This week marks the 450th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth. Yet the way we remember history’s most renowned playwright might have been very different had it not been for a formidable foe.
Writing in the FT, Chris Laoutaris reports that in November 1596 a woman named Elizabeth Russell declared war on Shakespeare and his theatrical troupe, in the process nearly destroying the dramatist’s career. Russell rarely features in accounts of Shakespeare’s life, yet her actions determined how we think of him today: as the Shakespeare of the Globe Theatre.
Shakespeare is admirable for his use of and contributions to the language, and for his poetry. But his works describe much that is simply too violent and gruesome to be tolerated in the world of to-day as we struggle towards civilisation. The blue pencil is overdue where Shakespeare is concerned. Let revised and corrected editions of his plays be put out, and the original texts consigned to locked cabinets in our larger libraries, where they may be consulted only by bona fide scholars. I contend that it was the reading of Shakespeare's original drama by youths of the day that led directly to the war of 1914. Some one such as Shaw makes a much more suitable and less harmful model for modern youths.
In cases such as this one instinctively turns does one not to the O.E.D., wherein we find:
"Orig. pronounced, according to the analogy of words in -ble from Fr. and L., 'ACceptable, and so in all poets to the present day; but from the tendency to treat it as a direct derivative from the vb. ac'CEPT, as in ad'VISable, mi'STAKable, de'NIable, under'STANDable, the pronunciation ac'CEPTable is now more prevalent. So with the derivatives acceptably, -ableness. Sometimes compared acceptabler, -est. Capable, worthy, or likely to be accepted or gladly received; hence, pleasing, agreeable, gratifying, or welcome."
That "likely" is significant here. We must perforce conclude that to be beyond the pale there has to BE a pale!
A recent issue of the T.L.S. makes passing reference to a film entitled Anonymous, which puts forward a theory that the plays and poems of S. were written by the Earl of Oxford. Happily I found on the inter-web some information about this film. I have not yet watched it properly, but having dipped in I can report that there is a great deal of costume and many crowd scenes. Here from it are two snap-shots depicting an Elizabethan performance - I expect at the Globe.