I'm not interested in attacking personalities. It's the principles which Stratfordians stand for that I intend to review and discuss. It's not scholars vs. Oxfordians either. Scholarship is not the point here. It doesn't matter whether the Stratfordians are professional scholars or not, it's what they have to say to counter-argue against de Vere that matters here. It's the truth we're after, not attempts at literary assassination. And personal invective is not a reasoned argument. We can only discuss and consider purported facts here.

Now that we've identified Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford as Shakespeare, he has to withstand the criticisms of Stratfordians and other claimants to be Shakespeare. I begin with a Review of Richard F. Whalen's book Shakespeare: Who Was He? The Oxford Challenge to the Bard of Avon (1994). I just happened to come across this on the Web, and it seems to provide a good starting point. I have no interest in defending the Whalen book, or attacking the Reviewer, who shall be nameless. What we're looking for are logical and reasonable arguments or proofs as to why de Vere is not Shakespeare. I've divided the Review into two parts, one being what I will politely call Wishful Thinking. This is a number of phrases, mostly deleterious, that are not founded in fact. We are not interested in mere unsupported opinions. I've numbered them for convenience, in case we need to refer back to them. The Reviewer's words are in italics. My comments are bracketed.


1. One of the more exotic phenomena associated with Shakespeare is the authorship debate.

(A word of explanation here. You may say: that's a fact, not an opinion. Why I've included it is because of the word 'exotic.' This is a value judgement by the writer without evidence to support it, and purports to set the somewhat contemptuous tone for what follows.

2. One of the founding members of the so-called Anti-Stratfordian movement, Delia Bacon ...argued that Shakespeare's works had been authored... by (no prizes offered) Francis Bacon.

(Another comment here. I've included this because it fills up space in the Review, but has nothing to do with de Vere, who also happens to be the subject of the book under review).

3. If we may believe Richard F. Whalen...

4. Whalen tries to present the merit of the Oxfordian case...

5. ,,,the unfortunately named J. Thomas Looney...

6. Like any anti-Stratfordian tract, Whalen's...

7. (of de Vere's 'profile') A similar profile would fit dozens of courtiers, of course, and...

8. This approach (parallelism between the plays of Shakespeare and Oxford's life) reveals one of the two major weaknesses of his argument. For it presupposes that Shakespeare's plays are to a large extent autobiographical.

(My reason for including this is that parallelism presupposes nothing. If there are parallels and attention is drawn to them, that is factual. The major weakness in an argument would be to say that Shakespeare never had any autobiographical elements in his plays, which would be an artificial limitation imposed by a third party on the poet/dramatist's work).

9. It is doubtful whether all great art is necessarily drawn from the author's own experience.

(Comment: This has nothing to do with the particular case of de Vere as Shakespeare).

10. Here the reader may have his reservations...

11. Stephen Crane's Red Badge of Courage was received by many veterans of the American Civil War as a faithful account of what the fighting was really like from the perspective of a private soldier. Much to their surprise, it emerged that Crane had never seen action himself...

(Comment: None of the 'many veterans' are quoted to substantiate this statement, nor is any evidence provided as to how many. This purports to be evidence, but as presented, it isn't).

12. With similar disdain for plausibility, Whalen dismisses other pieces of unwelcome evidence

13. I believe the examples I have given are fairly typical of Whalen's blatant disregard for literary and psychological plausibility and of his omissions in the field of basic scholarship such as the investigation of sources. Yet, scholarly standards may be irrelevant to books such as Whalen's. Anti-Stratfordianism, it would appear on the evidence of this study, is not so much a matter of scholarship as of faith. As such, like Creationism, it is beyond verification, and perhaps in our teaching practice, we should also handle it like those biology teachers who are to juxtapose Creationism with the Theory of Evolution as an alternative view that may be worth pursuing for those who are interested, but that falls outside the province of science proper..

(I've called this Wishful Thinking because it lacks factual evidence except to tell us something about the state of mind of the writer who substitutes personal feelings for evidence in defence of his personal beliefs).


(Now let's look at the facts this Stratfordian provides).

1. Although the parallels between Oxford's life, as presented by Whalen, and Shakespeare's plays are sometimes striking...

(Comment: this is not a criticism, it's an endorsement).

2. this approach (the parallelism) also reveals one of the two major weaknesses of his argument. For it presupposes that Shakespeare's plays are to a large extent autobiographical. Indeed, Whalen says in so many words that "all the great artists" drew on their own experience in their works, and cites (14, named by Whalen, listed by the Reviewer) as examples.

3. Only two (on the list) come before the Romantics.

4. surely the view of art as the spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions was not so much in evidence before Wordsworth?

5. only two (of the 14) are predominantly known for their drama, usually the most objective of genres.

6.(Stephen Crane's Red Badge of Courage is cited as contrary evidence to parallelism) (see Wishful Thinking #11).

his picture of warfare was built on a combination of hearsay and a vivid imagination.


This is the first major objection of the reviewer. While admitting some striking parallels between de Vere's life as described by Whalen and Shakespeare's plays, he questions the validity of parallelism between an author's life and his work as a writer. Of the 14 cases cited by Whalen as evidence, none of which the Reviewer disagrees with, he cites but one example to prove his argument.. His example is Stephen Crane).

(Stephen Crane had a short life: 1871 - 1900, about 29 years. He began writing for newspapers in 1891; the Red Badge of Courage came when he was about 24.

The secession of South Carolina was passed December 20, 1860. By February 4, 1861 the other 6 states of the lower south had left the Union and organized the Confederate States of America. The population of the north was about 22,700,000; of the south about 8,700,000 of whom about 3,500,000 were slaves. Fighting began between the two sides (North and South) in July, 1861. Final surrender of the southern armies came in mid 1865. The American social psyche was deeply wounded by this civil war. It has been talked over, reviewed, re-enacted, analyzed, debated, and to this day remains a major part of the American experience. The lives of many fine young men on both sides were lost in this war.

As you can see from the dates, the entire war was over about 6 years before Stephen Crane was born. William Wordsworth, the poet, (1770-1850) died 21 years before Crane was born. Crane was in the post Wordsworthian Romantic period which the Reviewer told us himself was less relevant for Shakespeare. Neither Crane nor Wordsworth were playwrights).


For this first major objection by the Reviewer to de Vere as Shakespeare, we find there is no factual evidence whatsoever given to prove it).

7. My second problem with Whalen's argument is that it is wholly based on circumstantial evidence that flies in the face of more obvious direct evidence linking the works to the man from Stratford.

(Comment: the Reviewer goes on to talk about Ben Jonson, Leonard Digges and the First Folio (1623) publication of a collected edition of Shakespeare's plays (F1). There is much controversy over F1 and it is proposed to devote a full chapter to it later.)

8. More fundamentally, Whalen's survey leaves out of account all the known sources of Shakespeare's plays...

9. we know that Shakespeare... could have found all the essential ingredients of Romeo and Juliet in Matteo Bandello's story as well as in English versions by Brooke and Painter.

(Comment: I have no disagreement with this generalized statement. To be more precise than the Reviewer, in chapter 22 we listed Shakespeare's plays with two sets of dates for their appearance: Romeo and Juliet being 1595 and 1597. This doesn't tell us when the play was written. It could have been much earlier. But we know that Painter's Palace of Pleasure (1597) would appear to be too late for an influence on the play. We also know that de Vere was Shakespeare, and had fluency in Latin, Italian and French. He could have read the story in old romances and poems. For example, Boisteau's Histoire de Deux Amans, itself an adaptation of Bandello's romance. The obvious source, to which Shakespeare adhered very closely, as was usual for him, was Arthur Brooke's poem of 3026 lines, Romeo and Juliet, published in 1562.

Once a playwright has a story line and a plot, he has to clothe it with real characters who each have their own hopes, fears, ambitions, faults, and good points, and then have to interact in the play, meaningfully and convincingly. That's where the playwright draws on personal experiences to flesh out the characters and their interactions with realism.

Something in a particular story has to be the trigger in the mind of a playwright to let him know that here's a situation to which he can relate with feeling and experience. He needs to have some personal knowledge of what his characters have to go through in the play. De Vere had this type of personal experience to create the Romeo and Juliet characters. He had married a 15 year old blonde girl. He later had a surreptitious, torrid and intimate love affair with a black haired teenager, for which he was surprised and attacked by a relative, variously described as her cousin or uncle. Both men were wounded in the sword fight, de Vere more seriously. For about 2 years after that incident the respective retainers fought in the streets; at least two of them were killed. How much closer to the experiences described so vividly in Romeo and Juliet did the playwright have to get? But as to the plot of the play, de Vere had everything he needed in Arthur Brooke's lengthy poem.

The criticism by the Reviewer that Whalen bases his argument on circumstantial evidence does nothing at all to deny that de Vere was Shakespeare).

10. (The Reviewer and Whalen agree on the 'bawdy word play' in sonnet 136 and the preceding sonnet. Then the Reviewer says)

The suggestive closing words of sonnet 136 "for my name is Will"... what does the word "Will" play on, then, if not (as the verse says explicitly) on the author's name?

(The companion sonnet, 135 was printed in full and discussed in some detail in chapter 10, on pseudonyms, and 136 given in full in Chapter 24. In both 135 and 136 the word 'Will' is italicized, which the Reviewer does not follow in his article. This poetic differentiation should make it clear that whatever the word refers to, it's certainly not the name of the poet. And I have news for the Reviewer. To answer his question bluntly, 'what does the word 'Will' play on, if not on the author's name?' It's his penis. Don't take my word for it, read the two sonnets printed in full in the chapters listed above, with my commentary, and decide for yourself who's right.

These two sonnets are the last things Stratfordians should be relying on to prove William Shakespeare was the man from Stratford on Avon. What the poems prove is that William was not, in fact, the poet's name. This has nothing to do with disqualifying de Vere from being Shakespeare).


There is nothing in this review to show that de Vere was not Shakespeare, with the proviso that the First Folio (1623) will be discussed in a later chapter.



Some scholars aver that as well as being a 'dead-beat dad,' de Vere was a second class writer.

Here's a quotation from "a History of English Literature" by Legouis and Cazamian Part 1 (the Middle Ages and the Renascence (650 - 1660), the part which is by Emile Legouis, translated from the French by Hele Douglas Irvine:

Among the men of the court, Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford (1550-1604) was distinguished as much by his cult of poetry as by the extravagance of his life. The typical great Italianate lord, he resumed in himself several of the vices and some of the artistic and literary qualities of the transalpine peninsula, His lyrical verse is scattered among such collections of the period as The Paradyse of Daynty Devises (1576) and does not lack grace and facility. He exemplifies the taste for letters which reigned in the court circle and which might be found in a dissolute fop like himself as well as in a daring adventurer like Raleigh, or in Sidney, the mirror of perfect chivalry. Beside the court poets, professional men of letters were ranged - Lyly who dedicated his Euphues to Oxford, Spenser who headed his Calendar with Sidney's name and addressed the preface of his Faerie Queene to Raleigh. The court and its neighbourhood were the first home of the Renascence.

As to the 'exposure' of de Vere's personal life as less than proper, this has nothing to do with whether he was a capable writer. I therefore propose to ignore such criticism as irrelevant. In any case, many gifted artistic people have had less than salubrious existences: even the sanctimonious William Wordsworth apparently sired an illegitimate daughter. But the 'second class writer' accusation must be considered very seriously

At least one university professor in Canada taught his 20th c. English class students that Shakespeare was a first class dramatist, but a second class poet. This is an interesting refinement of the problem. Poets generally, and Shakespeare in particular, as individuals write what they think and feel about life as they find it and the situations and people they meet. One might call poetry a personal genre. But play writing is a different art form. It involves many people: directors, producers, actors, stage hands, lighting specialists, musicians, carpenters, wardrobe specialists, make-up artists, painters, and so on. It's a business, an industry, and requires a set, a theatre, or alternative accommodation with seating arrangements for the other important component, an audience. The writer is just one of many involved in the creation and performance of a play.

Because the population of Elizabethan London was small, there were not that many patrons to draw on, and plays could not run for extended periods of time. During the uprising by the Earl of Essex and his supporters, when a playhouse was asked to put on a performance of Richard 2nd, the players and management were reluctant; they said it was an old play and they didn't see how it could be profitable. They had to be paid to provide the performance.

A successful, and therefore profitable play, then as now, is refined and edited, has many additions, variations, and deletions from scenes as the play is performed. A really successful play, such as My Fair Lady, is not born with a perfection that never changes. It is a joint effort by many people over time that polishes and improves the production. My Fair Lady is a long way removed from George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, but that's where it began. Repeated performances enable a play to be distilled down to a product that has power, motivation and emotion in every line by every character. Similarly I suggest that each of at least the best of Shakespeare's plays evolved from a masque or other very early court performance to later public productions after having gone through many revisions with topical allusions added or removed from time to time.

The further problem with Elizabethan plays is knowing who exactly had a hand in writing them. It is well known that they often co-operated and more than one writer was involved in a play, probably because of the demand for new or revised plays, and the relatively small number of competent playwrights. For whatever reason, the pattern was set early on with Sackville and Norton co-operating to create the play "Gorboduc." (Chapter 22). It seems well attested that members of the 'university wits' group sometimes co-operated with one another. And a later famous partnership is Beaumont and Fletcher. I suggest there is not one scholar and not one computer that can tell us definitively what Sackville wrote, and what Norton wrote in Gorboduc, apart from the information passed down to us that one wrote two acts and the other 3 acts. The play flows in a way that suggests closer co-operation than that. If there wasn't, and each wrote his own acts, how would you ever distinguish between their writings if you were not told by a contemporary who wrote what? Similarly, in The Knight of the Burning Pestle, who can tell what Beaumont wrote and what Fletcher wrote?

I hope I've made my point here that identifying beyond a reasonable doubt who had a hand in writing an Elizabethan play is a very risky business. As to de Vere, his father the 16th Earl of Oxford had his own company of actors. They probably performed as part of the entertainment provided to Queen Elizabeth when she visited them at Hedingham Castle in north east Essex, when de Vere was about 11 years old. Since the French ambassador wrote to Burghley in 1575 that he had seen a 'device' by de Vere (when both were at the French Court), which he commended, it probably tells us that at least by age 25 de Vere was writing masques, or plays of his own.

This leads us on to a consideration of the 'proto-Shakespearean' plays.

The Famous Victories of Henry 5th is one. When I read the first scene of the Famous Victories play I thought it was terrible, and that the writer must have been very young - probably in his late teens, whoever he was. It was certainly nothing like Shakespeare's work. There were many cheap pseudo swear words, it was generally vulgar and without merit, I thought. But when I turned the pages to what followed I gradually became impressed. It was still an early work by some one, but someone with a penchant for action who moved his play along at a fast pace. It contained the elements of Henry 4.1 and Henry 4.2 as well as Henry 5 of Shakespeare. The power is there, but not the polish. I could see why the Introduction to my copy of Henry 4.1 had this to say

The source which gave the first hint for the comic scenes was undoubtedly a play called 'The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth, containing the honourable battell of Agincourt.' This play, though not published before 1598, was written at least ten years earlier as a part in it was at some time taken by an actor who died in 1588. The first scenes deal with the life of Prince Henry before he becomes king and contain among other incidents a robbery on Gadshill, in which the Prince and his associates are concerned. Among the last are 'Ned' and 'Sir John Oldcastle,' certainly the prototypes of Poins and Sir John Falstaff. 'Gadshill' is common to both plays. Further, in the older play there is a revel in 'the old tavern at Eastcheap' and it is at the Boar's Head, Eastcheap, that Falstaff tells his tale of the men in buckram (2.4). The bare idea of Falstaff's impersonation of the King may have been suggested by a scene in the earlier play, where one of the characters plays the part of the Lord Chief Justice, and there are one or two verbal similarities (see 1.2.59; 2.1.19; 2.4.290) but the resemblance ends here. From a literary point of view the old play is worthless; and only a few words and incidents represent the sum of Shakespeare's debt, but the whole conception of the comic scenes is quite different from Shakespeare's; the Prince in the old play is a drunken thief who is turned by a sudden conversion into a hero-king..., But there is no doubt that the Falstaff of Henry 4th was originally called Oldcastle.

What the commentator is telling us is that the earlier play was crude by comparison with Shakespeare's trilogy. I suggest to you that this play, and I deduce therefore several other earlier plays dismissed by scholars as of little or no literary merit, or lost altogether, were in fact by de Vere. who was owner of and responsible for the operation of an agri-realty business comprising many estates that relative to today would have put him in the realm of the Fortune 500. Then how did this 2nd class young dramatist become Shakespeare? I think the answer is not hard to find. We've already mentioned that de Vere was brought up accustomed to the family owning a company of players and observing them at work in their productions. By the time his wardship with Burghley was over he was already employing reputable playwrights as his secretaries. There was a long list of them: Thomas Churchyard, who seemed to have worked for de Vere for most of De Vere's life; Anthony Munday, who Meres called 'our best plotter'; John Lyly founder of the Euphuistic literary circle, and who worked for de Vere for about 10 formative years - the 1580s; John Marston; Thomas Nashe; and before as well as after de Vere's death the Earl of Derby (who married a de Vere daughter).

All this is why a Shakespearean play may have originated some 20 years before its present dating. And it may have had several playwrights working on it. John Lyly, for example, may have looked at the Famous Victories and said "No, No, you can do better than that. Why don't you..." and Lyly, could have encouraged and helped de Vere to spin it out into 3 plays, as Lyly spun out his own work. Between them both, the 3 newer plays would have unfolded with polish and panache, but motivated by de Vere's brilliant sense of humour and movement in action.

It's not for nothing that Gabriel Harvey said young Euphues hatched the eggs that his elder friends laid, and in 1593 called Lyly the fiddlestick of Oxford. A 'fiddlestick' can mean 'a mere nothing' but also means the bow that brings music from a stringed instrument. Taking both remarks by Harvey into account suggests by 'fiddlestick' he meant primarily the second meaning, but with typical Elizabethan style probably a hint of the first meaning as well.

I'd like to give an example of how I think this co-operation worked in practice. E. K. Chambers, an early 20th C. Shakespearean scholar who is still highly regarded, was the editor of my printed copy of Hamlet. I'll quote from his Introduction and then his Appendix D in full, and add my comments. (Gil. is Gildenstern, the companion of Rosencrantz))

The early history of Hamlet affords one of the most difficult problems with which Shakespearian scholarship has to deal. Three printed versions have come down to us, These present remarkable variations from each other, and one of them in particular, the earliest, appears to be fundamentally different from the other two. ... scholars still disagree hopelessly as to the exact nature of the earliest version; and the whole question is complicated by the probable existence of a pre-Shakespearian Hamlet,...'


THE TRAVELLING OF THE PLAYERS (Act ii Scene 2, line 343).

The passage in which Rosencrantz explains the reasons why Hamlet's favourite company of tragedians are 'travelling' appears in a different form in each of the three versions. They may here be given together for purposes of comparison.


Ham. How comes it that they travel? Do they grow restie?

Gil. No, my lord, their reputation holds as it was wont.

Ham. How then?

Gil. Yfaith my Lord, noueltie carries it away,

For the principall publike audience that

Came to them, are turned to private playes,

And to the humour of children.


Ham. How chance it they trauaile? their residence both in reputation, and profit was better both wayes.

Ros. I thinke their inhibition, comes by the means of the late innouasion.

Ham. Doe they hold the same estimation they did when I was in the City; are they so followed?

Ros. No indeede are they not.


Ham. How chances it they trauaile? their residence both in reputation and profit was better both wayes.

Rosin. I thinke their Inhibition comes by the meanes of the late Innouation?

Ham. Doe they hold the same estimation they did when I was in the City? are they so follow'd?

Rosin. No indeed, they are not.

Ham. How comes it? Doe they grow rusty?

Rosin. Nay, their indeauour keepes in the wonted pace; But there is Sir an ayrie of Children, little Yases, that crye out on the top of question; and are most tyrannically clap't for't: these are now the fashion, and so be-ratled the common Stages (so they call them) that many wearing Rapiers, are affraide of Goose-quils, and dare scarce come thither.

It will be seen that the reason for the 'travelling' assigned in Q1 is the popularity of a rival company, of children; in Q2 an 'inhibition' due to an 'innovation'; in F2, both these causes are mentioned.

For the remainder of Appendix D of E. K. Chambers see Note 1 at the end of this chapter.

My comments are:

First, I think there's a printer's error in the reference to F2, which I suggest should be read as F1.

Next, coming at this material as an investigative auditor, from outside the realm of Shakespearean scholarship, and having satisfied myself by negative assurance that de Vere is Shakespeare, and Shaxper, investor in the Globe, and possibly bit actor there, is not Shakespeare, enables me to see some things perhaps more clearly and simply than scholars suffering from a misapprehension of the facts.

1. The Q1 excerpt is by de Vere. Having studied quite intensively all the poems attributed to Shakespeare including in particular the Sonnets, I can say that whoever wrote the Sonnets wrote this passage in Hamlet. It's brief, and to the point. It even includes the word 'resty.' That word is changed to rusty in F1. But Sonnet 100 has this line:

Rise, resty Muse, my love's sweet face survey

I have not come across this word used by any other Elizabethan poet (which doesn't mean they haven't used it, somewhere, though,)

The few words in Q1 do not impede the movement and action in the play, I suggest.

2. Q2 is quite different. It is balanced prose, and polished. I suggest this is a substitution by John Lyly, when working for de Vere and improving de Vere's play writing. Here's a one sentence example of Lyly's balanced style. He's writing about a 3 sided geometric figure, a triangle, yet he manages to balance his sentence:

There must in every triangle be three lines, the first beginneth, the second augmenteth, the third concludeth it a figure; so in love three virtues, affection, which draweth the heart, secrecy which increaseth the hope, constancy which finisheth the work.

Incidentally, Lyly dedicated his Euphues and his England, from which this quotation comes, to de Vere.

3. F1 is different again. The long final sentence by Rosencrantz refers to Rapiers and Goose-quills. This, I suggest, is typical Jonson. I'm spared making my own comments as we've quoted Chambers here who refers to two of Jonson's plays as 'satirical, full of attacks on rival poets and players.' (Note 1: ii The Aery of Children paragraph). I don't care to twist my brain into knots trying to figure out who Jonson is sniping at in any particular sentence. We'll have more to say about Jonson in a later chapter on F1. But here's a quotation from Jonson's own work: Every Man in his Humour. I opened the book at random, and turned a page or two to find an example of both Jonson's blank verse and prose. This is what I found: Act 1.1.65,

Step. (Stephen) What would you ha'me do?

Know. (Knowall) What would I have you do? I'll tell you, kinsman;

Learn to be wise, and practise how to thrive;

That I would have you do: and not to spend

Your coin on every bauble that you fancy,

Ort every foolish brain that humours you.

I would not have you to invade each place,

Nor thrust yourself on all societies,

Till men's affections, or your own desert,

Should worthily invite you to your rank.

He that is so respectless in his courses,

Oft sells his reputation at cheap market.

Nor would I, you should melt away yourself

In flashing bravery, lest, while you affect

To make a blaze of gentry to the world,

A little puff of scorn extinguish it;

And you be left like an unsavoury snuff,

Whose property is only to offend.

I'd have you sober, and contain yourself,

Not that your sail be bigger than your boat;

But moderate your expenses now, at first,

As you may keep the same proportion still:

Nor stand so much on your gentility,

Which is an airy, and mere borrowed thing,

From dead men's dust, and bones; and none of yours,

Except you make, or hold it.

Enter a Servant

Who comes here?

Serv. Save you, gentlemen!

Step. Nay, we do not stand much on our gentility, friend; yet you are welcome: and I assure you mine uncle here is a man of a thousand a year, Middlesex land. He has but one son in all the world, I am his next heir, at the common law, Master Stephen, as simple as I stand here, if my cousin dies, as there's hope he will: I have a pretty living o'mine own too, beside, hard by here.

I thought this would be a fair representation of Jonson's work, and leave it at that. But then, while transcribing it I suddenly realized what I think is going on here, and I believe it's quite remarkable and fortuitous that I stumbled unknowingly on this piece to quote, because, typical of Jonson, it's what he's famous for; it's not what it seems. I believe it's a take-off on de Vere's youthful life: his drunkenness with his friends Howard and Arundel; his brash challenge to the world when in Sicily; his costly dress at court; the accusations by his 'friends' which helped blow away his reputation; his excessive pride in the de Vere family name and ancestry; wasting his patrimony on unsubstantial things; his family castle in Essex (next east to Middlesex (a small county where London is); his illegitimate son; his £1,000 a year from the Queen; all mixed up a little to avoid government charges for breaking the law against referring to living persons. It's clever, and subtle in its way, and far different from de Vere's writing style that moves right along with the action at a fast pace, twisting, turning plots all about high society and glimpses of the bumbling peasantry below, with occasional reaches to the highest levels of English literature by the sheer driving force of his words.

Why did Jonson pick on de Vere to castigate in this way? Simple, he was the hated rival poet/dramatist who had everything; wealth, rank, and filling the playhouses while Jonson struggled with far less popular support at the box office.

Of more interest is another quotation from Hamlet, followed with a note by Chambers, Here's the play, Act 3.2.42 :

Ham. ...And let those that play your clowns speak no more than is set down for them; for there be some of them that will themselves laugh, to set on some quantity of barren spectators to laugh too; though, in the mean time, some necessary question of the play be then to be considered: that's villanous, and shows a most pitiful ambition in the fool that uses it.

Chambers suggests this is a reference to Kempe, a Globe clown. And he has the Globe company appearing at Aberdeen in Scotland and Cambridge University in southern England at about the same time (Note 1:1 near the end of the paragraph). This, I suggest, is impractical. The solution is referred to in my chapter 9. Kempe In my view was most certainly not at Cambridge in the Parnassus play. He was being ridiculed there for his ignorance of the classics. This means someone else played his part. Now here's what Chambers has to add concerning Hamlet's remarks about clowns:

The following lines are inserted here in Q1. There is nothing corresponding to them in Q2 or F1: -

And then you have some again, that keeps one suit

Of jests, as a man is known by one suit of

Apparell, and gentlemen quotes his jests down

In their tables, before they come to the play, as thus:

'Cannot you stay till I eat my porridge?' and 'You owe me

A quarter's wages'; and, 'My coat wants a cullison';

And, 'Your beer is sour'; and blabbering with his lips,

And thus keeping in his cinque-pace of jests,

When, God knows, the warm Clown cannot make a jest

Unless by chance, as the blind man catches a hare;

Masters! tell him of it.

It seems to me this is youthful de Vere again. Shakespeare uses 'tables' the self-same way in Sonnet 122, and elsewhere in Hamlet (e.g. 1.5.107)

I suggest this Q1 piece supports the '2nd class writer' criticism of de Vere. But we must remember this is Shakespeare, not necessarily de Vere. It seems to me John Lyly took this piece out in his emendations for Q2, and either himself wrote the prose piece now appearing in the play, or helped de Vere write it. I believe Lyly's inserts and deletions maintain the high quality of the play. Jonson's addition is pedestrian and lends nothing to the play, And now that we know de Vere has to have been Shakespeare we know Chambers is mistaken when he says the war of the theatres was over in 1604 and Shakespeare and Jonson were friends again. To the contrary, it was not because of friendship or even a change of monarch, but the fact that de Vere was dead in 1604.

There was an entry in the Registers of the Stationers' Company for 1601 of books 'allowed to be printed' of a book called 'the Revenge of HAMLETT yt was latelie Acted by the Lord Chamberleyne his servantes..' The publishing date for Q1 was 1603, for Q2 was 1604, and of course F1 was 1623. It's interesting that with all his scholarship Chambers thinks Q1 represents an earlier play, (rather than a mutilated and 'foul copy'), due to some obvious differences in style and content between Q1, and Q2 and F1,(see Note 2), although he thinks Shaxper is Shakespeare. But once we substitute de Vere for Shaxper, the sequence of events makes eminent sense, and we can have a better understanding as to how the play developed. It also tells us that scholars of Shakespeare are quite right in thinking there may be a precursor to Hamlet. There may well have been an earlier version even than Q1, but if so I suggest it was a court play by de Vere, also unadorned by the suavity and urbanity of Lyly's polished style.

By these examples from the play of Hamlet, generally accepted as the pinnacle of Shakespeare's greatness, I hope I have made my case that identifying Shakespeare's work is a very risky business. For those of us who have misgivings about de Vere's use of his playwright employees in the creation or improving of his many plays, we should remember that the King James' Version of the Bible, a translation into English published in 1611, 7 years after de Vere's death, was not a one-man translation. Senior clerics, bishops and others, with professors from Oxford and Cambridge, about 30 in all, were responsible for this excellent example of English literature. De Vere was a brilliant though perhaps somewhat unstable man, and quick to learn. It would be no disgrace to him to find he was helped in developing his literary masterpieces.

We'll continue with a review of further criticisms in the next chapter.




The title-page of Q1 shows us that Hamlet, in the early days of its career, was acted out of London. It is not unnatural, therefore, to seek in this passage an allusion to some 'travelling' of Shakespeare's own company. which may help to determine the date of the play. It will be well to take the two points separately.

1. The "Inhibition and "Innovation", - It would appear that 'inhibition' was a technical term for an order restraining theatrical performances, or the performances of a particular company, from taking place in London. The 'inhibition' here spoken of has been identified with various such orders issued at different times during the long struggle between the theatrical or court and the anti-theatrical or city parties, represented respectively by the Privy Council and the Corporation. (See Halliwell-Phillipps, Outlines of the Life of Shakespeare, and Fleay, Chronicle History of the London Stage.) So, too, the 'innovation' has been interpreted as 'the new practice of introducing polemical matter on the stage,' or 'the new morals of the Puritan party.' But we are helped to a better explanation by the fuller knowledge of the history of the Globe company, which is chiefly due to Mr. Fleay. In 1601 the company was in disgrace at court owing to the share they had taken in the conspiracy of Essex and Southampton. A performance of Richard II had been given by them to encourage the conspirators. (Note 1: see Mr. Hales' Notes and Essays, and the Introduction to my edition of Richard II Falcon Series). For the only time during a long period of years they were not invited to take part in the Christmas festivities. Probably they travelled during the autumn; they seem to have been at Aberdeen in October (Note 2: Cf. Macbeth (Warwick Series), Introduction, p.11, and the excursus on Shakespeare in Scotland in Knight's Shakespeare.) and at Cambridge about the same date (Note 3: Kempe and Burbage are introduced in the second part of The Return from Parnassus, a Cambridge play with a local scene, probably written in 1601. Cf. Macray's edition of the play, and Fleay, Biographical Chronicle of the English Drama, ii.349.); and if so, this is most likely the 'travelling ' alluded to in the play. Then the 'inhibition' will be the refusal of permission to act at court, and the 'innovation', the political innovation or conspiracy which led to it.

ii. The Aery of Children. Can this allusion also be referred to in this same year, 1601? It was just at this time that the children of the Chapel Royal were acting at the Blackfriars. They took a prominent part in the stage controversy known as the 'war of the theatres', and amongst other plays they produced between 1597 and 1603, Ben Jonson's Cynthia's Revels and his Poetaster, satirical plays, full of attacks on rival poets and players, and answering well to the description given in the text. Moreover, the Q1 phrase, 'the humours of children', seems to point to Jonson's fondness for painting 'humours' or comic types. Witness the titles of his earlier plays, Every Man in his Humour and Every Man out of his Humour. If the allusion has been correctly identified, Hamlet may be the play in which Shakespeare 'put down' Ben Jonson. (Note 4: Cf. The Returne from Parnassus. Mr. Fleay, however, thinks that the play meant was Troilus and Cressida.)

The question remains, why was the point about the 'innovation' omitted in Q1, and that about the children in Q2? The first difficulty is easily explained. When the reporter went to the theatre, - probably early in 1602, as the book was entered in the Stationers' Registers in July of that year, -Elizabeth was still on the throne. Whatever the Globe company chose to do in the provinces, they would have been ill-advised to allow any allusion to the facts of their disgrace to stand in the play when it was acted in town. Just in the same way, the most objectionable scene of Richard II., from a political point of view, was omitted from the two editions of the play published in Elizabeth's lifetime. In 1604, however, the date of Q2, she was dead, and such nice caution became no longer necessary. At the same time another change of circumstances led to the omission of the attack on the player- children. By 1604 the so-called 'war of the theatres' was over, Jonson and Shakespeare were probably friends again, and the latter had no desire to print anything discourteous to the former. (Note: Cf. the omission, probably for similar reasons, in Q2 of the attack upon Kempe, which appeared in Q1 - iii. 2. 50, note). In the meantime, however, the passage had been elaborated at the general revision of the play to the form in which it is found in F1, As to the re-appearance of both the allusions in 1623, probably they had remained throughout in the theatre copy of the play. When F1 was published, both the matters to which they referred had become ancient history, and there was no reason why they should be suppressed.



Here are some excerpts from what E. K. Chambers has to say in his Introduction to the play.

The First Quarto stands by itself; the later Quartos follow the second; but an independent text is afforded by the First Folio...The Folio adds a few passages which are not found in the (Second) Quarto. But these advantages are more than compensated for by considerable and important omissions, especially in the soliloquies. The Second Quarto was evidently printed from a longer and more complete manuscript than the Folio...

The relation of the First Quarto to the later versions is a much more difficult matter. ... And in all probability it was founded upon hasty notes taken in shorthand or otherwise... during a performance at the theatre. This would account for the extreme shortness of the text, for its mutilated character, for the obvious gaps in the sense, for the number of imperfect and wrongly arranged lines, and of misheard words and phrases. ,,,

But now comes the point which is still the subject of the keenest controversy. Supposing that this dialogue had been reproduced with absolute accuracy, would the result have closely represented the Second Quarto? ... Scholars of great authority have declared on both sides, but the weight of evidence appears to me to be in favour of the theory that there was a considerable and important revision. The order of the scenes in the First Quarto is not quite that of the Second. Some of the characters, notably that of Gertrude, are differently conceived; the great soliloquies are almost entirely omitted; the dialogue is less subtle and elaborate, ... There are passages which make very good sense and not bad poetry as they stand...but which have apparently been rewritten and improved throughout for the Second Quarto. And finally, the names of the characters are not quite the same in the two versions: the Polonius and Reynaldo of the Second Quarto replace the Corambis and Montano of the First. ...

There certainly was a play of Hamlet in existence as early as 1589 or possibly 1587. There are several allusions to this play in contemporary literature, notably in Nash's prefatory epistle to Greene's Menophon. And in the diary of Henslowe the manager there is a record of a performance of it, not as a 'new interlude,' on June 9, 1594. It was acted by the Lord Chamberlain's company, who were then playing for about ten days under Henslowe's management at Newington Butts.

...There can be little doubt Shakespeare used it as a starting point, when he wrote his own play on the same subject for the same company.... Shakespeare was never careful to invent his own plots; his art lay rather in using old bottles to contain his quite new wine. But the dialogue, the characters, the psychological motive - these are his and his alone, and it is in these that the greatness of Hamlet lies. ...The only question is whether ... fragments of the earlier author's writing are still embedded in the text....

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