The Love and Knowledge of Music: Re-posting No. 37 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford

How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!

Here will we sit and let the sounds of music

Creep in our ears.  Soft stillness and the night

Become the touches of sweet harmony…

Only a writer with music flowing in his veins would give Lorenzo these famous lines to Jessica in The Merchant of Venice (5.1). Music is pervasive in Shakespeare’s works; some 170 passages include the words “music” or “musical” or “musician.” He continues:

Sit, Jessica. Look how the floor of heaven

Is thick inlaid with patens of bright gold!

There’s not the smallest orb which thou behold’st

But in his motion like an angel sings,

Still choiring to the young-eyed cherubins.

Such harmony is in immortal souls…

Shakespeare uses “sing” in various forms no less than 247 times.  Some forty passages deal with musical instruments. Lorenzo continues:

[Enter Musicians]

Come, ho, and wake Diana with a hymn!

With sweetest touches pierce your mistress’ ear

And draw her home with music…

He includes or alludes to the texts of well over a hundred songs.  In addition to the numerous stage directions for music and sound effects, his dramatic and poetical work is permeated by specific references to more than 300 musical terms. And more in the same speech of Lorenzo in The Merchant:

[Play Music]

The man that hath no music in himself

Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds

Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils:

The motions of his spirit are dull as night

And his affections dark as Erebus.

Let no such man be trusted.  Mark the music!

De Vere was associated with music from his teenage years at Cambridge and Oxford, before arriving at court in 1571 and quickly gaining the highest favor of Queen Elizabeth, becoming her dance partner and apparently performing for her on the lute and the virginals. Early on he had become associated with Richard Edwards, Master of the Children of the Chapel Royal, who is credited with compiling The Paradise of DaintyDevices (1576), which includes at least eight of Oxford’s early poems that appear to be song lyrics. He also maintained a company of adult actors and one of choir boys, who sang as well as performed stage works, and records of the 1580’s indicate he patronized a traveling company known as The Earl of Oxford’s Musicians.

Oxford was the patron of John Farmer, the celebrated madrigalist, and from about 1572 onward he was involved in musical activities at court with the composer William Byrd, one of the greatest musicians England has produced. It appears he was Byrd’s patron as well. The earl’s own accomplishments in the field were praised by professional musicians.

In Shakespeare’s England (1916), W. Barclay Squire reports that Shakespeare “is far in advance of his contemporaries” in terms of musical references, although his education in that field, “wherever it was acquired,” had been “strictly on the lines of the polyphonic school” — a musical teaching that all parts of a composition must fit equally into the whole, as expressed in Richard II (5.5.):

Music, do I hear?

Ha, ha!  Keep time.  How sour sweet music is

When time is broke and no proportion kept!

Such a passage “cannot be understood without some knowledge of the elaborate system of proportions inherited by Elizabethan composers from the earlier English school,” Squire observes. He adds it is “remarkable that the musical terms of the plays should be so consistently those of the old school of polyphony.”  Why is that remarkable?  Because, during the last half of the 1590s, a new style of musical arrangement replaced the old one, yet the great dramatist was apparently unaware of it. “This change dates from about the year 1597,” Squire writes, unable to conceal his bafflement, “yet in all the plays which Shakespeare produced from then [on], no allusion to the ‘new music’ can be discovered.”

This would be baffling indeed if the author had actually been Shakspere, who, within the traditional time frame, still had the best of his career in front of him. In that case he surely would have incorporated the “new school” of music into his plays.  But in the Oxfordian view, de Vere had finished writing the early versions of all his plays by 1589, which easily explains why “Shakespeare” failed to embrace a musical revolution that began almost a decade later. It would be natural that the best writer of that age, who seemed to know everything about music, would have known and worked with the best composer of the same age. And the evidence shows exactly that, although not in the way that orthodox history would have it.

[To be continued with Part Two]

[This post, reflecting the work of editor Alex McNeil and other help from Brian Bechtold, has become No. 62 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford]

Anthony Munday: No. 27 of 100 Reasons Why Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford (as it now appears in the book)

Anthony Munday was an actor-printer-writer-translator and anti-Catholic spy who signed himself “Servant to the Right Honourable  the Earl of Oxenford.”  Oscar James Campbell is one of many traditional Shakespeare scholars who note the following points of interest about this writer of whom Oxford was the patron:

Shakespeare contributed an addition to the play Sir Thomas More (1592), the first draft of which had been written by Munday.

Shakespeare found incidents and ideas for A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1594) from Munday’s play John a Kent.

Shakespeare wrote parts of  The Merchant of Venice (1596) by drawing upon Munday’s long prose romance Zelanto, or The Fountain of Fame.

Shakespeare got his general plot outline for Much Ado About Nothing (1598) from Fedele and Fortunio, an Italian play adapted by Munday.

Shakespeare received inspiration for the idyllic green world of the forest in As You Like It (1599) from a play about Robin Hood by Munday.

In the traditional view it appears that during the 1590s the Bard grabbed stuff from Munday whenever he wanted; the reality, I suggest, was the other way around. Munday was one of many writers who served as secretaries to Oxford during the 1570s and 1580s and benefited from his reckless generosity (Oxford provided money, work space, inspiration and instruction) as they developed the English renaissance of literature and drama. I suggest that in the next decade Oxford adopted plots and characters that he himself had originated and had shared with Munday and other writers under his wing.

Edward de Vere

The son of a London draper, Munday had been an actor, most likely in Oxford’s boy company and then in his adult troupe. In 1576 he became an apprentice to John Allde, the stationer whose son, Edward Allde, would later print several Shakespeare quartos. Two years later Munday journeyed to Rome “to see strange countries and learn foreign languages,” as he recalls in English Romayne Lyfe (1582), but Campbell and others state he was actually a spy sent to report on the English Jesuit College in Rome. He returned to England by 1579, when he “may have become an actor again, with the Earl of Oxford’s company,” and that year he published The Mirror of Mutability, dedicating it to his patron and including the following poem to him:

E xcept I should in friendship seem ingrate,

D enying duty, whereto I am bound;

W ith letting slip your Honour’s worthy state,

A t all assays, which I have noble found.

R ight well I might refrain to handle pen:

D enouncing aye the company of men.

 

D own, dire despair, let courage come in place,

E xalt his fame whom Honour doth embrace

 

V irtue hath aye adorn’d your valiant heart,

E xampl’d by your deeds of lasting fame:

R egarding such as take God Mars his part

E ach where by proof, in honour and in name.

 

Munday referred to Oxford’s “courteous and gentle perusing” of his writings. As B.M. Ward notes, the earl was “no ordinary patron,” since he was “willing to give both his time and attention to manuscripts submitted to him, and could be relied on to make suggestions and offer advice.” Oxford and his Euphuists aimed to refine and enrich the English language, believing in the magic of words and the power of imagery, while Philip Sidney and the Romanticists wanted to retail old stories of knighthood to make them more accessible.

Philip Sidney

In 1580 Munday dedicated his novel Zelato, The Fountain of Fame to de Vere (“By A.M., Servant to the Right Honourable the Earle of Oxenford”), praising “the rare virtues of your noble mind” and declaring that “among all the brave books which have been bestowed [upon you], these my little labours contain so much faithful zeal to your welfare as [all] others whatsoever.” He also wrote that the book was “Given for a friendly entertainment to Euphues” — revealing, in effect, that the character of Euphues stood for Oxford himself.

Munday was one of the chief witnesses against Edmund Campion, the Jesuit priest who was hanged, drawn and quartered on December 1, 1581; part of Munday’s savage tract A Discoverie of Edmund Campion and his Confederates was read aloud from the scaffold at Tyrburn. His political services against Catholics were rewarded in 1584, when he received the post of Messenger of Her Majesty’s Chamber.

In his 1588 dedication of Palmerin d’Olivia, Pt. 2, a translation, Munday spoke of Oxford’s “special knowledge” of foreign languages and referred to his “precious virtues, which makes him generally beloved” and of “mine only duty, which nothing but death can discharge.” (Only the 1616 reprint containing this information is extant.) Oxford died in 1604, but Munday would never forget his master; in 1619 he dedicated all three parts of a new edition of his Primaleon of Greece to Oxford’s son Henry de Vere, 18th Earl of Oxford, and spoke of “having served that noble Earl your father of famous and desertful memory” and of “your honourable father’s matchless virtues.”

[This post is now Reason 35 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford.]

The Italian Connection – Reposting No. 24 of 100 Reasons Why Edward de Vere was Shake-speare

When the case for Edward de Vere as “Shakespeare” finally gains popular acceptance, not the least reason will be the overwhelming evidence that the author (no matter who he was) had traveled in Italy and must have lived in Venice for a time. Such was the experience of twenty-five-year-old Oxford in 1575, when he was welcomed in one place after another as an illustrious dignity from the English court — a young, high-born nobleman absorbing this land and its people and the Italian renaissance.

In fact, it was a play set in Italy that inspired Thomas Looney’s search for “Shakespeare,” as he wrote in 1920:

“For several years in succession I had been called upon to go through repeated courses of reading in one particular play of Shakespeare’s, namely The Merchant of Venice. This long continued familiarity with the contents of one play induced a peculiar sense of intimacy with the mind and disposition of its author and his outlook upon life. The personality which seemed to run through the pages of the drama I felt to be altogether out of relationship with what was taught of the reputed author and the ascertained facts of his career.”

He continues:

“For example, the Stratford Shakespeare was untraveled, having moved from his native place to London when a young man, and then as a successful middle-aged man of business he had returned to Stratford to attend to his lands and houses. This particular play on the contrary bespeaks a writer who knew Italy at first hand and was touched with the life and spirit of the country. Again the play suggested an author with no great respect for money and business methods, but rather one to whom material possessions would be in the nature of an encumbrance to be easily and lightly disposed of: at any rate one who was by no means of an acquisitive disposition.”

Now, nearly a century later, another book, The Shakespeare Guide to Italy by Richard Paul Roe (2012), is finally breaking down the rigid walls of Stratfordian tradition as readers demand better explanations. Roe died in 2010 at eighty-eight, having spent the last quarter-century of his life traveling the length and breadth of Italy on what the publisher aptly describes as “a literary quest of unparalleled significance.”

Here is a beautiful paragraph from Roe, speaking of “Shakespeare” in relation to Venice and The Merchant:

“In the latter part of the sixteenth century, the gifted English playwright arrived in the beating heart of this Venetian empire: the legendary city of Venice. He moved about noting its structured society, its centuries-old government of laws, its traditions, its culture, and its disciplines. He carefully considered and investigated its engines of banking and commerce. He explored its harbors and canals, and its streets and squares. He saw the flash of its pageants, its parties and celebrations; and he looked deeply into the Venetian soul. Then, with a skill that has never been equaled, he wrote a story that has a happy ending for all its characters save one, about whom a grief endures and always will: a deathless tragedy.”

If Roe’s description of the dramatist’s activities is at all accurate, how can the authorship continue to be attributed to William of Stratford?

When de Vere traveled through Italy during 1575, he and his retinue skirted Spanish-controlled Milan before navigating by canal and a network of rivers on a 120-mile journey to Verona.  His travels took him to Padua, Venice, Mantua, Pisa, Florence, Siena, Naples, Florence, Messina, Palermo and elsewhere, with his home base in Venice.

Aside from three stage works set in ancient Rome (Corianlanus, Titus Andronicus and Julius Caesar), ten of Shakespeare’s fictional plays are set in whole or in part in Italy: Romeo and Juliet, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Taming of the Shrew, The Merchant of Venice, Othello, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, All’s Well That Ends Well (also France), Much Ado About Nothing, The Winter’s Tale and The Tempest (which opens aboard a ship in the Mediterranean between North Africa and Italy).

Only one play of fiction (The Merry Wives of Windsor) is set in England — an astounding ten-to-one ratio!  Why?  The logical answer is that “Shakespeare” (whoever he was) must have fallen in love with Italy.  It would be pretty hard to fall in love with a country without ever visiting it!

Oxfordians believe that de Vere “brought the European Renaissance back to England” when he returned in 1576 after fifteen months of travel through France, Germany and, most extensively, Italy.  He became the quintessential “Italianate Englishman,” wearing “new-fangled” clothes* of the latest styles. He brought richly embroidered, perfumed gloves for Queen Elizabeth, who delighted in them. Such gloves became all the rage among the great ladies of the time; and, for example, he brought back his perfumed leather jerkin (a close-fitting, sleeveless jacket) and “sweet bags” with costly washes and perfumes.

Soon enough John Lyly, who was Oxford’s personal secretary and stage manager, issued two novels about an Italian traveler: Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit (1578) and Euphues and his England (1580), the latter dedicated to de Vere, who apparently supervised the writing of both books.  Together they are said to comprise “the first English novel” and in the following decade “Shakespeare” would demonstrate Lyly’s influence upon his plays.

“There is a secret Italy hidden in the plays of Shakespeare,” Roe begins the introduction to his groundbreaking book.   “It is an ingeniously-described Italy that has neither been recognized, nor even suspected – not in four hundred years – save by a curious few.  It is exact; it is detailed; and it is brilliant.” The descriptions of Italy in the plays are in “challenging detail” and “nearly all their locations” can be found to this day.  Whoever wrote them “had a personal interest in that country equal to the interest in his own.”  The places and things in Italy which Shakespeare alludes to or describes “reveal themselves to be singularly unique to that one country.”  His familiarity with Italy’s sites and sights – “specific details, history, geography, unique cultural aspects, places and things, practices and propensities” and so on – “is, quite simply, astonishing.”

Roe never mentions Oxford; instead he takes us right away to Verona, the setting for Romeo and Juliet, and recounts making one trip to search for … sycamore!  Roe went to find sycamore trees, which would have to be located in one specific spot, “just outside the western wall” as “remnants of a grove that had flourished in that one place for centuries.” The trees are described in the very opening scene –

Where, underneath the grove of sycamore

That westward rooteth from the city’s side…

There are no sycamore trees in any of the known source materials for the play; they were deliberately put in by the great author himself. So Roe, our intrepid detective-explorer, arrives in the old city of Verona: “My driver took me across the city, then to its edge on the Viale Cristoforo Colombo.  Turning south onto the Viale Colonnello Galliano, he began to slow.  This was the boulevard where, long before and rushing to the airport at Milan, I had glimpsed trees, but had no idea what kind.” His car creeps along the Viale and comes to a halt.  Are there sycamores at the very same spot where “Shakespeare” said they were?  Did this playwright, who is said to be ignorant of Italy, know this “unnoted and unimportant but literal truth” about Verona?  Had he deliberately “dropped an odd little stone about a real grove of trees into the pool of his powerful drama”?

Yes, he did!

“No one has ever thought that the English genius who wrote the play could have been telling the truth: that there were such trees, growing exactly where he said in Verona,” writes Roe, whose discoveries all demonstrate Shakespeare’s depth of knowledge and personal experience of Italy. They comprise yet another solid reason to conclude that Oxford was the great poet-dramatist.”

(This post has become no. 45 in 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford. Thanks to editor Alex McNeil for some extra help on this one.)

 

Re-Posting No. 18 of 100 Reasons Why Shake-speare was Edward, Earl of Oxford: “Minerva Britanna” by Henry Peacham: “By the Mind I shall be Seen”

“Minerva Britanna” by Henry Peacham, Master of Arts (1612) – “Or a Garden of Heroical Devices, furnished, and adorned with Emblems and Impresa’s of sundry natures, Newly devised, moralized, and published.”

If there’s a single Elizabethan or Jacobean picture that cries out “Secret author,” it appears on the title page of Minerva Britanna by Henry Peacham, a book of original emblems (accompanied by his own verses) published in London in 1612. Shown on the front is the proscenium arch of a theater, with the curtain drawn back so we can see the right hand and arm of a writer using a quill pen to complete a Latin inscription:

MENTE.VIDEBORI (“By the Mind I shall be Seen”): The suggestion is that the author, who is behind the curtain, must remain hidden.

In 1937, Eva Turner Clark argued that the phrase MENTE.VIDEBORI is a Latin anagram of TIBI NOM. DE VERE or “The Identity of this Author is  De Vere.”

A closer look reveals that the “dot” in the inscription has been placed directly between the “E” and the “V” to create E.V., the initials of Edward Vere.

Oxford’s death date is recorded as 24 June 1604, the same year the authorized, full-length version of Hamlet was first published, after which no new “authorized” Shakespeare plays were printed for nineteen years.

In 1622, just one year before the publication of the First Folio, Peacham published a treatise entitled The Compleat Gentleman, in which he looks back at the Elizabethan reign as a “golden age” that produced poets “whose like are hardly to be hoped for in any succeeding age.”  He lists those “who honored Poesie [poetry] with their pens and practice” in this order:

“Edward Earle of Oxford, the Lord Buckhurst, Henry Lord Paget, the noble Sir Philip Sidney, M. Edward Dyer, M. Edmund Spenser, Master Samuel Daniel, with sundry others…” Curiously, he does not list “Shakespeare.”

Peacham (1576?-1644?), a graduate of Cambridge, had been interested in the theatrical world early on; a surviving sketch of a scene of Titus Andronicus, thought to have been made in 1595, was signed “Henricus Peacham.” He would have been a teenager when he drew the sketch.  In the scene, Queen Tamora is pleading for the lives of her two sons while Aaron the Moor gestures with his sword.

A sketch of a scene of “Titus Andronicus” in 1595, apparently by Peacham when he was seventeen 

Oxford’s arms with the blue boar on top

At age twenty-five in 1603, Peacham became a schoolmaster at Kimbolton Grammar School; his Minerva (“Or a Garden of Heroical Devises, furnished and adorned with Emblems and Impresa of sundry natures”) contains 206 emblems, each accompanied by a pair of six-line stanzas. Roger Stritmatter reports that it “has long been considered the most sophisticated exemplar of the emblem book tradition ever published in England.”

One of the emblems in Minerva shows a boar, which plays a crucial role in Ovid’s story of Venus and Adonis as well as in the one by “Shakespeare” published in 1593. The boar was also Oxford’s heraldic symbol. Below the emblem, Peacham writes:

One of the Emblems of “Minerva Britanna” — about “Venus and Adonis” featuring the Boar

I much did muse why Venus could not brook

The savage Boar and Lion cruel fierce,

Since Kings and Princes have such pleasure took

In hunting: ‘cause a Boar did pierce

Her Adon fair, who better liked the sport,

Then spends his days in wanton pleasure’s court.

Which fiction though devised by Poet’s brain,

It signifies unto the Reader this:

Such exercise Love will not entertain,

Who liketh best, to live in Idleness:

The foe to virtue, Canker of the Wit,

That brings a thousand miseries with it.

The line “Who liketh best to live in Idleness” is a direct reflection of what Oxford had written in 1576:

That never am less idle lo, than when I am alone *

Clearly Peacham was well aware, even in 1612, of an authorship mystery involving the poet of Venus and Adonis. With his emblem containing the boar symbol of the Vere earldom and those lines underneath it, he brought together “Shakespeare” and Oxford on the same page, providing the solution for all to see.

  • In The Paradise of Dainty Devices, 1576

(This blog post, with the invaluable help of editor Alex McNeil, has become No. 95 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford.)

Re-Posting No. 17 of “100 Reasons” why Oxford wrote the Shakespeare Works: Edward de Vere witnessed a real-life scene like the turning point of “Hamlet”

When Edward de Vere was barely into his teens, he witnessed a real-life event that was virtually the same as the one “Shakespeare” would create many years later for the dramatic turning point of Hamlet when the Prince puts on a play to “catch the conscience of the King.”

Oxford was 14 on Queen Elizabeth’s royal progress to Cambridge in 1564, the year she had hired a coach builder from the Netherlands (Gullian Boonen) who introduced the “spring suspension” to England

At fourteen, Oxford was on the 1564 summer progress when Queen Elizabeth paid her historic visit to Cambridge University for five thrilling days and nights.

Chancellor William Cecil (later Lord Burghley) was in charge while his arch political enemy, High Steward Robert Dudley (later the Earl of Leicester), acted as master of ceremonies.

Hamlet puts on a play to “catch the conscience of the King.”

Although in his early teens, Oxford was a well-tutored scholar whose Renaissance outlook had drawn him to literature and history among a myriad of fields, and Elizabeth, thirty-one, had displayed her own Renaissance spirit and love for learning when she and her retinue entered Cambridge that summer. The chapel of King’s College had been transformed into a “great stage” and she spent three of the five nights feasting on “comedies and tragedies.”

Elizabeth was set to leave on Thursday, 10 August, for a ten-mile ride to the home of Sir Henry Cromwell at Hinchingbrooke, where she was to spend the night, and her Majesty was eager to get going.

Hinchinbrooke House, where Elizabeth I of England stayed the night after the Cambridge visit in August 1564

According to Guzman de Silva, the Spanish ambassador, Elizabeth made a speech praising all the plays or “comedies” and disputations, but some of the anti-Catholic students “wished to give her another representation, which she refused in order to be no longer delayed.” The students were so anxious for her to hear their play, however, that they “followed her [to Hinchingbrooke] and so importuned her that at last she consented.” That evening, in a courtyard, an exhausted queen gathered with members of her court by torchlight for the student production.

It turned out to be a distasteful burlesque intended to mock those Catholic leaders who were then imprisoned in the Tower of London. The university atmosphere had become charged with the rapidly developing Protestant radicalism known as the Puritan movement. But the queen and Cecil were ending hostilities with France while trying to maintain good relations with Catholic Spain, so Elizabeth was in no mood for anti-Papal displays that de Silva would (and did) report back to King Philip:

“The actors came in dressed as some of the imprisoned bishops.  First came the Bishop of London carrying a lamb in his hands as if he were eating it as he walked along, and then others with devices, one being in the figure of a dog with the Host in his mouth … The Queen was so angry that she at once entered her chamber, using strong language; and the men who held the torches, it being night, left them in the dark…”

Queen Elizabeth I attends a play at one of her palaces

Imagine how this scene must have struck young Oxford!  Here was vivid proof that a dramatic representation could directly alter the emotions of the monarch; here was spontaneous evidence of the power of a play to affect Elizabeth’s attitude and even her decisions.

Her Majesty swept away using “strong language” as the torchbearers followed, leaving all “in the dark,” and the author of Hamlet would write:

Ophelia: The King rises.

Hamlet: What, frighted with false fire?

Gertrude: How fares my lord?  (to King Claudius)

Polonius: Give o’er the play!

King: Give me some light!  Away!

All: Lights, lights, lights!

Did the mature dramatist “Shakespeare” later recall this event when he came to write the “Mousetrap” scene of Hamlet, setting it at night with the King’s guards carrying torches?  When, in 1564, the queen rose in anger and rushed off, did chief minister Cecil call to stop the burlesque, as chief minister Polonius would do in Hamlet?  Did Elizabeth call for light as Claudius does in the play?

Re-Posting No. 8 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford: Gabriel Harvey’s Address to the Court

In July of 1578. the Cambridge scholar Gabriel Harvey composed a Latin address to the Court during Queen Elizabeth’s visit to the university. Within the printed address to Edward de Vere, which he may or may not have delivered orally, was a statement translated by B.M. Ward in 1928 as “Thy countenance shakes a spear!”  

(Defenders of the Stratfordian faith might want to counter with a less “Shakespearean”-sounding translation, such as: “Your facial expression brandishes a long wooden shaft with a sharp-pointed head!”)

A Representation of Gabriel Harvey (left) and his literary “enemy” Thomas Nashe

Oxford had met Harvey a decade or so earlier.  The earl had been “in the prime of his gallantest youth” when he had “bestowed Angels [funds] upon me in Christ’s College in Cambridge,” Harvey recalled in writing, “and otherwise vouchsafed me many gracious favors.”

“It is evident that a genuine friendship between the Earl and Harvey sprang up as a result of their early acquaintance,” Ward writes, “and it is equally evident that literature must have been the common ground on which they met. “

Gabriel Harvey was quite a character.  His role is complicated, but I suggest he’s a key to the whole Oxford-Shakespeare story. I think Harvey understood from the get-go that de Vere was a literary genius; that from those early Cambridge days onward, he was obsessed with Oxford; and that, when “Shakespeare” appeared on the dedication of Venus and Adonis to the Earl of Southampton in 1593, he knew very well it was Oxford using a pen name.  I believe the two men (who were about the same age) worked together behind the scenes, in ways that have yet to become clear…

Harvey’s address was printed in “Gratulationis Valdinensis Liber Quartus” (The Fourth Book of Walden Rejoicing) in September 1578

Elizabeth was accompanied at Audley End by the whole Court including Oxford as Lord Great Chamberlain, William Cecil Lord Burghley, Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester, Sir Christopher Hatton and Sir Philip Sidney.  Harvey delivered a Latin speech to each of these courtiers, but his address to Oxford was startling when, for example, he urged him to “throw away the insignificant pen” and honor his noble heritage by becoming a military leader in preparations for the inevitable war against Spain  (which became official in 1584).

“O great-hearted one, strong in thy mind and thy fiery will, thou wilt conquer thyself, thou wilt conquer others; thy glory will spread out in all directions beyond the Arctic Ocean; and England will put thee to the test and prove thee to be a native-born Achilles.

“Do thou but go forward boldly and without hesitation: Mars will obey thee, Hermes will be thy messenger, Pallas striking her shield with her spear shaft will attend thee, thine own breast and courageous heart will instruct thee.

“For a long time past Phoebus Apollo has cultivated thy mind in the arts!

“English poetical measures have been sung by thee long enough!

“Let that Courtly Epistle – more polished even than the writings of Castiglione himself – witness how greatly thou dost excel in letters. *

“I have seen many Latin verses of thine, yea, even more English verses are extant; thou hast drunk deep draughts not only of the Muses of France and Italy, but has learned the manners of many men, and the arts of foreign countries.

 

“It was not for nothing that Sturmius himself was visited by thee; neither in France, Italy, nor Germany are any such cultivated and polished men.

“O thou hero worthy of renown, throw away the insignificant pen, throw away the bloodless books, and writings that serve no useful purpose; now must the sword be brought into play, now is the time for thee to sharpen the spear and to handle great engines of war…

“In thy breast is noble blood, Courage animates thy brow, Mars lives in thy tongue, Minerva strengthens thy right hand, Bellona reigns in thy body, within thee burns the fire of Mars.

“Thine eyes flash fire, thy countenance shakes a spear; who would not swear that Achilles had come to life again?” **

Ward observed that Harvey was revealing the indisputable fact that de Vere “was well known to have written a great number of poems both in Latin and English, the majority in the latter tongue.”  The amount of his known poetry by then, however, “is quite incompatible with Harvey’s description of the Earl’s poetical output.  It is therefore evident that he must have been privileged to read Oxford’s poems in manuscript – a privilege that must also have been extended to others in the Court, because Harvey makes no secret of their existence in his open address. These facts are important and confirm what we are told by other and no less credible witnesses than Harvey that Lord Oxford stood supreme among his contemporary poets and dramatists.”

[Here’s a thought, which I insert here in this current post: If what Ward suggests is the case, that members of the Court already knew his large output of poetry by this time, many having read the verses, is there any doubt that Court members in 1593 knew very well that “Shakespeare” was none other than Oxford? My view is that the “authorship” of Shakespearean works was no “question” for the Queen, Burghley and others at the royal court, from the moment Venus and Adonis was published in that year.)

Achilles, Greek hero of the Trojan War

If we had put forth the hypothesis that the author was Edward de Vere using a pen name, imagine then coming upon this public address to him back in 1578 and ask: Given that we are talking about the greatest writer of the English language, isn’t Harvey’s description of Oxford exactly what we should expect to find?

  • Harvey is referring to Oxford’s elegant preface “To the Reader” of Bartholomew Clerke’s translation of The Courtier from Italian to Latin in 1571.

**   Check out Professor Michael Delahoyde’s comparison of Harvey’s description of Oxford as Achilles to this passage in Lucrece (1594) by “Shakespeare”:

For much imaginary work was there,

Conceit deceitful, so compact, so kind,

That for Achilles’ image stood his spear,

Grip’d in an armed hand, himself behind

Was left unseen, save to the eye of mind…

[Note: This post is the basis for No. 27 in 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford ]

Re-Posting Reason 7: Oxford Wrote One of the First “Shakespearean” Sonnets of the Elizabethan Reign

Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1517-1547) – Beheaded a few years before Oxford, his nephew, was born; as a poet he introduced the “Shakespearean” sonnet into England and Oxford followed suit soon after becoming a courtier at twenty-one in 157

Poetry was part of Edward de Vere’s family heritage.  He was a boy when the lyrical verses of his late uncle the Earl of Surrey were published, and among them were the first English sonnets in the form to become known much later as the “Shakespearean” form.

Soon after Oxford turned twenty-one in 1571 and began his steep rise in the royal favor, he himself composed one of the first sonnets in that form during the Elizabethan reign.

Oxford’s sonnet consisted of a series of questions to himself about the one who was the center of his universe. The answer to each rhetorical question was Elizabeth, who — “above the rest in Court” — was the one who gave him royal “grace.”   (Only a monarch could give grace.)  All his loyal devotion was directed to his sovereign mistress.

The words and themes of this early work will reappear in the more mature verses published in 1609, five years after Oxford’s death, entitled SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS.

We’ll take a look at a few of these parallels, but, first, his Shakespearean sonnet:

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

Who taught thy tongue the woeful words of plaint?

Who filled your eyes with tears of bitter smart?

Who gave thee grief and made thy joys to faint?

Who first did paint with colors pale thy face?

Who first did break thy sleeps of quiet rest?

Above the rest in Court who gave thee grace?

Who made thee strive in honor to be best?

In constant truth to bide so firm and sure,

To scorn the world regarding but thy friends?

With patient mind each passion to endure,

In one desire to settle to the end?

Love then thy choice wherein such choice thou bind,

As nought but death may ever change thy mind.

The Shakespearean sonnet form using Sonnet 129 as an example

The opening line – “Who taught thee first to sigh alas, my heart” – will be echoed decades later by “Shakespeare” in Sonnet 150: “Who taught thee how to make me love thee more.”

Oxford’s phrase “Above the rest” in the second quatrain will be repeated in Sonnet 91: “Wherein it finds a joy above the rest.”

His theme in the first line of the third quatrain – “In constant truth to bide so firm and sure” – will find similar expression by “Shakespeare” in Sonnet 152:

“Oaths of thy love, thy truth, thy constancy.”

Queen Elizabeth I circa 1565-1570, when she was age 32-37

It’s fitting that Oxford’s sonnet to and about Elizabeth is echoed so strongly in the later Dark Lady Series of the Shakespeare sonnets (127-152), given the premise of The Monument that the “dark lady” is the Queen herself – not, I should add, because of any dark physical coloring but because of her “dark” or negative attitude and actions toward the “fair youth,” Henry Wriothesley third earl of Southampton.

[This circumstantial evidence was originally posted here more than six years ago; now a slightly expanded and edited version appears as No. 22 in 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford (October 2016)].

Re-posting No. 4 of 100 Reasons “Shake-speare” was Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford: From the Royal Court He Proclaimed a “New Glory of Language”

This reason for concluding that Oxford was “Shakespeare” involves the actual language and contents of the eloquent Latin preface he contributed to Bartholomew Clerke’s 1572 Latin translation of The Courtier by the Italian statesman Baldassare Castiglione, published at Venice in 1528.  (Note: This essay, posted in 2011, is now Reason 24 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford)

Baldesar Castiglione (1478-1529), author of “Il Cortegiano” – “The Courtier”

Imagine looking through records from the sixteenth century and suddenly coming upon an essay written by William Shakespeare when he was twenty-one years old.  Think of the exhilaration upon discovering that the great poet-dramatist of Elizabethan England had crafted this early piece of writing (in Latin, no less) to proclaim “a new glory of language” while championing “all the glory of literature” — that is, a document in which the young Shakespeare predicts the marvelous works of language and literature that he himself was destined to produce.

If we believe “Shakespeare” to have been William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon, we might well rush to claim a Nobel Prize for digging up this amazing contribution to literary history and biography!

Well, some of us believe that in fact we do have such an essay written by “Shakespeare” as a young man, although at twenty-one he was still using his real name, Edward de Vere the earl of Oxford.  In effect this was his “manifesto” as a young writer, publicly championing the humanistic side of the Renaissance with its medieval traditions of chivalry and, too, expressing values and intentions regarding literature that he would carry with him throughout his life.  He presented his 1,100-word preface under the full panoply of his titles:

“Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, Lord Great Chamberlain of England, Viscount Bulbeck and Baron Scales and Badlesmere to the Reader – Greeting.”

“The English reader had never before been addressed in even terms by such a lord,” Charlton Ogburn Jr. noted, “and the subscription to the preface could well have been intended to make doubly plain the standing the lord was claiming for letters — ‘Given at the Royal Court.’

“It is not only remarkable as an eloquent piece of Latin prose,” B. M. Ward wrote in 1928. “It seems to indicate a determination on the part of its author to do something more for literature than merely to accept dedications from authors.  For the first time in our annals we find a nobleman taking immense trouble to recommend a book in which he is interested.”

A Scene at the Palace of Urbino, where the conversations recalled in “The Courtier” (1528) had taken place in 1507

[Ward also noted that the preface was later reprinted in all subsequent editions of Clerke’s translation; and that it must have been read by most educated Elizabethans, to whom Latin was a “perfectly familiar language.”]

Six years later, in 1578, Oxford’s former Cambridge friend Gabriel Harvey would allude to the preface as a well-known example of the earl’s literary eminence:   “Let that courtly epistle, more polished even than the writings of Castiglione himself, witness how greatly thou dost excel in letters!”

In Oxford’s preface, translated into English by Ward, we find him praising the author of The Courtier:

An Elizabethan in Fashion

“For what more difficult, more noble, or more magnificent task has anyone ever undertaken than our author Castiglione, who has drawn for us the figure and model of a courtier, a work to which nothing can be added, in which there is no redundant word, a portrait which we shall recognize as that of the highest and most perfect type of man.  And so, although nature herself has made nothing perfect in every detail, yet the manners of men exceed in dignity that with which nature has endowed them; and he who surpasses others has here surpassed himself, and has even outdone nature which by no one has ever been surpassed.” (My emphasis)

Whoa!  Look at that part about “nature” and see how it foreshadows the following lines of  The Winter’s Tale (4.4) to be written by “Shakespeare” later on:

Yet nature is made better by no mean
But nature makes that mean: so, over that art
Which you say adds to nature, is an art
That nature makes.

Oxford goes on to say of Castiglione that “however elaborate the ceremonial, whatever the magnificence of the Court, the splendor of the Courtiers, and the multitude of spectators, he has been able to lay down principles for the guidance of the very Monarch himself.”

He takes the time to focus on the art of writing:

“For who has spoken of Princes with greater gravity?  Who has discoursed of illustrious women with a more ample dignity?  No one has written of military affairs more eloquently, more aptly about horse-racing, and more clearly and admirably about encounters under arms on the field of battle.  I will say nothing of the fitness and the excellence with which he has depicted the beauty of chivalry in the noblest persons … Whatever is heard in the mouths of men in casual talk and in society, whether apt and candid, or villainous and shameful, that he has set down in so natural a manner that it seems to be acted before our very eyes.” (My emphases)

Whoa again!  Now he seems to anticipate “Shakespeare” in Sonnet 81:

You still shall live (such virtue hath my pen)
Where breath most breathes, even in the mouths of men.

And in Hamlet’s advice (3.3) to the players:

“Suit the action to the word, the word to the action; with this special observance,that you o’erstep not the modesty of nature: for any thing so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as’twere, the mirror up to nature…”

Queen Elizabeth and her Royal Court

“Again to the credit of the translator of so great a work,” Oxford states, “a writer too who is no mean orator, must be added a new glory of language … For who is clearer in his use of words?  Or richer in the dignity of his sentences?  Or who can conform to the variety of circumstances with greater art?  If weighty matters are under consideration, he unfolds his theme in a solemn and majestic rhythm; if the subject is familiar and facetious, he makes use of words that are witty and amusing.  When therefore he writes with precise and well-chosen words, with skilfully constructed and crystal-clear sentences, and with every art of dignified rhetoric, it cannot be but that some noble quality should be felt to proceed from his work …”

He praises Clerke for dedicating the translation “to our most illustrious and noble Queen, in whom all courtly qualities are personalized, together with those diviner and truly celestial virtues.  For there is no pen so skillful or powerful, no kind of speech so clear, that is not left behind by her own surpassing virtue.” Elizabeth is “of wisest mind, of soundest religion, and cultivated in the highest degree in learning and in literary studies.”

In these closing words of praise for his own prince, Oxford left little doubt that her Majesty had encouraged him in this extraordinary literary adventure openly issued from the Court:

Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603)

“Lastly, if the noblest attributes of the wisest Princes, the safest protection of a flourishing commonwealth, the greatest qualities of the best citizens, by her own merit, and in the opinion of all, continually encompass her around; surely to obtain the protection of that authority, to strengthen it with gifts, and to mark it with the superscription of her name, is a work which, while worthy of all Monarchs, is most worthy of our own Queen, to whom alone is due all the praise of all the Muses and all the glory of literatureGiven at the Royal Court 5 January 1571 (1572 – new style).”

When Oxford wrote that Castiglione had laid down “principles for the guidance of the very Monarch himself,” he was undoubtedly thinking of his own responsibility to try to guide his Queen, as Castiglione recorded in the dialogue at the Palace of Urbino:

“‘I think then that the aim of the perfect Courtier … is so to win for himself … the favor and mind of the prince whom he serves, that he may be able to say, and always shall say, the truth about everything which it is fitting for the prince to know, without fear or risk of giving offense thereby” [Oxford’s motto was Nothing Truer than Truth] and that when he sees his prince’s mind inclined to do something wrong, he may be quick to oppose, and gently to make use of the favor acquired by his good accomplishments, so as to banish every bad intent and lead his prince into the path of virtue … justice, liberality, magnanimity, gentleness, and the other virtues that become a good prince, and on the other hand how much infamy and loss proceed from the vices opposed to them…'”

I believe this is what Oxford tried to accomplish by means of the plays he brought to Court (from the 1570’s onward) for Queen Elizabeth.  Over and over the advice of Castiglione’s characters drawn from real life is to “tell the truth” to one’s prince.  Oxford also heeded The Courtier about literature:

The De Vere Coat of Arms

I would have him [the courtier] more than passably accomplished in letters, at least in those studies that are called the humanities, and conversant not only with the Latin language but with the Greek, for the sake of the many different things that have been admirably written therein. Let him be well versed in the poets, and not less in the orators and historians, and also proficient in writing verse and prose…”

Oxford also followed Castiglione’s view that a man of high birth (as Oxford was) needed to earn his exalted status by means of genuine accomplishment:

“For indeed if by being nobly born, graceful, agreeable, and expert in so many exercises, the Courtier brought forth no other fruit than merely being what he is, I should not deem it right for a man to devote so much study and pains to acquiring this perfection of Courtiership …”

This is a basic ideas with which “Shakespeare” would grapple in his plays of English royal history, that is:  Do we evaluate a monarch’s right to the throne solely on the basis of his blood right or, rather, on the basis of his actions that do or do not bring forth “other fruit than merely being what he is”?

Dorothy and Charlton Ogburn in This Star of England (1952) observe that Oxford subsequently “adopted and developed the method Castiglione had taken from earlier writers, dramatizing the personages of Elizabeth Tudor’s court and those of foreign princes as well, to the degree that his plays presently became ‘the abstract and brief chronicles of the time'” [according to Hamlet, an exemplar of the perfect courtier].

“The young idealist who wrote this beautiful Latin prose did not perhaps suspect that he himself was to surpass Castiglione before many years had gone by,” the Ogburns note, “by writing as forcefully and engagingly in English as he was now able to do in Latin, because through his own genius the English language would be made richer and more flexible, would be given ‘majesty and light.'”

Is this “proof” that a little more than two decades later  (in 1593) Oxford would adopt “Shakespeare” as a pen name?  Of course not.   But in fact it’s just one more piece of “the preponderance of the evidence” leading to that conclusion.

Re-Posting Reason No. 2: “Shake-speare’s” Favorite Classical Source was the Translation of Ovid by Arthur Golding, who was Oxford’s Uncle

Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” translated into English — credited to Arthur Golding, uncle of Edward de Vere

The following blog item was posted on 26 February 2011; ultimately, after revision and reordering, it became part of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford, published in October 2016. 

“Ovid, the love of Shakespeare’s life among Latin poets, made an overwhelming impression upon him, which he carried with him all his days: subjects, themes, characters and phrases haunted his imagination. The bulk of his classical mythology came from the ‘Metamorphoses,’ which he used in the original as well as in Golding’s translation.” –A.L. Rowse, “Shakespeare, The Man” (1973)

I’ve always loved this one.  It was one of the first things I’d tell people around the dinner table, whether or not they gave a damn:

The favorite classical source of the author “Shakespeare” was the literary work of the ancient Roman poet Ovid (43 B.C.-A.D. 18).   As Dr. Rowse tells us, he drew upon the stories and rhythms and language of Ovid, from the original Latin text and, heavily so, from the English translation of the Metamorphoses by Arthur Golding (1567).  And this same Golding was the young Earl of Oxford’s uncle, living under the same roof with him at Cecil House in the early 1560’s, just when the translating of Ovid’s 15-book masterpiece would have been carried out!

“I mean … come on,” I’d say at the dinner table.  “Ain’t that a hoot? Why are you all looking at me like I’m speaking a foreign language?  Oh, well…”

A lot of times these things are astounding only because of the way in which you come upon them.  In this case, the British schoolmaster J. Thomas Looney put forth hypothetically that Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford (1550-1604) wrote the Shakespeare works, which are filled with material drawn from Ovid’s Metamorphoses in both the original and the Golding translation of the 1560’s — and then he discovered that Oxford had been physically present at Cecil House in London during the 1560’s, when his Uncle Golding had been acting as his “receiver” for financial affairs and apparently translating the Ovid work.

Hedingham Castle (what’s left of the original), childhood home of Edward de Vere

(John de Vere, the sixteenth Earl of Oxford, died in 1562, when his twelve-year-old son Edward, the future seventeenth earl, left his home at Hedingham Castle in Essex and went to London to live as a royal ward of Queen Elizabeth in the custody of her chief minister William Cecil, the future Lord Burghley.)

Golding was “apparently” translating the Ovid because it’s far more likely that it was done by the young earl himself.  Golding was a puritanical sort who translated Calvin’s Psalms of David (which he dedicated to Oxford, his nephew) and would not have been crazy about translating Ovid’s tales of passion and seduction and lovemaking as well as incest by pagan gods and goddesses.  No, he was in every way incapable of it.

Here’s what I wrote about this in 1996, viewing the teenage Edward de Vere as “the young Shakespeare” at work:

“J. Thomas Looney used the phrase ‘long foreground’ for Shakespeare’s formative years, a period of necessary artistic growth and development which has always been totally missing from Stratfordian biography.  Unless he was a god with miraculous powers, the sophisticated English poet who wrote ‘Venus and Adonis’ went through much trial and error, creating a substantial body of apprenticeship work beforehand.  By all logic Shakespeare must have begun translating Ovid in his earliest years, becoming thoroughly grounded in his old tales.  He would have labored over the original texts and ‘tried on’ various English nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs, inventing new ones along the way; and in the process he would have acquired his astounding vocabulary of some 25,000 words, more than twice the size of Milton’s.”

The ancient Roman poet Ovid

And here is what Looney wrote in 1920 about the nature of some “discoveries” such as this one about Edward de Vere and Shakespeare’s favorite poet Ovid:

“The force of a conviction is frequently due as much to the intrinsic value of the evidence.  For example, when a theory, what we have formed from a consideration of certain facts, leads us to suppose that certain other facts will exist, the later discovery that the facts are actually in accordance with our inferences becomes a much stronger confirmation of our theory than if we had known these additional facts at the outset.  We state this principle in matters of science when we affirm that the supreme test and evidence of the soundness of a scientific theory is its power of enabling us to foresee some events as a consequence of others.  The manner, therefore, in which facts and ideas have been arrived at becomes itself an important element in the evidence.”‘Shakespeare’ Identified, 1920

“Shakespeare” Identified by J. Thomas Looney, 1920

So that’s the second of the first 100 reasons I conclude that Oxford was Shakespeare…

If there was any evidence of this kind in the life of William Shakspere of Stratford, would there be an authorship question?  I doubt it.  But such is the power of traditional thinking that, despite the fact that such evidence exists in Oxford’s life, the academic folks in the ivory tower won’t even consider it.

Meanwhile, the orthodox camp loves to say that the doubters of Shakspere’s authorship are “creationists.”  Well, that’s ridiculous.  If anything in that metaphorical equation we’re evolutionists. The biblical creationists came first, as did the traditional Stratfordians; the evolutionists came later, just as we Oxfordians came later.

Stratfordians, echoing creationists, believe in the miracle of genius when it comes to Shakespeare’s vast knowledge and skill; we Oxfordians, echoing evolutionists, know that such amazing knowledge, skill and insight can be acquired — even by a genius — only through long development based on much learning and experience and painfully acquired artistic growth.  That they would stoop to calling us a name that should actually be applied to themselves is a measure of their growing desperation…

“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.”

 

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