Tuesday, July 17, 2007

My Father-in-Law is a Shakespeare Denier

My father in law is a lawyer.  As such he tends to be a very good debater, and is rather forceful in his arguments.  In other words, when he talks I basically listen.  As I've pointed out to my wife, "Your dad is a defense attorney, and defense attorneys don't win cases by saying Hmm, you know, you've got a point there, I never really thought of it that way."

Anyway, we're hanging out in the pool over the weekend and discussing family trips to Disneyworld.  I point out that there's lots of other places in the world I still want to see, such as, "Going to England to do the whole Shakespeare thing."

"There's a Shakespeare theatre in Connecticut," he counters.  "You can go down there, see the recreation of the Globe, all that stuff."

"Not good enough," I said.  "I'd want to visit the church where he's buried."

"Where somebody is buried," he said.  "They don't even know who he was." 



I'm sorry, did my father in law just say what I think he did?

"I'm confused," said my mother-in-law. "I thought Shakespeare was Shakespeare."

"They think that some nobleman of the time wrote everything," he continued, "And just signed the name Shakespeare."

"You're probably thinking of the Earl of Oxford," I said, "And there are just as many theories that it was Francis Bacon or even Queen Elizabeth. "

Mother-in-law : "So there's no such person as Shakespeare?"

Father-in-law : "Not really."

"Not true," I said, "There most definitely was an actor named Will Shakespeare, he was born in Stratford and is buried there.  We know that.  The question is whether there's evidence that he wrote the plays.  People believe that because there's no evidence of his education that he couldn't possibly have written was most people consider the greatest literature of the last 400 years.  You don't really want to get into this with me."

I then gave my mother in law a crash course in Shakespearean history while my father in law got bored and hung out in the pool.  Man, I enjoyed that.  Beats the holy heck out of arguing about George Bush any day.


Anonymous said...

Your exchange raises the time-old disucssion about what role, if any, the author plays vis-a-vis the works. Even assuming Shakespeare wrote what he is purported to (and I am a Shax "believer"), there is such a paucity of information about him it's hard to analyze the works in light of him. Thus, in a sense, some would argue that it doesn't matter if Shax actually "existed," and so, why would you want or need to visit some old English Church where someone who is said to be Shax is buried? But, I am on your side and would love to do that! Have you seen the wonderful PBS series by Michael Wood entitled "In Search of Shakespeare?" Lost of footage of Wood traipsing around England where Shax was.

Duane said...

I have seen part one of that series, yes, but not the whole thing. I know what you mean, though. During the pool conversation I also explained to my mother in law about the basic difference between speaking of Shakespeare the person, and who he may or may not have been, and Shakespeare the author, the abstract notion of "Whoever wrote it, let's put that aside and instead deal with the body of work that he wrote." Although I find the former interesting, I'm much more a student of the latter. As I mentioned in a comment somewhere, I'm far more interested in discussing King Lear as if he were a real character with real problems, then in debating how legendary he was and where in the historical monarchy he would have fit.

Anonymous said...

Duane, yes, it is the Work not the Life that draws us all in, but such a protean body of Work inevitably invites questions about the Life for which there is such a paucity of authorial evidence. Naturally, into such a vacuum pours much doubt and suspicion. Not saying the glover's son couldn't have or didn't write the plays, only that there is little if no convincing evidence that he did. The presumption lies with the man from Avon, however, but I could be persuaded either way (Stratfordian or Anti-Stratfordian). Ask your father-in-law if he has read Bert Field's book on the authorship question--which would be right up a fellow lawyer's alley.

Bill Day said...

As a plaintiffs' attorney who basically believes that there's no reason a London actor could not have written the plays, I say, Bravo!