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"Your 'reality', sir, is lies and balderdash and I'm delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever."
— Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Freiherr von M√ľnchhausen

Shakespeare's Authorship

I stumbled upon a page concerning the controversy surrounding the authorship of Shakespeare's plays. I'm no expert in the matter, but I found myself drawn into the discussion. In a nutshell, many believe that William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon, an actor in London's premier theater company, was not the man who wrote the plays signed "William Shakespeare". The most likely candidate is Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. Those who take this view are called "Oxfordians," while the people who maintain the more traditional position are called "Stratfordians".

The literature is deep and fascinating, and I spent hours poring through the material I found via The Shakespeare Authorship Page, a Stratfordian site, and comparing The Shakespeare Oxford Society's website. I don't know if I'm convinced one way or the other just yet, but there's a lively debate that's apparently been going on for some 200 years. I've found plenty of overview material and FAQs, such as this one from the Shakespeare Fellowship.

I guess what I find most interesting about the whole debate is just how passionate the participants are. Mark Alexander's essay, Why I Became an Oxfordian reads almost like a religious conversion experience. This Q&A is a great read, too, taking the opposite position.

I find it frustrating that we may never have an answer to the question of Shakespeare's authorship, but the literature is vast and makes for an interesting diversion if you're of a literary frame of mind. Personally, I find the Oxfordian argument compelling due to the way that it illuminates and deepens the works of Shakespeare in the light of a man whose social and political standing placed him at the center of late-Tudor court drama. I also find the Stratfordian argument compelling not only because it supports the idea that Shakespeare was a truly unique talent, but also because Occam's Razor compels me to think that plays signed "William Shakespeare" were probably written by him.

Comments on Shakespeare's Authorship
  Comment from Blogger MacFurious at Wednesday, April 12, 2006 10:19:00 PM
Damn that Occam... damn him and his magic destroying ways to hell. :)

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The Red Bull Diary is the personal pulpit and intellectual dumping-ground for its author, an amateur game designer, professional programmer, political centrist and incurable skeptic. The Red Bull Diary is gaming, game design, politics, development, geek culture, and other such nonsense.