Oxfordian Theory

Edward de Vere – 17th Earl of Oxford – from an engraving by J. Brown. Oxford is the leading alternative candidate for the author behind the alleged pseudonym, Shakespeare.

The Oxfordian theory of Shakespearean authorship, which holds that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (1550–1604), wrote the plays and poems attributed to William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon, is based, in part, on perceived parallels with Shakespeare's plays, including similarities between Oxford's biography and events in Shakespeare's plays and sonnets; and parallels of language, idiom, and thought between Oxford's letters and the Shakespearean canon;[1] Mainstream scholarship rejects Oxfordian and all alternative candidates for Shakespeare authorship, dismissing than as fringe theories with no evidence, but various alternative Shakespeare authorship theories continue to gain attention and adherents.[2] Since the 1920s, Oxford has been the most popular anti-Stratfordian candidate.[3][4][5]

Oxfordians point to biographical evidence such as Oxford's long term relationships with Queen Elizabeth I and the Earl of Southampton, his knowledge of Court life, his extensive education, his contemporary academic and cultural acclaim, and his wide-ranging travels through the cities of France and Italy which would become the locations for many of the plays. Additionally, Oxfordians say that both known and probable sources of and minor details in numerous Shakespeare plays match up with specific documents to which the highly educated, multilingual, and well-traveled Oxford—and very few, if any, other Elizabethans—had access.[citation needed]

Most mainstream Shakespeare academics pay little or no attention to Oxfordian or any other anti-Stratfordian theories, and say that deducing a writer's identity from his works constitutes a biographical fallacy. They also say that the purported parallels between Oxford's life and the works of Shakespeare are exaggerated and tenuous at best, and mostly based on distorted or interpretations of the historical record or outright fabrications.



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 credited.

Anti-Stratfordian Mark Twain, wrote "Is Shakespeare Dead?" shortly before his death in 1910.

Minority View

A common principle held by many of those who question Shakespeare’s authorship is that most authors reveal themselves in their work, and that the personality of an author can generally be discerned from his or her writings.[6] With this principle in mind, authorship doubters find parallels in the fictional characters or events in the Shakespearean works and in the life experiences of their preferred candidate. The disjunction between the biography of Shakespeare of Stratford and the content of Shakespeare's works has raised doubts about whether the author and the Stratford businessman are the same person.[7][8][9]

Mainstream view

Some mainstream scholars, including Jonathan Bate, assert that the idea that Shakespeare revealed himself in his work is a Romantic notion of the 18th and 19th centuries and anachronistic to Elizabethan and Jacobean writers.[10] When William Wordsworth wrote that ‘Shakespeare unlocked his heart’ in the sonnets, Robert Browning replied, ‘If so, the less Shakespeare he!’[11]

Although little biographical information exists about Shakespeare compared to later authors, mainstream scholars assert that more is known about him than about most other playwrights and actors of the period.[12] This lack of information is unsurprising, they say, given that in Elizabethan/Jacobean England the lives of commoners were not as well documented as those of the gentry and nobility, and that many—indeed the overwhelming majority—of Renaissance documents that existed have not survived until the present day.[13] Supporters of the mainstream view dispute all contentions in favour of Oxford. Aside from their main argument against the theory—the issue of Oxford's early death—they assert the connections between Oxford's life and the plots of Shakespeare's plays are conjectural. Terence Schoone-Jongen, writing in Shakespeare's companies: William Shakespeare's Early Career and the Acting Companies, 1577–1594, asserts that biographical interpretations of literature are invalid for attributing authorship.[14]

Oxford's biographical connections

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 Oxford's connections to the First Folio, the earl of Southampton, and to the Elizabethan theatre and poetry scene, as well as the numerous parallels between Oxford's life and events depicted in the plays, provide such a connection:

  • 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 Adonisand The Rape of Lucrece were dedicated to Southampton, and theFirst 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;
  • Oxford 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, (many scholars believe Southampton to have been the Fair Youth of theSonnets);
  • Oxford's mother, Margory Golding, was the sister of the Ovid translator Arthur Golding;
  • Oxford's uncle, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, was the inventor of the Shakespearean Sonnet (or English Sonnet) form.[15]
  • Shakespeare placed many of his plays in Italy and sprinkled them with detailed descriptions of Italian life. Though there are no records Shakespeare of Stratford ever visited Europe, historical documents confirm Oxford lived in Venice, and traveled for over a year through Italy.[16] According to Anderson, the cities Oxford visited in 1575–1576 were Venice, Padua, Milan, Genoa, Palermo, Florence, Siena and Naples — all cities Shakespeare wrote into the plays, while (except for Rome) the Italian cities Oxford bypassed are the same cities Shakespeare ignored.[17]
  • In 1588, due to ongoing financial problems, Oxford sold his house, Fisher’s Folly, to William Cornwallis. In 1852, James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps discovered a volume, “Anne Cornwaleys her booke,” apparently the day book of Cornwallis’ daughter Anne, which Halliwell-Phillipps believed was written sometime in 1595. Anne’s handwritten book contains “Verses Made by the Earl of Oxforde,” “Anne Vavasour’s Echo” (Anne Vavasour was Oxford's mistress 1579–1581, by whom he fathered an illegitimate child), and also a poem ascribed in 1599 to "Shakespeare" by William Jaggard in The Passionate Pilgrim. According to Charles Wisner Barrell, Anne’s version was superior textually to the one published by Jaggard, and is the first handwritten example we have of a poem ascribed to Shakespeare.[18]
  • While Oxfordians concede the names Avon and Stratford became irrevocably linked to Shakespeare with the 1623 publication of his First Folio, they also note Edward de Vere once owned an estate in the River Avon valley[19] near the Forest of Arden,[20] and the nearest town to the parish of Hackney, where de Vere later lived and was buried, was also named Stratford.[21]
  • Oxfordians regard Dr. John Ward 1662 statement that Shakespeare spent at a rate of £1,000 a year—a huge sum by today's standards—as a critical piece of evidence given that in an oft-noted parallel Oxford received an annuity of £1,000 a year from Queen Elizabeth after he had sold off most of his estate to pay debts.[16]

Parallels with the plays


William Cecil(Lord Burghley), Oxford's guardian and father-in-law, and Queen Elizabeth's most trusted advisor. Oxfordians believe Polonius is based on Burghley.

Numerous Oxfordian researchers, including Charlton Ogburn, claim that Hamlet is the play most easily seen as portraying Oxford's life story. Traditional scholars say that other contemporary figures, such as King James or the Earl of Essex.

  • Hamlet's father was murdered unexpectedly and his mother remarried shortly thereafter. Oxfordians see a parallel with Oxford's life, as his father died unexpectedly at the age of 46, although not before making a will, and his stepmother remarried, although it is unknown how soon after her husband's death.
  • At 15, Oxford was made a royal ward and placed in the household of Lord Burghley, who was the Lord High Treasurer and Queen Elizabeth I's closest and most trusted advisor. Burghley is regarded by mainstream scholars as the prototype for the character of chief minister Polonius. Oxfordians point out that in the First Quarto the character was not named Polonius, but Corambis (Cor ambis means "two-hearted", according to Oxfordians, but no Latinists) — a swipe, as Charlton Ogburn said, "at Burghley’s motto, Cor unum, via una, or 'one heart, one way.'" Other scholars suggest that it derives from a Latin phrase meaning "reheated cabbage", implying "a boring old man" who spouts trite rehashed ideas.[22][23]
  • Hamlet was engaged to marry Ophelia, daughter to Polonius, who went mad and committed suicide by drowning, while Edward de Vere was engaged to marry Anne Cecil, daughter to Burghley, and he did marry her.
  • Like Laertes, who received the famous list of maxims from his father Polonius, Robert Cecil received a similarly famous list from his father Burghley — a list the Shakespearean scholar E. K. Chambers suggested was the author's likely source.
  • One of Hamlet’s chief opponents at court was Laertes, the son of Polonius, while Oxford continually sought the help of Robert Cecil, the son of Lord Burghley, to seek the queen's favour, with no results.
  • Polonius sent the spy Reynaldo to watch his son when Laertes was away at school, and for similar reasons Burghley sent a spy to watch his son, Thomas, when he was away in Paris.
  • The ruler of Mantua in 1575, when Oxford traveled through the area, was Duke Guglielmo Gonzaga, who happened to be a member of the same Gonzaga family of the wife of the Duke of Urbino, who was killed in 1538 by a poisoned lotion rubbed into his ears by his barber. Some scholars think that The Murder of Gonzago, the unknown play which was reworked by Hamlet into The Mousetrap (the play within the play) that reenacted Hamlet's father being killed by having poison poured into his ear, may have been a popular theatrical reenactment of Urbino's assassination. Mark Anderson says it is the same story, and that Oxford having passed through the area that Gonzaga ruled was in some way responsible for Hamlet's play-within-the-play.[24]
  • While returning from Italy in 1576 Edward de Vere first encountered a cavalry division outside of Paris that was being led by a German duke and then pirates in the English Channel. As Anderson stated: “Just as Hamlet’s review of Fortinbras’ troops leads directly to an ocean voyage overtaken by pirates, de Vere’s meeting with Duke Casimir’s army was soon followed by a Channel crossing intercepted by pirates."
  • In Act IV, Hamlet describes himself as "set naked" in "the kingdom" and later reveals he was taken captive by pirates. In a striking parallel, on Oxford's return from Europe across the Channel in April 1576, his ship was hijacked by pirates who robbed him and left him stripped to his shirt, and who might have murdered him had not one of them recognized him.[25] Anderson notes that "[n]either the encounter with Fortinbras’ army nor Hamlet’s brush with buccaneers appears in any of the play's sources – to the puzzlement of numerous literary critics.”[26]

The Merchant of Venice

In 1577 the Company of Cathay was formed to support Martin Frobisher’s hunt for the Northwest Passage, although Frobisher and his investors quickly became distracted by reports of gold at Hall’s Island. With thoughts of an impending Canadian gold-rush filling Oxford's head, and trusting in the financial advice of a Michael Lok or Lock, de Vere finally went in bond for £3,000, "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."[27] Although £3,000 was a large enough sum to ruin financially any man, Edward de Vere went on to support equally unsuccessful Northwest Passage expeditions in 1584 and again in 1585. An Oxfordian might say Edward de Vere, like Hamlet, was "but mad north-northwest."[28]

Oxfordians also observe that Shakespeare set almost half of his plays in Italy and filled them with local details that were not widely known. These details, Oxfordians believe, 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."[29] Or, as William Farina noted, "the notorious Alien Statue of Venice, which provided the exact same penalty (as used in The Merchant of Venice): forfeiture of half an estate to the Republic and half to the wronged party, plus a discretionary death penalty, to any foreigner (including Jews) who attempted to take the life of a Venetian citizen.”[30]

The Taming of the Shrew

In 1577 the hard-drinking, straight-talking Peregrine Bertie successfully courted Oxford's sister, Mary de Vere, a lady known, in the words of Mark Anderson, “for her quick temper and harsh tongue.” Though the unlikely couple met the resistance of Oxford and others, they were married within a year. Oxfordians, such as Anderson, believe there is little doubt Bertie, his mother, Kate Willoughby and Mary de Vere, were variously lampooned, in The Taming of the Shrew, The Winter's Taleand Twelfth Night.[31]

Oxfordians also note that when Edward de Vere travelled through Venice, he borrowed 500 crowns from a Baptista Nigrone. In Padua, he borrowed from a man named Pasquino Spinola. In 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.[32]

Oxfordians believe their position is further strengthened by the observations of the mainstream scholar Ernesto Grillo (1876–1946), of the University of Glasgow, who stated in Shakespeare and Italy, "the local colour ofThe 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."

The play also shows Shakespeare using Italian with its banter between Lucentio and Tranio and in the greetings between Petruchio and Hortensio in its first act. As noted by Professor Grillo these exchanges are “pure Italian.” While in testimony before the Inquisition it was said Edward de Vere was fluent in Italian,[33] as far as is known, Shakespeare of Stratford never left England or showed any interest in Italy or Italian culture.[34]

However, Jason Lawrence demonstrates that Shakespeare's Italian dialogue—especially that of The Shrew—derives almost entirely from John Florio's parallel-text dialogue manuals for learning Italian,[35] and Kier Elam notes that the play's dialogue derives from Florio's Second Fruits (1591). For example, Lucentio's opening dialogue:

Tranio, since for the great desire I had
To see fair Padua, nursery of arts,
I am arrived for fruitful Lombardy,
The pleasant garden of great Italy (1.1.1-4),

obviously borrows from Florio's dialogue between Peter and Stephan, who have just arrived in the north:

P. I purpose to stay a while, to view the fair Cities of Lombardy.
S. Lombardy is the garden of the world.[36]

And both Elam and Arden editor Brian Morris point out that Shakespeare puts Padua in Lombardy instead of Veneto, an error no one who had ever visited the city would have made. The cause of the gaffe was probably Shakespeare's use of Ortelius's map of Italy in the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (4th ed., 1591) as a source, which has "Lombardy" written across the entirety of northern Italy.[37][38]

The Tempest

Although traditionally The Tempest was considered to have had no specific source, the play’s basic structure also reflects the Italian Commedia dell'Arte. In 1913, a Commedia manuscript was discovered calledArcadia Incantata (The Enchanted Arcadia) and has been accepted by several scholars, including Kathleen Marguerite Lea in her Italian Popular Comedy: A study in the commedia dell'arte, 1560–1620 and Allardyce Nicoll, as a source for the play. In addition, Oxfordian researcher, Kevin Gilvary, has called Arcadia Incantata “an exact scenario for the story” of The Tempest."[39] As described by Gilvary, the main scenario of Arcadia Incantata revolves around ship-wrecked survivors and “a magician who controls the island through spirits, which offer and then remove food from the starving companions. Various lovers among the shepherds and nymphs are confused. Eventually, the magician is able to right old wrongs, lead the survivors away from the island and abandon his art.”[40]

As You Like It

As You Like It features the former libertine Lord Jaques — who, like Oxford, "sold his lands to see other men’s". Much of the play takes place in the Forest of Arden, which was the name of the forest that stretched from Stratford-upon-Avon to Tamworth, near Oxford’s old country estate, Bilton.[41] Mark Anderson notes "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."[42]

One of the sights Oxford may have taken in on his 1575–76 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’ 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."[43]

Act V, scene 1, has often been cited by both sides of the authorship question.Here the court jester Touchstone and the country wench Audrey are about to get married. They meet William, a local bumpkin of the forest of Arden (which includes Stratford), who appears only in this one scene. These three people and their actions are absent from the likely source, Thomas Lodge’s novelRosalynde: Euphues Golden Legacie, which otherwise has the same storyline and characters (though it takes place in the Belgian Ardennes forests). Scholars on both sides have recognized the character of William as a reference to William Shakespeare of Stratford. Anti-Stratfordians believe the real author used the scene to lampoon the front-man of Shakespeare of Stratford.[44][45][46][47][48] A Stratfordian interpretation is that the scene satirizes false learning and allowed the actor Shakespeare to appear in a cameo role, making fun of his own rural origins.[49]

The Life and Death of King John

In the inflated importance and superb speeches given to the character Philip Faulconbridge ("The Bastard") in The Life and Death of King John, 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 the play’s author felt it necessary to air-brush out of existence the traitorous Robert de Vere, 3rd Earl of Oxford.[50]

Henry IV, Part 1

In May 1573, in a letter to Lord Burghley, two of Oxford's former employees accused three of Oxford's friends of attacking them on "the highway from Gravesend to Rochester." In Shakespeare'sHenry 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. In that version of the play even the correct month of the crime, May, was mentioned.[51]

Henry V

A number of observers, including the mainstream Shakespearean scholar Dover Wilson, believe the character of Fluellen was modelled after the Welsh soldier of fortune Sir Roger Williams.[52] Charles Wisner Barrell wrote, "Many of the speeches that the author ofHenry 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.[53] He had no known connection to Shakespeare of Stratford.[54]

Oxfordians also note that in the play the character of the 12th Earl of Oxford is given a much more prominent role than his limited involvement in the actual history of the times would allow.[16]

Henry VI, Part 3

This play deals mainly with the temporary restoration of Henry VI and includes the great Lancastrian defeat at Tewkesbury. Interestingly, Shakespeare makes the same mistakes regarding the thirteenth earl's involvement as he did with the prior earls: throughout the play John de Vere, the thirteenth earl of Oxford is in the words of J. Thomas Looney, “hardly mentioned except to be praised:” Then in the last act, after the battle is lost and Oxford is captured, his place of imprisonment is mentioned:

“Away with Oxford to Hames Castle straight.” – Act V, scene v, line 2

However, as Isaac Asimov observed “This is strange. Opposition leaders, if taken alive, were generally executed as traitors after battle. Why was this not the case with Oxford?”

"Actually, it was because Oxford was not at Tewkesbury. He fought well at Barnet but then went to France. It was not till 1473, two years after Tewkesbury, which had been fought without him, that he attempted a reinvasion of England and a revival of the ruined Lancastrian cause. He was besieged in Cornwall and, after four and a half months, was forced to surrender.” It was only at this point, and only after everyone’s tempers had cooled, that he was sent to Hames castle.[55]

Oxfordians, such as Dorothy and Charlton Ogburn, in their This Star of England, believe the reason Shakespeare went to the trouble of creating an ahistorical place for Oxford in the climatic battle was because it was the easiest way Edward de Vere could "advertised his loyalty to (Queen Elizabeth)" and remind her of "the historic part borne by the Earls of Oxford in defeating the usurpers and restoring the Lancastrians to power.”[56]

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 The Merry Wives of Windsor: 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 nobleman 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 spoken by Fenton:

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 15-year-old daughter, Anne Cecil — an equally surprising choice as that in All's Well That Ends Well, as 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 the same year by Queen Elizabeth to enable this marriage of social inequals.

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

Bertram, a young lord of ancient lineage, of which he is himself proud, having lost a father for whom he entertained a strong affection, is brought to court by his mother and left as a royal ward, to be brought up under royal supervision. As he grows up he asks for military service and to be allowed to travel, but is repeatedly refused or put off. At last he goes away without permission. Before leaving he had been married to a young woman with whom he had been brought up, and who had herself been most active in bringing about the marriage. Matrimonial troubles, of which the outstanding feature is a refusal of cohabitation, are associated with both his stay abroad and his return home. Such a summary of a story we have been told in fragments elsewhere, and is as near to biography or autobiography if our theory be accepted, as a dramatist ever permitted himself to go.[57]

Also, in 1658, Francis Osborne (1593–1659) included a bed-trick anecdote about Oxford, himself, in hisTraditional Memoirs of the Reigns of Elizabeth and James I. 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 Ramsay at a horse race at Croydon. Herbert, who did not strike back, was left "nothing to testify 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 virtuous deceit she (the Countess of Montgomery) is said to proceed." Although the bed-trick can be found in literature throughout history, in everything from King Arthur to Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron (where it appears eight times), Ogburn believed de Vere was drawn to the story “because it paralleled his own.”[58][59]

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, Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk.[60][61]

The generally accepted source of the play was a supposedly true incident that occurred in 1547, near Milan, a city Oxford visited in 1576.[62][63] However, the play itself differs from these sources in a number of ways:[64] 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.[65] And finally, Isabella did not marry Angelo but, following Anne Cecil’s life story, married the Duke (Oxford).

Oxfordians also 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, Lord Burghley:

Truth is truth, though never so old, and time cannot make that false which was once true.[66]

Romeo and Juliet

Anne Vavasour, with whom Oxford had a tempestuous extramarital affair from 1579–81.

Oxford's illicit congress with Anne Vavasour resulted in an intermittent series of street battles between the Knyvet clan, led by Anne's uncle, Sir Thomas Knyvet, and Oxford’s men. As in Romeo and Juliet, this imbroglio produced three deaths and several other injuries. The feud was finally put to an end only by the intervention of the Queen,[67] although not before Oxford himself was lamed in one of its duels. Oxfordians note that the theme of "lameness" is evident in many of Shake-speares Sonnets.

Much Ado About Nothing

From an Oxfordian standpoint, Much Ado About Nothing is an autobiography of Edward de Vere, starting with an apology to Anne Cecil for ever thinking she was unfaithful (as Claudio thinks Hero), to the Dogberry sub-plot as a parody of the Arundell-Howard Libel case, to a defense of his affair with Anne Vavasour. Sir Thomas Knyvet, Anne Vavasour’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."[68]

Othello, Cymbeline, and The Winter’s Tale

All three plays make use of the same Shakespearean plot 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."[69]

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, suggests 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."[70] Mark Anderson, an Oxfordian researcher, wrote Timon of Athens "is Shakespeare's self-portrait as a downwardly mobile aristocrat."[71]

The Comedy of Errors

When the character of 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).[72] As the mainstream Folger Shakespeare Library edition of the play states, "Dromio’s indignant exit line has not been satisfactorily explained."[73]

In a coincidence often noted by Oxfordians, Edward de Vere received an annuity from the Queen, and later from King James, of exactly £1,000 per year. Anderson surmises that "Annual grants of £1,000, one learns, come with some very large strings attached." In The Comedy of Errors, Oxfordians believe that de Vere speaks of his regrets over the power his £1,000 per year pension gave to those in authority over him. To support this view they also point to 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.

Kathleen Marguerite Lea also believed the Italian form Commedia dell'Arte was the main influence on The Comedy of Errors.[74] While Oxford lived in Venice and northern Italy for almost a year, Shakespeare of Stratford had no known opportunity to view Italian street theater.[75]

Twelfth Night

Oxfordians believe this play relentlessly mocks de Vere’s court rival of the 1570s, Sir Christopher Hatton as Malvolio. For example, in the play Malvolio discovers a prank letter signed "The Fortunate Unhappy", which Oxfordians contend is a play on Si Fortunatus Infoelix ("if fortunate, unhappy"), which in his 1926 edition of A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres From the Original Edition of 1573 B. M. Ward claimed was Hatton's posy (motto) signed to 22 poems. Ward based his claim on his conflation of the posy with "Fortunatus Infoelix" in a marginal note and "Foelix Infortunatus" in a poem written by Gabriel Harvey.[76]. However, the signature motto is that of the writer, not Malvolio, and no mainstream scholars follow Ward's claim of multiple authorship, and they attribute the entire work to George Gascoigne, pointing to barely-concealed clues in the unsigned poems.[77]

In 1732, the antiquarian Francis Peck published in Desiderata Curiosa a list of documents in his possession that he intended to print someday. They included “a pleasant conceit of Vere, earl of Oxford, discontented at the rising of a mean gentleman in the English court, circa 1580.” Oxfordian researcher Mark Anderson, contends this conceit is “arguably an early draft of Twelfth Night.” Peck never published his archives, which are now lost.[78]

Further reading

  • Anderson, Mark. "Shakespeare" by Another Name: The Life of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, The Man Who Was Shakespeare. Gotham, 2005 (expanded paperback edition 2006).
  • Verily Anderson, The De Veres of Castle Hedingham, published 1993
  • Austin, Al, and Judy Woodruff. The Shakespeare Mystery. 1989. Frontlinedocumentary film about the Oxford case.
  • Farrand, Michael J. The Man Who Wrote Shakespeare, narrative poem based on Charlton Ogburn, Jr.'s The Mysterious William Shakespeare: the Myth and the Reality (Dodd, Mead, 1984) that lays out biographical parallels between Edward de Vere's life and the story in Hamlet; 2000.
  • Fowler, William Plumer. Shakespeare Revealed in Oxford's Letters. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Peter E. Randall, 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.
  • Looney, J. Thomas. Shakespeare Identified in Edward de Vere, Seventeenth Earl of Oxford. London: Cecil Palmer, 1920. (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, 1550–1604.London: Parapress, 2004.
  • Ogburn, Charlton. The Mysterious William Shakespeare: The Myth & the Reality. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1984. (Influential book that criticises orthodox scholarship and promotes the Oxford theory.)
  • Price, Diana. Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography: New Evidence of An Authorship Problem. Westport, Ct: Greenwood, 2001. (Introduction to the evidentiary problems of the orthodox tradition.)
  • Sobran, Joseph. Alias Shakespeare: Solving the Greatest Literary Mystery of All Time. Free Press, 1997.
  • Stritmatter, Roger. The Marginalia of Edward de Vere's Geneva Bible: Providential Discovery, Literary Reasoning, and Historical Consequence. 2001 University of Massachusetts Ph.D. dissertation.
  • 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.


  1. ^ Fowler, William Plumer. Shakespeare Revealed in Oxford's Letters. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Peter E. Randall, 1986.
  2. ^ Niederkorn, William S."A Historic Whodunit: If Shakespeare Didn't, Who Did?" New York Times. February 10, 2001
  3. ^ "Edward de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford". Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. 2007. http://concise.britannica.com/ebc/article-9374297/Edward-de-Vere-17th-earl-of-Oxford. Retrieved 2007-08-31. 
  4. ^ Satchell, Michael (2000-07-24). "Hunting for good Will: Will the real Shakespeare please stand up?". U.S. News. http://www.usnews.com/usnews/doubleissue/mysteries/shakespeare.htm. Retrieved 2007-08-31. 
  5. ^ McMichael, George and Edgar M. Glenn. Shakespeare and his Rivals: A Casebook on the Authorship Controversy. Odyssey Press, 1962. p. 159.
  6. ^ Schoenbaum, Sam, Shakespeare’s Lives, 2nd ed(Oxford: Oxford UP, 1991), 405, 411, 437; Looney, J. Thomas, "Shakespeare" Identified (NY: Frederick A. Stokes, 1920), 79–84.
  7. ^ Derek Jacobi,"Introduction" in Mark Anderson, Shakespeare by Another Name Gotham Books, 2005, page xxiv
  8. ^ Twain, "Is Shakespeare Dead?"
  9. ^ Looney, Shakespeare Identified
  10. ^ Bate, Jonathan. The Genius of Shakespeare, (1998), 36–37
  11. ^ Bate, 37. ‘Scorn not the sonnet’, line 3,http://www.byzant.com/Mystical/Poetry/Wordsworth.aspx. ‘House’, line 40,http://www.uvm.edu/~sgutman/Browning_poem_House.html.
  12. ^ Bate, 4
  13. ^ Petti, Anthony G.English Literary Hands from Chaucer to Dryden (1977), 1–4.
  14. ^ Terence Schoone-Jongen. Shakespeare's companies: William Shakespeare's Early Career and the Acting Companies, 1577–1594 (2008), 5
  15. ^ Romeo and Juliet Navigator: Sonnets
  16. ^ a b c Ogburn (1984), p. XXX.
  17. ^ Anderson (2005), pp. 106–107.
  18. ^ Ogburn (1984), p. 711.
  19. ^ Ogburn (1984), p. 235.
  20. ^ Anderson (2005), p. 325.
  21. ^ Ogburn (1984), p. 236.
  22. ^ William Shakespeare, Philip Edwards (ed) Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Cambridge University Press, 2004, p. 71.
  23. ^ Courtney, Krystyna Kujawinska. “Shakespeare in Poland: selected Issues” Internet Shakespeare Editions, University of Victoria, 2003, p. 2.
  24. ^ Anderson (2005) p. 197.
  25. ^ Nelson 2003, pp. 135–137
  26. ^ Anderson (2005) pp. 111–113.
  27. ^ Ogburn (1984), p. 603.
  28. ^ Anderson (2005), p. 134.
  29. ^ Anderson (2005), p. xxx.
  30. ^ Farina, William, “De Vere as Shakespeare.” Jefferson, North Carolina. McFarland & Company. 2006. p. 61.
  31. ^ Anderson (2005), pp. 128–132.
  32. ^ Alexander, Mark and Daniel Wright."A Few Curiosities Regarding Edward de Vere and the Writer Who Called Himself Shakespeare." The Shakespear Authorship Research Centre.
  33. ^ Farina, William, “De Vere as Shakespeare.” Jefferson, North Carolina. McFarland & Company. 2006. p. 74.
  34. ^ Sobran (1997), p. 70.
  35. '^ Lawrence, Jason. (2005) Who the devil taught thee so much Italian?': Italian language learning and literary imitation in early modern England. Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp. 121-3.
  36. ^ Elam, Kier (2007). "'At the cubiculo': Shakespeare's Problems with Italian Language and Culture". In Italian Culture in the Drama of Shakespeare & his Contemporaries: Rewriting, Remaking, Refashioning, Michele Marrapodi, ed. Anglo-Italian Renaissance Studies Series. Aldershot: Ashgate, pp. 99–110; p. 99-100. ISBN 978-0-7546-5504-6.
  37. ^ Elam, 99-100
  38. ^ Morris, Brian, ed. (1981) The Taming of the Shrew. The Arden Shakespeare, 2nd Series. London: Arden, p. 171, note line 3.
  39. ^ Gilvary, Kevin. “The Empire Strikes Back. How Stratfordians attempt (and fail) to refute Oxfordian claims.” Malim, Richard, ed. Great Oxford: Essays on the Life and Work of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, 1550–1604. London: Parapress, 2004. p. 348.
  40. ^ Gilvary, Kevin. “Shakespeare and Italian Comedy.” Malim, Richard, ed. Great Oxford: Essays on the Life and Work of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, 1550–1604. London: Parapress, 2004. p. 115.
  41. ^ Ogburn (1984), p. 714.
  42. ^ Anderson (2005), p. 235.
  43. ^ Anderson (2005), pp. 103, 235.
  44. ^ Durning-Lawrence, Edward, Bacon is Shakespeare , New York, 1910, pp. 43–46; Percy Allen, The Case for Edward de Vere 17th Earl of Oxford as "Shakespeare", London, 1930; Dorothy and Charlton Ogburn, This Star of England, Coward-McCann, Inc., New York 1952; Calvin Hoffman, The Man who was Shakespeare, London: Max Parrish & Co. Ltd., 1955, p. 168; etc.
  45. ^ Ogburn (1984), pp. 748+
  46. ^ Stritmatter (2001),chapter 29, pp 4–7
  47. ^ McNeil, Alex,Is Touchstone vs. William the First Authorship Story?, Shakespeare Matters (2:3), 2003
  48. ^ Anderson (2005), pp. 325–327
  49. ^ Stratfordians include: William M. Jones,William Shakespeare as William in As You Like It, Shakespeare Quarterly 11, 228–231 (1960); Jonathan Bate, "The Genius of Shakespeare", Oxford University Press, USA, 1998, p. 7; James P. Bednarz,Shakespeare and the poets' war, Columbia University Press 2001, pp. 120–123;"As You Like It; A New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare", Richard Knowles, editor, Modern Language Association, 1977, p. 258
  50. ^ Anderson (2005), pp. 5, 25.
  51. ^ Ogburn (1984), pp. 384, 529.
  52. ^ Campbell, Oscar James.The Reader’s Encyclopedia of Shakespeare. MJF Books, 1966. p. 947.
  53. ^ Ogburn (1984), pp. 685, 692.
  54. ^ Barrell, Charles Wisner."Shakespeare's 'Fluellen' Identified As a Retainer of the Earl of Oxford." The Shakespeare Fellowship News-Letter, August 1941.
  55. ^ Asimov, Isaac. Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare. Vol. II. Wings book, 1970. p. 674
  56. ^ Ogburn, Dorothy and Charlton. This Star of England, Coward-McCann, 1952. p. 322
  57. ^ Looney (1948 edition, New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce), pp. 391–392.
  58. ^ Ogburn (1984), p. 576
  59. ^ Anderson (2005), p. 145.
  60. ^ Anderson (2005), p. 341.
  61. ^ Ogburn (1984), pp. 495–496.
  62. ^ Lever, J.W. ed. Measure for Measure (Arden Shakespeare). Thomson Learning. 2005. p. xxxvi.
  63. ^ Anderson (2005), p. 106.
  64. ^ Lever, J.W. ed. Measure for Measure (Arden Shakespeare). Thomson Learning, 2005. p. xxxvii.
  65. ^ Anderson (2005), p. 172.
  66. ^ Anderson (2005), p. 342.
  67. ^ Ogburn and Ogburn, This Star of England, New York: Coward-McCann, Inc., 1952. p 397.
  68. ^ Anderson (2005), p. 186.
  69. ^ Ogburn (1984), pp. 567–568.
  70. ^ Sobran (1997), p. 187.
  71. ^ Anderson (2005), p. 323.
  72. ^ Anderson (2005), p. 211.
  73. ^ Mowat and Werstine, eds.The Comedy of Errors (Folger Shakespeare Library). Washington Square Press, 1996. p. 88.
  74. ^ Gilvary, Kevin. “Shakespeare and Italian Comedy.” Malim, Richard, ed. Great Oxford: Essays on the Life and Work of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, 1550–1604. London: Parapress, 2004. p. 116.
  75. ^ Gilvary, Kevin. “Shakespeare and Italian Comedy.” Malim, Richard, ed. Great Oxford: Essays on the Life and Work of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, 1550–1604. London: Parapress, 2004. p. 120.
  76. ^ Prouty, C. T., ed. (1942, 1970) George Gascoigne's A hundreth sundrie flowers, Columbia: University of Missouri Press, p. 25: "The evidence upon which he [Ward] bases this conclusion is contained in two statements by Gabriel Harvey. In his copy of The Posies, Harvey made a marginal notation beside "Fortunatus Infoelix" which is signed to the verses that give "the argument of the Tragedie" of Jocasta. This note reads "lately the posie of Sir Christopher Hatton." One of the poems in Harvey's Gratulationes Valdinensis is addressed to Hatton "de suo Symbolo, Foelix In-fortunatus." In the first place, "Fortunatus Infoelix" and "Foelix Infortunatus" are two different posies and neither of them is "Si fortunatus infoelix." Secondly, as Dr. Greg has said, there is no reason to believe that because Hatton used either of these at one time or other, no other person could have used "Si fortunatus infoelix." An examination of the subject of emblems shows that such an assumption is based on a misunderstanding of contemporary usage. Finally, there is positive proof in the introductory remarks to Poem No. 16 which identifies the author as G[eorge]. G[ascoigne]. This poem is signed with the posy "Si fortunatus infoelix," which thus clearly applies to Gascoigne."
  77. ^ Austen, Gillian George Gascoigne (2008), Brewer: Cambridge, pp. 78-80, 17 n.26.
  78. ^ Anderson (2005), p. 154.

External links

General Non-Stratfordian

  • 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


David Kathman and the “Historical Record” A Reply to David Kathman’s Selective Critique by Joseph Sobran.


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