Professor Christopher Carr, of Edinburgh University’s Business School, and another prominent business academic claim Shakespeare was just a pseudonym for another playwright.
They will give a talk titled “Were the works of Shakespeare his own or was he just an astute businessman?” at the university tomorrow.
But Scotland’s leading Shakespeare scholar rubbished their claims as “hare-brained”, saying snobbery often stood in the way of people believing a man from a humble background could create the plays he did.
Prof Carr, along with Professor Robert Ayres of global business school INSEAD, said the bard would have had no time to produce the English language’s greatest works while managing his business interests.
They say modern ideas on what makes a person a genius lend weight to an old theory, discredited by mainstream scholars, that Shakespeare was a front for contemporary Christopher Marlowe.
The convoluted theory suggests Marlowe’s death in 1593 was faked, allowing his work to continue to be published under the name Shakespeare.
Prof Carr said Shakespeare’s sudden production of top works did not tie in with current theories that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to reach the top of any field.
He said: “Shakespeare did not come like a bolt from the blue.
“The modern theories of what leads to amazing success would just laugh at the idea that somebody would disappear at the age of 15, think about becoming a blacksmith, disappear totally and then show up in London and suddenly produce the world’s top poems and come out with these incredible plays.”
He continued: “The disposition, character and traits of a businessman are totally different to what would be required to sit back and write some of the finest plays in the whole English language.
“Shakespeare was terribly busy – in the morning he was being an actor, he produces the plays in the afternoon, and in the evening he was a board member in the Globe Theatre and holding shares in it.
“All the traits of his character are those of a businessman.
“The time available to have written these plays somehow , in the evening as a part-time thing under candlelight, is really rather tricky.”
Prof Carr acknowledged his theory would be “provocative”.
He said Marlowe was a secret agent for the government of the day, which banished him and controlled his output of works through Shakespeare.
But Willy Maley, professor of renaissance studies at the University of Glasgow, said the Marlowe theories were “hare-brained”.
Though he said it was now widely admitted Shakespeare did not write every word of his plays himself, saying some were co-authored with friends and colleagues.
He said: “There is all this snobbery around Shakespeare, that he was too low a social figure to be this great genius.
“That holds no truck with me, as very many people of low birth have written brilliantly – whether it was Edmund Spencer or Rabbie Burns.
“It doesn’t stand that he couldn’t have been a genius because he came from too modest a background.”
But he said examining Shakespeare from a business perspective and taking into account theories on how long it takes to become a genius would be a “fascinating angle”.
He said: “Because the Shakespeare authorship question is the happy hunting ground of eccentrics, lots of people put their hands to their forehead when it is mentioned.”