“I AM THAT I AM” – Re-posting No. 9 of 100 Reasons Oxford was the Great Author

“And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM’: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” — Exodus, 3.14

As far as we know, only two individuals during the Elizabethan age used the biblical phrase “I AM THAT I AM” to describe themselves, and they did so within identical contexts: the author of Shakespeare’s sonnets and Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford.

William Cecil Lord Burghley & His Mule

After composing a letter to his father-in-law William Cecil Lord Burghley on 30 October 1584, de Vere signed off in his own hand.  Then he added a postscript bitterly protesting the chief minister’s attempts to use his own servants to spy on him.  He set forth the facts and continued (with my emphases):

“But I pray, my Lord, leave that course, for I mean not to be your ward nor your child.  I serve her Majesty, and I AM THAT I AM, and by alliance near to your Lordship, but free, and scorn to be offered that injury to think I am so weak of government as to be ruled by servants, or not able to govern myself.  If your Lordship take and follow this course, you deceive yourself, and make me take another course than yet I have not thought of.  Wherefore these shall be to desire your Lordship, if that I may make account of your friendship, that you will leave that course as hurtful to us both.”

(When Oxford warns, “If your Lordship take and follow this course, you … make me take another course than yet I have not thought of,” it appears he anticipates King Lear’s outburst against his two selfish daughters, “I will do such things – what they are yet I know not; but they shall be the terrors of the earth.” – 2.4.280)

The other personal use of I AM THAT I AM occurs in Sonnet 121, which follows here with my emphases on SPIES as well as I AM THAT I AM. Is it the same mind at work … same protest … same angry, accusing voice?

Sonnet 121

‘Tis better to be vile than vile esteemed,

When not to be receives reproach of being,

And the just pleasure lost, which is so deemed,

Not by our feeling, but by others’ seeing.

For why should others’ false adulterate eyes

Give salutation to my sportive blood?

Or on my frailties why are frailer SPIES,

Which in their wills count bad what I think good?

No, I AM THAT I AM, and they that level

At my abuses reckon up their own.

I may be straight though they themselves be bevel;

By their rank thoughts my deeds must not be shown;

Unless this general evil they maintain:

All men are bad and in their badness reign

Dr. Roger Stritmatter’s Dissertation on Oxford’s Geneva Bible: a Landmark in Oxford-Shakespeare Scholarship

God’s words to Moses “I AM THAT I AM” are in the Geneva Bible, a gilt-edged copy of which de Vere had purchased in 1569/70 from William Seres, stationer; and thanks to the landmark studies of that same copy by Dr. Roger Stritmatter, we can be sure the earl was intimately acquainted with its passages.  Both Oxford and “Shakespeare” were biblical experts – one more reason why, in the view here, they were one and the same.

Referring to the likelihood that Oxford’s postscript and Sonnet 121 were written virtually at the same time in response to the same situation, Percy Allen wrote in 1930: “So forcible, individual, and wholly characteristic an expression … is a very strong piece of corroborative evidence.” (The Case for Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford as “Shakespeare” by Percy Allen, 1930)

This reason is now No. 86 in Chapter 15 (“Fingerprints”) of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford.

Reason No. 22 Why Oxford = Shakespeare: His 1570 Geneva Bible with Its Annotations in the Earl’s Own Hand — And the Irony of Henry Clay Folger’s Purchase of it in 1925…

A great irony of the authorship movement is that Henry Clay Folger, founder of that bastion of Stratfordian tradition in Washington, D.C., the Folger Shakespeare Library, was an Oxfordian sympathizer.  Folger took such keen interest in J. T. Looney’s 1920 identification of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford as “Shakespeare” that, five years later in 1925, he bought the Geneva Bible the earl had purchased in 1570 at age nineteen.

Henry Clay Folger (1857 - 1930)

Mr. Folger apparently had an open mind; in due time, as evidence in the postscript below will indicate, he very possibly would have gone on to become a full-fledged Oxfordian!

Edward de Vere’s copy of the Geneva Bible was quietly ensconced in the Library when it opened in 1932, two years after Folger’s death.  There it remained, unheralded, until 1992 – sixty years!  — when Oxfordian researchers Dr. Paul Nelson and Isabel Holden learned it was being guarded by folks with powerful reasons to keep its contents under wraps.  And those contents were explosive: more than a thousand marked and/or underlined verses, apparently in Oxford’s own hand, with plenty of links to the Shakespeare works.

Enter Roger Stritmatter, who would pore over the handwritten annotations in Oxford’s Bible (often in partnership with journalist-author Mark Anderson) for the next eight years, earning his PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.  Dr. Stritmatter’s dissertation The Marginalia of Edward de Vere’s Geneva Bible, presented in April 2000, stands as both a remarkable achievement in scholarship and a landmark event in the history of Shakespearean authorship studies.  The dissertation is also a powerful demonstration of insights and connections that become possible when the correct biography of “Shakespeare” is brought into alignment with historical documents (such as Oxford’s Bible) in relation to the poems and plays.

Dr. Roger Stritmatter's Dissertation on Oxford's Geneva Bible: a Landmark in Oxford-Shakespeare Scholarship

When Edward de Vere obtained his copy he was still a royal ward of Queen Elizabeth in the custody of William Cecil Lord Burghley.  In his documentary life of Oxford published in 1928, B.M. Ward reported finding an account book with “Payments made by John Hart, Chester Herald, on behalf of the Earl of Oxford” during 1570, with entries such as:  “To William Seres, stationer, for a Geneva Bible gilt, a Chaucer, Plutarch’s works in French, with other books and papers – … Tully’s and Plato’s works in folio, with other books …”  (These are sources used by “Shakespeare” for inspiration.  If traditional scholars ever found such a list for the Stratford man, they’d hold a parade!)

“To William Seres, stationer, for a Geneva Bible gilt” – well, yes, the copy in the Folger had that same gilded outer edge on the front.  Bound in scarlet velvet, its silver engraved arms belonged to the Earl of Oxford.

“The first edition was published in 1560 in Geneva,” Stritmatter reports on his website.  “Due to its incendiary implied criticisms of Catholicism, it remained a popular unauthorized translation throughout the reign of Elizabeth I … Over a hundred years of scholarship has made it clear that the Geneva Bible was the translation most familiar to Shakespeare.”

Among the approximately 1,043 underlined or marked verses in Oxford’s Bible, one hundred and forty-seven are cited by previous authorities as having influenced Shakespeare.  Twenty marked verses contain language “at least as close” to other language already identified as Shakespearean influences – and so on, not to mention cases where Stritmatter found connections to the works of Shakespeare that previously had gone unnoticed.  The earl’s copy also contains some thirty-two short handwritten notes that have been verified (through independent forensic paleography) to be his.  And many themes reflected in the marked passages “can be traced directly to known biographical facts of Oxford’s life,” Stritmatter writes, confirming that “not only was Oxford the original owner of the book, but it was he who made the annotations.”

Dr. Roger Stritmatter

During Stritmatter’s journey he began to perceive a series of “patterned relations” narrating a “spiritual story” that we can see only when Edward de Vere is perceived as Shakespeare – a story about “secret works” by an annotator whose name is removed from the historical record but who, nonetheless, re-emerges as the man who gave the world the greatest works of the English language.

For example, Oxford marked and partially underlined Verse Nine of Chapter Seven in MICHA“I will bear the wrath of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause and execute judgment for me; then will he bring me forth to the light…”

“Shakespeare” wrote in Lucrece:

Time’s glory is to calm contending Kings,

To unmask falsehood, and bring truth to light

Oxford wrote under his own name to Secretary Robert Cecil (in 1602):

“Now time, and truth, have unmasked all difficulties.”


From the Shakespeare Fellowship Quarterly of January 1946, more evidence that Henry Clay Folger was an Oxfordian sympathizer:

In 1929 Esther Singleton published Shakespearian Fantasias: Adventures in the Fourth Dimension, with stories based on characters in Shakespeare’s comedies.  Obviously having read Shakespeare Identified by Looney, she introduced the Earl of Oxford as Berowne of Love’s Labour’s Lost, Jacques of As You Like It and Benedick of Much Ado About Nothing.  Folger found these tales so delightful that he bought at least twenty copies of the book to give away to friends; and just before he died, he also negotiated with Miss Singleton to buy her original manuscript.  Although she herself died only two weeks later, her heirs eventually presented the manuscript to the Folger Library in her memory.  So, just as Sigmund Freud’s acceptance of the Oxfordian theory was suppressed, Henry Clay Folger’s sympathy toward Oxford’s authorship was kept a closely guarded secret for decades — until, that is, Edward de Vere’s copy of the Geneva Bible (laying virtually hidden in a great Library ostensibly dedicated to scholarship and truth!) became one more reason to believe that the earl himself was William Shakespeare.

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