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Scientific American

Shakespeare, Interrupted

published August 2009 | comments (84)
The anti-Stratfordian skeptics are back, and this time they have a Supreme Court justice on their side
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For centuries, Shakespeare skeptics have doubted the authorship of the Stratfordian Bard’s literary corpus, proffering no fewer than 50 alternative candidates, including Francis Bacon, Queen Elizabeth I, Christopher Marlowe and the leading contender among the “anti-Stratfordians,” Edward de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford. And for nearly as long, the Shakespeare skeptics have toiled in relative obscurity, holding conferences in tiny gatherings and dreaming of the day their campaign would make front-page news. On April 18, 2009, the Wall Street Journal granted their wish with a feature story on how U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens came to believe (and throw his judicial weight behind) the skeptics.

Stevens’s argument retreads a well-worn syllogism: Shakespeare’s plays are so culturally rich that they could only have been written by a noble or scholar of great learning. The historical William Shakespeare was a commoner with no more than a grammar school education. Ergo, Shakespeare could not have written Shakespeare. For example, Stevens asks, “Where are the books? You can’t be a scholar of that depth and not have any books in your home. He never had any correspondence with his contemporaries, he never was shown to be present at any major event — the coronation of James or any of that stuff. I think the evidence that he was not the author is beyond a reasonable doubt.”

But reasonable doubt should not cost an author his claim, at least not if we treat history as a science instead of as a legal debate. In science, a reigning theory is presumed provisionally true and continues to hold sway unless and until a challenging theory explains the current data as well and also accounts for anomalies that the prevailing one cannot. Applying that principle here, we should grant that Shakespeare wrote the plays unless and until the anti-Stratfordians can make their case for a challenger who fits more of the literary and historical data.

I explained this to John M. Shahan, chair of the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition, who insisted that although most skeptics hold that the true playwright was the earl of Oxford, their mission has merely been to sow the seeds of doubt. I understood why when I examined the case for de Vere. For example, de Vere’s partisans exalt his education at both the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford and believe that the plays could only have been penned by someone of such erudition. Yet the plays make many allusions to the grammar school education that Shakespeare had and not to that university life held so dear by the skeptics: instead of Cambridge masters and Oxford dons, Shakespeare routinely references schoolmasters, schoolboys and schoolbooks.

As for Shakespeare’s humble upbringing, his father was a middle-class landowner whose estate was valued at the then respectable sum of £500 (you could purchase a modest home for £50) and whose social standing was as high as or higher than that of either Marlowe or Ben Jonson, who were themselves sons of a shoemaker and bricklayer, respectively, and somehow managed to master the belles lettres.

In the end, it’s not enough merely to plant doubts about Will. Some anti-Stratfordians question Shakespeare’s existence, but the number of references to him from his own time could only be accounted for by a playwright of that name (unless de Vere used Shakespeare as a nom de plume, for which there is zero evidence). And although Shakespeare’s skeptics note that there are no manuscripts, receipts, diaries or letters from him, they neglect to mention that we have none of these for Marlowe, either.

In other words, reasonable doubt is not enough to dethrone the man from Stratfordupon-Avon, and to date, no overwhelming case has been made for any other author. In contrast, hundreds of examples of historical and literary consilience have been compiled by Purchase College theatre professor and playwright Scott McCrea in his aptly titled book The Case for Shakespeare (Praeger, 2008), which demonstrates beyond a reasonable doubt that, in the Bard’s own words from Julius Caesar, Shakespeare was not just a man but the man: “the elements / So mix’d in him, that Nature might stand up, / And say to all the world, This was a man!”

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84 Comments to “Shakespeare, Interrupted”

  1. William Ray Says:

    Not to interrupt the speculations about who’s who four- hundred years ago, but Mr. Fauvet has hit upon an excellent point at the end of his lucubration:

    ” [N]obody has fantasised that dead aristocrats or spies were responsible for the work of Jonson, Webster or Middleton.” Well, no, not fantasy but well-founded research to that effect exists.

    If he and his mates would care to read Stephanie Hopkins Hughes’s “‘No Spring till Now’, The Countess of Pembroke and the John Webster Canon'”, they would be pleasantly astounded that Mary Sidney, heretofore recognized merely as the inspiration for the Wilton writers’ circle, was herself an extraordinary writer, and she used a front to disseminate her works. He was, evidently, her coach-maker’s son, John Webster.

    Jonson also received her patronage and favor. Oxford and she were close friends.

    It is extremely interesting that, almost uniquely for the time, there are clever, successful women in the works of “Shakespeare”, even more so that “Webster”‘s solo plays feature female protagonists. Mary Sidney’s literary influence is described in Robin P. William’s ‘Sweet Swan of Avon’.

    The overlooked Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke, once enticed James I to return to Wilton from the south in order to meet the Great Oxford (James’s reference for de Vere) and to see him perform in one of his plays.

    Her letter attesting to that was shown to a reputable Victorian visitor at Wilton. It got disappeared afterwards. It would have been the making of a legend, but not the Stradfordian one.

    Stephanie Hopkins Hughes’s article on Mary Sidney and Webster is in “The Oxfordian/6”, 2003, pp 71-108. She also wrote “The Great Reckoning: Who Killed Christopher Marlowe and Why?” (1997)

    “Lay on Macduff and damn’d be him that first cries, ‘Hold, enough!'”

    That includes you, mute Michael Shermer.

  2. Isabel Gortazar Says:

    Mary Sidney’s letter to her son asking him to persuade the King to come to Wilton to see As You Like It has disappeared. However, such scholars as refer to it quote her as saying that ” the man Shakespeare is with us”.

    Why on earth would the Countess refer to the Earl of Oxford as “the man Shakespeare”? The wording is totally inadequate and disrespectful towards the Earl, to say nothing of the fact that, if Oxford was indeed at Wilton House between October and December 1603, as were the King and Court, he would have been there as Earl of Oxford, not as “the man Shakespeare”. The expression implies that unless the Countess was referring to William Shakespeare of Stratford, she must be referring: a) to a commoner and b) to someone whose identity must not be revealed.

    The fact that such letter has been lost or destroyed at some time after 1865, when William Cory recorded its existence in his Journal, may be entirely accidental; on the other hand, it may be part of the continuous cover up by which important documents and MSS have been systematically destroyed.

    By the 19th Century, the rigidity of the class system, together with a more appreciative view of the role of a playwright, had shifted. Had that letter referred to the Earl of Oxford, there is no reason to suppose that its destruction was necessary. The only candidate to the authorship that was still anathema in those days (and to this day) was Christopher Marlowe. If the letter did not refer to William Shakespeare of Stratford, both the wording and the subsequent disappearance of the letter, suggest that he was “the man Shakespeare.

    Moreover, I would like to know what evidence Mr Ray has that Mary Sidney was a close friend of the Earl of Oxford, at least by the time that letter was written. Her circle of friends which included the De Vere girls, never forgave Oxford for his treatment of his wife and the consequent slur of illegitimacy that hovered over Elizabeth the Vere, at least until she became Countess of Derby. The author of the Shakespeare plays knew which way his bred was buttered; it appears that, in order to please Robert Cecil, (the now powerful brother of the slandered Countess of Oxford), and the Earl of Derby, as well as old friends such as the Countess of Pembroke, he not only obliterated the presence of the Earl of Oxford as one of King Hal’s “band of brothers” in Agincourt, but then described Edward de Vere as Bertram de Rousillon.

    I suggest Mr Ray that you re-read the VER SONG, in the last scene of Love’s Labour’s Lost, in which the word “cuckoo” (an accepted synonymous for “cuckold”), is repeated nine times in 18 lines, in reference to “married men”. It seems to me that far from being the author of Shakespeare’s plays, the Earl of Oxford was the object of Shakespeare’s ridicule and criticism, no doubt to please the Earl’s enemies.

    An on the subject of re-reading, perhaps Mr Ray you need to re-read also The Jew of Malta, in which a diligent, business-smart Jew is robbed blind by the improvident Catholic Knight of Malta, Governor of the Island, whose name, Ferneze, is a thinly disguised reference to Alexander Farnese, Prince of Parma, the man who was to invade England by land, in the wake of the Armada. The name of Ferneze given to the Catholic Governor is evidence of Marlowe’ religious neutrality in the play. Barabas becomes a criminal under strong provocation from the Christians, much as Shylock does. In both plays we are presented with the destructive effect of unjust and racist laws. The difference between one play and the other is due to the greater maturity and subtlety of the author, particularly as the terrible experience of exile after an ignominious “death” stands between the two plays.

    His audience would have caught at once the reference to Farnese; it is a problem that a number of historical “clues” which are essential to the full understanding of the Marlowe and Shakespeare plays, are missed nowadays by the growing ignorance of contemporary events on the part of modern readers. But the recorded success of The Jew shows that his audiences hugely enjoyed the farce with which Marlowe masked his criticism of religious tyranny and intolerance.

  3. Hal Sherman Says:

    “The fact that such letter has been lost or destroyed at some time after 1865, when William Cory recorded its existence in his Journal, may be entirely accidental; on the other hand, it may be part of the continuous cover up by which important documents and MSS have been systematically destroyed.”

    Please tell us more about this continuous cover up, like why anyone would be doing that after 1865, thanks.

  4. William Ray Says:

    It is a pleasure to respond to Ms. Gortazar. Her questions are full of knowledge. I hope she will not object if I introduce a bit more.

    It is indeed puzzling that the term “the man Shakespeare” (“the Shakespeare man” was the way I first read of it) could refer to anyone but a commoner in that hierarchical time and place. But if we consider that the name served as a cypher, a code, a pseudonym, then whoever stood behind it would be a major attraction and if a nonconformist aristocrat, someone to be protected–particularly in a couriered letter delivered in a repressive kingdom infested with spies. Not doing so amounted to revealing which aristocrat was a guest at Wilton playing in ‘As You Like It’, as most likely the melancholy and traveled Jacques. ‘My Lord’ was the proper deferential euphemism for reference to nobles, but that wasn’t informative. To say “the Shakespeare man” achieved identification, employed discretion, and stirred intrigue compelling to James I, an outspoken admirer of “the Great Oxford”. There was no record of any English monarch being beckoned out of his royal progress to meet a commoner. But in the end, we don’t have enough information to know for sure. The evidence is ambiguous, fine for the correspondent but not for history detectives.

    It is an additional interesting fact that at the Countess’ Wilton House was a temple-like outdoor shrine built in honor of the performance of Macbeth. Were Oxford and the Countess close friends? That is the question. Both Oxford and Mary Sidney Herbert were brilliant accomplished aristocrats at the center of their guilds of writers in the English Renaissance. They were intimately connected by the marriage of his daughter Susan to her son Philip and the near marriage of Bridget de Vere to William Herbert. Mark Anderson refers to their relationship as “friendly”. It certainly appears so; they were legal in-laws with parallel literary and political interests and a long history of religious sympathy. Add the numerous steadfast and virtuous heroines in “Shakespeare”, almost all aristocrats, being matched only by Mary Sidney’s alter-ego playwright Webster’s women, and we view the two against a potentially more understandable literary horizon. My guess is she influenced him greatly after the deaths of his wife and her brother, among several other blood losses. Her sons brought forth the First Folio, Oxford’s literary though not personal salvation. They were “the most noble and incomparable paire of brethren” to whom the work is dedicated. You can’t dismiss these things as co-incidences forever. After some point, the circumstantial evidence surrounds the truth. I therefore agree with Ms. Gortazar’s item b) “someone whose identity must not be revealed” was the subject of the letter.

    She goes on to question why Oxford’s ancestor was not properly touted for his role at Agincourt–if Oxford really was the author of Henry V. Again, we don’t really know; we’re working from deductive reasoning. I would respond that the then Earl of Oxford received copious dramatic recognition, some good lines, in the crude prototype for Henry V, The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth. As Ramon Jimenez admirably laid out in his “Who Was the author of Five Plays that Shakespeare Rewrote as His Own?” (Shakespeare-Oxford Newsletter 44:1 Winter, 2008), there are so many parallels in precisely the same order between this play and the King Henry trilogy, that they must have been written by the same person revising his own work. Therefore, for the sake of space, dramatic tension, or who knows what, the admiring words for Oxford’s ancestor had to go.

    Ms. Gortazar might have had a stronger point questioning why if Oxford really wrote the plays he made no mention of Richard III’s boyfriend, another Oxford ancestor, in that particular history/tragedy. To ask the question is to answer it–he likely did not want to give theatrical immortality to a family shame. Elsewhere in the histories there were little squibs, usually inaccurately and inexplicably glorifying his line.

    Another feature of the Oxfordian interpretation of the Shakespeare authorship is attention to the use of verbal plays upon the patronymic, Vere. Here Ms. Gortazar warns that the supposed author is being made the fool, in Love’s Labour’s Lost, so he couldn’t have written it could he? Well, somebody was made the fool. But Spring (Ver) and Winter (Hiems) are the foolers, not the fooled. They are the cuckoo, usually heard and not seen, and the owl, who sees all in the dark. They would know about infidelity, in this case cuckolding.

    The cuckoo lays blue eggs in another’s nest. Blue was one of the Vere colors. He planted his works in another name. His graceless sound-alike actually got depicted in this play–as Costard, the crude country-apple fool. He says in confession: “For mine own part, I know not the degree of the Worthy, but I am to stand for him.”

    The cuckoo-cuckold theme is an astute insight by Ms. Gortazar since the play has to do with the barbarous Armado getting a wife, as Ivan the Terrible tried to link up with the English aristocracy for decades. Elizabeth played him along and was never faithful to her monstrous swain. Mary Hastings rejected a marriage offer as well–as Maria, making fools of the whole delegation. This reflected historical events at Elizabeth’s court. As another insider court joke, Mary Hastings, who had been betrothed to Oxford when they were children, was in a sense “cuckolding” her rightful husband, grown-up Oxford, in entertaining such proposals. A further parallel is that Oxford had been made a laughingstock at court by the rumor his wife Anne was unfaithful. So he had wore the horns too, though unjustly. Instead of avoiding the reference of cuckolding, he made it an alluding joke on himself, kept his composure, giving no further grist for the social mill, just as recommended by Castiglione in The Courtier. He turned personal tragedy into comedic art.

    Thus, I disagree that someone else (Shakspere?) mocked Oxford’s shame at being cuckolded. Oxford was the author and averted the arrows the second time around. The Ver reference appears to be yet another signature planted subtely in the supposedly pseudonymous works. For a full excellent discussion, see Rima Greenhill’s “From Russia with Love: a Case of Love’s Labour’s Lost” (The Oxfordian/9 2006)

    On the subject of Marlowe, I respectfully retire from the field, because he is irrelevant to the Shakespeare authorship issue, my main interest here. Marlowe lived around the corner from Fisher’s Folly, where Oxford fed and sponsored several writers in the English Renaissance. There are thirty-seven parallel phrases between Marlowe and “Shakespeare”, indicating that there was sharing, guild-like, in the construction of certain plays. But Marlowe died at the beginning of that era. He did not fit the biography outlined by the plays, nor had he the style, learning, position, geographical precision, spiritual evolution, and motivation to create the Shakespeare canon. Oxford had all of these. The minor poems prefiguring the narrative epics relate to his life, not Marlowe’s.

    I would freely grant that Marlowe was a significant figure in English literature. But for equivalencies to The Merchant of Venice, I would go to Giovanni Fiorentino’s Il Pecorone and Massucio’s Il Novellino, either read or seen or both by Oxford when he was in Italy. They didn’t exist in England. The figure of Portia seems to be based on Oxford’s second wife, Elizabeth Trentham, who had a high reputation in the English courts, unheard of for a women then. The name constitutes a variation from Oxford’s early play, History of Portio aka The Jew.

    We just have to cop that the sunken ship being pulled from history’s depths is Oxford’s, when we use reasonably reliable investigative methods that work in the study of other authors. He had to have a life in some form related to the work. Oxford did to an uncanny degree. Shakspere definitely had a life. It had nothing to do with creativity. We’re not talking about “could haves”, “must haves”, or “surely would haves”, but actual facts, those we can find.

    On the question from Mr. Sherman, there is a whole lot of reputation, political, educational, and institutional, riding on keeping the present understanding of the Shakespeare authorship contained in the Stratford myth framework. Google Barbara Burris, Bonner Miller Cutting, and Charles Wisner Barrell if you want to see what political and scholastic institutions (like the Folger Shakespeare Library) have done to falsify, mislead, and defraud to save the face of the current though weakening fiction.

    With best wishes,

    William Ray

  5. Roger Stritmatter Says:

    Ms. Gortazar asks the shrewd question:

    Finally, how could Oxford have written Sonnet 26?
    “Lord of my love, to whom in vassalage” etc.
    The word “vassalage” coming from an Earl in Elizabeth’s England could only be addressed to a Monarch, in this case, male.
    There is no record that Oxford offended King James between the spring of 1603 and the Earl’s death in November 1604, to the extreme that he would have felt the need to apologize to his new King with this sonnet.

    This is really part of a larger question. How could Oxford have written the narrative poem dedications (Venus and Adonis, 1593; Rape of Lucrece, 1594) to the Earl of Southampton. The answer in both cases is that, for whatever reasons of his own — and what these were will no doubt continued to be hotly debated — he put Southampton on quite a pedestal. As Southampton is the leading candidate among orthodox scholars as well as Oxfordians for the “fair youth” of the sonnets, the relationship between thest two is central to the Shakespearean enigma. To me the language used in the sonnets as well as the dedications is more plausibly by Oxford than by the Stratfordian. I don’t see how the later could dare to tell Southampton that “thou dost common grow” (69). Just doesn’t work very well if you want to keep your hands, to be writing that to a ranking peer of the realm unless you have the protection of status. This is but one example. But because the Shakespeare canon is typically read through the lens of the orthodox model, students of Shakespeare are deprived of the opportunity to see such glaring anomolies.

  6. SebastianH Says:

    Re # 54 on Marlowe: “nor had he the style, learning, position, geographical precision, spiritual evolution, and motivation to create the Shakespeare canon.”

    Sir, with all due respect, are you fully aware of Marlowe’s biography? Theology major at Cambridge, translator of Ovid, pioneer of blank verse; he had the proven ability to write very quickly (note how quickly he wrote the sequel to Tamburlaine); he was an operative in Walsingham/Burghley’s spy network, etc. And he also had the common touch we often praise Shakespeare for: Marlowe was the son of a cobbler.

    As Stanley Wells maintains in the PBS film Much Ado About Something, which promotes the Marlowe theory: “If Shakespeare had died at the age Marlowe had died I think we should now regard Marlowe as the greater dramatist.”

    Please do not sell Kit Marlowe short – the pioneer of blank verse whom scholars have long acknowledged was a “great influence” upon Shakespeare is as good an authorship candidate as any.

    And I challenge everyone here to read Edward II also and then ask yourself if it sounds like Shakespeare.

    Finally, if you were Marlowe, facing likley torture at the hands of Whitgift and his band of fanatics, what would you do? Make your case in court (good luck!) or try to escape? I’d use my intelligence connections and make a run for it.

  7. hal sherman Says:

    “Finally, if you were Marlowe, facing likley torture at the hands of Whitgift and his band of fanatics, what would you do? Make your case in court (good luck!) or try to escape? I’d use my intelligence connections and make a run for it.”

    Well, Occam’s Razor suggests that his intelligence connections would have found it easier to kill him as a liability than anything else.

  8. William Ray Says:

    I do not wish to disparage a remarkable and tragic playwright, Christopher Marlowe, when I make the statement:

    “On the subject of Marlowe, I respectfully retire from the field, because he is irrelevant to the Shakespeare authorship issue, my main interest here.”

    Nor do I dismiss his contributions by saying: “nor had he the style, learning, position, geographical precision, spiritual evolution, and motivation to create the Shakespeare canon.”

    Our standards of evidence demand enough co-incidences, parallels, stylistic congruities, et al., between Marlowe’s life and creation, and the establishment of the identity of another figure–known by the pseudonym Shake-speare or Shakespeare in the English Renaissance–to connect the one author and the other attributed works.

    Marlowe did employ unrhymed verse particularly in dialogue which contained sufficient music to deem it poetic. His Edward II was one of the great psychological plays in English, one of the very few to depict monarchal perversity in raw terms.

    However I question whether Marlowe was the primary English pioneer of a new form of writing. And I question that Edward II was a “Shakespearean” tragedy.

    The first figure to write free verse in English was Henry Howard, unrecognized today as a precursor (with Wyatt) of Shakespearean-style verse, dialogue, and the “Shakespearean” sonnet. Howard was Edward de Vere’s uncle.

    de Vere continued the tradition of that uncle and another uncle in his concentrations (1) on Ovidian Latinate verse, very likely through tutoring from Arthur Golding, his uncle by marriage, and (2) on the adaptation of the Petrarchian sonnet to a scheme distinctly English, with the unrhymed poetic line as another feature of the English Renaissance literary change.

    Thus we are not permitted to singularly extol Marlowe for these stylisms, although he used them. We see them at their peaks in the extensive references to Ovid in “Shakespeare” and in the Sonnets’ structure.

    Nor does Edward II represent to my ear a “Shakespearean” tragedy. Tragedy in the ancient Greek sense, with which de Vere was fully familiar, meant high tragedy due to a fatal flaw nobly encountered. This does not seem to me to describe the distorted personal relations in Edward II, the tale of a weak selfish man inevitably self-destroyed and cruelly killed.

    But “Shakespearean”? Where are the memorable lines seared into our memories? It is true that Calvin Hoffman found thirty-seven similar phrases in Marlowe and “Shakespeare”. Given the guild-like system of play production sponsored by de Vere as literary patron and master playwright, this could be plausiby proposed as the result of collaboration or borrowing.

    But there are thousands of parallel usages in “Shakespeare” that appear well before the traditional dates of the Bard’s plays. These usages appear in the writing of Edward de Vere. Don’t believe me. Refer to Joseph Sobran or William Plumer Fowler for the thousands. You will be convinced of a pattern between de Vere and the plays.

    If you call these researchers conspiracy theorists instead, then prove they are. Read the evidence. Read the scholarship of Roger Stritmatter, who contributed to this dialogue. He has established the inextricable connections between de Vere’s Geneva bible underlinings and the corresponding biblical parables and allegories in the Shakespeare canon. No one has disproven these connections or even approached weakening his thesis. All that has happened is a brittle paralysis by the academy. But people aren’t totally cowed by the huffs of authority in the face of compelling fact.

    Returning the the initial point, I cannot find readily available and convincing evidence for Marlowe as author of the pseudonymic “Shakespeare” works. The secret writings from Europe have no basis in available fact.

    The discussion of acceptable evidence inevitably brings us back to our respective methods of analysis. What evidence is, in this particularly sensitive field, seems to depend greatly on the reigning preconceptions of the analyst. With any other writer, the plenitude of proofs of similarity and connectedness, both stylistic and biographical, in “Shakespeare”/de Vere would have long since been accepted.

    But when you have threatened a structure of legendary heroism, and the doctrinal sense of certainty bound up with that mythos, evidence becomes the enemy of belief, to be energetically denied. Questioning comfortable myth just generally speaking is judged as bad manners, poor social respect, physically revolting, a stunning violation to propriety akin to obscenity or blasphemy. Learned behaviors when threatened trigger the besieged mentality.

    So the Shakespeare authorship issue is a politically loaded question as well as an economically destabilizing one. I like to think the paradigm will shift via the usual process Kubler-Ross diagrammed as denial-anger-bargaining-acceptance-grief. But people have to value the truth more than the taboos upon it if we are to reach that point.

    And I like the quotation from The Rape of Lucrece: “Time’s glory is to calm contending kings, to unmask falsehood and bring the truth to light.” de Vere knew what a struggle it would be. The undulations of Time would have to help.

  9. Glenda Thompson Says:

    Shakespeare’s plays are so culturally rich that they could only have been written by a noble or scholar of great learning.

    The universe is so rich and complex that it could only have been created by a superhuman being.


  10. Hal Sherman Says:

    How is the complexity of the universe relevant to the authorship of Shakespeare’s works?

  11. Glenda Thompson Says:

    It isn’t. The argument in each case, however, falls flat.

  12. Hal Sherman Says:

    I wasn’t sure if you were trying to hijack the discussion, or what you were trying to do. Certainly the Oxfordians are violating Occam’s Razor big time with their basic assumption.

  13. Christopher Blood Says:

    What an odd discussion, particularly from the authors who, having done the deep research of actually reading some of the plays, forget to mention that there has never been any doubt that Shakespeare did not write down the plays as we know them. He was not involved with the preparation of the folios for publication. Rather, the folios are effectivly compilations of stage sides used in productions of the plays, modified through performance. This is a distinct difference and allows the combined knowledge of the performers (perhaps even Marlow) to be combined in the record we have. Meta analyses of the plays have shown their extreme theatricality, and self reference to the theater and acting — not features of academic, or scholarly writing. Sort of a scientific faux pas to forget to look at the source of the basic evidence prior to expounding on theorys of its creation.

  14. Margo Says:

    Edward de Vere 17th Earl of Oxford was a worthless wastrel, a sex offender and abusive husband BUT he was a noble and so automatically worthy of genius! God help us!

  15. Norman Levitt Says:

    As a mathematician, I begin with a seeming digression:

    Srinivasa Ramanujan was one of India’s greatest mathematical geniuses. He made substantial contributions to the analytical theory of numbers and worked on elliptic functions, continued fractions, and infinite series.

    Ramanujan was born in his grandmother’s house in Erode, a small village about 400 km southwest of Madras. When Ramanujan was a year old his mother took him to the town of Kumbakonam, about 160 km nearer Madras. His father worked in Kumbakonam as a clerk in a cloth merchant’s shop. In December 1889 he contracted smallpox.

    “When he was nearly five years old, Ramanujan entered the primary school in Kumbakonam although he would attend several different primary schools before entering the Town High School in Kumbakonam in January 1898. At the Town High School, Ramanujan was to do well in all his school subjects and showed himself an able all round scholar. In 1900 he began to work on his own on mathematics summing geometric and arithmetic series.

    Ramanujan was shown how to solve cubic equations in 1902 and he went on to find his own method to solve the quartic. The following year, not knowing that the quintic could not be solved by radicals, he tried (and of course failed) to solve the quintic.

    It was in the Town High School that Ramanujan came across a mathematics book by G S Carr called Synopsis of elementary results in pure mathematics. This book, with its very concise style, allowed Ramanujan to teach himself mathematics, but the style of the book was to have a rather unfortunate effect on the way Ramanujan was later to write down mathematics since it provided the only model that he had of written mathematical arguments. The book contained theorems, formulae and short proofs. It also contained an index to papers on pure mathematics which had been published in the European Journals of Learned Societies during the first half of the 19th century. The book, published in 1856, was of course well out of date by the time Ramanujan used it.

    By 1904 Ramanujan had begun to undertake deep research. He investigated the series ∑(1/n) and calculated Euler’s constant to 15 decimal places. He began to study the Bernoulli numbers, although this was entirely his own independent discovery.” (From a website devoted to Ramanujan)

    Ramanujan was certainly one of the half-dozen greatest mathematicians of all time. In terms of pure talent, he may well have been the greatest. Without formal training at any university, he began to turn out results in number theory of enormous depth and originality. His uncanny intuition led him to conjectures that took decades to prove, often through the use of conceptual machinery completely unknown in Ramanujan’s day. G.H. Hardy, then reputed to be the greatest of number theorists, was in total awe of Ramanujan, whom he brought to Cambridge (despite the reigning prejudice against Indians) where he flourished incandescently in the brief years before his early death.

    I mention this, of course, because it illuminates the fatuity of the argument that a son of the minor gentry, like Shakespeare, could not have composed the enormously deep works of the canon, with their wide-ranging insight into human affairs. This is pure silliness, and accords to university “learning” a power and scope that it never possessed. (Compare Newton, who went up to Cambridge, from his own lower-gentry origins, knowing no mathematics to speak of but becoming the most prominent mathematician in Europe within a matter of months.

    First of all, “anti-Stratfordians” are given to greatly exaggerating the real-life social consequences of the distinction between great Lords and commoners in Elizabethan times. Punctilious insistence on minute difference in rank was a reflection of the fact that in real life, boundaries were so permeable. Great houses and courts were full of ambitious men of “low” birth, acting as secretaries, treasurers, chaplains, lawyers, emissaries, tutors, librarians, and the like. These men were hardly less well-read than their “noble” masters. Actors and managers of the most prominent companies also fall into this category, though they were only occasional, rather than permanent, residents of the great houses of their noble and sometimes royal patrons.

    A man like Shakespeare would have had frequent contact with all sorts of people who could inform him about the political, diplomatic, and dynastic ways of the world, as well as access to the kind of below-stairs gossip that would flesh out the official versions with insights into the how ordinary human foibles were played out among the mighty. Shakespeare was, after all, a psychological genius as well as a poetic genius, and would have synthesized these multiple points of view into a commanding overview of human reality. (James Joyce did the same, recall.) He would also have had access to books and chronicles through his noble connections–no miracle there! The argument that he couldn’t have known what the Author of the Canon knew dissolves of its own silliness. (Why an autodidact of a literary genius like Mark Twain should have believed it is beyond me.)

    Beyond this, there is the plain evidence of the plays themselves, especially when one correlates the dates of first performance and the intrinsic nature of the plays with Shakespeare’s own dates. First we have apprentice works like “Two Gentlemen of Verona” and “The Comedy of Errors”, clearly intended as crowd-pleasers, and the work of a beginner learning his craft. Rapidly, the comedies become more mature, the first attempts at tragedy appear, with some misfires like “Titus Andronicus”, and the Histories, becoming increasingly sharp and insightful from play to play. Then, at last, the supernal tragedies–“Hamlet”, “Macbeth”, “Lear”, “Othello”–as well as the “problem” comedies like “Measure for Measure”, themselves verging on the tragic. And then we reach the elegiac “Tempest”, clearly validictory in tone. Of course, there are later plays, like “The Winter’s Tale” and (partially) “Pericles”, which, frankly, seem absent-minded and mechanical. And then there’s “Cymbeline”, which could only have been written by a dejected, disillusioned soul expressing his contempt for the trade of playwrighting, for his actors, for his audience, and, likely, for himself. It is the work of a man who, for whatever reason, walks away from his trade in disgust and melancholy.

    This is not the chronology of the work of a dilletante, however gifted. It insists on its professionalism, and can hardly reflect what might have happened to the long-buried works of a deceased discreet nobleman, should some impressarios have got hold of them. In that case, the deepest works would have been among the first to appear.

    Beyond that, we have the testimony of Shakespeare’s own professional colleagues, sparse but authentic, which only a paranoid mentality could view as part of a conspiracy (to what end?)

    But, above all, there is the language–which is not Marlowe’s nor Johnson’s nor Webster’s nor (certainly) de Vere’s, but rather a singular music, as unmistakable as Mozart’s. It soars above all the competing eloquence of Elizabethans and Jacobeans. If we can’t hear it in any of the anti-Stratfordian candidates wiriting in their own undoubted voices (and we can’t), it must be the product of an altogether different and superior mind–that of a man who was born the son of a prosperous glover in Stratford, Warwickshire.

  16. Norman Levitt Says:


    Dear Ian Haste:

    It was utterly obvious to me that the verse beginning “If I do prove her haggard” was Shakespeare, while the one whose first line is “Like haggards wild they range” is clearly not. Explicit “content” of the hawking conceit has nothing to do with it–it’s all in the rhythm and assonance of the language.

  17. William Ray Says:

    I find myself in complete agreement with Mr. Levitt regarding the great Indian mathematician. Ramanujan was living proof that station and class have no proprietary claim to genius. Talent is universal. Only fortune and character limit its fullest expression. However, the flaw in the argument is that it works from analogy to contest actual fact. The primary actual fact before us is that “Shake-speare” referred to some four-hundred sources, most of them in other languages, ancient and modern. He even referred to codices in Old English and Scandinavian for the plot lines of Hamlet that were exclusively in the hands of–Oxford’s father-in-law Cecil and of his brilliant tutor,Thomas Smith. Not for hundreds of years did these manuscripts get translated and published. All those many sources must have been read. They had to have been available to read. They were never available to anyone not in a position to access them. As Dr. Daniel Wright demonstrated, the voluminous resources of learning in “Shake-speare”, identified by later scholarship, were ALL available in Oxford’s library, his family library, or in those respectively of his warder Burghley, his colleague John Dee, or his friend Lumley. There is of course no proof whatsoever that the reputed genius Gulielmus Shakspere ever had a book, wrote a line of English, or capably signed his own will. Nor are there any papers, letters, manuscripts, testimonials in writing to him or from him, anecdotes from his home town, remarks of him as “Shakespeare” by his literate son-in-law, formerly owned volumes found in the surrounding counties–all that could be, and with writers inevitably must be, the detritis of a studied mind.

    I know it is a repugnant concept that a figure of modest origins cannot rise to heights of the spirit. I know that concept is wrong because I have seen it disproven in history and my own experience. But such a concept is not my claim in this matter. In writing and thought it is not enough to be a genius (i.e., to be skilled as no other and inspired as no other). One must prepare the mind and discipline the skills in the service of the vision. In mathematics there can be human phenoms of discovery, because the progression of mathelmatical symbolism is logical. Hence even the very young can succeed remarkably. I might suggest that predisposition such as in Mozart’s seemingly born abilities plays a part also. And here we enter the realm of mystery how in-born predisposition may be. But it is another story. We can just stick to the facts we know here. Our subject, whom I call Oxford, started early with his inherent interests, skills, and almost unerring path to drama, rhetoric, and poetic expression. In addition to these he learned as one does from the suffering of experience and the manifold nature of humanity.

    He did progress spiritually as Mr. Levitt indicates. The Tempest constitutes his farewell to drama, an anagram of the heroine Miranda being “In drama” and the play’s coda saying that he wished only to please and be forgiven his trespasses. Such sentiments and purposes do not agree with either the interests or character of a man who in the very same years as Oxford’s twilight was suing his neighbor over small change and hoarding grain. I could say much more in factual elaboration to a previous writer who argued superficially, hell nobody’s perfect. We are experiencing the contradictions in character, locations, dates, and ability that cannot be overcome with rationalizations. The pseudonymous ruse became a hoax that became self-serving state policy and thereafter official myth for the ages. All facts contrary to the mythopoetic legend are considered poor manners, proof itself there is much to be denied if one must condemn the questioner and the facts. As Churchill said, he didn’t want his myths tampered with. One doesn’t, and one denies oneself a clear-sighted examination of the truth accordingly.

    Finally, concerning the laudatory remarks of professional colleagues towards “Shakespeare” in 1622-3 though nothing was said when he died in 1616–if Mr. Levitt will take a moment to examine the testimonies of fellow actors Heminge and Condell in the introductory matter of the First Folio, he will see the style of Ben Jonson. The actors were not writers or orators and it is fanciful to say they dictated their thoughts to Jonson. The other tributes were all literary, to the author, not the man, begging the question why not the man and the author if he were one and the same. Jonson’s perorations were ambiguous, in that he had nothing laudatory to say about the man Shakspere either, and his play Sogliardo openly ridiculed Shakspere’s motto Not Without Right into Not Without Mustard. Surely Jonson was walking a line and knew how to, in order to get out a publication in repressive circumstances on behalf of the de Vere family and their great ancestor. But we do not know the ruse in full until we examine the primary objective evidence, the Stratford Monument. The rest of the evidence favoring Oxford as Shakespeare, though substantial, is circumstantial and interpretative. Decoded and confirmed by acceptable modern method, via analyzing the Cardano Grille, the diplomatic encryption/decryption method of Oxford’s time, the Stratford Monument is proof of the claim. This decryption in full appears in ‘Proving Shakespeare’ by David L. Roper. It is quite simple. The previously dubious language of the inscription once decrypted reads, over Jonson’s initials: So test him: I vow he is E De Vere as he, Shakspeare. The phrase “Quick Nature Dide” in the inscription language comes from a familiar Latin phrase, Summa de velocium rerum natura, whose first syllables translate to a recognizable declaration in Latin:Sum De Ve Re Natu= I am Vere by Nature. Thus Jonson attests and Vere declares the answer to an essential question in English history and world literature, who is Shakespeare? Such were the secret measures a repressed faction had to take to attain its purpose.

    The truth emerges in bits and clots, but it will emerge for the good of our understanding. We cannot say we appreciate a work of art without also recognizing the mind and soul who created it. It is the responsibility of intellectuals in this case to identify the right person. He pleaded so to history when Hamlet said, “If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart, absent thee from felicity awhile and in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain to tell my story.”

    Thus, I reject Mr. Levitt’s argument that shows much ability. With the addition of the necessary knowledge, I trust he will comprehend a different view.

  18. Hal Sherman Says:

    Evidently Charles Dickens didn’t buy the assumption that the story of Hamlet was only available in Old English or Scandinavian texts:

    “The Origin of Hamlet”
    from ‘All The Year Round’ –

    Conducted by Charles Dickens
    (Published on 8th February 1879)


    [173] Shakespeare was wont to build upon foundations laid by other hands. The splendid superstructure was all his own unmistakably – his name was writ large upon it; but it was reared upon borrowed or appropriated materials. In considering his plays, it has been usual to look, not only for their themes pre-existing in certain popular collections of fables or novels, but for a dramatic treatment of such themes by earlier authors.

    He was a sort of Providence to small, rude, and primitive playwrights, shaping their rough-hewn ends; and assuredly, like that poet’s pen he has himself described, giving to “airy nothings, a local habitation and a name.”

    Shakespeare’s tragedy of Hamlet was, without doubt, preceded by a drama dealing with the same subject.

    In an epistle by Thomas Nash, prefixed to Robert Greene’s Menaphon published in 1589, allusion is made to a tragedy called Hamlet; and on June 9th, 1594, Henslowe the manager records in his diary a performance of Hamlet by his company in the theatre at Newington Butts.

    Even then it was an old play, producing only a small receipt in comparison with the profits arising from the representation of new works. Malone, confidently though conjecturally, assigned to Thomas Kyd the Hamlet thus mentioned by Nash and Henslowe.

    As Mr. Collier says, “it is often alluded to by contemporaries, and there is not a moment’s doubt that it was written and acted many years before Shakespeare’s tragedy of the same name was produced.”

  19. William Ray Says:

    I would like to make a few comments in reply to Mr. Sherman.

    Collier has been recognized as one of the greatest defrauders of English letters, so his remarks have no weight. While Dickens tried to understand the origins of Hamlet, the state of knowledge at that time, just beginning on the authorship subject, was insufficient to do so. He was not an expert and didn’t pretend to be. His attempts to find origins for Hamlet do nothing for the idea that a self-educated man read virtually unobtainable materials. His research should be viewed in light of his statement about the Stratfordian figure: “The life of Shakespeare is a fine mystery and I tremble every day lest something should turn up.” This is hardly an endorsement of the consonance between the Stratford life and the Shakespearean canon.

    That there were earlier “Hamlets” is certain. Oxford was a university student when he wrote ‘Horestes’, which has linguistic, plot, character, and classical reference similarities to the later work. The pseudonym for that play was John, Oxford’s father’s name, Pykeryng, pike and ring camoflaged with an e between for Edward. Note that pike and spear are related weapons. Oxford introduced the ring figure again in ‘The Merchant of Venice’. It stood for his O in Oxford. You find it in his echo poems as well.

    Nashe referred to “whole Hamlets of tragedy”, well before the traditional play date, indicating that one version played in the late 1580’s. This is confirmed by A.S. Cairncross, who provided textual proof of the earlier version, which he estimated as 1588-9. He paid with being ignored and shunned the rest of his distinguished career. A rare brave intellectual.

    The ur-Hamlet by Kyd was never found, thus it is dubious, essentially a claim. Kyd worked for Oxford and it is possible that he got his name on the play at some time. The idea of an ur-Hamlet is a modern contrivance, so far as I can see, to fortify the idea that the Stratfordian figure wrote the final version by re-writing a crude effort by someone else.

    Kyd incidentally was given credit for ‘The Tragedy of the Spanish Maze’, which closely resembles ‘The Tempest’. He was not known as a writer. It appears that proxies were the primary way for Oxford to get out his work. Munday and Lyly for instance didn’t write a line after they left his employ.

    As for the sources for the Hamlet plotlines, Belleforest was not in English until 1608, the Beowulf, Saxon, and Scandinavian codices until much later. The important thing to understand relating to our subject is that Oxford didn’t need translations. His tutor and his warder had the originals. But there is no explanation for Shakspere without them. It is not a convincing argument that these works were tavern talk.

    Just the assertion that Shakespeare re-wrote other people’s works is self-contradictory if you are talking about an original genius who transformed the language and virtually created English patriotism with the histories, many of them prior to the Spanish Armada crisis. It is all a rationalization for explaining the re-working of earlier similar plays, identical in language, plot, character, even sequence of scenes in certain instances, after Shakspere arrived in London. The same author revised his own work. Oxford had time after 1591, hence an explosion of (revised) works throughout the 1590’s. It is that simple. But that sinks the entire Stratfordian myth, and myths die hard.

    Rather than go on in detail I recommend Mr. Sherman or anyone else just read the relevant work. It won’t take long. On Beowulf and Hamlet–W. Ron Hess, the De Vere Society Newsletter, June 2009. On ‘Horestes’–Earl Showerman, The Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter, Spring 2008. On parallels between early Oxfordian (“anonymous”) plays and the later Shakespearean histories–Ramon Jimenez, Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter, Winter 2008.

    The facts are plentiful. Only the courage to understand their consequences is weak. A highly defensive doctrinal certainty, in this as well as many another subject, forecloses advances of the truth.

  20. Hal Sherman Says:

    The Oxfordian doth protest too much, methinks ;-)

  21. Hal Sherman Says:

    More seriously, the amount of weight you place on cyphered messages doesn’t inspire any confidence in your recommendations that I read De Vere Society and Oxford Society Newsletters. But it’s a free country, so believe whatever you want..

  22. Norman Levitt Says:

    Mr. Ray ignores a couple of essential points and a few that are less definitive but still telling.

    1) The “canon” is obviously the life’s work of someone who had to make his living in the theater, gaining entry into that world with a bunch of crowd-pleasers that hardly speak of a detached, aristocratic spirit: The Comedy of Errors, Two Gentlement of Verona, The Taming of the Shrew, Titus Andronicus–you get the idea.

    2) We have a large sample of de Vere’s authentic writing; it ain’t Shakespeare!

    3) We have no way of knowing what themes, tales, legends, plots, etc., circulated in what form. If only the only attested copies of printed volumes of these supposed sources come from the library of the Oxford family, so what? Who knows how the general ideas found there might have circulated within the world of poets and their patrons.

    4) The tortured “cryptography” cited by Oxfordians is evidence of nothing in particular; the “message” is semi-literate at best (what’s that superfluous “I vow” doing there?). Don’t you think they could do better in point of eloquence if they wanted to encode a revelation?

  23. William Ray Says:

    In response to the immediate past question, try creating a superficially “innocent” communication that conceals a secret, i.e., diplomat or military or guarded, message. You can only do it with short bursts of letters, using the crude system available at that time, the Cardano Grille, which is why the message seems strained or hackneyed,.

    Regarding the question about “what does it matter the sources were in Oxford’s library”. Correction, his and a few others, the most advanced libraries in England, all available to him so that he could become and did become a figure of great learning, as well as a poetic, rhetorical, and dramatic master. So, on the contrary, you can determine how he had access to knowledge and was able to write that learnedly. We’re not talking general concepts but specific allusions, structures, references, parables, metaphors from ancient or foreign minds. As far as anybody else doing the same, they could have if they were in a remarkably good position to, but apparently nobody was. He was considered the Renaissance man. But he went against his class code and wrote. You can’t explain the artistic mission. Elizabeth supported him with her secret service funds. It was national policy to. James I continued it.

    To put things a little differently, if anyone were his equal and did reach his level of knowledge and art, then throughout that person’s whole life, his neighbors, his town, his colleagues, the universities, would have something to say anecdotally. Elizabethan England bowed to Oxford as the greatest among them in that time. Nobody ever wrote about Shakspere except to lampoon him as a pretentious fool.

    Oxford originally meant to write plays for the court and the university, later as a patriot acting with Elizabeth’s support to produce the histories for the masses. When he married and his financial life stabilized he retired in effect to his study and the nearby theater in Hackney. Certainly the early plays are entertainment, royal entertainment at first, with loads of in-jokes on Oxford’s enemies, then for the people in the 1590’s who got the bombast for sure if not the detail. I would agree with the idea of a progression to higher art. But before there was ‘The Merchant of Venice’ there was ‘History of Portio’. And before there was ‘Othello’ there was ‘A Moor’s Masque’, and I can go on to other early plays turned into mature ones, but you can find that out yourself if you’re really the inquiring type. Just realize the progressive connections were de facto overlooked in later centuries due to the doctrinality of retaining the traditional (the politically safe) hoax, retailed without explanation from generation to generation. To tell the whole story would shift our view of the beginnings of the English state. The Machiavellians won and told it their way. The eclipse of Oxford was necessary to that. He told the truth.

    Concerning “Oxford ain’t Shakespeare”, look at the actual word and phrase comparisons between the two and you will say different. The easiest place to start is Sobran’s ‘Alias Shakespeare’, Out of twenty poems you thought weren’t much, he finds HUNDREDS of unique words and phrase not used by others–because they hadn’t created or thought of them–that show up by gum in the great Shakespeare. There are other exhaustive studies, not as easy to get.

    Finally, concerning the encoded messages in the Stratford Monument and the Sonnets dedication, which subject strikes a prior writer with suspicion about my credibility.

    The big problem about authorship of this literary question is the lack of hard evidence. Nothing of literary content for Shakspere, just 70 legal documents demonstrating he was an ambitious, litigious heavy who suddenly got rich and kept it. Therein lies a tale, but never mind now. Little for Oxford because the authorities destroyed his will and most of his letters. He was shamed and defamed, too far ahead of his time. Then there was the fire in Jonson’s study when the First Folio was about to appear in print, destroying the manuscripts he used to put it together. Only thirteen copies of the Sonnets, when Shake-speare had been the rage for decades. Possibly they were privately distributed to the few who could comprehend their allegorical political /religious meaning. Possibly the authorities stepped in to stop the production. In sum, the only real hard evidence is in the plain light of day where you never look. Decode what is obviously a message too screwed up to be taken at face value, and you’ve done something. It has happened, verified by accepted cryptological methods. Meaningful decryption is objective evidence. It is beyond reasonable doubt in court. People wonder why Justice John Paul Stevens is Oxfordian. He knows what the standard of evidence is.

    Glad you all have stuck with the subject long enough to realize there may be something to this inquiry. I’m not protesting at all. It has been an enjoyable study. I talked on the subject once to a group, and a listener came up and said she felt almost physical relief to find that there really was a majestic soul who wrote the works of Shakespeare. Let’s see if long-standing political conditioning can keep burying the truth about the mystery of that life and work.

  24. Hal Sherman Says:

    Considering the impressive literary output of Sir Phillip Sidney under his own name, how would it be against his class code for De Vere to have written under his own name?

  25. William Ray Says:

    Totally appropriate question. Sidney, while not a commoner, was not a nobleman. Oxford was considered the highest nobleman of England, because his line was longest, back to William the Conquerer’s sister. After his youth he published just three poems over his name.

    The bulk of Sidney’s writing came out after he died, produced by his sister Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, who was herself a major force in the English Renaissance. This was the protocol in the aristocracy–Henry Howard’s poetry for instance, the originator of free verse and, with Wyatt, the form that Oxford, Howard’s nephew, would make into what is called the Shakespearean sonnet. Mary Herbert later became related to Oxford, through Philip Herbert’s marriage to Oxford’s daughter Susan. Susan was a favorite of James I, who attended their wedding–where Midsummer Night’s Dream was performed–and he proclaimed the eight play gala of “Shakespearean” dramas to honor her father in 1605. There was another such tribute, in 1612, after Oxford’s wife died, fourteen Shakespearean plays. When Shakspere died was there a comparable tribute, or any at all? You already guessed that one.

  26. Hal Sherman Says:

    There’s a lot of interesting things about tributes to the man from Stratford on this website, since you raise the issue:

  27. William Ray Says:

    Thank you. The tributes are indeed interesting, for the fact that they have to do loftily with the author and never the man. The panegyric suggesting Shakspere be buried near Beaumont and Chaucer in Westminster Abbey is interesting to me in that Jonson, the greatest visible admirer and proponent of “Shakespeare” strenuously objected to the idea. If Shakspere’s body, in an unmarked grave then, would somehow be found and exhumed, to be re-moved to the Poet’s Corner, the certainty of the true author’s deliverance into recognition in a later era would have been severely confused and compromised.

    Rather than go into this issue in detail, I recommend Chapter 8 of David L. Roper’s ‘Proving Shakespeare’: The First Folio’s Deceptive Tributes. He discusses it well.

    As a brief argument explaining why Shakspere was strangely not honored within the literary community after his demise in 1616: it was known who he was and what his role was in English literature. towit compare that response with one occurring after his fellow townsman died. A few months before Shakspere’s death, Francis Beaumont, a far lesser light than “Shake-speare”, was profusely memorialized in London and buried in Westminster Abbey. He was born in Stratford-Upon-Avon. This was about what you would expect. However, neither in Stratford nor in London, nor anywhere else, was Shakspere similarly noted when he died. That event passed without notice.

    Nor was Oxford extensively honored by the literary community at his death, though there were considerable recondite tributes without mentioning the connection with his (pseudonymous) works. That would have called attention to someone deeply embarrassing and threatening to the Robert Cecil power base and have been an explicit danger to the writers. There were reasons of class as well to suppress the name of the actual author of such works as Richard the Third, a condemnation of Cecil.

    Only indirectly, but unmistakably, was Oxford honored, when six months later a group of “Shakespeare” plays were played at James’s court. The gesture was repeated when his wife died. Such a tribute has never occurred either before or since for any other literary figure.

    I know what you mean about “tributes to Shakespeare”, but the surface is not the truth in this case. Whether or not it sounds like “conspiracy thinking”, the contradictions are too great for a position supporting the attribution of the works of “Shakespeare” to the Stratford figure. The truth is elsewhere, and there are virtually no gaps in the circumstantial, linguistic, biographical, and stylistic theory supporting the earl of Oxford. To virtually every doubt I have supplied a reasonable response based on available sources and evidence. I recommend you give the inquiry some thought. We cannot really appreciate a body of artistic work if at one and the same time we ignore its creator’s suffering and soul. The correction of authorship may be embarrassing to certain political, educational, and economic powers, but at this point, we should be able to say, okay it was a mistake all along, so what.

  28. Hal Sherman Says:

    Well, a quick look at the website shows two tributes that clearly refer to Shakespeare from Stratford:

    William Basse wrote a poem entitled “On Mr. Wm. Shakespeare, he died in April 1616” (thus he was very clearly referring to the Stratford Shakespeare). Basse was suggesting that Shakespeare should have been buried in Westminster Abbey next to Chaucer, Beaumont, and Spenser (Chambers, II, 226)

    So far, I’ve heard nothing that convinces me that Occam’s Razor should not apply to Oxfordian reasoning, and unexamined assumptions like “We cannot really appreciate a body of artistic work if at one and the same time we ignore its creator’s suffering and soul.” don’t impress me.

    But, it’s a free country, so believe what you will.

    The monument to Shakespeare in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford was in place at least by the time of the First Folio in 1623, since Leonard Digges refers to it in his poem in that volume (see below). On the front of the monument is a two-line Latin inscription:

    This is followed by the well-known poem in English:

    Stay passenger, why goest thou by so fast?
    Read if thou canst, whom envious death hath placed,
    With in this monument Shakspeare: with whom
    Quick nature died: whose name doth deck the tomb,
    Far more than cost: sith all, that he hath writ,
    Leaves living art, but page, to serve his wit.

    Obiit anno do. 1616
    Aetatis 53 die 23 Apr.

  29. William Ray Says:

    In reply to the previous statement, you are simply engaging the contradictions inherent in the apparent honoring of a person whose life and effects gave no evidence of writing anything and whose death went unremarked. Quite a post facto background had to be manufactured to prop up a name. All the writers were friends of Jonson.

    Basse’s poem was published before the First Folio introduction, so as to allow Jonson to reply to it in the introduction and cut off further suggestions of the kind. It was not written as one would expect shortly after Shakspere’s demise. It was written in 1622, as an entree to the publication strategy. Occam’s razor is a principle that applies once you have the facts, not before.

    So I have to take exception to the charge that I am believing what I will. Belief in this area develops from an examination of what actually happened, and one’s point of view changes in accordance with reliable additions to the known facts.

    For instance in the dedications, Digges’s verses to the author posits posterity’s aversion to new writing “That is not Shake-speare’s every line,” This was specifically printed with a hyphen, a give-away to readers of the time that the name was pseudonymous as with ‘Venus and Adonis and ‘The Rape of Lucrece’. Oxford was referred to as the author of these works quite early and the Shake-speare moniker followed Sidney’s writing pointedly about Oxford’s “shaking of his staffe”. Gabriel Harvey had referred to “Thy countenance shakes a spear at ignorance,” when extolling Oxford ten years before.”

    The referenced “well-known poem in English”, i.e., Jonson’s introductory verse to the First Folio, does nothing to support the authorship of the Shakespeare canon by Shakspere. Decoded with the Cardano Grille, it says something very different. There was a reason so cryptic a poem should introduce the greatest work of literature since Dante. If interested, refer to chapter one of a recent book, ‘Proving Shakespeare in Ben Jonson’s Own Words’ by David L. Roper. Both the poem and the Latin distich are cryptologically solved–the message given uniquely, consistently, and unambiguously.

    Finally, the dismissal of my statement about the integrity of writer and work. If the reader does not see at least hints of the life and soul of a great author–not talking here of amusement literature–then he is not reading the work. Creator and creation are one. In this case, the two were separated at an early point, that the work could be perpetuated at all. As Roper once explained: “…Of course, this concealment has extended through the ages, proliferated over time, and become the inherited paradigm for every succeeding generation.”

    Many have labored to correct the wrong and their scholarship is generally very good, far better than the doctrinal and evidence-less orthodoxy dominating this politically and economically explosive area of knowledge.

  30. ron waite Says:

    Back up about 4 inches, and repeated, was that the claim was shakespeare wrote the plays and so you have to prove that claim. Unless I am mistaken, the claim from all above is that shakespeare did not write the plays. This then should be the claim that has to be proven.

  31. William Ray Says:

    Agreed, if I understand your syntax. Nobody has shown that Shakspere of Stratford wrote anything, much less the Shakespeare canon. The burden of proof is on the assertion that he did. No one can claim authorship based on repetitions of that assertion. But modern Shakespearean scholarship in support of it amounts to little more than imaginative repetition and speculation.

    To prove Edward de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford, wrote the Shakespeare canon, first study his life for parallels with the plays; his itinerary in Europe over a lifetime for his locations of plays; the progression of his early plays at court into the later re-named plots and plays shown to the public in the 1590’s; and the thousands of expressions in his extant writing that re-appear in the pages and poems of “Shake-Speare”, a nick-name which was associated with Oxford from at least 1579.

    In one form or another, all remarks in favor of Oxford in this blog dealt with those categories, however briefly. The remarks in favor of Shakspere (or those thinking “Shakespeare” was an actual individual who wrote plays and poems) presented the minimum in fact and the maximum in defensive skills.

    It was a good drill, and I continue to feel “the truth should live from age to age, As ’twere retailed to all posterity, Even to the general all-ending day.” It will live on with a little luck and perseverance.

  32. cornelia Says:

    If we read the play with our eyes wide open, we can interpret many lines as messages from the author.For ex: “The love I bear toward you”.We know that de Vere signed one of his poems as “Love”, short for Lord Oxford Vere. Now read it like this:”The Lord Oxford Vere, I, Bear, to ward you”. We know that de Vere became a ward of Court to Lord Leicester, whose symbol was a bear.
    I can give you many examples of coded messages, if you like.
    Good luck and let me know if you find any, I am sure, you all, will!!!

  33. alex abular Says:

    The entire Old Testament contains 5,642 words. The average 16th century artisan is said to have a vocabulary of 300 to 400 words. Today’s university graduates average about 3,000 to 4,000 words. Christopher Marlowe, John Milton considered geniuses used extraordinary 8,000 words. William Shakespeare used 21,000!!??

  34. Carlos Chavez Says:

    The problem with the author is that he tries (too hard) to multi-task into many areas of knowledge and pick excerpts from wikipedia-like sources to substantiate with unorthodox methods evidence that is poor. This is a very eclectic area that needs a true scholar for such an assumption.
    Carlos Chavez, CA