The untold bit

One bit of my Berlin trip that I will remember for a long time:

In previous visits I have tended to concentrate on the Bundestag, the Foreign Ministry and the thinktankers. On this occasion I decided I would take in the Defence Ministry as well, and found to my delight that it was conveniently close to my hotel. A rather impressive building, I thought; I wondered if there was any particular history behind it?

(Of course, the Bundestag, in the former Reichstag building, has history literally oozing out of the walls – if you’ve been inside you’ll know what I mean. And the Foreign Ministry was originally built as the central bank of the Third Reich, and then served as Communist Party headquarters in East Germany.)

So I asked the silver-haired colonel who I was meeting about the building’s history. He told me that it had originally been the headquarters of the German Navy from 1911, and was then the territorial army headquarters; and then became the centre of resistance to Hitler within the armed forces, in particular under Claus von Stauffenberg. (I realised why the street I had just walked down is called the Stauffenbergstraße.) He added, “So after 20 July, von Stauffenberg was shot in one of the courtyards,” indicating which one with a nod.


On a different note entirely, I am quite unreasonably pissed off with the people who have mis-spelt my name on the invitation to next week’s book launch. They are the embassy of Bosnia and Herzegovina. I get on very well with their ambassador in Brussels, and it’s irritating that one of her staff has let her down; but also, I have always done my best to make sure that invitations to events involving diplomats respect the necessary protocol and it really irritated me today that they weren’t able to extend the courtesy reciprocally. (They also used an out-of-date logo for my employers.) I spent sixteen months of my life in 1997 and 1998 trying to help strengthen democracy in their country, and… well, no point in going on about it I suppose.

One thought on “The untold bit

  1. On the first point: I have found online Shapiro’s first chapter. Your account of it is completely unfair. He describes his own thought processes; he doesn’t claim scholarly priority. Anyone who has done similar historical work (have you?) will recognise Shapiro’s account as a good faith narrative of what really happens when real people do research. Sure, others may have already done the legwork and come to the same conclusion; but I don’t think you can prove that Shapiro knew that. Can you?

    On the second point, you write of “the necessary… conclusion [that] if there really were frequent collaborations, there was a system in place by which they were done”. This is not at all a necessary conclusion. No system other than people going about their normal professional business and networking as professional writers do is required. My own professional collaborations have not always been systematic in the way they came about, and I don’t see why I should demand that Shakespeare should behave differently.

    I have to draw attention to your misleading innuendo here as well. I don’t think that half a dozen collaborations out of almost forty plays really qualifies as “frequent”. And while the play “Palamon and Arcite” was performed in Oxford, you surely don’t believe the fantasy that it was written by the teenage earl? (And since the text is lost, you have some cheek to assert that it is the root for Shakespeare’s The Two Noble Kinsmen!)

    On hyphenation, let’s get to the real issue. If “Shakespeare” is, as you tell me, not hyphenated on the title page of “Venus and Adonis”, does that mean that it’s not a pseudonym in that case? Do you have any evidence at all, other than wishful thinking, that pseudonyms were habitually marked by hyphenation at the time? That is the argument which lacks any empirical basis!

    Finally, Shapiro’s book is not the current lead book for the authorial defence. That is and remains the First Folio, and the published works of Shakespeare during his lifetime, which state clearly who their author is, as everyone thought at the time and as most people still think today. Shapiro’s book isn’t even an argument about the authorship question; it’s an exploration of why people hold dogmatic views about it, and it succeeds rather well.

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