Who Wrote Shakespeare's Plays?
Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, conducts the trial of the century. An all-star cast of lawyers (and a few actors) examine the evidence about the Man from Stratford. It's an age-old question: did Shakespeare write the plays he's credited for? And if not him -- then who?
** This episode originally aired February 24.
Beginning in the mid-19th century, questions were being asked about William Shakespeare. How could someone with such humble beginnings -- who couldn't spell his own name consistently, who travelled so little -- have written such magnificent plays and poems? And how come we know so little about him? Perhaps William Shakespeare was a front for someone else, someone a lot more sophisticated who didn't want to be associated with such a low art. Besides only someone who had been at court could have written so knowledgeably about kings and queens.
Various names have been proposed -- the Earl of Oxford, Sir Francis Bacon, Sir Walter Raleigh, even another playwright -- Christopher Marlowe. It's an intriguing debate, but most people, most scholars today accept that William Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon was indeed the writer of the plays he is supposed to have written, but the question still remains -- not least because Shakespeare himself is such a mystery.
At the Stratford Festival this past summer, William Shakespeare himself was put on trial -- a light-hearted attempt to put the whole authorship question to rest. On the bench of judges there's an all-star cast: the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Beverley McLachlin. Her fellow justices are Robert Sharpe and Eileen Gillies, from the Ontario Court of Appeal, as well as lawyer Tricia Jackson and actor Colm Feore. Shakespeare's defence lawyer is Sheila Bloch, and the prosecutor is Guy Pratt. Appearing for William Shakespeare, in full doublet and hose, is the artistic director of the Stratford Festival -- Antoni Cimolino.