Everything was quiet, too quiet. As the two opposing sides face one another in the battle field, you can hear the wind howling in agony. This war has gone on for centuries and nobody knows when it will end. For as long as the truth isn’t revealed, no one is willing to back out. This is the scene that comes into my mind as I try to personify the two opposing sides of the Shakespeare controversy. For years now, the Stratfordians and Anti-Stratfordians fought. And their reason of fighting, the identity of William Shakespeare.
William Shakespeare, also known as the “Bard of Avon” or the “Swan of Avon”, was one of the greatest writers the world has ever known. Scarcity of information about him makes it hard to talk about the early stages of his life. What is sure is that he was born in Stratford-upon-Avon to an alderman named John Shakespeare and a local landed heiress named Mary Arden at around April of 1564. Being the son of a public official, Shakespeare most likely attended the King’s New School. No records of him entering a university was ever found and so most assumes that he did not enter in any university in his time (Biography Channel, “William Shakespeare”).
At 18 years old, Shakespeare started out his own family with a woman named Anne Hathaway. They were blessed with three children, Susanna and the twins Judith and Hamnet. Unfortunately, Hamnet died at the age of 11 because of an unknown cause. After the birth of the twins in 1585 William Shakespeare’s “lost years” occurred. No traces of him were found for seven years. By 1592, Shakespeare was said to have started working as an actor and playwright in London. This was where the magic happened; the stages of London became the witness on the birth of William Shakespeare, one of the greatest writers the world has ever known. (Biography Channel, “William Shakespeare”)
Shakespeare definitely left a mark in the face of history. His works continue to awe both readers and audiences all around the world for over 400 years now. Of course, his popularity did not come instantly. Though he was a respected poet and playwright during his time, it was in the 19th century that his works reached the height of popularity that it is now accepting. Beginning with the Romantic period of the early 1800s and continuing through the Victorian period, acclaim and reverence for William Shakespeare and his work reached its height (Biography Channel, “William Shakespeare”).
During this period of time, the term “Bardolatry” was coined by George Bernard Shaw in 1901. The term refers to the excessive worship of William Shakespeare. Bardolatry has its origins in the mid-18th century, when Samuel Johnson referred to Shakespeare's work as "a map of life". In 1769 Shakespearean actor David Garrick read out a poem culminating with the words "'tis he, 'tis he, / The God of our idolatry" as they unveiled a statue of Shakespeare in Stratford upon Avon (Wikipedia, “Bardolatry”).
During the beginning of the 19th century, Bardolatry was already in full swing. Many writers from that time treated Shakespeare like a god. Shakespeare was celebrated as an unschooled supreme genius and had been raised to the statute of a secular god and many Victorian writers treated Shakespeare's works as a secular equivalent to the Bible. However, there were others who felt uneasy because of the vast difference between Shakespeare’s god-like reputation and his somewhat stodgy life. And so the theory questioning Shakespeare’s identity was born (Wikipedia, “History of the Shakespeare…”). The idea of this theory first came from two comic fantasies from the 18th century, “An Essay Against Too Much Reading” by Matthew Concanen and “The Life and Adventures of Common Sense” by Herbert Lawrence. In the first book, the author attacks Shakespeare’s lack of background and suggests that Shakespeare probably has “one of those chuckle-pated Historians for his particular Associate…or he might have starvd upon his History.” Concanen...
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