Myths about famous people have made it ’round the world ever since there was enough communication for myths TO travel.
“Mohammed was a pedophile; and so was Joseph Smith.”
“Everything great in American music was originated by brilliantly talented black people, then stolen from them by no-talent White people.”
“Abraham Lincoln not only hated slavery, but believed White and black Americans could live together in harmony.”
“Gene Autry never kissed the girl in his movies; he always kissed his horse instead.”
All either blatantly false, or greatly exaggerated.
But the three myths that I find the most annoying, and which are still believed in devoutly by millions of people today, are these:
“William Shakespeare didn’t actually write the plays attributed to him, because he was just a glovemaker’s son from a hick town, and he NEVER WENT TO COLLEGE! Some brilliant, well-educated nobleman wrote them, in secret, then for some reason allowed Shakespeare to claim the credit for them.”
“Adolf Hitler was a craven coward, who never committed suicide in his Berlin bunker as the history books tell. He actually fled Germany in a Luftwaffe plane in the last days of World War II, was transported across the Atlantic in a German submarine, and lived in hiding in Argentina with Eva Braun for many years thereafter.”
“Paul McCartney of the Beatles actually was killed in an auto accident in 1966. His fellow Beatles managed to keep his death a secret, and found a young man McCartney’s age named William Campbell, who looked, sounded, played, and wrote music, just exactly like Paul. He stepped right into Paul’s place in the band, and no one was any the wiser until several years later.”
Let’s address these nonsensical beliefs, one by one.
Will was “a man for all time”
William Shakespeare, born in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, on April 23, 1564, didn’t attend college after he finished his public schooling. Most young men in his day did not. And I have always thought that college is over-rated. I’ve known too many people who graduated from college, but remain clueless about a lot of things.
No, young Will married at age 18 (having most likely impregnated a 26-year-old single woman in his hometown); and about five years later, left for London to seek his fortune. Two years later, his occasional visits home to Stratford resulted in the second births in the family — a twin boy and girl. More incentive to find a way to earn a decent living.
At some point in the next few years, young Will became an actor with a company that put on plays in and around London. Then, probably because they were short of original plays, Will started trying his hand at writing them.
He never claimed that all his plays were totally original compositions. Few playwrights in those days did. Will borrowed plot lines from stories and plays from earlier in the 16th Century, and elsewhere — even ancient Greece. But it was what he did with them — the uniqueness of the dialogue, the character development, the consistent creation of lines that have stayed with us lo these 400 years — these marked him as a genius.
He hadn’t attended college — but so what? In his chosen field, he was without a peer. And as someone once said, “To a genius, NOTHING is too much trouble.”
Shakespeare died on his birthday, in 1616, having retired a few years earlier, a nationally-honored playwright and poet, and a prosperous and successful property owner. It took them several years, but in 1623, two of his friends from the theatrical trade, John Heminges and Henry Condell, both of whom were included in his will, published the “First Folio” of all Shakespeare’s extant plays. They were truly his friends; he referred to them in his will as “my fellows,” and left them money to purchase memorial rings.
It is believed that a number of the plays would have been lost to the world if they had not been included in the Folio, as they had to be set in type from manuscripts, or “foul papers”, as they were called in those days. They had never actually been printed before.
Ben Jonson, a noted playwright from the same generation and also a friend of Shakespeare’s, wrote the dedication. In it he included this line: “Shakespeare was not of an age, but for all time!”
Would they have gone to all that trouble for someone they knew was a fraud? And would they NOT have known that, if it was true?
Extremely unlikely, folks. The Bard, was also “the playwright.”
Adolf didn’t flee
Nowadays, all most people know about German fuehrer Adolf Hitler was that he was “the most evil man in history” (according to the, mostly British, biographers of him) and that his face was fixed in a permanent, fierce scowl.
I picked this photo of him to go with this part of the essay because it shows that, yes, Adolf Hitler — “Adi” to his friends in the German army in World War I — could, and did, smile about as often as a lot of people. As to the “most evil man” designation, well, he has a lot of competition for that, including Josef Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, and Genghis Khan.
Adolf was a drifting, aimless amateur artist and want-to-be architect when World War I started in August 1914. The year before, he had left Vienna, Austria (his native land) and moved to Munich in Bavaria to avoid the draft into the Austro-Hungarian army. Was that because he was “afraid” to serve in the military? No! He despised his native conglomerate of ethnic groups, and the Hapsburg dynasty that ruled it. He did not want to serve in that army.
But when the German Empire and a number of other European countries started World War I, Hitler, who greatly admired the empire and the German people, joyously enlisted in the Bavarian army, which made up part of the German army. “Adi” served on the front lines in France for all four years of the war, earning an Iron Cross, first class; an Iron Cross, second class; and another major award. While not “popular” with his fellow soldiers, Hitler was respected for his bravery and for his many narrow escapes from critical or fatal wounds in battle. No one who knew Adolf Hitler personally, ever accused him of being a coward.
And in the years to come, when Hitler became the leader of a revolutionary party in Germany, and finally German chancellor, his friends became convinced that he saw himself as a divinely appointed savior who was to lead the German people to “greater glory”. As more years passed, and World War II erupted when the Germans invaded Poland, Hitler was the target of numerous assassination attempts, but he managed to survive all of them. He was convinced that he was being protected from on high so he could save Germany. And he didn’t allow the attempts on his life keep him from visiting his soldiers on the front lines, and taking other chances his generals probably shuddered to see.
When, after six years of war, the U.S. forces were bearing down on Berlin from the west, and the Soviet ones from the east, Hitler’s top officials begged him to board a plane they had readied to spirit him out of Germany, rather than risk capture. He refused to consider any such thing. The situation was this: Adolf Hitler was not afraid of death. But he WAS afraid to be a prisoner, to be paraded through the streets of some foreign capital in a cage, to be humiliated and ridiculed. He was not prepared to risk that.
So, on April 30, 1945, in their bunker in Berlin, and one day after they were married, Adolf Hitler and his wife Eva Braun committed suicide. They did not “flee to Argentina.” The people who believe in that fairy tale, can’t stand the thought of a Hitler who had bravery in his DNA, who refused to flee from the victorious enemy, who chose to die rather than surrender.
Yes, Hitler took his own life. No, he didn’t flee with his tail between his legs, no matter how much the people who hate the very thought of him would like you to believe that.
Rumors of his death were greatly exaggerated
Paul McCartney — “Macca” to his childhood friends — is in my opinion the greatest all-around musician of the 20th Century. Notice I said “is.” Despite the fact that some very gullible people still believe that he was killed in a car crash in 1966, when The Beatles were nearing the peak of their fame.
Somehow, these people believe, the other Beatles and Paul’s family managed to keep his death a secret; they searched the British Isles up and down, and, SURPRISE! found a young man named William Campbell who was Paul’s exact age, who looked exactly like him, was left-handed like Paul, and could play bass guitar just exactly like he did; whose voice sounded just like Paul’s, and who has since written hundreds of songs in the exact same way that Paul wrote them. And he’s been pretending to be Paul ever since. And the vast majority of the world is completely unaware of all this.
How anyone could actually believe such nonsense leaves me dumbfounded. They even refer to the post-1966 Paul as “Faul.” As in, “Fake Paul,” I presume.
I’ve seen a video clip, taken in recent years, showing “Faul,” talking about playing a certain song, and doing the guitar-playing pantomime as he talks. But he’s doing it as if he’s right-handed! It’s startling — until you see the next segment in the video, which is a picture of the very early Beatles, posing in Germany outside a trolley car, with their instruments. There on the side of the trolley, is the name of the company that owns it, in German, of course. But — LOOK! The name is written backwards! Can you say, “negative reversed to try to fool everyone”?
I’m sure the Beatles all got a big laugh out of the “Paul is dead” rumor, which was started deliberately as a joke in 1969. They may have even put some hints in the lyrics of some of the last songs they wrote together. But that’s all it was — a joke.
Oh, by the way: Paul McCartney DID have a traffic accident in his car in 1966. His injuries? A cut lip and a chipped tooth. Unlikely to have been fatal, I’d say.
Macca is alive and well. He’s still touring, singing and writing — at age 75.
Rumors of his death were greatly exaggerated.