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Who was Shakespeare?
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The case for Walter Raleigh

Due to his life experiences, familiarity with Shakespeare phrases, and familial connection to Shakespeare, Walter Raleigh was the man behind Shakespeare's collected works.
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Walter Raleigh was one of the most recognisable figures in Elizabethan England. He was a prominent figure in Elizabethan court, giving him an in-depth understanding of the legal system and the ins and outs of the royal court. He also travelled extensively. This has led his name to be included among possible contenders in the Shakespeare authorship debate.

The Argument

The case for Walter Raleigh can be broken down into three themes. Firstly, many of the plays and sonnets’ narratives align closely with his own life experiences. He also uses several phrases from Shakespeare’s works in his own correspondences. Finally, he had a familial connection to Shakespeare himself, as well as ties to Christopher Marlowe. [1] Raleigh had the necessary experience to write with confidence about far-flung lands, the relationships between royalty and noblemen and the military and naval matters that are prominent in Shakespeare’s plays. He was a courtier, a statesman, a mariner, an explorer and even served a stint in the Tower of London. All of these themes are visible in Shakespeare’s plays. There are also references to Raleigh’s own life. Shakespearean references to lameness could be a reflection of Raleigh’s own wound and Hamlet’s attack on King Claudius could hint at Raleigh’s own dislike of James I.[2] Raleigh’s writing under his own name also covers similar subjects to Shakespeare, both in his printed works and personal correspondences. He published a book called ‘The Discovery of Guinea’ in which he mentions being washed up in the Bermudas, which smacks of Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’. [3] References of Raleigh's voyages can also be found in The Merry Wives of Windsor, As You Like It, The Merchant of Venice, Othello, Love's Labours lost, All's Well That Ends Well and The Tempest. There was also a familial tie to Shakespeare, so Raleigh would have been familiar with the man. Raleigh’s wife’s cousin married Edward Arden.

Counter arguments

Just because Raleigh experienced some of the places and themes in Shakespeare’s plays does not make a coherent argument that he was the plays' author. Shakespeare also wrote about slavery, yet neither Raleigh, nor Shakespeare, nor any other name put forward as an author of the plays was a slave. He wrote about fools, jesters, philosophers, common men, women, aristocrats, nobles, royalty and magicians but in no way does that mean that he was any of those things. A writer is not their subject. Tolkien is not an orc. Robert Louis Stevenson is not a pirate. Mary Shelley is not a monster. Therefore, Shakespeare need not be an intrepid traveller, statesman, or member of the aristocracy to have written his plays.



[P1] Shakespeare did not have the necessary experience to write his plays. [P2] Raleigh did. His life was similar to the worlds depicted in Shakespeare's plays. [P3] Therefore, Raleigh wrote Shakespeare's plays.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P2] A writer is not their subject. Tolkien did not carry a ring to Mount Doom, but he was able to write the Lord of the Rings series.


This page was last edited on Saturday, 20 Jun 2020 at 18:14 UTC

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