Mark Rylance recently won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Rudolf Abel, in, “Bridge of Spies.” It was a thrilling honor for Mark, and huge event for us, too. Mark has been an eloquent spokesperson for the right to inquire into the Shakespeare authorship question for many years.
For a lot of people it was probably the first time they’d ever heard the name, Mark Rylance. Everyone knew Christian Bale, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hardy and of course the sentimental favorite, Sylvester Stallone. After all, they’re movie stars. But many were asking, “Who’s Mark Rylance?” (Sylvester Stallone’s brother was one of them.)
To those of us trying to make sense of the bedeviling questions that surround the authorship of the Shakespeare canon, Rylance has been a bright star for decades. While still artistic director of the Globe Theater in London, (a position he held for over a decade) we’ve often witnessed his genius on stage. In fact, he’s been called the finest Shakespearean actor of his generation, and in England is considered a national treasure. So while many are discovering his gifts as a screen actor, we’ve always known Rylance as Hamlet, Richard III, Vincentio, The Duke in Measure for Measure and yes, even Olivia in 12th Night. His artistry and insights have helped us interpret the plays. And his deep knowledge of Elizabethan historical contexts helped us better understand how those plays may have come about. Mark has questioned the academic conjecture about the man from Stratford for many years. It’s part of his genius: an open-, infinitely curious and chimerical mind, which he brings to his art and life. He is quite certain that “certainty” about “authorship” is not justified. There are just too many unanswered questions. For Rylance it remains a mystery, and one that enhances rather than detracts from the beauty and majesty of the work.
“Our fact-based culture is so terrified by anything mysterious or inexplicable. Being curious outside the set cosmology is still something of a sin. And it’s hard for those people to be faced by mockery and lies, to diminish the question. Life is so much more beautiful and indefinable than our culture seems to admit to.”
The stature that Mark has in the literary, theatrical and now the cinematic world has helped us all stand up to institutional censorship and untoward “slings and arrows” slung our way by the academic defenders of orthodoxy. Never mean spirited. Always thoughtful and optimistic. Rylance has carefully but persistently argued for an “open-minded” inquiry into the subject. And for that we are grateful. Congratulations.