By the Late and Great Brian McClinton
1. The Shakespeare Paradox
Shakespeare is widely regarded not only as the world’s supreme poet but also as its most ordinary. A prosaic man of the world, he apparently cared little for his own manuscripts, which are all missing, and even less for books in general, of which not one owned by him has ever been found. He penned no letters to family or friends, no prose works on contemporary events and no poems in memory of his dead son or in praise of his wife, daughters, friends or fellow writers. In fact, apart from six dubious signings, he left not a single word in his own hand. Nor did anyone ever report him as having said anything of any note. In terms of the life of the mind, he was truly William the Silent. Apart from acting, his everyday affairs were preoccupied with the mundane and mercenary externals of tax evasion, property ownership, money lending and selling corn and malt. Yet in the midst of this life so ordinary he is said to have written the world’s greatest poetry and drama. He is, we might say, the most famous nonentity in history.