After first reading Shakespeare by Another Name by Mark Anderson, I felt wonderful. I did not feel so wonderful when I learned that there is no Santa Claus because, well, I was only eight. At that precise moment, my mother was soaking in a hot bathtub and, worried that she had crushed my spirit, called out, “Are you okay, Honey?” Struggling with my disappointment, I had already turned to a comforting thought and said, “It’s okay, Mommy. At least there are the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny.”
The concept that a meagerly educated villager with illiterate parents, an illiterate wife and illiterate children could suddenly begin penning some of the most witty and erudite plays the world had until that time ever seen is, to anyone who writes, a ludicrous notion. And yet I accepted it for decades, mainly because I didn’t dwell on it. Frankly, it was depressing. It bespoke a genius that I would never profess, never attain. My writing is about what I know and have experienced, and generally I need to rework it over the course of the years. From all I have ever read, that is the case for every writer who has ever lived–except Shakespeare.
I did take a course on Shakespeare in college and the teacher fell right in with the idea that this icon among writers of the English language died without a library. Yeah, sure. Since he didn’t question it, I (being about 21) did not either. He was the PhD. Has any other writer died without books on the shelves of his home? No. But Santa Claus can get his reindeer to fly him through the skies on the night before Christmas, so there you go.
I am not disputing that a person can be born with amazing genius. Usually it runs in the family. Born into a family of accomplished musicians, Mozart tried writing his first concerto for the clavier at the age of four. No one ever said that the writings of Shakespeare were not done by a genius, a gifted soul. But the William Shakespeare presented to the world is not that soul. It is Edward De Vere, a gifted and tortured man who received in his lifetime what would today be the equivalent of five million dollars for writing and staging plays for the royal court who penned those plays. Allegedly NONE of these plays remain in existence. How very odd. Yet all the works of “Shakespeare” exist. Gee, why didn’t Queen Elizabeth pay Shakespeare?
It is no one single thing but rather the preponderance of evidence presented by Anderson and writers before him that is convincing. I am so relieved. I can believe in a genius writer who was a tortured soul with tons of faults, someone who obsessively recorded his own life in play after play. That sounds like reality. I can believe that he hired other writers to help him churn out these works, and I can believe that he spent his last years revising out his mistakes and over-the-top tendencies. Now that I know Edward De Vere was behind the works of Shakespeare, his plays have become one hundred times more interesting.