In insisting that the Stratford man was "a man of the theater," Matus is simply trying to smuggle in the playwright with the actor. What is the warrant for claiming that there is "an ample supply of references to Shakespeare as a player and PLAYWRIGHT..."? Except for Greenes Groats-worth of Wit (1592), which I will discuss in a moment, there are no personal references to the Stratford man as a playwright that antedate his death. "Shakespeare" appears on quartos after 1598, but whether the Stratford man wrote them is precisely the point at issue.
The dichotomy that Matus is so eager to establish between the stage-writer and the belletrist depends for its point on the bold claim (inserted parenthetically) that Oxford was not a man of the theater. Any evidence here? Oxford's comedies were praised by Meres, and he was the patron of two acting companies. The praise that Matus heaps on Shakespeare the stage-writer could apply equally to Oxford.
Stratfordian dogma has it that once plays were sold, the playwright surrendered all rights to them. But this claim should be treated with skepticism. By the time Shakspere joined the company, in 1594, Titus Andronicus was a hit and the two long poems, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece, were selling well. Are we really to believe that, having written Othello, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra, the Stratford man remained in such a weak bargaining position with his fellow actors that he was reduced in later life to seeking remuneration in the small-claims courts rather than from publishers? Are we also to believe (as his will implies) that he remained indifferent to the fate of these masterpieces, then still unpublished? I don't believe it.
Curiously, Matus fails to mention the main evidence for Shakspere's claim to authorship, found in the introductory material to the First Folio. Poems by Ben Jonson, Leonard Digges, and two others contrive to praise the poet while failing to provide information about his life. As the Oxfordian scholar Peter Moore points out, the Folio even omits Shakspere's proudest claim: his hard-won title of gentleman, his coat of arms and motto. In a society as conscious of rank as England then was, this was tantamount to failing to give his full name.
Jonson does refer to the poet as "Sweet Swan of Avon," however, and Digges alludes to "thy Stratford Moniment." Those phrases, written after Shakspere's death, are the strongest links between the playwright and the Stratford man that we have. Jonson and Digges convey no other biographical information, however. We don't even know if the frontispiece engraving, by Droeshout, resembles the Stratford man.
Certain aspects of the First Folio are more than a little suspect. It opens with a dedication, supposedly written by Shakspere's fellow actors John Heminge and Henry Condell, "to the most Noble and Incomparable Paire of Brethren," William and Philip Herbert, the Earls of Pembroke and Montgomery. A preface addressed to "the great Variety of Readers" is also imputed to these players. In the eighteenth century the Shakespeare scholar Edmond Malone argued that in all probability Ben Jonson wrote this preface. In parallel columns over several pages he juxtaposed extracts attributed to Heminge and Condell in the Folio with corresponding passages in Jonson's works. (In the Folio: "How odde soever your braines be or your wisdomes...." In Jonson's Discoveries: "How odde soever mens braines or wisdomes be.") It is likely that Jonson in fact wrote both the preface and the dedication.