The Legal Mind of “Shakespeare”: Re-posting No. 43 of 100 Reasons Why the Great Author was the Earl of Oxford

“In Shakespeare’s multiple personalities, there is none in which he appears more naturally and to better advantage than in the role of the lawyer. If true that all dramatic writing is but a form of autobiography, then the immortal Shakespeare must, at some time in his life, have studied law.” – Commentaries on the Law in Shakespeare, 1911, Edward J. White

There’s not a shred of evidence that Shakspere of Stratford ever went beyond grammar school (if he attended at all), much less to a university or law school.

Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford served as highest-ranking nobleman on the tribunal at the February 19, 1601 treason trial of Essex and Southampton — as indicated by a contemporary notice of the event

Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford was seventeen in 1567 when he entered Gray’s Inn to study law. He was steeped in legal matters involving his earldom and the royal court; he sat on the juries at the treason trials of the duke of Norfolk (1572), Mary Queen of Scots (1586) and the earls of Essex and Southampton (1601).

A recent book, Shakespeare’s Legal Language (2000), contains a detailed discussion of Shakespeare’s legal terms and concepts. Authors B.J. Sokol and Mary Sokol point out that twenty-five of thirty-seven Shakespeare plays refer to a trial and that thirty-five contain the words “judge” and “justice.”

“Nothing adorns a king more than justice,” Oxford wrote to Robert Cecil in May 1603, referring to the newly proclaimed King James, “nor in anything doth a king more resemble God than in justice.”

Traditional scholars usually assert that Shakespeare didn’t really demonstrate an exceptional knowledge of the law, at the same time struggling to explain how he could have become so “law-obsessed,” as Sokol & Sokol put it.

Back in 1869, for example, Lord Penzance spoke of Shakespeare’s “perfect familiarity with not only the principles, axioms, and maxims, but the technicalities of English law, a knowledge so perfect and intimate that he was never incorrect and never at fault … At every turn and point at which the author required a metaphor, simile, or illustration, his mind ever turned first to the law.  He seems almost to have thought in legal phrases…”

“Any intelligent writer can acquire knowledge of a subject and serve it up as required,” Charlton Ogburn Jr. writes in The Mysterious William Shakespeare, adding it is “something else to have been so immersed in a subject and to have assimilated it so thoroughly that it has become part of one’s nature, shaping one’s view of the world, coming forward spontaneously to prompt or complete a thought, supply and image or analogy.”

Oxford served on the jury at the trial of Mary Queen of Scots at Fotheringay Castle in October 1586 (drawing by Edouard Berveiller)

Mark Twain wrote in reference to Shakspere of Stratford that he “couldn’t have written Shakespeare’s works, for the reason that the man who wrote them was limitlessly familiar with the laws, and the law-courts, and law-proceedings, and lawyer-talk, and lawyer-ways—and if Shakespeare was possessed of the infinitely-divided star-dust that constituted this vast wealth, how did he get it, and where, and when? . . . A man can’t handle glibly and easily and comfortably and successfully the argot of a trade at which he has not personally served. He will make mistakes; he will not, and cannot, get the trade-phrasings precisely and exactly right; and the moment he departs, by even a shade, from a common trade-form, the reader who has served that trade will know the writer hasn’t.”

Following is a small sample of excerpts from Oxford’s letters showing his familiarity with the law and legal matters:

“But now the ground whereon I lay my suit being so just and reasonable … to conceive of the just desire I make of this suit … so by-fold that justice could not dispense any farther … The matter after it had received many crosses, many inventions of delay, yet at length hath been heard before all the Judgesjudges I say both unlawful, and lawful … For counsel, I have such lawyers, and the best that I can get as are to be had in London, who have advised me for my best course …  [to Queen Elizabeth]: And because your Majesty upon a bare information could not be so well satisfied of every particular as by lawful testimony & examination of credible witnesses upon oath … So that now, having lawfully proved unto your Majesty … “

Oxford attended at the House of Lords on forty-four days during the nine sessions held 1571 to 1601.  In the sessions from 1585 onward he was appointed one of the “receivers and triers of petitions from Gascony and other lands beyond the seas and from the islands.” In November 1586 he was part of a committee appointed to address Elizabeth on the sentencing of Mary Queen of Scots.

In Sonnet 46, the poet describes a trial by jury:

Mine eye and heart are at a mortal war

How to divide the conquest of thy sight;

Mine eye, my heart thy picture’s sight would bar

My heart, mine eye the freedom of that right;

My heart doth plead that thou in him dost lie

(A closet never pierced with crystal eyes),

But the defendant doth that plea deny,

And says in him thy fair appearance lies.

To cide this title is impanelled

A quest of thoughts, all tenants to the heart,

And by their verdict is determined

The clear eyes’ moiety, and thy dear heart’s part:

As thus, mine eyes’ due is thy outward part,

And my heart’s right, their inward love of heart.

Scholars of the Stratfordian tradition have often speculated that “Shakespeare” must have been a lawyer. The fact that Oxford himself was a lawyer does not prove that he was the great author, but it is an important piece of the accumulated evidence in his favor.

[Above is the version edited by Alex McNeil and now no. 56 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford.]

“Truth’s Authentic Author”: Re-Posting No. 42 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford

“Shakespeare” was obsessed with truth.  In his works he used the word “truth” at least 309 times and “true” no less than 766 times, with “truer” and “truest” and “truths” about three dozen times – well over a thousand usages of those five word forms. Equally obsessed with truth was Edward de Vere, starting with his earldom motto VERO NIHIL VERIUS or Nothing Truer than Truth.  So similar are “Shakespeare” and Oxford in this respect that “truth” is another reason to believe they were one and the same.

Pallas Athena, a.k.a. the Goddess of Truth

The similarity is not just in terms of quantity but also in regard to how “truth” is used by “Shakespeare” and by Oxford in writings under his own name.  For example, in the Shakespearean plays the phrase “truth is truth” appears three times: King John (1.1); Love’s Labour’s Lost (4.1); and in Measure for Measure (5.1), when Isabella says: “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 the end of reckoning.”

Oxford wrote to Robert Cecil on 7 May 1603, several weeks after the death of Queen Elizabeth and the accession of King James:  “But I hope truth is subject to no prescription, for truth is truth though never so old, and time cannot make that false which was once true.”

In my view, Oxford wrote Shakespeare’s Sonnet 123 during the same period, just a few days before Elizabeth’s funeral on 28 April 1603, expressing the same theme: “NO! Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change … Thy registers and thee I both defy … For thy records, and what we see, doth lie … This I do vow, and this shall ever be: I will be true, despite thy scythe and thee.”

Given such a similarity between the words in Oxford’s letter and those of Shakespeare’s sonnet, how can we fail to consider that both might have been written by the same man? “Shakespeare” believed that even though the winners of political power struggles would write the history for future generations, the truth will eventually come out. Certainly that was his overall objective for the sonnet sequence. His intention was to create a “monument … which eyes not yet created shall o’er-read.” (Sonnet 81)

The Merchant of Venice (2.2): “Give me your blessing; truth will come to light; murder cannot be hid long; a man’s son may, but at length truth will out.”

The Rape of Lucrece (stanza 135): “Time’s glory is to calm contending kings, to unmask falsehood and bring truth to light.”

Oxford to Robert Cecil in January 1602, in eerily similar words: “But now time and truth have unmasked all difficulties.”

Sonnet 82: “Thou, truly fair, wert truly sympathized in true plain words by thy true-telling friend.”

In the Shakespeare play, Troilus echoes Oxford’s motto Nothing Truer than Truth:

True swains in love shall in the world to come

Approve their truths by Troilus: when their rhymes,

Full of protest, of oath and big compare,

Want similes, truth tired with iteration,

As true as steel, as plantage to the moon,

As sun to day, as turtle to her mate,

As iron to adamant, as earth to the center,

Yet, after all comparisons of truth,

As truth’s authentic author to be cited,

“As true as Troilus” shall crown up the verse,

And sanctify the numbers.

(Troilus and Cressida, 3.2, emphasis added)

[This post is the version edited by Alex McNeil and now appearing as No. 85 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford (2016)]

Edward de Vere, “Commedia dell’arte” and “Shakespeare”: Re-posting No. 41 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford

Scholars identify at least a dozen Shakespeare plays influenced by the Italian dramatic art form known as Commedia dell’arte, with its stock characters and improvised skits that were often bawdy and satiric: the list includes Love’s Labour’s Lost, The Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew, Twelfth Night and Much Ado About Nothing.

The same scholars, however, cannot plausibly explain how “Shakespeare” became so familiar with this “comedy of art” performed by troupes of traveling players in Italy, since it was virtually unknown in England when he was supposedly writing the plays.  The traditional author never set foot in Italy, while Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford had made his home base in Venice during 1575 and 1576, when the Commedia dell’arte was at the peak of its popularity.

Early on, supporters of Oxford’s authorship predicted they would find evidence the earl attended Commedia dell’arte performances in Venice during his several months there. In 1956, Julia Cooley Altrocchi discovered a “clincher” for that long-held prediction. At the Bibliotecha Marciana in Venice she came upon a book called Dell’Arte Rappresentativa Premeditata ed all’Improviso or Dramatic Art by Rote and Extemporaneous Performance (1699) and subsequently reported:

“A long section is devoted to the stock character of Graziano, the talkative Bolognese ‘doctor’ who tells long tales and never stops for breath.  With little schooling and without a medical degree, he blabs endlessly, often in Latin, impressing everyone until he is always shown to be a quack.  One of his famous recitals is the so-called ‘Tirade of the Tournament’ (Tirata della Giostra) in which the actor rattles off the names of twenty or thirty knights and ladies, their titles and countries of origin, the color and trappings of their horses, the color and devices of their garments and shields, and the events that befell each one on the field of tourney.  Even the ladies took part in this hypothetical tournament.”

The Doctor who gave the tirade…

The book included an example of such a long and hilarious “tirade”:

“I found myself ambassador of my illustrious country of Bologna at the court of the Emperor Polidor of Trebizond, and attending the great tournament celebrating his marriage to Irene, Empress of Constantinople.  Present were many great worthies: Basil, King of Zelconda; Doralba, Princess of Dacia; Arcont, vaivode of Moldavia; Arileus, heir of Denmark; Isuf, Pasha of Aleppo; Fatima, Sultan of Persia; Elmond, Milord of Oxford…” (Emphasis added)

Here in a book published in Naples at the end of the seventeenth century was an apparent reference to Edward de Vere, mentioned by his earldom title as “Milord of Oxfort,” within the speech of a stock character in a performed skit of the Commedia dell’arte!  Altrocchi continues:

“With his outgoing nature, his innate acting ability which would later manifest itself so impressively before the Queen, would he have consorted in friendly fashion with the finest improvisators in the world?  Otherwise, why was he given a place in the doctor’s exuberant oration?  Wouldn’t it have been known that he was a tournament champion in 1571 in England at the young age of twenty-one?  Wasn’t Graziano paying him a form of personal tribute as an honored guest?”

The Doctor – an illustration of his costume

The “Doctor” in his tirade says that “Milord of Oxfort” rode a faun-colored horse named Ultramarine  (“Beyond the Sea”) and wore a violet-colored costume while carrying a large sword.

“In this Tirata,” Altrocchi reported, “Milord of Oxfort, amusingly enough, tilted against Alvilda, Countess of Edemburg, who was mounted on a dapplegray, and was armed with a Frankish lance while robed in lemon color.  In the end, Edward and Alvilda, alas, threw one another simultaneously off their horses, both landing face down in the dust!”

She concludes that Oxford was “well and very companionably known” at presentations of the Commedia dell’arte while in Venice for many weeks during 1575.” He was “recognized as being a good sport as a well as a good sportsman,” not to mention having “so resilient a sense of humor that he could be introduced into a skit and, with impunity, be described as meeting a woman in tilt and being unhorsed and rolled to the ground with her in the encounter!”

Oxford undoubtedly witnessed many Commedia performances.  He may have watched this skit in which the actor playing Doctor Graziano, knowing he was in the audience, suddenly paid him a public tribute by improvising a “tirade” that included him by name. How fitting it was for such a compliment to be made, directly and openly, to the great playwright and comic genius who, nearly two decades later in 1593, would adopt the pen name “Shakespeare” as the author of at least a dozen plays bursting with influences from that same Commedia dell’arte!

In Othello … Annotated from an Oxfordian Perspective, editors Ren Draya and Richard Whalen comment on the surprising evidence that even this painful tragedy is strongly influenced by Commedia dell’arte.  They indicate, for example, how the opening of the play can be “played for laughs and probably should be” — with Iago (the scheming Zanni of the Commedia skits) and Roderigo (the witless, rejected suitor) waking up Brabantio (the foolish, old Pantalone) to taunt him with lewd suggestions that his daughter, Desdemona (the innocent), is having sex with Othello in a bestial way after they have eloped. A slice of raucous, obscene comedy, opening a tragic drama of jealousy and rage!

[This post is a revised version of no. 41, as edited by Alex McNeil for 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford (2016), in which it now appears as Reason 46.]

“Bottom’s Dream”: Re-posting No. 40 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford

A multifaceted reason to view Oxford as “Shakespeare” involves the time frame within which the works were created. Most, if not all, of the Shakespeare works were originally written ten or more years earlier than generally supposed.

Oliver Chris & Judi Dench as Bottom and Titania in Peter Hall’s 2010 production at the Rose Theatre, Kingston

Studies of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, for example, reveal that its first version may have been a court masque parodying the farcical French Match (1578-1581), when marriage negotiations between Elizabeth (as Queen Titania) and Hercule Francois de France, the Duke of Alencon (in the character of Bottom, disguised as an ass) were in full swing. But Shakespere was only seventeen in 1581, still very much in Stratford and not yet married, leading most scholars to date the original composition of the Dream no earlier than 1594.

One result of that myopia is that few, if any, books about Shakespeare have anything to say about a connection between that masterful romantic comedy and the French Match.

The fact that “William Shakespeare” first appeared as a writer in 1593 is a problem for the mainstream scholars all by itself. It means the very first publication by the young man from Stratford was a highly sophisticated, cultured narrative poem, one of the best ever written in England.

The orthodox view requires the original writing of Dream to fit within the dates of Shakspere’s life, forcing most scholars to place the start of its composition in 1594. Really?  Was our struggling young playwright creating A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the public playhouse? No. “The almost universally held belief among critics” is that the play “was written for a private performance, clearly a part of the festivities attendant upon an aristocratic wedding,” writes Oscar Campbell in The Reader’s Encyclopedia of Shakespeare (1966), who also states:

“The only existing text is the version of the comedy designed to be presented in the great hall of an Elizabethan gentleman’s country house, or possibly at the court, on an occasion at which Queen Elizabeth may have been present … [Virtually all scholars acknowledge Queen Titania as a portrait of Elizabeth] … Many weddings of the nobility solemnized about the years 1594-1596 have been suggested as the occasion for which the play was written.  One considered most likely by many historians is that of Elizabeth de Vere, the daughter of the earl of Oxford, to the earl of Derby, which took place on January 26, 1595.”

Greenwich Palace, where the wedding of Lady Elizabeth Vere and the Earl of Derby took place

Now, let’s get this straight: a young man from Stratford-upon-Avon, a commoner near the start of his London career as an actor-playwright, creates a play not for the public theater, but for a private wedding of the nobility.  He includes a major female character, Queen Titania, representing Elizabeth Tudor, and has her fall in love with an ass!  Moreover the play is performed in front of that same female monarch, who is known for her extreme vanity, along with the full court at Greenwich Palace!

If we remove the constricting timeline of the Stratford fellow’s life, it becomes possible to look clearly at the evidence of the Dream as a masterpiece that was revised two or three times, according to changing circumstances, over more than a dozen years, from the Alencon affair that reached its climax in 1581 to a wedding at court in 1595. “Tips of the iceberg” keep appearing to indicate this “hidden” history of the play, and Campbell is honest enough to mention some of these anomalies, as when he writes: “Certain textual inconsistencies indicate that the play as we have it has been revised, and that the lines which deal with the fantasy form only one of two textual layers” (emphasis added).

The easiest way to eliminate the mystery is to realize that the first text of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was an Elizabethan version of a Saturday Night Live skit, written by thirty-year-old Oxford in 1580. He was then still in the highest favor of Elizabeth (though not for long); he and John Lyly were presenting plays for aristocrats at the private Blackfriars and at court. Eva Turner Clark suggests that the earl produced Dream as a masque (probably for the Blackfriars audience, poking fun at both Elizabeth and Alencon) in 1581, before presenting it in a more complete form for the queen during the Christmas season of 1584. Then he would have revised the play again in 1590s, for performance during the Greenwich festivities celebrating his daughter’s marriage to the earl of Derby.

Titania courts Bottom while he wears his ass’s head.  Bottom repeatedly refers to “monsieur,” a comical (and mispronounced) reference to Alencon, who would not yield to the pressures on him to leave England, just as Bottom says: “I see their knavery; this is to make an ass of me; to fright me, if they could.  But I will not stir from this place … !” (3.3) And Titania cries: “My Oberon! What visions have I seen!  Methought I was enamored of an ass!” (4.1)

When Alencon finally left the country in early 1582, writes Clark, “he realized that his dream of being Elizabeth’s consort and sovereign of England had come to an end, just as Bottom’s dream of a life in fairyland had ended.”

[The above post is the version as edited by Alex McNeil for 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford (2016), in which it now appears as Reason 67.]

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[Oxford was publicly in favor of the Alencon match, along with William Cecil Lord Burghley, the Queen’s chief minister – both realizing that the prolonged “love affair” would keep France from an alliance with Spain and give England time to prepare for the inevitable Spanish invasion by Armada.  In private, Oxford was surely against the match.]

 

Medical Knowlege: Re-posting No. 39 of 100 Reasons “Shake-speare” was the Earl of Oxford

In his edition of the Shakespeare sonnets, the Stratfordian scholar Stephen Booth includes the title page of The Newe Jewell of Health, wherein is contained the most excellent Secrets of Physic and Philosophy, divided into four Books by the surgeon George Baker, published in 1576.

Booth presents an illustration of the doctor’s important book in connection with Sonnet 119, which builds upon metaphors and analogies from alchemy and medicine:

What potions have I drunk of siren tears,

Distilled from limbecks foul as hell within…

“Shakespeare” knew all about the “distillations” of waters, oils and balms as set forth by Dr. Baker, whose book has been long considered a key source for the Bard’s interest in alchemy as well as the full range of medical knowledge at the time. It happens that Baker, who would become surgeon to Queen Elizabeth, was the personal physician of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, and dedicated The New Jewel of Health to the earl’s wife Anne Cecil. Baker had dedicated his first book, Olenum Magistrale (1574) to de Vere himself, and in 1599 dedicated his Practice of the New and Old Physic to the earl as well. Baker was part of the household of de Vere, whose patronage helped to make it possible for this medical pioneer to write his books in the first place.

This is one example of how “Shakespeare’s” remarkable knowledge of medicine is mirrored by Oxford’s own connection to the leading medical experts and advances of his time, not only in England but also on the Continent. If Baker had just once treated Shakspere for a cut finger, upholders of the Stratford faith would have devoted entire books to that medical incident and its influences upon Shakespeare’s writings. On the other hand, Booth uses a full page to illustrate The Newe Jewell of Health in connection with Shakespeare’s sonnets, but never indicates that Baker dedicated that very book to the wife of the leading candidate to replace the Stratford man, nor does he mention that the doctor dedicated two other books to the earl of Oxford himself!

Scholars often try to “dumb down” Shakespeare’s works to avoid having to explain how he could have acquired such amazing knowledge. They tell us things like, “Well, see, he really didn’t know that much.  He wrote about stuff that anyone in England could have picked up, in the tavern or on the street, and of course he made mistakes…”  If something is too large to be filled by the Stratford man’s pitifully small biography, it must be cut down to fit, even while “the miracle” of his “genius” is further inflated, to explain the inexplicable.

Sir Thomas Smith (1513-1577)

De Vere requires no such adjustments. to explain the knowledge displayed by “Shakespeare” in his works. As for exposure to medical knowledge, he was tutored during childhood by Sir Thomas Smith, known for his interest in diseases, alchemy and therapeutic botanicals. Then he had access to Cecil’s library with some 200 books on alchemy and medical topics. In his twenties Oxford lived next door to Bedlam Hospital, a source of firsthand knowledge about patients suffering from mental illness.

Oxford’s life forms a picture that deepens our perceptions of the great plays and poems.  And because of the Oxfordian authorship theory, researchers are continually finding new evidence that “Shakespeare” was even more brilliant than we have been able to know and appreciate.

Dr. Earl Showerman

Earl Showerman, M.D., points out that the Shakespeare plays contain “over 700 medical references to practically all the diseases and drugs” that were known by the year1600, along with “knowledge of anatomy, physiology, surgery, obstetrics, public health, aging, forensics, neurology and mental disorders,” not to mention “detailed knowledge of syphilis.” Dr. Showerman quotes from Shakespeare and Medicine (1962) by R.R. Simpson, who reports that the poet-dramtist demonstrates “not only an astute knowledge of medical affairs, but also a keen sense of the correct use of that knowledge” – a sign that he was well acquainted with the medical literature of his day.  Another work is The Medical Mind of Shakespeare (1986) by Aubrey Kail, who writes that the Bard’s plays “bear witness to profound knowledge of contemporary physiology and psychology” and that he “employed medical terms in a manner which would have been beyond the powers of any ordinary playwright or physician.”

“The Medical Mind of Shakespeare” by Aubrey Kail (1986)

Another Oxfordian researcher, Frank M. Davis, M.D., writes that in Shakespeare’s time “true medical literature, like medicine itself, was still in its infancy,” so he could not have absorbed much from reading what was available in English: “The vast majority of medical works were published in Latin or Greek.”

Davis finds it “remarkable” that Shakespeare refers in three plays to the pia mater, the inner lining of the covering of the brain and spinal cord. “Knowledge of this relatively obscure part of anatomy could only mean that Shakespeare had either studied anatomy or read medical literature … Even more striking to me as a neurosurgeon is his acquaintance with the relationship of the third ventricle with memory,” he adds, noting a possible source was Thomas Vicary’s Anatomy of the Body of Man (1548), which refers to the third ventricle as the ‘ventricle of memory’” – a phrase used in Love’s Labour’s Lost, when the pedant Holfernes states that his various gifts of the mind “are begot in the ventricle of memory, nourished in the womb of the pia mater…” (4.2.70-71)

“The Anatomie of the Bodie of Man” by Thomas Vicary (1490-1561)

William Harvey (1578-1657)

While the discovery of the circulation of blood has been assigned to William Harvey, who announced it in 1616, “Shakespeare” was likely aware of it long before then.  There are “at least nine significant references to the circulation or flowing of blood in Shakespeare’s plays,” Davis writes.

England was far behind the advances in medical technology taking place on the Continent. Most of the great doctors and teachers were based at the University of Padua, then the center for medical learning; others studied there before returning to their hometowns to practice medicine.

University of Padua

Oxford, touring the cities of Europe during 1575 at age twenty-five, visited Padua at least once, probably twice.  “With the background in pharmacology gained from his years with Sir Thomas Smith,” writes Davis, “it seems unlikely that Oxford would visit Padua without attempting to discover the latest developments in ‘physic.’”

Fabricius (1537-1619)

In the previous year, the Renaissance doctor Fabricius had discovered “the valves in veins responsible for keeping the blood flowing in one direction toward the heart,” Davis notes, adding that Fabricius was “the first to bring this important discovery to light.” Even if Oxford had never met Fabricius in person, it is “easy to imagine” that the great teacher’s 1574 discovery of those valves, along with other topics related to the circulation of the blood, “would have been an ongoing staple of conversation among the students and faculty at the time of Oxford’s visit the following year.”

[This is an updated version of the original blog, the way it now appears as No. 59 in 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford (2016),reflecting the work of editor Alex McNeil, with other editorial help from Brian Bechtold. (Published by Forever Press.]

“Shakespeare’s Apprenticeship” by Ramon Jimenez — This Book is a Game Changer!

“Shakespeare’s Apprenticeship: Identifying the Real Playwright’s Earliest Works,” by Ramon Jimenez 

Knowing the work of this great researcher and writer over many years, including his early essays on the Shakespeare plays, I can already recommend it to all who want to know the true history of the dramatist’s development.  It is bound to become one of the most important books on the shelf — for Oxfordians and all other Shakespeareans!

Stratfordians, beware!

(To be released on 8 September 2018)

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1476672644/ref=pe_3820980_291881610_em_1p_1_lm

 

Henry Peacham’s Loud Silence: Re-posting No. 38 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford

Henry Peacham (1578-c.1644) suggested in Minerva Britanna (1612) that Edward de Vere had been a playwright of hidden identity.  A decade later, in 1622, he published his most popular work The Compleat Gentleman, in which he stated:

Title Page of The Compleat Gentleman

“In the time of our late Queen 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 honored Poesie with their pens and practice (to omit her Majesty, 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 living, and so well knowne) not out of Envy, but to avoid tediousness I overpass.”

Eva Turner Clark in The Man Who Was Shakespeare (1937) was the first Oxfordian to report on this passage. “Significantly,” she writes, “Peacham does not mention Shakespeare, a name he knew to be the nom de plume of Oxford.” Louis P. Benezet of Dartmouth writes in 1945 that Peacham’s testimony is “one of the best keys to the solution of the Shakespeare Mystery…. We recall the statement of Sir Sidney Lee [1898], that the Earl of Oxford was the best of the court poets in the early years of Elizabeth’s reign, and Webbe’s comment [1586] that ‘in the rare devices of poetry he (Oxford) may challenge to himself the title of the most excellent among the rest.’ Also we remember that The Arte of English Poesie [1589] after confessing that ‘as well Poets as Poesie are despised, and the name become of honourable infamous’ so that many noblemen and gentlemen ‘are loath to be known of their skill’ and that many who have written commendably have suppressed it, or suffered it to be published ‘without their names,’ goes on to state that in Elizabeth’s time have sprung up a new group of ‘courtly writers, who have written excellently well, if their doings could be found out and made public with the rest, of which number is first that noble gentleman, Edward, Earl of Oxford.’

”Now comes Henry Peacham, confirming all that has been said by others,” Benezet continues, noting the date of 1622, when the likes of George Chapman and Ben Jonson were “yet living, and so well known,” while Shakspere had been dead for six years and therefore should have been on the list – unless “Shakespeare” already headed the list under his real name, Edward de Vere. Peacham  “was in a position to know the truth,” Benezet writes. “He had been for several years the tutor of the three sons of Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, Oxford’s cousin.  Living in the family circle, he knew the secret behind the pseudonym under which were published Venus and Adonis and Lucrece, those poems which, with The Fairie Queene [by the late Spenser, whom Peacham does mention], provide the high water mark of Elizabethan rhyming.”

George Greenwood had noted in 1908 that theatrical manager Philip Henslowe had never entered Shakespeare’s name in his diary, Dr. Benezet recalls, adding that “still more compelling is the silence of Henry Peacham, for not only does he ignore the Stratford man, but, at the head of his list of the great poets of ‘the Golden Age,’ where the name of the Bard of Avon should be expected, we encounter instead that of one who is not even mentioned in any of the histories of English literature consulted as ‘authority’ by my colleagues of the Departments of English — the greatest of the world’s unknown greats, Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford.”

In the mid-1590’s, as a seventeen-year-old Cambridge graduate, Peacham had created a sketch apparently depicting the rehearsal or performance of a scene from Titus Andronicus. As Francis Meres in Palladis Tamia of 1598 listed Titus as one of Shakespeare’s tragedies on the public stage, we can be sure, if Peacham had thought the Bard of Avon and Edward de Vere were two different persons, he would have included “Shakespeare” on his list of the greatest authors of Elizabeth’s time who were no longer living. But Peacham knew differently.

Subsequent editiions of The Compleat Gentleman in 1627 and 1634 also omitted Shakespeare from the list, proving that Peacham, who died in 1643, did not accidentally “forget” to mention him.

[This post is an updated version of the original blog entry, reflecting the invaluable work of editor Alex McNeil and other editorial help from Brian Bechtold, as it now appears in 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford.]

Composers William Byrd and John Farmer: Re-posting Part Two, No. 37 (“Knowledge & Love of Music”) of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford

William Byrd was past fifty when he moved from London circa 1593 to the small town of Stondon Massey, Essex, where he lived the rest of his life.  But according to traditional biography, Shakespere was just then getting started, so on that basis alone he and the great composer never even met each other.

William Byrd, composer
1538 – 1623

Edward de Vere, on the other hand, was twenty-two and enjoying the royal favor in 1572, when Byrd was named a gentleman of the Chapel Royal and began work under Queen Elizabeth as organist, singer and composer.

The evidence suggests “an association between Byrd and Oxford of at least ten years,” states Sally Mosher (a musician herself), who adds that they “were both at the court of Elizabeth I from about 1572 on … Both were involved in activities that provided music for the court; and during this period, Oxford saved Byrd from possible bankruptcy by selling a certain property to Byrd’s brother.”

The Chapel Royal consisted of some twenty-four male singers and organists who provided church music for the royal household.  They remained with the queen as part of her entourage, which included Oxford himself, as she traveled from palace to palace.  “The likelihood is strong,” Mosher writes, “that both Oxford and the queen would have played these pieces [on lute and virginal keyboard] by the composer whom both had patronized.”

Byrd’s The Earl of Oxford’s March “has been preserved in at least four versions,” she reports, and “it was clearly well-known during the period.”  As a ranking earl, Oxford had his own “tucket” or musical signature announcing his arrival at tournaments.  The tune at the heart of The March “has all the earmarks of such a tucket,” Mosher says, adding, “In deference to [Oxford’s] dreams of martial glory perhaps, or else to provide an entertainment at court, at some point during their close association William Byrd worked Oxford’s tucket into a musical setting that called up visions of battle.”

Oxford’s March has been recorded many times; for example, a recording in Switzerland was produced amid a setting that reflects and enhances the beauty and grandeur of the music:

“The Shakespeare plays are full of tuckets,” Mosher observes (King Lear, Henry V, Henry VIII, etc.). “In Othello, when Iago hears ‘Othello’s trumpets,’ it means that he recognizes Othello by his tucket. The brief and open-ended tune that introduces Oxford’s March has all the earmarks of this kind of semi-military identification … Oxford, a veteran of real military action by the time he and Byrd met, would have known the military calls in use and could have supplied them to Byrd.”

Byrd also composed music for Oxford’s poem “If Women Could be Fair,” included in a 1588 collection of Byrd’s vocal works. Still another example of collaboration involves “My Mind to Me a Kingdom Is,” a poem attributed to Oxford and published in Byrd’s Psalms, Sonnets, and Songs of Sadness and Piety (1588). “This poem is one of the true masterpieces of the Elizabethan era,” the Harper’s Magazine blog notes, adding it is “understandable on many levels: as a sanctuary of conscience, as a statement of Calvinist precepts, as a dissertation on contentment, as a praise of the powers of imagination and invention. William Byrd’s setting of the Oxford poem is one of the finest English art songs of the Elizabethan era.”

To shallow rivers, to whose falls

Melodious birds sing madrigals!

– Song in The Merry Wives of Windsor (3.1)

John Farmer dedicated his most important work, The First Set of English Madrigals of 1599, to “my very good Lord and Master, Edward Devere Earle of Oxenford,” praising his “judgment in Musicke” and declaring that “using this science as a recreation, your Lordship have over-gone most of them that make it a profession.” This is high praise indeed for Oxford, to whom Farmer had also dedicated his previous work, Plainsong Diverse & Sundry of 1591, telling the earl he presented it to him because he knew “your Lordship’s great affection to this noble science.”

“Nothing is more astonishing in the whole history of music than the story of the English school of madrigal composers,” writes Michael Delahoyde, noting that the adapter ofThe First Sett of Italian Madrigals Englished in 1590 was Thomas Watson, who had dedicated his 100-sonnet sequence Hekatompathia: or Passionate Century of Love  (1582) to de Vere, his patron.

Inserted in that song-book are “two excellent Madrigalls of Master William Byrd, composed after the Italian vaine, at the request of the sayd Thomas Watson.”  So we have Oxford connected personally and professionally to Farmer, Byrd and Watson, not to mention his company of musicians and that his many youthful poems were lyrics for songs. Clearly he was a driving force behind the sudden rise of the English Madrigal School.

Oxford was an expert in music just as “Shakespeare” shows himself to be, though orthodox scholars, aware that Shakspere was no such expert, tend to play down that facet of “Shakespeare” works. The only way to maintain that the Stratford man was the greatest writer of the English language is to keep “dumbing down” the works themselves!

Elizabethan Musical Instruments

In fact, however, the Bard was an expert in the musical field, as Oxford was an expert. In Shakespeare’s England (published in 1916, before the earl was identified as the great author), we find that “in no author are musical allusions more frequent than in Shakespeare.”

The terms, often technical and always accurate, come bursting freely and spontaneously from the pen of the poet-dramatist, flowing from his very being, never inserted as information gleaned from research.  The musical terms come cascading forth not to instruct or impress or do anything other than lend greater power, beauty, humor and meaning to a character’s speech of the moment, mostly by way of metaphor:

“What, to make thee an instrument and play false strains upon thee?  Not to be endured!”

As You Like It (4.3)

(This reason is now No. 62 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford, edited by Alex McNeil with other editorial work by Brian Bechtold)

The Love and Knowledge of Music: Re-posting No. 37 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford

How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!

Here will we sit and let the sounds of music

Creep in our ears.  Soft stillness and the night

Become the touches of sweet harmony…

Only a writer with music flowing in his veins would give Lorenzo these famous lines to Jessica in The Merchant of Venice (5.1). Music is pervasive in Shakespeare’s works; some 170 passages include the words “music” or “musical” or “musician.” He continues:

Sit, Jessica. Look how the floor of heaven

Is thick inlaid with patens of bright gold!

There’s not the smallest orb which thou behold’st

But in his motion like an angel sings,

Still choiring to the young-eyed cherubins.

Such harmony is in immortal souls…

Shakespeare uses “sing” in various forms no less than 247 times.  Some forty passages deal with musical instruments. Lorenzo continues:

[Enter Musicians]

Come, ho, and wake Diana with a hymn!

With sweetest touches pierce your mistress’ ear

And draw her home with music…

He includes or alludes to the texts of well over a hundred songs.  In addition to the numerous stage directions for music and sound effects, his dramatic and poetical work is permeated by specific references to more than 300 musical terms. And more in the same speech of Lorenzo in The Merchant:

[Play Music]

The man that hath no music in himself

Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds

Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils:

The motions of his spirit are dull as night

And his affections dark as Erebus.

Let no such man be trusted.  Mark the music!

De Vere was associated with music from his teenage years at Cambridge and Oxford, before arriving at court in 1571 and quickly gaining the highest favor of Queen Elizabeth, becoming her dance partner and apparently performing for her on the lute and the virginals. Early on he had become associated with Richard Edwards, Master of the Children of the Chapel Royal, who is credited with compiling The Paradise of DaintyDevices (1576), which includes at least eight of Oxford’s early poems that appear to be song lyrics. He also maintained a company of adult actors and one of choir boys, who sang as well as performed stage works, and records of the 1580’s indicate he patronized a traveling company known as The Earl of Oxford’s Musicians.

Oxford was the patron of John Farmer, the celebrated madrigalist, and from about 1572 onward he was involved in musical activities at court with the composer William Byrd, one of the greatest musicians England has produced. It appears he was Byrd’s patron as well. The earl’s own accomplishments in the field were praised by professional musicians.

In Shakespeare’s England (1916), W. Barclay Squire reports that Shakespeare “is far in advance of his contemporaries” in terms of musical references, although his education in that field, “wherever it was acquired,” had been “strictly on the lines of the polyphonic school” — a musical teaching that all parts of a composition must fit equally into the whole, as expressed in Richard II (5.5.):

Music, do I hear?

Ha, ha!  Keep time.  How sour sweet music is

When time is broke and no proportion kept!

Such a passage “cannot be understood without some knowledge of the elaborate system of proportions inherited by Elizabethan composers from the earlier English school,” Squire observes. He adds it is “remarkable that the musical terms of the plays should be so consistently those of the old school of polyphony.”  Why is that remarkable?  Because, during the last half of the 1590s, a new style of musical arrangement replaced the old one, yet the great dramatist was apparently unaware of it. “This change dates from about the year 1597,” Squire writes, unable to conceal his bafflement, “yet in all the plays which Shakespeare produced from then [on], no allusion to the ‘new music’ can be discovered.”

This would be baffling indeed if the author had actually been Shakspere, who, within the traditional time frame, still had the best of his career in front of him. In that case he surely would have incorporated the “new school” of music into his plays.  But in the Oxfordian view, de Vere had finished writing the early versions of all his plays by 1589, which easily explains why “Shakespeare” failed to embrace a musical revolution that began almost a decade later. It would be natural that the best writer of that age, who seemed to know everything about music, would have known and worked with the best composer of the same age. And the evidence shows exactly that, although not in the way that orthodox history would have it.

[To be continued with Part Two]

[This post, reflecting the work of editor Alex McNeil and other help from Brian Bechtold, has become No. 62 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford]

The “Bed-Trick”: Re-Posting No. 36 of 100 Reasons Why Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare”

“[Oxford] forsook his lady’s bed, but the father of the lady Anne, by stratagem, contrived that her husband should, unknowingly, sleep with her, believing her to be another woman, and she bore a son to him in consequence of this meeting.” – Thomas Wright, The History and Topography of Essex, 1836, discussing Oxford in relation to his wife Anne Cecil and her father, Lord Burghley.

Measure“[T]he last great Earle of Oxford, whose lady [Anne Cecil] was brought to his Bed under the notion of his Mistris, and from such a virtuous deceit she [Susan Vere, Countess of Montgomery, Oxford’s third daughter, but probably meaning to identify his first daughter, Elizabeth Vere] is said to proceed.” – Francis Osborne, Esq.,Traditional Memoirs of the Reigns of Queen Elizabeth & King James,1658.

These two reports, while differing in their particulars, both assert that de Vere was the victim of a “bed-trick” perpetrated by his wife Anne at the bidding of her father, Burghley – the same situation “Shakespeare” immortalized in no less than four of his plays – All’s Well That Ends Well, Measure for Measure, Cymbeline and The Two Noble Kinsmen.

Hampton Court Palace

The “bed-trick” was a popular stage convention by the end of the sixteenth century, but the evidence is that “Shakespeare” employed it earlier than any playwright of the English renaissance; when Oxford is viewed as the author, the dates of composition go back even earlier.

Whether the incident actually happened or Oxford merely thought so, the story as told separately by Wright and Osborne probably stems from the royal visit to Hampton Court Palace in October 1574. When the schedule for the queen and her entourage became available, Anne, Countess of Oxford, requested additional lodgings she might entice her husband to join her. She wrote to Sussex, Lord Chamberlain of the Household:

Thomas Radcliffe, 3rd Earl of Sussex (1526-1583)

“My good Lord, because I think it long since I saw Her Majesty, and would be glad to do my duty after Her Majesty’s coming to Hampton Court, I heartily beseech your good Lordship to show me your favour in your order to the ushers for my lodging; that in consideration that there is but two chambers, it would please you to increase it with a third chamber next to it … for the more commodious my lodging is, the willinger I hope my Lord my husband will be to come hither.”

Oxford was in Italy the following September when he received a letter from Burghley telling him Anne had given birth to a girl, Elizabeth Vere, in July; later, upon learning of court gossip that he had been cuckolded, he came to doubt he was the father and separated from his wife for five years.  Had he really been deceived in a bed-trick according to the “stratagem” devised by his father-in-law? In that case, the girl was his natural child; the other possibility is that Burghley concocted and spread the bed-trick story to cover up the fact that, at his bidding, Anne had become pregnant by some other man, a radical explanation put forth by Ogburn Jr. in 1984:

“I strongly incline [to the explanation] that her father was determined as far as humanly possible to ensure the continuation of the marriage and the status of his descendants as Earls of Oxford.  Three years had passed since Anne’s and Edward’s wedding and still there was no sign of issue, while it had now become impossible any longer to deny his son-in-law a Continental trip from which, given the hazards of travel, he might not return.  Thus, exploiting his daughter’s uncommon filial submissiveness and the argument that a child would be the surest means of binding her husband to her, he overcame her compunctions and resistance and brought her to accept service by another male and one of proved fertility …”

[Note: Oxford may have given voice to the idea of Burghley’s involvement in Anne’s pregnancy and deception by means of Hamlet’s remark to Polonius: “Conception is a blessing, but [not] as your daughter may conceive — friend, look to’t.” (2.2) — Curiously, the Folio version of Hamlet includes the word “not,” while the 1604 version omits it.]

Cover of Wright’s History of Essex – 1836

In Shakespeare” Identified, J. Thomas Looney saw Bertram in All’s Well as virtually a self-portrait of de Vere – but it was only after his 1920 book was in manuscript that he discovered Wright’s claim that Oxford himself had been deceived by a bed-trick. The excitement he feels is palpable when introducing “what has been the most remarkable piece of evidence met with in the whole course of our investigations: a discovery made a considerable time after this work had been virtually completed.” He continues:

“This evidence is concerned with the play, All’s Well; the striking parallelism between the principal personage in the drama and the Earl of Oxford having led us to adopt it as the chief support of our argument at the particular stage with which we are now occupied … [Chapter X: “Early Manhood of Edward de Vere”]. What we have now to state was not discovered until some months later:

“In tracing the parallelism between Bertram and Oxford we confined our attention to the incidentals of the play, in the belief that the central idea of the plot — the entrapping of Bertram into marital relationships with his own wife, in order that she might bear him a child unknown to himself — was wholly derived from Boccaccio’s story of Bertram. The discovery, therefore, of the following passage in Wright’s History of Essex furnishes a piece of evidence so totally unexpected, and forms so sensational a climax to an already surprising resemblance that, on first noticing it, we had some difficulty in trusting our own eyes.

“We would willingly be spared the penning of such matter: its importance as evidence does not, however, permit of this,” Looney added, with what Ogburn describes as “quaint Victorian delicacy” in the face of scandalous matters.  After citing the passage from Wright’s History quoted above, he continued:

“Thus even in the most extraordinary feature of this play; a feature which hardly one person in a million would for a moment have suspected of being anything else but an extravagant invention, the records of Oxford are at one with the representation of Bertram. It is not necessary that we should believe the story to be true, for no authority for it is vouchsafed … In any case, the connection between the two is now as complete as accumulated evidence can make it.”

Marliss C. Desens writes in The Bed-Trick in English Renaissance Drama (1994) that this plot device appears in at least forty-four plays of the period, but also that “an examination of English Renaissance dramas shows that bed-tricks were not being used on stage prior to the late 1590’s” and, more specifically, that the bed-trick “begins appearing in plays starting around 1598.”

So, if Oxford was “Shakespeare,” we can say with virtual certainty that in the Elizabethan reign he was the first to incorporate it, and, too, that he did so after being a victim of it in real life, or believing he was.  Oxfordians date the original versions of the plays far earlier than the orthodox dates dictated by the life of Shakspere; in the case of the four plays with bed tricks, here are the differences:

All’s Well That Ends Well – Traditionally to circa 1604; Oxfordians to 1579-80

Measure for Measure – Traditionally to 1603-05; Oxfordians to 1581-85

Cymbeline – Traditionally to 1610; Oxfordians to 1578-82

The Two Noble Kinsmen – Traditionally to 1612-13; Oxfordians to 1566, revision in 1594

Here is another example of how the Oxfordian context stands previous scholarship on its head. The view of “Shakespeare’s” creative process, and its journey over time, is transformed. It’s no wonder the academic world has such built-in resistance to seeing, much less accepting, the change of paradigm.

[This reason is now No. 75 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford.]

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