Sunday, 20 June 2010

William Shakespeare or Amelia Bassano?

I admit it. I find Shakespeare to be uncomfortably enigmatic.

That doesn't mean I don't enjoy the occasional Shakespearean play. A Midsummer Night's Dream is probably my favorite farce. I like Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, The Taming of the Shrew - although I never really believed Katherina needed to be tamed - and oddly enough, The Merchant of Venice. Despite the fact that Shylock is made a fool in the end, I've always found him to be a sympathetic character. I was fortunate enough to play Portia at summer camp once upon a time and thrilled to deliver her speech about the quality of not strain' droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath.
To this day, I remember the entire passage.

I recently visited my parents and they handed me a magazine article about the real William Shakespeare - you see, they live in a community that is best known for its world-class Shakespearean theater.
The article begins by asking the following question: What did Sigmund Freud, Charles Dickens, Henry and William James, Mark Twain, Orson Welles and Walt Whitman have in common? Answer: Not one of them believed that William Shakespeare wrote 38 histories, comedies and tragedies as well as 154 sonnets.
Even more fascinating than that question is John Hundson's theory regarding Shakespeare's true identity.

John Hundson is a graduate of the Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham, England. He believes the real Shakespeare to have been a young, female, Italian Conversa, Amelia Bassano, whose musician father was brought to the English court by Henry VIII. Amelia was educated and fostered in the home of Catherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk. While there, she caught the eye of Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdson, son of Mary Boleyn and cousin to Elizabeth the First. She became his mistress, a relationship that lasted for a decade. After she became pregnant with his son, she was sent from Court and married off to one of her cousins.

Amelia Bassano was a well-educated, literate woman. She was known in her own lifetime as a writer.
Here's a link to the online article - I think this subject is absolutely fascinating!

Oops! Almost forgot! Visit me anytime at my place:
You are always welcome!


Lindsay Townsend said...

Utterly amazing aticle, Julia! Fascinating stuff about the bard. I agree with you re The Merchant of Venice and I'm always more sympathetic to Shylock than the petulant Antonio, who comes across as a bully and a brute to me.

I love the idea of his being an Italian woman! Thanks so much for sharing this idea and the article.

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

You're welcome. I had no idea Shakespeare's two daughters were illiterate! What I think most cool is the connection to the royal court and the Boleyn family!

Savanna Kougar said...

Julia, yeah, will the real Shakespeare stand up?

Whoever she/he is... or a collection of somebodies, as I've read in the past, I have to say I do reading love the bard and enjoy watching the plays.

And, I had no idea Shakespeare's two daughters were illiterate.

LK Hunsaker said...

Hi Julia, I posted about this recently, also. My guess would be that Shakespeare had his hands in the works, but just like many of the great artists, he had apprentices helping him do the actual work and following his style. It would help account for the great number of works when their writing procedure took so much longer than ours, as well as the many people who have been named as possibly the writer.

My first editor wrote a book called "The Real Shakespeare" where she has a ton of evidence suggesting it was Edward De Vere.

I don't know, but his daughters being illiterate is not evidence. Women generally were at the time. I doubt he much hand in raising them. And although I have female characters living with their heroes before marriage or being with more than one man before marriage, it sure doesn't mean I'd want that for my daughter. Whole different thing.

Also, I have plenty of music and dance mentions in my work, but I'm not a musician or dancer. Research is easy enough when surrounded by so many personalities, as he was, especially if they were assisting with the writing.

*shrug* Who knows? Nice food for thought, though!

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

All my adult life I've heard questions about the true identity of Shakespeare, but I'd never given the subject much thought. The idea that the real person behind the writings might have been a woman fascinates me!u

JohnHud said...

There is more detail about the theory on the website of the Dark Lady Players, including a 15 minute tv documentary demo and a 5,000 word article. A full length tv documentary is in progress.

The website is

and the next production of the Jewish allegories will be Hamlet's Apocalypse in November in NYC

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

John - I'm floored...thank you for your comment and your fascinating research! I plan to follow your website. julia

Jane said...

I've been conducting genealogy research for over two years on the Bassano/Lanier families and they were not Jews.

Susan said...

I choose to believe this,because women have been denied status as great artists throughout history. The traditional scholarship is very sketchy , and conjectured, asserting Wm. Shakespeare as the author. I want to claim this as the work of a genius, a woman. This changes everything in western literature"

Peter Jensen said...

Shakespeare and Amelia were probably lovers and both writers, but you can't just make stuff up about them (except in fiction). There is plenty of proof for William Shakespeare as author. May I suggest you study Sam Schoenbaum's works? I really like what I know about Amelia, but she and her family influenced Shakespeare. Why is it so easy to take some evidence of a connection between her and Will and draw the wrong conclusion that she wrote his plays? The same evidence can be used to support Will as author.