And St George never slew a dragon either…

Conceal him what he is.

Conceal him what he is.

Today is St George’s Day. It’s also Shakespeare’s birthday.

Except it’s not…not really, it was picked out as a nice easy date and because England’s greatest writer being born on the its Patron Saint’s day is just…perfect. Of course since neither actually did the things they’re most famous for it all comes together quite nicely.

They have a parade in Stratford-Upon-Avon today. They sell Shakespeare masks and Shakespeare cookies and other…depressing shit. And it’s wrong. In all sorts of ways, but mainly factually.

A history lesson: Brief, broad, and possibly inaccurate.

The man we acknowledge as being William Shakespeare, the man who supposedly wrote the most famous plays in the whole world, the man whose birthday we celebrate – he wasn’t William Shakespeare. Or rather, he wasn’t THE William Shakespeare. He was simply a William Shakespeare. The real William Shakespeare probably wasn’t even called William Shakespeare.
Simple isn’t it?

Guess who...

Guess who…

There’s all sorts of points about how and why and who else etc etc. I’ll just throw out a couple of the most important, to my mind: When the not-Shakespeare-Shakespeare died he left an itemised will. Very itemised, down to and including his “third best bed”. Not one, single book was mentioned in it. From what we can find, it seems he was barely literate. His children were actually illiterate. And he’s buried in Stratford, not Poet’s Corner.

But he had the right name. So we give him credit, and use his picture, and link these plays to Stratford-upon-Avon. We shouldn’t, but we do.
It vexes me.

It’s a very famous controversy – referred to on a recent, incredibly dishonest, episode of QI. For a full account of it I suggest watching Last Will and Testament or visit doubtaboutwill.org.

There a lot of theories out there about who really wrote the plays. Francis Bacon, Marlowe, the Earl of Oxford, Nashe, Greene, Sidney…and any mixed and matched combination you can think of. I don’t hold one really. There are strong points for several, but no rock solid case. Personally, I’m fine with not knowing for sure. It’s interesting to talk about and theorize about. Unfortunately it’s been slowly derided. Stephen Fry called it a “conspiracy theory”…as if that somehow makes it absurd. It’s become one of those things only crazy people believe in. It’s very a distinguished list of crazy people in this case. See here.

We’ll never know for sure who wrote Hamlet or Othello or King Lear. It almost certainly wasn’t the man from Stratford though. And even if it was…today isn’t his birthday.

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