Some Oxfordian enthusiasts, after discovering that he wrote Shakespeare's work, are not content to leave it at that. Tying Oxford to Shakespeare using Oxford's own, undisputed work is an impossible task. Crediting him with other work by Elizabethan writers, therefore, can potentially reduce the gulf in quality between the two men's writing. And authorship debating is a bit like murder, the first attribution is the hardest. Once you get a taste for it, once you are down the rabbit hole and into Oxfordland, reality can be stretched in all directions.
Once the man behind the Shakespeare pseudonym is identified, all the pieces of the larger puzzle will be seen to fall together to reveal a coherent and revealing whole. Much to our delight, it all makes sense!
So say Michael Brame & Galina Popova in Shakespeare's Fingerprints.
The idea that Oxford (Shakespeare) might have produced the King James Version of the Bible is very seductive. The two greatest books in the English language appear in the same reign, little more than a dozen years apart. Universally admired, the prose achievements of the KJV look easy to couple to the verse achievements of the great playwright. Once again, the Oxfordian timetable is very inconvenient, as the KJV was commissioned just before Oxford's death.
Brame and Galina, while sensibly confining themselves to works that were written when Oxford was alive, contrive to take the idea much, much further…
Looney's method is extended to encompass 38 new pseudonyms. They invent categories of Oxfordian signature words or fingerprints called 'veronyms' and 'Oxprints' and detect them everywhere.
Preferring the work of the 8-year-old Oxford to dead, fuddy-duddy traditionalists like Chaucer or blinded-by-tradition herd-followers like Wyatt and Sackville, Oxford is tasked, by Queen Elizabeth to write in many different genres and different styles. The purpose is to impress foreigners with the volume and variety produced by English men of letters.
Responding to his brief from The Powers That Were, the young Earl knuckles down and produces the work of William Shakespeare, Edmund Spenser, Christopher Marlowe, Philip Sidney, John Lyly, George Peele, George Gascoigne, Raphael Holinshed, Robert Greene and a host of lesser lights. That is the theory propounded in the book, which portrays De Vere as a sort of Elizabethan cross between Don Draper and Josef Goebbels.
Brame and Galina are not idiots. They both have PhD's. One is a tenured Professor at the University of Washington. Oxfordianism is a drug and they have both simply overdone it.
Tom Veal, in his excellent Stromata blog bows politely to their academic qualifications, does them the honour of taking their theory seriously, then blasts it to smithereens.
Despite the deep secrecy enveloping the English Literature Project, the author had no qualms about leaving abundant clues to his true identity. The pseudonymous works abound, according to Brame and Popova, with puns based on his name, as well as autobiographical snippets. One presumes that these identifiers were more transparent to contemporaries than to 21st Century readers, so that Oxenford ran a serious risk of exposing the whole plot. Every other Elizabethan was, it seems, sedulous to keep his secret, while he himself proclaimed it to any alert reader.
Yet to any serious Shakespeare scholar, this theory is only one small, (perhaps medium-sized) advance beyond the basics of Oxfordianism on the ISO scale of delusional madness.
Just a step or two further along the same road.