The "Shakespeare Authorship Question" is a fascinating, and at the moment very much HOT, HOT, HOT, field of study. I had no idea how hot when Joe Atwill made his announcement. In addition to my own fresh-eyed look, I've now had the chance to check out a few of the books recently published on the topic. "Shakespeare by Another Name" by Mark Anderson champions the Earl of Oxford as primary author, and I have to say this is an impressive and persuasive work, written oddly enough by a relatively young man with a Masters Degree in Astrophysics! What I really love about this book is the amount of historical background that it provides. Here's a quote (pp 155-6):
"Twelfth Night captures the mood of a brief moment on the international stage between 1578 and '80. During the 1570s, Spain commanded a strong but hardly invincible navy. However, in 1578 King Philip of Spain was handed a golden opportunity when King Sebastian of Portugal turned up missing in action after personally leading an idiodic crusade against Morocco.
"If Philip secured the Portuguese throne, he could then consolidate his navy with Portugal's and turn his country into the undisputed military powerhouse of sixteenth-century Europe. Between 1578 and 1580, all eyes in Elizabeth's court were on Portugal and King Philip's attempts to secure the succession, and to make matters worse, no one was even certain that Sebastian had died in 1578. On January 31, 1580, King Philip of Spain prevailed. The Portuguese kingdom and military were now to be under Spain's command. English strategists had, with one act of succession, seen their country's future. A Spanish armada launching a full-fledged invasion of England was suddenly not such a crazy idea.
"Yet, if Sebastian washed ashore someday, he could rightfully seize the crown back from Spain and cripple the Spanish menace. Rumors persisted well after Spain's absorption of Portugal - indeed well into the seventeenth century - that Sebastian was still alive and preparing to make his triumphant return. Many in Elizabeth's court had also championed the cause of Antonio, a pretender to the Portuguese throne. Antonio visited England in 1580 and '81 to muster support for his case as the rightful king of Portugal. Antonio found two supporters in Sidney (SIR ANDREW AGUECHEEK) and Hatton (MALVOLIO).
"The story of Twelfth Night is in part the story of two friends. ANTONIO and SEBASTIAN, who are reunited when the latter washes ashore and into the action of the drama. SEBASTIAN is widely believed to have perished at sea, and he and his chum ANTONIO spend much of the play attempting to disentangle themselves from a series of misapprehensions that are the stock-in-trade of Shake-spearean comedy."
If you recall, Queen Catherine De Medici of France also made a play for the Portuguese throne and sent her Medici kinsman to fight for it. Surely there is now enough information to sort out the entanglement that is the Medici family bloodline and how it relates to that of the royal houses of Europe and Arabia. Of course, though we may be able to solve it we may not like the answer!
Another brand new book out is called "Shakespeare Unbound" by Rene Weis. Weis rejects alternate authorship theories, but includes a good deal of material (some of it apparently new) that leads him to conclude that Emilia Lanier/Bassano was Shakespeare's "Dark Lady".
Another interesting title I came across in called "The Truth Will Out" by Brenda James and William Rubinstein. They propose Sir Henry Neville as author of the Shakespeare material. Yet another angle on the puzzle is perhaps found in Mark Kurlansky's book, "The Basque History of the World". http://www.flakmag.com/books/basque.html
As intriguing as the authorship issue is, I think that uncovering the true connections between the various ruling houses to be even more exciting, especially in light of today's Christian-Muslim-Jewish relations.
© Charles N. Pope, US Library of Congress. All rights reserved.