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, July 5, 2016

Lunch with Shakespeare

I recently read an article in which two people said that the one person they wish they could have lunch with is William Shakespeare.

So, what would lunch with Shakespeare be like? What kind of man is he?

The Chandos portrait of Shakespeare

In the course of all my research about Shakespeare, I have a very good understanding of his character. I have taken a good measure of the man.

In the course of my creative writing, I am producing a very full portrait of William Shakespeare — as a boy, as a father, as a husband, and as a playwright/actor who served two monarchs.

The Shakespeare I know, the Shakespeare I have discovered, is the most fascinating character I have ever written in all my years as a writer.

I want to share with you some of my discoveries about the Shakespeare I know, as I imagine him in my writings about his life.

Shakespeare age 12

And when I write about him, he is not dead and buried, but very much alive and kicking — so I hope you won’t mind that I write him in the present tense. 

Shakespeare is very friendly, very affable, and easy to laugh. 

He tries to find common ground with people and create a bond with them, even with strangers and acquaintances. He always tries to find something humourous, something to laugh about.

The Human Condition is something that Shakespeare finds endlessly fascinating. More often than not, he finds it to be very funny.

Shakespeare realized at an early age that he loves people — their strengths, their weaknesses, their odd behaviour, their idiosyncracies, how they love and how they hate — and that he could do something with all that information.

Shakespeare at home with his family

In other words, before he became a great playwright, he first had to be a great fan of the Human Condition. 

How did he become the greatest playwright of all time? Perhaps because he is the greatest fan there ever was, anywhere in the world.

What quality then, that he was born with or that he nurtured, became his most powerful tool as a writer?

I think the quality is empathy, the ability to feel what another person feels, as if the feelings are your own.

But the origin of the word empathy is very interesting. The word is derived from the German word Einf├╝hlung which means “feeling-into.”

Cobbe portrait

I like to think of this as Shakespeare’s true talent — his ability to project himself into another person, to feel what they feel and to think what they think.

But that is only half the story. 

With this gift of empathy, how did he become so successful as a writer?

I think the word is endurance. 

He has an incredibly strong drive to keep on, no matter what the circumstances, no matter how difficult his life becomes.

His endurance is not a gift, and I don’t think you can say that it is something you are born with or not. It is only through a lifetime of struggle and effort, of time and pressure, that his true talent has emerged.

Where did his endurance come from? From the love of his family, from his faith in God, from his love of England — its remarkable people, its rich history and its fighting spirit.

But most of all, his endurance is a result of hardship, and adversity.

Droeshout portrait

He could have died when he was born, as plague ravaged England in 1563-4. At a time when the mortality rates for children was terrible, there was never any guarantee that he would survive childhood.

During his lifetime, there were many moments where he could have died from disease, been conscripted into the army and died on a ship, or on a field in the Netherlands perhaps.

Later he would lose his only son, Hamnet. He would lose his father and mother, and his siblings.

He faced these tragedies the only way he knew how, by never giving up. Also, this adversity only made him want to fight even harder.

I am reminded of a book I read many years ago about how scientists interviewed people to see what happiness is. Some of the happiest people they ever interviewed were the survivors of the London Blitz.

Yes, the Blitz was a nightmare. Yes, it was dangerous. But these remarkably strong people endured it in large part by embracing life and finding the humour wherever and whenever they could.

That is a great way of describing Shakespeare. He loved life, he loved people, and none of that love was ever a waste of time. In fact, it was what gave him his true strength, his powerful endurance.

Grafton portrait

What was it like for him to write and perform plays for two monarchs?

Shakespeare finds great inspiration from Geoffrey Chaucer, who also served two monarchs. Chaucer created the precedent. If Chaucer could do it, then so could Shakespeare.

When you read Chaucer you get the same feeling when you read Shakespeare. Chaucer is full of oddball characters who say and do funny things, and underneath you can sense the political allegorical message.

Shakespeare, like anyone else in England, wondered what it was like in the royal court.

Like most people, he thought that England’s center of power was full of grand, important and noble people doing important and noble things.

But when he actually got there, it was not so grand.

Shakespeare depicts the royal court in Hamlet as a chilly and dangerous place, filled with schemers.

In the royal court in Twelfth Night, drunkards like Toby Belch and Andrew Aguecheek are more memorable than Countess Olivia.

Modern recreation of his face

What would Shakespeare think of the fact that his plays have endured for so long?

I imagine he would be immensely pleased, and completely surprised.

Shakespeare knew that his plays were striking a chord, and could have the potential for being remembered for as long as Chaucer, for example.

But Shakespeare never in a million years predicted that his plays have shaped our world’s culture.

For that, even he would have no words to express his thanks.

If you have any questions for Shakespeare, please feel free to send them!


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