To deny that Shakespeare’s plays could have been written by a man of relatively humble background is, after all, to deny the very possibility of genius itself—a sentiment increasingly attractive in a democratic culture where few harsh realities are so unpalatable as that of human inequality. The mere existence of a Shakespeare is a mortal blow to the pride of those who prefer to suppose that everybody is just as good as everybody else. But just as some people are prettier than others, so are some people smarter than others, and no matter who you are or how hard you try, I can absolutely guarantee that you’re not as smart as Shakespeare.
– Denying Shakespeare by Terry Teachout in the Wall Street Journal 4/17/2010, P. W14 (Print Edition)
There has been considerable speculation over the last 150-years or so that a commoner like William Shakespeare with scant education and limited travels could not have written the acclaimed plays attributed to him.
Among those suspected to be the real authors of the great plays are the 17th Earl of Oxford Edward de Vere, Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe and the 6th Earl of Derby William Stanley.