Society

Study Claims William Shakespeare Had An Illegitimate Son

| by Brendan Kelly
William Davenant and William ShakespeareWilliam Davenant and William Shakespeare

A new study claims 17th century English playwright William Shakespeare may have had an illegitimate son who was featured in a sonnet.

Shakespeare’s "Sonnet 126" is addressed to “my lovely boy” and is believed to have been written for Sir William Davenant, who became England's poet laureate.

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Author Simon Andrew Stirling wrote a biography of Davenant, "Shakespeare’s Bastard," which will be published on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, April 23. In the biography, Stirling claims that Davenant was Shakespeare’s biological son.

Based on portraits of the two, both men had the facial deformity of a droopy left eyebrow.

Stirling says rumors of Davenant being Shakespeare’s illegitimate son were suppressed by academics at the time and Shakespeare was known as Davenant’s godfather.

The book claims Shakespeare had an affair with Jane Davenant, a married tavern mistress. Jane’s husband, John Davenant, worked in the wine trade and later became mayor of the English town of Oxford.

Shakespeare had three children with his wife, Anne Hathaway. The couple had a son, Hamnet, who passed away at the age of 11, as well as two daughters, Susanna Hall and Judith Quiney.

Rumors of Shakespeare’s illegitimate son date back to the 17th century, originally fueled by John Aubrey, a friend of the Davenant family.

"Sonnet 126" has often been referred to as a homoerotic love poem because it came at the end of a sequence of poems known as the "Fair Youth" sonnets, which are believed to refer to Shakespeare’s homosexual relationship with the Earl of Southampton. However, Stirling points out that the pair had split up in 1594, and Davenant was born in 1606. The "Fair Youth" sonnets were written between 1603 and 1604.

“It would be rash to presume that the ‘lovely Boy’ of 'Sonnet 126' was the mature Earl of Southampton. The poem appears to have been written to a very young child whose birth caused his mother’s full-moon belly to wane,” Stirling wrote.

Sources: Daily MailThe Australian, RT / Photo credit: Daily Mail, BBC, Endicott Studio