The Atlantic

Keep Questioning Shakespeare’s Identity

Debating the authorship of the bard’s plays can only expand appreciation for his work, a Shakespearean actor writes.
Source: Dean Conger / Corbis Historical / Getty

Editor’s Note: This article is one in a series of responses to Elizabeth Winkler’s article, “Was Shakespeare a Woman?,” in the June issue of the magazine.

Curiosity is one of the most permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.
—Samuel Johnson

If we did not know how Vincent van Gogh learned to paint, we might ask how such remarkably original paintings came into existence. If we did not know that Mozart was exposed to music at an early age, we might ask how such heavenly music came into existence. If Serena Williams had arrived on an international tennis court with little or no evidence of ever having swung a tennis racket, we would definitely be asking how she was capable of her amazing serve. In fact, in all of these examples we do know how these events came to be, and still sometimes we ask: How did they do that?

Questions arise naturally around remarkable Some people, perhaps the wisest, are happy to say, “It’s a mystery.” Some seek to explain and understand. Inevitably, people who are trying to do the same thing—in these cases, artists, composers, tennis players—study the evidence carefully. Mike Tyson charged across the ring with the force of a raging bull partly because he had studied for hours and hours all the masters of the ring who had come before.

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