SNAPSHOT: DE VERE – The Royal Ward at Nineteen (1569)

When Edward de Vere was nineteen in 1569 and still a royal ward of Elizabeth I living under William Cecil’s roof in London, his purchases included items such as:

“Fine black cloth for a cape and a riding cloak … one doublet of cambric [thin cotton or linen fabric of fine close weave, probably white], one doublet of fine canvas, and one of black satin … the furniture of a riding cloak … one pair of velvet hose, black … Ten pairs of Spanish leather shoes … a rapier, dagger and girdle [belt or sash] … … six sheets of fine Holland [cotton cloth], six handkerchiefs and six others of cambric … four yards of velvet, and four others of satin to guard and border a Spanish capeone velvet hat, and one taffeta hat [of lightweight fabric]; two velvet caps, a scarf, two pairs of garters with silver at the ends, a plume of feathers for a hat, and another hat band …”

These notations come from an old account book containing “Payments made by John Hart, Chester Herald, on behalf of the Earl of Oxford” for the first nine months of 1569. In his biography of the earl, B.M. Ward observes that such details make it possible to “vividly picture” de Vere in his daily life at the time:

“Rather below medium height, he was sturdy with brown curly hair and hazel eyes. On his head a velvet cap with a plume of pheasants’ feathers fastened on one side. A black satin doublet, velvet breeches, and silk stockings supported by silver buckled garters. On his feet the broad-toed, flat-footed, soft leather shoes of the period. At his side a light rapier, passed through a silver-studded belt.”

This snapshot becomes a short video:

“Thus clad, he would go down to the river stairs at the bottom of Ivy Lane. The liveried watermen would be ready waiting at the steps with the canopied barge; and then they would go upstream, perhaps, to the Palace at Richmond …  On another morning, perhaps he would order one of his four geldings [castrated male horses]; and having discarded the Court silks and satins for the more serviceable cloths, he would ride out from Cecil House westward along the Strand past St. Martin’s Church, with a hawk on his wrist. Here he would canter along the soft turf at the side of the narrow country lane till he came to the little village of Kensington. An hour’s hawking, with its wild gallops over fields and through woods; and so back to London with the bag of partridges and herons tied to his saddle.”

The word-picture concludes that evening. This young noble, “tired with the day’s chase” and now in his library, is surrounded by the books he loves. [The same account book lists 1569 payments for his purchases of “a Geneva Bible gilt, a Chaucer, Plutarch’s works in French, with other books and papers … two Italian books … Tully’s and Plato’s works in folio, with other books, paper and nibs (pen points)”] “We may be sure,” Ward writes, “that his active mind was attracted by the wealth of Renaissance literature that was then beginning to flood England,” adding that the 17th Earl of Oxford’s enthusiasm for Italy “originated no doubt from the Italian books he had read, perhaps surreptitiously, while he was a royal ward.”

///

Ward, BM. The Seventeenth Earl of Oxford 1550-1604 From Contemporary Documents, 1928, pp. 31-35

Did Marlowe and Shakespeare Collaborate? Well … yes! … because Marlowe Worked with Oxford, Who then Became Shake-speare

Due Soon at Amazon.com

Due Soon at Amazon.com

So … according to the “New Oxford Shakespeare” editors, Christopher Marlowe and the great poet-dramatist worked together!  Well, that’s a step in the right direction … a giant step on the journey away from Stratford and into the political terrain of London and the court … a journey into what really happened when Marlowe, a Cambridge student and government spy, worked in the 1580s with Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, who supervised a group of writers turning out plays of English history during wartime … promoting a new spirit of patriotic identity and national unity.  De Vere took the younger Marlowe under his wing … and when the Spanish Armada was defeated in 1588, the earl dropped from public view … reappearing in 1593 as “Shakespeare” on the printed page.  In other words, Will Shakspere had no part in it. So … did Marlowe and “Shakespeare” collaborate? Well, sure! But let us continue the journey away from Stratford, with all possible speed…  

Here’s an advance look at the Marlowe chapter of my forthcoming book 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford, based on the series of a hundred “reasons” posted on this blog site:

CHAPTER NINE: THE MARLOWE ENIGMA

Reason 49 – Christopher Marlowe

We now confront the shadowy figure of Christopher Marlowe, the Cambridge student and government spy who was stabbed to death at age twenty-nine on 30 May 1593, just when the initial copies of Venus and Adonis, carrying the first appearance of the printed name “William Shakespeare,” were on their way to the London bookstalls.

Tamburlaine the Great (in two separate parts) had drawn great crowds to the Rose playhouse from 1587 onward, but Marlowe’s name never appeared on any published work during his lifetime. (As audiences seemed uninterested in who wrote the plays they attended, a common assumption that he was “the toast of the town” as a popular playwright may well be a fantasy.) Ironically, however, upon his death the “Shakespeare” name was launched—the name of a previously unknown writer whose highly cultured narrative poem was an instant bestseller. In fact, the name of Shakespeare quickly did become the toast of the town, at least among those who could buy books.

The relationship of “Marlowe” and “Shakespeare” has generated much uncertainty and perplexity among academics. Scholars and biographers have pondered and dissected the inextricable entanglement of those two famous names, and of the works attributed to them, without consensus. Oscar James Campbell notes the confusion in The Reader’s Encyclopedia of Shakespeare (1966):

“Because the chronology of the composition of Marlowe’s plays and those of Shakespeare is uncertain, and because of the dearth of information about Shakespeare’s activities during the “seven lost years” [1586 through 1592], it is impossible to discuss with precision the literary interrelationship of these two playwrights …Whatever their personal relationship, it is demonstrable that Shakespeare knew Marlowe’s plays and poetry. There are hundreds of verbal echoes and dozens of comparable scenes and situations in the works attributed to the two different men. Frequently it is difficult to guess who is echoing or borrowing from whom….” 

The tradition is that Will of Stratford, being the same age as Marlowe but newly arrived in London, was so inspired by Tamburlaine’s commanding eloquence and unrelenting violence that he began to write Henry VI (all three parts) and then his own blood-gushing play Titus Andronicus. Exactly how Shakspere found the time to write such plays while engaged in his acting career and moneylending is never explained.

[Well … we might as well add here that the New Oxford Shakespeare editors are listing Marlowe himself as his co-author on those three plays– the first time for any major edition of the Works.]

Stephen Greenblatt in Will in the World (2004) has no trouble comprehending the miracle. He imagines—with no supporting evidence—that just when Shakspere was “finding his feet in London,” he noticed the hoopla over Tamburlaine, which “may indeed have been one of the first performances he ever saw in a playhouse—perhaps the first.” That experience “appears to have had upon him an intense, visceral, indeed life-transforming impact.”

The transformation would have been from a young man who had never been inside a London playhouse to a dramatist who not only instantly surpassed Marlowe himself, but also became the greatest playwright of the English language! By 1595 he would have turned out both Richard II and Richard III and, by 1598, completed no less than twelve plays, including Love’s Labour’s Lost, Romeo and Juliet, King John and The Merchant of Venice!

“Shakespeare had never heard anything quite like this before,” as Greenblatt imagines the Tamburlaine experience, “certainly not in the morality plays or mystery cycles he had watched back in Warwickshire. He must have said to himself something like, ‘You are not in Stratford anymore.’” Standing among the groundlings at the Rose and staring up at Edward Alleyn as Tamburlaine, was for Will a “crucial experience” and a “challenge” that “must have been intensified when he learned that Marlowe was in effect his double: born in the same year, 1564 .…”

Let’s take our own look at 1593, when Venus and Adonis, the sophisticated poem that the author termed “the first heir of my invention,” surged to popularity among university students, aristocrats and members of the royal court including young Henry Lord Southampton, to whom it was dedicated. This blockbuster would be joined in 1594 by an even more brilliant poem, Lucrece, whose primary source was the story told by Ovid in his Fasti, a work not to be translated into English until 1640.

On 28 September 1593, the unfinished manuscript of another narrative poem, Hero and Leander, was entered at the Stationers’ Register by John Wolf, who described it as “an amorous poem devised by Christopher Marloe.” But something happened to stop Wolf from printing it. The first edition was finally published by Edward Blount in 1598, attributed to Marlowe, followed in the same year by another edition from publisher Paul Linley, advertising it as “begun by Christopher Marloe and finished by George Chapman.” “Marlowe’s Hero and Leander is the best of the Ovidian romances,” Campbell writes. “It contains the most successful combination of the genre’s distinctive characteristics: descriptions of natural beauty, voluptuous development of erotic situations, and an ornate style. These are also the elements of which Shakespeare composed Venus and Adonis.

So Marlowe and “Shakespeare” were both writing long, romantic, sensuous, erotic poems based on Ovid; they completed them at virtually the same time—in the year of Marlowe’s untimely death—when “Shakespeare” forged ahead by getting his masterful “first heir” into print and taking over the poetical limelight.

Marlowe’s name appeared in print for the first time in 1594, when the play Edward II was published as by “Chr. Marlow” and another play, Dido, Queen of Carthage, was published as by “Christopher Marlow and Thomas Nashe.” “No play of Marlowe’s is more closely related to one of Shakespeare’s than is Edward II to Richard II,” Campbell writes. “For decades scholars assumed that Marlowe’s was the first significant English chronicle history play, and that therefore he taught Shakespeare much. Recently, however, it has been established that Shakespeare’s Henry VI trilogy antedates Edward II; in other words, Shakespeare helped Marlowe; the combination of Shakespeare and Marlowe helped Shakespeare in Richard II.” In classic understatement, he adds: “The intricacies of these interrelationships are detailed and complex.”

Marlowe was one of the “University Wits” recruited from Cambridge and Oxford by the Elizabethan government during the 1580s to serve as informants or spies for its wartime intelligence service. These young men also worked as secretaries, scribes and writers under the financial support of Oxford, who provided them with writing space and materials as well as plots, themes, language and even entire works to be published anonymously or under their own or fictitious names.

“During his studies at Cambridge,” Daryl Pinksen writes in Marlowe’s Ghost (2008), “perhaps as early as 1585, Marlowe was recruited into the English secret service headed at that time by Secretary of State Sir Francis Walsingham.” Records indicate a “marked increase of spending” as if he “suddenly had a new source of income” and “frequent absences from Cambridge beginning in 1585 for longer and longer periods, also consistent with work as an intelligence agent …. Lord Burghley … was also Chancellor of Cambridge, and worked closely with Walsingham in directing and funding intelligence operations. During Marlowe’s years at Cambridge it is likely he made numerous trips, perhaps to the continent, at the behest of Walsingham and Burghley to spy for his country.”

“In the fast-expanding arena of Elizabethan espionage, writers were an obvious source of recruits,” Charles Nicholl writes in The Reckoning (1992). “They were intelligent, educated, observant young men. They knew the international language, Latin, and the literary tastes of the day gave them a good smattering of French and Italian.” They were geographically and socially mobile, as well as continually in need of cash, so “it is perhaps not surprising that a number of Elizabethan writers crop up in the files of the intelligence services, both foreign and domestic. They are remembered as poets, pamphleteers and playwrights, but down there in the reality of their lives they had to profess other skills if they were to survive.”

Nicholl mentions writers such as Munday and Lyly, both working from the late 1570s as de Vere’s secretaries, and devotes a chapter to “another poet glimpsed in the secret world of the 1580s … an elusive and engaging figure”—Thomas Watson, who was “a close friend of Marlowe,” Lyly and others. Watson is one of many “intermediaries” linking Oxford and Marlowe by just one degree of separation, making it highly likely that de Vere and Marlowe not only knew each other, but worked together on plays such as Tamburlaine the Great and on poems such as Hero and Leander. But it would not have been an equal relationship; Oxford, fourteen years Marlowe’s senior, would have been guiding the younger man.

In 1564, the year of Marlowe’s birth, Oxford was already receiving his honorary degree from Cambridge; in 1575, when Marlowe turned eleven, Oxford was twenty-five and spending a year in Italy; and in 1581, when Marlowe entered Cambridge at seventeen, Oxford, at thirty-one, was recruiting young disciples who, during wartime, would help achieve the great renaissance of English literature and drama leading up to “Shakespeare” in the 1590s. The truth about Marlowe becomes clear within the context of this crucial chapter of England’s history in which he appears; it begins with Oxford’s pivotal role at the center of those young writers who helped create a new language—a new cultural and national identity, leading to a strong sense of English pride and patriotic fervor.

The intention of King Philip’s Armada was to not only to conquer the island nation, but also to crush the humanistic spirit of the Renaissance in England and overturn the Protestant Reformation. If any single aspect of English life created the immediate, fertile ground from which “Shakespeare” sprang, it was this prolonged expectation of invasion. Once the Anglo-Spanish war became official in 1584, the arrival of enemy ships loomed ever closer; during the next four years, Burghley and Walsingham were determined to employ “the media”— books, pamphlets, ballads, speeches and plays (especially plays of royal history) that promoted unity in the face of internal religious and political conflicts, which threatened to render England too weak to survive.

The phenomenon of “Shakespeare” involves not only the solitary figure of de Vere; it involves an array of others who wrote for him or with him or who lent their names to creations that were entirely his, all contributing to a body of work by Oxford that is much larger than the one “Shakespeare” has been allowed to claim. His labors include a vast body of translation as well as original poetry, prose, plays, dramatic literature, song lyrics, musical compositions and political tracts, presented anonymously or under names of real persons living or dead, not to mention fictitious persons whose “biographies” are skimpy and tentative at best.

Marlowe fits into this picture as one of Oxford’s satellite figures who may (or may not) have contributed his own labors to anonymous works such as Tamburlaine. (All works later attributed to Marlowe were either unpublished or published anonymously during his brief lifetime.) Tamburlaine may have been written earlier by a younger Oxford, who could have given it to Marlowe (age twenty-three in 1587) to work on. Performed on the public stage before the Armada sailed in 1588, its speeches roused audiences to a fever pitch; the character of Tamburlaine, according to Frederick Boas in University Drama in the Tudor Age (1914), seemed to Englishmen to embody Philip of Spain himself. He is a tyrant calling himself master of the lands and seas, confident he will conquer “all the ocean by the British shore” and that “by this means, I’ll win the world at last!”

Such arrogant confidence and raging, bloodthirsty ambition might well have served to alarm Englishmen over the danger they faced and to further motivate them to join together to defeat the Armada.

Burghley wrote on 21 June 1586 to Walsingham, asking if he had spoken with the queen in support of de Vere. Five days later Her Majesty signed a Privy Seal Warrant authorizing an annual grant to Oxford of 1,000 pounds, an extraordinary figure, especially since England was at war with Spain and desperately needed funds. The grant, to be paid in quarterly installments, expressly stated the earl was not to be called on by the Exchequer to render any account as to its expenditure—a clause which, Ward writes, was “the usual formula made use of in the case of secret service money.”

Oxford was playing an important but unpublicized role for Elizabeth, Burghley and Walsingham during these dangerous times. The earl had made extensive sales of land between 1580 and 1585, indicating he had been personally financing writers and play companies, so now the otherwise frugal queen was compensating him for past, as well as future, expenses. In 1585, upon the outbreak of war with Spain in the Netherlands, annual payments to Walsingham rose to 2,000 pounds; it is “at this stage of increased funding and activity,” Nicholl writes, “that Marlowe enters the lower ranks of the intelligence world.”

Eva Turner Clark in Hidden Allusions (1931) notes that the writers known as the University Wits went into high gear during 1586 and 1587. “Play after play flowed from their pens. These were chronicle plays, revenge plays, Senecan plays—mostly plays calculated to keep people at a high pitch of excitement during wartime. Gathering this group of writers together, directing their work, and producing their plays on the stage was the function of the secret service office that Lord Oxford filled and upon which he spent the money that had been granted to him…. In order to keep a heavy program going, he [and Burghley] appealed to recent graduates of Oxford and Cambridge, and even to those on the point of graduation, who gave promise of dramatic ability, to assist in this important work of stage propaganda.”

“Lord Oxford, as a prolific writer and scholar, an eclectic, devotee of the theatre, generous patron of literary men and musicians, drew into his orbit the best writers and wits of the day,” Dorothy and Charlton Ogburn write in This Star of England (1952). “He was the center and prime inspiration of the University Wits: such men as Lyly, Watson, Kyd and Munday—all of whom he employed—as well as Greene, Peele, Marston, Dekker, Lodge, Nashe and Marlowe. Somewhat older than most of them, infinitely greater than any, he attracted these intellectuals as a magnet attracts steel chips; … he supported, encouraged, and directed these men, broadening their classics-bound culture through his knowledge of Italian, German, and French literature, as well as of feudal customs and the ways of court-life, while devoting his abundant creative energies to the production of dramas which not only entertained and stimulated the elect but also delighted and edified the intelligent though unschooled.”

Oxford had purchased the London mansion known as Fisher’s Folly to provide writing space for the younger men, who apparently had been turning out anti-Spanish plays for at least several months before the queen authorized the earl’s annual grant. On 20 July 1586 the Venetian ambassador in Spain, Hieronimo Lippomano, wrote to the Doge and Senate that King Philip had been furious over reports about plays being performed at the Elizabethan court: “But what has enraged him more than all else, and has caused him to show a resentment such as he has never displayed in all his life, is the account of the masquerades and comedies which the Queen of England orders to be acted at his expense.”

During the second half of 1586, after Walsingham had foiled the Babington Plot to put captive Mary, Queen of Scots on the English throne, Oxford sat on the tribunal at her trial, when she was found guilty of treason. Mary Stuart, mother of twenty-year-old James VI of Scotland, was beheaded on 8 February 1587 at Fortheringhay Castle. Her execution virtually ensured that Philip, with the blessings of the Pope, would soon launch his Armada against England.

On 29 June 1587 the Privy Council sent orders (signed by Burghley and Archbishop Whitgift) to Cambridge authorities that Marlowe should receive his Master’s degree, despite frequent absences from the campus amid rumors he was a Catholic traitor—which is what he seems to have pretended to be, as part of secret service work, during visits to the English College at Rheims in Northern France, a key seminary for Catholic defectors. The Council certified that Marlowe had “behaved himself orderly and discreetly whereby he had done her Majesty good service, and deserved to be rewarded for his faithful dealings … because it was not her Majesty’s pleasure that anyone employed as he had been in matters touching the benefit of his Country should be defamed by those that are ignorant in the affairs he went about.”

In a letter to Burghley on 2 October 1587, Marlowe was named as a courier in dispatches to Walsingham from Utrecht in Holland, indicating that after leaving Cambridge, his travels for intelligence work were continuing apace. The evidence makes it seem likely that Oxford was giving Marlowe a “cover” in London, according to the needs of Burghley and Walsingham, by taking him under his wing. To what degree Marlowe actually wrote the works for which he is credited is a matter of conjecture; some Oxfordians believe that Oxford wrote all of them.

“Shakespeare” was forged out of the fires of wartime. Because of stage works written or promoted by de Vere, young men from different parts of the country, Protestants and Catholics alike, speaking different dialects that often needed interpretation, descended upon London in the summer of 1588 and volunteered to join together in the face of a common enemy. (That kind of “public relations” effort to foster national unity would be used in the twentieth century by the U.S. government, whose media operations during World War II became a workshop for writers, photographers and filmmakers, enabling them to sharpen their skills.)

England’s defeat of the Spanish Armada was, perhaps inevitably, followed by a shameful episode that might be called a “bloodbath” of those same writers. Having utilized their services to help England survive, the authorities no longer had the same need of them and became afraid of their freedom to express themselves and of their power to influence the public. After defeating the enemy without, the government focused on enemies within.

After England destroyed the Armada in the summer of 1588, Oxford played a prominent role in the celebratory procession to St. Paul’s Cathedral on 24 November. An observer reported in A Joyful Ballad of the Royal Entrance of Queen Elizabeth into the City of London:

The noble Earl of Oxford then High Chamberlain of England

Rode right before Her Majesty his bonnet in his hand…

And afterwards unto Paul’s cross she did directly pass,

There by the Bishop of Salisbury a sermon preached was;

The Earl of Oxford opening then the windows for her Grace,

The Children of the Hospital she saw before her face….

This triumphant appearance seemed to mark the end of Oxford’s public life. He soon disappeared from court and public view, retiring to the countryside after selling Vere House and Fisher’s Folly. His wife, Anne Cecil, had died in June of 1588 and her father, Burghley, as Master of the Court of Wards, instituted procedures against him in early 1589 for debts dating back at least two decades and amounting to a staggering 22,000 pounds, rendering his annuity of a thousand pounds virtually useless.

Oxford had been the central sun around which the writers revolved, so when he could no longer finance their labors they began to fly out of orbit. The result, directly or indirectly, was the loss of nearly all of them within a span of some five years.

The Earl’s company of child actors, known as Paul’s Boys and/or Oxford’s Boys, was forced by the government to dissolve in 1590; soon after, writes Clark, “the loud complaints of members of the group are heard; one member dies in poverty; another fails to receive promised preferment; another is killed in a tavern brawl; and others drag on in miserable existence. The goose that laid the Golden Eggs was dead.”

Outcries from the writers took various forms that only certain members of the royal court and the aristocracy might have understood. Nashe, in his 1589 preface to Greene’s prose work Menaphon, entitled “To The Gentlemen Students of Both Universities,” referred to an “English Seneca” who had been forced to “die to our stage,” that is, to abandon his commitment to theatre: “Yet English Seneca read by candlelight yields many good sentences, as ‘Blood is a beggar,’ and so forth; and if you entreat him fair in a frosty morning, he will afford you whole Hamlets, I should say handfuls, of tragical speeches. But oh grief! Tempus edax rerum: [“Time, the consumer of all things”] what’s that will last always? The sea exhaled by drops will in continuance be dry, and Seneca, let blood line by line and page by page, at length must needs die to our stage.”

The death of Walsingham in April 1590 sent the world of English espionage into a tailspin, with factions competing for prominence. The strongest was controlled by the father-son team of William and Robert Cecil, the latter determined to gain power over all intelligence-gathering apparatus and, too, over the public stage with its playwrights, play companies and playhouses. Upon the secretary’s death some of his spy network fell into the hands of his cousin Thomas Walsingham, who began to lead a kind of rogue operation. Watson and Marlowe both entered into his patronage and Marlowe continued to travel abroad. Nicholl reports that Marlowe was lodging in January 1592 with two other English spies in Flushing, a Dutch seaport town ceded to England in return for support against Spanish invaders. He was arrested as a counterfeiter and deported, a bizarre episode that ended with him returning home as a prisoner to face Burghley in private and answer his questions. Might it be reasonable to ask how Marlowe found time to write? It appears that whatever his literary and dramatic contributions may have been, they had ceased when Oxford gave up Fisher’s Folly in 1589 and could no longer support the University Wits.  Charlton Ogburn Jr. in The Mysterious William Shakespeare (1984) agrees that it was Oxford who had discovered Marlowe’s dramatic ability and brought out Tamburlaine in 1587, to teach the people what might be expected of a ruthless conqueror like Philip; and later, for publication, he had put Marlowe’s name on it.

“The relationship between the two playwrights [Oxford and Marlowe] at this time may be taken to account for the similarities in Shakespeare’s early historical dramas to Edward the Second, printed in 1594 as Marlowe’s,” Ogburn also suggests. “The supposition would be that the play was an early one of Oxford’s that the earl turned over in draft to Marlowe to make what he would of it.”

Dorothy Ogburn writes of “evidence that Edward II is a direct forerunner of Henry IV and of Richard II and is by the same hand, created out of the same consciousness: it is not plagiarized from someone else. There are innumerable correspondences between Edward II and these dramas, not only in locutions, imagery and mannerisms, but also in point of view.”

On 18 April 1593, the highly cultured and sophisticated narrative poem Venus and Adonis was entered at the Stationers’ Register in London, without an author’s name. On 30 May Marlowe was killed in the company of three other spies. Among them was the most important government agent, Robert Poley, now working for Burghley and Robert Cecil, the latter determined to prevent nobles such as Oxford, Essex and Southampton from choosing a successor to Elizabeth, who was now in her sixtieth year. The only way Cecil could hope to retain power behind the throne beyond the reign of Elizabeth was to become the kingmaker himself.

It appears Cecil had viewed Marlowe as knowing too many secrets to be trusted and as too dangerous to remain alive. By June 1593, virtually at the time of Marlowe’s death, Venus and Adonis went on sale. No author’s name appeared on the title page, but the printed signature beneath the dedication to Southampton carried, for the first time, the name of an otherwise unknown author—William Shakespeare—evoking the image of a warrior-poet shaking the spear of his pen.

Oxford had returned.

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DNA Confirms President Harding’s Love Child — Reprinting a Blog Post about DNA and Prince Tudor

president's daughter

Nan Britton, mistress of the 29th president, with daughter Elizabeth Ann Britton (1931)

Nan Britton, mistress of the 29th president, with daughter Elizabeth Ann Britton (1931)

In light of the big news about DNA confirming that President Harding was the father of a “love child,” reported first by the New York Times this morning, I am reprinting a blog entry posted here more than five years ago.

DNA TESTING – BRING IT ON (April 17, 2010)

I hereby put forth my public appeal for DNA testing to determine once and for all whether a “Prince Tudor” existed during the reign of Elizabeth Tudor, the First Elizabeth (1533-1603) of England.  Was Henry Wriothesley Earl of Southampton her son and heir to the throne?

Henry Wriothesley 3rd Earl of Southampton – In the Tower of London (1601-1603) – Was he the future Henry IX of England?

We now have Charles Beauclerk’s magnificent book Shakespeare’s Lost Kingdom, which further explores the idea that Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford was the son of Princess Elizabeth and Thomas Seymour, born in 1548, and that Henry Wriothesley Earl of Southampton was born in 1574 of mother-son incest, i.e., that Oxford and Elizabeth were his parents.  Paul Streitz writes of this “double Prince Tudor theory” in his book Oxford: Son of Queen Elizabeth I , and Beauclerk delivers a magnificent portrait of Edward de Vere’s identity crisis as it relates to his deeply divided life and authorship of the Shakespeare works.

My book The Monument demonstrates how Oxford wrote the Sonnets as a record of the truth for posterity that Southampton (the “fair youth”) was his son by the Queen and deserved to succeed her as King Henry IX of England.  (I don’t rule out the theory that Oxford himself was the Queen’s son, but do not use it to interpret the Sonnets; after all, I have enough on my plate!)

So bring it on — DNA testing for all this.  Is it possible to test the Southampton PT theory, i.e., to determine whether he was the son of Elizabeth?  Can DNA testing rule it out?

Anyone who might have answers is welcome to use the “comments” option below.  I’ll post your contributions here in the main blog section, if warranted.

Oh — Roland Emmerich’s movie Anonymous, starring Vanessa Redgrave as the Queen and due out next year, reportedly will contain that “double” PT theory as part of its story line, so the call for DNA testing may become much louder.  I hereby register my fervent support for such testing.

By the way, I’m halfway through reading James Shapiro’s book Contested Will, making fun of all us anti-Stratfordians.  I’ll wait to comment until I’m done reading, except to say that the book has nothing to do with genuine interest in the English renaissance that created “Shakespeare” — the great surge of literature and drama that occurred in Elizabeth’s reign during the 1560’s, 1570’s and 1580’s before the first [miraculous] appearance of the “Shakespeare” name in 1593.

It seems to me that those who applaud Shapiro’s attempts at mockery have no real interest in learning such genuine history leading to Shakespeare — real history that includes the Earl of Oxford as a central figure of this renaissance, a poet-dramatist and patron of writers and actors who was vitally connected to each of Shakespeare’s contemporary sources.  If you’re really interested in Shakespeare the man and artist, you have to study Oxford’s life and work, regardless of whether you accept that he himself was the great author.

Oh – I should mention that Shapiro quotes me inaccurately.  He quotes me as saying the works of Shakespeare are nonfiction dressed as fiction.  No, I said that about the Sonnets, not about all the other works.  The Sonnets are different.  They’re personal.  In the Sonnets the author uses the personal pronoun “I” to speak in his own voice, tell his own story.   And we Oxfordians do NOT believe that the works are “autobiographical,” but, rather, that Oxford drew upon many sources including aspects of his own life — in other words, they are works of the imagination based on life itself.  There’s a big difference between that and strict autobiography; and Shapiro, by stating that we think the works are autobiographical,  is setting up a straw man to knock down.

Christopher Marlowe, Continued: the Fourth and Final Part of Reason 95 to Believe the Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare”

Queen Elizabeth with the troops at Tilbury as the Spanish armada arrived

Queen Elizabeth with the troops at Tilbury as the Spanish armada arrived

After England destroyed the Spanish armada in the summer of 1588, Edward de Vere the seventeenth Earl of Oxford played a prominent role in the celebratory procession to St. Paul’s Cathedral on the twenty-fourth of November. An observer reported in A Joyful Ballad of the Royal Entrance of Queen Elizabeth into the City of London:

The noble Earl of Oxford then High Chamberlain of England
Rode right before Her Majesty his bonnet in his hand…
And afterwards unto Paul’s cross she did directly pass,
There by the Bishop of Salisbury a sermon preached was;
The Earl of Oxford opening then the windows for her Grace,
The Children of the Hospital she saw before her face.

But this was the end of Oxford’s public life. He soon disappeared from court and public view, retiring to the countryside after selling Vere House and Fisher’s Folly, the latter mansion having provided a London home base for writers in his charge. His wife Anne Cecil had died in June of 1588 and her father, Lord Burghley, as Master of the Court of Wards, instituted procedures against him in early 1589 for his debts dating back at least two decades and amounting to a staggering total of some 22,000 pounds – rendering his annuity of a thousand pounds virtually useless.

William Cecil Lord Burghley

William Cecil
Lord Burghley

[Mostly likely Oxford went to the manor house of Stoke Newington. After that he may have gone to Billesley Hall in the Valley of the Avon, owned by the family of Elizabeth Trussel, the Maid of Honor who became his second wife in 1591. A local legend is that As You Like It was written by “Shakespeare” at Billesley Hall.]

Billesley Hall or Manor

Billesley Hall or Manor

Oxford was the central sun around which the writers revolved, so when he could no longer finance their labors they began to fly out of orbit. The result, directly or indirectly, was the loss of nearly all of them within a span of some five years; for example:

John Lyly, his main secretary and stage manager, lost his job in 1590;
Thomas Lodge escaped poverty by voyaging to South America in 1591;
Thomas Watson died in 1592;
Robert Greene died of dissipation and poverty in September 1592;
Christopher Marlowe was stabbed to death on May 30, 1593;
Thomas Kyd, after being tortured on the rack in 1593, died in 1594.

Oxford’s company of child actors, called Paul’s Boys and/or Oxford’s Boys, was forced by the government to dissolve in 1590; and soon after, writes Eva Turner Clark, “the loud complaints of members of the group are heard; one member dies in poverty; another fails to receive promised preferment; another is killed in a tavern brawl; and others drag on in miserable existence. The goose that lay the Golden Eggs was dead.”

Outcries from the writers took various forms that only certain members of the royal court and the aristocracy might have understood. Thomas Nashe, for example, in his 1589 preface to Greene’s prose work Menaphon entitled To The Gentlemen Students of Both Universities, referred to Oxford as the “English Seneca” who had been forced to “die to our stage” or to abandon his commitment to theatre:

“Yet English Seneca read by candlelight yields many good sentences, as ‘Blood is a beggar,’ and so forth; and if you entreat him fair in a frosty morning, he will afford you whole Hamlets, I should say handfuls, of tragical speeches. But oh grief! Tempus edax rerum: [‘Time, the consumer of all things”] what’s that will last always? The sea exhaled by drops will in continuance be dry, and Seneca, let blood line by line and page by page, at length must needs die to our stage.”

armada
Many Oxfordians believe that Edward de Vere had written the first version of Hamlet by 1585, when he had Marcellus allude to “shipwrights” (builders of wooden vessels) in London who were helping to prepare for the Spanish invasion:

Good now, sit down, and tell me, he that knows,
Why this same strict and most observant watch
So nightly toils the subject of the land,
And why such daily cast of brazen cannon,
And foreign mart for implements of war;
Why such impress of shipwrights, whose sore task
Does not divide the Sunday from the week…

The spectacle of shipbuilding all week and even on Sundays, as the nation braced for war on the home front, would have resonated with an English audience before, but not after, the arrival of the armada in 1588. Meanwhile Nashe was also indirectly reporting that the author of the tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark had been forced to “die to our stage.”

Then at the end of 1590 came registration of the poem Tears of the Muses, attributed to Edmund Spenser, also bemoaning the loss of the great author:

And he, the man whom nature self had made
To mock herself, and truth to imitate,
With kindly counter under mimic sdhade,
Our pleasant Willy, ah! Is dead of late…

But that same gently spirit, from whose pen
Large streams of honey and sweet nectar flow,
Scorning the boldness of such base-born men
Which dare their follies forth so rashly throw,
Doth rather choose to sit in idle cell,
That so himself to mockery to sell.

It was Edward de Vere who (as Hamlet puts it) held the mirror up to “nature” and so “imitate” the “truth” in his work – an echo in passing of his motto Nothing Truer than Truth. Oxford was the great writer who had been “dead of late” and was now choosing to “sit in idle cell” rather than sell himself or his work. In one of his song-verses printed back in The Paradise of Dainty Devices, signed “E.O.” in 1576 and “E. Ox” in subsequent editions, he revealed that “never am less idle, lo, than when I am alone” – that is, he never worked harder than when he was by himself.

Meanwhile in September 1589 two of the writer-spies in Oxford’s circle got into trouble. Marlowe was fighting in the street with an innkeeper’s son, William Bradley, when Watson appeared and drew his sword. Marlowe stepped back, but Bradley leaped toward Watson and wounded him. Watson retreated, but Bradley charged again, so now Watson pierced him deep in the chest, killing him. Both writer-agents were tossed into the Newgate dungeon, but Marlowe was released without charge while a jury eventually ruled that Watson had acted in self-defense. He spent some months in the prison, awaiting “the grace of the Queen” until, on February 10, 1590, he received a pardon.

Queen Elizabeth The Armada Portrait

Queen Elizabeth
The Armada Portrait

The death of Secretary Francis Walsingham on April 6, 1590 sent the world of English espionage into a tailspin of competing factions. The strongest one was controlled by the powerful father-son team of William Cecil Lord Burghley and Robert Cecil. The latter, Oxford’s former brother-in-law, was determined to gain power over the intelligence-gathering apparatus and, too, over the public stage along with its playwrights, play companies and playhouses.

Upon the Secretary’s death some of his spy network fell into the hands of his cousin Thomas Walsingham, who began to lead a kind of rogue operation. Watson and Marlowe both entered Thomas Walsingham’s patronage; and Marlowe continued to travel abroad. As reported first by Nicholl in The Reckoning, in January 1592 Marlowe was lodging with two other English spies in Flushing, a Dutch seaport town ceded to England in return for support against Spanish invaders. On the twenty-sixth of that month, Marlowe was arrested in Flushing as a counterfeiter and deported – a bizarre episode that ended with him returning home as a prisoner to face Burghley in private and answer his questions.

Might it be reasonable to ask how Marlowe found time to write? It appears that whatever his literary and dramatic contributions may have been, they had ceased when Oxford gave up Fisher’s Folly in 1589 and could no longer support the University Wits. In The Mysterious William Shakespeare (1584), Charlton Ogburn Jr. supported the idea that it was Oxford who had discovered Marlowe’s dramatic ability and brought out Tamburlaine in 1587, to teach the people what might be expected of a ruthless conqueror like Philip of Spain; and he continued:

“The relationship between the two playwrights [Oxford and Marlowe] at this time may be taken to account for the similarities in Shakespeare’s early historical dramas to Edward the Second, printed in 1594 as Marlowe’s” – that is, printed with his name after he was murdered. “The supposition would be that the play was an early one of Oxford’s that the Earl turned over in draft to Marlowe to make what he would of it.”

[Ogburn’s mother Dorothy Ogburn had written of “evidence that Edward the Second is a direct forerunner of 2 and 3 Henry the Sixth and of Richard II and is by the same hand, created out of the same consciousness: it is not plagiarized from someone else. There are innumerable correspondences between Edward the Second and these dramas, not only in locutions, imagery and mannerisms, but also in point of view.”]

On April 18, 1593, the long, highly cultured and sophisticated narrative poem Venus and Adonis was entered at the Stationer’s Register in London, without any author’s name.

William Cecil Lord Burghley (l) and his son Robert Cecil (r)

William Cecil Lord Burghley (l) and his son Robert Cecil (r)

On May 30, 1593, Christopher Marlowe was killed in the company of three other spies. Among them was the most important government agent, Robert Poley, who was now working for Burghley and Robert Cecil – the latter being determined to prevent nobles such as Oxford, Essex and Southampton from choosing a successor to Elizabeth, now in her sixtieth year. The only way Robert Cecil could hope to retain power behind the throne, beyond the reign of Elizabeth, was to become the kingmaker.

It appears that Cecil had viewed Kit Marlowe as knowing too many secrets to be trusted, that is, as having been too dangerous to remain alive. In any case, Marlow had never been named as the author of any poem or play during his lifetime.

A few weeks later, in June 1593, Venus and Adonis went on sale. No author’s name appeared on the title page, but the printed signature for the dedication to Southampton carried, for the first time, the name of an otherwise unknown author – William Shakespeare, evoking the image of a warrior-poet shaking the spear of his pen.

Oxford had returned…

“English Seneca” … “Our Pleasant Willy” … was back.

The Bard was Highly Educated in Greek: No. 82 of 100 Reasons Why Oxford was “Shakespeare”

One of the thrilling, ongoing stories of the modern Oxfordian movement is the work of Earl Showerman MD, who, over the past decade (2004-2014), has been systematically recovering Shakespeare’s profound knowledge of the Greek language and the ancient Greek drama; and his work is offered here as one more “reason” to conclude that the Earl of Oxford was Shakespeare.

Euripedes 480 B.C.E. - 406 B.C.E.

Euripedes
480 B.C.E. – 406 B.C.E.

The Shakespeare scholar G. Wilson Knight, writing of the magical resurrection scene in the final act of The Winter’s Tale, when the statue of Hermoine comes to life, called it “the most strikingly conceived and profoundly penetrating moment in English literature.” And while critics have long regarded that play as derived from Pandosto, Robert Greene’s 1588 romance, Showerman points out that Shakespeare not only upgraded the style of Greene’s moral tale but “transformed it into a Renaissance version of a classic Greek trilogy, enriched with references to a library of ancient sources.”

Hermoine as Statue From "Tales of Shakespeare" by Charles and Mary Lamb

Hermoine as Statue
From “Tales of Shakespeare” by Charles and Mary Lamb

Dr. Showerman shows that “we can now credibly add Euripides’s tragicomedy Alcestis (438 B.C.E.) to Shakespeare’s portfolio of classical Greek sources.” In other words, while Greene took names and themes from second-century Greek romance, Shakespeare “chose to craft his romantic masterpiece in the venerable tradition of fifth-century Greek drama,” while drawing from his reading of Alcestis in the original Greek language.

This should come as worrisome news to scholars bound by Stratfordian biography. It undoubtedly means that, while the works of Shakespeare will always remain intact, these critics had better go looking for an author who could actually read Greek. Dr. Showerman points out that many scholars in the nineteenth century recognized Alcestis as a source for the mysterious statue scene in The Winter’s Tale, but “as the twentieth century passed the mid-mark, acknowledgment of the connection faded as scholars began to react to the limits on Shakespeare’s knowledge of the Greek canon imposed by the Stratford grammar school education. Since then, contemporary scholars have tended to either ignore Alcestis or relegate it to a footnote.”

[A number of modern scholars, having found evidence of an alarmingly erudite Shakespeare in the plays, are rather frantically proposing that the canon must have had multiple authors. This would be quite surprising to those who gave us the First Folio of Shakespeare plays in 1623, given that they never thought to mention any collaborators. Nonetheless, watch for continued escalation of the collaboration theme — anything to avoid the obvious evidence that there was a different single author!]

It’s not easy to calculate the damage done by the traditional limitation of vision. On the other hand, by lifting the curtain on the Greek influences in Shakespeare’s plays, Dr. Showerman is making it increasingly difficult to ignore the Greek underpinning of even the names of many Shakespearean characters. “By examining the personalities and relationships of the names used for the characters of The Winter’s Tale,” he writes, “one can more fully appreciate the Greek context out of which Shakespeare built his story. I believe that much of the mystical power of this drama derives from these archetypal Greek sources, from the histories and mythologies embedded in its characters’ names.”

In a paper entitled Shakespeare’s “Lesse Greek” (2002), Andrew Werth, a graduate of Concordia University, Portland, OR, contradicts many orthodox scholars by concluding: “Greek plots, names, passages, philosophy, dramatic technique and, most important, the Greek ‘spirit,’ enhance and inform Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets.”

Sir Thomas Smith 1513 - 1577

Sir Thomas Smith
1513 – 1577

At the same time, through the ongoing research of Stephanie Hopkins Hughes, we have learned much more about the influence upon Edward de Vere of Sir Thomas Smith, the philospher, statesman, humanist and Greek scholar. According to the available evidence, Smith “brought up” and tutored the young earl for the better part of eight years from age four to twelve, at his own household, not far from the Vere seat of Castle Hedingham. Sir Thomas had held the post of Greek Orator at the University of Cambridge, lecturing in Greek on Homer and the ancient Greek dramatists. Surely he would have transferred his enthusiasm for the Greek language to his young pupil, who spent his ninth year (1558-1559) at Smith’s own college (Queen’s) at Cambridge.

During Elizabeth’s reign, Smith followed William Cecil Lord Burghley as Principal Secretary of State in 1572 until his death in 1577. During that period, after Oxford had bolted to the Continent without permission, Burghley wrote to Sir Francis Walsingham for help in mollifying Queen Elizabeth, adding, “I doubt not but Master Secretary Smith will remember his old love towards the Earl when he was his scholar.”

After his childhood at Smith’s estates, Oxford spent most of his teens during the 1560’s as a royal ward of Elizabeth at Cecil House in London. And Lord Burghley, who had studied under Smith in much earlier days, also had Greek editions of Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripedes and Plato in his vast library. In addition the chief minister’s wife, Mildred Cooke Cecil, a major force in that household, was not only fluent in Latin, but in Greek as well. And so, once more, the biography of Edward de Vere makes a perfect fit with the works of Shakespeare.

Recommended papers online:

“Shakespeare’s” Tutor: Sir Thomas Smith by Stephanie Hopkins Hughes (2000)

Shakespeare’s “Lesse Greek” by Andrew Werth (2002)

Orestes and Hamlet: From Myth to Masterpiece by Earl Showerman (2004)

“Look Down and See what Death is Doing”: Gods and Greeks in “The Winter’s Tale” by Earl Showerman (2007)

Shakespeare’s Many Much Ado’s: Alcestis, Hercules, and “Love’s Labour’s Wonne” by Earl Showerman (2009) – page 109 of “Brief Chronicles”

“Timon of Athens”: Shakespeare’s Sophoclean Tragedy by Earl Showerman (2009)

Reason 67 of 100 Why the Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare”: Following the Trail of Three Plays of King John

PART ONE: John Bale’s “King Johan” & the Earls of Oxford

Elizabeth Tudor embarked on her royal progress in the summer of 1561, less than three years after her ascendency to the throne at age twenty-five, and in early August the court spent a week at Ipswich, where the Queen attended a performance of King Johan (King John), the first known historical verse drama in English and the first play to present a King of England on stage.

John Bale

John Bale

The author, minister-scholar John Bale (1495-1563), had written the first version of the play by 1537 while in the service of Henry VIII’s chief minister Thomas Cromwell, who helped engineer an annulment of the King’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon so that Henry could marry Anne Boleyn.  An active member of Cromwell’s stable of propagandists, Bale managed to turn King John – for centuries a despised monarch, who had surrendered England to the power of the papacy – into a Protestant hero.

A quarter century later, in 1561, the daughter of Anne Boleyn was on the throne and her own chief minister, William Cecil, was just as eager to use the stage for Reformation propaganda; and by now Bale had updated his King Johan in time for the arrival of Elizabeth at Ipswich.  A crucial link between the old morality plays and the new style of drama to come later in the sixteenth century, Bale’s version of John’s reign (1199-1216) presented him as a “good” king struggling against the Pope and the Church of Rome on behalf of England – just as Henry VIII had done and as Elizabeth was doing now.

        King JohnReigned 1199-1216

King John
Reigned 1199-1216

At this point Bale was writing plays for John de Vere, sixteenth Earl of Oxford, whose company of actors performed King Johan for Elizabeth at Ipswich.  Jesse W. Harris, in his 1940 biography of Bale, writes that he was “in the service of Oxford, for whom he wrote a series of plays intended for use as Reformation propaganda.”

Elizabeth’s progress continued to the Vere seat of Castle Hedingham in Essex for a visit of five nights (August 14-19, 1561).  In the great hall of the castle, John de Vere’s players again performed for the royal entourage, most likely with plays Bale had written under the earl’s patronage, including his newly revised play about King John.

On hand for the royal festivities was eleven-year-old Edward de Vere, the future seventeenth Earl of Oxford, who keenly watched  the twenty-seven-year-old Queen’s reactions to the performances; and historians of the future may judge whether this moment marks the true birth of “William Shakespeare” – who, after all, would write plays of English royal history mirroring current political issues.

Hedingham

Hedingham

A year later, upon John de Vere’s death, William Cecil had young Edward brought to London as a royal ward of the Queen in his care.  As Master of the Royal Wards, Cecil also “took possession of all the young noble’s assets,” reports Ruth Loyd Miller (1922-2005) in Oxfordian Vistas, adding:

“Cecil, who had standing orders for his agents on the Continent to supply him with copies of books and publications of interest, would not have failed to appreciate the sixteenth Earl of Oxford’s collection of Bale’s dramatic works, and to move them for safekeeping to Cecil House on the Strand.  Even before Bale’s death (in 1563), Archbishop Matthew Parker and Cecil were aware of the value of Bale’s work, and were involved in efforts to retrieve Bale’s manuscripts from various sources.  Undoubtedly ‘Shakespeare’ saw Bale’s manuscript plays, and undoubtedly he saw them through the eyes of Edward de Vere, who owned many of them, in the Library at Cecil House.”

PART TWO: The Anonymous “Troublesome Reign” & Shakespeare’s “King John”

The next phase of this story begins with the formation of Queen Elizabeth’s Men in 1583 at the instigation of secret service head Francis Walsingham, who knew the power of the stage as a means of spreading political propaganda.   Edward de Vere, thirty-three, contributed some of his adult players to the Queen’s Men along with John Lyly, his personal secretary, as stage manager.  And among the company’s history plays – up through 1588, when England defeated the Spanish armada and the Pope – was the anonymous Troublesome Reign of King John, printed in 1591 as “publicly acted by the Queen’s Majesty’s Players.”

Troublesome Reignof King John - 1591

Troublesome Reign
of King John – 1591

Seven years later, in late 1598, Francis Meres announced in Palladis Tamia that “Shakespeare” was not only the poet of Venus and Adonis and Lucrece, but, also, a playwright.  Meres listed six comedies and six tragedies, the latter including “King John” plus five others, all printed anonymously in this order:  Titus Andronicus in 1594; Romeo and Juliet, Richard II and Richard III in 1597; and Henry IV in 1598.

When Meres listed Shakespeare’s play as King John, wasn’t he referring to the anonymous Troublesome Reign of King John printed in 1591?  We might well think so, given that each of the other Shakespeare plays listed “for tragedy” was printed without any author’s name.  So why not the one about King John?  Well, the simple answer is because that play’s previous existence in the 1580’s is too early for William Shakspere of Stratford, the traditional author, to have written it.

Therefore, to make things fit, orthodox scholars tell us that Shakespeare’s play of King John was not the one published in 1591, but, rather, the one printed in the First Folio of 1623 as The Life and Death of King John.  It’s a different text, but virtually all scholars agree – if reluctantly – that the great author surely based his own King John on the earlier anonymous one, Troublesome Reign … which means that he must have been guilty of substantial plagiarism!

Oxfordian researcher Ramon Jimenez writes in the annual Oxfordian of 2010 that both the anonymous Troublesome Reign of King John and Shakespeare’s Life and Death of King John “tell the same story in the same sequence of events, with only minor variations … The same characters appear in both plays … [and] Shakespeare’s play contains the same scenes in the same order.”

The only logical conclusion is that both plays were written by the same author, who could not have been the Stratford fellow and must have been Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, who first appears in this story at age eleven.

Castle Hedingham -- an interior view

Castle Hedingham — an interior view

Jimenez reports “substantial evidence” that “Shakespeare” wrote Troublesome Reign “at an early age” and then “rewrote it in his middle years” to complete the text of King John printed eventually in the Folio of 1623.  And at this point we might be tempted to announce these facts as “smoking gun” evidence of Oxford’s authorship of Shakespeare’s plays, but we’ll refrain from that temptation while making one other point:

“No scholar has suggested “that Shakespeare depended on or even knew of John Bale’s King Johan,” writes James A. Morey in The Shakespeare Quarterly of autumn 1994, but, it turns out, “The accounts of the death of John by Shakespeare and Bale are significantly alike” and, for other reasons, it does appear that “Shakespeare” must have had firsthand knowledge of Bale’s play performed by John de Vere’s players for Elizabeth back in 1561 … three years before William of Stratford would be born!

Number 40 of 100 Reasons Why the Earl of Oxford was “William Shakespeare” — Evidence that “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Originated in the Early 1580’s as a Masque about Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Alencon

A multi-faceted reason to view Edward de Vere Lord Oxford as “Shakespeare” involves the time frame.  To put it simply, most or all of the Shakespeare works were originally created ten or more years earlier than we have been told.

Oliver Chris & Judi Dench as Bottom and Titania in Peter Hall’s 2010 production at the Rose Theatre, Kingston

For example, studies of A Midsummer Night’s Dream reveal that its first version was a court masque parodying the farcical French Match of 1578 to 1581, when marriage negotiations between Queen Elizabeth (Queen Titania) and the Duke of Alencon (Bottom, disguised as an ass) were in full swing – but, alas, Will Shakspere was only seventeen in 1581, still very much in Stratford and not yet married, forcing orthodox scholars to date the original composition of the Dream to no earlier than 1594!

One result is that few if any books about Shakespeare mention anything about a relationship between that masterful romantic comedy and the French Match involving Elizabeth and Alencon.

The initial appearance of the name “William Shakespeare” was on the dedication of Venus and Adonis to Henry Wriothesley Lord Southampton in 1593.  This alone is a problem for the mainstream scholars, because it means that the very first publication by the young man from Stratford was a highly sophisticated, cultured narrative poem, one of the best ever written in England, yet he’d been in London just five years or even less.

Orthodox scholars, trying to fit the original writing of the Dream to the contours of Will of Stratford’s life, place the start of his composition in the very next year, 1594.  But was our struggling young playwright creating A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the public playhouse?  No, folks, no such apprenticeship for him, and not according to “the almost universally held belief among critics that the play was written for a private performance, clearly a part of the festivities attendant upon an aristocratic wedding,” writes Oscar Campbell in The Reader’s Encyclopedia of Shakespeare (1966).

Elizabeth Vere (1575-1627), who married William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby on 26 January1595 at Greenwich Palace, where a new version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” may have been performed during the festivities

“The only existing text,” Dr. Campbell tells us, “is the version of the comedy designed to be presented in the great hall of an Elizabethan gentleman’s country house, or possibly at the Court, on an occasion at which Queen Elizabeth may have been present … [Virtually all scholars acknowledge Queen Titania as a portrait of Elizabeth] …

“Many weddings of the nobility solemnized about the years 1594-1596 have been suggested as the occasion for which the play was written.  One considered most likely by many historians is that of Elizabeth de Vere, the daughter of the Earl of Oxford, to the Earl of Derby, which took place on January 26, 1595.”

Greenwich Palace, where the wedding of Lady Elizabeth Vere and the Earl of Derby took place

Now, let’s get this straight … a young man from Stratford upon Avon, near the start of his London career as a playwright, designs a play not for the public theater, but, instead, for a private wedding of the nobility.  He includes a major female character, Queen Titania, representing Elizabeth Tudor, and has her fall in love on stage with an ass!  Moreover the play is performed in front of that same female monarch, who is known for her extreme vanity, and for the amusement of her full court at Greenwich Palace!

Was it impossible?  Well, I’d say miraculous.

But let’s remove the constricting timeline of the Stratford fellow’s life and look at some of the perfectly logical evidence that A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a masterpiece that evolved through two or three or more of the author’s revisions, according to changing circumstances over more than a dozen years, from the Alencon affair reaching its climax in 1581 to a wedding of the nobility at Court in 1595.

“Tips of the iceberg” keep appearing to indicate the presence of this “hidden” history of the play; and Dr. Campbell is honest enough to mention some of these anomalies, as when he writes: “Certain textual inconsistencies indicate that the play as we have it has been revised, and that the lines which deal with the fantasy form only one of two textual layers.” [My emphasis]

The easiest way to eliminate the mystery is to realize that the first version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was an Elizabethan version of a Saturday Night Live skit, written by thirty-year-old Oxford in 1580.  At the time he was still in the highest favor of Elizabeth (though not for long); he and John Lyly, his private secretary and stage manager, were presenting plays for aristocrats at the private Blackfriars playhouse and for Her Majesty at Court.  The earl had been personally involved in the often-ludicrous Alencon affair, even to the point of twice refusing in 1578 to obey the Queen’s command to dance for the French diplomats, who had come to England to negotiate terms of the royal marriage.

Hercule Francois, Duke of Anjou and Alencon (1555-1584)

Oxford was “identified” as Shakespeare in 1920 by J. Thomas Looney.  It took hardly more than a decade for Eva Turner Clark in 1931 to suggest in her Hidden Allusions in Shakespeare’s Plays that earl had the Dream performed as a masque (probably for the Blackfriars audience, poking fun at both Elizabeth and Alencon) in 1581, before presenting it in some more complete form for the Queen during the Christmas season of 1584 at Court.  Then he would have revised the play yet again, a decade later in the mid-1590’s, for its performance during the Greenwich festivities for his daughter’s marriage to the Earl of Derby.

In the play, Titania courts Bottom while he wears his ass’s head.  Bottom repeatedly refers to “monsieur,” a comical reference to Alencon, who would not yield to the pressures on him to leave England, just as Bottom says: “I see their knavery; this is to make an ass of me; to fright me, if they could.  But I will not stir from this place …!”  [It must have been hilarious.]

“My Oberon!” cries Titania.  “What visions have I seen!  Methought I was enamored of an ass!”

When Alencon finally left the country in early 1582, writes Clark, “he realized that his dream of being Elizabeth’s consort and sovereign of England had come to an end, just as Bottom’s dream of a life in fairyland.”

I recommend an essay by Dr. Roger Stritmatter entitled On the Chronology and Performance Venue of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dreame’ in the 2006 edition of The Oxfordian, and to look up the work of Dr. Earl Showerman on this subject as well as others.  There is much, much more to Reason No. 40 to believe it was Oxford who adopted the “Shakespeare” pen name at age forty-three in 1593.

[A footnote: Oxford had been publicly in favor of the Alencon match, along with William Cecil Lord Burghley, the Queen’s chief minister – both realizing that the prolonged affair would keep France from an alliance with Spain and give England time to prepare for the inevitable Spanish invasion by armada.  In private, Oxford was surely against the match.]

The Medical Mind and Knowledge of “Shakespeare” — Part Two of Reason 39 Why the Real Author was Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford

Defenders of the Stratfordian faith often try to “dumb down” the Shakespeare works, to avoid having to explain how he could have acquired such amazing knowledge:  “Well, see, he really didn’t know that much.  He wrote about stuff that anyone in England could have picked up, in the tavern or on the street, and of course he made mistakes…”   Such is the typical attempt to minimize the medical knowledge that Shakespeare displays with such precise, accurate details that — even so! — numerous books have been devoted to just this single topic of mental, physical and emotional health or illness.   If something is too large to be filled by the Stratford man’s pitifully small biography, it must be cut down to fit – even while “the miracle” of his “genius” is further inflated, to explain the inexplicable.

Sir Thomas Smith (1513-1577)

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford requires no such adjustments to explain the knowledge displayed by “Shakespeare” in his works.  Oxford was tutored during childhood by Sir Thomas Smith, known for his great library and his interest in diseases, alchemy and therapeutic botanicals; at twelve he became a royal ward in the custody of William Cecil (later Lord Burghley and his father-in-law), whose library held some 200 books on alchemy and medical topics; and in his twenties Oxford lived next door to Bedlam Hospital, a source of firsthand knowledge about patients suffering from mental illness.

Edward de Vere’s life forms a picture that deepens, rather than cheapens, our perceptions of what is contained within the great plays and poems.  And because of the Oxfordian authorship theory, researchers are now continually finding new evidence that “Shakespeare” was even more brilliant than we have been able to know and appreciate.

Dr. Earl Showerman

Shakespeare’s Medical Knowledge: Illuminating the Authorship Question was the title of a talk last April by Earl Showerman, M.D., during the Shakespeare Authorship Studies Conference at Concordia University in Portland, OR.  His comprehensive lecture was supported by dozens of slides, with information such as that the plays contain “over 700 medical references to practically all the diseases and drugs” that were known by the year1600, along with “knowledge of anatomy, physiology, surgery, obstetrics, public health, aging, forensics, neurology and mental disorders,” not to mention “detailed knowledge of syphilis.”

Dr. Showerman, current president of the Shakespeare Fellowship, graduated from Harvard College and the University of Michigan Medical School before practicing emergency medicine in Oregon for more than three decades.  In the past several years he has carried out extraordinary research into Greek literary sources and allegorical elements in plays such as Hamlet (see essay here) and The Winter’s Tale (see essay here).  His findings have already shattered the notion that Shakespeare had “small Latin, and less Greek” – another example of how we are learning (over and over) that the “big lie” of the Stratford man as “Shakespeare” is invariably covering up much larger and more meaningful truths.

“Shakespeare and Medicine” by R.R. Simpson (1962)

Dr. Showerman quoted from Shakespeare and Medicine (1962) by R.R. Simpson, who reports that Shakespeare demonstrates “not only an astute knowledge of medical affairs, but also a keen sense of the correct use of that knowledge” – a sign that he was well-acquainted with the medical literature of his day.  Among many other works he cited The Medical Mind of Shakespeare (1986) by Aubrey Kail, who writes that the Bard’s plays “bear witness to profound knowledge of contemporary physiology and psychology” and that he “employed medical terms in a manner which would have been beyond the powers of any ordinary playwright or physician.”

“The Medical Mind of Shakespeare” by Aubrey Kail (1986)

In his lecture Dr. Showerman gave much credit to the work of another leading Oxfordian researcher, Frank M. Davis, M.D., co-founder of the Tallahassee Neurological Clinic.  In a paper on Shakespeare’s medical knowledge (and how he acquired it) published in 2000, Dr. Davis writes that during Shakespeare’s time “true medical literature, like medicine itself, was still in its infancy,” so he could not have absorbed much from reading what was available in English.  “The vast majority of medical works were published in Latin or Greek.”

Dr. Davis finds it “remarkable” that Shakespeare refers in three plays to the pia mater, the inner lining of the covering of the brain and spinal cord.

“Knowledge of this relatively obscure part of anatomy could only mean that Shakespeare had either studied anatomy or read medical literature …

“The Anatomie of the Bodie of Man” by Thomas Vicary (1490-1561)

“Even more striking to me as a neurosurgeon is his acquaintance with the relationship of the third ventricle with memory,” Dr. Davis adds, noting that a possible source was Thomas Vicary’s Anatomy of the Body of Man, published in 1548, which refers to the third ventricle as the ‘ventricle of memory’” – a phrase used in Love’s Labour’s Lost when the pedant Holfernes states that his various gifts of the mind “are begot in the ventricle of memory, nourished in the womb of the pia mater…” (4.2.70-71)

William Harvey (1578-1657)

And another example – that while the discovery of the circulation of blood has been assigned to William Harvey, there are indications that “Shakespeare” was aware of it long before Harvey’s announcement of it in 1616.  There are “at least nine significant references to the circulation or flowing of blood in Shakespeare’s plays,” Dr. Davis writes.

England was far behind the advances in medical technology taking place on the Continent.  Most of the great doctors and teachers were based at the University of Padua, then the center for medical learning; others studied there before returning to their hometowns to practice medicine.

University of Padua

And the Earl of Oxford, touring the cities of Europe during 1575 at age twenty-five, definitely visited Padua – at least once, probably twice.  “With the background in pharmacology gained from his years with Sir Thomas Smith,” writes Dr. Davis, “it seems unlikely that Oxford would visit Padua without attempting to discover the latest developments in ‘physic.’”

Fabricius (1537-1619)

Only the year before had the famous Renaissance doctor Fabricius discovered “the valves in veins responsible for keeping the blood flowing in one direction toward the heart,” Dr. Davis writes, noting that he was “the first to bring this important discovery to light.”  Even if Oxford hadn’t met with Fabricius in person “it is easy to imagine” that the great teacher’s 1574 discovery of those valves, along with other topics related to the circulation of the blood, “would have been an ongoing staple of conversation among the students and faculty at the time of Oxford’s visit the following year.”

Shakespeare and Medicine by Stephanie Hughes

Shakespeare and Medicine by Michael J. Cummings

The Bed Trick: Number 36 of 100 Reasons Why Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare”

“[Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford] forsook his lady’s bed, but the father of the lady Anne [Cecil], by stratagem, contrived that her husband should, unknowingly, sleep with her, believing her to be another woman, and she bore a son to him in consequence of this meeting.”The History and Topography of Essex by Thomas Wright, 1836 – discussing Oxford in relation to his wife Anne and her father William Cecil, Lord Burghley.

Measure“…the last great Earle of Oxford, whose lady [Anne Cecil] was brought to his Bed under the notion of his Mistris, and from such a virtuous deceit she [Susan Vere, Countess of Montgomery] is said to proceed.” Traditional Memoirs of the Reigns of Queen Elizabeth & King James by Francis Osborne, Esq., 1658.Although these two reports differ in the particulars, they both assert that Edward de Vere had been the victim of a “bed-trick” perpetrated by his wife Anne Cecil [at the bidding of her father, Lord Burghley] – the same situation that “William Shakespeare” immortalized in no less than four of his plays – All’s Well That Ends Well, Measure for Measure, Cymbeline and The Two Noble Kinsmen.

Hampton Court Palace

The so-called “bed-trick” became a popular convention by the end of the sixteenth century, but the evidence shows that “Shakespeare” employed it earlier than any other playwright of the English renaissance; and when Oxford is viewed as the great poet-dramatist, the dates of composition go back even earlier.  Whether the incident actually happened or Oxford merely thought so, the story from Thomas Wright [and probably also from Francis Osborne] stems from the royal visit to Hampton Court Palace in October 1574, when Anne Cecil requested additional lodgings so that she might entice her husband to join her, as she wrote to the Earl of Sussex, Lord Chamberlain of the Household:

Thomas Radcliffe, 3rd Earl of Sussex (1526-1583)

“My good Lord, because I think it long since I saw Her Majesty, and would be glad to do my duty after Her Majesty’s coming to Hampton Court, I heartily beseech your good Lordship to show me your favour in your order to the ushers for my lodging; that in consideration that there is but two chambers, it would please you to increase it with a third chamber next to it … for the more commodious my lodging is, the willinger I hope my Lord my husband will be to come hither.”

Oxford was in Italy the following September when he received a letter from Burghley telling him that Anne had given birth to a girl, Elizabeth Vere, in July; and later, upon learning of Court gossip that he had been cuckolded, he came to doubt that he was the father and separated from his wife for five years.  Had he really been deceived in a bed-trick according to the “stratagem” devised by his father-in-law, the most powerful man in England?  In that case, the girl Elizabeth Vere was in fact his natural child; but the other possibility is that Burghley concocted and spread the bed-trick story to cover up the fact that, at his bidding, Anne had become pregnant by some other man – a rather shocking explanation held by Charlton Ogburn Jr. in The Mysterious William Shakespeare of 1984:

“I strongly incline [to the explanation] that her father was determined as far as humanly possible to ensure the continuation of the marriage and the status of his descendants as Earls of Oxford.  Three years had passed since Anne’s and Edward’s wedding and still there was no sign of issue, while it had now become impossible any longer to deny his son-in-law a Continental trip from which, given the hazards of travel, he might not return.  Thus, exploiting his daughter’s uncommon filial submissiveness and the argument that a child would be the surest means of binding her husband to her, he overcame her compunctions and resistance and brought her to accept service by another male and one of proved fertility …”

Cover of Wright’s History of Essex – 1836

While working on his 1920 breakthrough book “Shakespeare” Identified [as Oxford], the British schoolmaster J. Thomas Looney realized that Bertram in All’s Well is virtually a self-portrait of Edward de Vere – but only after completing his manuscript did he discover Wright’s claim that Oxford himself had been deceived by a bed-trick.  The excitement he feels is palpable when introducing “what has been the most remarkable piece of evidence met with in the whole course of our investigations: a discovery made a considerable time after this work had been virtually completed …

“This evidence is concerned with the play, All’s Well; the striking parallelism between the principal personage in the drama and the Earl of Oxford having led us to adopt it as the chief support of our argument at the particular stage [Chapter XVI: “Dramatic Self-Revelation”] with which we are now occupied … What we have now to state was not discovered until some months later. 

“In tracing the parallelism between Bertram and Oxford we confined our attention to the incidentals of the play, in the belief that the central idea of the plot — the entrapping of Bertram into marital relationships with his own wife, in order that she might bear him a child unknown to himself — was wholly derived from Boccaccio’s story of Bertram.  The discovery, therefore, of the following passage in Wright’s History of Essex furnishes a piece of evidence so totally unexpected, and forms so sensational a climax to an already surprising resemblance that, on first noticing it, we had some difficulty in trusting our own eyes.

“We would willingly be spared the penning of such matter: its importance as evidence does not, however, permit of this,” Looney added, with what Ogburn describes as “quaint Victorian delicacy” in the face of such scandalous matters.  After citing the passage from Wright’s History of Essex quoted above, he continued:

“Thus even in the most extraordinary feature of this play; a feature which hardly one person in a million would for a moment have suspected of being anything else but an extravagant invention, the records of Oxford are at one with the representation of Bertram. It is not necessary that we should believe the story to be true, for no authority for it is vouchsafed … In any case, the connection between the two is now as complete as accumulated evidence can make it.”

Marliss C. Desens, in her book The Bed-Trick in English Renaissance Drama (1994), states that this plot device appears in at least forty-four plays of the period; but she also reports that “an examination of English Renaissance dramas shows that bed-tricks were not being used on stage prior to the late 1590’s” and, more specifically, that the bed-trick “begins appearing in plays starting around 1598.”  This means that if Oxford was “Shakespeare” we can say with certainty that during the Elizabethan reign he was the first to incorporate it; and, too, that he did so after being a victim of it in real life or believing it was so.  Oxfordians date the original versions of the plays far earlier than the orthodox dates dictated by the life of William of Stratford.  In the case of the four plays with bed tricks, here are the differences:

All’s Well That Ends Well – tradition is circa 1604, but Oxfordians say 1579 or 1580

Measure for Measure – tradition has 1603-1605, but Oxfordians say 1581-1585

Cymbeline – Orthodox date is 1610, while the Oxfordian date is 1578-1582

The Two Noble Kinsmen – Orthodox date is 1612-13, but Oxfordians say 1566, revised 1594

Reason No. 36 demonstrates yet again how replacing “Shakespeare” with Oxford stands previous scholarship on its head (or turns it inside-out).  The whole picture of “Shakespeare’s” creative process and its journey is transformed!  No wonder the academic world has such built-in resistance to seeing the change of paradigm!

Thomas Watson, Poet: He’s a Link of Many Facets between Edward de Vere and “Shakespeare” – Part One of Reason No. 35 to believe Oxford became the Bard

AUTHORSHIP QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“In our conclusion that these Sonnets were addressed to Southampton, we have the full support of the great majority of authorities on the subject.” –  J. Thomas Looney, 1920

The lyrical poet Thomas Watson (1556?-1592) has the honor of being “one of the direct forerunners of Shakespeare (in Venus and Adonis and in the Sonnets) and of being the leader in the long procession of Elizabethan sonnet-cycle writers.”  [NNDB] And Watson is linked to “Shakespeare” through Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (1550-1604) in some startling ways:

Watson's Sequence of 100 Sonnets Dedicated to Edward de Vere (1582) CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VIEW

In 1582, Watson published his most celebrated work The Hekotompathia or Passionate Century of Love, a sequence of 100 or a “century” of numbered eighteen-line sonnets [“passions”], with “prose headers” demonstrating his knowledge of works by some fifty classical or renaissance authors in their original languages; and he dedicated it to Edward de Vere, testifying that the earl “had willingly vouchsafed the acceptance of this work, and at convenient leisures favorably perused it, being as yet but in written hand.”

[We may not be wrong in suggesting that Oxford himself contributed the “prose headers” accompanying each Watson sonnet, commenting on their contents and sources.]

In 1589, the year after Oxford sold his London mansion Fisher’s Folly to William Cornwallis (whose daughter Anne apparently found some verses written by De Vere and others, including a poem to appear in 1599 as by Shakespeare), Watson became employed in the Cornwallis household.  [That September, when playwright Christopher Marlowe was attacked by an innkeeper’s son named William Bradley for failure to pay a debt, Watson came to his aid and killed Bradley, for which he spent six months in prison – See Marlowe Society.]

Francis Walsingham, the spymaster (1530?-1590)

(Marlowe acted as a spy for the English government and it seems that Watson did, too.  His association with Francis Walsingham, head of the growing secret service during wartime buildup in the 1580’s, brings him into probable contact with Oxford from this direction as well.   On June 21, 1586, William Cecil Lord Burghley urged Walsingham to confront the Queen about financial assistance to Oxford; and on June 26 Elizabeth awarded Oxford his annual grant of 1,000 pounds that would be continued even by King James in 1603 until Oxford’s death in 1604.)

In 1590, Watson published Italian Madrigals –most of them composed by Luca Marenzio, while Marenzio was staying in Mantua with the Gonzaga family from 1568 to 1574 – which Watson put into English and composer William Byrd set to music. Yet Watson had never traveled to Italy, while Oxford had apparently stayed with the Gonzaga family while visiting Mantua in 1575!  [See the work of Dr. Michael Delahoyde of Washington State University, discussing “Oxford and Music” – a topic to be reserved for another “reason” in this series.]

In 1593, the year after Watson died, his collection of sixty numbered fourteen-line sonnets [in the later-known “Shakespearean” form] was published as The Tears of Fancie, or Love Disdained (but with no name on the title page and only “Finis T.W.” after the final sonnet, No. 60, which was a slightly different version of Oxford’s early sonnet Love Thy Choice, which he had written back in the 1570’s [if not earlier] to express his devotion to Queen Elizabeth.)

In 1609, when the sequence of numbered verses SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS was printed, one sonnet in the Dark Lady series (no. 130) was quite clearly a takeoff, satiric or otherwise, on one of the sonnets printed under Watson’s name (no. 7) in the Hekatompathia or Passionate Century of Love of 1582.  [For example, whereas Watson’s sonnet had “Her lips more red than any Coral stone,” Shakespeare wrote, “Coral is far more red than her lips’ red,” and so on.]

Also in Shakespeare’s sonnets there is a string of 100 verses or a “century” of them (nos. 27 to 126) between two equal segments of twenty-six sonnets apiece (nos. 1-26 and 127-152); and this central Shakespeare sequence is divided into two parts, of eighty and twenty sonnets, exactly as the Watson’s century had been divided.  [I’ll treat this link between Watson and Edward de Vere separately, as part two of “Reason No. 35” to believe Oxford was “Shakespeare.”]

And those who like acrostics or hidden messages (on which I take no position), here are six lines (5 to 10) in the exact center of Sonnet 76, which itself is the key to unlocking the entire sequence:

Why write I still all one, ever the same,

And keep invention in a noted weed,

That every word doth almost tell my name,

Showing their birth, and where they did proceed?

O know sweet love I always write of you,

ANd you and love are still my argument

Well, I know … it would be better to find an “N” as the last letter of “WATSON,” but I just figured to pass on what came from the Marlovian researcher John Baker and later from Oxfordian researchers Dr. Eric Altschuler and Dr. William Jansen, who suspect that “Thomas Watson” may have been “the primary pseudonym [of Edward de Vere] immediately preceding the use of ‘Shakespeare’ [in 1593].”

[My take would be that Oxford would have used Watson’s name in order to publish certain works.  Watson’s death was recorded as September 26, 1592; his Tears of Fancy was published the following year, 1593, when the name “Shakespeare” made its first appearance in print [on Venus and Adonis].

Here is the Watson dedication to Oxford in Hekatompathia or Passionate Century of Love in 1582:

To the Right Honorable my
very good Lord Edward de Vere, Earle
of Oxenford, Viscount Bulbecke, Lord
of Escales, and Badlesmere, and Lord High
Chamberlain of England, all
happinesse.

Alexander the Great, passing on a time by the workshop of Apelles, curiously surveyed some of his doings, whose long stay in viewing them brought all the people into so great a good liking of the painter’s workmanship, that immediately after they bought up all his pictures, what price soever he set them at.  And the like good hap (Right Honorable) befell unto me lately concerning these my Love Passions, which then chanced to Apelles for his Portraits.  For since the world hath understood (I know not how) that your Honor had willingly vouchsafed the acceptance of this work, and at convenient leisures favorably perused it, being as yet but in written hand, many have oftentimes and earnestly called upon me to put it to the press, that for their money they might but see what your Lordship with some liking had already perused.

And therewithal some of them said (either to yield your Honor his due praise, for soundness of judgment; or to please me, of whom long since they had conceived well) that Alexander would like of no lines, but such as were drawn by the cunning hand, and with the curious pencil, of Apelles.  Which I set not down here to that end, that I would confer my Poems with Apelle’s Portraits for worthiness; albeit I fitly compare your Honor’s person with Alexander’s for excellence.  But how bold soever I have been in turning out this my petty poor flock upon the open Common of the wide world, where every man may behold their nakedness, I humbly make request that if any storm fall unlooked-for (by the fault of malicious high foreheads or the poison of evil-edged tongues) these my little ones may shroud themselves under the broad-leafed Platane [plant] of your Honor’s patronage.

And thus at this present, I humbly take my leave; but first wishing the continual increase of your Lordship’s honor, with abundance of true Friends, reconciliation of all Foes, and what good soever tendeth unto perfect happiness.

Your Lordship’s humbly at command

Thomas VVatson

Here is Watson’s Sonnet No. 7:

Hark you that list to hear what saint I serve:
Her yellow locks exceed the beaten gold;
Her sparkling eyes in heav’n a place deserve;
Her forehead high and fair of comely mold;
Her words are music all of silver sound;
Her wit so sharp as like can scarce be found;
Each eyebrow hangs like Iris in the skies;
Her Eagle’s nose is straight of stately frame;
On either cheek a Rose and Lily lies;
Her breath is sweet perfume, or holy flame;
Her lips more red than any Coral stone;
Her neck more white than aged Swans that moan;
Her breast transparent is, like Crystal rock;
Her fingers long, fit for Apollo’s Lute;
Her slipper such as Momus dare not mock;
Her virtues all so great as make me mute:
What other parts she hath I need not say,
Whose face alone is cause of my decay.

And here is Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130, (satirizing?) the lines above:

My Mistress’ eyes are nothing like the Sunne;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen Roses damask’d, red and white,
But no such Roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my Mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My Mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

Here is Oxford’s sonnet Love Thy Choice (circa early 1570’s):

Who taught thee first to sigh, alas, my heart ?
Who taught thy tongue the woeful words of plaint ?
Who filled your eyes with tears of bitter smart ?
Who gave thee grief and made thy joys to faint ?
Who first did paint with colours pale thy face ?
Who first did break thy sleeps of quiet rest ?
Above the rest in Court who gave thee grace ?
Who made thee strive in honour to be best ?
In constant truth to bide so firm and sure,
To scorn the world regarding but thy friends ?
With patient mind each passion to endure,
In one desire to settle to the end ?
Love then thy choice wherein such choice thou bind,
As nought but death may ever change thy mind.

And here is No. 60 of Tears of Fancy attributed to Watson, 1593:

Who taught thee first to sigh Alasse sweet heart? love
Who taught thy tongue to marshall words of plaint? love
Who fild thine eies with teares of bitter smart? love
Who gave thee griefe and made thy joyes so faint? love
Who first did paint with coullers pale thy face? love
Who first did breake thy sleepes of quiet rest? love
Who forst thee unto wanton love give place? love
Who thrald thy thoughts in fancie so distrest? love
Who made thee bide both constant firme and sure? love
Who made thee scorne the world and love thy friend? love
Who made thy minde with patience paines indure? love
Who made thee settle stedfast to the end? love
Then love thy choice though love be never gained,
Still live in love, dispaire not though disdained.

Stay tuned for Part Two of Reason No. 35 — How Oxford borrowed the Watson “century” structure for the “century” within the Shakespeare sonnets.

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