One of the books I eagerly anticipate reading every year is the latest in The Best American Essays series. As a writer of what I like to call verity, it's exciting to sample so many subjects and styles of writing about what's literally true.
I was intrigued by the last entry in the 2020 edition, "Was Shakespeare a Woman?" by Elizabeth Winker. She writes that material in his plays was informed by the court experiences and feminist attitudes of Emilia Bassano, who was maybe a friend, lover, or even a collaborator, and the "dark lady" in his sonnets.
Emilia was a member of a musical family of "likely Jewish" Venetian immigrants in London, who published a book of poetry that advocated for women's "Libertie." Did Shakespeare draw on her words for his fictional Emilia's defense of women in "Othello?"
Winkler's theory reminds me of the debates about poetry and prose signed "Anon." over the ages: Virginia Woolf, for one, speculated that much of it was written by women not allowed to sign their names.
With warm wishes,
The latest volume, edited by journalist Kathryn Schulz, contains twenty essays on race relations, the coronavirus, and other reflections above living through the previous difficult year. She wrote that she chose them to reflect "the vast rich realms of thought and experience both within and mercifully beyond the anguish of this past year.
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