English Language Day honours William Shakespeare, but did he really write those works?
William Shakespeare, the celebrated playwright and poet of the English language, is even today loved and read by many. The world marks English Language Day on April 23 to remember the "Bard of Avon" on his birth and death day, which interestingly fall on the same date. He is one of the most-read and highly-quoted playwrights, who continues to make his way into textbooks in schools and colleges, centuries after his works were in circulation.
Even as he is remembered for his classic plays, poetry and sonnets, clouds of doubt continue to hover over his authorship. While to the majority of the population Shakespeare may remain as the writer of classic plays like "Julius Caesar", "Romeo and Juliet, "Othello" and others, a section of society believes that he was nothing but a face used to hide the actual writers who did not want to disclose their identities.
The question of Shakespeare's authorship was raised by figures like Walt Whitman, as they speculated that the "real" authors of the play are English writer and philosopher Sir Francis Bacon, English playwright and the 17th Earl of Oxford Edward de Vere.
The people who advocated this "anti-Stratfordian theory" argued that it is difficult to believe Shakespeare penned these plays, considering his educational background and lack of aristocratic sensibility.
Such an argument has been put forth because very less is known about Shakespeare's personal life and whatever information is available, the anti-Stratfordians say that it does not add up to the idea that he is the same person who wrote such classics.
Humble background and the question of literacy
Shakespeare was the son of a glove-maker. His education has always remained a mystery due to a lack of documentary proof. The Grammar School of King Edward VI at Stratford-upon-Avon is said to have been providing free education in the classics and Latin grammar. However, since no documentation or attendance record of the school from that time survives today, it remains unknown if Shakespeare ever received an education.
Anti-Stratfordians claim that, with no educational or cultural background, it is difficult to believe that Shakespeare actually authored those plays and poems. Six authenticated signatures of the playwright survive today which the people, questioning his authorship over the works accredited to him, term as "an illiterate scrawl". In these signatures, Shakespeare spelt his name differently each time, giving the anti-Stratfordians a reason to believe that Shakespeare was probably illiterate.
An impersonator or "the sweet swan of Avon"
The academic Shakespeareans strongly believe that Shakespeare on the First Folio is the same William Shakespeare who is believed to have lived and died in Stratford-upon-Avon from 1564 to 1616. They also argue that Shakespeare finds his mention in his fellow playwright Ben Jonson's poem where he is called "the sweet swan of Avon".
They also claim that the Shakespeare funerary monument inside Holy Trinity Church at Stratford-upon-Avon along with the inscription on the bust that compares him to Socrates and poet Virgil is the strongest evidence of Shakespeare's existence and his rightful attribution to the classic plays.
The academic Shakespeareans claim that the truth is anti-Stratfordians find it difficult to accept that the "son of a glover", who had received only basic education and grew up in a poor family, could actually write such classics which defined the existence of the language.
The debates around Shakespeare's authorship may continue for decades and the historical evidence of his existence may remain in oblivion forever, but the plays attributed to the author will still remain quintessential to the literature.