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William Shakespeare: Did he really exist?

Aktualisiert: 27. Feb. 2021

William Shakespeare, one of the most famous British authors, poets and drama actors of the 17th century, was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564.

The first description of his look was published in “First Folio” in 1623. But we still do not know his external appearance. For example, the National Portrait Gallery in London showed the true face of Shakespeare in 1856-probably. A man with earrings and the loose shirt ties points to a poet or someone with an adventurous disposition.

He married Anne Hathaway in 1582 and their first child Susanna was born six months later. One year later, the theatre company “The Queen´s Men” was founded in London which was the early beginning of Shakespeare´s career. He might have worked in his father´s (John Shakespeare) business who was a glover. Hathaway got pregnant again with the twins Judith and Hamnet (in 1585).

In 1587, William Shakespeare has established himself in London as an actor and playwright. The time of his greatest success must have been between 1590 and 1610 because it was proven that he wore black clothes and a type of collar that was popular and very expensive. During this time, Shakespeare joined The Lord Chamberlain´s Men which was London´s most respected theatre company.

One can also assume that William was like a tutor in the household of Alexander Houghton.

Some of his early plays were presented in London´s most popular theatre, The Rose, in which he played a role as an actor.

Sadly, his son Hamlet died in the year in which Shakespeare bought a grand house in Stratford and opened the company “The Globe” (1596).

In 1623, William published his first plays. He usually wrote about political issues, e.g. “King Richard II”. As soon as Queen Elisabeth I. died (1603) and King James I. became the next monarch, Shakespeare created a plan to support him, just to be on the right side and get famous. Other noted dramas of him that are still known today are “MacBeth” or “Romeo and Juliet” because they are very great.

But the health of William Shakespeare got worse, until he died on St. Georges Day (April 23rd 1616).

Today, he is known as a literally genius. The playwright´s legacy lives on with his words translated into many languages, performed, for example, in schools.

This brings me to the next point, questioning if William Shakespeare was the real author who published all the great dramas, especially because he was born in a poor or rather medium-sized family and couldn´t have received enough education to write in such a complicated language. I found nine different theories of other people who could have the authorship of all the phenomenal scripts. In the following, I´m going to focus on the most interesting and crazy theories.

The first one is Francis Bacon, who was a philosopher, author, scientist and historian of his time. He also was part of a wider group that sought to undermine and criticize the monarch. Another reason for his hypothetical authorship is that Bacon had from-out copies of “Richard II” and “Richard III”, which are references to Shakespearean wordplay. Also, his “Francis Bacon Society” was founded in 1886: It´s an occult that wrote many things, including the full Shakespeare legacy. This theory was reopened by a court in Chicago (in 1916), which ruled that Bacon was the true author of the texts.

I think that Francis Bacon sounds possible for the authorship of Shakespeare´s masterpieces, especially because of those copies and the secret occult, but it is also very hypothetical.

Another very interesting theory is about Shakespeare´s wife for 37 years, Anne Hathaway. The theory is only paper-thin but she lived in a time when women would not be published writers because of their social status. A very good example for this are “The Bronte Sisters” who all had to publish under male pseudonyms.

This theory seems quite more possible to me because Hathaway was the closest person to William and the women had hardly rights for anything to do at that time.

Edward De Vere was the 17th Earl of Oxford. The idea of the authorship came of Thomas Looney in 1920, based on the argumentation that William Shakespeare had a low status and his education was not in line with the literature that he was able to produce. According to Looney, Shakespeare´s social circle and contacts were more likely to have influenced the themes of the famous plays. De Vere was heavily involved in theatre, too. He was also a patron for a number of acting groups. But the earl died in 1604 while Shakespeare´s writing began to wane. So it could be that De Vere had written the text and Shakespeare somehow got the whole legacy and just pretended to have the real authorship.

I like this theory as much as the one of Anne Hathaway because it is also very plausible but it would be disappointing a lot if Shakespeare really stole those texts!

The theory about Sir Walter Raleigh came out in 1877 because he was one of the most famous figures to come from the Elizabethan era due to his expeditions to the Americas. Many of his life experiences were connected to the great works of William. Raleigh is also mentioned as a writer connected to an underground collective that may have authored the entire works of Shakespeare by using the Bard´s name as a front. There was also a time in which he had to go to prison where he was able to influence the authoring of Shakespeare´s works.

I think that this theory is a crazy one because it´s too hypothetical, especially because people often have same life experiences or read books that they feel connected with. And in my opinion, it is too hard to influence the authoring of Shakespeare´s works while sitting isolated in prison.

But in my opinion, if William Shakespeare didn´t have the real authorship of those amazing writings, the far more plausible theory is a collective of authors. It was first hypothesized by Delia Bacon (no connection to Francis Bacon) in 1857. One can assume that a committee, including some others from above, existed in the underground and wrote the entire work of William Shakespeare.

In the end, nobody really knows the real identity behind the works of William Shakespeare. The only fact we can know for sure is that he got very famous and rich through his name, whether he wrote all the masterpieces or not.

von Selina Peesel, MSS 13

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