Alongside of the myth of Shakespeare’s humble and unassuming character is the popular assertion of Stratfordian academics that Shakespeare’s work is largely eclectic, that he borrowed or stole and re-worked existing material to his own ends. This idea simply attempts to ameliorate the notion by sceptics that William Shagspere did not have the relevant education, knowledge or intellectual support to have written all those plays and poetry and artfully copied existing playwrights and poets. Again this notion of him being a poacher of plays elaborates on the Robin Hood myth that he stole from the rich in order to give to the poor. Since there are no records in Stratford-upon-Avon that William Shagspere even went to school at all, or that we know he did not receive a university education, and no evidence that he could read or write then the foundations of his authorship appear extremely tenuous if not ridiculously “shaky”.
The accepted and popular academic theory is that William Shagspere at the age of 23 moved to London sometime around 1587, then wrote four of his history plays (1590) and after completing four more plays beginning with A Comedy of Errors then began to write poetry intended to supplement his income when the theatres were closed in 1592 due to the plague. This was apparently all done from a standing start in the space of five years. In comparative terms Edmund Spenser, although from a poor background attended Merchant Taylor’s school under Mulcaster, was writing poetry before attending Pembroke Hall, Cambridge before publishing his own poetry (Shepherde’s Calendar-1579) at the age of 29 shortly after his marriage to Machabyas Childe. While John Marston (1575-1634) attended Brasenose College, Oxford by 1592 and was published by 1598 at the age of 23. Ben Jonson (1572-1637) had no university education but began his career as an actor by 1597 in a play entitled Isle of Dogs at the age of 25. It was a further two years before he presumably began writing his own plays. The question remains can an un-mentored and untutored individual advance his dramatic, theatrical and poetic career from virtual anonymity within such a short space of time?
Given this apparent lack of education in the most rudimentary aspects of literature, art, science, horticulture, poetry, warfare, sea-faring, law, biology, etc how did he become such a prolific and detailed polymath? Academics have stated that the literary sources required to write the plays and poems alone would have amounted to having access to an extensive library of some 3,000 or more books. No collection of books, nor any library would have been available to him without some aristocratic connection, since books, a rare commodity in Elizabethan England, were largely possessed by aristocrats, institutions of learning and the clergy. In total contrast the Stratford Man, who became an actor is the man to whom the poems and plays are popularly ascribed and all the members of his family through three generations were completely illiterate. Publishers and printers kept small book collections and it is true that Richard Field, the Warwickshire printer could have given the Stratford Man some of the books required to research the historical material, but without any conclusive evidence that he was literate it is highly unlikely he would have been able to read them.
The author’s knowledge of English law was consistent with that of a working professional barrister or lawyer. So how did William Shagspere of Stratford in his own life get into so many legal difficulties? The author’s knowledge of the Greek and Roman Classics incomparable, so was he self-taught? The author’s knowledge of University life, customs and rhetoric are consistent with an education in either Cambridge or possibly Oxford. But as far as we know the Stratford Shagspere did not attend a school or university. The author’s unique knowledge of foreign affairs and foreign places remarkable. Yet apparently through his entire life Shagspere never left the country or travelled abroad. The author’s knowledge and proficiency of foreign languages such as French, Italian, Latin, Spanish and Greek uncommon. No evidence other than in the plays themselves that he spoke or was even remotely acquainted with any foreign language. Moreover, how did a Stratford man develop or favour a Yorkshire dialect in his writing?
The links to my publications “Shakespeare’s Qaballah”, a Companion to Shakespeare Studies and my anthology of poetry, “Pathenogenesis” are as follows: