Who Really Wrote Shakespeare's Plays Introduction

About the controversy over who really wrote Shakespeare's plays, history and introduction to the controversy.


Nobody seriously questioned that William Shakespeare (1564-1616) wrote the plays and poetry ascribed to him until 165 years after his death at Stratford, England. And few Elizabethan scholars question it today, especially in view of the information that recent research has yielded. Yet, by 1970, almost 5,000 published works challenging Shakespeare's authorship had appeared; the list of candidates included Queen Elizabeth and Nicholas Breakspear, a 12th-century English pope. And the list continues to grow.

Almost without exception, the challenges have come from amateur Shakespearean students--many of them noted within their own fields--whose knowledge of Elizabethan life and times has usually been spares. The term "anti-Stratfordian" collectively identifies these dissenters. And few have dissented without proposing, in modesty or shrill certitude, an alternate "Shakespeare." Yet few deny that Shakespeare actually lived, that he performed as an actor, and that he may have facilitated the production of the plays. They usually insist, however, that his main role consisted of providing his name as a cover for one or more "true" authors and of acting as agent for publication or staging.

The entire question emerged from the dearth of information about Shakespeare's life, the scarcity of contemporary records about him, and the failure to discover a single manuscript written in his own hand. Moreover, the contents of these works suggest an author of wide learning and experience. The few known facts barely establish Shakespeare's literacy, let alone his genius. This gap between his supposed literary achievements and his humble origins is too incredible for anti-Stratfordians to accept.

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