Sweet Swan of Avon

Sweet Swan of Avon

Sweet Swan of Avon: Did a Woman Write Shakespeare? – Robin Williams

Many years distant, I encountered Mark Rylance as he started to set up the then-new Shakespeare’s Globe Bankside. Unassuming little Capricorn guy, with a weirdly scholarly take on all matters Shakespeare. He always had a casually cautious infectious enthusiasm about “things Shakespearean.” As an actor, his history is performing, managing, starring, directing, and offering interpretations of Shakespeare’s works — pretty close to the whole canon. Some years ago, I saw him on stage as Richard II, one of those once in a lifetime shows.

In several places, Rylance weighs in with a sentiment that suggests we keep an open mind, as there is scant hard evidence about Shakespeare’s life, just a few scraps of paper.

The Truth Will Out – Brenda James & William Rubinstein

Of interest this was the authorship question some years back with the title, The Truth Will Out, and what annoys me more, being unable to find my own reading notes for that text. Then again, an alert reader sent in notices about some recent material, and that upstart crow Rylance merely suggested that we look at the possibilities, not hold it all hard and fast. Factually, there is very little left besides a name and the plays themselves.

Sweet Swan of Avon

One of my professional associates noticed a Shakespeare shirt I was wearing, and that lead to a suggestion about a book that I know I saw, just never seemed interested in, not until now.

“Suggested a woman wrote Shakespeare,” she stated, and that left me an opening as conventional wisdom suggests Shakespeare’s female characters were the first “modern” females, characters that were fully fleshed, not cardboard cutouts.

A verbal recommendation, about a topic that I have a passing interest in, that got me to look at the book. Or the digital copy, and I was sorely unhappy about how this fell out, a paperback copy of the book, regular Amazon retail was less than a digital copy.

I also know me. Recently, I acquired a few more bookshelves. That means more bookshelf space, but also points to a problem with what books do I really want to hold onto? Winnowing and frugal existence in a trailer taught me to only keep books that I like and might have deep, intrinsic value, something with an emotional appeal. Seriously, I have too many Shakespeare books as it is, and this is only a casual interest in the subject. The older I get, the more appealing the scholarship is, but this really is more along the lines of a hobby that I use at work.

Despite the price disparaging, I got the digital version.

Sweet Swan of Avon

From the “Induction?”

“The purpose of this book is not to prove that Mary Sidney wrote the works attributed to Shakespeare—I only hope to present enough documented evidence to elicit the curiosity of others to pursue further research into this possibility.” Page i.

Some years back — both in weblog and horoscope — I’ve mentioned the lack of available Shakespeare hard data. A couple of fragments of documentation, and that’s about it. I recall one one of the better books about the life of William Shakespeare started with supposition, and continued that theme, throughout the book. Guesswork and supposition. Academic knew he would not stand up to scrutiny and he wrote to accommodate.

Part of the appeal of the Sweet Swan of Avon is that it is supposed spark conversation — maybe not a debate — but its text proves the notion that supposition and circumstantial material is as valid, but must be regraded in such light.

Sweet Swan of Avon

“There is no documented evidence to support this theory.” Page 199.

While the book made a splash in fringe Shakespeare circles, an oddity rather than a revered work, still, it valiantly illustrates a point that I like.

It’s about looking at the works themselves, and then, looking at the evidence, and using Shakesoeare as an example? Different theories all drawn from the actual, accidental, and peripheral evidence, then too, using just the plays, the extant texts themselves, as the source for some of this.

Mishmash of literary theories played against the relative paucity of hard evidence, which, in effect, makes this more fun, in a weirdly academic way.

Sweet Swan of Avon

Sweet Swan of Avon: Did a Woman Write Shakespeare? – Robin Williams

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