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The Class of Shakespeare

Pete Springer/OPB

For a century and a half or so, rumors have swirled that the plays we ascribe to William Shakespeare were actually written by someone else — someone of higher class and greater education: maybe Christopher Marlowe, or the Earl of Oxford, or Francis Bacon. This debate has mainly surfaced in books, blogs, and conferences. But now the theory is coming to a multiplex near you in the form of the new movie Anonymous:


Linfield college English professor (and former Shakespearean actor) Daniel Pollack-Pelzner is professionally interested in this debate. Not because he thinks that Shakespeare wasn’t the Bard — he does. But he’s drawn to the complicated class implications of the fight.

Shakespeare was once celebrated as an uneducated, “low-born” writer who was also a genius. But, according to Pollack-Pelzner, the author that was once celebrated by anti-elitists and enjoyed by the masses has now entered the elitist pantheon. The irony, as Pollack-Pelzner sees it, is that knocking down the scholarly consensus that Shakespeare was a common man has become the anti-elitist position.

If you’re passionate about this debate, what draws you in? What class questions do you see?

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Weekend Look-Ahead 10/28

OPB | Broadcast: Oct. 28, 2011