“Youthful Verse”: Re-posting Reason 44 of 100 Reasons Shakespeare was the Earl of Oxford

(Note: one or two words below are blue in color and link to advertisements; I am currently unable to remove these pesky things, so please ignore them.)

Some who cling to the traditional Shakespearean biography sneer at Oxford’s poetry, declaring it too inferior to be written by the great author; what these critics may not realize, however, is that many (if not most) of the earl’s signed poems were actually songs. Moreover, most were published in The Paradise of Dainty Devices of 1576, when he was twenty-six, and that he may have written them much earlier. Much later, in The Arte of English Poesie of 1589, he would be cited first among “noblemen and gentlemen of Her Majesty’s own servants, who have written excellently well as it would appear if their doings could be found out and made public with the rest.”

Dr. Louis P. Benezet of Dartmouth College (1876-1961), a pioneer in educational reform, created a string of lines attributed to “Shakespeare” and mixed them with lines attributed to Oxford; then he challenged colleagues in the English Department to guess which lines were from which author.  If they failed to guess correctly (as usually happened), the next question was, “Well, do you think it’s possible that all those lines came from the same poet?”

Following is a section of that test, using some of Benezet’s examples with some new ones I’ve thrown in; this is followed by a section with the same lines plus the name of the author – Oxford or Shakespeare – to whom they are attributed. It’s not scientific and “proves” nothing; but before looking at the answers, try guessing which lines come from “Shakespeare” and which from Oxford:

Who taught thee how to make me love thee more

The more I hear and see just cause of hate?

In constant truth to bide so firm and sure

Oaths of thy love, thy truth, thy constancy

In true plain words by thy true telling friend

To scorn the world regarding but thy friends

Who taught thee first to sigh, alas, my heart?

Who taught thy tongue the woeful words of plaint?

The Earl of Oxford’s initials E.O. are on the cover page of The Paradyse of Dainty Devices, 1576, with Edward de Vere’s early poems and songs among the collection

If women would be fair, and yet not fond

Or that their love were firm and not fickle still

For if I should despair, I should go mad

And shall I live on th’earth to be her thrall?

A torment thrice threefold thus to be crossed

And since my mind, my wit, my head, my voice, and tongue are weak

My love is strengthened, though more weak in seeming

If care or skill could conquer vain desire

Or reason’s reins my strong affection stay

Past cure I am, now reason is past care

My death delayed to keep from life the harm of hapless days

Desire is death, which physic did except

I saw a fair young lady come, her secret fears to wail

A plaintful story from a sistering vale

The Answers:

Who taught thee how to make me love thee more

The more I hear and see just cause of hate?

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 150, lines 9-10

In constant truth to bide so firm and sure

= Oxford, Rawlinson MS, “Earl of Oxenforde”

Oaths of thy love, thy truth, thy constancy

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 152, line 10

In true plain words by thy true telling friend

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 82, line 12

To scorn the world regarding but thy friends

Who taught thee first to sigh, alas, my heart?

Who taught thy tongue the woeful words of plaint?

= Oxford, Rawlinson MS (“Earl of Oxenforde”)

If women would be fair, and yet not fond

Or that their love were firm and not fickle still

= Oxford, Britton’s Bower of Delights

For if I should despair, I should go mad

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 140, line 9

And shall I live on th’earth to be her thrall?

= Oxford, Paradise of Dainty Device (“E.O.”), 1576

A torment thrice threefold thus to be crossed

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 133, line 8

And since my mind, my wit, my head, my voice, and tongue are weak

= Oxford, Paradise of Dainty Devices, (“E.O.”), 1576

My love is strengthened, though more weak in seeming

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 102, line 1

If care or skill could conquer vain desire

Or reason’s reins my strong affection stay

= Oxford, Paradise of Dainty Devices (“E.O.”) in 1577 edition

Past cure I am, now reason is past care

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 147, line 9

My death delayed to keep from life the harm of hapless days

= Oxford, Paradise of Dainty Devices (“E.O.”), 1576

Desire is death, which physic did except

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 147, line 8

I saw a fair young lady come, her secret fears to wail

= Oxford, “Verses made by the Earle of Oxforde,” Rawlinson MS

A plaintful story from a sistering vale

= Shakespeare, A Lover’s Complaint, line 2

There are hundreds of similarities between writings attributed to Oxford and to “Shakespeare,” for example:

= Shakespeare’s Sonnet 66:

Tired with all these, for restful death I cry:

As, to behold desert a beggar born

= Oxford:

Experience of my youth, made think humble truth

In deserts born

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 89:

As I’ll myself disgrace; knowing thy will,

I will acquaintance and look strange,

Be absent from thy walks, and in my tongue

Thy sweet beloved name no more shall dwell.

= Oxford:

Thus farewell, friend: I will continue strange,

Thou shalt not hear by word or writing aught.

Let it suffice, my vow shall never change;

As for the rest, I leave it to thy thought.

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 114:

And my great mind most kingly drinks it up

= Oxford:

My mind to me a kingdom is

Can it be that the poetry Oxford wrote during his youth is the missing early work – the all-important apprenticeship – of the young Shakespeare? If we went looking for evidence of Shakespeare’s early poetry, the verses attributed to de Vere when he was young are exactly what we should expect to find. The other side of that coin seems true as well: that the more mature poems and sonnets attributed to “Shakespeare” are exactly what we should expect to find from the pen of the older, more experienced de Vere; and that, of course, leads to the conclusion that, in fact, Oxford’s mature poetry was published under the “Shakespeare” pen name.

Note: This blog post is now number 21 in 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford.

Reason No. 44 Why Oxford = “Shakespeare” – Part Two: Their Lines of Poetry Suggest a Common Source

Here’s are the lines of poetry I listed in Part One, but this time with their attributions to “Shakespeare” or Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford:

Who taught thee how to make me love thee more

The more I hear and see just cause of hate?

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 150, lines 9-10

In constant truth to bide so firm and sure

= Oxford, Rawlinson MS, “Earl of Oxenforde”

Oaths of thy love, thy truth, thy constancy

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 152, line 10

In true plain words by thy true telling friend

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 82, line 12

To scorn the world regarding but thy friends

Who taught thee first to sigh, alas, my heart?

Who taught thy tongue the woeful words of plaint?

= Oxford, Rawlinson MS, “Earl of Oxenforde”

If women would be fair, and yet not fond

Or that their love were firm and not fickle still

= Oxford, Britton’s Bower of Delights

For if I should despair, I should go mad

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 140, line 9

And shall I live on th’earth to be her thrall?

= Oxford, Paradise of Dainty Devices, “E.O.”, 1576

A torment thrice threefold thus to be crossed

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 133, line 8

And since my mind, my wit, my head, my voice, and tongue are weak

= Oxford, Paradise of Dainty Devices, “E.O.”, 1576

My love is strengthened, though more weak in seeming

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 102, line 1

If care or skill could conquer vain desire

Or reason’s reins my strong affection stay

= Oxford, Paradise of Dainty Devices, “E.O.” in 1577 edition

Past cure I am, now reason is past care

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 147, line 9

My death delayed to keep from life the harm of hapless days

= Oxford, Paradise of Dainty Devices, “E.O.”, 1576

Desire is death, which physic did except

= Shakespeare, Sonnet 147, line 8

I saw a fair young lady come, her secret fears to wail

= Oxford, “Verses made by the Earle of Oxforde,” Rawlinson MS

A plaintful story from a sistering vale

= Shakespeare, A Lover’s Complaint, line 2

I have many notes indicating similarities between the writings attributed to Oxford and “Shakespeare” — for example —

Here are the first two lines of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 66:

Tired with all these, for restful death I cry:

As, to behold desert a beggar born

And Oxford, whose motto was “Nothing Truer than Truth,” wrote this line:

Experience of my youth, made think humble truth

In deserts born

Shakespeare wrote in Sonnet 89:

As I’ll myself disgrace; knowing thy will,

I will acquaintance and look strange,

Be absent from thy walks, and in my tongue

Thy sweet beloved name no more shall dwell.

And Oxford wrote:

Thus farewell, friend: I will continue strange,

Thou shalt not hear by word or writing aught.

Let it suffice, my vow shall never change;

As for the rest, I leave it to thy thought.

Shakespeare wrote in Sonnet 114:

And my great mind most kingly drinks it up

And Oxford wrote:

My mind to me a kingdom is 

I could cite hundreds of such examples of similar words or themes.

Question: What is it that blocks the scholars and teachers of Shakespeare from delving into this material and exploring its riches?  Even if they cannot bring themselves to allow for even the possibility that Oxford and Shakespeare were the same man, what stops them from trying to find the links from one (Oxford in the 1560’s, 1570’s and 1580’s) to the other (Shakespeare in the 1590’s onward)?

Answer: Consciously or unconsciously, they are afraid to run smack into a nasty paradigm shift, in which case the Shakespearean world they have known will look entirely different in the morning….

Reason No. 44 Why Edward, Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare”: (Part One): His Youthful Poetry

Throughout these “reasons” I’ve often included the poetry of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, but this time his verse stands on its own.  Those who believe in the traditional Shakespearean biography – and, yes, it’s a belief – love to sneer at Oxford’s poetry, declaring it grossly inferior.

What the critics may not realize, however, is that much of Edward de Vere’s signed poetry was published in The Paradise of Dainty Devices of 1576, when he was twenty-six, and that he actually may have written it by age sixteen.  On the other hand, none of the young “Shakespeare’s” poetry has ever been found.

Could it be that Oxford’s youthful poetry is in fact the missing early work – the missing evidence of apprenticeship – written by the young Shakespeare?  I suggest the answer is yes.  I suggest if we went looking for evidence of Shakespeare’s early poetry, his trials and errors along the way to maturity as a poet, the verses attributed to Edward de Vere when he was young are exactly what we should expect to find.

I also suggest the other side of that coin seems true as well: that Shakespeare’s poems and sonnets are exactly what we should expect from the pen of the older, more mature Edward de Vere; and that, in fact, Oxford’s mature poetry was published under the “Shakespeare” pen name.

Louis P. Benezet of Dartmouth (1876-1961), a pioneer in the reform of American education, once created a string of lines attributed to “Shakespeare” and mixed them with lines attributed to the Earl of Oxford; then he challenged colleagues to guess which lines were from which author.  If they failed to guess correctly, the next question was:

“Do you think it’s possible that all those lines came from the same poet?”

Following is a small version of that test, using some of Benezet’s lines but mostly new ones that I’ve thrown into the mix.  I know – it’s not scientific, and it proves nothing; but if you like, try guessing which lines come from “Shakespeare” and which from Oxford:

Who taught thee how to make me love thee more

The more I hear and see just cause of hate?

In constant truth to bide so firm and sure

Oaths of thy love, thy truth, thy constancy

In true plain words by thy true telling friend

To scorn the world regarding but thy friends

Who taught thee first to sigh, alas, my heart?

Who taught thy tongue the woeful words of plaint?

If women would be fair, and yet not fond

Or that their love were firm and not fickle still

For if I should despair, I should go mad

And shall I live on th’earth to be her thrall?

A torment thrice threefold thus to be crossed

And since my mind, my wit, my head, my voice, and tongue are weak

My love is strengthened, though more weak in seeming

If care or skill could conquer vain desire

Or reason’s reins my strong affection stay

Past cure I am, now reason is past care

My death delayed to keep from life the harm of hapless days

Desire is death, which physic did except

I saw a fair young lady come, her secret fears to wail

A plaintful story from a sistering vale

(I’ll include the answers in Part Two of this Reason.)

The Bard’s Use of Heraldry: Re-Posting Reason No. 62 of 100 Reasons “Shakespeare” was the Earl of Oxford

Two books devoted entirely to Shakespeare’s knowledge and treatment of heraldry are The Heraldry of Shakespeare: A Commentary with Annotations (1930) by Guy Cadogan Rothery and Shakespeare’s Heraldry (1950) by Charles Wilfred Scott-Giles. They show that the Bard knew a great deal about coats of arms, blazons, charges, fields, escutcheons (shields), crests, badges, hatchments (panels), gules (red markings or tinctures) and much more.

But it’s not simply that Shakespeare has considerable knowledge about heraldry; it’s that such knowledge is an integral part of his thought process.  He uses heraldic terms in spontaneous, natural ways, often metaphorically, making his descriptions more vivid while stirring and enriching our emotions.

Take, for example, the word badge, which in heraldry is an emblem indicating allegiance to some family or property.  Shakespeare uses it  literally, of course, but also metaphorically:  Falstaff in 2 Henry IV  speaks of “the badge of pusillanimity and cowardice” (4.3); Ferdinand in Love’s Labour’s Lost cries out, “Black is the badge of hell” (4.3); Lysander in in A Midsummer Night’s Dream talks about “bearing the badge of faith” (3.2); Tamora in Titus Andronicus declares, “Sweet mercy is nobility’s true badge” (1.1);  and in Sonnet 44 the poet refers to “heavy tears, badges of either’s woe.”

Surely this author was “one of the wolfish earls,” as Walt Whitman perceived, a proud nobleman for whom hereditary titles, shields and symbols were everyday aspects of his environment.  From early boyhood, Edward de Vere had been steeped in the history of his line dating back five hundred years to William the Conqueror; the heraldry of his ancestors, as well as that of other noble families, became interwoven with his vocabulary.

Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream extends the metaphor of two bodies sharing the same heart by presenting the image of a husband and wife’s impaled arms:  “So, with two seeming bodies, but one heart; two of the first, like coats in heraldry, due but to one and crowned with one crest” (3.2)

Another example of “Shakespeare” thinking and writing in heraldic terms occurs in the opening scene of 1 Henry VI, at the funeral of Henry V at Westminster Abbey.  A messenger warns the English against taking recent victories for granted by describing setbacks in France as the cropping (cutting-out) of the French quarters in the royal arms of England:

“Awake, awake, English nobility!  Let not sloth dim your honors new-begot:  cropped are the flower-de-luces in your arms!  Of England’s coat one half is cut away!”

England’s coat of arms presented flower-de-luces or fleur-de-lis, the emblem of French royalty, quartered with Britain’s symbolic lions.  Cropping the two French quarters would cut away half the English arms – a vivid description of England’s losses in France.

Royal arms used by Henry IV up to Elizabeth I – English lions quartered with French fleur-de-lis

“The Vere arms changed repeatedly over many generations,” the late researcher Robert Brazil noted, adding that details of Oxford’s arms had “numerous documented precedents” consisting not only of drawings but also the “blazonry” or descriptions of shields in precise heraldic language, using only words.  “Through the science of blazon, infinitely complex visual material is described in such a precise way that one can accurately reproduce full color arms with dozens of complex coats, based on the words of the blazon alone.”

At the Vere seat of Castle Hedingham, the young earl necessarily studied the seals and tombs of his ancestors.  He, after all, was a child of the waning feudal aristocracy, set to inherit the title of Lord Great Chamberlain of England. To assert the rights and rankings of his Vere identity, he needed exact knowledge of his family’s heraldry and to “blazon” or describe it in words through the five centuries of its history.

“Shakespeare” uses “blazon” just as we might expect it to be employed by de Vere, that is, as a natural enrichment of language.  Mistress Quickly in The Merry Wives of Windsor employs the word in a burst of heraldic imagery:

“About, about; search Windsor Castle, elves, within and out … Each fair installment, coat, and several crest, with loyal blazon, evermore be blest!” (5.5)

A coat-of arms used by Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford

Oxford knew Windsor Castle well; he is recorded as staying there several times. At nineteen he lodged in a hired room in the town of Windsor while recovering from illness.

Mistress Quickly refers to each “installment” in the castle, that is, each place where an individual knight is installed. The knight’s “coat” was on a stall-plate nailed to the back of the stall and the “crest” was a figure or device originally borne by a knight on his helmet.

From the same pen we find “blazon” in a variety of metaphorical contexts:

“I’faith, lady, I think your blazon to be true” – Much Ado About Nothing (2.1)

“Thy tongue, thy face, thy limbs, actions and spirit do give thee five-fold blazon” – Twelfth Night (1.5)

“But this eternal blazon must not be to ears of flesh and blood” – Hamlet (1.5)

In Sonnet 106 the poet uses “blazon” in the context of accounts of medieval chivalry, writing of “beauty making beautiful old rhyme / In praise of Ladies dead and lovely Knights,” followed by: “Then in the blazon of sweet beauty’s best,/ Of hand, of foot, of lip, of eye, of brow,/ I see their antique Pen would have expressed/ Even such a beauty as you master now.”

In Hamlet the prince tells the players that a speech he “chiefly loved” was the one that Virgil’s Aeneas delivers to Dido, Queen of Carthage, about the fall of Troy.  Before the first player can begin to recite it, however, Hamlet delivers thirteen lines from memory — describing how Pyrrhus, son of the Greek hero Achilles, had black arms while hiding inside the Trojan horse; but then his arms became drenched in the red blood of whole families that were slaughtered.

The story had even greater impact upon aristocratic members of the audience who knew the bloody tale was being told in the context of heraldic terms, such as “sable arms” (the black device displayed on Pyrrhus’ shield); “gules” (red); and “tricked” (decorated), not to mention that Pryrrhus’ arms, covered with red blood, are “smeared with heraldry”: (+see below)

The rugged Pyrrhus, he whose sable arms,

Black as his purpose, did the night resemble

When he lay couched in the ominous horse,

Hath now this dread and black complexion smeared

With heraldry more dismal.   Head to foot

Now is he total gules, horridly tricked

With blood of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons…(Hamlet, 2.2)

Even Lucrece (1594), the second publication as by “Shakespeare,” is filled with heraldic imagery:

But Beauty, in that white entitled

From Venus’ doves, doth challenge that fair field...

This heraldry in Lucrece’s face was seen… (Stanzas 9 & 10, emphases added)

(“Challenge”: lay claim to; “field”: the surface of a heraldic shield on which figures or colors are displayed, but also evoking a battlefield)

book of shakespeare's heraldryBrazil notes that previous earls of Oxford had employed a special greyhound as a heraldic symbol, but that Edward had stopped using it; in the opening scene of Merry Wives, which begins and ends with humorous dialogue involving heraldry, there’s a line (unrelated to anything else) about a “fallow” greyhound, one that is no longer used:

Page:  I am glad to see you, good Master Slender.

Slender: How does your fallow greyhound, sir?

In this “throwaway” exchange, is de Vere, pointing to his own heraldic history?

+ Earl Showerman writes: “The source of of the term ‘pyrrhic victory’ is historical not mythopoetic. King Pyrrhus of Epirus defeated the Romans at Heraclea in 280 BC, but the victory cost him so dearly he had to withdraw his invasion of Italy because the Romans were quickly resupplied with fresh troops. Pyrrhus in Homer is of the same nature, to be sure, and his sin of slaughtering Priam at the family shrine was the primary cause of the difficulties incurred by all the Greeks in getting home from Troy.”

(This post is now No. 64 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford, as edited by Alex McNeil with other editorial help from Brian Bechtold.)

 

Re-Posting No. 59 of “100 Reasons Shake-speare” Was The Earl of Oxford (As Edited for Publication)

“It is almost certain that William Shakespeare modeled the character of Prospero in The Tempest on the career of John Dee, the Elizabethan magus.” Britannica Online Encyclopedia

“Queen Elizabeth’s philosopher, the white magician Doctor Dee, is defended in Prospero, the good and learned conjurer, who had managed to transport his valuable library to the island.” – Frances Yates, The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age

Dr. John Dee (1527-1608)

Dr. John Dee
(1527-1608)

The mathematician and astrologer Dr. John Dee was enlisted by Elizabeth Tudor to name a day and time for her coronation when the stars would be favorable (15 January 1558/59 was the selected date), after which he became a scientific and medical adviser to the queen.  A natural philosopher and student of the occult, his name is also associated with astronomy, alchemy and other forms of “secret” experimentation.  He became a celebrated leader of the Elizabethan renaissance, helping to expand the boundaries of knowledge on all fronts.  With degrees from Cambridge and studies under the top cartographers in Europe, Dee led the navigational planning for several English voyages of exploration.

Defending against charges of witchcraft and sorcery, he listed many who had helped him, citing in particular “the honorable the Earl of Oxford, his favorable letters, anno 1570,” when twenty-year-old de Vere Lord Oxford was about to become the highest-ranking earl at the court of Elizabeth, who would quickly elevate him to the status of royal favorite.

“We may conjecture that it was in 1570 that Oxford studied astrology under Dr. Dee,” B.M. Ward writes.  “We shall meet these two [Dee and Oxford] again later, working together as ‘adventurers’ or speculators in Martin Frobisher’s attempts to find a North-West Passage to China and the East Indies.”

Dr. John Dee and Queen Elizabeth

Dr. John Dee and Queen Elizabeth

Oxford’s links to Dr. Dee, along with his deep interest in all aspects of the astrologer’s work, are yet another piece of evidence pointing to his authorship of the works attributed to William Shakespeare.

In 1584 a Frenchman and member of Oxford’s household, John Soowthern, dedicated to the earl a pamphlet of poems entitled Pandora.  His tribute asserted that Oxford’s knowledge of the “seven turning flames of the sky” (the sun, moon and the visible planets, through astrology) was unrivaled; that his reading of “the antique” (a noun referring to classical and ancient history) was unsurpassed; that he had “greater knowledge” of “the tongues” (languages) than anyone; and that his understanding of “sounds” that helped lead students to the love of music was “sooner” (quicker) than anyone else’s:

For who marketh better than he

The seven turning flames of the sky?

Or hath read more of the antique;

Hath greater knowledge of the tongues?

Or understandeth sooner the sounds

Of the learner to love music?

Prospero as played by Michael Winters

Prospero as played by Michael Winters

This might as well be a description of the man who wrote The Tempest!  It’s a description of an extraordinarily knowledgeable man, which fits “Shakespeare” perfectly; it’s no coincidence that scholars have not only seen Prospero as based on Dee, but, also, viewed Prospero as the dramatist’s self-portrait.  Once that window opens, however, the evidence leads to Prospero and “Shakespeare” in the person of Edward de Vere.

Oxford’s familiarity with “planetary influences” is “probably attributable to acquaintance with Dee,” writes Ogburn Jr., “as is likewise the knowledge of astronomy claimed by the poet of The Sonnets.” In regard to the latter, here are some examples of the poet’s easy, personal identification with both astronomy and alchemy:

Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck,

And yet methinks I have Astronomy – Sonnet 14

Or whether shall I say mine eye saith true,

And that your love taught it this Alchemy? – Sonnet 114

Dr. Dee got into trouble when his delving into the supernatural led to necromancy, the magic or “black art” practiced by witches or sorcerers who allegedly communicated with the dead by conjuring their spirits.  Stratfordian scholar Alan Nelson, in his deliberately negative biography of Oxford, Monstrous Adversary, includes an entire chapter titled “Necromancer” detailing charges by the earl’s enemies that he had engaged in various conjurations, such as that he had “copulation with a female spirit in Sir George Howard’s house at Greenwich.”

Christopher Plummer as Prospero

Christopher Plummer as Prospero

The irony of Nelson’s charge is that it not only serves to portray Oxford as similar to both John Dee and Prospero, but aligns him with the authors of what Nelson himself calls “a long string of necromantic stage-plays” starting in the 1570s.  One such play was John a Kent by Anthony Munday, who was Oxford’s servant; another was Friar Bacon and Friar Bungary by Robert Greene, who dedicated Greene’s Card of Fancy in 1584 to Oxford, calling him “a worthy favorer and fosterer of learning” who had “forced many through your excellent virtue to offer the first fruits of their study at the shrine of your Lordship’s courtesy.”

In 1577 both Oxford and Dr. Dee became “adventurers” or financiers of Martin Frobisher’s third expedition to find a sea route along the northern coast of America to Cathay (China) – the fabled Northwest Passage.  In fact Oxford was the largest single investor, sinking three thousand pounds, only to lose it all, which may explain Prince Hamlet’s metaphor: “I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw,” i.e., he’s mad only on certain occasions, the way he was when he invested so much in that expedition to the Northwest.

One of Dr. Dee's charts of his own birth, found among his papers

One of Dr. Dee’s charts of his own birth, found among his papers

A play before the queen by the Paul’s Boys on 9 December 1577 appears to have been a version of Pericles, Prince of Tyre, in which the character of Lord Cerimon seems to be a blend of Oxford (one who prefers honor and wisdom to his noble rank and wealth) and Dee (whose “secret arts” included alleged knowledge of properties within metals and stones):

‘Tis known I ever

Have studied physic, through which secret art

By turning o’er authorities, I have,

Together with my practice, made familiar

To me and to my aid the blest infusions

That dwells in vegetives, in metals, stones…(3.2)

Through an Oxfordian lens, The Tempest probably originated in the bleak period between Christmas 1580 and June 1583, when the queen had banished Oxford from court, in effect exiling him (unfairly, just as Prospero, rightful Duke of Milan, suffers in the play).  But Oxford would have revised and added scenes over the next two decades, especially near the end of his life in 1604, when the greatest writer of the English language makes his final exit through Prospero — begging us to forgive him for his faults, to pray for him and to set him free from the prison of his coming oblivion:

Now my charms are all o’erthrown,

And what strength I have’s mine own…

But release me from my bands

With the help of your good hands:

Gentle breath of yours my sails

Must fill, or else my project fails,

Which was to please.  Now I want

Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,

And my ending is despair,

Unless I be relieved by prayer,

Which pierces so that it assaults

Mercy itself and frees all faults.

As you from crimes would pardon’d be,

Let your indulgence set me free. (Epilogue)

 

Note: This updated version appears as No. 81 (“The Tempest”) in 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford, edited by Alex McNeil with other editorial assistance by Brian Bechtold.

Henry Peacham’s Loud Silence: Re-posting No. 38 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford

Henry Peacham (1578-c.1644) suggested in Minerva Britanna (1612) that Edward de Vere had been a playwright of hidden identity.  A decade later, in 1622, he published his most popular work The Compleat Gentleman, in which he stated:

Title Page of The Compleat Gentleman

“In the time of our late Queen Elizabeth, which was truly a golden age (for such a world of refined wits, and excellent spirits it produced, whose like are hardly to be hoped for, in any succeeding age) above others, who honored Poesie with their pens and practice (to omit her Majesty, who had a singular gift herein) were Edward Earle of Oxford, the Lord Buckhurst, Henry Lord Paget; our Phoenix, the noble Sir Philip Sidney, M. Edward Dyer, M. Edmund Spencer, M. Samuel Daniel, with sundry others: whom (together with those admirable wits, yet living, and so well knowne) not out of Envy, but to avoid tediousness I overpass.”

Eva Turner Clark in The Man Who Was Shakespeare (1937) was the first Oxfordian to report on this passage. “Significantly,” she writes, “Peacham does not mention Shakespeare, a name he knew to be the nom de plume of Oxford.” Louis P. Benezet of Dartmouth writes in 1945 that Peacham’s testimony is “one of the best keys to the solution of the Shakespeare Mystery…. We recall the statement of Sir Sidney Lee [1898], that the Earl of Oxford was the best of the court poets in the early years of Elizabeth’s reign, and Webbe’s comment [1586] that ‘in the rare devices of poetry he (Oxford) may challenge to himself the title of the most excellent among the rest.’ Also we remember that The Arte of English Poesie [1589] after confessing that ‘as well Poets as Poesie are despised, and the name become of honourable infamous’ so that many noblemen and gentlemen ‘are loath to be known of their skill’ and that many who have written commendably have suppressed it, or suffered it to be published ‘without their names,’ goes on to state that in Elizabeth’s time have sprung up a new group of ‘courtly writers, who have written excellently well, if their doings could be found out and made public with the rest, of which number is first that noble gentleman, Edward, Earl of Oxford.’

”Now comes Henry Peacham, confirming all that has been said by others,” Benezet continues, noting the date of 1622, when the likes of George Chapman and Ben Jonson were “yet living, and so well known,” while Shakspere had been dead for six years and therefore should have been on the list – unless “Shakespeare” already headed the list under his real name, Edward de Vere. Peacham  “was in a position to know the truth,” Benezet writes. “He had been for several years the tutor of the three sons of Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, Oxford’s cousin.  Living in the family circle, he knew the secret behind the pseudonym under which were published Venus and Adonis and Lucrece, those poems which, with The Fairie Queene [by the late Spenser, whom Peacham does mention], provide the high water mark of Elizabethan rhyming.”

George Greenwood had noted in 1908 that theatrical manager Philip Henslowe had never entered Shakespeare’s name in his diary, Dr. Benezet recalls, adding that “still more compelling is the silence of Henry Peacham, for not only does he ignore the Stratford man, but, at the head of his list of the great poets of ‘the Golden Age,’ where the name of the Bard of Avon should be expected, we encounter instead that of one who is not even mentioned in any of the histories of English literature consulted as ‘authority’ by my colleagues of the Departments of English — the greatest of the world’s unknown greats, Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford.”

In the mid-1590’s, as a seventeen-year-old Cambridge graduate, Peacham had created a sketch apparently depicting the rehearsal or performance of a scene from Titus Andronicus. As Francis Meres in Palladis Tamia of 1598 listed Titus as one of Shakespeare’s tragedies on the public stage, we can be sure, if Peacham had thought the Bard of Avon and Edward de Vere were two different persons, he would have included “Shakespeare” on his list of the greatest authors of Elizabeth’s time who were no longer living. But Peacham knew differently.

Subsequent editiions of The Compleat Gentleman in 1627 and 1634 also omitted Shakespeare from the list, proving that Peacham, who died in 1643, did not accidentally “forget” to mention him.

[This post is an updated version of the original blog entry, reflecting the invaluable work of editor Alex McNeil and other editorial help from Brian Bechtold, as it now appears in 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford.]

“Timon of Athens” and De Vere: Reposting No. 31 of 100 Reasons Why Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford

Timon of Athens initially appeared in the First Folio of Shakespeare plays in 1623, under the title The Life of Tymon of Athens. There is no agreement about when it was written; some scholars studying the mood and style suggest 1605-1609, while others push the date back to 1601-1602.  In the view of those who think Edward de Vere was the author, both time frames are about a quarter-century too late.

Engraving by John Boydell, 1771: Timon in the wilderness, sitting with a spade at left and turning away with expression of disgust as he tosses coins towards two prostitutes, one catching them in her skirts, a soldier at right watching the scene with concern, others gathered in the background

Oxford was twenty-six in the spring of 1576 when he returned to England after fifteen months on the Continent, having traveled all through Italy with Venice as home base. It may well be that a now lost play, The Historie of the Solitarie Knight, performed on 17 February 1577 for Elizabeth and her court, was an early version of Timon of Athens.

Timon is a young nobleman so renowned for his liberality and good nature that poets, painters and tradesmen flock to his home seeking his patronage.  He is generous and trusting.  He  joyously entertains his guests, lavishing them with rich gifts and handing out cash even to the servants.  His seemingly inexhaustible wealth means little or nothing to him: “I gave it freely ever, and there’s none can truly say he gives if he receives … Pray sit, more welcome are ye to my fortune than my fortunes to me!” (1.2).

Oxford, too, had inherited great wealth in the form of vast estates; he, too, was a generous friend (as when he gave money to the scholar Gabriel Harvey, at Cambridge in the 1560s) and an actively involved patron of actors, writers, musicians and others. Like Timon, he was a trendsetter. And he was accustomed to what the Poet in the play calls “the infinite flatteries that follow youth and money.”

The western approach to the Acropolis, showing the Propylaia, Temple of Athena Nike, and the Parthenon.

Soon, however, Timon discovers he has run out of money and fallen deeply into debt, with servants accosting him for payments owed to their masters – exactly what Oxford had learned about his financial situation while still in Italy.  Shocked and distressed by the news of his sudden lack of funds, he wrote to Burghley in January 1576 from Siena:

“My Lord, I am sorry to hear how hard my fortune is in England … I have determined that whereas I understand the greatness of my debt and greediness of my creditors grows so dishonorable to me and troublesome unto your Lordship, that that land of mine which in Cornwall I have appointed to be sold [for travel expenses] … be gone through withal.  And to stop my creditors’ exclamations (or rather defamations, I may call them), I shall desire your Lordship by the virtue of this letter (which doth not err as I take it from any former purpose, which was that always upon my letter to authorize your Lordship to sell any portion of my land) that you will sell one hundred pound a year  more of my land where your Lordship shall think fittest, to disburden me of my debts to Her Majesty, my sister, or elsewhere I am exclaimed upon … ” [Emphasis added]

As Timon puts it, “How goes the world, that I am thus encountered with clamorous demands of debt, broken bonds and the detention of long such due debts against my honor?” (2.2). He questions Flavius, his steward, just as Oxford must have demanded of Burghley to explain how this “dishonorable” situation could have happened without warning:  “You make me marvel wherefore ere this time had you not fully laid my state before me, that I might so have rated my expense as I had leave of means…” (2.2).

Flavius defends himself as Burghley would have done:  “O my good lord, at many times I brought in my accounts, laid them before you; [but] you would throw them off!  I did endure not seldom, nor no slight cheques, when I have prompted you in the ebb of your estate and your great flow of debts.  My loved lord, though you hear now, too late … the greatest of your having lacks a half to pay your present debts” (2.2). [Below, my emphasis again on “gone.”]

Timon: “Let all my land be sold!”

Flavius: “‘Tis all engaged, some forfeit and gone, and what remains will hardly stop the mouth of present dues” (2.2).

Oxford’s surprise that “land of mine in Cornwall” that he had “appointed to be sold” was “already gone through withal” can be heard here:

Timon: “To Lacedaemon did my land extend!”

Flavius: “O my good Lord, the world is but a world: Were it all yours to give it in a breath.  How quickly it were gone!” (2.2)

William Cecil, Baron Burghley: circa 1570

Oxford gave Burghley more instructions, adding, “In doing these things your Lordship shall greatly pleasure me, in not doing them you shall as much hinder me, for although to depart with land your Lordship hath advised the contrary, and that your Lordship for the good affection you bear unto me could wish it otherwise, yet you see I have none other remedy.  I have no help but of mine own, and mine is made to serve me and myself, not mine.” The same thought and virtually the same words are used in the play when one of the usurers instructs his servant:  “Get on your cloak, and haste you to Lord Timon.  Importune him for my moneys … Tell him my uses cry to me; I must serve my turn out of mine own … Immediate are my needs, and my relief must not be tossed and turned to me in words, but find supply immediate.”

After all his former friends refuse to loan him any money, Timon leaves Athens for the depths of the woods, finds a cave and begins to live as a solitary hermit – perhaps why the play performed in  1577 was called The Solitary Knight.

In the forest Timon expects to find “the unkindest beast more kinder than mankind” – words that will find an echo when Oxford writes to Robert Cecil in May 1601 (after the Secretary had helped to gain Southampton’s reprieve from execution): “I do assure you that you shall have no faster friend and well-wisher unto you than myself, either in kindness, which I find beyond mine expectation in you, or in kindred,” signing off “in all kindness and kindred, Edward Oxenford.”

Timon is “a lover of truth,” writes Harold Goddard in The Meaning of Shakespeare, and the play “seems to say that such a man, though buried in the wilderness, is a better begetter of peace than all the instrumentalities of law in the hands of men who love neither truth nor justice.”

“The Life of Tymon of Athens” in the First Folio of Shakespeare Plays – 1623

When Oxford was still a royal ward at Cecil House in 1569-70, enrolled at Gray’s Inn to study law, one of his book orders included “Plutarch’s works in French.” As O.J. Campbell notes in The Reader’s Encyclopedia of Shakespeare, the Shakespearean author “clearly knew the digression on Timon in Plutarch … He may also have read Lucian’s amusing dialogue Timon Misanthropus, if not in Greek, then in either a Latin or a French translation.”

Aside from being fluent in both Latin and French, Oxford had been raised from about age four in the household of Thomas Smith, a Greek scholar, who had tutored him.  Both Smith and Burghley had copies of Lucian, and Burghley’s wife was also a Greek expert, so it’s a given that the very young de Vere had personal access to all the Shakespearean sources.

Many researchers have noted the parallels between Edward de Vere and Timon:

Eva Turner Clark:

“The play depicts Timon as being just as solitary in the midst of his grandeur as he later became in his cave in the woods … Not even Timon could have lived a life of greater luxury and grandeur than the young Earl of Oxford throughout his youth.  Is it to be wondered at that Edward de Vere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford, grew up without the slightest idea of the value of money?

“Young Oxford’s mind had been filled by his elders with a love of art and scholarship, of excellence in tournament and the field of war, and there was no room in it for the humdrum, workaday world, with its counting of pounds, shillings and pence.  Nevertheless, as he pursued the objects for which he had been trained, he was made to feel the sting of financial demands continuously from the time he came of age.  It was when he reached a crisis in his affairs, economically and socially, that he wrote the cynical drama of The Solitary Knight, or Timon of Athens

“Doubtless it was because of this experience that Oxford adopted the idea of exposing his fellow courtiers by satire and burlesque, by the suggestion of warning and threat, which is to be found is many of his plays.  In other words, revenge animated him, and, while revenge is not one of the finer impulses, it is a very human instinct to demand satisfaction for an injury done.” (Clark adds, however, that as Oxford grew mentally and spiritually, his personal revenge motive widened and matured into an effort to “show up disloyalty of subjects and dishonesty of politicians, for the benefit of his Queen and for the good of his beloved country.”) [Hidden Alusions, 1931]

Dorothy and Charlton Ogburn:

“One of the hereditary offices of the Earls of Oxford as Lords Great Chamberlain was that of the Ewry, or Water-Bearer to the Monarch.  It was purely honorary, a formal gesture of presenting water on state occasions when the Monarch sat at meat.  There is a direct reference to this [in Timon]: ‘One of Lord Timon’s men!  A gift, I warrant.  Why, this hits right; I dreamt of a silver basin and ewer tonight.’  It is recorded that in 1579 ‘the Queen’s New Year’s gift to th’earle of Oxfourde [was] a bason and ewer of our store..’  Timon’s bitter jest of serving his false friends and flatterers with covered dishes containing only warm water is thus particularly ironical, expressing, as it does, the scorn of the impoverished Lord Great Chamberlain.” [This Star of England, 1952]

Charlton Ogburn, Jr: “I rather think, though, that Timon of Athens as we know it owes more to the manifold adversities that overtook its author in the early 1580’s, when the sale of thirty tracts of land in five years left him stripped near as bare as Timon.” [The Mysterious William Shakespeare, 1984]

William Farina:

“Reading de Vere’s personal connections to the story of Timon, it is not an overstatement to say that Shakespeare’s play tells the story of de Vere’s life.  As the late Anglo-Oxfordian commentator Edward Holmes succinctly put it, The play is closest [of all the plays] to autobiography  … Timon is too raw, too real for comfort.  It was begun too close to the catastrophe which prompted it.  That must be it was left artistically undigested, incomplete.’  Under this scenario, Shakespeare the writer (de Vere) was writing Timon not for commercial gain but because, emotionally, he needed to. According to the Oxfordian view, this was a driven author who perhaps could not finish what he started.” [De Vere as Shakespeare, 2006]

[This post is now Reason 76 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford.]

Re-Posting No. 23 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford: Those “Haggards” that “Fly from Man to Man”

When John Thomas Looney was still searching for the true author in the early 1900s, he opened an anthology of sixteenth-century verse and looked for poems in the stanza form that Shakespeare employed for Venus and Adonis. Looney thought it likely that “Shakespeare,” whoever he was, had previously written poetry in that form, with six lines, each of ten syllables, using the rhyme scheme of a quatrain followed by a couplet [ababcc].

Poems in that form were “much fewer than I had anticipated,” Looney recalled; he found just two that could have come from the same hand that wrote the Shakespearean verse.  One was anonymous; the other was a poem about “Women” by Edward de Vere, with this opening stanza:

If women would be fair and yet not fond, [a]

Or that their love were firm not fickle still, [b]

I would not marvel that they make men bond, [a]

By service long to purchase their good will: [b]

But when I see how frail these creatures are, [c]

I muse that men forget themselves so far.  [c]

Oxford’s verse stood out, conveying “a sense of its harmony with Shakespeare’s work,” in terms of “diction, succinctness, cohesion and unity.”

What then caught Looney’s attention was the earl’s use of “haggard” – a wild or imperfectly trained hawk or falcon — as a metaphor for “fickle” women in the second stanza:

Queen Elizabeth and her attendants out hawking — Her Majesty is riding side-saddle; the man at left has just released his hawk, while above a hawk is bringing down a bird

To mark the choice they make and how they change,

How oft from Phoebus do they cleave to Pan,

Unsettled still like haggards wild they range,

These gentle birds that fly from man to man:

Who would not scorn and shake them from his fist

And let them fly (fair fools) which way they list?

In the several places where Shakespeare uses “haggards” (or the singular form) he almost always employs it as a figure of speech referring to wild, untamed, fickle women.  In Oxford’s poem the word refers to women who “fly from man to man,” a sentiment identical to Shakespeare’s use of the word in Othello:

“If I do prove her haggard, though that her jesses were my dear heart strings, I’d whistle her off and let her down the wind to prey at fortune.”  [3.3.263]

As Ren Draya and Richard F. Whalen report in their edition of Othello from an Oxfordian perspective, the Moor’s speech is “an extended metaphor from falconry, the sport of aristocrats.”

[Haggard = a female hawk captured after getting its adult plumage, hence still wild, untamed; Jesses = leather straps tied to the legs of a hawk and attached to a leash; “Whistle her off … down the wind” = send her off the way a hawk is turned loose when not performing well and sent downwind.]

Further striking parallels in Shakespeare are to be found in the third and final stanza of Oxford’s poem, which refers to the “lure” or decoy bird:

Yet for disport we fawn and flatter both,

To pass the time when nothing else can please,

And train them to our lure with subtle oath,

Till, weary of their wiles, ourselves we ease;

And then we say, when we their fancy try,

To play with fools, O what a fool was I!

A falconer in the sixteenth century

The same idea is expressed in The Taming of the Shrew when Petruchio speaks of himself as a falconer training his wife, Kate, as a falcon who needs to be kept hungry (or less than “fullgorged”), so she’ll continue to follow his lure:

“My falcon now is sharp and passing empty, and till she stoop she must not be full-gorged, for then she never looks upon her lure.  Another way I have to man my haggard, to make her come and know her keeper’s call, that is, to watch her, as we watch these kites that bate and beat and will not be obedient.” [4.1.176]

[Kites = birds of prey, such as the falcon; bate = beat down and weaken a female bird who still won’t obey.]

Just as Oxford writes of men who use a “subtle oath” as a lure or bait to “train” women to their wills, Hero in Much Ado About Nothing speaks of “the false sweet bait that we lay” for Beatrice, of whom she says, “I know her spirits are as coy and wild as haggards of the rock.” [3.1.32-36]

Coming back full-circle, in Venus and Adonis the poet writes of the Goddess of Love and Beauty: “As falcons to the lure, away she flies…” [1027]

“What we have in this instance, as a matter of fact,” Looney writes, “is a complete accordance at all points in the use of an unusual word and figure of speech.  Indeed if we make a piece of patchwork of all the passages in Shakespeare in which the word ‘haggard’ occurs we can reconstruct De Vere’s single poem on ‘Women.’

“Such an agreement not only supports us in seeking to establish the general harmony of De Vere’s work with Shakespeare’s, but carries us beyond the immediate needs of our argument – for it constrains us to claim that either both sets of expression are actually from the same pen, or ‘Shakespeare’ pressed that license to borrow (which was prevalent in his day) far beyond its legitimate limits.  In our days we should not hesitate to describe such passages as glaring plagiarism, unless they happen to come from the same pen.”

Sonnet 91 speaks of hawks, hounds and horses; and if the Sonnets are autobiographical, as they appear to be, then we are hearing the voice of a nobleman spontaneously referring to various aspects of his everyday world:

Some glory in their birth, some in their skill,

Some in their wealth, some in their body’s force,

Some in their garments, though new-fangled ill,

Some in their hawks and hounds, some in their horse…

Prince Hamlet exclaims to the players, “Masters, you are all welcome,” adding spontaneously, “We’ll e’en to’t like French falconers, fly at anything we see!” [2.2]

Juliet calls out: “Hst! Romeo, hist! O for a falconer’s voice to lure this tassel-gentle back again!” [2.2]

A falcon swooping down…

A terrifying stanza in The Rape of Lucrece portrays the rapist Tarquin as a falcon circling above his helpless prey:

This said, he shakes aloft his Roman blade,

Which, like a falcon towering in the skies,

Coucheth the  fowl below with his wings’ shade,

Whose crooked beak threats if he mount he dies;

So under his insulting falchion lies

Harmless Lucretia, marking what he tells

With trembling fear, as fowl hear falcons’ bells. [505-511]

(Coucheth the fowl = causing the bird to hug the ground; Falchion = sword; marking = listening to; Falcons’ bells = bells were attached to the hawks or falcons.)

Oxford was an expert falconer; so, too, was the author known as Shakespeare.

This post is now number 23 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford (2016), edited by Alex McNeil (with other editorial help by Brian Bechtold)

Re-posting Part Two of Reason 20 Why Shake-spreare was Oxford: The Depth of the Dedications to the Earl

The public dedications to Edward de Vere indicate the scope of his personal relationships with other writers.  The person who eventually created the “Shakespeare” works did not develop in a vacuum; on the contrary, he had to be part of a community of fellow authors, poets and playwrights. Oxford was not only part of such a community; the tributes make clear he was their leader.

"The Histories of Trogus Pompeius" by Golding, dedicated to 14-year-old Edward de Vere in 1564

(Click on Image to Enlarge)

Arthur Golding (Histories of Trogus Pompeius) wrote to him in 1564: “It is not unknown to others, and I have had experiences thereof myself, how earnest a desire your Honor hath naturally grafted in you to read, peruse, and communicate with others as well the histories of ancient times, and things done long ago, as also of the present estate of things in our days, and that not without a certain pregnancy of wit and ripeness of understanding.”

Thomas Underdowne (AEthiopian History) told him in 1569 that “matters of learning” were good for a nobleman, but then warned the earl that “to be too much addicted that way, I think it is not good.”

In that same year the 19-year-old Oxford ordered “a Geneva Bible gilt, a Chaucer, Plutarch’s works in French, with other books and papers” as well as “Tully’s and Plato’s works in folio, with other books.”  Sounds indeed like a young man “addicted” to learning!

When Thomas Bedingfield dedicated his translation of Cardanus’ Comforte to Oxford in 1573, he told him that “I do present the book your Lordship so long desired,” confirming that the Earl had been personally involved in this publication, to which he contributed both a Letter to the Reader and a poem.   He reminds Oxford of “the encouragement of your Lordship, who (as you well remember), unawares to me, found some part of this work and willed me in any wise to proceed therein.”

Elizabeth & Courtiers

The distinguished physician Thomas Twyne (Breviary of Britain) referred to him in 1573 as being “in your flower and tender age” before inviting him to bestow  upon his work “such regard as you are accustomed to do on books of Geography, Histories, and other good learning, wherein I am privy your honour taketh singular delight.”

When Anthony Munday (Mirror of Mutability), told Oxford in 1579 that he looked forward to “the day when as conquerors we may peacefully resume our delightful literary discussions,” he was apparently referring to the rivalry between the Euphuists under Oxford and the Romanticists, who included Philip Sidney and Gabriel Harvey.  His reference to “our delightful literary discussions” offers a glimpse of Oxford personally engaged with other writers who were developing a new English literature and drama leading to “Shakespeare.” The works created by members of this circle would become known as “contemporary sources” upon which the great author drew.

Thomas Watson (Hekatompathia, or The Passionate Century of Love) reminded Oxford in 1580 that he had “willingly vouchsafed the acceptance of this work, and at convenient leisures favorably perused it, being as yet but in written hand.”  He cited de Vere as a literary trendsetter whose approval would draw many readers; because of this influence, the earl’s acceptance of the work in manuscript meant that “many have oftentimes and earnestly called upon me to put it to the press.”

Angel Day (The English Secretary) wrote to him in 1586 to Oxford about “the learned view and insight of your Lordship, whose infancy from the beginning was ever sacred to the Muses.”

Robert Greene (Card of Fancy) wrote publicly to Oxford in 1584 that he was “a worthy  favorer and fosterer of learning [who] hath forced many through your excellent virtue to offer the first-fruits of their study at the shrine of your Lordship’s courtesy.”

Dedication of “Defense of the Military Profession” by Gates to Oxford, 1579 (Click on Image to Enlarge)

In 1591 the composer John Farmer, who apparently lived in Oxford’s household, dedicated his first songbook (Plain-Song) to the earl, saying he was “emboldened” because of “your Lordship’s great affection to this noble science” (music) – which, of course, must be said also of Shakespeare.  In his second dedication (First Set of English Madrigals, 1599), Farmer told Oxford that “using this science as a recreation, your Lordship have over-gone most of them that make it a profession.”

In other words, Oxford encouraged young writers with their very first works, guiding them to the press.

Unlike the majority of dedications to patrons, the comments to Oxford are genuine and heartfelt. The earl may have had many faults of character, such as a tendency to be jealous and vengeful (as a number of Shakespearean characters are), but among his fellow writers and other artists he was uniquely spirited and generous.

In his Oxford biography Monstrous Adversary (2003), the Stratfordian scholar Alan Nelson concedes that Edward de Vere “attracts the attention of theologians, poets, distillers, and a musician, who have translated works from the Continent, or composed original works in English.” Citing the Index of dedications prior to 1641 by Franklin B. Williams (1962), he notes that only Queen Elizabeth and a few more powerful nobles had more dedications: Leicester (114); Burghley (85); Walsingham (47); and Charles Howard, the Admiral and hero of England’s victory over the Spanish Armada (46).

“CARDANUS Comforte, translated And Published by commaundement of the right Honourable the Earle of Oxenforde.” (1576 edition; click on image to enlarge)

In her Master of Arts in English thesis of 1999 at the University of Texas, focusing on Oxford’s patronage, Jonni Koonce Dunn notes that nearly forty percent of it was “expended on fiction with an Italian flavor.” The result, she adds, is that the Earl “provided the late sixteenth century with a body of source works to which the literature of the English Renaissance is sorely indebted.” Even from a young age, he preferred “literary work over the devotional or practical,” and such works “lent themselves to being models for adaptation for the forerunners of the novel as well as being instrumental in the development of English drama.”

His introduction as a young man to works such as The Courtier and Cardanus’ Comforte, she adds, “suggests his desire to be instrumental in shaping what was read by the university student and the courtier, thus in a roundabout way to transform the Elizabethan court into the cultured society depicted at Urbino in Castiglione’s work … It would eventually come to pass that William Shakespeare would benefit from the works de Vere patronized, for his plays came to make use of practically every one of the literary number in some fashion.” Without such patronage, many of the sources used by Shakespeare “might not have been available to him for inspiration,” and therefore this critical contribution “should ensure Edward de Vere the gratitude of every student of literature.”

[This post is now No. 38 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford (2016)]

Re-Posting No. 20 (part one) of 100 Reasons why Oxford was “Shakespeare” – The Many Dedications to Him

As far as I can determine, at least twenty-eight publications can be verified as dedicated (wholly or in part) to Edward de Vere by name during his lifetime. To that list we might add three more items: in 1592 Thomas Nashe apparently dedicates Strange News to Oxford, using another name for him; in 1603 Francis Davison includes him in a curious political broadsheet or circular; and in 1619 Anthony Munday dedicates a book to Henry de Vere, 18th Earl of Oxford, with warm posthumous praise for Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, his father, this bringing a tentative total to thirty-one.

Spenser’s dedicatory sonnet to Oxford referred to “the love which thou dost bear/ To th’Heliconian ymps [offspring from Helicon, the Greek abode of Apollo and the Muses), and they to thee,/ They unto thee, and thou to them most dear”

These dedications appear in works that range from Greek history to English literature, geography, military matters, music, medicine, astrology, translations from Italian and French, the Psalms, and so on — mirroring the wide range of subjects that Shakespeare was interested in from the European renaissance; they were very much part of the new age of English literature of which Edward de Vere was a central — perhaps the central — moving force prior to Shakespeare’s entrance in 1593.

The dedications to Oxford were not merely public bids for patronage; they were not the usual stuff of obsequious praise. On the contrary, they came from writers who worked with Oxford in developing common political and artistic goals.  Over and over they thanked him personally for taking time to read their works and give his advice.  He was not some lofty noble keeping his distance; instead, he rolled up his sleeves and became involved — personally, artistically and financially — in their varied works that covered so many subjects and forms of literary expression.

Here is a list of authors and their books with dedications to Oxford:

1/ 1564: Arthur Golding, Histories of Trogus Pompeius (Translation)

2/ 1569: Thomas Underdowne, An AEthiopian History Written in Greek by Helidorus (Translation)

3/ 1570: Edmund Elviden, Pesistratus and Catanea (Poetry)

4/ 1571: Arthur Golding, Psalms of David (Translation)

5/ 1573: Thomas Bedingfield, Cardanus’ Comforte (Translation)

6/ 1573: Thomas Twyne, Breviary of Britain … (Translation) [“Containing a Learned Discourse of the Variable State and Alteration thereof, under Divers as well as Natural, as Foreign Princes and Conquerors, together with the Geographical Description of the same…”]

“The New Jewell of Health” (1576) by Dr. George Baker, who dedicated two other books to Oxford

7/ 1574: George Baker:  Oleum Magistrale (medical; translation of Aparico de Zubia’s pamphlet) [“The Composition or Making of the Most Excellent and Precious Oil called Oleum Magistrale …” (Baker was surgeon to Oxford)]

8/ 1577: John Brooke, The Staff of Christian Faith, [translation of Guido’s French work into English) [“…profitable to all Christians … Gathered out of the Works of the Ancient Doctors of the Church…”]

9/1578: Gabriel Harvey, Gratulationum Valdenis (a book in Latin) [Celebrating the queen’s visit that year to Audley End; includes dedications in the first three parts to Elizabeth, Leicester and Burghley; and in part four to Oxford, Hatton and Sidney]

10/ 1578 (?): Anthony Munday, Galien of France (a book, now lost, that Oxford’s servant Munday, in The Mirror of Mutability, says he had dedicated to Oxford)

11/ 1579: Anthony Munday, The Mirror of Mutability (verses) [to serve as a religious companion to “The Mirror of Magistrates” – presenting a series of metrical tragedies “selected out of the sacred Scriptures,” illustrating the Seven Deadly Sins with biblical stories.]

12/ 1579: Geoffrey Gates, The Defense of Military Profession (a book in English) [An argument for the acceptance of the military man, and the military profession, as an essential and reputable member of society.]

13/ 1580: Anthony Munday, Zelauto, the Fountain of Fame (prose fiction) [This is the fifth or sixth Elizabethan novel, three of which are associated with Oxford: The Adventures of Master F.I., anonymous, part of A Hundredth Sundry Flowres, 1573; Euphues, The Anatomy of Wit (Lyly), 1578, and Euphues and his England (Lyly), 1580 (next on this list)].

Click on Image to Enlarge

14/ 1580: John Lyly, Euphues and His England (novel) [His first novel, Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit (1578) was dedicated to Sir William West; the connection between them is not known.]

15/ 1580: John Hester, A Short Discourse … Upon Chirurgerie (Surgery) (translation) [Italian medical work by Leonardo Phioravanti (Fioravanti) Bolognese, rendered in English]

16/ 1581: Thomas Stocker, Diverse Sermons of Calvin (translation)

17/ 1582: Thomas Watson, Hekatompathia, or The Passionate Century of Love (100 sonnets, in English)

18/ 1584: John Southern, Pandora (compilation of verses) [Contains four epitaphs attributed to Oxford’s wife, Anne Cecil, written upon the death of their infant son; also one by Queen Elizabeth.]

19/ 1584: Robert Greene, Gwydonius: The Card of Fancy (“wherein the Folly of those carpet Knights is deciphered”) [Romance novel in English]

Title Page of “The English Secretary,” first edition, 1586, with a dedication to Oxford referring to his “exceeding bounty” or generosity

20/ 1586: Angel DayThe English Secretary (“wherein is contained a Perfect Method for the inditing of all manner of Epistles and familiar letters”) [Instructions on how a particular type of letter should be written, followed by sample letters.]

21/ 1588: Anthony MundayPalmerin d’Olivia Pt. 1 – The Mirror of Nobility, (translation of a Spanish chivalric romance)

22/ 1588: Anthony MundayPalmerin d’Olivia Pt. 2 (translation) [More of his “romances of chivalry” from the Spanish]

23/ 1590: Edmund SpenserThe Faerie Queen (book-length narrative poem) [One of the seventeen dedicatory sonnets is to Oxford, with reference to him as a poet.]

24/ 1591: John FarmerPlainsong Diverse & Sundry (songbook) [Full title is “Divers and Sundry Waies of Two Parts in One to the Number of Fortie upon One Playn Song.” A collection of forty canonic pieces written by him, plus one poem.]

1592 (Not part of list): Thomas NasheStrange News (polemical pamphlet) [In response to Gabriel Harvey’s attack on Greene, dedicated to a prolific poet he calls by the pseudonym “Gentle Master William, Apis Lapis,” saying to him, “Verily, verily, all poor scholars acknowledge your as their patron” — with “verily, verily” as an apparent play on Oxford’s name “Vere” and describing his unique role as a patron of poets, writers and scholars needing his support.]

25/ 1597: Henry LokThe Book of Ecclesiastes (book of verse) [Published by Richard Field, who had published Venus and Adonis in 1593 as by “William Shakespeare”; in this work, Lok addresses a dedicatory sonnet to Oxford — perhaps originally written in manuscript in a gift copy of the book for the Earl.]

26/ 1599: John FarmerThe First Set of English Madrigals (songbook)

27/ 1599: Angel Day, The English Secretary (new edition, revised)

28/ 1599: George Baker,The Practice of the New and Old Physic (medical book) [Originally printed in 1576 under the title New Jewel of Health, then dedicated to Oxford’s wife, Anne Cecil, who died in 1588; now Baker is one of the Queen’s physicians; the dedication to the Countess of Oxford is slightly altered to suit the Earl.]

In addition, these explicit mentions of him:

1603: Francis Davison, Anagrammata (broadsheet) [With curious writings in Latin to/about Oxford and Southampton and other nobles, with political overtones, some apparently related to the Essex rebellion of 1601.]

1619: Anthony Munday: Primaleon of Greece (translation) [“Describing the knightly deeds of armes, as also the memorable adventures of Prince Edward of England. And continuiong the former historie of Palmendos, brother to the fortunate Primaleon” — dedicated to Henry de Vere, the 18th Earl of Oxford, who was Edward’s son by Elizabeth Trentham, with warm praise from Munday for the father.]

These authors, and their books dedicated to the Earl of Oxford, have been cited as specific “sources” upon which “Shakespeare” drew. Yet we know of no book or literary work of any kind that was dedicated to Shakespeare.

[This post is now Reason 37 in the book 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford.]

[Once again thanks to editor Alex McNeil; also to Brian Bechtold with editorial help; and to Jonni Koonce Dunn for her Master of Arts thesis of 1999 at the University of Texas.]

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