Did Shakespeare actually write what he was credited with writing?

For Christmas my daughter gave me a copy of “Shakespeare For Every Day of the Year” edited by Allie Esiri. (I am woefully behind on my reading this every day…). I also recently read “Hamnet” by Maggie O’Farrell, a fictional account of the death of Shakespeare’s son Hamnet, and subsequent reason for the play. AS such, I’ve been thinking about other plagued times…

Historically speaking, we know that Shakespeare had twins, one named Hamnet and we know he died. We also know that there is a play called “Hamlet”. As there was no Google back then, or TMZ, we can only delve so much into life at this time. Much of what we talk about is speculation. But, in a world where we consider whether or not there should be right answers in math, is there anything above speculation? What are facts? How do we know if we are interpreting things properly?

The works credited to Shakespeare are true masterpieces. The themes are still relevant today. People fall in love with those that theirparents don’t approve of, we stab each other in the back, suicide is still contemplated. Human nature really hasn’t changed all that much.

So when faced with a body of work as diverse and extraordinary as this, as we look at it hundreds of years later…

Does it matter who the author actually is?

Sure, the correct person should be credited for their work. Sure, it’s nice to know if something was taken from someone’s true life story.

But for the casual reader of this work…

Is it relevant?

So for today’s questions:

  1. Overall- Shakespeare yay or neigh?
  2. Who actually wrote it REALLY matters…?
  3. Who actually wrote it doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of the plays and sonnets…?
  4. Who’s is Shakespeare?
  5. Shakespeare should be cancelled because he is so totally not woke

Discuss:

87 thoughts on “To Be….Or Not

  1. Overall I say neigh. He was probably a fine person, but I continue to avoid reading his work simply from horrible memories of the typical assigned readings that then needed analysis. How does one analyze something one cannot even understand because of course we had to read the archaic language. Honestly, you could vow that you were the actual author and I still would say no. I imagine that the focused topics were pretty taboo at the time, but how many authors have taken the liberty to write about the same, or simply “adjust” his words into their own contemporary work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh…he’s got to be the most ripped off author ever…and that includes the awful reinterpretations of Jane Austen classics. But I admit, my little Shakespeare readings every day make me happy. He was so fresh. Everything today seems a poor copy

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I adore Shakespeare! I read most of his plays in middle school, simply because I wanted to. I don’t think at this point it matters who really wrote them, because, hey, all the players in this scenario are dead! I’m also not a fan of the “woke” or cancel culture. Of course, Shakespeare didn’t write to our modern morals. This was around 500 years ago, for heaven’s sake! All we can do is learn from history.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I say, yay. I know that other folks have been put forward as the “true” author of his plays but, to me, these are all based on the premise that the son of a provincial tradesman could not possibly have had the intelligence to craft such tales. I don’t think such arguments hold water. Some people are just awash with talent and we see maths’ prodigies emerge from rural backwoods even today.
    I enjoy his work, not only because they deal with humanity and its deepest lows and highest highs but because there is a beauty in the language. The language is, of course, the thing that many people have a problem with and as more generations lose a familiarity with the language of the King James bible, that will continue. I read that we find difficulty with the language now because so many words are pronounced differently nowadays and thus what would have rhymed to or flowed easily to the ear of his audience, jars with us today. Interestingly, linguists have identified an area in the NE of the USA whose accent most closely resembles that of Shakespeare’s day. Now, would’t it be interesting to hear a company from there perform his work?

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Even if it’s not in there, it is still a good book to read and an easier one than Mencken’s American Language 😉 Another thing I recall was that words such as Fall and Trash which folk think are Americanisms are actually used in their American-sense by Shakespeare. It is simply that they fell out of use in the UK, being replaced by Autumn and Rubbish. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. A Youtube search for ‘Ben Crystal Original Pronunciation’ will provide the answer you seek as regards, obviously, the original pronunciation. Regrettably, to my knowledge, Shakespeare made no reference to a combine ‘arvester in his work.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. I think it’s too bad we don’t know who REALLY wrote his work, but at least he took credit for it and passed along some great literature. I also believe everything written has already been written in some form, and except for names and places and situations, the universe is consistent.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think HS English killed any desire whatsoever to more deeply explore Shakespeare, and so much more for me and others I know of as well, which is a whole other topic I could spend ages on. My son’s English teacher for one of his college classes actually said something along the lines of “All that stuff about writing you learned in high school? Yeah, just ignore that.” Granted, it was a writing class with a more creative focus rather than technical, but I wanted to meet this guy so I could thank him and give him a hug.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Deb made a similar comment. It’s true though, the wrong teacher or teaching method can ruin things for you. But then we could go down the whole road of what does it mean to educate….

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Something I’ve talked about with my kids is the fact that they have 4 years of required English classes to graduate high school and every single one of those classes is the exact same. They don’t learn a single new thing, it is just a reemphasis on the same things they’ve already learned and I have been absolutely floored at the things that aren’t ever even touched on. My son has said he’s learned more in this one class than he did in all 4 years in HS. And that is mostly just dealing with the writing and doesn’t even touch on the joke that is any kind of reading and teacher’s expectations on how you interpret what you read. Like I said, I could go on forever on all the peeves I have with how English is taught in particular.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I must admit my daughter had an excellent high school ELA experience. But I also admit that she started out with classics as a Freshman, and she took two English AP classes. But I realize she was lucky, as when she took the Freshman English requirement at college her Professor saw after the first paper that he knew she had been well prepped in High School and should have been able to waive the requirement

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  6. Shakespeare was and still is a phenomenon. There may never be another literary genius like him. I believe he wrote the plays and sonnets attributed to him. Granted, it’s difficult to believe one person could have created such a body of work. Therefore, the speculation comes creeping in. Does it matter if he wrote all of it? No, but I believe he did. That’s what makes him the rarest of gems.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I really liked Shakespeare in HS and I like him even more today. I just love his style of writing even if not always easiest to understand.
    If I found out he didn’t write what has been attributed to him, I still would like them it would just feel strange.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I will answer all five! First, might I point out, without falling into the trap of presriptivism, that you’ve used the wrong ‘neigh’/’nay’ – though I do rather like the idea of ‘Horses Against Shakespeare’.
    1) Definitely yay, you’ve said above his oeuvre is “unparalleled” and there’s nothing more apt.
    2) Does it matter, if he didn’t write it? I think it probably would, credit where credit is due, but the case against him is so utterly unconvincing. There’s not a shred of evidence to suggest it, and we should always remember the primary motivation for the original conspiracy was that a poor man couldn’t have written those plays. Which is patently absurd. (However, he did have collaborators on some plays – not, funnily enough, the major ones – the collaboration, I’d say, also favours his authorship: it is notoriously difficult to collaborate with a fictional person.)
    3) Even if he didn’t of course it wouldn’t impact the power of the words, it is, after all, the words that have the power.
    4) Who is Shakespeare? Admittedly, I don’t know how to answer that. He’s just a man? The “relevance” of his work, as with all literature, is that he’s written about the experience of being human. (Incidentally, one of my favourite interpretations of Shakespeare is included in the following TedTalk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LsESSyMnwmU. It will irrevocably change your perspective of Sonnet 18: ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day’.)
    5) Ugh.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Oh, the old “Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare” bit…. Which didn’t appear until the 1800s, begun by a person with a mental disorder, and continued by people who just can’t believe that a middle-class person could write such sublime work.

    And really, after hundred of years, I don’t think it really matters who wrote Shakespeare’s work, or that he had a co-author for many of his plays, because the work stand on its own. It is infinitely adaptable, which is why it’s survived after all this time.

    And Shakespeare can be totally “woke”. It’s all in how it’s interpreted by the director and the cast.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. When I do my little Shakespeare a day, the editor explains that he actually was quite fair to women. The one I like the most is the Rosalind epilogue in AYLI. It was rare for a female to have an epilogue

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      1. Right? Shakespeare did give women a lot more roles than his contemporaries did, but I was talking more about modern interpretations: like, I’ve seen The Tempest performed as a drama in one performance, and a comedy in another. The Merchant of Venice can be horribly anti-Semitic in one director’s hands, and an empathtic take on Shylock’s plight in another’s. The Taming of the Shrew can show the abusive breaking down of Katarina, or she can be in on it from the beginning. It just depends on what the director wants to do with the play.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I think it’s a shame that many of our kids will not read Shakespeare. My kids are three years apart. Their high school reading curriculum completely changed during that time. My son read all the classics including Shakespeare. He went on to be a Lit major in college. My daughter’s English classes removed all fiction and had lists of books to select from that were nonfiction. She read mostly Malcom Gladwell. Whoever was in charge of the curriculum felt that nonfiction would better prepare young minds for their technical work ahead. I remember being very angry.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I think it was part of a Gates Foundation idea. They gave half a million dollars to my kid’s public high school and then everything changed. The school was divided into four “houses” and you could only take courses offered for your track. Math and English courses changed, too.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I want to say #5 just because lol

    I’m not sure. On the one hand, this Shakespeare is really old literature, so the “did he really write it” argument seems futile. At the same time, if I wrote something that people esteemed so highly throughout the years that they refuse to budge on teaching it throughout one country, then I’d want people to know it was me…but then again, that’s my ego speaking 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Nay, I say. I found the language difficult to enjoy, and I love to read. If they can update the language in a king james bible, why not Shakespeare?
    I don’t care who wrote it, it makes no difference to my appreciation (limited).

    Liked by 2 people

  13. My favourite Shakespeare saying is “All the world’s a stage” (I hope he quilled it and not just credited’, and yes we are ALL actors in our own little worlds, I’m but one player amongst many at work, there’s nasty villains, pretty heroines, intrigue, double crossing, tall tales…….. a cross section of people who have zero socially in common except they’re all players in our own little theatre.

    (This goes for every single one of us, we can be bit parts in more than one production and applies to every single one of us throughout our lives………….lol I think about this quote all the time!)

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I have never read Shakespeare and feel like I should at some point. Not sure how I made it through high school and college without it but I did! I don’t ever remember it being taught in any of my classes. I had heard it referenced but that is about it.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. I adore Shakespeare. I want to believe he wrote it all! I won’t even research it for fear I will be persuade d to believe otherwise. I first was introduced to him in high school and later majored in English in college. I took many Shakespeare courses and I fell in love with the sonnets. He’s one of my favorite authors.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I appreciate Shakespeare. I really enjoy Kenneth Branagh’s Shakespeare movies – they bring these works to life so beautifully and I understand them better. As for the question of was it one or many writers? Does it matter? He/they gifted the world with some of the most amazing works of art that live on today. As the great Bard said, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. We are better for these works regardless of the specific writer.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Keep him! Keep the credit to him, unless we learn otherwise. Keep reading at least a few of his plays! And, in argument against an earlier comment, don’t change the KJV of the Bible either… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  18. As a drama major and literature lover, I can’t imagine a world without the works of Shakespeare. I realize there are those who want to do away with all culture, but we would be so much poorer without it! Keep Shakespeare–and Dr. Seuss for that matter. Next I suppose they’ll want to rid the world of Mr. Rogers. Sad times, indeed!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. The Concept of Shakespeare is enough for me. Who What When does not matter to me. Content matters and many years ago I had a leather covered book of his Soliloquies and they brought me great comfort. Come to think of it I have not seen it for years. Hmm must go search.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Ultimately it is the timelessness of the message that matters most. Though, I do think people should receive the credit they are due. Further, I think future generations of authors should pay their respects by not ripping off other people’s content and concepts and passing them off as their own. Happens everywhere, every day. Great post and discussion, LA.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You are helping me remember that concepts are alive prior to someone coming into contact with them, and will live on after they are gone. Therefore, it is reasonable that people will unintentionally “copy” other people’s work. It’s not really their work though…. Hmmm. I like this conversation.

        Liked by 1 person

  21. I can’t say I’ve read any Shakespeare since HS, but I like his work. Have seen plays since then. There’s no reason to believe he isn’t the author, so I’m on his side – he was just an amazingly talented man. Bravo! His themes seem to stand the test of time.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Overall it’s in between. Some are good and some are not. For example, I enjoyed Merchant in Venice but Romeo and Juliet, not so much. It’s a bit overrated in my opinion. Who wrote it? Yeah, it does matter because of the intricacies of life his works show. What kind of society did he live in? He might have taken inspiration from his life.

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  23. Overall- Shakespeare yay or neigh?

    Obviously yeigh! In his day spelling didn’t matter so much and it was accepted that it was boring to spell a word the same way all through a document. So feel free to write any variety of yay, yeigh, nay and neigh to you heart’s content.

    Who actually wrote it REALLY matters…?

    As I recall, scientific examination of his work suggests that some of his plays were written in collaboration, and there are a few things he wrote that he hasn’t been credited with. In the end it’s like Father Christmas or the Easter Bunny – as long a I get presents and chocolate eggs I’m not going to question where they come from.

    Who actually wrote it doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of the plays and sonnets…?

    Correct. It might be an interesting academic question for some people, it may even help them interpret the plays if that’s the way their mind runs, and good luck to them.

    Who’s is Shakespeare?

    He died 400 years ago. How much do you expect to know?

    Shakespeare should be cancelled because he is so totally not woke

    The combined pens of all the woke journalists in the world have not produced one thing of beauty to compare to Henry V’s band of Brothers speech or Sonnet 18. I rest my case.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m a huge fan of the Bard…I don’t think the language was ever used as cleverly, beautifully and insightfully as his work. I really don’t need to peak too much behind the curtain…he had me at anon…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. To a large extent, he invented the English language, Compare him to his contemporary, Cervantes…

        I may have told you what I think of Cervantes before – a dismally over-rated coxcomb that is not fit to burnish Shakespeare”s galligaskins.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Same for me. I read my granddad’s abridges 1909 edition of Don Quixote for kids and found it a delight. I tried reading the fukll vesion FEW YWera ago, as part of my driv to read the classics, and found it long, dull and disappointing. I suppose if I knew about early Spanish humour and read it in the original I might get more from it. But I sincerely doubt it.

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      3. If you write a book that long (450,000 words, if I recall) there must be SOMETHING good in it, by the law of averages. Look at thoe 1,000 of monkeys with typewriters that masquerade as Shakespeare…

        Liked by 1 person

  24. I’ve heard about this controversy with Shakespeare, I’m glad we have these works to enjoy, contemplate, regardless of the author. The same is true for the Bible, most of the stories are complications of earlier works, redacted many times, by various people, but this doesn’t reduce their value. C

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  25. I believe he was a literary genius. His writings are rich is so many ways. I don’t think he is appreciated now because so many people want to be spoon-fed and not spend time contemplating deeper meanings and thoughts…so we have the dumbing down of literature. Does it matter if he wrote it? Does it matter if credit is given to Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Chopin or Strauss for all the musical scores we associate with them? Unless there is proof otherwise, let it alone and appreciate the genius behind the words.

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