Shakespeare Was a Queen
By Edwin L. Young, PhD
This is about Queen Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen, queen of England (1558–1603). I wrote this little piece in the spring of 2002 but had conceived it in the spring of 1980 while alone in the desert of southeastern Arizona. There is much more to the argument for Elizabeth being the real Shakespeare than I have set forth here. I will not engage in higher criticism or form criticism as this has already been done by many Shakespearean experts. This skimpy psychological profile of her qualifications as the authentic author will have to suffice for now.
Initially, I will just say that she was a woman with an enormously rich background, growing up with Henry VIII as her father. She is reputed to have had enormous energy, spoke many languages, had a fantastic range of abilities, highly ingenious and creative, with possibly a greater exposure to the world’s cultures than anyone living at the time. As a woman ruling a 16th century empire rife with religious conflicts and threats from foreign nations, she lived her life in a crucible. Her ‘Kings’ plays that describe the strategies of a ruler facing extraordinary challenges are so insightful as to make for an excellent resource for management theory even today. Along with all of that, she was an expert in all of the arts and letters and the progenitor of the Elizabethan Era. She was also in a position to have an unparalleled insight into gender psychology, being a successful, powerful woman in a traditionally man’s role. Her portrayal of male-female role reversals were unmatched prior to her and even until modern times. In other words, she was ‘the’ genius in a day when women were not to be rulers and certainly did not write books. Even female roles in plays were acted by men during that period of history.
Shakespeare’s early life story, on the other hand was rather plebian and lackluster. PBS recently had a series of four hour-long presentations on his life. Every time the moderator would say, “Isn’t it amazing that such works of genius should come from such unremarkable life circumstances”, I would have to laugh.
Many Shakespeare scholars around the world believe Shakespeare was merely a ‘front’ for the real writer whose identity had to remain hidden. They have proposed many alternatives. My favorite candidate for the true author is Queen Elizabeth, architect of the Elizabethan era. My arguments, in brief are the following. She spoke many languages fluently even from an early age. She was immensely well informed about all of the arts and letters. She was steeped in the family history of royalty. She was familiar with the inner circles and working of many foreign governments. She was intimately familiar with the political intrigues in the life of the Henry VIII’s, and her own Queen’s, Courts. She was, as well, privy to the typically pell-mell romantic intrigues of royalty, most obviously those of her own father. She, as a woman, was familiar with the love, devotion, and care of a mother for her children that she got from her beheaded mother, Anne Boleyn, and from her stepmother. As Queen, she was masterful with respect to political and military strategy. On the other hand, she had the unique insight into the situation of a woman in a man’s office or role, which, challenged at every turn, must have demanded unimaginable, unparalleled social adroitness.
Throughout her whole life she was constantly taught, tutored, and advised on every conceivable subject by the best minds of the day. She had access, something rare in that day, to the most advanced writings from all over the known world that could make their way to England. She had to use her education and vastly to expand her vocabulary and mastery of the turn of phrase in ways that, perhaps, no King had ever had to do, since she was a woman.
She faced a vast range of complex as well as heart wrenching global and everyday human kinds of problems that only monarchs face. She faced monumental problems of every sort every day, therefore leaving an imprint in her brain to be ruminated upon later, and, I propose, written about in secret. In other words, she was uniquely situated to have that kind of knowledge and depth of understanding of everything relevant of her day that would enable her to take many different perspectives. She had to develop profound and subtle insight into the interrelations of every conceivable aspect on every conceivable level of both mundane and rarefied human individual, social, and political life.
I suspect that when the term ‘genius’ is attributed to a person, most people, even intellectuals assume that that person has no limitations and is capable of anything. However, all human minds have to have access to information and experiences as the sources of their productions. Minds do not produce ex nihilo. Life circumstances channel us and open or restrict access to information, as it does for all humans. Turn the qualities I cited above and ask this question. If after listing all of these factors and qualities, you began a search for the single individual who lived in England in the latter part of the 16th Century and who would have been most likely to possess all of these qualities and life circumstances, would not the answer have to be Queen Elizabeth I?
Regardless of how extremely great their proven achievements in their field or fields are and how much this assures us of their mental capacity, they cannot have knowledge to which they could not have had access. Mental abilities combine with training, accessible knowledge, and opportunities to yield achievements that fit, beautifully, with their circumscribed world, their life circumstances cut out from within the wider world infinite possibilities. It is not that they could not have mastered any other intellectual domain if they had been set directly in the path of that domain. It is just that that mastery of domains outside their experience does not happen.
On the other hand, genius takes the domain set in their path, transforms it, and takes it to a higher level that endures for centuries after. In most cases, serendipity also may bring some degree of familiarity with complementary disciplines from other domains. These can enter into their primary focus and become a catalyst for creativity within their own field. However, to reiterate, ideas are not magically brought into a mind. Some kinds of serendipity can help to produce a unique integration of ideas that evolve as hybrids so beautifully interwoven that it seems as though the new product was always what the domain had been destined to become, what it was supposed to be. Elizabeth I was uniquely situated to acquire these necessary mental abilities and to have these personal, social, and political experiences. She was uniquely situated for circumstances to conspire to take one of nature’s brilliant minds and educe genius that inscribed itself, for all eternity, on paper.
Reviewing the records of Shakespeare, setting aside legends of ‘what he must have been like’, there is no indication that he would have been exposed to the conditions listed in the preceding paragraphs. Almost no one else but Elizabeth fits these conditions. One person in Italy might have seemed to have been such an exception, namely Nicolo Machiavelli, (1469-1527). He was not a king and yet wrote political philosophy as one who must have been a king. However, in this case, Machiavelli was uniquely positioned, for many years, in the king’s court so as to be almost more familiar with the challenges of kingship than the king himself. Interestingly, his works were written, for the most part, in the latter 16th and early 17th centuries. In those days, one would expect that such writings of political philosophy and intrigue would eventually find its way only to the most elite of royalty and aristocracy in other nations. This would not include a lowly actor, such as Shakespeare, in a fledgling, impoverished theater in a country of a different language, namely England.
Elizabeth, on the other hand, speaking Italian, could easily have been privy to his political works, although her experience with Henry VIII was surely sufficient for such an observant mind. The Queen who ushered in the Elizabethan era is a most likely candidate to fulfill all of these criteria for authoring this vast and beautiful canvas of national and world affairs, of intrigue, and of delicately subtle affairs of the human heart with such incredibly brilliant mastery of the English language.
From cognitive, psychological, and life history considerations, she is one person most likely to have been able and motivated to produce these brilliant, erudite, witty, subtle, and entertaining works. This conclusion is consistent with the Sonnets, the Plays about Kings, about reversal of male and female roles, of love and romantic chicanery, military exploits, and on and on with the long trail of experiences so colorfully transposed into the so-called “Works of Shakespeare”. William was merely the cloak of anonymity chosen to prevent denigration of such wonders having come from a woman’s pen.
She should finally be recognized as not only the Queen of the Elizabethan Era but as the genius that she was. The Works of Shakespeare glow with radiation emanating from the DNA of King Henry VIII and heat from a daughter tested and formed in the crucible of her stormy childhood and complex, colorful, and challenging reign. Give her her due.
Edwin Young is working on a book tentatively called, "Can There Be a Paradigm Shift in Psychotherapy?" Links to some of his essays can be found at The Natural Systems Institute.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Shakespeare Was a Queen