I was an English Minor in college. I took a class on Shakespeare. I read (and thoroughly enjoyed) many of Shakespeare’s plays (though I can’t say as much for the sonnets). Hamlet, Henry V, The Merchant of Venice: loved ’em. (And for the record, I do know that my play on the famous line from Romeo and Juliet in the title is nonsensical.)
I seem to remember my professor at one point mentioning that some scholars didn’t think that Shakespeare actually wrote the plays that were attributed to him. He never pursued it, and as a lowly undergrad, I didn’t know how to pursue it. So imagine my surprise when the most recent edition of Credenda Agenda (the website hasn’t been updated in a while; I think they’re going through an overhaul at the moment) included an article from Doug Wilson arguing that William Shakespeare of Stratford was not the author of “Shakespeare’s” works and that the true author was a Puritan (of sorts) named Edward de Vere.
Here’s a sketch of the argument against Shakespeare of Stratford and for Edward de Vere.
Against Stratfordian Shakespeare
We have no evidence that Will of Stratford was well-educated, and the author of the plays clearly is.
He had no training in the law and Shakespeare’s plays are filled with legal expertise.
He never travelled abroad, least of all to Italy, a place that appears in detail in the plays.
He was a commoner and the plays demonstrate an aristocratic outlook.
He left no books or manuscripts in his will.
For Edward de Vere of Oxford
He knew the city of Venice intimately.
He studied law at Gray’s Inn, explaining the regular presence of “legal-ese” in the plays.
He was captured by pirates in the English channel, much like Hamlet.
He believed a false accusation against his wife, much like Othello.
His uncle, Arthur Golding, who may have tutored de Vere as a boy, introduced the form of the sonnet to England.
His copy of the Geneva Bible is heavily marked up in many of the same passages that appear in the plays.
That’s just a thumbnail sketch. There’s more in the article, including responses to possible objections, and an explanation of how de Vere may also have been somewhat of a Puritan. To get the rest of the details, you’ll have to order the magazine.
For now, I’ll simply throw it open: Any English lit buffs who can verify or deny the argument? Comment away.