Shakespeare authorship debate
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Shakespeare Authorship Argument

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The traditional (Stratford) view; Shakespeare did write 37 plays and 154 sonnets.

Most academics agree that William Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare. Evidence for this comes from Parish records confirming his birth in 1564, records of his life in London in the 1600s, his name as a part shareholder of the Globe, his marriage certificate, his application to change his family’s coat of arms, and his recorded death in 1616.

Evidence for the Bard having written his plays comes from the First Folio of 1623. This book compiled 36 of William's plays, recording and publishing them for the first time. Its co-author John Hemminges was also a shareholder of the Globe and belonged to the same acting company (The Lord Chamberlain’s Men later named The King’s men) as did Shakespeare and so would have been privy to the true author.

John Hemminges and Henry Condell even remark of their late playwright that "His mind and hand went together and what he thought, he uttered with that easiness that we have scarce received from him a blot in his papers." They also prove he wrote the plays contained within the Folio, since the Folio contains a verse dedicated to the playwright's memory. This can be specifically read within the Folio.

Proof that the famous Bard was also a poet is equally clear; his first poem Venus and Adonis was published in 1592.

More circumstantial evidence comes from the fact that the famous playwright performed for Queen Elizabeth at her court (The Merry Wives of Windsor in 1596 and A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream in 1603) and James I watched many performances by the Bard, commending The King’s Men personally for their performances of The Merchant Of Venice in 1605.

Besides performing many of his own plays, the Bard is recorded as being an actor in Ben Jonson’s play Sejanus in 1603.

Criticisms by other playwrights also suggest he authored his work. Why else would Robert Greene in his 1592 pamphlet "Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit", criticize the famous Bard as an "upstart crow" who borrowed ideas for his plays from other playwrights if the playwright did not write his own plays?

Ben Jonson, his rival and friend, also criticized his work in Timber: or, Discoveries of 1640. Francis Meres criticized the Bard's work as "mellifluous" and honey tongued in his 1598 Palladis Tamia. Similarly Samuel Pepys ruthlessly described the 1595 "A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream" as "the most insipid, ridiculous play that I ever saw in my life."

Even Voltaire himself stepped into the ring, by saying "Shakespeare is a drunken savage with some imagination whose plays please only in London and Canada," before adding that "Shakespeare is the Corneille of London, but everywhere else he is a great fool".

Could Voltaire, Robert Greene, Samuel Pepys, Francis Meres and Ben Jonson have all suffered from a massive case of mistaken identity in the close-knit theatre world to which they largely belonged?

Similarly, we know the Bard at least wrote some of his plays because one of his later works, The Noble Kinsmen (1613), was recorded in the Stationer’s Registry in 1634 as being the work of both Shakespeare and noted dramatist John Fletcher.

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