Tag Archives: Shakespeare

News flash: famous actor also writes

By Bob Hicks

Mr. Scatter has a theory: William Shakespeare wrote the plays of William Shakespeare. Not that it matters all that much — the play, not the playwright, really is the thing — but there you are.

The subject comes up now for a couple of reasons.

Title page of the First Folio, by William Shakespeare, with copper engraving of the author by Martin Droeshout. Image courtesy of the Elizabeth Club and the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University. [1] Date 	  1623(1623) Source 	  Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University [2] Author 	  William Shakespeare; copper engraving of Shakespeare by Martin DroeshoutFirst, Mr. Scatter has been talking of late with the talented actor Michael Mendelson, who is deep in the process of preparing for the first production of his new company, the Portland Shakespeare Project. We’ll have more on that fascinating summer’s tale very soon.

Second, Mr. Shakespeare/Shakspere/Shakspur/Shake-speare/Shagspere recently celebrated (or rather, was celebrated on the occasion of) his four hundred forty-seventh birthday, a party crashed by a small yet growing chorus of naysayers who claim he was nothing but a front man for the real author of the poems and plays.

Although Mr. Scatter does not believe he falls into the category of Shakespeare idolizer, he does believe that Father Okham’s principle should be applied here. The simplest answer seems to be that the man whose name is on the title page actually is the author. The burden of proof that some other unknown person, for reasons of intricate subterfuge, instead hired Shagspur as a screen must fall on those making the claim, and despite its academic fashionability it’s an exceedingly difficult proposition to accept. Mr. Scatter has adopted the Theory of Simple Authorship not just because several pretenders to the throne, if they were actually writing some of the plays, were doing so under the misfortunate handicap of being dead, or because a small-town grammar school education in the late 1500s was a tad more rigorous than today (did you take Latin, even when you were in college?), or because of internal consistencies or inconsistencies in the scripts (it’s true, the plays have a sometimes tenuous grasp on the finer points of geography), or because the playwright did or didn’t know or should or shouldn’t have known a rat’s behind about the intrigues of court life, social-climbing little commoner that he was.

No, Mr. Scatter has concluded that Wm Shkspr wrote Wm Shkspr because Shakespeare was an actor. The plays scream out this simple fact. No minor-league lord of the realm, let alone major-league lady (some anti-Stratfordians have posited that Good Queen Bess herself took the “Shakespearean” pen in hand) could have understood the inner workings of the theater so completely unless he or she at some point had run away and joined the Elizabethan equivalent of the circus, and with apologies to the champions of that powdered sophisticate Edward de Vere, evidence is less than scant of that.

Mr. Scatter concedes that proletarian politics play into his determination. If Wm Shagspere was a commoner, so is Mr. Scatter, and at least an ounce of class solidarity goes into his pound of persuasion. Mr. Scatter bristles at the notion that a commoner could not possibly have created the artistic astonishment that is the Shakspeherian canon: He believes that genius strikes where genius strikes, and like a cold bug, it will strike where it wants.

Of course, Mr. Scatter isn’t dogmatic on the subject, and he doesn’t hold a grudge. He believes the anti-Stratfordians are good people at heart (goodness, he even knows a few) and thinks they should feel free to wander happily in their conspiratorial woods.

Pursued by a bear.


Title page of the First Folio, 1623, by William Shakespeare, with copper engraving of the author by Martin Droeshout. Image courtesy of the Elizabeth Club and the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University. Wikimedia Commons.

How about a bridge we can live ON?

Drawing of London Bridge from a 1682 London map. Surveyed by: Morgan, William, d. 1690. Published: London, London Topographical Society, 1904. Wikimedia Commons

By Bob Hicks

Once again the fates have flung Mr. Scatter to the far reaches of Ecotopia, where yet another dismal drive through the 90-mile sprawl of the great Seattle megalopolis has underscored how little eco is left in this topia of ours. They paved Paradise and put up a freeway that’s a parking lot.

Well, sometimes you need a car. And cars need roads. And roads, when they run up to little impediments like the mighty Columbia River, need bridges. And bridges, we hear, can cost a cool four billion bucks. And four billion bucks (plus interest), we understand, will be coming out of everyman’s collective wallet for a long, long time to come.

Interstate Bridge between Portland and Vancouver. Source: Cacophony/Wikimedia Commons.Up to now Mr. Scatter has stayed out of the fray over the Columbia River Crossing bridge, the proposed replacement for the aging Interstate-5 span between Portland and Vancouver, Wash. Should the bridge be an architectural icon, a splendid work of art? Should it be a utilitarian get-‘er-done, a cheap and (presumably) practical slab of concrete designed to move the traffic and not much else? Truth is, Mr. Scatter doesn’t really know, although he’s grouchily beginning to ask himself a more basic question: Do we really need to bother with the damned thing at all?

Continue reading How about a bridge we can live ON?

A gay old time on Super Globe Sunday

Mr. Scatter understands an American football match of some importance is to take place this very afternoon. Squadrons from the midsized cities of Indianapolis, Indiana, and New Orleans, Louisiana will battle it out on a field called a gridiron to claim rights of municipal supremacy for the coming year.

picture-16All very manly. But Mr. Scatter would like to offer you as an alternative pastime a chance to read his review of The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet that is printed in the O! section of today’s Sunday Oregonian.

The new novel, by Portland writer Myrlin A. Hermes, is a smart and witty reimagining of some of the great literary mysteries of our time. (The mysterious events take place in Elizabethan times, but it’s our time that gets all hot and bothered about them.)

To wit:

  • Who was this William Shakespeare?
  • Who was this Dark Lady of the Sonnets?
  • Who was this Melancholy Dane?
  • How did Mr. Shakespeare become Mr. Shakespeare?

Drolleries abound, along with intellectual, historical and emotional insights. It is not giving away too much to reveal that in this fictional universe Hamlet is as gay as a caballero going to Rio de Janeiro, and maybe Shakespeare is, too. No Super Bowl rings for them. But they find their compensations.

Enjoy the game. Whichever one you prefer.

Tuesday scatter: On Nixon, women in power, tutus and veils, alternate histories and Charlie Brown

Mia Leimkuhler in Kudelka's Hush. Photo: BLAINE TRUITT COVERT

On Saturday morning I picked up my newspaper and saw on the front page a photo of President Obama, smiling easily and looking down at, but not down on, Hugo Chavez. The American president is shaking hands with the Venezuelan president, a man who ordinarily makes great political hay from being seen and heard as a bellicose opponent of the United States and its political leaders. Chavez, too, has the sort of smile that seems genuine and not faked for the cameras (although who can say for sure in either case — these are politicians), and a semicircle of unnamed onlookers at the Western Hemisphere summit meeting in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, seems equally charmed.

Bill Christ as Nixon in Nixon/Frost. Photo: OWEN CAREYYes, charmed. And I thought, this is policymaking outside the channels of policy. Here, in Obama, is a man utterly at ease inside his own skin. That’s why people respond to him. Because he’s comfortable with himself.

My eye lingered on this photograph because the night before I’d seen Peter Morgan’s play Frost/Nixon at Portland Center Stage, and if there ever was a leader who was uncomfortable inside his own skin, it was Richard Nixon. Actor Bill Christ, in Rose Riordan’s smooth and entertaining production, makes this as clear as can be. He offers a Nixon who is inordinately intelligent and funny in the driest possible way, but who’s so clumsy he gives even himself the heebie-jeebies. He’s not smooth, he’s not sexy, he can’t do small talk. If he were a language he’d be German, not French. Nixon was actually savvier even than JFK about the power of the television camera but he couldn’t take advantage of it because he didn’t have the goods: He could only mitigate the camera’s effect by understanding how it works. Nixon knew that in the charm game he would always be an outsider looking in, and he resented it deeply. It fed his combativeness, his sense of the Other, of us versus them, of his bitterness of the East Coast elite’s patronizing of him, of being the guy who knew all the strategies and did all the dirty work but was barely allowed in the game.

I was young when Nixon bulldozed back into power in 1968 with his “secret plan to end the war,” and I despised him with all the moral certainty that only the young can summon. It was an extension of my detestation for Lyndon Johnson: How could these men be such liars and murderers? Over the years I’ve come to think of both instead as tragic figures. Here were leaders who could have been great — indeed, who were great in certain ways — but who were destroyed by their own hubris. Over time I might change my mind about this, too, but I now think of Nixon and Johnson as tragic in a way that George W. Bush can never be, because Bush lacked the capacity for greatness: His limitations made him instead something on the order of an oversized and disastrously effective school bully.

Continue reading Tuesday scatter: On Nixon, women in power, tutus and veils, alternate histories and Charlie Brown