I hate it when villains quote Shakespeare

I recently finished reading Interred with Their Bones, by Jennifer Lee Carrell. I was enticed into reading it by Adrien. "It takes place partly in London," she said, knowing how I love that city, so much so that I once thought of running away to the Peter Pan ride at Disneyland just so I could look out Wendy's window at Big Ben towering over the Thames. "It's really interesting to read the descriptions of places we've been to," she continued, "like London and Cedar City and Washington, DC. And it's a mystery." (She knows mystery is one of my favorite genres.) Then she pulled out the trump card: "And the mystery is about Shakespeare." That sold me.

So I read it. And I rather enjoyed it. Just as Adrien said, there were some lovely, evocative descriptions of London and other places I've been. There was a pretty good page-turner of a mystery. My one problem with the mystery, though, was [spoiler alert] I didn't understand why the main bad guy kept killing so many people and in ways that copied deaths found in Shakespeare's plays. So he didn't want anyone to think someone other than Shakespeare of Stratford wrote the plays. Did he have to kill everyone he came across even if they had nothing to do with revealing the true author? He was like some cheesy mad evil Shakespearean, like Vincent Price in Theatre of Blood. [end spoiler alert]

That reminds me of another problem I had with the book: all the "Who was Shakespeare" gabble. Fortunately, the author had her heroine inject a note of sanity by arguing the Stratfordian case, but there were pages and pages of reading where I felt like I was back at hlas.

However, even the heroine made a couple of Oxfordian-sounding statements when she described things like this: "High on the north wall Shakespeare's effigy hovered like a spirit at a séance, its stone hand gripping the quill more like a clerk than a poet."

How, exactly, does a clerk's grip differ from a poet's? Let's find out. First, let's take a look at the effigy in question:

Next, here are some pictures of clerks through the ages holding pens:

And here are some poets doing the same:

Okay, the smurf is holding the pen differently, but I don't think he counts because he has only four fingers and couldn't hold a pen properly even if he wanted to. With the others, frankly, I'm having a hard time telling the difference between how Shakespeare holds a pen and the clerks and poets hold pens. You may not believe it, but this supposed discrepancy between the way Shakespeare's effigy holds a pen and the way a poet supposedly ought to hold a pen is a real, true anti-Stratfordian argument. (They say he was originally holding a grain sack.) But it's obvious that the proposal is merely a specious allegation.

Secondly, the heroine, while looking at the First Folio, had this to say: "The book lay open to the title page with the engraved portrait of Shakespeare, the one that gave him a wandering eye, a Humpty-Dumpty brow, and a head set so awkwardly on his ruff that it looked oddly decapitated, resting on a half halo."

Again, you may not believe this (I certainly don't), but this so-called decapitated appearance is another real and true argument that anti-Stratfordians use as proof - proof, mind you - that Shakespeare of Stratford could not possibly have written the plays. The idea is that the engraver was in on the conspiracy of silence, but couldn't help trying to give people hints about the "real" author's identity by portraying Shakespeare in this fashion. (sigh)

Now, disregarding the veiled insult wherewith Shakespeare's brow is compared to Humpty Dumpty's (just take a look at any Humpty Dumpty illustration and you'll see that Shakespeare's brow is way larger), let's look at some actual decapitated heads:

Really, now - compared to poor John the Baptist, does Shakespeare's head look decapitated? I didn't think so.

Other than those few minor points, the book was fun to read. If you like mysteries, and Shakespeare, and good descriptive writing, you'll enjoy the book, too. Thanks, Adrien!


Shannon said...

Specious allegations! I rather liked the book too, but I thought it was silly with all the anti-Stratfordian stuff. And as for people getting killed for "no reason"-- I think maybe he was just crazy. That's usually the case.
I think you're wrong about Shakespeare looking decapitated. He looks EXACTLY like Charles I:

Anonymous said...

I want to read this! Actually when Shannon was reading this at the reunion I couldn't believe it was actually a mystery about Shakespeare. I just couldn't believe it. It seemed to be good to be true!

I think Shannon's picture is funny. Not funny in the original context, just in this one.


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Megan said...

Okay so I read it. I liked it pretty well, but I also don't like when bad guys use good things to justify themselves. But it happens a lot. In fact, I'm pretty sure it happens all the time. I don't know, whatever.

Anyway, it was a pretty fun book but I was somewhat confused about a couple things... maybe we can discuss them later?

Hmmm I'm tired.