Yet Another 'Challenge' To Shakespeare's Authorship is Raised

The Huffington Post published a piece about the latest in a very, very long line of theories doubting Shakespeare’s authorship of his plays and sonnets. This time, Oxford University researchers have challenged ‘Alls Well That Ends Well.’


Just days after the Bard’s birthday, the new study claims that one of his contemporaries, playwright Thomas Middleton, is the most likely collaborator after examining inconsistency in the play’s text. Rhyming patterns, grammar and specific words were all put under the microscope by Professor Laurie Maguire and Dr Emma Smith of the university’s English department. Maguire told the BBC that the word ‘ruttish’, for example, which means lustful, only appears at that time in a separate work by Middleton. She said she is ‘very confident’ that theory is correct, and claimed that the majority of plays from Shakespeare’s era were collaborative.

But James Shaprio, who published Contested Will back in 2010, argues that these debates and some of the ‘proven’ theories are not necessarily accurate.


From the PW review of Shapiro’s work:

Shapiro, author of the much admired A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599, achieves another major success in the field of Shakespeare research by exploring why the Bard’s authorship of his works has been so much challenged. Step-by step, Shapiro describes how criticism of Shakespeare frequently evolved into attacks on his literacy and character. Actual challenges to the authorship of the Shakespeare canon originated with an outright fraud perpetrated by William-Henry Ireland in the 1790s and continued through the years with an almost religious fervor. Shapiro exposes one such forgery: the earliest known document, dating from 1805, challenging Shakespeare’s authorship and proposing instead Francis Bacon. Shapiro mines previously unexamined documents to probe why brilliant men and women denied Shakespeare’s authorship. For Mark Twain, Shapiro finds that the notion resonated with his belief that John Milton, not John Bunyan, wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress. Sigmund Freud’s support of the earl of Oxford as the author of Shakespeare appears to have involved a challenge to his Oedipus theory, which was based partly on his reading of Hamlet. As Shapiro admirably demonstrates, William Shakespeare emerges with his name and reputation intact. 16 pages of b&w photos.

You be the judge, LitStackers. Put in the research. I offer up Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt which has become my personal “Shakespeare Bible” for various literary and selfish reasons. Ultimately, remember that academics, yes even at Oxford, work in a world of theories and hypotheses, in the “publish or perish” occupation where critical analyses garner tenure, grants and accolades for the individual professor and their university. Nothing can be definitively proven.

If you’re curious, try your own personal discovery, but understand that the works live and breathe today and have inspired many forms of artistic media throughout the ages. Regardless of what you saw in ‘Anonymous’ or what you hear from various theories, the works stand. Does it really matter who penned them?

What do you think, LitStackers? We want to hear from you!

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