“100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford” is FREE on Amazon Kindle during the Memorial Day Weekend

This blog posting is to announce that 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford is being offered FREE on Amazon Kindle all during Saturday, Sunday and Monday of this Memorial Day Weekend (May 27, 28, 29).

Here is the review by Walter Hurst in the Winter 2017 edition of the Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter:

“How do you write a review about a book you enjoyed so much that you literally could not put it down—even when you knew you had other work that had to be done?  Perhaps you simply tell the reader some of the many aspects of the book that you liked, and hit some of the “best bits.”

“The book in question is Hank Whittemore’s new work, 100 Reasons Shake-speare Was the Earl of Oxford, a thoroughly enlightening and enjoyable foray into the specifics of the case for the authorship of the Shakespearean canon by Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford.

“In sharp contrast to the recent Stratfordian claim that the man from Stratford was a “player” and therefore a writer, Whittemore presents actual, logical, and thoroughly convincing evidence that de Vere was “Shakespeare.” He does so in a highly organized and provocative way, too. You would think that he would lead off with his best reasons (which is, frankly, what I wanted him to do), and he gives some impressive ones at the start of his 100-reason list.

“Beginning with the first chapter, Whittemore demonstrates that Oxford, unlike the man from Stratford, was a true man of the theatre. Reading about de Vere’s many theatrical enterprises and experiences, including strong presentations of him as a patron as well as a “court jester” (or “allowed fool”), we find a man intimately involved in the production of plays from beginning to end. De Vere was a man who knew the theatre and understood its power.

“In his second chapter, Whittemore concentrates on the striking and unmistakable similarities between the life of Edward de Vere and the story of his most unforgettable character, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Ten riveting and convincing passages later, every reader will be struck by the overwhelming, and perhaps eerie, sense that Hamlet is the most autobiographical insight into the life of the author in the history of English literature. Strong arguments, thoroughly researched and well presented, make the connection intimate and undeniable to all but the most self-deluded Stratford believer.

“Whittemore continues the assault on those invested in the Stratfordian myth by identifying specific evidence connecting the Earl of Oxford to the works of Shakespeare. There are gems here, such as Richard Edwards and the “cry of the hounds” at a 1566 performance that Oxford attended, to be echoed later by Duke Theseus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and a wonderful recounting of the incident at Gad’s Hill. Perhaps the strongest argument of all for the authorship of Shakespeare’s works is presented in Reason 19, “Oxford’s Geneva Bible.” Whittemore succinctly sums up the amazing narrative of its acquisition by the Folger Shakespeare Library and the intensive and groundbreaking research of Roger Stritmatter that exposed its underlined and annotated passages and their startling linkage to the works of Shakespeare. While Whittemore might have begun his book with this “Reason,” his organization of the various reasons is both logical and powerful, and the Geneva Bible remains a showpiece of any cogent argument for de Vere’s authorship of the works.

“Space does not permit an exhaustive review of all the chapters of the book, but there are many highlights that should be mentioned. Together they constitute the “pillars of the argument” for the Earl of Oxford. In addition to the chapters above, Whittemore dives into discussions of Oxford as an acknowledged writer, the University Wits, and his known connections with other writers and poets. Oxford’s intimate connection with the life and times of England, and Queen Elizabeth in particular, is covered in several places, including chapters on “Writers in Wartime” and “The French Match.”

“One of the most important chapters deals with the connection of Oxford, “Shakespeare,” and the Italian performance genre known as Commedia dell ‘arte. This form of theatre, essentially unknown in Elizabethan England, was the basis for dozens of Shakespeare’s most memorable characters and plotlines. It is unthinkable that the playwright could not have had profound and intimate knowledge of this emerging art form. A thorough examination of the connection is both skillful and compelling. Whittemore gives high praise to Richard Roe for his remarkable work on Shakespeare’s Italian connection, and notes that Oxford traveled extensively in Italy, absorbing Italian history, art, politics and culture in a way that Shakespeare would share with the world in his works. Whittemore also acknowledges the groundbreaking work of Dr. Noemi Magri and her revelation concerning Titian’s personal copy of his “Venus and Adonis” painting, and its Shakespearean connection.

“Whittemore demonstrates extraordinary restraint as well. Although he has previously authored The Monument, an exhaustive study of Shake-speare’s Sonnets, only two of his 100 reasons are grounded on those poems. This speaks to the overall strength of his argument for Oxford’s authorship. While Whittemore could have chosen to write a dozen or more reasons for this conclusion based upon the Sonnets, he instead summarizes Oxford’s links and his relationship to the Sonnets. He does so in a logical and condensed manner, making the linkage a powerful and irrefutable reason to conclude that de Vere was indeed the author of Shake-speare’s Sonnets.

“Chapter 12, “Oxford’s Special Knowledge,” was also a highlight. It is universally  accepted that Shakespeare had a vast range of knowledge and expertise—foreign languages, music, classical literature, law, medicine, warfare, sailing, and intimate political machinations at court, to name a few. The connections between de Vere’s known proficiency in these subjects and Shakespeare’s works represent another pillar of the many bases for his assertion of Oxford’s authorship.

“Specific references to de Vere in the plays themselves are also discussed in Chapters 14 and 15. Characters such as Bertram and Othello are pondered, and devices used in Shakespeare such as the “bed trick” are analyzed in the context of their Oxfordian associations. These chapters bear close reading and thought: Whittemore carefully investigates both the widely known references (such as he bed trick) and some lesser-known ones as well, such as the fascinating story of Edmund Campion and his connection to Malvolio in Twelfth Night. These connections, well organized for the reader’s consideration, are also strong evidence for an Oxfordian authorship conclusion.

“Whittemore sums up and saves some of his most powerful reasons for last. His “Final Stages” chapter, being read after the previous 88 reasons are proposed and deliberated, constitutes a mighty and authoritative conclusion to the work. My favorite reason in this chapter was Number 91, “Dramatic Literature.” Here Whittemore makes what for me is his best case for the Oxfordian side:

This evidence comprises one of the most important, yet among the least noticed, of the reasons why Oxford is Shakespeare. The plays are masterpieces of dramatic literature—they are works the author has written and rewritten, over long stretches of time, not primarily for playgoing audiences, but for carefully attentive readers. Most can be fully appreciated only when, in addition to be seen and heard, they are read and reread. But to comprehend how they were produced in final form requires a viewpoint wholly opposite from that of Stratfordian tradition.

“As a writer and a playwright himself, Whittemore makes the overwhelming and ultimately effective case for de Vere’s authorship with his 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford. His book is thoroughly researched, eminently readable, and, for those of us with time constraints on our reading, it can be absorbed in small doses as well. He is also very convincing. If you can, try to persuade a Stratfordian to read a few reasons. Have them pick a number between 1 and 100, and then read that particular reason. If that does not get them interested, they are probably too far gone to listen to reason, let alone a hundred reasons.”


Mike A’Dair’s New Book “The Ashbourne Saga: A Cinematic Epic in Fourteen Episodes”

Ladies and Gentlemen, let us celebrate the publication of Mike A’Dair’s new book of “screenplays for a television miniseries,” dramatizing the heroic (and tragic) saga of Charles Wisner Barrell (1885-1974) — a major contributor to the fledgling effort to establish Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford as “Shakespeare” during the first half of the twentieth century. I could hardly put this book down and found myself reading through its 684 large-size pages in just a few days. The only thing better might be viewing a production of it on screen! In any case I hereby recommend The Ashbourne Saga ($49.99 on Amazon) for an absorbing, informative and emotional journey through the heart of the Oxfordian movement in its early stages.

The saga begins in London in 1847 with the discovery of the so-called Ashbourne Portrait of William Shakespeare, auctioned at Sotheby’s in New York in 1928 and purchased in 1931 by Henry Clay Folger’s widow for the new Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C..  The painting had already become controversial, with M.H. Spielmann having warned in 1910 that the aristocratic nature of the portrait precluded it from depicting the Stratford man; and in 1932 the Oxfordian author Percy Allen argued that it originally had depicted Edward de Vere but later had been retouched. Then in 1940 Barrell reported in the prestigious Scientific American that his investigations with X-ray and infra-red photography revealed the portrait had originally been that of a nobleman, Edward de Vere, but had been altered to better conform to the Stratfordian conception of Shakespeare. This was a bombshell in support of the Oxfordian case.

Barrell’s public triumph ultimately became his nightmare, however. In 1948 he brought suit against curator Giles Dawson of the Folger for suggesting in a letter that he had doctored his X-ray pictures.  Drawing upon the actual depositions for the dialogue, A’Dair provides a dramatic account of the arguments, leading to how and why the suit was dismissed in 1950. Devastated over having been unable to prove his case, and feeling he could never recover his reputation, Barrell stopped writing for publication. (My understanding is that he continued to research Oxford’s life for more than two decades, before his death at eighty-nine in 1974, but that all of that subsequent work was destroyed.)

Barrell had been a significant art critic in New York as well as a journalist and consultant for Bell Laboratories, also producing documentary films for Western Electric; but then he seized upon the authorship issue with enthusiasm and zeal. In a scene from this book in 1934, he confesses to his wife (Marie) and mother (Mary) that “the spiritual foundation of my life has dried up” and announces his new plan:

Barrell: “All I am interested in now is de Vere. So I intend, with your consent, and hopefully, with your blessing, to return to the life I led before journalism.”

Marie: “You would quit your job, during a depression? Now I know you’re loony!” (Playing scornfully on the name of J. Thomas Looney, founder of the Oxfordian movement with “Shakespeare” Identified in 1920.)

Barrell: “The life I’ve been living here, the daily grind, this isn’t why I was born. Mother, you know that I was born to write … There’s a transformation in our understanding coming and I want to be part of it.”

Marie: “And while you are out writing, how will we survive?”

(His mother pleads for calm while admitting that Marie “does have a point.”)

Barrell: “We have ten thousand dollars in the bank. If we live frugally, we’re good for ten years … I’d say that, within ten years, and hopefully sooner, I will have found something to cinch the case for Oxford.”

After adding that he will have to make several ocean voyages to and from England for research (his wife will make at least one trip with him), he gains their consent, but not before his mother issues a warning that will turn out to be prophetic:

Mary: “Well, Charles. You must do what you must do. But for myself, I’d rather you were researching anybody — Keats or Shelly or even Milton — anybody other than Shakespeare. To me Shakespeare is a sacred name, the greatest man who ever lived. For you to imagine you could chip away at that, knock Shakespeare down from his throne, well, they are going to laugh at you, Charles, and they are going to try to destroy you.”

Before that happens, however, Barrell will do some of the greatest research and express some of the most profound insights (in superbly written, eloquent essays) that the Oxfordian movement has generated. Along the way, as we follow his journey in this series of teleplays, at least two interrelated themes deserve attention: (1) Barrell’s discovery that Oxford’s mistress Anne Vavasour had given birth to his illegitimate son, Edward Vere, followed by his conviction that Anne is the “dark lady” of the Sonnets, making their son a second “fair youth” (the first being Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton); and (2) the growing division within the Oxfordian movement involving the so-called Prince Tudor theory of Southampton as Oxford’s unacknowledged royal son by Queen Elizabeth. In A’Dair’s screenplay, this division is dramatized in various ways up to the final dialogue in 1950 between Barrell and Charlton Ogburn Sr., an advocate of the PT theory (which, in 1952, he and his wife Dorothy Ogburn would set forth anew and expand in This Star of England).

In his introduction A’Dair explains that his “guiding interest” is not only to solidify the Oxfordian case but, as well, to “portray the human dimension of the people who made all these astounding and recondite discoveries.” The arguments against the Stratford man “did not drop down from heaven or bubble up from hell,” he writes; instead “they were won, slowly, by long, hard hours of tedious literary and historical investigation.” As a result, he adds, “I have found that effort heroic and I wanted to portray it in a dramatic work of cinematic art.”

Well, I’d say he has achieved that goal. True, there are no car chases, no bank holdups, no shootouts, no torrid love scenes; nonetheless, he has put together a work of emotional, intellectual and artistic integrity — not to mention that it stands as a record of this history that current and future students of the Shakespeare Authorship Question will find to be of interest and value.

I intend to write a full review of this book for a future issue of the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship Newsletter; meanwhile, I should add here that although the Folger Library has proclaimed that the Ashbourne Portrait does not depict “Shakespeare” but a former Lord Mayor of London (1627-28) named Hugh Hammersley, it is A’Dair’s conviction — based on the computer work of Mark Anderson for the cover of Shakespeare By Another Name (2005), his biography of Oxford — that Barrell “had been right all along” and that “the subject of the Ashbourne Portrait was Edward de Vere, better known to the world as William Shakespeare.”

In a real sense, then, as A’Dair points out, his current book of teleplays covering events up to 1950 comprise Part One of the entire saga, which, even today, has yet to be satisfactorily resolved. (See “The Ashbourne Portrait: Part II, by Barbara Burris.)

Mike A’Dair is a poet, playwright, screenwriter, independent scholar and author of Five Essays on the Shakespeare Authorship Question (2012). He attended California State University at Hayward and lived in San Francisco during the 1970s before moving to Willits, a small town on California’s north coast, where he still resides.

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