The HyperTexts

Was Edward de Vere the real Shakespeare?

Was William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon the "real" Shakespeare, or was he possibly fronting for some other writer, or writers? Ironically, there seems to be no evidence that the man widely considered to have been the world's greatest writer ever owned a book, ever wrote a letter, or ever did more, in terms of penmanship, than sign his name using a ragged scrawl that looks suspiciously like six different people were signing for him!

by Michael R. Burch

Why have Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Henry James, Sigmund Freud, Helen Keller, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, Sir John Gielgud, Sir Derek Jacobi, Michael York, Jeremy Irons, Anne Rice, David McCullough, Sir Roger Penrose and other inquirers suggested that the identity of the "real" Shakespeare remains in doubt? (Also perhaps Charles Dickens, as discussed in "Delving into the Details.")

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens once participated in a mock trial on the subject and later said that he would rule in favor of Edward de Vere as the "real" Shakespeare. Three other Supreme Court justices, Harry A. Blackmun, Lewis F. Powell Jr. and Antonin Scalia, were also Oxfordians. Yes, four Supreme Court Justices who spent great parts of their lives examining and weighing evidence, came to the conclusion that the evidence in this case favors Edward de Vere, the highly literate 17th Earl of Oxford, as the "real" Shakespeare.

Did Edward de Vere create many of the plays and poems attributed to William Shakespeare? It has been suggested that Oxford was the "Deep Throat" of Queen Elizabeth's court, and that plays like Hamlet and King Lear were his subversive (pardon the pun) portrayals of powerful figures of his day. If so, it would have made sense for Oxford to conceal his authorship. After all, his head may have been on the line, and he did end up in the Tower of London for a spell.

However, it's also possible that de Vere provided the plots and material, based on his vast knowledge of English royal courts, law courts, etc., but commissioned someone else to do the writing. So arguments that Oxford didn't write well enough and/or didn't live long enough to account for all the poems and plays don't eliminate him from consideration. While I will take the position that Oxford was probably the real author, it is also possible that he commissioned the writing, or had a great editor.

Could Oxford have commissioned William Shakespeare to write the poems and plays? That is certainly possible, but then we are left with the original quandary: no books, no letters, no manuscripts, nothing that remotely suggests a literary genius of the highest magnitude. Who else might the ghostwriter have been? One possibility is that Christopher Marlowe didn't die in 1593, but went underground and wrote the poems and plays attributed to Shakespeare. I find it interesting that Shakespeare's first printed work, the long poem Venus and Adonis, was published around the time Marlowe exited the world stage. Furthermore Venus and Adonis was published with the dedicatory phrase "the first heir of my invention." Someone who dies leaves his estate to his heir. Did Marlowe "die" and leave his literary estate to his "invention" William Shakespeare?

This seems like a plausible theory, but one for which I make no outlandish claims: Oxford put up the money and provided the plots for plays based on his life, such as Hamlet and King Lear. Marlowe, having faked his death and gone underground, wrote the poems and plays. Or if not Marlowe, a ghostwriter of his caliber. William Shakespeare acted as a front, becoming wealthy in the process. So when I speculate that Oxford was the "real Shakespeare," please keep in mind that he may have had aiders and abettors. Also please keep in mind that I don't claim to "know" that my speculations are correct.

I will explore this idea further in a section titled WERE OXFORD AND MARLOWE, TOGETHER, SHAKESPEARE?

I will now quickly give my top ten reasons (recently expanded to a baker's dozen) to suspect the "real" Shakespeare was Edward de Vere, perhaps working in conjunction with a ghostwriter. I will then delve more deeply into the mystery of Shakespeare's identity, the Shakespeare Authorship Question (SAQ) ...

• The poetic form we now call the Shakespearean sonnet was actually invented by Oxford's famous uncle, Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey. In The Merry Widows of Windsor, Act I, scene 1, a bored Slender wishes he had his copy of Songes & Sonnets, a landmark book of English poetry also known as Tottel's Miscellany, whose headliner and first named poet was Surrey. Was Oxford tipping his cap to his uncle?

• In 1571, Oxford composed the first Shakespearean sonnet of the Elizabethan reign, in the queen's honor. Will Shakspere was seven. I will note that this claim has been disputed, with "A Meditation of a Penitent Sinner," possibly written by Thomas Norton, being another candidate. But that doesn't change the fact that Oxford's poem was the first Shakespearean sonnet of Elizabeth's reign that was written specifically in her honor, as far as I have been able to determine.

Shakespeare's plays were written predominately in blank verse, which was first used by Surrey in his translation of Virgil's Aeneid. Blank verse is poetry. However, in many of his plays Shakespeare had only the royals and nobles speak in poetry, while the commoners spoke in prose. Shakespeare often portrayed commoners in an unflattering light: as an unwashed, flighty, unreliable rabble. By having commoners speak only in prose, he suggested they were incapable of poetry. Since Shakespeare was a poet, this strongly suggests he was of royal or noble blood.

Louis Benezet, a Dartmouth professor, noted that Shakespeare's noblemen "are natural, at ease, convincing. They talk the language of their class, both in matter and manner. They are aristocrats to the core. On the other hand in portraying the lower classes Shakespeare is unconvincing. He makes them clods or dolts or clowns, and has them amuse us by their gaucheries. He gives them undignified names: Wart, Bullcalf, Mouldy, Bottom, Dogberry, Snout...."

Walt Whitman agreed, saying the author sounded like one of the "wolfish earls" portrayed in his plays: "Conceiv'd out of the fullest heat and pulse of European feudalism—personifying in unparallel'd ways the medieval aristocracy, its towering spirit of ruthless and gigantic caste, its own peculiar air and arrogance (no mere imitation)—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...."

Shakespeare's primary poetic forms were sonnets and blank verse. Is this because his uncle invented them?

Did he portray "wolfish earls" so accurately because he was one of them?

• Oxford owned an acting company (sometimes multiple companies) and put on plays and masques for the royal court, where he was a star and great favorite of Queen Elizabeth I, apart from certain "lapses." Oxford's protégés included John Lyly, Thomas Nashe, Robert Greene, Thomas Watson, George Peele and Anthony Munday playwrights cited by orthodox scholars as influences on Shakespeare. But was it the other way around? Did Oxford influence the writers he mentored and sometimes employed? Did he edit or even largely write some of the works attributed to them?

John Lyly was Oxford's secretary for 15 years, his right-hand man, and worked for him as a theater manager. Interestingly, once Lyly was no longer Oxford's secretary, probably because Oxford could no longer afford him, Lyly never published anything in his own name. Did Oxford contribute to Lyly's writing? Gabriel Harvey thought so, because in his pamphlet Pierce's Supererogation (1593) Harvey reminded Lyly of earlier days when he enjoyed "thy old acquaintance in the Savoy, when young Euphues [a nickname for Lyly] hatched the eggs that his elder friends laid."

Anthony Munday referred to Oxford's "courteous and gentle perusing" of his writings. That sounds as if Oxford was the master rather than the student.

Thomas Nashe and Robert Greene, both secretaries of Oxford, collaborated on plays together. Nashe also collaborated with Christopher Marlowe. Marlowe was arrested with Thomas Watson, another of Oxford's acolytes, for killing William Bradley in a dispute over money owed to a tavern, the Pye Inn, "lying next the house of the Earl of Oxford." The Pye Inn was owned by Edward Alleyn, a famous actor, and his brother.

Thomas Kyd had roomed with Marlowe and was associated with playwrights strongly associated with Oxford, such as Lyly, Watson and Peele. A surviving letter from Kyd to Sir John Puckering in 1593 reveals Kyd to have collaborated with Marlowe on plays for "my Lord … whom I have servd almost these six years, in credit until now." Who is this lord that Kyd had served for nearly six years? Like Oxford, he maintained an acting troupe and had hired playwrights at least from 1587; like Oxford, he was noted for his piety, and, like Oxford, he was not a member of the Privy Council and held no powerful government position. Thus Oxford is the lord most likely to have been patron to Kyd and Marlowe.

Shakespeare's theoretical "indebtedness" to Marlowe, Kyd, Nashe, Lyly, Watson, Greene, Peele and Munday has been widely proclaimed and richly documented. According to orthodox scholars, phrases have been lifted entire from their works by Shakespeare, and yet there is no evidence that any of them knew the actor, much less collaborated with him. But they were all associated with Oxford. Doesn't it seem more likely that Oxford was sharing with his younger protégés, than the other way around? Or perhaps even publishing his writings under their names?

• Oxford's personal copy of the Geneva Bible contains marginalia and other annotations that correspond to a large number of passages found in the works of Shakespeare. It has been noted that "The more often a Biblical passage is referenced in Shakespeare's works, the more likely it is to have been marked in Oxford's Geneva Bible."

• There are many striking parallels between Shakespeare's poems and plays and events in Oxford's life. Some quick examples:
(1) In 1576, Oxford was captured by pirates in the English Channel, stripped naked to his shirt, and left on a seashore. Material for Hamlet?

(2) Oxford's brother-in-law, Peregrine Bertie, Lord Willoughby, was Ambassador to the Danish court at Elsinore and he wrote private letters to Oxford about his experiences there, mentioning courtiers named Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and drinking rituals that involved downing shots, then firing cannons. How would Will Shakspere have known such obscure things?

(3) Oxford, like Hamlet, was a royal ward who brought plays and companies of players to the Royal Court. In 1583, Oxford acquired the sublease of the Blackfriars Playhouse. His children's group, known as Oxford's Boys, joined up with the Paul's Boys to form a composite acting company. Oxford then transferred the lease of Blackfriars to his private secretary, John Lyly, who became its manager, after which Lyly's plays were performed for Queen Elizabeth. Even earlier, Oxford's Boys had performed Agamemnon and Ulysses for the queen.

(4) In The Merchant of Venice, Antonio enters "in bond" to borrow 3,000 ducats from Shylock, a disreputable moneylender. Oxford entered "in bond" to invest 3,000 pounds with a disreputable merchant/accountant named Michael Lock and lost everything. Notice the correspondences: the 3,000 sum, the "lock" in the last names with Shylock suggesting "shyster Lock," and both parties being "in bond" to someone disreputable. The character Shylock also resembles Gaspar Ribeiro, a Venetian Jew who was sued for making a usurious 3,000-ducat loan. Ribeiro lived in the same Venice parish where Oxford once attended church.

(5) Oxford had three daughters and they either married or were proposed for marriage to the only three men to whom the poems and plays of Shakespeare were publicly dedicated: the earls of Southampton, Montgomery and Pembroke. Lear divided his lands between his daughters while still alive, as did Oxford. Was King Lear thus autobiographical?

(6) Sonnet 89 says, "Speak of my lameness, and I straight will halt." Oxford was lamed during a street fight with swords in 1582. I have never heard anything about the actor being lame.

(7) A false friend, possibly Rowland Yorke, allegedly informed Oxford that a baby daughter, born to his wife while he was abroad on a Grand Tour of Europe, was not his. In rage Oxford spurned his wife upon his return, only to later regret his behavior when he learned of her innocence. Material for Othello, perhaps? In Cymbeline a young nobleman gets married to the daughter of England's most powerful man, leaves England for a tour of Italy, hears of his wife's infidelities, returns in an unforgiving mood to repudiate both her and his father-in-law, but must later seek their forgiveness. In The Winter's Tale there is a scheme to bring the queen's newborn daughter before a furious king who had denied his paternity, in the hope that he might "soften at the sight o' the child." Just as the Duchess of Suffolk, in a letter to Lord Burghley, schemed to "bring in the child [to Oxford] as though it were some other child of my friend's, and we shall see how nature will work in him to like it, and tell him it is his own after."
These are just a few quick examples. More striking parallels will be discussed later on this page.

• If one studies the first 17 sonnets, it seems possible the author was trying to persuade Henry Wriothesley, the third Earl of Southampton, to marry and have children with ... Oxford's daughter, Elizabeth Vere!

• In 1578, Oxford was praised in Latin by Cambridge scholar Gabriel Harvey as a hero whose "countenance shakes speares" (vultus tela vibrat). Harvey may have been punning on spheres and spears, because in addition to being a sphere-shaking poet, Oxford was also a knight and champion jouster who won three tournaments during Elizabeth's reign. Harvey called Oxford the English Achilles. His spear shook people, literally. At the time Will Shakspere was fourteen. Is it possible that the real Shakespeare, who loved puns and wordplay, met the actor and chose him as a front man because his last name synchronized with his sobriquet? But in any case, Oxford was known as the man who "shakes speares" long before Will of Avon was known to anyone outside his rural village.

I will note that this translation of Harvey's original Latin has been disputed. One translation that I have seen is "your glance shoots arrows." Arrows are small spears, so glance/countenance and arrows/spears don't seem that far apart. Another translation is "Thy face whirls [thrown] weapons." But thrown weapons are usually spears and in English the spears/spheres pun is the sort of thing literary elites love, so it's not that big a stretch to turn the Latin phrase into "the countenance/visage that shakes spears and spheres." However, this point is debatable. So let's investigate how the Latin words were understood in Harvey's day...

According to Thomas Cooper's Thesaurus Linguae Romanae et Britannicae (Thesaurus of the Roman and British Tongue), first published in 1565 and revised in four versions through 1587, corresponding very nicely with our purposes here:

Vultus – A countenaunce or cheere: a looke: a visage. [Bingo!]

Telum – All thinge that may be throwen with the hande, be it stone, wood, or Iron: a darte: an arrow: a quarrell [i.e., metal arrowhead]. A weapon to fight with: a swoorde. [A spear certainly falls into this category and to me is the most likely weapon to be thrown with the hand in medieval battles. At this time I believe a "darte" was primarily a spear or javelin.]

Vibro – To shake a thyng: to make a thing to shake or quaver: to brandish. [Bingo!]

Google Translate translates tela vibro as "the web vibrates" which adds the suggestion of an enterprise or sphere being set in motion and shaking.

Cooper's Thesaurus was the "standard authority" of his day, according to the eminent scholar DeWitt Starnes (Robert Estienne's Influence on Lexicography, Texas, 1963, p. 104). Furthermore, Thomas Thomasii in his 1587 Dictionarium Linguae Latinae et Anglicanae (Dictionary of the Latin and English Tongue), follows Cooper closely on these terms. Also, Thomas Elyot in the Dictionary of Thomas Elyot, 1538 and 1559, agrees, while adding an additional definition: "Vultus, of olde wryters is taken for wylle, a Volendo."

Another reason to go with "shaken spears" is context. Just two lines before vultus tela vibrat, Harvey had written: Minerva / In dextra latitat, which means something like "latent/hidden in Minerva's right hand." Since Minerva/Athena was called Pallas Athena and the Greek verb pallō means "shake" the goddess was known as the "spear shaker."

Therefore, I conclude that "countenance shakes speares" is a legitimate translation of vultus tela vibrat, especially in context and due to the harmony of speares/spheres. And if we factor in Elyot's additional definition, we might extend the phrase to mean "[your] countenance and will shake speares and spheres." I suspect the not-so-bashful Earl of Oxford would have liked that translation, very much. And what if he met an actor named Will Shakespeare. Wouldn't he have been the perfect frontman for a lover of wordplay, a gift of the gods, even?

Slightly amending Ward's translation (The Seventeenth Earl of Oxford, London, 1928, pp. 1578) with my changes in brackets based on the discussion above, I get: "Courage animates thy brow, Mars lives in thy tongue, Minerva strengthens [lies concealed in] thy right hand, Bellona reigns in thy body, within thee burns the fire of Mars. Thine eyes flash fire, thy countenance shakes a spear [spears/spheres]; who would not swear that Achilles had come to life again?"

• There is no evidence that the actor William Shakspere owned any books, had any literary correspondence, or wrote any letters at all. And this is not true for most other major literary figures of his era. According to CELM (the Catalogue of English Literary Manuscripts) most Elizabethan writers of note have surviving letters and/or manuscripts, with the most notable exception being Christopher Marlowe, who died young and was a heretic and a possible spy, giving the authorities good reasons to destroy his letters, unless he took them with him if he faked his death. And isn't it interesting that the two major writers with missing letters happen to be Marlowe and Shakespeare? Literary people own books and write letters, but where are Shakespeare's?

This assertion was disputed by a Stratfordian, so I decided to approach the question scientifically. To determine major English writers of the period 1500 to 1616 non-arbitrarily, I selected English poets with more than five poems in the Norton Anthology of Poetry. For such poets, most had tremendously more documentation than Shakespeare in the form of letters, manuscripts, autographs, etc. These poets and their poems in Norton are John Donne (37), Sir Philip Sidney (32), Ben Jonson (28), John Milton (25), George Herbert (23), Robert Herrick (19), Edmund Spenser (17), Mary Wroth (16), Sir Thomas Wyatt (14), Andrew Marvell (11), Thomas Campion (8), Samuel Daniel (8), Sir Walter Ralegh (7) and Henry Vaughan (6).

Some of these writers had folios of hundreds of letters, but Shakespeare lacked a single letter. The biggest question mark here, other than Shakespeare, is Thomas Campion. From what I have been able to gather, Campion's songs appear in a number of manuscripts, including songbooks, but not necessarily in his own hand. It sounds as if Campion has more manuscripts than Shakespeare but it's a bit fuzzy. However, that may have to do with how songs were published back then. When my poems are set to music, the words are transposed onto scores. Something like that might explain Campion's lack of manuscripts in his own hand. Did he turn his handwritten manuscripts over to someone else in the process of publication?

It does seem odd that the greatest writer of them all is by far the least documented major poet of his era.

According to CELM's introduction to Shakespeare, "the lack of his original manuscripts has long been lamented." CELM also notes that, aside from six authentic signatures and one disputed signature, "No other probable or genuine specimens of Shakespeare's handwriting are known, despite the numerous apocryphal 'discoveries' and attributions over the years ... Nor are there any manuscript copies of any works by Shakespeare that have his authority or are known to be made by anyone in his close circle."

The Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship website has as its number one question: "Where's the paper trail? Despite hundreds of years of exhaustive research, no one has found a single letter written by Shakspere to anyone ... Nor has anyone found any book Shakspere owned, any letter to him from any other known literary figure, nor any record of patronage or payment for writing. In short, no one during his lifetime clearly recognized him, personally, as a writer. But don't take our word for that: Sir Stanley Wells, distinguished scholar and staunch defender of the traditional view, has candidly conceded this point ("Allusions" in Edmondson & Wells, 2013, p. 81). And this is not typical of that era, even for much more obscure authors. A thorough survey of two dozen other English writers of the time found all had more documentation of their literary careers — often much more. A leading scholar confessed "despair" at the "vertiginous" gap between the works and the historical records of the supposed author."

I have confirmed the assertion above through my own independent research.

And even if the actor's entire collection of letters disappeared, why are there no letters he mailed in the collections of recipients? "We have been able to discover, over many generations, about 70 documents that are related to William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon, but none of them are literary," says Daniel Wright, an English professor who directs the Shakespeare Authorship Research Center at Concordia University. Wright explains that all known documents related to Shakespeare "speak to the activity of a man who is principally a businessman; a man who is delinquent in paying his taxes; who was cited for hoarding grain during a famine. We don't have anyone attesting to him as a playwright, as a poet. And he's the only presumed major writer of his time for whom there is no contemporary evidence of a writing career. And many of us find that rather astonishing." [My italics] Here, I take Wright to be saying that no one attested to Shakspere as a playwright or poet in the 70 contemporary documents.

What are the odds that 70 documents related to Shakespeare would survive, yet not one is a literary letter, unless he wrote no literary letters? But even odder, there is no evidence that the world's greatest writer ever wrote any letters of any sort.

And regardless of what other writers did or didn't do, here's a very interesting fact about Shakespeare, noted in a review of Shakespeare's Letters on Oxford Academic: "At a conservative estimate, 111 letters appear on stage in the course of Shakespeare's plays, and his characters allude to many more, running through all the genres and his entire career — early plays and late plays, comedies, tragedies, tragicomedies, and histories all contain letters. In fact, Shakespeare depicts letters in all but five of the First Folio plays, so that their very absence in itself becomes telling." Would a playwright who mentioned letters 111 times in his plays never have written letters himself? If he wrote letters, why are there none of his in the letter collections of his friends and associates?

On the other hand, 77 elegantly-written letters by Oxford exist. Did the actor in his letters ever rival these sentences?
"Although my bad success in former suits to her Majesty have given me cause to bury my hopes in the deep abyss and bottom of despair, rather than now to attempt, after so many trials made in vain & so many opportunities escaped, the effects of fair words or fruits of golden promises, yet for that I cannot believe but that there hath been always a true correspondency of word and intention in her Majesty, I do conjecture that, with a little help, that which of itself hath brought forth so fair blossoms will also yield fruit."

"In this common shipwreck, mine is above all the rest who, least regarded though often comforted of all her followers, she hath left to try my fortune among the alterations of time and chance, either without sail whereby to take the advantage of any prosperous gale or with anchor to ride till the storm be overpassed."

And there are letters on literary matters, such as these excerpts from wonderfully elegant 1573 letter to Thomas Bedingfield:

"To my loving friend Thomas Bedingfield Esquire, one of Her Majesty's gentlemen pensioners. After I had perused your letters, good Master Bedingfield, finding in them your request far differing from the desert of your labor, I could not choose but greatly doubt whether it were better for me to yield you your desire, or execute mine own intention towards the publishing of your book. For I do confess the affections that I have always borne towards you could move me not a little. But when I had thoroughly considered in my mind of sundry and divers arguments, whether it were best to obey mine affections or the merits of your studies, at the length I determined it better to deny your unlawful request than to grant or condescend to the concealment of so worthy a work. Whereby as you have been profited in the translating, so many may reap knowledge by the reading of the same, that shall comfort the afflicted, confirm the doubtful, encourage the coward, and lift up the base-minded man, to achieve to any true sum or grade of virtue, whereto ought only the noble thoughts of men to be inclined. ...

Wherefore we have this Latin proverb: Scire tuum nihil est, nisi te scire hoc sciat alter. What doth avail the tree unless it yield fruit unto another? What doth avail the vine unless another delighteth in the grape? What doth avail the rose unless another took pleasure in the smell? Why should this tree be accounted better than that tree, but for the goodness of his fruit? Why should this vine be better than that vine, unless it brought forth a better grape than the other? Why should this rose be better esteemed than that rose, unless in pleasantness of smell it far surpassed the other rose? And so it is in all other things as well as in man. Why should this man be more esteemed than that man, but for his virtue, through which every man desireth to be accounted of? Then you amongst men I do not doubt, but will aspire to follow that virtuous path, to illuster yourself with the ornament of virtue. And in mine opinion as it beautifieth a fair woman to be decked with pearls and precious stones, so much more it ornifieth a gentleman to be furnished in mind with glittering virtues. ...

Again, we see if our friends be dead, we cannot show or declare our affection more than by erecting them of tombs; whereby when they be dead indeed, yet make we them live as it were again through their monument; but with me, behold, it happeneth far better, for in your lifetime I shall erect you such a monument, that as I say in your lifetime you shall see how noble a shadow of your virtuous life shall hereafter remain when you are dead and gone. And in your lifetime, again I say, I shall give you that monument and remembrance of your life, whereby I may declare my good will, though with your ill will as yet that I do bear you in your life.

Thus earnestly desiring you in this one request of mine (as I would yield to you in a great many) not to repugn the setting-forth of your own proper studies, I bid you farewell. From my new country muses at Wivenghole, wishing you as you have begun, to proceed in these virtuous actions. For when all things shall else forsake us, virtue yet will ever abide with us, and when our bodies fall into the bowels of the earth, yet that shall mount with our minds into the highest heavens.

By your loving and assured friend, E. Oxenford
I ask again, Did the actor in his letters ever rival these sentences?

Joseph Sobran noted a number of similarities between the Bedingfield letter, excerpted above, and the works of Shakespeare: "This document unmistakably prefigures the Southampton poems of Shakespeare: the sonnets, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. Written when Oxford was only twenty-three, the letter anticipates these poems in spirit, theme, image, and other details. Like those poems, it borrows, for figurative use, the languages of law, commerce, horticulture, and medicine. It speaks of publication as a duty and of literary works as tombs and monuments to their authors. It has echoes in the plays, and the points of resemblance to the Southampton poems are especially notable… Oxford's letter is Shakespearean in a wider respect too: in its overwhelming warmth and generosity, verging on excess, yet controlled by a pleasant irony. He loves to praise, but he avoids the risk of fulsomeness by disguising praise as admiring accusation. 'For shame!' he says: 'You want to hoard your own excellence, deny your virtue to the world!' This is exactly the rhetorical strategy of Sonnets 1 through 17, using much the same language and many of the same images…"

• There are strong correspondences between passages in letters written by Oxford and passages in the poems and plays. Some quick examples:
In a letter written by Oxford to William Cecil in July 1581, after Oxford's release from the Tower, he wrote: "But the world is so cunning, as of a shadow they can make a substance, and of a likelihood a truth."

In Sonnet 37, Shakespeare says: So then I am not lame, poor, nor despised / Whilst that this shadow doth such substance give."

Shakespeare begins Sonnet 53: "What is your substance, whereof are you made, / That millions of strange shadows on you tend?"

In Richard II, Bolingbroke says: "The shadow of your sorrow hath destroyed the shadow of your face." King Richard replies: "Say that again. The shadow of my sorrow! Ha! Let's see. 'Tis very true, my grief lies all within. And these external manners of laments are merely shadows to the unseen grief that swells with silence in the tortured soul. There lies the substance…"

In The Merchant of Venice Bassanio discusses "the seeming truth which cunning times put on to entrap the wisest."

Other examples:

Oxford mentions being lame in his letters and Shakespeare mentions lameness in Sonnet 89, as previously discussed.

Oxford in May 7, 1603 letter to Robert Cecil cited his motto Vero Nihil Verius ("Nothing Truer than Truth") then said: "But I hope truth is subject to no prescription, for truth is truth though never so old, and time cannot make that false which was once true." Shakespeare in Measure for Measure has Isabella say: "For truth is truth to the end of reckoning." And in Troilus and Cressida he writes: "What truth can speak truest, not truer than Troilus."

Edward de Vere's last name was rooted in truth, as in "veracity," "veritable," etc. So it was natural for him to harp on truth, especially when he felt that he had been dealt with falsely, as he so often felt that he had been.
Later on this page, I discuss more correspondences in sonnets 76, 121 and 151, plus many correspondences in the plays.

• There are also questions raised by the six signatures we have of the actor. Why did the world's greatest writer sign his name with a ragged scrawl? Why was the spelling of his name different in all six signatures? Why did he twice fail to complete his last name? Why did clerks have to twice fill in his first name? Why, when spelling his last name six different ways, did he not once spell it as it was spelled on play titles and elsewhere in London? Is it possible that the world's greatest writer didn't know how to spell his own name? Or was he unable to write and thus had to dictate his letters to someone unfamiliar with the spelling of his last name?

Did the author of the plays spell all his characters' names inconsistently? Wouldn't it be odd if the author spelled his characters' names consistently but couldn't settle on the spelling of his own?

As far as I can tell, Oxford consistently signed his letters Edward Oxenford, although I have not seen the original letters to be sure. And the author of the poems and plays spelled Shakespeare consistently as well. I find nothing odd about other people spelling Shakespeare's unusual last name different ways, but I do find it very odd that the world's greatest playwright apparently never settled on a particular spelling and formation of his own name.

• As for the lack of books, Stratford-upon-Avon was called a "bookless town" and Daniel Wright noted: "That oft-regarded alter ego of Shakespeare, Prospero, declares in The Tempest that he prizes his books above his dukedom (I.ii.168), yet the last will and testament of his supposed creator disposes of mere chattel—items such as plate, furniture, and the like—and nary a book, manuscript, letter or, indeed, literature of any kind is inventoried."

While it has been argued that other writers of Shakespeare's era didn't mention books and manuscripts in their wills, I find this odd for Shakespeare for the following reasons: (1) In his sonnets Shakespeare made it clear that he knew he was immortalizing his subjects, and therefore himself. Thus not to mention his precious manuscripts seems odd, unless he didn't possess them because they belonged to someone else. (2) Books were expensive back then, so if Shakespeare had an extensive library it would have been a substantial percentage of his estate. To discuss bowls, plate and furniture but not far more valuable books seems very odd to me. (3) And what about Shakespeare's stock in valuable theater companies, unless he didn't really own stock and had been fronting for someone else?

• Shakespeare's epitaph, carved on his gravestone, has been described as "rough doggerel." Can anyone possibly mistake this primitive hex for Shakespearean eloquence?

GOOD FREND FOR IESVS SAKE FORBEARE
TO DIGG THE DVST ENCLOASED HEARE
BLESTe BE Ye MAN Yt SPARES THES STONES
AND CVRST BE HE Yt MOVES MY BONES

Is this how the real Shakespeare wanted to be remembered by the world? It seems unlikely to me. And why, for Christ's sake, isn't Shakespeare buried where he so obviously belongs—at Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey? But perhaps he actually is! Edward de Vere died in 1604 and was buried in Hackney, east London, but his first cousin noted—in a manuscript now in the British Library—that he was later reburied in Westminster. According to scholar Alexander Waugh, when the famous monument to Shakespeare was erected by Alexander Pope and Lord Burlington (the latter a direct descendant of Oxford's sister Mary Vere), "It strongly implies that the people who put that statue there in 1740 knew damned well that he was buried right underneath it." Noting that the Church of St. Peter is Westminster Abbey's correct title and that Poets' Corner was known as the South Cross aisle until the 19th century, Waugh said that when the dedication to Shakespeare's sonnets is "rearranged like a crossword into a grid" it "reveals the message 'To the Westminster at South Cross Ile, St Peters, Edward de Vere Lies Here.'" Has the mystery already been solved?

Possible Clues to Shakespeare's Identity in "Sonnet LXXVI"

The following thoughts occurred to me while reading Shakespeare's "Sonnet 76" on the evening of February 25, 2021. I have not heard these particular ideas about this particular sonnet discussed elsewhere, so perhaps I am expressing somewhat original thoughts. If not, so be it, but at least I hatched them without anyone else's help. I will assume for my purposes here that the author of the sonnets and plays attributed to William Shakespeare is most likely Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, but if my theories are correct it could be someone else ghostwriting for him. The sonnet in question begins with these lines:

Why is my VERSE so barren of new pride
So far from variation or quick change?
Why with the time do I not glance aside
To new-found methods and to compounds strange?

VERSE is very close to VERE, as discussed further below. Could "new pride" refer to recognition for the author's writings, which were being attributed to someone else? If Oxford was the real author, all the "new pride" and glory for his highly popular plays was going to an actor/businessman. Assuming that Oxford and the actor lived many miles apart, it would have been very difficult to discuss revisions to the plays as deadlines neared, and that could explain the second line. It has been said that no one ever saw the actor make revisions to his work. Was that, perhaps, because someone far away in distance and social class would have had to make and/or approve revisions? Quick changes of dress are often required of actors in theaters, but what about quick changes to their scripts when the author is unavailable? Does "with the time" mean the author might have been able to "go public" because the theater was becoming more acceptable for men of his class? Could "new-found methods" mean a public collaboration or some other method of speeding up the revision process? Could "compounds strange" mean moving to some compound (royal court, castle, mansion, etc.) closer to the actor's London home? However, I'm not sure that the word "compound" had that meaning in Shakespeare's time. If not, the phrase could be a reference to the strangeness of the idea of one of England's most august lords mingling publicly with lowly theater types. A strange alchemy indeed, in those caste-driven days! Moving forward to the second stanza:

Why write I still all one, EVER the same,
And keep invention in a noted weed,
That EVERy word doth almost tell my name,
Showing their birth, and where they did proceed?

The author tells us that EVERy word almost tells his name, and that he is EVER the same. The anagrams for VERE seem inescapable and they can also be taken as the abbreviation E. Ver because the second "e" in his last name is silent. We know de Vere punned on "ever" and his name with its silent last letter, because in his signed poetry there is a clever "echo" poem in which a "fair young lady" cries out questions and receives answers from the echo. She plays upon "ever" as an anagram and the Echo replies with the name: "Oh heavens! Who was the first that bred in me this fever? Vere. / Who was the first that gave the wound whose fear I wear for ever? Vere. / What tyrant, Cupid, to my harm usurps thy golden quiver? Vere. / What wight first caught this heart and can from bondage it deliver? Vere." So we know de Vere used "ever" and variations to pun on his name.

In 1575, de Vere inscribed a Latin poem on a blank page of a Greek New Testament he sent to his wife while he was traveling in Europe and translated it, saying he hoped her motto would be "EVER LOVER OF THE TRUTH / VERE." If de Vere was Shakespeare it follows that his name was "silent" and ends with the silent letter "e."

Other writers seemed to be in on the joke. In 1598, John Marston wrote of sage Mutius (the silent sage): "Far fly thy fame, / Most, most of me beloved! / Whose silent name / One letter bounds. / Thy true judicial style I EVER honour ..." Also in 1598, the poet Richard Barnfield wrote: "Shakespeare thou, whose honey-flowing vein / (pleasing the world) thy praises doth obtaine: / Live EVER you, at least in Fame live EVER: / Well may the Body die, but Fame dies NEVER." Wits Recreation as late as 1640 contained an anonymous epigram that began: "To Mr. William Shake-spear / Shake-speare, we must be silent in thy praise…"

Apparently people in the know knew that EVER and NEVER could be used to identify the author (silently) as Edward de Vere. Since the writer of the anonymous epigram was not being silent in praise, did he/she mean silence was required regarding the real author's identity? The second spelling of "speare" with a silent "e" seems to "echo" puns about the silent "e" in "Vere."

Getting back to the poem in question: "all one" could be a pun on "alone" due to the complications of distance previously mentioned. It might also mean the author was the only one writing, that he didn't have collaborators or assistants. Here, the author seems to be saying that we don't know his name, but should, because "almost EVERy word" tells us his name.

And what did the author write? He wrote predominately verse: sonnets in iambic pentameter, plays primarily in blank verse, snatches of limerick meter here, songs there, etc. The name Vere is one letter short of "Verse." I also find it interesting that the name Vere may have its root in the Old Norse vera, which means "to be." So when the author wrote: "To be or not to be ..." was he punning on his personal dilemma: To be Vere, or not to be Vere?

The English house of de Vere can, indeed, be traced back to Norse/Norman roots in the person of Aubrey de Vere, who appears in the 1086 Domesday Book as a tenant-in-chief of William the Conqueror, with extensive land holdings in nine counties. Aubrey I became the Lord Great Chamberlain of England, as did his son Aubrey II, while Aubrey III became the first Earl of Oxford and Lord Great Chamberlain. English historian Thomas Macauly described their family as "the longest and most illustrious line of nobles that England has seen." Alfred Tennyson's poem "Lady Clara Vere de Vere" made the family name synonymous with ancient blood. Edward de Vere (1550-1604) became a royal ward of Queen Elizabeth after his father's death in 1562. He inherited his father's roles as Earl of Oxford and Lord Great Chamberlain. He grew up to be a court favorite, a champion jouster, among the first courtiers to compose love poetry at the Elizabethan court, a celebrated poet and playwright, an owner of acting companies, and a patron of the arts. Oxford received honorary Masters of Arts degrees from Oxford and Cambridge and studied law at Gray's Inn. He served in a military campaign under the Earl of Sussex, then took his seat in the House of Lords at age 21. He traveled widely in Europe and spent a year in Italy. These life experiences could, quite possibly, explain the vast range of knowledge we find in the plays and poems attributed to Shakespeare.

As Alexander Waugh observed: "Oxford spoke French, Latin and Italian fluently. He owned Italian and French books. In Italy he based himself in Venice (where two of Shakespeare's plays are set), armed with letters of introduction from Queen Elizabeth to the ducal heads of Italian city states. He is known to have visited Florence, Milan, Padua, Genoa, Siena and Sicily and assumed to have entered several cities in between, notably Mantua and Verona. Shakespeare, who derives plots from untranslated Italian sources by Fiorentino, da Porto, Bandello, Cinthio and others, set 106 dramatic scenes in Italy, making specific references to many of the places that lay on Oxford's trail, including fifty-two detailed references to Venice, twenty-five to Milan, twenty-three to Florence and twenty-two to Padua. The Shakespearean canon also references Mantua (en route from Venice to Milan), Genoa (headquarters of Oxford's bankers Baptista Nigrone and Baptista Spinola),Verona (which lies between Padua and Milan), and Sicily where Edward Webbe (1590) recalled Oxford excelling in a chivalric tournament at Palermo. Richard Roe, in a comprehensive study of Shakespearean allusions to Italy, leaves little doubt that Shakespeare's precise details of Italian places, names, paintings, buildings, routes, rivers, manners, customs, habits and language demonstrate that the playwright had first-hand knowledge of Italy."

How would the actor have known so much about Italy and how would he have been able to base plays on untranslated Italian sources?

I also find it interesting that "Hamlet" is one letter different from "Hamnet," the name of Shakespeare's son who died at age eleven. It is possible that Hamnet Shakespeare was also called Hamlet, as he was named after Hamnet Sadler, a friend of his father who was baptized Hamlette Sadler. Hamnet Shakespeare's twin sister Judith was named after Sadler's wife and Sadler witnessed William Shakespeare's will, so the name connection seems secure. (BTW, in Shakespeare's will, Sadler's first name was spelled "Hamlett," so the names do seem interchangeable.) If Oxford wrote the famous play, did he tip his hat to his colleague by making his son a prince facing the prospect of an early death? The author of the poems and plays was evidently a lover of wordplay and double and triple entendres. So if de Vere was the author, he might have named Prince Hamlet after Shakespeare's son, then had the son of the actor ask, "To be (Vere), or not to be (Vere)?" Wouldn't it be wonderfully ironic if Shakespeare's most famous line, out of so many famous lines, revealed his real identity?

Another possibility is that the name choice was not cordial, but rather to say that Hamlet was Vere, not the son of the actor.

Also, in Hamlet the best friend of Hamlet is Horatio. In real life, Oxford's best friend was his first cousin Horatio Vere. Did Oxford confirm both his cousin's name and his own name in this passage from his most famous play?

Hamlet: I am glad to see you well. Horatio – or I do forget myself!
Horatio: The same, my lord, and your poor servant EVER.
Hamlet: Sir, my good friend – I'll change THAT NAME with you.
(1.2.168-70)

I read this passage as follows: First, Hamlet asks if he forgets himself. What is his name? Horatio replies that their names are the same and provides it, with EVER=VERE. Hamlet then says he'll change that name with Horatio, meaning swapping the letters in EVER to get VERE.

We get Hamlet's real name again, with his dying words to Horatio:

Hamlet: As thou 'rt a man,
Give me the cup. Let go! By heaven, I'll ha 't.
O God, Horatio, what a wounded name,
Things standing thus unknown, shall I leave behind me!
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.

I read this passage as follows: Hamlet and Oxford will both leave the world with a wounded name. Oxford because the world doesn't know his name as the author of his poems and plays. This is what he will leave behind: things standing unknown. But if Horatio holds him ever VERE in his heart, he will tell the world his story. Or perhaps one of us is the Horatio to whom Oxford made his last request.

Getting back to the sonnet again, does keeping "invention" in a "noted weed" mean the author keeps inventing new writings by dressing them up in another person's name, which was becoming more and more noteworthy? And because even noted weeds will die, is the author perhaps suggesting a point that he often makes in his sonnets: that he is writing for eternity: for immortality for himself and his subjects. Why worry about a weed being noted today, when what really matters is immortality?

How do the author's words show their birth? Perhaps he knew that his writings contained details only he or someone of his station could have known. He might have been predicting Mark Twain's argument for the author of the plays to have been familiar with royal courts, courts of law, the military, Italian geography and culture, etc. How the actor could have known so much about such things remains a mystery. How someone like Oxford could have known such things is no mystery at all, since he was a court favorite and a vastly learned man with real-life experience in each of those areas.

O! know, sweet love, I always write of you,
And you and love are still my argument;
So all my best is dressing old words new,
Spending again what is already spent:
For as the sun is daily new and old,
So is my love still telling what is told.

Here the author perhaps explains why he doesn't bother to change with the times, in order to seek present fame and glory. He writes for love of a particular person, and for love itself, and for the sheer love of writing. He loves to speak the "same old words" of love in new forms, just as a new sun rises each day to do the same things over and over again.

I think there are also "identity" clues in Sonnet 121:

Tis better TO BE vile than vile esteemed,
When NOT TO BE receives reproach of being, --- Is this a clue that the real Hamlet is speaking?
And the just pleasure lost, which is so deemed,
Not by our feeling, but by others' seeing. --- He denies the need to be seen or recognized.
For why should others' false adulterate eyes
Give salutation to my sportive blood? --- His noble blood is above the need for recognition.
Or on my frailties why are frailer SPIES, --- In the letter below, EdV complained about spies.
Which in their wills count bad what I think good? --- Is seeing "wills" a pun on Will Shakespeare?
No, I AM THAT I AM, and they that level --- "I am that I am" appears in the EdV letter below.
At my abuses reckon up their own.
I may be straight though they themselves be bevel;
By their rank thoughts my deeds must not be shown; --- His detractors are below him in rank and thought.
Unless this general evil they maintain:
All men are bad and in their badness reign.

The letter mentioned was written by Edward de Vere to his father-in-law and former guardian, William Cecil, Lord Burghley, on October 30, 1584. It is signed in his own hand. De Vere added a postscript bitterly protesting the chief minister's Polonius-like attempts to use de Vere's own servants to spy on him. He set forth the facts then continued: "But I pray, my Lord, leave that course, for I mean not to be your ward nor your child. I serve her Majesty, and I AM THAT I AM, and by alliance near to your Lordship, but free, and scorn to be offered that injury to think I am so weak of government as to be ruled by servants, or not able to govern myself. If your Lordship take and follow this course, you deceive yourself, and make me take another course than yet I have not thought of. Wherefore these shall be to desire your Lordship, if that I may make account of your friendship, that you will leave that course as hurtful to us both."

I believe there are also "identity" clues in Sonnet 116:

O no, it is an EVER-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is NEVER shaken…

And in the concluding couplet:

If this be error and upon me proved,
I NEVER writ, nor no man EVER loved.

I do not claim to "know" that the actor William Shakespeare did not write the poems and plays that bear his name. But I agree with Sigmund Freud, Henry James, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman and other astute readers that there are legitimate questions about how the author came to know so much about things unknown to people of the less-privileged classes back then. How did William Shakespeare move to London as an adult and suddenly explode with such knowledge? It is a legitimate question. Are there clues in the writings, left there deliberately by the author for the future to discover? Did he pun on his name with "to be or not to be"? Does "Sonnet 76" contain such clues? If nothing else, I may have at least provided an interesting bit of speculation.

Shakespeare Authorship Timeline
by Michael R. Burch

In this timeline "Shakespeare" means the author of the plays and poems attributed to William Shakespeare, which may or may not be the actor with that name, while WS is used to designate the actor, in order to avoid confusion. Parts of this timeline have been compiled from other sources and I do not claim anything in this section to be stunningly original. I hope no one will foolishly accuse me of waging some sort of "class warfare" against the actor, since I am of common English stock myself, and my favorite writers are commoners: William Blake, Robert Burns, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, et al. If anyone ever proves the actor wrote the poems and plays that bear his name, I will be as happy for him as anyone, and I will be happy to admit that I was wrong. But right now I strongly lean toward Oxford as the "real Shakespeare" for reasons explained in detail on this page. And truly, one of the stupidest "theories" I have ever heard is that Mark Twain and Walt Whitman were "elitists" who discriminated against the actor because he was a commoner! No, they were writers who understood what writing entails. One cannot write well what one does not know. — Michael R. Burch

1066: Alberic or Aubrey de Vere sides with William the Conqueror and after the Norman conquest of England is rewarded with many English estates. In the Domesday book he was listed as "Aubrey the chamberlain." His would become one of the most powerful houses in all England.

1133: Aubrey de Vere II is appointed Lord Great Chamberlain by King Henry I, a title he would pass down to his heirs.

1141: Aubrey de Vere III is made the first Earl of Oxford by King Stephen.

1163: Aubrey de Vere IV is born; he would be the second Earl of Oxford and fight beside King Richard the Lionheart in France and Normandy.

...

1516: John de Vere, the 16th Earl of Oxford and Edward de Vere's father, is born. The same year Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey and Oxford's uncle, is born. Surrey invented the poetic form we call the "Shakespearean sonnet" and also created blank verse for his translation of Virgil's Aeneid. Did Edward de Vere carry on family traditions?

1520: William Cecil, the future Baron Burghley, is born. He would be the primary adviser to Queen Elizabeth I, twice Secretary of State, and Lord High Treasurer. It has been said that "for forty years the biography of Cecil is almost indistinguishable from that of Elizabeth and from the history of England."

1548: The future queen Elizabeth I goes into seclusion at Cheshut for several months. Was she pregnant? There would be rumors Edward de Vere was her son by Thomas Seymour. Around the time of a rumored delivery, John de Vere unexpectedly marries a woman he had never met before, Margery Golding, even though the banns had been read twice for him to marry Dorothy Fosser. Was he richly rewarded when Elizabeth became queen for fostering her illegitimate son? See "Delving into the Details" for more info. I make no claims either way and simply mention an interesting bit of speculation.

1550: Edward de Vere, the future 17th Earl of Oxford, is born, according to the official records, in Castle Hedingham, Essex, on April 12, 1550 . He is named after the current king, Edward IV, and is the only son and heir of John de Vere, the 16th Earl of Oxford. Arthur Golding, the brother of Margery and a prolific translator of more than 30 Latin works to English, would become young Edward's tutor, perhaps helping to explain Shakespeare's intimate knowledge of Italy and its customs. John de Vere was the patron of a major acting company called Oxford's Men. And so young Edward grew up surrounded by poetry, plays and actors. From all accounts he was a prodigy and would have picked things up quickly.

I find it of interest that Edward de Vere was born in Essex and lived the first 12 years of his life there. Using Edward Gepp's Essex Dialect Dictionary, which has references going back to the Tudor period, Gary Goldstein found over one hundred Essex dialect words and expressions in 27 Shakespearean plays. Warwickshire dialect words and expressions are "modest to the point of invisibility by comparison."

Oxford had an extensive, well-documented modern education. He had access to several of the best libraries in England, Sir Thomas Smith's (400+ volumes); Sir William Cecil's (appx. 2000 vols); and those of friends such as the Earl of Rutland and Lord Lumley (Lumley's books are said to have numbered upwards of 3000). Sarah Smith A RE ATT R I B U T I ON O F MU N DAY'S " TH E PA I N E O F PL E AS U R E"

Elizabeth repeatedly turned down Oxford's requests for naval and military appointments. Testimony at court reads: "My Lord of Oxford is lately grown into great credit, for the Queen's Majesty delighteth more in his personage and his dancing and his valiantness than any other. I think Sussex doth back him all that he can. If it were not for his fickle head he would pass any of them shortly" (qtd. in Ward 78). He was known to Elizabeth as her "Boar" or her "Turk." Christopher Hatton was her "Sheep," counted among the social climbing court "reptilia" by Lord Willoughby. At one point in 1574, Oxford, without permission, bolted to the continent. Instead of finding himself in serious trouble for acting as if he were joining forces with the Catholics, he was summoned back by Elizabeth through a couple gentlemen pensioners she sent to retrieve him.

1554: Around age four or five, young Edward de Vere is sent to study in the household of one of England's most educated men, perhaps the most educated, Sir Thomas Smith, at Ankerwycke, near Windsor. Did the queen, perhaps, want her son to be closer to home and to have the finest education possible? According to Richard Malim, author of The Earl of Oxford and the Making of "Shakespeare": The Literary Life of Edward de Vere in Context, "As a quite young child, Oxford was put into the household of Sir Thomas Smith, possibly as early as 1554: he may have remained with Sir Thomas and even accompanied him to France when Sir Thomas was appointed ambassador there in 1562. There is extant a letter in French by the thirteen-year-old earl, apparently written from France ... Sir Thomas was the foremost scholar of his generation, and possessor of probably the largest library in private hands. He was very much attached to Oxford, writing as late as 1576 to Cecil asking him to pass on his good wishes, "for the love I bear him, because he was brought up in my house." Smith's biographer John Strype said that he "was reckoned the best scholar at [Cambridge] University, not only for rhetoric and the learned languages, but for mathematics, arithmetic, law, natural and moral philosophy." As a teacher he was compared to Plato.

1556: Anne Cecil, the daughter of William Cecil and future wife of Edward de Vere, is born.

1558: John de Vere comes out of retirement as England's Lord Great Chamberlain to escort Queen Elizabeth I to her coronation and to officiate the ceremonies. Such was the prestige of the Earls of Oxford.

1562: John de Vere dies unexpectedly at age 46. His son is 12 years old and becomes the 17th Earl of Oxford, but also a royal ward who is placed in the household of William Cecil. It seems likely that the young Edward de Vere suspected foul play, including the possible poisoning of his father. The Countess de Vere remarried shortly after the 16th Earl's death, and no evidence survives that she and her son had any sort of relationship or even any subsequent interest in one another. Her letters to her son's guardian, William Cecil regard financial matters only. We can see this frosty mother-son relationship in Hamlet.

Oxford being committed as a crown ward to the guardianship of William Cecil can also be seen in All's Well That Ends Well, when in the first four lines of the first scene the widowed Countess of Rousillon and her son Bertram discuss their separation:

COUNTESS: "In delivering my son from me, I bury a second husband."

BERTRAM: "And I, in going, madam, weep o'er my father's death anew: but I must attend his majesty's command, to whom I am now in ward, evermore in subjection."

Is the "ever" in "evermore" Oxford's signature, being both an anagram for his last name and an abbreviation: "E. Ver" since the final "e" is silent?

J. Thomas Looney pointed out the striking parallels between Oxford and Bertram: "A young lord of ancient lineage, of which he is himself proud, having lost a father for whom he entertained a strong affection, is brought to court by his mother and left there as a royal ward, to be brought up under royal supervision. As he grows up he asks for military service and to be allowed to travel, but is repeatedly refused or put off. At last he goes away without permission. Before leaving he had been married to a young woman with whom he had been brought up, and who had herself been most active in bringing about the marriage. Matrimonial troubles, of which the outstanding feature is a refusal of cohabitation, are associated with both his stay abroad and his return home."

1562: Robert Dudley, the financially destitute Earl of Leicester and favorite of the Queen, had been listed as a supervisor in the will of John de Vere just months before his sudden, unexpected death (Green 41-95). Enabled by Queen Elizabeth and William Cecil, Master of the Court of Wards, the fruits of Edward's encumbered properties go to Dudley. According to Nina Green, "The primary beneficiary—in fact almost the only real beneficiary—of the 16th Earl's death was Sir Robert Dudley." These actions triggered what Roger Stritmatter has called "perhaps the greatest, potentially most destructive schism within the English aristocracy." These are notable parallels between the life of Oxford and the plays and poems attributed to Shakespeare:
It would have been natural for the de Veres to suspect Leicester of foul play, such as poisoning. According to Professor Felicia Hardison Londré, "Leicester's name was certainly linked with traffic in poisons, especially after the mysterious death of his wife Amy Robsart and others." If Hamlet is an autobiographical work of Edward de Vere, as many Oxfordians believe, we can see how Dudley could have inspired the treacherous Claudius, and William Cecil the fawning Polonius. Robert Cecil would have been Laertes; Anne Cecil, Ophelia; and Queen Elizabeth, Gertrude. Philip Sidney, who was Dudley's nephew, could be the "rival poet" mentioned by Shakespeare. Hamlet's closest associates were Horatio and the soldiers Francisco, Barnardo, and Marcellus. According to Judge Minos D. Miller: "Francisco and Horatio Vere were Lord Oxford's first cousins … A Marcellus was knighted on the battlefield at the same time as Francisco was knighted. … For some time, Horatio had custody of Lord Oxford's illegitimate son … We find it particularly appropriate that Hamlet's dying speeches are addressed to Horatio."

It all seems to fit.

And of course Oxford would have been Hamlet. Oxford and Hamlet were similar figures: sons of prominent fathers who died unexpectedly and whose wives remarried quickly, royal wards, courtiers, scholars, athletes, poets and playwrights, putters-on of plays for royal courts, heads of acting companies.

Leicester's Men would receive the first royal patent for an acting troupe. Edward de Vere would compete with his own acting troupes. Did this competition inspire de Vere to write the famous play, with its play-within-a-play, perhaps? Hamlet brought players to court to "catch the conscience of the king." Did Oxford do the same, using Hamlet's plight and Gertrude's refusal to take his side, in an attempt to prick the conscience of his queen?

If Oxford was the illegitimate child of Queen Elizabeth, or if he was the favorite of a queen without heirs, he could have had serious aspirations to the crown. It seems significant that the Treason Act of 1571 allowed illegitimate children of the queen to become king. Was there a plan to put Oxford on the throne after it became apparent that Elizabeth would have no legitimate children? It also seems significant that Oxford used "crown signatures" while Elizabeth was queen, but abandoned them when James I became king. Was he acknowledging to his new sovereign that he had relinquished any claims to the throne? Would it have been dangerous, perhaps lethal, not to do so? If any of this is true, it becomes easy to see why Oxford would have been so bitterly disappointed in Elizabeth/Gertrude for not taking his side and defending him from Dudley/Claudius.

Oxford suspected that his wife's first child was not his. Might this explain why Hamlet says to Polonius, "Conception is a blessing, but not as your daughter may conceive." Oxford had married the daughter of Cecil/Polonius.

William Cecil wrote a set of precepts ("Towards thy superiors be humble yet generous; with thine equals familiar yet respective") strongly reminiscent of the advice Polonius gives Laertes ("Be thou familiar but by no means vulgar...."). Cecil's precepts, intended for his son Robert, sound very much like Polonius preaching "morals" to his son despite his lack of any. But the list was not made public until 1618, long after Hamlet was published in 1603. As a member of the Cecil household, Oxford would have been aware of the list, and may well have had it preached directly to him, but how would WS know anything about it?

Polonius sends Reynaldo to spy on Laertes in Paris. In real life, Cecil's son Thomas went to Paris, and Cecil somehow received information of Thomas's "inordinate love of...dice and cards." Did he spy on his son? We know Oxford, in effect a foster son of Cecil, accused Cecil of spying on him.

Oxford had a real "falling out at tennis"—not a widely practiced sport in those days—with his rival Sidney. Many Oxfordians believe Oxford parodied his "rival poet" as Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night, as Slender in The Merry Wives of Windsor, and the Dauphin in Henry V who calls his horse his mistress (because Sidney wrote a sonnet to his horse).

William Cecil sponsored legislation that made Wednesdays "fish-days." Is this why Hamlet calls Polonius a "fishmonger"?

William Cecil's motto was "Cor unum, via una" ("One heart, one way"). In the First Quarto of Hamlet, the Polonius character was named Corambis ("double-hearted"); was this a parody of Cecil's motto?

Hamlet was not published until after William Cecil's death. Was this because Oxford did not want to provoke his powerful father-in-law's wrath while he lived?

Such parallels between the works of Shakespeare and the life of Edward de Vere do bear consideration.
1562: John de Vere dies and Edward de Vere becomes the 17th Earl of Oxford and Lord Great Chamberlain. He rides into London escorted by a hundred men in livery to take up residence as a Royal Ward fostered by Sir William Cecil. Oxford would be educated in Cecil House, which had the best library in England, and one of the best in all Europe. One scholar called Cecil House "the best school for statesmen in Elizabethan England, perhaps in all Europe." Oxford's mother remarried soon after his father's death. More material for Hamlet?

1562: The poem Romeus and Juliet, attributed to Arthur Brooke, is the rather obvious source of the later play. Brooke was a relative of William Brooke Lord Cobham, and Cobham was a close friend of William Cecil. It seems quite possible the young Oxford could have been introduced to the poem by Cobham. It has been proposed that Romeo and Juliet was one of Shakespeare's earliest plays due to its writing style and less mature perspective. Did Oxford write the play in his teens, then update it as an adult?

1563: One of Oxford's early tutors was Lawrence Nowell, an antiquarian, cartographer and pioneering scholar of Old English language and literature. However, after around a year of tutelage, in June 1563, Nowell asked to be released from his post, writing: "I can clearly see that my work for the Earl of Oxford cannot be much longer required."

1564: The baptism of Christopher Marlow on February 26, 1564 in Canterbury.

1564: William Shakespeare (WS) is born in Stratford-upon-Avon and baptized on April 26, 1564.

1564: Oxford, age 14, by virtue of his "rare learning," is awarded an honorary Cambridge University degree of MA. Arthur Golding praises the "pregnancy of wit and ripeness of understanding" of his prodigious young nephew in his dedication to Trogus Pompeius.

1566: Oxford, age 16, is awarded an honorary Oxford University degree and is praised as a "lover of poetry" and an "exceptional person" by George Coryate.

1566: Lines from the song "When griping grief the heart doth wound" in the play Damon and Pithias, first performed for Elizabeth in 1566, would later appear in Romeo and Juliet. At this time WS is still a baby. The Arte of English Poesie (1589) pairs Oxford and Edwards "[for] highest praise: the Earl of Oxford and Master Edwards of Her Majesty's Chapel, for Comedy and Enterlude." In 1651, Richard Edwards had become Master of the Children of the Chapel Royal, the choirboys who entertained the queen with plays and concerts. The next year Oxford became the first of Elizabeth's royal wards. Oxford would actively patronize the Chapel Children and the Children of St. Paul's (later known as Oxford's Boys). Did Oxford collaborate on Damon and Pithias with Edwards, as the The Arte of English Poesie suggests? The play's closing song evoked Oxford's "Nothing Truer than Truth" motto: "True friends talk truly, they gloss for no gain ... True friends for their true prince refuseth not their death." In The Paradise of Dainty Devices, a collection of poems and/or song lyrics compiled by Edwards, ten verses were attributed to "M. Edwardes" and eight were signed "E.O." as Edward Oxenford often signed his name. There is good reason to believe they did collaborate.

1567: Oxford's uncle and tutor Arthur Golding publishes his famous translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses, a major source for Shakespeare. Ovid's Metamorphoses have been recognized as one of Shakespeare's most influential sources, second only to the Bible, and these translations were made while Oxford and Golding were living together in the same household. In fact, it has been proposed that, because Golding was a Puritan and thus an unlikely translator of Ovid, that Oxford was the real translator. I have no position on the subject. But in either case Oxford would have become intimately familiar with Ovid in both Latin and English.

"Ovid, the love of Shakespeare's life among Latin poets, made an overwhelming impression upon him, which he carried with him all his days: subjects, themes, characters and phrases haunted his imagination. The bulk of his classical mythology came from the Metamorphoses, which he used in the original as well as in Golding's translation." –– A.L. Rowse, Shakespeare, The Man

1567: Oxford studies law at Gray's Inn, which may help explain Shakespeare's knowledge of English law and courts. Oxford kills William Cecil's undercook while practicing fencing, but is acquitted and goes unpunished. Shades of Hamlet and Laertes, especially if Polonius represents William Cecil.

1567: The 17-year-old Oxford, with the tacit approval of the Privy Council, sends his retainer, the poet/soldier-of-fortune and future model for Falstaff,  Thomas Churchyard, on a mission to the Netherlands. There is pretty good evidence that Oxford engaged in spying and espionage for the crown, as will be revealed in this timeline. Was the real Shakespeare not only a great poet and playwright, but a superspy as well? An Elizabethan James Bond?

1569: The death of Oxford's mother, Margery Golding.

1569: Thomas Underdowne dedicates his translation of An Aethiopian Historie by Heliodorus (an important source for Shakespeare) to Oxford, now 19, praising his "learning" among other attributes.

1570: Edmund Elviden's Peisistratus and Catanea is dedicated to Oxford.

1570: Oxford enlists with the Earl of Sussex for his Scottish campaign, possibly explaining Shakespeare's knowledge of military matters.

1571: Oxford composes the first Shakespearean sonnet of the Elizabethan reign, written for his queen. A court favorite, he receives chief honors at a three-day jousting event, despite not winning. At age 21 he takes a seat in the House of Lords.

1571: Oxford, a champion jouster, is victorious in a royal tournament at Westminster and is widely seen as a rising star of Elizabeth's court.

1571: Parliament passed an Act of Treason in which heirs to the throne were redefined from "laufully begotten" to "the naturall yssue of her Ma'j body." There was no need for such language unless Elizabeth had illegitimate children. If she had stopped menstruating or had firmly decided not to marry, such an act would have been vitally important if she had illegitimate children and was considering making one of them her legal heir. Unmarried at age 38 and unlikely to have more children, was she considering making Oxford her heir?

1571: William Cecil is elevated to Baron Burghley, perhaps in order to make his daughter Anne Cecil worthy of the exalted earl's hand in marriage. Hereafter William Cecil will be known as Burghley in this timeline.

1571: Burghley wrote to the Earl of Rutland in 1571: "And surely, my Lord, by dealing with him I find that which I often heard of your Lordship, that there is much more in him of understanding than any stranger to him would think. And for my part I find that whereof I take comfort in his wit and knowledge grown by good observation."

1571: Philip Sidney had an arrangement to marry Anne Cecil, but it fell through. Did Oxford marry her, at least in part, to one-up his main rival among the courtier-poets? In any case, Oxford marries Anne Cecil, the daughter of his guardian. The queen attended the wedding. Was Anne the inspiration for Ophelia, as the marriage would be an unhappy one? The Oxfords would have three daughters. And those three daughters either married or were proposed for marriage to the only three men to whom the poems and plays of Shakespeare were publicly dedicated: the earls of Southampton, Montgomery and Pembroke. Lear divided his lands between his daughters while still alive, and so did Oxford. Was King Lear thus autobiographical?

Oxford becomes engaged, with apparent misgivings (he seems to have become a runaway groom on the initial appointed wedding day), to a 14-year-old Anne Cecil, whose match with Philip Sidney (when they were 13 and 15) had fallen through. Cecil was made Baron, or Lord, Burghley at this time, and it is speculated that this honor was designed to make the bride worthy of the premiere Earl in the land. It is suggested that the courtship of Falstaff and Anne Page in The Merry Wives of Windsor parodies marriage negotiations between Anne and Oxford and onetime prospective husband Philip Sidney: the dowries and pensions match. (Also, the odd phrase "weaver's beam" in this play is underlined in de Vere's Geneva Bible: II Samuel 21:19.)

1571: Arthur Golding dedicates his translation of John Calvin's version of The Psalms of David to Oxford.

1572: After the execution of the Duke of Norfolk in 1572, Oxford became England's senior nobleman at age 22. He exchanged gifts with the queen, received wedding and christening gifts from her, received patronage from the Crown, and was frequently at court between 1577 and 1580. If Elizabeth did not produce a heir, which seemed increasingly unlikely, Oxford seemed like a leading candidate to become king when she died. However, Oxford would engage in risky behavior that jeopardized his chances of becoming king. For instance, in 1572, Oxford seems to have attempted to rescue the condemned Thomas Howard from the Tower of London. Thomas Howard was the Duke of Norfolk and de Vere's cousin who had been found guilty of a Catholic conspiracy against Elizabeth called the Ridolfi plot.

1572: Oxford writes the preface in Latin to Bartholomew Clerke's translation of Baldassare Castiglione's Il Cortegiano ("The Courtier"). Drayton Henderson has called Hamlet a "Castiglionean courtier" and opined that "without Castiglione we should not have Hamlet. The ideal of the courtier, scholar, soldier developed first in Italy, and perfected in the narrative of Il Cortegiano, was Castiglione's gift to the world," adding, "Hamlet is the high exemplar of it in our literature." Yes, and Oxford was a real-life Hamlet. In The Winter's Tale, a statue is described as a work "by that rare Italian master, Julio Romano." Indeed, Romano is the only artist mentioned by name in Shakespeare's works. Many critics have scoffed at Shakespeare's ignorance because Romano was a painter. But Shakespeare was correct because Romano sculpted the figure of Christ positioned above Castiglione's tomb in Mantua. Mantua is along the route Oxford is known to have traveled, and it seems likely he would have stopped to pay his respects to one of his mentors. Also in Mantua are Romano's paintings of the Trojan War on the walls and ceiling of the Sala di Troia ("Room of Troy") in the Palazzo Ducale. In Shakespeare's poem The Rape of Lucrece, the heroine enters a room with paintings on the walls depicting the Trojan War. The descriptions of those paintings, which go on for over 200 lines, bear striking resemblances to the paintings in the Sala di Troia. We can understand Oxford describing such paintings, but WS?

1573: Gilbert Talbot wrote a letter on May 11, 1573 from the Elizabethan royal court to his father, the Earl of Shrewsbury, in which he noted that Edward de Vere, then 23, had "lately grown into great credit, for the Queen's Majesty delighteth more in his personage and his dancing and his valiantness than any other. If it were not for his fickle head he would pass any of them shortly." Talbot proved prophetic about that "fickle head" because nine or ten days later, on May 20-21, Oxford and three of his servants carried out an elaborate prank by robbing of two of Oxford's former employees, William Faunt and John Wotton. The robbery took place at Gad's Hill, (or Gadshill) on the highway between Rochester and Gravesend. Faunt and Wotton were engaged in state business for Oxford's father-in-law, Lord Treasurer Burghley, and were carrying tax money intended for the Exchequer. This suggests Act II of Henry IV Part 1, in which Falstaff and three of Price Hal's companions rob travelers carrying the King's taxes on the very same road. There is even a roguish character named Gadshill in the play, with his name being, perhaps, a pun on the location of the robbery, along with "gadfly" and "shill." The author certainly loved his wordplay.

Oxford was such a favorite of Queen Elizabeth around this time that she called him her "Boar" and her "Turk."

1573: Thomas Twyne dedicates his translation of The Breviary of Britain to Oxford.

1573: Thomas Bedingfield's translation of Cardanus Comforte (aka "Hamlet's Book") is "published by the commaundement of the right honourable the Earle of Oxenford."

Joseph Hunter wrote of Cardanus Comforte in 1845 that "This seems to be the book which Shakespeare placed in the hands of Hamlet," citing passages that "seem to approach so near to the thoughts of Hamlet that we can hardly doubt that they were in the Poet's mind when he put [certain speeches] into the mouth of his hero."

Yes, and Oxford published the book and it was dedicated to him.

The Oxford Universal Dictionary cites Shakespeare as the first writer to use "persuade" and "murdered" in the following senses: "… your king … sends me a paper to persuade me patience?" (Henry VI, Part III) and "'Glamis hath murdered sleep…'" (Macbeth). But in reality Oxford had used "persuade" and "murdered" in those senses much earlier, at age 23, in his dedicatory letter to the translator of Cardanus Comforte: "And because next to the sacred letters of divinity, nothing doth persuade the same more than philosophy, of which your book is plentifully stored, I thought myself to commit an unpardonable error to have murdered the same in the waste bottoms of my chests." Charlton Ogburn Jr. reported these parallels in The Mysterious William Shakespeare (1984), supporting the theory that Oxford wrote both plays and was simply using "persuade" and "murdered" as he had in his youth. Shakespeare has been credited with creating both usages, but undoubtedly their real inventor was de Vere.

These are further parallels between Oxford's letter to Bedingfield and the works of Shakespeare, each noted by William Plumer Fowler in Shakespeare Revealed in Oxford's Letters (1986):

Oxford: "After I had perused your letters, good Master Bedingfield…"
Shakespeare: "Have you perused the letters from the pope" (Henry VI, Part I, 5.1.1)

Oxford: "…whether it were better for me to yield you your desire"
Shakespeare: "I'll force thee to yield to my desire…" (The Two Gentlemen of Verona, 5.4.59)

Oxford: "But when I had thoroughly considered in my mind…"
Shakespeare: "My lord, I have considered in my mind…" (Richard III, 4.2.83)

Fowler has many more such parallels in his book, these are just three that struck me as strong evidence in favor of Oxford as Shakespeare.

1573: It has been argued, albeit not conclusively, that Oxford either contributed to and/or edited An Hundreth Sundrie Flowres, a collection of poems and prose that have otherwise been attributed solely to George Gascoigne, to Gascoigne and "sundry gentlemen," and to Gascoigne with all the anonymous authors being Oxford. I take no position. Perhaps stylometry can figure this one out. Candidates for the pen of Oxford include the Adventures of Master F.J., a "tale of thwarted love set in an English great house, which is the first success in English imaginative prose" according to Encyclopaedia Britannica. Included authors proposed to be Oxford by Kurt Kreiler for the following reasons include: "H.W." the publisher of Adventures (because H.W. ends the foreword by saying, "From my lodging near the Strand the xx. of January, 1572," and this is in keeping with Edward de Vere's address at that time, since towards the end of 1571 he had taken up residence directly opposite Lord Burghley's house on the Strand), "Spraeta tamen vivunt" (who wrote of "thee lustie Ver" with a springlike nature), and "Meritum petere grave" (whose last poem in "Divers excellent devises" is said to contain the name Edward de Vere as deciphered by Bernard M. Ward, Martin Peake, and probably others).

1574: According to the Tudor Rose Theory, also called the Prince Tudor Theory, there was either a secret marriage or extramarital relationship between Oxford and Queen Elizabeth in 1574 which produced a "changeling" baby who grew up as Henry Wriothesley, the third Earl of Southampton. According to this theory, Oxford identified himself as Edward VII; Henry was heir to the throne; but Southampton relinquished his claim to the throne in a secret meeting with King James I on the night Oxford died. I mention this merely as an observation because the theory exists and has gained a bit of traction.

1575: Oxford leaves England, this time with the queen's blessing, for a Grand Tour of the Continent. He departs armed with letters of introduction to the heads of European states signed by Elizabeth extolling his "outstanding mind and virtue."

1575: Oxford travels widely on the continent, visiting parts of Italy that would later appear in ten plays attributed to Shakespeare. Shakespeare seemed to be intimately familiar. But there is no evidence that WS ever left England. When Oxford was in Venice, he borrowed 500 crowns from a Baptista Nigrone. When in Padua, he borrowed money from a Pasquino Spinola. In Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, Kate's father is described as a man "rich in crowns." Where does this character in Shakespeare's play live? Padua. What is his name? Baptista Minola—a conflation of Baptista Nigrone and Pasquino Spinola. (For more such parallels see "Delving into the Details").

1575: While traveling in Europe, de Vere inscribed a Latin poem on a blank page of a Greek New Testament he sent to his wife and translated it, saying he hoped her motto would be "EVER LOVER OF THE TRUTH / VERE."

1575: Oxford's wife Anne delivers a daughter, Elizabeth de Vere, on July 2, 1575.

1576: Oxford arrives in Paris in March on his way home. In Paris he is advised by one of his men, said to have been Rowland Yorke, of court gossip about his wife Anne and her child not being his. In an April 4, 1576 letter Oxford expresses his "misliking" of the situation in a letter to Burghley. Was Rowland Yorke the inspiration for Iago, perhaps?

1576: WS's father, John Shakespeare, applies for a coat of arms but is unsuccessful.

1576: Oxfords' poetry first appears in the The Paradise of Dainty Devices. In the two dozen poems attributed to him, Oxford used eleven different metrical and stanzaic forms, including the English sonnet, fourteener couplets, tetrameters, and trimeters. However, Oxford would stop signing his poems. Was attaching his name becoming too dangerous, perhaps, and/or was writing poetry seen as below his station? (See "Delving into the Details.")

1576: Oxford suspects that he is not the father of his first child, Elizabeth, straining relationships with the Cecils.

1576: Oxford is captured by pirates, stripped naked to his shirt, and left on a seashore. More material for Hamlet?

1576: Hamlet is derived from a story in Histoires Tragiques (1576), a book by Francois de Belleforest that had not been translated into English when Shakespeare adapted it. Oxford spoke French, Latin and Italian fluently. We know from extant receipts that he purchased Italian and French books, such as "Plutarch's works in French." Oxford's daily studies at the Cecil House had consisted of French (two hours per day), Latin, writing exercises, cosmography (encompassing astronomy, geography, history and other disciplines), drawing and dance. At age 13, in a letter dated August 23, 1563, the precocious young scholar wrote a letter to Burghley entirely in French. Shakespeare set five of his plays in France and wrote French dialogue for them. For example, Act III, Scene 4 of King Henry V takes place within the French king's palace and consists of French dialogue between Princess Katherine and her lady-in-waiting Alice.

As noted by Tom Bethell in "The Case for Oxford" published by The Atlantic: "The Comedy of Errors was taken from a play by Plautus before it had been published in English translation. The Rape of Lucrece is derived from the Fasti of Ovid, of which there appears to have been no English version, according to John Churton Collins, the author of Studies in Shakespeare (1904). Collins also found in the plays 'portions of Caesar, Sallust, Cicero and Livy.' As for modern languages, Charles T. Prouty, a professor at the University of Missouri, concluded that Shakespeare "read both Italian and French and was familiar with both Bandello and Bellefont." The dialogue in some scenes of Henry V is in French, "grammatically accurate if not idiomatic," according to Sir Sidney Lee, the influential Shakespeare scholar and the editor of the Dictionary of National Biography. ... Belleforest's Histoires Tragiques, which contains the Hamlet story, had not been translated from the French by the time Hamlet was written. Othello is based on a story in G. Giraldi Cinthio's Hecatommithi, not translated from the Italian by the time of the play's first performance. Andrew S. Cairncross, who in the 1930s espoused an early-authorship theory of the plays, concluded that Shakespeare's 'knowledge and use' of Italian is 'established.' (Oxford wrote in French and Latin and, having spent almost a year in Italy almost certainly knew Italian.)"

We know how Oxford became fluent in French and Latin, and we can assume that he learned Italian while living in Italy, but what about WS, who had "little" Latin and Greek? And what about his knowledge of French? Was that even mentioned by Ben Jonson, or anyone else?

1577: John Brooke dedicates The Staff of Christian Faith to Oxford, who is noted for his piety.

1578: Cambridge scholar Gabriel Harvey praises Oxford in Gratulationes Valdeninses (1578) as a prolific poet whose "countenance shakes speares" (the future actor is 12 years old). "Shakespeare" as a pen name could invoke Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, the arts and learning, who was sometimes depicted shaking a spear. Did Oxford perhaps choose WS to front for him because the actor's last name synchronized with his pseudonym? Archer Taylor and Frederic J. Mosher in The Bibliographical History of Anonyma and Pseudonyma observed: "In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Golden Age of pseudonyms, almost every writer used a pseudonym at some time or other during his career." Pseudonyms served three important purposes for noblemen of that era: (1) they protected the speaker from the sometimes-lethal displeasure of the crown; (2) writing poetry was considered frivolous and beneath the dignity of nobles; (3) plays for the public were even worse because public theaters were scandalous places associated with thievery, prostitution, gambling and other uncouth behavior.

Harvey called Oxford a prolific poet in both Latin and English: "For a long time past Phoebus Apollo has cultivated thy mind in the arts. English poetical measures have been sung by thee long enough. You excel even the sage himself, the Courtly Castiglione, in letters. I have seen many Latin verses of thine, yea, even more English verses are extant."

1578: In The Merchant of Venice, the merchant Antonio enters "in bond" to borrow 3,000 ducats from Shylock, the disreputable moneylender. Oxford entered "in bond" to invest 3,000 pounds with a disreputable merchant/accountant named Michael Lock (also spelled Lok and Locke) to finance the disastrous third voyage of Martin Frobisher to seek a northwest passage to India. Oxford would lose his entire investment and was not happy about it. Notice the correspondences: the 3,000 sum, the "lock" last names with Shylock suggesting "shyster Lock" and both parties being "in bond" to someone disreputable. The character Shylock also resembles Gaspar Ribeiro, a Venetian Jew who was sued for making a usurious 3,000-ducat loan. Ribeiro lived in the same Venice parish where Oxford once attended church.

1579: Oxford embarrasses Philip Sidney in public by demanding that he, as Oxford's social inferior, cede a tennis court to him. Sidney questions Oxford's manners. Oxford calls him a "puppy." Sidney challenges Oxford to a duel. The queen has to intervene to keep them from killing each other over a game. Edmund Spenser in The Shepheardes Calender parodies "Willie" and "Perigot," believed to be Oxford and Sidney, respectively. Spenser had "Willie" saying things like "Hey, ho, holiday!" that sound very much like Shakespeare's "Hey, ho, the wind and the rain." Does this mean Spenser knew that Oxford was Willie Shakespeare? (See "Delving into the Details.")

1579: Cuddie/Cuddy is the judge of the rhyming contest in The Shepheardes Calender, where he is described as the "perfecte pattern of a poet." Eva Turner Clarke argued in The Satirical Comedie of Love's Labour's Lost that Cuddy is based on Oxford. If so, it is important to note that as early as age 19 he was known to a poet of the eminence of Spenser as the "perfect pattern of a poet."

1579: Geoffrey Gates' The Defence of Militarie Profession and John Lyly's Euphues and his England are dedicated to Oxford. Lyly becomes Oxford's secretary and stage manager. The only work for which Lyly has been credited was produced during the years he worked for Oxford. After Oxford withdrew from public life in 1590, no more writing attributed to Lyly came forth. Is it possible that Lyly was "fronting" for Oxford or at least had considerable input from him? "In comedy," R. Warwick Bond wrote in his introduction to Lyly's Complete Works, "Lyly is Shakespeare's only model." But many Oxfordians believe the relationship between Lyly and Shakespeare must be reversed. "There is little doubt that the Earl himself collaborated in the writing and production of Lyly's Court Comedies," wrote Oxford's biographer, B. M. Ward. In 1593 Gabriel Harvey ambiguously referred to Lyly as "the fiddlestick of Oxford."

1580s: Sometime in the early 1580s, Oxford purchased Fisher's Folly, a large, sumptuous mansion on Bishopsgate Street in London that he would use to house aspiring writers. According to Henry Howard, Oxford paid a large sum for the property and renovations to it.

1580s: According to The de Vere Society Newsletter (July 2021): "E. K. Chambers (1923) noted that Oxford in the 1580s was simultaneously patron to John Lyly, William Hunnis and Henry Evans. However, he missed the significance of this fact. Patronage of these three men gave Oxford effective control over Paul's Boys, the Queen's Majesties Men, the Children of the Chapel, as well as several of his own acting troupes, making him the singular most powerful person in English theatre in the 1580s. Meeting the demands of these theatre companies required many playwrights. [Henry] Lok was not the only poet to allude to Oxford as a Phoebus-Apollo, Sun-god patron of literary muses. Marlowe's friends [Thomas] Nashe and [George] Chapman described him respectively as 'our Patron, our Phoebus' and as 'liberal as the Sun' while a host of contemporary poets wrote of the same connection – Edmund Spenser, Thomas Watson, Angel Day, John Lyly, Francis Davison, John Soowthern, Francis Meres, Gabriel Harvey, George Coryate, Thomas Heywood and John Bodenham among them. In his Bel-vedere (1600) Bodenham named Marlowe, Nashe, Kyd, Watson, Achelow, Greene and Peele among poets who 'have lived together' under Phoebus' radiant purview, providing critical clues that identify Bel-vedere's Apollo as 'truly de Vere'. In his Knights Coniuring Thomas Dekker identified the same poets as 'the children of Phoebus at the chapel of Apollo … worthy to eat at the table of the Sun.'"

A possibility is that Oxford was co-writing the plays of some of his younger protégé, heavily editing them, or even writing the plays himself and publishing under their names.

1580: Oxford takes over the Earl of Warwick's acting company. A letter dated June 21, 1580 from Dr. John Hatcher of Cambridge University to Burghley confirms that Oxford's players were performing for the queen and competing with Leicester's players: "Reasons why the Heads of the University object to the Earl of Oxford's players shewing their cunninge in certayne playes already practiced by them before the Queen's Majesty the like having been denyed to the Earl of Leicester's servants." Like Hamlet, Oxford was a royal ward who brought plays and players to court. Will Shakspere was sixteen at the time. His earliest plays, if they were written by him, did not start turning up in London Stationers' Register until 1594, well over a decade later.

1580: Oxford is praised by Gabriel Harvey as "peerless in England" and as an unrivaled "discourser." I have read a good number of Oxford's 77 extant letters (skipping over the ones about tin production), and he was, indeed, an excellent discourser.

1581 – Oxford wins first prize in an Accession Day tournament at Whitehall and remains champion of the tiltyard; his tournament speech is later published in Edmund Spenser's Axiochus.

1581: Anne Vavasour, a Gentlewomen of the Queen's Bedchamber, delivers a son named Edward. Edward de Vere, known to be the father, flees London but is captured and sent to the Tower. He is later released but kept under house arrest for a year and banished from the court for two. There would be a "fray" between Oxford and Sir Thomas Knyvett, the uncle of Anne Vavasour. The fray would turn into a long-running feud which involved duels in the streets and at least three deaths. In one duel Oxford suffered a severe leg wound that caused him to limp thereafter. Shades of the Montagues and Capulets! And Shakespeare mentioned being lame in the sonnets.

1582: WS, now 18, marries a pregnant Anne Hathaway. Oxford, now 32, is reconciled to his wife. Curiously, both men are married to women named Anne and their first children, to the best of our knowledge, are girls born out of wedlock.

1582: Oxford's brother-in-law, Peregrine Bertie, returns from his first of many visits as Ambassador to the Danish court at Elsinore. More Hamlet material?

1583: WS's first child, Susanna, is born "ahead of schedule."

1583: Oxford, like Hamlet, was royal ward who brought plays and companies of players to the Royal Court. In 1583, Oxford acquired the sublease of the Blackfriars Playhouse. His children's group, known as Oxford's Boys, joined up with the Paul's Boys to form a composite acting company. Oxford then transferred the lease of Blackfriars to his private secretary, John Lyly, who became its manager, and Lyly's plays were performed for Queen Elizabeth. Even earlier, Oxford's Boys had performed Agamemnon and Ulysses for the queen.

1583: Sir Philip Sidney is knighted.

1584: Oxford takes over the Earl of Worcester's acting company. Oxford's actors perform The History of Agamemnon and Ulysses before the Queen at court.

1584: In a royal tournament, held to celebrate the anniversary of Elizabeth's coronation, Oxford once again carries off first prize and remains champion of the tilt.

1584: A dedication says of Oxford:

For who marketh better than he
The seven turning flames of the sky?
Or hath read more of the antique;
Hath greater knowledge of the tongues?
Or understandeth sooner the sounds
Of the learner to love music?
(qtd. in Ward 50)

1585: Oxford is briefly given a military command in Holland, but then is summoned home by Burghley. Oxford is replaced by Sir Philip Sidney, who would die on the battlefield a year later. Another irony.

1585: Oxford takes part in major trial: that of Mary, Queen of Scots. Does this help explain Shakespeare's intimate knowledge of English law and courts?

1585: WS's twins, Judith and Hamnet, are born.

1586: Oxford is praised by William Webbe in his influential Discourse on English Poetry as the "most excellent" among courtier poets. Here is the quote entire: "I may not omit the deserved commendations of many honourable and noble Lords and Gentlemen in Her Majesty's Court, which, in the rare devices of poetry have been, and yet are, most skillful; among whom the Right Honourable Earl of Oxford may challenge to himself the title of the most excellent among the rest."

1586: Queen Elizabeth granted Oxford a £1,000 annuity in 1586 "for no stated reason—an extraordinary gesture for the frugal monarch." Why so much? Was she his mother, perhaps? A repentant Gertrude? But there may be another explanation. Did the queen recognize the value and power of the theater to sway public sentiment, with the looming Spanish threat? John Ward, recorded in his diary a rumor that Shakespeare had "supplied the stage with two plays every year and for that had an allowance so large that he spent at the rate of £1000 a year, as I have heard."

According to Hank Wittemore: "Elizabeth I's chief minister William Cecil, Lord Burghley wrote on June 21, 1586 to spymaster Secretary Francis Walsingham asking if he had spoken with Queen Elizabeth in support of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. Five days later her Majesty signed a Privy Seal Warrant authorizing an annual grant to Oxford of a thousand pounds – an extraordinary figure, especially since England was at war with Spain and desperately needed funds. The warrant, to be paid each year in quarterly installments, expressly stated that the earl was not to be called on by the Exchequer to render any account as to its expenditure – a clause which, B.M. Ward wrote in his 1928 biography of Oxford, was "the usual formula made use of in the case of secret service money."

Was Oxford a super-spy in addition to his other talents, or was he being richly rewarded for his influence on public opinion through his plays?

According to Charles Nicholl writing in The Reckoning, in 1585, upon the outbreak of war with Spain in the Netherlands, annual payments to the notorious spymaster Francis Walsingham rose to two thousand pounds per annum, and he also owned an acting company. It certainly sounds as if Queen Elizabeth had decided to invest in spies and plays in face of the growing threat of Spain to her empire.

It seems the stage was being used for purposes of propaganda.

Wittemore wrote that Oxford and the writers in his circle "had been turning out anti-Spanish plays for at least several months before the Queen authorized the earl's annual grant. On July 20, 1586 the Venetian ambassador in Spain (Hieronimo Lippomano) wrote to the Doge and Senate that King Philip II had been furious over reports about plays being performed at the Elizabethan court: 'But what has enraged him more than all else, and has caused him to show a resentment such as he has never displayed in all his life, is the account of the masquerades and comedies which the Queen of England orders to be acted at his expense.'"

1587: Andrew Trollop writes to Burghley explaining how, during his ten years of service to Oxford "and during all that time being privy, not only of his public dealings but also of his private doings and secret intents, found and knew him imbued with special piety, perfect integrity, great care to discharge all trust reposed in him, and no less desire to do good in the commonwealth."

1587: Thomas Kyd, often credited as the author of The Spanish Tragedy, the much-posited Ur-Hamlet, and The Taming of a Shrew, is thought to have been in Oxford's employ in 1587. But no records from his lifetime record Kyd being a playwright. John Lyly left Oxford's employment in 1594 and never wrote another play, nor did he publish any of the plays credited to him. Were they not his to publish? Anthony Munday was also in Oxford's employ. Did Oxford use them as frontmen, along with William Shakespeare?

1587: Burghley complained in a 1587 letter to Sir Francis Walsingham that Oxford's "lewd friends...still rule him by flatteries." Presumably this meant the theater types. Sidney Lee wrote that Oxford squandered part of his fortune on men of letters whose bohemian lifestyle attracted him. Sir George Buc deplored Oxford's "waste" of his earldom but thought him a "magnificent and a very learned and religious man."

1588: Oxford's wife Anne Cecil dies at court of a fever at age 31.

1588: The death of Robert Dudley, first Earl of Leicester.

1588: Oxford fits out his ship, the Edward Bonaventure, against the Spanish Armada and is described as having stood "like warlike Mars upon the hatches."

1588: After the Spanish Armada is defeated in 1588, Oxford disappears from public view, presumably to write more or less full-time. Did he reappear as Shakespeare in 1593?

1588: Anthony Munday dedicates the first two parts of his translation Palmerin d'Oliva to Oxford, praising his "special knowledge" of foreign languages.

1588: Titus Andronicus is generally believed to be one of Shakespeare's earliest plays — if not the earliest — with estimated composition dates ranging from 1588 (very early) to 1593 (early). One argument for Titus being very early is that it's widely considered to be Shakespeare's worst tragedy, with a plausible explanation being that he was new to the craft. In any case, there appears to be a major clue to the author's identity in the second scene of Act IV. Titus sends weapons to Demetrius and Chiron along with a scroll containing two lines from William Lily's Latin Grammar, which was said to have been "memorized by every Elizabethan schoolboy." (The anachronism seems absurd: ancient Romans studying Lily's Latin Grammar! It has been called "the most egregious anachronism in Shakespeare." But if de Vere was the author, he could have been sticking out a "sore thumb" for a purpose: to point to himself.) Demetrius reads the scroll aloud and Chiron responds: "O, 'tis a verse in Horace, I know it well, I read it in the grammar long ago." Aaron agrees: "Ay, just – a verse in Horace, right, you have it." We know de Vere liked to pun on his name with words like "ever" and "verse." Did he leave us a huge clue? The first lesson in Lily's Grammar is on nouns and names. And the first page of the first lesson uses the example "Edwardus is my proper name."

A similar allusion can be found in the first scene of Act II of Henry IV, Part 1. In this scene Gadshill banters with a chamberlain, saying he "walks invisible." Gadshill then says "I am a true man" and "Go to, homo is a common name to all men." We know de Vere liked to pun on his last name as meaning "true" (as in "verity") and that he had used the biblical "I am that I am" in relation to his name in a previously cited 1584 letter to Burghley, and in Sonnet 121 if he wrote it. This seems like another clear pointer to the author's proper name being Edward, since Lily's Grammar instructs: "A noun substantive either is proper to the thing that it betokeneth, as Edwardus is my proper name, or else is common to more, as Homo is a common name to all men." Is not the author telling us that he "walks invisible," that he is a true man (Vere), that his first name is Edward, and that he is not a common man nor a commoner?

A third similar allusion can be found in the first scene of Act IV of The Merry Wives Of Windsor, when the audience's attention is once again directed at the page Lily's Grammar where the words "Edwardus is my proper name" are found. Sir Hugh Evans asks the boy, interestingly named William, "How many numbers is in nouns?" William is depicted as struggling to learn the basic rudiments of Latin. It is hard to escape the fact that Oxford is not only telling that his proper name is Edward, but that William Shaksper lacks a proper eduction!

1589: Thomas Nashe's preface to Greene's Menaphon indicates that Hamlet was being performed as early as 1589: “If you entreat him faire in a frosty morning, he will afford you whole Hamlets, I should say handfuls of Tragical speeches.” Nashe was an admirer of Oxford. But according to many orthodox scholars, William of Stratford, just 25 years old, had only recently settled in London at the time. Are we to believe that in the space of a year or so, a rural lad, lacking any known theatrical experience, launched his career by writing what is generally regarded today as the greatest play ever written?

1589: George Puttenham, generally presumed to be the author of The Arte of English Poetrie, says therein that members of the nobility and gentry either lacked the courage to write or were loath to be known as writers, explaining why Oxford would have wanted to keep his name separate from his writings: "Now also of such among the nobilitie or gentrie as be very well seen in many laudable sciences, and especially in making or Poesie, it is so come to passe that they have no courage to write and if they have, yet are they loath to be knowen of their skill. So as I know very many notable gentlemen in the Court that have written commendably and suppressed it agayne, or els sufred it to be publisht without their own names to it, as it were a discredit for a gentleman, to seeme learned, and to show himselfe amorous of any good Art." The only choices for poets of high social rank seemed to be: (1) remain silent, (2) publish anonymously, or (3) employ fronts. Puttenham goes on to say that Oxford would be ranked first among courtier poets "if their doings could be found out and made public with the rest." Puttenham begins his short list with Oxford: "Of which number is first that noble gentleman Edward Earl of Oxford …" Puttenham then mentions a few, but only a few, other notable writers, including Sir Philip Sidney and Sir Walter Raleigh. Puttenham also ranked Oxford as the best for comedy and interlude along with Richard Edwardes: "Th'Earl of Oxford and Master Edwardes of her Majesty's Chapel for Comedy and Interlude."

1589: Oxford withdraws from public life and becomes a recluse at age 49; thereafter "the life of Lord Oxford becomes one of mystery" until his death. Presumably he had plenty of free time to work on his writing. The actor was still in the prime of life, just 25 years old, and yet Sonnet 73 tells us:

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs where late the sweet birds sang.

1590: Edmund Spenser in his first edition of The Faerie Queene praises Oxford as one who loves and is loved by the Muses and names him one of his book's defenders.

1590: Burghley attempts to negotiate a marriage between Henry Wriothesley, the third Earl of Southampton, and Burghley's eldest granddaughter and Oxford's daughter, Elizabeth Vere. The timing makes sense, because Elizabeth Vere had just lost her mother and her father had withdrawn from public life with serious financial problems. The two men would have wanted to secure a good marriage for her (and perhaps defray certain expenses as well). Southampton was a beautiful young nobleman to whom Shakespeare dedicated his first two published poems: Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. Many scholars believe Southampton was the "Fair Youth" of Shakespeare's sonnets. Around the time the sonnets are believed to have been written, Burghley was trying to persuade a reluctant Southampton to marry Oxford's daughter. In the first 17 sonnets, Shakespeare encourages the Fair Youth to marry and procreate. It would have been beyond presumptuous for WS, a commoner, to write sonnets offering marital advice to a young nobleman. The first 17 sonnets make much more sense if they are an older nobleman speaking to his prospective son-in-law.

1590: Francis Walsingham, the spymaster, dies.

1591: Oxford marries his second wife, Elizabeth Trentham. She would bear him his only son and the heir to his earldom, Henry de Vere.

1591: Between 1591 and 1592, Oxford disposes of Castle Hedingham, the last of his large estates and the seat of his earldom. He passes it on to his three daughters while still living. Material for King Lear, perhaps?

1591-1604: The de Vere Society Newsletter (July 2021) says: According to Oxfordian theory, the years between 1591 and Oxford's death in 1604 were profitably spent correcting, revising, augmenting and imbuing with his own unique genius such works as had been incubated during his superintendence of the government's 'policy of plays'. This theory is supported by notices on title pages of Shakespearean quartos and in prefatory remarks to the First Folio, suggesting that it is to this late, solitary period of Oxford's intellectual life that the genius of Shakespeare is most surely owed."

1591: Around 1589 to 1591, in order to raise much-needed funds, Edward de Vere sold his London mansion, Fisher's Folly, to William Cornwallis who, with his young daughter, Anne, took up residence in the earl's former home. In 1852, Shakespeare biographer J. O. Halliwell-Phillips discovered Anne Cornwallis's copybook from her days at Fisher's Folly in which she had transcribed verses from Edward de Vere, presumably from manuscripts left behind when the residence changed hands. Interestingly, however, Halliwell-Phillips observed that Anne's copybook included not only then-unpublished poetry by Edward de Vere but two unpublished sonnets that later would be attributed to Shakespeare. Anne's copybook, moreover, included another poem scholars later would attribute to Shakespeare that was printed by William Jaggard in 1599 in his miscellanies of Elizabethan poetry, The Passionate Pilgrim. Halliwell-Phillips estimated that Anne Cornwallis made her transcriptions of these then-unpublished verses in 1590, the year after she and her father took up residence at Fisher's Folly. How Anne Cornwallis, in 1590, would have acquired unpublished poems by Shakespeare in the former home of Edward de Vere is an interesting question. There are possible explanations. Shakespeare's sonnets circulated privately for decades before they were published in 1609, so if de Vere didn't write the sonnets, perhaps he was one of the recipients. Halliwell-Phillips was writing in 1852, so perhaps there had been additions to the copybook after 1590. Or the "Shakespeare" poems in question may have been apocryphal.

Oxford had been housing writers at Fisher's Folly, so this was presumably the end of the road for his sponsorship of most of them, if not all.

After Oxford sold Fisher's Folly and withdrew his patronage from his stable of poets, the following writers associated with Oxford published little or nothing (i.e., after 1591): Thomas Achelley, Thomas Kyd, John Lyly, Thomas Lodge and Matthew Roydon. Other poets in Oxford's circle fell on hard times and/or died young, including Thomas Churchyard, Robert Greene, Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Nashe, George Peele and Thomas Watson. While Oxford's money was obviously a factor, one has to wonder how much he had contributed to works previously published in their names. Had he been providing them with material? Were they not as good without his oversight and editing? Perhaps one day stylometry will be able to answer such questions.

1592: According to Charles Wisner Barrell, in his 1592 dedicatory preface ("Epistle Dedicatory") to Strange News, Thomas Nashe refers to Oxford as Master Apis Lapis (the "sacred stone bull") and "Gentle Master William." I agree with Barrell. Nash was unmistakably speaking about Oxford and he addressed Oxford as "Gentle M. William" with his opening words.

Apis/Hapis was a sacred bull (when stoned/castrated, an ox) or multiple sacred bulls (oxen) in ancient Egyptian mythology. But apis also means "bee,"  bees produce honey, and Oxford had been praised for producing "streams of honey" in the Edmund Spenser poem excerpted below, and elsewhere. However, the producer of honey had become inactive, so Oxford was also a "lapsed" or idle bee. Poets of that era sometimes compared themselves to productive bees and their patrons to drones who ate the honey without working. So an idle bee could be a patron/drone. Thus when I see "honey" and an "idle cell" in the Spenser poem, I get the image of a drone idly occupying a cell in a hive while all the workers are busy making honey. However, Spenser excuses Oxford by saying he chose idleness over making a mockery of himself by emulating scurrilous poets.

Why "stone"? In the Christian religion, Peter was the rock on which the church was to be built, and Oxford was known for his piety and was heading a church of sorts. Thus, a sacred rock.

Also, lapiz means "pencil" in Spanish. It was the sort of wordplay Elizabethan wits delighted in (and I often engage in such wordplay myself, in the 21st century).

Some Shakespeareans have argued for Apis Lapis to refer to a William Beestone, of whom nothing is known if he existed at all, as far as I can tell. But that is to ignore the sacred oxen and the connection to a man who signed his letters Oxenford.

Why William? If it was known that Oxford the spear/sphere-shaker was about to publish Venus and Adonis as William Shakespeare, that could explain the name, if it had not been applied to Oxford previously.

And "gentle" may be significant, if the actor had a reputation of being hard to get along with, or not a gentleman, whether by birth or conduct. A wit like Nashe might well have meant that Oxford was a gentler master than the actor/businessman as well as a gentleman. Did Nashe abbreviate with "M." to allow multiple interpretations?

Nashe also engaged in the requisite puns on Vere, writing: "Verilie, verilie all poore Schollers acknowledge you as their patron, providitore and supporter."

Furthermore, Nashe's patron is described in terms that perfectly match Oxford. Nashe calls his gentle Master an "infinite Maecenas [i.e., patron] to learned men," a prolific poet who has recently run out of money, and a man with three "maides" (Oxford's daughters) under his roof. Nashe mentions a "Blew Bore in the spittle" and the Blue Boar is a symbol associated with the Earls of Oxford. Indeed, as Barrell observed: "There was only one "blue Boar" of any public significance in England when Nash wrote: that had for centuries served as the crest and fighting insignia of the great Vere family of which Oxford was then the practically bankrupt head." Because Oxford's finances were on life support, I take "in the spittle" to mean "in the hospital" and perhaps also "in a frenzy." And "spittle" could also refer to the old Hospital of the Blackfriars, where Oxford had maintained a theatre for his actors, and/or to the Savoy Hospital on the Strand, where Oxford had set up his first "college" of writers.

Thomas Dekker confirmed what Nashe wrote when he identified Nashe as one of "the children of Phoebus at the chapel of Apollo … worthy to eat at the table of the Sun."

Henry Lok was a poet who worked for Oxford for two decades. Lok alluded to Oxford glowingly as a Phoebus-like patron "whose favour shone sometimes so gratuitously upon me" that it could not "be eclipsed." Lok informed Burghley in November 1590 that all Oxford's gentlemen servants had "tasted of his liberality by gift or procurement of land, lease, or permanent gift of his own estates by his procurement, or in cloths, money [etc.]." Lok also warned Burghley that Oxford had been bled by "those over many greedy horse leaches which sucked too ravenously on his sweet liberality." Material for Timon of Athens, perhaps?

However, Nashe was obviously unhappy about Oxford failing to pay him what he thought he was due "this halfe year." Hence his "idle bee/drone" witticism. In the first part of Pierce Penilesse (1592), Nashe had called his patron "the high and mighty Prince of Darknesse" and the "Marquesse of Cocytus," among other epithets, while leaving no doubt who this lapsed patron was, by describing the mansion in which he had been housed as "vast, large strong built and well furnished, all save the kitchen for that was no bigger than the cook's room in a ship with a little court chimney" with a "dauncing schoole" that proved Oxford could afford to pay him.

Gabriel Harvey accused Nashe of being one of Lok's leeches, saying Nashe "shamefully and odiously misuseth every friend, or acquaintance as he hath served some of his favorablest patrons, (whom for certain respects I am not to name), M. Apis Lapis, Greene, Marlow, Chettle and whom not?"

More evidence: Oxford had failed to pay a fairly small sum of money owed to Julia Penn, to cover the lodging expenses of Thomas Churchyard, Nashe and others in his retinue. Nashe twice referred to his landlady as "my hostess Penia" in Strange Newes. This debt scandal echoes Falstaff's failure to pay the lodging bills of Mistress Quickly in Henry IV, Part I and the details are confirmed in the documentary record (Lansdowne MSS 68 & 113).

According to the De Vere Society: "In Henry IV Shakespeare modelled his paunchy, boastful, untruthful, sack-drinking, court-haunting, yarn-spinning, poetical and cowardly old soldier, Sir John Falstaff, on the real life paunchy, boastful, untruthful, sack-drinking, court-haunting, yarn-spinning, poetical and cowardly old soldier, Thomas Churchyard, while the attempt by Eastcheap tavern hostess Mistress Quickly to have Falstaff arrested for breaking his promise to pay the rent and living expenses due to her tavern, surely mirrors the threat of Eastcheap hostess Julianna Penne to have Thomas Churchyard arrested for breaking his promise to pay her the rent and living expenses at her establishment on St Peter's Hill. Churchyard wrote to "Good Mrs Pen' that he had 'truly and loving dealt' with her in a letter offering his servitude in words echoing a marriage vow that promised 'to yield my body, goods and liberty freely unto you whilst you do live to use by law and right.' Could this very letter have provided Shakespeare with the joke of Falstaff's reneged 'bookoath' to marry Mistress Quickly?"

So there is no doubt as to the identity of Apis Lapis, even if there are doubts about "who done what to whom."

Barrell begins his argument for Oxford as William/Willie/Willy as follows:
In "Shakespeare" Identified, J. Thomas Looney argues persuasively that Oxford is the original of Spenser's "Willie," the gentle shepherd who engages in a rhyming contest with his rival "Perigot" (Sir Philip Sidney) in the August eclogue of The Shepheardes's Calendar (published 1579) and "pleasant Willy," the veteran writer of stage comedies "from whose pen large streams of honey and sweet nectar flow" in The Teares of the Muses (published 1591). Moreover, Spenser's characterizations of both "Willie" and "Pleasant Willy" can be shown from several other circumstances not included in Mr. Looney's book to fit the Poet Earl better than any other known writer of Spenser's acquaintance.
In The Teares of the Muses Spenser describes two very different kinds of poets:

Instead thereof scoffing Scurrility
And scorning Folly with Contempt is crept,
Rolling in rhymes of shameless ribaldry,
Without regard or due Decorum kept,
Each idle wit at will presumes to make,
And doth the Learned's task upon him take.

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

In the last two lines of the first stanza is Spenser saying that Will of Avon is taking on the task (work) of the learned Oxford, the true William? After all, compared to Oxford, the actor was a "base-born" man. And how bold must he have been, to put his name on Oxford's work? Is this base-born Will "idle" because he isn't really doing the work, just living off the learned earl's? Is the term "gentle" used because Oxford was a gentleman while the actor was not? Is "pen" a play on words, meaning both a writing instrument but also echoing "cell" in the fifth line of the stanza? Was Oxford being confined even as he wrote? He was certainly confined by his finances. He had sold or disposed of his major land holdings. Was he thus confined to a single residence? Due to numerous problems with the crown and government, was he on probation or under some form of house arrest?

In the last two lines of the second stanza, Spenser is obviously making a reference to "the slumbering Euphues in his idle cell at Silexedra" from Robert Greene's Menaphon (1589). Since the publication of John Lyly's novel Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit (1579), Oxford had been associated with the learned Euphues. There is an obvious linkage between the learned Euphues and the learned Oxford. Indeed, de Vere has been "recognised as the leading light of the Euphuist literary movement." Leading Euphuist writers include Oxford, Shakespeare and John Lyly, who was Oxford's secretary for 15 years. Lyly was sometimes called "The Euphuist." Sky Gilbert opined that Shakespeare's later plays represent the "apotheosis of the euphuistic style." Other poets described as Euphuists include Robert Greene, Thomas Lodge (from whose Rosalynde: Euphues's Golden Legacy Shakespeare took the plot of As You Like It as well as the name Rosalind), Thomas Nashe (especially in The Anatomy of Absurdity), Anthony Munday, Thomas Watson, Stephen Gosson, Barnabe Rich, John Dickenson, and later poets like Sir Walter Scott and Oscar Wilde. One might also include metaphysical poets like John Donne and George Herbert.

1592: Thomas Nashe describes a "policy of plays" as one of the "secrets of government," explaining that stage adaptations of English chronicles were "very necessary" to the moral improvement of people considered influential opinion formers, such as courtiers, lawyers, captains and soldiers. Was Oxford the head of a group of playwrights working to advance the purposes of the crown? If so, he and his employees were very effective. According to Gabriel Harvey the reputation of Oxford's and Lyly's satirical plays was such that "All of you that tender the preservation of your good names were best to please [Lyly] and see [Oxford] betimes, for fear lest he [Oxford] be moved, or some of his apes hired to make a play of you, and then is your credit quite undone for ever and ever, such is the reputation of their plays." Harvey also explained why "so many singular learned men laboured [for Oxford's] commendation": because he was "the godfather of writers, the superintendent of the presse, the muster-maister of innumerable bands, the General of the feilde." Oxford was evidently exerting a considerable influence on both the royal court and public theatre. Was he an extremely high-end government propagandist?

1592: Robert Greene's reference in his Groates-Worth of Wit to "Shake-scene" is the first known reference to Shakespeare as a writer. But was Greene suggesting that the actor was not a playwright, but a play-broker whose name became associated with the plays because he put up the money to put them on?

Greene's Groatsworth of Wit clearly refers to William Shakespeare, but what exactly is he saying: "Yes trust them not: for there is an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tigers heart wrapped in a Players hide, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you: and being an absolute Johannes fac totum, is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country."

Jonathan Dixon has suggested that "supposes" was being used in the sense of "to feign, to pretend, to forge." The related term "supposed" has these definitions in the OED: "Put on, feigned, pretended, counterfeit."

The "crow" seems like a big clue. In his 1584 dedication to the Countess of Derby in The Mirror of Modesty, Greene wrote: "Your honor may think I play like Aesop's Crow, which decked her self with others' feathers or like the proud Poet Batillus, which subscribed his name to Virgil's verses, and yet presented them to Augustus." [My italics]

Batillus was a Roman actor accused of plagiarism who fraudulently presented a poem to a Roman emperor, Augustus, as his own work. The real author was Virgil, who exposed Batillus as a fraud. Was Greene accusing an English actor of being a bad poet who presented plagiarized works to an English monarch fraudulently? If so, we have a striking parallel. And we also have an association between Aesop's crow and literary fraud.

Greene returned to the Batillus analogy in regard to his Farewell to Folly (registered in 1587 and published in 1591). In Greene's letter to "the Gentlemen Students of both Universities" he wrote: "Others will flout and over-read every line with a frump, and say 'tis scurvy, when they themselves are such scabbed Jades that they are like to die of the fashion, but if they come to write or publish anything in print, it is either distilled out of ballads or borrowed of Theological poets, which for their calling and gravity, being loathe to have any profane pamphlets pass under their hand, get some other Batillus to set his name to their verses: Thus is the ass made proud by this underhand brokery. And he that can not write true English without the help of clerks of parish churches will needs make himself the father of interludes." (9: 232-33)

First, this letter tells us that ghostwriting and/or front-man-ship were prevalent at the time. Second, "brokery" suggests that money was changing hands. Third, the wording of the last sentence is particularly intriguing. Puttenham had ranked Oxford as the best for comedy and interludes along with Richard Edwardes. It has been suggested that the actor needed clerks to help him complete his signature. Perhaps "will" is wordplay. I suspect there were running inside jokes on the names "will" and "shakes spear/sphere" and "de Vere/Verse."

I read Greene as saying, "Will [Shakespeare] needs make himself the father [progenitor] of interludes [Oxford]."

From what Puttenham wrote in 1589 and from what Greene wrote between 1584 and 1592, we can conclude that: (1) men of high rank did not want their names associated with "anything in print" because that would be beneath their stations and dignity; (2) men of high rank were publishing their writings through front men and/or brokers; (3) this was general knowledge at the time; and (4) the brokers who attached their names to the works in question were held in low regard by the people in the know, like Greene. Also, perhaps, that the actor was unable to write without the help of clerks, explaining the six different spellings/formations of his name in the six extant signatures we have.

1592: Arden of Feversham, published without an author's name in 1592, bears the unmistakable stamp of Oxford...

Black Will says he robbed the constable at Gad's Hill. He also says that he will leave England and "go to Flushing" after he murders Thomas Arden. Flushing was Oxford's original destination when he visited the Netherlands soon after his own Gad's Hill robbery of government agents in 1573.

Thomas Arden was the mayor of Faversham with an "a" but Oxford, who loved plays on his last name, changed it to Feversham with an "e" thereby saying the actor shammed him feverishly! Also, Feversham read backwards is "ham's vere" and contains "am Vere" – such genius!

The quality of the writing rises dramatically as soon as Black Will and Shakebag appear in Scene II, as if Oxford took over there.

The synchronicities of Shakebag and Black Will would have attracted Oxford, indeed would have been irresistible to him, a gift of the Muses.

"Will" appears in the play in one form or another 294 times, often in highly uncomplimentary ways. The second such line sounds like Oxford being disgusted with the actor:

"No nobleman will countenance such a peasant."

The first such line sounds like Oxford being disgusted with his unfaithful wife:

"That women will be false and wavering."

Black Will is described as a "base mercenary groom." A base groom who's in it only for the money. Isn't that how Oxford would have seen the actor, if Oxford was the real author?

Black Will says, "I stole the half ox" and that sounds very much like our friend Oxford!

Black Will says he will "share crowns with you too." Is Oxford saying that Will of Avon shared money and majesty with him, having stolen half the ox? Having stolen half the name of the real Spear/Sphere Shaker?

My guess is that Oxford "touched up" an existing play, and wrote at least a chuck of the middle part. He took every opportunity to take pot shots at Shaksper. And if the name Shakebag was spelled every which way, that was probably Oxford's signature as well, pointing out that it was known the actor had trouble spelling his own name.

Bradshaw says, "Now, Will, I know Thou art acquainted with such companions [thieves]."

Shakebag says: ne'er trust Shakebag.

And so on.

1593: Henry de Vere, the only son and heir of Oxford's earldom, is born on February 24, 1593.

1593: Theaters are closed due to the plague. Does this explain why Shakespeare began to publish poems around this time?

1593: On April 18, 1593, Venus and Adonis was entered at the Stationers' Register in London, without an author's name.

1593: Thomas Kyd is arrested by the Privy Council on May 12, 1593 on charges of writing seditious notices. Kyd is imprisoned and tortured in the Tower of London, in the English version of an Inquisition. Kyd implicates Marlowe, who is branded an atheist and heretic. According to Marlowe's Wikipedia page, Kyd also revealed that he and Marlow had been working for an aristocratic patron. Could that have been Oxford? On May 18, the Star Chamber issues a warrant for Marlowe's arrest on charges of heresy, which carries the death penalty, Marlowe dies before being forced to face an interrogation and probable torture. Did the well-connected spy and court favorite evade torture and a horrific execution by faking his death with the aid of his spy network?

1593: Christopher Marlowe dies under mysterious circumstances. He is said to have died May 30, 1593 in Deptford, London, England, and to have been buried in an unmarked grave. But with no body, do we know that he actually died? Perhaps stylometry can tell us if he lived to write another day.

1593: The death of Christopher Marlowe on May 30, 1593. Around the same time the first published work of Shakespeare, the poem Venus and Adonis, appeared. Oxford's poems apparently ceased being circulated just before Shakespeare's work began to appear. The relationship of Venus and Adonis to Marlowe's unpublished Hero and Leander has caused scholars to conjecture that Shakespeare had access to Marlowe's unpublished work. But what if Shakespeare was an alias of Marlowe? Curious and curiouser! Here's a working theory: Oxford put up the money and provided the plots for plays based on his life, such as Hamlet and King Lear. Marlowe, having gone underground, wrote the poems and plays. The actor William Shakespeare acted as a front, becoming wealthy in the process. Another possibility is that Oxford had been publishing via Marlowe, then switched to Shakespeare after Marlowe either died or went underground.

After the death (or intentional disappearance) of Marlow, the name William Shakespeare appeared for the first time, on the previously nameless Venus and Adonis. Why? These are possibilities: (1) Marlowe really did die, and Oxford needed a new front man for his best poems and plays. (2) Marlowe "disappeared" in order to avoid arrest, torture and a possible harrowing execution as a "heretic." But Oxford could no longer put Marlowe's name on the poems and plays he wrote. (3) The actor actually wrote the poems and plays that bear his name, but the late addition of his name to the poem, and the unusual positioning of the name do raise questions, along with all the other questions I have raised herein.

Hank Wittemore noted the similarities between Hero and Leander and Venus and Adonis, and the oddity of the timing: "Imagine that! Marlowe and 'Shakespeare' were both writing the same kind of long, romantic, sensual, erotic poem based on Ovid; they were writing and/or completing their similar narrative poems at virtually the same time, in the year of Marlowe's untimely death, when 'Shakespeare' forged ahead by getting his masterful 'first heir' into print and taking over the poetical limelight from there on." Yes, and at the same time Oxford stopped publishing poems, or at least poems attributed to him. As I said, Curious and curiouser!

Wittemore also pointed out the strong parallels between Marlowe's Edward II and Shakespeare's Richard II: "Marlowe's name appeared in print for the first time in the following year, 1594, when the play Edward II was published as by "Chr. Marlow" and another play Dido, Queen of Carthage was published as by "Christopher Marlow and Thomas Nashe."

Oscar James Campbell observed that "No play of Marlowe's is more closely related to one of Shakespeare's than is Edward II to Richard II. For decades scholars assumed that Marlowe's was the first significant English chronicle history play, and that therefore he taught Shakespeare much. Recently, however, it has been established that Shakespeare's Henry VI trilogy antedates Edward II; in other words, Shakespeare helped Marlowe; the combination of Shakespeare-Marlowe helped Shakespeare in Richard II."

1593: The first use of the name William Shakespeare in any published work appears following the dedication of the poem Venus and Adonis to the Earl of Southampton on the title page overleaf. Oddly, the name does not appear where the author's name was usually located, directly under the title on the title page. In the dedication Shakespeare describes the poem as "the first heir of my invention." Is he sharing a private joke that his first publication would be via an invented alias? Is he perhaps also suggesting that another coupling — that of his invention (daughter) with England's Adonis — would produce an heir?

1593: Oxford's second wife Elizabeth Trentham gives birth to a son, Henry, who is Oxford's fourth child. Soon thereafter, the first play attributed to "Shake-Speare" appears: Henry IV. Coincidence or craft?

1593: Thomas Edwards in his 1593 poem "Envoy to Narcissus" from Cephalus and Procris and Narcissus, lauds a mysterious poet who wears "purple robes" (a color restricted by the Elizabethan sumptuary laws to the royals and elite nobles), and who wielded immense power throughout the land. The logical candidate is Oxford.

Eke in purple robes distain'd,
Amid'st the Center of this clime,
I have heard say doth remain
One whose power floweth far,
That should have been of our rhyme
The only object and the star.

1594: Negotiations for the marriage of Elizabeth Vere to Southampton are apparently still ongoing. Shakespeare dedicates The Rape of Lucrece to Southampton with claims of lavish affection: "The love I dedicate to your lordship is without end ... What I have done is yours; what I have to do is yours; being part in all I have, devoted yours." But Southampton apparently did not like the match, because in a November 1594 letter, written a few weeks after Southampton had turned 21, Henry Garnet reported the rumor that "The young Erle of Southampton refusing the Lady Veere payeth £5000 of present payment." Did the portrayal of the Fair Youth in the later sonnets darken to someone fickle and treacherous because Southampton backed out of an agreement to marry Oxford's daughter? Also, it bears noting that Southampton later fell out of favor with the crown, was involved in brawls and duels and gambling, and ended up marrying his pregnant mistress. He was eventually sentenced to death for treason in Essex's Rebellion of 1601, but had his sentence commuted to life due to the intervention of Robert Cecil, then was restored after Elizabeth's death. But for supporters of the queen, Southampton had lost his Adonis-like allure.

It bears noting that The Rape of Lucrece was based on a story told by Ovid in his Fasti, which would not be translated into English until 1640! The actor famously had "little Latin," so how did he read it? Oxford was fluent in Latin and had studied under England's foremost translator of Ovid, his uncle Arthur Golding.

1594: Formation of The Lord Chamberlain's Men (LCM). Several plays later identified as Shakespeare's are registered with the Stationers, and three of them are published anonymously. Titus Andronicus is the first published play attributed to WS.

1595: On March 15, between the names of William Kempe, leading actor of the LCM, and Richard Burbage, not yet a star actor, the name "Willm Shakespeare" appears in a Court document as payee for a Court performance on December 26. This is the first time the name WS will appear on any document that connects him to an acting company. Oxford is 45 and long since established as the owner of two acting companies.

1595: Oxford's daughter Elizabeth marries William Stanley, the sixth Earl of Derby, who has his own company of players. It is widely believed by scholars that, after a fabulous wedding feast in the presence of the whole court, the festivities are concluded with a performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream. In fact, it has been proposed that Shakespeare wrote the play for the wedding. That would make perfect sense, if the playwright happened to be the bride's father! It has been noted that many times in the plays the author displays a bias in favor of the houses of Vere and Stanley. Why did the author not memorialize the very successful King Edward IV? Perhaps because he executed two earls of Oxford?

1596: On August 20, WS obtains the coat-of-arms that had been denied his father in 1576. The design is a bird holding a spear, an obvious reference to the family name.

1596: William Wayte takes out a petition for a surety of the peace against "William Shakspere, Francis Langley, Dorothy Soer (Shore), and Anne Lee." Anne Lee could be how Oxford's inamorata, Ann Vavasour, was known following her alliance with Sir Henry Lee. Langley was the owner-manager of the Swan Theater. Wayte was a money-lender whose finger may have been stuck in the theater pie (Samuel Schoenbaum 146-7).

1596: In "Orchestra, or A Poem of Dancing" the poet Sir John Davies pays tribute to an unnamed major poet. There is a clue to the poet's identity in the word "spring" because in Latin ver means "spring." And Edward de Vere was a poet of rare ideas and strange inventions.

...whose swift Muse doth range
Through rare Ideas, and inventions strange,
And ever doth enjoy her joyful spring,
And sweeter then the Nightingale doth sing.

O that I might that singing Swallow hear
To whom I owe my service and my love,
His sugared tunes would so enchant mine ear,
And in my mind such sacred fury move,
AAs I should knock at heav'ns great gate above...

1597: Elizabeth de Vere, the Countess of Oxford, and her brother Francis Trentham purchase King's Place, a large manor house in Hackney. It has "a proper lybrayre to laye bokes in," suggesting a considerable library. This would be Oxford's primary residence until his death. There is no evidence that WS owned a single book.

1597: On November 14, "William Shackspere" is listed as a tax defaulter (5 shillings on goods worth £5), as assessed in February 1596 as a resident of St. Helen's parish (Samuel Schoenbaum 162).

1597: WS purchases New Place, the second-largest manor in Stratford.

1597: Three Shakespeare plays are published anonymously as performed by the LCM: the "bad quarto" of R&J and the "good quartos" of RII and RIII.

1597: The Merry Widows of Windsor is believed to have been written by 1597, perhaps earlier. In The Merry Widows of Windsor, Act I, scene 1, a bored Slender wishes he had his copy of Songes & Sonnets, a landmark book of English poetry also known as Tottel's Miscellany, whose headliner and first named poet was Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey. Was de Vere tipping his cap to his famous uncle?

In Wives the first words spoken (by Shallow) are: "Sir Hugh, persuade me not." The play's Hugh Evans, who speaks with a comic Welsh accent, is undoubtedly based on Oxford's theater manager, Henry Evans, a Welshman who taught the child actors of Paul's troupe until they merged with Oxford's Boys in 1583. After the troupes combined, I believe Evans worked for Oxford as the children's manager, although I'm not sure for how long. In Wives, it is Sir Hugh who rehearses the children for the Fairy masque that ends the play.

When Slender wonders where his riddle book is, the author may be telling us there are riddles to be found in the play. (E.T. Clark 524)

Oxfordians believe Slender is Sir Philip Sidney, who was slender physically, "slender" in the pocket, and Oxford's rival poet. The two famously (or infamously) had a tussle over a tennis court and had to be talked out of a duel. The unscrupulous Shallow is Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, whom Oxford may have believed poisoned his father and/or stole much of his inheritance. Master Ford, who lives in fear of being cuckolded, is the older Oxford, who has "ford" in his title. Ann Page is Oxford's first wife, Anne Cecil. (Does the missing "e" in Anne imply that she lacks truth, in Vere code?) Oxford was very worried about being cuckolded while he was traveling in Europe for an extended period of time. When he returned to England he refused to be in his wife's presence. Fenton is Oxford as a young suitor seeking the young Anne Cecil's hand. Keeping in mind that ver is the Latin root of our word vernal, or springlike, the play's host describes Fenton as: "He capers, he dances, he has eyes of youth, he writes verses, he speaks holiday, he smells April and May; he will carry 't, he will carry 't; 'tis in his buttons; he will carry 't.

In real life, Sidney and Oxford contended for Anne Cecil's hand in marriage. In the play, Slender's relatives offer land as security in order to offer Ann a dowry worth hundreds of pounds per annum. Several specific monetary sums in the play dovetail with actual numbers in the Sidney/Cecil negotiations for Anne's hand (Miller 2:172-176). In Act 1, scene 1 Slender says he will be poor "till my mother be dead." Surviving documents reveal that Sidney stood to inherit more if his mother died than if his father died (Miller 2: 172, 174).

Wives features a number of Vere jokes, including:

DR. CAIUS: "Oui; mette le au mon pocket: depeche, quickly. Vere is dat knave, Rugby?" (1:4)

(Rugby was a village "a football kick" from Bilton manor, a de Vere estate on the Avon River, so John Rugby could refer to Edward de Vere's father or some other ancestor of his.)

DR. CAIUS: "Vere is mine host de Jarteer?" (4:5)

DR. CAIUS: "Vere is Mistress Page" (5:5)

Wives also refers to a hound of the mythological hunter Actaeon named Ringwood, a name unique to the first English translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses. And that famous translation was created by Oxford's uncle and tutor, Arthur Golding. Also, Ringwood was the name of a forest close to Castle Hedingham, the ancestral home of the earls of Oxford.

Oxford seems to name himself at the end of the play when Falstaff is wearing antlers:

MRS. FORD. Sir John, we have had ill luck; we could never meet. I will never take you for my love again; but I will always count you my deer. FALSTAFF. I do begin to perceive that I am made an ass.
FORD. Ay, and an ox too; both the proofs are extant.

Here, Master Ford claims to be an ox as well as a Ford, hence Oxford.

1598: Palladis Tamia ("Wits Treasury") is published. In this overview of the important authors of the day, Francis Meres mentions "Edward, earle of Oxford," as "best among us for comedy." Is this because he was known to have written the comedies attributed to Shakespeare?

1598: The first public recognition of Shakespeare as a theater figure. Seven plays are published: three bear his name on their title pages, the others are anonymous.

1598: On October 6, 1598 "William Shakespeare" is again listed as a defaulter on £5 worth of goods in St. Helen's parish. Later that year a marginal note suggests that he moved to Bankside. This is a possible connection with the Stage, since Bankside is where the Rose Theater was located. However in 1598 the LCM were still playing in Shoreditch. The new Globe Theater would not be built until early 1600.

1598: The silent "e" in Vere and the EVER/NEVER puns seem to have been running jokes with a good number of poets in on the fun. In 1598, John Marston wrote of sage Mutius (the silent sage): "Far fly thy fame, / Most, most of me beloved! / Whose silent name / One letter bounds. / Thy true judicial style I EVER honour ..." Also in 1598, the poet Richard Barnfield wrote: "Shakespeare thou, whose honey-flowing vein / (pleasing the world) thy praises doth obtaine: / Live EVER you, at least in Fame live EVER: / Well may the Body die, but Fame dies NEVER."

1599: In his dedication to Oxford in Set of English Madrigals, the celebrated composer John Farmer writes: "Without flattrie be it spoke (those that know your Lordship know this) that using this science as a recreation, your Lordship hath overgone most of them that make it a profession." George Baker dedicates his Practice of the New and Old Physic to Oxford, acknowledging his "wit, learning and authority."

1599: On Feb, 1, a syndicate is formed by those involved in the building of the new Globe theater on Bankside, one part each going to the landowner, the Burbages, and five of the actor-sharers, one of whom is WS. (This is known only from mentions made in court depositions by the actors.)

1600: John Bodenham printed unattributed verses by various poets in Bel-védere. In his introduction, Bodenham explained that he had selected verses by Oxford and other courtiers "from divers essayes of their Poetrie; some extant among other Honourable personages writings." (Here "extant" means "published" or "existing so as to be publicly seen" per the OED). In other words, Bodenham had drawn verses by Oxford and other courtiers from books where they published under other names. This "dangerously candid admission" was removed from subsequent editions. Crawford (1910) attributed over 200 lines to Shakespeare in Bel-védere.

1601: Troilus and Cressida was written around 1601 according to the standard Shakespeare chronology. If the standard chronology is correct, this play was written toward the end of Oxford's life. I believe there is a big clue as to Oxford's authorship in the following passage, keeping in mind that his last name Vere means "truth" and thus makes him the poet of truth in his mind. I have bolded the clues as to his identity...

TROILUS:
O virtuous fight,
When right with right wars who shall be most right!
True swains in love shall in the world to come
Approve their truths by Troilus: when their rhymes,
Full of protest, of oath and big compare,
Want similes, truth tired with iteration,
As true as steel, as plantage to the moon,
As sun to day, as turtle to her mate,
As iron to adamant, as earth to the centre,
Yet, after all comparisons of truth,
As truth's authentic author to be cited,
'As true as Troilus' shall crown up the verse,
And sanctify the numbers.

CRESSIDA:
Prophet may you be!
If I be false, or swerve a hair from truth...

Oxford claims that the authentic author will be cited, then gives us his name in one of his favorite name puns, "verse." He also says the numbers will be sanctified, which could mean the numbers in the sense that poems are called "numbers" but may also mean that he has left clues in his poems and plays that are based on numbers. Cressida says he will be a prophet, which makes me think of my earlier discussion of "to be or not to be" resolving to "to be Vere." Cressida then encloses "Vere" in a negation of "swerve" and links it to "truth." Here, I believe Oxford is clearly telling us that the truth is that the authentic author is the poet of truth, Vere.

As Hank Wittemore observed, "Shakespeare was obsessed with truth" and used the word "truth" at least 309 times, "true" at least 766 times, and "truer" and "truest" and "truths" more than 30 times. That's well over a thousand usages of those five words. Oxford's motto was "Nothing truer than truth." And "truth is truth" appears three times in the plays: King John (act 1, scene 1), Love's Labour's Lost (act 4, scene 1) and Measure for Measure (act 5, scene 1) when Isabella says that "truth is truth to the end of reckoning."

Oxford used the exact same phrase — "truth is truth" — in a letter to Robert Cecil on May 7, 1603, in which he echoed Isabella, saying: "But I hope truth is subject to no prescription, for truth is truth though never so old, and time cannot make that false which was once true."

Were two poets ever more obsessed with truth, or were they one and the same poet?

1601: Love's Martyr, or, Rosalin's Complaint was a poetical allegory by Robert Chester about Queen Elizabeth and the succession to her throne. The queen, supposedly childless, was in her late sixties yet adamantly refused to name her successor. Chester used the Phoenix—a symbol of Elizabeth employed throughout her reign—to suggest a solution to the succession dilemma. According to Chester a prince had been produced by the Phoenix mating with a Turtle-Dove. After the allegory there was a second section in which Shakespeare (or Oxford) had two poems. In one poem the author called the Turtle-Dove the "Truth" (and Vere/Veritas means "truth"). Was de Vere claiming that his father had sired a son on the queen? The author called the Phoenix "Beauty" and "Beauty's Rose" — terms multiple writers had used for the Elizabeth. And the author used the same terms in his first two sonnets, in which he was encouraging the Fair Youth to marry and have children. Thus there is reason to believe that it was known that Elizabeth had a son, that the son was the Fair Youth of the sonnets, and that the author was trying to persuade the Fair Youth to marry Oxford's daughter! To further support this narrative, everyone's favorite candidate for the Fair Youth, Henry Wriothesley, would attempt a coup of sorts...

1601: Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex and Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, attempt a coup to force the queen to fire her Secretary of State, Robert Cecil. As part of the rebellion the Lord Chamberlain's Men are commissioned by Southampton to play Richard II, which depicts the deposition of an English monarch. The rebellion fails, Robert Devereux is executed, and Henry Wriothesley spends several years imprisoned in the Tower of London. Oxford was a known supporter of Wriothesley and seems to have been out of favor after the failed coup. For instance, there were no more dedications of books to him.

1602: Oxfords' acting company and Worcester's combine forces and take up residence at the Boar's Head Tavern.

1603: The death of Queen Elizabeth and ascension of James I, who, while renewing Oxford's crown annuity of £1,000 describes him as the "Great Oxford." As Tom Bethell observed: "Almost alone among Elizabethan poets, Shakespeare wrote no eulogy on the death of the Queen, in 1603."

1603: On May 17-19, King James I elevates the LCM to the status of the King's Men (KM). In the patent, first place is given to a Scottish actor, Lawrence Fletcher, and "William Shakespeare" is the second name, followed by Burbage, Phillips, Hemmings, and Condell.

1603: Hamlet is published as a work by WS.

1603: Henry Wriothesley is released from the Tower of London

1604: King James I grants Oxford custody of the forest of Essex and the Keepership of Havering and reappoints him to the Privy Council.

1604: On March 16, an order of red cloth for King James's coronation shows Shakespeare's name heading the list.

1604: Augustine Phillips, one of the original sharers, dies, leaving 30 shillings in gold each to his "fellows" WS and Henry Condell.

1604: The actor/businessman William Shakspere lodges with the Mountjoys, the last indication of him living in London.

1604: On June 24, Oxford dies (rather ironically, in the London suburb of Stratford). The annual publication of "new" and "corrected" Shakespeare plays ended in 1604. As J. Thomas Looney noted, there was "nothing more published with any appearance of proper authorization for nearly 20 years." Plays released after 1604 could have been written previously and/or finished by other playwrights, explaining known collaborations. Traditional biographies conjecture that WS's acting career ends in 1604, when he returns home to Stratford. Did he return to Stratford because he had lost his patron and source of new scripts?

The King's Men, formerly the Lord Chamberlain's Men, having gone without problems since 1594, suddenly encounter trouble with the authorities.

Scholars generally agree the sonnets were completed by 1604, or could have been completed by 1604, since no references to later events have been found in them. Mere coincidence?

W. Ron Hess has identified sonnets that can be reasonably dated by citations of historical events, but all are comfortably prior to 1604:

1583 for #130 which apparently parodies part of Thomas Watson's 1582 Hekatompathia (dedicated to the Earl of Oxford) and a poetry exchange between Oxford and Sir Philip Sidney (died 1586);

1586-89 for #112 based on the re-erecting in Rome by Pope Sixtus V of obelisks (called "pyramids" in Elizabethan poetry) found buried in the ruins of the ancient forum;

1589 for #107 based on the "crescent-shaped" battle formation of the 1588 Armada and many predictions going back for decades that 1588 was supposed to usher-in the end of the world, or at least the fall of empires;

1589 for #113 based on the assassination of King Henri III of France by a fanatical monk, with Henri having been the favorite son of the infamous Catherine de Medici (i.e., he had been a "child of state").

But what about the plays that were first performed after 1604? If WS retired in 1604 the same question applies to both Oxford and WS. But of course the plays could have been written prior to Oxford's death and/or WS's retirement. Is there even a problem?

Tom Bethell in "The Case for Oxford" opines: "Leaving The Tempest aside for a moment, the nine remaining post-1604 plays are amenable to earlier dating without contradicting any known facts." Bethell continues: "The conventional dating of many of the supposedly post-1604 plays is more a matter of giving breathing space to Stratfordian chronology than of letting the facts speak for themselves. In addition, one or two conventional scholars date King Lear before 1604; Pericles and Henry VIII were certainly worked on by another hand; and there is nothing in the remainder—Macbeth, Timon of Athens, Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, Cymbeline, and The Winter's Tale—that requires a post-1604 date. I believe that the latest source material undeniably used by Shakespeare is John Florio's 1603 translation of Montaigne's essay "Of the Cannibals," which reappears in much the same words in Act II of The Tempest. Stratfordians have always insisted that this is a late play, and Oxfordians are happy to agree with them."

Bethell concludes that "Orthodox research into Shakespeare's sources barely conflicts with this analysis," mentioning that "The entire eight volumes of Geoffrey Bullough's Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare contain only one source that is dated after 1604 and deemed a certain, rather than possible or probable, source." That is William Strachey's account of a 1609 shipwreck in Bermuda. However, if "Bermoothes" refers to Bermuda, there is an account of a 1593 shipwreck in Bermuda in Hakluyt's Principal Navigations (1598-1600). Furthermore, Oxford had invested in and possibly even owned, considering its name, the Edward Bonaventure, one of the ships involved in that wreck. Thus he would have been painfully aware of that particular shipwreck.

I see at least three possibilities that would allow Oxford to be the "real Shakespeare" despite dying in 1604: (1) the plays thought to have been written after 1604 were substantially written earlier; (2) plays written prior to 1604 could have been selectively "updated" by third parties; (3) if there was a ghostwriter he/she could have continued ghostwriting. Hopefully stylometry can help in this regard as the technology improves.

1604-?: Although Oxford was buried at St Augustine's church (later renamed St John's), according to his cousin Percival Golding, Oxford ended up where he rightfully belonged, in Westminster Abbey, along with Chaucer and other literary greats. Does the real Shakespeare thus rest with Chaucer at the fabled Poet's Corner, after all?

1604-05: During the Christmas season of 1604-05, the Court of King James holds an unprecedented festival of seven Shakespeare plays celebrating the marriage of Oxford's daughter Susan de Vere to Philip Herbert. The wedding took place on December 27, with Measure for Measure performed the day before and The Comedy of Errors the day after. Were the plays a tribute to the bride's father? It certainly looks that way. The plays were attributed to "Shaxberd." Is the "x" a clue?

1605: In January 1605, Henry Wriothesley entertained Queen Anne with a performance of Love's Labour's Lost by Shakespeare's company at Southampton House.

1607: William Barksted said of Shakespeare in 1607, "His was worthy merit." WS had nine years to live.

1608: A syndicate of members of the KM leases the Blackfriars theater. Shakespeare's name is included. His share in this enterprise is even more profitable than the Globe, but in both cases there is no indication that he ever sold or willed his shares to anyone, so the question arises as to whether he actually received the shares. Could he have been fronting for someone else, perhaps?

1608: The sale of Oxford's last home, King's Place, Hackney in 1608 by his widow, is cited by Oxfordians as a possible reason that several Shakespearean works, existing only in manuscript, suddenly appeared in print for the first time four years after Oxford's death. For example, King Lear  was published in a quarto edition 'by William Shak-speare' in 1608. King Lear tells the story of a widower who ostracizes himself by alienating his ancient patrimony to his three daughters, precisely as Oxford did Castle Hedingham to his three daughters after his first wife's death in 1588. 

1609: The publication of SHAKE-SPEARE'S SONNETS, with no first name on the title page and, as with Venus and Adonis, nothing where the author's name would normally be. It seems clear that by this time WS is living full-time in Stratford, which he may have done all along, since there no evidence that he ever lived permanently in London. Nothing other than the title connects these poems with WS, with his life, or with anyone for whom the sonnets were written. On the dedication page the author is called "our ever-living poet." Calling someone "ever-living" suggests the person is no longer walking the earth. Oxford was dead and the actor remained alive until 1616.

Samuel Schoenbaum observed that "The numerous misprints indicate that the poet who took such pains with Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece had no part in supervising the printing of his most important body of non-dramatic verse." Schoenbaum (a staunch Stratfordian) also confessed his "despair of ever bridging the vertiginous expanse between the sublimity of the subject and the mundane inconsequence of the documentary record" (Shakespeare's Lives, 1991, p. 568).

Troilus and Cressida was published in quarto in 1609, with the last few scenes possibly "by another hand," according to the New Cambridge editors. The first edition included a strange preface—dropped from a second edition published later that year—with the headline "A never writer to an ever reader. News." Oxfordians believe "ever" is an anagram of "Vere."

1613: On March 10, "Wm. Shakspere" signs an indenture conveying to him and two others an old building known as the Blackfriars Gatehouse, formerly the entrance to the old Blackfriars monastery, located on the opposite side of the Liberty from the theater building. The only connection with the KM is the fact that John Hemmings is one of three who act as trustees for the deal, an elaborate arrangement that guaranteed that whatever benefits WS received while alive would shift to the trustees at his death and not be passed on to his family (Samuel Schoenbaum 223).

1616: In the first folio of his collected works, Ben Jonson puts "William Shakespeare" first in a list of the "principal comedians." But Oxford had been called first for comedy. Did Jonson know the real Shakespeare's identity, with "principal comedian" being cheeky tongue-in-cheek? Or was Jonson referring to WS strictly as an actor?

1616: On March 25, William "Shackspeare" signs his will with the sixth of the shaky signatures that remain the only evidence of his ability to wield a pen. Three members of the KM (John Hemmings, Richard Burbage and Henry Condell) are left 28 shillings and 8 pence each. "Shackspeare" dies on April 23, 1616 and two days later is buried under a stone slab on the floor of the Stratford church. The death of "Shackspeare" seemed to go unnoticed, not only in literary circles, but even in Stratford. His will mentioned the dispersion of a bowl, plates, and even his second-best bed, but not a word about his literary estate, stock in valuable theater companies, or even a single book, play or poem. It seems like the will of a businessman, not a great poet and playwright. After seven years had passed, people like Ben Jonson began to praise the author of the celebrated poems and plays. But the identity of the author himself remains murky ... is that, perhaps, because Oxford always chose to play things close to the vest?

As the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship website notes: "At least ten eyewitnesses who knew Shakspere or his family, and who left behind significant writings, never mentioned he was a writer. Shakspere's son-in-law, Dr. John Hall, kept a journal in which he wrote of the 'excellent poet' and Warwickshire native Michael Drayton. But Hall, among at least ten eyewitnesses with personal knowledge of Shakspere or his family, and who left behind significant writings, never mentioned that Shakspere himself was a writer (much less the greatest of the age). There's no evidence that Shakspere or any member of his family, even decades after he died, ever claimed he was the author of the works of 'Shakespeare' — or had any literary career at all! People often cite Ben Jonson, whose actual relationship with Shakspere is unclear. But there's no record of Jonson ever suggesting Shakspere was a writer during Shakspere's lifetime — nor in 1616 after he died, when Jonson published a folio with epigrams addressed to half a dozen writers and to actor Edward Alleyn. Jonson merely listed "Shakespeare" twice (hyphenated once) as a cast member in Jonson's plays."

1622: Henry Peacham in The Complete Gentleman lists Oxford first among the poets of the Elizabethan period. That may have had something to do with Oxford's rank among nobles who wrote poetry. But it's such a short list that one cannot be sure and non-nobles were included in the short list, making mere inclusion seem like a very high honor indeed. Peachem wrote: "In the time of our late Queene Elizabeth, which was truly a golden Age (for such a world of refined wits, and excellent spirits it produced, whose like are hardly to be hoped for, in any succeeding Age) above others, who honored Poesie with their pens and practice (to omit her Majesty, who had a singular gift herein) were Edward, Earl of Oxford, the Lord Buckhurst, Henry Lord Paget; our Phoenix, the noble Sir Philip Sidney, M. Edward Dyer, M. Edmund Spencer, M. Samuel Daniel, with sundry others; whom (together with those admirable wits, yet living, and so well known), not out of Envy, but to avoid tediousness I overpass. Thus much of Poetry." (95-96) It has been suggested by Stratfordians that Peachem was not a poetry reader and merely cribbed a prior ranking by George Puttenham, but Puttenham didn't mention Samuel Daniel so perhaps Peachem did read poetry after all. Also, Puttenham listed Buckhurst as "Thomas Lord Buckhurst" and included Sir Walter Raleigh and other prominent men, so it doesn't seem Peachem was blindly copying Puttenham or going solely by rank.

1623: In August, Anne Hathaway Shakspere dies and is buried near her husband in Trinity Church.

1623: On Nov. 8, the Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies of WS are entered with the Stationers and published shortly before or after. KM actors and sharers Hemmings and Condell are presented as the publishers, the Earls of Pembroke and Montgomery as the dedicatees. Bridget de Vere was to have married William Herbert, the third Earl of Pembroke, but when Herbert could not receive the dowry immediately he called the wedding off. Susan de Vere was married to William Herbert's brother Philip, the first Earl of Montgomery. Were Oxford's daughters involved in the publication behind the scenes, while honoring their father's wish not to named as the author? The first page of the folio has an inscription by Ben Jonson with the curious remark that the reader must "look not on his picture, but his book." Adjacent to this inscription is the famous Droeshout engraving. Was Jonson telling us that the picture was not of the real author, but that there were clues to his identity within the book? The dedication says: "Thou art a monument without a tomb." WS's burial location is known and his grave marked. Edward de Vere's burial location is unknown, making him "without a tomb."

These are apparently the only documented uses of the name William Shakespeare that connect William of Stratford in any way (and some very minor) with the London theater. Apart from the Meres book, every mention of the name stems from a connection to the LCM and/or KM. Was the WS name used as a front for someone else? Why did the actor mention his pots, pans and furniture in his will, but not his much more valuable books, writings and shares in valuable companies?

The first suggestions linking Shakespeare to Stratford-on-Avon were published seven years after WS's death, in the 1623 First Folio.

The First Folio's letter to readers says the author was "by death" deprived of the chance "to have set forth, and overseen his own writings." But of course WS lived in retirement until 1616 and had plenty of time to oversee his writings, if they were his.

Why All the Secrecy?

We can understand why the identity of the real Shakespeare would be veiled, if Oxford or some other prominent noble was the author, but why would the actor produce cryptic comments, since his name was on the works beginning with Venus and Adonis? As the De Vere Society points out on its website:
There can be no doubt that an official secrecy surrounded the identity of the author publishing under the name 'William Shakespeare'. While modern Stratfordian scholars freely admit that 16th and early 17th century allusions to the playwright are almost all 'cryptic' (i.e. hidden or secret) they remain at a loss to explain what it was about Shakespeare that was prohibited from overt expression by his contemporaries, and consequently regard contemporary allusions to Shakespeare as worthless, at least from a biographical point of view. By contrast, Oxfordian scholars are able to show how contemporary allusions to Shakespeare are cryptic precisely because they contain, just beneath their surface meaning, a rich source of forbidden information pertaining to Shakespeare's true identity. Multiple video presentations linked to this website demonstrate how early witnesses such as Ben Jonson, John Warren, Henry Peacham, William Covell, John Weever, Thomas Porter, Thomas Edwards, William Basse, John Davenant, Richard Brome, John Cooke, Francis Meres, John Dee, Thomas Bancroft, William Marshall, John Gerarde, Abraham Holland, Sir John Suckling, Anthony Van Dyck and many others, all used ingenious and elaborate literary tricks to preserve the truth of Oxford's authorship in their statements about William Shakespeare.
Then there is the nature of many of the cryptic remarks: puns on "ever" and "never," nicknames like Apis Lapis (the stoned/castrated ox), etc. Such wordplay was the hallmark of the University Wits and Euphemists who flocked after Oxford.

Delving into the Details: Parallels and Synchronicities

It has been proposed by Oxfordians that Hamlet is autobiographical: Queen Gertrude (meaning "spear maiden") is Queen Elizabeth; Claudius (meaning "lame") is Robert Dudley; Polonius (meaning "of Poland" or Pollack) is the "busybody meddlesome spymaster" William Cecil; Ophelia (meaning "love" as in the Greek phileo and/or "help/succor/a source of gain" and perhaps even punning on "oh, feel ya!") is William Cecil's daughter and Oxfords wife, Anne Cecil; Laertes (meaning "Avenger") is her brother Robert Cecil; Hamlet (meaning a small village without a church, and thus suggesting an atheist or skeptic; but also being the diminutive of "ham," a term for an overactive actor) is Edward de Vere himself. Horatio was Hamlet's best friend; Horatio Vere was Oxford's best friend. And so on.

Henry James: "I am ... haunted by the conviction that the divine William is the biggest and most successful fraud ever practiced on a patient world."

Walt Whitman: "Conceived out of the fullest heat and pulse of European feudalism, personifying in unparalleled ways the medieval aristocracy, its towering spirit of ruthless and gigantic caste, its own peculiar air and arrogance (no mere imitation) one of the wolfish earls so plenteous in the plays themselves, or some born descendent and knower, might seem to be the true author of those amazing works ... I am firm against Shaksper. I mean the Avon man, the actor."

Charlie Chaplin: "In the work of the greatest geniuses, humble beginnings will reveal themselves somewhere but one cannot trace the slightest sign of them in Shakespeare… Whoever wrote [Shakespeare] had an aristocratic attitude."

Mark Twain: "We are The Reasoning Race, and when we find a vague file of chipmunk tracks stringing through the dust of Stratford village, we know by our reasoning powers that Hercules has been along there. I feel that our fetish is safe for three centuries yet."

Mark Twain: "Shall I set down the rest of the Conjectures which constitute the giant Biography of William Shakespeare? It would strain the Unabridged Dictionary to hold them. He is a Brontosaur: nine bones and six hundred barrels of plaster of paris … Am I trying to convince anybody that Shaksper did not write Shakespeare's Works? Ah now, what do you take me for?"

Sigmund Freud: "I no longer believe that William Shakespeare, the actor from Stratford, was the author of the works which have so long been attributed to him. Since the publication of …
Shakespeare Identified, I am almost convinced that in fact Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford is concealed behind this pseudonym."

Ralph Waldo Emerson: "The Egyptian verdict of the Shakespeare Societies comes to mind, that he was a jovial actor and manager. I cannot marry this fact to his verse."

Emerson also said that he could not "marry" the actor's life to Shakespeare's work: "Other admirable men have led lives in some sort of keeping with their thought, but this man in wide contrast."

Charles Dickens: "It is a great comfort, to my way of thinking, that so little is known concerning the poet. The life of Shakespeare is a fine mystery, and I tremble every day lest something should turn up."

While it is not clear in Dickens' letter to William Sandys dated June 13th, 1847 that Dickens was an anti-Stratfordian, he did bring up John Payne Collier (1789-1883), a Shakespearean critic accused of numerous forgeries. Dickens could have been expressing doubt about who wrote the poems and plays attributed to Shakespeare, or he could have been laughing the debate off.

Here are a number of interesting "synchronicities" between the writer we think of as William Shakespeare and Edward de Vere:

• Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey and Oxford's uncle, was the first cousin of Anne Boleyn; like her he lost favor with Henry VIII and eventually lost his head. Such a family history—having one's relatives beheaded—might explain why Oxford chose to protect his identity, if that's what he did.

• Mark Anderson, author of Shakespeare By Another Name, points out: "Take a map of Italy and take out ten pushpins. And you put these pushpins in the following ten cities: Venice, Padua, Milan, Genoa, Palermo, Florence, Sienna, Naples, Verona and Messina. That's essentially Shakespeare's Italy right there." Thus Shakespeare's Italy is Edward de Vere's Italy. From the Verona of Romeo and Juliet to The Merchant of Venice, half of Shakespeare's comedies and tragedies are set in Italy. It's a place where Will Shakspere apparently never went but where de Vere traveled extensively. According to Anderson: "Venice in particular is portrayed in The Merchant of Venice and Othello with such exquisite detail that it could only come from someone who knows that city from firsthand experience ... there's a character in The Merchant of Venice who presents this dish of baked doves ... it's just bizarre. Well, it turns out that in Venice at that time a dish of baked doves was actually an honorific gift that you gave to someone as a token of your respect."

• The actor was a commoner, de Vere a courtier who was, at one time, the Queen's favorite and possibly first in line to be her heir (see references to the Treason Act herein). Reading Sonnet 151, please keep in mind that Edmund Spenser in Mother Hubbard's Tale wrote: "Save that which common is, and known to all, / That Courtiers as the tide do rise and fall."

Sonnet 151

... For thou betraying me, I do betray
My nobler parts to my gross body's treason;
My soul doth tell my body that he may
Triumph in love; flesh stays no farther reason,
But rising at thy name doth point out thee,
As his triumphant prize; proud of this pride,
He is contented thy poor drudge to be,
To stand in thy affairs, fall by thy side.
No want of conscience hold it that I call
Her "love," for whose dear love I rise and fall.

It is clear from his letters that Oxford felt betrayed by the queen. Is the Dark Lady of the sonnets Elizabeth I?

• In 1576, Oxford stopped signing his poems. Was attaching his name becoming too dangerous, perhaps? Charles Beauclerk, a descendent and student of de Vere, has said that it would have been dangerous for Oxford to put his name on the plays because they contained exposes of some of the court's "most powerful, ruthless, and deadly people." While sailing back to England, Oxford was attacked and held by pirates, then released unharmed: another parallel to Hamlet? The French ambassador reported that Oxford was "left naked, stripped to his shirt, treated miserably." Hamlet wrote to King Claudius: "High and Mighty, you shall know I am set naked on your kingdom." Was the use of "naked" merely coincidental?

These following parallels were mentioned in the Timeline and can be skipped if they seem repetitive. For those who prefer to skip this recap, the next section is Comparisons of Edward de Vere to William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon. However, the recap is a condensed version of the Timeline for parallels, for those who didn't read the entire Timeline or don't mind a "refresher."

• In 1564 and 1566, Oxford received Master of Art degrees from Oxford and Cambridge. Queen Elizabeth attended his graduation ceremonies; there were rumors that he was her son by Thomas Seymour. In 1567, Oxford studied law at Gray's Inn. Meanwhile, little Will Shakspere of Stratford was a toddler, the child of apparently illiterate parents who signed documents with marks. (I will note that it has been disputed whether John Shakespeare was illiterate, but I am unaware of any evidence that he was literate.) On the other hand, Oxford's father was the Lord Chamberlain of England, owned an acting company called Oxford's men, and hobnobbed with literary elites like Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey, and translator Arthur Golding, who would become his son's Latin tutor.

• 1567, Oxford's uncle and tutor Arthur Golding publishes his famous translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses, a major source for Shakespeare. Ovid's Metamorphoses have been recognized as one of Shakespeare's most influential sources, second only to the Bible, and these translations were made while Oxford and Golding were living together in the same household.

"Ovid, the love of Shakespeare's life among Latin poets, made an overwhelming impression upon him, which he carried with him all his days: subjects, themes, characters and phrases haunted his imagination. The bulk of his classical mythology came from the Metamorphoses, which he used in the original as well as in Golding's translation." –– A.L. Rowse, Shakespeare, The Man

• In 1571, Parliament passed an Act of Treason in which heirs to the throne were redefined from "laufully begotten" to "the naturall yssue of her Ma'j body." There was no need for such language unless Elizabeth had illegitimate children. If at age 38 she had stopped menstruating or had firmly decided not to marry, such an act would have been vitally important if she had illegitimate children and was considering making one of them her legal heir.

• Gilbert Talbot wrote a letter on May 11, 1573 from the Elizabethan royal court to his father, the Earl of Shrewsbury, in which he noted that Edward de Vere, then 23, had "lately grown into great credit, for the Queen's Majesty delighteth more in his personage and his dancing and his valiantness than any other. If it were not for his fickle head he would pass any of them shortly." Talbot proved prophetic about that "fickle head" because nine or ten days later, on May 20-21, Oxford and three of his servants carried out an elaborate prank by robbing of two of Oxford's former employees, William Faunt and John Wotton. The robbery took place at Gad's Hill, on the highway between Rochester and Gravesend. Faunt and Wotton were engaged in state business for Oxford's father-in-law, Lord Treasurer Burghley, and were carrying tax money intended for the Exchequer. This suggests Act II of Henry IV Part 1, in which Falstaff and three of Price Hal's companions rob travelers carrying the King's taxes on the very same road. There is even a roguish character named Gadshill in the play, with his name being, perhaps, a pun on the location of the robbery, "gadfly" and "shill." The author certainly loved his wordplay.

• In 1575, Oxford traveled widely on the continent, visiting parts of Italy that would later appear in plays attributed to Shakespeare, with which he seemed to be intimately familiar. But there is no evidence that Will Shakspere ever left England. When Oxford was in Venice, he borrowed 500 crowns from a Baptista Nigrone. When in Padua, he borrowed money from a Pasquino Spinola. In Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, Kate's father is described as a man "rich in crowns." Where does this character in Shakespeare's play live? Padua. What is his name? Baptista Minola—a conflation of Baptista Nigrone and Pasquino Spinola.

• In 1578, Oxford was praised by Cambridge scholar Gabriel Harvey as a hero whose "countenance shakes speares." Harvey may have been punning on spheres and spears, because in addition to being a sphere-shaking poet, Oxford was also a knight and champion jouster who won three tournaments during Elizabeth's reign. Harvey called him the English Achilles. So his spear shook people, literally. At the time Will Shakspere was fourteen. Is it possible that the "real" Shakespeare, who loved puns, met the young actor and chose him as a front man because his last name synchronized with his sobriquet?

• In 1579, Edmund Spenser in The Shepeards Calender parodied "Willie" and "Perigot," believed to be Oxford and Sir Philip Sidney, respectively. Spenser had "Willie" saying things like "Hey, ho, holiday!" that sound very much like Shakespeare's "Hey, ho, the wind and the rain." Oxford was a leading poet of his day, Will Shakspere an unknown rural schoolboy, if he had any schooling. The incident that inspired Spenser's parody was probably a tennis match between Oxford and Sidney that nearly ended in a duel after Oxford called Sidney a "puppy." Queen Elizabeth interceded to prevent things from escalating, as reported by Sidney's friend Fulke Greville.

• In 1580, a letter dated June 21 from Dr. John Hatcher of Cambridge University to Burghley confirms that Oxford's players were performing for the queen and competing with Leicester's players: 'Reasons why the Heads of the University object to the Earl of Oxford's players shewing their cunninge in certayne playes already practiced by them before the Queen's Majesty the like having been denyed to the Earl of Leicester's servants." Oxford had recently taken control of the Earl of Warwick's players. Oxford is praised by Gabriel Harvey as "peerless in England" and as an unrivaled "discourser for tongue." Like Hamlet, Oxford was a royal ward who brought plays and players to court. Will Shakspere was sixteen at the time. His earliest plays, if they were written by him, did not start turning up in London Stationers' Register until 1594, well over a decade later.

• Oxford, like Hamlet, was royal ward who brought plays and companies of players to the Royal Court. In 1583, Oxford acquired the sublease of the Blackfriars Playhouse. His children's group, known as Oxford's Boys, joined up with the Paul's Boys to form a composite acting company. Oxford then transferred the lease of Blackfriars to his private secretary, John Lyly, who became its manager, and Lyly's plays were performed for Queen Elizabeth. Even earlier, Oxford's Boys had performed Agamemnon and Ulysses for the queen.

• In 1589, in The Arte of English Poesie, possibly by George Puttenham but published anonymously, Oxford is singled out for special praise: "And in her Majesties time that now is are sprong up an other crew of Courtly makers Noble men and Gentlemen of her Majesties owne servantes, who have written excellently well as it would appeare if their doings could be found out and made publicke with the rest, of which number is first that noble Gentleman Edward Earle of Oxford." Thus we see how unthinkable it would have been at the time for a Elizabethan nobleman to go "public."

• In 1616, William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon died. His death seemed to go unnoticed, not only in literary circles, but even in Stratford. His will mentioned the dispersion of a bowl, plates, and even his second-best bed, but not a word about his literary estate, or even a single book, play or poem. It seems like the will of a businessman, not a great poet and playwright. After seven years had passed, people like Ben Jonson began to praise the author of the celebrated poems and plays. But the identity of the author himself remains murky ... is that, perhaps, because Oxford always chose to play things close to the vest?

• While the argument has been made that some plays attributed to Shakespeare appeared after de Vere's death, that doesn't prove anything, since de Vere could have written them previously, or he could have employed a ghostwriter of considerable genius who survived him. And we know Shakespeare collaborated with other playwrights from time to time, so the plays in question could have been finished by other writers if they were unfinished when de Vere died, if de Vere was the real Shakespeare.


Comparisons of Edward de Vere to William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon:


• William Shakspere had no discernible reason to spend the first seventeen of his famous sonnets urging the Fair Young Lord to marry and have children.
• But if the Fair Young Lord was Henry Wriothesley, the third Earl of Southampton, the marriage being proposed was to Edward de Vere's eldest daughter, Elizabeth, and the children being discussed would have been his future grandchildren. And perhaps the number seventeen is no accident, since Southampton was seventeen at the time. Shakespeare eternally connected his name to Southampton by publicly dedicating not only two of his major poems to him, but also his love and affection. Southampton and Oxford were both royal wards raised and educated by William Cecil in Cecil House. Southampton was encouraged by Cecil to marry Oxford's daughter. While it makes little sense for an uninvolved commoner, William Shakspere, to put pressure on a young royal to marry and have children, it makes quite a bit of sense for a father who wants the best possible match for his daughter to present a strong case ... even more so if he really loved and admired the potential bridegroom.

• We have no letters written by William Shakspere to his literary colleagues, or to anyone else for that matter. That seems quite unusual when we are discussing one of the most literate men who ever lived.
• Seventy-seven of Edward de Vere's letters survive him.

• No writer of the Elizabethan age dedicated anything to William Shakspere during his lifetime.
• We know of 33 works that were dedicated to de Vere. Authors dedicating works to him include Edmund Spenser, Arthur Golding, Robert Greene, John Hester, John Brooke, John Lyly, Anthony Munday, and Thomas Churchyard.

• William Shakspere was born to illiterate parents who signed their names with marks, in a rural backwater village that was nearly barren of books.
Edward de Vere was born to a mother with highly regarded literary connections and a father with an acting company, the Earl of Oxford's Men, which he inherited. De Vere's father was also an important patron of the theater; one of his beneficiaries was John Bale, an early writer of history plays, the genre in which Shakespeare is generally considered to have launched his career as a playwright.

• As Mark Twain pointed out in his essay "Is Shakespeare Dead?" there is no evidence that William Shakspere ever owned a single book. In his will, written shortly before his death in 1616, he dictated the inheritance of his plates, a bowl, and even his second-best bed. But there is no mention of his literary works, his library, or even a single book, play or poem. Not one of his immortal compositions was more important to him than the disposition of his second-best bed ... that strikes me as very odd, if he wrote the poems and plays that bear his name today.
Edward de Vere lived and was tutored in Cecil House, which contained one of the finest libraries in Europe.

• If William Shakspere received an education, it was a rural elementary education.
• Edward de Vere attended Queen's College, Cambridge, and was awarded Master of Arts degrees by Oxford and Cambridge universities. He also studied law at Gray's Inn.


William Shakspere's father John Shakspere was a glover (a maker of gloves).
• Edward de Vere's ancestors included poets. As a matter of fact, the poetic form now known as the "Shakespearean sonnet" was actually invented by de Vere's famous uncle: Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey. Joseph Sobran and J. Thomas Looney have noted similarities in form between de Vere's work and Shakespeare's.

When John Shakspere applied for a coat of arms in 1570, his request was denied.
• Edward de Vere was the seventeenth Earl of Oxford, and being Lord Great Chamberlain was one of the six great officers of state in England.

• William Shakspere was buried without a gravestone.
• Edward de Vere was a favorite at court, especially in his younger years.

• Ben Jonson said that Shakespeare had "small Latin" and "less Greek."
• For all his advanced learning, Edward de Vere made mistakes in Latin and may have been an indifferent scholar of Latin.

• As Mark Twain pointed out, it is unlikely that the rural commoner William Shakspere would have known the ways of royals, politicians, courts and lawyers.
• Shakespeare's intimate knowledge of statecraft, politics and law has long amazed scholars. He has been called his age's "best tutor on the inside workings of political power." Edward de Vere was a ward of England's chief politician and statesman, William Cecil, and was raised in Cecil House, one of the most political houses in England. After earning master degrees from Cambridge and Oxford, and having studied law, he served on the Privy Council under King James.

• As Mark Twain also pointed out, it seems unlikely that William Shakspere would have had in-depth knowledge of marine and military affairs which Twain described as "extraordinary."
• De Vere, however, was given military commands in 1585 in Holland and in 1588 during the Spanish Armada.

Edward de Vere's personal copy of the Geneva Bible contains marginalia and other annotations that correspond to passages found in the works of Shakespeare. It has been noted that "The more often a Biblical passage is referenced in Shakespeare's works, the more likely it is to have been marked in Oxford's Geneva Bible." And the Geneva Bible was the Bible of the Protestant Reformation and the anti-catholic Church of England. It was vilified and rejected by the Roman Catholic Church.
• William Shakspere's mother came from a "conspicuously Catholic" family. Archdeacon Richard Davies, a 17th century Anglican cleric, wrote that Shakespeare "dyed a Papyst." But in any case, there is no evidence that Shakespeare owned any Bible, whether Protestant or Catholic, or any other books. Bibles were rare and expensive in those days, and the will of Will Shakspere does not mention a single book.

Shakespeare's history plays cast a very favorable light on the de Veres and Stanleys.
• Why would someone not related to the de Veres and Stanleys go out of his way to make them look good? (Well, perhaps for patronage.)

• In The Merchant of Venice, the merchant Antonio borrows 3,000 ducats from Shylock, the moneylender. Oxford borrowed 3,000 pounds from a moneylender named Michael Lock (also spelled Lok and Locke) to finance the third voyage of Martin Frobisher to seek a northwest passage to India. The character Shylock resembles Gaspar Ribeiro, a Venetian Jew who was sued for making a usurious 3,000-ducat loan. Ribeiro lived in the same Venice parish where Oxford attended church.
• We can easily see how such things could appear in plays based on the real-life experiences of Oxford. How William Shakspere would have known of such things is much more difficult to explain.

• Composer John Farmer in his dedication to Oxford of The First Set of English Madrigals says "that using this science [music] as a recreation your Lordship have overgone most of them that make it a profession." The musical substratum of the plays is well known to scholars. It seems obvious that the author of the plays and their songs was a trained and skilled musician.
• The will of Will Shakspere mentions no musical instruments. Does a musician care more about his pots than his instruments, or a writer more about his pans than his books?


• Phillip Henslowe, who kept records of the Elizabethan theatre in his diaries, made no mention of William Shakspere.
• Edward de Vere owned the lease to the Blackfriars' Theatre and was an acknowledged poet, playwright, patron and producer. He wrote plays of such quality as to be cited by Francis Meres (Palladis Tamia, 1598) as "the best among us for comedy." He won accolades from other highly-regarded poets of his day, including Edmund Spenser and George Chapman. Both William Webbe (A Discourse of English Poetrie, 1586) and George Puttenham (The Arte of English Poetrie, 1589) ranked him first among Elizabeth's courtier poets. Later, Henry Peacham (The Complete Gentleman, 1622) ranked de Vere first among the poets of the Elizabethan period. But according to Puttenham, he was known as a courtier who concealed the authorship of the works he wrote, which may explain why his name was not affixed to the works of Shakespeare, if he wrote them.

In his book The Search for an Eternal Norm, Professor Louis J. Halle concludes his careful analysis of Hamlet's character by saying: "On the internal evidence of the plays and poems as a whole, and of Hamlet in particular, I should then arrive at the conclusion that they had been written by someone who was so high of birth as to be a member of the royal entourage; a man profoundly maladjusted and in rebellion against the requirements of his birth and station … a man who consequently had sought, on occasion, the kind of escape that Prince Hal found in the company of Eastcheap, who found his greatest relief in the composition of the poems and plays, and who consorted with acting companies in connection with the double life he led."

As Professor Felicia Hardison Londré observed:

As an earl of Oxford, carrying such hereditary titles as Lord Great Chamberlain and Viscount Bolbec, Edward De Vere was as close to being a crown prince as anyone at the court of England; indeed, his so-called "crown signatures" hint that he may have had aspirations to the throne (he stopped using the signature with the "crown in it after Elizabeth I was succeeded by James I). Like Hamlet then, he harbored some ambition and just expectation of reigning. During the decade of the 1570s, Oxford was a "golden boy" at court, a favorite of the queen, winning the championships at tournaments (where he shook and broke many a spear), encouraging and often carousing with men of letters like John Lyly, Anthony Munday, and Robert Greene, leading the courtly fad for Euphuism which is lampooned in Loves Labour's Lost, sponsoring a theatre company that performed frequently at court, acting in court performances, and having dozens of literary works dedicated to him with extravagant praise for his own literary accomplishments. On his return in April 1576 from a sixteen-month tour of France and Italy, the Italian fashions and manners he had adopted earned him the sobriquet "Italianate gentleman." Thus was De Vere, as Ophelia says of Hamlet, "the glass of fashion and the mould of the form, the observed of all observers."

Facts of Interest

Scholars regard Arthur Golding's translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses to have been a primary influence on Shakespeare, second only to the Bible. Arthur Golding was Edward de Vere's uncle; Edward lived with him as a teen. There is an undeniable link, because in the dedication of one of his works, Golding saluted his nephew's acumen.

Scholars regard John Lyly and Anthony Munday as writers who influenced Shakespeare. Both worked for Edward de Vere. Munday was Oxford's secretary and a member of Oxford's Men. Lyly was also a secretary to Oxford, with whom he co-produced plays.

George Baker's medical book The Newe Jewell of Health (1576) is generally considered to have influenced Shakespeare. George Baker was Edward de Vere's physician and his book was dedicated to the Countess of Oxford.

Baldesar Castiglione's The Courtier was a rather obvious influence on the writer who created Hamlet. Oxford wrote a preface to Clerke's translation of The Courtier.

Cardanus Comforte was another probable influence on the writer who created Hamlet. The English translation of this book was dedicated to Oxford.

Thomas Nashe's preface to Greene's Menaphon indicates that Hamlet was being performed as early as 1589. But according to many orthodox scholars, William of Stratford had only recently settled in London at that time. Are we to believe that in the space of a year or so, a rural lad, lacking any theatrical experience, launched his career by writing what today is generally regarded as the greatest play ever written?

Many orthodox scholars have acknowledged that the character Polonius is based on William Cecil, Lord Burghley, whose family motto, cor unam via una (one heart, one way) is parodied in the earliest version of Hamlet (Corambis, the original name given to Polonius, means "double-hearted" or "two-faced"). Like Polonius, Cecil was a "busybody meddlesome spymaster." The same scholars also acknowledge that Burghley's daughter, Anne, the wife of Edward de Vere, was the basis for Ophelia, Polonius's daughter. Oxford obviously knew them intimately, but there is no evidence that William Shakspere, a commoner, knew them.

Scientists have observed that Shakespeare's record of astronomical knowledge acquired during the Elizabethan Age (such as the discovery of Mars' retrograde orbit) and the record of major celestial events (such as the supernova of 1572) cease with the occurrence of astronomical events and discoveries that had been made by mid-1604. William of Stratford, however, lived until 23 April 1616—long enough, if he were Shakespeare, to continue to record in the Shakespeare plays the discovery of sunspots, the invention of the telescope, the discovery of Jupiter's moons, and other significant celestial phenomena and developments in astronomical science that occurred between 1604 and 1616. But the Shakespeare plays, while abundantly referential to such discoveries prior to 1604, are silent on those astronomical discoveries and celestial phenomena that were made or observed between 1604 and 1616. Edward de Vere died on 24 June 1604.

Shakespeare's intimate knowledge of Italy has perplexed scholars, especially as there is no evidence that William Shakspere traveled farther from Stratford-upon-Avon than London. Oxford's travels, however, took him to practically all of the locations in Shakespeare's Italian plays, including Milan, Padua, Verona, Venice (where he built a home), Mantua, Sicily and a host of other Italian cities and sites. Italian Professor Ernesto Grillo says that Shakespeare's familiarity with his native land indicates that Shakespeare had to have traveled extensively in Italy: "When we consider that in the north of Italy he reveals a more profound knowledge of Milan, Bergamo, Verona, Mantua, Padua and Venice, the very limitation of the poet's notion of geography proves that he derived his information from an actual journey through Italy and not from books."

In May 1573, in a letter to William Cecil, two of Oxford's former employees accused three of Oxford's friends of attacking them on "the highway from Gravesend to Rochester." In Shakespeare's 1 Henry IV, Falstaff and three roguish friends of Prince Hal also waylay unwary travelers—on the highway from Gravesend to Rochester.

Such singular events in the plays as the Gad's Hill (or Gadshill) robbery on the same road in Henry IV Part I; the attack on, stripping naked of, and release of Hamlet by pirates; the street fighting by warring clans over a love affair in Romeo and Juliet; and the bed trick of All's Well That Ends Well—any one of which would constitute a highly unusual event in any man's experience—are all documented events in Oxford's life.

The three dedicatees of Shakespeare's works (the earls of Southampton, Montgomery and Pembroke) were each proposed as husbands for the three daughters of Edward de Vere. (Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece were dedicated to Southampton and the First Folio of Shakespeare's plays was dedicated to Montgomery and Pembroke.) Southampton declined the hand of Elizabeth Vere to marry Elizabeth Vernon (Elizabeth Vere later married William Stanley, the 6th earl of Derby, himself a man of the theatre); Montgomery married Oxford's daughter, Susan, in 1604; and Bridget Vere, proposed by her prospective father-in-law, the earl of Pembroke, as a bride for his son, married Lord Norris after her father's death. There is no record, anywhere, that any of these powerful aristocrats, exclusively connected with the works of Shakespeare, even knew Will Shakspere.

Following the death of his father, the 18th earl of Oxford, Henry de Vere, participated in the formation of a Protestant resistance to a proposed English alliance with Catholic Spain. Who were Henry de Vere's leading compatriots in this resistance? The earls of Southampton, Montgomery and Pembroke—the three dedicatees of the poems and plays of Shakespeare.

Researchers have discovered that words frequently credited by the Oxford English Dictionary and other sources as having had their first usage in Shakespeare actually have shown up earlier in Edward de Vere's personal letters. For instance, "I am that I am" is peculiar to Shakespeare as an appropriation from Scripture (Exodus 3: 14)—but it shows up, in the same form, in a letter from Edward de Vere to Lord Burghley.

On 22 July 1598, the Stationers' Register records: "Entred for his copie under the handes of bothe the wardens, a booke of the Merchaunt of Venyce or otherwise called the Iewe of Venice. / Provided that t bee not printed by the said Iames Robertes [the printer who presented the work for registration]; or anye other whatsoever without lycence first had from the Right honorable the lord Chamberlen." As (1) no such license was ever extended by the Stationers' Office to anyone other than an author of a registered work, and as (2) no Lord Chamberlain of the Royal Household ever licensed (or possessed the authority to license) the publication of another's work, and as (3) numerous examples exist of Oxford and others referencing Oxford as Lord Chamberlain (rather than Lord Great Chamberlain— the title that formally distinguished him from the Lord Chamberlain of the Royal Household), one can reach no other conclusion than that the Stationers' Register entry of 22 July 1598 indicates Oxford to be the author of The Merchant of Venice and, accordingly, the only person with the legal authority to oversee and authorise its publication. The attendant conclusion, based on all the evidence, is unmistakable: if Oxford is the author of The Merchant of Venice, Oxford is Shakespeare.

Henry Peacham, in The Compleat Gentleman [1622], praised Oxford above all other writers among the Golden Age writers during the reign of Queen Elizabeth — and his list makes no mention of any William Shakespeare.

Oxford received the kinds of literary accolades worthy of (and that one would expect would go to) Shakespeare. William of Stratford, however, never had anything dedicated to him, from anyone, in the whole of his life. Yet, despite the accolades accorded Oxford by his contemporaries, no traditional scholar has yet identified what plays of the era that were so highly praised of Oxford might be Oxford's; if his works are not those of the great Elizabethan spear-shaker, where are they? Is it credible to assert that every single one of his plays was lost?

Gabriel Harvey saluted (in English translation from the Latin) the 17th Earl of Oxford in Gratulationes Valdinenses, libri quatuor (1578): "English poetical measures have been sung thee long enough. Let that Courtly Epistle—more polished even than the writings of Castiglione himself—witness how greatly thou dost excel in letters. I have seen many Latin verses of thine, yea, even more English verses are extant; thou hast drunk deep draughts not only of the Muses of France and Italy, but hast learned the manners of many men, and the arts of foreign countries . . . . Thine eyes flash fire, thy countenance shakes a spear . . . ."

William Webbe in A Discourse on English Poetry (1586) wrote: "I may not omit the deserved commendations of many honourable and noble Lords and Gentlemen in Her Majesty's Court, which, in the rare devices of poetry, have been and yet are most skilful; among whom the right honourable Earl of Oxford may challenge to himself the title of most excellent among the rest."

George Puttenham in The Arte of English Poesie (1589) wrote that among the "crew of Courtly makers, Noblemen and Gentlemen of Her Majesty's own servants" who wrote "excellently well" if their "doings could be found out and made public" the first was "the noble gentleman Edward Earl of Oxford."

John Marston in Scourge of Villanie (1598) hailed a great, unacknowledged writer with a "silent name" bounded by "one letter" who one day would achieve the recognition he was due when pretenders to his greatness would be exposed: "Far fly thy fame, / Most, most of me beloved, whose silent name [Edward de Vere?] / One letter [e?] bounds . . . . [T]hy unvalu'd worth / Shall mount fair place when Apes are turned forth."

Francis Meres in Palladis Tamia (1598) declared of the era's playwrights: "The best for comedy amongst us be Edward Earl of Oxford."

Edmund Spenser in his dedication to Oxford in Fairie Queene (1590) wrote of Edward de Vere's favour with the nation's literary elite: "And also for the love, which thou doest beare / To th' Heliconian ymps, and they to thee, / They unto thee, and thou to them most deare...."

John Soowthern in Pandora (1584) wrote: "De Vere, that hath given him in part: / The love, the war, honour and art, / And with them an eternal fame. / Among our well-renowned men, / De Vere merits a silver pen / Eternally to write his honour. / A man so honoured as thee, / And both of the Muses and me."

In The Revenge of Bussy d'Ambois, George Chapman recalled: "I over-tooke, coming from Italie / a great and famous Earle / Of England . . . / He was beside of spirit passing great, / Valiant, and learn'd, and liberall as the Sunne, / Spoke and writ sweetly, or of learned subjects, / Or of the discipline of publike weals; / And 'twas the Earle of Oxford . . . ."

When Shakespeare's Sonnets were published in 1609, the work's dedication (composed, unlike Shakespear's earlier dedications, not by the poet but by the editor, Thomas Thorpe) memorialized the writer as "our ever-living poet"—an acclamation not used for a living person and a clear indication, thereby, that Shakespeare was dead. In 1609, Edward de Vere was dead; William Shakspere lived until 1616.

The Sonnets were not the only works of Shakespeare to appear with an enigmatic prefatory note in 1609. When Troilus and Cressida was published in 1609 (the first publication of a new Shakespeare play since 1604, the year Edward de Vere died), a cryptic preface on the title page of the play (suppressed when Shakespeare's plays were published in folio in 1623), enigmatically declared that the play was from "A never writer to an ever reader" (an E. Vere writer to an E. Vere reader?). The preface declared, as well, that the manuscript had not come to the printer from the playwright; rather, the unnamed writer of the preface invites the reader of the play to "thanke fortune for the scape it hath made" from a group which the writer of the preface refers to as "the grand possessors."

Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, has expressed astonishment at Shakespeare's intimate understanding of royalty: "When I re-read [Henry V] nearly twenty years after performing it at school, I found myself wondering in amazement at Shakespeare's insight into the mind of someone born into this kind of position."

ALTERNATE THEORIES

I do not subscribe to these alternate theories myself. I do believe Oxford either authored most of the poems and plays attributed to Shakespeare, or worked with a ghostwriter of rare ability. Someone like Christopher Marlowe but not necessarily Marlowe.

WERE OXFORD AND MARLOWE, TOGETHER, SHAKESPEARE?

This is a theory of my own making, or at least one that I have developed without outside input. I make no claims about it, but do find it interesting...

My theory revolves around Christopher Marlowe not dying in 1593, but faking his death and going underground as a ghostwriter for Oxford. Another possibility is that Oxford published via Marlowe, then switched to publishing via the actor, once Marlowe was either dead or had gone underground.

I find it interesting that Shakespeare's first printed work, the book-length poem Venus and Adonis, was published around the time Marlowe exited the world stage. Furthermore Venus and Adonis was published with the famous dedicatory phrase "the first heir of my invention." Someone who dies leaves his estate to his heir. Did Marlowe "die" and leave his literary estate to his "invention" William Shakespeare, a writer would shake England's literary sphere? Around the same time Oxford stopped publishing poems, or at least poems attributed to him. Mere coincidence, or something more?

This seems like a plausible theory: Oxford put up the money and provided the plots for plays based on his life, such as Hamlet and King Lear. Marlowe, having faked his death and gone underground, either wrote the poems and plays or edited what Oxford had written. William Shakespeare acted as a front, becoming wealthy in the process. The actor was always a front for Oxford or his team of writers, and one of those writers was a genius. Perhaps the genius was Marlowe, perhaps it was Oxford, or perhaps it was the two working together. Perhaps stylometry can sort things out for good, one day. But it is already providing tantalizing clues...

Hugh Craig and Arthur F. Kinney, professors and editors of Shakespeare, Computers and the Mystery of Authorship, have used computational stylistics to address the Shakespeare Authorship Question (SAQ). One of their more interesting findings is that Marlowe was Shakespeare's earliest collaborator, and that the playwrights worked together on Parts I and II of Henry VI, with Marlowe being responsible for at least "the middle part" of Part I, involving Joan of Arc, and the Cade rebellion scenes in Part II.

If Oxford and Marlowe had worked together in the past and their joint work was able to pass for a play of Shakespeare, why couldn't they have collaborated again, if Marlowe didn't die in 1593?

CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE TIMELINE

Some of the dates in this timeline are estimates.

1564: Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593) was the oldest son of the shoemaker John Marlowe and Catherine Arthur Marlowe. He was baptized on February 26, 1564 at St. George's Church in Canterbury, England, and had presumably been born a few days earlier.

1570s: Marlowe's early school years are at Kings School, Canterbury, which he attended on a scholarship.

1580-1584: Marlowe was awarded a scholarship to attend Corpus Christi College around age 16 and was awarded his BA at age 20 in 1584. During his college days the precocious Marlowe translated works of Ovid into English. It seems safe to say that he was ahead of most of his classmates.

1584-1587: Marlowe is believed to have been recruited as a spy by the English government and the spy network of the notorious Elizabethan spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham. Marlowe has also been connected to Thomas Walsingham, who employed Marlowe's alleged murderer, Ingram Frizer. (When I'm not sure "who done what," I will refer to the Walsinghams collectively.) Marlowe is believed to have conducted spying missions in Europe. During this period Marlowe entered the royal court circle and associated with notable court poets like Sir Walter Ralegh. Marlowe allegedly also became a member of a secret society called the "School of Night" (aka the "School of Atheism") which was related to the mysterious Rosicrucian movement. College "buttery" records of Marlowe's spending (rather lavish for his station) tend to support the idea that he had outside income (such as from spying?) while not being conclusive.

1586: Marlowe joined Oxford's "play factory" in 1586 according to Warren Dickinson in The Wonderful Shakespeare Mystery: "Since Marlowe was born in 1564, his initial box office hit, Tamburlaine I, was first played when he was only twenty-three years old. While this testifies to Marlowe's genius, it also indicates that he did not act alone. A young man cannot ride into London and have a hit play within a year unless he has a patron and a mentor. In fact, Marlowe went to work in Edward de Vere's 'play factory' in 1586 and received the guidance and support which he needed. Since Edward de Vere was already a highly successful playwright-poet [at thirty-seven], it was natural for Marlowe to use him as a model in his writing. He may also have been influenced by the fact that de Vere was paying his salary."

1587: Tamburlaine the Great is written. Did it contain so much violence and bloodshed to warn the English public about the danger of a takeover by someone like King Philip II of Spain? Was writing such artistic propaganda part of the job description for the more literate agents of the crown, like Oxford and Marlowe?

1587: Cambridge authorities hear rumors that Oxford has been collaborating with Catholic enemies of Queen Elizabeth. These "whispers of treason," according to Daryl Pinksen, had been "instigated by Marlowe himself as part of an effort to entrap Catholic sympathizers, part of a mandate given him by the Walsinghams and William Cecil, Lord Burghley." So when the university hesitated to give Marlowe his Master's degree in 1587, the Council sent a written command to award it because Marlowe had "done her Majesty good service, and deserved to be rewarded for his faithful dealing."

1587: Marlowe becomes associated with the Lord Admiral's Company of Players, which is led by Edward Alleyn. Marlowe serves as a dramatist for the Lord Admiral's Company.

1588: Marlowe shares lodgings with the playwright Thomas Kyd, near the theatres in Southwark, London.

1588: Dr. Faustus is written.

1589: The Jew of Malta is written. The full title was The Famous Tragedy of the Rich Jew of Malta.

1589: Henry VI, Part I is written as a possible collaboration between Marlowe and Oxford/Shakespeare sometime between 1589-92 and would be published in the First Folio of 1623 as a work of Shakespeare.

1590: Tamburlaine the Great is published. This is the only work of Marlowe to be published before his death.

1590: Francis Walsingham, the spymaster, dies. In Walsingham's absence Burghley and his son Robert Cecil gained power over England's intelligence-gathering apparatus and also took control over the public stages and their playwrights and acting companies. However, some of the spy network ended up in the hands of Thomas Walsingham, who apparently set up some kind of rogue operation that included Marlowe.

1590: Edward the Second is written.

1590: Marlowe spends two weeks in Newgate Gaol after being charged with murder, although he was later acquitted.

1592: Marlowe was arrested in the English garrison town of Flushing in the Netherlands, on charges of counterfeiting. He was brought before Lord Burghley but no charges or imprisonment resulted. Was this because he was working as an "inside man"?

1592: Marlowe's most famous poem was "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" and it resulted in an equally famous reply by Walter Raleigh, "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd."

1593: On April 18, 1593, Venus and Adonis was entered at the Stationers' Register in London, without an author's name.

1593: Thomas Kyd is arrested by the Privy Council on May 12, 1593 on charges of writing seditious notices. Kyd is imprisoned and tortured in the Tower of London, in the English version of an Inquisition. Kyd implicates Marlowe, who is branded an atheist and heretic. According to Marlowe's Wikipedia page, Kyd also revealed that he and Marlow had been working for an aristocratic patron. Could that have been Oxford? On May 18, the Star Chamber issues a warrant for Marlowe's arrest on charges of heresy, which carries the death penalty, Marlowe dies before being forced to face an interrogation and probable torture. Did the well-connected spy and court favorite evade torture and a horrific execution by faking his death with the aid of his spy network?

1593: Christopher Marlowe dies under mysterious circumstances. He is said to have died May 30, 1593 in Deptford, London, England, and to have been buried in an unmarked grave. But with no body, do we know that he actually died? Perhaps stylometry can tell us if he lived to write another day.

According to the official account, Marlowe met with three friends who were known to be spies and secret agents for the Walsinghams. They met in a Stepney house owned by Eleanor Bull, the sister Blanche Parry, who through her cousin John Dee had close connections to Queen Elizabeth. The house was believed to have been a safe meeting place for agents of the Walsinghams and Burghley. Marlowe allegedly argued with Ingram Frizer, an employee of Thomas Walsingham, and was lethally stabbed in the eye by his supposed friend. Frizer subsequently pleaded self-defense and within a month received a royal pardon from the queen.

Marlowe's biographer John Bakeless observed that "some scholars have been inclined to question the truthfulness of the coroner's report. There is something queer about the whole episode." Bakeless also said that Hotson's discovery of a coroner's report in 1925 "raises almost as many questions as it answers."

Around this time the first published work of Shakespeare, the long poem Venus and Adonis, appeared. The first use of the name William Shakespeare in any published work appears following the dedication of the poem to the Earl of Southampton on the title page overleaf. Oddly, the name does not appear where the author's name was usually located, directly under the title on the title page. In the dedication Shakespeare describes the poem as "the first heir of my invention." Is he sharing a private joke that his first publication would be via an invented alias? Is he perhaps also suggesting that another coupling — that of his invention (daughter) with England's Adonis — would produce an heir?

Was Marlowe an atheist? One document claims: "Marlowe is able to show more sound reasons for Atheism than any divine in England is able to give to prove divinity, and that ... he hath read the Atheist lecture to Sir Walter Raleigh and others."

In any case, Oxford's poems apparently ceased being circulated just before Shakespeare's work began to appear. Coincidence or something more?

The relationship of Venus and Adonis to Marlowe's unpublished Hero and Leander has caused scholars to conjecture that Shakespeare somehow had access to Marlowe's unpublished work. But what if Shakespeare was an alias of Marlowe? Curious and curiouser! Here's a working theory: Oxford put up the money and provided the plots for plays based on his life, such as Hamlet and King Lear. Marlowe, having gone underground, wrote the poems and plays. The actor William Shakespeare acted as a front, becoming wealthy in the process.

Hank Wittemore noted the similarities between Hero and Leander and Venus and Adonis, and the oddity of the timing: "Imagine that! Marlowe and 'Shakespeare' were both writing the same kind of long, romantic, sensual, erotic poem based on Ovid; they were writing and/or completing their similar narrative poems at virtually the same time, in the year of Marlowe's untimely death, when 'Shakespeare' forged ahead by getting his masterful 'first heir' into print and taking over the poetical limelight from there on." Yes, and at the same time Oxford stopped publishing poems, or at least poems attributed to him. As I said, Curious and curiouser!

Wittemore also pointed out the strong parallels between Marlowe's Edward II and Shakespeare's Richard II: "Marlowe's name appeared in print for the first time in the following year, 1594, when the play Edward II was published as by "Chr. Marlow" and another play Dido, Queen of Carthage was published as by "Christopher Marlow and Thomas Nashe."

Oscar James Campbell observed that "No play of Marlowe's is more closely related to one of Shakespeare's than is Edward II to Richard II. For decades scholars assumed that Marlowe's was the first significant English chronicle history play, and that therefore he taught Shakespeare much. Recently, however, it has been established that Shakespeare's Henry VI trilogy antedates Edward II; in other words, Shakespeare helped Marlowe; the combination of Shakespeare-Marlowe helped Shakespeare in Richard II."

THE PRINCE TUDOR THEORY


There is a "Prince Tudor Theory" also known as the "Tudor Rose Theory." According to this theory Elizabeth I and Edward de Vere were lovers and Henry Wriothesley, the third Earl of Southampton, was their son. Also according to this theory, Queen Elizabeth I was the Dark Lady of the sonnets, and the Fair Youth was Wriothesley.

A later version of this theory, known as the "Prince Tudor II Theory," says that Edward de Vere was himself a son of the queen, and thus the father of his own half-brother!

OTHER THEORIES

Bernard M. Ward came up with a related theory in which Elizabeth and Oxford had a son named William Hughes who became the actor William Shakespeare, adopting that last name because his father had been using it as a pen name for the plays he authored.

Paul Streitz has a theory that Oxford did not die in 1604, but was banished to the island of Mersea where he wrote The Tempest and finished the sonnets. Streitz also believes Oxford had a hand in the writing of the King James Bible and that he died in 1608.

Was Edward de Vere the son of Queen Elizabeth? Here is one theory, however improvable: Catherine Parr, the last queen of Henry VIII, remarried after his death. Her new husband was Lord High Admiral Thomas Seymour, the highly ambitious brother of Jane Seymour. When Catherine became pregnant unexpectedly at age 35, Seymour may have started "coming on" to her stepdaughter, Princess Elizabeth Tudor, then 14. There were reports that he visited her bedchamber, taking liberties with her clothing and body. For instance, Kate Ashley, Elizabeth's governess, and Thomas Parry, a household servant, gave depositions that Seymour acted with unseemly familiarity, such as slapping Elizabeth on the buttocks. In May 1548, Elizabeth was sent to Cheshunt, where she remained until late September 1548 under the protection of Sir Anthony Denny. (It was Denny who arrested Ashley and Parry after interviewing Elizabeth. Because he was a trusted family friend of the Tudors and, by all accounts that I have been able to find, of unimpeachable character, it seems reasonable to conclude that something untoward had actually happened. And if Elizabeth was visibly pregnant, Denny would have known without a doubt that there had been "hanky panky.") According to Oxford biographer Paul Streitz, although his source is unclear, a midwife reported that she was taken blindfolded to attend a young fair-haired woman, who gave birth by candlelight to a boy on July 21, 1548. A few days later, on August 1, 1548, John de Vere, the sixteenth Earl of Oxford, unexpectedly married a woman he had never met before, Margery Golding, even though the banns had been read twice for him to marry another woman, Dorothy Fosser. (Oxford paid her ten pounds per annum for breach of contract.) Margery was the sister of Arthur Golding, who was employed by William Cecil, a confidant of Catherine Parr. Elizabeth did not visit her stepmother, who gave birth on August 3, 1548 and died on September 15, 1548, even though Elizabeth was very close to her and called her "mother." Were they both pregnant at the same time, by the same man? Thomas Seymour was found guilty of high treason and beheaded on March 20, 1549. Increasing the intrigue, Denny died on September 10, 1549, after "lying sick." Was he perhaps poisoned because of what he learned in his investigations? Obviously there is only circumstantial evidence here, and a good deal of speculation, but if Elizabeth had an illegitimate child, that might explain the deaths of people so close to her in such quick succession. And it might also explain why people like William Cecil and John de Vere, who came to her aid, were richly rewarded when she became queen.


The HyperTexts