My point simply is that Shakespeare's apotheosis began after his death in 1616 and after the publication of the First Folio. He was not the rock star during his life that people think. And I don't doubt the authorship.
It is fun to kick around, though. I mean, we can't even determine what kind of education he had. None of his letters survive. We don't know what the original plays looked like. The late 1580s are a wipe. There are huge gaps in the life narrative and they have invited the conspiracy theories.
If you're into the subject you should give the book a shot. It really clarifies a lot of stuff about how he became a literary deity.
I find this stuff fascinating for all sorts of reasons, and thank you for pointing out a few things that I wasn't aware of before.
I totally agree about him not being a rock star at the time, but I disagree with you that he was not a major figure. After all, this was a man who put on plays that were heard by monarchs throughout his working life. That hardly sounds like a nonentity to me.
I think theories about Shakespeare's alleged minor status arise from the fact that there was such a lot of competition from people like Marlowe, Jonson, Middleton, Dekker, etc, but also because playwrights were, and remain, pretty low down the totem pole when it comes to literary celebrity. I was going to say before that there might not have been many people at his funeral simply because he had gone out of fashion and the new guys were doing their thing with Jacobean revenge plays and his stuff seemed old hat. Have a look at the people who were writing about the same time as WS, and it is amazing how many of them died in poverty. Apart from Marlowe, who was lucky enough to get himself stabbed through the eye instead.
As for the lack of recorded evidence. Well, as they say, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. But we have plenty of evidence from contemporaries like Meres, Jonson, Greene (who wrote a bitchy piece about him stealing from more educated writers) that he was a considerable figure. The whole Anti-Stratfordian stuff is just total bloody nonsense in my opinion. If you haven't seen the film Anonymous I would 'recommend' it, if only to see how demented this stuff can get. The acting is often (especially by the younger ones) diabolically shitty, and they make the facts up as they go along, but it is worthwhile, in a bizarre kind of way.
Finally, you are totally correct about the acclaim Shakespeare got as being relatively
recent. The whole Bardolatry thing began in the 18th century. I happen to know a little bit about this because I live a short walk away from a Greek temple dedicated to 'The Genius of Shakespeare', commissioned by the actor David Garrick, who was the man chiefly responsible for kick-starting the way we see the man today.
Anyway, I have gone on too long. Thanks for the book recommendation. I shall have a look