Friday, August 31, 2007

All Conspiracy Theories are Alike

I’ve already compared the Jesus Myth conspiracy theory to the daft idea that Shakespeare’s plays were written by some else. Oliver Kamm, in a recent post on his blog, compares the Shakespeare conspiracy to the 9/11 CIA-Israeli theories. I was amused to find Kamm is an aficionado of the anti-Stratfordians in that he seems to have bothered to read their books and devoted some effort to refuting them. He has a couple of good book suggestions if anyone else is interested in investing serious time on this very boring field. For the rest of us, Bill Bryson’s new book is on Shakespeare and his section on the anti-Stratfordians has been included in the Sunday Times serialisation. I’ve previously been rather rude about Bryson’s A Brief History of Nearly Everything, a book he was utterly unqualified to write and which fact he thought was a virtue. I won’t be reading his Shakespeare but I am sure it will sell like hotcakes.

Incidently, Kamm also identified a sure-fire way to spot a conspiracy theorist the moment they open their mouths. If they say “I’m not a conspiracy theorist but...” you can be absolutely that is exactly what they are. Jesus Mythers are equally determined to shake off the tag. I got a very angry email from one this morning accusing me of not taking them seriously enough. On the contrary, by spending much time on the subject I think I've taken it far too seriously already.

Part of my distain for the anti-Stratfordians is that I am a bit of a Bardolater myself. My wife and I have tickets to see Ian McKellen’s King Lear in December and I can’t wait. I saw it when I was at university at the National Theatre as a consequence of my sister having to study it for A Level. I’ve still not recovered. That production, directed by Deborah Warner, had Brian Cox in the title role while McKellen played Kent. Some bad pictures are on-line here.

Unlike some Shakespeare fans, I almost never read the plays. I have a Collected Works or two kicking around for reference purposes but the point of a play is to see it on the stage (or perhaps on screen). In England, we have the Royal Shakespeare Company which receives a large government subsidy and puts on lots of the plays at very reasonable rates. They also repay us by acting as a nursery for almost all our native acting talent. It never ceases to amaze me how many Hollywood stars began by treading the boards at Stratford and how many continue to do so even when their riches and fame mean they can do whatever they like.

Click here to read the first chapter of God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science absolutely free.

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