Originally posted by FMF
Historians agree that there was a man named William Shakespeare who lived in Stratford-upon-Avon and London in the late 16thC and early 17thC. But for 250 years there have been doubts as to whether that man composed the plays attributed to him. "Shakespeare's" plays were not published in his lifetime and authorship in those days was not recorded as carefully as ...[text shortened]... a businessman, was not eulogised at his death, and left no books or manuscripts in his will.
There is more evidence supporting Shakespeare's authorship of his plays than there is supporting Marlowe's authorship of his plays or any other Elizabethan / Jacobean's playwright's authorship of their plays. Not much documentation from the period survives about any playwright - the theatre was sneered at by most highly educated people. Shakespeare's contemporaries regarded the poets Spenser and (especially) Sidney as the great authors of their time; Shakespeare only acquired his rightful reputation gradually, after his death. Nevertheless, even in his lifetime Shakespeare was regarded as an outstanding dramatist; the publication in the prestigious (because expensive) folio format of his collected works soon after his death was unprecedented for the works of a theatrical writer, and demonstrates the admiration in which his writing was then held.
Contrary to your claim, a considerable number of Shakespeare's plays - roughly half, in fact - were published in quarto format during his lifetime. Some of these (the so-called bad quartos) are probably poor memorial reconstructions by actors (ie, pirate editions); others are reliable texts fairly close to the definitive texts established in the 1623 First Folio.
Shakespeare was not "relatively uneducated"; he had a grammar school education, which was more than most people received in his time. The plays are definitely the work of a boy from Warwickshire: for instance, the lines from Cymbeline:
"Golden lads and girls all must like chimney-sweepers come to dust"
acquire a graceful double meaning when one learns that in Warwickshire dialect a "golden lad" was a term for a dandelion in full bloom, while a "chimney-sweeper" was a dandelion about to disperse its seeds.
We don't know whether Shakespeare travelled or not; there is much of his life unaccounted for. But the fact that he makes elementary geographical errors, such as thinking that Milan and Bohemia are beside the sea, suggests that the author of the plays was not well-travelled abroad - surprising for an aristocrat, but just what one would expect of a middle-class chap from a provincial English town.
The fact that Shakespeare was known in his home town as a businessman again speaks for the low opinion that most had of drama in the period. It's not surprising that he left no manuscripts in his will. Theatrical manuscripts were not considered of any value in the seventeenth century; there are almost no surviving manuscripts of the work of any Renaissance playwright.
The notion that it would have taken an aristocrat to write the plays is a ridiculous relic of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century snobbery and should be dismissed as such. The hypothesis is further undermined by the lack of any convincing candidate: textual analyses of the acknowledged work of the usual suspects, Francis Bacon and the Earl of Oxford, show no meaningful similarities in style or diction to Shakespeare's. Oxford also died in 1604, when Shakespeare's later plays make clear reference to historical events that happened after that date.
Conclusion: the man who wrote William Shakespeare's plays was William Shakespeare.