Monday, November 14, 2011

Historian Dash enters the Shakespeare fray

Historian Mike Dash made the case for "William Shakespeare, Gangster" on his weblog, A Blast from the Past, and on the Past Imperfect weblog of Smithsonian.com  November 7, 2011. Dash discussed the dearth of historical data on William Shakespeare and, with evidence described in Leslie Hotson's 1931 book  Shakespeare Versus Shallow, made a case for Shakespeare as a thug. Dash concluded:
That Will Shakespeare was somehow involved in the low-life rackets of Southwark seems, from Hotson’s evidence, reasonably certain. Whether he remained involved in them past 1597, though, it is impossible to say. He certainly combined his activities as one of Langley’s henchmen with the gentler work of writing plays, and by 1597 was able to spend £60—a large sum for the day—on purchasing the New Place, Stratford, a mansion with extensive gardens that was the second-largest house in his home town. It is tempting to speculate, however, whether the profits that paid for such an opulent residence came from Will’s writing–or from a sideline as strong-arm man to an extortionist.
Anti-Strats have long bemoaned the absence of historians from the Shakespeare authorship discussion; Dash shows in this commentary the benefits of a little non-literary light on the topic of William Shakespeare.