Shakespeare Wasn’t “Shakespeare”

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I don’t mean in the Anonymous sense that the person named William Shakespeare had nothing to do with the works bearing his name, except that they bear his name but someone else wrote.

Rather, I mean that Shakespeare wasn’t “Shakespeare,” the solitary genius scribbling at his desk, concocting brilliance out of whole cloth. He was William Shakespeare, actor, theater company proprietor, “lead songwriter” of his band of theater-folk.

And I mean “band” in more than one way. Seems to me that Shakespeare—and his contemporary competitors was really the leader of a band of creative collaborators. I think of modern musical bands. William Shakespeare was the Pete Townshend, the Bob Gaudio, of The Lord Chamberlain’s Men.

And anyone who’s been in a band, even one with a lead (or domineering…) songwriter knows that such a band works best when everyone contributes. A songwriter brings a demo, or a song on paper. And the other musicians critique it; add parts and embellishments to it; in a way, “workshop” it.

These plays, I would venture, were workshopped and honed for months, if not years, before performance. Why are Shakespeare’s characters so complex? Did he do it himself? I would assert, probably, not. The actors assigned to them probably thought deeply about them, and fed ideas about motivation and reactions back into the cauldron, and Shakespeare (probably of idetic memory) put them in the next draft.

At least, to my imagination, that’s, maybe, how it worked…

About Scott Epstein

I've consumed science fiction for as long as I can remember. I've written it since age 8. I founded and edited Proteus Continuum, a Science Fiction magazine, at Tufts University from 1990-1992. Professionally, I've worked in professional publishing for more than 17 years, in both editorial and marketing functions.
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