Six specimens of William Shakespeare's signature survive. In none of them does he spell his own name "Shakespeare". Three of the signatures abbreviate his name. Of those that do not, two use the spelling "Shakspere" and one "Shakspeare". None of the specimens, abbreviated or full, have an 'e' following the 'k'.

This suggests that the poet's name was most often spelled (or spelt) "Shakspere". Accordingly, a few centuries later, in 1875, Edward Dowden entitled his magisterial work Shakspere: A Critical Study of his Mind and Art. Dowden's other works also use the spelling "Shakspere".

Yet in our day, the spelling "Shakespeare" is ubiquitous. Whence and wherefore this particular orthography, which seems entirely unattested by historical evidence? How and why did the spelling "Shakespeare" become the universally accepted norm for the poet's name?

(Let us set aside as frivolous and/or misguided the attempts to spell that name "Bacon" or "Oxford".)

  • 1
    What research have you done? See this Oct 19, 2023 at 9:47
  • 3
    @KateBunting The wikipedia article does not say how and why "Shakespeare" was chosen as the standard spelling. What precisely are you objecting to in the question?
    – verbose
    Oct 19, 2023 at 10:03
  • 1
    But it goes into a lot of detail about who advocated the various spellings, when and why. Oct 19, 2023 at 12:14
  • 1
    I was going to make the same point. I don't think it invalidates the question at all which is precisely on why that specific spelling was adopted, but it does make me strongly suspect the answer is not known.
    – Matt Thrower
    Oct 19, 2023 at 12:58
  • 4
    This seems a good question to me: it's not answered by the Wikipedia article linked by Kate Bunting, and if the answer is not known, that makes it a good conundrum, and maybe modern corpora make it answerable. Google Ngrams, for example, suggests that the crucial period in the rise of "Shakespeare" was 1850–1875. Oct 20, 2023 at 8:40


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