“Who is the greatest artist outside music? Wilhelm of Stratford!”
– Ludwig van Beethoven.
The greatest musician’s opinion of the greatest writer, William Shakespeare. Notice how the composer placed our suspect in the whereabouts of Stratford. So did the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets published seven years after his death. The Folio dedication by Shakespeare’s friend, the first Poet Laureate of England, Ben Jonson, praised the author as “the Swan of Avon” and made mention of his “Stratford Monument.” There, case closed!
Yet, and yet again, as a theatre professional, one is asked “Who wrote Shakespeare?” Do we doubt the authorship of Bach, Michelangelo, da Vinci, or Ludwig of Vienna. No. So what’s the freaking problem with Shakespeare?
When did this evil seed of doubt sprout in the mind of the general public? It started early and lasted long. Diligent researchers found only deeds, court summons, receipts, corporate shares, land deeds, and a will. No letters, journals or annotated books in dusty oak chests. This absence of evidence become evidence of absence for the Immortal Bard.
Gentle Will Shakespeare gave us 38 plays and 154 sonnets. He wrote over 850,000 words with a vocabulary of some 25,500 words. A lexicon twice that of Christopher Marlowe. All from a country bumpkin from Stratford?
So the throngs continue to doubt this Shakespeare wrote that Shakespeare. Why? Symmetry, or really the lack of it. A nobody from a market town grows into the Everyman for every one? Doubtful in deed. In Act Two we explore why we scan Shakespeare with such an unhealthy skepticism. In a word, the cause is symmetry. Damn dull symmetry. See you in Act Two.
– Robert Light is the Artistic Director Vancouver Island Shakespeare Arts.com