Reason No. 88 Why the Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare” — His Link to the Bard’s Printers and Publishers

Well before his untimely death on July 11, 2010 at fifty-five, Robert Sean Brazil had become one of the most formidable Oxfordian researchers and writers. Back in 1999 he had printed up copies of a work-in-progress called The True Story of the Shake-speare Publications: Edward de Vere & the Shakespeare Printers, now available online at Amazon. And among the many facets of this single work is one of the strongest pieces of evidence for Oxford’s authorship of the Shakespeare poems, plays and sonnets.


Brazil observed, quite simply, that “Shakespeare” personally edited some of his own works – at least five of them, according to statements on their title pages. The printers of these five quartos indicated or implied that the author himself had altered or enlarged the plays for publication, even after they had been performed at court or in the playhouse.

“The remarkable thing,” Brazil writes, “is that these five instances of advertised authorial corrections and additions all occurred during the time span of 1598 to 1604. In other words, there was a short window of time, six years, within which ‘Shakespeare the author’ showed an active involvement in improving printed versions of his works … After 1604, Shakespeare was apparently unavailable for revisions.”

Shakespeare cartoon

Within the Stratfordian story there is no reason why the author would disappear from the publishing world in 1604, at the peak of his renown, and live in invisible retirement for twelve more years until his death in 1616. In the Oxfordian scenario, however, the reason “Shakespeare” was out of the loop after 1604 is that Edward de Vere died (or disappeared from England) that year.

Contrary to the traditional teaching that Shakespeare had no control over his play texts and no interest in them once they were sold to a publisher, here we have a procession of five different title pages, each indicating that the author had taken an active editorial role. Moreover this procession begins with the very first printing of the Shakespeare name on a play and it ends abruptly after Oxford’s departure.

The five plays advertised as edited by the author were these (Click on Images for Larger Views):

Love's Labour

1598:Love’s Labours Lost: “As it was presented before her Highness this last Christmas … Newly corrected and augmented By W. Shakespere … Imprinted at London by W.W. (William White) for Cuthbert Burby.” This is the first play to carry the Shakespeare name, although it was spelled with “spere” instead of “speare.”

1 Henry IV 1599

1599: Henry IV, Part One: “Newly corrected by W. Shake-speare. At London, Printed by S.S. (Simon Stafford) for Andrew Wise.”

The name is hyphenated, separating “Shake” and “speare” — indicating to readers that it’s likely a pen name.

Romeo and Juliet 1599 - 1

1599: Romeo and Juliet: “Newly corrected, augmented, and amended: As it hath been sundry times publicly acted, by the right Honorable the Lord Chamberlain his Servants … London, Printed by Thomas Creede, for Cuthbert Burby.” Oddly enough, despite the corrections, augmentations and amendments, the author’s name is missing! This is issued by Cuthbert Burby, who published Love’s Labour’s Lost and surely knew who the author was. And the name is missing despite the fact that Shakespeare’s two narrative poems, Venus and Adonis of 1593 and Lucrece of 1594, both carried his name (on the dedications to the Earl of Southampton) and were bestsellers.

Shakespeare Quartos Project

1602: Richard III: “As it hath been lately Acted by the Right Honorable the Lord Chamberlain his servants.

Newly augmented by William Shakespeare.

London, Printed by Thomas Creede, for Andrew Wise.”

Hamlet 1604

1604: Hamlet: “By William Shakespeare.

Newly imprinted and enlarged to almost as much again as it was, according to the true and perfect copy.

At London, Printed by J.R. (James Roberts) for N.L. (Nicholas Ling).”

“The 17th Earl of Oxford can be linked to key Elizabethan publishers and printers for over four decades,” Brazil writes, adding that it began with his relationship with William Seres, a publisher from the earliest days of Elizabeth in the 1560s until about 1578. Seres printed the original version of Ovid’s Metamorphoses (1565; 1567) credited to Oxford’s uncle Arthur Golding; he was the “stationer” in 1569 from whom Oxford purchased “a Geneva Bible, gilt, a Chaucer, Plutarch’s works in French, with other books and papers.”

CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A READABLE VIEW  Thomas Watson Dedicates  "Hekatompathia" to Oxford in 1582, saying the earl had "perused" it in manuscript

Thomas Watson
“Hekatompathia” to
Oxford in 1582, saying the earl had “perused” it in manuscript

Robbie Brazil coined the phrase “Oxford’s Books” for publications linked to his patronage and even active involvement as writer or co-writer, noting that “Oxford’s Books have a robust, hyper-intelligent and even bawdy character,” so they comprise “a special collection in publishing history, because they can be shown to be the reading matter and linguistic universe that ‘Shake-speare’ as poet and wordsmith resided in.”

Such works issued between 1571 and 1586 include, for example, The Courtier, Cardanus Comfort, The New Jewel of Health, Zelauto, Hekatompathia, or the Passionate Century of Love, Euphues and his England and The English Secretary – “all pivotal pieces of the literary Renaissance in England, and these books are found reflected in the themes and language of the Shakespeare plays.”

Oxford’s name and talent “were either on display or being praised overtly” in more than eighty books (including reprints and revised editions) while the earl was alive, Brazil writes, naming twenty-three printers or publishers associated with “Oxford’s Books.” Of these, he takes special note of nine men who were also printers or sellers of Shakespeare quartos: Thomas Creede, Richard Field, Cuthbert Burby, Peter Short, James Roberts, Simon Stafford, Edward White, John Danter and John Harrison.

One of the “peculiar facts” that Brazil observed was that Cuthbert Burby, who published Love’s Labours Lost in 1598, also in the same year published Palladis Tamia by Francis Meres, the book that praises Oxford among those who were “best for comedy” while announcing that “Shakespeare” (without the first name) was not only a poet but the author of twelve plays including Love’s Labours Lost and, among the others, Romeo and Juliet. But the “peculiar” part of this story is that Burby, when he went on to publish Romeo and Juliet in 1599, failed to give credit to “Shakespeare”!

curtain and globe

The first edition of Romeo and Juliet, a “bad” pirated version published in 1597 by John Danter, says nothing about Shakespeare. Burby’s edition in 1599 (the second quarto) contained a much better text (perhaps obtained by his printer, Thomas Creede, who had connections to Oxford), but it still carried no Shakespeare name. Even though Burby had published Palladis Tamia the year before, claiming Romeo and Juliet as a Shakespeare play, he failed to credit any author at all!

“It boggles the mind,” Brazil writes. “This is after Cuthbert Burby himself obtained the true text of the play in 1599! If Shakespeare’s name had a commercial cachet associated with it, why was his name not used on this publication of Romeo and Juliet? If Shaksper of Stratford, the man allegedly eager for fortune and fame, took the time to provide Burby or Creede with his complete manuscript, why was he not paid or at least acknowledged in the publication? It makes no sense unless someone other than Shaksper or the theater owners was providing real texts to the printers.”

And that someone, given the evidence, was Oxford.


Thomas Creede is crucial to Brazil’s study, because he was connected to Shakespeare material (accepted and apocryphal) as well as to books linked to the Earl of Oxford. As noted above, for example, he printed the 1602 quarto of Shakespeare’s Richard III; and a few years earlier, in 1600, he had printed The Weakest Goeth to the Wall “as it hath been sundry times played by the right honorable Earle of Oxenford, Lord great Chamberlaine of England his servants.” This play, Brazil writes, is apparently “the only instance in which Oxford’s name ever appears anywhere overtly on the title page of a printed play.”

Another case study centers on James Roberts, who, Brazil discovered, printed no less than five editions of books that featured Edward de Vere in some way: Gwydonius Card of Fancy Q2 by Robert Greene, 1587; Paradise of Dainty Devices Q7, 1600, with some of Oxford’s early poetry; Euphues and his England Q8, 1597 and Q9, 1601, as by John Lyly, dedicated to Oxford (the two editions counted as two books); and England’s Helicon, 1600.

It was James Roberts who printed the authentic 1604 version of Hamlet. Brazil notes that when this edition was officially entered in the Stationers Register by printer and agent James Roberts on July 26, 1602, the wording of the entry “indicates that the item Roberts brought in and deposited was a book or bound manuscript, already pre-existing” —

“James Robertes. Entered for his Copie under the hands of master Pasefield and master Waterson, warden, a booke called the Revenge of Hamlet Prince of Denmark as it was lately acted by the Lord Chamberleyne his servants.”

Two years earlier, in 1602, Roberts had registered both Hamlet and Troilus and Cressida, but both were delayed. Brazil reasons that if Roberts didn’t know the author, but had received the texts in a “straightforward deal with a theatrical person,” he would have had no reason to delay publication. “The facts in the case suggest that Roberts knew the author personally, and was requested to hold the press on these books until further notice,” he concludes, adding, “Everyone agrees that Hamlet Q2 has a text that is completely from the pen of Shakespeare (whoever he really was). This re-write, dated 1603-1604, is the last time that the author interacted directly with the printers in the name of Shakespeare. James Roberts was a man known and trusted by the Earl of Oxford.”

And this reason to conclude that Oxford was “Shakespeare” begins to look like a veritable smoking gun…

The Bard’s Use of Heraldry: No. 62 of 100 Reasons Why Edward de Vere was “William Shakespeare”

A coat-of arms used by Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford

A coat-of arms used by Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford – with his motto “Vero Nihil Verius” or Nothing Truer than Truth

At least three books are devoted entirely to Shakespeare’s knowledge and treatment of heraldry.  Two of them are The Heraldry of Shakespeare: A Commentary with Annotations (1930) by Guy Cadogan Rothery and Shakespeare’s Heraldry (1950) by Charles Wilfred Scott-Giles; and on this basis alone, the bard must know a great deal about coats of arms, blazons, charges, fields, escutcheons (shields), crests, badges, hatchments (panels), gules (red markings or tinctures) and much more.

But it’s not simply that Shakespeare has considerable knowledge about heraldry; in fact, it’s part of his thought process.   He uses heraldic terms in spontaneous, natural, unforced ways, often metaphorically, making his descriptions more vivid while stirring and enriching our emotions.

Take, for example, the word badge, which in heraldry is an emblem indicating allegiance to some family or property.  Shakespeare uses it  literally, of course, but also metaphorically:  Falstaff in Henry IV Part Two speaks of “the badge of pusillanimity and cowardice”; Ferdinand in Love’s Labour’s Lost cries out, “Black is the badge of hell”; Lysander in in A Midsummer Night’s Dream talks about “bearing the badge of faith”; Tamora in Titus Andronicus declares, “Sweet mercy is nobility’s true badge”;  and, using his own voice, the poet refers in Sonnet 44 to “heavy tears, badges of either’s woe.”

Tomb of Richard de Vere, 11th Earl of Oxford, 1417

Tomb of Richard de Vere, 11th Earl of Oxford, 1417

Surely this great author was “one of the wolfish earls,” as Walt Whitman so readily perceived – a proud nobleman for whom hereditary titles, shields and symbols were everyday aspects of his environment.  From early boyhood, Edward de Vere the seventeenth Earl of Oxford had been steeped in the history of his line dating back five hundred years to William the Conqueror; the heraldry of his ancestors, as well as that of other noble families, became interwoven with his vocabulary.

[Need I add that this is not reported out of snobbery or some kind of preference for the upper class?  Having begun my professional life as a journalist, I can state that everything in this blog comes from an attempt to look at the evidence — as opposed to the myth — and to write what I see.]

Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream extends the metaphor of two bodies sharing the same heart by presenting the image of a husband-and-wife’s impaled arms:  “So, with two seeming bodies, but one heart; two of the first, like coats in heraldry, due but to one and crowned with one crest.”

Royal arms used by Henry IV to Elizabeth I - English lions quartered with French fleur-de-lis

Royal arms used by Henry IV to Elizabeth I – English lions quartered with French fleur-de-lis

An example of “Shakespeare” thinking and writing in heraldic terms occurs in the opening scene of Henry VI Part Two, upon the funeral of Henry the Fifth at Westminster Abbey.  A messenger warns the English against taking recent victories for granted by describing setbacks in France as the cropping (cutting-out) of the French quarters in the royal arms of England:  “Awake, awake, English nobility!  Let not sloth dim your honors new-begot:  cropped are the flower-de-luces in your arms!  Of England’s coat one half is cut away!

(England’s coat of arms presented flower-de-luces or fleur-de-lis, the emblem of French royalty, quartered with Britain’s symbolic lions.  Cropping the two French quarters would cut away half the English arms – a vivid description of England’s losses in France.)

“The Vere arms changed repeatedly over many generations,” the late Oxfordian researcher Robert Brazil noted, adding that details of Edward de Vere’s arms had “numerous documented precedents.”

Such documentation consisted not only of drawings but also the “blazonry” or descriptions of shields in precise heraldic language, using only words.  “Through the science of blazon,” Brazil wrote, “infinitely complex visual material is described in such a precise way that one can accurately reproduce full color arms with dozens of complex coats, based on the words of the blazon alone.”

At the Vere seat of Castle Hedingham in Essex, the young Earl of Oxford necessarily studied the seals and tombs of his ancestors.  He, after all, was a member of the old feudal aristocracy; he would inherit the title of Lord Great Chamberlain of England, raising him to become the highest-ranking earl of the realm.  To assert the rights and rankings of his Vere identity, he needed exact knowledge of his family’s heraldry and to “blazon” or describe it in words through the five centuries of its history.

St. George Chapel at Windsor Castle, where each Knight is allotted an "installment" or stall

St. George Chapel at Windsor Castle, where each Knight is allotted an “installment” or stall

“Shakespeare” uses “blazon” just as we might expect it to be employed by Edward de Vere, that is, as a natural enrichment of language.  Mistress Quickly in The Merry Wives of Windsor, near the end of the play, employs the word in a burst of heraldic imagery:  “About, about; search Windsor Castle, elves, within and out … Each fair installment, coat, and several crest, with loyal blazon, evermore be blest!”

[Oxford knew Windsor Castle well; he is recorded as staying there several times; and at age nineteen, he lodged in a hired room in the town of Windsor while recovering from illness.]

Mistress Quickly refers to each “installment” in the castle, that is, each place where an individual knight is installed; the knight’s “coat” was on a stall-plate nailed to the back of the stall; and the “crest” was a figure or device originally borne by a knight on his helmet.


From the same pen we find “blazon” in a variety of metaphorical contexts:  “I’faith, lady, I think your blazon to be true”Much Ado About Nothing; “Thy tongue, thy face, thy limbs, actions and spirit do give thee five-fold blazonTwelfth Night; “But this eternal blazon must not be to ears of flesh and blood”Hamlet; and in Sonnet 106 to Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton he uses “blazon” in the context of accounts of medieval chivalry, writing of “beauty making beautiful old rhyme / In praise of ladies dead and lovely knights,” followed by: “Then in the blazon of sweet beauty’s best,/ Of hand, of foot, of lip, of eye, of brow,/ I see their antique pen would have expressed/ Even such a beauty as you master now.”

In Hamlet the prince tells the players that a speech he “chiefly loved” was the one that Virgil’s Aeneas delivers to Dido, Queen of Carthage, about the fall of Troy.  Before the first player can begin to recite it, however, Hamlet delivers thirteen lines from memory.   In these lines he describes how Pyrrhus, son of the Greek hero Achilles, had black arms while hiding inside the Trojan horse; but then his arms became drenched in the red blood of whole families that were slaughtered.  (Such was the origin of “Pyrrhic victory” to describe a success at too great a cost. – NOT!  SEE CORRECTION IN COMMENTS SECTION FROM EARL SHOWERMAN.)

But the story had even greater impact upon members of the audience who knew that the bloody tale was being told in the context of heraldic terms – such as sable arms (the black device displayed on Pyrrhus’ shield); gules (red); and tricked (decorated), not to mention that Pryrrhus’ arms covered with red blood are “smeared with heraldry”:

The rugged Pyrrhus, he whose sable arms,

Black as his purpose, did the night resemble

When he lay couched in the ominous horse,

Hath now this dread and black complexion smeared

With heraldry more dismal.   Head to foot

Now is he total gules, horridly tricked

With blood of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons…

Even the narrative poem Lucrece (1594), the second publication as by “Shakespeare,” is filled with heraldic imagery:

But Beauty, in that white entitled

From Venus’ doves, doth challenge that fair field…

This heraldry in Lucrece’s face was seen (Stanzas 9 & 10)

(Challenge: lay claim to; field: the surface of a heraldic shield on which figures or colors are displayed, but also evoking a battlefield; from world’s minority: from the beginning of time)

book of shakespeare's heraldryRobert Brazil noted that previous earls of Oxford had employed a special greyhound as a heraldic symbol, but that Edward, the seventeenth earl, had stopped using it; and that in the opening scene of The Merry Wives of Windsor (which begins and ends with humorous dialogue involving heraldry) there’s a line, unrelated to anything else, about a “fallow” or no-longer-used greyhound:

PAGE:  I am glad to see you, good Master Slender.

SLENDER: How does your fallow greyhound, sir?

In this otherwise meaningless “throwaway” exchange, is there a little wink from Edward de Vere, pointing to his own heraldic history?