Naming Conventions

Elizabethan English spelling was far from standardised: so much so that John Michell was able to give 57 varieties of the name Shakespeare (John Michell, Who Wrote Shakespeare, p.14). This fact has led to confusion on both sides of the Authorship Question. Accordingly it has been found useful to distinguish historical and literary evidence by reserving the spellings ‘Shakespeare’, (or ‘Shake-speare’), for the author of the Plays and Poems, and ‘Shakspere’ for William Shakspere, the historical figure usually believed to be identical with Shakespeare.

Nevertheless, there is no intent here to use this distinction in a biased way – it merely serves to keep the question open, when both Stratfordian and Baconians are accustomed to question-begging arguments.

Indeed, some Baconians have made far too much of the discrepancy between typical spellings of the actor’s name, (such as Will Shakspere or Will Shaxper), and the name William Shake-speare or William Shakespeare that appeared on the printed editions. They have moved from the correct premise that there is a strong suggestion of pen name in the name Shakespeare, and word plays on ‘Will’ and ‘Shakespeare’ (for example in the Sonnets) to the illogical conclusion that Shakspere was not the author. Yet this is clearly nonsense: the author, whoever he was, enjoyed playing with his pen name, and it is highly likely that a lively, bawdy wit such as Shakspere is known to have been, would have relished the opportunity to do so in his writing, punning in lofty or coarse ways upon his own name

Historical Evidence

Nigel Cockburn’s book The Bacon Shakespeare Question on the Authorship Question contains the following summary of the historical picture:

SHAKSPERE’S LIFE

“Very little is known about Shakspere’s life. Unprecedented research has unearthed a bit more, mostly in relation to law suits or property transactions he was involved in, but our total knowledge of him is still very slight.

"He was born at Stratford-on-Avon about 23 April 1564, son of a glover who later became High Bailiff (i.e, Mayor) of Stratford. William probably attended Stratford Grammar School. In 1582 he married Anne Hathaway who bore him a daughter in 1583 and mixed twins in 1585. At some stage, probably (one guesses) soon after the birth of the twins, he moved to London and became an actor. The first we know of him there is in 1592. From 1594 he was with the newly-formed Lord Chamberlain’s Men, renamed the King’s Men after the accession of James 1, and was probably a shareholder in the company from its formation. In 1597 he bought New Place, the largest house in Stratford. At some stage about 1610-1613 he retired to Stratford, though he continued to make visits to London. He died at Stratford on 23 April 1616, aged 52.”

A relevant rejoinder to this was made by the well known scholar Hugh Trevor-Roper in the November 1962 issue of Réalités, quoted in John Michell’s Who Wrote Shakespeare:

“Since his [Shakspere's] death, and particularly in the last century, he has been subjected to the greatest battery of organized research that has ever been directed upon a single person. Armies of scholars, formidably equipped, have examined all the documents which could possibly contain at least a mention of his name. One hundredth part of this labour applied to one of his insignificant contemporaries would be sufficient to produce a substantial biography.”