Lord Willoughby, Oxford’s Brother-in-Law, at the Court of Denmark in Elsinore, the setting for “Hamlet” — Reason 74 why Edward de Vere was “Shakespeare”

“Travel up to Hamlet’s Castle in the city of Elsinore, where you will see the outer walls and towers of this historic fortress immortalized by Shakespeare…”

Castle Kronborg at Elsinore -- the setting for "Hamlet, Prince of Denmark"

Castle Kronborg at Elsinore — the setting for “Hamlet, Prince of Denmark”

Tourists are encouraged to visit Castle Kronborg, known as Hamlet’s Castle, but the advertisers are not quite sure why “Shakespeare” chose Elsinore (as opposed to Copenhagen) as the setting for his great play about the Royal Court of Denmark.  Given the Stratfordian view, which dates the play’s composition circa 1600, they point to the Elsinore castle’s historical prominence because of its strategic location at Sound Oresund (three miles across from Sweden).  Whenever the tourism promoters decide that Hamlet was actually written by Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, however, they will find a far more obvious and logical reason.

Peregrine Bertie Lord Willoughby 1555-1601

Peregrine Bertie
Lord Willoughby

In the summer of 1582, Queen Elizabeth sent Oxford’s brother-in-law Peregrine Bertie, Lord Willoughby de Eresby, on a special mission to the Royal Court at Castle Kronborg in Elsinore.  Under the rule of King Frederick II, Denmark had become one of the great powers on the Continent and claimed the right to levy dues on all foreign merchant ships passing through its sea lanes.  Willoughby’s task was to invest Frederick as a Knight of the Garter while trying to persuade him that English ships trading with Russia should be free of molestation as they sailed through.

Willoughby remained at the Elsinore castle from July to September 1582, soaking up the atmosphere of the great fortification.  He and the king became great buddies during that time; and although the mission itself was not entirely successful, he wrote a colorful and detailed chronicle of it, circulated at the English Court and still preserved at the British Museum, entitled “Relation of my Lord Willoughby’s embassy into Denmark, in his own hand.”  In the account he described daily hunting expeditions and nightly revels with drinking bouts that prompted “many affectionate and loving speeches to Her Majesty and all of the Order,” adding that these grand toasts were “performed after a whole volley of all the great shot of the castle discharged, a royal feast, and a most artificial and cunning fireworks.”

Castle Kronborg

Castle Kronborg

Charlton Ogburn Jr. in The Mysterious William Shakespeare (1984) points to the January 1896 issue of Contemporary Review in which a scholar (Jan Steffanson) observed that the author of Hamlet manifests a “correct knowledge of Danish names, words, and customs of his time” along with “a local knowledge of the royal Castle of Elsinore, which he could not have derived from books.”  The dramatist shows a detailed knowledge of one particular room in the castle and a familiarity with the strictly Danish custom of drinking “cannon healths” by which the cannons are fired every time the king drinks:

King.  No jocund health that Denmark drinks today

But the great cannon to the clouds shall tell…

(A flourish of trumpets and ordnance shot off, within.)

Hamlet.  The king doth wake tonight and takes his rouse,

Keeps wassail and the swaggering up-spring reels;

And, as he drinks his draughts of Rhenish down,

The kettle-drum and trumpet thus bray out

The triumph of his pledge…

King.  Give me the cups;

And let the kettle to the trumpet speak,

The trumpet to the cannoneer without,

The cannons to the heavens, the heavens to earth,

“Now the king drinks to Hamlet!”

Peregrine Bertie, Lord Willoughby was married to Oxford’s sister Mary Vere.  At dinner Edward de Vere’s brother-in-law would have regaled them and other family members and friends with hilarious tales of King Frederick at the Court of Denmark in the castle at Elsinore.  And that would be just one reason why many Oxfordians have concluded that Edward de Vere wrote the first version of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark in 1583 or 1584, nearly two decades before the traditional dating of that great play, which he would have revised right up until his reported death on June 24, 1604.  It would also be another of these 100 reasons to conclude that Oxford was the great author who, in 1593, began to use the pen name William Shakespeare.

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