Become a Medievalist! Check out Western Michigan and Fordham. I’ve looked into their programs and they’re two of the best in the nation.
Oooh yes, I’ve been drooling over both of those schools for a really long time (along with Cornell). Then there’s that large part of me that figures if I’m going to get a degree in Middle English literature, I might as well do it in the UK. So there I’ve been looking at York, Edinburgh, and Kings College in London.
Moral of the story is that I really just need to apply anywhere but I keep putting it off because I am so reluctant to take on that much more debt.
Just graduated a year ago and still can’t decide if I want to waste my life away studying medieval literature with no job prospects or waste my life away getting an elementary education degree with only slightly more job prospects.
I love both things
I want to do both things!!
Why can’t I just teach small children about the plague or something?!
Or I could just keep working retail in Binghamton forever
Avoiding applying to things isn’t actually helping me decide like I thought it would ~with time.
Every. fucking. semester. It’s gotten worse since that stupid Anonymous movie came out. Students who have had me before start giggling nervously as soon as the question is asked, as I stand up there fuming and preparing to launch into my rant.
I… wanna hear your rant.
Okay. DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU.
(I am going to preface this by saying that I have never met anyone who does Shakespeare for a living that actually takes any of this stuff seriously, and the only reason we have to even learn about the conspiracy theories is so we can yell at people who bring them up in class. This stuff is not a real controversy, any more than whether the pyramids were built by aliens like that orange guy on the History Channel says is a real controversy.)
Shakespeare conspiracy theories develop as the result of one or more of the following missteps:
1) Sheer classism.
These are your Baconians and Oxfordians, as well as a whole slew of old rich white guys who are descended from some other old rich white guys and want to prove that their ancestor was the true author. These are your “no glovemaker’s son could have written the greatest literature in the English language” types, who have apparently missed that whole radical rise of the new middle class thing going on in the sixteenth century (lol Thomas More whut?). These are your “no one who wasn’t a courtier could ever write a believable facsimile of court life” guys, even though plenty of people had written about court life and Shakespeare knew aristocrats and had access to their libraries. This kind of blatant snobbery has been the backbone of Shakespeare authorship conspiracy theories from the beginning and continues to be an undercurrent, and I have no patience for it.
2) A misunderstanding of Renaissance education.
This is usually closely tied to the classism stuff. No one without a university education could have written Shakespeare’s plays, they say, because they don’t realize that the Renaissance was a period of major educational reform led by guys like Mulcaster and Ascham. Let me tell you a little something about the grammar school education that Shakespeare would have gotten from the ages of seven to fourteen. You were there from six in the morning until five in the evening, Monday through Saturday—about double the hours that students get today. You would read Ovid, Horace, Virgil, Cicero, Seneca, all those guys, in the original Latin. You would translate it into English. And then back into Latin. Again and again, until the original and your translation of your translation matched perfectly. And if you didn’t do it right they would hit you with sticks. It’s like literary boot camp. He probably learned more in those seven years than I did getting my doctorate.
3) Misunderstanding of the sheer volume of literary production during the Renaissance.
These are the guys who think that one person just couldn’t have written as much as Shakespeare did and that it had to have been several dudes. (This is apparently what Derek Jacobi believes. Why you wanna break my heart, Derek Jacobi? I have loved you since you were the voice of Nicodemus in The Secret of NIMH.) Now, we’re talking about thirty-eight plays (give or take a couple apocrypha), 154 sonnets and a handful of long poems. Which isn’t small potatoes, true, but here’s the thing: dudes during the Renaissance wrote a lot. That’s kind of what made it the Renaissance—people were producing insane amounts of quality work. The Faerie Queene is so fucking long that every time I read it I say a little prayer of thanks that Spenser died before he could finish it, and he managed to do that shit while committing genocide. That’s multitasking like whoa. Milton wrote Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and some of the longest, most tedious essays you will ever read (seriously, halfway through you will find yourself throwing the book at the wall and screaming “I will agree with whatever you are arguing as long as I don’t have to read one more of your motherfucking Biblical precedents”), and that motherfucker couldn’t even see. Don’t even get me started on Lope de Vega with his three thousand sonnets and eighteen hundred—EIGHTEEN HUNDRED—plays. I do not know how they did it—they hadn’t even discovered coffee yet—but they did it. If you’re gonna discount Shakespeare on the basis of volume of literary output, you’re gonna have to throw out most of early modern literature with him.
4) Batshit crazy conspiracy theory batshit craziness.
These are your guys who never think there’s enough evidence to prove Shakespeare was the author and take this as proof that he wasn’t. (Look—this was four hundred years ago. People didn’t record stuff as much as we do now, and a lot of what was recorded has been lost. We actually know a lot more about Shakespeare than we do about a lot of other figures during the period.) A lot of them seem to be personally affronted by the fact that Shakespeare, by all accounts, was a pretty boring guy—they have a deep-seated need to believe that interesting literature must have been written by someone more interesting. (Their counterpart among Shakespeareans are the “Shakespeare was a Sooper Sekrit Catholic” guys.) These are your Marlovians in particular, despite the fact that Marlowe spent the majority of Shakespeare’s career being dead from being stabbed in the face. Also your Queen Elizabeth authorship people. The crazier among them think there’s been some kind of huge cover-up to keep the truth hidden. Why don’t you academics want us to know the truth, they scream, as if the military-academic industrial complex has a secret warehouse somewhere full of copies of HAMLET, BY KIT MARLOWE, WITH A FOREWORD BY QUEEN ELIZABETH. We would address their concerns, they say, if we weren’t covering up the truth, whereas in fact we don’t address their concerns because their concerns are stupid and we have papers to grade and shit to do.
Herein concludes the rant.
Marlowe spent the majority of Shakespeare’s career being dead from being stabbed in the face is my favourite part ever. Oh, Kit. My favourite description of him is “rakehell” because, apparently, Kit Marlowe is not content to be a simple rake, but must be a rakehell.
“You were there from six in the morning until five in the evening, Monday through Saturday—about double the hours that students get today. You would read Ovid, Horace, Virgil, Cicero, Seneca, all those guys, in the original Latin. You would translate it into English. And then back into Latin. Again and again, until the original and your translation of your translation matched perfectly. And if you didn’t do it right they would hit you with sticks. It’s like literary boot camp. He probably learned more in those seven years than I did getting my doctorate.”
That is probably the best description of Renaissance education EVER.
All of the sections in OP’s rant are perfect and beautiful and I love OP with all my heart. There is NOTHING that pisses me off more than Shakespeare conspiracy theories.
And omg, “Anonymous”. I couldn’t even make it through 5 minutes of that movie without wanting to throw my computer across the room. Which, of course, would be bad, because William is my baby (yes, my computer is, in fact, named and registered as William Shakespeare).
But, seriously. And my absolute LEAST FAVORITE argument is the “Well he, as a mere peasant (which he wasn’t) would never have been educated enough, hem hem hem, snob snob snob, meh, meh, meh, hmm, yes, quite”.
What people don’t realize is that by 8th grade (which was probably the last grade of school William attended) he had a greater knowledge of what we call “The Classics” than most people with PhD’s in that area do today. As OP mentioned, they fucking lived and breathed Cicero, Ovid, Seneca, Virgil, etc, etc, as well as many Arab scholars (which is where a lot of the preserved latin texts came from). To say that Shakespeare would not have had the knowledge or sophistication of language and writing to do what he did is just RIDICULOUS. You are basing it on a MODERN DAY EDUCATION.
Which fucking SUCKS. Like, a Renaissance 8th grader would fucking SCHOOL me on pretty much every single subject we could be matched up in. Because that was legit all they did. All day. Every day.
Okay, ending MY rant. Here is a gif for OP:
I have deeply similar feels about Leonardo, Michelangelo, and actually like 90% of well-known Western art production before 1900. Bravo, OP.
I would like to take this post to a production of King Lear.
I want to write eighteen hundred sonnets dedicated to this post.