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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Articles Written For:

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

Most Popular Posts:

1. Shakespeare's Shylock Solved 2. Shakespeare's Othello Finally Identified 3. Shakespeare In Love Sequel Solved 4. The Real Romeo and Juliet 5. Shakespeare's Malvolio Solved 6. Shakespeare's Real Petruchio



Friday, November 17, 2017

Shakespeare's Huge Blunder




Does Shakespeare sometimes seem impossible to understand?

It’s not your fault.

First of all, his plays and poems were written a long time ago.

It is hard to figure out what happened last week, let alone determine what Shakespeare was doing in London 400 years ago.

There is another reason why Shakespeare is hard to understand. He wrote in what is called Early Modern English.

It is very similar to our Modern English, but different enough to make it sometimes sound like gobbledygook.

As far as I know, Early Modern English is not commonly taught in any school. So we can be forgiven for not easily understanding Shakespeare’s words and phrases.

However, even if we did study Early Modern English, we still would find his plays and poems hard to understand. We would still be left scratching our heads.

Why?

Because he wrote in a language he thought we would all know.

But Shakespeare was wrong. 

He made a huge blunder.

Yes, even Shakespeare, a brilliant genius, was human enough to make a mistake. And it’s a whopper!

Where did he go wrong?

He expected that all of us today would know the Bible.

Image taken from 'The holi bible'. The Bishops' Bible, 1569
Wikimedia Commons

He also expected us to know Ovid, Plutarch, Aeschylus, Socrates, Aesop, and all the rest.

How could he have made such a huge miscalculation?

Because in his day the audience of his, who could read, were reading the Bible or hearing it recited aloud on a daily basis. They were also steeped in the Classics.

Minerva transforms Nyctimene into an owl
From Ovid's Metamorphoses
Wikimedia Commons

There were many people in his audiences who could not read nor write. But they knew the Bible, and they had heard Aesop’s Fables from the time they were children. 

Also, Shakespeare kept this audience, of those who could not read, entertained by all of the stage antics.

 When we just read the plays instead of seeing them performed, we miss all of the stage action and physical comedy that carries the plays along.

Don’t think that Shakespeare was writing only for the literate in the audience. Why would he? They were in the minority.

No, he wrote for the majority, who were illiterate. He wanted the widest audience possible, and that meant writing primarily for the audience who could not read.


At some point in his career, Shakespeare realized how the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament had been read and studied for thousands of years.

He also realized that the ancient Greek and Roman classics had endured for millennia.

He made an assumption that if those books had lasted so long, then they would continue to last thousands of years into the future.

All he had to do, in the hopes that his plays and poems would endure, was to write with a similar language, with similar character types and with themes similar to those found in the great books from the past.

He predicted that as long as people continued to study what was written in the past, with the Classics and with the Bible, then his plays and poems would have a future and would be understood completely.

He was half right.

Shakespeare’s work has indeed endured. We still read and perform his plays. We scrutinize his poems.

But he got the other half wrong.

It probably never occurred to him that we would ignore the great written works of the past.

It would astonish him to think that we have allowed so much great writing, and such essential history, to be dismissed and disparaged.

Do you want to understand Shakespeare? 

Do you want to solve Shakespeare for yourself?

I invite you to read the Bible and the Classics.

It is all right there.

It has been right there all along — hiding in plain sight.

 Heracles gets the Belt of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons.
 J. M. FĂ©lix Magdalena.
Wikimedia Commons

Once you begin to know these books, and begin to see Shakespeare for yourself, you won’t be blind to him anymore.

You will discover that Shakespeare’s life and works are not shrouded in the dark.

You will begin to understand why, in Midsummer Night's Dream, Shakespeare named one of his characters Hippolyta -- and what that has to do with Amazonian Queen of the same name.

You are probably wondering why no one has come along and solved Shakespeare before.

Why hasn’t someone with a university degree in Theology and/or the Classics ever used the Bible and ancient Greek and Roman writing in order to translate and solve Shakespeare?

How is it possible that all it took to decipher Shakespeare was to use these great books as a cipher key?

There is a rather simple reason.

It has only been in the last 100 years or so that Shakespeare has been performed and studied with any real frequency.

Before that, many of his plays were performed infrequently, if at all. 

King Lear, for example, was rarely performed. It was even rewritten -- the tragic ending was replaced with a happy one!

Here is a picture of the cover page of the Lear with "Alterations":

The History of King Lear (an adaptation of Shakespeare's tragedy by Nahum Tate) from 1681.
Wikimedia Commons

Before Shakespeare became popular with the general public, the scholarly elite did not like him, or they ignored him.

As early as the 1660s — only a few decades after his death — Shakespeare’s plays were considered “ungrammatical” and “coarse.”

Even today, there are British theatre critics who hate how vulgar the plays can be, and abhor efforts to make the plays more entertaining and funny.

In my forthcoming novel, I will introduce you to a new Shakespeare.

He is a Shakespeare you have never met before. He has been hidden from you, for far too long.

This first novel weaves together Shakespeare’s biography with his plays.

It is my hope that you will finally understand who Shakespeare really was, and what his writing really means, in this sweeping and historically accurate narrative of his life.

Cheers,

David B. Schajer