“The Quality of Mercy” – Reason No. 32 to Conclude that the Earl of Oxford Wrote the “Shakespeare” Works

The works of “Shakespeare” contain the results of the author’s own meditations on justice and mercy, emphasizing the need for kings to carry out lawful remedies and punishments with compassion and kindly forbearance.  In Portia’s famous speech in The Merchant of Venice about “the quality of mercy” being “not strained” (not constrained), she declares that mercy is “mightiest in the mightiest” and “becomes the throned monarch better than his crown.”  Mercy is above such trappings and is “enthroned in the hearts of kings,” she says, adding:

It is an attribute to God himself;

And earthly power doth then show likest God’s

When mercy seasons justice (4.1)

On May 7, 1603, six weeks after Queen Elizabeth died and James VI of Scotland was proclaimed James I of England, 53-year-old Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford wrote a business letter to Secretary Robert Cecil and, in passing, made this comment, which is printed below in the form of a speech in a Shakespeare play:

Nothing adorns a King more than justice,

Nor in anything doth a King more resemble God than in justice,

Which is the head of all virtue,

And he that is endued therewith hath all the rest.

By no means am I the first to notice a remarkable similarity of thinking between Oxford and “Shakespeare” and of the words expressing it.  Portia’s statement that when a King combines justice with mercy his “earthly power doth then show likest God’s” is reflected in Oxford’s remark that “nor in anything doth a King more resemble God than in justice” – by which he clearly means a justice that contains the “virtue” of mercy or the capacity for forgiveness.

Surely it’s not difficult to imagine Oxford giving Isabella these words about monarchs in Measure for Measure:

Not the King’s Crown nor the deputed sword,

The Marshall’s Truncheon nor the Judge’s Robe,

Become them with one half so good a grace

As mercy does.  (2.2)

In Chapter 30 of his 2001 dissertation on the “marginalia” of Edward de Vere’s Geneva Bible, which the earl had purchased in 1568-69 before the age of twenty, Roger Stritmatter reports that Oxford had marked a series of verses in Ecclesiasticus on the theme of mercy.

Ecclesiasticus 28.1-5, as marked by Edward de Vere in his Geneva Bible

The question of mercy “is central to the unfolding action of The Tempest,” Dr. Stritmatter notes.  “In this fable Prospero, like Hamlet, learns to abandon the lust to punish his enemies and realizes that ‘the rarer action is in virtue than in vengeance.’ (5.1.27) — in which statement ‘virtue’ is a metaphor for ‘mercy.’ ”  He points out that previous students of Shakespeare and the Bible had failed to notice that Prospero’s epilogue “as you from crimes would pardoned be…” derives “direct, unequivocal inspiration” from Ecclesiasticus 28.1-5, which Oxford had marked in his Geneva Bible.

Ellen Terry as Portia in 1885

I recommend an informative (and amusing) exchange on this subject between William J. Ray and Alan Nelson, author of Monstrous Adversary (2003), the anti-Oxfordian biography of Oxford.  The dialogue was initiated by Ray, who pointed out similarities between Oxford’s “remarkable sentence on the theme of justice” and Portia’s speech on the quality of mercy.

“Apparently De Vere studied kingship and justice from Old Testament teachings,” Ray observes in the course of the exchange, adding later, “I do not see your implacable opposition of justice and mercy as represented by the one quotation versus the other, since to my ear they both [Oxford and “Shakespere”] were speaking of the same virtue(s) … and with virtually the same cadence and language.”

"The Trial of Mary Queen of Scots at Fotheringay Castle" painted by Edouard Berveiller (1843-1910)

“There can be little doubt as to which side Oxford’s sympathies would lean” during the treason trial of the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots in October 1586,” J. Thomas Looney wrote in “Shakespeare” Identified in 1920, introducing the Oxford theory of Shakespearean authorship – in other words the earl, who sat as one of the commissioners at the trial, would have been on Mary’s side; and “as we read of her wonderfully brave and dignified bearing, and of her capable and unaided conduct of her own defense, we can quite believe that if the dramatist who wrote The Merchant of Venice was present at the trial of the Scottish Queen … he had before him a worthy model for the fair Portia…”

Looney quoted Martin Hume on the trial: “Mary defended herself with consummate ability before a tribunal almost entirely prejudiced against her. She was deprived of legal aid, without her papers and in ill health. In her argument with [William Cecil Lord Burghley] she reached a point of touching eloquence which might have moved the hearts, though it did not convince the intellects, of her august judges.”

Drawing of the Trial of Mary Queen of Scots as part of the official record made by Robert Beale (1541-1601)

[Hume had quoted a letter in which Burghley says of Mary, “Her intention was to move pity by long, artificial speeches” – and Looney wrote, “With this remark of Burghley’s in mind, let the reader weigh carefully the terms, of Portia’s speech on ‘Mercy,’ all turning upon conceptions of royal power, with its symbols the crown and the scepter … Now let any one judge whether this speech is not vastly more appropriate to Mary Queen of Scots pleading her own cause before Burleigh, Walsingham, and indirectly the English Queen, than to an Italian lady pleading to an old Jew for the life of a merchant she had never seen before.  Who, then, could have been better qualified for giving an idealized and poetical rendering of Mary’s speeches than ‘the best of the courtier poets’ [Oxford], who was a sympathetic listener to her pathetic and dignified appeals?”

I include Looney’s remarks despite the fact that I share the view of many Oxfordians that Edward de Vere had written the first version of The Merchant of Venice several years prior to the trial of Mary Queen of Scots – that is, in the early 1580’s, four or five years after he had returned (in April 1576) from fifteen months on the Continent with Venice as his home base.

Portia’s speech in 4.1 of The Merchant of Venice:

The quality of mercy is not strain’d,

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:

‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes

The throned monarch better than his crown;

His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,

The attribute to awe and majesty,

Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;

But mercy is above this sceptred sway;

It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,

It is an attribute to God himself;

And earthly power doth then show likest God’s

When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,

Though justice be thy plea, consider this,

That, in the course of justice, none of us

Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;

And that same prayer doth teach us all to render

The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much

To mitigate the justice of thy plea;

Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice

Must needs give sentence ‘gainst the merchant there.

Prospero’s farewell at the end of The Tempest:

Now my charms are all o’erthrown,

And what strength I have’s mine own,

Which is most faint: now, ’tis true,

I must be here confined by you,

Or sent to Naples. Let me not,

Since I have my dukedom got

And pardon’d the deceiver, dwell

In this bare island by your spell;

But release me from my bands

With the help of your good hands:

Gentle breath of yours my sails

Must fill, or else my project fails,

Which was to please. Now I want

Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,

And my ending is despair,

Unless I be relieved by prayer,

Which pierces so that it assaults

Mercy itself and frees all faults.

As you from crimes would pardon’d be,

Let your indulgence set me free.

Recommending A New Book about Oxford-Shakespeare offering us a “Big Idea” and its Supporting Details

I want to recommend this book as a powerful new addition to the ever-growing body of literature related to the Shakespeare authorship question: The Earl of Oxford and the Making of “Shakespeare”: The Literary Life of Edward de Vere in Context...

Richard Malim, a retired lawyer who serves as secretary of the De Vere Society in the United Kingdom, takes up the matter from a rather unique perspective, that is, he transports us to a much grander (and more important) view than usual.   Having carried around Malim’s book and dipping into it for a few weeks by now, I can tell you it’s not only rich with significant details but propelled by a Big Idea that’s been sorely missing from the debate over who wrote the “Shakespeare” works.  In short, he shows how a single man, once identified as Oxford-Shakespeare and placed in his proper historical context, was the primary force behind the great revolution of English literature and drama during the Elizabethan age.

Here’s how he begins:

“In April 1576, the twenty-six-year-old Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford (1550-1604), returned from his journey to Italy, then the cultural center of Europe.  His journey is the most important in terms of world literary development.  This book investigates and establishes the basis for that claim, and reveals the link between his literary career and the changes in the forms and status of English literature and language.  It shows him as the real writer of the Shakespeare canon and much more…”

If Oxford wrote the “Shakespeare” works, then he first used that pen name in 1593 at age forty-three, having worked to bring about the “revolution” for roughly three decades – during his teen years in the 1560’s and then during his twenties and thirties in the 1570’s and 1580’s.  Scholars laboring under the myth that “Shakespeare” was the man from Stratford-upon-Avon have had to assume that the sudden appearance of the glorious works was a miracle, a miraculous event unrelated to any significant prior history.  Wrong!

This book shows not only how very wrong that view has been, but, as well, it fills in the gaps until we have a clear view of what really happened.

The Shakespeare Authorship Question is Based on the Nature of Creative Genius

A visitor commented on one of these blogs today by asking about the basis of the authorship question.  Does it stem from a view that William of Stratford could not have known so much about courtly manners, etc.?    My quick response, with a few additions:

“There’s almost no way that anyone, of any background, could have the knowledge that Shakespeare reveals.  The range and depth of it is astounding.  No one can simply pluck information from the imagination, without having acquired that information in the first place; the imagination builds upon the experience, and that is the genius.  As for the knowledge, to comprehend the traditional Shakespeare from Stratford it’s been necessary to “dumb down” the Shakespeare works — his French was not so good, his geography is bad, his knowledge in other areas is superficial, his Latin is lousy, etc.

By John Michell - an Important Book

“But such is not the case.  When you put Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford in there as the author, you have a chance of comprehending his knowledge — he had the opportunity, the means, and even the motive — although we have not settled totally on the latter.  (For one thing, it appears that from a young age Oxford determined to lead the way in creating England’s own renaissance in all areas, from music to medicine, from poetry to drama, and so on; moreover, to lead the way in creating a new English language, literature, culture and national identity that would inspire unity and make it possible for England to survive all the threats from without and within.  He set out to become “the soul of the age” and the result was an English soul that was nearly destroyed in the seventeenth century.)

“Those holding onto the myth, the legend of Shakespeare, must try mightily to trash the anti-Stratfordians as snobs, etc., but, you see, that is not the issue.  The issue involves the need for courage to look at the facts as clearly as one can and to report the results as one sees them. The tactic of James Shapiro in Contested Will is to attack the messenger, while avoiding the message … to attack messengers such Sigmund Freud, Mark Twain, Charlie Chaplin, Helen Keller, etc. Well, the walls they are a crumbling.… “

“Timon of Athens” – Reason No. 31 of 100 to Believe that Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare”

Timon of Athens was initially published in the First Folio of plays by William Shakespeare in 1623 as The Life of Tymon of Athens.  There’s no agreement about when it was written, but scholars studying the mood and style have focused on 1605 to 1609, while others have pushed the date back to 1601-1602.  In the view of those who think Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford was the author, however, those time frames are about a quarter-century too late.

Engraving by John Boydell, 1771: Timon in the wilderness, sitting with a spade at left and turning away with expression of disgust as he tosses coins towards two prostitutes, one catching them in her skirts, a soldier at right watching the scene with concern, others gathered in the background

Oxford was twenty-six in the spring of 1576 upon his return to England after fifteen months on the Continent, traveling most of all through Italy with Venice as home base; and it may well be that a non-extant play recorded as The Historie of the Solitarie Knight, performed on February 17, 1577 (less than a year after Oxford’s return) for Queen Elizabeth and her Court at Whitehall Palace, was an early version of Timon of Athens.

Timon is a young nobleman so renowned for his liberality and good nature that poets, painters and tradesmen flock to his home seeking his patronage.  He’s generous and trusting.  He  joyously entertains his guests, lavishing them with rich gifts and handing out cash even to the servants.  His seemingly endless wealth means little or nothing to him: “I gave it freely ever, and there’s none can truly say he gives if he receives … Pray sit, more welcome are ye to my fortune than my fortunes to me!”  (1.2.10-11, 19-20)

Oxford, too, had inherited great wealth in the form of vast estates; he, too, was a generous friend (as when he gave money to the scholar Gabriel Harvey, at Cambridge in the 1560’s) and an actively involved patron of actors, writers, musicians and others in different fields.   Like Timon, he was a trend-setter.  And he was accustomed to what the Poet in the play calls “the infinite flatteries that follow youth and money.”

The western approach to the Acropolis, showing the Propylaia, Temple of Athena Nike, and the Parthenon.

Soon, however, Timon discovers he’s run out of money and fallen deeply into debt, with creditors accosting him for payments owed to their masters – exactly what Oxford had learned about his financial situation while still in Italy.  Shocked and distressed by the news of his sudden lack of funds, he wrote from Siena in January 1576 to his father-in-law William Cecil Lord Burghley:

“My Lord, I am sorry to hear how hard my fortune is in England … I have determined that whereas I understand the greatness of my debt and greediness of my creditors grows so dishonorable to me and troublesome unto your Lordship, that that land of mine which in Cornwall I have appointed to be sold [for travel expenses] be gone through withal.  And to stop my creditors’ exclamations (or rather defamations, I may call them), I shall desire your Lordship by the virtue of this letter which doth not err as I take it from any former purpose, which was that always upon my letter to authorize your Lordship to sell any portion of my land) that you will sell one hundred pound a year  more of my land where your Lordship shall think fittest, to disburden me of my debts to Her Majesty, my sister, or elsewhere I am exclaimed upon … ” [Emphases added]

A Timon puts it: “How goes the world, that I am thus encountered with clamorous demands of debt, broken bonds and the detention of long such due debts against my honor?”   (2.2.36-39)

He questions Flavius, his steward, the way Oxford must have demanded of Burghley to explain how this “dishonorable” situation could have happened without warning:  “You make me marvel wherefore ere this time had you not fully laid my state before me, that I might so have rated my expense as I had leave of means…”

Flavius defends himself as Burghley would have done:  “O my good lord, at many times I brought in my accounts, laid them before you; [but] you would throw them off!  I did endure not seldom, nor no slight cheques, when I have prompted you in the ebb of your estate and your great flow of debts.  My loved lord, though you hear now, too late … the greatest of your having lacks a half to pay your present debts.”

Timon: “Let all my land be sold!”

Flavius: “‘Tis all engaged, some forfeit and gone, and what remains will hardly stop the mouth of present dues.”  (2.2.124-145)

Oxford’s surprise that land of mine in Cornwall” that he had “appointed to be sold was “already gone through withal” can be heard here:

Timon: “To Lacedaemon did my land extend!”

Flavius: “O my good Lord, the world is but a world: Were it all yours to give it in a breath.  How quickly it were gone!”  (2.2.151-4)

William Cecil, Baron Burghley: circa 1570

Oxford gave Burghley more instructions, adding, “In doing these things your Lordship shall greatly pleasure me, in not doing them you shall as much hinder me, for although to depart with land your Lordship hath advised the contrary, and that your Lordship for the good affection you bear unto me could wish it otherwise, yet you see I have none other remedy.  I have no help but of mine own, and mine is made to serve me and myself, not mine.”

The same thought and virtually the same words are used in the play when one of the usurers instructs his servant:  “Get on your cloak, and haste you to Lord Timon.  Importune him for my moneys … Tell him my uses cry to me; I must serve my turn out of mine own … Immediate are my needs, and my relief must not be tossed and turned to me in words, but find supply immediate.”

After all his former friends refuse to loan him any money, Timon leaves Athens and goes to the depths of the woods, where he finds a cave and begins to live as a solitary hermit – perhaps why the play performed in  1577 was called The Solitary Knight.

Timon expects to find “the unkindest beast more kinder than mankind” – words that will find an echo when Oxford writes to Robert Cecil in May 1601 (after the Secretary had helped to gain Southampton’s reprieve from execution): “I do assure you that you shall have no faster friend and well-wisher unto you than myself, either in kindness, which I find beyond mine expectation in you, or in kindred,” signing off “in all kindness and kindred, Edward Oxenford.”

Timon is “a lover of truth,” writes Harold Goddard in The Meaning of Shakespeare, and the play “seems to say that such a man, though buried in the wilderness, is a better begetter of peace than all the instrumentalities of law in the hands of men who love neither truth nor justice.”

"The Life of Tymon of Athens" in the First Folio of Shakespeare Plays - 1623

When Oxford was still a royal ward at Cecil House in 1569-70, enrolled at Gray’s Inn to study law, one of his book orders included “Plutarch’s works in French” – and as O.J. Campbell notes in The Reader’s Encyclopedia of Shakespeare, the great author “clearly knew the digression on Timon in Plutarch.”

“He may also have read Lucian’s amusing dialogue Timon Misanthropus, “Campbell adds, “if not in Greek, then in either a Latin or a French translation.”  Aside from being fluent in both Latin and French, the Earl of Oxford had been raised in the household of Thomas Smith, a Greek scholar, who had tutored him.  Both Smith and Burghley had copies of Lucian, as did the library at Cecil House; and Burghley’s wife was also a Greek expert.   It’s a given that Edward de Vere had access to all the Shakespearean sources at a young age.

Re-reading the play, I was struck by Timon’s “ceremony” speech in the second scene:  “Nay, my lords, ceremony was but devised at first to set a gloss on faint deeds, hollow welcomes, recanting goodness, sorry ere ‘tis shown; but where there is true friendship, there needs none.”  (1.2.15-18) Timon’s attitude calls to mind Oxford’s letter to Robert Cecil on May 11, 1601, in which he describes himself as “a hater of ceremonies.”

Many researchers have contributed evidence and insight regarding Edward de Vere in relation to Timon of Athens.  Here’s some of their commentary:

Eva Turner Clark (who first linked The Historie of the Solitaire Knight to Timon of Athens):

“The play depicts Timon as being just as solitary in the midst of his grandeur as he later became in his cave in the woods … Not even Timon could have lived a life of greater luxury and grandeur than the young Earl of Oxford throughout his youth.  Is it to be wondered at that Edward de Vere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford, grew up without the slightest idea of the value of money? …

“Young Oxford’s mind had been filled by his elders with a love of art and scholarship, of excellence in tournament and the field of war, and there was no room in it for the humdrum, workaday world, with its counting of pounds, shillings and pence.  Nevertheless, as he pursued the objects for which he had been trained, he was made to feel the sting of financial demands continuously from the time he came of age.  It was when he reached a crisis in his affairs, economically and socially, that he wrote the cynical drama of The Solitary Knight, or Timon of Athens

“Doubtless it was because of this experience that Oxford adopted the idea of exposing his fellow courtiers by satire and burlesque, by the suggestion of warning and threat, which is to be found is many of his plays.  In other words, revenge animated him, and, while revenge is not one of the finer impulses, it is a very human instinct to demand satisfaction for an injury done.”

But Clark adds that later, as Oxford grew mentally and spiritually, his personal revenge motive widened and matured into an effort to “show up disloyalty of subjects and dishonesty of politicians, for the benefit of his Queen and for the good of his beloved country.”

[Hidden Alusions in Shakespeare’s Plays, 1931; new edition with extra notes by Ruth Miller, 1974]

Dorothy and Charlton Ogburn:

“One of the hereditary offices of the Earls of Oxford as Lords Great Chamberlain was that of the Ewry, or Water-Bearer to the Monarch.  It was purely honorary, a formal gesture of presenting water on state occasions when the Monarch sat at meat.  There is a direct reference to this [in Timon]: ‘One of Lord Timon’s men!  A gift, I warrant.  Why, this hits right; I dreamt of a silver basin and ewer tonight.’  It is recorded that in 1579 ‘the Queen’s New Year’s gift to th’earle of Oxfourde [was] a bason and ewer of our store..’  Timon’s bitter jest of serving his false friends and flatterers with covered dishes containing only warm water is thus particularly ironical, expressing, as it does, the scorn of the impoverished Lord Great Chamberlain.”

[This Star of England, 1952]

Charlton Ogburn, Jr:

“I rather think, though, that Timon of Athens as we know it owes more to the manifold adversities that overtook its author in the early 1580’s, when the sale of thirty tracts of land in five years left him stripped near as bare as Timon.”

[The Mysterious William Shakespeare, 1984]

William Farina:

“Reading de Vere’s personal connections to the story of Timon, it is not an overstatement to say that Shakespeare’s play tells the story of de Vere’s life.  As the late Anglo-Oxfordian critic Edward Holmes succinctly put it, ‘The play is closest to autobiography [of all the plays] … Timon is too raw, too real for comfort.  It was begun too close to the catastrophe which prompted it.  That must be why it was left artistically undigested, incomplete.’  Under this scenario, Shakespeare the writer (de Vere) was writing Timon because he had to emotionally and certainly not for commercial gain.  According to the Oxfordian view, this was a driven author who perhaps could not finish what he started.”

De Vere as Shakespeare: An Oxfordian Reading of the Canon, 2006

Finally I’d like to suggest that interested readers take a look at a fascinating essay Timon of Athens: Shakespeare’s Sophoclean Tragedy (in The Oxfordian, 2009) by Earl Showerman, current president of The Shakespeare Fellowship. [And please see his comment on this blog.]

Part Three of Reason No. 30 to Believe Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare”: His 1576 Letter from Siena etc…

Siena, Italy

Edward de Vere Lord Oxford wrote to William Cecil Lord Burghley from Siena, Italy on January 3, 1576, despondently observing he had “made an end to all hope to help myself by her Majesty’s service, considering that my youth is objected unto me, and for every step of mine a block is found to be laid in my way,” continuing several lines later:

“I am to content myself according to the English proverb that it is my hap to starve like the horse while the grass doth grow.”

The proverb – “While the grass grows the horse starves” – had been published in 1546 and again in 1562, the year Oxford turned twelve and, upon his father’s death, became a royal ward of the Queen in Burghley’s custody.  Composing his letter at nearly twenty-six in 1576, he recalled the proverb as though he had known it ever since his boyhood.

In the play of Hamlet, when Rosencrantz reminds the prince that “you have the voice of the king himself for your succession [on the throne] in Denmark,” he replies:

“Ay, sir, but while the grass grows – The proverb is something musty.”

The grass-horse proverb certainly would have been “musty” or outdated by the time Hamlet was written.  In any case, the references to it by the earl and the prince both occur automatically and spontaneously.  The two references to the proverb might as well have been identical reflex responses by the same man – the author, Oxford, in his letter to Burghley and in the voice of his most autobiographical creation.

(“Shakespeare” also uses the proverb in The Comedy of Errors, which may have been “The historie of Error” recorded as performed for the Queen by the Paul’s Boys – forerunner of Oxford’s Boys — at Hampton Court on New Year’s Day, January 1, 1577, just a year after Edward de Vere’s reference to the saying in his Siena letter.  Dromio of Syracuse speaks of Luciana, who has mistaken him for his twin brother: “She rides me, and I long for grass.”)

A street in Siena

In the same letter Oxford tells the Queen’s chief minister he is sorry to hear how hard my fortune is in England” – a plaint, William Plumer Fowler writes, that is “echoed over and over again in the Shakespeare works,” such as:

“It is my wretched fortune” – Othello, 4.2.128

“The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” – Hamlet, 3.1.57

“So I, made lame by fortune’s dearest spite” – Sonnet 37

And in the same sentence he tells Burghley he knows “how vain a thing it is to linger a necessary mischief – a thought, Fowler notes, “that is twice impressively echoed by Shakespeare, even to the inclusion of Oxford’s identical verb ‘linger’”:

“And linger not our sure destructions on!” – Troilus and Cressida, 5.10.9

“To linger out a purposed overthrow” – Sonnet 90

A view of Siena

“Thus I leave your Lordship to the protection of almighty God,” Oxford begins his conclusion of the Siena letter, “whom I beseech to send you long and happy life and better fortune to define your felicity in these your aged years…”

Oxford’s “striking” phrase “to define your felicity,” Fowler writes, “is noteworthy, first, for his use of the distinctive verb ‘define’ – one found but five times in Shakespeare, though quite similarly in reference to an abstract personal quality:

“Mad I call it; for to define true madness, what is’t but to be nothing else but mad?” – Polonius in Hamlet (2.2.92),using “define” in the infinitive, as Oxford does [though expressing a directly opposite thought].

“And for myself mine own worth do define” – Sonnet 62

To cite just one other example from an Oxford letter of May 18, 1591, the earl writes of having been “intercepted by these unlooked-for troubles,” using the “very distinctive” verb “intercepted,” Fowler notes, adding that Shakespeare uses it four times – as he does “rather similarly” in Titus Adronicus (2.3.80) when Lavinia, after coming upon Queen Tamora in her woodland tryst with Aaron, refers to her as “being intercepted in your sport.”

And Oxford’s use of “unlooked-for troubles” gives expression to a phrase and thought often voiced by Shakespeare – almost identically so in his outburst against Tarquin in The Rape of Lucrece: “Oh, unlooked-for evil, when virtue is profaned by such a devil!”

Shakespeare employs the “unlooked-for” compound participle nine times, as he does in Richard II (1.3.155): “A heavy sentence, my most sovereign liege, and all unlooked-for from your Highness’ mouth”; and in his antithetical phraseology in Sonnet 25: “Whilst I, whom fortune from such triumph bars,/ Unlooked-for, joy in that I honor most.”

Shakespeare Revealed in Oxford’s Letters by Fowler comprises some 900 pages containing similar correspondences with remarkably similar thoughts, words and phrases in Shakespeare; but we must err on the side of caution and warn none of the correspondences should be mistaken for proof – rather, they add up to further evidence.

In answer to a question from Ken Kaplan in the Comments section:

Fowler applies the same inductive analysis to five letters of William Stanley, Sixth Earl of Derby (1561-1642), Oxford’s son-in-law [husband of Elizabeth Vere], and concludes that Derby “had without question some share” in the writing of Shakespeare’s plays, particularly Love’s Labour’s Lost, Measure for Measure, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, All’s Well That Ends Well and Cymbeline – plays for which the French writers Abel Lefranc and George Lambin had given Derby sole credit.

The five letters that Fowler examined “afford definite evidence of collaboration between Oxford and Derby in certain plays, and/or of Derby’s editorial touch as one of the ‘Grand Possessors’ of the Shakespearean dramatic productions, during the nineteen years between the date of Oxford’s death in 1604 and the publication of the Folio in 1623.”

(Derby himself lived another nineteen years; at his death in 1642, he was eighty-one years old.)

Part Two of Reason No. 30 to Conclude that Oxford was “Shakespeare” — His Reaction in Words to the St. Bartholomew’s Day 1572 Massacre of Huguenots in France

The nearly fifty surviving letters Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford wrote to William Cecil Lord Treasurer  Burghley and his son, Principal Secretary Robert Cecil, are mostly about business matters, but in every line he spontaneously revealed himself as the most likely author of Shakespeare’s poems, plays and sonnets.

The contemporary artist Francois Dubois (b. 1529) painted this Huguenot view of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in 1572

Take, for example, his letter written in September 1572, after the Elizabethan Court received shocking and frightening news of the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre in Paris a few weeks earlier:  Admiral Coligny of France and thousands of his fellow Huguenots (French Protestants) had been slain; and Lord Oxford, 22, wrote an emotional letter to Lord Burghley, architect of the still-fragile Protestant Reformation in England:

“I would to God your Lordship would let me understand some of your news which here doth ring dolefully in the ears of every man, of the murder of the Admiral of France, and a great number of noble men and worthy gentlemen, and such as greatly in their lifetimes honoured the Queen’s majesty our mistress, on whose tragedies we have an number of French Aeneases in this city, that tell of their own overthrows with tears falling from their eyes, a piteous thing to hear but a cruel and far more grievous thing we must deem it them to see.  All rumours here are but confused, of those troops that are escaped from Paris, and Rouen, where Monsieur [the Ducke of Alencon] hath also been; and like a vesper Sicilianus, as they say, that cruelty spreads all over France …

Huguenot leader Admiral Gaspard De Coligny (1519-1572), slain by an assassin

“And since the world is so full of treasons and vile instruments, daily to attempt new and unlooked-for things, good my Lord, I shall affectionately and heartily desire your Lordship to be careful both of yourself and of her Majesty…

“And think if the Admiral in France was a eyesore or beam in the eyes of the papists, that the Lord Treasurer of England is a block and a crossbar in their way, whose remove they will never stick to attempt, seeing they have prevailed so well in others.  This estate hath depended on you a great while as all the world doth judge, and now  all men’s eyes, not being occupied any more on those lost lords, are as it were on a sudden bent and fixed on you, as a singular hope and pillar whereto the religion hath to lean.”

The above passages, spilled from Edward de Vere’s pen in the heat of the moment, is “Shakespearean” in dozens of ways.  In the Comments section for Part One of this post, for example, Ken Kaplan points out Oxford’s use of “hendiadys” [hen-dee-ah-dis] when he refers to the Lord Treasurer as the “hope and pillar” of the state; and in fact Shakespeare uses literally hundreds of hendiadys such as when Prince Hamlet, in his “to be or not to be” soliloquy, refers to the “whips and scorns” of time.

[“Hendiadys” — a figure of speech in which a complex idea is expressed by two words connected by a conjunction.   Modern examples would be “nice and warm” or “good and loud.”  Each pair represents a single concept, but often the second noun or adjective unpacks the meaning of the first — the way Oxford’s second word (“pillar”) expands on his first word (“hope”).]

Painting focused on the killing of Admiral Coligny by Franz Hogenberg (c. 1540- c. 1590)

A brilliantly cogent essay on Oxford-Shakespeare poetry and prose styles is “Appendix N” of Roger Stritmatter’s 2001 University of Massachusetts PhD dissertation on Edward de Vere’s 1568-70 Geneva bible and its handwritten annotations pointing to themes and passages in the Shakespeare works.  Dr. Stritmatter notes that in Oxford’s account of the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre there are many hendiadys (or similar kinds of conjunctions) such as “noble men and worthy gentlemen” … “a cruel and far more grievous thing” … “treasons and vile instruments” … “new and unlooked-for things” … “a eyesore or a beam” … “a block or a crossbar” … “bent and fixed” … “hope and pillar” — and more.

Oxford’s letter “reads like a sketch for a Shakespeare history play,” Dr. Stritmatter writes. “Envisioning the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre as a contemporary tragedy, shadowed by the allegorical precedent of Aeneas’ tragic exile from burning Troy, it paints a picture of the mise en scene in which the tragedy unfolds.  Appealing in alternating schema to senses of both sight and sound, it supplies a potent witness to Oxford’s powers of demonstratio, the literary figure by which ‘we apprehend [things] as though before our eyes.’  The iterated appeal to sight, and the organs of sight, could not be more ‘Shakespearean’: like the audience listening to Ophelia’s superlative portrait of the mad Hamlet (2.1.85-99), we are made to see ‘French Aeneases that tell of their overthrows with tears falling from their eyes.’  De Vere’s technique is precisely the same as that of ‘Shakespeare’…”

This is great stuff!  Can you feel the enthusiasm beneath Dr. Stritmatter’s measured statements?  I believe it’s because he still marvels at the power of Oxford’s (and Shakespeare’s) ability to create with words.

William Plumer Fowler observes in Shakespeare Revealed in Oxford’s Letters that the earl “slips into his tragic Shakespearean metaphor” of “French Aeneases” with remarkable ease, adding that “Aeneas, the hero of Vergil’s great epic, is mentioned as many as twenty-eight times by Shakespeare.”  Moreover his mention of the cruelty that “like a vesper Sicilianus … spreads all over France” refers to the murder of eight thousand French in Sicily three centuries earlier, a massacre that also had started during a pageant.  “It is noteworthy that Shakespeare too shows the same familiarity as Oxford’s with the vesper Sicilianus and its pageant,” Fowler writes, citing Antony’s warning in Antony and Cleopatra (4.13.3) that “Thou has seen these signs; they are black [ominous] vesper’s pageants.”

When Oxford laments that “the world is so full of treasons and vile instruments,” he appears to coin a phrase that “Shakespeare” will use later in Cymbeline (3.4.72) when Pisanio cries out, “Hence, vile instrument!”

His characterization of Admiral Coligny as “an eyesore or beam in the eyes of the papists” [his Catholic slayers] will be echoed in The Taming of the Shrew (3.2.101) when Baptista refers to “an eye-sore to our solemn festival” and when Tarquin in The Rape of Lucrece (205) says, “Yea, though I die, the scandal will survive, and be an eye-sore in my golden coat.”  And, for example, Gloucester in 1 Henry VI (1.1.10) will echo Oxford’s words when he says, “His brandish’d sword did blind men with his beams.”

“This most interesting early specimen” of Oxford’s letters, Fowler writes, “with “its multiplicity of parallelisms” and “such distinctive metaphors as ‘eye-sore,’ ‘beam,’ ‘block,’ and ‘crossbar'” serves to corroborate “that the Earl of Oxford, rather than the man from Stratford, was the true ‘Shakespeare,’ and that these letters of Oxford are really ‘Shakespeare’s,’ the name by which the talented dramatist will always be known.  Coincidence in the use of common phrases of speech can explain some parallelisms, but not any such tidal wave of them.”

We’ll take another look at Oxford’s letters in part three, wrapping up this reason to believe he was Shakespeare.

[Background Image: “The Two Henries” – Henry de Vere, eighteenth Earl of Oxford; and Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton – circa 1619]

Happy New Year 2012 from “The Monument” and “Shakesepeare’s Son and His Sonnets”

"The Monument" at Amazon.com

Happy New Year!  Thanks to all readers of this blog and to all who join us in the effort to break down the walls of denial about the true Shakespeare.  We are pleased to report that The Monument: “Shake-speare’s Sonnets” by Edward de Vere 17th Earl of Oxford is entering its eighth year of publication and continues as strongly as ever to communicate with readers in the U.S. and around the world.

"The Monument" on Kindle

And we are especially pleased to be reaching new readers of The Monument on Kindle, which includes the entire book of 900+ pages in its original format.  The same is true for our “overview” or “synopsis” version entitled Shake-Speare’s Son and His Sonnetsa title that indicates, in no uncertain terms, where we stand on the most controversial issue in the Oxfordian community — Prince Tudor!

"Shakespeare's Son and His Sonnets" at Amazon.com

Here’s a quick response I gave this morning to a reader of this blog who, in the comments section, asked about the Shakespeare Authorship Question as a conspiracy theory.  I told it as I see it:

“The traditional belief that ‘Shakespeare’ was a man from Stratford upon Avon is a powerful myth, which for many makes it difficult if not impossible to look at the facts clearly and without the tremendous pull of prior assumptions. A common attack on those who search for the truth is that they must be “snobs” who feel a commoner could not have written the great poems and plays; but the real snobs are those in academia who continue to ridicule and scoff as well as attack. If there is a conspiracy theory afoot, it’s the conspiracy of powerful entities such as the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the British tourism industry based on Stratford, along with the world of academia that includes educational institutions, academic credentials, peer-review publishing, teaching tools, textbook companies, the publishing and entertainment worlds — all working together to help each other continue making profits and staying in business. A lot is at stake. Follow the money.

“In the history itself, in my view, the only explanation for an attempt to deceive is that there existed a Prince Tudor — a possible heir by blood to the throne of England in succession to Elizabeth Tudor, the First Elizabeth and legendary Virgin Queen — who, if ‘Shakespeare’ was telling the truth in the Sonnets, was the son of Elizabeth and Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, raised as Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton, to whom ‘Shakespeare’ dedicated his work and for whom he created the Sonnets as a means of preserving the truth for posterity. It’s all right in front of us, just like so many other things in our lives that are standing in plain sight but go unacknowledged…”

I would add that there’s no other credible explanation for long-term concealment of the true author of the greatest works written in the English language or possibly in any language.  The works attributed to “Shakespeare” — the plays, yes, but especially the poems and sonnets — are the living containers of true history; and if the Earl of Oxford had been revealed as the author, it would not have taken long for the existence of a Prince Tudor — a Tudor heir — to become known and to ignite a new civil war around the throne.  There could have been no higher stakes for those in power and, too, for the stability of a nation.

Once again — Happy New Year to all!

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