Sonnet Book

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



What my shakespeare needs….

William S. on Will Sh’s literacy, in him and his family.

Will’s mum and dad may have been unable to write but able to read. His father certainly was numerate. He was a successful dealer in wool and maker of gloves. Running a town council and presiding over your fellow townsfolk and a market stall in its chiefest place, speak volumes in support of his numeracy.

John Sh from the historical record sounds like a forceful figure who could act as bailiff or ale taster and be counted on to take the town’s accounts to London. To slander his name with illiterate nobody is not to take the man into account.

Backward village is how the Orksfordians describe Stratford on Avon. Sorry but backward village is where the witches live close to in Macbeth. His was a goodly market town. It lay on a transport route from the North with Lancashire, and from Wales there was a centuries old route to London.

John Harvard’s mum was brought up there. Why didn’t she mention Shakespeare or Oxford or Marlowe? In fact for not mentioning Sh i blame his son in law, Dr John Hall. Whose book on his patients starts just after Sh’s death. And is the only one extant of the two.

Can you imagine Sh’s medical records as recorded by his son in law, presumably his physician? But John Hall in 1607 married Sh’s eldest daughter, Susanna, whose signature we have, so she could write and presumably read. The reading preceding the writing one assumes.

Brother Gilbert too the haberdasher who followed Will to London left a signature so I guess he could read and write too. And Edward the youngest, the actor in London who really followed his big brother’s footsteps. He was an actor and therefore must have been literate.

In fact it would be a distinct disadvantage to be illiterate if you were an Elizabethan and Jacobean actor. But again that doesn’t necessarily mean they could write.

I suppose there may have been the odd dyslexic actor who memorised his lines as another read them to him. I have done this with an Israeli actor I know. So if Sh was an actor, and actors were literate, Sh could read and write. Sort of, according to his signatures. Love the cheeky dot in the W in each of the them.

Business was what was driving London’s economy and the first multi-nationals came into being as a result of this thinking. The English East India Company formed in 1600. Though it was the Dutch East India Company who traded stocks on the Amsterdam Bourse for the first time in 1602. Oxford’s still alive, so’s Shakespeare.

The Dutch were a driving force in business in early modern europe. Literacy I’m sure helped them, but numeracy had to have been a must.

Of all the nations in Europe, the Dutch, the most commercial, are the most faithful to their word . . . This is not at all to be imputed to national character, as some pretend . . .

It is far more reduceable to self interest, that general principle which regulates the actions of every man, and which leads men to act in a certain manner from views of advantage, and is as
deeply implanted in an Englishman as a Dutchman.

A dealer is afraid of losing his character,
and is scrupulous in observing every engagement. When a person makes 20 contracts in
a day, he cannot gain so much by endeavouring to impose on his neighbours, as the very
appearance of a cheat would make him lose.

324 E. Stringham / The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance 43 (2003) 321–344 (1766/1982, p. 538)

Shakespeare has something to say on pretty much every aspect of being human and having human passions. To do this he touches on many subjects and his knowledge is encyclopaedic. Does this mean he is a polymath? Is he also an expert of these subjects?

I don’t think so. Definitely not when compared to the knowledge certainties of Bacon, or Marlowe, or Jonson.

Shakespeare was a natural. You can define natural all you want but it defies description. It just is. The closest commmentary we have about him tells us that was how he was considered.

A good print shop inventory might contain a bunch of sources for example. Now how could dumbass actor Shagsberds get his hands on that? Hmmm. His fellow grammar school student and London friend, Richard Field apprenticed to one of Belgiums finest printer perhaps.

Sh needed a place of study for his sources for his plays, as above, or anyone with the right library. He needed to physically write the stuff: quill to ink to paper. He needed candles if it was dark. He needed to want to write what he wrote. He needed someone to sell his work to. That’s it.

He worked for the leading theatre company of his time. A job I’m sure they didn’t give to morons.

Today Shakespeare is a brand. Stronger perhaps than the Queen of England. Coca Cola and Nike are tikes in comparison. Shakespeare, however you spell or hyphenate it, is a juggernaut of a brand. And every generation since his own, has had an ever-increasing earful of what, or who he was.

Actually the only people who cared after his death were those that had known him in the best: the world of theatre. It was they who kept his memory and plays alive. That would be scanned.

Changing taste lead to his plays ironically being out of date and remained unpopular for the stage until the Restoration. Whereupon the stage changed the sad endings for happy, or added speeches of their own devising. Then a whole line of theatre actor/managers revived his roles, bringing fame and fortune to themselves.

Also don’t forget from his time the quartos of the plays remained alive and well. Early readers bought him and his collected works in the First Folio took its toll from a reading public, if it wasn’t available in their local theatre.

Amateur productions of Shakespeare date to his time as well as on the East India Company ship waiting for wind off the coast of Africa. Hamlet got played. Oh to have been a sailor on that ship that night.

Would they have talked of the author or more likely, as all the marginalia and accounts of the early modern tells us, of the details of the play, some moral lesson to be learned, or as a pointer to something elsewhere.

Who wrote it is of least importance. Unless you were a rival purveyor of the same craft or trade. The Elizabethans slandered and libelled each other all over the place. Lawsuits were common; from piddling amounts to complicated estate escrow.

But now he began to be talked about as a writer. His plays re-edited and published to a wider audience. Copyright appeared in 1709 and suddenly the rights to Shakespeare the product were available. Now a biography is needed and no one has thought to question the people closest to him. Either family, or theatre, or writer friends.

Over the next hundred years a romantic vision of Shakespeare grows from the sparse information we have. THEN the problem of authorship appears.

My name be buried where my body is,
And live no more, to shame nor me nor you.

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