Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bill Bryson Shakespeare

There was resonant story, or to put it another way, there was a story I have never forgotten, printed in 2000ad in the early eighties about the origin of Shakespeare's plays.

It was one of a series of short stories about time-travel with a twist in the ending; this one was nice because it promised the reader an answer to the conundrum of who actually wrote all of Shakespeare's famous works.

The story is narrated by a man in elisabethan dress speaking directly to the 'camera'. He relates the tale of himself as a younger man, an obsessional genius who occupies his mind only with astrophysics and the works of William Shakespeare.

Thanks to his brilliant mind and steadfast diligence,— he finally unlocks the secret of efficient and safe time-travel, but rather than publish his findings and change the world forever— first he decides to use the device to travel back in time and actually meet the most famous poet/dramatist in the English language.

He gets some period gear, he sets the dial, and off he goes.

He arrives at the right day, in the right year, in the correct part of London to discover that there is no sign of Stratford's most famous citizen, and waits for the bard to show up.

The 'twist' is, there is no Shakespeare: nobody has ever heard of him.

He waits and waits until, in a blind panic, rather than see a world without the work of Shakespeare— the scientist sits down and writes out the complete works of the bard from memory.

The plays are staged, the sonnets collected, ( and in the guise of Shakespeare,) he is a great success but by the end of the story is driven into madness and melancholia with wondering where the all the work (that he has learnt by rote) actually came from.

Cool story, but as Roy Walker used to say on catchphrase: "It's a good answer but it's not right".

Bill Bryson has a far better-researched and also far more-common sense answer to the 'who wrote Shakespeare' question which is convincing, entertainingly put and makes a lot of academics look very silly indeed.

I strongly recommend it; for even if you have scant knowledge or only a passing interest in the play's and pomes of old Billy-Boy you will feel, upon completion of this fairly slim volume, that you know everything,or just as much as anyone else, or just as much as there is that's worth knowing, about the life of William Shakespeare.

And you'll have been entertained.

Not bad for €10.44

And it's entertaining.

Did I mention that?

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