Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Whirligig of Time

Before visiting the exhibit, I was certainly aware of the many theories that Shakespeare himself was not the author of those plays. I gave those theories about as much consideration as I gave to the "proof" that the moon landing was faked or that the Earth is flat. Shakespeare Unauthorized both affirmed and shook my confidence in the authenticity of the bard's plays. Firstly, the multiple editions of Hamlet took me by surprise, but upon closer inspection I dismissed the first edition as a poor attempt to copy Shakespeare. If it was truly his work, how could it be so different from what we have now? The exhibit then seemed to confirm my thoughts on his authorship by debunking the many conspiracy theories. However, just as I was beginning to feel at ease again, I reached the portion of the exhibit dedicated to Macbeth, one of my favorite Shakespeare plays. To discover that many scholars believe that the version of the play that we have differs greatly from what Shakespeare originally wrote was a shock, and it was this shock that caused me to open my mind a bit more. Looking about the exhibit and seeing the times that other authors altered the plays, the examples of poor penmanship changing crucial lines, and the many editions of a play that might be published, I realized that Shakespeare's plays were not as set in stone as I thought.

I will not throw in my lot with those who credit Shakespeare's plays to some other author, I still find that to be an absurd notion. However, I think that perhaps time has been very favorable to Shakespeare. He has had the benefit of centuries of other authors tinkering with his plays, something few other writers have had. I believe it is possible that many, if not all of his plays that we have today are not entirely how he wrote them, and that this may be true even for the iconic scenes. Hamlet varies drastically between editions, and while Shakespeare is certainly the one responsible for the play, it may be possible that he is not responsible for as those variations as we would like to believe.

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