Frequently Asked Questions
This, in the whole compendium of Oxfordian dishonesty, is the most brutal departure from truth and common sense. In the very small small world of Elizabethan theatre, it might well have been possible for the author of one or two plays to remain anonymous and even have them published anonymously. But this is not what Oxfordians claim.
They claim, preposterously, that Shakespeare used an allonym - the name of another real human being, alive at the time. Rather than common, as publishing poetry under a pseudonym was, this would be unique in the history of theatre and impossible to carry out successfully even once, let alone on the many volumes which were published under Shakespeare's name.
Nor are plays that bore his name which were not written by him exemplary of the Oxfordian process. That's common fraud and we know that Shakespeare protested when sonnets of his were pinched and others passed off as his when The Passionate Pilgrim was published. The motive here is not to conceal the true author but to take advantage of the reputation of another. Not unheard of. Unlike everything Oxfordians claim with respect to title pages.
Not to most scholars. People with ideas on Will's religion, even wen Faculty Professors have them, generally use them in support of another, more cherished idea.
No. Another manufactured myth.
Oxfordians like to claim that this is a monument to a grain or wool dealer, or to Shakespeare's father, John. The claim is based on a picture which was originally a rough sketch of Shakespeare's monument made by William Dugdale intended for publication in his Antiquaries of Warwickshire 1656. He wasn't any kind of an artist and so passed his sketches on for improvement to an artist called Wenceslas Hollar.
Hollar's work was then copied by Gerard Van der Gucht for an engraving for Nicholas Rowe's account of Shakespeare's life of Shakespeare in 1709. Arguments that is is an image of a grain or wool dealer are simply mistaken. The picture is an engraving of a drawing of a rough sketch which is the reason why it looks so different from the bust we see today.
The pen is missing from the sketch but has gone missing many times during the centuries and may not have been there when Dugdale visited the church. In any case, Shakespeare's father was almost certainly a Catholic recusant and was fined a couple of times for non-attendance at church, making it inconceivable that he would be honoured in this way.
The argument that it was changed before the much more accurate illustration commissioned by Alexander Pope in 1723 takes no account of the fact that there has always been an inscription at the base describing the figure as a great scholar and writer.
While we're on the subject of Shakespeare's father being fined for non- attendance at Church, the names of three others fined at the same session of the Religious Commissioners are significant: Bardolph, Fluellen and Court. These are all characters in Henry V. So another little detail that connects Shakespeare with Stratford and an interesting insight into how writers collect names for their characters.
If you visit Holy Trinity and stand below the actual monument, the reasons for the shortcomings of Dugdale's drawing become even clearer. The monument is high up so that from below, the perspective is extreme and the bust looks not unlike the drawing. Dugdale has corrected the straight lines and used right angles on the carved niche where he knows them to be.
The unusual features of Dugdale's sketch can all be accounted for by his lack of knowledge of 3-point perspective.
Not really. Spelling wasn't standardised and typesetters had many idiosyncrasies and were inclined to do their own thing*
Names were not spelled consistently in Shakepeare's time. It seems remarkable to us, but there is lots of evidence for this. Ben Jonson's name was sometimes spelled "Jonson" and sometimes spelled "Johnson." Christopher Marlowe's name was spelled many different ways, including as "Marley."
Anti-Stratfordians usually argue that the name was most commonly spelled with an "e" in London and without an "e" in Stratford, and then argue that this is evidence that there must have been two entirely separate people - the one in Stratford named "Shakspeare" and another guy in London called "Shakespeare." But for different spellings to be evidence of different people, you would have to establish that most people's names were spelled consistently. BUT THE OPPOSITE IS TRUE.
Anti-Strats also like to argue that Shakespeare's name sometimes appeared with a hyphen, and a hyphen is evidence (according to them) that the hyphenated name was really a pseudonym, but there are numerous examples of names with hyphens that were NOT pseudonyms - and in any event, Shakespeare's name, used in connection with the plays, was usually spelled without a hyphen. Furthermore, Shakespeare's famous will shows Shakespeare of Stratford was involved with the actors in the King's Men, so it would be a very remarkable coincidence if the William Shakespeare of Stratford and the William Shakespeare of the King's Men were different people. Some Anti-Strats also argue that the fact that Shakespeare's signatures appear to have different spellings is evidence that he is illiterate because he could not spell his own name, which does not make a lot of sense. Claiming you can identify illiteracy by analysing handwriting is unique to Oxfordianism. *As they still do today.
Oxfordians would like you to believe this canard. It is completely untrue.
The lack of a complete recorded biography for William Shakespeare is disappointing, but not a reason for disbelieving the records we DO have. It is a reason for additional research, and the drawing of educated conclusions about the man’s life, but it is not a basis for disattributing what the contemporary record evidence establishes he did.
The argument is bass ackwards. Authorship is established by evidence of authorship, not by the rest of the biography. If the biography indicated something that disqualified the person as author – an inconveniently timed death, for instance – that would be different. But nothing known in Shakespeare’s biography is a disqualifier from authorship. That we do not have a document stating Shakespeare went to grammar school is not the same thing as saying Shakespeare did not go to grammar school. You need to look at the rest of the evidence. Similarly, that we do not know how Shakespeare learned certain things, about Italy, or nobles, or law – and what he Knew is often overstated – does not mean he did not know those things, merely that how he came to this knowledge – readily available at the time, by the way – is shielded from our eyes.
You can safely discuss whatever you like but espousing Oxford's authorship is guaranteed to damage your credibility as a student of Early Modern English literature. For good reasons.
Modern scholarship is engaged in the authorship debate but not with flimsy conspiracy theorists. Since computerised stylometry eliminated candidates like Oxford, the process has been used to build an ever-more detailed map of the DNA of Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre using the entire database of digital texts from the period.
The Oxfordian portrayal of academia as a resistant, hidebound, closed-minded, myopic barrier to the authorship issue is now as dead as a dodo. Far from being unwilling to consider the issues, maybe as much as a quarter of the English academic establishment, whose rigidity they love to mock, is now fully engaged in reviewing Shakespearean authorship.
The new directions, supported by computerised stylometry, point towards a collaborative ambience in which plays were not just created and produced but adapted and updated by dramatists with fingers in hundreds of pies outside their own kitchens. The ability to identify small fragments of one author's work in another is greatly advancing our knowledge of the collaborative process.
And the idea that an anonymous Earl is hiding in there, unseen, unnamed, covered by a conspiracy isn't just ridiculous, it's completely impossible. Unworthy of mention. Although advancing Oxford's authorship candidature in any English Faculty has always been a surefire way to invite ridicule and low grades, there has never been a worse time than the present to suggest that the 17th Earl of Oxford's hand is visible in the Shakespearean canon. Other hands are being detected and identified but not that of Oxford, who couldn't write four lines of iambic pentameter without making 8 mistakes.
There is NOTHING of merit in Oxfordianism. If you value your credibility, don't mention it.
None at all.
It's actually quite hard to elaborate on this because although there are hundreds of books on the subject, none contain any real evidence connecting Oxford to the work. This is one of the great paradoxes of the authorship debate.
Oxfordians disqualify Will on the entirely false grounds of there being no evidence to support his authorship.
Yet they supply absolutely nothing in the way of supporting evidence on behalf of their own candidates.
Oxford was the second-ranking Earl at court. His Earldom was the second oldest still extant.
He was therefore due a mighty amount of deference from those on the lower rungs of society. However, there is no evidence that anyone genuinely regarded Oxford as a poet or a playwright of any standing. If you were not one of the very few people higher up society's ladder, criticising the Earl's poetry or any of his actions was likely to end in tears. And Oxford was quick to take offence. So all mentions of his work as a writer, and they are very, very few in number, are bound to be favourable. His title would always demands his name appear first on any list, as it does on that of Francis Meres. His prose is laboured, dull and verbose and his poetic sentiments tend to to be mundane and selfish.
He really isn't a good choice of candidate for the author of Will's work.
No. It's a series on conjectures which Oxfordians would like people to accept as a theory but it cannot withstand even elementary scrutiny when looked at as a whole. A theory, in the academic world, is a hypothesis for which there is wide or tacit acceptance. Oxfordian core claims do not meet any standards of academic rigour. They are fond of quoting Supreme Court Justice Stevens, who made a couple of supportive remarks in the famous 1987 mock trial. Yet his summary was "the Oxfordian case suffers from not having a single coherent theory". Things have got worse, not better since then.
There is, for example, still no remotely satisfying explanation of why a third of Will's work was written after Oxford's death.
Oxfordians suppose that the plays which appeared after Oxford died were all written but lay unperformed somewhere in a drawer. They were then drip-fed to the Elizabethan audience by a play-broker, anxious to defend Oxford's anonymity.
The harder you think about it, the less it makes sense. But Oxfordians are not looking to support their case with common sense or truth.
They are merely interested in scenarios which fit the facts, however improbably, and are difficult to disprove.