Thursday, February 9, 2017

Shakespeare's Political Acumen

Recently there was another great article on Shakespeare’s unusual keen knowledge. This one referred to his apparent expertise in Politics and comes from Shakespeare author Gary B. Goldstein. Here’s the link for it:

Among the quotes by experts are these:

Historians such as Lily B. Campbell are emphatic about the systematic political uses to which the history plays of Shakespeare were designed. The UCLA professor concluded her 1947 study of the history plays by stating, “Each of the Shakespeare histories serves a special purpose in elucidating a political problem of Elizabeth’s day and in bringing to bear upon this problem the accepted political philosophy of the Tudors.”

Examining Shakespeare’s political philosophy was the aim of the British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper, Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford. In his essay “What’s in a Name?” he wrote that the best way to discover Shakespeare’s political beliefs was to examine the underlying assumptions taken for granted by all of his characters. What he found was the philosophical outlook of an aristocrat pervaded with longing for the past and gloom about the future, precisely because Shakespeare’s arrival as an artist coincided with the end of the Renaissance.

In an interview for the PBS documentary The Shakespeare Mystery, Enoch Powell applied his own political experience when probing William Shakespeare’s working knowledge of high politics: “I had been a member of the Cabinet, and I’d been in politics for twenty years, and I had some idea of what it’s like in the kitchen. And my astonishment was to discover that these were the best works of somebody who’d been in the kitchen. They’re written by someone who has lived the life, who has been part of a life of politics and power, who knows what people feel when they are near to the center of power, near to the heat of the kitchen. It’s not something which can be transferred, it’s not something on which an author, just an author, can be briefed: “Oh, this is how it happened”; it comes straight out of experience — straight out of personal observation — straight out of personal feeling.”

The same conclusion was reached by American ambassador Paul Nitze, who thought the Shakespeare plays spoke directly to a life experienced at the center of power. “Many of [the] plays of Shakespeare, of course, deal with people of the upper echelons of the society. Deals with kings and queens and principally courtiers. It’s at that level that emotions are extremely tense and rivalries are extremely bitter, and that the important issues cut and bite deeply into the human spirit.”

As with Powell, so with Nitze — “Shakespeare understood the psychology of power as it was actually employed during the English Renaissance, because of his personal history: Shakespeare knows what it is like at the center of power. He has the insider’s knowledge of the way power can be used for good or evil and the consequences that ensue. He understands the struggles that result from the tension between ideals of morality and the needs of statecraft”.

There is no evidence whatsoever that William of Stratford had any insider’s knowledge of court politics. However, among some of the alternative authorship contenders, at least the Earl of Oxford and Francis Bacon would qualify. Oxford was a great noble and he is Goldstein’s favorite. But Bacon, though not a noble, was part of the aristocracy and known as a political animal, being immersed in it his whole life. He even served as the country’s regent for a time in the absence of King James.

This is just one more area of knowledge that the Stratfordian theory of authorship can only make feeble guesses to account for in the works.

Here’s one more politician that would agree:
"I cannot accord it to him who, though rich, did not educate his children, and who, though he sought fame through a coat-of-arms claimed to have been earned by the valor of his great-grandfather, nowhere, not even in his last will and testament, claimed the fame of authorship,--such authorship,--and whose sole posthumous anxiety centered on his dust and bones remaining undisturbed in the chancel of Stratford church."-J. Warren Keifer, Former Speaker of the National House of Representatives, Washington, D.C., 1904

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