As promised, here is the continuation of my discussion with Syril Levin Kline, author of the award-winning, historical fiction Shakespeare’s Changeling: A Fault Against the Dead.
Fade: Who was your intended audience as you wrote this fascinating novel?
Kline: Everyone! Middle school and high school students will enjoy this book because it connects them to the actual author with the life experience to have created the Shakespeare canon. They will understand the meaning of scenes in the plays that traditional scholarship cannot and does not explain.
It provides students with a new template for understanding the history plays of Elizabethan England as a nation facing war that must use its theaters as mass media outlets that call the Queen’s subjects to arms.
It also shows the importance of Shaxper as a man working his way up in the world to become a prominent businessman and theater owner while helping his master, the true playwright, keep his identity hidden.
But Shakespeare’s Changeling is for anyone who loves a good mystery – and in this case, it’s a mystery that is over 400 years old!
Fade: How long have you been writing?
Kline: Writing is one of my earliest memories. I wrote my first story when I was five and our Studebaker broke down. We had to walk through a field of very tall grass to get home, with my mom being very upset and my dad just shrugging it off.
I wrote stories and plays in elementary school. When we studied conservation in the 5th grade, I researched Izaak Walton in the World Book Encyclopedia, which I used to read for fun. Walton published The Compleat Angler in 1653, and I used his dialogues between Piscator and Venator to write my own play with his characters.
I wrote for my middle school yearbook and literary journal, thanks to an excellent English teacher, Mildred Groner, who inspired me to become a writer. I wrote for my high school newspaper, and even wrote a humorous novel about my first year of college in a coed dorm in 1972.
As an adult, I wrote a thrice-weekly consumer Q&A column for a Midwestern newspaper, and during that time began my first draft of Shakespeare’s Changeling. I have also been a teacher, showing preschoolers how to write and illustrate their own storybooks.
Writers write. It’s what we do. Even as children, we search for and create our own images and symbols of meaning, and we scribble them on paper long before we can actually read any words.
Incidentally, there are several samples of Lord Oxford’s early juvenilia, but nothing known to have come from Shaxper of Stratford’s childhood quill.
Fade: In a conversation in the Epilogue between Susan de Vere and Ben Jonson, the characters discuss the existence of “dark and dangerous secrets” encoded between the lines of Shakespeare’s poetry.
Please give us an example of one of these with a brief interpretation.
Kline: There are poems in which Lord Oxford’s name is encoded in acrostic. There are also hints such as the Induction to The Taming of The Shrew that imply an impostor posing as a noble author, but sometimes this scene is omitted and not performed because traditional Stratfordian interpretations don’t understand it or deliberately attempt to hide its meaning.
Sonnet 81 also causes us to wonder who the poet is memorializing, and several sonnets suggest a father talking to a beloved son, beseeching the fair youth to marry and have children to replicate his handsome features.
I must say that in my own research for this book, I’ve seen Stratfordian orthodoxy telling people what to think about Shakespeare, whereas the Oxfordian approach tantalizes inquiring minds to ask questions and look beyond the first blush of simple, spoon-fed meaning.
Fade: To me, learning about the historical backdrop and key players in Queen Elizabeth’s court, banishes boredom and brings the Shakespeare Canon to life.
Your book has made me want to research people such as the Lords Pembroke and Montgomery because of their connections to the First Folio as well as their familial bonds to the de Vere family.
What are some books you’d like to recommend to Shakespeare fans curious about these and other key figures in the Shakespeare story?
Kline: I’ve already mentioned Ogburn’s The Mysterious William Shakespeare and Price’s Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography. I’d also recommend Shakespeare Identified as Edward de Vere, the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford by J. Thomas Looney, and William Farina’s De Vere as Shakespeare.
A visit to the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship website will also direct interested readers to a variety of publications on the subject. Because there are so many books to read, I’m considering posting a link to our bibliography on my website http://www.shakespeareschangeling.com. Peter’s book will also be available sometime in the near future.
Fade: That is a fantastic idea! In closing, I have one more question for you, Syril:
Do you think the Shakespeare Authorship Question will one day be added to the standard curriculum in literature classes?
Kline: Yes. To this day, I thank Mrs. Groner, my 7th grade English teacher, for discussing it in our English class.
To reiterate my earlier comments, Shakespeare comes alive for students and people of all ages when they can see the connections between an author and his work and understand that genius is part nature and part nurture.
*** I would like to take this opportunity to thank Syril Levin Kline for this interview. May Shakespeare’s Changeling: A Fault Against the Dead take the Grand Prize at the Chanticleer Awards Gala! ***