Up Stratford himself. Shakespeare’s supporters—known as Stratfordians—emphasize the fact

Up
until a decade ago, there was no questioning the famous playwright William
Shakespeare’s authorship. Now, theorists use the lack of documents on
Shakespeare’s life and doubt about how a commoner like Shakespeare could have
written his famous plays to argue against Shakespeare’s authorship. But until
hard evidence surfaces linking his plays to someone else, the man with the
strongest claim to the plays of William Shakespeare appears to be William
Shakespeare of Stratford himself. Shakespeare’s supporters—known as
Stratfordians—emphasize the fact that the body of evidence that does exist
points to Shakespeare, and no one else, as the author of his works. The
established documented facts: Shakespeare’s education, the appearance of his
name on not only his published plays, but around eighty other writer’s works as
a form of tribute or homage in an era where providing the author’s name was not
customary, his familiarity with acting, setting the stage, and orchestration of
the action, and his life events which are reflected in the mood of his writing
give William Shakespeare holds the strongest claim to the works that bear his
name.

From
the historical evidence available on William Shakespeare’s life, it is known
that he was born in April 1564, the oldest son of John Shakespeare. John
Shakespeare was ambitious, and he filled many municipal offices in Stratford
including that of burgess, which privileged him to educate his children without
charge at the King’s New School in Stratford, where “the curriculum was heavy
on Greek and Latin and foreign languages. The textbooks used there covered much
of the same material Shakespeare refers to. The Taming of the Shrew even
contains a reference to the standard Latin grammar textbook used at the
Stratford Free School,” (Pressley). However, his enrolled education was
short-lived, as documents suggest he was removed from school at age thirteen or
fourteen (Pressley). Because of his lack of higher education, people wonder how
a commoner with only a grammar school education can compose incredible works of
art, yet neglect to realize that a university education is not the only thing
that defines a good writer. “For was not immersion in Latin in the copious
doses that such an education would have necessarily entailed, combined with a
little will, enough to explain his learning?” asks Richmond Crinkley in “New
Perspectives on The Authorship Question” (Crinkley 520). His membership in
London’s leading theater company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Company, combined with
his drive to write exceptional plays, was enough to allow him to write the
thirty-seven plays and 154 sonnets on which his name appears. Arguments
referencing his “amiability and silver tongue” fail to realize that it can be
attributed to “the special relationship between some
actors and the Court,” (520).
He was surely able to read books that were being published during his lifetime
about foreign lands and traditions. He appeared in court and was certainly able
to have conversations with many people who traveled to Italy, where many of his
famous plays take place.

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William
Shakespeare as a writer “garnered some envy early on” (Bate 50). By 1598 he was
famous, which prompted publishers to attach his name to his new works to
increase the sales, rather than use no author name, as was most common in those
years. Francis Meres wrote an essay entitled “A Comparative
Discourse of our English Poets”—an account of eighty English
writers, that also makes mention of Edward de Vere, who is often considered to
be the “real” William Shakespeare. In 1605, Shakespeare was mentioned by
William Camden, one of the most well-known historians of the time, as one of
the best contemporary writers (Bate 77). The “best testimony” to Shakespeare’s
authenticity comes from Ben Jonson, a rival playwright but also a close friend
of Shakespeare’s. Shakespeare “is known to have acted several of Jonson’s plays,”
and, “long after Shakespeare’s death, Jonson made further mention of him, not
just as a writer, but also as a friend. He gives several anecdotes about
Shakespeare the man, not just Shakespeare the writer,” (Hechinger). While lack
of documentary evidence about Shakespeare’s life may stir doubt, it is clear
from Jonson’s accounts that a playwright named Shakespeare not only existed,
but was a real, normal person, that was heavily involved in theater.

Shakespeare
an actor and stakeholder in several theater companies, lived and breathed
theater most of his life. He wrote plays with the actors and the stage in mind.
Such conscientious writing could not have been accomplished by anyone other
than Shakespeare himself. In fact, “there are several instances in original
Shakespeare documents in which it’s not only clear that roles were intended for
specific actors by their descriptions, but also because he inadvertently used
the actor’s name rather than the character’s!” (Hechinger). Such remarkable
success as a playwright can only come from deep personal investment in theater,
like William Shakespeare’s. He spent most of his life surrounded by performing
arts, but his personal life also affected his writing.

There
were four periods of Shakespeare’s life that defined his writing. The first
period lasted until 1595 and “showed the exuberance of youthful love and
imagination” (Halleck). Some works produced during this joyous period were
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, and Richard III. The
second period “showed progress in dramatic art”, and “less
exaggeration, more real power, and a deeper insight into human nature”
(-). The second period also shows a “vein of sadness” (-)
incorporated into his writing, which matched with the events going on in his
life at this time. One major explanation for Shakespeare’s sadness is the death
of his son Hamnet, which occurred in 1596. Hamnet was Shakespeare’s only son,
and in this time period, having a son was incredibly important (a son was
someone who could apprentice, learn his father’s trade, carry on the family
name and legacy, etc.). In order to process his son’s death, Shakespeare began
writing through his grief, hence allowing it to influence his works written in
this period. The third period followed the trend of sadness in Shakespeare’s
writing, and led to the creation of many of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies,
including Hamlet and Macbeth. During this period, Shakespeare’s
father “died in 1601” (Halleck), and “in 1601 Elizabeth executed
the Earl of Essex for treason, and on the same charge threw the Earl of
Southampton into the Tower” (-), who were two close friends of
Shakespeare. The fourth and final period of Shakespeare’s writing were filled
with a “calm strength and sweetness” (Halleck). One of his most
famous works, The Tempest, was produced during this time.

Although
Shakespeare’s personal life was largely undocumented, his reputation of
producing legendary plays and sonnets lives on, imbedded in the minds of
readers and scholars around the globe. His ability to produce tragic plays
about star-crossed lovers and intense revenge dramas helped establish his name
as one that is “synonymous with creativity itself” (Holderness). The
controversy over the true authorship of Shakespeare’s works has not been truly
prominent in literature until recently, and the dispute shines a new light on his
works. However, Shakespeare’s knowledge of the stage and acting, his level of
education, and acknowledgement of his writing during his time are just a few
reasons why this talented writer was the only person who could accomplish the
literary feats that he did. Until further claims from credible sources are
discovered, the conclusion that William Shakespeare himself was the author of
his many works will continue to stand. 

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