Some have argued that a more noble writer was secretly behind the works attributed to Shakespeare; they doubt that someone without an aristocratic pedigree could have written the plays and poetry published under his name. Since the 19th century, several candidates for “hidden author” have been proposed, among them Queen Elizabeth, Sir Francis Bacon, and Edward de Vere (earl of Oxford). Such debates testify to the lasting importance of Shakespeare’s works and call attention to the astonishing achievement that they represent.
In the century since these claims were first advanced, no decisive evidence has been unearthed proving that the plays were produced by anyone but the man from Stratford-upon-Avon, a man equipped with a very good “grammar-school” education and the experience gained working in a professional theater company in London.
The Folger has been a major location for research into the authorship question, and welcomes scholars looking for new evidence that sheds light on the plays’ origins. How this particular man—or anyone, for that matter—could have produced such an astounding body of work is one of the great mysteries.