Re-Posting No. 5 of 100 Reasons Why “Shake-speare” was Edward de Vere: The Earl, the Prince and the Pirates!

(Note: This reason to agree that Edward de Vere was the great author, originally published here on 10 March 2011, is now No. 11 and revised for inclusion in 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford, published in October 2016.)

When Professor James Shapiro of Columbia University came to the Epilogue of his book Contested Will, written to try to block the inevitable tide of doubt about the traditional identification of “Shakespeare,” he described his experience at a performance I gave of my one-man show Shake-speare’s Treason (based on my book The Monument) at Shakespeare’s Globe in London.

A Pirate in the 16th Centur

“It was a spellbinding performance,” he wrote, adding he “found it all both impressive and demoralizing” — because, of course, he wants you to think that any account of Oxford as Shakespeare must be pure fiction.  He went on: “I left the Globe wondering what mainstream biographers might say in response to Oxfordians who insist that Edward de Vere had a stronger claim to have written Hamlet and King Lear, since — unlike the glover’s son from Stratford — he had been captured by pirates and had three daughters.”

Okay, wait a minute, hold on!  You can’t take those pirates away from Oxford, just as you can’t erase the fact that the earl, like King Lear, had three daughters!  Let me put it this way.  If the glove maker’s son from Stratford had been stopped by pirates in real life, by now we’d have whole shelves filled with books with titles such as:

Trauma on the High Seas: How The Bard’s Capture by Pirates Affected His Writing Life & His Play about Hamlet …

Shakespeare’s Fateful Encounter With the Pirates: A Profound Turning Point in His Psyche and Work …

Shakespeare’s Pirate Complex: The Cause of His Tragic Phase?

Shakespeare & The Pirates: A Love-Hate Relationship?

Although this was just one event among many in Edward de Vere’s life that correspond in some way with what we find in the “Shakespeare” plays, Oxfordians have done little more than mention, in passing, its similarity to Hamlet’s experience.  It’s just one more example of something in Oxford’s life resembling what can be found in the plays. Does Shapiro think the earl’s capture and release by Dutch pirates in the English Channel should be a liability, in terms of evidence that he wrote Hamlet?  Does the professor want to twist it all around, turning a positive into a negative?

The episode in Hamlet comes from “Shakespeare” himself, as a writer, not from any of the play’s recognized sources, as Mark Anderson reports in his terrific Oxford biography “Shakespeare” By Another Name.  The pirates intercepted and boarded Oxford’s ship in 1576, as he was returning to England from his sixteen-month tour of France, Germany and (primarily) Italy.  They stripped the ship clean. “De Vere’s luggage was ransacked, and the pirates even took the clothes from the earl’s back,” Anderson writes.  The French ambassador reported that Oxford was “left naked, stripped to his shirt, treated miserably” and he might have lost his life “if he hadn’t been recognized by a Scotsman.”

A member of Oxford’s entourage, Nathaniel Baxter, recalled the pirate episode in a poem published in 1606, writing: “Naked we landed out of Italy/ Enthralled by pirates, men of no regard/ Horror and death assailed nobility” — and Hamlet writes to King Claudius about the encounter: “High and Mighty, you shall know I am set naked on your kingdom.”  (My emphases)

Do we suppose that same use of naked is just coincidental?

There’s an interesting debate over whether Hamlet had previously arranged his own brush with the pirates, so he could escape being murdered by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as per the king’s orders.  In any case, the Prince of Denmark writes to Horatio: “Ere we were two days old at sea, a pirate of very warlike appointment gave us chase.  Finding ourselves too slow of sail, we put on a compelled valor, and in the grapple I boarded them.  On the instant they got clear of our ship, so I alone became their prisoner.  They have dealt with me like thieves of mercy, but they knew what they did; I am to do a good turn for them.”

The prince, like Oxford, had been bound for England; now he turns back to Denmark while Rosencrantz and Guildenstern “hold their course for England,” where, because Hamlet has craftily switched the written orders, they will be killed instead of him.

Professor Shapiro argues against any attempt to turn the Shakespeare plays into works of autobiography, but that’s a straw man he’s setting up in order to knock it down.  Of course Hamlet is not strict autobiography; no one ever claimed such a thing.  The real point, which Shapiro wants his readers to miss, is that the best novelists and dramatists tend to draw upon their personal experiences and then to transmute them, through imagination and skill, into fictional art forms.  It’s not a matter of having to choose between reality and invention; all great art is a blend of both.

Shapiro concedes that “we know almost nothing about [Shakspere’s] personal experiences” and, therefore, “those moments in his work which build upon what he may have felt remain invisible to us.”  Given this vacuum within the documented Stratfordian biography, he boldly declares that all attempts to link the life of “Shakespeare” with his works should hereby cease!  He means not only such attempts by Oxfordians but also by Stratfordians — especially the latter, since these efforts have always failed and will fail even more glaringly in the future, as the authorship question is brought increasingly into the open.

Oh – I almost forgot: Oxford was targeted by pirates in the Channel not once but twice, i.e., not only in 1576 but also in 1585, when he returned from Holland and his brief command [with Colonel John Norris] of 4,000 foot soldiers and 400 horse.  But after receiving a letter from Burghley that he’d been put in command of the Horse, he was summoned back home [to be replaced by Philip Sidney, who would die on the battlefield a year later]; and according to one report, a ship carrying Oxford’s “money, apparel, wine and venison” was “captured off Dunkirk by the Spaniards.” Among Oxford’s belongings captured by the Spaniards was the letter from Burghley telling him of the Horse command; and as Anderson notes, “Hamlet contains not only an encounter with pirates but also an analogous plot twist involving suborned letters at sea.”

So, professor, the pirates are here to stay.  They certainly aren’t proof that Oxford wrote the play, but I put them here as just another piece of evidence that “authorship” really does matter.

John Irving: The Shakespeare Authorship Question Enters His New Novel “Avenue of Mysteries”

“Elements of Irving’s own life – including his wrestling career, absentee father and own sexual fantasies as a young man – have inspired much of his writing, though the author says that he prefers to rely on an open imagination as the springboard for ideas rather than strict autobiography.” – http://www.biography.com/people/john-irving-39979#wrestler-and-writer

John-Irving Krimidoedel-Wikimedia-Commons

John-Irving Krimidoedel-Wikimedia-Commons

It was my brother Jim who tipped me off that in his new novel Avenue of Mysteries the great writer John Irving introduces the subject of the Shakespeare authorship question.

One of Irving’s characters, Clark French, tells his former writing teacher that in an upcoming public interview he wants to “put the issue of personal experience as the only basis for fiction writing behind us.”  Speaking of “the types who believe Shakespeare was someone else,” he declares that they “underestimate the imagination” or that they “over-esteem personal experience – their rationale for autobiographical fiction, don’t you think?”

The former writing teacher, Juan Diego, is a famous novelist who thinks to himself, “Poor Clark – still theoretical, forever juvenile, always picking fights.”

It turns out that both men have recently read James Shapiro’s Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? Both had admired the book and had been “persuaded by Mr. Shapiro’s arguments – they believed that Shakespeare of Stratford was the one and only Shakespeare; they agreed that the plays attributed to William Shakespeare were not written collaboratively, or by someone else.”

irving-avenue-mysteries-30-45Juan Diego wonders why Clark French fails to begin the interview by quoting Mr. Shapiro’s “most compelling” statement:  “What I find most disheartening about the claim that Shakespeare of Stratford lacked the life experience to have written the plays is that it diminishes the very thing that makes him so exceptional: his imagination.”  Instead, Mr. French opens by attacking Mark Twain, one the early doubters of the Stratfordian authorship, for lacking imagination; and in the process Juan Diego becomes embarrassed and wishes he could disappear.

I have no intention of trying to fathom Mr. Irving’s personal opinion on the matter, but, if given the chance, I would explain to him that doubters of the Stratfordian biography – and particularly those of us who believe that Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, was the true author – do not argue that the poems and plays are strictly autobiographical.  What we do perceive, in the case of Oxford, is that the Earl wrote as “Shakespeare” from his own vantage point as a nobleman and often drew upon his own life experiences, using autobiographical elements within his fictional creations.

In other words, our view of Oxford is that – like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, O’Neill, Williams and Irving himself – he often wrote about what he knew, building upon it with his imagination, to create works of fiction.  When Shapiro accuses us of saying that the poems and plays of Shakespeare are “autobiographical,” and then disagrees with us, he is creating a straw man and knocking it down.

shakeBut, then, I am sure that John Irving – one of the best writers ever — knows this quite well and has no need for my explaining.  And I have a hunch that, if Irving found out the true author of Hamlet had yet to be acknowledged after more than four centuries, he would know there was need for some serious correcting.

oxford11“A straw man is a common form of argument and is an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent’s argument, while actually refuting an argument which was not advanced by that opponent. The so-called typical ‘attacking a straw man’ argument creates the illusion of having completely refuted or defeated an opponent’s proposition by covertly replacing it with a different proposition and then proceeding to refute or defeat that false argument instead of the original proposition.” –

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man

POSTSCRIPT:  Chuck Semple sends the following report:  “I saw Irving interviewed about his new novel at Louisville’s Center for the Arts. My ears pricked up when he veered close to the authorship question by referring to Shakespeare as “whoever that writer was.” I suspect he’s open to the question.”

Yes, I agree!  And thank you, Chuck!

One Reason Why Henry Lord Southampton is Prince Tudor, the Unacknowledged King Henry IX of England

AUTHORSHIP QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“But it is in the sonnets that we must look for the true key to the Shakespeare mystery.” 

— Louis P. Benezet, Shakspere, Shakespeare and De Vere, 1937

The idea that an ordinary Elizabethan poet, much less William Shakspere of Stratford, could promise “immortal life” to Henry Wriothesley the third earl of Southampton, is absurd.  Nor could Shakspere demand of the young but already powerful peer, “Make thee another self for love of me.”  The idea that he could have written those words is ridiculous.  For starters, Southampton would have run his sword through the author’s guts.

Henry, Lord Southampton, the Prince Tudor (1573-1624)

Of course, many traditional (Stratfordian) commentators have seen and accepted the decisive evidence of Southampton as the so-called Fair Youth of the Sonnets; and that acceptance, in turn, should have led them to the obvious conclusion that the author could not have been the Stratford man and must have been someone else. 

Nothing of the sort happened, however, and the reason has to do with the power of unquestioned assumptions to force rational men and women into holding irrational conclusions.   Ah, but such is also the case for perhaps the majority of Oxfordians, many of whom have been overwhelmed by vicious taunts and jeers against the so-called Prince Tudor theory that Southampton was the natural son of Oxford and Queen Elizabeth.  When these same Oxfordians are so self-righteously censoring Stratfordians such as Stephen Greenblatt and James Shapiro for their emotionally unbalanced attacks on anti-Stratfordians, they fail to notice their own emotionally unbalanced attacks on Oxfordians who are Prince Tudor theorists.

Let us assume for the moment that we agree about Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford writing in the Fair Youth series of Sonnets 1-126 to Southampton, to whom he promises:  “Your praise shall still find room/ Even in the eyes of all posterity/ That wear this world out to the ending doom” (55) and also, “Your name from hence immortal life shall have” (81).

Southampton in the Tower (1601-1603)

What does he mean by this?

Many or even most Oxfordians will tell you he simply means that Southampton’s name, on the dedications to him of Venus and Adonis of 1593 and Lucrece of 1594, will live forever because of its unique association with “Shakespeare,” who never dedicated anything to anyone else.  But I disagree with this conclusion, for reasons that follow.

In the first place, we are looking at the matter from the vantage point of more than 400 years later, when we can testify to the observable fact that anything connected to “Shakespeare” is immortal; and therefore we think, “Oh, well, he made that promise to Southampton because he knew his written words would live forever.”

I say no — no, that is not what’s going on here.  The great author is not merely boasting about his own literary and dramatic works, immortal though they surely are.  He’s not just thumping his chest about the projected ability of his poems, plays and sonnets to keep Southampton’s name/life alive in the mouths of men.   Whenever the young earl would have read those private promises made to him in the Sonnets, he would not have given a fig for such reasons; that is not the kind of fame he or any nobleman of that time would have valued.

He also would not have valued being immortal because he was physically “fair” or beautiful.  Forget about it!  And he certainly would not have wanted eternal memory in the eyes of posterity because of any love affairs he had had with either women or men, Oxford included.  Forget about it!

What Oxford was promising Southampton in terms of immortality is made absolutely clear in the Sonnets themselves – when he addresses him over and over as a prince or king of royal blood.  The matter is secret; it must be buried; but if these private sonnets do manage to survive in the distant future, it will then be known to all that Southampton deserved by blood to be King Henry IX.

This, I submit, is the only possible reason for Oxford’s promise to him of eternal life.  I have filled The Monument and also Shakespeare’s Son and His Sonnets with how Oxford unequivocally and explicitly addresses Southampton as a prince, so here I’ll offer just example with Sonnet 10, Line 11: “Be as thy presence is, gracious and kind” –– which, I contend, can only be addressed to a prince or king.

Here is some of its treatment in The Monument:

Sonnet 10, Line 11:

BE AS THY PRESENCE IS, GRACIOUS AND KIND  

“Act according to your stature as a Prince, full of royal grace as the natural son of the Queen.”

PRESENCE = Kingly presence; (“Come I appellant to this princely presence” – Richard II, 1.1. 34; “And sent to warn them to his royal presence” – Richard III, 1.3.39; “Worst in this royal presence may I speak” – Richard II, 4.1.115; “I will avouch’t in presence of the King” – Richard III, 1.3.115; “The tender love I bear your Grace, my lord, makes me most forward in this princely presence” – Richard III, 3.4.63-64; “Loud shouts and salutations from their mouths, even in the presence of the crowned King; thus did I keep my person fresh and new, my presence, like a robe pontifical, ne’er seen but wondered at” – the King in 1 Henry IV, 3.2.53-57; “What’s he approacheth boldly to our presence?” – King Lewis in 3 Henry VI, 3.3.44)

GRACIOUS = Filled with royal (divine) grace, as in “your Grace” above; “Accept this scroll, most gracious sovereign” – 1 Henry VI, 3.1.149; “Great King of England, and my gracious lord” – 2 Henry VI, 1.1.24; “I come with gracious offers from the King” – 1 Henry IV, 4.3.30; “My gracious sovereign” – Richard II, 1.1.21; “I hold my duty as I hold my soul, both to my God and to my gracious King” – Hamlet, 2.2.44-45; “You have a daughter called Elizabeth, virtuous and fair, royal and gracious” – Richard III, 4.4.204-205

“So gracious and virtuous a sovereign” –Oxford to Robert Cecil,May 7, 1603

My verse alone had all thy gentle grace,

But now my gracious numbers are decayed                 Sonnet 79, lines 2-3

KIND = Natural, related by nature, as a child of Elizabeth and the bearer of her blood; (“Belonging to one by birth: lawful, rightful – 1570 … of persons: rightful heir, etc., 1589 – OED); “There she lost a noble and renowned brother, in his love toward her ever most kind and natural” – Measure for Measure, 3.1.218-220; “A little more than kin, and less than kind” – Hamlet, 1.2.65; “Shall kin with kin, and kind with kind, confound” – Richard II, 4.1.141; “Disclaiming here the kindred of the king, and lay aside my high blood’s royalty” – Richard II, 1.1.70-71; “The King is kind” – 1 Henry IV, 4.3.52; “My lord and sovereign, and thy vowed friend, I come, in kindness and unfeigned love, first, to do greetings to thy royal person” – 3 Henry VI, 3.3.50-52

“In all kindness and kindred” –Oxford to Robert Cecil, May 1601

Kind is my love today, tomorrow kind…

Fair, kind, and true, is all my argument,

Fair, kind, and true, varying to other words                    Sonnet 105, lines 5, 9-10

(Fair= royal son; Kind = natural child of the Queen; True = rightful heir & related to Oxford, who is Nothing Truer than Truth)


Professor Helen Gordon Cites “Six Lies” of James Shapiro in the New York Times

Following is a letter to the New York Times, replying to Professor James Shapiro of Columbia University, from Helen Heightsman Gordon, M.A., Ed. D., an English professor emeritus of Bakersfield College, California, and author of The Secret Love Story in Shakespeare’s Sonnets [2008].

Dear NY Times:

If you fact-checked the column by James Shapiro (Oct 17) you would do your readers a great favor.  Here are some of the lies in that column that any responsible reporter would have questioned:

Lie #1- The lesson plans by Sony Pictures are being distributed to literature and history teachers “in the hope of convincing them that Shakespeare was a fraud.”  

Not true.  These plans are being provided to teachers to inform them about the authorship controversy, which has been subject to much censorship in the academic world, and to encourage students to think for themselves on this controversial issue.

Lie #2 – J. Thomas Looney [pronounced LONE-ee] “loathed democracy and modernity” and argued that “only a worldly nobleman could have created such works of genius.” 

Not true.  Looney was a schoolmaster who was dissatisfied with teaching the traditional biography of Shakespeare, who argued that the Bard’s marvelous works revealed characteristics that we would expect to find in the author. These traits included a superior education, knowledge of several languages, familiarity with European courts and powerful aristocrats, some ambivalence about women, and so forth.

Shapiro’s ad hominem attack attempts to paint this sincere, dedicated teacher as a snob.  That oft-repeated accusation has been decisively refuted by many brilliant non-snobs who question whether the Stratford businessman had the background necessary to have produced works of such profound knowledge and literary talent as Shakespeare produced.

Lie #3“Promoters of de Vere’s cause have a lot of evidence to explain away, including testimony of contemporary writers, court records and much else that confirms that Shakespeare wrote the works attributed to him.” 

Not true. These supposed records either refer to non-literary court records about the Stratford man’s legal problems or they refer to the author by his pen name, “William Shakespeare” — like saying “Mark Twain wrote Mark Twain‘s work.”  They do not in any way “confirm” that the Stratford resident is the same person as the author.

The writings of William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon: six known signatures

Lie #4 “Not a shred of documentary evidence has ever been found that connects de Vere to any of the plays or poems.” 

This one is REALLY a whopper!  Demonstrably untrue.  Many scholars have provided documentary evidence of de Vere’s writing talent in letters and published poetry.  There is also printed evidence that he was regarded by his peers as being a talented playwright and poet.  Many scholars have provided evidence that de Vere had the background necessary to write the plays, including ability to read classic Greek and Latin works that had not been translated into English, evidence of travel through Italy in places accurately described in the plays, and so forth.

Researchers are somewhat frustrated by the fact that de Vere’s malicious father-in-law suppressed or destroyed evidence that might have proved one way or the other that he wrote the plays and the sonnets.  Ironically, it is the Stratford-worshippers who have never produced one single piece of writing in Shakespeare’s hand, and no documentary proof that Mr. Shakspere (that’s how he spelled his own name) attended the Stratford Grammar School (those records have been destroyed).

Lie #5“The greatest obstacle facing de Vere’s supporters is that he died in 1604, before ten or so of Shakespeare’s plays were written.” 

This might be convincing if it were true.  The truth is that nobody knows when the plays were written.  We only know when they were performed and when they were published (sometimes in pirated quartos as “anonymous” work).  Dr. Shapiro cannot explain why Mr. Shaxpere (another way that he spelled his name) did not edit his own plays for publication during his years of retirement, if indeed he were the same person as the famous author.

The First Folio was not printed until 1623, long after Mr. Shagspere’s death (another way that he spelled his name).  And the Sonnets were published in 1609, while Mr. Shakspere was alive, yet the Dedication refers to the author as “ever-living” — which means that the author is dead, but his works are still immortal.

Lie #6“Later de Vere advocates . . . claimed that de Vere was Elizabeth’s illegitimate son and therefore the rightful heir to the English throne.” 

There are only two strong advocates [Paul Streitz and Charles Beauclerk – HW] for the “incest theory,” and the movie does not give this theory any credence (the subject is mentioned and then dismissed as a lie).  On the other hand, there is considerable evidence that Elizabeth had a love affair with Edward de Vere, and at least one noted historian reports a rumor that they had a love-child who was being raised as the Third Earl of Southampton.

Those Oxfordians who find that to be a credible scenario would consider Southampton the possible heir to the throne.  The first seventeen sonnets are addressed to the “Fair Youth” that a consensus of Shakespeare scholars believe to be Henry Wriothesley, the Third Earl of Southampton.   That makes a lot of sense when you read those sonnets as being from a loving father to the son that he cannot acknowledge, as he says in Sonnet 36:

I may not evermore acknowledge thee

Lest my bewailed guilt should do thee shame,

Nor you with public kindness honor me,

Unless thou tak’st that honor from thy name.

So let us indeed stop telling lies to school children.  Let’s give them the facts — all the facts, not just those carefully selected by the traditionalists who have maintained a taboo over the subject of the authorship for decades.  Students can learn to think for themselves, and Roland Emmerich will give them much more to think about than Dr. Shapiro has done.

[Thanks to Helen Gordon for permission to reprint — with a few copy edits by me]

Part Three of My Reply to James Shapiro

Continuing with Part 3 of 3 my replies to James Shapiro:

SHAPIRO: “Perhaps the greatest obstacle facing de Vere’s supporters is that he died in 1604, before 10 or so of Shakespeare’s plays were written.”

Dating Shakespeare's Plays - Edited by Kevin Gilvary

WHITTEMORE:  How do you know this?  When a play was performed, and when it was printed, may have nothing to do with when it was written.  Topical references could easily have been added by others, after the writer’s death.  I suggest that Professor Shapiro consult the new and valuable book DATING OF SHAKESPEARE’S PLAYS, A Critical Review of the Evidence, from the De Vere Society in England and edited by Kevin Gilvary; for example:

On Macbeth from contributor Sally Hazelton:  “Macbeth can be dated between 1587 (Holinshed’s Chronicle) and 1611 when it was witnessed by Simon Forman.”

Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford reportedly died on June 24, 1604.

“It seems likely, on the current evidence, that Macbeth was mostly written in 1601, but that some parts are earlier … that the main inspiration for the story was the 1600 Gowrie conspiracy, with references to the 1567 murder of Darnley; and that the vision of the future kings was possibly suggested by the legend of Catherine de Medici’s vision.  The theme of equivocation, which runs through the play, was a feature of all the murders and attempted murders above.”

On The Tempest from Philip Johnson and Kevin Gilvary:  “There is no contemporary evidence to date the composition of The Tempest.  The play is usually assumed to have been completed by 1611, when it was performed at court.  It can be dated any time after 1580, when all the major sources had become available.”  (The Strachey letter is dated 1610 but not published until 1625, but there’s no evidence it was in circulation and therefore available to Will of Stratford, who died in 1616.  Stritmatter and Kositsky have proved that the author could have used other, much earlier sources.)

And so on…

SHAPIRO:  “Anonymous offers an ingenious way to circumvent such objections: there must have been a conspiracy to suppress the truth of de Vere’s authorship; the very absence of surviving evidence proves the case.”

WHITTEMORE: It did not require any such conspiracy, in the same way that the public never knew that Marilyn Monroe swam in the White House pool or that FDR had to use a wheelchair.  In any case, the poet of The Sonnets left behind him some very clear statements about his authorship.

Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Elizabeth I

Sonnet 71: “My name be buried where my body is.”

Sonnet 76: “Every word doth almost tell my name.”  (The operative word is “almost”.)

Sonnet 81: “I (once gone) to all the world must die.”

Sounds like he was trying to tell us something!

SHAPIRO:  “In dramatizing this conspiracy, Mr. Emmerich has made a film for our time, in which claims based on conviction are as valid as those based on hard evidence.  Indeed, Mr. Emmerich has treated fact-based arguments and the authorities who make them with suspicion. As he told an MTV interviewer last month when asked about the authorship question: “I think it’s not good to tell kids lies in school.”

WHITTEMORE:  It’s unbelievable that this statement can be made in light of the history of Stratfordian biography, which is based solely on conjectures – with phrases such as “he might have … he could have … most likely … probably …. undoubtedly …”

SHAPIRO: “The most troubling thing about Anonymous is not that it turns Shakespeare into an illiterate money-grubber.”

WHITTEMORE:  Not the writer “Shakespeare” but, rather, Shakspere of Stratford, who seems to have been unable to write even his name and was, in fact, a money-lender.

SHAPIRO:  “It’s not even that England’s virgin Queen Elizabeth is turned into a wantonly promiscuous woman who is revealed to be both the lover and mother of de Vere.”

WHITTEMORE:  The film portrays Elizabeth as not knowing that Oxford was her son.  As for her being wantonly promiscuous, I’d say she’s portrayed as a healthy, sexually active woman.  I’d say that is not “troubling” at all.  Next to what we know about her father Henry VIII, she comes across as amazingly normal — especially since she was an absolute monarch.

SHAPIRO:  “Rather, it’s that in making the case for de Vere, the film turns great plays into propaganda.”

WHITTEMORE:  Do you mean the way, for example, Arthur Miller writes The Crucible about the Salem witch trials in order to comment on the McCarthy hearings?  Do you mean the way Hamlet inserts lines in a play to catch the conscience of the king?  Do you mean the way Shakespeare writes Henry V to inspire national unity?   Do you mean how the skits on Saturday Night Live often make fun of, and comment upon, our politicians?

SHAPIRO:  “In the film de Vere is presented as a child prodigy, writing and starring in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1559 at the age of 9. He only truly finds his calling nearly 40 years later after visiting a public theater for the first time and seeing how easily thousands of spectators might be swayed.”

WHITTEMORE: That’s nonsense about only then finding his true calling; on the contrary, the film portrays him as having written his works (the first versions of them) much earlier, for the Court of Elizabeth.  At least six of the plays are performed by the Queen’s Men in the 1580’s – plays of royal history, during wartime – prior to the appearance of “Shakespeare” in the following decade of the 1590’s.

SHAPIRO: “He applauds his art’s propagandistic impact at a performance of Henry V that so riles the patriotic mob that actors playing the French are physically assaulted. He vilifies a political foe in Hamlet, and stages Richard III to win the crowd’s support for rebellious aristocrats.”

WHITTEMORE:  So?  At that time there was no internet, no CBS News, no CNN, no Saturday Night Live, no newspaper or radio – the stage was powerful; it was the media.

SHAPIRO:  “De Vere is clear in the film about his objectives: ‘all art is political … otherwise it is just decoration.’  Sony Pictures’ study guide is keen to reinforce this reductive view of what the plays are about, encouraging students to search Shakespeare’s works for ‘messages that may have been included as propaganda and considered seditious.’ A more fitting title for the film might have been ‘Triumph of the Earl.’”

WHITTEMORE: Reductive?  Why not admit that knowing the biographical and historical background of a play might expand our understanding of the work?

SHAPIRO:  “In offering this portrait of the artist, Anonymous weds Looney’s class-obsessed arguments – “

WHITTEMORE:  Once again you’re slipping in an attack on the messenger, not the message.  I don’t know about Looney’s personal views, only that his arguments are logical and sound.  It was the Elizabethan age itself that was class-obsessed and “Shakespeare” was far from being an exception.  Here is from Blood Will Tell in Shakespeare’s Plays by David Shelley Berkeley, an orthodox scholar:

“Shakespeare is the arch-conservative, the most obdurate insister, partly owing to his prolific pen, on the merits of the gentry and the demerits of the base-born … Shakespeare’s plays always intensify whatever class-consciousness may exist in their primary sources.”

And so on…

SHAPIRO:  “In offering this portrait of the artist, Anonymous weds Looney’s class-obsessed arguments to the political motives supplied by later de Vere advocates, who claimed that de Vere was Elizabeth’s illegitimate son and therefore the rightful heir to the English throne. By bringing this unsubstantiated version of history to the screen, a lot of facts — theatrical and political — are trampled.”

WHITTEMORE:  I realize how tempting it may be to believe that Oxfordians must be snobs; and to believe, therefore, that what we really want is for Shakespeare to have royal blood.  The fact, however, is that I don’t know any of us who thinks that way.

Again, as Professor Berkeley points out, the one who does think that way is Shakespeare himself:  “Characterization, plotting, and theme in the Shakespearean plays are in a broad sense regulated by an invisible but firm line between gentility and plebeinanism.  If a character’s blood is high enough, he is capable, like Hamlet and Henry V, of all that human nature can attain to…” 

SHAPIRO:  “Supporters of de Vere’s candidacy who have awaited this film with excitement may come to regret it, for Anonymous shows, quite devastatingly, how high a price they must pay to unseat Shakespeare.”

WHITTEMORE:  The only price will be the need to drop all the fantasy written over the past two or three centuries.

SHAPIRO:  “Why anyone is drawn to de Vere’s cause is the real mystery, one not so easily solved as who was the true author of Shakespeare’s plays.”

WHITTEMORE:  If you’re unable to tell your students why, sooner or later they’ll tell you.

Part Two of My Reply to James Shapiro’s Column in the New York Times

This is the second of three parts of my response to an Op Ed column (“Hollywood Dishonors the Bard”) in the New York Times by Professor James Shapiro of Columbia, who is defending the Bard of Tradition against the forthcoming movie “Anonymous” from Roland Emmerich, portraying Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford as the true author of the great poems, plays and sonnets.  Shapiro  is referring below to John Thomas Looney, whose book “Shakespeare” Identified in 1920 introduced Oxford’s candidacy.

The Bard of Tradition ... The Bard of Our Dreams

SHAPIRO:  “Looney also showed that episodes in de Vere’s life closely matched events in the plays.  His theory has since attracted impressive supporters, including Sigmund Freud, the Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia and his former colleague John Paul Stevens, and now Mr. Emmerich.”

WHITTEMORE: Yes, indeed.

SHAPIRO:  “But promoters of de Vere’s cause have a lot of evidence to explain away, including testimony of contemporary writers, court records and much else that confirms that Shakespeare wrote the works attributed to him.”

WHITTEMORE:  This is the classic mix-up of two separate entities.  The name “William Shakespeare” or just “Shakespeare” or “Shake-speare” was well-known and other writers referred to the great author by that name.  But they never described his physical person in any way, not during his lifetime; they never reported talking with him, breaking bread with him, working with him, drinking with him; they knew him as a name.  On the other hand, those “court records” had nothing to do with writing or poetry or the drama; such documents involved the man from Stratford and his very separate life.

James Shapiro -- Defender of the Bard of Avon

SHAPIRO:  “Meanwhile, not a shred of documentary evidence has ever been found that connects de Vere to any of the plays or poems.”

WHITTEMORE:  Well, for starters, Edward de Vere was connected personally in the 1560’s, 1570’s and 1580’s to virtually every writer whose work would become known as a “contemporary source” for the great author “Shakespeare” in his writings that appeared under that name for the first time in 1593.  Oxford’s poetry and other public writings can be viewed as part of what Looney called “the long foreground” of apprenticeship that has been missing from all so-called biographies of Shakespeare.  By contrast, Will of Stratford had no such foreground of prior work and there’s no record from his lifetime that he had any kind of relationship with any other writer.  Ben Jonson’s testimony comes way after the fact, in the Folio of Shakespeare plays in 1623; and even in Ben’s own 1616 folio, he merely listed “William Shakespeare” as an actor while never mentioning him as a writer – even though Will of Stratford had died only a few months earlier that year, without a single eulogy or even mention of him.

SHAPIRO:  “As for the argument that the plays rehearse the story of de Vere’s life: since the 1850s, when Shakespeare’s authorship was first questioned, the lives of 70 or so other candidates have also confidently been identified in them.”

Roland Emmerich, Challenging Tradition with his movie "Anonymous"

WHITTEMORE: Well, now, there are more parallels between the single play of Hamlet and various aspects of Oxford’s life than we could find such parallels between all the Bard’s thirty-seven plays and the lives of those other seventy candidates combined.  Trying to put Oxford in the same category is another cheap shot.  No, sir, his credentials are different.  Anyone who looks at his life — as poet, playwright and play producer; as patron of writers, play companies and musicians; as scholar, traveler, etc. – will see the vast difference.  This would be true even if a thousand candidates had preceded Looney’s identification of him.

We’ll continue next time with the third and final installment…

Answering Shapiro … A Reply to the Professor’s Op-Ed Column in the NY Times Part 1

In the New York Times of Monday October 17, 2011, on the Op Ed page, appeared a column by James Shapiro, a professor of English at Columbia University, author of Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?  The constraints of time and blog compel me to reply in brief segments, of which this is the first:

With Professor Shapiro, who is signing a copy of "Contested Will" for me

SHAPIRO:  “ROLAND EMMERICH’S film ‘Anonymous,’ which opens next week, ‘presents a compelling portrait of Edward de Vere as the true author of Shakespeare’s plays.’  That’s according to the lesson plans that Sony Pictures has been distributing to literature and history teachers in the hope of convincing students that Shakespeare was a fraud.  A documentary by First Folio Pictures (of which Mr. Emmerich is president) will also be part of this campaign.   “So much for ‘Hey, it’s just a movie!’”

WHITTEMORE:  Right – it’s not just a movie, it’s a game changer.  This particular film holds the potential to turn the study of Shakespeare and the Elizabethan age inside-out.  For one thing, it will substantially alter Professor Shapiro’s classroom world, especially when students view the documentary film (“Last Will and Testament”) and demand to know why they’ve never been told any of this stuff.

(I admit that saying that Shakespeare was a “fraud” is catchy but misleading.  In the real world of Oxfordian research “Shakespeare” is a pen name, a pseudonym.  The only fraud, if you will, is the misattribution of authorship to William Shakspere of Stratford upon Avon.  The true author of the “Shakespeare” works — Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, using a pen name — was every bit the genius we know that “Shakespeare” was.   They were one and the same man.  Moreover, Oxford brought the Renaissance into England – and yes, that’s a fact.)

To call the movie + documentary film part of a “campaign” is an attempt to cast suspicion on the project — conveniently forgetting that the whole Shakespeare industry, based on the Stratford man, is part of a “campaign” that’s been carried on for more than two centuries … a campaign that has also blocked all attempts to bring the Authorship Question to the attention of students, teachers and members of the general public.

SHAPIRO:  “The case for Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, dates from 1920, when J. Thomas Looney, an English writer who loathed democracy and modernity, argued — ”

John Thomas Looney (1870-1944)

WHITTEMORE:  Whoa, now, good sir.  We learned that trick on the first day of journalism class.  You could start with “Hubert Humphrey, a brilliant man, today announced he is running for president” or, rather, “Hubert Humphrey, once a pig farmer, today announced he is running for president” – and so on.  Loathed democracy and modernity?  Well … no, no, I refuse … no, I am not going to stoop to the position of defending that unassuming British schoolmaster who wrote “Shakespeare” Identified to describe his remarkable feat of literary detection.  I’m not going to allow my attention to be diverted from the message to the messenger.  That was the trick of Contested Will — trying to tarnish brilliant anti-Stratfordians such as Helen Keller, Sigmund Freud and Mark Twain — and, sadly enough, it worked all too well for those readers who had no other information.

SHAPIRO:  “ — that only a worldly nobleman could have created such works of genius; Shakespeare, a glover’s son and money-lender, could never have done so.”

WHITTEMORE:  No, Professor, not so.  That is not what Looney argued and it’s not what any of us argue.  We look at the plain facts of life in London during that time; and we also look at what’s actually in the Shakespeare works – such as, to name two items, the author’s intimate knowledge of Italy and his use of Greek sources, both of which have been denied to Shakespeare by traditional scholars because (1) the Stratford man never went to Italy, as the Earl of Oxford did, and (2) those Greek sources were unavailable in England except in private libraries such as that of William Cecil Lord Burghley, who was first Oxford’s guardian and then his father-in-law.   (In fact, that may have been the only library with such source material.)  So, no – the argument has nothing to do with what you suggest, which, simply, is that Looney must have been a snob … and the rest of us, too.  No, that misstatement is just another attack on the messenger, just another attempt to divert attention from the message.

(Dear Reader, to tell you the truth, I don’t really enjoy arguing against false charges.  I’d much rather spend my time on the positive, that is, on reasons to conclude that Oxford wrote the Shakespeare works.  But the imminent arrival of Anonymous has triggered a full-scale attack, so we’ll continue our reply to the professor in upcoming blogs.)

Reason No. 19 to Believe Edward de Vere was “Shakespeare”: The Families of Hamlet and Oxford as Mirror Reflections

One of the most obvious links in the chain of evidence that connects Edward de Vere the seventeenth Earl of Oxford to “Shakespeare” is the similarity of Hamlet’s and Oxford’s family relationships.  In fact this reason to believe that Oxford wrote the play Hamlet, as well as all the other Shakespeare works, is so clear that I’ve kept putting it aside as being too obvious or too easy.   Well, I might as well get it over with, so here’s Reason No. 19 in all its simple clarity…

Queen Gertrude as played by Glenn Close

Queen Gertrude in the play is the mother of Prince Hamlet, while Queen Elizabeth in real life was the official mother of Lord Oxford.  [At age twelve in 1562 he became the first of eight royal wards during her reign.]

Polonius as played by Eric Porter

Lord Chamberlain Polonius is the chief adviser to Queen Gertrude, while William Cecil Lord Treasurer Burghley was the chief adviser to Queen Elizabeth.  [He held the post from the Queen’s accession in November 1558 until his death in August 1598, when his second son, Principal Secretary Robert Cecil, officially took over his father’s unique role behind the throne.]

Hamlet is engaged to young Ophelia, daughter of Polonius, while in real life Oxford became engaged to fifteen-year-old Anne Cecil, daughter of Burghley.   [Oxford and Anne were married in December 1571 when he was twenty-one and she had turned fifteen.]

Ophelia as played by Helena Bonham Carter

Ophelia’s older brother Laertes goes off to Paris, his behavior causing great distress for his father, Polonius, who recites those “precepts” to him as guidance, while in real life Anne Cecil’s eldest brother Thomas Cecil went off to Paris, his behavior causing great distress for his father, Burghley, who wrote him long letters full of wise “precepts” as guidance.  [In the final act of the play, in my view, Laertes becomes the second son, Robert Cecil.]

SEE MARK ALEXANDER’S “25 CONNECTIONS” RE: HAMLET & OXFORD (It’s a PDF download of Power Point)

THE LINE-UP (again):

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark – Oxford, Lord Great Chamberlain of England

Gertrude, Queen of Denmark – Elizabeth, Queen of England

Polonius, Chief Minister to Queen Gertrude – Burghley, Chief Minister to Queen Elizabeth

Ophelia, daughter of Polonius – Anne Cecil, daughter of Burghley

Laertes, son of Polonius – Thomas and Robert Cecil, sons of Burghley

And, for example:

Horatio Vere (1565-1635), cousin of Edward de Vere; with his brother Francis they were "The Fighting Veres"

Horatio, favorite friend of Hamlet – Horatio Vere, favorite cousin of Oxford

Francisco, a soldier – Francis Vere, soldier and cousin of Oxford

[Oh, yes – and Claudius, who has murdered Hamlet’s father and married his mother the Queen, appears to reflect Queen Elizabeth’s lover Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, whom Oxford may have suspected of having caused the death of his own father.]

So in this most autobiographical of Shakespeare’s plays, we find the protagonist in virtually the same web of family relationships at Court as that in which Edward de Vere is to be found in the contemporary history.  Traditional scholars may ask rhetorically, “Well, now, you’re not claiming this as proof that Oxford wrote Hamlet, are you?”

“No, of course not,” I might reply, “but doesn’t this give you a little queasy feeling in the gut?  I mean, don’t you have the slightest tremor of doubt that Will of Stratford could have or would have written such a play?  And do you think this mirror image of family relationships can be mere coincidence?”

James Shapiro argues in Contested Will [p. 177] that “such claims about representing on the public stage some of the most powerful figures in the realm betray a shallow grasp of Elizabethan dramatic censorship.”  J. Thomas Looney, who in 1920 first suggested Oxford as Shakespeare, “didn’t understand that Edmund Tilney, the Master of the Revels, whose job it was to read and approve all dramatic scripts before they were publicly performed, would have lost his job – and most likely his nose and ears, if not his head, had he approved a play that so transparently ridiculed privy councilors past and present,” Shapiro adds.

Well, in the play itself the author may have supplied one answer to that argument, when Polonius at the top of Act 3, Scene 4, speaking of Hamlet, tells Queen Gertrude: “He will come straight.  Look you lay home to him.  Tell him his pranks have been too broad to bear with, and that your Grace hath screened and stood between much heat and him.”  (My emphasis)

In other words, Polonius-Burghley reminds Gertrude-Elizabeth that Hamlet-Oxford has taken too many liberties, unbearably so, but nonetheless the Queen has protected him from “much heat” and/or reprisals by government officials [such as Tilney] as well as by his enemies at court.

Shapiro is right, however, in one respect: the playwright surely would have lost his head … if he had really been Shakspere of Stratford!

Lilian Winstanley in Hamlet and the Scottish Succession (1921) writes on p. 122 about Polonius-Burghley and the use of spies:

“Intercepted letters and the employment of spies were, then, a quite conspicuous and notorious part of Cecil’s statecraft, and they are certainly made especially characteristic of Shakespeare’s Polonius. Polonius intercepts the letters from Hamlet to his daughter; he appropriates Hamlet’s most intimate correspondence, carries it to the king, and discusses it without a moment’s shame or hesitation: he and the king play the eaves­dropper during Hamlet’s interview with Ophelia: he himself spies upon Hamlet’s interview with his mother. It is impossible not to see that these things are made both futile and hateful in Polonius, and they were precisely the things that were detested in Cecil….”

Quite a couple of families, eh?

Some Reactions to the Debate in London

A couple of early reactions to the Debate in London yesterday:

From the BBC – DIRECTOR EMMERICH DEFENDS SHAKESPEARE AUTHORSHIP FILM

And this one is from THE AUSTRALIAN – Full Story at This Link

Oldest literary conspiracy theory trotted out again

A HOLLYWOOD film that claims William Shakespeare was an illiterate buffoon who passed off a nobleman’s plays as his own got off to a wobbly start at the Hay Festival in Wales when actor Ralph Fiennes described the premise as a “dead-end argument”.

Roland Emmerich, one of Hollywood’s most successful directors, presented clips of his film Anonymous to the public for the first time at the festival and answered questions about why he chose to portray the Edward de Vere, the 17th earl of Oxford as the true author of the plays.

But Fiennes, who has not seen the film, says he is puzzled by the obsession with giving credit to other authors. “Instinctively, I don’t buy it,” he says.

Fiennes, who was at the festival to talk about his forthcoming film adaptation of Coriolanus, says: “People say, ‘How could he have known about Italy and how could he have so much [knowledge],’ and I’m puzzled because he went to a grammar school, which were very good schools, and why couldn’t a unique individual be able to imagine and encompass a massive range of linguistic expression?  (Full Story at Link Above)

==

I remember having the same reaction that Fiennes expresses.  I put a lot of stock on good ol’ imagination, and still do — but when I dug a little deeper and discovered how much knowledge — and specific knowledge — gets into the plays, poems and sonnets, well, it boggles the mind and calls for some reassessment.  If you go to a good library and find the Shakespeare section, my goodness it seems there’s an entire book (or two or more) devoted exclusively to Shakespeare’s handling of every single subject such as law, heraldry, music, kingship, flowers, hunting, war, ships, Italy, France, the classics, astronomy, horsemanship, fashions, the bible — I mean, we are not talking just about some “good” or even “great” author but about some kind of amazing giant of whom there may have been no equal in all the rest of history before or since.

Investigation is required — or the result, which I have seen over and over, is what you might call “the dumbing down” of Shakespeare; that is, attempts to reduce him down to more normal size, so he can fit the framework of traditional biography.  I am not speaking of him as a god or a miracle, but, rather, a rare human being who must have had not only “nature” on his side but “nurture” as well — and this is also not about snobbery, please, and not even about who “could” have written these masterpieces but who “did” write them.

Reassessment … Investigation!

No, Jim, You Can’t Take Away Those Pirates! – Reason No. 5 of 100 Why I Believe Oxford was “Shakespeare”

When James Shapiro came to the Epilogue of his book Contested Will, written to try to block the inevitable tide of doubt about the traditional identification of “Shakespeare,” he described his experience at a performance I gave of my one-man show Shake-speare’s Treason (based on my book The Monument) at the Globe playhouse  in London.  “It was a spellbinding performance,” he wrote, adding that he “found it all both impressive and demoralizing” — because, of course, he wants you to think that any account of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford as the author of Shake-speare’s Sonnets must be pure fiction.  And he went on:

“I left the Globe wondering what mainstream biographers might say in response to Oxfordians who insist that Edward de Vere had a stronger claim to have written Hamlet and King Lear, since — unlike the glover’s son from Stratford — he had been captured by pirates and had three daughters.”

Okay, wait a minute, hold on, Jim!  What exactly are you trying to say here?

A Warship of the 16th Century

A Warship of the 16th Century

No, no, you can’t take away those pirates, just as you can’t erase the fact that the earl, like King Lear, had three daughters!

Let me put it this way.  If the glover’s son from Stratford had been stopped by pirates in real life, by now we’d have whole shelves filled with books with titles such as:

Trauma on the High Seas: How The Bard’s Capture by Pirates Affected His Writing Life & His Play about Hamlet …

Shakespeare’s Fateful Encounter With the Pirates: A Profound Turning Point in His Psyche and Work …

Shakespeare’s Pirate Complex: The Cause of His Tragic Phase?

Shakespeare & The Pirates: A Love-Hate Relationship?

Edward de Vere as Lord Great Chamberlain, carrying the Sword of State before Queen Elizabeth I of England

Although this was just one event among many in Edward de Vere’s life that correspond in some way with what we find in the “Shakespeare” plays, Oxfordians have done little more than mention, in passing, its similarity to Hamlet’s experience.  It’s just one more example of something in Oxford’s life resembling what can be found in the plays.

Does Shapiro think Oxford’s capture and release by Dutch pirates in the English Channel should be a liability, in terms of evidence that he wrote Hamlet?  Does the professor want to twist it all around, turning a positive into a negative?

The episode in Hamlet comes from “Shakespeare” himself, as a writer, not from any of the play’s recognized sources, Mark Anderson reports in his terrific Oxford biography “Shakespeare” By Another Name.  The pirates intercepted and boarded Oxford’s ship in 1576, as he was returning to England from his sixteen-month tour of France, Germany and (primarily) Italy.  They stripped the ship clean.

“De Vere’s luggage was ransacked, and the pirates even took the clothes from the earl’s back,” Anderson writes.  The French ambassador reported that Oxford was “left naked, stripped to his shirt, treated miserably” and he might have lost his life “if he hadn’t been recognized by a Scotsman.”

Model of an Elizabethan Galleon

A member of Oxford’s entourage, Nathaniel Baxter, recalled the pirate episode in a poem published in 1606, writing:

Naked we landed out of Italy/ Enthralled by pirates, men of no regard/ Horror and death assailed nobility” — and Hamlet writes to King Claudius about the encounter: “High and Mighty, you shall know I am set naked on your kingdom.”  (My emphases)

I suppose that same use of naked is just “coincidental”…

There’s an interesting debate over whether Hamlet had previously arranged his own brush with the pirates, so he could escape being murdered by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as per the king’s orders.  In any case, the prince writes to Horatio:

“Ere we were two days old at sea, a pirate of very warlike appointment gave us chase.  Finding ourselves too slow of sail, we put on a compelled valor, and in the grapple I boarded them.  On the instant they got clear of our ship, so I alone became their prisoner.  They have dealt with me like thieves of mercy, but they knew what they did; I am to do a good turn for them.”

 

The prince, like Oxford, had been bound for England; now he turns back to Denmark while Rosencrantz and Guildenstern “hold their course for England,” where, because Hamlet has craftily switched the written orders, they will be killed instead of him.

Professor Shapiro argues against any attempt to turn the Shakespeare plays into works of autobiography, but that’s a straw man he’s setting up in order to knock it down.  Of course Hamlet is not strict autobiography; no one ever claimed such a thing.  The real point, which Shapiro wants his readers to miss, is that the best novelists and dramatists tend to draw upon their personal experiences and then to transmute them, through imagination and skill, into fictional art forms.  It’s not a matter of having to choose between reality and invention; all great art is a blend of both.

Shapiro concedes that “we know almost nothing about [Shakspere’s] personal experiences” and, therefore, “those moments in his work which build upon what he may have felt remain invisible to us.”  And given this vacuum within the documented Stratfordian biography, he boldly [and recklessly] declares that all attempts to link the life of “Shakespeare” with his works should hereby cease!  He means not only such attempts by Oxfordians but also by Stratfordians — especially the latter, since these efforts have always failed and will fail even more glaringly in the future, as the authorship question is brought increasingly into the open.

Oh – I almost forgot: Oxford was targeted by pirates in the Channel not once but twice, i.e., not only in 1576 but also in 1585, when he returned from Holland and his brief command [with Colonel John Norris] of 4,000 foot soldiers and 400 horse.  But after receiving a letter from Burghley that he’d been placed in command of the Horse, he was summoned back home [to be replaced by Philip Sidney, who would die on the battlefield a year later]; and according to one report a ship carrying Oxford’s “money, apparel, wine and venison” was “captured off Dunkirk by the Spaniards.”

Among Oxford’s belongings captured by the Spaniards, according to the report, was the letter from Burghley telling him of the Horse command; and as Anderson notes, “Hamlet contains not only an encounter with pirates but also an analogous plot twist involving suborned letters at sea.”

So, professor, the pirates are here to stay.  They certainly aren’t proof that Oxford wrote the play, but I put them here as my No. 5 of 100 reasons why I believe the earl was “Shakespeare” — and as just another piece of evidence that “authorship” really does matter.

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