I've received an e-mail from one of those lovers of intellectual games and bad mystery novels who are familiar with the Shakespeare authorship question. Their story is that the man from Stratford was too lowly and venal to have written the plays. The hoax enthusiasts opt instead for the aristocrat Edward deVere, Earl of Oxford.
They should be writing imaginative historical fiction on the order of The Scarlet Pimpernel, ascribing wonderfully heroic qualities to nobles who in fact were in-bred mediocrities. Yes, in the imagination there was a quick-thinking "Scarlet Pimpernel" outwitting the slow and simple-minded lower class rebels during the French Revolution. The reality is more prosaic-- that the king was less than a mediocrity; the nobility not much brighter, and easily steam-rolled by Madame LaFarge types once the king abdicated. Sharpest of all was a venal, upwardly mobile character of disreputable origin who we know as Napoleon. In fiction, the brave Pimpernel saves the day! In truth we have instances like the king's brother, Napoleon's temporary replacement, fleeing cowardly at the mere news the ex-gunnery officer had left his first island of exile. For some, though, fantastical fiction about brave nobility is more satisfying.
It's up to the deVere advocates to make their case. They do so with coincidence piled upon coincidence. Throughout, like obstinate five year-olds, they jam square pegs into round holes. (DeVere died in 1604. New Shakespeare plays appeared for another decade.) Through everything inconveniently stands the man from Stratford, "William Shakspere." Why was this person who supposedly couldn't have written the plays, in London? To be there or not to be there is the question. Documents tie him to the Burbage family and the acting company which produced the plays later collected, without dissent, under Shakespeare's name. The Stratford man was one of the leading figures in the acting company, and made good money from it.
Earl of Oxford people stand on their heads to account for this, concocting hypotheses based on speculation and surmise. The Earl just happened to pick as pseudonym a name almost exactly the same as that of a man connected with the acting company. Pure coincidence! Blot the Stratford man out of the picture. (Also remove the fact that dilettante deVere's own poetry and plays are mediocre, not at all like Shakespeare's.)
The response to this is to claim Shakespeare was a front man for the real author of the plays. No evidence for this necessary. (Or available.) The top deVere advocate, Charlton Ogburn, is the most wacked-out. He sees a complicated and silly plot, like out of a mystery by Ellery Queen, in which the Shakespeare manuscripts, revealing all, are buried not with deVere, but the man from Stratford: Shakespeare-- with clues to the mystery inscribed on the Stratford monument at the burial site. Neither Shakespeare nor deVere would have regarded their plays of lasting significance. Yet, regardless, for some reason one of them left clues for future Shakespeare scholars (a concept beyond their understanding) from another age. That is to say, they left them for Charlton Ogburn! It's completely unbelievable.
The controversy boils down to one word: snobbery. Snobbery, snobbery, snobbery. That the academic establishment sticks with the obvious assumption that Shakespeare was Shakespeare proves nothing. They also don't believe that Elvis is still alive. But 400 years from now there may be a group of inquisitive scholars sifting through enough mysterious clues to insist that Elvis was really Leonard Bernstein, who utilized the country bumpkin as front man. It will also not be believed that the Beatles could've come from Liverpool. They actually attended Oxford, where they took classes in musical theory.