Who Was The Real William Shakespeare?
Shakespeare Authorship Controversy
William Shakespeare is generally acknowledged as the greatest writer in the English Language as well as the greatest dramatist in the world. He was a poet, playwright, and actor.
Much information about him seems to be uncertain and unknown, this includes his date of birth, educational history as well as the authenticity of the authorship of some of his work.
William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon with an unknown date of birth which traditionally is observed on the 23rd of April, Saint George’s day. He got baptized on the 26th of April, 1564 in Stratford. His father, John Shakespeare was a Glover (meaning a glove maker) in the clover who was married to Mary Arden, who was a daughter of a wealthy landowning family.
Shakespeare is well known for the extant works attributed to him which include collaborations, consisting of about 39 plays, 154 sonnets, three full-length narrative poems, and a few other verses. In the course of his life, between 1585 and 1592, Shakespeare picked up a career in which he was successful as an actor, a writer, and a co-owner of a playing company named the Lord Chamberlain’s Men which was later acknowledged as the King’s men.
Shakespeare is known for his excellent use of words. He uses a metrical pattern that consists of lines of unrhymed iambic pentameter which is referred to as blank verse. His plays were composed using blank verse, although there are passages in all his plays that deviate from the norm and are composed of other forms of poetry and/or simple prose.
His sonnets are written in iambic pentameter, except for sonnet 145, which is written in iambic tetrameter. Shakespeare’s style of writing and meter choice was typical of the day, and other writings influenced how he structured his components.
Shakespeare Authorship Question
The Shakespeare Authorship Question is the debate about the fact that another person other than the known William Shakespeare is the direct writer of most of the works generally attributed to him.
The humble beginnings of Shakespeare coupled with his obscure life appeared to be inconsistent with his poetic prowess, his eminence in the use of language, and his deliveries as a genius. This results in the debate that he might not have been the writer of all the works he is known for. This controversy has instigated a vast number of literature of which about eighty prospective candidates for original authorship have been proposed. The most common of these include Sir. Francis Bacon; Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford; Christopher Marlowe; and William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby.
Most anti-Stratfordians (anti-Stratfordians are scholars who support alternative authorship to some works attributed to Shakespeare) believe that the Shakespeare canon shows a wide knowledge of foreign languages and understanding of geography and a close relationship with the Royal courts and politics. This reflects that it is only a highly educated person or a court insider who could have written those works.
Aside from these parameters, i.e. the literary references, critical commentaries and acting novices, the discovered records concerning Shakespeare’s life contain personal details that are not accurate such as important records of his baptism, marriage, death, lawsuits, etc. Coupled with these fore-mentioned important records, their document suggests that he never had an education or even owned a book. There was no record of any personal letter or literary manuscript to his credit. All these gaps are perceived by sceptics as the profile of a person who is different from that of the poet and playwright.
Who These Works Were Attributed To
Sir. Francis Bacon
One of the major and earliest theories suggested the alternative author was Sir. Francis Bacon. This started in the middle of the 19th century. Bacon was a well-respected philosopher and also a graduate of Cambridge. He was involved in the creation of the generally accepted scientific methods. He was well accomplished rising through the ranks of the Tudor at the court to the rank of the Lord Chancellor and becoming a member of the Privy Chamber. The big question is: is he the writer of these works?
The proponents of Bacon (the Baconians) argued that Bacon, although he felt compelled to place his pen to write plays that focus on the royal and the political space in which Bacon played a strong role.
It is believed that Bacon left behind some clues which conceal coded messages or cyphers of his identity such as that of a literary trail of breadcrumbs.
Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford
Edward de Vere is well known as a poet, dramatist, and patron of the arts. His position and wealth exalted him to a high-profile personality during the Tudor times. He got his education and was bred in the household of Elizabeth I’s chief advisor named William Cecil. Shortly after the first works which were attributed to Shakespeare were unveiled, De Vere stopped poetry publications bearing his name. This led to the Oxfordians’ belief that he utilized Shakespeare as a front to protect his position. They think that an annual royal allotment received by De Vere from the court may have been used to pay Shakespeare, to make De Vere maintain public obscurity.
These proponents, the reflections of De Vere’s explorative journey throughout Europe, with his deep connection with the Italian Language and culture are noticed in several Italian sets of the Shakespeare collections. Vere also had an evergreen admiration of history, which facilitated his ability to effectively deliver dramas such as Julius Caesar.
Christopher was an amazing playwright, a celebrated poet, and a translator. He was a celebrity of that age. He affirmatively impacted a generation of writers with his excellent deliveries. Supporters of this theory, the Marlovian theory became first popular in the early 19th century.
Marlowe, like Shakespeare, had an average background, but he showed a very high intellectual capacity which won him an award for both his bachelor’s and Master’s degree from Cambridge University. It is now believed by historians that he ran his literary career alongside the role of a clandestine in the Tudor court as a spy. Marlowe supported anti-religious groups and he was noted as a supporter of the publication of what was classified as atheist work.
Although there are many other theories, many of them have numerous inconsistencies which make them inappropriate and disputable by modern analysis.
In addition to the earlier presented facts, scholars also find the lack of biographical information suspicious, thinking that it is an attempt by the government to bury every traces of Shakespeare which may include his educational record to hide the true identity of the author.
If you would like to know more about the Shakespeare authorship controversy, you can read Katherine Chiljan’s work at Shakespeare Suppressed.