I am just an interested reader, but several things about the Neville authorship argument strike me as compelling. First, from what I understand, Shakespeare had small Latin and no Greek at school yet obviously is highly learned in both languages. He also knew no Italian, yet translated from Italian for one of his plays. Having spent years working on the classical languages myself, I know how hard it is to master them. Is it conceivable that William Shakespeare could find the time, money, and tutor to manage this multi-years’ task (even excluding Italian) along with all his other acting duties and responsibilities, etc?
Secondly, is it probable that our greatest writer would have come from illiterate parents, married an illiterate woman, and raised two illiterate daughters? And died without a book to his name and with no copies of his work? I just don’t buy it. I don’t know a single literate person who doesn’t own at least one book. Books are to writers what paintings (or copies thereof) are to artists, or musical scores to composers: they are absolutely necessary for one’s artistic growth. Or solace: Queen Victoria kept In Memoriam by Alfred Lord Tennysonby her bedside; that’s the power and importance of books. And yet our “Shakespeare” had none? That’s simply impossible! To live in a world surrounded by illiteracy on all sides and devoid of culture and ideas may be a life fit for a mere actor in those days, but hardly for our greatest and most profound writer.
Thirdly, as a struggling poet, fiction writer, and dramatist myself, I find the argument about Neville’s switching genres, and writing his most profound works due to incarceration and impending death for treason, to be wholly convincing. Writers don’t write in a personal-social-political vacuum–least of all a Henry Neville, a Lancaster, Parliamentarian, former Ambassador, and friend of Essex, the leader of the rebellion against Queen Elizabeth I, who had become quite tyrannical in her old age.
Nothing comes of nothing. Your personal situation added to constant re-readings of your favorite books, being drawn to new books and ideas that mirror your changed opinions or life-situation, with new understandings of your life and purpose arising therefrom, and thus mandating a change of topics to write about–this is just plain ole commonsense. This is how we grow and change–and how a writer’s life–or any artist’s life–changes also. An exquisitely sensitive man as Neville must have been must be expected to be changed by his new, tragic circumstances, all the more so given his depth and rare genius. (And these few obvious points regarding Neville’s authorship don’t even begin to touch upon the bookfulls of evidence in favor of H Neville as presented by Brenda James et al.)
Fourthly, Shakespeare’s works are endowed with high culture and an aristocratic and highly intellectual ambiance which would have been impossible for William Shakespeare to fake, let alone to acquire. Like it or not, we are to a very large extent determined by our socio-economic situation, then as now. The stamp of our upbringing only grows more visible over time. In days of old when the caste barrier was most impregnable, only those “to the manor borne” could’ve written about Princes and Kings and Queens so facilely and convincingly.
Fifthly, “Shakespeare” knew the world of commerce as well as the gentile world. Neville’s background fits the bill here too.
One last, intriguing idea: Neville’s Oxford Don (master), Henry Saville, was put in charge of translating parts of the Bible. Could it be that this is why the King James Version (KJV) is so lovely, that one of its writers was “Shake-speare” himself, Henry Neville. Nothing comes of nothing.
Len Sive Jr.