The Guardian/Observer now has a review of Contested Will by Hilary Mantel, the author of Wolf Hall, her magnificent masterpiece of bourgeois or Whig apology around the life of Thomas Cromwell.
It is striking, perhaps inevitable, that she puts the knife in vis a vis the Prince Tudor dimension, a major embarassment for us, of both Baconian and Oxfordian theory. She also uses all her mastery of language and rhetoric to persuade.
But in the culmination she pins it on the anti-autobiographical thesis, which Richard Whalen and yesterday I have challenged in its appropriateness to Shakespeare.
“Shapiro is at his most combative when he engages with the autobiographical approach to Shakespeare studies. Here, William must be saved from his friends as well as his foes. Are the plays encoded episodes from his life? Do the sonnets reveal his soul? Self-revelation, Shapiro persuades us, was not an early modern mode. What Shakespeare demonstrates is the authority of the human imagination. He commands the transpersonal; that is why he is a genius. If the scant facts of his life disappoint, that’s our problem. A genius is also a man who needs to eat. As Thomas Heywood put it: “Mellifluous Shake-speare, whose enchanting Quill / Commanded Mirth or Passion, was but Will.” ”
Oxfordians need to argue this out – and not in a simplistic way. As I wrote in my last post, Samuel Johnson, ‘a dangerous man to disagree with’ as TS Eliot wrote in the essay on the Metaphysicals, would seem to be a useful ally!