Tuesday, 27 April 2010


When I went to the theatre on Monday, it was the Bell Shakespeare's King Lear that I was there to see (and John Bell in the role of Lear was stupendous - the theatre critic John McCallum said of one of Bell's earlier performances, 'One day you'll be able to tell your grandchildren that you saw John Bell act,' and that was how I felt after watching him on Monday afternoon, [now all I need is grandchildren]).

Anyway, on the way home I was thinking about how extraordinary Shakespeare was (always one for the original thought, me) and reminding myself that I must read more about him. I remembered that, despite Spike Milligan's definitive analysis of the question (something along the lines of, 'I don't think the plays are the work of William Shakespeare - just of a man of the same name') there'd been an article in one of the weekend papers looking at the age-old topic of the playwright's identity.

When I got home, I dug the paper out and read the article carefully. It quotes Mark Rylance, an English actor and the first Artistic Director of the Globe Theatre, who supports the idea that Shakespeare was not just one person. Fair enough, I thought, except that he does not base his view on history or evidence. The reason he gives for his belief is that 'he finds the idea of the single genius at work very damaging to the confidence of younger playwrights.'

Blistering barnacles - it's this sort of thing that brings out the Captain Haddock in my personality (an aspect of my character that I usually like to conceal). What is this nonsense? In another article in the same paper, someone describes a Kurt Vonnegut story called Harrison Bergeron. It is set in a society where everyone is equal - the intelligent are forced to wear things on their heads that let out high pitched sounds every few seconds "to stop them 'taking unfair advantage of their brains' and dancers are weighted by birdshot or scrap-iron calibrated to the size of their talent.'" Vonnegut's satirical vision seems to be the world Rylance aspires to, a world where being awed and inspired by the magnificence of another human being's achievement must be avoided because it might be detrimental to lesser mortals' self esteem.

Thundering typhoons, what sort of lily-livered landlubbers are we breeding? Shakespeare shouldn't be '...damaging to the confidence of younger playwrights'; his example should just make them all try harder. Next you'll be telling me that Herge was not one individual but a committee of Walloons.


  1. I like the committee of Walloons theory: if they'd written the works of Shakespeare it would explain why the word order in what 'he' writes often sounds wrong.

  2. Does but it wrong sound? To me at all not.