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Oxford Authorship Argument

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The Oxford arguments: Why Shakespeare could not have authored his works.

The most common reasons Oxfordian's present for Shakespeare not authoring his works are as follows:

The Spelling Argument.

William Shakespeare the great playwright and William Shaksper were different men. William Shaksper lived in Stratford. This suggests that William Shakespeare could not have been the man who came from Stratford. The evidence for this is weak however and the two so-called personalities may arise from the generally poor literacy of the time.

The Education argument.

This is based on the idea that only an aristocrat could have captured the essence of Royal courts, Italy and law (Merchant of Venice). However literature's famous Bard was well equipped to know about foreign lands; one of his best friends, Richard Field, had a large book collection. This was because Richard Field grew up on the very same street (Henley Street in Stratford) and later went on to become a bookseller and publisher in London.

William is thus thought to have had ready access to many of the books required to write knowledgeably in his plays. Furthermore, Stratfordian's argue that his depiction of courts and aristocratic life were so inaccurate even by Elizabethan standards that they could not possibly be written by an aristocrat such as the often proposed Edward De Vere, the seventeenth Earl of Oxford.

The Illiteracy Argument.

This argument suggests that the Bard's own literacy may not have been high. This is backed up the very circumstantial evidence that William's father could neither read or write. His own daughter Judith, could only manage writing an X on her marriage certificate. Further proof comes from anecdotal evidence that the few signature's of the Bard that remain today only show a poor scrawl, hardly representative of a major literary figure. Furthermore Oxfordian's correctly point out that there are no manuscripts of Shakespeare's plays in his own writing whereas many of his counterparts left behind a legacy of notes and scrawls related to their work.

Supporting this argument is the curious omission of any manuscripts in his will; surely he would have bequeathed them to someone.

Unfortunately for Oxfordian's, there appears to be fairly strong evidence that three pages of manuscript of the play Sir Thomas More were written in his handwriting. However like arguments on either camp, interpretation becomes subjective and inconclusive affair.

Finally the only examples of Shakespeare's handwriting are six nearly illegible signatures, none of which is the same as the other, dated from 1612 only. Tellingly, they all have a first syllable spelt "Shak" and not "Shake" as written in the first Folio. However this could simply be the result of different ways to spell the same name, not necessarily proof of different personalities. Oxfordian's also keenly point out that none of these signatures were in any way related to Theatre or poetry. Then again it is unlikely how a signature would be required in this sphere either. The first signature is on a deposition he gave regarding a person he knew in London around 1600, two of the signatures were on property documents and three of the signatures are on his will.

Shakespeare’s reputation argument.

This contends that the Bard could not have written 37 plays and 154 sonnets for a very good reason; he was a businessman, not a poet and playwright. Evidence for this is the fact that he was known in Stratford as a businessman not a playwright. A monument erected in his name similarly depicted him holding a sack not a pen which would not indicate his career as a playwright. However the Bard performed his plays in London not Stratford and given that few people truly traveled beyond their villages in this time, the playwright's reputation as a businessman might represent his greater visibility as a landowner to those who knew him in Stratford. This argument like those above are circumstantial at best.

No personal records argument.

Oxfordians argue that there is no definitive record of Shakespeare of Stratford (1564-1616) being directly credited with writing the plays and sonnets credited to him. Oxfordian's point out that only seven years after the Bard's death was he directly credited as the author of 37 plays and 154 sonnets in the 1623 First Folio.

Thus whilst there is ample proof the famous playwright existed in Stratford, Oxfordian's maintain that there is only proof that the famous Bard co-owned The Globe and was part of The Lord Chamberlain’s men (In The First Folio). No indication is given to suggest how often he acted with this troupe nor that he wrote the plays credited to him (aside from the verse in the First Folio crediting them to him). Tradition suggests he played two minor roles including King Hamlet’s ghost but these are only tradition, not fact.

The eulogies argument whereby Shakespeare received none when he died in 1616, suggests he could not have been the influential playwright Stratfordian's claim him to be. The first such memorial dedication occurred in the First Folio of 1616.

The past tense argument: Barksted’s poem Mirrha.

A major argument of Oxfordians is William Barksted's 1607 poem Mirrha, which referred to the Bard in the past tense. This suggests William must have died before this date. Stratfordian's maintain however that this analysis ignores Barksted’s common use of the past tense in his poetry.

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