10 Reasons for doubting the Stratford theory
Today (as I write this), is 23rd April - St George’s Day - England's national Saint's day - and coincidentally it is also commonly held to be the birthday of our 'national poet' and greatest cultural export, William Shakespeare.
But the thing is - it isn’t!
The man from Stratford was christened ‘Gulielmus filius Johannes Shakspere’ on 26th April, and at that time it was custom to be baptised 3 days after birth, but there is no proof of exactly when (or where) Shaksper was born …
… but more than that, there is no proof that the Stratford merchant Shaksper (or Shaxpere or Shagspere) was the famous writer Shake-speare, or even that he could write at all!
1. “This mystery remained undiscovered”
Despite four centuries of investigation, less is known about Shake-speare than almost any other playwright of his time. There is not a single document from his lifetime connecting Shaksper of Stratford with the theatre or with writing of any kind. This astonishing gap in the documentary record has not only led to doubts about his being the author, but has also led Stratfordians to try to forge links, by (for example) inserting lines into Shaksper’s Will.
2. “What a devil dost thou in Warwickshire?”
No one in Stratford during Shaksper’s lifetime knew of his reputation as a famous writer in London, and no-one who knew the writer Shake-speare referred to his coming from Stratford until some time after his death. Neither ‘Stratford’ nor ‘Avon’ are mentioned anywhere in Shake-speare’s works.
3. “My father charged you in his will to give me good education”
Whoever wrote Shakespeare’s works had a most extraordinary level of education. The works display a vocabulary of over 22,000 words (nearly three times John Milton's) for example. But there is no evidence that Shaksper of Stratford ever went to school and records show he certainly did not go to University.
4. “To write and read comes by nature”
Shaksper’s parents, siblings, wife and children were all illiterate, signing themselves with a 'mark'. Is it possible the greatest writer in the English language could have come from such a background or cared so little about his family to leave such a legacy?
5. “Writ in choice Italian”
The writer was able to read works only available in Italian and had a detailed knowledge of several Italian cities. 14 of his 37 plays are set wholly or partly in Italy, yet there is no evidence Shaksper of Stratford ever left England. Indeed it would have been difficult for a person of his social status to travel abroad except in the service of an aristocrat, of which, in Shaksper's case, there is no record.
6. “All courtly parts”
Of all the major playwrights of the time, Shakespeare displays the most sympathy for the aristocracy. His socio-political viewpoint is essentially aristocratic - he has an easy knowledge of many aristocratic pursuits and all but one of his plays are principally set amongst the courtly classes.
7. “Our Ever-Living Poet”
The Sonnets (which were written and circulated among courtiers several years before their pirated publication) refer to the writer as being old, lame and poor (but paradoxically owning jewels) at a time when Shaksper, if he was the successful playwright, was in the prime of life and at the height of his prosperity. The dedication to The Sonnets refers to ‘Our Ever-Living Poet’, a phrase which is only ever used about someone who is physically dead. The Sonnets were published in 1609. Shaksper lived until 1616.
8. “But their date is out”
The conventional dating scheme for Shakespeare’s plays was made to fit the (few) known facts of Shaksper’s life. However, recent scholarship has led to the dates for many plays now being considered earlier than previously thought, making Shaksper’s authorship increasingly untenable. The plays are filled with references to contemporary events and writings, but none contain any certain reference to any event occurring or any work published after 1604 - yet 12 plays are supposed to have been written after that date. Why, at the height of his creative output, did he suddenly stop reading or taking notice of the world?
9. “I am for whole volumes in Folio”
Second only to the King James Bible, the publishing of the folio was the biggest printing exercise in English, and must have required considerable funding, most probably from aristocratic patronage. How did Shaksper’s surviving family manage this, why did they leave it until 7 years after his death and why is there no acknowledgement of the involvement of Shaksper's heirs or executors in the enterprise?
10. “What a wounded name, Things standing thus unknown, shall live behind me!”
The Stratford man’s name was not even ‘Shakespeare’. It was both written and most probably pronounced differently. The writer’s name was frequently hyphenated, a practise which on literary works often indicated a pseudonym. Admittedly this isn't the strongest argument, but if anyone says "Surely Shakespeare wrote Shake-speare?" it begs the reply "Exactly! Shaksper didn't!"
The True Tragical Comical Romantic History of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, courtier, duellist, adventurer and poet, aka 'William Shakespeare'.
“I am dead: Thou livest;
Report me and my cause aright
To the unsatisfied.”
In his 7th one man show, internationally acclaimed award-winning solo specialist George Dillon explores the extraordinary life of the leading light of the Elizabethan age, revealing how and why Hamlet is his auto-biography and suggesting how and why the Stratford hoax was perpetrated and perpetuated.
With special ghost appearances by Burbage, Garrick, & Olivier!