Sunday, July 10, 2011

Derek Jacobi on the Shakespeare Authorship Question

Shakespearean actor Sir Derek Jacobi has been in the news recently for his portrayal of King Lear. ‘The Telegraph’ has published an essay on him (at the link below) in which is mentioned his interest and involvement with the Authorship controversy.

From the article: “In recent years, Jacobi has emerged as a leading Shakespeare sceptic, taking the view that a semi-educated country boy from Stratford-upon-Avon couldn’t possibly have written the great works attributed to him.” 

Below is part of his address to a Oxfordian society at which he was an award recipient. You’ll notice his belief in De Vere as the true Shakespeare, though he has admitted he is still studying the evidence. I’ve never seen his awareness of the Baconian evidence as has been presented here. But this is understandable. His address was 8 years ago (in 2002) and the Baconian evidence hasn’t been easily accessible until I’ve been posting much of it online beginning less than two years ago.

Jacobi’s address excerpts:

All these years of academic dedication lavished on the wrong man must be defended at all costs, it seems. Reputations tremble, an industry turns pale, and the weapons of ridicule and abuse are leveled and fired. But at least the battle lines have been drawn, and it is heartening to see how many recruits are enlisting in the Doubters Army: people, like myself, who cannot reconcile the illiteracy of Shakspere's offspring alongside his own deep and adept knowledge of medicine, art, music, geography, law and his almost nonchalant use of metaphor from, for example, sporting activities that were exclusively the pursuit of the aristocracy -- not to mention his mastery of history, languages and the intricacies of survival at court. The only evidence of Shakspere's literary life was produced after he died and is open to dispute. Nothing, while alive, apart from some shaky signatures, puts a pen in his hand. Legend, hearsay and myth have created this writer.

I have taken part in thirty-one of the plays so far, and I can imagine – I can feel -- someone behind the works whose education and life experiences, whose knowledge of all strata of society, whose relationships and temperament simply do not fit the grain hoarder, the money lender and the entrepreneur, but chime accurately, and at times indelibly, with what we know about de Vere. And it's not enough to say, "Oh, but the works of Shakespeare survive whoever wrote them; it doesn't therefore matter." Yes, it does! The disclosure of the real author would enhance not only the historical significance but also the contemporary excitement of these treasures for both actors and spectators; and it shouldn't be regarded as potential professional suicide, heresy or an actor's silliness to come out and say so.

As a performer in the public eye and therefore subject to public criticism and attack, I am acutely conscious of the significance of accepting this token of committed involvement in the authorship debate. My wish is that more actors, with similar suspicions, would nail their colors to the mast and accept whatever brickbats the eminent and learned critics have to throw. The restrictive orthodox analysis must be open to seriously considered debate. There must be a challenge to the selective evidence of the scholars, based on their desire to justify their man rather than assess objective criteria. Too much is conjecture, guesswork, allegory and assumption – what one writer had called 'a well-documented blank.'

“However, I would also urge the anti-Stratfordian to avoid over-egging the de Vere pudding. 'The lady doth protest too much' is not a healthy slogan for the cause. Take a lesson from we actors who constantly are told that 'less is more.' Our lifeblood as performers is constant questioning, research, analysis, intellectual and emotional honesty: the play's the thing, not the player. Without the dramatist, we have no opportunity to strut whatever stuff we possess, and in this particular case above all, if we could find the true author of these exquisite dramas, the rewards for both actor and audience would be immense. A spotlight would be thrown on hitherto unfathomable passages, and centuries of delight would be highlighted by the knowledge of the real events, situations and characters that guided and informed the author's hand. Let there be vigorous and legitimate debate!”

1 comment:

  1. This one really gets me thinking : 31plays . DJs feeling must be worth something. The profound ability to intuit a character may be the best quality for attributing authorship.