What are Shakespeare's darkest tragedies

Was Shakespeare Really Shakespeare?

Those who achieve great things are envious - but a Shakespeare has doubters. Impossible that this guy wrote such ingenious works! On the 400th anniversary of his death, TaWo reader Marcus Tschudin plowed his way through the weirdest hypotheses and darkest conspiracy theories.

There was great fun and drinking on that cool evening in April 1616 when the Elizabethan playwright William Shakespeare entertained two friends in his house - the playwright Ben Jonson and the poet Michael Drayton. At that time Shakespeare was already marked by illness and exhaustion. To say goodbye to his guests, he stepped out into the cold night, tipsy but without a hat or coat.

The cold was followed by pneumonia. His doctor and son-in-law, John Hall, did not know how to treat this effectively - it may ultimately have killed Shakespeare. The church register records his burial on April 25, 1616; he was buried in the Holy Trinity Church of Stratford-upon-Avon.

Shakespeare's immortal legacy: 14 comedies, 11 histories and 11 tragedies, in which he spreads the whole spectrum of our feelings, conflicts and passions with linguistic force, poetic power and wit. His insights into mental processes and his flair for scenes that are effective on the stage still inspire and astonish us today; his contemporary Ben Jonson was to be proved right with his prophecy: "He was not of an age, but for all time."

Revolt of the smart shit

In the course of the 18th century, doubters and know-it-alls gradually appeared on the scene. They questioned Shakespeare's authorship:

What? That glove maker's son from Provincial Stratford? That illiterate guy from rural Warwickshire who had only attended local school and had never been abroad? He is said to have written harrowing tragedies like "Hamlet" or "King Lear"? Funny comedies like “As You Like It” or “The Merry Wives of Windsor”? Grandiose historical pieces like "Henry V" or "Richard III" or even exquisite sonnets? Ridiculous!

As a result, the names of a number of high-ranking figures circulated who were believed to be the true authors of the works falsely attributed to Shakespeare. First and foremost, the works were trusted to the philosopher Francis Bacon, the noble Edward de Vere and the playwright Christopher Marlowe. But statesman Sir Walter Raleigh was also an option - and even Queen Elizabeth I.

Let's take a closer look at the three most important hypotheses:

Was Francis Bacon Shakespeare? Why not.

The philosopher, politician, scientist and statesman Francis Bacon has always been the favorite of the anti-Shakespeare faction. Why? First of all, because bacon would be learned enough. And then, because proponents of the thesis saw hidden clues everywhere in Shakespeare's works, correspondences in his correspondence, memoirs, and records. The American Delia Bacon (sic!) Defended this thesis almost fanatically. In 1856 she even suggested opening Shakespeare's grave. Hoping to find evidence there.

Well, Bacon was certainly one of the greats of his era and a highly respected man of letters. However, his style and expression are vastly different from Shakespeare's. And why should the famous universal genius have hidden behind a pseudonym? What would he have got out of it?

In his amusing essay "Was Shakespeare by any chance Shakespeare?" The recently deceased Italian semiotic and novelist Umberto Eco interferes with a wink in the Shakespeare-Bacon controversy: According to Eco, it would have taken a lifetime to write those works. And then the author had to get involved in the theater world on a regular basis. Bacon could only have won the time if he had delegated the trouble of writing his own extensive philosophical oeuvre to someone else.

"This led to the hypothesis that Shakespeare, who must have been a man of some skill, was employed and paid by Bacon for this purpose," wrote Eco. “Shakespeare's social origins would also explain the keynote of common sense that pervades Bacon's works. Shakespeare would therefore be the author of the works ascribed to Bacon. " Touché!

Was the Earl of Oxford Shakespeare? Why not.

The noble Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford and contemporary of Shakespeare, has also been a candidate for true author since the 1930s. A highly valued candidate: highly educated, well traveled, patron of the fine arts, admirer of Italian culture as well as well-known poet and playwright. The argument is based on parallels between de Veres 'biography and passages in the plays, for example the figure of Polonius in the tragedy "Hamlet" and William Cecil, de Veres' educator, are strikingly similar.

What is certain is that the Earl of Oxford gave up his literary ambitions early on. It could of course be that he continued to write under the pen name Shakespeare, as has been argued. The courtiers were not allowed to publish poems or other literary works. What is also certain is that the Earl died in 1604. Thus, he could not have written several important works, especially the tragedies “Othello”, “King Lear” and “Macbeth” - they were all written later.

Was Christopher Marlowe Shakespeare? Why not?

Christopher Marlowe was a famous playwright in Elizabethan England and the author of popular plays such as "The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus", "Tamburlaine" and "The Jew of Malta". Proponents of the Marlowe thesis find that sentence order, choice of words and rhythms of verse are virtually identical in Shakespeare. They also emphasize Marlowe's university education, which they believe is indispensable for anyone claiming to have created Shakespeare's works.

However, Marlowe was stabbed to death in a pub dispute in 1593. As the author of Shakespeare's works, he is therefore hardly an option. His fans point out, however, unmoved that Marlowe might not have died at the time; since he also worked as a spy on behalf of the crown, it could be that he had to fake his death for reasons of state. Then Marlowe was forced to continue writing under a pseudonym, under "Shakespeare". Oh well.

Why Shakespeare was Shakespeare. And stays.

It is noticeable that the arguments of the anti-Shakespeare faction are all on shaky legs. Historically, there is nothing that would justify knocking the bard off its pedestal or lifting someone else onto it. The doubters fail to explain to what extent their favorites could have benefited from the publication under the pseudonym Shakespeare.

On the other hand, the position that Shakespeare is the author of Shakespeare's works is fairly easy to defend. Initially, the dramas were attributed to him without discussion for over 400 years: not a single Elizabethan expressed any doubts about it. We know that a man of that name was born and died in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564. Documents prove that Shakespeare left Stratford around 1585 and showed up in London in 1595. After 1594 he was registered as a member of Lord Chamberlain's Men, an acting company that performed Shakespeare's plays and knew the author as a colleague from Stratford.

Shakespeare was also a partner in the Globe, the troupe's London theater. Furthermore, from 1598 onwards his name appears on the title pages of several pieces and on the frontispiece of the sonnets published in 1609.

Because of uneducated

As for the alleged lack of education, it should be noted that Stratford had an excellent school where students were rigorously educated in the classical subjects, which the taught passages in the works more than explain. Last but not least, the pieces show numerous regional peculiarities that are typical of Warwickshire and Shakespeare's birthplace Stratford; For example, words and idioms that characterize the region as well as local names for flora and fauna.

And very important: Seven years after Shakespeare's death, in 1623, John Heminges and Henry Condell, actors in Shakespeare's troupe, who are also mentioned in his will, published the "First Folio" in which all of Shakespeare's works and his sonnets under his name available in printed form. They are accompanied by personal appreciations including Ben Jonson's praise poem "To the Memory of my Beloved the Author Mr William Shakespeare and What He Hath Left Us", in which he describes the bard as the "sweet swan of Avon".

Conclusion: game, set and match for Shakespeare. The rest is silence.

Under the balcony of Romeo and Juliet - an image from Verona.