Shakespeare Authorship Controversy. The Millennium Man?
© Rae West 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2011 To Home Page of Rae West's website
Edward de Vere
is by far the most plausible candidate for the authorship of the Shakespeare canon. Find out why and investigate the sad mire in which the academic world has been stuck for several centuries.
The first de Vere advocate
(at least in modern times), who wrote Shakespeare Identified in Edward de Vere, the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford in 1920, was an Englishman with the misfortune to be called John Thomas Looney. Supporters of de Vere hasten to point out that, like 'Roosevelt', the 'oo' sound is pronounced as in 'Loney'. Looney has been described as a Gateshead schoolmaster, a teacher in Durham, and the supreme literary detective of all time; I'm not sure that much is known about him. Subsequent editions included an accretion of interesting endnotes. His book and the entire current that flowed from him has been more or less ignored officiallysee for example various editions of the rather laughable 'Oxford Companion to English Literature'. The most voluminous de Vere writer is I think still the American Charlton Ogburn, who died in 1998. Americans have been more open to the idea than Britons: de Vere is taught as Shakespeare at Concordia University, Portland, Oregon, by Prof. Daniel L. Wright, Ph. D. (Prof. Wright tells me that some other American institutions, including Blackburn College and 'the US Air Force Academy', do this too).
There are many brief overviews
of the Oxfordian case (e.g. by Percy Allen in an extraordinary spiritualist book in the 1940s, and by Iris Krass (a retired GP) & Christopher Dams 1994, and Burford in 1995). The following summary is copyright The De Vere Society 1998.
The Authorship Question: The Case Against William Shakspere .. and for Edward de Vere.
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The Truth Behind Shakespeare's Monument at Stratford-upon-Avon,
David Roper David Roper, who is English, has spent some years in detailed research into this issue; he may well emerge as one of the best Oxfordian thinkers. Longish! Includes more than 50K of pictures.
I've added an e-mail debate for people who like musing over controversies.
David Roper now has davidroper.eu
his own, new, website.
Coded Authorship Messages?
This could be the most important academic decryption in 400 years!
Seven or eight possible examples of hidden messages, including a brand new one in the Sonnets Dedication. Work described is by John Rollett, David Roper, Thomas Bokenham (with a bit by Rae West). I've included a hostile piece by a Baconian. (About 40K incl. graphics.)
This entire controversy provides an illustration
of the stultifying effect of a wrong hypothesis on academic studies. Scholars naturally have sought for evidence of William Shakspere, and equally naturally have found almost nothing. It's interesting to note that
, who is an ex-miner who once worked with pick and shovel, born in Grimethorpe, near Barnsley (where the film Brassed Off was filmed), has made a name for himself in the investigation of documents on the Bodleian Library [Oxford] and elsewhere.
This happened because, carrying out genealogical research, he'd found his own ancestors had written about de Vere; and because he happened to pick up the paperback by Charlton Ogburn, 'The Mystery of William Shakespeare', attracted only by the coincidence in the author's name. He went on to attend a sale in a large country house, where he found boxes of Elizabethan documents, auctioned for a song. He inspected, among another things, a Caxton 'Pilgrim's Progress'one of the world's most expensively-valued printed books; at least, that's my memory of what he saidand a pamphlet, 'Leicester's Commonwealth', of which all copies were believed destroyed, and found evidence of a full-length portrait of de Vere. He has found a document in Edward de Vere's handwritinga sort of Rosetta Stone in paper, with two versions of his handwriting, the court hand and the informal style. He's investigating (among many other thingsin October 1998 he wrote me he had 156 files of correspondence) handwriting samples of what may be fragments later incorporated into 'Shakespeare'. If I get his permission, more to follow. However, he told me he has a low opinion of Internet"there's no scholarship on Internet"so this may be unlikely.
Reply to Dr Kathman's
Why I'm not an Oxfordian
. (About 11K). A letter to Elizabethan Review which the editor didn't find room for. In mid-April 2000, Kathman has no sign on his website of an acknowledgement or a reply.
1995 Lecture by Charles Burford
The transcription, which I put up because of the talk's very high quality and 'paradigm-busting' nature, has been removed at the request of Charles Burford. It seems unlikely that they'll see the light of day again, as he regards that talk as unexceptional and lacklustre, and says it's under no circumstances to be distributed. (I think he's wrong, on the empirical grounds that, to my certain knowledge, many people have found most of it highly convincing. If he changes his mind, I'll reinstate it).
However, with his permission I've put a short version of this talk on this site instead (slightly updated from the version on the Shakespeare-Oxford Society's first, mid-1995, online magazine). The Q/A session is now therefore unfortunately unavailable.
Click here for Burford's shortened talk,
The Shakespeare Authorship Issue: Why it Matters. © Charles Burford.
Question-and-answer session from the 1995 talk (about equal in length to the talk itself) has questions on many topics: the Tudors, 'Venus and Adonis', Bacon, the Folios, the 'paid propagandist' idea... (I've added a few notes on Malone, Chambers, Sidney, Meres ...)
I should point out that, as a remote relative of de Vere, Burford might be suspected of bias. Moreover, in addition to skilful advocacy of Vere as author, Burford likes to promote an aristocratic view of history. This essay has more of the latter and less of the former.
Otley Hall houses the de Vere Society's library. Burford works, or worked, there. (Unexpectedly, in a waiting room, I found a piece on Otley Hall in
magazine, 15th Jan-21st Jan 2000. Most readers, I imagine, would have disregarded the Oxfordian hypothesis described in it).
My own pet theory
is that the Shaxper, the Stratford Shakespeare, was in effect a war profiteer, in food, at the time of the war with Spain when starvation was endemic in England (contrary to the 'Merrie England' myth). From one point of view, someone who controls and distributes food in times of famine could be considered to be doing beneficial work in the sense of at least ensuring people get small amounts (if they can afford it). Hence the 'grain merchant' idea, the rather furtive local celebrity, the few other Shakespeare-of-Stratford connections with food, and the possibility that, because of the coincidence of his name, he could have been selected as the substitute for the real author. If you find this implausible, read the following, by Capt. Bernard Ward, which I've taken and edited from one of the appendices to the later editions of Looney's book.
Shakespeare and the Anglo-Spanish War, 1585-1604
. (At about 30K, it would take too much space in the body of this section.)
On the subject of this wartime period, readers might like to consider the possibility that the speeches attributed to Elizabeth might be more plausibly assigned to a speechwriterde Vere being a likely candidate. Note added later: Gresham College in London in 1597, it says on its own Youtubes. We are now in a better position to appreciate the propaganda possibilities than in the last couple of centuries.
It occurs to me to wonder what happened to
, of whom Brian Aldiss wrote
'[To an Oxford bookshop came] Many celebrated dons, the most engaging of whom was probably J.I.M. Stewart. Stewart was busy installing himself in Christ Church.. He was writing a series of Shakespearian or mock-Shakespearian plays for the BBC Third Programme, then at its cultural zenith. Years later, Stewart must have felt a little rueful when he found Tom Stoppard tilling the same ground more profitably in
Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
...' Stewart went on to write detective stories (as Michael Inneshe was one of Bertie Russell's favourite authors in that genre) and orthodox novels. His surreal plots and background as Reader and Professor of English would make him one of the few excellent candidates for a serious film script on de Vere. The last I read of him was in a newspaper interview, in which he was quoted as saying that, having retired, he now 'proposed to age rapidly.'
is a retired GP living in north London who has contributed a great deal to the de Vere Society. I spoke to her at some length and was a bit disappointed to find that she appeared to conform to the model some people have of Oxfordians, namely that they have a romantic view of Elizabethan history. I checked this by asking her about the source of the gold captured by Francis Drake and others from the Spanish; she had no idea that unpleasant events in South America might be related to this piracy. She also thought Elizabeth had had a beneficial effect on the artsan Arts Council view of the Virgin Queen, surely rather remote from
challenged the de Vere Society to examine and revise the dates of the 'Shakespeare' plays to an earlier time appropriate to de Vere. This is a project which the de Vere Society is now collectively engaged on, starting with Eva Turner Clark as a starting point.
Stratfordians have the problem of explaining why Shakespeare should have used out of date sources. And they have the problem of trying to explain how the foremost poet of his time appears to derive his style from others, rather than forging styles for others to follow.
Arthur favours a conspiracy theory (rather than an 'open secret' theory) of joint authorship spearheaded by Oxford. 'La Pléiade', working in France at about the same time, lends credibility.
(His Shakespeare book was published under the pseudonym 'Arthur Challinor'. He has said "as a schools inspector with the Scottish Office, it was felt my publications 'might have implications for future government expenditure'" But he's told me this is a joke; he used a pseudonym purely so he could encode his own real name within the text).
"Clearly, if the man had been writing fifteen years earlier we need to look at contemporary history about fifteen years earlier for topical references..."
"Hamlet is recognised by everybody as an autobiographical character; then they wring their hands over the fact that the character doesn't appear to have any relation to the man from Stratford."
"I'm a supporter of the open secret theory. If John Kennedy could get away with his antics in Washington in the 1960s, how much more easily could Oxford have got away with similar things in the 1580s.."
examines whether there is, in fact, a scholarly consensus. Chambers (1930) is
used as the staple for dating. But examination of earlier sources and scholars reveals that many statements about, for example, Q1 and 'Ur-Hamlet' are not securely based; nor is there consensus on other aspects of 'Hamlet'...
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Can You Overthrow the Argument from Academic Self-Interest? Win a small prize!
A common type of argument in favour of Shaxper
runs like this: You dont understand how the academic system works! Anyone who comes up with a new theory and proves it will establish a reputation and make his/her academic fortune, and be famous for the rest of his/her life, and beyond. There are many ambitious young (and not-so-young) academics whod love this. But it hasn't happened with the de Vere authorship theory, so the theory must obviously be wrong.
shows some of the social forces at work in producing opinions. I've used 'expert community' to mean those people who have, or think they have, expertise in the subject; everyone else is assumed outside the set outlined in black. The 'costs' and 'gains' sets are supposed to be some sort of objective assessment of pluses and minuses if the new idea becomes accepted.
For example, set X lists people of conventional view who would both derive some benefit and also some loss from the new idea; in the Shaxper case one would expect there to be few, because they'd have been shown to be incompetent, and moreover have no special skill in de Vere studies for their future.
The set Y represents de Vereans who only stand to gain, if the idea were accepted. Z represents the set of people who hadn't any intellectual interest in the idea, but turn out to have financial interestshere, tourist operators in de Vere territory are an example. The outer shaded area represents people who aren't affected one way or the other, and the other seven sets are to be interpreted along similar lines.
This is a highly simplified diagram of the real world. In practice, the probability of being right has to be taken into account; also the probability that the idea is accepted when proven, which isn't the same thing, since there must be some probability of failing even if right. The whole future costs and gains have to be assessed; so do the costs and gains of revising expert performance in the past, and the costs of being isolated. There is more uncertainty with a new idea than an established one. Economic changes, such as retirement, or the closing of a department, may affect peoples' willingness to speak out. And so on.
is to incorporate the approach of this diagramthat is, trying to assess the resultant of everyone's attitudesinto a slogan or phrase or argument which counters the 'Argument from Self-Interest' that unaccepted new ideas must be wrong.
Can someone do this? Let me give three examples:
I can't find a snappy way of presenting my diagram, though I've experimented with puns on 'interest' and 'disinterest', assets and liabilities, funds of both goodwill and money, and 'value' in several senses; maybe someone out there is able to provide a tidy answer to the 'Argument from Self-Interest'? If so,
and I'll add it with your name to my list (well.. I said it was a small prize..)
Harold Smith's Law:
The bigger the crime, the less likely it is that the perpetrators will admit to it.
If an unofficial case is unanswerable, the official experts will not answer.
An American Senator:
"If you subsidize anything, you get more of it."
The best entry so far in my opinion is:
(of Michigan): The greater the investment in an old idea, the less likely a new idea will be considered, much less accepted.
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School Examination Corner
This space is for comments on 'Shakespeare' plays, aimed at young people (or for that matter older people) trying to study English literature.
You may find your teachers object to Oxfordian material. In some cases, your marks, and therefore your overall grades, and hence entire future life, may be affected. No responsibility is accepted.
Shakespeare's effect on society.
Hello, This doesn't have anything to do with what you said, but I wanted to ask you something, since you seem to know a lot. I have this report that I can do it about anything. And I want to do it on Shakespeare. I was thinking of Shakespeare's Effects on Society. I thought you might have seen something about it and if you could you might send me a link or anything. That would be great. Thank you!
You could make these points:
 At the time they were new, these plays probably had some effect in stimulating the war with Spain. If you read Capt Ward's piece on my site, you'll see there was a bitter war, similar to the first world war, between England and Spain. So the propaganda effect might have been important. (NB one of the characters, the old soldier, reminiscing, may have been important in the comic sense).
 Tudor England was replaced by Puritans, then by Charles I, so for a long time the plays can have had little effect, since they weren't performed!
 From the language point of view, it can be argued than 'Shakespeare' had a psychological effect a bit like the growth of empire, including in poetically-attractive ways a whole reference book of phrases and expressions, most of them still recognisable today. I don't think any other language had a single person who gave it such a jolt.
 There's a lot of 'Shakespeare' which didn't anticipate important things; it's pre-Newton, pre-Darwin and pretty much pre-science, so it can't be said to have had much effect there.
It also is rather unreliable about its own present, and past! For instance, the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII is hardly mentioned, although it was important at the time. The truth is that 'Shakespeare' is rather self-absorbed and backward-regarding, and its history is fantasy rather than fact.
 In modern times, say from the mid-19th century, these plays were important in giving British people a fake sense of their past; many people still regard Elizabethan England as a golden age, despite piracy, starvation, wars etc. You could argue that they were important in keeping an element of un-realism in England.
No doubt there's plenty more!
Good luck with your piece
is due to figure in GCSEs. What follows is from a recent archaeology journal:
(June 2000) published a not-very-clear piece by Réginald Auger, 'Frobisher the Fraud', claiming that Martin Frobisher or perhaps his assayer(s) may have attempted to defraud Queen Elizabeth, and other sources of finance, to pay for his three 1576, 1577, 1578 north-west passage tripsthese financial backers including, though the piece doesn't say so, de Vere. Auger claims that on return from Frobisher's first trip, to Baffin Island, and Frobisher's bay which went no further west, a rock was found by accident (.. the wife of one of the investors.. threw them into a fire. When.. quenched in vinegar, they turned.. golden..') to contain silver and gold. So a return journey was arranged, which recovered 200 tons of rock.
Without this being tested
a third expedition, intended to establish a colony of miners, carpenters, soldiers, and mariners, braved the seas, but, losing their building materials, returned (most of therm) to London with 1,200 tons of ore.
(The archaeology comes in here400 years later, barrels of 'meale, pease, griste, and sundrie other good things' were discovered in the permafrost in one of the two mines in Countess of Warwick Island, where the men, abandoning their colony-to-be, had buried them. Or so the article says; the accompanying photos don't look very convincing).
Frobisher 'was told his rocks were worthless amphibole' on his return in September 1578. However, Auger thinks Frobisher may not have genuinely believed the rocks contained gold, which is the usual story. Auger states five men had been lost, either (according to the journals) after rowing ashore in 1576, or (according to Auger) possibly deliberately marooned in 1578, because they may have 'simply known too much.'
These sea voyages are an important differentiator between Oxfordians and Stratford-man-ians, since the latter believe the references to shipwrecks must be dated later, because of a reference to Bermuda. Oxfordians are more interested in Frobisher because of their earlier dating and because of the people on board ship with FrobisherJohn Dee, usually referred to as a 'magician' or 'alchemist', being one of them. I'd advise schoolkids not to take the usual supercilious position on alchemy, viz. that it was a ridiculous collection of superstitions. In fact, since chemistry wasn't understood, it's difficult to see what else the people of the time could do, than examine different types of material (mercury, sulphur, sulphuric acid and so on) and try to draw conclusions from their observations. What else could they have done?
Don't forget to mention that Caliban looks very like an anagram of cannibal.
with details of syllabusesplay, date of exam, level of examand I'll see what I can do.
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Note on tourism, money, and England:
a phone call to Stratford-upon-Avon's Information Centre disclosed that their most up-to-date report, 1977, on sustainable tourism, said 3.8 million visitors generated £135M revenue for the area (including Warwick Castle, towns and villagesnot only the 'Birthplace Trust' and 'Shakespeare' generally). I queried the small-seeming £35 per head but was assured this was correct. In comparison with some other frauds, therefore, this is a tiddler.
However, from the English perspective it's interesting to consider the political side, worded well by Burford: "Shakespeare has been kept under the equivalent of the Official Secrets Act in this country for four hundred years because he told the true story of Queen Elizabeth and the royal court. .. The plays of Shakespeare are social and political dynamite. In play after play he satirises not only Queen Elizabeth but all her cronies, the Earl of Leicester, Sir Philip Sidney, Sir Christopher Hatton, William Cecil, and Robert Cecil. .. If the Earl of Oxford had his name on the plays, then the veil would be rent, and suddenly people would see, that Polonius in Hamlet is William Cecil, that Gertrude is Queen Elizabeth, the Court of Elsinore is the court at Windsor, that Hamlet is the Earl of Oxford, and all these characters come alivethat Claudius is the Earl of Leicester, and so on, and these portraits become real; Horatio is Horatio Vere, Oxford's best friend and cousin. If, on the other hand, the political power brokers of the daywho wanted to preserve Shakespeare's achievement, but not his identityif they could foist the works on someone else, someone completely unconnected with the court, namely William Shaksper, then the plays become de-politicized, and that's how they're taught in our schools today. ..."
World Heritage Site?
I gather (Sept 2000) that there are plans to bestow this honour on Stratford-upon-Avon. Let's hope this absurdity fails.
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The British Library,
which uses the Droeshout engraving in its promotional material.
for her uncritical writings, which help instil the attitude that anything learned as an undergraduate must be true.
who has helped spread the attitude that impresario types are authorities on the plays.
who contributed a spacefilling bit of journalism (no evidence required) in the
in November 1999, partly referring to Burford. Kay was described as 'a Shakespeare biographer and former Oxford don'. His piece prompted a few letter, including one which ended 'Ben Jonson should know, and to him he was the "sweet swan of Avon". Those four short words are conclusive.' (After writing this I noticed a copy of
Shakespeare: His Life, Work and Era
in a second-hand sale, dated 1991/ 1992 in UK. As might be expected half the chapter headings were clichés; the volume appeared about as reliable as the lives of Jesus which have been popular in past eras.)
in 1977, in this style: 'The poet knelt beside his son and asked gently, do you have bad dreams boy? There was still no answer, so Shakespeare promised him all he had power to give. "Listen, Hamnet. Tomorrow we leave here and ride for London. There you may see fire-eaters, and jugglers and bears in the bear-pit, and perhaps the Queen at Court with all her fine lords and ladies gathered round her. You want to see that, don't you Hamnet?"' [and so on. A recently SOS newsletter implies an American has plagiarised this idea.]
(Not intended, rather obviously, to be an exhaustive list!
with your suggestion!)
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Other Websites, Other Candidates, Other Theories:-
- [Added March 2014] Lady Jane Grey is suggested in Shakespeare Unearthed by David Dawkins (2014). His free downloadable book is here, on his website shakespeareauthorship.co.uk. Sympathetic treatment of Lady Jane Grey, largely caught up in the remote effects of Roman Catholicism and Portestantism, including the Wyatt Rebellion. Includes a new (to me) interpretation of the Droeshout engraving as a beheading. Dawkins provides quotations praising Jane Grey's education and drawing attention to her family territories and buildings, and suggests she was spared from execution, and indeed knew de Vere when in Cecil's household. Naturally there is wordplay thogh the very recent material offers some challenges—e.g. a postcode, modern names of a road, grey ghost, American musicals.
[Note added in 2012 - large numbers of these links must have changed or been superseded RW]
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include The Shakespeare-Oxford Society (based in the USA) on
I recommend caution with this sitethey have no link to this site, despite its original work, and I was pained that they printed my graphics without permission.
Blue Boar Society
has 'friendly, informal discussion about Edward de Vere' (their words, not mine; my words are that the site is amateurish. They seem to have the only Oxfordian-Shakespeare ring, which however barely exists.)
Mark Alexander's extensive site
is de Verean, including his own autobiographical remarks.
Randall Barron's de Verean site
has some interesting points, e.g. on Oxford's [non-existent] will. Written in American.
Robert Brazil's site
has scanned-in pictures relevant to de Vere.
has found a neglected poem,
Emaricdulfe, with Oxfordian connections. There are some interesting comments in this
site, though beware of numerological material.
Peter Farey on Marlowe as author.
Although I doubt the theory, which I attribute to dissatisfaction with the Stratford man rather than evidence for Marlowe, I recently discovered this site promoting Marlowe as the true author. Much hard work (by a constant updater) and detail on possible Elizabethan skulduggery, on computer analysis of texts, examination of several Shakespeare worksand the contents of the trunk of a tutor called M. Le Doux. (Parts 4 and 7 mention de Vere.) By Peter Farey, M.A. who tells me his site deals with the evidence for Marlowe not having been murdered in 1593, which if true, is of great literary importance, and leads to the question of whether he's a better candidate than de Vere for the authorship. When I last heard, in early 1998, Farey e-mailed that he was involved in a dispute with an erstwhile collaborator, Ms A. D. Wraight.
Another Marlowe site is
Dissatisfaction with the Stratford man led to the belief that Bacon (as a legally-minded author with royal connections) must have been the real Shakespeare. Many Oxford/Cambridge graduates were, and some still are, more or less secretly, Baconians. For example, Peter Cadogan of South Place told me he is a Baconian. The apex of this belief, both in the US and England, seems to have occurred about the end of the 19th century; the Francis Bacon Society's Journal and Proceedings dates from December 1885. Bacon of course appeared plausible: the Shaxper character was incredible, so a writer with vaguely royal connections was sought. Baconians became famous for excesses in their interpretations, and their movement is now far smaller than it was. They also provided, and to some extent still provide, a valuable exonerating device for scholars, who needed only to fall back upon ridicule.
18th-century Westminster Abbey monument inscription
decoded, according to present-day Baconian Thomas Bokenham.
This is a
by Penn Leary. Long, containing much of the text of a book by Leary; nothing on content of the works, but several substitution decodings; for my taste these seem forced, with the letters B, C or K, and N, separated by vowels, interpreted as Bacon in its various spellings. Various monuments and inscriptions etc. Not very sophisticated mathematical analyses.
Paul J Dupuy Jr's
which however is mostly writings of Bacon and others without much connective reasoning.
And another: Lawrence Gerald of 'Shakespeare Authorship Centre of San Francisco' says my site is most excellent, so I'll mention his
site, which has what I regard as rather slender evidence.
H G Wells (for example) believed the plays must have been produced as a joint effort by a group of authors. Arthur Maltby (see above) inclines to agree. I don't know of any Internet sites putting this point of view, though a recent book (1996) by John Michell, who's also written on megaliths, and corn circles, adopts it.
Who Were Shake-Speare?
(1998, available on-line from Amazon) makes a case for a collaboration between de Vere and the Stratford man, crediting the latter with intimate theatrical knowledge, and also of intimate knowledge of the lower (and lowest) orders. I don't personally find this convincing, firstly because de Vere devoted much of his life to the stage, and secondly because there must have been plenty of other characters available in London who could supply as much information as someone from the remote wilds of Warwickshire.
I've just found this site
'Dedicated to the Proposition that
Wrote Shakespeare.' Lots of acrid sarcasm from many of the contributors. Site by Dave Kathman and Terry Ross. See above for Derran Charlton's unpublished reply to Kathman's
Why I'm not an Oxfordian
An entirely conventional Shakespeare site is
for people who teach and read Shakespeare, and who watch silly films about him.
Is Shakespeare Dead?
is in this collection of essays by Twain.
in thirteen chapters.
Other dating clues...
is reported to have put a 'preprint' on a Los Alamos site, I think in 1998. I couldn't find it. My link is to a news reporter, who says Altschuler checked references to the sun, moon, and Jupiter in what he had been told are the 'later plays'. (No explanation was given as to how he ensured that oblique references weren't missed.) I don't think anyone would doubt that Galileo's telescope discoveries (dated 1610 here) such as sunspots are not referred to anywhere in Shakespeare. There is suggestive material on a nova in November, Gilbert and magnetism, and the motion of Mars being not understood, when Kepler in 1909 (their date) provided his explanation.
The De Vere Society (NB this is not an 'official' site; as yet, there isn't one)
, is still Hon Secretary of the De Vere Society (England), but the newsletter editor is now Daphne Pearson. Subscription currently £25 per annum (with various arrangements for groups of people).
It would be misleading to present
The de Vere Society
as a large organisation. It has 177 members. 56 are in the US, and a dozen or so in other countries. At least this has the advantage that many members know each other and can fit into the same room.
De Vere Society Website
is planned; if it's in a reasonable state, I'll provide a link. (So far it's either had little content, or hasn't worked at all).
including Christopher Dams, have told me they have correspondence in which academics refuse to debate and otherwise evade this issue, a common phenomenon, of course, in controversies. Disappointingly, I've so far been unable to prise these documents from their possessorsit might be amusing to put some onto Internet.
AGM Saturday April 8th 2000
at Hedingham House, which is built next to Hedingham Castle (itself near the village of Castle Hedingham).
This proved a highly successful event, and included a rousing speech by Brian Hicks, an account of the dating project by Arthur Maltby, a conducted tour of the castle remains by Charles Bird, a visit to Bures chapel to see de Vere family effigies, and a viewing of a video of Michael Peer's The Shakespeare Conspiracy
. Sir Ian McGeoch (author of an Oxfordian booklet which he now feels too cautious) was there, as was Burford.
A few points:
One of the village pubs has an Oxfordian woman serving behind the bar, I was interested to find the evening before the AGM.
Unfortunately, my 'Advanced Photo System' camera wouldn't work (don't get one of these things!!). I had hoped to include new photos of Burford, McGeoch, and Charles Bird.
'Elizabeth Imlay' (I think this name is a pseudonymperhaps it's infectious?) hopes to produce a play of hers, on de Vere, at the Edinburgh festival fringe.
The owner of the house is highly affable and said: "Your papers are getting better and better, .. more and more good points - I hope you have a lovely day!" He has an attractive newly-designed guidebook, I think printed by a version of inkjet printer, with some Oxfordian information.
"Expect an extensive campaign over the next two or three years.. bitter and unpleasant. .. This is a new situation. We are the enemy. We can't afford to appear pleasant, and slightly dotty.. and occasionally hold centre stage. We must have more active members - divisions will be pounced on. We must pay particular attention to what we say - the point is to study Shakespeare and to establish the true authorship. The Stratfordian case will seem unassailable to the general public. .. If we are to establish local groups.. for example in Stratford on Avon.. someone must do the work.. people will be collared and appointed!"
Someone in the audience said John Murray never, in fact, gave US copyright permission! Perhaps a new paperback edition could be printed.
The year 2004 is significant for Oxfordians. Perhaps by then more information will have come to light. At present, his birthplace and date are not known for certain. Some Edward de Vere correspondence is at Hatfield House. His burial site was the Church of St Augustine, Hackney, and his house was in Stratford atte Bow, Hackney
The Shakespeare Conspiracy
(ORF, 1999) was shown and generally approved, as it makes very many Oxfordian points in a concise way. The bulk of presentation and VO is by Derek Jacobi; Siâan Phillips also has VO. Two Germans, including Detobel, appear in this video, which, at least in this version, has English subtitles. Whether for some conspiratorial reason or not, this has never been broadcast in the UK, and there seem to be no signs that this will happen.
Amongst brickbats (this is a journalistic expressionwhat are 'brickbats'?) thrown at Stratfordians was an account (in 1940
) of an X-ray of a Dutch painting; and a subsequent forgery on behalf of the Folger Library. And a comparison of Stratfordians with Aquinasworking towards a predestined conclusion.
Dating project: preliminary results were presented, for example a shipwreck before 1610, in Bermuda, permitting The Tempest to be dated earlier, and allowing an Oxfordian connection with Frobisher, and John Dee. Among other shufflings, King John may be later, and Pericles earlier, than has come to be traditionally believed. Julius Caesar and Antony & Cleopatra are 'almost impossible to date'.
Arthur Maltby pointed out that many unconscious assumptions get into circulation. For example, the idea that 'Shakespeare' wrote two plays a year was, he said, Chambers' idea. But of course it isn't known for certain. Chambers was a civil servant; maybe he was attributing a civil service pattern of work to Shakespeare?
Also such phrases are used as 'Shakespeare's last play' when of course he probably didn't know he would soon be dead.
I pointed out that, at one time, all these plays were unwritten. If de Vere was retained for theatrical work, possibly from the 'first invention' of 'Shakespeare', the plays may well have been specifically commissioned, and many must have had a motive underlying them. (I.e. the topics probably weren't just drawn out of a hat: let's do one on shipwrecks!) It's quite likely de Vere didn't believe much of what he wrote. For example, he must have had some animus against the Tudors. Perhaps his best work is undiscovered.
Jan Scheffer is a Dutchman working in forensic psychiatry. (I asked him if his children have homicidal tendencies; he said "Yes, they are normal!"). He spoke to me about the Tin Letters, and what these must have meant in terms of absolute humiliation to de Vere. He also drew attention to de Vere's orphan status. These could help explain his withdrawal into a more dependable world of make-believe.
Charles Bird (who noticed that the 'Caley greyhound' heraldic figure, on de Vere tombs, is also on the first folio) conducted us around the remains of
During the First World War, a fire caused by a careless watcher, left on his own, destroyed much of the castle; many Oxfordian documents were destroyed. "The flames were visible in three counties". (Some camouflage paint from this period is still visible on the adjacent Hedingham House.) The castle was "built with money from the Jews in London". It was "open to the weather for many hundreds of years". The de Vere name is Danish, not pre-ConquestI'm sure someone has noted the obvious possible link here with a Prince of Denmark.
The 'Great Hall of Audience' is the main space in this building. It is symmetrical, apart from a spiral staircase and some other features. It may be squareI haven't checked the dimensions. It has a gallery with four pairs of arched windows looking onto the hall. There's a fireplace at one end, the Norman arch being perpendicular to it, bisecting the room. (See photo, taken from over the fireplace). The tops of the walls have six protruding bosses which once supported the roof. Charles Bird claims, though there's dispute about this, that there would have been an impressive hammer-beam roof above the arch. If he's right, the space above this room, currently shown to tourists as roofed-in with alcove rooms for women and children, would in fact have been outside. There is a rebate in the stonework which Bird interprets as support for the edge of the roof; there's a slope down towards a corner gutter.
Bird claims, if I've understood him properly, that the building was designed for magnificence, and to impress people and carry out business. Slightly like a company headquarters, or a cathedral, the people involved probably lived somewhere else.
As regards documents, the position of the muniment room is not known. In fact, there may not have been onethere are descriptions somewhere of documents lying around all over the place.
At any rate, this may be the building where, aged about ten, the young Oxford watched plays. Fascinating to think that this was "where the bug bit", as someone put it. And the rediscovered documents of Greece (during the Renaissance) must have suggested the idea of permanence in written work, writing which would exist for centuries.
Charles Bird took a coach party to
, though the connection with de Vere is a bit tenuous. "Edmund was crowned king of East Anglia" in the 900s (I think) in it, and more recently it was used a barn. Medieval de Vere effigies were moved there for safe keeping when it was restored, in the 1920s or 1930s. Most have been destroyed, though I'm not sure fragments don't still exist: the story is that the de Vere title was created in 1137, and was 'eliminated' in 1702: in about 1730, most of the de Vere monuments were used to make fireplaces in Colne Priory. So perhaps pieces still exist. The effigy of the 13th Earl includes the caley greyhound. The five-pointed 'star', in fact spur rowel, occurs on the shoulder of one of these figures. They are incidentally oddly epicene in shape; is it possible the sculptors economised by starting with standardised stone blanks? Many animal heads have been knocked off. These include a boar mounted on a helmetthe Oxfordian jousting helmet. A large sculpture of a boar, which hung, I think, in a local church, has been bought and is on display in Florence. Generally these monuments must be pale shadows of their former selves.
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DE VEREAN NEWS IN BRITAIN - AUTUMN 2000
De Vere Society Meeting
At Stratford-on-Avon, in the Wolfson Hall at the Shakespeare Centre, on Sunday 17th September, 10 am to 6 pm.
... About 60 people, not a bad proportion of the total membership, turned up, despite fears over fuel shortages. Stratford is near the end of its season; nevertheless there were quite a few of the deluded wandering about, buying postcards, photographing buildings, looking at the power-station-like theatre.
Brian Hicks and Burford were absent, as was David Roper. Christopher Dams, dapper and shrewd-looking, was there with his wife. Derran Charlton, the world's most implausible ex-miner, was his usual amiable self, with his folders of reproductions of paintings and documents, their importance to be revealed in some US meeting. De Verean authors included the rather silent Rollett, Arthur Maltby with his Baconian interests, Iris Krass the ex-GP, and Eddi Jolly who teaches A-level English at a sixth form college and discreetly introduces de Verean topics in the hope of making her pupils think for themselves. There were contingents from north London and other places, including several US persons and a woman from Normandy. Jan Scheffer, forensic psychologist, was there (he told me he hated
, despite its Dutch connections). I had the impression that the average age was higher than usual for these meetings. There were a few new faces, including Kirk Jones, who heard the Oxfordian hypothesis for the first time only a few weeks ago; an ex-agony aunt journalist, called Angela (I forget her surname) who had composed the lyrics for a musical on John Dee; and Prof D Braben, an ex-physicist who figures on Internet as a research innovator once distributing money from BP, burrowing into unlikely hypotheses (I wonder if he found Harold Hillman?).
The first of two papers, on wardship, was read by Daphne Pearson, who'd managed to write a dissertation on this subject apparently by explicitly stating that she wasn't considering the authorship issue. According to an accountant friend, her talk was fascinating, but I have to confess that as far as I could see wardship only played a small part in the plot; her talk mainly dealt with de Vere's finances. Oxford, at 21, had to 'sue his livery', which seems to mean pay a hefty sum for his coat of arms and legal right to get his lands and other assetsin effect something resembling death duties to the Crown. Because the sums of money sound ludicrously small today, there's a credibility problem which Pearson in my view didn't quite solvein fact the question-and-answer session seemed to show she had little grasp of the real value of the pound in those days. At any rate, Oxford died with virtually nothing, despite massive infusions of money. Was he effectively ruined at the age of 21? I was left uncertain. There are interesting sidelights on arranged marriages, knight service, peers' immunity to legal process. This talk will be printed in the Newsletter.
Noemi Magri's grandiosely-entitled talk
The Influence of Italian Renaissance Art on Shakespeare's Works: Titianthe Pictorial Source of Venus & Adonis
examined Titian's many versions of
Venus and Adonis
and selected one of them which she felt must have been described by 'Shakespeare'. It's the version in which Adonis wears a hatnot unlike an Alpen hat of the sort often worn with a feather in it. Its provenance (painted as a wedding present for Philip of Spain in 1553, delivered from Venice in September 1554) was consistent with the known movements of Oxford in Italy. A similar hypothesis, though presumably omitting the authorship element, is in Panofsky, and othersnot surprisingly. Again this talk is to be published in the Newsletter.
The post-lunch question-and-answer session was chaired by Christopher Dams, and the panel consisted of John Rollett (in place of Brian Hicks), Eddi Jolly, Daphne Pearson, and Gerrit Quealy (an American actress). Most of the audience sat near the back (why do people do this?). Dams explained that the object was to find answers to the sort of questions asked by the man in the streetor, at least, the man in the street interested in the issue. It has to be said they weren't very successful. To the obvious question that the experts all disagree with Oxfordians, who must therefore be wrong, they could only say in effect that these people were afraid to differ, which, I think, is entirely unconvincing. Elizabeth Imlay made a good point: the Globe reconstruction shows that Shakespeare's theatrical work could not have been performed there. It's impossible to hear properly! A pony-tailed American made several points, not very clearly; a good one was that Oxfordians assume, without evidence, that a brawl with Knyvet in which Oxford was (supposedly?) injured must have involved swords, because this is consistent with an Oxfordian interpretation of several Shakespeare scenes; but there's no mention of swords or other weapons in the descriptions of the brawl. Braben said that de Vere is censored out of history books of the last 50-100 years, and there was some altercation over the meaning of 'held office' (Great Chamberlain?), and whether there was actual censorship by these historians, or whether they were justified in omitting the second-most-prominent Noble of that time. Dams said, as he has before, that he favoured the 'open secret' idea. Alan Robinson, the society's accountant, would have pointed out that there's a danger of genuinely historical Shakespeares and Shakspers getting mixed up or conflated, except that he was seated near the back. The attractions of the 'common man' theory (you too could be a genius!) were aired. I'm afraid I asked a few questions: as regards missing events in Shakespeare, isn't it odd that the Reformation, and also the 500th anniversary of the Norman Conquest, should be so under-represented? Some of the audience seemed to think these topics would be censored. Another question suddenly occurred to me as Daphne Pearson announced that the theatres of the time "were commercial". Many media (TV, films, newspapers) are and have been subsidised, directly or secretly; why shouldn't these theatres, which were certainly in part propaganda vehicles, have been partly subsidised? Alas, Daphne Pearson could produce no evidence for her statement. Finally, I was interested to hear confirmation from Ms Quealy, from what might be described as the extreme light of the panel, that expositors of the plays omit the tricky material, preferring to gloss only the simpler words and phrases. I'd assumed this must be true, but hadn't attempted to verify it. The panel, I was disappointed to find, were universally ignorant of
work on the Stratford monument inscription (just a mile or so away). Internet has a long way to go.
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Saturday Jan 27th 2001: De Vere Society Winter Meeting
To show what the de Vere Society gets up to, I retain this notice of a recent meeting; a printed version will appear in their newsletter. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend.
Nancy Knowles Lecture Theatre, New Globe Walk, Southwark. £5/head contribution to costs. (Lunch £14.50 each).
E-mail Christopher Dams
10.30 Coffee/ Registration
: ShakespeareActor and Pseudonym
: The Stratford Monument Decoded: Proof or Probability? (This was the first time known to me that David lectured; I looked forward to this talk, but, owing to a reduced fund situation, wasn't able to attend-RW)
1.15 Lunch (in The Globe's restaurant)
: Edward de VereFacts, Myths, and Probabilities
: Synopsis of his projected film
(read in his absence)
4.15 Tea/ Socialising
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April 28th 2001: De Vere Society ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
Other Committee Projects
4.15 Tea/ Socialising
Nancy Knowles Lecture Theatre, New Globe Walk, Southwark. £5/head contribution to costs. (Lunch £14.00 each).
E-mail Christopher Dams
10.30 Coffee/ Registration
Dr Daphne Pearson:
Edward de Vere in his historical context
Solving literary mysteries with numbers
90 mins brilliant 1994 talk on Shakespeare, on Youtube. With Q/A.
Opens in a new window.
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2011 Anonymous - the film.
So far as I know, this is the first film to treat de Vere as 'Shakespeare' - certainly the first with full scale VFX - despite the disclaimer that it's 'entirely a work of fiction...', maybe reinforced by Sony's make.believe
tag. Derek Jacobi (modern day theatre orator, shown linking to the past) and Mark Rylance (plays an Elizabethan leading actor) are known to me as Oxfordians. I don't know about the Redgrave mother and daughter (both playing Elizabeth), or Rhys Ifans (only known to me as the underpants-clad sidekick in a Hugh Grant film) as de Vere, though presumably they have some sympathy with the idea. Trevor Howard, more than half a century ago, was an Oxfordian, but, as with a mention in a Galsworthy novel, his interest barely showed in his films.
'Anonymous' presents some known aspects of de Vere's life, and weaves a plot from them, though much of the detail is conjectural. For example, de Vere was known to have killed a man lurking behind the arras - this film uses the incident to force a marriage on de Vere. Another example is a final scene showing Ben Jonson (played by Sebastian Armesto) recovering leather-bound parchment MSs from a metal trunk after they survived the fire of 1613 that burned down The Globe. There is little real evidence (as far as I know) for either joint event, but in each case two puzzles are combined in one filmic solution.
Burford, the modern writer and speaker now self-renamed Beauclerk, is an advocate of the Elizabeth/ de Vere incest theory - a theory which has caused a serious rift in the Oxfordian movement. I won't give the detail here. John Orloff is credited with the script, but I don't remember any historical or literary advisors in the credit list. He adopts the incest idea.
Since 54 years of de Vere's life have to be encompassed, the casting people picked two actors of different ages for several of the parts. I'm tempted to say the sets of halves didn't look very similar - but then, perhaps many people don't resemble their younger selves very closely. William Cecil (I think I'm right in saying) is shown as so old that the make up and prosthetic people only needed to work on one actor.
'Anonymous' is worth watching for its technical skill, not just because it's pathbreaking as a piece of 'revisionism'. But it has many limitations.
I'll just comment on a few aspects---
** The Spanish Armada, part of the Spanish War, occurred when de Vere was about 38. This war had an impoverishing effect on Britain (and no doubt Spain). Many parts of Britain had famine. If de Vere wrote the plays, there was a good deal of patriotic material aimed against Spain. There's a very good essay by Capt. Ward on this subject, which the 'merrie England' types seem not to know of. When the Armada failed, these propagandist plays ceased.
** De Vere is believed to have been paid by Elizabeth, essentially as a propagandist; two plays per year being required. At least this story was reported by one of the early writers on Shakespeare as being current in the writer's time.
** The name 'William Shakespeare' is attributed to a Warwickshire travelling player type, just as in the traditional version. In the film, he's shown as unable to write, and to spontaneously giving his name as author of Henry V, since Ben Jonson was unwilling to come forward. The usual Oxfordian view is that the name was made up, both 'Will' and 'Shakespeare' being in some sense synonymous with poetry. Under this version, Shaxper, who lived in Stratford-on-Avon, and was helpfully illiterate, was located as a substitute for de Vere, who lived in Stratford, East London. Earls were not supposed to stoop to writing. And Christopher Sly was de Vere's commentary.
** It would not surprise me if Shaxper was some sort of war profiteer in food; hence the sack of grain and his expensive monument. Maybe. It's easy to imagine a grain dealer asked to visit London to help relieve famine, and being taken up as the hard-to-contact author when the multiple coincidence of his name and place and visits to London were noted.
** The film is constricted - these events occurred when the entire world was opening up. Columbus's 1493 return was fifty years before de Vere's birth. Colonisation of the USA was beginning. Several empires were established - Spanish and Portuguese, and several starting - British, and Russia's land empire. The Italian Renaissance was long established. There were wars throughout Europe; with more to follow. China was felt to be known, through Marco Polo's doubtless faked adventures. De Vere's education (his tutors are faithfully listed in the film) included what are now called 'the classics'. He visited Italy. Not much of this is really shown or implied in the film - Cecil is never shown with his maps and information about ships and their timetables and cargoes; Walsingham isn't shown with his spies. De Vere's sporting prowess is hinted at only through fencing, and real tennis, not with jousting. Nor is de Vere shown at Cambridge, or with lawyers, or at war with the Dutch, or with his companies of actors. London is represented mostly as a present-day small German town, with green screen support; it's too small! But of course many of these things are difficult to film. The mental expansion of the period doesn't begin to be addressed: Machiavelli and Erasmus were new writers, Bruno was a contemporary, Galileo was young but active. Scaliger (the elder) was reconstructing remote history.
** Many events which were recent at the time of 'Shakespeare' aren't put into the film - possibly there simply wasn't time. Henry VIII gets a few mentions as Elizabeth's father, but his wives aren't mentioned. Nor is Henry VII, against whom de Vere had a special animus. There's no mention of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, an event more or less within living memory, which must have had shattering complications, somewhat analogous to what might happen if Jewish power in our own day were to be removed.
** De Vere's wealth, and its disappearance, is part of the de Vere life and legend. Much seems to have vanished during his minority, and much when he was touring Europe. I've never seen a convincing explanation of the underlying economic forces which one assumes underpinned the transfer of wealth - mostly (I think) ownership of land and property, but also some Tudor monopolies (as per the 'tin letters'). It's possible the introduction of interest, made legal by Henry VIII, had something to do with it.
** Financing: the list of implied 'angels' of this film does NOT include the BBC. The BBC gets a guaranteed few billion a year from the British public, and likes to use this financial muscle in assorted ways never intended by the founders. Perhaps it's unnecessary to say that a project like this - and in fact all the plays need a serious revisionist treatment - received no BBC funding; only propaganda and low-grade material gets their money.
** Interesting revisionist case-study in groups of 'experts' who will not debate. Obviously many people have noticed this sort of thing - 'knowledge islands', 'editors as gatekeepers' illustrate the sort of thing. The Shakespeare case is important because it removes the present-day element almost entirely. Hardly anyone now alive has a vested interest in the plays or the people or the properties. We're talking of events 450 years ago. And yet the impulse of 'experts' to keep the topic in-house is almost irresistible.
** Interesting anti-intellectual links: A Jewish movement, as documented by Kevin MacDonald, is anti-white racism, and one of the facets of that movement is the denial of the importance of intelligence and creativity. All the main opponents of IQ/race links are Jewish. Thus the idea that an uneducated man from a remote country area could intuit knowledge, even of arcane subjects such as law, is pretended to be credible. And this 'PC' attitude helps underpin the 'Shaxper' myth. In its turn, this helps deprive English-speaking people of insights into the plays, which are more or less incomprehensible without some idea of the background. This deprivation is both personal, the life of de Vere, and literary and cultural. It has to be said women usually go along with this: there are innumerable mediocre teachers of English who assert, apparently sincerely, that anyone can understand the plays, which are just exercises in oratory. Obviously they can't be expected to take any interest in serious work on the plays. The screenplay writer of Anonymous
in effect compares himself with Shakespeare (see the DVD extras) and seems to have no idea of the powerful effects of new knowledge and the spread of ideas. De Vere is shown as watching a play, intoxicated by the POWER of words, in a narrow, advertiser- or news-broadcaster sense. The film-makers don't seem to realise edited, alternative versions of the plays were common.
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Keywords and key phrases: Bacon Francis, Bacon, Bodleian Library, Charles Burford, Challinor, ciphers, codes, creativity, criticism, Dams, Derran Charlton, David Roper, de Vere, De Vere Society, Edward de Vere, Martin Droeshout, Elizabeth, Elizabethan age, feudalism, genealogy, genius, Hathaway, Hedingham Castle, Henry VII, Henry VIII, Brian Hicks, imagination, Eddi Jolly, first folio, Jonson, Maltby, millennium man, 'millennium man', myths, Nestor, originality, Oxford, Oxfordian, Plato, John Rollett, Rowe, Shakespeare, Shakespeare authorship, Shaxper, Socrates, Southwark, Spain, Spenser, J I M Stewart, Stratford, Stratford-on-Avon, text, Mark Twain, Marlowe, Peter Farey, Vergil, Virgil, Warwickshire, Wentworth Woodhouse, Will, William Shakespeare, wordplay, Wriothesley
Click here for Home Page of the whole of Rae West's website (http://www.big-lies.org)
Transcriptions, pix, tapes, HTML Rae West. All rights reserved. First uploaded 98-01-30. Ward added 99-02-10. SOS added 99-08-10. Internal links 99-12-26. Roper link 2000-02-10. AGM and other notes 2000-04-19, 26, 05-14, 09-15. Shakespeare's House 2000-04-30. September de Vere Society meeting 2000-09-17. Attempt at helpful e-mail 2000-10-27. Shakespeare and academic self-interest prize 2000-10-30. Notice of Jan 27 2001 meeting 2001-01-06. Maltby note 2000-02-12. AGM note 2001-03-29. Anonymous 2012. Question-and-Answer session rediscovered 2014-02-02. Dawkins on Lady Jane Grey added 2014-05-04. Civil War, Great Fire link added 2015-08-26