Just when you thought it might be safe to believe that Shakespeare was Shakespeare again, there’s a new book to set your naive, un-elitist head straight. The Truth Will Out: Unmasking the Real Shakespeare, by Brenda James and William Rubinstein offers up the newest proof that Shakespeare was, in fact, someone else. Who? Well, it turns out that Henry Neville’s claim to fame is not as one of the founding members of the Neville Brothers. No, he’s actually the latest in a long line of contenders for the title of The Real William Shakespeare. And I had just recovered from the shock of discovering that Shakespeare was actually Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, which was so very scandalous, because it snuck up on me while I was busy thinking that Shakespeare was really Sir Francis Bacon, which was the conclusion I came to after I thought he was Christopher Marlowe. So how do we know this time that Shakespeare was Henry Neville? It’s so obvious:
“James said that she began exploring the connection between Shakespeare and Neville about six years ago when she deciphered what she believes is a code on the dedication page of Shakespeare’s sonnets. The code revealed the name Henry Neville.”
Can we be sure? Will our Shakespeare-wasn’t-Shakespeare hearts be broken again with the next earth-shattering discovery of Shakespeare’s true identity? Well…
“The authors say Neville’s life helps explain a switch in Shakespeare’s plays, from histories and comedies to tragedies, at the turn of the 17th century. Neville was imprisoned in the Tower of London from 1601 to 1603 for his role in the Essex rebellion (the attempt by the Earl of Essex and his supporters to overthrow Queen Elizabeth I), which the authors say accounts for the more tragic tone of Hamlet, written in 1601 and 1602, and the plays that follow.”
Oh yes. I believe the world is now collectively saying “Duh,” completely unable to believe that nobody saw it before. Hamlet‘s a tragedy because its author was in prison. Obviously.
I hope that when they pick the next William Shakespeare, they can find someone whose life can explain the switch from the tragedies to the romances, because that’s a real head-scratcher.
Seriously. I think it’s time someone called Dan Brown.