“LAST WILL. & TESTAMENT” to be Available Oct. 15th on DVD Through PBS Distribution

Below is the entire text of a press release to be given tomorrow to the mainstream media. Congratulations to all involved, especially the producers Lisa Wilson and Laura Wilson Matthias

“LAST WILL. & TESTAMENT”
WHO WROTE THE WORKS OF SHAKESPEARE? THIS NEW FILM SEEKS TO UNCOVER THE TRUTH — Available on DVD from PBS Distribution October 15th

LAST WILL

Arlington, Va. – September XX, 2013 – PBS Distribution today announced it is releasing LAST WILL. & TESTAMENT on DVD. The film explores one of the greatest literary mysteries of all time: who wrote the works of William Shakespeare? Although the official story of a Stratford merchant writing for the London box office has held sway for centuries, questions over the authorship of the plays and poems have persisted. Mark Twain, Sigmund Freud, Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles are among the many famous figures who doubt that a grain-dealer from Stratford-Upon-Avon was England’s “Star of Poets.” Experts have debated, books have been written, and scholars have devoted their lives to protecting or debunking theories surrounding the authorship.

Sir Derek Jacobi leads an impressive cast featuring Oscar®-winning actress Vanessa Redgrave and Tony® Award-winning actor Mark Rylance on a quest to uncover the truth behind the elusive author, and discovers a forgotten nobleman whose story could rewrite history. LAST WILL. & TESTAMENT, from Executive Producer Roland Emmerich and debut directors Lisa Wilson and Laura Wilson Matthias, will be available on DVD October 15, 2013. The run time of the program is 85 minutes and the DVD SRP is $24.99.

The first part of this film explores the orthodox story of William Shakespeare of Stratford and the longstanding views held by academia. Stanley Wells, Honorary President of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and Prof. Jonathan Bate defend the orthodox position, while anti-Stratfordians Charles Beauclerk, Dr. Roger Stritmatter, Dr. William Leahy, Diana Price and actors Vanessa Redgrave, Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance expose the thin trail of evidence that has fueled doubt for centuries.

The second part is a testament to an alternative Shakespeare – one presented to the world in the literary works themselves and in the testimony of his most insightful doubters. Through a series of interviews with scholars currently working in the field, the film fashions a profile of the elusive poet. During the last century, a field of more than sixty candidates for authorship has narrowed, with Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, and group authorship becoming the most popular alternatives. A portion of LAST WILL. & TESTAMENT explores the life and literary career of this forgotten nobleman. Through on-camera commentary, a very human author emerges: a real-life Hamlet, whose tragic experiences provided the raw material for the canon and gave birth to the anti-Stratfordian and Oxfordian movements.

The final portion of the film weaves together the major historical events of the late Tudor era, including the crisis of succession and the Essex Revolt. The power politics of the Elizabethan Age and the towering figure of the Queen herself are addressed by the film’s commentators, who seek to connect Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets to the turbulent world of the court. By the end of the film, viewers will be challenged to explore the many unresolved historical, political and artistic issues that lie at the heart of the mystery of who wrote Shakespeare’s works.

About PBS Distribution
PBS Distribution is the leading media distributor for the public television community, both domestically and internationally, extending the reach of these programs beyond broadcast while generating revenue for the public television system and our production partners.

PBS Distribution offers a diverse range of programming to our customers, including Ken Burns’s films, documentaries from award-winning series such as NOVA, FRONTLINE, AMERICAN MASTERS, NATURE, and AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, dramas from MASTERPIECE, as well as films from independent producers and popular children’s programming. As a multi-channel distributor, PBS Distribution pursues wholesale/retail sales, consumer and educational sales through PBS-branded catalogs and online shops, and international broadcast and video sales. PBS Distribution is also a leader in offering programming through digital platforms including internet and mobile devices.

LAST WILL. & TESTAMENT
Street Date: October 15, 2013
Genre: Documentary
Run Time: 85 Minutes
SRP: $24.99
Format: DVD

“And Your True Rights Be Termed a Poet’s Rage…”

Here’s the Front Cover, Back Cover and Table of Contents for an important new book just published (For a larger view, click on each image):

A Poet's Rage - 3

A Poet's Rage - 2A Poet's Rage Contents

The New Shakespeare Authorship Documentary “Last Will. & Testament” Soon to be Available Nationwide

On 23 October 2012, the Shakespeare authorship documentary LAST WILL. & TESTAMENT will finally be launched in the United States via ON DEMAND and ITUNES, bringing this powerful argument for Edward de Vere, the seventeenth Earl of Oxford to a nationwide audience.

Two days before, on 21 October 2012, the documentary will have its U.S. Premier at the Austin Film Festival.  Meanwhile the film is now on a college tour that has already included a stop on Oct. 5 at DePaul University in Chicago and, today, Oct. 7, at the Film Society of Minneapolis.  The upcoming schedule so far:

OCT 12 Southern Oregon University -OLLI – Ashland, OR

OCT 14 University of Missouri – Kansas City/ESU-KC

OCT 19 Caltech/Shakespeare Authorship Conference – Pasadena, CA

And, as mentioned above:

OCT 21 US Premiere at the Austin Film Festival – Austin TX

OCT 23 – available nationwide On Demand and iTunes on October 23, 2012.

The most important result of all this, in my view, is that more and more folks will have information — just plain information, to which they had never had access.  This is not about making overnight converts to the Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship; rather, it’s about letting people know what’s behind one of the most amazing and important investigations related to literature and history.

It’s especially gratifying to know that this information will now be available to members of a new generation of students, who will not be as brainwashed (and deprived of the facts) as so many other generations have been.  These young people will not be trapped in the old Shakespearean paradigm; they will be able to look at the information with more open minds.

Let the new era begin!

More Answers to a Reader:

Continuing with the final three points made by Jim, a reader:

Two: Regardless of the authorship question, not even the makers of “Anonymous” can say the film is entirely truthful. The director, Roland Emmerich, admits in interviews that details like the writing of “Midsummer” when de Vere is 9 and de Vere’s later affair with Queen Elizabeth are false, part of creating a cinematic mood rather than documenting history.

Roland Emmerich, director, and John Orloff, screenwriter, of "Anonymous"

(If memory serves, screenwriter John Orloff DOES claim the whole script to be factual.) Historical films usually take some liberties with fact — this is to be expected — but in this case the liberties are rather large, and for a film that already faces a good deal of automatic skepticism, the decision not to hew closer to history is perplexing.

Some of my colleagues have expressed the same or similar feelings.  But I believe John Orloff may have made some confusing statements before clarifying.  For example, here’s a link to his recent article in The Wall Street Journal entitled “Why I Played with Shakespeare’s Story” — which sort of speaks for itself.

Evidence indicates that Oxford and Elizabeth may well have had a sexual affair; but no, it’s not certain.  I would refer you to my book The Monument for evidence in the Sonnets that Oxford regarded Southampton as his son by the Queen and, therefore, as her rightful successor.

Three: For every dubious clue that the sonnets contain indicating concealed authorship, they contain several straightforward clues indicating Shakespearean authorship. Puns on “will” are commonplace in the sonnets. Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway, is referenced once or twice. Did de Vere insert these references to make the Shakespearean ruse more convincing? It seems unlikely, because…

Well, now, those uses of will and Will are interesting, but I’d say that more likely they refer to (1) the Queen’s will or command as a monarch, and (2) the pen name William Shakespeare.  If the author’s real name happened to be William or Will, in my view he’d never use it that way – too obvious, too direct, especially for Shakespeare.

The line in Sonnet 145 is “I hate, from hate away she threw,” – and forgive me, but I’d say it’s an absurd stretch, a desperate stretch, to find a deliberate reference to Anne Hathaway … really … more of a stretch than most of what you find Oxfordians doing.

Four: If de Vere wrote the sonnets, there was no reason for him to hide it. Playwriting MAY have been inappropriate for a noble of his stature (though I am not sure of this — some of the Earl’s peers wrote court masques for Queen Elizabeth), but the writing of poetry certainly was not. Sir Philip Sidney is an excellent example of a high-ranking courtier whose poetry was accepted and influential. Coincidentally, Sidney also wrote at least one court masque.

Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586)

I believe Sidney’s poetry was published under his own name only after his death, as expected.  But in my view the sonnets were private poems by Oxford, who did not write them to be published in his own lifetime.  And also in my view, they recorded Southampton’s royal status and the story of how Oxford made a deal with Robert Cecil to spare Southampton’s life and gain the promise of his eventual liberation by James.  In that context this was a hot book, claiming that James had stolen the throne from a rightful English heir.

Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton (circa 1595)

By contrast, those who got the Folio published managed to depict the author as a theater man, an actor and a playwright, while wiping away any mention of the poetry dedicated to Southampton or the sonnets written to and about him.

To summarize, I don’t see a strong motive for de Vere to conceal his authorship, and without that motive, evidence such as the name references in the sonnets and the traditionally accepted dates for the plays persuasively indicate Shakespeare as author.

Again, I’m not trying to troll or be rude — just to have a conversation!

Again, thanks.  Next I’ll put up my take on Sonnet 145 as set forth in The Monument.

Some Answers to a Reader’s Response: When did the author Write those plays?

A reader (named Jim, I believe) commented on my replies to Professor James Shapiro, regarding his criticism of the movie Anonymous.  It seems worthwhile to continue the discussion here, on the main page.  Jim brought up four separate topics, and I’ll try to take up one or two at a time.

"The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth" was played by the Queen's Men in 1583 and serves as the foundation for "Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2" and "Henry V" by "Shakespeare"

“I don’t mean to be rude,” he begins, “but I hold with those who believe that Shakespeare is Shakespeare and I would like to reply to a few of your points.”

You’re not being rude; and thanks for the chance to respond.

First I should mention the Oxfordian view that saying “Shakespeare is Shakespeare” would be akin to saying “Mark Twain is Mark Twain.”  True enough, but we know that “Mark Twain” is a pen name used by Samuel Clemens.  So when we say “Shakespeare” we mean the printed name, referring to an otherwise unidentified poet-playwright; and we believe it’s a pen name, or pseudonym, as opposed to the name “William Shakspere” referring to the real individual who lived in Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire.

[Of course, orthodox scholars and general commentators regularly start from the assumption that Shakespeare and Shakspere are one and the same, thereby from the outset blocking any further discussion.]

Orson Welles as Macbeth - 1948

“Most datings of the plays put them much later than you do,” Jim writes.  “For a variety of reasons, including pieces of text that seem to refer to current events (cf. ‘Macbeth’ and the Gunpowder Plot) many of them have been specifically placed after the death of Edward de Vere. I understand that the standard Oxfordian riposte to this is that de Vere actually wrote all the plays, and some were released after his death, edited to appear current. I don’t find that persuasive because I can think of no motive for it.

“Whatever the case, citing unorthodox information on the dates of the plays from a specifically pro-Oxford text is surely not fair play.”

The generally accepted dating for each play is based primarily on the biography of an author (Shakspere) who came to London in the late 1580’s or early 1590’s.  He would have begun writing the thirty-seven or more plays assigned to Shakespeare soon after; if he wrote two per year, it would take him eighteen-plus years up to 1610 or so.  So the assumption of Shakspere’s authorship is the reason why the writing of the plays is traditionally dated within that spectrum; the single premise of him as the great dramatist makes it “impossible” for the writing to happen during an earlier period.

When Oxford’s life is used as a guide, however, we can start way back when he was a teenager in the 1560’s; we can view him writing all during the 1560’s, 1570’s and 1580’s – three decades – prior to the 1590’s and the first appearance of “Shakespeare” the poet and/or playwright.

Moreover Oxford played a part in establishing the Queen’s Men  (Queen Elizabeth’s Men) in 1583; in that decade this major company performed no less than six plays of royal history that “Shakespeare” is said to have “rewritten” later to create his own plays – The Troublesome Reign of King John, The True Tragedy of Richard III, King Leir, The Famous Victories of Henry V and so on – with many of the same scenes that “Shakespeare” uses.

"The True Tragedy of Richard the Third" - By Anonymous - Played by the Queen's Men in the 1580's - Was it Early Shakespeare?

Oxford was cited in 1589 (The Arte of English Poesie) as first among courtier poets “who have written excellently well, as it would appear if their doings could be found out and made public.”  Richard Whalen, who edited a new Oxfordian printing of Macbeth, suggests Edward de Vere may have written the first version back in 1567, at seventeen!  (An anonymous play about the assassination of Lord Darnley, the King of the Scots, was performed in 1568 at the Court of Elizabeth.)

There’s no evidence that Macbeth was performed during the reign of King James [1603-1625].  The account allegedly written by Simon Forman, describing a performance he supposedly witnessed in 1611, was discovered by the notorious nineteenth-century forger John Payne Collier – so we can’t count on that!  Otherwise the play was never printed, nor does any record mention it, before the First Folio of Shakespeare plays in 1623.

The dating of play composition is tricky and requires much research.  I again recommend Dating Shakespeare’s Plays: A Critical Review of the Evidence, edited by Kevin Gilvary.

A fascinating Oxfordian study was made in the 1930’s by Eva Turner Clark in her book Hidden Allusions in Shakespeare’s Plays.  Clark cites evidence that Oxford had written all the plays, at least their original versions, by 1590.  He could have made many revisions up to his death in 1604; other writers, so-called collaborators, could have made revisions and additions over the next nineteen years until the Folio; and that might account for some of the apparently post-1604 references.  On the other hand, Oxfordian researchers such as Kositsky and Stritmatter are producing new evidence to show that ALL such references could have come from earlier events and sources.

We’ll continue soon with the other issues …

(Meanwhile, I might observe that reviewers of Anonymous who cannot view the Shakespeare Authorship Question with an open mind are relying on traditional assumptions, which, if presented right now for the very first time, would cause the same reviewers to laugh with scorn.  Why?  Because those traditional assumptions have absolutely no biographical or historical foundations.  Without the flimsy “evidence” to be found in the First Folio and the church in Stratford, along with mention in the 1640 Poems by Will Shakespeare, Gent.  of the Stratford man’s death in April 1616, there would be no trail leading to Warwickshire — none.  Even with those allusions, there’s no biographical or historical trail.]

Part Two of My Reply to James Shapiro’s Column in the New York Times

This is the second of three parts of my response to an Op Ed column (“Hollywood Dishonors the Bard”) in the New York Times by Professor James Shapiro of Columbia, who is defending the Bard of Tradition against the forthcoming movie “Anonymous” from Roland Emmerich, portraying Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford as the true author of the great poems, plays and sonnets.  Shapiro  is referring below to John Thomas Looney, whose book “Shakespeare” Identified in 1920 introduced Oxford’s candidacy.

The Bard of Tradition ... The Bard of Our Dreams

SHAPIRO:  “Looney also showed that episodes in de Vere’s life closely matched events in the plays.  His theory has since attracted impressive supporters, including Sigmund Freud, the Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia and his former colleague John Paul Stevens, and now Mr. Emmerich.”

WHITTEMORE: Yes, indeed.

SHAPIRO:  “But promoters of de Vere’s cause have a lot of evidence to explain away, including testimony of contemporary writers, court records and much else that confirms that Shakespeare wrote the works attributed to him.”

WHITTEMORE:  This is the classic mix-up of two separate entities.  The name “William Shakespeare” or just “Shakespeare” or “Shake-speare” was well-known and other writers referred to the great author by that name.  But they never described his physical person in any way, not during his lifetime; they never reported talking with him, breaking bread with him, working with him, drinking with him; they knew him as a name.  On the other hand, those “court records” had nothing to do with writing or poetry or the drama; such documents involved the man from Stratford and his very separate life.

James Shapiro -- Defender of the Bard of Avon

SHAPIRO:  “Meanwhile, not a shred of documentary evidence has ever been found that connects de Vere to any of the plays or poems.”

WHITTEMORE:  Well, for starters, Edward de Vere was connected personally in the 1560’s, 1570’s and 1580’s to virtually every writer whose work would become known as a “contemporary source” for the great author “Shakespeare” in his writings that appeared under that name for the first time in 1593.  Oxford’s poetry and other public writings can be viewed as part of what Looney called “the long foreground” of apprenticeship that has been missing from all so-called biographies of Shakespeare.  By contrast, Will of Stratford had no such foreground of prior work and there’s no record from his lifetime that he had any kind of relationship with any other writer.  Ben Jonson’s testimony comes way after the fact, in the Folio of Shakespeare plays in 1623; and even in Ben’s own 1616 folio, he merely listed “William Shakespeare” as an actor while never mentioning him as a writer – even though Will of Stratford had died only a few months earlier that year, without a single eulogy or even mention of him.

SHAPIRO:  “As for the argument that the plays rehearse the story of de Vere’s life: since the 1850s, when Shakespeare’s authorship was first questioned, the lives of 70 or so other candidates have also confidently been identified in them.”

Roland Emmerich, Challenging Tradition with his movie "Anonymous"

WHITTEMORE: Well, now, there are more parallels between the single play of Hamlet and various aspects of Oxford’s life than we could find such parallels between all the Bard’s thirty-seven plays and the lives of those other seventy candidates combined.  Trying to put Oxford in the same category is another cheap shot.  No, sir, his credentials are different.  Anyone who looks at his life — as poet, playwright and play producer; as patron of writers, play companies and musicians; as scholar, traveler, etc. – will see the vast difference.  This would be true even if a thousand candidates had preceded Looney’s identification of him.

We’ll continue next time with the third and final installment…

Answering Shapiro … A Reply to the Professor’s Op-Ed Column in the NY Times Part 1

In the New York Times of Monday October 17, 2011, on the Op Ed page, appeared a column by James Shapiro, a professor of English at Columbia University, author of Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?  The constraints of time and blog compel me to reply in brief segments, of which this is the first:

With Professor Shapiro, who is signing a copy of "Contested Will" for me

SHAPIRO:  “ROLAND EMMERICH’S film ‘Anonymous,’ which opens next week, ‘presents a compelling portrait of Edward de Vere as the true author of Shakespeare’s plays.’  That’s according to the lesson plans that Sony Pictures has been distributing to literature and history teachers in the hope of convincing students that Shakespeare was a fraud.  A documentary by First Folio Pictures (of which Mr. Emmerich is president) will also be part of this campaign.   “So much for ‘Hey, it’s just a movie!’”

WHITTEMORE:  Right – it’s not just a movie, it’s a game changer.  This particular film holds the potential to turn the study of Shakespeare and the Elizabethan age inside-out.  For one thing, it will substantially alter Professor Shapiro’s classroom world, especially when students view the documentary film (“Last Will and Testament”) and demand to know why they’ve never been told any of this stuff.

(I admit that saying that Shakespeare was a “fraud” is catchy but misleading.  In the real world of Oxfordian research “Shakespeare” is a pen name, a pseudonym.  The only fraud, if you will, is the misattribution of authorship to William Shakspere of Stratford upon Avon.  The true author of the “Shakespeare” works — Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, using a pen name — was every bit the genius we know that “Shakespeare” was.   They were one and the same man.  Moreover, Oxford brought the Renaissance into England – and yes, that’s a fact.)

To call the movie + documentary film part of a “campaign” is an attempt to cast suspicion on the project — conveniently forgetting that the whole Shakespeare industry, based on the Stratford man, is part of a “campaign” that’s been carried on for more than two centuries … a campaign that has also blocked all attempts to bring the Authorship Question to the attention of students, teachers and members of the general public.

SHAPIRO:  “The case for Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, dates from 1920, when J. Thomas Looney, an English writer who loathed democracy and modernity, argued — ”

John Thomas Looney (1870-1944)

WHITTEMORE:  Whoa, now, good sir.  We learned that trick on the first day of journalism class.  You could start with “Hubert Humphrey, a brilliant man, today announced he is running for president” or, rather, “Hubert Humphrey, once a pig farmer, today announced he is running for president” – and so on.  Loathed democracy and modernity?  Well … no, no, I refuse … no, I am not going to stoop to the position of defending that unassuming British schoolmaster who wrote “Shakespeare” Identified to describe his remarkable feat of literary detection.  I’m not going to allow my attention to be diverted from the message to the messenger.  That was the trick of Contested Will — trying to tarnish brilliant anti-Stratfordians such as Helen Keller, Sigmund Freud and Mark Twain — and, sadly enough, it worked all too well for those readers who had no other information.

SHAPIRO:  “ — that only a worldly nobleman could have created such works of genius; Shakespeare, a glover’s son and money-lender, could never have done so.”

WHITTEMORE:  No, Professor, not so.  That is not what Looney argued and it’s not what any of us argue.  We look at the plain facts of life in London during that time; and we also look at what’s actually in the Shakespeare works – such as, to name two items, the author’s intimate knowledge of Italy and his use of Greek sources, both of which have been denied to Shakespeare by traditional scholars because (1) the Stratford man never went to Italy, as the Earl of Oxford did, and (2) those Greek sources were unavailable in England except in private libraries such as that of William Cecil Lord Burghley, who was first Oxford’s guardian and then his father-in-law.   (In fact, that may have been the only library with such source material.)  So, no – the argument has nothing to do with what you suggest, which, simply, is that Looney must have been a snob … and the rest of us, too.  No, that misstatement is just another attack on the messenger, just another attempt to divert attention from the message.

(Dear Reader, to tell you the truth, I don’t really enjoy arguing against false charges.  I’d much rather spend my time on the positive, that is, on reasons to conclude that Oxford wrote the Shakespeare works.  But the imminent arrival of Anonymous has triggered a full-scale attack, so we’ll continue our reply to the professor in upcoming blogs.)

Roland Emmerich Demolishes the Stratford Guy

Oh, this is a good one.  Ten Reasons Why the Stratford Man Did Not Write the Works of Shakespeare.  Congratulations to Roland Emmerich and all who put it together:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sponsored/entertainment/anonymous-movie/8811547/Roland-Emmerich-examines-the-arguments.html

 

Published in: Uncategorized on October 11, 2011 at 6:27 pm  Comments (5)  
Tags: , , , , , ,

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.

Reason No. 21 to Believe Oxford = “Shakespeare” – All That Suspicion and Jealousy!

When first learning about Edward de Vere and his relationship to “Shakespeare,” I was startled to see a letter written by his wife Anne Cecil in December 1581.  Oxford had flown into a rage over Court gossip in 1576 that he was not the father of the baby girl (Elizabeth Vere) to whom she had given birth the previous year when he was in Italy.  Besieged by doubts, and furious that the scandal had become “the fable of the world,” he separated from her and refused to acknowledge the child.

Othello and Desdemona

Now, five years later, they had begun to communicate again; and Anne wrote to him from the Westminster home of her father William Cecil Lord Burghley, pleading:

“My Lord – In what misery I may account myself to be, that neither can see any end thereof nor yet any hope to diminish it – and now of late having had some hope in my own conceit that your Lordship would have renewed some part of your favor that you began to show me this summer…”

I paused and wondered:  What does this remind me of?  Where did I hear something like this before?

“Now after long silence of hearing anything from you, at the length I am informed – but how truly I know not, and yet how uncomfortably I do not seek it – that your Lordship is entered into misliking of me without any cause in deed or thought.” 

The first quarto of "Othello" - 1622, one year before the First Folio of plays appeared

Well, yes, of course … Desdemona, wife of Othello…

“And therefore, my good Lord, I beseech you in the name of God, which knoweth all my thoughts and love towards you, let me know the truth of your meaning towards me, upon what cause you are moved to continue me in this misery, and what you would have me do in my power to recover your constant favor, so as your Lordship may not be led still to detain me in calamity without some probable cause, whereof, I appeal to God, I am utterly innocent.”

I had played the part of Cassio way back in college, but now the final scenes came back to me with sudden vividness … the way Desdemona was so baffled by Othello’s suspicions and accusations … how she begged him to reveal the torturous contents of his mind … how she was so helpless, in the face of his blind rage … how she was left to merely plead her innocence… plaintively telling Iago, the very manipulator who had roused Othello’s jealousy in the first place:

“Alas, Iago, what shall I do to win my lord again?  Good friend, go to him; for, by this light of heaven, I know not how I lost him.  Here I kneel: If e’er my will did trespass ‘gainst his love either in discourse of thought or actual deed … comfort forswear me!  Unkindness may do much, and his unkindness may defeat my life, but never taint my love.”

Yes, I thought … Anne Cecil could have been saying the same words…

If Oxford was Shakespeare, I mused, then Anne’s statement “I am utterly innocent” from the depths of her heart echoes in the play when, after Othello strangles Desdemona to death, Iago’s wife Emilia shouts at him: “Nay, lay thee down and roar, for thou hast killed the sweetest innocent that e’er did lift up eye!”  And later, when Iago stabs Emilia, she cries to  Othello again before dying: “Moor, she was chaste!  She loved thee, cruel Moor!”

Suspicion and jealousy run through other Shakespearean plays such as Much Ado About Nothing and The Winter’s Tale.  Hamlet turns on his fiancé Ophelia, distrusting her and complaining that “the power of beauty will sooner transform honesty from what it is to a bawd than the force of honesty can translate beauty into his likeness.”  The prince is coming unglued, with young Ophelia crying out, “O what a noble mind is here o’erthrown!”

“Good my Lord,” Anne Cecil wrote to Edward de Vere again in December 1581, “assure yourself it is you whom only I love and fear, and so am desirous above all the world to please you…”

She died less than seven years later, at the much-too-young age of thirty-one, having suffered emotional strains that we can only imagine.  Oxford had had his complaints about Anne acting too much on her father’s side, much as Hamlet reacts to Ophelia’s spying on him for her father; but on the other side of the coin, he may well have blamed himself for his wife’s early death.  Once the earl is viewed at the great author, he may be seen drawing upon these upheavals in his own life, including his remorse, for his portrayals of Desdemona’s plight and Ophelia’s madness followed by her apparent suicide.

Ophelia as played by Helena Bonham-Carter in the Franco Zeffirelli film of "Hamlet" in 1990

When Hamlet sees her brother Laertes leap into her grave, he holds nothing back:  “What is he whose grief bears such an emphasis?  Whose phrase of sorrow conjures the wand’ring stars and makes them stand like wonder-wounded hearers?  This is I, Hamlet the Dane!”  He leaps into the grave with Laertes; and after they nearly fight: “I loved Ophelia!  Forty thousand brothers could not, with all their quantity of love, make up my sum!”

The prince’s grief and anger, his mixture of rage and guilt, are all palpable as he challenges Laertes: “What wilt thou do for her? … Woo’t weep?  Woo’t fight?  Woo’t fast?  Woo’t tear thyself?  Woo’t drink up eisell?  Eat a crocodile?  I’ll do’t!  Dost thou come here to whine?  To outface me with leaping in her grave? … Nay … I’ll rant as well as thou!”

During the final scene of that long-ago college production of Othello, I never failed to experience a wave of gut-wrenching emotion as the Moor begs for any crumbs of sympathy or empathy before taking his own life:

“Soft you; a word or two before you go.  I have done the state some service, and they know’t – no more of that,” he says, and we might well hear Oxford himself, speaking of his own service to the state as a playwright and patron of writers as well as acting companies that performed around the countryside to rouse national unity against the coming Spanish invasion by armada – which England survived in the summer of 1588, just a few months after Anne Cecil’s death.

“I pray you,” Othello continues, “in your letters, when you shall these unlucky deeds relate, speak of me as I am, nothing extenuate, nor set down aught in malice.  Then must you speak of one that loved not wisely but too well; of one not easily jealous but, being wrought, perplexed in the extreme; of one whose hand, like the base Indian, threw a pearl away richer than all his tribe; of one whose subdued eyes, albeit unused to the melting mood*, drop tears as fast as the Arabian trees their medicinable gum…”

I believe we are listening to Edward de Vere expressing his own measureless sorrow over the wreckages of his past – another reason to believe he was the man “Shakespeare” who had written The Tragedy of Othello printed for the first time in 1622.

 * “One whose subdued eyes, unused to the melting mood” is echoed when Oxford speaks personally in Sonnet 30:  “Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow…”

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