It’s a Conspiracy!
April 18, 2023
There are a bunch of people out there that love to claim that Shakespeare didn’t write his plays.
More specifically, some people argue that he couldn’t possibly have done it.
“It was Christopher Marlowe!” Marlowe, a contemporary of Shakespeare, wrote some pretty banging plays like Doctor Faustus before he was stabbed in the head and killed in 1593, right when Shakespeare was getting started. Fun fact – people love turning Marlowe into a vampire in fiction. We don’t know why everyone and their mother has zeroed in on Marlowe in particular, but there are at least 5 that we know of, including John Hurt’s masterful performance in Only Lovers Left Alive. But, vampire or not, he still didn’t write Shakespeare.
“It was Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford!” We really hate this one. De Vere was the ward of Queen Elizabeth I, a poet and a patron of theater. He had the finest education available, the means to travel, and plenty of leisure time in which to write, revise, and perfect. Aspects of his biography are often mapped onto Shakespeare’s plays, arguing that only someone who had lived such a privileged, aristocratic, educated life could have written them.
“It was Francis Bacon!” “It was John Lily!” “It was Thomas Kyd!” “It was a group of very fancy, wealthy people working together, who had to hide their real names to avoid infamy, so they used the ignoble, unremarkable Shakespeare as a front!”
People say that Shakespeare is snobby, but it’s actually the anti-Stratfordian conspiracy theories that are usually snobby.
The main idea is that Shakespeare was too ordinary to do what he did – write some of the best plays and poems in the history of the world. He wasn’t educated enough. He couldn’t have known the history, classics, music, science, botany, and art that show up in the plays. (Folklore is never mentioned in this list of things he couldn’t have known, even though that’s arguably one of the biggest influences on his plays, because folklore isn’t “fancy” either.) And he couldn’t have done something so good when he was so busy – running back and forth between his hometown of Stratford-Upon-Avon and London, where he worked. He wasn’t a noble. He was just…a fairly average dude.
We find this infuriating.
You don’t have to be aristocratic or wealthy or upper class to write and write well. And even though the anti-Stradfordian arguments usually try to point at biographical coincidences to build a case, that’s actually the heart of most of the arguments. (Even Marlowe, who was born pretty much on social par with Shakespeare, went to Cambridge.)
Just, no. NO!
The historical evidence – the documents and records – say that William Shakespeare, the average dude from Stratford-Upon-Avon, wrote the plays.
Granted, he borrowed his plots from literally everywhere, and he collaborated with other playwrights on a few of his plays.
We’re not saying he’s a saint or putting him on a pedestal.
We’re saying he was a fairly unremarkable person who did something incredible – wrote a wealth of weird and wonderful plays for the world.
Ordinary-seeming people can do great things. Can do anything.
And Shakespeare is proof of that.
Enrollment is OPEN for our new course, The Magic of Shakespeare, where we’ll be talking all about Shakespeare and FOLKLORE (of course!) If you haven’t checked it out yet, click here asap – it’ll only be open until this Thursday, April 20th, at midnight!
P.S. If you’re in the Atlanta area, the incomparable Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern commissioned and is currently performing a play called By My Will that is all about this! (They are even selling cocktails called the Stratfordian and the anti-Stratfordian in the bar!) It’s absolutely hilarious and brilliant, and if you can go, GO!