Thanks to Professor Don Rubin for Pioneering Work on the Shakespeare Authorship Question at York University

don-rubin-200x300Don Rubin, former Chair of the Department of Theatre at York University in Toronto, is a pioneer in bringing the Shakespeare Authorship Question to college students.  Anyone who paid a visit during those sessions knows for sure that the issue will be decided once and for all by the new generation.

I want to thank Professor Rubin publicly for his scholarly work among students, for whom he presented the evidence while encouraging them to debate it among themselves and come to their individual conclusions – a genuine spirit of free and open inquiry, creating an excitement about the life and work of “Shakespeare” that is seldom if ever found in most of today’s classrooms.

And I’d also like to express my gratitude for his advance comment on my new book, 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford:

“Written with wit, humor, erudition and the instincts of a real working actor, Hank Whittemore’s 100 Reasons bristles with humanity as it seeks to convince readers that the name Shakespeare was simply a pseudonym.

“Begun as a search by the author for the roots of Shakespeare’s titanic creativity, this extraordinary document becomes a personal narrative of the life of the wild and witty Edward de Vere, the most erudite aristocrat in the court of Queen Elizabeth I.

“And Whittemore does ultimately convince us that de Vere was the real Shakespeare. A truly original approach to academic research, this forensic examination of centuries-old evidence is well worth the attention of academics and non-academics alike.”

Advance Comment from Dr. Richard Waugaman on “100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford”

shakespeare-as-santaI want to thank Richard M. Waugaman, M.D. for his advance comment on 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford, and to recommend his insightful, often ground-breaking work on the authorship question. Dr. Waugaman, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine, has made many papers available on his website The Oxfreudian.  Here is the comment he made after reading the manuscript of 100 Reasons:

“Read this book before you decide who wrote Shakespeare. Challenges to the traditional authorship theory are often ignored, or dismissed by impugning unworthy motives to authorship skeptics. The mountain of evidence against the legendary author is dealt with by selecting a single pebble, and rejecting it as only circumstantial evidence. Hank Whittemore, by contrast, closely examines 100 important features of this mountain, leaving the reader convinced there is more to the authorship debate than she had suspected.

“Traditionalists insist the real author knew the world of the theater from the inside. Whittemore begins presenting far more evidence of Edward de Vere’s close associations with the theater than the skimpy evidence of the traditional author’s theatrical involvement (which may have been primarily as a money lender).

“Whittemore remains closely attuned to his reader’s reactions along the way, serving as a sympathetic, knowledgeable guide on this exciting journey. Those who claim it makes no difference who wrote Shakespeare will think twice about that assumption, when they discover the new pleasure in watching a Shakespeare play, or reading a Shakespeare sonnet, now that we know so much more about the true author.

“Biographies of the traditional author from Stratford-on-Avon are exercises in misleading speculation. In contrast, Whittemore presents hundreds of well-documented facts to support his authorship candidate, Edward de Vere.

“We’ve all been sold a defective Avon product, folks. It’s time to return it for a full refund!”

“First they ignore you … then they ridicule you … then they fight you … and then you win.”

There’s some strident Stratfordian activity on the site for 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford a sign, I believe, that upholders of the traditional faith are worried. It brings to my mind the well-known saying, often attributed [without evidence] to Gandhi: “First, they ignore you; then they ridicule you; then they fight you; and then you win.”  My fellow Oxfordians, let us savor the final stage before victory!

Followers of this blog site may wish to check out the attacks that have come from individuals who, apparently, have not read the book but are committed to the traditional view of the authorship at all cost. My current Oxfordian book makes no claim of proving anything; it presents various kinds of biographical and historical evidence for Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (1550-1604) as the true author of the Shakespeare works. The evidence is circumstantial and it’s overwhelmingly strong.

Edward de Vere 17th Earl of Oxford

Edward de Vere
17th Earl of Oxford

There is no such biographical or historical evidence for the authorship of the Stratford man, whose death in 1616 failed to produce the slightest ripple of reaction. The traditional view needs no evidence, because it’s akin to religious faith.

Whether these folks are part of an organized attempt to hold back the inevitable collapse of the traditional paradigm, I cannot say; they do seem to be trolling for listings of Oxfordian books, seeking opportunities to attack. Their arguments are either disingenuous or deliberately inaccurate.

Alexander Waugh, the multi-talented author, scholar, critic and composer who is also Chairman of the De Vere Society of London, posted a response to one B. J. Robbins, who had not offered an honest review, but, instead, produced a list of sixteen points under the screaming headline, “REAL FACTS why Oxford WAS NOT SHAKESPEARE!!!!!”  Mr. Waugh replied with a point-by-point rebuttal:

You write: “1, There is no evidence that Oxford and Shakespeare ever even met or knew each other.”
Comment – a problem for Stratfordians. Oxford was known to many of the top poets, playwrights and scholars of his day, e.g. Greene, Lyly, Bale, Mundy, Nash, Chapman, Day, Twynne, Churchyard, etc., etc., none of whom knew Stratford-Shakspere, who was never acknowledged as a playwright or poet by anyone (including himself) during his lifetime.

You write: “2. Oxford died in 1604, while the plays in the First Folio came out until 1613 (Henry VIII). No logical, believable explanation has ever been offered by Oxfordians about how that happened.”
Comment – The plays `came out’ in 1623 (not 1613 as you claim) in the First Folio. At least 18 of these plays had never been published before. This was 7 years AFTER the death of Stratford-Shakspere, so by your own argument your own candidate fails.

You write: “3. Subjective interpretation of the Sonnets and plays is inconsequential and invalid and unscholary. It is not the way scholars work. Objective, empirical evidence, direct evidence.”
Comment – The Oxfordian case does not rely upon ‘subjective interpretations’ of the Sonnets or plays. If you had read Whittemore’s 100 reasons you would have known this.

You write: “4. Oxford left no literary writings behind besides a few ordinary poems. No plays. We don’t know if he had the genius to write Hamlet or King Lear. Having 3 daughters like Lear is not proof that he wrote it. Don’t make me laugh”
Comment – If you had read Bodenham (1600) you would know that Oxford’s works were published under the names of other people. Meres and Webbe tell us that he was writing plays in the 1580 and 90s. There is no evidence that Stratford-Shakspere was a writer of plays and poetry during his lifetime; or indeed anything, from the period 1593-1616, to suggest that `William Shakespeare’ on the quartos was not a pseudonym.

You write “5. The vast preponderance of the evidence points to William Shakespeare of Stratford writing the plays and Sonnets. No contradictions no contra indications. Chronology is perfect.”
Comment – This is incorrect. The `vast preponderance of the evidence’ from the lifetime of Stratford-Shakspere points to Shakespeare as a pseudonym used by the Earl of Oxford (see Willobie, Barnfield, Weever, Meres, Davis of Hereford etc etc). The `vast preponderance of the evidence’ for Stratford-Shakspere shows him only to be a wheeler-dealer unknown to those at the center of literary life. It is meaningless to add `chronology is perfect’ – what chronology are you talking about? Why is it `perfect’?

You write: “6. Anyone having anything to do with the theater, or writing plays, will tell you that the plays of Shakespeare were written by someone who spent his entire life in the world of the theater. Sir John Gielgud said that they must have been written by an actor after playing King Lear. Shakespeare joined the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, and stayed with them after they were renamed the King’s Men, until he retired about 1613. That is more than 20 years spent in the SAME TROUPE, unheard of in those times. Oxford was busy writing letters to the Queen for privilege to the tin mines.”
Comment – You change your mind from `entire life’ to `more than 20 years’ in one paragraph. The first record of Stratford-Shakspere’s having anything to do with the theatre relates to him as accountant-payee for the Chamberlain’s Men in 1595 and you say he retired `by 1613′. Hardly an `entire life’ let alone `more than 20 years’ is it? Oxford’s family connections with theatre are traceable to the late 15th century, and with his own players to as late as 1602. That really means an `entire life’ during which time Oxford was the patron of several theatrical troupes, friend of many of the leading playwrights, owner of a major public theatre, an actor and a writer who was highly commended by his contemporaries as a playwright, poet, and scholar. Playwrights can write letters about tin-mines and still be playwrights.

You write: “7. There is absolutely NO PROOF that William Shakespeare was a pen name for anybody. The hyphen is meaningless and simply a front for Dr. Waughman. [Dr. Richard Waugaman, a prominent Oxfordian.] It is his life’s work, poor man.”
Comment – Who is Dr Waughman? Do you mean me? The man from Stratford never used a hyphen in his name nor did any of his friends or family. A hyphenated name (`Shake-speare’) appears on 45% of the early quartos and in many of the contemporary allusions to the poet Shakespeare. This is a problem for Stratfordians as it implies a pen-name. Weever (1598) calls the author of Venus and Adonis `spurious’ – look it up.

You write: “8. Frances Mere’s note [Palladis Tamia, 1598] makes it plain that Oxford and Shakespeare were two different people. Oxford wrote comedies, and Shakespeare wrote comedies AND tragedies, histories and dramas. (Julius Caesar).”
Comment – Meres, a theologian and numerologist, reveals that William Shakespeare was a pseudonym used by Oxford in paragraph 34 of his `Comparative Discourse of our English Poets.’ Since you are not up to date with recent (or old) Oxfordian scholarship, you possibly have no idea what I am talking about – your loss. You might begin by asking yourself why (in paragraph 34) Meres compares 16 Classical playwrights to 17 English playwrights with Oxford at the top of the list, and try to work it all out from there.

You write: “9. After Oxford’s death, no one in his family came out and declared that “Daddy” was the writer of Shakespeare’s plays!!!! Why not? This should have happened!!!! Why this 400-year conspiracy to keep Oxford’s name off Shakespeare?”
Comment – as is well recorded Oxford died almost bankrupt and in social disgrace; also, he was lame – a bit like `Shake-speare’ who describes himself as `poor’, ‘lame’ and ‘despised’ in his sonnets. The First Folio was dedicated to Oxford’s son-in-law and, according to many, funded by the Herbert family. The prefatory pages are full of veiled allusions to Shakespeare’s identity as Oxford. After Stratford-Shakspere’s death no one in his family came out and declared “Daddy” was the writer. His family were functionally illiterate. Neither he nor his family, or any of his friends and acquaintances, ever said that he was a writer.

Your write: “10. How did Oxfraud pay Shakespeare? How much? More for comedies than tragedies, or vice versa? The guy didn’t work. How would he have money for the dowries of his 3 daughters?”
Comment – You are confused `Oxfraud’ is a group of Stratfordian internet lobbyists; they did not pay Shakespeare anything, though it is rumoured that they are funded by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, to support for the Stratford ideology. If you mean ‘Oxford’, he did not pay Shakespeare anything either, `Shakespeare’ was his literary pseudonym.

Your write: “11. Shakespeare is mentioned by several contemporaries as a writer of plays. Oxford is not, except by Meres. Shakespeare is mentioned as a writer of Sonnets.”
Comment. Shakespeare is a pseudonym and no one by that name is mentioned as a writer of plays until plays started appearing with that pseudonym upon their title pages, which was as late as 1598. The only sense in which Shakespeare is mentioned as a writer of plays is in the same sense that it is said `George Orwell wrote essays’. Stratford-Shakspere is not mentioned as a writer of Sonnets, all that Meres says is that the writer of plays `William Shakespeare’ also wrote sonnets. They appeared in print in 1609 as `SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS’ – hardly promising for Shax supporters.

Your write: “12. All of the plays are entered in the Station’s Register as the works of William Shakespeare. Now anyone can say that Shakespeare of Stratford did not really write the plays, that they were given to him by someone else. Only one thing is lacking. Any proof that this is true.”
Comment – Nonsense! not `all of the plays’ are entered into the Stationers’ Register as by Shakespeare or anything like all. The Stationers took no interest in authorship, they simply copied what was on the title pages of books they were registering – including, in the case of Shakespeare, `Yorkshire Tragedy,’ and they got that wrong! There isn’t a single example of play attributed to Shakespeare by the Stationers in which the same attribution is not given on corresponding title page.

You write: “13. Looking at Oxford’s poetry and Shakespeare’s Sonnets, it is easy to tell the difference. Shakespeare’s are far superior. They were not written by the same person.”
Comment – Need I remind you of your own argument? You wrote (point 3): “Subjective interpretation of the Sonnets and plays is inconsequential and invalid and unscholarly.” So I can’t see why you bothered to add this one.

You write: “14. Hemings and Condell said they were the ones who saw Shakespeare’s manuscripts. Shakespeare used the commoner’s Secretary hand; Oxford undoubtedly used the aristocrat’s Italian hand. It is easy to tell the difference. Hemings and Condell would have sniffed something fishy was going on.”
Comment – This point is too silly for words. Hemings and Condell never said that Shakespearte’s plays were written in secretary hand. You are starting to fabricate.

You write: “15. The plays in the Revels Account in 1604-1605, give credit to “Shaxberd” for writing Measure for Measure, Othello, Comedy of Errors, Merchant of Venice. There is no mention of “Shake-Speare”. It seems to be a terrible mispellilng of William Shakespeare’s last name.”
Comment – Arguments concerning the authenticity of this record are as old as its discovery. Let us assume it is genuine. The Revels Account lists Shakespeare plays performed at court in the season immediately following Oxford’s death and at the marriage of his daughter. Stratford-Shakspere does not appear to have been present for any of these performances but was quietly arranging his business in Warwickshire. Just because someone misspells a pseudonym does not mean that the name belongs to a real person whose name is commonly spelled in another way altogether.

You write: “16. In the First Folio, the name of William Shakespeare appears twice, on the same page. Once as the writer of the comedies, histories, and tragedies within, and once at the top of the list of players who performed the plays. No hyphen in either. So either there were two William Shakespeares in the same troupe, one an actor and one writer of plays, or they were the same person. I think most reasonable persons would believe the latter.”
Comment – you are clearly out of the loop about this page and all the Stratfordian commentary about the peculiarity of a second half-title. This page does not state that Stratford-Shakspere wrote the plays of the First Folio. The ‘actor’ and the playwright are clearly separated by a very pronounced and rigid black line. Turn back the pages and you will find a cornucopia of evidence telling you that `William Shakespeare’ the author is a pseudonym.

I believe Mr. Robbins replied to Mr. Waugh’s reply on the Amazon site.  If so, you can find that and further comments there.

Encore Returns of “Anonymous” and “Last Will. & Testament” to Arizona Film Festival

We are pleased to pass along the news that two films related tolast-will the Shakespeare Authorship Question, focusing on Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford as the true author of the plays, poems and sonnets, are making their “encore returns” to the Sedona International Film Festival:


Anonymous, the feature directed by Roland Emmerich, and Last Will. & Testament, the award-winning documentary produced and directed by Lisa Wilson and Laura (Wilson) Matthias, will each be shown on Tuesday and Wednesday of November 29 and 30 at the Mary D. Fisher Theatre in West Sedona, Arizona.



A Comment on “100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford”

I am grateful to all who submitted advance comments about 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford and, from time to time, will post one or two of them on this site. This one is from Linda Theil, editor of the Oberon Shakespeare Study Group weblog:

“I watched for several years as Hank Whittemore clearly, concisely, and completely enumumerated and elucidated the Oxfordian case for the Shakespeare authorship online at Hank Whittemore’s Shakespeare Blog. I eagerly awaited each essay as this clear and engaging writer explained the case for Edward de Vere as Shakespeare with indisputable data, and disarming charm. Whittemore’s masterwork is now available in print as 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford (Forever Press, 2016).

“The erudition and specificity of this amazing commentary makes Whittemore’s compilation of historical information about Oxford’s life and its relationship to the Shakespeare canon an indispensable trove of information on the authorship question. We now have an indisputable claimant for the answer to the question: What is the first book to read about the Shakespeare authorship question? Answer: Hank Whittemore’s 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford.”

The Table of Contents for “100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford”

I’d like to share the way in which the various elements have been organized for 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford:



Reason 1 – The Patron-Playwright

Reason 2 – The Allowed Fool

Reason 3 – The Director-Actor

Reason 4 – Performance in the Tiltyard


Reason 5 – Plays for the Court

Reason 6 – “Lights! Lights! Lights!”

Reason 7 – “The Courtier”

Reason 8 – “Hamlet’s Book” (Cardanus’ Comforte)

Reason 9 – The Polonius-Hamlet Family

Reason 10 – “These Few Precepts”

Reason 11 – “The Pirates”

Reason 12 – “The Kingdom of the Mind”

Reason 13 – “Hamlet’s Castle”

Reason 14 – “Beowulf” and Hamlet


Reason 15 – The Earl of Surrey

Reason 16 – Arthur Golding

Reason 17 – “Romeus and Juliet”

Reason 18 – Richard Edwards

Reason 19 – Oxford’s Geneva Bible

Reason 20 – The Gad’s Hill Caper


Reason 21 – Youthful Verse

Reason 22 – “Love Thy Choice”

Reason 23 – Hawks and Women

Reason 24 – “New Glory of Language” (Re: Castiglione)

Reason 25 – A Public Letter (Re: Cardanus’ Comforte)

Reason 26 – Private Letters


Reason 27 – Gabriel Harvey

Reason 28 – “A Pleasant Conceit of Vere”

Reason 29 – “The Art of Poetry”

Reason 30 – “Our Pleasant Willy”

Reason 31 – “One Whose Power Floweth Far”

Reason 32 – “Our De Vere”


Reason 33 – Shakespeare’s “Predecessors”

Reason 34 – John Lyly

Reason 35 – Antony Munday

Reason 36 – Thomas Watson

Reason 37 – A Diversity of Dedications

Reason 38 – A Depth of Dedications


Reason 39 – The College of Writers

Reason 40 – “The Famous Victories”

Reason 41 – “The Policy of Plays”

Reason 42 – The Queen’s Men

Reason 43 – The 1,000-Pound Grant

Reason 44 – The Tilbury Speech


Reason 45 – Shakespeare in Love … With Italy

Reason 46 – “Commedia dell’arte”

Reason 47 – Titian of Venice

Reason 48 – Portia’s House


Reason 49 – Christopher Marlowe


Reason 50 – Oxford in the Plays

Reason 51 – Elizabeth in the Plays


Reason 52 – Oxford in the Sonnets

Reason 53 – Oxford and Southampton


Reason 54 – The French Connection

Reason 55 – The Greek Connection

Reason 56 – Legal Knowledge

Reason 57 – Knowledge of Power

Reason 58 – Military Knowledge

Reason 59 – Medical Knowledge

Reason 60 – The Sea and Seamanship

Reason 61 – “Methinks I Have Astronomy”

Reason 62 – Knowledge of Music

Reason 63 – Horses and Horsemanship

Reason 64 – Knowledge of Heraldry

Reason 65 – Gardens and Gardening


Reason 66 – “Monsieur”

Reason 67 – Bottom’s Dream

Reason 68 – “The Two Gentlemen”

Reason 69 – Portia’s Suitors

Reason 70 – Philip Sidney

Reason 71 – “Cymbeline”


Reason 72 – “King John”

Reason 73 – Bertram and Oxford

Reason 74 – Suspicion and Jealousy

Reason 75 – The Bed Trick

Reason 76 – “Timon of Athens”

Reason 77 – Campion and “Twelfth Night”

Reason 78 – “The Winter’s Tale”

Reason 79 – “Troilus and Cressida”

Reason 80 – “Macbeth”

Reason 81 – “The Tempest”


Reason 82 – The Echo

Reason 83 – The Northwest Passage

Reason 84 – “Ever or Never”

Reason 85 – “Truth’s Authentic Author”

Reason 86 – “I Am That I Am”

Reason 87 – “The Quality of Mercy”

Reason 88 – “You Are Not Ipse”


Reason 89 – “Best for Comedy”

Reason 90 – The New Clown

Reason 91 – Dramatic Literature

Reason 92 – Printers and Publishers

Reason 93 – The “Shrew” Plays

Reason 94 – A Pivotal Year: 1604

Reason 95 – “Minerva Britanna”: 1612

Reason 96 – George Chapman: 1612

Reason 97 – The Two Henries: 1619

Reason 98 – “The Compleat Gentleman”: 1622

Reason 99 – Daughters and Dedications

Reason 100 – “The Record of a Wasted Genius”

POSTSCRIPT – A Man and His Life




Now Available on Amazon Books: “100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford” by Hank Whittemore

“We now have an indisputable claimant for the answer to the question: What is the first book to read about the Shakespeare authorship question? Answer: Hank Whittemore’s 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford.– Linda Theil, editor of the Oberon Shakespeare Study Group Weblog 

Amazon Page for “100 Reasons Shakespeare was the Earl of Oxford”


“Written with wit, humor, erudition and the instincts of a real working actor … Bristles with humanity … A truly original approach … Well worth the attention of academics and non-academics alike.” Don Rubin, editor of The World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre and former chair of the Department of Theatre at York University, Toronto.

“An exceptionally lucid and thorough exploration of the arguments supporting the controversial theory that the true Shakespeare was the Earl of Oxford. Masterfully organized.” – Roger Stritmatter, associate Professor of Humanities at Coppin State University.

“If Stratfordians could assemble even a handful of arguments this powerful and this persuasive, they’d say, ‘Game over. We’ve proved our case.’” – Mark Anderson, author of “Shakespeare” by Another Name.

“Unlocks the door to a rich garden of truth about William Shakespeare from whence no serious lover of his poems and plays will ever wish to return.” – Alexander Waugh, author, scholar, Chairman of the De Vere Society, President of the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition.

“Whittemore has compiled the reasons why Oxford wrote the Shakespeare canon in the most comprehensive and articulate way possible.  I’ve learned things I didn’t know even after decades of research in the Shakespeare Authorship Question, and it clarified some things I thought I knew.”  — Bonner Cutting, author of “Shakespeare’s Will: Missing the Mind of Shakespeare”

“Read this book before you decide who wrote Shakespeare … We’ve all been sold a defective Avon product, folks. It’s time to return it for a full refund!” – Richard M. Waugaman, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Georgetown University School of Medicine.

 Available now on


Forever Press (

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

Due Soon at

Due Soon at

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

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


Reason 49 – Christopher Marlowe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The noble Earl of Oxford then High Chamberlain of England

Rode right before Her Majesty his bonnet in his hand…

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

There by the Bishop of Salisbury a sermon preached was;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oxford had returned.


Everyone and Someone

“There was no one in him; behind his face (which even in the poor paintings of the period is unlike any other) and his words, which were copious, imaginative, and emotional, there was nothing but a…

Source: Everyone and Someone

Published in: Uncategorized on October 2, 2016 at 4:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

“Form is the Shape of the Content” — Ben Shahn

“The Shape of Content”(Charles Eliot Norton Lectures, 1956-57) by artist Ben Shahn was an important book in my life — if only because I took away just one little piece of wisdom, the answer to the question, What is form?  The form of something is, to put it simply, the shape of its content.  And the example I recall is … a tree … an individual tree … different from any other tree, taking the form of its own special, inner content … and what I took away was to not worry about the outer form of what I am writing, but, instead, to let the subject matter — the content — take its unique shape and become whatever it wants and demands to become.

So I have decided to get another copy of the book and will report back from its pages.  Meanwhile, one of the customers who reviewed it on Amazon has generously given us this excerpt … some of Shahn’s advice to artists on their education:ben-shahn

“Attend a university if you possibly can. There is no content of knowledge that is not pertinent to the work you will want to do. But before you attend a university work at something for a while. Do anything. Get a job in a potato field; or work as a grease-monkey in an auto repair shop. But if you do work in a field do not fail to observe the look and the feel of earth and of all things that you handle — yes, even potatoes! Or, in the auto shop, the smell of oil and grease and burning rubber. Paint of course, but if you have to lay aside painting for a time, continue to draw. Listen well to all conversations and be instructed by them and take all seriousness seriously. Never look down upon anything or anyone as not worthy of notice. In college or out of college, read. And form opinions! Read Sophocles and Euripides and Dante and Proust. Read everything that you can find about art except the reviews. Read the Bible; read Hume; read Pogo. Read all kinds of poetry and know many poets and many artists. Go to an art school, or two, or three, or take art courses at night if necessary. And paint and paint and draw and draw. Know all that you can, both curricular and non-curricular — mathematics and physics and economics, logic and particularly history. Know at least two languages besides your own, but anyway, know French. Look at pictures and more pictures. Look at every kind of visual symbol, every kind of emblem; do not spurn signboards of furniture drawings of this style of art or that style of art. Do not be afraid to like paintings honestly or to dislike them honestly, but if you do dislike them retain an open mind. Do not dismiss any school of art, not the Pre-Raphaelites nor the Hudson River School nor the German Genre painters. Talk and talk and sit at cafés, and listen to everything, to Brahms, to Brubeck, to the Italian hour on the radio. Listen to preachers in small town churches and in big city churches. Listen to politicians in New England town meetings and to rabble-rousers in Alabama. Even draw them. And remember that you are trying to learn to think what you want to think, that you are trying to co-ordinate mind and hand and eye. Go to all sorts of museums and galleries and to the studios of artists. Go to Paris and Madrid and Rome and Ravenna and Padua. Stand alone in Sainte Chapelle, in the Sistine Chapel, in the Church of the Carmine in Florence. Draw and draw and paint and learn to work in many media; try lithography and aquatint and silk-screen. Know all that you can about art, and by all means have opinions. Never be afraid to become embroiled in art or life or politics; never be afraid to learn to draw or paint better than you already do; and never be afraid to undertake any kind of art at all, however exalted or however common, but do it with distinction.”
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