History Mystery #5: Who really wrote Shakespeare's plays?

History Mystery #5: Who really wrote Shakespeare's plays?

We haven't done History Mysteries in a while, but I have a doozy for you: Who wrote William Shakespeare's plays?

The answer is not as straightforward as you think. William Shakespeare was a real person, but there are at least three strong contenders for an alternate author, with fascinating theories about why their works were published or performed under Shakespeare's name.

It's also worth mentioning why many people believe William Shakespeare was not the true author, including:

  • The plays were not published in his lifetime.
  • There are no surviving fragments of plays or poems in his own handwriting.
  • He was from a rural province, far from the court intrigues and international settings of his plays.
  • The son of an illiterate glovemaker, he likely received only a primary education, which seems odd considering the rich vocabulary and wordplay in his works.
  • His will does not include any books, which were valuable items that would have been passed to heirs or friends.
  • His daughters were apparently illiterate, which seems unusual for an author who clearly loved language and portrayed female characters as intelligent and capable.

It's a fascinating mystery that appeals to anyone who loves genealogy mysteries. The focus on archival research and deductive reasoning to evaluate Shakespeare's personal history and that of the alternate authors are similar to what we genealogists use to break through brick walls - including archival research of relatives, and deductive reasoning. We will reveal the answer in a future blog post.

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