William Shakespeare – the name has become synonymous with English literature, and his 38 plays have been adapted to stages and screens all around the world. Yet, what do we actually know about the legendary Bard and his life? Since the mid-1800s, there has been an idea circulating that Shakespeare does not really exist at all… and that perhaps, someone else is responsible for his works? We take a look at the evidence.
Who was William Shakespeare?
William Shakespeare was born to John Shakespeare and Mary Arden in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. His father worked with leather and was a prominent member of the town council, though it is unknown whether he was literate. His name over the years is signed in many variations, from ‘Wilm Shakspear’ to ‘William Shak-Shaft’. However, a formalised English spelling system would not be introduced for centuries, and inconsistencies in spelling were commonplace in literature.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
At 18, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway and set up home in Stratford-upon-Avon with her and their three children. Despite this, he moved to London and joined an acting company between 1585 and 1592, supporting his family from afar. As part of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, he had the chance to act, direct, produce and write. From humble origins, he rose up the ranks of society, having his works performed before the King himself.
Shakespeare’s 38 plays and hundreds of poems had a revolutionary effect on English literature. He found middle English inadequate for his purpose and invented over 1700 new words to fully express himself, contributing hugely to the vocabulary we have today, as well as many commonly used idioms like ‘fair play’ or ‘breaking the ice’. Whilst his stories are rarely original, he has made famous many folk tales and legends that would have been otherwise forgotten, giving us an incredible insight into the rich cultural heritage of England and medieval Europe.
Shakespeare died in Stratford-Upon-Avon on April 23, 1616, making 2016 the 400th anniversary of his death.
Why do people think he didn’t write the poems and plays?
Known as the anti-Stratfordians, a small group of scholars believe Shakespeare did not, in fact, write any of these plays! Why?
Knowledge of Shakespeare’s life is limited, and this has led to conspiracy theories. A lack of evidence surrounding his education sparked the idea that it would be impossible for him to be the author of so many literary works. It is suggested that his parents were illiterate, and there are no records remaining for the local school, leaving many scholars wondering: where did William Shakespeare learn to write?
Furthermore, anti-Stratfordians believe his knowledge of the royal court is not befitting of someone of his rank. Shakespeare’s knowledge of the court, royal politics and upper-class leisure activities is considered unlikely by some scholars, casting doubt as to the true identity of the playwright.
Many believe that the name ‘William Shakespeare’ was a pseudonym for another writer and used the lack of public records of his life, writings, or public death mourning as evidence that the man Shakespeare never existed at all. Could it possibly be a front for someone else?
Who are the other candidates?
Since Delia Bacon suggested the conspiracy in her 1856 essay, varying poets, playwrights and celebrities from the Elizabethan period have been suggested as the real Shakespeare – from the seriously suggested contemporaries to King James I or Shakespeare’s own wife! Predominantly selected for their better education, motivation for secrecy or intimacy with the court, five of the favourites include Francis Bacon, Mary Sidney, Christopher Marlow, Emilia Lanier and Edward de Vere. So, again: what is really in a name?
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.