In the first place, in Shakespeare’s lifetime plays were often written in a collaborative manner involving other playwrights, and also at moments drawing on contributions from the actors in the company which would perform the play (and which would also then own the playbook). This open and collaborative mode of composition would have made it virtually impossible for someone to pass off their work as that of someone else. The process of creating a play in Shakespeare’s age was too public and involved too many people for a conspiracy over authorship to be sustained.Secondly, many of Shakespeare’s contemporaries — Robert Greene, William Covell, Richard Barnfield, Francis Meres, Gabriel Harvey, John Weever, William Camden, William Drummond, John Webster, Michael Drayton, Francis Beaumont, and, most extensively, Ben Jonson — all wrote or spoke about Shakespeare as the author of the plays which bear his name. If there was a conspiracy over Shakespeare’s authorship of his plays, then it either involved or took in a very large number of well-placed contemporaries, a number of whom (such as Robert Greene) would have been delighted to discover that Shakespeare was a fraud. But there is in fact, as James Shapiro observed in his astute and perceptive book on the Shakespeare authorship controversy,Contested Will (2010), much more evidence that Shakespeare wrote King Learand Hamlet and Henry V than there is that Marlowe wrote Tamburlaine or that Kyd wrote The Spanish Tragedy. Yet — strangely — there is no Marlowe or Kyd authorship debate.
The fundamental problem is that many shamers, like Richards, don’t fully grasp the power of the medium. It’s a problem that lots of us need to reckon with: There are millions of Twitter accounts with more than 1,000 followers, and millions on Facebook with more than 500 friends. The owners of those accounts might think they’re just regular people, whispering to a small social circle. But in fact they’re talking through megaphones that can easily be turned up to a volume the entire world can hear.
Increasingly, our failure to grasp our online power has become a liability — personally, professionally, and morally. We need to think twice before we unleash it.
The writer and star of the highly acclaimed Fruitvale Station have selected an unconventional follow-up: a Rocky sequel about the privileged grandson of Apollo Creed with Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky as a mentor. It’s an odd choice for a writer and star getting a lot of acclaim.