Shakespeare Solved ®

Shakespeare Solved ® is a forthcoming series of novels that covers the Bard's entire life and work.

These novels solve the mysteries surrounding Shakespeare by transporting us back in time, to walk in his shoes, and see his world through his eyes.

Only when we see Shakespeare in his original historical context can we understand what his plays and poems really mean.

This blog explains some of my ideas and discoveries, to prepare for this series of novels.

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The University of Oxford's Bodleian Library & The Royal Shakespeare Company

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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Hidden Shakespeare by Nicholas Fogg

It is not often that I find a book about Shakespeare that really opens my eyes.

I thought I had read them all!

But when I recently read Nicholas Fogg's Hidden Shakespeare, I was surprised and delighted to learn even more than I had already known.

Mr. Fogg has the unique distinction of having been born and raised in Stratford, and he has the deepest knowledge of Shakespeare's birthplace and early life that I have ever read.

Mr. Fogg grew up with children with family names like Hathaway, Quiney and of course Shakespeare.

He even shares his birthday with Shakespeare!

Mr. Fogg sheds some light on Shakespeare's family's past, his father and mother, and their parents -- and he gives us a very clear picture of what it was like for Shakespeare to grow up in Stratford.

One of my favorite passages describes what it was like for a young boy like Shakespeare to see a company of actors for the first time.

He would have been seated on a bench, sitting between his father's legs -- and how "it is appropriate that companies of actors are first recorded in the town during John Shakespeare's" time as Bailiff of Stratford.

The chapter entitled "The Rise of the Theatre" is so good, it's worth the price of the book alone!

I also have not read a better description of the background of the Elizabethan theatre, and it's origins in Catholic liturgical entertainment.

While this takes place before Shakespeare's career on stage, it is very important in order to understand where theatre had come from and what it meant for an audience during Shakespeare's time.

Shakespeare was seizing an opportunity to write and perform plays the likes of which had never been known in England, but they were based on very familiar religious ceremonies.

This background -- the evolution from Catholic services to The Theatre and The Globe with Marlowe and Shakespeare -- can not be emphasized too much, and that is why it is refreshing to read Mr. Fogg's insightful chapter.

It is also so important because Shakespeare was familiar with these services and the Mystery plays, and he is using that familiarity, and the audience's familiarity to his advantage.

In my version of Hamlet, I emphasize how Shakespeare used the playhouse as a church, and the play as a funeral mass. This would have been crystal clear to an Elizabethan in the audience watching the play, but it is wholly misunderstood today.

There is so much in this book that I found refreshing and entertaining. I can't recommend it enough!

Whether you are familiar with Shakespeare's life or not, whether you know his plays or not, you should buy this book. It belongs in your library.

For too long there has been an effort to remove Shakespeare from his life and times -- and consider his plays as literature and nothing more.

But the truth of the matter is that there was a man named Shakespeare and he was born in Stratford and died in Stratford -- and while he was in London he wrote and performed some of the greatest works the world has ever known.

His plays may be timeless -- but they were written by a human being in a particular place and time.

Nicholas Fogg has done a superb job at giving us a look at that man in his time and in his place.

It is wonderful, and fitting, that one of Stratford's sons can teach us so much the most famous of Stratford's sons.

There is a poetic justice in that, and I like to think that Shakespeare himself would appreciate it.


David B. Schajer

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