Based on Chaucer's Knight's Tale, another revealing prologue lies at the start of this late play whose authorship the records attribute to Will and John Fletcher, the successful long-term partner of Francis Beaumont. There has been a variety of controversy about the play but it is has gradually receded as analysis has isolated the contributions of each writer and validated the contribution made by Will. Many modern complete editions include it, as does the Oxford Companion to Shakespeare.
Gabriel Harvey had a similar background to Will. He was a scholar and writer, born at Saffron Walden, Essex, the eldest son of Alice (d. 1613) and John Harvey (d. 1593), a yeoman farmer and master rope maker who was a prominent member of the town's corporation. Richard Harvey and John Harvey were his younger brothers. Gabriel was educated first at Saffron Walden grammar school (no enrolment records again) and graduated ninth in seniority in the BA class of 1569/70.
He was a close friend of Edmund Spenser, a letter to whom contains the first mention of The Faerie Queene and a collector of books, whose margins he filled with comment but whose existence he omitted to include in his will. Distinctive beyond doubt, the whereabouts of 180 of these books are known today. A humanist, a dedicated protestant and possible author of the Martin Marprelate tracts, he is known today mostly for a bit of Latin flattery bestowed on the Earl of Oxford in 1578.
A little touch of Henry in the Night
It's hard to understand why Oxfordians try to tie the plays to familiar biographical landmarks when the most astonishing characteristic that they all share is their inventive originality. Looking for an authorship candidate who calls himself 'The Italian Earl' makes no sense when dealing with a man who contributed so much innovation and defined what it means to be English.
Oxford didn't write Henry V.
There are three distilled essences of Shakespeare in Henry V. Each is individually an anathema to the idea that they were written by an aristocrat, or a courtier, or an amateur, or a playwright from 20 or even 2 years earlier; by anyone, in fact, other than a playwright who had learnt his practical stagecraft on the job. As the 1590s draw to a close, we are looking at the work of a man who is consciously building a new theatrical tradition beyond the horizons of antiquity, beyond Kyd, Marlowe, Dekker, Chapman and the rest of the Elizabethan crew.
Oxford was a patron of a theatre troupe. It wasn't a very distinguished theatre troupe and mostly toured the provinces. However, any theatre sponsorship in the 16C helped to fund the development of the English stage at a crucial point in its history. Oxford's admirable patronage of young and interesting writers and translators, while not extensive by the standards of the day, is a greater contribution than to the arts than his poetry.
There's no evidence that he did more than lend his name to his acting troupe, however.
There are hundreds conspiracy theories out there, They allow their subscribers to feel one up on the rest of us—in possession of a secret understood only by a select group of illuminati. Although there is unlimited variety in what they all claim, in another sense they are all alike. They all start from the desired conclusion and reason backwards, making the evidence fit the proposition rather than the other way round.
In the case of the Shakespeare authorship debate, backwards reasoning is everywhere.
When issues are based on a balance of probabilities you can always find an Oxfordian thumb pressed hard on one side of the scales, tilting the result in their favour.
For example, the key Oxfordian claims on education involve total misuse of the word 'evidence'.
One area where we know De Vere excelled, to which he devoted a lot of his time, encompasses all the manly sports such as fencing and tilting. The inky, timorous De Vere in the film Anonymous doesn't look much like a man of action but the real Earl was accomplished at these active and difficult sports which took education and practice.
The full online Oxford English Dictionary contains definitions for 600,000 words, almost all with an example of usage from their first occurrence in print. Many entries have dozens of quotations covering a variety of uses of the word, so not all quotations can be credited as neologisms to their authors.
In a Good Oxfordian/Bad Oxfordian chapter of his book, William Farina willingly ignores the Oxfordian dating argument and goes out of his way to accept the 'orthodox' view of Two Gentlemen of Verona. In fact, there is no conventional dating for the play. It has to be written before Francis Meres' mention of it in Palladis Tamia in 1598 but stylometry is the only way to attempt further precision.