Re-Posting Number 12 of 100 Reasons Why Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford: The Queen’s Men

PART ONE

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

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

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

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

These histories include The Troublesome Reign of King John (repeated by Shakespeare “virtually scene for scene” in the Shakespeare play King John)The True Tragedy of Richard III and King Leir (fully covered by Shakespeare in his Richard III and King Lear); and also The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth, which forms the entire foundation for the material in 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV and Henry V.

There is no evidence that Shakspere of Stratford was a member of this prestigious acting company.  The likelihood is that he was still in Warwickshire for the birth of his twins in February 1585, when he was twenty years old. By tradition, the “Lost Years” of that man begin in 1585 and continue until Robert Greene supposedly alludes to him in September 1592.  By then, for the legendary story to be plausible, he has somehow firmly established himself in London as an actor and as a promising, even prominent playwright able to provoke Greene’s jealousy.

None of this has any factual basis.

“Documentary evidence as to Shakespeare’s whereabouts and activities from 1585 to 1592 is totally lacking,” Oscar Campbell writes in The Reader’s Encyclopedia of Shakespeare (1966), adding that “nothing can be confirmed” about the Stratford man’s life in that period. Traditional biographers cannot plausibly explain how “Shakespeare” was anonymously writing early versions of his plays for Her Majesty’s company in the 1580’s. Therefore, some suggest he must have joined the Queen’s Men as an actor and memorized the anonymous plays, which were written by others; then, they propose, he drew upon his prodigious memory to plunder their plots, characters, scenes and even lines, which would mean the greatest writer of the English language was also the most successful plagiarist in history.

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

As a mature dramatist in the 1590s, McMillin and MacLean declare, Shakespeare set about “rewriting a sizeable portion” of the repertory of the Queen’s Men.   “Four of nine extant plays were turned into six Shakespeare plays, in an act of appropriation extensive enough to make us think it could have occurred from the inside.” Such is the kind of deduction that can come from an incorrect premise. “Shakespeare knew the plays of this company better than those of any company but his own, and the long-standing speculation that he may have begun his career with the Queen’s Men seems to us the most likely possibility.”

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

A few scholars have bravely stated the more realistic conclusion that Shakespeare himself must have written those earlier versions of his own plays, despite the fact that such a claim would rule out the Stratford man.  It requires Shakspere to have joined the Crown’s prestigious acting company too early to fit his biographical time frame. Fresh from life in the market town ninety miles from London, only twenty years old in 1584, he turns out plays of English royal history about monarchs such as King John, Richard III, Henry IV and Henry V — a miraculous example of pulling one self up by the bootstraps if there ever was one.

(In 1961, for example, Dr. Seymour M. Pitcher at Harpur College in New York published an impressively argued book The Case for Shakespeare’s Authorship of “The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth” — referring to an early play that’s a veritable blueprint for Shakespeare’s later trilogy about Prince Hal becoming Henry the Fifth.   Every scene of Famous Victories is repeated (and in the same order) by Shakespeare, who, Pitcher argued, must have written it when just “a spirited and genial apprentice dramatist.”)

Evidence within The True Tragedy of Richard the Third “reveals the high probability that it was Shakespeare himself who wrote that anonymous play,” argues Ramon Jimenez, “and that his Richard III was his major revision of one of his earliest attempts at playwriting.” There are also “significant links” between the anonymous play and de Vere that “add to the evidence that he was the actual author of the Shakespeare canon.” Furthermore, Jimenez states, the evidence suggests that the anonymous play “was performed for an aristocratic audience, possibly including Queen Elizabeth herself, in the early 1560’s, when de Vere was between thirteen and fifteen years old.”

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

PART TWO

Oxford was thirty-three in 1583, when Elizabeth’s company was formed by the direct order of Walsingham, head of the government’s intelligence operations, just as the war between England and Spain was becoming official.  During the next crucial years, leading up to the victory over Philip’s Armada in 1588, the new company would perform at court in winter and divide into two traveling troupes in summer.  With its actors wearing the queen’s livery, the wartime company staged dozens of anonymous plays of English royal history throughout the country to promote patriotic loyalty and unity.

During the 1580s, the Queen’s Men performed  works that “Shakespeare” would later turn into mature plays. Moreover, the record shows that Oxford his secretary Lyly were connected to Elizabeth’s  from the outset.   These two facts provide strong evidence that the author of the earlier works performed by the Queen’s Men was Oxford himself, and that it was he who revised his own previous plays for which”Shakespeare” would get the credit.

“The True Chronicle History of King Leir” — acted by the Queen’s Men in the 1580’s, published in 1605, and the principal source of Shakespeare’s “King Lear”

Oxford had returned from  Italy in 1576 and it appears he proceeded to write plays brought to the royal court by the Children of St. Paul’s and by his great friend and supporter Thomas Radcliffe, 3rd Earl of Sussex.  Oxford had served with him in the military campaign of 1570, against the northern Catholic earls in rebellion against the Protestant rule of Elizabeth.  Sussex was now Lord Chamberlain of the Queen’s Household and patron of the first Lord  Chamberlain’s acting company.  Two examples:

* On New Year’s Day 1577 at Hampton Court the Paul’s Boys performed “The historie of Error,” which may well be an early version of The Comedy of Errors. 

* in Febrary 1577 at Whitehall Palace the Lord Chamberlain’s Men performed “The Historie of the Solitarie Knight,” likely an early version of Timon of Athens.

In addition to his patronage of writers, Lord Oxford now had charge of two acting companies, one (Oxford’s Men) of adults and the other (Oxford’s Boys) of choir boys from both Her Majesty’s Children and Paul’s Boys. He had the full sanction of the government; in the mid-1580s, for example, Burghley and Sussex recommended to Cambridge University that Oxford’s Men be allowed to “show their cunning in several plays already practiced by them before the Queen’s Majesty.”

Moreover, Oxford saved the private Blackfriars playhouse from extinction by paying for the lease.  This venue was frequented by aristocrats and students, its performances functioning as rehearsals for appearances in front of Elizabeth at court. Then he passed the lease on to Lyly, who acted as director-manager.  So Oxford was now at the center — he was the center — of the new awakening of English drama leading to “Shakespeare” in the next decade.

Thomas Radcliffe, 3rd Earl of Sussex (1526-1583), Oxford’s friend and surrogate father, whose Lord Chamberlain’s Men brought plays to Court until his death

Sussex was near death when the order came down on 10 March 1583 to Edmund Tilney, Master of the Revels, that her Majesty’s new acting company be formed.  In effect the Queen’s Men would replace the Chamberlain’s Men. Assigned to assemble the personnel was Walsingham, who had no personal interest in the theatre, but was nonetheless quite aware of its persuasive power.

The formation of the Queen’s Men signaled a new awareness by the Privy Council of the potential for combining theatrical activity and espionage, since players frequently traveled, nationally and internationally. This new adult company could serve the Crown in multiple ways, such as collecting information useful to Walsingham’s intelligence network.

The spymaster assembled the Queen’s Men by enlisting the dozen best performers from all the existing companies.  These included the Dutton brothers, leading players of Oxford’s Men; and the popular clown Richard Tarlton, taken from Sussex’s troupe, who quickly became the star of Elizabeth’s Men.

“The new Queen’s Company made its first appearance at the beginning of the Court season on December 26, 1583,” Ward reports in The Seventeenth Earl of Oxford from Contemporary Documents (1928).  “On Jan. 1, 1584 a performance was given  by Oxford’s Men; and as John Lyly appears in the Chamber Accounts as payee for the company on that date, there is every reason to believe that the play acted was Lyly’s Campaspe.  On March 8, 1584 both Oxford’s and the Queen’s Men performed; once again Lyly was payee for Oxford’s Men …

“Now, it seems unreasonable to suppose that two plays were presented on this day; the most likely solution, therefore, would be that the two companies [Oxford’s and the Queen’s] were amalgamated and rehearsed by Lord Oxford’s private secretary John Lyly, the author of the play.  No other adult companies besides these two appeared at Court during this season.”

Oxford was positioned to respond to the Crown’s need for patriotic plays of English royal history, and, too, he was involved in the creation and operation of the Queen’s Men, whose adult professional actors performed anonymous plays that “Shakespeare” would transform into masterpieces.

Note: This post is now No. 42 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford.  

Reason No. 25 to Believe that Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford was Shakespeare: His Grant of a Thousand Pounds Per Year

English ships battle Spain's Armada - 1588

On June 26, 1586, when England was officially at war with Spain and bracing for King Philip’s invasion by armada, Queen Elizabeth signed a warrant granting Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford an extraordinary allowance of a thousand pounds per year.  The grant was to be paid to him by the Exchequer, according to the same formula used for payments to Secretary Francis Walsingham and his wartime secret service, that is, to be made in quarterly installments with no accounting required.

Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603)

At this time the English government desperately needed all available cash for military defense, to secure Elizabeth’s safety and the survival of her realm; and Walsingham required a constant flow of cash to pay foreign and domestic spies for his network of espionage.  Back in 1582 the Queen had given him 750 pounds; in 1586 she raised it to two thousand pounds; but that would be the limit for her spymaster — even during 1588, the year of England’s surprising victory over the Armada.

Sir Francis Walsingham (1532-1590)

So why would Elizabeth — known for being a most parsimonious (some would say miserly) monarch — choose to support a “spendthrift” nobleman who had “wasted” the vast bulk of his great inheritance?  And why would she authorize such a large annual pension to be paid to him right now, of all times, at this most perilous moment for the nation?

Oxford’s grant apparently went unnoticed by historians until two years after John Thomas Looney published “Shakespeare” Identified in Edward de Vere the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford in 1920.  Inspired to conduct further research, B. M. Ward discovered Elizabeth’s signature on the Privy Seal Warrant and then looked at surviving records for all other salaries and annuities paid from the Exchequer during her reign.  Aside from sums paid to James of Scotland for political reasons, he found, the grant to Oxford was larger than any other except for the annual 1,200 pounds to the Master of the Posts for the expenses of that office.

As Ward noted in his 1928 documentary biography The Seventeenth Earl of Oxford, there’s no hint as to the purpose of the grant, except that it was “to be continued unto him during Our pleasure, or until such time as he shall be by us otherwise provided for to be in some manner relieved, at what time our pleasure is that this payment of one thousand pounds yearly to our said cousin in manner above specified shall cease.”  The warrant also stated that the Exchequer was not to call upon Oxford to render any account of its expenditure, as in the case of secret service money.

Blackfriars Playhouse - In the 1580's Oxford gave the lease of it to John Lyly

Edward de Vere at age thirty-six was in fact broke and needed “to be in some manner relieved,” but the circumstantial evidence clearly suggests he had been working with Secretary Walsingham (and his father-in-law, William Cecil Lord Burghley) to serve the government’s interests.  The evidence points to him playing a multi-faceted role behind the scenes that included, but was not limited to, the issuance of his own “comedies” for the stage – as the anonymous writer of The Arte of English Poesie would write in 1589: “For tragedy Lord Buckhurst and Master Edward Ferrys do deserve the highest praise: the Earl of Oxford and Master Edwards of Her Majesty’s Chapel for Comedy and Enterlude.”

Oxford actively patronized two acting companies performing at the private Blackfriars Playhouse and at the royal court.  He patronized and/or employed many literary men for whom he provided working space, inspiration, guidance and freedom from the wartime suppression of written words and speech.  Some of the writers in his service, such as Anthony Munday and Thomas Watson, operated as Secret Service agents (as did Christopher Marlowe) while using their artistic activities as public cover; and others working under his wing included Robert Greene, John Lyly and Thomas Lodge, to name just a few more.

It was Walsingham himself who had initiated formation of Queen Elizabeth’s Men in 1583.  (He had received his first regular allowance for espionage after years of financing it from his own pocket, just as Oxford had been financing acting companies, writers and musicians with his personal funds.) The Secretary ordered the twelve best actors from existing companies to be transferred into the new Queen’s Men.  Then in January 1584 Oxford’s adult company performed at Court with his secretary Lyly as payee; and in March that year Oxford’s company performed with the Queen’s players at Court, again with Lyly handling the business side.

So the two acting companies had been amalgamated, with Oxford’s secretary apparently serving as business agent, stage manager and rehearsal coach.   In other words, soon after the head of the Secret Service had spawned Her Majesty’s own acting group, Edward de Vere rushed to contribute in various ways to its success.  Meanwhile, the plots of several royal history plays performed in the 1580’s by the Queen’s Men – including The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth, The Troublesome Reign of King John and The True Tragedy of Richard III – would appear in the 1590’s and later as virtually the same plots of plays attributed to Shakespeare.

The anonymous play The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth was performed by the Queen's Men in the 1580's

“The formation of the Queen’s Men in 1583 should be regarded particularly in connection with the intelligence system,” Scott McMillin and Sally-Beth MacLean write in The Queen’s Men and Their Plays.  “The point is not that the Queen’s Men were spies, but that traveling players wearing the Queen’s livery would have been useful to Walsingham – perhaps for occasionally bearing messages to the right persons, more obviously for showing that the central government was attending to the nation through its licensed travelers.”

With at least two companies always on tour, the Queen’s Men performed plays that would rouse patriotic fervor and encourage unity among Protestants and Catholics in the face of the coming Spanish invasion.  (To call this “propaganda” would be true, but not the whole of it.)  And I suggest, first of all, that Oxford had spent much of his fortune on helping to bring the European Renaissance to England – on his travels in 1575-1576 through France, Germany and Italy; and on his employment of various artists who would create the great surge of English literature and drama in the 1580’s, leading to “Shakespeare” in the following decade.

In a real sense Edward de Vere was a leader (or the leader) in creating a new English language, culture and national identity — weapons as important as ships and guns in building up England’s ability to withstand attack.  And we could not expect to find these matters written down in the Queen’s Privy Seal Warrant authorizing his grant.

Six decades later, the Rev. John Ward, vicar of Stratford Parish in Warwickshire, recorded local rumors in his diary (1661-1663) that “Shakespeare” had “supplied the stage with two plays every year and for that had an allowance so large that he spent at the rate of a thousand pounds a year.”

The Armada Battle

In fact Oxford received his annual thousand pounds during the rest of the Anglo-Spanish War, from 1586 through the death of Elizabeth in 1603 and the succession of King James, until his own death in 1604.  That amounts to a total of eighteen years; and, of course, eighteen years times two plays per year equals thirty-six plays, the number of them published in the First Folio of Shakespeare in 1623.  Coincidence?

Reason No. 12 (Part Two) Why Oxford was “Shakespeare” — With the Creation of the Queen’s Men in 1583, he had the opportunity, the means, and the motive!

Sir Francis Walsingham, the spymaster who assembled the Queen's Men in 1583

Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford was 33 in 1583, when Queen Elizabeth’s company of adult actors was formed by the direct order of Sir Francis Walsingham, head of the government’s intelligence operations, just as the war between England and Spain was becoming official.  During the next crucial years, leading up to the victory over King Philip’s armada in 1588, the new company would perform at Court in winter and then in summer divide into two traveling troupes.  With its actors wearing the Queen’s livery representing Her Majesty and the Crown, the wartime company staged anonymous plays of English royal history to promote patriotic loyalty and unity.

During the 1580’s the Queen’s Men performed  works that “Shakespeare” would later turn into mature plays such as King John, Richard III, 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV, Henry V and King Lear; and the record shows that Lord Oxford and John Lyly, his private secretary and stage manager, were closely connected to the Queen’s Men from the outset.   When put together, these two facts provide strong evidence that the author of the earlier works performed by the Queen’s Men was Oxford himself, and that it was he who revised his own previous plays for which”Shakespeare” would get the credit.

"The True Chronicle History of King Leir" -- acted by the Queen's Men in the 1580's, published in 1605, and the principal source of Shakespeare's "King Lear"

Oxford had returned from  Italy in 1576 and it appears that he proceeded to write plays that were brought to the royal court by the Children of St. Paul’s and by his friend Thomas Radcliffe, 3rd Earl of Sussex, who was a kind of father figure to him.  [Oxford had served with him in the military campaign of 1570 against the northern Catholic earls in rebellion against Elizabeth.]  Sussex was also Lord Chamberlain of the Queen’s Household and patron of the first Lord Chamberlain’s acting company.  Two examples: (1) On New Year’s Day 1577 at Hampton Court the Paul’s Boys performed “The historie of Error,” which sounds like an early version of The Comedy of Errors attributed to Shakespeare; and (2) in Febrary 1577 at Whitehall Palace the Lord Chamberlain’s Men performed “The Historie of the Solitarie Knight,” which may have been a version of Shakespeare’s drama Timon of Athens.

When Edward de Vere was 30 in 1580 his secretary Lyly brought out his second book Euphues and His England, dedicated to Oxford and depicting an “Italianate” Englishman just like the earl himself.  (The two books, which Oxford may have partially or wholly dictated, were virtually the first English novels.)  Also in his service was Anthony Munday, whose Zelauto, the Fountain of Fame of 1580 was the second book he dedicated to Oxford; and in the same year Oxford also took complete charge of the Earl of Warwick’s adult acting company, whose leading men were the brothers Lawrence and John Dutton.

In addition to his patronage of writers, Lord Oxford now had charge of two acting companies, one consisting of adults (Oxford’s Men) and the other (Oxford’s Boys) consisting of choir boys from both Her Majesty’s Children of the Royal Chapel and Paul’s Boys.  And he had the full sanction of the government; for example, his father-in-law William Cecil Lord Burghley, the Queen’s powerful chief minister, along with Lord Chamberlain Sussex, recommended to Cambridge University in mid-1580 that Oxford’s Men should be allowed to “show their cunning in several plays already practiced by them before the Queen’s Majesty.”

In 1583 Edward de Vere stepped forth to save the private Blackfriars Playhouse from extinction, by paying for the lease of  this historic performance space.  (It was frequented by aristocrats and students, with performances functioning as rehearsals for appearances in front of Queen Elizabeth at Court.)  Soon afterward he passed on the lease to John Lyly, his director-manager.  Oxford was now at the very center of the new awakening of English literature and drama in England that would lead to “Shakespeare” in the following decade.

Thomas Radcliffe, 3rd Earl of Sussex (1526-1583), Oxford's friend and surrogate father, whose Lord Chamberlain's Men brought plays to Court until his death

Oxford’s friend the Lord Chamberlain Sussex fell ill and was nearing death when the order came down on March 10,1583 to Edmund Tilney, Master of the Revels, that Her Majesty’s acting company be formed.  In effect the Queen’s Men would take over from the Chamberlain’s Men. (Sussex died that June.)  Assigned to assemble the personnel was secret service director Walsingham, who had no personal care for the theatre and had probably never set foot in a playhouse; but he was quite aware of the power of the drama.

As the Walsingham biography in Wikipedia observes, formation of the Queen’s Men “also signaled a new awareness on behalf of the Queen and the privy council of the potential for combining theatrical and espionage activities, since players frequently traveled, both nationally and internationally, and could serve the Crown in multiple ways, including the collection of information useful to Walsingham’s spy network.”

The spymaster assembled the Queen’s Men by first enlisting the twelve best performers from all the existing companies.  These of course included Oxford’s Men, whose leading players the Dutton brothers as well as other actors were transferred into Her Majesty’s troupe.  The popular clown Richard Tarlton was taken from Sussex’s troupe the Chamberlain’s Men and he quickly became the star of the Queen’s Men, which was now the largest company of actors in English Renaissance theatre.

“The new Queen’s Company made its first appearance at the beginning of the Court season on December 26, 1583,” B.M. Ward reported in The Seventeenth Earl of Oxford from Contemporary Documents (1928).  “On January 1, 1584 a performance was given  by Oxford’s Men; and as John Lyly appears in the Chamber Accounts as payee for the company on that date, there is every reason to believe, with Sir Edmund Chambers, that the play acted was Lyly’s Campaspe.  On March 8, 1584 both Oxford’s and the Queen’s Men performed; once again Lyly was payee for Oxford’s Men, and Sir Edmund confidently conjectures that the play acted was Sapho and Phao.

“Now, it seems unreasonable to suppose that two plays were presented on this day; the most likely solution, therefore, would be that the two companies [i.e., Oxford’s and the Queen’s] were amalgamated and rehearsed by Lord Oxford’s private secretary John Lyly, the author of the play.  No other adult companies besides these two appeared at Court during this season … The simplest solution is surely the one I have suggested, viz., that when the Queen’s Company absorbed some of Oxford’s leading actors Lyly was lent unofficially [starting in 1584] as stage manager and coach.”

So Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford was in position to respond to the Crown’s need for patriotic plays of English royal history; and, too, he was very much involved in the creation and operation of the Queen’s Men, whose actors would perform anonymous plays in the 1580’s that “Shakespeare” would later transform into masterpieces — another strong link in the chain of evidence that Oxford and “Shakespeare” were one and the same dramatist.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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