Strange how one changes over time. I used to get quite worked up over all this Shakespeare-didn’t-write-Shakespeare business, and was happy to engage in debate. Nowadays, I really don’t care. If some people really want to believe that someone else wrote those plays, then fair enough, and good luck to them.
I was, nonetheless, amused to read this piece from John Orloff, the screen-writer of a new film Anonymous, which, I gather, rehashes all this Shakespeare-wasn’t-really-Shakespeare lark. The tone of Mr Orloff’s article seems to me somewhat badly judged: it doesn’t seem to have occurred to Mr Orloff that when an author tells readers to “think for themselves”, it implies that, in the author’s opinion, the readers haven’t, till now, been doing just that. And some readers, not surprisingly, get a bit miffed by that suggestion. This is certainly one of the reasons why the various readers’ responses to Mr Orloff’s article are, perhaps, not as sympathetic as Mr Orloff might have hoped for, but I must admit many of them had me chuckling. But the biggest laugh of all comes in the article itself, in which Mr Orloff solemnly informs us that James Schapiro, one of the world’s leading experts in matters Shakespearean, refused to debate with him. Did Mr Orloff really expect Professor Schapiro to debate with him on this matter?
(Anyone, incidentally, who would like a scholarly appraisal of the various Shakespeare-didn’t-write-Shakespeare hypotheses can do no better than to go to Professor Schapiro’s excellent book Contested Will.)