This paper will discuss the Shakespeare authorship debate and will present the various theories and claims that have been made in this regard. It has been proposed throughout history that William Shakespeare who is known as one of the greatest writers in history could have actually been a pen name used by Christopher Marlowe, Francis Bacon, and/or Edward de Vere to establish their names in writing. The reason why such theories have been proposed is the fact that very little is known about William Shakespeare himself.
All that is known is that the playwright was born in Stratford, lived in London where he wrote 37 plays and a few poems and sonnets after which he went back to Stratford where he eventually died. Nobody knows any other significant detail about him giving rise to various theories and debates on who he really was. (BBC UK) “There are no diaries, letters, memoirs, or interviews; most of the surviving documentation is dry and impersonal; major aspects of his life remain a blank.
” (Gross, John: 2005) Another reason why there have been so many doubts about whether Shakespeare actually wrote the plays and poems attributed to him is the fact that Shakespeare did not possess the learning and intellectual depth and was not even educated at University. The quality of work associated with him seems to be beyond the scope of the person generally known as William Shakespeare. (Leahy, William: 2005) Christopher Marlowe was born in Canterbury on the 6th of February in 1564, the same year as William Shakespeare and was christened some two months before Shakespeare.
He wrote many popular plays and had similar literary interests as Shakespeare. In 1895, an American sleuth Wilbur Gleason started the debate that Shakespeare was in reality a pen name for Marlowe and had done so to avoid being punished or sentenced to death since in those days writers were generally tortured, maimed, arrested or murdered and their works were burned and banned. Moreover, the fact that Shakespeare’s work began to appear just weeks after Marlow’s death provides another clue that he might have been the actual author and may have faked his own death to avoid facing capital punishment.
Christopher Marlowe has always been considered to be the strongest contender for the authorship of Shakespeare’s works. Even Queen Elizabeth believed this to be true and had suggested that it was Marlowe who had actually written the play Richard II. Even though Wilbur Gleason was unable to offer any substantial proof of Marlowe’s real identity, another literary sleuth Calvin Hoffman restarted this whole debate in his book “The Murder of the Man Who was Shakespeare.
According to Hoffman Marlowe lived his life in exile and sent his works to Sir Thomas Walsingham or to Edward Blount who was the publisher. Hoffman also highlights the same point as Gleason that Shakespeare’s work started to appear right after Marlowe’s death which appears to be very suspicious. Marlowe is believed to have died on 30th May, 1593 and Shakespeare appeared on the scene a few weeks after his death with all of Marlowe’s opinions, memories, papers and manuscripts. (Baker, John) Another proof offered by Hoffman is the similarity in writing styles of both Marlowe and Shakespeare.
Both Marlowe and Shakespeare used words that averaged 4. 2 letters in length. This fact has been presented to be one of the most important proofs that Marlowe and Shakespeare might be one and the same. Stylometric studies have also confirmed these findings that the works of Marlowe and Shakespeare appear to be very similar to each other. Doris Wilbert has also provided significant evidence that Marlowe did indeed survive and wrote several plays and poems after his supposed death. (Baker, John)