Time for a Bad Shakespeare 450 Friday Fun Fact! Well, fun if you like Shakespeare. Otherwise it’s probably just a fact. Either way, here you go.
There is some debate on whether or not William Shakespeare was “real.” There are several theories, including the Oxfordian theory that states his works were written by the Earl of Oxford (and the subject of the movie Anonymous) and the Marlovian Theory that states that his works were written by Christopher Marlowe, a contemporary of Shakespeare.
I’m going to save everyone some time, if you bring these theories up to legitimate scholars of Shakespeare, they’re going to spend a while debunking them, mostly because they’re not true. Seriously. Don’t do it. You’ll find a lot of sub-groups (and a million other theories) but he was a real person, and most evidence pointed to the fact that yes, he wrote many of his own works.
Time for the shocking reveal. The writer of many of William Shakespeare’s works is.. William Shakespeare. Yes, there is evidence that he collaborated with dramatists in some of his works such as Titus Andronicus and Henry VI. There’s evidence that many of his works are based on other works, or as we call them today, “reboots.” And there’s evidence that some of his works were re-written, like Macbeth, which makes sense since everyone said it was cursed.
Why do people still question if William Shakespeare wrote his works, despite the fact that there’s a lot of evidence that he didn’t. There are many reasons, I’m going to just outline a few.
-Piracy. Pirates ran rampant back in ye olde England. I don’t just mean the cool, Johnny Depp, Shiver-me-timbers, time. Actors, which were once considered lower than thieves, would work in troupes. Sometimes, local actors would be hired if there weren’t enough parts of the troupe. Those actors, not being paid much and not being respected, would often run to book publishers and say, “Hey, I just got the script for the new Shakespeare” and recite parts of it, or parts they could remember, resulting in a few different versions. William Shakespeare didn’t write too much down, didn’t give it to actors, and didn’t even publish anything for years and years. Of course, publishing wasn’t easy back then because...
-William Shakespeare didn’t have an easy name to spell on early printing presses. Yes, William was easy. Look at all those straight lines. But then he had to mess it up with the last name “Shakespeare. See that “e” followed by that “s”. Those two letters weren’t easy to put together, so when it was published, usually by pirates, they would leave off the “e”, thus leading people to believe that he didn’t know how to spell his own name. Of course he did. Which leads me to...
-The mistaken belief that William Shakespeare was an uneducated, penniless, actor. Actually he was kind of rich. And he left none of it to his wife, Anne Hathaway. Not Catwoman. But that would make the story more awesome, so if you want to believe William Shakespeare hung out with Catwoman, please feel free. We all like to believe the first part because again, back then actors weren’t exactly treated like treat them now. Also, the “uneducated, penniless” part is used to ask, “How did he know how all these kings live?”. Because he was smart and he did research. Remember, Shakespeare stole... um, “rebooted” everything he wrote, except for possibly his last play.
So the next time you’re out at the bar and the question comes up of Shakespeare’s authorship, you have three handy little facts to dispute the person making those claims, and win over the girl/guy you’re trying to impress.