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Who was Shakespeare?
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The two Shakespeares

Shakespeare the playwright and Shakespeare the man are vastly different.
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Shakespeare the playwright and Shakespeare have almost nothing in common. One is a petty criminal, mean spirited and a persistent tax evader, the other was an innovate literary genius capable of immense amounts of human empathy.[1]

The Argument

We know that William Shakespeare from Stratford-upon-Avon had several run-ins with the law for offences like illegal poaching and tax evasion. He hoarded grain during a famine when others were starving. He also only saw fit to leave his wife his “second-best bed” following his death. On the other hand, the Shakespeare present in his literary works displays a deeply empathetic streak. He appears to hold a deep appreciation for and understanding of the best and worst aspects of human nature and finds beauty in human relationships. It is impossible to reconcile the Shakespeare we see in historical documentation with the Shakespeare visible in his literary works. Therefore, the only likely conclusion is that the two were not the same person.

Counter arguments

Many literary and artistic geniuses displayed traits in their personal lives that run counter to their creative works. Caravaggio was convicted of murder following a brawl. Wagner was a ferocious anti-Semite. It is possible to produce profound art without being a good person. Therefore, the disconnect between Shakespeare’s creative work and his character is not sufficient evidence for asserting Stratford’s Shakespeare was not the author of the literary works.



[P1] The Shakespeare of his work does not resemble the Shakespeare we see in historical documents. [P2] Therefore, they are not the same person.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P2] This does not mean they are not the same person.


This page was last edited on Monday, 27 May 2019 at 20:16 UTC

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