Monday, May 10, 2010

Convene Reads: Contested Will

Maybe you haven't heard of the Shakespeare authorship controversy -- but it certainly has heard of you. Scattered throughout an interesting new book on the subject, Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?, by James Shapiro, are references to meetings and conferences at which the question of whether William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon actually wrote the plays that are attributed to him has been discussed ad infinitum. Shapiro thinks Shakespeare himself wrote them, and makes a strong case. Sigmund Freud eventually came to believe he didn't, but not before putting one of Shakespeare's greatest creations on the couch -- and on the dais:
Followers and patients flocked to Freud, and psychoanalysis thrived. Hamlet became a canonical psychoanalytic text as well as a favorite subject of the Wednesday Psychological Society meetings, where Freud explored with his disciples how Shakespeare had written the play as "a reaction to the death of his father."
Shapiro even gauges the success of an "anti-Stratfordian" organization by tracking attendance at one of its conferences:
Membership in the Shakespeare Oxford Society now stood at eighty -- and an attempt to generate new ideas and enthusiasm through a conference in 1976 drew only twenty members. Oxfordians would subsequently speak of this postwar period of decline and stagnation as their "Dark Ages."
As someone once wrote (sort of): "There are more face-to-face meetings in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

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