The Shakespeare Authorship Controversy:
The Case Summarily Stated
Who wrote the works of Shakespeare? Tradition reports that the author was a tradesman from provincial Warwickshire who was baptized Gulielmus Shakspere, a man who, to the best of our knowledge, never had a day’s schooling, and yet we are told – and are expected to believe – that, in his twenties, this man began to publish (having written nothing before in the whole of his life!) the most erudite works of literature the world has ever seen. We are told by traditionalists that this man (who literally could not spell his own name the same way twice) wrote poems and plays that are dense in their reliance on the literature of classical antiquity as well as Continental verse and narrative which had not even been translated into English in Shakespeare’s day. We are told that this man, who never owned so much as a single book, wrote, without any education or apprenticeship in the literary and dramatic arts, poems and plays that invoke the legends of hundreds of figures from Greek and Roman mythology – poems and plays that demonstrate the writer’s easy familiarity with and competence in Latin, Greek, Italian and French – poems and plays demonstrative of a linguistic facility so agile and confident that he sometimes would compose (as in scenes such as Henry the Fifth III. iv) in languages other than English.
When, where and from whom did this man who never traveled farther than London from his hometown, and who reputedly spent the years prior to his early marriage in apprenticeship to a butcher, supposedly learn all of this? In what educational domain did he acquire the ability to become the rarest of men: the chief wordsmith of the English language – a linguistic creator whose fecundity humbles Milton and overrides the Bible? How was it that he appeared in London, suddenly and with no preparation – like a genie from a lamp – an urbane, cultivated, accomplished, knowledgeable and unrivaled poet; a masterful practitioner of rhetoric; a scholar of his own and other nations’ literatures, histories, customs, painting and sculpture; a man intimately versed in the character of many ages’ political and religious disputes – both foreign and domestic? Where did he study astronomy, read Copernicus, become capable in the field of medicine, and demonstrate remarkable competence in and familiarity with English case law as well as Continental civil law? Where did he learn the arcane jargon of aristocratic sport and military command if all he did for the first half of his life was chop meat in a provincial and virtually bookless burg of perhaps forty families’ size (none of which families, incidentally, although they knew him well, ever acknowledged their townsman as a poet, playwright or even a writer)?
Can anyone truly think the scenario likely? Is this – a process that defies everything we know about the development of literary creativity and skill – a credible explanation of how Shakespeare attained the highest achievements in literary art? Are we seriously to believe that a man of no education, who wrote no letters (nor received any from anyone [they must have known he couldn’t read]), who wrote absolutely nothing – not so much as a mundane shopping list (and who, though wealthy, owned no books even at the end of his life) – who had no journeyman experience in the literary arts, no apprenticeship or tutelage in the classics, no foundation in music, law, statecraft, theology, aristocratic sport or courtly custom – would sit down at a desk in his mid-twenties and, in his first foray into writing, compose the works of Shakespeare? Would such a man – the world’s greatest wordsmith and lover of language – not have taught his own family to read and write rather than leave them gaping illiterates? Would the only literate member of his extended family (his son-in-law) praise, in print, fellow Warwickshire poet Michael Drayton but never write a line acknowledging that his own father-in-law was England’s most accomplished poet-dramatist (or even a writer)? Would this Shakespeare not have been feted and received tributes like his peers-rather than fail in his own lifetime to be acknowledged as a poet or playwright by anyone in letters, memorandae, dedications or diary entries?
If the writer who called himself Shakespeare were this rustic from Stratford-Upon-Avon, he is the most improbable person ever to have lived, and his story is the most implausible tale in history – one that, as Concordia University professors of psychological and educational theory Drs Kevin Simpson and Steven Steffens have demonstrated, utterly defies rational explanation and overthrows everything that learning theorists and psychologists of cognitive development know about how creative talents are cultivated and mature.
How likely, therefore, is it that this man from Stratford-Upon-Avon – this man who, in his own day, no literary figure (not even Phillip Henslowe, the age’s chief diarist of the theatre) acknowledged as so much as an acquaintance – was the author of the works that bear the name of William Shakespeare? More scholars, each year, swell the ranks of those of us who say that whoever Shakespeare was, he was not this pedestrian merchant from Warwickshire for which there is no evidence of any kind of literary career – let alone any evidence for his being, in A.L. Rowse’s words, “the best-known dramatist” of the age.
But if Shakespeare were not this man from Stratford-Upon-Avon, who was he? I would propose that the most probable candidate is Edward de Vere, the Lord Great Chamberlain of England and the 17th earl of Oxford – a brilliant poet and playwright who also was a favourite of the Queen as well as her ward and the son-in-law of her chief minister of state, William Cecil, the first Baron Burghley, Lord Treasurer of England.
Unlike the butcher from Stratford, Edward de Vere was nurtured in the arts of poetry and stagecraft from his youth. Steeped in the art of the theatre, Edward and his father were the patrons of one of England’s earliest acting companies that performed under aristocratic patronage. Following his father’s death, the Queen directed that Edward be raised in the home of the man who owned the largest library in England. He was tutored by England’s finest scholars – men such as Lawrence Nowell (owner of the world’s only copy of the Beowulf manuscript) and Sir Thomas Smith (Regius Professor of Civil Law at Cambridge University and Ambassador to France); he was multi-lingual, a fluent speaker and writer of Latin, Italian and French. He traveled extensively on the European Continent (and to almost [and perhaps] all the Italian sites recorded in the Shakespeare plays – sojourns that, as Richard Roe has meticulously demonstrated in his book, The Shakespeare Guide to Italy: Retracing the Bard’s Unknown Travels, the Shakespeare writer had to have undertaken); he owned a house in Venice; John Lyly, the playwright, was his personal secretary (as was the dramatist, Anthony Munday). He received degrees from both Oxford University and Cambridge University before he was 17 years old. To study law, he matriculated at Gray’s Inn – one of the revered Inns of Court – and the Inn, incidentally, that was one of the principal sites of theatrical performance in late sixteenth-century London. He created lavish entertainment for the Queen and her Court, was a patron of writers and playwrights, and he held the lease to the Blackfriars Theatre, the principal private theatre in London. He was an acclaimed writer, poet and playwright in his own lifetime; indeed, he was recognized as the foremost writer of his age by Henry Peacham, declared the “most excellent” of all Elizabethan court poets by William Webbe and acknowledged by George Puttenham as the best of those Elizabethan writers who, as Puttenham revealed in The Arte of English Poesie, were publishing without appending their own names to their works.
Oxford also received a host of literary dedications that distinguished him as pre-eminent among writers of the Elizabethan Age; Angel Day, for example, hailed him as a writer “sacred to the Muses”; Edmund Spenser praised him in The Fairie Queene, and John Brooke congratulated Cambridge University for its special recognition and commendation of Oxford’s “rare learning.” By contrast, to the man who supposedly brought the Renaissance to England – butcher-turned- poet and playwright Will Shakspere of Stratford-Upon-Avon – no one in his own lifetime ever dedicated a thing. Moreover, when Stratford Will died, he was buried in a grave that did not even bear his name but chewed out, instead, some doggerel curse against anyone who would disturb his corpse. His passing was not marked with any of the mourning and ceremony that attended the passing of far less notable (and now all-but-forgotten) writers of the day. Despite possessing wealth that, as Stratfordian Professor Stanley Wells has noted, made him the equivalent of a modern millionaire, he created no fellowships and (unlike the actor, Edward Alleyn, who founded Dulwich College), he endowed no colleges or universities (let alone the grammar school that stood directly across the street from his home); he founded no libraries nor supplied them; he patronized no scholars or writers, nor did he fund any legacies in arts or letters.
The case for Edward de Vere as the pseudonymous author of the Shakespeare canon, of course, is one that requires more than a few summary statements for an adequate presentation. Massive and detailed scholarly investigations by some of America’s, Britain’s and Europe’s best scholars are available for study by those who may wish to join their efforts with others in order to help us attain a definitive resolution to the Shakespeare Authorship Question and impart to the true author of the works of Shakespeare the long-neglected distinction that is his due. To the pursuit of this end, an international convocation of scholars gathers each year to explore and share the latest research on the Authorship Question at Concordia University’s Shakespeare Authorship Studies Conference – an annual assembly, convened by the university’s Shakespeare Authorship Research Centre, to which all who are interested in seeing the Shakespeare Authorship Question debated, studied and resolved are invited.
Professor Daniel Wright
Director, The Shakespeare Authorship Research Centre
Who Was Edward de Vere?
Although the date and circumstances of his birth are in some dispute amongst scholars, the official historical record tells us that in April of 1550, Edward de Vere, Viscount Bolebec and heir to the ancient earldom of Oxford, was born at his family’s ancestral home of Castle Hedingham in the county of Essex. He became the son and heir of John de Vere, the 16th earl of Oxford, a patron of the polemical dramatist John Bale and the patron of a major acting company (Oxford’s Men). John de Vere’s wife, Margery, the Countess of Oxford, was no less distinguished than her husband in her connection to the literary world, for she was the sister of Arthur Golding, the famous scholar and translator of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Arthur Golding, as all Shakespeare scholars acknowledge, was a primary influence on the writer who, after many years of anonymous performance and publication of his works, eventually identified himself in two poems to the earl of Southampton as “William Shakespeare.”
The maternal uncle of Edward de Vere was not the only leading influence on the writer the world would come to know as Shake-speare. The paternal uncle of Edward de Vere, Henry Howard, the 5th earl of Surrey, was the originator of the sonnet form that today is known as “Shakespearean” because of its association with the sonnet form popularized by the writer who, a generation after the death of Edward de Vere’s uncle, called himself Shakespeare.
Following the death of his father in 1562, Edward de Vere, now the 17th earl of Oxford, became a royal ward and was sent to live with and study under the Queen’s Private Secretary (and later Lord Treasurer of England), William Cecil. Under Cecil’s tutelage and guidance, the new earl of Oxford became one of the best-educated subjects in the realm. He was privileged to study with the best minds of the English Renaissance, including such learnèd men as Laurence Nowell, the Dean of Litchfield; Bartholomew Clarke; Thomas Fowle and Sir Thomas Smith. He enjoyed access to Cecil’s library, one of Europe’s most remarkable and extensive collections of books and manuscripts. At Cecil House, or, as Joel Hurstfield of University College, London, has put it—”the best school for statesmen in Elizabethan England, perhaps in all Europe”—Edward de Vere received an education incomparable among his peers, exactly the kind one would expect of the writer who was destined to become Shakespeare: England’s greatest wordsmith—a writer whose achievements are dense in their allusions to and reliance upon works of classical antiquity, many of which had not been translated into English in Shakespeare’s day.
In August 1564 and September 1566, Edward received degrees from both Cambridge University (B.A.) and Oxford University (M.A.), and in February 1567 he was sent by Cecil to study law at Gray’s Inn, one of the celebrated Inns of Court that, in addition to serving as a distinguished college of law, provided a site for many theatrical performances, including plays by William Shakespeare. (The Inns of Court probably provided Shakespeare with more than a setting for his plays, however, as Shakespeare’s ability to artfully and densely integrate examples of English case law, Continental civil law and the arcana of the world of legal scholarship into his plays and poems has prompted even the late orthodox scholar, Eric Sams, to concede that whoever Shakespeare was, “he surely studied law.”)
In 1571, Edward de Vere took a step that ensured the Elizabethan State’s retention and intensification of its more than passing interest in him when he was betrothed (with apparent reluctance) to the fourteen year-old daughter of William Cecil. As Master of the Court of Wards who – by his arrangement of this marital bond between Oxford and his daughter in order to ennoble his family – William Cecil was duly elevated to the peerage as the first baron Burghley, and Edward de Vere became the son-in-law of the most powerful man in England. In ensuing years, after a difficult marriage and prior to an all-too-early death, Anne bore Oxford three daughters who survived to adulthood: Elizabeth—whose legitimacy, however, Oxford bitterly disputed—as well as Bridget and Susan. All three of Oxford’s daughters, very interestingly, either married or were proposed for marriage to the three men (the only three men) to whom the poems and plays of Shakespeare were dedicated—the earls of Southampton, Montgomery and Pembroke).
Marriage, however, did not domesticate young Oxford. As a young man, he had become notorious for getting himself in trouble and provoking the indignation of his powerful father-in-law; as a youth, for example, de Vere had bandied at sword-point with, and killed, another man—Thomas Brinknell—although the jury that tried Oxford brought in a verdict acquitting him of any responsibility for the young man’s death. In 1573, some of the young earl’s companions (with Oxford reputedly in their company) waylaid travelers on the road from Gravesend to Rochester—an episode uncannily similar to the scene in Shakespeare’s Henry the Fourth, Part One where Falstaff and his companions assault the King’s receivers. Amazingly (or perhaps not so amazingly), the Shakespearean account includes detail of this assault that corresponds to the circumstances involving Oxford’s men down to the author’s placement of Falstaff and his bandits on the very road where Oxford’s men confronted the troupe ambushed in 1573. Oxford also was implicated in an abortive effort to free Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk, from the Tower where Norfolk was awaiting execution for participating in the Ridolfi plot against the Queen. Oxford scandalously accused his wife of infidelity during one of his European sojourns, although he himself returned to England after an extended stay in Europe with a Venetian choirboy, Orazio Cuoco, in tow—an event that later led enemies of the earl to accuse him of pederasty, although no credible evidence was ever produced to support the accusations.
In addition to his intellect and robust, often troublesome nature, Edward also developed a singular martial prowess, excelling in contests within the lists, contests restricted (along with sports such as falconry) almost exclusively to the nobility (detailed accounts and descriptions of which sports, moreover, that provide much of the narrative content, imagery, vocabulary and metaphor of the Shakespeare poems and plays). Moreover, Oxford conceived theatrical entertainment for the Queen at Whitehall, and he acquired the lease to the Blackfriars Theatre. He was a patron of many writers and several distinguished acting companies. He became one of the leading recipients of literary dedications and verses by writers such as John Lyly and Edmund Spenser and was himself widely regarded as one of England’s most excellent writers—acclaimed so even in his youth. However, by the time he was an adult, George Puttenham, in The Arte of English Poesie, confirmed not only that many writers at the Elizabethan Court were concealing themselves as writers (a custom of the age) but revealed that Oxford, in particular, amongst those courtiers, was masking his identity as a writer:
And in her Majesty’s time that now is are sprung up another crew of Courtly makers [poets], noblemen and gentlemen of her Majesty’s own servants, who have written excellently well as it would appear if their doings could be found out and made public with the rest, of which number is first that noble gentleman, Edward earl of Oxford.
Oxford journeyed extensively on the Continent. He traveled throughout France. In Italy, he visited almost all of the Italian locations, including Sicily, that later would provide the settings for Shakespeare’s Italian plays. He made a home for himself in Venice. His ship was attacked by pirates (who “dealt with [him] like thieves of mercy”[Hamlet IV.vi.20-21]) on his return voyage to England. A few years later, Oxford’s brother-in-law, Peregrine Bertie, Lord Willoughby, on embassy from Queen Elizabeth to the Danish court at Elsinore, reported upon his return to England that during the banqueting at Elsinore, “a whole volley of all the great shot of the castle discharged”; the account is remarkably similar to the declaration of Shakespeare’s King Claudius who pledges, “No jocund health that Denmark drinks today, / But that the great cannon to the clouds shall tell” (I.ii.125-26).
In 1581, Queen Elizabeth, having discovered Oxford’s extra-marital flirtation with a Gentlewoman of the Queen’s Bedchamber, briefly confined Edward de Vere to the Tower, along with his mistress, Anne Vavasour, and their child. Shortly after Oxford’s release from imprisonment, Thomas Knyvet, a Groom of the Privy Chamber and an unforgiving uncle of Anne Vavasour, injured Oxford in a sword fight that followed a series of street brawls and affrays between Oxford’s men and Knyvet’s men—clashes of striking resemblance to the sometimes violent scuffles later to be depicted by Shakespeare in eruptions between the men of the houses of Montague and Capulet in Romeo and Juliet. Oxford was wounded, apparently in the leg, during one of these contretemps with Knyvet, and this injury may account for his oft-bemoaned lameness in later life.
In 1587, the year after the Queen began to grant Oxford a £1000 annuity, evidence suggests that Thomas Kyd may have joined Oxford’s household. Kyd was a young man, some years Oxford’s junior, who today is credited with writing The Spanish Tragedy and frequently is alleged to have composed an early version of Hamlet (sometimes referred to as the Ur-Hamlet), as well as The Taming of a Shrew (a predecessor work to Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew) and parts of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus. Interestingly, none of the plays that today are attributed to Kyd were, in his lifetime, ever published under his own name, nor was he in his own lifetime regarded as a dramatist.
In 1588, Oxford’s wife, Anne, died. Oxford remarried a few years later, wedding Elizabeth Trentham. She bore him a son and heir, Henry, who, as the 18th earl of Oxford, in the 1620s, became a leading nobleman in a bold, anti-Spanish quadrumvirate — Protestant opponents of the Crown’s plan to wed the Prince of Wales to the Infanta of Spain. This opposition (organized, perhaps not coincidentally, at the same time as the First Folio was being prepared for publication) was composed of Henry de Vere and the very same noblemen to whom both Shakespeare’s poems and First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays had and would be dedicated: the 3rd earl of Southampton, the 4th earl of Pembroke, and the 1st earl of Montgomery.
In 1598, after many years of anonymous performance and publication of such Shakespearean plays as Richard the Second, Titus Andronicus and Romeo and Juliet, the first quarto of a play to bear the name of William Shakespeare was published. In that same year, two months after the death of William Cecil, Francis Meres registered Palladis Tamia for publication in which “Shakespeare,” for the first time in any publication, was identified as a playwright, and Edward de Vere was acclaimed “[t]he best for comedy amongst us.”
The 17th earl of Oxford reportedly died in 1604, early in the reign of King James I. Where he was buried we have no certain record, although his cousin, Percival Golding, wrote that his body eventually was interred at Westminster. If Golding is correct, and if Edward de Vere was the nobleman poet-playwright who called himself William Shakespeare, it is truly fitting that he—the greatest writer who ever lived—rests in the hallowed ground of England’s national church amongst the immortals of English letters.
Professor Daniel Wright, Ph.D.
Director, The Shakespeare Authorship Research Centre
“O, how that name befits my composition”
In the early 1780s, the Reverend Dr James Wilmot, a friend of Dr. Samuel Johnson and rector of a small parish church near Stratford-Upon-Avon, went searching for the legacy of England’s greatest literary prodigy, an artist of unrivaled achievement whose poetry and drama were renowned but about whose person very little was known. Dr Wilmot searched for years in the poet’s environs for information of any kind that might illuminate this prominent man (arguably the most celebrated resident in the history of Cotswolds England). He wished to learn what was known of this man as a writer, dramatist and poet by his family, neighbors, peers and other friends and acquaintances. For four years, he searched diligently for letters to or from the man; he sought records and anecdotes about his personal life in diaries and family histories; he combed the region for books and other artifacts. To his consternation, he found absolutely nothing that linked Tradition’s candidate to the writing of those incomparable works that had appeared in England two centuries earlier under the name of “William Shakespeare.”
What Dr Wilmot found, instead, was the record of the son of a simple, untutored merchant, baptized Gulielmus Shakspere, who apparently began life as a butcher’s apprentice and later excelled in various business ventures, but who otherwise had lived a fairly non-descript life. He discovered, in short, a rather ordinary man who had no connection to the literary world and who, at the conclusion of an ostensibly uneventful life, was buried without ceremony in a grave that didn’t even identify its occupant by name. His findings stunned him into dazed silence about the matter, and he confided nothing of his discovery for years.
Dr Wilmot eventually confessed to a friend that despite his arduous labors in Warwickshire, he had unearthed nothing in his expeditions to connect Will Shakspere of Stratford-Upon-Avon to the works of the Elizabethan dramatic giant that Ben Jonson had apostrophized as a “Starre of Poets” and the “Soule of the Age.” Serious doubts about the authorship of the Shakespeare canon followed hard thereon—doubts that continue to bewilder and puzzle readers of Shakespeare. However, the collapse of all the quixotic campaigns of the past two centuries that have attempted to establish the man from Stratford as the author of the plays (or even corroborate his reputation as a writer!) are now leading many scholars to conclude that would-be discoverers of Shakespeare repeatedly fail, not due to their lack of zeal or skill, but because, like good Dr Wilmot, they are seeking a writer where no writer (or, more accurately, another writer) exists.
In contrast to the defenders of orthodox myths about Stratford Will, skeptics propose that the Shake-speare poems and plays were not the throwaway work of a butcher-turned-poet-and-playwright who, in his first foray into poetic and dramatic composition, produced such works as Venus and Adonis, The Rape of Lucrece and Loves Labour’s Lost. They argue, instead, that these works are the mature achievements of a worldly and urbane litterateur, a dexterous and experienced writer endowed with vast linguistic ability and an extraordinarily particularized knowledge of many arcane and specialized studies, an erudite, well-traveled, multi-lingual man of prior achievement who could not tell the world his name.
One might well ask, therefore, if the writer who called himself Shakespeare were this versatile and formidable talent, why would he disguise himself and evade recognition? What possible reasons could he have had to cloak himself in obscurity? Such questions can be answered by considering the conventions that governed writing and publication in Elizabethan England.
The invention of the printing press terrified absolutist regimes such as the Tudors. It created unprecedented opportunities for writers to stir up partisan constituencies and create audiences for new ideas. The capacity to anonymously publish pamphlets, books, plays, essays, tracts and other texts limited the ability of authorities to silence individuals for disseminating seditious ideas or advancing unflattering satires that exposed the government’s incompetence or corruption. Because this revolutionary technology threatened to place writers beyond the effective control of the State, it led the English government to establish various civil and ecclesiastical licensing measures and censorial offices to regulate and control the press with the goal of stifling the flow of disapproved ideas. Therefore, by the last half of the sixteenth century, although the ability to communicate had been extended, the freedom to say what one would without penalty had not. Unlicensed presses were destroyed; pamphlets were seized; writers were imprisoned; theatres were closed.
A writer who sought protection from discovery and persecution needed to dissemble. For playwrights, this was especially urgent, particularly as the public theatre (already much mistrusted and often suppressed by authorities for its alleged traffic in corrupt matter) was exiled in Shakespeare’s day to the darker districts of London (such as Southwark) where the theatre’s supposed viciousness could be restricted to people who commonly were regarded as derelicts and scoundrels. Writers of public entertainments and / or their families were likely to be impugned, therefore, by such disreputable associations if they were discovered; many had personal reputations to protect. Writers who disdained anonymity, moreover, often faced frightful consequences for their daring in sallying forth to publish under their own names. Many were hauled before the Privy Council for interrogation (as was Samuel Daniel for Philotas); others were imprisoned (as were Ben Jonson and George Chapman for Eastward Ho! and Sir John Hayward for his Life of Henry IV); others were savagely mutilated (as were John Stubbs, Alexander Leighton and William Prynne); some may even have been assassinated (as perhaps was Christopher Marlowe).
Many playwrights, accordingly, published anonymously, shielding themselves and—perhaps more importantly—their families from bad repute and persecution. The consequence of this is that we, today, still do not know the origins of many dramatic works that appeared in the age of Shakespeare. In fact, as Professor Gerald Eades Bentley of Princeton tells us, “the large majority of all English plays before the reign of Elizabeth are anonymous, and even from 1558 to 1590 the authors of most plays are unknown.” The unattributable nature of these works illuminates the problem confounding scholars’ attempts to resolve the Shakespeare authorship controversy, for, unbeknownst to most people, the playwriting career of the writer who called himself Shakespeare also was maintained in secrecy. Even when the plays of Shakespeare were published (and publication almost always followed many years of performance), they were published without attribution. In fact, for seven years after the Shakespeare plays began to be printed, they were published without any name affixed to them at all. Not until the end of the sixteenth century (well into the Shakespeare playwright’s career) did any plays begin to appear in print under the name of “William Shakespeare.” Even then, several of them (such as The London Prodigall and A Yorkshire Tragedy) were clearly misidentified by the publishers. One might wonder if even the publishers of his works knew who he was!
If, as Oxfordians maintain, the writer behind the Shakespeare pseudonym was Edward de Vere, as the 17th Earl of Oxford and Lord Great Chamberlain of England, he would have been constrained by more than ordinary apprehensions about publishing his poems and plays. Convention discouraged nobility from publishing any works—especially plays—they composed; to have indugled in such act an act outside of one’s station would have been regarded within court culture as infra dignitatem—a slur on the code of nobility itself; a nobleman’s reputation, after all, was to be won by sword and shield, not achieved by pen and ink in the midst of the roguish antics and rough-and-tumble recreations of the common herd at public theatres. Accordingly, several high-born poets’ works, such as those of Sir Philip Sidney and Robert Devereaux, 2nd Earl of Essex, were never published under their authors’ names during their lifetimes. If Oxford was the poet-playwright Shakespeare, he would have been prompted to shield his name from discovery (apart from other legitimate considerations) because Court practice and precedent urged it; the Lord Great Chamberlain of England and the son-in-law of the Lord Treasurer and chief minister of the Crown simply could not be known as a writer for the public stage.
Oxford, therefore, probably masked his identity from the larger public because he was compelled by his family and the Crown to do so. A writer for the public stage could ill afford to be linked to the Court. If he were to become publically known as a courtier poet and playwright, his poems and plays might be interpreted as government-financed propaganda or—perhaps more ominously—satirical commentary on the life, mores and personages of the Court, and no courtier, after all, was more prominent than Oxford’s own father-in-law: the great Lord Treasurer, spymaster and chief counselor to the Queen, William Cecil, Lord Burghley, to whom Oxford was personally as well as politically beholden (Burghley, as Master of the Court of Wards, had overseen and provided for Oxford’s youth in his own household before Oxford became his son-in-law).
Therefore, by adopting the pseudonym of William Shakespeare, Edward de Vere provided himself, his family and the Crown with the means of preventing the public from looking to the Court in search of the Shakespeare playwright. His use of the nom de plume, Shakespeare, likely would have been known among only a few intimates, fellow courtier poets, principals of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men and the Crown’s chief officers. Indeed, that the “secret” was something of an open one, particularly in certain literary circles, seems confirmed by Oxford’s receipt of a continuing stream of dedications and acclaim by his contemporaries, over many years— although, curiously, he is purported by most Traditionalists to have published nothing under his own name after 1576. By contrast, no one ever dedicated a single literary work to anyone named William Shakespeare in that writer’s supposed lifetime, the merchant from Stratford never spelled his name as “Shakespeare,” and he never is identified by anyone during the whole of his life as the Shakespeare poet-playwright.
But why “Shakespeare”? Why would Edward de Vere adopt that name as his playwriting name? There is no mystery here. Like that of Martin Marprelate, the well-known sobriquet of a Puritan dissident (still unknown to us) in the late 1580s, Shakespeare was a pseudonym that addressed the chief realm of the writer’s attention; in Marprelate’s case, his focal point was the prelacy of the Anglican Church; in Shakespeare’s case, it was the theatre.
“William Shakespeare” is a name that might have been adopted by almost any writer who wished to conceal from the public his title, office or his baptismal name but who yet wished to assert his identity as a playwright. After all, Pallas Athena, the mythological patron goddess of Athens (the ancient home of the theatre) wore a helmet, crowned by a Sphinx, that, when its visor was drawn, made her invisible. In her hand she carried a great spear. For a writer to be such a “spear-shaker” could therefore suggest that he was a writer of plays—an invisible writer of plays. That Oxford should have resorted to this pseudonym makes eminent sense, for he also was known as a champion battler in the lists—a spear-shaker of military renown. Similarly, Oxford’s occasional hyphenated spelling of his poet-playwright name may also have been adopted to allude, with a more obvious wink and a nudge, to the author’s role as a warrior with a pen as his spear. The possible suggestiveness of the name “Will-i-am Shake-speare” (“I will be [a] spear-shaker”) as one whose words are intended to disturb the complacent takes on additional significance when we read Ben Jonson’s knowing commemoration of Shakespeare in the First Folio: “He seems to shake a lance / As brandish’t at the eyes of ignorance.”
Writers always have taken terrible risks by writing “offensive” works. Ovid so offended Caesar Augustus’ puritanical sensibilities by his erotic verse that he suffered the indignity of life-long exile from the empire. Dante, too, was exiled from his beloved Florence. When the brilliant British novelist, Matthew Gregory Lewis, owned up to his authorship of the Gothic novel, The Monk, he faced savage rebuke from ossified old Tories like Samuel Taylor Coleridge and risked charges of blasphemy being leveled against him in Parliament. Voltaire (the pseudonym of François-Marie Arouet) was imprisoned and subsequently exiled. Emile Zola was driven from France following his publication of J’accuse. Jean-Baptiste Pocquelin concealed himself, and protected his family, behind the name of Molière. Women, in particular, have invoked pseudonyms merely to get into print. Consider Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot) and the Brontë sisters (who published under the names of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell); Jane Austen wrote anonymously (her name was attached to her work only after her death). Oscar Wilde, while in exile, wrote as Sebastian Melmoth (the martyred wanderer). The sobriquet “O. Henry” shielded William Sidney Porter’s family from association with Porter’s personal disgrace following his conviction and imprisonment for embezzlement. In the 1950s, America’s Hollywood Ten resorted to a host of pseudonyms and front men to try to get around the barriers to work that were established by the McCarthy-era blacklists. Daniel Defoe concealed himself behind more than twenty pseudonyms. In retrospect, Salman Rushdie probably wishes that he had chosen to hide behind at least one…!
English nobility who have employed pseudonyms since Elizabethan days include King George III, who published as Ralph Robinson. Lord Tennyson sometimes published his poetry under the name of Merlin. Lord Hardinge of Penshurst published crime fiction in the 1940s as George Milner. Edward de Vere might be comforted to know that the tradition of adopting a disguise when venturing into publication continues even today among England’s peers. In any event, that the chief courtier poet-playwright of Elizabethan England, son-in-law of the Lord Treasurer and cousin to the Queen should have chosen the devices of anonymity and pseudonymity to assure himself freedom of expression in his repressive, suspicious and censorious culture should hardly be surprising. That such an accomplished writer is likely to be the poet-dramatist we know by the name of Shakespeare—as opposed to an unlettered merchant from Warwickshire whose own offspring were illiterate—is even less so.
Professor Daniel Wright, Ph.D.
Director, The Shakespeare Authorship Research Centre
A Few Curiosities Regarding Edward de Vere
and the Writer Who Called Himself Shake-speare
Unlike William of Stratford—born to illiterate parents in a virtually bookless market town in provincial Warwickshire—Edward de Vere was born to a mother of prominent literary associations (Margaret Golding) and a father who kept an acting company (the Earl of Oxford’s Men) that his son inherited; Edward de Vere’s father also was one of the early nobleman patrons of the theatre and a patron to John Bale, one of the early writers of the history play, the genre with which the writer known as Shakespeare is widely regarded to have begun his own playwriting career.
The Shakespearean sonnet (also known as the English sonnet) was not original with Shakespeare (merely popularized by him). The Shakespearean sonnet actually was invented by Edward de Vere’s paternal uncle—Henry Howard, the 5th earl of Surrey.
Scholars regard Arthur Golding’s translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses as a leading influence on Shakespeare, second only to the Bible. Arthur Golding was Edward de Vere’s maternal uncle, and Edward, when a teen, lived with him. Golding, in a dedication of one of his works to the young Edward de Vere, saluted his nephew’s interest in and command of history.
The Geneva Bible, widely recognised by scholars as Shakespeare’s Bible, was the edition of the Scriptures owned by Edward de Vere, and his personal copy (now in the possession of the Folger Shakespeare Library) contains notations and marginalia that bear striking correspondence to passages, themes and image clusters that appear in the works of the writer who called himself Shakespeare. William of Stratford, to the best of our knowledge, not only owned no Protestant Bible but, as many Stratfordian adherents attest, was, in personal conviction, a deeply-committed, radical Roman Catholic who went so far as to purchase the notorious Blackfriars Gatehouse in 1613 – a den of Catholic conspiracy and sedition – a purchase that is utterly unaccountable and laughably ridiculous if the buyer were the demonstrably Anglican playwright, Shakespeare.
Shakespeare’s history plays rewrite the histories of the earls of Oxford—even in incidental ways that are inconsequential to the plays’ substance—in order to bestow a uniformly shining and patriotic legacy on the de Veres.
The writer who called himself Shakespeare was multi-lingual. He had access to a massive, rarefied library, the works of which (many yet untranslated into English in Shakespeare’s era) saturate the poems and plays of Shakespeare. Oxford lived, and was tutored, in Cecil House, the household with not only the best library in England but one of the finest libraries in Europe. There is no evidence, however, that William of Stratford ever owned—let alone read—so much as a single essay or book; indeed, not only do we have no correspondence from William of Stratford to his supposed colleagues—we have no record of any correspondence from him to anyone. No writer of the Elizabethan age ever wrote or even hinted that William of Stratford was a poet or a playwright. No one ever dedicated anything to him. Astonishingly, Phillip Henslowe, the great diarist of the Elizabethan theatre, makes no mention of even knowing the man.
Shakespeare’s intimate knowledge of politics and law has always impressed but bewildered scholars, particularly as Will Shakspere of Stratford is not known ever to have attended so much as a single day of school. Astonishingly, no tutor or pedagogue of the era ever left any record that he taught William of Stratford or recorded that he knew him to be anyone else’s student. Unlike Kit Marlowe, no one offered Will Shakspere any scholarly aid or assistance in furthering his education. Edward de Vere, however, was praised by scholars for the breadth of his learning. He received tutelage from some of the finest minds in Europe—most notably, Sir Thomas Smith; he was awarded degrees from Cambridge and Oxford Universities and enrolled at Gray’s Inn to study law. He served on the Privy Council during the reign of King James. One writer of a book on Renaissance politics has said that Shakespeare is the age’s best tutor on the inside workings of political power. Accordingly, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the man to whom Oxford’s care and education was entrusted was England’s chief politician and statesman, William Cecil, and Oxford, following his father’s death, was raised in Cecil House—arguably the most political house in England. Oxford’s tutors, moreover, were experienced as well as learned men; Smith, for example, was Regius Professor of Civil Law at Cambridge University, twice Ambassador to France, and later, Principal Secretary.
Edward de Vere owned the lease to the Blackfriars’ Theatre, was an acknowledged poet and playwright himself, was a patron to players and was a playhouse producer. He provided dramatic entertainment for the court at Whitehall. According to the writer of The Arte of English Poesie (1589), he was known, however, as a courtier who did not reveal the authorship of the works he wrote.
Scholars regard John Lyly and Anthony Munday as writers who exerted prominent influence on Shakespeare. Both, interestingly enough, were employed by Edward de Vere. Anthony Munday was Oxford’s secretary and an actor in Oxford’s Men; the playwright, John Lyly, was also a private secretary to Oxford, and he and Oxford co-produced plays. No evidence has ever been uncovered to establish that Lyly and Munday even knew Will Shakspere of Stratford-Upon-Avon.
George Baker’s medical book, The Newe Jewell of Health (1576) is widely acknowledged as a book that was a key influence on Shakespeare. George Baker was the household physician of Edward de Vere, and Baker’s medical book that Shakespeare used was dedicated to the Countess of Oxford. Stephen Booth is one prominent orthodox scholar who, in his study of the Sonnets, points to the importance of Baker’s book to Shakespeare, but he excludes any mention of Baker’s connection to Oxford or Baker’s dedication of his book to Oxford’s wife, Anne.
Scholars long have noted that Baldesar Castiglione’s The Courtier was an influence on the writer who created Hamlet. When he was 21, Oxford wrote a Latin preface to Clerke’s translation of The Courtier.
Scholars note that Cardan’s Comforte was an influence on the writer who created Hamlet. The English translation of this book was dedicated to Oxford; Oxford himself commanded that this work be translated and published.
We know from Thomas Nashe’s preface to Greene’s Menaphon that Hamlet was in performance as early as 1589. Some orthodox scholars, however, believe that William of Stratford had barely settled in London by that time. This still does not deter some Stratfordians from arguing that in the space of perhaps less than a year, Stratford Will, after or while working as an ostler, and without any known literary background, education, apprenticeship or theatrical experience, launched his dramatic career by writing and staging what today is broadly regarded as perhaps the greatest play ever written. Other Stratfordians choose to sail past Scylla rather than navigate this Charybdis by imaginatively suggesting that the Hamlet to which Nashe referred must have been—had to have been!—a play called Hamlet that someone else wrote; this Hamlet, they propose, Stratford Will later stole, adapted and made his own.
Many traditional scholars, for almost 100 years, have acknowledged that Polonius (originally named Corambis) from Hamlet is based on Oxford’s guardian and father-in-law—the Queen’s chief minister of State, William Cecil, Lord Burghley—whose family motto, cor unam via una (one heart, one way) is parodied in the earliest version of Hamlet (Corambis effectively means “double-hearted” or “two-faced”). Burghley’s daughter, Anne, the wife of Edward de Vere, they have argued, was the basis for Ophelia, Polonius’s daughter. There is no evidence that the commoner, William of Stratford, even knew Lord Burghley or his daughter, the Countess of Oxford.
Scientists have observed that Shakespeare’s record of astronomical knowledge acquired during the Elizabethan Age (such as the discovery of Mars’ retrograde orbit) and the record of major celestial events (such as the supernova of 1572) cease with the occurrence of astronomical events and discoveries that had been made by mid-1604. William of Stratford, however, lived until 23 April 1616—long enough, if he were Shakespeare, to continue to record in the Shakespeare plays the discovery of sunspots, the invention of the telescope, the discovery of Jupiter’s moons, and other significant celestial phenomena and developments in astronomical science that occurred between 1604 and 1616. But the Shakespeare plays, while abundantly referential to such discoveries prior to 1604, are silent on those astronomical discoveries and celestial phenomena that were made or observed between 1604 and 1616. Edward de Vere died on 24 June 1604.
Shakespeare’s intimate knowledge of Italy has perplexed scholars, especially as William of Stratford never traveled farther from Stratford-Upon-Avon than London. Oxford’s travels, however, took him to practically all of the locations in Shakespeare’s Italian plays, including Milan, Padua, Verona, Venice (where he built a home), Mantua, Sicily and a host of other Italian cities and sites. The orthodox Italian scholar, Professor Ernesto Grillo, accordingly, has declared that Shakespeare’s familiarity with his native land indicates that Shakespeare had to have traveled extensively in Italy; as he writes: “When we consider that in the north of Italy he [Shakespeare] reveals a more profound knowledge of Milan, Bergamo, Verona, Mantua, Padua and Venice, the very limitation of the poet’s notion of geography proves that he derived his information from an actual journey through Italy and not from books.”
When Oxford was in Venice, he borrowed 500 crowns from a man named Baptista Nigrone. When in Padua, he borrowed more money from a man named Pasquino Spinola. In Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, Kate’s father is described as a man “rich in crowns.” Where does this character in Shakespeare’s play live? Padua. What is his name? Baptista Minola—a conflation of Baptista Nigrone and Pasquino Spinola.
In May 1573, in a letter to William Cecil, two of Oxford’s former employees accused three of Oxford’s friends of attacking them on “the highway from Gravesend to Rochester.” In Shakespeare’s 1 Henry IV, Falstaff and three roguish friends of Prince Hal also waylay unwary travelers—on the highway from Gravesend to Rochester.
Such singular events in the plays as the Gad’s Hill robbery in 1 Henry IV, the attack on and release of Hamlet by pirates at sea, and the bed trick of All’s Well That Ends Well—any one of which would constitute a highly unusual event in any man’s experience—are all documented events in Oxford’s life.
The three dedicatees of Shakespeare’s works (the earls of Southampton, Montgomery and Pembroke) were each proposed as husbands for the three daughters of Edward de Vere. (Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece were dedicated to Southampton and the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays was dedicated to Montgomery and Pembroke.) Southampton declined the hand of Elizabeth Vere to marry Elizabeth Vernon (Elizabeth Vere later married William Stanley, the 6th earl of Derby, himself a man of the theatre); Montgomery married Oxford’s daughter, Susan, in 1604; and Bridget Vere, proposed by her prospective father-in-law, the earl of Pembroke, as a bride for his son, married Lord Norris after her father’s death. There is no record, anywhere, that any of these powerful aristocrats, exclusively connected with the works of Shakespeare, even knew Will Shakspere. (Needless to say, none of them proposed to or married any of his daughters!)
Following the death of his father, the 18th earl of Oxford, Henry de Vere, participated in the formation of a Protestant resistance to a proposed English alliance with Catholic Spain. Who were Henry de Vere’s leading compatriots in this resistance? The earls of Southampton, Montgomery and Pembroke—the three dedicatees of the poems and plays of Shakespeare.
The writer who called himself Shakespeare possessed the largest published vocabulary of any writer who has ever lived. Like many other orthodox scholars, Edward T. Oakes, in “Shakespeare’s Millennium,” recognizes Shakespeare’s unique achievement as a wordsmith; he notes that “one-twelfth of the words in the Shakespeare canon make their appearance, at least in print, for the first time in English,” and he acknowledges that “most of [these] must have been of his coinage.” Oakes also records that “nearly half of Shakespeare’s words were what scholars call hapax legomena, that is, words that Shakespeare used only once.” Even allowing William of Stratford the benefit of an elementary schooling that there is no evidence he received, Oakes himself declares “[t]he idea that the greatest playwright of the human race could have poured forth such a cornucopia of genius with only the benefit of a grammar school education does seem to stretch stupefaction past the point of credulity.”
Researchers have discovered that words frequently credited by the Oxford English Dictionary and other sources as having had their first usage in Shakespeare actually have shown up earlier in Edward de Vere’s personal letters.
“I am that I am” is peculiar to Shakespeare as an appropriation from Scripture (Exodus 3: 14)—but it shows up, in the same form, in a letter from Edward de Vere to Lord Burghley. (See Sonnet 121 and Hank Whittemore’s Shakepseare Blog)
In 1589, in order to raise much-needed funds, Edward de Vere hurriedly sold his London residence, Fisher’s Folly, to William Cornwallis who, with his young daughter, Anne, took up residence in the earl’s former home. In 1852, Shakespeare biographer J. O. Halliwell-Phillips discovered Anne Cornwallis’s copybook from her days at Fisher’s Folly in which she had transcribed verses from Edward de Vere, presumably from manuscripts left behind when the residence changed hands. Interestingly, however, Halliwell-Phillips observed that Anne’s copybook included not only then-unpublished poetry by Edward de Vere but two unpublished sonnets that later would be attributed to Shakespeare. Anne’s copybook, moreover, included another poem scholars later would attribute to Shakespeare that was printed by William Jaggard in 1599 in his miscellanies of Elizabethan poetry, The Passionate Pilgrim. Halliwell-Phillips estimated that Anne Cornwallis made her transcriptions of these then-unpublished verses in 1590, the year after she and her father took up residence at Fisher’s Folly. Of course, how Anne Cornwallis, in 1590, would have acquired unpublished poems by Shakespeare in the former home of Edward de Vere no one in orthodox circles ever has been able to persuasively explain.
On 22 July 1598, the Stationers’ Register records: “Entred for his copie under the handes of bothe the wardens, a booke of the Merchaunt of Venyce or otherwise called the Iewe of Venice. / Provided that yt bee not printed by the said Iames Robertes [the printer who presented the work for registration]; or anye other whatsoever without lycence first had from the Right honorable the lord Chamberlen.” As (1) no such license was ever extended by the Stationers’ Office to anyone other than an author of a registered work, and as (2) no Lord Chamberlain of the Royal Household ever licensed (or possessed the authority to license) the publication of another’s work, and as (3) numerous examples exist of Oxford and others referencing Oxford as Lord Chamberlain (rather than Lord Great Chamberlain— the title that formally distinguished him from the Lord Chamberlain of the Royal Household), one can reach no other conclusion than that the Stationers’ Register entry of 22 July 1598 indicates Oxford to be the author of The Merchant of Venice and, accordingly, the only person with the legal authority to oversee and authorise its publication. The attendant conclusion, based on all the evidence, is unmistakable: if Oxford is the author of The Merchant of Venice, Oxford is Shakespeare.
Henry Peacham, in The Compleat Gentleman , praised Oxford above all other writers among the Golden Age writers during the reign of Queen Elizabeth — and his list makes no mention of any William Shakespeare.
Oxford received the kinds of literary accolades worthy of (and that one would expect would go to) Shakespeare. William of Stratford, however, never had anything dedicated to him, from anyone, in the whole of his life. Yet, despite the accolades accorded Oxford by his contemporaries, no traditional scholar has yet identified what plays of the era that were so highly praised of Oxford might be Oxford’s; if his works are not those of the great Elizabethan spear-shaker, where are they? Is it credible to assert that every single one of his plays was lost?
Gabriel Harvey saluted (in English translation from the Latin) the 17th Earl of Oxford in Gratulationes Valdinenses, libri quatuor (1578): “English poetical measures have been sung thee long enough. Let that Courtly Epistle—more polished even than the writings of Castiglione himself—witness how greatly thou dost excel in letters. I have seen many Latin verses of thine, yea, even more English verses are extant; thou hast drunk deep draughts not only of the Muses of France and Italy, but hast learned the manners of many men, and the arts of foreign countries . . . . Thine eyes flash fire, thy countenance shakes a spear . . . .”
William Webbe, in A Discourse on English Poetry (1586) wrote: “I may not omit the deserved commendations of many honourable and noble Lords and Gentlemen in Her Majesty’s Court, which, in the rare devices of poetry, have been and yet are most skilful; among whom the right honourable Earl of Oxford may challenge to himself the title of most excellent among the rest.”
George Puttenham, in The Arte of English Poesie (1589) wrote: “And in Her Majesty’s time that now are have sprung up another crew of Courtly makers, Noblemen and Gentlemen of Her Majesty’s own servants, who have written excellently well as it would appear if their doings could be found out and made public with the rest, of which number is first the noble gentleman Edward Earl of Oxford.”
John Marston, in Scourge of Villanie (1598) hailed a great, unacknowledged writer with a “silent name” bounded by “one letter” who one day would achieve the recognition he was due when pretenders to his greatness would be exposed: “Far fly thy fame, / Most, most of me beloved, whose silent name [Edward de Vere?] / One letter [e?] bounds . . . . [T]hy unvalu’d worth / Shall mount fair place when Apes are turned forth.”
Francis Meres, in Palladis Tamia (1598) declared of the era’s playwrights: “The best for comedy amongst us be Edward Earl of Oxford.”
Edmund Spenser, in his dedication to Oxford in Fairie Queene (1590) wrote of Edward de Vere’s favour with the nation’s literary elite: “And also for the love, which thou doest beare / To th’ Heliconian ymps, and they to thee, / They unto thee, and thou to them most deare….”
John Soowthern, in Pandora (1584) wrote: “De Vere, that hath given him in part: / The love, the war, honour and art, / And with them an eternal fame. / Among our well-renowned men, / De Vere merits a silver pen / Eternally to write his honour. / A man so honoured as thee, / And both of the Muses and me.”
In The Revenge of Bussy d’Ambois, George Chapman recalled: “I over-tooke, coming from Italie / a great and famous Earle / Of England . . . / He was beside of spirit passing great, / Valiant, and learn’d, and liberall as the Sunne, / Spoke and writ sweetly, or of learned subjects, / Or of the discipline of publike weals; / And ’twas the Earle of Oxford . . . .”
When Shake-speares Sonnets were published in 1609, the work’s dedication (composed, unlike Shakespear’s earlier dedications, not by the poet but by the poems’ editor, Thomas Thorpe) memorialized the writer as “our ever-living poet”—an acclamation not used for a living person and a clear indication, thereby, that Shakespeare was dead. In 1609, Edward de Vere was dead; Stratford Will lived until 1616.
When Shakespeare “went public” in 1593, he connected his name, irrevocably and exclusively, to Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd earl of Southampton. Southampton, like Oxford, was one of the great peers of England and he, like Oxford, was one of the royal wards who had been raised and educated by Lord Burghley in Cecil House. Southampton also was actively encouraged by Burghley, at age 17, to marry Elizabeth Vere, Oxford’s eldest daughter, and many scholars are convinced that the first 17 “marriage sonnets” of Shakespeare were composed by the great poet in 1590 as an inducement for Southampton to marry Elizabeth Vere. But who is the more likely poet to have undertaken that charge? A yet-unpublished provincial from Warwickshire — or Edward de Vere, the acclaimed poet who himself had married Burghley’s only daughter in 1571?
The Sonnets were not the only works of Shakespeare to appear with an enigmatic prefatory note in 1609. When Troilus and Cressida was published in 1609 (the first publication of a new Shakespeare play since 1604, the year Edward de Vere died), a cryptic preface on the title page of the play (suppressed when Shakespeare’s plays were published in folio in 1623), enigmatically declared that the play was from “A never writer to an ever reader” (an E. Vere writer to an E. Vere reader?). The preface declared, as well, that the manuscript had not come to the printer from the playwright; rather, the unnamed writer of the preface invites the reader of the play to “thanke fortune for the scape it hath made” from a group which the writer of the preface refers to as “the grand possessors.”
As Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, has expressed his astonishment at Shakespeare’s ability to know the intimate character of royalty: “When I re-read [Henry V] nearly twenty years after performing it at school, I found myself wondering in amazement at Shakespeare’s insight into the mind of someone born into this kind of position.”
Mark Alexander and Prof. Daniel Wright
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