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.)

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