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Donna N. Murphy
The Nature of Genius
A vast canyon stretches between William Shakspere’s education and the level of education evidenced by Shakespeare’s works. If Shakspere attended the Stratford grammar school (the relevant records no longer exist), he probably left it around age fourteen when his father experienced financial difficulties. Scholars find no grounds to propose that he received further education. His name is not listed in the records of England’s two universities at the time, Cambridge and Oxford, nor does evidence exist that he attended school outside of England.
 
The main author of the canon of Shakespeare could read not only English and Latin, which boys studied in grammar school, but also Italian, French and Greek. Young Englishmen during that era usually learned foreign languages at the university, from a private tutor, and/or via travel abroad. Since Shakspere did not attend university and there is no evidence that he ever stepped foot off the island of Britain, he seemingly picked up these tongues in his spare time when he wasn’t working to feed his wife and children (he was married and a father by age nineteen).
                    
The explanation generally put forth to account for the gaping holes in Shakspere’s biography is that he was a natural genius. Yes, surely the Bard was a genius, as were Albert Einstein and Wolfgang Mozart. But Einstein, at least, received training in physics and mathematics, while Mozart’s father was a professional musician who encouraged every effort by his precocious son.
 
The notion that “natural genius” is sufficient to account for the brilliance of Shakespeare is at odds with research about geniuses presented in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers. As Daryl Pinksen pointed out, Gladwell found that successful “geniuses” leveraged a combination of luck, opportunity, and an enormous amount of hard work in order to achieve their success. [1]  They were subject to the ten-thousand-hour rule: it takes roughly ten thousand hours of study and practice to gain mastery over one’s craft. Professional violinists and pianists, Gladwell reported, practice about ten thousand hours before reaching the ranks of the elite.


 
 Although Mozart was a child prodigy, his first true masterwork was composed at the age of twenty-one, after he had been writing music for ten years.The Beatles’ early gigs in Hamburg lasted eight hours a day, seven days a week, and by the time they hit it big in 1964, they had performed live about twelve hundred times. Microsoft founder Bill Gates acquired the opportunity to do real-time programming in 1968 when he was in eighth grade, and from then on, he lived and breathed computers.
 
Venus and Adonis, the first published work by Shakespeare, appeared in 1593, when Shakspere was 29 years old. Where is the earlier writing in which he honed his ability? Stratfordians claim that a reference to “Shake-scene” in a 1592 piece by Robert Greene shows that Shakspere was writing for the stage by then, but Marlovians reasonably maintain that Greene’s reference was to acclaimed actor Edward Alleyn (The Marlowe-Shakespeare Continuum discusses this in detail). We know that Marlowe, on the other hand, was writing for the stage at age 23, the year he left Cambridge with a Master’s degree.
 
The explanation that Shakspere was a “natural genius,” organically exhibiting a writing ability that starts out where Marlowe’s leaves off, and somehow naturally picking up exactly the same languages that Marlowe read, can no longer be credibly argued in light of Malcolm Gladwell’s book.



[1] Daryl Pinksen, “Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. Implications for Shakespeare Biographers,” Aug. 19, 2010,http://marlowe-shakespeare.blogspot.kr/2010/08/malcolm-gladwells-outliers-implications.html, accessed Sept. 21, 2013; and Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers. The Story of Success (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2008), 35-55.



Marlowe, Queen Elizabeth, and the Archbishop of Canterbury
Did Marlowe go to Scotland after his "Death"?
Clue from Edmund Spenser?
Clue from Thomas Nashe?
Marlowe, Shakespeare and Religion
How Shakespeare Thought Like Marlowe
The Nature of Genius
Shakespeare's Knowledge of Italy
Shakespeare Was an Adept
Why it Probably Wasn't the Earl of Oxford
Why it Probably Wasn't Sir Francis Bacon
Why Marlowe's Death is Dubious
The Wise Man's Paradox
Christopher Marlowe's Writing
Marlowe-Shakespeare Similarities
Methodology
Copyright 2017 by Donna N. Murphy