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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SNAPSHOT: DE VERE – The Northern Rebellion and a Taste of War (1570)

“The Queen’s Majesty sendeth at this present the Earl of Oxenford into the north parts to remain with my Lord of Sussex & to be employed there in her Majesty’s service …” – Sir William Cecil, Master of the Court of Wards (and future Lord Burghley), March 30, 1570, authorizing payment of forty pounds to Edward de Vere for “his charges whilst he shall remain in those parts.” 

Thomas Radcliffe,
third Earl of Sussex (c.1526-d.1583)

“Those parts” of northern England and the border counties of Scotland would have seemed a “strange and foreign place” to young Oxford, writes Mark Anderson, adding that so far most of the earl’s life (as he approached his twentieth birthday) probably had been spent “within a one or two days’ ride from the queen and her court.” Now, accompanied by servants and soldiers, de Vere embarked upon a ten-day, 270-mile journey on horseback to the front lines – venturing into a feudal world where the calendar seemed to have stood still.

Queen Elizabeth’s forces had been mobilized to prevent the Catholic nobles of the north from advancing upon London with their armies. The rebel leaders had hoped to replace the Protestant daughter of Henry VIII with Catholic Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, who had fled to England for safety and remained Elizabeth’s captive. By now the English columns had soundly crushed the rebellion; but Thomas Radcliffe, third Earl of Sussex, was obeying his sovereign’s command by waging a campaign of barbarous reprisal that would “leave a memory in Scotland whereof they and their children shall be afraid” to attack England ever again.

“Nothing in Elizabeth’s life is more dreadful than the callous savagery which she permitted, and more than permitted, in the slaughter and pillage that followed the northern rebellion,” the old Dictionary of National Biography states, adding that she “did as her father would have done in the fury of his wrath.”

Here, then, is one snapshot: Edward de Vere, coming upon his first taste of war and entering the terrible scenes of its final chapters – a seemingly endless, scarred landscape of ongoing death and destruction … hanging corpses … charred ruins, still smoking … eight hundred rebels hanged … three hundred villages burned … fifty castles razed …. forty other buildings leveled … an orgy of government retribution.

Now another picture comes into focus: a snapshot of Oxford with Thomas Radcliffe, third Earl of Sussex, 44, apparently serving on his staff. Sussex was a man of courage, bluntness, intellect and empathy. Twenty-four years Oxford’s senior, he would become a father figure, mentor, colleague, friend and close ally in mutual antipathy toward Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, the queen’s intimate favorite, who was rumored to be a serial poisoner. Upon his deathbed in June 1583, Sussex would harshly warn Sir Christopher Hatton about Leicester’s malignity: “Beware of the gypsy. He will betray you. You do not know the beast as well as I do.”

“The earl of Sussex was one of the great nobles of the Elizabethan period,” the Encyclopedia Britannica records. “Though his loyalty was questioned by his enemies, it was as unwavering as his patriotism. He shone as a courtier; he excelled in diplomacy; he was a man of cultivation and even of scholarship, a patron of literature and of the drama on the eve of its blossoming into the glory it became soon after his death” – that is, during the rest of the 1580s, when his protégé the earl of Oxford would act as the foremost patron of writers working to create that very blossoming that would reach its climax with “Shakespeare” in 1593.

Hume Castle

Oxford served in Scotland when Sussex was still in anguish over the orders he was carrying out. As commander of the English forces, gifted with strategic brilliance and military prowess, he nonetheless abhorred what his sovereign ruler had told him to do. Back in January he had written to the Privy Council recommending a policy of restraint; he would execute “some” of the rebels to make an “example” of them; otherwise the “principal offenders” would be imprisoned, and, crucially, England would “extend her Majesty’s mercy” to their lowly, poor followers.

The queen, however, was “wound up to a pitch of anger that spurned this suggestion,” Elizabeth Jenkins writes. On her command to Sussex, only those same poor followers of the Catholic earls were being hanged. What made this policy so odious was her motive: Elizabeth Tudor was furious about the cost of putting down the rebellion; therefore, those with greater wealth and power were spared and allowed to buy their pardons with cash or land.

A final snapshot: Oxford would have witnessed Sussex’s twelve-hour siege of Hume Castle. Bombardment of the fortress was followed by Lord Hume’s suit for a parley, to which Sussex agreed. The defenders were allowed to retire upon abandoning their weapons – the way “Shakespeare” would depict Henry V laying siege to Harfleur, followed by the Governor’s suit for a parley and the king’s mercy.

///

Mark Anderson, Shakespeare By Another Name, 2005; pp. 42-43

J.R. Black, The Reign of Elizabeth, 1939; p. 143

William Camden, Annales; Anno Domini 1570

Dictionary of National Biography – Elizabeth I; Thomas Radcliffe

Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition, Vol. XXVI

Nina Green, The Oxford Authorship Site, Documents; National Archives SP 15/19/37, f.88

Paul Hammer, Elizabeth’s Wars, 2003; p.83

Elizabeth Jenkins, Elizabeth the Great, 1959; pp. 153-155, 252

J.R. Neale, Queen Elizabeth, 1934; p. 189

Charlton Ogburn, Jr., The Mysterious William Shakespeare, 1984, 1992; pp. 467-469

B.M. Ward, The Seventeenth Earl of Oxford, 1928; p. 48

SNAPSHOT: DE VERE – The Royal Ward at Nineteen (1569)

When Edward de Vere was nineteen in 1569 and still a royal ward of Elizabeth I living under William Cecil’s roof in London, his purchases included items such as:

“Fine black cloth for a cape and a riding cloak … one doublet of cambric [thin cotton or linen fabric of fine close weave, probably white], one doublet of fine canvas, and one of black satin … the furniture of a riding cloak … one pair of velvet hose, black … Ten pairs of Spanish leather shoes … a rapier, dagger and girdle [belt or sash] … … six sheets of fine Holland [cotton cloth], six handkerchiefs and six others of cambric … four yards of velvet, and four others of satin to guard and border a Spanish capeone velvet hat, and one taffeta hat [of lightweight fabric]; two velvet caps, a scarf, two pairs of garters with silver at the ends, a plume of feathers for a hat, and another hat band …”

These notations come from an old account book containing “Payments made by John Hart, Chester Herald, on behalf of the Earl of Oxford” for the first nine months of 1569. In his biography of the earl, B.M. Ward observes that such details make it possible to “vividly picture” de Vere in his daily life at the time:

“Rather below medium height, he was sturdy with brown curly hair and hazel eyes. On his head a velvet cap with a plume of pheasants’ feathers fastened on one side. A black satin doublet, velvet breeches, and silk stockings supported by silver buckled garters. On his feet the broad-toed, flat-footed, soft leather shoes of the period. At his side a light rapier, passed through a silver-studded belt.”

This snapshot becomes a short video:

“Thus clad, he would go down to the river stairs at the bottom of Ivy Lane. The liveried watermen would be ready waiting at the steps with the canopied barge; and then they would go upstream, perhaps, to the Palace at Richmond …  On another morning, perhaps he would order one of his four geldings [castrated male horses]; and having discarded the Court silks and satins for the more serviceable cloths, he would ride out from Cecil House westward along the Strand past St. Martin’s Church, with a hawk on his wrist. Here he would canter along the soft turf at the side of the narrow country lane till he came to the little village of Kensington. An hour’s hawking, with its wild gallops over fields and through woods; and so back to London with the bag of partridges and herons tied to his saddle.”

The word-picture concludes that evening. This young noble, “tired with the day’s chase” and now in his library, is surrounded by the books he loves. [The same account book lists 1569 payments for his purchases of “a Geneva Bible gilt, a Chaucer, Plutarch’s works in French, with other books and papers … two Italian books … Tully’s and Plato’s works in folio, with other books, paper and nibs (pen points)”] “We may be sure,” Ward writes, “that his active mind was attracted by the wealth of Renaissance literature that was then beginning to flood England,” adding that the 17th Earl of Oxford’s enthusiasm for Italy “originated no doubt from the Italian books he had read, perhaps surreptitiously, while he was a royal ward.”

///

Ward, BM. The Seventeenth Earl of Oxford 1550-1604 From Contemporary Documents, 1928, pp. 31-35

The Book with “100 Reasons” for Oxford’s Authorship is Now Available on Kindle

100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford has finally arrived at Amazon on Kindle. This move has required a reduction in the number of illustrations, which, however, have become sharper. In addition, the book is now linked to distributors and can be ordered by stores and libraries.

In regard to the latter, it is to be hoped that many more Oxfordian books will find their way into public libraries and, importantly, into the the libraries of our schools, colleges and universities.

The local library must become a welcome home for books about Edward de Vere. No minds can be expanded or changed without information. We are still faced with the fact that, after nearly a full century since J. Thomas Looney published “Shakespeare” Identified (1920), most folks have yet to hear about the authorship question itself (or a balanced version of it), much less about the evidence for Oxford as the greatest writer of the English language.

The introduction of E-books at libraries of high schools, colleges and universities is allowing this information to spread among new generations, whose members will challenge the longstanding “Stratfordian” paradigm of Shakespearean biography. This challenge, in turn, will clear the stage so the Earl of Oxford can emerge from the wings to make his rightful entrance before the world audience — an audience that, for so many generations, has been moved to the heights of laughter as well as the depths of tears by the mirror he held up for us.

Review of “100 Reasons” by Walter Hurst in the Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter

“How do you write a review about a book you enjoyed so much that you literally could not put it down—even when you knew you had other work that had to be done?”

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

How do you adequately express your gratitude for a review that begins in such a way? Well, needless to say I’m extremely thankful for theater director Walter (Wally) Hurst’s evaluation of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford in the current Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter (Vol. 53, No. 1: Winter 2017), the quarterly publication of the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship edited by Alex McNeil, J.D.  Here is his entire report:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Agreement with “The Monument” on the Possible Dating of Sonnet 81 — in “Brief Chronicles” for the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship

In the current Brief Chronicles (No. VII, 2016, published 12 January 2017), edited by Roger Stritmatter, PhD with Michael Delahoyde, PhD for the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship, researchers Elke Brackmann and Robert Detobel suggest a possible dating of Sonnet 81 that coincides with the one expressed in The Monument (2005), which presents a time frame for the central 100-sonnet sequence:

Sonnet 27 upon the failed Essex Rebellion on 8 February 1601 ….. to Sonnet 125 upon Queen Elizabeth’s funeral on 28 April 1603  ……… (plus Sonnet 126, the “envoy” ending the sequence)

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Sonnet 81 begins with a sense of the younger man’s impending death:  “Or I shall live your Epitaph to make…”

That opening line, Backmann and Detobel write, “would suddenly take on a piercing dramatic quality” if the youth’s life had been threatened. (Well, yes!) And in fact, they note, the life of Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton, was definitely threatened when a tribunal on 19 February 1601 sentenced him to be executed for his role in the rebellion.

Robert Detobel

Robert Detobel

The case for Southampton as the younger man in the Sonnets “can now be considered firmly established,” they continue, adding, “We know of one point in time in his life (and within the generally accepted period of composition of the sonnets) when he was in great danger and/or about to die. This was in February 1601, when he was sentenced to death for high treason. It is also useful in this context to recall that the use of the word ‘epitaph’ is suggestive of death in a foreseeable future…”

Essex was beheaded on 25 February 1601, but Southampton’s penalty was commuted into lifelong imprisonment.  “The exact date of the commutation is not known,” Brackmann and Detobel write, “but it must have occurred before the end of March.”

Therefore, Sonnet 81 could have been written “between February and March when Southampton’s life was in the balance,” they suggest, adding, “It could also have been written later in the year, during the first six months or so of Southampton’s imprisonment in the Tower, when he was reported to have been very sick.”

MONUMENT cover

We might add that Oxford could not know, during the next two years, whether Southampton would be left to die in the Tower. Everything depended upon Robert Cecil being able to bring James of Scotland to the throne upon Elizabeth’s death — and it appears, from our reading of the Sonnets, that the Earl of Oxford was forced to help the Secretary engineer the succession of James.

The success of this “deal” between Edward de Vere and his former brother-in-law is expressed in Sonnet 107, the high point of the sequence — with Oxford declaring that Southampton had been “supposed as forfeit to a confined doom,” but that now, upon the queen’s death, Henry Wriothesley was free. The queen died on 24 March 1603 and Southampton was released from the Tower on 10 April 1603; and this view of the biographical/historical context of the central 100-sonnet sequence (1601-1603) is the basis for The Monument…

Your monument shall be my gentle verse,

Which eyes not yet created shall o’er-read… (Sonnet 81)

And thou in this shalt find thy monument,

When tyrants’ crests and tombs of brass are spent. (Sonnet 107)

 

 

The Remarkable Letter of Dr. Masters to Lord Burghley about Anne Cecil’s Pregnancy – Part 1

One of the most remarkable items of surviving correspondence related to Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford is a letter from court physician Dr. Richard Masters to William Cecil, Lord Treasurer Burghley on the night of March 7, 1575, about Oxford’s wife Anne Cecil. The earl himself had left England the month before and was now at the French royal court in Paris, being introduced to the recently crowned King Henry III.

William Cecil Lord Burghley 1520 - 1598

William Cecil
Lord Burghley
1520 – 1598

Dr. Masters reported to Lord Burghley about his audience that morning with Queen Elizabeth in the Presence Chamber at Richmond Palace.  Her Majesty was seated alone on cushions, listening to the doctor explain how he had met that morning with Cecil, who was still a bit under the weather physically and “desired me to say thus much to Your Highness – ”

Elizabeth understood that Burghley, too afraid to come in person, had sent Dr. Masters as the messenger who might have his head lopped off.  The physician told her:  “Seeing it had pleased Your Majesty often times to inquire tenderly after my Lady of Oxford’s health, it has now fallen out so (God be thanked) that she is with child, evidently; and albeit it were but an indifferent thing for Her Majesty to hear of, yet it was more than indifferent for your Lordship to signify the same unto her.”

This was big news. Anne, daughter of Burghley and wife of Oxford, was pregnant for the first time since her marriage to de Vere in December 1571.  Very possibly she was carrying his son, the all-important heir to his earldom. Elizabeth, the physician reported to the Lord Treasurer, reacted spontaneously in apparent shock: “Here-withal she arose, or rather sprang up from the cushions, and said these words: ‘Indeed it is a matter that concerneth my Lord’s [Burghley’s] joy chiefly, yet I protest to God that next to them that have interest in it, there is nobody can be more joyous of it than I am.’”

Well, okay, but Her Majesty might be protesting too much.  She appears to be not only acting, but overacting.

“Then I went forth and told her that your Lordship [Burghley] had a pretty likelihood of it upon your coming from Court after Shrovetide [Sunday, February 13, nearly a month earlier], but you concealed it, Ne si adversum evaderet Audires parturient montes; and that now, because your Lordship did fear the concealing of it any longer, doubting lest the matter might otherwise come to the Court, your Lordship thought it good and a piece of duty to have it imparted unto Her Majesty rather by yourself than by any other.”

Clearly this was the most immediate reason Burghley had sent Dr. Masters in his place – to admit to the Queen that he, Burghley, had “concealed” this news from Elizabeth, thereby letting the court physician take the initial blast of heat.  But why, in the first place, had the Lord Treasurer kept his daughter’s pregnancy a secret?  Why would he want to conceal it from the Queen? Burghley worried that Her Majesty would hear the news at court from someone else, which would ignite her fury at him; by now he had no choice but to tell her – or, that is, to have Dr. Masters serve as messenger.

Elizabeth I of England 1533 - 1603

Elizabeth I of England
1533 – 1603

His report continued: “And here again she bade me make her thanks with those words, reported as before, by comparing your Lordship’s joy and interest to hers. After this, I had leisure to show her of my Lady’s [Anne’s] double reckoning, viz., a retention et a consortio Comitis [recalling or calcultating both when her periods had stopped and when she had “consorted” with her husband], and that my Lady being here [Richmond] at Shrovetide had dealt with me to prepare some medicines ad menses promotions [to cause her periods to resume; that is, to produce a miscarriage or, in effect, an abortion], but I counseled her to stay a while – “

Whoa!  Is this why Burghley had concealed the news from Queen Elizabeth?  Without saying so, Dr. Masters had just slipped in some astonishing information.  Oxford’s wife had come to him asking help to abort her pregnancy!  She had sought his help in secretly terminating the life of the premier earl’s first child and, quite possibly, his son and heir!

Anne’s severely negative reaction to her pregnancy must indicate some earth-shaking circumstance. After all, she was pleading for help with an act that ultimately could have meant the end of the Oxford’s earldom. And surely she knew how it would affect her father, Burghley, who had arranged this marriage so the ancient Vere line could be linked to his own family and descendants.

On the one hand, Anne must have been experiencing tremendously frightening physical pain, which could account for everything — except that now she had also become mentally and emotionally distraught, for entirely different reasons:

“Her Majesty asked me how the young Lady did bear the matter,” Dr. Masters continued in his letter to Burghley. “I answered that she kept it secret four or five days from all persons and that her face was much fallen and thin with little color, and that when she was comforted and counseled to be gladsome and to rejoice, she would cry: ‘Alas, alas, how should I rejoice, seeing he that should rejoice with me is not here?  And to say truth, I stand in doubt whether he [Oxford] pass upon me and it [the child] or not.’ And bemoaning her case would lament that after so long sickness of body, she should enter a new grief and sorrow of mind.”

Anne was “in doubt whether he pass upon me and it or not” — indicating, it would seem, that she feared Oxford would not believe he was the father. In the next year he would come to seriously doubt his paternity and separate from the marriage for five years. As a matter of fact, reports that his wife had played a “bed trick” upon him will be reported by Francis Osborne in 1658 and Thomas Wright in 1836; and four “Shakespeare” plays (All’s Well That Ends Well, Measure for Measure, Cymbeline and The Two Noble Kinsmen) will include the same trickery by which, without the man’s knowledge, one woman is substituted for another.

The very fact this letter from Dr. Masters managed to survive at all is surprising; it offers a rare glimpse into some very private moments and encounters at the highest level, such as:

“At this Her Majesty showed great compassion, as your Lordship shall hear hereafter, and repeated my Lord of Oxford’s answer to me, which he made openly in the Presence Chamber to Her Majesty [that is, Elizabeth related to the doctor what Oxford had told her publicly], viz., that ‘if she were with child, it was not his.’ “

It may be that Oxford said this to the Queen because he knew she would not allow him to leave England while his wife was pregnant; or, perhaps, he was making such a statement for other reasons.  (Was he intending, while on the Continent, to seek an annulment of his still-childless marriage?)

Dr. Masters told Elizabeth that de Vere’s statement was “the common answer of lusty courtiers everywhere so to say.”  He also informed the Queen that other physicians had been primarily worried about Anne’s own health, preferring to stabilize her condition before tending to the fetus, but he was certain that by now both mother and child were safe.

When Elizabeth learned that Oxford’s enemy the Earl of Leicester was in the next chamber, she called him in and related the whole conversation up to this point. Then Dr. Masters spoke up again, explaining to her“that though your Lordship [Burghley] had concealed it yet a while from her, yet you left it to her [Anne’s] discretion either to reveal it or to keep it close. And here an end was made, taking advantage of my last words, that she would be with you for concealing it so long from her.”

This news must have alarmed Burghley.  Her Majesty would be “with you” — yes, she would speak to the Lord Treasurer face-to face and reprimand him for “concealing it so long from her.” It seems he was in for one of those famous tongue-lashings from Elizabeth Tudor.

But now for the final royal histrionics, swinging back and forth between joy and anger: “And severally she showed herself unfeignedly to rejoice, and in great offence with my Lord of Oxford, repeating the same to my Lord of Leicester after he came to her.”

The final word from a shaken Dr. Masters was his strong, even urgent advice to Burghley that he should be prepared to counter any suspicions by Oxford that the child might not be his: “Thus much rather to show my good will than otherwise, desiring your Lordship that there may a note be taken from the day of the first quickening [to determine the date of conception], for thereof somewhat may be known noteworthy.” So it was already feared that de Vere would erupt with questions.

The child, Elizabeth Vere, was reportedly born on July 2, 1575, not quite four months later — or nine months after Oxford and Anne had been lodged in adjacent rooms during a stay at Hampton Court Palace.

After storming home in April 1576, he commanded Burghley to prevent his daughter from being present at the royal court whenever he was there. The separation lasted until some time in late 1581 or early the following year. How much does the remarkable letter of Dr. Masters shed light on Edward de Vere’s subsequent behavior toward his wife and child? Or on any other aspect of the Oxford-Shakespeare story?

Comments and/or questions are welcome!

////

One transcript of the letter (with brief introductory matter) is to be found at The Oxford Authorship Site of independent researcher Nina Green.  Here is a full version, with my own breaks inserted for easier reading:

“After my duty it may please your Lordship to understand that having her Majesty this Monday morning in the Chamber at the Gallery end, next to the Green, sitting alone, I said that the confidence in my messages made me presume to come to her in that place, for being at London with my wife that had been sick, I heard say that my Lord Treasurer had left word at my house that I should not return unto the Court until I had spoken with him; whereupon fearing lest he had been sick upon his purgation taken that Friday, I went unto him and found him mickle [much] well, saving for his cough and often sneezing, and understanding of my speedy return to the Court, he desired me to say thus much to Your Highness, that –

“’Seeing it had pleased Your Majesty often times to inquire tenderly after my Lady of Oxford’s health, it has now fallen out so (God be thanked) that she is with child, evidently; and albeit it were but an indifferent thing for Her Majesty to hear of, yet it was more than indifferent for your Lordship to signify the same unto her.’

“Here-withal she arose, or rather sprang up from the cushions, and said these words:

“’Indeed it is a matter that concerneth my Lord’s [Burghley’s] joy chiefly, yet I protest to God that next to them that have interest in it, there is nobody can be more joyous of it than I am.’

“Then I went forth and told her that your Lordship had a pretty likelihood of it upon your coming from Court after Shrovetide, but you concealed it, Ne si adversum evaderet Audires parturient montes; and that now, because your Lordship did fear the concealing of it any longer, doubting lest the matter might otherwise come to the Court, your Lordship thought it good and a piece of duty to have it imparted unto Her Majesty rather by yourself than by any other –

“And here again she bade me make her thanks with those words, reported as before, by comparing your Lordship’s joy and interest to hers.

“After this, I had leisure to show her of my Lady’s [Anne’s] double reckoning, viz., a retention et a consortio Comitis, and that my Lady being here at Shrovetide had dealt with me to prepare some medicines ad menses promotions, but I counseled her to stay a while –

“Her Majesty asked me how the young Lady did bear the matter.

“I answered that she kept it secret four or five days from all persons and that her face was much fallen and thin with little color, and that when she was comforted and counseled to be gladsome and to rejoice, she would cry, ‘Alas, alas, how should I rejoice, seeing he that should rejoice with me is not here?  And to say truth, I stand in doubt whether he pass upon me and it or not.’ And bemoaning her case would lament that after so long sickness of body, she should enter a new grief and sorrow of mind.

“At this Her Majesty showed great compassion, as your Lordship shall hear hereafter, and repeated my Lord of Oxford’s answer to me, which he made openly in the Presence Chamber to Her Majesty, viz., that if she were with child, it was not his. I answered that it was the common answer of lusty courtiers everywhere so to say.

“I told her also that she ought to think the case to be hard, when that she was let blood and purged, the physicians having greater regard to the stock than to the branch, but I trusted now they were both in safety.

“Then she asking, and being answered of me, who was in the next chamber, she calleth my Lord of Leicester and telleth him all. And here I told her that though your Lordship had concealed it yet a while from her, yet you left it to her discretion either to reveal it or to keep it close. And here an end was made, taking advantage of my last words, that she would be with you for concealing it so long from her; and severally she showed herself unfeignedly to rejoice, and in great offence with my Lord of Oxford, repeating the same to my Lord of Leicester after he came to her.

“Thus much rather to show my good will than otherwise, desiring your Lordship that there may a note be taken from the day of the first quickening, for thereof somewhat may be known noteworthy.

“From Richmond the 7th of March, 1575

“By your Lordship’s most bounden

“Richard Masters”

 

“A Magnetic Sense of History, Art, Politics and Human Nature” – from “Kirkus Reviews”

It’s gratifying to receive such a wonderful reaction to 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford from Kirkus Reviews.

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Knowing full well that Kirkus maintains total independence, I had no expectation of what kind of response the book might receive. This review came as a welcome surprise, to say the least, and may well count as new evidence that the Oxfordian movement is gaining ground outside the confines of our own community. Thanks to the editorial expertise of Alex McNeil and, too, from Brian Bechtold, as well as from Bill Boyle of Forever Press; and most of all, my gratitude to the readers of this blog site who contributed helpful comments all along the way, over the course of some three and a half years, making it possible to even think about compiling and revising the “100 Reasons” into a cohesive book.

Here’s the full review:

A book offers an energetic defense of the Earl of Oxford theory regarding the authorship of the plays of William Shakespeare.

“In this work about Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, the competing theories—proposing Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, William Stanley, the Earl of Derby, and, of course,  Shakespeare himself—are given their day in court as well. (Indeed, examining and discarding these notions constitutes part of the quite literal 100 reasons presented in the volume.) As the alternative possibilities are explored, Whittemore makes a progressively stronger case for the Earl of Oxford as the sole author of the works of Shakespeare. Beginning in the book’s introduction by questioning how such a seemingly unremarkable man as Shakespeare could demonstrate such near-miraculous genius, Whittemore takes the reader on an intricate journey in scholarship regarding the theater and the Renaissance period. He touches on the first Oxfordian supporter—John Thomas Looney—and builds profiles of the various players in Shakespeare’s world, from Queen Elizabeth I’s chief adviser, Lord Burghley, to her spymaster, Francis Walsingham. During this odyssey, an image of de Vere himself emerges: a brilliant, controversial man and an intimate of Elizabeth’s court with poetry and theater in his blood—an ideal alternative to Shakespeare for reasons ranging from creativity to insight into statecraft. While mainstream academia largely dismisses questions of authorship in studying the works of Shakespeare, Whittemore strongly champions the Oxfordian argument in this tour de force defense while remaining a highly entertaining writer. A breezy but very intelligent tone is maintained throughout the book; the reader is neither patronized nor boggled by minutiae and jargon. Instead, there is a magnetic sense of history, art, politics, and human nature injected into a smooth and eminently readable storytelling style. It is obvious that the author’s research has been painstaking, but the resulting document is more than painless—it’s downright pleasurable. The text itself is immaculate, as one would expect from such a seasoned nonfiction writer and scholar. One may or may not accept the Oxfordian argument, but Whittemore ensures that the reader will never again lightly dismiss it.

“An engrossing and thoughtful literary examination.”

  • “Kirkus Reviews”

A Shake-speare Speech on Past & Present to Predict the Future

Here’s a little speech from Shake-speare, lending us a thought for today. Apply it as you may:

There is a history in all men’s lives,

Figuring the natures of the time deceased,

The which observed, a man may prophesy,

With near aim, the main chance of things

As yet not come to life, who in their seeds

And weak beginning lie in-treasured.

Such things become the hatch and brood of time.

  • Henry IV, part two, 3.1, the Earl of Warwick
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