Theories About the Plays Attributed to Shakespear Essay

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1918 Words
Date:  2022-05-26

Many scholars over the years have the belief that there is a conspiracy surrounding the plays and poems of Shakespeare and that Shakespeare was not the engineer behind the works attributed to him. The theories as to the authenticity of the works attributed to Shakespeare started two centuries ago which characterized Shakespeare as non-knowledgeable minor paid by the Earl of Oxford, to pass the plays as his own, because it was deemed impossible for a member of the aristocracy to be a playwright in Elizabethan and Jacobean England.

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William Shakespeare was born in 1564 in Warwickshire, England and during his childhood, Shakespeare seemed destined to follow his father's footsteps as a Glover. With the conditions in his family, William is said to have managed to receive his early education in a grammar school which ended in his mid-teens though scholars have put a massive critic and suggesting that there is no documentary evidence of handwriting or any other document to show that Shakespeare went to the grammar school.

In 1592, it was rumored that Shakespeare was caught poaching deer in the estate of the local squire. This could have led to his arrest but lucky enough, he fled to London to escape prosecution and that is when he took up work as an actor and a playwright. It is during this era that his talent in this field is recognized and in due time Shakespeare became famous and was said to have contributed a lot to the English culture. As a matter of fact, in 1598 Frances Meares named Shakespeare as a playwright and poet who the 'English tongue is mightily enriched' over and above, he recognized Shakespeare as the most significant writer of all times. Shakespeare made constant efforts to grow his career, and this led to critics who challenged the authenticity of his articles, some even calling him a fraud. These critics have built over the centuries even long after his death.

The argument that is put forward by the scholars who criticize Shakespeare is that the plays and sonnets of Shakespeare contain too much knowledge of foreign places and too much knowledge of the court life and the affairs of the court which could not have been comprehended by someone low in the social order. Other conspiracists' are of the view that the plays contained a wide range of knowledge and style that ought not to have been written by a person who lacked advanced education that most of the contenders had. Also, it was argued out that other members of the Shakespeare family, including William's parents, wife, and daughters, were illiterate and that it is impossible that someone with such knowledge could have grown up and lived in a low-income family.

However, Shakespeare's advocates have pointed out that indeed Shakespeare had a good education in the Latin language, rhetoric, and mathematics at the local school but their adversaries say there is no evidence of his attendance there. They further argue that there is no evidence of his handwriting- no letters or documents written by him. The Stratfordians fight back in favor of Shakespeare, and they say that most of the playwrights in Elizabethan London came from humble backgrounds, for instance, Shakespeare's friend, Ben Johnson. No one has entered forward to suggest that someone else wrote Ben Johnson's plays and neither Ben Johnson or any other Shakespeare's friends or relatives have indicated that their colleague, William Shakespeare, whom they knew very well, did not write the plays performed in his name. Nonetheless, Shakespeare was referred to more than Twenty times in different documents, and also his name appeared on the title pages of plays and poems. A more powerful argument in favor of Shakespeare as being the sole author of the games is that, there are records from his lifetime of books of his playsMuch Ado about Nothing, Henry IV Part 2, Kinglear being printed and his authorship being attested to by the official stationery.

It is evident that there is no concrete proof of Shakespeare's role of the playwright than records of the acknowledgment of that by his friends and colleagues. A tone of actors referred to him, identifying him as a writer. After his death, there were several eulogies that spoke of his work by poets like Hugh Holland.


Doubts about the engineering behind the works of Shakespeare that significantly contributed to his attributes first arose in the mid-nineteenth century. In 1848 an American by the name Joseph Hart put forward the theory that the works of Shakespeare were written by a group of writers. It was later in 1856 supported by another American author, Delia Bacon, who also claimed that the plays were written by a group of people including Sir Francis Bacon and Sir Walter Raleigh. Over the years, names of individual writers presumed to be correct authors of Shakespeare's work have been put forward, and moreover, different theories have been developed to show who the real authors of Shakespeare's work are, and the methods are as follows.


The Oxfordian Theory envisages that the works attributed to William Shakespeare we wrote by Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. Brought to the public eye in a 1920 book by J. Thomas Looney, the theory has several explanations for the doubt as to the authorship of Shakespeare's plays. Thomas suggested that evidence relied upon from the works of Shakespeare proved that the author of the games was a well-educated individual in matters to do with the law and was not only that person knowledgeable in the law, but also an expert in that field. He stated that the author of those plays had a wide range of both ancient Greek and Latin texts. In this view, he noted that Shakespeare was a poorly educated son of a tradesman who came from a low-income family and that he was not capable of obtaining knowledge relating to the law and ancient texts.

With the above reason, Thomas recognized Edward de Vere as the most probable candidate for the right authorship of Shakespeare's work which he presented inform of circumstantial evidence. Edward de Vere was the 17th Earl of Oxford, and it was deemed impossible for him to engage playwright among the common because of the fear of social embarrassment but according to theorists, Edward was an eloquent writer, and it was presumed that Shakespeare used Edward's articles in his plays and the subsequent texts. Thomas Looney also concluded that due to the nature and time of the birth of William Shakespeare, he was too young and it would have been inappropriate for him to earn his living in the ordinary theatre world.

Thomas suggests that Edward de Vere used William Shakespeare as a front for his work. Nevertheless, scholars who support the Oxfordian theory continue to trawl Shakespeare's work for any evidential clues to the true authorship while offering historical anomalies as far as evidence that Edward de Vere was the true writer of Shakespeare's works that earned him magnificent attributes across the globe.


The Baconian Theory suggests that the scientist by the name Francis Bacon was the legitimate author of Shakespeare's plays. Bacon occupied a high office in the government, and for those who support this theory that Bacon was the real author, just like Edward de Vere, it would have been impossible for him to identify himself as only an ordinary playwright.

The theory actively lies on the philosophical capabilities of Bacon. He was a philosopher besides being a scientist and theorists argue out that His philosophical ideas are said to correspond closely to the works of William Shakespeare, but Baconian Theorists suggest that the evidence to prove that Bacon was the author relies on hidden clues in the texts. However, scholars of this theory have not come out openly to state the specific version or play that contain hidden traces that indeed show, Bacon was the legitimate author of Shakespeare's work. Supporters of this particular theory continue to press Bacon claim as the greatest English writer and the legitimate author of Shakespeare's plays.


Christopher Marlowe was among the most significant playwrights of the Elizabeth Era. He was identified a contemporary of William Shakespeare. Marlowe was suspected of being a government spy, and he was later stabbed to death in Deptford. Theorists suggested that his death was faked to escape charges.

Theorists went ahead and established that Marlowe changed his identity and that he went on to write under the name "William Shakespeare" Supporting their findings, the theorists point out that the very first published work of William Shakespeare appeared just two weeks after the brutal murder of Marlowe. However, Shakespeare supporters point out that there is a difference in styles evident in the vocabulary and imagery used by both authors. They further argue that Marlowe, unlike Shakespeare, had little talent in comedy.

Nonetheless, the Marlovians believe that Marlowe faked his death and changed his identity and also the evidence that he lived long after 1593 as William Shakespear.


The theory that the 6th Earl of Derby, William Stanley, who was put forward by a group of French writers in the twentieth century and they firmly believed that William was the legitimate author of Shakespeare's works.

The theory came to light after the archivist by the name, Greenstreet, discovered a letter by Fenner, a Jesuit spy, and the content of the message was a complaint that Stanley was busying himself penning plays for the familiar players rather than concentrating with the Catholic cause. The theorists brought evidence which suggests that parts of 'Love's labor's lost' are founded on events which occurred at the court of Navarre in 1578, events they indicate Shakespeare would not know of, but William as an aristocrat would.

On the side of defending Shakespeare, it is argued out that this theory is weak because, hypothetically, Shakespeare could have received his information from one of many aristocrats he met during his lifetime.


The question that is left in people's mind is whether this son of a tradesman, was a stunning genius who contributed so much to British culture and the English literature through his magnificent plays and texts or was he a fraudster who got lucky after an aristocrat asked him to take the credit so as to avoid social embarrassment.

The other question is whether the different theorists that suggest the works of Shakespeare was authored by different people are wrong or collect. Apparently there are loopholes as to these theories with reference Shakespeare's supporters and advocates, the argument of the adversaries is shallow and it can be subjected to critics. Moreover, they argue that there is no sufficient evidence to support their arguments.

The Oxfordians like to argue that there was an aristocratic convention behind the writing of the plays but Shakespeare scholars reject this and point out clearly that the many poems and plays Oxford did without fear of sanction. The Marlovians stated that their candidate had to fake his death to continue writing under William Shakespeare to avoid arrest. However since the theory involved some England's mighty men, charges were not dropped. Concerning how Marlowe remained undetected for those decades, is mere speculation. During this period it was hard to trace a person. There was no passports or photographs.


Kinney, ed. (2012). The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-956610-5. May 9 pp302-339

Cooper (2016). Searching for Shakespeare. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-11611-3. June 25 pp45-78

Bate, Jonathan (2...

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