Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.

 

For centuries a debate has raged about who really wrote the majestic plays and poems attributed to William Shakespeare, born in the English country town of Stratford-upon-Avon. Many authoritative voices — including Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Henry James, Sigmund Freud, John Gielgud and Derek Jacobi — have proposed alternative candidates, among them rival playwrights Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson, as well as Sir Francis Bacon, Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby, and even Queen Elizabeth I herself.

How, the detractors argue, could the Stratford man, with a grammar school education at best, have possessed the breadth of historic and linguistic knowledge reflected in the 37 plays, 154 sonnets and two narrative poems? How could a country boy acquire the aristocratic sensibility to vivify the etiquette and inner workings of royal court life? And how could someone who, as far as we know, never traveled to the European continent craft so compellingly storylines in Italy and other European countries?

Personally, I find the arguments of the anti-Stratfordians to be elitist. I believe that genius transcends environment and herewith offer two stories to prove that William Shakespeare, the Stratford man, was the author of the works attributed to him.

Not long ago, the late Sir Ian Richardson, a famous Shakespearean actor, was walking along a country road in the country of Warwickshire, in which sits Stratford-upon-Avon. Richardson came upon a rustic father and son preparing hedges.

“What are you two doing with those hedges?” asked Richardson.
And the father answered, “I rough-hew them, and the lad here shapes their ends.”

Richardson immediately realized that more than four centuries ago, William Shakespeare must have been strolling along such a road and have met similar rustic workers who said the same thing, inspiring the playwright to pen these lines for the last act of “Hamlet”:

There’s a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will.

On to my second story: In 1594, William Shakespeare and his colleagues formed an acting company named The Lord Chamberlain’s Men. The company’s first star comedian was Will Kemp, a physical funny man who often broke into jigs on stage.

In 1599, Kemp parted ways with the Lord Chamberlain’s Men to pursue a solo career. Kemp’s replacement was Robert Armin, a very different kind of comedian. While Kemp’s style was clownish, Armin’s was sardonic, witty and thoughtful.

As a result of this change of personnel, we see a gradual evolution of the comic roles in the plays performed by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, including Touchstone in “As You Like It,” Feste in “Twelfth Night” and the Gravedigger in “Hamlet,” all played by Robert Armin.

But it wasn’t until 1606 that William Shakespeare fashioned a truly defining role for Armin. —  the Fool in “King Lear.” The Fool is unlike any other character in the Shakespearean canon — witty, wise, lonely, angry, pathetic and prophetic. In the past, Shakespeare had kept kings and clowns apart. In “King Lear” they are intimately bound together, and the King’s line “And my poor fool is hanged,” spoken midway through the play, is one of the most heart-shattering in all of literature.

In my first story, it could not have been Edward de Vere, William Stanley or any of the other anti-Stratfordian candidates walking that Warwickshire road, only William Shakespeare. Only he could have been inspired to write those lines in “Hamlet.”

In my second story, as the playwright and part owner of the acting company, only William Shakespeare could have shaped roles in the plays to conform to the talents of the players in his company, first, Will Kemp and then Robert Armin.

The question, then, is not how could the Stratford man could have written the works we attribute to William Shakespeare? The question should be: How could anyone else but the Stratford man have written Shakespeare?

*****

On Monday, April 23, which is both the Bard’s birthday and deathday, I’ll be performing “LIVING WILL: the Legacy of William Shakespeare” at the New Village Arts Theater, 2787 State Street in Carlsbad. I’ll ravel out Shakespeare’s ginormous contributions to our English language and be joined onstage by three NVA actors.  Email info@newvillagearts.org. Please call 760 433 3245 for information.