Reason 94 to Believe that Edward de Vere the Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare” — Acknowledged Sources of the Plays Include the Works of Many of the Writers under His Patronage and Guidance

“Men can always be blind to a thing, so long as it’s big enough” – Chesterton

The bottom line of this post is that many of Shakespeare’s immediate or contemporary “predecessors,” cited by scholars over the generations as providing source materials for the great author, in fact gained their subject matter and learned their skills from Edward de Vere. As we look through various editions of the Shakespeare works, there emerges (seemingly from between the lines) a clear pattern of Oxford’s silent but hugely influential presence – like some towering and pervasive ghostly figure who has gone virtually unnoticed, simply because no one has been looking for him. So let us begin again…

Reader's Encyclopedia of  Shakespeare - edited  by O. J. Campbell

Reader’s Encyclopedia of Shakespeare – edited
by O. J. Campbell — one of the best books on the bard

A powerful reason why Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare” is that the identified sources for many of the comedies include literary or dramatic work by writers who worked under his patronage and guidance. Based primarily on two major reference works – The Reader’s Encyclopedia of Shakespeare edited by Oscar Campbell and Dating Shakespeare’s Plays edited by Kevin Gilvary, here are ten such plays in alphabetical order:

As You Like It – The direct and primary source is Rosalynde, Euphues’ Golden Legacy, a prose romance by Thomas Lodge, written by 1587. Lodge followed the euphuistic literary movement (aimed at refining and enriching the English language) of which Oxford was the leader. The earl’s secretary John Lyly had published two Euphues novels in 1579-1580; and As You Like It contains several thematic links with Lyly’s court plays such as Sappho and Phao, Galathea and The Woman in the Moon. In addition the play James IV by Robert Greene, another writer in Oxford’s orbit, contains forerunners of As You Like It’s feminine characters and is also notable for using the similar setting of rural England.

Indispensable for all kinds of solid information

Indispensable for all kinds of solid information

The Comedy of Errors – Once again, writings attributed to Oxford’s personal secretary Lyly are identified as sources used by the Shakespearean dramatist. “The rhetorical features of the comedy betray the influence of John Lyly that was strong during the formative years of Shakespeare’s art,” Campbell writes.

Love’s Labour’s Lost – This play contains “many features of the euphuistic style made fashionable by the publication of John Lyly’s Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit,” Derran Charlton and Kevin Gilvary report. H.R. Woudhuysen observes that parts of the play are “reminiscent of the court comedies and the prose romances of John Lyly,” who dedicated Euphues his England (1580) to Edward de Vere.

The Merchant of Venice – Considered a likely source is Zelauto, the Fountain of Fame (1580) by another of Oxford’s secretaries, Anthony Munday, who dedicated it to the earl. Details of plot, character and language in Munday’s work are paralleled in the Shakespearean play – including the usurer’s daughter and her marriage, as well as the two ladies who disguise themselves as lawyers. And it appears that Portia’s speech about the “quality of mercy” was influenced by the judge’s pleas for mercy in the same work by Munday, who referred to himself in the dedication as “Servant to the Right Honourable the Earl of Oxenford.”

The Merry Wives of Windsor – According to Philip Johnson, the treatment of Falstaff by the ‘fairies’ in the final scene appears to parallel the episode of Lyly’s play Endimion in which the soldier Corsites is pinched by fairies. Johnson also notes that some influence on Falstaff “may have been derived” from the character of Captain Crackstone in Munday’s Fedele and Fortunio (1585), a translation from Luigi Pasqualigo.

Geoffrey Bullough's multi-volume series on the sources -- a great library resource

Geoffrey Bullough’s multi-volume series on the sources — a great library resource

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – H.F. Brooks and C.L. Barber agree that this play also reflects the court dramas attributed to Lyly, who also acted as Oxford’s stage manager for plays performed at Blackfriars and the royal court. Geoffrey Bullough believes that Lyly’s play Endimion influenced the Shakespearean play. H.F. Brooks and Nevill Coghill have observed that the dramatic structure of the Dream by Shakespeare is similar to a combination of leading features in Munday’s play John a Kent and John a Cumber.

Much Ado About Nothing – The English source of this Shakespearean play appears to be Fedele and Fortunio (1585) by Oxford’s secretary Munday, who would have adapted it from an Italian play, Il Fedele, written in 1579.

The Tempest – The play Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay (c. 1591) by Oxford’s protégé Robert Greene “bears some primitive and remote resemblance to The Tempest,” Campbell writes, “and is one of the earliest examples of the successful interweaving of a subplot with the main story.” In addition, Greene’s play The History of Orlando Furioso (1594) drew from Ariosto’s work of that name (1516); and in their game-changing book On the Date, Sources and Design of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest (2013), Roger Stritmatter and Lynne Kositsky show how that Italian epic poem is itself an important source of this Shakespearean play (and of Much Ado, for example).

The Two Gentlemen of Verona – Geoffrey Bullough notes some common techniques in Two Gentlemen and the comedies and romances of Lyly; and he believes that Lyly’s novel Euphues, The Anatomy of Wit (1579), inspired (and perhaps dictated to him) by Oxford, his employer, comes closest to this Shakespearean work. “Shakespeare’s debt appears in the courtly atmosphere of Lyly’s romance plays,” Noemi Magri writes; and C. Leech, editor of the Arden edition of Two Gentlemen, notes “many incidental echoings” of Lyly and that the Launce-Speed dialogue in Act Three, Scene One contains a major “crib” from Lyly’s romantic comedy Midas, played in 1591 by the Paul’s Boys for Elizabeth at court.

All the Varioriums of all the plays, poems and sonnets are gold mines of info!

All the Varioriums of all the plays, poems and sonnets are gold mines of info!

(The title of Two Gentlemen is suggestive of Munday’s play Fidelio and Fortunio, the Deceits in Love Discoursed in a Comedy of Two Italian Gentlemen. R. Hosley, an editor of Munday’s work, suggests that Fidelio and Fortunio was acted before the Queen by Oxford’s company of child actors called Oxford’s Boys.)

The Winter’s Tale – Campbell writes, “The source of the main plot is Robert Greene’s novel Pandosto, or the Triumph of Time,” printed in 1588. The Shakespearean play carries over all the characters in Pondosto except one (Mopsa)! “There has been considerable disagreement among scholars as to the relationship of Greene and Shakespeare,” Campbell observes. “If, as many scholars have believed, Shakespeare began his career by revising other men’s plays, then it is probable that some of these plays were at least partly Greene’s.”

(Some Oxfordians – notably Stephanie Hughes and Nina Green – have set forth impressive arguments that “Robert Greene” was but an early pen name used by Oxford before “killing him off” in 1592, prior to adopting the “Shakespeare” pseudonym. In any case, one of Greene’s earliest books – Card of Fancy, printed in 1584 – was dedicated to Oxford as “a worthy favourer and fosterer of learning” who had “forced many through your excellent virtues to offer the first-fruits of their study at the shrine of your Lordship’s courtesy.”)

Oxfordian editions of the plays are coming forth... (See Amazon.com)

Oxfordian editions of the plays are coming forth…
(See Amazon.com)

Meanwhile The Winter’s Tale owes much to the use of Greek Romances. In that regard, two contemporary writers linked to Oxford contributed suggested sources: Angel Day, who published an English translation of Daphnis and Chloe in 1587; and Thomas Underdowne, who translated Heliodorus’ Aethiopica in 1569, when he dedicated it to nineteen-year-old Oxford, writing of the earl’s “haughty courage joined with great skill, such sufficiency in learning, so good nature and common sense” among other virtues. Eddi Jolly, noting the influence of Aethiopica upon The Winter’s Tale, observes that “the entire moving force is a king’s jealousy.”

Another Oxfordian edition -- with more sources than orthodox editions have acknowledged

Another Oxfordian edition — with more sources than orthodox editions have acknowledged

This rundown is about as brief and compact as I could make it; however, I cannot resist citing one of my favorite influences upon “Shakespeare” by a writer working under Oxford’s patronage: The sequence of 100 consecutively numbered sonnets or “passions” entitled Hekatompathia, or the Passionate Century of Love by Thomas Watson, who dedicated it to Oxford in 1582, thanking the earl for having “perused” the work in manuscript. (Oxfordians have suggested that Oxford wrote the prose “headers” or brief scholarly notes for each of Watson’s sonnets; and, too, they have suggested that Edward de Vere wrote the entire “century” or 100-sonnet sequence himself.) The point here is that, when I set forth the 100-verse sequence of Sonnets 27 to 126 as the centerpiece of SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS of 1609, in my edition The Monument, citing Watson’s sequence as a precedent, it was unknown to me that someone else had already made the same observation nearly seventy years earlier!

It was Edgar Fripp, an orthodox scholar, in his work Shakespeare, Man and Artist of 1938, who wrote: “Centuries or ‘hundreds’ of literary pieces were in fashion – of Songs, Sonnets, Prayers, Sermons, Hymns, Sentences, ‘Flowers,’ ‘Points of Husbandry,’ Emblems, Medical Observations, or what not … The Hekatompathia or Passionate Century of Love by Thomas Watson, otherwise a Century of Passions, may have served as a model for Shakespeare’s Century of Sonnets … Shakespeare’s Sonnets 27-126 are a Century.”

hek TP WEB4

(Moreover it was suggested in The Monument that Shakespeare’s “century” of 1609 is divided into two parts: Part One, the eighty sonnets 27-106 and Part Two, the twenty sonnets 107-126; and Watson’s sequence of 1582 is also divided into two parts, in the same way, as Part One, Sonnets 1-80 and Part Two, Sonnets 81-100. I suggest that Oxford structured the Shakespearean sonnet sequence in direct reflection of the Watson sequence, in order to steer us back to Passionate Century , where we would find him!)

In addition to the Arden, Riverside, Penguin and other editions of the Works, here are just some of the other books that include Shakespeare sources:

This book represents  the most significant example of what results when the orthodox version of Shakesepeare's sources is examined from a fresh perspective!

This book represents the most significant example of what results when the orthodox version of Shakesepeare’s sources is examined from a fresh perspective!

Anderson, Mark, “Shakespeare” by Another Name, 2005

Bullough, Geoffrey, Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, 1958

Chambers, E.K., The Elizabethan Stage, 1923

Clark, Eva Turner, Hidden Allusions in Shakespeare’s Plays, 1931; reprint 1974

Part Two of Reason No. 35: The Unique “Centuries” of Sonnets by Watson (with Oxford’s help) and “Shakespeare”

(Click on for Larger View)

On the title page of Hekatompathia or Passionate Century of Love by Thomas Watson (1582), dedicated to Edward Earl of Oxford, the reader is informed about the architecture of the “century” of one-hundred sonnets:  “Divided into two parts: whereof, the first expresseth the Authours sufferance in Love: the latter, his long farewell to Love and all his tyrannie.”

The two parts have eighty and twenty sonnets respectively.  Part One comprises Sonnets 1 – 80 and Part Two comprises Sonnets 81 – 100:

1————————-80 81———100

When we get to Sonnet 80 at the end of the first part, we are told that the next verse, Sonnet 81, beginning the second part, is shaped “in the form of a pillar” that quite obviously makes it unique and gives it considerable importance:

Sonnet 81 of Watson's sequence, in the form of a pillar, starting Part Two (81-100); and Shakespeare's Sonnet 107 is also the eighty-first verse of his "century," starting Part Two (107-126)

“All such as are but of indifferent capacity, and have some skill in Arithmetic, by viewing this Sonnet following compiled by rule and number, into the form of a pillar, may soon judge how much art and study the Author hath bestowed in the same.”

While working on The Monument it became apparent that the one hundred and fifty-four verses of SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS (1609) contain the same architecture.  The first step is to remove the epilogue of the Bath sonnets, 153-154; and then separate the main body of one hundred and fifty-two sonnets by means of the two envoys, Sonnets 26 and 126.

The result is a central sequence of a hundred sonnets between two series of twenty-six:

1—–26 27—————————-126 127—–152

It came as a surprise to me, after completing The Monument, to find that Edgar I. Fripp in Shakespeare, Man and Artist of 1938 had already discovered the same hundred-sonnet sequence and even related it to Watson’s earlier sequence:

“Centuries or ‘hundreds’ of literary pieces were in fashion,” Fripp wrote, citing “hundreds” of songs, sonnets, prayers, sermons, hymns, flowers, emblems, medical facts and so on.  “The Hekotompathia or Passionate Century of Love by Thomas Watson, otherwise a century of passions, may have served as a model for Shakespeare’s century of sonnets,” he continued, adding, “Shakespeare’s Sonnets 27-126 are a century.”

But Fripp had seen no significance in Watson’s dedication to Oxford, who had helped with the manuscript; nor had he realized that Shakespeare’s century is itself divided into two parts, exactly as Watson’s century is divided, that is, Part One with eighty sonnets and Part Two with twenty:

Thomas Watson: 1———————————-80 81————-100

Shake-speare’s: 27——————————–106 107————126

Sonnet 107 is the eighty-first verse and the “pillar” that begins Part Two. 

And of course Sonnet 107 is both unique and important as the so-called “dating sonnet,” viewed by most critics as celebrating the release on April 10, 1603 of Henry Wriothesley Earl of Southampton after being “supposed as forfeit to a confined doom” in the Tower.  Sonnet 107 also refers to the death of Queen Elizabeth, the “mortal Moon,” a few weeks earlier on March 24, 1603, when King James VI of Scotland was quickly proclaimed King James I of England – without the civil war around succession that had been both predicted and feared.

As shown in The Monument, the eighty sonnets of Part One begin with Sonnet 27 upon Southampton’s arrest on the night of February 8, 1601 and continue until Sonnet 106 upon his final night in the Tower on April 9, 1603; and the twenty sonnets of Part Two begin with his liberation on April 10, 1603 and continue with one sonnet per day until Sonnet 125 upon the Queen’s funeral on April 28, 1603 followed by Sonnet 126, the envoy of farewell.

So it appears that Watson’s century of 1582 had “served as a model” for Shakespeare’s century even more closely than Edgar Fripp had known.  And given that Oxford had been so intimately involved in the Watson sequence, we might logically conclude that he repeated its structure in the Shakespeare sequence.

In other words, if “Shakespeare” was borrowing from Watson, as now seems clear, then the view here is that he was borrowing from himself!

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