I’m a bit of a Shakespeare fan. Not the kind that learns the great speeches line by line etc, but I have read the plays for fun and try to see one on stage each year.
The thing that I’ve been pondering recently is the debate about whether Shakespeare was Shakespeare, or the Earl of Oxford or any of the other thoughts that fly around about it. I’ve met people who believe it was the Earl of Oxford. Others who believe it wasn’t.
I don’t care.
I really don’t think that knowing who wrote these plays matters. They are great works both because many of them are simply excellently written, and because of the place they have come to have in our cannon of English literature. We understand much of the time they were written in. We know a fair bit about source materials and influences.
So why does the man matter?
If it was because the story we’ve been told was in itself inspiring or fascinating, I could understand it. But maybe that’s why people care so much – Shakespeare’s personal story just doesn’t seem romantic enough?
And of course, until time-travel is invented, we can’t know the truth so it obviously gives people a lot to argue about!
To me the concept of ‘Shakespeare’ is that a great writer, wrote plays that still talk to us today. Whether he was an Earl or an actor doesn’t matter. I’d even go so far as to say shouldn’t matter, but given there’s even a movie about it (Anonymous) it clearly matters to a great number of people.