“How do you write a review about a book you enjoyed so much that you literally could not put it down—even when you knew you had other work that had to be done?”
How do you adequately express your gratitude for a review that begins in such a way? Well, needless to say I’m extremely thankful for theater director Walter (Wally) Hurst’s evaluation of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford in the current Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter (Vol. 53, No. 1: Winter 2017), the quarterly publication of the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship edited by Alex McNeil, J.D. Here is his entire report:
“How do you write a review about a book you enjoyed so much that you literally could not put it down—even when you knew you had other work that had to be done? Perhaps you simply tell the reader some of the many aspects of the book that you liked, and hit some of the “best bits.”
“The book in question is Hank Whittemore’s new work, 100 Reasons Shake-speare Was the Earl of Oxford, a thoroughly enlightening and enjoyable foray into the specifics of the case for the authorship of the Shakespearean canon by Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford.
“In sharp contrast to the recent Stratfordian claim that the man from Stratford was a “player” and therefore a writer, Whittemore presents actual, logical, and thoroughly convincing evidence that de Vere was “Shakespeare.” He does so in a highly organized and provocative way, too. You would think that he would lead off with his best reasons (which is, frankly, what I wanted him to do), and he gives some impressive ones at the start of his 100-reason list.
“Beginning with the first chapter, Whittemore demonstrates that Oxford, unlike the man from Stratford, was a true man of the theatre. Reading about de Vere’s many theatrical enterprises and experiences, including strong presentations of him as a patron as well as a “court jester” (or “allowed fool”), we find a man intimately involved in the production of plays from beginning to end. De Vere was a man who knew the theatre and understood its power.
“In his second chapter, Whittemore concentrates on the striking and unmistakable similarities between the life of Edward de Vere and the story of his most unforgettable character, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Ten riveting and convincing passages later, every reader will be struck by the overwhelming, and perhaps eerie, sense that Hamlet is the most autobiographical insight into the life of the author in the history of English literature. Strong arguments, thoroughly researched and well presented, make the connection intimate and undeniable to all but the most self-deluded Stratford believer.
“Whittemore continues the assault on those invested in the Stratfordian myth by identifying specific evidence connecting the Earl of Oxford to the works of Shakespeare. There are gems here, such as Richard Edwards and the “cry of the hounds” at a 1566 performance that Oxford attended, to be echoed later by Duke Theseus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and a wonderful recounting of the incident at Gad’s Hill. Perhaps the strongest argument of all for the authorship of Shakespeare’s works is presented in Reason 19, “Oxford’s Geneva Bible.” Whittemore succinctly sums up the amazing narrative of its acquisition by the Folger Shakespeare Library and the intensive and groundbreaking research of Roger Stritmatter that exposed its underlined and annotated passages and their startling linkage to the works of Shakespeare. While Whittemore might have begun his book with this “Reason,” his organization of the various reasons is both logical and powerful, and the Geneva Bible remains a showpiece of any cogent argument for de Vere’s authorship of the works.
“Space does not permit an exhaustive review of all the chapters of the book, but there are many highlights that should be mentioned. Together they constitute the “pillars of the argument” for the Earl of Oxford. In addition to the chapters above, Whittemore dives into discussions of Oxford as an acknowledged writer, the University Wits, and his known connections with other writers and poets. Oxford’s intimate connection with the life and times of England, and Queen Elizabeth in particular, is covered in several places, including chapters on “Writers in Wartime” and “The French Match.”
“One of the most important chapters deals with the connection of Oxford, “Shakespeare,” and the Italian performance genre known as Commedia dell ‘arte. This form of theatre, essentially unknown in Elizabethan England, was the basis for dozens of Shakespeare’s most memorable characters and plotlines. It is unthinkable that the playwright could not have had profound and intimate knowledge of this emerging art form. A thorough examination of the connection is both skillful and compelling. Whittemore gives high praise to Richard Roe for his remarkable work on Shakespeare’s Italian connection, and notes that Oxford traveled extensively in Italy, absorbing Italian history, art, politics and culture in a way that Shakespeare would share with the world in his works. Whittemore also acknowledges the groundbreaking work of Dr. Noemi Magri and her revelation concerning Titian’s personal copy of his “Venus and Adonis” painting, and its Shakespearean connection.
“Whittemore demonstrates extraordinary restraint as well. Although he has previously authored The Monument, an exhaustive study of Shake-speare’s Sonnets, only two of his 100 reasons are grounded on those poems. This speaks to the overall strength of his argument for Oxford’s authorship. While Whittemore could have chosen to write a dozen or more reasons for this conclusion based upon the Sonnets, he instead summarizes Oxford’s links and his relationship to the Sonnets. He does so in a logical and condensed manner, making the linkage a powerful and irrefutable reason to conclude that de Vere was indeed the author of Shake-speare’s Sonnets.
“Chapter 12, “Oxford’s Special Knowledge,” was also a highlight. It is universally accepted that Shakespeare had a vast range of knowledge and expertise—foreign languages, music, classical literature, law, medicine, warfare, sailing, and intimate political machinations at court, to name a few. The connections between de Vere’s known proficiency in these subjects and Shakespeare’s works represent another pillar of the many bases for his assertion of Oxford’s authorship.
“Specific references to de Vere in the plays themselves are also discussed in Chapters 14 and 15. Characters such as Bertram and Othello are pondered, and devices used in Shakespeare such as the “bed trick” are analyzed in the context of their Oxfordian associations. These chapters bear close reading and thought: Whittemore carefully investigates both the widely known references (such as he bed trick) and some lesser-known ones as well, such as the fascinating story of Edmund Campion and his connection to Malvolio in Twelfth Night. These connections, well organized for the reader’s consideration, are also strong evidence for an Oxfordian authorship conclusion.
“Whittemore sums up and saves some of his most powerful reasons for last. His “Final Stages” chapter, being read after the previous 88 reasons are proposed and deliberated, constitutes a mighty and authoritative conclusion to the work. My favorite reason in this chapter was Number 91, “Dramatic Literature.” Here Whittemore makes what for me is his best case for the Oxfordian side:
This evidence comprises one of the most important, yet among the least noticed, of the reasons why Oxford is Shakespeare. The plays are masterpieces of dramatic literature—they are works the author has written and rewritten, over long stretches of time, not primarily for playgoing audiences, but for carefully attentive readers. Most can be fully appreciated only when, in addition to be seen and heard, they are read and reread. But to comprehend how they were produced in final form requires a viewpoint wholly opposite from that of Stratfordian tradition.
“As a writer and a playwright himself, Whittemore makes the overwhelming and ultimately effective case for de Vere’s authorship with his 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford. His book is thoroughly researched, eminently readable, and, for those of us with time constraints on our reading, it can be absorbed in small doses as well. He is also very convincing. If you can, try to persuade a Stratfordian to read a few reasons. Have them pick a number between 1 and 100, and then read that particular reason. If that does not get them interested, they are probably too far gone to listen to reason, let alone a hundred reasons.”