December 2, 2008

Baconian theory

Sir Francis Bacon is often cited as a possible author of Shakespeare’s plays.

The Baconian theory of Shakespearean authorship holds that Sir Francis Bacon wrote the plays conventionally attributed to William Shakespeare.

The mainstream view is that William Shakespeare of Stratford, an actor in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men (later the King’s Men), wrote the poems and plays that bear his name. The Baconians, however, hold that scholars are so focused on the details of Shakespeare’s life that they neglect to investigate the many facts that they see as connecting Bacon to the Shakespearean work. “It is perfectly true,” declared Harry Stratford Caldecott in an 1895 Johannesburg lecture, “that the great bulk of English critical opinion refuses to recognise or admit the fact that there is any question or controversy about the matter. If it did so, it would find itself face to face with a problem which it would be absolutely unable to determine in harmony with preconceived ideas. Consequently, it endeavours to ignore or waive aside any suggestion of a doubt as to the authorship of these immortal works, as if it were an ugly spectre or troublesome nightmare. It is, notwithstanding, a perfectly tangible, flesh-and-blood difficulty and must sooner or later be faced and grappled with in a manly and straightforward way.”[1] The Baconians’ first objective is to establish reasonable doubt in the Stratford man’s authorship claim and then, having justified the need to examine an alternative candidate, cite the many possible connections between Sir Francis Bacon and the Shakespearean work. (SeeShakespearean authorship.)

The main Baconian evidence is founded on the presentation of a motive for concealment, the circumstances surrounding the first known performance of The Comedy of Errors, the close proximity of Bacon to the William Strachey letter upon which many scholars think The Tempest was based, perceived allusions in the plays to Bacon’s legal acquaintances, the many supposed parallels with the plays of Bacon’s published work and entries in the Promus (his private wastebook), Bacon’s interest in civil histories, and ostensible autobiographical allusions in the plays. Since Bacon had first-hand knowledge of government cipher methods,[2] most Baconians see it as feasible that he left his signature somewhere in the Shakespearean work.

As in the cases of every other candidate, the Stratford man is claimed to have acted as a mask for the concealed author. Supporters of the standard view, often referred to as “Stratfordian” or “Mainstream”, dispute all contentions in favour of Bacon, and criticize Bacon’s poetry as not being comparable in quality with that of Shakespeare.



[edit]Mainstream view

The mainstream view is that the author known as “Shakespeare” was the same William Shakespeare who was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564, moved to London and became an actor, and “sharer” (part-owner) of the acting company called the Lord Chamberlain’s Men (which owned the Globe Theatre and the Blackfriars Theatre in London). He divided his time between London and Stratford, and retired there around 1613 before his death in 1616. In 1623, seven years after his death (and after the death of most of the proposed authorship candidates), his plays were collected for publication in the First Folio edition.

Shakespeare of Stratford is further identified by the following evidence: He left gifts to actors from the London company in his will; the man from Stratford and the author of the works share a common name; and commendatory poems in the 1623 First Folio of Shakespeare’s works refer to the “Swan of Avon” and his “Stratford monument”.[3] Mainstream scholars believe that the latter phrase refers to the funerary monument in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford, which refers to Shakespeare as a writer (comparing him to Virgil and calling his writing a “living art”), and was described as such by visitors to Stratford as far back as the 1630s.[4]

Several pieces of circumstantial evidence support the Stratfordian view: In a 1592 pamphlet by the playwright Robert Greene called “Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit”, Greene chastises a playwright whom he calls “Shake-scene”, calling him “an upstart crow” and a “Johannes factotum” (a “Jack-of-all-trades“, a man able to feign skill), thus suggesting that people were aware of a writer named Shakespeare.[5] Also, poet John Davies once referred to Shakespeare as “our English Terence“. Additionally, Shakespeare’s grave monument in Stratford, built within a decade of his death, currently features him with a pen in hand, suggesting that he was known as a writer.

Critics of the mainstream view have challenged most if not all of the above assertions, claiming that there is no direct evidence which clearly identifies Shakespeare of Stratford as a playwright. These critics note that the only theatrical reference in his will (the gifts to fellow actors) were interlined – i.e.: inserted between previously written lines – and thus subject to doubt; the term “Swan of Avon” can be interpreted in numerous ways; that “Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit” could imply that Shakespeare was being given credit for the work of other writers[6]; that Davies’ mention of “our English Terence” is a mixed reference as CiceroQuintilianMichel de Montaigne and many contemporary Elizabethan scholars knew Terence as a front man for one or more Roman aristocratic playwrights.[5]; and they assert that Shakespeare’s grave monument was altered after its original creation, with the original monument merely showing a man holding a grain sack.[5]


Sir Francis Bacon was a major scientist, philosopher, courtier, diplomat, essayist, historian and successful politician, who served as Solicitor General (1607), Attorney General (1613) andLord Chancellor (1618).

Those who subscribe to the theory that Sir Francis Bacon wrote the Shakespeare work generally refer to themselves as “Baconians”, while dubbing those who maintain the orthodox view that William Shakspeare of Stratford wrote them “Stratfordians”.

Baptised as William Shakspere, the Stratford man used several variants of his name during his lifetime, including “Shakespeare”. Baconians use “Shakspere”[7] or “Shakespeare” for the glover’s son and actor from Stratford, and “Shake-speare” for the author to avoid the assumption that the Stratford man wrote the work.

[edit]History of Baconian theory

Sir Francis Bacon’s letter to John Davies “so desiring you to be good to concealed poets”.

In a letter to the barrister and poet John Davies in 1603, Bacon refers to himself as a “concealed poet”.[8] Baconians claim that certain of his contemporaries knew of and hinted at this secret authorship. The satirical poets Joseph Hall (1574-1656) and John Marston (1575-1634) in the so-called Hall-Marston satires,[9][10] discuss between them a character called Labeo in relation to Shakespeare’s long poem “Venus and Adonis” (1593). Perceiving that Hall is criticising “Venus and Adonis” as a lewd Mirror-genre poem,[11] Marston writes “What, not mediocria firma from thy spight?”, “mediocria firma” being the Bacon family motto. In 1781, a Warwickshire clergyman and scholar named James Wilmot, having failed to find significant evidence from his research in the Stratford district relating to Shakspere’s authorship, suspected that Shakspere could not be the author of the works that bear his name. Wilmot was familiar with the writings of Francis Bacon and formed the opinion that he was more likely the real author of the Shakespearean canon. Persuaded of Bacon’s authorship of the Shakespeare poems and plays, he related his view to James Cowell, who revealed it in a paper read to the Ipswich Philosophical Society in 1805.

The idea that Sir Francis Bacon penned the Shakespeare work was revived by William Henry Smith in a letter to Lord Ellesmere in 1856.[12] This took the form of a sixteen-page pamphlet entitled Was Lord Bacon the Author of Shakespeare’s Plays?[13] in which Smith noted several letters to and from Francis Bacon that apparently hinted at his authorship. A year later, both Smith and Delia Bacon published books expounding the Baconian theory.[14][15] In the latter work, Shakespeare was represented as a group of writers, including Francis Bacon, Sir Walter Raleigh and Edmund Spenser, whose agenda was to propagate an anti-monarchial system of philosophy by secreting it in the text.

In 1867, in the library of Northumberland House, one John Bruce happened upon a bundle of bound documents, some of whose sheets had been ripped away. It had comprised numerous of Bacon’s oratories and disquisitions, and also, once, the manuscripts of Richard II and Richard III, but these had been removed. On the outer sheet was scrawled repeatedly the names of Bacon and Shakespeare. There were several quotations from the latter’s poems and one, too, from Love’s Labour’s Lost. The Earl of Northumberland sent the bundle to James Spedding, who subsequently penned a thesis on the subject, with which was published a facsimile of the aforementioned cover. Spedding hazarded a 1592 date, making it possibly the earliest extant mention of the Swan of Avon. The Northumberland manuscript, while not proving that Bacon wrote the plays, shows us that Bacon was in possession of their manuscripts. It is not known how he came to own them and why they were destroyed.

After a diligent deciphering of the Elizabethan handwriting in Francis Bacon’s wastebook, the Promus of Formularies and Elegancies, Constance Mary Fearon Pott (1833-1915) noted that many of the ideas and figures of speech in Bacon’s book could also be found in the Shakespearean plays. Pott founded the Francis Bacon Society in 1885 and published her Bacon-centered theory in 1891.[16] In this, Pott developed the view of W.F.C. Wigston,[17] that Francis Bacon was the founding member of the Rosicrucians, a secret society of occultphilosophers, and claimed that they secretly created art, literature and drama, including the entire Shakespeare canon, before adding the symbols of the rose and cross to their work.

The late 19th-century interest in the Baconian theory continued the theme that Bacon had secreted encoded messages in the plays. In 1888, Ignatius L. Donnelly, a U.S. Congressman,science fiction author and Atlantis theorist, set out his notion of ciphers in The Great Cryptogram, while Elizabeth Wells Gallup, having read Bacon’s account of his ‘bi-literal cipher‘ (in which two fonts were used as a method of encoding in binary format), claimed to have found evidence that Bacon not only authored the Shakespearean works but, along with the Earl of Essex, he was a child of Queen Elizabeth and the Earl of Leicester, who had been secretly married. No-one else was able to discern these hidden messages, and the cryptographersWilliam and Elizabeth Friedman showed that the method is unlikely to have been employed.[18]

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) expressed interest in and gave credence to the Baconian theory in his writings. The German mathematician Georg Cantor believed that Shakespeare was Bacon, but he was apparently suffering a bout of illness when he researched the subject in 1884. He eventually published two pamphlets supporting the theory in 1896 and 1897.

The American physician Dr Orville Ward Owen (1854-1924) had such conviction in his own cipher method that, in 1909, he began excavating the bed of the River Wye, near Chepstow Castle, in the search of Bacon’s original Shakespearean manuscripts. Only his death in 1924 prevented him from persisting with the project.

The American art collector Walter Conrad Arensberg (1878-1954) believed that Bacon had concealed messages in a variety of ciphers, relating to a secret history of the time and the esoteric secrets of the Rosicrucians, in the Shakespearean works. He published a variety of decipherments between 1922 and 1930, concluding finally that, although he had failed to find them, there certainly were concealed messages. He established the Francis Bacon Foundation in California in 1937 and left it his collection of Baconiana.

More recent Baconian theory ignores the esoteric following that the theory had earlier attracted.[19] Whereas, previously, the main proposed reason for secrecy was Bacon’s desire for high office, this theory posits that his main motivation for concealment was the completion of his Great Instauration project.[20][21] The argument runs that, in order to advance the project’s scientific component, he intended to set up new institutes of experimentation to gather the data (his scientific “Histories”) to which his inductive method could be applied. He needed to attain high office, however, to gain the requisite influence,[22] and being known as a dramatist (a low-class profession) would have impeded his prospects. Realising that play-acting was used by the ancients “as a means of educating men’s minds to virtue”,[23] and being “strongly addicted to the theatre”[24] himself, he is claimed to have set out the otherwise-unpublished moral philosophical component of his Great Instauration project in the Shakespearean work (moral “Histories”). In this way, he could influence the nobility through dramatic performance with his observations on what constitutes “good” government (as in Prince Hal’s relationship with the Chief Justice in Henry IV, Part 2).

[edit]Autobiographical evidence

It is known that, as early as 1595, Bacon employed scriveners,[25] which, one could argue, would protect his anonymity and account for Heminge and Condell, two actors in Shakspeare’s company, remarking about Shakspere that “wee [sic] have scarce received from him a blot in his papers”.[26] Baconians point out that Bacon’s rise to the post of Attorney General in 1613 coincided with the end of Shakespeare the author’s output. They also stress that he was the only authorship candidate still alive when the First Folio was published and that it occurred in a period (1621-1626) when Bacon was publishing his work for posterity after his fall from office gave him the free time.

Henry VIII (1613) may be interpreted as alluding to Bacon’s fall from office in 1621, suggesting that the play had been altered at least five years after Shakspere’s death in 1616. The argument relates to Cardinal Wolsey‘s forfeiture of the Great Seal in the play, which might be construed as departing from the facts of history to mirror Bacon’s own loss. Bacon lost office on a charge of accepting bribes to influence his judgment of legal cases, whereas Wolsey’s crime was to petition the Pope to delay sanctioning King Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon. Nevertheless, in 3.2.125-8, just before the Great Seal is reclaimed, King Henry’s main concern is an inventory of Wolsey’s wealth that has inadvertently been delivered to him:

King Henry. […] The several parcels of his Plate, his Treasure,
Rich stuffs, and ornaments of household, which
I find at such a proud rate, that it outspeaks
Possession of a subject.

A few lines later, Wolsey loses the Seal with the stage direction:

Enter to Cardinal Wolsey the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, the Earl of Surrey
and the Lord Chamberlaine.

However, in history, only the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk performed this task,[27] and Shakespeare has inexplicably added the Earl of Surrey and the Lord Chamberlaine. In Bacon’s case, King James “commissioned the Lord Treasurer, the Lord Steward, the Lord Chamberlaine, and the Earl of Arundel, to receive and take charge of it”.[28] Given that Thomas Howard was the 2nd Earl of Arundel and Surrey, then the two noblemen that Shakespeare has added may be construed as references to two of the four that attended Bacon.

[edit]Credentials for authorship

“If we must look for an author outside of Shakespeare himself,” said Caldecott, “the only possible candidate that presents himself is Francis Bacon.”[29] Proposed the illustrious Shakespearean scholar Horace Howard Furness, “Had the plays come down to us anonymously — had the labour of discovering the author been imposed upon future generations — we could have found no one of that day but Francis Bacon to whom to assign the crown. In this case it would have been resting now upon his head by almost common consent.”[30] “He was,” agreed Caldecott, “all the things that the plays of Shakespeare demand that the author should be — a man of vast and boundless ambition and attainments, a philosopher, a poet, a lawyer, a statesman.”[31]

There is indeed much evidence to suggest that Bacon had the credentials to write the Shakespearean work. In relation to the Stratford man’s extensive vocabulary, we have the words of Dr Samuel Johnson, author of the first dictionary: “[… A] Dictionary of the English language might be compiled from Bacon’s writing alone”.[32] The poet Percy Bysshe Shelly testifies against the notion that Bacon’s was an unwaveringly dry legal style: “Lord Bacon was a poet. His language has a sweet majestic rhythm, which satisfies the sense, no less than the almost superhuman wisdom of his intellect satisfies the intellect […].”[33] Ben Jonson writes in his First-Folio tribute to “The Author Mr William Shakespeare”,

Leave thee alone for the comparison
Of all that insolent Greece and haughtie [sic] Rome
Sent forth, or since did from their ashes come.

“There can be no doubt,” said Caldecott, “that Ben Jonson was in possession of the secret composition of Shakespeare’s works.” An intimate of both Bacon and Shakespeare — he was for a time the former’s stenographer and Latin interpreter, and had his debut as a playwright produced by the latter[34] — he was placed perfectly to be in the know. He did not name Shakespeare among the sixteen greatest cards of the epoch but wrote of Bacon that he “hath filled up all the numbers,[35] and performed that in our tongue which may be compared or preferred either to insolent Greece or to haughty Rome […] so that he may be named, and stand as the mark[36] and acme of our language.”[37] “If Ben Jonson knew that the name ‘Shakespeare’ was a mere cloak for Bacon, it is easy enough to reconcile the application of the same language indifferently to one and the other. Otherwise,” declared Caldecott, “it is not easily explicable.”[38]

Some time subsequent to Shakespeare’s expiry, Jonson tackled the panoptic task of setting down the First Folio and casting away the originals. This was in 1623, when Bacon had lapsed into penury. Jonson would have been keen to allay his friend’s straits, and the folio’s yield would have fitted the bill nicely.

In 1645, there was printed a strange volume entitled The Great Assizes Holden in Parnassus by Apollo and his Assessours. Atop the mountain sat Apollo and, immediately beneath him, Bacon (“The Lord Verulam, Chancellor of Parnassus”), followed by 25 writers and poets, and then, second last at number 26 (and only as a “juror”), “William Shakespere”. This artifact has frequently been interpreted as suggesting that Francis Bacon was miles ahead of his coevals and second only to Apollo in the poetical stakes.

That Bacon took a keen interest in civil history is evidenced in his book History of the Reign of Henry VII (1621), his article the Memorial of Elizabeth (1608) and his letter to King James in 1610, lobbying for financial support to indite a history of Great Britain: “I shall have the advantage which almost no writer of history hath had, in that I shall write of times not only since I could remember, but since I could observe.”[39]

Bacon and Shake-speare cover completely the monarchs of the period 1377 to 1603 without duplicating one another’s historical ground. In 1623, Bacon gave different excuses to Prince Charles for not working on a commissioned treatise on Henry VIII (which had already been covered by the Shake-speare play in 1613).[40] In the end, he wrote only two pages.

[edit]The Tempest

Numerous scholars believe that the main source for Shake-speare’s The Tempest was a letter written by William Strachey known as the True Reportory (TR)[41] sent back to the Virginia Company from the newly established Virginia colony in 1610, about a year before the play’s first known performance.[42] It was discovered when Richard Hakluyt, one of the eight names on the First Virginia Charter (1606), died in 1616 and a copy was found among his papers. Scholars have suggested that the letter was “circulated in manuscript”[43] without restriction and that “there seems to have been an opportunity for Shakespeare to see the unpublished report, or even to have met Strachey”.[44] However, Baconians point to evidence that the letter was restricted to members of the Virginia Council which included Sir Francis Bacon (and 50 other Lords and Earls) but not William Shakspere. For example, Item 27 of the governing Council’s instructions to Deputy Governor Sir Thomas Gates before he set out for the colony charges him to “take especial care what relacions [accounts] come into England and what lettres are written and that all thinges of that nature may be boxed up and sealed and sent to first of [sic] the Council here, … and that at the arrivall and retourne of every shippinge you endeavour to knowe all the particular passages and informacions given on both sides and to advise us accordingly.”[45] Louis B. Wright explains why the Virginia Company was so keen to control information: “[the TR gave] a discouraging picture of Jamestown, but it is significant that it had to wait fifteen years to see print, for the Virginia Company just at that time was subsidizing preachers and others to give glowing descriptions of Virginia and its prospects”.[46] Baconians argue that it would have been against the interests of any Council member, whose investment was at risk, to present a copy of the TR to Shakspere, whose business was public.

On November 1610, conscious that the criticisms of the returning colonists might jeopardize the recruitment of new settlers and investment, the Virginia Company published the propagandist True Declaration (TD) which was designed to confute “such scandalous reports as have tended to the disgrace of so worthy an enterprise” and was intended to “wash away those spots, which foul mouths (to justify their own disloyalty) have cast upon so fruitful, so fertile, and so excellent a country”.[47] The TD relied on the TR and other minor sources and it is clear from its use of “I” that it had a single author. There are also verbal parallels between (a) the TD, and (b) Bacon’s Advancement of Learning[48] that suggest that Sir Francis Bacon as Solicitor General might have written the TD and so, by implication, had access to the TR which sourced The Tempest. Some examples of these are presented together with their correspondence to (c) the Shake-speare work.

Parallel 1

(a) The next Fountaine [sic] of woes was secure negligence
(b) but to drink indeed of the true fountains of learning (p.121)
(c) Thersites. Would the fountain of your mind were clear again,

that I might water an ass at it!
(1602-3 Troilus and Cressida, 3.3.305-6)

Parallel 2

(a) For if the country be barren or the situation contagious as famine

and sickness destroy our nation, we strive against the stream of reason
and make ourselves the subjects of scorn and derision.
(b) whereby divinity hath been reduced into an art, as into a cistern, and

the streams of doctrine or positions fetched and derived from thence. (p.293)
(c) Timon. Creep in the minds and marrows of our youth,

That ‘gainst the stream of virtue they may strive,
And drown themselves in riot!
(1604-7 Timon of Athens, 4.1.26-8)
Lysander. scorn and derision never come in tears:
(1594-5 A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 3.2.123)

Parallel 3

(a) The emulation of Cæsar and Pompey watered the plains of Pharsaly

with blood and distracted the sinews of the Roman monarchy.
(b) We will begin, therefore, with this precept, according to the ancient

opinion, that the sinews of wisdom are slowness of belief and distrust (p.273)
(c) Henry V. Now are we well resolved; and, by God’s help,

And yours, the noble sinews of our power,
France being ours, we’ll bend it to our awe,
Or break it all to pieces:
(1599 Henry V, 1.2.222-5)

William Strachey went on to write The History of Travel into Virginia Britannica, a book that avoided duplicating the details of the TR. First published in 1849, three manuscript copies survive dedicated to Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland; Sir William Apsley, Purveyor of his Majesty’s Navy Royal; and Sir Francis Bacon, Lord Chancellor. In the dedication to Bacon, which must have been composed after he became Lord Chancellor in 1618, Strachey writes “Your Lordship ever approving himself a most noble fautor [supporter] of the Virginia Plantation, being from the beginning (with other lords and earls) of the principal counsel applied to propagate and guide it”.[49]

The 1610-11 dating of The Tempest however, has been challenged by a number of scholars, most recently by researchers Roger Stritmatter and Lynne Kositsky[50]who argue that Strachey’s narrative could not have furnished an inspiration for Shakespeare, claiming that Strachey’s letter was not put into its extant form until after The Tempest had already been performed on Nov. 1, 1611. The notion of an early date for The Tempest has in fact a long history in Shakespearean scholarship, going back to 19th century scholars such as Hunter[51]and Elze,[52] who both critiqued the widespread belief that the play depended on the Strachey letter.

[edit]Gray’s Inn revels 1594-95

Gray’s Inn law school traditionally held revels over Christmas: dancing and feasting were complemented by plays and masques. The evidence suggests that, prior to the revels of 1594 and’95, all performed plays were amateur productions.[53] In his commentary on the Gesta Grayorum, a contemporary account of the 1594-95 revels, Desmond Bland[54] informs us that they were “intended as a training ground in all the manners that are learned by nobility […:] dancing, music, declamation, acting.” James Spedding, the Victorian editor of Bacon’s Works, thought that Sir Francis Bacon was involved in the writing of this account.[55]

William Shakespeare remunerated for a performance at Whitehall on Innocents Day 1594.

The Gesta Grayorum[56] is a pamphlet of 68 pages first published in 1688. It informs us that The Comedy of Errors received its first known performance at these revels at 21:00 on 28 December 1594 (Innocents Day) when “a Comedy of Errors (like to Plautus his Menechmus) was played by the Players […].” Whoever the players were, there is evidence that Shakespeare and his company were not among them: according to the royal Chamber accounts, dated 15 March 1595 — see Figure[57] — he and the Lord Chamberlain’s Men were performing for the Queen at Greenwich on Innocents Day. E.K. Chambers[58] informs us that “the Court performances were always at night, beginning about 10pm and ending at 1am”, so their presence at both performances is highly unlikely; furthermore, the Gray’s Inn Pension Book, which recorded all payments made by the Gray’s Inn committee, exhibits no payment either to a dramatist or to professional company for this play.[59] Baconians interpret this as a suggestion that, following precedent, The Comedy of Errors was both written and performed by members of the Inns of Court as part of their participation in the Gray’s Inn celebrations. One problem with this argument is that the Gesta Grayorum refers to the players as “a Company of base and common fellows”,[60] which would apply well to a professional theatre company, but not to law students. But, given the jovial tone of the Gesta, and that the description occurred during a skit in which a “Sorceror or Conjuror” was accused of causing “disorders with a play of errors or confusions”, Baconians interpret it as merely a comic description of the Gray’s Inn players.

Gray’s Inn actually had a company of players during the revels. The Gray’s Inn Pension Book records on 11 February 1595 that “one hyndred [sic] marks [£66.67] [are] to be layd [sic] out & bestowyd [sic] upon the gentlemen for their sports and shewes this Shrovetyde [sic] at the court before the Queens Majestie [sic …].”[61]

There is, most importantly to the Baconians’ argument, evidence that Bacon had control over the Gray’s Inn players. In a letter to Lord Burghley, dated before 1598, he writes, “I am sorry the joint masque from the four Inns of Court faileth […. T]here are a dozen gentlemen of Gray’s Inn that will be ready to furnish a masque”.[62] The dedication to a masque by Francis Beaumont performed at Whitehall in 1613 describes Bacon as the “chief contriver” of its performances at Gray’s Inn and the Inner Temple.[63] He also appears to have been their treasurer prior to the 1594-95 revels.[64]

The discrepancy surrounding the whereabouts of the Chamberlain’s Men is normally explained by theatre historians as an error in the Chamber Accounts. W.W. Greg suggested the following explanation:

“[T]he accounts of the Treasurer of the Chamber show payments to this company [the Chamberlain’s Men] for performances before the Court on both 26 Dec. and 28 Dec […]. These accounts, however, also show a payment to the Lord Admiral’s men in respect of 28 Dec. It is true that instances of two court performances on one night do occur elsewhere, but in view of the double difficulty involved, it is perhaps best to assume that in the Treasurer’s accounts, 28 Dec. is an error for 27 Dec.[65]

[edit]Verbal parallels

[edit]Gesta Grayorum

‘Greater lessens the smaller’ figure from Gesta Grayorum.

The final paragraph of the Gesta Grayorum — see Figure — uses a “greater lessens the smaller” construction that occurs in an exchange from theMerchant of Venice (1594-97), 5.1.92-7:

Ner. When the moon shone we did not see the candle
Por. So doth the greater glory dim the less,

A substitute shines brightly as a King
Until a King be by, and then his state
Empties itself, as doth an inland brooke
Into the main of waters …

The Merchant of Venice uses both the same theme[citation needed] as the Gesta Grayorum and the same three examples to illustrate it — a subject obscured by royalty, a small light overpowered by that of a heavenly body and a river diluted on reaching the sea. In an essay[66] from 1603, Bacon makes further use of two of these examples: “The second condition [of perfect mixture] is that the greater draws the less. So we see that when two lights do meet, the greater doth darken and drown the less. And when a small river runs into a greater, it loseth both the name and stream.” A figure similar to “loseth both the name and stream” occurs in Hamlet (1600-01), 3.1.87-8:

Hamlet. With this regard their currents turn awry

And lose the name of action.

Bacon was usually careful to cite his sources but does not mention Shakespeare once in any of his work. Baconians claim, furthermore, that, if the Gesta Grayorum was circulated prior to its publication in 1688 — and no one seems to know if it was — it was probably only among members of the Inns of Court.[citation needed]


In the 19th century, a notebook entitled the Promus of Formularies and Elegancies[67] was discovered. It contained 1,655 hand written proverbsmetaphorsaphorismssalutations and other miscellany. Although some entries appear original, many are drawn from the Latin and Greek writers SenecaHoraceVirgilOvidJohn Heywood‘s Proverbes (1562); Michel de Montaigne‘s Essays (1575), and various other FrenchItalian and Spanish sources. A section at the end aside, the writing was, by Sir Edward Maunde-Thompson‘s reckoning, in Bacon’s hand; indeed, his signature appears on folio 115 verso. Only two folios of the notebook were dated, the third sheet (5 December 1594) and the 32nd (27 January 1595 [that is, 1596]). Many of these entries also appear in Shakespeare’s First Folio:

Parallel 1

Parolles. So I say both of Galen and Paracelsus (1603-5 All’s Well That Ends Well, 2.3.11)
Galens compositions not Paracelsus separations (Promus, folio 84, verso)

Parallel 2

Launce. Then may I set the world on wheels, when she can spin for her living (1589-93, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, 3.1.307-8)
Now toe on her distaff then she can spynne/The world runs on wheels (Promus, folio 96, verso)

Parallel 3

Hostesse. O, that right should o’rcome might. Well of sufferance, comes ease (1598, Henry IV, Part 2, 5.4.24-5)
Might overcomes right/Of sufferance cometh ease (Promus, folio 103, recto)

The orthodox view is that these were commonplace phrases; Baconians claim the occurrence in the last two examples of two ideas from the same Promus folio in the same Shakespeare speech is unlikely.[citation needed]

[edit]Published work

There is an example in Troilus and Cressida (2.2.163) which shows that Bacon and Shakespeare shared the same interpretation of an Aristotelian view:

Hector. Paris and Troilus, you have both said well,
And on the cause and question now in hand
Have glozed, but superficially: not much
Unlike young men, whom Aristotle thought
Unfit to hear moral philosophy:
The reasons you allege do more conduce
To the hot passion of distemper’d blood

Bacon’s similar take reads thus: “Is not the opinion of Aristotle very wise and worthy to be regarded, ‘that young men are no fit auditors of moral philosophy’, because the boiling heat of their affections is not yet settled, nor tempered with time and experience?”[68]

What Aristotle actually said was slightly different: “Hence a young man is not a proper hearer of lectures on political science; […] and further since he tends to follow his passions his study will be vain and unprofitable […].”[69] The added coincidence of heat and passion and the replacement of “political science” with “moral philosophy” is employed by both Shakespeare and Bacon. However, Shakespeare’s play precedes Bacon’s publication, allowing the possibility of the latter borrowing from the former.

[edit]Raleigh’s execution

Spedding suggests that lines in Macbeth refer to Sir Walter Raleigh‘s execution, which occurred two years after Shakespeare of Stratford’s death and fourteen years after the Earl of Oxford‘s.[70] The lines in question are spoken by Malcolm about the execution of the “disloyall traytor [sic] / The Thane of Cawdor” (1.2.53):

King. Is execution done on Cawdor?
Or not those in Commission yet return’d?
Malcolme. My Liege, they are not yet come back,
But I have spoke with one that saw him die:
Who did report, that very frankly hee [sic]
Confess’d his Treasons, implor’d your Highnesse [sic] Pardon
And set forth a deepe [sic] Repentance:
Nothing in his Life became him,
Like the leaving it. He dy’de [sic],
As one that had been studied in his death,
To throw away the dearest thing he ow’d,
As ’twere a carelesse [sic] Trifle.(1.4.1)

Several sources have remarked upon Raleigh’s frivolity in the face of his impending execution[71][72] and the assertion that “[the Commission who tried him] are not yet come back” could refer to the fact that his execution was swift: it took place the day after his trial for treason.[73] Raphael Holinshed, the main source for Macbeth, mentions “the thane of Cawder [sic] being condemned at Fores of treason against the king”[74] without further details about his execution, so whoever wrote the lines in the play went beyond the original source.

In Raleigh’s trial at Winchester on 17 November 1603, his statement was read out: “Lord Cobham offered me 10,000 crowns for the furthering the peace between England and Spain”.[75] In 1.2.60-4 of Macbeth, the King’s messenger reports on the king of Norway, who has been assisted by the thane of Cawdor:

Rosse. That now
Sweno, the Norwayes [sic] king, craves composition:
Nor would we deigne [sic] him burial of his men,
Till he disbursed, at Saint Colmes ynch [sic],
Ten thousand Dollars to our general use.

Shake-speare was known for his use of anagrams (e.g. the character Moth in Love’s Labour’s Lost represents Thomas Nashe)[76] and here he has altered Cawder to Cawdor, an anagram of “coward”. Some Baconians see this as an allusion to Raleigh’s poem the night before his execution.[citation needed]

Cowards [may] fear to die; but courage stout,
Rather than live in snuff, will be put out.[77]

Some scholars[78] believe that Macbeth was later altered by Middleton, but a reference to Raleigh’s execution would be particularly advantageous to the Baconian theory because Bacon was one of the six Commissioners from the Privy Council appointed to examine Raleigh’s case.[79]

But more than one Elizabethan traitor put on a brave show for his execution. In 1793, George Steevens suggested that the speech was an allusion to the death of the Earl of Essex in 1601 (a date that does not conflict with Shakespeare’s or Oxford’s authorship): “The behaviour of the thane of Cawdor corresponds in almost every circumstance with that of the unfortunate Earl of Essex, as related by Stow, p. 793. His asking the Queen’s forgiveness, his confession, repentance, and concern about behaving with propriety on the scaffold are minutely described.”[80]As Steevens notes, Essex was a close friend of Shakespeare’s patron, the Earl of Southampton.[81] Essex also employed Bacon as an adviser in the latter’s early career in Parliament, until Essex fell out of favour and was prosecuted with Bacon’s help.

Most editors of Macbeth simply assume the speech to be fictional and not a deliberate allusion to a specific event.


December 2, 2008


Shakespeare authorship question


The frontispiece of the First Folio (1623), the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays. The Folio, including the frontispiece, has generated considerable debate among authorship proponents. The engraving is usually attributed to Martin Droeshout the Younger. Born in 1601, Droeshout was 14 years old when Shakespeare died, seven years before the Folio’s publication, so that he was unlikely ever to have known the playwright; because of this, authorship doubters have questioned the circumstances behind the work, including Jonson’s assertion that the engraving was “true to life”. Stratfordians respond that the assumption has long been that Droeshout worked from a sketch. Charlton Ogburn, author of The Mysterious William Shakespeare (1984), also noted that the curved line running from the ear to the chin makes the face appear more of a “mask” than a true representation of an actual person.[1] Art historians see nothing unusual in these features.[2]

The Shakespeare authorship question is the ongoing debate, first recorded in the early 18th century, about whether the works attributed to William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon were actually written by another writer, or a group of writers.[3] Among the numerous alternative candidates that have been proposed, major claimants have included Francis BaconChristopher Marlowe, andWilliam Stanley (6th Earl of Derby). The most popular theory of the 20th century was that Shakespeare’s works were written byEdward de Vere (17th Earl of Oxford).[4]

Authorship doubters[5] believe there is a lack of concrete evidence proving that the actor/businessman sometimes known as Shaksper of Stratford was responsible for the body of literary works that bear his name. Very little biographical information exists about Shakespeare and, although much has been inferred about him from his writings, the lack of solid information leaves an enigmatic figure. Mainstream scholars, however, find the lack of information unsurprising given that in Elizabethan / Jacobean England the lives of commoners were not as well documented as those of the gentry and nobility, and any such documents that may have existed would be unlikely to survive until the present day.

A further argument against the mainstream view is the erudition of Shakespeare’s works, including an enormous vocabulary of approximately 29,000 different words.[6] Authorship doubters find it difficult to believe that a 16th-century commoner, with no university education, could be so well-versed in English language and literature, as well as a number of other disciplines including politics, law, medicine, astronomy and foreign languages.

While mainstream scholars reject all alternative candidates, interest in the authorship debate has grown, particularly among independent scholars, theatre professionals and some academicians. This trend has continued into the 21st century.




[edit]Mainstream view

Title page from SHAKE-SPEARE’S SONNETS (1609). The hyphenated name also appears on 15 plays published prior to the First Folio.[7]

Dedication page from The Sonnets. Both the hyphenated name and the words “ever-living poet”, have helped fuel the authorship debate.

The mainstream view is that the author known as “Shakespeare” was the same William Shakespeare who was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564, moved to London and became an actor, and “sharer” (part-owner) of the acting company called the Lord Chamberlain’s Men (which owned the Globe Theatre and the Blackfriars Theatre in London). Before his death in 1616, he divided his time between London and Stratford, where he retired around 1613. In 1623, seven years after his death (and after the death of most of the proposed authorship candidates), his plays were collected for publication in the First Folio edition.

Shakespeare of Stratford is further identified by the following evidence: He and the author of the works share a common name; he left gifts to actors from the London company in his will; and commendatory poems in the 1623 First Folio of Shakespeare’s works refer to the “Swan of Avon” and his “Stratford monument”.[8] Mainstream scholars believe that the latter phrase refers to the funerary monument in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford, which refers to Shakespeare as a writer (comparing him to Virgil and calling his writing a “living art”), and was described as such by visitors to Stratford as far back as the 1630s.[9] Additional evidence which Stratfordians cite to support the mainstream view include: A 1592 pamphlet by the playwright Robert Greene called “Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit”, in which Greene chastises a playwright whom he calls “Shake-scene”, calling him “an upstart crow” and a “Johannes factotum” (a “Jack-of-all-trades“, a man able to feign skill), indicating that people were aware of a writer named Shakespeare.[10] Also, poetJohn Davies once referred to Shakespeare as “our English Terence“. Additionally, Shakespeare’s grave monument in Stratford, built within a decade of his death, currently features him with a pen in hand, suggesting that he was known as a writer.

Critics of the mainstream view have challenged most if not all of the above assertions, claiming that there is no direct evidence which clearly identifies Shakespeare of Stratford as a playwright. These critics note that the only theatrical reference in his will (the gifts to fellow actors) were interlined – i.e.: inserted between previously written lines – and are thus subject to doubt; the term “Swan of Avon” can be interpreted in numerous ways; that “Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit” could imply that Shakespeare was being given credit for the work of other writers;[10] that Davies’ mention of “our English Terence” is a mixed reference as CiceroQuintilianMichel de Montaigne and many contemporary Elizabethan scholars knew Terence as a front man for one or more Roman aristocratic playwrights.[10]; and they assert that Shakespeare’s grave monument was altered after its original creation, with the original monument merely showing a man holding a grain sack.[10]

[edit]Authorship doubters

For authorship doubters, evidence that Shakespeare of Stratford was merely a front man for another undisclosed playwright arises from several circumstantial sources including perceived ambiguities and missing information in the historical evidence supporting Shakespeare’s traditional candidacy for authorship. In this regard, doubters cite the fact that there are large gaps in the historical record of Shakespeare’s life and no surviving letter, written to or by him, is known to exist. His three-page will lists no books, diaries, plays or unpublished manuscripts, and makes no mention of the valuable shares in the Globe and Blackfriars Theatres that he supposedly owned.

In addition doubters assert that the plays require a level of education (including knowledge of foreign languages) greater than that which Shakespeare is known to have possessed. They also cite the following: circumstantial evidence suggesting the author was deceased while Shakespeare of Stratford was still living; doubts of his authorship expressed by his contemporaries; plays that he appeared to be unavailable or unable to write; and perceived parallels between the characters and events in Shakespeare’s works and the life of the favoured candidate, with a particular emphasis on the author’s familiarity with life in the Elizabethan court.

On September 82007, acclaimed British actors Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance unveiled a “declaration of reasonable doubt” on the authorship of Shakespeare’s work, after the final matinee of I Am Shakespeare, a play investigating the bard’s identity, performed in Chichester, England. The “declaration” named 20 prominent doubters of the past, including Mark TwainOrson Welles, Sir John Gielgud and Charlie Chaplin. The document was sponsored by the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition and has been signed by over 1,200 people, including 200 academics, to encourage new research into the question. Jacobi, who endorsed a group theory led by the Earl of Oxford, and Rylance, who was featured in the authorship play, presented a copy of the document to William Leahy, head of English at Brunel University, London.[5]


[edit]Stratfordians and anti-Stratfordians

Those who question whether William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon was the primary author of Shakespeare’s plays are usually referred to as anti-Stratfordians, while those who have no such doubts are often called Stratfordians. Those who identify Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, or the Earl of Oxford as the main author of Shakespeare’s plays are commonly referred to as BaconiansMarlovians, or Oxfordians, respectively.

[edit]“Shakspere” vs. “Shakespeare”

There was no standardised spelling in Elizabethan England, and throughout his lifetime Shakespeare of Stratford’s name was spelled in many different ways, including “Shakespeare”. Anti-Stratfordians conventionally refer to the man from Stratford as “Shakspere” (the name recorded at his baptism) or “Shaksper” to distinguish him from the author “Shakespeare” or “Shake-speare” (the spellings that appear on the publications), who they claim has a different identity. They point out that most references to the man from Stratford in legal documents usually spell the first syllable of his name with only four letters, “Shak-” or sometimes “Shag-” or “Shax-“, whereas the dramatist’s name is consistently rendered with a long “a” as in “Shake”.[11]Stratfordians reject this convention, believing it implies that the Stratford man spelled his name differently from the name appearing on the publications.[12] Because the “Shakspere” convention is controversial, this article uses the name “Shakespeare” throughout.

[edit]The idea of secret authorship in Renaissance England

In support of the possibility of Shakespeare as “frontman”, anti-Stratfordians point to contemporary examples of Elizabethans discussing anonymous or pseudonymous publication by persons of high social status. Describing contemporary writers, the dramatist and pamphleteer Robert Greene wrote that “others … which for their calling and gravity being loth to have any profane pamphlets pass under their hands, get some other Batillus [a minor Augustan poet] to set his name to their verses,”.[13]

Roger Ascham in his book The Schoolmaster discusses his belief that two plays attributed to the Roman dramatist Terence were secretly written by “worthy Scipio, and wise Lælius”, because the language is too elevated to have been written by “a seruile stranger” such as Terence.[14]

[edit]“Shake-Speare” as a pseudonym

According to literary historians Taylor and Mosher, “In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Golden Age of pseudonyms, almost every writer used a pseudonym at some time in his career”.[15]In this regard, many anti-Stratfordians question the hyphen that often appeared in the name “Shake-speare”, which they believe indicated the use of such a pseudonym.[16] Examples of oft-hyphenated names include Tom Tell-truth, Martin Mar-prelate (who pamphleteered against church “prelates”) and Cuthbert Curry-nave, who “curried” his “knavish” enemies.[17]

According to authorship researcher Mark Anderson, the hyphenated “Shake-speare” is another example in this vein, alluding to the patron goddess of art and literature, Athena, who sprang from the forehead of Zeus, shaking a spear.[18] Stratfordians have responded that the hyphenated version was not consistent and that the hyphen was merely misplaced, so the issue should be discounted. Oxfordian Charlton Ogburn responded by noting that of the “32 editions of Shakespeare’s plays published before the First Folio of 1623 in which the author was named at all, the name was hyphenated in fifteen – almost half.” Further, it was hyphenated by John Davies in the famous poem which references the poet as “Our English Terence”, by fellow playwright John Webster, and by the epigrammatist of 1639 who wrote, “Shake-speare, we must be silent in thy praise…”. Ogburn notes that the hyphen was only used by other writers or publishers, and not by the poet himself (he did not use it in his personal dedications of his two long narrative poems). On this evidence, Ogburn concluded that the hyphenation was not inconsistent or misplaced, and did follow a noticeable pattern. [16]

[edit]Debate points used by anti-Stratfordians

[edit]Shakespeare’s education

There is no evidence that Shakespeare of Stratford possessed the higher education required to have written the plays, particularly the knowledge of contemporary science and several languages. The exceptionally large vocabulary of over 29,000 different words – including word variations – is almost five times that of the King James Version of the Bible, which contains approximately 6,000 different words.[19] “The plays of Shakespeare,” said Henry Stratford Caldecott in an 1895 Johannesburg lecture, “are so stupendous a monument of learning and genius that, as time passes and they are probed and searched and analysed by successive generations of scholars and critics of all nations, they seem to loom higher and grander, and their hidden beauties and treasured wisdom to be more and more inexhaustible; and so people have come to ask themselves not only, ‘Is it humanly possible for William Shakespeare, the country lad from Stratford-on-Avon, to have written them?’, but whether it was possible for any one man, whoever he may have been, to have done so.”[20]

The Stratfordian position is that Shakespeare was entitled to attend the The King’s School in Stratford until the age of fourteen, where he would have studied the Latin poets and playwrights such as Plautus and Ovid.[21] As the records of the school’s pupils have not survived, Shakespeare’s attendance cannot be proven.[22]

The school or schools Shakespeare might have studied at are a matter of speculation as there are no existing admission or attendance records for Shakespeare at any grammar school, university or college. Though there is no evidence that Shakespeare attended a university, a degree was not a prerequisite for a Renaissance dramatist; traditionally, scholars have assumed Shakespeare to be largely self-educated.[23] A commonly cited parallel is his fellow dramatist Ben Jonson, a man whose origins were humbler than Shakespeare’s, and who rose to become court poet. Like Shakespeare, Jonson never completed and perhaps never attended university, and yet he became a man of great learning (later being granted an honorary degree from both Oxford and Cambridge). However, there is clearer evidence for Jonson’s self-education than for Shakespeare’s. Several hundred books owned by Ben Jonson have been found signed and annotated by him[24] but no book has ever been found which proved to have been owned or borrowed by Shakespeare of Stratford. Jonson, therefore, had access to a substantial library with which to supplement his education.[25]

Possible proof of Shakespeare’s self-education has been suggested: A. L. Rowse notes that certain sources for his plays were sold at the shop of the printer Richard Field, a fellow Stratfordian of Shakespeare’s age.[26]

Some contemporary references have been interpreted to say that Shakespeare’s works have not always been considered to require an unusual amount of education: Ben Jonson’s tribute to Shakespeare in the 1623 First Folio states that his plays were great even though he had “small Latin and less Greek”.[27] And it has been argued, most vehemently by Dr Richard Farmer, that a great deal of the classical learning he displays is derived from one text, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which was a set text in many schools at the time.[28] Anti-Stratfordians such as Mark Anderson, however, believe this explanation does not counter the argument that the author also required a knowledge of foreign languages, modern sciences, warfare, aristocratic sports such as tennis, statesmanship, hunting, natural philosophy, history, falconry and the law.[29] Similarly, what Shakespeare called “the first heire of my invention”, the poem “Venus and Adonis“, appears to draw extensively on Giambattista Marino‘s “Adone”, which was never translated.[30]

[edit]Shakespeare’s will

Third Page of the Will of William Shakespeare ,1616

William Shakespeare’s will is long and explicit, listing the possessions of a successful bourgeois in detail. However, the will makes no mention at all of personal papers, letters, or books (books were rare and expensive items at the time) of any kind. In addition, no early poems or manuscripts, plays or unfinished works are listed, nor is there any reference to the shares in the Globe Theatre that the Stratford man supposedly owned, shares that would have been exceedingly valuable.[31]

At the time of Shakespeare’s death, 18 plays remained unpublished. None of them are mentioned in his will (this contrasts with Sir Francis Bacon, whose two wills refer to work that he wished to be published posthumously).[32] Anti-Stratfordians find it unusual that Shakespeare did not wish his family to profit from his unpublished work or was unconcerned about leaving them to posterity. They find it improbable that Shakespeare would have submitted all the manuscripts to the King’s Men, the playing company of which he was a shareholder. As was the normal practice at the time, Shakespeare’s submitted plays were owned jointly by the members of the King’s Men.[33]

[edit]The 1604 problem

Some researchers believe certain documents imply the actual playwright was dead by 1604, the year continuous publication of new Shakespeare plays “mysteriously stopped”,[34] and various scholars have asserted that The Winter’s Tale[35]The TempestHenry VIII,[36] Macbeth[37]King Lear[38] and Antony and Cleopatra[39], so-called “later plays”, were composed no later than 1604.[40] Researchers cite Shake-speare’s Sonnets, 1609, which appeared with “our ever-living Poet”[41] on the title page, words typically used[42] eulogizing someone who has died, yet become immortal. Shakespeare himself used the phrase in this context in Henry VI, part 1 describing the dead Henry V as “[t]hat ever-living man of memory”.[43] Researchers also cite one contemporary document that strongly implies that Shakespeare, the Globe shareholder, was dead prior to 1616, when Shakespeare of Stratford died.[44] For further information on the 1604 problem, see Oxfordian theory.

[edit]Shakespeare’s literacy

6 existing signatures of Shakspeare of Stratford, written between 1612 and 1616 (note that the reproductions are imperfect, suggesting non-existent gaps in some of the strokes).[45]

Shakespeare’s wife Anne and daughter Judith seem to have been illiterate, suggesting that Shakespeare did not teach them to write,[46] although it was normal for middle-class women in the 17th century to be illiterate.[47]

Not one surviving letter, to or from Shakespeare, is known to exist. The Anti-Stratfordian position maintains it would only be logical for a man of Shakespeare’s writing ability to compose numerous letters, and given the man’s supposed fame they find it unbelievable that not one letter, or record of a letter, exists.[48]

[edit]Shakespeare’s class

Anti-Stratfordians believe that a provincial glovemaker’s son who resided in Stratford until early adulthood would be unlikely to have written plays that deal so personally with the activities, travel and lives of the nobility. The view is summarized by Charles Chaplin: “In the work of greatest geniuses, humble beginnings will reveal themselves somewhere, but one cannot trace the slightest sign of them in Shakespeare. Whoever wrote [Shakespeare] had an aristocratic attitude.”[49] Orthodox scholars respond that the glamorous world of the aristocracy was a popular setting for plays in this period. They add that numerous English Renaissance playwrights, including Christopher MarloweJohn WebsterBen JonsonThomas Dekker and others wrote about the nobility despite their own humble origins.[50]

Anti-Stratfordians stress that the plays show a detailed understanding of politics, the law and foreign languages that would have been impossible to attain without an aristocratic or university upbringing. Orthodox scholars respond that Shakespeare was an upwardly mobile man: his company regularly performed at court and he thus had ample opportunity to observe courtly life. In addition, his theatrical career made him wealthy and he eventually acquired a coat of arms for his family and the title of gentleman, like many other wealthy middle class men in this period.

In The Genius of Shakespeare, Jonathan Bate points out that the class argument is reversible: the plays contain details of lower-class life in which aristocrats might have little knowledge. Many of Shakespeare’s most vivid characters are lower class or associate with this milieu, such as FalstaffNick BottomAutolycusSir Toby Belch, etc.[51] Anti-Stratfordians assert that while the author’s depiction of nobility was highly personal and multi-faceted, his treatment of the peasant class was quite different, including comedic and insulting names (Bullcalfe, Elbow, Bottom, Belch), often portrayed as the butt of jokes or as an angry mob.[52]

It has also been noted that in the 17th century, Shakespeare was not thought of as an expert on the court, but as a “child of nature” who “Warble[d] his native wood-notes wild” as John Milton put it in his poem L’Allegro. Indeed, John Dryden wrote in 1668 that the playwrights Beaumont and Fletcher “understood and imitated the conversation of Gentlemen much better” than Shakespeare, and in 1673 wrote of Elizabethan playwrights in general that “I cannot find that any of them had been conversant in courts, except Ben Jonson.” Against this argument is the fact that it took Ben Jonson (who had a similar low class to Shakespeare) 12 years from his first play to obtain noble patronage from Prince Henry for his commentary The Masque of Queens (1609). Anti-Stratfordians thus express doubt that the true author could have obtained the Earl of Southampton’s patronage for one of his first published works, the long poemVenus and Adonis (1593).

[edit]Comments by contemporaries

Comments on Shakespeare by Elizabethan literary figures can be read as expressions of doubt about his authorship.

Ben Jonson had a contradictory relationship with Shakespeare. He regarded him as a friend – saying “I loved the man”[53] – and wrote tributes to him in the First Folio. However, Jonson also wrote that Shakespeare was too wordy: Commenting on the Players’ commendation of Shakespeare for never blotting out a line, Jonson wrote “would he had blotted a thousand” and that “he flowed with that facility that sometimes it was necessary he should be stopped.”[53] In the same work, he scoffs at a line Shakespeare said “in the person of Caesar” (presumably on stage): “Caesar never did wrong but with just cause”, which Jonson calls “ridiculous,”[54] and indeed the text as preserved in the First Folio carries a different line: “Know, Caesar doth not wrong, nor without cause / Will he be satisfied” (3.1). Jonson ridiculed the line again in his play The Staple of News, without directly referring to Shakespeare. Some anti-Stratfordians interpret these comments as expressions of doubt about Shakespeare’s ability to have written the plays.[55]

In Robert Greene’s posthumous publication Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit (1592; published, and possibly written, by fellow dramatist Henry Chettle) a dramatist labeled “Shake-scene” is vilified as “an upstart Crowe beautified with our feathers”, along with a quotation from Henry VI, Part 3. The orthodox view is that Greene is criticizing the relatively unsophisticated Shakespeare for invading the domain of the university-educated playwright Greene.[56] Some anti-Stratfordians claim that Greene is in fact doubting Shakespeare’s authorship.[57] In Greene’s earlier work Mirror of Modesty (1584), the dedication mentions “Ezops Crowe, which deckt hir selfe with others feathers” referring to Aesop‘s fable (the Crow, the Eagle, and the Feathers) against people who boast they have something they do not.

In John Marston‘s satirical poem The Scourge of Villainy (1598), Marston rails against the upper classes being “polluted” by sexual interactions with the lower classes. Seasoning his piece with sexual metaphors, he then asks:

Shall broking pandars sucke Nobilitie?
Soyling fayre stems with foule impuritie?
Nay, shall a trencher slaue extenuate,
Some Lucrece rape?”. And straight magnificate
Lewd Jovian Lust? Whilst my satyrick vaine
Shall muzzled be, not daring out to straine
His tearing paw? No gloomy Juvenall,
Though to thy fortunes I disastrous fall.

There is a tradition that the satirist Juvenal became “gloomy” after being exiled by Domitian having lampooned an actor that the emperor was in love with.[58] So Marston’s piece could be taken as being directed at an actor, and as questioning whether such a lower class “trencher slave” is extenuating (making light of) “some Lucrece rape”. One interpretation is that it refers to The Rape of Lucrece, with Shakespeare depicted as a “broking pandar” (procurer), implicitly questioning his credentials to “sucke Nobilitie”, that is, attract the Earl of Southampton‘s patronage of him.[citation needed]

[edit]Evidence in the poems

Anti-Stratfordians such as Charlton Ogburn have repeatedly used Shakespeare’s sonnets as evidence for their positions. They cite Sonnet 76 as clear evidence of the author’s confession of the need for such a ruse:

Why write I still all one, ever the same,
And keep invention in a noted weed,
That every word doth almost tell my name,
Showing their birth, and where they did proceed?

[edit]Geographical knowledge

Most anti-Stratfordians believe that a well-travelled man wrote the plays, as many of them are set in European countries and show great attention to local details. Orthodox scholars respond that numerous plays of this period by other playwrights are set in foreign locations and Shakespeare is thus entirely conventional in this regard. In addition, in many cases Shakespeare did not invent the setting, but borrowed it from the source he was using for the plot.

Even outside of the authorship question, there has been debate about the extent of geographical knowledge displayed by Shakespeare. Some scholars argue that there is very little topographical information in the texts (nowhere in Othello or the Merchant of Venice are the many canals of Venice mentioned). Indeed, there are apparent mistakes: for example, Shakespeare refers to Bohemia as having a coastline in The Winter’s Tale (the region is landlocked), refers to Verona and Milan as seaports in The Two Gentlemen of Verona (the cities are inland), in All’s Well That Ends Well he suggests that a journey from Paris to Northern Spain would pass through Italy, and in Timon of Athens he believes that there are tides in theMediterranean Sea, and that they take place once instead of twice a day.[59]

Answers to these objections have been made by other scholars (both orthodox and anti-Stratfordian). One explanation given for Bohemia having a coastline is the author’s awareness that the kingdom of Bohemia at one time stretched to the Adriatic.[60] More likely, the same geographical mistake was already present in Shakespeare’s source, Robert Greene’s Pandosto, and the play merely reproduced it. It has been noted that The Merchant of Venice demonstrates detailed knowledge of the city, including the obscure facts that the Duke held two votes in the City Council, and that a dish of baked doves was a time-honored gift in northern Italy.[61] Shakespeare also used the local word, traghetto, for the Venetian mode of transport (printed as ‘traject’ in the published texts[62]). Anti-Stratfordians suggest that the above information would most likely be obtained from first-hand experience of the regions under discussion and conclude that the author of the plays could have been a diplomat, aristocrat or politician.

Mainstream scholars assert that Shakespeare’s plays contain several colloquial names for flora and fauna that are unique to Warwickshire, where Stratford-upon-Avon is located, for example ‘love in idleness‘ in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.[63] These names may suggest that a Warwickshire native might have written the plays. Researchers point out that the Earl of Oxford owned a manor house in Bilton, Warwickshire, although records show that he leased it out in 1574 and sold it in 1581.[64]

[edit]Candidates and their champions

[edit]History of alternative attributions

According to the anti-stratfordian viewpoint, the first indirect statements regarding suspicions as to the authorship of “Shakespeare’s” works come from the Elizabethans themselves: As early as 1595 the poet Thomas Edwards published his Narcissus and L’Envoy to Narcissus in which he seems to hint at “Shakespeare’s” identity as an aristocrat – whilst referring to the poet of “Venus and Adonis” Edwards addresses him as one dressed “in purple robes”, purple being a symbol of aristocracy;[65] Elizabethan satirists, Joseph Hall in 1597 and John Marstonin 1598 imply that Francis Bacon is the author of “Venus and Adonis” and “The Rape of Lucrece”; around the turn of the seventeenth century, Gabriel Harvey, Cambridge don and scholar, left marginalia in his copy of Chaucer‘s works that implied that he believed Sir Edward Dyer was the author of at least “Venus and Adonis”.[66] According to authorship researcher Diana Price, all of these were, however, veiled references in the authorship debate that were never, although coming very close at times, explicitly stated.[67]

The first direct statements of doubt about Shakespeare’s authorship were made in the 18th century, when unorthodox views of Shakespeare were expressed in three allegorical stories. InAn Essay Against Too Much Reading (1728) by a ‘Captain’ Golding, Shakespeare is described as merely a collaborator who “in all probability cou’d not write English”.[68] In The Life and Adventures of Common Sense (1769) by Herbert Lawrence, Shakespeare is portrayed as a “shifty theatrical character … and incorrigible thief”.[69] In The Story of the Learned Pig (1786) by an anonymous author described as “an officer of the Royal Navy”, Shakespeare is merely a front for the real author, a chap called “Pimping Billy.”

Around this time, James Wilmot, a Warwickshire clergyman and scholar, was researching a biography on Shakespeare. He traveled extensively around Stratford, visiting the libraries of country houses within a radius of fifty miles looking for records or correspondence connected with Shakespeare or books that had been owned by him. By 1781, Wilmot had become so appalled at the lack of evidence for Shakespeare that he concluded he could not be the author of the works. Wilmot was familiar with the writings of Francis Bacon and formed the opinion that he was more likely the real author of the Shakespearean canon. He confided this to one James Cowell. Cowell disclosed it in a paper read to the Ipswich Philosophical Society in 1805 (Cowell’s paper was only rediscovered in 1932).

Diagram illustrating the time spans of the best-known authorship candidates. Note that Marlovians do not believe that Marlowe died in 1593. Note also that continuous publication stopped in 1603 before a 5-year gap. Publication resumed briefly in 1608 (Lear) and 1609 (Pericles), then again in 1622 (King John) and 1623 (16 plays) after a 13-year gap. The last Shakespeare publication was The Two Noble Kinsmen in 1637.

These reports were soon forgotten[citation needed]. However, Bacon would emerge again in the 19th century as the most popular alternative candidate when, at the height of bardolatry, the “authorship question” was popularised. Many 19th century doubters, however, declared themselves agnostics and refused to endorse an alternative. The American populist poet Walt Whitman gave voice to this skepticism when he told Horace Traubel, “I go with you fellows when you say no to Shaksper: that’s about as far as I have got. As to Bacon, well, we’ll see, we’ll see.”[70] Starting in 1908, Sir George Greenwood engaged in a series of well-publicized debates with Shakespearean biographer Sir Sidney Lee and author J.M. Robertson. Throughout his numerous books on the authorship question, Greenwood contented himself to argue against the traditional attribution of the works and never supported the case for a particular alternative candidate. In 1922, he joined John Thomas Looney, the first to argue for the authorship of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, in founding The Shakespeare Fellowship, an international organization dedicated to promoting discussion and debate on the authorship question.

The poet and playwright Christopher Marlowe has also been a popular candidate during the 20th century. Many other candidates — among them de Vere’s son in law William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby — have been suggested, but have failed to gather large followings.

[edit]Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

Main article: Oxfordian theory

Edward de Vere – 17th Earl of Oxford is the leading alternative candidate for the author behind the alleged pseudonym, Shake-Speare.

The most popular later-day candidate is Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.[71] This theory was first proposed by J. Thomas Looney in 1920, whose work persuaded Sigmund FreudOrson WellesMarjorie Bowen, and many other early 20th-century intellectuals.[49] The theory was brought to greater prominence by Charlton Ogburn’sThe Mysterious William Shakespeare (1984), after which Oxford rapidly became the favored alternative to the orthodox view of authorship. Advocates of Oxford are usually referred to as Oxfordians.

Oxfordians base their theory on what they consider to be multiple and striking similarities between Oxford’s biography and numerous events in Shakespeare’s plays. Oxfordians also point to the acclaim of Oxford’s contemporaries regarding his talent as a poet and a playwright; his closeness to Queen Elizabeth I and Court life; underlined passages in his Bible that they assert correspond to quotations in Shakespeare’s plays;[72] parallel phraseology and similarity of thought between Shakespeare’s work and Oxford’s remaining letters and poetry;[73] his extensive education and intelligence, and his record of travel throughout Italy, including the sites of many of the plays themselves.[74]

Supporters of the orthodox view would dispute most if not all of these contentions. For them, the most compelling evidence against Oxford is that he died in 1604, whereas they contend that a number of plays by Shakespeare may have been written after that date. Oxfordians, and some conventional scholars, respond that orthodox scholars have long dated the plays to suit their own candidate, and assert that there is no conclusive evidence that the plays or poems were written past Oxford’s death in 1604. For a dating of Shakespeare’s plays according to the Oxfordian theory, see Chronology of Shakespeare’s plays – Oxfordian.

Some mainstream scholars also consider Oxford’s published poems to bear no stylistic resemblance to the works of Shakespeare.[75] Oxfordians counter that argument by pointing out that the published Oxford poems are those of a very young man, and as such are juvenilia. They support this argument by citing parallels between Oxford’s poetry and Shakespeare’s early play, Romeo and Juliet.[73]

[edit]Sir Francis Bacon

Main article: Baconian theory

Sir Francis Bacon is often cited as a possible author of Shakespeare’s plays.

In 1856, William Henry Smith put forth the claim that the author of Shakespeare’s plays was Sir Francis Bacon, a major scientist, philosopher, courtier, diplomat, essayist, historian and successful politician, who served as Solicitor General (1607), Attorney General (1613) and Lord Chancellor(1618).

Smith was supported by Delia Bacon in her book The Philosophy of the Plays of Shakespeare Unfolded(1857), in which she maintains that Shakespeare’s work was in fact written by a a group of writers, including Francis Bacon, Sir Walter Raleigh and Edmund Spenser, who collaborated for the purpose of inculcating a philosophic system, for which they felt that they themselves could not afford to assume the responsibility. She professed to discover this system beneath the superficial text of the plays. Constance Mary Fearon Pott (1833–1915) adopted a modified form of this view, founding the Francis Bacon Society in 1885, and publishing her Bacon-centered theory in Francis Bacon and his secret society (1891).[76]

Since Bacon commented that play-acting was used by the ancients “as a means of educating men’s minds to virtue,”[77] a non-esoteric view is that Bacon acted alone and to serve his Great Instauration project[78] he left his moral philosophy to posterity in the Shakespeare plays (e.g. the nature of good government exemplified by Prince Hal in Henry IV, Part 2). Having outlined both a scientific and moral philosophy in his Advancement of Learning (1605) only Bacon’s scientific philosophy was known to have been published during his lifetime (Novum Organum 1620).

Supporters of Bacon draw attention to similarities between specific phrases from the plays and those written down by Bacon in his wastebook, the Promus,[79] which was unknown to the public for a period of more than 200 years after it was written. A great number of these entries are reproduced in the Shakespeare plays often preceding publication and the performance dates of those plays. Bacon confesses in a letter to being a “concealed poet”[80] and was on the governing council of the Virginia Company when William Strachey’s letter from the Virginia colony arrived in England which, according to many scholars, was used to write The Tempest. There is also evidence that it was not Shakspere’s company who gave the first known performance of The Comedy of Errors on Innocent’s Day 1594-5 but the Gray’s Inn players, and there is further evidence that this was a company that Bacon controlled (see Baconian theory article).

Despite the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley’s testimony that “Lord Bacon was a poet”,[81] the main argument usually levelled against Bacon’s candidacy is that what little poetry has been attributed to Bacon is abrupt and stilted unlike Shakespeare’s.[citation needed]

[edit]Christopher Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe has been cited as a possible author for Shakespeare’s works.

Main article: Marlovian theory

A case for the gifted young playwright and poet Christopher Marlowe was made as early as 1895, but the creator of the most detailed theory of Marlowe’s authorship was Calvin Hoffman, an American journalist whose book on the subject, The Murder of the Man who was Shakespeare, was published in 1955.

Marlowe created a stir with his literary output while attending Cambridge as a scholarship student. The young writer, whose translations of Ovid were ordered publicly burned by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London, was the first to translate Ovid’s “Amores” into English. His translation and adaptation into blank verse of Lucan’s “Pharsalia” is one of the earliest English verses written in unrhymed iambic pentameter and has influenced poets from Milton to Wordsworth.[citation needed] While still a university student, Marlowe’s play “Doctor Faustus” was produced in London and shortly after he earned his M.A. and left Cambridge his play “Tamburlaine the Great” appeared on the London stage for 200 performances.[citation needed]

Marlowe was said to have been murdered in 1593 by a group of spies, including Ingram Frizer, a servant of Thomas Walsingham, Marlowe’s patron. A theory has developed that Marlowe, who may well have been facing an impending death penalty for heresy, was saved by the faking of his death (with the aid of people in high places such as Thomas Walsingham and Marlowe’s possible employer, Lord Burghley) and that he subsequently wrote the works credited to William Shakespeare.[82]

Supporters of Marlovian theory also point to stylometric tests and studies of parallel phraseology, which seem to prove how “both” authors used similar vocabulary and a similar style.[83].[82]

Mainstream scholars find the argument for Marlowe’s faked death unconvincing. They also find the writing of Marlowe and Shakespeare very different, and attribute any similarities to the popularity and influence of Marlowe’s work on subsequent dramatists such as Shakespeare.[84]

[edit]Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke

Fulke Greville, 1st Baron Brookeis a recent claimant for the author for Shakespeare’s works.

In 2007, The Master of Shakespeare by AWL Saunders proposed a ‘new’ candidate; Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke (1554-1628). Greville was an aristocrat, courtier, statesman, sailor, soldier, spymaster, literary patron, dramatist, historian and poet. He was educated at Shrewsbury School, where he met his lifelong friend Sir Philip Sidney, and Jesus College, Cambridge. On his return to England from traveling in Europe, he worked for Sir Francis Walsinghamas an ‘intelligencer’[citation needed] and again traveled extensively all over Europe. He became a great favorite of Elizabeth I of England[citation needed], was Clerk to the Council of Wales and the MarchesTreasurer of the Navy and from 1614-1621 Chancellor of the Exchequer. After the death of his father in 1606, Fulke became Recorder of Stratford-upon-Avon and he held that post until his own death in 1628.

Greville was famous for his friendship with, and biography of Sir Philip Sidney, and his long tempestuous love affair with Philip’s sister; Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke[citation needed]. Greville is also regarded as a generous patron of many of the leading writers of the day including Christopher Marlowe, Thomas NasheSamuel Daniel and three Poets Laureate; Edmund SpenserBen Jonson and William Davenant.[citation needed] Greville was a member of all the leading literary circles of the day: The Areopagus, the Wilton House Circle, The Southampton Circle, the University Wits (associated) and The School of Night; his claim to have been the ‘Master of Shakespeare’ and the author of a ‘lost’ play called Antony and Cleopatra.[citation needed]When compared to the ‘Stratfordian’ profiles of William Shakespeare from the First Folio (1623), it is proposed that Greville matches each ‘profile’.[citation needed] Greville of Stratford had a house in Henley Street, he was the friend and patron of Ben Jonson. He had ‘small Latin and less Greek’ and had built a ‘monument without a tomb’ (in Collegiate Church of St Mary, Warwick). Greville lived in Warwick Castle on the River Avon and his family’s crest was a swan. Greville’s profiles are also a match with the Stratfordian ‘life’ of the author of the plays and poems. He was the close friend and protégé of the Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton.[citation needed] He was the enemy of Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecote (Judge Shallow). He frequented Mistress Quyney’s Stratford tavern (and the Bear and the Swan). He frequented the Mermaid Tavern. He frequented Wilton House, Essex House and Titchfield. He was the literary collaborator (and lover) of Mary Herbert.[citation needed] He was the close friend and literary collaborator of Samuel Daniel. He was the literary ‘godfather’ of William Davenant.[citation needed] He was the friend and literary collaborator of John Florio. He distributed propaganda for his friend Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex. He wrote poetry in completion with Sidney, Spenser and Daniel (Sonnets). He was the friend and literary collaborator of Thomas Nashe. He was the friend (and spymaster) of Marlowe. He was the close friend (and cousin) of the Earl of Rutland. He was the close friend and collaborator of Francis Bacon. He had literary works stolen from Kings Place, Hackney and piratically published in 1609.[citation needed]

[edit]Group Theory

In the 1960s, the most popular general theory was that Shakespeare’s plays and poems were the work of a group rather than one individual. A group consisting of De Vere, Bacon, William Stanley, Mary Sidney, and others, has been put forward, for example.[85] This theory has been often noted, most recently by renowned actor Derek Jacobi, who told the British press “I subscribe to the group theory. I don’t think anybody could do it on their own. I think the leading light was probably de Vere, as I agree that an author writes about his own experiences, his own life and personalities.”[86]

[edit]Other candidates

In a March 2007 lecture at the Smithsonian Institution, John Hudson proposed a new authorship candidate, the Jewish poet Aemelia (Emilia) Bassano Lanier (1569-1645), the first woman in England to publish a book of poetry Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum (1611). Born in London, into a family of Marrano Jewish musicians who came from Venice and were of Moorish ancestry, Hudson posited that Lanier fit many aspects of the biographical profile described in the plays.[87] A.L Rowse proposed Lanier as the ‘dark lady’ of the Sonnets.[88] She was also the longterm mistress of Lord Hunsdon, the man in charge of the English theatre and the patron of the Lord Chamberlain’s men.[89] Hudson proposed that, as a hidden Jew, this explained the use of Hebrew and Jewish religious allegories in the plays. Also, unlike Mr Shakespeare, she died poor, depised, lacking honor and proud titles, as described in Sonnets numbers 37,29,81, 111 and 25.

In The Truth Will Out, published in 2005, Brenda James, a part-time lecturer at the University of Portsmouth, and Professor William Rubinstein, professor of history at Aberystwyth University, argue that Henry Neville, a contemporary Elizabethan English diplomat and distant relative of Shakespeare, is possibly the true author of the plays. Neville’s career placed him in the locations of some of the plays at approximately the dates of their authorship.

Other candidates proposed include Mary SidneyWilliam Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby ; Sir Edward Dyer; or Roger Manners, 5th Earl of Rutland (sometimes with his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Philip Sidney, and her aunt Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke, as co-authors). At least fifty others have also been proposed, including the Irish rebel, William Nugent, Catholic martyr St Edmund Campion;[90] and Queen Elizabeth (based on a supposed resemblance between a portrait of the Queen and the engraving of Shakespeare that appears in the First Folio).Malcolm X argued that Shakespeare was actually King James I.[91]

Francis Carr proposed that Francis Bacon was Shakespeare and the author of Don Quixote.[citation needed] A 2007 film called Miguel and William, written and directed by Inés París, explores the parallels and alleged collaboration between Cervantes and Shakespeare.[92] This romantic comedy shows Shakespeare spending the years 1586 to 1592 in Madrid where he enjoys a great friendship with Cervantes.

[edit]See also

[edit]Further reading


  • Bertram FieldsPlayers: The Mysterious Identity of William Shakespeare (2005)
  • H. N. Gibson, The Shakespeare Claimants (London, 1962). (An overview written from an orthodox perspective).
  • Greenwood, George The Shakespeare Problem Restated. (London: John Lane, 1908).
  • Shakespeare’s Law and Latin. (London: Watts & Co., 1916).
  • Is There a Shakespeare Problem? (London: John Lane, 1916).
  • Shakespeare’s Law. (London: Cecil Palmer, 1920).
  • E.A.J. Honigman: The Lost Years, 1985.
  • John Michell, Who Wrote Shakespeare? (London: Thames and Hudson, 1999). ISBN 0-500-28113-0. (An overview from a neutral perspective).
  • Irvin Leigh MatusShakspeare, in Fact (London: Continuum, 1999). ISBN 0-8264-0928-8. (Orthodox response to the Oxford theory).
  • Ian Wilson: Shakespeare – The Evidence, 1993.
  • Scott McCrea: “The Case for Shakespeare”, (Westport CT: Praeger, 2005). ISBN 0-275-98527-X.
  • Bob Grumman: “Shakespeare & the Rigidniks”, (Port Charlotte FL: The Runaway Spoon Press, 2006). ISBN 1-57141-072-4.


  • Mark Anderson“Shakespeare” By Another Name: The Life of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, The Man Who Was Shakespeare (2005).
  • Al Austin and Judy Woodruff, The Shakespeare Mystery, 1989 Frontline documentary. [1]. (Documentary film about the Oxford case.)
  • Fowler, William Plumer Shakespeare Revealed in Oxford’s Letters. (Portsmouth, New Hampshire: 1986).
  • Hope, Warren and Kim Holston The Shakespeare Controversy: An Analysis of the Claimants to Authorship, and their Champions and Detractors. (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland and Co., 1992).
  • J. Thomas Looney, Shakespeare Identified in Edward de Vere, Seventeenth Earl of Oxford. (London: Cecil Palmer, 1920). [2]. (The first book to promote the Oxford theory.)
  • Malim, Richard (Ed.) Great Oxford: Essays on the Life and Work of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, 1550-16-4. (London: Parapress, 2004).
  • Charlton Ogburn Jr., The Mysterious William Shakespeare: The Man Behind the Mask. (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1984). (Influential book that criticises orthodox scholarship and promotes the Oxford theory).
  • Diana Price, Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography: New Evidence of An Authorship Problem (Westport, Ct: Greenwood, 2001). [3]. (Introduction to the evidentiary problems of the orthodox tradition).
  • Sobran, Joseph, Alias Shakespeare: Solving the Greatest Literary Mystery of All Time (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997).
  • Stritmatter, Roger The Marginalia of Edward de Vere’s Geneva Bible: Providential Discovery, Literary Reasoning, and Historical Consequence. 2001 University of Massachusetts PhD dissertation. [4]
  • Ward, B.M. The Seventeenth Earl of Oxford (1550-1604) From Contemporary Documents (London: John Murray, 1928).
  • Whalen, Richard Shakespeare: Who Was He? The Oxford Challenge to the Bard of Avon. (Westport, Ct.: Praeger, 1994).



  • Daryl Pinksen, The Marlowe Ghost , 2008
  • Samuel Blumenfeld, The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection: A New Study of the Authorship Question (2008).
  • William Urry, “Christopher Marlowe and Canterbury”.
  • Mark Eccles, “Christopher Marlowe in London”.
  • Wilbur Gleason Zeigler, “It Was Marlowe”.
  • A.D. Wraight and Peter Farey, “Shakespeare, New Evidence”.
  • A.D. Wraight, “the Story the Sonnets Tell”.
  • David Rhys William, “Shakespeare, Thy Name is Marlowe”.
  • John Edwin Bakeless, “The Tragicall History of Christopher Marlowe”.


  • Karl Bleibtreu: Der Wahre Shakespeare, Munich 1907, G. Mueller
  • Lewis Frederick Bostelmann: Rutland, New York 1911, Rutland publishing company
  • Celestin Demblon: Lord Rutland est Shakespeare, Paris 1912, Charles Carrington
  • Pierre S. Porohovshikov (Porokhovshchikov): Shakespeare Unmasked, New York 1940, Savoy book publishers
  • Ilya Gililov: The Shakespeare Game: The Mystery of the Great Phoenix, New York : Algora Pub., c2003., ISBN 0-87586-182-2, 0875861814 (pbk.)
  • Brian Dutton: Let Shakspere Die: Long Live the Merry Madcap Lord Roger Manner, 5th Earl of Rutland the Real “Shakespeare”, c.2007, RoseDog Books – most recent study of the Rutland theory.

[edit]Academic authorship debates

  • Jonathan Hope, The Authorship of Shakespeare’s Plays: A Socio-Linguistic Study (Cambridge University Press, 1994). (Concerned with the ‘academic authorship debate’ surrounding Shakespeare’s collaborations and apocrypha, not with the false identity theories).

[edit]References and Notes

  1. ^ C. OgburnThe Mysterious William Shakespeare, 1984, p173
  2. ^ National Portrait Gallery, Searching for Shakespeare, NPG Publications, 2006
  3. ^ McMichael, George; Edgar M. Glenn (1962). Shakespeare and His Rivals, A Casebook on the Authorship Controversy. pg 56: New York: Odyssey Press.
  4. ^ Gibson, H.N. (2005). The Shakespeare Claimants: A Critical Survey of the Four Principle Theories Concerning the Authorship of the Shakespearean Plays. Routledge, 48, 72, 124. ISBN 0415352908.; Kathman, David (2003). “The Question of Authorship”. In Shakespeare: An Oxford Guide. Wells, Stanley (ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 620, 625–626. ISBN 0199245223.
    • Love, Harold (2002). Attributing Authorship: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 194–209. ISBN 0521789486.
    • Schoenbaum, Lives, 430–40.
    • Holderness, Graham (1988). The Shakespeare Myth. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 137, 173.
  5. a b Welcome | Shakespeare Authorship Coalition at
  6. ^ Shakespeare, the King’s Playwright: Theater in the Stuart Court, 1603-1613 By Alvin B. Kernan, Published 1995, Yale University Press, Page 194, ISBN 0300072589
  7. ^ For a detailed account of the anti-Stratfordian debate and the Oxford candidacy, see Charlton Ogburn’s, “The Mystery of William Shakespeare”, 1984, pgs86–88
  8. ^ For a full account of the documents relating to Shakespeare’s life, see Samuel SchoenbaumWilliam Shakespeare: A Compact Documentary Life (OUP, 1987)
  9. ^ Shakespeare and his Rivals: A Casebook on the Authorship Controversy” by George McMichael and Edgar M. Glenn, a pair of college professors. It is copyright 1962, and published by The Odyssey Press, in NY. lib of congress card #62-11942., page 41.
  10. a b c d Anderson, Mark [2005]. “Shakespeare” by Another Name. New York City: Gotham Books, xxx. ISBN 1592402151.
  11. ^ Justice John Paul Stevens “The Shakespeare Canon of Statutory Construction” UNIVERSITY of PENNSYLVANIA LAW REVIEW (v.140: no. 4, April 1992)
  12. ^ Shakespeare: An Oxford Guide, David Kathman, Editors Wells/Orlin, Oxford University Press, 2003, page 624; David KathmanThe Spelling and Pronunciation of Shakespeare’s Name at The Shakespeare Authorship Page, Retrieved 27 October 2007.
  13. ^ Greene, Robert, Farewell to Folly (1591)
  14. ^ Ascham, R. The Schoolmaster
  15. ^ Archer Taylor and Fredric J. Mosher, The Bibliography History of Anonyma and Pseudonyma, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951, p 85
  16. a b Charlton Ogburn, The Mystery of William Shakespeare, 1983, pgs 87–88
  17. ^ Anderson, Shakespeare by Another Name, 2005, intro
  18. ^ Anderson, intro
  19. ^ Myth of Outdated Language
  20. ^ Caldecott: Our English Homer, p. 10.
  21. ^ Baldwin, T. W. William Shakspere’s Small Latine and Less Greeke. 2 Volumes. Urbana-Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1944: passim. See also Whitaker, Virgil. Shakespeare’s Use of Learning. San Marino: Huntington Library Press, 1953: 14-44.
  22. ^ Germaine Greer Past Masters: Shakespeare (Oxford University Press 1986, ISBN 0-19-287538-8) pp1–2
  23. ^ Critically Examining Oxfordian Claims: The Stratford Grammar School
  24. ^ Ridell, James, and Stewart, Stanley, The Ben Jonson Journal, Vol. 1 (1994), p.183; article refers to an inventory of Ben Jonson’s private library
  25. ^ Riggs, David, Ben Jonson: A Life (Harvard University Press: 1989), p.58.
  26. ^ A. L. Rowse: “Shakespeare’s supposed ‘lost’ years”. Contemporary Review, February 1994. David Kathman, ‘Shakespeare and Richard Field’. The Shakespeare Authorship Page.
  27. ^ It was the French essayist Paul Stapfer who proved this incorrect, showing that Shakespeare’s knowledge of Latin was profound and his understanding of Greek estimable. See his Shakespeare et l’antiquité (1883).
  28. ^ Jonathan Bate, Shakespeare and Ovid (Clarendon Press, 1994). According to Caldecott, however, “It is sufficient to say that ‘Twelfth Night’ is founded on the Italian play [by Charles Estienne] entitled ‘Gli Ingannati’ (The Cheats). The ‘Merchant of Venice‘ is of Spanish origin; ‘Romeo and Juliet‘ and ‘Much Ado About Nothing‘ are inspired by, if not founded on, similar plays written by Shakespere’s Spanish contemporary Lopez de Vega; ‘Hamlet‘ and ‘Antony and Cleopatra‘, according to Mr Thomas White, are imitations of the ‘Electra’ of Sophocles, and the Life of Marc Antony by Plutarch, whilst Macbeth is an adaptation of the ‘Agamemnon‘ of Aeschylus. It is frivolous, therefore, to pretend that Shakespeare was not a classical scholar […].” See Caldecott: Our English Homer, pp. 9-10.
  29. ^ Anderson, Mark [2005]. “Shakespeare” by Another Name. New York City: Gotham Books. ISBN 1592402151.
  30. ^ Caldecott: Our English Homer, p. 8.
  31. ^ SHAKSPER 1992: The Earl of Oxford vs Shakespeare of Stratford
  32. ^ Spedding, James, The Life and Letters of Francis Bacon (1872), Vol.7, p.228-30 (“And in particular, I wish the Elogium I wrote in felicem memoriam Reginae Elizabethae may be published”)
  33. ^ G. E. Bentley, The Profession of Dramatist in Shakespeare’s Time: 1590–1642 (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1971)
  34. ^ Anderson, Shakespeare by Another Name, 2005, pgs 400–405
  35. ^ Charles Wisner Barrell – A Literary Pirate’s Attempt to Publish The Winter’s Tale in 1594
  36. ^ Karl Elze, Essays on Shakespeare, 1874, pgs 1–29, 151–192
  37. ^ Braunmuller, Macbeth, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1997; pp. 5-8.
  38. ^ Frank Kermode, ‘King Lear’, The Riverside Shakespeare (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974), 1249-1250.
  39. ^ Alfred Harbage Pelican/Viking editions of Shakespeare 1969/1977, preface.
  40. ^ Alfred Harbage, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, 1969
  41. ^ These researchers note that the words “ever-living” rarely, if ever, refer to someone who is actually alive. Miller, amended Shakespeare Identified, Volume 2, pgs 211–214
  42. ^ Oxford English Dictionary 2nd edition, 1989
  43. ^ Henry VI, part 1 (IV, iii, 51-2)
  44. ^ Ruth Lloyd Miller, Essays, Heminges vs. Ostler, 1992.
  45. ^ For more accurate facsimiles, see S. Schoenbaum, William Shakespeare: A Documentary Life (New York: OUP, 1975), pp. 212, 221, 225, 243–5. 1. From a deposition in a court case (1612) 2. Small signature from the seal-ribbon of a conveyance document regarding property in Blackfriars (1613). 3. Small signature from the seal-ribbon of a mortgage document regarding the same property (1613).4. Decayed small signature from the first page of Shakespeare’s will (1616). 5. From the second page of the will. 6. “By me William Shakspeare” from the third page of the will.
  46. ^ Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography – New Evidence of an Authorship Problem by Diana Price
  47. ^ Thompson, Craig R. Schools in Tudor England. Washington, D.C.: Folger Shakespeare Library, 1958. It should be noted that statistical evidence compiled by David Cressy indicates that a large percentage (as much as 90%) of women may not have had enough education to sign their own names; see Friedman, Alice T. “The Influence of Humanism on the Education of Girls and Boys in Tudor England.” History of Education Quarterly 24 (1985):57
  48. ^ Shakespeare Vs Shakespeare
  49. a b Shakespeare-Oxford Society » The Honor Roll of Skeptics
  50. ^ Were Shakespeare’s Plays Written by an Aristocrat?
  51. ^ Bate, Jonathan, The Genius of Shakespeare (London, Picador, 1997)
  52. ^ Ogburn, The Mysterious William Shakespeare, 1984
  53. a b Jonson, Discoveries 1641, ed. G. B. Harrison (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1966), p. 28.
  54. ^ Jonson’s Discoveries 1641, ed. G. B. Harrison (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1966), p. 29.
  55. ^ Dawkins, Peter, The Shakespeare Enigma (Polair: 2004), p.44
  56. ^ McMichael, pgs26-27
  57. ^ Dawkins, Peter, The Shakespeare Enigma (Polair: 2004), p.47
  58. ^ Davenport, Arnold, (Ed.), The Scourge of Villanie 1599, Satire III, in The Poems of John Marston (Liverpool University Press: 1961), pp.117, 300–1
  59. ^ George Orwell As I Please December 1944
  60. ^ See J.H. Pafford, ed. The Winter’s Tale, Arden Edition, 1962, p. 66
  61. ^ Anderson, intro
  62. ^ See John Russell Brown, ed. The Merchant of Venice, Arden Edition, 1961, note to Act 3, Sc.4, p.96
  63. ^ A Modern Herbal: Heartsease; Warwickshire dialect is also discussed in Jonathan BateThe Genius of Shakespeare OUP, 1998; and in Wood, M., In Search of Shakespeare, BBC Books, 2003, pp. 17–18.
  64. ^ Irvin Leigh Matus, Shakespeare in Fact (1994)
  65. ^ Charles Wisner Barrell; Oxford vs. Other “Claiments” of the Edwards Shakespearean Honors, 1593; The Shakespeare Fellowship Quarterly, Summer 1948
  66. ^ Shakespeare described this poem as “the first heire [sic] of my invention”, occasioning some scholars to contend that every play bearing his name prior to its 1593 publication was the work of someone else. (See Caldecott:Our English Homer, p. 7.) According to Grant White, it must have been written by Shakespeare before he came up to London.
  67. ^ Diana Price Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography ISBN 0-313-31202-8 pp. 224-25
  68. ^ Gearoge McMichael, Edward M. Glenn Shakespeare and His Rivals, pg 56
  69. ^ John Michell “Who Wrote Shakespeare” ISBN 0-500-28113-0
  70. ^ Traubel, H.: With Walt Whitman in Camden, qtd. in Anon, ‘Walt Whitman on Shakespeare’. The Shakespeare Fellowship. (Oxfordian website). Retrieved April 16, 2006.
  71. ^ Bryson, Bill (2008). Shakespeare. London: Harper Perennial, 86. ISBN 9780007197903.
  72. ^ Stritmatter, Roger A. The Marginalia of Edward de Vere’s Geneva Bible: Providential Discovery, Literary Reasoning, and Historical Consequence (PhD diss., University of Massachusetts at Amherst, 2001). Partial reprint at Mark Anderson, ed. The Shakespeare Fellowship (1997–2002) (Oxfordian website). Retrieved April 13, 2006.
  73. a b Fowler, 1986
  74. ^ Ogburn, The Mystery of William Shakespeare, 1984, pg 703)
  75. ^ The Verse Forms of Shakespeare and Oxford
  76. ^, Constance Pott
  77. ^ Bacon, Francis, Advancement of Learning 1640, Book 2, xiii
  78. ^ Michell, John, Who Wrote Shakespeare (Thames and Hudson: 2000) pp. 258-259
  79. ^ British Library MS Harley 7017; transcription in Durning-Lawrence, Edward, Bacon is Shakespeare (1910)
  80. ^ Lambeth MS 976, folio 4
  81. ^ Shelley, Percy Bysshe, Defense of Poetry (1821), p.10
  82. a b Baker, John ‘The Case for the [sic]{{dead link|date=October 2008}} Christopher Marlowe’s Authorship of the Works attributed to William Shakespeare’. John Baker’s New and Improved Marlowe/Shakespeare Thought Emporium (2002). Accessed 13 April, 2006.
  83. ^ Baker, John, ‘Dr Mendenhall Proves Marlowe was the Author Shakespeare?'[sic]{{dead link|date=October 2008}}. John Baker’s New and Improved Marlowe/Shakespeare Thought Emporium (2002). Accessed 13 April, 2006.
  84. ^ see quotes of Professor Jonathan Bate, author of The Genius of Shakespeare in Frontline article at
  85. ^ McMichael, pg 154
  86. ^
  87. ^ Daniela Amini ‘Kosher Bard’, New Jersey Jewish News, February 2008
  88. ^ A.L.Rowse The Poems of Shakespeare’s Dark Lady, 1973
  89. ^ Susanne Woods Lanyer; A Renaissance Woman Poet 1999
  90. ^ The Case for Edmund Campion
  91. ^ X, Malcom; Alex Haley (1965). The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Grove Press.
  92. ^ Were these the Two Gentlemen of Madrid?

[edit]External links

[edit]General Non-Stratfordian

  • The Shakespeare Authorship Coalition, home of the “Declaration of Reasonable Doubt About the Identify of William Shakespeare” — a concise, definitive explanation of the reasons to doubt the case for the Stratford man. Doubters can read, and sign, the Declaration online.
  • The Shakespeare Authorship Trust, survey of all the authorship candidates, a site patronised by the actor Mark Rylance and Dr William Leahy of Brunel University, UK
  • Shakespeare Authorship Roundtable, an examination of the authorship debate, overview of the major and minor candidates for authorship of the canon, literary collaboration and the group theory, bibliography and forum.





[edit]Other candidates