Sun Breaks on Shakespeare’s Secrets

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Shakespeare loves being talked about. I’m sure he was delighted when audience members (crammed into The Globe or the Blackfriars theatre) nudged one another and exchanged thoughts about the plays. One of the earliest references to him as a writer relates to his ‘sugared sonnets among his private friends.’ It’s good to imagine poems in his hand being passed around people who knew him, and who wanted to talk to each other about what they were reading.

Words are deeds for Shakespeare. He stands pre-eminently and unassailably on the side of talk, chatter, and free-thinking. Yet he never preaches. He never tells us what to think, but invites us to share different perspectives and to make up our own mind.

We’ve chosen to assemble sixty voices speaking for sixty seconds each, all of them with their own stories to tell, their own unique way of answering one of sixty questions. is a gathering of scholars (including Laurie Maguire, Gary Taylor, and Stanley Wells), writers (including Margaret Drabble, Stephen Fry, Michael Holroyd, and Charles Nicholl), and actors (including Simon Callow, Antony Sher, Janet Suzman, and Harriet Walter).

60 Minutes with Shakespeare goes live on Thursday 1 September. It is a free resource and one that you might like to tell your Facebook friends, family, students, and Tweeps about. And, hopefully, it’s a cool and fun reminder that simply by being talked about, Shakespeare transcends class and intellectual boundaries. Contributions have come from Auckland, New York, and Montpellier; recordings have been made in Prague, London, and Oxford; I’ve recorded people in dressing rooms, kitchens, sitting-rooms, offices, theatre-boxes, and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage garden.

The whole project is directed towards talking about Shakespeare’s authorship of the plays and poems attributed to him. But, like Shakespeare himself, 60 Minutes with Shakespeare doesn’t preach. Instead it offers different perspectives. The more answers you listen to, the more fulfilling a picture you gain of Shakespeare and how he wrote.

There is no secret about Shakespeare’s authorship of the works, no conspiracy, no code that needs breaking, it doesn’t involve missing or stolen manuscripts, or illegitimate royal children. But the real story of Shakespeare from Stratford as author of the works, of a man from middle-class origins who went on to become the greatest writer the world has ever known, is every bit as gripping and extraordinary as any conspiracy.

Evidence for Shakespeare’s authorship of the plays and poems is as glaringly obvious as the dawn itself, and yet as subtle and multi-textured as the sky can be during a sunrise.

And for those who would like to talk about Shakespeare more, then you might like to sign-up here for the webinar I am co-hosting with Stanley Wells on Thursday 1 September from 4-5pm (British Summertime).

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Author:Paul Edmondson

Head of Research and Knowledge and Director of the Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival for The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Follow Paul on Twitter @paul_edmondson

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