DeVere or Shakespeare?
Abstract: The debate over the legitimacy of the authorship of Shakespearean works has been disputed for centuries. While many scholars have held beliefs that Shakespeare's works have been written by figures such as Christopher Marlowe, Francis Bacon, William Stanley, and others, the most heated debate today is between William Shakespeare and Edward DeVere, the Earl of Oxford. Each side of this debate has many followers, the Stratfordians, or those who claim Shakespeare to be the true author, and the Oxfordians who believe that true credit should go to DeVere. My paper, far from being a complete analysis of the possibilities of Shakespearean authorship, attempts to summarize and rationalize the arguments of these two groups. It would be impossible to include all arguments and evidence in a paper such as this. Full books have been written on aspects of the debate I will not even mention, or may just barely touch on. Hopefully after reading this paper, however, you will have a little better understanding of the debate of authorship. As I am not in any respect a scholar on the subject I shall not attempt to make a conclusion as to which of these men is the author, but rather to inform and explain the many arguments on both sides of this debate in the hopes that the reader can learn a little more about the ongoing debate and form an opinion of his or her own.
In countries all over the globe the name William Shakespeare brings to mind literary genius, a character so famed in eloquence and creativity that none other comes close to him in prestige. Yet for centuries scholars, students and readers have argued a very fundamental question: whether or not the plays and poems attribute to William Shakespeare were truly written by the man of that name or whether Shakespeare was merely a pseudonym for another figure. While the ideas of the true identity of Shakespeare have differed over the years in an almost trend-like fashion, a very popular idea has surfaced over the last century. The most prolific debate today is between the Stratfordians, or those who claim Shakespeare to be the true author, and the Oxfordians, those who claim Edward DeVere, Earl of Oxford, to be the true author.
The first question to ask in such a circumstance is why doubt exists. For instance, no scholars question the works of writers and philosophers such as Montisqueu, Hobbes, or Locke. Why then, is there any question as to who wrote Shakespeare? It would seem to most people that the name on the plays should logically be the name of the author. Stratfordians claim exactly this fact as one of their strongest arguments. The only problem with this seemingly simplistic argument lies in the spelling differences between the man named Will Shakespere and the name written on the plays, William Shakespeare (Whalen 8). In fact, the "records of (Shakespere's) lifetime almost always spelled his name Shakespere" while the names on the plays...