How We Know That Shakespeare Wrote Shakespeare: The Historical Facts

by Tom Reedy and David Kathman


  1. The name "William Shakespeare" appears on the plays and poems.
  2. William Shakespeare was an actor in the company that performed the plays of William Shakespeare.
  3. William Shakespeare the actor was William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon.
  4. William Shakespeare the Globe-sharer was also William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon.
  5. William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon, the actor and Globe-sharer, was the playwright and poet William Shakespeare.


William Shakespeare was born in April, 1564, the oldest son of John Shakespeare. His father, a glover, trader, and landowner, married Mary Arden, the daughter of an affluent landowner of Wilmcote. John Shakespeare was ambitious, and he filled many municipal offices in Stratford including that of burgess, which privileged him to educate his children without charge at the King's New School in Stratford. He rose by election to the position of Alderman in 1565; and in 1568 he was elected Bailiff (equivalent to mayor), and in that year he made an application to the Herald's office for a grant of arms. In his position as Bailiff he was responsible for licensing companies of actors who applied to play in the Guild Hall.

William Shakespeare married Ann Hathaway in November, 1582, and six months later their daughter, Susanna, was born. Two other children were born, the twins Hamnet and Judith, in February, 1585. Sometime after this he joined a troupe of players and made his way to London. As a member of London's leading theater company, the Lord Chamberlain's Company, he wrote plays and eventually became a sharer in the Globe theater. He was so successful that in 1596 he successfully renewed his father's application for a grant of arms, and the following year he bought and restored New Place, the second-largest house in Stratford. He also bought other real estate in Stratford and London. Shakespeare semi-retired from London life some time around 1610. He died 23 April 1616, disposing of his large estate in his will.

These, in bare outline, are the facts of Shakespeare's life. Antistratfordians claim that this William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon was not the author of the plays and poems that bear his name, but actually the evidence for Shakespeare's authorship is abundant and wide-ranging for the era in which he lived, much more abundant than the comparable evidence for most other contemporary playwrights. This evidence falls into several different categories, all mutually reinforcing. A strong, tight web of evidence shows that a real person named William Shakespeare wrote the poems and plays attributed to him; that a real person named William Shakespeare was an actor in the company that produced the plays attributed to him; that the actor was the same William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon; that William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon was part-owner of the Globe Theater, where his acting company produced the plays attributed to him; and that those who knew the writer of the plays and poems knew that he was William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon. It's true that no one single document states categorically that William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon wrote Hamlet and King Lear, but then no such document exists for any other playwright of the time either. The evidence is cumulative and interconnected, and taken as a whole it leaves no doubt that a single man was actor, author, and Stratford property owner. In this essay we summarize this evidence in order to illustrate the speciousness of antistratfordian claims that there is some "mystery" about the authorship of Shakespeare's works.

1. The name "William Shakespeare" appears on the plays and poems.

Good evidence that William Shakespeare wrote the plays and poems bearing his name is the fact that his name appears on them as the author.

1a. In 1593, the narrative poem Venus and Adonis was published by Stratford native Richard Field, with a dedication to the Earl of Southampton signed "William Shakespeare." This dedication refers to the author's "unpolisht lines" and contains the typically fawning language of a commoner addressing a nobleman for patronage. It is manifestly not the work of one nobleman addressing another, as Oxfordians believe. The following year, The Rape of Lucrece was published, also with a dedication to Southampton signed by William Shakespeare. Both poems went through many editions over the next half century, all with the same dedications signed by William Shakespeare.

1b. In 1601, the volume Loves Martyr by Robert Chester contained short poems by several well-known theatrical poets. One of these poems (untitled in the volume, but now known as "The Phoenix and the Turtle") is signed "William Shakespeare." This volume was printed by Richard Field, who had also printed Shakespeare's two narrative poems.

1c. In 1609, the volume Shake-speares Sonnets was published by Thomas Thorpe. Whether one believes that the publication was authorized or not, the volume is clearly attributed to "Shakespeare."

1d. Many plays were also attributed in print to William Shakespeare. Following is a list of the plays first published in quarto up until the publication of the First Folio, along with the dates of publication and the name of the author.

Antistratfordians sometimes make much of the fact that the early quartos of Shakespeare's plays did not have an author's name on them, implying that there was some effort to keep the author's name secret. But contemporary plays at that time were not considered literature, and most people didn't pay much attention to their authors, at least not until after 1600. Only about a third of all the plays printed in the 1590s named the author on the title page, and a significant portion of these were the Shakespeare quartos late in the decade. The only playwrights to be named on any title pages from 1590-97 were Robert Greene, Thomas Lodge, Christopher Marlowe, John Lyly, and Robert Wilson. Of those, Greene and Marlowe had never been mentioned on a title page while they were alive; in fact, neither had been mentioned as a playwright at all while he was alive. John Lyly had been one of the most popular playwrights of the 1580s, writing for the Children of Paul's, yet six of his plays were published, in ten different editions over a dozen years, before his name ever appeared on a title page (in 1597, on The Woman in the Moon). In this context, there is nothing peculiar about the lack of Shakespeare's name on the title pages of the few early quartos of his plays, as he was just becoming established.

1e. In 1598 Palladis Tamia: Wits Treasury by Francis Meres was published. Meres attributed twelve plays to Shakespeare, including four which were never published in quarto: [Two] Gentlemen of Verona, [Comedy of] Errors, Love labors wonne, and King John. In addition he identified some of the plays that were published anonymously before 1598 -- Titus, Romeo and Juliet, and Henry IV -- as being written by Shakespeare. Sadly for Oxfordians, he mentions Edward Earl of Oxford as being a writer of comedy in the same paragraph as he does Shakespeare.

1f. The First Folio of 1623 clearly attributes the plays in the volume to William Shakespeare. The volume is titled Mr. William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies; Heminges and Condell's dedication says that they organized the volume "onely to keepe the memory of so worthy a Friend, & Fellow alive, as was our Shakespeare"; all four commendatory poems refer to the author as "William Shakespeare"; and the last page of the front matter calls this volume "The Workes of William Shakespeare."

Oxfordians claim that the name "William Shakespeare" was a pseudonym used by Oxford, and that there is nothing to tie the name to William Shakespeare of Stratford. But "William Shakespeare" has none of the characteristics of a pseudonym; it was the real name of a person closely connected with the production of the plays, and there is no indication in the historical record that anybody ever suspected it of being a pseudonym or said that anybody other than William Shakespeare was the author. (The antistratfordian claim that the occasional hyphenation of "Shake-speare" indicated a pseudonym is completely groundless and unsupported by any evidence; see The Spelling and Pronunciation of Shakespeare's Name.) All the historical evidence ties William Shakespeare of Stratford to the plays bearing his name, as we will now demonstrate.

2. William Shakespeare was an actor in the company which performed the plays of William Shakespeare.

From 1594 on, the plays of William Shakespeare were performed exclusively by the acting company variously known as the Lord Chamberlain's Men (1594-96, 1597-1603), Lord Hunsdon's Men (1596-97), and the King's Men (1603-42). William Shakespeare was a prominent member of this acting company, as the following evidence demonstrates.

2a. On 15 March 1595,the Treasurer of the Queen's Chamber paid "William Kempe William Shakespeare & Richarde Burbage servants to the Lord Chamberleyne" for performances at court in Greenwich on 26 and 27 Dec of the previous year.

2b. On 13 March 1602, John Manningham of the Middle Temple recorded in his diary a racy anecdote about Richard Burbage and William Shakespeare:

Upon a time when Burbidge played Richard III there was a citizen grew so far in liking with him, that before she went from the play she appointed him to come to her that night unto her by the name of Richard III. Shakespeare, overhearing their conclusion, went before, was entertained and at his game ere Burbage came. Then message being brought that Richard III was at the door, Shakespeare caused return to be made that William the Conqueror was before Richard III. Shakespeare's name William.
The anecdote does not explicitly call Shakespeare an actor, but it places him at the theater with Burbage, the leading actor of the Chamberlain's Men. Manningham was a friend of William Shakespeare's friend and "cousin" Thomas Greene, who was then finishing up his studies at the Middle Temple and would move to Stratford the following year.

2c. On 19 May 1603 the Lord Chamberlain's Men were licensed as the King's Men. The document lists "Lawrence Fletcher, William Shakespeare, Richard Burbage, Augustyne Phillippes, Iohn Heninges, Henrie Condell, William Sly, Robert Armyn, Richard Cowly" as members of the troupe. Shakespeare's prominence is indicated by the fact that he appears second on the list, behind only Lawrence Fletcher, who had acted for King James in Scotland, and who was was the king's favorite actor.

2d. The account of Sir George Home, Master of the Great Wardrobe, lists the names of "Players" who were given four yards of red cloth apiece for the investiture of King James in London on 15 March 1604. They are "William Shakespeare, Augustine Phillipps, Lawrence Fletcher, John Hemminges, Richard Burbidge, William Slye, Robert Armyn, Henry Cundell, and Richard Cowley." Here Shakespeare appears first among his fellows.

2e. The will of Augustine Phillips, executed 5 May 1605, proved 16 May 1605, bequeaths, "to my Fellowe William Shakespeare a thirty shillings peece in gould, To my Fellowe Henry Condell one other thirty shillinge peece in gould . . . To my Fellowe Lawrence Fletcher twenty shillings in gould, To my Fellowe Robert Armyne twenty shillings in gould . . . ." All of the people who Phillips calls his "fellows" were actors in the King's Men. Augustine Phillips's bequest of 30 shillings to his "Fellowe" Shakespeare was written 11 months after the Earl of Oxford's death. If Oxford were Shakespeare, Phillips would have known that he was dead.

2f. The 1616 Folio of Ben Jonson's Works contains cast lists for his plays. The cast list for Jonson's Every Man in His Humor, performed in 1598, includes "Will Shakespeare, Aug. Philips, Hen. Condel, Will. Slye, Will. Kempe, Ric. Burbadge, Ioh. Hemings, Tho. Pope, Chr. Beeston, and Ioh. Duke." Once again, Shakespeare is listed first among his fellows.

2g. The cast list for Jonson's Sejanus, performed in 1603, includes "Ric. Burbadge, Aug. Philips, Will. Sly, Ioh. Lowin, Will. Shake-Speare, Ioh. Hemings, Hen. Condel, and Alex. Cooke."

So William Shakespeare was an actor in the company that performed the plays written under his name. But was this the same William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon? The answer, of course, is yes. We have documentary evidence of this, from a variety of sources.

3. William Shakespeare the actor was William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon.

3a. In or around 1568, John Shakespeare applied to the Heralds' College for a coat of arms, but he fell on hard times and let the application lapse. In October of 1596, following the success of his son, John Shakespeare of Stratford upon Avon applied again for a coat of arms, which was granted sometime before 1599. Thereafter he and his sons were entitled to put "gentleman" after their name, and it often appears when William Shakespeare's name is recorded in legal documents after 1599. This title was reserved for those of the gentility who were below knights but who had been granted the right to bear arms. That John's son, William, initiated the application is probable. Shakespeare was a product of the Elizabethan era, and he accepted the social order as it was and was ambitious to rise.

3b. In 1602, Peter Brooke, the York Herald, accused Sir William Dethick, the Garter King-of-Arms, of elevating base persons to the gentry. Brooke drew up a list of 23 persons whom he claimed were not entitled to bear arms. Number four on the list was Shakespeare. Brooke included a sketch of the Shakespeare arms, captioned "Shakespear ye Player by Garter." Unless one is prepared to argue that John Shakespeare was an actor, or that William Shakespeare's brother Edmund initiated the arms application when he was 16 and was a known player by the time he was 22, "Shakespear ye Player" can only be the Shakespeare identified in other documents as an actor, William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon, gentleman. This is the same coat-of-arms that appears on the poet's tomb in Stratford.

3c. In his will, William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon left a bequest "to my ffellowes John Hemynge Richard Burbage & Henry Cundell xxvj s viij d A peece to buy them Ringes." Heminges, Burbage, and Condell had been fellow actors in the King's Men with William Shakespeare (see the many records in (2) above), and Heminges and Condell later edited the First Folio, in which they attributed thirty-six plays to their "friend and fellow" William Shakespeare. Oxfordians try to smear this record as a forgery, but it is undoubtedly genuine. (See David Kathman's essay on Shakespeare's Will.)

3d. Shakespeare bought the Blackfriar's Gatehouse in London in 1613. On the deed dated 10 March 1613, John Hemmyng, gentleman (also spelled Hemming on the same page) acted as trustee for the buyer, "William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon." This property is disposed of in Shakespeare's will.

So William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon, gentleman, was the actor who performed in the plays in the company for which William Shakespeare wrote plays. Shakespeare was also a sharer in the syndicate that owned the Globe theater. There were three parties to the agreement: Nicholas Brend, who owned the grounds upon which the Globe was built; Cuthbert and Richard Burbage, who were responsible for half the lease; and five members of the Chamberlain's Men -- William Shakespeare, John Heminges, Augustine Philips, Thomas Pope, and William Kempe -- who were responsible for the other half of the lease. Each of these men had a 1/10 share in the profits. The share dropped to 1/12 when Henry Condell and William Sly joined in 1605-08, and dropped to 1/14 in 1611when Ostler came in. It may seem like overkill to ask if William Shakespeare the Globe-sharer was the same William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon, gentleman, since all the sharers were obviously members of the acting company. That he was the same man is easily proven by legal documents.

4. William Shakespeare the Globe-sharer was also William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon.

4a. William Shakespeare, the Stratford-born actor, was entitled to append "gentleman" after his name by right of being granted a coat of arms (see 3a above).

4b. In a mortgage deed of trust dated 7 October 1601 by Nicholas Brend to John Bodley, John Collet, and Matthew Browne, in which Bodley was given control of the Globe playhouse, the Globe is described as being tenanted by "Richard Burbadge and Willm Shackspeare gent."

4c. In a deed of trust dated 10 October 1601 by Nicholas Brend to John Bodley, legally tightening up the control of Bodley of the Globe, again the theater is described as being tenanted by "Richard Burbage and William Shakspeare gentlemen."

4d. In a deed of sale of John Collet's interest to John Bodley in 1608, the Globe is once more described as being tenanted by "Richard Burbadge and Willm Shakespeare, gent."

(Notice the variation in spelling of Shakespeare's surname between the three documents, all originating in London. For some reason variants of the name seem to be a major point in the minds of some Oxfordians, but such differences are no more significant than similar variants of Richard Burbage's name in the same documents. See The Spelling and Pronunciation of Shakespeare's Name.)

So now we've established that William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon was an actor in the company that performed the plays of William Shakespeare, and was also a sharer in the theater in which the plays were presented. To anyone with a logical mind, it follows that this William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon was also the writer of the plays and poems that bear his name. He is the man with the right name, at the right time, and at the right place.

Now, it is true that there exists no play or poem attributed to "William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon." The name on the works is "William Shakespeare." There also exists no comparable attribution for virtually any of Shakespeare's contemporaries, the only exceptions being some cases where some ambiguity might exist, such as "John Davies of Hereford" and "William Drummond of Hawthornden." But his contemporaries knew who he was, and there was never any doubt in the minds of those who knew him. Following is the most important evidence of this.

5. William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon, the actor and Globe-sharer, was the playwright and poet William Shakespeare.

5a. Around 1601, students in Cambridge put on a play called The Second Part of the Return from Parnassus, the third in a series of plays that satirized the London literary scene. In this play, two characters named "Kempe" and "Burbage" appear, representing the actors Will Kempe and Richard Burbage of the Chamberlain's Men. At one point Kempe says,
Few of the university [men] pen plays well, they smell too much of that writer Ovid, and that writer Metamorphosis, and talk too much of Proserpina and Jupiter. Why, here's our fellow Shakespeare puts them all down, aye and Ben Jonson too. O that Ben Jonson is a pestilent fellow, he brought up Horace giving the poets a pill, but our fellow Shakespeare hath given him a purge that made him bewray his credit.
This passage establishes that the playwright Shakespeare was a fellow actor of Kempe and Burbage, contrasts him with the University-educated playwrights, and establishes him as a rival of Ben Jonson.

5b. In 1610, John Davies of Hereford published a volume entitled The Scourge of Folly, consisting mostly of poems to famous people and Davies's friends. One of these poems was addressed to Shakespeare:

To our English Terence, Mr. Will. Shake-speare.

Some say (good Will) which I, in sport, do sing,
Had'st thou not plaid some Kingly parts in sport,
Thou hadst bin a companion for a King;
And, beene a King among the meaner sort.
Some others raile; but, raile as they thinke fit,
Thou hast no railing, but a raigning Wit:
   And honesty thou sow'st, which they do reape;
   So, to increase their Stocke which they do keepe.

Terence was an ancient Roman playwright who came from humble origins, just like Shakespeare. Davies's references to "playing" parts "in sport" refer to acting, and his repeated references to "kings" is a play on the name of the King's Men; the only other poems in the volume that similarly play on "king" are those to Robert Armin and William Ostler, also members of the King's Men, and the poem to Armin also refers to playing "in sport." Incidentally, this poem is demonstrably not addressed to the Earl of Oxford in any kind of disguise, since it is addressed in the present tense to a living person, and Oxford had been dead for six years. (See
Why I'm Not an Oxfordian for details.)

5c. In 1615 Edmund Howes published a list of "Our moderne, and present excellent Poets" in John Stow's Annales. He lists the poets "according to their priorities (social rank) as neere I could," with Knights listed first, followed by gentlemen. In the middle of the 27 listed, number 13 is "M. Willi. Shakespeare gentleman."

5d. Some time between 1616 and 1623, William Basse wrote an elegy entitled "On Mr. Wm. Shakespeare," in which he suggests that Shakespeare should have been buried in Westminster Abbey next to Chaucer, Beaumont, and Spenser:

Renowned Spenser, lie a thought more nigh
To learned Chaucer, and rare Beaumont lie
A little nearer Spenser to make room
For Shakespeare in your threefold, fourfold tomb.
To lodge all four in one bed make a shift
Until Doomsday, for hardly will a fifth
Betwixt this day and that by fate be slain
For whom your curtains may be drawn again.
If your precedency in death doth bar
A fourth place in your sacred sepulcher,
Under this carved marble of thine own
Sleep rare tragedian Shakespeare, sleep alone,
Thy unmolested peace, unshared cave,
Possess as lord not tenant of thy grave,
   That unto us and others it may be
   Honor hereafter to be laid by thee.
This poem circulated very widely in manuscript, and it survives today in more than two dozen copies. Several of these have the full title "On Mr. William Shakespeare, he died in April 1616," which means they were unambiguously referring to the Stratford William Shakespeare. In any case, the poem could not be referring to the Earl of Oxford. It was written no earlier than 1616 (12 years after Oxford's death), since it refers to the death of Beaumont, which happened in March 1616, and it was certainly in existence by the time of the First Folio in 1623, since Ben Jonson's eulogy alludes directly to Basse's, and responds to it.

5e. Some time before 1623, a monument was erected to William Shakespeare in Stratford, depicting him as a writer. Antistratfordians desperately try to discredit this evidence by any means possible, but their efforts are misguided and futile. (See The Stratford Monument, and 5i-k below.) From the 1620s on, the monument was consistently seen as representing William Shakespeare, the famous poet.

5f. In the First Folio, John Heminges and Henry Condell said they published the Folio "onely to keepe the memory of so worthy a Friend, & Fellow alive, as was our Shakespeare, by humble offer of his playes." Heminges and Condell had been fellow actors with William Shakespeare in the King's Men for many years, and had been remembered in his will.

5g. In the same volume, Ben Jonson wrote a poem "To the memory of my beloved, The Author Mr. William Shakespeare," in which he says,

Sweet Swan of Avon! what a sight it were
To see thee in our waters yet appeare,
And make those flights upon the bankes of Thames,
That so did take Eliza, and our James!
Here not only does Jonson tie the author to William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon, but he puts him in James I's court. (See 2c and 2d above.) Oxfordians sometimes attempt to claim that this evidence could apply to Oxford by asserting that Oxford owned an estate on the Avon river. While it's true that one of the many estates Oxford inherited from his father was at Bilton on the Avon river, he sold this estate in 1580 (43 years before Jonson's poem), and there is no evidence that he was ever physically present there.

5h. Also in the Folio, Leonard Digges wrote an elegy "To the Memorie of the deceased Authour Maister W. Shakespeare," in which he refers to "thy Stratford Moniment." Digges presumably knew what he was talking about; he was the stepson of William Shakespeare's friend Thomas Russell, and had close ties to Stratford for most of his life. The only surviving letter by him, written a few years before his death, contains gossip of the "mad relations of Stratford," including Thomas Combe, to whom William Shakespeare had left his ceremonial sword in his will.

5i. In a copy of the First Folio now at the Folger Shakespeare Library, the following poem is written in a hybrid secretary-italic hand from the 1620s:

Here Shakespeare lies whom none but Death could Shake,
And here shall lie till judgement all awake,
When the last trumpet doth unclose his eyes,
The wittiest poet in the world shall rise.
The same hand has on the same page transcribed the verses from Shakespeare's monument ("Stay passenger why go'st thou by so fast") and his grave ("Good friend for Jesus' sake forbear"), so he is obviously referring to William Shakespeare of Stratford. Apparently, somebody went to Stratford and transcribed the poems off the monument and the tombstone, then transcribed them into a copy of the First Folio along with another epitaph. This writer seems not only to have believed that the man buried in Stratford was the author of the First Folio, but that he was "the wittiest poet in the world."

5j. In 1630 an anonymous volume was published, entitled A Banquet of Jeasts or Change of Cheare. Jest no. 259 in this volume is as follows:

One travelling through Stratford upon Avon, a Towne most remarkeable for the birth of famous William Shakespeare, and walking in the Church to doe his devotion, espyed a thing there worthy observation, which was a tombestone laid more that three hundred years agoe, on which was ingraven an Epitaph to this purpose, I Thomas such a one, and Elizabeth my wife here under lye buried, and know Reader I. R. C. and I. Chrystoph. Q. are alive at this houre to witnesse it.
This jest implies that the writer had been in the Stratford church, and that he believed that the William Shakespeare born there was "famous"; indeed, not yet 15 years after Shakespeare's death, he was apparently the town's main claim to fame. True, the writer does not explicitly say that Shakespeare was famous as a poet, but it is difficult to see why a grain dealer would bring such fame to his home town.

5k. In 1634 a military company of Norwich was travelling through the English countryside. One Lieutenant Hammond of the company kept a diary of what he encountered during his travels, and on or about September 9 he made the following entry:

In that dayes travell we came by Stratford upon Avon, where in the Church in that Towne there are some Monuments which Church was built by Archbishop Stratford; Those worth observing and of which wee tooke notice were these... A neat Monument of that famous English Poet, Mr. William Shakespeere; who was borne heere. And one of an old Gentleman a Batchelor, Mr. Combe, upon whose name, the sayd Poet, did merrily fann up some witty, and facetious verses, which time would nott give us leave to sacke up.
Hammond, writing 11 years after the First Folio and 12-18 years after the erection of the monument, explicitly says that the monument is for "that famous English Poet, Mr. William Shakespeere, who was borne heere."

5l. In 1638, Sir William Davenant's Madagascar contained the following poem, entitled "In Remembrance of Master William Shakespeare."

Beware (delighted Poets!) when you sing
To welcome Nature in the early Spring;
    Your num'rous Feet not tread
The Banks of Avon; for each Flowre
(As it nere knew a Sunne or Showre)
    Hangs there, the pensive head.

Each Tree, whose thick, and spreading growth hath made,
Rather a Night beneath the Boughs, than Shade,
    (Unwilling now to grow)
Looks like the Plume a Captain weares,
Whose rifled Falls are steept i'th teares
    Which from his last rage flow.

The piteous River wept it selfe away
Long since (Alas!) to such a swift decay;
    That read the Map; and looke
If you a River there can spie;
And for a River your mock'd Eie,
    Will find a shallow Brooke.

In this poem, Davenant specifically associates the poet Shakespeare with the Avon river, like Jonson in his First Folio poem, and also calls him "Master," as befitting William Shakespeare's social position. This testimony deserves to be taken seriously, because significant evidence indicates that William Shakespeare was a friend of the Davenant family. William (1606-1668) used to hint that he was Shakespeare's bastard son; several independent 17th-century sources report that Shakespeare used to stay at the Davenants' tavern in Oxford on his journeys between Stratford and London; William's brother Robert Davenant personally told John Aubrey that "Mr. William Shakespeare here gave him a hundred kisses" during these visits.

5m. The 1640 edition of Shakespeare's poems, published by John Benson, contains a poem entitled "An Elegie on the death of that famous Writer and Actor, M. William Shakespeare." The same volume contains William Basse's poem from 5d above, entitled "On the death of William Shakespeare, who died in Aprill, Anno. Dom. 1616."

5n. Sir Richard Baker, a contemporary of Shakespeare and a friend of John Donne, published Chronicle of the Kings of England in 1643. Sir Richard was an avid fan of the theater, also writing Theatrum Redivium, or the Theatre Vindicated. In the Chronicle, for Elizabeth's reign he notes statesmen, seamen, and soldiers, and literary figures who are mostly theologians with the exception of Sidney. In conclusion he says,

After such men, it might be thought ridiculous to speak of Stage-players; but seeing excellency in the meanest things deserves remembering . . . For writers of Playes, and such as had been Players themselves, William Shakespear and Benjamin Johnson, have specially left their Names recommended to Posterity.


How do we know that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare? We know because the historical record tells us so, strongly and unequivocally. The historical evidence demonstrates that one and the same man, William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon, was William Shakespeare the player, William Shakespeare the Globe-sharer, and William Shakespeare the author of the plays and poems that bear his name -- and no person of the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras ever doubted the attribution. No Elizabethan ever suggested that Shakespeare's plays and poems were written by someone else, or that Shakespeare the player was not Shakespeare the author, or that Shakespeare the Globe-sharer was not Shakespeare of Stratford. No contemporary of Shakespeare's ever suggested that the name used by the player, the Globe-sharer, or the author was a pseudonym; and none of the major alternative candidates -- not Francis Bacon, not the Earl of Oxford, not Christopher Marlowe -- had any connection with Shakespeare's acting company or with his friends and fellow actors.

Antistratfordians must rely solely upon speculation about what they think the "real" author should have been like, because they cannot produce one historical fact to bolster their refusal to accept who that author actually was. No matter how they try to ignore it or explain it away, the historical record -- all of it -- establishes William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon as the author of the works traditionally attributed to him.

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