“Knowledge of Power” – Reason 93 of 100 to Conclude that Edward de Vere was “Shakespeare”

The title of this reason to believe the Earl of Oxford wrote the works of “Shakespeare” comes from Oxfordian colleague Mark Alexander’s power point presentation Shakespeare and Oxford: 25 Curious Connections. Despite the pull of traditional biography away from the royal court, one of the first things to notice is that this dramatist writes from the vantage point of an insider at the center of official policy, one who knows how and when to use the levers of power.

Oxford bears the Sword of State for Elizabeth I

Oxford bears the Sword of State for Elizabeth I

Edward de Vere lived at the center of Elizabethan political life from at least age twelve in 1562, when he became a royal ward of Elizabeth at the London home of her chief minister, William Cecil, the most powerful man in England. [Actually he had lived at the center from boyhood, as the son and heir of England’s highest-ranking earl, and then studying under his first tutor, Thomas Smith, a future Secretary of State.] In 1571 he entered the House of Lords and immediately became an intimate of the Queen, continuing in her highest favor for at least a decade.

In late 1580 he discovered that his erstwhile Catholic friends and/or associates were involved in a plot to overthrow Elizabeth and accused them (correctly) of conspiracy to commit treason. He knew these men of power – their thoughts and emotions, their fears, as they took him into their confidence and eventually tipped their hand. We might imagine him writing at night, his quill pen scratching the page in the candlelight as the words of Brutus come forth:

Since Cassius first did whet me against Caesar,
I have not slept.
Between the acting of a dreadful thing
And the first motion, all the interim is
Like a phantasma, or a hideous dream:
The genius and the mortal instruments
Are then in council; and the state of man,
Like to a little kingdom, suffers then
The nature of an insurrection.


Edward de Vere had close-up knowledge of power and real-life political intrigues of the kind to be found not just in Julius Caesar but also in King John, Henry V, Richard II, Richard III, Macbeth, King Lear, Hamlet and so many other Shakespearean plays. In 1586, amid heavy wartime spending, Elizabeth granted him a lifetime pension in the extraordinary amount of one thousand pounds. After the 1588 defeat of King Philip’s armada, Oxford left court life; and in less than five years, poems and plays began appearing by an invisible author named “Shakespeare,” who possessed a remarkably keen knowledge of the uses of power.

“Oxford had frequent access to Court, an insider’s experience with Elizabeth, the machinations of foreign heads of states and ambassadors, and fawning courtiers,” Mark Alexander writes in his presentation. “He saw power manifested in a variety of corruptions. Furthermore, being raised as a ward in Cecil’s household, and given his noble position, Oxford would have been exposed to the absolute center of England’s power.”

One of the books about Shakespeare & politics

One of the books about Shakespeare & politics

“Of all the major writers in the Western literary tradition, there is none who deals so consistently and so profoundly with political matters as Shakespeare,” Alvin B. Kernan states in Politics, Power, and Shakespeare (University of Texas, 1981). “He wrote almost exclusively of courts and aristocratic life; and matters of state, of law, of kingship, and of dynastic succession are always prominent parts of his dramatic matter. This is true even in his comedies … but it is even more obviously true in Shakespeare’s history plays and in his tragedies, where the political issues are the very substance of the plays, and where crucial matters of state are explored with remarkable precision and in great depth.”

“All ten of Shakespeare’s English history plays are named after politicians,” Tim Spierkerman writes in Shakespeare’s Political Realism (2001). “And they’re all about the same thing: who gets to rule … The plots are political plots (literally plots) … assassination, treason, civil war, foreign conquest … If ambition seems to be a universal aspect of political life, so too does the concept of ‘legitimacy,’ which is the most salient theme of the English history plays. At stake in these plays is the question not only of who will rule, but of who is supposed to rule … the proper acquisition and use of political power.”

Another example...

Another example…

“The dominant political question which produced the history plays … was the terms of obedience,” Irving Ribner comments in The English History Plays in the Age of Shakespeare, Princeton (1957). “Under what conditions, if ever, was rebellion against a lawful monarch justified?”

“Shakespeare was anything but a writer of commonplace entertainments or an indifferent recorder of history,” notes Professor Daniel Wright, Ph.D., creator of the annual Shakespeare Authorship Studies Conference at Concordia University, Portland, OR, writing in A Poet’s Rage (2013), a collection of essays edited by William Boyle. “He was, instead, an informed commentator on the contemporary political scene, an expositor of political conviction and an advocate for policy that, often enough, contravened or challenged Government – which is to say ‘Cecilian’ – philosophy and practice.”

And another...

And another…

Mark Alexander quotes the Stratfordian historian A.L. Rowse in Eminent Elizabethans: “The 17th Earl of Oxford was, as the numbering shows, immensely aristocratic, and this was the clue to his career. In an Elizabethan society full of new and upcoming men, some of them at the very top, like the Bacons and Cecils – the Boleyns themselves, from whom the Queen descended, were a new family — the Oxford earldom stood out as the oldest in the land. He was the premier earl and, as hereditary Lord Great Chamberlain, took his place on the right hand of the Queen and bore the sword of state before her.”

And here’s part of another testimony in Alexander’s presentation, this one from Adolf A. Berle, former ambassador and assistant to the Secretary of State under President John F. Kennedy, writing in Power (1965): “One wonders what the personal reveries of a Plantagenet or Tudor dictator must have been. Shakespeare probably gives a better analysis than historians…”

So how did “Shakespeare” gain his intricate, deep knowledge of power and, too, his insights into the powerful? The answer is that, from the beginning, he was living in the midst of that world — as a participant — and recreated it with imagination based on personal experience.

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