Was William Shakespeare whipped for poaching deer and rabbits from the estate of Protestant activist Sir Thomas Lucy?
Was that because Shakespeare was a covert Catholic in dangerous times when his religion could have led to his demise?
And is that why he escaped from his native Stratford upon Avon to make a name for himself on the crowded London stage?
Nobody really knows the answers to so many questions about England’s dramatic and poetic genius whose legacy remains so potent still today. But they have always fascinated Nick Fogg – and that’s because he too was born and brought up in Stratford.
He has spent years delving into the legends that have grown up over the centuries since Shakespeare died in 1616 and has now drawn them together in a book called Hidden Shakespeare, due to be published in the spring.
But he will be revealing his thoughts and ideas when he speaks on Sunday at a Marlborough Literary Festival event at the town hall, his natural home as twice Mayor of Marlborough, the founder of its Jazz Festival and a town and Wiltshire councillor too.
“Yes, I think Shakespeare speaks to me,” Nick, now 68 and still smiling at life, told me. “And in the end I decided I must get all I know written down. Otherwise my individual view of him will get lost.”
“It’s estimated that we know more about Shakespeare than any other Elizabethan except Queen Elizabeth herself. The problem is that much of it is out of playbills, what he wrote, where he wrote it, where he may have been at the time. Shakespeare the man is quite elusive.”
“I hope my views are moderate and reasonable, neither eccentric nor extreme. My feeling is that some of the stories about him may be distorted and exaggerated, but they come from an aural tradition we’ve now lost. But within that aural tradition there is a possible grain of truth.”
“Those tribal records have passed through generation after generation. And my question is, What is that grain of truth that we might trust?”
Nick’s love of the Bard stems, of course, from his early years when his mother ran a theatrical club in Stratford and also worked as a cashier in the restaurant at the Royal Shakespeare Memorial Theatre.
He dashes off quotes galore and muses that when the Victorian music publisher Vincent Novello came to the town he declared that in most places the Almighty spreads genius throughout the population “but in his inscrutable wisdom in Stratford upon Avon he decided to pour it into one man, which has left the population bereft of wit for generations”.
He has traced the records of Shakespeare’s godson, William Walker, later Mayor of Stratford, who knew the playwright as a boy and is his last known descendent.
“But nobody has left a family tree and so we have no way of tracing the descendents of Shakespeare now wandering around today,” he protests.
More importantly, has Nick, a confessed child of the sixties, been politically influenced by Shakespeare?
He edges the question but explains: “There was a moral precept of what is good and what is evil behind the Elizabethan theatre that comes from medieval morality plays. “Shakespeare inherited that, though being a literary genius he believes life is more subtle and sophisticated than that.”
“If the Elizabethans had been alive today they would be appalled by the idea that we live in a morally neutral universe.”
For details of this weekend’s festival see the Marlborough Festival website and for tickets phone 01249 701628.