William Shakespeare or Fulke Greville? That is the question
Shakespeare's plays may have been written by a Warwick nobleman - and a tomb in St Mary's church could hold the key to proving it. In his book The Master of Shakespeare, writer AWL Saunders claims he has uncovered the true identity of the poet and playwright behind Shakespeare's work.
He believes the sonnets and plays were written by Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke, a courtier, soldier and celebrated writer well known for the biography of his friend Sir Philip Sidney.
Mr Saunders said he had been intrigued for some time by a remark Greville made that he wished "to be known to posterity under no other notions than of Shakespeare's master".
After reading that a 1990 computer study ruled out candidates such as Christopher Marlowe and Francis Bacon but left Greville's claim intact, Mr Saunders used a computer to compare the writings and known life story of Fulke Greville to deductions based on the first folio of Shakespeare's works.
This is his story.
Author AWL Saunders wrote: "I compiled a profile of Greville and compared it to the folio profile and was amazed to discovered that he was an exact, one could say quite perfect, match with the profile of 'William Shakespeare'."
Mr Saunders built up a database of 177 'profiles' based on possible biographical details found in Shakespeare's work and biographical facts and references from Greville's writings.
He believes these show the two writers, both from Stratford, look alike, used similar language and shared insight into areas such as sailing and law, and that characters and episodes from Greville's life match details that can be gleaned from Shakespeare's sonnets and plays.
One of Mr Saunders' arguments is based on a tribute by Shakespeare's contemporary Ben Jonson's included in the edition.
Jonson refers to the Stratford poet as a "Monument without a tombe", which Mr Saunders believes may refer to a tomb Greville had built in St Mary's church in 1623.
The marble monument resembles a double bed on which is placed a black sarcophagus.
Its inscription reads: "Folk Grevill, Servant to Queene Elizabeth, Concellor to King James, and Frend to Sir Philip Sidney."
Greville is not buried in the tomb, and his body was instead placed in the family vault beneath it, so Mr Saunders believes Jonson, who knew Greville and referred to his friendship with Shakespeare, was instead alluding to the monument which was not the poet's final resting place.
Mr Saunders believes Sidney, a lifelong friend of Greville, may have been the male object of affection in some of Shakespeare's sonnets, and says other figures in Greville's life correspond to characters such as the 'dark lady' of the poems.
He even suggests Greville may have arranged for Sidney's body to be moved to the sarcophagus in St Mary's church.
According to the book, a William Shakspere of New Place, Stratford was a grain merchant recorded as having given and received loans, with no documentary evidence to suggest he was a writer.
Mr Saunders suggests Greville may have invented a pseudonym based on his nickname of 'gentle Mr William and an invitation by poet George Peele to "shake your spears" in honour of Sidney's name.
He has no doubt it would have been impossible for the actor and playwright supposed to have written the plays to have co-existed with the learned courtier and poet without there being a record of the two men knowing each other.
Mr Saunders wrote: "It is not possible to calculate exactly the odds against there having been two sixteenth and seventeenth century poets of Stratford, who could both match the 177 profiles in this study.
"I asked two mathematicians if it were possible to calculate the odds against there being two such men. "Both were of the opinion that it was not possible but that if it were, the odds against it would be astronomical."
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