Part Two: No. 99 of 100 Reasons to Believe Oxford was “Shakespeare” — The Tale of Two Shrews

This conclusion to Reason No. 99 begins by recommending a superb paper by Ramon Jimenez, in Volume XIV of The Oxfordian for 2012: The Playwright’s Progress: Edward de Vere and the Two ‘Shrew’ Plays. Mr. Jiminez has been making important contributions to the authorship case for the Earl of Oxford as “Shakespeare” with his essays focusing on anonymous plays, which, he demonstrates, comprise Oxford’s early versions of works attributed to Shakespeare – the “apprenticeship” plays upon which the master built his masterpieces.

Richard Burton and  Elizabeth Taylor - 1966 Petruchio & Kate

Richard Burton and
Elizabeth Taylor – 1966
Petruchio & Kate

Here are some excerpts about the relationship between A Shrew (1594) and The Shrew (1623):

“An objective review of the evidence … confirms that the two plays were written in the order in which they appear in the record, The Shrew being a major revision of the earlier play, A Shrew. They were by the same author – Edward de Vere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford, whose poetry and plays appeared under the pseudonym ‘William Shakespeare’ during the last decade of his life [1593-1604]. Events in Oxford’s sixteenth year and his travels in the 1570s support composition dates before 1580 for both plays.”

Even for seasoned Oxfordians the latter statement may be startling. Can it be that two plays published for the first time in 1594 and 1623, respectively, had both been written before 1580, when the true author was thirty? Well … yes.

“These conclusions also reveal a unique and hitherto unremarked example of the playwright’s progress and development,” Jiminez continues, “from a teenager learning to write for the stage to a journeyman dramatist in his twenties. De Vere’s exposure to the intricacies and language of the law, and his extended tour of France and Italy [in 1575-76], as well as his maturation as a poet, caused him to rewrite his earlier effort and produce a comedy that continues to entertain centuries later.”


Given current discussions of “How Genius Happens” (The Atlantic, July/August 2014) and “The Creative Process Made Simple” (Scientific American, July/August 2014), these findings about the Shrew plays serve as reminders that works of “genius” often require hard work and motivation over long intervals of time.

[The author’s motivation may come to be recognized as more crucial to understanding his work than previously emphasized. Why, for example, does this particular dramatist write King Lear? Is it only because he thinks it’s good for the box office? Is it merely because he thinks it’s time for a new tragedy?]

What follows is my version of the history, with help from the work of Jiminez and many others:

Twelve-year-old Edward de Vere rode to London from the funeral of his father in September 1562, in the company of twenty-seven-year-old George Gascoigne, the soldier-poet. Young Oxford, about to become the first royal ward of Elizabeth I, was heading for the home of his guardian, William Cecil, of whom Gascoigne was a cousin-in-law.

Edward received honorary degrees from the universities, at fourteen and sixteen, before enrolling by 1567 at Gray’s Inn, where The Supposes, translated from the Italian of Ariosto’s I Suppositi (1509) and attributed to Gascoigne, was being performed by law students. Years later it would be hailed as the first English prose comedy and, too, acknowledged as a crucial source used by Shakespeare for The Taming of the Shrew.

George Gascoigne  1539 - 1577

George Gascoigne
1539 – 1577

[Stephanie Caruana and Elisabeth Sears argue in Oxford’s Revenge (1989) that Edward de Vere himself wrote The Supposes as performed at Gray’s Inn. The translation is “unlikely” to have been done by Gascoigne, they write, citing a statement of his biographer Ronald Johnson that it contains “a form of euphuistic dialogue that is remarkable in its grasp of the techniques perfected over a decade later by Lyly” – that is, John Lyly, who became Oxford’s secretary by the latter 1570s.]

The fact that A Shrew is devoid of legal terms suggests to Jiminez that Oxford wrote it before, or soon after, his studies at Gray’s Inn began in 1567. But The Shrew attributed to Shakespeare contains frequent legal terms, suggesting that Oxford rewrote the play as a whole after studying the law. It also appears that he wrote the more mature version after returning from his Italian travels in 1576. The shorter and less mature work is set in Athens, while the revised and longer play (to be attributed to “Shakespeare”) is set in Padua, the center of learning and the arts that Oxford visited with relish. Lucentio seems to voice Oxford’s own thoughts upon his arrival:

Tranio, since for the great desire I had
To see fair Padua, nursery of arts…
Here let us breathe and haply institute
A course of learning and ingenious studies…

Engraving of Padua University in 1600

Engraving of Padua University in 1600

Tell me thy mind, for I have Pisa left
And am to Padua come, as he that leaves
A shallow plash to plunge him in the deep
And with satiety seeks to quench his thirst!

Less than three years after Oxford returned to England, on the first of January 1579, the Paul’s Boys performed a play at Richmond Palace recorded as A Moral of the Marriage of Mind and Measure. Eva Turner Clark suggested in 1931 that this recorded title describes The Taming of the Shrew, caricaturizing the marriage of his sister Lady Mary Vere and Peregrine Bertie [Lord Willoughby] the previous year.

Apparently Mary Vere was considered a shrew, that is, a woman of violent temper and speech. Thomas Cecil, in a letter to his father Lord Burghley in September 1578, several months after the wedding, told him there was now an “unkindness” between the young couple, adding his prediction that Mary Vere “will be beaten with that rod [by her husband] which heretofore she prepared for others.” If Oxford was having sport with Petruchio as his new brother-in-law and Katharina as Mary Vere (much to the amusement of members of the court, given that Mary had been a Maid of Honor), it appears he was depicting how better “measures” might be used to tame the “mind” of his wilful sister:

Say that she rail; why, then I’ll tell her plain
She sings sweetly as a nightingale:
Say that she frown; I’ll say she looks as clear
As morning roses newly washed with dew:
Say she be mute, and will not speak a word;
Then I’ll commend her volubility,
And say she uttereth piercing elogquence…

Kate’s father in The Shrew, one of the wealthiest men in Padua, is Baptista Minola. Oxford, writing to Burghley before his arrival at Padua in November 1575, mentioned he had “taken up of Mr. Baptisto Nigrone 500 crowns.” Burghley had arranged, through an Italian merchant in London named Benedetto Spinola, for some 4,000 pounds to be advanced to Oxford during his trip.

Could it be just coincidental that Baptista Minola echoes a combination of Baptisto and Spinola?

Meryl Streep as Kate the Shrew in the Outdoor Delacourte Theatre - Central Park, NY - 1978

Meryl Streep as Kate the Shrew in the Outdoor Delacourte Theatre – Central Park, NY – 1978

Moreover, Kate’s father is quite willing to use her for his own personal gain – shades of Polonius, father of Hamlet’s fiancé Ophelia; and, too, shades of Lord Burghley, the manipulative father of Oxford’s wife Anne Cecil.

So this play opens up a rare view into the long creative process of “Shakespeare” – in this case starting with what was perhaps his earliest comedy, written sometime after The Supposes in 1567, when he was seventeen, its action set in Greece; and then moving on to an expanded version, set in Italy and written (mostly?) by 1579, when he was twenty-nine.

Think of the mind-twisting efforts this will require of scholars who have been teaching that “Shakespeare” began his playwriting career no earlier than 1590-1592! Think of the unraveling of prior assumptions required to comprehend The Taming of a Shrew, printed anonymously in 1594, and The Taming of the Shrew, printed in the Folio of Shakespeare plays in 1623!

J. Thomas Looney wrote in Shakespeare Pictorial of December 1935 (his article is reprinted in Volume 2 of Building the Case for Edward de Vere as Shakespeare, edited by Altrocchi and Whittemore, 2009):

“The two stages in dramatic composition were, then, a result of marked division in the career of the dramatist: in the first period concentrating his powers upon invention, and in the second upon development and literary elaboration …

“Taking the first Shrew as representative of Oxford’s early comedies, and comparing it with pre-Oxfordian drama, some estimate may be formed of his great achievement as a pioneer in dramatic construction quite apart from any contribution to living literature. By a creative effort, the magnitude of which we cannot now measure, he called into existence the very instrument which made the Shakespeare literature possible.

“The full costliness of ‘first steps’ is seldom realized in the presence of later developments, but it is safe to say that as much inventive genius and mental concentration would be required to create the first Shrew as to transform it into the second a decade or more later…

“This conception of a twofold elaboration, first dramatic and then literary, is as essential to a right understanding of Shakespeare as it is to sound judgment about authorship. Both studies are inextricably mixed and show how irrational is the supposition that the authorship problem may be set aside while serious literary study continues. It is the peculiar glory of the Oxford hypothesis that for the first time it unites the two harmoniously.”

Postscript: The quarto title page of A Shrew in 1594 advertises the text “as it was sundry times acted by the Right honorable the Earl of Pembroke his servants,” and in fact four of the play’s characters carry names of actors or sharers in that company – Sly, Simon, Sander and Tom. The names “were clearly added to the manuscript of A Shrew at the time that the company performed the play,” Jiminez writes, “and remained in the text when it was printed in 1594.” It is also likely, he continues, that phrases and lines from plays attributed to Marlowe were also inserted in the early 1590s.

Second Postscript: When were the scenes of the 1594 “Sly Frame” written? When were they revised or rewritten for the “Sly Induction” printed in 1623? Is Sly intended to invoke William of Stratford, in the act of taking Oxford’s place as author of the “Shakespeare” works? My suggestion is that Oxford wrote it early on, based on an old folk tale, but then continued to revise it even after 1594, for the longer and more mature version to be printed in the Folio of 1623. We can imagine, then, the producers of the latter work cutting all the Sly scenes after the opening induction – to eliminate even the memory of the tinker’s conception of himself as “Don Christo Vary” or Lord Oxford, Edward de Vere.

Number 99 of 100 Reasons Why Oxford was “Shakespeare” (Part One): The “Taming” Plays — “A Shrew” + “The Shrew” = the Author’s Method & Identity Revealed

A Pleasant Conceited History called The Taming of a Shrew was printed for the first time in 1594 without any author’s name on the title page. The comedy is actually two plays, one within the other. The main story takes place within a “frame” of scenes. Two of these scenes appear at the outset, before the play-within-the-play begins; several of the framing scenes also occur throughout, at intervals; and finally, after the end of the “Taming” play, a single scene completes the full surrounding structure of the frame.


The frame is set in the Elizabethan present, outside an English country pub, where a drunken tinker (mender of pots or jack of all trades) named Sly falls asleep. In comes a nobleman with his men fresh from hunting with horses, hawks and hounds. Seeing the drunken, sleeping Sly, this Lord with a ready sense of humor decides to play a trick on him. He instructs his servants to pick up Sly “and bear him to my house,” where he will be treated as a great lord with all the trappings of his own wealth and high rank:

And in my fairest chamber make a fire,
And set a sumptuous banquet on the board,
And put my richest garments on his back…
Let heavenly music play about him still…

The Lord also has a company of players, with whom he has an easy relationship much as Prince Hamlet with the players in Denmark, and they wish to perform a comedy called The Taming of a Shrew. Delighted, he tells them:

Go see that you make you ready straight,
For you must play before a lord tonight.
Say you are his men and I your fellow…

The two opening scenes of the frame continue until Sly, awake and believing himself to be a wealthy nobleman with horses and hounds as well as a company of players, turns to attend the “taming” farce that the Elizabethan audience itself is about to attend.

Sly wakes up to find himself a Lord...

Sly wakes up to find himself a Lord…

But who was the anonymous writer of this ingenious farce? When it was performed for the Queen, court members might well have suspected it was Edward de Vere, Lord Oxford, the only nobleman among them who matched the “Lord” in every way. (Also, reinforcing the identification is the setting of the frame scenes in present-day Elizabethan England — an anomaly. Did the dramatist “Shakespeare” ever use a present-day English setting anywhere else?) In the 1580s, Oxford had patronized two companies of actors while leasing one of the earliest private Elizabethan theaters, the Blackfriars. He was well-known for his love of horses, hawks, hounds, banquets, costly apparel and music; he was a prankster, a teller of tall tales, acknowledged as among the best of the courtier poets and, too, as one of the few members of the nobility who wrote plays, especially comedies, and even, for his own amusement, acted on the stage.

“The Earls of Oxford had their players as far back as 1492,” writes E.K. Chambers in his great four-volume work The Elizabethan Stage (1923), noting that John de Vere, the sixteenth earl, had a company of players up to his death in 1562 – when his son Edward, then twelve, rode to London with George Gascoigne, author of The Supposes (1566), his English translation of an Italian comedy and a crucial source of The Taming of a Shrew. Chambers notes that Edward Lord Oxford “was clearly interested in things dramatic,” adding, “He took part [acted] in a Shrovetide device at Court in 1579, and is recorded to have been himself a playwright and one of ‘the best for comedy amongst us.’”

Queen Elizabeth attends a play at court (She never appeared at a public playhouse)

Queen Elizabeth attends a play at court
(She never appeared at a public playhouse)

Describing the earl’s theatrical activities, Chambers also notes that in 1580 his father-in-law, William Cecil Lord Burghley, as well as Lord Chamberlain Sussex [responsible for the play productions at Court], wrote to the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University and urged “that Oxford’s Men should be allowed to ‘show their cunning in several plays already practiced by them before the Queen’s majesty.’”

So when members of the elite audience at the royal Court saw the Elizabethan Lord on stage with his players, they must have roared with laughter during one of the framing scenes in which Sly, reacting to characters in the play as if they are individuals in the real-life world, suddenly shouts that he wants none of them to be sent to prison.

“My Lord,” the Lord tells Sly, indeed sounding like Hamlet, “this is but the play, they’re but in jest.”

But Sly, insisting that his command as a Lord be obeyed, exclaims: “AM NOT I DON CHRISTO VARY?”

“Don” is a Spanish title used by a nobleman and “Christo” represents Christ – the Lord. And, too, given that “Vere” was pronounced “Vair” (as in “Fair”), clearly Sly has come to believe that he himself is “Don Christ-O” — the Lord Oxford — Edward de “Vary” or Vere. And the court audience would also know that the nobleman whose place Sly has taken must be that same merry-madcap earl, who is sportively giving them a “sly” portrait of himself on stage.

“A close study” of the opening frame “shows that the Lord of the comedy is pure Oxford,” John Thomas Looney wrote in Shakespeare Pictorial (November 1935). The Lord in the play is “a nobleman, with his own company of play-actors, directing their performances and even participating in them; a poet and musician of pronounced esthetic tastes, delighting in objects of art, fine apparel and delicate perfumes; withal a keen sportsman, taking pleasure in various forms of outdoor exercises. Everything fits to the letter, which, taken along with Sly’s farcical appropriation of his family name, establishes for good his identity.”

[Whenever A Shrew was staged prior to its printing in 1594 (as far back as 1567), there was no dramatist “William Shakespeare” to take credit — and therefore no “Shakespeare authorship question” to interfere with the obvious evidence that Oxford wrote the play. Many scholars even today, operating within the restrictive assumptions of Stratfordian biography, have decided that Shakespeare himself could not have written A Shrew – making it quite possible, one would think, for them to accept it as one of Oxford’s “lost” comedies! Oh, the irony!]

"The Taming of the Shrew" in the First Folio of Shakespeare plays in 1623

“The Taming of the Shrew” in the First Folio of Shakespeare plays in 1623

Nearly three decades after 1594, in 1623, a much longer and more mature version of the same comedy will make its initial appearance in the First Folio of Shakespeare plays. Now A Shrew will become The Shrew – with Sly named Christophero or Christopher Sly – attributed for the first time to William Shakespeare. The producers of the Folio will print the beginning of the frame, with Sly and the Lord, but will they NOT include the rest of the frame, in which Sly cries out that he is “Don Christo Vary”.

No, they will not print the rest of it. Instead they will drop all the other framing scenes, even the final one – being intent upon further concealing Oxford’s authorship at all cost. The Folio project in 1623 is where the tilt toward Stratford upon Avon will begin. (There is no other link to Warwickshire till then.) And they will sacrifice the integrity of The Taming of the Shrew by cutting out all of the frame except the opening two scenes, which will be known in the future as “The Induction”.

(Many directors of The Shrew wisely restore the framing scenes from A Shrew for their productions! After all, the full frame not only makes sense, it makes for a better play!)

Part Two will conclude this “reason” with other aspects of both Taming plays. The bottom line is that the traditional attribution of authorship has led the Academy away from the instinctive, logical view that A Shrew and The Shrew represent two different stages, perhaps far apart in time, within the career of a single author. The result of this failure to acknowledge the obvious is an inability to comprehend how the greatest writer of the English language actually worked – not in a single, feverish whirl of magical genius, but, rather, by laboring over a long periods of time, in separate stages of his own experience and growth, to achieve his final masterpieces of drama and dramatic literature.


Here are some remarks in 2008 from David Scott Kastan, editor of the Barnes & Noble Shakespeare series, about The Taming of the Shrew:

“Shakespeare conceived these introductory scenes about Christopher Sly and the trick played to convince him that he is a great lord with an apt comic touch that is almost always successful on stage, but in the First Folio text Sly disappears from the play after Act One, scene one. Considering Shakespeare’s usual care in resolving all the plots of his plays … some scholars speculate that the text we have is corrupt.

“Beginning with Alexander Pope in 1723, editors have often added to Shakespeare’s play The Taming of the Shrew scenes taken from another, anonymous comedy printed in 1594 called The Taming of a Shrew — a practice sometimes adopted in the theater as well. Because of its similarity to Shakespeare’s play in plot and structure, scholars have debated whether Shakespeare had any hand in the writing of A Shrew.

“Whatever the truth, the presence of Christopher Sly onstage, commenting on the action throughout The Taming of a Shrew, makes for a more satisfactory development and resolution of this plot than that found in Shakespeare’s play.”


The Boar in “Minerva Britanna” (1612) and Edward de Vere and “Shakespeare”

The heraldic emblem of the Earls of Oxford for centuries was a Blue Boar, standing proudly atop their Coat of Arms. Henry Peacham in Minerva Britanna of 1612 included the image of a Boar with accompanying verse that pointed to the story of Venus and Adonis in Ovid’s Metamorphoses and — given Peacham’s demonstrated knowledge of both Edward de Vere and Shakespeare — also to both the Poem and the Poet of Venus and Adonis of 1593:

(click on image  for larger view)

(click on image
for larger view)

Reason 98 Why the Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare” – He’s the Only Playwright on the Meres List in 1598 Whose Plays are all “Lost”

“We have at least some dramatic material from all twenty-nine authors, except the politician Ferrers and the courtier De Vere.” – MacDonald P. Jackson, Determining the Shakespeare Canon, 2014, p. 119

Palladis_Tamia_1598 (2)

In the above excerpt from his new book to be published on August 19 this year, Professor Jackson of New Zealand refers to the English dramatists listed by Francis Meres in Palladis Tamia (1598) as best for tragedy or comedy or both. And he points out that for only two of them, George Ferrers and Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, no plays or even records of their plays are extant — despite the statement in The Arte of English Poesie, published less than a decade earlier in 1589:

“For Tragedy Lord Buckhurst and Master Edward Ferrys do deserve the highest praise; the Earl of Oxford and Master Edwards of Her Majesty’s Chapel for Comedy and Enterlude.”

Although Meres also included Edward Ferris (whose identity has been uncertain), he actually meant Ferrers, citing him for the poetry collection Mirror for Magistrates; but Ferrers was not a playwright, which leaves Oxford as the one and only bonafide dramatist on the Meres list whose plays have vanished — as mentioned by the seventeenth-century antiquary Anthony Wood in Fasti Oxonienses (1692), Vol. 1, p. 727:

“This most noble Earl of Oxon was … an excellent poet and comedian, as several matters of his composition, which were made public, did show – which, I presume, are now lost and worn out.”

This is the more famous section of the Meres book, announcing that "Shakespeare" was author of a dozen known plays

This is the more famous section of the Meres book, announcing that “Shakespeare” was author of a dozen known plays

The contemporary record clearly states that Oxford was highly regarded for writing some of the most popular stage works of his time, which would have included the 1570s and 1580s, so his standing as the sole writer for the English stage on the Meres list without any surviving play (or even any record of having written one) is a glaring anomaly that cries out for explanation. The answer from here, of course, is that this is just what to expect if all his “comedies and interludes” were originally anonymous, or credited to others, and later revised for publication under the “Shakespeare” name. This would explain why all his stage works were “lost” or unrecorded and how the author of Sonnet 81 could predict that “I, once gone, to all the world must die.”

John Thomas Looney, who identified Oxford as the Bard in 1920, wrote in Shakespeare Pictorial of November 1935:

“In Edward de Vere we have a dramatist, recognized by all contemporary authorities as belonging to the first rank, yet the whole of his dramas are missing. ‘The lost plays of the Earl of Oxford’ had become an outstanding reality of dramatic history many a year before the Shakespeare problem had even been thought of.

“De Vere is the only dramatist in the long list compiled in 1598 by Francis Meres of whose work no trace has been found. On the other hand, we have in the ‘Shakespeare’ plays a set of dramas of the highest class attributed to a man [William Shaksper of Stratford-upon-Avon] whose personal records have been found by modern historical research to be in direct conflict with all the outstanding and indisputable implications of such authorship. We have therefore an ever-growing mass of evidence that he was but a cover for some unnamed dramatist.

John Thomas Looney 1870-1944

John Thomas Looney 1870-1944

“Briefly, then, we have in Edward de Vere the only first-class dramatist the whole of whose plays are missing, and in the Shakespeare plays the only complete set of first-class dramas the author of which, on the strength of probabilities amounting to a practical certainty, is also supposed to be missing. These facts alone, each in its own way so amazingly strange and wholly unique, being contemporary and complementary, would justify, without further proof, a very strong belief that the Shakespeare plays are ‘the lost plays of the Earl of Oxford.’”

On the premise that Oxford wrote the “Shakespeare” works, the plays cited by Meres represent mature versions of earlier texts dating as far back as the 1570s or even earlier, when they were recorded as performed at Court under different titles. In those decades Oxford’s plays would have been anonymous.

Meres listed these individuals as Best for Tragedy: “The Lorde Buckhurst, Doctor Leg of Cambridge, Doctor Edes of Oxford, Master Edward Ferris, the author of the Mirror for Magistrates, Marlow, Peele, Watson, Kid, Shakespeare, Drayton, Chapman, Decker, and Beniamin Iohnson.”

He listed these as Best for Comedy: “Edward, Earle of Oxforde, Doctor Gager of Oxforde, Master Rowley, once a rare scholler of learned Pembrooke Hall in Cambridge, Maister Edwardes, one of Her Maiesties Chappell, eloquent and wittie Iohn Lilly, Lodge, Gascoyne, Greene, Shakespeare, Thomas Nash, Thomas Heywood, Anthony Mundye, our best plotter, Chapman, Porter, Wilson, Hathway, and Henry Chettle.”

The title page of Minerva Britannia of 1612 by Henry Peacham -- a dramatic visualization of a writer for the stage who remains unknown behind the curtain...

The title page of Minerva Britannia of 1612 by Henry Peacham — a dramatic visualization of a writer for the stage who remains invisible behind the curtain…

Only Shakespeare and Chapman are included in both lists. Oxford had been personally connected to many of them; for example: John Lyly and Anthony Munday were his secretaries who dedicated works to him, as did Thomas Watson and Robert Greene; he and Richard Edwards were connected through the Children of the Chapel and as fellow poets; George Gascoigne was an acquaintance from earliest years; George Peele and Thomas Lodge, among others on the list, were in his circle of writers during the wartime years of the 1580s; Chapman wrote about meeting him in Europe – and so on.

Following is the entire list, with my inclusion of one stage work for each individual, except for the non-playwright Ferrers and Oxford, the only dramatist on the list with no known play:


THOMAS SACKVILLE, LORD BUCKHURST (1536-1608) – Gorboduc (1561) with Norton
THOMAS LEGGE (1535-1607) – Richard the 3, The Destruction of Jerusalem (both plays named by Meres)
RICHARD EDES (1554-1604) – a play of Julius Caesar, no longer extant; and manuscript fragments of a court entertainment in 1592
GEORGE FERRERS (1500-1579) – (Mistakenly called Master Edward Ferris by Meres) – he may or may not have written plays for court; known for his contributions to the famous collection of poems Mirror for Magistrates, which Meres cites by name
CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE (1564-1593) – Tamburlaine the Great, Part 1 (1587)
GEORGE PEELE (1556-1596) – The Arraignment of Paris (performed for the Queen in 1581; printed in 1584)
THOMAS WATSON (c. 1556-1592) – a Latin version of Antigone by Sophocles (pub. 1581); no original play extant
THOMAS KYD (1558-1594) – credited, on uncertain grounds, with The Spanish Tragedy (conjectured writing in 1584-1589)
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE – Six tragedies named by Meres
MICHAEL DRAYTON (1563-1631) – Sir John Oldcastle (1599), with Richard Hathway
GEORGE CHAPMAN (c. 1559 – 1634) – Bussy D’Ambois (1603-07)
THOMAS DEKKER (c. 1572 – 1632) – nearly twenty plays published during his lifetime; worked with many other writers, for Henslowe, from 1598 – Lust’s Dominion, or The Spanish Moor’s Tragedy, 1600, with Day, Marston, and Haughton
BEN JONSON (1572-1637) – (spelled Benjamin Johnson by Meres) – The Case is Altered, a comedy, possibly the earliest play written, in 1597; but no known tragedies until after the citation by Meres in 1598 (such as Sejanus, 1603)


EDWARD DE VERE, LORD OXFORD (1550-1604) – All his plays said to be “lost”
WILLIAM GAGER OF OXFORD – (known for Latin plays) – Rivales, a comedy (1583)
RALPH ROWLEY (d. 1604?) – “Once a rare scholar of learned Pembroke Hall in Cambridge” – but likely Meres may have been confused about the identity of this man, of whose writings nothing appears to be known; the only Rowley at Pembroke Hall during the period was Ralph Rowley, afterward Rector of Chelmsford
RICHARD EDWARDS (1525-1566) – “One of Her Majesty’s Chapel” – Damon and Pithias, performed in 1564 for the Queen; Palamon and Arcite, performed for Elizabeth at Oxford in 1566
JOHN LYLY (1554-1606) – “eloquent and witty John Lyly” – Endimion: The Man in the Moon (1580s; printed in 1591)
THOMAS LODGE (c. 1558-1625) – A Looking Glass for London and England (1590, pub. 1594), with Robert Greene
GEORGE GASCOIGNE c. 1535-1577) – Supposes, a prose comedy based on Ariosto’s Suppositi, performed in 1566 at Gray’s Inn.
ROBERT GREENE (1558-1592) – Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay (1588-92)
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE – Six comedies named by Meres
THOMAS NASHE (1567-c. 1601) – Summers Last Will and Testament (circa 1592)
THOMAS HEYWOOD (Early 1570s-1641) – Edward IV (printed 1600)
ANTHONY MUNDAY (1560? – 1633) – “our best plotter” – The Downfall of Robert Earl of Huntington, on the Robin Hood legend (1598)
GEORGE CHAPMAN (c. 1559-1634) – The Blind Beggar of Alexandria (1596; pub. 1598)
HENRY PORTER (d. 1599) – The Two Angry Women of Abington (pub. 1599)
ROBERT WILSON (flourished 1572-1600) – The Three Ladies of London (pub. 1584)
RICHARD HATHWAYE (fl. 1597-1603) – Sir John Oldcastle (with Michael Drayton)
HENRY CHETTLE (c. 1564-c. 1606) – The Tragedy of Hoffmann (played 1602; pub. 1631)

Reason 97 Why Edward de Vere was “Shakespeare” — The Play “Agamemnon and Ulysses” of 1584, Performed by Oxford’s Boys at Court, as an Early Version of “Troilus and Cressida” — and the Contemporary History Behind It

“Conceived out of the fullest heat and pulse of European feudalism — personifying in unparalleled ways the medieval aristocracy, its towering spirit of ruthless and gigantic cast, its own peculiar air and arrogance (no mere imitation) — only one of the ‘wolfish earls’ so plenteous in the plays themselves, or some born descendent and knower, might seem to be the true author of those amazing works…” — Walt Whitman

The Trojan War  of Greek Mythology  (1194-1184 BC?)

The Trojan War
of Greek Mythology
(1194-1184 BC?)

This reason to conclude that the Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare” offers circumstantial evidence showing how knowledge of the correct author can change our perception of the works. It involves just one aspect of the play Troilus and Cressida – the sections with Agamemnon, commander-in-chief of the Greeks during the Trojan War, and the Greek hero Ulysses, King of Ithaca, fighting on his side. Traditional thinking requires the writing circa 1602, but an Oxfordian view reveals two basic stages of composition, the first at a much earlier date:

Accounts of the Office of the Revels
December 27, 1584

“The History of Agamemnon and Ulysses, Presented and Enacted before Her Majesty by the Earl of Oxenford his Boys on St. Johns Day at night in Greenwich” (Modernized English)

Eva Turner Clark in Hidden Allusions in Shakespeare Plays (1931) quotes an orthodox critic (Murray) as surmising that “this play may have been written by the Earl of Oxford himself, as he was known as one of the best dramatic writers of the day.” She adds that since the earl was “the only dramatic author of note” at the time it becomes even more likely that the play was his. [Mark Anderson in Shakespeare by Another Name (2005) notes that the orthodox scholar Albert Feuillerat also thought Oxford might be the author of this “lost” play.]

Edward de Vere had endured two years of banishment from court until June 1583, but now, two nights after Christmas Day of 1584, at Greenwich Palace, his Children’s Acting Company was performing Agamemnon and Ulysses for Elizabeth and her Royal Court. The play that her Majesty attended was never published, and the author was never named, but this historical context provides evidence that Agamemnon and Ulysses comprised the original version of Troilus and Cressida, to be attributed to William Shakespeare in 1609, a quarter century later.

Troilus and Cressida First Title Page - 1609 (Replaced by another title page during the print run.)

Troilus and Cressida
First Title Page – 1609
(Replaced by another title page during the print run.)

The Shakespearean text appears to contain two different plays, with two different writing styles. The first two scenes, for example, feature Troilus and Pandarus and Cressida, using the rapid, realistic dialogue of a seasoned playwright; but the third scene, featuring Agamemnon and Ulysses with other commanders, is filled with long speeches of blank verse – powerful and thoughtful, but in a style used much earlier on the English stage.

Troilus and Cressida 1609 (Second Title Page of the first quarto)

Troilus and Cressida 1609
(Second Title Page of the first quarto)

“Careful study of the two kinds of work in Troilus and Cressida will perhaps bring home to the reader – more clearly than anything else could – a sense of what took place in the development of drama in Queen Elizabeth’s reign,” J. Thomas Looney writes in Shakespeare Identified of 1920. “What we take to be the Earl of Oxford’s play of Agamemnon and Ulysses, forming the original ground-work for the ‘Shakespeare’ play of Troilus and Cressida, represents the Elizabethan drama in an early simple stage of its evolution – with few speakers and long speeches – and the finished play of Troilus and Cressida the work of the same pen, when practice had matured his command over the resources of true dramatic dialogue and a multitude of dramatis personae.”

During 1583 and 1584, when war between England and Spain was inevitable, Protestant leaders in the Netherlands became desperate to keep Philip II from establishing sovereignty over them. The Dutch begged England for men, money, arms and military leaders. Again and again they pressed Elizabeth to take the Provinces into her own hands, to claim sovereignty for herself and meet Spain there in open warfare. The danger of a Spanish takeover was growing; but the Queen’s counselors were divided: Leicester and the Puritans urged the Queen to send an army of several thousand; but Burghley apparently felt England would be too vulnerable without more help from within the ranks of the Low Countries, so she refused. As a result, the English government appeared to be losing its focus, breaking into fractions and becoming weaker.

Click on the Image for a Larger View of the Map -- which makes the vulnerability of England all too clear

Click on the Image for a Larger View of the Map — which makes the vulnerability of England all too clear

[In particular Oxford was angry at Elizabeth for allowing Sir Walter Raleigh, an outsider, to gain influence over her thinking and to take his own place in her high favor. He was also furious that Leicester still held sway with her. The Queen was presenting herself as weak and indecisive, allowing discord within her Council to run rampant. In the 1584 play of Agamemnon and Ulysees, the Greeks would have represented England’s leaders while Troy represented Spain.]

When Edward de Vere is viewed as author of the play presented to the Queen at Christmastime 1584, the contemporary history becomes conspicuous. Dorothy and Charlton Ogburn describe it This Star of England (1952): “Elizabeth is Agamemnon … while Ulysses’s great speech to Agamemnon is Oxford’s warning and reminder to the Queen. No one else in Elizabeth’s court could have spoken with such power, eloquence and nobility.”

Thou great commander, nerves and bone of Greece,
Heart of our numbers, soul and only spirit,
In whom the tempers and the minds of all
Should be shut up, hear what Ulysses speaks…

This speech, the Ogburns write, “is the premier Earl of England addressing his sovereign … It is Edward de Vere pointing out to his Queen the weaknesses which are afflicting their beloved country.”

Troy, yet upon his basis, had been down,
And the great Hector’s sword had lacked a master,
But for these instances.
The specialty of rule hath been neglected:
And look how many Grecian tents do stand
Hollow upon this plain, so many hollow factions.
When that the general is not like the hive
To whom the foragers shall all repair,
What honey is expected? Degree being vizarded,
The un-worthiest shows as fairly in the mask.

“He administers a stern rebuke to the Queen,” the Ogburns continue. “She has been lax with conspirators and tolerated the Puritans, thus encouraging the ‘hollow factions.’ She has ignored, masked, overridden ‘degree,’ making unworthy men, ambitious nobodies, the equals of those whose ancestors’ lives as well as their own, have been dedicated in duty to England, who have fought to make England great, who are responsible for her welfare and should be honored as her spokesmen and defenders. They have earned their high position and responsibility.”

Queen Elizabeth and Members of the Council

Queen Elizabeth and Members of the Council

“The scene as a whole is a discussion of state policy,” Looney writes, “from the standpoint of one strongly imbued with aristocratic conceptions, and conscious of the decline of the feudal order upon which social life had hitherto rested. Make, then, the Earl of Oxford the writer, and Elizabeth’s court the audience for ‘Shakespeare’s’ representation of Agamemnon and Ulysses, and the whole situation becomes much more intelligible than if we try to make the Stratford man the writer.”

ULYSSES (Continued):
The heavens themselves, the planets, and this center
Observe degree, priority, and place,
Insisture, course, proportion, season, form,
Office, and custom, in all line of order.
And therefore is the glorious planet Sol
In noble eminence enthroned and sphered
Amidst the other; whose med’cinable eye
Corrects the influence of evil planets,
And posts, like the commandment of a King,
Sans check to good and bad. But when the planets
In evil mixture to disorder wander,
What plagues and what portents, what mutiny,
What raging of the sea, shaking of earth,
Commotion in the winds, frights, changes, horrors,
Divert and crack, rend and deracinate
The unity and married calm of states
Quite from their fixture?

“This speech expresses the essence of Elizabethan philosophy,” the Ogburns write. “It states the sixteenth-century theory of the cosmos: everything in its place and maintaining its peculiar function in a hierarchy stretching from the highest to the lowest, in an ordered universe … This is a Vere pronouncing an Elizabethan nobleman’s creed. This is not merely a poet, his ‘eye in a fine frenzy rolling’; it is an English knight addressing his sovereign with the religious fervor of his patriotism.”

ULYSSES (Continued):
O, when degree is shaked,
Which is the ladder to all high designs,
The enterprise is sick! How could communities,
Degrees in schools, and brotherhoods in cities,
Peaceful commerce from dividable shores,
The primogenity and due of birth,
Prerogative of age, crowns, scepters, laurels,
But by degree, stand in authentic place?
Take but degree away, untune that string,
And hark what discord follows.

Mark Anderson notes that in 1567, when Oxford was seventeen, he had sent his retainer Thomas Churchyard off to fight for the Protestants in the Netherlands. By 1584 the situation was growing desperate. Elizabeth was urged to support the campaign by William “the Silent” of Orange to overthrow Spanish forces in the Lowlands. “To the maddeningly cautious queen, though,” Anderson writes, “such decisions were best handled by procrastination.”

William "the Silent"  1533 - 1584

William “the Silent”
1533 – 1584

In March the German scholar Sturmius, with whom Oxford had studied during his travels in 1575, urged Elizabeth to appoint a force led by “some faithful and zealous personage such as the Earl of Oxford, the Earl of Leicester, or Philip Sidney.” While the Queen continued to stall, William the Silent was assassinated in July, and finally she agreed to send military aid to the Lowlands. But who would lead the English forces? Who would assume the governorship of this possible English colony?

“Leicester was the leading choice,” Anderson notes, but “as Sturmius’s letter shows, de Vere had become a contender for the job too,” and he took it so seriously that “in the Elizabethan court’s Christmas revels of 1584, he gave his aspirations voice” in Agamemnon and Ulysses. In the scenes preserved in Troilus and Cressida, Anderson writes, “Agamemnon notes that the Greek campaign against Troy has been going on for seven years; William the Silent’s campaign against Spain had lasted [for seven years] since 1577 … In December of 1584, a play staged for Queen Elizabeth about the siege of Troy would readily have been seen as a representation of the siege of the Netherlands … [and Oxford] would have been arguing not only for military intervention but also for his leadership of the English forces — portraying himself as Ulysses, a paragon of aristocratic and military ideals.”

[I believe Anderson is the first to suggest that Oxford’s writing of Agamemnon and Ulysses was directly connected to his bid for military command, that is, “for an office of singular importance to the nation … in step with the overseas threats now facing the country.”]

ULYSSES (Continued):
…And this neglection of degree it is
That by a pace goes backward with a purpose
It hath to climb. The general’s disdained
By him one step below, he by the next,
That next by him beneath; so every step,
Exampled by the first pace that is sick
Of his superior, grows to an envious fever
Of pale and bloodless emulation:
And ‘tis this fever that keeps Troy on foot,
Not her own sinews. To end a tale of length,
Troy in our weakness stands, not in her strength.

In that final line we can hear 34-year-old Oxford telling Elizabeth that Spain is strong not because of its own strength, but, rather, because of England’s current weakness of state policy and its divided political factions under her indecisive rule.

Philip II of Spain berating William the Silent, Prince of Orange

Philip II of Spain berating William the Silent, Prince of Orange

Oxford’s plea for military leadership apparently worked, because the Queen appointed him in August 1585 as commander of a large force in the Netherlands. In September a Spanish agent in London reported that “five or six thousand English soldiers … arrived in Flanders with the Earl of Oxford and Colonel Norris.” About a month later, however, he was recalled — brought home, I suggest, to lead the circle of writers later called the University Wits, and to contribute royal history plays to the touring companies of the Queen’s Men, inspiring audiences with calls for patriotism and unity in the face of the Spanish threat.

It may well be that the Queen so valued his writing, particularly because of the speeches for Ulysses, that she finally realized he was needed most for his literary and dramatic abilities at home. In that case, his ambition for a military command was undercut by the brilliant, passionate words of the very speeches he wrote in trying to fulfill it.

When Troilus and Cressida was printed in 1609 it was without authorization — along with Pericles and the Sonnets, also without the author’s approval or even knowledge. Troilus and Cressida was almost left out of the First Folio of Shakespearean plays in 1623 and seems to have been included at the last moment. The hesitation may well have come from concerns that its subject matter circa 1584, along with Oxford’s identity as author, would be seen all too clearly.

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