There's no reason a glover's son couldn't have written the plays. To think otherwise is little more than snobberyby Jonathan Healey / May 3, 2018 / Leave a comment
Could a glover’s son from a provincial town really have created some of the greatest works of literature ever written?
They usually deny it, but for those who doubt the “man from Stratford” wrote the Shakespeare plays, this question lies at the heart of the issue.
The authors of the ‘Declaration of Reasonable Doubt About the Identity of William Shakespeare’—which has over 4,000 signatories—for example, are incredulous that a man who grew up in an “illiterate household” in the “remote agricultural town” of Stratford, could be such a sublime and timeless genius.
There’s no evidence he travelled; his daughters—so they claim—were never taught to write. Nor did he go to university.
How could such a man have written the Merchant of Venice, or the Sonnets?
“The works,” they argue, show extensive knowledge of law, philosophy, classical literature, ancient and modern history, mathematics, astronomy, art, music, medicine, horticulture, heraldry, military and naval terminology and tactics; etiquette and manners of the nobility; English, French and Italian court life; Italy; and aristocratic pastimes such as falconry, equestrian sports and royal tennis.”
“Nothing,” they conclude, “that we know about Mr Shakspere [sic] accounts for this.”
Hence the attraction of one of the most popular alternatives: Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, may have been dead by 1604, but he was at least sufficiently well-to-do.
“I had forgotten the fart”
In fact, the direct contemporary evidence for the “man of Stratford” is very strong.
There are numerous references to ‘William Shakespeare’ as the author of the key plays, and the First Folio—published in 1623—is unequivocal.
Biographer and wit John Aubrey, writing half a century after Shakespeare’s death, was in no doubt. The Earl of Oxford, meanwhile, he remembered as a courtier who accidentally farted in front of Queen Elizabeth, before scurrying away to the Continent out of sheer embarrassment (according to Aubrey, when Oxford returned after seven years, Elizabeth quipped “My Lord, I had forgotten the fart”).
What’s more, the ‘problematic’ evidence brought up by doubters evaporates once subjected to basic techniques of historical analysis.
Yes, Shakespeare signed his name in a multitude of ways—but this was quite normal for the time. Edward Coke, the greatest legal mind of the age, used both ‘Coke’ and ‘Cook’, and nobody is claiming…