This summer I saw the theatrical release poster of "Anonymous", a movie that presents Edward de Vere as the true author of William Shakespeare's plays. I do not believe that de Vere is the "real" Shakespeare, but that poster of the film made me think again about this old mystery: who wrote Shakespeare's plays and poems?
As is widely known, since the 19th century, some scholars have argued that it is not easy to admit that a person like Shakespeare (low origin, few studies, small Latin and less Greek) had enough skills and culture to create one of the most magnificent (or, perhaps, the most splendid) individual contribution to Western literature ever. Doctors must discuss this issue. I have only read a part of William Shakespeare's works (maybe ten or twelve plays, no more) and I know nothing of literary criticism, so many of the arguments in the debate are far beyond my own knowledge.
However, it is true that I wonder how a person without a good education, as Shakespeare was, had assimilated the knowledge of the history of England, of Greek and Latin classics and of political science that is shown in Shakespeare's plays. If I were compelled to bet on this issue, my bet would be that later or earlier the true author of Hamlet and all the other wonderful works attributed to he actor from Stratford-upon-Avon will be discovered.
But, how to deal with this search, closer to Sherlock Holmes than to brainy professors of literature? The first clue is that Shakespeare stopped writing abruptly, or almost abruptly. A quick consultation to Wikipedia confirms that the last work that Shakespeare wrote alone was "The Tempest", which dates from 1611 (five years before Shakespeare's death). If this were a thriller, the conclusion would be that the real author behind Shakespeare, his ghostwriter, would have died in 1611 or 1610. The second clue is that the ghost author was, probably, a known person. If the "real" Shakespeare were a person without a public presence, why should he or she hide his or her name behind an actor's name?
Taking into account these two clues, the next step in our search is to see who died in England in 1610 and 1611. If we consult wikipedia again it is easy to obtain a "short list" of possible "Shakespeares". And in this list there is a name that could be interesting: Richard Bancroft.
Richard Bancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury died in 1610. He had a good education, including a stay in Cambridge. Born in 1544, he obtained a Doctorate in 1585. The same year, he was appointed treasurer of St. Paul's cathedral in London. In 1589, when Shakespeare's plays began to be represented Bancroft was in London, in a prestigious position that made impossible for him to work openly as a playwright. If Richard Bancroft had artistic inclinations, he had to find somebody who could lend him a name to be put on the first page of each of his works. It was absolutely impossible to be at the same time treasurer of St. Paul's cathedral (and Bishop of London since 1597 and Archbishop of Canterbury since 1604) and writer of plays and poems.
Of course, what I have just written proves nothing, but there are some significant coincidences between Bancroft and Shakespeare. First, we have already seen that Bancroft's death and the end of Shakespeare as playwright were almost simultaneous. Second, in 1600 Richard Bancroft was sent to Emdem (North Germany) as a member of an embassy aimed to solve certain problems between England... and the Kingdom of Denmark! Hamlet, prince of Denmark -Shakespeare's play- was written between 1599 and 1600. Is that just a coincidence?
Finally, it has been questioned whether Shakespeare was involved in the King James Bible. The King James Bible is the English translation of the Bible by the Church of England. This translation was ordered by King James I in 1604 and was completed in 1611. Although William Shakespeare was not a member of the team of translators, it has been argued that the style of the Bible is close in some points to Shakespeare's works. It seems that there is no direct evidence of Shakespeare implication in the translation of the Bible, but oddly, the "chief overseer" of the translation was... Richard Bancroft! Is that -again- just a coincidence?
Maybe nobody has argued, till now, that Bancroft is Shakespeare's ghostwriter, but al least, somebody has thought that Shakespeare was Bancroft's ghostwriter. I would like to think that that great author (Bancroft), unable to make public his work under his own name, gave free rein to his hidden talent in the translation of the Bible. Maybe he was not worried by the fact that somebody could discover his secret. Maybe at that point he hoped that somebody would understand that the same hand that had translated into English the Psalms and the Book of Judith had written Macbeth and Julius Caesar. Maybe he wished that in the future will shine the name of the true author of that wonderful plays and poems, the true name of the greatest talent of the literature in English. Maybe...