Reason No. 96 Why Oxford = “Shakespeare” — Edward de Vere was with Elizabeth before her Famous Speech to the Troops at Tilbury

Queen Elizabeth the First of England gave her famous speech to the troops at Tilbury, a village on the Thames, at a time when they still believed the Great Enterprise of Phillip II of Spain, the Armada, was about to land. A ruthless military force, convinced of God’s will for it to succeed, was about to conquer England. But in this moment of terror Gloriana appeared in their midst, riding from rank to rank and smiling as the soldiers cheered, before delivering an address to be remembered for all time.

(click on images for larger views.)


The speech, preserved in at least three versions, has been studied from then to now for its rhetorical structure, its simplicity and nobility, its power to inspire and motivate. It has been likened often to the St. Crispin’s Day speech in Henry V, when the king rallies his troops at Agincourt before they head into battle despite the overwhelming odds against them.

This reason to believe Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare” is the likelihood that, while Elizabeth certainly inspired him, there can be little doubt that he inspired her as well.


Oxford was with the 55-year-old Queen at Whitehall Palace not long before her visit to Tilbury. The earl had been commanding own ship the Edward Bonaventure, as part of the English fleet led by Lord Admiral Charles Howard, his longtime supporter and close friend, during some of the early fighting against the Armada; but the Bonaventure had been put out of commission, so Oxford left the fleet and arrived on July 27 at the Tilbury camp, reporting to his long-time enemy Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, whom Her Majesty had appointed Supreme Commander of the Army.

The next day Leicester wrote to Secretary Francis Walsingham that Oxford had set off to retrieve his “armor and furniture.” The Supreme Commander wondered where to assign Oxford on land. “I would know from you what I should do,” he wrote. “I trust he be free to go to the enemy [engage in close combat], for he seems most willing to hazard his life in this quarrel.”

(c) Essex County Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

When Oxford returned, Leicester told him he was being put in charge of two thousand men at Harwich, a peninsula that promised little if any military action. Leicester wrote again to Walsingham on August 1, reporting that Oxford “seemed at the first to like well of it,” but then “came to me and told me he thought the place of no service or credit…”

We can only imagine the face-to-face confrontation between these two men, whose mutual enmity had finally erupted in the midst of the long-dreaded attempted invasion, the outcome of which would determine England’s future. Emotions were already running high; there was a very real fear that their country might be taken over by the King of Spain and the Pope of Rome, and this fear may have driven Oxford to an act of insubordination.

The Queen with Leicester at Tilbury

The Queen with Leicester at Tilbury

“Clearly Oxford’s motivation was pique,” Alan Nelson scolds him in Monstrous Adversary, “rather than cowardice or subversion; but pique cannot excuse a refusal to obey a superior officer in time of war.”

Rather than accept such an order from this man he thought of as a “villain, villain, smiling, damned villain,” as Hamlet called his uncle, King Claudius, viewed by Oxfordians as representing Leicester, he scoffed at it and hurried away. By August 1, when Leicester was writing to Walsingham about the confrontation, Oxford had returned to London, exclaiming he “would to the court and understand Her Majesty’s further pleasure.”

So Oxford had gone to Whitehall to be with Elizabeth, who was now within a week of making her dramatic speech to the troops at Tilbury. The historical record tells no more of Oxford’s doings until the victory celebration to St. Paul’s on November 24; but what, we may ask, was the substance of his meeting with Elizabeth? How long was he with her at the palace? From what they knew during that week, the conquest of England was very possibly imminent; and in this dire situation, what would they have talked about?

Was it decided right then, between the two of them, that the Queen would go to Tilbury to plead for unity and loyalty?

Elizabeth had been Edward de Vere’s official mother from the time he became a royal ward at twelve in 1562. He had been in her Majesty’s highest favor all during the 1570s and even through his second triumph in the tiltyard, at the great tournament of January 22, 1581. That had been just a few months before his steep fall from grace when his mistress, Anne Vavasour, one of the Queen’s own Maids of Honor, gave birth to his illegitimate son (Sir Edward Vere). Even so he had alerted Elizabeth and Burghley to the treasonous plots of his erstwhile Catholic associates, proving yet again that his loyalty to her had never wavered.

Now in the midst of England’s greatest military crisis, and when Elizabeth herself was in grave danger, she and Oxford would have dropped all petty concerns and shared their old ties and old feelings in the kinds of words and phrases that we should expect to find in speeches from the pen of Shakespeare. Just two years before, in 1586, the earl had been cited by William Webbe as “the most excellent” of poets at court; in the next year, 1589, he will be cited in The Arte of English Poesie as one of the courtiers “who have written excellently well as it would appear if their doings could be found out and made public with the rest.”

(c) Essex County Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Elizabeth and Oxford would have understood that this might be their final meeting. In this highly charged circumstance, could they avoid the subject of how she might rally her troops in the face of the Spanish fury? How could Oxford fail to suggest the kind of speech she might make?

Certainly no other candidate for the authorship of Shakespeare was in a position to inspire the Queen to make a positively Shakespearean speech to the army!

When Henry V in Shakespeare’s play addresses his soldiers at Agincourt, he descends to their level as one of them: “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; for he that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.”

And Elizabeth does the same, telling her troops: “I am come amongst you, as you see, at this time, not for my recreation and disport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live and die amongst you all.”

King Henry reminds his men of the honor they will gain: “And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by, from this day to the ending of the world, but we in it shall be remembered.”

So, too, Queen Elizabeth at Tilbury, promising: “I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field … I know already, for your forwardness you have deserved rewards and crowns; and We do assure you in the word of a prince, they shall be duly paid to you; [and] we shall shortly have a famous victory.”

[It cam be no coincidence that her promise of a “famous victory” echoes the much earlier play The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth, which Oxfordians feel was written by a young Edward de Vere, and which quite obviously forms the basis of 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV and Henry V by Shakespeare.]

Inevitably we should find within Elizabeth’s address at Tilbury some phrases here and there to be found in Shakespeare:

Elizabeth: “Let tyrants fear! I have always so behaved myself that, under God, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and goodwill of my subjects.”

Shakespeare in The Comedy of Errors: “Money by me! Heart and goodwill you might.”

Elizabeth: “… and [I] think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm.”

Shakespeare in 1 Henry VI: “I owe him little duty, and less love; and take foul scorn to fawn on him by sending.”

The Queen’s most famous statement is her ringing declaration: “I know I have the body of a weak, feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king” – and then there is Portia, wife of Brutus, in Julius Caesar by Shakespeare: “I grant I am a woman; but withal a woman well-reputed, Cato’s daughter. Think you I am no stronger than my sex …?”

So … did the Earl of Oxford help or influence Queen Elizabeth’s speech at Tilbury? A case can be made that “Shakespeare” surely did!

The most-often-cited version of the Queen’s speech was found in a letter from Leonel Sharp sometime after 1624 to the Duke of Buckingham:

My loving people,

We have been persuaded by some that are careful of our safety, to take heed how we commit ourselves to armed multitudes, for fear of treachery; but I assure you I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people. Let tyrants fear. I have always so behaved myself that, under God, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and goodwill of my subjects; and therefore I am come amongst you, as you see, at this time, not for my recreation and disport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live and die amongst you all; to lay down for my God, and for my kingdom, and my people, my honor and my blood, even in the dust.

I know I have the body of a weak, feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm; to which rather than any dishonour shall grow by me, I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field.

I know already, for your forwardness you have deserved rewards and crowns; and We do assure you on a word of a prince, they shall be duly paid. In the mean time, my lieutenant general shall be in my stead, than whom never prince commanded a more noble or worthy subject; not doubting but by your obedience to my general, by your concord in the camp, and your valour in the field, we shall shortly have a famous victory over these enemies of my God, of my kingdom, and of my people.

Here is the text of Henry the Fifth’s famous speech, starting with Westmoreland’s remark provoking it:

WESTMORELAND: O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

KING: What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.”
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day!

The Prince Tudor Aspect of “Famous Victories”: Part Two of Reason No. 60 to Believe Oxford = “Shakespeare”

Another aspect of The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth is the way it fits into the Southampton Prince Tudor (PT) theory that Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton was the natural son of Edward de Vere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford and Elizabeth I of England.  In the view of this theory from here, Southampton would have been born in May or June 1574.

"The Case for Shakespeare's Authorship of 'The Famous Victories' by S.M. Pitcher, 1961

“The Case for Shakespeare’s Authorship of ‘The Famous Victories'” by Pitcher, 1961

And in that context, if in fact Famous Victories was presented before the Queen during the Christmas season of 1574, some major aspects of the play are both explained and transformed.

This context immediately explains the prominence in Famous Victories of the Eleventh Earl of Oxford (1385-1487), while it also explains the constant and repetitive and even obsessive references to Hal, the future King Henry V of England, as “the young prince.”

The Prince Tudor theory (as developed in the 1950s, principally by Dorothy Ogburn in This Star of England) holds that almost immediately after Elizabeth gave birth to a son in May or June 1574, she had him hidden away (eventually to be raised in the Southampton household):

Even so my Sunne one early morn did shine

With all triumphant splendor on my brow,

But out alack, he was but one hour mine,

The region cloud hath masked him from me now.  (Sonnet 33)

And what if Oxford wrote the play to remind Elizabeth that she had a royal child, an heir of her blood to succeed her, and to warn her not to abandon this unacknowledged young prince?  What if he wanted to lessen her fears, while reminding her that very possibly her son would grow into a great monarch like Henry the Fifth?  If so, he might well have created Famous Victories for the Queen in 1574, when he was twenty-four.

Kenneth Branaugh as Henry the Fifth

Kenneth Branaugh as Henry the Fifth

The play (printed first in 1598 but written decades earlier) presents King Henry IV as the sitting monarch, with whom Queen Elizabeth would identify.  Also she would view the king’s son, Prince Hal, as her own son, the future third Earl of Southampton.  And, of course, she would see the Earl of Oxford as Edward de Vere himself.

Oxford: If it please your Grace, here is my lord your son that cometh to speak with you.  He saith he must, and will, speak with you.

King: Who?  My son Harry?

Oxford: Ay, if it please your Majesty…

Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford, knowing of Elizabeth’s fear that any natural heir would pose a threat to her, depicts Prince Hal coming upon the King with a dagger in his hand, intending to kill him.  When the King sees this, he is overcome with fear and grief:

King: Come, my son; come on, in God’s name!  I know wherefore thy coming is.  Oh, my son, my son!  What cause hath ever been that thou shouldst forsake me … Oh, my son, thou knowest that these doings will end thy father’s days … I tell thee, my son, that there is never a needle in thy cloak but it is a prick to my heart, and never an eyelet-hole but it is a hole to my soul; and wherefore thou bringest that dagger in thy hand I know not, but by conjecture.

But then young Prince Hal undergoes an instant turnaround:

Prince: [Aside] My conscience accuseth me.  [To the King] Most sovereign lord, and well-beloved father, to answer first to the last point, that is, whereas you conjecture that this hand and this dagger shall be armed against your life, no!  Know, my beloved father, far be the thoughts of your son – “son,” said I?  An unworthy son for so good a father! But far be the thoughts of any such pretended mischief.  And I most humbly render it [Giving him the dagger, kneeling] to your Majesty’s hand.  And live, my lord and sovereign, for ever! … “

This speech goes on and on in the same vein, with the Prince begging over and over for the King’s mercy and pardon, while pledging his loyalty even above his life.  If this is indeed intended for Elizabeth, we can imagine her now leaning forward to hear the King’s response, which is what Oxford hopes would be her response as well:

King: Stand up, my son; and do not think thy father but at the request of thee, my son, I will pardon thee.  And God bless thee, and make thee his servant.

Prince: Thanks, good my lord.  And no doubt but this day, even this day, I am born new again.

Oxford has symbolically presented the Queen’s own son on the stage, making him “born new again” as if replaying the birth of Elizabeth’s own son several months earlier.

But when the King falls asleep, Prince Hal believes that he’s dead; and assuming that he is now the new monarch, he removes the crown from his father’s head and exits.  Here, right on the stage in front of her, is Queen Elizabeth’s worst nightmare!  And when the King wakes up and feels his head, he blurts out, “The crown taken away!  Good my Lord of Oxford, go see who hath done this deed!”

In other words, Edward de Vere is telling Elizabeth that he’s the one upon whom she can rely, to make sure the crown is not taken from her (by their son) before she dies.  And sure enough, Lord Oxford returns with Hal, saying, “Here, if it please your Grace, is my lord the young Prince with the crown.”

If the Queen had given birth to Oxford’s own son, her argument would have been precisely that she should never acknowledge him, because he would try to take her crown before she died – perhaps while she was old and dying.  And if she had made that argument to Oxford, well, then, here was his answer in return, in Famous Victories – “Don’t worry, I’ll protect you!”

An extraordinary aspect of this play is that the King, representing Elizabeth, actually goes on to hand over the crown to the young Prince:  “But come near, my son, and let me put thee in possession whilst I live, that none deprive thee of it after my death.”  And the Prince, taking the crown, replies:  “Well may I take it at your Majesty’s hands – but it shall never touch my head so long as you live.” 

In this way Oxford has used the stage hoping to “catch the conscience” of the Queen, even to the point of showing that she could acknowledge their own son without fear.  And the monarch of the play tells the Earl of Oxford that “my son will be as warlike and victorious a prince as ever reigned in England.”

And indeed the Queen will now watch the youthful Prince Hal growing into the mature King Henry the Fifth who leads his English nation to glory.

When it comes time for Oxford to expand Famous Victories into 1 & 2 Henry IV and Henry V as by Shakespeare, he will no longer represent himself in the character of his ancestor the eleventh Earl of Oxford (who disappears completely).  Instead, Oxford will create the full fictional character of Sir John Falstaff to represent himself on stage, so that it’s Falstaff [Oxford] who becomes the “father” of Hal [Southampton]; and in 1 Henry IV they play-act by reversing the father-son roles:

PRINCE   Dost thou speak like a king? Do thou stand for me, and   I’ll play my father.
FALSTAFF   Depose me? If thou dost it half so gravely, so majestically,   both in word and matter, hang me up by the heels for a rabbit-sucker or a   poulter’s hare.
PRINCE   Well, here I am set.
FALSTAFF   And here I stand: judge, my masters.
PRINCE   Now, Harry, whence come you?
FALSTAFF   My noble lord, from Eastcheap.
PRINCE   The complaints I hear of thee are grievous.
FALSTAFF   ‘Sblood, my lord, they are false…
PRINCE   Swearest thou, ungracious boy? Henceforth ne’er look on   me.

The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth is transformed when viewed as Oxford’s allegorical plea to Queen Elizabeth to recognize their son so she will have an heir of her blood to succeed her.  If such was the case, it would be difficult to find any greater personal motivation to write not only the early play but, later, the Henry IV and Henry V trilogy as well.

“The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth” — Number 60 of 100 Reasons Why the Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare”


One of my favorite movies is the 1989 production of Shakespeare’s Henry V starring Kenneth Branaugh, who also directed.  His portrayal of the English king who led his “band of brothers” to victory over the French army – at the Battle of Agincourt on St. Crispin’s Day of October 25, 1415 – remains, for me, electrifying and powerfully moving.

One reason I feel this way is because, throughout the movie, it seems I can hear the voice of Edward de Vere, the seventeenth Earl of Oxford.   We have Oxford’s letters in his own hand, under his own name, and there’s a real correspondence between that voice and the one that comes through Shakespeare’s lines.  We have no such letters (or any writings) from Mr. Shakspere of Stratford.

But this reason to believe Oxford was the great author involves The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth, printed first in 1598 but part of the repertoire of the Queen’s Men back in the 1580’s – written by an obviously youthful, anonymous dramatist, but also a veritable template or blueprint for the later trilogy of “Shakespeare” plays 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV and Henry V.

agincourt-3Virtually everything in Famous Victories is repeated (and then refined and expanded) in the Shakespearean plays of the latter 1590’s, forcing orthodox scholars to wonder whether “Shakespeare” was a shameless plagiarist!  But isn’t it far more likely that the real author wrote Famous Victories at a younger age, before re-working it to create his Henry trilogy?

Dr. Seymour Pitcher, a Stratfordian professor of English literature at the State University of New York, published a book in 1961 entitled The Case for Shakespeare’s Authorship of “The Famous Victories” – declaring that this youthful work “is not at all unworthy of Shakespeare as a spirited and genial apprentice dramatist.”

agincourt2The play is “a clatter of events, its quick narrative interspersed with light and raucous comedy.  Comical-historical it surely is, but, in its hybrid form, sufficiently self-consistent in tone.  Sketchy and sometimes banal, it is gusty and flaunting.  At best, it has poignancy in characterization and phrase.  How else should we expect Shakespeare to have begun?”

Dr. Pitcher suggested that this must have been the Bard’s first play, written when he was in his early twenties; and most Oxfordians would agree, although the scholar Ramon Jiminez has concluded that Edward de Vere may well have written Famous Victories in his teens.

(Whatever the case, there’s no evidence that William Shakspere of Stratford could have penned Famous Victories in his twenties — or at any other time, for that matter! — while the young Edward de Vere was uniquely qualified to have written it.)

It was B.M. Ward who, in 1928, concluded that Oxford wrote Famous Victories at age twenty-four in 1574.  One of his reasons was that the play comically refers to the involvement of Prince Hal (the future King Henry V) in a robbery on Gad’s Hill, just a year after Oxford’s own men had been involved in such a robbery (or prank) in the very same place.  Ward concluded that the earl presented the play at Court before Queen Elizabeth during the Christmas season of 1574.

famousvictorieshenry5titlepage.jpg“One can scarcely read The Famous Victories and not see in the skimpy little prose-play an early, comparatively amateurish exercise on the themes that would later come to magnificent flower in the Shakespearean dramas,” wrote Charlton Ogburn Jr. in The Mysterious William Shakespeare.”

Ogborn cited a speech by the newly crowned King Henry V in the earlier play, in response to the belittling gift from the French Dauphin of tennis balls:

“My Lord Prince Dauphin is very pleasant with me!  But tell him instead of balls of leather we will toss him balls of brass and iron – yea, such balls as never were tossed in France…”

And this same material, reworked in the Shakespearean play of Henry the Fifth, becomes a masterful speech that begins:

“We are glad the Dauphin is so pleasant with us;/ His present and your pains we thank you for:/ When we have match’d our rackets to these balls,/ We will, in France, by God’s grace, play a set/ Shall strike his father’s crown into the hazard…”

An extraordinarily prominent character in the earlier Famous Victories is Richard de Vere, the eleventh Earl of Oxford (1385-1417), but in 1 & 2 Henry IV and Henry V by “Shakespeare” the earl disappears entirely.   As Ogburn noted, this “initial inflation and later eradication of Oxford’s part” is a sign of something telltale and important.  Once the author is viewed as Edward de Vere, it becomes clear that continuing to give such prominence to an ancestor would have jeopardized his own anonymity.

So this is No. 60 of 100 reasons to conclude that Oxford was the great author.

Was “Shakespeare” a Copycat? Thief? Plagiarist? THE QUEEN’S MEN: No. 12 of 100 Reasons Why Edward de Vere was “Shakespeare” – Part One

"The Queen's Men and their Plays" by McMillin and MacLean, 1998

In 1583, as Philip of Spain prepared to invade and conquer England, the British government created a new acting company as part of Secret Service activities including wartime propaganda to promote patriotic loyalty and unity.  This new troupe, Queen Elizabeth’s Men, was formed at the express command of the monarch.  Drawing the best actors from existing companies, it became the dominant theatrical group in the crucial years leading to England’s victory in 1588 over the Spanish armada.

Although printed in 1594, "The True Tragedy of Richard the Third" was performed by the Queen's Men in the 1580's. Did "Shakespeare" steal it for his play "Richard III"? Or was the real author, Edward de Vere, building upon his own previous work?

During that period the Queen’s Men performed what were, by all appearances and by all logic, early versions of royal history plays by Shakespeare.  “The plots of no fewer than six of Shakespeare’s known plays are closely related to the plots of plays performed by the Queen’s Men,” according to Scott McMillin and Sally-Beth MacLean inThe Queen’s Men and their Plays (1998).

Did "Shakespeare" use this early anonymous play for "1 Henry IV," "2 Henry IV" and "Henry V" Or was "The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth" his own youthful play?

The known plays in this category are The Troublesome Reign of King John, repeated by Shakespeare “virtually scene for scene” in King JohnThe True Tragedy of Richard III and King Leir, whose stories are fully covered by Shakespeare in his Richard III and King Lear; and The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth, which forms the entire foundation for the material that Shakespeare covers in 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV and Henry V.

The problem, however, is lack of any evidence that Shakspere of Stratford was a member of this prestigious acting company.  The likelihood is that he was still back home in Warwickshire when his twins were born in February of 1585, when he was twenty years old.  In other words, the existence of early Shakespeare plays performed by the Queen’s company in the 1580’s presents a major problem for the official biography.  You might say it blows it apart.

By tradition the “Lost Years” of the Stratford man begin in 1585 and continue until Robert Greene supposedly alludes to him in the fall of 1592.  By then, for the legendary story to be plausible, he has somehow firmly established himself in London as an actor who is already prominent enough as a playwright to provoke Greene’s jealousy and ire.

But this is pure fantasy.  “Documentary evidence as to Shakespeare’s whereabouts and activities from 1585 to 1592 is totally lacking,” Oscar James Campbell writes in The Reader’s Encyclopedia of Shakespeare (1966), adding that “nothing can be confirmed” about the Stratford man’s life in that period.

Traditional biographers have had a terrible time trying to explain how “Shakespeare” was anonymously writing early versions of his plays for Her Majesty’s company in the 1580’s.  Some have suggested he must have joined as an actor and memorized the anonymous plays; then in the 1590’s, they propose, he drew upon his memory to plunder the plots, characters, scenes and even the lines of those stage works, which would mean that the greatest writer of the English language must have also been the most successful plagiarist in history!

"The True Chronicle History of King Leir" was performed by the Queen's Men in the 1580's (but published in 1605) and transformed by "Shakespeare" into "King Lear"

As a mature dramatist in the 1590’s, McMillin and MacLean declare, Shakespeare set about “rewriting a sizeable portion” of the repertory of the Queen’s Men.   “Four of nine extant plays were turned into six Shakespeare plays, in an act of appropriation extensive enough to make us think it could have occurred from the inside.  Shakespeare knew the plays of this company better than those of any company but his own, and the long-standing speculation that he may have begun his career with the Queen’s Men seems to us the most likely possibility.”  (And this leads them to think he must have recalled these works from acting in them during the 1580’s.)

"The Case for Shakespeare's Authorship of 'The Famous Victories'" by Dr. Seymour M. Pitcher, 1961

But some few scholars have bravely stated the far more realistic conclusion that Shakespeare himself wrote those earlier versions of his own plays.   In 1961, for example, Dr. Seymour M. Pitcher at Harpur College in New York wrote an impressively argued book The Case for Shakespeare’s Authorship of “The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth”.

That early play serves as a veritable blueprint for Shakespeare’s later trilogy about Prince Hal becoming the great Henry the Fifth who leads the English to victory at Agincourt.   Every single scene in Famous Victories is repeated (and in the same order) by Shakespeare, who must have written the earlier version when he was “a spirited and genial apprentice dramatist,” Dr. Pitcher concluded, adding it “may have been his first play.”

Orthodox scholars have ignored Dr. Pitcher’s suggestion, because it requires Shakspere to join the Crown’s prestigious acting company too early to be plausible.  Fresh from his life in the market town ninety miles from London, age twenty in 1584, he turns out plays of English royal history about monarchs such as King John, Richard Third, Henry Fourth and Henry Fifth – a miraculous example of pulling oneself up by the bootstraps, if there ever was one.

A study of The True Tragedy of Richard the Third “reveals the high probability that it was Shakespeare himself who wrote that anonymous play,” according to the highly respected Oxfordian scholar Ramon Jimenez, “and that his Richard III was his major revision of one of his earliest attempts at playwriting.”

The scholar Ramon Jimenez, speaking at an authorship conference on the Campus of Concordia University in Portland OR

There are also “significant links” between the anonymous play about Richard the Third and Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford “that add to the evidence that he was the actual author of the Shakespeare canon.”

Furthermore, Jimenez states, “The evidence suggests that the anonymous play was performed for an aristocratic audience, possibly including Queen Elizabeth herself, in the early 1560’s, when de Vere was between thirteen and fifteen years old.”

In the second part of Reason No. 12 we’ll take a look at the Earl of Oxford’s activities in relation to the Queen’s Men in the 1580’s and the likelihood that he was contributing those anonymous, early versions of plays  which he himself would revise later, for eventual publication under the “Shakespeare” pen name.

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