Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford: the Most Amazing Court Jester: No. 76 of 100 Reasons Why He was “Shakespeare” and the Author of “Hamlet”

“Give a man a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” – Oscar Wilde

The Shakespeare plays are populated by many truth-tellers wearing the masks of Fools, most played in turn by Richard Tarleton, Will Kemp and Robert Armin, each actor becoming increasingly more sophisticated in his clowning as the author’s characters grew in their complex humanity.
lear's fool

Fools existed from ancient history all the way up to the contemporary jesters of European royal courts. In Shakespeare they appear in all sorts of masks, but what many of them have in common is their ability, within the dangerous setting of the court, to speak truth to power.

Touchstone in As You Like It and Feste in Twelfth Night are the best-known examples of court jesters or Fools given the authorization to speak freely. [King Lear’s nameless Fool is “all-licensed,” as Goneril puts it.] In our own time, Jon Stewart of Comedy Central may have the most similar function, that is, the job of running spears of truth through the guts of our politicians while making us howl with laughter – a function that even the most powerful officials apparently, if often grudgingly, must allow.

feste-02b

In the new book of essays A Poet’s Rage, edited by William Boyle, a paper with insight into the Shakespearean Fools, written twenty years ago by his brother Charles Boyle, remains just as important to the authorship debate as it was back then. In a discussion about Troilus and Hamlet as characters, Boyle emphasizes that Shakespeare’s world revolved around the royal court and that his audacious political satire was made possible only by the clever use of thinly disguised allegory.

Number 76 of 100 reasons to conclude that Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare” is that he himself, as Boyle writes, “enjoyed the protection of some great patron” [Queen Elizabeth] and was “the most amazing court jester who lived.” And perhaps, he also writes, there is no character called “The Fool” in the play of Hamlet, his most autobiographical character, because Hamlet himself is The Fool.

The Prince of Denmark is an expert at using allegory, the accepted Elizabethan literary device for commenting on the current political scene. He warns Polonius, chief counselor to King Claudius and Queen Gertrude, that the players “are the abstract and brief chronicles of the time” – that is, the actors and their “harmless” plays are actually pointing to persons and issues of the day. As Hamlet tells Ophelia, the daughter of Polonius, the players “cannot keep counsel” but will “tell all.”

hamlet at the play

“Have you heard the argument?” the wary king asks about the play as it proceeds. “Is there no offence in’t?”

“No, no,” Hamlet replies, “they do but jest, poison in jest; no offence I’th’world.”

Probably the most famous example of Queen Elizabeth’s recognition of a royal history representing contemporary matters occurred in 1601, when, several months after the enactment by Shakespeare’s company of the deposing of Richard II, which helped trigger the failed Essex Rebellion against Robert Cecil and other counselors the following day, she reportedly blurted out to her antiquary: “I am Richard the Second, know ye not that!?”

Traditional scholars, believing the author to be the Stratford fellow named William Shaksper, have been forced to shy away from seeing Polonius as a satirical portrait of William Cecil Lord Burghley, chief minister to Queen Elizabeth and the most powerful man in England until his death in 1598. The reason, of course, is that for William of Stratford upon Avon to satirize Burghley in such a bold, ruthless manner would have been suicidal. He would have lost more than his writing hand.

The notion that Shaksper was the author “has stymied all reasonable inquiry into Shakespeare’s relationship to the world he lived in and his favorite setting, the court,” Boyle writes – because clearly the author of the Shakespeare works did live in the world of the court and, not surprisingly, he did write about the intrigues of that contemporary world.

And clearly that same author was being protected by the monarch herself – as expressed by none other than Polonius, who urges Gertrude to severely reprove her son the prince: “Look you lay home to him. Tell him his pranks have been too broad to bear with, and that your Grace hath screened and stood between much heat and him.”

Polonius is referring to the play by which Hamlet has been able to “catch the conscience of the King” by means of allegory – having presented one story that seemed harmless while, in fact, revealing the dangerous news that Claudius had murdered Hamlet’s father the previous king. This play at court, for which the prince inserted the crucial lines, is but the latest of his “pranks” that have pushed the chief minister beyond his limits.

But Polonius is also angry, even angrier, at the queen. Unable to accuse her directly, he urges Gertrude to tell Hamlet that his antics will be no longer tolerated; more to the point, the Queen should confess to him that she herself is the reason he gets away with his madcap behavior. She has “screened” her son from the fury of others. She has “stood between” the prince and the wrath of the court against him.

Once Oxford is viewed as the author, it becomes clear that Hamlet is his most self-revealing character and that the Court of Denmark represents the English court. There can be no more doubt that Polonius is a caricature of Burghley, who was Oxford’s father-in-law, or any question that Gertrude represents Elizabeth. And from there it’s a very short step to the recognition that, in fact, the Queen of England had protected Edward de Vere in the same way, having “screened and stood between much heat and him” – primarily because of his satirical comedies and other truth-telling plays, performed at her court from the 1570s onward.

Elizabeth wanted – demanded – such entertainment. The female monarch who loved the cruel spectacle of bear-baiting was the same powerful woman, with absolute rule, who feasted upon Oxford’s stinging portraits of the members of her court – not to mention his various characters in which she could recognize herself as well, usually in the form of a flattering portrait. Her Majesty encouraged Oxford to function as her “allowed fool,” as Olivia calls Feste the clown in Twelfth Night. Telling Malvolio to shake off Feste’s barbs, she reminds him that the jester uses his biting wit because she allows him to do so: “There is no slander in an allowed fool, though he do nothing but rail.” Olivia has given Feste permission to slander others; and because her command is law, it follows that Feste’s slander cannot be slanderous.

feste

When Malvolio has gone, she turns to Feste and pretends to scold him: “Now you see, sir, how your fooling grows old, and people dislike it.” Eva Turner Clarke observed in the 1930s that “although Olivia likes his nonsense, she makes a mild protest for the sake of the victims who do not.” In Clark’s opinion Olivia’s term “allowed fool” is “an expression Elizabeth probably applied to Oxford, for he would never have dared to include the many personal allusions in his plays had not the Queen permitted, even encouraged, him to do it.”

Hamlet is a prankster, jester, clown; he is a Court Fool with permission to say what he likes, even to put on plays that tell the truth about royal crimes. Gertrude has given him the freedom to criticize or make fun of high-ranking persons, right up to the King himself, without suffering repercussions.

The prince – and by extension his creator, Oxford – is a political satirist who displays far more daring than that displayed by the comedy writers and performers of Saturday Night Live, given the harsh punishments of the Elizabethan age. Having easily led Polonius into revealing his hypocrisy, Hamlet exclaims in an aside: “They fool me to the top of my bent!” — translated by the Riverside Shakespeare editors translate as: “They make me play the fool to the limit of my ability!”

So the character who speaks with the playwright’s most authorial voice actually describes himself as the Court Fool – a role that Edward de Vere is on record as playing at the Elizabethan royal court, from his high-step dancing for the Queen to his early signed poetry to his reputation as “best for comedy” for the court stage, his playing of the lute and singing for Elizabeth, and so on, not to mention a number of escapades for which, otherwise, he would have been punished.

[A few examples: he got away with planning in 1571 to rescue the Duke of Norfolk from the Tower; the queen forgave him for racing off to the Continent in 1574 without authorization; he twice refused her command in 1579 to dance for the French delegates on hand to negotiate the Alencon match; and so on.]

Jacques speaks of himself as a Fool in As You Like It and seems to come mighty close to how Oxford would describe himself, in a speech I always find to be both somewhat frightening as well as thrilling:

I must have liberty
Withal, as large a charter as the wind,
To blow on whom I please, for so fools have…
Invest me in my motley, give me leave
To speak my mind, and I will through and through
Cleanse the foul body of th’infected world,
If they will patiently receive my medicine.

The Wikipedia list of Shakespearean Fools does not include Prince Hamlet, undoubtedly because he is also the protagonist and of such importance that he can easily be overlooked; but the list does include the following Fools, each of whom, no doubt, represents yet another aspect of their creator, Edward de Vere, the Jester or Allowed Fool at the Court of Queen Elizabeth:

Touchstone in As You Like It
The Fool in King Lear
Trinculo in The Tempest,
Costard in Love’s Labours Lost
Feste in Twelfth Night
Launcelot Gobbo in The Merchant of Venice
Lavache in All’s Well That Ends Well
A Fool in Timon of Athens
Nick Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Thersites in Troilus and Cressida
Clown in Othello
Dromio of Syracuse and Dromio of Euphesus in The Comedy of Error
Speed in Two Gentlemen of Verona
The Gravediggers in Hamlet
Citizen in Julius Caesar
Pompey in Measure for Measure
Clown in The Winter’s Tale
Grumio and The Taming of the Shrew
The Porter in Macbeth
Peter in Romeo and Juliet
Cloten in Cymbeline
Falstaff in Henry IV.

Well … of course … Falstaff!

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23 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Yep, Prince Hamlet is Time’s Fool, and he’d say it with a deep, sardonic grimace… hardly anything to chuckle about.

  2. The allegory of Elizabeth as Gertrude and Burghley as Polonius seems clear but perhaps one might wish to tread carefully here. And maybe “metaphor” is more apt than “allegory”?

    Would not an obvious and natural extension of the allegory imply in reality that the virgin queen’s current husband(?) murdered her first husband(?)? After all, the entire explicit, carved in stone point of the play within the play allegory is to catch the conscience of the king–not of the queen–and what king would that be in reality? Is it or isn’t it an allegory? “Gertrude has given [Hamlet] the freedom to criticize or make fun of high-ranking persons, right up to the King himself”–and who is that king, that monarch, in de Vere’s reality? Is Elizabeth allegorically both the motherly Gertrude and the murderous king in de Vere’s eyes? (Did Elizabeth see and understand that? Was she pleased that de Vere insulted her as much as Hamlet insulted his king? “Freedom” and “mak[ing] fun” do not even begin to characterize what de Vere seems to be doing–perhaps “character assassination” is more accurate. “The female monarch … was the same powerful woman, with absolute rule, who feasted upon Oxford’s stinging portraits of the members of her court – not to mention his various characters in which she could recognize herself as well, usually in the form of a flattering portrait.” “Flattering” and even “unflattering” would both seem way off target here. Of course maybe Elizabeth is not both Gertrude and Claudius in the play; and perhaps Gertrude’s husband does not represent Elizabeth’s “husband”, but then what kind of allegory are we left with?) If Hamlet seeks to destroy the current monarch in the play for vengeance/justice, does de Vere seek to destroy the current monarch in reality? Again, is the play (and/or the play within a play) an allegory or isn’t it? Would not the Stratfordians have a field day with all of this? And think of all of the other possibilities, the divergences of the allegory and of the play within the play from each other and from reality.

    Burghley in the play is Polonius, but who is that character in the play within the play? Is the play within the play an allegory or not? If the play within the play is a deficient allegory (i.e. it is not an accurate mirror of the play but only partially accurate because no one representing Polonius is in it), then might not a Stratfordian argue so too is the play itself and thus Hamlet is not de Vere?

    Who corresponds in reality to Ophelia, Polonius’ daughter? Burghley’s daughter, Anne, de Vere’s first wife? Great. But who is that character in the play within the play allegory, or would this be another piece of evidence the allegory is deficient? Is the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia consistent with de Vere’s and Anne’s relationship? Or is the author mocking it? Generalize the argument: would not a Stratfordian claim you would be having things both ways? I.e. when a relationship in reality corresponds to a relationship in a play, an Oxfordian asserts it is because de Vere is the author; when a relationship in reality does not correspond to a relationship in a play, an Oxfordian asserts it is because de Vere is still the author but is mocking the relationship, inverting it, etc.? (Imagine: “The Oxfordians claim de Vere loved and respected the strong monarch Elizabeth–that is exactly why he represents her in the play as a murderous king and/or as a weak queen.” “The Oxfordians claim de Vere loved Anne, married her, and had children with her–that is exactly why they claim in the play Hamlet did not marry Ophelia, did not have children with her, and why Hamlet killed her father–since obviously de Vere murdered Burghley!?–it was a confession!” Etc. etc. etc.) Heads you win, tails they lose?

    If Hamlet is the fool, can he still be a monarch’s son? Worse: Hamlet is Gertrude’s son in the play; de Vere is metaphorically Elizabeth’s son (her literal ward) in reality; but who is Hamlet’s father in the play, _in the allegory of Elizabeth and de Vere_? Hamlet has no (living) man of flesh as a father–is he (literally, metaphorically or allegorically) born of a virgin (queen), the son of a ghost, a holy spirit? Is the play’s author comparing himself to an incarnated god? Oops. Yes, that mixes and matches reality and allegory but Stratfordians and Oxfordians do that all the time. Would one wish to argue for de Vere’s self-proclaimed (though allegorical) godhood? When the Stratfordians make this point, how will you defend against it? Or will you acknowledge in de Vere a boastful and boundless ego? Etc. etc. etc.

    Tread carefully I say. An author’s creativity and historical reality may not always mix well. And interpretation carries its own risks. Petards everywhere.

    Would the Stratfordians not use these issues to refute (or ridicule) the entire allegory and as a wedge to dismiss all arguments for de Vere? Or does one try to objectively and fairly limit the argument for the allegory somehow? How does one do that? (Does one claim the allegory is frozen in time at some specific moment in the play? Is the allegory valid only at e.g. the end of Act II scene 2 and at no other moment in the play? I.e. the deaths of Polonius, Claudius, Hamlet, Ophelia, etc., late in the play and all other events in it are not part of the allegory? Great. But what is so special about the end of Act III scene 2? Why not the end of Act III scene 3?) Self-referential allegories are like two edged swords and can cut both ways. (And worse, one does not always get to choose whether one holds the handle or the blade.) What you choose (an argument, a fact), someone else may ignore; what you ignore, someone else may choose. Isn’t that exactly how Stratfordians and Oxfordians and all humans (including myself) argue? Allegories are rigid; metaphors are flexible. Maybe that is a better tack. It addresses some but not all of the problems (yet might inadvertently create others). Make your arguments as complete and as sound as you can. You know what you are doing–I just wanted to add my half cent just once to make sure you did not miss something important and obvious. Thank you for your patience.

    • Thanks for this — I must re-read carefully. I think generally my view is that we can never try to make things fit together completely or even mainly. There are “aspects” of characters and situations that are important to the author, that he needs to express, and a huge one would be – for example – the act of dealing with players and writing lines for a play that is produced at court for the monarch. This is a picture of what Oxford did circa 1576-1584, when the play companies included the LCM under Sussex and the Children of Pauls, for example, and Oxford used Blackfriars with Lyly and Peele, to name two, bringing plays to court for Elizabeth. To me it’s just an overall similarity, but certainly not in all the particulars, not even in most of them. Same with the characters — Hamlet is deprived of his succession, of his recognition as the rightful successor, and yet it seems to be an “open secret” at the Denmark court — “I lack advancement,” as he understates it — and this may have been how Oxford thought of himself. Allegory may not be the right word for it, but it seems better than metaphor, which is a figure of speech. Allegory doesn’t imply a one-to-one mirroring of something. It’s a representation under another guise.

      An interesting aspect of “Hamlet” is when the prince corrects Claudius:

      Hamlet: Farewell, dear mother.
      Claudius: Thy loving father, Hamlet.
      Hamlet: My mother. Father and mother is man and wife, many and wife is one flesh. So, my mother.

      Sounds like he’s answering one of your questions:-)

      Anyway, thanks for the discussion. Also Michael’s work adds another dimension, for sure.

  3. Jeff,
    You ask a lot of questions!
    It may be inaccurate to describe de Vere’s plays as allegory or metaphor. As Whittemore has noted, they require interpretation, so our first instinct is to call them metaphorical; but his language is obscurely orthographic and literal rather than ‘tropical’ (as Hamlet calls ‘The Mousetrap’) or figurative. In truth, they are more akin to extended syllogisms or algebraic expressions. Any number or ‘solutions’ may be derived by substitution.
    We Oxfordians are obviously on the right track. We sense the writers intentions by knowing who the writer is. Therefore, substitute de Vere for Hamlet, Cecil for Polonius, Leicester for Claudius, Elizabeth for Gertrude, and a Stuart Prince for Fortinbras, and you can’t go too far wrong.
    The ‘correct’ solution is found by knowing Ophelia’s ‘trick’; she “nicknames God’s creatures” so that her ‘playfulness’ is the cause of our ‘ignorance’ of her (Ham. lll.2 145). These ‘nicknames’ are metonyms. Metonyms work throughout ‘Lyly’ and ‘Shakespeare’ to disguise true identity. Therefore Ophelia also has characteristics of Elizabeth R. Oxford frequently uses multiple parts to reveal a single person.
    We know that de Vere/Hamlet is Gertrude’s son, but perhaps also her ‘consort’; in accordance with his thinking on agnatic primogeniture he should be a partner-Protector of the Queen. Leicester is a false consort – an interloper of the murderous kind; he would poison an heir, I’m sorry, ear.
    Why should we substitute a Tudur-Seymour Prince for the Earl of Oxford? Because the writer tells us to do so. Note the syllogism a l.2 176. Hamlet begins: “Seems, madam?”, then lists the outward forms of grief. Claudius finishes the ‘argument’ by naming “these mourning duties”… Seymour. Look again:

    O, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt,
    Thaw, and resolve itself into a d[u],
    Or… (Ham. l.2 129)

    That’s Tudur/Tudor, for the uninitiated; and that’s the way the game is played – Tudur-Seymour. De Vere’s ‘process’ is described more completely at my devereshakespeare.wordpress.com web-site.

  4. Sorry, “Seems, madam?” is at 1.2 76. Oops.

  5. Hank, I haven’t finished reading this but I can already tell that it is a really brilliant synopsis of what needs to be said on this topic. Well done. Of course Jacques is also the guy who sold his lands to the see lands of other men. That wouldn’t remind us of anyone, would it? Cheers.

    • Thanks, Roger. Our labors continue…

  6. Jeff,
    You’re quite right to warn us of an author’s creativity not always cohering with historical reality. However, fear not, here is a case in which they do. This is the thrust of my essays: de Vere ‘invented’ a method of expressing himself and telling his fantastical story under the guise of fiction. The appearance of fiction is the deception. The writer’s life probably depended on his words not being fully understood – certainly not by the Cecil/Dudley blockheads. Alas his enthusiastic readers have also been deceived.
    When we say Hamlet is a fool, what do we mean?
    – Is he one who ‘acts or thinks absurdly’?
    – Is he ‘silly’?
    – Is he ‘one who is deceived’?
    – Does he ‘make jests to deceive others’?
    – Is he ‘subject’ or subordinate to another? A ‘foolish follower’?
    – Is he an’ idiot’?
    Do we mean ‘fool’ as (weakly uncomplimentary) term of endearment? Or do we mean ‘a licensed jester’?
    De Vere obviously does not have license to speak unvarnished truth; otherwise, why make such a beautiful muddle of his words – superficially plain and elegant – but ambiguous on second thought? If he is who he says he is (Vere/Tudor-Seymour), he would not have freedom of dissent.
    I think he generally means ‘deceived’ and ‘deceiver’ when he applies the word to his ‘stand-ins’; Mor-EO, sorry Romeo, obviously is the ‘star-crossed lover’ deceived by ‘Fortune’.

  7. First off, i’m always amazed at the demand for one to one literal correspondence, that Oxfordians mean the plays are strict autobiography rather than “biographical echoes”. Several people who are not Oxfordians see Hamlet as a seditious play. It was most likely not played in its full form for the public (Shapiro admits that) and its likely audiences were the Universities and Inns of the Court. Thus Harvey’s “Hamlet is for the wiser sort”.

    Who said Elizabeth had to like everything” Shakespeare” wrote. She sure didn’t like Richard II, did she? The issue is what did she do about it? Essex rebellion? No authorial consequences?

    Look at the triangle between Polonius, Hamlet and Ophelia and tell me Devere was not the model for Hamlet, especially since other fingerprints, such as Cardanus Comforte are all over the play. If he didn’t write it, someone surely had him in mind. “Falling out at tennis”. Give me a break.

    Claudius is Leicester who was Elizabeth’s lover. She granted him sovereignty over Oxford’s rents for ten years at about 1000 pounds a year. A lot of coin, eh? Like 5-10 mil in today’s money. Someone might be pissed at that?Did you know that little factoid?

    Why exactly was Will of Stratford so angry with Burghley? And his hunchback little evil son? (Richard III anyone.)

    See http://politicworm.com/2013/07/26/the-importance-of-being-richard-the-third/

    Shakespeare seemed somewhat obsessed with the Cecils and Devere (Alls Well,etc)

    How DID he get away with it?

    What’s your theory?

    • Maybe I’m not the best one to answer you, Ken, but I can’t just be quite 😛

      I read Hamlet this summer and it’s a GREAT play! No wonder they call it Shakespeare’s best work. And while reading, beside what I already knew about Oxford’s life in it, I get really conviced that Hamlet was indeed his biography. Everyone who is not an oxfordian can say “Oh yeah? Shakespeare could have know of his life, just like that, he was very famous”. Indeed, but what about the comments of some politic ideas who never passed beyond Elizabeth’s walls (the fishmonger joke made by Hamlet, for exemple)? Others could say “But Bacon certainly knew”; “Marlowe knew him, he was famous”, etc. Yet, this doesn’t justify their knowledge of Oxford’s letters which came to public about 100 years ago or more or less… (correct me if I am wrong).

      When to Oxford getting away from expressing his disdain towards the Cecil, this are the vantage of having a pen name. And believe me: I know what I say. Maybe one day, if you have one, you will know… till then, we have to remember one thing: Oxford started to use his pen name only after Burghley’s death. Maybe he knew, maybe not. Oxford was already using pen names before Shakespeare, that’s nothing new, but he was under anonimaty towards the plays who later would be credited to Shake-Speare’s name. And by 1593, when Shakespeare appeared in Venus and Adonis as poet, Oxford was already away, phisicaly, from Burghley. Burghley could not persecute an anonymous writer without be seen or noted. And maybe Oxford’s blood saved him from Burghley’s claws too. But if this last option is too an answer, I wonder why would Cecil acted against Oxford as Shake-Speare after Burghley…

      • Fishmonger actually would have been well known to any audience in relationship to Burghley as he made a big play for the fish trade. Fish eating actually became known as “Cecil’s fast”.

        “Cecil’s Fast – Definition: A dinner of fish. W. Cecil (Lord Burleigh) introduced a Bill to enjoin the eating of fish on certain days in order to restore the fish trade. (Brewer’s Dictionary)

        The idea of having “fish days” to support the fish trade, and therefore the English Navy, seems to have been the brainwave of William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley and Elizabeth I’s chief advisor. He could see that the Reformation had harmed the fishing trade, as people started eating meat on Fridays (a day which had been traditionally associated with fish eating as people remembered Good Friday) and being less observant of the usual traditions of Lent. This harmed both the fishing trade and the Navy, as they were inextricably linked, and men who had once been fishermen and sailors were forced into committing acts of piracy or looking for different work.

        In 1563, William Cecil forced Parliament, after much arguing, to pass an act making it unlawful for anyone to eat meat during Lent. The punishment would be either 3 months in jail or a fine of 3 pounds. In a handwritten codicil, Cecil attempted to calm those of a more Puritan persuasion, who hated the Catholic traditions, by explaining that this act was for economic reasons only. A bill also made Wednesday, Friday and Saturday “fish days”, with Cecil explaining:-

        “Let the old course of fishing be maintained by the straitest observations of fish days for policy’s sake; so the sea coasts should be strong with men and habitations and the fleet flourish more than ever.”

        Thus this is a reference that probably provoked a lot of laughter in the audience. That it is so blatant again gives one pause.Ham;et’s traditional date of composition is 1599 about a year or less after Burgley’s death (Sept 15898) It is unthinkable to me that such a savage portrayal of a recently deceased beloved minister would pass without consequence. Thus the furious backtracking among traditionalists.

        Lesser known references would be “falling out at tennis”, the one to one correspondence with the “to be..” speech with Cardanus Comforte, the precepts which were not publicly known and are related strongly to Cecii’s letter to Robert before going to Paris, and “Diet of Worms” among others.

        How much “Hales vs Petit (in the graveyard scene) was well known I can’t say. But the decision which was well known in particulars by the author was written inn obscure “Law French”.

  8. P.S. Another interesting factoid. Quarto I.-“O good Horatio, I’ll take the ghost’s word for all the coin in Denmark.”

    Q2-Folio- “O good Horatio, I’ll take the ghost’s word for a **thousand
    pound!** Didst perceive?

    Hmmm. Who got a stipend for a thousand pounds?.

    They just keep on coming don’t they?

  9. Hi Ken,

    you’re right: just coming and coming… great discovery.

  10. Ken,
    They do just keep coming, don’t they?
    I think we Oxfordians agree that the ‘biographical echoes’ do just keep coming. Though the literary technique of the plays and poems may be broadly allegorical, and though, on occasion, metaphor may transfer the literal ‘ground’ to a meaningful ‘figure’, Oxfordians are better positioned to understand the writers subject than Orthodox Shakespearians. Sometimes there is a direct correspondence between the words and the life of the writer… sometimes… but how often?
    We are ignorant of much of de Vere’s life. No amount of research will unearth all of his story and all his concerns – so we’ll often draw blanks at confusing language. Let’s not conclude from this lack of complete knowledge that some of the themes expressed in the canon are unrelated to his life.
    You’ve given good examples of a true correspondence between his words and life; how about examples where the words absolutely do not relate to his life?

  11. Hello Francisco,
    Venus and Adonis was published under the ‘Shakespeare’ name in 1593. William Cecil died in 1598.

    • I said that, Michael 😀 I said when Shakespeare appeared as author of Venus and Adonis, Oxford wasn’t living in the Cecil’s house. And Shakespeare’s plays (among them, those which satirized Burghley) only started to bear this name when Burghley died in 1598. The only piece of work until then whith name were Venus and Adonis and Lucrece, who had Elizabeth as target and used to make public Oxford’s new pen name’s cause (to declare publically Southampton, Oxford’s first born by Elizabeth, King of England). Maybe I wasn’t explicit, sorry 😛

  12. Elizabeth allowed the barbs against her court because, as a woman ruler, she was constantly amongst the “wolfish earls” who probably imagined themselves superior, as men, to rule. De Vere provided the clap to their ambitions and egos and gave voice to what she cold think but never say.

    • Good comment! Thanks – Hank

  13. Always to play the devil’s advocate:
    The Riverside Shakespeare, I think mis-characterizes Hamlet’s response to the conversation with Rosen., Guilden., and Polonius (Hamlet lll.2 377):

    “They fool me to the top of my bent.”

    A ‘More-Oxfordian’ reading might be:

    ‘They deceive me as far as I allow them.’ – i.e. ‘They deceive me not at all.’

    Hamlet does, in fact, ‘play the fool’ by giving an inappropriate response to Guilden. at l.307: “You are welcome.” This is absurdity – another definition of ‘fool’; Hamlet answers their attempts to ‘fool’/deceive him with nonsense. Otherwise, he can be dead candid, as in stating:

    “I lack advancement.” (l.333)

    This is the crux! Hamlet knows he doesn’t have the “voice of the King” for succession; he knows they are taking him for a ‘idiot’ – yet another definition of ‘fool’. He knows of their attempt to “recover the wind”, i.e. ‘take from the current heir’ (see Lexicon, Schmidt). Hamlet will ‘play the fool’ to avoid being seen as competent to avenge these affronts, injuries, and murder.
    This is classic de Vere… giving instruction to the reader to indicate how the words are to be understood. He’s demonstrating polysemy – the multiple meanings of a single word.
    Take a look at Romeo & Juliet l.l. 1-4. That is an instruction to the reader about the need to watch for homonyms (collier, choler, collar), and similar sources for wordplay and context-shift.

    I want to emphasize that my interpretation pre-supposes the ‘case’ for Oxford is ‘fait accompli’ as Stritmatter says. Your work, Stritmatter’s, Ogburn’s, Looney’s (and so many others), have, by reasonable argument made a certainty of the Authorship Question. My interest is in discovering and refining what that means to our understanding of the works.

    • Thanks, Mike, and your work is much appreciated — moving us forward. I agree about the “to the top of my bent” — and think how this must be what Oxford felt, as if alone in a glass enclosed bubble where folks can see him but not hear his thoughts.

    • Hi Michael,

      this idea of ‘giving instructions to the reader’ is really a deep one. It’ll bring us nearer to our goal.

  14. Sandy,
    ‘Shakespeare’ has a very light touch with his ‘readers direction’ – we might call them advisories or ‘consilia’. In seemingly inconsequential preface material – often in Act 1 of any play, you’ll find extended examples of the word games the writer will use more subtly later.
    Take a good look at Cymbeline l.l 1-69. What’s all that about? Look at the advisory at l.3: “But what’s the matter.” If the Second Gent. didn’t catch the drift of what the First Gent. was saying, I doubt the reader can. Don’t keep reading… go back and turn the words over.

    ‘Our’ blood[lines], no ‘More’ obey the heavens than ‘Our’ courtiers E.Ver Seem ‘the Seym’ [as] does the king’s.”

    This strange syllogism presents the name Seymour and equates it to Ever and the king. The metonyms and ‘surname fragments’ are simple enough: our, no more/nom ore, still (ever), seem, as (‘the Same’). These elements are key to understanding the writer’s concerns… his story.
    The Second Gent. consistently asks the questions you should be asking. De Vere didn’t want readers to read superficially, so he interjects ‘consilia’ to ‘trip you up’.
    Look at l.l 17:

    “Too bad for bad report.”

    What?
    How about ‘Two’ bade for bade Re-port’… that’s not bad wordplay for a ‘de’s’ work. ‘Bade’, of course is past tense ‘bid’ = tender or offer.
    So we have: ‘Tu’ tendered for tendered ‘d’Or’. Now take those names and “crush him together” and, “unfold his measure duly” (l.l. 26)… Tudor-Seymour.
    This is pure de Vere whimsy – except the man is putting his neck on the block by identifying himself. He invented hundreds of these ‘signatures’ and each play has them. He calls them “hidden treasures” (V&A l.767). They are the hidden ‘d’Or’ you’re looking for.
    If the writer insists he’s telling the truth (see Cym. l.l 67): “Yet is it true, sir.” You can bet that it is.
    Especially note l.l 58: “Mark it” What follows is testimony to the effect that two sons were born, but quickly lost. I can only guess! One in 1548 and another in 1550; but there is scarcely a single tattered patrimony to divide between the ‘Tu’ of them.
    “Mark it”, “Dost thou attend?”, “Dost thou hear?”… Advisories All.

  15. Hi Michael,

    it’s quite interesting what you write about Oxford’s word-plays. I’ll delve into it more thoroughly.


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