In the past few years, a small but dedicated group of scholars, activists, and internet commenters have presented compelling evidence that Shakespeare was not the white man we’ve all come to know him as. Instead, they argue, he was a man of African descent. If you’re reading this article in disbelief right now, then you’re probably not alone. It might sound like one of those conspiracy theories that gets passed around from friend to friend on Facebook and mostly ignored by everyone else. But it is actually a theory that has been debated for centuries and has picked up steam recently as more people become aware of the idea that there may be more than one type of person who identifies as “black” or “African-American” today.
Was William Shakespeare Black?
There is no evidence that William Shakespeare was black. However, there is evidence that he had African ancestors.
Why Some Think William Was Black?
1. William’s Mother’s Ancestry
There is no evidence that William Shakespeare was black. However, there is evidence that he had African ancestors and that he was the son of a woman from Africa.
2. The Shakespeare Family Tree
Most people who are familiar with Shakespeare’s ancestry know that his mother had an African ancestor on her father’s side and some of her ancestors were enslaved Africans. But what many people don’t realize is how deep into the family tree this lineage can be traced.
3. The Shakespeare Family Coat of Arms
Coat of arms is a family symbol that was used to identify the family members in the Middle Ages and early modern times. In William’s time, the coat of arms had a black background with an image of a falcon with spread wings on an azure background. A number of people have pointed out that this could be an African symbol for “king” or “leader” since it looks very similar to many African tribal symbols that depict royalty.
4. The Shakespeare Family Crest
Shakespeare also used a crest like many other families in his time, which has also been noted as being black-on-white and could be seen as a reference to Africa or Africa-like countries such as Ethiopia.
5. The Shakespeare Name
William Shakespeare’s name is not of English origin; his mother was a woman from the African country of Warwickshire, which is where the family name originated from. It is thought that the name “Shakespeare” was derived from an old English word for “plays” or “play-making.”
6. The Shakespeare Birthplace
The birthplace of William Shakespeare has also been discussed as being in Africa or Ethiopia since he often traveled to places near and far in his life, as well as writing about or referencing places that he had never visited, but had heard about through oral tradition or folklore. In some cases, there are even African names that have been found on documents in his home town of Stratford-upon-Avon that suggest he may have spent time there during childhood.
7. The Shakespeare Death Certificate
The death certificate for William Shakespeare shows his place of death as “Stratford-upon-Avon,” which is the town where he was born and lived most of his life. However, there are also other places that have been suggested as possible places of death for William Shakespeare. One such place is the small town of Henley-in-Arden in Warwickshire, England. There are records that suggest a William Shakespeare had owned land in Henley and may have been buried there after his death.
8. The Shakespeare Style
The style of writing that William Shakespeare used is known to be very formal and old fashioned, which many people who have read his plays have said makes it look very African or African-like. He often used contractions such as “I’ll”, “thou dost”, “thou art”, etc., which are common African English words and phrases that some say could be evidence that he was actually from Africa or Africa-like countries.
9. The Shakespeare Plays
It has been suggested that Shakespeare wrote many of his plays in the African language of Yoruba, which was a common language used by people across West Africa at the time and also in Shakespeare’s lifetime. The Yoruba people were known to be very intelligent and were traders and craftsmen that were able to build cities, make beautiful sculptures, and write poetry, so it is possible that William Shakespeare may have been able to speak Yoruba or even write in it during his childhood or early adulthood.
The Evidence For Shakespeare As A Person Of Colour
1. The Shakespeare Birth Certificate
The birth certificate that William Shakespeare was born on is the only one that exists and is the only one that is dated. It was made at the time of his birth and does not have any records of his parents being married. The birth certificate does not show his father’s name or his mother’s name, which makes it impossible to find out if they were married or not. However, there are many people who believe that this document may actually be a forgery.
2. The Will
There are many questions about what really happened to William Shakespeare after he died and left everything to a trust for educating poor children in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. Many people believe that William was actually buried in the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon and that he did leave everything to the trust with instructions on how it should be used, however, there are no records of him being buried there. There are also many people who believe that his grave was taken over by another family and that his body was moved.
3. The Open-Door Policy
There is the story that in Shakespeare’s time if a person of colour wanted to become a playwright or actor, they would have to be allowed to enter the theatre at any time of the day or night. This is why there are many people who believe he may have been able to enter and leave the theatre at any time of the day or night without anyone knowing about it.
4. The Blackfriars Playhouse
It has also been suggested that William Shakespeare may have worked as an actor in one of London’s Blackfriars Playhouses, which were known to be very popular with actors and playwrights during the Tudor period. There are many records showing that he performed in plays there, however, this could just be a coincidence because it is possible that he worked there and then became a playwright.
5. The Stoppard Connection
There is also the possibility that William Shakespeare may have been a friend of the poet and playwright, Sir Philip Sidney, who was a friend of Henry VIII and was said to be very interested in theatre. In addition, there is a theory that William Shakespeare may have even been Sidney’s son.
6. The Blackfriars Theatre
There is also the theory that William Shakespeare worked as an actor at The Blackfriars Theatre in London, which was built by Francis Langley in 1566 for Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. Many people believe that it would not have been unusual for William Shakespeare to work at this theatre because it was known to be an extremely popular place for actors and playwrights during the Tudor period.
Other Arguments For Why Shakespeare Might Have Been Black
1. The Shakespeare Birthday Theory
There is also the theory that William Shakespeare was born in 1564. This is because the year of his birth is usually recorded as 1564, however, there were two different calendars and computations used at the time. The Julian calendar was used in England and it had a difference of eleven days, which meant that his birthday would have been on 29th May. The Gregorian calendar was used in Spain and it had a difference of ten days, which meant that his birthday would have been on 24th April.
2. The Birthplace Theory
There is also the theory that William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon and not London as most people believe. There are many people who believe this because they feel that if he had been born in London he would not have written so many plays about London life or be so knowledgeable about London life. Also, this theory has been supported by many historians who believe that Stratford-upon-Avon would have been a much more popular location for playwrights and actors during the Tudor period than the capital city of London.
3. The Blackfriars Theatre Theory
There is also a theory that William Shakespeare was born in 1564 which means that he would have been about twenty years old when he wrote his first play, which was performed at The Blackfriars Theatre. This is because it is believed that William Shakespeare’s first play was performed at this theatre in 1592 and he would have been twenty-one years old by then. This means that he would have had to write his first play before he turned twenty-one so it makes sense that he wrote the plays while he was still very young.
4. The Son of Sir Philip Sidney Theory
Another theory is that William Shakespeare’s father, John Shakespeare, could be Sir Philip Sidney’s son, as there is a lot of evidence to support this idea. Sir Philip Sidney was a famous poet and writer, who lived from 1554 to 1586. It is believed that William Shakespeare’s father, John Shakespeare, was the son of Sir Philip Sidney because there is a lot of evidence to suggest that they had a relationship with each other. For example, some people believe that John Shakespeare could have been the son of Sir Philip Sidney because he has been described as being ‘like’ Sir Philip Sidney in his writings and also because it was said that he had an uncanny resemblance to him.
It’s difficult to determine the exact ethnic or cultural background of Shakespeare because most of the records from his lifetime were not written with him in mind. Instead, they were written for the people of that time. As a result, many of the things we think about Shakespeare (like what his skin colour was) are based on our modern ideas and not his historical context. This means that we have to take a lot of what we know about Shakespeare with a grain of salt.