On Shakespeare’s ‘Small Latin …’

Interesting bit (in the context of a film review) in the Telegraph … here’s the incipit:

What do Shakespeare, Keats and Dickens have in common, apart from being great writers, and masters of the English language? The answer is pretty obvious. None of them went to university: to some extent, all three were self-educated. Ben Jonson said that Shakespeare had “small Latin and less Greek”, and likewise I don’t think Dickens and Keats, despite the latter’s Ode to a Grecian Urn, had much of either.

Who is the odd one out, then? Just as easy? Nobody, I think, has ever suggested Keats didn’t write that ode and others, or that Dickens wasn’t the author of Bleak House and Great Expectations. But Shakespeare – ah, Shakespeare – . So here we go again, with a movie from Roland Emmerich, director of Godzilla, called , opening on Friday. The “Shakespearean thriller” hands the authorship to Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, whom the movie, incredibly, has as the love-child and incestuous lover of Queen Elizabeth.

Never mind that Oxford died in 1604, some years before Shakespeare’s last plays were written and produced. Such considerations are a mere bagatelle when conspiracies are being revealed. Never mind that nobody at the time attributed the authorship to anyone but the man from Stratford. Evidently, they were all fooled, even Ben Jonson, a fellow playwright who knew William Shakespeare and was not devoid of jealousy.

It is not hard to guess at the director’s interest in the authorial conspiracy. But what of those not thinking of box office returns? Snobbery is the reason for their nonsense. The “uneducated” Shakespeare, an actor and theatre manager, who attended neither Oxford nor Cambridge, could not – could he? – have had all the knowledge of Greece and Rome and Italy etc displayed in the plays.

This argument falls flat for three reasons. First, the knowledge isn’t that great. Almost all the stuff in the Roman plays is taken – cribbed, if you like – from North’s translation of Plutarch’s Lives. Indeed, some of the great speeches in Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra are no more than versifications of North’s prose. There are many lines in the plays which suggest that the author had read Ovid’s works, but this required no knowledge of Latin. Arthur Golding’s marvellous translation of the Metamorphoses was available to him. However, Shakespeare did make mistakes which a better-educated and well-travelled man such as Oxford might not have made. His knowledge of Italian geography is patchy, and he thought Bohemia had a sea-coast. […]

via: Only foolish snobs don’t believe in William Shakespeare (Telegraph)

… it goes on, but not much more is Classics-oriented. One might cynically observe that there seem to be an awful lot of folks who do seem to thing Julius Caesar, e.g., is ‘historically accurate’ in regards to dialog between ancient dead guys.

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