The Reactionary Utopian
                       August 30, 2005


THE QUEER BARD?
by Joe Sobran

     I always feel a bit less alone in the universe 
whenever the NEW YORK TIMES addresses my concerns. On 
August 30, the Paper of Record noted the publication of 
several recent books about Shakespeare, including a new 
biography of the man I'm convinced was the real author, 
Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford (1550-1604). Oxford was 
known in his own time as a literary genius but a mighty 
eccentric man.

     Since 1623, when the famous First Folio of the plays 
identified the wrong guy as the author, most would-be 
biographers have believed in the literal truth of the 
claim. I like to call this credulity "First Folio 
Fundamentalism."

     The Stratford man's name was actually "Shakspere," 
just close enough to Oxford's pen name to allow him to be 
passed off as the Bard. Mr. Shakspere himself never even 
claimed to be a writer. But seven years after he died, 
Oxford's friends, including his son-in-law the Earl of 
Montgomery, respecting his desire for secrecy, found 
Mr. Shakspere a useful front man. So he became, 
posthumously, the most famous Englishman who ever lived. 
It would have surprised him very much. He has achieved 
literary immortality through no fault of his own.

     Mr. Shakspere died in 1616. Nobody in London seems 
to have noted his passing, which is inexplicable if he 
was the city's greatest poet and most popular playwright. 
Why would they wait seven years before saluting him?

     Mr. Shakspere's own will, "signed" with almost 
illegible scrawls, shows that he hardly expected to be 
remembered at all. He mentions no plays, poems, 
manuscripts, or even books he may have owned. There isn't 
the faintest indication of a writing career, let alone an 
expectation of posthumous glory. He leaves small tokens 
to three of his "fellows," actors, but doesn't mention 
(say) Ben Jonson, who later claimed to have been his 
friend, or any other literary figure. Nor does he mention 
any of his three supposed patrons, all of whom have been 
linked to Oxford's three daughters.

     The Folio-thumpers can't explain how Mr. Shakspere 
could be the author of the Sonnets. In the first 126 of 
these, addressed lovingly to a "lovely boy," we learn 
that the Bard was considerably older than Mr. Shakspere. 
Writing in the 1590s, when Mr. Shakspere was in his early 
thirties, he worries about being "old" and "in disgrace": 
his life is on the skids, and his reputation is ruined. 
He is even "lame," and evidently bisexual. All this 
perfectly matches everything we know about Oxford. He had 
plenty of reasons to conceal his identity behind a pen 
name.

     Creative writers always leave traces of themselves 
in their work; this is what makes literary biographies so 
fascinating. But we can't find any traces of 
Mr. Shakspere in the works the First Folio attributes to 
him; this is what makes his countless biographies so 
uniformly boring.

     It's not that we know so little about him; on the 
contrary, we know too much about him. Over more than two 
centuries, diligent researchers have dug up dozens of 
records of his life. If he were the Bard, some detail, 
somewhere, would have turned up to confirm it. But 
nothing does.

     By contrast, as Mark Anderson's new biography of 
Edward de Vere shows, new details keep showing that the 
scandal-haunted Oxford was in all likelihood the Bard. 
When you know that Oxford was accused of such vices as 
"buggering boys," you can appreciate why he might have to 
be, well, discreet.

     Was the real "Shakespeare" a child molester? 
Heavens! I don't like the idea myself, but it may be 
close to the heart of the mystery. When Oxford was first 
named as the Bard in 1920, the question could hardly be 
discussed in print.

     Today, however, the strong hints of homosexuality in 
the Sonnets are getting the attention they deserve. 
Squeamishness on the subject is pretty much a thing of 
the past. All that remains is to connect the Sonnets to 
the troubled man who actually wrote them. He was an 
embarrassment even to those who loved and admired him. 
They agreed to keep his secret even after he was dead, 
and they saw that the innocuous Mr. Shakspere, when he 
too was dead, might serve their purpose.

     We can sum up the case by adapting a slogan of our 
own time: He's here, he's queer, he's Edward de Vere!

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