Monday, August 13, 2012


 Like I said, I work for this smaller technology firm in the UK and they treat us really nicely. On the opening weekend of The Dark Knight Rises, the engineering part of the company rented out a theatre for all the engineers. Then because we didn’t fill it out we were able to bring a guest. We were each given a bottle of water and popcorn and I thoroughly enjoyed myself, having waited for this movie for over a year. I want to say that it is good. It has a lot of cool effects and action but a lot of drama. It’s slower than the 2nd movie, The Dark Knight, because the action doesn’t really start until maybe 2/3rds of the way into the film, but it’s quite good. I think I liked it because I like drama and there is a lot of drama, relational struggles, and personal searches.

I will not say that it is better than Batman 2: The Dark Knight. How do you beat that movie where the action starts from the beginning, where it ends and continues at least 3 times, and where Heath Ledger played his role to perfection? It’s hard. The Dark Knight Rises was still a good movie, and I loved the psychological parts the best. My two favourite thinking moments which I’m still trying to apply to my life were about hope and fear. One of the characters in the movie said “Without hope there is no despair.” . . . . Just sit and let that counterintuitive statement hit you. I LOVE IT! And I find it to be true. The second one was not completely worded as it was lived out—fear makes a man stronger (or more able). . . . how does that one hit you? I also find this to be true. I think Christopher Nolan not only did a great job directing, he did an excellent job co-writing it. I encourage you to go see if it you liked the first two.

But what really has me thinking is the movie Anonymous which advances one of a number of theories about the “true” identity of the writer, William Shakespeare. This is an old academic (some say nonsensical) debate that has gone on for decades, with the specific conspiracy theory in Anonymous first appearing around 90 years ago, advanced by a man named Thomas Looney.

First, to make sure you understand what I’m writing, I will call the actor from Stratford-upon-Avon who moved to London and became famous for many plays, eventually opening up and co-owning the Globe Theatre William of Stratford. I will call the actual writer (which could be the same person) William Shakespeare. Secondly, I’m always bothered by current media that presents two sides without giving me the proper context of what percentage of experts fall on each side or the fact that there are many more opinions other than the two extremes presented. So let me say that the vast majority of academic Shakespeare experts believe that William of Stratford is William Shakespeare. Thirdly, remember that even though a vast majority of people believe William of Stratford was Shakespeare, there are still academics who doubt it, even if in the minority. So it is not only conspiracy theorists or people who are not Shakespeare experts. Lastly, let me give you a few of the problems the people (in the minority) have preventing them from believing William of Stratford wrote the plays attributed to Shakespeare.

 William of Stratford had little or no education – Some believe that the level of knowledge and sophistication in Shakespeare’s poetry and writings required that he be an aristocrat or at least well-educated. However, the problem with this view is that Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlow (also in the movie) had similar backgrounds. Ben was the son of a bricklayer, I believe, while Marlow was the son of a shoemaker. Ben also had a grammar school education, and many people consider Jonson’s plays and Marlow’s plays even more educated or erudite. The point here is that it is hard to understand, but it is impossible? No one disputes Jonson’s authorship nor Marlow’s authorship. I will, however, say that there is a reason that Shakespeare is considered the greatest of all time.

William of Stratford’s children were illiterate – I think the belief is that someone that well-written and educated (whether self-educated or otherwise) would have educated his children or had his children educated. This however deals with probabilities as opposed to proof.

William of Stratford never left any writing in his own handwriting other than 6 signatures (which differ in spelling) - This one actually bothers me. Of course, I say this from 21st century experience in which I know if I died, people would find many things both typed by me and written by hand by me. I still find it odd that there is no writing in his handwriting. The first folio (first publication) of his work was completed in 1623 by two actors in his company after his death. It sits here in the UK at Oxford University. Again, this is not proof, but raises doubts.

William of Stratford spent a lot of time engaging in law suits  - This one makes me laugh. The problem here is one of time. If you look at any of Shakespeare’s 37 plays, they seem to have taken a long time to write. Where did William of Stratford get the time to write such plays when he had a wife and children and was spending time and effort engaging in law suits? Again it makes me laugh, and seems like a logical question. Interestingly enough, you can see legal experience in Shakespeare’s plays like the Merchant of Venice.

William of Stratford couldn’t read French, Spanish, or Italian – Shakespeare’s plays show a knowledge of these languages (including references) or at least access to translated versions. But there seems to be no evidence that William of Stratford could read any of the languages or had access to translations. The problem here, again, is that though it’s hard to believe, we just don’t know if he actually did have access to a privately circulating translation or if there was a translation that is no longer with us today (this has happened with other texts that we know about).

William of Stratford never traveled outside of London (after moving there) – We have no record of him traveling outside of London but he could have done so unknown to us today.
William of Stratford left no books, letters, or correspondences in hi will and did not get even one eulogy at his death – This is another of those strange things. If I were William, again from my limited 21st century perspective, I would have books and letters and correspondences that I owned. I would at the least have books that I owned if I loved to write so (and possibly read and borrow and create history plays). And many find it strange that he died somewhat unnoticed. To be honest, I don’t really get it myself.

I read one analysis that said to name one, just one other writer who was illiterate, brought up illiterate children, financed his work from the pockets of common people, has a name that is a pun, has a name that states a sentence in English, died unnoticed, and never commented on the events of his day. The last point is another reason people think someone else (the Earl of Oxford) was the writer because they felt the Earl of Oxford had a reason, being aristocracy, not to directly comment on other aristocracy and the events of his day.

However as much sense as it seems to make that William of Stratford and Shakespeare were two different people, it’s hard to find proof of it. In support of William of Stratford, I find it strange that I have read nothing from the time of the Shakespeare including immediately after his death that proposes hypotheses of alternative writers. This is all more recent history. Some believe this is because it was a great cover-up or conspiracy to hide it. If so, it was very well done. If you want to convince the academic establishment (including people who have spent their lives studying this) you have to find some actual direct proof to link Shakespeare’s plays to someone else instead of starting with the holes or problems with the authorship belonging to William of Stratford. Still it’s a tantalizing mystery. In reality, though, it doesn’t really matter who wrote it. I’m just thankful we have the plays and can enjoy them for what they are worth (or not worth if you don’t like Shakespeare).

I went to the Tate Modern museum recently and saw an exhibition by Sung Hwan Kim in the Tanks section of the Tate. I went there with James, a college friend and DC male a capella group-member. We were going to support the work since another college associate did the music for Sung’s exhibition. I must tell you that I was so disturbed by that exhibition. It literally unsettled me like watching a suspense or horror film. I kept thinking why. Sung is an interdisciplinary artist, so he uses narration, video, images, music, sound, sculpture, and more. And I thought to myself, that sound and music was a huge reason why it reached me more than it would have without it. That seems obvious, but I wonder if all art is not equal to me.

It seems much harder for a visual art piece to reach out and grab me the way a piece of music has the potential to do with no visual aid. Yet, if the art piece is combined with music it regains that potential. I’m not sure if I’m imagining this but it seems that way. I can look at art pieces (I spent a lot of time in Italy in museums) and be moved but it seems much rarer that a piece really moves me or shakes me than a piece of music moves or shakes or shapes me. I wonder if I am more susceptible to mood creation through my auditory cortex rather than my visual cortex. I don’t know. Does anyone else experience this? Let me know. Until next time, ciao.

No comments: