Monday, April 30, 2007

PLAYERS - The Mysterious Identity of William Shakespeare - BOOK REVIEW

Work in Progress Blog is watching In Search of Shakspeare on PBS. I havent seen this series yet - mainly because I do not have time or the inclination to sit down and watch TV. The WIP Blog mentions that much of the TV program is based on probablities, possiblities and assumptions.

I am finding that all the books about Shakespeare are written in the same way. Right now I have just finished reading Players by Bertram Fields, who is a Lawyer. Fields is writing from a lawyers point of view and uses ONLY the evidence. And he says the evidence seems to point to there being two men. Shakespeare the playwright, and the Stratford man or the man from Stratford.

He uses phrases such as "this story does not fit the evidence", "we cannot assume", "we do not know the source", "William may have done this", "dates of performance are not conclusive", "we cannot draw any firm conclusion" and so on.

It does get somewhat tedious in having Fields mention the "proof" in each chapter, and then stating all the evidence that indicates why it is not the Stratford man, which means each chapter ends up with no proof.

By the end of the book Fields can only conclude that there were at least 2 men involved, possibly more, with the Stratford men as a front. However he cannot name the playright with any certainty. Fields does admit that in his opinion, the real Shakespeare is Oxford, and Oxford's son-in-law Stanley who continued the charade after Oxford died in 1604.

The evidence does seem to fit.

Friday, April 27, 2007

New edition of the First Folio

There is an article in the Guardian (UK) about a new edition of the First Folio published this year by Andrew Dickson, and a new Biography of the Bard as well.

First Folio - Guardian Newspaper

Sunday April 22, 2007
The Observer

All lovers of England's greatest writer will be repaid handsomely by investing in a new complete works and a forensic biography, says Robert McCrum

Shakespeare Revealed: A Biography, by Rene Weis. John Murray £25, pp444

William Shakespeare: Complete Works, edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen. RSC/ Macmillan £30, pp2,482


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Interesting Photos

On the left is the Shakespeare Memorial at Southwark (where the Globe theatre was located) in London, UK.

On the right is a troupe of dancers wearing Elizabethan costumes.
They dance in the style of the Elizabathan and Renaissance eras.

Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations - Folger Library

William Shakespeare was supposedly born on April 23 and definitely christened on April 26, 1564. April 23rd is also St George's day and St George was the patron saint of England. Which is probably why it has been stated (but NOT proven) that Shakespeare was born on April 23rd.

The fact that Shakespeare also died on April 23rd, to me, is somewhat suspicious. I would not be at all surpised if young William was several months old, possibly even 6 months old (making him born in 1563) when he was baptised. It was not unusual at all for parents to have several children baptised at the same time. It was very common for children to not be baptised until they were 2 or 3 or even 4 years old.

Anyway this week is the 443rd anniversary of Shakespeare's birth. The Folger Library in Washington DC is celebrating its 75th birthday by having an OPEN HOUSE on Sunday (April 29th) from Noon to 4pm.

It’s the one day of the year when the Folger Reading Room is open to everyone for free. And there is birthday cake for everyone!!!

Free children's activities including the following;
Shakespearean fortune-telling;
quill pen writing;
felt pendant-making;
ivy garland-making;
and other Elizabethan crafts.
Plus Elizabethan games.

Other Activities include -
Renaissance music, song, and dance throughout the Folger.
Stories of life in sixteenth-century England.
Shakespeare lovers performing their own bit in "Spontaneous Shakespeare."
Folger Secondary School Shakespeare Festival performances.
Tours of the Reading Rooms and the Elizabethan Garden.
The Reading Rooms feature sixteenth-century tapestries, paintings from scenes of the Bard’s plays, and the famed "Seven Ages of Man" stained glass window.
The Elizabethan Garden features an herb garden with plants popular in Shakespeare’s time and mentioned in his plays.
Mementos for sale at the Folger Shop.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Woolpack Man

This page shows proof that William Shakespeare was a primarily a wool merchant and not a play wright. Yes he was a small time actor in London, but when he was in Stratford, he was known as a wool merchant.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Original Covers

The First Folio Cover 1623

The Original Sonnets 1609

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

More portraits of Shakespeare and some family history too

I found 2 more portraits of Shakespeare.

The Old Player and the Soest portraits of Shakespeare

This site also has some very interesting genealogical research. Just read down the Sitemap and see the high lights. Also here is the HOME button. For the record, there are several interesting pages branching off from the Sitemap main pages.

One of those interesting pages is the Documents page. These documents are the FACTS (proof) of the poet's life. He was in London living as an actor. Then he went back to Stratford and lived like a well off gentleman. But he certainly didn't ACT like a gentleman. He took anyone to court that he could wring more money out of, and he deliberately chose not to pay back the debts his wife took out.

Another page shows the accepted genealogy of William Shakespeare. Is it still correct? That is the question. Here is a PDF page that says Richard Shakespeare was not William's grandfather.

Source documents are the basic building blocks of genealogy. One must always work backwards moving from what is known, to what is unknown. You cannot prove your grandparents are really your grandparents without at least four documents as proof - namely your birth certificate, your parents marriage certificate and both of your parents birth certificates. OK, make that 3 documents since a marriage certificate is not totally necessary. But since it does name the bride & grooms parents - it is very useful.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Another new theory about Shakespeare

Most debates about Shakespeare involve the matter of the real author of the plays. This is based on Shakespeare supposedly being a poor uneducated small-town man, who could not afford to travel to Europe. Therefore someone else who was rich and wealthy and who could afford to travel to Europe, actually wrote the plays, and paid Shakespeare to be the front man.

I found another book that mentions a completely different theory that also seems to fit the facts. And those facts seem to indicate that Shakespeare was actually a spy. He was also apparently quite wealthy in Stratford (supposedly a grain merchant) and yet he played the part of a struggling actor in London.

The Shakespeare Conspiracy

The Shakespeare Secret

What did Shakespeare really look like?

I purchased a new book last week. Called History Play.
It's an alternative biography of the playright Christopher Marlowe. It develops a hypothesis that Marlow was not killed in 1593, but instead went into exile in Europe, and wrote all those plays that are currently attributed to Shakespeare.

I obviously have not read this book yet, but even the back cover says that much of this is conjecture. Appendix 2 shows how computer face-aging technology can age Marlow's face from age 21 through 28 and 36 to age 40. Interestingly enough, that last portrait looks very similar to the Chandos portrait of Shakespeare.

Anyway I went looking for other portraits of Shakespeare. I found a few rather interesting pages on the topic. Just a note about the Sanders portrait which was discovered in 2001. Apparently a number of scholars are saying that they do not believe it to be Shakespeare.

A New Shakespeare Portrait

Pictures of William Shakespeare

The Sanders Portrait

The Sanders Portrait 2

Also a 2005 news item that says the Flowers portrait of Shakespeare (which has an inscription of 1609 on it) has actually been dated to the early 1800s.

Chrome yellow paint, dating from around 1814, had been found embedded in the portrait.
"We now think the portrait dates back to around 1818 to 1840, exactly the time when there was a resurgence of interest in Shakespeare's plays,"

And lastly I came across some facts and trivia about life in Elizabethan times.
Please note that this is a PDF file.

Shakespeare Trivia

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Shakespeare Debate

Also I am currently reading Players by Bertram Fields (A lawyer who represents most of todays rich & famous in Hollywood). I found a transcript of an interview he did on CNN with Larry King.

CNN interview April 16, 2005

And then Bert Fields, the high-powered entertainment lawyer who's repped everyone from Tom Cruise to Steven Spielberg. Now he's trying to get to the bottom of a 400-year old controversy.


KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE one of my favorite people. He is also my attorney, just for the record, Bert Fields, widely regarded as one of the most prominent entertainment attorneys in the world, author of a terrific new book "Players: The Mysterious Identity of William Shakespeare." Bert has written novels, wrote another book called "Royal Blood," which was a terrific read. Are you a Shakespearian freak?

BERT FIELDS, ENTERTAINMENT ATTY: No, not really. I'm a history freak.

KING: What led you into this?

FIELDS: I was always curious about whether or not the guy from Stratford really wrote all those poems and plays, because he had almost no education, sixth grade education at best. He could barely write his name. We have six shaky signatures by the guy and yet, the fellow who wrote the poems and plays, spoke French, Italian, Greek and Latin, had great knowledge of legal terminology, naval...

KING: So you're saying it's obvious it wasn't him.

FIELDS: I'm not saying it's obvious but I'm saying...

KING: ... a good indication.

FIELDS: I'm saying it's pretty likely. The guy who wrote the plays had three times the vocabulary of anybody who was alive at the time. It is just -- it's very difficult to conceive of the guy from Stratford who, as far as we know, had never been out of England, knowing all these things. How do you know about foreign cities and foreign customs and etiquette in court?

KING: As you trace it back, was this a tough investigation?

FIELDS: I don't think it was tough. It was a lot of fun doing it. I enjoyed that. The British were great.

KING: getting over there, right.

FIELDS: Oh, yeah. I thought they would be resentful of an American taking on an English icon. They weren't at all. They were just terrific. I went to the College of Arms in Queen Victoria Street. I said, I'd like to look at William Shakespeare's application for a coat of arms. And they said, oh yeah, sure, bring down this box and set it in front of me, there the original documents and the guy says, will you excuse me. I have to go the men's room. And he's leaving me with these multi-billion dollar documents.

KING: Well, what do we know of the bard?

FIELDS: Well, we know, you got to separate the bard who wrote the poems and plays.

KING: And what do know of the man known as the bard?

FIELD: The Stratford guy?

KING: Yes, the Stratford guy.

FIELDS: He was born in '64, 1564. He went to the local grammar school we think. We don't think he finished.

KING: No biography of him?

FIELDS: Oh, there are dozens of biographies, but most of them talk about the guy who wrote the poems and plays and assume that it was the guy from Stratford. If you just look at what we know about the guy from Stratford, born in 1564, probably went to grammar school, got married because his wife was pregnant. She was eight years older than he was. After three years of marriage and three kids, left her, went to London for 12 years and went on the stage, became an actor. Then later in life went back to Stratford and did a lot of kind of petty selfish things. That's one of the problems you have is this guy didn't behave like the fellow who wrote those marvelous plays. He was very litigious. He sued people for a pound and 15 shillings. He hoarded grain so he could up the price at the time of great shortage. He just did all kinds of...

KING: Was he wealthy?

FIELDS: He was more wealthy than you would think an actor would be and yet if you look, there is no record of his ever being paid as a playwright.


FIELDS: No. He did plays for a guy named Henslow (ph) who kept meticulous records of every playwright he ever paid. There is not any record of this guy being paid.

KING: Then it's obvious, how did he get famous? How did he...

FIELDS: Well, it isn't obvious because no one will really ever be able to prove it, one way or another. T.S. Eliot said the best you could hope for in talking about Shakespeare is to be wrong in some new and different way, because you can never prove it. How did, why did this happen? It was not done for a nobleman or an aspiring politician like Francis Bacon.

KING: It wasn't Francis Bacon.

FIELDS: Well it could have been Francis Bacon. It could have been Oxford. It could have been Christopher Marlow. Some people say it was Queen Elizabeth. I don't think so. Wouldn't it be (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to think so. A nobleman or an aspiring politician like Bacon could not write for the public theater. Public theater was disreputable, officially frowned upon.

KING: Low class.

FIELDS: Yeah, you couldn't do it. So a guy like Oxford would write plays for his friends, couldn't do it for the public theater, but if he could find a young, venal actor from Stratford who would pretend that these were his plays and pay him a little money to do this, that would be fine.

KING: And you investigate all this mysterious identity. How old was Shakespeare when he died?

FIELDS: He was 52. That was old in those days.

KING: He did not live a long life by today's...

FIELDS: By today's standard no...

KING: Was he acclaimed in his time?

FIELDS: Oh yes and that's one of the curious things. By the time the Stratford guy died, William Shakespeare, the poet and playwright, was famous and yet when the Stratford guy died, there was no mention that the great Shakespeare had died. Why?

KING: Why?

FIELDS: Because maybe he wasn't the great Shakespeare. How could they not mention that he died? And yet there's nothing, not a word. When other authors died, there are huge, huge outpourings.

KING: Why didn't the person who was writing it, once the acclaim occurred, take credit?

FIELDS: Because it still wasn't done to write for the theater. If you're the Earl of Oxford, you don't want to be famous for writing for the theater.

KING: The Earl of Oxford doesn't want to be known as the guy who wrote "Hamlet."

FIELDS: That's right. He does not. He's doesn't mind if a couple of friends know. He likes that. That's good for his ego, but he can't publicly be known as the guy who writes for the theater. In the case of Christopher Marlowe, there's even a better reason. Christopher Marlowe was wanted. If they found the papers that were attributed to him and were heretical, were blasphemous, he was probably going to be burned at the stake and all of a sudden, he gets into a fight over a check in a restaurant (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and gets killed in this fight. He's with three buddies and all of sudden he's buried. They had a coroner's inquest. It's all covered up. Maybe Christopher Marlowe went to Italy and wrote Shakespeare, maybe.

KING: ...didn't die.

FIELDS: ... didn't die at all. That's one theory.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Bert Fields. The book is "Players: The Mysterious Identity of William Shakespeare." We'll be right back with Bert Fields.


KING: His previous book was "Royal Blood," Richard III and the Mystery of the Princesses." It's the Richardian book of the year award from the Richardian Society. And now he brings this attorney's approach to history in "Players: The Mysterious Identity of William Shakespeare." His name is Bert Fields. He's renowned throughout the entertainment industry. Do you think it may have been two people?

FIELDS: I think it was two people. I think that the basic author, who was a man of enormous learning, widely traveled, a sense of great humanity and a sensitivity, wrote a first draft, maybe a second draft, turned the play over to the front, who was the guy from Stratford and I think the guy from Stratford, who know a lot about the stage. He was a great realist, would say, hey, boss. This don't play. We got to change the ending here in let's say "Merchant of Venice." He said, we're going to make fun of the Jew at the end. You can't just let this guy go and so they added that he has to convert to Christianity, Shylock. When Portia, who makes that great speech about the quality of mercy is not strained and then immediately after, she merciless to Shylock. I think that the Stratford guy added that at the end, the conversion because that would play. The audience loved it.

KING: How did Shakespeare handle his fame?

FIELDS: Well, if you're talking about the Stratford guy...

KING: The Stratford guy. You can him in the book, the Stratford guy.

FIELDS: Well, because if you don't, you get confused. Many people who have written books on the subject say, keep talking about the things that Shakespeare did and they assume they were done by the Stratford man. But...

KING: The Stratford man is the puppet here.

FIELDS: Well, that's the theory. The theory is...

KING: What theory?

FIELDS: Well, as I say, I can't prove it, no one will ever prove it. No one will ever prove the other. But it's just what I think is more logical than not and I think that he went around -- he applied for a coat of armed as I told you, because he wanted to be a gentleman. If you have a coat of arms, then you could be called gentleman and after that, he was William Shakespeare, gentleman and he had a model, not without right and Ben Johnson, who was very funny guy, put on a shoe in which he made fun of Shakespeare and he had a pompous guy to update a coat of arms with the motto not without mustard. And Shakespeare knew this was for him and I suspect he was somewhat upset.

KING: Did the Stratford guy marry?

FIELDS: The Stratford guy married very early in life. I think that's when he left his wife after three years of marriage and went on to live in London, came back to Stratford at the very end, not at the very end, a few years before the end and I guess went back to his wife.

KING: Stories that he might have been the real writer, gay?

FIELDS: Yes. I say yes, not that was definitely gay, but it's a real issue. If you read the sonnets, he's writing to a beautiful young man and he says you're the master, mistress of my passion. Can I compare thee to a summer's day, things like that, which is not -- I don't say that to you when we meet or at least they don't know about it. So many people believe he was gay. Oscar Wilde believed he was gay, but Oscar Wilde was gay.

KING: How great a writer was whoever wrote this?

FIELDS: Incredible. I think he's...

KING: No one in his league.

FIELDS: No one in his league. I think you take those plays and the more I read them, the more I thought, this guy is just amazing.

KING: And we use his language all the time and we're not even knowing it.

FIELDS: All the time.

KING: Shakespeare's quoted every day and in everyday language.

FIELDS: Every day. In court I use it all the time, all the time. There's a wonderful story about a southern trial lawyer who quotes from Shakespeare and says to the jury, the Bible say and he gives a quote from Shakespeare and his friend, who was visiting from New York said, hey, that's Shakespeare. That's not the Bible. And the trial lawyer said, listen, I know my juries and I'm not going to tell them it's Shakespeare.

KING: Do you have two lives Bert.

FIELDS: At least.

KING: You're a lawyer by day, writer by night.

FIELDS: Writer by night.

KING: How do -- with all your clients and as busy as you are, how do you get the time?

FIELDS: I do it mostly weekends, vacations and occasional trips to London to do the research. I just love it and it's a hobby.

KING: Working on another one?

FIELDS: I'm about to start.


FIELDS: Television interviewers.

KING: What fascinates you about Richard III, Shakespeare? Why?

FIELDS: Mysteries -- they're historical mysteries. Remember Richard III, there was a big mystery. Did he kill his nephews in the tower of London? Was he this hunchbacked withered guy and so I wanted to find out if he really was and I paced the tower of London, did all kinds of stuff like that. But solving the mystery is part of the fun. As far as why English, because it's my basic language and I would hate to try and do research in French, because my French really extends to French plumbing and eating.

KING: Is it true that the actors have said, you can never really play Shakespeare? I mean you can attempt to. You can't master it.

FIELDS: I think people can master it. What's interesting about it is the really great rolls have so much room for interpretation. You take a role like Shylock. We were talking before. I mean Shylock has been played all the way from a monster.


FIELDS: hugely sympathetic guy and you can read all...

KING: The same language.

FIELDS: The same language, the same words, the same lines and everything but you can interpret those lines in different ways and that's what's great about Shakespeare.

KING: Bert, it's an honor having you with us.

FIELDS: A pleasure to be with you Larry.

KING: The book is "Players: The Mysterious Identity of William Shakespeare," written by one of the best lawyers there is, Bert Fields. It's published by Regan Books. More after this.


Theatrebooks and Shakespeare

Welcome to TheatreBooks Online

TheatreBooks was established in 1975 by Leonard McHardy and John Harvey, who met while working in one of Toronto's "alternate" theatres. The store soon became a mecca for theatre professionals, students and ardent fans.

I live in Toronto, and have just discovered this website. I didnt even know such a shop existed. I must find some time & some spare cash to go check out the shop.

In the meantime you can browse their shelves.

Shakespeare Books from Theatrebooks

Books about the Life & Times of Shakespeare from Theatrebooks

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Shakespeare & Marlow

Have added a number of new links to the Sidebar. While I was searching out & reading these links, I started thinking more about the possibility that Kit Marlowe might have been Shakespeare. Which is why I have added some Marlow links to the Sidebar.

I must read my Shakespeare books, and find a few books about Christopher Marlow.
I know very little about him & his plays.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Who was the real William Shakespeare?

I'll bet you're asking - Who do I think wrote those Plays? I have not yet made up my mind who the author is. Here's another post I wrote a while ago from BiblioHistoria.

I can tell you who I don't think it is, and that is Francis Bacon. If ciphers were the ONLY way one can determine an author, then all the authors determined by this method, IMO, would be faked. Some years ago, a book called "The Bible Code" was published. I briefly looked through it, but when I saw that several pages were nothing but number grids with certain numbers circled, I put the book down and have never read it to date. I have been of the mind that ciphers are not very accurate because one can make a cipher or a number grid read anything they want it to say. You can choose every second letter, every 3rd letter, every 5th or 15th letter, even every 22nd letter (or any other sequence you like) and you can make the cipher say whatever you want. I do not consider that to be scientific or accurate. The Case for Francis Bacon being the playwright depends on ciphers as proof.

Another Website about the Shakespeare authorship debate, has some interesting points on why de Vere/Oxford is not the author. Unfortunately, IMO there is insufficient proof to rule Oxford out despite this specific site saying that the proof was adequate. This site tends to accept that just because Oxford was not listed as being there, therefore he was NOT there.

As I have been told over and over again, you cannot prove a negative, and just because a persons name is not mentioned on a list - does NOT mean they were NOT there. A name on a list only proves that they were there - which is called positive proof.

Who wrote Shakespeare?

I mentioned a while ago that I was interested in writing a Bibliography about the Shakespeare Authorship debate. After a bit of surfing this morning, (and having purchased a few more books on the subject over the last 2 weeks) I've decided that I want to do this bibliography online. I'm not going to advertise this - not much anyway. Just some links between my 3 blogs (BiblioHistoria, HistoriaBooks & BiblioShakespeare).

Here's the original post from BiblioHistoria.

I had a real bad experience with Shakespeare in High School. Apart from seeing the Olivia Hussey film version of Romeo and Juliet, the one and only Shakespeare play I studied during 3 years of English classes was Macbeth. At the same time, I also had a very boring History teacher as well. All she ever did was to hand out purple inked (mimeographed) lists of dates and events and told us to memorise them for the exams. So by the time I left HS, I hated Macbeth, I hated History and I hated Shakespeare. That was over 20 years ago.

I have since discovered the wonders of History. Especially the glorious History of the Elizabethan Golden era, and now I read anything I can, about the people of that era. Which is why I'm happy to read about Shakespeare and Marlowe, but I'm still somewhat reluctant to read the actual plays.

I have of course seen a few Shakespeare plays done as movies over the last 20 years. Movies such as Clair Danes & Leonardo's version of Romeo and Juliet, Keanu Reeves, Denzel Washington and Emma Thompson in Much Ado about Nothing. And both recent versions of Hamlet - the long one and the short one. Being a visually oriented person, I much prefer the movies to the written script. The visuals and context make it much easier to understand the script.

Without planning to do so, I have recently acquired 3 books about the mysterious identity of William Shakespeare.

A novel called Chasing Shakespeares by Sarah Smith (2003 trade paperback)
A First Edition of Players by Bertram Fields ( 2005 Regan Books)
"Shakespeare" by Another Name by Mark Anderson (2005 Gotham Books)

I think I will start collecting books about Shakespeares authorship. And maybe write a bibliography of books supporting and questioning Shakespeares qualifications as a playwright. It's an intriguing subject, and I love mysteries. Especially since I don't remember hearing anything about this controversy back in High School. Do they teach the students these days that Shakespeare may not be who everyone thinks he was? That he may possibly not be the real author? I doubt it. That would be thinking "outside of the box". And schools are not designed for that type of education.