Did Fulke Greville Author Some of Shakespeare’s Plays?

Anybody with much interest in William Shakespeare (1564-1616) knows that there are doubters (known as anti-Stratfordians) who question the great bard’s authorship of some or all of the works attributed to him.

The theories of the anti-Stratfordians, which often attain a Da Vinci Code-like complexity, turn upon the notion that a mere commoner, lacking a university education, could hardly have been responsible for the greatest oeuvre in the English language. 

Over the years, some of the popular claimants for the “real Shakespeare” have included Edward de Vere, Sir Francis Bacon, and Christopher Marlowe.

Of course, most academics dismiss the theories of the anti-Stratfordians as nonsense, for they usually lack documentary records to back them up.  However, a UCLA statistical analysis of Shakespeare’s writings and those of his contemporaries, conducted in 1990, suggested another man who could not be ruled out as the “real Shakespeare”:  Sir Fulke Greville.   

A prominent Elizabethan courtier, as well as a dramatist and poet, Fulke Greville (1554-1628) is probably best remembered today as biographer of the much better known Sir Philip Sidney, who was a close friend.  

But now, true believers think a monument in Warwickshire’s St. Mary’s Church, built by Fulke Greville, may hold some proof of his connection to Shakespeare.

And this time they may have something, because a recent radar scan of the monument shows that three box-like objects lie within it.  Speculation is rife that they may contain manuscripts, such as a play in Shakespeare’s hand.

Researchers hope to explore the monument again within weeks using a device with a small video camera called an endoscope.  

Greensboro Public Library naturally has a large collection of Shakespeare’s plays and poems, as well as many books about him.  And these latter works include several on the authorship controversy, such as:  The Man Who was William Shakespeare by Peter Sammartino; The Mysterious William Shakespeare:  The Myth and the Reality by Charlton Ogburn; Who was Shakespeare?:  A New Enquiry by H. Amphlett; The Shakespeare Claimants; A Critical Survey of the Four Principal Theories Concerning the Authorship of the Shakespearean Plays by H.N. Gibson; and The Shakespearean Ciphers Examined; An Analysis of Cryptographic Systems Used as Evidence that Some Author Other than William Shakespeare Wrote the Plays Commonly Attributed to Him, by William F. Friedman & Elizabeth S. Friedman.


3 Responses

  1. […] Posted on March 10, 2010 by pdurham000 In still another brief follow-up to a previous post on the immortal playright and poet William Shakespeare (1564-1616), here’s a story about an […]

  2. For more than two centuries now, the field of Shakespeare studies has been vexed by an ongoing controversy known as “the Shakespeare Problem” or “the Authorship Question,” the hypothesis that Shakespeare’s plays were in fact written by someone other than the Shakespeare of tradition (hereafter referred to, for the sake of convenience to distinguish the individual from the works, as Shakspere.)

    The controversy began in 1789 when bardophile Rev. John Wilmot visited Stratford-on-Avon, hoping to hold in his hand a book that Shakespeare had held in his (e.g.: Hall, Holinshed, North’s translation of Plutarch’s Lives.) Wilmot scoured the dust of every bookshelf within 50 miles of Stratford, but failed in his quest and so conjectured to his own chagrin that Shakespeare’s plays could have perhaps been written by Sir Francis Bacon.

    Over the ensuing years, dozens of candidates have been proposed for the honor of “true author,” but today the issue has settled into a spirited if occasionally acrimonious debate, a sort of literary trench warfare, between proponents of Shakspere, the Stratfordians, and Edward deVere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, the Oxfordians. Oxford was first proposed as true author in 1918 by John Thomas Looney (pronounced Loney) in his systematic study of the problem “Shakespeare Identified.”

    For years Looney, a mild-mannered schoolteacher on the Isle of Man had taught “The Merchant of Venice as part of his curriculum and had become convinced that the play’s author had first-hand knowledge of Venice, which, for all we know, Shakspere did not.

    Looney approached the issue in a radically different way, in a manner in fact worthy of Sherlock Holmes. After carefully analyzing the plays, he drew up a list of nine general characteristics:

    1.) A matured man of recognized genius
    2.) Apparently eccentric and mysterious
    3.) Of intense sensibility—a man apart
    4.) Unconventional
    5.) Not adequately appreciated
    6.) Of pronounced and known literary tastes
    7.) An enthusiast of the world of drama
    8.) A lyric poet of recognized talent
    9.) Of superior education—classical—the habitual associate of educated people

    In addition, Looney also drew up a list of 9 special characteristics, such as “a member of the upper aristocracy,” “trained in law” as well as “a supporter of the Lancastrians” in the Wars of the Roses.

    Looney used his eighth general characteristic, “a lyric poet of recognized talent,” as a point of departure in his search for the true author. Shakespeare’s first published poem was “Venus and Adonis” (1593), so Looney looked for any other Elizabethan poems with the same six-line stanza structure of a quatrain (ABAB) and a couplet (CC). Looney found only a handful of poems meeting his criteria, but among them was Oxford’s “If Women Could Be Fair and Yet Not Fond.”

    Oxford had been largely forgotten, but as Looney investigated his life, he found that Oxford matched all 18 of his characteristics and that, furthermore, hundreds of obscure details as well as broad pervasive themes from the plays had direct correspondences in Oxford’s life.

    Perhaps the Oxfordian hypothesis is beset with difficulties such as Oxford’s temperamental character (cf: Hamlet III. iii. Ll. 121 ff: “I am myself indifferent honest…”) and early death (1604), but it also explains many details of background, knowledge, experience and attitude missing in Shakspere.


    If women could be fair and yet not fond
    Or that their love were firm, not fickle still,
    I would not marvel that they men bond,
    By service long to purchase their good will
    But when I see how frail1 these creatures are
    I laugh that men forget themselves so far

    To mark the choice they make and how they change
    How oft from Phoebus they do cleave to Pan2
    Unsettled still like haggards3 wild they range
    These gentle birds that fly from man to man
    Who would not scorn and shake then from the fist
    And let them go, fair fools, which way they list

    Yet for disport we fawn and flatter both,
    To pass the time when nothing else can please
    And train them to our lure4 with subtle oath
    ‘Til weary of their wiles ourselves we ease,
    And then we say when we their fancies try,
    To play with fools, O what a fool was I!

    1. “Frailty, thy name is woman!” Hamlet, I., ii. l.146.
    2. Hyperion (Phoebus) to a satyr (Pan) Hamlet I., ii. l.140.
    3. Haggard, a technical term for an untrained falcon from falconry, a highly regulated and aristocratic sport. Shakespeare repeatedly uses “haggard” as a metaphor for a faithless woman:
    “Another way I have to man my haggard.” Shrew.
    IV. i. l.193.
    “As I have loved this proud disdainful haggard…”
    Shrew, I., ii. l. 39.
    “And like the haggard check at every feather…”
    12th Night, III. i. l.6
    “If I do prove her haggard…” Othello, III. iii., l. 260.
    4. Used to train a falcon
    “For then she never looks upon her lure…” Shrew,
    IV. i., l.192

  3. Thanks for your comment Frank!

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