Part Two of Reason 95: Christopher Marlowe and Why Oxford was “Shakespeare”

Christopher Marlowe was one of the “university wits” recruited from Cambridge and Oxford by the Elizabethan government, during the 1580s, to serve as informants or spies for its wartime intelligence service. These young men also worked as secretaries-scribes-writers under the financial support of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, who provided them with writing space and materials as well as plots, themes, language and even entire works to be published either anonymously or under names that were either fictitious or their own.

This portrait may be of Christopher Marlowe ... Made in 1585, it was found at Corpus Christi College, where Marlowe was a student that year at age twenty-one

This portrait may be of Christopher Marlowe …
Made in 1585, it was found at Corpus Christi College, where Marlowe was a student that year at age twenty-one

“During his studies at Cambridge,” Daryl Pinksen writes in Marlowe’s Ghost: The Blacklisting of the Man Who was Shakespeare (2008), “perhaps as early as 1585, Marlowe was recruited into the English secret service headed at that time by Secretary of State Sir Francis Walsingham.” Records indicate a “marked increase of spending” as if he “suddenly had a new source of income” and “frequent absences from Cambridge beginning in 1585 for longer and longer periods, also consistent with work as an intelligence agent …

Francis Walsingham  Secretary of State and England's Spymaster

Francis Walsingham
Secretary of State and
England’s Spymaster

“Lord Burghley, England’s Lord Treasurer – and the de facto head of the Privy Council, the governing body of England – was also Chancellor of Cambridge, and worked closely with Walsingham in directing and funding intelligence operations. During Marlowe’s years at Cambridge it is likely he made numerous trips, perhaps to the continent, at the behest of Walsingham and Burghley to spy for his country.”

William Cecil  Lord Burghley

William Cecil
Lord Burghley

Marlowe received a Bachelor’s degree in 1584, but a few years later Cambridge authorities heard rumors that he was collaborating with Catholic enemies of Queen Elizabeth. The whispers of treason, Pinksen suggests, had been “instigated by Marlowe himself as part of an effort to entrap Catholic sympathizers, part of a mandate given him by Walsingham and Burghley.” So when the university hesitated to give Marlowe his Master’s degree in 1587, the Council sent a written command to confer it upon him because he had “done her Majesty good service, and deserved to be rewarded for his faithful dealing.”

“In the fast-expanding arena of Elizabethan espionage, writers were an obvious source of recruits,” explains Charles Nicholl in The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe. “They were intelligent, educated, observant young men. They knew the international language, Latin, and the literary tastes of the day gave them a good smattering of French and Italian.” They were geographically and socially mobile, as well as continually in need of cash, so “it is perhaps not surprising that a number of Elizabethan writers crop up in the files of the intelligence services, both foreign and domestic. They are remembered as poets, pamphleteers and playwrights, but down there in the reality of their lives they had to profess other skills if they were to survive.”

Edward de Vere 17th Earl of Oxford

Edward de Vere
17th Earl of Oxford

Nicholl mentions writers such as Anthony Munday and John Lyly, both working from the late 1570s as Edward de Vere’s private secretaries, and he devotes a single chapter to “another poet glimpsed in the secret world of the 1580s … an elusive and engaging figure” – Thomas Watson, who was “a close friend of Marlowe” as well as of Lyly and others. Watson also worked under the patronage of Oxford, to whom in 1582 he dedicated Hekatompathia, or the Passionate Century of Love , a 100-sonnet sequence that the earl had “favorably perused” when it was “as yet but in written hand.”

There is increasing evidence that many if not all of the works attributed to Thomas Watson were in fact written by the earl himself; but for Reason 95 the point is that Watson can be viewed as one of many “intermediaries” linking Oxford and Marlowe by just one “degree of separation” – making the odds overwhelmingly in favor of Edward de Vere and Christopher Marlowe not only knowing each other but working together on plays such as Tamburlaine the Great, Parts One and Two and on poems such as Hero and Leander. But it would not have been an equal relationship; Lord Oxford, being some fourteen years Marlowe’s senior, would have been guiding the younger man in various ways.

In 1564, the year of Christopher Marlowe’s birth, Oxford received his honorary degree from Cambridge at fourteen; in 1575, when Marlowe turned eleven, Oxford was twenty-five and spending a year in Italy; and in 1581, when Marlowe entered Cambridge at seventeen, Oxford, at thirty-one, was already recruiting young disciples who, during wartime, would help achieve the great renaissance of English literature and drama leading up to “Shakespeare” in the 1590s. The truth about Marlowe becomes clear only when viewed within the context of the crucial chapter of England’s history in which he appears; and it begins with Oxford’s pivotal role at the center of those former and current students who helped create a new language, a new cultural and national identity, leading to a strong sense of English pride and patriotic fervor.

Philip II of Spain

Philip II of Spain

England’s naval forces turned back King Philip’s armada of 150 ships carrying 30,000 troops intent on conquering the island nation, crushing the humanistic spirit of the Renaissance and overturning the Protestant Reformation. If any single aspect of English life created the immediate, fertile ground from which “Shakespeare” sprang, it was that prolonged expectation of the dreaded invasion. Once the Anglo-Spanish war became official in 1584, the arrival of the armada loomed ever closer; and during the crucial four years that followed, Burghley and Walsingham were determined to employ “the media” – books, pamphlets, ballads, speeches and, above all, plays (especially plays of royal history) promoting unity in the face of religious and political conflicts threatening to render England too weak to survive.

The phenomenon of “Shakespeare” involves not only the solitary figure of Edward de Vere; it includes an array of those other figures who wrote works for him or with him or who even simply lent their names to creations that were entirely his. These others contribute to a body of work that is much larger than the high priests of academia have allowed “Shakespeare” to claim. As we should expect in the case of the world’s greatest and most influential writer in English, or perhaps in any other language, his labors ripple out to include a vast body of translation as well as original poetry, prose, stage works, dramatic literature, song lyrics, musical compositions, political tracts – all presented anonymously or under different names of real persons living or dead and, too, of fictitious persons whose “biographies” are skimpy and tentative at best.

England defeats the Spanish Armada - 1588

England defeats the Spanish Armada – 1588

Christopher Marlowe fits into this picture as one of Oxford’s satellite figures who may – or may not! – have contributed his own literary labors to anonymous works such as Tamburlaine. (All works later attributed to Marlowe were either unpublished or anonymous during his brief lifetime until 1593.) This work, actually two separate plays, could well have been written much earlier by a much younger Oxford, who could have given it to Marlowe (who was twenty-three in 1587) to work on; and it was performed on the public stage before the armada sailed in 1588. The speeches roused audiences to a fever pitch; the character of Tamburlaine, according to Frederick Boas, seemed to Englishmen to embody Philip of Spain himself. He is, after all, a tyrant calling himself master of the lands and seas, confident he will conquer “all the ocean by the British shore” and that “by this means I’ll win the world at last!”

tamburlaine poster

Such arrogant confidence and raging, bloodthirsty ambition might well have served to further alarm Englishmen over the danger they faced from Philip II of Spain and, thereby, might have further motivated them to join together to defeat the armada.

Part Three will continue this story, explaining in more detail how Christopher Marlowe contributes to the evidence that “Shakespeare” was Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.

Did Marlowe and Shakespeare Collaborate? Well … yes! … because Marlowe Worked with Oxford, Who then Became Shake-speare

Due Soon at Amazon.com

Due Soon at Amazon.com

So … according to the “New Oxford Shakespeare” editors, Christopher Marlowe and the great poet-dramatist worked together!  Well, that’s a step in the right direction … a giant step on the journey away from Stratford and into the political terrain of London and the court … a journey into what really happened when Marlowe, a Cambridge student and government spy, worked in the 1580s with Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, who supervised a group of writers turning out plays of English history during wartime … promoting a new spirit of patriotic identity and national unity.  De Vere took the younger Marlowe under his wing … and when the Spanish Armada was defeated in 1588, the earl dropped from public view … reappearing in 1593 as “Shakespeare” on the printed page.  In other words, Will Shakspere had no part in it. So … did Marlowe and “Shakespeare” collaborate? Well, sure! But let us continue the journey away from Stratford, with all possible speed…  

Here’s an advance look at the Marlowe chapter of my forthcoming book 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford, based on the series of a hundred “reasons” posted on this blog site:

CHAPTER NINE: THE MARLOWE ENIGMA

Reason 49 – Christopher Marlowe

We now confront the shadowy figure of Christopher Marlowe, the Cambridge student and government spy who was stabbed to death at age twenty-nine on 30 May 1593, just when the initial copies of Venus and Adonis, carrying the first appearance of the printed name “William Shakespeare,” were on their way to the London bookstalls.

Tamburlaine the Great (in two separate parts) had drawn great crowds to the Rose playhouse from 1587 onward, but Marlowe’s name never appeared on any published work during his lifetime. (As audiences seemed uninterested in who wrote the plays they attended, a common assumption that he was “the toast of the town” as a popular playwright may well be a fantasy.) Ironically, however, upon his death the “Shakespeare” name was launched—the name of a previously unknown writer whose highly cultured narrative poem was an instant bestseller. In fact, the name of Shakespeare quickly did become the toast of the town, at least among those who could buy books.

The relationship of “Marlowe” and “Shakespeare” has generated much uncertainty and perplexity among academics. Scholars and biographers have pondered and dissected the inextricable entanglement of those two famous names, and of the works attributed to them, without consensus. Oscar James Campbell notes the confusion in The Reader’s Encyclopedia of Shakespeare (1966):

“Because the chronology of the composition of Marlowe’s plays and those of Shakespeare is uncertain, and because of the dearth of information about Shakespeare’s activities during the “seven lost years” [1586 through 1592], it is impossible to discuss with precision the literary interrelationship of these two playwrights …Whatever their personal relationship, it is demonstrable that Shakespeare knew Marlowe’s plays and poetry. There are hundreds of verbal echoes and dozens of comparable scenes and situations in the works attributed to the two different men. Frequently it is difficult to guess who is echoing or borrowing from whom….” 

The tradition is that Will of Stratford, being the same age as Marlowe but newly arrived in London, was so inspired by Tamburlaine’s commanding eloquence and unrelenting violence that he began to write Henry VI (all three parts) and then his own blood-gushing play Titus Andronicus. Exactly how Shakspere found the time to write such plays while engaged in his acting career and moneylending is never explained.

[Well … we might as well add here that the New Oxford Shakespeare editors are listing Marlowe himself as his co-author on those three plays– the first time for any major edition of the Works.]

Stephen Greenblatt in Will in the World (2004) has no trouble comprehending the miracle. He imagines—with no supporting evidence—that just when Shakspere was “finding his feet in London,” he noticed the hoopla over Tamburlaine, which “may indeed have been one of the first performances he ever saw in a playhouse—perhaps the first.” That experience “appears to have had upon him an intense, visceral, indeed life-transforming impact.”

The transformation would have been from a young man who had never been inside a London playhouse to a dramatist who not only instantly surpassed Marlowe himself, but also became the greatest playwright of the English language! By 1595 he would have turned out both Richard II and Richard III and, by 1598, completed no less than twelve plays, including Love’s Labour’s Lost, Romeo and Juliet, King John and The Merchant of Venice!

“Shakespeare had never heard anything quite like this before,” as Greenblatt imagines the Tamburlaine experience, “certainly not in the morality plays or mystery cycles he had watched back in Warwickshire. He must have said to himself something like, ‘You are not in Stratford anymore.’” Standing among the groundlings at the Rose and staring up at Edward Alleyn as Tamburlaine, was for Will a “crucial experience” and a “challenge” that “must have been intensified when he learned that Marlowe was in effect his double: born in the same year, 1564 .…”

Let’s take our own look at 1593, when Venus and Adonis, the sophisticated poem that the author termed “the first heir of my invention,” surged to popularity among university students, aristocrats and members of the royal court including young Henry Lord Southampton, to whom it was dedicated. This blockbuster would be joined in 1594 by an even more brilliant poem, Lucrece, whose primary source was the story told by Ovid in his Fasti, a work not to be translated into English until 1640.

On 28 September 1593, the unfinished manuscript of another narrative poem, Hero and Leander, was entered at the Stationers’ Register by John Wolf, who described it as “an amorous poem devised by Christopher Marloe.” But something happened to stop Wolf from printing it. The first edition was finally published by Edward Blount in 1598, attributed to Marlowe, followed in the same year by another edition from publisher Paul Linley, advertising it as “begun by Christopher Marloe and finished by George Chapman.” “Marlowe’s Hero and Leander is the best of the Ovidian romances,” Campbell writes. “It contains the most successful combination of the genre’s distinctive characteristics: descriptions of natural beauty, voluptuous development of erotic situations, and an ornate style. These are also the elements of which Shakespeare composed Venus and Adonis.

So Marlowe and “Shakespeare” were both writing long, romantic, sensuous, erotic poems based on Ovid; they completed them at virtually the same time—in the year of Marlowe’s untimely death—when “Shakespeare” forged ahead by getting his masterful “first heir” into print and taking over the poetical limelight.

Marlowe’s name appeared in print for the first time in 1594, when the play Edward II was published as by “Chr. Marlow” and another play, Dido, Queen of Carthage, was published as by “Christopher Marlow and Thomas Nashe.” “No play of Marlowe’s is more closely related to one of Shakespeare’s than is Edward II to Richard II,” Campbell writes. “For decades scholars assumed that Marlowe’s was the first significant English chronicle history play, and that therefore he taught Shakespeare much. Recently, however, it has been established that Shakespeare’s Henry VI trilogy antedates Edward II; in other words, Shakespeare helped Marlowe; the combination of Shakespeare and Marlowe helped Shakespeare in Richard II.” In classic understatement, he adds: “The intricacies of these interrelationships are detailed and complex.”

Marlowe was one of the “University Wits” recruited from Cambridge and Oxford by the Elizabethan government during the 1580s to serve as informants or spies for its wartime intelligence service. These young men also worked as secretaries, scribes and writers under the financial support of Oxford, who provided them with writing space and materials as well as plots, themes, language and even entire works to be published anonymously or under their own or fictitious names.

“During his studies at Cambridge,” Daryl Pinksen writes in Marlowe’s Ghost (2008), “perhaps as early as 1585, Marlowe was recruited into the English secret service headed at that time by Secretary of State Sir Francis Walsingham.” Records indicate a “marked increase of spending” as if he “suddenly had a new source of income” and “frequent absences from Cambridge beginning in 1585 for longer and longer periods, also consistent with work as an intelligence agent …. Lord Burghley … was also Chancellor of Cambridge, and worked closely with Walsingham in directing and funding intelligence operations. During Marlowe’s years at Cambridge it is likely he made numerous trips, perhaps to the continent, at the behest of Walsingham and Burghley to spy for his country.”

“In the fast-expanding arena of Elizabethan espionage, writers were an obvious source of recruits,” Charles Nicholl writes in The Reckoning (1992). “They were intelligent, educated, observant young men. They knew the international language, Latin, and the literary tastes of the day gave them a good smattering of French and Italian.” They were geographically and socially mobile, as well as continually in need of cash, so “it is perhaps not surprising that a number of Elizabethan writers crop up in the files of the intelligence services, both foreign and domestic. They are remembered as poets, pamphleteers and playwrights, but down there in the reality of their lives they had to profess other skills if they were to survive.”

Nicholl mentions writers such as Munday and Lyly, both working from the late 1570s as de Vere’s secretaries, and devotes a chapter to “another poet glimpsed in the secret world of the 1580s … an elusive and engaging figure”—Thomas Watson, who was “a close friend of Marlowe,” Lyly and others. Watson is one of many “intermediaries” linking Oxford and Marlowe by just one degree of separation, making it highly likely that de Vere and Marlowe not only knew each other, but worked together on plays such as Tamburlaine the Great and on poems such as Hero and Leander. But it would not have been an equal relationship; Oxford, fourteen years Marlowe’s senior, would have been guiding the younger man.

In 1564, the year of Marlowe’s birth, Oxford was already receiving his honorary degree from Cambridge; in 1575, when Marlowe turned eleven, Oxford was twenty-five and spending a year in Italy; and in 1581, when Marlowe entered Cambridge at seventeen, Oxford, at thirty-one, was recruiting young disciples who, during wartime, would help achieve the great renaissance of English literature and drama leading up to “Shakespeare” in the 1590s. The truth about Marlowe becomes clear within the context of this crucial chapter of England’s history in which he appears; it begins with Oxford’s pivotal role at the center of those young writers who helped create a new language—a new cultural and national identity, leading to a strong sense of English pride and patriotic fervor.

The intention of King Philip’s Armada was to not only to conquer the island nation, but also to crush the humanistic spirit of the Renaissance in England and overturn the Protestant Reformation. If any single aspect of English life created the immediate, fertile ground from which “Shakespeare” sprang, it was this prolonged expectation of invasion. Once the Anglo-Spanish war became official in 1584, the arrival of enemy ships loomed ever closer; during the next four years, Burghley and Walsingham were determined to employ “the media”— books, pamphlets, ballads, speeches and plays (especially plays of royal history) that promoted unity in the face of internal religious and political conflicts, which threatened to render England too weak to survive.

The phenomenon of “Shakespeare” involves not only the solitary figure of de Vere; it involves an array of others who wrote for him or with him or who lent their names to creations that were entirely his, all contributing to a body of work by Oxford that is much larger than the one “Shakespeare” has been allowed to claim. His labors include a vast body of translation as well as original poetry, prose, plays, dramatic literature, song lyrics, musical compositions and political tracts, presented anonymously or under names of real persons living or dead, not to mention fictitious persons whose “biographies” are skimpy and tentative at best.

Marlowe fits into this picture as one of Oxford’s satellite figures who may (or may not) have contributed his own labors to anonymous works such as Tamburlaine. (All works later attributed to Marlowe were either unpublished or published anonymously during his brief lifetime.) Tamburlaine may have been written earlier by a younger Oxford, who could have given it to Marlowe (age twenty-three in 1587) to work on. Performed on the public stage before the Armada sailed in 1588, its speeches roused audiences to a fever pitch; the character of Tamburlaine, according to Frederick Boas in University Drama in the Tudor Age (1914), seemed to Englishmen to embody Philip of Spain himself. He is a tyrant calling himself master of the lands and seas, confident he will conquer “all the ocean by the British shore” and that “by this means, I’ll win the world at last!”

Such arrogant confidence and raging, bloodthirsty ambition might well have served to alarm Englishmen over the danger they faced and to further motivate them to join together to defeat the Armada.

Burghley wrote on 21 June 1586 to Walsingham, asking if he had spoken with the queen in support of de Vere. Five days later Her Majesty signed a Privy Seal Warrant authorizing an annual grant to Oxford of 1,000 pounds, an extraordinary figure, especially since England was at war with Spain and desperately needed funds. The grant, to be paid in quarterly installments, expressly stated the earl was not to be called on by the Exchequer to render any account as to its expenditure—a clause which, Ward writes, was “the usual formula made use of in the case of secret service money.”

Oxford was playing an important but unpublicized role for Elizabeth, Burghley and Walsingham during these dangerous times. The earl had made extensive sales of land between 1580 and 1585, indicating he had been personally financing writers and play companies, so now the otherwise frugal queen was compensating him for past, as well as future, expenses. In 1585, upon the outbreak of war with Spain in the Netherlands, annual payments to Walsingham rose to 2,000 pounds; it is “at this stage of increased funding and activity,” Nicholl writes, “that Marlowe enters the lower ranks of the intelligence world.”

Eva Turner Clark in Hidden Allusions (1931) notes that the writers known as the University Wits went into high gear during 1586 and 1587. “Play after play flowed from their pens. These were chronicle plays, revenge plays, Senecan plays—mostly plays calculated to keep people at a high pitch of excitement during wartime. Gathering this group of writers together, directing their work, and producing their plays on the stage was the function of the secret service office that Lord Oxford filled and upon which he spent the money that had been granted to him…. In order to keep a heavy program going, he [and Burghley] appealed to recent graduates of Oxford and Cambridge, and even to those on the point of graduation, who gave promise of dramatic ability, to assist in this important work of stage propaganda.”

“Lord Oxford, as a prolific writer and scholar, an eclectic, devotee of the theatre, generous patron of literary men and musicians, drew into his orbit the best writers and wits of the day,” Dorothy and Charlton Ogburn write in This Star of England (1952). “He was the center and prime inspiration of the University Wits: such men as Lyly, Watson, Kyd and Munday—all of whom he employed—as well as Greene, Peele, Marston, Dekker, Lodge, Nashe and Marlowe. Somewhat older than most of them, infinitely greater than any, he attracted these intellectuals as a magnet attracts steel chips; … he supported, encouraged, and directed these men, broadening their classics-bound culture through his knowledge of Italian, German, and French literature, as well as of feudal customs and the ways of court-life, while devoting his abundant creative energies to the production of dramas which not only entertained and stimulated the elect but also delighted and edified the intelligent though unschooled.”

Oxford had purchased the London mansion known as Fisher’s Folly to provide writing space for the younger men, who apparently had been turning out anti-Spanish plays for at least several months before the queen authorized the earl’s annual grant. On 20 July 1586 the Venetian ambassador in Spain, Hieronimo Lippomano, wrote to the Doge and Senate that King Philip had been furious over reports about plays being performed at the Elizabethan court: “But what has enraged him more than all else, and has caused him to show a resentment such as he has never displayed in all his life, is the account of the masquerades and comedies which the Queen of England orders to be acted at his expense.”

During the second half of 1586, after Walsingham had foiled the Babington Plot to put captive Mary, Queen of Scots on the English throne, Oxford sat on the tribunal at her trial, when she was found guilty of treason. Mary Stuart, mother of twenty-year-old James VI of Scotland, was beheaded on 8 February 1587 at Fortheringhay Castle. Her execution virtually ensured that Philip, with the blessings of the Pope, would soon launch his Armada against England.

On 29 June 1587 the Privy Council sent orders (signed by Burghley and Archbishop Whitgift) to Cambridge authorities that Marlowe should receive his Master’s degree, despite frequent absences from the campus amid rumors he was a Catholic traitor—which is what he seems to have pretended to be, as part of secret service work, during visits to the English College at Rheims in Northern France, a key seminary for Catholic defectors. The Council certified that Marlowe had “behaved himself orderly and discreetly whereby he had done her Majesty good service, and deserved to be rewarded for his faithful dealings … because it was not her Majesty’s pleasure that anyone employed as he had been in matters touching the benefit of his Country should be defamed by those that are ignorant in the affairs he went about.”

In a letter to Burghley on 2 October 1587, Marlowe was named as a courier in dispatches to Walsingham from Utrecht in Holland, indicating that after leaving Cambridge, his travels for intelligence work were continuing apace. The evidence makes it seem likely that Oxford was giving Marlowe a “cover” in London, according to the needs of Burghley and Walsingham, by taking him under his wing. To what degree Marlowe actually wrote the works for which he is credited is a matter of conjecture; some Oxfordians believe that Oxford wrote all of them.

“Shakespeare” was forged out of the fires of wartime. Because of stage works written or promoted by de Vere, young men from different parts of the country, Protestants and Catholics alike, speaking different dialects that often needed interpretation, descended upon London in the summer of 1588 and volunteered to join together in the face of a common enemy. (That kind of “public relations” effort to foster national unity would be used in the twentieth century by the U.S. government, whose media operations during World War II became a workshop for writers, photographers and filmmakers, enabling them to sharpen their skills.)

England’s defeat of the Spanish Armada was, perhaps inevitably, followed by a shameful episode that might be called a “bloodbath” of those same writers. Having utilized their services to help England survive, the authorities no longer had the same need of them and became afraid of their freedom to express themselves and of their power to influence the public. After defeating the enemy without, the government focused on enemies within.

After England destroyed the Armada in the summer of 1588, Oxford played a prominent role in the celebratory procession to St. Paul’s Cathedral on 24 November. An observer reported in A Joyful Ballad of the Royal Entrance of Queen Elizabeth into the City of London:

The noble Earl of Oxford then High Chamberlain of England

Rode right before Her Majesty his bonnet in his hand…

And afterwards unto Paul’s cross she did directly pass,

There by the Bishop of Salisbury a sermon preached was;

The Earl of Oxford opening then the windows for her Grace,

The Children of the Hospital she saw before her face….

This triumphant appearance seemed to mark the end of Oxford’s public life. He soon disappeared from court and public view, retiring to the countryside after selling Vere House and Fisher’s Folly. His wife, Anne Cecil, had died in June of 1588 and her father, Burghley, as Master of the Court of Wards, instituted procedures against him in early 1589 for debts dating back at least two decades and amounting to a staggering 22,000 pounds, rendering his annuity of a thousand pounds virtually useless.

Oxford had been the central sun around which the writers revolved, so when he could no longer finance their labors they began to fly out of orbit. The result, directly or indirectly, was the loss of nearly all of them within a span of some five years.

The Earl’s company of child actors, known as Paul’s Boys and/or Oxford’s Boys, was forced by the government to dissolve in 1590; soon after, writes Clark, “the loud complaints of members of the group are heard; one member dies in poverty; another fails to receive promised preferment; another is killed in a tavern brawl; and others drag on in miserable existence. The goose that laid the Golden Eggs was dead.”

Outcries from the writers took various forms that only certain members of the royal court and the aristocracy might have understood. Nashe, in his 1589 preface to Greene’s prose work Menaphon, entitled “To The Gentlemen Students of Both Universities,” referred to an “English Seneca” who had been forced to “die to our stage,” that is, to abandon his commitment to theatre: “Yet English Seneca read by candlelight yields many good sentences, as ‘Blood is a beggar,’ and so forth; and if you entreat him fair in a frosty morning, he will afford you whole Hamlets, I should say handfuls, of tragical speeches. But oh grief! Tempus edax rerum: [“Time, the consumer of all things”] what’s that will last always? The sea exhaled by drops will in continuance be dry, and Seneca, let blood line by line and page by page, at length must needs die to our stage.”

The death of Walsingham in April 1590 sent the world of English espionage into a tailspin, with factions competing for prominence. The strongest was controlled by the father-son team of William and Robert Cecil, the latter determined to gain power over all intelligence-gathering apparatus and, too, over the public stage with its playwrights, play companies and playhouses. Upon the secretary’s death some of his spy network fell into the hands of his cousin Thomas Walsingham, who began to lead a kind of rogue operation. Watson and Marlowe both entered into his patronage and Marlowe continued to travel abroad. Nicholl reports that Marlowe was lodging in January 1592 with two other English spies in Flushing, a Dutch seaport town ceded to England in return for support against Spanish invaders. He was arrested as a counterfeiter and deported, a bizarre episode that ended with him returning home as a prisoner to face Burghley in private and answer his questions. Might it be reasonable to ask how Marlowe found time to write? It appears that whatever his literary and dramatic contributions may have been, they had ceased when Oxford gave up Fisher’s Folly in 1589 and could no longer support the University Wits.  Charlton Ogburn Jr. in The Mysterious William Shakespeare (1984) agrees that it was Oxford who had discovered Marlowe’s dramatic ability and brought out Tamburlaine in 1587, to teach the people what might be expected of a ruthless conqueror like Philip; and later, for publication, he had put Marlowe’s name on it.

“The relationship between the two playwrights [Oxford and Marlowe] at this time may be taken to account for the similarities in Shakespeare’s early historical dramas to Edward the Second, printed in 1594 as Marlowe’s,” Ogburn also suggests. “The supposition would be that the play was an early one of Oxford’s that the earl turned over in draft to Marlowe to make what he would of it.”

Dorothy Ogburn writes of “evidence that Edward II is a direct forerunner of Henry IV and of Richard II and is by the same hand, created out of the same consciousness: it is not plagiarized from someone else. There are innumerable correspondences between Edward II and these dramas, not only in locutions, imagery and mannerisms, but also in point of view.”

On 18 April 1593, the highly cultured and sophisticated narrative poem Venus and Adonis was entered at the Stationers’ Register in London, without an author’s name. On 30 May Marlowe was killed in the company of three other spies. Among them was the most important government agent, Robert Poley, now working for Burghley and Robert Cecil, the latter determined to prevent nobles such as Oxford, Essex and Southampton from choosing a successor to Elizabeth, who was now in her sixtieth year. The only way Cecil could hope to retain power behind the throne beyond the reign of Elizabeth was to become the kingmaker himself.

It appears Cecil had viewed Marlowe as knowing too many secrets to be trusted and as too dangerous to remain alive. By June 1593, virtually at the time of Marlowe’s death, Venus and Adonis went on sale. No author’s name appeared on the title page, but the printed signature beneath the dedication to Southampton carried, for the first time, the name of an otherwise unknown author—William Shakespeare—evoking the image of a warrior-poet shaking the spear of his pen.

Oxford had returned.

100-reasons-cover-front-only-for-thumbnail-resized_2-10_26_16

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.”

elizabeth-taylor-taming-of-shrew-590x350

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:

PETRUCHIO:
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.

Christopher Marlowe, Continued: the Fourth and Final Part of Reason 95 to Believe the Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare”

Queen Elizabeth with the troops at Tilbury as the Spanish armada arrived

Queen Elizabeth with the troops at Tilbury as the Spanish armada arrived

After England destroyed the Spanish armada in the summer of 1588, Edward de Vere the seventeenth Earl of Oxford played a prominent role in the celebratory procession to St. Paul’s Cathedral on the twenty-fourth of November. An observer reported in A Joyful Ballad of the Royal Entrance of Queen Elizabeth into the City of London:

The noble Earl of Oxford then High Chamberlain of England
Rode right before Her Majesty his bonnet in his hand…
And afterwards unto Paul’s cross she did directly pass,
There by the Bishop of Salisbury a sermon preached was;
The Earl of Oxford opening then the windows for her Grace,
The Children of the Hospital she saw before her face.

But this was the end of Oxford’s public life. He soon disappeared from court and public view, retiring to the countryside after selling Vere House and Fisher’s Folly, the latter mansion having provided a London home base for writers in his charge. His wife Anne Cecil had died in June of 1588 and her father, Lord Burghley, as Master of the Court of Wards, instituted procedures against him in early 1589 for his debts dating back at least two decades and amounting to a staggering total of some 22,000 pounds – rendering his annuity of a thousand pounds virtually useless.

William Cecil Lord Burghley

William Cecil
Lord Burghley

[Mostly likely Oxford went to the manor house of Stoke Newington. After that he may have gone to Billesley Hall in the Valley of the Avon, owned by the family of Elizabeth Trussel, the Maid of Honor who became his second wife in 1591. A local legend is that As You Like It was written by “Shakespeare” at Billesley Hall.]

Billesley Hall or Manor

Billesley Hall or Manor

Oxford was the central sun around which the writers revolved, so when he could no longer finance their labors they began to fly out of orbit. The result, directly or indirectly, was the loss of nearly all of them within a span of some five years; for example:

John Lyly, his main secretary and stage manager, lost his job in 1590;
Thomas Lodge escaped poverty by voyaging to South America in 1591;
Thomas Watson died in 1592;
Robert Greene died of dissipation and poverty in September 1592;
Christopher Marlowe was stabbed to death on May 30, 1593;
Thomas Kyd, after being tortured on the rack in 1593, died in 1594.

Oxford’s company of child actors, called Paul’s Boys and/or Oxford’s Boys, was forced by the government to dissolve in 1590; and soon after, writes Eva Turner Clark, “the loud complaints of members of the group are heard; one member dies in poverty; another fails to receive promised preferment; another is killed in a tavern brawl; and others drag on in miserable existence. The goose that lay the Golden Eggs was dead.”

Outcries from the writers took various forms that only certain members of the royal court and the aristocracy might have understood. Thomas Nashe, for example, in his 1589 preface to Greene’s prose work Menaphon entitled To The Gentlemen Students of Both Universities, referred to Oxford as the “English Seneca” who had been forced to “die to our stage” or to abandon his commitment to theatre:

“Yet English Seneca read by candlelight yields many good sentences, as ‘Blood is a beggar,’ and so forth; and if you entreat him fair in a frosty morning, he will afford you whole Hamlets, I should say handfuls, of tragical speeches. But oh grief! Tempus edax rerum: [‘Time, the consumer of all things”] what’s that will last always? The sea exhaled by drops will in continuance be dry, and Seneca, let blood line by line and page by page, at length must needs die to our stage.”

armada
Many Oxfordians believe that Edward de Vere had written the first version of Hamlet by 1585, when he had Marcellus allude to “shipwrights” (builders of wooden vessels) in London who were helping to prepare for the Spanish invasion:

Good now, sit down, and tell me, he that knows,
Why this same strict and most observant watch
So nightly toils the subject of the land,
And why such daily cast of brazen cannon,
And foreign mart for implements of war;
Why such impress of shipwrights, whose sore task
Does not divide the Sunday from the week…

The spectacle of shipbuilding all week and even on Sundays, as the nation braced for war on the home front, would have resonated with an English audience before, but not after, the arrival of the armada in 1588. Meanwhile Nashe was also indirectly reporting that the author of the tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark had been forced to “die to our stage.”

Then at the end of 1590 came registration of the poem Tears of the Muses, attributed to Edmund Spenser, also bemoaning the loss of the great author:

And he, the man whom nature self had made
To mock herself, and truth to imitate,
With kindly counter under mimic sdhade,
Our pleasant Willy, ah! Is dead of late…

But that same gently spirit, from whose pen
Large streams of honey and sweet nectar flow,
Scorning the boldness of such base-born men
Which dare their follies forth so rashly throw,
Doth rather choose to sit in idle cell,
That so himself to mockery to sell.

It was Edward de Vere who (as Hamlet puts it) held the mirror up to “nature” and so “imitate” the “truth” in his work – an echo in passing of his motto Nothing Truer than Truth. Oxford was the great writer who had been “dead of late” and was now choosing to “sit in idle cell” rather than sell himself or his work. In one of his song-verses printed back in The Paradise of Dainty Devices, signed “E.O.” in 1576 and “E. Ox” in subsequent editions, he revealed that “never am less idle, lo, than when I am alone” – that is, he never worked harder than when he was by himself.

Meanwhile in September 1589 two of the writer-spies in Oxford’s circle got into trouble. Marlowe was fighting in the street with an innkeeper’s son, William Bradley, when Watson appeared and drew his sword. Marlowe stepped back, but Bradley leaped toward Watson and wounded him. Watson retreated, but Bradley charged again, so now Watson pierced him deep in the chest, killing him. Both writer-agents were tossed into the Newgate dungeon, but Marlowe was released without charge while a jury eventually ruled that Watson had acted in self-defense. He spent some months in the prison, awaiting “the grace of the Queen” until, on February 10, 1590, he received a pardon.

Queen Elizabeth The Armada Portrait

Queen Elizabeth
The Armada Portrait

The death of Secretary Francis Walsingham on April 6, 1590 sent the world of English espionage into a tailspin of competing factions. The strongest one was controlled by the powerful father-son team of William Cecil Lord Burghley and Robert Cecil. The latter, Oxford’s former brother-in-law, was determined to gain power over the intelligence-gathering apparatus and, too, over the public stage along with its playwrights, play companies and playhouses.

Upon the Secretary’s death some of his spy network fell into the hands of his cousin Thomas Walsingham, who began to lead a kind of rogue operation. Watson and Marlowe both entered Thomas Walsingham’s patronage; and Marlowe continued to travel abroad. As reported first by Nicholl in The Reckoning, in January 1592 Marlowe was lodging with two other English spies in Flushing, a Dutch seaport town ceded to England in return for support against Spanish invaders. On the twenty-sixth of that month, Marlowe was arrested in Flushing as a counterfeiter and deported – a bizarre episode that ended with him returning home as a prisoner to face Burghley in private and answer his questions.

Might it be reasonable to ask how Marlowe found time to write? It appears that whatever his literary and dramatic contributions may have been, they had ceased when Oxford gave up Fisher’s Folly in 1589 and could no longer support the University Wits. In The Mysterious William Shakespeare (1584), Charlton Ogburn Jr. supported the idea that it was Oxford who had discovered Marlowe’s dramatic ability and brought out Tamburlaine in 1587, to teach the people what might be expected of a ruthless conqueror like Philip of Spain; and he continued:

“The relationship between the two playwrights [Oxford and Marlowe] at this time may be taken to account for the similarities in Shakespeare’s early historical dramas to Edward the Second, printed in 1594 as Marlowe’s” – that is, printed with his name after he was murdered. “The supposition would be that the play was an early one of Oxford’s that the Earl turned over in draft to Marlowe to make what he would of it.”

[Ogburn’s mother Dorothy Ogburn had written of “evidence that Edward the Second is a direct forerunner of 2 and 3 Henry the Sixth and of Richard II and is by the same hand, created out of the same consciousness: it is not plagiarized from someone else. There are innumerable correspondences between Edward the Second and these dramas, not only in locutions, imagery and mannerisms, but also in point of view.”]

On April 18, 1593, the long, highly cultured and sophisticated narrative poem Venus and Adonis was entered at the Stationer’s Register in London, without any author’s name.

William Cecil Lord Burghley (l) and his son Robert Cecil (r)

William Cecil Lord Burghley (l) and his son Robert Cecil (r)

On May 30, 1593, Christopher Marlowe was killed in the company of three other spies. Among them was the most important government agent, Robert Poley, who was now working for Burghley and Robert Cecil – the latter being determined to prevent nobles such as Oxford, Essex and Southampton from choosing a successor to Elizabeth, now in her sixtieth year. The only way Robert Cecil could hope to retain power behind the throne, beyond the reign of Elizabeth, was to become the kingmaker.

It appears that Cecil had viewed Kit Marlowe as knowing too many secrets to be trusted, that is, as having been too dangerous to remain alive. In any case, Marlow had never been named as the author of any poem or play during his lifetime.

A few weeks later, in June 1593, Venus and Adonis went on sale. No author’s name appeared on the title page, but the printed signature for the dedication to Southampton carried, for the first time, the name of an otherwise unknown author – William Shakespeare, evoking the image of a warrior-poet shaking the spear of his pen.

Oxford had returned…

“English Seneca” … “Our Pleasant Willy” … was back.

Christopher Marlowe – Part Three of Reason 95 to Conclude that Edward de Vere was “Shakespeare”

“Christopher Marlowe became a scholar of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, whence he graduated B.A. in 1584, and M.A. in 1587. As Tamburlaine was acted in that year, it appears that Marlowe’s academic and his literary life overlapped. Little is certainly known of his later life, apart from the production of his plays and poems. He belonged to a circle of which Sir Walter Raleigh was the center, and which contained men like the Earl of Oxford …” The Chief Elizabethan Dramatists edited by William Allan Neilson, Ph.D., Professor of English, Harvard, 1911

Queen Elizabeth, flanked by Lord Burghley and Sir Francis Walsingham

Queen Elizabeth, flanked by Lord Burghley and Sir Francis Walsingham

Elizabeth I’s chief minister William Cecil, Lord Burghley wrote on June 21, 1586 to spymaster Secretary Francis Walsingham asking if he had spoken with Queen Elizabeth in support of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. Five days later her Majesty signed a Privy Seal Warrant authorizing an annual grant to Oxford of a thousand pounds – an extraordinary figure, especially since England was at war with Spain and desperately needed funds. The warrant, to be paid each year in quarterly installments, expressly stated that the earl was not to be called on by the Exchequer to render any account as to its expenditure – a clause which, B.M. Ward wrote in his 1928 biography of Oxford, was “the usual formula made use of in the case of secret service money.”

Oxford was playing an important but unpublicized role for Elizabeth, Burghley and Walsingham during these dangerous times when the mighty Spanish armada was about to appear on the horizon at any moment. The earl had made extensive sales of land between 1580 and 1585, indicating he had been personally financing writers and play companies, so now the otherwise frugal and even stingy Queen was compensating him for past as well as future expenses.

Walsingham caused the Queen's Men to be created in 1583

Walsingham caused the Queen’s Men to be created in 1583

Such was also the case with Walsingham himself, who had spent a decade financing England’s first official secret service all on his own, paying informants and going broke in the process. In the summer of 1582, however, the Queen, finally realizing she should invest regular sums of public money on intelligence, signed a warrant under the Privy Seal granting the Secretary a sum of 750 pounds per annum in quarterly installments – another formula to be followed exactly in Oxford’s case. In 1583 Walsingham caused the Queen’s Men acting company to be formed to promote patriotic unity during wartime, with two troupes performing around the countryside. In 1585, upon the outbreak of war with Spain in the Netherlands, annual payments to Walsingham rose to two thousand pounds; and it is “at this stage of increased funding and activity,” Charles Nicholl writes in The Reckoning, “that Marlowe enters the lower ranks of the intelligence world.”

Oxfordian researcher Eva Turner Clark writes in Hidden Allusions (1931) that the group of writers known as the University Wits went into high gear of activity during 1586 and 1587. These younger men have been viewed as those who “paved the way” for Shakespeare in the 1590s, but Clark argues that Oxford himself was the great author who, later, would revise his own plays under the “Shakespeare” pen name. The younger men in the 1580s, following Oxford’s example, were “his pupils and imitators.”

spanish_armada

“Play after play flowed from their pens,” Clark writes. “These were chronicle plays, revenge plays, Senecan plays – mostly plays calculated to keep people at a high pitch of excitement during war time. Gathering this group of writers together, directing their work, and producing their plays on the stage was the function of the secret service office that Lord Oxford filled and upon which he spent the money that had been granted to him … In order to keep a heavy program going, he [and Burghley] appealed to recent graduates of Oxford and Cambridge, and even to those on the point of graduation, who gave promise of dramatic ability, to assist in this important work of stage propaganda.”

“Lord Oxford, as a prolific writer and scholar, an eclectic, devotee of the theatre, generous patron of literary men and musicians, drew into his orbit the best writers and wits of the day,” write Dorothy and Charlton Ogburn in This Star of England (1952). “He was the center and prime inspiration of the University Wits: such men as Lyly, Watson, Kyd and Munday – all of whom he employed – Greene, Peele, Marston, Dekker, Lodge, Nashe, Marlowe.

“Somewhat older than most of them [fourteen years Marlowe’s senior], infinitely greater than any, he attracted these intellectuals as a magnet attracts steel chips; and … he supported, encouraged, and directed these men, broadening their classics-bound culture through his knowledge of Italian, German, and French literature, as well as of feudal customs and the ways of court-life, while devoting his abundant creative energies to the production of dramas which not only entertained and stimulated the elect but also delighted and edified the intelligent though unschooled.”

Philip II of Spain  1527-1598

Philip II of Spain
1527-1598

Oxford had purchased the London mansion known as Fisher’s Folly to provide writing space for the younger men (Nashe referred to a “college of writers”), who apparently had been turning out anti-Spanish plays for at least several months before the Queen authorized the earl’s annual grant. On July 20, 1586 the Venetian ambassador in Spain (Hieronimo Lippomano) wrote to the Doge and Senate that King Philip had been furious over reports about plays being performed at the Elizabethan court: “But what has enraged him more than all else, and has caused him to show a resentment such as he has never displayed in all his life, is the account of the masquerades and comedies which the Queen of England orders to be acted at his expense.”

During the second half of 1586, after Walsingham had foiled the Babington plot to put the captive Mary Queen of Scots on the English throne, Oxford sat on the tribunal at her trial in October 1586, when she was found guilty of treason. Mary Stuart, mother of twenty-year-old King James of Scotland, was beheaded on February 8, 1587 at Fortheringay Castle. This virtually ensured that King Philip, with the blessings of the Pope, would send his armada to conquer England.

Portrait of Elizabeth in the 1580s

Portrait of Elizabeth in the 1580s

On June 29, 1587 the Privy Council sent orders (signed by Burghley and Archbishop Whitgift of Canterbury) to Cambridge authorities that Marlowe should receive his Master’s degree, despite frequent absences from the campus amid rumors he was a Catholic traitor – which is what he seems to have pretended to be, as part of secret service work, during visits to the English College at Rheims in Northern France, a key seminary for Catholic defectors. The Council certified that Marlowe had “behaved himself orderly and discreetly whereby he had done her Majesty good service, and deserved to be rewarded for his faithful dealings … because it was not her Majesty’s pleasure that anyone employed as he had been in matters touching the benefit of his Country should be defamed by those that are ignorant in the affairs he went about.” In a letter to Burghley on October 2, 1587, Marlowe was named as a courier in dispatches to Secretary Walsingham from Utrecht in Holland – indicating that after leaving Cambridge his travels for intelligence work were continuing apace.

The traditional story of Marlowe as a playwright is that he came down to London in the latter months of 1587 and quickly became the most distinguished English dramatist, even though he was never credited in print as an author until after his death little more than five years later.

ElizaTriumphansWmRogers1589Compressed

“Since Marlowe was born in 1564,” Warren Dickinson writes in The Wonderful Shakespeare Mystery (2001), “his initial box office hit, Tamburlaine I, was first played when he was only twenty-three years old. While this testifies to Marlowe’s genius, it also indicates that he did not act alone. A young man cannot ride into London and have a hit play within a year unless he has a patron and a mentor. In fact, Marlowe went to work in Edward de Vere’s ‘play factory’ in 1586 and received the guidance and support which he needed. Since Edward de Vere was already a highly successful playwright-poet [at thirty-seven], it was natural for Marlowe to use him as a model in his writing. He may also have been influenced by the fact that de Vere was paying his salary.”

My feeling is that Oxford was giving Marlowe a kind of “cover” in London, according to the needs of Burghley and Walsingham, by taking him under his wing as a writer. To what degree Marlowe actually wrote the works for which he is credited is still, for me, a matter of conjecture – although some notable Oxfordians have already declared outright that it was Oxford who wrote those works.

World War Two Propaganda to Inspire Unity of Management and Labor

World War Two Propaganda to Inspire Unity of Management and Labor

In any case the phenomenon of “Shakespeare” was forged out of the fires of wartime. Behind the rise of the mighty warrior shaking the spear of his pen was a domestic army of literary men and artists of various kinds, all inspired and guided by their leader, Edward de Vere. Finally young men from different parts of the country — Protestants and Catholics alike, speaking different dialects that needed to be translated — descended upon London in the summer of 1588, volunteering to join together in the face of a common enemy.

The great director Frank Capra during WWII

The great director Frank Capra during WWII

[Such a “public relations” effort would be used by the United States government’s media operations during World War Two, providing work for many writers, photographers and filmmakers, enabling them to sharpen their talents and skills.]

But England’s defeat of the Spanish armada was followed by a shameful episode that might be called a “bloodbath” of those same writers. To put it simply, the government — having utilized their services, in helping England survive — suddenly (a) no longer felt the same need of them and (b) became afraid of their freedom to express themselves along with their power to influence the public. After defeating the enemy without, the government focused on enemies within.

Screenwriters, actors and directors were blacklisted and even jailed for being under suspicion as enemies of the U.S.

Screenwriters, actors and directors were blacklisted for being under suspicion as enemies of the U.S.

[Again a comparison with U.S. history in the twentieth century appears to be in order –- the blacklisting of writers and filmmakers after WWII, during the McCarthy era of the 1950s.]

The fourth and final part of Reason 95 to conclude that Oxford was “Shakespeare” will continue the story from 1589 through the high point of the “bloodbath” — the political assassination of Marlowe on May 30, 1593, followed by the first appearance of “William Shakespeare” shortly afterward in June.

Reason 95 – Part One – Why Edward, Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare” — the Shadowy and Elusive Figure of Christopher Marlowe

This series now confronts the immortal but shadowy figure of Christopher Marlowe, the Cambridge student and government spy who was stabbed to death at age twenty-nine on May 30, 1593 – just when the initial copies of Venus and Adonis, carrying the first appearance of the printed name “William Shakespeare,” were on their way to the London bookstalls.

"Tamburlaine" was printed in 1590 without an author's name (click on image to enlarge it)

“Tamburlaine” was printed in 1590 without an author’s name (click on image to enlarge it)

Even though Tamburlaine the Great had drawn great crowds to the Rose from 1587 onward, Marlowe’s name had never appeared on any published work during his lifetime. Given that audience members seldom if ever cared to know who wrote the plays they attended (the way we seldom care to know the screenwriters of our movies), the commonly held assumption that he was “the toast of the town” as a popular playwright must be a fantasy.

Ironically, however, at the very moment of Marlowe’s death in 1593 the “Shakespeare” name was being launched as that of a new, heretofore unknown poet whose highly cultured narrative poem would soon be a bestseller reprinted over and over again. In fact the name of Shakespeare, on the dedication to Henry, Earl of Southampton, quickly did became the toast of the town, at least for those who could buy books and read them.

Dedication of "Venus and Adonis" in 1593 to Southampton with first printing of the Shakespeare name

Dedication of “Venus and Adonis” in 1593 to Southampton with first printing of the Shakespeare name

The nature of the relationship between “Marlowe” and “Shakespeare” has generated much academic uncertainty and perplexity. Scholars and biographers have pondered and dissected the inextricable entanglement of those two famous names, and of the works attributed to those names, without consensus. Oscar James Campbell in his trustworthy & valuable Reader’s Encyclopedia of Shakespeare (1966) notes the confusion:

“Because the chronology of the composition of Marlowe’s plays and those of Shakespeare is uncertain, and because of the dearth of information about Shakespeare’s activities during the ‘seven lost years’ [1586-1592], it is impossible to discuss with precision the literary interrelationship of these two playwrights … Whatever their personal relationship, it is demonstrable that Shakespeare knew Marlowe’s plays and poetry. There are hundreds of verbal echoes and dozens of comparable scenes and situations in the works of the two men. Frequently it is difficult to guess who is echoing or borrowing from whom…”

The traditional idea is that Will Shakspere of Stratford, being the same age as Marlowe but newly arrived in London, was so inspired by Tamburlaine’s commanding eloquence and unrelenting violence that soon he began to write parts one, two and three of Henry VI and then got to work on his own bloody play, Titus Andronicus. Exactly how such a miracle might have occurred – amid Shakspere’s supposed acting career, his moneylending activities, and so on – is beyond words.

With the Admiral's Men at the Rose

Edward Alleyn as Tamburlaine, with the Admiral’s Men at the Rose Playhouse

But Stephen Greenblatt in Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare (2004) betrays no perplexity and no trouble at all comprehending the miracle. He imagines — he fancies, he supposes, he conjectures — that, just when Shakspere was “finding his feet in London,” he must have noticed the hoopla over Tamburlaine and “almost certainly saw the play.” And this “may indeed have been one of the first performances he ever saw in a playhouse – perhaps the first.”

Yes, and on the basis of what we see in the early plays, this “appears to have had upon him an intense, visceral, indeed life-transforming impact.”

(Hmmmm. The transformation — in just a few years — would have been from a young man who had never been inside a packed London playhouse to a dramatist not only surpassing Marlowe himself, but, of course, becoming the greatest playwright of the English language! By 1595 he would have turned out both Richard II and Richard III and, by 1598, completed no less than twelve plays including Love’s Labours Lost, Romeo and Juliet , King John and The Merchant of Venice!]

The 2007 production directed by Michael Kahn for the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington DC

The 2007 production directed by Michael Kahn for the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington DC

“Shakespeare had never heard anything quite like this before,” writes Greenblatt as he imagines the Tamburlaine experience, “certainly not in the morality plays or mystery cycles he had watched back in Warwickshire. He must have said to himself something like, ‘You are not in Stratford anymore.’”

[Do I hear a song coming on …?]

Attending this play among the groundlings at the Rose, and staring up at Edward Alleyn playing Tamburlaine, was a “crucial experience” for him and a “challenge” that “must have been intensified when he learned that Marlowe was in effect his double: born in the same year, 1564 …”

Okay, enough! Enough of this imaginative fiction run rampant…

Let us return to 1593, when the sophisticated and highly cultured narrative poem, which “Shakespeare” called “the first heir of my invention,” was instantly popular among university students, aristocrats and even members of the royal court including young Henry Lord Southampton, to whom it was dedicated. This blockbuster would be joined in 1594 by an even more brilliant poem – Lucrece, also dedicated to Southampton, whose primary source was the story as told by Ovid in his Fasti, a work that would not be translated into English until … 1640!

We shall need even more imaginative fiction to explain how the young Warwickshire fellow pulled that rabbit out of the hat…

The first time Marlowe's name on this poem is in 1598...

The first time Marlowe’s name becomes linked to this poem is in 1598…

On September 28, 1593, the unfinished manuscript of another narrative poem, Hero and Leander, was entered at the Stationer’s Register by John Wolf, who described it as “an amorous poem devised by Christopher Marloe [sic].” But something happened to stop Wolf from printing the poem and it was five years until the initial edition was published by Edward Blount in 1598, attributed to Marlow; and this was followed in the same year by another edition from publisher Paul Linley, who advertised it as “begun by Christopher Marloe [sic] and finished by George Chapman.”

“Marlowe’s Hero and Leander is the best of the Ovidian romances,” Campbell writes. “It contains the most successful combination of the genre’s distinctive characteristics: descriptions of natural beauty, voluptuous development of erotic situations, and an ornate style. These are also the elements of which Shakespeare composed Venus and Adonis.”

hero and leander

Imagine that! Marlowe and “Shakespeare” were both writing the same kind of long, romantic, sensual, erotic poem based on Ovid; they were writing and/or completing their similar narrative poems at virtually the same time, in the year of Marlowe’s untimely death, when “Shakespeare” forged ahead by getting his masterful “first heir” into print and taking over the poetical limelight from there on.

Marlowe’s name appeared in print for the first time in the following year, 1594, when the play Edward II was published as by “Chr. Marlow” and another play Dido, Queen of Carthage was published as by “Christopher Marlow and Thomas Nashe.”

“No play of Marlowe’s is more closely related to one of Shakespeare’s than is Edward II to Richard II,” Campbell writes. “For decades scholars assumed that Marlowe’s was the first significant English chronicle history play, and that therefore he taught Shakespeare much.

“Recently, however, it has been established that Shakespeare’s Henry VI trilogy antedates Edward II; in other words, Shakespeare helped Marlowe; the combination of Shakespeare-Marlowe helped Shakespeare in Richard II.”

Reflecting the aforesaid academic perplexity, Campbell adds in classic understatement: “The intricacies of these interrelationships are detailed and complex.”

Part Two will look at the elusive, shadowy figure of Marlowe from a different angle, beginning to resolve this confusion by arranging the puzzle pieces — the seemingly inscrutable facts of the history — in a new way, bringing into focus of what I suggest to be the contours of a true, clear picture.

Thomas Watson, Poet: He’s a Link of Many Facets between Edward de Vere and “Shakespeare” – Part One of Reason No. 35 to believe Oxford became the Bard

AUTHORSHIP QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“In our conclusion that these Sonnets were addressed to Southampton, we have the full support of the great majority of authorities on the subject.” –  J. Thomas Looney, 1920

The lyrical poet Thomas Watson (1556?-1592) has the honor of being “one of the direct forerunners of Shakespeare (in Venus and Adonis and in the Sonnets) and of being the leader in the long procession of Elizabethan sonnet-cycle writers.”  [NNDB] And Watson is linked to “Shakespeare” through Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (1550-1604) in some startling ways:

Watson's Sequence of 100 Sonnets Dedicated to Edward de Vere (1582) CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VIEW

In 1582, Watson published his most celebrated work The Hekotompathia or Passionate Century of Love, a sequence of 100 or a “century” of numbered eighteen-line sonnets [“passions”], with “prose headers” demonstrating his knowledge of works by some fifty classical or renaissance authors in their original languages; and he dedicated it to Edward de Vere, testifying that the earl “had willingly vouchsafed the acceptance of this work, and at convenient leisures favorably perused it, being as yet but in written hand.”

[We may not be wrong in suggesting that Oxford himself contributed the “prose headers” accompanying each Watson sonnet, commenting on their contents and sources.]

In 1589, the year after Oxford sold his London mansion Fisher’s Folly to William Cornwallis (whose daughter Anne apparently found some verses written by De Vere and others, including a poem to appear in 1599 as by Shakespeare), Watson became employed in the Cornwallis household.  [That September, when playwright Christopher Marlowe was attacked by an innkeeper’s son named William Bradley for failure to pay a debt, Watson came to his aid and killed Bradley, for which he spent six months in prison – See Marlowe Society.]

Francis Walsingham, the spymaster (1530?-1590)

(Marlowe acted as a spy for the English government and it seems that Watson did, too.  His association with Francis Walsingham, head of the growing secret service during wartime buildup in the 1580’s, brings him into probable contact with Oxford from this direction as well.   On June 21, 1586, William Cecil Lord Burghley urged Walsingham to confront the Queen about financial assistance to Oxford; and on June 26 Elizabeth awarded Oxford his annual grant of 1,000 pounds that would be continued even by King James in 1603 until Oxford’s death in 1604.)

In 1590, Watson published Italian Madrigals –most of them composed by Luca Marenzio, while Marenzio was staying in Mantua with the Gonzaga family from 1568 to 1574 – which Watson put into English and composer William Byrd set to music. Yet Watson had never traveled to Italy, while Oxford had apparently stayed with the Gonzaga family while visiting Mantua in 1575!  [See the work of Dr. Michael Delahoyde of Washington State University, discussing “Oxford and Music” – a topic to be reserved for another “reason” in this series.]

In 1593, the year after Watson died, his collection of sixty numbered fourteen-line sonnets [in the later-known “Shakespearean” form] was published as The Tears of Fancie, or Love Disdained (but with no name on the title page and only “Finis T.W.” after the final sonnet, No. 60, which was a slightly different version of Oxford’s early sonnet Love Thy Choice, which he had written back in the 1570’s [if not earlier] to express his devotion to Queen Elizabeth.)

In 1609, when the sequence of numbered verses SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS was printed, one sonnet in the Dark Lady series (no. 130) was quite clearly a takeoff, satiric or otherwise, on one of the sonnets printed under Watson’s name (no. 7) in the Hekatompathia or Passionate Century of Love of 1582.  [For example, whereas Watson’s sonnet had “Her lips more red than any Coral stone,” Shakespeare wrote, “Coral is far more red than her lips’ red,” and so on.]

Also in Shakespeare’s sonnets there is a string of 100 verses or a “century” of them (nos. 27 to 126) between two equal segments of twenty-six sonnets apiece (nos. 1-26 and 127-152); and this central Shakespeare sequence is divided into two parts, of eighty and twenty sonnets, exactly as the Watson’s century had been divided.  [I’ll treat this link between Watson and Edward de Vere separately, as part two of “Reason No. 35” to believe Oxford was “Shakespeare.”]

And those who like acrostics or hidden messages (on which I take no position), here are six lines (5 to 10) in the exact center of Sonnet 76, which itself is the key to unlocking the entire sequence:

Why write I still all one, ever the same,

And keep invention in a noted weed,

That every word doth almost tell my name,

Showing their birth, and where they did proceed?

O know sweet love I always write of you,

ANd you and love are still my argument

Well, I know … it would be better to find an “N” as the last letter of “WATSON,” but I just figured to pass on what came from the Marlovian researcher John Baker and later from Oxfordian researchers Dr. Eric Altschuler and Dr. William Jansen, who suspect that “Thomas Watson” may have been “the primary pseudonym [of Edward de Vere] immediately preceding the use of ‘Shakespeare’ [in 1593].”

[My take would be that Oxford would have used Watson’s name in order to publish certain works.  Watson’s death was recorded as September 26, 1592; his Tears of Fancy was published the following year, 1593, when the name “Shakespeare” made its first appearance in print [on Venus and Adonis].

Here is the Watson dedication to Oxford in Hekatompathia or Passionate Century of Love in 1582:

To the Right Honorable my
very good Lord Edward de Vere, Earle
of Oxenford, Viscount Bulbecke, Lord
of Escales, and Badlesmere, and Lord High
Chamberlain of England, all
happinesse.

Alexander the Great, passing on a time by the workshop of Apelles, curiously surveyed some of his doings, whose long stay in viewing them brought all the people into so great a good liking of the painter’s workmanship, that immediately after they bought up all his pictures, what price soever he set them at.  And the like good hap (Right Honorable) befell unto me lately concerning these my Love Passions, which then chanced to Apelles for his Portraits.  For since the world hath understood (I know not how) that your Honor had willingly vouchsafed the acceptance of this work, and at convenient leisures favorably perused it, being as yet but in written hand, many have oftentimes and earnestly called upon me to put it to the press, that for their money they might but see what your Lordship with some liking had already perused.

And therewithal some of them said (either to yield your Honor his due praise, for soundness of judgment; or to please me, of whom long since they had conceived well) that Alexander would like of no lines, but such as were drawn by the cunning hand, and with the curious pencil, of Apelles.  Which I set not down here to that end, that I would confer my Poems with Apelle’s Portraits for worthiness; albeit I fitly compare your Honor’s person with Alexander’s for excellence.  But how bold soever I have been in turning out this my petty poor flock upon the open Common of the wide world, where every man may behold their nakedness, I humbly make request that if any storm fall unlooked-for (by the fault of malicious high foreheads or the poison of evil-edged tongues) these my little ones may shroud themselves under the broad-leafed Platane [plant] of your Honor’s patronage.

And thus at this present, I humbly take my leave; but first wishing the continual increase of your Lordship’s honor, with abundance of true Friends, reconciliation of all Foes, and what good soever tendeth unto perfect happiness.

Your Lordship’s humbly at command

Thomas VVatson

Here is Watson’s Sonnet No. 7:

Hark you that list to hear what saint I serve:
Her yellow locks exceed the beaten gold;
Her sparkling eyes in heav’n a place deserve;
Her forehead high and fair of comely mold;
Her words are music all of silver sound;
Her wit so sharp as like can scarce be found;
Each eyebrow hangs like Iris in the skies;
Her Eagle’s nose is straight of stately frame;
On either cheek a Rose and Lily lies;
Her breath is sweet perfume, or holy flame;
Her lips more red than any Coral stone;
Her neck more white than aged Swans that moan;
Her breast transparent is, like Crystal rock;
Her fingers long, fit for Apollo’s Lute;
Her slipper such as Momus dare not mock;
Her virtues all so great as make me mute:
What other parts she hath I need not say,
Whose face alone is cause of my decay.

And here is Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130, (satirizing?) the lines above:

My Mistress’ eyes are nothing like the Sunne;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen Roses damask’d, red and white,
But no such Roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my Mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My Mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

Here is Oxford’s sonnet Love Thy Choice (circa early 1570’s):

Who taught thee first to sigh, alas, my heart ?
Who taught thy tongue the woeful words of plaint ?
Who filled your eyes with tears of bitter smart ?
Who gave thee grief and made thy joys to faint ?
Who first did paint with colours pale thy face ?
Who first did break thy sleeps of quiet rest ?
Above the rest in Court who gave thee grace ?
Who made thee strive in honour to be best ?
In constant truth to bide so firm and sure,
To scorn the world regarding but thy friends ?
With patient mind each passion to endure,
In one desire to settle to the end ?
Love then thy choice wherein such choice thou bind,
As nought but death may ever change thy mind.

And here is No. 60 of Tears of Fancy attributed to Watson, 1593:

Who taught thee first to sigh Alasse sweet heart? love
Who taught thy tongue to marshall words of plaint? love
Who fild thine eies with teares of bitter smart? love
Who gave thee griefe and made thy joyes so faint? love
Who first did paint with coullers pale thy face? love
Who first did breake thy sleepes of quiet rest? love
Who forst thee unto wanton love give place? love
Who thrald thy thoughts in fancie so distrest? love
Who made thee bide both constant firme and sure? love
Who made thee scorne the world and love thy friend? love
Who made thy minde with patience paines indure? love
Who made thee settle stedfast to the end? love
Then love thy choice though love be never gained,
Still live in love, dispaire not though disdained.

Stay tuned for Part Two of Reason No. 35 — How Oxford borrowed the Watson “century” structure for the “century” within the Shakespeare sonnets.

Thomas Watson, De Vere and “Shakespeare”: Re-posting No. 35 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was Edward de Vere the Earl of Oxford

The poet Thomas Watson is a direct forerunner of the poet of Venus and Adonis and the Sonnets. A leader in the long procession of Elizabethan sonnet-cycle writers, he is linked to “Shakespeare” through Edward de Vere in some startling ways.

Watson’s Sequence of 100 Sonnets Dedicated to Edward de Vere (1582) CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VIEW

In 1582, Watson published Hekotompathia or The Passionate Century of Love, a sequence of 100, or a “century,” of numbered eighteen-line sonnets or “passions”, with “prose headers” demonstrating his knowledge of works by some fifty classical or renaissance authors in their original languages. He dedicated it to Oxford, testifying that the earl “had willingly vouchsafed the acceptance of this work, and at convenient leisures favorably perused it, being as yet but in written hand.”

It appears likely the “prose headers” were also written by Oxford, who may well have written all of this poetical sequence.

In 1589, the year after de Vere sold his London mansion Fisher’s Folly to William Cornwallis, Watson became employed in the Cornwallis household.  That September, when Christopher Marlowe was attacked by an innkeeper’s son, William Bradley, for failure to pay a debt, Watson came to his friend’s aid and killed Bradley – an act for which he spent six months in prison.

Francis Walsingham, the spymaster (1530?-1590)

Marlowe served as a spy for the English government and it would seem that Watson did, too.  His association with Francis Walsingham, head of the secret service, brings him into probable contact with Oxford from this direction as well. On 21 June 1586, Burghley urged Walsingham to confront the queen about financial assistance to Oxford; five days later Elizabeth awarded de Vere his annual grant of 1,000 pounds, which would be continued by King James in 1603 until the earl’s death a year later.

The fact that Burgley appealed to Walsingham on Oxford’s behalf indicates that the latter’s grant was somehow connected to intelligence activities at the highest level, perhaps involving Catholics among the English nobility as well as diplomatic contact with foreign rulers and courts.

Watson’s Italian Madrigals was published in 1593, the year after his death. Most of its contents had been composed originally by Luca Marenzio while Marenzio was in Mantua living with the Gonzaga family from 1568 to 1574. Watson had never traveled to Italy, but Oxford had apparently stayed with the Gonzaga family while visiting Mantua in 1575.

Also in 1593, Watson’s posthumous sequence of sixty numbered sonnets (in the later-known “Shakespearean” form of fourteen lines) appeared in print as The Tears of Fancie, or Love Disdained (with no author’s name on the title page and only “Finis T.W.” after the final sonnet, which was clearly a version of Oxford’s early sonnet Love Thy Choice, written in the 1570s to express his devotion to the queen.)

When SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS was printed in 1609, one verse in the so-called Dark Lady series (no. 130) was clearly a takeoff on one of the sonnets printed under Watson’s name (no. 7) in the Hekatompathia of 1582. For example, Watson wrote,“Her lips more red than any Coral stone,” and Shakespeare turned it inside-out: “Coral is far more red than her lips’ red.”

Hekatompathia, or the Passionate Century of Love attributed to Watson is often cited as paving the way for the Shakespearean sonnet sequence published twenty-seven years later; the two are related through Oxford himself. In the SHAKE-SPEARE volume there is also a series of exactly 100 verses or a “century” (nos. 27 to 126) between two equal segments of twenty-six sonnets apiece (nos. 1-26 and 127-152); this central 100-sonnet sequence contains two sections, of eighty and twenty sonnets, respectively, exactly as Watson’s earlier century had been “divided into two parts” (as indicated on the title page) in an eighty-twenty format.  Watson’s dedication begins:

“To the Right Honorable my very good Lord Edward de Vere, Earle of Oxenford…

“Alexander the Great, passing on a time by the workshop of Apelles, curiously surveyed some of his doings, whose long stay in viewing them brought all the people into so great a good liking of the painter’s workmanship, that immediately after they bought up all his pictures, what price soever he set them at.  And the like good hap (Right Honorable) befell unto me lately concerning these my Love Passions, which then chanced to Apelles for his Portraits.  For since the world hath understood (I know not how) that your Honor had willingly vouchsafed the acceptance of this work, and at convenient leisures favorably perused it, being as yet but in written hand, many have oftentimes and earnestly called upon me to put it to the press, that for their money they might but see what your Lordship with some liking had already perused…”

(This updated post, reflecting the help of editor Alex McNeil and other editorial work by Brian Bechtold, has become no. 36 of the book 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford.)

Oxford’s Thousand-Pound Grant: Re-posting No. 25 of 100 Reasons He Was “Shakespeare”

“But if Her Majesty, in regard of my youth, time, and fortune spent in her Court, and her favors and promises which drew me on without any mistrust, the more to presume in mine own expenses…” – Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford to Robert Ceil, 2 February 1601, describing how he had gone bankrupt in financing his activities (which were not specified) for Queen Elizabeth and the English government.

On June 26, 1586, when England was two years into the official war with Spain and bracing for King Philip’s invasion, the queen signed a warrant granting Oxford an extraordinary allowance of 1,000 pounds per year (roughly equivalent to about $400,000 today; also, in Elizabethan times a pound could buy much more than now). The grant was to be paid to him by the Exchequer, by the same formula for payments to Francis Walsingham and his wartime secret service: in quarterly installments with no accounting required.

Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603)

At this time the English government desperately needed all available cash for military defense; moreover, Walsingham required a constant flow of cash to pay foreign and domestic spies. Back in 1582 the Queen had given him 750 pounds; in 1586 she raised it to 2,000 pounds, but that would be the limit for her spymaster, even during the crucial year 1588.

Sir Francis Walsingham (1532-1590)

Why would Elizabeth, known for being a parsimonious (some would say miserly) monarch, choose to support a “spendthrift” nobleman who had “wasted” the vast bulk of his great inheritance?  Why would she do so at this most perilous moment for the nation?

De Vere’s grant went unnoticed by historians until two years after John Thomas Looney published his work on Oxford as “Shakespeare” in 1920.  Inspired to conduct further research, B. M. Ward discovered Elizabeth’s signature on the Privy Seal Warrant and then looked at surviving records for all other salaries and annuities paid from the Exchequer during her reign.  Aside from sums paid to King James VI of Scotland for political reasons, Ward found that the grant to Oxford was larger than any other except for the award to Walsingham and an annual 1,200-pound grant to the Master of the Posts for the ongoing expenses of that office.

As Ward noted, there is no hint as to the purpose of the grant except that it was “to be continued unto him during Our pleasure, or until such time as he shall be by us otherwise provided for to be in some manner relieved, at what time our pleasure is that this payment of one thousand pounds yearly to our said cousin in manner above specified shall cease.”

Blackfriars Playhouse – In the 1580’s Oxford gave the lease of it to John Lyly

By 1586, the thirty-six-year-old de Vere was, in fact, broke; he surely did need “to be in some manner relieved,” but the circumstantial evidence clearly suggests he had been working with Walsingham (and William Cecil Lord Burghley) to serve the government’s interests.  The evidence points to him playing a multifaceted role behind the scenes that included, but was not limited to, the issuance of his own “comedies” for the stage.

Oxford actively patronized two acting companies performing at the private Blackfriars Playhouse and at the royal court.  He patronized and/or employed many literary men for whom he provided working space, inspiration, guidance and freedom from the wartime suppression of written words and speech.  Some of the writers in his service, such as Anthony Munday and Thomas Watson, operated as secret service agents (as did Christopher Marlowe) while using their artistic activities as public cover. Others working under his wing included Robert Greene, John Lyly and Thomas Lodge.

The anonymous play The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth was performed by the Queen’s Men in the 1580’s

“The formation of the Queen’s Men in 1583 should be regarded particularly in connection with the intelligence system,” Scott McMillin and Sally-Beth MacLean write in The Queen’s Men and Their Plays (1998). “The point is not that the Queen’s Men were spies, but that traveling players wearing the Queen’s livery would have been useful to Walsingham – perhaps for occasionally bearing messages to the right persons, more obviously for showing that the central government was attending to the nation through its licensed travelers.”

With two companies on tour (except during the winter season, when they played at court), the Queen’s Men performed plays that would rouse patriotic fervor and encourage unity among Protestants and Catholics in the face of the coming Spanish invasion.  To call this “propaganda” would be true, but not the whole of it. Oxford had spent much of his fortune on helping to bring the European Renaissance to England – a result of his travels in 1575-1576 through France, Germany and Italy, and his employment of various artists who would create the great surge of English literature and drama in the 1580s, leading to the emergence of “Shakespeare” in the following decade.

The writers in Oxford’s orbit were creating a new English language, culture and national identity; these were weapons as important as ships and guns in building England’s ability and will to withstand attack. We cannot expect, however, to find these matters written down in the Queen’s Privy Seal Warrant authorizing his grant.

In the early 1660s, the Rev. John Ward, vicar of Stratford Parish in Warwickshire, recorded local rumors in his diary that “Shakespeare” had “supplied the stage with two plays every year and for that had an allowance so large that he spent at the rate of a thousand pounds a year.”

The Armada Battle

In fact, Oxford received his annual 1,000 pounds during the rest of the Anglo-Spanish War, from 1586 through the death of Elizabeth in 1603 and the succession of James, until his own death in 1604.  That amounts to eighteen years, and, of course, two plays per year equals thirty-six, the number of works published in the First Folio of Shakespeare plays in 1623.  There is no record that Will Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon ever received any allowance from the government or from anyone else.

It looks as though Rev. Ward had come into some accurate information about England’s greatest writer, even though, by that time, the author’s identity had been paved over and sealed by official history.

(Note: This post now appears as No. 43 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford.)

Re-Posting Reason 6 of “100 Reasons” why the Great Author was Edward de Vere: John Lyly is Said to Have Taught “Shakespeare” but Oxford taught John Lyly

This blog entry, originally posted in March 2011, is now revised and numbered 34 in 100 Reasons Shake-Speare was the Earl of Oxford:
Let us begin with a brief episode in the imagination of Stephen Greenblatt in Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare: “At some moment in the late 1580’s, Shakespeare walked into a room — most likely, an inn in Shoreditch, Southwark, or the Bankside — and quite possibly found many of the leading writers drinking and eating together: Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Watson, Thomas Lodge, George Peele, Thomas Nashe, and Robert Greene.  Other playwrights might have been there as well — Thomas Kyd, for example, or John Lyly…”

Shakespeare & His Writing Pals at the Mermaid Tavern (and if you believe that one…)

     That is the entire presence in Will in the World of John Lyly, the principal Court dramatist in the 1580’s and a pivotal figure of the English renaissance.  Professor Greenblatt makes no  mention of Lyly’s twelve-year literary apprenticeship under the guidance of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, paving the way for the Court comedies of “Shakespeare” in the 1590’s.  Not a word more about this individual who is crucial to the story of “how Shakespeare became Shakespeare.”

John Lyly is offered here as reason no. 6 — another link in the chain of evidence — that Edward de Vere (1550-1604) was the greatest writer of the English language.

The Anatomy of Wit, 1579, at the dawn of the English novel. Lyly may have held the pen, but Oxford was standing right over him…

Lyly’s extravagant novels and courtly comedies of the 1580’s are viewed as a major influence on Shakespeare’s early plays. He was employed as Oxford’s private secretary and theatrical manager until 1590, when the earl withdrew from public life, and then in 1593 the name “Shakespeare” appeared in print [on the dedication of Venus and Adonis to the Earl of Southampton].

Lyly is credited with writing the first English novels, Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit in 1579 and Euphues & His England in 1580, both featuring an Italianized Englishman.  He had been recruited in 1577 by William Cecil Lord Burghley, who introduced him to his Italianized son-in-law, Edward de Vere, to whom Lyly dedicated Euphues & His England with strong hints that Oxford had taken an active part in its writing.

Oxford was leader of England’s new literary movement and the young writers under his wing, later dubbed the University Wits, all dedicated their “euphuistic” works to him.

The writers included Anthony Munday, who wrote to the earl about “the day when as conquerors we may peacefully resume our delightful literary discussions.” They included Robert Greene, who wrote to Oxford:  “And your Honor, being a worthy favorer and fosterer of learning, hath forced many through your excellent virtue to offer the first-fruits of their study at the shrine of your Lordship’s courtesy.” Among them was also Thomas Watson, who thanked Oxford for having “willingly vouchsafed the acceptance” of his work “and at convenient leisures favorably perused it, being as yet but in written hand.”

Edward de Vere was deeply involved with these writers and their works, which contained a wealth of metaphor and creative jugglings of words and sentences — all handled with flawless ease by “Shakespeare” in Love’s Labour’s Lost and A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the 1590s for aristocratic audiences and Elizabeth at Court.

Traditional biography requires that young Will of Stratford had to somehow absorb, master and even surpass the “euphuistic” outpourings of the University Wits within just a few years.  The glover’s son, newly arrived in London, had to quickly become the foremost dramatist of courtly love and genteel romance, a peerless practitioner of elaborate puns, repetitions, alliterations, high-flown rhetorical digressions and fanciful references to classical mythology and natural history.

Love’s Labour’s Lost is said by orthodox scholars to have been written circa 1592; it  was  first published in 1598.  For that ultra-sophisticated court comedy “Shakespeare” had to know about a visit in 1578 by Catherine de Medici and her daughter Marquerite de Valois, wife of King Henry of Navarre, to Nerac; he needed intimate knowledge of the philosophical debating societies or academes establishd in France and Italy; and he had to know the characters and plots of commedia dell’arte, the comedy form that had become popular in Italy.

Love’s Labour’s Lost was first printed in 1598, but the title page indicates that an earlier version has been revised

When Oxford was in his mid-twenties in 1575 he spent several weeks in Paris, where he was entertained at the French court by Henry III, Catherine de Medici and Marguerite de Valois.  He then spent a year traveling in Italy, where he attended performances of commedia dell ‘arte, and in fact an eyewitness account reported a hilarious skit that involved a character, playing the part of the earl, jousting with a woman and falling from his horse and rolling on the ground.

Shakespeare’s other comedies of the 1590’s, all viewed as indebted to writings attributed to Lyly, include The Comedy of Errors, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Taming of the Shrew, Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It and Twelfth Night.

In his three-volume Complete Works of John Lyly in 1902, R. W. Bond wrote that Lyly was “the first regular English dramatist, the true inventor and introducer of dramatic style, conduct and dialogue. There is no play before Lyly. He wrote eight; and immediately thereafter England produced some hundreds — produced that marvel and pride of the greatest literature in the world, the Elizabethan Drama.”

Bond wrote of “the immense superiority” of Lyly’s work “to anything that preceded it” and cited “his prime importance as Shakespeare’s chief master and exemplar. In comedy Lyly is Shakespeare’s only model.  The evidence of Shakespeare’s study and imitation of him is abundant, and Lyly’s influence is of a far more permanent nature than any exercised on the great poet by other writers.”

The Life and Complete Works of Lyly by Bond – 1902

Bond speculated that Lyly “first received the dramatic impulse” from his master Lord Oxford; but the extent of Oxford’s role was virtually unknown until 1912, when a professor at the University of Nebraska published a remarkable discovery.  Charles William Wallace, PhD reported in The Evolution of the English Drama up to Shakespeare that he had found records showing that Edward de Vere had contributed far more to that “evolution” than scholars had realized.

Wallace focused on the private Blackfriars theatre, where plays were rehearsed in front of aristocrats before being brought to the royal court.  Blackfriars Playhouse faced deep legal and financial troubles in 1583, but then a nobleman intervened behind the scenes:

“The Earl of Oxford, himself celebrated in his day as a dramatist, came to the rescue.  Noted alike as swaggerer, roisterer,brawler, coxcomb, musician, poet, Maecenas, the earl was also the devoted patron of John Lyly, whose ‘Euphues’ had made a stir in all England during the past three years.  He believed in Lyly’s literary ability.  so he bought the Blackfriars lease [and] made a present of it to Lyly … Thereafter we hear of John Lyly as presenting two plays at Court in the winter of 1583-84 with the Earl of Oxford’s servants, and also [a year later] … the same Earl of Oxford’s Boys at Court.”

During the Christmas season of 1584, Wallace noted, Oxford’s boy actors performed the anonymous Agamemnon and Ulysees before Elizabeth at Greenwich Palace; and he speculated that Oxford himself could have written the play.  Meanwhile Endymion, The Man in the Moon, another play attributed [much later] to Lyly and performed for her Majesty, was unmistakably about Oxford-in relation to the Queen, frequently called the Goddess of the Moon.

A Play for the Queen with Oxford portrayed as Endymion, the Lead Charater

When J. Thomas Looney published his identification of Oxford as “Shakespeare” in 1920, he noted Bond’s statements about Lyly having probably “first received the dramatic impulse” from the earl, along with the passage in The Arte of English Poesie of 1589 wherein Oxford was cited as “deserving the highest praise for comedy and interlude” [although, mysteriously, none of his comedies were known to have survived]; and he concluded:

“The work of Oxford in drama is therefore recognized as having furnished the generative impulse which produced Lyly’s work in this particular domain.  Therefore we feel quite entitled to say that it was the plays of Edward de Vere that furnished Lyly’s dramatic education, while contact with his master is a recognized force in his personal education.  The dramas of Edward de Vere form the source from which sprang Lyly’s dramatic conceptions and enterprises, and Lyly’s dramas appear as the chief model, in comedy the ‘only’ model, upon which ‘Shakespeare’ worked. We are therefore entitled to claim that the highest orthodox authorities, in the particular department of literature with which we are dealing, support the view that the dramatic activities of Edward de Vere stand in almost immediate productive or causal relationship of a most distinctive character with the dramatic work of ‘Shakespeare.'”

 

Lyly was identified in 1632 as the author of those Court Comedies of the 1580’s, but all his writing was produced when working with Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford

Oxford had been the sun from which  Lyly had drawn his light.

The only works for which Lyly is credited were written during the years he worked for Oxford.

After Oxford withdrew from public life in 1590, no more writing attributed to Lyly came forth.

Isn’t it far more logical that “Shakespeare” never had draw his light from Lyly, but, rather, that Edward de Vere continued as the same great source of light in 1n the 1590’s, as he develped even more dramatic power under the “Shakespeare” pen name?

Campaspe, 1584 (One of my favorite plays – HW)

An honest account of what led to “Shakespeare” would find Edward de Vere standing in the wings.
It would not require an imagined scene in a tavern with all of Oxford’s proteges talking and drinking around a table … all part of orthodoxy’s necessary trivialization of the knowledge, experience and artistic growth of the true Shakespeare.
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