Reason No. 45 Suggesting Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford wrote the Shakespeare Works: Oxford’s Echo Poem and the Echo Verse in William Shake-speare’s “A Lover’s Complaint”

This reason to believe that Edward de Vere was “Shakespeare” involves two poems — A Lover’s Complaint as by William Shake-speare (yes, hyphenated), printed in the 1609 quarto of SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS, and the Echo poem “Sitting Alone Upon My Thought”  in Verses Made by the Earl of Oxfordewritten circa 1581.  The similarities are unmistakable, in my view.  I also suggest that Oxford wrote the Complaint around the same time he wrote the Echo poem, or even earlier.  Here are the openings of each:

A Lover’s Complaint by William Shakespeare (1609)

From off a hill whose concave womb re-worded
A plaintful story from a sistering vale,
My spirits to attend this double voice accorded,
And down I laid to list the sad-tuned tale;
Ere long espied a fickle maid full pale,
Tearing of papers, breaking rings a-twain,
Storming her world with sorrow’s wind and rain.

Upon her head a platted hive of straw,
Which fortified her visage from the sun,
Whereon the thought might think sometime it saw
The carcass of beauty spent and done…

“Sitting Alone Upon My Thought” – From Verses Made by the Earl of Oxforde (1581?)

Sitting alone upon my thought in melancholy mood,
In sight of sea, and at my back an ancient hoary wood,
I saw a fair young lady come, her secret fears to wail,
Clad all in color of a nun, and covered with a veil;
Yet (for the day was calm and clear) I might discern her face,
As one might see a damask rose hid under crystal glass.

Three times, with her soft hand, full hard on her left side she knocks,
And sigh’d so sore as might have mov’d some pity in the rocks;
From sighs and shedding amber tears into sweet song she brake,
When thus the echo answered her to every word she spake…

And here is Edmund Spenser’s Ruins of Time (1591), with remarkable similarities:

It chaunced me one day beside the Shore
Of silver streaming Thamesis to be,
Nigh where the goodly Verlame stood of yore,
Of which there now remains no Memory,
Nor any little Monument to see;
By which the Traveller, that fares that way,
This once was she, may warned be to say.

There, on the other side, I did behold
A Woman sitting sorrowfully wailing,
Rending her yellow Locks, like wiry Gold,
About her Shoulders carelesly down trailing,
And Streams of Tears from her fair Eyes forth railing:
In her right Hand a broken Rod she held,
Which towards Haven she seem’d on high to weld.

All three poems center around the mysterious maiden sitting alone and weeping tears…

The Stratfordian model dictates that “Shake-speare” must have seen Spenser’s Ruins of Time before writing his Complaint; but Oxford had written his Echo poem far earlier than 1591, so the likelihood is quite the reverse, i.e., that Spenser borrowed from him!  And if Oxford had also written A Lover’s Complaint much earlier, then Spenser might have borrowed from that poem as well!  The mind boggles at the thought of how much rewriting of history will have to be done once Edward de Vere is recognized as Shakespeare…

(For some wonderful insights see this article by William J. Ray on Oxford’s poetry and his website The Poetry and Thought of W.J.)

An Oxfordian Journal: Chapter 9: “What If You Found Out That Shakespeare Was Somebody Else?”

Up in that office in the Congress Building in Portland, Maine, in the spring of 1987, the Shakespeare biographies were set aside and I continued to work on my one-act play.  If you just keep on writing, putting one word after the other, eventually the words will take on a separate life and go their own way.  One morning I found myself writing the imaginary dialogue of an elderly man I had known in New York City, a guy who had been a casting agent and a small-time producer.  He was saying things that sounded just like that old man I’d known in my acting days.

That agent-producer was a weaver of illusions.  When the actors came into his office, young and old, he would tell them he was working on a new movie – which, in fact, never existed.  He had a partner, Monroe, with an office in Hollywood, and they were making a new movie to be shot in Brooklyn and Manhattan.  He was expecting a call from Monroe very soon, after which Monroe would fly east for a personal visit — a visit right here, in this very office, where they would hold auditions; so leave your photos and resumes and we’ll make sure to call you.  And so on – until, as I kept pace with the old guy’s dialogue that seemed to keep flowing on its own, my play left the White House entirely and began to gain life in that casting office with its walls covered with old photos of Frank Sinatra and Jerry Lewis and Judy Garland.

Two other characters emerged – David, based on myself, and Eileen, based on a few women who had been in my life.  I felt comfortable with them and the environment.  And as I kept on inventing dialogue and action, aspects of their characters automatically changed and grew until I began to believe in them as real-life individuals on the page.  I kept writing and re-writing, trying to find the most “dynamic” structure, as I called it, and soon, to get help, I enrolled in a workshop called Playwrights Platform with actors and writers meeting in Boston every Sunday evening.

In the workshop I met up with Charles Boyle, a fellow actor and writer who would play the role of David during a Boston theater festival that summer.  At one point he turned to me said, “What have you been reading, up there in Maine?”

“Well, actually I’ve read some biographies of Shakespeare.”

“What for?”

“I wanted to learn about his creative process.  How did he have such confidence in himself?  How did he put himself into all those incredible characters in the royal courts and palaces – Prince Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Henry the Fifth?  He must have been a complete genius, but, still, he had to have some way of working…”

“So what did you learn?”

“Well, nothing … absolutely nothing.”

Charles was smiling.  “Nothing?”

“The biographers all say we know so much about Shakespeare, but they must mean his life in Stratford.  In London, when he was acting and writing, we have his name on poems and plays, and we have other people referring to his name, but behind the name there’s no life, no living person.”

“What if you found out he was someone else?”

“Who?  Shakespeare?”

“Yeah.”

I stared at him.  “What do you mean?”

“What if the real writer had to be hidden?  What if he was in the government, high up in rank, writing behind a pen name?  What if he was a man who wrote for the Queen and her Court, like Hamlet does?  And what if he wrote for the Crown during wartime?   What if he was secretly helping England in the war with Spain?”

One of the Elizabethan age’s University Wits who received financial aid, guidance and inspiration from the Earl of Oxford

I could follow what Charles was saying, but it made little sense.  I found myself squirming and wanting to cut off the conversation.  When he uttered the word “propaganda” I interrupted to say no, no, please, Shakespeare did not write propaganda – he was a dramatist, a creative artist.  Charles agreed, but he pointed out that the U.S. government during World War II had its own propaganda department, turning out patriotic newspapers and magazines, not to mention inspirational newsreels.  He reminded me that many folks who worked in that wartime public relations office went on, in peacetime, to become great writers and directors.

Well, yeah, but it didn’t sit right with me.

Soon Charles sent me copies of four or five pages from The Mysterious William Shakespeare: The Myth and the Reality, by Charlton Ogburn, Jr., published just three years earlier, in 1984.  The material had to do with Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, who had gathered around him a large circle of writers (known in history as the “university wits”) during wartime…

Published in: Uncategorized on August 22, 2012 at 11:15 pm  Comments (2)  
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An Oxfordian Journal: Chapter 8: The Fragile Stratfordian Universe

One morning long ago I looked up from the newspaper and saw our cat, Ruffles, in the hall.  He was crossing past the kitchen doorway from left to right.  I turned back to the paper, but two seconds later I glanced up again and saw Ruffles make the same crossing.  What I had seen, of course, was impossible – there had not been time enough for him to race backward and walk by once more.  So I automatically started shuffling my thoughts to make sense of it.

There was extreme urgency, even panic, in this frantic shuffling of the brain deck.  In an instant I had begun to doubt my sanity.  The impossible is intolerable unless explained.  Even a miracle has to be accounted for, especially if God didn’t perform it.  I needed a reasonable explanation and needed it fast.  Was something wrong with my eyes?  Had I experienced a flash of double vision?  Had the cat leaped back, when I wasn’t looking, and then paraded by again in the same direction?

I was putting the pieces of the universe – this tiny universe bounded by the kitchen, doorway and hall – back together before it exploded.  Thankfully, however, my daughters came to the rescue by discovering I’d actually seen not one cat but two!  Ruffles had come through the front door in the hall and had walked past the kitchen doorway, only to be followed by another cat looking exactly like him!  How that had happened wasn’t important – a long lost twin, perhaps; but the crucial part was that there was, in fact, an explanation.  The universe had returned to normal.

In the years after living in Portland, Maine, trying to write a play set inside the White House and reading those biographies of the traditional Shakespeare, to see how he managed to set so many plays inside those royal palaces and courts, my thoughts would go back to that morning when my brain had scrambled to make possible what seemed to be impossible.  That’s what the biographers were doing – they had to.  That was their job, nay, their profession, and they had to make sense of things.  To do that, the contents of the plays and poems had to be “dumbed down” to fit within the tiny Stratfordian universe; and by the same token, the magical or miraculous side of the author’s invisible “genius” had to be inflated to godlike proportions.

Marchette Chute in Shakespeare of London (1949) wrote that Shakespeare’s acting company “put on about fifteen new plays a year and Shakespeare, as a regular acting member of the company, must have appeared in most of them.”  Not a single notice of any Shakespeare performance has ever been found (unless you count the legend of him playing the Ghost in Hamlet), but no matter – the point is that, if Ms. Chute is correct, and Shakespeare was memorizing and rehearsing and acting day in and day out, not to mention traveling with the troupe, how did he have any time left over to write all those plays, poems and sonnets as well?

The answer, to make the universe come back to normal, is that Shakespeare stood apart from his writing labors.  There was no need for blood, sweat and tears.  He simply let his “imagination” flow from his head and heart into his arm and finally down to the hand that held his pen, moving it across the page.  It all happened virtually without his need to be there.

He also had no need to be involved in the social or religious or political events and issues of his time. Hamlet tells Polonius that the actors are “the abstract and brief chronicles of the time,” that is, they deliver reports and commentaries about persons and events of contemporary England, with members of the audience being ever alert for such allusions.  But the image of Shakespeare conjured by Marchette Chute could not bear this additional burden, lest the universe fall apart, so she tells us:

“Shakespeare was almost the only playwright of the period who saw no need to comment on contemporary London in his plays, and he did not share Hamlet’s view that a playwright should chronicle his own time.”

Marchette Chute, fourth from left, in 1954, preparing for a Book-and-Author Dinner in the garden of the Valentine Museum in Richmond, Virginia

Folks, there it is – the traditional version of Shakespeare as the man from Stratford must stand above and beyond his own environment and times.  He stands outside it all, channeling inspiration from the gods.  And he stands not only apart from contemporary London, but, also, from his own experiences and thoughts and emotions.  Ms. Chute offers this example of how he could create the agony and madness of Lear while otherwise playing solitaire and calmly tending his garden:

“It has sometimes been said that Shakespeare’s plays mirror his life; but King Lear was written at a time when the country was prosperous and at peace and Shakespeare himself seems to have had no troubles of either a business or a personal nature.”

Shakespeare was happy when he created the cries of Lear.  Why not?  Moreover, Ms. Chute adds (in the same way she might explain how the cat passed by twice), he was sad when he went for the laughs:

“It was in the difficult years of the late 1590’s, when a depression had gripped England and his only son had died, that Shakespeare wrote his radiant series of light lyric comedies.”

The Birthplace, in 1892, at the height of the Victorian enshrinement of Shakespeare’s nativity in Stratford upon Avon

[The truth of the matter (just as there was no miracle but, rather, two cats instead of one) is (1) the first “Shakespearean” version of King Lear had been created years earlier, at least by 1589, reflecting the true author’s anger and agony over having been betrayed; and (2) the first versions of those comedies had originated as satires on current events, during the latter 1570’s and early 1580’s, when they had been performed in the relative privacy of the royal court.]

Meanwhile, in the spring of 1987, having given up all hope of comprehending Shakespeare and learning anything about his method of working, I abandoned the White House as the setting for my play.  Instead I began again, this time placing the action of the play inside my version of a casting office in New York that I had known during my acting days.

The hell with it, I thought.  I’ll start over again, this time with a setting where I feel at home.

An Oxfordian Journal: Chapter 7: A “Life” of Shakespeare: Painting the Portrait of a Ghost

One biography I read in the spring of 1987 was A Life of Shakespeare (1923), by Joseph Quincy Adams, Jr. (1880-1946), a descendant of two American presidents, John Adams and John Quincy Adams.  After writing his Life he helped with the founding of the Folger Shakespeare Library (Washington, D.C.) in 1931, becoming its first director in 1936.

Joseph Quincy Adams, Jr. (1880-1946), a distinguished scholar who, in 1936, became the first director of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C.

I still admire Adams and his scholarship.  Writing about Shakespeare in London, he tried mightily to paint the portrait of a ghost.  It’s so well done you have to go back to see how he did it.  For example, he cites “evidence that he [Shakespeare] read extensively in the modern writers of France and Italy” – evidence, of course, found in the plays!  “That he should acquire a reading knowledge of French and Italian, living as he did in an atmosphere surcharged with the Renaissance literature of the Continent, may be regarded as inevitable.”  [My emphasis]

Inevitable, sure!  I bought it, too!  And on the same page we find that “how much this study of native and foreign literature contributed to his rapidly developing genius cannot well be estimated, but its influence is quickly apparent, for almost at once he turned his pen to imitation, and produced works that placed his name in the front rank of contemporary artists.” [My emphasis again]  Okay, okay!  No information about his creative process here, but, hey, how would I know Adams was trying to figure out (and then describe) how the wrong guy was the right guy?  I mean, for an honest scholar to do that must have taken a lot of intelligence and determination.  Seriously.

The name of Shakespeare was hyphenated as Shake-speare by the publisher and/or printer of the Sonnets in 1609 — indicating the likelihood of a pen name

He had started his Life with the significance of Shakespeare’s name.  At the time, I did not imagine it might be a pen name!  But, in retrospect, I can appreciate the irony – a truly great scholar inadvertently pointing out that Shakespeare just happened to have the perfect pseudonym:

“’What’s in a name?’ petulantly asks Juliet.  The answer is, as every student of the subject knows: In some names, little or nothing; in others, possibly a great deal.  The latter alternative seems to be the case with the name of our most distinguished English poet.

“In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as today, the word ‘Shakespeare’ unquestionably suggested to the mind of everyone what its two syllabic elements so clearly indicate – military prowess.  But the suggestion was then far more obvious than now, for the age was nearer to chivalry, and the phrase ‘the shaking of the spear’ was almost as commonplace as expressing the doughtiness [steadfast courage] of warriors.”

Adams cites Verstegan, in Of the Surnames of our Ancient Families (1605), writing that “Breakpear, Shakspear, and the like, have been names imposed upon the first bearers of them for valour and feats of arms.”  He also cites Thomas Fuller in Worthies of Warwickshire (1662), who noted that Shakespeare was ‘Martiall in the Warlike sound of his Sur-name (whence some may conjecture him of a Military extraction), Histri-vibrans or Shake-speare.”

Within the next few years I’d look back through the Stratfordian biographies to find any trace of Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford; and in the Adams book his name appeared rather late in the story, but in retrospect the information is dynamite:

Edward Somerset, 4th Earl of Worcester (1553-1628), whose acting company was joined with Oxford’s troupe in 1602, by special permission of the Queen

“For many years the Chamberlain’s and the Admiral’s companies were the only adult troupes ‘allowed’ by the Privy Council to perform regularly in London.  But in the spring of 1602 the Earl of Worcester’s Men and the Earl of Oxford’s Men, who had been ‘joined by agreement together in one company,’ thereafter called Worcester’s Men, secured through the ‘suit of the Earl of Oxford’ the permission of the Queen likewise to play in the city.

“On March 31, 1602, the Privy Council, under special orders from the Queen, wrote to notify the Lord Mayor of the ‘allowance’ of the new company.”  The orders assigned the new company to play at the Boar’s Head, an inn situated in Whitechapel, because that was “the place they have especially used, and do best like of.”

William Kempe, one of the most famous “clowns” of the Elizabethan era, performing the “Morris” dance

The new company included actors who had “seceded from the Chamberlain’s Men soon after the Globe was erected” – why so, Adams does not say – and these included the famous William Kempe, Christopher Beeston and others who were “all excellent actors, favorably known to the public.”

And here’s some information from Adams (the truth of which I’m not sure) with even more retrospective dynamite:  Just six months later, the new company of Oxford’s and Worcester’s Men “secured the use of the Rose playhouse recently abandoned by the Admiral’s Men,” and at the same time “engaged Henslowe, with all his experience, to serve as their business-manager.”  Adams adds that “within a few years” the new company “moved to a new and larger playhouse, the Red Bull, erected for them to the north of the city.”

It’s unclear whether Adams had read J. Thomas Looney’s book Shakespeare Identified, published three years earlier, in 1920, introducing Oxford.  Nonetheless Adams reported that the earl was still involved in theatrical activity at age fifty-two and that he himself had gotten special permission from Elizabeth for the new company to perform in London.

When I was reading all this, of course, none of the Oxford stuff made an impression on me.  Having begun to write my play set inside the White House, having learned nothing about how Shakespeare was able to write so believably and confidently about events inside those royal palaces, I set aside the biographies.

One thing for sure, whether I thought about it or not:  Edward de Vere was no ghost.

Published in: Uncategorized on August 15, 2012 at 9:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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An Oxfordian Journal: Chapter 6: Shakespeare’s “Dramatic Remoteness From His Own Personality”

While reading biographies of Shakespeare to learn something about his creative process, I never figured the whole story might be wrong.

“A Life of William Shakespeare” by Joseph Quincy Adams (1923) is filled with solid information, and for that reason I recommend it, even though he creates a fictional biography of an imaginary poet-dramatist.

The books included  A Life of Shakespeare (1898) by Sir Sidney Lee … Shakespeare of London (1949) by Marchette Chute …  A Life of William Shakespeare (1923) by Joseph Quincy Adams [the best, I’d say] … and Shakespeare, A Biography (1963) by A. L. Rowse.

I read how we know more about Shakespeare than about any other writer of his time, but later I’d learn that this claim is untrue.  [Yes, we know about his non-writing activities in Stratford, but as a writer in London he’s no more than a printed name and we know nothing.  The trouble is that the biographers kept trying to stitch together the dreary stuff from Stratford with the chronology of the name — or pen name, I should say.]

The biographers claimed they restricted themselves to contemporary records, but later I’d learn that this, too, is not the case.  [The padding consisted of historical details about places and things, but these topics were entirely unrelated to the author as a person.  And so he “must have” or “might have” or “probably” or “undoubtedly” became involved with those impersonal details.]

Yet I never doubted that Will of Stratford was the true Shakespeare.   It never occurred to me to question the accepted story.  I never bothered to care about it, either.  I just kept reading biographies and experiencing a strange  emptiness.

“Shakespeare: His Mind and Art” (1875) by Edward Dowden

Then in another store I found a copy of Shakspere: His Mind and Art * (1875) by Edward Dowden, and boy did that title get me excited!  I’ve finally hit pay dirt, I thought.  I’m about to discover how Shakespeare’s mind worked and how he created his works of art!  

* Because of the Stratford spelling, it was always “Shakspere” and not “Shakespeare,” but, amid growing doubts about the authorship, such honesty was eventually abandoned.

What I found, however, was confusing and disconcerting.  The idea was that while Shakespeare may have had all kinds of turbulent thoughts and emotions inside him, he nonetheless never let himself get carried away by them.  So he stood apart from his great tragic characters in Othello and King Lear and Macbeth and Hamlet, even while channeling his turbulence into them.  Then he left London and returned to Stratford and put all his affairs in order.  I pictured him on his porch, in a rocker, calm and serene and satisfied in his peaceful retirement.

(I’d learn later that the truth was quite the opposite!)

This image of the retired poet-dramatist reminded me of my own beloved grandfather, a mild-mannered accountant, who always had his affairs in order.  And I think what bothered me was that Dowden’s portrait was not, in my experience, that of an artist.  It was not my idea of what the creator of Prince Hamlet must have been like as a person.

Edward Dowden (1843-1913)

Most of the great writers I admired had experienced the turbulence — Eugene O’Neil or Scott Fitzgerald or Edward Albee and so on.  Only Shakespeare, the greatest, could completely separate his life and work.

“The man actually discoverable behind the plays was a man tempted to passionate extremes, but of strenuous will,” Dowden wrote, “and whose highest self pronounced in favor of sanity.  Therefore he resolved that he would set to rights his material life, and he did so.  And again he resolved that he would bring into harmony with the highest facts and laws of the world his spiritual being.”

And when he retired to Stratford he attained “self-mastery” that was “large, luminous, and calm.”

Dowden believed Shakespeare wrote Timon of Athens as one of his last works.  When the play opens Timon is a wealthy young nobleman who has proved to be a generous friend, a considerate master, a lavish patron of the arts and an extravagant entertainer – a portrait, I’d eventually learn, that exactly fits the young nobleman Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford.  When Timon’s creditors come after him (as Oxford’s creditors came after him) and his friends refuse to help him, he becomes enraged and embittered (as Oxford became).

Dowden made a mighty effort to explain why Shakespeare would write such a play in the first place — and, too, why he would do so near the very end of his labors:

“In the character of Timon, Shakspere gained dramatic remoteness from his own personality.”  [My emphasis]

Can you imagine what I felt when reading that statement?

By writing that play, Dowden declared, Shakespeare “attained self-possession, and could transfer himself with real disinterestedness into the person of the young Athenian favorite of fortune.” [My italics]

This was fascinating to me.  I may not have understood it, but I believed it!  And now the pay dirt:

“This, in more than one instance, was Shakespeare’s method – having discovered some single central point of sympathy between his chief character and his past or present self, to secure freedom from all mere lyrical intensity by studying that one common element under conditions remote from those which had ever been proper or peculiar to himself.”  [My emphasis]

To illustrate his theme, Dowden offered the following information:  “In 1604, when he was a wealthy man, William Shakespeare brought an action against Philip Rogers, in the Court of Stratford, for 1 pound, 15 shillings and 10d, being the price of malt sold and delivered to him at different times.”

This legal action to collect little more than a pound demonstrates that he was “practical, positive, and alive to material interests.”  [That’s one way to put it.]  Moreover, Dowden continued, “About the same time that he brought his action against Philip Rogers for the price of malt, the poet was engaged upon his Othello and his Lear.”

Really?  I tried to imagine it.  Well … such was Edward Dowden’s attempt in 1875 to bridge the vast gap between the un-Lear-like existence of the Stratford man with the cries of pain and suffering expressed so powerfully and realistically by “William Shakespeare.”

I’ll tell a little more about what I read in those biographies back in 1987, before moving on.

Reason No. 44 Why Oxford = “Shakespeare” – Part Two: Their Lines of Poetry Suggest a Common Source

Here’s are the lines of poetry I listed in Part One, but this time with their attributions to “Shakespeare” or Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford:

Who taught thee how to make me love thee more

The more I hear and see just cause of hate?

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 150, lines 9-10

In constant truth to bide so firm and sure

= Oxford, Rawlinson MS, “Earl of Oxenforde”

Oaths of thy love, thy truth, thy constancy

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 152, line 10

In true plain words by thy true telling friend

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 82, line 12

To scorn the world regarding but thy friends

Who taught thee first to sigh, alas, my heart?

Who taught thy tongue the woeful words of plaint?

= Oxford, Rawlinson MS, “Earl of Oxenforde”

If women would be fair, and yet not fond

Or that their love were firm and not fickle still

= Oxford, Britton’s Bower of Delights

For if I should despair, I should go mad

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 140, line 9

And shall I live on th’earth to be her thrall?

= Oxford, Paradise of Dainty Devices, “E.O.”, 1576

A torment thrice threefold thus to be crossed

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 133, line 8

And since my mind, my wit, my head, my voice, and tongue are weak

= Oxford, Paradise of Dainty Devices, “E.O.”, 1576

My love is strengthened, though more weak in seeming

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 102, line 1

If care or skill could conquer vain desire

Or reason’s reins my strong affection stay

= Oxford, Paradise of Dainty Devices, “E.O.” in 1577 edition

Past cure I am, now reason is past care

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 147, line 9

My death delayed to keep from life the harm of hapless days

= Oxford, Paradise of Dainty Devices, “E.O.”, 1576

Desire is death, which physic did except

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 147, line 8

I saw a fair young lady come, her secret fears to wail

= Oxford, “Verses made by the Earle of Oxforde,” Rawlinson MS

A plaintful story from a sistering vale

= Shakespeare, A Lover’s Complaint, line 2

I have many notes indicating similarities between the writings attributed to Oxford and “Shakespeare” — for example —

Here are the first two lines of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 66:

Tired with all these, for restful death I cry:

As, to behold desert a beggar born

And Oxford, whose motto was “Nothing Truer than Truth,” wrote this line:

Experience of my youth, made think humble truth

In deserts born

Shakespeare wrote in Sonnet 89:

As I’ll myself disgrace; knowing thy will,

I will acquaintance and look strange,

Be absent from thy walks, and in my tongue

Thy sweet beloved name no more shall dwell.

And Oxford wrote:

Thus farewell, friend: I will continue strange,

Thou shalt not hear by word or writing aught.

Let it suffice, my vow shall never change;

As for the rest, I leave it to thy thought.

Shakespeare wrote in Sonnet 114:

And my great mind most kingly drinks it up

And Oxford wrote:

My mind to me a kingdom is 

I could cite hundreds of such examples of similar words or themes.

Question: What is it that blocks the scholars and teachers of Shakespeare from delving into this material and exploring its riches?  Even if they cannot bring themselves to allow for even the possibility that Oxford and Shakespeare were the same man, what stops them from trying to find the links from one (Oxford in the 1560’s, 1570’s and 1580’s) to the other (Shakespeare in the 1590’s onward)?

Answer: Consciously or unconsciously, they are afraid to run smack into a nasty paradigm shift, in which case the Shakespearean world they have known will look entirely different in the morning….

Wikipedia Entry for “Palgrave’s Golden Treasury” is Corrected

Thanks to William J. Ray for correcting Wikipedia’s entry for Palgrave’s Golden Treasury — after reading the previous post on this blog, pointing out that Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford had been omitted from the list of authors.  Let’s hope the problem stays corrected.

Wikipedia Omits Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford from Its List of Poets Included in “Palgrave’s Golden Treasury” — An Oversight That Must Be Corrected!

Visitors to this blog site will surely correct me if I am wrong (and believe me, I’d like to be wrong), but it appears to me that Wikipedia’s entry for Palgrave’s Golden Treasury (1861) omits Edward de Vere, the seventeenth Earl of Oxford from its list of authors in Book One!  Here is the list of poets on the Wikipedia page:

Book I (Palgrave)

William Alexander, 1st Earl of Stirling – Richard Barnefield – Thomas Campion – Samuel Daniel – Thomas Dekker – Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex – John Donne – Michael Drayton – William Drummond – W. Drummond of Hawthornden – Richard Greene – Thomas Heywood – Thomas Lodge – John Lylye – Christopher Marlowe – Thomas Nashe – William Shakespeare – Sir Philip Sidney – Edmund Spenser – The Shepherd Tonie – Joshua Sylvester – John Webster – Sir Thomas Wyatt

And here is the actual entry in Palgrave’s Treasury, Book One, on page 30 — opposite the name of “W. Shakespeare” facing it on page 31! — as printed by A.L. Burt Company, Publishers, under the heading The Golden Treasury: The Best Songs and Lyrical Poems in the English Language; Selected and Arranged with Notes by Francis Turner Palgrave, Late Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford; with a dedication by Palgrave to Alfred Tennyson, Poet Laureate:

(CLICK ON THE IMAGE OF THE PAGES TO ENLARGE IT):

I have long thought that Palgrave, who is considered the founder of the Public Record Office, either knew or suspected that Edward de Vere and Shakespere were one and the same poet.  In any case, this is an important entry for Oxfordians, since the earl’s poem in the Treasury is the very piece of evidence that started J. Thomas Looney on the trail that led to his landmark book “Shakespeare” Identified in Edward de Vere, Seventeenth Earl of Oxford in 1920.

If anyone can report back that I’m in error about Wikipedia’s omission, please do so!  I cannot say that I’m shocked, because Wikipedia has been blatantly hostile to the Shakespeare authorship question and to the Oxfordian view in particular; but, well, it’s pretty shocking!

A cover page for the Golden Treasury

The poems in Palgrave’s Treasury [See  the Project  Gutenberg] are listed as numbers 41 and 42 as follows:

41. A RENUNCIATION.

If women could be fair, and yet not fond,

Or that their love were firm, not fickle still,

I would not marvel that they make men bond

By service long to purchase their good will;

But when I see how frail those creatures are,

I muse that men forget themselves so far.

To mark the choice they make, and how they change,

How oft from Phoebus they do flee to Pan;

Unsettled still, like haggards wild they range,

These gentle birds that fly from man to man;

Who would not scorn and shake them from the fist,

And let them fly, fair fools, which way they list?

Yet for disport we fawn and flatter both,

To pass the time when nothing else can please,

And train them to our lure with subtle oath,

Till, weary of their wiles, ourselves we ease;

And then we say when we their fancy try,

To play with fools, O what a fool was I!

E. VERE, EARL OF OXFORD.

42.  MADRIGAL

Blow, blow, thou winter wind,

Thou art not so unkind

As man’s ingratitude;

Thy tooth is not so keen,

Because thou art not seen,

Although thy breath be rude.

Heigh ho! sing heigh ho! unto the green holly:

Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:

Then, heigh ho! the holly!

This life is most jolly.

Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,

That dost not bite so nigh

As benefits forgot:

Though thou the waters warp,

Thy sting is not so sharp

As friend remember’d not.

Heigh ho! sing heigh ho! unto the green holly:

Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:

Then heigh ho, the holly!

This life is most jolly.

W. SHAKESPEARE. 

[Note:  The Wikipedia entry does manage to include — and virtually bury — Oxford’s name within a huge list of poets in a 1994 edition.  The important question is how and why the name of Edward de Vere was omitted from the list of poets in the original 1861 edition.]

Reason No. 44 Why Edward, Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare”: (Part One): His Youthful Poetry

Throughout these “reasons” I’ve often included the poetry of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, but this time his verse stands on its own.  Those who believe in the traditional Shakespearean biography – and, yes, it’s a belief – love to sneer at Oxford’s poetry, declaring it grossly inferior.

What the critics may not realize, however, is that much of Edward de Vere’s signed poetry was published in The Paradise of Dainty Devices of 1576, when he was twenty-six, and that he actually may have written it by age sixteen.  On the other hand, none of the young “Shakespeare’s” poetry has ever been found.

Could it be that Oxford’s youthful poetry is in fact the missing early work – the missing evidence of apprenticeship – written by the young Shakespeare?  I suggest the answer is yes.  I suggest if we went looking for evidence of Shakespeare’s early poetry, his trials and errors along the way to maturity as a poet, the verses attributed to Edward de Vere when he was young are exactly what we should expect to find.

I also suggest the other side of that coin seems true as well: that Shakespeare’s poems and sonnets are exactly what we should expect from the pen of the older, more mature Edward de Vere; and that, in fact, Oxford’s mature poetry was published under the “Shakespeare” pen name.

Louis P. Benezet of Dartmouth (1876-1961), a pioneer in the reform of American education, once created a string of lines attributed to “Shakespeare” and mixed them with lines attributed to the Earl of Oxford; then he challenged colleagues to guess which lines were from which author.  If they failed to guess correctly, the next question was:

“Do you think it’s possible that all those lines came from the same poet?”

Following is a small version of that test, using some of Benezet’s lines but mostly new ones that I’ve thrown into the mix.  I know – it’s not scientific, and it proves nothing; but if you like, try guessing which lines come from “Shakespeare” and which from Oxford:

Who taught thee how to make me love thee more

The more I hear and see just cause of hate?

In constant truth to bide so firm and sure

Oaths of thy love, thy truth, thy constancy

In true plain words by thy true telling friend

To scorn the world regarding but thy friends

Who taught thee first to sigh, alas, my heart?

Who taught thy tongue the woeful words of plaint?

If women would be fair, and yet not fond

Or that their love were firm and not fickle still

For if I should despair, I should go mad

And shall I live on th’earth to be her thrall?

A torment thrice threefold thus to be crossed

And since my mind, my wit, my head, my voice, and tongue are weak

My love is strengthened, though more weak in seeming

If care or skill could conquer vain desire

Or reason’s reins my strong affection stay

Past cure I am, now reason is past care

My death delayed to keep from life the harm of hapless days

Desire is death, which physic did except

I saw a fair young lady come, her secret fears to wail

A plaintful story from a sistering vale

(I’ll include the answers in Part Two of this Reason.)

Oxfordian Journal Chapter 5: My First Plunge Into the Strangely Elusive and Disappearing Life of Shakespeare

Reading through A Life of Shakespeare (1898) by Sidney Lee, I experienced an unfamiliar foreboding:  He’s not going to tell about Shakespeare’s creative process.  No, the premonition was even worse:  He’s not going to tell anything about the man himself.

A modern edition of the sturdy little used book I had bought in Portland, Maine, a copy signed by its original owner, W. E. Hart, in 1899

The more I learned about Shakespeare, the less I knew:  By the final page, I’m going to know even less than I did in the first place!  It wasn’t that the biographer was failing to tell things; he was filling nearly five hundred pages; but how was it that the more I read, the faster Shakespeare was disappearing?

I kept waiting for a quote from some guy who shared a mug with him at the Mermaid Tavern and recalled what he looked like … what he wore … what he said … anything!  When I learned that Shakespeare might have played the Ghost in his own play about Hamlet, I thought:  That makes sense.  He was already invisible!

Early on I read that in his plays Shakespeare exhibited quite a bit of knowledge about the life of a soldier; but, according to Lee, that knowledge “is no greater and no less than that which he displayed of almost all other spheres of human activity, and to assume that he wrote all or any from practical experience is to underrate his intuitive power of realizing life under almost every aspect by force of his imagination.” [My emphases]

Sir Sidney Lee (1859-1926), who wrote some 800 articles for the Dictionary of National Biography — including bios of both “Shakespeare” and Edward de Vere!

Okay, I thought, I get it.  Well, yes and no … actually … no. 

If Shakespeare attended the Stratford grammar school, his father’s financial difficulties “caused his removal from school at an unusually early age.”  This was not too promising for a kid on his way to becoming the greatest writer of the English language.  “Probably in 1577, when he was thirteen, he was enlisted by his father in an effort to restore his decaying fortunes.”

And so he became … a butcher’s apprentice. 

“At the end of 1582 Shakespeare, when little more than eighteen and a half years old, took a step which was little calculated to lighten his father’s anxieties.  He married.”  His wife (Anne Hathaway), eight years his senior, was pregnant with their first child (Susanna), born in 1583.  Then came twins (Hamnet and Judith) in 1585.  And just one year after that, Lee reported, he walked out on the whole family:

“To London Shakespeare naturally drifted, doubtless trudging thither on foot during 1586 … “

High Street, Southwark, in Elizabethan times

He naturally drifted.  I pictured him floating out the front door, leaving them all behind, and trudging down the dirt road through the hills and valleys toward the big city, ninety-two miles away, a journey of several days.  My heart began to beat faster, because … just over the horizon … very soon … there was going to be a very big turn in the plot … Shakespeare was going to write so much great poetry and drama it’s a wonder he’d be able to buy all that ink and parchment … and this is Sidney Lee’s chance to tell how the great author did it.

Shakespeare was “a homeless youth” in London at this point, Lee wrote, and his first job at a playhouse must have been a “mean” or lowly one.  But – “His intellectual capacity and the amiability with which he turned to account his versatile powers were probably soon recognized, and thenceforth his promotion was assured.”

Interior of the Swan Playhouse, sketched by Dutch traveler Johannes de Witt in 1596

He became an actor.   He’d remain a busy member of that profession during most of his life.  He would be acting in the afternoons and otherwise rehearsing new parts and memorizing new lines.  He’d be traveling all over England with the play company.  He’d barely have time for costume fittings, not to mention eating and sleeping.

Lee reported that in 1591, at twenty-seven, just nine years after becoming a butcher’s apprentice … and just five years after “naturally drifting” to London … Shakespeare wrote the early version of his sophisticated Court comedy Love’s Labours Lost.

And Lee skipped right over the subject of Shakespeare’s creative process!

Shakespeare had time to revise the play before it was performed for Her Highness in 1597 and published the next year…

Love’s Labour’s Lost was chock full of “keen observation of contemporary life in many ranks of society, both in town and country, while the speeches of the hero Biron clothed much sound philosophy in masterly rhetoric.”  In this play the busy young actor was “openly travestying known traits and incidents of current social and political life.”  He drew the names of the chief characters “from the leaders in the civil war in France…”

(The setting was Navarre, a former kingdom situated between present-day France and Spain!  He was inspired by the sixteenth-century literary vogue in France for restricted societies devoted to self-improvement through study!  He probably set this play in a French-speaking country after reading the 1586 translation of Pierre de la Primaudaye’s L’Academie Francaise, published in 1577…!)

Okay, okay!  Stop!  But how did he do it?  What was his working method?  When did he have time to go to the bathroom?    

The famous six signatures … No Comment!

Sidney Lee ignored my pleas and kept piling it on.  Shakespeare during 1590-1592 was also writing all three parts of Henry VI, which begins during 1422 to 1445 and the final battles of the Hundred Years’ War with France … then into the dangerous waters of domestic politics by charting the rise of the Yorkist challenge to the Lancastrian monarchy … then into the Wars of the Roses to address the instability that flows from challenges to the legitimacy of the crown … thereby ringing a warning bell to an England ruled by the aging Queen Elizabeth …!

(And I was worried about writing a strictly fictional one-act play set inside the White House???)

During 1590-1595 he also wrote Richard III, The Comedy of Errors, Titus Andronicus, The Taming of the Shrew, The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Romeo and Juliet, not to mention the highly sophisticated and cultured narrative poems, Venus and Adonis of 1593 and Lucrece of 1594, both instant bestsellers!

Al Pacino as Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice” (2004)

Sidney Lee in this 1898 biography told of “the nineteen plays which may be set to Shakespeare’s credit between 1591 and 1599, combined with such revising work as fell to his lot during those eight years,” adding, “But it was as an actor that at any early date he acquired a genuinely substantial and secure income.”

I knew by now that it was a sacrilege to question the plausibility of all this.  In fact, I didn’t question it at all.  I was too busy being overwhelmed.

(Love’s Labour’s Lost contains the following speech with a very big word:  “I marvel thy master hath not eaten thee for a word; for thou art not so long by the head as honorificabilitudinitatibus: thou art easier swallowed than a flap-dragon.”)

The other plays in those nine years included Richard II, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, King John, The Merchant of Venice, parts one and two of Henry IV, Much Ado About Nothing, Henry V, Julius Caesar, As You Like It and probably Twelfth Night, with Hamlet, Prince of Denmark already baking in the oven!  Among the settings in Italy were Belmont, Venice, Padua, Mantua, Verona, Milan and Messina (Sicily), and let’s not forget France and the French king’s palace!  And so on!

But I was even less clear about how he did this work than I’d been before opening the book.  So I put it down — intermission! — to catch my breath…

(To be continued)

Published in: Uncategorized on August 4, 2012 at 3:04 pm  Comments (2)  
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