I credit my mentor, Sallie DelVecchio, Associate Professor of English at Middlesex County College, for introducing me to the Shakespeare Authorship Question (SAQ). Her informative lectures transported me from our NJ classroom back in time to the intrigue of Elizabethan England.
Last week I had the pleasure of meeting up with my dear friend for lunch. We chatted about her unique style of teaching Shakespeare, and she agreed to answer the following questions for my blog.
Deb Fade: How were you first introduced to the SAQ?
Prof. DelVecchio: In college, my professor said that some people don’t believe that Shakespeare was Shakespeare, that some believe he was “even a woman.” She went on to say that no “real scholar” would believe such a thing, and that was the end of the SAQ in her class. However, since I like mysteries, I never forgot that there IS a question, and later, when I started teaching my Introduction to Shakespeare course, I decided to give it a closer look. Someone once said there’s no subject so dangerous it can’t at least be discussed, so I started reading about it so that I could introduce that discussion in class.
Deb Fade: Why do you feel the SAQ is relevant when teaching Shakespeare?
Prof. DelVecchio: If Stratford (William Shaksper of Stratford) did not write the works, then we need to see what’s in the works that caused the true author to hide his/her identity. If Stratford wrote the works, the Court gossip is just that—gossip. But if Oxford (Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford) or some other noble wrote them, then we get a real look at the movers and shakers of Elizabeth’s Court, and we can almost feel that we know Elizabeth and Cecil and all the players of the day.
Deb Fade: How do your students react when you first tell them that the “Stratford Man” may not be author of the famous canon?
Prof. DelVecchio: Well, Debbie, as you know, I introduce the SAQ as just that—a question. I get incredulous looks, usually. I’ve had a couple of students say that there IS no question and that it’s obvious that the Stratford man wrote the works. By the end of the semester, those students always acknowledge that there IS a question. I’m not here to preach. I just want my students to know that there is a question; how they proceed from there depends on their overall interest in the works.
Deb Fade: By the way, what are your favorite plays and sonnets?
I most enjoy teaching Macbeth, Hamlet, King Lear, The Merchant of Venice, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The long poem, Venus and Adonis, chronicles, according to many scholars, an affair between an aging Elizabeth and a younger nobleman, possibly even the aforementioned 17th Earl of Oxford. I like that.
My favorite sonnet: (#130) “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun.”
(Check back on Friday, March 1, for Part 2!)