For a week in March each year, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, celebrates the life of William Shakespeare. From March 18 to 24, fans of the bard are invited to visit the Shakespeare family home and view his many famous works. However, there are some who believe that William Shakespeare did not write
the many plays and sonnets that he is credited for. These doubters assert the existence of an alternate writer.
Toward the end of the 19th century, some scholars began to doubt the identity of William Shakespeare. At first, these doubters were thought to be crackpots. Over the years, the conspiracy gained traction. In 2007, a group of Shakespeare skeptics, consisting of performers and scholars, made an official “Declaration of Reasonable Doubt.” Ample evidence exists to prove that Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon and became a well-known actor
and theater-owner in his time. But these skeptics believe that there is simply not enough evidence to prove that this Shakespeare was the same man who wrote so many famous works. They believe Shakespeare’s modest upbringing could not have afforded him the quality education that such a talented writer would have needed. The true author, they argue, must have been a traveler, writer, or aristocrat such as philosopher Francis Bacon, poet Christopher Marlowe, or Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford.
Of course, Shakespeare has a wealth of defenders, too. They argue that Shakespeare’s elementary education would have been adequate for his talents. Paper evidence may not exist because paper was a scarce resource back then
and no one would have kept scraps of notes or letters. It instead would have been reused. Regardless of your belief in Shakespeare’s identity, Shakespeare Week may be a time to enjoy the bard’s words rather than question his good name.