The Shakespeare Histories as “Mirrors of Elizabethan Policy” — Lily B. Campbell’s Work is No. 79 of 100 Reasons Why Oxford was the Author

For a couple of centuries it was generally accepted that Shakespeare had no interest in the issues confronting England in his time; but in 1947 there appeared a bombshell book entitled Shakespeare’s “Histories” – Mirrors of Elizabethan Policy by Lyly Bess Campbell, Professor Emeritus of English at UCLA, putting forth the radical idea that the great author’s history plays were mirrors in which Elizabethans could perceive the contemporary political problems they were facing.

book of lily campbell

Miss Campbell comes out swinging. Her first victim is Professor Mark Van Doren of Columbia University, whom she ridicules for postulating that Shakespeare “does not seem to call for explanations beyond those which a whole heart and a free mind abundantly supply.” It’s a “heartening conviction,” she quips, “that John Doe has only to reassure himself about the wholeness of his heart and the freedom of his mind to undertake to interpret Shakespeare. Any heart and any mind will do.”

Then she holds H.H. Furness up for scorn, citing his statement in the New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare in 1919: “I cannot reconcile myself to the opinion that Shakespeare ever made use of his dramatic art for the purpose of instructing, or as a means of enforcing his own views, any more than I believe that his poetic inspiration was dependent on his personal experiences.”

These are comforting thoughts, Miss Campbell wryly notes, for writers and critics alike – that whatever the great author wrote had nothing to do with his personal experiences and convictions! And just think – Shakespeare himself had no interest in the problems of contemporary politics!

Lily Campbell begs to differ: “I do not believe that a poet exists in a vacuum, or even that he exists solely in the minds and hearts of his interpreters. I do not believe he can write great poetry without conviction and without passion. I do not believe that his reflection of his period is casual and fragmentary and accidental. Rather, it seems to me the poet must be reckoned a man among men, a man who can be understood only against the background of his own time…”

Richard II  1367 - 1422

Richard II
1367 – 1422

Looking at the history plays without any authorship axe to grind, Miss Campbell sees that “Shakespeare” deliberately used history to set forth the great political problems his day, such as Queen Elizabeth’s lack of an heir and her unwillingness or inability to name a successor. For example, plays like King John and Richard II revolved around issues of legitimacy and the possible need to depose a weak monarch for the sake of England’s health and survival. And as Queen Elizabeth herself remarked, six months after the Essex Rebellion of February 8, 1601, “I am Richard II, know ye not that!?”

Miss Campbell in 1947 was breaking through the traditional image of the author. I have no idea whether she knew about the 1920 identification of Edward de Vere the seventeenth Earl of Oxford as “Shakespeare,” but if not her argument is the more powerful – that in fact the great poet-dramatist was deeply, passionately concerned about the country and, yes, about the Tudor dynasty.

This view had already been confirmed a quarter-century earlier, when J. Thomas Looney pointed to Oxford, thereby identifying a high-ranking nobleman and member of the House of Lords, a courtier who had been a royal ward of the Queen under the guardianship of her powerful chief minister, William Cecil Lord Burghley (later his father-in-law) and one who – while obviously obsessed with poetry and plays, with the power of the printed word and the stage – was demonstrably involved in crucial affairs of state.

Henry V 1387 - 1422

Henry V
1387 – 1422

If Oxford was the author of King John, Richard II and Henry V, to name three of the several histories covered by Miss Campbell, then “Shakespeare” was not just a concerned observer of the great issues of his day, but, indeed, a participant in them. As Chesterton noted, “Men can always be blind to a thing, so long as it’s big enough,” and Looney, by identifying Oxford, was pointing to an author whose world was larger than that of the Stratford man in every way.

The overall implication of Oxford’s authorship is so enormous, in fact, that even Oxfordians can be blind to it: we are not talking about switching one name for another, or one writer for another, but, rather, about the seismic shift from a man born in a small market town in the countryside to a man raised by blood to inhabit the palace and be part of THE GOVERNMENT – as if the author of popular political novels in the U.S. turned out to be a top official of the C.I.A. or State Department, and who had been filling his works with thinly disguised, inside information that had never gotten into the official record.

[In the case of Edward de Vere, we have the amazing story of a man who, in the 1570s and 1580s, led a renaissance of English literature and drama, helping to rouse unity in the face of foreign invasion; but who, in the 1590s, found himself adopting the pen name “Shakespeare” in a power struggle against the entrenched Cecilian control over the government and over the queen herself. In the early stages, Oxford had been working on the same side as Burghley and spymaster Walsingham, within the government; in the final stages, however, he was in a power struggle (behind the scenes) with Principle Secretary Robert Cecil to determine who would control the succession to Elizabeth on the throne.]

William Cecil 1520-1598 Robert Cecil 1563-1612

William Cecil 1520-1598
Robert Cecil 1563-1612

Here is Oxford as a young man:

24 November 1569, to William Cecil, in reference to the Northern Rebellion of Catholic earls: “And at this time I am bold to desire your favor and friendship that you will suffer me to be employed by your means and help in this service that now is in hand … now you will do me so much honor as that by your purchase of my license I may be called to the service of my prince and country…”

And here with my emphases added to some of the words that “Shakespeare” uses in similar ways —

September 1572, to Wm. Cecil Lord Treasurer Burghley, in reference to the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre of Protestants in France: “And think if the Admiral in France was an eyesore or beam in the eyes of the Papists, then the Lord Treasurer of England is a block and a cross-bar in their way, whose remove they will never stick to attempt, seeing they have prevailed so well in others. This estate hath depended on you a great while, as all the world doth judge, and now all men’s eyes … are, as it were, on a sudden, bent and fixed on you as a singular hope and pillar …

[“…shame to your estate, an eyesore to our solemn festival” – Taming of the Shrew; “His brandished sword did blind men with his beams” – 1 Henry VI; “… who, like a block, hath denied my access to thee” – Coriolanus; “Any bar, any cross, any impediment” – Much Ado About Nothing; “They will not stick to say you envied him” – Henry VIII; “…for on his choice depends the safety and health of this whole state” – Hamlet; “…why such unplausive eyes are bent on him” – Troilus and Cressida]

“I am one that counts myself a follower of yours now in all fortunes, and what shall hap to you, I count it hap to myself … Thus my Lord, I humbly desire your Lordship to pardon my youth, but to take in good part my zeal and affection towards your Lordship, as on whom I have builded my foundation, either to stand or fall … I shall be most willing to be employed on the sea coasts, to be in a readiness with my countrymen against any invasion.”

When the young Oxford was prevented from a military career, his service soon took the form of literature and drama. In the process he created a robust language and cultural identity that helped give England a new sense of national pride. Miss Campbell noted that “each of the Shakespeare histories serves a special purpose in elucidating a political problem of Elizabeth’s day and in bringing to bear upon this problem the accepted political philosophy of the Tudors.”

Lily Campbell’s view of the Shakespeare histories as “mirrors of Elizabethan policy” is no. 79 of 100 reasons why Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford was the man who wrote them.

Lily Campbell Biographical Synopsis

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  1. Good post, Whittemore!

    Yes, Shakespeare is very political. As Rhys Ifans would say in “Anonymous”: “All art is political, Jonson, if not, it’s mere decoration!”

    • Thanks, Francisco (and Sandy, too!) — great conversations among you. There is something about Rutland that we need to find out. First there was Edward Manners, third earl of Rutland who was a ward during much of the same time as Edward de Vere. Edward Manners was a royal ward from 1563 to 1570; Edward de Vere from 1562 to 1571. In unpublished work Betty Sears speculated, and was convinced, that those two were twins! I am not sure of their relationship. The dates given for Edward Manners are born 1549 and died 1587. Old Roger Manners, on June 2, 1583, wrote to Edward Manners third Earl of Rutland that the Queen and Oxford were reconciled “after some bitter words and speeches” when “in the end all sins are forgiven, and he may repair to the Court at his pleasure.” Roger credited Raleigh with paving the way. So the Manners folks were interested in Oxford — although the rift between Oxford and the Queen was probably hot stuff at the time, worth of being on the cover of People magazine today. Old Roger referred to Burghley as Pondus, maybe their nickname for him.

      Anyway, then we have the close friendship between Henry Wriothseley and Roger Manners, fifth Earl of Rutland (1576?-1612), and again we seem to lack good information. I’ll try to be back with some source links.

      • Here are the two biographies from the “old” Dictionary of National Biography, written in the late nineteenth century, I believe. I cannot vouch for their accuracy, but I much prefer the older-written versions than any of the new ones (such as the new one for Edward de Vere written by Alan Nelson as opposed to the earlier one by Sidney Lee.) Here they are:

        MANNERS, EDWARD, third EARL OF RUTLAND (1549-1587), born in 1549, was eldest son of Henry, second earl of Rutland [q. v.], by Margaret, fourth daughter of Ralph Neville, fourth earl of Westmorland. He seems to have been educated at Oxford, though he did not graduate there as a student. He bore the title of Lord Roos or Ros, the old title of his family, until 1563, when by the death of his father he became third Earl of Rutland. He was made one of the queen’s wards, and was specially under the charge of Sir William Cecil, who was connected with him by marriage. He accompanied the queen on her visit to Cambridge in 1564, and was lodged in St. John’s College, and created M.A. 10 Aug. In October 1566 he was made M.A. of Oxford. In 1569 he joined the Earl of Sussex, taking his tenants with him, and held a command in the army which suppressed the northern insurrection. In 1570 he passed into France, Cecil drawing up a paper of instructions for his guidance. He was in Paris in the February or the next year. At home he received many offices, and displayed enthusiastic devotion to the queen. On 5 Aug. 1570 he became constable of Nottingham Castle, and steward, keeper, warden, and chief justice of Sherwood Forest ; in 1571 he was feodary of the duchy of Lancaster for the counties of Nottingham and Derby ; in 1574 he was appointed lord-lieutenant of Nottinghamshire.

        On 17 June 1577 Rutland was placed on the ecclesiastical commission for the province of York, and in 1579 on the council of the north. In the grand tilting match of 1580 Rutland and twelve others contended with a similar number, headed by Essex, before the queen at Westminster. His public offices probably now absorbed all his time, as in 1581 a relative, John Manners, seems to have been managing his estate. On 23 April 1584 he became K.G., and on 14 June 1585 lord-lieutenant of Lincolnshire. His style of living was very expensive ; when he went with his countess to London about 1586 he had with him forty-one servants, including a chaplain, trumpeter, gardener, and apothecary. In June 1586, with Lord Eure and Randolph, he arranged a treaty of peace with the Scots at Berwick, and his brother Roger wrote that his conduct had been approved by the court. On 6 Oct. he was one of the commissioners to try Mary Queen of Scots. The queen promised to make him lord chancellor after the death of Sir Thomas Bromley [q. v.], which took place 12 April 1587, and he was for a day or two so styled. He died, however, on 14 April 1587 at his house at Ivy Bridge in the Strand. Camden says that he was a learned man and a good lawyer. His funeral was very costly; his body was taken to Bottesford, Leicestershire, and buried in the church, where there is an epitaph. Eller gives an account of his will. A late portrait, attributed to Jan Van der Eyden [q. v.], is at Belvoir. After negotiations with several other ladies, he married (later than January 1571-2) Isabel, daughter of Sir Thomas Holcroft of Vale Royal, Cheshire, and left a daughter, Elizabeth, who was styled Baroness Roos ; she married in 1588 Sir William Cecil, afterwards Lord Burghley, and died in 1591. Her son William was in right of his mother confirmed in the barony of Roos in 1616, and died in 1618 [see under LAKE, SIR THOMAS]. The earl was succeeded by his brother John, fourth earl, who, dying 21 Feb. 1587-8, was followed by his son Roger, fifth earl [q. v.] The widow, who lived till 1606, was troubled with money difficulties owing to her husband’s debts, and engaged in litigation about his will. Many of the earl’s letters are preserved at Belvoir Castle.

        MANNERS, ROGER, fifth EARL OF RUTLAND (1576-1612), born 6 Oct. 1576, was son of John, fourth earl of Rutland, and nephew of Edward, third earl [q . v .] His mother was Elizabeth, daughter of Francis Charleton of Apley Castle, Shropshire. He was educated for a time at Queens’ College, Cambridge, and had a man and a boy to look after him. On 21 Feb. 1587-8 he succeeded as fifth Earl of Rutland on the death of his father, and, passing through London on his way to Cambridge, he had an interview with Queen Elizabeth, who spoke kindly to him and said that ‘she knew his father for an honest man.’ In 1590 his tutor, John Jegon [q. v.], removed to Corpus Christi College, and among other of his pupils, Rutland went with him ; Burghley wrote approving of the change, and also of his going down to Belvoir for the hunting season. Jegon took great care of him, writing many letters to his mother. On 20 Feb. 1595 he became M.A. Burghley approved of his making a foreign tour, though he wrote that the young earl knew very little about his estate, and in September 1595 he received leave to travel abroad. For his guidance a manuscript of ‘Profitable Instructions’ (now Harl. MS. 6265, p. 428) was drawn up, which was printed, with two similar essays, in 1633, and was then assigned to Robert Devereux, second earl of Essex. Bacon was more probably the author (cf. SPEDDING, Bacon, ix. 4 so.) His old tutor Jegon warned him against the character of the French. Rutland sailed early in 1596 from Plymouth, and fassed by way of Paris to Switzerland and taly. In North Italy he had a dangerous illness (cf. BIRCH, Elizabeth, i. 428, ii. 26). He seems to have been fond of learned men, and met Caspar Waser at Zurich (Zurich Letters, Parker Soc, ii. 326). On 2 Feb. 1597-8 he was admitted member of Gray’s Inn. As he had announced some time before his intention of joining Essex in his Irish expedition, he was made a colonel of foot in 1599. Essex knighted him 30 May 1599, but he passed only a short time in Ireland, as he was in England in June 1599, in some disgrace with the court. On 10 July 1599, he was incorporated M.A. at Oxford. Wood describes him as ‘ an eminent traveller and good soldier.’ He passed a short time on service with the Dutch in company with the Earl of Northumberland, and 14 June 1600 became constable of Nottingham Castle and steward of Sherwood Forest. On 8 Feb. 1600-1 he took part in Essex’s plot, and was one of those who were captured at Essex House. His uncle Roger, an old servant of the queen, who had three nephews implicated, lamented that they had ever been born. In the Tower, Rutland soon came to his senses, wrote very penitently, was examined and rated by the council, and was fined 30,000l. His fortunes recovered under James I, who stayed at Belvoir in his progress southwards, witnessing the performance of Ben Jonson’s ‘Metamorphosed Gypsies,’ and made him a K.B. at his coronation. On 9 June 1603 Rutland received the keepership of Birkwood Park, Yorkshire, and Clipstone Castle, Northamptonshire, and from June to August 1603 was engaged on a mission to Christian IV, king of Denmark, to present him with the order of the Garter, and to represent James at the christening of his son (Hist MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. App. p. 527). On 20 Sept. 1603 he became lord-lieutenant of Lincolnshire, and the same year high steward of Grantham. In 1609 he received also the stewardships of Long Bennington and Mansfield. His constitution seems to have been worn out prematurely, and he died on 26 June 1612. He was buried at Bottesford, Leicestershire. He is noted as being engaged in two duels when the subject attracted attention in 1613 (SPEDDING, Bacon, xi. 396). Rutland married, early in 1599, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Philip Sidney, who died without issue in 1615. The title passed to a brother, Francis, sixth earl of Rutland [q. v.] Many of Rutland’s letters are preserved at Belvoir, Hatfield, and Longleat.

  2. Thanks, Hank– this is another eye-opener. I quote Campbell in a forthcoming article. She postulated that Shakespeare knew the Cordelia poem in the 1574 Mirror for Magistrates. That helps my article about “Let the bird of loudest lay,” since I show Shakespeare’s poem echoes the phrase “feathered king” from that 1574 book. But I knew none of this about Campbell. Fascinating!

    • Richard, thanks, and keep up the great work! Let me know about anything of yours I can highlight for my readers.

  3. Hi Hank,

    this is a great post again. Thank you 🙂

  4. Hank:

    this lifespan (1549-1687) – seems to be rather long 🙂 I have no time now to read the whole text, is it just a century-problem?

    • Thank you, Sandy! It was a century too long:-) I knew Edward Manners died in 1587 but must have looked at the DNB date and thought that’s what it said. “His constitution seems to have worn out prematurely,” the DNB writer states. He was not yet forty.

      Otherwise I have no idea if the birth date is accurate, either:-)

      • Accurated or not, no wonder Sears thought they were twins: both had the same name, their families were friends, both were in the same house under the same masters at the same, etc. like they were brothers and Elizabeth was giving them the same education at the same time. But I don’t get deep in that question.

        When to Rutland, the case is curious. And Whittemore, you forgot to mention too the documents which prove Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” was perfomed in the Belvoir Castle, Roger Manners’ and his wife’s house. This and Sonnet 111 prove us that Rutland was not just a lover of poetry and theatre, but a writer of it, just like Southampton was, with many poets under him and the poem he wrote to his biological mother while in the Tower. Rutland was the second hand who was helping Oxford, his father, in rewritting his plays as Shakespeare. He was not the only one: John Donne, who was the man behind Thoma Nashe and Edmund Spenser, and Francis Bacon, the man behind Richard Barnfield and Edward Dyer (another theory of mine. I’m still studying it), were involved too. That’s why all this names seems so influenced by both Shakespeare and Oxford.

        He did put this son in The Monument, the difference was that Rutland was impotent. What does this matter? Southampton was not, and he was the elder non identical twin. He could bear a male yet, and this one, the Queen and her lover and firstborn’s grandson, could then inherit the throne. I think this was the dangerous Cecil was fearing: he was too a bastard of Elizabeth by Dudley, but his foster father’s cruelty influenced him and the way people looked at him. They would never wanted him to be king. So he wanted to become the power behind the throne… of James, who could be the only king now. His brothers Southampton and Rutland in the throne would be his fall, the Rebellion was against him! Essex was out of the way, Rutland was impotent, the only one to di was Southampton. Oxford talks of this fight for his firstborn’s life in the Sonnets and barely cites his second son too, who was in less dangerous.

  5. You forgot in the 1572 letter to Burghley the use of HENDIADYS

    “the expression of an idea by the use of usually two independent words connected by and (as nice and warm) instead of the usual combination of independent word and its modifier.(Slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”)”

    Hendiadys also in literature combines a concrete thing with an abstract or non concrete word (“Whips and scorns of time”).

    Oxford seemed preferential to their use. He uses them three times in the passage you cited.

    “And think if the Admiral in France was an ***eyesore or beam*** in the eyes of the Papists, then the Lord Treasurer of England is a **block and a cross-bar** in their way, whose remove they will never stick to attempt, seeing they have prevailed so well in others. This estate hath depended on you a great while, as all the world doth judge, and now all men’s eyes … are, as it were, on a sudden, bent and fixed on you as a singular **hope and pillar** (hope and pillar are the strongest in abstract-hope vs concrete-pillar.)

    Roger Strtmatter told me hendiadys went out of fashion but Shakespeare continued using them. Ironically they reached their peak in Hamlet (over 100 uses) and Othello (over 60 uses). Shapiro mentioned this but no one seems to know why the author sharply escalated his use of them in these two plays.


    • Curious… could they indicate the chronology Oxfordians follow (that Shakespeare’s works were from the 1560’s until 1590’s) ?

      • Hard to say. Oxfordians have put the first version of Hamlet circa 1584 … but hard to say if his use of them followed any line of development.

      • Except that Roger told me most other authers were averse to their use. Would be an interesting study.

  6. Dear Hank,

    Thanks for bringing Lily B. Campbell’s book to my attention! I will certainly have to read it. I met you briefly at a Concordia University Shakespeare Authorship Studies Conference some years back. I respect the work of you and other Oxfordians, including my friend Rick Waugaman, that pokes holes in the notion that it is beyond doubt that Shakspere wrote Shakespeare.

    I am a Marlovian, with a twist. The twist is that I think sometimes Marlowe co-authored certain “Shakespeare” plays with his friend, humorist Thomas Nashe.

    I think you’d be interested in reading Cynthia Morgan’s Foreword to my latest book because it talks about how certain English Renaissance plays advanced the interests of the State. Since I currently work at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, S. Korea and it will be some time before I read Campbell, I’d be interested in your take as to what Morgan says compared to what Campbell says. You can read this Foreword for free by going to and clicking on “Read the first thirty pages.”

    Most respectfully,
    Donna N. Murphy

    • Thanks, Donna! I certainly will look at Cynthia Morgan’s forward — and will be interested to learn more about your work, too. Drop in any time.

    • Dear Donna,

      this is the first time I meet a true Marlowian 🙂 If you have time for some sentences: what makes Marlowe to be a more likely author that Oxford, in your view?
      Thank you very much in advance for your kind answer.

      • Dear Sandy,

        Pleased to meet you! We Marlovians have written quite a bit about why the Earl of Oxford makes an unsuitable candidate as the author of the Shakespeare plays. You can read my article and others by visiting and clicking on “Why it wasn’t the Earl of Oxford” on the sidebar. You might want to read it while drinking a glass of wine. : )

        Regarding why Marlowe makes a suitable candidate, that’s what my new book is about, “The Marlowe-Shakespeare Continuum: Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Nashe, and the Authorship of Early Shakespeare and Anonymous Plays.” My theory is that Marlowe wrote the lion’s share, but sometimes worked with co-authors, particularly his friend, humorist Thomas Nashe. Others have written books as well, and in particular I recommend “Marlowe’s Ghost” by Daryl Pinksen. There are links to books and other websites at

        I’ve always enjoyed the company of Oxfordians–I just think you’re backing the wrong candidate! Yes, I know Marlowe was supposed to be dead, but we’ve written about that, too. From my homepage, you can click on “Why Marlowe’s Death Was Dubious.” Peter Farey’s written extensively on the subject at

        Most respectfully,
        Donna Murphy

      • Donna,
        A few thoughts after reading your essay.I think it is incredibly specious and frankly somewhat shallow to make a judgment about a writer or artist based on “moral character” outside of their work. You also cherry pick Oxford quite a bit. For example, Bob Dylan is/was an extremely complex personality. In his songs he expresses a deep heartfelt persona. In his life at times he treated people horribly, and to be blunt was a dick. His abuse of Phil Oches and Joan Baez (who became his lover-they didn’t reconcile for years) was well known. She said of “With God on Our Side”, that she couldn’t believe such a great song came from that “little toad”. Other great artists have gone so far to be abusers. One reason Marilyn Monroe broke up with Arthur Miller was his clandestine using their relationship as fodder for “After the Fall.” Yet Miller’s plays are all about morality.

        You ignore completely Oxford’s support and cultivation of other artists and the literary scene in general. Too bad he brought into English a translation of Cardanus Conforte which is so associated with Hamlet in stoicism and language, many scholars have called it Hamlet’s book. The poem Oxford wrote in the preface is an unheard of lament by a nobleman for the common man who is taken advantage of by his superiors for his labor.

        You are on stronger ground in your stylistic arguments but they are highly subjective. I got fascinated by Ogburn’s assertion that Shakespeare introduced the use of murder in the figurative (“Macbeth doth murder sleep”) so I researched it heavily. In the Bedingfiled letter (preface to Cardanus Comforte), at 23 years old Oxford introduces the usage twenty years before OED gives it to Shakespeare. With another Shakespearean metaphor

        “And because next to the sacred letters of divinity, nothing doth persuade the same more than philosophy, of which your book is plentifully stored: I thought myself to commit an unpardonable error **to have murdered the same in the waste bottoms of my chests**; and better I thought it were to displease one than to displease many; further considering so little a trifle cannot procure so great a breach or our amity, as may not with it little persuasion of reason be repaired again. And herein I am forced, like a good and politic captain, oftentimes to spoil and burn the corn or his own country, lest his enemies thereof do take advantage.”

        Later he writes **in the same letter**

        “”What doth avail the tree unless it yield fruit to another? What doth avail the vine unless another delighteth in the grape? What doth avail the rose unless another took pleasure in the smell? Why should this tree be accounted better than that tree but for the goodness of his fruit? Why should this vine be better than that vine unless it brought forth a better grape than the other? **Why should this rose be better esteemed than that rose, unless ill pleasantness of smell it far surpassed the other rose?”**

        I think that sounds familiar. I know it from somewhere. Yet at 23 this man, according to you was prosaic and NEVER could produce language we could find in Shakespeare. Are you kidding?

        I challenged the hard core Strats to find any earlier modern English (of the time) usage of murder in the figurative and no one could. It is a favorite usage of Shakespeare, he uses it 8% of the time he writes “murder”. I then went to a Marlowe concordance. He never uses it. In all his works he may have used it once, in a simplistic fashion.

        Further, Roger Stritmatter, in his great in depth research on Shakespeare’s Bible usage (over 2000 references) found signature passage references that were “fingerprints” of an author’s proclivity. Oxford matched Shakespeare to a high degree. Marlowe did not. Marlowe’s “Set” of preferred passages does not overlap Shakespeare in the slightest.

        You cherry pick All’s Well yet ignore one of the most striking similarities Stritmatter found. I wrote this on 12/20/2011 in comment on writing similarities between Oxford and Shakespeare. (Hank’s reason #30) After commenting on Oxford and Shakespeare’s use of Hendidys (Whips and scorns of time)

        “Also Stritmatter pointed out in his dissertation Oxford’s letter concerning the 1000 pound grant. To Falstaff from the Chief Justice, “Not a penny, not a penny, you are too impatient to bear crosses” pointing to the Biblical passage between Jesus and the rich man,. (“come follow me and take up the cross). Stritmatter demonstrates “The (chief Justice’s) harsh medicine _reverses_ the real life complaint of Devere, in his Danvers Escheat letter to Robert Cecil that he is obliged to “earnestly solicit her (Majesty) for the report, which I should not have needed to do **if gospel had been put in the mouth of of the Lord Chief Justice and the Attorney””**. Shakespeare has “put gospel in the mouth of the Lord Chief Justice”.

        This is little known but one of the most striking parallels I have seen in the entire debate.

        I have also had concerns about developing endings in Shakespeare in later plays and Oxford but as to your other criticism’s
        1)They are shaky and highly subjective.
        2)If you are going to critique a case or position, you had better know it far more thoroughly than you seem to display. Otherwise, your comments appear highly cavalier and not well thought out.

  7. Lovely tribute to Lily Campbell, Hank, with some great quotes! She’s awesome. Reading her gave me the courage to follow through with my instincts about Titus Andronicus as also all about England, in this case the reign of Henry VIII. I’m always cheered when I see mainstream scholars quoting from Campbell, though for sure, it doesn’t happen nearly as much as she deserves.

  8. P.S. Just read the comments, with Betty Sears’ idea of the two Edwards as twins, which I’d never heard before. Years ago, it seemed to me that the coincidence of the two boys of the same age in the same household, both having just lost their father, both wards of state with the same first name, may have inspired in Oxford a fascination with the concept of twin-ship. But I think the twin-thing relates more to the Hercules myth.

  9. Dear Donna,

    thank you for your kind answer. Please watch the happenings in the near future, regarding the authorship question. Maybe the war is getting to an end.

    Best wishes,

  10. Dear Sandy,

    Fair enough, but I happen to believe that my book represents a big breakthrough in favor of Marlowe and Nashe. : )

    Dear Ken,

    I hear you that “jerks” can write fine songs and plays, and I’m glad you didn’t try to defend Oxford’s character, which really was pretty awful. What I’m saying, though, was that by the time the Bard wrote “The Tempest” (and also “As You Like It”) he was an adept–a highly developed spiritual person, an enlightened man. Those types of people cannot at the same time behave jerkishly toward others– they’re too far developed spiritually to do so. Assuming Marlowe lived beyond 1593, we don’t know about his spiritual path, but with Oxford, it’s fairly clear that he never became enlightened.

    You’re right that I should have mentioned Oxford’s patronage of writers: this was a good thing he did. Just wish he’d thought more about leaving an inheritance behind for his children.

    Marlowe often employed figurative language. Just because he generally used “murder” in the literal sense doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t have used it figuratively at another point. When it comes to linguistic parallels between the works of Marlowe and Shakespeare vs. Oxford and Shakespeare, Marlowe wins hands down! You can take a look either at my”The Marlowe-Shakespeare Continuum. Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Nashe, and the Authorship of Early Shakespeare and Anonymous Plays” or, if you’d rather, Calvin Hoffman’s older book about Marlowe and Shakespeare. There is nothing subjective about these parallels! Regarding the Falstaff/Chief Justice exchange in “II Henry IV,” I argue that Falstaff in “I Henry IV” was written by Thomas Nashe. It’s therefore quite possible that the lines to which you refer were by Nashe as well, but I’d have to give “II Henry IV” a thorough investigation.

    I fail to understand why discussing “All’s Well That Ends Well” is cherry picking. I fail to understand why, if he’d written it, Oxford didn’t allow for the character Bertram who has much in common with him to undergo more of a positive transformation for the better.

    I think the arguments centered around highlighted portions of Oxford’s Bible and Bible passages referred to in Shakespeare are the best thing Oxford’s got going for him. It’s just not enough.

    And let us keep in mind that Marlowe attended Cambridge on a scholarship for divinity students, while Nashe was a minister’s son, and both knew the Bible well. Marlovian Alex Jack found that both Marlowe and Shakespeare most often echoed the Geneva Bible, followed by the Bishop’s Bible, with infrequent references to other English bibles then in use. The Gospel of Matthew was the book in the Bible to which both Marlowe and Shakespeare most frequently referred, and for both, the Psalms was the second most echoed book

    All the best,

    • Donna,

      First I’m not even a strict proponent of Oxford/s candidacy. I’ve become more agnostic on the authorship issue in general. What I DO believe is that whoever wrote Shakespeare was deeply interested in and influenced by the Earl of Oxford.

      I would have to look at your position that Shakespeare was an “adept” because to be frank, truly frank, I am an adept. And beyond whatever Shakespeare would have been. I have been involved with mystical spirituality and metaphysics for 45 years, and for 25 have presented on those topics throughout the area. The level of intensive encounters with Divine energy in my life runs in the thousands. And this is a time that supports this kind of investigation way beyond what would have been available in Shakespeare’s time. Marlowe was declared ab “atheist” in my understanding partly because Kyd claimed he was an “Aryanist” referencing the Council of Nicea and the possibility of rejecting Trinitarianism which was a big no no then. But that is really beginner level stuff, important, but beginner.

      I only say this because imo Shakespeare was NOT heavily mystically oriented unless one starts to create all kinds of secret decoding of his writings. Shakespeare was deeply humanistic but I see no interest in affirming direct spiritual or esoteric content as a core measure of his being on his part. I see his work as horizontal within the matrix of human life- the supreme exploration of the psychological-emotional realm, I see little of the “vertical”, the engagement and contemplation of Divinity and the expression of a fully formed coherent spiritual orientation, especially one based on a personal body of numerous authentic encounters with such, especially Divinity within rather than a few phrases. (There are more things Horatio.., the fault dear Brutus…). These proclamations I see as dramatic rather than part of a coherent mystical philosophy. An spiritual adept does not write nihilistic plays such as Lear and MacBeth. (“Tomorrow, tomorrow, Tomorrow…) This orientation seemed to increase in Shakespeare as he progressed. (Hamlet expresses hope of escaping the existential trap, there is none in Lear,) And if Tempest is used as a culmination of philosophy. Strumatter and Kositsky have made a profoundly powerful case that it was written much earlier than thought.

      I said “Cherry Picking” because of the hundreds of contact points between Oxford’s life, your essay focused on one play. And your use of Arundel as a witness against Oxford damages your credibility.

      I think you misunderstand the Bible preferred references and again, if you are to critique a case, you need to know it better. I suggest you contact Roger Stritmatter directly at his blog and dialogue with him as to his evidence on Marlowe, Shakespeare, Oxford and that text.

      I have learned that we make assumptions about human behavior to fit our conceptions that do not correspond to reality. Therefore the idea that an artist of Shakespeare’s status “must have” been this type of person or an adept, even an advanced one, had to be “this way” simply is not true. Read the “Promise of Paradise” about Rajneesh-Osho. Look at the controversies surrounding Da Free John. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche was a brilliant Buddhist teacher who helped establish Buddhist studies in the West but he is highly controversial and his behavior was often greatly abusive and he drank heavily, smoked, and was sexually active with his students. Alan Watts was an alcoholic who had many family problems. The list goes on and on.

      I truly am not interested in an in depth debate on Marlowe or Oxford. I will look at some of your arguments.

      Just to give us all pause since you seem interested in metaphysics a little as regards the issue. I was at a music festival years ago and a woman told me of visiting Shakespeare’s house in Stratford. She was with a group when an incredibly powerful stream of Divine energy began enveloping the room and her group, literally knocking them to the floor it was so intense. The implication was Shakespeare’s energy from the “other side” was affirming his artistry. Since I have dealt with channeled intensively energy for 20 years, I don’t take that account lightly.

      What I truly like about unconventional authorship studies is the areas that they have taken us to get a better grasp of the author no matter who he was as traditional conventional approaches are highly stagnant in many ways in their understanding.

      I encourage you to read Stephanie Hughes’s latest essay at Her great strength is her phenomenal understanding of Shakespeare as a political artist and the politics and history of the times. No matter what our author orientation, one can learn amazing things from her.

      I appreciate your commitment to the subject and I applaud the work you have done. However I caution against unwarranted assumptions about human behavior and again, if you’re going to get in this deep, I suggest knowing the case you argue against much more thoroughly.

      Recently I have been having a deep theological exchange with a very serious teacher of A Course in Miracles and some of the same issues came up. That if I were to critique the Course, I needed to know it better.
      Take care.

      • Dear Ken,

        I look forward to reading Stephanie Hughes’ essay–thanks for recommending it. Funny you should mention “A Course in Miracles.” Reading it, doing the workbook lessons every day for one year, and being involved in a Course in Miracles study group was an important step along my spiritual path.

        If you’d like to read more about signs that “Shakespeare” was an adept, I recommend Peter Dawkins’ five-book “Wisdom of Shakespeare” series, each book discussing a particular Shakespeare play, and also Dawkins’ “The Shakespeare Enigma.”

        I am a specialist in the attribution of authorship of works written during the English Renaissance, having spent several years researching and writing to acquire this skill (see list of publications at On the subject of the multitude of uncommon linguistic connections between Marlowe and Shakespeare (and sometimes Nashe and Shakespeare), I certainly do know what I’m talking about.

        While no doubt there are certain examples of uncommon linguistic connections between Oxford and Shakespeare, from the way I look at things (and I’ve done this with anonymous works I’ve determined to be by Robert Greene, Thomas Lodge and George Peele as well), they are far too few and far between to lead me to think Oxford wrote the works of Shakespeare. Indeed, the paucity of uncommon linguistic connections causes me to believe Oxford did not write them.

        To see how I work, on the page listing my publications mentioned above, click on the link for “”The Life and Death of Jack Straw’ and George Peele.”


      • Donna,
        I appreciate your reply, your dedication and expertise. Because of the lack of any published play by Oxford, it is very hard to make linguistic analysis compare to published playwrights. Stylistic comparisons such as the feminine ending issue you mentioned, also raised by Stephen May, to me have not been satisfactorily answered by the Oxfordian community. I do think you need to network with Stritmatter about Marlowe and the Bible. Its an important piece, especially given how serious you are on the subject.

        I doubt I am going to read a five part series on the subject of adept or not right now as there are other important things going on in my life.I may look for more online I would suggest your essay on your blog might be expanded as using one play is not enough imo to make a case.

        I think absolutely Shakespeare was a genius. I think the idea that he was enlightened is a fantasy. As i said earlier, there appears to me nothing in his plays and especially the Sonnets that indicate a proclivity toward what we would term advanced experiential base and expression of that experience concerning oneness or deep communion with “higher self”. I do not believe a spiritually enlightened man would write King Lear. Enlightened people are not nihilists and the explanation that “its the characters” doesn’t cut it for me”.

        Kabir was born relatively close to Shakespeare. (1398)
        “WHEN He Himself reveals Himself, Brahma brings into manifestation That which can never be seen.
        As the seed is in the plant, as the shade is in the tree, as the void is in the sky, as infinite forms are in the void–
        So from beyond the Infinite, the Infinite comes; and from the Infinite the finite extends.

        The creature is in Brahma, and Brahma is in the creature: they are ever distinct, yet ever united.
        He Himself is the tree, the seed, and the germ. p. 51
        He Himself is the flower, the fruit, and the shade.
        He Himself is the sun, the light, and the lighted.
        He Himself is Brahma, creature, and Maya.
        He Himself is the manifold form, the infinite space;
        He is the breath, the word, and the meaning.
        He Himself is the limit and the limitless: and beyond both the limited and the limitless is He, the Pure Being.
        He is the Immanent Mind in Brahma and in the creature.

        The Supreme Soul is seen within the soul,
        The Point is seen within the Supreme Soul,
        And within the Point, the reflection is seen again. p. 52
        Kabîr is blest because he has this supreme vision!”

        Now that’s an adept, and beyond. I see nothing close to this in Shakespeare.

        Totally different lens.

        Thanks for your time.

    • Donna,
      Here is Stritmatter’s findings Ina nutshell. Most author,s of the period knew the Bible extremely well. One did not have to be a Divinity student to reference many passages. Stritmatter found that authors had a proclivity and affinity for certain ones above others and returned to them more frequently. I think his criteria was 3 times or more, He allied these ” preferred” references. His opinion was that these were unconscious processes and were an “authorial fingerprint”. Shakespeare had about 80 of these “preferred passages”. He then compared them to the annotated passages in Devere,s Geneva and found about a 50 percent overlap. He then used Marlowe and Bacon as controls to look at heir “preferred passages” (Which were plentiful”) and compared them to Shakespeare’s. There was virtually no overlap for these author’s. In other words it appeared their sensibilities were elsewhere.

      One other thing. Whoever the annotator was (Stritmatter confirmed it was Oxford’s handwriting) knew the Latin Vulgate version so intimately that he annotated a correction in the translation in the Geneva at one place where the translator had made a mistake.

      Food for thought. Make of it what you will.

      • Hi Ken,

        Did Stritmatter find a proclivity toward Shakespeare’s preferred Biblical passages in the known poetry, letters, and dedications by Oxford?

        Are you saying that a shared proclivity toward Biblical passages between Shakespeare and the annotator of Oxford’s Bible is a better indicator of authorship than the mountain of linguistic similarities, both obvious and subtle, between Marlowe and Shakespeare; their use of the same sources; their knowledge of the same line in Spenser’s “The Faerie Queene” (I report that one on my website); and the way scholars are able to pair plays such as Marlowe’s “Edward II” and Shakespeare’s “Richard II”, and Marlowe’s “Doctor Faustus” and Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”?


      • Sorry I took so long. Went to Vt, then got sick. This is my final reply. I do appreciate the work you are doing on authorship attribution. I admire your dedication to Marlowe who was a truly brilliant artist. I find authorship studies take us outside the comfortable paradigm and open up vistas conventional thinking misses.

        That said I do not support the Marlovian thesis. On the Biblical references, take Oxford out of the equation. The dissonance between Marlowe and Shakespeare in preferred passages is too great.

        I found at a simple search two stylometric studies on Marlowe and Shakespeare. The weaker one, which still finds different authorship is here

        The stronger one, which uses preferred word selection, similar to Stritmatter’s findings and is highly efficient with other texts, is here

        Click to access hoffman_essay.pdf

        I also found a fascinating essay on why MOV is more antisemitic inherently than Jew of Malta and why they could not have been written by the same author.

        I’m sure you’re well aware of the conventional view of JOM but as per this author’s thesis, I suspect Marlowe chose a Jew as protagonist because if he wanted to waste everyone, the Jew would land him in the least trouble rather than a frontal assault on Christianity.

        As for the resemblances you found, they exist for Oxford also. I already showed you the introduction to the Bedingfield translation, one of the few items Oxford prepared FOR PUBLICATION. The usage of murder in the figurative is attributed first use to Shakespeare 20 years later in the OED yet Oxford did it first at age 23. I reiterate, it became a favored usage of Shakespeare. Marlowe never uses it. I don’t think the significance of this plus other similar phrase-word usages can be easily sluffed off.

        A for the AYLI reference of a political comment in a comedy, Shakespeare was extremely adroit in hiding political views, even seditious ones, in unusual places. This essay changed my perception of Shakespeare forever. Why would a commentary on Edmund Campion, Catholic Martyr in 1580 appear in Twelfth Night 22 years later, if this was a “new” play.
        There is just so much we don’t know.

        The Marlowe case is shrouded in the same problem as the Srtatford case. There is no real biography. It is all surmises after Marlowe’s “death”. Where is any evidence of a “life” to tie the works to? We “assume” this. we “presume “that”? We “suppose” that style, proclivities, attitudes, tendencies changed markedly. It does not convince me.

        This is not necessarily to argue for Oxford. Yet I believe there is a fruitfulness, as I have said, in these endeavors. For example demonstrating Shakespeare’s familiarity with esoteric practices is an arena not usually mined.Obviously this is a life work for you. Go for it.

        Its just not for me. I became an Oxfordian when the idea of a real person whose life seemed so reflected in the works appeared. The word that struck me was “melancholy”. Today I am more agnostic but still see some authentic connection between the two, Oxford the man and Shakespeare the author. Clearly there was a strong connection between Marlowe and Shakespeare also.

        I have no idea whether Oxford wrote Shakespeare. I am fairly certain Marlowe did not. As I said, if that’s your passion, pursue it.

        Take care, Best of luck.

  11. Dear Donna,

    what you write I find to be really interesting, I can see the great accomplishment behind it. I wouldn’t like to dishearten you, let’s see what comes.

  12. Dear Ken,

    Actually, English Renaissance authors and the Bible isn’t my thing. I raised it because I’m familiar with Rick Waugaman’s research, and knew of the information in Alex Jack’s book. I’m not really interested in going into further depth with it.

    If you only have time for one of Dawkins’ Wisdom of Shakespeare books, I recommend “The Wisdom of Shakespeare in The Tempest.”

    By “adept,” I specifically have in mind an English Renaissance variety, including Sir Francis Bacon. Combining what they found in, for example, the Hermetic texts, with the symbolism of operative masons, I think they were in on the ground floor of Freemasonry. One finds clues that the author was a Freemason in at least three of the Shakespeare plays. You can get a flavor for this by reading Dawkins.


    • Thanks but you are disregarding an extremely important authorial fingerprint. Stritmatter changed a Marlovian’s position by a talk on the radio. Its not that complicated and I’m not saying it will impact yours but its like I say I’ve discovered an entire vein of gold in this mine and you say “no thanks”. You want to use stylistic analysis and this is one potentially significant vector. You don’ t have to know the Bible to examine the position.

      I’d rather a different play(s) than Tempest. As I’ve referenced you used the term enlightened being. I don’t see Shakespeare’s arc coming from that stance. (as per Kabir)Tempest is too specific. I’d rather see this played out in other works that are no “aimed” at this.

      • Hmm, “Alls Well That Ends Well” is cherry picking, and “The Tempest” is too specific. OK, then try “As You Like It,” either the book on it from Dawkins’ The Wisdom of Shakespeare series, or the new book about that play by Alex Jack.

        There are many ways to mine Shakespeare. I happen to think that my method in “The Marlowe-Shakespeare Continuum,” using uncommon linguistic connections, is quite productive. Will you say “no thanks”?

      • I am away and using this cool I pad for the first time. I want to read your stuff on website and will reply In full later. One point. Oxfordians have a huge collection of correspondences of life to work. That’s why I thought using one play for a critique could be seen as disingenuous. Similarly, I look at the body of work, not one piece so Tempest has to be buttressed with others. Are there other online links to such works or just in book form? I appreciate your directing me to sources. I don’t disagree that S may have had some familiarity with esoteric sources.
        .What I have problems with is that he was “enlightened”. This has specific connotations for me with more than contact with transcendence but communion with and engagement with such so that it informs one’s world view. I don’t see it in the body of work. Soneone who for example feels and believes in Grace doesn’t write Lear in a continuum of other works that have common motifs of point of view. Just my opinion.

      • I think part of the problem is one of definitions. Here are definitions from the Oxford English Dictionary that apply to the way I’m using “adept” and “enlightened”:

        Adept: 1. An initiate into the secrets of a particular hermetic order or occult organization.

        Enlightened: 1a. Having greater knowledge, understanding, or insight.

        I do not claim that Shakespeare writes about the mystical union of oneness with All that Is like Kabir or Rumi. I do believe that he was an initiate into Freemasonry, and had great knowedge and insight into human nature via the study of the Greek mystery plays and hermetic texts, and his experience as someone who “died” in order to live.

    • Donna,
      I agree with you that definition is part of the issue. When you wrote he was an “adept”, a “spiritually Enlightened man”, for me that has very precise connotations. To me that phrase does imply more than just an expanded knowledge or insight, So perhaps it is just this difference of definition. I don’t doubt that S had some knowledge of certain higher esoteric practices and incorporated them when useful into his work. Whether he formally studied them and was an initiate I am not so sure.

      The phrase “Spiritually Enlightened can be loaded so I would be careful with its usage. Putting Enlightened with Spiritually usually has a precise meaning as to a level of awakening or attainment. I think S was extraordinary. I do not consider him “enlightened” in these terms. Apparently you agree.

      The Merchant of Venice from a certain lens can be considered highly anti Semitic. When I get home I will link to a fascinating article comparing Jew of Malta with MOV, claiming the latter is more anti Semitic than the former, which goes against conventional wisdom but it is a very compelling essay.

      One can cogently argue that S. was a man to a degree constrained within the context of his time on this issue. And that would be fair to point out his limitation in this regard.

      However Kabir, who WAS spiritually enlightened lived 150 years before S and was NOT constrained by these influences and wrote about them. The limitations of MOV would not have entered into Kabir’s mind for a millisecond.

      So there is a distinction that is significant and I would just be mindful of that.

      • Dear Ken,
        Thank you for your advice. I will be careful in the future.

        Warm Regards,

  13. Fascinating discussions. I think there are suggestions that De Vere (and the author) studied the esoteric arts of the day but he had the kind of mind that didn’t necessarily contain itself to one discipline.

    Just curious if any of you are familiar with astrology and if so, have you looked at their charts? The sense of “twinning” or entwinement between Oxford and Shakspeare’s charts borders on the wondrous strange. We don’t actually have Will’s birthdate but the correlations hold even if he was born ten days earlier.

    The other reason I mention the chart is de Vere’s Mercury-Sun-Neptune conjunction in Taurus. A Taurus normally has strong borders and a solid ego, but in de Vere’s case picture a hole blown wide in the heart of him and all that is seeping through it: intellectual gnosis, psychic impressions, etheric perceptions, emotional undercurrents, spiritual and poetic impulse. The world and the universe ran through him like a river, part of why he found it so hard to shore himself up in the world. This was just a part of his complex and rare chart pattern, very unique actually, something between a “vision quest” and a “Finger of God” formation that absolutely spelled out a destiny he was compelled to follow.

    Sorry for the little astrology tangent. Just thinking of the many paths there are to the spiritual. In the death listings in the parish registry someone marked the alchemical symbol for spirit of vinegar next to de Vere’s name. Distilled vinegar or spirit of vinegar actually had a metaphorical meaning that had to do with separating the subtle from the gross or the purest spirit of a substance from the dross. In the Tabula Smaragdina Hermetis it was the final stage ingredient in creating the lapidus or maybe it was the philosophers stone, who knows. But like de Vere’s chart, I felt that mark was really apt for the author of Shakespeare.

  14. Donna, the Nashe-Dekker matches were very impressive. I look forward to reading your take on Masonic Shakespeare.

    • Thank you, Mystikel. Shakespeare and Freemasonry will be the subject of my next book, but unfortunately, I won’t have time to write it for a while. If you’re interested in the topic, though, try Alfred Dodd, “Shakespeare. Creator of Freemasonry,” 1937.

  15. I found that Lily Campbell’s book can be read online at the Hathis Trust:

    Just click on the link that says full view. I had not heard of this book but will definitely read it. Thanks as always for being such a great resource, Hank.

  16. With due respect, as far as I can see we oxfordians need stronger weapons against stratfordians than astronomy. I mean facts, mere facts. But maybe I’m wrong.

    • Somehow, Sandy, I think you’re right. Be facts is something that we don’t lack, otherwise we weren’t oxfordians 😉

  17. Hi Ken,

    rest assured: Oxenford did.

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