William Shakespeare is widely regarded as one of the greatest playwrights in history, known for works such as Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Macbeth. However, despite his prominence in literature, the question of whether he actually existed as a person or not has been the subject of debate for centuries. This article will explore the evidence for and against Shakespeare’s existence, as well as the alternative theories that have been put forward.
Table of contents
- The Controversy Surrounding Shakespeare’s Existence
- The Evidence for Shakespeare’s Existence
- The Lack of Personal Documents: Why Some Doubt Shakespeare’s Existence
- The Inconsistencies Between Shakespeare’s Life and Works
- Alternative Theories: The Oxfordian, Baconian, and Marlovian Theories
- The Significance of William Shakespeare’s Works, Regardless of his Existence
- The Mystery Continues
The Controversy Surrounding Shakespeare’s Existence
William Shakespeare is a name that is familiar to almost everyone, from literature students to casual readers. His plays are still performed today, and his work continues to be studied and celebrated around the world. However, despite his influence and popularity, there are those who doubt that he actually existed as a person.
The evidence for Shakespeare’s existence is largely circumstantial, and there are many unanswered questions about his life and career. Some scholars argue that the lack of personal documents and inconsistencies between his life and works suggest that he may have been a pseudonym for another writer, or even a group of writers. Others argue that the evidence for his existence is strong enough to dispel any doubts.
The Evidence for Shakespeare’s Existence
The evidence for Shakespeare’s existence is largely based on historical documents and records from the time period in which he lived. These include legal records, church records, and contemporary accounts of his life and career.
One of the most compelling pieces of evidence for Shakespeare’s existence is the fact that his name appears on the title pages of many of his plays and poems that were published during his lifetime. This suggests that he was an established and recognized figure in the literary world of his time.
Other evidence includes legal records that mention a William Shakespeare, such as court records related to property and business dealings. There are also records of his marriage to Anne Hathaway, as well as records of his children’s baptisms.
In addition, there are contemporary accounts of Shakespeare’s life and career, such as the introduction to the First Folio of his plays, which was published in 1623, just a few years after his death. This introduction refers to Shakespeare as a “gentleman” and “renowned” playwright, suggesting that he was a well-known and respected figure in his time.
The Lack of Personal Documents: Why Some Doubt Shakespeare’s Existence
Despite the evidence for Shakespeare’s existence, there are some who doubt that he was a real person. One of the main arguments against his existence is the lack of personal documents, such as letters or diaries, that can be definitively linked to him.
This lack of personal documents is particularly notable when compared to other prominent figures of the time, such as Ben Jonson or Christopher Marlowe, who left behind a wealth of personal writings. Some argue that the absence of personal documents suggests that Shakespeare may have been a pseudonym, or that he was deliberately secretive about his personal life.
However, others point out that the lack of personal documents may simply be due to the fact that Shakespeare was not a particularly notable figure during his lifetime. As a working playwright and actor, he may not have had the time or resources to devote to personal writing.
The Inconsistencies Between Shakespeare’s Life and Works
Another argument against Shakespeare’s existence is the perceived inconsistencies between his life and works. Some scholars point out that Shakespeare’s plays and poems contain references to places and events that he could not have been familiar with, based on his known biography.
For example, some of his plays are set in Italy, despite the fact that there is no record of him ever having traveled outside of England. Others contain references to events that occurred after his death, suggesting that they were written by someone else.
However, supporters of Shakespeare’s existence argue that these inconsistencies can be explained by the fact that he was a playwright, not a historian. Shakespeare was known for taking liberties with historical facts in order to create more compelling and dramatic stories. In addition, many of his plays were based on earlier works or popular stories, which may have contained inaccuracies or anachronisms.
Alternative Theories: The Oxfordian, Baconian, and Marlovian Theories
Despite the evidence for Shakespeare’s existence, there are several alternative theories that have been put forward over the years. One of the most prominent is the Oxfordian theory, which suggests that the real author of Shakespeare’s works was Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford.
According to this theory, de Vere wrote the plays and poems under the pseudonym “William Shakespeare” because he did not want to be associated with the theater. Supporters of this theory point to similarities between de Vere’s life and the themes and characters in Shakespeare’s works.
Another theory is the Baconian theory, which suggests that the philosopher and statesman Francis Bacon was the true author of Shakespeare’s works. Proponents of this theory argue that Bacon had the literary talent and knowledge of law and politics that are evident in Shakespeare’s plays.
A third theory is the Marlovian theory, which suggests that Christopher Marlowe, another prominent playwright of the time, was the true author of Shakespeare’s works. Supporters of this theory point to similarities between Marlowe’s writing style and the style of Shakespeare’s early works.
Despite the popularity of these alternative theories, they are not widely accepted by mainstream scholars, who continue to believe that Shakespeare was the true author of his works.
The Significance of William Shakespeare’s Works, Regardless of his Existence
Regardless of whether William Shakespeare was a real person or not, there is no denying the significance and impact of his works. His plays and poems have been studied, performed, and celebrated for centuries, and they continue to be a vital part of the literary canon.
Shakespeare’s works have had a profound influence on literature, language, and culture, and they continue to be studied and analyzed by scholars and students around the world. Whether or not he actually existed, there is no denying the enduring legacy of William Shakespeare and his contribution to the world of literature.
The Mystery Continues
The question of whether William Shakespeare actually existed as a person continues to be the subject of debate and controversy. While there is strong evidence to suggest that he was a real person, there are also inconsistencies and unanswered questions that have fueled alternative theories over the years.
Regardless of the answer to this question, however, there is no denying the significance and impact of Shakespeare’s works. His plays and poems continue to be studied, performed, and celebrated around the world, and his legacy as one of the greatest writers in history remains secure.
In conclusion, the question of William Shakespeare’s existence remains a mystery that has been debated by scholars for centuries. While there is strong evidence to suggest that he was a real person who wrote the works attributed to him, there are also inconsistencies and unanswered questions that have led to alternative theories.
Despite this controversy, there is no denying the significance and impact of Shakespeare’s works on literature, language, and culture. His plays and poems continue to be studied and performed around the world, and his legacy as one of the greatest writers in history remains secure.
Ultimately, the debate over Shakespeare’s existence is unlikely to be resolved definitively, but it serves as a reminder of the enduring power of his works and their ability to spark discussion and debate even centuries after their creation.
- Shapiro, James. “Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?” Simon & Schuster, 2010.
- Greenblatt, Stephen. “Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare.” W.W. Norton & Company, 2004.
- Holland, Peter. “Shakespeare’s Ghost: The Shakespeare Authorship Debate.” Continuum International Publishing Group.
- Looney, J. Thomas. “Shakespeare Identified: In Edward de Vere, the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford.” Press of the New Era Printing Company, 1920.
- Price, Diana. “Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography: New Evidence of an Authorship Problem.” Greenwood Press, 2001.