School and University


The Authorship Question

As a grammar school student one usually grows up with the notion that science and the humanities have on the one hand discovered facts leading to the development of mankind (ethical questions always being part of the game) or on the other hand have gained new insights into history, literature or culture when new documents are found and evaluated. Very rarely does it happen that you find yourself in the midst of an academic issue which implies heated discussions on unsolved questions. It is nearly no exaggeration to compare this ongoing controversy to Copernicus and his epoch-making idea that it is the earth that revolves around the sun. In case, however, you are willing to see this situation in a positive light, what you may gain is very much:

  • You gain access to the way research in this field must be done to lead to verifiable results, which are often ground-breaking
  • You learn from scholars whose measured and sound judgment is valuable by following their way of approaching an issue
  • You gain the skill to learn to demolish theories and speculations that are based on wishful thinking
  • You learn to develop strategies to approach a question adequately
  • You learn to understand that the relevance of one's life experiences must not be underestimated; even though scholars have failed to accept this for years for different reasons and become used to the popular misconception with regard to Shakespeare, stating "it does not matter who wrote these pieces of art", which is an obsolete simplification.

In a nutshell: Dealing with the authorship question is the key to find a connection between Shakespeare's life and his works. A rewarding experience, no doubt.


In this section you will find material both for students and teachers. Different tasks or activities are offered to satisfy different types of learners. For some, a purely academic or intellectual approach will lead to results, for others a creative approach is more helpful.

The chronologies arranged by the Oxfordian scholar Robert Detobel present an overview of the Elizabethan times and the roles de Vere and Shakespeare from Stratford played. In addition the most important historical, political and cultural events in those days become visible.

Tasks and activities:

1.      Group work:
Step into the shoes of the Earl of Oxford, Elizabeth...and present his/her biography. The table can help you to find out more about the difficulties he/she had to face, historical developments that influenced them, moments of happiness, fulfillment, despair etc. Work out how the people were connected and who played a vital role for them. Use the appendices, this website and other websites wisely for further information if necessary, so that the "audience" may get a vivid picture of the person's life. Be prepared to answer questions from the audience after your performance. You may make use of music or stage props as well. The task of the group is to invent a suitable text, then it is up to the group to decide whether one person is acted by one, two or more people.

2.      Pair work:
Work out the differences between Elizabethan times and modern times.

3.      Individual work:
Name five surprising or weird facts and aspects and explain why they puzzle you or evoke your interest.

4.      Group work:
Visualize the chronologies.  

5.      Group activity:
Hot seat: You step into the shoes of a person. Group members ask questions which explore this person's motive for his or her actions.

© Elke Brackmann 2010