First Folio by Steve Payne
says: what if the real identity of the Bard was an open secret in the
English Court? Please note that the opinions expressed in this post do not
necessarily reflect the views of the author(s).
to Digg our site.
Edward Blount and William and Isaac Jaggard
published the collection of "Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories,
& Tragedies" which modern scholars commonly refer to as the "First Folio".
To alert the reader to the real identity of the playwright, the cover
artist Martin Droeshout had portrayed an incongruous-looking fellow with a
mask-line down his face, wearing a back-to-front doublet with two
right-eyes (pictured, below). Writing three centuries later, Sir George
Greenwood would remark "I can never understand how any unprejudiced
person, with a sense of humor, can look upon [the print] without being
tempted to irreverent laughter".
in 1564, Gulielmus Shakspere was an illiterate son of a butcher who never
attended school (his father simply placed an X on his birth certificate).
Neither his wife Anne Hathaway, nor any of his three children could read
or write either. In London, the only written records bearing the name "Willemus
Shackspere" are unpaid debts dating from 1595. Two years later, he moved
to Straford Upon Avon, four days of hard horse-riding from the capital,
where he died in April 1616. Six versions of his signature remain in
print, three of which appear on his will. No other diaries, letters or
manuscripts have ever been found.
"Shakes-speare, we must be silent in our praise,
cause our encomimums will but blast thy bays" ~ Wit's RecreationSimply
ludicrous of course to imagine that such a man could pen forty plays, add
three thousand words to the English vocabulary, or even demonstrate an
insider's view of the English court from such a distance.
That the greatest mystery surrounded the "soul of our age" (Doctor
Jonson's term) was his real identity, was according to Charles Dickens,
both "a fine comfort" and "a great mystery". "I
tremble every day lest something should come out".
But come out it did, finally, exactly four hundred years later with the
discovery of letters from John Clayton, the debtor from the 1595 bills.
During the passage of those four centuries, over sixty individuals had
been identified as the real Bard. But the mystery was finally
revealed, because Clayton had left instructions for his letters to be
opened in 1995.
That the Bard really was Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark was something of an
anti-climax. His identify was an open secret in court, and yet his
satirical potrayal of the ruling classes required some form of subterfuge
in order for his playwriting to continue. And so the courtier John Clayton
bought the identity of Shakespeare and then paid for his relocation to
says we explore some ideas in "Shakespear's Lost Kingdom (the True
History of Shakespeare and Elizabeth)" by Charles Beauclerk (2010). To view
guest historian's comments on this post please visit the
Today in Alternate History web site.
Steve Payne, Editor of
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Imagine what would be, if history had occurred a bit
differently. Who says it didn't, somewhere? These fictional news items
explore that possibility. Possibilities such as America becoming a Marxist
superpower, aliens influencing human history in the 18th century and Teddy
Roosevelt winning his 3rd term as president abound in this interesting