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Do you think William Shakespeare was real?Of course "his" works were real, but there...

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smankins | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted February 2, 2009 at 3:40 PM via web

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Do you think William Shakespeare was real?

Of course "his" works were real, but there has been numerous debates over the ages on whether or not the works were produced by a ghost writer, or a collaboration between various playwrights living in London at the time.  It is often looked over that London was teeming with playwrights at this time, and because of this, it is a somewhat plausible idea.  Especially since very little is known about the actual man himself.  There are great gapes in his history that give credence to this theory. I am very interested on what people have to say on this subject.

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rmrose | (Level 1) Honors

Posted February 7, 2009 at 7:06 AM (Answer #2)

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Oh my, this opens quite a can of worms! This is a debate that has raged for centuries. Actually, in fact, quite a bit is known about Shakespeare (see, for example among many others: PBS/Michael Woods' In Search of Shakespeare, or read, S. Greenblatt's Will in the World, James Shapiro's 1599: A Year in the Life of Shakespeare).

I personally believe that none of the authorship alternatives have enough evidence to discredit Shakespeare as the author, which, I believe is their duty to provide.

As for the debate it is a hot one! SHAKSPER, the online Shakespeare community has forbidden this as a topic, since, the fury can be so animated! Mark Rylance, the former artistic director of The Globe, resigned from his position, because he was a doubter, and felt the pressure was too high. I could go on and on...

So where can you find resources? Try here, for a start http://www.bardweb.net/debates.html; but, if you simply google (or use the BRAND NEW search algorithm Leapfish), and look up "Shakespeare Authorship." It will make your head spin!!

I love examining his works and finding little tidbits of information on the type of man who wrote these, and, I believe that W.S. is the rightfully attributed author. I can provide specific examples, or, recommend further reading, if you wish.

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shakespearesleuth | College Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 12, 2009 at 1:28 AM (Answer #3)

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Do you think William Shakespeare was real?

Of course "his" works were real, but there has been numerous debates over the ages on whether or not the works were produced by a ghost writer, or a collaboration between various playwrights living in London at the time.  It is often looked over that London was teeming with playwrights at this time, and because of this, it is a somewhat plausible idea.  Especially since very little is known about the actual man himself.  There are great gapes in his history that give credence to this theory. I am very interested on what people have to say on this subject.

  Fascinating research is being done now. 

Concordia University in Portland Oregon has a degree program in Authorship Studies.  Also a ShakespeareAtCU listserv for folks to discuss any and all queries related to the Shakespeare Authorship Question; it's also a site where you can, as well, inquire into details about the forthcoming
www.authorshipstudies.org).

Membership in the listserv can be secured by going to
http://list.cu-portland.edu/mailman/listinfo/shakespeareatcu

Let me put a plug in for what I consider the single most
http://www.shakespeareadventure.com/. This should be
DAILY READING for anyone involved in the SAQ...

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shakespearesleuth | College Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 12, 2009 at 1:40 AM (Answer #4)

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The 2008 edition of The Secret Love Story in Shakespeare's Sonnets (2nd edition) has earned a finalist award in the category of "Best New Nonfiction Books" in a national contest sponsored by USA BookNews of Los Angeles, California. this ground-breaking book offers new interpretations of the Sonnets that become amazingly clear when they are assumed to be written by Edward De Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. He loved Queen Elizabeth all his life, but they could never marry for political reasons. He used the pen name "William Shakespeare" to keep their relationship secret.  See customer reviews on Amazon.com. 

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted February 12, 2009 at 12:39 PM (Answer #5)

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Yes, Shakespeare was a real person. No, it was not a pen name for Edward de Vere. Twenty years ago scholars were convinced that Francis Bacon was the "real" Shakespeare. Just as many scholars claim that it was Christopher Marlowe. A lot has been written about the men Elizabeth I kept around her, and I've never heard it said that de Vere was one of her great loves.

Consider this: 500 years from now scholars will debate whether William Faulkner was a real person. After all, how could one man have written so many books and short stories that are of such high quality? Was it just the pen name of Maxwell Perkins? Or what about Thomas Pynchon? He's still living, and some scholars are debating whether he is a real person.

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rmrose | (Level 1) Honors

Posted February 13, 2009 at 12:11 PM (Answer #6)

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No less than the (former) artistic director of the Globe Theatre (that's right THE Globe Theatre), and RSC great, Mark Rylance doubts that the plays were written by William Shakespeare! http://www.sirbacon.org/markrylance.htm  The renowned Shakespeare actor and RSC member, Derek Jacobi, also doubts that they were written by Shakespeare. They are heavyweights with a great breadth of knowledge, experience and facility with the works of Shakespeare. There opinions do not come lightly. (I worked with Mark Rylance, too, and he is a wonderful man with a lovely personality. He is in no way a "contrarian," and certainly not a bully in his opinion!!).

There are many other amazing scholars, actors, directors, etc., who do believe that Shakespeare wrote the plays.

I find the Oxford (de Vere) theory -- as well as most of the others -- still do not put nearly enough reasonable doubt to disprove Shakespeare as the author. Sure they posit nice theories, and weave delicious stories. But, none of them prove -- to me, at least -- that the historical man whose name was Shakespeare did not, nor could not, have written those plays.

Couple this opinion (and again I make it clear, it is just that -- better persons than I feel quite differently) with what I consider to be many holes in the "stories" of the other candidates, leads me to believe that Shakespeare is the author.

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sfwriter | College Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted February 14, 2009 at 4:27 PM (Answer #7)

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John Michell has written a fascinating (and very non-hysterical and even-handed) survey of this topic called Who Wrote Shakespeare?  While he is a doubter, he is skeptical of every claim, and ultimately gives the most (but limited) creedence to the group theory.  This theory claims that a literary circle of brilliant writers (who were all aristocrats or part of the government and therefore unwilling to allow their names to be attached to a popular play) who were trying to influence culture and politics through the media of the day (which were mainly plays and published poetry).  Michell makes a lot of sense and avoids most of the pitfalls of the various partisans (especially the Baconians, in my opinion) in that he very carefully and judiciously weighs all the evidence, dismissing none of it out of hand when it doesn't fit into a particular theory.  His character sketch of what is known about the actual man Shakespeare (and he makes a very clear distinction between what is hearsay or tradition and what there is actual documented evidence for) and what the plays of Shakespeare are about are, to my mind, particularly convincing.  The argument about the fact that so little of what we know of the Stratford man matches with the incredible breadth of knowledge needed to write all the plays is an inspired passage in Michell's book, and is the first argument that has ever swayed me from my long-held Stratfordian stance.  I am now a cautious doubter because of this book, although I am by no mean convinced by anybody at this point.  I agree with rmrose that, at this point, there needs to be a lot more evidence from any of the non-Stratfordians before I am convinced, but I'd love to see more scholarship on this.  I know that that's actually kind of crazy, because, I think, no other author has more scholars working on him at any one time than Shakespeare, but for a long time a lot of evidence about Shakespeare/Shakespere was ignored or misinterpreted.  It's hard, at first, to recognize some of the ridiculously partisan scholars (many of whom are eminent in their fields, which makes it even harder) from the more even-handed researchers, but I think Michell's book is a good place to start.

Or, we could all just quit fretting about it and enjoy the plays.  After this long it doesn't really matter who wrote the plays (at least that's what I think!), even though the question is endlessly fascinating. 

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frizzyperm | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted February 16, 2009 at 3:21 AM (Answer #8)

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There are alien 'Greys' in Area 57. The United Nations secretly control The US Government. The Apollo Moon landing was faked in a film studio. Elvis isn't dead.

... Shakespeare didn't write his own plays?

There are definitely some small sections of Shakespeare's plays that weren't Shakespeare (Macbeth is the famous one, with a couple of short scenes clearly not by WS) They were often written in a hurry and they were products that had to be delivered on time. Maybe WS was sick that day and they needed to get on with rehersals so someone banged out a scene. 

But the odd change here and there by a theatre colleague is a million miles from some strange conspiracy of silence whereby a little of gang of unbeatably brilliant writers all happily worked together in secret, producing a style that is seamless and appears to be the work of one writer and is the best work ever written in English.

There is a philosophical 'tool' called Occam's Razor. Basically, it states that the most simple explanation for group of facts is almost always the right one.

Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare. That is the only reasonable conclusion based on the evidence and experience.

I could make a theory that all WS's plays were written by his dog and dictated to WS by telepathic mind control while his master was asleep. Prove me wrong. Not very like though, is it?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam%27s_razor

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakespeare_authorship_question

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enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted February 16, 2009 at 1:05 PM (Answer #9)

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First things first.  If you're dealing with the plays, nothing should be used except the First Folio (online at http://etext.virginia.edu/shakespeare/folio/).  After comparing it with the standard Riverside college text, I tossed the Riverside, because it's just plain wrong.

Part of where the controversy lies is due to the ways plays were produced and performed in the day, not like we would expect.  No one got the whole play in the form of a script; that was kept under lock and key, because there was no copyright law.  Actors got only cuescripts, which contained only their lines, and a few lines of the preceding actor so they knew when to begin.  The actors had these on stage and could read from them.  This was because the troupe may perform Romeo and Juliet in the morning, and then the same troupe perform King Lear at night.  A given actor did not necessarily have a given role; in fact, it was most likely a given role would be played by multiple actors over multiple performances.  Each of them had their own cuescript, and these were altered as needed, by the playwright. the actor, or both. When the plays were finally complied after Shakespeare's death in 1616, many of his former actors contributed their lines, as remembered from their performances, as known from their cuescripts.  Some of these cuescripts remain, but conflict with each other; others are clearly emendations or deleted scenes.  Some versions of Hamlet are far too long.  Why?  Because the publishers (in more modern times) just threw in all the actor's input, then edited as needed-- these lines were meant to be cut! So a given scene became melded with a newer revision and the older deleted parts. The printers didn't help either, introducing errors at each successive printing and most egregiously altering punctuation at whim. These in the day were actually stage directions for the actors!! With so many dirty fingers in the pie over time, it's become convenient to reduce the dissonance to "The plays weren't written by Shakespeare!"  Study the First Folio.  That's the cleanest we've got, and the closest to what the Bard intended.

 

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krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted July 6, 2009 at 12:44 AM (Answer #10)

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The myth about Shakespeare not being a real person, and all the works attributed to Shakespeare have been written by someone else is so popular because it makes much more interesting topic of conversation than just discussing the life story of Shakespeare. However, the evidence to support that Shakespeare was a real person who actually wrote all the works attributed to him are much stronger than evidence available to support any other alternate theory.

Some people may wonder why complete and 100 percent verifiable information on complete life and activities of Shakespeare are not available. The reason for this is that Shakespeare was a commoner who lived 400 years ago. The information available about Shakespeare is much more than any of his contemporaries with comparable social status.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 15, 2010 at 2:18 PM (Answer #11)

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Yes, I agree completely and unreservedly with other editors in stating that the evidence completely supports the true existence of a man called William Shakespeare who was born and lived in the 16th Century of England. Of course, as others have highlighted, much debate remains about the authorship of the plays and poems that he is purported to have written... but I do not necessarily think we will ever know conclusively about the authorship of his works. Doubt will always remain.

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