“THY TEST IS EVER HAM!” PA Press
First to apologise to William Ray for having taking so long to get to this and to recommend that readers interested in a Shakespeare authorship question read his article http://www.wjray.net/shakespeare_papers/tabooing-de-vere.htm.
It is not only highly stimulating, and perhaps startling in certain aspects, but in brilliantly quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson, and in Ray noting “Rebellion can be fatal to iconoclasts”, it appeals not only to intrinsic instincts here, but vivid experience too of what happened to an author who dared to shake the publishing system, however shabby, shamed or tortured his spirit became at times, and one filled with a knowledge of and passion for Shakespeare’s visions and search for lasting truth. Some of the arguments we had you can find in the comments under two Phoenix articles, DEREK JACOBI, RICHARD II AND THE EARL OF OXFORD ‘THEORY’ and EDMUND SHAKESPEARE, EDWARD DEVERE, FALSTAFF AND THE HOLLOW CROWN.
Ray’s take offers a moving truth about the real world then, a warning about it and people, and especially their tribal instinct to buy into or reveal vested interests in that world, for whatever reasons. Take Oberon Waugh’s savage “A Handful of Dust” and what happens to truth, and establishment protections of human lies there. That quite stands on its own, but also demands some respect for claims about Devere, and certainly a fascination with the period. But although Emerson, and many authors tasting the possible bitterness of the world, may be right about life or society, as Shakespeare wrote it all over his plays, it still does not prove the case.
Two things struck here. The first is William Ray’s observation, unless someone else wants to refute it, that ‘Twenty years after De Vere died, Richard Brathwaite wrote, “Let me tell you: London never saw writers more gifted than the ones I saw during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. And never were there more delightful plays than the ones performed by youth whose author wrote under a borrowed name.”‘
Then there is, more startlingly, Henry Peacham’s 1612 Minerva Britanna, with a drawing of an arm and hand holding a pen, thrusting out from behind a theatre curtain, with a scroll:”Mente Videbori,” or “By the mind I will be seen,” which also produces the anogram “Tibi Nom De Vere” or “Thy name is Devere.”
But from there the argument descends, in the view on this side of the Atlantic, into something so strained it can only be described as “Shakepeare by Sudoku”. Namely the arguments about Cardan Grilles, or codes to somehow reinterpret Jonson’s dedication to the First Folio, or the inscription below the bust in Stratford.
Firstly, language itself is a kind of code, even game, that all authors and especially Shakespeare are engaged in, as Ray says almost reinventing or I would say inventing a language, to try and recreate or approach truth via fictional work, and find the door to vision and poetry, naturally inspired but not necessarily defined by ‘real’ events. But more important is my understanding that a Cardan Grille was really a template for coding where holes were cut arbitrarily in a piece of paper, and a message written in the spaces, then the paper removed and a message built around the text on the second paper. So that could only be read with the original grille and the unique second paper, where the letter, inscription, poem or whatever now lay. Perhaps I’m wrong. (The assumption being in any functional spy network, for instance, agents would have had to be issued with duplicates of an original template grille, from head office, that changed at various times for safety.)
The alternative, especially for printed, mass produced text, is a “grille” reformatting the order of the printed text, then picking out letters to give your supposed secret message. The one D.L Roper and by extension William Ray has chosen for the bust inscription is seven vertical boxes, by 34 horizontal boxes, attributing some huge significance to the horizontal number, because 34 is 17 x 2, and Devere was the 17th Earl of Oxford. It seems very feeble, and more so because of the strained nature of the message that appears to appear, namely HIM SO TEST, HE I VOW IS E. DE VERE AS HE, SHAKSPEARE: NAME I. B. IB, standing for Ionson, Ben.
But the “Shakespeare” and the “Name” are plucked not from a vertical but horizontal reading of the letters, and actually a significance might stand without them. On the other hand, reading vertically from the same supposed grille I quickly plucked out the sentence “THY TEST IS EVER HAM”! (I added the gratuitous exclamation mark.)
As for the First Folio dedication, that Sir Arthur Geenwood, as if that proves anything, suggested was either code or written not by Ben Jonson, but a “a leering hydrocephalic idiot”, with not much compassion for rabies victims, the idiocy seems repeated in the straining for codes with some 6-2-2 pattern. The text is punning and playful, perhaps not even very good, but it demands no dismissal.
Apart from all that, and it sells books to produce supposed prophecy from a claimed “Bible Code” too, because any long work will do it if you rejumble letters or sentence orders, (thus a clear, intentional and provable pattern must be established first, unless in the Bible case you argue God is speaking directly through the authors), the Oxfordians are again forgetting that if Devere did somehow suffer from the tyranny of his age, or indeed an artist’s desire to protect the well springs of the Self, why could a Stratford Shakespeare not too? Hence answering many questions about not pushing himself forward, and not especially defending his printed work, especially in an age where the printed word and rights in that were being invented. Such an author also finds meaning, pride and power in the success and effects of their living work, and for many reasons finds it harder to stand up and be that “author”. It can be an invasive thing, art or fame, and then was a very dangerous one.
That returns you to a debate that was fully underway in its time, namely that a scruff from the provinces could not have possibly have written such astonishing work. Hence it being perfectly possible that the Devere claim was generated even back in 1612, and with coded “hints” too.
But it’s a fascinating debate, and we’ll leave the “Oxford camp” with a resounding question, that in the many obfuscations, forced links and the Sudoku play of it they always fail to answer. The Earl of Oxford was dead by 1604, so what have they to say of all the other Shakespeare plays? We’d love to hear.