Mark Rylance is wrong on Shakespeare – ‘Time is up for this nonsense’ (your views, May 10)
I don’t have much patience with Mark Rylance’s doubts about the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays, nor any insight into where these doubts come from (‘Of course a ‘middling sort’ like Shakespeare wrote those plays’, Jonathan Healey, May 3, p11). Rylance claims not to favour a single alternative candidate but says he believes there are better options than Shakespeare, as if choosing the identity of the author was like electing a new shareholder to the Globe’s board.
When the British Library authenticated the Hand D additions to The Book of Sir Thomas More to William Shakespeare, the authorship question took a blow to the head from which it will not recover. Modern big data stylometry has dealt it another as it builds out the authorship genome of the Bankside playhouse, eliminating everyone bar Bankside playwrights from the writer’s room. No aristocrats, no courtiers, no sheikhs, no resurrected bodies.
Even the public face of Shakespeare-doubt has retired from view as the places in which it is discussed have largely closed their doors.
Time is up for this nonsense.
The more famous plays and poems – printed much later under the name with mile-long titles and attributed to “Shakespeare” – were never of the “middling sort”. They presented intimate views into the lives of royals, princes, dukes, and the super rich of the 16th century and earlier. Only an untouchable would enjoy that kind of freedom of speech.
Middlings were present in the plays for a belly laugh – as a comedic interlude from the drama’s seriousness.
I’m not fully convinced of anyone’s claim to have written “those plays”; if any one person did at all. I believe “Shakespeare of Stratford” is a dubious candidate, but that’s as far as I would go. Nevertheless, the logic used to support his case, in Healey’s article, is weak and misses the point entirely.
Denial of Shakespeare’s authorship of the plays and poems attributed to him is the stuff of historical fiction, not fact. Though the story would be more dramatic if Shakespeare had been a nobleman rather than a commoner, writing his works as propaganda rather than as entertainment to sell admissions to the Globe theatre, the evidence is against it.
It is clear Shakespeare was a member of the King’s Men company of players, a friend and fellow of Henry Condell and John Heminges, who assembled the First Folio. The claim that the works were written by another individual, or that they were all collaborative, is an intellectual dead end, though recent scholarship suggests some of his works were collaborations.
It’s time suspicion was cast aside and Shakespeare’s grave was opened. Therein we may find the answers we’re looking for. A clue that we might is that the warning to stay away is based on superstition. In modern times there are laws against opening graves without an order, yet we go looking for what the pharaohs have hidden away. Legally, is there a bright line for dates? A hundred years? A thousand? I don’t think so. It’s time to get this settled, unless of course we get off on this sort of speculation, and just don’t want to know the truth.
The grave has already been opened and his head nicked. Shame. Poor chap.
Censorship of Oliviers on ITV
The Oliviers are the highest honour the theatrical world can bestow on its community and while the atmosphere in the run-up to the ceremony seemed to point to an evening of celebration, by the time the highlight show finished it became apparent it was only to be broadcast in the face of heavy censorship.
With the British theatre scene at the zenith of its popularity, surely it is time to broadcast the whole ceremony? The promotional tag line ‘Be Inspired’ should live up to the promise of showing future generations how much theatre involves people such as them.
Having listened to the entire ceremony on Magic Radio (including the fluffs by Catherine Tate) I was able to hear the passionate thoughts on immigration, diversity, same-sex partnerships, the social role of theatre, ethnicity, the Time’s Up and Equal Representation for Actresses 50:50 movements, and one man’s 18-year dedication to the Young Vic, delivered eloquently by (among others) Giles Terera, Dominic Cooke, Marianne Elliott, Alex Lacamoire, Sheila Atim, Alexandra Burke, Beverley Knight, Juliet Stevenson and David Lan.
Those thought-provoking and passionate words were inspirational and uplifting. Sadly, Magic has not kept the recording and so the sentiments have been lost to posterity, because the TV broadcast gave a bare approximation of the events. It is deeply disturbing that ITV chose to edit so extensively. It would be worrying in any year, but at this moment in time the censorship raises many questions, not least – why did ITV deem such cuts necessary and does the Society of London Theatre intend to continue partnering with a provider that silences those who speak out on such sensitive and important issues?
Now is not the time for censorship. The future credibility of SOLT and the Oliviers rests on the support of those who are brave enough to stand up, speak out and inspire.
Quotes of the week
“As an African-American woman, you’re the bottom of the totem pole. When I was growing up, my father always said to me, ‘You have to be twice as good as other people, because you are black and because you are a woman.’ ” – Actor Adrienne Warren (Telegraph)
“Actors are like musicians and a play is like a song. I never know what it is until I’ve heard it played. But you have to be careful because the good ones can make bad writing sound good. And the bad ones will make good writing sound bad.” – Playwright Joe Penhall (Evening Standard)
“It’s very hard to make ends meet as it is because we’re an independent and we simply don’t have the funds to replace all the lights in the theatre. It would quite frankly close us down.” – Artistic director of Lincoln’s New Theatre Royal Natalie Hayes-Cowley, on proposed changes to EU lighting regulations (BBC)
“Anyone who’s seen 42nd Street will know that the show is a celebration of tireless hard work. We’re in the Money is sung by a gang of Depression Era kids who find a dime in the dirt that will allow them to pay that week’s rent. This guy doesn’t even get the words right.” – Writer and journalist Matthew Sweet on Sainsbury’s boss Mike Coupe’s choice of song (Twitter)
“This is like some excruciating teenaged daydream that you’d be mortified if anyone found out about even 25 years later. I’m the only person here I’ve never heard of. Tonys, what the hell?” – Actor Jamie Parker (Playbill)
“With respect, saying an all-BAME casting call is putting white actors out of work is a gross exaggeration. BAME actors are in the minority by a massive margin and I will guess that your client base is majority white.” – Actor Sheila Atim responding to comments made by agent Gemma Hamilton (Twitter)
“It feels like you’re in Hollywood. If feels like when you’re on Broadway you’re a star but in the West End you feel like an actor… I’m not used to it, so it feels a bit weird.” – Actor Anthony Boyle (Evening Standard)
“My new favourite thing is when the person next to me at the theatre keeps an audible (and peevish) running tally of the number of times the characters say ‘fuck’.” – Theatre critic Henry Hitchings (Twitter)
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