Antonia Fraser or Mel Gussow
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0917. Thursday, 5 December 1996.
From: John Velz <
Date: Wednesday, 4 Dec 1996 21:36:58 +0200
Subject: Antonia Fraser or Mel Gussow
There is a startling sentence in Mel Gussow's account of an interview with Lady
Antonia Fraser about her recently published *Faith and Treason: The Story of
the Gunpowder Plot*. The sentence appears in a parag. on p. B2, cont. from B1
of "The Living Arts" section of the *NYT* for Wed. Dec. 4, '96.
. . . . .
"There are frequent references to Shakespeare, who was contemporaneous
with James I. Lady Antonia said that in writing 'Macbeth.' with its theme of
regicide, Shakespeare was influenced by the Gunpowder Plot. 'Hamlet' and 'King
Lear' came later, and therefore were Jacobean rather than Elizabethan plays.
Because Ben Jonson and others were writing at the time, she said, the period
was artistically a 'kind of cusp.'"
. . . . .
The fact is that *Macbeth* came last of the three plays mentioned, not first,
as most undergraduate students of Shakespeare know. And *Hamlet* is an
Elizabethan play. The sentence as phrased makes it seem that *Macbeth* is both
an Elizabethan play and antecedent to a Jacobean event, the Gunpowder Plot. If
one assumes that "later" is an editing error for "earlier", one is even worse
off, because that would make the Jacobean plays earlier than the Tudor plays,
and besides *Lear* 1605 is clearly a Jacobean play however you play the
sentence. So it wouldn't do to edit "later" to "earlier" and "Jacobean" to
"Elizabethan." It is all a muddle, as they say in London. The question is
whether this is Lady Antonia's garbling or Gussow's? He ought to know better,
as he has been writing theater and culture columns for *The New York Times* for
a long time. I find it hard to believe that Lady Antonia could be this
confused about the chronology of the Shakspeare canon.
The misinformation running around about Shakespeare in the popular press and in
pop history is appalling. *The Times* and/or Lady Antonia should do better