The SHAKESPEARE TAROT

II. DATE

 Simply put, the traditional dating of Shakespeare's plays are wrong. They are wrong because wrong-headed, based in large part by forcing what is known about the works, extant and exiguous, into what little is known about W. Shaksper of Stratford and disregarding whatsoever remains. So essentially erroneous and speculative is "traditional" dating that the chronology is in permanent flux and traditional Stratfordians themselves rarely agree. Jonson in 1614 claimed Titus Andronicus had stood constant for 30 years, dating its conception to 1584. Proposed years for As You Like It include 1599, when the play clearly references the Martin Marprelate controversy of 10 years prior. Harold Bloom and other fellow Stratfordians admit that the supposed "Ur-Hamlet", mentioned by Thomas Nashe in 1589, is but an earlier version of the same play by the same author of Hamlet

 The fact is, there exist very few "not earlier than" dates, and most of the "not later than" dates rely on a printed version of a given play. This latter date is used to deduce a chronology based on what academics may guess about the author's lifespan and creative process, relying as it does on the overwhelming paucity of hard data. Half of the plays in the First Folio of 1623, for instance, had never been published before, leaving a great amount of leeway in a evaluative system of dating itself fraught with flaws and predicated on a fallacy.

 

 Many of the plays considered to be inherited and rewritten by Shakespeare were in fact originally written by him and/or a coterie of writers active along with the author in the 1580s. These included works performed privately at Inns, houses, leased spaces such as Blackfriars, and at court, for instance by The Queen's Men, at the cockpit at Whitehall, for festival days and processions made by Queen Elizabeth, or at the Inns of Court. The "not earlier than" date, married with the chronology of a man who didn't write the plays, is the primary defect in Stratfordian dating. A clear example of this defect is the out of hand rejection of the otherwise obvious reason why the plays traditionally considered Late [Cymbeline, Pericles, Two Noble Kinsmen, etc.] reflect the mode and ethos of the mid-Elizabethan era - that is: they in fact date from that era, the late 1570s to mid 1580s. As a result of false allocation, the Stratfordian model has been forced to concoct a flimsy rationale of "experimentation" for Shakespeare's Late plays which, despite their best efforts, belies dotage and dementia, in their man and themselves.

 

 A perfectly worked-out chronology remains elusive and perhaps ultimately impossible since the plays were never knocked-out over a fortnight for an entertainment-hungry public but rather written over time, some by multiple co-writers in concert, played and revised in different venues and townships by different players for different audiences, revised through the years by the author himself - some to a mammoth extent, such as Hamlet - and eventually edited, revised, and expanded by subsequent playwrights - i.e. Middleton, Fletcher - after the author's death. 

 

 The works then are not timeless solely by dint of genius and inspiration from the muse, but through deep reflection, changes of mind, praxis, and the sweat of hard work. Through the constant countenance of completed artifacts, academics take for granted the living and learning creations which stand the test of time demand. By allotting these creations to the wrong man, deracinating them from their time and place, and gifting the fruits of their labors an as it were virgin birth, Stratfordians have made a God of their humble boy makes good myth.. Full comprehension and so full appreciation of the canon is hampered and undermined by these fundamental errors, but not vitiated nor irretrievably ruined - a monument to its fecundity and abundance. Shakespeare's works are worlds within worlds, in which each subsequent generation continues to find that eternity promised, in those words written half a decade after his death, by our ever living poet.