Monday, June 27, 2005

Listen! Shakespeare By Another Name

If you're not doing the whole podcasting thing yet (you should!) you may not have heard (ha! pun intended!) of the forthcoming Shakespeare by Another Name, by Mark Anderson. This book argues that the works of Shakespeare were actually written by the Earl of Oxford.

Normally I'd consider it no big deal, as I don't usually follow any of the "who wrote the works of Shakespeare" theories. What I'm digging about it, though, and major credit to the author for thinking of this, is that he's doing audio excerpts from the book as a sort of teaser for when it is actually published. So instead of publishing a book that I would never have seen or even given a second thought if I had, he's gotten me to listen to the first 5 chapters.

How is it? He certainly makes an interesting case. He's got loads of evidence that Shakespeare's work pretty much parallels Oxford's life almost identically, right down to Oxford (or somebody he knew, I forget...) crossing paths with two people from Denmark named Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. To tell you the truth it gets so obvious the way it's presented that it makes you roll your eyes and say "Yeah, sure, if it's so obvious, why has it been a mystery for 400 years?" When I heard the first chapter I immediately thought of that old conspiracy email about "Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy, Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln!"

I think that if you're a collector of such things, this is going to be a good one. The amount of evidence really is staggering. The author's command of the plays is also outstanding, which makes for the best part of his argument -- he always backs it up with sources from the plays, which in turn expands my exposure to select bits of plays like Winter's Tale that I might not otherwise have ever noticed.

1 comment:

jives said...

I just finished the whole book, and I have to say I'm not terribly impressed. As you said, you really roll your eyes in places when Anderson acts like it's sooo obvious. You only read the first five chapters. It really gets old by page 600. By the end of it he completely loses the "I'm a nonpartisan just investigating things" approach and is obviously going whole hog pro-Oxford, anti Will Shakespeare ... and he gets pretty mean in his characterization of Shakespeare as well. Anyway, It made me want to read a straight Oxford biography without all the white-glove magic trick hocus pocus though.