A recent article, “Denying Shakespeare” by Terry Teachout in the online Wall Street Journal once again brings up the rumor that Shakespeare didn’t write his own material. Mr. Teachout doesn’t believe it’s true. He says:
“…I am, as should be apparent, poking fun at those benighted souls who believe that someone other than William Shakespeare—the most prominent candidates being Francis Bacon and the Earl of Oxford—wrote "Hamlet," "Macbeth" and "Romeo and Juliet."
“If anything, Shakespeare's story reminds us of the existence of a different kind of democracy, the democracy of genius. Time and again, the world of art has been staggered by yet another "Mr. Nobody from Nowhere" (to borrow a phrase from "The Great Gatsby") who, like Michelangelo or Turner or Verdi, strides onto the stage of history, devoid of pedigree and seemingly lacking in culture, and proceeds to start churning out masterpieces. For mere mortals, especially those hard-working artistic craftsmen who long in vain to be touched by fire, few things are so depressing as to be reminded by such creatures of the limits of mere diligence.”
I’m not a Shakespearean scholar and I don’t have a clue if the rumors are true or not, but I hope they’re not. I can’t put my finger on why, if proven, this rumor would disappoint me. Maybe it’s because while living in London, I enjoyed watching many of his plays performed. "Merchant of Venice," with Dustin Hoffman playing Shylock is one of the more memorable ones. "Much Ado About Nothing," was also unforgettable due to our standing-room only tickets for a performance at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon.
I’ve even read that Shakespeare may not have existed at all—that his name is a collective pseudonym for a group of ghost writers. Tell me it isn't so! There’s an interesting article “Ghostwriting – A History" by Julie-Ann Amos if you want to read more on this topic.
Of course Shakespeare isn’t the only famous writer “accused” of using ghostwriters. According to an article on Opening Page “Who wrote the novels of Alexandre Dumas?” by Chauncey Mabe:
“That Dumas used collaborators or ghostwriters to churn out his romantic swashbucklers is not news. Dumas scholar Claude Schoop, however, says the plot for the Musketeers trilogy — and most of the writing — are actually the work of a forgotten writer named Auguste Maquet, reports the London Telegraph.”
“…When Maquet left Dumas, neither did anything else that was really excellent. But Dumas did nothing more of any note, while Maquet went on to write a lot.”
Another article in the Telegraph.co.uk, “Now we can all believe in ghosterwriters” says:
“In the 1830s Maquet, himself a novelist and playwright, was told by a publisher: ‘You have written a masterpiece, but you're not a name and we only want names’ – nothing new there either.”
I can feel Maquet’s pain at hearing such a statement and I imagine I’m not alone.
Would the enjoyment you receive from reading a book (from classic to mass-market paperback) be less if you discovered the writing was actually done by someone else?
I’m posting an extra blog on Thursday this week in order to introduce Liana Metal. Liana lives in Corfu, Greece. She’s a teacher, book reviewer, freelance writer and artist. I hope you’ll have the opportunity to visit. Thanks for stopping by today.
Tags: Shakespeare , Dumas, Barrie, ghostwriting, Dustin Hoffman, Shylock,