The French Connection: Re-posting No. 33 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford

No less than five Shakespeare plays are set at least partly in France: King John, Henry V, Henry VI, Pt. 1, All’s Well That Ends Well and Love’s Labour’s Lost.  Would most playwrights deliberately set a play in France if they had never been there?

In Henry V the entirety of Act 3, scene 4, is set within the French king’s palace and consists of French dialogue between Princess Katherine and Alice, the lady attending on her. Some of it is “vulgar” French.

Young Oxford would have learned all about the Vere family and its French origin (the name apparently derived from Ver, near Bayeux) as well as about its founder, Aubrey de Vere, who had come into England with William the Conqueror in 1066, five centuries earlier.  Edward would have learned to read, write and speak French at a very early age, perhaps in the household of Sir Thomas Smith, where he apparently was sent at age four.

Following are fragments of recorded information:

The letter in French written by 13-year-old Edward de Vere to Sir William Cecil, master of the royal wards, in August 1563. (CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VIEW)

— When de Vere had entered Cecil House, the printed “Orders for the Earl of Oxford’s Exercises” prescribed a daily routine that included two hours of French studies, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.  In a letter dated 23 August 1563, the thirteen-year-old boy wrote a letter to Cecil entirely in French; six years later, Oxford ordered books that included “Plutarch’s works in French” as well as works in Italian and English.

Henry III of France (1551-1589)

— The earl was twenty-four in February 1575 when he and his retinue arrived in Paris, where he was entertained at the French court by the royal family: Henry III, Catherine de Medici (the Queen Mother) and Marguerite de Valois. The English ambassador in Paris, Valentine Dale, wrote Burghley on 7 March of having “presented my Lord of Oxford unto the French King and Queen, who used him honorably.” He added that “amongst other talk the King asked whether he was married.  I said he had a fair lady.  ‘Il y a donce ce,’ dit-il [he says], ‘un beau couple.’

— After Oxford had left Paris for Strasburg, the ambassador again wrote to Burghley: “I will assure your Lordship unfeignedly my Lord of Oxford used himself as orderly and moderately as might be desired, and with great commendation, neither is there any appearance of the likelihood of any other.”  So we have Oxford as a young man at the French royal court, speaking fluent French with the royal family; and in fact his entire life as a nobleman was involved with matters related to France, such as the tumultuous marriage negotiations during the 1570s and early 1580s, when Elizabeth carried on the public fiction that she would wed Alencon.

Map of Paris – 1575

— At the end of Sonnet 73, which proceeds from autumn to winter in the poet’s life, the final couplet reads (with my emphasis):

This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,

To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

The phrase “leave ere” in the last line is the exact sound of l’hiver, French for “winter,” and simultaneously it plays upon Oxford’s own name, Ver — the way  The Winter’s Tale, translated into French, is L’Compte de l’hiver, the account or “tale” of Winter, or Vere. In addition, the similar-sounding French work “Comte” denotes the rank of Count in France, which is the equivalent of the English rank of Earl.

[NOTE: This reason is now number 54 of 100 Reasons Shakespeare was the Earl of Oxford (2016). As re-posted here, it reflects the invaluable work of editor Alex McNeil and the editorial help of Brian Bechtold.]

Here is Act 3, scene four of Henry V:

KATHARINE Alice, tu as ete en Angleterre, et tu parles bien le langage.
ALICE Un peu, madame.
KATHARINE Je te prie, m’enseignez: il faut que j’apprenne a parler. Comment appelez-vous la main en Anglois?
ALICE La main? elle est appelee de hand.
KATHARINE De hand. Et les doigts?
ALICE Les doigts? ma foi, j’oublie les doigts; mais je me
souviendrai. Les doigts? je pense qu’ils sont
appeles de fingres; oui, de fingres.
KATHARINE La main, de hand; les doigts, de fingres. Je pense
que je suis le bon ecolier; j’ai gagne deux mots
d’Anglois vitement. Comment appelez-vous les ongles?
ALICE Les ongles? nous les appelons de nails.
KATHARINE De nails. Ecoutez; dites-moi, si je parle bien: de
hand, de fingres, et de nails.
ALICE C’est bien dit, madame; il est fort bon Anglois.
KATHARINE Dites-moi l’Anglois pour le bras.
ALICE De arm, madame.
KATHARINE Et le coude?
ALICE De elbow.
KATHARINE De elbow. Je m’en fais la repetition de tous les
mots que vous m’avez appris des a present.
ALICE Il est trop difficile, madame, comme je pense.
KATHARINE Excusez-moi, Alice; ecoutez: de hand, de fingres,
de nails, de arma, de bilbow.
ALICE De elbow, madame.
KATHARINE O Seigneur Dieu, je m’en oublie! de elbow. Comment
appelez-vous le col?
ALICE De neck, madame.
KATHARINE De nick. Et le menton?
ALICE De chin.
KATHARINE De sin. Le col, de nick; de menton, de sin.
ALICE Oui. Sauf votre honneur, en verite, vous prononcez
les mots aussi droit que les natifs d’Angleterre.
KATHARINE Je ne doute point d’apprendre, par la grace de Dieu,
et en peu de temps.
ALICE N’avez vous pas deja oublie ce que je vous ai enseigne?
KATHARINE Non, je reciterai a vous promptement: de hand, de
fingres, de mails–
ALICE De nails, madame.
KATHARINE De nails, de arm, de ilbow.
ALICE Sauf votre honneur, de elbow.
KATHARINE Ainsi dis-je; de elbow, de nick, et de sin. Comment
appelez-vous le pied et la robe?
ALICE De foot, madame; et de coun.
KATHARINE De foot et de coun! O Seigneur Dieu! ce sont mots
de son mauvais, corruptible, gros, et impudique, et
non pour les dames d’honneur d’user: je ne voudrais
prononcer ces mots devant les seigneurs de France
pour tout le monde. Foh! le foot et le coun!
Neanmoins, je reciterai une autre fois ma lecon
ensemble: de hand, de fingres, de nails, de arm, de
elbow, de nick, de sin, de foot, de coun.
ALICE Excellent, madame!
KATHARINE C’est assez pour une fois: allons-nous a diner.
[Exeunt]

“The Quality of Mercy”: Re-Posting No. 32 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford

The works of “Shakespeare” contain the author’s own meditations on justice and mercy, emphasizing the need for kings to carry out lawful remedies and punishments with compassion and 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 7 May 1603, six weeks after Queen Elizabeth died and James VI of Scotland was proclaimed James I of England, fifty-three-year-old Edward de Vere wrote a business letter to Secretary Robert Cecil and, in passing, made this comment (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.

There is a remarkable similarity of thinking between Oxford and “Shakespeare” as well as a similarity of words; for example, 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 meant a kind of justice that contains the “virtue” of mercy, or the capacity for forgiveness.

It’s easy 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 his dissertation on the “marginalia” of de Vere’s Geneva bible, which the earl had purchased in 1569-70 before age twenty, Roger Stritmatter reports Oxford had marked a series of verses in Ecclesiasticus on the theme of mercy.The question of mercy “is central to the unfolding action of The Tempest,” he 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). In that statement, ‘virtue’ is a metaphor for ‘mercy.’ ” Stritmatter also points out that previous students of Shakespeare and the Bible 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.

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

Ellen Terry as Portia in 1885

 

“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: “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 himself quotes a letter in which Burghley says of Mary, “Her intention was to move pity by long, artificial speeches.” Looney writes, “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 Oxford, touted as ‘the best of the courtier poets,’ who was a sympathetic listener to her pathetic and dignified appeals?”

Oxford may have written the first version of The Merchant several years prior to the trial of Mary Stuart – that is, by the early 1580’s, having returned in 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.


 

“Timon of Athens” and De Vere: Reposting No. 31 of 100 Reasons Why Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford

Timon of Athens initially appeared in the First Folio of Shakespeare plays in 1623, under the title The Life of Tymon of Athens. There is no agreement about when it was written; some scholars studying the mood and style suggest 1605-1609, while others push the date back to 1601-1602.  In the view of those who think Edward de Vere was the author, both time frames are about a quarter-century too late.

Engraving by John Boydell, 1771: Timon in the wilderness, sitting with a spade at left and turning away with expression of disgust as he tosses coins towards two prostitutes, one catching them in her skirts, a soldier at right watching the scene with concern, others gathered in the background

Oxford was twenty-six in the spring of 1576 when he returned to England after fifteen months on the Continent, having traveled all through Italy with Venice as home base. It may well be that a now lost play, The Historie of the Solitarie Knight, performed on 17 February 1577 for Elizabeth and her court, was an early version of Timon of Athens.

Timon is a young nobleman so renowned for his liberality and good nature that poets, painters and tradesmen flock to his home seeking his patronage.  He is generous and trusting.  He  joyously entertains his guests, lavishing them with rich gifts and handing out cash even to the servants.  His seemingly inexhaustible wealth means little or nothing to him: “I gave it freely ever, and there’s none can truly say he gives if he receives … Pray sit, more welcome are ye to my fortune than my fortunes to me!” (1.2).

Oxford, too, had inherited great wealth in the form of vast estates; he, too, was a generous friend (as when he gave money to the scholar Gabriel Harvey, at Cambridge in the 1560s) and an actively involved patron of actors, writers, musicians and others. Like Timon, he was a trendsetter. And he was accustomed to what the Poet in the play calls “the infinite flatteries that follow youth and money.”

The western approach to the Acropolis, showing the Propylaia, Temple of Athena Nike, and the Parthenon.

Soon, however, Timon discovers he has run out of money and fallen deeply into debt, with servants accosting him for payments owed to their masters – exactly what Oxford had learned about his financial situation while still in Italy.  Shocked and distressed by the news of his sudden lack of funds, he wrote to Burghley in January 1576 from Siena:

“My Lord, I am sorry to hear how hard my fortune is in England … I have determined that whereas I understand the greatness of my debt and greediness of my creditors grows so dishonorable to me and troublesome unto your Lordship, that that land of mine which in Cornwall I have appointed to be sold [for travel expenses] … be gone through withal.  And to stop my creditors’ exclamations (or rather defamations, I may call them), I shall desire your Lordship by the virtue of this letter (which doth not err as I take it from any former purpose, which was that always upon my letter to authorize your Lordship to sell any portion of my land) that you will sell one hundred pound a year  more of my land where your Lordship shall think fittest, to disburden me of my debts to Her Majesty, my sister, or elsewhere I am exclaimed upon … ” [Emphasis added]

As Timon puts it, “How goes the world, that I am thus encountered with clamorous demands of debt, broken bonds and the detention of long such due debts against my honor?” (2.2). He questions Flavius, his steward, just as Oxford must have demanded of Burghley to explain how this “dishonorable” situation could have happened without warning:  “You make me marvel wherefore ere this time had you not fully laid my state before me, that I might so have rated my expense as I had leave of means…” (2.2).

Flavius defends himself as Burghley would have done:  “O my good lord, at many times I brought in my accounts, laid them before you; [but] you would throw them off!  I did endure not seldom, nor no slight cheques, when I have prompted you in the ebb of your estate and your great flow of debts.  My loved lord, though you hear now, too late … the greatest of your having lacks a half to pay your present debts” (2.2). [Below, my emphasis again on “gone.”]

Timon: “Let all my land be sold!”

Flavius: “‘Tis all engaged, some forfeit and gone, and what remains will hardly stop the mouth of present dues” (2.2).

Oxford’s surprise that “land of mine in Cornwall” that he had “appointed to be sold” was “already gone through withal” can be heard here:

Timon: “To Lacedaemon did my land extend!”

Flavius: “O my good Lord, the world is but a world: Were it all yours to give it in a breath.  How quickly it were gone!” (2.2)

William Cecil, Baron Burghley: circa 1570

Oxford gave Burghley more instructions, adding, “In doing these things your Lordship shall greatly pleasure me, in not doing them you shall as much hinder me, for although to depart with land your Lordship hath advised the contrary, and that your Lordship for the good affection you bear unto me could wish it otherwise, yet you see I have none other remedy.  I have no help but of mine own, and mine is made to serve me and myself, not mine.” The same thought and virtually the same words are used in the play when one of the usurers instructs his servant:  “Get on your cloak, and haste you to Lord Timon.  Importune him for my moneys … Tell him my uses cry to me; I must serve my turn out of mine own … Immediate are my needs, and my relief must not be tossed and turned to me in words, but find supply immediate.”

After all his former friends refuse to loan him any money, Timon leaves Athens for the depths of the woods, finds a cave and begins to live as a solitary hermit – perhaps why the play performed in  1577 was called The Solitary Knight.

In the forest Timon expects to find “the unkindest beast more kinder than mankind” – words that will find an echo when Oxford writes to Robert Cecil in May 1601 (after the Secretary had helped to gain Southampton’s reprieve from execution): “I do assure you that you shall have no faster friend and well-wisher unto you than myself, either in kindness, which I find beyond mine expectation in you, or in kindred,” signing off “in all kindness and kindred, Edward Oxenford.”

Timon is “a lover of truth,” writes Harold Goddard in The Meaning of Shakespeare, and the play “seems to say that such a man, though buried in the wilderness, is a better begetter of peace than all the instrumentalities of law in the hands of men who love neither truth nor justice.”

“The Life of Tymon of Athens” in the First Folio of Shakespeare Plays – 1623

When Oxford was still a royal ward at Cecil House in 1569-70, enrolled at Gray’s Inn to study law, one of his book orders included “Plutarch’s works in French.” As O.J. Campbell notes in The Reader’s Encyclopedia of Shakespeare, the Shakespearean author “clearly knew the digression on Timon in Plutarch … He may also have read Lucian’s amusing dialogue Timon Misanthropus, if not in Greek, then in either a Latin or a French translation.”

Aside from being fluent in both Latin and French, Oxford had been raised from about age four in the household of Thomas Smith, a Greek scholar, who had tutored him.  Both Smith and Burghley had copies of Lucian, and Burghley’s wife was also a Greek expert, so it’s a given that the very young de Vere had personal access to all the Shakespearean sources.

Many researchers have noted the parallels between Edward de Vere and Timon:

Eva Turner Clark:

“The play depicts Timon as being just as solitary in the midst of his grandeur as he later became in his cave in the woods … Not even Timon could have lived a life of greater luxury and grandeur than the young Earl of Oxford throughout his youth.  Is it to be wondered at that Edward de Vere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford, grew up without the slightest idea of the value of money?

“Young Oxford’s mind had been filled by his elders with a love of art and scholarship, of excellence in tournament and the field of war, and there was no room in it for the humdrum, workaday world, with its counting of pounds, shillings and pence.  Nevertheless, as he pursued the objects for which he had been trained, he was made to feel the sting of financial demands continuously from the time he came of age.  It was when he reached a crisis in his affairs, economically and socially, that he wrote the cynical drama of The Solitary Knight, or Timon of Athens

“Doubtless it was because of this experience that Oxford adopted the idea of exposing his fellow courtiers by satire and burlesque, by the suggestion of warning and threat, which is to be found is many of his plays.  In other words, revenge animated him, and, while revenge is not one of the finer impulses, it is a very human instinct to demand satisfaction for an injury done.” (Clark adds, however, that as Oxford grew mentally and spiritually, his personal revenge motive widened and matured into an effort to “show up disloyalty of subjects and dishonesty of politicians, for the benefit of his Queen and for the good of his beloved country.”) [Hidden Alusions, 1931]

Dorothy and Charlton Ogburn:

“One of the hereditary offices of the Earls of Oxford as Lords Great Chamberlain was that of the Ewry, or Water-Bearer to the Monarch.  It was purely honorary, a formal gesture of presenting water on state occasions when the Monarch sat at meat.  There is a direct reference to this [in Timon]: ‘One of Lord Timon’s men!  A gift, I warrant.  Why, this hits right; I dreamt of a silver basin and ewer tonight.’  It is recorded that in 1579 ‘the Queen’s New Year’s gift to th’earle of Oxfourde [was] a bason and ewer of our store..’  Timon’s bitter jest of serving his false friends and flatterers with covered dishes containing only warm water is thus particularly ironical, expressing, as it does, the scorn of the impoverished Lord Great Chamberlain.” [This Star of England, 1952]

Charlton Ogburn, Jr: “I rather think, though, that Timon of Athens as we know it owes more to the manifold adversities that overtook its author in the early 1580’s, when the sale of thirty tracts of land in five years left him stripped near as bare as Timon.” [The Mysterious William Shakespeare, 1984]

William Farina:

“Reading de Vere’s personal connections to the story of Timon, it is not an overstatement to say that Shakespeare’s play tells the story of de Vere’s life.  As the late Anglo-Oxfordian commentator Edward Holmes succinctly put it, The play is closest [of all the plays] to autobiography  … Timon is too raw, too real for comfort.  It was begun too close to the catastrophe which prompted it.  That must be it was left artistically undigested, incomplete.’  Under this scenario, Shakespeare the writer (de Vere) was writing Timon not for commercial gain but because, emotionally, he needed to. According to the Oxfordian view, this was a driven author who perhaps could not finish what he started.” [De Vere as Shakespeare, 2006]

[This post is now Reason 76 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford.]

Edward de Vere: The Fabric of His Life in the Sonnets: Reposting No. 29 of 100 Reasons Why the Earl of Oxford was Shake-speare

Edward de Vere was in the best position of anyone in England to be the author of the sequence of 154 consecutively numbered sonnets published in 1609 as Shake-speares Sonnets. The known facts about Oxford’s childhood, upbringing, education, and family all interconnect with the sonnets’ language and imagery.

Oxford was nephew to Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1517-1547), who, with Sir Thomas Wyatt, wrote the first English sonnets in the form to be used later by Shakespeare. Oxford himself wrote an early sonnet in that form; entitled Love Thy Choice, it expressed his devotion to Queen Elizabeth with the same themes of “constancy” and “truth” that “Shakespeare” would express in the same words:

“In constant truth to bide so firm and sure” – Oxford’s sonnet to Queen Elizabeth

“Oaths of thy love, thy truth, thy constancy” – Sonnet 152 to the “Dark Lady”

The Shakespeare sonnets are plainly autobiographical, the author using the personal pronoun “I” to refer to himself, telling his own story in his own voice; so it’s only natural that he expresses himself with references to the life he experienced since childhood.   Much of that experience is captured in Sonnet 91:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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…

Oxford was born into England’s highest-ranking earldom, inheriting vast wealth in the form of many estates.  He was a skilled horseman and champion of two great jousting tournaments at the Whitehall tiltyard.  He was the “Italianate Englishman” who wore new-fangled clothing from the Continent.  An expert falconer, he wrote poetry comparing women to hawks “that fly from man to man.”

And every humor hath his adjunct pleasure,
Wherein it finds a joy above the rest,
But these particulars are not my measure,
All these I better in one general best.
Thy love is better than high birth to me …

Only someone who already had high birth, and was willing to give it up, could make such a declaration to another nobleman of high birth and make it meaningful; if written to the Earl of Southampton by a man who was not high-born, the statement would be an insulting joke.

Richer than wealth, prouder than garments’ cost,
Of more delight than Hawks or Hounds be,
And having thee, of all men’s pride I boast.
Wretched in this alone, that thou mayst take
All this away, and me most wretched make.

Woodcut of Elizabethan astronomy or astrology

Oxford also left his footprints throughout:

(2) “When forty winters shall besiege thy brow” – He was forty in 1590, when most commentators feel the opening sonnets were written.

(8) “Music to hear, why hear’st thou music sadly … Mark how one string, sweet husband to another” – He was an accomplished musician, writing for the lute, and patronized the composer John Farmer, who dedicated two songbooks to him, praising his musical knowledge and skill.

(14) “And yet methinks I have astronomy” – He was well acquainted with the “astronomy,” or astrology, of Dr. John Dee and was praised for his knowledge of the subject.

(23) “As an imperfect actor on the stage” – He patronized two acting companies, performed in “enterludes” at court and was well known for his “comedies” or stage plays.

(33) “Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy” – He studied with Dee, who experimented with alchemy, and both men invested in the Frobisher voyages.

Elizabeth woodcut of distillation by “alchemy” to find the imagined “elixir” to prolong life”

(49) “To guard the lawful reasons on thy part” – He studied law at Gray’s Inn and served as a judge at the treason trials of Norfolk and Mary Stuart and later at the treason trial of Essex and Southampton; his personal letters are filled with intimate knowledge of the law.

(59) “O that record could with a backward look,/ Even of five hundred courses of the Sunne”  – His earldom extended back 500 years to the time of William the Conqueror.

(72) “My name be buried where my body is” – In his early poetry he wrote, “The only loss of my good name is of these griefs the ground.”

(89) “Speak of my lameness, and I straight will halt” – He was lamed by a sword during a street fight in 1582.

Queen Elizabeth – the Armada Portrait, 1588 – she loved those jewels!

(96) “As on the finger of a a throned Queen, / The basest Jewel will be well esteemed” – He gave the Queen “a fair jewel of gold” with diamonds in 1580.

(98) “Of different flowers in odor and in hue” – He was raised amid the great gardens of William Cecil, who imported flowers never seen in England, something that accounts for Shakespeare’s vast knowledge of plants.

(107) “And thou in this shalt find thy monument” – He wrote to Thomas Bedingfield in 1573 that “I shall erect you such a monument…”

(109) “Myself bring water for my stain” – He was “water-bearer to the monarch” at the coronation of James on 25 July 1603, in his capacity as Lord Great Chamberlain.

Title page of The New Jewell of Health (1576) by Dr. George Baker, dedicated to Oxford’s wife Anne Cecil, Countess of Oxford

(111) “Potions of Eisel ‘gainst my strong infection” – His surgeon was Dr. George Baker, who dedicated three books to the earl or his wife.

(114) “And to his palate doth prepare the cup” – His ceremonial role as Lord Great Chamberlain included bringing the “tasting cup” to the monarch.

(116) “O no, it is an ever-fixed mark/ That looks on tempests and his never shaken … If this be error and upon me proved,/ I never writ nor no man ever loved” – He wrote: “Who was the first that gave the wound whose fear I wear for ever?  Vere.” (Emphasis added)

(121) “No, I am that I am…” –  He wrote to Burghley using the same words in the same tone (the words of God to Moses in the Bible) to protest his spying on him.

(125) “Were’t aught to me I bore the canopy” – He was reported to have been one of the six nobles bearing a “golden canopy” over the queen in the procession on 24 November 1588 celebrating England’s recent victory over the Spanish Armada. (But Sonnet 125, I believe, refers to the canopy held over Elizabeth’s effigy and coffin in the funeral procession on 28 April 1603.)

(128) “Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds”– He was an intimate favorite of the queen, who frequently played music on the virginals.

Courtiers of Queen Elizabeth – entertaining her with lute

(153) “I sick withal the help of bath desired” – He accompanied Elizabeth and her court during her three-day visit in August 1574 to the City of Bath, the only royal visit to that city; and “Shakespeare” is said to write about this visit in the so-called Bath Sonnets 153-154.

The Sonnets of Shakespeare amount to the autobiographical diary of de Vere. The allusions to his life as a high-born nobleman and courtier, appearing throughout the sequence, come forth naturally and spontaneously. In effect, he left his signature for all to see.

[This post, with significant help from editor Alex McNeil, is now Reason 52 in 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford.]

The Earl of Southampton: Re-posting No. 28 of 100 Reasons Why Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford

One of the most compelling reasons to believe Edward de Vere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare” is the central role in the Shakespeare story played by Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton.

Henry Earl of Southampton in his teens, by Nicholas Hilliard

The grand entrance of “William Shakespeare” onto the published page took place in 1593, as the printed signature on the dedication to Southampton of Venus and Adonis, a 1200-line poem that the poet called “the first heir of my invention” in his dedication. The second appearance of “William Shakespeare” in print came a year later, with the publication of an 1800-line poem, Lucrece, again dedicated to Southampton.

The Lucrece dedication was an extraordinary declaration of personal commitment to the twenty-year-old earl:

“The love I dedicate to your Lordship is without end … What I have done is yours, what I have to do is yours, being part in all I have, devoted yours … Your Lordship’s in all duty, William Shakespeare.”

“There is no other dedication like this in Elizabethan literature,” Nichol Smith wrote in 1916, and because the great author never dedicated another work to anyone else, he uniquely linked himself to Southampton for all time.

Southampton at 22 in 1595

Most scholars agree that the Fair Youth of Shake-speares Sonnets, the sequence of 154 consecutively numbered poems printed in 1609, is also Southampton, even though he is not identified by name. Most further agree that, in the first seventeen sonnets, the poet is urging Southampton to beget a child to continue his bloodline – demanding it in a way that would ordinarily have been highly offensive: “Make thee another self, for love of me.”

“It is certain that the Earl of Southampton and the poet we know as Shakespeare were on intimate terms,” Charlton Ogburn Jr. wrote in 1984, “but Charlotte G. Stopes, Southampton’s pioneer biographer [1922] spent seven years or more combing the records of the Earl and his family without turning up a single indication that the fashionable young lord had ever had any contact with a Shakespeare, and for that reason deemed the great work of her life a failure.”

“Oxford was a nobleman of the same high rank as Southampton and just a generation older,” J. Thomas Looney wrote in 1920, adding that “the peculiar circumstances of the youth to whom the Sonnets were addressed were strikingly analogous to his own.”

William Cecil Lord Burghley, Master of the Royal Wards

  • De Vere became the first royal ward of Queen Elizabeth in 1562, under the guardianship of William Cecil (later Lord Burghley), and in 1571 he entered into an arranged marriage with the chief minister’s fifteen-year-old daughter, Anne Cecil.
  • Henry Wriothesley became the eighth and last child of state as a boy in 1581-82, also in the chief minister’s custody, and during 1590-91 he resisted intense pressure to enter into an arranged marriage with Cecil’s fifteen-year-old granddaughter, Elizabeth Vere.

The young lady was also Oxford’s daughter, making the elder earl, in fact, the prospective father-in-law. Scholars generally agree that in the seventeen “procreation” sonnets Shakespeare’s tone sounds much like that of a prospective father-in-law or father urging Southampton to accept Burghley’s choice of a wife for him, although the poet never identifies or describes any specific young woman.

Lady Elizabeth Vere, who married William Stanley Earl of Derby in 1595

J. Dover Wilson writes in 1964: “What man in the whole world, except a father or a potential father-in-law, cares whether any other man gets married?”

Obviously, de Vere and Wriothesley both had an extremely important personal stake in the outcome of this marriage proposal coming from the most powerful man in England, who must have had the full blessing of his sovereign Mistress.

Looney noted that both Oxford and Southampton “had been left orphans and royal wards at an early age, both had been brought up under the same guardian, both had the same kind of literary tastes and interests, and later the young man followed exactly the same course as the elder as a patron of literature and drama.”

The separate entries for Oxford and Southampton in the Dictionary of National Biography, written before the twentieth century, revealed that “in many of its leading features the life of the younger man is a reproduction of the life of the elder,” Looney noted, adding it was “difficult to resist the feeling that Wriothesley had made a hero of De Vere, and had attempted to model his life on that of his predecessor as royal ward.”

A Notice of the Essex-Southampton Trial of Feb. 19, 1600 (1601) with Edward de Vere given prominence as a judge on the tribunal

By the time Southampton came to court at age sixteen or seventeen, Oxford had removed himself from active attendance. It seems that the two shared some kind of hidden story that tied them together:

= As royal wards, both Oxford and Southampton had Queen Elizabeth as their official mother. Even though their respective biological mothers were alive when their fathers died, under English law they became wards of the state, and the queen became their mother in a legal sense.

= Tradition has it that Shakespeare wrote Love’s Labour’s Lost in the early 1590s for Southampton to entertain college friends at his country house; but given the sophisticated wordplay of this court comedy and its intended aristocratic audience, it is difficult to see how Will of Stratford would or could have written it.

= Oxford in the early 1590s was Southampton’s prospective father-in-law.

= After the failed Essex Rebellion in February 1601, Oxford sat as highest-ranking earl on the tribunal for the treason trial of Essex and Southampton.

= The peers had no choice but to render a unanimous guilty verdict; there is evidence that Oxford then worked behind the scenes to save Southampton’s life and gain his eventual liberation, as in Sonnet 35: “Thy adverse party is thy Advocate.”

= On the night of Oxford’s recorded death on 24 June 1604, agents of the Crown arrested Southampton and returned him to the Tower, where he was interrogated all night until his release the following day.

= Henry Wriothesley and Henry de Vere, eighteenth Earl of Oxford (born in February 1593 to Oxford and his second wife, Elizabeth Trentham) became close friends during the reign of James; the earls were known as the “Two Henries.” As members of the House of Lords, they often took sides against the king and were imprisoned for doing so.

On the eve of the failed rebellion led by Essex and Southampton in 1601, some of the conspirators engaged the Lord Chamberlain’s Company to perform Shakespeare’s royal history play Richard II at the Globe; many historians assume, perhaps correctly, that Southampton himself secured permission from “Shakespeare” to use the play with its scene of the deposing of the king. On the other hand, it is possible that Robert Cecil himself arranged for it, so he could then summon Essex to court and trigger the rebellion, which had actually been scheduled for a week later.

Once the rebellion failed and Southampton was imprisoned in the Tower on that night of 8 February 1601, all authorized printings of heretofore unpublished Shakespeare plays abruptly ceased for several years.

After Southampton was released on 10 April 1603, the poet “Shake-speare” wrote Sonnet 107 celebrating his liberation after being “supposed as forfeit to a confined doom,” that is, subjected to a sentence of life imprisonment.

The White Tower where Southampton was imprisoned

Upon Oxford’s death in virtual obscurity, recorded as occurring on 24 June 1604, a complete text of Hamlet was published.

As part of Christmas and New Year’s celebrations surrounding the wedding of Philip Herbert, Earl of Montgomery and Oxford’s daughter Susan Vere in December of 1604, the Court of James held a veritable Shakespeare festival. In the days before and after the wedding, seven performances of the Bard’s plays were given. (The royal performances appear to be a memorial tribute to the playwright, rather than a tribute to a living author.) One performance was a revival of Love’s Labour’s Lost, for King James and Queen Anne, hosted by Southampton at his house in London.

After Hamlet in 1604 all publications again ceased, for four years. (King Lear was printed in 1608; Troilus and Cressida was issued in two editions during 1608-09; and Pericles appeared in 1609.) Then the silence resumed, for thirteen more years, until a quarto of Othello appeared in 1622; and finally the First Folio of thirty-six Shakespeare plays was published in 1623. Fully half of these stage works were printed for the first time; the folio included none of the Shakespeare poetry, nor any mention of Southampton or the Sonnets.

The connections between Oxford and Southampton are numerous and significant; the link between the two earls is crucial for the quest to determine the real Shakespeare.

[This post is now Reason 53 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford, edited by Alex McNeil with editorial assistance from Brian Bechtold.]

“One Whose Power Floweth Far”: Re-Posting No. 26 of 100 Reasons why Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford

A thick volume printed for the Roxburghe Club of London in 1882 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 the “Shakespeare” name had made its 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”  for Shakespeare.

This was followed immediately 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.

Who was this poet, said to be the best of all?

In the Roxburghe appendix, one scholar identifiedthe star” as Edward de Vere while another said it must be a description of Shakespeare! If those two scholars of the late nineteenth century had been in the same room at the same time, one identifying Oxford and the other pointing to Shakespeare, might it have occurred to them that maybe they were both talking about the same man?  If so, they would have solved the authorship question then and there.

Here, in modernized English, is the stanza praising Shakespeare as “Adon,” followed by those 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.

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. [Emphases added.]

[Note that the first stanza about Adon, and the second of the next two stanzas about “one whose power floweth far,” conclude with “bays” – perhaps intended as a way for readers to link all three stanzas in their praise of a single poet.]

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 (1589) 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, Oxford represents himself as ‘wearing black and tawny’ and [having] ‘no bays’ …”

Prior to John Thomas Looney’s identification of de Vere in 1920, orthodox scholars could mention him in a positive light without worrying about giving any ground in the authorship debate. Buckley also referred to a statement made by the literary antiquary Thomas Coxeter (1689-1747): Oxford was said by Coxeter to have translated Ovid, which would connect him with Narcissus, but no one has ever seen his Ovid.”

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, who introduced new evidence allowing “definitive identification of the phrase ‘tilting under Frieries’ as referring 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 the earl’s men were “tilting under frieries” in spring 1582 at Blackfriars. Stritmatter further observes:

“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. 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.”

The “Envoy to Narcissus” is an example of how, soon after publication of Venus and Adonis and the first appearance of the “Shakespeare” name in print, writers were already dropping hints about the presence of an author – in fact the “star” among them – who had chosen to withhold his identity. The chatter was growing from the start.

[This reason, with tremendous help from Editor Alex McNeil, as well as Brian Bechtold, is now no. 31 in 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford).

 

Re-Posting No. 21 of 100 Reasons Why Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford: “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 in 1576 over court gossip 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,” as he wrote angrily to Ann’s father Lord Burghley, he separated from her and refused to acknowledge the child.

Othello and Desdemona

Now, five years later, husband and wife had begun to communicate again, and Anne wrote to him from the Westminster home of her father, 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…”

What did this remind me of?  Where had I heard this before? She continued:

“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

Of course: Desdemona, the suffering wife of Othello. Anne’s letter continues:

“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 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:

“O good 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.” (4.2)

Yes, I thought, Anne 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!”  When Iago stabs Emilia, she cries to  Othello again before dying: “Moor, she was chaste!  She loved thee, cruel Moor!” (5.2)

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!” (3.1) Anne wrote to her husband again in December 1581:

“Good my Lord, 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 thirty-one, having suffered emotional strains we can only imagine.  Oxford had had his complaints about Anne siding too much with her father, much as Hamlet reacts to Ophelia’s spying on him for her father, but he may well have blamed himself for his wife’s early death.  Once the earl is understood as the author, he may be seen drawing upon these upheavals in his own life, including his remorse, for portrayals of Desdemona’s plight and, too, Ophelia’s madness and apparent suicide. 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; after they nearly fight] “I loved Ophelia!  Forty thousand brothers could not, with all their quantity of love, make up my sum!” (5.1)

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

The prince’s grief, anger, 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!” (5.1)

During the final scene of Othello, I never failed to experience a wave of gutwrenching 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…” (5.2)

We might well hear Oxford speaking of his own service to the state — as a playwright and patron of writers and acting companies performing around the countryside, rousing national unity against the coming Spanish invasion, which England survived in the summer of 1588, just a few months after Anne’s death. The power of the stage was apparent when young men of widely different dialects, religious views and social status came to London to join in common defense of their country. Othello continues:

“I pray you, 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…” (5.2)

I believe we are listening to Oxford’s own grief over the wreckages of his past – another reason to believe he wrote Othello, which was printed for the first time in 1622, a year before publication of the First Folio of thirty-six plays.

(This post is now No. 74 in 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford.)

 

Sonnets 107 to 125: Southampton’s Liberation on April 10, 1603 to Elizabeth’s Funeral on April 28: Nineteen Sonnets = Nineteen Days

And thou in this shalt find thy monument,

When tyrants’ crests and tombs of brass are spent. (Sonnet 107)

“The particular sonnet [107] which, according to Sir Sidney Lee and other authorities, welcomed Southampton’s liberation from prison in 1603 [April 10], is one of the last of the series … and makes references to events that took place in 1603 – to Queen Elizabeth’s death and the accession of James I.” — J.T. Looney, “‘Shakespeare’ Identified”, 1920, p. 430 [page 365 in the edition by Ruth Loyd Miller]

“In another connection we have had to point out that Shakespeare’s sonnet 125 seems to be pointing to De Vere’s officiating at Queen Elizabeth’s funeral [April 28, 1603]. This may be taken as his last sonnet; for 126 is really … a parting message to his young friend.” – Looney, pp. 395-96 [page 335 in Miller’s edition]

Looney agreed 107 marks Southampton’s liberation on April 10.

He believed that 125 marks Queen Elizabeth’s funeral on April 28.

The nineteen sonnets from 107 to 125 cover one-for-one the nineteen days from April 10 to April 28.

Is this a coincidence? Or is it deliberate?

Sonnet 126, the envoy*, completes the sequence of twenty.

These follow the eighty from 27 to 106 (Southampton’s time in the Tower).

Eighty plus twenty = One Hundred or a Century.

* Sonnets 26 and 126 are both envoys, creating the 100-sonnet center.

1——-26 27——————————–126 127————152

  (26)                         (100)                             (26)

Re-posting Part Two of Reason 20 Why Shake-spreare was Oxford: The Depth of the Dedications to the Earl

The public dedications to Edward de Vere indicate the scope of his personal relationships with other writers.  The person who eventually created the “Shakespeare” works did not develop in a vacuum; on the contrary, he had to be part of a community of fellow authors, poets and playwrights. Oxford was not only part of such a community; the tributes make clear he was their leader.

"The Histories of Trogus Pompeius" by Golding, dedicated to 14-year-old Edward de Vere in 1564

(Click on Image to Enlarge)

Arthur Golding (Histories of Trogus Pompeius) wrote to him in 1564: “It is not unknown to others, and I have had experiences thereof myself, how earnest a desire your Honor hath naturally grafted in you to read, peruse, and communicate with others as well the histories of ancient times, and things done long ago, as also of the present estate of things in our days, and that not without a certain pregnancy of wit and ripeness of understanding.”

Thomas Underdowne (AEthiopian History) told him in 1569 that “matters of learning” were good for a nobleman, but then warned the earl that “to be too much addicted that way, I think it is not good.”

In that same year the 19-year-old Oxford ordered “a Geneva Bible gilt, a Chaucer, Plutarch’s works in French, with other books and papers” as well as “Tully’s and Plato’s works in folio, with other books.”  Sounds indeed like a young man “addicted” to learning!

When Thomas Bedingfield dedicated his translation of Cardanus’ Comforte to Oxford in 1573, he told him that “I do present the book your Lordship so long desired,” confirming that the Earl had been personally involved in this publication, to which he contributed both a Letter to the Reader and a poem.   He reminds Oxford of “the encouragement of your Lordship, who (as you well remember), unawares to me, found some part of this work and willed me in any wise to proceed therein.”

Elizabeth & Courtiers

The distinguished physician Thomas Twyne (Breviary of Britain) referred to him in 1573 as being “in your flower and tender age” before inviting him to bestow  upon his work “such regard as you are accustomed to do on books of Geography, Histories, and other good learning, wherein I am privy your honour taketh singular delight.”

When Anthony Munday (Mirror of Mutability), told Oxford in 1579 that he looked forward to “the day when as conquerors we may peacefully resume our delightful literary discussions,” he was apparently referring to the rivalry between the Euphuists under Oxford and the Romanticists, who included Philip Sidney and Gabriel Harvey.  His reference to “our delightful literary discussions” offers a glimpse of Oxford personally engaged with other writers who were developing a new English literature and drama leading to “Shakespeare.” The works created by members of this circle would become known as “contemporary sources” upon which the great author drew.

Thomas Watson (Hekatompathia, or The Passionate Century of Love) reminded Oxford in 1580 that he had “willingly vouchsafed the acceptance of this work, and at convenient leisures favorably perused it, being as yet but in written hand.”  He cited de Vere as a literary trendsetter whose approval would draw many readers; because of this influence, the earl’s acceptance of the work in manuscript meant that “many have oftentimes and earnestly called upon me to put it to the press.”

Angel Day (The English Secretary) wrote to him in 1586 to Oxford about “the learned view and insight of your Lordship, whose infancy from the beginning was ever sacred to the Muses.”

Robert Greene (Card of Fancy) wrote publicly to Oxford in 1584 that he was “a worthy  favorer and fosterer of learning [who] hath forced many through your excellent virtue to offer the first-fruits of their study at the shrine of your Lordship’s courtesy.”

Dedication of “Defense of the Military Profession” by Gates to Oxford, 1579 (Click on Image to Enlarge)

In 1591 the composer John Farmer, who apparently lived in Oxford’s household, dedicated his first songbook (Plain-Song) to the earl, saying he was “emboldened” because of “your Lordship’s great affection to this noble science” (music) – which, of course, must be said also of Shakespeare.  In his second dedication (First Set of English Madrigals, 1599), Farmer told Oxford that “using this science as a recreation, your Lordship have over-gone most of them that make it a profession.”

In other words, Oxford encouraged young writers with their very first works, guiding them to the press.

Unlike the majority of dedications to patrons, the comments to Oxford are genuine and heartfelt. The earl may have had many faults of character, such as a tendency to be jealous and vengeful (as a number of Shakespearean characters are), but among his fellow writers and other artists he was uniquely spirited and generous.

In his Oxford biography Monstrous Adversary (2003), the Stratfordian scholar Alan Nelson concedes that Edward de Vere “attracts the attention of theologians, poets, distillers, and a musician, who have translated works from the Continent, or composed original works in English.” Citing the Index of dedications prior to 1641 by Franklin B. Williams (1962), he notes that only Queen Elizabeth and a few more powerful nobles had more dedications: Leicester (114); Burghley (85); Walsingham (47); and Charles Howard, the Admiral and hero of England’s victory over the Spanish Armada (46).

“CARDANUS Comforte, translated And Published by commaundement of the right Honourable the Earle of Oxenforde.” (1576 edition; click on image to enlarge)

In her Master of Arts in English thesis of 1999 at the University of Texas, focusing on Oxford’s patronage, Jonni Koonce Dunn notes that nearly forty percent of it was “expended on fiction with an Italian flavor.” The result, she adds, is that the Earl “provided the late sixteenth century with a body of source works to which the literature of the English Renaissance is sorely indebted.” Even from a young age, he preferred “literary work over the devotional or practical,” and such works “lent themselves to being models for adaptation for the forerunners of the novel as well as being instrumental in the development of English drama.”

His introduction as a young man to works such as The Courtier and Cardanus’ Comforte, she adds, “suggests his desire to be instrumental in shaping what was read by the university student and the courtier, thus in a roundabout way to transform the Elizabethan court into the cultured society depicted at Urbino in Castiglione’s work … It would eventually come to pass that William Shakespeare would benefit from the works de Vere patronized, for his plays came to make use of practically every one of the literary number in some fashion.” Without such patronage, many of the sources used by Shakespeare “might not have been available to him for inspiration,” and therefore this critical contribution “should ensure Edward de Vere the gratitude of every student of literature.”

[This post is now No. 38 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford (2016)]

Re-Posting No. 20 (part one) of 100 Reasons why Oxford was “Shakespeare” – The Many Dedications to Him

As far as I can determine, at least twenty-eight publications can be verified as dedicated (wholly or in part) to Edward de Vere by name during his lifetime. To that list we might add three more items: in 1592 Thomas Nashe apparently dedicates Strange News to Oxford, using another name for him; in 1603 Francis Davison includes him in a curious political broadsheet or circular; and in 1619 Anthony Munday dedicates a book to Henry de Vere, 18th Earl of Oxford, with warm posthumous praise for Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, his father, this bringing a tentative total to thirty-one.

Spenser’s dedicatory sonnet to Oxford referred to “the love which thou dost bear/ To th’Heliconian ymps [offspring from Helicon, the Greek abode of Apollo and the Muses), and they to thee,/ They unto thee, and thou to them most dear”

These dedications appear in works that range from Greek history to English literature, geography, military matters, music, medicine, astrology, translations from Italian and French, the Psalms, and so on — mirroring the wide range of subjects that Shakespeare was interested in from the European renaissance; they were very much part of the new age of English literature of which Edward de Vere was a central — perhaps the central — moving force prior to Shakespeare’s entrance in 1593.

The dedications to Oxford were not merely public bids for patronage; they were not the usual stuff of obsequious praise. On the contrary, they came from writers who worked with Oxford in developing common political and artistic goals.  Over and over they thanked him personally for taking time to read their works and give his advice.  He was not some lofty noble keeping his distance; instead, he rolled up his sleeves and became involved — personally, artistically and financially — in their varied works that covered so many subjects and forms of literary expression.

Here is a list of authors and their books with dedications to Oxford:

1/ 1564: Arthur Golding, Histories of Trogus Pompeius (Translation)

2/ 1569: Thomas Underdowne, An AEthiopian History Written in Greek by Helidorus (Translation)

3/ 1570: Edmund Elviden, Pesistratus and Catanea (Poetry)

4/ 1571: Arthur Golding, Psalms of David (Translation)

5/ 1573: Thomas Bedingfield, Cardanus’ Comforte (Translation)

6/ 1573: Thomas Twyne, Breviary of Britain … (Translation) [“Containing a Learned Discourse of the Variable State and Alteration thereof, under Divers as well as Natural, as Foreign Princes and Conquerors, together with the Geographical Description of the same…”]

“The New Jewell of Health” (1576) by Dr. George Baker, who dedicated two other books to Oxford

7/ 1574: George Baker:  Oleum Magistrale (medical; translation of Aparico de Zubia’s pamphlet) [“The Composition or Making of the Most Excellent and Precious Oil called Oleum Magistrale …” (Baker was surgeon to Oxford)]

8/ 1577: John Brooke, The Staff of Christian Faith, [translation of Guido’s French work into English) [“…profitable to all Christians … Gathered out of the Works of the Ancient Doctors of the Church…”]

9/1578: Gabriel Harvey, Gratulationum Valdenis (a book in Latin) [Celebrating the queen’s visit that year to Audley End; includes dedications in the first three parts to Elizabeth, Leicester and Burghley; and in part four to Oxford, Hatton and Sidney]

10/ 1578 (?): Anthony Munday, Galien of France (a book, now lost, that Oxford’s servant Munday, in The Mirror of Mutability, says he had dedicated to Oxford)

11/ 1579: Anthony Munday, The Mirror of Mutability (verses) [to serve as a religious companion to “The Mirror of Magistrates” – presenting a series of metrical tragedies “selected out of the sacred Scriptures,” illustrating the Seven Deadly Sins with biblical stories.]

12/ 1579: Geoffrey Gates, The Defense of Military Profession (a book in English) [An argument for the acceptance of the military man, and the military profession, as an essential and reputable member of society.]

13/ 1580: Anthony Munday, Zelauto, the Fountain of Fame (prose fiction) [This is the fifth or sixth Elizabethan novel, three of which are associated with Oxford: The Adventures of Master F.I., anonymous, part of A Hundredth Sundry Flowres, 1573; Euphues, The Anatomy of Wit (Lyly), 1578, and Euphues and his England (Lyly), 1580 (next on this list)].

Click on Image to Enlarge

14/ 1580: John Lyly, Euphues and His England (novel) [His first novel, Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit (1578) was dedicated to Sir William West; the connection between them is not known.]

15/ 1580: John Hester, A Short Discourse … Upon Chirurgerie (Surgery) (translation) [Italian medical work by Leonardo Phioravanti (Fioravanti) Bolognese, rendered in English]

16/ 1581: Thomas Stocker, Diverse Sermons of Calvin (translation)

17/ 1582: Thomas Watson, Hekatompathia, or The Passionate Century of Love (100 sonnets, in English)

18/ 1584: John Southern, Pandora (compilation of verses) [Contains four epitaphs attributed to Oxford’s wife, Anne Cecil, written upon the death of their infant son; also one by Queen Elizabeth.]

19/ 1584: Robert Greene, Gwydonius: The Card of Fancy (“wherein the Folly of those carpet Knights is deciphered”) [Romance novel in English]

Title Page of “The English Secretary,” first edition, 1586, with a dedication to Oxford referring to his “exceeding bounty” or generosity

20/ 1586: Angel DayThe English Secretary (“wherein is contained a Perfect Method for the inditing of all manner of Epistles and familiar letters”) [Instructions on how a particular type of letter should be written, followed by sample letters.]

21/ 1588: Anthony MundayPalmerin d’Olivia Pt. 1 – The Mirror of Nobility, (translation of a Spanish chivalric romance)

22/ 1588: Anthony MundayPalmerin d’Olivia Pt. 2 (translation) [More of his “romances of chivalry” from the Spanish]

23/ 1590: Edmund SpenserThe Faerie Queen (book-length narrative poem) [One of the seventeen dedicatory sonnets is to Oxford, with reference to him as a poet.]

24/ 1591: John FarmerPlainsong Diverse & Sundry (songbook) [Full title is “Divers and Sundry Waies of Two Parts in One to the Number of Fortie upon One Playn Song.” A collection of forty canonic pieces written by him, plus one poem.]

1592 (Not part of list): Thomas NasheStrange News (polemical pamphlet) [In response to Gabriel Harvey’s attack on Greene, dedicated to a prolific poet he calls by the pseudonym “Gentle Master William, Apis Lapis,” saying to him, “Verily, verily, all poor scholars acknowledge your as their patron” — with “verily, verily” as an apparent play on Oxford’s name “Vere” and describing his unique role as a patron of poets, writers and scholars needing his support.]

25/ 1597: Henry LokThe Book of Ecclesiastes (book of verse) [Published by Richard Field, who had published Venus and Adonis in 1593 as by “William Shakespeare”; in this work, Lok addresses a dedicatory sonnet to Oxford — perhaps originally written in manuscript in a gift copy of the book for the Earl.]

26/ 1599: John FarmerThe First Set of English Madrigals (songbook)

27/ 1599: Angel Day, The English Secretary (new edition, revised)

28/ 1599: George Baker,The Practice of the New and Old Physic (medical book) [Originally printed in 1576 under the title New Jewel of Health, then dedicated to Oxford’s wife, Anne Cecil, who died in 1588; now Baker is one of the Queen’s physicians; the dedication to the Countess of Oxford is slightly altered to suit the Earl.]

In addition, these explicit mentions of him:

1603: Francis Davison, Anagrammata (broadsheet) [With curious writings in Latin to/about Oxford and Southampton and other nobles, with political overtones, some apparently related to the Essex rebellion of 1601.]

1619: Anthony Munday: Primaleon of Greece (translation) [“Describing the knightly deeds of armes, as also the memorable adventures of Prince Edward of England. And continuiong the former historie of Palmendos, brother to the fortunate Primaleon” — dedicated to Henry de Vere, the 18th Earl of Oxford, who was Edward’s son by Elizabeth Trentham, with warm praise from Munday for the father.]

These authors, and their books dedicated to the Earl of Oxford, have been cited as specific “sources” upon which “Shakespeare” drew. Yet we know of no book or literary work of any kind that was dedicated to Shakespeare.

[This post is now Reason 37 in the book 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford.]

[Once again thanks to editor Alex McNeil; also to Brian Bechtold with editorial help; and to Jonni Koonce Dunn for her Master of Arts thesis of 1999 at the University of Texas.]

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