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Putting a lid on it

'So does recreating 17th century seating and atmosphere allow any similar revelations about the text? On the basis of The Duchess of Malfi, the main discovery is the influence of the lighting on the writing'

Mark Lawson
The Guardian 14 Jan 2014

“Oh this gloomy world!
In what a shadow or deep pit of darkness,
Doth womanish and fearful mankind live!”

The Duchess of Malfi

Oxfordianism. A Valediction Forbidding Mourning.
Two playhouses, both alike in rare appeal,
Near Borough Market, where we lay our site:
Douse ancient grudge of false-claiming zeal,
Killing daft imposture with candlelight.
Each shame-fac’d guess, each attribution sin
Now the star-cross’d Earl’s pretence decry;
Years dead at Hackney, long ere Will mov’d in, 
To Blackfriars, with its audience dry.
The fail'd illusions of their death-mark’d stance
Though drown’d by Scholarship, yet stay'd aloof, 
Till Sam the Man gave Real Late Romance,
Some light and music and a bloody roof.

Hand D home


Hand D belongs to one of six different individuals, five authors and one scribe, who contributed to the manuscript of Sir Thomas More, now in the British Library. Today, aside from anti-Stratfordians, few scholars do not accept Hand D as genuinely Shakespeare's. The different strands of proof, forensic, orthographic and documentary, when taken together, are conclusive. In this extended article we pull together these strands and review the reasons why residual doubt has evaporated.

Devices and Desires

“We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.”

The Book of Common Prayer

In the spring of 1579, Gilbert Talbot wrote his father, the Earl of Shrewsbury: “It is but vain to trouble your Lordship with such shows as were showed before Her Majesty this Shrovetide at night. The chiefest was a device presented by the persons of the Earl of Oxford, the Earl of Surrey, the Lords Thomas Howard and Windsor. The device was prettier than it happened to have been performed; but the best of it, and I think the best liked, was two rich jewels which were presented to Her Majesty by the two Earls.”

Not exactly a rave review: Talbot thought it a pretty conceit which the performers failed to carry off. He says nothing of speeches nor speakers, nothing of the storyline, stage effects, music, dance, nor finery. Nothing dazzled the beholders but the jewels: the stars of the show were lumps of corundum.

The New Vasari

After a complaint on the Oxfraud Facebook page that bemoaned the lack of variety in recent articles, I have decided to preview my forthcoming book, The New Vasari: The Lives of the Yorkshire Painters.

Using classic Oxfordian scholarship methods I re-evaluate the careers of key 16th century painters and trace their hidden origins. Orthodox artistic scholarship has been baffled for centuries by the overwhelming preponderance of Italian artists in 16th century Renaissance art. The extraordinarily high density of Italian practitioners in the universe of 16th century painters has never been properly accounted for by traditional methods of scholarship. Orthodox methods fall short in a surprisingly similar manner to their shortcomings in evaluating Elizabethan literature, so it will come as no surprise that biographical methods of assessing the actual work of Italian painters can not only reveal amazing new discoveries but open an entirely new field of study into a series of hitherto hidden identities.

Giraffe gaffe


Alexander Waugh has trumpeted a great Oxfordian discovery. In The Spectator (2 November 2013), he wrote:

“Researching a new book on Shakespeare’s sonnets, I stumbled upon an astonishing piece of hitherto unnoticed evidence in a 16th-century book by a sex-maniac clergyman from Cambridge. I shall not bore you with the details; suffice it to say that William Covell (the author and S-MC in question) revealed in words not especially ambiguous by Elizabethan standards that ‘Shakespeare’ was a nom de plume used by the courtier poet Edward de Vere.”

This is his revelation:


Pretty, isn’t it?

Waugh is no fool: among other things, he wrote a damned good book on the Wittgenstein family. But his great epiphany is apophenia: the perception of meaning in the meaningless. Yes, I know that cluster of stars looks just like a giraffe, but don't expect to bring down astrophysics with your great discovery™.

Collaborative Plays



This book is ostensibly the partner edition of the The RSC Shakespeare: The Complete Works and is the best edition of the plays in which Shakespeare might have had an unacknowledged hand.

However, whilst it is chiefly intended to provide insight into Elizabethan collaborative theatre techniques, because of the central subject matter, it is also one of the first major academic works to cover many attribution and authorship arguments which have been the property for years of the so-called Shakespeare Authorship Question.

The idea that Will used his inkpot in more plays than those which bear his name is not new. Leonard Digges gives us an idea of how the process worked in his long Preface to the Second Folio. This work is part of a new approach to open up the Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre workshops and take the closest look so far at what goes on inside, though the focus is entirely on the collbaorative plays on which Will does not currently have his name. 

The play-texts are clear, nicely typeset and the footnotes are exemplary, far enough from the dialogue not to interfere with reading but clear and well-set enough to make reference easy when necessary. Although the texts all pass the basic scholar's test, the plays are edited for performance, with as much detail as possible concerning who is on stage, when they enter and exit. Spelling and grammar are uncompromisingly modern (thank God). If there are complaints, they won't be from actors or directors.

Poetry/Prose converter

There's not very much demand for this device, it has to be admitted. In fact I can't see it making its reserve on ebay. The range of poetry on which it operates successfully just isn't big enough to make it useful.

It's perfect for the works of the Earl of Oxford, however.

Let's demonstrate on the first three lines of 'Were I a King".

Take the first three lines of his poem and remove their line breaks,

"Were I a king I might command content. Were I obscure unknown would be my cares and were I dead no thoughts should me torment,"

They are ploddingly prosaic, so just this simple manoeuvre gets us almost all the way there. If we now reverse his one concession to poetic language, and place subject before verb thus: "Were I obscure my cares would be unknown" Voila! The lines now have nothing to distinguish them from prose.

Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift, like any brilliant satirist, centuries ahead of his time, discusses Oxfordian Scholarship techniques in Chapter V of Gulliver's Travels.

We crossed a walk to the other part of the academy, where, as I have already said, the projectors in speculative learning resided.

The first professor I saw, was in a very large room, with forty pupils about him. 


Like Shakespeare and Milton, Swift is yet another victim of ambivalent frontispiece engraving. Some authorship scholar will, no doubt, one day prove that this is a portrait of Robert Walpole, George III or Steven Spielberg.

After salutation, observing me to look earnestly upon a frame, which took up the greatest part of both the length and breadth of the room, he said, “Perhaps I might wonder to see him employed in a project for improving speculative knowledge, by practical and mechanical operations.  But the world would soon be sensible of its usefulness; and he flattered himself, that a more noble, exalted thought never sprang in any other man’s head. 

Covell Conspiracy

Revving it up

Reverend William Covell’s Wikipedia entry states that he “took part in the controversy about how far the newly-reformed Church of England should abandon the liturgy and hierarchy of the past, to which debate he contributed several broadly anti puritan works”. It adds that….”Covell's interest to modern scholars now largely depends on one polemical work published in 1595, Polimanteia”.

The interest is that Covell mentions Shakespeare, Samuel Daniell, Spenser and Watson amongst others. He also confirms his knowledge and appreciation of literature with a reference to Robert Garnier’s Cornelia, adding a marginal note ‘A work howsoever not respected yet excellently done by Th. Kid’.

The Hollow Crown

In 2012, as part of the cultural element of the London Olympic Games, the BBC contributed four productions of the Plantagenet plays, Richard II, Henry IV i and ii and Henry V. The series featured a panoply of top British acting talent, consistently excellent cinematography and despite being shot almost entirely on location, managed to maintained a theatrical flavour by confining itself theatrical resources and personnel, rarely reaching for support from CGI to amplify a mise en scene. Simon Russell Beale took a surprising, original and for some, off-putting line with Falstaff, presenting a desperate, cynical, old and fearful man. The whole cycle stressed the unprincipled struggle for existence and power art the expense of the good-natured ribaldry. However, the productions never fail to interest, provoke and ravish the eyes.