“Another Hamlet” – New Book on Leslie Howard by Charles Boyle Includes Essay & Screenplay

"Another Hamlet" by Charles Boyle, now available at Amazon.com

I have been meaning to post up news of an exciting new publication ANOTHER HAMLET: The Mystery of Leslie Howard, by my friend and colleague Charles Boyle — actor, director, author and playwright.

Charles tells an amazing true story that includes the making of the film Pimpernel Smith, which Howard produced and directed and in which he played the starring role.  One of most successful British war films, it was a satire of Nazism making merciless fun of Hitler’s minister of propaganda, Josef Goebbels.  And Howard, as Smith, tells him: “I’ve been reading a book that proves conclusively that Shakespeare wasn’t really Shakespeare at all!  He was the Earl of Oxford.  Now, you can’t pretend the Earl of Oxford was a German, can you?”   [The book was undoubtedly Shakespeare Identified by J.T. Looney, 1920.]

Here is the quote from Charles Beauclerk, author of Shakespeare’s Lost Kingdom, on the back cover of the book:

“In Another Hamlet Charles Boyle has produced a riveting political thriller that explores the life and tragic death of actor and filmmaker Leslie Howard, a British patriot drawn into a deadly propaganda duel with the Germans.

“Deftly interweaving the behind-the-scenes politics of World War II with the decadent showbiz world of the 1930’s -1940’s, Boyle makes the tantalizing suggestion that it Howard’s growing conviction that the Earl of Oxford wrote Shakespeare which sealed his doom.

“From Leslie Howard himself to Humphrey Bogart, Merle Oberon, Winston Churchill, Anthony Eden, and Joseph Goebbels, Boyle brings to life a fascinating and often chilling cast of characters to tell the story of a maverick artist’s losing battle with the power-brokers of his age.”

Humphrey Bogart and Leslie Howard in "The Petrified Forest" (1936)

The book contains an introduction by his brother William Boyle, founding editor of Shakespeare Matters, the newsletter of the Shakespeare Fellowship, plus a newly revised and updated introductory essay by Charles and — the main attraction — his full screenplay version of the story, also revised and updated.

Maybe after the film ANONYMOUS from Roland Emmerich, we’ll see Hollywood grabbing hold of this one!

Did Young Oxford Witness an Event That Became the Turning Point of “Hamlet”? Reason Number 17…

When Edward de Vere the seventeenth Earl of Oxford was barely into his teens, he witnessed a real-life event that was virtually the same as the one “Shakespeare” would create many years later for the dramatic turning point of Hamlet when the Prince puts on a play to “catch the conscience of the King.”

Oxford was 14 on Queen Elizabeth's royal progress to Cambridge in 1564, the year she had hired a coach builder from the Netherlands (Gullian Boonen) who introduced the "spring suspension" to England

Fourteen-year-old Oxford was on the 1564 royal summer progress when Queen Elizabeth paid her historic visit to Cambridge University for five thrilling days and nights.

Chancellor William Cecil (later Lord Burghley) was in charge while his arch political enemy, High Steward Robert Dudley (later the Earl of Leicester) acted as master of ceremonies; but then a single, unplanned event could not have failed to make a lasting impression on young Edward.

Hamlet puts on a play to "catch the conscience of the King."

Elizabeth was set to leave on Thursday, August 10, 1564 for a 10-mile ride to the home of Sir Henry Cromwell at Hinchingbrooke, where she was to spend the night; and her Majesty was eager to get going.

Although young Oxford was a university student (upon whom the queen bestowed an honorary degree during her visit), he was on the progress with her and surely witnessed what happened next.

Hinchinbrooke House, where Elizabeth I of England stayed the night after the Cambridge visit in August 1564

According to Guzman de Silva, the Spanish ambassador, Elizabeth made a speech praising all the plays or “comedies” and disputations, but some of the anti-Catholic students “wished to give her another representation, which she refused in order to be no longer delayed.” 

But the students were so anxious for her to hear their play that they “followed her [to Hinchingbrooke] and so importuned her that at last she consented.”

So that evening, in a courtyard, an exhausted Queen of England gathered with members of her Court by torchlight for the student production.  It turned out to be a distasteful burlesque intended to mock certain Catholic leaders who had been imprisoned in the Tower.

The university atmosphere had become charged with the rapidly developing Protestant radicalism known as the Puritan movement, but the queen and Cecil were ending hostilities with France while trying to maintain good relations with Catholic Spain, so Elizabeth was in no mood for anti-Papal displays that de Silva would surely report back to King Philip, which, in fact, he did:

“The actors came in dressed as some of the imprisoned bishops.  First came the Bishop of London carrying a lamb in his hands as if he were eating it as he walked along, and then others with devices, one being in the figure of a dog with the Host in his mouth … The Queen was so angry that she at once entered her chamber, using strong language; and the men who held the torches, it being night, left them in the dark…”

Queen Elizabeth I attends a play at one of her palaces

Imagine how this scene must have struck young Oxford!  Here was vivid proof that a dramatic representation could directly alter the emotions of the monarch.  Here was spontaneous evidence of the power of a play to affect Elizabeth’s attitude and perhaps even her decisions.

Did the mature dramatist “Shakespeare” later recall this event when he came to write the “Mousetrap” scene of Hamlet, setting it at night with the King’s guards carrying torches?  When the Queen rose in anger at the students and rushed off, did chief minister Cecil call to stop the burlesque, as chief minister Polonius would do in “Hamlet”?  Did Elizabeth call for light as Claudius does in the play?

Her Majesty swept away using “strong language” as the torchbearers followed, leaving all “in the dark,” and the author of Hamlet would write:

Ophelia: The King rises.

Hamlet: What, frighted with false fire?

Gertrude (to King Claudius): How fares my lord?

Polonius: Give o’er the play!

King: Give me some light!  Away!

All: Lights, lights, lights!

Young Oxford was already a well-tutored scholar whose Renaissance outlook had drawn him to literature and history among a myriad of fields; and Elizabeth, 31, had displayed her own Renaissance spirit and love for learning when she and her retinue had entered Cambridge that summer.

Interior of King's College Chapel, where plays were performed for the Queen in 1564

The Chapel of King’s College had been transformed into a “great stage” and she had spent three of the five nights feasting on “comedies and tragedies.”

The King's College Chapel of Cambridge University

Now, after traveling with the Queen and her Court to Hinchingbrooke, the fourteen-year-old nobleman whose earldom motto was “Nothing Truer than Truth” had witnessed the power of a theatrical performance to stir his sovereign to rage.

Was this the young “Shakespeare,” already storing away the experience and looking ahead to the days at the royal court, when he would “catch the conscience” of his Queen?

I think it was!

Some of the Sources:

University Drama in the Tudor Age by Frederick Boas, 1914

The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth by John Nichols, 1823

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, the mousetrap scene, Act 3, scene 3

The Education of Young Shakespeare by Hank Whittemore, spring 2002 edition of Shakespeare Matters, the newsletter of the Shakespeare Fellowship

Reason No. 16: Bertram, the young Count of Rousillion in “All’s Well That Ends Well,” is a reflection of the young Edward, Earl of Oxford at the Elizabethan Court

In the Shakespeare play All’s Well That Ends Well, the leading male character is Bertram, Count of Rousillion, a young French nobleman whose callous self-absorption leads to bad behavior toward his wife; and in many respects Bertram is a representation of Edward de Vere, the seventeenth Earl of Oxford (1550-1604) when he was a young English nobleman whose callous self-absorption led to bad behavior toward his wife.

Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375), author of the "Decameron, On Famous Women"

The play is based on a tale by the great Florentine author -poet Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) in The Decameron, a collection of one hundred novellas that became the model of Italian prose for writers in the sixteenth century.

Illustration of the "Decameron"

A now-lost stage work entitled The Historie of the Rape of the Second Helene, recorded as performed at Richmond Palace on January 6, 1579 might have been an early version of All’s Well That Ends Well, which made its initial appearance as printed in the First Folio of Shakespeare plays in1623.

"All's Well That Ends Well" in the First Folio of 1623

If the play performed at Richmond was in fact an early draft of All’s Well, observes William Farina in De Vere as Shakespeare [see below], “then perhaps the play reflects de Vere coming to grips with his own bad behavior toward his wife, in which case Bertram would represent Shakespeare’s own unvarnished and unflattering self-portrait of the artist as a young man.”

The early version of 1579 would have been written solely for Queen Elizabeth and the privileged members of her royal court, who would have quickly understood its contemporary allusions and jests that only “insiders” could appreciate.

A revised version for the public playhouse in the 1590’s may have been the “unknown” Shakespeare comedy that Francis Meres referred to in Palladis Tamia (1598) as Love labours wonne.

[There is no recorded performance of a play entitled All’s Well That Ends Well until 1741.]

All’s Well is Reason Number 16 why it’s easy to believe that the Earl of Oxford (1550-1604) was the author of the works attributed to Shakespeare.  Following are just some of the ways in which Bertram appears to reflect Oxford’s own character and experience:


When Oxford was twelve in 1562 his father died and he was summoned to London as a royal ward of Queen Elizabeth, in subjection to her Majesty while in the custody William Cecil, her chief minister; and when All’s Well begins we find that upon his father’s death young Bertram has been summoned to Paris as a royal ward of the King of France.

Countess: In delivering my son from me I bury a second husband.

Bertram: And I in going, madam, weep o’er my father’s death anew; but I must attend his Majesty’s command, to whom I am evermore in subjection.

A Scene from "All's Well That Ends Well"


When Edward de Vere came of age in 1571 at twenty-one, a marriage was arranged for him and Cecil’s fifteen-year-old daughter, Anne Cecil, a commoner.  When Bertram is leaving behind the young Helena, a commoner’s daughter who had fallen in love with him, she wails:

“I am undone.  There is no living, none, if Bertram be away.  ‘Twere all one that I should love a bright particular star and think to wed it, he is so above me.  In his bright radiance and collateral light must I be comforted, not in his sphere.”

In the play the King promises to elevate Helena to a title so she and Bertram can marry.  In real life Elizabeth raised up her chief minister from commoner status to become Lord Burghley, so that Anne, who had grown up with Oxford in the same household and undoubtedly loved him, would be of the nobility and able to marry him


Oxford hungered for military service but had been kept behind for being too young.  In the fall of 1572, after the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre [of Protestants] in France, he begged Burghley to allow him to serve on a ship or abroad [“where yet some honor were to be got”], adding that he was also “most willing to be employed on the sea coasts, to be in readiness with my countrymen against any invasion.”  He was continually blocked, however, and his complaints are echoed by Bertram:

“I am commanded here and kept a coil with ‘Too young’ and ‘The next year’ and ‘’Tis too early’… I shall stay here the forehorse to a smock [a woman’s lead horse], creaking my shoes on the plain masonry [palace floors, instead of rough battlefield], till honor be bought up [exhausted], and no sword worn but one to dance with.  By heaven, I’ll steal away!”

Oxford did “steal away” from England without authorization, in the summer of 1574, but the Queen sent for him on the Continent and he returned three weeks later.

"The Decameron" by Boccaccio -- a hundred stores narrated by seven women and three men during the Plague of 1348


Oxford received authorization to travel in early 1575 and spent more than fifteen months in France, Germany and Italy, making his home base in Venice.  Back in England, when Oxford’s wife revealed she was pregnant, Queen Elizabeth “sprung up from the cushions” and said, “I protest to God that next to them that have interest in it, there is nobody can be more joyous of it than I am!”   But a bit later she repeated the promise Oxford had given her “openly in the presence chamber,” which was “that if she [Anne] were with child, it was not his!” *

* (In a letter from Dr. Richard Master, a court physician, to Lord Burghley on March 7, 1575, while Oxford was at the French Court in Paris.  See Monstrous Adversary by Alan Nelson, p. 122)

In other words, he had promised the Queen that he would not sleep with his wife; and we find Bertram saying in relation to his wife, Helena:

“Although before the solemn priest I have sworn, I will not bed her … O my Parolles, they have married me!  I’ll go to the Tuscan wars and never bed her … I have wedded, not bedded her, and sworn to make the ‘not’ eternal.”  And writing to Helena: “When thou canst … show me a child begotten of thy body that I am father to, then call me husband; but in such a ‘then’ I write a ‘never.’”


In the play Bertram fathers a son by means of a “bed trick” or scheme hatched by Helena — whereby another woman goes to bed with him and then Helena trades places with her.  In a book called The Histories of Essex (1836) some gossip of remarkably similar details is recorded about not only Oxford and Anne but also involving her father, Lord Burghley:

“[Oxford] forsook his lady’s bed, [but] the father of 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.” [Anne actually gave birth to a girl, Elizabeth Vere, in 1575.]

And in a memoir by the Master of the Horse to Philip Herbert, Earl of Montgomery [who married Oxford’s youngest daughter, Susan], he refers to “the last great Earl of Oxford, whose lady was brought to his bed under the notion of his mistress, and from such a virtuous deceit she [Susan] is said to proceed.”  [Again, the child was Elizabeth Vere.]

The so-called bed trick also appears in Measure for Measure.

There’s a great deal more about All’s Well That Ends Well, including a backdrop of the wars in the Netherlands between Spain and the Dutch in the 1570’s, along with what Farina describes as “enormous amounts of esoteric knowledge regarding the history and geography of France and Italy, as well as Renaissance literature and courtly social customs.”

But I must end this blog post before even attempting to summarize the various other levels and sources and parallels.  What’s clear, I’d say, is that we have yet another link in the chain of evidence that Oxford wrote the works of Shakespeare.

Here are some links for further information (and delight):

Dr. Michael Delahoyde, Washington State University – you won’t find on the Internet a better synopsis of the entire play from an Oxfordian standpoint.

Hidden Allusions in Shakespeare’s Plays by Eva Turner Clark – a pioneering work by one of the great Oxfordians, published in 1930 as Shakespeare’s Plays in the Order of Their Writing; third edition in 1974 by Ruth Loyd Miller, another great Oxfordian; Kennikat Press, Port Washington, NY (Go to Minos Publishing Company)

De Vere as Shakespeare: An Oxfordian Reading of the Canon by William Farina; McFarland & Company, 2006 – A good resource for anyone interested in the Oxford theory of authorship, with Chapter 12 devoted to All’s Well That Ends Well.

The Mysterious William Shakespeare by Charlton Ogburn Jr., published in 1984, with an updated second edition in 1992 – the book that singlehandedly revived the Oxfordian movement.

Dating Shakespeare’s Plays: A Critical Review of the Evidence, edited by Kevin Gilvary, for the De Vere Society, 2010, published in the UK by Parapress – a tremendous new work that may well be an essential guide to the chronology of the plays

(Note: Another source of All’s Well is William Painter’s English translation of Decameron published in 1566, when Oxford was sixteen and graduating from Oxford University; but some details in the play demonstrate that “Shakespeare” had also read the original Italian version.  The Oxfordian researcher Nina Green has recently discovered that William Painter was an investor in the Frobisher voyages of the late 1570’s, as Oxford was, and therefore it’s very likely that the two men knew each other.)

William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize Speech — A Description of the Real Shakespeare

William Faulkner (1897-1962) received the Nobel Prize in Literature for 1949.  Three major works that exploded from his pen within a short space of time – The Sound and the Fury (1929), As I Lay Dying (1930) and Light of August (1932) – have become American classics and are on Modern Library’s list of the 100 Best English-Language Novels of the 20th Century.  At the Nobel Banquet at the City Hall in Stockholm on December 10, 1950, Faulkner delivered a now-famous speech that, for me, serves as yet another reminder that the Shakespeare “authorship question” really does matter.

He referred to his “life’s work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit,” which is exactly what we would expect to hear from the author of Hamlet and King Lear as well as from the man who wrote the tortured lines of the sonnets such as number 66 in which he pens a virtual suicide note, listing reasons he would prefer to die: “Tired with all these, for restful death I cry … Tired with all these, from these would I be gone.”

Faulkner told of the “anguish and travail” to which he was dedicated; he focused on “the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself, which alone can make good writing, because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.”

Such cannot be said of the traditional mythology of Shakespeare, who, we are told, wrote primarily not out of experience but with only a part of himself, keeping one eye always on the box office.  But that traditional figure cannot be the man who wrote Hamlet’s dying plea to Horatio to “absent thee from felicity awhile and in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain to tell my story.”

Accepting his award, Faulkner urged any young writer to leave “no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed – love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.

“Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands…

“I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.  The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart…”

Here’s the full speech as later published:

Ladies and gentlemen,

I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work – a life’s work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before. So this award is only mine in trust. It will not be difficult to find a dedication for the money part of it commensurate with the purpose and significance of its origin. But I would like to do the same with the acclaim too, by using this moment as a pinnacle from which I might be listened to by the young men and women already dedicated to the same anguish and travail, among whom is already that one who will someday stand here where I am standing.

Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself, which alone can make good writing, because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed – love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.

Until he re-learns these things, he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tide-less in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking.

I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

Thomas Wolfe on the Relationship of an Author’s Life to His Art — a Central Aspect of the Shakespeare Authorship Question

When Thomas Wolfe wrote his towering first novel Look Homeward Angel, published in 1929, he made an important statement “to the reader” about the relationship of his life to his art; and of course this relationship is a key aspect of the case for Edward de Vere the seventeenth Earl of Oxford as “Shakespeare.”

Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938)

Do the poems and plays reflect the author’s life?  To what extent are they “autobiographical”?  Wolfe used every bit of himself, hurling his life through the filter of his novelist’s voice.  If what he says may strike us as extreme, let it be so; we Oxfordians will take any piece of this golden letter, which follows here with my italics for highlighting:


“This is a first book, and in it the author has written of experience which is now far and lost, but which was once part of the fabric of his life.  If any reader, therefore, should say that the book is “autobiographical” the writer has no answer for him: it seems to him that all serious work in fiction is autobiographical — that, for instance, a more autobiographical work than Gulliver’s Travels cannot easily be imagined.

“This note, however, is addressed principally to those persons whom the writer may have known in the period covered by these pages. To these persons, he would say what he believes they understand already: that this book was written in innocence and nakedness of spirit, and that the writer’s main concern was to give fullness, life, and intensity to the actions and people in the book he was creating.  Now that it is to be published, he would insist that this book is a fiction, and that he meditated no man’s portrait here.

“But we are the sum of all the moments of our lives–all that is ours is in them: we cannot escape or conceal it.  If the writer has used the clay of life to make his book, he has only used what all men must, what none can keep from using.  Fiction is not fact, but fiction is fact selected and understood, fiction is fact arranged and charged with purpose.  Dr. Johnson remarked that a man would turn over half a library to make a single book: in the same way, a novelist may turn over half the people in a town to make a single figure in his novel.  This is not the whole method but the writer believes it illustrates the whole method in a book that is written from a middle distance and is without rancor or bitter intention.”

Well, I wouldn’t even think about adding to that.

Some Reactions to the Debate in London

A couple of early reactions to the Debate in London yesterday:


And this one is from THE AUSTRALIAN – Full Story at This Link

Oldest literary conspiracy theory trotted out again

A HOLLYWOOD film that claims William Shakespeare was an illiterate buffoon who passed off a nobleman’s plays as his own got off to a wobbly start at the Hay Festival in Wales when actor Ralph Fiennes described the premise as a “dead-end argument”.

Roland Emmerich, one of Hollywood’s most successful directors, presented clips of his film Anonymous to the public for the first time at the festival and answered questions about why he chose to portray the Edward de Vere, the 17th earl of Oxford as the true author of the plays.

But Fiennes, who has not seen the film, says he is puzzled by the obsession with giving credit to other authors. “Instinctively, I don’t buy it,” he says.

Fiennes, who was at the festival to talk about his forthcoming film adaptation of Coriolanus, says: “People say, ‘How could he have known about Italy and how could he have so much [knowledge],’ and I’m puzzled because he went to a grammar school, which were very good schools, and why couldn’t a unique individual be able to imagine and encompass a massive range of linguistic expression?  (Full Story at Link Above)


I remember having the same reaction that Fiennes expresses.  I put a lot of stock on good ol’ imagination, and still do — but when I dug a little deeper and discovered how much knowledge — and specific knowledge — gets into the plays, poems and sonnets, well, it boggles the mind and calls for some reassessment.  If you go to a good library and find the Shakespeare section, my goodness it seems there’s an entire book (or two or more) devoted exclusively to Shakespeare’s handling of every single subject such as law, heraldry, music, kingship, flowers, hunting, war, ships, Italy, France, the classics, astronomy, horsemanship, fashions, the bible — I mean, we are not talking just about some “good” or even “great” author but about some kind of amazing giant of whom there may have been no equal in all the rest of history before or since.

Investigation is required — or the result, which I have seen over and over, is what you might call “the dumbing down” of Shakespeare; that is, attempts to reduce him down to more normal size, so he can fit the framework of traditional biography.  I am not speaking of him as a god or a miracle, but, rather, a rare human being who must have had not only “nature” on his side but “nurture” as well — and this is also not about snobbery, please, and not even about who “could” have written these masterpieces but who “did” write them.

Reassessment … Investigation!

The Earl of Oxford in “The Arte of English Poesie” of 1589 — Reason No. 15 Why He Became “Shakespeare” in 1593

Number 15 on this list — as it steadily builds to 100 reasons to believe the Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare” — involves his prominent place in an anonymous work The Arte of English Poesie, published in 1589 and regarded as the central text of Elizabethan courtly politics.

"The Arte of English Poesie" - 1589

Oxford’s position in the world of letters had already been stated unequivocally in 1586, when William Webbe declared in A Discourse of English Poetry:

“I may not omit the deserved commendations of many honourable and noble Lords and Gentlemen in Her Majesty’s Court, which, in the rare devices of poetry have been, and yet are, most skillful; among whom the Right Honourable Earl of Oxford may challenge to himself the title of the most excellent among the rest.”  [Emphasis is mine]

Now in 1589, three years later, The Arte of English Poesie by an unnamed author is published by Richard Field, who will soon issue Venus and Adonis of 1593 and Lucrece of 1594, both dedicated by “William Shakespeare” to Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton – the first and only times this previously unknown poet will dedicate any literary or dramatic work to anyone.

Modern scholars have attributed The Arte to George Puttenham, although others believe the author was Oxford’s friend John, Lord Lumley, but last year Richard M. Waugaman set forth a case for Oxford’s own authorship instead.  [See Brief Chronicles, the online journal of the Shakespeare Fellowship, and Waugaman’s own online site The Oxfreudian.]

Partly the book may represent Oxford’s “eloquent pleading for the Queen’s commission for his writing the pro-Tudor ‘Shakespeare’ history plays,” Waugaman suggests, noting it “champions the persuasive power of poesy historical, while emphasizing that it [poetry or drama] is all the more instructive if it is not slavishly factual.”

The Arte is dedicated to Oxford’s father-in-law [and former guardian] William Cecil Lord Burghley, but it’s actually addressed to Elizabeth herself.  It emphasizes the importance of deception, disguise and anonymity.  The unnamed author says that many members of the nobility or gentry “have no courage to write & if they have, yet are they loath to be a known of their skill,” and continues:

“So as I know very many notable Gentlemen in the Court that have written commendably, and suppressed it again, or else suffered it to be published without their own names to it: as if it were a discredit for a Gentleman to seem learned and to show himself amorous of any good Art.”   [My emphasis]

A page from "The Arte" showing the Elizabethans' interest in structure, form, shape, architectural form and so on

Later he begins to use names:

“And in her Majesty’s time that now is are sprung up another crew of Courtly makers, Noble men and Gentlemen of her Majesty’s own servants, who have written excellently well as it would appear if their doings could be found out and made public 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 Sidney, Sir Walter Raleigh, Master Edward Dyer, Master Fulke Greville, Gascoigne, Britton, Turberville and a great many other learned Gentlemen, whose names I do not omit for envy, but to avoid tediousness, and who have deserved no little commendation.”  [My emphasis]

Does Oxford head the above list because, as Webbe had announced in no uncertain language, he’s the best writer?  Or is he listed first because of his nobleman’s rank?  Our brethren on the Stratfordian side prefer the latter interpretation, and I won’t argue here except to note that the author surely knew he was putting a spotlight on Oxford’s literary work.

Moreover, on the very next page the anonymous author of The Arte names just a few playwrights: “For Tragedy Lord Buckhurst and Master Edward Ferrys do deserve the highest praise: the Earl of Oxford and Master Edwards of Her Majesty’s Chapel for Comedy and Enterlude.”  [My emphasis]

Edwards had been in charge of the Children of the Chapel from 1561 until he died in 1566, a period when Oxford [age eleven to sixteen] was studying with private tutors and receiving honorary degrees from Cambridge and Oxford.  Edwards is credited with writing two plays:  Damon and Pithias, the first English “tragical comedy,” set in the court of Dionysius and performed for Elizabeth’s court in 1565; and Palamon and Arcyte, a “lost” play based on Chaucer’s A Knight’s Tale [and regarded as a possible source for The Two Noble Kinsman attributed to Shakespeare and Fletcher], performed for the Queen at Oxford in 1566.

I believe young Edward de Vere must have written, or at least co-written, those two plays credited to Richard Edwards.  A decade later in 1576 several poems by Oxford [signed with his initials E.O.] appeared in The Paradise of Dainty Devices, an anthology that claims Edwards had compiled it before his death in 1566 – in which case, if true, it’s possible that Oxford’s poems were written no later than his sixteenth year [although he surely could have added to them any time up to 1576, since the likelihood is that Oxford himself caused the anthology to be published].

The Paradise became hugely popular, going into ten editions over the next three decades.
An excerpt of one of Oxford’s poems was reprinted in The Arte of English Poesie of 1589, wherein the anonymous author wrote:
“Edward Earl of Oxford, a most noble and learned gentleman, made in this figure of response an emblem of Desire, otherwise called Cupid, which for excellency and wit I set down some of the verses, for example.”
The excerpt follows:

When wert thou born desire?

In pomp and prime of May,

By whom sweet boy wert thou begot?

By good conceit men say,

Tell me who was thy nurse?

Fresh youth in sugared joy.

What was thy meat and daily food?

Sad sighes with great annoy.

What hadst thou then to drink?

Unfeigned lovers tears.

What cradle wert thou rocked in?

In hope devoid of fears.

What was this poem really about?  Well, The Arte elsewhere speaks of a poet as a “dissembler” who “by reason of a secret intent not appearing by the words, as when we go about the bush, and will not in one or a few words express that thing which we desire to have known, but do choose rather to do it by many words.”

He offers the following example of four lines referring to Queen Elizabeth – not by name, but in words that “any simple judgment might easily perceive” it to be her:

Elizabeth I of England

When Princes serve, and Realms obey,

And greatest of Britain kings begot:

She came abroad even yesterday,

When such as saw her knew her not.

“And the rest followeth, meaning her Majesty’s person, which we would seem to hide leaving her name unspoken, to the intent the reader should guess at it: nevertheless upon the matter did so manifestly disclose it, as any simple judgment might easily perceive by whom it was meant, that is by Lady Elizabeth, Queen of England and daughter to King Henry the Eighth, and therein resteth the dissimulation.”  [My emphasis]

In this same year of 1589 Richard Field would also publish the second edition of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, credited in 1567 to Oxford’s uncle Arthur Golding but more likely translated with youthful zest by the young earl himself.   Here at the end of the tumultuous decade of the 1580’s, Oxford was about to leave public life and become something of a recluse.

Now in 1589, was he using the press of Richard Field to make a final appearance as an identified poet?  Was he withdrawing from the world while preparing to use the same publisher to reappear as “Shakespeare” just four years later, in 1593?

Shakespeare Authorship Debate in London – LIVE STREAMING AT 2:30 P.M. EASTERN TIME

LIVE STREAMING OF THE DEBATE AT 2:30 p.m. EASTERN TIME – at http://www.esu.org OR at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/anonymous—english-speaking-union !!!

Well, this should be fun!  Here’s the text of a press release from Brunel University:

William Leahy, head of Brunel's School of Arts

Head of Brunel University’s School of Arts, Dr William Leahy, will challenge the accepted authorship of Shakespeare’s plays in a special debate alongside film director Roland Emmerich in central London next Monday [6 June].

Film director Roland Emmerich on the set of "Anonymous," the first feature about Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford as "Shakespeare," set for release in September

The debate forms part of a wider scheme of events to publicise the forthcoming release of Roland Emmerich’s film Anonymous, a historical thriller about Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. The film suggests that de Vere was not only the incestuous lover of Queen Elizabeth I, but also the true author of the works of William Shakespeare.

Dr Leahy will be arguing against the motion: ‘This House believes that William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon wrote the plays and poems attributed to him’, alongside Charles Beauclerk, president of the De Vere Society and former president of the Shakespeare Oxford Society, and Roland Emmerich himself.

Charles Beauclerk, author of "Shakespeare's Lost Kingdom"

Leading the arguments in favour of the motion will be Stanley Wells, renowned Shakespeare scholar and Chairman of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

Stanley Wells, current leader of the Stratfordian tradition

Dr Leahy is Convenor of the Shakespeare Authorship Studies MA at Brunel, the first programme of its kind in the world. The Master’s course tackles the subject of Shakespeare and authorship, interrogating the mythologisation of Shakespeare and the issues surrounding the notion of collaboration.

Dr Leahy explains: “I am a sceptic as far as Shakespeare being the author is concerned and I have real problems accepting that he wrote all the plays and poems attributed to him – thus my Master’s programme. But I do not advocate an alternative author – neither Oxford, Bacon, Marlowe or whoever. Rather, I support the need to question the authorship and the right for ‘Oxfordians’ to hold their views.”

The debate, organised by the English-Speaking Union, will take place at Dartmouth House, central London from 7pm. Free tickets to the event are available on request on a first come first served basis. Visit www.esu.org for more information.

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