Who Was William Shakespeare?

An artist’s portrait of William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon, actor in London theatres

Who was the real person behind the pseudonymous William Shakespeare? For well over 200 years well-known literary figures and theatrical commentators have cast serious doubts over the genuine authorship of Shakespeare’s Folio first collated by John Heminges and Henry Condell and finally published by Thomas Thorpe in 1623. Currently, many mundane facts that have been unearthed about the Stratford actor William Shakspere of Stratford upon Avon do not correspond exactly to the complex picture we have subsequently drawn of the renowned Elizabethan playwright and poet “William Shake-speare”. This edition of Shakespeare’s Qaballah explores the character, skill and experience of the anonymous author and collates those serious doubts and theories on authorship for the layman. Subtitled “A Companion to Shakespeare Studies”, the 3-volume work may also be considered an in-depth miscellany, a compendium, a series of in-depth articles or reviews, or a general reference book for those wishing to know more about the social, historical and cultural background to the great English Bard’s literary and theatrical endeavours. It contains over fifty mini-biographies of Shakespeare’s contemporaries, alongside reviews of some 38 plays notably the Comedies, Tragedies, Romances and Histories as well as an analysis of the poetry attributed to the illustrious “Swan of Avon”.

Shakespeare’s First Folio, containing the playwright’s 36 plays and dating from 1623, is seen in an undated photo before going up for an auction where it is expected to fetch between 4 and 6 million dollars, in New York City, U.S. Courtesy of Christie’s/Handout.

Part One deals mainly with the authorship controversy; with an examination of some eight major candidates currently being proposed as the real author of the 1623 Folio. Part Two deals with the structural devices of Elizabethan theatre and literature while Part Three deals with the history plays and poetry attributed to “William Shakespeare”. Each section has several appendices covering Neo-Platonic and historical timelines including an introduction to cryptography for those hoping to uncover any secret messages hidden in Shakespeare’s work. This companion to Shakespeare studies makes a comparative analysis of those Elizabethan authors presumed to have contributed to or written the 1623 Folio, their talents, skills and facts of their life that might shed light upon or contribute towards resolving the controversial authorship debate. It is crammed with detailed information about the authorship controversy itself, the nature and style of Elizabethan theatre, the literary circles of the time, the histories of the monarchs featured in the history plays, and the dramatic and theatrical techniques employed. With every hope that Shakespeare enthusiasts, students of literature as well as theatre professionals should find interesting and revelatory. 

The two main candidates for Shakespeare Authorship

Shakespeare’s imagery and vast literary references include the legal and social elements of the Inns of Court, geography, history, war and weaponry, sports and games, classical mythology, drama, the natural world, sea-faring, hunting and falconry, astrology, medicine, art and culture, fashion, gardening and animal husbandry, fencing and fighting, the stage, religion, the occult/magic, paganism, folklore, metaphysics and oratory. Furthermore, to write so accurately about these subjects he would have had a library containing over 3,000 books and yet in the final last will and testament of the Stratford actor, William Shakspere there is no mention of any library, any books or manuscripts. No, not even a bible. Why was it necessary to perpetuate the myth and legend of William Shakespeare and who was responsible for this grandiose conspiracy and fraud on the world?

How did a relatively unknown and uneducated actor from Stratford-on-Avon become a universally popular and illustrious author of some 38 plays and several volumes of poetry? Having little or no primary education how would he become acquainted with the techniques of classical poetry, English, Greek and Roman history, as well as the political, legal, and social mores of Elizabethan court society? Indeed, how was this relatively illiterate man, who could barely sign his own name, able to develop an extraordinary vocabulary of some 29,000 words of which 1,700 were coined by him in such a short space of time. Why was his death in 1616 not eulogised and nationally mourned as a literary and dramatic genius? How could a man who had never known military service describe the historical battlefield so accurately and with such personal experience. If the man from Stratford had never travelled abroad how could he have known so much about the geography, customs and cultural traditions of towns and countryside in Venice, Padua, Antwerp and Rome?

It is generally accepted by academics that the pseudonymous “William Shakespeare” must have had a good grasp of classical Latin, Greek, Italian, French and Spanish, that is those languages specifically taught in England’s schools, colleges or universities. However, we are informed that William Shaxpere left Stratford on Avon in 1587 without ever attending a college or university or being tutored in any language save his own native Warwickshire. How and why was this anonymuncule given credit for plays and poetry far beyond his personal capacity and comprehension? In actual fact no mention whatsoever is made of Stratford or Warwickshire in any of Shakespeare’s plays or poetry. So how could someone who was untutored in languages be able to read so many books in Greek, French and Latin and speak or write so innovatively, eloquently and articulately in the English language?

Is it merely coincidence or deeply relevant to the Shakespeare Authorship debate that soon after the death of the Elizabethan actor William Shakspere, whose life embodied the legend of Dick Whittington, the country lad who made good in the capital, that this tale subsequently became a prominent theme in Jacobean theatre, culture and society? As a result of this picaresque theme, many people could readily accept that a relatively unknown person such as William Shakspere could ascend the heights of literary endeavour through his own efforts alone and become the most renowned playwright, theatre manager and poet of Elizabethan England.

The links to my current publications, on the Shakespeare Authorship Controversy; “Shakespeare’s Qaballah” and an anthology of poetry “Parthenogenesis” are as follows:

Website: www.qudosacademy.org

Published by Leonidas Kazantheos

In the early part of my career I have worked extensively in media, the arts and theatre as an innovator and environmental conservationist and much later took on a role as an investigative journalist and commentator on the Shakespeare Authorship Controversy.

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