This week Krysta and Briana at Pages Unbound are hosting the discussion: Why do you think people tend to ignore Shakespeare’s collaborators and speak as if Shakespeare always wrote alone?
I should start by saying that, once again, this is a topic that I know almost nothing about. But therein lies my hypothesis to this question. People don’t talk about Shakespeare’s collaborators because, like me, they don’t know enough about the topic.
Like most English speakers, I studied Shakespeare in school. Freshman year we studied Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, and the sonnets. Senior year we studied Macbeth and Hamlet. These literature studies came with some perfunctory background study on Shakespeare’s life and the time, but nothing more in-depth than learning the words “Stratford upon Avon” and “Globe Theater.” We talked very briefly about the notion that Shakespeare may not have written his works, but our teacher didn’t seem to know enough about it to help us draw any definitive conclusions. Shakespeare’s collaborators? I would only know about that from reading historical fiction!
And y’all, I went to a good school. I took advanced classes. If this was my educational experience, I have to assume that the average American didn’t fare much better. Maybe Brits get a more details learning experience about Shakespeare.
In the cultural zeitgeist it is just simpler and more fun to refer to Shakespeare as a single entity. To romanticize his life and create this larger-than-life character responsible for all the greatest literature of the age. To ignore the person behind the art and simply enjoy the plays for what they are, incredibly entertaining. Why bog that down by attempting to educate ourselves something our high school English teachers couldn’t be bothered to teach us? It must not be that important, or we would already know about it.
So if by “people” this question is referring to the general population, I have to assume that they, like me, just don’t know.
That being said, I look forward to reading more discussion on this, because I’m guessing Briana and Krysta know a lot more about this than me!