Tuesday 23 December 2008

On discovering Shakespeare

A correspondent to this week's Spectator has just read a book which he thinks demonstrates the true identity of the works of Shakespeare, based on a decoding of the dedication to the sonnets: 'to the onlie begetter of these insuing sonnets mr w h all happinesse'. Brenda James, in The Truth Will Out (2005) shows that it is an anagram of 'the wise thorp hid thy poet, Henry Nevell writer'. Thorpe was the publisher. Henry Neville was a contemporary.

It's amazing what you can do with anagrams. To take another one, Robert Nield's Breaking the Shakespeare Codes: the Sensational Discovery of the Bard's True Identity (2007) shows you can twist the letters around to make it read: 'Bringe help to William Hastings the unseene poet of these sonnets'.

There's always a bit of cheating going on in these exercises. The Brenda James solution requires you to take a vowel (the 'u' in 'insuing') as a consonant (the 'v' of 'Neville'). The Nield solution requires that you miss out one of the letters (the 'r' of 'mr').

If you keep all the letters in, and maintain their values, you can find all sorts of things. 'George W Bush' is in there, for a start. I have spent months of research (well, five minutes, actually) to make the following sensational discovery about who the real author of the Sonnets was, and what he thought about all those who would later be unable to believe that a glover from Stratford could be a genius.

onlie he wiliam shagsper is the sonnet begetter
flee nonstop hunts

'Shagsper' is one of the attested spellings of the name, at the time.

By the way, the dedication also contains the words 'best wishes in the happie festiue season'. Which seems an appropriate way to end this pre-Christmas post.


Annie said...

I especially marvel Your wording in 'By Hook or by Crook', Professor, that some people simply "cannot stomach the thought that all the works are written by someone as ordinary and extraordinary as Shakespeare" !!!!!!!!!!!!

The Ridger, FCD said...

Well, if he spells "festiue" like that, then switching the U to V (for Neville) isn't so far off.

But honestly. Why would Neville have hidden? Why would most suggested "Shakespeares" have hidden?

baralbion said...

You will know the old joke, David, that if Shakespeare didn't write Shakespeare's works, then they were written by someone else with the same name.

Ϯ Lady MacbethϮ said...

And I have just heard (though it is apparently old news) that 'WH' is a misprint for WS so the sonnets are dedicated to Shakespeare by - err - Thomas Thorpe, perhaps?

adriennePwatson said...

Dear Prof Crystal
I am doing a Masters thesis on teenagers' multiliteracies and finding your book, txting the gr8 db8, v gr8 indeed. Have you got anything similar, or any articles, on the use of Facebook and MXIT?
I find your comments on the intercultural idiosyncracies of txtng fascinating: my v tiny sample comprises two so called Coloured girls; three black girls and one white, Afrikaans mother tongue girl, all being taught in English.
An interesting exercise I did with about 65 girls was to get them to write the same content (a film review) in MXIT speak, SMS speak, email, a Facebook entry, and a formal film review according to the generic specifications they had been taught. My hunch that their texting is not rendering them illiterate seemed to be borne out by the results of such an exercise.
Adrienne Watson, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

DC said...

This is hugely off-topic, but a problem I find with blogs is that, if someone sends in an off-topic comment, it's not possible (AFAIK - anyone know any different?) to transfer it to a relevant post - which would be one of the ones on texting, in this instance. Normally, I'd start a new post - if I had anything to say. But I don't, in this case. I've not studied this area - but I'm not at all surprised at the conclusion. It's what I would expect.