Shakespeare’s Hidden authorship
Returning to Chaney’s Shakespeare’s Literary Authorship, he writes convincingly that Shakespeare deliberately hid his authorship as part of a long term literary strategy. I’ll just support this with many quotes from his book:
Pg. 3 “Especially when juxtaposed with ‘demi-puppets’, ‘printless foot’ [from The Tempest] comes to stand for an unusual phenomenon neglected in modern Shakespeare scholarship: an invisible poetic authorship produced within the London commercial theatre”.
Pg. 9 Quoting another scholar: “Printed playbooks became respectable reading matter earlier than we have hitherto supposed …” leading Chaney to argue that Shakespeare should be seen as a ‘literary dramatist’ … “composing scripts both for performance and for publication.”
Pg. 11 “…unlike nearly every major author from Virgil to Spenser, Shakespeare rarely presents himself.”
Pg. 11 Quoting Greenblatt “He contrived … to hide himself from view … Shakespeare’s signature characteristic [was] his astonishing capacity to be everywhere and nowhere …”
Pg. 12 “According to this model, Shakespeare’s genius lies in hiding his authorship in order to foreground his characters, to privilege his actors, and to submit himself genially to the authorial anonymity of the theatrical medium.” And “He remains, in fact, the most anonymous of our great writers…”
[Note: This is his personal hypothesis of why Shakespeare ‘hid his authorship’. From what I’ve read he is nearly completely ignorant of any anti-Stratfordian arguments or evidence, so he’s only thinking based on what he is currently able to imagine.]
Pg. 13 Here Shakespeare is described as a ‘ghost’ and quotes Marjorie Garber “Shakespeare as an author is the person who, were he more completely known, would not be the Shakespeare we know.” [Note: I understand what she means, but can she see a more radical interpretation to her statement?]
Pg. 15 Chaney refers to “Shakespeare’s self-concealing counter-authorship” and quotes Bloom “We all want to find him in the sonnets, but he is too cunning for us.”
Pg. 22 “We might say that the blank at the heart of Shakespearean authorship is a self-erasure that opposes the very presence of Spenserian self-writing.”
[This is another conjecture on Shakespeare’s motive for his self-erasure.]
Pg. 22 quoting R. Wilson “… this author’s vanishing act was a deliberate function of his work: that Shakespeare wrote his plays with the conscious intention of secreting himself.
Pg. 23 “He theorized self-concealment as a political strategy of national leadership.”
Pg. 30 “Shakespeare self-consciously conceals his authorship”
Pg. 63 “Shakespeare’s authorship is strange because it deftly conceals the author.” … “Rather than present himself as an author with a literary career in search of fame Shakespeare disappears into the dramaturgy of his works.”
Ironically, while Chaney repeatedly demonstrates and refers to Shakespeare’s deliberate concealment of his authorship status, and at the expense of fame (at least in his lifetime) he still cannot conceive that Shakespeare may not be the actor/businessman from Stratford. It appears he is so immersed in his research, great as it is, that he cannot see outside of the very limiting blinders he’s had on all his life. He doesn’t show any but the most simplistic stereotypical awareness of the authorship skeptic’s evidence and arguments, and none of that from anyone on the doubter’s side of the divide.
I haven’t seen Chaney address the question of why Shakespeare would go to such lengths to hide himself and then not consider how his name, being so prevalent on most of his works, might undermine his self-concealment strategy. [Though I’m only half way through his book so he still might later say something about this anomaly. Perhaps he’d suggest that it’s only his biography and motives that he wanted to hide, but not his name.]
The last popular myth that’s fading is the story of Will Shakespeare writing plays commercially for fame and fortune.
We’re seeing now from Prof. Cheney and others that Shakespeare was actually doing just the opposite of seeking fame by being ‘Counter’ to expectations for what a laureate or commercial writer would be, especially one that was so concerned about moving up in the world.
“…one of Shakespeare’s major professional goals is to challenge and perhaps supplant the major print-poet of his day.”
Pg. 102 “Shakespeare’s conversation about poetry does not occur in a historical vacuum but responds to a larger conversation about poetry coming out of classical Greece and Rome, migrating to the middle ages, and entering renaissance Europe and England.“ This doesn’t seem to me to fit the idea that he read just to “collect facts and plot ideas” for his commercial labor.
Pg. 118 “Shakespeare is a theatrical man who wrote enduring poems that he himself saw published (or saw published through the agency of others); who engaged vigorously the Western poetic tradition”.
Pg. 125 “The Shakespearean dramatic canon can be said to be about the book of scholarship.” Chaney contrasts this with the prevailing story of Shakespeare being a “poet of nature”. Though he wrote for the theater, Shakespeare had a “career-long commitment to creating memorable theatre out of poetry and books.” That is, Shakespeare was extremely bookish and scholarly and not like a common script writer hacking out a scene with other writer and actor friends at a tavern.
It’s starting to look like there are a group of mainstream Shakespeare scholars that, without realizing it, are about to find themselves standing in doubter territory, if they would ever look at the territory itself.
The Shakespeare scholarly and enthusiast community might be wise to consider if this very bookish, self-concealing author might enjoy jesting more than they have given him credit for; that they are not close to being in his element, and that he might indeed create an ‘improbable fiction’ to entice the world, especially those with a kind of Puritanism in them, into being infected with his device. I think the heart of his mystery is still a ways away from being plucked out! Sport Royal!