Debunking the Oxfordian Claims about Shakespearean Authorship


Lydia Rustia

The debate continues, did Shakespeare really write all the works attributed to him?

Maya Fu, Staff Writer

In 1564, William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon was born. He would grow up to become indisputably the greatest writer in the English language.  But now, suddenly, people are questioning him.  Did Shakespeare really write all the works attributed to him?  Was there someone else behind all these beautiful words?  No, of course not.  It’s ridiculous that people would even think to doubt such a well-known and well-respected person. 

One of the most suggested people to be the true Shakespeare is Edward De Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. Those who support the Earl of Oxford, the so-called “Oxfordians,” claim that De Vere was close enough to court that he could have made references about it, as Shakespeare’s writing often did. They also suggest that De Vere may have been either Queen Elizabeth’s son or lover, and that the queen could have paid him to write all the plays. Are these claims really plausible? A look at the evidence will show that most likely, they are not. 

 The first piece of evidence that casts doubt on the Oxfordians regards Shakespeare’s relationship with the theater. Shakespeare was known to be very close with the actors and actresses that starred in his plays, and he often wrote plays with specific people in mind. In fact, he would sometimes accidentally write in the actor’s name instead of the character’s name in his scripts, showing his close connection to the people that were in his plays. A nobleman like De Vere would not have wanted, or have been able to be close to the “commoners” that actors were. He would not have had the knowledge to make the mistake of accidentally writing in an actor’s name. 

Another point the Oxfordians use is that De Vere used the name “Shakespeare” to hide his real identity. This is unlikely because Shakespeare was a very well-known and well-respected writer. It makes sense, in his time, that he would put his name on his plays, because it was good marketing. In other words, people would recognize his name and want to go see his plays. 

Moreover, in the Elizabethan Era, most playwrights did not print their names on the plays that they wrote, mainly because being a playwright was not considered a good career (of course, over time, that has changed). Shakespeare was one of the few people that would have his name on his plays. Why would De Vere or anyone else go through the extra trouble of putting their names on their plays when the default was to use “Anonymous?”

Another problem with the Oxfordian position is that they rely on assumptions. Most of what we know regarding the Shakespeare Authorship Question is based on assumptions. For example, the Oxfordians make a lot of claims in regard to Shakespeare’s education. There is some evidence that Shakespeare did drop out of school to work and provide for his family, but still: why couldn’t a man of humble beginnings grow to accomplish great things? How much did Shakespeare learn when he was in school? The Oxfordians claim “not enough.” How do they know?  It is simply irresponsible to presume these ideas. 

Lastly, people who do not believe that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare claim that he was not noble enough to be such a great writer. In fact, it was not until the Victorian Era, a time when there was growing prejudice against the non-noble classes, that Shakespeare’s authorship was even questioned. There still is a lot of prejudice against people who maybe are not privileged enough to complete their education. However, that does not have anything to do with whether or not a person can have a massive impact on the world. 


We may never have enough evidence to come to a definitive conclusion about this controversy. However, evidence lies heavily on the side of the man from Stratford. And as for the Oxfordians, they need to account for the fact that De Vere died before many of the later plays were written. Until more evidence is unearthed, the case rests.