SNAPSHOT: DE VERE – The Royal Ward at Nineteen (1569)

When Edward de Vere was nineteen in 1569 and still a royal ward of Elizabeth I living under William Cecil’s roof in London, his purchases included items such as:

“Fine black cloth for a cape and a riding cloak … one doublet of cambric [thin cotton or linen fabric of fine close weave, probably white], one doublet of fine canvas, and one of black satin … the furniture of a riding cloak … one pair of velvet hose, black … Ten pairs of Spanish leather shoes … a rapier, dagger and girdle [belt or sash] … … six sheets of fine Holland [cotton cloth], six handkerchiefs and six others of cambric … four yards of velvet, and four others of satin to guard and border a Spanish capeone velvet hat, and one taffeta hat [of lightweight fabric]; two velvet caps, a scarf, two pairs of garters with silver at the ends, a plume of feathers for a hat, and another hat band …”

These notations come from an old account book containing “Payments made by John Hart, Chester Herald, on behalf of the Earl of Oxford” for the first nine months of 1569. In his biography of the earl, B.M. Ward observes that such details make it possible to “vividly picture” de Vere in his daily life at the time:

“Rather below medium height, he was sturdy with brown curly hair and hazel eyes. On his head a velvet cap with a plume of pheasants’ feathers fastened on one side. A black satin doublet, velvet breeches, and silk stockings supported by silver buckled garters. On his feet the broad-toed, flat-footed, soft leather shoes of the period. At his side a light rapier, passed through a silver-studded belt.”

This snapshot becomes a short video:

“Thus clad, he would go down to the river stairs at the bottom of Ivy Lane. The liveried watermen would be ready waiting at the steps with the canopied barge; and then they would go upstream, perhaps, to the Palace at Richmond …  On another morning, perhaps he would order one of his four geldings [castrated male horses]; and having discarded the Court silks and satins for the more serviceable cloths, he would ride out from Cecil House westward along the Strand past St. Martin’s Church, with a hawk on his wrist. Here he would canter along the soft turf at the side of the narrow country lane till he came to the little village of Kensington. An hour’s hawking, with its wild gallops over fields and through woods; and so back to London with the bag of partridges and herons tied to his saddle.”

The word-picture concludes that evening. This young noble, “tired with the day’s chase” and now in his library, is surrounded by the books he loves. [The same account book lists 1569 payments for his purchases of “a Geneva Bible gilt, a Chaucer, Plutarch’s works in French, with other books and papers … two Italian books … Tully’s and Plato’s works in folio, with other books, paper and nibs (pen points)”] “We may be sure,” Ward writes, “that his active mind was attracted by the wealth of Renaissance literature that was then beginning to flood England,” adding that the 17th Earl of Oxford’s enthusiasm for Italy “originated no doubt from the Italian books he had read, perhaps surreptitiously, while he was a royal ward.”

///

Ward, BM. The Seventeenth Earl of Oxford 1550-1604 From Contemporary Documents, 1928, pp. 31-35

Oxford to Queen Elizabeth as Dark Lady: “Commanded by the Motion of Thine Eyes”

This is the second chapter of a series about how the Sonnets identify Elizabeth I of England as the so-called Dark Lady, who is “dark” or “black” only because of her negative imperial attitude and actions:  “In nothing art thou black save in thy deeds,” he tells her in Sonnet 131.

Elizabeth Tudor

Elizabeth Tudor

For those of us who conclude that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford wrote the works attributed to Shakespeare, one particular phrase in the so-called Dark Lady sequence confirms that the powerful, deceitful woman in question is none other than the Queen.  That phrase is comprised by line 12 of Sonnet 149:

“Commanded by the motion of thine eyes.”

Here is Gloucester in 1 Henry VI (1, 1):

“England ne’er had a king until his time.

Virtue he had, deserving to command.”

G. Wilson Knight declares in The Mutual Flame (1955) that the Sonnets “regularly express love through metaphors from royalty and its derivatives, using such phrases as ‘my sovereign … thy glory … lord of my love … embassy of love … commanded by the motion of thine eyes.’”

If William of Stratford is the author, he cannot be addressing the Queen in these private, personal sonnets — to understate it.  His use of royal language would necessarily be metaphorical.

Oxford, however, is a high-ranking nobleman at the royal court, accustomed to speaking directly with her Majesty, and therefore he cannot be using such language when addressing any female but the Queen.

For this proud Earl, so keenly attuned to the meaning and power of words, to suggest that any woman other than her Majesty might “command” him would be unthinkable.

Elizabeth is the absolute monarch whom he has pledged to serve; now, toward the end of her life and reign, she has crushed all his hopes for a Tudor succession.  Having pledged his undying loyalty, however, he is compelled to continue in her service even though he has come to despise it:

“What merit do I in my self respect

That is so proud thy service to despise,

When all my best doth worship thy defect,

Commanded by the motion of thine eyes?”

(Emphases added)

“Thy service” echoes Oxford’s own postscript to William Cecil Lord Burghley on 30 October 1584: “I serve her Majesty, and I am that I am,” while also echoing his words to the Queen herself, in a letter of June 1599, while trying to help her avoid losing income on a tin-mining venture: “I beseech Your Majesty, in whose service I have faithfully employed myself … to give commandment that the order of your preemption be not altered…”

[Oxford often did write to Burghley, the Lord High Treasurer of England and chief minister to the Queen, the most powerful man in the realm, signing off as “Your Lordship’s to command,” but otherwise any such address by him was to Elizabeth.  Characters in the plays of various types and in various contexts might be “commanded” metaphorically, but the Sonnets are personal and direct statements in real life, from a specific writer to a specific person; and the authorship question poses a choice between two entirely different contexts, Stratfordian or Oxfordian.  The latter perspective, with de Vere as author of the Sonnets, compels the same words on the page to be viewed within a very different framework.]

Meanwhile the slightest “motion” of the monarch’s eye, indicating disapproval, is all it takes to send any subject (regardless of rank) to the scaffold.  The Sonnets are filled with such powerful eyes – ninety of them, in various forms – and Shakespeare knows their authority, as the Bastard advises his sovereign in King John (5.1):

“Be great in act, as you have been in thought;

Let not the world see and fear mistrust

Govern the motion of a kingly eye!

The bottom line is that if Oxford is Shakespeare the Dark Lady can only be Elizabeth Tudor, his sovereign mistress.

Recapping to this point:

  1. “Ever the same” in Sonnet 76 is how Queen Elizabeth translated her motto.
  2. “Marigold” in Sonnet 25 is her Majesty’s flower.
  3. “Commanded by the motion of thine eyes” in Sonnet 149, if from Oxford’s pen, must be to the Queen.

Sonnet 149

Canst thou O cruel, say I love thee not,

When I against my self with thee partake?

Do I not think on thee when I forgot

Am of my self all tyrant for thy sake?

Who hateth thee that I do call my friend?

On whom frown’st* thou that I do fawn upon?

Nay, if thou lour’st on me, do I not spend

Revenge upon my self with present moan?

What merit do I in my self respect

That is so proud thy service to despise,

When all my best doth worship thy defect,

Commanded by the motion of thine eyes?

But, love, hate on, for now I know thy mind,

Those that can see thou lov’st, and I am blind.

  • Frown’st recalls how, in Sonnet 25, even those “favorites” of “Great Princes” can be plunged into disgrace and ruin by the sudden loss of their favor, “For at a frown they in their glory die” — another reason why Sonnet 149 can be addressed by Oxford only to the Queen.  In these lines he is saying his “love” or loyalty to her is so great that he supports her even when it means to “partake” with her “against my self.”  Such is the bitter end of the entire Dark Lady series, in the final line of Sonnet 152, when he accuses her of forcing him to “swear against the truth so foul a lie” — the truth being his own motto and identity, which he has betrayed because of her.  He has become “all tyrant” for her sake, a traitor to himself, by joining her in failing to tell the truth about Southampton, their unacknowledged royal son, who remains in prison so long as she lives and will not succeed her on the throne.

Reason 97 Why Edward de Vere was “Shakespeare” — The Play “Agamemnon and Ulysses” of 1584, Performed by Oxford’s Boys at Court, as an Early Version of “Troilus and Cressida” — and the Contemporary History Behind It

“Conceived out of the fullest heat and pulse of European feudalism — personifying in unparalleled ways the medieval aristocracy, its towering spirit of ruthless and gigantic cast, its own peculiar air and arrogance (no mere imitation) — only one of the ‘wolfish earls’ so plenteous in the plays themselves, or some born descendent and knower, might seem to be the true author of those amazing works…” — Walt Whitman

The Trojan War  of Greek Mythology  (1194-1184 BC?)

The Trojan War
of Greek Mythology
(1194-1184 BC?)

This reason to conclude that the Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare” offers circumstantial evidence showing how knowledge of the correct author can change our perception of the works. It involves just one aspect of the play Troilus and Cressida – the sections with Agamemnon, commander-in-chief of the Greeks during the Trojan War, and the Greek hero Ulysses, King of Ithaca, fighting on his side. Traditional thinking requires the writing circa 1602, but an Oxfordian view reveals two basic stages of composition, the first at a much earlier date:

Accounts of the Office of the Revels
December 27, 1584

“The History of Agamemnon and Ulysses, Presented and Enacted before Her Majesty by the Earl of Oxenford his Boys on St. Johns Day at night in Greenwich” (Modernized English)

Eva Turner Clark in Hidden Allusions in Shakespeare Plays (1931) quotes an orthodox critic (Murray) as surmising that “this play may have been written by the Earl of Oxford himself, as he was known as one of the best dramatic writers of the day.” She adds that since the earl was “the only dramatic author of note” at the time it becomes even more likely that the play was his. [Mark Anderson in Shakespeare by Another Name (2005) notes that the orthodox scholar Albert Feuillerat also thought Oxford might be the author of this “lost” play.]

Edward de Vere had endured two years of banishment from court until June 1583, but now, two nights after Christmas Day of 1584, at Greenwich Palace, his Children’s Acting Company was performing Agamemnon and Ulysses for Elizabeth and her Royal Court. The play that her Majesty attended was never published, and the author was never named, but this historical context provides evidence that Agamemnon and Ulysses comprised the original version of Troilus and Cressida, to be attributed to William Shakespeare in 1609, a quarter century later.

Troilus and Cressida First Title Page - 1609 (Replaced by another title page during the print run.)

Troilus and Cressida
First Title Page – 1609
(Replaced by another title page during the print run.)

The Shakespearean text appears to contain two different plays, with two different writing styles. The first two scenes, for example, feature Troilus and Pandarus and Cressida, using the rapid, realistic dialogue of a seasoned playwright; but the third scene, featuring Agamemnon and Ulysses with other commanders, is filled with long speeches of blank verse – powerful and thoughtful, but in a style used much earlier on the English stage.

Troilus and Cressida 1609 (Second Title Page of the first quarto)

Troilus and Cressida 1609
(Second Title Page of the first quarto)

“Careful study of the two kinds of work in Troilus and Cressida will perhaps bring home to the reader – more clearly than anything else could – a sense of what took place in the development of drama in Queen Elizabeth’s reign,” J. Thomas Looney writes in Shakespeare Identified of 1920. “What we take to be the Earl of Oxford’s play of Agamemnon and Ulysses, forming the original ground-work for the ‘Shakespeare’ play of Troilus and Cressida, represents the Elizabethan drama in an early simple stage of its evolution – with few speakers and long speeches – and the finished play of Troilus and Cressida the work of the same pen, when practice had matured his command over the resources of true dramatic dialogue and a multitude of dramatis personae.”

During 1583 and 1584, when war between England and Spain was inevitable, Protestant leaders in the Netherlands became desperate to keep Philip II from establishing sovereignty over them. The Dutch begged England for men, money, arms and military leaders. Again and again they pressed Elizabeth to take the Provinces into her own hands, to claim sovereignty for herself and meet Spain there in open warfare. The danger of a Spanish takeover was growing; but the Queen’s counselors were divided: Leicester and the Puritans urged the Queen to send an army of several thousand; but Burghley apparently felt England would be too vulnerable without more help from within the ranks of the Low Countries, so she refused. As a result, the English government appeared to be losing its focus, breaking into fractions and becoming weaker.

Click on the Image for a Larger View of the Map -- which makes the vulnerability of England all too clear

Click on the Image for a Larger View of the Map — which makes the vulnerability of England all too clear

[In particular Oxford was angry at Elizabeth for allowing Sir Walter Raleigh, an outsider, to gain influence over her thinking and to take his own place in her high favor. He was also furious that Leicester still held sway with her. The Queen was presenting herself as weak and indecisive, allowing discord within her Council to run rampant. In the 1584 play of Agamemnon and Ulysees, the Greeks would have represented England’s leaders while Troy represented Spain.]

When Edward de Vere is viewed as author of the play presented to the Queen at Christmastime 1584, the contemporary history becomes conspicuous. Dorothy and Charlton Ogburn describe it This Star of England (1952): “Elizabeth is Agamemnon … while Ulysses’s great speech to Agamemnon is Oxford’s warning and reminder to the Queen. No one else in Elizabeth’s court could have spoken with such power, eloquence and nobility.”

ULYSSES:
Agamemnon,
Thou great commander, nerves and bone of Greece,
Heart of our numbers, soul and only spirit,
In whom the tempers and the minds of all
Should be shut up, hear what Ulysses speaks…

This speech, the Ogburns write, “is the premier Earl of England addressing his sovereign … It is Edward de Vere pointing out to his Queen the weaknesses which are afflicting their beloved country.”

ULYSSES:
Troy, yet upon his basis, had been down,
And the great Hector’s sword had lacked a master,
But for these instances.
The specialty of rule hath been neglected:
And look how many Grecian tents do stand
Hollow upon this plain, so many hollow factions.
When that the general is not like the hive
To whom the foragers shall all repair,
What honey is expected? Degree being vizarded,
The un-worthiest shows as fairly in the mask.

“He administers a stern rebuke to the Queen,” the Ogburns continue. “She has been lax with conspirators and tolerated the Puritans, thus encouraging the ‘hollow factions.’ She has ignored, masked, overridden ‘degree,’ making unworthy men, ambitious nobodies, the equals of those whose ancestors’ lives as well as their own, have been dedicated in duty to England, who have fought to make England great, who are responsible for her welfare and should be honored as her spokesmen and defenders. They have earned their high position and responsibility.”

Queen Elizabeth and Members of the Council

Queen Elizabeth and Members of the Council

“The scene as a whole is a discussion of state policy,” Looney writes, “from the standpoint of one strongly imbued with aristocratic conceptions, and conscious of the decline of the feudal order upon which social life had hitherto rested. Make, then, the Earl of Oxford the writer, and Elizabeth’s court the audience for ‘Shakespeare’s’ representation of Agamemnon and Ulysses, and the whole situation becomes much more intelligible than if we try to make the Stratford man the writer.”

ULYSSES (Continued):
The heavens themselves, the planets, and this center
Observe degree, priority, and place,
Insisture, course, proportion, season, form,
Office, and custom, in all line of order.
And therefore is the glorious planet Sol
In noble eminence enthroned and sphered
Amidst the other; whose med’cinable eye
Corrects the influence of evil planets,
And posts, like the commandment of a King,
Sans check to good and bad. But when the planets
In evil mixture to disorder wander,
What plagues and what portents, what mutiny,
What raging of the sea, shaking of earth,
Commotion in the winds, frights, changes, horrors,
Divert and crack, rend and deracinate
The unity and married calm of states
Quite from their fixture?

“This speech expresses the essence of Elizabethan philosophy,” the Ogburns write. “It states the sixteenth-century theory of the cosmos: everything in its place and maintaining its peculiar function in a hierarchy stretching from the highest to the lowest, in an ordered universe … This is a Vere pronouncing an Elizabethan nobleman’s creed. This is not merely a poet, his ‘eye in a fine frenzy rolling’; it is an English knight addressing his sovereign with the religious fervor of his patriotism.”

ULYSSES (Continued):
O, when degree is shaked,
Which is the ladder to all high designs,
The enterprise is sick! How could communities,
Degrees in schools, and brotherhoods in cities,
Peaceful commerce from dividable shores,
The primogenity and due of birth,
Prerogative of age, crowns, scepters, laurels,
But by degree, stand in authentic place?
Take but degree away, untune that string,
And hark what discord follows.

Mark Anderson notes that in 1567, when Oxford was seventeen, he had sent his retainer Thomas Churchyard off to fight for the Protestants in the Netherlands. By 1584 the situation was growing desperate. Elizabeth was urged to support the campaign by William “the Silent” of Orange to overthrow Spanish forces in the Lowlands. “To the maddeningly cautious queen, though,” Anderson writes, “such decisions were best handled by procrastination.”

William "the Silent"  1533 - 1584

William “the Silent”
1533 – 1584

In March the German scholar Sturmius, with whom Oxford had studied during his travels in 1575, urged Elizabeth to appoint a force led by “some faithful and zealous personage such as the Earl of Oxford, the Earl of Leicester, or Philip Sidney.” While the Queen continued to stall, William the Silent was assassinated in July, and finally she agreed to send military aid to the Lowlands. But who would lead the English forces? Who would assume the governorship of this possible English colony?

“Leicester was the leading choice,” Anderson notes, but “as Sturmius’s letter shows, de Vere had become a contender for the job too,” and he took it so seriously that “in the Elizabethan court’s Christmas revels of 1584, he gave his aspirations voice” in Agamemnon and Ulysses. In the scenes preserved in Troilus and Cressida, Anderson writes, “Agamemnon notes that the Greek campaign against Troy has been going on for seven years; William the Silent’s campaign against Spain had lasted [for seven years] since 1577 … In December of 1584, a play staged for Queen Elizabeth about the siege of Troy would readily have been seen as a representation of the siege of the Netherlands … [and Oxford] would have been arguing not only for military intervention but also for his leadership of the English forces — portraying himself as Ulysses, a paragon of aristocratic and military ideals.”

[I believe Anderson is the first to suggest that Oxford’s writing of Agamemnon and Ulysses was directly connected to his bid for military command, that is, “for an office of singular importance to the nation … in step with the overseas threats now facing the country.”]

ULYSSES (Continued):
…And this neglection of degree it is
That by a pace goes backward with a purpose
It hath to climb. The general’s disdained
By him one step below, he by the next,
That next by him beneath; so every step,
Exampled by the first pace that is sick
Of his superior, grows to an envious fever
Of pale and bloodless emulation:
And ‘tis this fever that keeps Troy on foot,
Not her own sinews. To end a tale of length,
Troy in our weakness stands, not in her strength.

In that final line we can hear 34-year-old Oxford telling Elizabeth that Spain is strong not because of its own strength, but, rather, because of England’s current weakness of state policy and its divided political factions under her indecisive rule.

Philip II of Spain berating William the Silent, Prince of Orange

Philip II of Spain berating William the Silent, Prince of Orange

Oxford’s plea for military leadership apparently worked, because the Queen appointed him in August 1585 as commander of a large force in the Netherlands. In September a Spanish agent in London reported that “five or six thousand English soldiers … arrived in Flanders with the Earl of Oxford and Colonel Norris.” About a month later, however, he was recalled — brought home, I suggest, to lead the circle of writers later called the University Wits, and to contribute royal history plays to the touring companies of the Queen’s Men, inspiring audiences with calls for patriotism and unity in the face of the Spanish threat.

It may well be that the Queen so valued his writing, particularly because of the speeches for Ulysses, that she finally realized he was needed most for his literary and dramatic abilities at home. In that case, his ambition for a military command was undercut by the brilliant, passionate words of the very speeches he wrote in trying to fulfill it.

When Troilus and Cressida was printed in 1609 it was without authorization — along with Pericles and the Sonnets, also without the author’s approval or even knowledge. Troilus and Cressida was almost left out of the First Folio of Shakespearean plays in 1623 and seems to have been included at the last moment. The hesitation may well have come from concerns that its subject matter circa 1584, along with Oxford’s identity as author, would be seen all too clearly.

Christopher Marlowe, Continued: the Fourth and Final Part of Reason 95 to Believe the Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare”

Queen Elizabeth with the troops at Tilbury as the Spanish armada arrived

Queen Elizabeth with the troops at Tilbury as the Spanish armada arrived

After England destroyed the Spanish armada in the summer of 1588, Edward de Vere the seventeenth Earl of Oxford played a prominent role in the celebratory procession to St. Paul’s Cathedral on the twenty-fourth of November. An observer reported in A Joyful Ballad of the Royal Entrance of Queen Elizabeth into the City of London:

The noble Earl of Oxford then High Chamberlain of England
Rode right before Her Majesty his bonnet in his hand…
And afterwards unto Paul’s cross she did directly pass,
There by the Bishop of Salisbury a sermon preached was;
The Earl of Oxford opening then the windows for her Grace,
The Children of the Hospital she saw before her face.

But this was the end of Oxford’s public life. He soon disappeared from court and public view, retiring to the countryside after selling Vere House and Fisher’s Folly, the latter mansion having provided a London home base for writers in his charge. His wife Anne Cecil had died in June of 1588 and her father, Lord Burghley, as Master of the Court of Wards, instituted procedures against him in early 1589 for his debts dating back at least two decades and amounting to a staggering total of some 22,000 pounds – rendering his annuity of a thousand pounds virtually useless.

William Cecil Lord Burghley

William Cecil
Lord Burghley

[Mostly likely Oxford went to the manor house of Stoke Newington. After that he may have gone to Billesley Hall in the Valley of the Avon, owned by the family of Elizabeth Trussel, the Maid of Honor who became his second wife in 1591. A local legend is that As You Like It was written by “Shakespeare” at Billesley Hall.]

Billesley Hall or Manor

Billesley Hall or Manor

Oxford was the central sun around which the writers revolved, so when he could no longer finance their labors they began to fly out of orbit. The result, directly or indirectly, was the loss of nearly all of them within a span of some five years; for example:

John Lyly, his main secretary and stage manager, lost his job in 1590;
Thomas Lodge escaped poverty by voyaging to South America in 1591;
Thomas Watson died in 1592;
Robert Greene died of dissipation and poverty in September 1592;
Christopher Marlowe was stabbed to death on May 30, 1593;
Thomas Kyd, after being tortured on the rack in 1593, died in 1594.

Oxford’s company of child actors, called Paul’s Boys and/or Oxford’s Boys, was forced by the government to dissolve in 1590; and soon after, writes Eva Turner Clark, “the loud complaints of members of the group are heard; one member dies in poverty; another fails to receive promised preferment; another is killed in a tavern brawl; and others drag on in miserable existence. The goose that lay the Golden Eggs was dead.”

Outcries from the writers took various forms that only certain members of the royal court and the aristocracy might have understood. Thomas Nashe, for example, in his 1589 preface to Greene’s prose work Menaphon entitled To The Gentlemen Students of Both Universities, referred to Oxford as the “English Seneca” who had been forced to “die to our stage” or to abandon his commitment to theatre:

“Yet English Seneca read by candlelight yields many good sentences, as ‘Blood is a beggar,’ and so forth; and if you entreat him fair in a frosty morning, he will afford you whole Hamlets, I should say handfuls, of tragical speeches. But oh grief! Tempus edax rerum: [‘Time, the consumer of all things”] what’s that will last always? The sea exhaled by drops will in continuance be dry, and Seneca, let blood line by line and page by page, at length must needs die to our stage.”

armada
Many Oxfordians believe that Edward de Vere had written the first version of Hamlet by 1585, when he had Marcellus allude to “shipwrights” (builders of wooden vessels) in London who were helping to prepare for the Spanish invasion:

Good now, sit down, and tell me, he that knows,
Why this same strict and most observant watch
So nightly toils the subject of the land,
And why such daily cast of brazen cannon,
And foreign mart for implements of war;
Why such impress of shipwrights, whose sore task
Does not divide the Sunday from the week…

The spectacle of shipbuilding all week and even on Sundays, as the nation braced for war on the home front, would have resonated with an English audience before, but not after, the arrival of the armada in 1588. Meanwhile Nashe was also indirectly reporting that the author of the tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark had been forced to “die to our stage.”

Then at the end of 1590 came registration of the poem Tears of the Muses, attributed to Edmund Spenser, also bemoaning the loss of the great author:

And he, the man whom nature self had made
To mock herself, and truth to imitate,
With kindly counter under mimic sdhade,
Our pleasant Willy, ah! Is dead of late…

But that same gently spirit, from whose pen
Large streams of honey and sweet nectar flow,
Scorning the boldness of such base-born men
Which dare their follies forth so rashly throw,
Doth rather choose to sit in idle cell,
That so himself to mockery to sell.

It was Edward de Vere who (as Hamlet puts it) held the mirror up to “nature” and so “imitate” the “truth” in his work – an echo in passing of his motto Nothing Truer than Truth. Oxford was the great writer who had been “dead of late” and was now choosing to “sit in idle cell” rather than sell himself or his work. In one of his song-verses printed back in The Paradise of Dainty Devices, signed “E.O.” in 1576 and “E. Ox” in subsequent editions, he revealed that “never am less idle, lo, than when I am alone” – that is, he never worked harder than when he was by himself.

Meanwhile in September 1589 two of the writer-spies in Oxford’s circle got into trouble. Marlowe was fighting in the street with an innkeeper’s son, William Bradley, when Watson appeared and drew his sword. Marlowe stepped back, but Bradley leaped toward Watson and wounded him. Watson retreated, but Bradley charged again, so now Watson pierced him deep in the chest, killing him. Both writer-agents were tossed into the Newgate dungeon, but Marlowe was released without charge while a jury eventually ruled that Watson had acted in self-defense. He spent some months in the prison, awaiting “the grace of the Queen” until, on February 10, 1590, he received a pardon.

Queen Elizabeth The Armada Portrait

Queen Elizabeth
The Armada Portrait

The death of Secretary Francis Walsingham on April 6, 1590 sent the world of English espionage into a tailspin of competing factions. The strongest one was controlled by the powerful father-son team of William Cecil Lord Burghley and Robert Cecil. The latter, Oxford’s former brother-in-law, was determined to gain power over the intelligence-gathering apparatus and, too, over the public stage along with its playwrights, play companies and playhouses.

Upon the Secretary’s death some of his spy network fell into the hands of his cousin Thomas Walsingham, who began to lead a kind of rogue operation. Watson and Marlowe both entered Thomas Walsingham’s patronage; and Marlowe continued to travel abroad. As reported first by Nicholl in The Reckoning, in January 1592 Marlowe was lodging with two other English spies in Flushing, a Dutch seaport town ceded to England in return for support against Spanish invaders. On the twenty-sixth of that month, Marlowe was arrested in Flushing as a counterfeiter and deported – a bizarre episode that ended with him returning home as a prisoner to face Burghley in private and answer his questions.

Might it be reasonable to ask how Marlowe found time to write? It appears that whatever his literary and dramatic contributions may have been, they had ceased when Oxford gave up Fisher’s Folly in 1589 and could no longer support the University Wits. In The Mysterious William Shakespeare (1584), Charlton Ogburn Jr. supported the idea that it was Oxford who had discovered Marlowe’s dramatic ability and brought out Tamburlaine in 1587, to teach the people what might be expected of a ruthless conqueror like Philip of Spain; and he continued:

“The relationship between the two playwrights [Oxford and Marlowe] at this time may be taken to account for the similarities in Shakespeare’s early historical dramas to Edward the Second, printed in 1594 as Marlowe’s” – that is, printed with his name after he was murdered. “The supposition would be that the play was an early one of Oxford’s that the Earl turned over in draft to Marlowe to make what he would of it.”

[Ogburn’s mother Dorothy Ogburn had written of “evidence that Edward the Second is a direct forerunner of 2 and 3 Henry the Sixth and of Richard II and is by the same hand, created out of the same consciousness: it is not plagiarized from someone else. There are innumerable correspondences between Edward the Second and these dramas, not only in locutions, imagery and mannerisms, but also in point of view.”]

On April 18, 1593, the long, highly cultured and sophisticated narrative poem Venus and Adonis was entered at the Stationer’s Register in London, without any author’s name.

William Cecil Lord Burghley (l) and his son Robert Cecil (r)

William Cecil Lord Burghley (l) and his son Robert Cecil (r)

On May 30, 1593, Christopher Marlowe was killed in the company of three other spies. Among them was the most important government agent, Robert Poley, who was now working for Burghley and Robert Cecil – the latter being determined to prevent nobles such as Oxford, Essex and Southampton from choosing a successor to Elizabeth, now in her sixtieth year. The only way Robert Cecil could hope to retain power behind the throne, beyond the reign of Elizabeth, was to become the kingmaker.

It appears that Cecil had viewed Kit Marlowe as knowing too many secrets to be trusted, that is, as having been too dangerous to remain alive. In any case, Marlow had never been named as the author of any poem or play during his lifetime.

A few weeks later, in June 1593, Venus and Adonis went on sale. No author’s name appeared on the title page, but the printed signature for the dedication to Southampton carried, for the first time, the name of an otherwise unknown author – William Shakespeare, evoking the image of a warrior-poet shaking the spear of his pen.

Oxford had returned…

“English Seneca” … “Our Pleasant Willy” … was back.

Part Three of Reason 91 Why Edward de Vere was Shakespeare: The Stubborn Bear of Authority in “The Winter’s Tale”

When twenty-six-year-old Edward de Vere returned to England from his Continental journey in April 1576, he angrily separated from his wife Anne Cecil, believing she had been unfaithful to him. Less than a year before, while he was in Italy, the young Countess of Oxford had given birth to a girl, Elizabeth Vere, but the earl refused to acknowledge his paternity and remained apart from both his wife and the child for the ensuing five years.

During this separation, Catherine (Kate) Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk wrote in December 1577 to Oxford’s father-in-law William Cecil, Lord Burghley, about a scheme she had hatched with the earl’s sister, Mary Vere, who was engaged to her son Peregrine Bertie, Lord Willoughby. The plan was to trick Oxford into finally laying eyes on his little daughter. Reporting on their conversation, the Duchess wrote to Cecil that Mary told her Oxford “would very fain (gladly) see the child [but] is loath to send for her.”

Kate Willoughby Duchess of Suffolk  1519 - 1580

Kate Willoughby
Duchess of Suffolk
1519 – 1580

“Then,” the Duchess told Mary, “you will keep my counsel [and] we will have some sport with him. I will see if I can get the child hither to me, when you shall come hither, and whilst my Lord your brother is with you I will bring in the child as though it were some other of my friends’, and we shall see how Nature will work in him to like it, and tell him it is his own after.’”

There’s no record of whether Catherine’s scheme was put into effect, but The Winter’s Tale contains a scene that’s a veritable carbon copy of this otherwise private episode. The plot centers on the extreme jealousy of Leontes, King of Sicilia, who is convinced that Queen Hermione has been unfaithful to him, and he has her arrested. While in prison she gives birth to a daughter, but Leontes refuses to accept paternity, believing the father to be his friend Polixenes, King of Bohemia.

Enter the Lady Paulina, who, in reflection of what the Duchess of Suffolk did, schemes to bring the infant girl to the King in the belief that the sight of the innocent babe will bring him to his senses. At the prison she addresses Emilia, attending Queen Hermione:

LADY PAULINA:
Pray you, Emilia,
Commend my best obedience to the Queen:
If she dares trust me with her little babe,
I’ll show it to the King, and undertake to be
Her advocate to the loudest. We do not know
How he may soften at the sight of the child:
The silence often of pure innocence
Persuades, when speaking fails.

Execution of Mary Stuart Queen of Scots  February 8, 1587

Execution of Mary Stuart
Queen of Scots
February 8, 1587

When Edward de Vere is viewed as the author, there can be little doubt that he was castigating himself for having accused his own wife of infidelity – portraying, through Leontes, his own irrational jealousy and hurtful behavior. Dorothy and Charlton Ogburn express their belief in This Star of England (1952), however, that Oxford began to write The Winter’s Tale during or after the trial of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots in October 1586, when he sat at the head of the tribunal that found her guilty of treason and sentenced her to death. They feel this event profoundly affected him, not only “exciting his compassion but also tormenting his conscience” over having to cast his vote along with the others – regardless of whether or not he thought she was guilty.

Oxford had fought to save his cousin Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, who was convicted in January 1572 of participating with Philip II of Spain (in the Ridolfi plot) to put Mary on the throne in place of Elizabeth and restore Catholicism in England. The execution of Norfolk on June 2, 1572 at Tower Hill represented Burghley’s triumph over the old feudal nobility as well as his tightening hold over the Queen. Now some fourteen years later Oxford was forced to join the peers in once again carrying out Cecil’s designs, this time sealing the destruction of Mary Stuart.

“In the performance of his duty – his prime duty to his sovereign, to which honor and the oath of allegiance compelled him – he had been obliged to violate the dictates of his heart, as well as a still deeper code of humanity and of manhood,” the Ogburns write, “whereupon he turned upon himself in a savage mood and created the preposterous Leontes in what he conceived to be his own image. For Leontes, while also a symbol of entrenched if not tyrannical power, is of course largely Oxford again, but Oxford in a moment of revulsion, scorning himself for his own iniquities.”

As the Ogburns see it, Oxford was “willing to pillory himself” and have it seem he was simply portraying his own former jealousy and personal tyranny, when in fact Leontes also represents English authority in the person of Burghley and the English peers (including himself) who participated in the legalistic formality of a unanimous verdict that was a foregone conclusion. So in the play Leontes accuses Hermoine not only of adultery but also of conspiring with Polixenes to murder him – reflecting the accusation by Elizabeth (and Burghley) that Mary Stuart was plotting to kill her.

Leontes declares his own baby girl a bastard and orders Paulina’s husband Antigonous to take the child “to some remote and desert place” and leave it there at the mercy of the elements. After Hermione is presumed dead, Antigonous names his tiny charge Perdita and abandons her on the stormy coast of Bohemia with his own “character” or written account of what happened. In other words, Antigonous is a writer who has set down the truth and left it for posterity; but in the next moment he sees some hideous beast coming toward him and yells to himself that he must get back to the ship.

exit pursued by a bear

“This is the chase! I am gone for ever!” he cries, running off, and the playwright adds his famous stage direction: “Exit, pursued by a bear.”

A Shepherd arrives, then a Clown, who tells him how the bear caught up to the man and “tore out his shoulder-bone.” The man “cried to me for help and said his name was Antigonous, a nobleman.” So this truth-telling nobleman-writer has been torn apart by the bear. He “roared and the bear mocked him,” the Clown says, adding the beast has “half dined” on him and is still “at it now.” Later the Clown reveals that “authority be a stubborn bear” – that is, the bear is allegorically the figure of authority or officialdom, which has silenced the nobleman-writer.

Edward de Vere can be seen now as depicting himself briefly as the truth-telling nobleman who refers to himself in Antigonous’s exit line: “I am gone for ever!” – the way Oxford alluded to his own name, E. Ver, in earlier verses with lines such as, “Who was the first that gave the wound whose fear I wear for ever?” and the echo’s response: “Vere.”

Why write I still all one, ever the same…
That every word doth almost tell my name? – Sonnet 76

If Oxford uses Antigonous here to stand for himself, the nobleman-author, might it be that the baby Perdita in this scene represents the earl’s plays? Has “authority” directed Oxford to abandon any claim to his writings? “Weep I cannot, but my heart bleeds,” Antigonous cries as he sets down “this poor wretch” in the wilderness, adding that “most accursed am I to be by oath enjoined to this.”

Has officialdom or the stubborn bear of authority, in the form of Queen Elizabeth and Lord Burghley, imposed an oath of secrecy upon Oxford?

If so, he would have taken such an oath when, on June 25, 1586, four months before Mary Stuart’s treason trial, Elizabeth had signed a Privy Seal Warrant for a grant to Oxford of one thousand pounds, an extraordinary sum to be paid to him annually by the Exchequer. [My own belief is that Oxford had been selling his land and spending his own money on his play companies and to support the writers under his patronage, so that now he was being repaid.] The warrant gave no hint of the reason for the grant and expressly stated, in the Queen’s own words, that the earl was exempt from accounting for its expenditure.

But in return, was Oxford now being mauled and slowly devoured by authority, the stubborn bear?

And art made tongue-tied by authority – Sonnet 66

Mary, Queen of Scots was executed by beheading on February 8, 1587.

Oxford had returned to Anne by Christmas, 1581; she died on June 8, 1588, having given birth to three surviving children, all daughters.

The Spanish armada arrived later in the summer of 1588, but failed to land on English soil much less to conquer England.

In the next five years most of the writers under Oxford’s patronage would be gone — Lyly out of a job; Kyd dying after being tortured on the rack; Marlowe killed; Greene dying; Watson dying; Lodge leaving England, and so on.

By 1590 Oxford had retired from the royal court, becoming a virtual recluse; he remarried by early 1592 and his second wife, the Maid of Honor Elizabeth Trentham, gave birth to a son in Feburary 1593, naming him Henry de Vere, the future eighteenth Earl of Oxford – the first Henry of the more than 500-year-old Vere lineage.

“Shakespeare” abruptly appeared in print for the first time later in 1593, on the dedication of Venus and Adonis to Henry Wriothseley, third Earl of Southampton.

On May 22, 1594, Edward White registered a play entitled A Winter’s Night Pastime for publication, which the editor Edmund Malone understood to be The Winter’s Tale . In November of 1611 came a notation in the Revels Accounts of a performance of The Winter Night’s Tale at the James court. Clearly the earliest version of The Winter’s Tale as by “Shakespeare,” first printed in the Folio of 1623, had been written much earlier.

The Gad’s Hill Robbery: An Episode with Oxford’s Men in 1573 Shows Up in “Henry the Fourth Part One” — No. 85 of 100 Reasons Why Edward de Vere was the Great Author

On May 11, 1573, young Gilbert Talbot wrote to his father (the Earl of Shrewsbury) from the Elizabethan royal court that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, twenty-three, had “lately grown into great credit, for the Queen’s Majesty delighteth more in his personage and his dancing and his valiantness than any other,” adding, “If it were not for his fickle head he would pass any of them shortly.”

By “fickle” he meant that Oxford was unpredictable, changeable, volatile, inconstant, unreliable, all of which was “probably the symptom of high spirits bursting the seams of restraint,” as Charlton Ogburn Jr. suggested. Edward de Vere was much like Biron, the “merry madcap lord” of Love’s Labour’s Lost, of whom Maria says: “Not a word with him but a jest.” And another comparison would be with the young Henry V (1387-1422), back in his riotous days as Prince Hal.

Gad's Hill, where Falstaff, Prince Hal and their pals attack and rob some travelers

Gad’s Hill, where Falstaff, Prince Hal and their pals attack and rob some travelers

Nine or ten days after Talbot wrote his letter about him, on May 20-21, 1573, three of Oxford’s servants helped him carry out an elaborate prank involving the robbery of two of the earl’s former employees. After lying in wait for them at Gad’s Hill, by the highway between Rochester and Gravesend, they jumped out of hiding – apparently led by Oxford himself, since the two men later described his “raging demeanor” as he led the mock assault like a wild man. The two men were traveling on state business for Oxford’s father-in-law William Cecil, Lord Treasurer Burghley, carrying money that would have been intended for the Exchequer.

In 1580, when John Stow produced the first edition of his Chronicles of England, he reported that more than a century ago Prince Hal “would wait in disguised array for his own receivers, and distress them of their money: and sometimes at such enterprises both he and his company were surely beaten: and when his receivers made to him their complaints, how they were robbed in their coming unto him, he would give them discharge of so much money as they had lost, and besides that, they should not depart from him without great rewards for their trouble and vexation.”

While growing up as a young lord who would take his place one day as England’s premier earl, Oxford may have heard this tale of the young heir-apparent quite often, given that many stories of the monarchs were handed down by his ancestors. Was he trying to imitate Prince Hal’s particular idea of a fun time? Did he manage to return the money with “great rewards” as the prince had done?

William Cecil  Lord Treasurer Burghley 1520-1598

William Cecil
Lord Treasurer Burghley
1520-1598

During the 1580s the Queen’s Men performed The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth, an anonymous stage work whose first version or versions may have been written much earlier. In this spirited and often raucously comical play, a forerunner of Shakespeare’s royal histories, Prince Hal and his friends carry out the same elaborate prank in the same exact place: the highway near Gad’s Hill between Rochester and Gravesend, and the money is also intended for the Exchequer.

Also in Famous Victories the Clerk at the Court of the King’s Bench says the robbery took place on “the 20th day of May last past, in the fourteenth year of the reign of our sovereign lord King Henry the Fourth” – in the same month and perhaps on the exact same day as Oxford’s caper.

Given that no such particular escapade by Prince Hal (much less one at Gad’s Hill) appears in any of the historical sources, and that Oxford was reported in the 1580’s as “best for comedy” (although all his comedies are “lost”), isn’t it logical to suggest that he himself wrote that anonymous play?

(If such was the case, it would explain how and why Famous Victories indicates that the robbery took place in the month of May in the fourteenth year in the reign of Hal’s father Henry the Fourth when, in fact, there was no May in that regnal year. The king had died in March, two months short of May. But if Oxford wrote the play it means he deliberately erred, that is, he actually wanted to link it to his own caper in May 1573. At the time, young Oxford probably figured that only members of the court would realize his authorship of Famous Victories; later, however, revising the play into 1 Henry IV as by “Shakespeare,” he would have protected his identity by eliminating any date — and, to be sure, any mention of the date is gone.)

[Furthermore, Alexander Waugh points out that by placing the caper “outside” the reign of that English monarch, Oxford very likely would be indicating even more strongly, to those in the know, that he was referring to his own caper in Elizabeth’s reign.]

The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth serves as a veritable template for the Shakespearean trilogy of Henry the Fourth Part One, Henry the Fourth Part Two and Henry the Fifth. “Without any doubt whatever a very intimate connection of some kind exists between Shakespeare’s three plays and this old text,” wrote John Dover Wilson, “though what the connection is has never been established.”

Falstaff and Prince Hal

Falstaff and Prince Hal

“Shakespeare” basically lifted the Gad’s Hill episode in Famous Victories for one of the most beloved and memorable scenes of Henry the Fourth Part One. In act two, scene two, Falstaff and three of Prince Hal’s other companions from the Boar’s-Head Tavern hold up and rob some travelers bearing “money of the king’s … on the way to the king’s Exchequer,” on the highway near Gad’s Hill between Rochester and Gravesend – just as in Famous Victories, performed in the 1580s, and just as in the real-life episode involving Oxford and his men in 1573.

The two former associates of Oxford who were robbed, William Faunt and John Wotton, later submitted a complaint to Lord Burghley endorsed “May 1573 from Gravesend.” After referring to the earl’s “raging demeanor” toward them, they recall “riding peacefully by the highway from Gravesend to Rochester” when “three calivers charged with bullets discharged at us by three of my Lord of Oxford’s men … who lay privily in a ditch awaiting our coming with full intent to murder us; yet (notwithstanding they all discharging upon us so near that my saddle having the girths broken fell with myself from the horse and a bullet within half a foot of me) it pleased God to deliver us from that determined mischief; whereupon they mounted on horseback and fled towards London with all possible speed.”

Comments Ogburn Jr. in The Mysterious William Shakespeare (1984):

“We can imagine the elation of the Stratfordians if they were able to come up with as dramatic a correlation between Shakspere’s life and one of the plays as proof of his authorship.”

Yes … We can imagine!

The Bard was Highly Educated in Greek: No. 82 of 100 Reasons Why Oxford was “Shakespeare”

One of the thrilling, ongoing stories of the modern Oxfordian movement is the work of Earl Showerman MD, who, over the past decade (2004-2014), has been systematically recovering Shakespeare’s profound knowledge of the Greek language and the ancient Greek drama; and his work is offered here as one more “reason” to conclude that the Earl of Oxford was Shakespeare.

Euripedes 480 B.C.E. - 406 B.C.E.

Euripedes
480 B.C.E. – 406 B.C.E.

The Shakespeare scholar G. Wilson Knight, writing of the magical resurrection scene in the final act of The Winter’s Tale, when the statue of Hermoine comes to life, called it “the most strikingly conceived and profoundly penetrating moment in English literature.” And while critics have long regarded that play as derived from Pandosto, Robert Greene’s 1588 romance, Showerman points out that Shakespeare not only upgraded the style of Greene’s moral tale but “transformed it into a Renaissance version of a classic Greek trilogy, enriched with references to a library of ancient sources.”

Hermoine as Statue From "Tales of Shakespeare" by Charles and Mary Lamb

Hermoine as Statue
From “Tales of Shakespeare” by Charles and Mary Lamb

Dr. Showerman shows that “we can now credibly add Euripides’s tragicomedy Alcestis (438 B.C.E.) to Shakespeare’s portfolio of classical Greek sources.” In other words, while Greene took names and themes from second-century Greek romance, Shakespeare “chose to craft his romantic masterpiece in the venerable tradition of fifth-century Greek drama,” while drawing from his reading of Alcestis in the original Greek language.

This should come as worrisome news to scholars bound by Stratfordian biography. It undoubtedly means that, while the works of Shakespeare will always remain intact, these critics had better go looking for an author who could actually read Greek. Dr. Showerman points out that many scholars in the nineteenth century recognized Alcestis as a source for the mysterious statue scene in The Winter’s Tale, but “as the twentieth century passed the mid-mark, acknowledgment of the connection faded as scholars began to react to the limits on Shakespeare’s knowledge of the Greek canon imposed by the Stratford grammar school education. Since then, contemporary scholars have tended to either ignore Alcestis or relegate it to a footnote.”

[A number of modern scholars, having found evidence of an alarmingly erudite Shakespeare in the plays, are rather frantically proposing that the canon must have had multiple authors. This would be quite surprising to those who gave us the First Folio of Shakespeare plays in 1623, given that they never thought to mention any collaborators. Nonetheless, watch for continued escalation of the collaboration theme — anything to avoid the obvious evidence that there was a different single author!]

It’s not easy to calculate the damage done by the traditional limitation of vision. On the other hand, by lifting the curtain on the Greek influences in Shakespeare’s plays, Dr. Showerman is making it increasingly difficult to ignore the Greek underpinning of even the names of many Shakespearean characters. “By examining the personalities and relationships of the names used for the characters of The Winter’s Tale,” he writes, “one can more fully appreciate the Greek context out of which Shakespeare built his story. I believe that much of the mystical power of this drama derives from these archetypal Greek sources, from the histories and mythologies embedded in its characters’ names.”

In a paper entitled Shakespeare’s “Lesse Greek” (2002), Andrew Werth, a graduate of Concordia University, Portland, OR, contradicts many orthodox scholars by concluding: “Greek plots, names, passages, philosophy, dramatic technique and, most important, the Greek ‘spirit,’ enhance and inform Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets.”

Sir Thomas Smith 1513 - 1577

Sir Thomas Smith
1513 – 1577

At the same time, through the ongoing research of Stephanie Hopkins Hughes, we have learned much more about the influence upon Edward de Vere of Sir Thomas Smith, the philospher, statesman, humanist and Greek scholar. According to the available evidence, Smith “brought up” and tutored the young earl for the better part of eight years from age four to twelve, at his own household, not far from the Vere seat of Castle Hedingham. Sir Thomas had held the post of Greek Orator at the University of Cambridge, lecturing in Greek on Homer and the ancient Greek dramatists. Surely he would have transferred his enthusiasm for the Greek language to his young pupil, who spent his ninth year (1558-1559) at Smith’s own college (Queen’s) at Cambridge.

During Elizabeth’s reign, Smith followed William Cecil Lord Burghley as Principal Secretary of State in 1572 until his death in 1577. During that period, after Oxford had bolted to the Continent without permission, Burghley wrote to Sir Francis Walsingham for help in mollifying Queen Elizabeth, adding, “I doubt not but Master Secretary Smith will remember his old love towards the Earl when he was his scholar.”

After his childhood at Smith’s estates, Oxford spent most of his teens during the 1560’s as a royal ward of Elizabeth at Cecil House in London. And Lord Burghley, who had studied under Smith in much earlier days, also had Greek editions of Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripedes and Plato in his vast library. In addition the chief minister’s wife, Mildred Cooke Cecil, a major force in that household, was not only fluent in Latin, but in Greek as well. And so, once more, the biography of Edward de Vere makes a perfect fit with the works of Shakespeare.

Recommended papers online:

“Shakespeare’s” Tutor: Sir Thomas Smith by Stephanie Hopkins Hughes (2000)

Shakespeare’s “Lesse Greek” by Andrew Werth (2002)

Orestes and Hamlet: From Myth to Masterpiece by Earl Showerman (2004)

“Look Down and See what Death is Doing”: Gods and Greeks in “The Winter’s Tale” by Earl Showerman (2007)

Shakespeare’s Many Much Ado’s: Alcestis, Hercules, and “Love’s Labour’s Wonne” by Earl Showerman (2009) – page 109 of “Brief Chronicles”

“Timon of Athens”: Shakespeare’s Sophoclean Tragedy by Earl Showerman (2009)

No. 81 of 100 Reasons why Edward de Vere = “Shakespeare” — a scene of “Twelfth Night” alluding to the ordeal of Jesuit Priest Edmund Campion before his execution in December 1581

“Provide me with ink and paper and I will write!” – Edmund Campion, the Catholic priest who lived hermit-like at Prague, teaching at the Jesuit college, before returning in 1580 to England — where he was imprisoned the following year in the Tower dungeon; and who, brought out for public disputations with Church officials intending to ridicule him, was refused the means of providing written answers

“…the old hermit of Prague that never saw pen and ink…” – Feste the clown in Act Four, Scene Two of Twelfth Night, disguised as a clergyman intent upon ridiculing Malvolio, who, for a prank, is imprisoned in the cellar for being a lunatic – clearly an otherwise “hidden” reference to Campion as well as a bold criticism of the English government’s treatment of him in the fall of 1581

Edmund Campion 1540 - 1581

Edmund Campion
1540 – 1581

Twelfth Night was one of eighteen stage works never printed until the First Folio of Shakespeare plays in 1623. Two decades earlier, in 1602, the law student John Manningham had attended “a play called Twelve Night, or what you will” at the Middle Temple; and therefore most commentators, logically enough, believe this rollicking comedy was written in about 1600.

But once Edward de Vere the Earl of Oxford is envisioned writing Twelfth Night in the early 1580s, the same scenes come alive with an array of allusions to contemporary persons and events; and perhaps the most surprising of these allusions remained undiscovered until less than twenty years ago. In the Spring/Summer 1995 issue of The Elizabethan Review, researcher C. Richard Desper reported that one entire scene in the play recreates the Crown’s unfair actions toward Campion, who was tortured and found guilty of high treason before being hanged, drawn and quartered in December 1581. [He was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church in 1970.]

While it may be shocking to find an allusion to such a serious current event “hidden” within a comedy, the finding by Desper would have been virtually impossible without knowing who was the correct author. Given that William Shakspere of Stratford was only seventeen in 1581 and still in Warwickshire, this allusion to Campion’s ordeal remained unnoticed for more than four centuries. Oxford, however, was thirty-one in 1581 and writing “comedies” for private audiences as well as the court; and given his known sympathies toward Catholics in England, it is not surprising that he would be angry at officials of the Crown and Church of England for staging mockeries and travesties of justice.

Execution of Edmund Campion, Alexander Briant & Ralph Sherwin

Execution of Edmund Campion, Alexander Briant & Ralph Sherwin

In September 1581 the Elizabethan government led Campion from his dungeon in the Tower for public “conferences” in an attempt to discredit him. Scholars and clergymen representing the Church of England were sent to defeat him in religious disputations. In addition, the Crown sought to portray Campion as trying to rouse English Catholics in rebellion against Queen Elizabeth, with the goal of killing her and putting Mary Queen of Scots on the throne.

The sessions were rigged and Campion was deprived of any means of preparing a defense. During the third disputation he asked his opponent, one Master Fulke, to allow him access to books containing the teachings of St. Augustine and St. John Chrysoston.

“If you dare, let me show you Augustine and Chrysostom!” he cried out, adding, “If you dare!”

Fulke replied before he could stop himself. “If you think you can add anything,” he said, “put it in writing and I will answer it.”

Campion saw his opening and seized it. “Provide me with ink and paper,” he retorted, “and I will answer it!”

Fulke realized his tactical error. In no way had the government intended to let Campion write out his answers; after all, much of his public success had come from his writings. But now the Jesuit had outwitted his Church opponent, who had been trapped by his own statement that he, Campion, should “put it in writing.”

“I am not to provide you ink and paper,” Fulke replied, thereby denying Campion the wherewithal to write even though he himself had challenged him to do so.

“Procure me, that I may have liberty to write!”

Fulke offered an excuse that completely undermined his challenge to Campion. “I know not for what cause you are restrained of that liberty,” he said, “and therefore I will not take upon me to procure it.”

Edmund Campion as depicted in a 1631 print

Edmund Campion as depicted in a 1631 print

This public exchange, embarrassing to the government, would have been most widely known in 1582, when the “old hermit of Prague that never saw pen and ink” would have been recognized as Edmund Campion. But why would any dramatist in 1600 write and insert an entire scene within a comedy such as Twelfth Night to metaphorically recreate the Jesuit priest’s ordeal in 1581?

The scene as it survived and appeared in the Folio of 1623 begins with Malvolio shut up in the cellar [as Campion was confined in the Tower dungeon]. Feste the clown agrees to disguise himself as “Sir Topas the Curate” or cleric to interrogate the prisoner and humiliate him, as we see in the following dialogue [with key words or phrases emphasized in bold]:

Maria (to Feste): “Nay, I pray thee, put on this gown and this beard. Make him believe thou art Sir Topas the Curate. Do it quickly. I’ll call Sir Toby the whilst.”

Feste: “Well, I’ll put it on, and I will dissemble [disguise] myself in it. And I would that I were the first that ever dissembled in such a gown.”

[As Richard Desper suggests, the dramatist’s negative opinion about such proceedings is revealed here at the outset. Feste is donning an academic gown to “dissemble” or pretend to have more learning, as the opponents sent to dispute with Campion pretended – when, in fact, none of them had as much learning as he had acquired.]

Feste (continued): “I am not tall enough to become the function well, nor lean enough, to be thought a good student; but to be said an honest man and a good housekeeper goes as fairly, as to say, a careful man and a great scholar. The competitors [opponents] enter.” (Enter Sir Toby)

Toby: “Jove bless thee, Master Parson.”

[“Robert Persons was a fellow Jesuit who traveled with Campion from Rome to France,” Desper explains. “The two separated to enter England and, for reasons of security, pursued their ministries individually, meeting each other occasionally. Persons, sometimes referred to as ‘Parsons’ and a former classmate of Campion, was in charge of the Jesuit mission to England.”]

Feste: “Bonos dies, Sir Toby: for as the old hermit of Prague that never saw pen and ink very wittily said to a Niece of King Gorboduc, ‘That that is, is,” so I, being Master Parson, am Master Parson: for what is ‘that’ but ‘that’? And ‘is’ but ‘is’?”

An engraving possibly of late 17th century of Campion and Briant executions

An engraving possibly of late 17th century of Campion and Briant executions

[In addition to references already mentioned, others occur in Feste’s speech. Desper points out that Gorboduc was a mythical King of England; and Queen Elizabeth was the “niece” of her father’s brother, Arthur, who would have been King of England if he had lived. Meanwhile the phrase “That that is, is” may be taken as “a religious affirmation, just as Campion’s mission to England was a religious affirmation,” Desper writes, adding that his goal was “to affirm the truth [from the Catholic viewpoint] in the face of official displeasure” and despite efforts to force him to deny what, for him, was reality. The phrase also echoes God’s words to Moses, “I Am That I Am.” Given that Campion owed a higher allegiance to God than to the Crown, the phrase “That that is, is” becomes the “essence” of his position vis-a-vis his God and his Queen,” Desper explains.]

Toby: “To him, Sir Topas.”

Feste: “What ho, I say, peace in this prison.”

[In effect, Malvolio is in a “prison” as Campion was.]

Toby: “The knave counterfeits well: a good knave.”

[“Thus it is established at the outset that the playwright regards the conference to be held, like the conferences Campion was brought to, as a sham, a counterfeit, with a knave posing as a learned man acting as the examiner,” Desper writes. Having established the allusions to Campion in Feste the Clown’s opening speech, he notes, “the tenor of the remainder of the scene, in the context of Campion’s imprisonment, becomes apparent. The Clown is seen assuming the role of the learned men to dispute with the prisoner, just as men of learning brought Campion to dispute at the aforementioned conferences.”]

Malvolio (from within): “Who calls there?”

Feste: “Sir Topas the Curate, who comes to visit Malvolio the Lunatic.”

[Desper writes that Feste, posing as Sir Topas the Curate, “proceeds to deal with Malvolio as a man possessed and in need of exorcism, even though, as the Clown, he knows full well that Malvolio, whatever his faults might be, is neither insane nor possessed.”]

As the scene goes on, we can feel the underlying power of the playwright’s anger at what was done to Campion:

Malvolio: “Sir Topas, Sir Topas, good Sir Topas, go to my Lady [Olivia].”

Feste: “Out, hyperbolical fiend! How vext thou this man? Talkest thou nothing but of Ladies?”

Malvolio: “Sir Topas, never was man thus wronged. Good Sir Topas, do not think I am mad. They have laid me here in hideous darkness.”

Feste: “Fye, thou dishonest Satan! I call thee by the most modest terms, for I am one of those gentle ones, that will use the Devil himself with courtesy. Sayst thou that house is dark?”

Malvolio: “As hell, Sir Topas.”

Feste: “Why, it hath bay windows transparent as baricadoes, and the clear stores toward the south north are a lustrous as ebony. And yet complaineth thou of obstruction?”

Malvolio: “I am not mad, Sir Topas. I say to you this house is dark.”

Feste: “Madman, thou errest! I say there is no darkness but ignorance, in which thou art more puzzled than the Egyptians in their fog.” [A biblical reference: Exodus, 10:21]

Malvolio: “I say this house is as dark as ignorance, though ignorance were as dark as hell. And I say there was never man thus abused. I am no more mad than you are. Make the trial of it in any confident question.”

Feste: “What is the opinion of Pythagoras concerning wildfowl?”

Malvolio: “That the soul of our grandam might happily inhabit a bird.”

Feste: “What thinkest thou of his opinion?”

Malvolio: “I think nobly of the soul, and no way approve his opinion.”

Feste: “Fare thee well. Remain thou still in darkness. Thou shalt hold the opinion of Pythagoras, ere I will allow of thy wits, and fear to kill a woodcock lest thou dispossess the soul of thy grandam. Fare thee well.”

In the above dialogue, Feste chides Malvolio for not upholding the pagan view of the transmigration of souls; and likewise, Desper points out, Campion was expected to provide answers which, in his own view, were illogical and false but accorded with the needs of those in power. “The playwright thus demonstrates for us the world turned upside-down,” he writes, “with clowns passing themselves off as men of learning, while men of learning such as Campion are pressed to deny what they believe to be true” in order to serve political ends. And in this one scene, he also suggests, the author expresses “his bitterness over the trial and execution of one he saw as an innocent man.”

Was the scene actually performed in the early 1580s? Was it enacted for the Queen? Was it so skillfully hidden within the play that even William Cecil Lord Burghley, architect of the Protestant Reformation, or spymaster Francis Walsingham could have missed the allusions to Campions ordeal, which was their own doing? Isn’t this another example (like the Sonnets) of this author’s ability to create one kind of reality on the surface while another, wholly different world exists within the same work at the same time?

There are more questions than answers, but I suggest that no writer other than Edward de Vere had the ability to create a scene that was so potentially dangerous and get away with it.

“Shakespeare’s Jester” was the Earl of Oxford’s Servant, Robert Armin — No. 75 of 100 Reasons Why Edward de Vere Wrote the “Shakespeare” Works

In the fall of 1947, the pioneering Oxfordian researcher Abraham Bronson Feldman launched a bombshell discovery that the great stage clown Robert Armin, known as “Shakespeare’s Jester,” was an avowed servant of Edward de Vere, the seventeenth Earl of Oxford; and, moreover, that Armin was at Hackney soon after joining the Lord Chamberlain’s Men and beginning to play Shakespeare’s philosophical fools such as Touchstone in As You Like It and Feste in Twelfth Night.*
Armin - 2
Feldman discovered the connection between Oxford and Armin in a rare quarto entitled Quips Upon Questions, written by the famous clown and printed in 1600 without his name on it. In his mock-dedication of this work, Armin wrote that on Tuesday, 25 December 1599 (or Tuesday, January 1, 1600) he would “take my journey (to wait on the right Honourable good Lord my Master whom I serve) to Hackney.”

“There was only one literary nobleman dwelling in Hackney” when Armin was playing Shakespeare’s “licensed” or “allowed” fools at the Curtain and then the Globe, observed Feldman, adding that the “Honourable good Lord” at Hackney was definitely Edward de Vere, Lord Oxford.

Oxford had moved from Stoke Newington to King’s Place, Hackney in 1596 with his second wife, Elizabeth Trentham, and their three-year-old son Henry de Vere, the future eighteenth earl. After the victory over the Spanish armada in 1588, he had become a reclusive figure who, most Oxfordians agree, was revising and transforming his previous stage works [performed in the 1570s and 1580s at Blackfriars playhouse and at court] into the plays that began appearing in the 1598 under the Shakespeare name. One of those revised works was As You Like It, with Armin the first actor to play the updated (or newly created) character of Touchstone.

Robert Armin 1563-1615

Robert Armin
1563-1615


As Oxfordian biographer Mark Anderson puts it, the “reasonable inference” is that Armin was “work-shopping” the role of Touchstone at Hackney with the author himself, Edward de Vere – who, we hasten to add, must have been the unseen guiding hand of the Chamberlain’s Men, a.k.a. Shakespeare’s Company, in addition to being its chief playwright. And another reasonable inference is that Oxford was training Armin to create a new kind of clown, more intelligent than the ones previously created by Richard Tarleton and Will Kemp (the latter whom Armin had just replaced in 1599-1600), in the spirit of Hamlet’s advice to the players:

“And let those that play your clowns speak no more than is set down for them, for there be of them that will themselves laugh, to set on some quantity of barren spectators to laugh too, though in the meantime some necessary question of the play be then to be considered. That’s villainous, and shows a most pitiful ambition in the fool that uses it.”

My opinion is that in the above lines spoken by the prince we are hearing the genuine voice of his creator, the Earl of Oxford, a.k.a. Shakespeare, speaking in the same manner and tone he used when speaking to Robert Armin, who was even then becoming Touchstone.

“Armin is generally credited with all the ‘licensed fools’ in the repertory of the Chamberlain’s and King’s Men,” according to his Wikipedia biography, which lists not only Touchstone and Feste but also the Fool in King Lear and Lavatch in All’s Well That Ends Well, with the added possibilities of Thersites in Troilus and Cressida, the Porter in Macbeth, the Fool in Timon of Athens and Autolcus in The Winter’s Tale. In addition, Armin is thought to have originated the role of Iago, the villain in Othello – indicating the high quality of acting skill he must have acquired.
quips-upon-questions-frtsp-1600-jpeg-15-25-124

“Armin may have played a key role in the development of Shakespearian fools,” Wikipedia continues, adding that he “explored every aspect of the clown, from the natural idiot to the philosopher-fool, from serving man to retained jester. In study, writing and performance, Armin moved the fool from rustic zany to trained motley. His characters – those he wrote and those he acted – absurdly point out the absurdity of what is otherwise called normal. Instead of appealing to the identity of the English commoner by imitating them, he created a new fool, a high-comic jester for whom wisdom is wit and wit is wisdom.”

This is all fine, but the Wikipedia writers apparently believe it was Armin who inspired – and even taught – Shakespeare to create such “allowed fools” rather than the other way around. This notion undoubtedly comes from the traditional view of the bard as William Shakspere of Stratford upon Avon, the country fellow who would have required such teaching. He certainly appears to be the model for the unsophisticated “William, a Country Fellow” in Act Five, Scene One of As You Like It, when Touchstone tells him (in the voice of the author himself) that “all your writers do consent that ipse is he,” adding, “Now, you are not ipse, for I am he!”

When Robert Armin called himself the “servant” of the nobleman at Hackney, he was talking about himself as one of the actor-servants of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men; and we can imagine Oxford and Armin eventually discussing this scene between William the Country Fellow and Touchstone the Clown – a dramatization, to be sure, of the author confronting the man who would be credited with his works in the future, fairly shouting at him that “all your writers do consent that you are not ipse [i.e., he himself], for I am he” – you are not the playwright, because I am!**

“It stands to reason that de Vere was consulting with the players who were bringing [the Shakespeare works] to the world at large,” Anderson writes. “And the Armin example is, so far at least, the closest we have to a gold standard for de Vere’s relationship to the public staging of plays we today know as ‘Shakespeare’s.'”

And that’s also my Reason No. 75 of 100 why Oxford was Shakespeare.

* The paper appeared in The Shakespeare Fellowship Quarterly, Vol. VIII, No. 3, Autumn, 1947, and it is reprinted in My Name Be Buried, Volume Four of Building the Case for Edward de Vere As Shakespeare, edited by Paul Hemenway Altrocchi and Hank Whittemore.

[Feldman’s paper was curtly rejected by two of the best-known scholarly journals in the US and England. The American university publishers of one of these “prestigious” quarterlies devoted to “English literary history” returned it to Feldman “upon the advice of the drama editor.” It would seem that the evidence linking Oxford to Shakespeare’s leading jester was off-limits!]

** I believe Oxford added the Touchstone-William scene after the failed Essex Rebellion of 1601, when, to save the imprisoned Earl of Southampton from execution and gain the promise of his freedom, he made a deal with Robert Cecil that his “name be buried where my body is.” It is also my view that the scene was performed (by Armin as Touchstone, of course) after the 1603 succession of James, when As You Like It was produced at Wilton House in December that year.

Reason 67 of 100 Why the Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare”: Following the Trail of Three Plays of King John

PART ONE: John Bale’s “King Johan” & the Earls of Oxford

Elizabeth Tudor embarked on her royal progress in the summer of 1561, less than three years after her ascendency to the throne at age twenty-five, and in early August the court spent a week at Ipswich, where the Queen attended a performance of King Johan (King John), the first known historical verse drama in English and the first play to present a King of England on stage.

John Bale

John Bale

The author, minister-scholar John Bale (1495-1563), had written the first version of the play by 1537 while in the service of Henry VIII’s chief minister Thomas Cromwell, who helped engineer an annulment of the King’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon so that Henry could marry Anne Boleyn.  An active member of Cromwell’s stable of propagandists, Bale managed to turn King John – for centuries a despised monarch, who had surrendered England to the power of the papacy – into a Protestant hero.

A quarter century later, in 1561, the daughter of Anne Boleyn was on the throne and her own chief minister, William Cecil, was just as eager to use the stage for Reformation propaganda; and by now Bale had updated his King Johan in time for the arrival of Elizabeth at Ipswich.  A crucial link between the old morality plays and the new style of drama to come later in the sixteenth century, Bale’s version of John’s reign (1199-1216) presented him as a “good” king struggling against the Pope and the Church of Rome on behalf of England – just as Henry VIII had done and as Elizabeth was doing now.

        King JohnReigned 1199-1216

King John
Reigned 1199-1216

At this point Bale was writing plays for John de Vere, sixteenth Earl of Oxford, whose company of actors performed King Johan for Elizabeth at Ipswich.  Jesse W. Harris, in his 1940 biography of Bale, writes that he was “in the service of Oxford, for whom he wrote a series of plays intended for use as Reformation propaganda.”

Elizabeth’s progress continued to the Vere seat of Castle Hedingham in Essex for a visit of five nights (August 14-19, 1561).  In the great hall of the castle, John de Vere’s players again performed for the royal entourage, most likely with plays Bale had written under the earl’s patronage, including his newly revised play about King John.

On hand for the royal festivities was eleven-year-old Edward de Vere, the future seventeenth Earl of Oxford, who keenly watched  the twenty-seven-year-old Queen’s reactions to the performances; and historians of the future may judge whether this moment marks the true birth of “William Shakespeare” – who, after all, would write plays of English royal history mirroring current political issues.

Hedingham

Hedingham

A year later, upon John de Vere’s death, William Cecil had young Edward brought to London as a royal ward of the Queen in his care.  As Master of the Royal Wards, Cecil also “took possession of all the young noble’s assets,” reports Ruth Loyd Miller (1922-2005) in Oxfordian Vistas, adding:

“Cecil, who had standing orders for his agents on the Continent to supply him with copies of books and publications of interest, would not have failed to appreciate the sixteenth Earl of Oxford’s collection of Bale’s dramatic works, and to move them for safekeeping to Cecil House on the Strand.  Even before Bale’s death (in 1563), Archbishop Matthew Parker and Cecil were aware of the value of Bale’s work, and were involved in efforts to retrieve Bale’s manuscripts from various sources.  Undoubtedly ‘Shakespeare’ saw Bale’s manuscript plays, and undoubtedly he saw them through the eyes of Edward de Vere, who owned many of them, in the Library at Cecil House.”

PART TWO: The Anonymous “Troublesome Reign” & Shakespeare’s “King John”

The next phase of this story begins with the formation of Queen Elizabeth’s Men in 1583 at the instigation of secret service head Francis Walsingham, who knew the power of the stage as a means of spreading political propaganda.   Edward de Vere, thirty-three, contributed some of his adult players to the Queen’s Men along with John Lyly, his personal secretary, as stage manager.  And among the company’s history plays – up through 1588, when England defeated the Spanish armada and the Pope – was the anonymous Troublesome Reign of King John, printed in 1591 as “publicly acted by the Queen’s Majesty’s Players.”

Troublesome Reignof King John - 1591

Troublesome Reign
of King John – 1591

Seven years later, in late 1598, Francis Meres announced in Palladis Tamia that “Shakespeare” was not only the poet of Venus and Adonis and Lucrece, but, also, a playwright.  Meres listed six comedies and six tragedies, the latter including “King John” plus five others, all printed anonymously in this order:  Titus Andronicus in 1594; Romeo and Juliet, Richard II and Richard III in 1597; and Henry IV in 1598.

When Meres listed Shakespeare’s play as King John, wasn’t he referring to the anonymous Troublesome Reign of King John printed in 1591?  We might well think so, given that each of the other Shakespeare plays listed “for tragedy” was printed without any author’s name.  So why not the one about King John?  Well, the simple answer is because that play’s previous existence in the 1580’s is too early for William Shakspere of Stratford, the traditional author, to have written it.

Therefore, to make things fit, orthodox scholars tell us that Shakespeare’s play of King John was not the one published in 1591, but, rather, the one printed in the First Folio of 1623 as The Life and Death of King John.  It’s a different text, but virtually all scholars agree – if reluctantly – that the great author surely based his own King John on the earlier anonymous one, Troublesome Reign … which means that he must have been guilty of substantial plagiarism!

Oxfordian researcher Ramon Jimenez writes in the annual Oxfordian of 2010 that both the anonymous Troublesome Reign of King John and Shakespeare’s Life and Death of King John “tell the same story in the same sequence of events, with only minor variations … The same characters appear in both plays … [and] Shakespeare’s play contains the same scenes in the same order.”

The only logical conclusion is that both plays were written by the same author, who could not have been the Stratford fellow and must have been Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, who first appears in this story at age eleven.

Castle Hedingham -- an interior view

Castle Hedingham — an interior view

Jimenez reports “substantial evidence” that “Shakespeare” wrote Troublesome Reign “at an early age” and then “rewrote it in his middle years” to complete the text of King John printed eventually in the Folio of 1623.  And at this point we might be tempted to announce these facts as “smoking gun” evidence of Oxford’s authorship of Shakespeare’s plays, but we’ll refrain from that temptation while making one other point:

“No scholar has suggested “that Shakespeare depended on or even knew of John Bale’s King Johan,” writes James A. Morey in The Shakespeare Quarterly of autumn 1994, but, it turns out, “The accounts of the death of John by Shakespeare and Bale are significantly alike” and, for other reasons, it does appear that “Shakespeare” must have had firsthand knowledge of Bale’s play performed by John de Vere’s players for Elizabeth back in 1561 … three years before William of Stratford would be born!

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