Our interest in Shakespeare started with the theatre in Germany, where we attended performances of favourite authors, such as Čechov, Ibsen, Schiller, and, mostly, Shakespeare. From the named “continental” authors, we knew something of their biography and understood that, for example, Čechov, as a trained physician, modeled his characters on patients. Ibsen appears to hate his characters, which is easily explained by his problematic adolescence in a precarious situation. Similarly, Schiller was a kind of ward of the local prince and since then opposed the ruling authorities, as is reflected in his works.
In contrast, little did we know about Shakespeare’s biography, and we had difficulties to understand why he tackled such a wide range of topics and why he put all of them into dramatic works. We tried to understand the texts of the works. However, the “biography” of the person from Stratford does not help to put the text into any historic or personal context. Therefore, we looked for more detailed information on the author and his time.
At first, we bought bilingual editions of Shakespeare’s plays, which were accompanied by apparently comprehensive comments. However, these comments did little to answer our questions, as did the books we found in libraries. Similarly, the brochures provided in the theatre to accompany the performances of particular plays were not helpful.
Finally, in an antiquarian bookshop, we came across a German edition of the book by Jan Kott, “Shakespeare today”. His characterization of the author made it clear to us that a person like Shakespeare of Stratford should have been unable to write such sophisticated plays. The next step was an antiquarian copy of “The Adventures of Master F.I.”. A comment by Kurt Kreiler reviewed the most important authors of the time, and mentioned the Earl of Oxford as a probable author. Kreiler also referred to the monograph “Shakespeare identified” by Thomas Looney.
This was the starting point of our more detailed studies on the author. So far, we have been reading as much as we could and learned very much about the times and environment of the author.
— Margit & Reinhard Greiling
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