The works of Shakespeare are universally recognised as one of the greatest
literary achievements in history. The dramas explore the human condition
- from the heights of lyrical passion to the depths of despair -
in a manner that has rarely been equalled, making them as relevant
today as they were to the Elizabethan audiences who first witnessed
For many people, the idea that there is any doubt as to the authorship
of these great works will come as a surprise. Surely, they will
ask, is it not only obvious but proven by archive documents that
William Shakspere (the most usual contemporary rendering of his
name) from Stratford on Avon was the towering genius who wrote them?
Certainly, this was the accepted position when people first began to research
the biography of Shakspere in the late eighteenth century. Yet the
more that was discovered about the man, the more doubts were awakened.
No records exist that Shakspere received any education - yet the
plays were clearly written by an accomplished classical scholar;
no evidence exists that he ever travelled abroad - yet the fourteen
plays set in Italy clearly betray direct personal knowledge of a
number of Italian cities and a fluency in the language; the setting
for all but one of the plays is right at the heart of a royal or
imperial court and the characters display an easy familiarity with
court etiquette and the political rivalries of court life - yet
no record has been discovered that Shakspere was ever even a minor
Academics have never found a single document which proves that Shakspere was
an author - from the contemporary documents that have been discovered
all we know about the man's interests is that he conducted a number
of business transactions which included a small share in the Globe
Theatre. Six ineptly penned signatures are the only examples we
have of his abilities as a writer - there are no letters home to
his wife and there are certainly no original literary manuscripts.
As doubts about the apparent chasm between Shaksper's known life and
the works of Shakespeare grew, people naturally asked the question,
"Well if Shakspere wasn't the author, then who was?" And
over the last hundred years or so many candidates - from Marlowe
to Bacon and the Earl of Derby - have been proposed and championed
by ardent followers.
Today, 400 years after his death, there is only one serious candidate left
in the field, only one man whose life matches the historical and
literary evidence in all repects - Edward de Vere, the seventeenth
Earl of Oxford.
September Meeting 2013
Alexander Waugh reveals a covert reference in 1595 identifying Edward de Vere as the Author of The Rape of Lucrece. Read More.