The conspiracy that Shakespeare didn’t write his plays exists in some circles, which leads to the question who wrote Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets? We address the William Shakespeare authorship controversy here, but thought we’d take a closer look at the candidates who may have written Shakespeare’s plays according to the conspiracy theorists.


Who Wrote Shakespeare? The Authorship Candidates 1

Sir Francis Bacon

Authorship Candidate 1: Sir Francis Bacon 1561-1626 

Sir Francis Bacon – the essayist, scientist, and writer of New Atlantis – was the first alternative candidate proposed as the true author of Shakespeare’s plays in 1856. There is little evidence to suggest this, though what ‘evidence’ there is takes the form of some similarities in Shakespeare’s plays to his own, and the circumstantial ‘fact’ that Bacon’s Grand Tour took him to the location of several of Shakespeare’s plays. Baconians have also argued that Shakespeare’s works show a detailed scientific knowledge that, they claim, only Sir Francis Bacon would have possessed.

The idea that the two writers have similar styles was dismissed by Scott McCrea who writes, “there is no answer for Bacon’s different renderings of the same word—’politiques’ instead of ‘politicians’, or ‘submiss’ instead of the Author’s ‘submissive’, or ‘militar’ instead of the Poet’s ‘military’. These are two different writers.”


Who Wrote Shakespeare? The Authorship Candidates 2

Edward de Vere

Authorship Candidate 2: Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, 1550-1604
Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford was a courtier poet. There is little strong evidence that suggests he wrote Shakespeare’s plays, but some believe there are references in both the plays and sonnets to de Vere’s life, as well as a series of codes in the writing that implicate the Earl as the author to those in the know. These theories as to who wrote Shakespeare were given weight (to some) by the film Anonymous, released in 2012.

Mainstream scholars have described the methods of Oxfordians over the years as devoid of any evidential value and subjective, suggesting double standards are used to consistently distort and misrepresent the historical record – sometimes even outright fabrication. Perhaps the ultimate evidential objection to the Oxfordian theory is de Vere’s death in 1604, after which a number of Shakespeare’s plays were written!


Who Wrote Shakespeare? The Authorship Candidates 3

Christopher Marlowe

Authorship Candidate 3: Christopher Marlowe, 1564 -1593

The playwright Christopher Marlowe was writing at the same time as Shakespeare and it’s highly likely that the two had met each other. The Marlowvian theory – first presented by Wilbur Zeigler in 1895 – states that reports of Marlowe’s death in a drunken brawl on 30 May 1593 were falsified to protect him from going to prison for being an atheist. Marlovians base their theory on both some anomalies surrounding Marlowe’s reported death and on the influence which Marlowe’s works had on those of Shakespeare.

The argument against this is that Marlowe’s death was accepted as genuine by sixteen jurors at an inquest held after his death and that there is a total lack of direct evidence supporting his survival beyond 1593, and his style, imagery and vocabulary are too different to Shakespeare’s to be compatible with Marlow writing the plays.


William Stanley

Authorship Candidate 4: William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby, 1561-1642
Derby’s candidacy was first proposed in 1891 by the archivist James H. Greenstreet, who identified a pair of 1599 letters which reported that Derby was unlikely to advance the Catholic cause as he was “busy penning plays for the common players.” Greenstreet further argued that the comic scenes in Love’s Labour’s Lost were influenced by a pageant of the Nine Worthies only ever performed in Derby’s home town of Chester.

With the initials W.S. and his habit of signing himself off as “Will”, it’s easy to imagine that there’s a link between William Stanley and Shakespeare. But does this evidence alone point to William Stanley being the greatest play-write in history?


Who Wrote Shakespeare? The Authorship Candidates 4

Roger Manners

Authorship Candidate 5: Roger Manners, 5th Earl of Rutland, 1576-1612

In the early 20th century, Roger Manners the 5th Earl of Rutland was proposed as a candidate for the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays by Karl Bleibtreu, a German literary critic – later supported by a number of other authors. Manners married the daughter of the poet Philip Sydney and it is thought that the two of them together wrote the plays.

However, the biggest hole in this theory of who wrote Shakespeare’s plays is that the Earl would have been only 16 when the first of Shakespeare’s works was published in 1593 – surely too inexperienced a writer?


Who Wrote Shakespeare? The Authorship Candidates 5

Mary Sydney Herbert

Authorship Candidate 6: Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, 1561-1621
On account of her literary talents and strong family connections to Shakespeare, Mary Sidney Herbert is one of the writers who have been linked to the Shakespeare authorship debate/conspiracy. The First Folio is dedicated to Mary Sidney’s two sons, the “incomparable brethren,” neither of whom had otherwise been connected to Shakespeare previously.

Mary Sidney Herbert had connections to the source materials of the plays – indeed, it is thought Shakespeare may have used one of her plays (The Tragedy of Antonie) as source material for  Antony & Cleopatra), and because she was a woman, she was not allowed to write plays for the public theater.


Authorship Candidate 7: Various authors

The most popular author conspiracy theory of earlier times held that Shakespeare’s works were written by a group of collaborators. In 1848 the American Joseph C Hart wrote a book putting forward the argument that Shakespeare’s plays were written by a number of different authors which was back up by Delia Bacon’s article of 1856 which attributed authorship to a group of writers led by Sir Francis Bacon and Sir Walter Raleigh. As with all the above candidates, there’s no real evidence that a group of writers was responsible for Shakespeare’s works.


So, that’s an overview of the main candidates presented by the non-believers of Shakespeare. What’s your take on it – who do you think wrote Shakespeare’s plays?

7 replies
  1. Sabrina Feldman
    Sabrina Feldman says:

    This is a fascinating historical mystery. My own theory is that Shakespeare may have been the great English poet and statesman Thomas Sackville (1536-1608), somewhat inexplicably overlooked as an authorship candidate for the last century and a half. For an introduction to the case for Sackville, see
    As for William Shakespeare, I believe he may have been the main author of the “Shakespeare Apocrypha,” a group of plays that were attributed to William S. by his contemporaries and near-contemporaries, but now excluded from the Shakespeare canon. This would explain why two different bodies of literary work (the Canon and the Apocrypha) were attributed to a single author in his own time — a fact which poses a genuine authorship mystery. Here’s a Youtube introduction to the Shakespeare Apocrypha:

  2. Howard Schumann
    Howard Schumann says:

    It is no surprise that the academic establishment dismisses the evidence for Edward de Vere’s authorship. There is too much at stake in terms of their reputation, livelihood, and financial investment for both the academics and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to look at the evidence objectively.

    De Vere was a recognized poet and playwright of great talent, and although no play under Oxford’s name has come down to us, his acknowledged early verse and his surviving letters contain forms, words, and phrases resembling those of Shakespeare.

    The Shakespeare plays and poems show that the author had specific knowledge of certain works of literature, certain prominent persons in Elizabeth’s court, and events connected with them. In the sonnets and the plays there are frequent references to events that are paralleled in Oxford’s life. We also know that Oxford was fluent in four foreign languages, Latin, Greek, Italian, and French.

    Of the 37 plays, 36 are laid in royal courts and the world of the nobility. The principal characters are almost all aristocrats with the exception perhaps of Shylock and Falstaff. From all we can tell, Shakespeare fully shared the outlook of his characters, identifying fully with the courtesies, chivalries, and generosity of aristocratic life. Lower class characters in Shakespeare are almost all introduced for comic effect and given little development. Their names are indicative of their worth: Snug, Stout, Starveling, Dogberry, Simple, Mouldy, Wart, Feeble, etc.

    Hundreds of plays were performed at court as early as the 1570s that sound like early versions of Shakespeare’s work and indeed have been cited as sources. Unfortunately, the authors of these plays were not recorded. Many plays also were performed in the legal Inns of Court of which Oxford was a member in 1567. Since Meres, writing in 1598 called Oxford the best for comedy and since no plays survive in his name, we can speculate that many of these plays were his.

    In the Renaissance period in England no courtiers were allowed to publish plays for the public stage — this was an unwritten code of the court. The need for a pseudonym by an author-courtier such as Oxford would have been essential. Some feel, however, that the use of the Shakespeare pen name had more to do with the political satire in the plays of prominent court personalities including the Queen.

    As far as 1604 is concerned, there is no agreed upon dating for Shakespeare’s plays. It is all conjecture since we do not have the manuscripts. Dates of publication or performance do not tell us anything about the date of composition. Actually, the year 1604 seems to have been some sort of a watershed.

    No source for any Shakespearean play is dated after 1604.

    No sonnets were written after 1604.

    Between the years 1593 to 1604, seventeen plays attributed to Shakespeare were published. From 1605 to 1623 there were only five, said to be collaborations

  3. Marina Litvinova
    Marina Litvinova says:

    my theory is William Shakespeare might be a pseudonym for two persons: Francis Bacon and Roger Manners fifth Earl of Rutland. Bacon was Rutland’s guardian. I wrote a book “The Vindication of Shakespeare” which was published in Russian in Moscow in 2008. InJune 2012 the Rutland-Bacon Society was founded in Russia.

  4. Ben West
    Ben West says:

    Of those generally considered, Mary Herbert seems the most probable to me. The need for anonymity, her being a woman, tends to tip the scale (I also consider Priscilla as the most likely to have written The Epistle to the Hebrews, for essentially the same reason).

  5. JF
    JF says:

    No one in the academic extablishment makes a fortune, so the argument that they refuse to examine the authorship question because their funding is at jeopardy is ridiculous. It’s an excuse, a way to save a bruised ego because anti-Stratfordians do not use accepted scholarly methods, and therefore are not respected. And it’s hard to respect them because they show absolutely no respect for truth. They twist biographical facts to suit their theories. Just above I see several flaws: some of Shakespeare’s sources do indeed date after de Vere’s death. Mary Sydney’s sons did not need to have a connection to Shakespeare, because he had no hand in producing the First Folio! His two friends, Condell and Hemmings did! In 1616 Ben Jonson published his work and someone realize they could do the same for Shakespeare. But he died that year! The most he could have done is hand over copies of his manuscripts to these two gentlemen, which may be why he remember them in his will. And don’t forget, once the play was written and hand it over to whoever was purchasing it, it was not owned by the playwright anymore! Shakespeare did not own the rights to his own plays if they had been sold to a playhouse! As to the Apocrypha, these are plays by inferior playwrights passed off as William Shakespeare’s at a time when his name sold plays! The Folio does not include them for a very good reason, they are not his! People really need to do thorough research in printing, publishing, and playwriting before they spout off inane theories.

  6. Andrew Golding
    Andrew Golding says:

    OPEN LETTER TO KATHERINE CHILJAN (Author: Shakespeare Suppressed)

    Dear Katherine

    I hope you don’t mind me writing to you again. I recently listened to another of your YouTube videos, where you mentioned sonnet 125.

    Were’t aught to me I bore the canopy,
    With my extern the outward honouring…
    You say this refers to Edward de Vere, and your interpretation was…. “did it mean anything to me I bore the canopy”

    When actually that’s not what its saying. It reads… was it up to me I bore the canopy. In other words – was it my decision I bore the Canopy of Estate. And to take that further – was it my decision to bear the weight of office.

    Sonnet 125 ends with impeachment…. “When most impeach’d, stands least in thy control.”

    The question we should ask is… who bore the canopy (weight of office) and ended with impeachment (deposed)?

    Impeachment (deposed) happened only once in Tudor history.

    “Being in so royal estate as I was, my enforced honour blended never with mine innocent heart” (extract. Lady Jane Grey’s letter to her father in 1554).

    Let’s look at the very first sonnet… which actually goes some way in putting the sonnets into context, right from the start.

    From fairest creatures we desire increase,
    That thereby beauty’s rose might never die

    We know the word fairest (fair Youth) is used to denote a man in the sonnets. And then it’s followed by ‘we’ desire increase. The question here is, who is we? A man cannot desire increase (child) by another man. Therefore the word ‘we’ is emanating from a female perspective. Now it makes sense… From men, we ‘women’ desire increase.

    The next line tells us from where this desire does proceed – beauty’s rose. The word ‘beauty’ is used in the sonnets to denote a particular woman, and the word ‘rose’ informs us this is a woman of the Tudor (rose) lineage. The only question is who?

    There are 2 letters extant written by Shakespeare, both to Henry Wriothesley (HW). In the dedication accompanying Rape of Lucrece, there is an unusual and quite unique turn of phrase, which is also found in a letter written forty years earlier.

    …To whom I wish long life, still lengthened with all happiness. (letter to HW 1594)

    …by whom my life should rather have been lengthened…. with life lengthened at my own will (Lady Jane Grey’s letter to her father 1554).

    What I am implying is predicated on the assumption she was not executed.

    As you may know I sent out information on the Stratford Monument decode some time ago, and I’m yet to receive a single creditable debunk to my findings. This is because it follows a logical and coherent process.

    The Droeshout engraving and Stratford Monument are an enigma. Many scholars have made observations in their writings that these two items if deciphered may contain the identity of the true author… and they are right.

    We can start with the Stratford Monument decode…

    The Stratford Monument isn’t difficult to understand, and in fact shows us where to look to find the name of the author – ‘whose name doth deck thy tomb’

    On reading the inscription the first question I asked, is there a name above the monument… and the answer is no. The monument is not a tomb it’s an effigy, a memorial to Shakespeare. So the question remains, where is the name that decks the tomb? If you look carefully at the Monument inscription you’ll see the second line (Terra) is indented. The question is why? It serves no aesthetic purpose, in fact it almost throws the line off at the opposite end… is there a reason for this?… We’ll come back to it later.

    On the first line we have the names…. Nestor, Socrates and Virgil

    Nestor is an aged monarch, already very old when the war began, he was noted for his bravery and speaking abilities. In the Iliad he often gives advice to the younger warriors… he is too old to engage in combat himself.

    Socrates the Athenian leaves no writing, someone else writes his stories.

    Virgil the poet, whose final 12 books looks back to Homer’s two epic poems the ‘Odyssey’ and the ‘Iliad’

    The odyssey is about someone’s struggle to return home after many years abroad. The Iliad was about a conflict caused by a woman.

    William Shakespeare used the plot of the Iliad as source material for the play Troilus and Cressida,

    But I’m digressing, none of that is really important

    What is important however is finding the person ‘whose name doth deck thy tomb’

    The way to go about this is to first ask yourself the question, what is a tomb? We know the monument isn’t a tomb… so where is the tomb? A tomb is a burial place and can also be called a grave, and should one have the misfortune to visit a graveyard, how does one locate a grave? You can’t go digging under the earth to check who’s buried where; besides it being illegal it’s time consuming and very hard work…. I’m being facetious. The logical approach is to look for the tombstone decked above earth, there you will find the name.

    And if the penny hasn’t already dropped, I have just told you where to look to find the name of the author… ‘whose name doth deck thy tomb’

    Graves are under the earth, names are decked above earth… look above earth and there you will find the name.

    And now you know why the word ‘Terra’ is indented. It serves two purposes; the first being a visual reference point and the second is to make sure the word above (IV DICIO) sits snuggly over earth (Terra) and nothing else, for it is the tombstone that sits over the earth, which covers the grave.


    IV = Roman numeral for the number 4

    Dicio = Sovereignty, authority, sway, control, rule, domain

    What single person can we collectively attribute these words to? = Sovereign/Monarch

    And if we are talking about a sovereign from the 16th century, we are talking about the Tudor Era


    (4th Sovereign)
    T ERA

    The Tudor Era…

    Henry VII Henry VIII Edward VI Lady Jane Grey Mary I Elizabeth I
    1 2 3 4 5 6

    And on my website I show the decode for the Droeshout Engraving, which tells us of a beheading on 12th February 1554 (gentle Shakespeare cut – so writes Ben Jonson)… and in the sleeves moving from left to right it divulges phonetically the person was left to write = surreptitious pardon.

    Why do you think the sonnets published in 1609; she was 16 when queen for 09 days. It’s the group’s way of acknowledging her without naming her.

    The first folio published in 1623; this date covers the 7 year period from the age of 16 – 23 when she is imprisoned and then secretly exiled till approximately 1560, when she reappears after many years abroad (as like the odyssey). And this is why the earliest allusions to the Shakespeare plays (Romeus and Juliet) are dated as you have said, circa 1562.

    And now you know the reason why the author had to remain a secret. You said it yourself, you can’t understand why Edward de Vere did not receive credit posthumously, surely after death he should receive recognition for the works but he does not. For the secret is far darker and damning to the monarchy should it be exposed. A monarch’s power is derived from the goodwill and trust of the people and should that trust be broken, it is to the detriment of those who wish to govern. And that is the great secret that underpins why they must be silent, in their praise.

    Lady Jane Grey returns under the protection of Queen Elizabeth, possibly at the humble request of her brother in law Robert Dudley, and is placed in the household of Sir William Cecil, it is here she teaches students such as; Edward de Vere, Henry Wriothesley and Roger Manners… each connected to Shakespeare in some way.

    Ben Jonson called Shakespeare the ‘Soul of the AGE’ then goes on to contradict himself by saying… ‘he was not of an age’… this is because the word AGE is not a period of time but an acronym of the 3 names in the sonnets. Anne Grey Edward = AGE

    According to Charles Beauclerk (author of Shakespeare’s lost kingdom) the Word Vere comes from the word Vera, which is sometimes associated with the Latin word Verus, meaning = True. I have looked it up and there is evidence to substantiate this.

    (Sonnet 41) Where thou art forced to break a twofold truth: 2x Vere

    Anne Cecil (Anne de Vere) is the Dark Lady of the sonnets, what follows in the next paragraph should tell us why she is so irreverent towards ‘beauty’ (Methinks no face so gracious is as mine – sonnet 62). You’ve said it yourself that Shakespeare uses the word gracious to describe high nobility or royal.

    Grey is the sovereign of the sonnets, also known as beauty. She resides and teach at Cecil house in the Strand…. And has an affair with one of her students, the Fair Youth. Yes, Edward de Vere is having an affair with a sovereign (Prince Tudor Theory) but not the sovereign you think, and there be the confusion.

    Edward de Vere is the Fair Youth and the image she draws on to form her first invention… Shakespeare.

    Henry Wriothesley is her son and heir… she tells us about his birth in sonnet 33.
    Born 1573, 3rd Earl of Southampton. And how her son was taken from her after one hour by someone she refers to as basest (not noble born) with an ugly rack (beard) on his face. I leave that to you to work out who she speaks.

    Venus and Adonis 1593:

    The story is essentially about an older woman’s love for a younger man. Some Oxfordian scholars interpret this as the Queen’s affections for Edward de Vere. Others believe Elizabeth is the mother and lover of Edward. For some that doesn’t sit very well as it would imply incest… but what if the scholars are right on both counts and Elizabeth is Edward de Vere’s mother and he is having an affair with a queen?…. can you see where the confusion might be, and how the incest dilemma is overcome if indeed there are two queens?

    Rape of Lucrece 1594:

    What is the story behind the title? The rape and death of Lucrece (Lucretia) essentially led to the peoples’ revolt and the overthrow of the Monarchy. What do you think is being said here? Could it be a coded message, a plot in the works to end Elizabeth’s reign? Yes, and we are informed when the plan will be executed. The death of Lucretia happens early during the 68th Olympiad, 508-507 BC.

    The date isn’t important but the 68th is – it tells us when they plan to proceed with the overthrow of the Monarch. It is to happen during her 68th year, this doesn’t mean when Elizabeth is 68…. once you’ve passed your 67th birthday as did Elizabeth on 7th September 1600, you enter into your 68th year. The incident with Lucretia happens early during the 68th Olympiad. And with Elizabeth, the Essex Rebellion happens on 3rd February 1601, approximately 5 months into her 68th year… the author has cast the die.

    Sonnet 10
    …Seeking that beauteous roof to ruinate which to repair should be thy chief desire.

    Here is an extract of the initial deposition of Lady Jane

    …Suffolk himself informed his daughter that she was no longer queen, which he did by tearing down the canopy of estate from over her head.

    Repair the Tear – the beauteous roof is the canopy of estate that which caused her ruin, the sonnet encourages Jane to repair… that which was torn. This can only imply to re-establish Jane’s lineage on the English throne after Elizabeth. As in the Stratford Monument with Nestor, she is too old to fight, but noted for her speaking abilities and often gives advice to the younger warriors (Earls)… And what follows is the Essex Rebellion (Tudor line complaint) 1601. Her son and heir Henry Wriothesley is sentenced to death for his part in the abortive act. Lady Jane comes forward and accepts the blame on his behalf and she is secretly sentenced to burn at the stake for Treason. Whether she is reprieved or not is another matter… but she tells us of her fate as was known to her then, when she wrote the Phoenix and the turtle poem (THRENOS) in 1601.

    Beauty, truth, and rarity,
    Grace in all simplicity,
    Here enclosed in cinders lie.
    Death is now the phoenix’ nest;
    And the turtle’s loyal breast
    To eternity doth rest,
    Leaving no posterity:
    Twas not their infirmity,
    It was married chastity.
    Truth may seem, but cannot be:
    Beauty brag, but ’tis not she;
    Truth and beauty buried be.
    To this urn let those repair
    That are either true or fair;
    For these dead birds sigh a prayer.

    The Temple

    The brags of life are but a nine days wonder
    And after death the fumes that spring
    From private bodies make as big a thunder
    As those which rise for a huge king

    George Herbert, 1633

    George Herbert (3rd April 1593 – 1 March 1633) was related to the 3rd Earl of Pembroke, who was associated with the publication of Shakespeare’s first folio in 1623

    A more in-depth explanation for the phoenix and the turtle poem can be found in the Shakespeare Unearthed document, which is available to download from the website:

    And finally, last but not least – Jack Kirby, co-creator of X-Men comics creates the characters Jean Grey and partner Scot Summers. They reside and teach at a school for gifted children.

    Jean Grey is an anagram of Jane Grey
    Scot Summers – shall I compare thee to a Summer’s day – a reference to the Fair Youth of the Sonnets.

    As you know Edward de Vere would sign his name Edward VII, which does suggest he believed himself to be a possible successor to Elizabeth. That’s until a ‘Scot’ (James VI of Scotland) was chosen by the Privy Council to succeed Elizabeth. And should people still not get the inferences, Jack Kirby goes one step further by assuming the pseudonym Ted Grey, = Edward / Grey = Fair Youth and Author.

    How does Kirby know?… well, he was probably told in the 50’s or early 60’s.

    Katherine, I am doing my level best here to give you and others your Shakespeare without equivocation. Edward de Vere is extremely important in the grand scheme of things. He is the Fair Youth of the sonnets after all but more importantly the persona she draws on to create Shakespeare. Edward de Vere is Hamlet, his wife Anne is Ophelia and William Cecil is Polonius. Jane is there in amongst them, she resides and teach at Cecil House on the Strand…. John Aubrey was right, Shakespeare was a teacher.

    This is what it is… the secret that could not be told.

    Kind regards
    Andrew Golding

  7. Alan Milner
    Alan Milner says:

    You do all realize that you are all nuts, right? The identity of the author of the Shakespeare plays makes absolutely no difference to anyone, except insofar as they reveal a classist attitude among the participants in such discussions that no one of such a low birth could possibly have known about military affairs or court etiquette. In the end, however, John Heminges and Henry Condell, who absolutely knew who had written the plays, attributed them to one Willliam Shakespeare. Many of the proposed candidates for the authorship of the plays died before the last of the plays were written, some were mere children during the period of Shakespeare’s active production of the plays. Most were dead before the First Folio was published, except for the ones that were still children…and the most common rationale for concealing the authorship – a fear of reprisals for the insults to various royals – makes no sense since the subjects of Shakespeare’s plays were dead and buried long before he ever wrote about them. Three can keep a secret as long as two of them are dead, so it follows that no one could have kept such a secret very long in gabby Elizabethan England/.


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