Did they ever resolve the theory that Francis Bacon wrote the Shakespeare plays?

I remember this theory coming up when I took College Lit 25 years ago.

At the time scholars were closely comparing the academic writing styles of Bacon and the Shakespeare plays. The idea was that a scholar like Bacon needed a pen name to hide his association with socially common works like plays.

I was reminded of this because they’ve been advertising a movie about William Shakespeare being an uneducated patsy for someone needing a pen name.



Amazing how hard it is to verify someone in 1600 wrote these works.

Should add that many of the plays do have obscure science references that a poorly educated commoner wouldn’t know. It’s been too long to recall examples but they were mentioned in books I read.

I think it’s agreed that William Shakespeare was a commoner with little opportunities for education. He was an actor for certain. But a playwright?

Actors at that time were not highly regarded among the social classes. It was not considered dignified or proper work for a gentlemen in 1600.

Did Shakespeare have access to books? Because if he did, there was no limit to what he might have known. The 16th Century saw a massive explosion of knowledge following the dissemination of the printing press, with books written not only on every subject known in Europe, but also written for the general reader, and not just for experts. In fact, the period is often referred to as the golden age of knowledge, because information had yet to become specialized into specific fields, and thus far more accessable than it is today.

Very smart people with limited formal education are often autodidacts. Let’s put it this way - if Abraham Lincoln could pass the bar after reading some books he found in a barrel, William Shakespeare could write about science and kings. Formal education is vastly overrated.


I’ll quote the conclusion of the page:

I do not think that it is agreed.


And while Bacon is a favorite for the one that could had been the real author, what the majority of scholars I have read about do agree is with conclusions like this:


I believe the consensus is that the known works by Bacon and the known works by Shakespeare are sufficiently different in things like vocabulary, grammar, spelling, and style that they are not the work of the same person.

The new movie I mentioned in the OP is Anonymous. They’ve been running trailers for it the last couple weeks.

Sounds like they took the Francis Bacon theory and expanded it to make Shakespeare a drunk and other things.


It’s nothing more than a run-of-the-mill conspiracy theory, as Sage Rat’s quote says. In order to make a case for Shakespeare not writing Shakespeare’s plays, you must overlook a mountain of evidence to chase at will o’ the wisps. People have criticized Mary Shelley, saying she was too uneducated to write as scientific a text as Frankenstein. Except she went into very little detail except to specify experiments of an electrical nature and dead tissue animation. Basically, info that she could have gleaned from perusing abstracts off of whatever passed for jstor in her time. I think the same is true of Shakespeare. Besides, would Bacon have been so careless as to include a clock in the Roman Republic?

Actually, for the movie Anonymous they took Edward de Vere as the real author, there is only one small problem:

[Black Adder]
It was bollocks!

And this is even before taking into account “the brute fact that Edward de Vere died in 1604, while Shakespeare continued to write, several times with partners, until 1613.”

The proponents of the Oxfordian idea I’ve encountered have included, as part of their lunacy, the notion that de Vere faked his own death. Which should tell you something about the quality of the ideas.

The one mystery I would like to see resolved is the matter of Shakespeare willing only his secondbest bed to Anne Hathaway.

Yep, that sounds reasonable to me.

As far as I’m concerned, that Latin anagram about “F Baconis” was the absolute clincher.



Not likely to be a clincher.

It isn’t even a theory, except in the headbangy ‘Obama is a sekrit Muslim’ kind of way. There’s no evidence that Shakespeare didn’t write the plays, and plenty that he did.

Basically, centuries after Shakespeare’s death, he no longer fit some people’s image of what a great playwright should be like. The Romantics felt he should be a noble and an intellectual, not some mere commoner. Hence, stupid conspiracy theories to force the facts into line with what people wanted to believe.

As for the idea that ‘he wasn’t educated enough’ - for one thing, he was plenty educated. And for another, whoever wrote those plays was a genius - he had an amazing mind that worked a dozen times as fast and as fluently as most people’s. He could perfectly well have educated himself, a dozen times as fast and as easily as most people.

I xcannot remember the historian, but I have read that his willing his secondbest bed to Anne Hathaway was sort of private, affectionate gesture on Shakespeare’s part, the seondbest bed being the one they had most often shared. He was willng her a sentimental, but well used article.

That’s a strawman. So are claims that the entire argument rests of cryptography or class warfare.

There are real legitimate pieces of evidence but some people would rather point at the silly stuff because it’s easy to dismiss that. And then they dismiss the entire argument without ever acknowledging the other evidence exists.

Of course, there’s no way that Edward de Vere, who died in 1604, could have published the First Folio in 1623. So obviously it must have been William Shakespeare, who died in 1616, who must have published the First Folio in 1623.

Name three.

I have yet to see any Oxfordian or Baconian to ever offer the slightest evidence at all.

So, do you have anyone who lived at the time writing that “Shakespeare’s plays were not written by Shakespeare”?

Do you have anything written by Oxford saying, “I wrote X, the play attributed to William Shakespeare”?

Name three pieces of actual evidence for the Oxford (or Bacon) claim.

(sounds of crickets chirping)

Actually there’s amazingly little evidence.

Nobody’s disputing that there was a person named William Shakespeare from Stratford-upon-Avon who also lived in London. And nobody’s disputing that somebody wrote the plays and poems that are now attributed to William Shakespeare. But the connection between the William Shakespeare from Stratford-upon-Avon and the William Shakespeare who wrote the plays is surprisingly small. Nobody connected the two men in Shakespeare’s lifetime. It basically comes down to one person, Ben Jonson, who identified the playwright as being from Stratford-upon-Avon in 1623.

Tell the crickets to quiet down.

Edward de Vere was known as a poet and playwright. But he stopped publically writing when it became dangerous. But there are contemporary references that he continued to write under a pseudonym.

The plays were originally published under the name Shake-spear not William Shakespeare. References in the works show that the writer pronounced his name Shake-spear with spear rhyming with deer. Edward de Vere’s coat of arms was an arm shaking a spear. William Shakespeare actually signed his name Shaksper or Shaxper and pronounced it to rhyme with Baxter.

There have been a large number of words that have been attributed to Shakespeare’s invention. He was supposedly the first person to ever use them. But people have since found out that they many of these words were not first used in a work by Shakespeare - they first appeared in early works by Edward de Vere.

Examinations of Edward de Vere’s personal library have found that quotes, characters, and plotlines that appeared in Shakespeare’s plays have been underlined in de Vere’s books. So apparently whoever wrote the Shakespeare plays was doing a lot of research of de Vere’s library.