Find an Online Tutor Now

Lucy R.

asked • 12/12/12

Is there any proof that Shakespeare wrote his plays?

How do people know he did it?

Charlene R.

As you can see from the multitude of answers, there are still varying opinions as to who wrote Shakespeare.  The debate is a long standing one.  And the best way to resolve it is to study the question out for oneself.  

One must use common sense.  Conspiracy theories are always titillating.  

Some points of reference for one studies:

1.  There are allusions all through Shakespeare's works to his home area,( e.g.  the forest of Arden.) to the glover's trade, which was his father's (this allusion shows a detailed understanding of the trade), and so when you are studying the problem out, look for these things--things which show his background.

2.  He was well known in a relatively close knit society.  He was part of a troop of players who worked openly among themselves, each of them taking on various jobs  related to putting on their plays, besides their stage work.  This was not the era of specialization in theatre.  they didn't have the luxury of rehearsing a play for a month or two.  And they spent a lot of time on the road together (especially during plague season).  In other words Shakespeare didn't write in secret in an ivory tower.   So examine this background against claims that various earls or men of science wrote the works.  

3.  He was well known among his own contemporary playwrights.  Barnum and Bailey once said that you can't fool all the people all the time.   Ben Jonson was a great rival of his and also a great admirer.  He might have fooled some.  I doubt he could have fooled a playwright of the stature of Ben Jonson.  Other jealous and lesser playwrights criticized him,  but there was not ONE during his own lifetime who ever suggested that he was not the author of his own plays.  With the rivalries and the strong jealousies this argues strongly for Shakespeare's authenticity.

4.  The basis of the argument against Shakespeare is that, not having a university education, he could not have written plays which outshone every university educated playwright of his time, and indeed every English language playwright since.    After all he had only 6 to 10 years of education altogether.  But how many geniuses follow the mold anyway.  Further, his education amounted to a Classics education at university level in modern times (except perhaps for the level of his Greek).  He was not without access to literary sources.  And he borrowed from sources freely and often.  He was not concerned with developing his own plots.   This meshes well with the works of a man as active as he was and a man of genius.  

5.  The argument for Essex is based on names and place names that, supposedly, Shakespeare would not have had access to, and on an acquaintance with the court that he would not have had.  Yet, we know that his own people were related to ranking Catholic families in an era of persecution which would have made ties even closer.  We know that London was a port city and as  such, cosmopolitan, so that these names and the place names would would not have been out of his ken.

We also know that he presented at court and a playwright of his caliber, by nature, would have been a keen observer of people and their manners and mores.  

Indeed he shows an acquaintance with the lower classes of society as well, that were understandable in a man who moved between worlds than in an aristocrat.

So, for every sense-seeming argument against Shakespeare there are many more common sense arguments for him.  Think in life context when studying these things out.  His genius was so extraordinary and his works so still relevant contemporaneously and his language was the crystallization of the flower and fruit of the English language, that there are those who find it hard to believe that a glover's son could have accomplished this work.  So if you are going to examine it, read widely.  I myself  have no doubts that William Shakesepeare of Stratford-on-Avon was the author of the works of William Shakespeare.






10 Answers By Expert Tutors


Mary P. answered • 04/22/19

Pamela K.

Very nicely explained. Shakespeare definitely wrote those plays! Another anachronism is that he had the clock strike in Julius Caesar when the Romans still told time with a sundial.


Pamela K.

Very nicely explained. Shakespeare definitely wrote those plays! Another anachronism is that he had the clock strike in Julius Caesar when the Romans still told time with a sundial.


Donna Ann P. answered • 12/16/12

Gary B.

Hi Donna,

I feel strongly that Howard D has nailed it, I'm afraid. Nobody will ever know exactly whom it was that wrote those wonderful plays and sonnets. While I lean towards the Earl of Oxford using Shaksper as his beard to avoid the scandal of royalty dabbling in an art form associated with the lowest form of society, there are an equal number of fascinating arguments supporting either side. I find the most fascinating aspect about the canon is how much heated uproar has been in existence for at least two decades already, with little to no sign of it ever abating, at least among academics, which I am not. I just enjoy catharsis and humor in any form. The debates provide me with lots of humor!

I don't feel it's fair IMHO to definitively answer that Shaksper could write even his own name, much less a play, which is famously evaded on the authorship question by saying merely that the play, after all, is the thing that truly matters (heavily paraphrased; my apologies.)

All in great fun,

Gary B., commoner



Benjamin W. answered • 10/27/19

Jessica W. answered • 06/24/14

Haley S. answered • 06/30/13

David O. answered • 06/22/13

Matthew S. answered • 02/24/13

Charlene R. answered • 01/11/13

Howard D. answered • 12/18/12

Still looking for help? Get the right answer, fast.

Ask a question for free

Get a free answer to a quick problem.
Most questions answered within 4 hours.


Find an Online Tutor Now

Choose an expert and meet online. No packages or subscriptions, pay only for the time you need.