oubts about the identity of William Shakespeare began to appear in print in the 19th century and found its voice in 1857 with publication of Delia Bacon’s The Philosophy of the Plays of Shakespeare Unfolded, with a foreword by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Other artists and intellectuals who doubted the identity of William Shakespeare in the 19th century include Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, and Henry James.
In 1920, J. Thomas Looney published Shakespeare Identified in Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, introducing the hypothesis that a nobleman in Queen Elizabeth’s Court was the real author of the Shakespeare canon. The Oxfordian case has since gained adherents as varied as Sigmund Freud, theater professionals Orson Welles, Sir Derek Jacobi, and Michael York, as well as US Supreme Court Justices John Paul Stevens and Antonin Scalia.
The case for Oxford's authorship is based primarily on numerous similarities between Oxford’s biography and events in Shakespeare's plays, sonnets and longer poems; parallels of language, idiom, and thought between Oxford's letters and the Shakespearean canon; and underlined passages in Oxford's Geneva Bible that may correspond to quotations in Shakespeare's plays.
Since that time, books expanding upon the evidence presented in Shakespeare Identified have appeared, including Charlton Ogburn Jr’s TheMysterious William Shakespeare (1984, 1992) and Mark Anderson’s Shakespeare by Another Name (2005). A history of the Shakespeare Authorship Issue, from the 19th century to the present day, is available in Warren Hope’s TheShakespeare Controversy (1992, 2009).
To some, the Shakespeare Authorship Issue is no more than a marvelous whodunit. For professors, however, it tests the Academy’s capacity for self-correction on a global scale in response to evidence produced primarily by independent scholars.
Additionally, for those interested in doing research on the Earl of Oxford, the index on this page provides an excellent reference guide. It offers a detailed bibliography of Oxfordian research from 1920 to 2012 in newsletters, magazines, and peer reviewed journals on an international level. Organized by author’s last name, the index provides an in-depth source of knowledge that will prevent some from re-inventing the scholarly wheel. The index was compiled by James Warren of the US diplomatic service and is offered here free of charge. Just click.