Oxfordian theory

Oxfordian theory

The Oxfordian theory of Shakespearean authorship holds that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (1550-1604), wrote the plays and poems attributed to William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon. While mainstream scholars who take the "Stratfordian" position reject all alternative candidates for authorship, popular interest in the debate continues to grow, [http://www.shakespearefellowship.org/Niederkorn-NYTWhodunit.htm] particularly among independent scholars and theatre professionals, and Oxford is currently the most popular of several anti-Stratfordian candidates.cite encyclopedia | title = Edward de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford | encyclopedia = Britannica Concise Encyclopedia | date = 2007 | url=http://concise.britannica.com/ebc/article-9374297/Edward-de-Vere-17th-earl-of-Oxford | accessdate = 2007-08-31] cite news | last = Satchell | first = Michael | title=Hunting for good Will: Will the real Shakespeare please stand up?| publisher = Online U.S.News | date = 2000-07-24 | url=http://www.usnews.com/usnews/doubleissue/mysteries/shakespeare.htm| accessdate=2007-08-31] [McMichael, pg159]

The case for Oxford's authorship, first presented in the 1920s, then expanded in the 1980s, is based on abundant similarities between Oxford's biography and events in Shakespeare's plays; parallels of language, idiom, and thought between Oxford's letters and the Shakespearean canon; [Fowler, William P. "Shakespeare Revealed in Oxford's Letters". Peter E. Randall Publisher. 1986.] and underlined passages in Oxford's Bible that may correspond to quotations in Shakespeare's plays. [ [http://www.shakespearefellowship.org/virtualclassroom/bibledissabsetc.htm Stritmatter, Roger A. 'The Marginalia of Edward de Vere's Geneva Bible: Providential Discovery, Literary Reasoning, and Historical Consequence' (PhD diss., University of Massachusetts at Amherst, 2001). Partial reprint at Mark Anderson, ed. "The Shakespeare Fellowship" (1997-2002) (Oxfordian website). Accessed April 13, 2006.] ] Oxfordians point to the acclaim of Oxford's contemporaries regarding his talent as a poet and a playwright, his reputation as a concealed poet, and his connections to London theatre and the contemporary playwrights of Shakespeare's day. They also note his long term relationships with Queen Elizabeth I and the Earl of Southampton, his knowledge of Court life, his extensive education, his academic and cultural achievements and his wide-ranging travels through France and Italy.

Confronting the issue of Oxford's death in 1604, the main argument against the theory, Oxfordian researchers cite examples they say imply that the writer known as "Shake-Speare" died before 1609, and point to 1604 as the year that regular publication of Shakespeare's plays stopped for almost 20 years (until the 1623 publication of the First folio).

Supporters of the standard view, often referred to as "Stratfordian" or "Mainstream", dispute all contentions in favour of Oxford. Aside from the issue of Oxford's early death, they assert that the connections between Oxford's life and the plots of Shakespeare's plays are conjectural.

For the purposes of this article the term “Shakespeare” is taken to mean the poet and playwright who wrote the plays and poems in question; and the term “Shakespeare of Stratford” is taken to mean the William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon to whom authorship is generally credited.

Mainstream View

The mainstream view is that the author known as "Shakespeare" was the same William Shakespeare who was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564, moved to London and became an actor, and "sharer" (part-owner) of the acting company called the Lord Chamberlain's Men (which owned the Globe Theatre and the Blackfriars Theatre in London). He divided his time between London and Stratford, and retired there around 1613 before his death in 1616. In 1623, seven years after his death (and after the death of most of the proposed authorship candidates), his plays were collected for publication in the First Folio edition.

Shakespeare of Stratford is further identified by the following evidence: He left gifts to actors from the London company in his will; the man from Stratford and the author of the works share a common name; and commendatory poems in the 1623 First Folio of Shakespeare's works refer to the "Swan of Avon" and his "Stratford monument". [For a full account of the documents relating to Shakespeare's life, see Samuel Schoenbaum, "William Shakespeare: A Compact Documentary Life" (OUP, 1987)] Mainstream scholars believe that the latter phrase refers to the funerary monument in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford, which refers to Shakespeare as a writer (comparing him to Virgil and calling his writing a "living art"), and was described as such by visitors to Stratford as far back as the 1630s. [Shakespeare and his Rivals: A Casebook on the Authorship Controversy" by George McMichael and Edgar M. Glenn, a pair of college professors. It is copyright 1962, and published by The Odyssey Press, in NY. lib of congress card #62-11942., page 41.]

Several pieces of circumstantial evidence support the Stratfordian view: In a 1592 pamphlet by the playwright Robert Greene called "Greene's Groatsworth of Wit", Greene chastises a playwright whom he calls "Shake-scene", calling him "an upstart crow" and a "Johannes factotum" (a "Jack-of-all-trades", a man able to feign skill), thus suggesting that people were aware of a writer named Shakespeare.cite book |last=Anderson |first=Mark |authorlink=Mark Anderson |title="Shakespeare" by Another Name |origyear=2005 |publisher=Gotham Books |location=New York City |isbn=1592402151 |pages=xxx] Also, poet John Davies once referred to Shakespeare as "our English Terence". Additionally, Shakespeare's grave monument in Stratford, built within a decade of his death, currently features him with a pen in hand, suggesting that he was known as a writer.

Critics of the mainstream view have challenged most if not all of the above assertions, claiming that there is no direct evidence which clearly identifies Shakespeare of Stratford as a playwright. These critics note that the only theatrical reference in his will (the gifts to fellow actors) were interlined - i.e.: inserted between previously written lines - and thus subject to doubt; the term "Swan of Avon" can be interpreted in numerous ways; that "Greene's Groatsworth of Wit" could imply that Shakespeare was being given credit for the work of other writers [cite book |last=Anderson |first=Mark |authorlink=Mark Anderson |title="Shakespeare" by Another Name |origyear=2005 |publisher=Gotham Books |location=New York City |isbn=1592402151 |pages=xxx] ; that Davies' mention of "our English Terence" is a mixed reference as Cicero, Quintilian, Michel de Montaigne and many contemporary Elizabethan scholars knew Terence as a front man for one or more Roman aristocratic playwrights.; and they assert that Shakespeare's grave monument was altered after its original creation, with the original monument merely showing a man holding a grain sack.

Notable Anti-Stratfordians

On 8 September 2007, after the final matinee of "I Am Shakespeare", a play investigating Shakespeare's identity, acclaimed British actors Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance unveiled a "declaration of reasonable doubt" about the authorship of Shakespeare's work. The "declaration" named 20 prominent doubters of the past, including Walt Whitman, Henry James, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark Twain, Sigmund Freud, Orson Welles and Tyrone Guthrie. The document was sponsored by the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition and has been signed online by over 1,200 people, including 200 academics, to encourage new research into the question. Jacobi, who endorsed a group theory led by the Earl of Oxford, and Rylance, who was featured in the authorship play, presented a copy of the document to William Leahy, head of English at Brunel University, London. [ [http://www.doubtaboutwill.org Welcome | Shakespeare Authorship Coalition at DoubtAboutWill.org ] ]

Quotations from notable anti-stratfordians:

Mark Twain - “All the rest of [Shakespeare's] vast history, as furnished by the biographers, is built up, course upon course, of guesses, inferences, theories, conjectures—an Eiffel Tower of artificialities rising sky-high from a very flat and very thin foundation of inconsequential facts." [http://www.twainquotes.com/Shakespeare.html]

Orson Welles - “I think Oxford wrote Shakespeare. If you don’t agree, there are some awfully funny coincidences to explain away." [http://www.shakespeare-oxford.com/?p=39]

Charlie Chaplin - “In the work of the greatest geniuses, humble beginnings will reveal themselves somewhere but one cannot trace the slightest sign of them in Shakespeare... Whoever wrote [Shakespeare] had an aristocratic attitude.” [http://www.shakespeare-oxford.com/?p=39]

Sigmund Freud - “I no longer believe that... the actor from Stratford was the author of the works that have been ascribed to him.” [http://www.shakespeare-oxford.com/?p=39]

Harry A. Blackmun — Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, 1970 to 1994. - "The Oxfordians have presented a very strong — almost fully convincing — case for their point of view. If I had to rule on the evidence presented, it would be in favor of the Oxfordians." [ Ogburn's "Mysterious William Shakespeare" (Second Edition, 1992, vi), preface.]

Charles Dickens — "It is a great comfort, to my way of thinking, that so little is known concerning the poet. The life of Shakespeare is a fine mystery and I tremble every day lest something turn up." [ Complete Writings 37:206]

Ralph Waldo Emerson — "Other admirable men had led lives in some sort of keeping with their thought, but this man in wide contrast." [Representative Men (1850) Works, 4:218]

Walt Whitman — "I am firm against Shaksper — I mean the Avon man, the actor." [With Walt Whitman, Traubel] and"Conceived out of the fullest heat and pulse of European feudalism — only one of the 'wolfish earls' so plenteous in the plays themselves, or some born descendant and knower, might seem to be the true author of those amazing works ["November Boughs".]

History of Oxfordian theory

The Oxford theory was first proposed by J. Thomas Looney in his 1920 work "Shakespeare Identified in Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford", [ [http://www.shakespearefellowship.org/etexts/si/00.htm Looney, J. Thomas, "Shakespeare" Identified in Edward de Vere the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford" (1920), repr. Mark Anderson, "The Shakespeare Fellowship" (1997-2002). (Oxfordian website). Accessed 13 April 2006] ] subsequently persuading Sigmund Freud, [John Mitchell "Who Wrote Shakespeare" (Thames & Hudson, London, 1996) pp.162-4] Orson Welles, Marjorie Bowen, and many other early 20th-century intellectuals of the case for Oxford's authorship. [ [http://www.shakespeare-oxford.com/skeptic.htm Honor Roll of Skeptics ] ] Oxford rapidly became the favoured alternative to the orthodox view. In 1921, Sir George Greenwood and other proponents of the anti-Stratfordian perspective joined to found The Shakespeare Fellowship, an organization dedicated to the discussion of alternative views of authorship.

In 1984, Charlton Ogburn's "The Mysterious William Shakespeare" renewed the case for Oxford's authorship with an abundance of new research and engaged in a critique of the standards and methods used by the orthodox school. In his "Shakespeare Quarterly" review of Ogburn's book, Richmond Crinkley, former Director of Educational Programs at the Folger Shakespeare Library, acknowledged the appeal of Ogburn's approach: "Doubts about Shakespeare came early and grew rapidly. They have a simple and direct plausibility", and that the dismissive approach of conventional scholarship encouraged such doubts: "The plausibility has been reinforced by the tone and methods by which traditional scholarship has responded to the doubts." Although Crinkley rejected Ogburn's thesis, believing that the "case made for Oxford leaves one unconvinced", he also concluded that "a particular achievement of ... Ogburn is that he focused our attention so effectively on what we do not know about Shakespeare. [Crinkley, Richmond. "New Perspectives on the Authorship Question" Shakespeare Quarterly. 1985. Vol 36. pgs 515-522. http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0037-3222%28198524%2936:4%3C515:NPOTAQ%3E2.0.CO%3B2-%23]

Biographical evidence

While there is no direct documentary evidence connecting Oxford (or any authorial candidate) to the plays of Shakespeare, Oxfordian researchers, including Mark Anderson and Charlton Ogburn, maintain that the numerous parallels between Oxford's life and events depicted in the plays provide such a connection.

For example, the three dedicatees of Shakespeare's works (the earls of Southampton, Montgomery and Pembroke) were each proposed as husbands for the three daughters of Edward de Vere. "Venus and Adonis" and "The Rape of Lucrece" were dedicated to Southampton, and the First Folio of Shakespeare's plays was dedicated to Montgomery (who married Susan de Vere) and Pembroke (who was once engaged to Bridget De Vere). Oxford was a leaseholder of the first Blackfriars Theatre and produced grand entertainments at court; he was the son-in-law of Lord Burghley, who is often regarded as the model for Polonius; his daughter was engaged to Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, the dedicatee of Shakespeare's narrative poems (indeed, many scholars believe Southampton to have been the Fair Lord of the "Sonnets"); his mother, Margory Golding, was the sister of the Ovid translator Arthur Golding; and Oxford's uncle, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, was the inventor of the Shakespearean Sonnet (or English Sonnet) form. [ [http://clicknotes.com/romeo/Sonnet.html Romeo and Juliet Navigator: Sonnets ] ]

In 1662 Dr. John Ward said that Shakespeare spent at a rate of 1,000 pounds a year, a huge sum by today's standards. In an oft-noted parallel, Oxford received an unexplained annuity from the notoriously thrifty Elizabeth I of 1,000 pounds a year.Ogburn] Shakespeare placed many plays in Italy and sprinkled detailed descriptions of Italian life throughout his plays. While there is no evidence that Shakespeare of Stratford ever visited Europe, Oxford lived in Venice and traveled for over a year through Italy and France. According to Anderson, the cities Oxford visited in 1585 were Venice, Padua, Milan, Genoa, Palermo, Florence, Siena and Naples - all cities Shakespeare wrote into the plays, while the Italian cities Oxford bypassed are the same cities Shakespeare ignored. [ Anderson, Mark: "Shakespeare by Another Name", 2005, pages 106-107. Gotham Books]

In 1588, due to ongoing financial problems, Oxford sold his house, Fisher’s Folly, to William Cornwallis. In 1852, J.O. Halliwell-Phillips discovered “Anne Cornwaleys her booke,” apparently the day book of Cornwallis’ daughter Anne, which Halliwell-Phillips believed was written sometime in 1595. Anne’s handwritten book contains “Verses Made by the Earl of Oxforde,” “Anne Vavasor’s Echo,” and a poem ascribed in 1599 to "Shakespeare" by William Jaggard in “The Passionate Pilgrim.” According to Charles W. Barrell, Anne’s version was both superior textually to the one published by Jaggard and the first handwritten example we have of a poem ascribed to Shakespeare. [Ogburn, Charlton: “The Mysterious William Shakespeare, The Myth and the Reality”, page 711. EPM Publications, Inc. 1984]

Recognizing that the names Avon and Stratford are irrevocably linked to Shakespeare by the first folio, Oxfordians note that Edward de Vere once owned an estate in the Avon river valley, [ Ogburn, Charlton: “The Mysterious William Shakespeare, The Myth and the Reality”, page 235. EPM Publications, Inc.1984] near the Forest of Arden, [ Anderson, Mark:"Shakespeare by Another Name", 2005, page 325] and the nearest town to Hackney, where he later lived and was buried, was named Stratford. [ Ogburn, Charlton: “The Mysterious William Shakespeare, The Myth and the Reality”, page 236. EPM Publications, Inc.1984]

Was Oxford a concealed writer?

Oxford was known as a dramatist and court poet of considerable note, but not one example of his plays survives under his name. A major question in Oxfordian theory is whether his works were published anonymously or pseudonymously. Anonymous and pseudonymous publication was a common practice in the sixteenth century publishing world, and a passage in the "Arte of English Poesie" (1589), [Puttenham, George. "The Arte of English Poesie" 1589, Book I, Chapter 31. http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/16420 ] the leading work of literary criticism of the Elizabethan period and an anonymously published work itself, alludes to the practice of concealed publication by literary figures in the court. Oxfordian researchers believe that these passages support their claim that Oxford was one of the most prominent "suppressed" writers of the day:

Andrew Hannas in “On Grammar and Oxford in The Art of English Poesie” paraphrased the passage: "In earlier days these writers’ poetry (Phaer, Golding, etc.) found their way into print, and now we have many in our own Queen’s time whose poetry would be much admired if the extent of their works could be known and put into print as with those poets I have just named [”made publicke with the rest”] , poets from Chaucer up through Golding and Phaer, translators of Ovid and Vergil. And here are the NAMES of the poets [Oxford, Buckhurst, Sidney, et al.] of our Queen’s time who deserve such favorable comparison “with the rest” [the Chaucer et al. list] But still, “of them all” [everyone named in the paragraph] , I would give highest honours to Chaucer because of the learning in his works that seems better than any of all of the aforementioned names [”aboue any of the rest”] , and special merit to the other poets in their respective genres." [http://www.shakespeare-oxford.com/?p=99 Shakespeare-Oxford Society » The Rest’ is Not Silence: ] ]

Oxfordians note that at the time of the passage's composition (pre-1589), the writers referenced were themselves concealed writers. First and foremost Sir Philip Sydney, none of whose poetry was published until after his death. Similarly, by 1589 nothing by Greville was in print and none of Walter Raleigh’s works had been published (except one commendatory poem 12 years earlier in 1576).

Oxford as poet and playwright

There are three principal pieces of evidence that Oxford (or Oxenford) was praised as both poet and playwright:

1) The anonymous 1589 "Arte of English Poesie", in a passage that appears in the same chapter that details the practice of concealed publication by figures from the court, lists Oxford as the highest praised for comedy:

2) Francis Meres' 1598 "Palladis Tamia", which refers to him as Earle of Oxenford, and lists him among the "best for comedy". Shakespeare's name appears further down in the same list.

Stratfordians believe that Shakespeare's appearance on the same list proves that Oxford and Shakespeare were two different writers. However, Oxfordians contend that, as of 1598, Meres simply wasn't aware of Oxford's use of the Shakespeare pseudonym.

3) Henry Peacham's 1622 "The Compleat Gentleman" omits Shakespeare's name completely and praises Oxford as one of the leading poets of the Elizabethean era, [Alexander, M. and Wright, D. [http://www.authorshipstudies.org/articles/oxford_shakespeare.cfm "A Few Curiosities Regarding Edward de Vere and the Writer Who Called Himself Shakespeare"] , "Shakespeare Authorship Studies Conference", 2007.] saying:

Stratfordians disagree with this interpretation of Peacham's work. They point out that the Peacham copied large parts of Puttenham's work but did not use the names of those writers who would not have been considered "gentlemen", a title that Peacham felt should not be applied to actors. They also argue that the list is only of poets and that Peacham does not list playwrights, neglecting others such as Christopher Marlow.Fact|date=May 2007

Although not strictly a report on De Vere's ability as a playwright there is a description of the esteem in which he was held as a writer in a 1613 play by George Chapman (possibly the Rival Poet of the Sonnets):

cquote|I overtook, coming from Italy

In Germany, a great and famous Earl

Of England; the most goodly fashion’d man

I ever saw: from head to foot in form

Rare and most absolute; he had a face

Like one of the most ancient honour’d Romans

From whence his noblest family was deriv’d;

He was besides of spirit passing great

Valiant and learn’d, and liberal as the sun,

Spoke and writ sweetly, or of learned subjects,

Or of the discipline of public weals:

And ‘twas the Earl of Oxford. [ Ogburn, Charlton: “The Mysterious William

Shakespeare, The Myth and the Reality”, page 401. Publications, Inc EPM.1984]

Oxford’s lyric poetry

In the opinion of J. Thomas Looney, as “far as forms of versification are concerned De Vere presents just that richvariety which is so noticeable in Shakespeare; and almost all the forms he employs we find reproduced in the Shakespeare work...."

"So far as the natural disposition of the writer is concerned...(t)he personality they reflect is perfectly in harmony with that which peer through the writings of Shakespeare. There are traces undoubtedly of those defects which the sonnets disclose in “Shakespeare,” but through it all there shines the spirit of an intensely affectionate nature, highly sensitive, and craving for tenderness and sympathy. He is a man with faults, but stamped with reality and truth; honest even in his errors, making no pretence of being better than he was, and recalling frequently to our minds the lines in one of Shakespeare’s sonnets:"

cquote|I am that I am, and they that level At my abuses reckon up their own. [Looney, J. Thomas: “ Shakespeare Identified”, page 135-139.Duell, Sloan and Pearce, New York.11920, 1948 ]

The 1604 Problem

Oxfordian scholars have cited various examples they say imply that the writer of the plays and poems was dead prior to 1609, when Shake-Speare’s Sonnets first appeared with the enigmatic words "our ever-living Poet" on the title page. These researchers claim that the words "ever-living" rarely, if ever, refer to someone who is actually alive. [Miller/Looney, Volume 2, pgs 211-214] Additionally, they assert that 1604 is the year that Shakespeare "mysteriously" stopped writing. [ Anderson, "Shakespeare by Another Name", 2005, pgs 400-405] If these claims were true, it would give a boost to the Oxfordian candidacy, as Bacon, Derby, Neville and Shakespeare of Stratford [Shakespeare's death recorded in Stratford Parish Registry http://internetshakespeare.uvic.ca/Library/SLT/life/death.html] lived well past the 1609 publication of the Sonnets.


Regarding dates of publication, Mark Anderson, in "Shakespeare by Another Name", stresses the following: from 1593-1603 "the publication of Shake-speare’s plays appeared at the rate of 2 per year. Then, in 1604, Shake-speare fell silent" and stopped publication for almost 5 years. Anderson further states "the early history of reprints ...also point to 1604 as a watershed year," and noted that during the years of 1593-1604, when an inferior or pirated text was published, it was typically followed by a genuine text that was "newly augmented" or "corrected". Anderson summarizes, "After 1604, the "newly correct(ing) and augment(ing) stops. Once again, the Shake-speare enterprise appears to have shut down". [Anderson, "Shakespeare by Another Name", 2005, pgs 400-405]


Regarding dates of composition, Oxfordians note the following evidence: In 1756, in "Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Ben Jonson", W.R.Chetwood concludes that on the basis of performance records "at the end of the year of [1603] , or the beginning of the next, 'tis supposed that [Shakespeare] took his farewell of the stage, both as author and actor." In 1874, German literary historian Karl Elze dated both "The Tempest" and "Henry VIII" — traditionally labeled as Shakespeare’s last plays — to the years 1603-04. [Karl Elze, Essays on Shakespeare, 1874, pgs 1-29, 151-192 ] In addition, on dating of "Henry VIII", the majority of 18th and 19th century scholars, including notables such as Samuel Johnson, Lewis Theobald, George Steevens, Edmund Malone, and John Halliwell-Phillipps all placed the composition of "Henry VIII" to before 1604. [Mark Anderson "Shakespeare by Another Name", 2005, pgs 403-04] And in the 1969 and 1977 Pelican/Viking editions of Shakespeare’s plays, Alfred Harbage shows that the composition of "Macbeth", "Timon of Athens", "Pericles", "King Lear" and "Antony and Cleopatra" (all traditionally regarded as "late plays"), likely did not occur later than 1604. [Alfred Harbage, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, 1969]


Anderson also observed that while Shakespeare made reference to the latest scientific discoveries and events right through the end of the 16th century, "Shakespeare is mute about science after De Vere’s (Oxford’s) death in 1604". Anderson cites, among other examples, that neither a spectacular supernova that appeared in October of 1604, nor Kepler’s revolutionary 1609 study of planetary orbits, cause even a mention in all of Shakespeare’s works.

Notable silences

Because Shakespeare of Stratford lived until 1616, Oxfordians question why Shakespeare never eulogized Queen Elizabeth at her death in 1603 or Henry, Prince of Wales, at his in 1612, and believe that Oxford's 1604 death provides the explanation. [ [http://www.shakespearefellowship.org/virtualclassroom/DLWrightFuneralElegy.htm.] ] In an age when such actions were expected, Shakespeare also failed to memorialize the coronation of James I (1604), the marriage of Princess Elizabeth (1612), and the investiture of Prince Charles as the new Prince of Wales (1613). [ Looney, J. Thomas: "Shakespeare Identified, Volume II, Oxfordian Vistas", page 290-294. Kennikat Press Corp. 1975.]

Similarly, when Shakespeare of Stratford died, he was not publicly mourned. [Ogburn, Charlton: "The Mysterious William Shakespeare, The Myth and the Reality", page 112 and 759. EPM Publications, Inc.1984] Mark Twain noted, "When Shakespeare died in Stratford it was not an event. It made no more stir in England than the death of any other forgotten theater-actor would have made. Nobody came down from London; there were no lamenting poems, no eulogies, no national tears - there was merely silence, and nothing more. A striking contrast with what happened when Ben Jonson, and Francis Bacon, and Spenser, and Raleigh, and the other literary folk of Shakespeare’s time passed from life! No praiseful voice was lifted for the lost Bard of Avon; even Ben Jonson waited seven years before he lifted his." [ [http://www.shakespeare-oxford.com/?p=119] ]

Diana Price, in "Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography", notes that for a professional author, Shakespeare of Stratford also seems to have been entirely uninterested in the publication of his work. Price explains that while he had a well documented habit of going to court over relatively small sums, he neither sued any of the publishers pirating his plays and sonnets, nor did he take any legal actions regarding their practice of attaching his name to the inferior output of others. There is no evidence Shakespeare of Stratford was ever paid for writing, and his detailed will fails to mention any of Shakespeare's unpublished plays or poems, or any of the source books that Shakespeare is known to have read. [ Price, Diana: "Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography", page 130-131. Greenwood Press, 2001.] [ Sobran, Joseph: "Alias Shakespeare", page 25 & 146. The Free Press, 1997] There is no indication his heirs ever demanded or received payments from his supposed investments in the theatre, or for any of Shakespeare's unpublished plays [ [http://www.elizabethanauthors.com/problem.htm] ] Mark Twain, commenting on the subject, said, "Many poets die poor, but this is the only one in history that has died THIS poor; the others all left literary remains behind. Also a book. Maybe two." [ Twain, M: "Essays and Sketches of Mark Twain", page 317. Barnes & Noble, Inc., 1995]

Contemporary statements

In 1607 William Barkstead (or Barksted), a minor poet and playwright, appeared to state in his poem "Mirrha the Mother of Adonis" that Shakespeare was already deceased.

cquote| His Song was worthy merit (Shakespeare he)

sung the fair blossom, thou the withered tree

Laurel is due him, his art and wit

hath purchased it, Cypress thy brow will fit.

Joseph Sobran, in "Alias Shakespeare," notes that the cypress tree was a symbol of mourning and believes Barkstead was writing of Shakespeare in the past tense ("His song was worthy") - after Oxford’s death in 1604, but prior to Shakespeare of Stratford’s in 1616. [ Sobran, Joseph: "Alias Shakespeare", page 144 The Free Press, 1997 ]

Parallels with the Sonnets

In 1609 SHAKE-SPEARE's Sonnets, a series of 154 linked poems, was published, apparently without the participation of the author. It is also generally believed that someone other than Shakespeare provided the dedication. The focus of the series appears to follow the author’s relationships with 3 characters whose identities remain controversial: The Fair Youth, the Dark Lady or Mistress and the Rival Poet. The Fair Youth is generally, but far from universally, thought to be Southampton and the Dark Lady is believed by some Oxfordians to be Anne Vavasor, who bore the Earl of Oxford a son out of wedlock, Sir Edward Vere. While there is no consensus candidate for the Rival Poet, some suppose he could have been either Christopher Marlowe or George Chapman, although a strong case was made by the late Peter R. Moore for Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex (see "The Rival Poet of Shakespeare's Sonnets," Shakespeare Oxford Society Newsletter, Autumn 1989).

Oxfordians believe the finality of the title ("Shake-Speare's Sonnets") suggests that it was a completed body of work, with no further sonnets expected. They also consider the Sonnets one of the more serious problems facing Stratfordians, who differ among themselves as to whether the Sonnets are fiction or autobiographical. Sobran questions why, if the sonnets were fiction, did Shakespeare of Stratford - who lived until 1616 - fail to publish a corrected and authorized edition? If, on the other hand, they are autobiographical, why did they fail to match the Stratford man's life story? [ Sobran, Joseph: “Alias Shakespeare”, page 84. The Free Press, 1997 ] According to Sobran and other researchers, the themes and personal circumstances expounded by the author of the Sonnets are remarkably similar to Oxford's personal biography:


Oxford was born in 1550 and was between 40 and 53 years old when he presumably wrote the sonnets. Shakespeare of Stratford was born in 1564. Even though the average life expectancy of Elizabethans was short, being between 26 and 39 was not considered old.

Sonnet 138

... vainly thinking that she thinks me young,

Although she knows my days are past the best.


As a young man, Oxford led an active life, going on campaign in northern England, travelling through Europe for over a year in an age when that meant going by horseback or by springless carriages over bad roads. In his later years, however, he described himself as "lame". As far as history is aware, Shakespeare of Stratford led a sedentary life, with no known ailments.Fact

Sonnet 37

I, made lame by fortune’s dearest spite

... am not lame, poor, nor despised,

Whilst that this shadow doth such substance give...

Sonnet 89

Speak of my lameness, and I straight will halt,

Against thy reasons, making no defense.

Edward De Vere’s letter of March 25, 1595 to Burghley

"When Your Lordship shall have best time and leisure if I may know it, I will attend Your Lordship as well as a lame man may at your house." [ Anderson, Mark: “Shakespeare by Another Name”, page 291. Gotham Books2005]


Sobran notes that the Sonnets “abound not only in legal terms – more than 200 – but in elaborate legal conceits,” terms such as allege, auditor, defects, exchequer, forfeit, heirs, impeach, lease, moiety, recompense, render, sureties and usage. “Like many nobleman and gentleman, Oxford was trained in the law: he was admitted to Gray’s Inn, one of the Inns of Court, in 1567. (Justice Shallow reminisces about Gray’s Inn in Henry IV, Part 2).” As for Shakespeare of Stratford, Sobran thinks “if he was educated at all it is extremely unlikely that he was trained in the law.” [ Anderson, Mark: “Shakespeare by Another Name”, page 201-202. Gotham Books2005]

Sonnet 134

So now I have confessed that he is thine,

And I myself am mortgaged to thy will,

Myself I’ll forfeit, so that other mine

Thou wilt restore to be my comfort still.

But thou wilt not, nor he will not be free,

For thou art covetous, and he is kind:

He learned but surety-like to write for me,

Under that bond that him as fast doth bind.

The statute of thy beauty thou wilt take,

Thou usurer that put’st forth all to use,

And sue a friend came debtor for my sake;

So him I lose through my unkind abuse....

outhampton – The Fair Youth

Sobran notes that “the first seventeen sonnets, the “procreation” poems, give every indication of belonging to Burghley’s campaign to make [Southampton] marry his granddaughter, and Oxford’s daughter Elizabeth Vere. Obviously, Oxford would have known all three parties... It is hard to imagine how Mr. Shaksper (of Stratford) could have known any of them. Let alone have been invited to participate in the effort to encourage the match.” [ Sobran, Joseph: “Alias Shakespeare”, page 197. The Free Press, 1997] Sobran also notes that in 16th century England actors and playwrights did not presume to give advice to members of the nobility. Joseph Sobran believes “It is clear, too, that the poet is of the same rank as the youth. He praises, scolds, admonishes, teases, and woos, him with the liberty of a social equal who does not have to worry about seeming insolent.... 'Make thee another self, for love of me' (Sonnet 10), is impossible to conceive as a request from a poor poet to his patron: it expresses the hope of a father – or a father-in-law. And Oxford was, precisely, Southampton’s prospective father-in-law." Sobran, Joseph: “Alias Shakespeare”, page 198. The Free Press, 1997]

Sonnet 91
Thy love is better than high birth to me, Richer than wealth, prouder than garments’ cost, Of more delight than hawks or horses be.

(Sobran contends, "the lines imply that he is in a position to make such comparisons, and the “high birth” he refers to is his own.”)

Public disgrace

Sobran writes that “scholars have largely ignored one of the chief themes of the Sonnets: the poet’s sense of disgrace.... "(T)here can be no doubt that the poet is referring to something real that he expects his friends to know about; in fact, he makes clear that a wide public knows about it... Once again the poet’s situation matches Oxford’s... He has been a topic of scandal on several occasions. And his contemporaries saw the course of his life as one of decline from great wealth, honor, and promise to disgrace and ruin. This perception was underlined by enemies who accused him of every imaginable offense and perversion, charges he was apparently unable to rebut." [ Sobran, Joseph: "Alias Shakespeare", page 199. The Free Press, 1997]

Sonnet 29

When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,

I all alone beweep my outcast state,

And trouble deaf heav’n with my bootless cries,

And look upon myself and curse my fate,

Wishing me like to one more rich in hope....

Sonnet 112

Your love and pity doth th' impression fill

Which vulgar scandal stamped upon my brow,

For what care I who calls me well or ill,

So you o'er-green my bad, my good allow?

Parallels with the plays

According to Charlton Ogburn Jr., and other researchers, Oxford's biography is strikingly similar to the plots and subplots of the plays themselves:


Oxfordians point out that like Hamlet, Oxford's father died suddenly (in 1562) and his mother remarried shortly thereafter. At 15, Oxford was made a royal ward and was placed in the household of Lord Burghley, the Lord High Treasurer, and Queen Elizabeth I's closest and most trusted advisor. Burghley is often regarded as the prototype for the character of chief minister Polonius. Oxfordians note that in the First Quarto the character was not named Polonius, but Corambis (Cor ambis = two hearted) - a swipe, as Charlton Ogburn notes "at Burghley’s motto, Cor unum, via una, or 'one heart, one way.'

Oxfordians also note that Hamlet was engaged to marry Ophelia, daughter to Polonius, while Edward de Vere was engaged to marry Anne Cecil, daughter to Lord Burghley. Like Laertes, who received the famous list of maxims from his father Polonius, Burghley's son Robert Cecil received a similarly famous list from his father - lists that mainstream scholar Sir E.K. Chambers acknowledged were parallel. Polonius also sent the spy Reynaldo to watch his son when Laertes was away at school and for similar reasons, Burghley set a spy on his son, Thomas, when he was away in Paris.

Likewise, Hamlet was a member of the higher nobility, supported an acting company and had a trusted friend named Horatio, while Oxford was a member of the higher nobility, supported acting companies and had a cousin named Horace (or Horatio) Vere. Both Sir Horatio de Vere (as he was also known) and Hamlet’s friend Horatio had the same personality, being known for their ability to remain calm under all conditions. [Looney, J. Thomas: "Shakespeare Identified", page 407-408. Duell, Sloan and Pearce, New York. 11920, 1948]

On 23 July 1567, the seventeen-year old Oxford killed an unarmed under-cook by the name of Thomas Brincknell while practicing fencing with Edward Baynam, a merchant tailor, in the backyard of Cecil's house in the Strand. Oxfordians note that Brincknell's "accidental" death is reminiscent of the accidental murder of the spying Polonius.

In a coincidence often noted by Oxfordians, on Oxford's return across the English Channel, his ship was hijacked by pirates, who stripped him naked, apparently with the intention of murdering him. When they were made aware of Oxford's noble status, he was allowed to go free, albeit without most of his possessions. Hamlet tells a similar story of a pirate abduction when he recounts to Horatio how he freed himself from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

The Merchant of Venice

In 1577 the Company of Cathay was formed to support Martin Frobisher’s hunt for the Northwest Passage, although he - and his investors – quickly became side-tracked by reports of gold at Hall’s Island. With thoughts of an impending Canadian gold-rush filling Oxford's head, and trusting in the advice of Michael Lok (a London businessman with Mediterranean connections) Oxford finally went in bond for 3,000 pounds, "just as Antonio in The Merchant of Venice is in bond for 3,000 ducats against the successful return of his vessels, with rich cargoes." [ Ogburn, Charlton: "The Mysterious William Shakespeare, The Myth and the Reality", page 603. EPM Publications, Inc.1984] Although 3,000 pounds was enough to ruin financially any man, De Vere went on to support Northwest Passage expeditions in 1584 and again in 1585. An Oxfordian might say that, along with Hamlet, Edward De Vere was "but mad north-northwest." [ Anderson, Mark:"Shakespeare by Another Name", 2005, Page 134]

Shakespeare set almost half of his plays in France and Italy and filled them with local details that were not strictly necessary. Details, Oxfordians believe, that could only have been obtained by personal experiences. According to Mark Anderson “Shakespeare’s works also convey a ...well-traveled world citizen.... Shakespeare knew that Florence’s citizens were recognized for their arithmetic and bookkeeping (Othello).... He knew that a dish of baked doves was a time-honored northern Italian gift (The Merchant of Venice). He knew Venice in particular, like nowhere else in the world, save for London itself. Picayune Venetian matters scarcely escaped his grasp: the duke of Venice’s two votes in the city council, for example, or the special nighttime police force – the Signori di Notte – peculiar to Venice, or the foreign city where Venice’s Jews did most of their business, Frankfurt.” [ Anderson, Mark:"Shakespeare by Another Name", 2005, Page xxx] Oxford's extended tour of France and Italy from early 1575 through early 1576 included long-term lodgings near St Mark’s Square in Venice. [ Anderson, Mark:"Shakespeare by Another Name", 2005, Pages 80-107 ]

The Taming of the Shrew

When Oxford travelled through Venice, he borrowed 500 crowns from a Baptista Nigrone. In Padua, he borrowed from a man named Pasquino Spinola. In Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew", Kate's father is described as a man "rich in crowns." He, too, is from Padua and his name is Baptista Minola—a conflation of Baptista Nigrone and Pasquino Spinola. [ [http://www.authorshipstudies.org/articles/oxford_shakespeare.cfm Oxford and Shakespeare ] ]

Peregrine Bertie successfully courted Oxford's sister, Mary de Vere in 1577. Though the couple met the resistance of Oxford and others, they were married within a year. Bertie and his mother, Kate Willoughby, are lampooned, not only in "The Taming of the Shrew", but in the "Winter's Tale", and "Twelfth Night".

Mainstream scholar Ernesto Grillo (1876-1946), of the University of Glasgow, in "Shakespeare and Italy", noted that "the local colour of 'The Taming of the Shrew' displays such an intimate acquaintance not only with the manners and customs of Italy but also with the minutest details of domestic life that it cannot have been gleaned from books or acquired in the course of conversations with travellers returned from Padua. The form of marriage between Petruchio and Katharine,....was Italian and not English....The description of Gremio's house and furnishings is striking because it represents an Italian villa of the sixteenth century with all its comforts and noble luxury." As far as is known, Shakespeare of Stratford never left England or showed any interest in Italy or Italian culture. [ Sobran, Joseph: "Alias Shakespeare", page 70. The Free Press, 1997]

As You Like It

Much of the play takes place in the Forest of Arden, which was the name of the forest near Oxford’s old country estate, Bilton, [ Ogburn, Charlton: "The Mysterious William Shakespeare, The Myth and the Reality", page 714. EPM Publications, Inc.1984] and features the former libertine Lord Jaques who, like Oxford, "sold his lands to see other men’s". However, as Mark Anderson has pointed out, "local oral tradition holds that As You Like It was actually written at Billesley, an estate just outside Stratford-upon-Avon owned by the family of de Vere’s grandmother, Elizabeth Trussell."

One of the sights that Oxford may have taken in on his Christmas season visit to Siena, Italy was its cathedral, whose artwork includes a mosaic of the Seven Ages of Man. According to the art historian Samuel C. Chew, this artwork should be "familiar to Shakespearean scholars because it has been cited as a parallel to Jaques’s lines.... The Ages (in Siena) are represented thus, Infantia rides upon a hobbyhorse, Pueritia is a schoolboy, Adolescentia is an older scholar garbed in a long cloak, Juventus has a falcon on his wrist, Virilitas is robed in dignified fashion and carries a book, Senectus, leaning upon his staff, holds a rosary, Decrepitas, leaning upon two staves, looks into his tomb." [ Anderson, Mark: "Shakespeare by Another Name", page 103 and 235. Gotham Books, 2005]

Henry IV, Part 1

In May 1573, in a letter to William Cecil, two of Oxford's former employees accused three of Oxford's friends of attacking them on "the highway from Gravesend to Rochester." In Shakespeare's "Henry IV, Part 1" Falstaff and three roguish friends of Prince Hal also waylay unwary travellers—on the highway from Gravesend to Rochester.

This scene was also present in the earlier work, "The Famous Victories of Henry the Fift", which Oxfordians believe was another Edward de Vere play based on the exaggerated importance it bestowed on the 11th Earl of Oxford. However, in that version of the play even the correct month of the crime, May, was mentioned. [ Ogburn, Charlton: "The Mysterious William Shakespeare, The Myth and the Reality", pages 384 and 529. EPM Publications, Inc.1984]

The Life and Death of King John

In the inflated importance and superb speeches given by the character Philip Faulconbridge ("The Bastard"), Oxfordians see a reflection of Edward De Vere’s own military fantasies and his long running legal argument with his half-sister over his legitimacy. They also find it intriguing that the play’s author felt it necessary to air-brush out of existence the traitorous Robert De Vere, 3rd Earl of Oxford. [ Anderson, Mark: "Shakespeare by Another Name", 2005, page 5 and 25. Gotham Books]

The Merry Wives of Windsor

From an Oxfordian point of view, Shakespeare again used the life story of Edward De Vere in his plot for Merry Wives: Anne is Anne Cecil, the lovely, intelligent, commoner and single woman who happens to have a rich father; Fenton is Oxford, the charming, clever, broke, verse writing ne'er-do-well noblemen who is looking for a wife; and Anne’s father is William Cecil, the suspicious but rich potential father-in-law. Oxfordians hear the voice of De Vere, commenting on how his father-in-law Cecil views him, in the following passage:

cquote| I am too great of birth,

And that my state being gall’d with my expense,

I seek to heal it only by his wealth.

Besides these, other bars he lays before me,

My riots past, my wild societies;

And tells me ‘tis a thing impossible

I should love thee but as a property.

All's Well That Ends Well

On 19 December 1571, in an arranged wedding, Oxford married Lord Burghley's fifteen-year-old daughter, Anne Cecil — an equally surprising choice as in the play because Oxford was of the oldest nobility in the kingdom whereas Anne was not of noble birth, her father having only been raised to the peerage that same year by Queen Elizabeth to enable the marriage of social inequals.

In 1658, Francis Osborne (1593–1659) included a bed-trick anecdote about Oxford in his "Historical Memoires on the Reigns of Queen Elizabeth and King James". According to Osborne (who had been a servant to the Herberts), Philip Herbert, then earl of Montgomery (and later Pembroke), was struck in the face by a Scottish courtier named Ramsey at a horse race at Croydon. Herbert, who did not strike back, "was left nothing to testifie his Manhood but a Beard and Children, by that "Daughter" of the last great "Earl of Oxford", whose "Lady" was brought to his Bed under the notion of his "Mistress", and from such a vertuous deceit she [that is, Pembroke’s wife] is said to proceed."

J. Thomas Looney believed these events reveal striking parallels between Edward De Vere and Bertam:

Measure for Measure

From an Oxfordian perspective Measure for Measure contains numerous autobiographical allusions to Edward De Vere. Besides another use of the "bed-trick", there is the Anne Cecil-like Isabella, plus the Oxford-like Duke of Vienna, working to save a prisoner from the death penalty - just as Edward De Vere tried but failed to save his cousin, the Duke of Norfolk. [ Anderson, Mark: "Shakespeare by Another Name", page 341., Gotham Books. 2005] [ Ogburn, Charlton: "The Mysterious William Shakespeare, The Myth and the Reality", page 495-496. EPM Publications, Inc.1984]

The generally accepted source of the play was a supposedly true incident that occurred in 1547, near Milan, a city Oxford visited in 1576. [ Lever, J.W. editor: "The Arden Shakespeare, Measure for Measure", page xxxvi. Thomson Learning. 2005] [ Anderson, Mark: "Shakespeare by Another Name", page 106., Gotham Books. 2005] However, the play itself differs from these sources in a number of ways: [ Lever, J.W. editor: "The Arden Shakespeare, Measure for Measure", page xxxvii. Thomson Learning. 2005] First, the Duke's hidden manipulations were added; second, Claudio’s crime was changed from murder to seduction of a maiden - the same crime that sent Oxford to the Tower of London [ Anderson, Mark: "Shakespeare by Another Name", page 172., Gotham Books. 2005] And finally, Isabella did not marry Angelo but, following Anne Cecil’s life story, married the Duke (De Vere).

Oxfordians note that in the play the Duke of Vienna preferred dealing with his problems through the use of a front, although he could have rescued Claudio at any time by dropping his disguise and stepping forward as himself.

In addition, Oxfordians see similarities between Edward de Vere's writings and the following Shakespearean passage:


It is not truer he is Angelo

Than this is all as true as it is strange.

Nay, it is ten times true. For truth is truth

To th’end of reckoning.

Oxford Letter to William Cecil:

Truth is truth, though never so old, and time cannot make that false which was once true. [ Anderson, Mark: "Shakespeare by Another Name", page 342., Gotham Books. 2005]

Romeo and Juliet

Oxford's illicit congress with Anne Vavasour led to a prolonged quarrel with her uncle, Sir Thomas Knyvet, resulting in three deaths and several other injuries. Oxford himself was lamed in one of the duels. The imbroglio was put to an end when the Queen threatened to jail all those involved. The theme of "lameness" is evident in Shakespeare's Sonnets.

Much Ado About Nothing

From an Oxfordian point of view the play is an autobiography of Edward De Vere, starting with an apology to Anne Cecil for ever thinking she was unfaithful (Claudio – Hero), to the Dogberry sub-plot as a parody of the Arundell-Howard Libel case, to a defence of his affair with Anne Vavasor. (Sir Thomas Knyvet, Anne Vavasor’s enraged uncle, even makes an appearance as Beatrice’s enraged uncle with the lines "Sir boy, I’ll whip you from your foining fence, nay, as I am a gentleman, I will." [ Anderson, Mark: "Shakespeare by Another Name", 2005, pgs 186.Gotham Books] )

Othello, Cymbeline and The Winter’s Tale

All 3 plays make use of the same Shakespearean plot that Oxfordians believe closely follow Edward De Vere’s treatment of his long suffering wife, Anne Cecil. According to Charlton Ogburn, in these "three plays the male protagonist conceives a murderous animosity toward a loving wife by imagining her unfaithful to him on the flimsiest of grounds, only to be later overwhelmed by remorse; and these three brutally condemned wives – Imogen in Cymbeline, Hermione in The Winter's Tale and Desdemona in Othello – are generally adjudged the most saintly and faultless of Shakespeare's heroines." [ Ogburn, Charlton: "The Mysterious William Shakespeare, The Myth and the Reality", page 567-568. EPM Publications, Inc.1984]

Timon of Athens

According to Joseph Sobran, Timon "a rich and generous patron suddenly finds that his munificence has left him ruined and friendless. He bitterly denounces the human race, with one interesting exception: his steward. Timon’s praise of his steward, in the midst of his railing against mankind, suggest Oxford’s own praise of Robert Christmas, a faithful servant who apparently stayed with him during the hardship he inflicted on himself through his legendary prodigality." [ Sobran, Joseph: "Alias Shakespeare", page 187. The Free Press, 1997] Mark Anderson, an Oxfordian researcher, noted "Timon of Athens" "is Shakespeare’s self-portrait as a downwardly mobile aristocrat." [ Anderson, Mark: "Shakespeare by Another Name", page 323., Gotham Books. 2005]

Henry V

A number of observers, including the mainstream Shakespearean scholar Dover Wilson, believe that the character of Fluellen was modelled after the Welsh soldier of fortune Sir Roger Williams. [ Campbell, Oscar James: "The Reader’s Encyclopedia of Shakespeare", page 947. MJF Books. 1966] Charles Wisner Barrell wrote, "Many of the speeches that the author of Henry the Fifth puts in the mouth of the argumentative Fluellen are merely poetical paraphrases of Sir Roger’s own arguments and 'instances' in his posthumous book, "The Actions of the Lowe Countries", which was not published until 1618 - and therefore the play's author could only have known of them through private manuscripts or personal observations. Sir Roger was a follower of Oxford, and served with "the fighting Veres” (Oxford’s cousins, Francis and Horatio) in the Dutch Republic. [ Ogburn, Charlton: "The Mysterious William Shakespeare, The Myth and the Reality", page 685 and 692. EPM Publications, Inc.1984 ] He had no known connection to Shakespeare of Stratford. [http://www.sourcetext.com/sourcebook/library/barrell/04fluellen.htm]

The Comedy of Errors

Oxfordians believe that Edward de Vere, writing as Shakespeare, complained of the power his 1,000 pounds per year pension gave those in authority. To support this view they point to The Comedy of Errors and sonnet 111:

Sonnet 111

O for my sake do you wish fortune chide,

The guilty goddess of my harmful deeds’

That did not better for my life provide

Than public means which public manners breeds.

And according to Mark Anderson, “Annual grants of 1,000 pounds, one learns, come with some very large strings attached. One of the Comedy of Error’s two de Vere characters (Antipholus of Ephesus) tells his servant to go out and buy some rope. The servant (Dromio) replies with a non sequitur that critics have scratched their heads over for centuries” ‘I buy a thousand pounds a year!’ the servant says, ‘I buy a rope!” (Act 4, scene 1) [Anderson, Mark: "Shakespeare by Another Name", page 342., Gotham Books. 2005] As the mainstream Folger Shakespeare Library edition of the play states, “Dromio’s indignant exit line has not been satisfactorily explained.” [Mowat and Werstine, editors: Folger Shakespeare Library, The Comedy of Errors, page 88. Washington Square Press, 1996. ]

Prince Tudor theory

In a letter in 1933, J. Thomas Looney mentions in a postscript that Percy Allen and Captain Ward were advancing views in regard to Oxford and Queen Elizabeth that were extravagant and improbable. The ideas that Ward and Allen developed have become known as the Prince Tudor or PT Theory. The PT Theory has split the Oxfordian movement into the orthodox Oxfordians, who regard the theory as an impediment to Oxford's recognition as Shakespeare, and the PT Theorists, who maintain that their theory better explains Oxford's life and authorship.Fact|date=October 2007

The PT Theory advances the belief that Oxford and Queen Elizabeth had a child who was raised as Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton. It is to this young Earl that Shakespeare dedicated Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. "This Star of England" by Charlton and Dorothy Ogburn devoted space to the facts supporting this theory, which was expanded by Elisabeth Sears' "Shakespeare and the Tudor Rose", Paul Streitz' "Oxford: Son of Queen Elizabeth I", and Hank Whittemore, in his analysis of Shakespeare's Sonnets, "The Monument", which interprets the poems as a poetic history of Queen Elizabeth, Oxford and Southampton.

See the Prince Tudor theory page for a complete discussion of this topic.

tratfordian objections

The primary objection to Oxfordian theory is that Oxford died in 1604, after which, according to Stratfordians, a number of Shakespeare plays are conventionally believed to have been written. Oxfordians respond that the conventional dates for the plays were developed by Stratfordian scholars, and are, therefore, inconclusive and self-serving. Oxfordians also note that a number of the so-called "later plays", such as "Henry VIII", "Timon of Athens" and "Pericles" have all been described as "unfinished", whereas under one version of the Oxfordian theory these plays were completed by another author after Oxford's 1604 death. [Mark Anderson, "Shakespeare by Another Name", 2005] Stratfordians reject these arguments and cite examples to support their point:

*"The Tempest" is considered by many mainstream scholars to have been inspired by a description of a shipwreck written in 1610.Fact|date=May 2007 However, literary scholar Kenneth Muir noted "the extent of verbal echoes of the [Bermuda] pamphlets has, I think, been exaggerated." [The Sources of Shakespeaere's Plays (1978, p280] Peter Moore cites 13 thematic and verbal parallels between "The Tempest" and St. Paul's account of his shipwreck at Malta. [http://www.shakespearefellowship.org/virtualclassroom/moore.tempest] In addition, Oxfordians point to previously acknowledged sources that show that some of the words and images in "The Tempest" may actually derive from Eden's "The Decades of the New Worlde Or West India" (1555) and Erasmus' "Naufragium"/"The Shipwreck" (1523). Both sources are mentioned by previous scholars [ (Eden: Kermode 1958 xxxii-xxxiii; Erasmus: Bullough 1975 VIII: 334-339)] as influencing the composition of "The Tempest" and Oxfordians point to new research that they believe confirms this. [ [http://www.shakespearefellowship.org/virtualclassroom/tempest/kositsky-stritmatter%20Tempest%20Table.htm Kositsky-Stritmatter Tempest Sources (Originally Posted May 20, 2005 ] ]

*"Henry VIII" was described as a new play in 1613. However, this distinction may simply be the result of Elizabethan marketing, as London diarist Samuel Pepys also referred to "Henry VIII" as being "new" in 1663, when the play was over 50 years old. [Samuel Pepy's entry of 26 December 1663] In addition, many 18th and 19th century scholars, including Samuel Johnson, Lewis Theobald, George Steevens, Edmund Malone, and John Halliwell-Phillipps placed the composition of "Henry VIII" to before 1604 as they believed Elizabeth’s execution of the king’s mother made any vigorous defense of the Tudors politically inappropriate in the England of James I. [Mark Anderson "Shakespeare by Another Name", 2005, pgs 401-02]

*Stratfordians suggest that "Macbeth" represents the most overwhelming single piece of evidence against the Oxfordian position, asserting that the play was written in the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot, [ [http://www.stjohns-chs.org/english/PAPERTOPICS/brooner.html Brooner'S Paper ] ] [ [http://www.rsc.org.uk/macbeth/about/dating.html Macbeth ] ] which was discovered on 5 November 1605, a year after Oxford died. In particular, Stratfordians claim the porter's lines about "equivocation" may allude to the trial of Father Garnet in 1606. [Frank Kermode, 'Macbeth', "The Riverside Shakespeare" (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974), p. 1308.] Oxfordians respond that the concept of "equivocation" was also the subject of a 1583 tract by Queen Elizabeth's chief councillor Lord Burghley as well as the 1584 "Doctrine of Equivocation" by the Spanish prelate Martin Azpilcueta that was disseminated across Europe and into England in the 1590s. [Mark Anderson, "Shakespeare By Another Name", 2005, pgs 402-403] In addition, A.R. Braunmuller in the New Cambridge edition finds the post-1605 arguments inconclusive, and argues only for an earliest date of 1603. [Braunmuller, "Macbeth", 5-8.] Oxfordians also question the tradition that Macbeth was written in celebration of King James's accession to the English throne, suggesting that the play's depiction of the murder of a King would have been unsuitable for such an occasion.

*The publication of "Shake-speares Sonnets" in 1609, with its dedication reading "by our ever-living poet" is taken by Oxfordians to imply the author was dead by that time of publication, "ever-living" generally understood to mean that person was deceased. Nevertheless, it remains debatable whether the phrase, in this context, refers to Shakespeare or to God.Fact|date=December 2007 Oxfordians respond that not one researcher has been able to provide any examples where the term "ever-living" referred to an individual who was not deceased at the time.

Critical reception

In addition to the problem of the author's date of death (Michell points out "Against the Oxford theory are several references to Shakespeare, later than 1604, which imply that the author was then still alive" [Michell, John, Who Wrote Shakespeare? (Thames and Hudson: 1996), p.189] ), supporters of the standard view dispute all contentions in favour of Oxford [Gibson's examination of the authorship claimants brought him to the conclusion that " [...] on analysis the Oxfordian case appears to me a very weak one". Gibson, H.N., "The Shakespeare Claimants" (Methuen: 1962),p.90] In particular, they assert that the connections between Oxford's life and the plots of Shakespeare's plays are conjectural, and that the acclaim of Oxford's contemporaries for his poetic and dramatic skill was distinctly modest.Fact|date=May 2007 A method of textual comparison developed by the Claremont Shakespeare Clinic compared the styles of Oxford with Shakespeare and found the odds of Oxford having written Shakespeare as "lower than the odds of getting hit by lightning". [Elliott, Ward E. Y. and Robert J. Valenza. "Oxford By The Numbers". Tennessee Law Review. 2004. Vol 72. pgs 323-453. http://govt.claremontmckenna.edu/welliott/UTConference/Oxford_by_Numbers.pdf] Oxfordians counter that computer studies can be wrong. For example, the findings of one such study supported the belief that the "Funeral Elegy" was written by Shakespeare. It was even asserted that there were only 3 chances out of 1,000 that it was written by someone else. However, its author is now widely believed to have been John Ford. [http://www.shakespearefellowship.org/virtualclassroom/DLWrightFuneralElegy.htm]

In respect to the supposition that Shakespeare of Stratford was a full-time actor Oxfordians would counter that at that time all acting companies toured, and while a thorough search of municipal records throughout England has uncovered evidence of many touring groups, and many actors, it has failed to locate any trace of Shakespeare of Stratford. [ Looney, J. Thomas: "Shakespeare Identified", page 54-55. Duell, Sloan and Pearce 1920]

Regarding the claim concerning Shakespeare’s many "patrons", Oxfordians point out that there is little or no evidence that they existed. The only indications even pointing to that possibility being the dedications to Southampton in "Lucrece" and "Venus and Adonis". However, as mentioned by Gerald E. Bentley in "Shakespeare: A Biographical Handbook" "in spite of the thousands of pages that have been written on the Earl of Southampton as the poet's patron, the only facts so far established are Shakespeare’s dedication of the two long poem's to him in 1593 and 1594". In addition, no record of any payment to Shakespeare from a potential patron has ever been discovered, [Price, Diana: “Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography”, page 262. Greenwood Press, 2001] nor was Charlotte C. Stopes, the author of Southampton's standard biography, able to uncover any evidence of a Southampton-Shakespeare connection beyond the dedications, despite an extensive 5 year search. [ Hope and Holston: "The Shakespeare Controversy", page 120. McFarland & Company, Inc.1992]

Some Stratfordian academics argue, in addition, that Thomas Looney's Oxford theory is based on simple snobbishness: that anti-Stratfordians reject the idea that the son of a mere tradesman could write the plays and poems of Shakespeare. In fact, "all" the major Shakespeare authorship conspiracy theories promote an aristocrat in favour of Shakespeare of Stratford.Bate, Jonathan, "The Genius of Shakespeare" (London, Picador, 1997)] Contrasting this is the statement of Professor The Revd V A Demant, Canon of Christ Church, Oxford, who stated: "This was not a matter of social class, or education or even of ideas. It concerned the unconscious attitudes of the world and life. Quite early on Looney had to meet the criticism that his was a "snob" view, holding that a man who had not been to a university and was of bourgeois origin could not be a literary giant. Looney somewhat resented the stupidity of this criticism. Certainly, he maintained, genius arises in any social milieu and is quite independent of formal education (witness Burns). But some background and peculiar personal attitudes indeliberately colour a man’s work, and another man without them cannot produce counterfeits." [ [http://ruthmiller.com/looney_bio.htm John Thomas Looney Bio ] ] Further, Oxfordians note that figures such as Walt Whitman, Charlie Chaplin, Sigmund Freud, and Friederich Nietzsche [http://www.elizabethanauthors.com/nietzsche2.htm] and Mark Twain (both Baconians), none of whom are obvious candidates for snobbery, have all expressed anti-Stratfordian views. See the article on Baconian theory for additional information on Baconian issues that may relate to the Oxford candidacy.

References in Popular Culture

The Oxfordian theory was the basis of Amy Freed's 2001 play "The Beard of Avon."

The Oxfordian theory is also central to the plot of Sarah Smith (writer)'s 2003 novel Chasing Shakespeares. [http://www.sarahsmith.com/chasingshakespeares/cs_main.htm]


Further reading

* Mark Anderson, "Shakespeare" By Another Name: The Life of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, The Man Who Was Shakespeare" (2005).
* Al Austin and Judy Woodruff, "The Shakespeare Mystery", 1989 Frontline documentary. [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shakespeare/] . (Documentary film about the Oxford case.)
* Fowler, William Plumer "Shakespeare Revealed in Oxford's Letters." (Portsmouth, New Hampshire: 1986).
* Hope, Warren and Kim Holston "The Shakespeare Controversy: An Analysis of the Claimants to Authorship, and their Champions and Detractors." (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland and Co., 1992).
* J. Thomas Looney, "Shakespeare Identified in Edward de Vere, Seventeenth Earl of Oxford." (London: Cecil Palmer, 1920). [http://www.shakespearefellowship.org/etexts/si/00.htm] . (The first book to promote the Oxford theory.)
* Malim, Richard (Ed.) "Great Oxford: Essays on the Life and Work of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, 1550-16-4." (London: Parapress, 2004).
* Charlton Ogburn Jr., "The Mysterious William Shakespeare: The Man Behind the Mask." (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1984). (Influential book that criticises orthodox scholarship and promotes the Oxford theory).
* Diana Price, "Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography: New Evidence of An Authorship Problem" (Westport, Ct: Greenwood, 2001). [http://www.shakespeare-authorship.com/about/about.asp#AboutBook] . (Introduction to the evidentiary problems of the orthodox tradition).
* Sobran, Joseph, "Alias Shakespeare: Solving the Greatest Literary Mystery of All Time" (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997).
* Stritmatter, Roger "The Marginalia of Edward de Vere's Geneva Bible: Providential Discovery, Literary Reasoning, and Historical Consequence." 2001 University of Massachusetts PhD dissertation. [http://www.shakespearefellowship.org/virtualclassroom/bibledissabsetc.htm]
* Ward, B.M. "The Seventeenth Earl of Oxford (1550-1604) From Contemporary Documents" (London: John Murray, 1928).
* Whalen, Richard "Shakespeare: Who Was He? The Oxford Challenge to the Bard of Avon." (Westport, Ct.: Praeger, 1994).

External links

General Non-Stratfordian

* [http://www.shakespeareanauthorshiptrust.org.uk/ The Shakespeare Authorship Trust] , survey of all the authorship candidates, a site patronised by the acclaimed actor Mark Rylance and Dr William Leahy of Brunel University, UK


* [http://www.shakespearefellowship.org/ The Shakespeare Fellowship] current research on the Oxfordian theory
** [http://www.shakespearefellowship.org/virtualclassroom/stateofdebate/LovesLaboursLost.htm Articles by Lynne Kositsky and Roger Stritmatter] , challenging the methods and conclusions of Stratfordian David Kathman
** [http://www.shakespearefellowship.org/virtualclassroom/stateofdebate/LovesLaboursLost.htm State of the Debate - Oxfordian vs. Stratfordian]
** [http://shakespearefellowship.org/virtualclassroom/begguide.htm A Beginner's Guide to the Shakespeare Authorship Problem]
** [http://www.shakespearefellowship.org/virtualclassroom/Law/index.htm Shakespeare's Knowledge of Law: A Journey through the History of the Argument]
** [http://www.shakespearefellowship.org/Reviews/reviewsgateway.htm#Nelson Oxfordian reviews of Alan H. Nelson's orthodox biography of Oxford, "Monstrous Adversary" (2001)]
* [ Oxfordian response to David Kathman's "historical record"] by Joseph Sobran
* [http://www.shakespeare-oxford.com/ Shakespeare Oxford Society]
* [http://www.theatlantic.com/unbound/flashbks/shakes/beth.htm The Case for Oxford] in the Atlantic Monthly, 1991 (subscription required).
* [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shakespeare/ The Shakespeare Mystery] (Website for a PBS documentary; includes several articles)
* [http://sobran.com/oxfordlibrary.shtml Joseph Sobran, "The Shakespeare Library"] (collection of Joseph Sobran's Oxfordian columns. Sobran's "Alias Shakespeare" is mentioned here, also.)
* [http://www.authorshipstudies.org/ The Shakespeare Authorship Studies Conference] A yearly academic conference at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon on Oxfordian theory
* [http://www.deveresociety.co.uk The De Vere Society of Great Britain]
* [http://www.wsu.edu/~delahoyd/shakespeare/vere.html Dr. Michael Delahoyde's summary of Oxfordian theory]
* [http://www.elizabethanauthors.com/sac101.htm Elizabethan Authors] Shakespeare: The Authorship Controversy
* [http://www.sourcetext.com/sourcebook/index.htm Shakespeare Authorship Sourcebook] by Mark Alexander


* [http://shakespeareauthorship.com/ The Shakespeare Authorship Page — Dedicated to the Proposition that Shakespeare Wrote Shakespeare]
* [http://www.jmucci.com/ER/articles/time.htm The Bard's Beard — A "Time" Article]
* [http://willyshakes.com/doubts.htm Arguments against Oxford's Authorship by Irvin Leigh Matus]
* [http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~ahnelson/oxlets.html Original-spelling transcripts of Edward de Vere's letters prepared by Dr. Alan H. Nelson (an Oxford biographer not supportive of Oxfordian Theory)]

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