Why is there an authorship problem with Shakespeare?

Most everyone in the literary and academic world agrees that the works of William Shakespeare are the result of great intellectual genius and an inspired creative mind. But some prominent literary academicians, known as Oxfordians, have based their entire careers on asking the following question: "Is Shakespeare Shakespeare?"

The Oxfordian argument is that

  • Someone of William Shakespeare's social class and educational background could not have created such a profound body of work. As evidence, they point to the fact that Shakespeare received only a grammar school education in his early years, and never attended college.
  • As a member of the middle class, Shakespeare couldn't have gained the necessary intimate knowledge of royal court manners and political maneuverings, which are main themes in many of the plays and poems. Most Oxfordians attribute the works instead to an author of higher social class, usually identified as The Earl of Oxford.

Stratfordians, on the other hand, believe there is plenty of evidence in the public record to show that Shakespeare of Stratford is, indeed, the creator of the works:

  • Shakespeare's grammar school education would have provided a wide range of classic literary study, including not only English, but proficiency in Latin and some Greek.
  • Public records and writings of the day place him in the London theatre scene and identify him as author of the works in question, and an accomplished playwright and actor during the time the plays and poems were written.
  • Shakespeare had ample access to the doings of the upper classes as a member of the Lord Chamberlain's Men and King's Men theatre companies, which played at court for many years.

The Stratfordians say Shakespeare was simply a literary genius with an amazing talent for marketing, who was able to speak and relate to all social classes.