De Vere versus the StratfordianComparing the Competing Claims for Authorship
|Issues||The Stratfordian||Edward De Vere|
|The Children: One would expect that all the children of Shakespeare, someone who had the best command of the English language seen to date, would be at least literate and perhaps have some interest in the arts.||The Stratfordian fathered three children - Susanna, Hamnet and Judith - in Stratford-upon-Avon. Hamnet died at age eleven. Of the Stratfordian's two daughters, one was illiterate and the other could barely write her name. The Stratfordian was not actively involved in raising his children, since he spent much of his life in London. In 1596, he was a tax defaulter, but by 1597, he came into money and bought the second largest house in Stratford-upon-Avon. If the Stratfordian were "Shakespeare", one would think he would have used some of his money to make his daughters literate. This did not happen.||De Vere had seven children: one son (Edward Veer) by Anne Vavasour, five by Anne Cecil, of which three daughters (Elizabeth, Bridget, Susan) survived, and one (Henry de Vere) by Elizabeth Trentham. All de Vere's children were literate. Elizabeth married William Stanley, Earl of Derby - a courtier poet. Susan married Philip Herbert, the Earl of Montgomery. Susan married into one of the leading literary aristocratic families of the time, and was actively involved in literary matters. In 1619, she and her husband received a dedication from the publisher of the First Folio. The Earl of Pembroke was the Earl of Montgomery's brother. The Earls of Pembroke and Montgomery received the dedicatory epistle in the First Folio, and were instrumental in its publication.|
|Notice of the Death: One would expect the death of Shakespeare - the greatest literary figure of the times - would be noticed both in London, where Shakespeare's plays were performed and where his plays and poems were published.||The Stratfordian's death in 1616 attracted no particular notice either in London or in Stratford-upon-Avon.||Edward de Vere's death in 1604 was at least noticed.|
|The Grave: One would expect that Shakespeare would have a grave fitting the greatest literary figure of the times.||
The Stratfordian's grave in Stratford-upon-Avon with these uninspiring words engraved on it:
Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be ye man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.
In the Stratfordian's graveyard is a monument which, in combination with the preface of the First Folio, is the most direct evidence for the Stratfordian as the author of the works of Shakespeare. In the preface to the First Folio, Leonard Digges wrote: "When that stone is rent/And time dissolves thy Stratford monument...". The monument consists of an epitaph, two figures sitting on a ledge sheltering a figure (presumably the Stratfordian) with his arms on a pillow, quill pen in his right hand, and a blank piece of paper on the pillow.
Some believe the monument was constructed around the time of the publication of the First Folio, by de Vere's family and friends, in order to get the First Folio published without getting themselves in serious trouble with King James and his close friends. De Vere's family and friends were decidedly out of favour with King James for their opposition to the marriage of his son to a Spaniard. The First Folio contained politically explosive material (e.g. Macbeth, Julius Caesar), and largely glorified the Tudor regime.
|De Vere was buried in an unmarked grave in the churchyard of St. Augustine in Hackney.|
|The Will: At the deaths of both de Vere in 1604 and the Stratfordian in 1616, there were a number of unpublished Shakespearean plays. For example, the First Folio published in 1623 contained nineteen plays that had not yet been published. As these works had value, one presumes that these and other literary works would have been mentioned in "Shakespeare's" will.||The Stratfordian's will is three pages long. It lists his assets, and includes specific bequests. It does not mention plays or other literary works. The will is that of a merchant.||No will from De Vere surfaced. One possible explanation is that he committed suicide. In the event of suicide, some of his possessions would have been forfeited to the Crown. Related to the suicide hypothesis is the fact that on the day of de Vere's death, Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, was imprisoned in relation to allegations that he planned to kill several Scotsmen close to King James. (He was quickly released.) Many of the Sonnets were written to a younger man than the author, and they indicate a special relationship. If de Vere authored the Sonnets, then he probably had a very special relationship with Henry Wriothesley. His imprisonment in combination with de Vere's declining health could triggered de Vere's suicide.|
|The Sonnets are a highly personal collection of poems, probably written over a period of time. They provide a lot of information about their author. Of interest is whether the extent to which this personal information matches what is known of de Vere and the Stratfordian.|
Carrying the Canopy: Sonnet 125 states:
Were't aught to me I bore the canopy
With my extern the outward honouring
Or laid great bases for eternity,
Which proves more short than waste or ruining?
The author is stating that he bore the canopy, which is a covering for the monarch (presumably Elizabeth) as protection from the rain. Bearing the canopy is an honour reserved only for the privileged few.
|There is no chance the Stratfordian carried the canopy.||There is no historic record that de Vere bore the canopy, but the records on bearers of the canopy are incomplete. De Vere, as one of the leading courtiers, would at least be a possible bearer of the canopy.|
Of High Birth: Sonnet 91 states:
Thy love is better than high birth to me
This suggests the author is familiar with, and presumably had "high birth".
|The Stratfordian was not of high birth.||De Vere was of high birth.|
|Truth in the Sonnets: Sonnets 101 to 125 contain "true" or "truth" 20 times (101 - 4 times, 105 - 4 times, 107, 108, 110 = 3 times, 114, 118 - 2 times, 119, 120, 123, 125). Sonnet 82 states: "In true plain words by thy true-telling friend."||De Vere's family motto was: Nothing is Truer than Truth. The name de Vere comes from the French meaning "of the truth".|
|The Year of Publication of the Sonnets: The sonnets were published in 1609. The sonnets deal almost obsessively with Shakespeare's love of another man, who many presume to be Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton, to whom Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece had been dedicated in 1593 and 1594.||The Stratfordian was alive in 1609. The publication of the Sonnets during the lifetime of the author seems bizarre, as the Sonnets focus on Shakespeare's obsession with another man. This is not something most men would want in the public domain.||By 1609, de Vere had been dead for five years. The publication coincides with the sale of the family home by de Vere's wife, and may have been part of cleaning house prior to a move. As de Vere had been publicly accused of homosexuality and pederasty in the Arundell-Howard libels, it would have been particularly difficult for de Vere to publish the sonnets during his life time.|
|Contemporary Personal References|
|Limited Personal References: Personal references appear in diaries, notebooks, etc. of people living at the time who claim to having met, seen or otherwise encountered Shakespeare, one of and perhaps the leading literary figure of the times. When people met, saw or otherwise encountered notable figures of the day such as the actor Richard Burbage or the playwright Ben Jonson, they noted it down. Scholars have scoured the documents of the time to find out more about Shakespeare. Personal references to William Shakespeare are almost, but not quite, non-existent.||If the Stratfordian wrote the works of Shakespeare, one would have expected a large number of contemporary references, both not only from Londoners, where his plays and long poems were published, but also in Stratford-upon-Avon, where his accomplishments would have been well known.||If "Shakespeare" was a pseudonym for someone else, then the paucity of contemporary personal references would be expected.|
|The George Buc Reference: Scholars have managed to find one personal reference to William Shakespeare. In the title page of quarto edition of an anonymous play in 1599, George Buc claimed to have asked a question of William Shakespeare about the play, to which Shakespeare provided a response which found its way onto the title page.||As Buc undoubtedly would have known de Vere but specifically refered to "William Shakespeare", the claim is made that Shakespeare and de Vere must have been two different individuals.||In referring to "William Shakespeare", Buc could have been referring a well-known person using his also well-known pseudonym (de Vere).|
|Richard Hunt's Reader: William Camden's edition of Britannia, written in Latin in 1590, describes Stratford-upon-Avon. Richard Hunt was born in 1596 and became a vicar in a town 12 miles from Stratford-upon-Avon. In his copy of Camden's book there is a hand-written reference, next to the section about Stratford's famous sons, to William Shakespeare The references identifies the Stratfordian as Stratford-upon-Avon's own "Roscius". Roscius was a Roman actor who achieved great fame and amassed a fortune before retiring from acting.||If the hand written comment came from Richard Hunt, then it suggests that by the time Hunt was a mature man with sufficient income to buy books (i.e. sometime after the Stratfordians death), the Stratfordian had a local reputation for wealth and acting.||It is not clear who made the hand written comment - Hunt, or one of the likely many owners of the book to the present time. Therefore, the source of the comment could have been someone acting on hearsay, rather than direct knowledge. That the Stratfordian amassed considerable wealth would have been evident in Stratford-upon-Avon. The source of his fortune was apparently as an actor, and not a playwright or poet. Ironically, in London, there were only limited references to the Stratfordian as an actor, and some of those limited references are suspect.|
|Contemporary Literary References|
|The Francis Meres Reference: In 1598, Francis Meres wrote Palladis Tamia - the equivalent of a Farmer's Almanac for educated and wealthy Londoners. One chapter deals with literary criticism. It is the first book of literary criticism to mention Shakespeare. Meres mentions Shakespeare among notable English writers, and recognizes Shakespeare for both his long poems, sonnets circulated among private friends, and his plays both comedies and tragedies. It also mentions de Vere as best for comedies.||The suggestion is that because de Vere and Shakespeare are mentioned as separate individuals in Palladis Tamia, they must be two different people.||However, Palladis Tamia was a 700 page work. Most of its statements came from other critics and literary works (including The Art of English Poesie). Many classical and neoclassical quotes came from a school boy's text book. Meres may have been not the best informed literary critic, and consequently unable to distinguish between a real person and a pseudonym.|
|The Disappearance of de Vere's Works: An anonymous publication in 1589 The Art of English Poesie had praised de Vere's skills as a comic playwright and secret court poet, yet none of de Vere's plays survive to the present, raising the question where did they go?. A number of writers of the day included dedications to de Vere in their publications. While some dedications were undoubtedly provided as flattery to a powerful figure, some reflected sincere words of praise. In 1622, Henry Peacham's book The Compleat Gentleman appeared. The book is about courtly etiquette and provides an exhaustive list of great Elizabethan poets. De Vere topped the list, while Shakespeare was no where to be found. This occurred despite the publication of the Sonnets in 1609 under the authorship of William Shakespeare. Revised editions over the following four decades did not mention Shakespeare either.||Not relevant||The disappearance of de Vere's works suggest that he was either producing poems and plays anonymously, or was writing under pseudonym. Presumably, Peacham, who was aware of the affairs of court, knew about the pseudonym.|
The Return from Parnassus: Part 2: Shakespeare is mentioned in Act 4 of this play. It was performed by students from Cambridge University in the period 1597 to 1602. The author is anonymous. The play pokes fund at the theatre industry of the time, and Kemp and Burbage are characters in the plays. They are about to give instructions to fellow actors about how to act. The key reference is as follows:
Kemp: Few of the university pen plaies well, they smell too much of the writer Ovid, and that writer Metamorphosis, and talke too much of Proserpina and Juppiter. Why heres our fellow Shakespeare, puts them all downe. I, and Ben Jonson too. O that Ben Jonson is a pestilent fellow, he brought up Horace giving the Poets a pill, but our fellow Shakespeare hath given him a purge that made him bewray his credit.
Burb: It is a shrewd fellow indeed.
|The Stratford case takes these words literally. It uses this reference to suggest that Shakespeare, a fellow actor to Burbage and Kemp, is better than the university playwrights (including de Vere), with their continual references to Ovid, Metamorphosis, Proserpina, and Juppiter. Shakespeare is even better than Ben Jonson. Burbage concurs with Kemp.||The de Vere case interprets this as a satirical comment, with the obvious implication that the playwright and the students knew who authored the plays attributed to Shakespeare and it was not the Stratfordian. The quotation appears in the context of a play that puts down actors as a group. The character Kemp in the play is modeled after the real actor Kemp, who was famous for his comedic parts. Presumably, the scene was intended as comedy. The character Kemp notes that Metamorphosis is a writer along with Ovid, where in fact Metamorphosis was a work written by Ovid. The character Kemp did not know this. University students would have found the ignornance of actors to be amusing. The character Kemp notes that their fellow actor Shakespeare puts down all the university playwrights, who make continual references to Ovid, Metamorphosis, Proserpina and Jupitter. Yet Shakespeare the playwright made numerous references to them. University students of the period would have found this amusing too, not only because of the actors ignorance, but also because they would think it ludicrous to suggest that someone could write such works without a university education. Yet both characters acknowledge that the fellow actor Shakespeare is claiming to be the author of the plays. The character Burbage replies that Shakespeare is a shrewd fellow, presumably a valid comment on the business mind of the Stratfordian.|
|The name "William Shakespeare"|
|The Origin of and Claim to the Name "Shakespeare": In relationship to the plays, long poems and the Sonnets of William Shakespeare, the name first appeared in 1593 with the publication of Venus and Adonis. It then appeared in 1594 with the publication of The Rape of Lucrece. It appeared with official quarto editions of various plays. The title pages of these plays typically included wording indicating that these were "author approved" versions, to distinguish them from a variety of unofficial versions that proliferated in an era before copyright laws. The name also appeared with the publication of the Sonnets in 1609, and later appeared in 1623 with the publication of the First Folio - a collection of 37 plays. The spelling was either Shakespeare, or Shake-speare.||
The Stratfordian's name was spelled in a variety of ways. Of the three signature's by the Stratfordian not related to his will, the name was spelled Willi Shak (1611 - witness affidavit in the Belott-Mountjoy case), William Shakspe (1613 - Blackfriar's conveyance), and Wm Shakspi (1613 - Blackfriar's mortgage). As the will was signed when the Stratfordian was near death, not much can be made of the signatures in it.
The Stratfordian's name according to third party evidence was:
Shackspere (1598 - Richard Quiney's letter to William asking for a loan)
Shagspere (1582 - bond protecting the Bishop of Worcester should a lawful impediment exist to William's marriage with Anne Hathwey)
Shaksper (1564 - christening of Gulielmus Johannes in 1564, 1575 - father's name on the purchase of a house in Stratford-upon-Avon, 1577 - writ of habeas corpus showing that the father had been in prison, 1589 - party to a court action, 1598- Abraham Sturley's letter to Richard Quiney to get Quiney to ask William for a loan, 1596 -father's name in an application for a coat of arms, 1599 - charges against the Garter King at Arms for granting a coat of arms to William's father among others who were not entitled)
Shakspere (1585 - baptism of William's twins Hamnet and Judith)
Shaxper (1601 - description of William as a householder of Stratford-upon-Avon, 1601 - reference to William in Thomas Whittington's will, 1602 - William's purchase of 107 acres in Stratford-upon-Avon, 1604 - William's legal action against Philip Rogers in a Stratford Court, 1605 - William's purchase of tithes from Stratford-upon-Avon and other towns, 1609- a judgment in favour of William in Stratford-upon-Avon, 1612 - a complaint against William in relation to tithes, 1612 - William's deposition in relation to a court case between Bellot and Mountjoy, 1612 - William's purchase of a property in Blackfriars and related mortgage, 1614 - reference to William's attempt to enclose land in Stratford-upon-Avon)
Shaxpere (1582 - marriage licence of William and Anna Whately of Temple Garden, 1598 - letter from Abraham Sturley to Richard Quiney in relation to a loan to Quiney from William, 1597 -contract by William to buy a house in Stratford-upon-Avon),
Shakespeare (1583 - baptism of Susanna, daughter of William, 1596 - tax defaulter in St. Helen's Bishopgate in relation to an assessment, 1597 - tax defaulter on another assessment, 1599 -record of William as one of the sharers in the Globe Theater, 1603 - inclusion of William in a list of nine actors licensed to act as the King's Company, 1604 - a record of cloth issued to William with eight other actors to participate in a procession, 1605- bequest to William in the will of actor Augustine Philip)
Shackspere (1598 - request for a loan from Richard Quiney, 1598 - payment to William for a load of stone in Stratford-upon-Avon, 1613 - payment to William)
Shak (Sturley letter regarding a loan to Richard Quiney)
While the variety of spellings of the last name by William and others may have been common in a time when many were illiterate, they also suggest that the Stratfordian may not have been literate.
De Vere's claim to the name Shakespeare comes through the Bolbeck coat of arms, which features a lion shaking a broken spear.
The name may have originated with a speech made by Gabriel Harvey to Queen Elizabeth's court in 1578 at Cambridge. De Vere was riding beside Queen Elizabeth. Harvey stated "Pallas striking her shield with her spear-shaft will attend thee." "Pallas" referred to Pallas Athene, the spear shaker and ancient Greek goddess of wisdom, poetry and the fine arts. Harvey urged de Vere to "...throw away the insignificant pen, throw away the bloodless books...Minerva strengthens thy right hand... within thee burns the fire of Mars. Thine eyes flash fire, thy countenance shakes a spear, who would not swear that Achilles had come to life again...".
|The Hyphenated Shake-speare: The name was hyphenated in the dedicatory letters addressed to the Earl of Southampton in both Venus and Adonis and Lucrece. Of the thirty-two editions of Shakespeare's plays published before the First Folio where Shakespeare's name appears, fifteen cases had the name hyphenated. The hyphen appeared more commonly in the early publications than the later ones. It was hyphenated in The Sonnets. Two of the four dedicatory poems in the First Folio used a hyphen. Others writing about Shakespeare also hyphenated the name on occasion. John Davies of Hereford hyphenated the name in the poem "Our English Terence". John Webster, a contemporary dramatist, hyphenated the name in an appraisal of contemporary playwrights.||Proponents of the Stratfordians case have suggested that when typesetters were using italics and tried to write an "k" followed by an "s", the two letters could overlap causing the type to break. To solve the problem, they inserted an "e" or a hyphen or both.||Proponents of de Vere's case sometimes cite the hyphen as clear evidence of a pseudonym, specifically one involving the shaking of a spear. They suggest that initially the hyphen was intended to denote a pseudonym, but over time, it became either unnecessary or cumbersome to do this.|
|De Vere's Nickname "Will":||Not relevant.||See Will Monox reference. Also Sonnet 135.|
|The Legalities of a Pseudonym: The de Vere candidacy requires the use of a pseudonym in the publication of the plays, the Sonnets and the longer poems. Publication involves a legal process through the Stationers' Register.||De Vere's use of a pseudonym, particularly one which was similar to the name of another person, would presumably be noticed by the Stationers' Register.||While the Stationers' Register may have noticed the use of a pseudonym, de Vere was a person of considerable standing relative to the Stationers' Register. In addition, one presumes that de Vere's father-in-law William Cecil and Queen Elizabeth were also involved in the pseudonym. As a consequence, the Stationers' Register would have been unlikely to object.|
|Shakespeare's knowledge of the Denmark and the Danish Court: In Hamlet, Shakespeare talks of a Danish drinking ritual involving cannons ("There's no health the king shall drink today but the great cannon to the clouds shall tell.") Shakespeare also talks of Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern. There was one courtier in Denmark with the name Rosenkrantz and two with the name Guldenstern. The source of Shakespeare's information about the Danish court likely came from the English ambassador. Note that in the last scene from Hamlet, the English Ambassador announces that Rosenkrantz and Guilderstern are dead.||It is unclear how the Stratfordian would have acquired this knowledge.||While de Vere never visited Denmark, his brother-in-law, Peregrine Bertie (Lord Willoughby), visited Denmark in 1582 as the English ambassador on behalf of Queen Elizabeth to invest King Frederick II of Denmark as a Knight of the Garter - an honour intended to encourage Frederick to end the harassment of British ships in the area. Bertie revisited Denmark in 1585. In total, Bertie spent five months at Elsinore. He got on well with the Danish King, and presumably participated in feasts with the King that included speeches and drink, all performed after a volley from Elsinore's cannons. During his time at Elsinore, Bertie would have met top Danish officials, including Rosenkrantz and the two Guldersterns.|
|Shakespeare's Knowledge of Ovid's Metamorphoses: Arthur Golding's Metamorphoses is widely regarded as the second most influential source for Shakespeare, after the Bible.||It is unclear how the Stratfordian would have acquired his knowledge of Golding's translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses.||Arthur Golding was de Vere's uncle and half-brother to de Vere's mother. De Vere had probably known Golding for most of his life. Around 1563, Golding was hired by William Cecil to manage that part of de Vere's estate not held by Robert Dudley. It was also likely that Golding was tutoring de Vere at the time. De Vere was being raised in the household of William Cecil as a ward of the Crown. Golding was a Latin scholar and published his translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses into English in 1563. In 1564, he dedicated his translation of Justin's Abridgement of the Histories of Trogus Pompeius to de Vere. If de Vere wrote the works of Shakespeare, then his maternal connection to Golding would explain the reference in Titus Adronicus where the plot calls for a copy of Ovid's Metamorphoses to be brought on stage by a boy, who says: "'Tis Ovid's Metamorphoses. My mother gave it to me."|
|Shakespeare's Aristocratic Side: Of Shakespeare's 37 plays, 36 are set in highest realms of society - royal courts, the world of the nobility, etc. The principal characters (with a few exceptions such as Shylock and Falstaff) are from the upper echelons of society, and the plots revolve around them. Lower class characters are usually introduced for their comic effect. Shakespeare spends little time developing their characters, and their names tell all: Bottom, Snug, Starveling, Dogberry, Simply, Feeble, Mistress Quickly, Doll Tearsheet. Numerous lines from Shakespeare's plays espouse aristocratic themes: the preference for order; distrust of the population; sympathy for the burdens of the aristocracy. Shakespeare was also fully conversant with aristocratic past-times: falconry, horsemanship, and fox-hunting, for example.||The Stratfordian did not come from an aristocratic background, although he could have had aristocratic sympathies. He was schooled in Stratford-upon-Avon, and worked in and around the theater, eventually rising to hold an ownership interest in a theater. His knowledge of aristocratic ways he could have come, perhaps, through dealings with the aristocracy, although the aristocrats of the day have not provided evidence that they dealt with him.||De Vere was an aristocrat, fully conversant with aristocratic life in England. When he traveled, he met with aristocrats and the upper echelons of society in the places he visited.|
|Shakespeare's Knowledge of Classical Greek and Latin Literature: Classical references flow easily from Shakespeare's quill. He was clearly familiar with all or some of the works of Ovid, Plautus, Virgil, Terence, Caesar, Sallust, Cicero, Livy, Horace, Seneca, Lucretius, Juvenal, Plato and others. This knowledge came at a time when books were relatively rare and expensive, and English translations were not always available.||It is unclear how the Stratfordian could have acquired the depth of classical knowledge demonstrated by Shakespeare. He may have learned a bit in grammar school. He may have been able to borrow a few books. He may have been able to spare some time from the drudgery of day to day living in London in the late 1500s. It is conceivable that he could have acquired some knowledge of the classics through talking with people fully conversant with them, but these individuals would have been rare. Even a genius would lack the necessary resources to be as conversant with the classics as Shakespeare.||De Vere received a classical education from William Cecil, who oversaw his education program that included, at one point in time at least, two hours per day of Latin. De Vere's uncle William Golding was a classical scholar who was likely a tutor of de Vere as well. In addition, Cecil had one of the best libraries of the time. In his travels to Italy, de Vere would have had opportunities to advance his classical education. Wealthy in his youth, de Vere would have had the resources to buy books in England and abroad.|
|Shakespeare's Knowledge of French and Italian, and Modern Literature: Shakespeare was familiar with the Italian and French authors and literature. Some Shakespeare scholars have noted that the material in his plays originated not with available English translations, but directly from Italian and French sources.||It is unclear how the Stratfordian would have acquired both his language skills in Italian and French, and more important, access to the literature that formed the basis of some of Shakespeare's plays. Grammar school, night-time reading, and access to knowledge persons would be insufficient.||De Vere studied French as part of his education in the household of William Cecil. He wrote a letter in French at the age of thirteen. He would have had access to Cecil's library. He traveled in France and Italy. As a wealthy man, he would have been able to buy books. As a nobleman in the English court, he would have had access to the best minds in England and abroad.|
|Shakespeare's Knowledge of Law: Shakespearean and legal experts frequently cite Shakespeare's understanding of law. One legal expert observed that Shakespeare had "a deep technical knowledge of the law" and an easy familiarity with "some of the most abstruse proceeding in English jurisprudence". Legal phrases are common in the plays. Words are frequently used in their legal interpretations. The Merchant of Venice provides an example of Shakespeare's knowledge of the law, since it revolves around the legal meaning of "a pound of flesh". In Hamlet, the legal intricacies of Hales v. Petit are comically presented by the Gravediggers as they discuss Ophelia's death.||It is unclear how the Stratfordian would have acquired this legal knowledge. While he was involved in several court cases, and may have spent time at the court house or talking with legal experts, these mechanisms seem insufficient to provide the level of knowledge exhibited by Shakespeare.||De Vere grew up in the household of one of the most powerful law makers in England - William Cecil. In addition, he studied law at Gray's Inn, where he matriculated in 1567. During his lifetime, he was the subject of several law suits. As an aristocratic landowner who had been illegally dispossessed of some properties, he had an ongoing interest in property law.|
|Shakespeare's Knowledge of Italy: Shakespeare set a number of his plays in Italy. This was a relatively new practice in English drama. Scholars have noted Shakespeare's extraordinary knowledge of Italy. So precise is his topographical knowledge of Italy, Italian customs and practices, Italian theater, Italian art and Italian characters that many contend that Shakespeare must have visited Italy.||There is no evidence that the Stratfordian ever visited Italy.||De Vere visited Italy over the period 1574 and 1575.|
|Shakespeare's Knowledge of London Theatre: In Shakespeare's original manuscripts, he occasionally inserted the names of actors rather than the characters in the speech headings. In typesetting these original manuscripts, compositors passed on these minor errors. This suggests an intimate knowledge of the actors who would be performing the roles he created.||The Stratfordian was supposedly an actor, although the evidence is limited to (1) a reference that he played the ghost in Hamlet in Nicholas Rowe's biography of 1709, (2) Ben Jonson's list of actors in two of his plays - a questionable source since Jonson could have been referring to a person using a pseudonym, as the hyphenated Shake-speare suggests, and (3) Ben Jonson's reference to Shakespeare as the first principal actor of Shakespeare's play in the introduction to the First Folio - which reference is untrue, according to theatre records. Unquestionably, the Stratfordian was a shareholder in a theatre company, through which he would have been familiar with the theatre.||De Vere associated with playwrights and actors, lived near the theatre district, attended plays, owned at various times a company of actors, through which he would have been familiar with the theatre.|
Trivial Things that Shakespeare Knew:
In The Rape of Lucrece, the author describes at some length a painting of the Siege of Troy. The depth of detail suggests that the author had seen and remembered the painting. The Italian painter Giulio Romano created a series of paintings of the Trojan War at Mantua. In The Winter's Tale, Shakespeare talks of the Italian sculptor Julio Romano, demonstrating that he was familiar with Romano and giving credibility to the hypothesis that the painting of the Siege of Troy was Romano's.
Shakespeare attributed a sea coast to Bohemia in The Winter's Tale. Critics including Ben Jonson ridiculed Shakespeare for this geographical error, since Bohemia was assumed to have no sea coast. However, between 1575 and 1609, the King of Bohemia and Hungary did hold a small parcel of sea coast along the Adriatic Sea.
|There is no evidence that the Stratfordian visited Italy or the Adriatic. He is therefore unclear where his knowledge of Romano's painting of the siege of Troy came from, or how he would have known a trivial historical fact about the Bohemian kingdom on the Adriatic Sea for a period of thirty-four years.||De Vere likely visited Mantua while traveling between cities which he is known to have visited. If he did visit Mantua, he would have come across Romano's painting of the siege of Troy, and may have met Romano. While in Venice, de Vere may have heard about the Bohemian sea coast. In addition, it is likely that de Vere traveled down the Adriatic Coast to what is known as Dubrovnik, as part of his travels. Note that Twelfth Night was set in "a city in Illyria, and the sea-coast near it" (i.e. the Adriatic coast around Dubrovnik).|
|The Ability to Handle a Quill Pen: As a prolific writer of plays, sonnets and long poems, Shakespeare undoubtedly had the ability to handle the quill pen. Those without some literacy often wrote with frequent blots, as the ink flowed uncontrolled off the quill.||
Only six examples of the Stratfordian's hand writing remain. These were signatures. Of the six, three were from his will,which was written soon before his death and probably when he was ill. As such, they can be dismissed as examples of his ability to write. Three signatures do provide evidence of his ability to write. They are provided below. The blots and the inconsistency in the signatures suggest the Stratfordian had limited writing abilities.
First signature - 1611 witness in Belott-Mountjoy case
Second signature - 1613 Blackfriars conveyance
Third signature - 1613 Blackfriars mortgage
|De Vere was extremely well educated. A number of his written documents remain today, and show the expected ability to write without frequent ink blots. In addition, Ben Jonson, who wrote the introduction to the First Folio, wrote in one of his notebooks that was published after his death: "I remember, the Players have often mentioned it as an honour to Shakespeare, that in this writing, (whatsoever he penned) he never blotted out a line."|
|The Wriothesley-Southampton Connection|
|The Henry Wriothesley Connection:Venus and Adonis and TThe Rape of Lucrece were dedicated in 1593 and 1594 respectively to Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, who was born in 1574.||It is unclear how the Stratfordian, a relative unknown who had only recently arrived in London, would have known Henry Wriothesley, let along have a sufficiently strong relationships to generate a dedication. At the time, dedications were sometimes employed as flattery, but if the Stratfordian is Shakespeare, one wonders why he would want to flatter a young man.||Henry Wriothesley was a ward of Crown, and raised by William Cecil, who had raised de Vere. William Cecil was also raising de Vere's three daughters Elizabeth, Bridget and Susan. De Vere would have known Wriothesley during his stay in the Cecil household. William Cecil wanted Wriothesley to marry Elizabeth de Vere, the daughter of Edward de Vere and Cecil's daughter Anne Cecil. De Vere was also supporting the marriage. Wriothesley resisted the marriage. If de Vere was Shakespeare, the dedication of Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucecre may have been part of de Vere's efforts to find a husband for his first daughter.|
|The Multiple Authors Hypothesis|
|A number of commentators have suggested that the plays of Shakespeare were written by more than one person, based on different styles in the plays and the fact that some plays seem disjointed. The multiple authors hypothesis raises questions about resources. Why would other authors contribute to the Shakespeare "brand"? If paid to do so, where did the money come from? If unpaid, what was their motivation?||It is unclear where the Stratfordian could have obtained the resources to get others to write plays that would ultimately be published under his name, and for which he would ultimately be paid.||
In 1586, de Vere was granted a lifetime pension by Queen Elizabeth in the amount of £1,000 pounds - an enormous amount of money at the time. The pension was renewed by King James after the death of Elizabeth. De Vere once described the pension as related to his "office". There has been no documentation explaining why the pension was granted by a normally frugal queen, or what de Vere's "office" was. William Cecil, de Vere's father-in-law and the Queen's principal adviser, was undoubtedly behind the pension. More than anything, he was probably looking for financial support for his daughter and grandchildren. De Vere was primarily interested in the arts, particularly theatre. He had written masques that had been presented at court as well, had supported acting companies, and socialized with actors, writers and other playwrights. If there were any serious office that de Vere could hold, it would probably relate to the arts. At the time, Londoners were developing an interest in the theater. The Queen was concerned with holding the country together against internally divisive Protestant - Catholic forces, and protecting the country against threats from Spain. The Spanish Armada set sail to conquer England only two years later in 1588.
All these factors have led to the suggestion that the "office" may have been to oversee the production of plays to develop English nationalism within the general population and to glorify and build support for the Tudor regime.
If this suggestion is true, it would also explain inconsistent writing styles among the plays, since de Vere's office was not necessarily to write the plays, but to oversee the production of plays, at least in part by getting others to write plays under de Vere's guidance. Some of de Vere's secretaries and assistants (John Lyly, Anthony Munday) were playwrights and authors.
The Tempest was likely one of the last of the Shakespearean plays to be written. It is possible the play was incomplete at the time of de Vere's death. This play contains a number of connections with William Stanley, the Earl of Derby, who was not only a playwright, but also the husband of de Vere's daughter Elizabeth. Some have suggested that William Stanley wrote the works of Shakespeare, and perhaps he was involved in completing The Tempest and perhaps other plays. William Stanley's involvement in the works of Shakespeare could have come through a family connect.
|The 1604 Question|
|Background: Finding evidence of plays written after the death of Edward de Vere has been as evidence that Edward de Vere could not have written some Shakespearean plays, as he had died before the play was written. De Vere died in 1604. Mechanisms for dating plays include registration, publication and performance dates to put an upper limit on the date of a play; contemporary events mentioned in a play and dates of the source material to put a lower limit on the date of a play; and historical context. Scholars have attempted to use the "maturity" of plays to put a sequence on their production, but this does not give a date for a play.||The Riverside Shakespeare is a text often used in classrooms. It dates eleven plays after 1604, including King Lear, MacBeth, Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, Timon of Athens, Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale, The Tempest and King Henry the Eighth.||The Pelican/Viking editions of Shakespeare in 1969 and 1977 note that only The Tempest and Henry VIII are likely to have been written after 1604. Karl Helze, a literary historarian from Germany, put dates for these plays in the 1603-1604 period. W.R. Chetwood's Memoirs the the Life and Writings of Ben Jonson, written the the eighteenth century, concluded all Shakespeare's plays were written before 1604.|
|The Stratfordian case for the authorship of the plays went substantially unchallenged for a considerable period of time. Given that the Stratfordian had shares in a theatre company, one would assume that any plays he wrote would have been written a relatively short time before they were performed, registered or published, since there is no financial benefit for having plays around that are not earning money. With a financial interest in getting plays into the public domain, the fact that many plays were not published until 1623 is inconsistent with what one would assume to be his motivations.||With de Vere, plays could have been produced well before they were performed, registered or published. With his annuity, he would have had some financial independence. He would presumably be more interested in performances at court. This would be consistent with the fact that many plays were not published until 1623.|
|The Multiple Authors Hypothesis: Some believe there were multiple authors to the plays of Shakespeare, because of differences of style.||No Comment||The dating of plays has been an issue for the case for de Vere as the author of the works of Shakespeare, particularly with regard to The Tempest. It is possible that de Vere left some works incomplete when he died in 1604, and that The Tempest was one of those works. William Stanley, the Earl of Derby, was de Vere's son in law. He was reported to have written comedies, although no comedies have been recognized under his authorship. The Tempest contains a number of connections to Stanley's family. The play's romantic hero - Prince Ferdinand - has the almost the same name as William Stanley's brother (Ferdinando). The setting could have been a small island off the Isle of Man, known as the Calf of Man. The Stanley family ruled the Isle of Man.|
|Contemporary Events Mentioned in Plays: Shakespeare's plays occasionally cited contemporary events such as a supernova in 1572 (Hamlet), or William Gilbert's theory of geomagnetism in 1600, mentioned in Troilus and Cressida. Any play with such a reference would have to either be written after the event, or experienced a final edit after the event. A supernova occurred in October 1604, but is not mentioned in any Shakespearean play, nor is Johannes Kepler's study of planetary orbits in 1609.||A supernova occurred in October 1604, but is not mentioned in any Shakespearean play, nor is Johannes Kepler's study of planetary orbits in 1609. The Stratfordian was alive for these spectacular events, so the absence of references to these events is notable.||De Vere's death in 1604 would explain why he would not have made references to both the supernova and Kepler's work.|
|MacBeth was performed in 1611, but includes a number of references to equivocation. Father Henry Garnett used the Doctrine of Equivocation in his defence in 1606. He had been accused of trying to blow up Parliament in the Gunpower Plot on November 5, 1605. The doctrine was a hot topic around this time, and this led scholars to assume MacBeth had been written sometime after 1606.||
The Doctrine of Equivocation had been around for some time. In 1583, ee Vere's father-in-law William Cecil had written about Catholics who used "hypocritical and sophisticated speech" to evade questioning under torture. In 1584, the Spaniard Martin Azpilcueta formally spelled out the Doctrine of Equivocation. This doctrine was disseminated through continental Europe and England. In 1595, Robert Southwell used the Doctrine of Equivocation in his own trial, arguing that Catholics could lie to Protestant inquisitors in good conscience.
De Vere had been trained in law, and was undoubtedly familiar with the legal issues related to equivocation. More practically, he undoubtedly confronted these issues as a juror in the trial of Mary, Queen of Scots.
|Dates of Publications of Plays and Poems: Over the period 1593 to 1604, new plays or poems of Shakespeare appeared in print about twice per year, on average. Then, there was a period where no new works appeared for several years. In 1608 and 1609, three new works appeared (King Lear, Troilus and Cressida, and the Sonnets). Then, there was another period of silence, followed by the publication of Othello in 1622 and the First Folio in 1623.||The Stratfordian was alive until 1616. With an interest in a theatre company and presumably at the height of his writing skills, one would have anticipated a regular flow of works into publication, at least until he left London and retired to Stratford-upon-Avon. It does not seem reasonable that eighteen Shakespeare plays would remain unpublished until the First Folio, nor does it make sense that the publishing of new plays were largely stop around 1604.||De Vere died in 1604. In 1609, his wife Elizabeth Trentham sold the family home. This may explain the new publications around 1608 and 1609, when she decided to clean up her affairs and move. The question what to do with her husband's plays and sonnets may have come to the fore at that time. The new publications around 1622 and 1623 were probably both driven by the timing and interest of de Vere's descendants, particularly his daughter Susan, to see her father's works published.|
|Pursuit of Legal Interests: The First Folio talks of "stolen and surreptitious copies, maimed and deformed by the frauds and stealth of injurious imposters", indicating that a number of Shakespeare's plays in print up to 1623 were printed without the author's approval.||The Stratfordian had a history of pursuing his legal interests through the courts. If in fact he had passed title to plays he had written to his acting company, they would have been in a position to pursue their legal interests in these stolen plays. There is an absence of court cases pursuing legal interests in these stolen plays.||Writing under the "William Shakespeare" pseudonym, de Vere and his descendants would have been prevented from pursuing his legal interests in the works of Shakespeare, because legally the author did not exist.|
|Dates of Reprints of Plays: Some of the new publications of Shakespeare's plays came from actors scripts, audience notes, and the like. To distinguish these versions from official versions approved by the author, publishers would include wording such as "newly corrected, augmented, and emended". The official versions of reprints ended in 1604.||The Stratfordian was alive. There is no obvious explanation why the corrected reprints stopped in 1604.||De Vere's death in 1604 would explain the end of the corrected reprints.|
|Source Material: Shakespeare never attached source material to his plays. Scholars have subsequently attempted to identify source material to his plays. If the scholarly efforts to identify particular sources for a play are correct and if the source is dated after de Vere's death, then de Vere's candidacy as the writer of that play at least is ruled out.||
Some have argued that the source material for The Tempest is dated after de Vere's death, and therefore rules out de Vere's candidacy as the author of the works of Shakespeare.
In the case of The Tempest, the supposed source material was a manuscript written by William Strachey in 1609 about recollections of a wreck of the ship Sea-Venture on Bermuda. The basis for attributing this as a source of The Tempest include thunder strokes, the cutting down the mast, the division of the survivors into two parties, and St. Elmo's fire - a continuous spark of electricity around the ship's mast. In addition, one of the characters in the play noted that he had traveled "at midnight to fetch dew from the still vex'd Bermoothes".
Shakespeare never attached source material to his plays, so the validity of the argument against the de Vere candidacy depends on the quality of the scholarship.
As a number of scholars have observed, these events (cutting of masts, division of survivors into two parties, St. Elmo's fire) are common to many shipwrecks, and not unique to the one in Bermuda. In addition, descriptions of these events have existed since St. Paul's account of his shipwreck in Malta. A particularly vivid description of St. Elmo's fire was written by Robert Tomson and published in 1600. De Vere was alive in 1600. With several previous investments in overseas voyages, de Vere may well have read Tomson's account.
The reference in The Tempest does not necessarily refer to the Bermuda islands. At that time, "the Bermudas" was also the nickname of an area near Charing Cross in Westminster. The "dew" being fetched from "Bermoothes" could have been distilled liquor.
More significantly, the first performance of The Tempest was November 1, 1611. However, Strachey did not return from across the Atlantic until late October or early November, 1611. In 1612, Strachey wrote another book which refered to a incomplete work about the Bermudas. Since his manuscript on the shipwreck in the Bermudas referenced a dozen external source books - books that would not have been available to him until after his return from New World, Strachey could not have produced his manuscript before the first performance of The Tempest.
Much of Strachey's language that appears in The Tempest originated not from Strachey, but from a 1523 work by the Dutchman Desiderius Erasmus and a 1555 work by the Englishman Richard Eden. Strachey, in fact, was relying on secondary sources. De Vere would likely have seen Eden's work, since he had been a student of de Vere's tutor Sir Thomas Smith and had also been a private secretary to de Vere's father-in-law William Cecil.
|Performance Dates: Henry VIII was performed on June 29, 1613 on the date that the Globe Theatre burned to the ground. Letters written at the time refer to the play as "new".||If the play was newly written (as opposed to "performed for the first time"), then the date of the play supports the candidacy of the Stratfordian as the author of the works of Shakespeare.||
The play could have been "new" in the sense of performed for the first time. It is interesting that in 1663, Samuel Pepys also reported that the play was "new".
The play deals with the disgrace of Queen Catherine, the building up of Ann Boleyn, and the birth of Ann's daughter, who became Queen Elizabeth. Elizabeth subsequently had her half sister Mary,a Queen of Scots, executed. Mary's son James became King of England in 1603. A play that aggrandized Ann Boleyn and her daughter Elizabeth would not have been overly popular with King James, nor would its author. Nor would it make much sense for a playwright after 1603 to write such a play. For these reasons, eighteenth and nineteenth century scholars maintained that the play was written before 1603.
|Cryptic Comments from the Time|
|"That eternitie promised by our ever-living poet": This phrase was written by the publisher of the Sonnets in the introduction in 1609. The phrase"ever-living poet" suggests the poet is dead. Some of the Sonnets express the author's view that there is an eternal quality to the sonnets, so in effect, the author was promising eternity.||The Stratfordian was alive in 1609.||De Vere died in 1604.|
|"Sweet Swan of Avon: This was Ben Jonson's reference to William Shakespeare in Jonson's memorial poem to Shakespeare in the First Folio.||The Stratfordian had a direct connection to the Avon River, coming from Stratford-upon-Avon.||Less well known is that de Vere likely had a connection with the Avon River. In the late 1580s, de Vere sold his home Fisher's Folly. His immediate whereabouts are known, but there is speculation that he spend time at Billesley Hall, about three miles from Stratford-upon-Avon. De Vere's materal grandmother was a Trussel. Billesley Hall had been in the Trussel family for 400 years. Local rumour holds that As You Like It was written there. De Vere also had an estate with a country house called Bilton in the Avon River valley near Warwickshire.|
|"A never writer to an ever reader news": This appears in the introduction of the 1609 publication of Troilus and Cressida.||In 1609, the Stratfordian was supposedly still producing plays, so the phrases "never writer" does not make sense.||Applied to de Vere, this phrase could easily mean: from a dead writer (which de Vere was by 1609) to an Edward de Vere (i.e. E short for Edward a VER short for de Vere) reader.|
|"The First Heir of My Invention": This is from William Shakespeare's dedicatory letter to Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, from the publication Venus and Adonis.||Supporters of the Stratford case maintain that the poem Venus and Adonis was the first product of the author's creative faculties.||Supports of the de Vere case contend that "invention" cannot mean the author's creative faculties, since several works by the author were already in the public domain but not yet attributed to Shakespeare. They suggest that "invention" refers to his invention of the pseudonym. As Venus and Adonis is the "first heir", it is apparent that the author is contemplating more publications.|