Thursday, December 29, 2011
Recently, the film Anonymous attempted to make a case that Shakespeare was a fraud--a premise I support in my own book Il Libro Segreto di Shakespeare --but with different conclusions as to who the true author really was. I'd say read the book, but unless you are fluent in Italian, Russian, Czech, or Polish you can't, until an English language publisher is finally willing to step forward and put this book out there. Thus far they won't, making this the first book in literary history to be a bestseller in foreign translation, and not published in the author's native language.
Apart from the fraud part, I take issue with Roland Emmerich's film primarily because it is irrelevant. Unfortunately, he and his producers spent $30 million trying to convince an uncaring filmgoing public that William Shakespeare was actually the 17th Earl of Oxford, the Elizabethan equivalent to Donald Trump. Or rather, it was like trying to convince American readers that Michael Moore is really Donald Trump. Or that Mark Twain (an important character in my book) was actually Cornelius Vanderbilt (no offense to Anderson Cooper, who apparently actually is Cornelius Vanderbilt). It's like telling the 99%ers that they are unimportant.
The point is this: in order for Shakespeare, the Godfather of the English language, to seem relevant today his actions, rather than his words, are what need to be addressed. We live now in a world in which, on the one hand 300 million Chinese can speak and read English reasonably well, whereas only about 5,000 Americans can actually do the same. Let's face it, when most people would just as soon Tweet, relevance becomes a dicey thing.
In my case, I make a claim for relevance as follows: William Shakespeare was the Elizabethan equivalent of P.T. Barnum, with a heavy dose of Donald Trump, and an even heavier dose of (in fact I make a case that he is the original) Cecil B. DeMille, and in fact his primary achievement was to have invented the producer as superstar and was therefore the forebear of Hollywood. And I dare anyone to question the relevance of Hollywood, because without Hollywood America has no culture at all. You will note that Cecil B. DeMille's name was atop every movie he produced, and I can guarantee that he never wrote (or read) a word of any of them. Nor did Joseph E. Levine, Samuel Goldwyn, or their successors. Shakespeare's name is known today for one reason and one reason only: his name, somehow, got stamped on all those plays. How a functional illiterate (he was), with illiterate parents, illiterate daughters (to me the clincher--come on, have you ever read or seen The Tempest?) and no books, no degrees, no correspondence, and no known friends or associates with any education whatsoever managed to 'write' all those plays is indeed the mystery of the ages. To me it couldn't be more simple: he didn't do it. And Mark Twain, by the way, agreed, in his long suppressed essay Is Shakespeare Dead. Read it! If you can find it. Then read my book. It might even be available in English by then.