Shakespeare himself may have annotated ‘Hamlet’ book, claims researcher

Notes attained on a 16 th-century manuscript, thought to have been an inspiration for the play, could have been the Bards own, says John Casson

Annotations in the margins of a 16 th-century text that is believed to have been one of the sources for Hamlet could have been make use of Shakespeare himself, according to an independent researcher.

John Casson was appearing through the British Library’s copy of Francois de Belleforest’s Histoires Tragiques, a 1576 French text thought to have been one of the sources for Shakespeare’s tragedy: it features the story of how a Danish prince, Amleth, avenges his father’s murder by his uncle, the latter going on to marry his mother, Geruthe.

Casson “ve noticed that” faded ink emblems had been built in the margins next to six passageways- three of which dealt with the prince’s decision to pretend to be mad in order to conceal his plans for retaliation. One of the annotated passages, translated from the French, reads:” It is not without cause, and only occasion, that my gestures, countenances, and words, seem all to proceed from a madman, and that I desire to have all men esteem me wholly deprived of sense or reasonable understanding .”

Casson, the author of several volumes on Shakespeare’s identity, said:” I ensure these faint marks, and my eyes popped out of my head. I seemed through page by page and found that the annotations were mainly on the Hamlet section. It’s only one section of an entire book. It’s like he read the Hamlet section, moved into the next section and then stopped. And I believed,’ Oh my God .’ The ink is faded. It’s clearly ancient ink, which may be why these annotations weren’t noticed earlier … It is extraordinarily rare to find a source book for Shakespeare’s plays with notes on. This is virtually unique .”

Casson believes there are more than equal odds that the trade mark were make use of Shakespeare.” Who else was interested in this text in the late 16 th century? There is only one person we absolutely know was interested in it, and that’s Shakespeare. No other person has been shown to definitely have an interest in this text ,” said the researcher, who has detailed his findings in the British Library’s journal .

Although the annotations are not dated, Casson believes they predate Hamlet, which was written around 1601, for two reasons. First, one of passageways underlined in the book reads, when translated:” The right of succession is a better way( to choose a monarch) than that of election .”

” That would not have been an annotation underlined once James I was on the throne[ from March 1603 ]. He had two sons. It would have been of no interest to anyone subsequently ,” said Casson. Also,” there is no mention of the play. If you were annotating after the play, you would set:’ This was Shakespeare’s Hamlet; he refers to this .’ You wouldn’t be coy .”

Casson also argues that the annotations give further weight to his controversial hypothesi that Sir Henry Neville, a courtier of Elizabeth I, was the author of Shakespeare’s plays. Casson has now been expounded this theory in a 2016 volume, Sir Henry Neville Was Shakespeare: The Evidence, and says the annotations in the Belleforest could have been made by Neville. The courtier read and wrote in French, and his library at Audley End, Essex, includes annotations utilizing the “y” emblem in the British Library’s copy of Belleforest. Casson also argues that Neville’s life mirrors the arc of Shakespeare’s career, especially his imprisonment in 1601 after the Essex rebellion and subsequent political downfall, a period Casson says corresponds with the majority of Shakespeare’s tragedies, written in the early 17 th century.

” William from Stratford has the backing of the mass of academic authority[ as the author of the plays ], they’re so used to it, and challenging it is academic demise or danger to your reputation ,” said Casson.” But Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, people ensure them sculpting and talking and wrote letters to them. There are no letters from William of Stratford. His mothers were illiterate, his daughters were illiterate: how do you become the greatest novelist ever when your family are illiterate? … His daughters lived into the 1660 s and never said anything about their parent being a novelist. There’s a real sense the man doesn’t fit .”

However, Shakespeare expert Sir Brian Vickers disagreed, taking issue with the claim” that “the mens” from Stratford simply did not have the education, cultural background and breadth of life experience necessary for him to write the plays traditionally attributed to him “.

” This is the usual snobbery, and ignorance ,” said Vickers.” They are unaware that the Elizabethan grammar school was an intense crash course in reading and writing Latin verse, prose, and plays- the bigger schools often acted plays by Terence in the original … As for’ experience of life ‘, there are a few blank years between his leaving Stratford and starting as an actor in the early 1590 s where he might have travelled. In any case, London was full of books, he read widely, and he evidently had a receptive memory. Having acted in plays written in blank verse, lyrics and prose, he knew the conventions of drama from the inside. Above all, he had a great imagination, and didn’t need to have been to Venice to write The Merchant of Venice, or Othello. What’s most dispiriting about these anti-Stratfordians is their refusal of Shakespeare’s creative imagination .”

John Mullan, a UCL English professor, agreed.” There is so much proof for Shakespeare having been just who we have long supposed, that only those who have decided in advance that a grammar school son from the Midlands who never ran abroad and wasn’t a courtier could not have written those plays set in Italy or featuring monarches could guess otherwise .”

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