But what all that stems from is this idea that emerged in the Romantic period of the 19th century, the image of the writer as the solitary genius, the idea of the work of art springing fully formed from the pure imaginative invention of the writer. And there’s an idea of the writer with his blank bit of paper, and that’s the sacred scene of origin of the literary work. But if you actually start looking at the historical records we have of the theater in Shakespeare’s lifetime, in fact it wasn’t like that at all. It was a profoundly collaborative activity. For instance, Shakespeare wrote particular parts for particular actors, because sometimes instead of putting the name of the character he puts the name of the actor. And you can actually see in his plays, there’s always a role for the clown, and he knows who the clown is, there’s a role for the actor who specialized in playing the older man — the councilor, the Polonius figure.
Jonathan Bate, in a PSB interview about the authorship debate raging in Shakespearean circles: who was William Shakespeare?
The commonly and most widely believed account points to commoner William Shaksper of Stratford-upon-Avon, but theorists have argued for centuries over the real identity of the playwright. Was it contemporary Christopher Marlowe? The famous Sir Francis Bacon? Elizabethan courtier Edward de Vere?
Sometimes it’s validating to hear academics from completely different circles speaking to the belief that writing is not a singular, individual act but a collaboration among peers, just like I spoke about in my first post in this category.