“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”
The lines once written by the genius of William Shakespeare—or Shaxpere, as some documents claim—have come back to bite him centuries after his death, as there have been speculations about the real mastermind behind this name.
Born in Stratford-On-Avon, William Shakespeare wasn’t exactly born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and had to quit school at an early age to support his family. By 18 he was married to the gorgeous Anne Hathaway, and at the age of 21 he was the father of 3 children.
As Shakespeare took up writing, it didn’t take the literary prodigy much time to rise up to success. By the 1590s, his success soared as he became a shareholder of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men who performed before Queen Elizabeth on several occasions, and alongside that, he wrote a multitude of sonnets and plays that would go on to influence the literary world for many generations to come.
So why then, should even a speck of doubt regarding the authenticity of Shakespeare’s works arise? Was he a talented playwright or just a pseudonym behind several writers? Did a man named Shakespeare ever really exist?
WHY THESE QUESTIONS?
The reason behind the doubts about Shakespeare's authenticity are documents, that are either inconsistent or completely absent. The only official records regarding Shakespeare are his will, and several business documents. Neither of these hint towards Shakespeare’s career as a playwright or a poet, both of which he is highly renowned for.
Furthermore, the humble and, arguably, uneducated background of Shakespeare instigated many enemies who couldn’t wrap their heads around the idea that such a boy could match, and even surpass, their writing expertise. And this, eventually, gave birth to Anti-Stratfordians, who believed that there was either a group of writers who collaborated to generate these works, or the man behind it was a literary scholar who for some reason didn’t wish to reveal his identity.
The Anti-Stratfordian society is still up and running today, and had even managed to get the likes of Mark Twain, Sigmund Freud, Hellen Keller and Charlie Chaplin to believe in them.
WHO, IF NOT SHAKESPEARE?
The most popular, if not widely accepted, theory claims that the one man behind Shakespeare was Sir Francis Bacon, an aristocrat who feared soiling his reputation by being a low-society author. And so William Shakespeare was to be his pseudonym through which he would be praised and critiqued, all of which without ever revealing his true identity.
What makes this theory popular is the plot hole that it fills: The precision with which Shakespeare describes aristocratic lifestyle couldn’t have been achieved if he was a mere boy from Stratford. And to top it off, the similarities in both the men’s works have intensified most of our suspicions.
However, another theory deems Christopher Marlowe, a prominent writer during Shakespeare’s era, as the one deserving our true admiration. It is said that Marlowe cleverly faked his death just one year before Shakespeare’s plays took off, and embarked on his journey as the greatest writer of all times—in secrecy.
As intriguing as it sounds, scholars refuse to accept this theory owing to the lack of evidence and motive behind Marlowe’s moves.
Eventually, most academics have settled on the theory that Shakespeare might have co-authored a vast majority of his books along with renowned authors such as Thomas Nashe. This isn’t hard to buy as writer collaborations were quite popular during his time, and presumably 6 of his plays have been co-authored.
The concoction of several writing styles blended together, and then further being revised several times can perhaps explain why many of the cover pages that bear Shakespeare’s name don’t complement the writing style of his works—leading to a plethora of bizarre conspiracy theories.
And the list doesn’t just end there—theorists continue to persist that it was either Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, the Queen Elizabeth herself, or 85 other identities that could have been behind the literary genius that we call Shakespeare today.
Who, in your opinion, was the man behind William Shakespeare? Was it Marlowe who faked his death to hide his literary brilliance, or was it Francis Bacon who had to disguise himself to express his truest abilities?
Comment below your opinions and beliefs regarding these crazy conspiracy theories!