Happy belated birthday, Shakes! Just a day late. Actually, the exact date of his birth has long been disputed. Generally, April 23, 1564, which is also St. George’s Day, is accepted as the date of the Bard’s birth, but because his baptismal records reflect April 26th as the date, no one is completely sure. So hey, maybe I’m not a day late but two days early! (You can read more about the conflicting birth information here.)
As with any celebrity, from Lindsay Lohan to our beloved Bard (let the record show that this is the only time you will ever see these two names so closely linked), all kinds of bizarre theories abound. Here are a few of my favorites. Feel free to perform your own facepalms.
Number I: Shakespeare Was a Jewish Woman
In this theory, John Hudson argues that Shakespeare was, you guessed it, a Jewish woman. The woman Hudson has in mind is Amelia Bassano Lanier, who was the first woman to publish a book of poetry in England. The theory rests largely on the circumstances of Bassano’s life, which Hudson contends match, much better than William Shakespeare’s did, the content of “Shakespeare’s” work. But Hudson has also identified technical similarities between the language used in Bassano’s known poetry and that used in “Shakespeare’s” verse. And he has located clues in the text – recently noted Jewish allegories and the statistically significant appearance of Amelia Bassano Lanier’s various names in the plays – that he says point to her as the only convincing candidate for the author of Shakespeare’s work. (Source)
Shakespeare Was an Arab Named Shaykh Zubayr
The most bizarre of all the pretenders is Muammar al-Qaddafi‘s choice, Sheik Zubayr bin William. Quaddafi came up with his champion in 1989 when Radio Tehran announced that Libya’s “Great One” had declared that an Arab sheik named Zubayr bin William, who had been born in the sixteenth century, was Shakespeare. (Source)
Number III: Lord Francis Bacon Beheaded Shakespeare in a Fit of Rage
Proof that Rupert Murdoch is an immortal? Here we have a bizarre story appearing in Kansas City [MO] Times 22 April 1891: p. 4
A physician of Detroit, whose practice appears not to make such demands upon his time as to preclude attention to the exciting sport of cipher hunting, has discovered in the bowels of the accredited works of Lord Bacon and the so-called” Shakespearean plays the story of a murder which has up to this time escaped the official investigation of the prosecutors for the English crown. At least this doctor says he has discovered this, and, as he is respectable, sane and rich, his tale is no doubt true.
The Detroit discoverer, who must under the circumstances be esteemed veracious, avows that this bad Lord Bacon not only one fine summer day, struck off the head of his good gossip William Shakespeare, but thereupon proceeded cooly to embalm the same, inclose it in a leaden casket, together with a parchment setting forth the facts, and thereafter to bury it at a certain designated crossroads, that it might remain forever undisturbed until the cipher narrative of the truth should be uncovered. (Source)
Number IV: This Guy? Please.
Noted nutjob Roland Emmerich had his day in the conspiratorial sun with Anonymous. The 2011 film claims that Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford, penned Shakespeare’s plays. Most of his “evidence” has been repeatedly refuted..no letters, no school records, no mention of his works in the will, etc. He also mentions that in an early illustration (1656) of Shakespeare’s monument in Stratford, Shakespeare appeared to be holding a bag of grain rather than a quill and parchment. Emmerich implies that the monument was changed to suggest that Shakespeare was a writer. He doesn’t consider the possibility that the illustration was just inaccurate. (Source)