As someone who has spent most of her life interested in Shakespeare and Shakespearean biography, I’ve pursued all the off-beat theories about who wrote Shakespeare. And I have to tell you, all of them were, to my mind, nothing and I remained a convinced Staffordian.
Take for instance the Oxfordians. Some people I respect and a good number of the science fiction community are Oxfordians. Which is plain insanity born of not knowing a heck of a lot about Elizabethan times, and therefore attach overmuch importance to the fact Shakespeare spelled his name many different ways, or the fact that he’s “elusive in records.” In point of fact, for records of that era, he’s one of the people whose lives are best documented. When writing the magical Shakespeare trilogy, I made great use of a site (I’m too lazy to see if it’s still up) which tracked Shakespeare day by day by documentation, and was searchable. Also if you know history of literature, you know the earl of Oxford could not have written those plays. Okay, perhaps you don’t know it, because you are not a writer. Oxford was impaired by an excellent education. His own work shows that every step of the way. I understand, because I too had an excellent education, and it took me year, as well as a lot of work to get to where I didn’t default to it as a matter of course. It’s a subconscious habit, trained early. Oxford would have defaulted to erudition, no matter how much he tried to hide it.
Only the need to earn a living finally broke me of such habits. But of course, Oxford had no such need.
The other hypothesis for the authorship of the plays are even more outre. The most laughable is probably that Elizabeth I wrote them (she presumably knew where Scotland was, and wouldn’t make the other various ridiculous mistakes the bard did — as an hack to another, often under the pressure of deadlines, I get you, brother.) In addition there are good chances she was busy with that Queening thing.
And then there are the utterly bizarre left-field theories such as that Antonio Jose da Silva faked his death and went to England to write Shakespeare. Look, I won’t even object to the idea that at that time and place for a Jew jumping from Portugal to England might be jumping from the fire into the frying pan — depending on the year — but seriously? His plays were more like Oxford’s work, the product of an excellent education. There was so little blood on stage, and so many messengers bringing distressing news it might as well have been a way station for messengers.
So until recently, and despite the hundreds of Shakespearean biography works I remained a convinced Stratfordian. I still am in a way, as I don’t think any one person other than Good Old Will Waggstaff wrote those plays.
However, recently some evidence has come to light, after centuries of hiding and obfuscation. It is not conclusive, of course, but I daresay it is a convincing theory, and one that will probably keep Shakespearean biography students hopping for the next century or so.
The evidence in itself is not much: a blotted manuscript for Romeo and Juliet, with plentiful of cat prints upon it and a notation on the margin “Bugger me if I sample my master’s ale again. Look how I’ve stepped all over this play.”
Then there are, carved in a piece of wood believed salvaged from the tables of the Mermaid Alehouse in Cheapside, the notations “Kit Marlowe is nothing but a cat.” And “And neither is Will Shakespeare.”
There are other bits and pieces, including a pen and ink portrait of two cats, one a light colored and one a dark, sitting on the stage of the theater and labeled Fair Youth and Dark Lady. There are upon the paws of the fair cat what looks suspiciously like dark ink stains.
Then there is the recently recovered missive from Robert Greene, playwright of the time, who was known to have a strong hatred for both Shakespeare and Marlowe and which refers at some length to the Fair Youth, that mangy cat of Marlowe’s which Shakestaff inheritted, and which taught Shakespeare’s cat to write plays. And how between the two of them they made a worthless poet a noted playwright.
Based on all this, I feel confident in putting forth the idea that indeed the works of Shakespeare were written by — two — cats. Well, except the sonnets and his long-form poems of course.
Also, I think we can fairly now assume that the sonnets refer in fact to the cats, forever dethroning the various competitors for Shakespeare’s mysterious lovers. In fact the personalities and disdain and all the varying affections would long since have made us see these were cats, were we not so willfully blind.
It explains also why Shakespeare’s early plays show signs of Kit Marlowe’s style, before it was tempered by Dark Lady’s more elaborate and less sanguinary pen.
But more than that, honestly, examine the relationships and events in the plays, and you’ll find they were obviously written by cats, since cats have always had more interesting lives than humans. This also explains why no human has been able to equal Mr. Shakespeare’s brilliance.
Note that not only does the Taming of the Shrew make a lot more sense, if you consider it an accounting of how cats tamed humans, but also Twelfth Night makes perfect sense: since humans of either sex look the same to cats, and humans are notoriously bad at sexing cats, a cat would presume humans just have trouble telling these things. And honestly, what is more cat like than the way the Elves in Midsummer Night’s Dream play with humans? As for Romeo and Juliet, both caterwauling beneath your beloved’s balcony and playing dead are cat’s favorites.
I will leave for someone with more time and patience — and who is not at the moment running a fever — to find the I’m sure inexhaustible supply of textual clues in the plays. For now, I’ll just leave you with a very few.
Take this quote from All’s Well, which clearly implies that cats and their owners are to some measure interchangeable “Here is a purr of fortune’s, sir, or of fortune’s cat”
Or this line from the same play: “For this description of thine honesty? A pox upon
him for me, he’s more and more a cat.”
And from As you like it, act III, scene 2:
“Let him seek out Rosalinde.
If the cat will after kind,
So be sure will Rosalinde.”
Henry IV, act III, scene 1, again posits the interchangeability of cats and humans:
Why, so it would have done at the same season, if
your mother’s cat had but kittened, though yourself
had never been born.
From Two Gentlemen of Verona, the same cat-man confusion:
my mother weeping, my father
wailing, my sister crying, our maid howling, our cat
wringing her hands, and all our house in a great
perplexity, yet did not this cruel-hearted cur shed
Now while this hypothesis must seem far fetched, consider Will Shakespeare, waking, jug-bitten and feeling the effects of a night of drinking, to find full plays written. He probably didn’t even know that his cats wrote it. He probably assumed that the genius was in the pots of ale consumed the night before.
And while the idea of a cat handling the quill might seem far fetched, we have some indication that the cats of the time were very different and perhaps more dexterous than ours. Consider the Earl of Southampton’s cat visiting him nightly in the tower through his imprisonment there.
It’s time and more than time we cease our speciist views of the whole affair. Kit Marlowe and William Shakespeare where it pertains to the authorship of the plays were ultimately cats.
And perhaps, lords and ladies, so are you and I.
In atonement of my long years of blindness I now withdraw to finish my masterwork:
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are cats!
[Exits stage left — probably not pursued by a bear — to consume caffeine and ibuprofen, for the lack of which so far, you must thank for this post.]