|California Shakespeare (theatricum.com)|
These intimate female alliances are fresh inventions: They don’t exist in the literary sources from which many of the plays are drawn. And when the plays lean on historical sources -- Plutarch, for instance -- they feminize them, portraying legendary male figures through the eyes of mothers, wives, and lovers.
“Why was Shakespeare able to see the woman’s position, write entirely as if he were a woman, in a way that none of the other playwrights of the age were able to?” In her book about the plays’ female characters, Tina Packer, the founding artistic director of Shakespeare & Company, asked the question very much on my mind.
Doubts about whether William Shakespeare (who is thought to have been born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564 and to die in 1616) really wrote the works attributed to him are almost as old as the writing itself.
Alternative contenders -- Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, and the 17th Earl of Oxford Edward de Vere [Wisdom Quarterly's working hypothesis], prominent among them -- continue to have champions, whose fervor can sometimes border on fanaticism.
In response, orthodox Shakespeare scholars have settled into dogmatism of their own: Even to dabble in authorship questions is considered a sign of bad faith, a blinkered failure to countenance genius in a [poorly educated] glover’s son.
The time had come, I felt, to tug at the blinkers of both camps and reconsider the authorship debate: Had anyone ever proposed that the creator of those extraordinary women might be a woman?
Each of the male possibilities requires an elaborate theory to explain his use of another’s name. None of the candidates has succeeded in dethroning the man from Stratford, England. Yet a simple reason would explain a playwright’s need for a pseudonym in Elizabethan England: being female [or the earl of Oxford].