Much ado about Henry Neville
October 5, 2005 2:05 AM   Subscribe

Much ado about Henry Neville
posted by Substrata (13 comments total)
A rose by any other name...
posted by Gyan at 2:11 AM on October 5, 2005

The two-column layout made that mystery even harder to unravel.

Interesting, nevertheless. I'm a step closer to finding out who's descendants I should be avenging my abused school youth upon.
posted by NinjaPirate at 2:43 AM on October 5, 2005

Much ado indeed. Metafilter: turning ear-kissing arguments into news from abroad.
posted by three blind mice at 3:08 AM on October 5, 2005

Bizarrely. this made the front page of one of the Swedish newspapers this morning. It must be a really slow news day. Here’s a more sceptical (and, to me, sensible) view on this ‘breakthrough.’
posted by misteraitch at 3:10 AM on October 5, 2005

Hurrah for old Bill Shakespeare!
He never wrote them plays.
He stayed at home and chasing girls
Sang dirty roundelays.

I can't remember where I picked that verse up. Some novel, somewhen.
posted by Goofyy at 3:38 AM on October 5, 2005

Alas, you can't get the entire article online, but Brian Vickers shredded the "Shakespeare had to be by someone other than Shakespeare" conspiracy theories in the most recent TLS.

While the "Neville'="Oldcastle" idea is cute, most scholars take the rather more logical position that "Oldcastle" alludes to, er, the real Sir John Oldcastle.
posted by thomas j wise at 5:33 AM on October 5, 2005

A common piece of evidence cited is the "nonsense" word found in Love's Labour's Lost - "honorificabilitudinitatibus". It is claimed that this is an anagram: "hi ludi F.Baconis nati tuiti orbi" or "these plays born of F Bacon are preserved for the world".

The fools! The word is clearly proof that I wrote Shakespeare's plays, as well as the works attributed to Homer. I am also a cyborg, and give a shout-out to my psychic friend, as well.

Faint o' Butt: Bionic Iliad. Hi, Uri!
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:15 AM on October 5, 2005

There has always a suspicion that Shakespeare, the grammar school-educated son of a Warwickshire alderman, who failed to progress to either Oxford or Cambridge universities, could not have possessed the learning or wit to produce plays such as Hamlet, King Lear and Twelfth Night.

Silly British.
posted by cmdnc0 at 8:50 AM on October 5, 2005

when i taught Shakespeare to high schoolers, the unanimous consensus every single time we examined this issue was that the whole lot of doubters were a bunch of classist, elitist blowhards.

thanks for the link to Brian Vickers, thomas j wise.
posted by RedEmma at 11:18 AM on October 5, 2005

Second what RedEmma said. The idea that somebody outside the upper class could be a great artist seems to still be incomprehenisble to some people. They can powder me and eat me, too.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:37 AM on October 5, 2005

The grammar school-educated son of a Warwickshire alderman, who failed to progress to either Oxford or Cambridge universities

This does seem to be what's driven many of the "alternative authors" theories, and cmdnc0 is right, it doesn't reflect brilliantly on nineteenth and twentieth century prejudices. The fact that he didn't progress to Oxbridge doesn't put Shakespeare in the corner of the room with a dunce's cap on. The typical grammar school curriculum in the latter half of the sixteenth century would have included Latin, Greek and rhetoric. And many of those who went to Oxford or Cambridge during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries treated it as more of a finishing school, not staying long and not taking exams.

It will be interesting to see a detailed analysis of the correlation between the plays and Neville's writings - I await the book's publication with interest!
posted by greycap at 11:53 AM on October 5, 2005

a bunch of classist, elitist blowhards

Yes, but -- paradoxically -- with a strongly anti-elitist tendency as well. The 'alternative author' theories have always appealed most strongly to self-taught scholars outside the academic mainstream -- and one of their most distinctive characteristics is the claim to be revealing secrets that the 'Shakespeare establishment' doesn't want you to know.

This phenomenon -- I don't know quite what to call it; 'populist snobbery' maybe? -- is a very striking feature of late nineteenth-century culture, and deserves more attention than it's received. There's the growth of freemasonry -- an elitist philosophy if ever there was one, yet with a strong appeal to the self-made middle classes. There's the Tichborne Case -- turning on abstruse details of aristocratic inheritance, yet attracting enormous popular interest. And then there's the 'Bacon = Shakespeare' theory -- ignored by all serious scholars, yet somehow managing to implant itself in public consciousness.

As Samuel Schoenbaum writes in Shakespeare's Lives: 'Away from the academy, whether in the lounge bar of a cruise ship or in the shadow of the Moorish wall in Gibraltar or on an Intourist bus on the road to Sevastapol, the professor of English (once his identity has been guessed by fellow holiday-makers) will be asked, as certainly as day follows night, 'Did Shakespeare really write those plays?' He will do well to nod assent and avoid explanation, for nothing he says will erase suspicions fostered for over a century by amateurs who have yielded to the dark power of the anti-Stratfordian obsession. One thought perhaps offers a crumb of redeeming comfort: the energy absorbed by the mania might otherwise have gone into politics.'
posted by verstegan at 5:32 PM on October 5, 2005

I vote for Shakespeare.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:22 PM on October 6, 2005

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