Scott McCrea is a drama professor at Purchase College, State University of New York, and the author of 2005's The Case for Shakespeare: The End of the Authorship Question.
From his Q & A with Randy Dotinga at the Christian Science Monitor:
Q: When did people start wondering if Shakespeare was actually Shakespeare?--Marshal Zeringue
A: In the mid-19th century, when there was a guy who wrote a book and claimed that Shakespeare lacked erudition and could not have been very well educated, so it must have been [famed writer] Ben Jonson must have been the real writer of the plays. He writes these plays about dukes and earls, yet he was a commoner, a son of a glover. How could he have written these plays? Then people thought it must have been Francis Bacon. He was the most learned man of his time, and Shakespeare was the most learned man of his time, so they must have been the same guy.
Q: Why was his real identity so important to people?
A: Shakespeare had became almost a god of sorts. He became great, he became idolized, and he became a superhuman because of his impact on the culture.
We do this: There's a psychological need for people to displace in some way people who seem to be superhuman.
Q: For it to have been worthwhile to create a fake Shakespeare, it seems like he would have had to be incredibly appreciated in his own time. Was that the case?
A: There's this assumption that people knew during his own time that...[read on]