"It is a good divine that follows his own instructions; I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done than to be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching."
Portia, The Merchant of Venice, Act I, Scene II.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Words to Burn, Ideas to Ignite - NZATE Conference 2012

Kia ora koutou - blogging here from the NZATE conference. Below are my notes on the first keynote, which was totally awesome.

Keynote – Prof. Lyn Tribble - University of Otago - Why Shakespeare wrote ‘Shakespeare’ and why it matters

Robert Greene 1592 – Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit  -  upstart Crow, ref to Henry IV.  Shakespeare gets his own back with Polonius ‘beautified’ (that’s a vile phrase!) in Hamlet.

1593 Venus and Adonis

Individual quarto editions.

John Davies c.1610 dedication to our “English Terence Mr Will. Shakes-speare”

1623 – First Folio ‘only to keep the memory alive” etc. “Sweet swan of Avon”
Fairly early on after his death there are references to Stratford as a tourist destination – people going to see where Shakespeare was born.

There is more evidence linking Shakespeare to his plays than there is for any other playwright of the period, except Jonson.

Arguments against Shakespeare’s authorship basically boil down to:

·      Lack of evidence in his own handwriting – Tribble describes this as right up there with the argument that he never appeared on any TV chat shows. Written records which have survived from the period are mostly legal documents. There were about 900 copies of the plays printed during the period, so why keep the manuscripts? NO play successful and publically performed before 1642 survives in manuscript. With the possible exception of St Thomas More where there is a fragment which may possibly be in Shakespeare’s handwriting, but it is hard to tell when you are matching from a signature.  At the time it was probably thought that the manuscripts had no historical value – but at the time paper was expensive and scarce, and had a cash resale value.

·      Debate about education and experience – Well yes, there are no records of Shakespeare attending King Edward’s Grammar School, but then there are no records of anyone attending it. Shakespeare’s knowledge of the lives of the nobility and royalty is not necessarily terrible accurate – eg. Lord Capulet supervising the cooks; Love’s Labour’s Lost has people travelling from Italy to France via Spain…

Virtually all the young men who came to London at this time to write plays and poetry had similar backgrounds.

“Using the term “genius” to describe Shakespeare is in some ways accurate but also obscures as much as it reveals.”

Positive mention of Lois Potter’s recent book,  The Life of William Shakespeare: A Critical Biography.

Aaargh! Don’t stop now!!!! I could happily listen to another hour of this!!

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