As de Vere died in 1604 and the Shakespearean play The Tempest is generally dated about 1612 it's obvious that if both these events are correctly stated de Vere could not possibly have written the play. And that puts an end to de Vere's candidacy for Shakespeare. But as it appears with all matters related to the Shakespeare identity problem, it's not as simple as that, and considerable controversy has been centered on this problem. It seems to me the only way to approach it is to stay with facts and try to avoid hypotheses, unsupported opinions and so forth. The bare facts, once established should unfold the truth. Here are the known facts:

1. Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, died at Hackney (just north of London) on June 24, 1604 and on July 6th he was buried in the church of St. Augustine. He left no will that has been found. In the page of the parish register where the entry was made has been written "ye plague" (Note 3). He was 54 when he died, as he was born April 12, 1550.

2. In 1623 was published what is now called the First Folio. (To be discussed in a later chapter). Its Preface says in part:

Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies Published according to the True Originall Copies. London. Printed by Isaac Iaggard and Ed. Blount, 1623.

After various pieces praising the author comes this:


of the seuerall Comedies, Histories, and Tra-gedies contained in this Volume


The Tempest Folio 1

There are 13 other plays under this heading, the last being The Winters Tale, which is generally dated 1611 or 1612, so both these plays catalogued as comedies are now conventionally dated 7 or 8 years after de Vere's death, It would appear that the First Folio sequence is not intended to be in chronological order, at least it bears no relation to the present day generally accepted chronology.

3. If we go back to our two lists of all the plays attributed to Shakespeare given in chapter 22 we have the following plays dated after de Vere's death:

1605 King Lear (1605) Macbeth (1606)

1606 Anthony and Cleopatra (1607)

1607 Timon of Athens (1608)

1608 Coriolanus (1608) (Pericles 1608)

1610 Cymbeline (1609)

1611 The Winters Tale (1611)

1612 The Tempest (1611)

1613 Henry 8th (1613 with Fletcher).

The items in brackets are datings according to a second list.

4. We note that Pericles was not included in the first list. This is probably because it's not included in the First Folio in 1623.

5. There are two factors we must consider here. First, how was the dating of each of these plays arrived at? What is the factual evidence for this dating? Secondly, what sources, if any are known, have been established for each of these plays and what are the dates for these sources? If there is substantive evidence that a particular source was used, knowing as we do that Shakespeare habitually stayed very close to his sources in his plays, source dates will defeat de Vere's candidacy if any of them are later than 1604. I say 1604 because if he died of the plague he would probably have been working up to the time of his death as he was only 54 at the time.

How do we go about establishing the factual evidence for dating these alleged 'post mortem' plays?

First, from this list for our present purposes I think we can exclude Lear because it seems to be by Shakespeare and was probably completed before he died (Note 4).

Macbeth may also, I suggest, be excluded because it's generally said to be a very short play, incomplete, with inconsistencies and loose ends. Macbeth was probably left nearly enough completed to be printed later as it was.

Henry 8th I think we can ignore as it's generally said to have been completed by another playwright, probably Fletcher.

This leaves 7 plays for us to investigate: the only mainstream play left is Anthony and Cleopatra; the others can be divided into two groups,

1. Coriolanus, Timon of Athens

2. Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale, The Tempest.


How do Shakespearean scholars tell us they have arrived at their dating for this play? I have relied on the New Clarendon edition (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1962) edited by R. E. C. Houghton, Fellow and Tutor at Oxford, The preface says in part

Coriolanus, Winter's Tale, King Lear and Antony and Cleopatra ... the language of these plays is often difficult ... There still remained a number of lines and phrases which no editor appeared to have tackled, but the exact meaning of which did not seem obvious; and here the present editor has preferred to hazard a paraphrase rather than remain silent.

Houghton's Introduction says

...the last, or almost the last, in a series which can only include the greater plays of Shakespeare, is Antony and Cleopatra.

Houghton refers to

,, the involutions of syntax and crowding metaphors of the last plays. ...In Antony and Cleopatra... neither situations nor style are clear or simple... ... the consummate mastery of the language can only be felt by those who have undergone a considerable apprenticeship both in poetry in general and to this poet in particular.

I think at this point we have to agree that this play is a mainstream play of 'Shakespeare' in his prime. Why did he write it? If it's de Vere I think we can quote Houghton:

Antony is neglecting his duty and has thrown away the world for a mistress

and realize that a mature de Vere looks back on his earlier life and sees he threw away his world - which was the Court - for a mistress he came to despise afterwards when he saw her for what she really was, and not what he had made her in his captivated emotional state. De Vere's disgrace was complete. For impregnating one of the Queen's Maids of Honour he was hunted down at the Queen's orders, imprisoned with his mistress and the child in the Tower of London, and he was banished from the Court.

The question then remains, when did he write it? Here's Houghton again:

The date of the writing and production of Antony and Cleopatra almost certainly lies between 1606 and 1608, the middle year being perhaps the most likely. It must have been before May 1608, when it was entered in the Stationers' Register as if about to be published, though no Quarto was in fact brought out. ...Those who think that Daniel's revised edition of HIS play Cleopatra in 1607 shows traces of the influence of Shakespeare's play date the latter in 1606 or early 1607; but it is possible that the influence is the other way.

And Houghton continues:

More interesting than the exact month or year is the position of the play in its author's career. A glance at the table of approximate dates of Shakespeare's plays ... will show that in the now generally agreed order Antony and Cleopatra comes after Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth, and just before Coriolanus, which is itself followed by the so-called Romances, Cymbeline, Winter's Tale, and Tempest (ignoring Timon and the part-Shakespearian Pericles). ... Superficially this play is more closely linked with Coriolanus than with the four great tragedies ...

I take this to mean Othello, Hamlet, Lear and Macbeth. Houghton again:

It (Antony) follows its source more closely, is more loosely constructed and less gloomy. The great inward difference is that in Antony Shakespeare's genius took fire, whereas in Coriolanus it did not. ... In the freedom of its syntax and the piling up of metaphors our play heralds the style of the Romances. ... But what links our play with the greatest tragedies is an intensity and passion hardly to be found in the Romances. ... 'there is a certain exultation of spirit which begets a rhythm ever more buoyant and magical and which derives directly from Shakespeare's transfiguring of the personages he found in Plutarch.' (quoting O. Elton.)

My comment here is it's not surprising, if it's de Vere, that 'Shakespeare' surpassed himself in the powerful emotion he poured into the Antony and Cleopatra play, as he looked at his earlier life in retrospect. The Anne Vavasour affair ruined his whole Court career. But once entangled with this vivacious teenager he just could not tear himself away although he knew in advance that to carry on with the affair would bring downfall from his high pedestal and lifetime disgrace because the Queen's emotions were not to be thwarted. He shows us his emotions before the fall in Tarquin's wrestling with his conscience and overwhelming it in the Rape of Lucrece poem.

Here's what Houghton has to say about the source:

The subject of Antony and Cleopatra was not new to drama when Shakespeare took it up. A French play, Cléopâtre Captice, by Jodelle (1552), is said to be the first proper tragedy in that language (as, curiously enough, is a Casper's Cleopatra of 1661 in German). The next was also French by Garnier, having Marc Antonie as its hero, and this was translated by the Countess of Pembroke, sister of Sir Philip Sidney, published in 1592, and ran into five editions. It is probable that Shakespeare knew this Antonius... Its popularity probably prompted the poet Samuel Daniel to produce his Cleopatra of 1594. seems to have had some influence on Shakespeare, since both, but not Plutarch, insist on Cleopatra's fear of being made part of Caesar's triumph and on her reluctance to pass before Octavia's eyes, and on her no longer being in the prime of her beauty... Daniel issued a revised edition of his play in 1607, which 'may' have influenced Shakespeare at one or two points.

Other sources may be dismissed even more briefly before we come to that which is paramount. For Egypt Shakespeare may have used Philemon Holland's translation of Pliny's Natural History, from which he had lately taken a good deal in Othello, and he certainly had in his head the biblical references to Egypt. Appian's Bellum Civile, which had been translated in 1578, probably made him realize the importance of the naval power of Sextus Pompeius and rate his threat to the triumvirs more highly than Plutarch warrants. ... But the main source for this as for the other Roman plays is North's Plutarch, one of the great Elizabethan books. Plutarch wrote his Parallel lives of Greek and Roman worthies in Greek in the first century of our era, and Sir Thomas North made his translation not directly from the Greek but from the French version of Amyot (1560), publishing his first edition in 1579 and the second, which Shakespeare used, in 1595. For our play the main source was the life of Antony, though the other lives he had used for Julius Caesar also contributed something. Shakespeare followed his source far more closely in the Roman than in his other plays, and the reason lies partly in Plutarch and partly in North. For Plutarch was writing biography, not chronicle-history like Holinshed, and North was a master of language. Plutarch is the only great writer who furnished the material for Shakespeare...North made him a national classic, and his style had such relish for Shakespeare that he retained many of North's expressions... it will be convenient so far as possible to speak of Plutarch for the matter and North for the language.

Shakespeare follows the language of North most closely either in unimportant passages of fact or where North is unsurpassable. Shakespeare knew when he was well- off! ...But... he will add a touch of more poetic phrasing than even North contains.

Later, Houghton says:

'Shakespeare,' wrote T. S. Eliot in 1919, 'acquired more essential history from Plutarch than most men could from the whole British Museum.'

and Houghton still later:

Antony and Cleopatra is, along with the other Roman plays, among the seventeen which were first printed in the collected edition of Shakespeare's plays in 1623, known as the First Folio. At least we possess no earlier separate printing of this play in Quarto form. We have therefore, only one authority for the text...

My comments and conclusions on Antony and Cleopatra, and I will try to stay with facts only:

1. The first printed edition of this play known to us is in 1623.

2. The Shakespearean editor and his professional colleagues assume that Shaxper of Stratford on Avon was the author. This leads them to put some emphasis on translations into the English language as sources.

3. Houghton provides paragraphs from North as a source, and from the evidence he gives I think we can accept that 'Shakespeare' read and utilized North in his play.

4. However, de Vere was fluent in French and Latin, apparently could read Greek, and was just as capable of reading Plutarch as was North, in the French translation. So if de Vere was Shakespeare this puts an entirely different complexion on the question of utilization of sources. Further, Plutarch died in 120 AD, and the other sources mentioned existed from 1552, 1560, 1578, 1592, 1594, and North's translation, 1579 and a second edition in 1595. All of these dates occur well before de Vere's death, and the most recent of them, the 2nd edition of North, is about 9 years before de Vere's death.

5. There is no reference that I have found indicating a date for performance of this play before 1604, the year de Vere died.

6. The evidence Houghton provides for dating the play at between 1606 and 1608 is based on the 'generally agreed' sequence in the play writing of Shakespeare, assuming he was the man from Stratford who died in 1616. Early sources have to be excluded on this hypothesis because Shaxper, born in 1564, would have been too young to have used them. But this is not the case for de Vere, who was born in 1550.

6. No evidence has been provided here to show that de Vere as Shakespeare could not have first written his Antony and Cleopatra in 1596, some 10-12 years earlier than the 'agreed' dates.

I conclude that Antony and Cleopatra could have been written by de Vere, and further, that his authorship elucidates why the author was able to put as much passion into this play as he did.


Let's escape briefly from the world of Shakespearean scholarship. In his History of the Roman People, here's what historian Charles Seignobos of the University of Paris has to say about this legendary Roman leader. (Translation edited by William Farley Ph.D., Henry Holt, New York, 1904):

Marcius, a patrician and the bravest warrior in Rome, sur-named Coriolanus because he had taken the city of Corioli from the Volsci, was strongly opposed to the tribunes and the plebeians. There was a famine in Rome and the senate bought wheat to distribute among the people. Coriolanus declared that this opportunity must be seized to abolish the tribunate. "No wheat or no tribunes," The tribune accused Coriolanus before the people, and he was condemned to exile.

Coriolanus went to the Volsci, whom he had conquered, and offered to lead them against Rome. The Volsci gave him an army. He conquered the Romans, encamped near the city, and ravaged the lands of the plebeians. The frightened Romans sent to him first the consuls, then the priests, to beg him to spare his country. He refused to listen to them.

The women of Rome sought out his mother, Veturia, and all together marched to the enemy's camp. Coriolanus saw the procession coming, led by his mother and his wife leading his two children by the hand. He went to meet them, and ordered the fasces lowered as a mark of respect. His wife wept; his mother simply said: "Am I speaking to my son or to an enemy?" Coriolanus, much moved, withdrew with the Volscian army and died in exile, some say by execution, some by his own hand.

Appendix E (Chronological table of Important events) has this entry:

488 B.C.? Coriolanus came to attack Rome with a Volscian army.

As a footnote I might add that if you go to my Edward Furlong web site you will find my "Is Our Civilization Dying?" In chapter 6 under Rome, the Formative Phase, there is a further explanation of tribunes and their responsibilities. A 'fasces' was a bundle of wooden rods with an axe blade projecting at the top. This was carried before a senior official as a symbol of authority.

Now let's see what Shakespeare did with this legend. The edition I have used for this play is The Tragedy of Coriolanus, Cambridge University Press, 1960, edited by J. Dover Wilson (JDW). Here are some excerpts from JDW's Introduction, with my comments

1. Date

The only substantive text we possess of Coriolanus is the one printed in the First Folio of 1623, and since the entry of that volume in the Stationers' Register names the play as one of sixteen "not formerly entered to other men" we may probably assume that no quarto of it, good or bad, had appeared previously. Nor is there any trace of it among the rather scanty references to theatrical performances before the Restoration. Indeed that of an adaptation by Tate referred to on the title-page of that version published in 1682 is the first record we have of stage production in any form.

My comment. The Restoration was the resumption of the monarchy after the civil war and 'interregnum.' This occurred in 1660.

JDW continues:

Its early theatrical history being thus blank we must turn to the play itself for possible clues to the date of composition.

My comment.

We are now about to descend from factual evidence to hypothesis and surmise. I don't regard this as reliable evidence. There could be additions and deletions from the original manuscript at later dates, for topicality, and political, religious, or other reasons. I have already shown in chapter 25, Appendix D, how I suggest Ben Jonson, supervising the First Folio edition interpolated some of his own writing into Hamlet. However, to give JDW a fair hearing, here's how he continues (excerpts only from his 31 page introduction):

First then it was written after the beginning of 1605, which saw the publication of Camden's Remaines concerning Britaine, since, as Malone observed, Menenius's tale of the Belly and the Members, although in the main derived from Plutarch, owes a phrase or two to Camden.

My comment:

Note 1 to this chapter gives the full text of this fable as recited in the play Coriolanus, and the passages from North, Holland and Camden which are the alleged sources for Shakespeare. I have added my conclusions.

JDW continues

And second, it was written before the beginning of 1610 when The Silent Woman appeared, because in that play Jonson pokes fun at

He lurched all swords of the garland

which Cominius says in praise of Coriolanus at 2.2.99 and Jonson would hardly have applied this description of the superlative prowess of the hero of an epical tragedy to the superlative intrigue of the hero in his comedy, had he not expected the audience to recognize the parallel.

JDW then begins to drift off into other arguments such as topicality of the struggle between rich and poor and an excessively cold winter as helping to date the play.

I suggest that we can go along with him as far as saying that as this is an unusual phrase, stolen by Jonson, (which he was apt to do with the work of others), it was probably written before 1610 as JDW says. But the circumstances could have been quite different from those JDW suggests, which are mere hypotheses. Let's invent one of our own:

Jonson was involved in the 1623 First Folio and the play had not surfaced, apparently, before then. By 1610 many of the great Elizabethan dramatists were dead. Jonson, younger, was very much alive. If de Vere was Shakespeare, then his widow, Countess of Oxford Elizabeth Trentham, when moving from the mansion King's Place in about 1608-9 may have given the Coriolanus manuscript to a printer in Hackney who passed it on to Jonson, asking him 'what do you think of this, will it sell well, or act well?' Jonson probably said 'no,' and either gave it back to the printer, or the printer said 'you keep it. I have no further use for it.' That, then, would be how Jonson came to include the play in the 1623 First Folio, and how he became able to quote an unusual line from it in mockery.

But none of this tells us how long before 1610 Coriolanus was actually written.

JDW continues

Aldis Wright doubted whether Shakespeare made any use of Camden's version (of the Belly and the Members fable)... This ignores Shakespeare's unconscious habit of picking up from his sources and retaining in memory words that later came in useful. Evidence of this may be found in all the history plays, whether English or Roman, to say nothing of a play like Romeo and Juliet in which he can be shown to have remembered to a surprising degree the actual words and phrases of Brooke's rather wooden poem, or again of play after play in which Golding's vocabulary keeps cropping up.

My comments:

This is a surprising statement, and shows how much these three personalities, Jonson, Shakespeare, and de Vere are tied together in some way. JDW, a thorough Stratfordian, has I'm sure never had the de Vere connection cross his mind. But, remarkably, without knowing it, J.Dover Wilson the established Stratfordian Shakespearean critic, scholar and editor has provided impeccable evidence for de Vere's case as Shakespeare, because:

1. Golding is Arthur Golding, a renowned scholar in his day. His sister married the 16th Earl of Oxford, and between them they produced the 17th Earl as a son, the Edward de Vere who may have been Shakespeare. Arthur Golding was therefore our de Vere's uncle, and it is said tutored him during his early youth at Hedingham castle.

2.The boy was apparently a prodigy, worthy of such a tutor, because he was entered at St. John's College Cambridge at the age of about 9.5 years and received his degree about 4.5 years later. Golding was translating Ovid's Metamorphoses at the time or later when after de Vere's father died, de Vere was a Royal ward at Burghley's residence.

3. It's even been suggested that Golding was present at Burghley's residence and de Vere may have had a hand in the translation, Ovid was primarily a love poet, and some of the translation is 'racier' than Golding's regular style. J. Dover Wilson was no Oxfordian, and he knew not of what he spoke when he said that Shakespeare was to a surprising degree indebted in play after play to the vocabulary of Golding.

My conclusion is that the established dating for Coriolanus has no factual foundation, and the play could have been written earlier than proposed, No one knows when it was written.

Why did Shakespeare write this play? JDW thinks the play is related to a struggle between rich and poor, to the consequences of cross purposes between a strong willed mother and a powerful but obedient son, and as a natural consequence from his interest in Antony and Cleopatra. He says:

In Coriolanus, as in his other plays, Shakespeare is interested in dramatic art and nothing else, and particularly here in giving effective artistic form to a type of tragic hero he has not previously attempted to create.. ...Coriolanus falls into two distinct movements, the dividing line being the hero's departure from Rome. ... For it is the clash of wills between mother and son that marks the culmination of both movements.

JDW quotes the play as follows:

... There's no man in the world

More bound to's mother, [yet here he lets me prate

Like one i' th' stocks.] Thou hast never in thy life

Showed thy dear mother any courtesy,

[When she, poor hen, fond of no second brood,

Has clucked thee to the wars, and safely home

Laden with honour.] (5.3.158-64)

and then JDW says:

The lines I have italicized are pure Shakespeare - may we not say, Shakespeare of Stratford? - the rest is derived, slightly reworded, from North.

...Clearly the impression we are intended to receive is that of a young Hector with an ungovernable temper...chiefly because she had deliberately encouraged him to give way to his tantrums as a child. ...The drama of Coriolanus is built up around two crises that arise from situations in which the hero finds himself forced to choose between his duty as a man of honour and his duty as a son....

...Shakespeare offers no explanation to account for the volte-face which brings Marcius (Coriolanus) to deny everything he has hitherto stood for, and worst of all which makes him a promise-breaker and the traitor his soul loathes. Nor can one evade the problem by saying that the dramatist found it all in North and just took it over. For, as Palmer has shown, North's account is quite different. The Marcius of Plutarch had no plan of destroying Rome at all.

My comments:

Because I italicize all quotations, I put the italics used by JDW in his quotation from Shakespeare into brackets instead.

This 'fable' is as old as the ancient Greek writer Plutarch (A.D. c.46-120) whose 'Parallel Lives" was about eminent Greeks and Romans, and as old as Livy, the Roman Historian (59 B. C. - A. D. 17). If de Vere was Shakespeare he did not have to wait for Amyot, North or Camden to publish, he was perfectly capable of making his own translations from the original Greek and Latin. These modern scholars pin their dating of Coriolanus to the translations, as they assume their Shakespeare needed them. The premiss on which their dating is based becomes valueless if de Vere was Shakespeare. Who knows, de Vere's translation might have been available to Camden, and Ben Jonson might have come by Coriolanus not by public performance at all (as we have no record that there was one).

North's translation of Plutarch's Lives was published in 1579, so Coriolanus could have been written any time later than that, if the dramatist relied on North, although JDW asserts Shakespeare used the reprinted edition of 1595.

My view of the main theme of the play is different from that of JDW. I suggest it's the exile of a devoted and patriotic warrior by his own lesser countrymen. This happens to fit de Vere's life perfectly. He was 'exiled' from Court for his misdemeanours and as a result of the actions of persons he regarded as his inferiors : Anne Vavasour, Arundel, Howard and Southwell. The mother in this play interferes in the plans and intentions of Coriolanus. This reminds us of how de Vere's mother dropped out of his life, as far as we know, when she remarried after his father's death. The mother in this play says:

...thou hast never in thy life

Showed thy dear mother any courtesy,


When his mother wants him to swallow his pride and be obliging to the Tribunes, representatives of the plebians, until he is granted the consulship, he says she is asking him to go against his own nature to be like a harlot (3.2.112) and finally he says

...I will not do't;

Lest I surcease to honour mine own truth,

And by my body's actions teach my mind

A most inherent baseness


We might note the word 'truth' where we would say 'integrity.' Truth, we remember, was part of de Vere's motto (Vero nihil verius: nothing truer than truth).

De Vere's disillusionment with the Court and all it stood for was complete, He partly patched up his ostracism by the Queen, and she took care of his basic financial needs with her annual pension for him, but he never became again a favourite, or prominent courtier. This we are reminded of when Coriolanus says

... so with me

My birthplace hate I, and my love's upon

This enemy town...

Then he tells his family

While I remain above the ground you shall

Hear from me still, and never of me aught

But what is like me formerly



The play begins with a mob scene. There is a famine. The mob is treated as mere dirt. I deduce from this that what we have here is a Court play, not a theatre play with 'groundlings' who would not appreciate this presentation by the dramatist. There was, 1594-97, a series of poor harvests in England and the Privy Council set price controls on grain and arranged importation of it from abroad to alleviate the famine. This according to G.M. Trevelyan, English Social History (1946) p. 171.

The fable of the Belly and Members (Note 1) doesn't seem to me to fit very well, also the mob is standing around while Menenius is telling the fable, and the citizens' speeches are too long, slowing down the action. And why would a citizen in such a scene say (of the warrior Coriolanus) 'he did it for his mother'? This may be true in the play, but would someone say that in the middle of a mob scene? It seems to me all this indicates the play began as an early one, and was probably revised later.

In scene 4 of act 1 Marius (later to become Coriolanus) abuses his soldiers for falling back, much as abuse was poured on the mob.

His mother and his friends want him to stand for Consul, having captured the enemy city of Corioli and being honoured in consequence by being called Coriolanus. To apply for this position the custom was to put on the gown of humility, stand in the public Forum (marketplace) and show his wounds to groups of 2 or 3 plebians passing by him and ask for their votes. He doesn't want to do this. He's embarrassed to show his wounds, and ask the people for their votes. Finally he's persuaded to go through the procedure. One citizen says to him 'you have been a scourge of our enemies, ... you have not loved the common people.'

He bristles at having to put up with this.

... Thus we debase

The nature of our seats, and make the rabble

Call our cares fears, which will in time

Break ope the locks o' th' Senate and bring in

The crows to peck the eagles,

... where gentry, title, wisdom

Cannot conclude but by the yea and no

Of general ignorance - it must omit

Real necessities, and give way the while

To unstable slightness. Purpose so barr'd, it follows

Nothing is done to purpose. Therefore beseech you - ... once pluck out

The multitudinous tongue; let then not lick

The sweat which is their poison. Your dishonour

Mangles true judgement, and bereaves the state

Of that integrity which should become't

Not having the power to do the good it would,

For th'ill which doth control't.

The Tribune of the people Sicinius:

Has spoken like a traitor and shall answer

As traitors do.


Thou wretch, despite o'erwhelm thee! ...

...In a rebellion, ...

Then were they chosen; in a better hour.

Let what is meet be said it must be meet,

And throw their power i' th'dust.

Brutus (a Tribune):

...Manifest treason!

Sicinius (a Tribune):

This a Consul? No,

They call in the aediles (magistrates) and the citizens come in with them

Coriolanus resists the Tribunes and 'rabble' as the aediles attempt to arrest him. He draws his sword and defies them; the Patricians persuade them all to break it up and tell Coriolanus to go to his house.

Then Menenius (a faithful friend of Coriolanus):

His nature is too noble for the world:

He would not flatter Neptune for his trident,

Or Jove for's power to thunder, His heart's his mouth;

What his breast forges, that his tongue must vent;


He shall be thrown down the Tarpeian rock

With rigorous hands; he hath resisted law,

And therefore law shall scorn him further trial

Than the severity of the public power,

Which he so sets at nought.

My comment:

All these are excerpts from Act 3, scene 1.

Here is Coriolanus at home speaking in Act 3 scene 2:

I muse my mother

Does not approve me further, who was wont

To call them woollen vassals, things created

To buy and sell with groats; ...

My comment:

A groat was a silver coin first issued in 1351, worth about four pennies. A modern North American equivalent would be a nickel (worth five cents, or 'pennies'). Shakespeare in his plays shows a little more kindliness towards his humble characters, but is equally aloof in his relationship to them. De Vere became by right a member of the House of Lords at age 21.

The mother of Coriolanus told him he should have waited until he gained the power of consul before trying to exercise it and upset the rabble. His long-time friend Menenius:

Repent what you have spoke.


For them! I cannot do it to the gods;

Must I then do't to them?

His mother reminds him of what he had said on honour and policy which she says is as important in peace as in war.

In Act 3 scene 3, Brutus (Tribune)

... He hath been us'd

Ever to conquer, and to have his worth

Of contradiction; being once chaf'd, he cannot

Be rein'd again to temperance; then he speaks

What's in his heart, and that is there which looks

With us to break his neck.

Coriolanus is banished by the tribunes, and the plebeians shout

It shall be so, it shall be so.


You common cry of curs, whose breath I hate

As reek o' th' rotten fens, whose loves I prize

As the dead carcasses of unburied men

That do corrupt my air - I banish you,...

... till at length

Your ignorance ...

... deliver you

As most abated captives to some nation

That won you without blows! Despising

For you the city, thus I turn my back;

There is a world elsewhere.

And Act 4, scene 1:

Farewell, my wife, my mother.

I'll do well yet.

Now we come to Act 5, scene 6

Aufidius the Volscan, the perennial enemy of Coriolanus in war who has been worsted by Coriolanus in battle many times, describes how Coriolanus came to him, offered to be executed by him, and how instead Aufidius took him in, gave him the best troops, and now:

... Till, at the last,

I seem'd his follower, not partner...

So Aufidius is now plotting to destroy Coriolanus. The conspirators for

Aufidius kill Coriolanus, and Aufidius stands on his body.

My comments:

I did not find the name Aufidius in the historical record, but it is, I suggest, reminiscent of the word perfidious as shown by Aufidius.

Reflecting on this play, it seems to me that if by de Vere, it would have been begun in the late 1580s or early 90s, after betrayal by his 'friends' Henry Howard, Charles Arundel, and Francis Southwell. Of course, he started this by accusing them to the Queen of treason. As a feudal Lord by birth, he would have empathized with Coriolanus in his distaste for the lower classes, and I suggest merely expressed some of his own views in the play, and possibly those of his own mother. The mother was probably modelled on either his own mother, or the Queen, or possibly in part Lady Burghley, who apparently didn't hesitate to speak her mind to the Queen or anyone else. The wife would have been modelled on Anne Cecil, as the wife is a pale non-entity who merely expresses dismay and takes their two children along with her.

This play seems to me to be pedestrian in the first scene, and even the warrior scenes are a bit flat or wooden. That's why I suggest they're early Shakespeare (or de Vere). But Act 3 comes to life. That's when Coriolanus tries to obey the rules for candidates for consulship, speaks his unflattering mind, clashes with the Tribunes whose very right to people power he detests. He considers it an aberration, but finds himself ostracized by the people and banished for his intransigence. In Act 3, de Vere had only to be himself to carry through the tempestuous scenes with perfect fidelity.

My conclusions on this play are:

1. No factual evidence exists for the conventional dating of Coriolanus. It could have been earlier than supposed and written during de Vere's lifetime.

2, All the known sources are well within the lifetime of de Vere. One later suggested source - Camden - depends on a single word - 'gulf' for 'stomach.' This may have been inserted by Ben Jonson for the 1623 First Folio, which is the first known printed version.

3. Coriolanus, the warrior, through pride and contempt for the plebians was exiled from Rome, and died in exile.

4. De Vere was banished from Court and could empathize with Coriolanus and his feelings.

5. If de Vere was Shakespeare he could not release this play during his lifetime because it would be too obvious a reflection on the Court and a reminder to the public of his own immoral conduct which caused his 'exile,'


For this play I have used the Arden edition edited by H. J. Oliver, Methuen and Co. Ltd. London, 1959. As the Introduction runs to 39 pages, only excerpts can be given here. The Introduction begins:



Timon of Athens is one of the eighteen plays now regularly thought of as Shakespeare's which, not having appeared separately in Quarto during his lifetime, were first printed, after his death, in the First Folio of 1623; and before publication it was therefore entered in the Stationers' Register by Isaac Jaggard and Edward Blount, on 8 November 1623, among the "Copies as are not formerly entered to other men."

For this play, then, the Folio is the only text. But Timon differs in many important respects from other "Folio plays" and sometimes presents an editor with problems that are unique.

My comments:

We'll refer to H. J. Oliver as HJO. What this editor tells us is that had it not been for the First Folio we might not have known that the play existed, or that it was attributed to William Shakespeare the dramatist. The learned editor for Coriolanus said there were 16 plays 'not previously entered' but this one says 18.

The editor goes on to explain that the play was inserted between the Romeo and Juliet and Julius Caesar plays, but the pagination was somewhat messed up because originally Troilus and Cressida was to have appeared there, but facing problems with it, the printers moved it back in the sequence. The pages were apparently already numbered and set, but Timon was a much shorter play, and so blank pages were left over. These were partly filled with an unusual and inaccurate listing of dramatis personae headed "The Actors Names."


Even before the days of modern bibliography, editors and readers of Timon were puzzled by what seemed to be loose ends in the play, or even false starts, by certain inconsistencies in the naming of the characters or the spelling of their names, and by the exceptional irregularity of the versification, which more oftern than in any other play by Shakespeare refused to scan according to the regular iambic pentameter pattern.

The most often quoted example of inconsistency is said to be Ventidius, in the opening generously redeemed from prison by the wealthy Timon who pays his large debt. but in 1.2.1-8 other characters say he (now Ventigius) offers to repay but Timon doesn't accept it. Later when Timon is bankrupt and asks for his help he is Ventiddius, then Ventidgius when he refuses.

E. K. Chambers is quoted as saying

"What is the precise dramatic purpose served by the good steward (never given a name)... and his sentimentalities, which seem to give the lie to Timons' wholesale condemnation of humanity, without any appreciable effect upon its direction or its force?"

Another commentator says Timon simply does not exist as a person.


One problem is spelling. HJO tells us that a known scribe of manuscripts, named Ralph Crane, had idiosyncracies of spelling. Further, HJO tells us that Compositor 'B,' as he's now deduced to be, the one more careless and with poorer spelling than 'A,' was involved in printing Timon. HJO says:

It is clear that we shall not understand the occurrence of these various spellings of proper names until we remember that the pages were set up by the compositor not in their present order but by formes; in any set of twelve pages the normal order of setting would be 6, 7; 5, 8; 4, 9; 3, 10; 2, 11; 1, 12.

The further complication is that alongside the characteristic spellings of Compositor B there are others, not compositional, which are probably a 'show-through' from the copy he was setting up in type. At this stage... bibliography is in danger of completing the vicious circle if it argues that the presence of some spellings suggests a certain compositor and then the absence of them or the presence of others suggests a characteristic of the copy (rather than a different compositor.)

HJO again:

It is certain that the copy for Timon was not a prompt-copy or any kind of manuscript that had been used in a theatre. The very first stage-direction, for example, says "Enter Poet, Painter, Jeweller, Merchant, and Mercer" although as far as one can determine there is no Mercer in the play. (There are speech-prefixes 'Mer,' but they apparently stand for the Merchant; and the Poet and Painter discuss the other two people on stage, not three. Such a 'ghost-character' would certainly be struck out in a prompt-book but is characteristic of author's 'foul papers' or a transcript of them: the author writes down a list of characters he may require but forgets one of them or changes his mind. The error is all the more likely to remain, of course, if the author has in fact never read through his manuscript but has left it unrevised.


HJO tells us:

Ever since Charles Knight in 1838 argued that Timon of Athens was a reworking by another dramatist of a tragedy originally by Shakespeare, there have been theories that the state of the text could be explained if it was held either that Shakespeare was working over a play by another (Wilkins, Chapman, Day and Middleton being among those mentioned) or that another (such as Heywood, Chapman, Middleton or Tourneau) was revising a play by Shakespeare. Such theories always began with the assumption that the play as it stood was unworthy of Shakespeare and that the poorer parts must be attributed to an inferior hand...Their verbal evidence was in fact capable of a completely different interpretation: the presence in both Timon and A Chaste Maid in Cheapside, for example, of the phrase 'My wounds ache at you' ought to have suggested not that the one author wrote the two plays but that the phrase was in everyday use. ...It is precisely the loose ends and the irregular versification of Timon that a non-Shakespearian reviser would have 'tidied up.'


HJO quotes:

'I do not doubt,' wrote E. K. Chambers of Timon, 'that it was left unfinished by Shakespeare, and I believe that the real solution of its 'problem,' indicated long ago by Ulrici and others, is that it is unfinished still... The soliloquy of the Steward (4.2.30-51) gives me the impression of being not so much un-Shakespearean as incompletely Shakespearean.'

HJO next quotes from Una Ellis-Fermor 'Timon of Athens: An Unfinished Play':

The power both of the language and of the music of individual lines or groups of lines is unmistakable. The speech is a succession of units, sometimes a line and a half, sometimes two, sometimes as many as seven,... These passages... are jottings, thoughts that form in the writer's mind as prosodic units, but are not yet related prosodically so as to form a verse, paragraph or even a continuous succession of blank verse lines....these jottings are a normal stage in the composition of blank verse.'

And HJO again:

The loose ends in the plot are further reason for believing in the theory of Timon as an unfinished play. ...the appearance of the Fool in Timon seems to be only a rough start on a possible comic sub-plot, for the development of which there was ample room, since the play falls far short of the normal Elizabethan and Shakespearian length...

One other small piece of evidence probably clinches the case for incompleteness. J. M. Robertson noticed that the author of Timon apparently did not know the value of the Attic 'talent' and that contradictory ideas of the value remain in the play. ...Terence Spencer showed that the only possible explanation was that the text of Timon was a draft.

My comments:

A talent was a standard of weight and value used by many ancient people, including Assyrians, Greeks and Romans, and of course varied in value from place to place and time to time. Another problem with value for it, I believe, is that there was a silver as well as a gold talent, and we have to know which is being referred to. The text of Timon early-on refers to his rescue of Ventidius from prison by paying 5 talents, but later sends for 50 talents each to Lucius, Lucullus and Sempronius, and to the Senate for a thousand. The Attic talent is said to have weighed about 57.76 lbs. (pounds). With 12 troy ounces to a lb., and say $300 US to a troy ounce, a talent would today be worth about U.S. $208,000 if a gold talent. So 5 talents would be in US$ about $1+ million, 50 talents about $10+ million and 1,000 talents about $208. million. Of course silver talents would be worth just a small fraction of these amounts.

HJO continues...

Shakespeare like lesser mortals did not always compose spontaneously in perfect blank verse. Timon would suggest that thoughts often came to him in a kind of incomplete verse form, sometimes in prose, and sometimes (interestingly) in rhyme, and that only on revision did the text evolve into, predominantly, blank verse.... Every artist knows the experience of the work which simply refuses to 'go well', and Timon. apparently, did not 'go well' for Shakespeare.

My comment:

This play is about a wealthy man who gives away his wealth through helping others in need. When he's finally out of funds and seeks help from others, they refuse him. He leaves them and the city in disgust, becomes a misanthrope, works with a spade digging for '6d a day,' But Zeus hears about this, and arranges to have something done about it: while digging one day Timon finds a hoard of gold.

HJO says:


The substantive text, that of the First Folio, is treated as a setting by Compositor B of a script that was probably partly the author's unrevised foul papers and partly a transcript of them, possibly by Ralph Crane. The two kinds of textual corruption that must be allowed for are therefore scribal and compositional, but there is no question whatever of prompt-book alterations, actors' perversions or mishearings.

..But there are many things in Timon about which Shakespeare had presumably not made up his mind at all (for example, whether the First, Second, Third and Fourth Lords of the closing lines of Act 3 are identical with Lucillus, Lucius, Sempronius and Ventidius) and I do not myself think it is an editor's business to make Shakespeare's mind up for him....

I have preserved the traditional Act and Scene divisions, ... but there are no such divisions in the Folio Timon ... even though they were put into the Folio in some plays, at the time of printing, and often in inappropriate places. ...

One must always be on the look-out for a compositor's irresponsible re-lining and there are instances ... where lines are simply cut into two to fill a page neatly.


That Shakespeare's main source for the story of Timon was North's Plutarch is certain. Sir Thomas North's English translation of Amiot's French translation of Plutarch's Greek Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, published in 1579 and again with additions in 1595, provided also much of the material for Julius Caesar, Coriolanus, and Antony and Cleopatra...

The often-repeated suggestion that Shakespeare could have derived the same material from another of his favourite source-books, William Painter's Palace of Pleasure (1566), may safely be rejected, Painter's twenty-eighth novella, 'Of the strange and beastlie nature of Timon of Athens, enemie to mankinde', traces back eventually to Plutarch...But Painter omitted facts which Shakespeare knew from North. ... One of the few reasons for believing that Shakespeare remembered Painter's version of the story is that in giving his translation of Timon's epitaph Painter uses the word 'caitiff''


My wretched caitife dayes, expired now and past:

and Shakespeare has 'wicked caitiffs left' where North has 'wicked wretches'.

If, however, North's Plutarch gave Shakespeare what may be called his premises, it did not give him a plot of anything like the completeness of the plots he normally followed in his plays. ... Lucian's dialogue 'Timon the Misanthrope' ... has often been suggested as the direct source of Shakespeare's tragedy.

My comment:

Lucian was a Greek orator, writer and satirist, AD 120-190. He is, like Aristophanes centuries before him, very clever and amusing in his dialogues.

Zeus discusses Timon's case with Hermes, who he sends with Plutus (wealth) and Thesaurus (treasure).


They find Timon earning a pittance, digging for hire. Poverty resigns him to their care. Timon threatens them with clods and stones, and says he was happier away from the parasites and flatterers who attended him in his days of luxury. But the will of the gods must be obeyed. He digs, and finds gold. His only satisfaction is that once the fact of his treasure is known they will 'all be fit to hang themselves over it.' and soon they do come running ... the first is driven off with the spade, the second also, ...Finally comes Thrasycles, the hypocritical philosopher who wants nothing for himself but will make the sacrifice of distributing Timon's wealth to needy friends; instead of a few, he is given 'a whole headful of clouts' to help him on his way. ...

Here, certainly, are many elements not in North's Plutarch which occur in the same or similar forms in the Shakespearian play...

HJO is forced to conclude

'the verdict must, I think, 'not proven,' particularly as the tone of Lucian is... different from Shakespeare's.

My comments:

Here HJO is at a disadvantage. He thinks the man from Stratford would have needed a translated version and none has been found which could have been available to Shaxper. But as it appears de Vere is the candidate, we have no problem here. He no doubt read and thoroughly enjoyed the humour of Lucian in the original Greek. Further, HJO's own testimony of action in Timon not coming from North but available in Lucian defeats his own conclusion. However, HJO mentions the discovery of an 'old surviving Elizabethan drama of Timon' whose plot is certainly closer to Shakespeare's than is Lucian's. Here we have the apparently perennial problem of an 'old' version. I suggest it's probably an earlier de Vere version of the same play. This solution is not available to Shaxperians as their man would have been too young at the time to have written it.

HJO's further comments on the old play include:

...this play (which, judging from its erudite and pedantic references, was intended for an academic audience)

His only suggested solution is that some day another source will be found (which would be accessible to Shaxper.)

I suggest this earlier play may have been by de Vere and intended for a 'courtly audience' which was probably equally well educated.

However, if by de Vere, it seems that once again he was merely expressing his frustration at having spent his wealth on helping writers and the Court, the Queen took it for granted, as did the flatterers while he was wealthy. The Coriolanus experience was a phenomenon only too well known to him. De Vere too, descended into relative poverty. De Vere too, thanks to his marriage to Elizabeth Trentham, eventually found wealth restored to him and lived his final days in reasonable financial security. It seems that such a play was far too personal and neither he, nor his family, would wish to have it exposed either to the Court or the general public in a theatre during his lifetime.

HJO next discusses dating:


That the composition of Timon can be assigned to an exact date seems unlikely. There is no reason to think that the play was ever acted in Shakespeare's lifetime and there is no contemporary mention of it. Nor does it contain a single allusion to any event or person such as generally forms the 'external' evidence for dating Elizabethan work.

Later HJO says

Yet Timon is not merely an inferior King Lear.

My comment:

I find this a surprising statement. It almost seems that the editor doesn't realize the completely different motivation for writing each of these plays. Presumably that's because Stratfordians have no yardstick against which to judge Shaxper's knowledge of life and experiences as shown in the plays of Shakespeare. But with de Vere as Shakespeare, everything falls naturally into place. Timon is a play about a wealthy man who gradually divests himself of his fortune by helping others in need, but when he needed financial help, and was relatively poor, his former friends and associates 'disappeared.' That is precisely what happened to de Vere. But King Lear did something quite different. He gave away his kingdom to his daughters, He had planned equal parts to all three, but historically ended up dividing it between the two elder ones. This is almost exactly what de Vere did: probably prompted by Burghley he handed over much of his remaining patrimony to his 3 daughters, who were then taken over by William Cecil, Lord Burghley, and brought up as Cecils.

HJO concludes:

I think it unlikely, then, either that Timon was a 'first attempt' at King Lear or that it was...'the doubtful harbinger of the romances.'

As you can see, I disagree with this line of thinking completely, and I believe with good reason.

HJO next discusses the play:


The 'design' is announced most succinctly in the opening dialogue of Jeweller and Merchant, Poet and Painter. In a few brief lines, the atmosphere of hypocrisy is established (in, for example, the false modesty of the Poet's 'A thing slipp'd idly from me'): and after a glimpse of the Senators who are paying court to Timon, the Poet describes his allegorical poem in which he has pictured one 'of Lord Timon's frame' betrayed by false friends when misfortune overtakes him. Before the entrance of Timon himself, then, there is a clear announcement of ,,.'the dual theme of the false appearance of friendship and the uncertainty of fortune.'... The second premise is the noble generosity of Timon and this is established with remarkable economy of means in two brief interviews.

...we must agree that there is a shallowness in his 'complacently accepting' praise for his generosity as he does.

In the early scenes of Act 3, the greasily confidential Lucullus, the heartily evasive Lucius and the hypocritically indignant Sempronius refuse Timon in turn.

Of these scenes... Una Ellis-Fermor has justly commented 'The masterly skill of long experience lies behind the treatment of the parallel episodes of Lucullus, Lucius, Sempronius and Ventidius, so handled, in different ways, as to avoid repetition while building up the impression of accumulation, to reveal at once the individuality of characters and the monotony of their behaviour. No dramatic novice wrote this.'

HJO continues..

The scene in which Alcibiades pleads before the Athenian Senate is therefore perfectly placed to introduce this contrast between the ways in which two men of honour meet a given situation. The oration of Alcibiades is apparently of Shakespeare's own invention (as were many of the orations in his other plays)...

I think that all these theories place insufficient emphasis on the dramatic principle on which Timon of Athens is constructed -that of counterpoint.

My comments:

1. No one knows when this play was written. Once we divorce it from Shaxper, we can see that with de Vere as Shakespeare, it could have been written any time after his relative poverty began, somewhere between 1586 and 1591-2, when his marriage helped restore his financial position.

2. None of the sources mentioned exclude de Vere as a candidate for Shakespeare, even North's revised edition of a translation is published 9 years before de Vere's death. De Vere, if Shakespeare , could have read the sources in the original Greek or Latin.

3, The plot of the play fits de Vere's life experience very well, He knew what he was writing about here, first hand.

4. The unfinished state of the play seems to make it clear that it was not something that interested him much after his happy and financially secure marriage, and the theme was too personal for public performance.

5. He may have been in ill health the last few years of his life, as we have the evidence of his 1590s letters saying he was 'lame' and had a 'lame hand.' His later output seems littered with unfinished plays, either perhaps like Schubert with his Unfinished Symphony because the inspiration didn't come to him to sustain what he had begun, or because his interests had moved on to other things.

I conclude that, surprisingly, here is another play conventionally dated 1608 for which there is no supporting factual evidence. There are reasons to believe that de Vere could have written it earlier, and that de Vere had the motivation for writing on the theme of the play based on his personal experience.

In the next chapter we'll look at the remaining group of plays listed above:



The Winter's Tale

The Tempest.




I have read through the quotations given by JDW from North's translation of Plutarch, from Holland's translation of Livy (1600) and Camden's version (1605). I have put words or phrases borrowed by Shakespeare from the North in capitals, from Holland in brackets, and from Camden underlined . You will see from this that in my opinion only three words come from Camden. The word 'gulf' for 'stomach' is the only unique word.

Here's what JDW has to say about these quotations:

First then it (Timon) was written after the beginning of 1605, which saw the publication of Camden's Remaines concerning Britaine, since, as Malone observed, Menenius's tale of the Belly and the Members, although in the main derived from Plutarch, owes a phrase or two to Camden.

Here's the wording in Coriolanus, Act 1, scene 1:

MENENIUS. Either you must
    Confess yourselves wondrous malicious,
    Or be accus'd of folly. I shall tell you
    A pretty tale. It may be you have heard it;
    But, since it serves my purpose, I will venture
    To stale't a little more.
  FIRST CITIZEN. Well, I'll hear it, sir; yet you must not think to
    fob off our disgrace with a tale. But, an't please you, deliver.
    REBELLE'D AGAINST THE (BELLY); thus accus'd it:
    THAT ONLY like a gulf IT DID REMAIN
    I' TH' MIDST O' TH' BODY, idle and unactive,
    Still cupboarding the viand, never BEARING
    Like (LABOUR)  WITH THE REST; WHERE TH' OTHER instruments
    Did see and hear, devise, instruct, walk, feel,
    And, mutually participate, did (minister)
  Unto the APPETITE and affection common
    OF THE whole BODY. The belly answer'd-
  FIRST CITIZEN. Well, sir, what answer made the belly?
  MENENIUS. Sir, I shall tell you. With a kind of smile,
    Which ne'er came from the lungs, but even thus-
    For look you, I may make the belly smile
    As well as speak- it tauntingly replied
    To th' discontented members, the mutinous parts
    That envied his receipt; even so most fitly
    As you malign our senators for that
    They are not such as you.
  FIRST CITIZEN. Your belly's answer- What?
    The kingly crowned head, the vigilant eye,
    The counsellor heart, the arm our soldier,
    Our steed the leg, the tongue our trumpeter,
    With other muniments and petty helps
    Is this our fabric, if that they-
  MENENIUS. What then?
    Fore me, this fellow speaks! What then? What then?
  FIRST CITIZEN. Should by the cormorant belly be restrain'd,
    Who is the sink o' th' body-
  MENENIUS. Well, what then?
  FIRST CITIZEN. The former agents, if they did complain,
    What could the belly answer?
  MENENIUS. I will tell you;
    If you'll bestow a small- of what you have little-
    Patience awhile, you'st hear the belly's answer.
  FIRST CITIZEN. Y'are long about it.
  MENENIUS. Note me this, good friend:
    Your most grave belly was deliberate,
    Not rash like his accusers, and thus answered.
    'TRUE IS IT, my incorporate friends,' quoth he
    'That I RECEIVE the general food at FIRST
    Which you do live upon; and fit it is,
    Because I am the storehouse and the shop
    Of the whole body. BUT, if you do remember,
    I SEND IT  through the rivers of your (blood),
    Even to the court, the heart, to th' seat o' th' brain;
    And, through the cranks and offices of man,
    The strongest nerves and small inferior veins
    From me receive that natural competency
    Whereby they live. And though that all at once
    You, my good friends'- this says the belly; mark me.
  FIRST CITIZEN. Ay, sir; well, well.
  MENENIUS. 'Though all at once cannot
    See what I do deliver out to each,
    Yet I can make my audit up, that all
    From me do back receive the flour of all,
    And leave me but the bran.' What say you to' t?
  FIRST CITIZEN. It was an answer. How apply you this?
  MENENIUS. The senators of Rome are this good belly,
    And you the mutinous members; for, examine
    Their counsels and their cares, digest things rightly
    Touching the weal o' th' common, you shall find
    No public benefit which you receive
    But it proceeds or comes from them to you,...

Here are the quotations provided by JDW from North, Camden and Holland:

'An excellent tale tolde by Menenius Agrippa to pacifie the people'

(North's Plutarch, II, 149)

The Senate...dyd send unto them certaine of the pleasantest olde men, and the most acceptable to the people among them. Of those, Menenius Agrippa was he who was sent for chief man of the message from the Senate. He, after mainy good persuasions and gentle requestes made to the people, on the behalfe of the Senate: knit up his oration in the ende with a notable tale, in this manner. That on a time all the members of the bodie, dyd rebell against the bellie, complaining of it, that it only remained in the middest of the bodie, without doing any thing, neither dyd beare any Labour to the maintenaunce of the rest: whereas all other partes and members dyd labour paynefully, and was very carefull to satisfie the appetites and desires of the bodie. And so the bellie, all this notwithstanding, laughed at their follie, and sayed: It is true, I first receyve all meates that norishe a mans bodie; but afterwardes I send it againe to the norishment of other partes of the same. Even so (quoth he) O you, my masters, and citizens of Rome: the reason is alike betweene the Senate, and you. For matters being well digested, and their counsells thoroughly examined, touching the benefit of the common wealth: the Senatours are cause of the common commoditie that commeth unto every one of you.

Extract from Camden's 'Remaines of a greater worke concerning Britaine'

(Edition 1605, pp.198-9)

All the members of the body conspired against the stomacke, as against the swallowing gulfe of all their labors; for whereas the eies beheld, the eares heard, the handes labored, the feete traveled, the tongue spake, and all partes performed their functions, onely the stomache lay idle and consumed all. Here uppon they joyntly agreed al to forbeare their labors, and to pine away their lasie and publike enemy. One day passed over, the second followed very tedious, but the third day was so grievous to them all, that they called a common Counsel; the eyes waxed dimme, the feete could not support the bodie, the armes waxed lasie, the tongue faltered, and could not lay open the matter; therefore they all with one accord desired the advise of the Heart. Then Reason layd open before them that hee again whome they had proclaimed warres, was the cause of all this their misery. For he as their common steward, when his allowances were withdrawne of necessitie withdrew theirs fro them, as not receiving that he might allow. Therefore it were a farre better course to supply him, than that the limbs should faint with hunger. So, by the perswasion of Reason, the stomache was served, the limbes comforted, and peace re-established. Even so it fareth with the bodies of Commonweale; for albeit the Princes gather much, yet not so much for themselves, as for others: So that if they want, they cannot supply the want of others; therefore do not repine at Princes heerein, but respect the common good of the whole publike estate.

Extract from 'The Romane Historie written by Titus Livius of Padua'

[Livy Bk.II, XXXII], (translated by Philemon Holland, 1600)

Whilome (quoth he) when as in mans bodie, all the parts thereof agreed not, as now they do in one, but each member had a several interest and meaning, yea, and a speech by it selfe; so it befel, that all other parts besides the belly, thought much and repined that by their carefulness, labor, and ministerie, all was gotten, and yet all little enough to serve it; and the bellie it selfe lying still in the mids of them, did nothing else but enjoy the delightsome pleasures brought unto her. Wherupon they mutinied and conspired altogether in this wise, That neither the hands should reach and convey food to the mouth, nor the mouth receive it as it came, ne yet the teeth grind and chew the same. In this mood and fit, whiles they were minded to famish the poore bellie, behold the other lims, yea and the whole bodie besides, pined, wasted, and fel into an extreme consumption. Then was it wel seen, that even the very belly also did no smal service, but fed the other parts, as it received food it selfe: seeing that by working and concocting the meat throughlie, it digesteth, and distributeth by the veines into all parts, that fresh and perfect blood whereby we live, we like, and have our full strength. Comparing herewith, and making his application, to wit, how like this intestine, and inward sedition of the bodie, was to the full stomache of the Commons, which they had taken and borne against the Senatours, he turned quite the peoples hearts.

My comments:

You can see from the information provided in this Note that the Coriolanus play has but three identifying words which also appear in Camden:

gulf; idle; and receive.

I think we can ignore 'receive' as too familiar a word to be significant, but possibly 'idle' and almost certainly 'gulf'' are words we need to take into account. How then did de Vere, if he was Shakespeare, come to utilize the word 'gulf'?

I think there are at least three possible explanations:

1. JDW and his contemporary scholars think Shaxper was the dramatist, who would be expected to rely on translations; de Vere could have read the French translation of Plutarch and Plutarch and Livy in the original Greek and Latin. It's possible that Camden read Coriolanus in manuscript and borrowed the words from de Vere.

2. De Vere's use of these words is based on his personal translation of the original text, and Camden or his translator came to the same rendering of the original.

3. Jonson supervised and probably edited the plays for the 1623 publication, as we showed in chapter 25 under Appendix D, relating to Hamlet emendations of text, It's quite likely that Jonson, having read Camden himself, inserted the word 'gulf'' on his own initiative.

This is mere hypothesis, but no more so than that of the scholars whose work we are considering here. What we need to remember is that no one knows when the play was written, or whether it was performed prior to 1682, and that it was not published until 1623.

Another item of interest is that William Harvey's publishing of his De Metu Cordis et Sanguinis first announced the discovery of the double circulation of blood in 1628, but Michael Servetus discovered the circulation of blood in 1540. De Vere was friends with a number of notable savants of his day, including Dr. Dee, and de Vere would probably have known about the Servetus discovery.





When I look at this portrait of de Vere I am reminded of an incident in my earlier days and think I know what it would be like to meet de Vere if you were a commoner.

While I was still at Oxford I was invited to do a research study on a non-profit organization that had somehow lost sight of its objectives. As I was preparing my preliminary report (some 60 pages in 4 sections) I was invited to London to meet one of the national directors. He was a history professor at London University. We met and before I left he said 'I'd love to have you in my history department,' but I didn't reply as I had no intention of living in London. Then unexpectedly on the spot he arranged for me to meet another national director for lunch. As I recall, he was a major-general, of the bluest of blue blood. On the phone he invited me to have lunch with him at his club, and a very prestigious club it was, in the West End of London. I said 'I'm not dressed for it.' He obviously didn't take me seriously and we were to meet on the steps of his club at 1 pm. When I arrived, with lilac velveteen cord pants, white suede shoes and a colourful shirt, his monacle dropped from his eye in real or simulated amazement. He quickly had the doorman call a cab and whisked me away as soon as possible to a less demanding club where we had an excellent meal and he thoroughly enjoyed what I had to tell him about my report.

I say all this because I am reminded of it when I see this particular portrait of de Vere. Here is a representation which tells us he was haughty, of the bluest of blue blood, a supercilious aristocrat with little more than contempt for those beneath him in social status, proud, sensitive, meticulous as to his appearance, and moving in the highest social circles in the land.

De Vere was already at this age a prodigious intellect, poet and dramatist, and had one of the best 'wits' in England. His fall from grace came from a charge of bastardy by his sister and her husband; shamed by broadcast rumours of his wife's infidelity; public accusations of a capital offence - homosexuality- and other crimes and misdemeanours, made by his former friends and reported to the highest body in the country - the Privy Council; causing to be impregnated one of the Queen's Maids of Honour in consequence of which he was imprisoned in the Tower of London and banished from the Court which was his world; his profligate and reckless spending. This noble and premier Earl was brought from the zenith of his fame and brilliance that we see in this portrait, to loneliness, despair, relative poverty, dependence on an annual handout from the Queen, and a life with common writers, players and playwrights, the 'lewd friends' despised by his Puritanical father-in-law, Lord Burghley.

I have to conclude from all this that starting with Courtly comedies which made him justly famous for their cleverness, subtle plots with surprising developments, mischievous humour, mimicking and satirizing the lower classes and the courtiers around him, the plays of de Vere, which we now know as Shakespeare's work, trace the downward path of de Vere's life from Courtly grace and comedy to high history to tragedy and the depths of loneliness and despair in King Lear. But this was followed by his marriage to Elizabeth Trentham and after that came a loving home, financial relief, a longed for son and heir, and his own ensuing reconciliation with his fate, represented in his final other-worldly 'romance' plays.

In this one portrait we have frozen in time a particular moment when he was just past the zenith of this tempestuous cycle. A cycle which in its entirety I am driven to accept gave birth to some of the greatest drama in the history of mankind.



The information provided is as stated by B. M. Ward in his biography of Edward de Vere. Ward does not say de Vere died of the plague, merely that the entry "ye plague" is in the margin on the same page of the Hackney parish register.

However, on the Web there is a page 'OXMYTH' which states

There is no evidence that Oxford died of the plague. The last death attributed to "ye Plague" in the Hackney parish register occurred at least a month before Oxford's death.

The reference given is an email from Dr. Alan Nelson.

On his web page professor Nelson provides information leading to the conclusion that de Vere had syphilis. (See chapter 6 regarding a Venetian courtesan and chapter 7 for discussion of Henry Howard's alleged charge that de Vere had 'the Neapolitan disease.')

Whatever it was, something killed de Vere at age 54. He probably had arthritis, a debilitating disease, but that would have been unlikely to kill him.



I have relied on the Warwick edition edited by D. Nicol Smith, Merton Professor of English Literature, Oxford.

Here's what the editor (DNS) wrote in part in the Introduction:

King Lear was first printed in quarto form, in 1608. Two editions of it appeared in that year. ... Of (the earlier) edition six copies are known to be extant... all ... being carelessly printed... only two are identical... and not one of them contains a fully revised text. ...The second Quarto was based on the first. It reproduces and aggravates many of the faults of the other...The next text of King Lear is that of the Folio of 1623.... it appears to have been taken from an acting copy preserved at the theatre... the Quartos were printed in all probability surreptitiously. The Quartos contain about 300 lines not given in the Folio, and about 110 in the Folio are omitted in the Quartos... These omissions cannot definitely be explained. It is probable that neither text was revised by Shakespeare himself... The Quartos may follow a slightly condensed copy used in the performance at Court in 1606...The Folio reproduces some of the errors of the Quartos...The modern text is considerably longer the inclusion of all the passages which occur only in one or other of them.


The date of King Lear is not known definitely: but it is certain that the play was written between 1603 and 1606....There are several passages which prove Shakespeare's knowledge of Harsnet's Declaration of Egregious Popishe Impostures... Harsnet's book was entered in the Stationers' Registers on 16th March, 1603, and appeared later in the same year...The names of the devils mentioned by Edgar when feigning madness are undoubtedly borrowed from this book, while certain remarks made by him in his role of Tom of Bedlam point to a like indebtedness. Unfortunately this is the only evidence that is at all definite.


The story of King Lear was familiar in various forms to the Elizabethans. From the 12th to the 16th century it had been told again and again...

There is entered in the Registers of the Stationers' Company under the date 14th May, 1594: The Most Famous Chronicle historye of Leire kinge of England and his Three Daughters. No copy of this is known, but it is probably the same as The Tragecall historie of kinge Leir and his Three Daughters, which was entered on 8th of May 1605, and appeared in the same year with the following title: The True Chronicle History of King Leir and his three Daughters, Gonerill, Regan, and Cordella. As it hath bene diuers and sundry times lately acted.

We are on surer ground in dealing with the early play. the anonymous True Chronicle History of King Leir. The main incidents of this drama, and in particular some of its deviations from the usual story, have their counterpart in King Lear.

DNS lists a number of them, then continues:

These are some of the most striking points of similarity in the development of the two plays. But indebtedness may be traced even in minor matters...

My comments:

If de Vere was Shakespeare, the early play which is so similar to King Lear and different from the other possible sources was probably a much earlier original Court version. It was perhaps substantially revised for the theatre by the dramatist before the late 1590s which may be when de Vere finally set it aside. This would have been because de Vere's interests changed to reconciliation and 'romance' after his happy marriage to Elizabeth Trentham. The slight references to Harsnet's 1603 work could have been inserted by the dramatist or another to improve topicality for publication.

None of the evidence provided by DNS precludes de Vere from having written this play.

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