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, August 16, 2019

James Shapiro & John Paul Stevens



I highly recommend this article about the letters exchanged between the eminent Shakespearean scholar, James Shapiro, and the United States Supreme Court Justice, John Paul Stevens. 


The Honorable John Paul Stevens
Wikimedia Commons


Stevens ardently believed that Shakespeare did not write the plays. He thought the true author of the plays was Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.

Stevens wrote to Shapiro after reading his book which defends Shakespeare, “Contested Will”. The two men wrote to each other over a six month period, starting in 2011.

Shapiro did not release these letters out of respect for Stevens, who passed away earlier this year.

There are so many fascinating things about this encounter between Shapiro and Stevens — I could write several blog articles about it.

What intrigued me was how surprised Shapiro was to find that “so wise a jurist”, as he put it, would “embrace a conspiracy theory.”

I am not in the least surprised. Stevens was not the only Supreme Court Justice who doubted that Shakespeare wrote his plays. Harry Blackmun and Sandra Day O'Connor also disputed his authorship.

Many famous and influential people believe in Oxford — like Mark Rylance or Derek Jacobi. But they are far less influential than these Justices, whose whose decisions are so vitally important to the United States.

I share Shapiro’s “disappointment” with Stevens’ firmly held belief in Oxford, and I agree with Shapiro’s assessment that it has “disturbing political implications”.

During their exchange of letters, Stevens “hardly retreated an inch” from his position. To me, this suggests that Stevens was not interested in learning anything from Shapiro. I think he was eager to sway Shapiro, who is admirably unmoved.

We want to believe that people as powerful, as influential, and as educated as Justice Stevens know more than we do. We want to believe that they are somehow endowed with greater wisdom than we mere mortals.

We are wrong to believe that. Yes, being a Supreme Court Justice is one of the loftiest professions in the world, and it takes a certain brilliance to be one. But that does not mean that everything a Supreme Court Justice says or does is beyond reproach.

Supreme Court Justices are human beings. All of us are imperfect.

This exchange of letters reminds me of the Duke of Venice who judges the case between Shylock and Antonio in The Merchant of Venice.

The Duke is not a good man, and he is not an impartial judge. Even before Shylock enters the “Court of Justice”, the Duke says to Antonio:

DUKE
I am sorry for thee: thou art come to answer
A stony adversary, an inhuman wretch
uncapable of pity, void and empty
From any dram of mercy.

Clearly, Shakespeare wants us to know that Shylock doesn’t have a chance in this courtroom.

The trial itself is a mockery of justice. Shylock should have won. Antonio should have lost. 

The Duke does not bother finding out if Shylock is right. He closes his eyes to that.

He also does not see that a young woman is impersonating a man.

Lady Justice wears a blindfold, because she is supposed to be impartial. She is not supposed to play favorites. She is not supposed to decide a case before she has heard all of the evidence.

Shakespeare is teaching us an important lesson with the Duke. Just because the Duke is a judge, that does not mean that justice will be served. 

Justice Stevens was not as bad as the Duke, but for some reason he chose to ignore the evidence that Shakespeare was Shakespeare.

We should not accept his theory that it was Oxford just because Stevens was a Supreme Court Justice. 

Nor should we believe Shapiro’s theory that it was Shakespeare just because he is a scholar of Shakespeare.

We should be our own judges. We should seek our own answers.

I am currently writing the first novel in a series about the life of Shakespeare. Instead of just writing blog articles about him, I want to tell you his whole life story.

I want you to judge for yourselves if I am right, and if my solutions to his life and plays are correct.

Cheers,

David B. Schajer


Thursday, August 1, 2019

Branagh's False All Is True



Did anyone see the new movie All is True — directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh as Shakespeare?


Photo credit: Melinda Seckington
Wikimedia Commons


Apparently very few people did — it made only about one million dollars at the box office.

You would think that any movie with an actor and director as good as Branagh would be successful. You would think that any movie about Shakespeare would be successful.

Even that horrid 2011 movie Anonymous, which depicts Shakespeare as a buffoon who did not write the plays, made ten times more money.

From what I can tell, All is True makes very little effort to tell a true story. It tells a story of Shakespeare in his final years. It is a period of his life with so little evidence to work with, the filmmakers invented a story that can not be proved or disproved. 

It seems that the story they chose to make is dreary and depressing. The Shakespeare they chose to depict is a man who is filled with regrets, and who has little joy in his life. The movie also invents conflict between Shakespeare and his family.

I admire the film’s writer, Ben Elton, very much. I saw the first episode of his spoofy TV comedy about Shakespeare, Upstart Crow. It was quite funny.

But I think it is a tragedy for two such talented men — not to mention such an incredible cast with Judi Dench and Ian McKellen — to make something so bad.

After having seen Branagh's terrible production of Macbeth, I am worried that he has lost his touch, when it comes to Shakespeare. 

I know it is not fair to review this movie, since I have not seen it.

But in my defense, having studied Shakespeare’s whole life in such great detail, I think it is offensive to choose to make him such an unlikeable and unsympathetic character.

I think it is insulting to make his last days into a “sloppy soap opera” -- as one reviewer put it.

I did not see this movie, and I have no plans to see it. 

I believe that this movie is unsuccessful because Branagh and Elton told a story they wanted to tell, and they did not tell Shakespeare’s story.

I believe that no one wanted to see this movie because they could tell that it did not honor Shakespeare — and because it did not make a serious good faith attempt to tell the truth.

In other words, the audience could tell that the movie is false.

I think that there is an audience that is starving to learn something new and original about William Shakespeare.

I believe that this audience is craving the truth — and has been waiting centuries to satisfy that longing.

This blog is an attempt to get to that truth, and to offer you information and facts that are ignored by historians, and especially by filmmakers. 

I am currently writing the first novel in a series that will cover Shakespeare’s whole life. I think what I have discovered about him, and my solutions to the plays and poems he wrote, will satisfy even the most skeptical people who read and admire Shakespeare.

Cheers,

David B. Schajer




Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Hamlet Not Hamnet



Happy Birthday William Shakespeare!





For Shakespeare's birthday, we should all come together and honor him and his legacy by making a choice.

Why do we call Shakespeare’s son Hamnet?

Why don’t we call his son Hamlet?

When was it decided? Who decided it? 

Hamnet and Hamlet do not have different meanings — just as there is no difference in meaning between Alison and Alyson, or Johnathan and Jonathan.

So if Hamnet and Hamlet mean the same thing — why choose Hamnet?

Even a simple and brief examination of the evidence conclusively proves that William Shakespeare’s son Hamnet Shakespeare should be known as Hamlet Shakespeare.

It is time to set the record straight once and for all, and honor William Shakespeare by correcting the name of his son. 

In Shakespeare’s time, there was no standard spelling system. For example, the name Shakespeare could be spelled in many different ways — as Shakspur, Shakesper, Shaxbeard, etc.

So the name Hamlet could be spelled Hamlett, or Hamnet, or Hamlette, etc.

However, it is crucial to understand that whether someone spelled the name Hamlet or Hamnet — it was the exact same name, and would have been recognized as such, by the people at the time.

In other words, the names were interchangeable, and how someone’s name was spelled was up to the person writing it down. As long as the spelling was a close approximation of how the name sounded, that was acceptable.

A man named Hamlet in 1600, for example, might have his name spelled in a variety of ways — and he would think nothing of it.

The first major effort to make English spelling standard was in Shakespeare’s lifetime. He was well aware of this effort, and wrote about this in Love’s Labours Lost. Here is a link to a great Wikipedia article on the subject: English-language spelling reform.

It is entirely possible that Shakespeare himself wanted to reform spelling and make it standard.

All of the variants of the Hamlet name were all based on the same original source — the name Amleth.

Amleth was the hero of a story written by Saxo the Grammarian, a Danish historian, from 1200 AD. Fran├žois de Belleforest wrote a new version of Saxo’s story, in 1570,  in which the name Amleth was changed to the spelling Hamlet. These are the two most important sources for Shakespeare’s Hamlet play.

Shakespeare’s daughter Judith and her twin brother were baptised on 2 February 1585. The names of the newborns in the baptismal register lists the boy as “Hamnet”.

Sadly, he died in 1596, and was buried at the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon. The name in the burial register is listed as “Hamnet filius William Shakspere” — meaning “Hamnet son of William Shakespeare”.

Presumably these two entries are why the name Hamnet is used today. However, it is misleading to continue to use Hamnet as his name today, when for all intents and purposes the name Hamnet means Hamlet.

Who entered the name in these two registers? Was it the vicar? Was it a clerk? Was it perhaps the same person who entered the name both times?

Whoever it was that wrote the name “Hamnet” in the baptismal and burial registers spelled the name however he preferred — at a time when there was no right or wrong way to spell it.

Are we choosing the name Hamnet because of a clerk or vicar? If so, then that logic does not hold up, when we look at Shakespeare, his wife, and his neighbor.

Shakespeare’s wife’s maiden name is known to us today as Anne Hathaway. In her own father’s last will and testament, her name is spelled “Agnes”. Some scholars believe that we should refer to her as Agnes Hathaway. They have a very good point. I am making much the same point.

When we refer to her today, we are making a choice to refer to her as Anne and not as Agnes. 

The clerk who made Shakespeare and Anne’s wedding license wrote “Wm Shaxpere" and "Annam Whateley”. 

A financial guarantee was made for their wedding. The clerk wrote "William Shagspere and Anne Hathwey”.

So, if the spelling of a clerk or a vicar is the sole reason why we choose one spelling over the other — then we should we change the RSC to the Royal Shagspere Company — and Shakespeare’s Globe theatre to Shaxpere’s Globe theatre. We should change Anne Hathaway’s cottage to Annam Hathwey’s cottage.

So, as we can see, clerks did not spell these names with any consistency. Therefore, why should we consistently today refer to Shakespeare’s son as Hamnet?

Why would we accept how a clerk spelled the name — when it is possible that Shakespeare had an important personal reason to spell it as “Hamlet”?

How do we know that he had a preference for that spelling? Because he wrote a play called Hamlet.

If we assume that Shakespeare had any control over how the name Hamlet/Hamnet/Amleth should be spelled, then we should assume that he preferred “Hamlet” over any other spelling.

He may not have had any control over how his Hamlet character’s name was spelled in Quarto printed versions of the play. However, when the First Folio was printed, it very clearly lists the play as The Tragedy of Hamlet.

This is the greatest piece of evidence that Shakespeare had a particular spelling in mind.

It was also the same spelling of Belleforest’s Hamlet, which was the most recently written variation of the same story.

It has been suggested that Shakespeare named his son after a neighbor of his in Stratford, Hamnet Sadler.

But why do we accept the“Hamnet” spelling for this neighbor? How was this chosen? Who chose this spelling of his name?

When this neighbor was born, in his baptismal register, a clerk or the vicar spelled his name “Hamlette Sadler”. 

Finally, there is one last piece of evidence.

There is precious little that we have today that is written in Shakespeare’s own hand. His last will and testament was probably written out by a legal clerk, or by Shakespeare’s attorney. There are a few places where Shakespeare himself signed the documents.

There are some scholars who believe that the entire will was written by Shakespeare’s own hand.

In that last will, Shakespeare left some money to this neighbor — and the name is spelled, perhaps by Shakespeare himself, as “Hamlett”.

I think you would agree that the evidence in support of Hamlet outweighs Hamnet. There simply does not seem to be a solid reason to continue to refer to his son as Hamnet.

I do not know why Hamnet is the commonly accepted version of his name. 

I suspect it has to do with the people who believe that Shakespeare’s plays have little to no bearing on his own life and times. Therefore, they do not want to explore the plays for any references to the original historical context in which they were written.

Some people would prefer to think that there is no meaningful connection between Shakespeare’s son and the Hamlet play. By choosing to call his son Hamnet, they direct our attention away from the real meaning and purpose of the play.

I am happy to tell you that these people are wrong. I am pleased to tell you that Shakespeare wrote the Hamlet play for his son, Hamlet.

There are many reasons why he did this, which I explore in my forthcoming novel about Shakespeare’s life.

The most important reason is because had Shakespeare’s son lived, he would have carried on the Shakespeare name, and he would have inherited his father’s property, as was his birthright. 

Shakespeare’s legacy rested on his son. But his son tragically died, much too young.

Therefore, without a son, his whole legacy was in jeopardy. When he wrote the Hamlet play, he bequeathed to us what he would have given his son.

I think that what was most precious to Shakespeare was not his house, or his furniture — I think it was his beliefs and the hard-won wisdom he had learned in his lifetime.

Therefore, this play represents the best and most valuable lessons Shakespeare wanted to impart to his son, and also to us. It is a play about fathers and sons, parents and children, the choices we make, and the consequences of those choices. There is tremendous meaning to the play, which has long been obscured.

Shakespeare knew that if only one of his plays endured, it would be Hamlet. He knew that it would be his legacy. Fortunately, he was right.

We should celebrate Shakespeare today on his birthday. We should honor him by choosing to honor his son by his rightful name, the name Shakespeare chose for his son — Hamlet.

Cheers,

David B. Schajer



Here are some helpful links:


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamnet_Shakespeare

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sources_of_Hamlet

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakespeare%27s_will

https://shakespearedocumented.folger.edu/exhibition/document/william-shakespeares-last-will-and-testament-original-copy-including-three