Actress Dame Janet Suzman slams actors who say Shakespeare didn’t write his plays

Updated: Aug 20, 2012, 15:21 PM IST

London: British actress and director Dame Janet Suzman has lashed out at two acclaimed Shakespearean actors who believe that the Bard was not the true author of the plays.

The 73-year-old said it was ‘strange’ that Sir Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance took the ‘haughty’ view that they were penned by an English aristocrat.

According to her it was ‘snobbish’ to believe that the writer could not have been a playwright from Stratford Upon Avon – a market town and civic parish in south Warwickshire, England .

Jacobi claimed the dramas were written by Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, who hid behind William Shakespeare because a nobleman could not be seen as a common playwright during those times.

Rylance, who is currently performing in ‘Richard III’ at the Globe, has pointed out that details about Italy in the plays are ‘exact’ and the Earl had widely toured the country.

The veteran, who has starred and directed in many Shakespeare dramas, said she got ‘mad as a snake’ over the myths and doubts about the man who has been regarded as the world’s greatest poet and playwright.

“It annoyed me… I suddenly felt like Joan of Arc riding into battle,” the Daily Mail quoted her as telling the Observer.

She described last year’s film ‘Anonymous’, which portrayed Shakespeare as a drunken fool and the Earl as a literary genius, as ‘far-fetched’ and a waste of money.

In her new book ‘Not Hamlet’, Suzman devotes a chapter to ‘conspiracy theories’ surrounding Shakespeare who died at the age of 52 in 1616 after writing 37 plays, 154 sonnets and poems.

“You have to be a conspiracy theorist to imagine the earl secretly wrote 37 plays, performed and printed over a quarter of a century, without being found out,” she said.

“And you have to be a snob if you just hate it that the greatest poet the world has produced was born into the humble aldermanic classes of a provincial town.

“How strange it is that Jacobi and Rylance, hundreds of years later, with their outstanding acting instincts, should embrace such a haughty view of the man who has made them as big as they are.

“We have seen a dozen times how thrillingly they themselves can conjure up fantastical character studies of fictional persons – without ever having been crowned king or murdered a rival in real life.

“It’s what actors do for heaven’s sakes, and Shakespeare was one too. It’s called imagination,” she added.