Posted By Roger Stritmatter on October 30, 2011
Not really. Gotcha!
However, with Anonymous packing at least some theatres, moving some audience members to tears, and prompting spontaneous applause by others, the Stratfordian thought control machine has gone into overdrive.
One of the machine’s strongest arguments is that the Authorship Question began only 150 years ago.
Those anachronistic romantics looked back at Shakespeare and just didn’t have the willpower or self-discipline to avoid indulging in the subjective fallacy that Shakespeare must have been just like them.
This argument is a central plank in Shapiro’s Contested Will (2010), and many people –not having been challenged to think otherwise and finding the argument a convenient way of rationalizing continued allegiance to the Stratfordian myth — apparently believe it.
No doubt. The argument supplies a convenient coat of fresh paint to the tired cliche that “if Shakespeare wasn’t written by Shakespeare it was written by somebody else with the same name.”
But before we go too far down this road, we may wish to acquaint ourselves with the contents of Shake-Speares Sonnets (as they are titled), first published in 1609 but not widely available to readers until the late 18th century.
For example, let’s listen in on Sonnet 71:
O, if, I say, you look upon this verse
When I perhaps compounded am with clay,
Do not so much as my poor name rehearse.
But let your love even with my life decay,
Lest the wise world should look into your moan
And mock you with me after I am gone. (71)
Orthodox Shakespeareans cannot explain why the author would warn against even “so much as my poor name” rehearsing. The theory that the authorship question is an anachronistic projection of the Romantics onto an early modern world lacking in subjectivity can be maintained only at the expense of treating the sonnets as fiction, as Shapiro insists we must do.
But look how the thought is extended in Sonnet 72:
O lest your true love may seem false in this,
That you for love speak well of me untrue,
My name be buried where my body is,
And live no more to shame nor me nor you.
For I am shamed by that which I bring forth,
And so should you, to love things nothing worth (72)
Does that sound like a fiction to you? Why is this author making up a fiction that says “my name be buried where my body is”?
Is this an illusion? How can we be reading something that by Shapiro’s own fiats can’t have existed — an authentic rendering of human subjectivity, somehow existing in the “wrong” century, according to the tradition of literary historians now represented so eloquently in Contested Will? Is the volume retro-dated by 300 hundred years?
Stephen Booth in his (in many ways) outstanding edition of the poems clarifies that this is a subjunctive exhortation. The author is exhorting his readers to bury his name along with his body!
The authorship question did not begin 150 years ago. It began sometime before 1609, when the sonnets were published — during the waning days of the reign of Elizabeth I, when the author was already lamenting the erasure of his name from history.