Oscar Wilde’s Solution
Henry Wriothesley, William Herbert, even a Mr W. Hall
(“… W. H. All …”). Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) wrote “The Portrait of Mr W.H.” (1889), in which he presents the addressee as an effeminate young boy named Willie Hughes, an aspiring and seductive actor in Shakespeare’s company who liked dressing up in girls’ clothes. However, as Wilde himself disarmingly points out…
THE ONE FLAW IN THE THEORY IS THAT IT PRESUPPOSES THE EXISTENCE OF THE PERSON WHOSE EXISTENCE IS THE SUBJECT OF DISPUTE.
Nevertheless, Wilde’s lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, later became obsessed by this essay, and bizarrely discovered a real William Hewes with a possible Shakespeare connection. The suggestion of William Hewes was not in itself original, though. It was first proposed in 1766 and supported by Edmond Malone in his edition of 1780.