User:BenJonson/Backup/Oxfordian Theory

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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.

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.

The Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship holds that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (1550–1604), wrote the plays and poems traditionally attributed to William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon. While a large majority of scholars reject all alternative candidates for authorship, there is increased interest in various authorship theories.[1] Since the 1920s, Oxford has been the most widely accepted anti-Stratfordian candidate.[2][3][4]

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 personal 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 to what would later become the locations of many of Shakespeare's plays.

The case for Oxford's authorship is also based on perceived similarities between Oxford's biography and events in Shakespeare's plays, sonnets and longer poems; parallels of language, idiom, and thought between Oxford's personal letters and the Shakespearean canon;[5] and underlined passages in Oxford's personal bible, which Oxfordians believe correspond to quotations in Shakespeare's plays.[6]Confronting the issue of Oxford's death in 1604, Oxfordian researchers cite examples they say imply the writer known as "Shakespeare" or "Shake-speare" died before 1609, and point to 1604 as the year regular publication of "new" or "augmented" Shakespeare plays stopped.

Supporters of the standard view, often referred to as "Stratfordian" or "mainstream", dispute all Oxfordian contentions. Aside from their main argument against the theory — the issue of Oxford's 1604 death — they assert that connections between Oxford's life and the plots of Shakespeare's plays are conjectural or coincidental.

Mainstream view[edit]

Supporters of the mainstream view believe 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, owners of the Globe Theatre and the Blackfriars Theatre. He divided his time between London and Stratford, retiring to Stratford in approximately 1613. 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".[7] Mainstream scholars believe the latter phrase refers to the funerary monument in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford, which implies Shakespeare of Stratford was 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.[8]

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 people were aware of a writer named Shakespeare.[9] Also, poet John Davies once referred to Shakespeare as "our English Terence" (Terence being a writer of comedies during the Roman Republic, who started life as a slave). Additionally, Shakespeare's grave monument in Stratford, built within a decade of his death, currently features him with a pen in hand, suggesting he was known as a writer.

Criticism of the mainstream view[edit]

thumb|Shakespeare's Stratford Bust, as shown in Dugdale's Warwickshire in 1656. Authorship doubters note the absence of pen and paper.

Critics of the mainstream view, known as anti-Stratfordians, have challenged most if not all of the above assertions, claiming there is no direct evidence clearly identifying Shakespeare of Stratford as a playwright. These critics also maintain that Shakespeare of Stratford and the author do not share a common name, pointing out that according to Stratfordian scholar Sir Edmund K. Chambers, not one of Shakespeare of Stratford's six known signatures was spelled "Shakespeare" (i.e., Shaksp, Shakspe, Shakspe, Shakspere, Shakspere and Shakspeare)[10] Anti-Stratfordians further note the only theatrical reference in Shakespeare of Stratford's will (the gifts to fellow actors) was interlined – i.e., inserted between previously written lines – and thus subject to doubt.

Oxfordian researchers also believe the term "Swan of Avon" can be interpreted in numerous ways. According to the DeVere Society of England, the term would be applicable to the silent front man of a hidden author, as the distinguishing characteristic of the common swan was its silence — hence its name 'Mute Swan'.[11] Also, Charles Wisner Barrell published an extensive report establishing numerous ties between Oxford, the river Avon, and the Avon Valley, where Oxford once owned an estate.[12]

Authorship researcher Mark Anderson believes "Greene's Groatsworth of Wit" implied Shakespeare of Stratford was being given credit for the work of other writers, and that Davies' mention of "our English Terence" was a mixed reference, as many contemporary Elizabethan scholars considered Terence merely a servant/actor who was being used as a front man by several aristocratic playwrights.[9] Anti-Stratfordians also assert Shakespeare's grave monument was clearly altered sometime after the mid-1600s, as Sir William Dugdale's 1656 engraving of the original simply portrays a man holding a wool sack.[13]

Notable anti-Stratfordians[edit]

On 8 September 2007, acclaimed British actors Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance unveiled a "Declaration of Reasonable Doubt"[14] on the authorship of Shakespeare's work, after the final matinee of "I Am Shakespeare",[15] a play investigating the bard's identity, performed in Chichester, England. The Declaration named 20 prominent doubters of the past, including Mark Twain, Orson Welles, Sir John Gielgud and Charlie Chaplin. The document was sponsored by the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition[16] and has been signed by over 1,500 people, including 275 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 Declaration to William Leahy, head of English at Brunel University, London.

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"[17]

Orson Welles: "I think Oxford wrote Shakespeare. If you don’t agree, there are some awfully funny coincidences to explain away".[18]

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".[18]

Sigmund Freud: "I no longer believe that ... the actor from Stratford was the author of the works that have been ascribed to him".[18]

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".[19]

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".[20]

Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Other admirable men had led lives in some sort of keeping with their thought, but this man in wide contrast".[21]

Walt Whitman: "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".[22]

John Paul Stevens (The senior Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, 1975–present): "He never had any correspondence with his contemporaries, he never was shown to be present at any major event -- the coronation of James or any of that stuff. I think the evidence that he was not the author is beyond a reasonable doubt."[23]

Antonin Gregory Scalia (Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, 1986–present): "My wife, who is a much better expert in literature than I am, has berated me. She thinks we Oxfordians are motivated by the fact that we can't believe that a commoner could have done something like this, you know, it's an aristocratic tendency... It is probably more likely that the pro-Shakespearean people are affected by a democratic bias than the Oxfordians are affected by an aristocratic bias." "[23]

History of the Oxfordian theory[edit]

The Oxford theory was first proposed by J. Thomas Looney in his 1920 work Shakespeare Identified in Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford,[24] subsequently persuading Sigmund Freud,[25] Orson Welles, Marjorie Bowen, and many early 20th-century intellectuals of the case for Oxford's authorship.[18] Oxford rapidly became the favoured alternative to the orthodox view. In 1921, Sir George Greenwood, Looney, 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.

Leslie Howard's classic 1943 anti-Nazi film, Pimpernel Smith, features several speeches by the protagonist "Horatio" Smith, a professor of archaeology at Cambridge, endorsing the Oxfordian theory.[26]

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 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 the "case made for Oxford leaves one unconvinced", he also concluded "a particular achievement of ... Ogburn is that he focused our attention so effectively on what we do not know about Shakespeare.[27]

Oxford as a concealed writer[edit]

The Ashbourne portrait of William Shakespeare, which hangs in the Folger Shakespeare Library was analyzed by Charles Wisner Barrell, an expert in infra-red photography[citation needed], who determined it was an overpainting of the Earl of Oxford, though this is disputed.[28]

Oxford was known as a dramatist and court poet of considerable merit, 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),[29] 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 these passages support their claim that Oxford was one of the most prominent "suppressed" writers of the day:

In Queenes Maries time florished above any other Doctout Phaer one that was well learned & excellently well translated into English verse Heroicall certaine bookes of Virgils Aeneidos. Since him followed Maister Arthure Golding, who with no lesse commendation turned into English meetre the Metamorphosis of Ouide, and that other Doctour, who made the supplement to those bookes of Virgils Aeneidos, which Maister Phaer left undone. And in her Maiesties time that now is are sprong up another crew of Courtly makers Noble men and Gentlemen of her Maiesties owne servaunts, who have written excellently well as it would appear if their doings could be foundout and made publicke with the rest, of which number is first that noble Gentleman Edward Earle of Oxford, Thomas Lord of Bukhurst, when he was young, Henry Lord Paget, Sir Philip Sydney, Sir Walter Rawleigh Master Edward Dyar, Maister Fulke Grevell, Gascon, Britton, Turberuille and a great many other learned Gentlemen, whose names I do not omit for envie, but to avoyde tediousneffe, and who have deserved no little commendation. But of them all particularly this is myne opinion, that Chaucer, with Gower, Lidgat and Harding for their antiquitie oughte to have the first place, and Chaucer as the most renowmed of them all, for the much learning appeareth to be in him aboue any of the rest.

Andrew Hannas, in an article titled "On Grammar and Oxford in The Art of English Poesie", paraphrased the passage: "In earlier days these writers’ poetry 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-Twinne, translators of Ovid and Virgil. 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" [Chaucer through the Oxford–Sidney list], 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."[30]

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).[30]

Oxfordians also believe the satirist John Marston's 1598 publication of his Scourge of Villanie contains further indications Edward de Vere was a concealed writer:

.......Far fly thy fame,

Most, most of me beloved, whose silent name
One letter bounds. Thy true judicial style
I ever honour, and if my love beguile
Not much my hopes, then thy unvalu'd worth

Shall mount fair place when Apes are turned forth.

The word Ape means pretender or mimic, and Oxfordians maintain the writer whose silent name is bound by one letter is Edward de VerE.[31]

Oxford as a poet and playwright[edit]

There are three principal pieces of evidence praising Oxford as a poet and a playwright:

(1) The anonymous 1589 Arte of English Poesie, usually attributed to George Puttenham, contains a chapter describing the practice of concealed publication by court figures, which includes a passage listing Oxford as the finest writer of comedy:

for Tragedie, the Lord of Buckhurst, & Maister Edward Ferrys for such doings as I haue sene of theirs do deserue the hyest price: Th'Earle of Oxford and Maister Edwardes of her Maiesties Chappell for Comedy and Enterlude.

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

so the best for comedy amongst us bee, Edward Earle of Oxenforde, Doctor Gager of Oxforde, Maister Rowley once a rare Scholar of learned Pembroke Hall in Cambridge, Maister Edwardes one of her Majesty's Chapel, eloquent and witty John Lilly, Lodge, Gascoyne, Greene, Shakespeare, Thomas Nash, Thomas Heywood, Anthony Munday our best plotter, Chapman, Porter, Wilson, Hathway, and Henry Chettle.[32]

Stratfordians believe Shakespeare's appearance on the same list proves Oxford and Shakespeare were different writers. For an Oxfordian discussion of this topic, see the wiki references in the entry on Francis Meres.

(3) Henry Peacham's 1622 The Compleat Gentleman omits Shakespeare's name and praises Oxford as one of the leading poets of the Elizabethan era,[33] saying:

In the time of our late Queene Elizabeth, which was truly a golden Age (for such a world of refined wits, and excellent spirits it produced, whose like are hardly to be hoped for, in any succeeding Age) above others, who honoured Poesie with their pennes and practise (to omit her Maiestie, who had a singular gift herein) were Edward Earle of Oxford, the Lord Buckhurst, Henry Lord Paget; our Phoenix, the noble Sir Philip Sidney, M. Edward Dyer, M. Edmund Spencer, M. Samuel Daniel, with sundry others; whom (together with those admirable wits, yet liuing, and so well knowne) not out of Ennuie but to auoid tediousnesse, I overpasse. Thus much of Poetrie.

Stratfordians disagree with this interpretation of Peacham, asserting that Peacham copied large parts of Puttenham's work but only used the names of those writers he considered "gentlemen", a title Peacham felt did not apply to actors. They further argue his list is of poets only and he did not include playwrights, neglecting for example Christopher Marlow.[citation needed]

Although not strictly a report on Oxford's ability as a playwright, there is also a description of the esteem to which he was held as a writer in The Revenge of Bussy D'Ambois, a 1613 play by George Chapman, who has been suggested as the Rival Poet of Shake-speares Sonnets:

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.[34][35]

Oxford's lyric poetry[edit]

Much of Oxford's early lyric poetry survives under his own name.[36] In the opinion of J. Thomas Looney, as "far as forms of versification are concerned De Vere presents just that rich variety 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:"

I am that I am, and they that level
At my abuses reckon up their own.[37]

As far as the quality of Edward de Vere's known verse is concerned, Oxfordians respond to the charge that it is not at the level one would expect of a "Shakespeare" in two ways. First, Oxford's known works are those of a young man and as such should be consider juvenilia.[38][39] And second, neither is Titus Andronicus, and whoever wrote that play eventually wrote Hamlet. As Joseph Sobran observed, "The objection may be still made that…Oxford's poetry remains far inferior to Shakespeare's. But even granting the point for the sake of argument, ascribing authorship on the basis of quality is an uncertain business. Early in the (20th) century some scholars sought to exclude such plays as Titus Andronicus … on the grounds that they were unworthy of Shakespeare. Today their place is secure…. The poet who wrote King Lear was at some time also capable of writing Titus Andronicus." [40]

The 1604 issue[edit]

Title page from SHAKE-SPEARE'S SONNETS (1609).
Dedication page from The Sonnets. Both the hyphenated name and the words "ever-living poet", have helped fuel the authorship debate
The publication of SHAKE-SPEARE'S SONNETS in 1609 has provided numerous debating points for authorship proponents on both sides of the question. The hyphenated name also appears on 15 plays published prior to the First Folio[41]

For mainstream critics, the most compelling evidence against Oxford is that he died in 1604, whereas they contend that a number of plays by Shakespeare were written after that date. These critics most often cite The Tempest, Henry VIII and Macbeth as almost certainly having been written after 1604.

Oxfordian scholars, on the other hand, have cited examples they say imply the writer of the plays and poems died prior to 1609, when Shake-Speares Sonnets appeared with the enigmatic words "our ever-living poet" on its title page. These researchers claim the words "ever-living" rarely, if ever, refer to someone who is alive, but instead refers to the eternal soul of the deceased.[42] Additionally, they assert 1604 is the year "Shakespeare" stopped writing.[43] If these claims were true, it would give a boost to the Oxfordian candidacy, as Bacon, Derby, Neville, and Shakespeare of Stratford[44] all lived well past the 1609 publication of the Sonnets.

Moreover, significant and unresolved debate persists over the question of whether many of the so-called "late plays" were actually written, as is generally alleged by orthodox scholars, during the Jacobean period. Andrew Cairncross, for example, argued persuasively as early as 1936, in an argument less refuted than ignored since then, that Hamlet was written as early as 1588-89.[45] For one reason or another, evidence exists that all the allegedly Jacobean plays may actually have been written several years earlier than is customarily believed, and all of them before 1604.[46]


The speculation that the existing chronology is significantly too late is strongly supported, Oxfordians argue, by the publication pattern of Shakespeare's plays. Updating the argument to this effect originated by John Thomas Looney, Mark Anderson stresses that from 1593 through 1603 the publication of new Shake-speare's plays "appeared in print, on average, twice per year." Then, in 1604, Shake-speare fell silent" and stopped (new play) publication for almost 5 years. Anderson further states "the early history of reprints ... also point to 1604 as a watershed year", and notes that during the years of 1593–1604, whenever an inferior or pirated text was published, it was then typically followed by a genuine text that was "newly augmented" or "corrected": "After 1604, the 'newly correct[ing]' and 'augment[ing]' stops. Once again, the Shake-speare enterprise appears to have shut down".[43]


Addressing the plays' dates of composition, Oxfordians note the following: In 1756, in Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Ben Jonson, W. R. Chetwood concludes 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." [47] 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.[48] In addition, the majority of 18th and 19th century scholars, including notables such as Samuel Johnson, Lewis Theobald, George Steevens, Edmond Malone, and James Halliwell-Phillipps, placed the composition of Henry VIII prior to 1604.[49] And in the 1969 and 1977 Pelican/Viking editions of Shakespeare's plays, Alfred Harbage showed the composition of Macbeth, Timon of Athens, Pericles, King Lear and Antony and Cleopatra — all traditionally regarded as "late plays" — likely did not occur after 1604.[50]


Anderson also observes that while Shakespeare refers 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".[51] Anderson especially notes Shakespeare never mentioned the spectacular supernova of October 1604 or Kepler's revolutionary 1609 study of planetary orbits.[51]

Notable silences[edit]

Because Shakespeare of Stratford lived until 1616, Oxfordians question why, if he were the author, did he not eulogize Queen Elizabeth at her death in 1603 or Henry, Prince of Wales, at his in 1612. They believe Oxford's 1604 death provides the explanation.[52] In an age when such actions were expected, Shakespeare also failed to memorialize the coronation of James I in 1604, the marriage of Princess Elizabeth in 1612, and the investiture of Prince Charles as the new Prince of Wales in 1613.[53]

Similarly, when Shakespeare of Stratford died, he was not publicly mourned.[54] As Mark Twain wrote, in Is Shakespeare Dead?, "When Shakespeare died in Stratford it was not an event. It made no more stir in England than the death of any other forgotten theatre-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."[55]

Diana Price, in Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography, notes that for a professional author, Shakespeare of Stratford seems to have been entirely uninterested in protecting his work. Price explains that while he had a well documented habit of going to court over relatively small sums, he never sued any of the publishers pirating his plays and sonnets, or took any legal action regarding their practice of attaching his name to the inferior output of others. Price also notes there is no evidence Shakespeare of Stratford was ever paid for writing and his detailed will failed to mention any of Shakespeare's unpublished plays or poems or any of the source books Shakespeare was known to have read.[56][57] Oxfordians also note Shakespeare of Stratford's relatives and neighbors never mentioned he was famous or a writer, nor are there any indications his heirs demanded or received payments for his supposed investments in the theatre or for any of the more than 16 masterwork plays unpublished at the time of his death.[58] 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."[55]

Contemporary statements[edit]

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.

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 the cypress tree was a symbol of mourning, and believes Barkstead was specifically writing of Shakespeare in the past tense ("His song was worthy") — after Oxford's death in 1604, but prior to Shakespeare of Stratford's death in 1616.[59]

Biographical evidence[edit]

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 believe the connection is provided by considerable circumstantial evidence, including: Oxford's connections to the Elizabethan theatre and poetry scene; the participation of his family in the printing and publication of the First Folio; his relationship with the Earl of Southampton (believed my most mainstream scholars to be "Shakespeare's patron"); as well as a number of specific circumstances from Oxford's life that Oxfordians believe are depicted in the plays themselves.

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 (many scholars believe Southampton to have been the Fair Youth 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 English or Shakespearean sonnet form.[60] 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). 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.[61] According to Anderson, the Italian cities Oxford definitely visited in 1575-1576 were Venice, Padua, Milan, Genoa, Palermo, Florence, Siena and Naples and he probably also passed through Messina, Mantua and Verona — all cities "Shakespeare" later wrote into the plays, while (except for Rome) the Italian cities Oxford bypassed are the same cities Shakespeare ignored.[62]

In 1588, due to ongoing financial problems, Oxford sold his house, Fisher's Folly, to William Cornwallis. In 1852, James 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.[63]

While Oxfordians concede the names Avon and Stratford have become irrevocably linked to Shakespeare with the 1623 publication of the First Folio, they also note Edward de Vere once owned an estate in the River Avon valley[64] near the Forest of Arden,[65] and the nearest town to the parish of Hackney, where de Vere later lived and was buried, was also named Stratford.[66] Oxfordians also regard Dr. John Ward's 1662 statement, that Shakespeare spent at a rate of £1,000 a year, as a critical piece of evidence given that, in an oft-noted parallel, Oxford received an unexplained annuity from the notoriously thrifty Queen Elizabeth I of exactly £1,000 a year.[61]

Parallels with Hamlet[edit]

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 Ogburn and Anderson, point to Hamlet as the play most easily seen as portraying Oxford's life story.

  • As in Hamlet, Oxford's father died suddenly (in 1562) and his mother remarried shortly thereafter.
  • At 12, Oxford was made a royal ward and placed in the household of Lord Burghley, who was the Lord High Treasurer and Queen Elizabeth'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") — a swipe, as Charlton Ogburn said, "at Burghley's motto, Cor unum, via una, or 'one heart, one way.'"
  • Hamlet was engaged to marry Ophelia, daughter to Polonius, while Edward de Vere was engaged to marry (and did marry) Anne Cecil, daughter to Burghley.
  • One of Hamlet's chief opponents at court was Laertes, the son of Polonius, while one of Oxford's chief opponents at court was Robert Cecil, the son of Lord Burghley. Like Laertes, who received the famous list of maxims from his father Polonius, Thomas Cecil received a similarly famous list from his father Burghley — a list the mainstream scholar E. K. Chambers acknowledged was the author's likely source.
  • In the play, Polonius sent the spy Reynaldo to watch his son when Laertes was away at school — and for similar reasons, Lord Burghley sent a spy to watch his son, Thomas, when he was away in Paris.
  • Hamlet was a member of the higher nobility, supported an acting company and had trusted companions named Horatio and Francisco. Likewise, Oxford was a member of the higher nobility, supported several acting companies, and had two famous cousins named Horace (or Horatio) Vere and Francis Vere. Both Sir Horatio 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.[67]
  • While returning from Italy in 1576 Oxford met a cavalry division outside of Paris that was being led by a German duke. He then encountered 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". In a parallel which Oxfordians consider striking, after Oxford's real-life abduction, the Channel pirates left him stripped naked on the Danish shore, recalling Hamlet's line "I am set naked on your shore...". Anderson notes, "Neither 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.)" [68]

Parallels with the plays[edit]

In addition to Hamlet, Oxfordian researchers note numerous instances where Oxford's personal and court biographies parallel the plots and subplots of many of the Shakespeare plays. Most notable among these are similarities between Oxford's biography and the actions depicted in The Merchant of Venice and The Taming of the Shrew, both of which contain a number of local details that, Oxfordians believe, could only have been obtained by personal experiences; Henry V and Henry VI, Part 3, where the Earls of Oxford are given much more prominent roles than their limited involvement in the actual history of the times would allow;[61] The Life and Death of King John, where Shakespeare felt it necessary to air-brush out of existence the traitorous Robert de Vere, 3rd Earl of Oxford.[69] and Henry IV, Part 1, which includes a well-known robbery scene with uncanny parallels to a real-life incident involving Oxford.[70]

Oxfordians have also claimed many parallels between Oxford's relationship with his wife, Anne Cecil, and incidences in such plays as Othello, Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale and Measure for Measure, as well as the primary plot of All's Well That Ends Well, upon which J. Thomas Looney noted:

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.[71]

Oxfordians note repeatedly 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, extensively libraried, and well-traveled Oxford had access.[72]

Parallels with the sonnets and poems[edit]

In 1609, a volume of 154 linked poems was published under the title SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS, apparently without the participation of its author. Most historians believe someone other than Shakespeare also wrote its dedication. The focus of the series appears to follow the author's relationships with three 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 by mainstream scholars to be Southhampton. The Dark Lady is believed by some Oxfordians to be Anne Vavasour (or Vasasor), who bore the Earl of Oxford a son out of wedlock, whom she named Edward Vere. While there is no consensus candidate for the Rival Poet, some suppose he could have been Christopher Marlowe or George Chapman, although a strong case was made by the Oxfordian Peter R. Moore for Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex.[73]

Oxfordians assert that the inclusion of "by our ever-living poet" in its dedication implies the author was dead, "ever-living" being generally understood to mean the person in question was deceased. Oxfordians assert that not one researcher has been able to provide an example where the term "ever-living" referred to an individual who was alive at the time. Nevertheless, it remains debatable whether the phrase, in this context, refers to Shakespeare or to God.[74]

Oxfordians also believe the finality of the title (Shake-Speares Sonnets) suggests 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 fictional or autobiographical. Joseph 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 autobiographic, why did they fail to match the Stratford man's life story?[75] According to Sobran and other researchers, the themes and personal circumstances expounded by the author of the Sonnets are remarkably similar to Oxford's biography.

In The De Vere Code[76], a recently published book by English actor Jonathan Bond, the author claims that the 30-word dedication to the original publication of Shakespeare's Sonnets contains six simple encryptions which conclusively establish Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford as the author of the poems. The encryptions also settle the question of the identity of "the Fair Youth" as Henry Wriothesley and contain striking references to the sonnets themselves and de Vere's relationship to Sir Philip Sidney and Ben Jonson.


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. In spite of this, age and growing older are recurring themes in the Sonnets:

Sonnet 138

... vainly thinking that she thinks me young,
Although she knows my days are past the best.

Shakespeare also described his relationship with the Fair Youth as like "a decrepit father." However, Shakespeare of Stratford was only 9 years older than Southampton, while Oxford was 23 years older.[77]

Sonnet 37

As a decrepit father takes delight
To see his active child do deeds of youth,
So I, made lame by Fortune's dearest spite,
Take all my comfort of thy worth and truth....


In his later years, Oxford described himself as "lame". On several occasions, the author of the sonnets also described himself as lame:

Sonnet 37
I, made lame by fortune's dearest spite...
Sonnet 89
Speak of my lameness, and I straight will halt...
Edward de Vere's letter of March 25, 1595 to Lord 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."[78]


Sobran maintains the Sonnets "abound not only in legal terms — more than 200 — but also in elaborate legal conceits." These terms include: allege, auditor, defects, exchequer, forfeit, heirs, impeach, lease, moiety, recompense, render, sureties, and usage. Shakespeare also uses the then newly-minted legal term, "quietus" (final settlement), in the last Fair Youth sonnet.

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....

Oxford was trained in the law and, in 1567, was admitted to Gray's Inn, one of the Inns of Court which Justice Shallow reminisces about in Henry IV, Part 2."[79]

Southampton – The Fair Youth[edit]

Southhampton, Oxford's friend and prospective son-in-law, and the likely "fair youth" of the early sonnets.

Oxfordians, along with many mainstream scholars, believe Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, Oxford's associate and hoped-for son-in-law, is the "fair youth" referred to in the early sonnets. Sobran notes "the first seventeen sonnets, the procreation poems, give every indication of belonging to Burghley's campaign to make [Southampton] marry his granddaughter, [who was] 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."[80] Sobran also observes that in 16th-century England, actors and playwrights did not presume to give advice to the nobility, and 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."[77]

Sobran also cites Sonnet 91, contending the "lines imply that he (the author) is in a position to make such comparisons, and the 'high birth' he refers to is his own":[77]

Thy love is better than high birth to me,

Richer than wealth, prouder than garments’ cost,

Of more delight than hawks or horses be.

Oxfordian author William Farina notes as well that in Sonnets 40–42 the Fair Youth seems to have gone on to steal the Dark Lady from Shakespeare; however in Sonnet 42 he is forgiven with the words "we must not be foes." As Farina wrote, the "idea of Will Shakespere (of Stratford) offering such assurance to the Earl of Southampton is truly a smiler."[81]

Public disgrace[edit]

Sobran also believes "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."[82]

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?

As early as 1576 Edward de Vere was writing about this subject in his poem Loss of Good Name,[5] which Professor Steven W. May described as "a defiant lyric without precedent in English Renaissance verse." [83]

Lost fame[edit]

The poems Venus and Adonis and Lucrece, first published in 1593 and 1594 under the name "William Shakespeare", proved highly popular for several decades - with Venus and Adonis published 6 more times before 1616, while Lucrece required 4 additional printings during this same period.[84] By 1598, they were so famous, London poet and sonneteer Richard Barnefield wrote:


Whose Venus and whose Lucrece (sweet and chaste)
Thy name in fame's immortal Book have plac't
Live ever you, at least in Fame live ever:

Well may the Body die, but Fame dies never.[85]

Despite such publicity, Sobran observed, "[t]he author of the Sonnets expects and hopes to be forgotten. While he is confident that his poetry will outlast marble and monument, it will immortalize his young friend, not himself. He says that his style is so distinctive and unchanging that ‘every word doth almost tell my name,’ implying that his name is otherwise concealed – at a time when he is publishing long poems under the name William Shakespeare. This seems to mean that he is not writing these Sonnets under that (hidden) name." [86]

Sonnet 81

...Or you survive, when I in earth am rotten;

From hence your memory death cannot take’
Although in me each part will be forgotten.
Your name from hence immortal life shall have ''
Though I, once gone, to all the world must die;

The earth can yield me but a common grave’
When you entombed in men's eyes shall lie.
Your monument shall be my gentle verse’
Which eyes not yet created shall o’ver-read,

And tongues to be your being shall rehearse…
Sonnet 72

My name be buried where my body is, ''
And live no more to shame nor me, nor you…

Based on these sonnets, and others, Oxfordians assert that if the author expected his "name" to be "forgotten" and "buried", it would not have been the name that permanently adorned the published works themselves.

Prince Tudor theory[edit]

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 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 their theory better explains Oxford's life and authorship.[citation needed]

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 facts supporting this theory, which was expanded by Elisabeth Sears' Shakespeare and the Tudor Rose, and Hank Whittemore in The Monument, an analysis of Shakespeare's Sonnets which interprets the poems as a poetic history of Queen Elizabeth, Oxford, and Southampton. Paul Streitz's Oxford: Son of Queen Elizabeth I advances a variation on the theory: that Oxford himself was the illegitimate son of Queen Elizabeth.

Stratfordian objections[edit]

Oxford's death[edit]

The primary objection to the Oxfordian theory is Edward de Vere's 1604 death, after which, according to Stratfordians, a number of Shakespeare's plays are conventionally believed to have been written.

Oxfordians respond that as the conventional dates for the plays were developed by Stratfordian scholars to fit within the Stratfordian theory, they remain conjectural and self-serving. Oxfordians also note a number of the so-called "later plays", such as Henry VIII, Macbeth, Timon of Athens and Pericles have been described as incomplete or collaborative, whereas under the Oxfordian theory these plays were either drafted earlier than conventionally believed, or were simply revised/completed by others after Oxford's death.[87]

Stratfordians reject these arguments and cite examples to support their point:

  • Shakespearian scholar David Haley notes that in order to have written Coriolanus, Edward de Vere "must have foreseen the [1607 Midlands] grain riots reported in Coriolanus."[88]
  • The Tempest is considered by most mainstream scholars to have been inspired by William Strachey's description of a 1609 Bermuda shipwreck. However, mainstream literary scholar Kenneth Muir noted "the extent of verbal echoes of the [Bermuda] pamphlets has, I think, been exaggerated."[89] Oxfordians point to previously acknowledged sources that show some of the words and images in The Tempest may actually derive from Richard Eden's "The Decades of the New Worlde Or West India" (1555) and Desiderius Erasmus's "Naufragium"/"The Shipwreck" (1523). Both sources are mentioned by previous scholars[90][91] as influencing the composition of The Tempest, and Oxfordians point to new research by Lynne Kositsky and Roger Stritmatter they believe confirms this.[92] Alden T. Vaughan, however, has challenged the conclusions of Kositsky and Stritmatter in his 2008 paper "A Closer Look at the Evidence".[93] In 2009, Stritmatter and Kositsky further developed the arguments against Strachey's influence in a Critical Survey article demonstrating the pervasive influence on The Tempest of the much earlier travel narrative, Richard Eden's 1555 Decades of the New World.[94] CS editor William Leahy, describing the article as a "devastating critique", concluded that "the authors show that the continued support of Strachey as Shakespeare's source is, at the very least, highly questionable."[95]
  • Stratfordians contend that Macbeth represents the most overwhelming single piece of evidence against the Oxfordian position, asserting the play was written in the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot,[98] 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.[99] Oxfordians respond that the concept of "equivocation" was the subject of a 1583 tract by Queen Elizabeth's chief councillor (and Oxford's father-in-law) Lord Burghley, as well as of the 1584 Doctrine of Equivocation by the Spanish prelate Martín de Azpilcueta, which was disseminated across Europe and into England in the 1590s.[100] 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.[101]

Additional objections[edit]

In addition to the problem of Edward de Vere's 1604 death, supporters of the orthodox view dispute all contentions in favour of Oxford. In The Shakespeare Claimants, a 1962 examination of the authorship question, H. N. Gibson concluded that "... on analysis the Oxfordian case appears to me a very weak one".[102] Mainstream critics also assert the connections between Oxford's life and the plots of Shakespeare's plays are conjectural.

More specifically, Professor Jonathan Bate, in The Genius of Shakespeare (1997) stated that Oxfordians can not "provide any explanation for …technical changes attendant on the King's Men's move to the Blackfriars theatre four years after their candidate's death.... Unlike the Globe, the Blackfriars was an indoor playhouse" and so required plays with frequent breaks in order to replace the candles it used for lighting. "The plays written after Shakespeare's company began using the Blackfriars in 1608, Cymbeline and The Winter's Tale for instance, have what most ... of the earlier plays do not have: a carefully planned five-act structure". If new Shakespearean plays were being written especially for presentation at the Blackfriars' theatre after 1608, they could not have been written by Edward de Vere.[103].

Stratfordians also stress that any supposedly special knowledge of the aristocracy appearing in the plays can be more easily explained by Shakespeare of Stratford's life-time of performances before nobility and royalty,[104][105] and possibly, as Gibson theorizes, "by visits to his patron's house, as Marlowe visited Walsingham." [106]

In addition, Stratfordian scholars point to a poem written circa 1620 by a student at Oxford, William Basse, that mentioned the author Shakespeare died in 1616, which is the year Shakespeare of Stratford deceased and not Edward de Vere.[107] Mainstream critics further claim that if William Shakespeare of Stratford did not write the plays and poems, the number of people needed to suppress this information would have made their attempts highly unlikely to succeed.[108] And John Michell, in Who Wrote Shakespeare, noted that "[a]gainst the Oxford theory are several references to Shakespeare, later than 1604, which imply that the author was then still alive".[109] Also, a method of computerized 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".[110]

Some Stratfordian academics also argue the 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.[111]

Oxfordian responses[edit]

Addressing Professor Bate's Blackfriars theory, Oxfordians, such as Richard Malim, point to Allardyce Nicoll's 1958 essay Shakespeare and the Court Masque in which the promenient mainstream critic discussed the assumption that The Winter's Tale, The Tempest, Cymbeline and Pericles "were written for the indoor Blackfriars Theatre at which Shakespeare's Company began to act in 1610. Since the assumption has a good deal of scholarly support, perhaps it may prove salutary ... to stress that all available evidence is either completely negative or else runs directly counter to such a supposition". He concluded that "except for the apocryphal The Two Noble Kinsmen, issued 18 years after Shakespeare's death ... we have ... absolutely no justification whatsoever for associating Shakespeare with the Blackfriars at all".[112]

In respect to the mainstream supposition that Shakespeare of Stratford was a full-time actor, J. Thomas Looney stated that, "Although the company with which his name is associated toured frequently and widely in the provinces, and much has been recorded of their doings, no municipal archive, so far as is known, contains a single reference to him."[113] Regarding the Stratfordian claims concerning Shakespeare's many "patrons", Oxfordians point out there is little or no evidence they actually existed, the only indications being the dedications to Southhampton in Lucrece and Venus and Adonis. 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". Furthermore, no record of any payment to Shakespeare from a potential patron has ever been discovered,[114] 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 five-year search.[115]

While disputing how few people were needed to suppress information in Elizabethan England, Oxfordians, such as Price and Anderson, have also noted that by the mid-1590s there appeared in print a series of statements indicating a prominent poet was not who he said he was. These include Ben Jonson's circa 1599 poem "On Poet-Ape" concerning the "poet-ape, that would be thought our chief;"[116] Thomas Bastard's 1598 epigram, concerning a widely admired author who "concealest his name;" [117] Thomas Edwardes' epilogue to his 1595 Narcissus, concerning a disgraced nobleman with a ‘bewitching pen,’ which appeared immediately after his tribute to Venus and Adonis [118] and the 1597-1598 Joseph Hall – John Marston "Labeo" controversy, which called Shakespeare a front man.[119][120]

In response to John Michell's assertion concerning "several" post-1604 references, Oxfordians note that Michell cites only two: John Davies of Hereford's 1610 "Terence" epigram and the anonymous preface to the 1609 edition of Troilus and Cressida, both of which Ogburn believed generally supported the Oxfordian position, asserting Davies' epigram can be taken to mean "Shake-speare was a nobleman who lost caste by appearing on the stage".[121] Michell acknowledged "No one knows quite what to make of these lines." [122] Regarding the undated and unsigned preface to Troilus and Cressida, its heading contains the words "A never writer to an ever reader. Newes", which Oxfordians interpret as, "A writer who never was to a constant reader" or even "An E.Ver writer to an E.Ver reader." [123] Diana Price believed this phrase also "brought to mind the earl of Oxford's probable posie, ‘Ever or Never.’"[124]

Addressing the various computer comparisons, Oxfordians counter that Shakespearean computer studies are subject to interpretation and have proved inaccurate. For example, the findings of one such study supported the belief "A Funeral Elegy" was written by Shakespeare, with only 3 chances out of 1,000 it was written by someone else. However, its author is now widely believed to have been John Ford.[52] Addressing the issue of style comparison, Oxfordians note that according to Shakespeare scholar Walter Klier, in a recent study published in November 2009 researcher Kurt Kreiler demonstrates that Oxford's juvenilia "represent the path to Shakespeare and already foreshadow the sedulous stylist that Shakespeare was to become."[125]

Contrasting accusations of "snobbishness", Oxfordians note the statement of Canon Professor Vigo Auguste 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."[126] Oxfordians note that figures such as Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Charlie Chaplin, Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche,[127] and Malcolm X [18], none of whom are obvious candidates for snobbery, have all expressed anti-Stratfordian views.

References in popular culture[edit]

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

The Oxfordian theory is also central to the plot of Sarah Smith's 2003 novel Chasing Shakespeares, which she also adapted into a play.[128]

The book Shakespeare's Secret by Elise Broach is centered on the Oxfordian theory.

The Oxfordian theory is also present in Jennifer Lee Carrell's Interred With Their Bones.

Roland Emmerich is currently working on a film project, to be called Anonymous, which will posit in cinematic terms how Edward de Vere's writings came to be attributed to William Shakespeare of Stratford.[129]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Niederkorn, William S. "A Historic Whodunit: If Shakespeare Didn't, Who Did?" New York Times. February 10, 2001
  2. ^ "Edward de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford". Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-31. 
  3. ^ Satchell, Michael (2000-07-24). "Hunting for good Will: Will the real Shakespeare please stand up?". U.S. News. Retrieved 2007-08-31. 
  4. ^ McMichael, George and Edgar M. Glenn. Shakespeare and his Rivals: A Casebook on the Authorship Controversy. Odyssey Press, 1962. p. 159.
  5. ^ Fowler, William Plumer. Shakespeare Revealed in Oxford's Letters. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Peter E. Randall, 1986.
  6. ^ 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 The Shakespeare Fellowship.
  7. ^ For a full account of the documents relating to Shakespeare's life, see Samuel Schoenbaum, William Shakespeare: A Compact Documentary Life. Oxford University Press, 1987.
  8. ^ McMichael, George and Edgar M. Glenn. Shakespeare and his Rivals: A Casebook on the Authorship Controversy. Odyssey Press, 1962. p. 41.
  9. ^ a b 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). pp. xxx-xxxii.
  10. ^ Ogburn (1984) p. 119
  11. ^ Oxford vs Stratford — A Short Summary. The De Vere Society.
  12. ^ Barrell, Charles Wisner. "'Shake-speare's' Unknown Home On the River Avon Discovered: Edward De Vere's Ownership of a Famous Warwickshire Literary Retreat Indicates Him As the True 'Sweet Swan of Avon.' The Shakespeare Fellowship News-Letter, December 1942.
  13. ^ Ogburn, Charlton. The Mysterious William Shakespeare: The Myth & the Reality. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1984. pp. 210-214.
  14. ^ Declaration of Reasonable Doubt About the Identity of William Shakespeare
  15. ^ Edmonds, Richard. Review of I Am Shakespeare.The Stage. 11 September 2007.
  16. ^ The Shakespeare Authorship Coalition
  17. ^ Mark Twain Quotes
  18. ^ a b c d e "The Honor Roll of Skeptics." Shakespeare Oxford Society.
  19. ^ Ogburn (1992 edition), p. vi.
  20. ^ Dickens' Complete Writings 37:206
  21. ^ Emerson's Representative Men (1850). In Works, 4:218
  22. ^ Whitman, Walt. "What lurks behind Shakespeare's historical plays?" In his November Boughs. London: Alexander Gardner, 1889. p. 52.
  23. ^ a b Bravin, Jess.
  24. ^ Looney, J. Thomas. Shakespeare Identified in Edward de Vere, Seventeenth Earl of Oxford. [1] London: Cecil Palmer, 1920.
  25. ^ Michell, John. Who Wrote Shakespeare? London: Thames & Hudson, 1996. pp.162-4
  26. ^
  27. ^ Crinkley, Richmond. "New Perspectives on the Authorship Question." Shakespeare Quarterly. 1985. Vol 36. pp. 515-522.
  28. ^ Pressly, William L. The Ashbourne Portrait of Shakespeare: Through the Looking Glass. Shakespeare Quarterly, 1993, pp. 54-72
  29. ^ Puttenham, George. "The Arte of English Poesie." (1589) Book I, Chapter 31.
  30. ^ a b Hannas, Andrew. "The Rest is Not Silence: On Grammar and Oxford in The Art of English Poesie." Shakespeare Oxford Society.
  31. ^ Ogburn 1984, pp. 401- 402.
  32. ^ Meres, Francis. "Palladis Tamia: Wit's Treasury. A Comparative Discourse of our English Poets, with the Greek, Latin, and Italian Poets." (1598)
  33. ^ Alexander, M. and Wright, D. "A Few Curiosities Regarding Edward de Vere and the Writer Who Called Himself Shakespeare", Shakespeare Authorship Studies Conference, 2007.
  34. ^ Ogburn (1984), p. 401.
  35. ^ Chapman, George. The Revenge of Bussy D'Ambois. In The Works of George Chapman Vol. I, Shepherd and Swinburne, eds. Chatto and Windus, 1874. p. 197.
  36. ^ Poems and Lyrics of Edward de Vere.
  37. ^ Looney (1948 edition, New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce), pp. 135-139.
  38. ^ Fowler, William Plumer. Shakespeare Revealed in Oxford's Letters. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Peter E. Randall, 1986. P. XXV – XXVI.
  39. ^ Anderson, p. 28
  40. ^ Sobran, Joseph. "Shakespeare Revealed in Oxford's Poetry." 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. 138.
  41. ^ For a detailed account of the anti-Stratfordian debate and the Oxford candidacy, see Charlton Ogburn's, The Mystery of William Shakespeare, 1984, pgs 86–88
  42. ^ Miller, Ruth Loyd. Oxfordian Vistas. Vol II of Shakespeare Identified, by J. Thomas Looney and edited by Ruth Loyd Miller. Kennikat Press, 1975. pp. 211-214.
  43. ^ a b Anderson (2005), pp. 400-405.
  44. ^ Shakespeare's death recorded in Stratford Parish Registry
  45. ^ A.S. Cairncross, The Problem of Hamlet: A Solution (London: Macmillan, 1936), 83
  46. ^ Mark Anderson, Shakespeare By Another Name, 397-404)
  47. ^ Anderson (2005), p. 398.
  48. ^ Elze, Karl. Essays on Shakespeare. London: MacMillan and Co., 1874. pp. 1-29, 151-192.
  49. ^ Anderson (2005), pp. 403-04.
  50. ^ Harbage, Alfred, ed. The Complete Pelican Shakespeare. Penguin Books, 1969.
  51. ^ a b Anderson (2005), p. 399.
  52. ^ a b Wright, Daniel. "The Funeral Elegy Scandal." The Shakespeare Fellowship.
  53. ^ Miller, Ruth Loyd. Oxfordian Vistas. Vol II of Shakespeare Identified, by J. Thomas Looney and edited by Ruth Loyd Miller. Kennikat Press, 1975. pp. 290-294.
  54. ^ Ogburn (1984), pp. 112, 759.
  55. ^ a b Twain, Mark. Is Shakespeare Dead? 1909.
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Further reading[edit]

  • 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. Frontline documentary film about the Oxford case.
  • Farina, William. De Vere as Shakespeare: An Oxfordian Reading of the Canon. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2006.
  • 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 Authorship Theories (2nd Edition) (Jefferson, N.C. and London: McFarland and Co., 2009). ISBN 0-786-43917-3
  • Kreiler, Kurt. Der Mann, der Shakespeare Erfand: Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford (The Man Who Invented Shakespeare). Frankfurt: Insel, 2009. ISBN 978-3-458-17452-3
  • 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.

External links[edit]

General Non-Stratfordian[edit]

  • 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