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The 20 Coolest Unsolved Mysteries in History

The Shakespeare Authorship Question

Let's be clear up top: it's far more likely that the guy on record as William Shakespeare actually was the same guy we know today as the World's Greatest Word-Ninja. Even so, Shakespeare's real identity has been called into question numerous times over the centuries. The Anti-Stradfordians, for example, believe he was a front for another writer who wanted to remain anonymous. They question how an under-educated country bumpkin like Shakespeare could come to acquire such an immense political insight, literary talent, and above all, encyclopedic knowledge of international court life. Edward de Vere, the 17 Earl of Oxford, is the most popular candidate floated as the Secret Bard, because he would have had the necessary connections and educational background you'd expect from an artist of Shakespeare's caliber.

But the Stradfordians are right to call their challengers cynical beyond measure (for measure!). After all, they are basically saying poor people can't write great literature, which is like saying restless people can't write great rock songs. Much though the intrigue raised by the authorship question is juicy, it's far more interesting that Shakespeare apparently enjoyed so few cultural privileges and still managed to figure out the blueprints to humanity by the time he was 30. And from that looks of that portrait, he could also rock an earring like a boss.

Tags: history, slideshows, puzzles, mysteries, unsolved mysteries

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Becky Ferreira

Becky Ferreira is a writer, performer, and raptor based in New York.

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