Tuesday, December 7, 2010


“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.


OJ Gonzalez-Cazares said...

I proclaim myself a Stratfordian after reading your post... you convinced me! and the key element? "the guy was a genius", period. Only a genius can be immortal and remain the center of controversy after all these centuries. This was the perfect read for an early Tuesday morning!

Berowne said...

OJ: "This was the perfect read for an early Tuesday morning!"
A fine comment from my friend OJ -- thanks.

Barbara said...

I'm with the Stratfordians too.

photowannabe said...

I believe you have given me a title too. Stratfordian...love that! It seems the anti people don't have much of an argument.
Great post as always.

EG CameraGirl said...

For me your best point is that no actors during Shakespeare's time appeared to believe anyone else wrote the plays.

Roger Owen Green said...

I tend to put the onus on the anti group, and they haven't convinced me. At least not yet!

ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Rinkly Rimes said...

Unfortunate! The fact that we'll never know for certain!

Francisca said...

I had heard of this battle before, long ago, but paid it little mind, mostly because it's the written word that is genius, wherever it came from. You've made a convincing case, however, and I will continue to revere the Bard as one of the true greats with the pen.

Berowne said...

photowannabe: "Great post as always."
Great comment as always; thanks.

Berowne said...

EG Wow: "For me your best point is that no actors during Shakespeare's time appeared to believe anyone else wrote the plays."
Yes, that's a powerful point for me too. Thanks.

Leslie: said...

Unique take for our U week! I must admit ignorance of any anti-Stratfordians, but will now call myself a Stratfordian!

Joy said...

I suppose the arguments keep the academics in business. But "the plays the thing" as the ghost of Shakespeare might say.

Tumblewords: said...

I'm guessing that there is a gene found in those who are Auntie Anti. Birth certificates, written words, trickle up and more. Is there nothing new under the sun. :) Great post!

Hildred said...

Oh, I have heard both sides of this argument, as I have a whole family of cousins who are passionate about Edward de Vere.

Elizabeth said...

Oh dear, sweet Berowne, your posts do frustrate me so!
It's impossible to give a satisfactory answer to a question like this in one eensy, weensy comment box and I'm not even going to attempt to. Questions like this require many words,much cogitation and conversation and an ability to see the passion for the subject in the eyes and mannerisms of both the asker and answerer; they are best dealt with over an exquisite meal and two glasses of Domaine Romanée-Conti, not the page of a blog. x

Berowne said...

Elizabeth: "...they are best dealt with over an exquisite meal and two glasses of Domaine Romanée-Conti."
Who's buying? :-)

Berowne said...

Hildred and Charles: "I have a whole family of cousins who are passionate about Edward de Vere."
We shall pray for them. :-)

Unknown said...

Hurrah for Shakespeare! (Whoever he was. I think he probably was Will from Stratford on Avon.)

I have actually a little tiny bit of Shakespeare on my U-post, but mostly as an illustration for another U-word.
Best wishes,
Anna's abcWdRd7-U

Anna's abcWdRd7-T

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