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Shakespeare Essay by Richard Cook






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© Richard Baldwin Cook 2010

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And Shakespeare, thou whose honey-flowing vein

(Pleasing the world) thy Praises doth obtain,

Whose Venus and whose Lucrece (sweet and chaste)

Thy name in Fame’s immortal Book have placed,

Live ever you, at least in fame live ever:

Well may the Body die, but Fame dies never.

Richard Barnfield, ‘Poems in divers Humors,’ 1598

Those who want to believe some other person wrote the Works of Shakespeare, focus on propositions which are not grounded in history, but are merely rhetorical inventions. Previously,[1] I discussed two of these fanciful propositions:

  1. The surname Shakspere (or Shaksper) was the preferred spelling of the Stratford actor and theater owner.[2]
  2. The surname Shakespeare (or Shake-speare) is a pseudonym for the secret author of the Shakespeare corpus.[3]

Neither of these propositions has merit; both are lacking any factual support. Nevertheless, these propositions are deployed to support a third unsupportable theory, which we will answer in this article:

  1. William Shakesper of Stratford-Upon-Avon was not the author of the works of William Shakespeare.

As I have shown[4] from documents available to anyone,[5] there was no preferred spelling of the Bard’s surname, until Shakespeare became the conventional spelling, many decades after the Elizabethan / Jacobean era.

Two additional variations on the name (overlooked in my earlier article) should be added to this list:                 Shagspere – the name appearing on the Nov 28, 1582 marriage bond of Ann Hathaway and young Will. (For Shagspere, see: The Nov 28, 1582 marriage bond, which has “William Shagspere” is reproduced in William Shakespeare: A Documentary Life, Samuel Schoenbaum, (Oxford University Press, New York: 1975) p. 62. The same source (page 70) reserves Shaxpere, a surname appearing on a Nov. 27, 1582 hand-written marriage license, which refers either to our subject (with the bride mistakenly misnamed) or to another eager groom named Will, whose surname was officially spelled with equal creativity, and who was preparing to marry a bride named Ann Whateley.)                   Shackespere – the name appearing in litigation brought by the father and captioned under what became the standard spelling, Shakespeare v. Lambert (1588), with Shackespere referring explicitly to the son. (See William Shakespeare: A Compact Documentary Life, Samuel Schoenbaum (Oxford University Press, New York: 1978) with Willielmo Shackespereat p. 40, Shakespere v. Lambert at p. 39.) An anti-Strafordian website misstates the caption, substituting Shackespeare for the actual  Shakespeare. For this, see “Shakspere Chronology – 1564 to1592” (http:/ / Shagspere and Shackespere, from 1582 and 1588, are closely associated with the young man whose surname has come down the centuries as Shakespeare. Why ought one assume that Will S________ preferred to see his surname spelled Shakspere? One oughtn’t.

There is not a shred of evidence that any form of Shakespeare ever was used as a pseudonym. This fact does not dampen the zeal of the no-poet-Shakespeare faction, who have Christened the Stratford man Shacksper/e. We are to call him by a non-normative spelling – anything but Shakespeare, the conventional spelling associated with the works – since a distinction between the Stratford rube and the London Bard must be preserved.[6]


What’s the problem? What is going on? The problem is bad history. What is going on is a deceptive misuse of documents by some of the influential campaigners against the Stratford Bard.

What is insistently overlooked by anti-Stratfordians, is that an inquiry into the identity of an author is an inquiry into actual past events. To get the history right, contingencies of time and place must be pinned down. Once this is done, then you know what you know and you don’t know any more than that. If contingencies cannot be pinned down, then one cannot know.

From an historical record, inferences can be drawn from what is known; but inferences ought not be drawn from silence. All that can be said when the record is silent is:  we do not know because the record is silent.


To believe that the Stratford man did not write Shakespeare is to believe that history is not a record of past events but is a mire of shadowy occurrences, which can be cherry picked to support otherwise unsupportable notions.

For centuries, the search for data about Shakespeare has given occasion to misrepresentation, forgery and fraud. The misrepresentation probably began innocently, as residents of Stratford, decades after the death of their famous neighbor, began to field questions about him and discovered that the little that was remembered of Shakespeare did not shine a bright light upon his genius.

Early inquirers encountered stories which have the odor of embellishment: young Will was a poacher of deer and had to run away to London;[7] young Will attended school but had to leave, owing to his family’s poverty;[8] young Will was apprenticed to a butcher[9] and would burst into poetic speech while slaughtering a cow.[10] All of these ‘facts’ appear in the written record decades after Shakespeare had died in 1616. None of this can be said to reflect the memories of anyone who was acquainted personally with Shakespeare.

The supposed absence of contemporary documentary evidence[11] opened the way for fraudsters to counterfeit and therefore produce allegedly ancient documents and announce their ‘findings’ to the world.[12] In many cases, legitimate historians have been taken in and have publicized the bad with the good.[13]

Today, one still must separate what is known from what is claimed. There is only a slight possibility that someone might counterfeit something and announce a ‘discovery.’ More likely today is the shading of known facts and the misuse of materials which are part of the historical record.


Shakespeare’s son-in-law, Dr. John Hall inherited Shakespeare’s personal property in 1616. In Hall’s 1635 nuncupative (oral) will, he left his books to his son-in-law “to dispose of as you see best.”[14] These facts tell us that we cannot know what books Shakespeare owned at his death. In 1637 Shakespeare’s daughter, Susannah, widow of Dr Hall, joined with her son-in-law (the 1635 heir to Hall’s  books) and complained in Chancery court that one Baldwin Brooks had broken into New Place, Shakespeare’s old home and robed the house of “divers books’ as well as “other goods of great value.”[15] This fact give us the only reasonable conclusion to be drawn: in 1637 there were books in the house formerly occupied by William Shakespeare, but there is no way to know if any that were stolen – or that were not stolen – belongs to Shakespeare or to his son-in-law, John Hall, or , since,  Dr Hall had died in 1635, whether all the books belonged to someone else.

Despite these facts, we read – repeatedly – that because Shakespeare owned no books he could not have been the Bard. Discussing Shakespeare’s will, Mark Anderson writes, that Shakespeare:

“detailed his worldly possessions” but “nowhere” does the testator “mention any literary or theatrical properties. No books, no manuscripts, no plays – the most precious things in a dramatists life – and one is to believe that not a scrap of it merited mention in a will?”[16]

Matt Cossolotto, erstwhile President of the Shakespeare-Oxford Society, has written:

Shakspere of Stratford’s minutely detailed 1616 will makes no mention of anything even vaguely literary – no books, unpublished manuscripts, library or diaries. Not even a family bible.”[17]

Do Mr. Anderson and Mr. Kossolotto not know that Shakespeare left his personal property to his son-in-law, John Hall? Or that Dr Hall left books to his son-in-law? Do Mr. Anderson and Mr. Kossolotto not know that Shakespeare’s old home was robbed and “books” were stolen?

The anti-Stratfordian Declaration of Reasonable Doubt announces:[18]

“His detailed will [. . .] mentions no books, plays, poems, or literary effects of any kind.”

Do the drafters of this declaration not know that at Shakespeare’s passing, by the terms of his will, his unlisted personal property was devised to his son-in-law – who then left books to his son-in-law? Are the drafters unaware of the theft of books from Shakespeare’s heirs?

Shakespeare left no books. It is misleading to claim as a fact, what is an assertion that disregards the known facts. Assertions that go beyond the known facts are not grounded in the historical record. The most we can say is Shakespeare’s personal effects were left to his immediate family, including his son-in-law, John Hall. Hall served as executor and in this formal and official role, proved Shakespeare’s will and submitted an inventory of the decedent’s property (see below).

All of the known facts contradict the statement: Shakespeare left no books. Upon this factually unsupported assertion has been erected a very unreliable structure: because Shakespeare left no books, then he owned no books and since he owned no books, he could not be the author of the Works. Applying the same obscurantist logic, I may as well claim that Shakespeare wore no pants because his will is devoid of any mention of them.


In 1599, London printer William Jaggard produced a book entitled The Passionate Pilgrim, which contained short poems by various hands, including a few sonnets by Shakespeare and all attributed to “W. Shakespeare.”[19]

Why would a printer / publisher bring out a book under the name of an author who had not produced all of the contents? Historians of the period have shown that this was standard practice. Sidney Lee, in summary, tells us:  “The fraudulent practice of crediting Shakespeare with valueless plays from the pens of comparatively dull-witted contemporaries was in vogue among enterprising traders in literature both early and late in the seventeenth century.”[20]

Why would publishers have tried to sell books under Shakespeare name? At the beginning of this article there is reproduced a 1598 quotation from the poet Richard Barnfield, who called attention to Shakespeare’s genius. After Barnsfield praised Shakespeare so lavishly, Lee writes, “Shakespeare’s name was thenceforth of value to unprincipled publishers, and they sought to palm off on their customers as his work the productions of inferior pens.”[21]

In 1612, Jaggard brought out a third[22] edition of The Passionate Pilgrim, and for the first time included in this edition two long poems by Thomas Heywood, which had been published previously by Jaggard himself in Troia Britannica (1609).[23] The inclusion of Heywood’s two poems in The Passionate Pilgrim, in 1612, was done without Heywood’s permission.

Heywood promptly objected, in 1612, to the unauthorized but nevertheless legal[24] publication of his poems in a book attributed to Shakespeare. In a public letter, Heywood complained about the appearance of his own work “in a less volume under the name of another, which may put the world in opinion I might steal them from him.”[25] Heywood added that Shakespeare, too, had been “much offended with M. Jaggard (that altogether unknowne to him) presumed to make so bold with his name.”[26]

Because the 1599 edition of The Passionate Pilgrim had not contained Heywood’s purloined poetry, that edition gave no occasion for an objection from him. But the 1612 edition, containing two of Heywood’s long poems, prompted his public complaint.

Heywood stated of the poet in whose name the volume had appeared (“W. Shakespeare)” “he, to do himself right, hath since published them in his own name.”[27] This is a reference to the 1609 publication of two sonnets by Shakespeare, both of which had appeared in the editions of The Passionate Pilgrim. These two sonnets, now numbered 138 and 144, were included in a book registered by publisher Thomas Thorpe under the title, “Booke called Shakespeare’s sonnettes.”[28]

Heywood’s complaints were not without effect. Later that same year, 1612, Jaggard re-printed The Passionate Pilgrim with a new title page, omitting Shakespeare’s name.[29]

Of these events, Sidney Lee has written, “it was characteristic of Shakespeare to ignore the wrongs which Jaggard and Jaggard’s colleagues in trade were in the habit of doing himself and other authors. Heywood’s statement offers the only extant evidence that Shakespeare deigned to notice the nefarious practices in which the state of the law of copyright enabled Jaggard and his like to indulge with impunity.”[30]

Heywood’s statement that Shakespeare, in 1609 saw to the publication of his sonnets, is a statement that requires an explanation by those who think the true author of the sonnets was Edward de Vere, dead in 1604.

If the 1609 appearance of the sonnets pleads for an explanation, the 1612 events demand one. In 1612, for the first time, The Passionate Pilgrim was reprinted with Thomas Heywood’s poems. In 1612 Heywood complained in print about Jaggard’s misconduct. In 1612, Jaggard acknowledged the complaint by replacing the title page (in at least some copies) which had attributed the book to Shakespeare with a title page that did not.

For those who believe that Edward de Vere wrote the Works, these events from 1609 and 1612, occurring well after de Vere’s death, must be confronted. But how?


“To alter is more easy than to explain,” wrote Samuel Johnson, in his commentary on Shakespeare. Johnson then added, “temerity is a more common quality than diligence.”[31] This is as true today as it was in Johnson’s. Here is a case in point.

Alteration of the facts, not an explanation of them, is what we find in a book entitled, “Shakespeare” by Another Name: The Life of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, the man Who Was Shakespeare.[32] The book’s author, Mark Anderson, obscures the history of the printings of The Passionate Pilgrim, the better to fit them into his de Vere authorship theory.

Dead in 1604, De Vere could not be the “much offended” writer Heywood has in mind in 1612. Because 1612 is too late, the de Vere authorship theory simply collapses. To avoid this, Anderson pretends that nothing at all happened in 1612.

In his book, Anderson mentions the 1599 publication of The Passionate Pilgrim, but not its re-publication in 1612. Instead, Anderson states that Heywood had been “anthologized” in The Passionate Pilgrim. Anderson does not tell his readers when this happened: 1612. Instead, Anderson implies that Heywood’s protest to the printer occurred at some unspecified future point, when Heywood “later reflected.” The reader of Anderson’s statement of events is left to assume that later, means sometime after 1599. But later can only mean 1612, since Heywood’s work had not been included in the 1599 edition.

Even this fudge is not quite enough for Anderson, who alters Heywood by adding a “[was]” in the middle of Heywood’s statement: “the author I know [was] much offended.” An author much offended is offended now, that is, in 1612; Anderson cannot allow this. So he has Heywood say what he did not say:  the author I know [was] much offended.

As to the documented, 1612 amended printing of The Passionate Pilgrim, this time without authorship attributed to Shakespeare, Anderson is silent. He has to be. Mention of this re-printing, occasioned by Heywood’s public protest, simply destroys the assertion that de Vere wrote the Works.

Just as he cannot explain how de Edward Vere could have published the sonnets in 1609,  Anderson knows he cannot explain how de Vere could have been mollified by an event which occurred in 1612. Since Edward de Vere would have had to be much offended eight years after his death, perhaps we can expect to see a book theorizing that the Works were actually penned by the ghost of Edward de Vere. Such are the contortions of a contortionist, who must try to fit facts to theories rather than theories to facts.

Here are the relevant paragraphs from Mr. Anderson[33] with emphasis added.

“In 1599 The Passionate Pilgrim by W. Shakespeare was published containing sonnets and other poems that revealed de Vere’s innermost feelings toward Southampton – potentially perceptible, to the censorious at least, as homosexual feelings.            “De Vere must have been angry with the publisher of The Passionate Pilgrim (William Jaggard) for sneaking compromising material into print under the Shake-speare imprimatur. Printing works intended for the public stage was one thing, but The Passionate Pilgrim was another altogether.  De Vere’s conflicted feelings about Southampton were certainly not intended to become the fable of the world, at least not during de Vere’s lifetime. To add insult to injury, fifteen of The Passionate Pilgrim’s twenty poems, all said to be “by W. Shake-speare” – were actually written by other authors. The cobbling together of various surreptitiously obtained patches of verse may well be the handiwork of “poet-ape” Will Shakspere.            “One of the poets anthologized in The Passionate Pilgrim was Thomas Heywood, a sometime servant to Southampton and a playwright who had worked with de Vere’s son-in-law, the Earl of Derby. Heywood later reflected that his unwitting contributions to The Passionate Pilgrim “were not worthy his [de Vere’s] patronage . . . so the author I know [was] much offended with Mr. Jaggard – that altogether unknown to him presumed to make bold with his name.”

In sum, Mr. Anderson has failed to take notice of the printing sequence of The Passionate Pilgrim (1599, a second printing about 1606, two more printings in 1612). It is obvious that by the rhetorical deployment of a “later” and a “[was]” Mr. Anderson  is aware that he  cannot fit the printing sequence and Heywood’s 1612 complaint into the biography of Edward de Vere. It is clear, too, why Mark Anderson simply ignores this 1612 statement from Heywood: “he, to do himself right, hath since published them in his own name.” [34] This is a reference to William Shakespeare, the author of the sonnets. It cannot be a reference to Edward de Vere. Dead in 1604, de Vere could not have seen to the publication, in 1609, of a volume which included the two sonnets that had been published in the The Passionate Pilgrim.


A second case of slight of hand demonstrates the second prong of Dr. Johnson’s aphorism: “temerity is a more common quality than diligence.”[36] Once again, Mark Anderson provides the case. He writes, that in his will, Shakespeare “detailed his worldly possessions” but “nowhere” does the testator “mention any literary or theatrical properties. No books, no manuscripts, no plays – the most precious things in a dramatists life – and one is to believe that not a scrap of it merited mention in a will?”[37]

The purpose of a will is to devise property, not to list property. Mark Anderson, like the no-poet-Shakespeare faction he so ably represents, is confused about this.

It is deceptive to announce that Shakespeare owned “no books, no manuscripts, no plays.” Anderson fails to tell his readers that “Shakespeare’s play-scripts were not his to dispose of – they belonged to the Kings men.”[38]

If one is going to feign shock at the absence of books and play-scripts, as Mr. Anderson does, he must contend with the historical record, which indicates that Shakespeare made his money through performance of his plays – not by continuing ownership of play-scripts. At his death Shakespeare probably did not own any play-scripts at all. Even if Shakespeare did own play-scripts at his death, these items, like his pants, would not have been itemized or even mentioned in his will.

Routinely, a listing of property is entrusted by the testator to relatives or executors, who are to conduct an inventory of the decedent’s possessions – after death. This is exactly what was done following the death of William Shakespeare:

“Mr. Hall [Shakespeare’s son-in-law] was in London in the following June, and on the twenty-second of that month he proved his father-in-law’s will at the Archbishop of Canterbury’s registry, an office then situated near St. Paul’s. He also produced at the same time an inventory of the testator’s household effects, but not a fragment of this latter document is known to be in existence.”[39]

Mark Anderson is not alone in misunderstanding the purpose of a will. In the on-line document, “Declaration of Reasonable Doubt About the Identity of William Shakespeare[40] we find this paragraph:

“His detailed will, in which he famously left his wife “my second best bed with the furniture,” contains no clearly Shakespearean turn of phrase and mentions no books, plays, poems, or literary effects of any kind. Nor does it mention any musical instruments, despite extensive evidence of the author’s musical expertise. He did leave token bequests to three fellow actors (an interlineation, indicating it was an afterthought), but nothing to any writers. The actors’ names connect him to the theater, but nothing implies a writing career. Why no mention of Stratford’s Richard Field, who printed the poems that first made Shakespeare famous? If Mr. Shakspere was widely known as William “Shakespeare,” why spell his name otherwise in his will? Dying men are usually very aware of, and concerned about, what they are famous for. Why not this man?”

Virtually every sentence in this paragraph suggests ignorance about how and why a testator would make a will.

The point of a will has nothing to do with laying down a certain “turn of phrase.” The failure to mention “books, plays, poems or literary effects . . .  musical instruments . . . a writing career”. . . nothing to any writers,” no mention of certain individuals “Stratford’s Richard Field, who printed he poems” – none of this points to failure or omissions by a testator.

The expectation of such items drops all of the signers of the Declaration into a mélange of unsubstantiated ideas and fanciful suppositions about what an individual must have cared about, on his death bed, in an English market town in 1616.

The mixed-up notions in the on-line Declaration of Reasonable Doubt are also muddled about the function of the executors’ inventory, which can be conducted only after the testator has died. There can be no detailed listing of the property until the will goes into effect on the death of the testator. The executors then make their list. Not before.

From the Declaration we read: “Dying men are usually very aware of, and concerned about, what they are famous for.” This sentence is a howling absurdity. The persons who crafted the Declaration suppose they can read into the minds of “dying men.” (What? No women?) A dying may be brief or long. A dying may be accompanied by shock, excruciating pain, disorientation, grief, a sense of loss, regret, physical humiliation, shame, anger, reconciliation, joy. Unimaginable to the declaration-committee, but part of my experience as a sometime hospice volunteer, what you are famous for does not make the short list of urgent concerns in the mind of a dying person.

Mark Anderson compounds his confusion about the purpose of a will by his assumption that an author’s proprietary interests in created works, based on then-nonexistent copyright protections, may be read back into Shakespeare’s day. Like his contemporaries, Shakespeare probably held the view that plays “were not considered literature, and most people didn’t pay much attention to their authors, at least not until after 1600.”[41]

Later notions of what constitutes ownership must not be imputed to an Elizabethan / Jacobean playwright. Dr. Johnson is doubtless closer to the facts, which he well described in 1765:

“It does not appear that Shakespeare thought his works worthy of posterity, that he levied any ideal tribute upon future times, or had any further prospect, than of present popularity and present profit. When his plays had been acted, his hope was at an end; he solicited no addition of honor from the reader. He therefore made no scruple to repeat the same jests in many dialogues, or to entangle different plots by the same knot of perplexity . . .

“So careless was this great poet of future fame, that, though he retired to ease and plenty, while he was yet little inclined into the vale of tears, before he could be disgusted with fatigue, or disabled by infirmity, he made no collection of his works, nor desired to rescue those that had been already published from the deprivations that obscured them or secure to the rest a better destiny, by giving them to the world in their genuine state.

“Of the plays which bear the name of Shakespeare in the late editions, the greater part were not published until about seven years after his death, and the few which appeared in his life are apparently thrust into the world without the care of the author and therefore probably without his knowledge.”[42]

Just as he elects not to consider that the ownership of Shakespeare’s plays passed to the players, Anderson and the anti-Stratfordians I have read, elect to remain silent about the documented existence of an inventory associated with Shakespeare’s will.[43] Avoidance of mention of an executor’s inventory of Shakespeare’s possessions at his death makes sense from an anti-Strafordian point of view. If there was an inventory, then all the talk about what we find or do not find mentioned in Shakespeare’s will is pointless.

Those who would displace Shakespeare with someone who called himself Shakespeare have opted for silence as to the facts. An unwillingness to answer facts belies an inability to answer.  Answers ought to be made when confronted with awkward facts (Heywood’s 1612 statements; the existence of the 1616 inventory) and modern scholarship (Schoenbaum, Kathman, McCrea, Shapiro[44]). The would-be displacers of Shakespeare also should answer Dr. Johnson, already quoted, who has described Shakespeare and his times as well as can be done. Johnson gave us the high arc of his descriptions more than two centuries ago – he still awaits an answer from any who doubt that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare:

“Of all the publishers, clandestine or professed, their negligence and unskilfulness has by the late revisers been sufficiently shown. . . . his works were transcribed for the players by those who may be supposed to have seldom understood them; they were transmitted by copiers equally unskillful, who still multiplied errors, they were perhaps sometimes mutilated by the actors, for the sake of shortening the speeches; and were at last printed without correction of the press. In this state they remained not [. . .] because they were unregarded, but because the editors art was not yet applied to modern languages,  and our ancestors were accustomed to so much negligence of English printers, that they could very patiently endure it.”[45]

1 “After He Was Dead, Shakespeare Wrote His only Poem”

2 “Will Shakspere – as the actor preferred to spell it – ”  Mark Anderson neglects to tell us how he knows this. See “Shakespeare” By Another Name, The Life of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, the Man Who Was Shakespeare, Mark Anderson (New York Gotham Books, 2005), p. xxviii.

3 ” ‘Shakespeare’ was a subterfuge that distanced the scandalous works from its primary subjects: the queen and her powerful inner circle of advisors. The ‘Shakespeare’ ruse enabled de Vere to write till the end of his days in 1604. However, the bargain was a Faustian one, depriving de Vere of the immortality due him for his literary accomplishments and foisting upon the world a monumental myth.” Anderson’s Shakespeare” By Another Name, p. xxxiii. A new candidate has emerged as the true author of the works. This is the diplomat and aristocrat, Henry Neville (1562-1615), championed in the book The Truth Will Out by Brenda James and William D. Rubinstein (Harpers, 2007). For a critical response, see Tom Veal’s Stromata Blog, beginning with this link, which will take you to additional critiques:

4 The spelling of the surname in Warwickshire and London in the fifteenth to the early seventeenth centuries include the following variations:

For documentation of this orthography, please see “After He Was Dead, Shakespeare Wrote His only Poem”

5 Among dozens of others, the books of the highly regarded James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps, including his magisterial Life of William Shakespeare (London: John Russell Smith, 1848) are now accessible at GoogleBooks. This is also true of Sidney Lee’s  A Life of William Shakespeare (London: Smith Elder & Co. 1908).

6 The Shakespeare Authorship Coalition is soliciting signatures on its website to be placed after a Declaration of Reasonable Doubt About the Identify of William Shakespeare. See: The Declaration is preceded by this statement: “‘Shakspere’ a frequent spelling of his name [is] used here to distinguish him from the author.” This is a question-begging ploy, like announcing that we will always refer to the baseball player from Baltimore as George Herman Ruth, so as to distinguish him from the iconic “Babe” Ruth – and won’t you sign our petition stating that you doubt they are one the same person?

7 Was Will a poacher of deer? Did he run away to London? The story that he poached or stole deer goes back to Nicholas Rowe (Some Acount of the Life of Mr. William Shakespear, 1709 – for the text of Rowe, see Project Guttenburg) and is more than a century removed from  events that might have occurred in the 1580s. Rowe has young Will fallen into “ill company” who led him into robbing a “park” (private forest) owned by Sir Thomas Lucy, whose prosecution of our subject caused him “to leave his Business and Family in Warwickshire, for some time, and shelter himself in London.” (See Works, Rowe, ed. 1709) i, p. v.); see also Schoenbaum’s Compact Documentary Life, pp. 98, 331.

8 Did young Will attend the Free School in Stratford? Was he compelled to drop out? Rowe’s report suggests that the boy went to school for some time but he was compelled to leave school and go to work, as the father had fallen upon bad economic times.

9 Can we be confident about a “butcher” apprenticeship for young Will?  Schoenbaum thinks not, as it comes into the Shakespeare biography only in 1693, when a Mr. Dowdall was told by the “ancient” parish clerk and sexton that “Shakespear was formerly in this town bound apprentice to a butcher; but that he run from his master to London, and there was received into the playhouse as a serviture, and by this means had an opportunity to be what he afterwards proved.” To this narrative, Schoenbaum adds, “Although this story does not state that the employer was William’s father, it seems to have its origin in the familiar misconception about John Shakespeare’s occupation, and so has no more persuasive force than implausible gossip.” See Schoenbaum’s Compact Documentary Life, p. 109.

10 John Aubry, writing late in the seventeenth century: “William Shakespeare’s father was a butcher, and I have been told heretofore by some of the neighbours, that when he was a boy he exercised his father’s trade but when he killed a calf, he would do it in a high style, and make a speech.” Quoted by Schoenbaum in his Compact Documentary Life (pp. 73-4). Schoenbaum concluded that Will’s father was a glover and not a butcher and that glovers “were restrained from looking after their own slaughtering” and also that “a poetical prodigy moved to extempore effusions in the shambles is sufficiently ludicrous.”

11 In fact, there is considerable contemporary evidence that Shakespeare was Shakespeare. An excellent summary of this material is conveniently made available by David Kathman and his colleagues at See also the excellent The Case for Shakespeare: The End of the Authorship Question, Scott McCrea (London, Westport: Praeger 2005).

12 Explicit deception seems to have begun with John Jordan (1746-1809), a resident at Stratford, who forged the will of Shakespeare’s father, among many other documents. Then there was the law clerk, William Henry Ireland (1777-1835), who became a forger apparently to help his father, Samuel Ireland in his antiquarian competition with the literary historian Edmond Malone. For accounts of the misdeeds of Shakespeare forgers, see Sidney Lee’s Life of William Shakespeare, p. 382 ff and Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? by James Shapiro (Simon and Schuster, 2010 ) esp. pp. 10-13, 17-36, 64-67.

13 Halliwell-Phillipps in his Life of William Shakespeare stated (p. 328) that Shakespeare was familiarly termed Willy “in a MS. found by Mr. Collier at Dulwieh College.” Unfortunately for Halliewell-Phillipps and his readers, John Payne Collier was a forger; his books are “honeycombed with forged references to Shakespeare, and many of the forgeries have been admitted unsuspectingly into literary history.” See Sidney Lee’s Life p. 384.

14 Id. Schoenbaum’s Compact Documentary Life, p. 305

15 Id.

16 See Anderson’s “Shakespeare” By Another Name, p. xxix. We will return to this quotation when we consider Mr. Anderson’s failure to grasp the purpose of a will. See below.

17 See Item No. 2 at


19 Schoenbaum, Compact Documentary Life, p. 268

20 The Passionate Pilgrim, Being a Reproduction in Facsimile of the First Edition, 1599, Introduction and Bibliography by Sidney Lee (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1895) pp. 187,188.

21 Id, p. 186.

22 A second edition had appeared though no copy has been recovered. See Lee’s  The Passionate Pilgrim p. 45. See also The Plays and Poems of William Shakespeare, Volume the Tenth, Edmund Malone, Samuel Johnson, eds (London: H Baldwin 1790) p. 321

23 Lee’s  The Passionate Pilgrim, p. 271

24 There was no copyright protection for authors at that time in England. With explicit reference to the unauthorized publication of The Passionate Pilgrim, Halliwell-Phillipps says, “There was, it is true, no legal remedy.” See Outlines of the life of Shakespeare, James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps (London: Longmans, Green and Co 1883) p. 162.

25 Schoenbaum, Compact Documentary Life, p. 271; see also Scott McCrea’s  The Case for Shakespeare, p. 191.

26 Id.

27 Id. See also Lee’s 1895 Facsimile edition of The Passionate Pilgrim, p. 45.

28 Lee, p. 22

29 Schoenbaum, Compact Documentary Life, p. 271

30 Id, p. 48.

31 Samuel Johnson, Johnson on Shakespeare, Walter Raleigh (London: Henry Frowde 1908) p. 42.

32 See note 2, above.

33 Shakespeare” By Another Name, The Life of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, the Man Who Was Shakespeare, Mark Anderson (New York Gotham Books, 2005), pp. 320,321.

34 Schoenbaum, Compact Documentary Life, p. 271.

35 This is the well chosen title of James Shapiro’s book, Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? (Simon and Schuster, 2010)

36 Johnson quoted in Raleigh’s Johnson on Shakespeare p. 42.

37 See Anderson’s “Shakespeare” By Another Name, p. xxix.

38 Schoenbaum’s Compact Documentary Life, p. 305

39 Halliwell-Phillipps’ Outlines, p. 235, cited by Shapiro, Contested Will, p. 288. Scott McCrea, in The Case for Shakespeare (p. 48), helpfully tracked down the will, whose registration contained the notation,  inventorium exhibitum – inventory attached.


41 See “How We Know That Shakespeare Wrote Shakespeare: The Historical Facts” by Tom Reedy and David Kathman, on the web at

42 Johnson on Shakespeare, Walter Raleigh (London: Henry Frowde 1908) pp.41, 42

43 Bonner Cutting, arguing that because some wills itemize some possessions, Shakespeare’s ought to have itemized more. Cutting’s wish list of what Shakespeare’s will should have mentioned – if he truly were the Bard – includes: “cupboards, hampers cases, boxes, presses or chests” “desk” “pen” “ink ” “music” “musical instruments.” Cutting acknowledges that an inventory of Shakespeare’s possessions was made, but Cutting asserts, without the slightest evidence, that this missing document has been “conveniently lost.”  See “Shakespeare’s Will…..Considered Too Curiously,” Brief Chronicles Vol 1 (2009) pp. 208, 209.

44 It is no answer to ignore facts presented and state of James Shapiro: “As a career Stratfordian, he is naturally predisposed to believe in Shakspere of Stratford as the poet-dramatist. He has a doctorate in Shakespeare studies from the University of Chicago. He has taught Shakespeare for twenty-five years at Columbia, and he has published two earlier books about Shakespeare.” See Richard F. Whalen’s review of Shapiro’s Contested Will:

45 Johnson on Shakespeare, pp. 42, 43

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