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Who was Shakespeare?
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There is sufficient motive

A female writer would have a clear need for a pseudonym like William Shakespeare.


Other Shakespearean authorship theories develop outlandish and imaginative reasons for the author to adopt a pseudonym. A far simpler explanation would be, because Shakespeare was a woman writing in Elizabethan England.

The Argument

In Elizabethan England, writing plays was not considered an acceptable female pursuit. There were plenty of females involved in theatre. They worked in the wardrobe departments, collected admission tickets and featured and patrons, financing theatre productions. However, they were not expected to feature on stage in productions, nor were they involved in the writing process, which was very much a masculine domain. With many women active in the theatre, but playwriting off-limits, it is no surprise that around 80% of Elizabethan plays were authored anonymously, suggesting that many women did write plays but did not put their names to them.[1] It is not beyond the realms of possibility, therefore, that Shakespeare was a front for a female writer who needed to stay anonymous to preserve her reputation.

Counter arguments

There are many reasons why someone writing plays in Elizabethan England might use a pseudonym and the use of a pseudonym does not exclusively mean the author of Shakespeare's plays was a woman. If we accept that Shakespeare was not the author of the work penned under his name, it is just as plausible to suggest that the author was, in fact, a man of high social standing. The theatre was seen as an immoral and lowly pursuit at the time. An aristocrat writing plays might also adopt a pseudonym to protect his reputation. However, the far simpler conclusion is that Shakespeare, the glover's son from Stratford wrote the plays. If 80% of plays were left anonymous, why would an author that wished to hide his/her identity bother to find someone to put their name to it at all? Why not just publish the plays anonymously? This would likely be far easier (and cheaper) than paying a Stratfordian bard to put his name to the works.



[P1] Playwriting was not deemed a suitable female pursuit in Elizabethan England. [P2] Therefore, a female writer would have likely published her work anonymously or behind a pen name. [P3] Therefore, it is possible that Shakespeare was not the author of his accredited works and a woman was using his name and identity as a front.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] Nor was it considered a suitable pursuit of noblemen and citizens of high social standing. [Rejecting P2] A male aristocrat would also have likely published under a pen name or anonymously. [Rejecting P3] It is just as likely that Shakespeare was a male of high social standing.


This page was last edited on Wednesday, 15 May 2019 at 12:41 UTC

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