That Is The Question

Could Shakespeare have actually written all the plays we attribute to him? The debate goes on. David Womersley looks to Coleridge to address the logic behind “the zombie argument that refuses to die”:

“What is poetry,” says Coleridge, “is so nearly the same question with, what is a poet? that the answer to the one is involved in the solution of the other.” It is this Romantic approximation of the poet and the poem that laid the foundations for the doubts over Shakespeare’s authorship of his plays. Readers of those plays who had imbibed such Romantic notions of authorship — notions quite foreign to the milieu in which Shakespeare wrote — concluded that a humbly born boy from an obscure Midland town could never have written these dramas, many of which bring on stage kings and nobles, and are set in foreign lands. There had to be some counterpart in the life of the playwright to these aristocratic features of his work. Hence the theory of a nobly born author who was obliged to disguise his authorship because of the indignity of writing for the public stage.

However, for those blessed with deeper insight the true authorship of the plays was concealed within them, either in a tissue of hints and obliquities, or in codes and ciphers which, when handled by an adept, could be made to yield up the identity of the genuine playwright. It is hard to write in measured language about the snobbery which underlies these theories, and the confusion of mind which accompanied their articulation.

(Video: A mega-mashup of Hamlet references from the movies)