Skip to main content

Thumb in the balance

scalesWhen 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'.

Edward De Vere was educated as an aristocrat. He had two hours of Latin a day which left lots of time for fencing, horse riding and dancing. Very much the same education as Burghley's other unremarkable wards. He was quite unlikely to be able to compete with a grammar school boy, who would be able to write and converse fluently in Latin, having studied it eight hours a day for five years. Yet his education, Oxfordians argue, qualifies him as a prime authorship candidate (without any supporting evidence), while Will's lack of attendance records disqualify him completely.

This is arrant nonsense. Constructing a logical argument in this fashion would have produced painful results at King Edward VI.

There are no enrolment records for the grammar school which position Will at the school in Stratford. Since there are no enrolment records of any sort before the year 1700 for that school, this cannot be counted as evidence or lack of evidence. 

The non-existence of enrolment records has no weight in the balance of authorship probability. First mistake. 

Second mistake—enrolment records are not the only type of evidence admissible. Shakespeare lived a long(ish) life and left huge amounts of work behind from which deductions can fairly be made about where he came from and how he was educated. Scholars have done this work. It points to Warwickshire and a Grammar school education. 

Third mistake—there ARE references by contemporaries to Shakespeare's education, any one of which completely rules out the notion that he was uneducated.

There is no documentary evidence of educational qualifications for either Will or Edward which have any bearing on the authorship issue.


King Edward VI of Stratford upon Avon. Still going fine, still a Grammar School and still justly and inordinately proud of its most famous pupil.

Weighing the balance of probabilities correctly, there is absolutely nothing on the Oxfordian side of the education argument, nothing whatsoever to counter an overwhelming quantity of well-reasoned, substantive circumstantial evidence in Will's favour.

There is irony here. Oxfordians talk about De Vere 'graduating' from Cambridge and Gray's Inn when he did neither. They talk about the excellence of his tuition when the only surviving reference to it is Nowell's confession that he is wasting his time and can't do any more for his pupil. With the exception of a couple of hours of Latin, which don't appear to have sunk in, the evidence for Oxford's education turns out to be no better than the evidence for Shakespeare's, most of it tied up in the evidence left in his writing.

Will's education and career are consistent with the life ascribed to him by historians, the life of one of England's first professional playwrights.

Oxford's education and career are also consistent with the life ascribed to him by historians as a wilful, rebellious, wasteful, incompetent aristocrat, in search of an unearned income.

It takes a mighty Oxfordian thumb in the scales to argue anything else.


Share this post

Disqus comments