Saturday, February 28, 2015
"The Boy Who Would Be Shakespeare: A Tale of Forgery and Folly" by Doug Stewart
I am not a Shakespeare fan by any stretch of the imagination, so a Shakespeare play sounded like a good idea for the "book in a genre you don't typically read" category of my current reading challenge. However, plodding through King Lear is leaving me in need of some additional inspiration, so I explored the 822.33 (Shakespeare) section of the library.
The cover of Doug Stewart's brown, white, and black book caught my eye immediately. Okay, so I like the look of old paper! The ink blotted lines were calling to me. The title didn't hurt either.
The Boy Who Would Be Shakespeare: A Tale of Forgery and Folly is about an eighteenth century young man who is underestimated by his dysfunctional and emotionally abusive family and is unwittingly provided the motive, skill, and means to become a temporarily successful forger of Shakespearean papers.
The author shows that young William-Henry Ireland was a product of the decayed morality of his family and nation. Then, he chose to take the truth fudging, genealogy and history rewriting tendencies of his culture one step further with actual forgery. Even so, young Ireland was not the only one. He lived on the cusp of what would be known as the Age of Forgery.
William-Henry attempted to make his Shakespeare obsessed father proud of him by giving him a piece of Shakespeare's handwriting (that he claimed to have found) but only managed to make his duped and gullible father greedier and a bigger laughingstock than he already was. Samuel Ireland went to the grave believing his son was too stupid to write anything on his own -- never mind be Shakespeare's pen for more than a year. In many ways, Shakespeare was Samuel Ireland's god, and Samuel Ireland's approval was William-Henry Ireland's god. Big mistake. It cost them both dearly.
I learned a lot about Shakespeare, London, the Bardites, and forgery while reading about William-Henry Ireland and his family. My appreciation of Shakespeare isn't any greater, but I do understand what can become of people who want something so badly that they become victims of their own egos.