Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 93. Thursday, 18 February 1993.
Date: Thursday, 18 Feb 1993 15:23:59 -0600 (CST)
I've know for years of the question many people have regarding the
authorship of Shakespeare's works. However, today for the first time I
heard that some scholars say that there was no such person as William
Shakespeare, and that it was a pseudonym used by some nobleman whose coat
of arms showed an arm and fist shaking a spear. Is this one of the
theories floating about?
[Doris, I think someone must be pulling your leg. Shakespeare's biography is
not a speciality of mine, but I felt the necessity of posting an immediate
reply to your query. I have gleaned the following from Samuel Schoenbaum's
*William Shakespeare: A Documentary Life* with the proviso that all factual
mistakes are my own.
In 1568, Master John Shakespeare, William's father, was elected as Stratford's
high bailiff (justice of the peace, presider over the town Council, and the
town's highest elected office -- the equivalent of being mayor). After being
elected bailiff, Master Shakespeare made preliminary inquiries to the College
of Heralds to receive a grant of arms, conferring on him the status of
gentleman. The grant was not pursued, seemingly because of financial
In 1596, John's application was renewed, probably by his now prosperous son
William. There still exist two drafts of a document granting John's request;
they are dated 20 October 1596 and were prepared by Sir William Dethick,
Garter King-of-Arms. John Shakespeare's shield is described thus: "Gould. on
A Bend Sables. a Speare of the first steeled argent. And for his Creast or
Cognizance a falcon. his winges displayed Argent. standing on a wrethe of his
Coullors. supporting a Speare Gould. steeled as aforesaid sett uppon a helmett
with mantelles & tasselles as hathe ben accustomed and dothe more playnely
appeare depicted on this margent." Accompanying the shield and crest is the
motto "NON SANZ DROICT," not without right.
As you can see, the coat of arms was William's father's.
I hope that the above answers your question. If you would care to read further,
I would recommend Schoenbaum's *A Documentary Life* and his *Shakespeare's
Lives*. Frank Wadsworth's *The Poacher from Stratford* is also highly