For those of us who have been involved for a while in the search for a credible story about how the works of William Shakespeare was created, Hank Whittemore is a renaissance man. First of all he’s a creative artist himself, and that adds something substantial to one’s understanding of how others create. Indeed, many of the distinguished people who have stood up to the stonewalling and intimidation and expressed doubt about the orthodox view have been artists themselves: Mark Rylance, Sir Derek Jacoby, Jeremy Irons, Michael York, Vanessa Redgrave, not to mention Mark Twain, Henry James, Walt Whitman and many others. As artists, its just very difficult for them to square the biographical facts we possess with the grandeur of the writing. It is easy to place Hank among the notables, because he’s not only been a successful writer throughout his adult life, but also a superlative actor of stage and screen. So when Hank talks, we listen.
And recently, in his blog, he responded to two essays in the “Bookends” section of the New York Times Book Review. The two essays, one by Thomas Mallon and the other by Adam Kirsh were reflections on the relevance of a biographical approach to literature. Both writers were asked to respond to the question, “When we read fiction, how relevant is the author’s biography?”
Not surprisingly the case of William Shakespeare came up, and Hank responded with great insight to their comments. Reading the two essays, followed by Hank’s own, provides a very edifying look into the place of biography in understanding and appreciating the works of great literary artists; and more specifically in understanding the inquiry into the authorship question itself.
The links to the Times and to Hanks blog are below.