The Great Authorship Debate

The Great Authorship Debate
Premise: William Shakespeare is arguably the most celebrated and studied
author of all time. He has been praised for creating timeless plot lines (although
often copied), complex and interesting characters, and for exhibiting an
unparalleled gift for language. However, some argue that it would have been
impossible for the man from Stratford-upon-Avon to accomplish such literary
feats. One argument against the Shakespeare we have come to know is that a
man of relatively low social standing would not have had the experiences
necessary in areas such as courtly practices, military strategy, language(s), and
travel. (Shakespeare’s father was a glover). However, someone wrote the works
that are considered, by some, the jewel of the literary canon, and scholarly
groups have been making conjectures as to the real author’s identity for
hundreds of years. You will now become one of these scholars.
1. You will choose one of the people below who are reputed as
possibly responsible for Shakespeare’s works. Keep in mind that if
one of these people wrote the works, it was under a pen name.
Please use the websites provided to research the scholarly
information/studies that have been done for your “suspect.” Upon
completion of your research you must make a determination as to
whether or not this person, was indeed, responsible for writing
Shakespeare’s works. This will become your thesis. You will be
responsible for properly citing all research, so make notations as
necessary throughout your research process.
2. Write a five paragraph essay based on the determination obtained
through your research. The essay should contain all of the
structural elements found in a five paragraph essay: intro with
hook and thesis (no author, title), 3 paragraphs, properly
organized, which prove your thesis, and a conclusion paragraph.
3. A works cited page giving credit to which of the provided sites you
chose to use.
Possible Suspects:
Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford: This contemporary of Shakespeare has been
strongly advanced since the 1930s as the true author of Shakespeare's plays. A welleducated and well-traveled nobleman of Queen Elizabeth I's court, de Vere has been
championed by the author Charlton Ogburn using parallels of the Earl's life with
material from the plays—for instance, noting similarities between Polonius of Hamlet
and the Earl's guardian, William Cecil. The Earl of Oxford apparently stopped his
literary pursuits at an early age—unless, as Ogburn postulates, the Earl continued
writing under the pen name of William Shakespeare.
Francis Bacon, Philosopher and Writer: Bacon has been a traditional favorite of
the anti-Stratford camp, and retains a high place on the list of potential candidates.
Bacon proponents point toward Bacon's learning, his correspondences and memoirs
(most notably, his notebook, Promus), as well as ciphers and other coincidences.
Although Bacon was an undisputed man of letters, his style and expression vary
greatly from that of Shakespeare's works. Bacon also produced such a voluminous
output of his own, it's hard to conceive of him finding spare time enough to produce
the quality output of work attributed to the Bard.
Christopher Marlowe, Playwright: Marlowe would be the ultimate
ghost writer, as he was stabbed to death in a tavern brawl in 1593.
However, there are those that say Marlowe really didn't die; according to
some, he was actually an occasional spy in the employ of the Crown.
This eventually necessitated a fake death, after which Marlowe went on
for an undetermined number of years penning poetry and plays under the
nom de plume of Shakespeare.
The Man from Stratford-upon-Avon: Although some argue that there is no
possible way that this man could have been responsible for the works due to the
issues presented above, there is also a strong camp that vehemently defends that he is
the true author. There are large parts of this man’s life which remain a mystery, and
these scholars propose that the necessary knowledge to write the works was obtained
during these lost years.
Research: Please go to htpp://
You will find links that you will use for your research. Please note that if there is
a link off of one provided, that too IS acceptable. If you want to use resources
other than the ones provided, you must fill out the attached submission sheet
prior to the due date to receive approval. The new resource must be included in
your works cited. The approved submission sheet must also be turned in with
your final draft.
Submission Sheet
The web resource I want to use is:
The print resource I want to use is: