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The case for Emilia Bassano

A case has been built promoting Emilia Bassano as the author of Shakespeare's works.

Context

Emilia Bassano was born in London in 1569 to a family of Venetian immigrants. She was one of the first published female poets in England.[1] Some have even suggested that Bassano may have been Shakespeare's mistress at some point. However, there are indications that she was far more than just his muse and may have written the plays and poems associated with the Bard.

The Argument

Her Experiences Would Have Made Her Familiar With the World of Shakespeare's Plays Bassano experienced a wealth of Elizabethan life. She would have been familiar with the inner working of a royal court. In her teenage years, Bassano was reportedly the mistress of Henry Carey, the master of court entertainment. Her proximity to Carey would also have exposed her to the world of theatre and lower elements of Elizabethan society as he was a patron of Shakespeare's acting company (this could also have been her introduction to the man from Stratford).[2] Her Italian heritage would also explain the extensive references in Shakespeare's work to Italian literature and locales. There are Plenty of References to Her Name in Shakespeare's Plays The use of Emilia Bassano's name occurs in: -Emilia in the Comedy of Errors -Bassianus in Titus Andronicus (the original Roman name of Bassano Del Grappa, Bassano's family's hometown) -Emilia in Othello -An earlier version of the Taming of the Shrew features a daughter named Emilia This was at a time when the name Emilia was not commonly used. It features in no other 16th century plays. Some of the Work Reflects Her Life There are also traces of Bassano's own life in Shakespeare's work. In All's Well That Ends Well, a lowborn girl is taken in by a countess and a general. When Bassano's own father died, when she was 7, the young Bassano was taken in by the dowager countess of Kent. In the same play, the general vows to give the girl a good education. In Bassano's life, her guardian also bestowed on her an excellent education in the arts. The dowager countess of Kent's brother, Peregrine Bertie, became the English ambassador to Denmark and was based in Elsinore. This also featured in Shakespeare's work as the setting for Hamlet. One of the descriptions present in Othello also perfectly describes a fresco in Bassano Del Grappa, Bassano's familial hometown. Records show that a shop owner in the town also went by the name Giovanni Othello, a potential source for the play's title character's name. An earlier version of the Taming of the Shrew also featured a character named Alphonso. Bassano's husband was a man named Alphonso. These similarities go far beyond a mistress. To have all of these allusions to her life, Shakespeare would at minimum have had to cowrite with her. Given the overwhelming evidence to suggest Shakespeare was not a writer, it is far more likely she wrote them herself.

Counter arguments

Her writing style bears no resemblance to Shakespeare’s. Her poetry shows a much more conventional and religious writing style more closely associated with the time. Her verse is far more conventional and religious, while Shakespeare's pushes the boundaries of writing for the period. Her life experiences and the frequent use of her name in the plays are also not evidence of her having written them. If, as many scholars have suggested, Bassano did become Shakespeare's mistress, it is likely she would have told the Bard many details of her life. She may have been a source of inspiration for him in his work. The evidence is circumstantial at best. There is nothing to definitively suggest that Bassano was anything more than a friend or mistress who inspired Shakespeare and conferred experiences of foreign lands and literature which would later feature in his plays.

Premises

[P1] Bassano had lived the life experiences alluded to in Shakespeare's plays. [P2] There is evidence that she could have met him as Henry Carey's mistress. [P3] Her name is also mentioned extensively in his work. [P4] Therefore, Bassano wrote the plays, not Shakespeare.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P4] Nothing here proves she was anything more than a friend, mistress or source of inspiration for the Bard.

References

  1. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/aemilia-lanyer
  2. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/06/who-is-shakespeare-emilia-bassano/588076/

Proponents

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This page was last edited on Thursday, 16 May 2019 at 17:23 UTC