argument top image

< Back to question Who was Shakespeare? Show more Show less

"What's in a name?" one of Shakespeare's star-crossed lovers asked. When it comes to the identity of the greatest writer in the English language, a great deal. That mantle has long been bestowed on a glover's son from Stratford-Upon-Avon. But since the 19th century, there have been doubts over William Shakespeare's identity as the writer of the works attributed to the playwright. Was the Bard from Stratford a front for another writer? Was he just one participant in a collective group of writers? Or was he a she?

The Post-Stratfordian position Show more Show less

William Shakespeare did not write the works that bear his name.
< (2 of 5) Next position >

Not all of Shakespeare's plays were published in his lifetime

Around 16 plays were published following his death. As a career writer that published for money, this is highly irregular.
< (5 of 10) Next argument >


Not sure yet? Read more before voting ↓



Shakespeare died in 1616, before 16 of his plays had been published. They were later published in print in 1623.[1]

The Argument

As a writer for money, it seems inconceivable that Shakespeare would not want to publish and capitalise on his masterpieces while he was alive. Also, his daughter, Susanna, who automatically inherited the rights of his plays, never sought financial imbursement from the sales of the 1623 Folio. This is also not characteristic of a descendent of the author.

Counter arguments

The fact that many of his plays were published posthumously has nothing to do with the authorship debate. Following Shakespeare's death, two of Shakespeare's former colleagues in the King's Men acting company, John Heminge and Henry Condell, collected all the plays Shakespeare wrote and published the First Folio in 1623. They did so out of an appreciation for their former colleague's work.[2] There could have been any number of personal or professional reasons why Shakespeare chose not to publish those plays. We cannot make wild assertions about the authorship of the plays simply because the Bard decided not to publish them in his lifetime.


[P1] Shakespeare wrote for money. [P2] But not all of his plays were published in his lifetime. [P3] If Shakespeare wrote those plays, he would have published them in his lifetime to maximise earnings. [P4] Therefore, Shakespeare likely did not write those plays.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P4] There could be any number of reasons why Shakespeare chose not to publish those plays.



This page was last edited on Monday, 20 Jan 2020 at 09:50 UTC

Explore related arguments