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
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
Shakespeares 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
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 Chamberlains 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 Hamlets
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: Barksteds 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 Barksteds common use of
the past tense in his poetry.