The three reflections on this page provide some general background information.

The Shakespeare Paradox

The vast majority of academics in the field of English literature have no doubts that the author of the famous Shakespearean plays was William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon. It is easy to understand why this is so. The First Folio (the publication of thirty-six plays which constitute the essence of Shakespeare) unambiguously attributes authorship of the plays to Shakespeare.

The First Folio undertakes this attribution in several ways. First of all, Shakespeare is referred to as "the sweet swan of Avon" and Shakespeare is from Stratford-upon-Avon. And then the First Folio refers to "thy Stratford monument" and there was indeed a monument to Shakespeare in Stratford. The anti-Stratfordians (people who oppose Shakespeare as author) point out that the monument originally depicted him holding a bag of grain rather than quill and paper, but what difference does it make? A monument is a monument, and perhaps in his home town Shakespeare was more famous as a grain dealer than as a playwright.

Finally, in the First Folio, in a list of actors who performed the plays, William Shakespeare is the first named, and it is pretty obvious that the actor and the playwright of the same name have to be one and the same. Meanwhile, in his Last Will and Testament, Shakespeare of Stratford bequeathed rings to a couple of actors named below him in that list, thereby reinforcing the connection.

Meanwhile, no one in the 16th or 17th centuries ever unambiguously expressed doubt that Shakespeare of Stratford was the author, no one ever said unambiguously that "William Shakespeare" was only a pen name, and no one ever named, unambiguously, someone else as the author. For contemporary academics, it is an open and shut case: Shakespeare of Stratford was the author.

Problems for Shakespeare arose centuries later when he had become so famous that people wanted to know more about him. And then those looking to write his biography found no evidence that the great Shakespeare had ever attended school so much as a single day in his life; they also found that he spent a lot of time in Stratford where he was heavily engaged in real estate speculations, tenant farm management, wool dealing, grain dealing and money lending. It became a mystery how he also found the time to be a full-time actor, theater entrepreneur and playwright in London, or where he found the hundreds of books (there was no public library in either Stratford or London) that he cites in his plays or uses as source material for the plots, including books written in foreign languages and never translated into English.

On top of all that, Shakespeare of Stratford appeared to be lacking the life experiences evidenced by the plays he supposedly wrote, such as foreign travels and abundant contact with royal courts and the royal lifestyle. Mark Twain told us: "I only believed Bacon wrote Shakespeare, whereas I knew Shakespeare didn't." In other words, he suspected that Sir Francis Bacon wrote the plays (but he wasn't sure that it was him) but he is certain that Shakespeare of Stratford could not have written them.

The question of who wrote the plays can therefore be fairly described as the Shakespeare paradox. Both sides of the debate appear to have winning arguments.

An intriguing question arises: Why would anyone want to forfeit all fame and fortune for himself and his descendants by attributing authorship to a nobody who wrote nothing? Consequently, the anti-Stratfordians have assumed that the real author was someone with a problem, that is, someone who needed to write under a pen name in order to protect his life or his reputation. This approach, however, has proven disastrous for the anti-Stratfordians as the candidates with a problem turned out to be unrealistic for other reasons, such as having died before many of the plays were written.

But there might be another possibility. In 1614 (two years prior to the death of Shakespeare and nine years prior to the First Folio), the Rosicrucian manifesto was published and it required its adherents to perform their services "without charge", "gratis", "without constraint and reward", and with "no other dignity or credit." So that could be the answer. If the real Shakespeare were a Rosicrucian, there would be motive for anonymity, and there would also be the backing of a secret society to make it happen.

Sir Francis Bacon (Mark Twain's preferred candidate) is known to have been a Rosicrucian, but scholars today reject him because his other writings do not exhibit the Shakespearean flare. But Bacon is unlikely to have been the only Rosicrucian in England at that time, and among the others we may find the real Shakespeare.

On what Shakespeare could have done and did not do

There didn't have to be a Shakespeare authorship question. There are many things that Shakespeare could have done to crush such questioning in its infancy. For example, following the custom of the day, he could have dedicated the quarto publications of his plays to people he knew and who knew him, not just aristocrats but even a dedication to his wife would suffice. True, two early poems were dedicated to the Earl of Southampton but historians of the Earl have found no evidence that the Earl ever had any contact with Shakespeare. There were no other dedications so we have no one else to look to for evidence that Shakespeare was a writer.

Shakespeare could have mentioned his home town of Stratford-upon-Avon even just once in the more than eight hundred thousand words that he wrote, but no, he chose not to do so. A single mention of Stratford would have surely allayed many doubts about him but we are not so lucky.

He could have carried on correspondence with someone, anyone, as many educated people in those days did, but no, again we have nothing to show. True, the correspondence he received could have been lost, but what about the recipients of his letters? Surely, one of them, if there were one, would have wanted to retain the letters of the great William. Without anything written in his own hand, we cannot even be confident that he was literate especially considering that his parents, and possibly his children as well, were illiterate.

Possibly the best thing that Shakespeare could have done would have been to achieve an audience with Queen Elizabeth, or, after her, with King James. Both monarchs are reported to have seen Shakespeare's plays at court, so surely an audience should have been attainable. But no, the court historians make no mention of any contact between Shakespeare and royalty.

Conclusion: there are reasonable doubts that William Shakespeare of Stratford wrote the famous plays attributed to him. Thus, people are justified in suspecting conspiracy.

On Nostradamus authorship

Shakespeare was not the only writer of the 16th century on whom authorship doubts have been cast. We here cite Wikipedia regarding the French prophet Michel Nostradamus: "A range of quite different views are expressed in printed literature and on the Internet. At one end of the spectrum, there are extreme academic views such as those of Jacques Halbronn, suggesting at great length and with great complexity that Nostradamus's Prophecies are antedated forgeries written by later hands with a political axe to grind."

Specifically, Halbronn believes that the prophecies were written in 1588/89 because of the line "Garde toy Tours de ta proche ruine" found in prophecy IV-46. At that time, King Henry III of France joined forces with Henry of Navarre (the future King Henry IV) near Tours.

The first prophecy in the second part of Nostradamus' book also looks retroactive:

Nostradamus Quatrain VIII-1 per the Benoist Rigaud Edition

Here, in prophecy VIII-1, we find "Pau" (the place of birth of Henry of Navarre) and "Pamplon" (Pamplona, capital of Navarre), and in prophecy VIII-44 we encounter "Pau" and "Navarre," reflecting, in both cases, awareness of the rise of Henry of Bourbon, then King of Navarre, to the throne of France, which occurred in 1589.

Similar to how the first prophecy of the second part of Nostradamus reflects knowledge of recent events (1589), the last prophecy of the second part also reflects knowledge of recent events:

Nostradamus Quatrain X-100 per the Benoist Rigaud Edition

Prophecy X-100 predicts a great empire for England based on its domination of the seas (the "pempotam"), something that could not be imagined until after the miraculous defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. The point is that the Spanish Armada did not depart from Spain. It departed from Lisbon, capital of Lusitania (the "Lusitains"). Moreover, prophecy X-48 puts the Spanish at the ends of Europe, i.e. sailing around the British Isles, and this too alludes to the Spanish Armada.

Between the Rigaud edition dated 1568 (which corrects blatant errors of the Rousseau edition dated 1590) and the edition of 1590, there is no historical record of the publication of the three hundred prophecies numbered VIII-1 through to X-100 anywhere in the world, and this in itself is sufficient to cast serious doubt on the authenticity of the edition of 1568. A partial edition (prophecies numbered I-1 through VI-71) was rushed to print in 1588 (maybe 1589).