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01 May 2016 @ 10:28 am
in which NPR is really out of its element  
So NPR published this ridiculous interview with Mark Rylance and Derek Jacobi about "the authorship question" on (I think) April 25, in which they said the usual ridiculous things, and the interviewer actually closed with "who cares what they say as long as they say it with those accents?" so it was clearly not a rigorous sort of interview.

(Edit: it wasn't the interviewer who said this, although it did end the piece. Still, this is the kind of question the interviewer asked Rylance and Jacobi: "I wonder about the question of why the authorship question would have drawn fine legal minds? I mean, I'm wondering if they're more open to following where the evidence takes them?" WHAT THE WHAT. That is not a question; that is a leading statement. Here is another "question": "And may I ask, too, there's evidence of a widely traveled person. The plays - Many of the plays are set in Italy." And here is the ONLY question that she asks about the other side of the story - you know, the one where all the facts are: "Although, as you know well, Shakespeare scholars especially have been pretty rough. They have called you - What? - Flat-Earthers?" Not once does she even ask them why scholars might disagree with them on any of their points and ask them to explain why they believe what they believe in the face of scholarly evidence.)

People complained in the comments because there was no counterargument, and several people compared this to interviewing climate change skeptics without also interviewing scientists.

In response, NPR published this defensive piece, which I find more offensive than the original interview:


Rylance and Jacobi are hardly complete amateurs on the subject. Rylance, who was interviewed for but not the subject of the earlier NPR piece, was the founding creative director of London's Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. As he told Montagne in Monday's interview, "Both Derek and I have committed our lives, since we were teenagers, to this author."

Oh, well then. No need to present the overwhelmingly dominant point of view of pretty much every scholar who actually works in this field; Rylance told the interviewer that he and Jacobi have devoted their lives to Shakespeare, so that's clearly the same.

And the second, defensive piece quotes the interviewer, again without doing anything to contextualize her statements or point out that the reason people have problems with this argument is that her entire premise is wrong:

"As I said in the interview, the dearth of evidence connecting the man William Shakespeare to the work, long ago gave rise to doubts as to whether he was the true author. Of course, Shakespearean scholars and most lovers of the Shakespeare plays and sonnets, quite reasonably, start from the premise — and stick to the premise — that he is the author. It is so universally accepted that Shakespeare is Shakespeare that it's quite a stretch to suggest any other line of thinking would be 'equivalent.' And that's especially true after a weekend overflowing with celebrations of William Shakespeare, on the 400th anniversary of his death.

But the mystery is intriguing, and far from a simple conspiracy theory, its champions have compiled some compelling evidence for ruling out Shakespeare and considering, at least, other possible authors.

All in all, it seemed as good a time as any to sit down with two of the world's most acclaimed Shakespearean actors to chat about who wrote the plays they have lived, breathed and, by the way, studied, for decades." (my emphasis)

I mean, "his name is on them, and his friends all said he wrote them, and he was actually a part of the London theater world, and we have way more evidence that Shakespeare wrote his plays than that, say, Christopher Marlowe - I mean Marley, I mean Marlin - wrote his" is not just a premise. Nor is "one of the sonnets says 'every word doth almost tell my name,' and if you take the 'y' off of 'every' and scramble the letters around, you get 'Vere,'" or "de Vere went to Italy and once stabbed a guy, so he must have written Romeo and Juliet and based Hamlet on his own life" actually compelling evidence. But whatever, I guess; who needs standards when one has plummy accents on one's side?
tempestsarekindtempestsarekind on May 1st, 2016 04:10 pm (UTC)
Yes - what a strange thing to say about one's readers! Even if comment sections are generally terrible, you don't say that in an article that the commenters are going to read!