Die 13 Autoren des Stanley Wells

Notes on Stanley Wells's speech at the debate held on Monday 6 June 2011 at the English-Speaking Union headquarters in London.


Consists, according to Wells, of 37 title pages of first editions and reprints of published versions of the plays during his lifetime, the dedications of Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece, both bearing the name William Shakespeare, and the edition of Shakespeare's Sonnets in 1609.

Names on title pages or beneath a dedication are no absolute criterion for the attribution of authorship. In 1590 or shortly before a pamphlet An Almond for a Parrot was published. The dedication to "Monsieur de Kempe" (the actor Will Kemp) was signed "Cuthbert Curry knave". The authorship is now generally attributed to Thomas Nashe, not to Cuthbert Curry knave. Another pamphlet that has been (perhaps wrongly) attributed to Thomas Nashe is A Wonderfull, Strange and miraculous, Astrologicall Prognostication for this yeer of our Lord God; on the title page of this pamphlet published in 1591 the author is identified as  Adam Fouleweather. Cuthbert Curry knave and Adam Fouleweather are pseudonyms. As William Shakespeare too may be.

If the name on the title-page was an absolute criterion, The London Prodigal and A Yorkshire Tragedy should be given to Shakespeare. The title-pages show his name.

37 quartos of plays seem exaggerated. My own count: 45 plays were printed in quarto, 16 of them with the name William Shakespeare and 12 with the name William Shake-speare on the title page.


Wells lists the following authors:


He is the alleged author of Willobie's His Avisa. Though a person of that name, a student at Oxford, did exist, the name may be a pseudonym itself. The poem was published by his friend Hadrian Dorrell, who wrote in a preface that Henry Willoughby had left England in 1594. In 1596 a new edition was published with another preface by Hadrian Dorrell in which he informed the reader that meanwhile Henry Willoughby had died. He also stated that the poem was in fact written "thirty-five years since", that is in 1561, a statement entirely incompatible with his former statement. But Hadrian Dorrel's statement is in other respects deliberately mystifying. Of Hadrian Dorrell himself absolutely nothing else is known. The name is almost certainly a pseudonym.

The author of the poem may have known Shakespeare. The publisher(s) too. One person contributes commendatory verses in which Shakespeare is mentioned, or rather Shake-speare:

                        Yet Tarquine pluckt his glistering grape,
                        And Shake-speare, paints poore Lucrece rape

These verses are signed: "Contraria Contrariis: Vigilantius: Dormitanus" ("opposites with opposites"; there is an allusion to Saint Jerome who defended celibacy against Vigilantius whom he called Dormitantius ; Avisa, the heroine of the poem, remains celibate, but the allusion and the pun on "Vigilantius" (waking) and "Dormitantius" ("sleeping") look gratuitous).

Within the poem a certain "old player" is named with his initials W.S. If this is William Shakespeare and if Avisa, as Barbara de Luna has convincingly argued, is Queen Elizabeth, then W.S. cannot be William Shakespeare of Stratford. And should, as Wells seems to believe, Henry Willoughby be the real author, then he may have known Shake-speare and is one of the strongest witnesses against the authorship of the man of Stratford.


 Source: C. Elliot Browne. "The earliest mention of Shakespeare" in Notes & Queries, 4th S.  XI. May 16, 1873, pp. 378-9.

"The notice is entirely marginal, and occurs by the side of a portion of the text containing a laboured eulogy upon Daniel's 'courte-deare-verse.' As there is no mention of Shakespeare or his works in this text, I will only ask you to print the marginal notes exactly as they stand in the book: -

                      [page]                                                            [page]
                      Sig. R. 3.                                                        Sig. R 4.
                                                                                              So well gra-
                                                                                              ced Antho-
                                                                                              nie deser-
                                                                                              veth immor-
                                                                                              tal praise
                     All praise                                                       from the hand
                     worthy                                                           of that di-
                                                                                             vine Lady
                     Lucretia                                                         who like Co-
                                                                                             rinna conten-
                     Sweet Shakespeare                                     ding with
                     Eloquent                                                       was oft vi-
                     Gaveston                                                       ctorious.

            The author had just before been celebrating the triumph of the Elizabethan poets over Ariosto and Tasso in Italy, and Bellay and Ronsard in France, mentioning in the text as their English rival 'Divine Spenser,' but amplifying it in a marginal note to 'M. Alabaster, Spenser, and others.'"

            The whole book Polimantea was published with the initials W.C.  It was long thought that the author was one William Clerke. The consensus is now that they are the initials of William Covell, a Fellow of Queens' College, Cambridge.

            It does not appear from this marginal note that the author knew who William Shakespeare was. He obviously did know that Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece had been dedicated by William Shakespeare.


            Richard Barnfield (1574-1620) wrote, in 1598, the following eulogy from which the only certain conclusion that can be drawn is the same as before: Richard Barnfield knew that Shakespeare had written Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece.

A Remembrance of some English Poets
Live Spenser ever, in thy Fairy Queene;
Whose like (for deepe Conceit) was never seene.
Crownd mayst thou bee, unto thy more renowne,
(As King of Poets) with a Lawrell Crowne.
And Daniell, praised for sweet-chast Verse:
Whose Fame is grav'd on Rosamonds blacke Herse.
Still mayst thou live: and still be honored,
For that rare Worke, The White Rose and the Red.
And Drayton, whose wel-written Tragedies,
And sweete Epistles, soare thy fame to skies.
Thy learned Name, is æquall with the rest;
Whose stately Numbers are so well addresst.
And Shakepeare thou, whose hony-flowing Vaine,
(Pleasing the World) thy Praises doth obtaine.
Whose Venus, and whose Lucrece (sweete, and chaste)
Thy name in fames immortall Booke have plac't.
  Live ever you, at least in Fame live ever;
  Well may the body dye, but Fame dies never.


            John Weever (1576-1632) was a student at Cambridge. In 1599 he wrote a sonnet entitled "Ad Gulielmum Shakespeare".  All that can be inferred from it is that Shakespeare had published Venus and Adonis (1593), The Rape of Lucrece (1594), probably Romeo and Juliet and a play on a King Richard. Lines 5-10 of the sonnet:

            Rose-checkt Adonis with his amber tresses,
            Faire fire-hot Venus charming him to love her,
            Chaste Lucretia virgine-like her dresses,
            Prowd lust-stung Tarquine seeking still to prove her;
            Romea Richard; more whose names I know not,
            Their sugred tongues, and power attractive beauty

We should note that Weever states that Shakespeare wrote more plays whose names he does not know.


(Source: Chambers, Shakespeare, Vol. II, p. 220).

A member of Magdalen's College, Oxford.

            He wrote a sonnet in 1614:

            "To Master W. Shakespeare". Lines 6-9:
            Who loves chaste life, there's Lucrece for a Teacher:
            Who list read lust there's Venus and Adonis,
            True modell of most lascivious leatcher,
            Besides in plaies thy wit windes like Meander:

All that can be inferred from this is that Shakespeare had published Venus and Adonis (1593), The Rape of Lucrece (1594),  and plays.


(Source: Chambers, Shakespeare, Vol. II, p. 214).

In 1604 he published a work along with an epistle. 

Extract on Shakespeare:

"or to come home to the vulgars Element, like Friendly Shakespeare's Tragedies, where the Commedian rides, when the Tragedian stands on Tip-toes: Faith it should please all, like Prince Hamlet. But in sadnesse, then it were to be feared he would runne mad: Insooth I will not be moone-sicke, to please: nor out of my wits though I displeased all."


Wells follows Shapiro when he writes "the anonymous author of the Parnassus plays (in which a character wants a portrait of him as a pin-up)." This character is the gull Gullio, whose admiration for Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis is ridiculed by the author.  Nobody should be gulled by such an "argument".


            Nowhere does the name William Shakespeare occur in the works of Henry Chettle. He refers to him in England's Mourning Garment, written in March-April 1603 on the death of Queen Elizabeth, as Melicertus. But in the same booklet he refers to Melicertus once more along with Sir Philip Sidney and Sir Francis Walsingham. This reference must be to a period when Sidney was still alive, before Octobe 1596. The Melicertus Henry Chettle means cannot be William Shakespeare of Stratford. Possibly Wells means the third playwright in Chettle's apology for the letter in Greene's Groatsworth of Wit. But Chettle does not name him.


The historian Camden refers to "Shakespeare & other pregnant wits" in Remaines of greater Worke concerning Britaine. "These may suffice for some Poeticall descriptions of our auncient Poets, if I would come to our time, what a world could I present to you out of Sir Philipp Sidney, Ed. Spencer, Samuel Daniel, Hugh Holland, Ben: Johnson, Th. Campion, Mich. Drayton, George Chapman, Iohn Marston, William Shakespeare, & other most pregnant witts of these our times, whom succeeding ages may iustly admire."


(Source: Chambers, Shakespeare, Vol. II, p. 216).

Barksted wrote the following lines in 1607. He speaks of Shakespeare in the past tense:

But stay my Muse in thine owne confines keepe,
& wage not warre with so deere lov'd a neighbor,
But having sung thy day song, rest and sleepe
   preserve thy small fame and his greater favor:
His Song was worthie merrit (Shakespeare hee)
sung the faire blossome, thou the withered tree
   Laurell is due to him, his art and wit
   hath purchast it, Cypres thy brow will fit.

We should perhaps also note that the cypress was associated with death and mourning.


            The playwright John Webster (1578or 80, the year of his death is uncertain)  writes in an epistle to his play The White Devil (1612): "For my owne part I have ever truly cherished my good opinion of other mens worthy Labours, especially of that full and haightened stile of Maister Chapman: The labor'd and understanding workes of Maiser Johnson; The no less worthy composures of the both worthily excellent Maister Beaumont & Maister Fletcher: And lastly (without wrong last to be named), the right happy and copious industry of M. Shake-speare, M. Decker, & M. Heywood, wishing what I write be read by their light..."


            He wrote commendatory verses to the First Folio. The first four lines:

            Shake-speare, at length thy pious fellows give
            The World thy Workes: thy Workes, by which, out-live
            Thy tombe, thy name must: when that stone is rent,
            And Time dissolves thy Stratford Moniment,
            Here we alive shall view thee still...

Such is the tenor of the whole poem: Shakespeare will live on his works. This the poet of the sonnets had expressed himself in sonnet 81:

When you entombed in men's eyes shall lie,
Your monument shall be my gentle verse,
Which eyes not yet created shall o'er-read,
And tongues to be, your being shall rehearse,
When all the breathers of this world are dead,
You still shall live (such virtue hath my pen)
Where breath most breathes, even in the mouths of men.

But in sonnet 72: "My name be buried where my body is."

If his body were in or near the Stratford monument, it would not be from thence he would live on.


            Wells writes: "Francis Meres, in 1598, not merely named 12 plays as having been written by William Shakespeare but did so in the same paragraph as a separate allusion to the Earl of Oxford as a writer of comedies." Wells has picked from Meres what fits him. Meres, almost always anxious to observe numerical symmetry in his "Comparative Discourse" of ancient and English authors, deviates from it four times. The deviation is in three cases spurious. And it is also spurious in the fourth case, the paragraph on comedy where Edward de Vere is mentioned alongside with William Shakespeare, but where 16 ancient authors are listed as against 17 English authors. This asymmetry too being spurious, Meres' spurious asymmetry is the cemetery of the orthodox attribution.