Was Shakespeare a Woman?

April 17, 2012 | By

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Did Shakespeare write Shakespeare’s plays?

According to many modern scholars, the answer is no–at least, not completely. In 1600s England, it was common to share or borrow pieces of plays for one’s “original” compositions. In recent years, one of the main suspected writers of much of Shakespeare’s oeuvre is Emilia Lanier (1569-1645).

Lanier’s claim to fame–the inarguable one–was being the first Englishwoman to publish a volume of poems. Her book, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum, or “Hail, God, King of the Jews” (1611), was a collection of religious poetry. It was deeply devotional, and therefore mostly acceptable to the arch-conservative English society–which would have otherwise frowned on a woman writing professionally.

It’s also been posited by some scholars–chief among them John Hudson, who explained his theory to the Forward in 2008–that Lanier was Jewish. Others in academia have dismissed his claims, arguing that Salve contains several anti-Semitic verses, including insinuations that the Jews were responsible for Jesus‘ death: “These were those fooles, that thought themselves so wise/The Jewish wolves, that did our Saviour bite.”

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