who wrote shakespeare? eric idle knows.

A while back, wmtc had a discussion about the supposed controversy of the authorship of Shakespeare's plays, after I read the book Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare, by James Shapiro.

Now a movie is out, telling a fictional, imaginative story of how Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford, wrote the plays. For those of us who care about literature and history, this is frustrating, as much of the movie-going public is likely to receive the movie's story as fact.

Here's a better take on the whole thing, by none other than Eric Idle. Or maybe Michael Palin.
Who Wrote Shakespeare
by Eric Idle*

While it is perfectly obvious to everyone that Ben Jonson wrote all of Shakespeare’s plays, it is less known that Ben Jonson’s plays were written by a teen-age girl in Sunderland, who mysteriously disappeared, leaving no trace of her existence, which is clear proof that she wrote them. The plays of Marlowe were actually written by a chambermaid named Marlene, who faked her own orgasm, and then her own death in a Deptford tavern brawl. Queen Elizabeth, who was obviously a man, conspired to have Shakespeare named as the author of his plays, because how could a man who had only a grammar-school education and spoke Latin and a little Greek possibly have written something as bad as “All’s Well That Ends Well”? It makes no sense. It was obviously an upper-class twit who wished to disguise his identity so that Vanessa Redgrave could get a job in her old age.

Many people believe that Richard III not only was a good man who would never hurt a fly but actually wrote “She Stoops to Conquer,” and that the so-called author, Oliver Goldsmith, found the play under a tree in 1773 while visiting Bosworth Field, now a multistory car park (clearly an attempt to cover up the evidence of the ruse).

. . .

Mere lack of evidence, of course, is no reason to denounce a theory. Look at intelligent design. The fact that it is bollocks hasn’t stopped a good many people from believing in it. Darwinism itself is only supported by tons of evidence, which is a clear indication that Darwin didn’t write his books himself. They were most likely written by Jack the Ripper, who was probably King Edward VII, since all evidence concerning this has been destroyed. . . . [More here.]


Amy said...

LOL! Ah, yes, is there really any point to all this "scholarship"?

It's hard to believe any one person could write the way Shakespeare wrote. Like the works of Mozart and Michelangelo, Shakespeare's work just defies explanation. Genius doesn't even come close.

Much as I like period pieces, this is one movie I will most likely skip.

johngoldfine said...


Not that there was any doubt, but this article describing how plays actually were developed in Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre ought to put paid to any last quibbles.

laura k said...

Of course that assumes those people are interested in facts and rational thought...

Amy said...

That's really interesting, John. It makes sense, and it also makes me even more in awe of what Shakespeare did. Acting, casting, directing, and writing---and writing some of the most beautiful lines ever written or spoken.

There's a poster I have seen that reprints all the famous expressions that were originated by Shakespeare that today we use without even realizing where they came from. Quite remarkable.

orc said...

“LOL! Ah, yes, is there really any point to all this "scholarship"? ”

The parasitic classes have long been obsessed with trying to prove that they are better than the masses. And there's always good money in sycophancy -- if you can write (without your hands rebelling and choking you to death) garbage that proves™ that some slumming parasite actually did the work that the undeserving poor got credit for you'll get lunch tickets for life.