In my youth I studied many of Shakespeare's plays assiduously. I knew the plots, could quote various speeches, knew the probable sources, read all the editors notes and introductions, knew the words in the glossaries, and read the major works on Shakespearean criticism. I thought I knew quite a lot about Shakespearean plays. But these plays were in a vacuum. I knew, because I'd been taught, that Shakespeare of Stratford on Avon wrote them: that he was a literary genius and came from a humble family. We didn't know anything about his education and very little about his life. As well as being a playwright he was an actor at the prestigious Globe theatre where his plays were acted. He returned to Stratford on Avon after a successful career and died there in 1616. And that's about it.

In my maturity, as an experienced investigator, after immersing myself in the Shakespeare Identity problem, untrammelled by conventional scholarship, and having already researched for and written 25 chapters, I saw a Shakespearean play acted. This was on CBC TV. The play was Twelfth Night. Now I realized that this play was about nobility by nobility and for nobility. Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Sir Toby Belch are both knights, but this proud dramatist treats them as mere underlings, buffoons, mixing with the servants. They are the objects of much mirth as was Sir John Falstaff in 1. Henry 4. This dramatist is as far above mere knights as sky is above the clouds.

Twelfth Night has a clever plot, and moves along at a good pace. There is much wit in it. When we're told by an Elizabethan that de Vere was the best (court poet) for comedy, and we ask where is it, I think we have to add two and two together for an answer, Nashe said de Vere would not stoop to the level of pamphlet wars, but if he did his attackers would be no match for him as he had one of the best wits in England. These comedies now attributed to Shakespeare (and I believe correctly) are by someone who was the best for comedy and one of the cleverest wits in England. That's what the plays are. We have not found anyone else to be such a perfect match. These two epithets taken together do not apply to Bacon, or Marlowe, or Ralegh. We certainly have no evidence they applied to the 'grain dealer from Stratford on Avon' as E & V called him (chapter 29). But we do have it from Elizabethan contemporary evidence that they both apply to de Vere.

Not long afterwards I saw Much Ado About Nothing on TVO. The impression it created in me was very different from reading it in my youth. After several years of research into the Shakespeare identity problem the play was no longer in a vacuum. It seemed evident as to why the author wrote the play and where the motivation for the characters came from.

There's a ferocity in the denunciation of Hero (daughter of the Governor of Messina) by young lord Claudio (of Florence) at the precise moment of sworn allegiance in the marriage ceremony. Here's the exact wording from the play itself (Act 4 scene 1):


If either of you know any inward impediment why you should not be conjoined, charge you, on your souls, to utter it.


Know you any, Hero?


None, my lord.


Know you any, count?


I dare make his answer, none.


O, what men dare do! what men may do! what men daily do, not knowing what they do!


How now! interjections? Why, then, some be of laughing, as, ah, ha, he!


Stand thee by, friar. Father, by your leave: Will you with free and unconstrained soul Give me this maid, your daughter?


As freely, son, as God did give her me.


And what have I to give you back, whose worth May counterpoise this rich and precious gift?


Nothing, unless you render her again.


Sweet prince, you learn me noble thankfulness.
There, Leonato, take her back again:
Give not this rotten orange to your friend;
She's but the sign and semblance of her honour.
Behold how like a maid she blushes here!
O, what authority and show of truth
Can cunning sin cover itself withal!
Comes not that blood as modest evidence
To witness simple virtue? Would you not swear,
All you that see her, that she were a maid,
By these exterior shows? But she is none:
She knows the heat of a luxurious bed;
Her blush is guiltiness, not modesty.

In the version on TV Claudio goes on a rampage, overturning the tables set out for the marriage feast, and generally turning the marriage ceremony into utterly shocked confusion and chaos. This tells us exactly how de Vere felt and behaved when he was informed in 1576 that the first child just born by his 20 year old wife Anne Cecil was not his. He had suddenly, through no apparent fault of his own become a laughing stock of the world thanks to the blabbing of Burghley his father- in-law. And there's a glimpse typical of Burghley when Leonato presumes to speak for Claudio in stating

I dare make his answer, none.

But there's a reconciliation at the end. Claudio finds out that he was mistaken, and did Hero a grave injustice, something that would live with her all her life. And de Vere seems finally to have realized, many years later, that he was mistaken, led on to believe a false rumour started by persons inimical towards him. Anne Cecil may already have died (1588) before de Vere came to this reconciliation in his own mind and heart, and could write this play. The duelling of wit between Benedick ( a young lord of Padua) and Beatrice ( a niece of the Governor) owes its origin to the de Vere/Anne Vavasour affair. This play gives us some idea as to what de Vere, a married man, experienced with the young Maid of Honour who led him on to their mutual disgrace at Court and an illegitimate son.

Dogberry is so cleverly drawn he's probably a real person. Here's an example (from Act 3 scene 5)


I must leave you.


One word, sir: our watch, sir, have indeed comprehended two aspicious persons, and we would have them this morning examined before your worship.


Take their examination yourself and bring it me: I am now in great haste, as it may appear unto you.


It shall be suffigance.

My (mischievous) guess is that Dogberry is Shaxper. A 'dog' I believe was a derogatory name by Elizabethan playwrights for an actor. De Vere paints a picture of someone who is illiterate and ignorant but is striving to make something of himself. He's heard all these fine words, but lacking reading and writing has no real knowledge by which to understand what meaning they're intended to communicate. But he tries very hard and so presents himself as a comic character. The Court would probably have known Shaxper through the occasional performances there of the Globe Theatre Company. The educated Court audience might find Dogberry hilarious, but we should note that no one laughs at him in the play, and he performs an important role in bringing the miscreant Don John to justice.

What's remarkable is the directness of the play, its speed of action, the sudden and unexpected reversals of fortune. A very witty play, it has some clever twists and turns, and is well plotted. It's a masterpiece. No wonder de Vere was called the best for comedy (among court poets). He certainly was. It's a play by a courtier, for the Court and about courtly love intrigues and romances. The outside world of the common folk - the watch, Dogberry and Verges- is a world apart.

I am forced to deduce that Edward de Vere provides an excellent fit and a parallel profile with the information Shakespeare gives us about himself in his sonnets. For example, de Vere became lame, was homosexual, with evidence of syphilis (chapter 7), had a black haired mistress, disgraced himself, had legal training and dealt with tenants in matters of law quite frequently: Shakespeare became lame, was homosexual, with evidence of syphilis (chapter 9), had a black haired mistress, disgraced himself, and displayed great skill with legal concepts (chapters 23 and 35). Even at the last, in the consideration of the First Folio, de Vere comes back to haunt us through the involvement of his daughter and son-in-law. I therefore conclude that beyond a reasonable doubt, Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, was Shakespeare the poet and dramatist.

You may not agree with all this, but if you are a Stratfordian, you have to admit the substantive evidence of Shaxper's lack of penmanship and Shaxper's inability ever to bear the canopy over the Queen, which Shakespeare says he did (sonnet 125 and chapter 20). Therefore Shaxper could never have been, and was not, the nobleman close to the Queen who was Shakespeare. You, as a Stratfordian, are then in the unhappy position of being left without a candidate for Shakespeare. That is unfortunate, but you and your fellow scholars have lorded it over many intelligent protesters for almost 400 years, not always in the kindest of terms, and it is time for the truth to prevail.


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