Who Wrote Shakespeare: Defining Authorship Essay

Who Wrote Shakespeare: Defining Authorship Essay

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The works of Shakespeare are some of the most respected in English literature. They have set the standard for all the great writers who followed. Although these works have been attributed to William Shakespeare of Stratford, they could have been written by anyone. The definite authorship of a work is always uncertain, but these works are particularly contested. There are those who believe someone besides Shakespeare of Stratford wrote the works, while others believe his identity, as a whole, is a conspiracy. Clearly the author of a work is important, but some wonder if knowing the author’s identity is really worth all the fuss. The works of Shakespeare will still reign at the top of English literature no matter who wrote them. Therefore, the question of authorship may not even be relevant.
Before delving any further into the question of authorship, it may be helpful to define what an author is. According to Focault, the actual identity of an author is irrelevant. He believes that the author is a concept, not an individual. This is because when works are accredited to an author, some may be left out if the writing style, wording, subject matter, or historical time frame is drastically different from the others. This makes the author specific to a certain style, and outside of that style, the author must be someone else. He uses the example that if it were discovered that someone other than the man from Stratford wrote Shakespeare’s works, it would not change the function. Either way, the works will still be called the works of Shakespeare. So essentially, Shakespeare is no longer an individual’s identity; it is an ideal for a certain form of writing.
This loss of identity can be seen in the raging debate over the Shakespeare auth...


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...bjectivity in Barthes, Focault, and Derrida. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1992. Print.
Focault, Michael. Language, Counter-Memory, Practice. Selected Essays and Interviews. New York: Cornell University Press, 1980. Print.
Heller, S. In a centuries-old debate, Shakespeare doubters point to new

evidence. The Chronicle of Higher Education v. 45 no. 39 (June 4 1999) pg. A22-3

Howard, J. A. Shakespeare Scholar Takes on a ‘Taboo’ Subject. The Chronicle

of Higher Education v. 56 no. 29 (April 2 2010) p. B11-12

Lye, John. The ‘Death of the Author’ as an instance of theory. Brocku.ca. Department of English Language and Literature, April 30, 2008. Web. Feb 14. 2011.
McDonald, Russ. The Bedford companion to Shakespeare. Bedford: St. Martins, 2001. Print.
Shapiro, James. Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010. Print.

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