The name William Shakespeare is synonymous with greatness and everlasting literary legacy – who in this world is not familiar with the tragic love story of Romeo and Juliet, the enigmatic character of Hamlet, the madness of King Lear, and dozens of other memorable figures who have entered the canon of playwriting. His works have transcended their original stories and have become the subject of college theses, academy-award winning films, seemingly endless volumes of comparative criticism, and so much more. The collective feeling of Shakespeare we all have is one of reverence, respect, and love for his timeless stories.
Yet beneath the surface of the accolades, praise, and worldwide recognition is a great question that will always loom over his legacy – was Shakespeare actually a hoax? What we do know is that many, many critics actually believe he is the greatest hoax in all of Western literature. True, the name Shakespeare and those works credited to him will always be forever linked, and there will never be a definitive way to attribute his plays to another author.
Still, it is worth examining the legitimacy of his authorship – there are many, many convincing reasons to believe that Shakespeare was indeed a hoax, that either a single person or many people actually wrote all of the plays normally attributed to William Shakespeare.
We examine the 10 most convincing reasons below:
10. Convincing Proof of His Illiteracy Exists
Shakespeare grew up in a household in the town known as Stratford-Upon-Avon, a household where no one really knew how to write. The family would sign official papers with a mark and not with a name, which could be an indication of illiteracy. Even further, in this critical and definitive text devoted to the subject of Shakespearean authorship, author Frank Davis is shown as proving William Shakespeare was indeed illiterate, showing that every single recorded and known signature of Shakespeare was completely jumbled up scribble that bared no resemblance to the spelling of his actual name. Do you think the greatest, most clever author of all time could have difficulty spelling his own name? Doesn’t seem plausible to me.
9. No Contemporaneous Authors Acknowledged His Death
In his lifetime, it is true that some other actors and writers acknowledged the author known as “Shakespeare.” However, according to Cornell Emeritus Professor Donald Hayes in his essay Social Network Theory and Shakespeare, it appears that no one wrote about Shakespeare at the time of his death, minus some privately circulated literary tributes that have since been lost. Curious, since he was a well-performed playwright back in his day. Of course, he had not yet achieved the immortal fame that comes along with the word “Shakespeare” today, but you would think that someone would have written about Shakespeare’s death. But instead, it took seven years for someone to write a published poem about Shakespeare’s death. How curious!
8. He Likely Had Little to No Education
There is no documentary proof at all of Shakespeare’s education that currently exists, or if he had one, he dropped out around the age of 13. Although a basic grammar school existed within a mile of Shakespeare’s home, there is not even a single shred of remotely conclusive proof that Shakespeare himself ever attended the school. Also, there is not one pupil who claimed to have ever recorded the fact that they were classmates with William Shakespeare. What if you went to school with a famous playwright, or someone of significant cultural worth – wouldn’t you tell others that you went to school with said person?
7. Shakespeare Could Not Have Actually Known Such Intimate Details About Italy
Many of William Shakespeare’s plays are set in Italy, but from evidence we have of Shakespeare, there is no way he could have known as much as he did about Italy. Perhaps he could have traveled to Italy, but he is known for spending almost all of his time in England. Remember, traveling to another country was a much more cumbersome activity in the 17th century than it is today.
There is a book that has proved that nearly every single Italian reference in the works of Shakespeare, including things as obscure as the inland waterway systems of Northern Italy described in Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen In Verona, is completely accurate to the T. How can a man who spent most of his time in England who was possibly illiterate be able to describe, in virtuosic detail, the minutia of Italian geography and culture?
Based completely on the first page, I have to say this is all pretty poor research. First, we have several copies of Shakespeare’s signature. The reason they don’t all read the same is because spelling was not standardized until the 1800s. In addition, his household would have been educated because every middle-class subject in Stratford-Upon-Avon would have attended grammar school. Shakespeare was not as famous during his day, so there is no reason to think that one of his middle class peers would have recorded going to school with him, even if we were to have all of his fellow (again middle class and thus irrelevant) students’ works.
As to Shakespeare’s knowledge of Italy, he was missing for several years. Perhaps he traveled there? Alternatively, perhaps he spoke to people from Italy or simply read about it.
A number of writers wrote about Shakespeare during his life. Did they all conspire to do this?
I can’t even go on.