“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.

A Guest Post on Shake-Speares-Bible.com … About the Sonnets

Dr. Roger Stritmatter has graciously published a guest post of mine, entitled The “Second Intention” of the Sonnets, on his website Shake-Speare’s Bible.Com.  (The actual web address is shake-speares-bible.com).

Dr. Roger Stritmatter

I wrote the post in response to some recent statements by Dr. Richard Waugaman, whose own website The Oxfreudian has become an important resource for anyone interested in Shakespeare authorship studies.

I have great respect for Dr. Waugaman and often agree with his views; we are colleagues on friendly terms and I’m sure we’ll remain so.

Dr. Richard Waugaman

In regard to Shakespeare’s sonnets, however, we have found ourselves on opposite sides of an issue that has divided Oxfordians for many years: the question of the relationship between the true author (Edward de Vere the seventeenth earl of Oxford) and the fair youth (Henry Wriotheseley the third earl of Southampton).  My approach in the guest post is perhaps different than usual — suggesting that we put that question aside (for the moment, anyway) and look instead for where and how the basic “story line” of the Sonnets fits together with the historical-biographical record.

I urge my readers to take a look at the guest post and join any of the give-and-take commentary that might develop.

Meanwhile many thanks to Dr. Stritmatter, whose own breadth and depth of knowledge about Shakespeare and the Earl of Oxford are, in two words, without equal.

“The Quality of Mercy” – Reason No. 32 to Conclude that the Earl of Oxford Wrote the “Shakespeare” Works

The works of “Shakespeare” contain the results of the author’s own meditations on justice and mercy, emphasizing the need for kings to carry out lawful remedies and punishments with compassion and kindly forbearance.  In Portia’s famous speech in The Merchant of Venice about “the quality of mercy” being “not strained” (not constrained), she declares that mercy is “mightiest in the mightiest” and “becomes the throned monarch better than his crown.”  Mercy is above such trappings and is “enthroned in the hearts of kings,” she says, adding:

It is an attribute to God himself;

And earthly power doth then show likest God’s

When mercy seasons justice (4.1)

On May 7, 1603, six weeks after Queen Elizabeth died and James VI of Scotland was proclaimed James I of England, 53-year-old Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford wrote a business letter to Secretary Robert Cecil and, in passing, made this comment, which is printed below in the form of a speech in a Shakespeare play:

Nothing adorns a King more than justice,

Nor in anything doth a King more resemble God than in justice,

Which is the head of all virtue,

And he that is endued therewith hath all the rest.

By no means am I the first to notice a remarkable similarity of thinking between Oxford and “Shakespeare” and of the words expressing it.  Portia’s statement that when a King combines justice with mercy his “earthly power doth then show likest God’s” is reflected in Oxford’s remark that “nor in anything doth a King more resemble God than in justice” – by which he clearly means a justice that contains the “virtue” of mercy or the capacity for forgiveness.

Surely it’s not difficult to imagine Oxford giving Isabella these words about monarchs in Measure for Measure:

Not the King’s Crown nor the deputed sword,

The Marshall’s Truncheon nor the Judge’s Robe,

Become them with one half so good a grace

As mercy does.  (2.2)

In Chapter 30 of his 2001 dissertation on the “marginalia” of Edward de Vere’s Geneva Bible, which the earl had purchased in 1568-69 before the age of twenty, Roger Stritmatter reports that Oxford had marked a series of verses in Ecclesiasticus on the theme of mercy.

Ecclesiasticus 28.1-5, as marked by Edward de Vere in his Geneva Bible

The question of mercy “is central to the unfolding action of The Tempest,” Dr. Stritmatter notes.  “In this fable Prospero, like Hamlet, learns to abandon the lust to punish his enemies and realizes that ‘the rarer action is in virtue than in vengeance.’ (5.1.27) — in which statement ‘virtue’ is a metaphor for ‘mercy.’ ”  He points out that previous students of Shakespeare and the Bible had failed to notice that Prospero’s epilogue “as you from crimes would pardoned be…” derives “direct, unequivocal inspiration” from Ecclesiasticus 28.1-5, which Oxford had marked in his Geneva Bible.

Ellen Terry as Portia in 1885

I recommend an informative (and amusing) exchange on this subject between William J. Ray and Alan Nelson, author of Monstrous Adversary (2003), the anti-Oxfordian biography of Oxford.  The dialogue was initiated by Ray, who pointed out similarities between Oxford’s “remarkable sentence on the theme of justice” and Portia’s speech on the quality of mercy.

“Apparently De Vere studied kingship and justice from Old Testament teachings,” Ray observes in the course of the exchange, adding later, “I do not see your implacable opposition of justice and mercy as represented by the one quotation versus the other, since to my ear they both [Oxford and “Shakespere”] were speaking of the same virtue(s) … and with virtually the same cadence and language.”

"The Trial of Mary Queen of Scots at Fotheringay Castle" painted by Edouard Berveiller (1843-1910)

“There can be little doubt as to which side Oxford’s sympathies would lean” during the treason trial of the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots in October 1586,” J. Thomas Looney wrote in “Shakespeare” Identified in 1920, introducing the Oxford theory of Shakespearean authorship – in other words the earl, who sat as one of the commissioners at the trial, would have been on Mary’s side; and “as we read of her wonderfully brave and dignified bearing, and of her capable and unaided conduct of her own defense, we can quite believe that if the dramatist who wrote The Merchant of Venice was present at the trial of the Scottish Queen … he had before him a worthy model for the fair Portia…”

Looney quoted Martin Hume on the trial: “Mary defended herself with consummate ability before a tribunal almost entirely prejudiced against her. She was deprived of legal aid, without her papers and in ill health. In her argument with [William Cecil Lord Burghley] she reached a point of touching eloquence which might have moved the hearts, though it did not convince the intellects, of her august judges.”

Drawing of the Trial of Mary Queen of Scots as part of the official record made by Robert Beale (1541-1601)

[Hume had quoted a letter in which Burghley says of Mary, “Her intention was to move pity by long, artificial speeches” – and Looney wrote, “With this remark of Burghley’s in mind, let the reader weigh carefully the terms, of Portia’s speech on ‘Mercy,’ all turning upon conceptions of royal power, with its symbols the crown and the scepter … Now let any one judge whether this speech is not vastly more appropriate to Mary Queen of Scots pleading her own cause before Burleigh, Walsingham, and indirectly the English Queen, than to an Italian lady pleading to an old Jew for the life of a merchant she had never seen before.  Who, then, could have been better qualified for giving an idealized and poetical rendering of Mary’s speeches than ‘the best of the courtier poets’ [Oxford], who was a sympathetic listener to her pathetic and dignified appeals?”

I include Looney’s remarks despite the fact that I share the view of many Oxfordians that Edward de Vere had written the first version of The Merchant of Venice several years prior to the trial of Mary Queen of Scots – that is, in the early 1580’s, four or five years after he had returned (in April 1576) from fifteen months on the Continent with Venice as his home base.

Portia’s speech in 4.1 of The Merchant of Venice:

The quality of mercy is not strain’d,

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:

‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes

The throned monarch better than his crown;

His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,

The attribute to awe and majesty,

Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;

But mercy is above this sceptred sway;

It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,

It is an attribute to God himself;

And earthly power doth then show likest God’s

When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,

Though justice be thy plea, consider this,

That, in the course of justice, none of us

Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;

And that same prayer doth teach us all to render

The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much

To mitigate the justice of thy plea;

Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice

Must needs give sentence ‘gainst the merchant there.

Prospero’s farewell at the end of The Tempest:

Now my charms are all o’erthrown,

And what strength I have’s mine own,

Which is most faint: now, ’tis true,

I must be here confined by you,

Or sent to Naples. Let me not,

Since I have my dukedom got

And pardon’d the deceiver, dwell

In this bare island by your spell;

But release me from my bands

With the help of your good hands:

Gentle breath of yours my sails

Must fill, or else my project fails,

Which was to please. Now I want

Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,

And my ending is despair,

Unless I be relieved by prayer,

Which pierces so that it assaults

Mercy itself and frees all faults.

As you from crimes would pardon’d be,

Let your indulgence set me free.


Part Two of Reason No. 30 to Conclude that Oxford was “Shakespeare” — His Reaction in Words to the St. Bartholomew’s Day 1572 Massacre of Huguenots in France

The nearly fifty surviving letters Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford wrote to William Cecil Lord Treasurer  Burghley and his son, Principal Secretary Robert Cecil, are mostly about business matters, but in every line he spontaneously revealed himself as the most likely author of Shakespeare’s poems, plays and sonnets.

The contemporary artist Francois Dubois (b. 1529) painted this Huguenot view of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in 1572

Take, for example, his letter written in September 1572, after the Elizabethan Court received shocking and frightening news of the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre in Paris a few weeks earlier:  Admiral Coligny of France and thousands of his fellow Huguenots (French Protestants) had been slain; and Lord Oxford, 22, wrote an emotional letter to Lord Burghley, architect of the still-fragile Protestant Reformation in England:

“I would to God your Lordship would let me understand some of your news which here doth ring dolefully in the ears of every man, of the murder of the Admiral of France, and a great number of noble men and worthy gentlemen, and such as greatly in their lifetimes honoured the Queen’s majesty our mistress, on whose tragedies we have an number of French Aeneases in this city, that tell of their own overthrows with tears falling from their eyes, a piteous thing to hear but a cruel and far more grievous thing we must deem it them to see.  All rumours here are but confused, of those troops that are escaped from Paris, and Rouen, where Monsieur [the Ducke of Alencon] hath also been; and like a vesper Sicilianus, as they say, that cruelty spreads all over France …

Huguenot leader Admiral Gaspard De Coligny (1519-1572), slain by an assassin

“And since the world is so full of treasons and vile instruments, daily to attempt new and unlooked-for things, good my Lord, I shall affectionately and heartily desire your Lordship to be careful both of yourself and of her Majesty…

“And think if the Admiral in France was a eyesore or beam in the eyes of the papists, that the Lord Treasurer of England is a block and a crossbar in their way, whose remove they will never stick to attempt, seeing they have prevailed so well in others.  This estate hath depended on you a great while as all the world doth judge, and now  all men’s eyes, not being occupied any more on those lost lords, are as it were on a sudden bent and fixed on you, as a singular hope and pillar whereto the religion hath to lean.”

The above passages, spilled from Edward de Vere’s pen in the heat of the moment, is “Shakespearean” in dozens of ways.  In the Comments section for Part One of this post, for example, Ken Kaplan points out Oxford’s use of “hendiadys” [hen-dee-ah-dis] when he refers to the Lord Treasurer as the “hope and pillar” of the state; and in fact Shakespeare uses literally hundreds of hendiadys such as when Prince Hamlet, in his “to be or not to be” soliloquy, refers to the “whips and scorns” of time.

[“Hendiadys” — a figure of speech in which a complex idea is expressed by two words connected by a conjunction.   Modern examples would be “nice and warm” or “good and loud.”  Each pair represents a single concept, but often the second noun or adjective unpacks the meaning of the first — the way Oxford’s second word (“pillar”) expands on his first word (“hope”).]

Painting focused on the killing of Admiral Coligny by Franz Hogenberg (c. 1540- c. 1590)

A brilliantly cogent essay on Oxford-Shakespeare poetry and prose styles is “Appendix N” of Roger Stritmatter’s 2001 University of Massachusetts PhD dissertation on Edward de Vere’s 1568-70 Geneva bible and its handwritten annotations pointing to themes and passages in the Shakespeare works.  Dr. Stritmatter notes that in Oxford’s account of the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre there are many hendiadys (or similar kinds of conjunctions) such as “noble men and worthy gentlemen” … “a cruel and far more grievous thing” … “treasons and vile instruments” … “new and unlooked-for things” … “a eyesore or a beam” … “a block or a crossbar” … “bent and fixed” … “hope and pillar” — and more.

Oxford’s letter “reads like a sketch for a Shakespeare history play,” Dr. Stritmatter writes. “Envisioning the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre as a contemporary tragedy, shadowed by the allegorical precedent of Aeneas’ tragic exile from burning Troy, it paints a picture of the mise en scene in which the tragedy unfolds.  Appealing in alternating schema to senses of both sight and sound, it supplies a potent witness to Oxford’s powers of demonstratio, the literary figure by which ‘we apprehend [things] as though before our eyes.’  The iterated appeal to sight, and the organs of sight, could not be more ‘Shakespearean’: like the audience listening to Ophelia’s superlative portrait of the mad Hamlet (2.1.85-99), we are made to see ‘French Aeneases that tell of their overthrows with tears falling from their eyes.’  De Vere’s technique is precisely the same as that of ‘Shakespeare’…”

This is great stuff!  Can you feel the enthusiasm beneath Dr. Stritmatter’s measured statements?  I believe it’s because he still marvels at the power of Oxford’s (and Shakespeare’s) ability to create with words.

William Plumer Fowler observes in Shakespeare Revealed in Oxford’s Letters that the earl “slips into his tragic Shakespearean metaphor” of “French Aeneases” with remarkable ease, adding that “Aeneas, the hero of Vergil’s great epic, is mentioned as many as twenty-eight times by Shakespeare.”  Moreover his mention of the cruelty that “like a vesper Sicilianus … spreads all over France” refers to the murder of eight thousand French in Sicily three centuries earlier, a massacre that also had started during a pageant.  “It is noteworthy that Shakespeare too shows the same familiarity as Oxford’s with the vesper Sicilianus and its pageant,” Fowler writes, citing Antony’s warning in Antony and Cleopatra (4.13.3) that “Thou has seen these signs; they are black [ominous] vesper’s pageants.”

When Oxford laments that “the world is so full of treasons and vile instruments,” he appears to coin a phrase that “Shakespeare” will use later in Cymbeline (3.4.72) when Pisanio cries out, “Hence, vile instrument!”

His characterization of Admiral Coligny as “an eyesore or beam in the eyes of the papists” [his Catholic slayers] will be echoed in The Taming of the Shrew (3.2.101) when Baptista refers to “an eye-sore to our solemn festival” and when Tarquin in The Rape of Lucrece (205) says, “Yea, though I die, the scandal will survive, and be an eye-sore in my golden coat.”  And, for example, Gloucester in 1 Henry VI (1.1.10) will echo Oxford’s words when he says, “His brandish’d sword did blind men with his beams.”

“This most interesting early specimen” of Oxford’s letters, Fowler writes, “with “its multiplicity of parallelisms” and “such distinctive metaphors as ‘eye-sore,’ ‘beam,’ ‘block,’ and ‘crossbar'” serves to corroborate “that the Earl of Oxford, rather than the man from Stratford, was the true ‘Shakespeare,’ and that these letters of Oxford are really ‘Shakespeare’s,’ the name by which the talented dramatist will always be known.  Coincidence in the use of common phrases of speech can explain some parallelisms, but not any such tidal wave of them.”

We’ll take another look at Oxford’s letters in part three, wrapping up this reason to believe he was Shakespeare.

[Background Image: “The Two Henries” – Henry de Vere, eighteenth Earl of Oxford; and Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton – circa 1619]

Reason No. 26 to Believe that Oxford was “Shakespeare”: L’Envoy to “Narcissus” by Thomas Edwards in 1595

Reason No. 26 adding to the circumstantial evidence that Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare” involves a strange little poem published in London…

The 1882 Roxburghe Club limited edition of "Cephalus and Procris" and "Narcissus" (1595)

More than two decades ago I was in the microfilm room at a college library looking through a thick volume printed for the Roxburghe Club of London in 1882.  The volume featured an Elizabethan book of two narrative poems, Cephalus and Procris and Narcissus, translated from Ovid by the otherwise unknown Thomas Edwards.  It was registered in 1593 and printed in 1595, just after “Shakespeare” made his debut on the dedications of Venus and Adonis of 1593 and Lucrece of 1594 to the Earl of Southampton.

Attached to Narcissus was an “envoy” or postscript in several stanzas of verse, identifying major poets by characters in their works: “Collyn Clout” for Spenser; “Rosamond” for Daniel; “Leander” for Marlowe; and “Adon”  [Adonis of “Venus and Adonis”] signifying Shakespeare.

This was followed immediately atop the next page, as “L’Envoy” continued, by reference to a poet “in purple robes distained … whose power floweth far” with his “bewitching pen” and “golden art” that should make him “the only object and the star” of England’s writers.

So who was this poet said to be the best of all?

I turned to the Appendix to see what various scholars had to say – and to my surprise, one identified “the star” as Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford while another said “the star” must be a further description of Shakespeare…

Leaning back at the microfilm machine, I mused: If these two scholars of the late nineteenth century had been in the same room, one identifying Oxford and the other pointing to Shakespeare, wouldn’t it have occurred to them that maybe they were both talking about the same man?  If so, they’d have solved the authorship question then and there!

Here in modernized English is the stanza praising Shakespeare as “Adon” followed by the stanzas praising the poet who “should have been … the only object and the star”:

Adon deafly masking through

Stately troupes rich conceited,

Showed he well deserved to,

Love’s delight on him to gaze,

And had not love herself entreated,

Other nymphs had sent him bays.

Blackfriars Playhouse: Oxford acquired the sublease and transferred it to John Lyly, his secretary and stage manager

Eke in purple robes distained,

Amidst the Center of this clime,

I have heard say doth remain

One whose power floweth far,

That should have been of our rhyme

The only object and the star.

Blackfriars Playhouse

Well could his bewitching pen

Done the Muses’ objects to us;

Although he differs much from men

Tilting under Frieries,

Yet his golden art might woo us

To have honored him with bays.

[The stanza about “Adon” and the two stanzas to “one whose power floweth far” both end with “bays” – perhaps intended as a way for readers to link all three stanzas praising a single poet.]

In the Appendix notes, Roxburghe Club editor W.E. Buckley reported how one scholar identified Oxford and the other pointed to Shakespeare:

Edward Dowden (1843-1913)

“If ‘purple robes’ may mean a Nobleman’s robes, it gives some colour to the conjecture of Professor [Edward] Dowden, that Vere, Earl of Oxford, may have been intended, ‘as his reputation stood high as a Poet and Patron of Poets …

“Dr. B. Nicholson is of opinion that these two stanza must be connected with the preceding one in which Adon, that is, Shakspere, is described.”

Buckley noted that The Arte of English Poesie had named Oxford “first among the crew of courtly makers” and that Edmund Spenser had written a dedicatory sonnet to the earl in The Faire Queen of 1590 “in which he speaks of ‘the love that thou didst bear To th’Heliconian Nymphs, and they to thee.’  His ‘power flowed far’ as he was Lord High Chamberlain of England.  He had contributed to The Paradise of Dainty Devices, signing E.O. or E. Ox. [1576] and to The Phoenix Nest in 1593.  One of his poems is a vision of a Fair Maid (‘clad all in color of a Nun and covered with a Vail’) who complains of love and gets Echo answers of ‘Vere.’  In another (referred to by Edwards?), Oxford represents himself as ‘wearing black and tawny’ and [having] ‘no bays’ …”

[Prior to John Thomas Looney’s identification of Edward de Vere as “Shakespeare” in 1920, orthodox scholars felt free to mention him in a positive light without worrying about giving any ground to Oxfordians in the authorship debate; that is, they tended to be honest and straightforward – unlike much of what we see today!]

And here in the midst of these notes came another surprise from Editor Buckley, referring to the English literary antiquary Thomas Coxeter (1689-1747): “He [Oxford] was said by Coxeter to have translated Ovid, which would connect him with Narcissus, but no one has ever seen his Ovid.”

[We might wonder which Ovid works Oxford was “said to have translated,” given that his maternal uncle Arthur Golding is credited with the 1567 Latin-to-English translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses that became Shakespeare’s most beloved classical source.)

The street fighting in "Romeo and Juliet" is a mirror image of the "tilting" at Blackfriars involving Oxford's men

An important contribution to work on the Narcissus L’Envoy was done by Dr. Roger Stritmatter in an article printed in the Fall 2006 (70) issue of Cahiers Elisabethains, a leading French journal of Elizabethan studies, and reprinted in the Winter 2007 edition of Shakespeare Matters, the newsletter of The Shakespeare Fellowship, under the title “Tilting Under Frieries”: Narcissus (1595) and the Affair at Blackfriars.

Stritmatter introduced new evidence that “allows definitive identification of the phrase ‘tilting under Frieries’ as reference to a notorious series of Blackfriars street fights (1582-85) involving Oxford’s retainers.”  The fighting, in which Oxford was wounded and lamed for life, “left an indelible impression in the popular imagination of the era,” he writes, citing a series of documents (transcribed by Alan Nelson  for his Oxford biography Monstrous Adversary) confirming that Oxford’s men in spring 1582 were definitely “tilting under frieries” at Blackfriars.

“The significance of this finding, identifying Oxford as the poet with the ‘bewitching pen’ who ‘should have been’ – but cannot be – the ‘only object and the star’ of the chorus of the Elizabethan poets, should not be underestimated,” Stritmatter observes.

“Without doubt, the 1582-83 Oxford-Knyvet affair at Blackfriars was the most striking instance of ’tilting under Frieries’ during the thirty-seven years of Elizabeth’s reign that informed the imagery and diction of Edwardes’ enigmatic poem.  Before the fray had ended, a literary peer of the realm had been lamed for life, and followers of both factions wounded or killed.  The concealed poet of ‘bewitching pen’ and ‘golden art’ – whose men were in 1582 notoriously ’tilting under frieries’ – is none other than the still controversial Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (1550-1604).”

Ongoing Work on “The Tempest” by Lynne Kositsky and Dr. Roger Stritmatter

It’s long past time for this blog to direct readers to the website of Dr. Roger Stritmatter and his colleague Lynne Kositsky — SHAKESPEARESTEMPEST.COM, with links to five articles on various aspects of Tempest sources, chronology, and literary themes, as follows:

From page 1 (after the introductory matter) of the First Folio of Shakespeare plays in 1623 -- with some markings added later

O Brave New World: The Tempest and Peter Martyr’s De Orbe Novo.”  Critical Survey 21:2 (fall 2009), 7-42.

Pale as Death: The Fictionalizing Influence of Erasmus’ ‘Naufragium’ on the Renaissance Travel Narrative.” Festschrift in Honor of Isabel Holden,  fall 2008, Concordia University, 141-151.

The Spanish Maze and the Date of The Tempest.”  The Oxfordian, fall 2007, 1-11.

Shakespeare and the Voyagers Revisited.”  The Review of English Studies, September, 2007 (published online June, 2007), 447-472.

How Shakespeare Got His Tempest:  Another “Just So” Story,” Brief Chronicles I(2009), 205-266, print edition.

There’s much more on their site and I recommend that readers keep in touch with it as they continue to develop this important story.

 

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.”

POSTSCRIPT

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.

More on this Exciting Year for Edward de Vere the seventeenth Earl of Oxford…

There’s much excitement in the “Oxfordian” community these days, with blogs and books and films — not to mention a new online “gallery” devoted to Oxford — pouring forth.  Much of this activity, intentional or otherwise, appears to be in anticipation of Anonymous, the first feature film about Edward de Vere as Shakespeare, with which I begin this partial listing:

ANONYMOUS – the movie from producer-director Roland Emmerich and SONY Pictures to be launched in U.S. theaters on September 23, 2011 (unless the date changes again).  The cast includes Rhys ifans as Edward de Vere, Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Elizabeth I, Derek Jacobi as Prologue, Mark Rylance as Gloucester and Edward Hogg as Robert Cecil.

Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Elizabeth I in "Anonymous"

The trailer is exciting!  In my view any publicity about the Shakespeare authorship question is good publicity, simply because those who control this issue within the academic world have ensured that the subject has been virtually unknown to the majority of teachers, professors and students – or else it has been ridiculed and ignored.

Now there will be questions, more and more of them.   Now the effort to intimidate questioners will not be so successful.  Now, at last, the investigations and the debates will begin on a wide scale.

What I know, also, is that Anonymous will be much closer to the truth than Shakespeare In Love, which, nonetheless, in my view, is a wonderful movie — which depicts the general truth that “Shakespeare” must have been motivated to write his plays by much more important personal matters than the box office.

Charles Beauclerk, author of "Shakespeare's Lost Kingdom"

THE EDWARD OXENFORD REVIEW: Notes Towards the Next Biography of Edward de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford – the blog from Marie Merkel, who is serving up some of the best current writing on the subject. See Marie’s thoughtful and challenging review of SHAKESPEARE’S LOST KINGDOM: The True History of Shakespeare and Elizabeth by Charles Beauclerk, issued this year by Grove Press.

WILLIAM NIEDERKORN’s reviews of Shakespeare-related books in THE BROOKLYN RAIL – the latest a terrific critique of DATING SHAKESPEARE’S PLAYS: A CRITICAL REVIEW OF THE EVIDENCE, edited by Kevin Gilvary with contributions of other members of the De Vere Society in England.

"Dating Shakespeare's Plays"

SHAKE-SPEARE’S BIBLE.COM – the blog from Roger Stritmatter, Ph.D., featuring, among many other fine essays, the series from an indomitable Stratfordian-minded fellow named Mr. Tom Weedy, who has been listing “Reasons Shakespeare was Shakespeare” – perhaps, if I may be so bold, in an attempt to frighten me into abandoning my “100 Reasons” for believing that Shakespeare was Oxford.  Well, we shall see!

THE SHAKESPEARE GUIDE TO ITALY: Retracing the Bard’s Unknown Travels, by Richard Paul Roe – due from Harper Perennial on November 8, 2011.  This book from the late Dick Roe is a ticking time bomb (or a “sleeping smoking gun,” if you prefer) that may well take the Stratfordian world by surprise.

"The Shakespeare Guide to Italy" by Richard Paul Roe

A privately printed edition was issued last year, shortly before the author’s death, and much of it reads like a good-old-fashioned detective story, with Roe tracking down gem after gem of discoveries about the personal experience of Italy that “Shakespeare” needed in order to write Romeo and Juliet, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Taming of the Shrew, The Merchant of Venice, Othello, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, All’s Well That Ends Well, Much Ado About Nothing, The Winter’s Tale and, yes, The  Tempest.

LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT – a documentary film on the Shakespeare authorship question, from producers Laura Matthias and Lisa Wilson.  It will take a look at the issue and the “Shakespeare” claimants with focus on Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford, providing additional information and insights to complement the film Anonymous by Roland Emmerich.

New Bust of the True Shakespeare

THE VERILY SHAKESPEARE GALLERYa new online store from Ben August of Houston, who commissioned a bust of Edward de Vere to replace the old (and incorrect) icons.

When I first jumped into this arena in 1987, it occurred to me that inevitably over the next two or three generations there will be more writings, more video and film, more books and other kinds of communication on this subject than on nearly every other topic.  Why?  Because once the true authorship and meaning of “Shakespeare” are generally accepted as fit for investigation and study, there will be the need for a massive revision of history and biography – on a scale that can hardly be measured at this point.

The biographies of William and Robert Cecil, of Queen Elizabeth and King James, of Philip Sidney and Ben Jonson – etcetera, etcetera, etcetera! – will have to be rewritten in order to perceive these individuals within a wholly different relationship to Edward de Vere.

Rather than depicting them as superior to the madcap, eccentric, scandal-plagued earl, they will be viewed when placed beside the genius who led the renaissance of English literature and drama (and thereby helped to rouse support for unity against Spain) before going on to revise his works into the masterpieces of “Shakespeare” that have filled our shelves and stages from then to now.

It’s quite a privilege — and lots of fun — to be around for this critical stage of the revolution.

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