WITH Shakespeare’s birthday celebrations April 23, Sony has a timely ebook mystery, “The killing of Hamlet”. It is both amazing and amusing that 400 years after his death the world still debates whether the Bard of Avon ever existed.
Read and quoted by everybody, William Shakespeare remains an enigma. Oh yes the plays exist, the poems enthral but who really wrote them? This year the argument is fiercer than ever after a Declaration of Reasonable Doubt by experts. Other experts leap to defend the smalltown hick from Stratford who is reputed to have created England’s richest literature.
In the midst of this storm, author Ann Morven has crafted a modern whodunit novel around the Shakespeare authorship debate. Her fiction could be closer to the truth than all the learned assertions! Sony gives a free sample. To read the novel on other devices, simply google the title.
Always a puzzle to me is why the bloke from Stratford apparently wrote nothing before the age of 29, after which he was instantly brilliant and prolific. There is a lot more troubling the doubters however. Insults fly, historical papers are flourished like battle flags, poets sigh, actors denounce, language gurus gag and lawyers gabble from either fort. No matter which camp you believe, it all adds up to a sturdy noise for readers to enjoy on the Web.
Here are just a few of the claims debunking the playwright’s traditional identity:
1. If a man from Stratford was widely known as William "Shakespeare", why spell his name Shakspere in his will?
2. Nobody, including literary contemporaries, ever recognised Mr Shakspere of Stratford as a writer during his lifetime. When he died in 1616, no one seemed to notice.
3. There is no contemporaneous evidence that William Shakspere of Stratford was even a professional writer, much less that he was the great William Shakespeare.
4. Mr Shakspere of Stratford grew up in an illiterate rural household. Both his parents witnessed documents with a mark.
5. Books were expensive and difficult to obtain. No book that Mr Shakspere owned, or that is known to have been in his possession, has ever been found.
6. Not one play, not one poem, not one letter in Mr Shakspere’s own hand has ever been found. And yet, he divided his time between London and Stratford, a situation conducive to correspondence.
7. His detailed will, in which he famously left his wife "my second best bed”, contains no clearly Shakespearean turn of phrase and mentions no books, plays, poems, or literary effects.
8. Almost uniquely among Elizabethan poets, Shakespeare remained silent following the death of Queen Elizabeth.
9. There is no record he ever staged a play in Stratford, or that any of its residents viewed him as a poet.
10. While pouring out his heart in the Sonnets, why did he not once mention the death of his 11-year-old son?
Over the years, for diverse reasons, names suggested as the real Shakespeare include Christopher Marlowe, Francis Bacon, the Earl of Oxford, Sir Walter Raleigh, the Earl of Derby, Ben Jonson; Thomas Middleton and even Queen Elizabeth herself!
Whoever created the literary magic, I simply say Happy Birthday mate, and thanks for all the entertainment.
The Killing of Hamlet, by Ann Morven (Sony ebooks $6.99).