“Last Will. & Testament” to be Launched in the United Kingdom

First Folio Pictures has announced that the Shakespeare authorship documentary Last Will. & Testament is scheduled to air in the United Kingdom on Saturday 21 April 2012 at 8:00pm on Sky Arts 2 HD.  Congratulations, folks!  Special hoorays for producer-directors Lisa Wilson and Laura Wilson Matthias … and Aaron Boyd!

Here’s some of the promotional copy:

Was Will Shakspere, the grain dealer from Stratford, really the literary icon we celebrate today?

The traditional story of a Stratford merchant writing for the London stage has held sway for centuries, but questions over the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays and poems have persisted. 

Why is there no definitive evidence of authorship that dates from his lifetime? And why are there discrepancies between the alleged author’s life and the content of his work? 

Writers and critics, actors and scholars, including Mark Twain, Sigmund Freud, Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, Leslie Howard, and Derek Jacobi, have struggled to reconcile England’s ‘Star of Poets’ with the glove maker’s son from Stratford. 

In Last Will. & Testament Sir Derek Jacobi leads a host of actors, academics and historians on a hunt for the truth: who was William Shakespeare?

Time’s glory is to calm contending kings,

To unmask falsehood and bring truth to light.

– William Shakespeare

The Rape of Lucrece 

Act One explores the orthodox story of William “Shakspere” of Stratford and the long-standing views held by academia.

Act Two 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.

Act Three weaves together the major historical events of the late Tudor era, including the crisis of succession and the Essex revolt.


Sir Derek Jacobi, Actor
Charles Beauclerk, Author of Shakespeare’s Lost Kingdom
Prof. Roger Stritmatter, PhD, Coppin State University
Vanessa Redgrave, Actor
Prof. Jonathan Bate, CBE, Oxford University
Prof. Stanley Wells, CBE, Honorary President of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
Diana Price, Author of Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography: New Evidence of an Authorship Problem
Assoc. Prof. Michael Delahoyde, Washington State University
Dr William Leahy, Brunel University
Prof. Daniel Wright, Director – Shakespeare Authorship Research Centre, Concordia University
Mark Rylance, Actor
Bill Boyle, librarian at New England Shakespeare Oxford Library
Jon Culverhouse, Curator of Collections & Conservation at Burghley House
G. J. Meyer, Author of The Tudors
Michael Cecil, 8th Marquess of Exeter (descendant of Elizabethan statesman William Cecil, Lord Burghley)
Hank Whittemore, Author of The Monument – a 900-page edition of Shakespeare’s sonnets

One Reason Why Henry Lord Southampton is Prince Tudor, the Unacknowledged King Henry IX of England


“But it is in the sonnets that we must look for the true key to the Shakespeare mystery.” 

— Louis P. Benezet, Shakspere, Shakespeare and De Vere, 1937

The idea that an ordinary Elizabethan poet, much less William Shakspere of Stratford, could promise “immortal life” to Henry Wriothesley the third earl of Southampton, is absurd.  Nor could Shakspere demand of the young but already powerful peer, “Make thee another self for love of me.”  The idea that he could have written those words is ridiculous.  For starters, Southampton would have run his sword through the author’s guts.

Henry, Lord Southampton, the Prince Tudor (1573-1624)

Of course, many traditional (Stratfordian) commentators have seen and accepted the decisive evidence of Southampton as the so-called Fair Youth of the Sonnets; and that acceptance, in turn, should have led them to the obvious conclusion that the author could not have been the Stratford man and must have been someone else. 

Nothing of the sort happened, however, and the reason has to do with the power of unquestioned assumptions to force rational men and women into holding irrational conclusions.   Ah, but such is also the case for perhaps the majority of Oxfordians, many of whom have been overwhelmed by vicious taunts and jeers against the so-called Prince Tudor theory that Southampton was the natural son of Oxford and Queen Elizabeth.  When these same Oxfordians are so self-righteously censoring Stratfordians such as Stephen Greenblatt and James Shapiro for their emotionally unbalanced attacks on anti-Stratfordians, they fail to notice their own emotionally unbalanced attacks on Oxfordians who are Prince Tudor theorists.

Let us assume for the moment that we agree about Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford writing in the Fair Youth series of Sonnets 1-126 to Southampton, to whom he promises:  “Your praise shall still find room/ Even in the eyes of all posterity/ That wear this world out to the ending doom” (55) and also, “Your name from hence immortal life shall have” (81).

Southampton in the Tower (1601-1603)

What does he mean by this?

Many or even most Oxfordians will tell you he simply means that Southampton’s name, on the dedications to him of Venus and Adonis of 1593 and Lucrece of 1594, will live forever because of its unique association with “Shakespeare,” who never dedicated anything to anyone else.  But I disagree with this conclusion, for reasons that follow.

In the first place, we are looking at the matter from the vantage point of more than 400 years later, when we can testify to the observable fact that anything connected to “Shakespeare” is immortal; and therefore we think, “Oh, well, he made that promise to Southampton because he knew his written words would live forever.”

I say no — no, that is not what’s going on here.  The great author is not merely boasting about his own literary and dramatic works, immortal though they surely are.  He’s not just thumping his chest about the projected ability of his poems, plays and sonnets to keep Southampton’s name/life alive in the mouths of men.   Whenever the young earl would have read those private promises made to him in the Sonnets, he would not have given a fig for such reasons; that is not the kind of fame he or any nobleman of that time would have valued.

He also would not have valued being immortal because he was physically “fair” or beautiful.  Forget about it!  And he certainly would not have wanted eternal memory in the eyes of posterity because of any love affairs he had had with either women or men, Oxford included.  Forget about it!

What Oxford was promising Southampton in terms of immortality is made absolutely clear in the Sonnets themselves – when he addresses him over and over as a prince or king of royal blood.  The matter is secret; it must be buried; but if these private sonnets do manage to survive in the distant future, it will then be known to all that Southampton deserved by blood to be King Henry IX.

This, I submit, is the only possible reason for Oxford’s promise to him of eternal life.  I have filled The Monument and also Shakespeare’s Son and His Sonnets with how Oxford unequivocally and explicitly addresses Southampton as a prince, so here I’ll offer just example with Sonnet 10, Line 11: “Be as thy presence is, gracious and kind” –– which, I contend, can only be addressed to a prince or king.

Here is some of its treatment in The Monument:

Sonnet 10, Line 11:


“Act according to your stature as a Prince, full of royal grace as the natural son of the Queen.”

PRESENCE = Kingly presence; (“Come I appellant to this princely presence” – Richard II, 1.1. 34; “And sent to warn them to his royal presence” – Richard III, 1.3.39; “Worst in this royal presence may I speak” – Richard II, 4.1.115; “I will avouch’t in presence of the King” – Richard III, 1.3.115; “The tender love I bear your Grace, my lord, makes me most forward in this princely presence” – Richard III, 3.4.63-64; “Loud shouts and salutations from their mouths, even in the presence of the crowned King; thus did I keep my person fresh and new, my presence, like a robe pontifical, ne’er seen but wondered at” – the King in 1 Henry IV, 3.2.53-57; “What’s he approacheth boldly to our presence?” – King Lewis in 3 Henry VI, 3.3.44)

GRACIOUS = Filled with royal (divine) grace, as in “your Grace” above; “Accept this scroll, most gracious sovereign” – 1 Henry VI, 3.1.149; “Great King of England, and my gracious lord” – 2 Henry VI, 1.1.24; “I come with gracious offers from the King” – 1 Henry IV, 4.3.30; “My gracious sovereign” – Richard II, 1.1.21; “I hold my duty as I hold my soul, both to my God and to my gracious King” – Hamlet, 2.2.44-45; “You have a daughter called Elizabeth, virtuous and fair, royal and gracious” – Richard III, 4.4.204-205

“So gracious and virtuous a sovereign” –Oxford to Robert Cecil,May 7, 1603

My verse alone had all thy gentle grace,

But now my gracious numbers are decayed                 Sonnet 79, lines 2-3

KIND = Natural, related by nature, as a child of Elizabeth and the bearer of her blood; (“Belonging to one by birth: lawful, rightful – 1570 … of persons: rightful heir, etc., 1589 – OED); “There she lost a noble and renowned brother, in his love toward her ever most kind and natural” – Measure for Measure, 3.1.218-220; “A little more than kin, and less than kind” – Hamlet, 1.2.65; “Shall kin with kin, and kind with kind, confound” – Richard II, 4.1.141; “Disclaiming here the kindred of the king, and lay aside my high blood’s royalty” – Richard II, 1.1.70-71; “The King is kind” – 1 Henry IV, 4.3.52; “My lord and sovereign, and thy vowed friend, I come, in kindness and unfeigned love, first, to do greetings to thy royal person” – 3 Henry VI, 3.3.50-52

“In all kindness and kindred” –Oxford to Robert Cecil, May 1601

Kind is my love today, tomorrow kind…

Fair, kind, and true, is all my argument,

Fair, kind, and true, varying to other words                    Sonnet 105, lines 5, 9-10

(Fair= royal son; Kind = natural child of the Queen; True = rightful heir & related to Oxford, who is Nothing Truer than Truth)

“Anonymous” Triggering the Great Shakespeare War! Shots Fired from the Professor! The Director is Firing Back!

Well, now, the Great Bard War is shaping up fast!  On one side is director Roland Emmerich, whose upcoming movie ANONYMOUS (Oct 28) is triggering attacks from behind the barricades of tradition, with Professor James Shapiro on the attack in this morning’s New York Times on the Op Ed page.

Hank Whittemore and Roland Emmerich

These are photos of yours truly with each of these fellows, on the eve of what I now predict will be a huge “game changer” when it comes to our perceptions of Shakespeare and the Elizabethan age … as students all over the world rush to corner their teachers and professors, demanding to know what they haven’t been told about Edward de Vere 17th Earl of Oxford and the relationship of his life and the works of Shakespeare — and, folks, there’s a real and specific relationship, a factual one, right on the record … which has been kept from students and even from teachers and scholars!

Look forward to this blog answering Shapiro point by point…


Hank Whittemore and James Shapiro

Reason No. 23 to Believe Oxford = Shakespeare: Those “Haggards” That Fly From Man to Man

Before 1920, when J.T. Looney was searching for the true Shakespeare, he opened an anthology of sixteenth-century verse and looked for any poems in the stanza form that Shakespeare employed for Venus and Adonis.  The stanza in that narrative poem had six lines, each of ten syllables, with a rhyme scheme using a quatrain [a-b-a-b] followed by a couplet [c-c] … for example, the opening stanza:

Even as the sun with purple-colored face [a]

Had ta’en his last leave of the weeping morn, [b]

Rose-cheeked Adonis hied him to the chase; [a]

Hunting he loved, but love he laughed to scorn. [b]

Sick-thoughted Venus makes amain unto him, [c]

And like a bold-faced suitor ‘gins to woo him. [c]

Poems having this kind of stanza were “much fewer than I had anticipated,” Looney recalled; and he found just two that could have come from the same hand that wrote the Shakespearean verse.  One was anonymous, leaving only a poem about “Women” by Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, with this opening stanza:

If women would be fair and yet not fond, [a]

Or that their love were firm not fickle still, [b]

I would not marvel that they make men bond, [a]

By service long to purchase their good will: [b]

But when I see how frail these creatures are, [c]

I muse that men forget themselves so far.  [c]

Oxford’s verse stood out, conveying “a sense of its harmony with Shakespeare’s work” in terms of “diction, succinctness, cohesion and unity.”

What then caught Looney’s attention was Oxford’s use of “haggard” – a wild or imperfectly trained hawk or falcon — as a metaphor for “fickle” women in his second stanza:

Queen Elizabeth and her attendants out hawking -- Her Majesty is riding side-saddle; the man at left has just released his hawk, while above a hawk is bringing down a bird

To mark the choice they make and how they change,

How oft from Phoebus do they cleave to Pan,

Unsettled still like haggards wild they range,

These gentle birds that fly from man to man:

Who would not scorn and shake them from his fist

And let them fly (fair fools) which way they list?

In the several places where Shakespeare uses “haggards” he almost always employs it as a figure of speech referring to wild, untamed, fickle women.  In Oxford’s poem it refers to women who “fly from man to man,” a sentiment identical to Shakespeare’s use of the word in Othello:

“If I do prove her haggard, though that her jesses were my dear heart strings, I’d whistle her off and let her down the wind to play at fortune.”  [3.3.263]

As Ren Draya and Richard F. Whalen report in their edition of Othello from an Oxfordian perspective, the Moor’s speech is “an extended metaphor from falconry, the sport of aristocrats.”

[Haggard = “a young female hawk captured after getting its adult plumage, hence still wild, untamed”; Jesses = “leather straps tied to the legs of a hawk and attached to a leash”; “Whistle her off … down the wind” = to send her off the way a hawk is “usually sent off upwind to take flight and pursue prey, but downwind when turned loose because it’s not performing well.”]

Further striking parallels in Shakespeare are to be found in the third and final stanza of Oxford’s poem:

Yet for disport we fawn and flatter both,

To pass the time when nothing else can please,

And train them to our lure with subtle oath,

Till, weary of their wiles, ourselves we ease;

And then we say, when we their fancy try,

To play with fools, O what a fool was I. 

[The “lure” was a decoy bird made of feathers, with some flesh attached.]

A falconer in the sixteenth century

The Taming of the Shrew contains the same idea when Petruchio speaks of himself as a falconer training his wife Kate as a falcon who needs to be kept hungry (or less than “full-gorged”), so she’ll continue to follow his lure: 

“My falcon now is sharp and passing empty, and till she stoop she must not be full-gorged, for then she never looks upon her lure.  Another way I have to man my haggard, to make her come and know her keeper’s call, that is, to watch her, as we watch these kites that bate and beat and will not be obedient.” [4.1.176]

[Kitesbirds of prey, such as the falcon; to bate = to beat down and weaken, although she still won’t obey.]

Just as Oxford writes of men using “subtle oaths” (while “fawning and flattering”) as lures or bait to “train” women to their wills, Hero in Much Ado About Nothing speaks of “the false sweet bait that we lay” for Beatrice, of whom he says, “I know her spirits are as coy and wild as haggards of the rock.” (3.1.32-36)

Coming back full-circle, Venus and Adonis, contains an example Looney failed to mention, with Shakespeare writing of the goddess: “As falcons to the lure, away she flies…”

“What we have in this instance, as a matter of fact,” Looney wrote, “is a complete accordance at all points in the use of an unusual word and figure of speech.  Indeed if we make a piece of patchwork of all the passages in Shakespeare in which the word ‘haggard’ occurs we can reconstruct De Vere’s single poem on ‘Women.’  

“Such an agreement not only supports us in seeking to establish the general harmony of De Vere’s work with Shakespeare’s, but carries us beyond the immediate needs of our argument – for it constrains us to claim that either both sets of expression are actually from the same pen, or ‘Shakespeare’ pressed that license to borrow (which was prevalent in his day) far beyond its legitimate limits.  In our days we should not hesitate to describe such passages as glaring plagiarism, unless they happen to come from the same pen.”

Sonnet 91 speaks of hawks, hounds and horses; and if the Sonnets are autobiographical (and I have no doubt that they are), then we are hearing the voice of a nobleman spontaneously referring to various aspects of his everyday world:

Some glory in their birth, some in their skill,

Some in their wealth, some in their body’s force,

Some in their garments, though new-fangled ill,

Some in their hawks and hounds, some in their horse…

[Later in this sonnet the poet blurts out to the Earl of Southampton, “Thy love is better than high birth to me.”  Well, now, if Will of Stratford wrote that sonnet to Southampton, that high-born young lord would have retorted: “You, a base commoner, are offering to give up ‘high birth’ for me?  Even though you have no such high birth to sacrifice in the first place?  How dare you insult me by offering to give up what you don’t have?!”   Then the earl would have run his sword through him.  No … the Earl of Oxford writes in Sonnet 91 about his own high birth as hereditary Lord Great Chamberlain of England, saying he would give all that up for Southampton.

“Masters, you are all welcome,” Prince Hamlet exclaims to the players, spontaneously adding, “We’ll e’en to’t like French falconers, fly at anything we see!”

“Hst! Romeo, hist!” Julliet calls out.  “O for a falconer’s voice to lure this tassel-gentle back again!”

A falcon swooping down...

One of the most terrifying stanzas in The Rape of Lucrece portrays the rapist Tarquin as a falcon circling above his helpless prey:

This said, he shakes aloft his Roman blade,

Which, like a falcon towering in the skies,

Coucheth the  fowl below with his wings’ shade,

Whose crooked beak threats if he mount he dies;

So under his insulting falchion lies

Harmless Lucretia, marking what he tells

With trembling fear, as fowl hear falcons’ bells. [505-511]

(Coucheth the fowl = causing the bird to hug the ground; falchion = sword; marking = listening to; falcons’ bells = in hawking or falconry, bells were attached to the hawks or falcons.)

There’s no question that the Earl of Oxford was an expert falconer.  So was the author known as Shakespeare.  

On “Anonymous” Panel with Roland Emmerich

Hank on the Panel with Roland Emmerich (to our left) after the “Anonymous” advance premier in Portland, Oregon:


Here’s a “Smoking Gun” that brings together Edward de Vere (Oxford) and Henry Wriothesley (Southampton) in the Context of the 1601-1603 Aftermath of the Essex Rebellion

I’d like to present a document that brings together Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford and Henry Wriothesley  Earl of Southampton within the context of the Essex Rebellion of February 1601 and its aftermath until the death of Elizabeth and the succession of James in March 1603.  I consider it a “smoking gun” in terms of evidence of a relationship between them in connection with those events and that time period – supporting the context put forth and expanded within THE MONUMENT, my edition of the Sonnets (and its companion synopsis-volume SHAKESPEARE’S SON and HIS SONNETS, not to mention ANONYMOUS, the forthcoming movie from Roland Emmerich, due for general release October 28th.

The document is Anagrammata in Nomina Illustrissimorum Heroum (1603) By Francis Davison – published online by the Philological Museum by Dana F. Sutton.

The Anagrammata was a single-page broadsheet with anagrams & epigrams on the names of the following lords: Thomas Egerton, Charles Howard, Thomas Sackville, Chrarles Blunt, John Fortescue, Gilbert Talbot, Henry Percy, Edward de Vere and Henry Wriothesley.

The work was compiled partially during the time of Southampton’s imprisonment in the Tower [1601-1603] and completed after the queen’s death on March 24, 1603.  It was published later the same year. The anagrams/epigrams for Oxford and Southampton are presented ninth and tenth, respectively, as the final two lords.

“In general,” Professor Sutton writes, “the epigrams are fairly predictable exercises in courtly flattery.  A couple, however, may merit more consideration.  The one addressed to Oxford congratulates him on his non-involvement in the Essex Rebellion.  One wonders why Davison thought this necessary.  Even more curious is the one for Southampton, which explicitly states that he had been convicted of treason on false testimony inspired by envy.”


“Though by your zeal, Fortune, you keep perfidy’s murmurs and schemings at a distance, nonetheless I learn (at which my mind and ear quake) that our bodies have been deafened with respect to evil affairs. Indeed, I perceive men who come close to Catiline in deception, freeing other men’s fates by their death.”


“Justly you were able to pour forth this complaint from your mouth; your lot was harsh while a false accusation prevailed. “Lo, Theseus is guilty of nothing; here I fall by an unfair lot’s censure, betrayed by envy’s whim.” But now the complaint is to be altered, because of altered perils. Great man, do you take a fall with an innocent heart bearing witness?  Not at all.  The heir, wielding the scepter of rule conferred under Jove’s auspices, grants you to live free of this care.”

I submit that THE MONUMENT and its synopsis-book SHAKESPEARE’S SON AND HIS SONNETS contain the explanation that Professor Sutton is seeking.  No, it’s not “proof” of the Monument Theory of the Sonnets, but there’s no question that it brings Oxford and Southampton together in connection with the post-Essex Rebellion history.

THE MONUMENT attempts to demonstrate that the Sonnets tell the following story:  Upon the failure of the Essex Rebellion of February 8, 1601, followed by the sentencing of Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton to death for high treason, Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford made a bargain with Secretary Robert Cecil in order to save Southampton’s life.  Essex was executed six days after the trial.  Oxford’s aim was to spare Southampton from execution and gain the promise of his release upon the succession of King James of Scotland as King of England.  Once liberated, Southampton would regain all his lands and titles and receive a royal pardon, freeing him from the threat of being re-arrested for the same crime.  But the outcome of the deal depended on Cecil’s ability to bring James to the throne, so Oxford had no choice but to help him.  In effect, he was blackmailed.

One way Oxford may have helped is by becoming “40” in the secret correspondence between Cecil and James, behind Elizabeth’s back.  Also, shortly before the Queen’s death, he apparently acted to test Lord Lincoln’s loyalty to James.  In addition, having adopted the pen name “Shakespeare” in 1593, Oxford now agreed to take another step – to bury his identity in relation to Southampton after his death and for generations to come:  “I may nevermore acknowledge thee … My name be buried where my body is,” he testifies in Sonnets 36 and 72.

The Southampton Prince Tudor Theory is that, in addition, Oxford and Southampton agreed to bury their father-son relationship; and that Southampton agreed to forfeit any claim to the crown as the natural heir of Queen Elizabeth.   [Two Oxfordians who oppose the Southampton Prince Tudor Theory, Nina Green and Christopher Paul, are thanked by Dana Sutton for suggesting that the Philological Museum include Davison’s Anagrammata.]


Davison was the son of William Davison, whom Elizabeth had blamed for transmitting the warrant for execution of Mary Queen of Scots.  W. Davison and his family were ruined.  Upon the death of Secretary Francis Walsingham in 1590, Essex urged Elizabeth to name W. Davison to replace him.  The post was left vacant until 1596, when the queen gave it to Robert Cecil.

In a work in which every element has a potential or actual meaning beyond what is on the surface, Davison deliberately placed Edward de Vere and Henry Wriothesley one after the other.   As stated above, such placement lends support to the theory of THE MONUMENT that, as expressed in the Sonnets, Oxford and Southampton were linked together at this crucial time.


Catiline: Lucius Sergius Catilina (108 BC – 62 BC), known in English as Catiline, was a Roman politician of the 1st century BC who is best known for the Catiline conspiracy, an attempt to overthrow the Roman Republic, and in particular the power of the aristocratic Senate.  [The name of Catiline was invoked in relation to Essex and his supporters at the joint treason trial of him and Southampton on February 19, 1601.]

“Freeing Other Men’s Fates by Their Deaths” – the final words of the epigram to Oxford could refer to Essex as one who went to his death in order to give Southampton a chance to live; but this epigram is for Oxford and therefore, I submit, it more likely refers to the bargain Oxford made with Cecil to figuratively die, as in Sonnet 81: “I, once gone, to all the world must die.”


Theseus:  the mythical founder-king of Athens, son of Aethra, and fathered by Aegeus and Poseidon, both of whom Aethra had slept with in one night. Theseus was a founder-hero, like Perseus, Cadmus, or Heracles, all of whom battled and overcame foes that were identified with an archaic religious and social order.

“False Accusation … Betrayed by Envy’s Whim” – perhaps refers to Cecil betraying Southampton by falsely accusing him of trying to overthrow Elizabeth and kill her.

“The Heir, Wielding the Scepter of Rule” – appears to refer to King James, who ordered the release of Southampton; but, given the Prince Tudor Theory that Henry Wriothesley was the natural heir of Elizabeth and deserved to become King Henry IX, such language is certainly tantalizing and even, one might say, provocative.

“Shakespeare-Oxford” Books by Whittemore now on Kindle

I’m pleased to announce that the following books are now available on the KINDLE format — and  can be viewed for free at KINDLE FOR PC — a service from Amazon that I hadn’t known about until recently: THE MONUMENT ... SHAKESPEARE’S SON AND HIS SONNETS

… and SHAKE-SPEARE’S TREASON [script of the one-man show by me and Ted Story] …

A Flyer for the Show

First Movie Poster for “Anonymous”

Here’s a look at the first poster for Anonymous, the film by Roland Emmerich about Edward de Vere as Shakespeare, due in theaters September 3o, 2011…

One official description reads:

Set in the political snake-pit of Elizabethan England, Anonymous speculates on an issue that has for centuries intrigued academics and brilliant minds ranging from Mark Twain and Charles Dickens to Henry James and Sigmund Freud, namely: who was the author of the plays credited to William Shakespeare? Experts have debated, books have been written, and scholars have devoted their lives to protecting or debunking theories surrounding the authorship of the most renowned works in English literature. Anonymous poses one possible answer, focusing on a time when cloak-and-dagger political intrigue, illicit romances in the Royal Court, and the schemes of greedy nobles hungry for the power of the throne were exposed in the most unlikely of places: the London stage.

Two Short Video Clips of “Shakespeare’s Treason”

(Performance at Flathead Community College in Kalispell, Montana, arranged by Professor Brian Bechtold.)


No, Jim, You Can’t Take Away Those Pirates! – Reason No. 5 of 100 Why I Believe Oxford was “Shakespeare”

When James Shapiro came to the Epilogue of his book Contested Will, written to try to block the inevitable tide of doubt about the traditional identification of “Shakespeare,” he described his experience at a performance I gave of my one-man show Shake-speare’s Treason (based on my book The Monument) at the Globe playhouse  in London.  “It was a spellbinding performance,” he wrote, adding that he “found it all both impressive and demoralizing” — because, of course, he wants you to think that any account of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford as the author of Shake-speare’s Sonnets must be pure fiction.  And he went on:

“I left the Globe wondering what mainstream biographers might say in response to Oxfordians who insist that Edward de Vere had a stronger claim to have written Hamlet and King Lear, since — unlike the glover’s son from Stratford — he had been captured by pirates and had three daughters.”

Okay, wait a minute, hold on, Jim!  What exactly are you trying to say here?

A Warship of the 16th Century

A Warship of the 16th Century

No, no, you can’t take away those pirates, just as you can’t erase the fact that the earl, like King Lear, had three daughters!

Let me put it this way.  If the glover’s son from Stratford had been stopped by pirates in real life, by now we’d have whole shelves filled with books with titles such as:

Trauma on the High Seas: How The Bard’s Capture by Pirates Affected His Writing Life & His Play about Hamlet …

Shakespeare’s Fateful Encounter With the Pirates: A Profound Turning Point in His Psyche and Work …

Shakespeare’s Pirate Complex: The Cause of His Tragic Phase?

Shakespeare & The Pirates: A Love-Hate Relationship?

Edward de Vere as Lord Great Chamberlain, carrying the Sword of State before Queen Elizabeth I of England

Although this was just one event among many in Edward de Vere’s life that correspond in some way with what we find in the “Shakespeare” plays, Oxfordians have done little more than mention, in passing, its similarity to Hamlet’s experience.  It’s just one more example of something in Oxford’s life resembling what can be found in the plays.

Does Shapiro think Oxford’s capture and release by Dutch pirates in the English Channel should be a liability, in terms of evidence that he wrote Hamlet?  Does the professor want to twist it all around, turning a positive into a negative?

The episode in Hamlet comes from “Shakespeare” himself, as a writer, not from any of the play’s recognized sources, Mark Anderson reports in his terrific Oxford biography “Shakespeare” By Another Name.  The pirates intercepted and boarded Oxford’s ship in 1576, as he was returning to England from his sixteen-month tour of France, Germany and (primarily) Italy.  They stripped the ship clean.

“De Vere’s luggage was ransacked, and the pirates even took the clothes from the earl’s back,” Anderson writes.  The French ambassador reported that Oxford was “left naked, stripped to his shirt, treated miserably” and he might have lost his life “if he hadn’t been recognized by a Scotsman.”

Model of an Elizabethan Galleon

A member of Oxford’s entourage, Nathaniel Baxter, recalled the pirate episode in a poem published in 1606, writing:

Naked we landed out of Italy/ Enthralled by pirates, men of no regard/ Horror and death assailed nobility” — and Hamlet writes to King Claudius about the encounter: “High and Mighty, you shall know I am set naked on your kingdom.”  (My emphases)

I suppose that same use of naked is just “coincidental”…

There’s an interesting debate over whether Hamlet had previously arranged his own brush with the pirates, so he could escape being murdered by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as per the king’s orders.  In any case, the prince writes to Horatio:

“Ere we were two days old at sea, a pirate of very warlike appointment gave us chase.  Finding ourselves too slow of sail, we put on a compelled valor, and in the grapple I boarded them.  On the instant they got clear of our ship, so I alone became their prisoner.  They have dealt with me like thieves of mercy, but they knew what they did; I am to do a good turn for them.”


The prince, like Oxford, had been bound for England; now he turns back to Denmark while Rosencrantz and Guildenstern “hold their course for England,” where, because Hamlet has craftily switched the written orders, they will be killed instead of him.

Professor Shapiro argues against any attempt to turn the Shakespeare plays into works of autobiography, but that’s a straw man he’s setting up in order to knock it down.  Of course Hamlet is not strict autobiography; no one ever claimed such a thing.  The real point, which Shapiro wants his readers to miss, is that the best novelists and dramatists tend to draw upon their personal experiences and then to transmute them, through imagination and skill, into fictional art forms.  It’s not a matter of having to choose between reality and invention; all great art is a blend of both.

Shapiro concedes that “we know almost nothing about [Shakspere’s] personal experiences” and, therefore, “those moments in his work which build upon what he may have felt remain invisible to us.”  And given this vacuum within the documented Stratfordian biography, he boldly [and recklessly] declares that all attempts to link the life of “Shakespeare” with his works should hereby cease!  He means not only such attempts by Oxfordians but also by Stratfordians — especially the latter, since these efforts have always failed and will fail even more glaringly in the future, as the authorship question is brought increasingly into the open.

Oh – I almost forgot: Oxford was targeted by pirates in the Channel not once but twice, i.e., not only in 1576 but also in 1585, when he returned from Holland and his brief command [with Colonel John Norris] of 4,000 foot soldiers and 400 horse.  But after receiving a letter from Burghley that he’d been placed in command of the Horse, he was summoned back home [to be replaced by Philip Sidney, who would die on the battlefield a year later]; and according to one report a ship carrying Oxford’s “money, apparel, wine and venison” was “captured off Dunkirk by the Spaniards.”

Among Oxford’s belongings captured by the Spaniards, according to the report, was the letter from Burghley telling him of the Horse command; and as Anderson notes, “Hamlet contains not only an encounter with pirates but also an analogous plot twist involving suborned letters at sea.”

So, professor, the pirates are here to stay.  They certainly aren’t proof that Oxford wrote the play, but I put them here as my No. 5 of 100 reasons why I believe the earl was “Shakespeare” — and as just another piece of evidence that “authorship” really does matter.

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