Was Shakespeare actually the author of his plays?Did Shakespeare himself write his plays or someone else wrote them for him? This is a question regarding the actual authorship of Shakespeare plays...

Was Shakespeare actually the author of his plays?

Did Shakespeare himself write his plays or someone else wrote them for him?

This is a question regarding the actual authorship of Shakespeare plays which baffled the critics over the years. Purists think Shakespeare indeed was the author of all those 37 plays. Only he could produce such masterpieces as Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, Julieus Ceasar, etc. Modern day critics and thinkers, however, name Christopher Marlowe, another outstanding dramatist from the same era, as the author of those plays which captivated millions and millions of readers for about five hundred years. It is therefore difficult to arrive at a perfect answer even today owing to the lack of hard and believable evidence. The debate, therefore, is always on ... and will continue further until somebody produces proper evidence or either of the two great dramatists is reborn to announce who actullay penned them.

Asked on by authorpd

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wordprof's profile pic

wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

With "Anonymous" out, the question will rise again.  I have three contributions:

1. William Bucke's "Cosmic Consciousness" has a very convincing argument for Francis Bacon's authorship.  It is not often cited in scholarship.

2,  My professor, a very prominent Shakespeare scholar (Fredson Bowers), pointed out that attaching a historical figure or profile to the name is irrelevant, because Shakespeare was not dramatizing his own life in disguise (the roman-a-clef was not a popular genre in the 16th century);

3.  William Saroyan once said "Of course Edward DeVere wrote Shakespeare; everybody wrote Shakespeare, including, luckily, Shakespeare."



litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on


I think we will never know. Since we don't know, I've always thought it was best just to explore and enjoy the plays. You can think of Shakespeare as a genre rather than an author if you like. There are definitely commonalities.

kplhardison's profile pic

Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

I love this question. I for one have consistently doubted the probability of the man William Shakespeare being the author of the Shakespearean plays. Genius may be astounding and produce amazing work but these plays are full of background particulars that seem unavailable to the inspiration of genius and only the product of keen observation through years of familiarity (please do not write annoyance-messages). Granted further that education was a far more precisely detailed enterprise than now--partly because our field of knowledge is so vast that focus on precise detailed study would overwhelm--but still, there seems to that in the plays which requires experience and background knowledge not available to ordinarily educated men. Granted again, Chaucer had an education at least in part comparable to William Shakespeare's, and nobody questions Chaucer, but Chaucer did have positions at court and as a court emissary, which William Shakespeare did not have. One theory is that there may have been two authors, one of whom wrote the ribald and bawdy parts; I'm willing to believe this of William Shakespeare (again, pretty please don't write annoyance-messages).

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wannam | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

I doubt anyone will ever be able to prove one way or another who was the actual author.  I cannot help but believe that Shakespeare must have had significant help in writing his plays.  He didn't have much of an education.  Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean he isn't the author.  The lack of education may also support those who say he did write the works himself.  Many words were invented in his plays.  Perhaps, one could argue that he lacked the appropriate words so he created his own.  The plays are unique enough in their style and composition that I think one person must have written them all.  I find it hard to believe that anyone would have allowed Shakespeare to take credit for their entire body of work.

lmetcalf's profile pic

lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

We will never know with certitude, but I think one of the most interesting aspects of this controversy lies in the study of the language usage and syntax of the 37 plays.  What scholars find is that there are "new" words in these plays that are only contemporary to Shakespeare's time period in the plays attributed to Shakespeare.  They also note syntactical structures that never appear in the plays written by other of his contemporaries. I think that speaks volumes to at least part of the controversy -- that they were all written by the same, one man.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I think that the talk about Shakespeare not being the true author of his plays is simple elitist fantasy.  I think it got its start with people who did not think that a low-born and poorly educated person could possibly have been a genius.  Without that preconception, there is no way that people would take the "evidence" against Shakespeare seriously.

bullgatortail's profile pic

bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I doubt that we will ever discover any concrete evidence that Shakespeare did not write the magnificent plays that bear his name. He no doubt collaborated on several works--such as The Two Noble Kinsmen and Titus Andronicus--but until irrefutable proof is discovered that it was Kit Marlowe or Francis Bacon or someone else who wrote them, Shakespeare deserves the accolades for his unmatched masterpieces. 

bhawanipur's profile pic

bhawanipur | College Teacher | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted on

Indeed such question comes to our mind becuse we were not born and enjoyed the plays called to be written by shakespeare and stage in the theatre of that time. However, the themes and plots are still contemporary. I think the best reply to this question would be the poem 'Shakespeare' written by Arnold. Whether all those plays were written by him or not but yet they make us joyous and have become a matter of research for ever.

kychong7's profile pic

kychong7 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

I think we simply will never know. It is best if we just appreciate who he is, his plays and his legacy. He definitely comes across as a legendary person.

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salimj's profile pic

salimj | College Teacher | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted on

There is no evidence to prove that Shakespeare has not written these plays. As one of the members have told earlier in this discussion it is a mere case of fantasy. Why should we doubt him? Some of the plays may not be as interesting as some others. But you have understand one thing in his little span of time he has produced 37 plays and many more sonnets and long poems. So the reasonless comment about him is baseless.

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