Have you ever rolled your eyes or groaned when your teacher or professor announced that you will be reading a Shakespearean play? Well, I did. And I was a “non-traditional student” (i.e. I began college in my forties!) who also happened to be an English major. Like it or not, I’d had to confront my fears and take that “Intro to Shakespeare” class my adviser recommended.
On the first day of class, my professor asked this question:
“What do you know about Shakespeare, the writer?”
This portrait of William Shakespeare, looking like a Renaissance rock star, came to mind. I assumed that this was the face of the man who wrote those famous 37 plays and 154 sonnets, so I was shocked to learn that there were people out there who believed that he was not the true author but rather an imposter.
No manuscripts in this man’s handwriting exist and the printed works attributed to William Shakespeare were published years after his death. All we’ve got are six signatures: three found on business transactions and the other three found on the pages of his will. (image to the left)
As time went on, I began to wonder: Is there sufficient evidence to prove that the glove-maker’s son turned actor/landowner/grain merchant from Stratford-upon-Avon, who never mentioned a manuscript or poem in his will, and didn’t even bequeath a single book to his descendants, was the writer? Or could the plays and sonnets have been written by someone else, perhaps a nobleman who used the pseudonym “Shake-speare” to conceal his true identity and place in the Elizabethan court?
By the semester’s end, I had launched myself on a literary expedition into the history and intrigue surrounding Queen Elizabeth and the members of her royal court. Who were the key players in the politics of Shakespeare’s time? I needed to learn more because Shakespeare, whoever he was, was certainly obsessed with writing about matters regarding the throne.
If you’ve also been bitten by the Shakespeare bug, and are just as curious as I am, then join me on an inquisitive journey into the mysterious and controversial world of the Shakespeare Authorship Question!