The heading is taken from A's site referred to in Chapter 26. In 2001 this section of A's web page was divided into 9 numbered parts:

1. Initial Response

2. Alleged Parallels between the Plays and Oxford's Life

3. Biographical Information: Shakespeare vs. his Contemporaries

4. Oxford's Letters

5. Oxford's Bible

6. Stylometry and the Shakespeare Clinic

7. Shaxicon

8. Response to Criticisms on Stylometry

9. Further Response: Shakespeare's Acting Career.

However, in June 2002 the web page URL given in Chapter 26 for this site was no longer accessible. A much altered site was found at Google: "shakespeare identity problem" - Stratfordians - #1.

There, the same heading existed: "Critically Examining Oxfordian Claims" It now read as follows:


Oxford's Literary Reputation

Puttenham on Oxford

Shakespeare Oxford and Verbal Parallels

Was the Earl of Oxford the True Shakespeare

The verse forms of Shakespeare and Oxford.


First heir of my invention

The question Marks in the 1640 Poems

Burghley as "Polus"

Faced with this divergence, the best plan seems to be to consider the numbered sections first, and then continue with the newer unnumbered sections where there is no overlap in content.

Since apparently I can no longer access the earlier numbered list, regrettably I cannot discuss items 6 and 8 on that list, as I did not download them at the time. I can only conclude that I reviewed them and decided they were not relevant to our purposes here. However, this leaves a total of 15 articles to consider. If de Vere isn't Shakespeare, there should be incontrovertible proof here somewhere.


This is the heading for the first section. It's more a memo than an essay, and refers to an Oxfordian article. Here I've provided excerpts only from A's response:

I don't have the time right now to go through refuting it point by point (though may be I will when I have time), so, for now I'll just make a few comments

1. The Stratford man's... name was "William Shakespeare"... In London his name was spelled "Shakespeare" over 90 percent of the time ... True he signed his name "Shakspere" but there's nothing unusual about that. Christopher Marlowe signed his name Marley.... calling the man "William Shaksper" and implying that that was the name he went by is a gross perversion of the facts.

My comments:

Shaxper, as I call him, had the first part of his name pronounced "Shack" until he went to London and then he changed it to "Shake" and "per" to "peare." So, basically A is correct when he says 'in London his name was spelled "Shakespeare' over 90% of the time." The problem is that A seems to want to shift the London spelling and pronunciation back into Shaxper's early years in Stratford, which, as I showed in chapter 4, particularly in Note A to that chapter, is incorrect. A's claim about the 'gross perversion of the facts' does not apply to Shaxper's early life in Stratford on Avon. To my mind the interesting question unanswered by anyone is: why did Shaxper do this? We just don't know whether he co-operated with the real author in this, or took advantage of the author's situation which was trying to distance his private life from his writings.

A continues:

2. We get the usual assertion that nobody referred to the identity of the author "Shakespeare"; well, of course they did, but Oxfordians dismiss all those references as ironic, or part of the conspiracy, or any of a number of things..

Unfortunately none of 'all those references' are identified here.

Then A says

3. Similarly we get the claim that 'nobody we know of ever corresponded with Shaksper(sic),' when in fact we do have a letter to Shakespeare by Richard Quiney. That's more than we have for most of his contemporaries.

My comments:

The Quiney letter was put into chronological context in Note B to chapter 4. This shows us that it's part of a sequence of events around 1598 all linking Shaxper to various commodity dealings in the Stratford area. The Quiney letter is one of three involving potential money lending by Shaxper. It seems incongruous for an author: normally throughout history we find artists, writers, composers, in need of money and asking for it, not lending it out, possibly for profit.

A says (the Oxfordian)

4. ... claims that Hamlet is "essentially Edward de Vere's autobiography"... to which I have two responses. First of all, the story of Hamlet was as old as the hills ...Second, this play has been claimed as the life story of most Elizabethan noblemen and in many cases the correspondences are closer than they are with Oxford. The Earl of Essex and King James are the two best examples I know of...

My comments:

Is A suggesting that Essex or King James actually wrote Hamlet? If not, what's the point of the reference? Probably the Oxfordian was merely lifting the Stratfordian scholarship claim sometimes made that in the character of Hamlet Shakespeare was being more autobiographical than with any other character in his plays; and then the Oxfordian applied this therefore to his candidate for Shakespeare.

My thoughts about possible parallels in the play Hamlet are more modest: I suspect that Ophelia came from Anne Cecil; and Horatio from Horatio Vere, de Vere's cousin, a soldier, and one of the 'fighting Veres'; possibly Polonius from Burghley; and Gertrude from de Vere's own mother, with her hasty re-marriage after the death of her husband the 16th Earl.

My general conclusion is that none of this disqualifies de Vere as Shakespeare. What we are looking for is positive evidence disproving de Vere as the poet/dramatist.


It's fortunate that I began this investigation with the simple premise that as Shakespeare's enviable reputation during his lifetime was apparently based primarily on his two major poems, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece, it would be best to begin with Shakespeare's poetry. 27 chapters later we have yet to discuss the plays. It's fortunate because the personal poems, in particular the sonnets, tell us much about the man 'Shakespeare' and his life, but the plays are a literary minefield because no one really knows how much they are drawn from imagination and how much from personal life experience. I suggest that's why there has been such unending controversy which is unlikely to be settled soon.

Of course, once one has immersed oneself in a study of de Vere's personal life, his literary accomplishments, early prestige, and his personal failures and disgraces, it is all too easy to see immediately close parallels between his life and the plays. For example, in Much Ado About Nothing the hero, in a violent outburst denounces his bride-to-be at the very moment of the union in the marriage ceremony. The father of the bride, speaking in advance of the hero's "I do" to say it for him is typical of what one knows about Burghley, who I suggest foisted his own daughter on de Vere in marriage. The interference by the bride's father in the play brings an avalanche of fury by the bridegroom, and the marriage ceremony ends in pandemonium. Later the charges of infidelity against the bride are found to be false. This parallels de Vere's experience of alleged infidelity by his wife, Anne Cecil, with her first child said not to be his, born during de Vere's absence in Europe. There are so many parallels with de Vere's life in this play it would be tedious to recite them all. Beatrice reflects Anne Vavasour, Benedict is another part of de Vere's life, and so on. Why I call it a literary minefield is because no one can prove any of it, for or against.

King Lear had 3 daughters and gave his kingdom to two of them, but these two elder daughters didn't thank him for it. They complained at the riotous behaviour of his 100 knights, and eventually he was reduced to himself, his 'Fool' and one other. De Vere having given his patrimony in large part to his 3 daughters was reduced to 4 retainers with one a 'tumbling boy.' Only the youngest daughter, Cordelia, was sympathetic and tried to help Lear, though he had taken away her inheritance. The parallel with de Vere's behaviour with his own 3 daughters is too obvious to need repeating. And Susan, his youngest, was the one involved in the 1623 edition of the First Folio of Shakespeare's collected plays.

What A has given us here is another memo or brief article of less than two pages of print. He repeats in more detail his alleged parallels between the lives of Essex and King James to Hamlet, and goes on to mention Essex in Love's Labour's Lost, 1 Henry 6, Henry 5, Merchant of Venice, and Troilus and Cressida. He then provides evidence that John Manningham, Spenser, Nashe, and Greene, all commoners, were sniping at Burghley, so "why couldn't Shakespeare (Shaxper), who as a member of the Chamberlain's Men often played at Court, where he undoubtedly had access to the latest gossip?"

No doubt Shaxper did have access to Court gossip, but this is irrelevant as Shaxper was not Shakespeare (chapter 3), nor were Essex or King James Shakespeare, as we said in commenting on the previous article.

None of this disproves de Vere as Shakespeare.


Here A discusses the lack of evidence for Marlowe. No manuscripts of the plays and poems we know are his. No letters written by him or to him. No examples of his handwriting at all except a signature as a witness to a will in Canterbury in 1585 when he was 21 years old, spelled "Christopher Marley."

Next A discusses the lack of evidence for the education of the playwrights John Webster and John Fletcher, among others. For Shakespeare (Shaxper) the evidence is much better.

It's true that Shakespeare's name appeared on a couple of plays (The London Prodigal and A Yorkshire Tragedy) which are universally agreed not to be his, because they are markedly inferior to his work and do not appear in the First Folio; that just means that his name was a selling point, and does not affect the fact that the publishers of these plays were asserting that he wrote them.

Of course, there's the First Folio, ... the monument to Shakespeare ... numerous references to William Shakespeare during his lifetime ... The Parnassus Plays, John Davies' epigram. Edmund Howes ...list...

These last three items were discussed in chapter 26.

The evidence for the existence of Shaxper and the fact that he began calling himself William Shakespeare when in London is irrelevant, as we know from statements by the poet/dramatist himself (e.g. sonnet 125) that Shaxper could not have been Shakespeare.

Once again none of this disproves de Vere as Shakespeare.


At last we have something directly relating to de Vere. A's first paragraph states in part :

Now, I'm certainly not going to deny that Edward de Vere could be an articulate man when he wanted to be, or that he had some talent as a poet. But the same is true of many other Elizabethan courtiers ... When I read Oxford's letters alongside other letters written by and to people associated with the Elizabethan Court, I am not all that impressed. Oxford was certainly capable of a well-turned phrase, but he was also capable of tediousness...

I'm inclined to agree with A here, except that I would substitute 'some' for 'many' courtiers. In chapter 20 we went meticulously through the list of Elizabethan officials close to the Queen who might have carried the canopy. Next we compiled a list of those included in the Oxford University Press anthology of Elizabethan poets who were among the higher members of the Court entourage. This narrowed the list to 6 finalists for Shakespeare. All failed in one respect or another, except de Vere. And none of what A has to say here excludes de Vere as Shakespeare.

A continues:

As for the supposed "parallels" between Oxford's letters and Shakespeare's work, ... Shakespeare's works are so vast and cover such a wide range of situations that you can find Shakespearean parallels in virtually anything written in English...

I agree with A in this statement of his.

A's next paragraph discusses the Quiney letter to Shaxper asking him for a loan, and not referring to him as a writer. A continues

If they (Oxfordians) can rationalize away the First Folio, the monument, the Parnassus plays, Ben Jonson's testimony, and all the other evidence, one letter would be no problem; they'd just say it was a forgery, or that is was really addressed to Oxford, or something.

We can see from this that the Quiney letter has put A on the defensive. That's because as A well knows, the Quiney letter is not the only extant evidence that Shaxper was probably in the habit of, if not the business of, loaning money out, apparently at interest. Why this has perturbed A is because, as he also knows, such conduct is rare, if not unique, among writers. Writers are frequently seriously or desperately in need of money, including borrowing it. That, as it happens, was the situation of de Vere, and the reason for his tedious and 'begging' letters to Burghley.

In the next paragraph A continues:

But what gets me is the standard Oxfordian show of horror at the content of this letter, and at William Shakespeare's (Shaxper's) financial dealings in general, when in fact Oxford's letters do not paint any more flattering a picture ... Most of Oxford's letters which have survived are from the 1590s and early 1600s, ... All these dozens of letters give no indication that Oxford was writing plays or poetry; rather, they give the impression of a very bored, aging nobleman, fretting about getting back into the Queen's favour and constantly pestering Lord Burghley, and after his death his son Robert Cecil, for something to do. Could he please be appointed President of Wales (1601) ... Governor of the Isle of Jersey (1600) ... stewardship of the Forest of Essex (1595) ... much of Oxford's correspondence involves proposed money making schemes, in 1594-5 he appears from his correspondence to have became obsessed with the idea of farming the Queen's tin monopolies ... fully 18 ...are devoted to explaining in detail how he could improve the Queen's revenues from tin if given the chance ...the word 'tin' does not appear once in Shakespeare's works...

Again, what A says is mostly true. But he has no justification for saying de Vere's unsuccessful efforts "give the impression of a very bored, aging nobleman..." What they do show us, I suggest, is typical of writers, who are notoriously unversed in financial matters. I believe the truth in de Vere's case is that he saw very profitable monopolies being handed to others at Court, and wanted one of these sinecures for the money it provided. But the Queen and her ministers would not budge. De Vere got his annual stipend by quarterly instalments and his foolish request to commute this non-accountable life income for £5,000 cash was appropriately ignored. Clearly, he was not financially responsible enough to handle a monopoly, even as a sinecure.

This conduct by de Vere is in direct contrast to that of Shaxper, who was apparently loaning out money as a business for profit, once he obtained some capital, which we showed in chapter 4 he could not have done by selling all Shakespeare's plays and poems, had he been that writer. While Shaxper was augmenting his fortune in business deals, de Vere was desperately trying to get a sinecure to supplement his thriftless spending habits. De Vere's basic argument was: I spent my fortune trying to be a good courtier, and now shouldn't the Queen recompense me for all I spent for the Court. But the people who got the monopolies (like Ralegh) did a great deal more for the Queen than that. If de Vere was Shakespeare, the Queen thought, and quite rightly, that the equivalent of about $3 million Cdn.. a year in our money for life paid quarterly with no accounting due, and no questions asked, was quite enough. King James continued the payments and arranged for him to get back the family Forest in Essex, with coveted recognition as a Privy Councillor, these last two being awards which the Queen had not allowed him.

Why did the Queen, and then James, continue the substantial annual payments to de Vere during his lifetime? Sir Francis Walsingham spent most of his life as the head of the Queen's equivalent of the modern US CIA, but apparently consumed his own fortune in the process and died a poor man. Another devoted minister to the Queen, Sir Christopher Hatton, doesn't seem to have fared much better. Why then the large annual payments to de Vere? He must have done more than just been a 'very bored aging nobleman' to have this income from the monarchs. It's never been discovered what he did to deserve it. We came across a tantalizing clue in a de Vere letter to Burghley saying that he and the Queen were being impeded in his 'office' but he doesn't say what the 'office' was. With the thrifty, parsimonious Queen, he must have been doing something to deserve it. The apparent ostracism and falling out of the favour he once had with the Queen may be explicable because she was a religious person, and would have disapproved of his having become a homosexual. Although no one knows the true facts here, my suggestions at least provide a viable explanation; but "a very bored ageing nobleman" does not.

I conclude that there is nothing here to prove that de Vere was not Shakespeare. In fact, A himself starts his last sentence by saying

"Note that I am not saying that any of this PROVES anything..."

And with that statement by A, I agree.


Before commenting on this section, let me say that I have always been a voracious reader, particularly of non-fiction, commencing with both my parents' and grandparents' libraries, my own purchases, and, more recently, on the Net. As I moved through various stages in life I regularly drew vertical pencil lines on the pages beside print that interested me, or at the time that I thought was important. I also noted at the back of each book, and later in life on attached sheets, page number and a brief reference on one line or less, to content of interest. Why I'm detailing all this is because when I have returned to a book for some purpose after many years absence from it I have found that what interested me later had been of little or no interest earlier in my life and so was not marked when first read.

This has happened so often that I conclude a writer's markings in a book don't tell us much, as they probably only refer to a limited time in his life when the work was first read or read for one specific purpose. In my case, if the later attached sheets which I used as an updated reference guide were lost, the evidence remaining in the book itself would be factually incorrect as to my interest in that particular book. Further, I happen to have 3 quite different editions of the King James Version of the complete Bible, plus ten different translations of the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Old Testament or Torah). That's because I made a special study of them when I did two 2 hour radio documentaries for CBC. The use I made of these Bibles then was quite different from the use I made in earlier years when for 3 months I studied intensively the 4 Gospels, reading and researching only the words in my edition with red lettering for supposed words of Jesus himself. I might add that the conclusions I came to as a result of this study were not the same as those of various biographers of Jesus.

With all this now said, let's see what Stratfordian A has to say about "de Vere's Bible".

A states:

This is a Geneva Bible... which apparently belonged to Edward de Vere at one point. It contains handwritten notations... Having... prepared a complete list of the annotations I can report that ... there is no correlation between the annotations and the pattern of Biblical use in Shakespeare's work, and any overlap between the marked verses and those used by Shakespeare appears to be random...

A then describes the binding of this Bible and continues

Since these are all prominent elements of Edward de Vere's coat of arms, we can reasonably conclude that this Bible was bound for him...The Old Testament is dated 1570, the New Testament is dated 1568 and the Psalter and Prayer Book is dated 1569. The much-vaunted annotations are of several types. (For convenience, I will refer to a single 'annotator,' even though the annotations may well be by more than one person). In some 30 places the annotator has written something in the margin in a neat italic hand, though in many cases the writing has been partially cut away, probably when the book was ... being rebacked ... Most of these are single words, such as 'sinne,' 'poore,' usurie, or 'mercy,' though there are a few longer phrases, such as 'giue vnto the poore' at Proverbs 3:10. The bulk of the annotations, however, consist of markings on specific verses or marginal notes; the great majority of these marked verses have to do with usury, the poor, or sins of the flesh. ...In about fifteen places, the annotator has drawn a flower in the margin; in a similar number of places, the annotator has drawn a pointing hand. All but two of these pointing hands are in the Psalter, ... at the beginnings of various metrical psalms, ...The annotator was very busy, ... marking 135 verses in 1 Samuel, ...71 in 2 Samuel, and 61 in 1 Kings, plus many marginal notes in all 3 books. Yet according to Naseeb Shaheen's work, Shakespeare didn't make particularly much use of those books, he made much heavier use of Genesis, Job, Psalms, Isaiah, all four Gospels, and Revelation, among others. The annotator was for some reason drawn to the Apocrypha, marking 96 verses in Ecclesiasticus (used only moderately by Shakespeare), 64 verses in 2 Maccabees, 60 in 2 Esdras, 35 in Wisdom, 20 in Tobit, and 11 in Baruch ( all virtually ignored by Shakespeare.) Several of the annotator's other favourite books were also seldom used by Shakespeare, such as 2 Corinthians (37 verses marked) Hosea (26 verses) and Jeremiah (13 verses) ,,, most of the books Shakespeare drew on most heavily ... were hardly touched at all by the annotator. Shakespeare drew very heavily on all four Gospels, especially Matthew (arguably his most-used book), but the annotator has left the Gospels almost alone: 23 verses marked in Matthew, 2 in Luke, 1 in Mark, and none in John unless one counts the pencil crosses at the beginning of John 5,6, and 17.) Shakespeare also draws very heavily on Genesis, Proverbs, and Acts, in each of which the annotator has marked only one verse. To be fair, there are a few books - notably Deuteronomy, Isaiah, and Revelation, which both the annotator and Shakespeare seem to have been fond of, ... in general the annotations of this Bible and Shakespeare appear to have had very different interests.

I think we must congratulate A for some diligent work here. In a wider context we found in chapter 6 that de Vere while on the Continent in 1575-6 and before tragic circumstances arose, sent his wife Anne Cecil a Greek Testament on which he had inscribed a poem in Latin. This Bible seems to be lost. De Vere himself could have read, and probably did read the Bible in Greek and Latin. I don't know whether the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate Bible texts were available in his day, but I would imagine they were. Something else that seems quite obvious bothers me. Apart from A's comment "one could argue about whether the handwriting of the written annotations is Oxford's but this is largely a moot point" I did not find a reference to anyone's having checked the handwritings of the annotations - said to possibly be two - against the many extant letters of Edward de Vere, Do the annotations indicate identical authorship? Those in a position to know the answer appear not to have passed this information on to us, or if they have, A has not relayed it. Further, we don't know that the Geneva Bible was annotated by Edward de Vere. It would have to have been done later than 1568-1570, but might have been done by Elizabeth Trentham (hence the flowers?) or her son Henry. the 18th earl. Have the annotations been checked against the correspondence of either of them?

A continues:

This looks like nothing more than a random overlap of two fairly large sets. There are roughly 1000 verses marked in the de Vere Bible, and based on my estimates from the lists in Naseeb Shaheen's books, Shakespeare alluded to at least 2000 Bible verses in his work. Roughly 80 of the marked verses have parallels to Shakespeare which are noted by the leading Bible - Shakespeare scholars, Shaheen and Richmond Noble. ... only about 10 percent of Shakespeare's Biblical allusions are marked in the Bible, and only about 20 percent of the verses marked in the Bible are alluded to in Shakespeare

A then has a paragraph about Bacon, which is of no interest to us, and concludes

in sum, the value of this Bible as 'evidence' for Oxford's authorship of Shakespeare's works is very slight. While it almost certainly belonged to Oxford and at least some of the markings are very likely his, the pattern of marked verses is very different from Shakespeare's pattern of Biblical use, and the overlap between the marked verses and those used by Shakespeare is not significantly more than we would expect by chance.

I don't dispute the conclusion reached by A based on his work and the evidence available to him, although we must remember he is a staunch Stratfordian and this entire study of his is an intended refutation of the work of an Oxfordian on the same Geneva Bible who concluded there are significant parallels. My own conclusion is that we have imperfect evidence here. Are the annotations in the same hand as de Vere's letters? Whether they are or not, why not say so, as the evidence from both sources is extant. Next, we must remember that if it's Edward de Vere making the notations, he seems to have had at least 3 different readings of the material: two in different phases of his writing style, and another in pencil. We must also suspect he had other Bibles, probably in Greek and Latin. Finally, was it de Vere himself or another member of his immediate family or someone further removed on whom the title devolved later, who made the notations? I would like to see this evidence first hand before coming to a firmer conclusion. I'm not sure the fullest and best use has been made of it, from what I've read. Meanwhile, I suggest the evidence as given to us certainly does not make de Vere a 'shoo-in" for Shakespeare, but neither, particularly based on my own personal experience, does it eliminate him as Shakespeare. For these reasons, I consider the evidence as given is inconclusive.


A states (in part):

...the Jonson Folio was not entered in the Stationers Register... the cast lists in the Jonson First Folio were the first to be printed in the entire Elizabethan theatre; no actor appeared in a printed cast list before 1616.

As we saw in Chapter 26 William Shakespeare is listed 1st in the 1598 list and 5th in the 1603 list, this being another convergence of Shaxper and Jonson. Why did Jonson include a cast list if no one else did? Why did it list Shakespeare as first. And why is this First Folio of Jonson missing from the Stationers Register? No one knows the answers.

A lists the evidence for Shaxper's acting career. We've previously come across this in Chapters 4, 9 and 26. Most of this short article is a record of a cross-fire between A and an Oxfordian. A admits that in E .K . Chambers' 'exhaustive compilation of acting records in 'The Elizabethan Stage V.2.' Shaxper has two lines, including two question marks. Burbage gets 3 pages plus 4 lines. But A states that Thomas Heywood was an actor for over 20 years, longer than Shaxper, yet he gets a line and a half in the Actor's Section; that's because he was better known as a playwright and his two page bio. can be found under Playwrights ... the William Shakespeare bio is in the Playwrights Section.

A quotes the Oxfordian who quotes Shakespeare in Sonnet 110

Alas, 'tis true, I have gone here and there

And made myself a motley to the view,

Gored mine own thoughts, sold cheap what is most dear...

The Oxfordian is quoted as commenting

..which could be interpreted as saying that the author had appeared on the stage, and, like a true feudal aristocrat, had shamed himself by doing something so unthinkable..

A then comments

So you're actually suggesting that Oxford had an acting career spanning some 20 years, presumably as a member of the Chamberlain's King's Men, despite the complete lack of external evidence for such a thing...

A then quotes the Oxfordian again

Pretty flimsy conjecture, I admit, but no shakier than postulating an extensive acting career for someone who left just one acting record while he lived.

A concludes

I'd say your entire case, particularly the attempt to explain away William Shakespeare's acting career, is pretty flimsy. No, make that very flimsy.

Coming as I do from the discipline of dealing with the factual world of business, what I find remarkable in these exchanges, and there's much more I've omitted, is that facts, hypotheses and circumstantial evidence are all thrown into the mix as though they were of equal significance. If we confine ourselves to the facts, we have

1. "I bore the canopy" according to Shakespeare himself in Sonnet 125. This, as a fact, means he had to have been an aristocrat close to the Queen.

2. The only printed evidence for Shaxper as an actor comes from Ben Jonson, whose publication was not entered in the Stationers Register. There can only be speculation as to why not, as we don't know.

3. Shakespeare's Sonnet 110, if taken at face value by this "true telling" poet (Sonnet 82) means that the aristocrat/playwright had "gone here and there" making himself "a motley to the view." This might be figurative or factual. If, and only if, it's factual, motley, an adjective or a noun, means

1. diversified in colour

2. of varied character

3. an incongruous mixture

None of these meanings fit well with the sense of the Sonnet. But there's a 4th, older meaning more appropriate to usage by an Elizabethan:

a jester's particoloured dress. And to wear motley means to play the fool.

A jester was a professional maker of amusement. maintained in a Court or a noble household. During Elizabeth's reign this became transferred to the theatres as well for general public entertainment.

I suggest that the aristocratic Shakespeare played the clever and highly amusing part of Dogberry in Much Ado, and this conforms with what we know of young de Vere as the 'madcap earl.' Personally I doubt that he acted on the public stage, or if so, only most infrequently, although he had good opportunity since at one period in his life he leased the Blackfriars theatre. But I think it probable that he acted in performances of his own plays at Court, including those put on by the professional actors from the Globe Company.

This article is about Shaxper's acting career. Whether he was an actor or not, or how much of an actor he was, and whether de Vere was or was not involved in acting, we know that Shaxper was not Shakespeare (chapter 3, chapter 20), and we know that Shaxper was a sharer at the Globe for a number of years. We can leave it at that, and none of this Shaxper 'evidence' affects the case for de Vere as Shakespeare.


I think we have to take Shaxicon seriously. The reasons are that Professor Donald W. Foster of Vassar who has developed its use was apparently successful in identifying a living Anonymous author. Then there's his work on "A Funeral Elegy for Master William Peter by W.S.", published by Thomas Thorpe in 1612. Although Elizabethan works published as by 'W.S.' are not always today considered to be genuine Shakespeare, and although this Funeral Elegy is not in the established Shakespeare canonical literature, I believe internal evidence indicates it was written by the poet/dramatist Shakespeare and that therefore Don Foster was correct in identifying it by his methods as a work by Shakespeare. I also think Thomas Thorpe probably acquired it at the same time as the Sonnets (published by him in 1609) but had no topical reason to publish an Elegy at that time. However, in 1612 the well publicized untimely death of a young William Peter enabled Thorpe to publish it by putting Peter's name at the front, writing his own prose dedication (which I judge certainly not to be by Shakespeare) and market it quickly as a topical item.

Clues are sprinkled throughout the 578 line poem, and one of them commences at line 509:

... So specially his friends, in soft compassion

Do feel the greatest loss they could have had.

Amongst them all, she who those nine of years

Liv'd fellow to his counsels and his bed

Hath the most share in loss: for I in hers

Feel what distemperature this chance hath bred.

The chaste embracements of conjugal love...

This poet in his usual way is quite specific. There are at least 4 clues here:

1. The Elegy is for a man

2. The man was happily married; the husband and wife loved one another

3. They had been married for 9 years

4. The spouse was able to be a contributor in the man's discussions about his work, possibly in the legal profession.

This information alone excludes William Peter, who had apparently been married only 3 years. It tells us the Funeral Elegy had nothing to do with Peter, except for Thomas Thorpe's purposes. From internal evidence of the poet's writing about himself in this poem, I conclude it was written probably in the early 1590s. To my mind the problem is not who wrote it, but who it is written about. Who is the Funeral Elegy for? Tempting as it is, I must not diverge from my present investigation here, which is to determine whether criticisms of de Vere as Shakespeare are valid. Certainly it seems to me the Elegy is neutral as to whether or not de Vere wrote it. So, back to Shaxicon.

According to Professor Foster (details in Note 1) and A (details in Note 2) the procedure using SHAXICON, a computer software program designed for use in literary analysis, was:

1. Catalogue all the words which occur 12 times or less in all Shakespeare's generally accredited plays

2. Index these words

(1) by play

(2) by character speaking them.

I thought it important to know whether the computer study took all the plays from one or more of the other playwrights contemporary with Shakespeare and applied the same tests to see if they had the same shifts in vocabulary at about the same time. In other words, was there a control group?

To answer this and other questions I attempted to follow up by finding on the Web the example of Romeo and Juliet cited by A (see end of Note 2), but was unsuccessful. However, I did find "Shaxicon '95 by Donald Foster, Vassar College." We need to be sure we understand what is being done by Donald Foster. What he says in his article on SHAXICON is summarized in Note 1. What follows here are some quotations from his article and my comments.

Donald Foster's article has a section headed


under this heading there are 40 items. Let's just take one to look at in more detail:

HAM: Ghost, 1 Player, Mess-Gent, of 4.5 (and perhaps also role in the Mousetrap, most probably Lucianus). In F1 Hamlet, the Mess-Gent role is partly folded into Horatio; but given Shakespeare's persistent recall of the role even after 1601, it seems likely that the F1 variant in this instance represents a casting-change made later than the bulk of Shakespeare's F1 revisions.

Apparently what is meant here are the revisions by Shakespeare's F1 editors, principally, it seems, Ben Jonson. Shakespeare had been dead 7 years or 19 years, depending on whether you think he was Shaxper or de Vere. But, more important, to review the Ghost part in the play Hamlet, what I did was, first, to note all the activity of the Ghost in the play, as follows

Act 1, scene 1.

The Ghost enters and exits, no words said.

The Ghost re-enters and exits, no words said.

Act 1, scene 4

The Ghost enters,

The Ghost beckons Hamlet

The Ghost and Hamlet both exit

No words are spoken by the Ghost in this scene.

Act 1 scene 5

Here are almost all the lines spoken by the Ghost. I have included partial lines and single words as full lines.

1+3+2+1+15+1+2+10+50 (exit) (later: 'below') +1+1+1+1

The total is 89 lines.

Act 3 scene 4

Enter Ghost, speaks 6 lines. Exit Ghost.

This gives the Ghost a grand total of 95 partial or full lines in the play.

Next, I listed all the lines in the entire play, which I found to be as follows:















































Taken from a Warwick edition, editor E. K. Chambers.

This tells us that the Ghost had only 2.4% of the lines in Hamlet. But in the SHAXICON program not all the words spoken by the Ghost are taken into account, only the 'rare' words, that is, by definition, those used 12 times or less in the entire works of Shakespeare. With only 95 lines to work with, of which 4 are single words only (the repeated word 'swear' said off stage), this suggests the number of 'rare' words must be very small, and a microscopic percentage of the entire words in Hamlet, since if every word in the 95 lines were included, it would only amount to about 2.4% of the lines in the play. That's assuming that the repetitious words in the entire play are in about the same overall frequency as in the 95 lines. It would have been very helpful in evaluating the results if Donald Foster had at least given us the precise numbers for one of his 40 examples. Perhaps there were only 2 'rare' words in the Ghost's part in Hamlet, perhaps 5, I doubt very much there were 10 or more. We just don't know, which is frustrating.

Now let's look at the part of Adam in As You Like It, apparently the only other specific character in a Shakespearean play said to have been acted by Shaxper.

Here's what SHAXICON shows for Adam:

AYL. Adam, adding old Corin the Shepherd in two revivals of AYL.

In the play, Oliver, Jacques, and Orlando are the sons of Sir Roland de Boys. Adam is a servant to Oliver. Adam himself in a speech tells us he is almost fourscore years, that is, almost 80 years old. Oliver, his master, calls him a "good old man."

The 5 act play has 22 scenes. Here is Adam's contribution to the play:



















































My copy of the play being unavailable, I downloaded it from the Web, and so cannot say which edition it is. Further, the lines are not numbered, but I believe my total is reasonably accurate.

Now, why would the very small number of 'rare-words' only, culled from the 95 lines spoken by the Ghost in Hamlet, and from the 67 lines spoken by Adam in As You Like It, have a significant effect on the vocabulary of the playwright as he's writing subsequent plays? Is this what we would expect from the greatest playwright the world has ever known? I don't know the total number of lines in As You Like it, but to judge from the many lengthy speeches by the major characters in the play, I would think it's not very different from the numbers for Hamlet. If so, the rare-words culled from a 1.7% proportion of the play spoken by a bit player must surely be few indeed. These two parts, the Ghost and Adam, are the only parts specifically referred to apparently in the 17th century, as relating to Shaxper's acting. All the other 38 roles, apparently listed by SHAXICON, are suppositions, extrapolated by the computer software as parts having influence on subsequent playwriting.

Professor Donald Foster says

SHAXICON electronically maps Shakespeare's language so that we can now usually tell which texts influence which other texts and when. ...

What SHAXICON demonstrates is that the rare-words in Shakespearean texts are not randomly distributed either diachronically or synchronically but are 'mnemonically structured.'

Diachronic refers to the historical development of a language. The opposite is synchronic, describing a language as it exists at one point in time. Mnemonic is of, or designed to aid, the memory. To rephrase the quoted sentence in words I can better understand:

What Shaxicon demonstrates is that rare-words in Shakespearean texts are not randomly distributed either by historical development or all at the same time, but are structured by design to aid the memory.

To put this in more manageable English, perhaps what is meant here is that the rare-words in Shakespeare's work are not randomly distributed either developing over time, or appearing all at once, but their occurrence is related to the playwright's memory.

Don Foster says

Shakespeare's active lexicon as a writer was systematically influenced by his reading, and by his apparent activities as a stage-player. When writing, Shakespeare was measurably influenced by plays then in production, and by particular stage-roles most of all.

Don Foster then says in effect that while writing plays, Shakespeare disproportionately uses the rare-words of completed plays being performed on stage at the time of his writing a new play, and continues:

and from these plays he always registers disproportionate lexical recall (as a writer) of just one role (or two or three smaller roles), and these remembered roles, it can now be shown, are most probably those that Shakespeare himself drilled in stage performance.

So Foster is saying there are two factors, Shakespeare's reading, and his "apparent activities as a stage player."

This first factor presents no problem. What it's saying in effect is that we can form a good impression of Shakespeare's reading of books because the vocabulary effect shows up in plays written (or revised) after the book was read. This makes good sense. It is often said by scholars that Shakespeare kept very close to the story line in his sources, and when these presumed sources are printed in the appendices to the plays, we can see that this is true. We can have no problem with that evidence, and its effect on the candidacy of de Vere as Shakespeare is neutral.

The second factor is of much more significance. It's said that it relates to Shakespeare the playwright's "apparent activities as a stage player." We can note, though, that although the wording quoted says "just one role (or two or three smaller roles)" the single role, presumably therefore a major role, is not further referred to, and the rest of the evidence provided seems related to bit parts only. This is important to us, because one writer wrote, of Shaxper, (quoted in chapter 4) that the greatest part that Shaxper ever played was the Ghost in Hamlet. This is a very small part. If major roles come into SHAXICON's results, then the evidence that Shakespeare's 'memory' relates to his "apparent activities as a stage player" rules out Shaxper as Shakespeare because there is no evidence that he ever rose above being a bit part actor. To the best of my knowledge no one has ever provided evidence that Shaxper played major roles in any of Shakespeare's plays. So either SHAXICON has concentrated on minor roles only, and not major roles, or, Shaxper is not the playwright because minor roles are the only ones that Shaxper might have played.

As a matter of common sense I can understand that major roles vocabulary might have an effect on subsequent plays, but I find it very difficult to accept that the vocabulary in one, two, or even three bit parts would have a measurable effect on subsequent play writing. Because that's what we're talking about here. Vocabulary shifts, as I understand it. And what are the situations in which the 'rare' words occur? if they're rare, why can't we have a list of them? How many words are there altogether classified as 'rare?' It seems to me if the playwright is moving from comedy to history to tragedy and then to romance, the 'rare' words in one setting may become more normal and appropriate in another. A complicating factor here is the effect of subsequent revision(s) of texts.

Another factor is the use of words in everyday speech. Words go in and out of favour. Words change their meaning. The words 'cool' and 'neat' now in general use don't mean what they did 30 years ago. About 2 generations ago 'viable' and 'synergy' became 'buzz' words in business, which word 'buzz' itself is a changed-meaning word. Have these factors been taken into account if such mundane words as 'family' and 'real' are 'rare?' We just don't know from the information provided to us.

Another problem I have is that it all appears to fit so well

1. To "conform, for the most part with the orthodox dating of the plays" (A) and

2. That "in each play there is one role (or in many cases two or more smaller roles) which disproportionately affects the vocabulary of all later plays" (A).

3. With the parts in the plays that 'Shakespeare' is supposed to have played "Shakespeare himself drilled in performance" (D.F.).

Much of the difficulty for me with (1.) is that the 'orthodox dating' has been laboriously pieced together from fragmentary and sometimes somewhat conflicting evidence, and the result has been acknowledged as far from certain, while (2.) And (3.) seem to follow on in part related to that imperfect starting point.

The more I consider this evidence, and the more I search for additional information as to precise 'rare-words' and numbers involved, the more I am doubtful as to whether the program is telling us anything about the play acting activity of the playwright. We already know that the playwright isn't Shaxper, so the attribution if any by SHAXICON to Shaxper has to be some kind of mis-interpretation of the data. The evidence that Shaxper could not be Shakespeare comes from the poet Shakespeare himself (for example at the beginning of Sonnet 125). Further, it seems unlikely that de Vere was Shakespeare the poet of Venus and Adonis, the Rape of Lucrece and other poems, as well as the Sonnets, and that Shaxper was the playwright. But for Shaxper to be the playwright is also impossible, as he lacked the necessary writing skills, So it would mean that de Vere was the poet and a Mr X was the playwright. A Mr. X who acted bit parts only in his own plays.

It seems to me that if the interpretation of SHAXICON's results is right, then either de Vere was the poet and a Mr. X the playwright acted in 40 or so bit parts in his own plays and allowed those parts to unduly affect his subsequent authorship, or there is some other reason why there's a progressive affinity between bit parts and subsequent play writing which is not the acting of bit parts. What this other reason might be I have at present no idea as I have insufficient data on which to form an opinion. Personally, I believe there's some flaw in logic here, but I don't have enough information to try to ferret out what it is.

I have sent an email to Professor Foster and await his response, which I'll post to end this chapter.

There's another different type of complicating factor. A states (as quoted in Note 2) that:

We know from the cast lists in the Ben Jonson First Folio that William Shakespeare acted in Jonson's Every Man in his Humour (1598) and ... the rare- word patterns indicate that the author of Shakespeare's plays acted in ... the roles of Old Kno'well (Every Man In) and... (Coincidentally, tradition... first recorded by Thomas Davies in 1785 - says that Shakespeare plays Old Kno'well in Jonson's Every Man In.)

I've followed the same procedure with this play of Jonson's as with Hamlet and the Ghost and As You Like It and Adam, and, to summarize the results without the details, here's what I found:

Old Kno'well (Knowell, an Old Gentleman, in my copy), appears extensively in Act 1 scene 1, (144 lines); also in 2.3. (100); 3.3. (5); 4.4. (19); 4.8 (23); and 5.1 (14). This gives a total of 305 lines for Knowell. The play by my count has 3,074 lines, which gives Knowell 9.92% of the total lines in the play. I would say that this character has a major role in the play. This I suggest is quite different acting from the minor roles in Shakespeare's plays. There is much more responsibility here to carry the play, particularly as Knowell has 144 of 218 lines in the first scene. If Shakespeare performed this part in 1598 it puts him in a different category of actors, not just a bit part actor it seems to me. It moves him closer to being a playwright because he would at least have learned to read well, if not to write, although historically good actors are not playwrights.

There's also the conflict of 3rd party evidence. If Thomas Davies writing in 1785, 187 years after the event, is the first to record that Shaxper acted this part, presumably it would have been his greatest part, while the other 3rd party evidence we have, published by Nicholas Rowe in 1709 (111 years after the event) (referred to in Chapter 4) said the Ghost in Hamlet was his greatest role. The problem here is how much reliance we can place on a statement made 187 years after the event, and contradicting another statement made 111 years after the event. (How much do you know about your ancestors living 187 years ago?) Not all evidence is of the same worth. There are different levels of value in evidence. Hearsay is clearly not valuable. Fact, where obtainable, is. Circumstantial evidence is admissible, but usually requires several components of it to fit togther. To conclude the matter for the present, I think we have to reserve judgement, pending further more factual information than this rather remote hearsay evidence.

We are then left with the evidence from SHAXICON. Here I must repeat my earlier conclusion that Jonson was a younger man than Shakespeare, a rival and at least at one time an enemy according to what E. K. Chambers indicates (Chapter 26). Jonson would not be likely to allow this competing playwright to play any role, and certainly not a significant role, in any of his plays.

When we look at Shaxper's activities, another puzzling matter is that for the year 1598 he was listed as William Shakespeare cast in a major role in Every Man in His Humour, but that same year, 1598, William Shaxper of Stratford on Avon was dealing with Richard Quiney and his request for a loan of £30 and other similar letters; he was paid for a load of stone in Stratford on Avon; he was recorded as the 3rd largest hoarder of grain (corn) in Warwickshire (where a shortage arose due to a drought). We cannot assume different men here, because Shaxper's will (chapter 5) ties the acting world to his world in Stratford on Avon.

I regard the SHAXICON work as the first serious challenge to de Vere as Shakespeare. If Donald Foster's interpretation of the evidence is completely correct, it means that the playwright Shakespeare's vocabulary in writing was consistently and significantly affected by the vocabulary in the minor roles in plays being performed at the time, and the logical explanation for that effect is that the playwright was himself also occupied as an actor of these minor parts at the time of his writing later plays.

This concludes the review of the 7 available numbered "Criticisms of Oxfordian Claims." The results are:

1. No detrimental effect to de Vere's candidacy as Shakespeare

2. No detrimental effect

3. No detrimental effect

4. No detrimental effect

5. Inconclusive

6. SHAXICON - possible detrimental effect, more information required.

7. No detrimental effect.

In the next chapter we'll review the remaining unnumbered articles under their headings OXFORD THE POET and OXFORDIAN MYTHS.


Here's part of what Professor Donald Foster has to say about SHAXICON in an article on the Web:

First, what is it? SHAXICON is a lexical database that indexes all of the words that appear in the canonical plays 12 times or less, including a line-citation and speaking character for each occurrence of each word. (These are called "rare words," though they are not rare in any absolute sense- "family [n.]" and "real [ad.]" are rare words in Shakespeare.) All rare-word variants are indexed as well, including the entire "bad" quartos of H5, 2H6, 3H6, Ham, Shr, and Wiv, also the nondramatic works, canonical and otherwise (Ven, Luc, PP, PhT, Son, LC, FE, the Will, "Shall I die," et. al.); the additions to Mucedorus and The Spanish Tragedy, the Prologue to Merry Devil of Edmonton, all of Edward III and Sir Thomas More (hands S and D); Ben Jonson's Every Man in His Humour (both Q1 and F1) and Sejanus (F1); and more; but these other texts have no effect on the 12-occurrence cutoff that sets the parameters for SHAXICON's lexical universe.

What SHAXICON demonstrates is that the rare-words in Shakespearean texts are not randomly distributed either diachronically or synchronically, but are "mnemonically structured." Shakespeare's active lexicon as a writer was systematically influenced by his reading, and by his apparent activities as a stage- player. When writing, Shakespeare was measurably influenced by plays then in production, and by particular stage-roles most of all. Most significant is that, while writing, he disproportionately "remembers" the rare-word lexicon of plays concurrently "in repertory"; and from these plays he always registers disproportionate lexical recall (as a writer) of just one role (or two or three smaller roles); and these remembered roles, it can now be shown, are most probably those that Shakespeare himself drilled in stage performance.

SHAXICON electronically maps Shakespeare's language so that we can now usually tell which texts influence which other texts, and when. Moreover, when collated with the OED or with early modern texts in a normalized machine-readable format, SHAXICON provides an incomplete record of Shakespeare's apparent reading. The main value of this resource has less to do with biographical novelties, however, than with problems of textual transmission, dating, probable authorship of revisions, early stage history, and the like. And because SHAXICON is a closed system, human bias in measuring lexical influence of this sort is effectively eliminated. The evidentiary value of supposed "verbal parallels" is no longer a matter of private intuition or subjective judgement, but quantifiable, using a stable lexical index (and measurable against a virtually limitless cross-sample of machine-readable texts.)

Omitting what Donald Foster says about problems and solutions, next is

The following list represents a corrected catalogue of those roles that Shakespeare is most likely to have acted. These assignments vary somewhat in statistical significance, depending on sample size, etc. .... here follows a list of Shakespeare's most likely stage-roles, as statistically derived. Keep in mind that this catalogue cannot be proven to represent historical actuality. SHAXICON handily selects Adam of AYL and the Ghost of Ham as probable Shakespeare roles, both of which are supported by hearsay evidence from the 17th century; the remaining roles find no external historical confirmation (although Davies mentions that Shakespeare played some kings, and SHAXICON indicates that Shakespeare played king-roles in AWW, 1H4, 2H4, HAM, LLL, PER, and probably MAC). Having studied the evidence from every conceivable angle, I'd say that the assignments below are good bets, even despite the lack of archival evidence to back them up, for the disproportion in Shakespeare's persistent recall of these roles is quite striking relative to other roles in the corresponding texts....


A begins his article by saying:

Now, I'd like to discuss Don Foster's SHAXICON database, which is currently being prepared for publication, hopefully in 1996. Ward Elliot's study provides negative evidence; it indicates that none of the claimants tested wrote the works of Shakespeare. Foster's study, though, provides positive evidence of a new and ingenious kind; he has been able to show that the person who wrote the plays almost certainly acted in them, or at the very least, this person memorized one role (or several smaller roles) in each play. He has done this by cataloguing all the "rare words" in Shakespeare (those which occur 12 times or fewer in the canonical plays), indexed not only by the play they appear in, but by the character who speaks them. In each play there is one role (or in many cases two or more smaller roles) which disproportionately affects the vocabulary of all later plays, in that the words spoken by that character consistently occur in later plays more often than we would expect by chance; this is the role that Shakespeare memorized for performance. For example, take Hamlet. Using SHAXICON, you can go through each of the other plays one by one, in each case making a list of the rare words which occur both in that play and in Hamlet. In the plays written earlier than Hamlet, the shared rare words are divided proportionally among all the characters; that is, if a character speaks 5 percent of the words in Hamlet, he will also speak roughly 5 percent of the rare words shared by the two plays. In the plays written after Hamlet, though, the shared rare words are disproportionately concentrated in the roles of the Ghost and the First Player; the words spoken by these two characters were much more in the forefront of Shakespeare's mind when he was writing the later plays. This works remarkably well all across the canon; the rare-word patterns consistently pick out the same role(s) in each play as the one Shakespeare memorized. ... The two roles which seventeenth century theatre gossip said Shakespeare played in his own plays - the Ghost in Hamlet and Adam in As you Like It - are both identified by the rare-word patterns as Shakespeare's roles. ...There is considerably more to SHAXICON than I've indicated here, but I've given the most important points. ...

A's second paragraph includes the following:

You take a play, say Hamlet. One by one, you compare it to each of the other plays in the canon according to Foster's shared rare word tests. Roughly speaking, the other plays will divide into two groups. In the first group, the shared rare words will be divided proportionally among the characters in Hamlet. Lo and behold, this group consists of the plays which, according to the traditional chronology, were written before Hamlet. In the second group, the shared rare words are disproportionately concentrated in the roles of the Ghost and the Player King. Lo and behold, these are the plays which according to the standard chronology were written after Hamlet. ...

A continues with an example from 1 Henry 4 and concludes this paragraph by saying

It doesn't matter whether we know ahead of time whether 1 Henry 4 or Hamlet was written first - the pattern of rare words tells us by itself. The above is oversimplified, of course, but I hope it makes it clear what the study really does, and that it does not rely on knowing the order of the plays ahead of time.

In his final paragraph A says in part:

...we know from the cast lists in the Ben Jonson First Folio that William Shakespeare acted in Jonson's Every Man in His Humour (1598) and Sejanus (1603). Don Foster has entered these two plays in the SHAXICON database, and the rare-word patterns indicate that the author of Shakespeare's plays acted in both of them, in the roles of Old Kno'well (Every Man In) and Macro and Sabinius (Sejanus). (Coincidentally, tradition -- first recorded by Thomas Davies in 1785 -- says that Shakespeare played Old Kno'well in Jonson's Every Man In). Furthermore, we have documentary evidence that Every Man In was performed in 1598 and 1604, and words from this play come pouring into the Shakespeare plays which, according to the standard chronology, were written in 1598 and 1604; similarly, we know that Sejanus was acted in 1603, and words from this play appear disproportionately in Shakespeare's plays, which, according to the standard chronology, were written around then. In fact, wherever we have documentation of a performance of a Shakespeare play during his lifetime, SHAXICON indicates that the play in question was being performed in the appropriate year. For a detailed explanation of the use of SHAXICON for dating plays and identifying sources, see the essay on Romeo and Juliet on Don Foster's web page.

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