Re-Posting Reason No. 3: Oxford Sponsored “The Courtier” — A Primary Inspiration for Prince Hamlet

“O what a noble mind is here o’erthrown!
The courtier’s, soldier’s, scholar’s eye, tongue, sword,
The expectancy and rose of the fair state,
The glass of fashion and the mould of form…”
— Ophelia speaking of Prince Hamlet

When Shakespeare created his greatest and most self-revealing character with the words and actiions of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, he drew upon his own intimate knowledge and obvious love for Baldesar Castiglione’s Il Cortegiano, that is, The Book of the Courtier, one of the great volumes of the High Renaissance.

Castiglione’s & The Book of the Courtier

Portrayed in the book is a group of real-life thinkers, politicians, soldiers, clerics, diplomats and wits who gathered together at the Palace of Urbino in 1507 to play a game, over four evenings, to try to piece together a portrait of the perfect courtier.

Their conversations about courtliness ranged “from chivalry to humanist debates about language, literature, painting and sculpture,” John Lotherington writes in his introduction to a 2005 edition from Barnes & Noble Books, “to the art of conversation and the telling of jokes, the role and dignity of women, the delicate job of guiding willful princes, and finally to love and its transcendent form in pure spirit.”

The Courtier, published in 1528, attempts “to refashion the medieval ideal of the chivalrous knight and to fuse it with the Renaissance virtues of learning and grace,” James Oscar Campbell writes in The Reader’s Encylopedia of Shakespeare (1966), adding that Shakespeare “may have derived the ‘merry war’ of Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing from a similar battle in The Courtier.”

The Ducal Palace at Urbino

“Shakespeare may have read Castiglione in Italian,” Charles Boyce writes in Shakespeare A to Z (1990) — a fairly amazing statement from one who supposedly believes the author was William Shakspere of Stratford upon Avon, who was unlikely to have been able to read works in Italian.

Translated into English in 1561 by Thomas Hoby, The Courtier exerted a strong influence on the courtly ideals of the reign of Elizabeth I of England.

The Courtier in English as translated by Thomas Hoby in 1561

A little more than a decade later, in January 1572, having just come of age as a courtier, Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford made possible the publication of a new Latin translation of Castiglione’s work by one of his former tutors, Bartholomew Clerke.  To give it the biggest send-off possible, Oxford even wrote an eloquent introduction, also in Latin, which Charlton Ogburn Jr. in The Mysterious William Shakespeare (1984) called “a remarkably finished piece of work for a 21-year-old writing in a classical language.”

Oxford’s first biographer B. M. Ward wrote in 1928 that becoming a leader in war had been Edward de Vere’s goal, “if only because that was the normal expectation for any young nobleman seeking to fulfill his destiny,” but having been denied military service it was “only natural” that the young earl then turned to literature.

The Latin translation of The Courtier by Bartholomew Clerke in 1571, published from the Royal Court with Oxford’s blessing

But Ward also noted that most likely Edward de Vere had been captivated by literature from boyhood.  He had taken degress at Cambridge and Oxford universities at ages fourteen and sixteen; before age twenty his library had included works of Chaucer, Plutarch, Cicero and Plato, not to mention the Geneva Bible and “other books and papers.”

In 1571, the year before he issued his former tutor’s Latin translation of The Courtier, his uncle Arthur Golding noted in print that that he knew from personal experience how Oxford had taken a keen interest in “the present estate of things in our days, and that not without a certain pregnancy of wit and ripeness of understanding.”

Oxford in January 1572 was receiving the highest royal favor at Court.  The intimacy of his relationship with Queen Elizabeth was the subject of much scandalous gossip; the year before, he had married the Ophelia-like daughter of William Cecil Lord Burghley, the Polonius-like chief minister to the Queen.  Although he had grown up in the household and custody of Burghley, the architect of the Protestant reformation, Oxford leaned away from the Puritan movement and instead fell in love with classical languages and the old feudal values of knighthood and chivalry.

Elizabeth Tudor, Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603)

In his early twenties, he was the latest descendant of noble earls stretching back 500 years to William the Conqueror and, in every way, the man whom Walt Whitman would describe as one of the ‘wolfish earls’ who must have written the Shakespeare plays:

“Conceived out of the fullest heat and pulse of European feudalism – personifying in unparalleled ways the medieval aristocracy, its towering spirit of ruthless and gigantic caste, its own peculiar air and arrogance (no mere imitation) — only one of the ‘wolfish earls’ so plenteous in the plays themselves, or some born descendent and knower, might seem to be the true author of those amazing works — works in some respects greater than anything else in recorded history.”

When our modern world realizes sooner than later that Edward de Vere wrote the Shakespearean works, students will find more and more ways in which those works reflect his devotion to the ideas and ideals set forth by Castiglione, of whom the young earl wrote enthusiastically in his preface:

“For who has spoken of Princes with greater gravity?  Who has discoursed of illustrious women with a more ample dignity?  No one has written of military affairs more eloquently, more aptly about horse-racing, and more clearly and admirably about encounters under arms on the field of battle.  I will say nothing of the fitness and the excellence with which he has depicted the beauty of chivalry in the noblest persons.”

Drayton Henderson wrote a book in 1934 with a title that directly declared its theme:  Hamlet as a Castiglionean Courtier.  He also wrote introductory notes for the Everyman edition of The Courtier, stating that “without Castiglione we should not have Hamlet.  The ideal of the courtier, scholar, soldier developed first in Italy, and perfected in the narrative of Il Cortegiano, was Castiglione’s gift to the world,” adding, “Hamlet is the high exemplar of it in our literature.  But it is not only Shakespeare’s Hamlet that seems to follow Castiglione.  Shakespeare himself does.”

Hamlet the character is drawn in large part from Castiglione’s Book of the Courtier … Shakespeare created Hamlet as a special work of self-delineation … and it turns out that the leading candidate for the real author, Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, strove to embody the “perfect courtier” as recorded by Castiglione in The Courtier — which, in turn, as a young man newly arrived at Court, he had read over and over and then caused to be published.

The courtier’s, soldier’s, scholar’s eye, tongue, sword…

In the spring of 1570 the 20-year-old courtier Edward de Vere had been a soldier while accompanying the Earl of Sussex near the end of the Northern Rebellion, witnessing some battles of that English civil war; he was already known as a brilliant scholar;  he was famous for his sharp tongue and was the new champion jouster of the Whitehall tilt yard …

So that’s my Reason No. 3 why Oxford was author of the “Shakespeare” works.  The next installment, No. 4, will focus on the actual contents of the wonderful 1,100-word preface Oxford wrote for his former tutor’s Latin translation of The Book of the Courtier — a piece of writing that one day will be the basis of an essential chapter in the biography of the man who wrote the tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark:

O Horatio what a wounded name!
Things standing thus unknown shall live behind me!
If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart,
Absent thee from felicity a while
And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain
To tell my story…

(Note: This post became Reason 7 in 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford by Hank Whittemore)


Hank’s 100 Reasons Why Oxford was “Shakespeare” — The List To Date


Reason No. 1: Oxford, like Hamlet, brought plays to Court

Reason No. 2: Golding, Translator of Ovid, was Oxford’s Uncle

Reason No. 3: Oxford Promoted The Courtier, Model for Hamlet

Reason No. 4: Oxford Hailed “New Glory of Language” in Courtier Preface

Reason No. 5: Hamlet’s Brush with Pirates Reflects Oxford’s Encounter

Reason No. 6: Lyly Taught Shakespeare, but Oxford Taught Lyly

Reason No. 7: Oxford Wrote the First “Shakespearean” Sonnet of the Elizabethan Reign

Reason No. 8: Gabriel Harvey’s address to Oxford in 1578: “Thy Countenance Shakes a Spear!”

Reason No. 9: Oxford to Burghley: “I AM THAT I AM”; Shakespeare Sonnet 121: “I AM THAT I AM”

Reason No. 10: Oxford Commanded the English Publication of “Hamlet’s Book”

Reason No. 11 – Part One: The Earl’s Preface to “Cardanus Comforte” is Shakespearean!

Reason No. 11 – Part Two: His Words, Thoughts & Phrases Anticipate Shakespeare’s

Reason No. 11 – Part Three: And Here’s Some of the Extraordinary Evidence

Reason No. 12 – Part One: “Shakespeare” & Queen Elizabeth’s Men

Reason No. 12 – Part Two: Lord Oxford & the Queen’s Men

Reason No. 13 – “Shakespeare” Describes a Titian Painting of “Venus and Adonis” that Oxford, not Shakspere, would have seen in Venice

Reason No. 14 – The Famous “Precepts” of Lord Polonius & Lord Burghley

Reason No. 15 – Oxford’s Prominence in “The Arte of English Poesie” of 1589

Reason No. 16: Bertram in “All’s Well” is a Portrait of Young Oxford

Reason No 17: Oxford at Age 14 Witnessed an Event like the Pivotal Scene in “Hamlet”

Reason No. 18: Henry Peacham and the Hand of an Unseen Author Identified as De Vere

Reason No. 19: The Families of Oxford and Hamlet as Mirror Reflections 

Reason No. 20: Part One: The Nearly 30 Dedications of Books to Oxford 

Reason No. 20: Part Two – The Dedications Show Oxford’s Personal Involvement with the Writers

Reason No. 21: Jealousies and Suspicions Regarding His Wife: Anne Cecil in Desdemona and Ophelia 

Reason No. 22: Edward de Vere’s Geneva Bible and its Annotations in His Own Hand

Reason No. 23: Those “Haggards” That Fly From Man to Man

Reason No. 24: Shakespeare’s Deep Knowledge of Italy & Oxford’s Italian Travels

Reason No. 25: Oxford’s Grant of a Thousand Pounds Per Year in Wartime 

Reason No. 26: “L’Envoy to ‘Narcissus'” in 1595 and “One whose power floweth far … Tilting under Frieries”

Reason No. 27: Anthony Munday and his Long Association with Oxford and “Shakespeare”

Reason No. 28: Henry Wriothesley Earl of Southampton and his links to both “Shakespeasre” and Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford

Reason No. 29: The Fabric of Oxford’s Life is Woven into the Autobiographical Sonnets

Reason No. 30: Part One – Oxford’s Letters are Filled Throughout with Thoughts and Phrases Used in the Shakespeare Works 

Reason No. 30 – Part Two – His Response in “Shakespearean” Style to the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in August 1572

Reason No. 31: “Timon of Athens” Mirrors Oxford’s Own Character, Life Experiences and Emotional Responses

Reason No. 32: “The Quality of Mercy” and Oxford’s view that “Nothing Adorns a King more than Justice.”

Reason No. 33:  The Earl of Oxford, like Shakespeare, had deep knowledge of France and of the French Language

Reason No. 34: The College of Writers at Fisher’s Folly, Oxford’s House, and the Book of Verses by Oxford and Shakespeare Transcribed by Anne Cornwallis, Daughter of the New Owner 

Reason No. 35 (Part One): The poet Thomas Watson and his Links between Edward de Vere and “Shakespeare”

Reason No. 35 (Part Two): The structure of Watson’s 1582 sonnet “century,” dedicated to Oxford, is duplicated in SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS of 1609 

Reason No. 36: The “Bed-Trick” in Edward de Vere’s Life Story, whether Fact or Legend, and its Appearance in Four of Shakespeare’s Plays 

Reason No. 37 (Part One): Oxford’s Life in Music Explains the Enormous Breadth and Depth of Shakespeare’s Love & Knowledge of It – “Mark the Music!” 

Reason No. 37 (Part Two): Oxford Worked With and Patronized the Composer William Byrd 

Reason No. 37 (Part Three): Oxford Patronized the Composer John Farmer, Who Dedicated His Works to the Earl

Reason No. 38: Henry Peacham in “The Compleat Gentleman” of 1622 Lists Oxford at the Top of Elizabethan Poets but Neglects “Shakespeare” 

Reason No. 39 (Part One): Shakespeare’s Vast Medical Knowledge and Oxford’s Interest in Medicine and Access to Medical Information  

Reason No. 39 (Part Two): More of the Medical Mind of “Shakespeare” and Why Oxford, not Shakspere of Stratford,  is the Author

Reason No. 40: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and Its Origins in the Early 1580’s as a Comic Skit about Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Alencon 

Reason No. 41: The Deep Familiarity of “Shakespeare” and Oxford with the Italian Commedia Dell’Arte

Reason No. 42: “Truth is Truth” — Oxford and “Shakespeare” Share the Same Commitment to Truth in the Same Words

Reason No. 43: Oxford and the Law: He had the Experience to Develop and Use the Legal Mind of “Shakespeare” 

Reason No. 44 (Part One): (Scroll down to the Post)

Reason No. 44 (Part Two): Oxford’s Poetry and “Shakespeare’s” Poetry Suggest a Common Source

Reason No. 45: Oxford’s Echo Poem and the Echo Verse in William Shake-speare’s “A Lover’s Complaint”

Reason No. 46: Edmund Spenser’s Lament in 1590 for “Our Pleasant Willy” Who Was “Dead of Late”

Reason No. 46 (Part Two): Additional Thoughts about “Our Pleasant Willy”

Reaspm No. 47: Spenser’s Rhyming Match in 1579 between “Willie” (Oxford) and “Perigot” (Philip Sidney)

Reason No. 48: The Many Characters Reflecting Queen Elizabeth in the Shakespeare Poems and Plays

Reason No. 49: The Many Characters Reflecting Edward de Vere in the Shakespeare Plays

Reason No. 50: Oxford was Court Impressario and Master Showman: The Mock Military Battle for the Queen in 1572

Reason No. 51: Oxford Had Gained All the Military Knowledge Exhibited by the “Shakespeare” Works  

Reason No. 52 (Part One): Oxford Stages a Dramatic Show for the Queen, Playing the Lead Role as “The Knight of the Tree of the Sunne”

Reason No. 52 (Part Two): Oxford’s Page Delivers a Shakespearean Oration to Elizabeth, Professing His Master’s Loyalty

Reason No. 53 (Part One): “The Phoenix and Turtle” of 1601 is Explained by Oxford’s Role as “Knight of the Tree of the Sunne” in 1581

Reason No. 53 (Part Two): The Royal Family Triangle at the Tiltyard (1581), in “The Phoenix and Turtle” (1601) and “Shake-speares Sonnets” (1609)

Reason No. 54: The Author as Gardener: Oxford Grew up in one of the World’s Most Famous Gardens

Reason No. 55: The Earl of Surrey, who introduced the Shakespearean sonnet form in England, was Oxford’s uncle

Reason No. 56: Richard Edwards, Master of the Children of the Royal Chapel, and links with the Young Edward de Vere in the 1560’s

Reason No. 57: Each of the Three Dedicatees of Shakespeare Works was Engaged to One of Oxford’s Three Daughters

Reason No. 58: Touchstone to William in “As You Like It” act one scene five: “You are not ‘ipse,’ for I am he!”

Reason No. 59: Prospero in “The Tempest” based on Dr. John Dee, the Conjurer, and also a self-portrait of Edward de Vere

Reason No. 60: If “Shakespeare” wrote the early play “Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth,” it must have been the young Edward de Vere

Reason No. 60 (Part Two): The Prince Tudor Aspect of “Famous Victories” and the Henry plays of Shakespeare

Reason No. 61: The Sea & Seamanship: Edward de Vere’s Life Explains Shakespeare’s Knowledge

Reason No. 62: Shakespeare’s Use of Heraldry and Heraldic Terms as an Inextricable Part of His Language

Reason No. 63: “A Never Writer to an Ever Reader”

Reason No. 63 (Part Two): Edward de Vere as “Ever or Never”

Reason No. 64: The Year of Oxford’s Recorded Death – 1604 – is a Pivotal Year in the “Shakespeare” Story

Reason No. 65: The Shakespeare Plays were Revised to Become Dramatic Literature

Reason No. 66 (Part One): Oxford was a Complete Man of the Theater – On the Record!

Reason No. 66 (Part Two): Oxford’s Life in the Theater

Reason No. 66 (Part Three): Connecting the Dots of Oxford’s Theatrical Life

Reason No. 67: John Bale’s Early Play of King John and the Earls of Oxford; also, the anonymous “Troublesome Reign” of King John

Reason No. 68 (Part One): “A Pleasant Conceit of Vere Earl of Oxford, Discontented at the Rising of a Mean Gentleman” etc. = Oxford and Christopher Hatton

Reason No. 68 (Part Two): Christopher Hatton and Malvolio of “Twelfth Night”

Reason No. 69: “Cymbeline” from an Oxfordian viewpoint, as an early work, finally makes sense

Reason No. 70: The Duke of Alencon in the Shakespeare plays

Reason No. 71: Alencon and Simier in The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Reason No. 72: Oxford and the Northwest Passage … the bond … the 3,000 pounds and the 3,000 ducats … Lock and Shylock

Reason No. 73 (Part One): “The Merchant of Venice” – Portia as Queen Elizabeth

Reason No. 73 (Part Two): Portia’s Belmont is a Real Place — the Villa Foscari

Reason No. 74: Oxford’s brother-in-law Lord Willoughby brought back report on “Hamlet’s Castle” in Denmark

Reason No. 75: The New Sophisticated Clown Robert Armin was a “servant” of Oxford when he was a “servant” of Shakespeare’s Company

Reason No. 76: Oxford, like Hamlet at the Court of Denmark, was the Most Amazing Jester at the Court of Elizabethan England

Reason No. 77: The Poet-Playwright George Chapman Knew that Oxford = Hamlet = Shakespeare

Reason No. 78: “A King of Infinite Space” – Oxford and Hamlet have the same point of view

Reason No. 79: Shakespearean “history” plays as mirrors (and instruments) of Elizabethan Tudor policy

Reason No. 80: A 1595 Reference to “Sweet Shakespeare” linked to “Our DeVere … A Secret” Discovered by Alexander Waugh

Reason No. 81: Allusions in “Twelfth Night” to the 1581 Interrogation and Torture of Jesuit priest Edmund Campion

Reason No. 82: Both “Shakespeare” and Oxford were Highly Educated in Greek – Demonstrated in the work of Dr. Earl Showerman

Reason No. 83: “Romeus and Juliet” of 1562, when Edward de Vere was Twelve, and Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juiliet”

Reason No. 84: Oxford was Involved in the Revolutionary Expanding Universe of Astronomy as Indicated by “Shakespeare”

Reason No. 85: The Gad’s Hill Robbery: an Episode of Oxford’s Life Shows Up in “Henry the Fourth Part One”

Reason No. 86: The Darnley Murder of 1567, the Assassination of Coligny in 1572, and more — The Likelihood of Contemporary Sources of “Macbeth” in Oxford’s Experience between 1567 and 1589

Reason No. 87: Horses and Horsemanship: An Integral Part of “Shakespeare’s” Work and of Oxford’s Life Experience

Reason No. 88: Oxford’s Links to the Bard’s Printers and Publishers

Reason No. 89: “The Two Most Noble Henries” – Henry Wriothesley and Henry De Vere

Reason No. 90: Oxford’s Tutor Had the Only Manuscript of “Beowulf,” an Influence Upon “Hamlet”

Reason No. 91 (Part One): “The Winter’s Tale”

Reason No. 91 (Part Two): The Trial of Mary, Queen of Scots and the Trial of Queen Hermione

Reason No. 91 (Part Three): “The Stubborn Bear of Authority”

Reason No. 92: Given his anonymity, Oxford had “The Record of a Wasted Genius”

Reason No. 93: Oxford had “Knowledge of Power” that is exhibited in the Shakespeare works

Reason No. 94: Shakespeare’s “immediate predecessors” worked under Oxford’s patronage and guidance

Reason No. 95 (Part One): The Shadowy Figure of Christopher Marlowe

Reason No. 95 (Part Two): Christopher Marlowe, continued

Reason No. 95 (Part Three): Christopher Marlowe, continued

Reason No. 95 (Part Four): Christopher Marlowe, continued to conclusion

Reason No. 96: “Oxford was with Elizabeth before her Speech to the Troops at Tilbury on August 8, 1588”

Reason No. 97: A 1584 Play at Court Performed by Oxford’s Boys was the Early Version of “Troilus and Cressida”

Reason No. 98: Oxford is the Only One on Francis Meres’ List with No Surviving Plays

Reason No. 99 (Part One): The “Taming” Plays in which Oxford Reveals his Identity

Reason No. 99 (Part Two): The Tale of Two Shrews and How it Reveals the Dramatist’s Method

Reason No. 100: How the Oxfordian movement began by looking for a special kind of genius and finding the conditions fulfilled

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