An Updated View of Shakespeare

I am a great fan of Fitzgerald, particularly Gatsby, although I’m not sure I am drawing the ‘correct’ message from it. I know it’s supposed to be about how callous and shallow rich people are, and maybe a bit about the tragic inevitability of fate, but I admired the rags to riches aspect of Gatsby’s life, and his ability to throw an absolute rager of a party, which was, of course, the defining cultural aspect of the 1920s. Also, I think it’s got one of the best closing lines in literature: So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
The past is an amazing place. We’re all from there, and none of us will ever see it again. It grows larger and larger as we leave it further and further behind. And, the further back into it you look, the less clear it is.
We don’t know if anybody like Robin Hood or King Arthur ever existed, we know absolutely nothing about the life of Homer, and we do not know how the aborigines came to be in Australia, although they have been there an amazingly long time. We know Shakespeare existed, he was a popular playwright even in his own time, but there is still a great deal about him we don’t know. Was he gay? Did he ever visit the court of Ludwig II in Prague? Did he write all of the things he is credited with? I’ve got opinions on all of these questions but they’re just opinions. We don’t even know his birthday, for sure, or what he looked like.
Well, according to this article in the Guardian, we now have a better idea of what he looked like. One bust, which was previously thought to have been sculpted well after his death, has been verified to be the work of a sculptor who lived at the same time as Shakespeare, and almost certainly (his shop was very near the Globe theater, and he visited Stratford) knew him.
The main difference between the bust and the image we all have of Shakespeare is that the bust portrays a somewhat chubbier individual. Which could be accounted for by age and the fact that he was, by the end of his life, a wealthy man.
So, we know a bit more about Shakespeare today than we did yesterday, as the boats beat on against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

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