What is the Shakespeare Authorship Question (SAQ)?

Mark Rylance, a Shakespearean actor for over 30 years, describes the SAQ as such:

“The majority of people agree that it was the actor from Stratford who wrote the plays and poems attributed to Shakespeare. But also, the majority of people have not looked very closely into the history.

For many years, some people have doubted, from what we know of the actor’s life, that he would have been able to write the plays and poems, and may therefore have served as a ‘front’ for a hidden author, or collaborated more extensively than we imagine. Suggestions of other authors and doubt actually begins during Shakespeare’s life.”

A few of these authorship contenders are:

              Edward de Vere                    Christopher Marlowe                   Francis Bacon

devere2 marlowe2 bacon2

Before I write another word, I must warn you: you are embarking upon a very, VERY controversial topic!  So if you have a suit of armor hiding in your attic, now’s the time to dust it off and gear up.

Orthodox Shakespearean scholars rarely acknowledge the existence of an authorship question, and stand behind the established story about the man from Stratford-upon-Avon.  Therefore, questioning those who’ve been indoctrinated might get you labeled as either (A) a nutcase, or (B) an elitist.

Nothing could have prepared me for the personal attacks I received when I typed my first comments on the debate blog which had been set up by Sony Pictures in the summer of 2011 to promote their upcoming movie Anonymous.


Here is what I posted on August 16, 2011:

I CANNOT wait to see this film! Since I’ve been reading more and more about Edward de Vere (aka the 17th Earl of Oxford), Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets have sprung to life. I think that whichever side of the great debate you are on, the more you know about the life and times of these men and their connection to Queen Liz, the greater your appreciation and understanding of the literature. I thank my English professor for introducing me to the Oxfordian theory even though she is a Stratfordian at heart. “Anonymous” should, at the very least, bring Oxford out from behind the curtain and into that spotlight he’s been denied for so long. “…for truth is truth though never so old, and time cannot make that false which was once true.” (E. de Vere)

Pretty non-threatening, right?  Well here is the sort of response it produced from Stratfordians:

  • “most people who believe Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare are elitists who also like Ayn Rand and vote GOP”
  • “what authorship problem? It’s a fringe minority of nut cases who think there’s a ‘problem'”

Unfortunately, most of the Stratfordians who responded to my comment failed to address my main point (the sentence in bold type) choosing, instead, to behave like children who were just told there is no Santa Claus.

But those who choose to voice their doubts are not alone.  Here are the names of some very famous people who share the belief that someone other than the man from Stratford authored the celebrated literary canon:

Mark Twain, Henry James, Walt Whitman, Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Orson Welles, Charlie Chaplin, William James, and Sigmund Freud.

OK, on second thought, go ahead and call me an elitist!  If these are some of the famous doubters, I’m in good company.

For those of us who dare to admit our doubt publicly, we can add our names to the Declaration of Reasonable DoubtTo learn more and see the complete list of signatories, click on the following link:


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