Happy Birthday, Shakespeare!
April 13, 2000
12 marked the 450th birthday of the writer we know as
William Shakespeare. Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford,
was born on April 12, 1550.
Oxford adopted the name
Shakespeare in 1593 when he published the poem
Venus and Adonis, which he dedicated to the young Earl of
Southampton. Oxford had fallen in love with the handsome teenager, who
was being urged to marry his daughter Elizabeth Vere. Southampton is also
the lovely boy to whom most of the Shakespeare Sonnets
When I argued this in my book
Shakespeare (published by The Free Press in 1997), I expected
to get quite an argument from the academic Shakespeare
experts. To my surprise, they put up no real resistance;
without exception, all those who attacked the book tacitly admitted that
the Sonnets do indeed describe Oxford much more closely than they
describe the legendary William of Stratford.
Of course, being scholars, they tried
to disguise this admission with lots of scholarly bluster, but there it was:
nobody bothered trying to prove that you can make a case for William of
Stratford from the Sonnets, for the very simple reason that you
cant. The poet of the Sonnets fits Oxford to a T: his ruined
reputation, his rumored sexual attraction to boys, even his lameness. Not
quite the wholesome Shakespeare we heard about in English class, but
facts are facts.
Shakespeare plays bear witness to Oxfords authorship in many ways.
Polonius and his children in
Hamlet are clearly modeled on Lord Burghley, Oxfords
father-in-law, and his children. These characters dont appear in
the Danish legend the play is based on. Oxfords wife died young in
1588; the first known reference to the play occurs in 1589. This date has
puzzled the Shakespeare scholars, since 1589, though the natural moment
for Oxford to write such a play, would be far too early for William of
Stratford to have written it.
The scholars try to get around these
problems by positing that the 1589 reference alludes to a different
Hamlet play, though no trace of this hypothetical play has ever turned up.
They deal with the Sonnets by positing that the poems are merely
fictional, though this is not at all the impression the
anguished Sonnets make on candid readers: why would an Elizabethan poet
feign homosexual love for a boy, thereby risking not only disgrace and
ridicule but capital punishment?
In addition, the greatest
Shakespearean comic creation, Sir John Falstaff, bears witness to
Oxfords paternity. Falstaff quotes the Bible constantly; and as a
scholar named Roger Strittmatter has discovered, several of the verses he
quotes are marked in Oxfords personal copy of the Bible!
If William of Stratford created
Falstaff, how did he happen to cite so many of the same scriptural
passages Oxford had singled out? In fact, as Strittmatter also notes, the
Shakespeare plays contain hundreds of biblical citations corresponding to
Oxfords markings, particularly in the rather obscure book of
Ecclesiasticus (now deleted from Protestant editions of the Bible).
Even the names of people and places
Oxford visited in Italy and France are echoed in the plays. Baptista Minola
in The Taming of the Shrew seems to combine the names of
Baptisto Nigrone and Benedic Spinola, who are mentioned in
Oxfords letters from the Continent. Launcelot Gobbo in The
Merchant of Venice takes his surname from the Gobbo di Rialto, a
statue in Venice. Alls Well That Ends Well mentions a
local war that occurred while Oxford was in Italy. How could William of
Stratford have known all these things?
The Shakespeare works were
dedicated to three men by name the Earls of Southampton,
Pembroke, and Montgomery. Each, at one time, had been slated to marry one
of Oxfords three daughters, and Montgomery did marry
Oxfords youngest daughter, Susan Vere.
As Orson Welles remarked, there are
far too many coincidences favoring Oxfords
authorship to explain away. And no similar details connect the
Shakespeare works to the life of William of Stratford.
Its quietly sinking in that
Oxford was the real Shakespeare. Sooner or later the
academic experts are going to have to fess up to the
most egregious blunder in the history of literary scholarship.
Archive Table of Contents
The Shakespeare Library
Return to SOBRANS home page