Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)




The question of the authorship of the plays, poems, and sonnets traditionally attributed to the pen if William Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon has now been before the public for over one hundred years. Many of the most noted poets, playwrights, and nobles of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries have been assigned the authorship of these works. The controversy can be compared to the controversy over Homer’s authorship. In 1975, Friederick Augustus Wolf proposed that Homer did not write The Iliad and The Odyssey. By 1900, Wolf had been disproven, but the question was one of great importance when it was first introduced. The anti-Shakespearean contention has never actually been proven or disproven, and it remains important in the field of English literature. However, from the time the question first came before the public in 1856 until this study was first begun, no extensive and readily available history of the subject had been written.

It is the purpose of this study to make a historical survey of the major theories of the controversy and put them under one cover. A further purpose is to evaluate them wherever necessary, although many of the theories refute themselves.