The official site of bestselling author Michael Shermer The official site of bestselling author Michael Shermer

Shakespeare, Interrupted

published August 2009
The anti-Stratfordian skeptics are back, and this time they have a Supreme Court justice on their side
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For centuries, Shakespeare skeptics have doubted the authorship of the Stratfordian Bard’s literary corpus, proffering no fewer than 50 alternative candidates, including Francis Bacon, Queen Elizabeth I, Christopher Marlowe and the leading contender among the “anti-Stratfordians,” Edward de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford. And for nearly as long, the Shakespeare skeptics have toiled in relative obscurity, holding conferences in tiny gatherings and dreaming of the day their campaign would make front-page news. On April 18, 2009, the Wall Street Journal granted their wish with a feature story on how U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens came to believe (and throw his judicial weight behind) the skeptics.

Stevens’s argument retreads a well-worn syllogism: Shakespeare’s plays are so culturally rich that they could only have been written by a noble or scholar of great learning. The historical William Shakespeare was a commoner with no more than a grammar school education. Ergo, Shakespeare could not have written Shakespeare. For example, Stevens asks, “Where are the books? You can’t be a scholar of that depth and not have any books in your home. He never had any correspondence with his contemporaries, he never was shown to be present at any major event — the coronation of James or any of that stuff. I think the evidence that he was not the author is beyond a reasonable doubt.”

But reasonable doubt should not cost an author his claim, at least not if we treat history as a science instead of as a legal debate. In science, a reigning theory is presumed provisionally true and continues to hold sway unless and until a challenging theory explains the current data as well and also accounts for anomalies that the prevailing one cannot. Applying that principle here, we should grant that Shakespeare wrote the plays unless and until the anti-Stratfordians can make their case for a challenger who fits more of the literary and historical data.

I explained this to John M. Shahan, chair of the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition, who insisted that although most skeptics hold that the true playwright was the earl of Oxford, their mission has merely been to sow the seeds of doubt. I understood why when I examined the case for de Vere. For example, de Vere’s partisans exalt his education at both the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford and believe that the plays could only have been penned by someone of such erudition. Yet the plays make many allusions to the grammar school education that Shakespeare had and not to that university life held so dear by the skeptics: instead of Cambridge masters and Oxford dons, Shakespeare routinely references schoolmasters, schoolboys and schoolbooks.

As for Shakespeare’s humble upbringing, his father was a middle-class landowner whose estate was valued at the then respectable sum of £500 (you could purchase a modest home for £50) and whose social standing was as high as or higher than that of either Marlowe or Ben Jonson, who were themselves sons of a shoemaker and bricklayer, respectively, and somehow managed to master the belles lettres.

In the end, it’s not enough merely to plant doubts about Will. Some anti-Stratfordians question Shakespeare’s existence, but the number of references to him from his own time could only be accounted for by a playwright of that name (unless de Vere used Shakespeare as a nom de plume, for which there is zero evidence). And although Shakespeare’s skeptics note that there are no manuscripts, receipts, diaries or letters from him, they neglect to mention that we have none of these for Marlowe, either.

In other words, reasonable doubt is not enough to dethrone the man from Stratfordupon-Avon, and to date, no overwhelming case has been made for any other author. In contrast, hundreds of examples of historical and literary consilience have been compiled by Purchase College theatre professor and playwright Scott McCrea in his aptly titled book The Case for Shakespeare (Praeger, 2008), which demonstrates beyond a reasonable doubt that, in the Bard’s own words from Julius Caesar, Shakespeare was not just a man but the man: “the elements / So mix’d in him, that Nature might stand up, / And say to all the world, This was a man!”

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84 Comments to “Shakespeare, Interrupted”

  1. William Ray Says:

    Mr. Shermer: Here is what I sent to Scientific American, don’t know if it will register there. My impression is you should drop the sneering approach and do some reading; you will change your viewpoint upon exposure to the facts. I came away from your article thinking you were joining up with WSJ, contributing a like hit-job on the issue. This is hardly how an intellectual seeks the truth and unmasks falsehood. Best wishes, WJ Ray

    To the Editors:

    The Skeptic column by Michael Shermer (August 2009) in which he “examined
    the case for de Vere” as the man who actually wrote the noble works of
    “Shakespeare”, and dismissed the thought, shows that he knows nothing of the
    complexity and magnitude of this “most important issue in English studies”,
    according to Ralph Waldo Emerson.

    The cultural anthropology of why the academic establishment presently clings
    to a legend of an uneducated all-purpose genius in place of attempting a logical inquiry and actually reading the considerable accessible facts aligning de Vere’s life, talent, and his highly autobiographical, pseudonymous works, will have to be left for another time.

    The point here is more basic, that Shermer’s hasty conclusions, predictably
    propped with half-truths, ignore the first principle of scientific analysis,
    look at the data.

    Given sufficient space, I could present effective counters to his claims,
    such as Shakspere’s putative middle-class up-bringing (actually, he left
    home because his father was bankrupted and his wife pregnant); the “hundreds of examples of historical and literary consilience”, (none of which are presented in evidence); or Shakspere’s purported classical education (but he could barely sign his will?).

    As is inevitable when we delimit knowledge to what we consider acceptable history, every
    assertion in defense of the traditional Stratfordian “Shakespeare” has to
    fail. Shakspere merely fronted for his employer, de Vere, who was of an aristocratic nature that could not be seen to be “subdu’d to what it works in/ like the dyer’s hand.”

    Once the emotional resistance to obvious biographical, linguistic, and
    artistic parallels between Edward de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford, and the
    pseudonymous works of his creation using a nickname, Shake-speare, there will be, at long last, a new, honest paradigm in this area heretofore governed by hocus-pocus reasoning.

    William Ray
    Willits California

  2. Daryl Pinksen Says:

    Dear Mr. Shermer,

    I agree with the vast majority of what you say in the SciAm article, especially the assertion that, “a reigning theory is presumed provisionally true and continues to hold sway unless and until a challenging theory explains the current data as well and also accounts for anomalies that the prevailing one cannot.”

    There are problems with the Shakespeare theory (to use the language of science), which are readily acknowledged by stand-out scholars like Stanley Wells. The Oxford alternative may account for some of these so-called anomalies, but it can never explain the current data, and therefore has no chance of displacing Shakespeare.

    Oxford’s only extant work is a collection of mediocre poems which he, apparently, had no problem with people knowing were his. On his supposed ability to write dramatic verse of the quality required, there is no proof whatsoever.

    I happen to think that Christopher Marlowe wrote Shakespeare’s plays. At the moment the case is not provable, but it is the only alternative theory with a chance of being correct. In the 19th century it was a commonplace amongst the first rank of scholars to assign co-authorship of Titus Andronicus and the Henry VI trilogy – plays included in the 1623 First Folio of Shakespeare’s Plays – to Marlowe, based on stylistic similarities to Marlowe’s plays(inexplicably, these claims vanished sometime in the 20th century).

    And one cannot read any of the good biographies without being told how Shakespeare began his career “emulating” or “imitating” Marlowe. This conclusion may be the case, but it is not fact. The fact here is the close similarity of Shakespeare’s work to Marlowe’s. Speculation that Shakespeare either A: collaborated with Marlowe early in his career, B: revised Marlowe’s work and claimed the revised plays as his own, C: studied Marlowe’s style and copied it, are all theories that have been proposed to explain it. A fourth alternative, possibly a more satisfactory one, is that Marlowe actually wrote some, or all, of these plays which demonstrate his influence.

    This idea is, at present, only an intriguing hypothesis, but there is a symmetry to this theory that I believe persons with your background would find elegant. Perhaps not compelling, but worthy of consideration.


    Daryl Pinksen

  3. Joel Velasco Says:

    Judge Stevens says that “the evidence that he was not the author is beyond a reasonable doubt.” The next paragraph then immediately gets this wrong by implying that Stevens is merely saying that there is some doubt that Shakespeare is the author. No, he is saying that there isn’t any (reasonable) doubt that he isn’t. This is completely different. The stuff about needing the new theory to be at least as good as the old one would obviously be acceptable to the Stevens position since that position says that the traditional story doesn’t fit the data at all.

    And as for the science, it is absurd to think that something historically contingent like which theory was developed first could have some sway on what we should think is true. If a new theory is developed that fits all the data just as well and is just as reasonable in every way, etc. we should think that we don’t know which of the theories is true.

  4. Bill Morgan Says:

    I’m a Skeptic and I think most Skeptics do a great job exposing frauds and hoaxes! I continue to be amazed at how many Skeptics do this so well, except when it comes to critical thinking about government cover-ups and lies. Here they accept what the government tells us as the truth. Pearl Harbor, JFK, Gulf of Tonkin, 9/11, Political Assassinations, you name it. Watch the online videos of World Trade Center Building 7 collapsing at free fall speed at 5:20 pm on 9/11/01. Building 7 was not hit by any airplane. The government to this day cannot explain how this building collapsed. It has all the earmarks of controlled demolition. Yet if you bring this subject up, these same Skeptics blow you off as a conspiracy theorists.

    I could name some of these Skeptics, but if you don’t know who they are, then you are not paying attention to what they are saying about government cover-ups and lies in magazine articles and TV talk shows. Could the answer be that some of these Skeptics have connections with some of the Intelligence Agencies? It is a well known fact that the CIA has deep cover agents in the news media (Google Carl Bernstein’s articles as one example). I wonder if they have deep cover assets in the Skeptic Society?

  5. Davros Says:


    I think your first paragraph covers this quite nicely.

    If I just re-write the syllogism. This seems to be the crux of the matter:

    1: Shakespeare’s plays are obvously written by a genius

    2: Shakespeare wasn’t a genius

    3: Therefore Shakespeare didn’t write the plays. It must have been Bacon, De Vere, Ben Jonson, Kit Marlowe etc…

    There are at least two problems I see with this approach:-

    1: We know next to nothing about Shakespere. I recently read Bill Bryson’s book on the subject (well worth reading) and even he has to pad out a 200 page book about him by incorporating bits about Elizabethan England in general.

    2: Nobody has ever shown any convincing argument that any of the putative authors wrote the plays. In fact many of the proposed authors ( Bacon springs to mind here ) are looked at by Bryson who seems to come away with the impression that although he had the education and cultural background. His actual known writing are substantially different to Shakespere.

    Bryson himself is convinced Shakespere is the author and says that sometime genius is a gift and we should accept that whatever his cultural background, it’s no obstacle to his talent.

  6. Jeshua Says:

    Shakespeare skeptics should perhaps consider this scenario. Centuries from now it could be possible that people would doubt the Beatles actually wrote their own songs. None of them received a musical education or even knew how to read music, yet classical composers such as Leonard Bernstein praised their songwriting. All of them came from mediocre family backgrounds. Lennon was a known sex and drug addict. McCartney’s highest ambition was to be a middle school teacher. George Martin, on the other hand, was a well-educated, sophisticated classically trained musician, so it’s obvious he was the one who wrote the songs. Same logic, same wrong conclusion.

    A similar argument might be made for the Wright brother’s invention of the airplane. Two common bicycle mechanics developing an airplane that could be effectively controlled in the air–who’s going to believe that?!!

    The point is that ordinary people often can and do accomplish extraordinary things. There may always be doubt about the true authorship of some plays, but i don’t think the available evidence is enough to count William out.

  7. Bertil Says:

    I agree with Jeshua completely. An argument is best disproved by showing it to lack any necessity, and this is done by using the same argument in ‘proving’ conclusions that one knows to be false. It is a standard logical and also scientific way of arguing, and besides, it is real common sense.

  8. BondGrrl Says:

    Thank you, Jeshua, for the analogy regarding the Beatles. I agree with you.

    Further, I have always been baffled by the earnestness with which the Shakespeare nay-sayers have gone at their target (there are books about it aimed at young adult readers, for heaven’s sake). Why do we care? We have the words. That’s all we’ll ever have. The words are enough for me. Does it *really matter* who wrote them? Particularly since it seems we’ll never know?

    I know some will say, yes, it matters deeply. But I fail to see why and always have. It isn’t as though Shakespeare is missing out on some retroactive royalties. Why not spend our time loving the words?

  9. Lloyd Ryan Says:

    Hi, Michael!
    Just read the article in Scientific American and briefed through the article on gullability. Will read it thoroughly, later.
    At least one issue of each article interescts (remember Venn Diagrams?) with the other.
    Illustration: A year or so ago two rather large corporations in canada went to court because of a misplaced comma. One lost over $2,000,000.00. No kidding! According to the CBC news.
    Now, if you can write in such a way that the gullible believes that you are saying one thing, when you are really saying another, then you might get away with all sorts of supposed truths. Sounds religious!
    There are several ways to do this. You can, for example, deliberately misuse syntax, as I assume you have done in the article in Scientific American. I am assuming that you did it deliberately. One who is a sceptic, such as you – or me – will certainly look askance at misplacing the “only”, for example. You did it no less than three times!
    I am further surprised that Scientific American’s editors would allow the sloppy syntax to appear in their journal …. which leads to the second issue: That a man of your reputation has such a cachet that even Scientific American’s editors don’t doubt what you write and will not challenge you. Shades of religion, again!
    Now, I challenge you to say what you really mean, because you couldn’t have meant what you have written. You are too intelligent for that.
    OR …. what are you trying to prove this time?
    It reminds me of the Psychological experiment where electrical shocks were given “offending and deserving subjects”. i.e. who would dare challenge ?
    I always enjoy your stuff – online, and in Skeptic magazine.
    Lloyd Ryan, PhD., Canada

  10. Richard Abrams Says:

    I’m a lover of Shakespeare’s plays and not a scholar, but I do know that those who claim Shakespeare could not have written the plays because he never travelled (so how could he have written Othello, Merchant of Venice, etc.), or had a formal education, forget that with a few exceptions, none of the plays were original, but were taken from familiar and detailed stories and histories to which Shakespeare had access from his friends in college. When you read the originals, you will be surprised how much has been adapted for the plays, from the elaborate plot to even the names. Of course, Shakespeare added much to the stories. It only took a genius and a master psychologist of human nature to turn them into the great plays we love.

    The point of Shermer’s article needs to be repeated: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.”

  11. paul fauvet Says:

    The claim that Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare is backed by the same amount of evidence as the claim that Barack Obama isn’t a real American or that the Pyramids were built by aliens, or that zionists committed the 9/11 atrocities. Precisely none.

    Daryl Pinksen thinks that Marlowe wrote Shakespeare. This thesis has an enormous problem. Marlowe died in 1593, by which time Shakespeare had only written four or five plays.

    So Marlowe enthusiasts must believe either that Shakespeare’s plays were literally ghost written, or that Marlowe didn’t really die in a pub brawl but was spirited away to France or Holland, and released the plays, in Shaakespeare’s name, over the next 20 years, sending them to London by courier and brilliantly concealing their true authorship.

    Perhaps more importantly, Marlowe can be ruled out on literary grounds. The only thing the poetry of Marlowe and Shakespeare have in common is that they both wrote in iambic pentameters. Otherwise the style of the two men is completely different.

    For instance there is nothing in Shakespeare that remotely resembles the huge opening and closing soliloquies of Marlowe’s “Doctor Faustus”. And there is nothing in Marlowe that resembles the romantic comedies of Shakespeare.

    Both men wrote plays that have a villainous Jew as a major character – Marlowe’s “Jew of Malta” and Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice” – but the plays are so different in feeling and characterisation that only those blinded by their pet theories could seriously claim that the same man wrote both.

    Furthermore the “Jew of Malta” is a bitter satire against religion, and “Edward II” has a homosexual king as its hero – for Marlowe was both gay and an atheist. Shakespeare on the other hand was, as far as we know, thoroughly conventional in his sexuality and his religion (he may even have been a crypto-catholic, though that claim is far from proved).

  12. Gary Sloan Says:

    No respectable Shakespearean scholar thinks anyone other than William Shakespeare wrote the plays attributed to the playwright from Statford. The evidence is overwhelming. No one proffered the superfluous anti-Stratfordian proposal until the nineteenth-century. Lurking behind the anti-Stratfordian view is an effete snobbery. The anti-Stratfordians assume that one must be an aristocrat to write convincingly about aristocrats. On the contrary, all the great writers have been “grammar school boys,” not titled royalty. Anyone with a powerful literary imagination can create lifelike characters from all social stations. Finally, the anti-Stratfordian argument is as ephemeral as Shakespeare’s cloud-capped towers and midsummer nights’ dreams.

  13. Mark Bellis Says:

    While it’s possible that Shakespeare had collaborators in writing, his plays reference English translations of the classics, not the originals, fitting well with Jonson’s “thou [Shakespeare] hadst small Latin and less Greek”. This is unlike the fluency in Latin and Greek that a university student at the time would be expected to have.
    The plays do have passages in French written by someone who could make quite dirty bilingual puns in that language, and Othello is based on an Italian story that was not known to have been translated into English at the time but was available in French. In 1612, Shakespeare testified in a civil case (Bellot versus Mountjoy) that he acted as a go-between in a marriage between two French Protestants living in London when he was lodging with the young lady’s father.

  14. Hal Sherman Says:

    In his “Tales of the Viagens” science fiction stories, L. Sprague de Camp included a 23rd century theory that Winston Churchill secretly wrote the works of George Bernard Shaw, using all the same arguments about Shaw’s education as the conspiracy theorists use about Shakespeare’s. Hadn’t heard the Beatles variation, but that makes the same point..

  15. MFD Says:

    The plays of William Shakespeare (the sonnets, too) were written by Walt Disney. Over and out.

  16. Ian Haste Says:

    What I find amusing about Michael Shermer’s piece: Shakespeare, Interrupted of August 2009, is that here we have a purported skeptic attacking the Shakespeare skeptics for their skepticism, at the same time defending an orthodox ‘opinion’ for which no proof exists. (If one jot of proof existed there would be no question about Shakespeare’s authorship.) Just for clarification, here is my dictionary’s definition of Skeptic: “a person inclined to question or doubt all accepted opinions.” And I add – not to support them. Mr Shermer, in his article, supports the orthodox Shakespeare attribution while criticizing those skeptical of it.

    I quote from Mr Shermer’s piece: “In science, a reigning theory is presumed provisionally true and continues to hold sway unless . . . ” In this instance, the “reigning theory” is based entirely on speculation and cannot be considered in any way scientific.

    Consider Shakespeare’s biography in The National Dictionary of Biography, where the word ‘probably’ is used 46 times; ‘seems to’ 32 times; ‘may/might have’ 32; ‘perhaps’ 27; ‘possibly’, 25; ‘un/likely’ 19 times and so on and on. More than 200 words of speculation in England’s most prestigious sixty volume tome! That is over 200 guessing words with not one iota of proof. Where are the skeptics? They are attacked by a supporter of orthodoxy.

    When science speaks to me, it says that the premise of a true skeptic (and scientists are skeptics) is the Null hypothesis which assumes that the claim under investigation is not true until proven otherwise. The Null hypothesis says Shakespeare did not write the plays until proven otherwise.

    The Null Hypothesis means that the burden of proof is on the person asserting a positive claim, not on the skeptic to disprove it. That is to say if you believe Shakespeare wrote the works attributed to him, it is up to you to prove it – not for me to disprove it.

  17. Stephen A Says:

    What I find interesting is the possible motivations for the conspiracy theorists and the reasons multitudes of them choose to plague Shakespeare’s life.

    The common fomenter of conspiracies is a loser who seeks to make an impression upon society when all other means are closed to him or her through lack of ability or unfortunate circumstance. (in Richard III ‘…a discontented gentleman whose humble means match not his haughty spirit.’)

    Typical of the ilk of a Shakespeare conspiracist is an academic or literary failure who couldn’t write a play to save his life, much less publish anything in the world of Shakespearean scholarship, and who is probably intimidated by the obvious genius of the dramas. What better way to make a mark than detract from the work by claiming its falseness and denying its authenticity?

    Promotion of a Bard conspiracy theory can elevate any fourth rate hack from some obscure corner of academia and instead crown him with the laurels of celebrity as his pot-boiler gets to be book of the month, he gets articles in the Sunday papers and even appears on TV interviews. Pursuit of money lies at the heart of many so-called mysteries, and the more urgent quest for recognition.

    Like anyone who claims to have seen Bigfoot or to have been abducted by aliens, the Shakespeare conspiracy theorist can always call the trump card of ‘You can’t disprove I saw Bigfoot, / I was abducted by aliens / or that Ben Johnson wrote the plays’ (etc). The hoaxer also musters popular support by playing the ‘valiant underdog takes on society’ angle.

    The so called ‘evidence’ for these allegations are convoluted and outrageous farragoes of invention and speculation, couched in such obscure intricacy and academic deception that speculation plucks on supposition and fabrication jostles with surmises. And so the frauds enjoy their fifteen minutes of fame and not inconsiderable remunerations. The followers are invariably wretches incapable of original thinking and assume by parroting the subterfuge hope they might be mistaken as someone with an iota of commons sense.

  18. Marc Blackburn Says:

    > “Shermer’s hasty conclusions, predictably propped with half-truths…”

    I’m incredulous that people can get so worked up about this. William Ray comes across as fairly angry that people don’t accept his alternative reality. But what he calls hasty conclusions are not merely Shermer’s opinion, the also represent 400 years of collective academia. It is so easy to conclude that Shakespeare wasn’t capable of writing his plays centuries after he’s dead: Anyone that could be clever enough to write plays and poetry must be royalty.

    > “What I find amusing… is that here we have a purported skeptic attacking the Shakespeare skeptics for their skepticism.”

    How many times have I heard this nonsense: People that are skeptical of those that claim that Bigfoot doesn’t exist are that are true skeptics; people that are skeptical of the authorities that claim they have no knowledge of UFOs are the true skeptics; and now, people who are skeptical of the possibility that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare are the true skeptics. Ian Haste concludes his act with a lovely backflip of the Null Hypothesis. But I suppose I should be skeptical that he wrote that until it’s proven.

    > “Thank you, Jeshua, for the analogy regarding the Beatles. I agree with you.”

    Jeshua is closer to the mark than he may realize – and incorrect at the same time. According to the stories I grew up with the Beatles wrote all the Rolling Stones songs.

  19. Ian Haste Says:

    Before we discuss who, other than Shakespeare wrote the works, it is imperative to determine whether Shakespeare did or did not write them. The argument cannot proceed until this point has been settled, and this is no backflip. If he did, no discussion. If he did not, then that is the time to bring in Marlowe and the forty-nine other alternative candidates Michael referred to in is article.

    We are putting the cart before the horse when we mention any candidate other than Shakespeare for authorship. Talk about Marlowe et al is quite irrelevant until Shakespeare has been qualified or disqualified. However, those who do advocate other candidates must, by definition, disqualify Shakespeare as the true author.

    Richard Abrams quotes from the article: The point of Shermer’s article needs to be repeated: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.”

    For example, if I told you I was taken aboard an alien spaceship last night, it would not be true until you disprove it. You would not be required to find proof that I wasn’t abducted. You would require me, after making the claim, to supply the extraordinary proof that I was.

    “Shakespeare wrote the works attributed to him”. The claim has been made. It has to proved, not disproved. Show some proof. Anything. Please.

  20. Marc Blackburn Says:

    “Before we discuss who, other than Shakespeare wrote the works, it is imperative to determine whether Shakespeare did or did not write them.”

    I can’t help but notice that you’ve already decided we need to discuss who other than Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare. That’s is hardly starting with a null hypothesis. You talk about putting the cart before the horse but the works of Shakespeare have been called Shakespeare long before you were born, and I don’t care how old you are. They are called the works of Shakespeare because Shakespeare put his name to his plays: that no one objected at the time is actually proof that he wrote them. If you’re going to call him a liar, you need evidence against Shakespeare, not merely conjecture in favour of someone else.

    And, considering your take on burden of proof, I should think that any “candidate” should require proof that he actually wrote what was attributed to him before it can be used as evidence against Shakespeare.

  21. Baloney Detective Says:

    Shakespeare wrote those plays, and those poems, to say otherwise is, well, just silly. Provide some real evidence, something verifiable, or just shut up. By the way one of the best things that I have ever heard about Shakespeare was
    that at its heart, it was a great study of human nature. My 11th grade English teacher once said that if an alien came to earth and wanted to know what it was like to be human, let it read Shakespeare.

  22. Gene A. Says:

    The article and comments reminded me of a cartoon I hadn’t thought of in years. In the cartoon two men, one of them Shakespeare, are at a table having a drink. The man says to Shakespeare, “Come on. Bill, who’s writing your stuff?” Shakespeare just sits silently drinking. It seems that all the discussion on who did and who didn’t write the plays will probably result in the same answer Shakespeare’s drinking buddy received.

  23. paul fauvet Says:

    “Show me some proof” pleads Ian Haste.

    But how do we prove that anybody wrote something attributed to them. How do I know that Ian Haste wrote his comment? Because he signed it, that’s how!

    It appears under his name, just as my comment appears under mine. And since both of us, unlike many denizens of the blogosphere, seem to be using our real names, we can reasnably assume that we are who we say we are.

    Shakespeare’s works appeared, before and after his death, under the name William Shakespeare, and nobody imagined they were written by anybody else until the 19th century.

    Contemporaries such as Ben Jonson had no doubt, and wrote elegies to Shakespeare after his death. Why would they do that if he was just a nobody from Straford-on-Avon?

    The people who compiled the First Folio of all Shakespeare’s plays in 1623 also had no doubt and explicitly referred to “the deceased author, Master W. Shakespeare”.

    What more do you want?

    We happen to know considerably more about Shakespeare than we do about any of the great Greek dramatists. But I don’t hear anyone arguing that Sophocles didn’t write Sophocles.

  24. Davros Says:

    @ Ian Haste

    “The Null Hypothesis means that the burden of proof is on the person asserting a positive claim, not on the skeptic to disprove it. That is to say if you believe Shakespeare wrote the works attributed to him, it is up to you to prove it – not for me to disprove it.”

    This is nonsense. The null hypothesis is a statistical construct used for measuring whether a set of data conforms to a statistical trend. As historical data is not testable in such a way, it is unusable.

    What Michael Shermer is actually talking about is how we determine if something without direct evidence ( what would constiture valid evidence in your view? ) can be considered true. This is why he’s talking about reasonable doubt and even references a book that presents the evidence that Shakespere wrote his plays.

    He covers this in his section on holocaust denial in his book Why People Believe Weird Things if you want more details about the methods employed. BTW I’m not equating Holocaust denial with Shakespeare’s authorship question – the methods employed to determine likelihood are the same.

    Finally, you bring in the question of Burden of Proof. Unfortunately, again, I have to say that you are wrong. In cases where there is a generally accepted belief – Evolution, Holocaust Denial, the Moon landings, etc… The burden of proof sits with the hypothesis that is attempting to unseat the established theory.

    A good example here is Evolution. Originally, the burden of proof was on evolution to provide a working theory that explained how life on earth developed – it had to displace the established biblical notion of the creation of the world. OK, it’s not accepted by absolutely everybody, but it is now the established theory of how we got to where we are now. Any competing theory would, naturally, have to take on the burden of proof and explain how it describes the development of life on earth better than evolution – something, for example, Intelligent Design has signally failed to do.

  25. Dale Says:

    I think Shakespeare was plot by Sufis to take over England….”Shieks Pir” what more evidence do you need??

    Besides the whole proof is encoded in the works of Mulla Nasrudin….


  26. Joe Says:

    Sounds to me like ” a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing.”

    In short, Much ado About Nothing.

  27. Ian Haste Says:

    < “How do I know that Ian Haste wrote his comment? Because he signed it, that’s how!”

    Tell that to George Orwell or Mark Twain or, better yet, to BondGrrl(8) or Baloney Detective(21).

    < “we can reasnably assume that we are who we say we are”

    We cannot, and that is exactly my point.

    As no-one’s mind will change with this discourse I will leave, and as I do, I ask you to consider these two Shakespearean verses.

    . . . Like haggards wild they range,
    These gentle birds that fly from man to man.
    Who would not scorn and shake them from the fist
    And let them fly, fair fools, which way they list?
    . . . If I do prove her haggard,
    Though that her jesses were my dear heart-strings,
    I’d whistle her off, and let her down the wind
    To prey at fortune . . .

    It is interesting to note that only one of the verses above was written by Shakespeare and the test is – can you be certain which is by Shakespeare without referring to the text?

    The other verse was written by 1576. In 1576 Shakespeare was 12 years old.

    Three possibilities present themselves:
    1. William Shakespeare had written and published Othello by the time he was 12 years old, that is six years before leaving Stratford on Avon for London.
    2. These two verses are so totally dissimilar that they could not possibly be written by the same hand.
    3. William Shakespeare was a plagiarist.

    Please note that this comparison is just one of a great number of similarities between these two writers, even though, as Daryl Pinksen(2) points out: “Oxford’s only extant work is a collection of mediocre poems”

    Many other examples of the closeness of style and content abound and can be discovered or supplied.

  28. Hal Sherman Says:

    How about a fourth possibility, that Shakespeare and Oxford both lived in a society where hawking was popular, and came up with the metaphor independently?

  29. Ian Haste Says:

    “Fourth possibility” – Good point Hal.

    However, commoners such as Shakespeare was, were not allowed by law to own hawks or to engage in hawking. It would be almost impossible for a commoner to mingle with the aristocracy at sport with the attendant banquets, dances and lodging in the great homes of England which often lasted a week or more at a time. For this reason I would not include this in my list of possibilities.

    The sentiment, style and idea are exactly the same in these two verses. It flows from the pen without giving the appearance of having been researched especially for a play. But we cannot say for sure. I think it’s fair to say that the verses are very similar to each other and worthy of consideration.

    (For those unsure of “Haggard”, it refers to a hawk which is only partly trained and is as likely to return to someone else’s wrist or fist as to it’s own master’s, which is why it is used here to suggest an independent or unfaithful woman.)

  30. William Ray Says:

    I did not realize there was such a lengthy conflab about this supposedly long-settled question. Most of the comments are dismissals of challenges to the myth, dismissals accompanied by, shall I say, ad hominem features. Who wrote the line, “Methinks the lady doth protest too much”, anyway?

    To repeat my point, read the challenging scholarship–it will take time, but you will change your thinking and see and understand Shakespeare as the work of a tormented genius, not an all purpose contrivance, the rubric ‘genius’. Do something rarely done as a Stratfordian, look for evidence with an unfrightened mind, because the evidence is there. Until you are willing to do that, don’t blatter a bunch of overeducated claptrap. Probably the most available text, summarizing much of the recent Oxfordian scholarship, is Mark Anderson’s ‘Shakespeare by Another Name’. Second, read ‘The Monument’ by Hank Whittemore, who places the mysterious Sonnets in their historical context, the first scholar ever to do that successfully. The problem for the Stratfordian religionists (loyalty to what one is told can be considered religious) is that all the information he presents, corresponds perfectly to the life and the thought of Edward de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford. You will be convinced. Third, I recommend if anyone wishes to see precise and manifold linguistic correspondence between Oxford’s style and what we call ‘Shakespearean’, read Joseph Sobran’s ‘Alias Shakespeare’ and its masterful predecessor, William Plumer Fowler’s ‘Shakespeare Revealed in Oxford’s Letters’. If you have any respect for Freud’s or John Galsworthy’s minds, try reading what they admired and the latter called the best detective story he ever read, J. Thomas Looney’s ‘Shakespeare Identified in Edward de Vere’, published after World War I and ignored until recently. Then at least you will be dealing with a literary canon of inquiry informed by historical fact instead of with equivocating tales told by your teachers. Probably the most thorough scholastic argument that the Shakespeare works derive from Oxford is Roger Stritmatter’s ‘ Oxford’s Geneva Bible’. He established that one in five underlines in Oxford’s bible returned as allegory in his later pseudonymous works under the necessary nom de plume, “Shake-speare”. The most recent significant work is David Roper’s ‘Proving Shakespeare’, the first chapter of which explains how and why Oxford’s family launched the fictitious Shakespeare ruse. He meets the scientific cryptological standard for decoding the “Shakespeare Monument”. Let’s see if the reviewing media admit it. These scholars should be extolled for heretofore standing up to ridicule and condemnation when they were making good sense. I like to think that honorable moment will arrive for them though, because as someone said, “The truth will out.”

    As for me and my supposedly “angry” contribution, (and I wouldn’t be ashamed to be angry at cant), read the Shakespeare Papers on my website,, and see who is the better writer and thinker, me or my critic.

    At least you stepped into the ring, Michael Shermer, and provided an unusual forumro this “discusson”. That’s more than American or English academia have had the nerve to do with their “pettiness that plays so rough”.

    Best wishes, William Ray

  31. David Tussey Says:

    This all brings to mind a comment written by Samuel Eliot Morison in his biography of John Paul Jones. There’s long been a legend that Jones’ real father was a nobleman. Morison asked why we assume any great man must have somehow secretly been the product of aristocrats and then stated, (as close as I remember) “His father was a good Scotch gardener, which is enough distinction for any man.”

  32. Hal Sherman Says:

    If we’re accepting cryptography as proof, let’s not forget how Shakespeare encoded his name into the 46th Psalm in the King James Bible, to prove that he was part of that project. He was 46 at the time, and the 46th word from the beginning of the 46th Psalm is “shake” and the 46th word from the end is “spear” – what more proof could one need?

  33. paul fauvet Says:

    Ian Haste must have a tin ear if he thinks the two pieces of verse he quotes sound similar.

    The first (which I have never come across, but I presume it’s by Oxford) is written in competent, but mechanical iambic pentameter.

    The second, from Othello, departs from the iambic form, as the mature Shakespeare did very frequently. Here is a much fuller quote from Act 3 of Othello:

    This fellow’s of exceeding honesty,
    And knows all qualities, with a learned spirit,
    Of human dealings. If I do prove her haggard,
    Though that her jesses were my dear heartstrings,
    I’ld whistle her off and let her down the wind,
    To prey at fortune. Haply, for I am black
    And have not those soft parts of conversation
    That chamberers have, or for I am declined
    Into the vale of years,—yet that’s not much—
    She’s gone. I am abused; and my relief
    Must be to loathe her. O curse of marriage,
    That we can call these delicate creatures ours,
    And not their appetites! I had rather be a toad,
    And live upon the vapour of a dungeon,
    Than keep a corner in the thing I love
    For others’ uses. Yet, ’tis the plague of great ones;
    Prerogativ’d are they less than the base;

    And so on. It’s clear that this bears almost no resemblance to the verse from Oxford, except for the use of the word haggard, Of the 17 lines, just five are regular iambic pentameters. The entire verse fragment from Oxford, however, is regular.

    It’s easy enough to churn out iambic pentameters, padding the lines with words like “fair fools” just to fit the meter.

    It’s much more difficult to write the jagged, disjointed verse of Othello, a man whose mind is being poisoned by Iago in this scene, so that he comes to believe that Desdemona should be loathed rather than loved.

    As for hawking – the fact that Shakespeare didn’t own a hawk does not mean that he couldn’t write about the sport. I don’t own any golf clubs, so if I use a golfing metaphor in a poem, does that mean that the piece is not by me at all?

    As for William Ray, and the literary conspiracy theorists he cites – none of them can explain how a man who died in 1604, could have gone on writing plays for another decade.

  34. William Ray Says:

    I am happy to inform the questioner I can explain how a man, de Vere, who died in 1604 left manuscripts in the possession of his family, works that were staged after his death. Mr. Fauvet’s rhetorical question indicates he does not really wish to gain information, only to get off a smug sally, and it is this predisposition more than anything else that aborts the advance of knowledge.

    de Vere’s followers, the earl of Derby (married to de Vere’s oldest daughter), the earl of Pembroke (married to his youngest), and the latter’s brother, all of them very involved with Elizabethan theater, released the plays for production at court and elsewhere. The latter two aristocrats, the Herbert brothers, are the dedicatees mentioned in the First Folio. That should answer the question, why them?

    “The Tempest”, usually cited as proof the later plays could not have been written by de Vere, contains ample sources from Erasmus, Hakluyt, and the captain of de Vere’s own shipwrecked Bon Adventure, describing the archetypal sea disaster featured in the play’s beginning. See Stritmatter’s and Kositsky’s 2007 article in the Review of English Studies and you may agree the opposite claim has been exploded once and for all.

    The play was not and could not have been the result of the notorious plagiarist Strachey’s description of a Caribbean shipwreck, because that lengthy letter was not published until two decades after “The Tempest” was well-known. There are references to the play as early as 1603. The theory that “Shakespeare” of Stratford might have read the manuscript in about 1610, before the play was first staged, is simply a speculative patch to bridge an impossible plausibility problem for the traditional Stratfordian claims.

    When a play is staged has no bearing on when it was written. The Stratfordian claim of their loan shark sending plays to London after his “retirement” in 1604–on no presented evidence–is just one more rationalization for a weak case. But to shoehorn de Vere from his rightful authorship, such an auxiliary claim must be made for the counterfeit “author”. One lie begets another.

    There are excellent reasons to think that, when James I commemorated the life and work of de Vere in early 1605 with eight “Shakespearean” plays, one of those plays closely resembled “The Tempest”. It had another name, “A Spanish Tragedy”. So honoring the plays of any English playwright has never happened before or since in the royal court. de Vere had died the previous summer.

    Other plays, such as “Macbeth”, first staged in 1612, do not mention celestial phenomena or new scientific discovery after 1604, the year de Vere died. Previous to that the plays characteristically referred to such events and new knowledge.

    Put all these facts together and the intentionally ridiculous question that prompted them is shown to be false in its claim and its pretense as thinking. Of course a man does not write plays after he is dead. But that has no bearing on our present issue anyway.

    Which returns us to the necessity to use reason and evidence, along with supported inference, to reach conclusions of knowledge. Call the works I cited “literary conspiracy theorists”; call them anything that comforts your emotions. But that’s a screen against thinking. Instead, search for fact as they have searched, and you won’t need to prattle deprecations. A provisional respect for overlooked information is far better than self-defeating denial. It shows good faith in the rules of inquiry. And isn’t it also useful and wholesome skepticism?

    Thanks to Shermer’s website for this little parable in the value of fidelity to the scientific canon of inquiry. Perhaps he will adjust his own remarks as a result.

    Best wishes,

    William Ray

  35. Brad Bostian Says:

    The best evidence for a real conspiracy should come closest in time and place and person to the conspiracy itself. Witnesses speak; something smells wrong; you can “follow the money.” Here, as in most conspiracy theories, the evidence has developed more the farther we get from Shakespeare himself. That’s exactly backwards. Maybe Shakespeare didn’t write his own plays, but it violates Occam’s Razor to say so now. It’s okay to be a Shakespeare skeptic, it’s just not very scientific.

  36. William Ray Says:

    I don’t follow the previous contributor’s use of the term “conspiracy”, as though that were a confirmation of fatal fault in this challenge to the “Shakespearean” authorship. If the arrangement of a pseudonym for purposes of concealment by a high Elizabethan noble, who was also a gifted and brilliant writer, the action being previewed to his friends in the lesser levels of society, is conspiratorial then it was a limited kind of “conspiracy”. Others had pseudonyms as well, e.g., Mary Sidney, George Eliot, Samuel Clemens, et al.

    There are indications that de Vere and a group including Greene and Nashe unveiled the final “Shakespeare” authorial cipher after Lord Burghley, de Vere’s father-in-law and Elizabeth’s principal secretary, had died in 1598, freeing censorship upon de Vere’s works somewhat. This was followed up by a critic identifying previous anonymous plays, all associated with de Vere, as “Shakespeare’s”.

    The initial nom de plume was Shake-speare, not Shakespeare, for Venus and Adonis and the Rape of Lucrece. By 1598, after the unhyphenated name became the current foil, a sufficient number of writers of the time wrote about this mysterious author, discreetly hinting of Edward de Vere’s name or station, for us to conclude the “conspiracy” was known among the knowing.

    After the Essex Rebellion in 1601, and de Vere’s saving his son Southampton from being executed for treason, de Vere’s combination of declasse artist status and association with a rebellion stained any future social acceptance for him. State policy dictated his will be destroyed, that most of his letters intentionally disappear, his manuscripts be concealed or be destroyed, his name written off in shame. All this left the pseudonym, once conveniently associated with the factotem Shakspere, now receiving counterfeit fame for centuries. The Civil Wars eclipsed all art for decades. Because of that, there was no contemporary organized attempt to unravel the ruse. The times were wrong for it.

    By the end of that Puritan period, the personal associations had long faded. By the early 19th century, the advent of systematically explaining such stupendous art eminating from a hapless front became the work of the academy, under the weltgeist of Superman ideologies. Meanwhile the state purposes had been met, a history favorable toward the view that the Tudor monarchy and its successors were both legitimate and stable. de Vere was played as a ne’er-do-well.

    Thus this issue has ramifications for English history and the monarchy, and is not just a correction in the attribution of certain dramatic and poetic works.

    Despite the confused origins of the authorship gaining a consensus, numerous great thinkers have smelled a skunk–Emerson, Whitman, James, Freud, Galsworthy, Chaplin, and many more.

    The present questioning observed here, to the annoyance of some, merely follows preceding movements to get at the truth of the matter. Usually there have been in-roads into the mythic belief in human omnipotency before the wars, and shaky authoritarian aftermaths militated against one more de-stabilizing change. The Scientific American publishedBarrell’s revelation that the “Shakespeare” portrait in the Folger Library was actually a painted-over portrait of de Vere. But that was in 1940.

    We have reached the point today of finding enough evidence previously undiscovered and achieved a certain momentum of superior and cumulative reasoning, so that a full airing might happen. I hope so. It seems that lawyers, who discern falsehood for a living, are the most outspoken on the issue. John Paul Stevens knows what credible evidence is, and the Stratfordian explanations don’t have it.

    To return to the beginning, word-games about “conspiracy theories” won’t stop the search for someone whose own very language feared his name, though not his thought, might be buried forever. But detective success isn’t the only reason for inquiry. Keeping faith with art requires it of us.

    I would say no work of art can be appreciated without the creator also being recognized. That has never happened with the tale of Shakspere from the woods all of a sudden producing several plays a year and then disappearing back to nowhere. Nothing makes sense in that narrative. (Except that Shakspere’s London appearance parallels the creation of the Shake-speare pseudonym and disappears with de Vere’s death.)

    And the worst match between unartistic man and stupendous art should not make sense to us. But everything does with de Vere. The more you study, the more naturally the details of Oxfordian style, Oxfordian biography, and “Shakespearean” work mesh and bring forth the meanings and motivations of the plays, revealing them as the most autobiographical in literature.

    I’m sorry so much time, effort, and reputation have been wasted on this wrong turn in world literature. But we already know from our recent political experience that, to states, personal or artistic truth is secondary to governmental survival and appearances of grandeur.

    We’ll get over the embarrassing adjustment in literary thinking and like the plays even more as the works of a man, not a contrivance.

    With best wishes,

    William Ray

  37. paul fauvet Says:

    The Oxfordian claim that a minor aristocrat, on his death in 1604, left behind a heap of plays released onto the market one by one over the ensuing decade, without anyone discovering the true author, is utterly preposterous.

    William Ray gets excited over the sources of “The Tempest” – but there are many other objections to the Oxfordian hypothesis. Here are a few:

    1. Style. The poetry of the Romances, notably “The Tempest”, is quite different from that of the mature tragedies such as “Othello” or “King Lear”. One might expect such developments in style from a working playwright over the space of a decade. but not from an aristocratic genius writing all the plays in a short period in a blaze of prolific creativity.

    2. Collaborators. Scholars now generally accept that the last play in the canon is not “The Tempest”, but the rather feeble history play “Henry VIII”. The problem for the Oxfordians is that this play turns out to be a collaboration betwen Shakespeare and John Fletcher, who succeeded him as house dramatist at the Kings Men theatre company, and who therefore knew him well.

    Furthermore thare is strong evidence that parts of “Timon of Athens” and of “Macbeth” (such as the Hecate scene) were written by Thomas Middleton.

    So were Fletcher and Middleton part of the conspiracy to keep Oxford’s authorship a secret? Is it not substantially more likely that they knew perfectly well who they were working with? (Theatrical collaborations were quite commonplace in the 16th and early 17th centuries).

    3. Revision. The quarto “History of King Lear” and the folio “Tragedy of King Lear” are substantially different. Shakespeare editors used to solve this problem by assuming there was a lost manuscript behind the two versions and that we could get closer to it by running them together. Modern scholarship (notably by Gary Taylor) has convincingly shown that the folio is a revision of the quarto, and that the man who did the revising was William Shakespeare.

    To me this is the most convincing argument against the Oxfordian thesis. Dead men cannot revise or improve their plays.

    In short, the anti-Stratfordian case is a ridiculous example of literary snobbery, which no serious scholar of English Renaissance literature accepts. It should be laid to rest with the hoots of derision it deserves.

  38. William Ray Says:

    I wouldn’t want to engage in a personal debate about these questions but will make the following responses to Mr. Fauvet if it will increase general knowledge.

    Whether I supposedly got “excited” about the true sources of The Tempest not involving the Stratchey plagiarisms doesn’t matter in the final reckoning. However, Strachey was a recognized fraud and reliance upon his cribbings by some modern scholars for forward-dating The Tempest to protect the Stratfordian claim is transparently pretextual reasoning.

    1. Style. It is Mr. Fauvet’s non sequitur to discuss “an aristocratic genius” not being able to have written several types of plays over a short period “in a blaze of prolific creativity.” Who said that happened? It didn’t in Oxford’s biography. He wrote from early adolescence to his last breath, forty years later and re-wrote his plays in the years after his marriage to Elizabeth Trentham brought him ease to do so. Hence the flurry of plays all through the 1590’s.

    But substitute into this sentence “an unknown glover’s son” for “an aristocratic genius”, and Mr. Fauvet presents a pretty good put-down of the conventional he-hurried-n-done-it story of the Stratford figure. There is absolutely no evidence of the latter’s putative works of genius being couriered to London for twelve years after the 1604 “retirement”–no letters, remarks, reviews, anecdotes, contracts, memoirs–while he kept busy at home suing a neighbor over a little batch of malt and hoarding grain in a famine. He wasn’t a ‘working playwright’ then or ever. Not that Shakspere didn’t play a critical role in the Shakespearean saga, but that’s another story.

    I also note, since Mr. Fauvet concentrates on the play, that ‘The History of King Leir’ was originally presented at court, not in 1606, but in 1594. Just as a possible insight into human creativity, did this play have anything to do with an ostler who had left his wife and children back home in Stratford and was new in London, the 30-year-old Shakspere–or did it originate with a nobleman who had been rooked out of his lands and patriarchy, driven mad with angry grief, even up to and including losing his three daughters–Oxford? Were there three daughters featured in King Lear? By any chance, was Shakspere a close reader of Seneca the source of the plot line? These are of course rhetorical questions.

    The play’s title was changed to King Lear some time before being staged and later as published in the First Folio–Lear being an anagram of Earl, just as Hamlet is an anagram of a major medieval source, Amleth, which was accessible to Oxford since childhood. About the change of ending, Mark Anderson suggested that the initial happy ending was Oxford’s hopeful wish at first, that foundered in actual circumstances, leading to the tragic final version.

    This is far from a full discussion of the issue, but there are ample grounds by which to reply that it is preposterous to be totally unknown and unlettered and write King Lear, but not for a nobleman to have done so, who was recognized as the master writer of his time and whose life’s suffering uncannily paralleled this work and many another.

    Collaborators. It is not clear how and when Fletcher “collaborated” on the play Henry VIII. (Remember a few years ago his portrait was claimed to be “Shakespeare”? The correction was less prominently displayed.) From the Oxfordian point of view about the later play productions, after de Vere died, the plays were in the hands of the “Grand Possessors”, the same figures thanked in the First Folio introduction. Thus I will assume for the sake of present argument that the Herbert brothers and William Stanley, earl of Derby, two of the three married to de Vere women, were in the position to finish or have finished any manuscript for publication and presentation. This may have been why Stanley, earl of Derby, later got drafted into the list of possible Shakespeares. He was known in his time as all but illiterate.

    As a significant playwright of the era, who receives attribution as co-author of Two Noble Kinsmen, John Fletcher could have worked on the final version of Henry VIII. But again, that has no bearing on when it was originally written or by whom. The 19th century critics such as Malone were positive that such an apology for the Tudor dynasty as Henry VIII, would not go down well at King James’s court masques. The heroes of the play beheaded his mother for real. Hence there would be no motivation to write it in his reign. When it first played in 1613, the theater was burned to the ground. That may or may not be a co-incidence. But there was plenty of reason to stage Henry VIII during Elizabeth’s reign. We just do not know the facts here. But we can say that there was no dark cabal about “Shakespeare’s” actual identity. Remarks of the time show it was an open secret in the censorious state of Jacobean England that the great author was the man with a name bounded by one letter. This would point to the name Edward de Vere. There are numerous references confirming this clue.

    Middleton as a collaborator on Timon of Athens is less certain and I believe basically introduced by my interlocutor as part of a put-down about conspiracies. He was an Oxford satirist and thus unlikely as collaborator. Munday, his friend, was portrayed in the play as the honest steward counseling thrift. This reflected the actual relationship between Oxford and his employee Munday. But I would introduce a more general consideration here: Timon of Athens is a lordly noble who cares nothing for his lands and supports all good causes even when warned of ruin. Is this a good match with the penurious climber from Stratford or for the still medieval lord–not a minor one, as asserted by Mr. Fauvet, but the highest ranking aristocrat in the kingdom– Oxford, to whom gain was the worst vulgarity of men? The canon is replete with identical expressions of contempt for monetary wealth.

    Revision. Given that I have shown King Lear was very much out of the heart and soul of Oxford, and has no biographical or time-dating connection whatever to the life of Shakspere, I won’t press the point further. Revision would be an ancillary inquiry to the determination of authorship. We do not have enough information about the play to solve the main question. But Mr. Fauvet’s position does illustrate the disadvantage of cramping the writings of the plays into a thimble of time, which is crucially necessary in the Stratfordian (il)logic but contrary to human psychology and artistic motivation. All this mental yoga to protect a myth? The Oxfordian thesis doesn’t need to twist itself in a pretzel, in my view because it is closer to the truth.

    To reiterate, I agree that dead men cannot revise their plays. But live men can, and Oxford did, as shown by numerous Oxford court plays revised and renamed for the public stage, eventually associated with “Shakespeare”. See Ogburn’s or Eva Turner Clark’s texts for a list. And followers of a great (though dead) author can see to it that unfinished plays are cobbled into some kind of shape for the stage. This seems plausible, though we have no clinching document spilling the beans. Given the haste with which the First Folio got printed, such secrecy fit the political circumstances. We are trying to reconstruct post facto, very distant events that even in their time were rife with concealments and duplicity.

    I appreciate the opportunity to demonstrate the stunted reasoning that has supported the prevailing authorship explanation for so many wasted years. The subject could use an airing instead of being treated like a reliquary. Even a strained exchange such as this can do some good toward unclouding the truth.

    Perhaps Oxford expressed his belief in his eventual vindication with Edgar’s words from King Lear:

    Know my name is lost;
    By treason’s tooth bare-gnawn and canker-bit
    Yet am I noble as the adversary
    I come to cope.

    Best wishes,

    William Ray

  39. paul fauvet Says:

    Ray’s latest comment betrays a woeful ignorance of the texts of the plays.

    I was not talking about the 1594 “King Leir” (full title “The moste famous Chronicle historye of Leire king of England and his Three Daughters”), which is anonymous, and has the happy ending. To the best of my knowledge no serious scholar claims that this work is by Shakespeare.

    There are, however, two separate versions of the Shakespeare play (in both of which Lear and Cordelia die). There is the 1608 quarto (full title “The True Chronicle of the History of the Life and Death of King Lear and His Three Daughters”) and then there is “The tragedy of King Lear” which appeared in the 1623 First Folio.

    These texts are substantially different, and both were published, and performed, after the death of the Earl of Oxford.

    The most reasonable explanation is not that both somehow echo a lost manuscript, but that the playwright, dissatisfied with the quarto version, revised it. Gary Taylor suggests that one of the reasons for doing so was that some of the scenes of Lear’s madness in Act III didn’t work very well on the stage, and so Shakespeare shortened them.

    Since dead men cannot reconsider their work, this is an argument that destroys the case for Oxford. (For a full consideration of revision in King Lear see “The Division of the Kingdoms:Shakespear’s Two Versions of King Lear” by Gary Taylor and Michael Warren)

    I note that Ray is an enthusiastic class warrior on behalf of the aristocracy against such middle class upstarts as “an unknown glover’s son” and “penurious climber”.

    Much of his comment drips with snobbery. Shakespeare did such ignoble things as sueing his neighbours and hoarding grain. We are supposed to think that this shows the man was a dreadful cad, and so couldn’t have written anything worthwhile.

    If all writers had to meet such standards of moral and political correctness, we would have to jettison much of our literary canon.

    Ray claims it was “an open secret” in Jacobean society that the plays were not written by Shakespeare. There is not a shread of evidence for this claim, and a great deal against it – from people such as Jonson and Davenanr, for example.

    It was only in 1920 that the aptly named J. Thomas Looney hit on the idea that the Earl of Oxford wrote the plays. In the 90 years since then no evidence supporting Oxford’s claim has come to light – but we now possess something that Looney did not have, namely computer programmes.

    The Shakespearian plays and known works by Oxford have been run through computers, checking for typical forms of word usage. This shows, for instance, that Oxford’s poems have many more relative clauses than Shakespeare’s and many fewer hyphemnated compound words and feminine endings. The styles, in other words, are incompatible (See the 1991 article “Was the Earl of Oxford the True Shakespeare: a Computer-Guided Analysis” by Ward Elliott and Robert Valenza).

    I do not expect any of this to convince Oxfordians, whose attitude towards history is similar to that of the followers of Erick von Daniken or Graham Hancock in the field of archaeology. The more that experts dismiss their deluded theories the more wilfully they stick to them.

  40. William Ray Says:

    In reply to the previous comment, discounting its ad hominem character, I would remind interested readers that to see facts in an investigation, we must suspend, at least temporarily, our preferences and assumptions as to what “must have” happened. Detectives do it; so can scholars.

    The Stratfordian argument assumes and tenuously relies upon a string of plays, many of them the greatest in world literature, being produced four a year for years on end with no connection whatsoever between writer, materials, and subjects, then another string when all appearances indicated the putative author’s permanent remove home for home concerns. This fails ordinary logic and our understanding of human motivation. Into the gap slips the hopeful idea, genius. But genius (i.e., talent) cannot read over 200 books, many not yet in English translation and others highly obscure, later to be referenced in the plays.

    However Oxford had access to all these references. He knew the several languages involved. He had been to the locations. He had written all his life. He was eyewitness to the barbaric ambition of his peers. In Walt Whitman’s words, “Only one of the ‘wolfish earls’ so plenteous in the plays themselves, or some born descendant and knower, might seem to be the true author of those amazing works—works in some respects greater than anything else in recorded literature.”

    In contrast Shakspere’s will didn’t mention a single book, manuscript, letter, contract, or pen. That is unlike even talentless writers. Something is wrong with the Stratford myth, but the straw-man Oxford keeps getting stronger and stronger.

    Returning to Mr. Fauvet’s point, if there was an interim (1608) version of King Lear, different from the 1593 original which followed the traditional story, and also different from the edited 1623 version by Jonson, who was hired by his patrons, the Herberts and Derby to edit the First Folio materials for publication, it is interesting but not critical in determining the Shakespeare authorship.

    I also suggest reading Jonson’s introduction for its ambiguity and irony, rather than taking it as gospel that “The Soul of the Age” was the same man satirized by Jonson himself as a pretentious buffoon, giving Shakspere the family motto “Not Without Mustard” in place of the latter’s paid-for “Not Without Right”. And see David L. Roper’s ‘Proving Shakespeare’ to understand Jonson’s true role and purpose on behalf of his master.

    I relied on Mark Anderson’s (‘Shakespeare by Another Name’) suggestion that the early and late versions of Lear differed, based on Oxford’s angry grief at losing his ancestral lands, status, even his daughters permanently, when the hated Cecils gained ascendency with Elizabeth I. That might bring on a impulse to tragedy, the final break-up of medieval honor and one’s line a casualty.

    From Mr. Fauvet’s statement following Taylor, the 1623 Lear differed also from an interim 1608 version, and I am happy to give him a bean on that one. But he steadfastly assumes a play must come out when the author is alive. 1606 or 1608 distribution confirms nothing about authorship. That is a logical fallacy, and since piracy was rife, the provenance of the 1608 quarto is not certain.

    Concerning the charge of snobbery, a common personal attack upon questioners of the Stratford myth, I am afraid the charge fails. I can build a house, repair a car, fix a water pump, climb a mountain, raise a garden, beat a corporate monolith, and write a sonnet; and my redneck neighbors appreciate above all that I can think.

    The cheap shot against J. Thomas Looney (as looney) is not appreciated. His Isle of Man-derived name is pronounced Loh-ney. He was eminently sane and courageous, a truly good man. ‘Shakespeare Identified’ deserves a broad audience.

    The computer evaluations of word-use and frequency suffer from the questions designed for them. They are far from reliable as a consequence, being better suited to statistical consistency. I would recommend Shahan and Whalen’s “Apples to Oranges in Bard Stylometrics” (The Oxfordian: IX, 2006) as an antidote to Elliott and Valenza’s dubious conclusions.

    Regarding the charge that there is not a shred of evidence that the Oxford authorship of the Shakespeare canon was an open secret among the literari–perhaps this is an appropriate place to suggest reading my essay in Shakespeare papers: “Edward de Vere’s Concealed Authorship of the Shakespeare Canon and the Necessary Taboos of Blind Belief”.

    Sorry for the long title and don’t be a blind believer, just generally speaking.

    Best wishes,

    William Ray

  41. Roger Stritmatter Says:

    Paul Fauvet seems incapable of distinguishing between an effective argument and a convenient theory:

    He is confident that

    The problem for the Oxfordians is that [Henry VIII] turns out to be a collaboration betwen Shakespeare and John Fletcher, who succeeded him as house dramatist at the Kings Men theatre company, and who therefore knew him well.

    But a skeptical reader — which is to say, one not overly habituated to Mr. Shermer’s style of being “skeptical” over anything that is out of favor at court, will quickly notice that collaboration is here a deduction, not a fact: one deduced solely on the basis of textual features. Those features are just as easily explained by theories involving revision as those requiring collaboration. Oxfordians are therefore quite happy to acknowledge that some texts may have been revised, either before or after Oxford’s death, by other playwrights.

    He goes on to argue that

    The most reasonable explanation [for the existence of two texts of Lear] is not that both somehow echo a lost manuscript, but that the playwright, dissatisfied with the quarto version, revised it.

    This may well be the “most reasonable explanation” for the two texts. But it is not probative to the issue, since — as Mr. Ray observes — Fauvet cannot prove that the revision took place after 1604.

    Although this post is primarily a brief response to Mr. Fauvet, I will conclude with a brief comment about Mr. Shermer’s initial article.

    In my view, Mr. Shermer has done himself a disservice by engaging a debate of which he appears to be substantially ignorant — as anyone who relies primarily on established Shakespearean “experts” and fails to pursue their own independent inquiry, will be. Shermer’s lack of confidence in his own position is betrayed by the fact that he could not apparently bring himself to talk to any anti-Stratfordians except for Mr. Shahan, and clearly prefers to censor any links to Oxfordian websites. This is consistent with his generally vague understanding of the nature of the Oxfordian case, and a lack of specifity and accuracy that allows him without any apparent shame to invent arguments to he finds it convenient to attribute to his alleged interlocutors. Mr. Shermer would benefit from a crash course in Shakespearean studies — preferably one that included some solid understanding, debate, and REAL skepticism regarding the Shakespearean authorship question.

    Here, for the record, was Walt Whitman’s opinion:

    “only one of the wolfish earls, or some born knower and descendent so plenteous in the works themselves, would seem to be the true author of these amazing works.”

  42. Daryl Pinksen Says:

    In response to Paul Fauvet (Comment 11):

    Yes, the 1593 Coroner’s Report is a huge obstacle, but your subsequent argument that Marlowe can be ruled out “on literary grounds” displays a lack of understanding of the subject.

    There are numerous 19th century examples of scholars arguing, on literary grounds alone, and in spite of the lack of any supporting documentary evidence, that Marlowe was largely concerned with the earliest “Shakespeare” plays performed, the 1592 Henry VI plays.
    This from Alexander Dyce in 1865:

    “We have full warrant for supposing that Marlowe was very largely concerned in the composition of The First Part of the Contention and of The True Tragedie; and the following instances of their close resemblance to his Edward the Second are confirmative of that supposition.”

    Your statement that, “the style of the two men is completely different,” is at odds with a close reading of scholarship from the last two hundred years.

    This from Robert Logan’s 2007 Shakespeare’s Marlowe:

    “Of greater significance than the point at which the sense of emulation [Shakespeare of Marlowe] emerges as documentable evidence is the firmness with which Marlowe’s influence rooted itself in Shakespeare and developed,
    for it continued to thrive for 18 years after Marlowe’s death, roughly from 1593-1611, the remainder
    of Shakespeare’s career.”

    Scholars disagree with your assertion, and have been consistently disagreeing with it for generations. But, they maintain, the resemblance is the result of conscious emulation and imitation by Shakespeare of Marlowe’s work. I have a different view – a highly contentious one, no question – but one which is supported, rather than eliminated, on literary grounds.

    For more about the style issue, see:

    Daryl Pinksen

  43. Wenonah Sharpe Says:

    Good to read the reactions as this vext subject is aired. And interesting to see the keepers of the myth writhe when various issues of de Vere’s life are traced in the works.
    This surely enriches the reading of the plays; something we
    can all applaud.

  44. Roger Stritmatter Says:

    Daryl Pinkson labors with considerable effect to argue that their is no literary basis for distinguishing between Shakespeare and Marlowe. Although there may some (relatively) informed parties, such as those quoted in Mr. Pinkson’s post, who hold the view that the two styles are indistinguishable, the vast majority of early modern scholarship recognizes a clear set of diagnostic features that generally allow one to distinguish one writer from the other. These include or might include (I’m sure that others, were they here, could add much more to my paltry list);

    1) The relative scarcity of humor in Marlowe;
    2) The pattern of Biblical allusions (which is a subject upon which I am well informed);
    3) Marlowe’s theme of upward mobility (as distinguished from Shakespeare’s of downward mobility)
    4) Marlowe’s characterizations are relatively flat compared to Shakespeares;
    5) The great metrical simplicity (like unto a metronome!) of Marlowe’s characteristic “mighty line,” as juxtaposed to the extreme variety of metrical and phonological effects employed by Shakespeare

    These are a few. Like I said, I’m no expert — I’m sure the experts would have much more thorough justification of why it is nearly impossible that the same man can have written the vast majority of both canons (there are a few touches in Marlowe, esp. in Edward II and Massacre at Paris, that read to me as possible collaborations between the two bards. But I have to conclude that there is a very different aesthetic vision at work in Tambourlaine, Jew, and Faustus, as well as Marlowe’s poetry and translations. He didn’t see the world from the same POV as Sh. did.

  45. paul fauvet Says:

    This discussion has posed three candidates for the authorship of the works of William Shakespeare – Shakespeare, Oxford and Marlowe. The positions can be summarised as follows:

    1. Shakespeare

    That the man whose name appeared on the texts (in the Stationers’ Register, in the First and Second Folios) wrote them. That the man recognised as the author by Ben Jonson, by the editors of the First Folio (Heminges and Condell), and by all other contemporaries who mentioned Shakespeare, was indeed the author.

    2. Oxford

    That an aristocrat who died in 1604 left behind a pile of masterpieces that were released one by one over the ensuing decade. That this aristocrat wrote plays which bear no metrical or stylistic resemblance to the handful of poems which were undoubtedly written by the Earl of Oxford. That this aristocrat was so successful in covering up his authorship that it was not “discovered” until 1920. That all Shakespeare’s fellow dramatists and actors were either duped by Oxford or were part of the conspiracy.

    3. Marlowe

    That a man who supposedly died in a pub brawl in 1593 was in fact spirited off to the Continent where he went on writing plays for another 20 years. That these plays were somehow sent to London with nobody suspecting who the true author was. And that, like Oxford, Marlowe somehow dramatically changed his style, so that computer analysis of Shakespeare’s plays finds very little in common with Marlowe’s known works.

    Faced with these three hypotheses, the use of Occam’s Razor (“entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem” i.e – when you have two or more competing theories go for the one which makes fewest assumptions), eliminates 2 and 3.

    Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare just as certainly as it was Islamist fanatics, and not George W. Bush, who flew planes into the World Trade Centre, and just as certainly as it was a drunken driver and not MI5 or the CIA who killed Princess Diana.

  46. Hank Whittemore Says:

    Oxfordians postulate that “Shakespeare” was the public pen name of a man who began using it on narrative poetry in 1593 at the age of forty-three, after he had already written the first versions of all his works to be published
    subsequently under that psuedonym. The theory is that the great initial period of Shakespearean activity took place in the 1560’s, 1570’s and 1580’s up to England’s defeat of the Armada in 1588, soon after which the author became a
    virtual recluse while revising his previous works for the public stage.

    “Shakespeare” plays first appeared in the 1590’s without any name attached; they remained anonymous until 1598. If
    we imagine for a moment that this same author had never attached his name to any literary or dramatic work, and all
    other references to the name as indicating a writer were therefore eliminated, how would we search for him. What
    evidence would lead us to Stratford upon Avon?

    If the narrative poem “Venus and Adonis” had appeared in 1593 with no name on its dedication to the Earl of
    Southampton, without knowing anything else we could look all through the evidence to be found in previous years and
    decades but would never come upon Will of Stratford as the possible author. How could the poet of “Venus and Adonis” (much less “Lucrece” of 1594) have left no trace of his prior existence as part of the literary and theatrical world? London was a small town, but there is no “Shakespeare” up to 1593 — and we can throw in
    “Shake-scene” in “Groatsworth of Wit” of 1592 and still have no clue about the author.

    To believe he would write that narrative poem without any visible prior history leading up to it, we would have to
    view the work as a miracle. To make this evidence fit, we’d have to “dumb down” that work. We’d have to strip it
    of its evidence of a tremendous body of knowledge and experience. For starters, we’d have to overlook the plain evidence that the author must have seen a particular Titian painting of “Venus and Adonis” that could have been seen only in Italy. And so on.

    I submit that the evidence — the circumstantial evidence that we’d find — would lead conclusively to Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford (1550-1604) for dozens and dozens of reasons, including:

    1) His uncle Arthur Golding is credited with the English translation of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” (1567), upon which
    “Shakespeare” drew for “Venus and Adonis” and nearly all other works of his. (Oxford was a teenager at Cecil House
    when Golding was there and would have been translating at least some of that work.)

    2) John Lyly, whose writings in the late 1570’s and during the 1580’s are a major contemporary source of “Shakespeare,” was Oxford’s personal secretary during his productive time.

    3) Oxford was in Venice in 1575-76 when Titian was still alive with that specific painting at his house.

    The additional circumstantial evidence is enormous. It means at the very least, apart from any authorship question, that “Shakespeare” scholars and students might well be expected to be eager to learn about this eccentric nobleman who had two play companies, who was said to be best for comedy (plays), who had many writers who depended on him — such as Robert Greene, Anthony Munday, Thomas
    Watson, et. al. — all the fertile ground in which the roots of the resulting “Shakespeare” phenomenon can be found.

    PS – It also means that during the 1590’s and beyond there was never any imposter running around London claiming to be Shakespeare the writer. The writer was referred to by the name “William Shakesepare” but there was no body attached to it.

  47. Daryl Pinksen Says:

    Paul Fauvet is correct in saying that scholarship has noted significant differences in the Marlowe and Shakespeare styles, but these differences only become apparent once we move forward from the early 1590s.

    It is not Occam’s razor which is at issue here, which applies well to the laws of physics, but less so to more complex questions. If the simplest explanation were always best, then creationism would trump evolution on the basis of the simplicity of its explanation alone. The relevant principle here is the transitive property of equality(if A=B, and B=C, then A=C).

    A fair comparison – one which controls as much as possible for the evolution of both style and fashion over a writer’s career – of the styles of the Marlowe and Shakespeare plays can only be made for late Marlowe and early Shakespeare. Those styles are nearly identical, and the repeated 19th century claims of scholars for Marlowe’s co-authorship of Titus Andronicus and the Henry VI plays, of Shakespeare’s deliberate imitation of Marlowe’s style in Richard II and Richard III, puts this issue beyond dispute.

    If we can equate early Shakespeare to Marlowe (which we can), and early Shakespeare to mature Shakespeare, that is sufficient to make the connection from Marlowe to all of Shakespeare.

    Reports of Marlowe’s death – which to be fair, was not the result of a tavern brawl – say it took place in a private room in the presence of three men: a high level government spy, a servant of Marlowe’s patron, and an agent of the Earl of Essex (who operated his own intelligence network). Marlowe was also a government agent; he had recently been accused of heresy, and was ordered not to leave town. Within days, his imprisonment, torture and execution were likely. If you were in Marlowe’s shoes (with his connections to the intelligence underworld)what would you be thinking?

    Trotting out loathsome conspiracy theories like “911” are effective in keeping people from asking questions, but I would suggest a more relevant conspiracy for comparison – the fronting for blacklisted writers that occurred in the 1950s. The Writer’s Guild of America has spent the past several decades trying to restore proper attribution to writers who’d been cheated out of their proper credit. For example, we now know that the classic TV series “You are There,” narrated by Walter Cronkite, was written by blacklisted writers who used fronts. See the IMDb listing here:

    Another blacklisted writer, Dalton Trumbo, won two Academy Awards that were given to “fronts.”

    If this practice was common in the 1950s, then surely we can at least ask the question, without fear of ridicule, if it might have also happened in the 1590s.


  48. Samuel Blumenfeld Says:

    In writing my book, The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, I found it absolutely necessary to read all of Marlowe’s plays and all 36 plays in the First Folio attributed to Shakespeare. There is no doubt in my mind that both canons were written by one great genius: Christopher Marlowe. Most interesting is that Marlowe managed to drop all sorts of clues in the Shakespeare plays, clues which cannot be explained away by Oxfordians or Stratfordians.

    Anyone who really wants to speak intelligently about the authorship question has to read the works of both Marlowe and those attributed to Shakespeare. That the actor-businessman Shakespeare was a front for Marlowe’s plays written in exile is not such a far-fetched notion. Daryl Pinksen, in Marlowe’s Ghost, makes a very convincing argument that fronting for a banned author is not so unusual and has even been used in our day.

    The only reason why there is so much doubt about Shakespeare is because we are dealing with the greatest literary genius in human history, and naturally there is the desire to know who that genius actually was. I wish that the skeptics would read my book and Daryl’s book and write reviews based on their acquired knowledge and not their half-baked theories based on wishful thinking.

  49. Isabel Gortazar Says:

    There seem to be two main “candidates to the authorship” in the exchange above, apart of Shakespeare himself.

    In reference to Marlowe:
    I find it extraordinary that Shakespeare’s admiration for Marlowe was apparently so great that he remembered him to his dying day, paraphrasing two lines from “Hero and Leander” on his gravestone.
    Hero and Leander:

    These “famous last lines” are particularly disappointing when one remembers the sort of poetry that Shakespeare might have written for his own grave:
    “Fear no more the heat of the sun,
    Nor the furious winter rages”.

    As for the Earl of Oxford:
    It seems to me that the relative references to Shakespeare (and his comedies) and Edward de Vere (“the best for comedy”, but no titles), in Meres’ Palladis Tamia is one of the strongest argument against Oxford as “Shakespeare”.

    In one paragraph Meres gives a list of comedies attributed to Shakespeare that include practically every title written by him (whoever he was), until that date. However, Meres seems to have attended some private performance of a funny play or plays, openly written by De Vere, the title/s of which he doesn’t even bother to mention. So, if we take Palladis Tamia as our guide, Oxford was openly writing his worst plays under his own name, while reserving his masterpieces to be sold to the Players by Shakespeare.

    Moreover, Oxford was so determined to maintain his anonymity that when writing “Henry V”, he carefully omitted to place his ancestor in the Battle of Agincourt (where he had been), thus robbing his family name of its deserved fame and glory.

    Then, in a fit of self-abasement, he decided to wash his dirty linen in public, explaining his disgraceful marital affairs in All’s Well that Ends Well, where he humbly describes himself as the appalling Bertram.

    Finally, how could Oxford have written Sonnet 26?
    “Lord of my love, to whom in vassalage” etc.
    The word “vassalage” coming from an Earl in Elizabeth’s England could only be addressed to a Monarch, in this case, male.
    There is no record that Oxford offended King James between the spring of 1603 and the Earl’s death in November 1604, to the extreme that he would have felt the need to apologize to his new King with this sonnet.

    While a commoner, such as Marlowe, could have used the word in relation to any of his titled patrons, the possibility that Oxford would have offered “vassalage” to anyone of his own class, is remote.

    But then, an Earl who is supposed to have stooped to writing plays for the general public, selling them through the mediation of a commoner, might just as well stoop to offer “vassalage” to an equal.

    The Earl of Oxford had the reputation of being a proud man, very much aware of his rank and lineage. He must be groaning in his grave.

  50. paul fauvet Says:

    Blumenfeld seems to assume that anyone who disagrees with his “Marlowe was Shakespeare” thesis can’t have read the plays of either man.

    I assure him that I have read them all, and I assume that the great majority of literature scholars who laugh at his claims have not skimped on their reading either.

    Leaving aside the daft characterisation of Marlowe as a 16th century James Bond, smuggled out of the country by the Elizabethan equivalent of M, there are some insuperable problems:

    1. Marlowe did not do romantic comedy. There is nothing in the Marlowe corpus which bears any resemblance to, for example, “Twelth Night” or “As you Like It”.

    2. By the time of Marlowe’s death (or “death”, if you like) in 1593, he had written several masterpieces (“Dr Faustus”, “Edward II”, “The Jew of Malta”). But in the early 1590s, Shakespeare’s output is miserable stuff – the first two Henry VI plays are very poor indeed, which is why they are hardly ever performed, and “The Comedy of Errors” is a rotten and most unfunny plagiarism of the Roman dramatist Plautus.

    So Blumenfeld wants us to believe that the man who wrote brilliantly in the 1580s, suddenly wrote trash in the early 1590s, before finding his feet again and writing works of genius later in his career.

    3. Why did nobody prior to 1895 claim that Marlowe and Shakespeare were the same? How come Ben Jonson didn’t notice? And if the two men were one and the same, how come that Marlowe’s works are not in the First or Second Folios?

    4. Of course Shakespeare was influenced by Marlowe, as were other Renaissance dramatists, and they both used the same metrical form of iambic pentameter. Unfortunately for Blumenthal’s thesis, that’s about as far as it goes. Computer analysis of the use of common words indicates that Marlowe cannot possibly have written Shakespeare’s plays.

    5. Compare Barabbas in “The Jew of Malta” with Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice”. Why such different characterisations of the Jew-as-villain, if the two playwrights were one and the same?

    Blumenthal gives the game away when he describes Shakespeare as “the greatest literary genius in human history”. This claim of Shakespeare’s superlative genius is a 19th century construct, and the idea that Shakespeare’s achievements were unparalleled was one of the reasons why a handful of dissidents suggested they couldn’t have been the work of a grammar school lad from Stratford-on-Avon.

    Shakespeare is indeed a great writer – but I can’t understand why he should be elevated above the ancient Greek tragedians, or above Moliere or Racine. English chauvinism, perhaps?

    The worship of Shakespeare has had the pernicious effect of making everybody else in the Renaissance theatre secondary. Yet the scathing wit of Ben Jonson makes “Volpone” and “The Alchemist” much funnier than any of Shakespeare’s comedies. And a good case can be made that some of the plays of Webster (“The Duchess of Malfi”) or of Middleton (“The Revenger’s Tragedy”) are better than most of Shakespeare’s tragedies.

    But because academics have been fixated on Shakespeare at the expense of his contemporaries, nobody has fantasised that dead aristocrats or spies were responsible for the work of Jonson, Webster or Middleton.

  51. William Ray Says:

    Not to interrupt the speculations about who’s who four- hundred years ago, but Mr. Fauvet has hit upon an excellent point at the end of his lucubration:

    ” [N]obody has fantasised that dead aristocrats or spies were responsible for the work of Jonson, Webster or Middleton.” Well, no, not fantasy but well-founded research to that effect exists.

    If he and his mates would care to read Stephanie Hopkins Hughes’s “‘No Spring till Now’, The Countess of Pembroke and the John Webster Canon'”, they would be pleasantly astounded that Mary Sidney, heretofore recognized merely as the inspiration for the Wilton writers’ circle, was herself an extraordinary writer, and she used a front to disseminate her works. He was, evidently, her coach-maker’s son, John Webster.

    Jonson also received her patronage and favor. Oxford and she were close friends.

    It is extremely interesting that, almost uniquely for the time, there are clever, successful women in the works of “Shakespeare”, even more so that “Webster”‘s solo plays feature female protagonists. Mary Sidney’s literary influence is described in Robin P. William’s ‘Sweet Swan of Avon’.

    The overlooked Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke, once enticed James I to return to Wilton from the south in order to meet the Great Oxford (James’s reference for de Vere) and to see him perform in one of his plays.

    Her letter attesting to that was shown to a reputable Victorian visitor at Wilton. It got disappeared afterwards. It would have been the making of a legend, but not the Stradfordian one.

    Stephanie Hopkins Hughes’s article on Mary Sidney and Webster is in “The Oxfordian/6”, 2003, pp 71-108. She also wrote “The Great Reckoning: Who Killed Christopher Marlowe and Why?” (1997)

    “Lay on Macduff and damn’d be him that first cries, ‘Hold, enough!'”

    That includes you, mute Michael Shermer.

  52. Isabel Gortazar Says:

    Mary Sidney’s letter to her son asking him to persuade the King to come to Wilton to see As You Like It has disappeared. However, such scholars as refer to it quote her as saying that ” the man Shakespeare is with us”.

    Why on earth would the Countess refer to the Earl of Oxford as “the man Shakespeare”? The wording is totally inadequate and disrespectful towards the Earl, to say nothing of the fact that, if Oxford was indeed at Wilton House between October and December 1603, as were the King and Court, he would have been there as Earl of Oxford, not as “the man Shakespeare”. The expression implies that unless the Countess was referring to William Shakespeare of Stratford, she must be referring: a) to a commoner and b) to someone whose identity must not be revealed.

    The fact that such letter has been lost or destroyed at some time after 1865, when William Cory recorded its existence in his Journal, may be entirely accidental; on the other hand, it may be part of the continuous cover up by which important documents and MSS have been systematically destroyed.

    By the 19th Century, the rigidity of the class system, together with a more appreciative view of the role of a playwright, had shifted. Had that letter referred to the Earl of Oxford, there is no reason to suppose that its destruction was necessary. The only candidate to the authorship that was still anathema in those days (and to this day) was Christopher Marlowe. If the letter did not refer to William Shakespeare of Stratford, both the wording and the subsequent disappearance of the letter, suggest that he was “the man Shakespeare.

    Moreover, I would like to know what evidence Mr Ray has that Mary Sidney was a close friend of the Earl of Oxford, at least by the time that letter was written. Her circle of friends which included the De Vere girls, never forgave Oxford for his treatment of his wife and the consequent slur of illegitimacy that hovered over Elizabeth the Vere, at least until she became Countess of Derby. The author of the Shakespeare plays knew which way his bred was buttered; it appears that, in order to please Robert Cecil, (the now powerful brother of the slandered Countess of Oxford), and the Earl of Derby, as well as old friends such as the Countess of Pembroke, he not only obliterated the presence of the Earl of Oxford as one of King Hal’s “band of brothers” in Agincourt, but then described Edward de Vere as Bertram de Rousillon.

    I suggest Mr Ray that you re-read the VER SONG, in the last scene of Love’s Labour’s Lost, in which the word “cuckoo” (an accepted synonymous for “cuckold”), is repeated nine times in 18 lines, in reference to “married men”. It seems to me that far from being the author of Shakespeare’s plays, the Earl of Oxford was the object of Shakespeare’s ridicule and criticism, no doubt to please the Earl’s enemies.

    An on the subject of re-reading, perhaps Mr Ray you need to re-read also The Jew of Malta, in which a diligent, business-smart Jew is robbed blind by the improvident Catholic Knight of Malta, Governor of the Island, whose name, Ferneze, is a thinly disguised reference to Alexander Farnese, Prince of Parma, the man who was to invade England by land, in the wake of the Armada. The name of Ferneze given to the Catholic Governor is evidence of Marlowe’ religious neutrality in the play. Barabas becomes a criminal under strong provocation from the Christians, much as Shylock does. In both plays we are presented with the destructive effect of unjust and racist laws. The difference between one play and the other is due to the greater maturity and subtlety of the author, particularly as the terrible experience of exile after an ignominious “death” stands between the two plays.

    His audience would have caught at once the reference to Farnese; it is a problem that a number of historical “clues” which are essential to the full understanding of the Marlowe and Shakespeare plays, are missed nowadays by the growing ignorance of contemporary events on the part of modern readers. But the recorded success of The Jew shows that his audiences hugely enjoyed the farce with which Marlowe masked his criticism of religious tyranny and intolerance.

  53. Hal Sherman Says:

    “The fact that such letter has been lost or destroyed at some time after 1865, when William Cory recorded its existence in his Journal, may be entirely accidental; on the other hand, it may be part of the continuous cover up by which important documents and MSS have been systematically destroyed.”

    Please tell us more about this continuous cover up, like why anyone would be doing that after 1865, thanks.

  54. William Ray Says:

    It is a pleasure to respond to Ms. Gortazar. Her questions are full of knowledge. I hope she will not object if I introduce a bit more.

    It is indeed puzzling that the term “the man Shakespeare” (“the Shakespeare man” was the way I first read of it) could refer to anyone but a commoner in that hierarchical time and place. But if we consider that the name served as a cypher, a code, a pseudonym, then whoever stood behind it would be a major attraction and if a nonconformist aristocrat, someone to be protected–particularly in a couriered letter delivered in a repressive kingdom infested with spies. Not doing so amounted to revealing which aristocrat was a guest at Wilton playing in ‘As You Like It’, as most likely the melancholy and traveled Jacques. ‘My Lord’ was the proper deferential euphemism for reference to nobles, but that wasn’t informative. To say “the Shakespeare man” achieved identification, employed discretion, and stirred intrigue compelling to James I, an outspoken admirer of “the Great Oxford”. There was no record of any English monarch being beckoned out of his royal progress to meet a commoner. But in the end, we don’t have enough information to know for sure. The evidence is ambiguous, fine for the correspondent but not for history detectives.

    It is an additional interesting fact that at the Countess’ Wilton House was a temple-like outdoor shrine built in honor of the performance of Macbeth. Were Oxford and the Countess close friends? That is the question. Both Oxford and Mary Sidney Herbert were brilliant accomplished aristocrats at the center of their guilds of writers in the English Renaissance. They were intimately connected by the marriage of his daughter Susan to her son Philip and the near marriage of Bridget de Vere to William Herbert. Mark Anderson refers to their relationship as “friendly”. It certainly appears so; they were legal in-laws with parallel literary and political interests and a long history of religious sympathy. Add the numerous steadfast and virtuous heroines in “Shakespeare”, almost all aristocrats, being matched only by Mary Sidney’s alter-ego playwright Webster’s women, and we view the two against a potentially more understandable literary horizon. My guess is she influenced him greatly after the deaths of his wife and her brother, among several other blood losses. Her sons brought forth the First Folio, Oxford’s literary though not personal salvation. They were “the most noble and incomparable paire of brethren” to whom the work is dedicated. You can’t dismiss these things as co-incidences forever. After some point, the circumstantial evidence surrounds the truth. I therefore agree with Ms. Gortazar’s item b) “someone whose identity must not be revealed” was the subject of the letter.

    She goes on to question why Oxford’s ancestor was not properly touted for his role at Agincourt–if Oxford really was the author of Henry V. Again, we don’t really know; we’re working from deductive reasoning. I would respond that the then Earl of Oxford received copious dramatic recognition, some good lines, in the crude prototype for Henry V, The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth. As Ramon Jimenez admirably laid out in his “Who Was the author of Five Plays that Shakespeare Rewrote as His Own?” (Shakespeare-Oxford Newsletter 44:1 Winter, 2008), there are so many parallels in precisely the same order between this play and the King Henry trilogy, that they must have been written by the same person revising his own work. Therefore, for the sake of space, dramatic tension, or who knows what, the admiring words for Oxford’s ancestor had to go.

    Ms. Gortazar might have had a stronger point questioning why if Oxford really wrote the plays he made no mention of Richard III’s boyfriend, another Oxford ancestor, in that particular history/tragedy. To ask the question is to answer it–he likely did not want to give theatrical immortality to a family shame. Elsewhere in the histories there were little squibs, usually inaccurately and inexplicably glorifying his line.

    Another feature of the Oxfordian interpretation of the Shakespeare authorship is attention to the use of verbal plays upon the patronymic, Vere. Here Ms. Gortazar warns that the supposed author is being made the fool, in Love’s Labour’s Lost, so he couldn’t have written it could he? Well, somebody was made the fool. But Spring (Ver) and Winter (Hiems) are the foolers, not the fooled. They are the cuckoo, usually heard and not seen, and the owl, who sees all in the dark. They would know about infidelity, in this case cuckolding.

    The cuckoo lays blue eggs in another’s nest. Blue was one of the Vere colors. He planted his works in another name. His graceless sound-alike actually got depicted in this play–as Costard, the crude country-apple fool. He says in confession: “For mine own part, I know not the degree of the Worthy, but I am to stand for him.”

    The cuckoo-cuckold theme is an astute insight by Ms. Gortazar since the play has to do with the barbarous Armado getting a wife, as Ivan the Terrible tried to link up with the English aristocracy for decades. Elizabeth played him along and was never faithful to her monstrous swain. Mary Hastings rejected a marriage offer as well–as Maria, making fools of the whole delegation. This reflected historical events at Elizabeth’s court. As another insider court joke, Mary Hastings, who had been betrothed to Oxford when they were children, was in a sense “cuckolding” her rightful husband, grown-up Oxford, in entertaining such proposals. A further parallel is that Oxford had been made a laughingstock at court by the rumor his wife Anne was unfaithful. So he had wore the horns too, though unjustly. Instead of avoiding the reference of cuckolding, he made it an alluding joke on himself, kept his composure, giving no further grist for the social mill, just as recommended by Castiglione in The Courtier. He turned personal tragedy into comedic art.

    Thus, I disagree that someone else (Shakspere?) mocked Oxford’s shame at being cuckolded. Oxford was the author and averted the arrows the second time around. The Ver reference appears to be yet another signature planted subtely in the supposedly pseudonymous works. For a full excellent discussion, see Rima Greenhill’s “From Russia with Love: a Case of Love’s Labour’s Lost” (The Oxfordian/9 2006)

    On the subject of Marlowe, I respectfully retire from the field, because he is irrelevant to the Shakespeare authorship issue, my main interest here. Marlowe lived around the corner from Fisher’s Folly, where Oxford fed and sponsored several writers in the English Renaissance. There are thirty-seven parallel phrases between Marlowe and “Shakespeare”, indicating that there was sharing, guild-like, in the construction of certain plays. But Marlowe died at the beginning of that era. He did not fit the biography outlined by the plays, nor had he the style, learning, position, geographical precision, spiritual evolution, and motivation to create the Shakespeare canon. Oxford had all of these. The minor poems prefiguring the narrative epics relate to his life, not Marlowe’s.

    I would freely grant that Marlowe was a significant figure in English literature. But for equivalencies to The Merchant of Venice, I would go to Giovanni Fiorentino’s Il Pecorone and Massucio’s Il Novellino, either read or seen or both by Oxford when he was in Italy. They didn’t exist in England. The figure of Portia seems to be based on Oxford’s second wife, Elizabeth Trentham, who had a high reputation in the English courts, unheard of for a women then. The name constitutes a variation from Oxford’s early play, History of Portio aka The Jew.

    We just have to cop that the sunken ship being pulled from history’s depths is Oxford’s, when we use reasonably reliable investigative methods that work in the study of other authors. He had to have a life in some form related to the work. Oxford did to an uncanny degree. Shakspere definitely had a life. It had nothing to do with creativity. We’re not talking about “could haves”, “must haves”, or “surely would haves”, but actual facts, those we can find.

    On the question from Mr. Sherman, there is a whole lot of reputation, political, educational, and institutional, riding on keeping the present understanding of the Shakespeare authorship contained in the Stratford myth framework. Google Barbara Burris, Bonner Miller Cutting, and Charles Wisner Barrell if you want to see what political and scholastic institutions (like the Folger Shakespeare Library) have done to falsify, mislead, and defraud to save the face of the current though weakening fiction.

    With best wishes,

    William Ray

  55. Roger Stritmatter Says:

    Ms. Gortazar asks the shrewd question:

    Finally, how could Oxford have written Sonnet 26?
    “Lord of my love, to whom in vassalage” etc.
    The word “vassalage” coming from an Earl in Elizabeth’s England could only be addressed to a Monarch, in this case, male.
    There is no record that Oxford offended King James between the spring of 1603 and the Earl’s death in November 1604, to the extreme that he would have felt the need to apologize to his new King with this sonnet.

    This is really part of a larger question. How could Oxford have written the narrative poem dedications (Venus and Adonis, 1593; Rape of Lucrece, 1594) to the Earl of Southampton. The answer in both cases is that, for whatever reasons of his own — and what these were will no doubt continued to be hotly debated — he put Southampton on quite a pedestal. As Southampton is the leading candidate among orthodox scholars as well as Oxfordians for the “fair youth” of the sonnets, the relationship between thest two is central to the Shakespearean enigma. To me the language used in the sonnets as well as the dedications is more plausibly by Oxford than by the Stratfordian. I don’t see how the later could dare to tell Southampton that “thou dost common grow” (69). Just doesn’t work very well if you want to keep your hands, to be writing that to a ranking peer of the realm unless you have the protection of status. This is but one example. But because the Shakespeare canon is typically read through the lens of the orthodox model, students of Shakespeare are deprived of the opportunity to see such glaring anomolies.

  56. SebastianH Says:

    Re # 54 on Marlowe: “nor had he the style, learning, position, geographical precision, spiritual evolution, and motivation to create the Shakespeare canon.”

    Sir, with all due respect, are you fully aware of Marlowe’s biography? Theology major at Cambridge, translator of Ovid, pioneer of blank verse; he had the proven ability to write very quickly (note how quickly he wrote the sequel to Tamburlaine); he was an operative in Walsingham/Burghley’s spy network, etc. And he also had the common touch we often praise Shakespeare for: Marlowe was the son of a cobbler.

    As Stanley Wells maintains in the PBS film Much Ado About Something, which promotes the Marlowe theory: “If Shakespeare had died at the age Marlowe had died I think we should now regard Marlowe as the greater dramatist.”

    Please do not sell Kit Marlowe short – the pioneer of blank verse whom scholars have long acknowledged was a “great influence” upon Shakespeare is as good an authorship candidate as any.

    And I challenge everyone here to read Edward II also and then ask yourself if it sounds like Shakespeare.

    Finally, if you were Marlowe, facing likley torture at the hands of Whitgift and his band of fanatics, what would you do? Make your case in court (good luck!) or try to escape? I’d use my intelligence connections and make a run for it.

  57. hal sherman Says:

    “Finally, if you were Marlowe, facing likley torture at the hands of Whitgift and his band of fanatics, what would you do? Make your case in court (good luck!) or try to escape? I’d use my intelligence connections and make a run for it.”

    Well, Occam’s Razor suggests that his intelligence connections would have found it easier to kill him as a liability than anything else.

  58. William Ray Says:

    I do not wish to disparage a remarkable and tragic playwright, Christopher Marlowe, when I make the statement:

    “On the subject of Marlowe, I respectfully retire from the field, because he is irrelevant to the Shakespeare authorship issue, my main interest here.”

    Nor do I dismiss his contributions by saying: “nor had he the style, learning, position, geographical precision, spiritual evolution, and motivation to create the Shakespeare canon.”

    Our standards of evidence demand enough co-incidences, parallels, stylistic congruities, et al., between Marlowe’s life and creation, and the establishment of the identity of another figure–known by the pseudonym Shake-speare or Shakespeare in the English Renaissance–to connect the one author and the other attributed works.

    Marlowe did employ unrhymed verse particularly in dialogue which contained sufficient music to deem it poetic. His Edward II was one of the great psychological plays in English, one of the very few to depict monarchal perversity in raw terms.

    However I question whether Marlowe was the primary English pioneer of a new form of writing. And I question that Edward II was a “Shakespearean” tragedy.

    The first figure to write free verse in English was Henry Howard, unrecognized today as a precursor (with Wyatt) of Shakespearean-style verse, dialogue, and the “Shakespearean” sonnet. Howard was Edward de Vere’s uncle.

    de Vere continued the tradition of that uncle and another uncle in his concentrations (1) on Ovidian Latinate verse, very likely through tutoring from Arthur Golding, his uncle by marriage, and (2) on the adaptation of the Petrarchian sonnet to a scheme distinctly English, with the unrhymed poetic line as another feature of the English Renaissance literary change.

    Thus we are not permitted to singularly extol Marlowe for these stylisms, although he used them. We see them at their peaks in the extensive references to Ovid in “Shakespeare” and in the Sonnets’ structure.

    Nor does Edward II represent to my ear a “Shakespearean” tragedy. Tragedy in the ancient Greek sense, with which de Vere was fully familiar, meant high tragedy due to a fatal flaw nobly encountered. This does not seem to me to describe the distorted personal relations in Edward II, the tale of a weak selfish man inevitably self-destroyed and cruelly killed.

    But “Shakespearean”? Where are the memorable lines seared into our memories? It is true that Calvin Hoffman found thirty-seven similar phrases in Marlowe and “Shakespeare”. Given the guild-like system of play production sponsored by de Vere as literary patron and master playwright, this could be plausiby proposed as the result of collaboration or borrowing.

    But there are thousands of parallel usages in “Shakespeare” that appear well before the traditional dates of the Bard’s plays. These usages appear in the writing of Edward de Vere. Don’t believe me. Refer to Joseph Sobran or William Plumer Fowler for the thousands. You will be convinced of a pattern between de Vere and the plays.

    If you call these researchers conspiracy theorists instead, then prove they are. Read the evidence. Read the scholarship of Roger Stritmatter, who contributed to this dialogue. He has established the inextricable connections between de Vere’s Geneva bible underlinings and the corresponding biblical parables and allegories in the Shakespeare canon. No one has disproven these connections or even approached weakening his thesis. All that has happened is a brittle paralysis by the academy. But people aren’t totally cowed by the huffs of authority in the face of compelling fact.

    Returning the the initial point, I cannot find readily available and convincing evidence for Marlowe as author of the pseudonymic “Shakespeare” works. The secret writings from Europe have no basis in available fact.

    The discussion of acceptable evidence inevitably brings us back to our respective methods of analysis. What evidence is, in this particularly sensitive field, seems to depend greatly on the reigning preconceptions of the analyst. With any other writer, the plenitude of proofs of similarity and connectedness, both stylistic and biographical, in “Shakespeare”/de Vere would have long since been accepted.

    But when you have threatened a structure of legendary heroism, and the doctrinal sense of certainty bound up with that mythos, evidence becomes the enemy of belief, to be energetically denied. Questioning comfortable myth just generally speaking is judged as bad manners, poor social respect, physically revolting, a stunning violation to propriety akin to obscenity or blasphemy. Learned behaviors when threatened trigger the besieged mentality.

    So the Shakespeare authorship issue is a politically loaded question as well as an economically destabilizing one. I like to think the paradigm will shift via the usual process Kubler-Ross diagrammed as denial-anger-bargaining-acceptance-grief. But people have to value the truth more than the taboos upon it if we are to reach that point.

    And I like the quotation from The Rape of Lucrece: “Time’s glory is to calm contending kings, to unmask falsehood and bring the truth to light.” de Vere knew what a struggle it would be. The undulations of Time would have to help.

  59. Glenda Thompson Says:

    Shakespeare’s plays are so culturally rich that they could only have been written by a noble or scholar of great learning.

    The universe is so rich and complex that it could only have been created by a superhuman being.


  60. Hal Sherman Says:

    How is the complexity of the universe relevant to the authorship of Shakespeare’s works?

  61. Glenda Thompson Says:

    It isn’t. The argument in each case, however, falls flat.

  62. Hal Sherman Says:

    I wasn’t sure if you were trying to hijack the discussion, or what you were trying to do. Certainly the Oxfordians are violating Occam’s Razor big time with their basic assumption.

  63. Christopher Blood Says:

    What an odd discussion, particularly from the authors who, having done the deep research of actually reading some of the plays, forget to mention that there has never been any doubt that Shakespeare did not write down the plays as we know them. He was not involved with the preparation of the folios for publication. Rather, the folios are effectivly compilations of stage sides used in productions of the plays, modified through performance. This is a distinct difference and allows the combined knowledge of the performers (perhaps even Marlow) to be combined in the record we have. Meta analyses of the plays have shown their extreme theatricality, and self reference to the theater and acting — not features of academic, or scholarly writing. Sort of a scientific faux pas to forget to look at the source of the basic evidence prior to expounding on theorys of its creation.

  64. Margo Says:

    Edward de Vere 17th Earl of Oxford was a worthless wastrel, a sex offender and abusive husband BUT he was a noble and so automatically worthy of genius! God help us!

  65. Norman Levitt Says:

    As a mathematician, I begin with a seeming digression:

    Srinivasa Ramanujan was one of India’s greatest mathematical geniuses. He made substantial contributions to the analytical theory of numbers and worked on elliptic functions, continued fractions, and infinite series.

    Ramanujan was born in his grandmother’s house in Erode, a small village about 400 km southwest of Madras. When Ramanujan was a year old his mother took him to the town of Kumbakonam, about 160 km nearer Madras. His father worked in Kumbakonam as a clerk in a cloth merchant’s shop. In December 1889 he contracted smallpox.

    “When he was nearly five years old, Ramanujan entered the primary school in Kumbakonam although he would attend several different primary schools before entering the Town High School in Kumbakonam in January 1898. At the Town High School, Ramanujan was to do well in all his school subjects and showed himself an able all round scholar. In 1900 he began to work on his own on mathematics summing geometric and arithmetic series.

    Ramanujan was shown how to solve cubic equations in 1902 and he went on to find his own method to solve the quartic. The following year, not knowing that the quintic could not be solved by radicals, he tried (and of course failed) to solve the quintic.

    It was in the Town High School that Ramanujan came across a mathematics book by G S Carr called Synopsis of elementary results in pure mathematics. This book, with its very concise style, allowed Ramanujan to teach himself mathematics, but the style of the book was to have a rather unfortunate effect on the way Ramanujan was later to write down mathematics since it provided the only model that he had of written mathematical arguments. The book contained theorems, formulae and short proofs. It also contained an index to papers on pure mathematics which had been published in the European Journals of Learned Societies during the first half of the 19th century. The book, published in 1856, was of course well out of date by the time Ramanujan used it.

    By 1904 Ramanujan had begun to undertake deep research. He investigated the series ∑(1/n) and calculated Euler’s constant to 15 decimal places. He began to study the Bernoulli numbers, although this was entirely his own independent discovery.” (From a website devoted to Ramanujan)

    Ramanujan was certainly one of the half-dozen greatest mathematicians of all time. In terms of pure talent, he may well have been the greatest. Without formal training at any university, he began to turn out results in number theory of enormous depth and originality. His uncanny intuition led him to conjectures that took decades to prove, often through the use of conceptual machinery completely unknown in Ramanujan’s day. G.H. Hardy, then reputed to be the greatest of number theorists, was in total awe of Ramanujan, whom he brought to Cambridge (despite the reigning prejudice against Indians) where he flourished incandescently in the brief years before his early death.

    I mention this, of course, because it illuminates the fatuity of the argument that a son of the minor gentry, like Shakespeare, could not have composed the enormously deep works of the canon, with their wide-ranging insight into human affairs. This is pure silliness, and accords to university “learning” a power and scope that it never possessed. (Compare Newton, who went up to Cambridge, from his own lower-gentry origins, knowing no mathematics to speak of but becoming the most prominent mathematician in Europe within a matter of months.

    First of all, “anti-Stratfordians” are given to greatly exaggerating the real-life social consequences of the distinction between great Lords and commoners in Elizabethan times. Punctilious insistence on minute difference in rank was a reflection of the fact that in real life, boundaries were so permeable. Great houses and courts were full of ambitious men of “low” birth, acting as secretaries, treasurers, chaplains, lawyers, emissaries, tutors, librarians, and the like. These men were hardly less well-read than their “noble” masters. Actors and managers of the most prominent companies also fall into this category, though they were only occasional, rather than permanent, residents of the great houses of their noble and sometimes royal patrons.

    A man like Shakespeare would have had frequent contact with all sorts of people who could inform him about the political, diplomatic, and dynastic ways of the world, as well as access to the kind of below-stairs gossip that would flesh out the official versions with insights into the how ordinary human foibles were played out among the mighty. Shakespeare was, after all, a psychological genius as well as a poetic genius, and would have synthesized these multiple points of view into a commanding overview of human reality. (James Joyce did the same, recall.) He would also have had access to books and chronicles through his noble connections–no miracle there! The argument that he couldn’t have known what the Author of the Canon knew dissolves of its own silliness. (Why an autodidact of a literary genius like Mark Twain should have believed it is beyond me.)

    Beyond this, there is the plain evidence of the plays themselves, especially when one correlates the dates of first performance and the intrinsic nature of the plays with Shakespeare’s own dates. First we have apprentice works like “Two Gentlemen of Verona” and “The Comedy of Errors”, clearly intended as crowd-pleasers, and the work of a beginner learning his craft. Rapidly, the comedies become more mature, the first attempts at tragedy appear, with some misfires like “Titus Andronicus”, and the Histories, becoming increasingly sharp and insightful from play to play. Then, at last, the supernal tragedies–“Hamlet”, “Macbeth”, “Lear”, “Othello”–as well as the “problem” comedies like “Measure for Measure”, themselves verging on the tragic. And then we reach the elegiac “Tempest”, clearly validictory in tone. Of course, there are later plays, like “The Winter’s Tale” and (partially) “Pericles”, which, frankly, seem absent-minded and mechanical. And then there’s “Cymbeline”, which could only have been written by a dejected, disillusioned soul expressing his contempt for the trade of playwrighting, for his actors, for his audience, and, likely, for himself. It is the work of a man who, for whatever reason, walks away from his trade in disgust and melancholy.

    This is not the chronology of the work of a dilletante, however gifted. It insists on its professionalism, and can hardly reflect what might have happened to the long-buried works of a deceased discreet nobleman, should some impressarios have got hold of them. In that case, the deepest works would have been among the first to appear.

    Beyond that, we have the testimony of Shakespeare’s own professional colleagues, sparse but authentic, which only a paranoid mentality could view as part of a conspiracy (to what end?)

    But, above all, there is the language–which is not Marlowe’s nor Johnson’s nor Webster’s nor (certainly) de Vere’s, but rather a singular music, as unmistakable as Mozart’s. It soars above all the competing eloquence of Elizabethans and Jacobeans. If we can’t hear it in any of the anti-Stratfordian candidates wiriting in their own undoubted voices (and we can’t), it must be the product of an altogether different and superior mind–that of a man who was born the son of a prosperous glover in Stratford, Warwickshire.

  66. Norman Levitt Says:


    Dear Ian Haste:

    It was utterly obvious to me that the verse beginning “If I do prove her haggard” was Shakespeare, while the one whose first line is “Like haggards wild they range” is clearly not. Explicit “content” of the hawking conceit has nothing to do with it–it’s all in the rhythm and assonance of the language.

  67. William Ray Says:

    I find myself in complete agreement with Mr. Levitt regarding the great Indian mathematician. Ramanujan was living proof that station and class have no proprietary claim to genius. Talent is universal. Only fortune and character limit its fullest expression. However, the flaw in the argument is that it works from analogy to contest actual fact. The primary actual fact before us is that “Shake-speare” referred to some four-hundred sources, most of them in other languages, ancient and modern. He even referred to codices in Old English and Scandinavian for the plot lines of Hamlet that were exclusively in the hands of–Oxford’s father-in-law Cecil and of his brilliant tutor,Thomas Smith. Not for hundreds of years did these manuscripts get translated and published. All those many sources must have been read. They had to have been available to read. They were never available to anyone not in a position to access them. As Dr. Daniel Wright demonstrated, the voluminous resources of learning in “Shake-speare”, identified by later scholarship, were ALL available in Oxford’s library, his family library, or in those respectively of his warder Burghley, his colleague John Dee, or his friend Lumley. There is of course no proof whatsoever that the reputed genius Gulielmus Shakspere ever had a book, wrote a line of English, or capably signed his own will. Nor are there any papers, letters, manuscripts, testimonials in writing to him or from him, anecdotes from his home town, remarks of him as “Shakespeare” by his literate son-in-law, formerly owned volumes found in the surrounding counties–all that could be, and with writers inevitably must be, the detritis of a studied mind.

    I know it is a repugnant concept that a figure of modest origins cannot rise to heights of the spirit. I know that concept is wrong because I have seen it disproven in history and my own experience. But such a concept is not my claim in this matter. In writing and thought it is not enough to be a genius (i.e., to be skilled as no other and inspired as no other). One must prepare the mind and discipline the skills in the service of the vision. In mathematics there can be human phenoms of discovery, because the progression of mathelmatical symbolism is logical. Hence even the very young can succeed remarkably. I might suggest that predisposition such as in Mozart’s seemingly born abilities plays a part also. And here we enter the realm of mystery how in-born predisposition may be. But it is another story. We can just stick to the facts we know here. Our subject, whom I call Oxford, started early with his inherent interests, skills, and almost unerring path to drama, rhetoric, and poetic expression. In addition to these he learned as one does from the suffering of experience and the manifold nature of humanity.

    He did progress spiritually as Mr. Levitt indicates. The Tempest constitutes his farewell to drama, an anagram of the heroine Miranda being “In drama” and the play’s coda saying that he wished only to please and be forgiven his trespasses. Such sentiments and purposes do not agree with either the interests or character of a man who in the very same years as Oxford’s twilight was suing his neighbor over small change and hoarding grain. I could say much more in factual elaboration to a previous writer who argued superficially, hell nobody’s perfect. We are experiencing the contradictions in character, locations, dates, and ability that cannot be overcome with rationalizations. The pseudonymous ruse became a hoax that became self-serving state policy and thereafter official myth for the ages. All facts contrary to the mythopoetic legend are considered poor manners, proof itself there is much to be denied if one must condemn the questioner and the facts. As Churchill said, he didn’t want his myths tampered with. One doesn’t, and one denies oneself a clear-sighted examination of the truth accordingly.

    Finally, concerning the laudatory remarks of professional colleagues towards “Shakespeare” in 1622-3 though nothing was said when he died in 1616–if Mr. Levitt will take a moment to examine the testimonies of fellow actors Heminge and Condell in the introductory matter of the First Folio, he will see the style of Ben Jonson. The actors were not writers or orators and it is fanciful to say they dictated their thoughts to Jonson. The other tributes were all literary, to the author, not the man, begging the question why not the man and the author if he were one and the same. Jonson’s perorations were ambiguous, in that he had nothing laudatory to say about the man Shakspere either, and his play Sogliardo openly ridiculed Shakspere’s motto Not Without Right into Not Without Mustard. Surely Jonson was walking a line and knew how to, in order to get out a publication in repressive circumstances on behalf of the de Vere family and their great ancestor. But we do not know the ruse in full until we examine the primary objective evidence, the Stratford Monument. The rest of the evidence favoring Oxford as Shakespeare, though substantial, is circumstantial and interpretative. Decoded and confirmed by acceptable modern method, via analyzing the Cardano Grille, the diplomatic encryption/decryption method of Oxford’s time, the Stratford Monument is proof of the claim. This decryption in full appears in ‘Proving Shakespeare’ by David L. Roper. It is quite simple. The previously dubious language of the inscription once decrypted reads, over Jonson’s initials: So test him: I vow he is E De Vere as he, Shakspeare. The phrase “Quick Nature Dide” in the inscription language comes from a familiar Latin phrase, Summa de velocium rerum natura, whose first syllables translate to a recognizable declaration in Latin:Sum De Ve Re Natu= I am Vere by Nature. Thus Jonson attests and Vere declares the answer to an essential question in English history and world literature, who is Shakespeare? Such were the secret measures a repressed faction had to take to attain its purpose.

    The truth emerges in bits and clots, but it will emerge for the good of our understanding. We cannot say we appreciate a work of art without also recognizing the mind and soul who created it. It is the responsibility of intellectuals in this case to identify the right person. He pleaded so to history when Hamlet said, “If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart, absent thee from felicity awhile and in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain to tell my story.”

    Thus, I reject Mr. Levitt’s argument that shows much ability. With the addition of the necessary knowledge, I trust he will comprehend a different view.

  68. Hal Sherman Says:

    Evidently Charles Dickens didn’t buy the assumption that the story of Hamlet was only available in Old English or Scandinavian texts:

    “The Origin of Hamlet”
    from ‘All The Year Round’ –

    Conducted by Charles Dickens
    (Published on 8th February 1879)


    [173] Shakespeare was wont to build upon foundations laid by other hands. The splendid superstructure was all his own unmistakably – his name was writ large upon it; but it was reared upon borrowed or appropriated materials. In considering his plays, it has been usual to look, not only for their themes pre-existing in certain popular collections of fables or novels, but for a dramatic treatment of such themes by earlier authors.

    He was a sort of Providence to small, rude, and primitive playwrights, shaping their rough-hewn ends; and assuredly, like that poet’s pen he has himself described, giving to “airy nothings, a local habitation and a name.”

    Shakespeare’s tragedy of Hamlet was, without doubt, preceded by a drama dealing with the same subject.

    In an epistle by Thomas Nash, prefixed to Robert Greene’s Menaphon published in 1589, allusion is made to a tragedy called Hamlet; and on June 9th, 1594, Henslowe the manager records in his diary a performance of Hamlet by his company in the theatre at Newington Butts.

    Even then it was an old play, producing only a small receipt in comparison with the profits arising from the representation of new works. Malone, confidently though conjecturally, assigned to Thomas Kyd the Hamlet thus mentioned by Nash and Henslowe.

    As Mr. Collier says, “it is often alluded to by contemporaries, and there is not a moment’s doubt that it was written and acted many years before Shakespeare’s tragedy of the same name was produced.”

  69. William Ray Says:

    I would like to make a few comments in reply to Mr. Sherman.

    Collier has been recognized as one of the greatest defrauders of English letters, so his remarks have no weight. While Dickens tried to understand the origins of Hamlet, the state of knowledge at that time, just beginning on the authorship subject, was insufficient to do so. He was not an expert and didn’t pretend to be. His attempts to find origins for Hamlet do nothing for the idea that a self-educated man read virtually unobtainable materials. His research should be viewed in light of his statement about the Stratfordian figure: “The life of Shakespeare is a fine mystery and I tremble every day lest something should turn up.” This is hardly an endorsement of the consonance between the Stratford life and the Shakespearean canon.

    That there were earlier “Hamlets” is certain. Oxford was a university student when he wrote ‘Horestes’, which has linguistic, plot, character, and classical reference similarities to the later work. The pseudonym for that play was John, Oxford’s father’s name, Pykeryng, pike and ring camoflaged with an e between for Edward. Note that pike and spear are related weapons. Oxford introduced the ring figure again in ‘The Merchant of Venice’. It stood for his O in Oxford. You find it in his echo poems as well.

    Nashe referred to “whole Hamlets of tragedy”, well before the traditional play date, indicating that one version played in the late 1580’s. This is confirmed by A.S. Cairncross, who provided textual proof of the earlier version, which he estimated as 1588-9. He paid with being ignored and shunned the rest of his distinguished career. A rare brave intellectual.

    The ur-Hamlet by Kyd was never found, thus it is dubious, essentially a claim. Kyd worked for Oxford and it is possible that he got his name on the play at some time. The idea of an ur-Hamlet is a modern contrivance, so far as I can see, to fortify the idea that the Stratfordian figure wrote the final version by re-writing a crude effort by someone else.

    Kyd incidentally was given credit for ‘The Tragedy of the Spanish Maze’, which closely resembles ‘The Tempest’. He was not known as a writer. It appears that proxies were the primary way for Oxford to get out his work. Munday and Lyly for instance didn’t write a line after they left his employ.

    As for the sources for the Hamlet plotlines, Belleforest was not in English until 1608, the Beowulf, Saxon, and Scandinavian codices until much later. The important thing to understand relating to our subject is that Oxford didn’t need translations. His tutor and his warder had the originals. But there is no explanation for Shakspere without them. It is not a convincing argument that these works were tavern talk.

    Just the assertion that Shakespeare re-wrote other people’s works is self-contradictory if you are talking about an original genius who transformed the language and virtually created English patriotism with the histories, many of them prior to the Spanish Armada crisis. It is all a rationalization for explaining the re-working of earlier similar plays, identical in language, plot, character, even sequence of scenes in certain instances, after Shakspere arrived in London. The same author revised his own work. Oxford had time after 1591, hence an explosion of (revised) works throughout the 1590’s. It is that simple. But that sinks the entire Stratfordian myth, and myths die hard.

    Rather than go on in detail I recommend Mr. Sherman or anyone else just read the relevant work. It won’t take long. On Beowulf and Hamlet–W. Ron Hess, the De Vere Society Newsletter, June 2009. On ‘Horestes’–Earl Showerman, The Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter, Spring 2008. On parallels between early Oxfordian (“anonymous”) plays and the later Shakespearean histories–Ramon Jimenez, Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter, Winter 2008.

    The facts are plentiful. Only the courage to understand their consequences is weak. A highly defensive doctrinal certainty, in this as well as many another subject, forecloses advances of the truth.

  70. Hal Sherman Says:

    The Oxfordian doth protest too much, methinks ;-)

  71. Hal Sherman Says:

    More seriously, the amount of weight you place on cyphered messages doesn’t inspire any confidence in your recommendations that I read De Vere Society and Oxford Society Newsletters. But it’s a free country, so believe whatever you want..

  72. Norman Levitt Says:

    Mr. Ray ignores a couple of essential points and a few that are less definitive but still telling.

    1) The “canon” is obviously the life’s work of someone who had to make his living in the theater, gaining entry into that world with a bunch of crowd-pleasers that hardly speak of a detached, aristocratic spirit: The Comedy of Errors, Two Gentlement of Verona, The Taming of the Shrew, Titus Andronicus–you get the idea.

    2) We have a large sample of de Vere’s authentic writing; it ain’t Shakespeare!

    3) We have no way of knowing what themes, tales, legends, plots, etc., circulated in what form. If only the only attested copies of printed volumes of these supposed sources come from the library of the Oxford family, so what? Who knows how the general ideas found there might have circulated within the world of poets and their patrons.

    4) The tortured “cryptography” cited by Oxfordians is evidence of nothing in particular; the “message” is semi-literate at best (what’s that superfluous “I vow” doing there?). Don’t you think they could do better in point of eloquence if they wanted to encode a revelation?

  73. William Ray Says:

    In response to the immediate past question, try creating a superficially “innocent” communication that conceals a secret, i.e., diplomat or military or guarded, message. You can only do it with short bursts of letters, using the crude system available at that time, the Cardano Grille, which is why the message seems strained or hackneyed,.

    Regarding the question about “what does it matter the sources were in Oxford’s library”. Correction, his and a few others, the most advanced libraries in England, all available to him so that he could become and did become a figure of great learning, as well as a poetic, rhetorical, and dramatic master. So, on the contrary, you can determine how he had access to knowledge and was able to write that learnedly. We’re not talking general concepts but specific allusions, structures, references, parables, metaphors from ancient or foreign minds. As far as anybody else doing the same, they could have if they were in a remarkably good position to, but apparently nobody was. He was considered the Renaissance man. But he went against his class code and wrote. You can’t explain the artistic mission. Elizabeth supported him with her secret service funds. It was national policy to. James I continued it.

    To put things a little differently, if anyone were his equal and did reach his level of knowledge and art, then throughout that person’s whole life, his neighbors, his town, his colleagues, the universities, would have something to say anecdotally. Elizabethan England bowed to Oxford as the greatest among them in that time. Nobody ever wrote about Shakspere except to lampoon him as a pretentious fool.

    Oxford originally meant to write plays for the court and the university, later as a patriot acting with Elizabeth’s support to produce the histories for the masses. When he married and his financial life stabilized he retired in effect to his study and the nearby theater in Hackney. Certainly the early plays are entertainment, royal entertainment at first, with loads of in-jokes on Oxford’s enemies, then for the people in the 1590’s who got the bombast for sure if not the detail. I would agree with the idea of a progression to higher art. But before there was ‘The Merchant of Venice’ there was ‘History of Portio’. And before there was ‘Othello’ there was ‘A Moor’s Masque’, and I can go on to other early plays turned into mature ones, but you can find that out yourself if you’re really the inquiring type. Just realize the progressive connections were de facto overlooked in later centuries due to the doctrinality of retaining the traditional (the politically safe) hoax, retailed without explanation from generation to generation. To tell the whole story would shift our view of the beginnings of the English state. The Machiavellians won and told it their way. The eclipse of Oxford was necessary to that. He told the truth.

    Concerning “Oxford ain’t Shakespeare”, look at the actual word and phrase comparisons between the two and you will say different. The easiest place to start is Sobran’s ‘Alias Shakespeare’, Out of twenty poems you thought weren’t much, he finds HUNDREDS of unique words and phrase not used by others–because they hadn’t created or thought of them–that show up by gum in the great Shakespeare. There are other exhaustive studies, not as easy to get.

    Finally, concerning the encoded messages in the Stratford Monument and the Sonnets dedication, which subject strikes a prior writer with suspicion about my credibility.

    The big problem about authorship of this literary question is the lack of hard evidence. Nothing of literary content for Shakspere, just 70 legal documents demonstrating he was an ambitious, litigious heavy who suddenly got rich and kept it. Therein lies a tale, but never mind now. Little for Oxford because the authorities destroyed his will and most of his letters. He was shamed and defamed, too far ahead of his time. Then there was the fire in Jonson’s study when the First Folio was about to appear in print, destroying the manuscripts he used to put it together. Only thirteen copies of the Sonnets, when Shake-speare had been the rage for decades. Possibly they were privately distributed to the few who could comprehend their allegorical political /religious meaning. Possibly the authorities stepped in to stop the production. In sum, the only real hard evidence is in the plain light of day where you never look. Decode what is obviously a message too screwed up to be taken at face value, and you’ve done something. It has happened, verified by accepted cryptological methods. Meaningful decryption is objective evidence. It is beyond reasonable doubt in court. People wonder why Justice John Paul Stevens is Oxfordian. He knows what the standard of evidence is.

    Glad you all have stuck with the subject long enough to realize there may be something to this inquiry. I’m not protesting at all. It has been an enjoyable study. I talked on the subject once to a group, and a listener came up and said she felt almost physical relief to find that there really was a majestic soul who wrote the works of Shakespeare. Let’s see if long-standing political conditioning can keep burying the truth about the mystery of that life and work.

  74. Hal Sherman Says:

    Considering the impressive literary output of Sir Phillip Sidney under his own name, how would it be against his class code for De Vere to have written under his own name?

  75. William Ray Says:

    Totally appropriate question. Sidney, while not a commoner, was not a nobleman. Oxford was considered the highest nobleman of England, because his line was longest, back to William the Conquerer’s sister. After his youth he published just three poems over his name.

    The bulk of Sidney’s writing came out after he died, produced by his sister Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, who was herself a major force in the English Renaissance. This was the protocol in the aristocracy–Henry Howard’s poetry for instance, the originator of free verse and, with Wyatt, the form that Oxford, Howard’s nephew, would make into what is called the Shakespearean sonnet. Mary Herbert later became related to Oxford, through Philip Herbert’s marriage to Oxford’s daughter Susan. Susan was a favorite of James I, who attended their wedding–where Midsummer Night’s Dream was performed–and he proclaimed the eight play gala of “Shakespearean” dramas to honor her father in 1605. There was another such tribute, in 1612, after Oxford’s wife died, fourteen Shakespearean plays. When Shakspere died was there a comparable tribute, or any at all? You already guessed that one.

  76. Hal Sherman Says:

    There’s a lot of interesting things about tributes to the man from Stratford on this website, since you raise the issue:

  77. William Ray Says:

    Thank you. The tributes are indeed interesting, for the fact that they have to do loftily with the author and never the man. The panegyric suggesting Shakspere be buried near Beaumont and Chaucer in Westminster Abbey is interesting to me in that Jonson, the greatest visible admirer and proponent of “Shakespeare” strenuously objected to the idea. If Shakspere’s body, in an unmarked grave then, would somehow be found and exhumed, to be re-moved to the Poet’s Corner, the certainty of the true author’s deliverance into recognition in a later era would have been severely confused and compromised.

    Rather than go into this issue in detail, I recommend Chapter 8 of David L. Roper’s ‘Proving Shakespeare’: The First Folio’s Deceptive Tributes. He discusses it well.

    As a brief argument explaining why Shakspere was strangely not honored within the literary community after his demise in 1616: it was known who he was and what his role was in English literature. towit compare that response with one occurring after his fellow townsman died. A few months before Shakspere’s death, Francis Beaumont, a far lesser light than “Shake-speare”, was profusely memorialized in London and buried in Westminster Abbey. He was born in Stratford-Upon-Avon. This was about what you would expect. However, neither in Stratford nor in London, nor anywhere else, was Shakspere similarly noted when he died. That event passed without notice.

    Nor was Oxford extensively honored by the literary community at his death, though there were considerable recondite tributes without mentioning the connection with his (pseudonymous) works. That would have called attention to someone deeply embarrassing and threatening to the Robert Cecil power base and have been an explicit danger to the writers. There were reasons of class as well to suppress the name of the actual author of such works as Richard the Third, a condemnation of Cecil.

    Only indirectly, but unmistakably, was Oxford honored, when six months later a group of “Shakespeare” plays were played at James’s court. The gesture was repeated when his wife died. Such a tribute has never occurred either before or since for any other literary figure.

    I know what you mean about “tributes to Shakespeare”, but the surface is not the truth in this case. Whether or not it sounds like “conspiracy thinking”, the contradictions are too great for a position supporting the attribution of the works of “Shakespeare” to the Stratford figure. The truth is elsewhere, and there are virtually no gaps in the circumstantial, linguistic, biographical, and stylistic theory supporting the earl of Oxford. To virtually every doubt I have supplied a reasonable response based on available sources and evidence. I recommend you give the inquiry some thought. We cannot really appreciate a body of artistic work if at one and the same time we ignore its creator’s suffering and soul. The correction of authorship may be embarrassing to certain political, educational, and economic powers, but at this point, we should be able to say, okay it was a mistake all along, so what.

  78. Hal Sherman Says:

    Well, a quick look at the website shows two tributes that clearly refer to Shakespeare from Stratford:

    William Basse wrote a poem entitled “On Mr. Wm. Shakespeare, he died in April 1616” (thus he was very clearly referring to the Stratford Shakespeare). Basse was suggesting that Shakespeare should have been buried in Westminster Abbey next to Chaucer, Beaumont, and Spenser (Chambers, II, 226)

    So far, I’ve heard nothing that convinces me that Occam’s Razor should not apply to Oxfordian reasoning, and unexamined assumptions like “We cannot really appreciate a body of artistic work if at one and the same time we ignore its creator’s suffering and soul.” don’t impress me.

    But, it’s a free country, so believe what you will.

    The monument to Shakespeare in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford was in place at least by the time of the First Folio in 1623, since Leonard Digges refers to it in his poem in that volume (see below). On the front of the monument is a two-line Latin inscription:

    This is followed by the well-known poem in English:

    Stay passenger, why goest thou by so fast?
    Read if thou canst, whom envious death hath placed,
    With in this monument Shakspeare: with whom
    Quick nature died: whose name doth deck the tomb,
    Far more than cost: sith all, that he hath writ,
    Leaves living art, but page, to serve his wit.

    Obiit anno do. 1616
    Aetatis 53 die 23 Apr.

  79. William Ray Says:

    In reply to the previous statement, you are simply engaging the contradictions inherent in the apparent honoring of a person whose life and effects gave no evidence of writing anything and whose death went unremarked. Quite a post facto background had to be manufactured to prop up a name. All the writers were friends of Jonson.

    Basse’s poem was published before the First Folio introduction, so as to allow Jonson to reply to it in the introduction and cut off further suggestions of the kind. It was not written as one would expect shortly after Shakspere’s demise. It was written in 1622, as an entree to the publication strategy. Occam’s razor is a principle that applies once you have the facts, not before.

    So I have to take exception to the charge that I am believing what I will. Belief in this area develops from an examination of what actually happened, and one’s point of view changes in accordance with reliable additions to the known facts.

    For instance in the dedications, Digges’s verses to the author posits posterity’s aversion to new writing “That is not Shake-speare’s every line,” This was specifically printed with a hyphen, a give-away to readers of the time that the name was pseudonymous as with ‘Venus and Adonis and ‘The Rape of Lucrece’. Oxford was referred to as the author of these works quite early and the Shake-speare moniker followed Sidney’s writing pointedly about Oxford’s “shaking of his staffe”. Gabriel Harvey had referred to “Thy countenance shakes a spear at ignorance,” when extolling Oxford ten years before.”

    The referenced “well-known poem in English”, i.e., Jonson’s introductory verse to the First Folio, does nothing to support the authorship of the Shakespeare canon by Shakspere. Decoded with the Cardano Grille, it says something very different. There was a reason so cryptic a poem should introduce the greatest work of literature since Dante. If interested, refer to chapter one of a recent book, ‘Proving Shakespeare in Ben Jonson’s Own Words’ by David L. Roper. Both the poem and the Latin distich are cryptologically solved–the message given uniquely, consistently, and unambiguously.

    Finally, the dismissal of my statement about the integrity of writer and work. If the reader does not see at least hints of the life and soul of a great author–not talking here of amusement literature–then he is not reading the work. Creator and creation are one. In this case, the two were separated at an early point, that the work could be perpetuated at all. As Roper once explained: “…Of course, this concealment has extended through the ages, proliferated over time, and become the inherited paradigm for every succeeding generation.”

    Many have labored to correct the wrong and their scholarship is generally very good, far better than the doctrinal and evidence-less orthodoxy dominating this politically and economically explosive area of knowledge.

  80. ron waite Says:

    Back up about 4 inches, and repeated, was that the claim was shakespeare wrote the plays and so you have to prove that claim. Unless I am mistaken, the claim from all above is that shakespeare did not write the plays. This then should be the claim that has to be proven.

  81. William Ray Says:

    Agreed, if I understand your syntax. Nobody has shown that Shakspere of Stratford wrote anything, much less the Shakespeare canon. The burden of proof is on the assertion that he did. No one can claim authorship based on repetitions of that assertion. But modern Shakespearean scholarship in support of it amounts to little more than imaginative repetition and speculation.

    To prove Edward de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford, wrote the Shakespeare canon, first study his life for parallels with the plays; his itinerary in Europe over a lifetime for his locations of plays; the progression of his early plays at court into the later re-named plots and plays shown to the public in the 1590’s; and the thousands of expressions in his extant writing that re-appear in the pages and poems of “Shake-Speare”, a nick-name which was associated with Oxford from at least 1579.

    In one form or another, all remarks in favor of Oxford in this blog dealt with those categories, however briefly. The remarks in favor of Shakspere (or those thinking “Shakespeare” was an actual individual who wrote plays and poems) presented the minimum in fact and the maximum in defensive skills.

    It was a good drill, and I continue to feel “the truth should live from age to age, As ’twere retailed to all posterity, Even to the general all-ending day.” It will live on with a little luck and perseverance.

  82. cornelia Says:

    If we read the play with our eyes wide open, we can interpret many lines as messages from the author.For ex: “The love I bear toward you”.We know that de Vere signed one of his poems as “Love”, short for Lord Oxford Vere. Now read it like this:”The Lord Oxford Vere, I, Bear, to ward you”. We know that de Vere became a ward of Court to Lord Leicester, whose symbol was a bear.
    I can give you many examples of coded messages, if you like.
    Good luck and let me know if you find any, I am sure, you all, will!!!

  83. alex abular Says:

    The entire Old Testament contains 5,642 words. The average 16th century artisan is said to have a vocabulary of 300 to 400 words. Today’s university graduates average about 3,000 to 4,000 words. Christopher Marlowe, John Milton considered geniuses used extraordinary 8,000 words. William Shakespeare used 21,000!!??

  84. Carlos Chavez Says:

    The problem with the author is that he tries (too hard) to multi-task into many areas of knowledge and pick excerpts from wikipedia-like sources to substantiate with unorthodox methods evidence that is poor. This is a very eclectic area that needs a true scholar for such an assumption.
    Carlos Chavez, CA

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