No. 66 of 100 Reasons Why Edward de Vere = “Shakespeare”: Part One: He Was a Man of the Theater All His Life

“You are welcome, masters!  Welcome, all! – I am glad to see thee well – Welcome, good friends – O, old friend!  … Masters, you are all welcome! We’ll e’en to’t like French falconers, fly at anything we see.  We’ll have a speech straight.  Come give us a taste of your quality, come a passionate speech!”

Hamlet_play_scene_croppedHamlet loves the players and is first to greet them as they arrive at the castle to perform at Denmark’s royal court.  The prince is overjoyed to see these actors, who are old friends, many of whom he has known since he was a boy.

And it’s a given that the author who wrote those lines was a man of the theater.  The stage was in his bones.  He was at home with plays and players in their magical world.  He made it his business to learn everything he could about the theater, down to the details of entrances, exits, costume changes, musical interludes, sound effects, laughter, tears, fact, fiction – a mix of talents and skills and hard work in service of the powerful art of bringing stories to life on stage through actions and, above all, the power of words.

actors again

But what was the nature of “Shakespeare’s” involvement in the theater?  Was he, as the orthodox scholar tells us, in the same position as the actors who arrive at the court? Was his love of the stage, as we are told, from the perspective of the common players who receive Hamlet’s greeting?  If the writer of this play was one of those actors, as orthodox tradition would have it, would he express his love for his own colleagues through the prince’s point of view?

Isn’t it far more likely that the author himself was of high rank, and that Hamlet’s greeting to the players is a mirror of his own relationship to them?  That the author himself was accustomed to dealing with actors from the lofty heights of a prince?  That the author wrote Hamlet’s lines to the players based on his own experience, using his own sophisticated voice expressing simultaneous affection and condescension?

Castle Hedingham -- an interior view

Castle Hedingham — an interior view

“Shakespeare” and Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford lived in the world of the theater; and this fact is Reason No. 66 to conclude they were one and the same.  But unlike the conjectural flights of Stratfordian biography, all pieces of information about the earl’s connection to the stage are documented facts; and for Oxford, it began when he was a young boy and his father’s company of players — who traveled the countryside in summer, performing in courtyards and inns –arrived at the castle for the winter season to provide entertainment for the long cold evenings.

In the graveyard Hamlet learns that the skull in his hands was that of the King’s jester, Yorick, whom the prince had known during his boyhood.  The jester used to give him rollicking piggyback rides filled with laughter; and the memory is engraved in Hamlet’s mind and heart:

Olivier as Hamlet, with the skull of the jester

Olivier as Hamlet, with the skull of the jester

“Alas, poor Yorick!  I knew him, Horatio – a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy!  He hath borne me on his back a thousand times!” 

Edward de Vere most certainly recalled those evenings warmed by flames in the great stone fireplace while the guests of the castle sat around the long table, all keeling over with laughter, as the prince recalls while speaking to Yorick’s skull:

“Where be your gibes now, your gambols, your songs, your flashes of merriment that were wont to set the table on a roar?”

Part two of this Reason will look at the basic facts showing that Oxford, just as we would expect to find about the author of Hamlet, was a “man of the theater” from the beginning to the end of his life.

One Hundred Reasons Why Oxford Was “Shakespeare” – Starting with No. 1

Dear Reader: From time to time I’ll be re-posting the original blogs (in their original order) that were transformed into the book 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford. Ultimately the blog posts were newly organized and then immensely improved — first with editorial help from Brian Bechtold and then from the primary editor, Alex McNeil, who guided the project to its end.  Today we begin with the first post, the way it originally appeared in early 2011:

There must be at least a hundred reasons for my conclusion that Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford wrote the Shakespeare works.  And I figure it would be fun to make a list of such reasons by posting one each day on this blog site, until we get up to the first one-hundred mark.  Where to start?

REASON NO. 1:  Oxford, like Hamlet, was involved with Plays and Play Companies at the Royal Court

The great turning point of the play Hamlet occurs when the Prince contributes some lines for the players in their performance at Court in order that he might “catch the conscience of the king.”  In 1583 the earl of Oxford, in his early thirties, acquired the sublease of the Blackfriars Playhouse in a former monastery.  His children’s group Oxford’s Boys joined up with the Paul’s Boys to form a composite company; then the earl transferred the lease of Blackfriars to his private secretary John Lyly, whose plays were performed by the children for Queen Elizabeth.   A bit earlier Oxford’s own company of boys had given a performance for the Queen of Agamemnon and Ulysses (possibly an early version of Troilus and Cressida).

Hamlet and the Players – “Tales from Shakespeare” by Charles and Mary Lamb, 1901

We can feel the authorial voice in Hamlet’s speeches; his soliloquies sound like echoes of the private and personal sonnets.  The Prince greets the players with that special mixture of affection and condescension that seems to come so naturally to one of such high rank — and so naturally to the author himself.  Such would have been Oxford’s own attitude toward the actors.

But how likely is it that William of Stratford, if he really was an actor, would give his most authorial voice to a prince rather than to one of the players like himself?  How much more likely was it that Lord Oxford, an extraordinarily involved patron of play companies and writers, as well as an acknowledged playwright, used those scenes in Hamlet to depict his own relationship to the players under his patronage at Court?

If William of Stratford had been part of the Court and had brought play companies to perform before the monarch, who would doubt that he created Shakespeare’s great character of Hamlet?  Who would doubt that he captured those wonderful interactions between the prince and the actors?  But it was Oxford who was the highest-ranking nobleman at the Elizabethan Court, and it was he who was in much the same relation to the players as Hamlet — and not the least of Oxford’s motives was to “catch the conscience” of the Queen herself.

So that’s my reason No. 1.

And just 99 to go…

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