The True Authorship of Shakespeare

William Shakespeare is a world-renowned, English poet and dramatist with 38 plays and 154 sonnets. He is highly regarded for his expertise in literature arts, drama, plays and excellent writing. However, around a century after his death, people started to question the authorship of Shakespeare’s works. What if he wasn’t the original author of possibly the world’s greatest plays? If he wasn’t the original author, then who was? Possible candidates have appeared into the question, people with proper records and identities that could be verified unlike Shakespeare’s mysterious life, especially during the seven years he went dark. In the end, the main topic is to discuss on why there should be firm belief that Shakespeare’s plays was a collaboration effort, and how multiple possible candidates are likely to have some extent of collaboration through the plays. 1)

Candidates for the True Shakespeare

The Theory of Collaboration entails that multiple authors might have been involved in Shakespeare’s work, with or without Shakespeare himself being part of it. A reason that this theory would work out is because collaboration of works was common during this era. Bellinge writes in her newspaper article, “In two plays, Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen, it is supposed that Fletcher and Shakespeare worked together. Some of the plays often attributed to Fletcher have no less than three or four authors; or they were revised so many times, by different hands, that they became as it were a composite of the wit and skill of the times”. From the quote, one assumes that Shakespeare did collaborate his plays with not just another, but two writers who have served as house playwrights. Now that collaboration has been confirmed, what if other people have collaborated also without any credit? Although, a more fitting question can be used: Was Shakespeare even a member in the collaboration group? One could only tell by the original prouse and dialects of writing Shakespeare would use. However, similarities in writing by other well renowned people does tend to pop out of Shakespeare’s plays. 2)

One candidate could be Christopher Marlowe due to his collaboration and works with Queen Elizabeth. His education was received from the King’s School in Canterbury where writing poetry in Latin and performing plays was encouraged. For six years, he then studied at Corpus Christi college in Cambridge; from which, he then started to connect with nobility since he had acquired his gentleman status from said college. Quite a lot of commotion stirred regarding Marlowe’s death especially with such suspicious factors come into play with the following: facing accusations of atheism and blasphemy—which warranted an execution, three separate witnesses to have seen his death were known for lying, and the man who stabbed Marlowe is a dear friend and servant of his—not to mention his trial was overturned rather quickly. The play Venus and Adonis was published by an anonymous source with a purchase by Shakespeare, which was less than weeks after after Marlowe's ‘death’. Marlowe does also hold traits that would correspond to Shakespeare’s culture, like being interested in false death, slander and accusation plays. William Covell, who was an acquaintance at the same Marlowe had gone to, actually mistaken him for Shakespeare in one of his written works, Polimanteia. The writer points out that one of the character’s in Marlowe’s piece of works, Edward II, is a creation of Shakespeare and how Shakespeare is “Watson’s heir”, which could refer to Thomas Watson who is a documented friend of Marlowe. 3)

A more possible candidate to be part in the Shakespeare collaboration group would be Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. This candidate was more popularised by the 2011 movie Anonymous, in which the director insisted that the author had to be Edward De Vere. The Earl of Oxford had a superior education over Shakespeare, being graduated by Cambridge University and studying law at Gray’s Inn. A reason that Edward de Vere could be one of the member’s of the collaboration group are the similarities with the character Hamlet from Shakespeare’s play and himself. They both play tennis, the Character Lord Burghley is also strangely similar to WIlliam Cecil, de Vere’s father in law. Absolute Shakespeare writes, “Similarities in Edward De Vere’s verse to Shakespeare’s suggest however that such a leap in poetry composing was possible. Specifically six-line pentameter stanzas in Venus and Adonis reoccur only in Edward de Vere’s early poems and yet are not repeated by other poets of Shakespeare’s time”. Edward de Vere’s style of writing have similarities in Shakespeare’s verses, while no other poet during the time committed the same coincidence. This means that if Shakespeare wasn’t the true author of his fables, than Edward de Vere had something to do with it. He could’ve implemented his previous works that he would have thought was fitting into Shakespeare’s works along with the group and their collaborations. 4)

Another well qualified, suitable candidate would be Sir Francis Bacon. It may be that he hid under the Shakespeare name in order to hide that he was from a royal background, like Edward De Vere. One of the proofs that the bard may have in some sense, helped work on the Shakespeare plays, is one of his manuscripts named the “Northumberland Manuscript”. In it, the manuscript mentions Shakespeare’s plays Richard II and Richard III, but more importantly his and Shakespeare’s name combined, written as “by Francis William Shakespeare”. Another piece of text within goes hand in hand with the previous,“essays by the same author”. Although, this isn’t strong evidence that he would be or had a part of the Shakespeare plays, the candidate did have knowledge of multiple societies and philosophies regarding the Shakespearean poems Venus and Adonis, As You Like It, and Love’s Labour’s Lost. The evidence regarding Sir Francis Bacon being a collaborator is not as strong as the previous candidates previously stated, but there still is possibility that he may have. Collaborators are working in a collective group, their agenda unknown but with one effect, giving the world exquisite and beautifully constructed plays.

In conclusion, there is to be firm belief that the true identity of ‘Shakespeare’ is actually a collective group of collaborators. The group must be built off of talented, educated and noble bards/playwrights who would definitely suit writing at least one of Shakespeare’s plays. Christopher Marlowe died too early to fully contribute to Shakespeare’s plays, but Edward De Vere suits the category just fine. As little evidence there is to be, Sir Francis Bacon could most definitely have some contribution in the plays. The question still remains however, who was the true author of the Shakespearean plays? Was it truly Shakespeare, was it someone else or was it multiple writers?


“Shakespeare Biography.” Shakespeare Biography at
Bellinge, Martha Fletcher. “A Short History of the Drama.” Beaumont and Fletcher (1927): 237-40. Beaumont and Fletcher
“Christopher Marlowe.” Christopher Marlowe. The Shakespearean Authorship Trust
“De Vere Authorship Argument.” De Vere Authorship Argument at Absolute Shakespeare

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