Who Was The Man From Stratford?
We all know the famous Bard, William Shakespeare. His 39 plays and 154 sonnets have been performed across the world more than any other playwright. From the ‘Taming of the Shrew’ to ‘Romeo and Juliet’, Shakespeare has left his mark as the greatest writer in English literature. But do we really know who the Bard of Avon was?
Why You Shouldn’t Believe That Shakespeare Was The Man In The Pictures
You’ve known Shakespeare most of your life. You may have seen one of his plays, or even visited his famous Globe Theatre. So how can he not be the person you’ve been taught about?
Well firstly, a collective group of experts have some serious doubt about everything you ‘know’. The Declaration of Reasonable Doubt was created by The Shakespeare Authorship Coalition to show that we have several reasons to doubt who William Shakespeare was. Shakespeare’s brilliant works show expert knowledge of law, philosophy, literature, astronomy, music, history and art.
So was the Shakespeare that you know an educated gentleman with expertise in all these fields. No, probably not. He was born to illiterate parents in a small town in Stratford-upon-Avon. But is it at all possible for that this lowly pauper acquired all of this knowledge?
Well, his education doesn’t seem to offer a promising chance. There is no record of Shakespeare ever attending grammar school, let alone university and no books belonging to Shakespeare have ever been found. Sceptics have argued that this is irrelevant as Shakespeare was a genius, but even geniuses have to gain knowledge from somewhere right? And with there also being no record to show that he left England, we can probably rule out Shakespeare picking up knowledge and culture from expeditions across the world.
Not only is there no record of Shakespeare reading, it appears that he didn’t do much writing either! No letters or plays have been found written in Shakespeare’s handwriting. The only writings in Shakespeare’s own hand that has been found, are a few signatures. These signatures were inconsistent with Shakespeare misspelling his name often writing it Shaxpere or Shackespere.
So if Shakespeare couldn’t spell his own name and wasn’t educated, was he even responsible for all the plays and sonnets we know so well?
“best-known unknown persons that have ever drawn breath upon the planet.”– Mark Twain ‘Is Shakespeare Dead?’
Was Shakespeare Actually A Black Man?
There is little evidence to back up this theory BUT it’s not entirely outside of the realms of possibility. London during the 1500s was home to many black people, a great deal of which were Moorish Africans. There were so many that a lot of Londoners petitioned Queen Elizabeth to get rid of them as the slave trade was slowly taking root in London and Britain was becoming more racist. During this racist time in England, Shakespeare wrote about several black characters like Othello and Black Luce.
However, the lack of any real evidence makes this theory very unlikely.
Did Multiple People Play The Part Of Shakespeare?
Delia Bacon was the first to propose the group theory in her book ‘The philosophy of the plays of Shakspere unfolded’. She believed that it was impossible for one man to have such a great wealth of knowledge. The plays HAD to have been written by multiple such as Sir Walter Raleigh, Edmund Spenser and Sir Francis Bacon. Gilbert Slater in ‘The Seven Shakespeares’ also makes the case that Shakespeare’s plays had to have been written by a group rather than a single person.
Though both authors make a strong case- I’m not convinced. The writing style of Shakespeare was so consistent that it seems like it was written by only one person.
Sir Francis Bacon and Edward de Vere
Both these men are popular alternative authorship candidates. Bacon was a lawyer, philosopher and scientist. He was the Queens counsel in 1596 and attorney general in 1613. Many argue that the as the writer of Shakespeare would need knowledge of the law, Bacon is the perfect fit.
Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, sponsored many companies of actors. Many believe that he was a prominent anonymous writer. The strong relationship between the events in Oxford’s biography and the plays suggest that Oxford may have used Shakespeare as a pseudonym. Two pieces of Shakespeare’s work was even dedicated to the de Vere family.
Thomas Looney theorised that Shakespeare had to have been a well-travelled aristocrat with a classical education, much like Edward de Vere.
Was The Man Behind Shakespeare Really A Black Jewish WOMAN?
“Shakespeare must be a black girl”– Maya Angelo
Amelia Bassano was a Jewish ‘Dark Lady’ of Venetian origins. Many believe that she was the woman who inspired many of Shakespeare’s sonnets. But could she have been responsible for all the works of the great bard?
Amelia’s book ‘Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum’ 1611, a satire, sometimes called ‘Eve’s apology’, includes a satirical poem of the crucifixion. Shakespeare also included satirical crucifixions in plays like ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and ‘As You Like It’.
Out, sword, and wound!
The pap of Pyramus—
Ay, that left pap
Where heart doth hop. (stabs himself)
Thus die I, thus, thus, thus.
Now am I dead.– A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 5 scene 1
Shakespeare’s use of ‘Swan Signatures’ also provides evidence that Amelia was the true author. Swan signatures are a standard image used by a great poet of a swan dying to music, originally used by Ovid.
There are 3 examples of these signatures in Shakespeare’s plays. The first is in ‘The Merchant of Venice’ (Amelia’s birthplace). The next is in ‘King John’ when Henry, King John’s son dies, Henry was also the name of Amelia’s son. The last and most interesting use is in Othello.
The swan signature was added to Othello during 1622-23. It added a feminist manifesto, expanded the part of Emilia and included the addition of the Willow song.
Shakespeare’s plays are also extremely musical, they include over 2000 musical references and 100 songs. The Bassano family were Marrano Musicians and became court musicians to Henry VIII. Amelia’s own cousin, Robert Johnson was responsible for composing music for 4 Shakespeare plays.
Shakespeare was also a ‘feminist’. Women in Shakespearian plays were educated, could play instruments, read Ovid, and speak other languages. This describes some of the women Amelia would have been surrounded by at court.
Catherine Brandon Dutchess of Suffolk- an early Tudor feminist, she was responsible for persuading Henry VII to let women read the Bible for themselves. She believed women should be well educated and ensured her daughter- Countess Susan Bertie, Amelia’s step-mother, was well learned.
Shakespeare also goes out of his way to include the work of female authors in his plays. Christine de Pisan was a feminist lawyer and her work appears in 3 plays and is found nowhere else in literature. Also Queen Margaret of Navarre’s book “The Heptameron” is also made reference to in his plays. This book was extremely popular with women in court.
This theory seems to be the most plausible. The bard could, in fact, be a black woman.
Tell us what you think. And share your theories!