I have updated my review and giveaway policies page (now just titled Policies above). If you are entering a giveaway, please read and abide by the applicable policy.

Attention Authors! If you arrived here looking for information on the Two Sides to Every Story guest post series, see the tab at the top of the page for more info!

Search This Blog

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Two Sides to Every Story: William Shakespeare v. Alternate Authors

William Shakespeare v. Alternate Authors

When a discussion of Shakespeare arises, at some point the theory that someone else wrote some (or all) of his works will surface. While the majority of Shakespeare academics discount the theory that it was someone other than Shakespeare, that fact that it is still pervasive indicates it should be addressed. Below we will explore some of the different possibilities of who might have written his works – as well as some of the evidence to support that it was none other than the Bard himself.

William Shakespeare

Of course the majority of people believe that William Shakespeare did indeed write his novels. Other people in Shakespeare’s time also believed in the identity of William Shakespeare. He was cited several times by other poets within their writings as a person of note in the genre. Even in his death he looked out for several of the other actors from the King’s Men – who starred in many plays with him. There is also evidence in the way he wrote his plays that support him as the true author – he wasn’t a highly educated man and his plays were not written for the highly educated. His writing avoids many of the stylistic methods that noble writers used and he frequently made errors when referring to classical events.

Interestingly enough, a study, The Claremont Shakespeare Clinic, was conducted from 1987 to 2010 by a person who was sympathetic to the idea that someone other than the Bard wrote his plays. This study used a computer model to compare Shakespeare’s writing style to the styles of numerous possible Shakespeare writers. The ultimate result of these tests suggests the plays were written by one person and eliminated all of the other possible authors. The stylistic evidence that they used included: he used fewer relative clauses and more hyphens, feminine endings, and run-on lines than most of the writers with whom he was compared.
Smatprt at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Alternate Authors

Since the idea that some or all of his works were not written by 1 person, over 70 alternatives have been brought up. Some of these potential authors are ridiculous while 4 others are considered in more depth. These 4 are: Sir Francis Bacon, Edward de Vere, Christopher Marlowe, and William Stanley.

Sir Francis Bacon – Bacon was brought up as a potential Shakespeare in 1856 – more than 200 years after Shakespeare’s death. The biggest evidence in support of Bacon is that there are many similar sentences and phrases in both Shakespeare’s and Bacon’s works. They also suggest that there are many legal references in the plays and supports the theory of Bacon because he was a lawyer. They also suggested that ciphers hidden within the plays support Bacon as the author – the word honorificabilitudinitatibus supposedly translates to the Latin phrase meaning – “These plays, the offering of F. Bacon, are preserved for the world”.

Edward de Vere – This theory came to popularity in the 1920’s. Those that support de Vere’s claim suggest that events that occur in Shakespeare’s plays are indicative of events in de Vere’s life – particularly in Hamlet. They also state that there are over 1,500 anagrams of the name E. Vere within Shakespeare’s works. The biggest downfall to this theory is that 10 of the Shakespeare works came out after de Vere died and supporters say that these works were really written at a different date that usually attributed to them.

Christopher Marlowe – The idea of Marlowe being the author or a co author was suggested in 1884. He came from the same social background and was very close in age to Shakespeare. To support this theory it must be believed that Marlowe faked his death in 1593. He then wrote under the name of Shakespeare to avoid being collared for atheism. There are stylistic similarities between the two authors and hidden meanings in his works. Shakespeare’s first play, Venus and Adonis went on sale just shortly after Marlowes death.

William Stanley – Stanley was raised as a potential author in 1891. Derby was known to pen some plays and his initials were also W.S. Several of the people that he was known to associate with and events in his life are believed to alluded to in plays – William Cecil (Hamlet), events in Navarre (Love’s Labour’s Lost), and William Herbert and Philip Herbert (who First Folio was dedicated to).

Have you heard any of these theories? What do you think of them – do they hold water for you? For me, Shakespeare is Shakespeare.

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. I for one believe Shakespeare wrote his own stuff but I'm also a sucker for a conspiracy, so I do guiltily enjoy the conjecture. There's a movie coming up with this premise, I believe -- Anonymous, I think it's called...

  2. I think William Shakespeare wrote them all. All of the other people mentioned were raised as potential candidates way after his death. Why was no one squawking about him not being the true author closer to his time?

    I LOVED Arliss Ryan's book Secret Confessions of Anne Shakespeare where the wife wrote 1/2 his stuff. Good story but I still think it was all 100% Will Shakespeare.

  3. I agree with the other posters that Shakespeare was Shakespeare. I'm familiar with the Christopher Marlowe theory, but think it's a little too far fetched that he faked his own death.

    Great post!

  4. Audra - that's right, I forgot about the movie coming up - I have to see it! I too love reading conspiracies but end up just believing the main thing anyway.

    Holly - I have to agree with you - why all the time before they bring up the idea of other authors. I haven't had the chance yet to read the Ryan book, but it is on my shelf!

    Melissa - I was only mildly familiar with the Marlowe and de Vere theories but they all seem too farfetched for me!

  5. I'm in your camp, Heather. Shakespeare is Shakespeare...I've never believed these "conspiracy" theories. =O)

  6. This new film about the Shakespeare authorship question, titled 'Anonymous', is due for release on October 28th. There was an item about the film on the BBC news this morning. A couple of academics were tearing the film to pieces.

    That film is creating quite a stir, and this is the start of the official fightback:

    That page also invites the reader to enter an e-mail address. Signing up then gives access to hear 60 audio recordings, and transcripts of the recordings.

    According to the following report, that website is just the 'first phase' of the fightback:

  7. Robert - Thanks for the links. I expect that there will of course be lashing out against the movie but I think it will be entertaining none-the-less.


Thanks for leaving your comments! I love reading them and try to reply to all!