A Venetian Jewish woman who lived in London and spoke Hebrew is the actual author behind William Shakespeare, a leading expert claims in a book newly released in paperback.
Exactly 400 years since his death, the English playwright’s mysterious identity still stirs its fair share of rumors, including ones that he was Jewish, and the newest theory is relatively elaborate.
Shakespeare’s Dark Lady by John Hudson claims Amelia Bassano, a Marrano born in 1569 to a family of Venetian Jews who were court musicians to Queen Elizabeth I, wrote the works attributed to Shakespeare, according to a Daily Mail review on Sunday.
Bassano has been known as the first woman to have published a book of poetry in 1611 (Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum), and is said to be a solid candidate for the “dark lady” referred to in Shakespeare’s famous sonnets.
Hudson’s theory that Bassano is, in fact, the real author rests in large part on her life circumstances: She was a mistress to Lord Chamberlain, a man in charge of English theater and patron of the company that staged the famous plays, which put her in a prime position to have written them; she had knowledge of Italy — where some of the plays are based — whereas Shakespeare was believed to have never ventured outside England all his life.
Hudson also believes that as a crypto-Jew, Bassano’s Hebrew skills and knowledge of Jewish texts were evident in the plays and that she left “clues” as to her identity. (There is an Emilia in Othello and a Bassanio in The Merchant of Venice.)
“Amelia’s strategy was to leave behind a preposterous case for William Shakespeare, which has now fallen away, revealing the true creator who is now at last visible,” Hudson told Haaretz in 2008. His book was originally published in 2014.
“It is a stratagem she used to get her work published, as many other women have done, by having their work published under a man’s name. In Elizabethan London, women could not write original literature at all, let alone plays, so this was her only option,” he said.
“All the world is a stage, and this was especially true at the Elizabethan court, where courtiers were constantly creating and performing meta-theatrical dramas to persuade the queen about various issues. This is where the author learned his or her highly developed sense of theater, and as a Marrano passing in a Christian society, she had to act every moment of her life, ” he added.