Oxfordians claim the sonnets published as SHAKE-SPEARE’S SONNETS fit the life story of the Earl of Oxford better than they fit the life story of William Shakespeare of Stratford. They point out correctly that the poet often refers to himself as old, while Shakespeare was in his thirties when most of the sonnets are thought to have been written. They claim correctly that the poet complains of feeling disgraced and point out, again correctly, that the Earl of Oxford was often disgraced (although it is doubtful that there was any human being who ever lived who did not feel disgraced at one time or another).
A tale from the early days of Authorship Doubters, with sincere apologies to Alistair Cooke.
Once, in the early 30's, I was travelling through The Panhandle in the tornado season when I saw a dark, sinister shape on the horizon. There was the prospect of some nearby shelter in a small church made, like so many small churches in the Mid West, of corrugated iron and I decided to take it and venture in. I arrived in the middle of what I took to be a secular lecture. A small man was treating his small audience to a parable on faith. He had obviously only just started so I decided to sit and listen.
John Fletcher is a black hole for Oxfordian theorists. Too close and the whole Oxfordian shebang disappears in a wail of deplorable sucking noises. It's a good job his early life isn't as well documented as Shakespeare's or there wouldn't be any Oxfordian case at all.
He's a bit of a man of mystery until his 27th birthday in 1607 which was shortly followed by the appearance of The Woman Hater, co-written with Francis Beaumont. The two dramatists became a team and wrote many of the most successful plays of the decade following Shakespeare's retirement. The fact that Oxford was dead and gone before Fletcher appears on the scene is a fatal embarrassment to the idea that the plays were complete before 1604.
Anyone who worked in the electronics industry in the 1980's will remember the early days of reverse engineering. Computer equipment designed in high tech facilities in Silicon Valley, Glen or Fen would be painstakingly analysed and disassembled, its code rebuilt into copies somewhere in the Far East or South America. The problem for the reverse engineers was that there is a missing step in the path they seek to tread. The code written by the designers is written in compiled and stripped down to machine code and therefore cannot easily be understood. Working out which bits of code do what is a laborious process of recovering the original design. By looking at what they can see and testing what it does, reverse engineers eventullay recreate the original desig. And eventually, new counterfeit machines are the result. All manner of fake consumer electronic products then turn up in the product's home markets. Chasing the counterfeiters was hopeless. Sorting out the problem took years.
The building of the First Folio was a forward engineering process. The plays had all been performed, their parts learned by actors. Publishing them involved collecting bits written down, bits recreated from memory, some edited by the author before publication, some legitimate copies, some, like Jaggard's counterfeit versions of 1619 quite definitely not. Some were built from prompt copies with their accurate exits and entrances, some from shorthand copies, with lists of characters at the start of a scene. Things that were clearly missing could be replaced or sought in other contemporary versions. A missing speech recovered here, a stage direction added there. Painstaking work carried out over the course of many years.
"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. "
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.
“ONE of the beauties of the Oxfordian theory is that it brings to life about two-thirds of the canon otherwise tending to be ignored; Coriolanus is a perfect example of this.” So begins an extraordinary Oxfordian article seeking to detach the late play Coriolanus from Will’s authorship and drop it into the Earl’s lap.
In just my lifetime, Coriolanus has been played by Lawrence Olivier, Paul Scofield, Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins, Ian McKellen, Ian Richardson, Toby Stephens, Robert Ryan, Christopher Walken, Morgan Freeman, Colm Feore, Alan Howard and most recently, filmed in a stunningly modernised version by Ralph Fiennes.
Is the work of the early Elvis Presley, making recordings for Sun Records in the mid-50's, distinguishable from the work of the same singer in his recorded concerts of the mid-70's?
It's a difference of 20 years. The difference between early Beatles recordings and their final work is less than 10 years. Looking at Dennis Potter's early work in the sixties and comparing it with his work 20 years later is even more instructive. Very few people would want to admit they could not tell which came first, Vote, Vote Vote for Nigel Barton or The Singing Detective.
In the 16 years between Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters, with its off screen aliens and Jurassic Park with its very much on screen dinosaurs, computers had become big enough and powerful enough to be used for origination.
In his famous thesis, Roger Stritmatter joins Thomas J Looney in the First Article of the Oxfordian Credo which detects similarity between the work of the Bard and that of the Earl, trying for a twofer by aligning the plot of Hamlet with the life of De Vere.
Indeed Looney notes that the "central fact of Hamlet's working out
a secret purpose under a mask of eccentricity amounting almost to feigned madness" (398) forms
an analogue to the real-life circumstances of Edward de Vere as the greatest of the "concealed
There are people (including some who are certain that William Shakespeare of Stratford wrote the plays attributed to him) who believe that the character Polonius in “Hamlet,” based, at least in part, on William Cecil, Lord Burghley. There are some reasonable arguments to be made on both sides of this issue. What is not reasonable is the argument that the author of “Hamlet” must necessarily have had access to a copy of the precepts that William Cecil, Lord Burghley, wrote to his son Robert. They claim that the speech the Polonius delivers to his son Laertes in “Hamlet” is so remarkably similar to the precepts Lord Burghley gave to his son Robert that only someone with access to a copy of Burghley’s precepts could have written “Hamlet.”
While they were both alive, Ben Jonson clearly felt a sense of rivalry with his fellow playwright. As an artist, Will not only outsold him at the box office but quite clearly had the better turn of phrase. It must have been irritating. So while the competition between the dramatists is active, we find Ben sniping at Will's lack of education, his poor geography and choice of subjects until Will pre-deceases him in 1616. Later that year, having spent months in its compilation, Ben supervised the publication of the first collection of his own plays. If only Will had taken the same trouble there would be no sites like this.