Suffolk: ‘Shakespeare’ was from Long Melford, historian claims

Shakespeare first folio

Shakespeare first folio - Credit: Archant

SHAKESPEARE himself was not averse to rewriting history.

But now an amateur historian has claimed the famous bard’s own background might not be exactly as it is widely documented.

Suffolk-born Keith Browning, 60, believes he has found proof that parts of Shakespeare’s finest works were actually written by a playwright from Long Melford.

Mr Browning, pictured right, who now lives in Portugal, stumbled upon the findings while he was researching his family name, Jagger. He discovered spelling derivations of the name including Jaggard and Gager, which subsequently started a trail leading to Shakespeare.

Mr Browning told the EADT: “I first found out that a man named Isaac Jaggard was the printer of Shakespeare’s original compendium of plays, the First Folio, in 1623.

“Then I came across an eminent writer called William Gager, who was born in Long Melford in 1555. His mother was Mary Clopton of Kentwell Hall, and William Cordell of Melford Hall was his uncle. Gager ‘retired’ from writing plays in 1592 and then disappeared from public view for four years at exactly the same time as the plays which were later attributed to Shakespeare began to appear.

“Clopton is also a very rare name and the only other place in England where it exists is in Statford upon Avon, where Shakespeare lived in a house built by Hugh Clopton.”

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Mr Browning, who worked as a school teacher before he retired, has shown his findings to several experts in the field. But so far, he has been unable to convince any of them that his theory has weight. He added: “There is plenty of contention about whether a man called William Shakespeare actually wrote the plays attributed to him and this is a major debate in the literary world.

“It is my belief that there was a consortium of writers, who were later published under a pseudonym of William Shakespeare and I think there is a vast amount of evidence to suggest William Gager was an early contributor to those plays and was probably an editor-in-chief, working with others such as the Countess of Pembroke, who hosted literary gatherings at her home near Salisbury.”

According to Mr Browing, there are other clues linking Long Melford to Shakespeare’s plays, which experts say are “coincidences”. He added: “The first edition of Shakespeare’s Henry VI mentions Melford in one of the very early scenes and this is quite out of context with the plot.

“There is no doubt that Gager had all the credentials, skills and experience to have written the Shakespeare plays and I believe he was a major figure in what became a much greater project. I have uncovered literally dozens of links – too many to be coincidences in my opinion.”

William Gager eventually returned to public life and became a leading lay official at Ely Cathedral, where he dealt with the legal affairs of more than 200 parishes.