Shakespeare (book #9)

Bill Bryson, 2007. A fast-moving and sceptical biography of Shakespeare. Some good bits:

“Of the approximately three thousand plays thought to have been staged in London from about the time of Shakespeare’s birth to the closure of the theatres by the Puritans in a coup of joylessness in 1642, 80% are known only by title.”

On St Paul’s: “Inside, the cathedral was an infinitely noisier and more public place than we find today. Carpenters, bookbinders, scriveners, lawyers, hauliers and others all plied their trades within its echoing vastness, even during services. Drunks and vagrants used it a place of repose; some relieved themselves in corners. Little boys played ball games in the aisles until chased away. Other people made small fires to keep warm.”

“In 1918 a schoolmaster from Gateshead, in north-east England, with the inescapably noteworthy name of J. Thomas Looney, put the finishing touches to his life’s work, a book called Shakespeare Identified, in which he proved to his own satisfaction that the actual author of Shakespeare was the seventeenth Earl of Oxford, one Edward de Vere. It took him two years to find a publisher willing to publish the book under his own name. Looney steadfastly refused to adopt a pseudonym, arguing, perhaps a touch desperately, that his name had nothing to do with insanity and was in fact pronounced loney. (Interesting, Looney ws not alone in having a mirthful surname. As Samuel Schoenbaum once noted with clear pleasure, other prominent anti_stratfordians of the time included Sherwood E. Silliman and George M. Battey.)


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