A Genius Out of the Blue

Wiener Zeitung

(Print edition from 19 December 2009; Online since 18 December 2009)

A Genius Out of the Blue

By Gerald Schmickl

Not only does the Christ child come every year, but in his train the question of whether the date of Jesus's birth is even correct. Assuming one believes the event took place at all (a position forcefully advocated, along with faithful Christians, by authors like Gilbert K. Chesterton and Egon Friedell). By now it's considered all but certain that it couldn't have been December 25th.

But if so, then when? Many experts take the year 7 "Before Christ" as the most probable date. In his book "Jesus of Nazareth: Archaeologists on the Trail of the Redeemer," the historian Michael Hesemann now proposes March of the year 5 B.C. as the date of this extraordinary event. Buttressed by a study by the British astronomer Mark Kidger, he offers the explosion of a supernova, now astronomically verified, along with several other historical and ecological indices (sheep and shepherds in the first weeks of the New Year!), as cogent proof for his thesis.

How and when can no longer really be determined. For just this reason the question remains an exciting one-and fires the speculation of scholars. Only we can solve problems that are in principle insolvable! This postulate was once formulated by the wily Austrian theorist Heinz von Förster. It amounts to this: that the answering of such questions says more about those who answer them than about the subject itself.

That's also true in matters Shakespearean. With a modicum of skepticism and common sense, it's rather easy to accept the proposition that this actor and theatrical entrepreneur from Stratford, possessing relatively little means and little education, couldn't, at the same time, have been a great dramatic genius. Unless of course one believes that a genius can fall from the sky, as it were-a notion that's by no means incidental to the bourgeois theory of art. Like its very own Christmas miracle. And it's for the same reason that this theory clings to such a notion so tenaciously.

In fact, it's far more probable that the aforementioned Shakespeare was the front man of an aristocratic poet. It's a more than plausible thesis in this case that we're dealing with Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford (1550-1604). The thesis has most recently been championed by Kurt Kreiler, a specialist in German studies, in his book "The Man Who Invented Shakespeare." "Der Spiegel" has offered a lengthy review of it. When in 1994 the Tirolean author Walter Klier presented an equally persuasive argument for de Vere (in the book "The Shakespeare Conspiracy"), he had to put up with a scolding by the "Spiegel" editor Rudolf Augstein, since the latter categorically rejected any doubts about the prototypical genius from England.

Where this subject is concerned, we will probably never find the proof that will satisfy everyone. Many more books about it will appear in the future. And films. Roland Emmerich is filming one right now, in which de Vere as the true Shakespeare will likewise serve as the company's standard-bearer.

Translated by John Tanke Berkeley, CA.