David Kathman Shakespeare Authorship Essay

Images of Shakespeare

There are only two portraits of Shakespeare which we can reasonably take as authentic: the monument in Stratford's Holy Trinity Church, and the engraving by Martin Droeshout on the title page of the 1623 First Folio. Antistratfordians have seen all kinds of shady doings and hidden meanings in these portraits, as well as in other "Shakespeare" portraits with less claim to authenticity. Yet these claims, like so much other antistratfordian rhetoric, turn out to be founded on ignorance, misunderstanding, and pure conjecture.

Shakespeare's Stratford Monument

Shortly after Shakespeare's death, a monument was erected to his memory in his home town of Stratford. However, many Oxfordians believe that the monument originally depicted Shakespeare holding a sack, and that it was subsequently altered to depict him as a writer. Their basis for thinking this is an engraving of the monument which appeared in William Dugdale's Antiquities of Warwickshire in 1656, and which depicts a monument significantly different from what we see today; Charlton Ogburn writes in The Mysterious William Shakespeare that "there seems scant room for doubt that the subject of the original sculpture was not a literary figure but a dealer in bagged commodities" (p. 213). However, the evidence is overwhelmingly against the Oxfordian scenario. First, read M. H. Spielmann's detailed discussion of the monument, and his demonstrations of the many errors and inconsistencies to be found in seventeenth-century engravings. Then read David Kathman's discussion of 17th-century references to the monument, which shows that it was always seen as representing a famous poet and not a grain dealer. We have also put up illustrations of both the Stratford monument and Dugdale's rendition.

The Droeshout Engraving: Why It's Not Queen Elizabeth

Antistratfordians since the mid-1800s have found something fishy about the famous Droeshout engraving that graces the title page of the First Folio. In 1995, Lillian Schwartz tried to put a scientific gloss on such speculations when she wrote an article for Scientific American which used computer modelling to suggest that the Droeshout portrait is actually of Queen Elizabeth. But as Terry Ross shows in this article, Schwartz's methods left a lot to be desired, and although her very tentative conclusions have been accepted as gospel by eager antistratfordians, a fresh look shows just how different Shakespeare and Elizabeth were.

The Ashbourne Portrait: Why It's Not the Earl of Oxford

More than half a century before Schwartz, Oxfordian Charles Wisner Barrell wrote another article for Scientific American, in which he attempted to use X-rays to show that the so-called "Ashbourne Portrait," often taken to be of Shakespeare, is actually a painted-over portrait of the Earl of Oxford. Yet even though Barrell's results were conclusively debunked more than 20 years ago, they're still accepted uncritically by many antistratfordians. Read David Kathman's brief article for the full story.

Manuscripts and Publication

Tudor Aristocrats and the Mythical "Stigma of Print"

Oxfordians claim that Edward de Vere could not have been named as the author of Shakespeare's works because doing so would have violated the Elizabethan social code, which prohibited aristocrats from having works published under their own names. However, as Steven May points out in his essay, "the alleged code, handy and time-honored as it has become, does not square with the evidence." As May demonstrates, "Tudor aristocrats published regularly." The "stigma of print" is a myth. May does concede that there was for a time a "stigma of verse" among the early Tudor aristocrats, "but even this inhibition dissolved during the reign of Elizabeth until anyone, of whatever exalted standing in society, might issue a sonnet or play without fear of losing status." This essay first appeared in Renaissance Papers.

The Survival of Manuscripts

Oxfordians find it suspicious that the original manuscripts of Shakespeare's plays have not survived. They darkly hint that this is evidence of a coverup, and have even gone so far as to x-ray the Shakespeare monument in Stratford because of a suspicion that the manuscripts may have been hidden inside. (They weren't.) But there is nothing the slightest bit suspicious about the absence of Shakespeare's manuscripts, since virtually no playhouse manuscripts from that era have survived at all. Read The Survival of Manuscripts by Giles Dawson and Laetitia Kennedy-Skipton (taken from their 1965 book Elizabethan Handwriting) for the opinion of two scholars who spent decades examining documents from Shakespeare's era.

Shakespeare's Hand in Sir Thomas More

Even though the original manuscripts of Shakespeare's canonical plays have not survived, there is strong evidence that three pages of the manuscript play Sir Thomas More are in Shakespeare's hand. This evidence, which cuts across handwriting, spelling, vocabulary, imagery, and more, has persuaded many Shakespeare scholars, but is generally ignored or ridiculed by antistratfordians because accepting it would be a crippling blow for their theories. Read David Kathman's summary of the evidence for Shakespeare's hand and judge for yourself.

Oxford the Poet

The Seventeenth Earl of Oxford was a recognized poet in his own day, and Oxfordians make the most of this fact in their attempts to prove that he actually wrote the works of Shakespeare. However, most Oxfordian work in this area involves highly selective use of evidence, and often reveals a distressing lack of knowledge about Elizabethan poetry in general. In this section we critically examine Oxford's surviving poetry and the conclusions Oxfordians have tried to draw from it.

Oxford's Literary Reputation

Oxford was praised in print as a poet and playwright when he was alive, a fact which Oxfordians understandably try to use to their advantage. In doing so, though, they quote this praise selectively and present it out of context, leading unwary readers to a greatly inflated view of Oxford's reputation as a poet. Terry Ross's essay looks at Oxford's reputation in the actual context of the times, and shows that while Oxford's work had its admirers, nobody seems to have considered him a great poet or playwright.

Puttenham on Oxford

If Oxford did indeed write the works of Shakespeare, why did he never acknowledge them? Oxfordians claim that the works contain dangerous political allegories, and that Oxford could not safely allow them to appear under his own name. Hence, he used the name "Shakespeare." To support this claim, Oxfordians cite George Puttenham's 1589 book, The Arte of English Poesie. However, a close examination of Puttenham's work shows that Oxfordians have relied on doctored evidence, and that Puttenham's actual words contradict the Oxfordian claim. Find out for yourself What Puttenham Really Said About Oxford, and why it matters. This case study of the Oxfordian misuse of evidence was written by Terry Ross; it appeared on the humanities.lit.authors.shakespeare newsgroup, and has been revised for this forum. Parts of the essay criticize the PBS Frontline program "The Shakespeare Mystery," and Frontline has issued a response to which Terry Ross has replied. We have made available the texts of the Response from Frontline -- and a Reply. We have also made the relevant portions of Puttenham's Arte of English Poesie available.

Shakespeare, Oxford, and Verbal Parallels

Oxfordians have consistently defended the quality of Oxford's poetry, arguing that it is not inconsistent with his later having written the Shakespeare canon. Joseph Sobran has recently gone further, claiming that the verbal parallels he has found constitute proof that the poetry of Oxford and Shakespeare were written by the same person. In Shakespeare, Oxford, and Verbal Parallels, David Kathman examines Sobran's claim and finds it seriously defective, reflecting ignorance of both attribution studies and Elizabethan poetry.

Was the Earl of Oxford the True Shakespeare?

The Shakespeare Clinic, under the direction of Ward Elliott and Robert Valenza of Claremont-McKenna College in California, was a project which compared Shakespeare's poetry with the work of other contemporary poets by means of various objective tests. The goal was to see if any of the claimants' poetry matched the Bard's, and none did; furthermore, the Earl of Oxford was one of the poorest matches for Shakespeare out of all the poets tested. Read Elliott and Valenza's article on Oxford's candidacy, originally published in Notes and Queries.

The Verse Forms of Shakespeare and Oxford

Oxfordians from J. Thomas Looney onward have noted that some of the verse forms used by Oxford were also used by Shakespeare, and they have seized upon this coincidence as support for their theories. In The Verse Forms of Shakespeare and Oxford, Terry Ross looks at this issue in detail and shows how badly Oxfordians have distorted the facts in an attempt to exaggerate Oxford's similarity to Shakespeare and his role in the history of English poetry.

Oxfordian Myths

Belief in the Oxfordian story that Shakespeare's works were written not by Shakespeare but by the seventeenth Earl of Oxford requires not merely suspending the rules of evidence that would normally be used to establish the authorship of a body of work, but also accepting a set of Oxfordian myths -- tales that are presented as fact but that research shows are simply not true. Some of these myths have been repeated and handed down from Oxfordian to Oxfordian for decades, without any attempt being made to verify them. Here are three essays, each exposing an Oxfordian myth and demonstrating that the Oxfordian faith in them has been misplaced.

First Heir of My Invention

Shakespeare referred to Venus and Adonis as the "first heir of my invention." Many antistratfordians have been puzzled by the phrase, and have suggested that by "invention," the author must have meant "pseudonym"; and thus arose the myth that the phrase means something like "the first product published under my assumed name." The phrase would not have puzzled Shakespeare's contemporaries, however, as Terry Ross points out in his essay, since they were familiar with the contemporary habit of referring to works as one's children. Moreover, contemporary writers never used "invention" to mean "pseudonym"; the word referred to the writer's wit or imagination. Far from suggesting the use of a pseudonym, Shakespeare's use of the phrase "first heir of my invention" tells us that he wrote Venus and Adonis by himself and as himself.

The Question Marks in the 1640 Poems

In John Benson's 1640 edition of Shakespeare's Poems, question marks appear in places where one would expect exclamation points. From this, Oxfordians have decided that Benson must not have thought that Shakespeare was really Shakespeare. Terry Ross has looked at the evidence, however, and shows that in Benson's time question marks were often used as exclamation points. Moreover, Benson nowhere expresses any doubt that the author of the poems was the William Shakespeare whose plays were collected in the First Folio and who died in April of 1616.

Burghley as "Polus"

For fifty years Oxfordians have contended that strong evidence that the character Polonius in Hamlet was based on Lord Burghley is that Burghley's nickname was "Polus." In this essay Terry Ross traces the "Polus" myth to its sources and reveals that it is absolutely without foundation. He also outlines a fifty year history of Oxfordians parroting and even embellishing the myth without their ever checking to see whether it was true.

Reviews

Shakespeare IN FACT

Irvin Leigh Matus's Shakespeare, In Fact (Continuum, 1994) is a good book-length examination of the authorship question, containing thorough demolitions of many Oxfordian claims. Even if you've read the book, check out Thomas A. Pendleton's review, which originally appeared in The Shakespeare Newsletter. Not only does Pendleton cogently summarize Matus's arguments, he also adds an excellent discussion of the vast scope of the conspiracy that would have been necessary to conceal Oxford's authorship of the Shakespeare plays.

This Star of England

In 1953, Dorothy Ogburn and Charlton Ogburn Sr. published This Star of England, a 1300-page Oxfordian tome which was a precursor to their son Charlton Jr.'s The Mysterious William Shakespeare thirty years later. Giles Dawson's review of this book for Shakespeare Quarterly provides an excellent summary of the shoddy scholarship and questionable methods which typify so much Oxfordian work.

Why I'm not an Oxfordian

Charlton Ogburn's book The Mysterious William Shakespeare is generally considered the most thorough exposition of the Oxfordian case; it is certainly one of the most passionately argued. However, Ogburn has a distressing tendency to brush aside facts which he finds inconvenient, and to invent or distort other "facts" to suit his purpose; he employs a blatant double standard in evaluating evidence which makes his thesis unfalsifiable. David Kathman's article Why I'm Not an Oxfordian, which originally appeared in The Elizabethan Review, looks in detail at some of the many problems with Ogburn's book and explains why academic Shakespeareans do not take Ogburn and his Oxfordian brethren seriously.

Joseph Sobran's Alias Shakespeare

In 1997, Joseph Sobran's book Alias Shakespeare introduced many newcomers to the Shakespeare authorship question. Written in an accessible style without the bitterness that characterizes some Oxfordian writings, Sobran's book presented a superficially plausible case for Oxford's authorship of Shakespeare. Unfortunately, beneath the glossy surface lies a mass of distortions, half-truths, and contradictions which renders Sobran's book no better as a historical account than other Oxfordian works. David Kathman has written a number of responses to reader queries which discuss some of the major problems with Sobran's book.

Here Comes Everybody

John Michell's Who Wrote Shakespeare? marks a rebirth of the "groupist" view of Shakespearean authorship. Michell thinks that just about everybody ever proposed as a candidate for authorship had his oar in the Avon. Bob Grumman's review describes Michell's approach, exposes his loose way with the evidence, and corrects several common antistratfordian misreadings.

The Oxfordian Hamlet: The Playwright's the Thing

In this essay, excerpted from a talk delivered at the Library of Congress, Irvin Matus, the author of Shakespeare IN FACT, discusses the common Oxfordian claim that Hamlet is actually a thinly veiled autobiography of Edward de Vere. Matus points out the weaknesses of the Oxfordian case, and also argues that the Oxfordian approach to the play seeks to diminish its power as a work of art, reducing a profound exploration of the deepest issues that concern us as people to a petty expression of pique.

The Code That Failed: Testing a Bacon-Shakespeare Cipher

Until the 1920s, Francis Bacon was the favorite candidate of those who doubted that Shakespeare wrote the plays and poems that have been attributed to him. The Oxford faction is today the more numerous, but there are still Baconians around. In The Code that Failed, Terry Ross examines the methods of one Baconian, Penn Leary, who claims that he has found cryptographical proof that Bacon wrote the works of Shakespeare. We have also made available Penn Leary's reply to the piece, as well as Hiawatha's Cryptographing, Terry Ross's response to him. In addition we have put up the texts of some UNIX and Perl scripts that were used to test Leary's methods.

Funeral Elegy

The 1612 Funeral Elegy by "W.S." has been in the news in recent years, as scholars and other interested readers argued whether it had been written by William Shakespeare; the current scholarly consensus is that the poem was written by John Ford. The case for Shakespeare's authorship was made in Donald Foster's 1989 book Elegy by W.S., and in subsequent articles by Foster, Richard Abrams, and others. Time and space do not allow us to present the arguments over the poem's authorship here but we can provide the text of the Funeral Elegy itself. There was spirited debate over the elegy's authorship on the electronic Shakespeare conference SHAKSPER, and on the newsgroup humanities.lit.authors.Shakespeare. Much of the new evidence which convinced Foster that the Elegy was Shakespeare's comes from his lexical database SHAXICON. He wrote an article for the Summer 1995 Shakespeare Newsletter, which, while it did not specifically deal with the Elegy evidence, described the workings of SHAXICON in some detail. Also, read David Kathman's 1996 post to the humanities.lit.authors.shakespeare newsgroup, responding to early Oxfordian criticisms and clearing up some common misunderstandings about Foster's work on the Elegy, as well as a 2002 post on the matter.

A number of candidates were proposed as the real author of the Funeral Elegy, including George Chapman, an unnamed member of "a stable of elegy writers", a country parson, Simon Wastell, Sir William Strode, William Sclater, and the 17th Earl of Oxford. John Ford was first suggested in 1996 by Richard J. Kennedy on Shaksper, but it was not until 2002 that the case for Ford was generally considered to be stronger than the case for Shakespeare.

The principal arguments in favor of John Ford's authorship may be found in

  • Ward Elliott and Robert Valenza. "Smoking Guns, Silver Bullets: Could John Ford Have Written the Funeral Elegy?" Literary and Linguistic Computing 16:205-32 [2001].
  • Gilles D. Monsarrat "A Funeral Elegy: Ford, W.S., and Shakespeare" in The Review of English Studies 53:186-203 [May 2002]. Here is an abstract of Monsarrat's essay.
  • Brian Vickers, Counterfeiting Shakespeare: Evidence, Authorship and John Ford's "Funerall Elegye". Here is the publisher's description of the book.
After Monsarrat's essay appeared, Foster and Abrams conceded that the case for Ford was now stronger than the case for Shakespeare.

Ward E.Y. Elliott and Robert J. Valenza have put their own account of the matter online: "So Much Hardball, So Little of it Over the Plate: Conclusions from our 'Debate' with Donald Foster."


Bardlinks Elsewhere on the Web

  • Shakespeare's Works
  • David Kathman's Biographical Index of English Drama Before 1660 is a draft list of all people known to have been involved with theater in England between 1558 and 1642.
  • Collections of Shakespeare Links
    • Find more links to material by and about Shakespeare (and a great many other writers of the English Renaisance and 17th Century) at the Voice of the Shuttle
  • Since 1990, scholars and common readers have discussed the works and life of Shakespeare on the SHAKSPER mailing list, which is edited by Hardy M. Cook.
  • Oxford's Writings
    • Alan Nelson has put up a great deal of information about the 17th earl of Oxford including transcriptions of his letters and memoranda, an analysis of his spelling habits, and information about his trip to Italy. (Of related interest is our list of the annotations in Oxford's Bible.) In addition, Nelson has also made available new evidence of the relationship between Shakespeare and Sir George Buc, the Master of Revels from 1610 to 1622.
    • Versions of Poems by Oxford (and others) were inexpertly edited by J. Thomas Looney. Caveat lector.
  • General Discussions of Authorship
    • A fine survey is provided by the Wikipedia article Shakespeare authorship question.
    • Links to websites of the candidates may be found on the Authorship Debates page of J. M. Pressley's Shakespeare Resource Center
    • John George Robertson's 1911 essay "The Shakespeare-Bacon Theory" appeared in the Encyclopedia Britannica and has been put online by TheatreHistory.com
    • Ward Elliott tells the history of The Shakespeare Clinic, a project that used stylometric methods to investigate the authorship of Shakespeare's works.
      • Using stylometrics, Ward Elliott and Robert Valenza calculate the odds against Oxford's having written Shakespeare in Oxford by the Numbers
      • In Two Tough Nuts to Crack, Elliott and Valenza test whether their methods support the view that Shakespeare contributed to Sir Thomas More and Edward III.
    • Irvin Leigh Matus 's site WillyShakes.com contains several essays on the authorship of Shakespeare's works.
    • Steven Dutch, a scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, believes that antistratfordianism is at best a Pseudoscience.
    • Clark Holloway's Shakespeare page includes a look at The Authorship "Problem"
    • James Boyle blends law and literature in The Search for an Author: Shakespeare and the Framers
    • Diana Price argues in her new book Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography that he was not a writer.
    • The Wikipedia includes an entry on Shakespearean authorship
    • Alan Haley describes a moot court Authorship Debate between supporters of Shakespeare and of Oxford.
    • Brad Strickland asks Who Wrote Shakespeare?, and answers, "Shakespeare did."
    • Amanda J. Crawford reviews Irvin Matus's Shakespeare, IN FACT
    • Authorship is also a popular topic on the newsgroup humanities.lit.authors.shakespeare.
    • After the release of Shakespeare in Love, the authorship of Shakespeare's works became a topic at Mr. Cranky
    • The topic sometimes arises on a German Shakespeare Forum
    • Authorship issues are often discussed in The Elizabethan Review, a twice-yearly journal edited by Gary Goldstein.
    • The Shakespeare Authorship Rountable does not endorse any alternative candidate -- but they're pretty sure the author was someone other than Shakespeare.
    • Ian Chadwick goes In Search of the Real Bard
    • Meg Greene Malvasi asks, Did He or Didn't He? at the History for Children site.
    • Polly Rance reviews John Michell's Who Wrote Shakespeare?
    • . . . as does Jim Loy on his book review page.
    • Nigel Davies
    • From Austria, Patricia Hoda asks Wer war Shakespeare?
    • T. L. Hubeart looks briefly at The Shakespeare Authorship Question
    • A site for schools in Urbana, Ohio, asks Who Wrote Shakespeare?
    • From Richard Stockton College, a brief listing of points for and against Shakespeare's authorship of his works.
    • Libby Maia asks, Were There Two Shakespeares?
    • Barbara Rosson Davis describes her screenplay about the authorship of Shakespeare's works.
  • Oxford
    • The founding tract of Oxfordianism is J. Thomas Looney's 'Shakespeare' Identifiedin Edward de Vere the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford.
    • The Shakespeare Oxford Society Home Page is the principal Oxfordian web site.
    • The Oxfordian Shakespeare Fellowship site includes essays from the group's magazine Shakespeare Matters.
    • English Oxfordians have the de Vere Society.
    • Mark Alexander's Shakespeare Authorship Sourcebook, an Oxfordian survey of materials related to Shakespeare and Oxford.
    • Nina Green's Oxford Authorship Site credits Edward de Vere with being not merely himself and Shakespeare but also Martin Marprelate, Thomas Nashe, and Robert Greene.
    • The Oxfordian musings of Randall Barron total 31 brief chapters (so far).
    • The Oxfordian case was promoted by the PBS Frontline program, "The Shakespeare Mystery."
    • In 1991, the Oxfordian case was debated in The Atlantic Monthly
    • In 1999, the Oxfordian case was debated in Harper's magazine.
    • A number of pieces by the late Oxfordian Charlton Ogburn Jr. are available online:
      The Man Shakespeare Was Not | Shakespeare's Self-Portrait | Interview with Charlton Ogburn | Shakespeare and the Fair Youth
    • Joseph Sobran sprinkles his Oxfordian writings with laments that he doesn't get enough respect from Shakespearean scholars:
      The Problem of the Funeral Elegy | Bible holds proof of Shakespeare's identity | Shakespeare's Disgrace | The Mystery of Emaricdulfe | David Kathman and the "Historical Record" | The Bard�s Orphans
      • Sobran's Oxfordian tract Alias Shakespeare has been reviewed by Jeffrey Gantz
      • Favorable comments about Sobran's book by Kathleen van Schaijik led to a lively online discussion.
    • Richard Whalen's Shakespeare: Who Was He? The Oxford Challenge to the Bard of Avon is reviewed by Paul Franssen.
    • Peter Morton reviews two novels promoting the Oxfordian view and also Denis Baron's De Vere is Shakespeare
    • Ruth Loyd Miller has republished some of the basic Oxfordian tracts.
    • David Roper's Shakespeare Story holds that ciphers in Shakespeare's monument point to Oxford as the "real" author of Shakespeare's works.
    • Robert Brazil has put up OXPIX, a page of "images relevant to the Shakespeare-Oxford debate" as well as chapters from his book The True Story of the Shakespeare Publications
    • Dennis Hirsch thinks The Mystery of Shake-speare's Sonnets goes away if Oxford is assumed to be the real author.
    • Barbara Van Duyn asks the unmusical question Shakespeare, Earl of Oxford?
    • Time magazine's Howard Chua-Eoan wonders whether Oxford was The Bard's Beard.
    • Paige Norris ponders The Shakespearean Controversy
    • The Seattle Times covered a 1997 debate between Joseph Sobran and Alan Nelson. (You may have to register to view this article, but there is no charge to do so).
    • L. James Hammond offers a summary of the Oxfordian case quarried from Ogburn.
    • Oxfordian Eric Altschuler thinks Hamlet contains a Cosmic Clue to Bard's Identity, according to Constance Holden.
    • Volker Multhopp thought Oxford collaborated on the Shakespeare plays with John Lyly; his Small Shakespeare Authorship Page included a response to David Kathman's Dating the Tempest [Note: Multhopp's pages are no longer maintained, but they are available at these links via the Wayback Archive.]
    • Nina Green has also prepared a response to David Kathman
    • John Rollett's notion that the dedication to Shakespeare's Sonnets contains Oxfordian cryptograms was discussed in Chance News.
    • Old Arcadia has a pretty (and pretty unreliable) Oxfordian site.
    • A. C. Challinor
5i. In a copy of the First Folio now at the Folger Shakespeare Library, the following poem is written in a hybrid secretary-italic hand from the 1620s:
Here Shakespeare lies whom none but Death could Shake,
And here shall lie till judgement all awake,
When the last trumpet doth unclose his eyes,
The wittiest poet in the world shall rise.
The same hand has on the same page transcribed the verses from Shakespeare's monument ("Stay passenger why go'st thou by so fast") and his grave ("Good friend for Jesus' sake forbear"), so he is obviously referring to William Shakespeare of Stratford. Apparently, somebody went to Stratford and transcribed the poems off the monument and the tombstone, then transcribed them into a copy of the First Folio along with another epitaph. This writer seems not only to have believed that the man buried in Stratford was the author of the First Folio, but that he was "the wittiest poet in the world."

5j. In 1630 an anonymous volume was published, entitled A Banquet of Jeasts or Change of Cheare. Jest no. 259 in this volume is as follows:

One travelling through Stratford upon Avon, a Towne most remarkeable for the birth of famous William Shakespeare, and walking in the Church to doe his devotion, espyed a thing there worthy observation, which was a tombestone laid more that three hundred years agoe, on which was ingraven an Epitaph to this purpose, I Thomas such a one, and Elizabeth my wife here under lye buried, and know Reader I. R. C. and I. Chrystoph. Q. are alive at this houre to witnesse it.
This jest implies that the writer had been in the Stratford church, and that he believed that the William Shakespeare born there was "famous"; indeed, not yet 15 years after Shakespeare's death, he was apparently the town's main claim to fame. True, the writer does not explicitly say that Shakespeare was famous as a poet, but it is difficult to see why a grain dealer would bring such fame to his home town.

5k. In 1634 a military company of Norwich was travelling through the English countryside. One Lieutenant Hammond of the company kept a diary of what he encountered during his travels, and on or about September 9 he made the following entry:

In that dayes travell we came by Stratford upon Avon, where in the Church in that Towne there are some Monuments which Church was built by Archbishop Stratford; Those worth observing and of which wee tooke notice were these... A neat Monument of that famous English Poet, Mr. William Shakespeere; who was borne heere. And one of an old Gentleman a Batchelor, Mr. Combe, upon whose name, the sayd Poet, did merrily fann up some witty, and facetious verses, which time would nott give us leave to sacke up.
Hammond, writing 11 years after the First Folio and 12-18 years after the erection of the monument, explicitly says that the monument is for "that famous English Poet, Mr. William Shakespeere, who was borne heere."

5l. In 1638, Sir William Davenant's Madagascar contained the following poem, entitled "In Remembrance of Master William Shakespeare."

Beware (delighted Poets!) when you sing
To welcome Nature in the early Spring;
    Your num'rous Feet not tread
The Banks of Avon; for each Flowre
(As it nere knew a Sunne or Showre)
    Hangs there, the pensive head.

Each Tree, whose thick, and spreading growth hath made,
Rather a Night beneath the Boughs, than Shade,
    (Unwilling now to grow)
Looks like the Plume a Captain weares,
Whose rifled Falls are steept i'th teares
    Which from his last rage flow.

The piteous River wept it selfe away
Long since (Alas!) to such a swift decay;
    That read the Map; and looke
If you a River there can spie;
And for a River your mock'd Eie,
    Will find a shallow Brooke.

In this poem, Davenant specifically associates the poet Shakespeare with the Avon river, like Jonson in his First Folio poem, and also calls him "Master," as befitting William Shakespeare's social position. This testimony deserves to be taken seriously, because significant evidence indicates that William Shakespeare was a friend of the Davenant family. William (1606-1668) used to hint that he was Shakespeare's bastard son; several independent 17th-century sources report that Shakespeare used to stay at the Davenants' tavern in Oxford on his journeys between Stratford and London; William's brother Robert Davenant personally told John Aubrey that "Mr. William Shakespeare here gave him a hundred kisses" during these visits.

5m. The 1640 edition of Shakespeare's poems, published by John Benson, contains a poem entitled "An Elegie on the death of that famous Writer and Actor, M. William Shakespeare." The same volume contains William Basse's poem from 5d above, entitled "On the death of William Shakespeare, who died in Aprill, Anno. Dom. 1616."

5n. Sir Richard Baker, a contemporary of Shakespeare and a friend of John Donne, published Chronicle of the Kings of England in 1643. Sir Richard was an avid fan of the theater, also writing Theatrum Redivium, or the Theatre Vindicated. In the Chronicle, for Elizabeth's reign he notes statesmen, seamen, and soldiers, and literary figures who are mostly theologians with the exception of Sidney. In conclusion he says,

After such men, it might be thought ridiculous to speak of Stage-players; but seeing excellency in the meanest things deserves remembering . . . For writers of Playes, and such as had been Players themselves, William Shakespear and Benjamin Johnson, have specially left their Names recommended to Posterity.

Conclusion

How do we know that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare? We know because the historical record tells us so, strongly and unequivocally. The historical evidence demonstrates that one and the same man, William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon, was William Shakespeare the player, William Shakespeare the Globe-sharer, and William Shakespeare the author of the plays and poems that bear his name -- and no person of the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras ever doubted the attribution. No Elizabethan ever suggested that Shakespeare's plays and poems were written by someone else, or that Shakespeare the player was not Shakespeare the author, or that Shakespeare the Globe-sharer was not Shakespeare of Stratford. No contemporary of Shakespeare's ever suggested that the name used by the player, the Globe-sharer, or the author was a pseudonym; and none of the major alternative candidates -- not Francis Bacon, not the Earl of Oxford, not Christopher Marlowe -- had any connection with Shakespeare's acting company or with his friends and fellow actors.

Antistratfordians must rely solely upon speculation about what they think the "real" author should have been like, because they cannot produce one historical fact to bolster their refusal to accept who that author actually was. No matter how they try to ignore it or explain it away, the historical record -- all of it -- establishes William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon as the author of the works traditionally attributed to him.


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