My favorite old-time conspiracy theory
The Mystery of Billy S.
a.k.a. Who wrote the works attributed to William Shakespeare?
My special qualifications to pass judgement on who actually wrote Shakespeare?
None. I’m just interested in the story.
What do I believe?
I tend to believe there are multiple possibilities, listed in the order of what I believe is their likelihood. I tend to believe number one but I’m intrigued by number 2:
- Shakespeare was written by William Shakespeare
- Shakespeare was written by William Shakespeare and somebody else – I’m always a little surprised that more people don’t like this theory. It seems a nice combination of the known and the unknown. I’ll call it the Butcher Shakespeare theory. I should point out that I know that he is said to have collaborated on some of his later plays with other playrights – that’s not really what I’m talking about.
- [a distant third] Shakespeare was written by one person, someone other than Shakespeare (be it Oxford, Marlowe, Bacon or whomever)
- [a really distant fourth] Shakespeare was written by a group of two or more playwrights from Elizabethan times who were not Shakespeare
- some permutation of the theories above
- some heretofore unthought of possibility (Aliens?)
Shakespeare Authorship Links (* indicates what I think are some of the best pages for that theory)
General discussions of the Shakespeare authorship issue
There’s not as many of these. Conspiracy theories being something of a fad in the last 40 years, everybody wants to pick a side.
Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare (The Stratfordians)
- Shakespeare Authorship page - dedicated to Shakespeare writing Shakespeare
Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford (The Oxfordians) - the most popular modern theory. I’m not sure why – I don’t think it’s the strongest.
- The Shakespeare Oxford Society
- The Oxford Authorship site
- The Shakespeare Fellowship (You think they’d be called the Oxford Fellowship)
- Wikipedia page on Oxfordian theory
- “The Case for Oxford” – a 1991 Atlantic Monthly Article
Sir Francis Bacon (the Baconians)
Bacon seems like a wise and accomplished man but he seems more like a scientist than an artist.
Christopher Marlowe (the Marlovians)
Christopher Marlowe was a dramatist, poet and spy who is certainly deserving of credit for his own work. In addition to this, however, there are a few who suspect him of being the one who wrote Shakespeare’s plays. One little problem with this theory is that history records that he died in 1593, before several of Shakespeare’s plays had been published. Unfortunately, a lot of the Marlovian theory seems to rely on the assumption that Marlowe’s death was faked, spy movie style, and Marlowe snuck off to somewhere else under another name to pen Shakespeare. Seems like kind of a stretch to me. It does, however, make for one of the more interesting conspiracy theories of the bunch.
- Wikipedia article on Marlovian theory
- The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection
- http://www.marlowe-society.org/ (goes into the faked death theory)
William Stanley, the 6th Earl of Derby
Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke
Fulke Greville, 1st Baron Brooke
The Group Theory
The group theory sounds like the name of a porno film but as it relates to Shakespeare it is a theory that a group of two or more people, perhaps including some of the above, together wrote the works of the man we know as Shakespeare. Some theories state that Shakespeare was not even involved at all whereas others believe that William Shakespeare did indeed write some of the plays under his name and somebody else, either with or without his knowledge, wrote the rest. Frankly, if I were to believe any of the Shakespeare conspiracy theories, the latter of these two options seems the most likely to me.
Other proposed ghostwriters for William Shakespeare include, but are certainly not limited to: