Most frequently the doubters allege that the name "William Shakespeare" was an alias, a cover for someone in the aristocracy who could not afford to be known as a writer of commercial entertainment.
When only one manuscript survives in the playwright's hand, and is then copied out for prompt books and presentation copies, it's amazing anything consistent survives at all. And as for the inconsistent spelling of Shakespeare's name, take a look at Marlowe's signature: often times he writes his name 'Marley'. Spelling, even of surnames, wasn't consistent at that time.
At the heart of the problem is the fact that, for a man who was so prolific with his pen, Shakespeare didn't leave much evidence of his life behind. Most scholars accept that there is enough to prove that a William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, became an actor in London and retired back in Stratford until his death in 1616. But that's where the agreement ends. Stratfordians, as they are known, believe that this William Shakespeare is the same man who wrote what would become known as the greatest body of literary works in the history of the English language. The Anti-Stratfordians say that there is, in fact, nothing solid linking Shakespeare with the plays, poems and sonnets attributed to him.
Suffering from an unknown illness, William Shakespeare died on his fifty-second birthday being considered by many to be the greatest playwright of all time, although many facts about his life remain shrouded in mystery (William Shakespeare).
We will never know the answer to rather or not Shakespeare actually wrote the works attributed to him, but there has been reasons stated for why Shakespeare’s authorship is being doubted.
Yet in Shakespeare Beyond Doubt, he is content merely to identify “our English Terence” as “one of the greatest of Roman playwrights,” without further analysis. Should an analysis of Davies’s poem be limited to the title, or should the vagueness of the poem prompt questions? Is the epigram straightforward or ambiguous? Is it a literary allusion or a theatrical allusion or both? Is it personal or impersonal testimony? It is easy enough to cite an epigram, but it should be incumbent on anyone attempting to defend — or challenge — the traditional biography to re-examine the testimony to determine what may or may not be concluded (see Price, Unorthodox, 60-63).
ix. Stanley Wells surveys the Shakespearean allusions from 1592 to 1616 (the year of Shakespeare’s death) and on to 1642 (the closing of the theatres and the start of the Civil War). He challenges anti-Shakespeareans (or, as I would say, anti- Stratfordians) at the outset: In order to “suggest alternative nominees for the authorship” a skeptic would need “to disprove everything that goes to show that they were written” by William Shakespeare of Stratford (73). On the contrary, one does not need to disprove everything about Shakespeare of Stratford; rather, a skeptic needs to re-evaluate everything about Shakespeare of Stratford to determine if he and Shakespeare the writer were one and the same. Reconsidering the evidentiary value of testimony is not the same thing as denying that testimony, and that distinction is often ignored in favor of accusing anti- Stratfordians of being wholesale deniers of evidence.
Regrettably, Wells does not put the allusions under the microscope. Each reference to Shakespeare, or to a Shakespeare play, poem, character, or quotation, presents an opportunity to interrogate the allusion, for example, to attempt to determine if its author demonstrates personal knowledge of Shakespeare, as distinct from familiarity merely with the printed page or performed dialogue. Such distinctions are important, since the contemporaneous literary allusions to Shakespeare that Wells cites are either “cryptic” and “obscure” (79), or they are essentially book or theatre reviews, necessitating no firsthand knowledge of the author. Anyone can write a review, or cite a Shakespearean line, without personally knowing the author.
the very stigmata used by bibliographers to demonstrate that a play was printed from shakespeare’s autograph can be found in scribal and theatrical manuscripts as well. (133)
Whether Shakespeare, the author, whoever he was, actively collaborated with other dramatists is certainly a matter of interest. Obviously Jowett, Jackson, and others prefer to envision Shakespeare as all-around man of the theatre, steeped in playhouse practices, and immersed in all aspects of the theatre company activities. It is tempting to extend this characterization to include the role of company dramatist, both solo and in collaboration. But such a conception of Shakespeare, however attractive it may be, still lacks any evidence that could prove that Shakespeare of Stratford was a writer. In addition, there are reasons to question the nature of Shakespeare’s commitments to the acting and theatre companies, and one of them concerns schedule conflicts. Although most biographers separate conflicting evidence into different chapters, when examined chronologically, the documentation shows that Shakespeare, the actor-shareholder was absent from London in 1597-98, during the all-important Christmas holiday season when the company performed at court, and again in 1604, after the theatres re-opened (Price, Unorthodox, 32 -35). Any such absences during busy performance seasons raise questions about just what Shakespeare’s responsibilities were with those companies, making it more difficult to build on the traditional biographical narrative.
When Wells belatedly read my book in response to Ros Barber’s criticism, he shared his comments on Blogging Shakespeare, a website for the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. But he failed to address the single most important argument I make in Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography : that Shakespeare is the only alleged writer of consequence from the time period who left behind no evidence during his lifetime to support the statement that he was a writer. And I pointed that out in the Comments section.
iv. Addressing Shakespeare’s alleged education, Carol Chillington Rutter has briefly covered some of the same territory as T.W. Baldwin in his two-volume Shakespeare’s Small Latine and Lesse Greeke, a 1944 survey of educational institutions, curricula, etc. in Elizabethan England, including the varying educational capabilities of provincial schoolrooms, such as the one in Stratford. And like Baldwin, Rutter is unable to cite one document to support the statement that Shakespeare attended school, or expressed gratitude to a mentor, or attended university or one of the Inns of Court, or owned a book, or wrote a word of dialogue, a line of poetry, or even a letter concerning his business affairs. Shakespeare remains a man of no recorded education. The best that can be said is that if Shakespeare of Stratford wrote the plays, then he must have attended the Stratford Grammar School. His assumed education is therefore the result of circular reasoning. Further, Rutter’s essay fails to take into account the playwright’s familiarity with Italian, French, and Spanish, languages not taught at the grammar school.