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"To be or not to be: that is the question."

by Levi from Vancouver

William Shakespeare
“To be or not to be: that is the question”: perhaps the most famous words ever penned. All agree that William Shakespeare ranks as the most eminent poet in history. However, mystery enshrouds the poems attributed to him. Some speculate that he could not have written such magnificent works due to his poor education. These speculators continue on to propose that other people may have actually written Shakespeare’s works and then attributed them to the man named William Shakespeare in order to keep their own identity a secret. For example, it seemed improper for courtiers of Elizabeth I of England to write poetry at the time, so some courtiers may have used Shakespeare’s name to publish their poetry while remaining socially accepted. Up to seventy proposed ghostwrites for Shakespeare have been proposed including Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford and Francis Bacon. Regardless of who wrote these works, the man christened William Shakespeare had an interesting yet poorly chronicled life.

Born in Stratford-upon-Avon, a town near London, England, in 1564 to John and Mary Shakespeare, William grew up attending a nearby school, studying mostly Latin and grammar. This lack of education leads others to think that he could not have written the masterpieces attributed to Shakespeare. At age eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway who gave birth to a daughter Susanna six months later. After the births of the twins Hamnet and Judith in 1585, William Shakespeare seemed to disappear from history, popping up in London seven years later. These seven years are termed the ‘lost years’ because no one knows what he did during that time. Some think he became a schoolmaster, while others sources claim that, because of poaching, he was hiding from justice.

When he arrived in London, William Shakespeare entered the theatre business. He both wrote plays and invested in the King’s Men, a company which ran the most illustrious theatre in London. Eventually he came to lead this company, earning a great deal of money and constructing the famed Globe Theatre. During the next ten years of his life, he spent most of his valuable time composing plays and poetry and managing affairs in London. Over time he began to write less and less while spending correspondingly more time with his wife and two daughters in Stratford-upon-Avon. Then, in April of 1616, William Shakespeare, the greatest poet and playwright in history, died at the age of fifty-two.

But his reputation did not die with him. Even nearly four hundred years later, William Shakespeare is a household name due to of his brilliant works. In fact, the renowned poet wrote over thirty-seven plays including the famous Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Macbeth. Also, he composed one hundred and fifty-four sonnets, a type of poem consisting of fourteens lines speaking about love, beauty and time. Sonnets of this type and subject now are named Shakespearian Sonnets, in honor of the one who devised them. In addition to writing all these works, he invented hundreds of now commonplace words such as frugal, gloomy, hurry, suspicious, assassination, critical, and disheartened, and he also popularized phrases such as dead as a doornail, heart of gold, and sorry sight. Because of all of this, the name of William Shakespeare will live on.

Despite the fact that William Shakespeare lived a fairly average life, his works will never be described as average. For such a celebrated person, his life certainly is not well documented. Some times and areas of his life remain a mystery such as the ‘lost years’ as well as the true writer of the legendary sonnets attributed to Shakespeare. Could a relatively uneducated man such as the playwright from Stratford-upon-Avon compose such beautiful works? Or did another publish his or her poetry under the name of William Shakespeare for some secretive reason? I believe that both sides of the stories have strong evidence. On the one hand, I cannot fathom how an uneducated man could write such a prodigious amount of timeless works. On the other end of the spectrum, I cannot grasp the fact the most famous poet ever might have been a fraud. Some ideas can never be proven nor discredited from a lack of proof, as will the authorship of the works of William Shakespeare ever remain a mystery.

Written by Levi from Vancouver
Last changed on: 8/20/2016

Poets.org from the Academy of American poets

Wikipedia the free encyclopedia

Hobar, Linda. The Mystery of History, Volume 3. Dover: Bright Ideas Press, 2008. 250-254

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