Mark Twain said Shakespeare was not written by Shakespeare but by someone else of the same name. Another humourist believes that “Bacon supplied the plots, Oxford the poetry and Shakespeare the jokes!”
In Shakespeare’s canon, in his Sonnets, in his two narrative poems, say sensitive critics, it is possible to hear many voices and detect many minds. These ‘contributions’ encompass many levels of knowledge – from the lower and base to the higher and finest, the human, the universal, the divine.
That may be just fanciful: the mechanics of mind mean we often hear what we want to hear, and one man’s ego’s delusions are another’s arguments against. Quite a few areas of his plays contain uneven writing, poor writing, hurried writing – read into all that what you may, but undoubtedly, the talent and genius that produced 36 plays in 25 or so years surely had its off-days.
He was writing, maybe collaborating for the stage, for his acting troupe, and not for posterity: it must have been a pressure-cauldron what with researching and writing, memorising, acting and ‘directing’ , meeting deadlines, and of course never forgetting his interests in ‘business’ as he steadily gathered wealth.
So many different names have been claimed serious contenders as Author of Shakespeare’s Works… and one critical giant in today’s literary world of Shakespeareana has confessed, just a year or two ago, that after decades of study and writing and teaching, still “I find the enigma insoluble”.
Let’s explore just a few names of those whom many see as “the real Shakespeare” and determine why the Mystery seems as dense as ever.
(Click on the name for more detail.)
Born into aristocracy and who eventually achieved office under Elizabeth and high office under James 1
Edward de Vere
17th Earl of Oxford, another of high aristocratic line, who was well educated, poet and playmaker
Shakespeare’s contemporary playwright, equally revered but who died/did not die? too early
6th Earl of Derby, was well educated and well travelled and had knowledge of literature and theatre
5th Earl of Rutland, well educated and well travelled, was young for Shakespeare? but knew Denmark well
Mary Sidney Herbert
Countess of Pembroke, poetess with equal talent as patroness of many leading poets and writers (And, as an example of the “other 40” as claimants, there has been, in recent years, a persuasive argument made for Sir Edward Dyer as the hidden Shakespeare. The flaw, again, as with de Vere, is that he died early, in 1607).
(And, as an example of the “other 40” as claimants, there has been, in recent years, a persuasive argument made for Sir Edward Dyer as the hidden Shakespeare. The flaw, again, as with de Vere, is that he died early, in 1607).