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'Guillem' Shakespeare & a true Comedy of Errors
Before I start, I should probably say that I have a deep affection for Catalonia and the people I have met there on my travels. Its culture, history and traditions are already incredibly rich enough without any of what follows. So if you detect any ridicule, please know that it’s not aimed at the region itself.
I should also point out that a history of law professor from Valencia immediately rebutted the below theory, saying: “they’re people who have no idea, who don’t understand historical methodology and don’t even know how to look for or read historical documents.”
But let’s not dwell on that. On with the show.
'Guillem' Shakespeare & a true Comedy of Errors
"Some are born Catalan Some become Catalan And some have a Catalan passport thrust upon them" - Twelfth Night (Act 2, Scene 5, misquoted)
Back in 2002, a BBC television poll placed William Shakespere fifth in a list of the 100 Greatest Britons. The poll was won, not unsurprisingly, by Sir Winston Churchill. But it did provide some debatable outcomes. Sir Paul McCartney (19th) finishing five places ahead of the Queen is one such curiosity. David Beckham (33rd) finishing comfortably clear of Charles Dickens (41st), Sir David Attenborough (63rd) and Jane Austen (70th) is perhaps a bit silly to even the most ardant superfan.
No matter your opinion, it turns out we need to do it all again anyway. Not because of the questionable results. Nor because a lot has happened in the intervening 18 years - Tony Blair might struggle to keep his 67th place based on what happened the following year for example. But rather because, as well as the fact that we borrowed/stole a few Irishmen who probably don't identify as Brits, it also turns out that William Shakespere might not be British after all.
Despite an astonishing amount of evidence to the contrary - the fact that his plays were all written in English, the widely accepted notion that he was born and died in Stratford-Upon-Avon - there is a distinct possibility that if we were to prick William, sorry Guillem Shakespeare, he does not bleed English, but rather Catalan.That’s according to the New History Institute, a media company whose ‘investigative’ programming has been in part funded by the Catalan government.
Worse yet, it seems we’ve spent nearly 500 years under the erroneous assumption that old Guillem and Miguel de Cervantes - that great Spanish writer and author of that great Spanish novel Don Quixote - were two different people. They weren’t. They were Joan Miquel Sirvent from Catalonia, obviously. Which does at least provide a more plausible rationale for that (incorrect) notion that both great writers died on the same day. And it also sheds new light on this chap’s extraordinary productivity, publishing the 863 pages of Don Quixote right in the middle of a two-year period which saw him pen Othello, King Lear and Macbeth. That’s quite the purple patch.
And whilst we’re setting the record straight, not content with the artistic genius of Salvador Dalí and Antonio Gaudí, it turns out Leonardo da Vinci is now on Team Catalonia too. Christopher Colombus was actually Joan Colom and a Catalan born and bred. And of the Conquistadors who followed in his wake, Francisco Pizarro, Hernán Cortés and Amerigo Vespucci were actually Francesc Pinós De So i Carròs, Ferran Cortès and Amerigo Despuig. All were more Catalan than Sant Jordi and the Sagrada Familia and were actually claiming the New World for Catalonia, not Spain.
All told, that is an awful lot of dusty history books that we need to rewrite then. But I am sensing a bit of a suspicious pattern developing here. I mean, I can’t really see them laying claim to, say, Donald Trump in a hundred years from now. No one is frantically checking to see if Piers Morgan once spent a weekend in Barcelona or whether he prefers Estrella to Carling. Not until one of them makes a great contribution to human kind anyway, which for most would simply be appearing less frequently on our televisions.
So there you have it. Shakespere’s out, bumping Sir Ernest Shackleton, something of a hero to many an Antarctic explorer and one of the Irish contingent, into the top ten.
But, I ask you this; "what's in a nationality? Does a Bard not sound as sweet by any other nationality?" Maybe we’ll keep him in for now. Just in case none of the above turns out to be true, which we can’t rule out at this stage. Besides, if it comes to it we'll just nick Steinbeck or Hemingway from the Americans and call it quits.
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