Shakespeare And His Co-Authors

I’m not a big fan/follower of the Authorship question.  I prefer Occam’s Razor (the simplest solution is the most likely) so until I see compelling evidence to the contrary, it’s just not interesting to me. That’s why when I saw the name James Shapiro floating around this week, linked with the authorship question, I didn’t pay much attention. That may have been a mistake. Mr. Shapiro’s position seems to be popularizing the reasonable and realistic idea that Shakespeare always had plenty of co-authors, so perhaps we should get over ourselves about the whole “looking for an autobiography in his works” thing.  Hamlet is not about his dead son, and the Tempest is not his farewell to the stage. It seems to logically extend from there, then, that if the plays were always collaborative works, that there is no individual biography told in them, regardless of who the man was who signed the Shakespeare name.  And without that biographic hook, all of the authorship theories go out the window. 

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3 thoughts on “Shakespeare And His Co-Authors

  1. Let's put it this way: how many ways do you work? Do you always work alone? Do you always work with other people? Do you always have to write about yourself, or do you write about a variety of things?

    Why should his work not be as varied?

    There's plenty of evidence that he wrote some of the plays with other writers, or re-worked earlier plays, which is a kind of co-writing. But there are times when you just get his voice in a play, and don't get the sense of anyone else.

    I can tell you thing: in most cases, if you find yourself drifting off during a scene in a Shakespeare play, if you go digging, you will find that the play was co-written, and the voice of that scene comes from another writer.

    The best way to test this is get a script of one of the plays we know he collaborated on, Sir Thomas More. Read it. Only two, maybe three scenes will leap out at you. He wrote them. Some of the others may be good, but his scenes are the ones that will stick with you.

    That's what matters about Shakespeare, the man. I hope! 😉

  2. Well, you know I am not usually interested in the authorship question. But I had an fascinating dinner conversation recently with a screenwriter who is a strict Oxfordian. His views seemed more to stem from some oddities about Shakespeare, like how little we know about him, the fact that nothing in his handwriting survives other than three signatures (and they are all different, with different spellings), and of course, the issue of his background and how he obtained whatever knowledge he would have needed to write his works.
    Some, like me, find nothing so difficult to explain here, but the fact remains, that explanations are required. The question is, does one go for straightforward explanations that retain the "received opinion" or does one look for a more exotic explanation, like a "conspiracy theory." I am not trying to be judgmental here. Those labels are just labels and, in the absence of known fact, one may be just as likely to be true as another (in the sense that we really can't judge the probability of any particular choice). I have come to believe that the difference between those who accept Shakespeare as the author of the Complete Works differ from those who believe he was merely a "beard" for the Earl of Oxford or Francis Bacon, e.g., mostly in terms of attitude to uncertainty and "world trust", if you will, than in a particular interpretation of facts. The only thing I would say to one who favors an author other than Shakespeare is that there should be a rip-roaring good story behind it. If you are going to go to the trouble to be unconventional and drum something up, at least it should be fun and juicy.
    –Carl

  3. Carl wrote: "The only thing I would say to one who favors an author other than Shakespeare is that there should be a rip-roaring good story behind it. If you are going to go to the trouble to be unconventional and drum something up, at least it should be fun and juicy."

    I agree. 🙂

    The unfortunate thing about the whole business to me, is that a lot more time is spent writing bad soap opera scripts; and so less time paying attention to and promoting the work itself. Misplaced self-aggrandizing "busy work", the way I see it.

    Regardless of "who" wrote it, IT stands.

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