William Stanley as Shakespeare

Evidence of Authorship by the Sixth Earl of Derby

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About the Book

Presenting striking new evidence, this book shows that “William Shakespeare” was the pen name of William Stanley, son of the Earl of Derby. Born in 1561, he was educated at Oxford, travelled for three years abroad, and studied law in London, mixing with poets and playwrights. In 1592 Spenser recorded that Stanley had written several plays. In 1594 he unexpectedly inherited the earldom—hence the pen name. He became a Knight of the Garter in 1601, eligible to help bear the canopy over King James at his coronation, likely prompting Sonnet 125’s “Wer’t ought to me I bore the canopy?”—he is the only authorship candidate ever in a position to “bear the canopy” (which was only ever borne over royalty).
Love’s Labour’s Lost parodies an obscure poem by Stanley’s tutor, which few others would have read. Hamlet’s situation closely mirrors Stanley’s in 1602. His name is concealed in the list of actors’ names in the First Folio. His writing habits match Shakespeare’s as deduced from the early printed plays. He was a patron of players who performed several times at court, and financed the troupe known as Paul’s Boys. No other member of the upper class was so thoroughly immersed in the theatrical world.

About the Author(s)

Retired research scientist John M. Rollett’s interest in the Shakespeare Authorship Question dates from the 1960s, and he has published several papers on Shakespeare in Notes & Queries, a leading academic journal dealing with literature.

Bibliographic Details

John M. Rollett
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 212
Bibliographic Info: 33 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2015
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9660-0
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1900-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments vi

Prologue 1

Introduction 3

Part I: Fundamentals

1. Basic Knowledge 7

2. Shakespeare’s Impossible Doublet 9

3. Shakspere a ­Stand-In 14

4. Shakspere Eliminated 19

5. Who Bore the Canopy? 27

6. Spenser’s Two Gentle Poets 32

7. Nashe’s Gentle Poet 35

8. Plays: Expanded or Contracted? 39

9. The Lancashire Connection 43

10. William Stanley’s Early Years 46

11. Retrospective 1 50

12. Interlude: Word Games, Acrostics and Ciphers 52

Part II: The Sonnets

13. The Sonnets Considered 57

14. The Fair Youth Royal? 60

15. The Fair Youth’s Lineage 63

16. The Queen’s Children? 68

17. The Queen’s Child 70

18. Southampton the Fair Youth 73

19. The Cipher Solutions Assessed 79

20. Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton 84

21. Henry Wriothesley: Early Years and Last Days 92

22. Retrospective 2 95

Part III: Discoveries

23. The Hidden Name 97

24. William Stanley, Sixth Earl of Derby 103

25. The Poet and the Fair Youth 108

26. The Rival Poet 111

27. Plays Linked with Stanley 116

28. Pointers to Stanley 127

29. Derby’s Letters 139

Conclusion 147

Appendix A: Oxford Eliminated 151

Appendix B: Portrait of William Stanley (Portrait of Shakespeare?). Nashe’s Epistle to “Strange News” 159

Appendix C: The Odds That Chance Produced “Henry ­Wr-ioth-esley” 162

Appendix D: More Letters by Derby 164

Appendix E: Postscript: Henry Heir? 168

Chapter Notes 173

Bibliography 192

Index 199