Among the great spear-shakers of history, Shakespeare inhabits a realm shared by few others, where the loss of his human identity has left him floating in a void, seemingly divorced from our pantheon of cultural heroes and even from the cultish level achieved by his plays, up there in the charmed circle, the champagne and chandelier-lit halls where people pay a fortune to be seen watching the Russian Ballet and Grand Opera.
Of God it has been said “tis He who hath made us, and not we ourselves.” Flesh and bone perhaps, but for those who speak English, more even than his near contemporaries, the authors of the King James Bible, it’s Shakespeare who’s given us the words, and beyond the words, the ideas we’ve lived by ever since he rose to his present level in the nineteenth century. From his Stage to the first peeps of a free Press to the centuries of newspapers to radio, film, television, and the internet, it’s Shakespeare, more than any other single individual, whose public stage and the plays he created for it, gave the English their first experience with what today we call the Media.
This act of defiance in the face of the growing tyranny of free market capitalism, a force unchecked by either policy or religion––the creation of the first stand alone commercially successful public theater in modern history––standing, right from the start, cheek by jowl with the central machinery of government, Whitehall and Parliament, was too much of a threat to those in power to allow the truth about its creation, or its creator, to get out. Today, freed by new forms of the Media provided by a new century, it’s time to let the genie out of the bottle, and tell the world who he was, what he did, and why he did it.
The key, as always, is publication. Wikipedia, social media, access to the ODNB for a small fee, are accessible to freelance historians in ways that until now have been locked within the ivy-covered walls of Academe. Shakespeare lovers all over the world are ready to hear the story of his creation of the Media, the fourth estate of government, the vox populi. In a few books I cannot begin to provide all the evidence for any particular point, but the evidence is there, if only we’ll look for it, are wise enough to know it when we see it, and bold enough to take advantage of this brave new world of instant communication.
Join the fray. Prove me right or prove me wrong, but let’s have the truth, wherever it may lead