What do you have to do to catch a break these days? Suppose, for the sake of argument, you’re the greatest poet as well as the greatest playwright who ever lived. You might think posterity would treat you pretty well. But does that happen? No. First, they say you didn’t write anything, but someone else — practically anyone else — did. And now, the coop de gras:
The Bard of Avon, who championed the downtrodden in plays like “Coriolanus,” was a conniving character in his personal life, British researchers claim — a tax dodger who profiteered in food commodities during a time of famine.
We are henceforth doomed to read doctoral theses on tax dodger imagery in Hamlet and bold new readings of The Merchant of Venice (“Shylock as Mea Culpa”).
I always thought Shakespeare’s great advantage compared to all the other scribblers was that we knew so little about him — his work couldn’t be easily psychoanalyzed, trivialized, and dismissed. But now I’m afraid it’s only a matter of time before he’s knocked off his pedestal to be replaced, no doubt, by some transparently grubby figure more suited to our age —
Nah, that’s too easy a shot for me to take.