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Thread: Shakespeare mystery

  1. #1
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    In my rhetoric lit class today, one of my students stated that there is real doubt that Shakespeare was the actual author of the plays and poems that bear his name. She said that Shakespeare was the actor who made them famous, but that he was illiterate and uneducated as a child, and not well traveled, and there was no way he could have written with the details included in the plays. I was hesitant to disagree with her, as my only real prep for class had been my TOG notes, but they certainly contradicted what she said. To top it off, her mother was the assistant in my class, and she agreed with her daughter. They had learned of this through their George Grant Gileskirk class.

    Can anyone enlighten me on this info? I'd like to have my ducks in a row on this topic by next week! Thanks for your help!

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    First, I think there is NOT real doubt. Yes, there are some vocal doubters, but if you were to survey most English lit professors they would say Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare.

    Here's a big website I found:
    http://shakespeareauthorship.com/

    But the basics are that his father was a burgess in the town he grew up in. The town had a school for the children of the burgess, and it burned down sometime after Shakespeare would attended so we don't anything about his education and literacy but the evidence leans towards literacy.

    Next, in regards to history, all Shakespeare plays are easily linked to various published histories of his time. And when the history gets something wrong so does Shakespeare (and Shakespeare also sometimes gets even more wrong to intensify the action of the play). In the case of Julius Caesar, Shakespeare's language even takes on the more staccato translation's style.

    In the end I find this to be almost always snobbish: a middle class man couldn't have written these plays. And generally silly, if we don't believe he wrote his plays, we'd have to disbelieve a lot of other authors, too.

    Here's one more link for you:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S..._authorship_question

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    thanks, Pat. I just found that wiki article after I posted earlier. Pretty interesting, I guess, but I'm really wondering now just how "accepted" this idea is. Thanks for your help!

    ETA: oh, Pat, I hope this response didn't sound short or ungrateful. I just re-read it and didn't like the sound of my tone! I left off the part about thanking you for the first link you left -- it was very helpful in explaining the theory to me. This whole idea about Shakespeare not writing Shakespeare was new to me, so this is all very interesting. I agree with your last point, we'd have to cast doubt on many other past writers as well! Thanks again for your help.
    Blessings,
    Jana

  4. #4
    I believe the "Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare" perspective is the one put forward as true in the Folger Shakespeare Library editions of Shakespeare that we recommend for Tapestry. I've been to the Folger Shakespeare Library (located in D.C., which is the premiere Shakespeare library in the nation, I believe), and if anybody outside of England could be considered authoritative, I think it would be Folger. Also, I believe that the Riverside edition of Shakespeare (one of the best-respected and most scholarly compilations of Shakespeare's plays in existence) also supports Shakespeare as the true author of the plays.

    The Folger edition introduction to Shakespeare said (to the best of my memory) there is little real doubt that Shakespeare did in fact author the plays attributed to him. I've also read an authoritative biography on Shakespeare that details his school life as a child and remarks that his education was well up to snuff for the plays he wrote. In fact, at just about the time when Shakespeare was a boy, English grammar schools were becoming much more rigorous and classical as a result of the Renaissance. The biographer I read could actually name Shakespeare's likely teachers and comment on their degree of education, which I found pretty compelling.

    In addition, there are numbers of people who knew and worked with Shakespeare (including well-educated people like his fellow playwright Christopher Marlowe) who would likely have known if he was faking. It would have been a pretty colossal hoax to hoodwink all of them, and what would be the gain?

    Anyway, for these reasons and a few others, I'm inclined to side with Folger & Co. :-) I hope you find these reasons persuasive as well, or at least a little helpful! Please let me know if you find anything that disproves what I've cited here; I'm always eager to learn and to know if I've been mistaken!

    Christy Somerville

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    Thank you for your reply Christy. I was hoping you'd see this and pipe in! I was taken so by surprise by the sincerity and authoritativeness, and I suppose finality, of this student & mother's assertions that I didn't quite know how to respond. You've given me just the information I was looking for. I appreciate it!

    blessings & peace to you,
    Jana

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    Hey, Jana makes sure you look at the other site which is all on why Shakespeare did write his plays.

    Depending on what evidence they've fallen for you may find some pretty direct opposite opinions.

    I only addressed the literacy point but there are others I know. I've heard the Duke of Oxford guy speak and much of what is says is just snobbery. But the Oxfordians are easy to disprove using simple internal textual dating on some of Shakespeare's later plays. Unless Oxford wrote them as a ghost, his authorship is highly unlikely.

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    I think another interesting question to ask the kids when they disagree is: How do you know that? I often ask them to back it up ... If its just one site on the internet- I'd ask what is the authority of that specific author? Then we could agree to disagree or even realize that there are always different perspectives - the only infallible piece of literature is the Bible .

    Years ago we read a TOG book on Teddy Roosevelt that really irritated my son- he totally disagreed with how the author painted a "rosy/Christian" picture of him. We had a very good discussion at co op because other kids had read other material as well- so it is a good learning time when they have different information- something that will continue all their lives.

    Sometimes I also tell the kids that I don't know the info but ask them to come back the next time with more info and we can all discuss it (and shhh- maybe get a prize - sorry Christy )
    Sharie in Maine "Behold God is my helper. ..He will sustain me." Ps. 54:4

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    Hi Sharie, you're right, that's kind of how we left it off. "no one really knows for sure, we'll agree to disagree." This student is a student in the TOG lit co-op, but does a different program for history. She had learned this view from her other history program, through the lectures she watches of the professor. Since I've not seen that professor or those lectures, I wasn't sure exactly what he's basing his arguments off of.

    Oh well, it's probably already forgotten about by the other students anyway. At least I feel like I've gotten things straight in my head!

  9. #9
    I couldn't agree more with Sharie that it's always good to turn the question back on the student and ask him to support his opinion. Way to keep the learning process going! I think you are right too, Jana, to say "we just don't know." That shows a lot of humility on your part! (I wish I had my copies of Shakespeare on hand to check again what those introductions actually said, but I'm on retreat, so I have to work from memory---hope I'm not leading you ladies astray!) In this particular case I'm 95% sure that the highest authorities say Shakespeare was indeed the author, but I/they could be wrong and it's not a hill to die on.

    On a completely different note, Sharie, I have a deep, dark confession to make. A few weeks ago when we were doing Animal Farm (Y4W8), I played a game with the kids and GAVE THEM CHOCOLATE PRIZES! (::Hides head in shame:: ) Y4U1 is such depressing stuff, in literature studies, that I really wanted to give them a lighthearted "day off". So much for my reputation as the "Evil Overlord." :-P

    On the other hand, when I asked one of my students later whether she actually remembered anything from that game or whether she was mostly focused on the candy, she said that honestly she can't remember a thing about what we actually said and it was mostly just about the candy. :-/ And then the mom who was my "apprentice teacher" in the very next week also wanted to do a game! So, based on my student's feedback, we did another "Jeopardy" type game on worldviews in Kafka's Metamorphosis (we just turned some of the Frameworks and class plan stuff into game categories and answers), but this time with no candy. The kids enjoyed it just as much, but we made a huge point of the fact that the prize was LEARNING, not candy. I think it worked!

    Lessons I Learned:

    1) Games are not from the Bad Place. They can be a helpful and legitimate way not only to give the kids a break, but even to learn.

    2) However, if you want to spend a lot of precious class time on a game (i.e. not just doing a five-minute vocabulary quiz game at the beginning of class), it's probably better to make learning the prize and not candy the prize. That way the kids are properly focused, and it doesn't even take away from their fun!

    3) Also, as final reservations, it's a fair bit of extra work for the teacher to put a game together and I still believe the "bang for your buck" is relatively low (in terms of how much learning occurs in that space of time as compared to how much takes place in a discussion).

    My conclusion for now (and I'm more aware than ever that I still have a lot to learn in this area!) is that a game, even with candy, about once a unit seems to be a good idea. It's good for morale, it can be good for learning, and it's good to have fun. However, I do think that games should be the once-or-twice-a-unit seasoning, not the main course. Of course this is for the Rhetoric Level... at the lower levels it's a whole different story!

    Anyway, that's what I'm learning about games in Rhetoric literature class. :-) I'd love to hear what other people have found to be true---as I said, this is still a learning curve for me!

    Christy

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    When I was in HS(public)I took an AP lit course. My teacher would have us all bring him facts on 3x5 cards and he would use them for a jepordy type game. This way we did the leg work for him and we were able to play a game in class. He even would give a prize to the most unique factoid (a new pack of 3x5 cards, we used lots of them in his class) at any rate if your coop students really wanted a game and was willing to do the leg work then it would be a win-win.

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