Thursday, September 1, 2011

60-Minutes With Shakespeare

Normally I stay as far away from the "Who Was Shakespeare Really?" debate. I find it irritating, lacking any kind of substantial proof on either side and, to be quite honest, just plain dumb. Then again, I've never been a huge fan of conspiracy theories.

But more than that, I feel like the debate completely misses the point. Why do we go on whinging about who wrote the plays, making up "evidence" on all sides and attempting to re-write history, when instead there are 38 plays out there full of life and energy and amazing, amazing thoughts? In one sense, who cares who wrote them, so long as they were written? The plays themselves live on, caring not a whit for who wrote them. They contain some of the most poignant insights into human nature. They still resonate today, 400 years later. They are truly remarkable.

On the other hand, if you like a little debate now and then, there's a really amusing and fairly informative "online conference" (whatever that means) called 60-Minutes-With-Shakespeare on the authorship issue. Sixty "experts" (I'm still working out what that means) were each asked a different question about the issue, and they each had one minute to answer. Some of the stuff is fairly basic; the debate has been going long enough that if you've been around Shakespeare-dom for any length of time, you've probably heard some of it. The best part is possibly Stephen Fry going on and on about the issue.

I will say that even though I come down on the Stratfordian side of things (as does this conference), I felt like the questions asked and scholars picked were rather one-sided. There is a debate out there and, like it or not, there are people on the other side. I didn't listen to all the questions, but it didn't feel like the opposition got much chance to defend themselves. Not that they have all that much to say, really... but still. I guess I'm just a journalist at heart and the whole "objective and balanced" thing is deeply ingrained. The better way to present the issue, IMNSHO, would be to let the Oxfordians et al hoist themselves with their own petard.

Question 41 is good, if you're looking for kind of an overview. Mom brought Question 28 up the other day, and Antony Sher answers it better than I did, that's for sure. And definitely check out Stephen Fry (Question 57).

Anyway... just another Random Shakespeare Whatsit in a long and strange list of Random Shakespeare Whatsits.

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