Sonnet Book

We have a run of 750 sonnetbooks. Each book signed by William S



The many lives of W…

…from the 1580’s until 1610’s.

Like Quincey Jones our Will’s career be it as lame actor or genius writer spans 30-40 years. Assuming his career start to be in the London theatre milieu of mid-1580’s. He may have had some amateur practice if these events are taken into account as by Eric Sams.

In any case troupes of actors had played in Straford about 18 times during Sh’s childhood up to and possibly including his leaving. And even beyond through the 1590’s. By early 1600’s Stratford council was paying actors not to play. The town was becoming a little more Puritan and conservative perhaps? In any case Sh the fraud or fact would have observed this, not dying until 1616.

The only place for a rube from Stratford to realistically realise his theatre and writing career was the Theatre in Shoreditch. Next door was the Curtain Theatre, opened first as competition then to receive the overflow from the Theatre. The 2 managements co-operated and this monopoly dominated what the Public got to see in North London.

We know Oxford was an habitue in this neighbourhood up to his death in 1604. Sh therefore knew him, but whether as his shill or worst nightmare is what’s in discussion. Oxford had a long theatrical dalliance alongside his duties as England’s most profligate nobleman. His Fisherman’s Folly in the 1570’s was the equivalent of the Mermaid Tavern.

The Theatre was run by an old school Elzabethan actor, James Burbage. He had been a leading player in the Earl of Leicester’s Men for about 10 years? His trade was as a joiner. And his family’s origins are considered to be Stratford on Avon!

There are descriptions of Sh’s father and Burbage and they both portray the same kind of confident bon-homie combined with severe gravitas when necessary.

If Sh the rube were to leave his new wife and newborns, it would be no big news in Elizabethan society. Women were expected to be domestic and run the affairs of the household. Sh must have met Anne at age 10 when she was about 16 and her father was borrowing money from his dad. Illegally I might add, but a policy quite in practice I would assume in Early Modern economies.

Anne Hathawey, six years older than he, married Will age 18 when he got her pregnant the first time, twice in the space of 3 years. Him off working. She tending domestic affairs. He got her New Place, the biggest house in the Town in 1597. He must have been master of the universe in Stratford yet no-one talked of where he got his money.

Maybe she preferred it that her husband go to London to pretend to be somebody else, or become the greatest playwright who ever breathed. Maybe she wrote the plays? And he hung out reaping the girls and the glory. She should have taught her daughters to write at least.

Sh’s Stratford was also not the backward place the Oxfordian’s make out. Either geographically or socially. How could it be with people like SIr Fulke Greville and Sir Thomas Lucy and Sh’s mums relatives the Ardens?

The Quiney family is as middle class as the Shakespeare’s and their sons did just as well in their way. Sh understood friends and family. His plays reveal that. Of course a beleaguered bastard orphaned Oxford also knew the treachery of false friends and family. Or should that be that him being false to his friends and family?

These people who undoubtedly knew Sh either as fraud or fact are all smack in the middle of the telling of Elizabethan history too, involving Court, love of country and freedom of speech.

The difference that must have been discussed was religous and the freedom to practise that Religion. The Theatre and Bear-baiting arenas were Early modern distractions from this elementary division. Elizabeth famously turned a blind eye to it, which policy she may have imitated from the Dutch.

Her support for the Netherlands throughout the formation of the United Provinces ensured a humanistic link of scholarship and printing. Early modern Naturalists too were reaping the benefits of this co-operation.

London’s nascent printing industry was built on the sharing of knowledge from Europe. The Monarchy of course had a handle on censorship but to the relative degree governments have today on the internet. There was no infra-structure in place outside the established European-wide espionage networks to exploit such a wish, however devoutly one considers it.

That Marlowe was an espoionage agent is obvious. That he also wrote his own plays as well as Shakespeare’s is obscene. Unless you fudge the historical record with airy fiction, this theory collapses.

Read them side by side and tell me again how Marlowe is Shakespeare. The tone, the argument, the stories; megalomaniac in the one, humble and non-existent in the other. Marlowe’s career shows a development in craft and versification. That that stopped. And he re-wrote his Barrabas into Shylock, never, never, never, never, never.

And Bacon. That needs to be smoked out. Before I knew about Oxford, I knew about Francis. Ever read him and Sh side by side? To think that know-it-all’s profusely Latin and Greek strewn works were dumbed down into Sh’s plays for the public theatres! Just preposterous. Have you seen the scribbles in Promus that are supposed to prove it was him? Patent nonsense, scribbles of a frustrated fan. Horrificabilitudinatatibus!

But back to my ramblings on how I think Sh grew to be Sh by being in the right place at the right time surrounded by the right people. England had flip-flopped within Sh’s parents living memory a few times on the ‘we’re Protestant now, no we’re Catholic now, no Proddy definitely’ question for all of Eliza’s reign from 1558 until Sh’s earliest possible non-recorded professional appearance in the 1580’s.

Now for me this kind of suggestion seems appropriate. My potted history justifies my conclusions. Stratfordianism controls my fingers as I type these words. The Bible is used immensely as a source for Sh but almost never as an inspiration. The imaginary Muses please him more than does the blood of Christ. Though the symbolism isn’t lost on him.

For we few who follow the arguments of the Oxfordians, we know there is an annotated Bible once belonging to Oxfenforde, which wants to show the parallels but has been busted open as a wishful thinking project for us.

But not of course for them. It is strong evidence and will remain in their arsenal of arguments. Will the film show some underlining by Rhys? I hope so. I’m looking forward to seeing it to see how many of their arguments are included. The pirates for sure has to be in there. Bohemia will be mentioned. Bermoothes maybe, definitelyTempests somewhere along the line.

You do wonder why Sh never really defines his God in his plays and poems. Perhaps he must have heard enough secret talk and whispered discussion in his childhood about very real conspiracies and awful burnings that resulted if caught.

The tortures and the horrors endured by men of Faith throughout the ages boggles the mind. The exact opposite of the gentleness of their saviour. Same saviour too. And to trivialise the issue: for a difference in opinion on how many angels fit on a pinhead or not, you burn.

I’ve been looking back on the year’s blogs and finding most to be about the authorship question. It fascinates me how much these people know and how wrong they are. We are all the Shakespeare faithful. And this plurality of identification with the author arises from his palys and poems which was the origianl source before we started to question who he was and not accept who he was.

I too looked at the Sh biography and went, oh cmon, this is it? You’re shitting me. And every piece of the biography is contested as to when or where or if ever it happened. Maybe this dude, for Shakespeare most definitely was a dude among dudes, didn’t want to be known? He kept his head down and lived. And wrote. And left posterity to be his slave.

His impact on the Theatre is global. But its genesis was anything but. One man’s mind mixing with the minds of his time, specifically pursuing one single career in the theatrical and briefly patronage, poetical life of his time.

He followed his Muse from whenever it first inspired him to the supposed career end in collaboration in 1613. Then died 3 years later of a fever supposedly contracted on a drinking binge with Ben Jonson and Michael Drayton. Managed to die on his birthday too. A feat I like Sh for. Or was it planned?

To establish the myth of St George’s Day, retroactively making his date of birth the 23rd April; when we all know the only record is the 26th when he was christened. Did Jonson and Drayton posion Sh and attend on his death?

Drayton was a life-long friend and fellow poet. Yet Drayton doesn’t mention WIll in his letters to Drummond of Hawthornden. Presumably they knew he was a fraud or a fact. Drayton’s physician was SH’s son in law. Dr John Hall ‘s recordings of his wide and socially varied patient list starts the year after SH’s death.

Such are the ironies of Orthodox Sh biography. On every point there’s a melancholy missed that possibility counter-point. That his wife, daughters, and grand daughter were not interviewed in the 17thC. They living up to 1664. Almost 50 years after his death. Nada.

Drummond certainly accepted Jonson and Drayton’s stories as true. And he collected quartos of Shak’s plays which he marked as such. Both Jonson and Drayton leave their own poetic memorials to their friend. Or they were lying? But who to whom?

My methodology always leads back to Will in the middle of a bunch of people aspiring to be the best in their chosen profession. If I accept an alternative it means this guy lies as deep i’ the throat, as do all his friends. No conspiracy can encompass so many different people’s silence. And these are his friends and relatives.

That is outside my conception of what Shakespeare represents when I read him. That he cared about his characters and their life as words on paper. The passion that drove him to do that is what drives any man to pursue his dreams.

Surely the man couldn’t keep up deception for 30 years on his being a successful playwright and poet, whilst actually only pretending to and creaming off the benefits. If it ever proves to be true what a poor schmuck lived there.

Eventually in the 20thC a fellow Stratfordian of higher rank will be ordained as the true Bard, which rings truer to me than Oxford. Btw I would have scanned his tomb by now and revealed its maybe-not-even-there secrets.

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