THIS B00K, WEEN I wrote the first pages, was provisionally named In Search of Shakespeare; and, although that title has since been discarded, it sufficiently explains my purpose. Like many other students of English poetry, I was brought up to believe that there was something inescapably mysterious about the circumstances of Shakespeare's life, and that remarkably little information existed that helped us to understand his individual growth. But the more I looked into the existing records, the less tenable did such a belief appear. From the year 1592, when he was attacked by an unhappy fellow poet, we find constant references to his increasing reputation as a writer, accompanied by numerous allusions to his human qualities. If these allusions are separately examined, we may find it difficult to draw a detailed portrait; but, if what we know of Shakespeare himself is combined both with the evidence that his work affords us and with our knowledge of his social period, a recognizable impression very soon emerges. Here, without indulging in speculative licence, I have attempted to reach the poet at once through his work and through his times. My hero is the ambitious Stratfordian player. I have become firmly convinced that Shakespeare's plays and poems were produced, not by Derby, Oxford, Bacon, nor even by Christopher Marlowe after his supposed death, but by a middle-class writer born in Warwickshire in April 1564, and that all the current anti-Stratfordian theories involve some serious distortions of the facts.
It has been argued that William Shakespeare could not have composed the majestic works attributed to him, because his origins were relatively obscure: that only an aristocrat could have depicted aristocrats, a statesman have described the doings of statesmen, or a cultured traveller have written of foreign countries. But then, Stendhal, Balzac and Proust were bourgeois novelists, who have left