I pitched this idea to Cracked.com, in this form. I got a quick rejection notice saying it was too specific, and another comment that starkly indicated they didn’t really read the piece.
Why some Loonies believe Shakespeare didn’t write the plays. (And why they’re not so looney!)
William Shakespeare has been hailed as the greatest writer in the history of the English language. But believe it or not, there are some who believe that Shakespeare of Stratford upon Avon did not actually write the plays he is so famous for. Ridiculous, right? Well, maybe not. Turns out once you look into things, that idea is not as crazy as it sounds.
– Where are his pages???
One of the more curious things about the Shakespearean plays is that not one original manuscript has been found for any of the Shakespearean plays. Not one!
But that’s easy to qualify, right? It was centuries ago. They’ve been lost, destroyed, decayed… The ravages of time destroyed or lost them.
This is the thing however: Many of his contemporaries, other popular playwrights of his time, have surviving original manuscripts. Ben Johnson, Christopher Marlowe… And most people don’t even know who these playwrights are! If you asked even the dullest stoner on the street who Shakespeare was, he’d say “That play guy from England!” But if you ask the average yahoo who was Christopher Marlowe they’d probably answer “Y”mean that Dashiel Hammet guy?” If you asked someone who Ben Johnson was, they might answer “Didn’t he play third base for the Orioles?”
– Again with the paper trail! (Lack thereof)
Okay, so no manuscripts. Well, you can probably write that off as luck of the draw. Those other playwrights had theirs survive, maybe his all got ate up all at once r’ something.
But it’s not just manuscripts that are missing. Despite being one of the most heavily researched figures in history, no one has ever found any notes, any journals, any poem or play rough drafts, or any other kinds of writing by thee Shakespeare. And if that wasn’t odd enough, no one has ever found a letter written by Shakespeare. Not even one letter! One letter written to Shakespeare has been found, but it was a business letter asking for a loan.
In fact, the only documents that have Shakespeare’s personal ink on them are six business documents that have his signature. He’s basically the greatest writer who never wrote anything down!
Lack of evidence is not evidence, but in this case lack of evidence is ridiculous!
– Hardly ever mentioned as a writer
Shakespeare scholars will insist that there’s plenty of evidence that Shakespeare was a revered and respected playwright of his day, but the fact of the matter is that hardly anyone ever mentioned him as a writer or playwright, at least not in their writings and journals. Ben Johnson, the man who published the First Folio, (The first ever definitive collection of Shakespearean plays,) never mentioned Shake as a writer or playwright in any of his journals, writings, or articles. (In fact Johnson seems to make fun of Shakespeare in one of his plays. Google “Not Without Mustard”.) Other playwrights and intellectuals of the time never mentioned him in their writings.
Some point to a cryptic yawp written by a contemporary of Shakespeare’s, Robert Greene, who wrote a blurb called Groatsworth of Witte in which he references an “Upstart Crow”. Many people insist the obstreperous avian is Shakespeare. But the work is so cryptic that it has been used by Shakespeare doubters as well as supporters to “prove” their point. Some scholars even wonder if he was talking about Shakespeare at all with that reference.
But what about the name on the plays? Well, it’s written Shake-speare, with the hyphen. And get this, Good ol’ William wrote his surname “Shakspeare”, not Shakespeare. Could that be a minor thing? Maybe. But it hasn’t stopped a firestorm of controversy in the doubters community.
– Never went after bootlegs, didn’t scrap over play royalties, and never got paid
Neither a borrower or lender be, but Shakespeare was, in fact, both. He was a money lenderer and a business hustler. And he was a penny pincher if there ever was one. He was known to drag people into court over small sums of owed money.
So if that’s the case why didn’t he get his Elizabethan collar into a knot over his plays, if they really were his? He was part owner of a theater, it’s true, but some of the Shaksespearean plays were bootlegged. That is, people who didn’t have publishing rights were printing and selling copies for sale. Why didn’t good ol’ Will ever take then to task in court? There’s no evidence he ever did.
He also does not mention the plays in his infamous will. Neither does he mention any books or libraries in his will. If this guy really could speak French, Italian, and Latin, then where were his books? One popular Shakespeare scholar insists he got all of his book smarts by hanging around book stalls, reading them without buying them or taking them home. (But wouldn’t he have been shooed away by annoyed book sellers? “Hey pal, buy or fly. This ain’t a library!”)
There is no evidence that he ever owned or read any book or any writings at all. It’s gotten so ridiculous some people have even speculated if thee Will of Stratford could even read or write in the first place!
And if that wasn’t weird enough, there’s not one record of Shakespeare ever having been paid for a play. Shakespeare was definitely a businessman, and he had his mind on his money and his money on his mind. If anything he wrote went into production, you better bet that Shake would’ve gone after that cabbage!
– Where did he get all that knowledge???
Many Shakespeare scholars label doubters “snobs”, because how hard is it to believe that a man of modest means could ever write such plays? They want to brush off the question before it’s even examined.
History is replete with examples of remarkable people rising to great heights from mediocre or poor backgrounds, But in every case, even if they were poor and disadvantaged, they had some sort of learning experience or education that helped form their intellectual prowess and ability. So it’s not unfair to ask how such a writer built himself up to such heights.
Experts have poured over the text of the plays, over and over again, and have declared that whoever wrote the plays was fluent in Italian, French, and Latin. Whoever wrote the plays knew a lot about seafaring, the military, the Royal Court, and had the legal knowledge of a lawyer. They also knew a lot about falconry. (Falconry? Wut?)
(This is also why so many doubters believe Edward de Vere may have been the true author, given that he was fluent in all three of those languages, had been in the navy, the army, had hung out with nobility, and was a lawyer. And, he was also, wait for it, a FALCONER!)
Of course the idea of someone of modest means learning a language or joining the Navy is hardly beyond the bounds of believability. But having all of this knowledge and all of these vast intellectual facets is a stretch for a country bumpkin. There is no evidence that good ol’ Shake ever attended any school. (Even the grammar school in his native Stratford. All discussion of his participation at that institute are pure speculation!) There are no records of him having ever been in the Navy, or the Army, or of him having practiced any kind of law. Heck, even a painting of him holding a falcon would be some evidence!
Even hardcore Shakespeare scholars doubt that he ever left England, and many a doubting heretic have bellowed “Why are so many of his plays set in Italy???”
– Dead and buried
There is one period of Shakespeare’s life that is very odd, and may be the most telling: His ultimate demise. He died around his 51st birthday, and all that happened was that he was plonked into the ground and had a curious not-very-Shakespearean poem written on his tombstone. There were no mourners or acccolades or cries of anguish over the loss of a glorious playwright. When Shakespeare’s contemporary playwrights passed on, writers praised him in open announcements and poems. When Richard Burbage passed on, an actor who merely performed in the plays, all of London wailed for his loss.
But Shakespeare? Not a peep. No eulogisitc poems, no announcements, no cries of despair or salutations for the great playwright were ever issued. Scholars say that no one openly mourned for his passing because he died in Stratford rather than London. True, there was no text messaging or Facebook back in those days, but eventually word would’ve reached London. Then the wailing would have started, if he really was the true author of those beloved plays.
But there was no mourning or eulogizing for Will of Startford. Maybe the Elizabethan types knew something we don’t, or maybe no one cared, which seems very odd indeed.