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The Antonio in The Merchant of Venice and the Antonio in Twelfth Night are the same character.
Both are rather melancholy and quite possibly gay. After Twelfth Night, he uses his new-found connections in the Illyrian court to retire from the military and set up a lucrative shipping business.
  • He eventually ended up in Verona, married, and had two sons: Petruchio and Proteus.
    • ...And a daughter, who marries into the Montague family and gives birth to a rash young man named Romeo.

Shakespeare didn't write his own plays.
Shakespeare was an uneducated peasant who couldn't even write his name before moving to London and becoming the most famous playwright in existence. The facts don't quite add up. So, in light of that, who did write them?
  • Not to discount all these theories, but Shakespeare wasn't "uneducated" in the sense you're implying. He never went to University, but his attendance of a Stradford grammar school is well documented, and most agree that he read extensively from Ovid during his grammar school days. So he certainly wasn't illiterate, he's just considered "uneducated" because most of his contemporaries were University graduates (with the exception of the equally lauded Ben Jonson.) Shakespeare also wasn't a peasant - his father was high bailiff of the reasonably large town of Stratford, a very respectable and certainly middle class position.
    • Seriously. Calling Shakespeare an "uneducated peasant" is a huge huge misunderstanding of both his upbringing and the historical era he came from.
    • It is not "well-documented" that William Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon attended grammar schoolnote . In fact, there are no records of William Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon getting any education at all. The idea that Shakespeare got an education at all is circular reasoning: the author of Shakespeare's plays was clearly well-educated, so because it is assumed William Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon wrote the plays, he must have received an extensive education, including, presumably, at the free Stratford grammar school.
      • This assumption that William Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon wrote the plays also makes the Stratford grammar school have a much more extensive library than most grammar schools would have had at the time: because Shakespeare the Playwright has to have read from these books in order to have written the plays, therefore the country grammar school had the budget to purchase the huge selection of books read by Shakespeare the Playwright, at a time when books cost as much as new cars do today.
      • Firstly, there is evidence that Shakespeare of Stratford had an education in the writings of people who knew him. In any case, he was the son of a High Bailiff of Stratford, and so was exactly the sort of boy who would have gone there. If you want to argue that he didn't, you need positive evidence for it. That there are no surviving enrolment records tells us nothing about anything. Secondly, there was a leading bookseller and publisher in London in Shakespeare's time called Richard Field. He was also from Stratford (so much for it being a yokel backwater) and was only two and a half years older than Shakespeare. We have records of the books he sold (for way less than cars do today), which include everything Shakespeare would have needed. Shakespeare knew him, which would have given him very easy access.
  • There has been a tremendous amount of speculation that William Shakespeare was merely an actor and was used as a front for somebody else who wrote his famous plays. The finger is generally pointed at such notables as Sir Francis Bacon, Queen Elizabeth, Christopher Marlowe, and Edward de Vere, meaning any or all of them could have written the plays ("all of them" being the "Round Table" Hypothesis). Mark Twain was one of the earliest prominent believers in these theories.
    • Ben Jonson knew a William Shakespeare who was an actor, and according to Ben Jonson, William Shakespeare the actor never wrote anything. Mind you, it could simply be that the Stratfordians are wrong and William Shakespeare was never an actor, since saying William Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon was an actor is also Wild Mass Guessing, the explanation of how their Author ended up in London: the undocumented tale of how William Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon joined a troupe of actors headed for London (most probably Leicester's Men or the Queen's Men), at some point between 1585 and 1592.
  • Christopher Marlowe, beset by accusations of treason and witchcraft, faked his death in a bar-brawl, got his secret agent friends to orchestrate a massive cover-up, and spent the rest of his life writing literary masterpieces (with coded messages and references sprinkled throughout).
    • Marlowe was good, but all his plays had the same essential story: "guy rises to ultimate power, guy falls back to Earth." Shakespeare was more "everybody hooks up/ dies at the end."
      • Plus Marlowe wrote plays which had the same basic plots and themes of some of Shakespeare's plays, unnecessary duplication if he was also Shakespeare, and also dramatically different ideas about people in the world. Take Marlowe's "The Jew of Malta", his version of Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice". Marlowe's Jew, Barabas (a clear reference to the Bible's "Barrabas" who was released in place of Jesus) is a mustache-twirling one-dimensional melodrama villain who delights in violating his own religion, and at one point poisons an entire convent of nuns which includes his own daughter. Shakespeare's Shylock gets one of the more famous sympathy-gathering monologues of all time—"If you prick us, do we not bleed?"—as well as being a devout Jew right up to the point where he is forced to convert or be executed.
  • The thirty or so documents aside from the plays which affirm his existence at all spell his name several different ways. Could it be that people of the day had terrible handwriting? Did the playwright play fast and loose with the spelling of his name? Did the actor who was used as a front not remember how to spell his name? If so, why didn't the conspirators using him as a front teach a specific one to him? Could a different Shakespeare have written the plays than the one we learn other facts about? Could it be that he was only semi-literate and taught other actors their lines from memory? Go forth and speculate.
    • Do not be distracted by the fact that spelling in Elizabethan England was, indeed, rather loose. English was an unregulated peasant tongue for so long that, by the end of the Middle Ages, there were wild variances in dialect. There's a famous story related by William Caxton, the English printer, about a group of sailors coming down the Thames from London, landing in Kent for supplies, which isn't very far away, and barely being able to be understood — the farmwife the sailors talk to thinks they're speaking French. The ability of printing to spread a particular form of English narrowed this linguistic diversity, but spelling still varied wildly. This, of course, was a tale told to conceal that William Caxton was, in fact ... Shakespeare!
    • Marlowe himself spelt his name a whole bunch of ways; Marlin, Marley, etc. All the cool kids were doing it back then.
    • Remember, back in the day, THERE WAS NO DICTIONARY. There was NO standard spelling. The most educated person in the world would spell their name a dozen different ways, as well as common words. Early modern English was barely out of the womb.
  • This was all settled in the sixth Star Trek historical documentary, when the Klingon chancellor tells the Enterprise crew, "You have never experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon."
  • As everyone should be aware, occultist Edward Kelley wrote Shakespeare's plays. Shakespeare was too busy writing Francis Bacon's works. Bacon couldn't write them himself because he was already writing Rosicrucian pamphlets for some Italian guy, who couldn't write his own Rosicrucian pamphlets because he was busy writing Don Quixote.
    • Which leaves the question that: If Bacon did write Shakespeare, would Shakespeare ever write him back?
  • It wasn't William Shakespeare who wrote Shakespeare's plays, but rather a completely different person with the same name.
    • A "mimick ape" or "poet ape" was a career back then, a person who agreed to front for an author who didn't want it known that he was a writer. Often used to protect a noble's desire to not be seen as doing any real work, or to attempt to avoid being prosecuted for embarrassing or seditious prose (Richard II, anyone?).
  • Shakespeare was a Time Lord. Duh.
  • No-one questioned the authorship until about 150 years later when some crazy woman claimed her ancestor wrote them. Shakespeare was not a peasant; his father was the wealthiest man in Stratford and was mayor for a time.
    • Delia Bacon had no relation to Sir Francis Bacon at all, but she did kick off the Baconian Movement, which gave us things like cipher wheels (god help me, I wish I were making this up.) And she did have frequent bouts of insanity, especially later in life, eventually dying in an asylum. Whether or not she was insane when she spent days in Stratford staring at Shakespeare's tomb and asking for permission to open the tomb is up to speculation.
    • Its also not true that the authorship wasn't questioned well before that 150 year mark. There were Shakespearean contemporaries who questioned the authorship of Shakespeare's plays. Ben Jonson himself appears to have known both an author named William Shakespeare (whom Jonson liked), and an actor named William Shakespeare (whom Jonson hated). According to Stratfordians, William Shakespeare of Stratford on Avon was definitely an actor; according to Ben Jonson, during "The Time Of Shakespeare", William Shakespeare the actor never wrote anything.
    • As for Shakespeare being wealthy and the son of the wealthiest man in Stratford, being successful at business in Shakespeare's day did not require an education in anything other than basic business math. Yes, he was a successful merchant at something ("grain merchant" is often mentioned but this, like most Shakespeare "history", is also Wild Mass Guessing) which allowed him to buy a lot of land in Stratford, and not a peasant, but this is not evidence that he ever received an education.
      • One of the things we are certain about William Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon is that he seems to have been very good at business math, due to existing records showing him earning a kingly 60 pounds a year off estates purchased in Stratford, after he had already purchased the biggest house in Stratford. One of the things we are certain about William Shakespeare the Playwright is that he was very bad at business math, one of the very few areas in which William Shakespeare the Playwright was not a genius.
      • Theater business math is extremely different than merchant/farming business math. As Henslowe noted, "There's never any profits!"
  • Mr. Norman Voles of Gravesend wrote the plays and his wife helped with the sonnets.
  • Back then there wasn't any copyright law, and plays were technically illegal, and so authorship questions weren't pressing. Some plays got attributed to Shakespeare simply because they were signed "W.S." and were too brilliant to be written by anyone else. The scene was mostly quite friendly; quite often, one playwright would help another without feeling the need to be credited. (People are pretty sure Shakespeare wrote parts of "Sir Thomas More," for example.) That said, it seems unlikely that Ben Jonson (Shakespeare's friendly rival and closest friend) or Robert Greene (Shakespeare's most bitter enemy) would have both been so deceived. Plus, Shakespeare wasn't that well regarded until late in his career (he literally threw his plays in the garbage after the performance). And the world wasn't very populated, understood, or connected back then; the need for a conspiracy theory surrounding the guy who wrote Romeo and Juliet wouldn't have been evident in Elizabethan London.
    • Performing play was not illegal until years after Shakespeare's death, when the Puritans took over England, under Oliver Cromwell. In fact, Shakespeare's troop was called the King's Men, because of royal patronage of King James.
      • Well, half true — performing plays without a license (granted, in Elizabeth's England, by the Master of the Revels) was illegal and anyone associated could be jailed if they were caught.
  • Actually to address some of the points raised here...
  • First of all, Shakespeare's works don't indicate a very educated gentleman, he does get a lot of stuff horribly wrong ("seacoast of Bohemia" anybody?) and some of the stuff he does get right might well have been a case of Accidentally-Correct Writing. He also throws in a lot of lowbrow humor, which is in full consistency with the lowbrow entertainment theater was at that time considered to be. On the other hand, his vocabulary is extraordinarily large and he does show passing knowledge of at least some of the classics, so it is likely that whoever wrote Shakespeare had at least some education. However, some scholars (I forgot who) have mentioned a book that was basically "the classics for dummies" that was rather popular in Shakespeare's time and noted that Shakespeare never or hardly ever shows knowledge that could not be gotten from this book.
  • Than there is the question of "why"? Why would someone assume the identity of a merchant's son from Stratford upon Avon to write theater?
  • Also, and yes this introduces yet more Wild Mass Guessing, there are the "lost years" for which we have exactly zilch evidence as to where Shakespeare was and what he was doing. He may well have traveled Europe, sailed the sea or sat at home and diddled his fingers during that time. And of course any things that appear in his works that cannot be explained by what we know about Shakespeare (which is preciously little) may be explained by what we don't know about him
  • And finally, the argument of him not being well attested in contemporary sources... Well none of his contemporaries of similar birth and means is. Shakespeare was not considered the greatest playwright of even his time by contemporaries...
Shakespeare wrote all of his own plays.
Wouldn't that be a twist?
  • Thank you! I WANT TO BELIEVE
  • Actually, it would -- depending on how one defines "all" and "his own." There are several plays (and poems) almost universally considered to be Shakespeare apocrypha, some that are disputed, and some (including "Henry VI Part One", "Pericles," and "Henry VIII") believed to have been co-written by Shakespeare.
  • One of the few types of records that exist about William Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon indicate that he was very good at business math, having made so much money off of something other than playsnote  that he was able to revive his family business, buy the largest house in Stratford, and buy enough property in Stratford to earn himself a kingly 60 pounds a year in landlord income.
    • An argument against William Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon being William Shakespeare the Playwright is that Shakespeare the Playwright is spectacularly bad at math, especially business math.
    • A counter-argument in favor of him being the Playwright anyway is that since William Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon never wrote a letter home from London, yet somehow managed to become a successful businessman in Stratford, is that his wife Anne Hathaway may have been the real business genius in the family, doing business in his name back in Stratford. This would allow him to be awful at business math and still be the Playwright, while appearing in official documents to be a successful businessman.
      • This is also justified in that William Shakespeare of London was constantly running afoul of the London tax collectors, who were unable to locate him in London despite several attempts. A man who didn't understand how to handle money would constantly run afoul of tax collectors.

The pirates in Pericles are the same ones mentioned in Hamlet.
They're obvious plot devices in both plays, and in both plays random characters know them. Clearly they travel around a lot, as their express purpose is to transport characters to the next location in the plot.
  • Which means Antonio from Twelfth Night must have worked with them in the past.

Hamlet, Iago, and Mercutio are the same character in different situations.
Hamlet is what Mercutio would be if he were the main character of a revenge tragedy, and Iago is what Hamlet would be if he were evil. All three have similar levels of intelligence (and of homoerotic subtext, if you want to go there). Hamlet and Mercutio share the same compulsion towards wordplay, and Iago and Hamlet have similar tendencies to soliloquize. Mercutio and Iago are both able to manipulate other characters, although Mercutio uses that ability a lot less frequently. And all three have sidekick characters (Horatio, Benvolio, and Roderigo).
  • By this logic it could also be argued that Horatio and Benvolio are the same character (both narrator figures), as well as Laertes and Tybalt (both foil characters with hot tempers, reputed excellent swordsmen, who die in duels at the hand of the main character).
  • Rosencrantz is Romeo. The presence of Guildenstern is a parody of the fact that he constantly needs to be in a "couple". The feelings of treachery experienced by Hamlet with regards to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are similar to those experienced by Mercutio with regard to Romeo.
  • Ophelia is Juliet. She's Laertes' sister, just as Juliet is Tybalt's cousin. Like Juliet, she experiences Heroic BSoD when one of her relatives dies (although Juliet's upset at Tybalt dying disguises her sorrow at Romeo leaving—and Ophelia's "madness" at Polonius dying might disguise the secret that she's pregnant with Hamlet's child). Also, Mercutio may be in love with Juliet, as he was in the poem from which Shakespeare took inspiration (see "Mercutio is in love with Juliet" WMG somewhere below).

Sonnet 18 was written for an immortal.
Who else would have eternal beauty and could be promised "Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade"? A vampire? Well, "too hot the eye of Heaven shines" and saying that the subject is far more attractive than daytime may be praising a vampire lover and asking to be made a vampire oneself. A demigod? The "eye of Heaven" could be a pun on the word's sun and son. (Shakespeare may also be punning the words fair and fare. Could he be hinting eternal life comes at a price?)
  • Immortality does not require the actual unending life of the physical body. Children represent a form of immortality, and the writer of the Sonnets is frequently goading the object of his Sonnets into reproducing.

Sonnet 18 was written for a work of art.
Shakespeare may have seen a sculpture, perhaps of Apollo, and wrote a poem about how beautiful the statue was and how it would be a permanent monument to beauty. Or, perhaps he saw a painting of a landscape of a summer's day. "Thy eternal summer shall not fade".

Sonnet 18 was written for a Time Lord.
This is just building on the "Sonnet 18 was written for a man." and the "Sonnet 18 was written for an immortal." WMGs above.
  • Well, in "The Shakespeare Code" he does flirt with the Doctor.

Othello is Aaron in hell
Now he gets to find out what it feels like to have your life ruined For the Evulz.

Launcelot from The Merchant of Venice and Launce from Two Gentlemen of Verona are related in some way.
"Nay, 'twill be this hour ere I have done weeping. All the kind of the Launces have this very fault"? Launcelot Gobbo is also very weepy and emotional, and some have suspected that all his references to himself as "young master Launcelot" indicate that his father is a Launcelot too, making "Launcelot" or its variant "Launce" a family name. Both characters also frequently make puns and reference Jews disparagingly. Ergo...

Launce is the son of Launcelot Gobbo.
Launce's family has a maid, which makes me think he's slightly better off than Launcelot was at the beginning of Merchant. Possibly, grown-up Launcelot is retired, and he and and his family are now living comfortably off the money he made working for Bassanio and Portia. Launce's personality comes from spending so much time with his father.

Or, vice-versa...

Launce is Launcelot's father.
Two Gentlemen was written first, so Old Gobbo from Merchant could be Launce, now old and blind.
  • Further supported by the fact that Launce's grandmother, according to him, "had no eyes" (i.e., was blind). If blindness ran in the family it could have been passed down from her to him. Additionally, Launcelot's name in the folios was "Launcelet;" in Elizabethan England "-let" was a common diminutive suffix, and the name would literally mean "little Launce", kind of like calling him "Launce Jr.".

Orsino wrote Sonnet 20 about "Cesario."
The language in it is similar to that of Twelfth Night (the part about Nature's hand painting beauty, for instance) and it seems to reflect Orsino's opinion that women are gentle, but false. Actually, Orsino could write this about halfway through the play; it would reflect his feelings perfectly.

Because I was reading A Midsummer Night's Dream and thought, "Where else have I read a Shakespeare play in which a mysterious man plays God by using herbs to help a couple of young lovers and 'make everything right'?"

Oberon is, as we have seen, a traveler who is also fond of mortals—specifically, young mortals. (Like Romeo.) The "friar" identity is the perfect disguise—who'd ever suspect a friar of being the King of the Fairies? And what better opportunity to do what Oberon does best—restore peace and initiate Weddings for Everyone by somewhat morally questionable means? Are there any herbs in real life that make people appear dead? Sure there aren't—they're magical herbs in the vein of love-in-idleness.

Optionally, Puck is Friar John. His messing-up hardly seems funny anymore...

The offstage "moor" who's pregnant with Launcelot's child in Merchant is meant to represent the Dark Lady.
Sonnet 144 has the same Good Angel, Bad Angel vibe as Launcelot's "fiend/conscience" speech in Merchant. In Elizabethan times it was not uncommon for devils to be represented as being black. The moor is the personification of Launcelot's imaginary "fiend". (At least, that's the way he probably sees her.)

Launcelot Gobbo is a reincarnation of Hamlet.
Let's see. Strong themes of the connection (and disconnection) between father and son? Check. An enthusiasm for dramatic performance (and a love of jesting)? Check. Conscience issues? Check. Got a girl pregnant and left her? True in Launcelot's case, and probably true in Hamlet's.

The powers that be, or what Launcelot might call, "fates, and destinies, and such odd sayings, the Sisters Three and such branches of learning", took pity on Hamlet when he died, realizing that he was a relatively good guy who probably wouldn't have killed all those people if he and his family hadn't been Royally Screwed Up. So they gave him a second chance, this time as the son of a poor man. It goes without saying that he has no memory of his past life—what he doesn't know won't hurt him.

Sure, Launcelot is uneducated, a bit bumbling, and has the general attitude of one of Shakespeare's "lower" characters, but that's because he is a peasant. Furthermore, despite his mess-ups with the English language, he displays a lot more instinctive knowledge of the upper classes than you'd expect (one commentator called him a "rustic bel esprit"), and he can pull off acting like a gentleman. When he does the monologue about his conscience and the fiend, it almost seems as if he's attempting to do a Hamlet-style soliloquy, but can't find the right words. Of course, you don't want to get on Hamlet's bad side, and the same holds for his reincarnated form—Launcelot hates Shylock with a Hamlet-like intensity. He often takes on one of Hamlet's "whimsical" moods, speaking complete nonsense.

The clincher is that Hamlet loved theatrics and wit. One of his most famous speeches is the one where he speaks with tenderness and admiration of "poor Yorick", and it seems likely that if Hamlet had had his way (and been less depressed), he would have become, not the crown prince of Denmark, but one of Shakespeare's more common character types, the fool-cum-philosopher. Which is exactly the job that Launcelot gains himself in "Merchant".

And what's another memorable line of Hamlet's? "O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!" Sounds like a perfect description of Launcelot to me. ("Slave" at the time often meant simply "servant"...and the name "Launcelot" means "servant".)

Shakespeare wrote the plays, but the actor Shakespeare was actually someone else.
I'm surprised I've never heard this theory before.
  • Ben Jonson knew two separate people named William Shakespeare, one an author, whom Jonson liked, and the other an actor, whom Jonson hated. Jonson likens the actor Shakespeare to the Roman orator Haterius, a highly ineloquent and unenlightened person who had the unfortunate reputation of being so impetuous and carried away with his words that he would muddle them, burst into tears, speak ex tempore and so profusely that he usually had to be stopped. Jonson also insists that Shakespeare the actor never wrote anything, indicating that Jonson is referring to two different people. Of course, since the Official History indicates that William Shakespeare the Playwright was also an actor, Ben Jonson's differentiation between the author and the actor presents a problem.
    • Except Jonson didn't differentiate between the author and the actor, he wrote two things about the guy at two different times, one a eulogy, and the other a snarky comment. Jonson wasn't above making a sarcastic little joke at the expense of a friend.
The "Dark Lady" is actually (based on) a real woman of recent African descent
  • I mean, think about it. Back in those days, England while not yet at the center of a vast multicontinental empire did engage in trade with most of the then known world. We have no reason to doubt that the Romans already brought black people to England (be it slave or free) and we certainly know that at no point where black people unknown in medieval or early modern Europe. And if you read Sonnet 130, you can indeed get an idea that the woman may in fact be black. "If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head" - that does not sound like "white people" hair to me. So why has this not been mentioned in most analysis? Well Politically Correct History of course.

Peter and Escalus from Measure for Measure are the same Peter and Escalus from Romeo and Juliet.
  • Measure for Measure takes place many decades later. Prince Escalus, now in his declining years, ceded the throne to Verona to his successor and became the adviser for a duke and his deputy. The bitterly grieving Nurse made life even harder for Peter, who decided to run away and become a friar just to get away from her. A couple on honeymoon in Verona saw the Romeo and Juliet monument, heard their story and were so touched by it they named their daughter Juliet. They either forgot to impart on her that Juliet saved herself for marriage, or she interpreted the moral of the story as "Get it while you can, cuz you might be dead soon."

Valentine from The Two Gentlemen of Verona is the brother of Mercutio from Romeo and Juliet.
  • Both plays begin in Verona, and the invitation to the Capulets' party mentions "Mercutio and his brother Valentine". The theory that they are the same character would entail Valentine being a kinsman of Prince Escalus, and Silvia becoming Mercutio's sister-in-law. This theory became part of the Caro-verse fanfiction series by Pargoletta.

Shakespeare was the worst historian ever
His flowery writing style, relentless revisionism, and inability to resist peppering his work with sexual humor earned him the scorn of all available publishers. In disgrace, he eventually had to modify his manuscripts and sell them as lower-class entertainment just to feed himself.