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The Shakespeare Authorship Controversy

Swammerdami

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I find no mention of the Shakespeare Authorship controversy here at TFT.Org, except in a very brief review of the movie Anonymous. (If this oversight is deliberate, I ask TFT management to quickly expunge this thread. :) )

I have been quite curious about the Shakespeare Authorship for three decades. The Pro-Stratfordian case (that Shaksper of Stratford wrote the plays and sonnets) is exceptionally meager, once evidence consistent with a hoax hypothesis is ignored.

Anti-Stratfordian arguments are many: Even without an alternate author to propose, Samuel Clemens wrote a book rejecting a Stratford authorship:
Mark Twain in "Is Shakespeare Dead?" said:
Shall I set down the rest of the great Conjecture which constitute the Giant Biography of William Shakespeare? It would strain the Unabridged Dictionary to hold them. He is a brontosaur: nine bones and six hundred barrels of plaster.
... All the rest of his vast history, as furnished by the biographers, is built up, course upon course, of guesses, inferences, theories, conjectures--an Eiffel Tower of artificialities rising sky-high from a very flat and very thin foundation of inconsequential facts....
Just for starters, here are some arguments against a Shaksper (WS) authorship:
  • No letters written by WS have turned up.
  • The only letter to WS that's turned up is a never-sent request for a cash loan.
  • No books owned by, or otherwise associated with WS have turned up.
  • No manuscripts have turned up. None of Shakespeare's children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews every claimed their close relation penned a poem or story for them.
  • No eulogies were written to WS until several years after his death.
  • Documents that imply anyone in Stratford knew WS was employed in the London theater — never mind as a playwright/poet — are exceedingly rare. Dr. John Hall kept a journal, even mentioning a Stratford neighbor who was "an excellente poet", but doesn't mention WS. John Hall was married to WS's favorite daughter.
  • Camden, a semi-official reporter on Stratford for WS's adult life and who does mention London theatrical doings, passes up multiple opportunities and leaves no reference to WS.
  • There is no record of WS ever going to school. (Sure, school records were burned. Still, reconstructions are possible. A mate of the WS youth might have attested "Will was pretty good with words way back in 6th form." No one ever did.)
  • As far as is known, WS never traveled abroad or on a ship, nor did he work as a soldier, teacher nor in a law office nor any of several professions consistent with the playwright's knowledge.
  • As far as is known, WS was friends with no noblemen.
  • Although widely considered a principal Player in the Lord Chamberlain's Men, no role is alleged to be WS's except ... the ghost of Hamlet's father!
  • While there are many mentions of WS from that time, very very few of them mention Stratford, or attest clearly that the writer/speaker knew the poet personally. An exception are legal documents which show (a) WS was charged with poaching near Stratford, being a theater ruffian in London, then hoarding in Stratford; (b) WS was granted a coat-of-arms ca 1592; (c) WS served as witness in two minor proceedings; (d) WS filed suit in Straford (at the same time he was allegedly putting the final touches on King Lear) against a customer of his Stratford butcher shop, seeking payment of a 2-shilling debt and other redress; and (e) WS's much remarked-on last will and testament.
  • Some references to WS-as-writer from the 1605-1609 period seem to imply that the writer was deceased, though WS died in 1616.
  • WS had two children (daughters) who grew to adulthood. It appears neither of them could read or write.
Stratfordians have trite answers:
"Papers are destroyed by fire and flood. Biographical data on other playwrights are also missing."
Wrong. Read the pdf by Stanford's Professor Sturrock accessible from this link to see that among 25 playwrights of that era, and ten binary criteria of notability, only WS satisfies zero of the criteria. John Webster. (1578-1632) is next to bottom place with three criterial satisfactions.

"A typical rural gentleman of that era was likely to have illiterate daughters."
We're not speaking of a 'typical rural gentleman.' We're speaking of an alleged lover of words and learning, perhaps the greatest word-smith ever to have lived. Did this great lover of words allow his children to grow up illiterate?

"The 'Upstart crow' paragraph from Greene's posthumously-published Groatsworth shows that Shakespeare was considered a playwright before the publication of Venus and Adonis."
That quote ("beautified with our feathers") essentially accuses WS of doing what the Oxfordians accuse him of: putting his name on others' work.

WS's earliest fame came from the book-length poem Venus and Adonis and its sequel, signed by William Shake-speare and dedicated to Henry Wriothesley; and it is generally supposed that this Earl of Southampton and/or his mother the Dowager Countess was a patron of the fine poet. (Indeed a gift of £1000 — then a large sum — from Wriothesley to Shakespeare is widely mentioned.) Yet there is no evidence of any sponsership — let alone a princely £1000 — of WS by Southampton or his mother. (To give an idea of £1000 then, Edward de Vere received £1000 annually from Her Majesty; this was the largest annual salary or allowance paid to anyone by Queen Elizabeth.

While many people just focus on the improbability that WS of Stratford wrote the plays and poems, some propose an alternate real author. Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford and 19th hereditary Lord High Chamberlain of England is the most popular choice. He had big reasons (most especially strict instruction by Her Majesty) for keeping himself unnamed.

This gives us a total of four sub-debates:
  • The case For Stratford
  • The case Against Stratford
  • The case For Oxford (assisted by collaborators)
  • The case Against Oxford
Please don't mix up the four distinct cases to be debated. The coincidences which make Oxford authorship so likely would still constitute a mystery even if we conclude Oxford didn't write the plays and poems. Did one of his writer friends impersonate the Earl??

Some argue that scores of people would have been "in the know" about the true authorship, and might have let the facts slip cryptically (they would hardly do so openly against the wishes of Oxford and Majesties). And we do see such cryptic mentions, e.g.
Richard Brathwait said:
Strappado for the Devil[/I] (1615)]Yea, this I know I may be bold to say,
Thames ne'er had swans that sung more sweet than they.
It's true I may avow it, that ne'er was sung.
Chanted in any age by swains so young,
With more delight than was perform'd by them,
Prettily shadow'd in a borrowed name.
And long may England's thespian springs be known.
OR ... read the cryptic dedication of Shakespeare's Sonnets
OR ... the peculiar preface to Troilus and Cressida
OR ... consider the riddles of Peacham's Compleat Gentleman
OR ... the inscription on the monument in Stratford,
OR ... even the Sonnets, e.g. CXXV, CXXVI or LXXVI: "Every word doth almost tell my name." (The anagram Yword Vere is only almost the name "Edward Vere", bu that's what the line states.)

Before continuing, I'd like to hear from people reading the thread. Please report which characterization fits best:
  1. I know much more on this topic than Swammi. The "anti-Stratfordians," as they sillily call themselves, really are crackpots, their thinking warped by elitism.
  2. I've read a book on the topic. Hogwash! Let's talk about the time Oxford farted while bowing to the Queen.
  3. I'm read relatively little on the topic. But I'm pretty sure it's crackpottery.
  4. I'd like to learn more about this fascinating topic. Swammi? Can you recommend some reading?
  5. Why the hoax at all? Doesn't seem to make sense: wouldn't Oxford want to boast of his writing prowess?
  6. I've also thought the Oxfordian case to be strong, and am glad someone here finally admitted it.
  7. Other. _________________________________
It may have been a mistake for me to mention 1 or 2 of the coincidences linking Oxford to the plays or sonnets. Coincidences with odds of a trillion-to-one happen somewhere every day (cf. Littlewood's Law) so those who know a little math will jeer if I mention 2 or 3 coincidences, pretending I claim they're probative. But there are scores of coincidences connecting Oxford to the writings, and odds increase. Surely even detractors will understand that I must limit this already-overly long OP post. There are many books and many hundreds of webpages on the topic.
 

T.G.G. Moogly

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Thirty years ago I was a number 6. Eventually I adopted Occams Razor and rationalized that this guy was real and that he was a gifted writer. It's hard to recall all the particulars but De Vere fell out of favor with me because writings attributed to him were not Shakespeare quality. This involved quite a large dose of conspiracy thinking to believe these lesser writings were a front.

As to the signatures and that most of them appear on his last will, and are all different, I eventually concluded that the guy was sick and not in good control of his faculties. But I was really, really, really into the subject at one time.

In short there's a lot of good arguments to be made against Stratford, not to mention all the Shakespeare Apocrypha out there. But like I said, that was a long time ago.

Thanks for bringing up a fascinating topic. It's similar to biblical authorship discussions.
 

Politesse

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Throw me in with 3; I know little about the topic, but the Oxford crowd seems pretty stereotypically nutty in the way literary conspiracy theorists generally are, and the movie was straight up ridiculous.
 

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Whoever wrote the works was "William Shakespeare" regardless of his actual identity?
 
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"Don nill he, the author, politician and mountebank, will work this out in time, the Sage is a daisy." "Will I am Shak't spurre writ this play."

Eldarion Lathria
 

rousseau

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I'd just heard of the controversy a few weeks ago at Historum in this thread. I couldn't express an opinion without looking at the evidence myself, but it's a subject that I'm not interested enough in to really give the time to. Oddly enough I have a biography of Shakespeare kicking around (that I've never read) which might give me more clues.
 

Swammerdami

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... De Vere fell out of favor with me because writings attributed to him were not Shakespeare quality. This involved quite a large dose of conspiracy thinking to believe these lesser writings were a front.

Yes, the lower quality of Oxford's known poems is, by far, the most significant plank in the Anti-Oxfordian case. That's why I asked that four cases be treated separately. The anti-Stratfordian case and the pro-Oxfordian case are both VERY strong. Even if we conclude that Oxford wasn't the Author, we're left with mysteries. If Oxford wasn't the hidden author, who was? Why do the plays and sonnets mesh so closely with the real life of Edward de Vere?

Anyway, I'm not sure the lower quality of Oxford's poems is 100% dispositive. Poems ascribed to Oxford were written when he was in his 20's or younger, and poetry was just one of many interests of the precocious young Earl of Oxford. He also was a jouster, playboy, traveller, businessman, and sought a career as a military or naval commander. It was only after he was nearly bankrupted, rendered permanently lame in a duel, and humiliated when his Queen offered him no important military commission during the Spanish Armada threat, that he turned to writing full-time. He immersed himself in the theater culture, even hiring 2 or 3 top playwrights as personal secretaries. I think John Lyly, Anthony Munday and others may have tutored him, or helped craft the plays and sonnets. (And Oxford's son-in-law was also renowned as a playwright though, like Oxford, he had to keep this work hidden.)

To compare the "Oxford canon" with Shake-speare's poems may be to compare the doodlings of a 20-year old with the honed skills of a 40-year old. And there are connections between Shake-speare's writing and Oxford's. They use some of the same grammatical and metrical devices. The OED shows Shakespeare as the first recorded usage of numerous words, but several of these words have turned up in earlier letters by Oxford.

Oxford probably wrote under other pseudonyms before he chose "Shake-speare." Some think the praise of "the Author" of Thomas Watson's Hekatompathia was actually directed at Edward de Vere. The seventh sonnet of Watson's work contains the same "silver ... sound" metaphor that is found in works by both Shakes-speare and Oxford. Compare that 7th sonnet with the 130th of Shakespeare's Sonnets which, as Whittemore says, "completely reverses Watson’s sonnet number 7."

Thomas Watson's Hekatompathia said:
Hark you that list to hear what saint I serve:
Her yellow locks exceed the beaten gold;
Her sparkling eyes in heav'n a place deserve;
Her forehead high and fair of comely mold;
....Her words are music all of silver sound;
....Her wit so sharp as like can scarce be found;
Each eyebrow hangs like Iris in the skies;
Her Eagle's nose is straight of stately frame;
On either cheek a Rose and Lily lies;
Her breath is sweet perfume, or holy flame;
....Her lips more red than any Coral stone;
....Her neck more white than aged Swans that moan;
Her breast transparent is, like Crystal rock;
Her fingers long, fit for Apollo's Lute;
Her slipper such as Momus dare not mock;
Her virtues all so great as make me mute:
....What other parts she hath I need not say,
....Whose face alone is cause of my decay.

Shakespeare's Sonnets said:
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun,
Coral is far more red, than her lips red,
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun:
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head:
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks,
And in some perfumes is there more delight,
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know,
That music hath a far more pleasing sound:
I grant I never saw a goddess go,
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
....And yet by heaven I think my love as rare,
....As any she belied with false compare.

Despite these pleadings, I agree that the case against Oxford based on quality and details of their known canons is very strong. But we're still left with strong cases for Oxford, and against Stratford.

How do traditional scholars explain the weird dedication of the Sonnets? Same say that "W.H." is a type-setter's error for "W.S." Do you believe that? Or that "Our ever-living poet" is a euphemism for God? ("Ever-living" and "immortal" are adjectives seldom applied to living persons, but each was applied to Shake-speare during the 1604-1616 period that Oxford was dead but Shaksper of Stratford still alive.)

It is even harder for traditional scholars to cope with the peculiar dedication of Troilus. Or the omission of Shakespeare from Peacham's list of Elizabethan playwrights. (It is claimed that Shakespeare was omitted because he wasn't a lord or a knight, but the list does have other names with no distinction but "Mr.", a distinction which Shakespeare — famously — also had.)
 

Swammerdami

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Throw me in with 3; I know little about the topic, but the Oxford crowd seems pretty stereotypically nutty in the way literary conspiracy theorists generally are, and the movie was straight up ridiculous.
Some "Oxfordian" ideas are pretty nutty. Did the movie pretend that Wriothesley was the Queen's love-child by Oxford? Especially crazy since it would mean Oxford tried to marry his daughter to her own half-brother.

Those arguing pro-Stratford can also get pretty nutty. ("W.H. is a type-setter's error for W.S."?)

What I'd like to see, from those sincerely curious, is for you to research and find ten interesting anti-Stratford or pro-Oxford arguments and tell us NOT about the nine most easily debunked, but about the one claim that disconcerts, that suggests a connection beyond the limits of mere coincidence.

Here's one coincidence which might intrigue: A large number of Shakespeare plays are set in Italy, the country where Oxford spent most of a year as a young man. With one exception the set of Italian cities that Oxford visited is equal to the set of Italian cities in which Shakespeare plays are set. (The one exception is understandable: Oxford didn't visit Rome, but set Julius Caesar there.)

That one coincidence could be just ... coincidence. But when you pore over dozens and dozens of such coincidences it makes you start to wonder.
 

Swammerdami

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(I submit the following more for my private bookmarking convenience, than as evidence.)


There's universal agreement that Shakespeare's works, written when Oxford was in his 40's or 50's, are superior. But Oxford's younger work wasn't so very bad. The following poem was sometimes attributed to Oxford and is regarded as a masterpiece.

My mind to me a kingdom is;
Such present joys therein I find,
That it excels all other bliss
That earth affords or grows by kind:
Though much I want that most would have,
Yet still my mind forbids to crave.

No princely pomp, no wealthy store,
No force to win the victory,
No wily wit to salve a sore,
No shape to feed a loving eye;
To none of these I yield as thrall;
For why? my mind doth serve for all.

I see how plenty surfeits oft,
And hasty climbers soon do fall;
I see that those which are aloft
Mishap doth threaten most of all:
They get with toil, they keep with fear:
Such cares my mind could never bear.

Content I live, this is my stay;
I seek no more than may suffice;
I press to bear no haughty sway;
Look, what I lack my mind supplies.
Lo, thus I triumph like a king,
Content with that my mind doth bring.

Some have too much, yet still do crave;
I little have, and seek no more.
They are but poor, though much they have,
And I am rich with little store;
They poor, I rich; they beg, I give;
They lack, I leave; they pine, I live.

I laugh not at another's loss,
I grudge not at another's gain;
No worldly waves my mind can toss;
My state at one doth still remain:
I fear no foe, I fawn no friend;
I loathe not life, nor dread my end.

Some weigh their pleasure by their lust,
Their wisdom by their rage of will;
Their treasure is their only trust,
A cloakèd craft their store of skill;
But all the pleasure that I find
Is to maintain a quiet mind.

My wealth is health and perfect ease,
My conscience clear my chief defence;
I neither seek by bribes to please,
Nor by deceit to breed offence:
Thus do I live; thus will I die;
Would all did so as well as I!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The following poem is undisputedly by Oxford (how old was he?) and shows talent, I think.
IF women could be fair and yet not fond,
.....Or that their love were firm, not fickle still,
I would not marvel that they make men bond
.....By service long to purchase their good will ;
But when I see how frail those creatures are,
I laugh that men forget themselves so far.

To mark the choice they make, and how they change,
.....How oft from Phoebus do they flee to Pan ;
Unsettled still, like haggards wild they range,
.....These gentle birds that fly from man to man ;
Who would not scorn and shake them from the fist,
And let them fly, fair fools, which way they list ?

Yet for our sport we fawn and flatter both,
.....To pass the time when nothing else can please,
And train them to our lure with subtle oath,
.....Till, weary of their wiles, ourselves we ease ;
And then we say when we their fancy try,
To play with fools, O what a fool was I !
 

T.G.G. Moogly

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Throw me in with 3; I know little about the topic, but the Oxford crowd seems pretty stereotypically nutty in the way literary conspiracy theorists generally are, and the movie was straight up ridiculous.
Certainly was. I could not get past the trailer.

For a less melodramatic and more dispassionate discussion, albeit the Marlowe argument, this video.

[YOUTUBE]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=keovtVI4CD0[/YOUTUBE]
 
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Politesse

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That one coincidence could be just ... coincidence. But when you pore over dozens and dozens of such coincidences it makes you start to wonder.

As I said, this fits the literary conspiracy theory model pretty well, a long list of arguments that aren't particularly convincing on their own, but given all at once so the listener feels like its "all part of a larger story". The story being that Shakespeare was Queen Elizabeth, one of the Bronte sisters secretly murdered two of the others, and Hunter S. Thompson was offed by the CIA for knowing the "truth" about 9/11 and/or aliens.
 

T.G.G. Moogly

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Here is a brief discussion of William Shakespeare of Stratford and of London and the two different lives that occurred simultaneously. One was a wealthy merchant living in luxury and one was a struggling playwright living in debt and in poverty. Noted is the age of Cromwell and how it wiped living memory of Shakespeare from the realm, and how he had to be "rediscovered." His plays survived but he had become lost. There is also more discussion of the Stratford (on Avon) Monument. Few know of the London suburb - actually a small town in Shakespeare's day - named Stratford.

[YOUTUBE]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_yAgofa-xek[/YOUTUBE]
 
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WAB

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The problem I have with all of these theories is that none of the authors suggested (in the work that is attributed to them) could write anything near the quality of the works attributed to the mature Shakespeare. King Lear, Othello, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, and many others: the poetry of the blank verse is impeccable and unmatched in English letters to this day.

Marlowe was very good, but not as good; Jonson was good, but not as good. Same as all of the other names on the list. There have been masters of blank verse in English: Milton, Tennyson, Keats in the Hyperion fragments, and others, but no one has matched Shakespeare.
 

T.G.G. Moogly

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The problem I have with all of these theories is that none of the authors suggested (in the work that is attributed to them) could write anything near the quality of the works attributed to the mature Shakespeare. King Lear, Othello, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, and many others: the poetry of the blank verse is impeccable and unmatched in English letters to this day.

Marlowe was very good, but not as good; Jonson was good, but not as good. Same as all of the other names on the list. There have been masters of blank verse in English: Milton, Tennyson, Keats in the Hyperion fragments, and others, but no one has matched Shakespeare.

The issue is being able to fit the historical evidence into the accepted narrative that is Shakespeare. Someone obviously wrote the plays, sonnets, etc., and they are largely magnificent in their use of language. It's the language that is compelling even though the stories and plots themselves may appear trite, even have soap opera qualities. But it's the use of word that makes it Shakespeare, despite, for example, errors of geography, which do occur.

In short, the issue is attributing such great writing to the Stratford Shakespeare, the merchant. And how, for example does one reconcile the wealthy Stratford Shakespeare with the impoverished, London Shakespeare existing simultaneously? The accepted narrative has the starving, in debt, London playwright and the wealthy Stratford merchant being the same person. How can that be? This is just one tiny example of why there is a controversy.
 

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The internal evidence of the plays themselves -- the statistical patterns in the word usage -- makes it pretty certain that whoever wrote the plays must have been one of the actors who performed them.

https://www.shakespeareauthorship.com/ox7.html

It's one thing to hypothesize that a nobleman such as Oxford secretly wrote the plays and slipped them to a shill; but it's quite another to hypothesize that Oxford was on stage in disguise, over and over, and was never recognized.

Of course we can't rule out the possibility that Shakespeare was fronting for a different actor; but the text statistics allow identification of which roles the author played, and it lines up with what little is known of Shakespeare's own roles -- the ghost in Hamlet for instance.
 

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Thank you for the responses, which have been, without exception, MUCH more intelligent and informed than observed on other message-boards.

I was especially intrigued by Bomb#20's link, which I plan to study.
The internal evidence of the plays themselves -- the statistical patterns in the word usage -- makes it pretty certain that whoever wrote the plays must have been one of the actors who performed them.

https://www.shakespeareauthorship.com/ox7.html

Obstacles to accepting a Stratford authorship include the contents of the Sonnets, and two weird dedications in 1609.

Dedication in Shakespeare's Sonnets said:
TO.THE.ONLIE.BEGETTER.OF.
THESE.INSUING.SONNETS.
Mr.W.H. ALL.HAPPINESSE.
AND.THAT.ETERNITIE.
PROMISED.

BY.

OUR.EVER-LIVING.POET.

WISHETH.

THE.WELL-WISHING.
ADVENTURER.IN.
SETTING.
FORTH.


. . . . . . . T.T.​

This was deliberately cryptic. "T.T." is assumed to be the publisher Thomas Thorpe but IIUC this is the only time he abbreviated his name as initials in such a dedication. If the poet were alive why wasn't the dedication to or from him? "Ever-living" is not an adjective normally used with living persons.

The preface to Troilus is even more peculiar. Do traditionalists have any explanation beyond "Inside joke we'll never be able to decipher"?
Preface in 2nd edition of Troilus and Cressida said:
A NEVER WRITER

TO AN EVER READER:

NEWS.​
 

T.G.G. Moogly

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There are plays from the period which carry the name William Shakespeare but it is unanimous within the academic community that they were not authored by the same person as the Shakespeare of tradition and of literary academic consensus. The plays seem brokered by a person possibly named Shakespeare, which makes sense considering it was not uncommon practice at the time.

The controversy of Shakespeare authorship is really two discussions. Firstly, was the Stratford Shakespeare the actual author? Secondly, who was?

I found the following moderated debate between Bate and Waugh to very helpful in understanding the discussion. Even Bomb#20 has his point addressed about internal evidence. Both Bate and Waugh know their stuff so it's not so much an argument as an exchange.

It always bothered me that Ben Jonson's comments about Shakespeare in the First Folio were so disparaging at times.

[YOUTUBE]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgImgdJ5L6o[/YOUTUBE]
 

T.G.G. Moogly

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Thank you for the responses, which have been, without exception, MUCH more intelligent and informed than observed on other message-boards.
Are you familiar with this presentation:

Did Shakespeare Really Write Shakespeare? – Tom Regnier

[YOUTUBE]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpFXD07_NYg[/YOUTUBE]

It's good that I investigated a lot of other material first, but this presentation simply uses the original comprehensive work on the issue by Looney, 1920. It is convincing in itself, but Regnier makes the case even more compelling. A very enjoyable 56 minute video, captivating actually.
 

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Thanks for the link, Mr. Moogly. That is a pretty good summary of both the anti-Stratford and the pro-Oxford cases. Regnier, a lawyer, says that circumstantial evidence can be the best evidence; that it is the overwhelming quantity of coincidences that becomes convincing. And in that 1-hour video he has time to barely scratch the surface of the many coinciences.

Like Regnier, I also recommend Mark Anderson's book.

One point of contention is the issue of the playwright's familiarity with Italy. Although Stratfordians insist that their candidate was well versed in law, history, the customs of nobility, and so on; they know he never visited Italy while Oxford spent almost a year there. Therefore they need to minimize the playwright's apparent knowledge of Italy. They seem to think that failure to dwell on Venice's canals shows lack of familiarity, as though the playwright was writing a travel brochure (and as though well-read Englishmen didn't know about the canals). Regnier mentions two of many cases where the playwright does show knowledge of Italian places and works of art, of sorts that almost had to be from first-hand observations.

Another very minor example comes from Romeo and Juliet, In Act I scene I, Romeo's mother wonders where her son is and Benvolio answers
[At dawn] A troubled mind drave me to walk abroad;
Where, underneat the grove of sycamore
That westward rooteth from the city's side,
So early walking did I see your son.
Yes, "sycamore" was probably chosen to pun with "sick amore," but indeed today just outside Verona's western gate is a grove of ... sycamores. A fact that could hardly have been common knowledge. (This vague "coincidence" is unworthy to be called "evidence," but is in a pattern of literally hundreds of such coincidences.)

Similarly, no Stratfordian message-boarder can go long without trying to score points by ridiculing their own candidate's knowledge of geography with the "Bohemian seacoast" in The Winter's Tale. Yet the joke is on them! Bohemia and Hungary shared a King in those days, and Hungary's conquests in Serbia had given them an outlet to the Adriatic: a shore Oxford probably visited. Instead of exposng his ignorance, the writer may have been flaunting his knowledge.

The relationships between Oxford and Henry Earl Southampton (to whom the book poems and many of the sonnets are addressed) is especially convincing, but that needs its own post.

Again, even if you think the anti-Oxfordian arguments are definitive, the strength of the anti-Stratfordian and pro-Oxfordian cases cannot be dismissed: a great mystery lurks.
 

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My first introduction to the authorship question was in the 1980s when, like Regnier, I watched that FRONTLINE show. Like him, it intrigued me but didn't change my take on Stratford Shakespeare. Like him I had Shakespeare courses in college, being a Lit Major that was unavoidable, but was not aware of the controversy.

For the Stratfordians they seem to be asking the Oxfordians to prove a negative, and of course that is impossible. It's just that so much circumstantial evidence is out there that one has to question that traditional view that the Shak-spere of Stratford is the author.

One of the most compelling bits of evidence, and the late Regnier makes a point of explaining this, are the six signatures, three of which appear on a will. How could any person inclined to sign their name in so many different ways possibly write Hamlet or King Lear or Sonnets? It really strains credulity. One of the answers has been to claim that others penned those signatures as Shakespeare was unable to do so himself. But if that were the case how can we say the Stratford gentleman was literate?

I think what ultimately draws people to the traditional Stratfordian explanation is it's miraculousness. It's like Jesus. It's easy to believe because it's so unbelievable, a simple person is gifted with such wisdom and experience because it's a gift from a god. There's no other explanation, it's just so awesome, so preordained, so holy. So doubters and investigators are ridiculed because someone's Truth is threatened.
 

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I sometimes click the browser's Bookmark button, but more often just download the page I want, or copy-paste a part of it. This has worked very well for me, because good pages are constantly disappearing from the 'Net! :-( I first learned of the Authorship controversy from an article (by Bethell?) in a print copy of Harper's. Several years later something jogged my memory and I looked for — and found — that article on-line. I downloaded it: Good thing: it ain't on the 'Net no more.

Another very interesting article I downloaded was "Edward de Vere's Will" by Randall Barron. And again, Google doesn't find it anymore except perhaps in a Google Book with "not available in this preview." But I had saved the article! I'll message it to anyone who asks, and appeal for advice: Can I post it here without violating copyright? What if I abbreviate it? Do I need to summarize it in my own words?

The relationship between Oxford and Southampton adds much insight and credibility to the Oxfordian case, and I'd wanted to quote Barron's article when I summarize that.

Meanwhile, let me thank again the response here at TFT! I had some misgivings about starting this thread as other message-boards treat the topic with condescension and ignorant derision. My already-high opinion of this message-board has been improved greatly by this thread.

Denizens of inferior message-boards must get their opinions by Googling for "Help me debunk the crazy Oxfordians." Then they tell us that Oxfordians are "elitists" who can't imagine a non-aristocrat excelling as the writer of the plays and poems did. Hogwash! It's the evidence that informs us, not some bigotry.

I hugely admire — as did Mark Twain of course (he wrote a book about her as well as his book on the Shakespeare hoax) — the peasant girl Joan of Arc who led France's army and outwitted the learned bishops who tried her for heresy. I love that sort of story, and would love to applaud a glover's son who wrote Hamlet and the Sonnets. But it just ain't so.
 

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One of the most compelling bits of evidence, and the late Regnier makes a point of explaining this, are the six signatures, three of which appear on a will. How could any person inclined to sign their name in so many different ways possibly write Hamlet or King Lear or Sonnets? It really strains credulity.
"His checks keep bouncing because his signature varies. He's a class act." - Hopscotch

We expect normal educated people to have consistent signatures, but that's because it's 2020 and we all grew up in a culture that has an accepted standard meaning for signatures -- they're the way we've been taught to associate important documents with ourselves. That's not a law of nature but an arbitrary custom. It wasn't always so. In the slightly different culture that our culture evolved from, the accepted way to associate important documents with yourself was to press your personal signet ring into some hardenable liquid. The transition from signet rings to standardized handwritten signatures happened gradually over the course of the fifteen and sixteen hundreds; in England contracts were required to be signed only after 1677. So why would one expect an Englishman from around 1600 to always sign his name the same way? Who's supposed to have told him he needed to do that?
 

T.G.G. Moogly

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So why would one expect an Englishman from around 1600 to always sign his name the same way? Who's supposed to have told him he needed to do that?
We have nothing else in his hand, only six signatures. Those signatures don't look like the penmanship of of a person capable of writing. They look like the penmanship of someone illiterate and who maybe has someone else signing his name for him.
 

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Many Oxfordians enumerate certain facts about the plays: they often closely mirror events in de Vere's life, or in the lives of his social circle.

But the Sonnets may offer other firm proofs. So firm that the traditionalists aver "Can't relate a sonnet to its author. Against the rules." Wow! Some of them literally focus on 'sonnet' here, rather than poem more generally! Yet many of the sonnets are total mystery if written by the glover's son, but almost autobiographical if written by de Vere.

I've already mentioned that the publication of the Sonnets -- in a way which would make sense only if the poet were dead and/or pseudonymous -- and its mysterious dedication was suspicious. But what about the contents?

There are four main characters in the Sonnets: Ego himself, a Fair Youth, a Dark Lady, and the so-called Rival Poet. There is also mention of a "She" whom Ego loves; I don't know which of these are associated with the so-called Dark Lady.

Stratfordians can't really explain any of it. It's logical that Southampton should be the Fair Youth, but the familiar and secret-sharing poem contents make those sonnets unlikely to be written at all If Fair Youth is a nobleman, and Ego is a yeoman in Southampton's pay.

Oxfordians have Ego as de Vere of course, Fair Youth is still Southampton, and Dark Lady is(*) ... Queen Elizabeth! (* - Not all Oxfordians agree on all matters! :) )

Traditionalists are, as we have seen, utterly lacking in imagination and will answer "Duuh? Elizabeth was famous for her red hair and light-colored skin." Precisely! If a genius like de Vere was in the mood to speak intimately of Her Majesty, what better ruse for discretion than to get her hair color wrong?

(While preparing this, I thought 'Why type all this? It's all at Wiki or whatever, and the experts in this thread are familiar with all of it to the point of boredom. But maybe one or two of you are interested, and typing is cheap anyway.)

Cast of Characters:
 Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton -- allegedly the Fair Youth.

 Mary_Wriothesley,_Countess_of_Southampton Henry's mother, the Dowager Countess of Southampton, Mary nee Brown. Born the daughter of a Viscount and granddaughter of an Earl, Mary Brown married Earl Southampton (Fair Henry's father Henry) when he was 20 and she was 13. Husband died when she was 29, but she didn't remarry until she was 40, marrying the much older Thomas Heneage (Groom of the Stool under Henry VIII) who by then was very well connected with H.M. He soon died and in 1597 Mary married, as her 3rd husband and his 1st wife, William Hervey (knighted at Cadiz and already an M.P. She died in 1607 -- shortly before Sonnet publication! -- and W.H. re-married (was elevated to Baronet and, twice, Baron, but all three titles went extinct on his death in 1642).

 William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley
Encyclopedia Britannica said:
From 1558 [] to 1598, the biography of Cecil is almost indistinguishable from that of Elizabeth and from the history of England.

When Edward's father died in 1562, William Cecil was already the most powerful commoner in England and Secretary of State. His many duties included acting as guardian for young Earls like Edward de Vere and, later, Henry of Southampton. In 1572 he was elevated to the Peerage and also made Lord High Treasurer. He may have been the country's de facto ruler; Her Majesty depended on him, called him "Sir Spirit", and was inconsolable at Cecil's deathbed, feeding him with her own hand.

Cecil was eager to marry his daughters and grand-daughters to wealthy or important Earls. Just as Polonius in the autobiographical Hamlet sought to marry his daughter Ophelia to the young Prince, so Cecil (supposedly nicknamed 'Pol') wanted to marry his daughter Anne to the young Oxford. And, just as Polonius' son Laertes opposed Hamlet, so Pol's son Robert Cecil was a constant thorn in Oxford's side. When his grand-daughter Elizabeth was still very young, Cecil contracted with Mary Dowager Countess to marry her to Henry, also then very young. The two children each spent much time at Cecil House, knew each other like cousins, but for some reason, as Henry grew into manhood he determined not to marry Elizabeth.

It is generally believed that Venus and Adonis and dozens of the Sonnets were expressly written to encourage Henry to fulfill the marriage contract negotiated between the wealthy Dowager Mary nee Brown and the powerful Baron Burghley. (Eventually Henry reneged on the contract; Cecil ordered him to pay a fine of £5000.)

In whose interest was this marriage? (Who had an interest in the writings of those poems?) The two obvious candidates were:

(1) Wm Cecil (aka Burghley) was happy to marry his grand-daughter to the wealthy Earl. Also Mary was an attractive and wealthy widow with useful connections in the Catholic community and with insiders like Thomas Heneage.

(2) Countess Mary knew her handsome wealthy son would have no trouble finding brides to his liking. As a Catholic, mightn't she have hoped her son would find a Catholic bride, rather than allying with Protestant Burghley, who had led violent purges against Catholics? (It was Burghley who convinced H.M. to behead Mary Q of Scots. Burghley was also a big supporter of the Stuart claim to England, and thereby unification of the Island.)

It seems to me that the marriage was more important to Cecil than to the Wriothesleys but traditionalists say that it was Countess Mary Wriothesley nee Brown who hired William Shake-speare to write the poems encouraging the marriage.

Yes, she supposedly commissioned Shaksper -- then an unknown playwright in his mid 20's whose only "fame" was being ridiculed by Jonson and Greene -- to write these poems. Yet there is zero evidence that she or her son were Shakespeare's patron. Because the Sonnets were supposedly written as a service for the Dowager Countess, she came into possession of them; they were published several months after her death; some say the "W.H" who was the sonnets' "onlie begetter" was the Countess's 3rd husband William Hervey. (Unexplained is why the poet also provided the Countess with many sonnets unrelated to Henry but instead very personal, and often expressing the poet's shame.)

More likely IMO is a 3rd person who wanted the marriage to proceed:
(3) The father of contracted bride Elizabeth de Vere, and therefore William Cecil's son-in-law, a nobleman who'd suffered heavily financially, due to bad luck and his and his father's profligacy. I speak of course of ... Edward de Vere.

The relationship between Edward Oxford and Henry Southampton was much too complicated to summarize here, especially since Henry was intimately connected to the powerful Earl of Essex. (Powerful only before he was beheaded of course; at one point, H.M. threatened to behead Henry when she beheaded Essex. Supposedly some of the Sonnets shed light directly on Southampton's stay in the Tower of London.)

But there is one interesting, unexplained and often-overlooked incident, with which I will close this post. Let me stress that this incident sheds no light directly on the Shakespeare Authorship controversy. But it does betoken that unsolved mysteries connect our players.

G.P. V. Akrigg in his orthodox biography of Southampton said:
Suddenly the even happy flow of Southampton's career came to a halt. Late on the evening of June 24th [1604] he was arrested, along with [four other knights or lords]. Southampton's papers were seized and scrutinized. He himself was interrogated. According to the French Ambassador, King James had gone into a complete panic and could not sleep that night even though he had a guard of his Scots posted around his quarters. Presumably to protect his heir, he sent orders to Prince Henry that he must not stir out of his chamber.

Next morning, while the Privy Council was examining its prisoners, wild rumours swept through the Court.

It seems interesting to me that there is no record of this "panic" or quintuple arrest in England; historians know of it only because at least two Ambassadors described it in letters home.

Only just a few decades ago, it appears that nobody connected the date of this incident to any other event. But something else happened on that same Sunday in June:
Complete Peerage said:
Edward de Vere died intestate at King's Hold, Hackney, Middlesex, 24 June 1604, buried 6 July 1604.
It had been barely a year since King James rode down to claim the throne; Oxford knew much about the Stuart succession. Had Shake-speare written about it?

Yes, when Edward of Oxford died -- on the same day Southampton's papers were seized -- no documents or manuscripts are reported to have turned up, not even a last will and testament. He was called England's premier Earl; is it really likely he wouldn't write a will?

Common-sense tells me that King James seized Southampton's papers because Oxford died. Surely he seized Oxford's papers as well. We can only guess what papers disappeared, but it is rather peculiar that Edward, who knew he was severely ill, left no will. I think there were important secrets to be kept, and King James was worried about a "To be opened on my death" letter. We do know that Oxford was a writer and dedicated the final years of his life to writing, yet none of his manuscripts turned up in the days following his death.
 

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On a personal note, I feel that if I had been exposed to Shakespeare knowing that Oxford was the author, it would have enriched the experience tremendously. And of course this is how we studied and read all authors, all except Shakespeare. Shakespeare, as taught, was supposedly the one author who did not write from his experiences, this being the traditionalist, Stratfordian view. How stupid is that, an author that writes not from his experiences but just invents whatever he needs to invent, nothing in his works reflecting his life's experiences? Stratfordians explain this disconnect between Stratford and Shakespeare by saying that Stratford Shakespeare was simply a natural genius.

We now know that Edward DeVere was the author. As such the Shakespeare cannon makes a lot more sense. It makes scientific sense and it makes literary sense. Just reading DeVere's tin letters is enough to convince me that he's the man. Lots of shared language, phrases, etc.
 

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Who came up with that stupid idea? I can think of plenty of authors who do not write from personal experience. All science fiction, fantasy, and religious writers, for instance.
 

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Who came up with that stupid idea? I can think of plenty of authors who do not write from personal experience. All science fiction, fantasy, and religious writers, for instance.

I admire your conviction.

Have you examined any of the evidence supporting Oxfordian authorship, watched any videos, read Looney, etc.?
 

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Who came up with that stupid idea? I can think of plenty of authors who do not write from personal experience. All science fiction, fantasy, and religious writers, for instance.

I admire your conviction.

Have you examined any of the evidence supporting Oxfordian authorship, watched any videos, read Looney, etc.?
I'm questioning your argument, not the authorship of Shakespeare's works. Whatever happened to imagination? I think it's ridiculous to say that the social classes are so culturally distant from one another that a middle class person can't even imagine what upper class people are like. Simply absurd. Shakespeare has plenty of female protagonists in his plays, does that make him a woman? He has quite a number of fairies in Midsummer Night's Dream, was he personally acquainted with the Fae? If your English professors taught you that people can only write about personal experiences, never engaging in true fiction writing, your English teachers were unlettered morons.
 

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Who came up with that stupid idea? I can think of plenty of authors who do not write from personal experience. All science fiction, fantasy, and religious writers, for instance.

I think you're missing the point.

Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote "To a Skylark" but for all we know he hated skylarks! Maybe he just wanted to get published and thought of a few lines about that bird that seemed to work. Similarly, some of the love expressed in the sonnets may go beyond the poet's personal experience.

But this breaks down for the sonnets with strong personal content. Do you think Sonnets 71-72 were written just to be marketable, like the rhymes in "Skylark," and had no relation to the poet? Were these words written by a sycophant to his patron?
No longer mourn for me when I am dead,
Than you shall hear the surly sullen bell
Give warning to the world that I am fled
From this vile world with vilest worms to dwell:
Nay if you read this line, remember not,
The hand that writ it, for I love you so,
That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot,
If thinking on me then should make you woe.
O if (I say) you look upon this verse,
When I (perhaps) compounded am with clay,
Do not so much as my poor name rehearse;
But let your love even with my life decay.
. . . Lest the wise world should look into your moan,
. . . And mock you with me after I am gone.

O lest the world should task you to recite,
What merit lived in me that you should love
After my death (dear love) forget me quite,
For you in me can nothing worthy prove.
Unless you would devise some virtuous lie,
To do more for me than mine own desert,
And hang more praise upon deceased I,
Than niggard truth would willingly impart:
O lest your true love may seem false in this,
That you for love speak well of me untrue,
My name be buried where my body is,
And live no more to shame nor me, nor you.
. . . For I am shamed by that which I bring forth,
. . . And so should you, to love things nothing worth.
In Sonnet CXXV why does the poet write "... I bore the canopy"? Is this just a word that rhymes with "eternity"? Serious question: What canopy did the glover's son bear? Or pretend to bear if the poem was pure fiction?

As for glimpses of Oxford in the plays, it's not just general subject matter, but specifics. There are many names and incidents in the plays that parallel specifics in Oxford's life. The quantity of such coincidences is overwhelming.
 

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Who came up with that stupid idea? I can think of plenty of authors who do not write from personal experience. All science fiction, fantasy, and religious writers, for instance.

I think you're missing the point.

Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote "To a Skylark" but for all we know he hated skylarks! Maybe he just wanted to get published and thought of a few lines about that bird that seemed to work. Similarly, some of the love expressed in the sonnets may go beyond the poet's personal experience.

But this breaks down for the sonnets with strong personal content. Do you think Sonnets 71-72 were written just to be marketable, like the rhymes in "Skylark," and had no relation to the poet? Were these words written by a sycophant to his patron?
No longer mourn for me when I am dead,
Than you shall hear the surly sullen bell
Give warning to the world that I am fled
From this vile world with vilest worms to dwell:
Nay if you read this line, remember not,
The hand that writ it, for I love you so,
That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot,
If thinking on me then should make you woe.
O if (I say) you look upon this verse,
When I (perhaps) compounded am with clay,
Do not so much as my poor name rehearse;
But let your love even with my life decay.
. . . Lest the wise world should look into your moan,
. . . And mock you with me after I am gone.

O lest the world should task you to recite,
What merit lived in me that you should love
After my death (dear love) forget me quite,
For you in me can nothing worthy prove.
Unless you would devise some virtuous lie,
To do more for me than mine own desert,
And hang more praise upon deceased I,
Than niggard truth would willingly impart:
O lest your true love may seem false in this,
That you for love speak well of me untrue,
My name be buried where my body is,
And live no more to shame nor me, nor you.
. . . For I am shamed by that which I bring forth,
. . . And so should you, to love things nothing worth.
In Sonnet CXXV why does the poet write "... I bore the canopy"? Is this just a word that rhymes with "eternity"? Serious question: What canopy did the glover's son bear? Or pretend to bear if the poem was pure fiction?

As for glimpses of Oxford in the plays, it's not just general subject matter, but specifics. There are many names and incidents in the plays that parallel specifics in Oxford's life. The quantity of such coincidences is overwhelming.

I was addressing T.G.G. Moogly's claim that an author can only write of their own experiences, and that such a reading somehow "enriches" one's reading of a text.
 

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As for glimpses of Oxford in the plays, it's not just general subject matter, but specifics. There are many names and incidents in the plays that parallel specifics in Oxford's life. The quantity of such coincidences is overwhelming.
Equally overwhelming is the lack of any literary connection whatsoever to the Stratford man. The fact that he likely brokered theatre and possibly did some acting isn't much of a connection for a person for which all we have are six signatures on documents that make no literary connection. Even his family members never mention his alleged literary connections. They mention meeting other literary figures but not Stratford.

And that's the draw for Stratfordians, it's so incredible it can only be true. With Oxford there are numerous connections, nothing needs to be incredible, it all makes sense.
 

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Just reading DeVere's tin letters is enough to convince me that he's the man. Lots of shared language, phrases, etc.

Do you have a bookmark?

Here are two poems agreed to be De Vere's IIUC. What are the dates of their writing? (Unknown, I'm afraid.) Nobody argues these are of the same quality as Sheke-speare's, but the first especially seems rather good to me.

Edward de Vere said:
IF women could be fair and yet not fond,
. . . Or that their love were firm, not fickle still,
I would not marvel that they make men bond
. . . By service long to purchase their good will ;
But when I see how frail those creatures are,
I laugh that men forget themselves so far.

To mark the choice they make, and how they change,
. . . How oft from Phoebus do they flee to Pan ;
Unsettled still, like haggards wild they range,
. . . These gentle birds that fly from man to man ;
Who would not scorn and shake them from the fist,
And let them fly, fair fools, which way they list ?

Yet for our sport we fawn and flatter both,
. . . To pass the time when nothing else can please,
And train them to our lure with subtle oath,
. . . Till, weary of their wiles, ourselves we ease ;
And then we say when we their fancy try,
To play with fools, O what a fool was I !

Edward de Vere was one of few poets to use iambic pentameter before Shake-speare. The 2nd example is hexameter.

Edward de Vere said:
What shepherd can express
The favour of her face ?
To whom in this distress
I do appeal for grace ;
. . . A thousand cupids fly
. . . About her gentle eye ;

From which each throws a dart
That kindleth soft sweet fire
Within my sighing heart ;
Possessed by desire
. . . No sweeter life I try
. . . Than in her love to die.

The lily in the field
That glories in his white,
For pureness now must yield
And render up his right.
. . . Heaven pictur'd in her face
. . . Doth promise joy and grace.

Fair Cynthia's silver light
That beats on running streams,
Compares not with her white,
Whose hairs are all sunbeams.
. . . So bright my nymph doth shine
. . . As day unto my eyne.

With this there is a red,
Exceeds the damask rose :
Which in her cheeks is spread
Where every favour grows ;
. . . In sky there is no star
. . . But she surmounts it far.

When Phoebus from his bed
Of Thetis doth arise,
The morning blushing red,
In fair carnation wise ;
. . . He shows in my nymph's face,
. . . As queen of every grace.

This pleasant lily-white,
This taint of roseate red,
This Cynthia's silver light,
This sweet fair Dea spread,
. . . These sunbeams in mine eye,
. . . These beauties make me die.

Both of these poems mention Phoebus, another name for Apollo used sixteen (16) times in Shake-speare's plays. Cynthia is an alternate name for the Moon, mentioned here and in the same Romeo and Juliet scene where Juliet says "It is not yet near day; It was the nightingale, and not the lark, That pierc'd the fearful hollow of thine ear"
Romeo said:
I'll say yon grey is not the morning's eye,
'Tis but the pale reflex of Cynthia's brow;
Thetis is also mentioned in the plays, four times.
 

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Here's a youtube video by Bonner Cutting in which she discusses the letters.

[YOUTUBE]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_heshWne8o[/YOUTUBE]

The end of the video has a rant in which the presenter uses excerpts from these letters in a run-on style. To my understanding everything he says is from these letters, but it's as if one is listening to Shakespeare. it's pretty amazing.

Contrast this with what we have from Stratford, six paltry signatures from an illiterate businessman. I've come up with the following formula to illuminate and explain the traditional Stratford attribution and it's orthodoxy:

William Shakspur + Magic = William Shakespeare
 

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Just thought to toss in a link to Bonner's discussion of Looney's (1920) work in identifying Oxford as the author, the methodology, strategy, etc.

[YOUTUBE]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRVpCVgVam0[/YOUTUBE]

Definitely worth the 26 minutes.
 

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Why wouldn't Oxford have taken credit for the excellent narrative poems attributed to 'Shakespeare', Venus and Adonis & The Rape of Lucrece?

I'm assuming there was a stigma about nobles writing plays? But I didn't know it also applied to narrative poems.

I ask because those two works bear the same unmatched excellence as the plays.

I keep reading and re-reading the De Vere poems. They are markedly inferior to most anything attributed to 'Shakespeare'.

I'm not talking about content. I am referring to style, the masterful technique. Oxford used little enjambment, for one small example.
 

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Why wouldn't Oxford have taken credit for the excellent narrative poems attributed to 'Shakespeare', Venus and Adonis & The Rape of Lucrece?

I'm assuming there was a stigma about nobles writing plays? But I didn't know it also applied to narrative poems.

I ask because those two works bear the same unmatched excellence as the plays.

I keep reading and re-reading the De Vere poems. They are markedly inferior to most anything attributed to 'Shakespeare'.

I'm not talking about content. I am referring to style, the masterful technique. Oxford used little enjambment, for one small example.

My understanding is that aristocracy didn't dabble in this sort of thing. Oxford's life also has experiences that would lend him to wishing to remain anonymous. Anonymity and pseudo anonymity were common at the time. Looney's methodology was to find verse that matched Venus and Adonis because it was his contention that this was certainly not a writer's "first" work, a point I think he correctly deduced. Stratfordians contend this was the first work in the Shakespeare Corpus. Looney believed there had to be lesser works to come before, which he found with De Vere, and in the same structure.

As presented by Bonner, Looney actually profiled the author of Shakespeare and began to search the history for a likely candidate. In searching for precursors to Venus he found verse by De Vere, a person who was not on his list of possible candidates.
 

WAB

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Why wouldn't Oxford have taken credit for the excellent narrative poems attributed to 'Shakespeare', Venus and Adonis & The Rape of Lucrece?

I'm assuming there was a stigma about nobles writing plays? But I didn't know it also applied to narrative poems.

I ask because those two works bear the same unmatched excellence as the plays.

I keep reading and re-reading the De Vere poems. They are markedly inferior to most anything attributed to 'Shakespeare'.

I'm not talking about content. I am referring to style, the masterful technique. Oxford used little enjambment, for one small example.

My understanding is that aristocracy didn't dabble in this sort of thing. Oxford's life also has experiences that would lend him to wishing to remain anonymous. Anonymity and pseudo anonymity were common at the time. Looney's methodology was to find verse that matched Venus and Adonis because it was his contention that this was certainly not a writer's "first" work, a point I think he correctly deduced. Stratfordians contend this was the first work in the Shakespeare Corpus. Looney believed there had to be lesser works to come before, which he found with De Vere, and in the same structure.

As presented by Bonner, Looney actually profiled the author of Shakespeare and began to search the history for a likely candidate. In searching for precursors to Venus he found verse by De Vere, a person who was not on his list of possible candidates.

I wish wish wish I had more access to a PC. I can hardly type on this device. I have so much to say, to ask.

I love poetry, and I love Shakespeare. Whoever wrote the plays was the greatest poet in English, which anyone without a tin ear would agree to.

I have no dog in this race, just a mild curiosity that is now more peaked. I don't care a fig if 'Shakespeare' was written by a king or a fishmonger, a bum or a polymath, a man, woman, or left handed Martian transvestite - I am a lover of the work.

ETA: and again, what accounts for the dramatic change in style and technique? When did Oxford develop a love for amazing enjambment and all sorts of remarkable and sonorous metrical substitutions?

The poems he took credit for are mediocre.

...

ETA again: Wiki says Oxford was a "court playwright" - I don't suppose there are any extant versions of these in some form somewhere I could look at? Can't find anything yet in a search...
 
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T.G.G. Moogly

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Why wouldn't Oxford have taken credit for the excellent narrative poems attributed to 'Shakespeare', Venus and Adonis & The Rape of Lucrece?

I'm assuming there was a stigma about nobles writing plays? But I didn't know it also applied to narrative poems.

I ask because those two works bear the same unmatched excellence as the plays.

I keep reading and re-reading the De Vere poems. They are markedly inferior to most anything attributed to 'Shakespeare'.

I'm not talking about content. I am referring to style, the masterful technique. Oxford used little enjambment, for one small example.

My understanding is that aristocracy didn't dabble in this sort of thing. Oxford's life also has experiences that would lend him to wishing to remain anonymous. Anonymity and pseudo anonymity were common at the time. Looney's methodology was to find verse that matched Venus and Adonis because it was his contention that this was certainly not a writer's "first" work, a point I think he correctly deduced. Stratfordians contend this was the first work in the Shakespeare Corpus. Looney believed there had to be lesser works to come before, which he found with De Vere, and in the same structure.

As presented by Bonner, Looney actually profiled the author of Shakespeare and began to search the history for a likely candidate. In searching for precursors to Venus he found verse by De Vere, a person who was not on his list of possible candidates.

I wish wish wish I had more access to a PC. I can hardly type on this device. I have so much to say, to ask.

I love poetry, and I love Shakespeare. Whoever wrote the plays was the greatest poet in English, which anyone without a tin ear would agree to.

I have no dog in this race, just a mild curiosity that is now more peaked. I don't care a fig if 'Shakespeare' was written by a king or a fishmonger, a bum or a polymath, a man, woman, or left handed Martian transvestite - I am a lover of the work.

ETA: and again, what accounts for the dramatic change in style and technique? When did Oxford develop a love for amazing enjambment and all sorts of remarkable and sonorous metrical substitutions?

The poems he took credit for are mediocre.

What is the alternative explanation, really? If you can't access a PC to take in some of the videos I recommend Looney's work. The third edition is out 2019, I believe. That De Vere is the author is a very rational, scientific conclusion. That the man from Stratford is the author is simply orthodoxy, tradition and sentiment.

I've spoken to this point before but it really is religious in a sense. There was a time before Darwin when we all supposed in magical beings and creators. It was how we explained everything we saw. Darwin showed us a more intelligent and testable theory that has withstood the test of time and scientific rigor. There are still doubters and scoffers as there will always be but the science is out and it speaks for itself.

The Stratford man somehow led this mundane illiterate early life, then went off to London, wrote Venus, a first work, pretty incredible, then the entire Shakespeare Corpus, then came back to Stratford without any notoriety and lived a mundane existence. It's only compelling and believable for some because it's so miraculous. But in science there are no miracles, hence De Vere.
 

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I wish wish wish I had more access to a PC. I can hardly type on this device. I have so much to say, to ask.

I love poetry, and I love Shakespeare. Whoever wrote the plays was the greatest poet in English, which anyone without a tin ear would agree to.

I have no dog in this race, just a mild curiosity that is now more peaked. I don't care a fig if 'Shakespeare' was written by a king or a fishmonger, a bum or a polymath, a man, woman, or left handed Martian transvestite - I am a lover of the work.

ETA: and again, what accounts for the dramatic change in style and technique? When did Oxford develop a love for amazing enjambment and all sorts of remarkable and sonorous metrical substitutions?

The poems he took credit for are mediocre.

What is the alternative explanation, really? If you can't access a PC to take in some of the videos I recommend Looney's work. The third edition is out 2019, I believe. That De Vere is the author is a very rational, scientific conclusion. That the man from Stratford is the author is simply orthodoxy, tradition and sentiment.

I've spoken to this point before but it really is religious in a sense. There was a time before Darwin when we all supposed in magical beings and creators. It was how we explained everything we saw. Darwin showed us a more intelligent and testable theory that has withstood the test of time and scientific rigor. There are still doubters and scoffers as there will always be but the science is out and it speaks for itself.

The Stratford man somehow led this mundane illiterate early life, then went off to London, wrote Venus, a first work, pretty incredible, then the entire Shakespeare Corpus, then came back to Stratford without any notoriety and lived a mundane existence. It's only compelling and believable for some because it's so miraculous. But in science there are no miracles, hence De Vere.

The videos I will look more into...

But as for miracles, what is miraculous is a mediocre poet becoming a masterful one, and radically changing style and technique. Not that this would be impossible. Keats was a bad poet at nineteen, but by the Hyperion fragments he was a master - a few short years. But in the bad Keats there are glimmers of the great Keats. There is virtually no sign of 'Shakespeare' in De Vere. So I have to believe he took credit for mediocre juvenilia, but let a nobody take credit for the greatest works ever in English letters?

I have no fidelity or affection to this Stratford man, or to any single, specific individual, identified person. It's the work I love. If Oxford wrote the Shakespeare plays, then great! But I don't hear 'Shakespeare' in anything I've read by Oxford. Nothing. Not a puff.
 

T.G.G. Moogly

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I wish wish wish I had more access to a PC. I can hardly type on this device. I have so much to say, to ask.

I love poetry, and I love Shakespeare. Whoever wrote the plays was the greatest poet in English, which anyone without a tin ear would agree to.

I have no dog in this race, just a mild curiosity that is now more peaked. I don't care a fig if 'Shakespeare' was written by a king or a fishmonger, a bum or a polymath, a man, woman, or left handed Martian transvestite - I am a lover of the work.

ETA: and again, what accounts for the dramatic change in style and technique? When did Oxford develop a love for amazing enjambment and all sorts of remarkable and sonorous metrical substitutions?

The poems he took credit for are mediocre.

What is the alternative explanation, really? If you can't access a PC to take in some of the videos I recommend Looney's work. The third edition is out 2019, I believe. That De Vere is the author is a very rational, scientific conclusion. That the man from Stratford is the author is simply orthodoxy, tradition and sentiment.

I've spoken to this point before but it really is religious in a sense. There was a time before Darwin when we all supposed in magical beings and creators. It was how we explained everything we saw. Darwin showed us a more intelligent and testable theory that has withstood the test of time and scientific rigor. There are still doubters and scoffers as there will always be but the science is out and it speaks for itself.

The Stratford man somehow led this mundane illiterate early life, then went off to London, wrote Venus, a first work, pretty incredible, then the entire Shakespeare Corpus, then came back to Stratford without any notoriety and lived a mundane existence. It's only compelling and believable for some because it's so miraculous. But in science there are no miracles, hence De Vere.

The videos I will look more into...

But as for miracles, what is miraculous is a mediocre poet becoming a masterful one, and radically changing style and technique. Not that this would be impossible. Keats was a bad poet at nineteen, but by the Hyperion fragments he was a master - a few short years. But in the bad Keats there are glimmers of the great Keats. There is virtually no sign of 'Shakespeare' in De Vere. So I have to believe he took credit for mediocre juvenilia, but let a nobody take credit for the greatest works ever in English letters?

I have no fidelity or affection to this Stratford man, or to any single, specific individual, identified person. It's the work I love. If Oxford wrote the Shakespeare plays, then great! But I don't hear 'Shakespeare' in anything I've read by Oxford. Nothing. Not a puff.

Which is precisely where I was for a long time. What evidence do we have that the Stratford man was ever a mediocre poet? Keats was mediocre then Keats. De Vere was mediocre then Shakespeare. Where is the evidence for the Stratford man using this line of reasoning?
 

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The videos I will look more into...

But as for miracles, what is miraculous is a mediocre poet becoming a masterful one, and radically changing style and technique. Not that this would be impossible. Keats was a bad poet at nineteen, but by the Hyperion fragments he was a master - a few short years. But in the bad Keats there are glimmers of the great Keats. There is virtually no sign of 'Shakespeare' in De Vere. So I have to believe he took credit for mediocre juvenilia, but let a nobody take credit for the greatest works ever in English letters?

I have no fidelity or affection to this Stratford man, or to any single, specific individual, identified person. It's the work I love. If Oxford wrote the Shakespeare plays, then great! But I don't hear 'Shakespeare' in anything I've read by Oxford. Nothing. Not a puff.

Which is precisely where I was for a long time. What evidence do we have that the Stratford man was ever a mediocre poet? Keats was mediocre then Keats. De Vere was mediocre then Shakespeare. Where is the evidence for the Stratford man using this line of reasoning?

I don't understand your questioning. When did I ever suggest that the Stratford man was ever a mediocre poet? And what does it have to do with Keats? I used Keats as an example to allow for the Oxford argument, not challenge it.

My argument was, yes, it is possible that the ordinary poems attributed to Oxford, presumably written when young, could be by the same hand that wrote the magnificent works attributed to Shakespeare - ie that yes, perhaps Oxford's hand was that hand. It is possible. A mediocre poet can become a great poet. I just wish I could see a gleam of 'Shakespeare' (the works attributed to the Stratford man), in the work of De Vere.

I am fine with this theory and would have no trouble accepting it, were it not for this problem.
 

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It's the first time I look at this controversy, so I haven't seen most of the evidence offered by any of the views, but - as usual - Bomb#20 provides a pretty solid piece of evidence. It's hard to see how the alternatives could counter something like that.
 

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I’ve been following along in this thread and I thought I’d start contributing, although I have to say time doesn’t permit me to engage in a real back-and-forth. I will participate as possible.

First, let me say I am a skeptic, but I will admit I am prejudiced. You see, I have heard of the controversy before. I knew a remarkable man when I was much younger who was a gifted engineer and inventor – so gifted in fact that he was able to retire into a life of wealth and leisure at quite a young age. He spent his time in his retirement, and much of his wealth, on many things, such as trying to prove that ESP was real and measurable; promoting the work of the charlatan Uri Geller; investigating UFOs and UFO abductees with absolute credulity (I remember a long presentation on Area 51); his conviction that Darwin was completely disproven (his was the first time I ever heard the “2nd Law of Thermodynamics” argument); acceptance of numerology and astrology; and…the theory that the Earl of Oxford was the actual author of Shakespeare’s works.

So I admit my prejudice. Most of the pro arguments strike me as ad hoc, in the sense that objections are overcome willy-nilly by whatever means necessary, the sure sign of a crackpot theory. The major objection is I think WAB’s, that the extant Oxford poems, however well-crafted, simply do not show any glimmer of real genius. Well, you say, they are most likely the poems of a youth. He got better with age. So, I ask, where are his mature poems? In answer of course I would guess you point to the works of Shakespeare. Circular argument.

But I believe I am open to reason, and may be convinced. First, I have some questions that I haven’t seen addressed. Number 1, why the secrecy? Number 2, what would have been the mechanism of writing and producing a play without the actors knowing who the author was, or were they in on it? Number 3, how did he come to write some of his greatest dramatic works, including Lear, Othello, Macbeth, The Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest, among others, after he was dead?

I apologize in advance, but I don’t have time to pursue books, or even lengthy videos, but hope the discussion can be self-contained herein. I did watch one video, the one about the Stratford Shakespeare, and thought it was quite interesting. So, that’s it for now.
 
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Politesse

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Just wait til you see my theory that "Geoffrey Chaucer" was really "Dame Julian of Norwich", writing under a different pseudonym than usual so she could indulge in more secular topics without recrimination.

Because otherwise, How did he know so much about nuns???!
 

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First some miscellaneous responses:

It wasn't taboo for Earls to write poetry; it was taboo for those poems to be published and sold for money. It wasn't taboo for them to write plays; it was taboo for those plays to be performed in public. These taboos (related to chivalric codes) may seem silly, but they were real. There is plenty of specific evidence from that time period that Earls in general and Oxford specifically took those taboos seriously. When the young Oxford's poems (signed "E.O.") were published without Oxford's consent he objected strenuously, even forcing that 1st edition out of the book-stalls IIRC.

Writing anonymously, Oxford was able to hint at inside court information, or write with a political context that would have been very inappropriate if known to come from a court insider. Thus he'd "painted himself into a corner" and he and his Monarch had very important reasons to keep the authorship secret independent of the taboo.

That Oxford was a playwright cannot be in doubt. He is not only mentioned as a playwright in several documents, he is shown in superlatives: "the best for comedy" etc. (I'm not going to Google for every single cite. Most of these facts are readily available to anyone interested enough to do their own sincere Googling.) Oxford was a favorite of Queen Elizabeth and was her "court playwright." Some of the plays, e.g. Midsummer Night's Dream and Taming of the Shrew, seem to have been written (or rewritten) for specific noble marriages. Writing plays for private performances for Her Majesty or at private weddings was NOT taboo.


Politesse said:
Just wait til you see my theory that "Geoffrey Chaucer" was really "Dame Julian of Norwich", writing under a different pseudonym than usual so she could indulge in more secular topics without recrimination.

Because otherwise, How did he know so much about nuns???!
I had applauded the open-mindedness exhibited in this thread, but it's not without exception. And from someone who started his participation by admitting he knew little about the matter! Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Ruth B. Ginsburg, several other S.C. Justices, Mark Twain, Sigmund Freud ...? Were they all gullible crackpots?

The case against Stratford is extremely strong. The case for Oxford is extremely strong. Anyone who doesn't acknowledge these facts is simply not well-read on the topic. I propose this: Each skeptic peruse the literature by anti-Stratfordians (there are many books, and hundreds of webpages on the topic. I'll supply links if needed.) If you find 20 anti-Stratfordian or pro-Oxfordian claims in the articles you read, and believe 19 of them to be outrageous or stupid, don't tell us about them. Tell us about the one fact that makes you stop and think; that you can't wave away as confusion or coincidence. If you can't find such a claim, then there's something wrong with your reading skills.

Having stated that the pro-Oxfordian case is very strong, let me also admit that the anti-Oxfordian case is very strong as well! This leaves a quandary.

It is the difference in word frequencies and constructions that makes one doubt the two authors can be the same. This is a big problem for Oxfordians. I certainly have no simple answer, but will give some possibilities. First, however, note that there ARE some similarities between the poets. I've already mentioned that both used iambic pentameter, relatively uncommon at that time IIUC. Certain metaphors are found in both poets: "silver ... music", "salve for ... sore" just off the top of my head; I just noticed the frequent mention of Phoebus from both writers as I was posting the sample poems upthread. Oxford's annotated Geneva Bible is considered hard evidence by some. Many word inventions credited to Shakespeare have since been found in earlier letters by Oxford.

(Romeo and Juliet contains a love-poem written when Stratford was a child. Why would the great poet re-use an old poem when he could easily write his own? Perhaps that old love-poem was written by Romeo's playwright.)

Nevertheless the differences are severe. How can these be explained if Oxford is the poet? We know that Oxford operated (at the house called Fisher's Folly) a sort of Bohemian club where poets and playwrights congregated. Oxford certainly had access to many expert writing tutors. In fact, for a while two of London's top playwrights were employed by Oxford as private secretaries. One of these was John Lyly, often cited as the strongest influence on Shake-speare. Could one or two of these other top poets have served as a collaborator? Collaborative poetry is rare ... but so are the splendid works of Shake-speare.

I had to Google "enjambment." There's another fancy word referring to the use of two nouns or two verbs where one would suffice ("slings and arrows of ...") This is a rarish device also found in the letters of Edward de Vere.

Finally, let's please not make all Oxfordians responsible for the excesses of a few. I've not watched Anonymous, but even a well-intentioned effort would suffer from the needs of a screenplay. (Certainly it would be absurd to regard any such effort as a documentary: even Oxfordians admit there are mysteries.)

But I believe I am open to reason, and may be convinced. First, I have some questions that I haven’t seen addressed. Number 1, why the secrecy? Number 2, what would have been the mechanism of writing and producing a play without the actors knowing who the author was, or were they in on it? Number 3, how did he come to write some of his greatest dramatic works, including Lear, Othello, Macbeth, The Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest, among others, after he was dead?
(1) Asked and answered. In addition to the general taboo, many of the plays had serious political content, which was disguised by the putative commoner authorship. These plays would have been read in a new and unacceptable light had it become known they were written by an intimate of H.M. Oxford refers to his special "office" for which he received the otherwise-unexplained £1000 salary. I think this large sum was partly to compensate Oxford for the imposed anonymity.

(2) Many people would have been aware of the hoax. H.M. and her top ministers and secret police; Oxford's noble relatives and friends; much of London's literary elite; and some of the players in Lord Chamberlain's Men. These all would have had little motive to disclose the secret, and very strong motive (the wrath of the Earl and more especially Her Majesty) to preserve the secret. Nevertheless — as I've listed up-thread — we can find several examples of people in-the-know leaving cryptic hints.

If scores of people were in on the hoax, could it have been kept secret? Recall the "Ultra secret" of W.W.II code-breaking. Hundreds of people were aware of the secret, yet it was kept secret for 35 years!

(3) The dating of the plays is controversial. Presumably the staging company kept records, but they've been ... mislaid(?). Dates are often twisted to fit the traditional narrative. Hamlet was performed when Stratford was still in his teens? "That must have been a different Hamlet by a different writer."

Many plays are dated based on their first known performance, but this can't be treated as the date of writing! This is a complicated topic, but I'll just note that the second known performance of MacBeth was in 1664, 48 years after the death of the Stratford man! (Performances mentioned by chance in letters can be used as an upper bound on the play's writing, but not as a lower bound.

Claims the certain plays must have been written after 1604 are flimsy. In most cases, even the flimsy evidence goes away if one assumes, correctly, that scripts are edited to include topical references. OTOH, there is evidence they were written before 1604: I'm fond of the astronomical argument myself.
 

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Where did you get your definition of enjambment with reference to its use in poetry? Because the one you give is not what I'm talking about.

Enjambment is about lineation, line-ends. It's about running one line into another to create certain effects.
 

T.G.G. Moogly

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Having stated that the pro-Oxfordian case is very strong, let me also admit that the anti-Oxfordian case is very strong as well! This leaves a quandary.

I'm able to resolve this quandary by looking at the lives of the two men. De Vere had access to all those sources that would have been needed to write. And we have writing in his hand to this day, with language we see in Shakespeare. Just read his Tin Letters. This is all evidenced, there is no need for invention and conjecture.

Stratford is a different story, we have to invent his alleged genius with supposition and speculation. It has been shown that in his days in Stratford there were at most 28 books in the whole town, that's the whole town - at most! De Vere, on the other hand, had access to everything it would take to write. How did Stratford magically acquire his skill? We have six signatures that beg illiteracy yet he wrote Hamlet? Seriously?
 

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Having stated that the pro-Oxfordian case is very strong, let me also admit that the anti-Oxfordian case is very strong as well! This leaves a quandary.

I'm able to resolve this quandary by looking at the lives of the two men. De Vere had access to all those sources that would have been needed to write. And we have writing in his hand to this day, with language we see in Shakespeare. Just read his Tin Letters. This is all evidenced, there is no need for invention and conjecture.

Stratford is a different story, we have to invent his alleged genius with supposition and speculation. It has been shown that in his days in Stratford there were at most 28 books in the whole town, that's the whole town - at most! De Vere, on the other hand, had access to everything it would take to write. How did Stratford magically acquire his skill? We have six signatures that beg illiteracy yet he wrote Hamlet? Seriously?
See, that's exactly why I think Chaucer was a fake. The number of non-churchmen who regularly read or wrote anything in his time was next to non-existent, but we're supposed to believe that this seemingly uneducated laymen wrote all these books? In English, a language almost no one wrote anything in at that time? Except - as it happens - for Dame Julian, who we know to have been literate in both Latin and English, preferring the latter in her published works, and who like "Chaucer" had an incredibly skeptical view toward human nature and a fascination with violence. Not to mention, her preference for writing anonymously is one of the few absolute facts we have about her, so creating a pseudonym is perfectly in keeping with the Dame Julian we see in the historical record. The coincidences are just too strong to ignore, no matter how much the London school insists otherwise.
 
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