Merry Christmas & Happy Hanukkah to All Shakespeare Lovers


Wishing all of you Shakespeare Lovers a time of Love and Peace and Joy. Of course, in my view anyone involved in the Authorship Question is more of a Shakespeare Lover than those who are satisfied with the status quo.


Oxfordians are anti-Stratfordian, yes, but far more important is that we are pro-Shakespearean. Why? Because we care about the author, knowing that all works of the imagination have their roots in the author’s life — in the same way that knowing the life of Samuel Clemens is the entranceway into a deeper understanding of the works attributed to Mark Twain.

And happy New Year to all!

Once Upon a Time at the Royal Court of Elizabeth I …

“Those who believe that literature has its inspiration in imagination without reference to contemporary incidents may not like to admit that Shakespeare made a practice of alluding to people and events of his time in burlesque, in satire, in allegory, in comedy, and in tragedy.

“It is difficult today to conceive of an author’s making such personal allusions as appear to be made in the plays; but, in Queen Elizabeth’s time, when London had a population under 200,000, the Court circle for which [Edward de Vere] Lord Oxford wrote was composed of a few old families, intimately acquainted, and more or less closely related.

Oxford bears the Sword of State for Elizabeth I

Oxford bears the Sword of State for Elizabeth I

“While there was a secondary circle made up largely of literary men and fashionable idlers who frequented the little Blackfriars Theatre and Paul’s Singing School, and a larger public at the Bull, where performances by Lord Oxford’s companies were given in preparation for production at Court, the dramas were expressly written with the object of being presented before the Queen and her limited Court circle.

“That circle, great and glorious as it then was and as it still appears in historical perspective, can be well visualized today if we think of it as a glorified country-house party, isolated from the rest of the world, among the members being an author who suggests theatricals as a means of passing the time, and, in order to give zest to the plays, burlesques and satirizes the follies and foibles of many of those present, not even sparing himself.

“That this practice of alluding to contemporaries was sometimes carried surprisingly far seems to have been due to the fact that it amused the Queen…”

Eva Turner Clark, Preface to Hidden Allusions in Shakespeare’s Plays, 1930

“Double Meanings” … “Hidden Truths” … “Concealed Allusions” — Politics-as-Usual in Elizabethan England

“Skill in discovering the hidden truth behind the façade of words and appearances became even more important when the trained rhetorician was himself a master of verbal deception and double meaning.

“The ability to ‘speak one thing and think another’ so that ‘our words and our meanings meet not’ was essential to political survival, and according to [The Arte of English Poesie, 1589], ‘not only every common courtier but also the gravest councilor, yea and the most noble and wisest prince of them all’ [Queen Elizabeth] made use of allegoria and other figures of speech to dissemble their thoughts and protect themselves.

Queen Elizabeth attends a play at the royal court

Queen Elizabeth attends a play at the royal court

“Anyone who has read Elizabeth’s speeches to her Lords and Commons knows the truth of the above assertion, for the Queen was a master at ‘speaking obscurely and in riddles’ with ‘a duplicity of meaning or dissimulation under covert and dark intendments.’ [Arte of English Poesie]

“Gloriana was not only adept at verbal chicanery: she was also constantly on the lookout for it in others, especially in playwrights, whom she suspected of writing about those two prohibited subjects that so closely touched her person and prerogative – her marriage and the succession.
[Emphasis added]

“In March of 1565, the Spanish Ambassador wrote that he had been awarded a display of the Queen’s talents at deciphering concealed allusions to her marriage when he had sat through a dramatic performance at court and had listened to Elizabeth’s interpretation of what he saw…”

Lacey Baldwin Smith, Treason in Tudor England: Politics and Paranoia (1986), p. 114

William Cecil Lord Burghley, Queen Elizabeth and Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford — Paving the way for “Shakespeare”

“[William] Cecil’s role in establishing the office of propaganda [during wartime in the 1580s], and placing his son-in-law [Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford] over it, has been sadly neglected by historians.”

William Cecil  Lord Burghley 1520 - 1598

William Cecil
Lord Burghley
1520 – 1598

So begins a lengthy footnote by Ruth Lloyd Miller in her volume entitled Oxfordian Vistas (1975), continuing:

“Yet it would be entirely out of character for Cecil, whose ‘hand is seen’ in everything, everywhere, during Elizabeth’s reign, not to have had his hands on the reins of public opinion. It would be entirely in accord with what is known of Cecilian ratiocination for Cecil to feign disapproval of stage plays, ‘lewd’ actors, and dramatists while, behind the scenes, manipulating them for political purposes.

“The vitae of virtually every Elizabethan writer in the Dictionary of National Biography shows Cecil lurking in their shadows. Lyly and Munday, the mainstays of Oxford’s dramatic staff, were both placed on that staff by Cecil. Lyly acknowledges Cecil ‘as a father.’ Munday was rendering service to the Cecil-[Francis] Walsingham camp as a spy, infiltrating the Roman school, before he entered Oxford’s service.

“Very early in the Anglo-Spanish struggle, before Cecil and Elizabeth finally threw the gauntlet in 1585 at the feet of [King] Philip, the Spanish ambassador, Feria, protested against comedies in London which made mock of his royal master. (The play Philip II, mentioned by Chambers in The Elizabethan Stage, may date to this period.)

Queen Elizabeth  1533 - 1603

Queen Elizabeth
1533 – 1603

“Feria said Cecil had supplied the authors of them with their themes, and that Elizabeth had practically admitted Cecil was the guilty man. (Calendar of State Papers, Spanish, found in Hawarde, Comera Stellata – R 1237, 48.)

“It is not without significance that the earliest English political dramatist, John Bale, ‘appears in the service of [John de Vere, 16th Earl of Oxford], for whom he wrote a series of plays, intended for use as [Protestant] Reformation propaganda.’ (Jesse W. Harris, John Bale, University of Illinois Press, 1940, p. 24.) Bale’s plays were performed almost exclusively in promotion of the ‘New Learning’ by the companies of John de Vere and Thomas Cromwell.

“Harris comments, as does R. Wallerstein (King John in Fact and Fiction), that Bale’s influence is reflected in Shakespeare’s plays. They see, as do other commentators, Bale’s [version of King John] as the primary source for Shakespeare’s King John – but cannot account for how Shakesepare had access to Bale’s unpublished manuscript. The Shakespeare and Bale eras were too widely separated in time for the Bale drama to have survived by way of an actor’s memory version.

“It is no mystery at all, however, when Cecil, Oxford, and Shakespeare are brought together. In August 1561, the Earl of Oxford’s players performed Bale’s King John for the Queen at Ipswich … Elizabeth spent a week that same August at Castle Hedingham, where she was again entertained by Earl John’s players, performing other plays of Bale, if not a second performance of King John.

Castle Hedingham

Castle Hedingham

“During the time of Elizabeth’s visit to Hedingham, Edward, Lord Bolebeck, heir of the family of Vere, was at the impressionable age of eleven. A year later, on Earl John’s death, when Cecil gathered the twelve year old Earl Edward into the fold of wardship, he also took possession of all the young noble’s assets. Cecil, who had standing orders for his agents on the continent to supply him with copies of books and publications of interest, would not have failed to appreciate the Earl of Oxford’s collection of Bale’s dramatic works, and move them to safekeeping to Cecil House on the Strand.

“Even before Bale’s death, at an advanced age, in 1563, Archbishop Matthew Parker and Cecil were aware of the value of Bale’s work, and were involved in efforts to retrieve Bale’s manuscripts from various sources. (B.M. Lansdowne Ms. Pt. I, no. 6, Art. 81.) Undoubtedly ‘Shakespeare’ saw Bale’s manuscript plays, and undoubtedly he saw them through the eyes of Edward de Vere, who owned many of them, in the Library at Cecil House.”

This footnote, which runs along the bottom of pp. 469 to 481 of Miller’s volume, is an important reminder that, from the outset, William Cecil Lord Burghley was intimately involved in the use of plays for political propaganda, and that the close working relationship of Elizabeth, Cecil and Edward de Vere provided the fertile ground from which the phenomenon of “Shakespeare” was to eventually grow.

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