The name of William Shakespeare is synonymous with English Literature and Theatre. The writer, apparently, of thirty eight Plays and 154 Sonnets, the time has come for William Shakespeare to be upstaged.
There are many people in this world who now believe that William Shakespeare is not the writer of these Plays and Sonnets at all and this will come as an almighty shock to those among us who appreciate so much the Plays such as ‘Romeo and Juliet’, ‘A Midsummers Night Dream’ and ‘Macbeth’ among others while as a tourist and day visitor flocking to the delightful West Midlands town of Stratford upon Avon where William Shakespeare was born in 1564.
It shocks our system to even minutely comprehend that William Shakespeare did not write the Plays and Sonnets attributed to his name. Here was a young man from a small market town in middle England, possibly educated at his local Grammar School, who did not attend University or more likely never travel overseas and whose family were as humble as any other in the mid-sixteenth century, who proceeded to write about things which would ordinarily have been beyond the common man of his day.
Upstaging William Shakespeare is not so difficult. There is not a single shred of evidence which can conclusively confirm that this Stratfordian ever wrote anything, even questionably, his own name as a signature, let alone a literary masterpiece. There are plenty of claimants waiting to upstage the proclaimed genius of English Literature. The likes of Francis Bacon, Edward de Vere, Henry Neville and even Queen Elizabeth I herself have all been proposed as candidates for the prestigious title.
The Shakespeare Plays are essentially about issues to do with the royal Court of the time and to do with the succession of the Monarchy. This was not the background of a young man from provincial England. There were no newspapers in the sixteenth century. There were no Copyright laws. Propaganda as evident in the Plays as a mouthpiece for daily news but censorship did exist under the control of the Master of the Revels.
The Plays were written for the New Theatres and adapted for performance at royal Court as well as at the London Inns and provincial Taverns. Theatre of the sixteenth century and early seventeenth century was innovative and new. But the question remains – was William Shakespeare upstaged?
Plays are, of course, pure drama and are performed for our entertainment. They may be based on actual events which happened at the time or in history and some details may undoubtedly be biographical or even auto-biographical. In modern day, the medium of Television and Movies offer alternative entertainment platforms for us all, visually and orally, while Radio is only Audio.
The opportunity to check information and sources more quickly provides us all with the opportunity to upstage William Shakespeare. Fairly recently, Roland Emmerich, based on a script written by John Orloff, has directed a movie called ‘Anonymous’ which upstages William Shakespeare in a spectacular and truly dramatic way by proposing that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, was the illegitimate Son of Queen Elizabeth I, and that he was the writer and brainchild between the Plays, while William Shakespeare, no more than an Actor, gave his name to the Plays.
There are, of course, many reasons why a nobleman such as Edward de Vere might want to use anonymity for the Plays which he wrote and it is not the purpose of this article to explore them. The fact remains, rightly or wrongly, that William Shakespeare has been upstaged by person or persons unknown.
It is quite conceivable that William Shakespeare did have the brain like a sponge and was possessed of a literary genius . Fellow Stratfordians, Richard Field and Richard Burbage, made their own mark in London in Publishing and Acting respectively, so why should we ever doubt that William Shakespeare has been upstaged?
It is only in the modern era that we are grateful for the opportunity to read Plays in printed and published format. In Shakespeares day, the Plays were only required to be written for performance. Producing them in Quarto format was considered of secondary importance.
William Shakespeare is upstaged because the function of films like ‘Anonymous’ and of mass material available to us all on the Internet and of new books published virtually every other day on the subject matter. He is upstaged because the common man is skeptical in the absence of proof and the fact remains after four hundred years, there is no proof and there may never be any proof.
Alas, what would England be without William Shakespeare? A man who apparently died on the same day on which he was born, 23rd April, a significant day for all English folk because on that day is celebrated the Patron Saint George. The greatest irony of all. Make your own mind up then whether William Shakespeare is Upstaged.