Shakespeare Clinic

"Judging from their surviving writing, Shakespeare was not just 100 times better than Oxford, he was also 80 times more productive. Shakespeare wrote about 3,500 lines of verse a year for twenty years, most of them immortal; Oxford, in the Shahan-Whalen scenario, wrote about 40 lines of woebegone juvenilia a year for ten years, then, for fifteen years, wrote nothing at all that he or anyone else could be bothered to save––but then, at forty-three, supposedly burst from his cocoon to become a literary supernova overnight. "

Eliott and Valenza

Play the dating game yourself.

Elliott and Valenza's data isn't the only game in town but their work is the most extensive and those who have followed their lead have come to identical conclusions. The Shakespeare Clinic they operated through the late 1980's and 1990's departed on an Oxfordian trajectory and the early results did lean towards plausible cases for the three front runners, Marlowe, Bacon and de Vere. They were joyously embraced by the alternative cadre. Horribile dictu; pencils got sharper, computers got faster, the battery of tests extended, differentiation improved, sophistication and accuracy went up through the roof, and disaster struck.  They went from hero to zero with Oxfordians almost overnight.

Their tests, they concluded, 'eliminated The Earl' as a candidate. Eliminated. They eliminated another 56 candidates too, including all the favourites.

Which was a bit rough and turned out to be a bit hard to take. Unsophisticated rebuttals and even more unsophisticated abuse of their data abounds but it's too late. The genie has left the bottle. The toothpaste will not now go back into the tube. The paper they published in The Oxfordian (Vol III, 2000) called Can the Oxford Candidacy be Saved? has received no substantial rebuttal.

"A judicious man uses statistics, not to get knowledge, but to save himself from having ignorance foisted upon him."

Thomas Carlyle


The more they refine their data, the more errors they remove from the process, the tighter the plays are tied to Shakespeare.

In the UK, there has been a steady erosion of the cut-glass, upper crust, posh BBC RP accent since the 1950s. Feminine endings in blank verse are a similar litmus test. A line of iambic pentameter has a feminine ending when there are one or more unaccented syllables after the fifth stress. The verse sounds different. More natural, perhaps. More versatile, certainly. This chart tracks the increase in the % of feminine endings in both Will's work and theatre generally while Will was working.


If you arrange the plays in the order of their feminine endings, they line up pretty well with conventional dating. There is a big inconsistency with The Merry Wives of Windsor (the 1597 spike on the graph) but absolutely no danger of Shakespeareans chasing the statisticians down the street with an axe. The chart shows the American Riverside dating of the plays, plotted against the number of feminine endings for Will's plays and an average for the work of his contemporaries. Like every other metric, it shows a smooth upward trend, in all drama, which continues in both sets long after Oxford has left the scene. Which is one of the reasons why they eliminated him.

And if they can, we can.

There is a continuous spectrum of development in the flexibility of blank verse from Early Marlowe to Late Webster enabling large chunks to be dated like tree-rings in wood. Which is why there is no Oxfordian chronology which makes an ounce of sense.


Here are two more charts measuring different metrics and a third chart based on the Oxfordian dating scheme proposed by Clark. Will's stylistic progression is pretty consistent whichever metric you choose, when mapped against the Riverside dating scheme (or any orthodox dating scheme).

The Clark dating scheme, however, pictorially represents the absolute nonsense on which the scheme is based.

The analysis used, which takes no account of the content of the plays and is therefore totally unrelated to matters of developing style, produces a meaningless hotchpotch, exactly reflecting the meaningless construction her arguments have produced.  

The analysis shows that there is internal consistency but that Clark is completely unaware of it or has ignored it.

Putting the plays in alphabetical order makes more sense stylistically than following Clark. In fact once you have them in a spreadsheet, most random orders make at least as much sense as Clark.



Note that the two deep troughs after Oxford's death coincide with Pericles and Timon, both plays which are now known to contain the work of collaborators. The fashion for weak line endings, (the orange line) does not kick in until three years after Oxford's death.



Professor Dean Simonton came to the same conclusion as E&V with an analytical approach of stylistic changes over time based on psychological principles. "I devised an objective and quantitative method to test alternative chronologies by assessing which of the rival datings established the strongest correspondence between conspicuous political events and thematic content dealing with the same or similar political events (Simonton, 2004p). Besides testing two alternative Oxfordian chronologies, I evaluated the Stratfordian chronology with different temporal shifts. To my surprise, the traditional chronology shifted just two years earlier provided the best fit, suggesting that it took an average of two years for the initial event-inspired idea to result in a finished play (subsequent revisions presumably making minimal impressions on the linkages). Neither Oxfordian chronology provided any correspondences even when shifted forward and backward. The Oxfordian chronologies also did much worse than the Stratfordian in accounting for stylistic changes in the plays - the tendency for the author's poetry to become much more flexible, complex, novel, and unpredictable has his career progressed. Because this developmental tendency is specifically predicted by a major theory of artistic creativity, I had yet another reason for ruling Oxford out as a candidate. Lastly, because the career trajectory - the rise to a career peak and the gradual decline thereafter - was also found to agree with prior research and theory on creativity across the life span (Simonton, 1988a, 1997c), the scientific arguments against his candidacy were threefold." July 29, 2013

Like Baldric, an Oxfordian called Ron Hess came up with a cunning plan and decided to play along with what looked like pretty conclusive data. Instead of randomly reassigning the dates of plays, he simply moved everything back 12 years. This brings the authorship of the last plays into the  lifetime of De Vere but while it now makes sense of Will's progression, it causes absolute stylometric catastrophe when the early plays are compared to those of Will's peers and the theatre of what would, in Hess's claim, now be that of the late 1570's and early 1580's.

It won't wash.

Nor can Hess advance any sensible reasons for the backdating of half the plays. The Clark and Hess alternative dating schemes are included in the table below.

Until Oxfordians can come up with a sensible scheme that allows The Earl to have written the work while he was alive, there really is no alternative authorship case for De Vere. At the moment, the SAQ awaits a new publication from Stritmatter and Kositsky which will 'revolutionise Tempest Studies'. Unless they are referring to climate change, this will have no impact at all on 'Authorship Studies' since tinkering with the date of one play is not enough. A coherent whole must be produced for all 37 plays in the canon. (38 counting TNK)

And current Oxfordian thought (with humble apologies to the peerless statistical work of Messrs E&V) is at least million miles from coherence. 



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Comments (26)

  • anon

    And the plays named by Francis Meres in his Palladis Tamia (1598) fit neatly with their findings.  By any stylometric test they've run, the early plays are early:  "for Comedy, witnes his Ge'tleme' of Verona, his Errors, his Love labors lost, his Love labours wonne, his Midsummer night dreame, & his Merchant of Venice : for Tragedy his Richard the 2. Richard the 3. Henry the 4. King John, Titus Andronicus and his Romeo and Juliet."

    Oxfordians are left to devise strange reasons why Meres did not praise Hamlet.  (And Looney kicked The Tempest out of the canon altogether, as unworthy of Oxford.)


    Nat Whilk

    Feb 06, 2013
  • anon

    And following the Clark dating scheme, he'd have still been in nappies when Coriolanus came out so that'll be why he forgot to mention that.

    Feb 06, 2013
  • anon

    There seems to be a typo in the chart.  It lists a play as "rIII."  I believe that should be "Richard II."

    Feb 07, 2013
  • anon


    Elliott and Valenza are not the only ones. Even Oxfordian would-be Dean Keith Simonton came to the conclusion that the consensus play chronology is in roughly the correct order "beyond a shadow of a doubt" and that Shakespeare's works exhibit gradual stylistic development. Simonton's 2004 study, "Thematic Content and Political Context in Shakespeare's Dramatic Output, with Implications for Authorship and Chronology Controversies" (Empirical Studies of the Arts (Baywood Publishing) 22 (2): 201–13), examined the correlation between the thematic content of Shakespeare's plays and the political context in which they would have been written. When backdated two years, the mainstream chronologies yielded substantial correlations between the two, whereas the alternative chronologies proposed by Oxfordians yielded no relationship regardless of the time lag. Simonton, who admitted that had expected the results to support Oxford's authorship, concluded that "that expectation was proven wrong".

    It's a tough row to hoe if your first allegience is to science instead of Oxford.

    Feb 07, 2013
  • anon

    Now we have our own hidden Richard III. Would anyone like the spreadsheet?

    Feb 07, 2013
  • anon

    It's the biggest thing about Oxfordianism I don't understand. There is no credible alternative chronology. Oxfordians disown the ones they have created and yet can't provide anything with a shred of consistency in their place. There is a new Stritmatter/Kositsky book on The Tempest. No one needs to look at to know what it will conclude. Yet moving one play of 37/8 around individually contributes nothing whatsoever to the 'authorship debate' if you can't relocate it in an overall timeline that makes sense.

    Feb 07, 2013
  • anon

    Their only goal is to move The Tempest to before Oxford's death. They figure that's good enough. I can hardly wait to see how they try to do it.

    Feb 08, 2013
  • anon

    Expect an attack on all fronts.

    The Strachey letter and all mention of the 'dreadful Tempest' in its title will be moved safely out of Will's reach, alternative sources and other shipwrecks will be produced, despite the fact that Will didn't need ANY sources (or prompting) to write a shipwreck, the authorship of lots of bits of it will be questioned to loosen it at the roots and new links to Oxford will be found.

    The whole thing will then be tied up in a package that is completely unrecognisable to scholarship but satisfies the requirements of 'Extended Oxfordian Plausibility

    Feb 08, 2013
  • anon

     I haven't read Dean Simonton's paper on dating the plays (although I have been in touch with him), but will do so. He is, of course, absolutely right, and all attempts by Oxfordians to manufacture a different chronology for the plays- there have been some- simply show what nonsense Oxfordianism is. The chronology is crucial in ruling out Oxford. Where Tom Reedy is mistaken is in assuming that the chronology rules in William Shakespeare. If the plays are highly political and politically aware, as Simonton claims, it is difficult to see how a nobody from nowheresville, with no powerful friends, would play such a dangerous game- or why.

    Presumably the danger to his company after the performance of RII and the Essex rebellion alone would have deterred him from writing anything which could be interpreted politically. There is also the mystery of how he obtained the Strachey Letter, which was only circulated to directors of the London Virginia Company (with which Shakes had no links of any kind), and why he would use this as one of the bases of a play. You should surely be looking for someone who was active politically (and from the political classes) and had access to the Strachey Letter.

    Feb 08, 2013
  • anon

    > The Strachey letter and all mention of the 'dreadful Tempest' in its title will be moved safely out of Will's reach, alternative sources and other shipwrecks will be produced,

    They've already tried that, but didn't have much luck. See and Of course, they claim that they've rebutted Alden's and my papers, and they have, of course, but only in the Oxfordian way that no one else can make sense of (it pretty much consists of asserting that we're wrong). They say this new book will nail the coffin lid on Strachey as a source, but then again remember that Stritmatter's Bible research was supposed to provide the smoking gun and we were supposed to be well into the Oxfordian paradigm by now.

    Feb 08, 2013
  • anon

    Simonton doesn't say nor do I claim that the plays are "highly political and politically aware". What Simonton (who researches creativity) says is that artistic works produced during a given period will reflect the political context and culture in which they are created. Even comedies will reflect the changes and upheavals (or lack of them) of the society in which they're created. This is pretty much universally accepted, and it's true for every play of every period, not just Shakespeare's.

    PM me and I'll send you a copy of his paper. My e-mail address is

    And Shakespeare had multiple avenues of access to the Strachey letter. Why would he use this as the basis for a play? How about the fact that the Burmuda shipwreck survivors, who had been thought lost, had in fact made it to Virginia, was the big news of the day?

    Feb 08, 2013
  • anon

    Ooops! I heard the claim that it will 'revolutionise Tempest Studies'. Maybe it's a treatise on meteorology.

    Feb 08, 2013
  • anon

    Thanks Tom, for that. Finally got round to reading it today. I think, given Simonton's background and willingness to treat Oxfordian argument with respect, we can call his conclusions inescapable. There is an order that makes sense, stylistically. It is idiotic to pull things out and relocate them randomly as Stritmatter, Kositsky and Green do. If Oxfordians can't produce a coherent chronology and a sound explanation of the 1604 question, it doesn't matter what else they have, they do NOT have a theory worthy even of the name, let alone serious debate or comment.

    Feb 23, 2013
  • anon

    On responding to the political climate...

    What Simonton (who researches creativity) says is that artistic works produced during a given period will reflect the political context and culture in which they are created. 

    I am digging through my memory for the study that showed how the Elizabethan period plays are full of references to 'England' while the Jacobine period plays make hardly any mention of 'England' - suddenly it is all about 'Britain' if the politics of these islands is an issue. (*)

    Fits in with the King James VI and I political project for a formal union of England and Scotland and is something that a court-associated playwright with an ear to what is favoured might produce. Shakespeare of course was  part of the King's Men company and had access to the Royal Court gossip that would circulate amongst minor court appointees.

    Can anyone nail down a reference to that study?

    (*) Except MacBeth of course, where England has to be referenced as a foreign country to Scotland. 

    Apr 05, 2013
  • anon

    Reform, if In understand the 'case for Neville', the question of chronology goes beyond the accepted Shakespeare works

    Where Tom Reedy is mistaken is in assuming that the chronology rules in William Shakespeare.

    I see that claims are now being made that certain works are early ones by Neville before he adopted the Shakespeare cover-name. These incluse 'Mucedorious', 'Locrine', 'Arden of Faversham'. And also the recovery of the lost play 'Cardenio'.

    So the Shakespare workload gets even heavier?

    Presumably analysis of these plays would show how closely they relate to the accepted canon.

    Are the Neville proponents going to take up the challenge issued by Elliot and Valenza which is summarised in this extract from their paper 'The Shakespeare Clinic and the Oxfordians'? (.pdf file)


    .... we felt safe in offering a £1,000 bet that no one could  find an untested play not by Shakespeare that would fit within our Shakespeare profiles (Our  2004, 363-368). There are more than 200 such plays out there eligible for testing. All our takers need to find to win the bet is one. And we’re willing to pretest, or let them pretest with our software, with no penalty, if they will just furnish the plays modernized and edited for proper testing. 

    In other words, with a bit of editing effort, they could get all 200-plus plays pretested before risking any money. We would get them edited for no more than £1,000, or, more likely, if we are  right, for nothing but the cost of our time spent testing them. And maybe, just maybe, one of these would turn out to be the Lost Shakespeare, for which £1,000 would be an absurdly low price to pay. What’s not to like?

      Or have they already been analysed and excluded by Elliot and Valenza?

    Apr 05, 2013
  • anon

    Don't you love it when statisticians talk dirty? They only take the risk, however, when they are 100% confident in their math. I don't think anyone's getting the £1,000.

    Apr 05, 2013
  • anon

    Interesting. It's a new one on me. Henry VIII would have to be another exception but even there, in Norfolk's description of the Field of Cloth of Gold there's support for this idea.

    To-day the French, All clinquant, all in gold,

    like heathen gods, Shone down the English; and,

    to-morrow, they Made Britain India: every man that stood

    Show'd like a mine.

    Apr 05, 2013
  • anon

    Some pro-Nevillites think he wrote the plays in the Shakespeare Apocrypha, but I personally am completely neutral about this without further evidence. One cannot readily apply the usual stylistic tests to Neville, since he didn't write any poetry or plays under his own name. Very many letters and memoranda by him survive, and one can test these for rare and unique words found in Shakespeare. Dr John Casson has done this at length, and found an unusual number of such words, more than for any other "candidate."

    His articles on this can be found on his website- look at the left hand side under "My Shakespeare-Neville Research.". Concerning the long periods of theatre closure because of the plague, my understanding is that Shakespeare's Company went on provincial tours then and appeared in Court performances. 
    Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

    Apr 07, 2013
  • anon

    Thanks for this 'Reform'. I note that you say

    Some pro-Nevillites think he wrote the plays in the Shakespeare Apocrypha, but I personally am completely neutral about this without further evidence. One cannot readily apply the usual stylistic tests to Neville, since he didn't write any poetry or plays under his own name.

    Just to be clear, are you saying that in this respect you are neutral to the arguments put forwards by John Casson in his book 'Enter Pursued by a Bear'? I note that Brenda James wrote a forward to that book, calling attention to Henry Tyrell's book 'The Doubtful Plays of Shakespeare'.

    The Amazon blurb says that following Brenda' James' work:

    John Casson has applied this to apocryphal works with startling results. He has thus discovered: Neville's first nom-de-plume (before he used the name 'Shakespeare'); Shakespeare-Neville's first published poem: the Phaeton sonnet; Shakespeare-Neville's first comedy: Mucedorus; Shakespeare-Neville's first tragedies: Locrine and Arden of Faversham; Shakespeare-Neville's first Falstaff: ten years before the Henry IV plays. Dr. Casson also explores Thomas of Woodstock and A Yorkshire Tragedy, revealing the connections between them and Henry Neville's life and letters. He reclaims the lost play Cardenio in the surviving text of Double Falshood, showing that this is a genuine work by Shakespeare-Neville and John Fletcher. After 400 years we can now see Shakespeare-Neville's artistic development before his early known works.

    The Phaeton Sonnets
    Arden of Faversham
    Falstaff (first version ten years before the Henry IV cycle)
    Thomas of Woodville
    A Yorkshire Tragedy

    Quite a lot of works to get involved with stylistic analysis regardless of target author.

    So what approach do you suggest we take to John's work on these matters?

    Apr 08, 2013
  • anon

    I did a quick concordance search.  "British" appears only four times in the canon, twice each in Cymbeline and King Lear.  Both Jacobean plays.  Cymbeline accounts for the lion's share of "Britain," where it occurs 33 [!] times.  Distant runners-up are King John (4), all for the name Arthur [Duke] of Britain; Richard III (4); Richard II (2); Henry V, once, the Duke of Britain again; once each for Henry V, VI, and VIII; and once for Love's Labour's Lost ("Queen Guinover of Britain").

    Looking at the Jacobean plays, "English" appears (of necessity) in Henry Viii (9); in All's Well That Ends Well (3); once in Lear where they're the villains' enemy ("Seek him out Upon the English party"); six times in Macbeth (as opposed to Scottish).  Once each in Measure for Measure and Othello, if we're counting borderline Jacobean.  That's it.

    England?  Henry VIII (12) and Macbeth (8), for the aforesaid reasons.  The Tempest once.  Trinculo on Caliban: "A strange fish!  Were I in England now (as once I was) and had put this fish painted, not a holiday fool there but would give a piece of silver."

    Nat Whilk

    Apr 10, 2013
  • anon

    Thanks!  I've locted my original reference to this - it is in  Bate's  Soul Of the Age pp 340-341

    I notice that Jonathan Bate is getting one-starred by Oxfordians on Amazon, by the way. 

    Apr 10, 2013
  • anon

    I'll bet that line from the Tempest doesn't feature in the new Stritmatter and Kositsky book! Funny how they'll spin a whole chapter of gossamer theorising on his knowledge of Italy based on the slightest of connections in a Shylock speech when in the very next line Shylock mentions publicans and ale houses, which clearly belong in London.

    Apr 13, 2013
  • anon

    Italy. Ah Venice. The dream city of the age, a name that to Shakespeare's contemporaries represents a fantasy world of luxury and moral licentiousness. Rather like Paris was to the world in the 1890's, possibly as inaccurately.  As Neil MacGregor says  "Every age has its own fantasy of the great city, where glamour and pleasure not only abound but are easily available".

    Shakespeare exploits this mythical place and shows no personal knowledge of the actual  town sharing the same name.

    (A chance to mention Neil MaGregor  (2012) 'Shakespeare's Restless World' which takes 20 contemporary objects and explores what they meant to people of the Elizabethan-Jacobean transition period.)

    Apr 14, 2013
  • anon

    I am completely neutral about John's claims, and prefer to comment only on the works regarded as authentic by all. Neville might well have written other plays and works not in the Canon, but I'd prefer to prove first that he wrote the accepted plays. By the way, Neville was a relative of William Leveson, one of the two trustees for the Globe Theatre in 1599- both of their mothers were Greshams, of the well-known merchant family. Shakespeare (specifically named) was one of the leaseholders for whom Leveson and Thomas Savage acted as trustees.

    Apr 18, 2013
  • anon

    "Seek him out Upon the English party" in Lear is Shakespeare slipping up. He's forgotten that the play is set in ancient Britain, before there were any English parties to be had. In some productions it's changed to "British party". I guess the fact that the line refers to a forthcoming battle against the French took his mind back to writing Henry V. In the rest of the play the rhetoric is British through and through.

    Jun 10, 2013
  • anon

    English (British) authors have been making that mistake ever since. When James' accession threw a rope around Scotland, Cecil and his realpolitik crew decided it would be politic not to draw too much attention to it while fastening hard onto any and all advantages gained (another long lasting effect). Englishness has been subsumed in the wider picture, like negative space in a drawing, ever since. It's what's left after concessions to everyone else in the fort have been made and it's not polite to refer to it in the presence of colonials. It may be just starting to change now. So we should go easy on Will's little slip. Especially after 'made Britain India' - a line a lot of people must have wondered about, down the years.

    Jun 11, 2013