Reason 48 to Believe the Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare”: The Many Characters Reflecting Queen Elizabeth

What are the chances of William Shakspere of Stratford upon Avon creating allegorical portraits of Queen Elizabeth I of England?  What are the chances he dared to depict this female ruler, an absolute monarch so intensely proud and protective of her public image, in accurate but often harshly negative detail?

Edward de Vere 17th Earl of Oxford had known Her Majesty from at least 1561, when he was eleven and she was twenty-eight.  The following year he became her first royal ward, in the custody of her chief minister William Cecil, and she became his official mother.  He reached his majority in 1571, entering the House of Lords and quickly enjoying the greatest royal favor at Court.  He had a front-row seat for one of the most sensational tragicomedies in world history – the Golden Age of Elizabeth!

Given that he was also a poet and dramatist, what are the chances of him creating allegorical portraits of the great Virgin Queen?

Scholars of the traditional Bard have fleetingly glimpsed such portraits of Elizabeth in the plays, but for them the full picture is out of focus and blurry.  It’s impossible to see clearly with the wrong author in mind.  Knowledge of the true author creates a lens through which vital aspects of the works become wondrously clear.  Much of what was obscure becomes obvious.

Venus (In the Botticelli painting): Goddess of Love and Beauty, with whom Queen Elizabeth was associated

Through an Oxfordian lens the Shakespeare plays contain quite a few female characters that appear to reflect Elizabeth I of England.

Once the Earl of Oxford is viewed as the author, it becomes clear that he was obsessed with his sovereign mistress and that he was constantly grappling with the extremes of her strengths and weaknesses.

Here are eight of his female characters appearing to represent her:

  1. Cleopatra ………………… Antony and Cleopatra
  2. Cressida ………………….. Troilus and Cressida
  3. Gertrude …………………. Hamlet
  4. Olivia ………………………. Twelfth Night
  5. Portia ………………………. The Merchant of Venice
  6. Rosalind …………………… Romeo and Juliet
  7. Silvia ………………………… The Two Gentlemen of Verona
  8. Titania ……………………… A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Titania, Queen of the Fairies, is most often mentioned in connection with Elizabeth, mainly because Oberon describes Cupid’s vain attempt to ensnare “a fair vestal throned by the west.” Many other aspects of Titania reflect Elizabeth, but the point of Reason 48 is the sheer quantity of such characters that Oxfordians have observed.  The female characters reveal many sides (good and bad) of that extraordinary woman who ruled England for nearly forty-five years; and some of the portraits could have been drawn only by an artist who had experienced them “up close and personal.”

An image of Queen Cleopatra of Egypt on an ancient coin

*  For an accurate view of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the biographical and historical framework of the earliest versions must be moved back in time from the mid-1590’s to the early 1580’s.  In that perspective, it’s possible to see the love affair between Queen Titania and Bottom as depicting the courtship of Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Alencon during the so-called French Match.

*  In Twelfth Night, the portrait of Elizabeth as Olivia stands beside Malvolio as a caricature of Sir Christopher Haton, the Captain of the Queen’s Bodyguard.

* Elizabeth banished Oxford from Court after discovering his affair with Anne Vavasour, who gave birth to his illegitimate child; and we can hear Oxford speaking of his Queen as Silvia in Valentine’s words:

And why not death rather than living torment?
To die is to be banish’d from myself;
And Silvia is myself: banish’d from her
Is self from self: a deadly banishment!

*  The vows of constancy made by Troilus to Cressida reflect those Oxford had to make to the Queen when his Court banishment ended in 1583 and old Roger Manners reported, “The Earl of Oxford came into her [Elizabeth’s] presence, and after some bitter words and speeches, in the end all sins are forgiven.” 

Elizabeth I of England, a potrait

* To the Elizabethans it must have been obvious that Shakespeare modeled Cleopatra on Elizabeth, who appears to have modeled herself on the Queen of Egypt.

Turning to the poems and sonnets, we find more aspects of Queen Elizabeth through the Oxfordian lens.  She was the queen of Love and Beauty, like Venus; she was the chaste queen, like Lucrece [she had it both ways]; she was the Phoenix; and so on!

  1. Venus ………………………….. Venus and Adonis
  2. Lucrece ………………………… The Rape of Lucrece
  3. Phoenix ……………………….. The Phoenix and the Turtle
  4. Woman ………………………… A Lover’s Complaint
  5. Mistress (Dark Lady) …….. Shake-speares Sonnets

In some cases Oxford appears to use male characters to reflect the Queen:

  1. King Cymbeline of Britain ………. Cymbeline
  2. King Richard II of England ………. Richard II

I’m sure Elizabeth would have seen herself (or aspects of herself) in each of these characters.  Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, must have delighted her.  Gertrude, Queen of Denmark, would have sent her into a fury [and we might wonder if she ever attended a performance of Hamlet].

The Queen definitely recognized the unflattering portrait of herself in the character of Richard II, a weak monarch led astray by flattering counselors.  Several months after the failed Essex Rebellion of February 8, 1601, which had been preceded by a special performance  of the Shakespeare play, Elizabeth turned to her in-house historian William Lambarde and said, “I am Richard the Second, know ye not that?”

Before the gifted and perceptive K.C. Ligon died in 2009, she had begun to build an entire blog site entitled Shakespeare and Elizabeth, and I urge you to check it out.

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