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

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

anonymous_2011_film_poster

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

 

 

“The Two Most Noble Henries” – Henry de Vere & Henry Wriothesley – No. 89 of 100 Reasons why the 17th Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare”

"The Portraicture of the right honorable Lords, the two most noble HENRIES revived the Earles of Oxford (left) and Southampton (right)" -  circa 1624

“The Portraicture of the right honorable Lords, the two most noble HENRIES revived the Earles of Oxford and Southampton” –
circa 1624

“There were some gallant spirits that aimed at the Public Liberty more than their own interest … among which the principal were Henry, Earl of Oxford, Henry, Earl of Southampton … and divers others, that supported the old English honor and would not let it fall to the ground.” – Arthur Wilson, History of Great Britain (1653), p. 161, referring to the earls’ opposition to the policies of King James in 1621

Venus and Adonis was recorded in the Stationer’s Register on April 18, 1593 and published soon after. No author’s name appeared on the title-page, but the dedication was signed “William Shakespeare” – the first appearance of that name in print.

"Venus and Adonis" Dedication - 1593

“Venus and Adonis” Dedication – 1593

The epistle was addressed to nineteen-year-old Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton, to whom the poet bequeathed Lucrece the following year. Never again would this author dedicate anything to anyone else, thereby uniquely linking Southampton to “Shakespeare” for all time. In fact the poet was so confident of his ability to grant the young earl enduring fame (while paradoxically being certain his own identity would never be known) that he would tell him in Sonnet 81:

Your name from hence immortal life shall have,
Though I (once gone) to all the world must die.

On February 24, 1593, less than two months before the registry of Venus and Adonis, a son was born to Edward de Vere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford, forty-three, and his second wife Elizabeth Trentham, about thirty, a former Maid of Honor to Queen Elizabeth. The two had married in 1591 and had moved to the village of Stoke-Newington, just north of Shoreditch and the Curtain and Theater playhouses.

The boy, destined to become the eighteenth Earl of Oxford, was brought to the Parish Church on March 31, 1593 and christened Henry de Vere – not Edward, after his father, nor any of the great first names in the Vere lineage (such as John or Robert) all the way back to 1141, when Aubrey de Vere was created the first Earl of Oxford.

"Lucrece" Dedication 1594

“Lucrece” Dedication
1594

“It is curious that the name ‘Henry’ is unique in the de Vere, Cecil and Trentham families,” B.M. Ward commented in 1928. “There must have been some reason for his being given this name, but if so I have been unable to discover it.”

During this time Henry Wriothesley was being sought by William Cecil Lord Burghley for the hand of Oxford’s eldest daughter, Lady Elizabeth Vere. Oxford had become a royal ward in Burgley’s household in 1562; Southampton had followed in 1581; and now on April 18, 1593, little more than two weeks after the christening of Oxford’s male heir as Henry de Vere, the yet-unknown “Shakespeare” was dedicating “the first heir of my invention” to Henry Wriothesley.

“The metaphor of ‘the first heir’ would seem to echo the recent birth of Oxford’s only son and heir to his earldom,” J. Thomas Looney noted in 1920, “and as ‘Shakespeare’ speaks of Southampton as the ‘godfather’ of ‘the first heir of my invention,’ it would certainly be interesting to know whether Henry Wriothesley was godfather to Oxford’s heir, Henry de Vere.”

In the dedication of Lucrece in 1594, the author made a unique public promise to Southampton, indicating a close and caring relationship with its own past, coupled with an extraordinary vision of future commitment:

“The love I dedicate to your Lordship is without end … What I have done is yours, what I have to do is yours, being part in all I have, devoted yours.”

Henry Wriothesley Earl of Southampton

Henry Wriothesley
Earl of Southampton

Given that Henry Wriothesley is the only individual to whom “Shakespeare” is known to have written any letters of any kind, he must be the central contemporary individual within the biography of Shakespeare the poet and dramatist. (This is especially so if Southampton is the younger man or “fair youth” of the Sonnets.) The problem, however, is that scholars have never discovered any trace of a relationship between Southampton and William Shaksper of Stratford-upon-Avon, not even any evidence that they knew each other.

But if the poet was Edward de Vere, dedicating his first published work under the newly invented pen name “Shakespeare” to Henry Wriothesley, then his promise that “what I have to do is yours” demands a look into the future for evidence of continuing linkage.

Among the possible evidence is the performance of Richard II as by “Shakespeare” on the eve of the Essex Rebellion on February 8, 1601 led by Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex along with Southampton. If Oxford was the dramatist, had he given permission to use his play for such a dangerous and possibly treasonous motive? Had he given his approval personally to Southampton, to help him? These are among the many questions for which history has no answers.

Looney pointed to a “spontaneous affinity of Oxford with the younger Earls of Essex and Southampton, all three of whom, having been royal wards under the guardianship of Burghley, were most hostile to the Cecil influence at Court.” By the same token, many scholars have noted evidence in the “Shakespeare” plays that the author was sympathetic to the Essex faction – which makes sense if Oxford and “Shakespeare” were one and the same.

Notice of the trial of Essex and Southampton  1600 old style 1601 new Oxford as highest ranking peer on tribunal

Notice of the trial of Essex and Southampton
1600 old style 1601 new
Oxford as highest ranking peer on tribunal

[Oxford was summoned from retirement to act as the senior of twenty-five noblemen on the tribunal at the joint treason trial of Essex and Southampton on February 19, 1601. The peers had no choice but to render a unanimous guilty verdict and to sentence both earls to death. It was “the veriest travesty of a trial,” Ward comments. Essex was beheaded six days later, but Southampton was spared; and after more than two years in prison, he was quickly released by the newly proclaimed King James. CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VIEW.]

Oxford is recorded as having died at fifty-four on June 24, 1604. That night agents of the Crown arrived at Southampton’s house in London, confiscating his papers and bringing him (and others who had supported Essex) back to the Tower, where he was interrogated before being released the next day. Whether the two events (Oxford’s death and Southampton’s arrest) were related remains a matter of conjecture.

In January 1605, Southampton hosted a performance of Love’s Labours Lost for Queen Anne. The earl apparently had not forgotten how, in the early 1590s, he and his university friends had enjoyed private performances of the play.

In the latter years of James both Henry Wriothesley and Henry de Vere became increasingly opposed to the King’s favorite George Villiers, first Duke of Buckingham, and the projected Spanish match between the King’s son Prince Charles and Maria Ana of Spain – fearing that Spain would grow even stronger to the point of conquering England and turning it back into a repressive Catholic country.

Henry Wriothesley 3rd Earl of Southampton

Henry Wriothesley
3rd Earl of Southampton

On March 14, 1621, Henry Wriothesley, forty-eight, got into a sharp altercation with Buckingham in the House of Peers; that June he was confined (in the Dean of Westminster’s house and later in his own seat of Tichfield) on charges of “mischievous intrigues” with members of the Commons; and in July of the same year, Henry de Vere, twenty-eight, spent a few weeks in the Tower for expressing his anger toward the prospective Spanish match. Henry Wriothesley was set free on the first of September.

Then on April 20, 1622, after railing against Buckingham again, Henry de Vere was arrested for the second time and confined in the Tower for twenty months until December 1623 – just when the First Folio of Shakespeare plays became available for purchase.

[Whatever might have been the relationship between the imprisonment of Oxford and the publishing of the Folio is unclear; my own feeling is that the printing may well have been spurred by the prospect of Spanish control and the destruction of the Shakespeare plays, especially the eighteen yet to be printed. The Spanish marriage had collapsed in October 1623; but any opinions about whether the Folio printing was triggered by the prospect of the match, and/or the imprisonment of the eighteenth Earl of Oxford are welcome.]

Henry de Vere 18th Earl of Oxford

Henry de Vere
18th Earl of Oxford

When Henry de Vere volunteered for military service to the Protestant cause in the Low Countries in June 1624, as the colonel of a regiment of foot soldiers, he put forward a “claim of precedency” over his fellow colonel of another regiment, Henry Wriothesley. Eventually the Council of War struck a bargain between the two, with Oxford entitled to precedency in civil capacities and Southampton, “in respect of his former commands in the wars,” retaining precedence over military matters.

[The colonels of the other two regiments were Robert Devereux, third Earl of Essex, the son of Southampton’s great friend Essex, who was executed for the 1601 rebellion; and Robert Bertie, Lord Willoughby, son of Edward de Vere’s sister Mary Vere and his brother-in-law Peregrine Bertie, Lord Willoughby.]

“There seems to have been no ill will between Southampton and Oxford,” writes A.L. Rowse in his biography Shakespeare’s Southampton. “They were both imbued with conviction and fighting for a cause for which they had long fought politically. It was now a question of carrying their convictions into action, sacrificing their lives.”

Southampton and his elder son James (born in 1605) sailed for Holland in August 1624; in November, the earl’s regiment in its winter quarters at Roosendaal was afflicted by fever. Father and son both caught the contagion; the son died on November 5, 1624; and Southampton, having recovered, began the long sad journey with his son’s body back to England. Five days later, however, Southampton himself died at Bergen-op-Zoom at fifty-one. [A contemporary report was that agents of Buckingham had poisoned him to death.]

King James died on March 25, 1625 and Henry de Vere, eighteenth Earl of Oxford died at The Hague on July 25 that year, after receiving a shot wound on his left arm.

But why, after all, might the “Two Henries” be another reason to conclude that Edward de Vere was the real author of the Shakespeare works? Well, to begin with, in this story there is not a trace of the grain dealer and moneylender from Stratford; he is nowhere to be found. More important, however, is the obviously central role in the authorship story played by Henry Wriothesley, who went on to embody the spirit of the “Shakespeare” and the Elizabethan age – the great spirit of creative energy, of literature and drama, of romance and adventure, of invention and exploration, of curiosity and experimentation, of the Renaissance itself.

And, too, Southampton had become a kind of father figure to the sons of Oxford and Essex and Willoughby – the new generation of those “gallant spirits that aimed at the Public Liberty more than their own interest” and who “supported the old English honor and would not let it fall to the ground.”

How these men must have shared a love for “Shakespeare” and his stirring words! How they must have loved speeches such as the one spoken by the Bastard at the close of King John:

This England never did, nor never shall,
Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror
But when it first did help to wound itself.
Now these her princes are come home again,
Come the three corners of the world in arms,
And we shall shock them. Nought shall make us rue
If England to itself do rest but true!

two henries - 1

POSTSCRIPT

Oxfordian researcher and author Robert Brazil wrote the following on this topic in his book The True Story of the Shake-speare Publications: Edward de Vere and the Shakespeare Printers:

“In the 1600s Oxford’s son Henry became a very close friend to Henry Wriothesley. They shared a passion for politics, theater, and military adventure. The image of the Two Henries, which dates from 1624 or later, shows the earls of Oxford and Southampton riding horseback together in their co-command of the 6000 English troops in Holland that had joined with the Dutch forces in countering the continued attacks by Spain. The picture serves as a reminder that a close relationship between the Vere family and Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, lasted for decades, and that Southampton CAN be linked historically to the author Shake-speare, provided that said author was really Edward de Vere.”

“Much Ado About Italy” – Installment No. 1 of My Talk on Richard Paul Roe and “The Shakespeare Guide to Italy” for the S.A.T. Conference at the Globe

Italy Poster
“Below is installment No. 1 of my talk for Much Ado about Italy, the London conference of the Shakespearean Authorship Trust (S.A.T.) in collaboration with Brunel University on November 24, 2013. The conference, at the Nancy Knowles Lecture Theatre of Shakespeare’s Globe, explored two overall questions:

“Did the author of the Shakespeare works have intimate knowledge of Italian topography, politics, culture and customs – or was he no true traveler? What limitations on Shakespeare scholarship have been imposed by orthodox assumptions about a landlocked author?”

[My first answer would be that, yes, of course the author had such intimate knowledge of Italy. My second answer, in brief, would be that the limitations on scholarship have been so extensive and profound that it will take decades to recover from all the damage.]

Venice-Holiday

The conference would not have succeeded without the organizing efforts of Bronwyn Robertson and Julia Cleave. William Leahy of Brunel University chaired the event, whose speakers were Alexander Waugh, Kevin Gilvary, Jenny Tiramani, Julia Cleave (presenting Professor Roger Prior’s discoveries in Bassano del Grappa), Ros Barber and John Casson, with my talk focusing on the late Richard Paul Roe and his 2012 book The Shakespeare Guide to Italy:

“I want to thank the Shakespearean Authorship Trust for having me here. I’ve been involved with the authorship question for more than twenty-five years; and when I began, I couldn’t find anybody to talk with about this. Not the librarian, not the local theater director, not even my mother. Back in those early days (the late eighties and early nineties), at the family dinner table, I would no sooner open my mouth – you know, about ‘maybe Shakespeare wasn’t the guy we thought he was’ – and all of a sudden I’m the only one sitting there. So the very fact that I’m here, with a group inspired by Mark Rylance, speaking to you with all these other folks, is surely a sign that things have come a long way.

“I’ve had the privilege and pleasure of working with some of you in the past and meeting some of the most interesting people and some of the greatest minds that have labored in this field of inquiry. I’ve been challenged, often motivated, sometimes shocked, and on the rare occasion I’ve been truly inspired. And having the privilege of having known Richard Paul Roe for many years, I can tell you that he was indeed one of those rare sources of inspiration.

better early cover

“Before his death on December 1, 2010 at the age of eight-eight, Dick Roe’s great labor of love, The Shakespeare Guide to Italy, was printed privately with a limited number of copies under this cover with the subtitle Then and Now.

“Two years later it was issued for the public with the same title but a new cover, and now subtitled Retracing the Bard’s Unknown Travels.

“In the forward to this book his youngest daughter Hilary Roe Metternich makes a simple opening statement: “One of the great satisfactions of life is to embark on a long, leisurely journey – especially an absorbing intellectual adventure filled with mystery and promise.”

Cover of Roe Book

“During the last twenty-five years of his life, Dick Roe took that journey. He was a lawyer – a seasoned lawyer, who also had deep knowledge of medieval and Renaissance history and literature. And when his law practice in Los Angeles was coming to its end, he decided to investigate, for himself, whether Shakespeare’s references to localities in Italy are filled with repeated errors and mistakes, as so many academics had been accusing him for so long — or whether, in fact, those references might be accurate and true.

Color Roe Adult

“Because of his experience in the law, Roe knew that in most cases the best source for getting to the heart of things is tangible evidence: ‘Just the facts, please.’ And so he set forth, across the length and breadth of Italy, on a journey that required many trips from California, back and forth – holding his dog-eared copies of Shakespeare’s Italian plays, with all the place names underlined, along with detailed maps and notes, acting like an archaeologist excavating artifacts, inscriptions, monuments — observing geographical features and historical remnants after centuries of buried silence. Of course he was searching for the Italian renaissance that Shakespeare – whoever he was – had brought back to his own beloved “sceptered isle”.

“On more than a few occasions over those two decades, I found myself in the same place as Dick Roe. One time in California (in 1999, I believe) there was a lunch with several others including his lovely wife Jane (in connection with a meeting of the Shakespeare Authorship Roundtable under the guidance of Carole Sue Lipman, president) with and clearly he was still on the journey, filled with excitement and exuding quiet steady confidence.

“At various other times I met up with him at conferences and heard him give talks about his progress. And I had the definite feeling he just didn’t want it to end – ever. Was he writing a book? “Well, no, I don’t think so. I’m still looking, still learning and discovering.” He was just having too much fun!

“I particularly remember the first time I saw him give a talk. It was accompanied by a slide show with photographs he himself at taken in Venice, with his old weather-beaten copy of The Merchant in hand — and at one point the whole thing became very detailed, step by step, and it seemed we were following a trail like Sherlock Holmes with his magnifying glass –

again the rialto

“On the screen up came a series of images – including the Rialto, the financial district and for centuries the principal center of business in Venice for nobles and merchants, bankers and ship owners. There was the public square called Campo di San Giacomo di Rialto – adjacent to the Grand Canal – and Shakespeare in The Merchant of Venice refers to this square by name no less than five times.

“After some more images and photos of Venice here came the sight of the Jewish neighborhood, later called the Ghetto, literally an island within the city of Venice, surrounded by a complex of canals on all sides, and accessible only by one or the other of two bridges with gates.

campo-del-ghetto-nuovo

“Dick Roe explained that a decree of the Venetian Senate in 1516 had stated that the Jews must all live together in the ghetto, and not go out at night. The gates should be opened in the morning at the ringing of the main bell at St. Mark’s. Then they would be locked shut again at midnight by four Christian gatekeepers (appointed and paid for by the Jews themselves) – and part of this was to protect them from being attacked.

“On and on, step by step, Detective Roe retraced his footsteps for us, and he paused to recite lines from Act Two, Scene six, in the Ghetto, in front of the place where Shylock lives, when Gratiano tells Salerio that they have arrived at the “pent-house” under which Lorenzo wanted them to wait.

“Dick Roe found this reference to “the pent-house” a “curious detail” that cried out for an answer. The Middle English form of the word was “pentis,” referring to a small structure attached to, or dependent on, another building, and Roe found a usage in 1625 about “erecting certain posts and covering them with large pentises.”

(Photo by Sylvia Holmes)

(Photo by Sylvia Holmes)

“Up there on the screen appeared a color photograph from the vantage point of the street called the Campo del Ghetto Nuovo, and Dick Roe pointed to one of the buildings immediately next door to a four-arch arcade that was the site of Jewish loan banks frequented by Christians borrowing money.

“And here,” Roe said as he pointed to the screen, “is Shylock’s house!”

“I nearly fell over … What? I mean, really? Is this guy kidding? Come on! He’s saying this is the actual penthouse of the character Shylock, in a fictional play written in the sixteenth century?

“Well, it would become clear soon enough that this was the same startling precision for an obscure place and thing in Italy that the author knew about, and subtly described and wove into his story – an unusual and exact knowledge.

“And now Dick Roe was explaining various other aspects of the Venetian ghetto’s culture and way of life, and he spoke about Shakespeare’s knowledge of Italy and particularly of Venice, its Jewish traditions, synagogues, neighborhoods, its trading and banking laws –

“For example, he cited in The Merchant of Venice how old Gobbo questions his son Launcelot about which way to go, to get to Shylock’s house. What does he have to do to find it? According to Roe the son’s answer is a “classic, but comical, bit of Venetia,” something a stranger might hear from a local:

“Turn upon your right hand at the next turning, but at the next turning of all, on your left; marry, at the very next turning, turn of no hand; but turn down indirectly to the Jew’s house.”

“Roe explained that Shakespeare was well aware that both the father and his son would know that the old man would have to get there ‘indirectly,’ by using the ghetto’s tangled and zig-zagged streets. He cited scholars who thought the original question, about how to get to Shylock’s house, is ludicrous. But it’s NOT ludicrous, Roe said, because that’s just the way it was back then – for example, there were no address numbers on Venetian buildings – so old Gobbo would certainly find someone in that small district who would point him directly to Shylock’s house.

“And Shakespeare knew this.

“Roe himself was aware that so many of the original structures of the ghetto are still there, so much is still unchanged, the same as it was back in the sixteenth century, then as now, with only one penthouse in the ghetto, a single structure that Shakespeare was referring to, at only one location.

shylocks-penthouse3

“Yes, and here it was – its second floor projecting from a building supported by a few columns — the only structure in the Ghetto of its kind … and for good measure it’s immediately next door to a building that has a ground floor consisting of the arcade with four arches that was the site of the loan banks mandated by the Venetian Senate. Catholics were forbidden to lend for profit, so Venetian law restricted such banks to the Jewish quarter – the Red Bank, it was called, so named for the color of its pawn tickets.

“And in his book Dick Roe provides countless examples of this kind of discovery.”

[Next will be Installment No. 2)

“LAST WILL. & TESTAMENT” to be Available Oct. 15th on DVD Through PBS Distribution

Below is the entire text of a press release to be given tomorrow to the mainstream media. Congratulations to all involved, especially the producers Lisa Wilson and Laura Wilson Matthias

“LAST WILL. & TESTAMENT”
WHO WROTE THE WORKS OF SHAKESPEARE? THIS NEW FILM SEEKS TO UNCOVER THE TRUTH — Available on DVD from PBS Distribution October 15th

LAST WILL

Arlington, Va. – September XX, 2013 – PBS Distribution today announced it is releasing LAST WILL. & TESTAMENT on DVD. The film explores one of the greatest literary mysteries of all time: who wrote the works of William Shakespeare? Although the official story of a Stratford merchant writing for the London box office has held sway for centuries, questions over the authorship of the plays and poems have persisted. Mark Twain, Sigmund Freud, Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles are among the many famous figures who doubt that a grain-dealer from Stratford-Upon-Avon was England’s “Star of Poets.” Experts have debated, books have been written, and scholars have devoted their lives to protecting or debunking theories surrounding the authorship.

Sir Derek Jacobi leads an impressive cast featuring Oscar®-winning actress Vanessa Redgrave and Tony® Award-winning actor Mark Rylance on a quest to uncover the truth behind the elusive author, and discovers a forgotten nobleman whose story could rewrite history. LAST WILL. & TESTAMENT, from Executive Producer Roland Emmerich and debut directors Lisa Wilson and Laura Wilson Matthias, will be available on DVD October 15, 2013. The run time of the program is 85 minutes and the DVD SRP is $24.99.

The first part of this film explores the orthodox story of William Shakespeare of Stratford and the longstanding views held by academia. Stanley Wells, Honorary President of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and Prof. Jonathan Bate defend the orthodox position, while anti-Stratfordians Charles Beauclerk, Dr. Roger Stritmatter, Dr. William Leahy, Diana Price and actors Vanessa Redgrave, Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance expose the thin trail of evidence that has fueled doubt for centuries.

The second part is a testament to an alternative Shakespeare – one presented to the world in the literary works themselves and in the testimony of his most insightful doubters. Through a series of interviews with scholars currently working in the field, the film fashions a profile of the elusive poet. During the last century, a field of more than sixty candidates for authorship has narrowed, with Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, and group authorship becoming the most popular alternatives. A portion of LAST WILL. & TESTAMENT explores the life and literary career of this forgotten nobleman. Through on-camera commentary, a very human author emerges: a real-life Hamlet, whose tragic experiences provided the raw material for the canon and gave birth to the anti-Stratfordian and Oxfordian movements.

The final portion of the film weaves together the major historical events of the late Tudor era, including the crisis of succession and the Essex Revolt. The power politics of the Elizabethan Age and the towering figure of the Queen herself are addressed by the film’s commentators, who seek to connect Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets to the turbulent world of the court. By the end of the film, viewers will be challenged to explore the many unresolved historical, political and artistic issues that lie at the heart of the mystery of who wrote Shakespeare’s works.

About PBS Distribution
PBS Distribution is the leading media distributor for the public television community, both domestically and internationally, extending the reach of these programs beyond broadcast while generating revenue for the public television system and our production partners.

PBS Distribution offers a diverse range of programming to our customers, including Ken Burns’s films, documentaries from award-winning series such as NOVA, FRONTLINE, AMERICAN MASTERS, NATURE, and AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, dramas from MASTERPIECE, as well as films from independent producers and popular children’s programming. As a multi-channel distributor, PBS Distribution pursues wholesale/retail sales, consumer and educational sales through PBS-branded catalogs and online shops, and international broadcast and video sales. PBS Distribution is also a leader in offering programming through digital platforms including internet and mobile devices.

LAST WILL. & TESTAMENT
Street Date: October 15, 2013
Genre: Documentary
Run Time: 85 Minutes
SRP: $24.99
Format: DVD

So “Shakespeare” Wrote for the Page as well as the Stage? Well, then, Who was “Shakespeare”?

     First Folio - 1623

First Folio – 1623

Wandering through the web the other day, I paused to read something in “About.com Shakespeare” under a heading about theater in Shakespeare’s time.  “It’s a sad fact that today we normally study Shakespeare’s plays out of a book,” the writer explained, “but it’s important to remember that the Bard wasn’t writing for today’s literary audience; he was writing for the masses, many of whom couldn’t read or write.”

Then, later, I came upon the Amazon site for the book Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist by Lukas Erne, now in a new edition after ten years; and the blurb explained that this “groundbreaking study argues that Shakespeare, apart from being a playwright who wrote theatrical texts for the stage, was also a literary dramatist who produced reading texts for the page.”

Hmmm … So which was it?

It seems to me that we have an example, here, of how the world of Shakespearean study is inevitably changing and almost imperceptibly moving toward recognizing Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford as the true author of the great works.  In that view, the seeming contradiction presented above is explained logically by realizing that Oxford — during the 1590s, and up to his death in 1604 — was a virtual recluse busily rewriting and revising his stage works.  Many of those plays were being performed, but at the same time he was transforming them into masterpieces of dramatic literature, for readers of his own time and in the future.

Otherwise, let’s face it – work being done by scholars such as Lukas Erne can only threaten the traditional conception of the busy dramatist turning out play after play with the only objective being to have it ready for actors to perform on the stage.  In the first place, that fellow of the orthodox view had no time to produce “reading texts for the page.”

“Examining the evidence from early published playbooks, Erne argues that Shakespeare wrote many of his plays with a readership in mind and that these ‘literary’ texts would have been abridged for the stage because they were too long for performance.”

Oh, come on, please!  That statement has it entirely backwards!  Sure, that may have been part of the way it worked if Oxford was the playwright; but the Stratford man would never have written a literary text that would have to be “abridged for the stage”!   Remember how he was said to be “indifferent” to the appearances of his plays in print?

But Lukas Erne is surely on the right track.  And works like Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist, first published in 2003, will follow the track right to the Earl of Oxford.

I encourage readers of this blog to check out the various “reviews” on Amazon, many with clear recognition that our view of the author and his work must now change.  The scholars must now bend with the winds of that change.  Bend or break…

It would also be a good idea to get hold of the new edition, with an added 10,000-word preface that “reviews and intervenes in the controversy that the book has triggered.”

Yes indeed!

Why was “Shakespeare” Anonymous for so Long? Explanation, Anyone?

Titus Andronicus, 1594        (Anonymous)

Titus Andronicus, 1594
(Anonymous)

When the author “William Shakespeare” was just starting on his career as poet and playwright in the early 1590s, by tradition he was supposedly working as an actor learning lines and rehearsing and, of course, performing.  It’s a wonder he had time to eat, much less read the hundreds of books from which he would draw information and ideas for his writings!

In any case, in the early 1590’s he was apparently trying to make a name for himself; and sure enough, his two narrative poems (Venus and Adonis in 1593 and Lucrece in 1594) were instant bestsellers.  They both carried his name – not on the cover pages but inside, as printed signatures of the dedications to Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton – and so, by the end of 1593, his name was made.

Henry_VI_pt_2_quarto

Why did “William Shakespeare” fail to appear anywhere on the early publications of his plays?  His name was prominent, so surely he could have insisted upon it; moreover, the publishers themselves would have been eager to use his name to promote sales.  I don’t think the Stratfordians have any convincing explanations.

My view is that Edward de Vere, the seventeenth Earl of Oxford, had already written the earlier versions of these plays by 1589.  Now, in the 1590s, he was unloading them.  And having attached his pen name “Shakespeare” to Southampton, speaking to him in language that a nobleman would use only to address a royal prince, he must have promised William Cecil Lord Burghley, the most powerful man in England, to keep his pen name off the printed copies of his plays.

Henry_VI_pt_3_quartoWhen Lord Burghley died in August 1598, the agreement abruptly ended. Now Oxford — helping to promote Southampton, from behind the scenes — faced the cunning Robert Cecil; and that fall he saw to it that twelve of his “Shakespeare” plays were listed in Palladis Tamia by Francis Meres.  In terms of the struggle to control the inevitable succession to the Queen, the gloves were off.  Now quartos of the plays began appearing under the Shakespeare name (which was often hyphenated as “Shake-speare”).  Before that, however, seven play publications up to 1598 had been issued without any name attached to them:

  Titus Andronicus (1594); 2 Henry the Sixth – “The First Part of the Contention…” (1594); 3 Henry the Sixth – “The True Tragedy of Richard Duke of York…” (1595); Richard the Third (1597); Romeo and Juliet Q1 (1597); Richard the Second (1597); 1 Henry the Fourth (1598)…

Why would young Will Shakspere of Stratford turn out these plays and have them published without his name on them?  Why, given his popularity as a poet from 1593 onward, would publishers keep his name off these plays?  Here, as they say, is another dog that failed to bark…

Richardthird 1597

romeo-and-juliet-1597 good

Richard II quarto 1597 no Shakespeare name

Henry_IV_1_title_page

The Sea and Seamanship: No. 61 of 100 Reasons Why Edward, Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare”

tempest shipwreckIt’s been nearly fifty years since Lt. Commander Alexander Falconer, a naval officer during World War Two and a professional sailor steeped in the history of seamanship and navigation, published two books that were largely ignored at the time: Shakespeare and the Sea (1964) and A Glossary of Shakespeare’s Sea and Naval Terms including Gunnery (1965).

Falconer brought his firsthand knowledge and experience to bear on an investigation of Shakespeare’s use of seafaring terms and situations involving the sea.  His conclusion was that the great author brought with him detailed, accurate knowledge of naval matters and was well-informed about storms, shipwrecks, pirates, voyages of exploration, navigation:

“The manning and running of royal ships … duties of officers and seamen … strategy and the principles of sea warfare, gunnery, grappling and boarding are all known to him; so, too, are the main types of ship, their build, rigging, masts, sails, anchors and cables.  The sea itself in its varied working, tides, waves, currents, storms and calms, never goes out of his work.”

Writing about the opening scene of The Tempest, when the ship is wrecked in a storm, Falconer noted Shakespeare’s care for details and that he “has not only worked out a series of maneuvers, but has made exact use of the professional language of seamanship.”

A ship of the Spanish armada, 1588

Ships of the Spanish armada, 1588

This year the Royal Shakespeare Company presented a “shipwreck trilogy” of Shakespeare plays:  The Tempest, Twelfth Night and The Comedy of Errors.  In reaction, Charles Spencer of The Telegraph noted that “although there were books on navigation in Shakespeare’s time, nothing on seamanship was published until later.”  In any case, Falconer believed that the Bard’s knowledge in this area could not have come from books alone.

“Most current scholarship fails to note the sophistication of Shakespeare’s maritime imagination,” writes Dan Brayton in Shakespeare’s Ocean (2012), noting “the extraordinary degree [in the poems and plays] to which human lives are connected with the sea, or the remarkable specificity of his descriptions of marine phenomena.”

The great author’s exact use of naval and maritime language, along with his intimate knowledge of the sea and seamanship, cannot be explained by anything in the documented life of William Shakspere of Stratford upon Avon (1564-1616).  It’s sheer fantasy to think he might have been a sailor during his “lost” years (presumably in the 1580’s), just as it’s wishful thinking to imagine he was a schoolteacher or a law clerk or whatever else during that time.

Perhaps scholars generally fail to notice the bard’s experience at sea precisely because they know the Stratford man never once left dry land. When one assumes that it’s impossible for something to exist, it becomes quite easy to ignore it.

The Oxfordian scholar Paul Altrocchi puts it this way: “Closed minds automatically blockade new information which conflicts with their own beliefs, preventing highly persuasive evidence from entering their brains for evaluation.  Oxfordians believe with conviction that Stratfordianism represents a classic example of the common human tendency to stick tenaciously with conventional wisdom, preventing much more logical and coherent newer theories and facts from being given a fair hearing.”

When we turn to look at the life of Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford (1550-1604), however, there is no need to imagine his experience with the sea and no reason to ignore the vast knowledge of the sea to be found in the poems and plays.  No. 61 of 100 Reasons to conclude that Oxford was “Shakespeare” is that the earl did have such maritime experience.

Oxford at twenty-two in September 1572 wrote to William Cecil Lord Burghley, in reaction to the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of Protestants in France, offering to help defend England in any way that he could.  “If there be any setting forth to sea, to which service I bear most affection,” he wrote, “I shall desire your Lordship to give me and get me that favor…”

A 16th-century map of Venice

A 16th-century map of Venice

Oxford traveled extensively by ship or boat.  He crossed the Channel to France in 1575 and would have taken many boat trips on the then-existing canals and other waterways between Italian cities, making his home base at Venice.  In Shakespeare by Another Name, author Mark Anderson notes Oxford’s letter to Burghley saying he would “bestow two or three months to see Constantinople and some part of Greece.”

In Venice the earl lived in the heart of a community of Greeks who traveled to and from their native country.  “The 1,100-mile, fifteen-day voyage to Athens would have followed the Adriatic currents down the Illyrian (now Croatian) coastline,” Anderson writes.  Oxford would have made such a journey by means of a Venetian galley ship; and, in fact, it would be reported in the autumn of 1575 that Oxford had hurt his knee in a Venetian galley.  Oxford was stopped by pirates and nearly killed [as Hamlet would be] in the Channel in April 1576, while returning to England.

Martin Frobisher  (1536/9-1594)

Martin Frobisher
(1536/9-1594)

He crossed by ship over to the Netherlands in 1585, on a military mission, and this time pirates stopped the vessel carrying his belongings and apparently they stole everything on board.  The earl had invested (disastrously) in Martin Frobisher’s voyages to discover the Northwest Passage to China, so he would have learned about the various aspects of the navigation involved.  He was well acquainted with Dr. John Dee, who was intimately involved in developing Frobisher’s navigational routes.

Moreover Oxford had his own ship, the Edward Bonaventure, which he contributed to Captain Edward Fenton’s expedition in 1582 to the Spanish Main.  (The Spanish rebuffed the little fleet, so the earl’s investment did not pay off.)  Then in June 1588, with the Armada on its way, Oxford prepared to take the Bonaventure into battle.  Although the English soundly defeated the great Spanish fleet, it appears that Oxford’s ship became disabled.

In the following year, a poem apparently by Oxford’s private secretary John Lyly envisioned the earl standing on the hatch-cover of the Bonaventure, literally breathing fire instilled within him by Pallas, the spear-shaker: “De Vere … like warlike Mars upon the hatches stands./ His tusked Boar ‘gan foam for inward ire/ While Pallas filled his breast with fire.”

Shakespeare and the Sea was reviewed in the autumn 1965 edition of the Shakesperean Authorship Review by I.L.M. McGeoch, who observed:

“Professor Falconer points out that whereas many educated Elizabethans understood the art of navigation – in those happy days art was science, and science was art – only those who actually served at sea could acquire a profound knowledge of the practice of seamanship and the correct meaning and use of the terms proper to the working of ships.  That Shakespeare possessed such a profound knowledge is instanced many times.”

He offered a line from King John (4.2.23) as an example of “inspired accuracy of allusion seasoned with wit” by Shakespeare: “And like a shifted wind unto a sail, it makes the course of thoughts to fetch about.”

“Tacking is to bring a ship’s head to lie the other way,” McGeoch noted.  “True.  And ‘to fetch about’ is synonymous with ‘to tack’; but subtler still is the reference to ‘course,’ which is not only the direction in which a ship is heading, but also the name given to the principal sail on any mast of a square-rigged ship.  The essence of tacking, therefore, is to bring the wind onto the other side of the sail, or ‘course,’ and the necessary re-trimming of the sail is assisted by the wind blowing upon it from the side appropriate to the new tack.”

“Not knowing that Edward de Vere wrote the great plays of Shakespeare makes it impossible to understand many of the allusions and subtleties within every play,” Dr. Altrocchi writes, adding that such impossibility “deprives the audience of much of a play’s texture so richly spun” by the author.

A Note on the “100 Reasons” — Having Reached No. 60, We’ve Got Just 40 More to Go…

Yes, we have reached No. 60 of the 100 reasons why the Earl of Oxford was Shakespeare.  When the series was launched as part of this blog, I thought it would be a snap – you know, write a paragraph for each “reason” and the whole thing would go quickly.

graphic-vere-horse-latin-slogan

Well, it turns out that each “reason” has given me an opportunity to revisit the research and, quite often, to find new aspects of the case for Edward de Vere’s authorship.  And the individual posts have run an average of a thousand words apiece, often much longer and in two or three parts.

Thanks to all who have posted comments along the way!

The first “reason” of the series was published back on February 23, 2011, nearly two year ago!

However long it will it take to complete the next forty, I know I’ll continue to enjoy the process.

And I hope you enjoy it, too.

“Vero Nihil Verius” — Nothing Truer than Truth!

(I should add that with this post Hank Whittemore’s Shakespeare Blog has reached 300 posts overall.)

WATCH THE TRAILER FOR “LAST WILL. & TESTAMENT” — The First Major Documentary on the Shakespeare Authorship Question in Over Two Decades — Is it a Game Changer?

THE FIRST TRAILER FOR “LAST WILL. & TESTAMENT” IS

HERE AT A CLICK

The New Shakespeare Authorship Documentary “Last Will. & Testament” Soon to be Available Nationwide

On 23 October 2012, the Shakespeare authorship documentary LAST WILL. & TESTAMENT will finally be launched in the United States via ON DEMAND and ITUNES, bringing this powerful argument for Edward de Vere, the seventeenth Earl of Oxford to a nationwide audience.

Two days before, on 21 October 2012, the documentary will have its U.S. Premier at the Austin Film Festival.  Meanwhile the film is now on a college tour that has already included a stop on Oct. 5 at DePaul University in Chicago and, today, Oct. 7, at the Film Society of Minneapolis.  The upcoming schedule so far:

OCT 12 Southern Oregon University -OLLI – Ashland, OR

OCT 14 University of Missouri – Kansas City/ESU-KC

OCT 19 Caltech/Shakespeare Authorship Conference – Pasadena, CA

And, as mentioned above:

OCT 21 US Premiere at the Austin Film Festival – Austin TX

OCT 23 – available nationwide On Demand and iTunes on October 23, 2012.

The most important result of all this, in my view, is that more and more folks will have information — just plain information, to which they had never had access.  This is not about making overnight converts to the Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship; rather, it’s about letting people know what’s behind one of the most amazing and important investigations related to literature and history.

It’s especially gratifying to know that this information will now be available to members of a new generation of students, who will not be as brainwashed (and deprived of the facts) as so many other generations have been.  These young people will not be trapped in the old Shakespearean paradigm; they will be able to look at the information with more open minds.

Let the new era begin!

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