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British Literature: The Case Against William Shakespeare

In the case against William Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon, who many people believe to be the World's Greatest Playwriter of All-Time, we will attempt to present alternative theories, including the Anti-Stratfordian Theory, that support the notion that William Shakespeare was just a mere front to hide the identity of the real author, or authors of these plays, because the real writer could not accept public credit for writing these famous plays, or, at least for whatever reasons there may be, did not desire it.

It was in 1848, about 232 years after William Shakespeare died, that the writer's authorship of his wellknown plays was first widely questioned in Joseph C. Hart's The Romance of Yachting, a report that claimed Shakespeare's plays were written by many authors, with Sir Walter Raleigh the main writer, in an effort to advance a political and philosophical system they could not publicly assume. Other criticisms of William Shakespeare as the writer of these plays include his obscure life, his humble beginnings, his lack of education, his lack of familiarity with the Elizabethan and Jacobean royal courts, his lack of knowledge of politics, his lack of aristocratic sensibility, and even his biography, all that seem to be in stark contrast to his reputation for genius and poetic eminence. This in turn has produced at least 70 viable authorship candidates, some carrying more credentials for the job than others, who have been considered the true writer of these famous plays.

Four men are usually mentioned as being the real William Shakespeare by most Anti-Stratfordians including the Enlish Nobleman William Stanley, who was the 6th Earl of Derby, and who's own literay works have been either lost or unidentified. Stanley was first nominated as the real William Shakespeare in 1891 by the Archivist James H. Greenstreet who reported that the comic scenes in Love's Labour's Lost were influenced by the Nine Worthies pagent that was only ever performed in Stanley's hometown of Chester. The next nominee is the 17th Earl of Oxford, and noted Courier Poet, Edward de Vere, who, since the 1920s, has been viewed as the most popular alternative candidate to have truly written the Shakespeare plays. de Vere earned his nomination for the position in English Schoolteacher J. Thomas Looney's book, entitled "Shakespeare Identified," because of Looney's thoughts that the analogies of de Vere's life, and his poetic techniques, were found throughout Shakespeare's plays.

Then there's the English Dramatist and Poet Christopher Marlowe to be considered. Marlowe, reportedly was stabbed to death by Ingram Frizer on May 30, 1593, after having been arrested on a presumed charge of blasphemy, but in reality, according to Anti-Stratfordians, may have faked his death to continue writing under the name William Shakespeare who he also had quite an extensive influence on. And then there is the Lord Chancellor of England and 1st Viscount St. Alban Francis Bacon, who has also been referred to as the creator of Empircism that states knowledge comes from sensory experience. Bacon is also considered the founder of the Scientific Method. Bacon, who famously died of pneumonia while studying freezing's effects on meat, earned his nomination as the true writer of the Shakespeare plays during the middle of the 1800s.

Other famous personalities who came to believe William Shakespeare did not write his wellknown plays include such people as Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Sigmund Freud, Orson Welles, Charlie Chapman, and even Helen Keller, which are important endorsements to the Anti-Stratfordian Theory that also questions where Shakespeare acqiured his rather extensive vocabulary from that contained between 17,500 and 29,000 words, especially since he had been born and raised a mere Commoner. Anti-Stratfordians also view Shakespeare's surviving handwritten signatures as illiterate scrawl.

Shakespeare's surname has been spelled "Shak-spear" and "Shake-spear" on several title pages of individual quartos of his plays including Richard II, Richard III, and Henry IV, Part 1, and 16 of his plays were published with an unnamed author as well. Francis Bacon and Christopher Marlowe were also known to use pseudonyms to avoid the stigma of print that was prevalant at the time, and restricted their plays to royal audiences, not openly to the public.

Anti-Stratfordians also make the case that William Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616 with a will that failed to mention any of the 18 plays that were unpublished when he died, or any books, poems, or personal papers. Shakespeare's death also went unrecorded, and there were no memorial services to honor a famous person, which they claim William Shakespeare was not.

Part Two of this entry will present the other side of this argument and attempt to prove that William Shakespeare did indeed write his famous plays.

Comments

Other than your spell checker having been turned off, I congratulate you on your ability to provide a nice summary of both sides of The Authorship Question.

I was converted to the 17th Earl of Oxford as prime candidate, but keep an open mind towards any improbably new information. I also enjoy not knowing whom it was that wrote the entire canon. Mystery intrigues and if that helps in any way to keep the works alive, more's the plenty!

Thanks again, Howard.

After all, the play's the...

Gary B
newbie to WyzAnt, and no academic.

I like catharsis and humor wherever I can find it, I saw the 1996 Branagh version's opening of the full text 4 hour Hamlet in Manhattan and was profoundly moved by that production above all others I have seen. But then, the cast was able to make those eloquent words into the most intelligible ones these mostly (Shakespearean) uneducated ears had ever heard!

PS: I believe "Shaksper" was yet another variation from what little I have read. Perhaps I am mistaken?