Shakespeare the Player

The New York Times reported  yesterday that William Shakespeare of Stratford was an “Actor. Playwright. Social Climber.”    The “new evidence,” referred to in the article (relating to Shakespeare’s grant of a coat of arms) provides earlier copies of evidence that was already extant.


The newly discovered drawing of Shakspere’s arms is presented on the left (c. 1600), and the previously acknowledged evidence on the right (c.1700).

James Shapiro from Columbia University seems to think that this earlier copy of the same evidence will put an end to the authorship question.  How he came to this conclusion is a mystery, since there is still no mention of the man from Stratford being an author.   How he can refer to this new evidence as a “smoking gun” is  also puzzling.  The label itself “Shakespeare ye player by garter” could actually serve as a clear distinction: these are the arms of the player (actor), not the arms of the writer with the similarly spelled name.  If the man who acquired these arms was the writer, why weren’t the arms on any of the published works, particularly the First Folio?

I agree with Shapiro that “Shakespeare of Stratford and ‘Shakespeare the player’ were one and the same,” that these were his arms, and he was a social climber. We already knew all this from other evidence, however, much of it from Ben Jonson, who listed Shakespeare as an actor in his own folio, and who parodied his attempts at getting arms in Every Man Out of His Humor.   What we still don’t know (because there is no contemporary evidence) is that the man from Stratford was a writer.  None of this new evidence indicates that he was..

Below is a link to the response from the De Vere Society to the Times article  :

De Vere Society Response

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