Writing Blog

October 2, 2008

“… o somos o no somos”

Filed under: English,History,Literature,Spanish — Rafael Minuesa @ 8:07 AM
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It was haunting me since I had recently reread it, to the point that has forced me to write a new post in this blog:

“… porque o somos o no somos”

Does it sound familiar? Probably not if you don’t speak Spanish or any other Latin-based language. The translation is

“to be or not to be”

And guess who, of all Spanish writers, could have written such an original sentence, that is universally attributed to Shakespeare?

Some time ago I wrote a post on the same subject, “Cervantes y Shakespeare eran la misma persona”, where I exposed some of the similarities between the two authors, that inexplicably seemed to have gone largely unnoticed.

Salvador de Madariaga, the Spanish historian and writer pointed out that:

“Hamlet and Don Quixote provide one of the most fascinating parallels in literature: possibly because the two poets who created them were contemporaries and unknown to each other spoke the same idiom.”

Carlos Fuentes explores also the possibility of both authors being the same man,

“Cervantes leaves open the pages of a book where the reader knows himself to be written and it is said that he dies on the same date, though not on the same day, as William Shakespeare. It is further stated that perhaps both were the same man.”

And Francis Carr abounds extensively on this theory, on his book “Who Wrote Don Quixote?

But all of them actually attribute Cervante’s works to the hand of Shakespeare or even Francis Bacon.
Any Spanish native speaker will tell you that Don Quixote could have never be written by anyone who was not born and grown up in Spain.
That’s why I am convinced that it was the other way around. It was Cervantes who wrote all of Shakespeare’s plays, because it is also evident that the mother tongue of whoever wrote Shakespeare’s plays was not English.

That’s the reason why he was making words up all the time, because his actual command of English language was not that good.
Some examples:
* Creation of new meanings for words:
Wherever in your sightless substances … (sightless meaning invisible.)
* Substitution of adjectives for nouns:
In the dark backward and abyss of time … (instead of In the dark and backward …)
* Grammatical mistakes:
Yes, you may have seen Cassio and she together … (instead of Cassio and her),
or Who does me this (instead of Who does this to me),
or And his more braver daughter could control thee (instead of And his braver or And his more brave)

All those mistakes are very common among Spanish native speakers trying to express themselves in English.

Shakespeare would also grab whatever word from Spanish that was handy and use it if
it suited him, similarly to what we do when we speak Spanglish.
There are at least 1,500 different words and phrases that don’t appear anywhere in the English language prior to Shakespeare, many of them literal translations or adaptations from Spanish or from ancient languages such as Latin, of which Cervantes had a pretty good knowledge.

Shakespeare usually made the verb or the subject the last word of the sentence, rather than following the normal word order of English:
O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I (subject at end)
or
Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall (verb at end)
English does not lend itself to these kind of constructions as much as Spanish or Latin.

Most English verbs are one syllable words: be, see, run, take… While correr (Spanish), vedere (Latin), essere (Italian), are easier to use for rhyming.
So Shakespeare would use or invent words taken right off these languages.


Shakespeare’s recorded life is full of empty “gaps”, that scholars usually refer to as the “Lost Years”.

The First Lost Years
Although no attendance records for the period survive, it is agreed that Shakespeare was educated at Stratford.
Neither there are documented facts about the life of William Shakespeare between supposedly leaving school in 1578 and marrying Anne Hathaway in 1582

What was Cervantes doing during that period?
By 1570, Cervantes had enlisted as a soldier in a Castilian infantry regiment stationed in Naples, and continued his military life until 1575, when his ship was allegedly attacked by Algerian corsairs who took him and the surviving passengers to Algiers, where according to his own testimony, spent five years as a slave.
After his release, the following years saw him working for the Spanish Crown as a secret agent on foreign lands.
Sounds like the plot of a novel to me …

The Second Lost Years
Between 1582 and 1592 there are only four documented facts about William Shakespeare:
1- Entries for the Baptism of his children in 1583 and 1585.
2- In 1589 a court documents name William Shakespeare and his parents in a land dispute.
3- In 1592 he is referred to in a very famous pamphlet called the “Groatsworth of Wit”.

What was Cervantes doing during that period?
In Toledo, on December 12, 1584, he married the much younger Catalina de Salazar.
During the next 20 years he led a nomadic and unaccountable for existence, working on occasions as a purchasing agent for the Spanish Armada.

There’s no doubt that the plays of William Shakespeare required a significant knowledge of Astronomy, Law, Seamanship and Military matters, not to mention of Italy where many of his plays are based. Because of this irrefutable fact scholars have debated that experience of these matters must have been obtained during the Lost Years.
Cervantes was an expert in all of those subjects and in addition he knew Spanish, Italian, French, Latin, Greek, Arab, etc. Not to mention law, philosophy, classical literature, ancient and modern history, mathematics, astronomy, art, music, medicine, etiquette and manners of the nobility and English, French and Italian court life.

Now, I go one step further and ask myself and the world:
If the “official” Shakespeare couldn’t possibly be the author of those plays, what writer of that period was capable of achieving the literary genius found in Shakespeare’s plays, had a significant knowledge of Astronomy and the Law, Seamanship and Military matters, Etiquette and Manners of the nobility and had lived in Italy long enough to be familiar with its culture?
No one, but Cervantes.
When I made this affirmation in humanities.lit.authors.shakespeare, some of the regular posters there even doubted that Cervantes had any knowledge of English customs and traditions, leave alone English court life, but how do you account for then that Cervantes could have written something like “THE SPANISH-ENGLISH LADY” without having been to England, more specifically at the Royal Court?

Judge for yourself just by reading these two excerpts from the “Novelas Exemplares”, first published in 1613, three years before the death of Cervantes:

“The preparations for the wedding were all made, the relations and
friends of the family were invited, and nothing remained but to make
known the intended match to the Queen, no marriage between persons of
noble blood being lawful without her knowledge and consent; but making
no doubt of obtaining the royal licence, they put off applying for it
to the last. Things being in this state, their joy was disturbed one
evening by the appearance of one of the Queen’s servants with an order
to Clotald from her Majesty, requiring his appearance before her next
morning with his Spanish prisoner. He replied that he would cheerfully
obey her Majesty’s command. The messenger retired, and left the family
in great perturbation; “Alas,” said dame Catherine, “what if the Queen
knows that I have brought up this girl as a Catholic, and thence
infers that we are all of us Christians in this house! For, if her
Majesty asks her what she has learned during the eight years she has
been with us, what answer can she give with all her discretion, poor
timid girl, that will not condemn us?”

“Richard having at length quitted Isabella, went and told his parents
that on no account would he marry the Scotch lady until he had first
been to Rome for the satisfaction of his conscience; and he
represented the matter in such a light to them and to the relations of
Clesterna (that was the name of the Scotch lady), that as they were
all Catholics, they easily assented, and Clesterna was content to
remain in her father-in-law’s house until the return of Richard, who
proposed to be away a year. This being settled, Clotald told his son
of his intention to send Isabella and her parents to Spain, if the
queen gave them leave; perhaps her native air would confirm and
expedite her incipient recovery. Richard, to avoid betraying his
secret intentions, desired his father, with seeming indifference, to
do as he thought best; only he begged him not to take away from
Isabella any of the presents which the queen had given her. Clotald
promised this, and the same day he went and asked the queen’s leave
both to marry his son to Clesterna, and to send Isabella and her
parents to Spain. The queen granted both requests, and without having
recourse to lawyers or judges, she forthwith passed sentence on the
lady keeper, condemning her to lose her office, and to pay down ten
thousand crowns for Isabella. As for Count Ernest, she banished him
from England for six years.”

Not too bad as an insight by a person barely competent in English into the customs and traditions of England at that time, I must say …

It needs to be taken into account that Cervantes was not in any way interested in letting the English public know about his authorship for obvious reasons.
Spain and England had been recently at war and the Spanish Armada had made a failed attempt at invading England.
If Shakespeare’s plays had bore the name of an Spanish author, they would immediately have aroused hostility among critics and the general public. If in addition, that Spanish author happened to be a soldier, who had served as a spy on foreign lands for the Spanish Crown and as a purchasing agent for the Spanish Armada, the chances of keeping his head attached to his body would have been close to nil.
But on the other hand, Cervantes could have never dream of publishing many of Shakespeare’s plays under Spain’s ultra religious regime at that moment, without being diligently roasted.

There are plenty more facts that add weight to the hypothesis that Shakespeare was in fact a disguised Cervantes, such as “The Distrest Lovers”, which is clearly based on the “Cardenio” episode in Don Quixote.

Truth is, the only writings proven to be from the hand of the poor man from an illiterate household in the remote agricultural town of Stratford-upon-Avon are six shaky, inconsistent signatures on legal documents, including three found on his will.
And they reveal that Mr. Shakspere (his real name) experienced difficulty even signing his own name.
Judge for yourself again and compare those signatures to those of Cervantes, and guess which one of the two could have possibly written some of the best plays and novels ever.

signatures-of-cervantes signatures-of-shakspeare

The greatest, most famous play about Scotland is Macbeth.
The greatest plays about Italy are Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice and Othello, the Moor of Venice.
The greatest play about ancient Rome is Julius Caesar.
The greatest play about ancient Egypt is Antony and Cleopatra.
The greatest play about Denmark is Hamlet.
These seven plays were written by the same man but one the most important European nation at that time is conspicuous by its absence in this catalogue of masterpieces. There is no world-famous play about Spain, which is on the same level of genius as the plays just mentioned; but there is one great novel about Spain which is just as famous throughout the world, Don Quixote.

On April 23, 1616, both Cervantes and Shakespeare died. The two dates are the same, in the records, but because England was using the Julian Calendar, the actual date differed by ten days, enough for a dying Cervantes (whose grave, oddly no one bothered to mark) to travel to England and die as Shakespeare.

As a final thought, don’t forget that Shakespeare, sorry Cervantes, was also an actor, which by definition is someone who fools people into believing he is
another character.
And no one could deny that the man was very good at making up all kinds of fictional stories, such as reinventing his own past life, perhaps?


“In order to attain the impossible, one must attempt the absurd”.
– Miguel de Cervantes

“Time’s glory is to calm contending kings,
To unmask falsehood and bring truth to light.”
— William Shakespeare


More Info:
Cervantes, England and Don Quixote
The Shakespeare Authorship Coalition

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