After reading Robert Darnton's The Case for Books chapter nine "The Importance of Being Bibliographical," I think William Shakespeare's stranglehold on "the best of English writing" needs a little polish. I've always heard it said how there is little evidence physically tying Shakespeare to his published works. If indeed Shakespeare was his name. (I'm just saying.) But Darnton's writing on bibliography makes me wish that I'd been given some of this information in any of my Shakespeare classes, because as proven by bibliographers, the printed versions of Bill's works aren't solely his.
"The text was always changing, always slipping morphologically from one state to another" (141) writes Darnton when describing the printing of Shakespeare's folios. "...one man had unusually erratic spelling, that another frequently mixed up homonyms, that a third worked from an inadequate font of type, and that all of them scattered idiosyncratic marks on the pages in patterns that revealed their hands at work as distinct as Shakespeare's" (138).
Lesson to the kids: this is what happens when you pass along your hand written essay to someone else to be typed up for school, never looking it over when you get it back! Since it's theorized that Shakespeare was more focused on the quality of his writing as it was performed, he let the printing of said works be modified by printers as they saw fit. No wonder some readers have such trouble understanding what ol' Bill meant to convey in his plays! There's more than one person writing bits and pieces of them!
Anyways, bibliography is the reason why scholars have been able to identify what parts were likely written by Shakespeare and those bits that were modified later in the printing process. But we'll likely never know anything completely or for sure. So when someone creates that time machine-thingy, will you please go back in time and interview the real Shakespeare before making off with as many of his plays as possible? Thanks.
Then again, my peers probably have something else to say on good ol' Bill and his shifty printers.