I’ve been traveling so far into the galaxy lately that everything continues to expand beyond sight and feeling. I’m not quite liking that. So I think about how tiny specks you and I are, no not specks, specks are a billion times larger than we are in Hubble’s world. And billion is just a word, never an image not even a thought in our speckless minds. Okay... you and I, not amounting to much in the here and now, but sometimes interesting, brings me to one of our peccadillious relationships with time. (Like that word? Doesn’t exist.) I’m talking about the milk bottle we live with called Days. Days of the week. In our sashay around our speck of a star, we try to distinguish between past and present. So we grasp seven spins of the planet, give them names, and watch them go. And after the seventh, we do it all again. Each of these waltzes has a
color: Monday-white; Tuesday-we’ll get back to that; Wednesday-a rich, light blue; Thursday-violet; Friday-red; Saturday-a deep sea blue; Sunday-orange (though most people see it as gold, wouldn’t you know). And Tuesday? It’s the day after Monday, the all color day that comes after what our trash collectors call: the weekend. Tuesday is gray, maybe it’s truly day one. And the weekend? Doesn’t exist… just milk in a bottle without the cream.
I took my milk bottle up into the hills to one of my mentors (no not Jerome Stolnitz) to see what I’m seeing and missing at the same time. His name is Maurice. A very old man who lives in a tent in a cave. He’s been alone for a very long time. He breathes his thoughts, in through the nose, out through the mouth. I asked him what this bottle means. He said: What the hell do you care? It’s just seven billion antennae, all together not even the size of a speck, trying to find which way is up and which way is down in a universe that doesn’t give a damn about them. It’s a damn waste of effort and time. And you’re a damn moron for doing all that wasting. There’s only one question that matters, one bell-clanging question, ringing down through the centuries.
I said: tell me, point my antenna to the point. He said: After 400 years the one gut-driving, mind massaging, thought enhancing, evolutionary perpetrating influence has been the writings of Shakespeare. The words are in every head, every language, every mathematical thought. And the ringing question is:
Who wrote Shakespeare’s writings?
With that, he closed his tent flap.
Oh… that controversy. If you’re not familiar with it, you should be. It’s been around a long time. 400 years of milk-bottle days. The problem with dear Will is that the facts, as we know them, don’t jibe with the reality of the writings. What few pieces of information that exist about W. Shakespeare are some of these:
He seems to have had only a grammar school education. He seems not to have traveled anywhere outside of glory-bound England. He was the son of a glover and he became an actor-manager and made a gob of money. Not one scrap of paper, even a torn page of his manuscripts has been found. There’s no reference to his manuscripts in his final will&testament. The best he could do was to leave his wife his second-best bed. In 400 years, no one has ever found a sample of his handwriting. There are even more bewildering, mysterious facts.
So… where did all of the pyrotechnics of language come from, the nuances, the lyricism, the humor, the tiers of character depth, the references to both historical times and places, and contemporary as well? Perhaps he was simply a gifted, unfathomable genius like Mozart. The difference between the two is that ideas appeared in Mozart’s head as sound and images with which he could compose finished works before copying them down on to paper. In Shakespeare’s head the ideas appeared as words and images which he had to write down as he composed his works. Or did he?
You can imagine that in 400 years the accumulation of academic gobbledygook about Shakespearean writings and particularly this issue is a mound high and a mile wide. Pedants have to make a living too you know. The lingering bet, among “Will Shakespeare was a façade” believers, is on Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford. He fits the bill of author-supreme, except for one upending fact: he died in 1604 before the last ten Shakespearean plays appeared. Many explanations try to rebuke this argument.
In 2011, that rascallion filmmaker Roland Emmerich delivered a film promoting de Vere as the Elizabethan genius. It’s called: Anonymous…great cast, fine acting, richly endowed production. Emmerich makes the case that Will was a front man and Edward was the pen behind the treasured writings. You should take a look at this entertaining film. It’s well worth one of your days… Tuesday might be best.