Much Ado About Something.
March 2, 2002 12:11 PM   Subscribe

Much Ado About Something. Fascinating Salon review of a new documentary investigating whether Shakespeare was really just a front-man for Christopher Marlowe, the true author of all the Bard's work. At first it sounds like just so much literary conspiracy theory, except unlike most conspiracy theories this one seems to gain more credibility the further you delve into it. The film just wrapped up a two- week opening run in New York City, and should be arriving soon at theaters in your area.
posted by hincandenza (45 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Full disclosure: because I know Metafilter heavily frowns on self-linking, I'm worried I shouldn't have been the one to post this since I am Michael Rubbo. But this is a topic very close to my heart, one on which I invested many months of labor, and I thought the Metafilter community would appreciate this excellently written Salon review (and my film itself, of course!) as an introduction to the heated debate over the authorship of the Shakespeare canon.
posted by hincandenza at 12:14 PM on March 2, 2002

Shouldn't you have admitted this on the front page? Disclosure up front would have made this seem a little less like self promotion.
posted by Doug at 12:23 PM on March 2, 2002

Nuh-uh. . .

Fascinating stuff though. I read the article earlier and was going to link it myself. Can't wait to see the film.

Oh yeah:

Nuh-uh. . .
posted by crasspastor at 12:25 PM on March 2, 2002

Wow, there does seem to be a lot of stuff behind this. I guess what it would mean for me is not exactly that the author of Shakespeare's stuff was really Marlowe, but that the person who wrote Shakespeare's plays was the same as the person who wrote Dr Faustus etc. What I mean is that we know these people through what they wrote, so at least from a literary point of view what's interesting is the writer's progression from one work to another.

Of course the other consequence would be: poor Stratford!
posted by Gaz at 12:36 PM on March 2, 2002

You probably shoulda 'fessed up front, but you did 'fess inside, and it IS a cool topic, so I hope people don't beat you up for it. (Can we consider his wrists slapped and move on?)
posted by donkeyschlong at 12:36 PM on March 2, 2002

This is a very good discussion of the ins and outs of Shakespeare attibution.

A good analogy can be found in painting. Every now and then on the Antiques Roadshow, someone will show up with something they've always believed to be an old master, when in reality it's a painting by a minor or even amateur artist with a famous signature slapped on it to cash in on the name.

There are a couple of plays in the canon which have always seemed a bit flakey. 'A Comedy of Errors' maybe, and 'Two Gentlemen ...' And I've never been comfortable with 'Henry VIII'
posted by feelinglistless at 1:11 PM on March 2, 2002

[A worthwhile link, hincandenza.]

This theory makes no sense if you read Henry VI, Part I (Shakespeare's presumed first play). The play as a whole is mediocre, but has moments of genius, and touches on themes Shakespeare was interested in throughout his career. It is a very different sort of work (to my ear) than Marlowe's, and at the same time it is noticably different from the later Shakespeare -- and it is believed to have been written in 1592, before Marlowe (allegedly, I guess) died. Of course anything's possible, and Marlowe may have already started to change the character of his writing before he supposedly faked his death, but I don't buy it.
posted by mattpfeff at 1:13 PM on March 2, 2002

Was Shakespeare Italian?
posted by feelinglistless at 1:17 PM on March 2, 2002

hincandenza I think it is cool that you posted it here. Now give us some first hand details, some insight into that development process, or perhaps a funny story about the making of it.
posted by RobertLoch at 1:17 PM on March 2, 2002

In some cases (like this one), I think some level of self-linking is ok. I hope the mefi member that runs all things shakespeare (discussed here) gets a word in about this film.
posted by mathowie at 1:17 PM on March 2, 2002

In its favour though, is that writers to this day often change their style to fit the material, especially in screenwriting. M. Night Shyamalan wrote Stuart Little (some of it). Lawrence Kasden has written everything from The Big Chill to The Empire Strikes Back.
posted by feelinglistless at 1:27 PM on March 2, 2002

And while I'm here does anyone know of a good discussion somewhere of plays which haven't been inducted into the canon but could be by Shakespeare ... I remember seeing a book a few years ago which re-printed a manuscript and gave an analysis of why it could the bard's work.
posted by feelinglistless at 1:31 PM on March 2, 2002

Am I the only one who doesn't care who wrote the plays? Don't they stand on their own as masterpieces regardless of who penned them? It's not about court battles over royalties so what's the big deal?
posted by plaino at 1:35 PM on March 2, 2002

I thought the earl of oxford was the front-runner?

I've always favored the theory that william shakespeare wrote shakespeare....
posted by rebeccablood at 1:39 PM on March 2, 2002

I thought the smart money was on Edward DeVere as the "real" Shakespeare.
posted by briank at 1:40 PM on March 2, 2002

Drat, Rebecca hit the post button one nanosecond before me.
posted by briank at 1:40 PM on March 2, 2002

Can a strong case be made that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare's works? If we assume Marlowe wrote everything that we now attribute to Will then how do we prove that it was Will perhaps, not Marlowe or Bacon, who was the true author?

Praise from Jonson makes no sense; he was merely praising the plays. A lack of documentation on W.S.'s life, the paucity of his education, the lack of a comprehensive library such as was found to be held by Marlowe/Ledoux is not enough.

Perhaps we cannot believe that sometimes geniuses arise outside of the margins of the educated circles. A few hundred years from now will they be debating whether Einstein was really Poincare?
posted by vacapinta at 1:48 PM on March 2, 2002

I am not at all concerned about self-disclosure and that entire business but having done some work with Shakeare and textual analysis (a book on the anon. Edward 3rd (no: not Marlowe's Edward II), clearly Marlowe and Shakepeare are not one and the same. No way. That Shake was indebted etc, of courwse, as in Rich II=Ed II.
That a handful of fiction writers believe this or that does not make much of an argument, since none mentioned was heavily involved in Shakes. scholarshi and each, other than Freud, was a fiction writer.
I don't know of any serious scholar of the period who believes Marlowe "was" Shakespeare-- And the mere fact that Marlowe died well before Shake. later plays itself puts such claims to rest.
posted by Postroad at 1:48 PM on March 2, 2002

hincandenza, are you really Michael Rubbo? Or perhaps you are a front for another film maker?
posted by th3ph17 at 1:58 PM on March 2, 2002

Is anyone else tired of the overuse of the concept of "conspiract theory"?

The author states:
I used to think the same as most semi-educated people about the Shakespeare-authorship controversy: that everyone knows the guy wrote his own stuff and we can totally prove it and it isn't really a controversy at all but part of a common urge to find conspiracies all over the place

So isn't this less a "conspiracy theory" and more the author's ignorance about the serious debate regarding the authorship of the plays and sonnets?
posted by pixelgeek at 2:19 PM on March 2, 2002

I'm no Shakespeare scholar, but it has always amused me that there are those narrow-minded enough to say that a middle-class man could never have been educated enough to write lines like "my library was dukedom large enough"...
posted by Hildago at 2:23 PM on March 2, 2002

Hildago, I think the issue is less a class-warfare suggestion that a person of the likes of Shakespeare could never pen such lines and more that there's little evidence he was also exposed to knowledge of intimate royal court matters, or scholarly enough to read understand the foreign language sources used as the basis for various plots, or that his daughters would be illiterate given the customs of the time and the strength of female characters in his plays; why would the man who was the greatest writer in the English language never teach his daughters to read? Meanwhile, Marlowe's life experience seem to make him extremely well-suited to be the "real" Shakespeare or at least one of the leading candidates.

Also interesting: this review of the documentary notes that the source for much of Rubbo's ponderings is Calvin Hoffman's 1955 work "The Murder of the Man Who Was Shakespeare". Hoffman's estate on his death pledged that whoever could definitively prove that Marlowe was the the "real" Shakespeare would be entitled to a prize of one half of a million pounds. Certainly this would add a tinge of fervency on the part of the Marlovians, no? :)

Oh, and please read this- I'm no authority on Shakespeare or Marlowe, just an inept prankster.
posted by hincandenza at 3:02 PM on March 2, 2002

just an inept prankster...

You could have fooled me ...

... oh you did ... right ...
posted by feelinglistless at 3:55 PM on March 2, 2002

A course on Shakespeare I took several years ago suggested that the vast majority of plots, existential/philosophical ponderings, and historical background evident in Shakespeare could be found, in essence, in only three texts: Ovid's Metamorphoses (compare Pyramus and Thisbe with Romeo and Juliet), Holinshead's Chronicles of England (e.g. Macbeth), and Montaigne's essays (compare On Cannibals to II i 148-169 of The Tempest). All of these texts would have been available in English to any of the other proposed Shakespeares, including the Earl, Francis Bacon, and Willie the actor/merchant. Of course, none of that diminishes the Bard's achievement, it just weakens the in situ arguments the other possibilities seem to hinge on.

Why does a writer have to go to Italy to write Two Gentleman of Verona but doesn't have to stab Julius Caesar or get shipwrecked on an island with a forest sprite and a cheeky monkey? Good writers research their subjects. They do today, they did in the Elizabethan age.

Oh... and I like not being certain of who Shakespeare was. It's the Caramilk secret of literature.
posted by ludicdruid at 4:39 PM on March 2, 2002

here's the article in harper's that almost convinced me that shakespeare was the earl of oxford.

I wonder if you could do this kind of thing with anyone? like, could we do it with james joyce, or virginia woolf? people are struck by the eerie similarities between shakespeare's work and the lives of at least two other men. is it actually an easy exercise that no one has taken with anyone else?

also, I am amelia earhart.
posted by rebeccablood at 5:05 PM on March 2, 2002

Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare. The genius of the plays in in the stories and language, and a lot of the politics and geography is sketchy and altered to suit his dramatic needs.

For example, The Winter's Tale features a shipwreck on the coast of landlocked Bohemia (now Czech Republic); Two Gentlemen of Verona features travelling by ship between the two inland cities of Verona and Milan.

This particular article is pretty half-assed. "We have no paper trail of Shakespeare as a playwright or poet." We also have no paper trail of anyone else.

"title-page evidence, where it's mentioned that such-and-such a play was published under such a name" This is good enough now to establish authorship now; why wouldn't it be good enough then? If I buy a play with Neil Simon's name on it, then I assume Neil Simon wrote it.

It's pretty shady to cite variant examples of Shakespeare's spelling of his own name as evidence that he isn't Shakespeare, then to cite a variant example of Christopher Marlowe's spelling of his name as evidence that he is the real Shakespeare. Spelling was not standardized during this pre-dictionary time.

The article cites Hamlet, Prince of Denmark as evidence of "an inside view of court intrigues in Scotland."

Finally, Shakespeare's son: Hamnet. QED
posted by kirkaracha at 5:06 PM on March 2, 2002

I'm a pretty firmly in the Stratfordian camp, but ultimately
"William Shakespeare" == "The Author of the 'Shakespearian Plays' "
to me, so even if William Shakespeare was just a pen name that QE used to allow her to mingle with the groundlings, she's still William Shakespeare to me.

...except... I refuse to believe it's that Oxfordian prat. That's just smug academician talk. Flap eared whoresons, the lot of 'em!
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 5:09 PM on March 2, 2002

Hincandenza -- You fooled me too, btw

I think the issue is less a class-warfare suggestion that a person of the likes of Shakespeare could never pen such lines and more that there's little evidence he was also exposed to knowledge of intimate royal court matters, or scholarly enough to read understand the foreign language sources used as the basis for various plots..

Bah. As others have pointed out, Shakespeare was neither dead-on with his portrayals of those esoteric subjects, nor were the subjects themselves so esoteric that one man in his young life could not research them enough to pull off a good bullshit if he was a writer of quality. And Shakespeare is, by most accounts, a writer of quality.

What's more, there may be something to be said for historical context. Periods of English history that only scholars are interested in now may well have been streetcorner knowledge in the late 1500s. So-called 'intimate court knowledge' could very well have been well-chewed gossip back then, too.

why would the man who was the greatest writer in the English language never teach his daughters to read?

Seems unusual now, but back then of course it would have been equally unusual to allow your female children to read and write, regardless of your progressiveness in other matters. Virginia Woolf rips this specific anglo-saxon custom to shreds in her most famous essay. I don't see too much of a contradiction, myself.

But like I say, I'm no Shakespearean scholar, I just think that the simplest explanation is best until there is more than circumstantial evidence to contradict it.
posted by Hildago at 5:50 PM on March 2, 2002

hincandenza:... investigating whether Shakespeare was really just a front-man for Christopher Marlowe

It sometimes amuses me that people who complain about Shakespeare's paper trail don't bat an eye at the fact that Marlowe's is magnitudes less -- and what we do have is confusing as hell. Did you know there were two Christopher Marlowe's at Cambridge? You so sure the writer was the spy? :) I happen to think he probably was to some extent, but the evidence is scant and circumstantial and exacerbated by the dozen-plus spellings of the name: Marlowe, Marly, Morley, Marlin, etc. Rubbo's entire premises dies a quick death if Marlowe wasn't a spy. It's not the sort of thing I'd be comfortable building a "theory" on.

The best case for Marlowe is probably to be found on Peter Farey's homepage. Peter's interviewed in Rubbo's film and mentioned in the Salon piece. He's a good friend of mine, but we politely disagree on some strategic points. I'm a great Marlowe fan, but I think he died in 1593, just like his coronor's report says.

I think the issue is less a class-warfare suggestion that a person of the likes of Shakespeare could never pen such lines ...

There is certainly an element of class-snobbery, particularly in the early dissenters, whose alternate candidates are invariably aristocrats. But ask yourself: "What is more valuable to a playwright -- University training or hands-on theatrical experience?" Before you answer, consider that Ben Jonson (who came from much humbler roots than Shakespeare) had no University training and was considered the greatest classical scholar of his time. His plays were much more popular than Shakespeare's (whose genius was mostly appreciated later). Moreover, why don't we have "Greene on the Green" festivals each summer? Why are all the University Wits (except for Marlowe) pretty much forgotten? Look at the use of the cellerage in "Hamlet" to give the voice of the ghost a resonant disembodied quality, examine how synchronized the rapid scene chances in "Macbeth" are (you cannot appreciate the incredible timing, the juggling of entrances and exits, and general stagecraft until you stage it) -- these are not things written in a grotto by some idle rich between fox-hunts. These were written by someone with hands-on nutz-n-boltz theatrical experience.

By the way ... Shakespeare is riddled with simple errors. They do not detract from the power and genius of the works, but it is difficult to imagine a well-traveled and learned aristocrat putting a coast in landlocked Bohemia (Winter's Tale), tides in the tideless Mediterranean (TGV, Tempest) and refering to a "rough" and "swelling" Adriatic Sea (Shrew), mountains in Denmark (Hamlet), the brittle grasp of classical mythology (Troilus), having characters travel by water between the two inland cities of Verona and Milan (TGV), the active "sail-making" trade in the inland city of Bergamo (Shrew), refering to painter Gialio Romano as a sculptor (Winter's Tale), etc, etc.

But no one pretends that snobbery is the only motivation -- and it probably has less bearing in Marlowe's case. For that, I place the blame squarely on the romanticized image we've built for Shakespeare. We see these mind-blowing plays, plumbing the depths of the human soul and we imagine the author himself must (by necessity) be larger than life. We're shocked to learn that he was a rather mundane and placid individual. That Shakespeare (the man) does not live up to the myth we created for him is not his fault -- it's more of a commentary on our own preconceived biases. He was writting stories -- mostly filched. It's called "verisimilitude", folks. Shakespeare is a victim of his own writing.

there's little evidence he was also exposed to knowledge of intimate royal court matters, ...

Why do you imagine he needed to be? His representation of court life was not realistic (unless you truly believe nobles spoke in iambic pentameter). His court scenes don't differ significantly from courts portrayed in hundreds of other plays he no doubt saw. He exhibited no special knowledge that wasn't freely gossiped about.

... or scholarly enough to read understand the foreign language sources used as the basis for various plots ...

Shakespeare used fewer sources than you made imagine. His father was essentially mayor of Stratford for a time (you do realize he was middle-class, right?) As such, he was entitled to attend the local grammar school for free -- a school that had university educated headmasters. One in particular was the poet John Brownsword. Students there would be drilled extensively in Latin and Greek, using many of the same classical sources that heavily influenced the Shakespearean canon. He also lived with a French family for a time.

... or that his daughters would be illiterate ...

Who says they were? We have his daughter Susan's signature. Judith may or may not have been able to write. We simply don't know. Absence of proof is not proof of absence. Anti-Stratfordians point to documents with "marks" to confirm illiteracy, but this is very iffy. Lawyers often provided space for marks as a matter of course. If it's there, people tend to use it. It'd be like someone shoving a document at you with space for initials. Are you gonna go: "No! I demand to write my full signature"?

Gaz: Wow, there does seem to be a lot of stuff behind this.

Only "the stuff dreams are made on" (Tempest 4.1) "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing"(Macbeth 5.5). It is only a serious debate in the eyes of the anti-Stratfordians.

pixelgeek: Is anyone else tired of the overuse of the concept of "conspiract theory"?

What else applies?

Shakespeare's name is on over 40 title pages, Robert Greene attacked him in print as an "upstart crow ... clothed in our feathers" [sidebar: about five months earlier, both Greene and Shakespeare had plays at the Rose. Shakespeare's was a rousing success. Greene's tanked. Marlowe also had a play there within a month; intensely different stylistically than Shakespeare's], Shakespeare was mentioned by name in the Parnasus plays, he acted in a play by Ben Jonson, Frances Meres set Shakespeare aside for special praise in 1598 in a document that also mentions Marlowe and DeVere (ie: three distinct people), he was mentioned by Leonard Diggs, his family was granted a coat of arms, he was listed as a shareholder in the same company that performed his plays and he remembered two of them in his will, his Stratford monument says: "In judgement a Nestor, in wit a Socrates, in art a Virgil" (hardy the epitath of a mere grain merchant). There are more records -- certainly not as many as we'd like, but enough to establish a solid case.

The ONLY way to make any revisionist theory fly is to imagine a giant conspiracy. This is very handy for polemics -- the fact that there is no evidence for a conspiracy sudden itself becomes evidence that it was a great conspiracy by virtue of the fact that it left no evidence! And if you do run into anything that torpedos your scenario (eg: Ben Jonson writing commendatory verses to his friend William Shakespeare), you just widen your ring of conspirators to account for it (ie: Jonson was obviously in on it too!).

I predict, in 250 years, people will be saying Mark Twain kept Ambrose Bierce locked in his basement humidor and forced him to write all of his works. Try to disprove it. A good conspiracy buff will have ready-answers to shred any proof you offer. (If people can concoct scenarios to deny recent events like the Holocaust or moon-landings, why should we be surprised when Shakespeare is targeted? And btw: one of the people interviewed in Rubbo's film *does* think the moon landings were fake).

In closing, I'd like to apologize to Matt for droning on (it's an important issue to me). I'd also like to direct people to The Shakespeare Authorship Page . It's a sane and scholarly site run by Dave Kathman and Terry Ross.
posted by RavinDave at 8:58 PM on March 2, 2002

feelinglistless:... does anyone know of a good discussion somewhere of plays which haven't been inducted into the canon but could be by Shakespeare ... I remember seeing a book a few years ...

You are thinking of Charles Hamilton's identification of "The Second Maiden's Tragedy" as the lost Shakespearean play "Cardenio". No one believes him. The general consensus is that Thomas Middleton wrote "The Second Maiden's Tragedy". Hamilton's analysis is very subjective. The fate of "Cardenio" (said to be a collaboration with Fletcher) is not pretty to ponder. It was lost, but in 1727 Lewis Theobald claimed to have three copies. Rather than publishing them, he canabalized them into his own play "Double Falsehood". Scholars hope he was just kidding, but suspect he wasn't.

Most people in a position to know now believe Shakespeare at least had a hand in "Edward III" (particularly the Countess scenes). Arden includes it in their collected works. I transcribed and annotated it for my home page, but am re-doing everything at the moment.
posted by RavinDave at 8:59 PM on March 2, 2002

Just wondering...the movie (which I saw, and liked, thought I disagreed with most of the people in it) eventually advances the rather out there theory that Marlowe survived, moved to Italy, and somehow "collaborated" with Shakespeare from afar. The primary benefit of this theory (to Marlovians, anyway) is that it explains how a dummy like W.S. could have knowledge of so many Latin, Italian, and German texts that at that time had not been translated.

But this got me wondering. We know about the collaborative efforts of playwrights in that time. We also know that down the years many authors (include people like, say, Stephen Ambrose and Doris Kearns Goodwin in our own day) have used teams of researchers to dig up historical details for one reason or another.

In this case, even if Shakespeare had incredible poetical ability and absolutely no book learning, what need would he have for Marlowe? Couldn't any undergraduate sent down from Oxford helped him to the same knowledge, summarized the stories, translated when absolutely necessary?

The movie made me think again (as did the Harper's articles a while back) about Shakespeare's works in the context of their time, but it didn't convince me of anything.

Go Stratford!
posted by oddovid at 1:13 AM on March 3, 2002

Thanks, RavinDave.
posted by feelinglistless at 1:15 AM on March 3, 2002

I wonder how many people spend more time watching movies about, and gossiping about, the man than reading the words?

What would it matter if someone proved that a hostler from Hull wrote all of Shakespeare on lunch breaks? The author would still be dead and gone, and you would still have the plays and poems. If it makes you feel better, pretend Shakespeare was a black lesbian -- and thus the Dark Lady addresses herself -- but read Shakespeare, not about her.
posted by pracowity at 1:25 AM on March 3, 2002

Better yet, don't read them, as they were never meant to be read; support your local theater.
posted by Hildago at 9:59 AM on March 3, 2002

Problem is, my local theatre has no clue about mounting an intelligent Shakespearean production. They think no one will come unless they put Falstaff in a swamp with gators nipping at his butt, or do Othello with tommy-guns, or Lear in the old West. If I see one more hack director braying about a "new and innovative interpretations" for this god-awful drivel I'm gonna stake him in a bear-baiting pit.
posted by RavinDave at 10:11 AM on March 3, 2002

Heh. I'm definitely a Stratfordian, but I also refuse to put him on a pedestal: the man was a consummate entertainer and wrote for the farthing-crowd as well as the box seats. (Or whatever they were called.) The temporal and historical distortions in the original works hardly call for a strict and unmoving interpretation (should we stage the Italian plays as if to resemble real Italy in the 15th century, or a 16-century Englishman's vision of Italy in the 15th century (perhaps being the closest to the original), or as something that would evoke the same sense in a modern audience? Whatever you do, for god's sake make them entertaining and interesting so you can bring the language to life. Dry and dusty and resented by schoolkids should not be this man's fate.

There's a thought I've always liked in regard to the man, and I agree with almost everything RavinDave wrote about him above. There's a parlor game about discussing which historical figures you'd like to invite to dinner. Almost a century ago, some wit thoughtfully replied to another (I've lost the source, so bear with me), who had suggested Shakespeare would make an endlessly fascinating conversationalist, with the following deeply thoughtful observation: "Was there ever a more dedicated listener in the history of the English language?"

Reading the plays, you know this must have been true. He would have been the type to sit in the corner at a party and watch people interact. This seems to be much more consistent with the idea of a middle-class actor from the sticks, rather than a University-educated swell with pretensions of grandeur and a knack for getting into bar fights.
posted by dhartung at 12:40 PM on March 3, 2002

Back when I was playing The Stone, one of the puzzles was about Shakespeare's identity. In the course of research, one of the puzzlers unearthed this article from (IIRC) Games magazine. Rather than base the theory on scholarship, it is based on the possibility of a cryptic puzzle on the Shake's tombstone.

Fascinating and fun stuff. Whoever wrote the plays, I think he would be amused.
posted by frykitty at 3:34 PM on March 3, 2002

Shakespeare also invented a lot of the English language: this article on Shakespeare's Influence credits him with inventing over 1700 words, and the book The Story of English has this interesting example of his work:
If you cannot understand my argument,and declare "It's Greek to me", you are quoting Shakespeare; if you claim to be more sinned against than sinning, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you recall your salad days, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you act more in sorrow than in anger, if your wish is father to the thought, if your lost property has vanished into thin air, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you have ever refused to budge an inch or suffered from green-eyed jealousy, if you have played fast and loose, if you have been tongue-tied, a tower of strength, hoodwinked or in a pickle, if you have knitted your brows, made a virtue of necessity, insisted on fair play, slept not one wink, stood on ceremony, danced attendance (on your lord and master), laughed yourself into stitches, had short shrift, cold comfort or too much of a good thing, if you have seen better days or lived in a fool's paradise - why, be that as it may, the more fool you, for it is a foregone conclusion that you are (as good luck would have it) quoting Shakespeare; if you think it is early days and clear out bag and baggage, if you think it is high time and that that is the long and short of it, if you believe that the game is up and that truth will out even if it involves your own flesh and blood, if you lie low till the crack of doom because you suspect foul play, if you have your teeth set on edge (at one fell swoop) without rhyme or reason, then - to give the devil his due - if the truth were known (for surely you have a tongue in your head) you are quoting Shakespeare; even if you bid me good riddance and send me packing, if you wish I were dead as a door-nail, if you think I am an eyesore, a laughing stock, the devil incarnate, a stony-hearted villain, bloody-minded or a blinking idiot, then - by Jove! O Lord! Tut, tut! for goodness' sake! what the dickens! but me no buts - it is all one to me, for you are quoting Shakespeare.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:11 PM on March 3, 2002 [1 favorite]

> Better yet, don't read them, as they were never meant
> to be read; support your local theater.

They were never meant to be botched, either. As RavinDave says, it can be hard to find a good production.

You have to live in or near the right city (and country -- have you ever heard Shakespeare in Polish?) and you have to avoid directors who think Hamlet might play well as, say, flamboyantly gay ("There are more things in heaven and earth, fella.., ur, Horatio..."), or that the witches in Macbeth should tap dance in Morse code a secret message of support for all unhappy Venezuelans. (Wasn't there an SCTV episode in which Eliot's 'Murder in the Cathedral' was enacted in space suits?)

Support your local theater if it's good, but it's better to stage a play properly in your mind than to let some halfwit spoil it for your eyes and ears. I read much better than most directors direct.
posted by pracowity at 3:03 AM on March 4, 2002

Better yet, don't read them, as they were never meant to be read; support your local theater.

Failing that, get together with some friends and read them aloud. Far far better than just sitting and reading them to yourself. And lots of fun.
posted by straight at 6:48 AM on March 4, 2002

The idea that Marlowe wrote any of Shakespeare's work is horseshit. One of my professors proposed this radical explanation of how Shakespeare knew Latin and had knowledge of far away places: he read.

Anyone ever heard the one about Shakespeare writing a psalm in the King Jame's Bible? Turns out the words "shake" and "spear" are in the same psalm. The truth is out there.
posted by uftheory at 7:34 AM on March 4, 2002

as my dad said to me the other day 'the americans gave us conspiracy theory'. the more i think about it the more it makes sense.
posted by asok at 10:26 AM on March 5, 2002

Pfft...everybody knows that Marlowe faked his own death at the recommendation of the Comte de St Germain after learning the latter's secret of immortality. A few hundred years later, under orders from the Bavarian Illuminati, he assassinated JFK. He hovers above the earth as we speak, the pilot of an orbital mind-control laser used to speak through L Ron Hubbard (and more recently, Oprah Winfrey).

posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:08 PM on March 6, 2002

Actually, his mom, aka Nana Karen. Give it a rest folks - life is too short. How about enjoy it? I mean it is great. Forklore or fact - analyizing who wrote it ?????? Are ya' bored? Don't have any thing else in your life? I know I am the old folk here but maybe the old folk have something to offer. Sometimes you spend so much time "thinkin'" that you miss the flower smellin' thing. I missed some, not missin' anymore!
posted by Uncle Joe's Brother at 7:02 PM on March 11, 2002

Actually, his mom, aka Nana Karen. Give it a rest folks - life is too short. How about enjoy it? I mean it is great. Forklore or fact - analyizing who wrote it ?????? Are ya' bored? Don't have any thing else in your life? I know I am the old folk here but maybe the old folk have something to offer. Sometimes you spend so much time "thinkin'" that you miss the flower smellin' thing. I missed some, not missin' anymore!
posted by Uncle Joe's Brother at 9:27 PM on March 11, 2002

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