Monday, February 11, 2013

Looking for Richards

This old Shakespeare hand got two nasty surprises last week.  First the dishonored remains of Richard III were discovered in a grave -- a hole really -- under what is now a parking lot.  The curvature of the spine was confirmed; the gaudy crimes attributed by Shakespeare could not be proved or disproved, of course.
I seem to recall a touching story about local monks taking charge of the dead king and giving him proper rites.  Well, brothers?  Anything to say? 

A few days later, on a PBS/BBC program called Shakespeare Uncovered, Derek Jacobi stated his belief that Richard II and other plays were written by Edward Vere, Earl of Oxford.  Say it ain't so, Derek!  Or to quote another play, "Et tu?"  Sir Derek echoed the familiar Victorian line that a Warwickshire bumpkin with a grammar school education "could not have" written these works.  But "could not have" is not an argument, it's an emotional response.  One might say the illegitimate son of a small-town notary "could not have" painted The Last Supper, or the son of a second-rate musician who spent his childhood traipsing around Europe instead of going to school "could not have" composed Don Giovanni, or an obscure German who didn't talk until he was six "could not have" changed the way we look at the universe.  Genius is ineffable.  It happens when and where it happens.  You of all people should know that, Derek. 

Goodness, I'm in a short-tempered mood this year.  If it was anyone but Jacobi, whom I've admired since I, Claudius...



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