Monday, January 18, 2010

Shakespeare - A Woman?

Just finished reading about yet another theory regarding the true author of Shakespeare's plays and sonnets. A scholar named John Hudson posits that a woman named Amelia Bassano Lanier actually wrote the plays and sonnets. His ideas are certainly interesting, Bassano was the mistress to a man who into falconing, and guess what shows up in the plays a lot? She ended up marrying a musician, her father was a musician, and the texts have over 2,000 references to music. Most intriguing is Hudson's idea that Bassano, a secret Jew, encoded transliterated Hebrew words and quotes from the Talmud into the canon. However, if there is secret Jewish code in the plays, his theory flies in the face of Clare Asquith's book Shadowplay: The Hidden Beliefs and Coded Politics of William Shakespeare, which spent a considerable amount of time pointing out all the coded Catholic messages in Shakespeare's work.

Theories about Shakespeare's identity are fun, but I don't think they really serve any larger purpose. So what if Bassano actually wrote the plays and the sonnets? Does that change anything about them? Does that change the import we've placed upon them? 400 years later, and does it really matter who the person Shakespeare was? Authorship studies are rather foolish, since they direct attention away from the work and focus it elsewhere. Are you really reading and studying a text if you are so busy digging for clues? Can detectives be academics?

1 comment:

John said...

The Bassano theory, like Asquith's work finds hidden allegorical religious meanings in the text. That is why many of the 3,000 religious references in the plays were created. But the Bassano theory holds that they are parodies of Christianity, indeed Jewish parodies.The Dark Lady Players performs these allegories onstage. See for example my thesis on Midsummer Night's Dream