If any anti-Stratfordian makes any of the ten arguments listed below, you can be sure you are dealing with an idiot. In the original version of this post, I did not include explanations. The explanations were added to a subsequent post. But I've decided to edit this original post to add the explanations here.
THE TEN WORST ARGUMENTS
The different spellings of Shakespeare’s name are important evidence. Also, the hyphen that was sometimes used in the printing of Shakespeare’s name is important.
EXPLANATION: Oddly enough, 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 the Anti-Strats 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. And in any event, Shakespeare's 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 (but see arguments #6 and #9 below).
2. The author of the plays attributed to William Shakespeare understood that only the nobility were educated, and that anyone of common birth was intellectually inferior to the nobility.
EXPLANATION: It isn't true that only the noble characters in Shakespeare are educated. In "THE TAMING OF THE SHREW" there is a servant (Tranio) who knows the classics. In "ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL" there is a woman with a middle class upbringing who knows more about medicine than the court doctors. When a nobleman doesn't want to marry her, the King defends her as being equal to anyone other than the King's direct relatives. Similarly, in "CYMBELINE" there is a man whose father was given a title for deeds of valor in combat, but who is regarded by most people as being of common birth, and this man is more noble and intelligent than the son of the Queen. FURTHERMORE, with respect to what was going on in reality (as opposed to the plays), Ben Jonson's plays show much more of a classical education than Shakespeare's plays did, and Ben Jonson was the stepson of a bricklayer. As to the argument that a mere actor wouldn't know about what went on in court, the anti-Strats need to explain Hamlet's advice to Polonius, that Polonius better treat the actors well, because actor's spread gossip concerning the court. If commoners knew nothing about the nobility, Hamlet's advice to Polonius makes no damned sense at all.
3. Anything that happened after 1616 does not count as evidence with respect to the authorship of the works attributed to Shakespeare (although it is acceptable to bring in things first reported about other candidates after their deaths - oh, and if someone said something bad about Shakespeare after 1616, it’s okay to bring that up too).
EXPLANATION: The first folio was published 7 years after Shakespeare died. It clearly identifies the man from Stratford as being the author, but the anti-Strats claim that it doesn't count because it was written after Shakespeare died,so it doesn't count as evidence. Why doesn't it count? Because! However, whenever someone says something negative about Shakespeare after his death, the anti-Strats have no problem counting it as evidence (see #4 below). They are completely inconsistent. The first folio also clearly identifies William Shakespeare the writer as being the same man as William Shakespeare the actor.
4. William Shakespeare refused to show people that he could write. He know this because Aubrey reported that Shakespeare “was not a company keeper; lived in Shoreditch; wouldn’t be debauched, and, if invited to writ he was in pain.
EXPLANATION: Clearly, Aubrey was saying if Shakespeare was invited to a drinking party, he would respond in writing that he couldn't attend because he was in pain. Only an idiot would think Aubrey was saying Shakespeare refused to give autographs because his hand hurt. If you'll read Aubrey, you will see that Aubrey thought Shakespeare was the playwright! Why would Aubrey think that the playwright refused to write? We know Shakespeare could write his name, we have several examples of his signature. Yet some anti-Strats cite this quote from Aubrey as evidence that Shakespeare was illiterate and unable to write. (Aubrey also said that the Earl of Oxford was most well known for farting, but the same anti-Strats who cite Aubrey as evidence that Shakespeare was illiterate will never acknowledge any possibility that Oxford was a famous farter.)
5. Actors who were members of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men / King’s Men did not have to be literate. Lots of actors were illiterate, and learned their lined by memorization without needing to read. Therefore, the fact that William Shakespeare was an actor does not mean he was literate.
EXPLANATION: Anti-Strats actually argue that the actors who put on "Hamlet," "Macbeth" and "King Lear" couldn't read, and had to learn their lines by having someone literate recite the lines to the actors, until the actors were able to memorize the lines. That's insane. Even the rude mechanicals who put on "Pyramus & Thisbe" in "Midsummer Night's Dream" can read, because Shakespeare realized that the idea of illiterate actors did not make sense. The idea that a member of the company that put on "Hamlet," "King Lear" and "Othello" could be an illiterate boob is preposterous. Even though Shakespeare is listed on the royal charter as a member of the company, some anti-Strats like to claim that he must have been something like a stage hand. But he is referred to during his lifetime as an actor. The film "Anonymous" has Christopher Marlowe claiming that Shakespeare is illiterate, and then acknowledges that of course Shakespeare can read because he would have to be able to read to learn his lines, but then says that "illiterate" means Shakespeare doesn't have the skill to form letters with a pen. It's true that in Elizabethan times, reading and writing were separate skills, and there were people who could read but could not write - but I've never heard people who could read being called "illiterate" except in "Anonymous." And why does "Anonymous" argue that Shakespeare could not even write the letter "i" when we have copies of Shakespeare's signature? John Orloff has said he is particularly fond of the scene in the screenplay in which Will Shakespeare denies Ben Jonson's challenge to write the letter "i" because, as Shakespeare points out, there is no ink in the pen. That's one of John Orloff's favorite scenes. That should tell you all you need to know about John Orloff.
6. Although William Shakespeare of Stratford was a shareholder in the King’s Men. and may have been an actor in the company, it is extremely unlikely that anyone at the time thought the shareholder might be the William Shakespeare who was credited as the author of the plays and poems. In the unlikely event that anyone noticed the similarity of names, they probably thought it was just a coincidence.
EXPLANATION: First of all, King James's charter for The King's Men lists one "William Shakespeare" as a member of the Company. There's so much evidence that he was a shareholder that many anti-Strats admit to this. It's also clear that he was an actor in the company (although many anti-Strats deny this - because it would mean they would have to acknowledge he was literate). William Shakespeare is listed as an actor in the first folio of Shakespeare's plays, and also in the folio of Ben Jonson's plays. In the list of actors in the First Folio, his name comes first of all the actors, clearly identifying the actor as the author. However, lots of anti-Strats argue that even though the plays were credited to William Shakespeare as the author, and the plays were acted by an actor named William Shakespeare, no one would have thought the two were the same man. I'm astonished anyone would make such an idiotic claim, but it is made frequently. It is like arguing that when Tom Hanks is listed in the credits as an actor and a writer in the same film, you can expect that everyone looking at the credits will assume they refer to two different guys named Tom Hanks. You even get someone like Howard Schumann, who stated in the same post that (1) no one in Shakespeare's time ever confused Shakespeare of Stratford with the playwright; and (2) that the acting company paid William Shakespeare to use his name as the author of the plays. Why the hell were they paying Shakespeare for the use of his name, if no one thought he wrote the plays???? Finally, the poem by John Davies in "The Scourge of Folly" refers to Shakespeare as playing kingly parts, and also referred to him as "Our English Terrence." Thus, it refers to him as both an actor and a playwright. In the film "Anonymous," Shakespeare is shown as being applauded as the author of the plays, and yet Emmerich asks why there were no tributes when he died. If Emmerich thinks no one thought Shakespeare the actor was Shakespeare the writer, then Emmerich needs to watch his own film. (And with respect to anti-Strats who ask why there are no surviving records of tributes to William Shakespeare immediately after his death, I would like to ask, if people did not think William Shakespeare of Stratford wrote, "Hamlet," why is there no surviving record of anyone from Shakespeare's time saying, "Gee, I like that 'Hamlet' play. I wonder who wrote it." Why is there no record of anyone from Shakespeare's time ever saying someone else wrote the plays, or expressing any interest in finding out who wrote the plays? The only notion that makes any sense at all is that people thought William Shakespeare wrote the plays.)
7. If the real author of the works was using William Shakespeare of Stratford as a front, there’s nothing suspicious about that. The illiterate yokel from Stratford would have been able to convince people he wrote “Hamlet.”
EXPLANATION: Some anti-Strats argue that the real author used William Shakespeare as a front, someone who would take credit for writing the plays (similar to the way blacklisted writers during the McCarthy era would use other people to front for them). Indeed, that is the story that is presented in the film "Anonymous." The film portrays William Shakespeare as an illiterate (or nearly illiterate) boob who is somehow able to convince nearly everyone he meets that he is the author of "Hamlet." That makes no sense whatsoever. Most anti-Strats argue that William Shakespeare was an illiterate (or nearly illiterate) yokel, with no understanding of court life. If you wanted to pick someone to fool people into thinking he was the author of "Hamlet," would you pick an unlettered country bumpkin? It's idiotic. But anti-Stratfordians argue Shakespeare was an unlettered country bumpkin who fooled people into thinking he wrote "Hamlet." One of the most idiotic plot elements in the film "Anonymous" is that the boob William Shakespeare is clearly incapable of writing "Hamlet" but is able to convince nearly everyone who knows him that he wrote "Hamlet."
8. The bust in the original monument in Stratford was intended to show a grain merchant.
EXPLANATION: An early work on monuments has a sketch that purports to show Shakespeare's monument in Stratford. However, the man depicted has arms that are way too long for a human being, a mustache like Fu Manchu, and rather than writing in a book, he seems to be resting his hands on a pillow or a sack. Some anti-Strats claim this monument was for a grain merchant. However, the drawing also shows the beginning of the Latin inscription, which compares Shakesepare to Terence. Clearly, it's a bad drawing, not a monument to a grain dealer. Why would someone compare a grain dealer to Terence?
9. William Shakespeare’s handwriting in his signature shows he was illiterate, and his daughter Susanna's signature also shows she was illiterate.
EXPLANATION: Clearly, leaving numerous signatures is a sign of literacy, not illiteracy. Many extremely learned intelligent people have bad handwriting. Poor handwriting is NOT and NEVER HAS BEEN evidence of illiteracy. I have seen an Anti-Stratfordian acknowledge that his own signature was hard to read, and that the signatures of many people he knew were hard to read, and still insist that the fact that he found Shakespeare's handwriting hard to read was evidence that Shakespeare must have been illiterate. In any event, Shakespeare's signature is in something called Secretary Hand, which is quite different from how people write today. Another way to tell when you are dealing with an idiot is when they claim none of Shakespeare's children ever signed their names. There's a signature or two from his daughter Susanna - but many anti-Strats have no knowledge of the actual facts about Shakespeare's family. Some anti-Strats acknowledge that there are signatures of Susanna Shakespeare, but they claim they are "drawn" rather than "written" - or that they can tell from the signature that someone else was guiding Susanna's hand. In "Anonymous," Derek Jacobi claims that Shakespeare's parents and daughters were "irrefutably illiterate." How can they claim a woman who wrote her name was "irrefutably illiterate"? Are the filmmakers unaware that Susanna wrote her name? Why do they keep repeating the lie that she was "irrefutable illiterate"
10. There was no conspiracy involved in the real author’s use of the name William Shakespeare. We don’t know if only two people knew, or maybe it was an open secret and lots of people knew. The number of people who knew is irrelevant and shouldn’t even be discussed or thought about. Except we can be sure there wasn’t a big conspiracy, because it is mean to call anti-Stratfordians "conspiracy-theorists."
EXPLANATION: Most anti-Strats will argue until they are blue in the face that there was no conspiracy. But how could Shakespeare be a member of the King's Men, and take credit for plays the other members must have know he couldn't have written, without there being a conspiracy? How can there have been no conspiracy when a number of people writing in the first folio say that William Shakespeare the actor was the playwright? "Anonymous" takes the position that there was a relatively small conspiracy, with only a few people in the know, including Ben Jonson, William Shakespeare, the Earl of Oxford, and Queen Elizabeth, Burghley, Robert Cecil, and Oxford's wife. Christopher Marlowe finds out, and is murdered by Shakespeare to insure the identity of the real author is kept secret.
FOR THE RECORD: At the time I originally wrote this, I did not claim that anyone here on the IMDB has made any of these specific arguments. However, Tinkero and GoUSN actually brought up the spelling/hyphenation issue, and Howard Schumann made the idiotic claim that no one confused William Shakespeare of Stratford with the author, although Schumann alsoclaims Shakespeare was paid for the use of his name as the author. In any event, I have seen each of these arguments made FREQUENTLY by Oxfordians in other forums. (And there are far worse arguments I have seen made on a one-time basis by individual anti-Strats.)