Austin on Authorship

In connection with this story, the Chronicle sought out the views of some Austinites on the authorship debate. Although the brief, distinctly nonscientific sampling failed to turn up any anti-Stratfordians, it did produce some worthwhile observations, particularly regarding the collaborative nature of theatre and its influence on the canon.

Lana Lesley

Co-producing artistic director, Rude Mechanicals

I have to admit I have never had a real opinion on the whole authorship issue. Maybe because I was a French major … maybe because I was more worried about how to deliver the text than who wrote it … or maybe because I think he was a collaborator with his company. If pressed, I would say all the real evidence supports his authorship, but I would also give a little collaborative credit to the actors he worked with.

James Loehlin

Director, Shakespeare at Winedale

In England, for spring break, I saw an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery that collects together many of the documentary materials relating to Shakespeare's life. There are plenty of them. I don't think many professional literary scholars or Elizabethan historians have any doubt whatever that Shakespeare the playwright was Shakespeare the actor, the glover's son from Stratford. No one doubted it at the time, either. To argue anything else, one has to ignore common sense and documentary evidence and subscribe to some elaborate conspiracy theory. It's nonsense. Shakespeare was Shakespeare.

The arguments are well-marshaled in Stephen Orgel's introduction to any of the editions of the New Pelican Shakespeare.

Terry Galloway

Playwright/performer, Out All Night and Lost My Shoes, In the House of the Moles

I think the controversy is nonsense. Based perhaps on jealousy and a disbelief in genius. It is difficult to conceive of one person writing all those wonderful plays. But why don't the disbelievers remember that Shakespeare didn't write the plays by himself? Even if he was the one who plundered the myths and histories for the plots, had the ear for poetry, wrote the dialogue, still, his plays were written, as was the fashion of the day, in complicity with his company. He listened to the actors' ad libs, their comments and suggestions, and incorporated them into the scripts. Which helped make them the works of genius that they are.Ê

Everyone makes such a big deal about there being so few records about Shakespeare's life. But Jonson was the one, wasn't he, to call Shakespeare sweet-natured when he bemoaned Shakespeare's death as the death of a colleague? How's that for proof of existence?Ê

The queen didn't write those plays. A duke didn't write those plays. Marlowe didn't write those plays.

There was a Shakespeare. His first name was William. He was an actor and a playwright. He was loved by his contemporaries. He wrote the plays attributed to him.

And really the controversy was started by rich, snobby, aristocratic old farts who couldn't bear to think of their class being outdone out-cultured, out-languaged by a mere glover's son.

Norman Blumensaadt

Artistic director, Different Stages, director of The Beard of Avon and nine Shakespeare productions

I think [Amy Freed] is right when [she has] de Vere say, "Does it make any difference who wrote the plays?" All theatre is collaborative. There are no new stories, only old stories told in a new way. Neither Pericles nor Two Noble Kinsmen were entirely written by Shakespeare. Henry VIII? Stealing good ideas is a form of flattery. Many movie scripts and weekly television are written by a group of writers.

Having produced Agatha Christie, who was self-taught and wrote to support herself, like Shakespeare, it is possible that a farmer/glove tanner's son from Stratford could have written the plays. Talent, genius, creativity are not confined to someone who went to school. Shaw was self-taught to an extent. I guess I feel the majority of the plays are one writing voice. The mystery is we know so little about the man. Maybe by his choice.

Clayton Stromberger

Coordinator, Shakespeare at Winedale Outreach

The whole thing seems a waste of time to me. If you spend enough time with the work, you begin to hear a voice. It's like hearing an aria and knowing it's Mozart. There is this singular presence there, a life force that seems to dance effortlessly in the most delicate and intricate patterns – in this case, of words, a chain of symbols that lead to sounds that can, in an utterly mysterious way, make you laugh or break your heart. The gift here is not one of intellect or education or status – it's clearly something that goes far beyond that. Whoever this guy was, he understood the human heart in a very deep way, and he had a profound and often joyful intuition about how to reveal the workings of that heart on a plain wooden stage. The fact that no playwright has been able to hold a brief, brief candle to him in the past 400 years only reinforces how strange and singular this artist was. Who cares what his name was? (What's in a name, after all?) Jorge Luis Borges imagined Shakespeare saying, "I, who have been no man, am all men." That seems about as close as we're going to get to "the real Shakespeare," and as close as we need to be.
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    Who really wrote Shakespeare's plays? Writer Amy Freed plays the question for laughs.

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