Saying his name evokes images of silver-tongued actors in elaborate costumes, staged sword fights, long-winded speeches, lofty language and august academics.
But, the middle-class, grammar-school-educated William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was a hardworking dramatist. poet and sometime-actor who juggled writing what turned out to be immortal sonnets, dramas, histories and comedies with performing, running an acting company, managing a theater, and sending money back home to support the wife and kids.
There's a belief among some enthusiasts that the Bard of Avon, as he came to be called (having been born and raised in Stratford-on- Avon in Warwickshire, England), didn't write his plays, which were, instead, the work of one or another university-educated nobleman of the same period.
Richard Denton, producer of the documentary series "Shakespeare Uncovered," airing at 9 and 10 p.m. Fridays, through Feb. 8, on PBS, takes a dim view of this assertion, especially considering the inherent competitiveness of the Elizabethan Age's leading dramatists.
"I think that's nonsense," he says. "Conspiracy theories are enormous fun, but there has to be a really plausible explanation why everybody kept quiet about it at the time, why all his friends decided to put together a book of all of his collected works, including one of his great rivals.
"Ben Johnson would never have put his name to the complete works of Shakespeare -- he probably did it through gritted teeth anyway -- if he hadn't written it."
Some argue that a man without a great deal of education …