There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
My developed interest in Shakespeare goes back over thirty years, however, I had ignored the authorship question (did actor Will from Stratford write the works with his name on them?); assuming it for the most part improperly motivated. And although aware of the stupendous world of reference within his writing, which massively exceeds the various limitations of his country-boy background, and the numerous other anomalies surrounding his supposed life, I had countered them by acknowledging his genius as a sufficient explanation.
However, I no longer accept this argument, as, following some recent study, I now realise that even a genius still has to have a particular education to allow their art the particular form of expression it takes. Leaving aside all the other evidences*(and there is a lot), the actor Will from Stratford did not/could not have had such an education that his putative works brilliantly reveal – this is, of course, the authorship mystery. But who then?
Peter Dawkins in his The Shakespeare Enigma simultaneously demonstrates Will as clearly not the author, and convincingly argues for Sir Francis Bacon using Will from Stratford as a mask. This work represents a formidable piece of lifelong scholarship which is not easily gainsaid, no matter the obvious objections to this idea that swiftly come to mind and (as in my case) how much you cherish the idea of a common-stock Englishman being the world’s greatest literary artist.
The arguments against Will the Stratford actor as author also involve the most amazing and clear evidence of cabalistic and other secret embedded codes within Shakespeare’s works, and particularly the sonnets. This was something I had no awareness of at all. And its presence takes my wonder to a whole new level; although, frankly, beyond my ability to understand, far less appreciate, what exactly is going on, and why Shakespeare (whoever he is) has included such esoteric mysteries hidden within his work. This level of thinking (for want of a better term) is so far in advance of mine that I feel like a child shown advanced calculus.
In addition to Dawkin’s demonstrations, the exploration of these secret signs, mathematical patterns and embedded codes within the works is brilliantly explored by Alan Green, in his books and Bardcast videos. Green’s approach is somewhat different to Dawkins, although the two are complementary, and indeed both researchers are friends, rather than rivals. Powered by the love of Shakespeare’s work, and I suppose the thrill of the chase, Green has mastered the daunting maths and trigonometry incorporated (yes, it actually is!) and made himself a formidable cryptologist – all self taught! Both Green and Dawkins, then, in their relentless intellectual curiosity and search for truth are following a great British tradition of somewhat eccentric maverick-scholars. Eccentric, of course, here meant as a respectful nod to their wonderful persistence, quite devoid of self-interest.
Green too has, of necessity, arrived at a similar refutation of Will from Stratford as the Shakespeare author, but argues for the Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere, with an influence of de Vere’s mentor, the Elizabethan polymath, Dr Dee; Green’s evidence seems irresistible – at least, for the sonnets.
However, I’m equally convinced of Bacon as the real Shakespeare author. So, now I don’t know what to think! I intuitively sense a single voice in the plays and in the sonnets (although not necessarily the same in both, as I understand the plays and poetry being quite different types of literary endavour), but perhaps that voice has more than one mind? As my understanding now rests, I cannot see any way beyond a team effort; certainly they knew each other well. By team effort, I am meaning sharing the same Shakespeare name as their front, and not necessarily directly collaborating on any particular publication. Strangely, years ago I came across (I cannot remember when or where) just such an argument and considered it so unlikely, ridiculously so, that I concluded the author of this argument quite mad. And now me!
Lest you think that this is written in any sort of disappointment at the Shakespeare mystery being further compounded, I can assure you that this is not the case. The author is the same genius he was before, and the beauty and wonder of his work is unchanged by authorship questions. Whatever the truth of this, beyond doubt Will Shakespeare**from Stratford is not author Shakespeare. Although he does have a role in this story, perhaps as a significant collaborator providing an actor’s insight, and/or a willing (bribed) mask for the true author who had (or preferred) to remain hidden.
Following up on what seem to be revealing clues, Alan Green hopes to be able to soon pull back the curtain and uncover physical evidence of the true author/s. They wanted this – hence the clues! And somewhere, somehow, all the Shakespeares are smiling.
As an advocate of Shakespeare studies being incorporated into the primary school curriculum, in lieu of …[better not say], I had at first considered the authorship question as a significant complication. However, on further reflection, I now think the exact opposite. Children love mysteries and puzzles, and complicated motivations; what is the Shakespeare authorship question but this transposed to early modern England? And it is, in its essential feature, hardly different from Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven which enthralled me as a child.
Thusly, I no longer fear introducing this aspect to children, but look forward to it.
All things are ready if our minds be so.
What think ye?
* For me, speaking as a lover of literature and a parent, what absolutely nails the mystery is that Shakespeare’s daughters were illiterate. The world’s greatest literary genius, and an established gentleman in his hometown, didn’t bother ensuring his children’s literacy! If the actor Will from Stratford is the author, this is simply inexplicable.
** Will from Stratford has many different spellings and pronunciations of his surname. The one we know best (Shakespeare) only once turns up on a document, independently of the publications.
PS. I cannot even begin to here provide a summary of the brilliant work mentioned and so I’m hoping this essay has made you curious and so will search out Peter and Alan’s books, and Alan’s podcasts. I should note that I am not dismissing the traditional view; although I note that some defenders of this position have adopted a patronising, even sarcastic, attitude to the rival arguments – casting them in the popular trope of conspiracy theory to better discredit it – but, in fact, more discredits themselves (looking at you, Shapiro!) in refusing to properly consider the serious questions posed by the authorship controversy.
A collection of authorship arguments can be found at the home page of the link below. This specific link takes you to a page with videos about it and a statement of the authorship question, which is also read out loud (excellently) by the actor Michael York, should you prefer to hear it: