“The Merchant of Venice” – Interlude – Reason No. 73 Why the Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare”

When the case for Edward de Vere as “Shakespeare” finally gains popular acceptance, not the least reason will be the overwhelming evidence that the author — no matter who he was — had travelled in Italy and even must have lived in Venice for a period of time.  Such was the experience of the twenty-five-year-old Earl of Oxford in 1575, when he was welcomed from place to place as an illustrious dignitary from the English royal court – a young, high-born nobleman absorbing this land and its people and the Italian renaissance.

venice_2304966bFollowing is a beautiful paragraph, written by Richard Paul Roe in The Shakespeare Guide to Italy (2011), in the first of his two chapters on The Merchant of Venice, speaking of “Shakespeare” regardless of the author’s specific identity:

“In the latter part of the sixteenth century, the gifted English playwright arrived in the beating heart of this Venetian empire: the legendary city of Venice.  He moved about noting its structured society, its centuries-old government of laws, its traditions, its culture, and its disciplines.  He carefully considered and investigated its engines of banking and commerce.  He explored its harbors and canals, and its streets and squares.  He saw the flash of its pageants, its parties and celebrations; and he looked deeply into the Venetian soul.  Then, with a skill that has never been equaled, he wrote a story that has a happy ending for all its characters save one, about whom a grief endures and always will: a deathless tragedy.”

There is so much fascinating material about The Merchant of Venice in relation to the life of Edward de Vere that, in the next and final part of this reason to believe he must have written the Shakespearean works, I’ll focus on just one item uncovered in recent years.  Meanwhile, if Roe’s description of the dramatist’s activities is at all accurate, how can the authorship continue to be attributed to William of Stratford?  The answer can only be that the change of certain fundamental beliefs is extremely difficult and requires time.

ghetto sign veniceFerdinand Magellan’s expedition circumnavigated the globe in 1519-1522, but, for up to a century afterward, universities continued to teach a flat earth.  And I am not the first to predict that future generations will look back at the Stratfordian tradition of Shakespearean authorship and wonder how it could have lasted so long.  They will also marvel that since Oxford’s identification by J.T. Looney in 1920 it took at least a century, and no doubt much longer, for his authorship to be generally recognized and accepted.  Certainly there will be many attempts – by historians, literary critics, psychologists and other kinds of experts – to explain this phenomenon.

“When you seek a new path to truth, you must expect to find it blocked by ‘expert’ opinion.” – Albert Joseph Guerard (1914-2000), Professor Emeritus of English, Stanford

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hank, fascinating as always! Keep at it, we’ll get there in the end!

    Jim

    • Thanks, Jim. Yep, we’ll get there … sooner or later!

  2. So Hank, I heard Roe speak. Many of the connections are there. Why a play where a Jewish money lender is the prime protagonist? It really is Shylock’s and Portia’s play.

    • Ken, I know the Ogburns rather strongly suggested Shylock as Burghley, but I haven’t looked closely at their reasoning, at least not in a long while. It’s interesting, however, because if the first impulse to write the play is in 1578-79, then Oxford is still upset over finances, selling off his lands, and probably blaming Burghley. To get in his licks by portraying Cecil as Jew is pretty wild, given Cecil as devout Christian; and if he could disguise Cecil so well, who would know? Maybe not many folks, maybe very many at court, but I have no idea. The overall point, it occurs to me, is the contrast between Portia as Queen of Belmont, which is a kind of royal court and fairyland, dedicated to music and the arts, and to all the wonderful sensuality that Burghley detests — and it’s dancing, and plays being performed, and it’s about the nobility and a reckless disregard for money, even a moral attitude against money — in contrast with the world of finance in Venice, or in certain business and trade circles in Venice, where Burghley would fit in — and so, by allegory, we have the Queen and Cecil in their separate worlds … and as you say, the play is really theirs. What do you think?


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