Shakespeare Authorship Controversy

Charles Burford (now Charles Beauclerk) addressed the De Vere Society, 11 Jan 1995: this is the Question-and-Answer Session afterwards

© Charles Burford and others; recording, transcription, HTML etc Rae West


Summary: The following is a transcription with some notes (where audible on audiotape) of the Question and Answer Session at the Travellers Club by Charles Burford.

Question-and-answer session (about equal in length to the talk)

Sketchy Notes: Biographical etc.

Question & Answer Session

"Any questions please?"

Q1: I have one. Why do you think there's no reference at all in other people's writings linking de Vere with the person that wrote the plays or sonnets?

CB: I've mentioned two points; one, that, I mean there's nothing directly saying Edward de Vere is the author. But remember, that's not something you wanted to say in Elizabethan times, because this was a closely guarded political secret. And no one could have actually published this publicly. All the printing presses were controlled by the government of the time, by William Cecil, so if you were going to say it, it would be in a pamphlet or it would be privately, in a diary or in letters. Now that's where the exciting thing er is, because Oxfordian research is in its infancy. We don't have the funding from big educational organizations. So we've probably done 1% of the research we can do. There are many great houses in England, direct descendants of the Oxfords, with archival material still waiting to be researched and I'm sure that when this research is done that we'll find letters, diaries, and so on in which this is mentioned.
     But it's not so extraordinary to me, given the political strictures of the time, and given there was really no way for people of the time to register it, except privately. No one could certainly do it publicly. And there were many many different examples I can give of this, like when Philip Sidney writes his sonnet sequence, Astrophel and Stella. It was known by the court circle that the sonnets are about Sidney's love for Lady Rich, but no-one ever mentions it till a hundred years later, they don't actually mention the two names, because it was not done. So I'm very confident that things will turn up, and you know, I'd just like to say again the whole censorship thing makes sense to me. It's not a conspiracy - you see I don't see any conspiracy here. People say what's the conspiracy theory? It's not a conspiracy that Solzhenitsyn was not openly published in the Soviet Union in the 60s and 70s. That's part of the political climate of the time. He couldn't have been. Similarly with de Vere. Given what he's writing, you wouldn't expect his name to be blazoned on things. So, I'm saying that, if you're assuming a conspiracy, it's the Stratford theory that assumes the greater conspiracy. Because here is a man that had no reason to hide his authorship. And yet there's no mention of him as the true author until 1690, 1680 sorry, 65 years after the Stratford man's death. John Aubrey is the first man to mention him unequivocally as the author. And Aubrey is not a very good witness. Aubrey was described by his employer as someone that thought little, believed much, and confused everything. And yet scholars in their desperation have to rely on him as some great historical witness here. So again, actually, a point I always make is, that, if you look at the authorship history, the notion that it wasn't the Stratford man occurs at the same time really as the notion that it was, because Nicholas Rowe was the first person to write a biographical sketch of Shakespeare as the Stratford man, and that wasn't till 1709, and, again, it's in the 18th century that people begin to doubt the Stratford man's authorship, the first book is written in 1769. So the two are synchronous. The first full biography of Shakespeare actually post-dates the doubts concerning his authorship

Q2: Was there any change of attitude in the court do you think when James I succeeded Elizabeth?

CB: Um I'm not sure. It's an interesting question. I've always been interested in the way that James treated Edward de Vere. He put him on the Privy Council when he came to the throne. Remember that James was a great scholar himself and he appreciated the plays, and when Edward de Vere died in 1604 he had an edition of Hamlet published with the royal coat of arms on the frontispiece of it. And he also, on the very year that he died, had eight of the plays performed in court, to honour him. I don't know that the attitude changed very much because remember that many of the people who had been in power politically in Elizabeth's time were still in power in James's time, especially the Cecil family. Robert Cecil had taken over as the chief minister from William Cecil. So again there was still an awful lot to lose. There were reputations to be lost from these political figures. So I think the political climate was the same. And of course after James died then political event took over. The Puritans came to power, the theatres were closed down, and if you look at the records of performance of Shakespeare, for instance Winter's Tale is performed in front of Charles I at court in 1634, and there isn't a single other performance of that play recorded until 1741, 107 years later. That's pretty standard for Shakespeare's plays. Of course, when the Restoration came in 1660, there was a different type of play came on, the Restoration comedies of Vanbrugh and Congreve and people like that, so again, Shakespeare's reputation, if you like, was very much subject to the vicissitudes of history.

Q3: One thing you don't mention I think

CB: Several things! But yes
Q3 .. the difference when James I came to the throne.. the mysterious thousand a year which de Vere was paid, and that was an awful lot of money in those days, and, well, you go on!
CB: Well, yes. That's a good point. That's a very good point. In 1586 Queen Elizabeth had granted de Vere - and remember this is a highly parsimonious monarch - had granted Edward de Vere payment of a thousand pounds a year to continue in perpetuity. Now when she died in 1603 James continued this. It was issued to him under secret service grant, and he was to give no accounting of how he used the money. Now I believe that it was for theatrical purposes, that he had in a sense spent all his money on promoting the theatre in England. De Vere really founded the first theatre - in the very year that he returned from Italy in 1576, the first theatre was founded just next to his home in Shoreditch in London. He sponsored various artistic troupes of the time, he was very generous to other writers like Nash, Lyly, Peele, Kyd, even Marlowe, some say - and he also of course put on a lot of plays at court, and may even have run the Queen's men, the Queen's own acting company. He did this all out of his own pocket, and so I believe that the Queen was supporting him, not only in his work on the theatre, but perhaps even encouraging him to start some sort of propaganda department in which the history plays played an important part, because of course England was preparing for the Spanish armada, and there was a whole surge of patriotic plays around that time. So we don't know exactly what the thousand pounds is for, but it's very interesting that in the 1660s the Reverend John Ward, a vicar of Stratford upon Avon, who took it on himself to research the life of Shakespeare, of Stratford, came upon a tradition that Shakespeare spent at the rate of a thousand pounds a year, for which he produced two plays. Oxford received the annuity for eighteen years. Two times eighteen is thirty-six, the exact amount of plays in the first folio. So again it seems rather mysterious, the way what is said about Shakespeare is true of the Earl of Oxford.

Q4: My question has slightly been undermined by what you've just said, because I've always been very puzzled by this notion of the author of Shakespeare's plays being a paid propagandist for the Tudors when there's not a lot of pro, specifically pro-Tudor, material, apart from Richard III, and as you've so rightly said, he's much more of a nostalgist for the feudal ?system, which is exactly the opposite of what the Tudors were trying to achieve. I don't quite follow this line of argument. And the other thing which I don't quite understand is, if the plays were written for a very elite court, a great house audience, what would have motivated de Vere to put them out to the general public? And that seems something he would have no interest in doing.

CB: Well, there are two things there I think that are important. First of all, with regard to the propaganda, one of the great things about Shakespeare is that he wrote on so many different levels. There are things in those history plays which would appeal to the denser spirit. On the basic level, they can be seen as propaganda. And of course in the public theatres you had people there of a very basic nature who would be eating, drinking and talking during the performance, and they would just get the very basic message. On the other hand, there's no denying that Shakespeare's plays are full of what I would call esoteric cultural references. Even today, if we read Hamlet before we go to performance, we probably pick up a tenth of the references in it, so erudite are they, and so, again, I think, that that's clearly directed at the court. But Shakespeare tried, one of the great things he did in his works, in my view, is to try and explain, to the different levels of society, what the other levels were about. I think that was part of his great mission in life. So I think that's also the answer to your second question, of why he introduced them. Because Shakespeare has been described as a secular Bible, and I think that's actually a very good description. Because he's very much interested in the spiritual evolution of man, and encouraging in people the notion that you must play your role very well in life, to its full, and understand your role, be conscious of it, then you can eliminate all class bias and class hatred. And I think that's what he comes up with in King Lear. King Lear, he's saying that class is actually something that's circular, it's not linear. It's something that, you know, a king's family can decline, or a great noble's family can decline, and they can go back to the land, become farmers again and go round the cycle. The important thing is to understand the conscious process, is what he's saying, in my view. So I think rather like Bacon wanted to do philosophically, he did in a literary sense, which is this great bringing together of society, and making standards of education higher, and that sort of thing. So I think, you know, that's one reason he plays round so much with language. Ted Hughes pointed out in his recent book, that often if he's introducing a new word, he will use a hendiadys, he will use the basic word, and then in more complicated version, so that people will understand it. So Shakespeare was a great teacher as well, in my view

Q5: On one hand I see, and hear, that de Vere was not in a position to be able to be seen with the theatre or with theatrical things.. it was not the sort of thing that court people should be doing. On the other hand of course he founded the theatre, he was seen to be responsible for theatrical things, but most important of all he was responsible for conducting two different groups, at the ?tavern at ?overl ?man ?ly...

CB: Yeh, but that's, there's a complete difference between the public perception of something, and what you give out to people publicly, and someone working behind the scenes. It wasn't blazoned out, oh, Edward de Vere has founded this theatre, or Edward de Vere is rehearsing his players there. Um. It's completely different. It's like, um, again, it's difficult - today, when we have everything is spotlighted by the media as soon as something happens. This is a very secretive society we're talking about, in which you can get away with these things. And I think that's my explanation for that. I don't think there's really any contradiction there at all between those two things. De Vere on the one hand did mix with the actors and playwrights and so on, but that was in his private time and in a private capacity. Publicly, those things could not be known. Just as there were things that Queen Elizabeth did privately which she certainly didn't want to be known publicly.

Q6: Could I just suggest that one of the more simple arguments one needs to deploy in the face of the orthodox is simply that question of the note at the beginning of Venus and Adonis, the first production thereof which was signed William Shakespeare. In that note he talks about 'the first heire of my inuention'. It always seems to me that this is rather significant.

CB: Yes. Well there are two points I'd like to make here. Venus and Adonis is an enormously sophisticated and polished poem. It was published in 1593. It was the first time the name William Shakespeare had appeared in print. Now, when he says the first heir of my invention, it's inconceivable that he means that this is his first literary effort. It clearly isn't. This is a very polished production. And of course it can't mean that, because a literary work can't have an heir, in that sense. But if as Charlton Ogburn once argued you take the first heir of my invention to mean the first heir of my invented name, William Shakespeare, i.e. the first work to appear under my invented name, William Shakespeare, then it begins to make a lot of sense. And in fact, Shakespeare, whoever he was, puts a little Latin inscription at the top of Venus and Adonis, which begins 'Vilia miretor vulgus;..' let the vulgar admire vulgar things, and he's basically saying this is high art, this is high culture, and of course Venus and Adonis is written in the most polished courtly language of the time, something that would not have been accessible to William Shaksper.

Q7: The relationship with Queen Elizabeth and Lord Vere isn't quite clear to me still. On the one hand he's disenfranchised by the court; on the other hand he's possibly fathered a son with the Queen. On the one hand we have a situation where he may be possibly .. lending a hand by her to establish.. Is she surely not playing with dynamite getting someone like him to do that? If as you said the courtiers may be well aware, sort of having a laugh among themselves, about what's going on, in the satirical stuff? Would she not be wiser to chose someone else.. perhaps to elaborate a little more on the relationship..

CB: Yes. Sure. It's a good point you made and I think the first point to make is that she didn't choose anyone. De Vere was his own man, and he would have written whether Elizabeth liked it or not. And of course they're both two very complex people, and you're right, she is dealing with dynamite in the form of Edward de Vere. But you must remember, she had a very difficult balancing act. On the one hand, she would have people like William Cecil coming to her, saying you've got to muzzle this man, he's subversive, he's ruining the reputations potentially of people in government, and I think you see that in Hamlet, when Polonius comes to the Queen and says about Hamlet, tell him his pranks have been too broad to bear with, and that your grace has screened and come between much heat and him. That's exactly the position.
     On the other hand, she knew that de Vere's works were the ornament of her reign, and she wanted to protect his works. On the other hand, she didn't want it known that he was the author. It is a very complex situation, it's very tricky. And of course, there are a lot of, like real life, it's not smooth. And er there are a lot of dangers involved in it. But I think the important point I would make there is that de Vere was very much his own man, and I believe that he came in very close danger of his life, in the 1590s, in many points. There were people that wanted to get rid of him because they saw him as extremely dangerous. So Elizabeth on the one hand had this very personal affection towards him, they had been lovers early on. She was a mother figure to him. He had been brought up at her court. His father died when he was twelve; he was taken to court under her eye, he was a royal ward. She had a love of poetry and drama too. So they had this incredible spiritual and intellectual bond. But on the other hand she had a government to run, and he was not the most practical of people, he was an artist, he was very forthright in his sayings, and he was dangerous, you're absolutely right. So she had a very difficult time with him later on. And of course their relationship in the 1590s is not totally known. But I believe that he believed that she had betrayed him badly. Um and I personally, I don't promote this but I personally, believe that they did have this son together, and I believe that that's why Shakespeare is so obsessed about the royal succession. He talks about the royal succession in such an intimate and authoritative manner I believe that he had a personal stake in it. Because if you look at all the plays, so many of them are about a lost royal child. Who again is refound. And in the sonnets he uses the imagery of the son, he's addressing the young man as royalty. And even Stratfordian scholars like Wilson Knight, one of the great Shakespearean scholars, point that out, that he's addressing a royal person. And that's why I believe the sonnets were so controversial when they were published. He was literally putting down the alternative royal line, saying this is actually what's what, and he uses the image of the Tudor rose to describe Southampton

Q8: I'll stand up because my voice isn't very strong. For me, in Gertrude, I don't actually see Elizabeth, I see de Vere's ?own mother who left him. His father died and married somebody else. I wondered whether Elizabeth recognized herself in Gertrude. And if she didn't, she wouldn't have been offended to the extent you might be suggesting.

CB: I think she would, and I think she was meant to. Of course, we know almost nothing about de Vere's real mother, we have almost no records about her, but of course with Gertrude you have several facets of Elizabeth's character. Of course you have this relationship with Claudius, and again Claudius is not really a king; he is very much like the Earl of Leicester - he says he can't do anything without her permission, he says in one point in the play. Elizabeth of course is obsessed, I mean Gertrude is obsessed, with ageing, as she is, and there's this relationship with Hamlet, is much more the relationship that Oxford had with Elizabeth, which is part lover, part mother. There's that undertone of flirtation always between the two. Which was very well played up in the recent film that they had with what's his name, the Australian actor - Mel Gibson. Yes! That was done very well, with Glenn Close as Gertrude, that undertone of flirtation between the two. So I've always actually seen Elizabeth in that. And we have her directness, as for instance when Polonius is going on and she interrupts him: more matter, you know, less art and so on. So I think, yes, there are a number of facets of her character there.

Q9: In the sonnets of course you have the puns on the word and name Will, which you could either argue were written by someone else called Will, or deliberate misdirection. But it seems very unlikely, especially in the very fine sonnet, .. careful housewife runs etcetera, then .. thou mayest have thy will.. my loud cry. It seems a little difficult to get rid of that. I also regarding the sonnets find the idea of the addressee of the main body of the sonnets being a son quite extraordinary considering the nature of the relationship, the emotional relationship which is so close to the sexual one. But that's a different point. But I'd be interested to see what you say about the word.

CB: Yes. No. Absolutely. I have a totally different view on that. I think the opposite. I mean, there's two or three will sonnets. It makes much more sense if Edward de Vere wrote them. I mean it's a pretty fatuous thing if your name is William, it's on the title-page of the work, saying my name is Will. It'd be like me writing a poem saying my name is Charles. So what? If on the other hand you have an author who is having his whole identity usurped, he's saying to Queen Elizabeth in one of his sonnets, right, you have your will; I am now Will, your Will! That's much more meaningful than just someone saying, you know, my name is Will. And of course he's writing under this name William Shakespeare. This is the name that's been imposed on him in many ways. Um that to me gives the sonnet much more meaning.
     As for the other point, as to the sexual language, there are sexual overtones there, but remember, the language of love was very different in Elizabethan literature. Friend was often a stronger term than lover. And there's only one sonnet, sonnet 20, which is overtly sexual. And in that, I think you have an example of this sort of kaleidoscopic effect which Shakespeare often used of now you see it, now you don't, in the sense that here's someone that on the one hand wants to reveal certain things to the right people, but disguise things from other people. So he's quite happy for it to be assumed by certain people that he's writing to someone who might be a lover. But of course, you don't write to your male lover telling him to marry and have children. If you're a father, and you have a son, who is not only an heir but perhaps even a royal heir, then this obsession with producing a son, becomes understandable. That is not understandable in terms of two homosexual lovers. In fact it's an absurdity.
Q9: If I may come back quickly. It definitely isn't portrayal of two homosexual lovers.. close to. But there is an involvement, an emotional involvement which is not that of father and son
CB: But remember, with Edward de Vere and the Earl of Southampton, you have someone who has not known his son growing up, but who suddenly sees him aged 18, in the full flower of his youth, and you know, is in a sense in love with him, of course, it's his own son, but the image of love is not sexual, it's very much paternal. It's saying, look, I was like you, I was a wild person at court when I was young, don't make these mistakes. One thing is very certain, and I hope you'll accept this point, that William Shaksper of Stratford, given the ethics of the day, simply could not address the Earl of Southampton in such familiar terms
Q9: It wasn't Shaksper
CB: Right, OK.

Q10: [This is Bokenham, the Baconian] [cough cough] I've taken part in a TV programme with you, some time ago. I congratulate you on your very interesting talk. But there are one or two things- Oh, by the way, I should say, I ? mention it - where are my glasses? Oh yes. Although Baconians don't see eye to eye over the authorship question, we are very much in agreement with your Mark Twain's tar baby of Stratford. .. tar baby. What I would like to ask is, there are thirty, er sixteen, of the plays first published in 1623. And seven of those very clearly had never been played before. There's no record of them. While ten of those.. there were quartos published they were er um enlarged enormously, some of them, some more than a thousand lines after 1604. Now, there's a lot of opinions.. a group of people wrote the plays. I don't know about that, but it seems to me that whoever wrote those ten plays must have been in existence in 1720, 1620. And most of the claimants died before that. Shakespeare, de Vere, and ..

CB: So, what is your question exactly?
Q10: Well, the question is, who was responsible for those ten plays?
CB: Well, my answer is Edward de Vere. I don't believe that his death in 1604 is incommensurate with him having written them. In fact, it keys in with the whole notion of censorship that I was talking about. Obviously, a lot of these plays were too hot to be published, and in fact Pericles, which is about the incest which Edward de Vere is accusing Lord Burghley of, was not even included in the first folio because it was considered such dynamite. Now remember, in an age in which censorship is rife, it's not a surprise that some of these plays should be published after de Vere's death. In fact - let me just finish - what I peg the authorship on are many references, one of which of course is the sonnets, in 1609. Now in the sonnets, in the dedication, the author is referred to as 'our ever-living poet'. Now, the word ever-living has never been used in the English language of someone that is still alive. It means immortal, hence dead. And you have the pun on E Vere, ever-living. Of course de Vere is the only candidate for the authorship who was dead in 1609. Now. If you date the plays from their internal references, if you see them as political satires, and you go back and you take Love's Labour's Lost as dealing with issues in the Netherlands in the court of Navarre in 1578 and so on, then you can actually put the plays back some twenty years, and there's no hard evidence from internal references that any of the plays were written after 1604. And indeed, when de Vere died in 1604, legitimate publication of the plays ceased. Only three new quartos come out between 1604 and 1623, and in one of them, Troilus and Cressida, it is specifically stated that the quarto has escaped from the hands of certain grand possessors, namely the Earls of Pembroke and Montgomery, who were the Earl of Oxford's family, they were both brother-in-laws, that it escaped from their possession. So it is a bit mysterious, then, that the publication of the plays should cease in 1604, and in that same Troilus and Cressida publication, we are told that these plays are coming from an ever-writer to an ever-reader, exactly the argument of the sonnets. The writer can't be named for who he is, but the reader is eternal. Again the punning on E Vere's name. So, there's actually no evidence at all that any of the plays were written after 1604, and of course, The Tempest, which is continually brought up, is no argument at all. Many scholars, like the famous German scholar Karl Elze [not in OCEL; but in Ogburn], dated The Tempest to 1603, and I will make one final point. Geoffrey Bullough, a renowned Stratfordian scholar, wrote an 8 volume work, called 'The Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare', in which he lists only a single source for Shakespeare's works post-1603, and that is the source for The Tempest, 1610, which has now been seen to be invalid. So what Bullough is inadvertently saying is that Shakespeare stopped reading new works in 1603. The Earl of Oxford died in 1604. Again, you see, the trouble with Bacon is, that if he was the author, again, why did he stop writing plays in 1611, 15 years before his death? And secondly, how did he manage, with his busy political and legal career, to do all the writing, but the main thing that knocks out Bacon for me is that his philosophy of life is completely opposite to Shakespeare's. Bacon was a scientific materialist, who would have welcomed the modern capitalist society we have today. Very much so. Bacon was also one of the new men, like Lord Burghley, his father Nicholas Bacon and so on. So, again, for him to be writing plays which directly go against the philosophy he expresses in his works would be absurd.
Q10: But what I'm talking about is the plays that were enlarged after 1604.
CB: There's no evidence the plays were enlarged after 1604
Q10: They were indeed enlarged! They were enlarged in 1619
CB: No. Fuller versions were published. It doesn't mean someone was actually writing there in 1619
Q10: Edward de Vere published some ?poor sonnets before 1604 and enlarged them afterwards.. published..
CB: Well, remember two things here. On the first hand, whenever any author dies, he's gonna leave some things in sketch form. And some of the plays like Cymbeline and so on, Pericles, scholars say we have a collaboration here..
Q10: I'm not talking about the plays that were published ?? .. I'm talking about those that were previously published and were enlarged..
CB: Give me an example then. Name one of the plays
Q10: Hamlet, is one
CB: No. The full version of Hamlet was published in 1604, as a tribute to Oxford on his death
Q10: In 1623 further lines were added.
CB: No. The 1623 is a compilation of two different versions, of a quarto and a folio version
Q10: I'm sorry. They were added..
CB: No. It is about, the folio version is about a third of the size of the 1604 quarto version. I've read them both so I know
Q10: Well, then my information is wrong
CB: It is
Q10: .. the difficulty is that Henry VI part 2 was enlarged by one thousand one hundred and thirty nine lines in the 1623 folio. And, King Lear, no sorry Henry V,..
CB: But you see your point is self-defeating because on the one hand you're conceding that certain plays appeared for the very first time in 1623, so they must have been in the possession of someone, so why can't fuller versions-
Q10: .. by the original author
CB: Well, we know the first quarto of Hamlet is clearly an acting version. It's a very deboshed version-
Q10: ?
CB: Exactly! And there's a fuller version, a more literary version, which is published for people actually to read. Well, if you're accepting that new quartos appeared in 1623, why can't new enlarged quartos appear in 1623?
Q10: I don't know if you know much about Francis Bacon, but he was always er adding to and improving his works. All his life. In his prose works he was adding to and putting further comments on them.. same with the plays. There's absolutely no doubt in my mind he was the author of those plays
CB: Well, yes. I know where you're coming from!
Q10: Thank you for your..

Interrupter: Why does not the Marlowe and the Bacon and the Oxford, get together in some question and thrash this out? It seems that everyone agrees there was no Stratford person.. would there not be a link, a research link, an intellectual link, if the three were to get together and agree to bury the one? Because it looks like, talking politics, Stratford is doing rather well .. split the enemy up, and if the enemy got together..

CB: Yes, in an ideal world it would work like that, but it doesn't. In fact I've taken part in debates in America with Baconians and Marlovians, I've been on a platform with two others. But you see, for me, what the Oxfordians have to do now - remember, if you look at all the literature that's been published on the authorship question since 1945, 99% of it is Oxfordian. We are the movement now. We have thousands of people involved with this in the States. I mean, with all respect to the Marlovians and Baconians, it's a cosy tea-party, but it's not a movement now, with a proper marketing division which is properly committed to actually changing peoples' minds.
     I think Oxfordians have to be savvy politically, because where the Stratfordians get off is this: their best weapon now is this - and I've seen them use it over the last year - their one weapon is to say, look at these anti-Stratfordians. They can't make up their mind who Shakespeare was. Someone says it was Bacon, someone says it was Marlowe, and they put Oxford in a long list. They are terrified of having Stratford man here, Oxford man there, and so the Stratford man could be shown up. It's their main ploy politically to bury Oxford in a long list, and say these anti-Stratfordians haven't got a clue, they can't make up their minds, so I'm very conscious politically that it's a mistake, nice people as they are, for Oxfordians to fraternise too closely with Baconians and Marlovians.

Q11: Can I just put three questions: the first one is, the dissolution of the monasteries was a sort of major event; is that not under-represented, and how does that fit in with your social thesis about feudalism and so on? That's point one. The second point I wanted to ask is, I heard of someone promoting a Shakespeare book, a chap called Wilson, who said that in effect you're calling Heminges and Condell a liar. They were honest churchwardens. I'd like an answer to that. The third one actually was related to - I remember seeing you on TV [to Bokenham] .. cloud cup'd towers, the misquotation in the Westminster Abbey memorial by Pope, I think it was, which has been deciphered.. to get Bacon out.

CB: The first point was the dissolution of the monasteries, you were saying how does that key in with Shakespeare?
Q11: Yes, it seems under-represented
CB: Well, I don't think it necessarily, I mean de Vere for me was of Catholic upbringing, and of course whoever the plays were written by was emotionally attached to Catholicism, you know, he's obviously attached to the friars and that whole church fraternity. But, he's not really religious in any sectarian sense; that's the great thing about Shakespeare. He takes spiritual forces from antiquity, pagan forces, Christian forces, right across the board, and melds them together. So I think it's futile in one sense to ask is Shakespeare Protestant, is Shakespeare that. But I think there are a number of things in the plays - for instance in King Lear - one of the things that happened in the dissolution of the monasteries, and also the disbandment of the feudal aristocracies, - was you got a lot of homeless people, rather like in Mrs Thatcher's time; the two are very similar in a way, and disenfranchised people, and of course in King Lear you do have this - the mad court of the heath, Tom disguises himself as a Bedlam beggar and so on, and I think that what he's saying there is that this has affected all classes, because a lot of those people in those monasteries, they could be younger sons of the nobility and what have you, so I think there's a great sympathy there, and I think that what he's done is assimilated the history of the past, and brought out a new philosophy which I would call neo-feudalistic, so he's not maudlin about the past, but he's determined to use it fruitfully in expressing a new philosophy.
     I've never accused Heming and Condell of being liars; what I say is Ben Jonson is the, is the, tricky person. He used their names to make the connection between the prefatory letter to the first folio and the clause in the will in which Shakespeare leaves money to Heming, Condell, and Burbage. But remember that clause in the will is in a different hand, and it's interlineated, and it's not signed by a lawyer or a testator or what have you. So I think that's Jonson's handiwork, really. Heming and Condell may not even have been informed. They were just dupes to that, basically. And the letter which they signed, is full of the sort of show-off classical brilliance that Jonson loved to use. And Heming and Condell were not educated people. One of them became a grocer when he retired from the theatre, and the other I forget what he was; but they were probably not even literate. Most of the actors weren't. So; you're third question was?
Q11: .. about the cloud cup'd towers misquotation.. by Pope I think..
CB: Yes. ?Bouquet. The gentleman is referring to the Westminster Abbey monument of Shakespeare which was erected, what, around 1740, that sort of time, and there is a quotation from The Tempest, which is in fact a misquotation. It's a misquotation in many respects. And I agree with Mr Bokenham that that must have some very precise significance. What it is I don't know, but it is very interesting that whenever Shakespeare comes up, whether it's the monument in Stratford church, whether it's the monument in Westminster Abbey, there's always something very mysterious. So, again, that's another thing I would like to see scholars address, a question like that. They tend to ignore issues like that, but they are important, I think

BOKENHAM: May I butt in for one moment. ? in the programme was that the Shakespeare monument at Stratford also contains the same message. Francis Bacon was the author

BURFORD: Huh! Well, I hate to end on that note! But we can eat and drink as friends, now

[Applause]

WOMAN IN AUDIENCE: .. thank Charles.. so as a very convinced de Vereist, I'd like to say jolly good!

BURFORD: Oh! Thank you! Thank you very much!



Sketchy Notes

OCEL refers to the Oxford Companion to English Literature:-


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