|Donna N. Murphy|
Scholars have dug like terriers and unearthed over 70 documents about William Shakspere of Stratford, but there’s a gaping disconnect between the man and the plays.
The notion that William Shakspere (the spelling of his name on his baptismal record and many other documents) of Stratford wrote the canon of Shakespeare is wholly illogical. It is illogical that a man who did not attend university possessed the ability, the knowledge, and the wisdom to write some of the greatest plays of all time. It is illogical that a man not known to have stepped foot off the island of Britain set action outside of England in most of his plays, possessing especially detailed knowledge of Italy. It is illogical that in a time when young men learned languages at university, via travel, or private tutors, this same Shakspere could read not only English and Latin, but also Greek, Italian and French. And it is illogical that the author of a canon in which most of the female characters were literate, did not bother to teach his own daughters to read or write.
William Shakespeare was the sole author listed on the First Folio printed in 1623, and Occam’s Razor tells us: “All things being equal, the simplest solution is usually the correct one.” In other words, Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS). Yet even standard Stratfordians (those who believe the man from Stratford wrote the plays) now admit that the situation was more complex. Highly respected scholars have compiled linguistic evidence indicating Shakespeare had at least five co-authors: Thomas Nashe for I Henry VI; George Peele for Titus Andronicus; George Wilkins for Pericles; Thomas Middleton for Timon of Athens and Alls Well That Ends Well; and John Fletcher for Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen. 
There are excellent reasons for the Shakespeare authorship question. Yet recently, some Stratfordians released a poorly timed and unfortunately named book, Shakespeare Beyond Doubt: Evidence, Argument, Controversy. It is unfortunately named because the authorship of the Shakespeare canon by Shakspere is light-years away from being “beyond doubt,” and it is poorly timed because recent research has increased the magnitude of that doubt. You’ll see what I mean by reading:
If Shakspere did not write the works of Shakespeare, who did? Although over 60 names have been proposed, the three leading candidates are the Earl of Oxford, Sir Francis Bacon, and Christopher Marlowe.
Christopher Marlowe has always been the professional candidate, the brilliant playwright, plotter and poet who Stratfordians view as having forged the way for Shakespeare. According to Thomas Marc Parrott, “Without Marlowe, there would never have been the William Shakespeare whom we know."  Azara Hussain remarked, "Shakespeare's literary debt to Marlowe is evident throughout his plays and poems. At times the two men appear as shadows of each other, literary doppelgangers." 
A whole cottage industry has sprung up among scholars who have written articles and books comparing Marlowe and Shakespeare. In Shakespeare’s Marlowe, Robert Logan reported Marlowe’s influence in twenty works by the Bard.  The linguistic connections are strongest in Shakespeare’s earlier plays, but continue to pop up in later ones. According to A. L. Rowse, “[Marlowe’s] was the originating genius. William Shakespeare never forgot him: in his penultimate, valedictory play, The Tempest, he is still echoing Marlowe’s phrases.” 
But Marlowe “died” on May 30, 1593, and there’s a parish registry entry and a death inquest to prove it. Marlovians (those who think Marlowe penned Shakespeare) believe instead that he pretended to die, yet continued to live.
Marlowe had the motivation to fake his death: He was about to be imprisoned, tortured, and quite likely executed on charges of heresy (which in those days meant believing anything different than what the Church of England said one should believe).
He had the means: He was an intelligencer who had been abroad and read numerous languages. In fact, they were the same languages as Shakespeare: English, Latin, Greek, Italian, French and possibly Spanish. He knew people who were professional liars, and he knew people in high places. Lord Burghley had gotten him out of jams twice before.
He had the ability: When comparing Marlowe with Shakespeare, however, one must keep chronology in mind, since "both" writers exhibited steep upward curves of achievement over time. Marlowe's Tamburlaine plays, c. 1587, are very early works written under the heavy influence of Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene.
By the time he wrote Edward II, Marlowe had distanced himself from overly ornate speech and made major advances in plotting. Edward II has myriad linguistic connections to Shakespeare's II and III Henry VI. I find Edward II and the first versions of II and III Henry VI to have been written in 1590.
Click here for a sample of Edward II, which is on par with II and III Henry VI in terms of writing style.
In The Marlowe-Shakespeare Continuum, in order to attribute authorship, I employ the following methodologies: Matches and Near Matches, Rare Scattered Word Clusters, Strong Parallels and Other Similarities, Image Clusters, Logic, and Biographical Connections.
To see a description and examples of each of these methodologies, click here.
Beyond Occam’s Razor
The discrepancy between Shakspere’s pedestrian biography and the profundity of Shakespeare’s work is hauntingly disturbing, causing theater lovers to gaze skyward and ask: if all it takes to foster such a mind is a presumed grammar school education and experience as an actor/shareholder, why are there not more Shakespeares? In a case like Shakespeare’s, I would argue, a complex solution makes more sense than the simple one.
What occurred, I propose, was a conspiracy of kindness, including Poley, Frizer and Skeres, who lied by claiming Frizer had killed him in self defense so Marlowe could escape the sharp edge of death; plus Thomas Walsingham and one or more high government officials who blunted the force of the Church of England’s punishment, transmuting it from the probable execution of Marlowe to his exile (from which he sometimes returned to England). It also included a select group of fellow writers who provided cover for the “dead” Marlowe, including Thomas Nashe and Ben Jonson. They took the secret of “Shakespeare” to their graves.
1. Read and sign the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt About the Identity of William Shakespeare.
2. Order my two books, and ask your favorite libraries to order them!
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 See Brian Vickers, Shakespeare, Co-Author (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002); Brian Vickers, "Incomplete Shakespeare: Or, Denying Coauthorship in 1 Henry VI," Shakespeare Quarterly 58 (2007): 311-52; and Laurie Maguire and Emma Smith, "The Authorship of Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well," Times Literary Supplement, April 19, 2012.
 Thomas Marc Parrott, William Shakespeare: A Handbook (London: Oxford University Press, 1934), 121.
 Azar Hussain, "The Reckoning and the Three Deaths of Christopher Marlowe," Notes & Queries 56 (2009): 547-8.
 Robert Logan, Shakespeare's Marlowe (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Co., 2007), 8.
 A. L. Rowse, Shakespeare: The Man, 1973, quoted in Daryl Pinksen, Marlowe's Ghost (Bloomington, IN: iUniverse.com, 2008), 7. Pinksen lists quotes by fourteen scholars remarking upon the close relationship between Marlowe and Shakespeare.