Happy New Year from Walt Whitman! His Views on the Shakespeare and the Matter of Authorship

Walt Whitman (1819-1892), the great American poet, essayist and journalist, held some strong views when it came to Shakespeare and the authorship question.  Here are just some of his remarks, with thanks to the Shakespeare Fellowship for its online posting of the article Walt Whitman on Shakespeare (1992) by Paul A. Nelson, MD.

waltwhitman olderOn Shakespeare’s History Plays:

“Conceived out of the fullest heat and pulse of European feudalism — personifying in unparalleled ways the medieval aristocracy, its towering spirit of ruthless and gigantic cast, its own peculiar air and arrogance (no mere imitation) — only one of the ‘wolfish earls’ so plenteous in the plays themselves, or some born descendent and knower, might seem to be the true author of those amazing works — works in some respects greater than anything else in recorded history.”

On Shakespeare’s Greatness:

“But, after all, Shakespeare, the author Shakespeare, whoever he was, was a great man: much was summed up in him — much  — yes, a whole age and more: he gave reflection to a certain social estate quite important enough to be studied: he was a master artist, in a way –not in all ways, for he often fell down in his own wreckage: but taking him for all in all he is one of the fixed figures -will always have to be reckoned with.”

iwhitmw001p1On Will Shaksper of Stratford:

“It is remarkable how little is known of Shaksper the actor as a person and how much less is known of the person Shakespeare of the plays. The record is almost a blank- it has no substance whatever: scarcely anything that is said of him is authorized.”

On Shakespeare’s Legal Mind:

“Did you ever notice  how much the law is involved with the plays?  Long before I heard of any characteristic turns, the sure touch, the invisible potent hand, of the lawyer — of a lawyer, yes: not a mere attorney-at-law but a mind capable of taking the law in its largest scope, penetrating even its origins: not a pettifogger, perhaps even technically in its detail defective — but a big intellect of great grasp.  I go with you fellows when you say no to Shaksper.”

whitman youngOn the Authorship Question:

“The typical literary man is no more able to examine this question dispassionately than a priest is to pass on objection to the doctrine of the atonement, hell, heaven — not a bit more able…”


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