Mar 06

The Shakespeare Myth

In Brief—The evidence shows that Mary Sidney Herbert, the Countess of Pembroke, probably wrote the sonnets and plays attributed to William Shakespeare. The blog author shows why this is the case.


”All hoods make not monks.” (Henry VIII)

“Fraud” is too strong a word, but Myth” fits the facts like a fine glove. Not a week goes by that we can’t see a reference to “the great William Shakespeare,” the famous bard of Avon. However, according to the most credible evidence, the man called Shakespeare seems to have been unjustly credited with writing the sonnets and plays we now applaud.

Since we can’t return to the 16th and 17th Centuries to determine the truth, we are left with the evidence. That is what I will present.

Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke by John Tollett

Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke by John Tollett

The Mary Sidney Society has an excellent review of the evidence available, and Robin P. Williams’ book Sweet Swan of Avon presents a lawyerly examination of the available facts that is the most credible evidence I have ever read. Ms. Williams should have been a lawyer.

To judge Mary Sidney  (as she was known) properly, we need look no further than what we see around us every day here in the 21st Century.

Today Mirrors the 16th and 17th Centuries—

Among numerous other deliberate lies, Hillary Clinton has stated that Edward Snowden is a traitor who must be punished. Bernie Sanders remains quiet about his support for the flawed F-35 fighter and now disclaims his past support for guns.

Across the aisle, the Republican candidates claim climate change is a fraud. They would defund Planned Parenthood despite convincing evidence that the films were fraudulently doctored. Then there’s the myth of Obama being a Muslim.

Contrary to abundant evidence, the U.S. military claims the deliberate destruction of a clearly-marked Doctors Without Borders hospital was an “unfortunate accident,” and the Obama administration refuses to allow an independent investigation. Every government and politician lies, so why would it be any different in earlier centuries?

Years of research shows that humans will adamantly believe what they want regardless of undeniable proof that they are wrong. Are the proponents of Edward De Vere, Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, William Stanley and others exceptions?

Indeed, isn’t it believable that Mary Sidney, who was a member of the Tudor royal court, would reflect the Tudor defamation of the Plantagenet King Richard III when she wrote that play? Josephine Tey’s 1951 novel, The Daughter of Time, presents credible information showing that Richard III was probably not the monster we see in the play.

Notwithstanding advances, women today are still discriminated against in a variety of ways. Imagine how bad it was for females in Mary Sidney’s time. Mary Sidney was in fact quite well-educated in a wide variety of subjects reflecting the education she received as a member of the royal court. However, unlike Sidney, women were generally limited in what they were allowed to do. It was a patriarchal society in which men dominated. The husband owned everything. Women were not allowed to attend the university, and only because she was a member of the royal court did Sidney attain a superior education. Put simply, while Mary Sidney was an unusual woman, not just in her time but even today, she was nevertheless a woman.

Though the Mary Sidney Society ably describes the social stigma attached to women as the equals of men, I ask if it isn’t entirely believable that Sidney’s son would seek to protect his mother (and possibly enrich himself) by selling the sonnets and plays to William Shakespeare, a far less educated man about whom very little is known. Might Shakespeare be motivated to claim he was the author?

We know that following the death of her husband, Mary Sidney was reduced financially, so isn’t it possible that the money obtained by the sale of those works might have preserved the family reputation even as it eased Sidney’s financial worries?

Although I said in “A Woman Wrote Shakespeare” that Mary Sidney was the probable author of the Shakespearean oeuvre, it bears repeating that the available evidence supports that claim.

I urge you to read what the Mary Sidney Society has to say. They are quite convincing: Mary Sidney Herbert, the Countess of Pembroke, is the true author.


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    • kathyswizards on March 7, 2016 at 06:05

    Interesting post. I’ve heard this theory before, but I didn’t know that Mary Sidney suffered a financial setback after her husband’s death. That certainly offers a strong motivation to sell her work.

    This might be a little off-topic, but I’d love it if you could include a link to Daughter of Time. That book made a powerful impression on me. I really sympathize with Richard III, slandered for over 500 years for the sake of politics. It demonstrates how pernicious politics is.

      • Don Bay on March 7, 2016 at 07:22

      i gave thought to including a link to the Josephine Tey book, but I thought it would detract from the main story about Mary Sidney. I suggest you and any other readers who want to know more about Richard III go to Amazon and read a bit more. Better yet, read the book. It’s a good detective story.

      Not entirely off the topic, but it’s a good question. Thanks for asking it. Gave me a chance to explain my thinking.

  1. Well, I hadn’t heard this theory of who actually wrote the works, but why not Mary. None of the other claimed authors has any greater claim. As for a woman author being ignored for centuries there is no surprise. Women have been ignored up to the present time, with no reason other than masculine pride and male power and privilege. I vote for Mary.

      • Don Bay on March 8, 2016 at 12:18

      The only part of your comment that I disagree with is that none of the other claimants “has any greater claim.” Other than that, you hit the target. Mary Sidney has a claim that is vastly superior to the other claimants. The others are men who “sorta but not really” fit the claim to have written the plays and sonnets the world falsely assumes were written by Shakespeare. Ms. Williams’ claim fits Mary Sidney to a T.

      I have often written that people believe what they want to believe regardless of evidence that they are wrong. Could the proponents of the other claimants be such believers?

      When you get some time away from your very important work, I suggest you read Robin Williams’ book “Sweet Swan of Avon.” The facts presented there will erase any doubts that may exist.

      Though I have failed to find it in my research, nobody seems to have mentioned HUMAN NATURE. Humans—particularly men—are virtually always prone to brag that they have done so-and-so. Strangely enough, none of the claimants are ever known to have said, “Hey, I wrote those plays and sonnets!” If anyone can refute that, please tell me where that evidence can be found.

      Mary Sidney could not put forward a claim that she had written those plays and sonnets. The times and the strictures imposed on women prevented her from claiming authorship.

      Let the facts speak for themselves: the evidence shows that Mary Sidney is the author.

    • forsterguest on March 13, 2016 at 17:22

    Williams leaves out many details of the Sidney/Shakespeare connection that are discussed here:

      • Don Bay on March 13, 2016 at 18:43

      Because I’m not a Shakespearean scholar, what I have read of the Shakespearean controversy—and that is considerably more than most—leads me to the inescapable conclusion that Mary Sidney was the author of the Shakespearean oeuvre.

      I appreciate your efforts and the link you have provided. I will read the discussion of the proffered evidence, and I have little doubt that Ms. Williams and members of the Mary Sidney Society will read the material and weigh what is said. Stay tuned.

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