For a Kinder, Gentler Society
The Shakespeare Game
Or the Mystery of the Great Phoenix
  • Ilya Gililov
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The Shakespeare Game. Or the Mystery of the Great Phoenix
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The British love their little jokes, and they love big ones even more.

Who was Shakespeare? In an intellectual sensation that went through three printings in the first year, a Moscow scholar presents a solidly documented work showing how little actual evidence there is of Shakespeare, the man; that the William Shakespeare we know was functionally illiterate and entirely uneducated; and why, according to so much real evidence, the 5th Earl of Rutland and his colleagues wrote nearly all of the "Shakespeare" oeuvre. It is just plain silly to go on maintaining that the charlatan and wheeler-dealer Will Shakespeare could have been the Bard.

If “Shakespeare” didn’t exist, would primitive, provincial England have had to invent him? They had every motive to do so: Producing a body of "national literature" virtually overnight, they flew closer to the enviably brilliant cultures of Italy and France; and in the centuries since, they have invented a whole industry to cash in on the Shakespeare myth.


About the Author

Dr. Ilya Gililov served as Secretary of the Shakespeare Committee of the Russian Academy of Sciences for many years, and he has conducted research as a visiting fellow at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC.

He compiled the Russian Shakespeare Readings edition and is author of numerous books and scholarly articles on problems in Shakespeare studies. This is his first book to appear in English.

About the Book

Gililov, Secretary of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Shakespeare Committee, sets out in intricate detective-novel detail why he believes the fifth Earl of Rutland and his wife actually wrote Shakespeare's work.

Gililov, Secretary of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Shakespeare Committee, sets out in intricate detective-novel detail why he believes the fifth Earl of Rutland and his wife actually wrote Shakespeare's work.

Was "Shakespeare" a practical joke on an unheard of scale? Asking why, as well as who, Gililov hunts for answers in technical areas like polygraphic realities, paper and watermarks, while paying close attention to the motives that may lurk in the intricacies of human relations.

Throughout his years of research, these and other paths led back to one and the same circle, to the same remarkable people who shared unusual relations and spiritual values.

Gililov presents only such material that he has been able to confirm many times over, and refrains from hazarding any unsubstantiated assumptions.

He authenticates the date of the most mysterious Shakespeare poem, "The Phoenix and the Turtle," and the poetic collection in which it was published; he identifies its heroes and reveals the deep sense of this shocking requiem and its connection with works of Ben Jonson, John Donne and other poets and playwrights of the epoch.

Along the way, Gililov probes and refutes the mystification around the court jester Thomas Coryate, Shakespeare's contemporary, and suggests a different answer to the riddle - one that will delight Shakespeare fans and confound the proponents of other "candidate bards".


Introduction

Ilya Gililov’s book The Shakespeare Game, or The Mystery of the Great Phoenix was originally published in Russia and quickly went through several printings, becoming an intellectual bestseller. It has been covered by some hundred reviews, interviews and comments in the press, on the radio and TV. For an academic book, it turns...

Ilya Gililov’s book The Shakespeare Game, or The Mystery of the Great Phoenix was originally published in Russia and quickly went through several printings, becoming an intellectual bestseller. It has been covered by some hundred reviews, interviews and comments in the press, on the radio and TV. For an academic book, it turns out to have elicited a lively response from many different circles of readers.

For a long time, we here in Russia knew very little about the great controversy surrounding Shakespeare. Since the 1930s, any doubts about the authenticity of the Stratfordian tradition were branded “ideologically harmful,” which, in the context of a totalitarian establishment, amounted to banning the public expression of such doubts and impeding access to objective information about the discussion of a most important and wonderful problem of world culture beyond the Iron Curtain. Several generations of Soviet intellectuals were brought up under the conditions of this absurd ideological taboo, the consequences of which are still felt even now.

In December of 1987, in the early days of perestroika, a Soviet-British colloquium on Shakespeare took place in Moscow at the Art Studies Institute. My attention was drawn to a man who was talking about some unknown (at the time) poetry collection from Shakespearean times. But really, would anyone believe that something new about Shakespeare would be discovered in Moscow?

The man, however, knew that the rare book contained the solution to the great mystery. I made his acquaintance some five years later: It turned out that Ilya Gililov was a secretary of the Shakespeare Committee with the Russian Academy of Sciences, compiler of an academic periodical Shakespeare Readings, and author of several works on specific problems in Shakespeare studies. When I learned about some of his discoveries, I was deeply and sincerely impressed.

There are few riddles in world history that are as provoking and essentially important for all of human culture. The mystery of Shakespeare is akin to the riddle of Atlantis. Shakespeare is a vast, miraculous country that patiently waits to have its secret treasures, buried in the depths of the unknown, brought to the surface. Right now, thanks to this book, the mystery land of “Shakespeare” is beginning to take shape.

Humanity cannot live without myths. But there is a time to create myths and a time to learn the truth about them. Everyone who takes the trouble to read Gililov’s book carefully, without prejudice, will harbor no more doubts that humanity has been made a partner in an enormous hoax.

Since the beginning of the debate many a surmise has been put forward and many a guess has been hazarded as to who is hiding under the mask of Shakespeare — and why. Now, we have not just one more interesting but insufficiently substantiated version, but the very solution of the great Mystery, supported by authentic interconnected facts. One should not assert (and Gililov does not claim) that all the intricate details of the Shakespeare mystery have now been understood, that there are no more blank spots; but the main thrust is clear. The circle of major figures behind the pretence has been identified, and their line of thought has been defined.

I read The Shakespeare Game as a captivating detective story, following the author in his meticulous investigation, disentangling the knots of a momentous mystification in history which cannot be explained by mundane everyday motives. Each sentence is substantiated with documents and historical and literary facts.

The beginning of the book seems to be a digression from the major problem of Shakespeare’s authorship, which for many is all encompassing. Here the author examines the contents of the poetic collection Love’s Martyr (where Shakespeare’s most enigmatic poetic requiem, “The Phoenix and Turtle,” first appeared) and the circumstances under which it was published. It turns out, by the way, that in the past four centuries nobody in England, or in America, had taken the trouble to hold the pages of the three extant copies of that peculiar book up to the light, to make drawings of the watermarks and compare them! This was done only by researchers who came from faraway Moscow and established that, despite different dates and typographic emblems on the title pages, the watermarks, including the unique ones, are the same on every copy. Together with certain other facts newly discovered, this helped to establish the book’s authentic date of publication and to identify, at last, the heroes’ prototypes — an unusual platonic couple, whose nearly simultaneous death was secretly mourned by the most celebrated poets of England. The Requiem, heard centuries later, made it possible to unveil the mystery.

Then, the author examines just as meticulously certain curious books issued in Shakespearean times under the name of one Thomas Coryate of Odcombe, who was proclaimed during his lifetime “The Prince of Poets, Greatest Traveler and Writer of the World,” who surpassed Homer, Ulysses, Columbus and Magellan all together. Readers can learn about his exceptional “deeds” from modern British and American encyclopedias and biographical directories. They tell us that this court jester and drunkard not only covered all of Europe by foot in record time (and wrote a huge book about it), but also reached India the same way — maybe the only one to do so in the history of mankind! Poetic “panegyrics” in his honor, written in a dozen languages (including some imaginary ones) were issued (by the same publisher who first produced Shakespeare’s sonnets) as a separate book and signed by the names of some fifty poets. This was another brazen mystification, a spoof (and again, discovered only now).

Gradually, step by step, these traces (and many others) keep leading us to the same circle of wonderful people bound together by unusual relationships, by a spiritual unity, perceiving Life as Theater, who played games meant to go on for centuries.

Many of the facts and discoveries which readers shall first learn from this book are quite important on their own, aside from the “Shakespeare question,” the problem of Shakespeare’s identity. They have been accepted even outside of that context by a number of English and American literature professors who do not entertain any doubt as to the Stratfordian tradition. It would be interesting to hear the opinions of these scholars and their colleagues after The Shakespeare Game appears in English.

The author’s greatest achievement certainly lies in probing the Shakespeare phenomenon as a Game of unprecedented scale — this concept radically changes the whole picture of the epoch which is customarily called Shakespearean. This new picture is shocking in its authenticity.

Perhaps, in time, the saga of the lofty love of the Turtle and the Phoenix will become as current as the myths of Romeo and Juliet, Othello and Desdemona, Tristan and Iseult. Today, they show their faces to the readers of this book — creators of the great spiritual wonder that has come down to us under the name of the Great Bard William Shakespeare.

Alexandr Lipkov, PhD

Moscow

FOREWORD AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This book is the result of a long investigation of literary and historical facts pertaining to the Shakespeare phenomenon. Once I began studying Shakespeare’s works and his biographies, I found quite soon (like many others before me) that I could not possibly match them together. The information provided by the biographies drastically contradicts the various images of the Great Bard in his dramas and poems. I cannot imagine the person who is described in those biographies writing “Hamlet,” “Lear,” “Julius Caesar,” or the sonnets. The authentic biographical facts that have been repeated over and over again speak about a person who was separated from Shakespeare’s works by a deep abyss, both intellectual and spiritual. We do not even have any objective evidence that the person who is considered the greatest writer in all of mankind could read or write, and there are good reasons to doubt it — for, how could he allow his wife and children to remain illiterate? The Shakespeare era was not that long ago; the missing artifacts cannot be blamed on the intervening millennia. Nothing in the history of world literature compares to this incredible situation.

At first, when almost nothing was known about Shakespeare’s life (and his works were studied rather superficially), there was little ground to doubt his identity; the problems only appeared when the Stratford archives were examined, and in-depth research on his works was begun. The more that was learned, the more doubts and questions arose. A number of renowned writers and historians came to the conclusion that the moniker “Shakespeare” was the penname of an authentic author who wished to remain unknown. Since the middle of the 19th century, a heated and rather convoluted controversy about Shakespeare began that thousands of minds all over the world actively joined.

A thorough investigation of the Shakespeare authorship question convinced me that the solution might be found only through new research. The first object of this investigation, for me, was the most mysterious of Shakespeare’s works: the poem “The Phoenix and the Turtle,” and Robert Chester’s poetic collection, Love’s Martyr, where the poem first appeared. My research revealed the true date of publication of the poem, and the identity of its heroes and prototypes; these results were confirmed empirically when unique watermarks were found in the copies kept in Washington, DC, and in London. The mysterious work turned out to be (as the outstanding American philosopher R. W. Emerson had supposed) a long sought key to Shakespeare’s mystery.

I also examined some other unusual and baffling books and portraits that heretofore had remained unidentified. Working with the inestimable rarities in the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, and the British Library in London, I turned up many valuable details.

Shakespeare’s biographers were in a bind when it came to explaining the fact that the Great Bard’s death had passed virtually unnoticed, and nobody in England mourned it according to the custom prevailing at the time. Reading this book, the reader will learn that that was not so — that the best English poets secretly took farewell of their great fellows, mourning their demise in a striking Requiem.

Certainly, not everyone is concerned to reveal the meaning of what is truly the most mysterious Shakespeare work — the Game of William Shakespeare. Many people find it difficult to give up the customary image that we were all taught during school — the image of a common provincial apprentice without any education who suddenly and miraculously turned into a sophisticated erudite, a brilliant poet and a playwright of genius. As happens not infrequently, the irrevocable progress of science (including historical) towards the truth may be greeted only as an encroachment on time-honored traditions and values, and even as something harmful to world culture. As a matter of fact, it actually enriches it with marvelous and tragic truth.

The book is not intended only for specialists in Shakespeare studies, though newly established facts that have been confirmed empirically could be of special interest to them. It is also an invitation to take part in an academic discussion. First of all, I shall dwell on the date when Chester’s book was issued, and the identity of its heroes, then the history of the Prince of Poet, Thomas Coryate from Odcombe, and also Ben Jonson’s and John Donne’s connection with the Rutlands. I hope that this invitation will be heard and accepted by English and American scholars who have at their disposal the original publications, manuscripts, portraits and so on.

I am happy to acknowledge those who, after my first publications, have lent me active assistance in moving ahead with this complex enquiry: M. D. Litvinova, L. A. Pichkhadze, I. S. Shoulzhenko, A. I. Lipkov, S. A. Makourenkova, Lynn Visson, Boris Rabbot, Joseph Rabbot, I. N. Kravchenko, and A. V. Daniushevskaya. E. D. Melenevskaia has provided invaluable assistance in preparing the English-language edition. I am grateful to the Soros Foundation, and the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC for providing me with a grant for work in that treasury of knowledge in 1992, and to the Moscow Alba Alliance Bank that made possible my travel to Great Britain, to work in the wonderful libraries and museums there, in 1995.

April 2003

I. G.


Categories

Pages 504
Year: 2002
LC Classification: PR2947.R8G555
Dewey code: 822.3'3—dc21
BISAC: LIT004120
BISAC: DRA010000
Paper
ISBN: 978-0-87586-181-4
Price: USD 29.95
Hard Cover
ISBN: 978-0-87586-182-1
Price: USD 48.95
Ebook
ISBN: 978-0-87586-187-6
Price: USD 48.95
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