Early skepticism about Shakespeare
focused on Francis Bacon. An
intellectual giant active during the
period when the works of Shakespeare
were produced, his defenders included
Mark Twain, who was convinced that
Bacon wrote Shakespeare. Like
Oxford, he possessed the necessary
education, the travel credentials, and
the familiarity with court evident in the
Problems with the Bacon case
The heyday of the Baconians is long since past. The movement thrived in the nineteenth century with
the help of the very persuasive Mark Twain. Twain was utterly convinced that the Stratford man
could not have been the author, and Bacon was then the only game in town.
After the initial sensation of the Bacon movement, it rapidly descended into the black hole of
cryptology. Secret acrostics, anagrams, and various other attempts to tease out hidden meanings
from the Shakespeare texts served mainly to brand all Shakespeare skepticism as the domain of
eccentrics and lunatics.
Bacon was undoubtedly a genius, a Renaissance polymath. But his interests were more cerebral,
focusing on legal argumentation, empiricism and the scientific method, which he did much to
formalize. The Shakespeare writer, also a Renaissance polymath, did share some common interests
with Bacon and displayed an impressive knowledge of legal matters. But their habits of mind were
quite different. And just like the Oxford case, the poetry of Bacon is sharply unlike Shakespeare's
poetry. And where Oxford was at least reported to have been a playwright, there is no evidence
Bacon ever wrote plays.
Unlike Christopher Marlowe, there is no evidence that Bacon could write verse of the quality found in
the works of Shakespeare.