not aware of it).

As I have said before, this is a general theory that, for me, fits ‘best’. If it was perfect and provable, then, again, we would not be having this discussion.

Ros Barber said...

PatB,

That Poet-Ape might be Alleyne seems to me a very plausible suggestion, especially given the timing. After all, by the time this poem was written, the man attributed with the authorship of the plays is generally considered to have retired from the theatre business, which somewhat counts against his being Poet-Ape.

Like Anthony, I see links between Alleyne being the target of Jonson's complaint and the similar complaints in Greene's Groatsworth. I would like to see your hypothesis developed further and offered for wider consideration. Perhaps something for Notes and Queries?

Anthony Kellett said...

Daryl,

“This may not be exactly what Anthony is arguing Shakespeare was”

No, I think it is likely that (if I am correct about Shakespeare) he did, at some time, buy and sell plays too; once he accumulated the means to do so. In suggesting the broker theory, I was merely seeking to explain how he may have started this process (when, according to many Stratfordians, he had an urgent need to earn money).

I reasoned that the one thing he would not do was to start researching literature with a view to writing plays, which would be far too time-consuming and uncertain (based on all the evidence he would have around him). Once he had investment capital, he would favour whatever yielded the greatest profit. This would undoubtedly be to buy the rights, if possible; assuming the risk of failure was low. However, brokering is a far safer route, because the broker has little downside risk. Therefore, it is also conceivable that he would avoid direct investment, in all but the most special circumstances. I don’t see that my theory cannot hold in either context.

PatB said...

Ros,

That Poet-Ape might be Alleyne seems to me a very plausible suggestion, especially given the timing. After all, by the time this poem was written, the man attributed with the authorship of the plays is generally considered to have retired from the theatre business, which somewhat counts against his being Poet-Ape.

Agreed. An attack like this has to be topical to have any force or any point. To wait until your target has vanished from the scene (he might even be dead) would look like cowardice. No, this reads like an attack on someone who was very much alive and kicking.

Like Anthony, I see links between Alleyne being the target of Jonson's complaint and the similar complaints in Greene's Groatsworth. I would like to see your hypothesis developed further and offered for wider consideration. Perhaps something for Notes and Queries?

I suspect you could develop it with more conviction than I could. It was more a whimsical notion than a hypothesis on my part. I made the suggestion on the spur of the moment and embellished it with some quotes from the poem, but I'm aware that there are problems with it. The evidence is that Jonson and Alleyn were friends. I know Jonson could turn on his friends, and was always looking for a fight with someone, but I feel that he wouldn't have attacked Alleyn in print in quite the brutal way he does in the poem. He'd have wielded a subtler knife, I feel. I also couldn't call up Groatsworth in support of the hypothesis, since I'm satisfied that that section of Greene's pamphlet was aimed at Shakespeare. So I'd be a bit short of material. But if you think Alleyn is a good fit, go for it. (But would Notes and Queries accept anything so conjectural?)

Ros Barber said...

PatB,

Not one for me. Just thought it was interesting and wondered if you might have some more meat to add to the bones... thus taking it away from the purely conjectural and into the realm of viable argument. My focus remains on the authorship question and I'm not convinced that the identity of Poet-Ape is of any relevance to that.

PatB said...

Anthony

Your earlier analysis, concerning the poet-ape possibly having a former profession as a pawnbroker, could be applicable to Alleyn; since he went into business with Henslowe (a known pawnbroker).

You misread it. I mentioned the existence of pawn-brokers as one example amongst many of "dealers in materials that did not originate with them". I have no knowledge that Alleyn was ever a pawn-broker. As I said, I believe Jonson was speaking metaphorically, using "brokage" to describe the activities of one who was dealing in stolen goods, constructing plays out of bits and pieces lifted from others' work, but failing to make them cohere - plenty of "shreds" and "locks of wool", but no "fleece".

Anthony Kellett said...

Hi PatB,

I’m sorry, I did not wish imply that you suggested Alleyn was a pawnbroker; that was my suggestion. However, since his business partner was believed to be one, it is not impossible to believe Alleyn may have been involved in such a trade. I selected ‘pawnbroker’ from (as you say) an extensive list, but, as it is unlikely the subject was involved in all of them, I selected the most likely to apply to Alleyn (who was your suggested target). I am unsure of how this conflicts with your perception of “brokage”; since it was in your list. I am undecided about your (implied) use of ‘fence’ to define ‘broker’. I suppose it could have some validity (and is, most certainly, not absurd).

I suggested this possibility (of Alleyn being a pawnbroker) to try my best to explore your suggestions; as I believe (if one is seriously searching for truth) we all owe each other that courtesy. Moreover, we must constantly try to disprove our current views, in order to test them. If our theories become as precious as our children, then our objectivity is in serious danger. That said I must say that I am not convinced about your idea of brokage being something akin to theft.

Having thought (longer and harder) about this, it seems to me that Jonson, himself, provides the explanation. He starts with “From brokage is become…” implying the accused started with “brokage”. Then, Jonson seems to provide greater detail of these activities when he says, “At first he made low shifts, would pick and glean, Buy the reversion of old plays, now grown…” If the subject is “buying old plays” in the first instance, is this not what Jonson is equating with “brokage”? True or not, it does not seem to imply “theft”, in the “from” or “At first” period of the man’s career; since Jonson clearly says, “buy”.

Anthony Kellett said...

PatB,

In many of these analyses and theories, it is often difficult to declare someone as wrong (as there are, frequently, many possibilities). However, I am fairly certain you are wrong in part of your analysis of ‘Poet-Ape’.

You say, “It's someone stealing bits and pieces from other people's work, a speech here, a scene there, but failing to make them cohere into a dramatic whole”.

I cannot find any part of that poem that suggests the works (of the ‘accused’) do not “cohere”. You seem to point to the last two lines. In those lines, I am quite sure that Jonson is saying “We are not stupid enough to fail to recognise the original source plays (the fleece), from the pieces (locks of wool, or shreds) you have stolen; even with our eyes half shut”. Can you please try to explain how you think otherwise?

Bruce Robbins said...

You are shooting yourself in the foot by saying that a common person like Will could not write the plays. Kit was the son of a cobbler, wasn't he? You make a LOT of unfounded assumptions. The Lost Years leave many questions unanswered. He might have been a tutor, worked as a law clerk, etc. We just don't know.

But his father's bad fortunes and his return to Stratford seem to indicate a love of the country. He worked hard in London and made money only to return to his hometown and buy a house a block from where he was born.

Shakespeare's works were nothing like Kit's, or Jonson's for that matter? Why do his plays have to imply great learning? I think that Will's childhood, his 23 years in Stratford provided much of the material for his plays, people, settings, etc.

To have someone else, whoever the candidate this week is, as a ghost writer involves so much needless explanation and conspiracy theorizing.

The troupes could not exist without good plays. Nobody knows how much Shakespeare was paid for his plays, but he certainly was important enough by the middle 1590's to have paid enough as a writer/actor to purchase shares in the Globe and by New Place in Stratford.

There is no evidence that Will could not have written the Canon, and much that he could and did. There is no credible evidence that any of the pretenders to the throne had anything to with the writing of the plays. Kit had an entirely different personality than Will; he was a great poet and dramatist, but it is hard to imagine him writing what Will wrote, dead or alive...

BTW, many people in the business knew that Trumbo had written the screenplay. It was a secret in name only...

Anthony Kellett said...

To Bruce Robbins – Part I

You say, “You are shooting yourself in the foot”

Spoken like a true Stratfordian; to suggest that I should tailor my findings, to derive a conclusion at which, I wish to arrive. I just looked at the evidence in isolation and derived a logical hypothesis. The consequences are not my problem; if only Stratfordians would be so objective.

You say, “Saying that a common person like Will could not write the plays.”

Where did I say that?

You say, “Kit was the son of a cobbler, wasn't he?”

This article is about William Shakespeare of Stratford. However, I would point out that the “cobbler’s son” went to Cambridge University; was probably recruited into Queen Elizabeth’s ‘secret service’ and travelled in Europe, on state business, whilst still at Cambridge; made the first English translations of Ovid’s ‘Elegies’ and Lucan’s ‘Pharsalia’; and was probably the “Morley” that tutored Lady Arbella Stuart (contender for the English throne). Most of this, Marlowe did whilst William was back in Stratford, procreating and making gloves. This ‘cobbler’ was most certainly not the same as your ‘glover’. So, if you wish to make a case against Marlowe, I suggest you use an approach different to, “If William couldn’t; Marlowe couldn’t, either”; an assertion based on nothing more than a father working with leather.

You say, “You make a LOT of unfounded assumptions.”

I make a lot of assumptions, yes, but based on the facts; they are not “unfounded”.

You say, “The Lost Years leave many questions unanswered. He might have been a tutor, worked as a law clerk, etc. We just don't know.”

If one looks at the evidence, he was probably in Stratford in 1582/3 (daughter’s conception, his marriage and daughter’s birth), 1584/5 (twins’ conception and birth), and September 1588 (legal proceedings); since his first works were supposedly appearing in London theatres, by 1591, what years were lost? The “lost years” are an “assumption”; derived from the need to ‘buy’ Shakespeare time to learn all that he needed to learn to write the plays. And yet, you accuse me of making “unfounded assumptions”; bizarre.

You say, “But his father's bad fortunes and his return to Stratford seem to indicate a love of the country. He worked hard in London and made money only to return to his hometown and buy a house a block from where he was born.”

And this makes him a poet, does it?

Anthony Kellett said...

To Bruce Robbins – Part I

You say, “You are shooting yourself in the foot”

Spoken like a true Stratfordian; to suggest that I should tailor my findings, to derive a conclusion at which, I wish to arrive. I just looked at the evidence in isolation and derived a logical hypothesis. The consequences are not my problem; if only Stratfordians would be so objective.

You say, “Saying that a common person like Will could not write the plays.”

Where did I say that?

You say, “Kit was the son of a cobbler, wasn't he?”

This article is about William Shakespeare of Stratford. However, I would point out that the “cobbler’s son” went to Cambridge University; was probably recruited into Queen Elizabeth’s ‘secret service’ and travelled in Europe, on state business, whilst still at Cambridge; made the first English translations of Ovid’s ‘Elegies’ and Lucan’s ‘Pharsalia’; and was probably the “Morley” that tutored Lady Arbella Stuart (contender for the English throne). Most of this, Marlowe did whilst William was back in Stratford, procreating and making gloves. This ‘cobbler’ was most certainly not the same as your ‘glover’. So, if you wish to make a case against Marlowe, I suggest you use an approach different to, “If William couldn’t; Marlowe couldn’t, either”; an assertion based on nothing more than a father working with leather.

You say, “You make a LOT of unfounded assumptions.”

I make a lot of assumptions, yes, but based on the facts; they are not “unfounded”.

You say, “The Lost Years leave many questions unanswered. He might have been a tutor, worked as a law clerk, etc. We just don't know.”

If one looks at the evidence, he was probably in Stratford in 1582/3 (daughter’s conception, his marriage and daughter’s birth), 1584/5 (twins’ conception and birth), and September 1588 (legal proceedings); since his first works were supposedly appearing in London theatres, by 1591, what years were lost? The “lost years” are an “assumption”; derived from the need to ‘buy’ Shakespeare time to learn all that he needed to learn to write the plays. And yet, you accuse me of making “unfounded assumptions”; bizarre.

You say, “But his father's bad fortunes and his return to Stratford seem to indicate a love of the country. He worked hard in London and made money only to return to his hometown and buy a house a block from where he was born.”

And this makes him a poet, does it?

Anthony Kellett said...

To Bruce Robbins – Part I

You say, “You are shooting yourself in the foot”

Spoken like a true Stratfordian; to suggest that I should tailor my findings, to derive a conclusion at which, I wish to arrive. I just looked at the evidence in isolation and derived a logical hypothesis. The consequences are not my problem; if only Stratfordians would be so objective.

You say, “Saying that a common person like Will could not write the plays.”

Where did I say that?

You say, “Kit was the son of a cobbler, wasn't he?”

This article is about William Shakespeare of Stratford. However, I would point out that the “cobbler’s son” went to Cambridge University; was probably recruited into Queen Elizabeth’s ‘secret service’ and travelled in Europe, on state business, whilst still at Cambridge; made the first English translations of Ovid’s ‘Elegies’ and Lucan’s ‘Pharsalia’; and was probably the “Morley” that tutored Lady Arbella Stuart (contender for the English throne). Most of this, Marlowe did whilst William was back in Stratford, procreating and making gloves. This ‘cobbler’ was most certainly not the same as your ‘glover’. So, if you wish to make a case against Marlowe, I suggest you use an approach different to, “If William couldn’t; Marlowe couldn’t, either”; an assertion based on nothing more than a father working with leather.

You say, “You make a LOT of unfounded assumptions.”

I make a lot of assumptions, yes, but based on the facts; they are not “unfounded”.

You say, “The Lost Years leave many questions unanswered. He might have been a tutor, worked as a law clerk, etc. We just don't know.”

If one looks at the evidence, he was probably in Stratford in 1582/3 (daughter’s conception, his marriage and daughter’s birth), 1584/5 (twins’ conception and birth), and September 1588 (legal proceedings); since his first works were supposedly appearing in London theatres, by 1591, what years were lost? The “lost years” are an “assumption”; derived from the need to ‘buy’ Shakespeare time to learn all that he needed to learn to write the plays. And yet, you accuse me of making “unfounded assumptions”; bizarre.

You say, “But his father's bad fortunes and his return to Stratford seem to indicate a love of the country. He worked hard in London and made money only to return to his hometown and buy a house a block from where he was born.”

And this makes him a poet, does it?

Anthony Kellett said...

To Bruce Robbins – Part II

You say, “Shakespeare's works were nothing like Kit's, or Jonson's for that matter?”

Again, I reiterate that my piece is about William. However, here are a few quotes from respected scholars; I suggest you take it up with them:

“In short, Marlowe’s historic achievement was to marry great poetry to the drama; his was the
originating genius. William Shakespeare never forgot him: in his penultimate, valedictory play,
The Tempest, he is still echoing Marlowe’s phrases.” Rowse, A. L. 1973. Shakespeare: The Man

“Shakespeare seems to be very much aware of what Marlowe is up to and chooses to plot a
parallel course, virtually stalking his rival.” Shapiro, James. 1991. Rival Playwrights: Marlowe, Jonson and Shakespeare.

“Shakespeare almost certainly saw [Tamburlaine], and he probably went back again and
again…from its effect upon his early work, it appears to have had upon him an intense,
visceral, indeed life-transforming impact.” Greenblatt, Stephen. 2004. Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare.

“Throughout Shakespeare’s ‘Richard III’ the effort to emulate Marlowe is undeniable.”
Lee, Sidney. 1898. A Life of William Shakespeare.

“That Marlowe must have stood nearer to him than any other dramatic poet of that time,
or perhaps of any later time, is probably the verdict of nearly all students of the drama.” Bradley, A.C. 1880. From Christopher Marlowe, in ‘The English Poets, Selections’,

“When Marlowe is writing like this [in Tamburlaine] he bears comparison with Shakespeare in
his finest flights of rhetoric – the battle speeches of Henry V, the eloquence of Mark Antony in
Julius Caesar or of Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra.” Wells, Stanley. 2006. Shakespeare and Co.

You say, “Why do his plays have to imply great learning? I think that Will's childhood, his 23 years in Stratford provided much of the material for his plays, people, settings, etc.”

Sitting in a glover’s shop in Stratford does not teach you about the lives, battles and relationships of all the kings of England, about whom he wrote; it does not teach you about Romeo and Juliet; Titus Andronicus; Julius Caesar; Antony and Cleopatra; Venus and Adonis; Hamlet and most of the other subjects for his work; or do you think he made up these characters? How you think “Stratford provided” the material is beyond me.

Othello seems to follow, closely, a tale by Cinthio (‘Un Capitano Moro’) written around 40 years earlier. At the time Shakespeare wrote his play, there were only two versions, of which I am aware (one is in French and one Italian). It seems Shakespeare probably used the Italian version; so do you think “Stratford provided” his knowledge of Italian too?

Are you really suggesting that he did all this without “great learning”?

Anthony Kellett said...

To Bruce Robbins – Part III

You say, “To have someone else, whoever the candidate this week is, as a ghost writer involves so much needless explanation and conspiracy theorizing.”

I suppose it is needless, yes; we could all just sit back, blindly accept the author on the cover, and enjoy the wonderful plays. This pursuit only matters to those that wish to praise the true author (or denounce the usurper). Those, that don’t care, can do other things. By the way, Marlowe has been a candidate for over 100 years and Bacon even earlier than that; which is hardly, “this week”; though when YOU heard about it, I cannot say.

You say, “Nobody knows how much Shakespeare was paid for his plays, but he certainly was important enough by the middle 1590's to have paid enough as a writer/actor to purchase shares in the Globe and by New Place in Stratford.”

If “nobody knows” how much was paid for the plays, how do you conclude he was “paid enough” for anything; or where his money came from, for such a purchase; or, indeed, how much he paid for his shares? Isn’t this simply “unfounded assumption”?

You say, “There is no evidence that Will could not have written the Canon, and much that he could and did. There is no credible evidence that any of the pretenders to the throne had anything to with the writing of the plays.”

Credibility is obviously in the eye of the beholder. I suggest you read more of this website.

You say, “Kit had an entirely different personality than Will; he was a great poet and dramatist, but it is hard to imagine him writing what Will wrote, dead or alive...”

I refer you back to all the previous comments, regarding the comparison between Marlowe and Shakespeare. It seems you “imagine” differently to most other Stratfordian scholars; never mind Marlovian ones.

You say, “BTW, many people in the business knew that Trumbo had written the screenplay. It was a secret in name only... “

Yes, I do not doubt it; and I suspect the same is true of Shakespeare, in his time; hence no-one (who knows the Stratford man) mentions him as a writer of these works. Thank you for pointing out that parallel.

Daryl Pinksen said...

Bruce,

You asked, "Why do his plays have to imply great learning?"

Well, they don't "have to," they just do. The argument is about how he acquired such great learning, not whether or not he had it. Here's James Shapiro on the subject:

"There’s no way that Shakespeare could have bought or borrowed even a fraction of the books that went into the making of his plays. Besides his main sources for his British histories and Roman tragedies, which he probably owned—Holinshed’s Chronicles and Plutarch’s Lives — he drew on hundreds of other works. From what we know of Shakespeare’s insatiable appetite for books, no patron’s collection—assuming that Shakespeare had access to one or more—could have accommodated his curiosity and range."
Shapiro, James. 2005. 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare. New York, NY: Harper Perennial. p.190-1

Bruce Robbins said...

WHEW!! That's a lot to respond to. Thank you for taking the time to read my post and respond to it.

I just chanced upon your site and have not read much of it. I have read and have written essays upon the pseudoauthorship of Bacon, de Vere and Countess Sidney; I am aware of the Marlowe people of course, too.

All of them have substantial problems when trying to assume the authorship of the Canon. All of them must resort to distortions, wishful thinking and outright leaps of imagination, far beyond what is required to believe that Will wrote the Canon. We have to believe that Kit was NOT murdered in the Tavern, but was alive and wrote the Canon. Well, that certainly is POSSIBLE (just about anything is), but how PROBABLE is it?

From what I've read, Kit and Will had very different temperaments. Kit had a liking for young boys, was an atheist blasphemer...I'm not making any judgments, I'm an atheist myself...Can't see Will getting stabbed in a tavern over a bill...Remember the book "The Passover Plot" in which the author postulated that Christ was not really crucified, but that he merely passed out, etc.?

I think Will's "extensive" knowledge of the law, the Court, foreign lands, etc., is much exaggerated. That, certainly, is not what he is remembered for. He is remembered for his characters, for which he drew I am sure from the people he knew in Stratford, plus the humor and sublime poetry. He needed no university education for that,

Sure he borrowed plots and reworked the plays of others. So what? It was commonly done then. His name was put on works he did not write and his plays were cribbed at performance for other troupes to act out.

I can't answer all of your objections to my post...as with all the others, the ball is in your court...you have to provide credible evidence that Will could not have written one, some, most, or all of the plays, and that Kit, somehow did...was it a paranormal experience?...telepathic automatic writing?....possible...not really murdered?....possible?...exactly how did this mechanism of ghost writing work? the devil is in the details for sure for all pretenders to the throne, and it is their biggest stumbling block.

I think I have heard just about every argument re: why the Gent from Strat could not have written the Canon, but I find none convincing from what I know. More is known about Shakespeare than about just about any playwright of his era, scant information as it is, and the preponderance points to the Avon Man as the author. If this were not so, going by the rules of negative evidence, he would have been overthrone long ago...

The Lost Years: it is a pity that there is almost no information about Will during this period, beyond rumors, etc.

Anthony Kellett said...

To Bruce Robbins,

“Phew”, indeed. I could take almost every sentence of this and make it a title for a chapter of a book. However, since you seem to have evaded (or ignored) every question posed in the previous postings, I will deal with one part of one paragraph, from your last post.

“From what I've read, Kit and ‘Will’ had very different temperaments...Can't see ‘Will’ getting stabbed in a tavern over a bill”

Can you please tell me to whom you are referring, when you say, “Will”? Do you mean “William Shakespeare, playwright”; or William of Stratford?

If you mean William of Stratford, then I cannot see that his character (being different to that of Marlowe) has any relevance, whatsoever. They are two different people; so why do you believe their characters would (or should) be the same?

Bruce Robbins said...

Anthony:

The Bard and William Shakespeare of Stratford on Avon, the Swan, ARE the same person. At least, the preponderance of evidence points in that direction. Enough evidence that for 400 years only fringe elements have doubted it.

I find it much harder to believe that kit marlowe and Christopher Marlowe are the same person, and that one of them was killed in a bar, then wrote the plays. Perhaps Kit wasn't 30 when he died? Maybe he was much older and had already written the Canon and instructed Will to put his name on the plays? Why? Maybe he faked his death? The list of people who faked their deaths is setting up a straw man. Proves nothing, since nobody doubts that people have done this. Question is did Marlowe do it. And if he did, how in the world did it remain a secret for so long? And even if it was faked, what evidence do you have that he wrote the Canon, and not Countess Sidney, De Vere, Francis Bacon (who was much better educated), or any of the two dozen folks who are contenders? At least they were alive when the Canon was written.

You quote Greenblatt and Shapiro, who, we both know, are died in the wool, avid Avonites...No doubt Will saw Tambur and admired and copied (esp in TitAnd) what he saw. That does not prove that Kit wrote the entire Canon...or am I missing something? Many artists, writers, musicians start out by copying their idols. The merely competent ones never go beyond this point. The greats simply use it as a starting point.

You are correct in trying to disprove that Will wrote the Canon before trying to prove that Kit wrote the Canon. He was certainly the most qualified, artistically, to write it. It would have been exciting if Kit lived, to have both geniuses writing for the stage at the same time...it seems that you have allowed his early, senseless death to lead you to an equally senseless scenario, that requires extended suspensions of disbelief, indeed suspensions of intelligence. I can understand your good motives, but the road to hell is paved with 'em...

Anthony Kellett said...

To Bruce Robbins,

You stated, “From what I've read, Kit and ‘Will’ had very different temperaments...Can't see ‘Will’ getting stabbed in a tavern over a bill”

This prompted my question, “Can you please tell me to whom you are referring, when you say, “Will”? Do you mean “William Shakespeare, playwright”; or William of Stratford?”

If I can plough my way through all the regurgitated Stratfordian rhetoric (which, as usual, states much but proves nothing) it seems your answer to my question is: “The Bard and William Shakespeare of Stratford on Avon, the Swan, ARE the same person.”

So, can I outline what I understand by that, and perhaps you can correct those points on which I am incorrect.

You have established the playwright’s character from the plays, and this matches William of Stratford’s character perfectly; whose character you derived from those same plays. Forgive me for saying, but it seems it was rather inevitable, that you conclude they are the same man; do you not agree?

Furthermore, since most informed people seem to highlight the similarity between the plays of Marlowe and Shakespeare, I would be interested to know how you use these works to distinguish between their personalities. Moreover, since the plays are (by all reasonable assessments) very ‘Marlowe-like’, why do you seem to think Marlowe is less qualified, to produce such works, than William of Stratford?

mariner said...

Daryl,
On several occasions, Henslowe recorded payments to his son-in-law Edward Alleyn for "bookes," seven plays in all, on five separate occasions, in 1601-2. These were plays that Alleyn owned, but did not write (with the possible exception of Tambercam).

How do we know Alleyn didn't write the plays he was paid for?

Bruce Robbins said...

Anthony:

We'll never know if Kit could have written Lear, Hamlet, R&J, etc., will we? From the evidence we do have of plays we are sure he has written, there is nothing to show development in this direction. Live fast, die young, leave a clean corpse seems to be Kit's credo; I venture to say it was not that of the Gent from Stratford...

I refuse to play your little silly game of insisting that there were two Shakespeares. There is absolutely no evidence of that. It is on the same low level of credibility as the Oxfordites who insist he wrote under the pseudonym "William Shakespeare". Both these guys died before many of Will's plays were written/performed, but that doesn't seem to bother you.

I never said that Will's personality was revealed in his plays. But the Canon does exhibit a slow, maturing development, a mastery of language and blank verse and imagery, not to mention characterization, that you would expect from an extremely talented writer of plays. Kit might have developed in such a fashion...but we have no need for him. Will's name was on several plays, in the Second Folio, that he did not write. Inferior stuff, definitely not his work. Not his fault. Publishers trying to make money off his name. Does not prove that he did not write the plays performed by his theater troupe.

But I tell you...what I REALLY find amazing is that after his retirement to Stratford, there are no more plays with his name on it...there are very few plays that don't bear his name performed today from that period...it's like proving a serial killer is guilty be showing that after he is captured, the killings stop...

Or maybe Kit got into another barroom fight somewhere in Italy in 1612, this time was stabbed several times and really died, and stopped providing plays for whoever...didn't Kit speak Italian? Couldn't he write plays for the Italian stage? How about liberettos for the great Italian opera? Maybe he wrote the liberettos of Lorenzo de Ponte...

We are lucky Will didn't go to Oxford or Cambridge...most of the University Wits died in their early 30's around 1593-6...

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