The world of Shakespeare-lovers will come to a halt if they are told that their beloved writer was actually a con artist who never wrote a play. Or that he never existed.
But there is a big lobby that believes even today that the ‘Bard of Avon’ never wrote those great works of literature, and that it was actually the work of some other contemporary of the playwright.
The plays written by Shakespeare were so brilliant it was hard for detractors to believe that it was the work of a single genius mind. Definite doubts were raised in 1848 when Joseph C Hart wrote a book, arguing that Shakespeare’s works was the fruit of various authors.
In 1857, American writer Delia Salter Bacon published an article, ‘The Philosophy of the Plays of Shakespeare Unfolded’, in which she argued that Lord Francis Bacon was one of the writer who penned down Shakespeare’s plays.
With Delia’s book started the whole debate about the identity of Shakespeare, and more names cropped of probable writers cropped up. Among them, the Earl of Essex, Christopher Marlowe, the Earl of Derby, the Earl of Rutland, the Earl of Oxford, Francis Bacon, Sir Walter Raleigh, John Donne and even Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen herself!
There is actually no document or proof from the Elizabethan period, during which Shakespeare wrote, that his works belonged to somebody else. William Shakespeare existed for real, and alongside his acting career, he also wrote poems and plays attributed to him. Also, unlike some people believe, Shakespeare was no pen name.
Critics find it impossible to believe that a glover’s son from Stratford wrote those literary masterpieces. Most doubters would accept that William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, acted in plays in London and died in 1616. Supporters of Shakespeare, also known as Stratfordians (after the birth place of the writer), believe that this William Shakespeare from Avon is the same who also wrote those beautiful sonnets, poems and plays. Anti-Stratfordians contest there is not enough proof.
Stratfordians point out that Shakespeare’s name is printed on the title pages of several plays published during his lifetime. Nay-sayers contest that is not enough proof, for the only surviving examples of his handwriting are six signatures spelled six different ways.
Some even go the length of saying that since Shakespeare hailed from a small town, it was impossible to detail those exotic places in his plays so well. May be they have never heard of an imaginative mind. Also, most of Shakespeare’s plays were adapted from older works, and the references were already there.
The most popular name that crops up as the ‘original’ writer of the Shakespeare’s plays is his contemporary playwright Christopher Marlowe. Legend has it that Marlowe faked his death in a drunken brawl on May 30 1593 to avoid going to prison for being an atheist. He assumed the name of Shakespeare to protect his identity, and yet involve in his profession.
We believe from the deepest of our hearts that our beloved playwright Shakespeare was the one who gave us the literary masterpieces. And for those creating a ruckus about his identity, it’s like the writer has said, ‘Much ado about nothing’.