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Wed Jul 10, 2019, 04:16 PM

Was Shakespeare a Woman?

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/06/who-is-shakespeare-emilia-bassano/588076/?utm_source=pocket-newtab

Updated at 6:33 p.m. ET on June 7, 2019.

Was Shakespeare a Woman?

The authorship controversy has yet to surface a compelling alternative to the man buried in Stratford. Perhaps that’s because, until recently, no one was looking in the right place. The case for Emilia Bassano.

On a spring night in 2018, I stood on a Manhattan sidewalk with friends, reading Shakespeare aloud. We were in line to see an adaptation of Macbeth and had decided to pass the time refreshing our memories of the play’s best lines. I pulled up Lady Macbeth’s soliloquy on my iPhone. “Come, you spirits / That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,” I read, thrilled once again by the incantatory power of the verse. I remembered where I was when I first heard those lines: in my 10th-grade English class, startled out of my adolescent stupor by this woman rebelling magnificently and malevolently against her submissive status. “Make thick my blood, / Stop up th’ access and passage to remorse.” Six months into the #MeToo movement, her fury and frustration felt newly resonant.
Pulled back into plays I’d studied in college and graduate school, I found myself mesmerized by Lady Macbeth and her sisters in the Shakespeare canon. Beatrice, in Much Ado About Nothing, raging at the limitations of her sex (“O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the marketplace”). Rosalind, in As You Like It, affecting the swagger of masculine confidence to escape those limitations (“We’ll have a swashing and a martial outside, / As many other mannish cowards have / That do outface it with their semblances”). Isabella, in Measure for Measure, fearing no one will believe her word against Angelo’s, rapist though he is (“To whom should I complain? Did I tell this, / Who would believe me?”). Kate, in The Taming of the Shrew, refusing to be silenced by her husband (“My tongue will tell the anger of my heart, / Or else my heart concealing it will break”). Emilia, in one of her last speeches in Othello before Iago kills her, arguing for women’s equality (“Let husbands know / Their wives have sense like them”).

I was reminded of all the remarkable female friendships, too: Beatrice and Hero’s allegiance; Emilia’s devotion to her mistress, Desdemona; Paulina’s brave loyalty to Hermione in The Winter’s Tale; and plenty more. (“Let’s consult together against this greasy knight,” resolve the merry wives of Windsor, revenging themselves on Falstaff.) These intimate female alliances are fresh inventions—they don’t exist in the literary sources from which many of the plays are drawn. And when the plays lean on historical sources (Plutarch, for instance), they feminize them, portraying legendary male figures through the eyes of mothers, wives, and lovers. “Why was Shakespeare able to see the woman’s position, write entirely as if he were a woman, in a way that none of the other playwrights of the age were able to?” In her book about the plays’ female characters, Tina Packer, the founding artistic director of Shakespeare & Company, asked the question very much on my mind.
...snip

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Arrow 23 replies Author Time Post
Reply Was Shakespeare a Woman? (Original post)
saidsimplesimon Jul 10 OP
Aristus Jul 10 #1
saidsimplesimon Jul 10 #4
Aristus Jul 10 #9
jberryhill Jul 10 #10
saidsimplesimon Jul 10 #12
ChazInAz Jul 11 #19
Aristus Jul 11 #21
ChazInAz Jul 11 #22
Aristus Jul 11 #23
Mike Nelson Jul 10 #2
Aristus Jul 10 #3
Mike Nelson Jul 10 #7
OneBlueDotBama Jul 10 #5
saidsimplesimon Jul 10 #6
Aristus Jul 10 #13
OneBlueDotBama Jul 10 #15
Aristus Jul 10 #16
OneBlueDotBama Jul 10 #17
Aristus Jul 10 #18
The Velveteen Ocelot Jul 10 #8
Hassler Jul 10 #11
Aristus Jul 10 #14
Hassler Jul 11 #20

Response to saidsimplesimon (Original post)

Wed Jul 10, 2019, 04:28 PM

1. No, no, no, no, NO!

This again?

There is no deep, abiding mystery. No grand conspiracy to rob the 'real' author of the works of Shakespeare of the credit.

William Shakespeare wasn't a nobleman (or woman) incognito. Shakespeare wasn't a patsy for a poet and dramatist who had to keep his (or her) identity secret for some ungodly reason.

William Shakespeare, the man from Stratford, wrote the plays and poems attributed to him. Bottom line.

All else is wishful thinking, bullshit, or a weird combination of the two.

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Response to Aristus (Reply #1)

Wed Jul 10, 2019, 04:38 PM

4. Please, provide proof

dear Aristus that the mythical Shakespeare is the author of the works in his name. "This again" is not a compelling statement. I'm just sharing an article for discussion, glad you have an interest.

I don't know who wrote the plays, and don't claim to have factual knowledge of the existence of the author. Please enlighten me

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Response to saidsimplesimon (Reply #4)

Wed Jul 10, 2019, 04:48 PM

9. Simple. William Shakespeare was an actor/shareholder of the Lord Chamberlain's Men, later

the King's Men acting company. He wrote 37 plays for them, several with collaborator john Fletcher. Often referred to as being obscure in his own day, he was actually quite popular with the playgoing public. Although his plays belonged to the company, and not to himself, people would make choices of which playhouse to frequent (and there were several in Southwark, London, along with non-theatrical entertainments, such as bear-baiting and brothels, with which the playhouses had to compete) based on whether Shakespeare had written that day's presentation.

Nothing is better for proving popularity in one's own day than the fact that Shakepeare also made enemies, at least one of whom published a scathing paper denouncing Shakespeare as an upstart, and warning people off his plays.

If the whole vast thing was a cover up, some proof of it would have surfaced in the centuries since. Instead conspiracy theorists come up with strange, weird, arcane, and usually incomprehensible 'clues' that someone else was the author.

The sonnets and other poems were recognized in their own day as being by Shakespeare. And reputable scholars of his work are in agreement that the author of the poems and the author of the plays are one and the same.

The members of The King's Men company paid a great deal of money to print his plays as a memorial to him several years after he died. If The First Folio had denied credit to the 'true' author, public notice would have been paid not long after the book hit the stands. Instead, the conspiracy theory that Shakespeare was actually someone else didn't start until more than a century after he died.



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Response to saidsimplesimon (Reply #4)

Wed Jul 10, 2019, 04:49 PM

10. Shakespeare was really born in Kenya, and couldn't have written them anway

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Response to jberryhill (Reply #10)

Wed Jul 10, 2019, 05:39 PM

12. Gottcha...no wonder fish are so easy to snag.

This is all in the family, correct?

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Response to Aristus (Reply #1)

Thu Jul 11, 2019, 12:05 AM

19. Precisely!

As an actor, I have been fortunate enough to have performed in more of Shakespeare's plays than most of my fellows.
There is more evidence for Shakespeare of Stratford being the author of his plays than there is for anyone else. In fact, those who claim that Oxford, Bacon or Kurt Vonnegut wrote them have no actual evidence for their assertions at all: just reheated conjectures from a bit over a century's worth of speculation by fabulists who have done no real research into the primary documents.
Pestiferous, bacon-fed caterpillars.

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Response to ChazInAz (Reply #19)

Thu Jul 11, 2019, 09:44 AM

21. What are some of the roles you have played?

I've seen more Shakespeare than performed. I played George, Duke of Clarence in Richard III, and Don John in Much Ado About Nothing.

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Response to Aristus (Reply #21)

Thu Jul 11, 2019, 12:56 PM

22. I've been on stage over fifty years.

A variety of characters in several productions of the Scottish Play. (Banquo, the drunken gatekeeper, the Doctor, etc...many productions had us doubling up on parts, as did Shakespeare's company!)
Polonius, Claudius and The Ghost in two Hamlets.
Prospero and Gonzalo in two Tempests.
Egeus and Quince in a couple of Midsummer Night Dreams. (Did costumes for one of them.)
The Fool in King Lear.
Richard III and Duke of Clarence in two Richards. ("We're not safe, George, we're not safe."
Don Adriano de Armado in Love's Labour's Lost.
Duke Frederic in As You Like It.
Not to mention many other smaller roles and walk-ons in my misspent youth. (Before I lost my Hungarian accent!)

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Response to ChazInAz (Reply #22)

Thu Jul 11, 2019, 01:18 PM

23. Cool!

In Richard III, I doubled as one of the bishops, since Clarence got killed at the end of the first act.

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Response to saidsimplesimon (Original post)

Wed Jul 10, 2019, 04:29 PM

2. I studied Shakespeare in college, also...

… my opinion is that he (a male) wrote most of the plays. There area couple in doubt... and I do think he had a staff that included other writers. I also believe the staff included women. Plus, people wrote in the style of Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, etc...

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Response to Mike Nelson (Reply #2)

Wed Jul 10, 2019, 04:32 PM

3. Actually, Christopher Marlowe's writing style was notably different from that of Shakespeare.

True also of Sir Francis Bacon, another popular playwright of the time whom some insist was the 'real' Shakespeare.

Shakespeare didn't have a writing 'staff'. He had a couple of collaborators, John Fletcher most often, who received full credit for their share of the plays they contributed to. But still, Shakespeare is significant among playwrights of the time in that most of the plays attributed to him are solo efforts, when collaboration was the rule.

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Response to Aristus (Reply #3)

Wed Jul 10, 2019, 04:43 PM

7. Actually, I don't...

… disagree with you much at all... Maybe "collaborators" is a better word than "staff" - I don't know. I do believe talked over passages with females or a female, to measure their perspective. In writing or playing a character, I want to know all about the character... gender, age, culture, everything... even if it doesn't show up in the play.

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Response to saidsimplesimon (Original post)

Wed Jul 10, 2019, 04:40 PM

5. There is the the Mary Sidney Society

The Cygnet is an international journal published occasionally by the Mary Sidney Society for its members. The purpose of the journal is three-fold: 1) to provide a forum for those interested in further information about the possibility that Mary Sidney Herbert, the Countess of Pembroke, wrote the works attributed to William Shakespeare; 2) to provide a vehicle for those wishing to research and publish articles on the above topic; and 3) to provide informative articles on the “Shakespearean” works since Mary Sidney may have written them.

The Editorial Board of The Cygnet invites submissions of articles, inquiries, poems, and reviews. For information about submissions see below.

http://www.marysidneysociety.org/the-cygnet

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Response to OneBlueDotBama (Reply #5)

Wed Jul 10, 2019, 04:42 PM

6. Thank you, this is helpful.

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Response to OneBlueDotBama (Reply #5)

Wed Jul 10, 2019, 05:45 PM

13. It sounds like this hypothesis is based on the age-old argument that

only someone of noble birth could have written the plays of Shakespeare, who was an uneducated country bumpkin from Warwickshire.

A notable Shakespeare scholar once responded: "That's a crock. Look at British noblemen today!"

It's little more than class snobbery.

The truth is, Shakespeare was hardly a country bumpkin. Stratford was not a backwater town, but an important trade crossroads that brought in sophisticated visitors and businessmen. William's father, John, was an important figure in town, and served on the town council for a while. He was also High Bailiff, akin to the mayor of Stratford for a while. While there is no record that William attended Stratford's grammar school, (records of student attendance were not kept until after Shakespeare left for London) he would have been entitled to attend for free due to his father's position. English grammer schools of the period were notable for their rigorous curriculum, close to that of a modern undergraduate school today. School was from sun-up to sun-down year-round, with only breaks for meals. And the teacher was always a university graduate.

William Shakespeare was perfectly prepared for his career as a master dramatist.

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Response to Aristus (Reply #13)

Wed Jul 10, 2019, 05:57 PM

15. Based on your observations, one might ask...

why William's children were illiterate.
Not to mention William's father John, who I believe the info you have is rather faulty.

The Sidney/Sydney were nothing akin to the Brit peers of today. From an American perspective, Algernon, known as the forgotten founder of the US.
I know of three members of this family who founder or had university colleges named for them

Mary Sidney Herbert

Countess of Pembroke

Dates:
1561 to 1621 Mary Sidney was the most educated woman in England, comparable only to Queen Elizabeth. She was fluent in Italian, French, and Latin; played the lute and virginals; sang; had all the refinements of an aristocratic woman, such as medical training, falconry, hunting, court life, etc. She had an alchemy laboratory and was close with the leading "magicians" of the day, including John Dee and Giordano Bruno.

For two decades Mary Sidney developed and led the most important and influential literary circle in English history, now called Wilton Circle. She is the first woman to publish a play in English (closet drama) and the first woman to publish an original pastoral piece in English. She translated and published work from French and Italian. Sister to Sir Philip Sidney, she published his sonnet sequence that created the passionate vogue for sonnet writing.

Scholars of Mary Sidney agree that her mission in life was to create great works in the English language, although as a woman she would have never been allowed to publish work for the public stage. Many of the original sources for the plays were written by herself, or her brother, writers in her circle, or were dedicated to her, and she was fluent in the three languages in which two dozen of the source materials were written. She sponsored an acting troupe and participated in courtly theatre throughout her life. Her life parallels the love story shown in the sonnets in that she had a long-term affair with a younger man who for a time she thought was having an affair with a dark-haired, dark-eyed woman. Mary Sidney died in her London home two months after the First Folio went to press.

http://www.shakespeareanauthorshiptrust.org.uk/pages/candidates/sidney.htm

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Response to OneBlueDotBama (Reply #15)

Wed Jul 10, 2019, 06:02 PM

16. That's a perfectly valid argument, one that has been forwarded before.

John Shakespeare became prosperous and respected in a trade (glovemaking) that didn't require literacy. And Shakespeare only had two surviving children, both girls. His son Hamnet died around age eleven.

Literacy was not an important part of a young girl's upbringing back then. Even some noblewomen were illiterate. They were instead expected to bear children and keep house.

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Response to Aristus (Reply #16)

Wed Jul 10, 2019, 06:16 PM

17. You're far more charitable toward John...

than reality, my understanding is he was in considerable legal & financial trouble due to his biz dealings.

On the other hand, many learned folks have been studying this for eons, some have made it a career.

My dad, was deep into this stuff, he was an English Lit prof, but his area was Chaucer.

Whomever was the author, it's still great stuff, especially if performed live, in the round.

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Response to OneBlueDotBama (Reply #17)

Wed Jul 10, 2019, 06:54 PM

18. Oh, he did get into trouble.

One thing we know of for sure is that his fortunes dropped off somewhat in the middle of his career. Business trouble is likely to be one reason. And we do know he was slapped with a legal fine for keeping a dungheap on his property.

One bit of conjecture, and that's all it is, is that John Shakespeare was secretly Catholic, and that someone either found out, or he was in danger of being exposed. His application for a coat-of-arms, which would have elevated him to the status of 'gentleman' was disapproved.

However, once his son became prosperous and notable, his application was re-submitted and approved. So whatever caused his temporary downfall must not have been deadly serious.

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Response to saidsimplesimon (Original post)

Wed Jul 10, 2019, 04:48 PM

8. This is fascinating! A very convincing argument - I'll have to read some more

about Emilia Bassano.

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Response to saidsimplesimon (Original post)

Wed Jul 10, 2019, 05:00 PM

11. Two conspiracy theories we'll always have: who really was Shakespeare

And who was the second gunman in Dallas. FWIW: Scalia wasn't also not a Stratfordian. But he was both an asshole political hack and wrong.

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Response to Hassler (Reply #11)

Wed Jul 10, 2019, 05:52 PM

14. This is because if people are pre-disposed to disbelieve a certain event,

nothing one can say will convince them otherwise.

Stephen King once wrote that people would rather believe the most preposterous conspiracy theory regarding the assassination of JFK than accept the simple fact that one loser with a mail-order rifle could change the course of history.

The more evidence you present rebutting their beliefs, the more they will double-down on their disbelief of the facts.

And the Oxfordians? God knows why they believe what they do. It neither harms William Shakespeare to deny that he wrote his plays, nor helps whomever their candidate is for the 'real' author. It's little more than intellectual masturbation.

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Response to Aristus (Reply #14)

Thu Jul 11, 2019, 12:25 AM

20. +1

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