Anti-Stratfordian’s Ideas in A Midsummer Night’s Dream
William Shakespeare was a playwright, an English poet, and an on-stage actor from 1585 to 1613 before he died at the age of 52 in 1616. He was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire on April 26, 1564, to his loving parents Mary and John Shakespeare. Mary was the daughter of an affluent landowner and John was a businessman. In Shakespeare’s early years his parents got into financial difficulty. Resulting in the debate of William Shakespeare’s education. William went to King’s New School in Stratford, but some people believe that due to his parent’s money problems he would have most definitely been taken out of that school. With the status that William’s parents had they both were believed to have been illiterate which some Anti-Stratfordians (people who believe that there could have been someone else who wrote William Shakespeare’s plays while using his name either to not ruin his life or could not have taken the credit publicly due to a multitude of reasons.) believe that William Shakespeare was illiterate as well, due to his circumstances in his early years of life. William Shakespeare at 18 years-old married a 26-year-old woman named Anne Hathaway, who was born close to where William was born near Stratford-upon-Avon.
They stayed married until Shakespeare’s death, throughout their marriage Ann and William had three children. Their first baby was Suzanne, then they had twins Judith and Hamnet. During sometime early in his marriage and having children, very few details about William Shakespeare is known, up to when he started acting on a stage in 1592 in London. His early career as an actor is not well documented, possibly due to the fact that many of the theaters during this time started to close down contributed to the loss of demand for plays. During that time Shakespeare has been regarded to have been writing his spectacular plays and poems. Later on, through the years he decided to become a co-owner and on-stage actor for “The Kings Men” company which preformed many Shakespearian plays at the Globe Theater. He then retired from the theater business in 1613 and shortly after passed on at the young age of 52. Over William Shakespeare’s life, he has composed over 150 sonnets and over 30 plays, which the authorship of some is questionable. He is known for his most popular plays such as Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and Macbeth, with his work consisting of life, death, comedy, revenge, jealousy, mystery, and murder. With an estimated four billion copies sold and regarded to be one of the English language’s greatest writers ever, William Shakespeare is one of the most recognizable, studied and successful people from our history. However, some people think that somebody else wrote Shakespeare’s plays. There are some convincing arguments and theories revolving this at first glance but there are many things that are inaccurate about their findings, that most scholars find that these claims are ridiculous.
The Anti-Stratfordian theory is a belief in which a person thinks Shakespeare’s work was written by someone else or a group of people other than William Shakespeare himself. This theory became popular in 1857 when two writers wrote a book on how Shakespeare’s plays were most likely written by Francis Bacon or Christopher Marlowe or Edward de Vere or William Stanley. After this, many famous people including but not limited to Sigmund Freud, Helen Keller, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, and many others were convinced by what they read. The basis of this theory is built from the idea of how someone with a good education, born in the country to a middle-class family and an okay actor be able to write these magnificent plays. Anti-Stratfordian’s believe that someone with higher education, the insight of the royal court and an understanding of aristocracy would be able to write Shakespeare’s work. One of the top candidates is Sir Francis Bacon who was a politician, lawyer, historian, scientist, and philosopher who supposedly used William Shakespeare’s name in order to be in the high office because it wasn’t like someone from a high class to make plays. Christopher Marlowe is another contender for some conspiracy theorists. Marlowe was a play writer and poet who died at the young age of 29 due to murder, but the Marlovians (people who believe in this theory) have reason to believe that he faked his death due to inconsistency’s regarding documents found about his death. What they also find suspicious is the fact that close to two weeks after Marlowe’s supposed death, William Shakespeare has never been addressed to any work until his first poem just two weeks after Marlowe’s death. Edward de Vere is the next contender. Edward de Vere was a courtier (attends a royal court to either advise or join the king or queen), a poet, and a play writer. The theory is that in many of Shakespeare’s plays the wealthy people were regarded to as heroes and the lower to middle class people were mostly depicted negatively in his work, which is out of the ordinary for someone like Shakespeare a lower to middle class person succumbing to the idea that people like him are less “worthy” than the rich people.
Oxfordian’s (people who believe in this theory) think due to that reason someone who is in the upper-class like Edward de Vere could have written it instead of someone like a mid to lower class individual like Shakespeare. Adding to the Oxfordian theory is another finding in the 2000s, a writer tells us that the aristocrat’s nickname in the royal court was Spear-shaker similar to Shakespeare just reversed, which is very odd. Along with the legal knowledge that William Shakespeare would have had to know in order to write the play, Merchant of Venice which Oxfordians believe that Shakespeare couldn’t have pulled it off due to his average education. William Stanley is the next contender who was a politician and part of a noble class. Stanley traveled all over to places like Spain, Italy, France, etc. in two of Shakespeare’s plays some details expressed in them come from Stanley’s experiences when traveling. Adding to it, his brother owned an acting group/company in which the majority of their plays were plays of Shakespeare’s work. Queen Elizabeth is an interesting contender. She had a superb education and was taught law, politics, writing, language, and reading. The people who believe in this theory think that she had the knowledge in order to write Shakespeare’s plays. The reason she couldn’t have used her own name was that it was unheard of and somewhat unacceptable from someone from her class and her gender of being female. The rights that a woman had and traditional rules of the genders at that time are much different from today and was not seen as acceptable for a woman to write plays. The belief goes that Queen Elizabeth would write the plays then give them to William Shakespeare, to give it to the public and establish credit with the work. This theory is not that mainstream as the others but it’s a valid proposal given the fact that she was also a big supporter of the theater productions.
Given what we know about the theories about the authorship of William Shakespeare’s plays. The first possible person to oppose the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays according to Anti-Stratfordian’s is by a man named James Wilmot. Back in 1781, two hundred years after Shakespeare’s death, he wanted to embark on a journey of writing an extensive biography on William Shakespeare. In order for Wilmot to write the biography he needed to do some research on him, the most popular way of doing this back in the eighteenth century was to visit Shakespeare’s hometown along with every place he could have possibly been throughout his life within a certain amount of miles which he decided to do a fifty mile radius from his home place. His first stop was going to all libraries in and around Stratford to find things Shakespeare wrote like letters and or any books he had ever read. The results of what he found made him rethink if William Shakespeare was the sole one and only writer of his plays and poems. What he found was nothing. Not a shred of any type of evidence to prove that he ever wrote down anything on paper, inside a book, a letter, signatures, nothing or even prove he read any books at all. Privately James Wilmot concluded that he couldn’t believe that someone like William Shakespeare who wrote exceptionally marvelous work with his plays and poems could not have any sort of evidence of handwriting and or books that were read by himself. With all that he came to the idea that someone else wrote his plays and that person he thought it was is Francis Bacon. Then in 1805, Wilmot’s friend announced in his lectures Wilmot’s private idea on the authorship of William Shakespeare’s plays. The problem with this according to a Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro who has argued this whole James Wilmot story was formulated possibly in the 20th century to bring back up the Francis Bacon theory or Baconian theory. The Baconian theory was in a desperate attempt to stay relevant over another theory on Shakespeare’s authorship. James Shapiro also claims that most of the language found in the documents regarding the James Wilmot theory was out of the technique and form of how they wrote at the beginning of the 19th century along with many details expressed in the writings weren’t known back in 1805 but well over that time.
No expert Shakespeare scholar takes the Anti-Stratfordian theory serious at all. Former Shakespeare professor Stephen Marche said, ‘The idea has roughly the same currency as the faked moon landing does among astronauts.” There are lots of reasons that these many theories can be discredited. We actually have a good amount of written mentions to William Shakespeare. Scholar Irvin Mattus states that ‘There is more about Shakespeare in contemporary materials than about most others in English Renaissance theater.’. The most important evidence that Shakespearians have is that William Shakespeare’s name is physically written on his plays. There would have to be an enormous amount of evidence to counter this from the Anti-Stratfordian’s but as of now, all they can give is just these conspiracy’s and no facts or hard evidence to back up their claims. For example, if someone believes that Edwards de Vere is the real William Shakespeare who wrote the poems and plays, they would have to claim that the dates for the plays would have to be re-dated. Edward de Vere died on June 24, 1604, which is the same year that Shakespeare would have wrote The Tempest, The Winter’s Tale, and more plays. Stephen Marche a Canadian novelist said, ‘You can’t write a hip-hop masterpiece before hip-hop has been invented. And you can’t write A Midsummer Night’s Dream until English secular comedy has come into existence.’ Hence the Anti-Stratfordian’s came up with these timelines to bypass their inconsistencies with their contenders for whom they believe actually wrote the Shakespearian work but due to their own lives a good fraction of their contenders timelines don’t add up to the overall timeline with when the poems should have been written and when they were published and all that. Which is explained in a great quote above about how things can’t be written or happen once another particular thing happens or gets written (it has to be invented before someone else can make their own thing from it). Anti-Stratfordian’s focus on a lot of things and focus on issues like education. They can’t fathom the idea of how someone with a good education, born in the country to a middle-class family and an okay actor be able to write these magnificent plays. Which it turns out that at Stratford’s primary school taught Latin, Greek, and other foreign languages which is prevalent in many of Shakespeare’s works along with references to books used in his school in some of Shakespeare’s plays.
Anti-Stratfordian’s ideas are convincing from the first glance from Baconian’s theory to Queen Elizabeth’s theory and everything in between. However, with backstory and statements from expert Shakespeare professors who have dedicated the majority of their lives teaching and studying the works of William Shakespeare’s poems and plays, we can know with high certainty that William Shakespeare is the legitimate author of the spectacular plays and poems attributed to him. Anti-Stratfordian’s base their theories with speculation and conspiracy’s which are intriguing and are exciting which is like some of the other conspiracy’s we have today like some people think that the moon landing is fake, that the Earth is flat, involvement in the JFK assassination and much more. Understanding that William Shakespeare wrote his own plays gives you this type of hope. You can come from nothing and grown up in a small town with a good education and can become someone who has sold billions of copies of plays and poems and is still studied immensely to this day well over 400 years later.
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