Before Moonday’s Heroic Hunks leaves the Elizabethan and Jacobean era, a rant on Shakespeare and the authorship of work attributed to him. I can’t imagine that a man with only a minimal education could have authored Shakespeare’s work. I am not alone. The following people have cast serious doubts over the validity of William Shakespeare as the true author and added speculation to the identity/authorship problem: Mark Twain, Charlie Chaplin, Sigmund Freud, Henry James, Walt Whitman, Malcolm X, Dickens, Keats, Sir John Gielgud, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Ben Jonson,Orson Welles, John Galsworthy, Leslie Howard, Michael York, Keanu Reeves, and Sir Derek Jacobi.
Why not Shakespeare? Take it from an avowed info addict, you gotta be able to place information within a context of other info, and it all has to fit into the big picture. Shakespeare as the author of his plays just doesn’t fit. First, there is the lack of education. The author of the plays attributed to Shakespeare possessed a broad education across many areas, as well as depth in several—including history and law. Next, the author must have had an in depth knowledge of the residents of the English Court and the day-to-day operations of that Court. Then, there is the obvious knowledge of Italian culture, including law and familiarity with the nobility.
Finally, there is Shakespeare himself. He never claimed authorship of his works, nor did he ever sue over their illegal publication—and he was known to be suit happy. No one heralded his work nor did any letters or payment entries survive that confirm his authorship. Although theatres often recorded payment to playwrights for their work, none survive for Shakespeare. As a matter of fact, much of his work was performed at court with no attribution to Shakespeare’s work. Shakespeare remains a shadowy figure during a period where many records survive.
His private life does not support his authorship. There is no evidence that he attended school, studied at a University or stood at the Inns of Court for a law degree. Neither his father nor his children could read or write. There is no record of written communications between Shakespeare and his family. His will does not record the possession of books or bequeath ownership of his work to anyone. His tomb does not record his achievements as a writer nor did anyone acknowledge his achievements at his death. According to Jane Cox (Principle Asst Keeper of Records Her Majesties Stationery Office), all six documents containing William Shakespeare signatures are by a different hand.
While several individuals have been suggested as the true author of Shakespeare’s works, I am an Oxfordian. Edward deVere (1550-1604), the 17th Earl of Oxford, was orphaned early in life and was brought up in the home of William Cecil, Queen Elizabeth’s chief counselor. He was considered brilliant by his tutors, spoke several languages, and was educated in the Inns of Court. Like his father, he sponsored an acting troupe and served as patron for numerous writers. He married Cecil’s daughter (a coupe for the upstart Cecil family—Oxford was the second oldest earldom in England) and had several children but no heir with her. During their marriage, he spent far more money than he could afford. He traveled in Europe, especially Italy, for almost a year and spent . On his return, his party was captured by pirates, robbed and abandoned on shore naked (one of Shakespeare’s plays).
On his return, he discovered a daughter that he suspected was not his which caused a separation with his wife and angered the Cecil family. He had an affair and child with Anne Vavasour, a maid of honor to Queen Elizabeth, which landed both of them in the Tower of London. Anne was considered a candidate for the “Dark Lady” and their affair was the trouble that Shakespeare references could have been the animosity of the Queen. He was also injured in a fight with Anne’s relatives which left him lame, another reference to himself by Shakespeare.
The Earl of Southhampton who was considered as a potential husband for one of deVere’s daughters is a candidate for the “fair youth.” Later, though, at Greenwich Palace in the presence of Queen Elizabeth and the royal court, DeVere’s daughter married William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby. It was alleged that William Shakespeare wrote A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the occasion of their wedding, and that the play was first performed at the wedding banquet.
Another association of Shakespeare with deVere’s family was the The First Folio, a collection of Shakespeare’s work published after his death. It was dedicated to the Herbert brothers, the Earls of Pembroke and Montgomery. Montgomery married Oxford’s daughter Lady Susan, and the Pembroke had been briefly betrothed to Oxford’s daughter Lady Bridget, before marriage negotiations were broken off. The First Folio publication was a deVere family affair with Oxford’s other son-in-law, William Stanley, Earl of Derby, being a literary man with his own company of players, possibly taking a hand in the preparation of the collected plays of his father-in-law.
Today, experts recognize Hamlet as ‘the most autobiographical character’, in which the author seemed to reveal himself most intimately. In deVere, we see the troubled aristocrat bent on self-destruction. DeVere himself, regretted his various follies after the death of his first wife and his remarriage to his second. The period following his remarriage corresponds to Shakespear’s most prolific.
Finally, Shakespear’s phenomenal vocabulary of something around 20,000 words which is about ten times average and is associated with a high level of education. Also, Oxford’s copy of the Geneva Bible (which Shakespeare used for his biblical allusions) is in the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington. In this copy, many phrases and verses that were used, or echoed, by ‘Shake-speare’, are marked in coloured inks or underlined, and linked with marginal notes. There’s lots more but I’ve gone way past boring–read “Shakespeare by Another Name” by Mark Anderson for more info. Next week, Charles I and II. Rita Bay