Shakespeare Authorship Question

The SAQ attracts everyone from the casually curious to the passionately academic and many more on that compelling continuum, to the greatest literary challenge of all time – understanding the author behind Shakespeare’s plays & poems. Courtier poet Edward De Vere was identified as a candidate in 1918 by J. Thomas Looney (Low-nee; the jokes are meant to detract & distract from the investigation), an English writer & teacher who assembled a profile of the author based on the content of the work. Further investigation has only augmented and illuminated the case for Edward De Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, to the point where he has become the leading candidate for the man behind the pseudonym. Adherents to the theory, known as Oxfordians, are a large and ever-growing group who find the body of evidence persuasive for his claim to candidacy.  The De Vere Society, founded in 1986, supports and encourages this investigation & conversation in order to reach a better, deeper understanding of the Works & the world that supported their creation.


“I do not [] dismiss the serious examination of the Oxford question for a moment. … I’ll say something else, which will doubtless bring more trouble on my head: serious Oxfordians do things rather well. You’ve a relish for historical investigation, an acceptance of biographical and topical relevance, an open-mindedness about inter-disciplinary studies, and a curiosity about documents, records, artefacts, cryptology, and all manifestations of Elizabethan culture and politics. Shakespeare’s tragedy is that some–by no means all, but too many–of his academic supporters disdain such matters as irrelevant, presumptuous, old-fashioned, grunt work or, worse, done and dusted, conclusively resolved many years ago.” Mark Griffiths, Ph.D., Country Life comments, 24 May 2015; author of the forthcoming The Fourth Man

5 Points to Ponder:

  • The man traditionally believed to be Shakespeare never claimed to be a poet or playwright during his lifetime, nor did any of his heirs or descendants long after he was dead.
  • No evidence exists supporting the idea that he was a poet or playwright during his lifetime.
  • His children seem to have been illiterate; his daughter Susanna learned to write her name after she married Dr. John Hall, but in one instance she failed to recognize her husband’s handwriting.
  • That same Dr. Hall wrote of luminaries of the town, but did not include his own father-in-law, Stratford-upon-Avon’s most famous son, even though they had been the primary beneficiaries of his will.
  • That will, one of the most studied documents in history, leaves no plays, poems, books, letters, manuscripts or any other item connecting him with the life of a writer. This is not so of any other writer of the time-period. Only a suspect interlineation connects him with some persons of the Globe in London. The surname of the signature, one of the famous six, is the most legible of all the surviving examples, but the forename William is written by an amanuensis.

Have you read his will?

Like Shakespeare’s sonnets, Shakespeare’s last will & testament is a reflection of his personal self.
Compare his writing about debt in, say, Hamlet: “…neither a borrower nor a lender be…” to how he dispenses his own debt issues in his own words, in his will: “household stuffe whatsoever, after my dettes and Legasies paied and my funeral expences dischardged, I give devise and bequeath…”

The actual will and some commentary on reading it.