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Dr. Leithart, bless his heart, has made a foray into the Shakespeare controversy quoting Bill Bryson.

In the good Dr.’s defense he has stated that he has no interest in the controversy and has not read “Shakespeare by Another Name” by Mark Anderson, the defining Edwardian argument. Bill Bryson has no excuse to make such a poor case since his book was printed just last year.

The case that Bill Bryson cites as proof that William Shakespeare (the illiterate actor) wrote the works attributed to Shakespeare is is Robert Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit. What follows is Anderson’s answer:

Greene’s posthumous pamphlet Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit chastised someone nicknamed “Shake-scene” as an “upstart crow…an absolute Johannes factotum” who “supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the rest” of London’s top dramatists. Because Shakspere [sic] “supposes” that he was as capable a composer as his fellow playwrights, Greene’s Groatsworth would appear to deliver crucial testimony that Shaksper was, in fact, an author-however much Greene did not like him.

A closer reading of Groatsworth, however, discredits Shakspere as a writer of any capacity. In Aesop’s Fables, the crow was a figure that disguised itself in the plumage of other birds. A “Johannes factotum” in sixteenth-century usage was a braggart and vainglorious dilettante. And according to the Oxford English Dictionary, Elizabethans often used the word suppose to mean, “To feign, pretend; occasionally, to forge.” Shakspere, Greene’s Groatsworth suggests, was actually an impostor.”

My previous entry on Bill Shakespeare can be found here.

In his most recent post Dr. Leithart uses the word “criminalize”. No doubt, Jacques Barzun would be disappointed. We also noted his use of “ginormous” in Solomon Among the Postmoderns.

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November 2015
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