Doubts have been cast on whether Shakespeare was the author of some of the outstanding plays, but all such allegations are just straws in the wind.
One of the most hotly debated issues in the history of English Literature is the question of the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays. Indeed, in some circles, it is considered a sign of intellectual manhood to suggest that Shakespeare never wrote those plays and that some other dramatist was the real author. Anti-Stratfordians, as the doubters, are referred to, have over the years, come out with the names of more than 50 men and women, as being the true author. It is unbelievable that among the doubters, there are famous poets like Coleridge and Walt Whitman, authors like James Joyce and Galsworthy and actors like Leslie Howard and Orson Welles. (It is all the more surprising because it was Coleridge who equated Shakespeare with 500 Newtons and Orson Welles acted in many of Shakespeare’s plays)
It really does not make any difference who wrote the plays. As Juliet herself said in ‘Romeo and Juliet’
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet”.
Therefore it is tempting to ask whether it is really necessary, to refute the theory of the doubters that the Bard of Avon, did not write the plays attributed to him. I believe that it is. If at least devotees of the Bard, among whom I count myself do not destroy this myth, many persons belonging to future generations, may join the ranks of the “doubters” and posterity will never forgive us.
Let us first examine how and when this propaganda was started by the sceptics. In the year 1785 the Reverend James Wilmot was the first person to suggest that Francis Bacon was the true author. This idea was presented at a philosophical society by one James Cowell. The issue was not raised again until 1848, when a New York lawyer casually mentioned it in a book. But the real conspiracy theory gained currency only when one Delia Bacon, an American wrote an article. It may be mentioned that Delia Bacon (who was not related to Sir Francis Bacon, though in her later years she claimed she was) came out with an extremely confusing, theory that Bacon was the real author of Shakespeare’s plays It is pertinent to note that shortly after the publication of her book, she was committed to a lunatic asylum.
Though there are in all about 50 nominees, it would perhaps be enough to refute the claims to authorship of the three most serious contenders, Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe and Edward De Vere the 17th. This would automatically refute the claims of all the others.
Let us first deal with Bacon. The plays of Shakespeare reveal so much knowledge, wisdom and insight into human psychology that, people who overrate the contribution of universities to genius would like to claim that Bacon, and not Shakespeare (who never went to college) must have been the real author. On the contrary, the world is fortunate that the poetic muse in Shakespeare had not been “cabined, cribbed, confined” by formal education. The magic of his “own pen” produced powerful rhymes that will” outlive” the marbles of Greece, the paintings of Michelangelo and the music of Beethoven.
(To be continued…)