“U” is for “Unbelievable”
If you’re a student of history, you probably know about the Seven Years War – known to us Yankees as the French and Indian War.
And maybe you’ve heard of the Hundred Years War.
Well, today I’d like you to consider a different war, one that has gone on for at least two hundred years.
It’s the war between those who believe that William Shakespeare wrote the Shakespeare plays…
And those who say nope, it was somebody else.
It has even been claimed that it was Elizabeth the One who was the real playwright. After all, she didn’t have much else to do so she wrote thirty-eight plays. :-)
I’ve always found this an interesting subject because the anti-Shakespeare types present such a seemingly powerful case, yet the majority of the best-qualified scholars are convinced that it was indeed our boy Will who was the real playwright.
First off, let’s define our terms. People who believe that the playwright was Shakespeare are known as “Stratfordians,” because Will S. was born and raised in Stratford; those opposed to this belief are “Anti-Stratfordians.”
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s examine, first, the anti-Stratfordian argument: William Shakespeare could not have written the Shakespeare plays. Period.
Why not? Because Will was a humble bumpkin from a humble country town whose original humble position on the Elizabethan social totem pole was very close to the bottom.
This low-born country hick could not possibly have known how kings and dukes, not to mention earls, thought, spoke and acted. And the plays in question are of course chock-full of such eminent personages.
In addition, the real playwright knew Latin as well as some Greek, and had a working knowledge of French and Italian. Some kid from Stratford, whose father made gloves for a living, could know all this?
In searching about for the real writer of the plays, the “anti” types came up with a winner: Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford.
Eddie de Vere was the perfect candidate; he had it all. Born and raised an aristocrat, he knew exactly how the royals, not to mention the nobles, talked and acted. And he was a writer. So the theory is that he wrote the plays but it would have been an embarrassment for someone in his position to acknowledge this, so it was given out that it was a fairly unimportant actor, guy name of Will Shakespeare, who was the author.
As you can see, the antis base most of their argument on class. Will was too low-class; de Vere was very high-class.
But when you examine this topic carefully, some interesting facts emerge. Eddie de Vere died in 1604, which is before about a third of the Shakespeare plays had even been written.
Shakespeare was indeed an actor, probably a good one. An actor then could act royalty, or any other high-born type, better than could a king himself. That’s true today too, of course; the greatest actors – Olivier, Gielgud, Branagh; the list goes on – were not born aristocrats, but any of them could “do” kings better than any of the actual sovereigns.
Will S.went to a school in Stratford that was one of the best schools of its type in the country. He got a remarkable education. The classes were conducted in Latin and the kids studied the great playwrights of ancient Rome and Greece. In addition, Shakespeare was perfectly capable of further educating himself in many different fields – the guy was a genius, after all.
Surely the members of Shakespeare’s theatrical company, over a period of some twenty years, would have known if their colleague Will had not been the real writer of the thirty-eight plays, but there was never one word, not one hint – ever – from anyone of that entire theatrical world as to such a possibility.
My belief, as a card-carrying Stratfordian, is that Our Will wrote the plays. I base this on a room-full of convincing facts, including a most important point: in spite of the large number of claims the antis advance, they offer nothing – not one single shred of solid, written evidence – to support their arguments. Their theories are, as the title of this post suggests, unbelievable.
1 year ago