The evidence above proves William existed but not that he was a playwright nor an actor nor a poet. In fact recently some academics who call themselves the Oxfords argue that Stratford's celebrated playwright did not write any of the plays attributed to him. They suggest that he was merely a businessman and propose several contenders for authorship, namely an Edward de Vere.
Evidence that the great Bard wrote his plays.
The earliest proof that William did indeed write 37 plays was Robert Greene’s criticism of the Bard in his Groatsworth of Wit, Bought with a Million of Repentance which attacked Shakespeare for having the nerve to compete with him and other playwrights in 1592 . Robert Greene made this quite clear by calling him "an upstart crow". This criticism was placed with the Stationers’ Registrar on the 20th of September, 1592.
Proof that William was an actor comes from his own performances before Queen Elizabeth herself in 1594 and evidence of William's interest in theatre comes from the Bard's name being listed in 1594 and 1595 as a shareholder (part owner) of the Lord Chamberlain’s Company, a theatre company.
The Bard's reputation as a poet is again confirmed in 1598, when Francis Meres attacked him as being "mellifluous" and described his work as honey-tongued, "sugared sonnets among his private friends" in his own Palladis Tamia of 1598.
William's theatre presence is again confirmed by his name being recorded as one of the owners of the Globe theatre in 1599 and on May the 19th, 1603, he received a patent, titling him as one of the King’s Men (previously called the Chamberlain’s men) and a Groom of the Chamber by James I, the then King of England. This honour made William a favorite for all court performances, earned each King’s man extra money (30 pounds each for a performance in 1603 alone) and made the Bard's name one rather above reproach. Macbeth which celebrates King James I ancestor Malcolm, is considered to have been written in part as appreciation for the King’s patronage. And as a potent form of royalist propaganda (it warned of the dangers of killing a King appointed like James, by God).
The First Folio (1623): Conclusive proof that Shakespeare authored his plays.
The proof most often cited that Shakespeare authored his plays however, was the First Folio (1623) where Henry Condell and John Hemminges who were actors in the Bard's theatre company, claim in a dedicatory verse within the Folio that they recorded and collected his plays as a memorial to the late actor and playwright. In terms of value, the First Folio originally was sold for just 1 Pound in 1623. Today as one of just 250 still in existence, it would fetch nearly 3 million dollars (US).
Ben Jonson criticizes and then praises William by name.
Further proof of authorship comes in the form of a poem by Ben Jonson, one of the Bard's more friendly rivals, which criticizes the playwrights dramatic plays. It is contained within a work entitled Discoveries (also known as Timber) dated 1641. Despite his criticism, Ben Johnson paradoxically also said that Stratford's famous Bard's works were timeless, describing them as "not of an age, but for all time".
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