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 the Original Blog Series for “100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford” — No. 1: Hamlet and Oxford both Brought Plays and Players to Court

Dear Reader: From time to time I’ll be re-posting the blogs (in their original order) that were transformed into the book 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford. Ultimately the posts were re-organized and immensely improved — first with editorial help from Brian Bechtold, then from the primary editor, Alex McNeil, who guided the project to its end.  Today we begin with the first (and shortest) post, the way it originally appeared in February of 2011:\

REASON NO. 1:  Oxford, like Hamlet, was involved with Plays and Play Companies at the Royal Court

The great turning point of the play Hamlet occurs when the Prince contributes some lines for the players in their performance at Court in order that he might “catch the conscience of the king.”  In 1583 the earl of Oxford, in his early thirties, acquired the sublease of the Blackfriars Playhouse in a former monastery.  His children’s group Oxford’s Boys joined up with the Paul’s Boys to form a composite company; then the earl transferred the lease of Blackfriars to his private secretary John Lyly, whose plays were performed by the children for Queen Elizabeth.   A bit earlier Oxford’s own company of boys had given a performance for the Queen of Agamemnon and Ulysses (possibly an early version of Troilus and Cressida).

Hamlet and the Players – “Tales from Shakespeare” by Charles and Mary Lamb, 1901

We can feel the authorial voice in Hamlet’s speeches; his soliloquies sound like echoes of the private and personal sonnets.  The Prince greets the players with that special mixture of affection and condescension that seems to come so naturally to one of such high rank — and so naturally to the author himself.  Such would have been Oxford’s own attitude toward the actors.

But how likely is it that William of Stratford, if he really was an actor, would give his most authorial voice to a prince rather than to one of the players like himself?  How much more likely was it that Lord Oxford, an extraordinarily involved patron of play companies and writers, as well as an acknowledged playwright, used those scenes in Hamlet to depict his own relationship to the players under his patronage at Court?

If William of Stratford had been part of the Court and had brought play companies to perform before the monarch, who would doubt that he created Shakespeare’s great character of Hamlet?  Who would doubt that he captured those wonderful interactions between the prince and the actors?  But it was Oxford who was the highest-ranking nobleman at the Elizabethan Court, and it was he who was in much the same relation to the players as Hamlet — and not the least of Oxford’s motives was to “catch the conscience” of the Queen herself.


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

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

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

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

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

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!”

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 (

No. 100 of 100 Reasons for the Earl of Oxford’s Authorship of the Shakespeare Works: How It Began by Searching for a Special Kind of Genius and Finding the Conditions Fulfilled

This one hundredth reason for Edward de Vere’s authorship of the Shakespeare works is by no means the end; on the contrary, it takes us back to the beginning – to the characteristics and conditions required even by the “genius” of that great author. It takes us back to the “long foreground” of earlier development that “Shakespeare” needed before he was able to complete his masterworks such as Hamlet and The Sonnets.

Oxford tan

“We venture to say that, whatever course the discussion may take, either now or in a distant future, one of the most serious hindrances to the formation of correct views will be the necessity of reversing judgments that have had a longstanding social sanction,” J. Thomas Looney wrote in “Shakespeare” Identified (1920), wherein he revealed his finding of Edward, Earl of Oxford (1550-1604) as the most likely author.

“We shall first have to dissociate from the writings the conception of such an author as the steady, complacent, business-like man-of-the-world suggested by the Stratford Shakspere. Then there will be the more arduous task of raising to a most exalted position the name and personality possibly of some obscure man hitherto regarded as quite unequal to the work with which he is at last to be credited. And this will further compel us to re-read our greatest national classics from a totally new personal standpoint.”

Looney book

His prediction continues to carry enormous implications for the authorship question in general and the Oxfordian movement in particular. The task of turning our perception of the works “inside-out” is even now still in its infancy, even with the centennial of the publication of Looney’s groundbreaking work due to arrive in 2020 — and even with the thirtieth anniversary this year of the publication in 1984 of The Mysterious William Shakespeare by Charlton Ogburn, Jr., which ignited interest in the authorship question among many who had never known it existed.

“The work in question being the highest literary product of the age,” he continued, “it cannot be otherwise than that the author, whoever he may have been, when he is discovered must seem in some measure below the requirements of the situation; unequal, that is, to the production of such work. We shall therefore be called upon in his case radically to modify and correct a judgment of three hundred [make that four hundred] years’ standing.”

But there is a “natural limit” to such inferiority in appearance, Looney noted. Given that the writings attributed to “Shakespeare” are masterpieces of English literature, and that all the world’s other literary masterpieces were produced by those who wrote of “matters in which they were keenly interested, and to whom writing (or the mental occupation of composing) has been a master passion, we are entitled to require – in the person put forward as the author – a body of credentials corresponding to the character of the work.

John Thomas Looney 1870 - 1944

John Thomas Looney
1870 – 1944

“That is to say, we are bound to assume that the writer was an Englishman with dominating literary tastes, to whom the classical literature of the world, the history of England during the period of the Lancastrians and Yorkists, and Italian literature, which form the staple materials of his work, were matters of absorbing interest, furnishing the milieu in which his mind habitually worked …

“Unless, then, we are to recast all our ideas of how the great things of literature have been achieved, we cannot think of him otherwise than as one who had been swept by the irresistible force of his own genius into the strong literary current of his times.” Even if he hid from the men of his day the fact that he was himself busy producing such works, it is “inconceivable that he should have hidden from them where his chief interest lay.”

Charlton Ogburn Jr.  1911 - 1998

Charlton Ogburn Jr.
1911 – 1998

When the British schoolmaster came upon a summary of Edward de Vere’s life by Shakespeare editor and biographer Sir Sidney Lee, in the Dictionary of National Biography (DNB) for 1885-1900, he was amazed and gratified by what he found. Looney had been searching for someone who was (1) a matured man of recognized genius, (2) apparently eccentric and mysterious, (3) of intense sensibility – a man apart, (4) unconventional, (5) not adequately appreciated, (6) of pronounced and known literary tastes, (7) an enthusiast in the world of drama, (8) a lyric poet of recognized talent and (9) of superior education – classical – the habitual associate of educated people.

More specifically he had been looking for (1) a man with feudal connections, (2) a member of the higher aristocracy, (3) someone connected with Lancastrian supporters, (4) an enthusiast for Italy, (5) a follower of sport – including falconry, (7) a lover of music, (8) a man loose and improvident in money matters, (8) a man who was doubtful and somewhat conflicting in his attitude to women and (9) someone of probable Catholic leanings, but touched with skepticism.

Lee’s article on Oxford quickly mentioned that his uncle Arthur Golding (“the translator of Ovid,” Shakespeare’s favorite classical source) acted as his tutor and receiver of property while the young earl lived at Cecil House as the Queen’s first royal ward. Lee noted Oxford’s studies at Cambridge and that one of his tutors was Bartholomew Clerke (Latin translator of The Courtier, sponsored by Oxford in 1572 and a major source of Hamlet).

Mysterious William Shakespeare

“He was thoroughly grounded in French and Latin,” Lee wrote of Edward de Vere, “but at the same time learnt to dance, ride, and shoot. While manifesting a natural taste for music and literature, the youth developed a waywardness of temper which led him into every form of extravagance, and into violent quarrels with other members of his guardian’s [William Cecil’s] household…

“[Cecil, Lord Burghley] found his perverse humor a source of grave embarrassment” but “found in the earl ‘more understanding than any stranger to him would think’ … ‘My Lord of Oxford,’ wrote Gilbert Talbot to his father, the Earl of Shrewsbury, on 11 May 1573, ‘is lately grown into great credit, for the queen’s Majesty delighteth more in his personage, and his dancing and valiantness, than any other … If it were not for his fickle head, he would pass any of them shortly’ …

“In 1575 Oxford realized his ambition of foreign travel, and … made his way to Italy. In October he reached Venice by way of Milan. He returned home laden with luxurious articles of dress and of the toilet. To him is assigned the credit of first introducing from Italy into this country embroidered gloves, sweet-bags, perfumed leather jerkins, and costly washes or perfumes. He ingratiated himself with the queen by presenting her with a pair of perfumed gloves trimmed with tufts or roses of colored silk…

“Oxford’s eccentricities and irregularities of temper grew with his years … In September 1579 he grossly insulted Sir Philip Sidney in the tennis court at Whitehall by calling him a ‘puppy’ … In 1581 he received from the queen’s hand a prize for the prowess that he displayed in a grand tilt at court…


“In March 1581 his violence involved him in new difficulties … He engaged in a duel with Thomas Knyvet, a gentleman of the privy chamber. Both were wounded, the earl dangerously … In October 1586 he was appointed special commissioner for the trial of Mary Queen of Scots … In 1588 he joined, as a volunteer, the fleet which repelled the Spanish armada…

“During these years Oxford’s continued extravagance involved him in pecuniary difficulties … He had squandered some part of his fortune upon men of letters whose bohemian mode of life attracted him. He was patron of a company of players [actually two companies, along with a troupe of musicians] …

“Oxford, despite his violent temper and perverse temper, his eccentric taste in dress, and his reckless waste of his substance, evinced a genuine interest in music, and wrote verse of much lyric beauty. Puttenham and Meres reckon him among ‘the best for comedy’ in his day; but, although he was a patron of a company of players, no specimens of his dramatic productions survive.”

How could all his writings for the stage have disappeared? The answer from here is that his plays written during the 1570s and 1580s were never “lost” – instead he revised them for later release under new titles as written by “Shakespeare,” a pen name adopted in 1593. Those early plays are part of the “long foreground” that has always been missing from traditional Stratfordian biography; and they supply the answer to the objection that many of the plays were written after Oxford’s reported death in 1604 – a conclusion dictated by the need to give the traditional author more time to (supposedly) write the works, while Oxford would have composed the first versions way back when Shakspere was still a boy.

“A sufficient number of his poems is extant, however, to corroborate Webbe’s comment that he was the best of the courtier-poets in the early years of Elizabeth’s reign, and that ‘in the rare devices of poetry, he may challenge to himself the title of the most excellent among the rest…

“Verses by Oxford ‘To the Reader,’ together with a prefatory letter from the earl’s pen to the translator, were prefixed to Bedingfield’s translation of Cardanus’s Comfort, 1573, which was ‘published by commandment if the right honorable the Earl of Oxenford’ …

“Among men of letters who acknowledged Oxford’s patronage the chief were John Lyly, who dedicated to him Euphues and his England (1580), and Edmund Spenser, who addressed a sonnet to him in the opening pages of his Faerie Queen (1590). Of books of smaller account that were dedicated to him mention may be made of the translation of Justinus’s abridgment of Trogus Pompeius by his uncle, Arthur Golding (1564), Underdown’s rendering of Heliodorus (1569), Thomas Twine’s translation of Humphrey Lhuyd’s Breviary of Britain (1573), Anthony Munday’s Galien of France (1579? Lost), Zelauto (1580) and Palmerin d’Olivia (1588), Southern’s Diana (1584) and John Farmer’s song-books (1591, 1599).”

“I venture to say,” Looney wrote, “that if only such of those terms as are here used [in Lee’s article on Oxford] to describe the character and quality of his work were submitted without name or leading epithet, to people who only understood them to apply to some Elizabethan poet, it would be assumed immediately that Shakespeare was meant.”

scientific american

What scientists today are learning about “genius” applies to Oxford in the strongest possible ways; for example, here are statements in two current magazines focusing on the topic:

“Let us challenge the basic assumption that the individual creator is the only critical component of the creative process. Indeed, let us consider the possibility that groups play an essential role in creativity … We concluded that it is problematic and unhelpful to separate the creativity of individual minds from the communities in which they flourish.” – Scientific American, July/August 2014


“For centuries, the myth of the lone genius has towered over us, its shadow obscuring the way creative work really gets done. The Lennon-McCartney partnership reveals just how misleading that myth can be, because John and Paul were so obviously more creative as a pair than as individuals … The essence of their achievements, it turns out, was relational.” – The Atlantic, July/August 2014

Oxfordians agree that “Shakespeare” was a genius, but we also know he was bound by the natural laws of humankind. We know that any inherited capacity of intellect or talent, especially on the part of one who writes masterworks, is a seed that requires nurturing soil and other elements to ensure its life and growth to full maturity.

From birth onward Oxford found himself in circumstances and relationships that “Shakespeare,” whoever he was, needed in order to flourish as he did:
• He had access to enormous amounts of information and a vast array of sources;
• He was placed in extremely competitive situations;
• He was motivated by the vibrant female monarch who claimed him as her first royal ward and then as her highest-ranking earl;
• He built up resentments over hypocrisies and lies perpetrated by other members of the court, fueling his devotion to [indirectly] revealing the truth about them;
• Reflecting the conclusions of current scientific studies, he was stimulated by collaborative relationships with scholars and musicians, writers and actors, on and on…

No one emerges from the womb intimately familiar with Italy, music, botany, seamanship and medicine, not to mention Venetian law. Such knowledge cannot be “imagined” out of whole cloth; it must be absorbed by the artists before he or she can use it creatively. The author of Hamlet used his own vast storehouse of facts with consummate ease, spontaneously, even joyously, as it flowed out of his mind and heart in service of higher purpose.

And for Oxford that purpose was eventually driven by the knowledge that powerful forces were determined to eradicate him from the record. “My name be buried where my body is,” he forecast in Sonnet 72, writing now as an act of survival, if only for generations in the future. “Your name from hence immortal life shall have,” he told the younger Earl of Southampton in Sonnet 81, “though I, once gone, to all the world must die.”

Those personal predictions by the great author could never be made by the traditionally perceived author known as Shakespeare – a writer’s name that is surely among the most popular and enduring that the world has known. So hereby submitted are these first 100 reasons why the man behind that illustrious name was a proud, eccentric, unpredictable, misunderstood, complicated, Hamlet-like nobleman who died lamenting his “wounded name” and asking his trusted friend, Horatio, to “report me and my cause aright to the unsatisfied.”

Which brings us back to the beginning, to Reason No. 1, posted on February 23, 2011, nearly three and a half years ago, under a headline proclaiming that “Oxford, like Hamlet, was involved with Plays and Play Companies at the Royal Court.”

Once again, let us begin …

Part Two: No. 99 of 100 Reasons to Believe Oxford was “Shakespeare” — The Tale of Two Shrews

This conclusion to Reason No. 99 begins by recommending a superb paper by Ramon Jimenez, in Volume XIV of The Oxfordian for 2012: The Playwright’s Progress: Edward de Vere and the Two ‘Shrew’ Plays. Mr. Jiminez has been making important contributions to the authorship case for the Earl of Oxford as “Shakespeare” with his essays focusing on anonymous plays, which, he demonstrates, comprise Oxford’s early versions of works attributed to Shakespeare – the “apprenticeship” plays upon which the master built his masterpieces.

Richard Burton and  Elizabeth Taylor - 1966 Petruchio & Kate

Richard Burton and
Elizabeth Taylor – 1966
Petruchio & Kate

Here are some excerpts about the relationship between A Shrew (1594) and The Shrew (1623):

“An objective review of the evidence … confirms that the two plays were written in the order in which they appear in the record, The Shrew being a major revision of the earlier play, A Shrew. They were by the same author – Edward de Vere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford, whose poetry and plays appeared under the pseudonym ‘William Shakespeare’ during the last decade of his life [1593-1604]. Events in Oxford’s sixteenth year and his travels in the 1570s support composition dates before 1580 for both plays.”

Even for seasoned Oxfordians the latter statement may be startling. Can it be that two plays published for the first time in 1594 and 1623, respectively, had both been written before 1580, when the true author was thirty? Well … yes.

“These conclusions also reveal a unique and hitherto unremarked example of the playwright’s progress and development,” Jiminez continues, “from a teenager learning to write for the stage to a journeyman dramatist in his twenties. De Vere’s exposure to the intricacies and language of the law, and his extended tour of France and Italy [in 1575-76], as well as his maturation as a poet, caused him to rewrite his earlier effort and produce a comedy that continues to entertain centuries later.”


Given current discussions of “How Genius Happens” (The Atlantic, July/August 2014) and “The Creative Process Made Simple” (Scientific American, July/August 2014), these findings about the Shrew plays serve as reminders that works of “genius” often require hard work and motivation over long intervals of time.

[The author’s motivation may come to be recognized as more crucial to understanding his work than previously emphasized. Why, for example, does this particular dramatist write King Lear? Is it only because he thinks it’s good for the box office? Is it merely because he thinks it’s time for a new tragedy?]

What follows is my version of the history, with help from the work of Jiminez and many others:

Twelve-year-old Edward de Vere rode to London from the funeral of his father in September 1562, in the company of twenty-seven-year-old George Gascoigne, the soldier-poet. Young Oxford, about to become the first royal ward of Elizabeth I, was heading for the home of his guardian, William Cecil, of whom Gascoigne was a cousin-in-law.

Edward received honorary degrees from the universities, at fourteen and sixteen, before enrolling by 1567 at Gray’s Inn, where The Supposes, translated from the Italian of Ariosto’s I Suppositi (1509) and attributed to Gascoigne, was being performed by law students. Years later it would be hailed as the first English prose comedy and, too, acknowledged as a crucial source used by Shakespeare for The Taming of the Shrew.

George Gascoigne  1539 - 1577

George Gascoigne
1539 – 1577

[Stephanie Caruana and Elisabeth Sears argue in Oxford’s Revenge (1989) that Edward de Vere himself wrote The Supposes as performed at Gray’s Inn. The translation is “unlikely” to have been done by Gascoigne, they write, citing a statement of his biographer Ronald Johnson that it contains “a form of euphuistic dialogue that is remarkable in its grasp of the techniques perfected over a decade later by Lyly” – that is, John Lyly, who became Oxford’s secretary by the latter 1570s.]

The fact that A Shrew is devoid of legal terms suggests to Jiminez that Oxford wrote it before, or soon after, his studies at Gray’s Inn began in 1567. But The Shrew attributed to Shakespeare contains frequent legal terms, suggesting that Oxford rewrote the play as a whole after studying the law. It also appears that he wrote the more mature version after returning from his Italian travels in 1576. The shorter and less mature work is set in Athens, while the revised and longer play (to be attributed to “Shakespeare”) is set in Padua, the center of learning and the arts that Oxford visited with relish. Lucentio seems to voice Oxford’s own thoughts upon his arrival:

Tranio, since for the great desire I had
To see fair Padua, nursery of arts…
Here let us breathe and haply institute
A course of learning and ingenious studies…

Engraving of Padua University in 1600

Engraving of Padua University in 1600

Tell me thy mind, for I have Pisa left
And am to Padua come, as he that leaves
A shallow plash to plunge him in the deep
And with satiety seeks to quench his thirst!

Less than three years after Oxford returned to England, on the first of January 1579, the Paul’s Boys performed a play at Richmond Palace recorded as A Moral of the Marriage of Mind and Measure. Eva Turner Clark suggested in 1931 that this recorded title describes The Taming of the Shrew, caricaturizing the marriage of his sister Lady Mary Vere and Peregrine Bertie [Lord Willoughby] the previous year.

Apparently Mary Vere was considered a shrew, that is, a woman of violent temper and speech. Thomas Cecil, in a letter to his father Lord Burghley in September 1578, several months after the wedding, told him there was now an “unkindness” between the young couple, adding his prediction that Mary Vere “will be beaten with that rod [by her husband] which heretofore she prepared for others.” If Oxford was having sport with Petruchio as his new brother-in-law and Katharina as Mary Vere (much to the amusement of members of the court, given that Mary had been a Maid of Honor), it appears he was depicting how better “measures” might be used to tame the “mind” of his wilful sister:

Say that she rail; why, then I’ll tell her plain
She sings sweetly as a nightingale:
Say that she frown; I’ll say she looks as clear
As morning roses newly washed with dew:
Say she be mute, and will not speak a word;
Then I’ll commend her volubility,
And say she uttereth piercing elogquence…

Kate’s father in The Shrew, one of the wealthiest men in Padua, is Baptista Minola. Oxford, writing to Burghley before his arrival at Padua in November 1575, mentioned he had “taken up of Mr. Baptisto Nigrone 500 crowns.” Burghley had arranged, through an Italian merchant in London named Benedetto Spinola, for some 4,000 pounds to be advanced to Oxford during his trip.

Could it be just coincidental that Baptista Minola echoes a combination of Baptisto and Spinola?

Meryl Streep as Kate the Shrew in the Outdoor Delacourte Theatre - Central Park, NY - 1978

Meryl Streep as Kate the Shrew in the Outdoor Delacourte Theatre – Central Park, NY – 1978

Moreover, Kate’s father is quite willing to use her for his own personal gain – shades of Polonius, father of Hamlet’s fiancé Ophelia; and, too, shades of Lord Burghley, the manipulative father of Oxford’s wife Anne Cecil.

So this play opens up a rare view into the long creative process of “Shakespeare” – in this case starting with what was perhaps his earliest comedy, written sometime after The Supposes in 1567, when he was seventeen, its action set in Greece; and then moving on to an expanded version, set in Italy and written (mostly?) by 1579, when he was twenty-nine.

Think of the mind-twisting efforts this will require of scholars who have been teaching that “Shakespeare” began his playwriting career no earlier than 1590-1592! Think of the unraveling of prior assumptions required to comprehend The Taming of a Shrew, printed anonymously in 1594, and The Taming of the Shrew, printed in the Folio of Shakespeare plays in 1623!

J. Thomas Looney wrote in Shakespeare Pictorial of December 1935 (his article is reprinted in Volume 2 of Building the Case for Edward de Vere as Shakespeare, edited by Altrocchi and Whittemore, 2009):

“The two stages in dramatic composition were, then, a result of marked division in the career of the dramatist: in the first period concentrating his powers upon invention, and in the second upon development and literary elaboration …

“Taking the first Shrew as representative of Oxford’s early comedies, and comparing it with pre-Oxfordian drama, some estimate may be formed of his great achievement as a pioneer in dramatic construction quite apart from any contribution to living literature. By a creative effort, the magnitude of which we cannot now measure, he called into existence the very instrument which made the Shakespeare literature possible.

“The full costliness of ‘first steps’ is seldom realized in the presence of later developments, but it is safe to say that as much inventive genius and mental concentration would be required to create the first Shrew as to transform it into the second a decade or more later…

“This conception of a twofold elaboration, first dramatic and then literary, is as essential to a right understanding of Shakespeare as it is to sound judgment about authorship. Both studies are inextricably mixed and show how irrational is the supposition that the authorship problem may be set aside while serious literary study continues. It is the peculiar glory of the Oxford hypothesis that for the first time it unites the two harmoniously.”

Postscript: The quarto title page of A Shrew in 1594 advertises the text “as it was sundry times acted by the Right honorable the Earl of Pembroke his servants,” and in fact four of the play’s characters carry names of actors or sharers in that company – Sly, Simon, Sander and Tom. The names “were clearly added to the manuscript of A Shrew at the time that the company performed the play,” Jiminez writes, “and remained in the text when it was printed in 1594.” It is also likely, he continues, that phrases and lines from plays attributed to Marlowe were also inserted in the early 1590s.

Second Postscript: When were the scenes of the 1594 “Sly Frame” written? When were they revised or rewritten for the “Sly Induction” printed in 1623? Is Sly intended to invoke William of Stratford, in the act of taking Oxford’s place as author of the “Shakespeare” works? My suggestion is that Oxford wrote it early on, based on an old folk tale, but then continued to revise it even after 1594, for the longer and more mature version to be printed in the Folio of 1623. We can imagine, then, the producers of the latter work cutting all the Sly scenes after the opening induction – to eliminate even the memory of the tinker’s conception of himself as “Don Christo Vary” or Lord Oxford, Edward de Vere.

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