I can't believe I was unaware that 2016 was the 400th anniversary of the great bard himself until a few days ago. I am an avid fan of his work. The depths of human nature he explores, the vast knowledge he employs in his writing, the timeless stories he drew from genius—how could he not be celebrated? I aspire to be half the writer he ever was.
The Conspiracy Theory of Literary Minds
What I didn't know was that there are many who doubt that the William Shakespeare of Stratford ever wrote what we know to be Shakespeare's works. They call themselves Anti-Stratfordians. I read a few articles to discover what evidence they have in even doubting his authorship. Even more surprising was that Mark Twain, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and other highly influential literary greats of the 18th century nurtured this movement of doubt when the whole world at the time began praising the awesome genius of the man.
Perhaps there is something to the doubts raised, perhaps not. This whole debate is very new to me. Presently, I stand with the classic scholars, believing that Shakespeare's authorship stands true. Whether my mind will change with new revelations...we shall see.
Place of Birth and Residence
The first case against his authorship is that William Shakespeare was born in Stratford, a culturally dry town where the marketing and slaughter of sheep were principal and all other accoutrements of the sheep trade were practised unlike his literary settings, rich and alive with cultural vibrancy.
I think this argument has some merit; however, living in a small town...there could have been many secrets and colourful characters which could have provided ample inspiration to the man who, I believe, must have been blessed with an inherent genius. Living in a small town myself, I can attest to the fact that sometimes all is not what it seems.
And just because he lived in Stratford his entire life doesn't mean he could not have known of the outside world. Being immersed in the world of theatre, he could have come into contact with many travellers, telling him stories which he would use in his own. His observation skills and memory could have been very acute, indeed. Or he could have traveled himself, which brings us to...
His Travel Itinerary
The second case is that he supposedly never travelled. So how could he have such intimate knowledge of places in Italy and other countries?
As I said, he could have done his research very well. Or maybe he did travel and documentation hasn't been found. We're talking about 1580s to 1610s. Most mundane documentation hasn't survived from that period. So why should we suggest Shakespeare be an exception? Because of his legacy? The standards we have for today's travel documentation were certainly not the standards then.
The third case is that it seems his family was illiterate because the signatures of his parents seem to be more marks than signatures of writing hands. Also his two daughters displayed similar drawn marks rather than signatures. The six authenticated surviving signatures of Shakespeare seemed to be more of a scrawl than a signature.
It could be that William Shakespeare purposed to rise from the ignorance of the household he grew up in to make something of himself. Many a determined mind have self taught themselves. As for his own signature, I've seen many well educated people use a sort of scrawl (one that looks completely unintelligible to me) for a signature.
His Day to Day Life
The fourth case deals with what is mostly documented in his private life. He was very busy in the affairs of business concerning lending money, being a shareholder, and holding properties.
This case against his authorship to me holds no water at all. I know of individuals who have both a practical and artistic side to their person. Case in point, me. I didn't even know I had any writing talent at all until I reached my late teens. There was never a need to see that side of me since I did very well in the sciences and mathematics and was guiding my life in that direction.
His Obscure Death
The fifth case pleads no one wrote any eulogies, nor did there not seem to be much fanfare when he died. Also when Shakespeare died April 23, 1616, the will revealed the language to be extremely dull compared to his works. The only assets it defined were his properties, the money he wished to impart and his second best mattress. None of his unpublished works were mentioned.
This case has the strongest merit for me in that one of England's most celebrated writers at the time passed without a trumpet blowing a signal. This is a mystery to me. I also find it strange that his unpublished works were not mentioned. Perhaps he didn't feel the need to have them published or remembered. As for the boring language of the will (Shakespeare's works indicating the amount of words in his vocabulary were between 17,500 and 29, 000), wills are not meant to be flowery. So what if he didn't want to put extra effort in making it pretty?
Do You Agree?
These are some of the cases Anti-Stratfordians have against William Shakespeare's authorship. Which case do you believe is the strongest against Shakespeare's authorship and why? Are you an Anti-Stratfordian?
Here is an article which contains an excerpt from Mark Twain's book Is Shakespeare Dead? Very interesting to read Twain's opinion on the matter. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=92142217