Reason No. 88 Why the Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare” — His Link to the Bard’s Printers and Publishers

Well before his untimely death on July 11, 2010 at fifty-five, Robert Sean Brazil had become one of the most formidable Oxfordian researchers and writers. Back in 1999 he had printed up copies of a work-in-progress called The True Story of the Shake-speare Publications: Edward de Vere & the Shakespeare Printers, now available online at Amazon. And among the many facets of this single work is one of the strongest pieces of evidence for Oxford’s authorship of the Shakespeare poems, plays and sonnets.


Brazil observed, quite simply, that “Shakespeare” personally edited some of his own works – at least five of them, according to statements on their title pages. The printers of these five quartos indicated or implied that the author himself had altered or enlarged the plays for publication, even after they had been performed at court or in the playhouse.

“The remarkable thing,” Brazil writes, “is that these five instances of advertised authorial corrections and additions all occurred during the time span of 1598 to 1604. In other words, there was a short window of time, six years, within which ‘Shakespeare the author’ showed an active involvement in improving printed versions of his works … After 1604, Shakespeare was apparently unavailable for revisions.”

Shakespeare cartoon

Within the Stratfordian story there is no reason why the author would disappear from the publishing world in 1604, at the peak of his renown, and live in invisible retirement for twelve more years until his death in 1616. In the Oxfordian scenario, however, the reason “Shakespeare” was out of the loop after 1604 is that Edward de Vere died (or disappeared from England) that year.

Contrary to the traditional teaching that Shakespeare had no control over his play texts and no interest in them once they were sold to a publisher, here we have a procession of five different title pages, each indicating that the author had taken an active editorial role. Moreover this procession begins with the very first printing of the Shakespeare name on a play and it ends abruptly after Oxford’s departure.

The five plays advertised as edited by the author were these (Click on Images for Larger Views):

Love's Labour

1598:Love’s Labours Lost: “As it was presented before her Highness this last Christmas … Newly corrected and augmented By W. Shakespere … Imprinted at London by W.W. (William White) for Cuthbert Burby.” This is the first play to carry the Shakespeare name, although it was spelled with “spere” instead of “speare.”

1 Henry IV 1599

1599: Henry IV, Part One: “Newly corrected by W. Shake-speare. At London, Printed by S.S. (Simon Stafford) for Andrew Wise.”

The name is hyphenated, separating “Shake” and “speare” — indicating to readers that it’s likely a pen name.

Romeo and Juliet 1599 - 1

1599: Romeo and Juliet: “Newly corrected, augmented, and amended: As it hath been sundry times publicly acted, by the right Honorable the Lord Chamberlain his Servants … London, Printed by Thomas Creede, for Cuthbert Burby.” Oddly enough, despite the corrections, augmentations and amendments, the author’s name is missing! This is issued by Cuthbert Burby, who published Love’s Labour’s Lost and surely knew who the author was. And the name is missing despite the fact that Shakespeare’s two narrative poems, Venus and Adonis of 1593 and Lucrece of 1594, both carried his name (on the dedications to the Earl of Southampton) and were bestsellers.

Shakespeare Quartos Project

1602: Richard III: “As it hath been lately Acted by the Right Honorable the Lord Chamberlain his servants.

Newly augmented by William Shakespeare.

London, Printed by Thomas Creede, for Andrew Wise.”

Hamlet 1604

1604: Hamlet: “By William Shakespeare.

Newly imprinted and enlarged to almost as much again as it was, according to the true and perfect copy.

At London, Printed by J.R. (James Roberts) for N.L. (Nicholas Ling).”

“The 17th Earl of Oxford can be linked to key Elizabethan publishers and printers for over four decades,” Brazil writes, adding that it began with his relationship with William Seres, a publisher from the earliest days of Elizabeth in the 1560s until about 1578. Seres printed the original version of Ovid’s Metamorphoses (1565; 1567) credited to Oxford’s uncle Arthur Golding; he was the “stationer” in 1569 from whom Oxford purchased “a Geneva Bible, gilt, a Chaucer, Plutarch’s works in French, with other books and papers.”

CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A READABLE VIEW  Thomas Watson Dedicates  "Hekatompathia" to Oxford in 1582, saying the earl had "perused" it in manuscript

Thomas Watson
“Hekatompathia” to
Oxford in 1582, saying the earl had “perused” it in manuscript

Robbie Brazil coined the phrase “Oxford’s Books” for publications linked to his patronage and even active involvement as writer or co-writer, noting that “Oxford’s Books have a robust, hyper-intelligent and even bawdy character,” so they comprise “a special collection in publishing history, because they can be shown to be the reading matter and linguistic universe that ‘Shake-speare’ as poet and wordsmith resided in.”

Such works issued between 1571 and 1586 include, for example, The Courtier, Cardanus Comfort, The New Jewel of Health, Zelauto, Hekatompathia, or the Passionate Century of Love, Euphues and his England and The English Secretary – “all pivotal pieces of the literary Renaissance in England, and these books are found reflected in the themes and language of the Shakespeare plays.”

Oxford’s name and talent “were either on display or being praised overtly” in more than eighty books (including reprints and revised editions) while the earl was alive, Brazil writes, naming twenty-three printers or publishers associated with “Oxford’s Books.” Of these, he takes special note of nine men who were also printers or sellers of Shakespeare quartos: Thomas Creede, Richard Field, Cuthbert Burby, Peter Short, James Roberts, Simon Stafford, Edward White, John Danter and John Harrison.

One of the “peculiar facts” that Brazil observed was that Cuthbert Burby, who published Love’s Labours Lost in 1598, also in the same year published Palladis Tamia by Francis Meres, the book that praises Oxford among those who were “best for comedy” while announcing that “Shakespeare” (without the first name) was not only a poet but the author of twelve plays including Love’s Labours Lost and, among the others, Romeo and Juliet. But the “peculiar” part of this story is that Burby, when he went on to publish Romeo and Juliet in 1599, failed to give credit to “Shakespeare”!

curtain and globe

The first edition of Romeo and Juliet, a “bad” pirated version published in 1597 by John Danter, says nothing about Shakespeare. Burby’s edition in 1599 (the second quarto) contained a much better text (perhaps obtained by his printer, Thomas Creede, who had connections to Oxford), but it still carried no Shakespeare name. Even though Burby had published Palladis Tamia the year before, claiming Romeo and Juliet as a Shakespeare play, he failed to credit any author at all!

“It boggles the mind,” Brazil writes. “This is after Cuthbert Burby himself obtained the true text of the play in 1599! If Shakespeare’s name had a commercial cachet associated with it, why was his name not used on this publication of Romeo and Juliet? If Shaksper of Stratford, the man allegedly eager for fortune and fame, took the time to provide Burby or Creede with his complete manuscript, why was he not paid or at least acknowledged in the publication? It makes no sense unless someone other than Shaksper or the theater owners was providing real texts to the printers.”

And that someone, given the evidence, was Oxford.


Thomas Creede is crucial to Brazil’s study, because he was connected to Shakespeare material (accepted and apocryphal) as well as to books linked to the Earl of Oxford. As noted above, for example, he printed the 1602 quarto of Shakespeare’s Richard III; and a few years earlier, in 1600, he had printed The Weakest Goeth to the Wall “as it hath been sundry times played by the right honorable Earle of Oxenford, Lord great Chamberlaine of England his servants.” This play, Brazil writes, is apparently “the only instance in which Oxford’s name ever appears anywhere overtly on the title page of a printed play.”

Another case study centers on James Roberts, who, Brazil discovered, printed no less than five editions of books that featured Edward de Vere in some way: Gwydonius Card of Fancy Q2 by Robert Greene, 1587; Paradise of Dainty Devices Q7, 1600, with some of Oxford’s early poetry; Euphues and his England Q8, 1597 and Q9, 1601, as by John Lyly, dedicated to Oxford (the two editions counted as two books); and England’s Helicon, 1600.

It was James Roberts who printed the authentic 1604 version of Hamlet. Brazil notes that when this edition was officially entered in the Stationers Register by printer and agent James Roberts on July 26, 1602, the wording of the entry “indicates that the item Roberts brought in and deposited was a book or bound manuscript, already pre-existing” —

“James Robertes. Entered for his Copie under the hands of master Pasefield and master Waterson, warden, a booke called the Revenge of Hamlet Prince of Denmark as it was lately acted by the Lord Chamberleyne his servants.”

Two years earlier, in 1602, Roberts had registered both Hamlet and Troilus and Cressida, but both were delayed. Brazil reasons that if Roberts didn’t know the author, but had received the texts in a “straightforward deal with a theatrical person,” he would have had no reason to delay publication. “The facts in the case suggest that Roberts knew the author personally, and was requested to hold the press on these books until further notice,” he concludes, adding, “Everyone agrees that Hamlet Q2 has a text that is completely from the pen of Shakespeare (whoever he really was). This re-write, dated 1603-1604, is the last time that the author interacted directly with the printers in the name of Shakespeare. James Roberts was a man known and trusted by the Earl of Oxford.”

And this reason to conclude that Oxford was “Shakespeare” begins to look like a veritable smoking gun…

No. 87 of 100 Reasons Why Oxford = Shakespeare: Horses and Horsemanship!


“But if at any time with fiery energy he should call up a mimicry of war, he controls his foaming steed with a light rein; and, armed with a long spear, rides to the encounter. Fearlessly he settles himself in the saddle, gracefully bending his body this way and that. Now he circles round; now with spurred heel he rouses his charger. The gallant animal with fiery energy collects himself together, and flying quicker than the wind, beats the ground with his hoofs, and again is pulled up short as the reins control him. Bravo, valiant youth!”
— Translation of Latin verse by Giles Fletcher, describing Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford on horseback in a Westminster tournament at age twenty-one in 1571

I saw young Harry, with his beaver on,
His cuisses on his thighs, gallantly armed,
Rise from the ground like feathered Mercury,
And vaulted with such ease into his seat,
As if an angel dropped down from the clouds
To turn and wind a fiery Pegasus
And witch the world with noble horsemanship!
— Vernon, describing Prince Hal in Henry IV, Part One (4.1)

Barbary Horse

Barbary Horse

When he began his search that led to “Shakespeare” Identified in 1920, J. Thomas Looney listed eighteen characteristics (based on the poems, plays and sonnets) that the great author – whoever he was – must have possessed. Among these features he named, for example, “an enthusiast for Italy; a follower of sport (including falconry); a lover of music” and so on; but much later, after discovering Oxford, he realized it was “a grave omission” to have neglected horses and horsemanship.

“We find there is more in Shakespeare about horses than upon almost any subject outside human nature,” he wrote. “Indeed we feel tempted to say that Shakespeare brings them within the sphere of human nature.”

BENEDICK: “Sir, your wit ambles well; it goes easily.” (Much Ado About Nothing, 5.1)

ROSALIND: “Time travels in divers paces, with divers persons: I’ll tell you who Time ambles withal, who Time trots withal, who Time gallops withal, and who he stands still withal.” (As You Like It, 3.2)

“There is, of course,” Looney continued, “his intimate knowledge of different kinds of horses, their physical peculiarities, all the details which go to form a good or a bad specimen of a given variety, almost a veterinary’s knowledge of their diseases and their treatment. But over and above all this there is a peculiar handling of the theme which raises a horse almost to the level of a being with a moral nature…


“Not only did Oxford learn to ride, but, in those days when horsemanship was much more in vogue than it will probably ever be again, and when great skill was attained in horse-management, he was among those who excelled, particularly in tilts and tourneys, receiving special marks of royal appreciation of his skill. Horsemanship was, therefore, a very pronounced interest of his.”

His father John de Vere, the sixteenth Earl of Oxford, had been the owner of valuable horses in the stable of Castle Hedingham; in his first will, of 1552, he listed “ten geldings & nags with saddles, bridles and all things pertaining to them.” (In Henry IV, Part One: “I pray thee lend me thy lantern, to see my gelding in the stable.”) In his final will, of 1562, he bequeathed “one of my great horses” to each of several friends such as Nicholas Bacon and William Cecil. The Great Horse was the old English war-horse used for tournaments and service; it was undoubtedly the model in Julius Caesar for Antony’s horse:

It is a creature that I teach to fight,
To wind, to stop, to run directly on,
His corporal motion govern’d by my spirit. (4.1)

In September that year, twelve-year-old Edward “came riding out of Essex” from his father’s funeral “with seven score horse all in black; through London and Chepe and Ludgate, and so to Temple Bar.” (Machyn’s Diary, 1848)

Barbary Horse

Barbary Horse

There were about a dozen distinct breeds of horses in England during Oxford’s lifetime, the most popular riding horses being the Turkey, the Barb, the Neapolitan and the Spanish Jennet. Of all of them, the Barbary horse or Barb “was undoubtedly the great author’s favorite,” writes A. Forbes Sieverking in Shakespeare’s England, adding, “With such affection and intimacy does he dwell upon its merits that it is probable that the poet at one time possessed a roan Barb [usually Chestnut colored, sprinkled with white or gray].”

It may well be probable that the poet had owned a roan Barb, especially if the poet was the Earl of Oxford! After all, the Barbary horse was a special breed from northern Africa, an expensive riding horse known for its fiery temperament and stamina – highly prized by the Italians, whose noble families had established large racing stables – a horse for kings!

Red Roan Barb

Red Roan Barb

HOTSPUR: Hath Butler brought those horses from the sheriff?
SERVANT: One horse, my lord, he brought even now.
HOTSPUR: What horse? A roan, a crop-ear, is it not?
SERVANT: It is, my lord.
HOTSPUR: That roan shall be my throne.
(1 Henry IV, 2.3)

Henry VIII had purchased a number of Barbary horses from Frederico Gonzago of Mantua and elsewhere; private owners in England used the Barbs to develop the Thoroughbred.

Seal of King Richard II

Seal of King Richard II

In the fourteenth century Richard II had owned a roan Barb, as “Shakespeare” wrote in the play bearing that king’s name. In Act Five Scene 5 he is in prison after his crown has been taken by Bolingbroke, who is now Henry IV; and the Groom tells him how the new king actually rode Richard’s own horse, which he calls roan Barbary, in the procession for his coronation:

O, how it yearned my heart when I beheld
In London streets, that coronation day,
When Bolingbroke rode on Roan Barbary,
That horse that thou so often hast bestrid,
That horse that I so carefully have dressed!

First Bolingbroke took his crown … but now his horse! Richard cannot conceal his suffering.

Rode he on Barbary? Tell me, gentle friend,
How went he under him?

So proudly as if he disdained the ground.

This is too, too much – his own horse has betrayed him:

So proud that Bolingbroke was on his back!
That jade hath eat bread from my royal hand –
This hand hath made him proud with clapping him.
Would he not stumble? Would he not fall down,
Since pride must have a fall, and break the neck
Of that proud man that did usurp his back?

But then, of course, the horse was merely being true to his own nature:

RICHARD (continued):
Forgiveness, horse! Why do I rail on thee,
Since thou, created to be awed by man,
Wast born to bear? I was not made a horse,
And yet I bear a burden like an ass,
Spurred, galled and tired by jouncing Bolingbroke.

In Hamlet the King wagers six Barbary horses against six French rapiers and poniards on the prince’s ability to win the fencing match with Laertes. Iago describes Othello as a Barbary horse, rakishly alluding to the Barbary’s Moorish origins and, also, to the practice of breeding a Barbary to an English mare.

An Elizabethan  Hawking Party

An Elizabethan
Hawking Party

A favorite Shakespearean passage about horses is to be found in Venus and Adonis “in which,” Looney wrote, “a mere animal instinct is raised in horses to the dignity of a complex and exalted human passion” –

A breeding jennet, lusty, young, and proud,
Adonis’ trampling courser doth espy,
And forth she rushes, snorts, and neighs aloud.
The strong-necked steed, being tied unto a tree,
Breaketh his rein, and to her straight goes he.

Imperiously he leaps, he neighs, he bounds,
And now his woven girths he breaks asunder.
The bearing earth with his hard hoof he wounds,
Whose hollow womb resounds like heaven’s thunder.
The iron bit he crusheth ‘tween his teeth,
Controlling what he was controlled with.

His ears up-prick’d; his braided hanging mane
Upon his compass’d crest now stand on end;
His nostrils drink the air, and forth again,
As from a furnace, vapours doth he send:
His eye, which scornfully glisters like fire,
Shows his hot courage and his high desire.

Elizabeth I of England on horseback

Elizabeth I of England
on horseback

Sometime he trots, as if he told the steps,
With gentle majesty and modest pride;
Anon he rears upright, curvets and leaps,
As who should say ‘Lo, thus my strength is tried,
And this I do to captivate the eye
Of the fair breeder that is standing by.’

What recketh he his rider’s angry stir,
His flattering ‘Holla,’ or his ‘Stand, I say’?
What cares he now for curb or pricking spur?
For rich caparisons or trapping gay?
He sees his love, and nothing else he sees,
For nothing else with his proud sight agrees.

Look, when a painter would surpass the life,
In limning out a well-proportion’d steed,
His art with nature’s workmanship at strife,
As if the dead the living should exceed;
So did this horse excel a common one
In shape, in courage, colour, pace and bone.

Round-hoofed, short-jointed, fetlocks shag and long,
Broad breast, full eye, small head and nostril wide,
High crest, short ears, straight legs and passing strong,
Thin mane, thick tail, broad buttock, tender hide:
Look, what a horse should have he did not lack,
Save a proud rider on so proud a back.

Sometime he scuds far off and there he stares;
Anon he starts at stirring of a feather;
To bid the wind a base he now prepares,
And whether he run or fly they know not whether;
For through his mane and tail the high wind sings,
Fanning the hairs, who wave like feather’d wings.

He looks upon his love and neighs unto her;
She answers him as if she knew his mind:
Being proud, as females are, to see him woo her,
She puts on outward strangeness, seems unkind,
Spurns at his love and scorns the heat he feels,
Beating his kind embracements with her heels.

Then, like a melancholy malcontent,
He veils his tail that, like a falling plume,
Cool shadow to his melting buttock lent:
He stamps and bites the poor flies in his fume.
His love, perceiving how he is enraged,
Grew kinder, and his fury was assuaged.
(Lines 260 – 318)

“Macbeth” is No. 86 of 100 Reasons Why the Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare”

The official record states that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford died in 1604. Was the play “Macbeth” inspired by the Gunpowder Plot against James I and Parliament in 1605 and the subsequent treason-and-equivocation trial of Jesuit priest Henry Garnet in 1606, thereby ruling out Oxford as the author? The answer, in a word, is …. No!

An enormous amount of work on “Macbeth” – all pointing away from that oft-repeated dating of the play – has been done by traditional scholars and Oxfordian researchers alike. Among the latter, Richard Whalen has compiled powerful arguments in both a paper published in the 2003 issue of “The Oxfordian” (available online) and in the second edition of “Macbeth” (under his editorship) as part of the Oxfordian Shakespeare Series.

Lady Macbeth and Macbeth (Kate Fleetwood and Patrick Stewart, 2007)

Lady Macbeth and Macbeth
(Kate Fleetwood and Patrick Stewart, 2007)

No. 86 of these 100 reasons to conclude that Edward de Vere was “Shakespeare” is the evidence, as Whalen writes, “that it was Oxford who wrote and rewrote Macbeth many years before James became King of England.”

1567: The Murder of Darnley
In February 1567, when Oxford was not yet seventeen, the Elizabethan court learned that Henry Stewart Lord Darnley, husband of Mary Queen of Scots and King Consort of Scotland, had been assassinated. Darnley’s death at Kirk o’ Field was preceded by gunpowder explosions beneath the room where he slept; he and his valet escaped the blasts only to be strangled to death; and later their bodies were found in the orchard, mysteriously surrounded by a cloak, a dagger, a chair and a coat.

Oxford, enrolled at Gray’s Inn for law, was still a royal ward in the custody of William Cecil, whose informants in Scotland were sending streams of updated intelligence. Young De Vere had a ringside seat as the gruesome details became urgent topics at court and Cecil House. Cecil’s vision for military security called for a peaceful Scotland sympathetic to England, but now that country was on the brink of civil war.

Contemporary Sketch of the Darnley murder with  "floating dagger" at top right corner

Contemporary Sketch of the Darnley murder with “floating dagger” at top right corner

Darnley’s assassination reportedly had been engineered by Mary’s chief advisor and lover, the ambitious Earl of Bothwell. Other intelligence held that she was the responsible party, having lured her husband into a vulnerable position on the pretext that the “wholesome air” would be good for his health – a notable detail of Macbeth. Cecil’s agents sent a sketch of the crime scene, circulated in Scotland, showing a gate and Darnley’s body and a “floating dagger” – key features of the Shakespearean play.

Agents reported that Mary had been so traumatized by fear and horror that she had fallen into a trance – not unlike that of Lady Macbeth in the Shakespeare play. Then came news she had married Bothwell, the murderer, and that many assumed they had planned it together – ready models for Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, who plan the murder of King Duncan. Soon enough Mary was forced to abdicate and her baby son by Darnley, born in 1566, was crowned James VI of Scotland.

Plays of Seneca such as Agamemnon and Medea had recently been translated at Cambridge, where De Vere had received an honorary degree. “Most of the Elizabethan writers of tragedy are purely Senecan in their use of rhetoric, of violent action, and of horror,” writes Eric C. Baade, editor of Seneca’s Tragedies (Classics of Greece and Rome series, 1969), “and even the works of Shakespeare, which transcend all influences, show strong Senecan elements.”

1568: “The Tragedy of the King of Scots”
On March 3, 1568 an anonymous stage work The Tragedy of the King of Scots [now lost] was performed for Queen Elizabeth by the Children of Her Majesty’s Chapel – a boys’ company of which Oxford would become the patron. The murdered monarch might have been the ancient Macbeth or “any other King of Scotland,” Charlotte Stopes writes in Shakespeare’s Industry (1916), indicating the play could have been an early source of Shakespeare’s play. “It might even have represented the death of Darnley,” she adds.

Given that Oxford had been privy to new translations of Seneca’s bloody tragedies, and now to the real-life Senecan horrors in Scotland, wasn’t he as likely as anyone to write such a topical play for the Queen?

1577: Raphael Holinshed and his “Chronicles”
The main source for Shakespeare’s Macbeth is the 1577 edition of Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland by Raphael Holinshed, dedicated to Cecil, who had become Lord Burghley and Oxford’s father-in-law in 1571. Back in July 1567, when Oxford had killed an under-cook while practicing his fencing, Cecil had called upon “Randolph” Holinshed to serve on the jury that ruled the victim had run upon the point of Oxford’s sword, committing suicide. Alan Nelson, De Vere’s Stratfordian biographer (Monstrous Adversary, 2003), has no doubt it was Holinshed the chronicler (whom he calls Cecil’s “protégé”) on the jury.

Holinshed's "Chronicles" 1577

Holinshed’s “Chronicles”

Oxford and Raphael Holinshed were both connected to Burghley and would have known each other early on; and the young earl’s interest in history would have made him extremely curious about the chronicler’s work-in-progress. [Oxford’s uncle Arthur Golding had written to him in 1564 about “how earnest a desire your honor hath naturally grafted in you to read, peruse, and communicate with others as well the histories of ancient times…”] So it stands to reason that he was privy to the Scottish history for Macbeth in Holinshed’s Chronicles while Holinshed himself was writing it!

The historical Macbeth, who died in 1057, led a rebellion against King Duncan and defeated him at Dunsinane. He ruled Scotland for the next seventeen years until he was defeated and killed by Malcolm’s rebel forces. Holinshed’s work was by no means the original source; he derived Macbeth’s story from Hector Boece’s History of Scotland, a Latin chronicle published in 1526 and translated into the Scottish vernacular in 1535 by William Stewart, who embellished it with details drawn upon directly by the author of Macbeth.

1570: Personal Experience in Scotland
The author of Macbeth knows so much about Scotland that he must be drawing from personal experience. “I must consider the strong evidence of Shakespeare’s acquaintance with the scenes he described,” Stopes writes. “No Englishman who had not visited Inverness, and experienced the unexpected mildness of its northern climate, would have thought of describing it as pleasant, delicate, or of noting the martins and their nests…

“Nor would he have changed ‘the green lawn’ of Holinshed and ‘the pleasant wood’ of other writers into the blasted heath near Forres, as the spot where the witches appeared, unless he had seen some such moors lying gaunt and terrible, as witnesses of past winter storms. I can hardly imagine an Englishman who had not visited Scotland dreaming of using the peculiarly Scottish idiom ‘How far is it called to Forres ?’ It is possible, and even probable that Shakespeare visited Scotland…”

Edward de Vere spent several months in Scotland during 1570, serving under the Earl of Sussex in the military campaign against the Northern Rebellion of powerful Catholic earls, who had planned to bring their armies down to London — in order to overthrow Elizabeth and replace her with the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots, who had become a captive in England after fleeing Scotland in 1568.

1572: Assassination and Massacre in France
Critics have compared Lady Macbeth with Catherine de’ Medici, who plotted with Catholic noblemen in France to murder her wedding guests in August 1572, triggering the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre of Protestant Huguenots and their leader, Admiral Coligny, as noted by the University of California:

“It is quite likely that details of the murders by Shakespeare’s Macbeth were taken from accounts of this massacre. Like Lady Macbeth, Catherine de Medici was the driving force behind the King of France, her son, when he approved Coligny’s assassination, as Lady Macbeth forced Macbeth to kill Duncan … Catherine de Medici used a church bell as the signal to kill Coligny. In the play, Macbeth has Lady Macbeth ring a bell as a signal to kill Duncan … The neurotic reactions of King Charles IX after the Massacre resemble Macbeth’s neuroses …”

Oxford was on progress with Elizabeth when, in September, they learned the full details of the massacre. He wrote to Lord Treasurer Burghley, “I would to God your Lordship would let me understand some of your news, which here doth ring doubtfully in the ears of every man, of the murder of the Admiral of France,” continuing in a highly emotional state about the tragedy and pledging his complete support.

Edward de Vere was learning about the assassination and massacre in detail when this very possible contemporary source of Macbeth was sending shock waves through the English court. In his letter he compared Burghley to the slain Coligny: “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 crossbar in their way.”

1574: Supper with Lady Lennox
Lord Darnley was the eldest surviving son of Mathew Stuart, fourth Earl of Lennox and Lady Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox. When Darnley was assassinated, Lennox was the most ardent pursuant of justice against Bothwell and other lords who had conspired in the murder.

Although Lord and Lady Lennox are never mentioned by Holinshed, both appear in Macbeth [Lady Lennox is in the First Folio text, but editors have removed her as insignificant]. And just as the contemporary Lennox demanded justice for the murder of his son, Lennox in the Shakespeare play is a pivotal character who gradually questions Macbeth’s tyrannical rule. Giving voice to the anger felt by other Scottish nobles, he prays that “a swift blessing may soon return to this our suffering country under a hand accursed!”

Darnley’s father Lord Lennox was killed in Scotland in 1571, possibly also the victim of assassination. In his diary Burghley recorded that on September 19 and 20, 1574, he held supper parties at his Theobalds estate attended by Oxford and Lady Lennox, who would have had much to say about her son’s assassination.

1575: The French Royal Court
Oxford spent most of March 1575 in France, where he was presented to King Henry III, the fourth son of Catherine de’ Medici. Three years earlier, Henry was involved in the plot for the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. Once again Oxford was brought into personal contact with individuals linked to an event perceived as Shakespeare’s contemporary source for Macbeth.

1588-89: Assassinations in France
Henry III of France, whom Oxford had met in 1575, assassinated the Duke of Guise, on December 23, 1588. The weak son of Catherine de’ Medici had lured the popular Guise to his Chateau of Blois, while his mother was inside – and once inside he was murdered by the royal guard. [The King himself was the victim of an assassination on August 1, 1589, naming Henry of Navarre his successor before he died.]

Catherine de' Medici  1519 - 1589  (Portrait by Francois Clouet, 1515 - 1572)

Catherine de’ Medici
1519 – 1589
(Portrait by Francois Clouet, 1515 – 1572)

Oxfordian scholar Eva Turner Clark, in Hidden Allusions in Shakespeare’s Plays (1931), observed “many points in common” between the Killing of Duncan by Macbeth and the murder of Guise by Henry III, leading her to believe the play was written in 1589, shortly after the King himself was murdered. She cites “the power and influence” of Catherine De’ Medici, who was inside the Chateau of Blois in France when the murder took place, just as Lady Macbeth is in Macbeth’s Castle in Scotland during the murder of Duncan.

The fact that “Macbeth” was never printed until the First Folio of Shakespeare plays in 1623 may be a sign it was never written to flatter King James at any time, especially after he became King of England in 1603. For one thing, given that his father had been strangled to death in 1567 and his captive mother Mary Stuart had been beheaded in 1587, James was understandably terrified of assassination or any kind of violent death, and probably would have fled from the theater!

Also, the orthodox idea that the play was based on the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 becomes absurd under examination. As Richard Whalen writes, that event allegedly involved a plan “by a gang of Roman Catholic radicals – none of whom was in any position to take power – to massacre the whole government of Great Britain, including King James, in a gigantic explosion of gunpowder under Parliament during a ceremonial meeting in broad daylight. Thousands might have been killed. In contrast, Macbeth, ambitious to gain the throne, stabs his guest, King Duncan, in the night while he sleeps alone in his bed. The two regicides could hardly have been more different.”

What about the charges of “equivocation” – dissembling under oath, to avoid the sin of lying – against Father Garnet in 1606 and the appearance of that term in “Macbeth”? “Although equivocation and witchcraft certainly influenced the playwright,” Whalen writes, “neither was specific to the early 1600s. Equivocation had been notorious for years. A decade earlier, it was a principal accusation in the trial of Robert Southwell, a Jesuit priest … Similarly, witchcraft and witch hunts were notorious long before James became King of England.”

Moreover, Whalen observes that it “strains belief to suggest that an English actor/playwright would celebrate the new Scottish king of England by writing a gloomy, violent, bloody tragedy depicting the assassination of a Scottish king that is instigated by witches. That’s not the way playwrights, especially commoners, celebrate their monarchs. Nor is it credible that the king’s own acting company would dare to perform it. There is no documentary evidence that James ever saw the play, read it or even heard about it, much less felt celebrated.”


The Gad’s Hill Robbery: An Episode with Oxford’s Men in 1573 Shows Up in “Henry the Fourth Part One” — No. 85 of 100 Reasons Why Edward de Vere was the Great Author

On May 11, 1573, young Gilbert Talbot wrote to his father (the Earl of Shrewsbury) from the Elizabethan royal court that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, twenty-three, had “lately grown into great credit, for the Queen’s Majesty delighteth more in his personage and his dancing and his valiantness than any other,” adding, “If it were not for his fickle head he would pass any of them shortly.”

By “fickle” he meant that Oxford was unpredictable, changeable, volatile, inconstant, unreliable, all of which was “probably the symptom of high spirits bursting the seams of restraint,” as Charlton Ogburn Jr. suggested. Edward de Vere was much like Biron, the “merry madcap lord” of Love’s Labour’s Lost, of whom Maria says: “Not a word with him but a jest.” And another comparison would be with the young Henry V (1387-1422), back in his riotous days as Prince Hal.

Gad's Hill, where Falstaff, Prince Hal and their pals attack and rob some travelers

Gad’s Hill, where Falstaff, Prince Hal and their pals attack and rob some travelers

Nine or ten days after Talbot wrote his letter about him, on May 20-21, 1573, three of Oxford’s servants helped him carry out an elaborate prank involving the robbery of two of the earl’s former employees. After lying in wait for them at Gad’s Hill, by the highway between Rochester and Gravesend, they jumped out of hiding – apparently led by Oxford himself, since the two men later described his “raging demeanor” as he led the mock assault like a wild man. The two men were traveling on state business for Oxford’s father-in-law William Cecil, Lord Treasurer Burghley, carrying money that would have been intended for the Exchequer.

In 1580, when John Stow produced the first edition of his Chronicles of England, he reported that more than a century ago Prince Hal “would wait in disguised array for his own receivers, and distress them of their money: and sometimes at such enterprises both he and his company were surely beaten: and when his receivers made to him their complaints, how they were robbed in their coming unto him, he would give them discharge of so much money as they had lost, and besides that, they should not depart from him without great rewards for their trouble and vexation.”

While growing up as a young lord who would take his place one day as England’s premier earl, Oxford may have heard this tale of the young heir-apparent quite often, given that many stories of the monarchs were handed down by his ancestors. Was he trying to imitate Prince Hal’s particular idea of a fun time? Did he manage to return the money with “great rewards” as the prince had done?

William Cecil  Lord Treasurer Burghley 1520-1598

William Cecil
Lord Treasurer Burghley

During the 1580s the Queen’s Men performed The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth, an anonymous stage work whose first version or versions may have been written much earlier. In this spirited and often raucously comical play, a forerunner of Shakespeare’s royal histories, Prince Hal and his friends carry out the same elaborate prank in the same exact place: the highway near Gad’s Hill between Rochester and Gravesend, and the money is also intended for the Exchequer.

Also in Famous Victories the Clerk at the Court of the King’s Bench says the robbery took place on “the 20th day of May last past, in the fourteenth year of the reign of our sovereign lord King Henry the Fourth” – in the same month and perhaps on the exact same day as Oxford’s caper.

Given that no such particular escapade by Prince Hal (much less one at Gad’s Hill) appears in any of the historical sources, and that Oxford was reported in the 1580’s as “best for comedy” (although all his comedies are “lost”), isn’t it logical to suggest that he himself wrote that anonymous play?

(If such was the case, it would explain how and why Famous Victories indicates that the robbery took place in the month of May in the fourteenth year in the reign of Hal’s father Henry the Fourth when, in fact, there was no May in that regnal year. The king had died in March, two months short of May. But if Oxford wrote the play it means he deliberately erred, that is, he actually wanted to link it to his own caper in May 1573. At the time, young Oxford probably figured that only members of the court would realize his authorship of Famous Victories; later, however, revising the play into 1 Henry IV as by “Shakespeare,” he would have protected his identity by eliminating any date — and, to be sure, any mention of the date is gone.)

[Furthermore, Alexander Waugh points out that by placing the caper “outside” the reign of that English monarch, Oxford very likely would be indicating even more strongly, to those in the know, that he was referring to his own caper in Elizabeth’s reign.]

The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth serves as a veritable template for the Shakespearean trilogy of Henry the Fourth Part One, Henry the Fourth Part Two and Henry the Fifth. “Without any doubt whatever a very intimate connection of some kind exists between Shakespeare’s three plays and this old text,” wrote John Dover Wilson, “though what the connection is has never been established.”

Falstaff and Prince Hal

Falstaff and Prince Hal

“Shakespeare” basically lifted the Gad’s Hill episode in Famous Victories for one of the most beloved and memorable scenes of Henry the Fourth Part One. In act two, scene two, Falstaff and three of Prince Hal’s other companions from the Boar’s-Head Tavern hold up and rob some travelers bearing “money of the king’s … on the way to the king’s Exchequer,” on the highway near Gad’s Hill between Rochester and Gravesend – just as in Famous Victories, performed in the 1580s, and just as in the real-life episode involving Oxford and his men in 1573.

The two former associates of Oxford who were robbed, William Faunt and John Wotton, later submitted a complaint to Lord Burghley endorsed “May 1573 from Gravesend.” After referring to the earl’s “raging demeanor” toward them, they recall “riding peacefully by the highway from Gravesend to Rochester” when “three calivers charged with bullets discharged at us by three of my Lord of Oxford’s men … who lay privily in a ditch awaiting our coming with full intent to murder us; yet (notwithstanding they all discharging upon us so near that my saddle having the girths broken fell with myself from the horse and a bullet within half a foot of me) it pleased God to deliver us from that determined mischief; whereupon they mounted on horseback and fled towards London with all possible speed.”

Comments Ogburn Jr. in The Mysterious William Shakespeare (1984):

“We can imagine the elation of the Stratfordians if they were able to come up with as dramatic a correlation between Shakspere’s life and one of the plays as proof of his authorship.”

Yes … We can imagine!

No. 84 of 100 Reasons why the Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare”: He was Involved in the Revolutionary Expanding Universe of Astronomy

Among our well renowned men,
Dever merits a silver pen
Eternally to write his honour,
And I in a well-polished verse,
Can set up in our universe
A fame to endure for ever…
For who marketh better than he
The seven turning flames of the sky?

These lines published in 1584 came from a Frenchman writing under the pen name John Soothern, living in the household of “Dever” – Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford; and the “seven turning flames of the sky” are, of course, the planets. Oxford, according to this scholarly poet from France who knew him well, was an expert in the currently exciting but politically dangerous field of astronomy, which was threatening to overturn the old conception of the cosmos and even to upend the old relationship of man to himself, to the world and to God.

Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck,
And yet methinks I have Astronomy;

English astronomer Thomas Digges did groundbreaking work in the 1570s

English astronomer Thomas Digges did groundbreaking work in the 1570s

That was “Shakespeare” starting off his Sonnet 14, but right away he announces that he is not speaking here of astrological fortune-telling or superstitions or the making of predictions such as that used by Queen Elizabeth to choose the luckiest and most balmy date of her coronation:

But not to tell of good or evil luck…
Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons’ quality;
Or say with Princes if it shall go well
By oft predict that I in heaven find…

On the contrary, by “astronomy” he was referring to revolutionary science in sixteenth-century England that was still being studied in secret, notably by the group (later called the School of Night) whose members included Sir Walter Raleigh, Christopher Marlowe, George Chapman, the mathematician Thomas Harriot and, yes, Edward de Vere himself. He had studied astronomy from boyhood in the 1550s with his tutor Sir Thomas Smith, and in the 1560s with Dr. John Dee, who was not only the Queen’s astrologer but a serious mathematician and geographer; and because of the book De Revolutionibus by Polish mathematician-astronomer Nicholas Copernicus, published in 1543, these English scholars were well aware that great changes of paradigm were under way – in terms of not only the universe but of the social-religious-political order itself, which even Hamlet is reluctant to mention aloud:

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy

(The prince in Hamlet, 1.4)

Map of the Celestial Orbs  By Leonard & Thomas Digges (father-son), 1576

Map of the Celestial Orbs
By Leonard & Thomas Digges (father-son), 1576

Such free-thinking men were moving from the old Ptolemaic model of the earth at the center of the universe to the revolutionary Copernican model, by which everything is in motion, the earth rotating on its axis while revolving with the other planets around the central Sun.

Doubt thou the stars are fire,
Doubt that the sun doth move,
Doubt truth to be a liar,
But never doubt I love

(The prince in Hamlet, 2.2)

When Oxford was twenty-three in 1573, the English scientist Thomas Digges (1527-1608) published a treatise on the “supernova” or exploding star seen in the sky the year before; and in this work, dedicated to the young earl’s father-in-law William Cecil Lord Burghley, Digges included warm praise for the Copernican hypothesis. Burghley and spymaster Francis Walsingham, who made it their business to develop intelligence in defense of the realm, were keenly interested in a new-fangled device called a “perspective” glass or trunk that enabled astronomers to see farther into space; and in fact such new devices would help to quickly spot the warships of the Spanish armada upon their arrival in 1588, thereby playing a significant role in England’s victory over King Philip and the Pope.

Digges published another key work, A Perfect Description of the Celestial Orbs, in 1576, using allegory to simultaneously set forth and disguise his agreement with Copernicus as well as his heretical view that the Sun is just one star among an infinity of stars in an unending universe.

“O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space”
(The prince in Hamlet, 2.2)

Watson's Sonnet Sequence of 1582 dedicated to Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford

Watson’s Sonnet Sequence of 1582 dedicated to Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford

In 1582, when the poet Thomas Watson dedicated Hekatompathia, or the Passionate Century of Love to Oxford, thanking him for his help with the manuscript and getting it into print, his sequence of 100 consecutively numbered “passions” or sonnets contained the first known description of the Milky Way as a collection of discrete stars (as opposed to a single mass) – preceding Galileo’s published discovery in 1610 by nearly thirty years. The prose header for one of the sonnets – Oxford seems to have written all the headers – refers to “Galaxia” as “a White Way or Milky Circle in the heavens,” and the opening lines of the poem contain this radical description:

Who can recount the virtues of my dear,
Or say how far her fame hath taken flight,
That cannot tell how many stars appear
In part of heaven, which Galaxia height,
Or number all the moats in Phoebus’ rays,
Or golden sands, whereon Pactolus plays?

(Watson Sonnet 31, 1582)

Astronomer Tycho Brahe of Denmark 1546-1601

Astronomer Tycho Brahe of Denmark 1546-1601

In the same year Elizabeth sent Oxford’s brother-in-law Peregrine Bertie, Lord Willoughby, on a mission to the Danish court; and during that extended visit Willoughby met with the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, who, in 1572, had made precise observations of that inexplicably brilliant star that became known as “Tycho’s Supernova” – an exploded, extremely bright and burning star, which traditionally trained scientists could not explain; but the playwright “Shakespeare” would describe it in the night sky over Denmark:

Last night of all,
When yon same star that’s westward from the pole
Had made his course to illume that part of heaven
Where it now burns…

(Bernardo in Hamlet, 1.1)

Tycho Brahe's Observatory

Tycho Brahe’s Observatory

“Tycho’s Supernova” provided “confirmation of an emerging scientific understanding of a dynamic universe,” Mark Andereson writes, as opposed to the prevailing Ptolemaic system, which continued to posit that all heavenly bodies were unchanging and firmly fixed in place.

In June of 1583 the Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno appeared in England and delivered lectures at Oxford, contradicting the University’s continuing dogma that every object in the universe orbited the centrally positioned earth. The free-thinking Bruno preached in favor of the Copernican solar system and also proposed (correctly) that the Sun was just another star moving in space. Inevitably, of course, the University academics rebuked him.

“Oxford University and Giordano Bruno were celestial bodies in opposition,” Anderson notes. “The University preached the ancient geocentric theories of Aristotle and Ptolemy. Every object in the heavens, it was said, orbited the earth, and the earth occupied the center of the universe.” Bruno advanced the heresies that “the stars, contrary to fixed church doctrine, are free-floating objects in a fluid celestial firmament; that the universe is infinite, leaving no room for a physical heaven or hell; and that elements in the universe (called ‘monads’) contain a divine spark at the root of life itself. Even the dust from which we are made contains this spark.”

If circumstances lead me, I will find
Where truth is hid, though it were hid indeed
Within the center.
(Polonius in Hamlet, 2.2)

Oxfordians have made a compelling case that Edward de Vere began to set down the first of many versions of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark in 1583, creating a fictional world at the Danish court reflecting his own real world at the English court — with Hamlet essentially a self-portrait; Claudius representing Queen Elizabeth’s former lover Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, who was thought to be a serial “poisoner” as well as her Majesty’s ambitious friend; Gertrude representing Elizabeth herself; chief minister Polonius representing chief minister Lord Burghley; and Ophelia, daughter of Polonius and fiance of Hamlet, depicting Anne Cecil, daughter of Burghley and wife of Oxford.

Wittenberg - Market Square looking much as it did in 1502, when the university (attended by Hamlet in the play) was founded

Wittenberg – Market Square looking much as it did in 1502, when the university (attended by Hamlet in the play) was founded

He would be launching into this work just when discussions of the new ideas about the heavens were accelerating in England. Hamlet is a student at the University of Wittenberg in Germany, a major center for the Copernican theory; and in fact Bruno went on to teach at Wittenberg, where he could freely voice his bold ideas. Later he was imprisoned for seven years before the Roman Inquisition burned him at the stake in 1600 for heresy.

But now we also confront an amazing theory about this great Shakespearean tragedy in which Claudius usurps the throne of Denmark, depriving Prince Hamlet of his rightful place. According to Peter Usher, Professor Emeritus of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Penn State University, this masterpiece of dramatic literature is also “an allegorical description of the competition between two cosmological models.” On one side is the heliocentric universe of Copernicus being taught at Wittenberrg and personified by Hamlet; on the other is the old geocentric order, personified by the Claudius (named for the ancient astronomer Claudius Ptolemy), who has usurped the throne.

KING CLAUDIUS (to Hamlet): How is it that the clouds still hang on you?
PRINCE HAMLET: Not so, my lord. I am too much in the Sun.

Hamlet deserves to be King, the royal Sun at the center. According to the new astronomy of Copernicus and the Sun-centered universe of Thomas Digges, the prince belongs on the throne at the center of the realm. So the Prince of Denmark is dangerous to the stability of the old hierarchy and, therefore, he poses a direct threat to King Claudius and Queen Gertrude.

This bodes some strange eruption to our state
(Horatio in Hamlet, 1.1)

The time is out of joint. O cursed spite
That ever I was born to set it right!

(The prince in Hamlet, 1.5)

Within the cosmological allegory, the play is chock full of allusions to this struggle between the old and new structure of the heavens and of the earth. “The idea of a rotating and revolving earth was counter-intuitive to most people and contrary to established religious and scientific doctrine,” Usher notes. When Claudius and Gertrude express their desire that Hamlet not return to Wittenberg, they do so by saying that such a course is “most retrograde to our desire” – an astronomical term for contrary motion, that is, the prince’s motion away from them and toward the Copernican cosmology as taught at Wittenberg – where, in addition, Martin Luther (1483-1546) had initiated the Protestant Reformation that was also disrupting the traditional order in England!

Giordano Bruno 1548-1600

Giordano Bruno

Scientists, according to Anderson, have observed that Shakespeare’s record of astronomical knowledge acquired during the Elizabethan age, as well as major celestial events, simply ceases by mid-1604, the year of Oxford’s death. The traditionally perceived author, William of Stratford, would live until 1616 — long enough, if he were “Shakespeare,” to continue to record events such as the discovery of sunspots or of Jupiter’s moons, not to mention “other significant celestial phenomena and developments in astronomical science” that occurred before he died. But the great dramatist is silent when it comes to astronomical discoveries and celestial phenomena made or observed between 1604 and 1616.

“The quest for truth and exposure of falsity is a theme that runs through Shakespeare’s play,” Usher says. “The castle platform (at Elsinore) is the interface between the castle interior and the sky, a contrast that parallels the contrast of reality and appearance, as when Hamlet says, ‘Seems, madam? Nay, it is. I know not seems.’ The passage from geocentricism to Digge’s vision of an infinite universe is a passage from appearances to reality.”

Oxford’s extant letters show him as keenly alert to this theme. “But the world is so cunning,” he wrote to Lord Burghley in 1581, “as of a shadow they can make a substance, and of a likelihood a truth.” And he wrote to Burghley’s son Robert Cecil more than two decades later, in 1603, “But I hope truth is subject to no prescription, for truth is truth though never so old, and time cannot make that false which was once true.”

So this evidence is one more reason to conclude that Oxford and “Shakespeare” were one and the same.