A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster
I was on my way to Barrie (I drop down once a week to look for signs of civilization – so far no luck) and I heard an interview on the CBC confirming a theory I have been promoting for years; William Shakespeare, the greatest of all playwrights, did not write all those plays! The so-called Shakespearean comedies and tragedies the world has enjoyed for the past 400 years were written, not by the Bard of Avon, but by a British nobleman, Henry Neville.
I can’t begin to count the number of times I have argued that very thing as I sat with my fellow scholars in the alley behind the Liquor Store.
Isn’t it amazing that we are still squabbling about this after all these years? I don’t suppose a day goes by at your house when Shakespeare’s name or some reference to his plays hasn’t come up at least once. Like that time, madam, when you stepped out of the shower and you heard your nosy neighbour say from the lawn below,
“But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?”
“Hey, Juliet! I’d have that mole looked at if I were you.”
You must remember the afternoon your teenager, Cecil, looked into the pot of homemade soup bubbling away on the stove and complimented you with those immortal lines from Macbeth,
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog.
If you’re wondering where I’ll be
‘Tis Toony Tuesday at KFC
My wife’s opinion of Shakespeare seems to come up most often after I have casually mentioned seeing Emma Thompson’s bottom in the movie, Much Ado About Nothing for the 200th time. She is even less enthusiastic when I tell her I saw Rae Dawn Chong bare naked and painted white in Quest For Fire. (That has nothing to do with Shakespeare; I just like to talk about it.)
I suppose all us great authors have doubters and detractors. I know several literary critics have suggested the Harry Potter series of J.R. Rowlings has plot lines remarkably similar to my Harold Porter books. But I have no intention of going after the poor dear for a share of her profits. And why should I? I can’t spend all the money I have now. As a matter of fact, I can’t spend any of it. The Estate of J.R.R.Tolkein has attached every last dime. The family’s attorney claims that my book, Sgnir eht fo Drol, is his book backwards. I admit there are a few similarities; especially when read in front of a mirror.
The controversy about Shakespeare has been going on for centuries. Brenda James, the author of, The Truth Will Out: Unmasking the Real Shakespeare makes a very strong case for this Henry Neville guy. Plus, she is an actual English person and is very cultured. In a 15-minute interview, she never once dropped an ‘H’. That’s how you tell if a person is from the gentry in England – the ‘H’ thing, and of course the unmistakable aroma of fish and chips coming from their tweed jackets and Derby hats.
Neville could have been the real author. We know he hung around in all the right circles. He was rumoured to be a first-name basis with Queen Elizabeth although not to her face. And according to Sir Francis Drake, Henry once drank champagne from the Queen’s slipper, which unfortunately led to his downfall. He nearly choked to death on her corn pad and insisted she put it through her household insurance. When her premiums went through the roof she had him tossed out of the palace on his noble bum.
But the most important fact, and certainly the clincher for me; Henry Neville was a writer. What’s more, Henry owned a goose. If his quill back-fired as they often do, he could simply yank a new one out of Goosey Goosey Gander’s butt as he waddled by.
I don’t really care who wrote the plays except I have a copy of King Lear that the Bard personally autographed. At the moment it must be worth a fortune. On the inside cover it says, ‘Hang in there, Jimbo! Will Shakespere.”
Yes, I know his name is spelled wrong. I mentioned it to Michael Fredson of Manticore Books and he assured me that the next time Will comes in, he will have him scribble in an ‘a’ and initial it.