More from the imdb Anonymous Board. This is a summary of the Oxfordian position by long term contributor Howard Schumann with rebuttal annotations in green by fellow board member, alfa-16, with rebuttals by other contributors further down the page.
The Case for Edward de Vere, as presented by Howard Schumann
The case against presented by alfa-16
"The plays demonstrate a highly educated mind, with a feudal, aristocratic view of society. [Wrong] They are full of detailed references to lordly pastimes[Wrong] and sports[Wrong] and also show a detailed knowledge of the law and of foreign languages.[Wrong] De Vere studied law at Gray's Inn[Supposition] after completing his education at Cambridge[Supposition] . The records of his education, whilst living in the Burghley household, show him to have been equipped to be an outstanding scholar,[Supposition] highly proficient in the classics and French. [Supposition] - All of these assertions belong in the same class of fiction. They are intended to tailor a profile of the author which corresponds to the life of their candidate. Not only is this profile completely unsupported by the work itself, it really doesn't fit De Vere all that well either. For example, while he matriculated and was later awarded an honorary degree, there's no evidence he ever did any work at Cambridge or for that matter, at Gray's Inn. Nor can Oxfordians produce examples of the elite knowledge that might have been hidden from commoners like Shakespeare or Marlowe or Jonson or even knowledge that might have been hard to acquire. And far from a feudal view of society, Coriolanus provides the best insight into spin doctoring in elections until 20C satire gets going.
If Shakspere of Stratford were the author, he would have been writing for a company of actors and thus providing plays not much in advance of their first performance. If they were written by de Vere, the plays would not— have been written in such conditions, but rather for private performance at Court, and subsequently revised into their present, literary, form.[Supposition] Indeed, it has been established that two-thirds of all the documented performances of Shakespeare's plays were not in the public theatres but either at Court, the Inns of Court and at Oxford and Cambridge universities.[But unlike plays written for court performance, vast expense, high on long speeches, rhymed couplets, alexandrines and low on drama, containing devices or surprises, all of them were written to be performed before a paying public in theatres, wherever else they might have been performed] . When they were written would have no direct link with when they were first performed or published.[Wrong as in ‘hard to be more wrong’ some roles were written for specific actors and their names, rather than the character's survive in some Quarto editions, while some take advantage of specific theatre layouts and props. Characters exits and entrances allow for costume changes. The author was an unsurpassed master of practical stagecraft. The man who wrote the plays worked in the theatre, not a remote stately home.]
Like John Lyly's plays they could well have been written many years before they were actually published.[Wrong. If Lyly’s lesser work lay unperformed (and there's no evidence either way) it was for obvious reasons — the plays are not very good - once his reputation was made by Campaspe, it may have been different. Who knows? Lyly's chronolgy has received only a tiny fraction of the scholarly investigations into Shakespeare's. It isn't relevant - later: though now there is considerable academic work beng devoted to building an exact map of the whole of Elizabethan and Jacobena theatre. This work further reduces the chance of Oxford's involvement in Shakespeare's work].
The quality of the works and the exquisite workmanship of the poetry as we now have it make it difficult to believe that they were produced under pressure,[Inference – wrong] for immediate performance on a public stage, but rather that they were first drafted out, then refined and perfected over a period of years, probably away from the pressures of production or publication[Wrong as in couldn’t be more wrong. We know from the way the Quarto Editions and the First Folio were produced that texts were assembled from playhouse relics, foul papers, prompt copies and actor’s memories. Not perfect manuscripts.] . There are shadowy references to Court plays (by de Vere?) put on in the 1570s which could be early versions of plays which subsequently appeared as Shakespeare's.[Fanciful guesswork built on zero foundation. Material which featured in earlier plays was routinely recycled by all Elizabethan dramatists. There may have been other Hamlets and other Julius Caesar's but there's o evidence linking them with De Vere or Shakespeare].
While Edward de Vere was living at William Cecil's house in London as a royal ward of Court, Arthur Golding, his maternal uncle, is also known to have lived in the Cecil household. Golding's translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses is one of the more influential books published at this time - and its vivacious style and exquisite turn of phrase stand in marked contrast to the rather dour style of his other published works.[Wrong] It is widely recognised that this translation of Ovid had a major influence on ‘Shakespeare’.[Probably wrong - definitely overstated - references in the canon indicate Shakespeare used other translations, available at the time] Could this work have been a collaborative achievement by uncle and nephew?[Wild supposition - De Vere was 15 years his junior and 14 years old when the first four books were published. Work that is indisputatbly De Vere's is inferior to Golding's work, not superior.]
Soon after the name ‘Shake-speare’ appeared in print for the first time, no new poems were published in the anthologies of the day either under de Vere's own name or the more common EO (standing for Edward Oxenford which was how he wrote his signature).[Wrong – None of De Vere’s poetry appears to have been published and none of it is in print now outside biography and the authorship debate. It’s just not good enough] These poems have some similarities in vocabulary, imagery and form to the Shakespeare poems[Superficial structural resemblance maybe] but, as works written in his teens and early twenties,they are clearly works of juvenilia[You write juvenilia when you are juvenile, not in your twenties] and lack the maturity of style of the Shakespeare poems.[they also lack his quality of thought and imagination] .
Yet this is perfectly natural - no-one would criticise Beethoven's early string quartets because they lacked the towering genius of, say, the Ninth Symphony.[they would if they were as mediocre as the De Vere poems. And when did you last hear a public performance of Haydn’s First Symphony. Or Mozart’s or even Beethoven’s? The point is fiercely ironic since, in dating the plays, Oxfordians put much of Shakespeare's late work at the beginning of his career] It is hardly conceivable that the earliest known poems of Shakespeare - The Rape of Lucrece and Venus and Adonis - were the first fruits of his pen. Yet where can Stratfordians point to Shakespeare's juvenilia?[Specious. What happens to plays that aren’t good enough to get performed? Where would you look for Bertolt Brecht’s or Samuel Beckett’s Juvenilia? W M Merchant says of Wordsworth that 'no poet ever made less effective se of the wast paper basket' Maybe someone who could write like Shakespeare in his prime, didn't want his juvenilia harming his rep. later: as the work on collaborative theatre progresses, some of Will's work is starting to turn up in other plays, further reducing the Oxfordian objection to lack of juvenilia.]
Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece were published in 1593 and 1594 and were the first works to be published under the name ‘Shake-speare’. For the next five years the records show the name to have been associated exclusively with these two works. Printed plays under the name ‘Shake-speare’ did not appear until 1598,[Specious. Plays printed under any author’s name did not appear until 1598] the year that Lord Burghley died.[Coincidence] These two narrative poems were both dedicated to Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton. Based on the fact that the Earl of Southampton was, for a time, being considered as a suitor for the hand of Edward de Vere's eldest daughter Elizabeth,[along with many other possible matches] a strong case can be made that the Earls of Southampton and Oxford were well acqainted. It is also well known that Edward de Vere's son and heir, Henry de Vere, was a firm friend of Southampton - there is even a double portrait of the two men mounted on chargers.[Why would a belted Earl need to schmooze a patron in a dedication, exactly? De Vere WAS a patron of the arts. Not a recipient or suppliant of patronage]
The 154 Sonnets themselves are recognized as the most intimately biographical works in the canon [but only by people who can't tell the difference between 'personal' and 'autobiographical'] and they depict an older, lame aristocrat[Wrong] who is in some sort of disgrace.[Wrong] This is hardly a match for William Shakspere.[Because it’s wrong, Will's use of those adjectives is metaphorical] Orthodox scholars implicitly acknowledge as much when they speculate that the Sonnets may be fictional;[No they don’t] but they don't treat them as fictional when they try to identify the Fair Youth, Dark Lady and Rival Poet.[because they are clearly real to Shakespeare]
If these were fictional characters, there would have been no reason not to give them names, but none of them is named. Also, the title, ‘Shake-speares Sonnets’ (not Sonnets, by Shakespeare), and its dedication to "our ever-living poet," suggest that the author had already died by 1609.[Crazy. ‘Ever-living’ means ‘still living’ not ‘dead’ Pure invention] Even most orthodox Shakespeare scholars think that whoever wrote the Sonnets was not involved in their publication. Their dedication was initiated by the publisher and not the author. The publication of such revealing, even scandalous, poems would have been a great embarrassment to any living author.[Wrong. Like sonnets written by many other Elizabethan authors, they had been widely circulated before they were published as a collection although some had been published, unauthorized but still attributed to Shakespeare in The Passionate Pilgrim in 1599. Unpublished love sonnets by Shakespeare, Sydney, Raleigh, Donne and even one by Oxford were in wide circulation throughout their lives despite their embarrassing content. When you couldn't correspond with your loved one, or get her on her own, sonnets had a legitimate purpose and the finished work was often shared for popular admiration or re-use.]
Perhaps most relevant are those sonnets in which the author says, “My name be buried where my body is,”[Or perhaps the ones where he plays on the name ‘Will’ or says ‘My name is Will'??] and “Your name from hence immortal life shall have, / Though I, once gone, to all the world must die: / The earth can yield me but a common grave, / When you entombed in men’s eyes shall lie.” (72 and 81) In these sonnets, the author himself says that he neither wants, nor expects, his name to be remembered.[Misinterpration. He is clearly bemoaning the difference between the fate of commoners and the aristocracy] Authorship doubters contend that this is, in fact, what has happened. The orthodox claim they are fictional. Doubters find this absurd. How is it even possible that the author's name would not be remembered, unless it was not yet known?[Wrong. The author of the sonnets even offers an arrogant hostage to fortune by talking about immortalising his subjects in his own verse]
What the Plays Reveal
Fourteen[Wrong] of the plays have Italian settings and demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the country beyond pure book knowledge.[Wrong. The challenge to produce examples has gone unswered, whereas there is plenty of incorrect continental geographical knowledge] So detailed is the knowledge that ‘blunders’ about geography are now being shown to be correct.[Someone has created a fanciful defence of Shakespeare’s attribution of a seacoast to a map of 16C Bohemia that not even 16C Bohemians would recognize. His contemporary, Ben Jonson, ridiculed him for this mistake] De Vere spent the best part of a year travelling in Italy in 1575. He was satirised as 'The Italian Earl' on his return to England.
All but one (The Merry Wives of Windsor) of the 37 plays are set in Courtly or wealthy society. The noble characters are all natural, convincing and at ease.[Wrong. This type of generalization is totally inappropriate when dealing with Shakespeare] They speak the language of their class.[Wrong as in 'couldn’t be more wrong', Shakespeare’s characters all speak the same language, coloured by dialect as necessary. Accurate 16C courtoisie is significant only in its absence] Throughout the plays, every character through whom the author speaks on social or political issues is of noble birth or privileged position.[Completely wrong. We are closest to Shakespeare’s own words, most Shakespeareans think, in the actor's conversation in Hamlet, or when a tribune of Plebs in Coriolanus is speaking. Mark Antony was also a tribune of plebs] The world ‘Shake-speare’ wrote about was the world de Vere and his court audience knew.[Wrong the world Shakespeare wrote about was the world his paying customers wanted to see on stage].
It is ‘Shake-speare's’ lower-order characters which are unconvincing.[Wrong as in couldn’t be more wrong - these were his most popular characters. His tavern low-life scenes are spot-on and the characters are often his most sympathetic. The tart with a heart is a Shakespearean first] Almost all of them are clods or clowns; [Wrong] even their names are undignified - Wart, Bottom, Dogberry, Snout. By contrast, Ben Jonson's ‘ordinary’ characters are natural while his nobles are caricatures with the similarly ridiculous names such as Sir Epicure Mammon, Sir Paul Eitherside, Sir Diaphonous Silkworm.[Wrong. A misunderstanding of 16C theatrical tradition]
De Vere was excellent at the tilts and at jousting and numerous first-hand accounts exist which describe his successes in royal tournaments. His natural skill was such that the Cambridge scholar Gabriel Harvey eulogised the young Earl in the presence of the whole court during one of Queen Elizabeth's summer progresses, declaring "thine eyes flash fire, thy countenance shakes spears" [Imaginative, inaccurate translation] and urging him to put his scholarly activities to one side and make a name for himself leading men into battle.[Nevertheless his abysmal performance during the Armada crisis cost him his place at court. He took refuge in tin-mining, the quest for monopolies, petty administration tasks and begging for preferment]
De Vere was closely involved with the theatre; he held a lease on the Blackfriars Theatre and had his own group of players,[who he never wrote a play for] The Lord Oxford's Men. He was acknowledged by his contemporaries as a poet and praised as a playwright.[No real evidence to support this. He is mentioned, without reference to any actual plays, in two sycophantic lists along with other phantom playwrights. There is not a single reference anywhere to his involvement with an actual play. In one of these lists, Shakespeare AND some of his plays are enumerated, if the author had seen any plays by Oxford, he would probably have named them. But he didn't] Although there are only a few poems published in Elizabethan anthologies under the name 'EO', modern scholarship ascribes around twelve known poems to his authorship.[None of which, ironically, are good enough make the Oxford Anthology of 16C verse] Around thirty books were also dedicated to him during his lifetime,[because he was patron of the arts] there were none to ‘Shake-speare’.[because he wasn't a patron of he arts - compare their eulogies for a more significant comparison]He was also the patron of many writers but again, not of ‘Shake-speare’.[What do patrons do? And what do the patronized – writers/artist - do? How does that work again?]
The records show Lord Oxford's Men[and every other theatre group including Shakespeare’s] performing in the Boar's Head tavern in Eastcheap (referred to in Henry IV part 1). The records also show that two former servants of Lord Burghley were waylaid by De Vere's men, at Gad's Hill on the highway between Gravesend and Rochester, the very same stretch of road where Falstaff was ambushed by Prince Hal and his men in disguise.[the very same incident featuring in the source material dating from before De Vere was born. The A2 has been notorious all its long life.]
Parallels in the plays
The parallels between de Vere's life and events in the plays are too numerous, consistent, complex and intimate to be mere coincidences.[There are also amazing similarities to the lives of Wallis Simpson, President Kennedy, Margaret Thatcher, Radovan Karadic and, going back to 16C, almost every other Elizabethan for whom we have a biography not to mention amazing similarities in one character to a psychiatric disorder not documented until the 20C] This is particularly true of All's Well That Ends Well and, especially, Hamlet. Although dismissive of references which Oxfordians quote, Stratfordians constantly search the plays [No they don't.] for personal biographical allusions to Will Shakspere - without success, as they themselves admit.[Wrong. In MWW there is a kid called Will, learning Latin in a Midlands Grammar School, just as Shakespeare would have. Make what you like of it. It’s creative fiction not biography LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE in the plays.]
There are also parallels between characters and real court personages recognisable at the time and still so today.[Of course there are] The most frequently suggested are Burghley as Polonius, Sir Christopher Hatton as Malvolio, Sir Philip Sidney as Boyet and Aguecheek, Queen Elizabeth as Titania, Portia and Olivia. Only a senior nobleman closely associated with the Queen would surely have got away with caricaturing such powerful people. [Wrong. If there was anything risque in the plays, Oxford would also have caught it in the neck.]
Sigmund Freud, a strong supporter of the view that de Vere was ‘Shake-speare’, believed that no author can completely avoid giving insights into himself in his writings [whilst this is uncontentious, scholars agree that it is harder to spot the real Shakespeare in his writings than any other dramatist. Because of the universality of the scope and interest of the works, they don't 'point' at anything or anywhere.] and that the character of Hamlet is his own self portrait [Utterly ridiculous]. This is supported by writers such as Virginia Woolf, Gustav Flaubert and Edward Albee, and is a matter of common observation.[No it is not. The inability to detect Shakespeare's personality in his work is the common observation] If it were not so, literary biography, in which the writer's life is linked to his or her works would be a waste of time.[Wrong. That is NOT what literary biography does. If it did only that, it WOULD be a waste of time.]
Stratfordians recognize Hamlet as ‘the most autobiographical character’,[Wrong – Well not this one, anyway] that is the one in which the author seems to reveal himself most intimately, but they are baffled by the dissimilarity between Hamlet's ‘life’ and that of the Stratford man.[Wrong. Of course] Perhaps that is because they are looking at the wrong man."[Judge for yourselves]