Monday, June 24, 2013

William & Arthur

The enigma that is William Shakespeare:  as with the legendary King Arthur we’ve been down this road before, more than once, so if you’re bored with it don’t read any further. However, if you are unacquainted with my meandering thoughts you might be interested. If you are not so inclined then read no further. As far as King Arthur is concerned I know exactly who he is, he arrogantly asserts. (See my autobiography NO OFFICIAL UMBRELLA which explains all) but the false information never seems to stop coming. Admittedly it is a fascinating subject and the latest piece of whimsy comes from Croatia where a Roman villa has recently been unearthed said to have belonged to King Arthur whose father was a Roman and who had a Croatian mother. It has evidently, as could be expected, done wonders for the tourist trade. If an English king by the name of Arthur actually existed how come his name is not in any list or history of English monarchs? Or is the list incomplete being devoid of one name? The medieval tome by Geoffrey of Monmouth which popularized the story of King Arthur is now thought to have been written in a lost Oxford chapel. Researchers now believe The History of the Kings of Britain was penned at St George's chapel, before it was demolished to make way for Oxford Castle. Deeds from the time have revealed the Welsh scholar was serving canon there when writing the chronicle in 1136.
The mythical figure of Arthur as a 5th Century military commander, leading the Britons into battle against the invading Saxons, has proved impossible for historians to verify. (Because it’s false)
The only contemporary source, The Ruin and Conquest of Britain by the British monk and historian Gildas (c.500-70), does not mention Arthur at all.
Some scholars have suggested Ambrosius Aurelianus, a Romano-British war hero described by the 6th Century historian Gildas, may have been the real Arthur.  (False)
Others say Lucius Artorius Castus, a 2nd or 3rd Century Roman military commander, may have formed the basis of the Arthurian myth. (This is the Roman Croatians say was Arthur’s daddy.)
All that is left of the building where Geoffrey is thought to have written The History of the Kings of Britain is the Saxon stone-built St George's Tower and the ancient crypt.
Michael Speight, general manager of Oxford Castle Unlocked (!) "We are so excited to have discovered that it is the site where the legends of King Arthur were written."  He’s as arrogant as I am in his certainty. It’s just as possible the good canon took a year’s sabbatical and went off to write in the Hebrides. Who’s to say?
But back to Willy Shagspaw. The reasons for my return to this subject are two recently published books, “William Shakespeare Beyond Doubt” and “Thirty Great Myths About Shakespeare” by Laurie Maguire and Emma Smith (Yet more books on Shakespeare and do they tell us anything new?)  Probably not. They are more than likely yet again a rehash of everything on Shakespeare that has gone before in the various biographies full of ‘we think’ and ‘Perhaps ‘and ‘Maybe’ and ‘It’s likely that’ and ‘possibly’, and ‘it could be that’, etcetera. For example both books insist that Shakespeare had an extensive education. This from the Laurie Maguire/Emma Smith book, “Shakespeare in fact would have benefited from the intensely rigorous education of the Elizabethan grammar school, 6a.m. to 6p.m. every day, with higher classes conducted entirely in Latin. He never went to university, true, but we can tell from the sources of his plays that he remained a voracious reader all his life.’ If that is true how come not a single book or play is mentioned in his will and how come for someone who loved books so much (as Prospero says in ‘The Tempest’) he allowed his favourite daughter to remain illiterate? Maybe he was just too busy becoming a gentleman, acquiring property and dishing out lawsuits.
And from the other book, ‘A lot of it is due to ignorance, especially of the Elizabethan educational background, of the sort a boy in Stratford could have got at the local grammar school. "It was rather limited, but a very intense classical education, in rhetoric and oratory, speaking Latin from the time they were eight years old, having to speak it in the classroom and the playground."
But why is there absolutely no record of a William Shakespeare attending Stratford school? And we mustn’t forget, despite Ben Johnson’s encomium, Shakespeare idolatry didn’t really take off until the nineteenth century. No, there is still far too much mystery and uncertainty as, for instance a question no one seems able to answer. In an early engraving of Shakespeare in the perish church he is shown as having his hands on a woolsack, betokening a merchant. This was later changed to his hold a quill. Interesting, huh? I’m still pleased to have written my Marlowe play; ‘The Muses Darling’ because there is as much going for that as there is for Shakespeare being the sole author of the plays attributed to him. It could easily have been the joint effort of a number of writers with Shakespeare at the head of the table. Today he would be known as a “script editor.”

1 comment:

Diana Price said...

Dear Mr. Jones,

Have you an interest in a perusal copy of Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography (just out in paperback) to counter Shakespeare Beyond Doubt? My website is at (be sure to include the hyphen).
Thank you,
Diana Price