OPINIONSrnA Bard, By Any Other Name . . .rnby Frank Brownlowrn”Could Shakespeare give a theory of Shakespeare^”rn-R.W. EmersonrnAlias Shakespearernby ]oseph SobranrnNew York: The Free Press;rn311 pp., $25.00rnStory-telling is a feature of all societies.rnIf the world is to make sense, ifrnwe are to live together in families, cities,rnnations, if we are to do our daily work, ifrnlife is to be livable at all, we must tellrneach other stories. “How do you explainrnthat?” someone asks, and in reply someonernelse tells him a story. In modernrntimes, that is when the trouble starts. Arndoctor I knew used to say as he peeredrndown one’s throat, “I don’t like the story,”rnand whenever he said that one knewrnthere were difficulties ahead.rnFor the last 500 years, scholars and scientistsrnwho “didn’t like the story” havernbeen discarding or revising a great manyrnof them. The wonderful fiction of thernPtolemaic universe was one of the first torngo, followed shortly after by King Arthurrnand his knights. Nor is the process aboutrnto stop. The biologist Julian Huxley saidrnhe did not need God in the laboratory,rnand even as I write scholars and scientistsrnare changing stories as their researchrnFrank Brownlow teaches English atrnMount Holyoke College and is the authorrnof Shakespeare, Harsnett, and the Devilsrnof Denham. His most recent book isrnRobert Southwell (Twayne Publishers).rnproceeds.rnIt can be an unsettling business whenrnone of our favorite stories goes. The Einsteinianrnuniverse is a lonely place even ifrnit is navigable by camera-bearing spaceprobes.rnIt does not always comfort peoplernto be told that the laboratory is arnplace of discovery. They may use therndiscoveries happily enough, but thatrndoes not stop them agreeing with the poetrnX.J. Kennedy when he sings, “Somebodyrnstole my myths. Took all their gistrnand piths.”rnEven literary scholars have contributedrntheir mite of disenchantment. Shakespearernwas once the hero of a good story,rna literary Dick Whittington. Starting lifernas a virtual juvenile delinquent, so thernstory went, he found his way to London,rnand got a job holding horses outside therntheater. Soon he had his own business.rnThen he migrated inside the theater, becamernan actor of bit parts, and startedrntinkering with other men’s plays. In norntime at all a colossal genius manifestedrnitself; he made a pile of money, becamerna gentlemen, bought the biggest housernin his home town, and lived happily everrnafter.rnThat was a story people could use. Itrnshowed how the most unpromisingrngoose could prove a swan, and how arngrateful nation should reward ability. Inrnits time, the story even had a touch ofrnthe marvelous. Shakespeare having appeared,rnsocially speaking, from nowhere.rnThen the scholars dismantled the story,rnpiece by piece. Shakespeare neitherrnpoached deer nor held horses. His fatherrnwas the mayor of his town and a justicernof the peace. His mother was an heiressrnin a modest way. He did not tinker withrnother people’s plays; he wrote his own,rnbuilding on the techniques of contemporariesrnlike Lyly and Marlowe. True, hernmade money and bought a big house,rnbut he also invested in unpoetic thingsrnlike tithes and malt. As for living happilyrnever after, his last days in Stratfordrnwere embittered by scandal in his family.rnIn short, Shakespeare was no Dick Whittington.rnHe was the ambitious eldest sonrn26/CHRONICLESrnrnrn