“Whatever they say I am, that’s what I’m not.” Alan Silitoe.

Always good to see Derek Jacobi, whose I Claudius made everything forgivable, and his programme about Richard II last night, despite that desire to roll the wooorld around the plum of his English tongue. But why, like great actor Mark Rylance, does he go on about the fatuous Edward Devere, Earl of Oxford authorship theory for Shakespeare’s work? Perhaps because both were in Anonymous,or because of strange chips on acting shoulders? He said, with that cheeky grin of supposed assumed knowledge, it would ruffle feathers, or something, but it only ruffles feathers because it is rubbish. We all know nowadays you have to sell a thing by supposedly being controversial, or coming up with the great conspiracy. Though the most moving elements in the programme were actors talking, through the insights of Richard II, of how we are all nothing, specks in eternity, simply a part of the mysterious pattern.

There is a great deal of evidence for the Stratford Shakespeare though, despite the difficulty of reading contemporary records and the obvious desire of a poet and playwright, unlike self trumpeting Ben Johnson, to remain forever mercurial, behind the dangerous, ever watching London scenes. That was about preserving the well-spring of his art itself, dark and light, and not being pinned by anyone. Also the delicate nature of his temperament. There is little or no evidence for the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward Devere, who published under his own name during his lifetime, as a minor and rather bad poet. There is that little bit of interesting self flattery about Devere being called the ‘spearshaker’ at court, but this was an age of impresses and also the fluid change in the fixity of Sirnames themselves. Did Shakespeare think he was Shakespere, Shakesbye, Shackspere, or was he a mind and spirit on a great journey, capable of inhabiting everyone, who then sured up his own name, as spelling codified, and he found the right to survive and buy New Place in Stratford? To make good where his father had gone wrong.

It is continued social snobbery though that supports the Edward Devere authorship theory, that emerged in the nascent proto-fascist climate of the 1920’s, and incidentally an insult to today’s fluttering Free School movement too. It underestimates how advanced was the Edwardian and later Elizabethan Grammar school education, well beyond learning by rote from the school Horn Book, how grand were some of Stratford’s historical links to London and how a young Shakespeare could well have moved among very educated circles, as a young man, either as player or tutor, or in prominent Catholic families. Besides, if Tony Blair could go on about “education, education, education,” he might go on about what’s being taught, how the teachers around you, in school, life or home are inspiring or destructive forces, or, in the realms of freeing imaginations, sing snatches of “teacher, leave them kids alone.”

The conspiracy thesis of Anonymous, and those who must somehow vindicate lineage alone, perhaps a symptom of any actor’s search for identity too, is that Elizabethan society was highly stratified and players the scum of the earth. All the evidence suggests the opposite, at a time of huge mobility in London and the building of permanent playhouses under James Burbage and others, despite the rich City of London’s attempts to drive them out. The actor Edward Alleyn became a superstar of his day, as did James’ son and Shakespeare’s brother-in-arms, Richard Burbage. Indeed, in terms of the ‘celebrity’ values of their day, perhaps little changes, and it was Burbage’s not Shakespeare’s death that was so mourned in his time. But at least those celebrities set very high cultural standards and the whole of London thrilled to poets and writers, good and bad, as well as brothels, gambling dens, cockpits and bear pits.

As for any claim that writing plays was NQOCD, so not to be linked to an Earl, the Earl of Essex paid for the funeral of Edmund Spencer and writers processed proudly to the grave to throw in their quills. The idea that what was said in those plays could be dangerous, even fatal, so supporting secret authorship, might be more convincing, except for all the other evidence and arguments, and the fact that not only can Shakespeare be as conservative as radical, on the side of Kingship, as against its excess or madness, but he very carefully wrote and rewrote his plays in tune with the changing political weather vane of the time. No time-server, but aware, and also a writer trying to succeed, appealing to popular kinds of opinion, imagination and humour, and going beyond it all. Just as a very aware court protected the players, in part because of its need for the popular pulse and battles with The City of London.

As one commentator briefly said though, on Derek Jacobi’s programme of course, perhaps the most important thing is how all Shakespeare’s plays so breathe and resound with the working life and metaphors of theatre, of the fact of acting, seeming, playing, that you do not pick up as some clever or mediocre nob in the wings. They were written and semi-literally wrought in the revolutionary and thrilling climate of London playhouses, a largely nasty, brutish, dangerous and very smelly place. The Globe Theatre itself, built in 1599 out of the wood of the dismantled Theatre, across the river in Shoreditch, was partly Shakespeare’s owned triumph, and house of vital independence too, sounded out so loudly in plays like Henry V. His independence too from the likes of playhouse owner, bear baiter, Master of the Game, brothel owner, local grandee and all time creep Philip Henslowe. To be fair, Henslowe protected writers sometimes with loans, but fell foul of what he thought it was only about, money. You could go on about the metaphors of Arden forests though in As You Like It, the constant repetition of imagery of gloves or clothes, out of professional working people like his father John, very far from the bottom of any social heap. The journey too of the plays, from experimental bums on seats pot boilers like Titus Andronicus, worthy of blood-soaked Anonymous, through to such an astonishing flowering, speak of one man, one consciousness, rooted in the countryside, on a momentous journey, physical and metaphorical, who lived through his times, and out of Stratford. You do not get to the metaphysical astonishments of Hamlet, under magestical rooves fretted with golden fire, inside the physical echo chamber of his imagination, a working theatre, unless you have walked the boards and written for them too.

Why is it important? Because, apart from truth, given the right soil, and in revolutionary times, genius can grow from and come from anywhere, and die anywhere too, which is not to say Shakespeare did not take on aspirations of the Court, and move increasingly freely in those circles, as patrons fought political battles of patronage around the City of London, that were also about influencing public opinion. The power of imagination is also linked to real life power. As he got his coat of arms and his ceremonial sword that he wore at the accession of James I, and his mind went high to low, probably found more beauty in the high, though far from always, and as much energy in the low. Although Shakespeare died not a hugely rich man, but a moderately wealthy one. Jacobi is an actor who inhabits other’s words, but Shakespeare was actor, poet and playwright too, formative in his understandings and visions, increasingly distancing himself from players, or players that don’t know the purpose of the whole play, or ‘stand beside their part’, and there perhaps is the key. The writer distinguishing himself from the acting he also knew so well. A mind that so imbibed what Shakespeare is all about, living language, where the basic secret lies, of course, at a time of vital metaphorical richness and linguistic fluidity, living and flowering in and through it, completely in tune, perhaps at a time when such imagination was possible, in a way it no longer is. Science has compartmentalized and ‘rationalised’ language itself, so it is hard to even use it in the holist, organic way Shakespeare lived it. That organic connection of language is also about the sonnets and his being a poet.

But that personal relationship to language, a gift for everyone, is not the exclusive preserve of Earls of anything, and great poets and writers come from many soils. Shakespeare also very quickly consumed the sources of his day, in the revolutionary age of the printing presses, from Holinshed to Plutarch, to all the renaissance stories and legends that abounded. He ‘stole’ plots like an ‘upstart crow’, then made them his own, constantly translating through the glass of his soaring, refracting imagination. That attack on an ‘upstart’ came from one of the Oxbridge wits of the time, Robert Greene, who first proved you could make good money from scandalous diaries, as you can’t anymore, and it has marked the divide ever since, that leads straight into the weary Devere theory. So splitting editions between the Arden and Oxford Shakespeares, summoning attacks from the establishment ‘educated’ that ‘he weren’t half as good as them’ and marking a fault line in English consciousness and social values.

There is another element to the ‘proof’ and that is increasing evidence of Stratford links with that vital centre of London life and theatre, Southwark and Bankside. That is one of the themes of coming blogs and original work on Edmund Shakepeare, William’s youngest brother, who is virtually unknown, but was also a player in London, died at only 27, four months after his bastard baby son, in the greatest freeze London and the river had seen in decades, and is buried in beautiful Southwark Cathedral. He lived in a property near the Globe just before his death, called The Vine, that belonged to a Hunt family, and though the link has to be yet made, there were also prominent Hunts in Stratford, one of whom talked of William Shakespeare as the ‘Rocius’ of his time. The Berkeley Shakespeare academic Alan Nelson has highlighted the significance of that.

As Peter Ackroyd argues though, Shakespeare the London playwright was not only known in his day, but a phenomenon, as actor, playwright but also Globe theatre sharer. The secret of ‘no Shakespeare the playwright’ on Stratford documents is about how all signed themselves in legal documents as associated to the Guild trades that legally marked social status and London citizenship. In the country it was about land and property ownership. But many of those people, at a time when Henry VIII’s reformation was also systematizing parish records themselves, making the perceived structures of recorded history, for administrative and tax purposes, for reasons of power, often had very good cause to avoid being put on the record. Shakespeare avoided local London taxes and may possibly have been protected by the Bishop of Winchester, in the Liberties in Southwark. But if Joe Orton advised in Loot, ‘never get caught’, that vanishing act is also about the freedom of the artist, poet and writer. The knowledge of how powerful but also dangerous it can be at the creative centre of the circle.

The work on Edmund though brings to light fascinating unknown material too on players in Southwark, as far back as the reign of Henry VI, a cycle of History plays that have been completely underestimated in their importance in Shakespeare’s ingathering of a time, an age and very specific place too, radical and divided Southwark, an almost physical fault line of the Reformation in London. Henry VI very possibly began the whole history cycle, but it is Henry VI’s reign, really defining the ‘Wars of the Roses’, and what is said about London, power, faith and miracles in those plays, that also links the poet to Southwark, the Bishops of Winchester and the all important religious battles of his day. That makes them just as important as Richard II, if not as good artistically. As Catholicism and Rome were pushed out, or into the shadows, and Kit Marlowe played dangerous games with ‘God’ and the ‘Devil’, and English spying too, Shakespeare turned to the humanist playwright’s art, grounded in very secular themes, the stuff of life, but understanding it all as metaphor to summon the creative energy and visions inside himself, the magic of his art and characters, culminating in Prospero. It was also a journey to other ‘countries’ of reality and imagination, as ‘The Globe’ and England opened in the discovery of the Americas, the breach with Rome, the explosion of City trading expeditions, and Shakespeare felt the tectonic conflicts of his time in his blood.

It is another frustration of Phoenix Ark though that DCD, unagented, and damaged by the story in America, or perhaps it’s just today’s terrified or cynical publishing climate, could not get backing after months of work at the Metropolitan Archive. Perhaps a grand ambition is to make Phoenix Ark Press a ‘Globe Theatre’ for writers then(!), but we’re pleased to give it to readers for free instead. All the world’s a page!

New addition to Phoenix Ark in pages above: Shakespeare’s Brother, the story of Edmund Shakespeare, the missing player, and the biography of an unrecorded life.

Phoenix Ark Press


Filed under Culture, Education, London, The Phoenix Story


  1. Very sorry, I neglected to cite “The Sternhold and Hopkins ‘Whole Book of the Psalms’ Is a Major Source fo the Works of Shakespeare”, Dr. Richard Waugaman’s study of Oxford’s copy of the Psalms and how consistently the underlines connect to Shakespearean references. it is available through his Oxfreudian website.

    • Dear Bill,

      sorry about the intial Ray, must be your scatter gun approach. We don’t take it personally, just don’t like categorical bombast, though always understand someone wanting to be heard. The arts of real rhetoric though, man. As Bevan said, understand their arguments better than they do, then conclude! So often that Oxford ‘theory’ though pulls in sublimated battles about truth, the establishment, education, the Bible, whatever too. One will read on, Macduff, with time, though who would want to be poor, dark Macbeth? By the by, are you and the Oxfreudian website intimates? You talk about Edward Alleyn as if you were there! Incidentally, Ackroyd completely disagrees with you about First Folio supposed frauds, why a new world at the stationers office and a revolution in printing in London led to intimate acting ffelowes gathering around to protect and publish his work, and how the building of The Globe, as followed in Shapiro so thrillingly, made any grubbing actor manager there Philip Henslowe not Will Shakespeare. So does new research here about what was happening in Southwark, Henslowe’s links to St Saviours as ‘establishment’ man and the Great Enqueste under James I, that both Alleyn and Henslowe were part of. We (God bless us- and perhaps someone else has already) have proved where Henslowe was living in Southwark for twenty years, at effectively number 5 Bell Alley, right by the Church, and that Alleyn and his family lived there together for several years. Alleyn did not simply disappear as actor, he came back, to support his father in law, up at the Fortune. There, and in all the players who lived there too, is the real fascination of the story, behind the mysteries of phenomenal art.

      best, PA

      • “You talk about Edward Alleyn as if you were there!”
        I assume this means presumptuous certainty. My source for the unequivocal identification of the “Upstart Crow” with the new, aggressive, talented Alleyn comes from Katherine Chiljan’s ‘Shakespeare Suppressed”, pp. 120-30. Well worth a look and a thought. Alleyn fits all the mentioned categories of identification: a plagiarer, a bellower, an actor-manager, a pretended playwright, a holder of costumes for rent, and the tell-tale reference to a role and line which he spoke. Practically, Henry VI had existed as a play well before 1592, when Shakspere was supposed to have written it, thereby pushing his way supposedly into the theater milieu. Nashe had already referred to Henry VI in Pierce Penniless (i.e., Insolvent Spear) in 1592 as a settled play, so it was not, as wished by Stratfordians, newly written by an unknown playwright.

        “What do you think of that Richard Hunt inscription supported by Alan Nelson, directly tying the author to Stratford, who incidentally, is not a biased commentator, but admits to a ‘Sherlock Holmes’ passion for the subject? Do you really think extremely careful documentary scholars like Schoenbaum have been completely hoodwinked, Peter Ackroyd is rubbish, or that William and Edmund Shakespeare in Stratford or London, somehow never existed?”
        The Hunt inscription was after the rumor got around that the actor, playwright and poet “Shakespeare” came from Stratford. Nobody in Stratford thought so. This planted rumor originated in the First Folio, with two ambiguous wordings–Jonson’s phrase, ‘sweet swan of Avon’, and Digges’s phrase, ‘thy Stratford monument’. Both ambiguities were intentional, which would be unnecessary if Shakspere were the bona fide author. You prefer to believe they were bona fide, no further questions. The Avon has seven branches, one by the Pembrokes’ estate, and their insignia was the swan. Oxford/Shakespeare and Countess Pembroke were friends and literary colleagues. The London literary world knew that. The Stratford ‘monument’, supposedly to William Shakspere, was no such thing. That was a cenotaph to his father, a wool dealer. It was the plaque that was new, like the First Folio matter ambiguous, and according to David L. Roper, a Cardano Grille for the unambiguous statement, “Shakspere is Vere”. The Stratford persuasion just cannot afford to admit contemporaneous evidence which constantly reinforces the opposite view of who the author was.

        While Schoenbaum was a conscientious scholar, he failed as a consistent thinker due to his preconceptions. He did admit that he could not bring together the life and the work associated with Shakespeare. This is honest and accurate. There is no connection between the prudential personality, of which Shakspere was a classic example, and the artistic personality, of which Oxford was an unfortunate example. ‘Shakespeare’ actually condemned the miserly personality type in Lucrece. I don’t know anything about Ackroyd. But I submit that in every field of work there are a few artists and many mechanics, who accept existing initial premises, right or wrong. As for Shakspere and his brother Edmund, both are known to have existed. But what does that possibly prove concerning the one having written a recognized and controversial body of literary work? Nelson’s claim that the Hunt inscription is critical evidence for Shakspere’s authorship of the canon has no credibility. He wrote the most biased and bilious biography ever published about a major literary and historical figure. ‘Roscius’ does refer to an illustrious Roman actor. It does not prove his metaphoric descendant wrote or could write anything. Hunt simply had put two and two together and got fifteen. Nelson, denying any other context but his presumed view, considered it evidence of Shakspere’s authorship. We should not make such understandable but elementary deductive errors.

        I recommend Gilvary’s ‘Dating Shakespeare’s Plays’ for a good comparison of the conventional chronology, cramming ‘Shakespeare’s’ career into fourteen years with no foreground or aftermath, versus the actual history of the plays and their time. This in addition to the other recommended books. They are of high scholastic and analytical content, much more closely focussed without the barnacles of faulty presumptions, which have been perpetuated generation after generation, becoming familiar and customary Truth. In answer to your rhetorical question, of course I condemn tradition if it has inculcated inaccuracy about human suffering and creativity. We need to cleanse ourselves of that.

        I have no position about ‘Anonymous’, a work of extravagant fiction. It is significant in one way. Even Hollywood can detect a hoax in the traditional pat little tale of Stratford Will now. A succession of incredible special pleadings will never work as evidence for that story.

        • Dear Bill,

          sorry, those questions were addressed to oxfreudian. But you do not exactly apply the objectivity of the scholar, or indeed barrister thinking they might be completely wrong, in anything you say. Sorry, no time right now to properly enage, so let your suggestions stand here for now and others might join in. But sweet Ned Alleyn apart, read Henslowe’s ‘diaries’ again, or those account books, and you will see versions of plays and names for plays were floating around all over the place. Look at all the remakes going on in Hollywood nowadays, and, with honourable exceptions, we dont exactly think you can call the Dream Machine harbingers of truth or enlightment, much as we enjoyed The Day After Tomorrow. It is exactly why Ackroyd argues for those rewriting ‘workshops’, in playhouses themselves, and why scholarship is so complex. But why he argues the Stratford, real and London working Shakespeare, set his hand to so much, including unaccredited works like Edmund Ironside. Why too the most interesting thrust of debate now is that Shakespeare and the Burbages broke with the likes of Henslowe, or Will Kemp, to take control and find their own protected working playhouse at The Globe. Anyhow, what on earth has it to do with the Earl of Oxford?! People just try to pull down the whole shop, to supposedly leave open ground for the most strained ‘theory’.


          • ps Richard Hunte moved close to Stratford and why would an inscription in a book, itself in Latin and argued about, mean he was puting any two and two’s together, rather than writing about a local? It also refutes the claim ‘there in no evidence linking the Stratford Shakespeare to the London poet and playwright’. Since, as you both say, evidence is thin on the ground, how do cirucmstancial tidbits about Oxford, Bacon or Uncle Tom Cobbly, outweigh the evidence of players, writers and theatre lives in London, and the Stradford boys, both of whom went to London as players? As for that pork Butcher statue, it makes any pilgrims soul drop through the floor, but perhaps that’s because it’s Dutch, was done by the son of the funerary artist whose workshop was near the Globe, any artists puts themselves in their work, and Will spent far too long hanging out in taverns with local Dutchmen! Roland Emmeric should know that.

          • I did not understand the discussion of the theaters, Henslowe the manager, etc. But from a longer historical perspective, it may be interesting to know that Oxford sponsored and provided plays for the Queen’s Men in the 1580’s, which became the Lord Chamberlain’s Men in the 1590’s, admixtured with actors from Lord Strange’s company after he was poisoned. Oxford supplied plays for these companies in addition to his Oxford’s Men and Oxford’s Boys. In turn, the LCM became the King’s Men, when James I took over Elizabeth’s court’s sponsored company. Oxford was good friends with Burbage, Tarleton, Armin, and others and knew how to write for the leading actors. There is record of Armin visiting him in Hackney, in preparation for As You LIke It. Oxford was an in-law of both Derby and Pembroke, the other sponsors of play companies. He received a thousand pounds a year from the State to write and produce plays. To claim that Oxford was uninvolved with theater in London requires ignoring “a mountain of evidence”, these for example, that he was the center and main mover of the English Renaissance. That he was written out of the official history later is part and parcel of the confused understanding that resulted in the legend that a money-lender from a market town suddenly became a writer of great aristocratic dramas.

            Again, I recommend further reading. The anomalies clear considerably with the right picture in the frame.

            • Well, there we might admit our ignorance, though we did not say Oxford was ‘uninvolved with the theatre’. That is very different to a player/dramatist who lived the theatre in his life blood, in London and on the road, and all its real and fictional dramas. Is not that journey, inside the plays themselves, out of the Forests of Arden of As You Like it, and Stratford childhoods and the Arden family, essential to touching a real man? Did Oxford walk the boards, know the centre of creative power on a stage, live the parts, struggle out of the bear pits of the time, find the well springs of improvisation on a stage, and remake the stage itself, in building The Globe, among a close company of ffelowes? Shakespeare’s metaphors are so crammed with the working theatre, and much else that suggests a jobbing life experience among ordinary craftsmen too, they sing everywhere. On the other hand the miracle of language might be of itself. But you rather nail your colours, and the Oxfordian colours, to the mast, when you talk of ‘great aristocratic dramas’, despite agreeing earlier that genius can come from anywhere, though never so anywhere as the background of an Earl, presumably. May a cat not look at a King, or a King go through the cuts of a beggar? The greatest centre of patronage and aspiration was the Court, the greatest themes of history and political debate Kingship, but that does not make the body of Shakespeare’s work ‘aristocratic dramas’, in the sense they had to be written by an aristo. Nobles of the time were sometimes as brutish, smelly or illread as others and moving out of the histories, Shakespeare’s art goes to many undiscovered countries. As for ‘prudential’ Shakespeare, or Stratford moneylenders, well perhaps, but for all Katherine Duncan Jones’s striking arguments about ‘ungentle Shakespeare’, Henslowe, or Langley who built the Swan speak more of the moneylenders. Shakespeare was both wary and tough, as well as enormously aware, but was a man of such human visions in his plays capable of hoarding malt, persuing enclosures, or retreating to New Place? Why not, they were tough times to survive, and the ‘inheritence’ of John Shakespeare suggest his son would have expected to go places. But thank you for these thoughts and perhaps we’ll pick it up another day.

              • “Did Oxford walk the boards, know the centre of creative power on a stage, live the parts, struggle out of the bear pits of the time, find the well springs of improvisation on a stage, and remake the stage itself, in building The Globe, among a close company of ffelowes?”
                Oxford was known as the leading court comedian of his time. He also gained envy as the best improvising rhymer. The plays we associate with Shakespeare first appeared at court much earlier, then were re-written and distributed to the aristocratic-sponsored play companies. When he essayed to make public theater, he purchased the lease to Blackfriars in the early 1580’s and transferred it to Lyly. This was the locus of the Queen’s Men and Oxford’s Men/Oxford’s Boys. He had written plays since he was twelve. There is plenty of basis for his being the center of London theater. Donald P. Hayes wrote a seminal essay placing him there as ‘Shakespeare’. When Shakspere of Stratford died, by contrast, not one of the literary figures connected to ‘Shakespeare’ the playwright and poet had a word to say about him. Nor did his family, neighbors, townspeople, shire, London, or the English nation.

                I see that you have had your say on the matter and will not importune further comment. But “there are more things in heaven and earth than is dreamed of in your philosophy, Horatio.” That is good advice to all of us.

                • Oh twaddle Bill, and as for not importuning anything, we are not living in the 16th century. Delighted about your comments, but it might be more interesting to see what many say. And there are certainly not more things in wherever than are dreamt of this end of the net, Horace. It strangely often slips back to the faith ‘debate’, but there I’ll quote Herr Ackroyd too, on Desert Island Disks, and say there are things ‘out there’ science or perception has little notion of. But something Shapiro wrote that that really struck and that was Shakespeare locked the doors on himself, so he could open them for everyone, and guard the secret wellsprings of the writer magician’s art. A good magician and a Prospero.

                  • ps you seem to think we have some intrinsic beef against ‘nobles’. Nay, nay, except Lords Webber and Archer, if some were half so noble as they pretend. Is it not the nature of the cruel world that the ‘face’, Richard Burbage, was mourned loudly, and not the driven craftsman? Where is the evidence of any ‘nation’ having a public voice, it was being invented and most couldn’t read or write, as indeed was the writer’s persona and authority. Oxford, the best commedian at court? Well there you go! ‘Seminal’, er, a much misused word. The links are very thin, and so the dream inhabits, straight out of Shakespeare’s resounding consciousness and straight out of Stratford too (nah, nah, nah.)

                    • “Where is the evidence of any ‘nation’ having a public voice, it was being invented and most couldn’t read or write, as indeed was the writer’s persona and authority.”
                      This is far from the important issue, but what I meant by including family, neighbors, townspeople, shire, London, or the nation in NOT mourning Shakspere, is that nobody anywhere in any way considered his death an occasion for sorrow. You point out that Burbage was publically mourned (and this did occur elsewhere in the nation), much more than the lowly playwrights were. The facts remaining from the time indicate copious mourning for the Elizabethan poets. Beaumont died shortly before Shakspere. He was both mourned and eulogized, then inducted into the Poet’s corner of Westminster Abbey. Sidney was nationally mourned and eulogized. So were Jonson, Spenser, Drayton (of Warwickshire), Mundy, Thomas Heywood, Robert Greene, Thomas Watson, and Christopher Marlowe. I don’t believe there is a sound basis for thinking the actors were the superstars and the writers insignificant to the population. It was still a time of oral communication of literature and England’s poets received their due, whether by literate readers or non-literate listeners.

                      I regret that James Shapiro’s speculation that ‘Shakespeare “locked the doors on himself, so he could open them for everyone, and guard the secret wellsprings of the writer magician’s art” is prettily -scented hot air. ‘Shakespeare’ expressed very clearly that, contrary to self-effacement, he was “tongue-tied by authority”, that his name would be buried where his body was, but that his words would outlast the brass tombs of kings. “Your monument shall be my gentle verse,/ which eyes not yet created shall o’er-read;/ And tongues to be your being shall rehearse,/ When all the breathers of this world are dead;// You stil shall live,–sch virtue hath my pen,–/ Where breath most breathes,–even in the mouths of men.” This does not sound like modesty personified, and all for art. He wastrue to his art under conditions of suppression of its author. He had expediently kept his works separate from his aristocratic name while he lived. But the government of the time made sure that there would be no posthumous publication of his works under his name either. And he knew that would happen. Antigonus in The Winter’s Tale is eaten by the Bear, i.e., Authority, in effect buried alive like his namesake Antigone.

                      James Shapiro’s slick statements will in time provide sad amusement as arrogant, wrong-minded, and ad hominem excuses on behalf of status quo perpetuation, the guild’s priest-like standing, and unexamined convention. His sacred function as a scholar was to seek to the truth and unmask falsehood. He utterly failed to pursue that duty.

                      I see no contradiction in recognizing genius whatever the class while also stating that the Shakespearean plays were aristocratic. Every Shakespearean play focusses on that class, modern or ancient, and they consistently stereotype the names and stations of the lower orders. As Walt Whitman, no aristocrat he, wrote: “Conceived out of the fullest heat and pulse of European feudalism, personifying in unparallelled ways the medieval aristocracy, its towering spirit of ruthless and gigantic caste, with its own peculiar air and arrogance (no mere imitation), only one of the wolfish earls so plenteous in the plays themselves, or some born descendant and knower, might seem to be the true author of those amazing works, works in some respects greater than anything else in recorded literature.” Oxford was a genius and he paid the ultimate price for fidelity to his gifts and convictions–an anonymity just now beginning to iift.

                    • Forsooth, tis late and Newsnight nearly over. They were not exactly Shapiro’s words, they were ours, but does your use of Ad Hominem rumble the link to Oxfreudiana? The point, for all you rightly say about other writers being praised or mourned, is the defence of the springs of genius. I hope you agree Shakespeare’s genius steps beyond them all. We think that ‘cursed be he who moves my bones’ has so much to say of the time, and Shakespeare’s vital modesty, not as the consumately confident author, but as the author not interested in being dragged onto the nasty, whispering London scene or being known biographically. Also about ‘getting somehwere’, or everywhere, and in a church that constantly moved bones. There is something else about not disturbing the mystery of consciousness, to attempt ‘truth’ that he questions all the time. But he kept his vision, his enlightenmnet, his courage, somewhere outside the desire to be the author of his day, and prefered the work and the journey. That’s why his spirit shines. “Not marble not the guilded monuments of princes, shall outlives this powerful rhyme.‘ Goodnight.

                    • Big on rhetoric, tiny on facts. The gravestone doggerel is shocking and ridiculous, if it were written by or about the Soule of the Age. Some say it is just a grave-robber hex, which is strange since there is nothing under the slab. The body was buried in the yard. In actuality the jingle was a cover script for embedding the name of de Vere. In the ninth line over from the left is an upside down VERE. On either side of the V is D and then E. See Alan William Green’s I Shakespeare for the complete explanation. Once you examine these canards, you find they are thin as tissue. With these points in mind, I cannot agree that the verse expresses modest other-worldliness on the part of the interred Shakspere. That is very interesting imaginative thinking. It was devised by a very clever encryptor. Another feature is the Triple Tau (three T’s in a row), an early Masonic symbolism pattern. There are four lines in the gravestone poem, two lines of Latin in the plaque lettering, and six lines in the plaque English lettering. This lines-total corresponds, according to Green, to 6-2-4, a numerical equivalent of E-d-w-a-r-d d-e V-e-r-e. The curiosities clear up once you realize it is a hoaxed message.

                    • Um, ‘facts’?! Perhaps when we speak we only hold a mirror up to ourselves. You swoop to rhetoric immediately, like your ‘shocking and ridiculous’ and convince yourself of things that are full of holes and assumptions, but also mistakes. Shakespeare is full of bad lines too and mediocre commedy, um, in my opinion. But as for mistakes, that’s the use of Schoenbaum’s return to original source documents and correcting all the assumed ‘theories’ that have bloomed around the mistakes. It is also the necessary path of the scholar, much as scholars get things wrong. As Alan Nelson said in a lecture though, a recent theory emerged about Will Kemp not dying in 1603, probably of plague, because work ‘out there’ had relayed that the Southwark burial register had not said William Kemp, a Man, but only Kemp, yet going back to the record itself showed it did say Will Kemp. Read Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections though. The relaying of so-called ‘fact’ out there is extraordinary, giving ‘to airy nothing a local habitation and a name’, and includes the Devere ‘Theory’. As for the bust, no time right now to follow lunatic theories down the trails of numerology, though there’s always space for possibility and ‘revelations’. But because there are 6 letters in Edward, 2 in De, and 4 in Vere is straining the code to shattering point! Do you not think the Jansens put it up, you do if such an insult, and why bother in Stratford, why not leave a will saying, oi, you fools, twas me, me!? I prefer the Bishop who wrote to the Times about Thomas Bilson and the 46th psalm in the King James Bible, 46 words down and up, but only as a mark of respect for the Roscius of his time. Why don’t you write a book though, or build it into your blog?

                      I think there’s a great deal to be said about Shakespeare and the very nature of identity, indeed ‘history’, what he says all the time, not grasped by what you wrongly call Ad Hominem acceptance, but it is more about the nature of the artist and consciousness itself. Like so called facts and so called fictions and Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, perhaps. Incidentally your remark about what a bear ‘means’ in the Winter’s Tale is assumptive rubbish. How do you know what the writer had in his head as symbol, stage craft, sudden invention or so called fact? But thank you for your comments and suggestions and all will be left up here for others. No constant posting and reposting between us is going to prove anything really, but any interest in Shakespeare is surely great, more especially his work. As you say, open minds to the miracles contained inside those works and to the ‘facts’ on the ground in Southwark, London, and, um, Stratford. But I’ll carry an attempted open mind about any De Vere evidence, as much as any recorded Shakespeare evidence.

                      ps I did not quite say modest other worldiness, I literally think it was a warning not to try to touch the psychic depths of such a man, who saw and experienced so much, dark and light, and perhaps to secure a little local respect against the bone moving business. As for the Soul of his age, then, as now, was a very hard fight to secure any lasting memorial or significance, themes also deep in Shakespeare’s work. I think, for all Acroyd’s talk of a phenomenon, that was in London, and as for the rest of the so-called Nation, you might quote FE Smith – “in the bogs of Conammarra, they talk of nothing else!” As far as I am aware his bones are inside the church wall, several feet in, perhaps I’m wrong. But if you look at church mermorials, as Edmund Shakespeare’s tombstone in Southwark Cathedral covers nothing, memorials very often are not where the bodies lie. Perhaps we should all be reading Hilary Mantel!

                    • Wimbledon is coming on in a minute, when I must retire from trading shots with my worthy adversary. On the matter of where Shakspere’s bones lie, I quote A.J. Pointon: “There is certainly no good reason to believe that any of Shakspere’s bones lie beneath that crude stone, especially given the report of Washington Irving, who was told by the Stratford sexton in 1816 that excavation had shown that nothing was there.” Unless we discount the memory of the American author, who had no known bias, as unreliable, and the words of the sexton, who worked there, as hearsay, the information has probity for our discussion. Concerning ‘lunatic’ numerology where it touches the authorship question, I would only point out that the same 6-2-4 code in the gravestone legend occurs in the formation of the Sonnets dedication. From the discovery of Dr. John Rollett, if you select words periodically in a 6-2-4 [i.e., Edward de Vere] pattern, you arrive at the message, “These sonnets all by Ever/Vere the Forth”. ‘Forth’ being a homonym of ‘fourth’, which in Dutch is deVierde, an obvious anagram of de Vere, and ‘forth’ also being a consistent reference word to Oxford by his own hand in the introduction to Cardanus Comforte and in a dedication to Spenser, followed by Nashe, Marston, Basse, and Jonson following suit. Thanks for the opportunity to introduce a small portion of the new evidence that tends to question the Stratford fable.

                    • Enjoy the tennis. As for numerology and codes, that way madness lies. Numbers to Dutch, to ‘truth’?! You might quote Bottom’s dream, “I am translated’! But good to hear the name of Washington Irving, although writers are all nuts too, except the Stratford Shakespeare.

  2. Bill Ray is correct. There is no “mountain of evidence” in favor of the traditional theory. On closer inspection, it dissolves into nothing more than tradition and circular thinking. It would be helpful if those interested would spend more time investigating the overwhelming evidence in de Vere’s favor, instead of recycling the same tiresome ad hominem dismissals. Or at least coming up with some new, improved ad hominem dismissals.

    Forgive me for getting personal here, but I take exception to your claim that no serious scholar is an Oxfordian. There are many, including Roger Stritmatter, a tenured professor of literature who got the first Ph.D. in literature in the U.S. for an Oxfordian dissertation. Immodestly, I might add that 20 of my 40 Shakespeare publications are listed in the mainstream World Shakespeare Bibliography. My long 2009 Notes & Queries article keeps showing up on their list of the most-read online articles from the past 150 years (#1 last October). I believe I have discovered the most significant previously unknown literary source for Shakespeare’s works in the 21 psalms marked by hand in de Vere’s copy of the Whole Book of Psalms.

    • Well, that is interesting, thank you, though here we still hold to the mountain of evidence, and it does not dissolve into circular thinking at all. Perhaps, in the love of free speech and dialogue, it’s better to tone down words about ‘no serious scholar’, but that’s all. Reading here, with direct recent research at the Metropolitan and National Archives too, perfectly admitting possible areas of ignorance, or that a mock legal case in London came down in favour of the possibility, proves to us it is about some strange act of circular or over imaginative thinking, trying to prove a 1920’s theory that is completely unecessary, much as truth might be, and also distracts from the works themselves. What, incidentally, is wrong with local and theatrical tradition, it often holds a great deal of truth, and why less convincing than people who try to prove things 400 year later? What do you think of that Richard Hunt inscription supported by Alan Nelson, directly tying the author to Stratford, who incidentally, is not a biased commentator, but admits to a ‘Sherlock Holmes’ passion for the subject? Do you really think extremely careful documentary scholars like Schoenbaum have been completely hoodwinked, Peter Ackroyd is rubbish, or that William and Edmund Shakespeare in Stratford or London, somehow never existed? What do you credit of the writer’s working knowledge of how poems and plays are actually created, here we sometimes prefer to ‘scholars’ on either side, the sources of inspiration, and that undertsanding that those works came from a man who was both player and playwright, in the working troupes of Elizabethan players, and the echo chambers of art, imagination and consciousness, at The Theatre, Curtain and Globe? Ray is not ‘right’, even if Phoenix Ark are wrong, nor are you, but is it not strange how categorical all become?! Still, good passion is a good thing, and we have certainly been categorical and still are. It is no ad hominem dismal though, we’re perfectly capable here of accepting mystery, or conspiracy, especially in Elizabethan london, but just do not happen to think it is true.


      ps like the name, we’ll be Shakesjungian…

    • I would support the points Dr. Waugaman made and repeat my suggestion that you do more reading and less post facto speculating about swirling records and the rest. There is enough information to analyze the Shakespeare authorship. More occurs all the time. For that, actually read the Waugaman discoveries in the In contrast to “no serious scholar” respecting the Oxfordian contention, no serious adult can respect the circular reasoning that undergirds the Stratfordian contention.

      That the latter is dominant in general thinking should be reason for concern, not smug certainty. At one time, slavery was quite respectable, supportable by tradition and biblical belief, and similarly the concept that the earth was the center of material existence. Should you gradually jettison cliche-thinking in this area, by reading new materials, researches, and perspectives, you will find that the Shakespeare canon opens up as politically responsive, agonizingly personal, and literarily and internationally aware. That is an enormous advance in understanding history and one’s own manner of thinking.

      As for my immoderate approaches in your – and other blogs, don’t take my style personally. Sometimes it takes a kawasaki slap to wake someone up, and this field is loaded with sleeping pills, because it completely misreads the genesis of the works. I love the truth and want it recognized. The most revered body of literary work has been falsely attributed to a cipher for reasons of Elizabethan political expediency. What could be more wrong and educationally corrupting in our cultural life than endorsing compounded error?

      Lastly, I agree the jibe, “tiger’s heart in an actor’s hide” comes from HVI, “tiger’s heart in a woman’s hide”. But you don’t seem to understand that Alleyn had portrayed that very line, which is why Greene parodied it in excoriating his behavior as a thieving actor-manager. But here is the essential point. Shakspere had nothing whatever to do with it. His memory did not receive posthumous notoriety until the First Folio introductory hoax projected him the sui generis author. Yet the malformed Upstart Crow anecdote remains a critical faux-fact of the Stratfordian belief-system.

      Read on Macduff and there is much to gain.

      William Ray

  3. What in Hell was all that about? You profess that there is plenty of evidence that Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon was the very same as William Shakespeare/Shake-speare. So where is the proof? Actual proof? To our knowledge, Gulielmus Shakspere might have gone to the local grammar school but there are no records he did, for certain he did not go to college because there is no record thereof and all attendees were recorded, he was not tutored by any learned scholar, he was not sponsored by any patron, was never associated with the Earl of Southampton, could not have chided and advised that nobleman as the Sonnets do without severe punishment, left no letters either from or to himself, no manuscripts in his will, no drafts, no letter-writing furniture or effects, no tributes to or from, no contracts or other proof he received payment for writing, no inscriptions or receipts concerning playwrighting or any kind of writing at all, no reference to him as the Stratfordian writer, no books owned, borrowed, or given, no eulogies, no claims by his family that he was a writer, no mention of him at any stage of his life regarding his being a writer by his neighbors, townspeople, associates in London–in short, no evidence of any kind that Shakspere of Stratford was even literate, much less the Starre of Poets and the great Author of his age.

    Which seems to suggest that your ‘argument’ in favor of Shakspere=Shakespeare is belief in a legend, not a reasoned statement by rational means of proof. And yet you laugh at the two leading Shakespearean actors who say otherwise–Jacobi and Rylance, as well as York, Irons, Chaplin, Welles, et al?

    Your statements about Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, are as ignorant and false as I have ever read about him and his era, and I have studied both subjects for a decade. The only things I can agree with are your views that genius can rise from anywhere and that “Shakespeare’s plays so breathe and resound with the working life and metaphors of theatre, of the fact of acting, seeming, playing.”

    For some reason, you don’t grant that a rebellious noble, whose life reads like–and was–the model for Hamlet, could be that risen genius. Oxford was a child prodigy at poetry and theater, which is why he was praised so early as inhabited by the spirit of Pallas Athena, the “SPEAR SHAKER” and the patroness of theater. Then he twice became the champion lancer of England, an actual speak-shaker. That isn’t vanity. It is valor and skill. Do people occasionally take their pseudonyms from their exploits? I believe so. Harvey and Sidney thought so too and referred to him as the spear shaker. Ergo, Shake-speare, with or without the hyphen. He had studied theater-construction and playwrighting in Italy and later worked with (his secretaries) Lyly and Mundy, known as the most skilled plotters of their time. He sponsored play companies from his youth, performed plays at university and court, attended by the Queen in both venues, was honored as highly learned with dozens of dedications, was granted a life-long State annuity to produce literature and plays, was repeatedly recognized as the first among all others by critics and other writers, was funded to send play companies all over England before the Spanish Armada to rally patriotic feeling in the English nation. But he ran afoul of the ruling Cecils, whom he ridiculed in Richard III, Hamlet, and The Winter’s Tale.

    So author and works were separated by Oxford’s relatives and followers in the collected works, the First Folio. Yes, friends, bamboozlement preceded the modern national State and its George W. Bushes. You would gain from the actual Elizabethan history, instead of creating a fictional one. “Shakespeare” was an expedient construct, just as “the Virgin Queen” was.

    I also agree that Edward Alleyn was a superstar of his day. Except that it was Edward Alleyn whom Robert Greene pilloried as a shake-scene (stage-pounder, bombast, and scene-stealer) and upstart crow, robbing others’ feathers. He was known as an ambitious plagiarist, eventually too ambitious for stage-craft, so later he became a businessman and college founder. The scornful lines about “a tiger’s heart in a player’s heart” came from his own character’s words, “a tiger’s heart in a woman’s hide”. Ignorant belief can twist “shake-scene” into some kind of referential proof that “Shakspere” had anything to do with writing. But no evidence supports it. Maybe read ‘Four Essays on the Shakespeare Authorship Question’, ‘Shakespeare Suppressed’, ‘Shakespeare’s Guide to Italy’, or ‘Shakespeare by Another Name’. You’ll drop the over-educated crap in a hurry.

    William Ray

    • Dear Will,

      you might consider modulating your offensive and bombastic tone, by not starting “what the hell”! Or putting over long replies in your own forum, and instead limk it to a swifter reply here. On the other hand, thank you for bothering to reply at all. No serious scholar credits the Devere theory, and against the ‘camp’ (no pun intended) of really great actors, like Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance, you might pit Simon Russell Beale and others. Something of what you say of the lack of evidence is perfectly true, it’s partly about an unrecorded time, or the beginning of a record one. Yet the eccentric Oxford theory seriously pits a scrap like ‘spear-shaker’ against the comparative mountain of evidence, from birth to death records, the existence of the Shakespeare Stratfords, unless you deny that too, near contemporary biographers like Aubrey, important theatrical tradition, namely word of mouth, and so many plays and works that point to a consistent whole and a vital life journey. We repeat that, in an age of swirling opinion, and dodgy copyright law, the latin incription in a Stratford book owned by Richard Hunte describing the local, Stratford Shaespeare as the ‘Rocius’ of our time, the Berkley Theatre historian Alan Nelson has described as the most important Shakespeare discovery in years. If we can link the place Edmund Shakespeare was living in Southwark when he died in 1607, owned by a Hunt family, to Stratford Hunts, it suggests further proof, though nothing definitive. The ‘Oxford theory’ is actually hardly worth answering, though many mysteries about Shakespeare are, except that a movie like Anonymous has to distort truth by coming up with a contorted plot about William Shakespeare existing, like his brother Edmund, being a player, involved in The Globe etc, but just the cover for your good Earl, and a character (completely invented for their drama) both murderous and foul. The maxim of the law at least has something about resonable proof. There is no reasonable proof on the Oxford side. “It’s only a movie” said Roland Emmerich, adopting a Shakespearean sense of strange, eventful histories, but it is a movie which not only about Shakespeare and other players but Elizabeth too, abandons any kind of historical accuracy for camp drama.

      The journey of those players, writers and poets, in London at the time, and Shakespeare’s visions, as we said, hammered out in the living, working environment of theatre, is what is both true and inspiring. It is acutally important just to go straight back to the plays and poems. In other ways we are not at all conventional about Shakespeare. He may well have remained a Catholic, may possibly have travelled to Rome, might have had a personality as difficult as Catherine Duncan Jones suggests, but the Earl of Oxford? Rubbish, no matter how brave or spear shaking your good Earl might have been. We are not sure what ‘over-educated’ means, by the way, but thanks at least for the nod to some education on the subject.


      ps Actually you are just wrong about Alleyn and Greene. Greene was quoting from a line in Henry VI, or one of the histories! As Will Kemp made an attack on that “shake rags” at the Globe, who had probably pushed him out.

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