In response to Mark Griffiths’s article demonstrating that Shakespeare appears on the title page of Gerard’s Herball, a number of commenters have put forward theories of their own. But does the evidence stack up for them? Mark Griffiths demonstrates how it can be no one but Shakespeare.

Reacting to my article in this week’s Country Life, commenters have pointed out something I’ve been well aware of for the past four decades: the title pages of Renaissance herbals depict great botanists from Classical Antiquity (such as Theophrastus and Dioscorides), ancient rulers who had an interest in medicinal plants (such as Solomon and Mithridates), and the patron deities of sciences and arts that drew heavily on plants – namely Aesculapius (medicine) and Apollo (poetry).

These commenters believe that the Fourth Man on the title page of Gerard’s Herball is Dioscorides. Supposed corroboration is provided by the title page of the second edition (1633), on which Dioscorides is not only shown in Roman dress on the right-hand side of the engraving, but clearly named.

I do, in fact, address this point in my article. In engraving the 1597 title page, William Rogers subverted the convention of depicting ancient greats and deities. Conscious that this was the norm, he decided to play with it, turning such stock figures into camouflaged but cryptically identified portraits of the four men responsible for the book’s creation.

A poet of the stage

When he came to engrave the Fourth Man, he absolutely did not have Dioscorides in mind. The Fourth Man wears laurels, a garland that told Renaissance readers that they should think of Apollo and/or the poets who, inspired by the god, filled their writings with plants. Given that the Rogers title page contains disguised portraits of actual persons, this tells us that we are looking at an Elizabethan poet in fancy dress.

Moreover, that dress is not properly Greek or Roman: it is what passed for Roman on the Elizabethan stage. The Fourth Man, Rogers is saying, is involved in theatre as well as poetry.

The other three men

true face of Shakespeare

On the 1597 engraving, Burghley is cast as Solomon to show his love of plants as well as to indicate his wisdom.

If you think that all sounds too clever for words, consider the unquestionable portrait of Lord Burghley on the other side of the page. Elizabeth’s chief counsellor is cast in the role of Solomon in tribute not only to his wisdom, but also because the king, like Burghley, was fascinated by plants – a point that Gerard makes in the book’s dedication and preface. That he is Burghley is brilliantly and incontrovertibly encoded in the plants associated with him on the page.

With similar ingenuity, Gerard is portrayed as a humble gardener and Rembert Dodoens as an ascetic scholar, both with their true identities indicated by signature plants. This is undoubtedly Rogers’s method with three of the men depicted on the title page; why would he have deviated from it when he came to engrave the fourth and given us instead a straightforward image of an ancient great?


How would Discorides be presented?

The Fourth Man is not a representation of Dioscorides, or a portrait of an Elizabethan cast as Dioscorides. If he were, he would not be wearing the laurel wreath that proclaims Apollo and poetry or faux Classical garb. He would be accurately dressed as a Roman military man (Dioscorides was an army surgeon and Rogers knew how real Romans dressed) and he would be shown with plants that were useful in medicine. Significantly, the species that accompany the Fourth Man were not medicinal in Gerard’s view.

Changes in the Herball’s second edition

true face of Shakespeare

The title page of the second edition of The Herball from 1633 (right) is very different to that of the first edition of 1597 (left). Its editor, Thomas Johnson, despised Gerard and replaced the frontispiece that so prominently displayed the four men who had collaborated on the work.

John Gerard had been dead for two decades when the second edition of The Herball was published. Its editor, Thomas Johnson, despised Gerard and did everything in his power to distance his 1633 edition from that of 1597/98. This included suppressing many of the poetic translations in which Gerard and Shakespeare had collaborated and replacing the original title page with a wholly new design.

The 1597 Rogers engraving was too frivolous for Johnson’s tastes and it reflected a collaboration in which he’d played no part. He knew that the four men it portrayed had been alive and active not long ago. Now, they were yesterday’s men, and they had to go. In commissioning the new title page, Johnson reverted to the convention that Rogers had subverted. It does indeed show Dioscorides, in correct Roman dress and wearing no laurel wreath. In identity, iconography, portrayal and purpose, this image of Dioscorides has no connection whatsoever to the Fourth Man.

Who else is it proposed to be?

Accepting my discovery that the figures on the 1597 are disguised portraits, some commenters have proposed alternative identifications for the Fourth Man.

Sir Walter Raleigh has been proposed – but the Fourth Man looks about 10 years too young to be Raleigh (born in about 1554), and he’s not grave and dignified enough to be a likely portrait of Raleigh, who had a fierce sense of his own standing in middle life. The Fourth Man’s cipher cannot be decoded to say ‘Raleigh’ and the status-conscious Sir Walter is unlikely to have countenanced the class-crossing implicit in this playfully modified yeoman’s or merchant’s mark.

There’s no connection between Raleigh and Fritillaria meleagris. I can see no reason why Raleigh would carry sweet corn—yes, it was an American native, but it was well-established in Europe, old hat, by 1597 and not one of Raleigh’s New World introductions. As a crop, Gerard didn’t esteem it. The other plants associated with the Fourth Man have no obvious connection to Raleigh.

There were, however, some exciting New World species that Gerard had received as a result of Raleigh’s American adventures; had Gerard wanted Sir Walter to appear on the title page of his book, he would have had him portrayed with one or more of these.

Although Raleigh and Gerard were friends, and the former’s Virginian project (in which Gerard was a shareholder) is mentioned in The Herball, Raleigh made no contribution to the book’s creation that would warrant his appearing on the title page. Yes, he was a poet, but he’d done nothing literary to deserve Apollo’s laurels in respect of The Herball.

The idea that the Fourth Man is Sir Francis Drake can be dismissed on similar, but even stronger grounds. Believe me, I considered, interrogated and rejected all such possibilities, all Gerard’s known associates, before arriving at Shakespeare.

The Earl of Oxford
The most dismaying and predictable of the alternative Fourth Man candidates proposed this week is Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, believed by some (Oxfordians, as they’re known) to be the true author of Shakespeare’s works. The Cecils, they point out, left a vast amount of documentation, but nowhere does it include direct evidence of Burghley’s hiring the man from Stratford, someone far too lowly in any case to be offered such employment.

This is silly, and snobbish. Burghley recruited brilliant young outsiders to undertake tasks for him, leaving no direct bureaucratic evidence of the recruitment and commission—none survives, for example, of his hiring John Gerard, provincial, degree-less and controversial, but a long-standing and important member of his household.

The Cecils did not keep every bit of paper that crossed their desks. Indeed, the closer one was to Burghley and the more sensitive the nature of the relationship, the less likely it was that a paper trail would be created, let alone left.

In fairness to Oxfordians, they’ve adopted the Fourth Man very deftly. They accept that his cipher consists of a hybrid rebus that says ‘shake spear’ plus E, OR and W. But they’re reading it as ‘Shakespeare – E (= Edward de Vere) or W (= William Shakespeare, Oxford’s purported patsy or pen name)’.

Is Fritillaria meleagris associated with Oxford?

They find further evidence in the flower of Fritillaria meleagris that he holds. This species, they say, is famously identified with Oxford. I’ve even seen them cite an article I wrote for Country Life years ago, to the effect that the myriad wild-seeming fritillaries at my alma mater Magdalen College are one of the last great and ancient stands of what was once a far more widespread species.

But I was wrong back then. My investigations since have convinced me that Gerard was right when he wrote that Fritillaria meleagris was not a native species, but an exotic. In the 1590s, it had not long been introduced to English gardens (his, primarily) from France, where it was first discovered and described in 1571. Before that year, no European botanist had reported it, and it appears nowhere in Britain’s older monastic and vernacular traditions—a revealing absence given its striking looks.

Imported from the Continent and planted in bulk, it became a popular ornamental in the 17th century. England’s wild-seeming populations of this species all appear to have arisen from garden escapes. This can happen spontaneously and swiftly: in the garden here, our small patch of lightly managed damp meadow is covered with fritillaries spawned by a single pot of bulbs planted just five years ago.

The earliest catalogues of the Oxford Botanic Garden indicate that it was planted there in the 17th century, very much as something new and special. These early cultivated specimens almost certainly gave rise to the population in the nearby meadow at Magdalen, no record of which can be found prior to 1785.

In short, in the 1590s, there was no connection between Fritillaria meleagris and Oxford the city, university, or Earl.

Oxford and Gerard

Nor was there any real connection between the Earl of Oxford and John Gerard. Gerard maintained contact with several of Burghley’s former wards—the Earls of Essex and Southampton, Lord Zouch—but not with Oxford, who had left the Cecil household by 1577 when he joined it. Over a decade of full-time Gerard research, I’ve found nothing substantial to link them, and every reason to believe that he gave Oxford a wide berth.

The Earl loathed and opposed his father-in-law Burghley, going so far as to commission John Lyly to write plays for performance at Court that were thinly veiled attacks on the Lord Treasurer’s policies. The loathing was mutual and, after the death of his beloved daughter Anne Oxford in 1588, Burghley would have nothing more to do with the Earl.

Devoted to his master, Gerard, too, would have viewed Oxford as persona non grata.

Proof that Oxford didn’t write Shakespeare’s works

It is impossible that the Fourth Man standing gloriously opposite Burghley on the 1597 title page of The Herball is his hated and estranged son-in-law, the Earl of Oxford. In any case, this realistically portrayed figure doesn’t resemble the known portraits of Oxford, and he certainly doesn’t look like a hard-living 47-year-old, which the Earl was in 1597.

As I will begin to show in an article in next week’s Country Life, Shakespeare’s early works demonstrably serve Burghley’s interests. They were written in part to counter material commissioned by Oxford. Far from proving the theory that the Earl wrote Shakespeare’s canon, my discoveries kill it once and for all.


true face of shakespeare

Shakespeare: Apollo reborn

Could the Fourth Man be Dioscorides or Apollo and not Shakespeare? Edward Wilson, Emeritus Fellow of Worcester College, Oxford, thinks…


  • Your misconceived belief is neatly epitomised in your phrase “axioms of faith”.

    Your own hypotheses are, in fact, a faith-based creed, your publications are ‘Acts’ of Faith. And ‘axiom’ is just another word you need to look up in the dictionary.

  • Revenge has nothing to do with it and the word falsely implies some sort of achievement on your part has succeeded in creating the need for it.

    You are the frustrated arsonist in Shakespeare’s warehouse, trying to start fires by rubbing two wet, spent matchsticks together. Almost no effort, recently, has been required to put these out but it would be a big mistake to think we’ve forgotten where the extinguishers are.

  • Nat Whilk

    How was that cruel? How irrelevant? I mirrored your words to show you how your argument is inconsistent. Often, as in a ballet studio, a mirror serves as a corrective. Is heading a list valid evidence for one man, yet not the other? Why not? Does “not all” imply “not any”? Why?

    Mirror again: Why are you so full of hate for a man who died four centuries ago?

  • Tom Reedy

    (Now watch how the Oxfordians here ignore yours and my posts and get offended by my ridicule and abandon the field in a huff saying that all we have is ad hominem while THEY’VE got the REAL EVIDENCE!)

  • Tom Reedy

    Or possibly, just maybe, Nat, this shows how Oxford signaled his collaborations!

    Or maybe he released his inferior work under these other names!



  • Nat Whilk

    Thank you, Tom. Well said.

  • Nat Whilk

    Why do you hate William Shakespeare so much?

  • Nat Whilk

    Jan Cole writes, “There are five allusions to Oxford’s family motto ‘Vero nihil verius’ in Shakespeare’s plays.”

    No: there are five instances of a commonplace, proverbial phrase which you chose to believe is exclusive to the Earl of Oxford. It is–if you will excuse the pun–hackneyed.

    If you took the trouble to search in EEBO, you’d find many many such “paraphrases.” Here are just a few at random:

    John Jewel, The true copies of the letters (1560): “once true, is true for euer.”

    George Gascoigne, The complainte of Phylomene (1576): “But truth is truth, and muste be tolde.”

    William Clowes, A prooued practise for all young chirurgians (1588): “for truth is truth from whome so euer it come.”

    Leonard Wright, A summons for sleepers (1589): “truth is truth, and falshood is falshood.”

    Gervase Babington, Certaine plaine, briefe, and comfortable notes vpon euerie chapter of Genesis (1592): “But truth is truth who soeuer is the speaker,”

    Thomas Churchyard, A musicall consort of heauenly harmonie (1595): For truth is truth, when all is saide and don.”

    Thomas Nash, Haue vvith you to Saffron-vvalden (1596): “truth is truth, and will out at one time or other.”

    Are all these authors really Oxford in disguise?

    JC: “…the motto is usually translated as ‘Nothing without Truth.'”

    No: it means (and is usually translated as) “Nothing [is] truer than truth.”

    Sorry, this is not “circumstantial evidence” but wishful thinking.

  • Tom Reedy

    Perhaps you would be so kind as to outline for us your logic in considering that to be circumstantial evidence for Oxford’s authorship. As near as I can tell, your thinking goes somewhat along these lines:

    A. Authors who have mottoes drop them into their works.
    B. Variants of Oxford’s motto are arguably seen in Shakespeare’s works.
    C. Therefore, Oxford is Shakespeare.

    Have you checked the works to see if the mottoes of other candidates are present? Have you checked the works of other authors to see if similar sentiments are expressed? (Uh, never mind, Nat just did this for you, with devastating effect for your “circumstantial evidence”.)

    What about Shakespeare of Stratford’s motto, “Non sanz droict” (Not without right), are there any variants of that in the canon? There are 340 instances of the word “right” in the works–it appears in every plays, every narrative poem, and 9 sonnets–so if frequency is important (and by your giving the counts above I assume you believe it is), then Shakespeare’s motto has it all over Oxford’s. Hamlet says, “Am I not in the right?” Falstaff says, “Therefore let me have right.” KIng Henry V says, “Then plain and right must my possession be.”

    Other dialogue reminiscent of Shakespeare’s motto:

    “O God, that right should thus overcome might!”
    “May I with right and conscience make this claim”
    “…let their bodies follow, my dear liege,/With blood and sword and fire to win your right.”
    “I think he held the right.”
    “Nor shall proud Lancaster usurp my right.”
    “God defend the right!”
    “let us win our right.”
    “I mean to take possession of my right.”
    “shall I have my right, or no?”
    “for ’tis my right.”
    “by the right and virtue of my place.”

    And so on. The history plays are literally bursting with claims of rights, both congenital and earned.

    Does all this count as evidence that Shakespeare or Stratford wrote the Shakespeare canon? By your criteria, it does.

  • psi2u2

    Actually, he may have. At least his education is more obvious than the bard’s is. But you are fighting the good fight in any case.

  • MLAnotzi

    Sicinius’ (aka Mike Leadbetter’s) attack is unfounded and contrary to the logic of civil argument and adds nothing to the discussion. He is not in a position to know what any “English Professors” on the planet take seriously because he is not an academic or a scholar, just a troublemaker. Many Oxfordians are actually English professors, and there are other professors, not Oxfordians, who also take their work seriously. The post above is exemplary of his style which proves nothing, does nothing, and exists only to disrupt. He will most likely say something nasty in return because that is all he ever does. Unless I have missed that he is author of anything to be published in a mainstream academic journal soon.

  • Jan Cole

    Thank you, Herbie, I appreciate this substantial evidence that WS acted in some plays,as well as being a shareholder in the company with probably some role in the collection of payments. I also very much appreciate the kindness of your tone and the fact that you have not felt obliged to employ demeaning terms of address to me or others who question the authorship.

  • Jan Cole

    Here is one example of ‘circumstantial evidence’ that Oxford has something to do with the works of Shakespeare. I have never claimed that Oxford wrote every word in Shakespeare canon, and am open to the possibility of shared authorship.

    Example:There are five allusions to Oxford’s family motto ‘Vero nihil verius’ in Shakespeare’s plays (they are not exact
    translations but are paraphrases) – the motto is usually translated as ‘Nothing without Truth’

    ‘Is not truth the truth?’ – HIV,Pt.1 II.iv. line1214

    ‘But truth is truth’ – King John, I.i.105

    ‘Truth is truth’ – LLL, IV.i.1019

    ‘Nay, it is ten times true, for truth is truth to the end of reckoning’ – M for M, V.i.45-46

    ‘For truth can never be confirmed enough, tho’ doubts did ever sleep’ – Pericles IV.i. c. line 2406

    [scene divisions and line numbering may differ]

    There are 347 instances of the word ‘truth’ in 31 out of 36 plays and in 15 sonnets (sometimes more than once, max 4 in S101) – a very high incidence. The highest incidences in the same play are 22 in Henry VIII or ‘All is True’, 14 in T&C, 12 in King John, 12 in HIV,pt 2, 11 in M for M… The online Shak Concordance will give you all incidences.

    In most cases the word ‘truth’ is repeated,which echoes the word repetition in Oxford’s motto.

    In a letter of May 1603 (a year before his death) Oxford said, ‘For truth is truth tho’ never so old, and time
    cannot make that false which was once true’. He was alluding to his family motto.

    What reasons would William Shaksper of Stratford-upon-Avon have to make 5 allusions to Oxford’s motto in the plays?

  • Tom Reedy

    You are laboring under a misunderstanding of the term “circumstantial evidence”. I am quite well-read on Oxfordian literature, as is Mark. Please give us what you think to be the strongest example of circumstantial evidence for Oxford’s authorship.

  • Jan Cole

    The ‘circumstantial evidence’ IS out there.There is so much of it that you would need several years of reading to catch up. A good place to start is Warren J.A.’An Index to Oxfordian Publications, including Oxfordian books and and selected articles from non-Oxfordian publications’, third edition, 2015, Forever Press, Somerville, MA (468 pages).

  • Tom Reedy

    Have you never heard of hyperbole?

    And sorry, but if you’re an Oxfordian, you’re one of “all you Oxfordians”. This is not a personal message board; we are not writing private letters here.

  • Jan Cole

    Why do you hate Oxford so much?

  • Jan Cole

    Tom, he’s not for me – and nor is anyone else, dead or alive I don’t rate people in this way. And I am not ‘all you Oxfordians’.
    If you respond to me as an individual,which you did here,
    I would appreciate it if you kept your comments relevant to me.

  • Tom Reedy

    Huh? I knew Oxfordians were sensitive to insult to the degree that they see it everywhere, since it’s an oft-used tool in their rhetorical toolbox, but perhaps you’d point out the exact terminology that causes you to call Nat’s comment “cruel”. He is only pointing out the probative value of being “first on the list” as you did with Shakespeare’s name in the list of actors in the FF.

    > Why are you so full of hate for a man that died four centuries ago?

    I know for myself I don’t hate Oxford (in fact I sympathize with his situation–the real one, not the Oxfordian fantasy), and I don’t see that Nat does, either. What I hate is distortions of the historical record and groundless speculation dishonestly passed off as evidence. All the hatred in this debate seems to be that directed at William Shakespeare of Stratford from anti-Stratfordians.

  • Jan Cole

    That was a cruel, unnecessary and irrelevant alteration of the words that I wrote, Nat. You are putting new words into my mouth. I don’t have to do the same with you, because yours are ‘the same old same old’ vicious cruelty, and any rational person reading this comments column will have realised that many times over. Why are you so full of hate for a man that died four centuries ago?

  • headlight

    By the way — it’s too bad you and Lynn don’t like me. I’m sure you’re both delightful people. You seem to think that I have some personal animus toward you. But other than thinking you’re wrong about the SAQ, I really don’t have any personal feelings about you one way or the other. And I sincerely extend my congratulations on your recent professional advancement. I’m looking forward to your article, though for different reasons than you.

  • headlight

    You’re telling me that you want me to upload a disqus profile photo so I can be like you? That would be fun, wouldn’t it?

  • psi2u2

    The desire for revenge is the hobgoblin of small minds. The threat of revenge on the internet is a crime.

    That’s why its also stupid. And probably that explains why you’re a serial pseudonymist. And don’t try to tell me I’m hiding behind a pseudonym like you are, “headlight.” That’s my real photo. I’m standing in the front of the great pyramid of Egypt with my friend and colleague from Coppin State University. And you know, she’s never met you either and she already doesn’t like you.

  • Trumping: Indeed that is outing the air. According to legend, de Vere’s fart was not forgotten by ER1. A real scholar wouldn’t have failed to realise the potential for students of the SAQ to poke fun at you. Perhaps you’d better ask Sir Jonathan to check your comments before posting?

    In the interests of respecting the ideal of scholarship, knowing a great deal about something of your own making is absolutely valid as a claim to be scholarly. You are uniquely qualified in this. Your discovery that Covell embedded a code identifying Oxford as the secret and true author of Shakespeare, hidden for centuries until you revealed it, was a masterstroke.

    It’s therefore somewhat puzzling that your scholarship has failed to attract recognition as a defining moment in the SAQ.

    What went wrong. Sir Jonathan Bate [you say] recognises you as a real scholar. Why haven’t others fallen in line, so that your scholarship ‘trumps’ and overturns current thinking?

    If you attempt the ‘vested interest tenure’ argument, you will imply that Sir Jonathan, whilst your friend, is amongst those unwilling to recognise your scholarship as valid. In other words, your claim to be considered as a ‘real’ scholar fails. Unless, of course, you can show the failings of peers, both in terms of their understanding and veracity. After all, who would want to build a career and income on a fallacy?

  • Tom Reedy

    > The company of stationers conducted their business independently of the government.

    The stationers’ register was chartered by the crown to license books for publications and ensure that they complied with the law, making it an official agency. It was supervised by the Master of Revels, who was appointed by the Queen. So much for operating “independently of the government.”

  • headlight

    No, Roger — you’ll wait to whine in October and thereafter when nobody but your SV cronies pay any attention whatever it is you’re publishing. Just like the last six or eight big announcements that were going to turn the tide. Believe me, we’re all hoping to be the first to identify a fundamental logical error or anachronism. Tom is pretty good but my money’s on Nat to win it. I’ll block out the time to read it if you could share the target publication date.

  • Tom Reedy

    Thanks for summing up the evidence for the Oxfordian theory. Finally Mark can stop his continual query that Oxfordians produce the evidence that they claim proves their theory. No doubt many will convert on the basis of your succinct and scholarly explication.

  • psi2u2

    At this point I don’t have clue about what YOU know. And I don’t care. You’re a fraud, a bully, and a liar.

  • MDHJohnson

    Once again we are informed by the Oxenfordians that there is this mountain of circumstantial evidence in support of the proposition that their Lord wrote the Shakespeare works, but when it comes time to produce a single piece of such evidence, the rest is silence. Why is it that Oxenfordians are unable to share even a shred of that “enormous volume of ‘circumstantial’ evidence for the same proposition, gathered over the last 95 years, and ongoing”….? It should be easy to put some of the evidence out there and demonstrate how it makes a circumstantial case for their position.

    At the same time, we are told by the Oxenfordians that there isn’t a shred of evidence connecting Will Shakespeare to the plays. And when we produce that evidence…? Again, silence.

  • headlight

    Price is not seeking “direct evidence” — she is looking for “documentary evidence.” But methodologically, her book is crap. Her insistence, for instance, to only accept evidence published during the lifetime of Shakespeare is profoundly at odds with the practice of real historians. She actually has a document on her website that purports to list “some criteria.”

    She cites three sources for her proposition. I’ll bet you’ve never read any of them. I have. None of them support her proposition. None of them use the term “posthumous,” even once. All of them actually are describing the distinction between primary evidence — evidence contemporary with the event being described — and secondary evidence, interpretations of primary evidence. Such primary evidence includes writings and statements by people who were contemporaries of Shakespeare but who wrote after Shakespeare’s death. Price’s theory is directly contradictory to her supposed authorities.

    Primary evidence for Shakespeare: his name is on the title page of the quartos. His name is on the title page of the First Folio. Condell and Hemminge, both of whom knew Shakespeare and performed in his plays, say that he wrote them. Ben Jonson says he wrote them. The accounts of the Master of Revels in 1604 say he wrote them. There is no primary evidence that disputes Shakespeare’s authorship, or asserts that Oxford wrote any plays for the popular stage.

  • Nat Whilk

    Price’s book is an extended exercise in gerrymandering. She sets out to exclude William Shakespeare from his own life. By her arbitrary rules, anything McCartney said about Lennon after John’s death would have to be thrown out as “non-contemporaneous evidence.”

  • Nat Whilk

    Take a deep breath. Sit down. Now, what are you trying to tell me?

  • Nat Whilk

    Yes. And your point is…?

  • Nat Whilk

    Whatever Shakespeare felt or imagined feeling when he wrote that sonnet, he had friends. The First Folio, assembled “only to keep the memory of so worthy a friend and fellow alive, as was our Shakespeare,” may be the greatest-ever memorial. Who mourned when Oxford died?

    “Imagined feeling” is high praise. Shakespeare’s empathy, his gift for speaking from another’s soul, is a very great part of his genius.

  • In fact, “unsettled” is first found in EEBO in 1550, and was used only some 20 times before de Vere’s use of it in his 1591 letter. That’s out of 8,146 books published during those years, whose searchable text is on EEBO. An uncommonly used word, no?

    Among those who used the word earlier than 1591 are de Vere’s uncle Arthur Golding, in the translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses that de Vere may have composed; de Vere’s literary secretary John Lyly; Angel Day, in a book he dedicated to de Vere; and Thomas Watson, in another book dedicated to de Vere.

  • Dingdong

    Wow! What’s that? The “Stationer’s Office”? That must be the office of some stationer, a printer or a publisher? Or do you mean “Stationers’ Office? It did not exist. There was the corporation of the Stationers. There were the Stationers’ Registers. A “governmental record depository”? Wow! The company of stationers conducted their business independently of the government. There was some supervision by the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justices to check whether the by-laws of a corporation were compatible with the laws of the Realm. That’s all.
    Anyway, your bluff is splendid, but it should be called, expert.

  • MDHJohnson

    As a matter of fact there is direct evidence that M. William Shakespeare, Gent., of Stratford-upon -Avon, wrote the works. There are numerous records which identify the author specifically and uniquely using just such terms.

    On the other side, there is no direct evidence for Oxenford as Shakespeare, and what Oxenfordians claim to be circumstantial evidence doesn’t even qualify as such. If you disagree, I would very much like to see just a few examples of what you consider to be circumstantial evidence tending to prove the proposition that Oxenford wrote Shakespeare. In fact, could you start with just one example of circumstantial evidence and show the logical, inferential process whereby you get from your initial factual premises to your ultimate conclusion.

    Price’s book is an extended exercise in special pleading, and she doesn’t even understand her own stated criteria, a fact which is demonstrated by the exclusionary rule she enforces for what she terms non-contemporaneous evidence, completely contradicting the very standard she proposed should be followed.

  • Dingdong

    Evidently, what is not in YOUR context, is OUT of context. But the second paragraph refers BACK to the former.
    You write: “Let Oxford speak for himself…” Oh, my apologies, of course you’ve read my letter to Mr Griffiths. But no, you’ve not read it.

  • MDHJohnson

    I see that your misconception has already been rebutted, but there is quite a bit more evidence than what you claim. Here is a partial list I have compiled.

    1. The court payment in 1595 to “William Kempe William Shakespeare & Richard Burbage servantes to the Lord Chamberlain”. On 15 March 1595, the Treasurer of the Queen’s Chamber paid “William Kempe William Shakespeare & Richarde Burbage servants to the Lord
    Chamberleyne” for their performances at court in Greenwich on 26th and 27th December 1594.

    2. The 1599 listing of the Globe Theater as being occupied by “Willielmo Shakespeare et aliorum”

    3. The three contemporary legal documents (two from 1601 and one from 1608) which list the primary tenants of the Globe theater as “William Shakespeare and Richard Burbage, gentlemen.”

    4. The Return from Parnassus Part 2, in which the actor “Kemp” refers to “our fellow Shakespeare”

    Around 1601, students in Cambridge put on a play called The Second Part of the Return from Parnassus, the third in a series of plays that satirized the London literary scene. In this play, two characters named “Kempe” and “Burbage” appear, representing the actors Will Kempe and Richard Burbage of the Chamberlain’s Men. At one point Kempe

    “Few of the university [men] pen plays well, they smell too much of that writer Ovid, and that writer Metamorphosis, and talk too much of Proserpina and Jupiter. Why, here’s our fellow Shakespeare puts them all down, aye 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.”

    This passage supports the proposition that the playwright Shakespeare was a fellow actor of Kempe and Burbage, contrasts him with the University-educated playwrights, and establishes him as a rival of Ben Jonson.

    The license for the creation of the King’s Men in 1603, in
    which “William Shakespeare” appears second. The
    Lord Chamberlain’s Men were licensed as the King’s Men on 19 May 1603. The document lists “Lawrence Fletcher, William Shakespeare, Richard Burbage, Augustyne Phillippes, Iohn Heninges, Henrie Condell, William Sly, Robert Armyn, Richard Cowly” as members of the troupe.
    Shakespeare’s prominence is indicated by the fact
    that he appears second on the list, behind only Lawrence Fletcher, who had acted for King James in Scotland, and who was the king’s favorite actor.

    6. The account of red cloth distributed to the King’s Men for James’s procession into London in 1604; they are prominently identified as “Players,” and William Shakespeare appears first on the list. On 15 March 1604 King James, Queen Anne, and Prince Henry rode through the City of London in a royal entry postponed from the previous summer because of the plague. An account by Sir George Home, who was Master of the Great Wardrobe, lists the
    names of “Players” who were each given four yards of red
    cloth apiece for the investiture of King James in London on 15 March 1604. The actors who were named were “William Shakespeare, Augustine Phillipps, Lawrence Fletcher, John Hemminges, Richard Burbidge, William Slye, Robert Armyn, Henry Cundell, and Richard Cowley.”

    7. The will of Augustine Phillips, member of the King’s Men, which leaves money to “my fellow William Shakespeare” as well as to seven other members of the King’s Men. The will of Augustine Phillips, executed 5 May 1605, proved 16 May 1605, bequeaths, “to my Fellowe William Shakespeare a thirty shillings peece in gould, To my Fellowe Henry Condell one other thirty shillinge peece in gould .. . To my Fellowe Lawrence Fletcher twenty shillings in gould, To my Fellowe Robert Armyne twenty shillings in gould . . . .” All of the people who Phillips calls his “fellows” were actors in the King’s Men. Augustine Phillips’s bequest of 30 shillings to his
    “Fellowe” Shakespeare was written 11 months after the Earl
    of Oxford’s death. If Oxford were Shakespeare, Phillips would have known that he was dead.

    8. The record of Shakespeare ye Player in the Heralds Office.

    In 1602, Peter Brooke, the York Herald, accused Sir William Dethick, the Garter King-of-Arms, of elevating base persons to the gentry. Brooke drew up a list of 23 persons whom he claimed were not entitled to bear arms. Number four on the list was Shakespeare. Brooke included a sketch of the Shakespeare arms, captioned “Shakespear ye Player by
    Garter.” This is the same coat-of-arms that appears on the
    poet’s tomb in Stratford.

    9. The cast lists included in Jonson’s Folio. The 1616 Folio of Ben Jonson’s Works contained cast lists for his plays. The cast list for Jonson’s Every Man in His Humor, which was performed in 1598, includes “Will Shakespeare, Aug. Philips, Hen. Condel, Will. Slye, Will. Kempe, Ric. Burbadge, Ioh. Hemings, Tho. Pope, Chr. Beeston, and Ioh. Duke.”.
    The cast list for Jonson’s Sejanus, performed in 1603, includes “Ric. Burbadge, Aug. Philips, Will. Sly, Ioh. Lowin, Will. Shake-Speare, Ioh. Hemings, Hen. Condel, and
    Alex. Cooke.”

    10. In his will, William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon left a bequest “to my ffellowes John Hemynge Richard Burbage & Henry Cundell a peece to buy them Ringes.”

    In his will, William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon left a
    bequest “to my ffellowes John Hemynge Richard Burbage &
    Henry Cundell xxvj s viij d A peece to buy them Ringes.”
    Heminges, Burbage, and Condell had been fellow actors in the King’s Men with William Shakespeare, and Heminges and Condell later edited the First Folio, in which they attributed thirty-six plays to their “friend and fellow” William Shakespeare.

    11. The First Folio poem by Ben Jonson.

    From thence to honour thee, I would not seeke
    For names; but call forth thund’ring Æschilus,
    Euripides, and Sophocles to us,
    Paccuvius, Accius, him of Cordova dead,
    To life againe, to heare thy Buskin tread,
    And shake a stage : Or, when thy sockes were on,
    Leave thee alone, for the comparison
    Of all, that insolent Greece, or haughtie Rome
    Sent forth, or since did from their ashes come.

    12. Three poems by Davies.


    To our English Terence, Mr. Will. Shake-speare.

    Some say (good Will) which I, in sport, do sing,
    Had’st thou not plaid some Kingly parts in sport,
    Thou hadst bin a companion for a King;
    And, beene a King among the meaner sort.
    Some others raile; but, raile as they thinke fit,
    Thou hast no railing, but a raigning Wit:

    And honesty thou sow’st, which they do reape;
    So, to increase their Stocke which they do keepe.


    Players, I love yee, and your Qualitie,
    As ye are Men, that pass time not abus’d:
    And some I love for painting, poesie W.S. R.B.
    And say fell fortune cannot be excus’d,
    That hath for better uses you refused:
    Wit, Courage, good shape, good partes and all goode,
    As long as all these goods are no worse us’d,
    And though the stage doth staine pure gentle bloode
    Yet generous yee are in minde and moode.


    Some followed her by acting all mens parts Stage Players
    These on a Stage she rais’d (in scorne) to fall:
    And made them Mirrors, by their acting Arts,
    Wherin men saw their faults, though ne’r so small:
    Yet soome she guerdond not, to their desarts; W.S. R.B.
    But, othersome, were but ill-actioned all:
    Who while they acted ill, ill staid behinde,
    (By custome of their maners) in their minde.

    The initials in these poems are printed in marginal notes to the poems, along with other marginal notes supplied by the poet.

    13. On 13 March 1602, John Manningham of the Middle Temple recorded in his diary a racy anecdote about
    Richard Burbage and William Shakespeare:

    Upon a time when Burbidge played Richard III there was a citizen grew so far in liking with him, that before she went from the play she appointed him to come to her that night unto her by the name of Richard III. Shakespeare, overhearing their conclusion, went before, was
    entertained and at his game ere Burbage came. Then message being brought that Richard III was at the door, Shakespeare caused return to be made that William the Conqueror was before Richard III. Shakespeare’s name William.

    The anecdote does not explicitly call Shakespeare an actor, but it places him at the theater with Burbage, the leading actor of the Chamberlain’s Men. Manningham was a friend of William Shakespeare’s friend and “cousin” Thomas Greene, who was then finishing up his studies at the Middle Temple and would move to Stratford the following year.
    [–from How We Know That Shakespeare Wrote Shakespeare: The Historical Facts, by Tom Reedy and David Kathman].

    14. Greene’s Groats-worth….[possible reference]

    15. Willobie, His Avisa, with its reference to WS, the “old player”…[possible reference]

    16. Sir Richard Baker, a contemporary of Shakespeare and a friend of John Donne, published Chronicle of the Kings of England in 1643. Sir Richard was an avid fan of the theater, also writing Theatrum Redivium, or the Theatre Vindicated. In the Chronicle, for Elizabeth’s reign he notes statesmen, seamen, and soldiers, and literary figures who are mostly theologians with the exception of Sidney. In conclusion he says,

    “After such men, it might be thought ridiculous to speak of Stage-players; but seeing excellency in the meanest things deserves remembering . .. For writers of Playes, and such as had been Players themselves, William Shakespeare and Benjamin Jonson, have specially left their Names recommended to Posterity.” [– from How We Know That Shakespeare Wrote Shakespeare: The Historical Facts, by Tom Reedy and David Kathman].

  • Dingdong

    Has you read Sir Thomas Elyot, The Boke named the Governor? Printed in 1531. William Cecil was 11 years old!!

  • Dingdong

    I’m not sure but I think it first occurred in Ward’s biography. It seems as if Ward was not aware of the existence of two different lists kept by Arthur Atye. Nelson too is wrong when he maintains that Oxford lost 500 pounds. Oxford is not on the second and definitive list of adventurers. Nelson is also wrong about the time Oxford became an adventurer in the Frobisher expeditions. According to Nelson in the second expedition. It was the third one. Nelson is further totally wrong when he suggests that John Dee was the main driving force for the quest of gold. John Dee was on a committee deciding the issue. Dee’s name is missing on the document in question. But he later signed individually. He signed the same document. But this Nelson overlooked. As he overlooked so many things. More in the next days.

  • Benjamin Hackman

    Don’t need your first two. As I’ve said before, value of Nelson is documents he provides and notes/biblio.

  • Dingdong

    Admittedly, the biographical link of “se offendendo” to
    the Brincknell case is weak. More important seems to me that the term, if a malapropism, is a very appropriate malapropism, the opposite of “se defendendo”.
    Such, more or less, is the argument of law professor Bernard Rudden, “For the First Gravedigger” in Law Quarterly
    Review, vol. 100, October 1984, pp. 540-4. It must be se
    offendendo, it cannot be else. Similarly, FG’use of “argal” to
    announce a conclusion is not a mistake for ergo
    but an extremely apt compliment to the amateur actor, debater, and logician who was even then writing his ad artem
    Dialecticam Introductio: John Argall… Argall writes of “Actio, operatio seu Effectio,…”

  • Dingdong

    If there’s one who “could not process” his facts, it might well be Alan Nelson. Two examples tomorrow or in the next days. Should you want more, you can have more.

  • Dingdong

    Not Oxford alone. See CSP foreign, Low Countries, 1586-87. Sir John Norris, probably the ablest general there, didn’t get along with Leicester. Nor the Dutch States General. Nor Lord Buckhurst. Nor Thomas Wilkes, a very able diplomat. Not even Sir Francis Walsingham who in his correspondence with Wilkes dubbed Leicester “Themistocles”, in the light of Leicester’s fiascos in the Low Countries (defection of Rowland York and Sir William Stanley at Zutphen and Deventer, men he preferred above Norris) a biting sarcasm. Nearly the whole Privy Council, including Burghley, wished to be rid of Leicester.

  • Dingdong

    In Sonnet 29 Shakespeare too complains of his lack of friends.

  • Tom Reedy

    Well really and truly there’s no way anyone can argue against someone who does not understand the terms “direct evidence” and “circumstantial evidence.”

    For example, the fact that several plays are registered in the Stationer’s Office (a governmental record depository) as written by “Mr. William Shakespeare” is direct evidence that WS of Stratford wrote them. The fact that he grew up a few hundred meters away from the Stratford school, that his father could send him there exempt from paying fees due to his office, and that there are some highly detailed allusions to grammar school in his work is circumstantial evidence that he attended it.

  • Tom Reedy

    You are in error. The warrant for payment to “Willam Kempe Willam Shakespeare & Richarde Burbage servauntes to the Lord Chamberleyne” specifically states that the payment is “for twoe severall Comedies or Enterludes shewed by them before her matie”.

    In case you missed it: “shewed by them before her matie” means they acted it before the queen.

    There is just as much evidence for the acting career of William Shakespeare as there is for Richard Burbage. It includes the above warrant, the charter for the King’s Men which specifically names them, the list of players issued red cloth for James’ coronation procession, references in several poems, contemporary gossip, and his name on a list of actors for Jonson’s plays, as well as the list of players in the FF.

  • Tom Reedy

    Oxford did not in fact win the tournament, though he was given the “chief honour”. An eyewitness wrote of Oxford, “Lord Oxford has performed his challenge at tilt, tournay, and barriers, far above expectation of the world, and not much inferior to the other three challengers.”

    I don’t understand why Oxford has to be the Most Talented Person Ever Born to all you Oxfordians.

  • Herbie Taylor


    Probably half the players listed under “All these plays” in the First Folio did not perform in all of the plays – but All did act in some subset of “All these plays”. That is clearly the meaning of the heading: the assembly of players who in total performed in all the plays.

    Does anyone seriously doubt that Ben Jonson included Shakespeare on the cast list for EMOHH and Sejanus in his works – for any reason but that Shakespeare actually performed in the plays? Some Non-Stratfordians argue that because Jonson’s works appeared on book stall shelves shortly after WS died that somehow that disqualifies the citation – but it is almost a certainty that the MS was prepared before April 1616 – we know for example that printing started in 1615. The printing history makes it very likely the pages were copy ready well before April. Even if they were not – what reason would Jonson have for a deception here.

    There are twelve extant documents which include the names of Shakespeare, Burbage, Hemmings and Condell. That is a lot of 400 year old paper. They include two wills – a very personal document in which one usually only names ones closest friends. The twelve include the Royal Warant, enabling the players, including Shakespeare, to “exercise the Art” and is referred to as, “the Players privilege”; there is the wardrobe document with PLAYERs in big beautiful letters, unambiguously naming Shakespeare. Then there are several theater related legal documents which name those four collectively as players. One of those specifically identifies “Shakespeare, Gentleman”. Another of the twelve is Cuthbert Burbages letter to Herbert in which he states that the company: “placed men players, which were Hemminges, Condell, Shakespeare, etc”

    Those twelve documents are overwhelming and compelling.

    There are others – you mention the Royal Payment of 1595 to the LCM. Not sure why Shakespeare would be included receiving a payment if he were not making a contribution worthy of Royal monetary recognition.

    In addition, there is the wonderful joke which was circulating among theater goers in 1602 – recorded by Manningham – in which Shakespeare “has one over” on Burbage. The joke is ONLY funny if both men are players with notoriety. The joke makes no sense if Shakespeare is only a businessman/shareholder/whatever. Jokes about the company play poacher/broker don’t circulate in the Middle Temple…

    You mention surviving play script MS in your previous post with reference to Prices book. In her famous Literary Paper Trail she actually identifies only four surviving play scripts among the 25 luminaries. She does credit Thomas Nashe with an “original manuscript extant” for a surviving poem from his school days at Cambridge – which is hardly a play script. The same is true for Harvey and Drummond – important literary talents – but not professional London playwrights. George Peele also left a poem. The four surviving play scripts are Mundy’s assumed contribution as Hand S on Sir Thomas More, Middleton’s A Game At Chess, Thomas Heywood’s ,The Escapes of Jupiter and Phillip Massinger’s, Believe As You List. Amazingly, no surviving original play script exists for Ben Jonson, his one surviving dramatic MS is a masque – The Masque of Queens. Similarly, Samuel Daniel’s surviving dramatic MS also includes portions of a Masque, Hymen’s Triumph.

    The list of literary luminaries who did not leave an original manuscript of their creative life could form a literary all-star team and is headed by Edmund Spenser and includes Michael Drayton, George Chapman, John Marston, Robert Greene, John Lyly, Thomas Lodge, Thomas Dekker, Thomas Watson, Francis Beaumont, John Fletcher, Thomas Kyd, John Webster and Christopher Marlowe. A number of scholars are convinced that “Hand D” is that of Shakespeare – as the paleographer E. Maunde Thompson – among other notables have argued. Time will tell.

  • Nat Whilk

    In your own words, with a name changed: “The only ‘evidence’ for [Edward de Vere winning a tournament] is that his name heads the list (of course, it would). … It is somewhat unlikely that he [tilted] in ‘ALL these [jousts]’, and therefore some doubt may be cast, by those who wish to do so, upon whether he [tilted] in any.”

  • Nat Whilk

    Essex had real power; he had men at his command (though fewer than he hoped), charisma, and daring. He was dangerous.

    Oxford was throwing a tantrum. He was excused, as he would always be excused.

    As Sir John Peyton wrote, having looked into a later plot of Oxford’s to put Lord Hastings on the throne: “I knewe
    hym, to be so weake in boddy, in frends, in habylytie, and all
    other means, to rayse eny combuystyon in the state, as I neuer
    feered eny danger to proseed from so feeble a fowndation.”

    Couldn’t get himself arrested.

  • Jan Cole

    There is no ‘direct’ evidence in support of the proposition that Oxford was ‘Shakespeare’, but there is an enormous volume of ‘circumstantial’ evidence for the same proposition, gathered over the last 95 years, and ongoing. Similarly, there is no ‘direct’ evidence in support of the proposition that William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon was the ‘Shakespeare’ whose name appears on some play quartos and on the First Folio, and these, in fact, are also examples of ‘circumstantial’ evidence that the man Shaksper was the author ‘Shakespeare’. What one needs as ‘direct’ evidence is a play manuscript in a firmly attributed author’s hand, letters or reports that refer to him writing plays, receipt of payment for writing, or any other of the several criteria pointing to direct evidence for literary authorship as used by Diana Price in her book, ‘Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography’ (2001).

  • Jan Cole

    The only ‘evidence’ for William Shakespeare being an actor is that his name heads the list (of course, it would) on ‘the names of the principal actors in all these plays’ in the First Folio (1623). It is somewhat unlikely that he acted in ‘ALL these plays’, and therefore some doubt may be cast, by those who wish to do so, upon whether he acted in any. There is also the ‘evidence’ of a Treasury Office note of 1596 that he was paid (along with Richard Burbage and William Kempe) for plays put on at Court, but that record is no proof that he acted in those plays, only that he collected the payment from the Treasury Office, along with the two other sharers in the company.

  • Jan Cole

    “In the jousting tournaments of (Accession Day Tilts) of 1571, the chief prize went to Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. The gift was ‘a tablet of diamonds’…” E. Chambers, The Elizabethan Stage, vol. 1, pp.52-54; 140-145.

  • Jan Cole

    Essex made a private peace treaty with the Irish leader, Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone, in time of war and against Queen Elizabeth’s instructions. His offence was grave. Essex tried to instigate a ‘coup’ against the Queen and Robert Cecil, taking his armed supporters to the gates of Whitehall Palace. His offence was grave. He was executed for treason.

  • MDHJohnson

    The “authorship dissidents” keep providing proof of the Stratfordian claim. I think Waugaman may be one of those Oxenfordians that Professor Wells was talking about, one who exhibits a “refusal, wilful, or otherwise to accept evidence.” If I’m not mistaken, Waugaman refuses to accept the evidence that Will Shakespeare of Stratford was an actor in the LCM and KM.

    It has now been five or so months since the discussion of evidence in the lengthy Newsweek thread. The Oxenfordians have yet to produce a single piece of direct or circumstantial evidence in support of the proposition that Oxenford was Shakespeare. You might think that would leave them at least slightly unsettled.

  • Tom Reedy

    > And the Stratfordians have the chutzpah to claim authorship dissidents know nothing about evidence!

    It’s too bad I read this so early in the morning. I know I won’t laugh so hard at anything else for the rest of the day. I must call my dentist and make an appointment. The irony of that last statement, after reading such an “evidence” filled post, is so thick my fillings are loose.

  • Thank you, Jan. Did that word “unsettled” jump out at anyone else? It should have. I learned from Bill Bryson’s wonderful book on Shakespeare that Shakespeare coined more than 300 words beginning “un-“. As I wrote to him, Edward de Vere was also fond of such words, apparently coining a couple in his letters and, as “E.K.,” in his commentary on Spenser’s The Shepheardes Calendar.

    Was “unsettled” just a common, ordinary word in 1591, when this letter was written? Nat? Tom? Give up?

    No, it most certainly was not. An EEBO search yields only four published uses of it that year.

    And the Stratfordians have the chutzpah to claim authorship dissidents know nothing about evidence!

  • Tom Reedy

    Yes, Roger, we all know you and Lynne have had another paper accepted by a peer-reviewed journal, a paper that will have as much effect on the authorship of William Shakespeare of Stratford as all of your other papers have had. No matter how many zeros you add up, the sum is zero.

  • psi2u2

    Whining? I wonder who’s going to be whining in September? Hint: its not going to me, Tom Reedy.

  • William Corbett

    Ben Jonson had a better education than Shakespeare? Hmmm.

  • Nat Whilk

    If you’d read more carefully, you would have noticed that Jan Cole had already quoted that paragraph in full, out of context: just as you have done. I responded by providing the context of those sentences, as you have not done.

    Oxford leads off with what’s really on his mind: vengeance and money. He needs Burghley for both these ends. “My Lord I doo thanke yowre Lordship for the punishment of Hamptone … [Y]owre lordship will stand myne honorable good lord and friend herin, by handlinge this Hamptone ruflye, and this Amise so that he be but put in feare,”

    The Earl has yet another wildcat scheme in mind, for which he needs “yowre Lordsh frendly help.” And that’s where his children come in, as leverage for the deal. If his father-in-law will back him, he promises the income “for there vse.” But he shows his hand at once: “And so muche I am sure to make of thes demaynes for my self.”

    Then comes your paragraph.

    In context, the protestations that you and Ms. Cole have quoted seem rather insincere.

    Let Oxford speak for himself: “alwayes I haue and will
    still prefer myne owne content before others.”

    “Dingdong” suits you very well. Don’t change it.

  • Lu Ann Lewellen

    Thank you. I hope this will all be in book form soon.

    Did the error on ownership start with Ward? I’ve now seen it repeated half a dozen times, most recently by Dr. Paul Altrocchi, but it doesn’t seem to be anything essential to the argument for Oxford. The ship’s story is interesting all by itself as is the Tiger’s.

    I think it’s been established there were shipwrecks prior to the publication of Strachey’s letter. 😉

  • Benjamin Hackman


    Sounds to me like you’re trying to make a case for Hamlet being autobiographical, based on Oxford’s “clever coining” (as you call it) of a term derived from his legal defense, i.e., that the poor cook impaled himself upon Oxford’s sword.

  • headlight

    Waugh’s theory seems to be that whichever of the candidates had the most connections to travel, education, contemporary praise, knowledge of Latin, soldiery, ships, theatre companies, contemporary poets and playwrights and a grammar school must be the author. But that just means that by definition a person whose life is better documented (as a nobleman’s typically is vs a commoner) MUST be the author. His imaginary monkey heads and other evidence combine well with his skill as an historian.

  • Tom Reedy

    > Nelson even diminished Oxford’s wins in tournaments.

    Oxford won some tournaments? It’s been so long since I read anything about him I may have forgotten, but I don’t recall that he won any tournaments.

  • Lu Ann Lewellen

    Carey was Lord Monmouth by the time he wrote his memoirs. I’m still reading them. I got sidetracked on Raleigh (there seem to be conflicting stories about his role in the fight against the Armada), Sir John Hawkins and his troubles as Treasurer of the Navy, and an article in Chatterbox on the events of 1591 when one of the three ships (the Penelope) went down with all hands while James Lancaster commanded the Edward Bonaventure.

    Carey mentioned coming ashore with Cumberland at Tilbury but doesn’t seem to have named the ship they were on – or at least I haven’t found it yet. Maybe there’s a letter somewhere. Why would Laughton use figures in his tables taken from papers dated 1586, 1595 and 1595-99? The armament on the Tiger, Rainbow and Vanguard in 1586 differed considerably from the armament in 1595-99.

    Why not quote the whole poem? De Vere wasn’t singled out for “puffery”. It was the style.

    Nelson even diminished Oxford’s wins in tournaments. He tries to make him into such a ne’er-do-well he couldn’t possibly have been Shake-spear. Isn’t that like saying John Wayne Gacy couldn’t have painted clown pictures because he murdered young men?

    What’s wrong with consulting sources other than Nelson? I’ve read Nelson. I don’t need to keep reading Nelson.

  • Dingdong

    Change your name. From Nat Whilk into “Nat Wild”. You read as far as it fits you. You read Lawrence Stone as far as it fitted your discriminations. Where he no longer serves that purpose, you stop. Here too you stop prematurely. Why do you leave out the next paragraph? Simply. Because it gives the lie to your distorting interpretation.
    Can you not be more serious?
    Here the paragraph:

    “So shall [yo] my children be prouided for, my self atlenghe [=at length] setled in quiet, and I hope yowre lordship contented, remayninge no cause for yow to thinke me an evil father, nor any dout in me, but that I may enioy that friendship from yowre Lordship, that so nere a mache [=match, marriage], and not frutles, may laufully expect. good my Lord, thinke of this, and let me have
    bothe yowre furtherance, and councel, in this cause. for to tell trothe I am wery, of an vnsetled lyfe, which is the very pestilence that happens vnto courtiers, that propound to them selues no end of there tyme, therin bestowed.”

  • Dingdong

    But it does have a bearing on the reliability of Nelson’s grotesquely biased interpretations, worse: on his outright misreading of documents. For example his rendering of the name Whyteringe as “white herrings” (p. 432). On not knowing that the Lord Admiral was at the same time Chief Justice of the Forest and fabricating a tale of white herrings swimming in the forest, refusing to appear in the Court of the Forest and saying he would speak directly to the King. And if he doesn’t know how a 16th century joint-stock company worked, how can he correctly interpret the related documents?The truth is: he wanted to blacken Oxford and didn’t want to see that the majority of the adventurerers were in arrear with their payments. And what is a document specialist who confuses Raphael and Randolph Holinshed? Because he wanted to make us believe that Burghley was protecting Oxford. Maybe Burghley did, but Nelson wanted more positive proof and changed the name of the witness Randolph Holinshed into Raphael Holinshed because the 1577 chronicles were dedicated to Burghley. And did you read the fuss in his chapter on alienations? Everybody with a dram of knowledge of old English law knows that “alienation” is a transfer of property other than by inheritance, just as the correlated term “purchase” is the general term of acquisition other than by inheritance.Of which Nelson seems to have been completely ignorant. But he generously sets out to explain it, yes, to benevolently explain it to the reader “not familiar with old English law”.
    Can you explain, then, what the bearing of the Brincknell affair has on Oxford’s non-authorship or authorship? I cannot see that. Or rather I perceive a possible connection with his authorship. In Hamlet the gravedigger uses the term “se offendendo”. The correct term is “felo de se” (suicide). But given that the term “se defendendo” does exist, “se offendendo” is a very clever coining.
    “No bearing on his non-authorship”? What a shaky subterfuge!

  • Benjamin Hackman


    Which is why I tend to rely on the documents Nelson collected, and the sources he employed per excellent notes/biblio. Indeed, he was primarily a documents specialist, and not an historian per se, but he still got a lot of the important points right, especially the ones that matter.

    Because, for example, Oxford’s share of the Frobisher expedition has no bearing on his non-authorship of the canon.

  • Tom Reedy

    I know that whining about ad hominem remarks and rude ripostes is your default argument for Oxford’s authorship, but it’s considered good form to wait until somebody actually does that before complaining.

  • Benjamin Hackman


    You’re still not keeping up. Robert Carey was not created Earl of Monmouth until 1626. So in Armada Year, he was not yet a nobleman (at least not an Earl).

    And if you look at Laughton’s list of ships, you’ll see Carey listed as being aboard the Eliz Bonaventure with the Earl of Cumberland. So Carey was there. So why would Laughton say otherwise?

    You really gotta keep up. We’ve plowed this ground several times, and it’s all right there in Nelson. But you still seem unable (or unwilling) to process.

    But I guess you’ll keep “explaining away”–even though you claim Oxfordians do not need to explain anything–until you fulfill your fantasy and have Oxford

    Like warlike Mars upon the hatches stands,
    His tusked Bore gan fome for inwarde ire.
    While Pallas fild his breast, with warlike fire.

    Because you really really really wanna believe this puffery is absolutely true, when it’s blatantly obvious to even the most unspohisticaed reader that it’s panegyrical silliness.

  • Lu Ann Lewellen

    On the bottom of page 312 Nelson makes the claim that Hakluyt’s source, Stow, Camden and even a pack of playing cards were based on the propaganda pamphlet. Camden wasn’t capable of doing his own research? He certainly did for Brittania and successfully defended himself against Ralph Brooke’s charges of plagiarism and inaccuracy.

    See page 314 for what Laughton said. It’s conveniently on the website under “Laughton doubts Oxford’s involvement”:

    “Of these, only three are mentioned in these [=Armada] papers as having joined the fleet: – the Earl of Cumberland, Charles Blount, and Thomas Gerard. Robert Cecill was at Dover, writing to his father, and, on the 30th of July, neither was nor had been on board any of the ships. That Oxford, Burghley’s son-in-law, or Thomas Cecill, Burghley’s son; that Northumberland, Seymour’s first cousin; Robert Carey, Howard’s brother-in-law, and Sir Walter Ralegh, a man of high repute and official rank, could be in the fleet and not be once mentioned by Howard, by Robert Cecill, by Seymour, or by any of the correspondents of Burghley and Walsyngham, or by these, would seem incredible if we had not Robert Carey’s own statement to the effect that, at the battle of Gravelines, he was on board the E[lizabeth] Bonaventure. It must therefore be admitted as possible that the others were also in the fleet, though – without corroborative testimony, it remains extremely improbable. That Ralegh had a command in the fleet and ‘led a squadron as rear-admiral’ is virtually contradicted by the evidence now before us.”

    It looks like Laughton doubted everybody’s involvement. He believed the Earl of Monmouth, though, therefore it was “possible” the others were in the fleet too.

    I’ve just started reading Carey’s memoirs. Seems that’s the source of the remark about jacks going up and heads going down. Just a bit of trivia there. Unfortunately nothing about the E[lizabeth] Bonaventure is coming up in a search of the Google Book. I need to read more.

    I’m doing something more important than rehashing all this right now. I’ll be back after I’ve finished cleaning the fish tanks.

  • Benjamin Hackman


    If you paid any attention to Nelson, Camden was simply repeating Hakluyt, who mistakenly cited a 1589 pamphlet that was, itself, based on the Oct 1588 propaganda pamphlet that Burghley and Walsingham cooked up to bamboozle the Spanish.

    See Nelson, pp. 312-6, because I cannot believe you have read Nelson’s detailed explanation of the matter, or else you’ve read it but remain utterly unable to process.

    And I’ll remind you for the umpteenth time, Nelson is citing the work of Conyers Read and Bertrand Whitehead. So it’s not Nelson making up stuff to slander Oxford.

    And while we’re on this topic yet again, why do you keep embarrassing yourself in an attempt to “explain away” the facts so you can puff up your dear, sweet, but very naughty little Lord Oxford?


  • MDHJohnson

    That William Shakespeare of Stratford wrote the Shakespeare works is not an “axiom of faith,” nor is it “defended almost entirely on the basis of traditional belief.” Like all historical questions it is formed and defended on the basis of evidence in the historical record — the kind of evidence that establishes a prima facie case for the proposition that Will of Stratford wrote the works, and the kind of evidence that you simply do not have for your belief in your Lord.

  • Dingdong


    It must be ruled out that Oxford ever possessed the Edward Bonaventura. Oxford’s name is not on Atye’s second, definitive list of adventurers. Nor was the name of customer Thomas Smith. Both paid (or promised) their investment directly to Frobisher. And it is reasonable to hypothesize that both withdrew when Frobisher resigned his command in February or March 1582. 1582!!! On page 188 Nelson states that Fenton set out “at the very end of May 1581, returning in May 1582”. He terms it “another fiasco”. Nelson’s dates are wrong. In October 1581 Martin Frobisher was still in command. The exact years are 1582 to 1583.
    Ben Hackman writes that Oxfordians are incapable of “looking at the Age of Elizabeth through anything other than an Oxfordian lens.” Sure, that is the wrong lens. But the lenses Nelson bears are even wronger. He has no idea of how an Elizabethan joint-stock company functioned.

    First a quote from a work on Elizabethan joint-stock companies: WilliamRobert Scott. The Constitution and Finance of English, Scottish and Irish Joint-Stock companies to 1720 , Vol. I: The General Development of the
    Joint-Stock System to 1720 , Cambridge: at the University Press. 1912, p. 44:

    “It is to be noticed, further, that in all these cases the capital was divided into shares. To understand the position, it should be noted that the share, ‘portion’ or ‘part’ was dealt with in a less complex form than is customary at the present time. In a modern company… what is fixed is the denomination of
    the share, while the number of shares will vary with the progress of the undertaking. In the first Elizabethan companies, on the contrary, what was fixed was the number of shares; AND THE SUMS, CALLED UP ON EACH OF THEM, INCREASED FROM TIME TO TIME. [my emph]. Thus, if further capital were needed,it was provided in the early company by adding to the sums already called up…”
    The same Scott: This method of capitalization had two consequences. In the first place it might happen… that it was necessary to call up an unexpectedly large amount. Therefore, in some cases, shareholders had not capital available to make necessary payments…”

    That this was so can be see from any list of shareholders Michael Lok kept.

    That means : Oxford’s share of £3,000 was progressively
    increased. The £450 of arrears were not arrears on the initial nominal value of his share but on the amount to which it had been increased in the process of time.

    Others were also in arrear. Burghley’s share was smaller, but, contrary to Oxford, Burghley seems never to have paid a

    If finally Oxford still owed £450 it means he had paid in a huge amount, far more than £3,000. That is what Michael
    Lok wrote to Walsingham, “according to the order & rate of all the rest of the venturers.” The anti-Oxfordian lenses of Alan Nelson are also hugely distorting: “Oxford made a partial escape from his indebtedness by the simple
    expedient of not producing his £3000 in full: on 30 November he was listed as still owing £450.” (p. 188). Nelson could and should have looked into the lists reproduced in rear admiral Richard Collinson of Frobisher’s voyages. Or into
    the documents of * Colonial, 105, Dom. Eliz. Xcccvi * (mentioned in Nelson’s bibliography). Here is a list, not the same but a similar list of arrears:

    LAST NOVEMBER, 1578.


    The Lord High Treasurer 50
    The Lord High Admiral 50

    3) The Earl of Sussex 50

    4) The Earl of Warwick 50

    5) The Lord of Hunsdon 25

    The Earl of Oxford 200

    Martyn Ffurbisher (Frobisher) 50

    John Dee 15

    Sir Thomas Gresham 65

    Michael Lok 220

    That is, the great majority of the venturers!! And what were freight and wages? Those costs were simply added to the nominal value of the share and in proportion to the share. That is, Oxford had to pay far more than £3,000.

    So was the list of arrears at the end of the expedition. Nearly all adventurers were in arrear. And William Robert Scott explains why. But is he an expert? To Oxfraudians certainly not, for their motto is: right or ridiculous, my paperboat admiral Nelson.

    And it is not all. The very same chapter has plenty of “few misses”.

    More in the next days. Some of Nelson’s errors are stupendous.

  • Lu Ann Lewellen

    Who’s claiming “heroic” ? (I think I dreamed about work. I’ve never dreamed about ships or Edward de Vere.) Sounds like they were all heroic and the expected support for Spain didn’t happen.

    Camden listed those who hired ships “at their owne private charges”:

    “24. The next day the Lord Admiral knighted the Lord Thomas Howard, the Lord Sheffield, Roger Townsend, John Hawkins, and Martin Forbisher, for their valour. And it was resolved, from thence forth to assaile the enemie no more till they came to the British fyrth or Straight of Calys, where the Lord Henry Seimore and Sir William Winter awayted their comming. So with a faire Etesian gale (which in our skie bloweth for the most part from the Southwest and by South cleare and faire), the Spanish fleete sailed forward, the English fleete following it close at the heeles. But so farre was it from terrifying the sea-coast with the name of Invincible, or with the terrible spectacle, that the youth of England with a certain incredible alacrity (leaving their parents, wives, children, cousins, and friends, out of their entyre love to their Country) hires shippes from all partes at their owne private charges, and joyned with the fleet in great number; and amongst others the Earles of Oxford, Northumberland, Cumberland, Thomas and Robert Cecyl, Henry Brooke, Charles Blunt, Walter Raleigh, William Hatton, Robert Cary, Ambrose Willoughby, Thomas Gerard, Arthur Gorges, and others of good note.”

    Out of all those only Oxford (and possibly Thomas Cecil) didn’t really? Sounds like special pleading. Why would Camden be trying to bamboozle the Spanish in 1607 when he began his work on Annales? Camden didn’t name the ships but they were evidently hired.

    Granted Arundell wasn’t part of that.

  • psi2u2

    “I am convinced that William Shakespeare of Stratford wrote Shakespeare’s works. I also believe that the Oxford theory as widely and casually rehearsed is largely driven by snobbism.”

    These are axioms of faith, not valid premises of inquiry. It is long past the time when any educated person should understand that the first is no more than a hypothesis defended almost entirely on the basis of traditional belief, and that the second is merely a form of snobbery in itself, disguised behind the facade of such superficial weasel phrases as “as widely and casually rehearsed.” I am sorry that when I read such things I tend to lose all interest in reading further, because they alone signal to me a lack of comprehension that affords like opportunity to further real dialogue. If you want to see the snob, look in the mirror. I realize that there is much of value further down in your post, but the packaging is so unattractive that I find it difficult to consider on its independent merits.

  • psi2u2

    Except you that are not ipse, for Oxford is he – which is another way of expressing my dismay that the argument by adjective continues to be considered a useful technique for Mr. Reedy and the rest of the angry gang of Oxfrauds such as the inimitable Ms. Sparks.

  • Dingdong


    Don’t know what the best book on the Fenton voyage is, but a very good book is: The Troublesome Voyage of Captain Edward Fenton – 1582-1583, ed. for The Hakluyt
    Society by Eva G.R. Taylor, Cambridge: UP, 1959. Had Nelson consulted it (what he should have done but evidently didn’t), he would not have produced certain gaffes.

    For example this on p.189: In his comment on the Fenton expedition Nelso writes, “The essential difference between Drake’s voyage on the one hand, and Frobisher’s and Gilbert’s on the other, is that Drake knew where to find gold — in Spanish ships and ports. By contrast, Frobisher and his successors went on speculative expeditions where the spiritualist John Dee told him he would find a north-west
    passage, or gold, or both. Oxford staked a fortune on the spiritualists, and lost.”

    Take a seat, for so much rubbish within so short a paragraph is not likely to be seen soon again.

    First, Leicester was the main adventurer in the Fenton expedition with an investment of £2,200 (a total of £3,000 if the cost of a ship is included). A “spiritualist ass” like Dee and Oxford who, contrary to Drake, did not know where to find gold? Among the adventurers was another big “spiritualist ass”. Guess who. Well, Sir Francis Drake himself with an investment of approx.£700.

    Secondly,Leicester’s secretary Arthur Atye kept two lists of adventurers, an earlier one and a later one. The earlier one lists the names of three ships and the names of the first adventurers, including Oxford and the customer (receiver of
    customs) Thomas Smith; the expedition then . The later one contains the names of the ships that actually participated in the Fenton expedition. B.M. Ward (* Seventeenth
    Earl of Oxford*) gives the names: There were three ships: the galleon Ughtrede (renamed the Leicester), the Edward Bonaventure, and the bark Talbot.” This is an error, the Bark Talbot did not sail in Fenton’s voyage. It was originally
    proposed by the earl of Shrewsbury who later withdrew his proposal and preferred a share of £200. Possibly Shrewsbury’s withdrawal of the Talbot was due to John Hawkins. Shrewsbury made a similar proposal and, in May 1582, withdrawal for an expedition to the East Indies under the command of Thomas Carleill, Francis Walsingham’s stepson, who should have been captain at land under Fenton, but had drawn back at the last minute, apparently
    because of an ague – he soon recovered after Fenton had left England – less than two weeks later he was
    projecting his own voyage. “Before 14 May he had approached Thomas Bawdewyn, the earl fo Shrewsbury’s factor in London to try to raise £100 from
    the earl. In his reply on 20 May Shrewsbury suggested first of all that instead of contributing money he would be willing to allow Carleill to take his ship,the Bark Talbot, with him, if John
    Hawkins, who had apparently some interest in the vessel, agreed. While he was writing he received a further letter from Bawdewyn, and one from John Hawkins himself, about the Carleill venture. These made him change his mind and offer to contribute a hundred marks in money instead of the ship.” (David B. Quinn, Voyages Humphrey Gilbert, Vol. I, p.
    78-9). Nothing came of it, but after Gilbert’s death in September 1583 the plans for an expedition were resumed, this time to Newfoundland. Now Hawkins had also recovered as there were rumours he would sail with Carleill. He did
    not sail but apparently took a favourable stand. Carleill, finally, got the Bark Talbot. Fenton’s ships were: Galleon Leicester, Edward Bonaventure, and the barks Francis (named after Drake) and Elizabeth (Taylor, p. xliii).

    Could anything else be expected from an “Oxy” like B.M. Ward? But in 1928 Ward had an excuse. Eva G.R. Taylor’s study was not in print until 1959. In 2003 Nelson had
    no such excuse. He makes the same mistake as Ward, referring to Irvin Matus who took over the mistake from “Oxy” B.M. Ward.

    It’s not all, no far from the whole battery of Nelson’s “few misses”. Some more posts will follow. What does Ben Hackman think?

  • Tom Reedy

    He was as educated as most of the other non-university educated playwrights of the time, such as George Chapman, Henry Chettle, Thomas Dekker, Thomas Heywood, Michael Drayton, John Webster, et al, but not as educated as Ben Jonson, who was also not university educated.

  • Tom Reedy

    > You believe that being Oxford being connected to more theatre companies and more contemporary poets and playwrights that Shakespeare means that Oxford wrote the works?

    Which is total BS anyway. Shakespeare is connected to the playing companies of the Earls of Derby, Pembroke, and Sussex, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, and the King’s Men.

  • headlight

    Mr. Waugh:

    You believe that being Oxford being connected to more theatre companies and more contemporary poets and playwrights that Shakespeare means that Oxford wrote the works? Why would his being connected to playing companies that didn’t perform Shakespeare’s plays and to playwrights who were not Shakespeare make it more likely that he wrote the works? Typically, when a nobleman hires a professional writer (like Lyly) as a secretary, wouldn’t the secretary more likely serve as a ghostwriter, than as a front for the nobleman?

    How was Oxford connected to the Lord Chamberlain’s Men/King’s Men, who actually performed Shakespeare’s plays? Was he better connected than, say, a person who was a sharer in the playing company, named by members of the company as a “fellow,” named by other playwrights (like Jonson) as a principal actor in plays performed by the company, and named on the title pages of quartos and of the First Folio as the author of the plays? The key place where Shakespeare trumps Oxford is that he is named by contemporaries as the playwright, while not one document exists that identifies Oxford as the secret writer of Shakespeare’s works.

  • William Corbett

    “I find it telling, and profoundly dispiriting, that we’ve been hearing more of that kind of thing since the late 1990s, as state education and social mobility have declined – in other words, as it has seemed less likely that a new Shakespeare could grow up, strike out and get on.” So you agree that a writer of Shakespeare’s stature has to be well educated?

  • Tom Reedy

    > you are trying to make a case that something could never happen if it only happened once.

    No, Alexander, throughout history there have been many middle-class boys from small towns who achieved literary fame; Shakespeare wasn’t a one-off.

  • Tom Reedy

    “In the meantime, you can learn a lot from this book and maybe even more from a marvellous new website called Oxfraud.” Jonathan Bate, from his review of *Shakespeare Beyond Doubt* by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells published in the 2 May 20013 *New Statesman*

    You should listen to your friends more.

  • Benjamin Hackman

    Good night Lu. Pleasant dreams of the Edward Bonaventure and your dear Lord Oxford’s heroic whatever.

  • Lu Ann Lewellen

    Oh, I’m sure I’ve said something dumber. At least you caught the allusion. Since you don’t appreciate my sense of humor I’ll stop trying to be funny and either keep a straight face or resort to snark.

    My point, of course, was about suspicious interlineations and using a pseudonym – just in case anybody missed that.

    Nelson’s conjectures shouldn’t be taken as facts no matter how good his sources. The book would have been much better without them, IMO.

    Getting back to Leicester (who wasn’t always in favor either) I don’t think this has been mentioned yet:

    “Also in this period was Oxford’s disgrace by Leicester, who in 1584 had removed him as ‘Commander of the Horse’ in the Low Countries, and then had refused to give him any greater assignment before the Armada invasion of 1588 than the command of Harwich, which was located in the Essex seaside traditionally dominated by the Earls of Oxford (in other words, Leicester had again disgraced him by sending him back to his own backyard!).”

    W. Hess (2013-10-30). The Dark Side of Shakespeare: An Elizabethan Courtier, Diplomat, Spymaster, & Epic Hero: Volume II of III (Kindle Locations 9869-9872). iUniverse. Kindle Edition.

    So there’s another perspective and again we don’t know exactly what happened after Harwich. If he really rode right before Her Majesty, his bonnet in his hand, it appears she wasn’t piqued. I wish we had a record of their conversation when he returned.

    I’m interested in what happened in 1591 and am trying to run that down. It appears the ship was involved in a gale off the Bermudas in 1593. The crew mutinied against Lancaster and surrendered the ship to the Spanish off Santo Domingo. She was eventually wrecked off the coast of France. Whether de Vere ever set foot on the Edward Bonaventure or not he was certainly interested in voyages of exploration and lost a fortune on Frobisher.

    What I don’t understand is what this has to do with the engraving.

  • Benjamin Hackman

    Lu writes: “We have an interlineation that could have been an afterthought or a flat out lie and a member of the nobility possibly writing under another name. Wasn’t that rather dangerous ground for a Stratfordian to tread?”

    Now that’s about the dumbest thing you ever said. It’s not a lie. And it’s not dangerous at all when we understand the facts and the context. Burghley and Walsingham were engaging in a very deliberate propaganda campaign to flummox the Spanish.

    That’s clearly the case since the drafts of the pamphlet are in Burghley’s hand. And it would make no sense for the pamphlet to be published under his name, would it? But you don’t understand that, do you? Because you have to slap an Oxfordian template on Burghley’s deception for it to make sense to you.

    So no dangerous ground at all here for Stratfordians. But apparently dangerous for Oxfordians, who are incapable of looking at the Age of Elizabeth through anything other than an Oxfordian lens. And if anything doesn’t fit your paradigm, you can’t understand it. And because you don’t understand it, you continue, as you do here, to try and explain it away.

  • Benjamin Hackman


    Burghley was not a liar. He was simply engaged in a little propaganda. Do you understand the difference?

    B.M. Ward jumped at it. Other cooler heads, like Conyers Read, the expert on Walsingham (see biblio in Nelson), who published a 3 Vol history “Mr Secretary Walsingham and the Policy of Queen Elizabeth,” as well as books on both Cecils and QE. He’s the one who is cited by Nelson (so idea is not Nelson’s) and who pieced together the full story behind the pamphlet and that it was actually written by Burghley, to flummox the Spanish, and printed at behest of Walsingham.

    See Chapter 61 of “MA,” which since you have it, makes it all the more puzzling why you’re having such trouble processing this, other than it does not square with your fantasy.

    Nelson also cites another modern source on the pamphlet, Bertrand Whitehead, “Brags and Boasts: Propaganda in the Year of the Armada,” 1994 (but I could not find a googlebooks version, maybe you can). You really need to use notes and biblio to inform your judgments. They are there for a reason.

  • Lu Ann Lewellen

    Please see Nina Green’s Oxmyths for the Edward Bonaventure. I’ve checked a dozen Oxfordian books I have on Kindle and have only found four mentions of the Edward Bonaventure so far, two in connection with Ogburn Jr..

    Ron Hess (The Dark Side of Shakespeare, Vol.ll) in Appendix B, page 240, says de Vere tried to buy the Edward Bonaventure for Frobisher’s voyage to the Azores in 1591. That’s not 1581. Who’s right?

    I’ll have to check Ogburn for possible involvement in 1583-88. All this is later than 1581.

    I know that’s the letter you referred to; that’s why I quoted it. To make this work Nelson has to assume Elizabeth’s Lord Treasurer was a liar and that the others were just repeating his lies.. Was he lying about the other lords too? Were they really hiding behind Elizabeth’s skirts at Court or staying home secretly celebrating Mass and praying for Philip? [/sarcasm]

    Oxford wasn’t on a tapestry. *gasp*

    I purchased Monstrous Adversary on February 17, 2010. I’m pretty sure I’ve told you I own it and even how much I paid. I read the paperback from cover to cover when I received it. It’s open in front of me as I write. Do you need a copy of my order?

    The relevant parts are on Google Books (the quote from Laughton, e.g.) and Nelson’s website so anyone can check this out.

    We have an interlineation that could have been an afterthought or a flat out lie and a member of the nobility possibly writing under another name. Wasn’t that rather dangerous ground for a Stratfordian to tread?

  • Nat Whilk

    TR: “Are you saying AW thinks that the Oxford letter and the two dedications to Southampton came from the same hand?”

    So it appears.

    The threading in Disqus tends to separate comments and responses, but AW was replying directly to my comment beginning “The full unedited letter to Burghley…” If you click “Nat Whilk” next to the curved arrow, the link is made clear. In particular, he seems to have responded to the very end of that comment:

    NW: “And having read this letter—which has all the rhetorical grace of chewed string—tell me that Oxford wrote Shakespeare…”

    AW hit “Reply” under that and wrote:

    AW: “The only two letters we possess from ‘Shakespeare’ are the two convoluted dedications to Southampton, so yes – a good chance they came from the same hand.”

    “The same hand” here is Oxford’s.

    TR: “I know one must have a tin ear to believe that Oxford had anything to do with Shakespeare, but surely AW can tell the difference between Oxford’s letters and those dedications.”

    Sadly, he cannot.

  • Tom Reedy

    >As I read it, AW is arguing that the dedications to Southampton, being “convoluted,” sound very much like Oxford’s letters

    I didn’t see that he implied that. But I’m not following this discussion too closely. I took him to mean that the same person wrote both dedications. Are you saying AW thinks that the Oxford letter and the two dedications to Southampton came from the same hand? I know one must have a tin ear to believe that Oxford had anything to do with Shakespeare, but surely AW can tell the difference between Oxford’s letters and those dedications.

    Perhaps I conflated your intention with Sandra’s strange idea that “hand” in that context is somehow not another way of saying “authorship”.

  • sandralynnsparks

    That’s all right if you think me fatuous, Alexander Waugh, it means we are coming at each other with more or less equal opinions of the other, except I’m more informed about William Shakespeare. But that’s my choice, just as not being better informed about Shakespeare or Edward de Vere is yours. And, of course, we both have the privilege of being writers of fiction. Except I call mine that, and you call yours Oxfordian history. Musicians and playwrights to boot. So much in common…but to the point.

    In the context of what the immediate discussion was about, calling two short dedicatory prefaces “letters” would be misleading to most readers. But using “recognizing the hand” for “recognizing the style” is very misleading – especially when you’re not capable of doing that, by any definition. After all, you’ve missed the simplest things – such as Edward de Vere always writing his title as Oxenford. Shakespeare wrote the title as Earle of Oxford. Why change? Of course you will come up with an excuse as to why he would do that, but – you live by excuses, not evidence. And that makes you far more fatuous, though I will give you that I am a tad more fat.

    Thank you for letting me know, elsewhere, you’re so poorly paid as a “Shakespearean” scholar. Not that I doubted that for a single moment. Sticking with DeVere does not place anyone on the career fast track by any means. I will be glad when my SAQ play is done, because after it is, I will move on to new things, and stay away from an arena where the vicious make it clear that only viciousness in return gets through to them. I’d rather speak a more reasonable language. Thank you, at least, for the unending suggestions of comedy. You’re a wacky guy, Al.

  • Benjamin Hackman


    Google books has the “The Memoirs of Robert Carey” (also spelled Cary). I can’t provide link, will get rejected, but you can find it easily. His memoirs were not pub until 1800s when original MS was, apparently, discovered. See pp. 15+. But Carey was on Elizabeth (not Edward) Bonaventure, captained by George Raymond, along with the Earl of Cumberland. See also Laughton’s book that I mentioned earlier, also easily googled, which confirms forgoing, and which also separately lists the “Edw Bonaventure”–with no noblemen.

    So except for a 7-yr-old link to Frobisher, there’s zero basis for putting Oxford on the “Edward Bonaventure.” But that has never deterred the evidence-free Oxies from adopting it as part of their mantra.

    The Richard Lea/Leigh letter is the one I referred to in my last post, the one that resulted from Burghley’s drafts, that was all a propaganda effort immediately after the sea battle to convince the Spanish of the loyalty of the English nobility, especially the Catholics, to England. Not Nelson’s opinion, but of Conyers Read. His books are googleable, too.

    BTW, the pamphlet was entered into the Stationer’s Register under the hand of Walsingham, the “spymaster” himself. (I know I have an unfair advantage here, having a copy of Nelson. I suspect you don’t. And no matter how much Oxies malign “MA,” it is full of good facts and better sources, irrespective of Nelson’s interpretations.

    We BOTH need to read each others posts more carefully.

  • Nat Whilk

    AW wrote: “The only two letters we possess from ‘Shakespeare’ are the two convoluted dedications to Southampton, so yes – a good chance they came from the same hand.”

    As I read it, AW is arguing that the dedications to Southampton, being “convoluted,” sound very much like Oxford’s letters and are therefore likely to be his. We have only two letters from Shakespeare as Shakespeare, but we have quite a few examples of his skill at letter-writing, as Hamlet, as Don Armado, as Maria as the Countess Olivia, &c. &c.

    So I countered AW’s claim with examples of Shakespeare’s letters from the plays, none of which (in my opinion) read remotely like Oxford’s meandering prose.

    I don’t see what’s contentious.

  • Lu Ann Lewellen

    Missed “in the navy”? I posted it yesterday, straight from Socrates Berkeley. Perhaps you should have read the post more carefully before jumping on me.

    The connection to the Edward Bonaventure comes from Martin Frobisher who reported in 1581 that Edward de Vere was interested in buying it. The asking price was £1,800; Oxford offered £1,500 and the offer was apparently rejected. I don’t know where the idea came from that he owned and commanded it (Ward? I don’t have Ward) but there doesn’t seem to be evidence of that. AFAIK that’s the only connection between Oxford and the ship. Have you found Robert Carey’s statement yet concerning the battle of Gravelines and the E[lizabeth] Bonaventure?

    Also from Nelson’s site:

    “And yet to make it more manifest, how earnest all sorts of Noblemen and Gentlemen, were to aduenture their liues in this seruice, it is reported, that the Earle of Oxford, who is one of the most auncient Earles of this land, went also to the Sea, to serue in the Queenes Armie. There went also for the same purpose, a second sonne of the Lord Treasurer called as I can reme{m}ber, Robert Cecil: there went also about that time to the Seas, the Lord Dudley an auncient Baron of the Realm, and Sir Walter Ralegh a Gentleman of the Queenes Priuy Chamber, and in his company a great number of young Gentlemen, amongst whom I remember the names of the heire of Sir Thomas Cecil, called William Cecil, of Edward Darcy, Arthure Gorge, and such others: with the rehearsall of whom I doe not comfort my selfe, but only to shew you, how farre we haue bene deceiued, to thinke that wee should haue had a partie here for vs, when as you see both by lande and by Sea, all sorts of men were so readie of their owne charges, without either commanndement, or entertainement, to aduenture their liues in defence of the Queene and the Realme.

    And for the Earle of Huntingtons forces, being Lieutenant General …

    Master Henry Brooke.
    Sir Tho. Cecil.
    Sir Will. Hatton.
    Sir Horatio Palauicino.
    Sir Roert Carie.
    Sir Charles Blunt.
    M. Thomas Gerard.
    M. Wil. Heruy

    Earle of Oxford.

    M. Robert Cecil.
    L. Dudley.
    Sir Walter Ralegh.

    M. William Cecil.
    M. Edward Darcy.
    M. Arthure Gorge.

    Earle of Huntington.” -Richard Leigh, The Copy of a Letter sent out of England to Don Bernardino de Mendoza, Ambassador in France for the King of Spain, declaring the State of England (1588: STC 15412).

    Evidently the Queen’s Army was at sea.

  • Tom Reedy

    What is this? Are we arguing just for the sake of being contentious now? AW has said some pretty crazy stuff–monkeys on capitals comes to mind–but I think his meaning was crystal clear (though I don’t see what it had to do with the SAQ, we don’t have any letters from the great majority of poets and playwrights of Shakespeare’s era, which doesn’t disqualify them as authors).

  • Nat Whilk

    “…a good chance they came from the same hand”

    Oh dear. So you’re admitting that you can’t tell one early modern writer from another? You might as well say you can’t tell Mozart from a drunken busker with a droning barrel organ.

    And you’re forgetting that we do have quite a few of Shakespeare’s letters—in the plays. Letters appear on stage in all but five of the dramas.

    This is one of Shakespeare’s letters:

    “Ere we were two days old at sea, a pirate of very warlike appointment gave us chase. Finding ourselves too slow of sail, we put on a compelled valour, and in the grapple I boarded them. On the instant they got clear of our ship; so I
    alone became their prisoner. They have dealt with me like thieves of mercy; but they knew what they did: I am to do a good turn for them.”

    So is this:

    “When thou canst get the ring upon my finger which never shall come off, and show me a child begotten of thy body that I am father to, then call me husband: but in such a ‘then’ I write a ‘never.’ …: Till I have no wife I have nothing in France.”

    And this:

    “They have press’d a power, but it is not known
    Whether for east or west: the dearth is great;
    The people mutinous …”

    And this:

    “To the celestial, and my soul’s idol, the most beautified Ophelia…”

    And this:

    “Thy mistress, Pisanio, hath played the strumpet in my bed; the testimonies whereof lie bleeding in me. I speak not out of weak surmises, but from proof as strong as my grief and as certain as I expect my revenge.”

    And this:

    “I commend me to thee, I commend thee, and I leave thee. Be not too familiar with Poins; for he misuses favours so much that he swears thou art to marry his sister…”

    And this:

    “If our father would sleep till I wak’d him, you should enjoy half his revenue for ever, and live the beloved of your brother.”

    And this:

    “Sweet Bassanio, my ships have all miscarried, my creditors grow cruel, my estate is very low, my bond to the Jew is forfeit; and since in paying it, it is impossible I should live, all
    debts are cleared between you and I, if I might but
    see you at my death.”

    And this:

    “So it is, besieged with sable-coloured melancholy, I did commend the black-oppressing humour to the most wholesome physic of thy health-giving air; and, as I am a gentleman, betook myself to walk.”

    And this:

    “Be opposite with a kinsman, surly with servants; let thy tongue tang arguments of state; put thyself into the trick of singularity: she thus advises thee that sighs for thee. Remember who commended thy yellow stockings, and wished to see thee ever cross-gartered: I say, remember.”

    All as different as their fictive writers; all shapely, as this is:

    “What I have done is yours; what I have to do is yours; being part in all I have, devoted yours.”

    Now go read Oxford’s letters. This was not a man who concerned himself with the shape of sentences, the sound of words. He dribbles.

  • Benjamin Hackman


    So you continue to persist in explaining away Oxford’s conduct—odd when you just made such a point of explaining that Oxfordians have nothing to explain.

    Now to specifics. We’re both right. There was an “Elizabeth
    Bonaventure,” captained by the Earl of Cumberland (one of the three noblemen Laughton identified as being with the fleet). There was also an “Edward Bonaventure,” captained by a John Lancaster, that, as you wrote, was a merchant vessel in Drake’s command. Excellent ship lists and notes thereto are contained in Laughton’s: ”Defeat of the Spanish Armada,” pp. 324+, viewable via googlebooks. BTW, what is the source for Oxford being on the “Edw. Bonaventure.”

    Sorry I missed the “in the navy.” That said, Nelson explains that Burghley’s three drafts became the basis for “A Copy of a Letter Sent out of England to Don Bernardino de Mendoza.” Nelson, citing Conyers Read, a leading modern scholar on Walsingham and Burghley, explains that “A large part of the pamphlet was devoted to the demonstrated loyalty of the English Catholics,” especially among the nobles, such as the above mentioned Earl of Cumberland. Oxford was added in Burghley’s 3rd draft, perhaps since, on third thought, Burleigh felt he ought to add Oxford, too, son-in-law or no.

    So what do we have here: a piece of carefully crafted propaganda to impress the Spanish by convincing them that there were no traitors in England who might aid their cause (and to warn said nobles not to entertain any such
    ideas, either). Note that it was published in October 1588, very shortly after the sea victory, when the war with Spain
    was far from over.

    And just for the record, the final version of the pamphlet amends the nature of Oxford’s service, changing it from “in the navy’ to “in the Queens Armie.”

    Damn facts. They keep getting in the way of your fantasy. Do you, reminiscent of Gullio, believe we should have nothing but pure Oxford, and shreds of poetrie that he hath gathered at the theator? And do you have Oxford’s picture in your study? And do you lay his “Venus and Adonis” under your pillowe? Or is that reserved for Looney?

    I anxiously away you next round of “explaining away,” even
    though you have no need to do so. =O)

    I’ll deal with the rest of your post, some of which I actually agree with, in a separate comment, maybe later today, if I can get to it.

    So for now,



  • Alexander Waugh

    With respect Sandra I think you are being a little fatuous here. Of a printed source with no surviving manuscript it is perfectly legitimate to say ‘I recognise the hand of Dickens etc’ I could equally have said ‘paw-print’ or ‘finger-print’ to which you would have no doubt huffed and puffed and further collapsed with indignation. ‘To come from the same hand’ simply means written by the same person. You really ought to know this stuff without my having to point it out to you.

  • Nat Whilk

    “The practice [of commanding the award of degrees] was much extended in the following [16th] century, both the sovereign and those holding high office in the realm, sending mandates and letters for degrees and also for university offices to be given to their followers. … Few of these persons were already studying at Cambridge or even had pretensions to learning at all. The personal interference of notable courtiers in the award of the university honours was at its greatest during the reign of Elizabeth I.” (Heather E. Peek & Catherine P. Hall, The Archives of the University of Cambridge, 33

  • Lu Ann Lewellen

    You left something out. Per Nelson: “Oxford’s name first appears at the third and last stage, where it is inserted as an interlineation in Burghley’s own hand:

    the Erle of oxford also in this tyme repayared to ye sea cost, for service of ye Qu{een} IN YE NAVY.

    On this same page Thomas Cecil’s name is similarly added in the margin:

    and amongst many others ther wear ye son and heyr of ye L{ord} tresorer called Thomas Cecill”

    It’s Edward Bonaventure, not Eliz. Bonaventure. It was one of the merchant ships under Drake at Plymouth.

    Leicester’s letters tell us what Leicester thought, not what Oxford thought. The story is incomplete. You might want to put down the Nelson and read some Peter Moore:

    “Despite Nelson’s efforts to portray Oxford’s life as a half century of unbroken shame and disgrace, some positive aspects may be gleaned by readers who know where to look – and who possess the requisite background knowledge. To begin with, save for the period 1581-3, Oxford remained in favor with his hard-to-please sovereign Queen Elizabeth until her death. Moreover, her perception of his ability and loyalty caused her to choose him for military commands against Spain in 1585 and 1588.

    Nelson meticulously records the fairly impressive vote totals that Oxford received for the prestigious Order of the Garter during 1569-80 and 1585-8. Nelson predictably invents an unpleasant explanation for Oxford’s failure to gain any votes thereafter until 1604. Regarding his presumption that Oxford refused the Harwich command in 1588, Nelson imagines that: “the Queen did not forget the truth: while she lived, Oxford never received another vote for the Order of the Garter” (319).

    Aside from the lack of any evidence supporting this assertion, Nelson supposes Elizabeth as a moral coward who was unable to forbid Oxford from taking a prominent place in her victory celebration, but who chose instead to secretly blackball him with regard to the Knights of the Garter. Rather out of character for Elizabeth Tudor, especially as Nelson knows that she regularly ignored the vote totals and picked whomever she preferred for the Garter, while her deep disfavor for the Earl of Southampton did not prevent him from garnering a goodly number of Garter votes in 1599 and 1600. But more can be profitably said on this topic.

    Perhaps Oxford did not go to Harwich in 1588. Military history is full of soldiers, including some famous ones like George Patton, who used any hook or crook to get to the battle zone and avoid the rear echelon. The superiors of such men may well have regarded them as infernal nuisances, but no one calls them shirkers—except Nelson. But Nelson’s contextual ignorance spills over into areas of his supposed competence. In 1589, the year after Oxford’s supposed disgrace, Edmund Spenser wrote dedicatory sonnets to fourteen men, one of whom was Oxford, for the first edition of Faerie Queene. Nelson prints the sonnet to Oxford (383) but misses the context. The other thirteen men were Hatton, Burghley, Northumberland, Cumberland, Essex, Ormond, Howard of Effingham, Hunsdon, Grey of Wilton, Buckhurst, Walsingham, Sir John Norris, and Ralegh. Aside from Grey and Norris, to whom Spenser had personal connections, the other eleven were the top movers and shakers at Elizabeth’s Court. Like the supposedly deluded Henry IV of France, Spenser somehow managed to insert Oxford into this roll call of the mighty.”

    What does any of this have to do with the engraving?

  • Benjamin Hackman


    Yes, Ox “ repayared to ye sea cost, for service of ye Queen.” Harwich is on the coast. What part of this don’t you understand?

    And why do you keep insisting we don’t know what we do know, when you claim “It’s possible de Vere, after liking the
    idea at first, on second thought decided he wasn’t suited for the position and asked for an alternative. We simply don’t know.”

    But we do know. It’s clearly stated in Leicester’s letter to
    Walsingham. That’s precisely what happened. Oxford never took up his post at Harwich, or abandoned it shortly after trying it on for size. Either way, he failed to carry out the wishes of QE.

    As for Ox and the “Eliz. Bonaventure,” Nelson also cites Laughton on this matter, who notes that Oxford, and many
    other noblemen supposedly there, were “not mentioned by [Lord High Admiral Charles] Howard, nor by Robert Cecil, nor by [Admiral of the Narrows Squadron Lord Henry] Seymour, or by any of the correspondents of Burghley and Walsingham.” And in his memoirs (not published until 1759),
    Robert Carey, brother-in law to Lord High Admiral Howard, claimed that he was on the Eliz. Bonaventure (commanded by Lord Cumberland), but Carey makes no mention of Oxford either. Why? Because Oxford busy protesting his assignment to Harwich and seeking another position.

    Damn facts. They so spoil your little fantasy. But I do so enjoy you endless efforts to explain them away, though you claim Oxfordians have no need to do so.

  • Lu Ann Lewellen

    What fantasies? I’m saying we don’t know what happened between Leicester’s letter and Burghley’s interlineation (“the Erle of oxford also in this tyme repayared to ye sea cost, for service of ye Qu{een} in ye navy.”). Nelson asserts Burghley lied and that “Lea” or “Leigh” might have been one of his pennames. The Lord Treasurer might have fudged a bit on Arundell (or didn’t get all the information or was misinformed) but why assume he would lie about de Vere?

    It’s possible de Vere, after liking the idea at first, on second thought decided he wasn’t suited for the position and asked for an alternative. We simply don’t know.

    Nelson may have outdone Shapiro on mistakes that shouldn’t have happened in the first place. Maybe someone could write a book on this; they could start with the “white herrings”. Peter Moore was off to a good start with his review of Monstrous Adversary but he died before he could add more.

    What does all of this have to do with Rogers’ engraving? To me the fourth man looks more like a statue of Apollo than the bust at Holy Trinity but maybe that’s just me.

  • sandralynnsparks

    “The two letters we possess from ‘Shakespeare’…so yes – a good chance they came from the same hand.”

    Letters. Hand. Letters. Hand. Letters. Hand.

    Notice anything wrong?

    You are unbelievable.

  • Nat Whilk

    Waugh: ” It is absurd to suppose (as your post suggests) that anyone of the Queen’s retinue could have been given a degree regardless of their interest in learning.”

    That, in fact, is precisely what happened. Do you never, ever, look anything up?

    “At Cambridge, mandate degrees and those to ‘honourable persons’, their sons, and those related to the sovereign—with little or no need for academic work … reached their greatest excesses under Queen Elizabeth I.” (Christopher Nugent, A History of the University of Cambridge, v. 1, 40).

    “There was a real danger of [Cambridge] degrees being cheapened by the Crown which possessed and exercised the right of issuing letters mandatory for a degree to be conferred upon a person who was not qualified under the statutes to receive it. This power was clearly a menace to academic independence unless used with the greatest discretion and within well-defined limits, and it was most unlikely to be so used.” (D.A Winstanley, Unreformed Cambridge, 83)

    Seventeen (ooh!) courtiers were in the 1564 Cambridge batch (you may consult the full list in Francis Peck’s Desiderata Curiosa, 274), including Oxford and Rutland; Cecil himself; Ambrose and Robert Dudley; the old warrior Edward Fiennes de Clinton, who had served both on land and sea under four sovereigns; and one “Ashley, esquire,” master of the Queen’s jewel house, a post “for which loyalty and a knowledge of the ways of the court were greater qualifications than administrative competence,” says the ODNB, which calls John Astley one of “Elizabeth’s reliable old servants, favoured with office but not trusted with power.”

    At Oxford in 1566, “convocation ordered that as many earls, lords, and distinguished persons as the Chancellor … should determine were to be created M.A., if they accepted the offer and were admitted ‘to-day before the Queen’s departure.’” Attention, shoppers! (Register of the University of Oxford, vol. 10, 234) Rutland was singled out—not for scholarship, but “on account of his singular benevolence to the University.” There were twelve others nominated by the Queen (Peck, 278): another mixed bag, including Oxford; William Howard, the Lord Admiral; one “Rogers, comptroller”; Sir Francis Knollys, captain of the halbardiers; and John Tomworth or Tamworth “of the privy chamber to the queen.”

    It appears that the Queen saw Oxbridge MAs as service awards. She could afford to be lavish, as they cost her nothing.

  • Jan Cole

    Mr Griffiths used a combination of the surviving texts of the Theobalds entertainment, i.e. the Egerton MS in the British Library and the one at Hatfield House, from which he used the Gardener’s speech. I think his article is online, Nat. There’s also an interesting journal article on the history of the entertainment texts at the University of Toronto website, in which the author mentions Collier’s 1831attempt to ‘prove’ George Peele was the author, and suggests the possibility that Robert Cecil, or someone he commissioned, wrote it.

    Yes, I didn’t include the whole text of either of the letters from Oxford to father-in-law and son-in-law, because I didn’t really want to enter the realm of character-analysis, much less character-assassination. What I wanted to show was evidence that they remained in correspondence and did not ‘shun’ each other, a word that suggests ‘avoid completely’. Oxford’s relationship with Burghley was doomed from the start, when in 1562 at age 11 the earl became a ward of court and his landed inheritance was taken by the Crown, and a third of it immediately given to the Earl of Leicester by the Queen. Burghley as Master of the Court of Wards supervised the administration of his lands and became responsible for Oxford’s education and marriage. If that had happened to you or me, we’d be pretty resentful. A ward’s unenviable task was to ‘buy back’ what should have been his full inheritance if his father had not died while he was in his minority. One might ask, Why did Burghley marry Oxford to his daughter, Anne, on such poor financial prospects? Probably because he wanted to upgrade the Cecil family status to the peerage, and this he accomplished through Anne becoming a Countess and through two of his grand-daughters becoming countesses, and his son Robert eventually made the Earl of Salisbury. ‘Upward social mobility’ achieved. Oxford’s life shows ‘downward social mobility’, partly enforced and partly chosen. But they were obliged to remain in contact as long as the daughters were alive, and they were obliged to employ the expected deference and politeness in their letters. They did not ‘shun’ one another.

    Do I think the letters from which I quoted were written by Shakespeare? – No. They were written and signed by the Earl of Oxford.

    I agree with you that Mr Griffith’s article is a romantic reconstruction and confabulation based on scraps of history and literature, about which we have no full account or witness.

  • Alexander Waugh

    The only two letters we possess from ‘Shakespeare’ are the two convoluted dedications to Southampton, so yes – a good chance they came from the same hand.

  • Alexander Waugh

    His name was always ‘William Cecil’ regardless of when he was ennobled.

  • Alexander Waugh

    Oxford was a very keen scholar. While the Queen may well ordered the conferring of these degrees, you will see from her record that she fussed a great deal about which honours to confer upon which people. Rutland and Oxford were both keen scholars to whom such honours were considered appropriate. It is absurd to suppose (as your post suggests) that anyone of the Queen’s retinue could have been given a degree regardless of their interest in learning. For Shakspere of Stratford there is no record of any interest in learning and no connection to either Oxford or Cambridge, or even a hint that the Queen thought he might be deserving of a degree!

  • Alexander Waugh

    Dimmy: Thank you for laying out so clearly the details of Jonson’s education. You fail to mention how this compares to the educational record of Stratford-Shakspere. Defending a grant of arms to someone’s father is not the same as ‘knowing’ that his son was a famous writer. That is illogical. When Camden wrote of Stratford-upon-Avon he praised its illustrious citizens but failed to mention the one whom you claim he ‘knew’ was Shakespeare.

  • Alexander Waugh

    Dear Sicinius, you do not seem to understand the nature of this debate at all. Oxfordians continue to present documented facts that show Oxford trumps Shakspere of Stratford on every front – not just travel, education, contemporary praise, knowledge of Latin, soldiery, ships etc etc, but also facts concerned with those specific areas where you might expect ‘Pimping Billy’ to trump Oxford, if he really had written the Shakespeare plays. The documentary record, for instance, connects Oxford to more theatre companies and with more contemporary poets and playwrights than ‘PB’ – even his connection to a grammar school is better documented than PB’s, so you need to examine the historical record more carefully if you wish PB even to approach, let alone overtake his rival. It is childish to talk of ‘real’ scholars as though anyone who holds a contrary opinion to your own is not a ‘real’ scholar. I am a good friend of Jonathan Bate’s and while we fundamentally disagree with one another on Shakespeare authorship we both regard each other as ‘real scholars.’ Yours ever Whimmie of the Lower Fourth.

  • Benjamin Hackman

    Lu says “I don’t think Oxfordians have any explaining away to do.”

    Then why have you been so busy here trying to explain away Oxford’s action? Tee hee. =O)

    BTW, Ox was nowhere near the fleet. But since there is “some confusion [but only among Oxies] over whether Oxford commanded the Edward Bonaventure,” it seems like you desperately want to believe he did.

    Sorry Lu. No banana.

    Nelson cites the research of John Knox Laughton, a 19th century scholar who assembled more Armada documents than anyone before or since. Nelson quotes a passage from Laughton, too long for me to retype, that concludes only 3 noblemen served with the fleet: the Earl of Cumberland, Chales Blount, and Thomas Gerard. And Lu, this is not Nelson speaking here. It is Nelson quoting the leading authority on the Armada.

    Damn facts. Must be annoying how they get in the way of your little Oxfordian fantasies. =O)

  • Lu Ann Lewellen

    So Leicester and Oxford didn’t get along. Is that any surprise? If Edward had been more of a conformist he might have passed “any of them shortly”. Haven’t we met Gilbert Talbot before as a quarrelsome individual?.

    Perhaps Harwich wasn’t free enough to go to the enemy (“I trust he be free to go to the enemy, for he seems most willing to hazard his life in this quarrel” – I Googled Nelson too, BTW). Was Harwich an offer or an order and if his refusal was such a great offense why was nothing, apparently, done about it?

    Burghley listed Oxford as a lord who served and Nelson said Burghley lied.

    There seems to be some confusion over whether Oxford commanded the Edward Bonaventure or was just interested in buying it. However, someone (Lyly? Lea?) wrote in 1589:

    “De Vere, whose fame and loyalty hath pierced

    The Tuscan clime, and through the Belgike lands

    By wingèd fame for valor is rehearsed,

    Like warlike Mars upon the hatches stands.

    His tuskèd boar, ’gan foam for inward ire,

    While Pallas filled his breast with warlike fire.”

    He wanted sea duty as early as 1572 when he asked Burghley “to give me and get me that favor”.

    I don’t think Oxfordians have any explaining away to do.

  • Benjamin Hackman


    Leicester seemed ready to give Oxford a fair shake, writing that
    Oxford was “most willing to hazard his life in the quarrel [with Spain].”

    Leicester then sought Walsingham’s advice on where to post Oxford, and Harwich, as the northern most estuary where an invasion force could embark, was selected by QE.

    In a 1 Aug 1588 letter, Leicester subsequently wrote to Walsingham, apparently after he had conveyed the Queen’s wishes to Leicester:

    “I did as hir maiestie liked well to deleuer to my Lord of
    Oxford hir gratious concent of his willingness to serve her. She was pleased that he shuld have the gouernment of Harwich & all those that ar appointed to attend that place which should be ijM [=2,000] men. A place of great trust and danger.”

    Leicester continues: “My Lord semed at first to lyke well of yt, afterward he cam to me & told me he thought that place of no service or credytt, and therefore he wold to the court
    and vunderstand his maiesties further pleasure to which I would not be ageinst.”

    Elsewhere of the internet [Amazon review by Denton,
    Shakespeare Uncovered, p.45], the estimable W.J.Ray claimed, “It was the Earl of Warwick running things and Oxford saying it was a waste. What good would 17,000 soldiers do against bombarding ships? Harbottle, captain of a single ship, quipped that it would do more service than the whole of the land forces.”

    Mr. Ray, whose knowledge of military matters no doubt equals that of his dear Lord Oxford’s, apparently did not consider that an invasion force would likely put landing parties ashore above and/or below Harwich, rather than sailing straight into the harbor’s defenses. It takes a substantial force to watch the coast and still maintain a large enough reserve to respond quickly to any such incursions–a situation that England had faced many times in the past.

    So no matter how you slice and dice it, Harwich was, indeed, “A place of great trust and danger.” But not enough for Oxford, based on his failure to properly assess the military situation—and his usual pridefulness.

    Leicester’s letter to Walsingham eventually gets to the
    heart the matter:

    “Yt was of good grace [QE’s] to appoint that place to him
    having no more experience than he hath. and then he vse the matter as you shall think good. For my own part being gladder to be rydd of him than to haue him but only to have him, contented, which I finde wyll be harder than I tooke yt & denyeth all the former offers he made to serve rather that not to be sene to be Imployed at this tyme & I pray you Inform hir maiestie hereof that she may gyve him such answer as ys fytt.”

    Ox didn’t have the experience, which Leicester could work
    around if QE so desired, but not if Oxford was also going to be a royal pain in the arse about it. Fortunately, Oxford refused/quit the post, letting Leicester off the hook. No doubt with a sigh of relief, Leicester concluded thus:

    “I am glad to be rydd of my Lord Oxford, seing he refuseth
    this & I pray you let me not be pressed any more for him what sute so euer he mak[e]”

    Pretty clear. Oxford refused to serve, thereby disobeying the CiC’s order in time of war. Unless Leicester is lying to none other than Walsingham, a man who is not to be lied to.

    So “hir maiestie” appointed Oxford to the post at Harwich. Oxford initially liked it, indicating, at minimum, an initial disposition to serve there, but more likely that he actually took up his post, albeit briefly, until he determined it was not to his liking. Old fickle head up to his usual tricks.

    The above passages quoted, of course, from Nelson’s “MA.” But not Nelson’s opinions. Rather, I’ve cited the original source material. It is what it is, as much as Oxfordians hate it and struggle mightily to explain it away.

  • Nat Whilk

    Oxford refused to take a post he was ordered to in time of war. His offense was grave.

  • Nat Whilk

    I have not seen Mr. Griffiths’s article on the Theobalds playlets. Is he focused on the Gardener’s part? I quoted from the Hermit’s.

    “He has also wielded an editorial pen.”

    I did find your version of the Burghley letter to be somewhat—well, sanitized. Read in full, it displays his lordship’s self-interest and seven-eighths literacy.

    “This … thinge” that Oxford was desirous to impart did not refer to his children, as by your editing you make it seem, but to one of his endless suits. You’ve omitted that resentful little barb “… and mean persones.” You’ve omitted how Oxford’s horsetrading deal is constructed. He’s not offering outright to pay his share of child support. He’s saying that if the Queen grants my suit, and if you give me the money to invest, then a part of those imaginary profits would go to you for the children. Then he returns to what matters: “And so muche I am sure to
    make of thes demaynes for my self.” Always and above all, self.

    He’s using Burghley’s love for the grandchildren as a lever to raise money for himself: which makes his final pieties read as mere lip service. Note also that “=remayninge= no cause for yow to thinke me an evil father.” Clearly that has been Burghley’s position in the past.

    Do you believe that the author of this unpleasant and ill-written letter was Shakespeare?

    I think Mr. Griffiths’s theory is sheer romance.

  • Lu Ann Lewellen

    How could Oxford have abandoned a post he never took in the first place? He returned to seek Elizabeth’s further pleasure. We only have Leicester’s side of the story. The two had quarreled before and Leicester benefited more from .Edward’s inheritance than Edward did.

    Oxford begged for service and was denied because he was “too young” until he served in Scotland under Sussex in 1570.

    We’ve been over this before.

  • edboswell

    Ben Jonson’s father was a master bricklayer, and Camden was mentioned by Jonson as having enlightened him to his level of knowledge. Jonson’s father was most likely able to sign his name, and he never avoided going to church because of debts, or was fined for having a muck heap in his front yard.

  • Jan Cole

    I don’t remember seeing those parts of the Theobalds entertainment which you’ve quoted in the text of Mr Griffith’s article. He has also wielded an editorial pen. Incidentally, what do you think of his theory that William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was in Burghley’s employ and both wrote, acted in and delivered a speech at Theobalds on 10 May 1591…? It seems very improbable to me.

  • Jan Cole

    Thank you, Nat Whilk. Of course it’s helpful to have the complete letter with its context if your purpose is to analyse it in respect of the writer’s and recipient’s relationship at the time. However, my only purpose in referring to it (and also to the later letter to Robert Cecil, which I cited in error) was to question Mr Griffiths’ statement that they ‘hated, opposed, and shunned one another’, which – particularly in the use of ‘shunned’ – suggests very strongly that they avoided each other completely, and never spoke to each other, which is not the case. Again, we do not have Burghley’s letters to Oxford, and so can see only half of what you rightly call ‘the complex picture of their relationship’.

  • I accept that these are Articles of your Faith

    Parroting our own site back at us?

    You would like the evidence to be ‘thin’. You would like it to be ‘vanishing’. But it’s solid.

    Your fantasy is what is vanishing. Vanished, one might even say. From Facebook at least.

  • Nat Whilk

    Fascinating that this letter was written while the Queen was at Theobalds. Just eight days before, the Hermit’s speech had summoned the ghosts of Lord Burghley’s beloved dead. “Oretaken with excessyue greefe” for his bereavements, the Queen’s old servant has made Theobalds his hermitage:

    by reason of these most bitter accidents,
    as fyrst of all his aged Mothers deathe …
    his daughters death a cowntes of this land
    lost in the pryme & mornnynge of her yowthe
    & last of all his dear & loueinge wyfe …

    Anne here is of the matrilineage: a countess, yes, but more closely linked with her mother and grandmother, “of those that linneally haue sproong from her.”

    The Hermit speaks of Burghley’s wish that his sons, and his sons’ sons will serve his Queen, and last he names

    this young Lady Veare, thattes helld so deer
    of my best fownder her good grandfather

    This would most likely be Elizabeth, who was then 14; Bridget was seven, and Susan four. Again, the interlude enfolds her in the Theobalds circle. She may be named Vere, but she is of the house and lineage of Cecil: a granddaughter first of all.

    I think this entertainment answered Oxford’s letter, even before he’d written it.

    And I think it makes nonsense of the Oxfordian belief that Susan’s wedding had anything at all to do with her unlamented dad. She was Robert Cecil’s niece; she was marrying the king’s favorite. James “gave the bride £500 in land and the bridegroom lands to the value of £1000 a year.” [ODNB]

  • Nat Whilk

    The full unedited letter to Burghley gives a more complex picture of their relationship. Oxford may not have liked his father-in-law, but he needed him. The letter begins on an up note, vengefully:

    “My Lord I doo thanke yowre Lordship for the punishment of
    Hamptone whose evill delinges towards me, beinge put in trust
    with my causes in Lave, I hope yowre Lordship will thinke them
    sufficient to deserue yowre disgrace, especially knowinge his
    corruptiones, which for the more assured knowlege of yowre
    lordship, I have sent vnto the parties them selues, from whome he
    hathe dravne monye to his owne behofe. whose confirmationes so
    sone as they canbe brought out of the contrie, they shalbe
    deliuerd to yowre lordship. In the meane seasone I shall most
    hartely pray yowre lordship to perseuer ^\in// yowre good fauour
    towards me, wherby I may procure redres agaynst this which Amis
    hathe passed vnder the greate seale, by the practise of Hamptones
    fraudilent deuise, as shall appere, yf I may have lesure to
    manifest the same every day more and more.”

    In short, at the moment Oxford needs Burghley’s power to pursue his enemies. After two very long paragraphs of rant about his wrongs and his rents and his latest wildcat schemes, he comes to his daughters:

    “The effect herof is I wowld be glad to have an equall care with
    yowre Lordship ouer my children, and yf I may obteyne this
    resonable sut of her magestie, grantinge me nothinge, but what
    she hathe done to others and mean persones”—always that note of resentment—”and nothinge but that I shall pay for yt, then, those lands which are in Essexe as Hedingeham, Brets and [that] the rest what soever, which will come to sume 5 or 600l by yeare, vpon yowre Lordsh frendly
    help towards my purchases, in Denbighe, shalbe presently deliverd
    in posessione to yow, for there vse. And so muche I am sure to
    make of thes demaynes for my self.”

    In short, he thinks of his daughters as leverage: give me money to invest, and I swear I’ll split the income with them.

    Now tell me that Oxford’s first thought is for his children’s welfare.

    And having read this letter—which has all the rhetorical grace of chewed string—tell me that Oxford wrote Shakespeare. He couldn’t =pass= Shakespeare, unless Lyly and Munday wrote all his papers for him.

  • Jan Cole

    Dear Mr Griffiths,

    ERRATUM. The letter I cited as from Oxford to Burghley 18 May 1591 was actually from the letter of Oxford to Robert Cecil 11 May 1601. Here is an extract from the letter of Oxford to Burghley dated 18 May 1591. You now have a letter to father-in-law AND brother-in-law, which in my opinion does not show ‘hatred, opposition or shunning’.

    Extract: “This is a thing that I have been desirous to impart unto your Lordship, but that I have either found you troubled with other business or I myself have been encumbered… The effect hereof is, I would be glad to have an equal care with your Lordship over my children, and if I may obtain this reasonable suit of her Majesty, granting me nothing but what she hath done to others… in your Lordship’s friendly help towards my purchases in Denbigh shall be presently delivered in possession to you for their use. And so much I am sure to make of these demesnes for myself.
    So shall my children be provided for, myself at length settled in quiet and, I hope,
    your Lordship contented, remaining no cause for you to think me an evil father, nor
    any doubt in me but that I may enjoy that friendship from your Lordship that so near
    a match, and not fruitless, may lawfully expect. Good my Lord, think of this, and let
    me have both your furtherance and counsel in this cause for, to tell troth, I am weary of an unsettled life, which is the very pestilence that happens unto courtiers that propound to themselves no end of their time therein bestowed. Thus committing your Lordship to Almighty God, with my most hearty thanks and
    commendations, I take my leave. This 18th of May. Your Lordship’s ever to command, Edward Oxford.

  • Jan Cole

    Dear Mr Griffiths,

    I see that you have again stated (CL, 27 May 2015, p.70) that Oxford and Cecil “hated, opposed, and shunned one another”. How, then, do you explain this letter, dated 18 May 1591, written less than one week after the Theobalds entertainment (the subject of this week’s article)? Surely a historian should research and respect documented relationships before making any judgement on the nature of them?

    from the letter from the Earl of Oxford to William Cecil, Lord Burghley, 18 May 1591

    “and yt ys a friendship whiche yow have done me aboue thankes, whiche I will frely impart to yow at my cominge to the Court, w{hi}ch I thinke shalbe to morow by the grace of God. tyll whiche tyme as a hater of ceremonies I will refer all other thankes and obseruationes whiche in me are as far from ordinarie accomplishments, as my thankfull accepetance of thys yowre frendly and brotherly office ys nere my harte simple and vnfayned. I sent my man as H. Loke informed me vnto yow that he myght open sumwhat moore playner the cause, the moore yow shall countnance him the more bouldly and frely he will certefie yow. I will only now end wholy recommendinge my cause to yowre friendship, assuringe yow that ther ys nothinge in the world that I esteme more or accept more kindle [=kindly] then yowre brotherly and frendly office wch yow at thy [=this?] present vndertake in my behalfe. to morrowe I hoope to se yow my selfe at the court where I will more francly and frely declare my self.”

    With respect, If I were in your position and had made a faux-pas such as this, I would wish to make a public recantation (about the Cecil-Oxford relationship), and consider including an apology to Burghley’s descendant, Michael Cecil, who is probably a reader of ‘Country Life’.


  • Paul Crowley

    > SIC: But never doubt that Will was an actor, a writer and that records show he got paid for both. Not to mention the money he made as a shareholder

    I accept that these are Articles of your Faith, and you are bound never to have doubt. I accept that you are incapable of it — but, for those of us who like to have evidence for our beliefs, such ‘evidence’ as exists for these propositions is thin, to near-vanishing point, and what is left is highly dubious. The first good record of his acting tells us that top of his perfomance was as ‘the ghost in his own hamlet’ — and the guy, who carefully wrote it down, did not realise that his leg was being pulled. Of course, neither do you, nor your modern fellow-Strat-suckers. You believe what you have been told to believe, and that’s that — no sense of humour, and not a whiff of critical capacity. That kind of mentality suited those who first promoted this silly tale. But it got out-of-hand almost immediately. They then tried to water it down by shoving in hyphens all over the place, and leaving ridiculously obvious clues — like that ‘portrait’ in the First Folio — but all to little avail. The world was then, as it is now, too full of simple innocent minds prepared to believe in the most far-fetched of tales. At least, the dominance of that mentality allowed the works to be published and become widespread. Almost all the bawdy and scatological jokes were missed — as they still are. Ever read the ‘riding on these balls of mine’ speech in the Merchant of Venice. Probably not. The nuns who taught you, couldn’t read it either.

  • Benjamin Hackman

    Dingdong, At risk of citing Wiki,it says Burghley’s grandfather secured the favour of the first Tudor Henry VII, to whom he seems to have been Yeoman of the Guard. He was Sergeant-of-Arms to Henry VIII in 1526, Sheriff of Northamptonshire in 1532, and a Justice of the Peace for Rutland. His eldest son, Richard, Yeoman
    of the Wardrobe (died 1554), married Jane, daughter of William
    Heckington of Bourne, and was father of three daughters and the future
    Lord Burghley.

    Indeed, Cecil was part of the emerging middle class, upwardly mobile, full of ambition, and great honors came later in his life as a result of his accomplishments, not his nobility. No doubt opportunites came his way through his father’s position at court. But he was still a commoner, albeit “high end,” which is why he studied his way through Cambridge, rather than having honorary degrees bestowed upon him.

  • Go ahead. We use gas over here.

  • Doubt thou the stars are fire,
    Doubt that the sun doth move,
    Doubt truth to be a liar,

    But never doubt that Will was an actor, a writer and that records show he got paid for both. Not to mention the money he made as a shareholder and housekeeper in the most successful professional entertainment group of his age. Business investments documented in court records, never mind theatre records.

    Your contention is what is known, in the real world, as a non-starter.

  • Dingdong

    What is a “commoner”? Was Philip Sidney, before receiving a knighthood during the last years of his life, Philip Sidney, the son of the viceroy of Ireland, a commoner. And after receiving his knighthood? He still was a commoner, not being summoned to the House of Lords? Was the sometime influential Sir Walter Ralegh a “commoner”? Yes, he was. Was Francis Bacon, before becoming Baron Verulam, a “commoner”. Bacon, son of the Lord Keeper? he too was a “commoner”. And none the less they were members of the aristocratic elite, even before knighthood or elevation to the peerage. Some historians (George Kiernan for instance) have stressed the difficulty of exactly defining what an aristocracy or an aristocrat was. But Kiernan was but a professional historian, alas. Nothing comparable to Alan Nelson who made only a “few misses”. Maybe, if so few, you can list them here on this blog. And, if possible, add what you understand by “few” or “many”. In his chapter on “alienation” he has revolutionized the history of old English law, defying grossly such authorities as William Blackstone and William S. Holdsworth. In other words: telling arrant nonsense. In his chapter on the Northwest passage, because he didn’t consult the works he should have consulted as a serious scholar, there are only a few misses, that is, about 15 on 3 pages.
    And re Leicester, read ‘CSP foreign’ related to the Low Countries between end 1585 and 1587. Nearly the whole Private Council desired to be rid of him, Even his own nephew Sidney, even his ally Sir Francis Walsingham

  • Whimmy of the Lower Fourth (alias Alexander Waugh) is clearly not up with recent scholarship which has increased the distance between Oxford and the Shakespearean canon by from here to Neptune. However hard we try to rub his nose in the work, he and his entire tribe remain ‘unacquainted’.

    Other things they seem to be unacquainted with, apart from the historical record and the contents of the plays they keep trying to reattribute, include the fact that it is impossible to prove that Oxford so much a set foot in the professional theatre much less wrote for it.

    William Shakespeare & Others Rasmussen and Bate, offers an excellent and relatively short course in how the early English Professional Theatre worked along with the text and analysis of all the plays on which Will is said to have collaborated. Authorship questions with real scholars!

    Come back when you’re acquainted.

  • I’ll take your free petrol allowance away if you cause any more mischief.

  • I said it was written by Oxfordians. Which it was. Oxfordians pusillanimously masquerading as neutrals, claiming to seek only enlightenment on the subject of who might have written the plays but, actually, hastily recycling a whole mass of Branch De Verean cultural detritus and failed argument. Where be your jibes now, Mr I Can’t Discern Shakespearean Quality Stritmatter?

    If talks like a duck, walks like a duck and bangs on interminably about Italian water travel then it’s a duck.

    Kind of ironic since, in cricketing terminology, that’s about the Oxfordian score in public entanglements of late. Three ducks in a row in your case. “The more [you] dug” the more serious became your blatant disregard for Dennis Healey’s Law of Holes.

    The only thing respectable Oxfordians are seeking these days is either a hiding place or an exit.

  • Benjamin Hackman


    Regardless of how we respectively characterize it, Oxford was pushed aside, part the result of his own misdeeds and deficiencies, part the response of the crown to these faults.

    As for the larger SAQ, agree that it exceeds the gross and scope of current discussion, but you did say “so little helpful documentation exists” for Shakespeare, “about whose character we know nothing.”

    The first step in any Oxfordian argument (and I’d like to think your are not one) is to diminish Stratford by refusing to accept the large body of evidence for him. So I simply countered with a single sentence providing 4 related documents, all within the same year, that link Shakespeare specifically to Stratford and to his works: Barnfield, Q2 R3, Meres’s “PT,” and the granting of CoA. Then to put a little bow on it, noted that Shakes was referred to as “Mr.” in Parnassus the next year. And no need to revisit the evidence I provided of his character.

    All the items cited exist. They are there. But agree that this is not the place to discuss, though I’m a bit surprised you’d toss out something like that, then walk away from it.

  • Paul Crowley

    SIC > You can’t eliminate Shakespeare from his presence at The Globe

    What was the Stratman’s “presence at the Globe”?

    I doubt if the Stratman ever attended a play. He would not be able to understand what was going on. He _might_ have been given a share in the Company (as part of his pay-off) but I think that unlikely. The ‘share story’ was IMHO a convenient ‘white lie’ at one point. It then grew with the re-telling — but never very much, or not much until modern times.

  • Jan Cole

    Hello, Ben.
    As I’ve also replied to Mr Reedy, I didn’t mean ‘banished’, which is something that someone else does to you if you have transgressed the codes of honour. I meant literally ‘gradually distanced himself’. Of his own accord in 1580, he took up residence in new accommodation outside the City walls on the north east side of London. He moved even further away in 1591 and even further away still in 1596-7. I’ve found no documented record of him at a court function after April 1593 when he personally attended the Queen at her Easter communion at St James’s Palace. I know you refer to his dismissal from court following his impregnation of Anne Vavasour, a maid-of-honour to Q. Elizabeth. He was not received back until 1583. The same thing happened to Walter Ralegh in c. 1592-3, but Ralegh’s rehabilitation in court circles was even more precarious.

    I used the reflexive sense in the phrase I used. I try always to say what I mean. Any ‘equivocation’ or ‘circumlocution’ is in the mind of the reader, not in mine. I also try to stick to facts where they can be verified and, as you say, so many facts are woefully absent on both sides of the argument.

    Forgive me for not addressing the remainder of your comments at this time. And I’m not being evasive, Ben. My reason is that I can only think and speak for myself and give my own opinions, and your remaining comments are about the wider debate.

  • Jan Cole

    Hello, Tom,
    No. I didn’t mean ‘banished’ which is something that someone else does to you if you have transgressed the codes of honour. I meant literally ‘gradually distanced himself’. Of his own accord in 1580, he took up residence in new accommodation outside the City walls on the north east side of London. He moved even further away in 1591 and even further away still in 1596-7.

  • Nat Whilk

    Here is a report to Burghley on another of his wards, the Earl of Essex, aged eleven: “he can expresse his mind in Latin & French as well as in Englishe, verie curteus and modest, rather disposed to heare than to aunswer, given greatly to learning…”

    Compare that evaluation, if you will, with Nowell’s letter of resignation. However eager he was to get on with his mapmaking, if he could have made a good report to Burghley of his pupil, surely he would have?

    In May 1577, Robert Devereux matriculated at Trinity College, Cambridge. He was twelve. “Unusually for a member of the nobility, he himself performed the prescribed public exercises in logic and ethics, and actually took an MA degree in 1581.” (Paul E. J. Hammer, The Polarisation of Elizabethan Politics, p. 25).

    Once again, Essex far outshone the elder peer, who did none of the required work at Cambridge, and whose degrees were both honorary.

    By taking praise of Oxford out of context, his cult makes him look brilliant. In fact, compared with many of his peers—with Essex, Arundel, Southampton, the elder Pembroke, the fifth earl of Rutland, and the first earl of Northampton—Oxford was distinctly C-stream.

  • Benjamin Hackman


    Yes, there are a few misses in Nelson’s “MA,” but many many more hits. I was very lucky to get a slightly damaged copy from Univ of Liverpool, just before book went oop. Quotes are too long, but in a way, makes the volume all the more valuable, being able to see the actual letters directly, spin free, so that when you read “I am gladd I am rydd of my Lord Oxford,” you know Leicester was just telling it like it is.

  • Tom Reedy

    I missed the part where Buc talks about Oxford writing plays. OTOH, here’s an eye-witness, Ben Jonson, describing the character and personality of William Shakespeare, and specifically identifies him as the friend of Hemmings and Condell, to whom he left bequests. Note how he describes him as a playwright. This is what is known as real evidence for Shakespeare of Stratford as the person who wrote his works.

    De Shakspeare nostrat.—Augustus in Hat.—I remember the players have often mentioned it as an honour to Shakspeare, that in his writing (whatsoever he penned) he never blotted out a line. My answer hath been, “Would he had blotted a thousand,” which they thought a malevolent speech. I had not told posterity this but for their ignorance who chose that circumstance to commend their friend by wherein he most faulted; and to justify mine own candour, for I loved the man, and do honour his memory on this side idolatry as much as any. He was, indeed, honest, and of an open and free nature, had an excellent phantasy, brave notions, and gentle expressions, wherein he flowed with that facility that sometimes it was necessary he should be stopped. “Sufflaminandus erat,” as Augustus said of Haterius. His wit was in his own power; would the rule of it had been so, too. Many times he fell into those things, could not escape laughter, as when he said in the person of Cæsar, one speaking to him, “Cæsar, thou dost me wrong.” He replied, “Cæsar did never wrong but with just cause;” and such like, which were ridiculous. But he redeemed his vices with his virtues. There was ever more in him to be praised than to be pardoned.

  • Benjamin Hackman


    You say wrt the court “from which he [Oxford] gradually distanced himself after 1580”

    This is a strange circumlocution. Ox did not distance himself, he was tossed.

    That said, I agree “There is also increasing reassessment by some Oxfordians of Will Shakespeare.” But I think this only because they finally realize how foolish they look by insisting that Shakes was an untutored bumpkin, though in making these concessions, their arguments look even sillier–since they now admit they can see the evidence for Shakespeare, yet still deny he wrote the works bearing his name.

    I do not agree, however, that “so little helpful documentation exists” for Shakespeare, “about whose character we know nothing. There is an abundance of documentation confirming his authorship (like Barnfield’s “Remembrance” or “Palladis Tamia,” and Q2 R3 by William Shake-speare, all 1598–a very good year for Stratford, when he also was granted a coat of arms and entitled to the honorific Mr. that appeared in “The Return from Parnassus Part I” the following year–funny how it all fits together so nicely).

    As for his character, see the Parnassus plays (“here’s our fellow Shakespeare”), Jonson’s FF dedication, and Timber–a splendid 1st person testimony.

    And what is there for Ox? Nothing. No Oxie has yet produced a single jot of actual evidence for Oxford’s authorship, despite many challenges to do so, leaving Looney’s wish unfulfilled after almost 100 years.

    You’re also spot on that we can, and should, “critically examine long-accepted ideas” about Shakespeare, but in useful areas, such as new perspectives on the role of collaboration. But this rationale cannot be used as an excuse to somehow legitimize what Oxfordians do.

    It’s bad enough Griffiths has duped the editors of Country Life into running his article, which has been universally debunked, except for a few Oxfordians (some as noteworthy as Alexander Waugh) who have breathlessly embraced it as evidence for Oxford. Because what Oxies do is worse, essentially claiming the world is flat, that we were all fooled into believing it’s round, and the truth has been kept from us by a grand conspiracy that only Oxfordians, with their magic decoder ring (Looney’s List), have been able to figure out, retroactively, some 300+ years after the fact.

    And then to top it all off, they claim victim status, likening themselves, ironically, to little Galileos. Or, much more detestably, likening their heroic struggle to Gandhi’s, as employed perversely to open “Shakespeare Beyond Doubt?”

    “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.”

    Pretty vile when you come right down to it, but then not atypical of conspiracy theorists.

  • Tom Reedy

    If by “gradually distanced himself” you mean “banished”, then you are correct.

  • Tom Reedy

    You’re the habitual drive-by slanderer, not I. Not only in this forum but in others you accuse people of being in the pay of the Stratford Tourist Industry and Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, an accusation that has been answered many times but which you cling to because you think that no one would be a Stratfordian without being corrupt. That 99.99% of Shakespeareans don’t buy your phoney scenario is cause for you to examine your own self, not accuse others of being corrupted by money.

    > But you have no answer for the fact that Will Shax was mocked as illiterate in his lifetime.

    Your “fact” is as factual as everything else Oxfordians believe in: it is a product of wishful fantasy and has nothing to do with the historical record. That you can only convince your fellow communicants should be a clue as to how addled your thinking really is.

    And yes, I’ve heard of Dow Jones. I also remember 2008. If you want to find corruption and greed and phoney awards, the NY stock market is probably the easiest place to do so.

    I looked up “original” in the dictionary. Nowhere did it give the definition as “good” or “worthwhile”.

  • Jan Cole

    Thank you, Ben.
    The other two courtiers that Harvey gave an oration upon on the same occasion were Christopher Hatton and Philip Sidney. I’m sure these must also exist in translation somewhere, and it would be very interesting to know what he said to the other two, particularly Sidney. Interestingly, as I’m sure you know, Harvey has recently received some valuable scholarship regarding his own reading (e.g. of Livy and Castiglione), and scholars are looking closely at the marginalia in his books to work out what his developing ideas on rhetoric and oratory were. He made some interesting comments on jesting and noted that some etiquette in that area was necessary – “play with me but do not hurt me”. With regard to ‘throwing away the pen’ in favour of taking up arms, this is indeed an ambiguous statement, as both learning (including proficiency in writing, in Latin preferably) AND active soldiering were regarded as equally important attributes for a courtier to have – and Harvey noted this in another marginal comment in his Castiglione.
    You make a valid point in saying that some promoters of the Earl of Oxford have praised him indiscriminately and have stretched some texts too far. However, there is increasing realisation that he was one of the most difficult and impetuous characters in Elizabeth’s court (from which he gradually distanced himself after 1580), along with several others, e.g. Ralegh, Essex etc. There is also increasing reassessment by some Oxfordians of Will Shakespeare from Stratford, for whom, alas, so little helpful documentation exists and about whose character we know nothing. We all bear the weight of four centuries of variable opinion, and it’s important, I think, to critically examine long-accepted ideas – which Mr Griffith’s theory is allowing us the opportunity to do.

  • calendar

    I said the “setting” of the play resembled Love’s Labor”s Lost. I didn’t say the “plot” of the play resembled it.

    You have comprehension difficulty with some very easy words.

  • calendar

    1. I neither practice astrology, nor believe in it. It’s hooey.

    2. That you need to go off topic in order to slander someone is evidence that you are losing the debate. But you have no answer for the fact that Will Shax was mocked as illiterate in his lifetime. So slander the messenger.

    3. My research into lunar cycles and financial markets won the Charles H Dow award for most original research in the field. That award was presented by Dow Jones & Co. Perhaps you’ve heard of them.

    4. I request the moderator of this board to remove the ad hominem and provably false lies about me posted by Mr. Reedy.

  • Nat Whilk

    I took care to call him “William Cecil,” as he then was. He was not created Baron Burghley until 1571. And that’s the point: as a self-made man, by birth a commoner, Cecil knew the value of learning, and he wanted to create an educated aristocracy, a ruling class fit to govern. His wards were among the first nobles to attend the universities.

  • Tom Reedy

    Only in your addled brain. How’s the astrological stock market forecasting business?

  • Benjamin Hackman

    Alexander, I believe he began a commoner, and was granted his Barony later in life. Of course, there were efforts to trump up his ancestry, but he was, ultimately, not born a nobleman.

  • Tom Reedy

    You wrote, “And didn’t he tell Buc that Robert Greene was a minister who played the
    role of the pinner in his own play George Greene, the Pinner of

    The error is yours, not Shapiro’s. Shapiro does not attribute Juby’s answer to Shakespeare.

    All the rest of your post is hand-waving trying to draw attention from the fact that you impugned Shapiro when the error was committed by yourself.

    I don’t know of any modern critics who accept the Greene attribution. And whether a minister or former minister wold be “allowed” to act in a play is beyond the knowledge of Collins or anyone else. Many people, then and now, trained for the clergy but ended up in other professions.

  • Dingdong

    To Headlight & Reedy,

    See Shapiro * Contested Will *, pp. 254-5:

    “But Shakespeare did volunteer an unsual bit of information: the minister had acted in his own play, performing the part of the pinner (someone who impounds stray animals)”.
    According to Tannenbaum the information on the author acting in his own play came from John Payne Collier, that of Greene as author from Admiral’s man Edward Juby.

    If Juby was right, Shakespeare didn’t know Robert Greene was the author.

    If Shapiro is correct,then Shakespeare would have known that the author was a minister who acted in his own play. Doubly weird: Shakespeare would have thought that a minister could act in his own play on the public stage (it was first performed at the Rose in 1599 or before), but could not remember his name .

    Tannenbaum quotes Churton Collins: ‘In the second place, assuming they are genuine, it is very difficult to reconcile them with probability. A minister would not have been
    allowed to exhibit himself as an actor on a public stage, an exhibition which the memorandum plainly implies, and, if the play was written by a minister, it is, as I have shown in the General Introduction, in the highest degree unlikely that it was written by Greene. The “teste William Shakespeare” savours very strongly of the kind of inscriptions with which W.H. Ireland was in the habit of favouring his friends…’ (p. 45).

    I wouldn’t trust the whole matter. But to James Shapiro it is rock-solid evidence.

    BTW, as compensation I’ve given either of you a ‘like’.

  • Nat Whilk

    “…the youngest person of his time to be honoured by both Oxford and Cambridge Universities.”

    Both of his MAs were comitia regia: each commemorates a royal visit to the universities, when degrees were handed out like chocolates to the members of her train. The universities felt, rightly, that this profligacy cheapened their degrees, but there was nothing they could do: the Queen liked being generous on someone else’s shilling. Cecil’s other ward, the third Earl of Rutland, nothing special upstairs, also got chocolate degrees on both occasions: both young earls were honoured, not for their learning, but by virtue of their birth. (Though Rutland’s Oxford MA at least was merited, for his benefactions to the university: that’s in the record book.) As Manners was nine months older than Vere, I suppose that makes Oxford the youngest person present on both occasions.

    Oxford got his Cambridge goody-bag degree at 14; his son, not notably bright, got his at 12.

    Edward de Vere matriculated at Queens’ College, Cambridge at the age of eight years seven months; Philip Herbert, his future son-in-law and a notorious half-literate, matriculated at New College, Oxford at the age of eight years five months. Both stayed only briefly. For both, an Oxbridge “education” was a mere formality.

  • Thank you, Mr. Waugh. Then there’s no point in soliciting comments if questions can’t be answered. I’m guessing his book is already finalized and, as such, Mr. Griffiths isn’t really interested in public discussion.

  • Tom Reedy

    Reading Buc is a bit like reading Nietzsche: sometimes you have to look up from the page and wonder, “Did he write this before or after he went insane?”

  • Alexander Waugh

    Knit Witted – I think all this will be in Mr Griffiths’ book. AW

  • Alexander Waugh

    Lord Burghley was not a commoner. If I were to use your patronising vernacular I would say ‘Let’s look at the OED, shall we’ but I am not a bossy school ma’am so I’ll just give you the information for free, AW

  • Mr. Griffiths,

    Also, your caption for the two title pages reads: “The title page of the second edition of The Herball from 1633 (right) is very different to that of the first
    edition of 1597 (left). Its editor, Thomas Johnson, despised Gerard and
    replaced the frontispiece that so prominently displayed the four men who
    had collaborated on the work.”

    Where does this assessment come from please? The two title pages are not “very different”. And could you please cite a source for your “Its [1633] editor, Thomas Johnson, despised Gerard and replaced the frontispiece that so prominently displayed the four men who had collaborated on the work.”

    Thank you in advance for your help.

  • Alexander Waugh

    Little bit jumpy today aren’t we Sicinius?

  • Alexander Waugh

    Avon Lady who famously described Oxford (whom she never knew) as a ‘whining, self-centred, rhetorically graceless, intellectually incurious seven-eighths-literate lump’ tells us that the following description of Oxford by Sir George Buck, who actually know him, is ’empty puffery.’

    ‘And in much [shorter time than his] life’s time, that great and stately [earldom of Oxenford, with the] very opulent and princely patri[mony was dissipated] and wasted, and it was
    very suddenly and swiftly used and consumed, and como sal en agua, [as the Spaniar]ds say in the refrain. But not by the fault of the Earl then lord thereof, but rather by the fate of the divine ordinance. For certainly the Earl was a devout and a magnificent and a very learned and religious [nobleman,] and so worthy in every way, as I have heard some grave and [di]screet and honourable persons (who knew this Earl from
    his youth and could very well judge of the hopefulness and the springtimes of young men) say and affirm that he was much more like to raise and to acquire and to establish a new earldom than to decay and waste and lose an old earldom. And in a word, he was a Vere in deed as in name, vere nobilis. For he was verily and truly noble, and a most noble Vere.’

  • Nat Whilk

    Nowell had only one pupil. Read his letter: “et meam operam haud fore diu Oxoniensi Comiti necessariam facile intelligam…”

    “[But] since on the one hand [cum neque] I see that those
    persons [the previous mapmakers] have not yet brought forth anything worthy of so great and so long a period of waiting, and [since on the other hand] I readily perceive that my labors for the Earl of Oxford will not by any means be required for much longer, I have put my trust in your accustomed goodness and humane conduct toward me, and not hesitated to let you know what is in my mind.” The Earl is a subordinate clause here, one reason why Nowell hopes to be released. Both endeavors have failed. Nowell is exquisitely polite, but what he’s saying is: Since these drones are getting nowhere with the maps, and since I’m getting nowhere with the Earl, I’m asking: could you please
    give me work that isn’t futile? Work these layabouts aren’t doing, work I really want to do.

    Calendar: “Cecil House perfectly mirrored the setting of Love’s Labor’s Lost, does it not?”

    In your fantasies. Cecil’s wards hadn’t vowed to study as celibates: they were made to, willy nilly. Some, like Essex, Southampton, and the fifth Rutland, did some actual work at university; other, like Oxford and the third Rutland, did not.

  • Dingdong

    Oh, oh, William Cecil, Lord Burghley, Lord Treasurer, was a commoner? Be lucky he can no longer read that. And tell me, who is Lawrence Humphrey who would have written * The Crisis of the Aristocracy *? Do you mean Lawrence Stone? Probably. Lawrence Stone quotes Laurence Humphrey who wrote *The Nobles* in 1563 on page 673.Well, on page 672 (if you mean Lawrence Stone) you’ll find the following source: J.H. Hexter, ‘The Education of the Aristocracy in the Renaissance’, in *Reappraisals in History*, 1961. I don’t have that book, but I do have Hexter’s early essay with the same title of March 1950. Please read it, and you’ll see that what you are telling us here applies to the early 16th century but,notwithstanding Roger Ascham, was no longer true from about 1531 on (Sir Thomas Elyot’s * The Governor*). But no, you can dispense with Hexter if you read Stone beyond page 678, only six pages more. Here three quotes from Stone:
    ‘Lord Burghley was indeed the key figure in the transformation of the education of the aristocracy, and he may thus claim to have done more in the long run to preserve the class than any other man’. (1679). Yea, Burghley even wanted to make it legally obligatory for aristocrats to send their sons to the university. But surely – that is it! – he made an exception for the Earl of Oxford.
    Second quote (704):
    ‘From the Earl of Surrey under Henry VIII to the Earl of Oxford under Elizabeth, noblemen had a greater share in the production of English imaginative literature than at any time before or since.’
    Third quote (705):
    ‘In a lesser key busy statesmen like Lord Buckhurst wrote tragedies, idle about-town like the Earl of Oxford wrote comedies, both of which were highly thought of at the time. Performance as well as patronage were attributes of the Renaissance courtier.’ Indeed, Castiglione in ‘The Book of the Courtier’ (1528) taught the ideal courtier to write in the vernacular. If you want the exact wording and place of the passage…

  • Mr. Griffiths,

    Why are you suggesting the lower right figure is Shakespeare? Based on the 1633 title page, the figures on the 1597 title page (clockwise from upper left) are: Ceres ( the Roman goddess of agriculture), Pomona (the Roman goddess of fruit and nut trees), Dioscorides (a Greek botanist), and Theophrastus (the Greek “father of botany”).

    How is Shakespeare related to botany? And why would anyone in 1597 associate him with such field?

  • Alexander Waugh

    You mean ‘no Stratolater takes anything Waugh says seriously’ concentrate Headlight!

  • Alexander Waugh

    ‘Ding Dong Avon Lady!’

  • Alexander Waugh

    For once I think Dimmy is talking sense: “Believing in ridiculous theories is a right. Freedom of speech is a right. Being taken seriously isn’t. Nor is being sheltered from ridicule.” Go-to Dimbles!

  • Alexander Waugh

    Always amusing when ‘Sicinius’ asks if we’ve read something, for this is the same ‘Mike Leadbetter’ dude who famously wrote a ranting anti-Oxfordian review on Amazon, only to be told that the book in question didn’t actually mention Oxford. So it is unlikely he has read Broderick and Millers ‘Web of Conspiracy: A Guide to Conspiracy Theory Sites on the Internet’ either. If he had he would no doubt have expired with tension at what Broderick wrote: “What I discovered is that most do not hold up under scrutiny. The more one digs, the shakier and less credible they become. The Authorship Question was different. The more I dug, the more credible it
    seemed, until I became fully convinced of its validity. What I had set out expecting to debunk turned out to be the most compelling, fact-based ‘conspiracy’ I had ever researched.”

  • Sicinius,
    Despite your emphatic say-it-ain’t-so, I’m still enjoying my Range Rover immensely.

  • Alexander Waugh

    Mike Leadbetter (alias Sicinius) you are trying to make a case that something could never happen if it only happened once. This is illogical. Your reference to ‘recent scholarship’ is potty. Oxford’s connections to the theatre of his day are well documented.

  • Mr. Griffiths,
    A mock-up of the cipher showing William, John, and Norton is at noodlework(dot)files(dot)wordpress(dot)com(slash)2015(slash)05

  • Dingdong

    Please dig a little deeper into Nelson too. Then you wouldn’t rely so confidently on him. He confuses Raphael Holinshed, the chronicler, with Randolph Holinshed, the witness in the Brincknell affair, something that before him Paul Streitz had also done and was scorned by Stratfordians on HLAS, and justly so. Nelson also understood the name Witherynge as “white herring”. He constantly writes “seized” for “seised”, two very different terms, and so on, and so on.

  • Tom Reedy

    No, it was your erroneous description.

  • Dingdong

    “At the end of the third line and begins with the letter ‘l’? I still cannot spot it. At the end of the third line I see ‘about about’.
    Did you not spot the word ‘later’ in my post? It is at the very end: ’12 years later’, in 1592, in *Four Letters*. Did I make a mistake? Harvey’s third letter opens: ‘Albeit for these twelve, or thirteen years, no man hath beene more loth, or more scrupulous, then my selfe, to underlie the censure of every curious conceite…’ Sicinius, your solo tennis matches might have deranged your arithmetic faculties. Let us count together. “Speculum Tuscanismi” printed in 1580, perhaps written in 1579. 1592 – 1580/1579 = twelve or thirteen years. Right? That the reference in the opening lines of the third letter refer to “Speculum Tuscanismi” is clear from what follows in the third letter. Did Harvey tell you something else behind Oxford’s back? If so, is it in print?
    And your interpretation of “throw away the feeble pen” is dead wrong. If you had read the first book of Castiglione’s *Book of the Courtier* you would know how to understand that.
    Anyway, you have scored this point too, The tennis player Sicinius should ask the referee Sicinius. The referee Sicinius will decide the tennis player Sicinius scored the point

  • headlight

    DingDong: “And didn’t he tell Buc that Robert Greene was a minister who played the role of the pinner in his own play George Greene, the Pinner of Wakefield?”

    Your description is incorrect. Shakespeare did not tell Buc anything about Greene, because he didn’t name (and apparently did not remember the name of) the author — only that he was a minister. Juby identified Greene as the author, and that attribution has stood ever since, though recent scholarship casts it into doubt. The actual inscription, and Shapiro and my descriptions of it, are all consistent on those points.

    Either Shakespeare was wrong about the author being a minister and playing the part of the pinner himself, or Juby was wrong about Robert Greene being the author.

    The importance of the inscription is not whether or not Shakespeare was correct in the attribution, but that Buc noted an interaction with Shakespeare where they discussed matters related to the theater.

  • keith

    Dioscorides was from Anarzarbus in Anatolia, known as Caesarea in the Roman Empire. In 44BC Julius Caesar designated the laurel wreath as an emblem of the supreme ruler and under Augustus it became the emblem of the Emperor. Since Caesarea/Anarzarbus takes it’s name from Caesar, it seems to me more likley that the laurel wreath worn by the Fourth Man in Roman dress is intended to identity the figure as being the Roman from Caesarea- namely Dioscorides.

  • One last attempt to see if we can get those eyes open.

    Pseudonymy doesn’t apply in the case of Oxford. You and other Oxfordians claim he used Shakespeare as a front man. You can’t eliminate Shakespeare from his presence at The Globe, you have to incorporate him in the scheme, so your idea seems to be that Shakespeare was the go-between. Oxford’s allonym.

    This is a historical singularity. There are no other examples in the theatre. There are not two sides to the is issue. There’s the real world and your crazy, fantasy world. There is no need to prove there are no other examples because there are none to be found. The number of allonyms used in professional theatre by successful playwrights is zero.

    Because playwrighting is performance art. Because professional playwrights work in theatres. Not through allonymic seconds. You could only disprove that statement by finding one.

    And you can’t.

  • Dingdong

    You didn’t correct MY erroneous description, you corrected Shapiro’s incorrect description. Do you have an idea now?

  • Waugh – Try and improve your Netiquette. And keep up.

  • Benjamin Hackman

    Jan, Thank you for the thoughtful and informative reply. I will try to look at (in trans, of course) the other encomiums that Harvey delivered. I’m sure he would have trod carefully wrt QE & Cecil, but will be interesting to see how he treats the other noblemen (only 2 or 3 as I gather, not that many).

    That said, later in Harvey’s “praise” of Oxford is the famous (or infamous) advice to throw down his feeble pen and go try out soldiering, which Ox eventually did a decade later, abandoning his post at Harwich during Armada year. And yes, Nelson is very hard on Oxford.

    That said, Oxfordians demand that all prasie of Oxford be taken not only at face value, but as if totally sincere, rather than formulaic, or simply as expressions of the deference due a great Earl, as would be expected of that era. But any praise of Shakespeare is either a snark, or if it can’t be explained away as snarkery, then it’s twisted become a reference to Oxford, e.g. Barnfield’s “Remembrance,” where Oxfordians go crazy over the final couplet because it has their precious code words.

    That said, I again thank you for your gracious response. I will dig deeper as you recommended.


  • Paul Crowley

    > NW: What teacher finds a brilliant pupil burdensome?

    Many have. Great writers (who we can assume were often brilliant pupils) don’t usually seem to have enjoyed their school-days. Of course, it depends on the characters of the teacher and the pupil, and whether or not they get on. But would you — as a teacher — like to have a pupil who remembered every word you said, and had read every book (or nearly every one) in the subject, and was continually correcting your mistakes, putting you right, and contesting most of your opinions — and generally out-arguing you?

    Shake-speare, whoever he was, must have been extraordinarily precocious. And De Vere was not known for his diplomatic temperament.

  • Paul Crowley

    >>> SIC (Version One): None of them – absolutely none – wrote for the early professional theatre under an allonym

    > SIC (Version Two): Of course I can’t prove that no one else used an allonym. I can, however, point to the fact that no one did,

    No comment is necessary.

    (Your misunderstandings of probability /contingency skipped)

    > SIC: And of course you depend on the mechanics of an allonym without being able to explain how it worked.

    Well, I wasn’t there. But it’s easy to see how pseudonmity works. Probably most don’t know the names “Eric Blair” nor “Samuel Coppens”, since we use use their literary pseudonyms almost all the time. But either of those authors could have found some peasant (preferably with a similar name) to take the credit for their works. So long as he stayed at home, and had a competent secretary/minder, why should anyone ever find out? All that is needed for the plot is a little money and a motive. That kind of money was no problem for the Elizabethan government, and the motive was to stop Elizabeth’s name being associated with the works — for the obvious reason that all manner of misreadings of the text would follow — not dissimilar from what we see today from the ghastly ‘Prince Tudor’ bunch.

  • Tom Reedy

    Thank you for your speculation. Jonson has no “record of education”. I have no doubt that he attended Westminster School, but his attendance at St Martin is an invention by Fuller. The only evidence of his education comes from a dedication inserted in a unique copy of *Cynthia’s Revels* in which he says of Camden, “alumnus olim, aeternum amicus” and a remark noted by Drummond that he had been “put to school by a friend” and that “His master was Camden”. Jonson also wrote an epigram praising Camden, saying that to him “I owe / All that I am in arts, all that I know.” He also dedicated the 1616 reprint of *Every Man in His Humour* to Camden, calling him his instructor in studies. Unfortunately, these are not records of education.

    Nor are there any records of his honorary MA degrees; the only way we know he received them is that he said he did, though I have no doubt he was given them, since such degrees were handed out to apothecaries, barbers, pages, and almost anyone who asked (see Donaldson, p. 351).

    Oddly enough, despite all this praise from Jonson, the only time Camden mentioned Jonson was in the same book that he mentioned Shakespeare, his 1605 *Remaines Concerning Britaine*. We know that Camden knew that Shakespeare was the man from Stratford because he defended the grant of arms to John Shakespeare, who was dead when the complaint was made, and whose son was identified as “Shakespear the player” on the complaint.

  • Lu Ann Lewellen

    “…There had been two earlier
    projects for mapping the whole county: that were proposed to Sir William Cecil (as he then was) in 1563 by Laurence Nowell.1

    1 Appendix A, Document 1; Flower, R., “Laurence Nowell and the Discovery of England in Tudor Times”, Proceedings of the British Academy, 21 (London: Oxford University Press, 1935), pp. 47-75.”

    It’s clear Nowell wanted to make maps. Perhaps he wasn’t keen on tutoring at all and it didn’t matter which ward he was tutoring. Wards weren’t tutored forever and the services to any of them would sooner or later come to an end.

    There is no evidence the windows were broken at all. They may have just been replaced with very expensive leaded glass. See Nina Green’s Oxmyths on her website for more.

    These efforts to denigrate young Edward aren’t working very well, are they?

  • Are you an idiot who specialises in being offensive?

    I have answered this question dozens of times and pointed out that not only are we not sponsored by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust but the ungrateful sods don’t even give us a link on their website. If you weren’t intent on casting mudslinging aspersions because you have absolutely nothing in your locker to argue you case with, you wouldn’t keep repeating it.

    Would you?

    Only an acute narcissist would imagine that his opponents were paid to argue with him.

  • headlight

    Alexander —

    What would you recommend? I read your e-book and found the first part quite interesting. The courtroom part was not as good, unfortunately.

  • calendar

    “Nowell had only one pupil:”

    Proof please? Are you sure that Nowell’s and the other scholars residing in Cecil House’s laboratory of language in the 1560 weren’t charged with educating the other wards then in attendance? It seems that Cecil House in the 1560s comprised of a number of young noble wards, some of them lords, plus a number of scholars, Nowell, Golding, Lambarde and others, plus a steady stream of visiting foreign dignitaries.

    In other words, Cecil House perfectly mirrored the setting of Love’s Labor’s Lost, does it not?

  • calendar

    “No one thought the player-poet Shakespeare was a learned man until long long after his death”

    Will Shaksper was mocked on the London stage in his own lifetime as an illiterate, braggart, pretender.

  • calendar

    Are you a paid shill of the Stratford-upon-Avon tourist industry whose job it is to defend their financial interests regardless of the facts?

    Please disclose your financial interest in the Shakespeare question so the readers here may judge whatever conflict of interests you have that prevent you from offering unbiased views.

  • Priests, charlatans and Oxfordians may have believed that humans were the apex of evolution but not scientists. If you understand thing one in Darwin’s work, you will not assume that man is the apex of a progression or the apex of anything. Darwin says almost the opposite.

    So what Gee is correcting is the same sort of bad thinking that the Straight Dopers are claiming that Oxfordians have indulged in. Not Darwin’s understanding of evolution. Or that of any other scientists.

    It’s Wilberforcian misunderstandings of Darwin that he’s aiming at. At how the Theory of Evolution became perverted by its early association with the Spencerian concept of the survival of the fittest. That’s an economic concept and capitalism and natural selection are two very different things, though evolution happens in both.

    I’ll have more respect for Stanley when he stops wearing pink shirts and lavender jackets. Which has about the same weight as his contentions about the Cobbe portrait (i.e. no effect whatsoever) on the solidity of Will’s claim to his own work.

  • Lu Ann Lewellen

    I said my copy is on Audible. I’ve had time to listen through “Ida”.

    Defects in what theory? Would you agree that “It is Gee’s contention that scientists have been completely wrong in seeing humans as the apex of evolution” (Washington Post)?

    Early authorities were influenced by religious ideas and The Great Chain of Being got carried into scientific thinking. I’ve read enough on paleoanthropology to know how wrong some of those early authorities were. Would Piltdown Man have gotten as far as it did without the authority of Sir Arthur Keith? He cautioned LSB Leakey about a possible hoax after his “first Englishman” was exposed. Leakey’s finds were real but his interpretations were wildly wrong in some instances (the circles of stone, cores left from flint knapping, e.g.).

    I just thought it was interesting Gee came up when his is the book I’m most interested in atm. No doubt you think I’m wrong no matter what I think even when you don’t know what I think.

    I’ll have more respect for Stratfordian authority when Stanley Wells retracts on the Cobbe.

  • In the three years I have been involved, I have detected many wafts, even a few Wavian waughts, but have yet to encounter anything which favoured Oxford.

    You should trot over to The Straight Dope site and see if you can straighten them out on De Vere’s Authorship. The bonfire’s all ready, the matches are out, your hit and run chums from ShakesVere have all quit the scene. Why don’t you pop over there and explain things to them before your theories are finally put on show in The Crackpot Hall of Fame?

    I’ll even get you started, if you like. Which of your recent ‘discoveries’ would you like to kick off with?

  • Alexander Waugh

    I agree entirely with every word that Dimmy says above.

  • Alexander Waugh

    Mike Leadbetter – this surely is one of your silliest. All your blood, tears and waking sweat are expended in reckoning with the nightmares of your slumbering hours. Your investment in rubbishing Oxford is enormous. You are the Kingpin of the Oxfraud website which snarls and barks at every gentle breathe that wafts in Oxford’s favour. You are a fanatic to your cause and to say that the authorship question is not ‘contentious’ betrays gross ignorance of the definition of that word. If you don’t understand what ‘contention’ means, how do you expect anyone to take your opinions on Shakespeare seriously?

  • Alexander Waugh

    Headlight – please read a biography of Jonson before posting.

  • Alexander Waugh

    Leadbetter – use your proper name and explain yourself. Your question is incomprehensible.

  • Alexander Waugh

    Dimmy: As you perfectly well know Ben Jonson, the son of a literate cleric, was educated first at St Martin in Fields and then under William Camden, one of the greatest scholars of his age, at Westminster School. For his exceptional scholarship he was then honoured by Oxford University. This record of education is perfectly in accordance with the evidence of Jonson’s works. With Shakespeare, on the other hand, we have a playwright of immense erudition who has no record of education. Doesn’t look good for your ‘Pimping Billy’ theory.

  • Alexander Waugh

    Dimmy – once again you fail to understand the difference between class and education. A person may be of a low social class and through scholarships, patronage, whatever be given a good education. Equally there are members of the upper classes who by refusing to pay attention in class are remarkably uneducated. No uneducated person of any social class (high or low) could have written Shakespeare. That Oxford was well educated and the youngest person of his time to be honoured by both Oxford and Cambridge Universities as well as a profligate patron of scholars does not prove that he was Shakespeare, but it is a little bit more helpful to his case the the complete absence of any record of education for ‘Pimping Billy.’

  • Although you don’t actually claim to have read it, I see you have completely misunderstood what Gee was about. Jumping no doubt, to the conclusion that he exposes defects in the theory.

    He doesn’t.

    He exposes conclusions people have drawn from the theory through a mixture of false assumption, poor understanding, denial, projection and wish-fulfilment.

    Ironic, wouldn’t you say?

  • Did you not spot the word ‘later’ in my post? It’s at the end of the third line and begins with the letter ‘l’.

  • Jan Cole

    Hello, Ben. The context of Harvey’s speeches at Audley End in 1578 should be taken into account. They were delivered in front of Queen Elizabeth, Cecil, the rest of the court, other courtiers and dignitaries from the University. As Fellow of Trinity College, professor of Latin and Oratory, Harvey gave the formal praise-speeches addressed to the Queen, and 2 or 3 members of the peerage including Oxford. Oxford’s first guardian-tutor, Sir Thomas Smith, had died the year before and Harvey published a Latin elegy, ‘Smithus’ in 1578 in his honour. As regards the style of ALL these speeches, convention required the speaker to use bombast, hyperbole, rodomontade, and various rhetorical techniques to produce something resembling the ancient Pindaric odes or Cicero’s speeches that were so admired. The same style was usually employed in dedications of books. We cannot tell how much, if at all, the speaker’s personal feelings came into it. I doubt that Harvey was being sarcastic at this point, since the Earl of Oxford had earlier given money to Harvey, and he was speaking in the presence of the Queen. Are Harvey’s speeches to Elizabeth and the other courtiers also sarcastic? I wouldn’t have thought so. Harvey did turn against Oxford, we know, and it is Oxford who became a bone of contention between Harvey and Thomas Nashe in the later pamphlet exchanges – which are brilliantly funny on both sides.
    As ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, so the ear of the hearer will take what they want to hear from Harvey’s speech. If you are attuned to sarcasm, that is what you will hear. If you are attuned to Elizabethan rhetorical practice, that’s what you will hear. By the way, you say that Harvey didn’t elaborate on Oxford’s Latin preface to Clerke’s ‘Courtier’ or on his English verse – he didn’t need to, both were in print and well known to his audience.

  • What can I say? How many times can you be wrong in one post? Of course I can’t prove that no one else used an allonym. I can, however, point to the fact that no one did, point to the problems inherent in any such arrangement and wait for you to try and disprove that by finding an example. That’s the way history works.

    Lots of people felt it was likely that Kennedy would be the subject of an assassination attempt and lots more thought Caesar was in trouble after his Senate reforms. The odds on assassination were probably close to evens in each case. You can build them up if you insist on having the moment, the location and the name of the assassin but that doesn’t mean you are proving that probability doesn’t work on human beings. It’s one of the reasons why we study it.

    And of course you depend on the mechanics of an allonym without being able to explain how it worked. Just as you depend, without adequate explanation, on rewriting the whole of theatre history having picked a candidate who died too soon to have written a third of the work. Just as you depend, in the teeth of solid contrary evidence, on the whole profile mismatch House of Cards. And yet you are all happy to get by without a single item of evidence.

    When one of the founders of Straight Dope says anti-Stratfordian ‘theory’ can be ‘dismissed out of hand’, that’s the final bell for the final round.

    You have only minutes – seconds left. Unless there’s a knockout.

    Better give up arguing intangibles and find some of that there missing evidence. And quick.

  • Nat Whilk

    “The ‘charge’ is not Oxford or any other pupil. The ‘charge’ is teaching.”

    You equivocate. Nowell had only one pupil: Oxford was the whole of his charge. In asking to resign, he could have used a perfectly neutral word for his employment, like “officium.” He could have just said “negligere.” But he chose “curam”; he chose “detrectare,” with all their negative baggage.

    Mr. Nowell was exquisitely tactful; but I think he intended, and William Cecil understood, his meaning: that the Earl was trouble.

    What teacher finds a brilliant pupil burdensome?

  • Nat Whilk

    “ALL the sons of the nobility were encouraged to study.”

    Indeed they were—by commoners like William Cecil. Learning had long been the province of commoners. There was some concern that the unbookish aristocracy—trained in nothing but the pursuit of game—were losing out to the sons of grocers and glovers who had studied at Oxford or Cambridge. There were prejudices to be overcome:

    “I swear by God’s body, I’d rather that my son should hang than study
    letters. For it becomes the sons of gentlemen to blow the horn nicely,
    to hunt skillfully and elegantly, carry and train a hawk. But the study
    of letters should be left to the sons of rustics.”

    But by the mid 16th century, writes Lawrence Stone, “the ideals of Italian humanism were seeping in, a century late … ; and there was developing a growing anxiety about the prospects of the nobility maintaining their grip on the key positions in the political system. ‘The fault is in your selves, ye noble men’s sonnes’, said Roger Ascham in 1570, ‘that commonlie the meaner mens children cum to be the wisest councellors and greatest doers in the weightie affaires of this Realme. And why? …[B]icause ye will have it no otherwise, by your negligence.’ ‘Cease nobles, therefore, to hate learnynge’, urged Lawrence Humphrey” (Crisis of the Aristocracy, p. 672-3).

  • headlight

    To quote someone — hm, hm. Earlier today you didn’t express concerns about the Buc notes. After I correct your erroneous description of the notes, you suddenly remember that you think the notes were forgeries. How putting Shapiro in his place got into the conversation I have no idea.

    Was Juby correct that Robert Greene wrote George a Greene? Opinion is divided. Shakespeare couldn’t come up with the name of the author. It may not have been Greene, or it may have been an old play of Greene’s that was before Shakespeare’s time.

  • headlight

    Is being magnificent the same as being “very learned?” I’m not sure you’re following the argument Knit Witted was making above. Oxford was known for being well dressed — at least before he blew his fortune.

  • Paul Crowley

    > SIC: I agree there is nothing crackpot about “thinking a well-traveled, well-read member of the nobility might have written under a pseudonym” and of course, some of them did.

    None of them – absolutely none – wrote for the early professional theatre under an allonym.

    A ‘fact’ that you don’t know, and certainly can’t prove. Numerous plays (often of the highest quality) are of most uncertain authorship, some with names that few accept as genuine — e.g. the bad apocryphal ones (such as Locrine) with “W.S.” given as author.

    But your logic is all screwed-up. It makes no sense to talk about probability when considering deliberate human actions — or proposed actions. It may be highly unlikely that anyone would take a pot-shot at a US president from a Texas Book depository, or that Caesar would be stabbed to death by senators in the Colosseum. Most historical events could never have been predicted and are ‘statistically’ improbable.

    > SIC: Since no other successful playwrights have ever used an allonym, it would be just a bit crackpot to pick a very famous playwright who enjoyed a very long career and then try to argue that he worked all his life under an allonym.

    And no one does anything of the kind. They look at the ‘official’ story, see that it is full of holes, and makes little or no sense, and propose that the nominal playwright was some kind of stooge for the real author. Of course, IF the official proposed ‘long career’ had produced real evidence, then there would be no questioning. But that’s the point. This long and supposedly illustrious career has, in terms of tangible evidence, left only an empty void.

  • headlight

    Not about the aristos? They were ALL about them. The lords and ladies were dressed in lavish costumes, wore expensive jewelry, struck poses in the elaborate and expensive sets. The single performance of the Masque of Blackness cost three times the annual allowance paid to the impoverished late Earl.

  • Dingdong

    Always provided that the information is authentic and not, as Samuel A. Tannenbaum (“Shakspere Scraps”, 1933) maintains and I am inclined to accept, one of John Payne Collier’s forgeries, Shakespeare would not have known or remembered the name of the playwright, only that he was a minister. Edward Juby, an actor at the Rose by 1594 and the Fortune after 1600 (per Marc Eccles in * Notes and Queries *,December 1991) ascribed it to Robert Greene. According to John Payne Collier Shakespeare’s information to Buc would have been “Written by … a minister who acted the piners pt in it himselfe. Teste W. Shakespare.” If this is authentic, then your author-actor-manager is a strange fellow. He would have thought that a minister could afford acting in public in his own play – weird. Even weirder,
    he would have known the playwright acted in it but couldn’t remember the name of his alleged big rival. The information that it was Robert Greene comes from the actor Edward Juby, an Admiral’s man.

    What does James Shapiro (* Contested Will * make of all this hodgepodge? “Shakespeare did his best to help Buc, recalling that the play had been written by a minister,
    but at this point his memory failed him. The lapse was excusable; it had been many years since * George a Greene * was first staged. But Shakespeare did volunteer an unusual bit of information: the minister had acted in his own
    play, performing the part of a pinner… Buc’s flesh and blood encounter with a man he knew as both actor and playwright suggests that once you begin to put Shakespeare back into his own time and place, the notion that he actively conspired to deceive everyone who knew or met him about the true authorship of the works seems awfully far-fetched.”

    Methinks Shapiro should be put in place. Ultimately his rendition relies on John Payne Collier. Bravo! But go!!

  • Dingdong

    “Magnificent” is the keyword.

  • Benjamin Hackman


    Using the translation you provided, “I have seen your many Latin things, and more in English are extant; of French and Italian muses, the manner of the people, their arts and laws, you have drunk deeply. Not for nothing was Sturmius* himself known to you, nor so many Frenchmen and polished Italians, nor Germans.”

    Harvey is silent on the qualities of Oxford’s English and Latin “things,” but fulsome in praising Oxford’s mastery of French and Italian muses, manners, arts, and laws. To which we should add fashion. And lest there be any doubt, Harvey emphasizes how many “polished” Frenchmen, Italians, and even Germans that Oxford hung out with.

    Talk about damning, actually mocking, with faint praise.

    Have you ever heard the term paradoxical encomium?

    A final point. The Oxford section of “Gratulationes” opens with the following:

    O great-hearted one, strong in thy mind and thy fiery will,
    thou wilt conquer thyself, thou wilt conquer others;
    thy glory will spread out in all directions beyond the Arctic Ocean.

    I believe this is from the same translation you cited. Don’t you detect the voice of clever snarkery here? It was widely known that Oxford could barely control himself, and NEVER conquered anyone, except the poor cook. As for his fame extending far beyond the Arctic Ocean, I can just imagine the readers/listeners nodding knowingly at each other and chuckling to themselves while thinking: “Oh that sly fellow Harvey, he sure has Oxford’s number. Tee hee.”

    Think about it. Genuine praise? Or delightfully veiled snarkery of the first order?

  • malfolio

    I mentioned those. They were mainly mythological, not about the aristos. Fact is, Jonson didn’t share WS’s obsession with English dynastic claims and counterclaims.

  • malfolio

    Where did I say he didn’t? Most is not the same as all.

  • Tom Reedy

    He certainly did write plays about the nobility. Volpone, Catiline, and Sejanus are the three that spring to mind.

  • headlight

    “Although this is not the place for a discussion of Edward de Vere’s learning or his proficiency in Latin, it is important to know that ALL the sons of the nobility were encouraged to study.”

    There’s a difference between “encouraged to study” and “studied.” I have no doubt that Oxford’s teachers encouraged him.

  • headlight

    And then turned his hand to masques, expensive one-off court entertainments never shown to the masses. Real man of the people was Ben.

  • Lu Ann Lewellen

    Dear girl, they don’t allow junior high schoolers in bars.

    In real life I haven’t been in a bar since 1984. I have not had a drink since Christmas Eve that year and wish everyone would follow suit.

    Your ad feminams are really off the mark. I suggest you give it up before anyone notices what you’re doing and thinks you’re an embarrassment to the cause.

  • malfolio

    So Jonson must be an exception, because most of his plays don’t include nobility, and are based on popular classical comic writers like Aristophanes and Plautus, presenting “deeds, and language, such as men do use: And persons, such as comedy would choose, When she would show an Image of the times, And sport with human follies, not with crimes.”

    The masques he wrote for court are a separate category.

  • Jan Cole

    Yes, Nowell wanted to get on with map-making (which, as you know, he did), but what he’s doing here is contrasting that personal (selfish) desire against what he knows is his duty. ‘Charge’ can mean office or function. Lord Burghley had employed him (and was paying him) to teach. Nowell is acknowledging that he wants to do something else but showing that he is mindful he should fulfill the task Burghley is paying him to do. The ‘charge’ is not Oxford or any other pupil. The ‘charge’ is teaching. I don’t think we can read any more into it than that. And to suggest to Burghley that his given employment of teaching was ‘irksome’ would certainly not have gone down well with the Lord Treasurer…

  • sandralynnsparks

    I take it you’re just going to sit at the bar and pretend someone cares about what you are saying and will eventually buy you a drink while everyone else moves on to dinner. I already ate and am on my way home. Try not to stay past closing. They turn off the air-conditioning; I don’t think you’d notice the lights going off.

  • headlight

    We’re trying to track down the source for Buc saying he was “very learned.” Is having a “Ioviall mind” the same as being very learned?

  • Lu Ann Lewellen

    You must have me confused with someone else. I’m not in school as teacher or student. I worked two of the three days of the holiday.

    I’ve already downloaded something on the Theobald’s entertainment. I haven’t finished reading it yet.

    No one is a prisoner on ShakesVere; anyone added who doesn’t want to be there can click a button and leave.

    The only one that stood out as added by someone who may not be an admin is female, and an Oxfordian. She’s no longer posting due to lack of time. I’d need to find a list of administrators to be sure but I was more interested in finding new members on Oxfraud since there seem to be none since Steve and Jeff joined. ShakesVere got a new member this morning. Three others have joined since last Thursday.

    It appears that reports of the death of ShakesVere have been greatly exaggerated. I don’t think the SAQ will go away any time soon, either.

    It’s known Elizabethans used secret writing, symbolism and ciphers. I fail to understand why people get so upset when someone claims to have deciphered something. I do agree that the fourth man looks nothing like the Stratford man, whatever he may have looked like. I also don’t think Shaksper looked like Overbury no matter what Stanley Wells thinks.

  • headlight

    No, he didn’t.

    He said that the playwright was a minister, but could not remember the name of the author. A second note by Buc was that “Ed Iuby saith that this play was made by Ro. Greene.” That attribution has stood ever since, but an article in Notes and Queries from February 2015 cast doubt on it.

  • Dingdong

    And Sicinius knows all this very well. Sicinius is the tennis champion who plays tennis against nobody to make it sure he always wins; and to make it absolutely sure also plays referee. BTW, the above quote from Harvey’s * Foure Letters * was written 12 years later.

  • Nat Whilk

    That’s a bad translation. Let’s look at the Latin, shall we?

    Valde etenim timebam ne quam mihi imposueras curam aut detrectare aut negligere videri possem.

    As I wrote in a much longer article (Reason 102 at Oxfraud), Nowell felt he could better serve his patron and his country as a mapmaker. “But … I feared that I might seem to neglect or avoid dealing with the charge [curam … detrectare] that you had placed upon me.” That charge was Oxford.

    As a neutral term, cura could mean charge, office, guardianship; pains, diligence. More often, it means trouble, anxiety, grief, sorrow. Here Nowell—a skillful Latinist—may or may not be implying that his post is stressful or unpleasant. The word is deftly ambiguous: maybe neutral, maybe not, as read. The verb detrectare (to shirk, evade, refuse) supports the implication that his work with Oxford is no bed of roses: it’s often used of military duty or a fight. One does not evade a pleasure.

  • Dingdong

    Gabriel Harvey in * Foure Letters *. “But the noble Earle, not disposed to trouble his Ioviall mind with such Saturnine paltery stil continued, like his magnificent selfe” ( Grosart edition of Harvey’s works, I. 184). How do I know that Harvey meant the Earl of Oxford? My source is perhaps not as reliable as yours or NatWhilk’s. My source is Harvey himself.

  • Dingdong

    Hm, hm. And didn’t he tell Buc that Robert Greene was a minister who played the role of the pinner in his own play George Greene, the Pinner of Wakefield? Which means that he couldn’t exactly remember the profession of his “once great rival”? Hm, hm.

  • Lu Ann Lewellen

    As a matter of fact I have Gee’s The Accidental Species: Misunderstandings of Human Evolution on Audible. It takes dead aim at “authority” that was dead wrong – relevant in its way.I have Niles Eldridge’s The Monkey Business: A Scientist Looks at Creationism which is more than a chapter refuting Gish and his ilk.

    I’m not interested in the opinions on yet another message board and I have no colleagues so call me whatever you wish. I don’t care.

  • Tom Reedy

    Shakespeare wrote *MWW*, which is about commoners. Dekker wrote *Shoemaker’s Holiday*, and Jonson wrote *Bartholamew Fair*. J also collaborated with Chapman and Marston on *Eastward Ho*. Those are just a few I can think of right off the top of my head. But generally speaking, most stage plays concerned nobility.

  • Tom Reedy

    No, Buc knew Oxford personally. I made the same mistake once and was corrected immediately. I have no doubt that Oxford had some degree of erudition. He was a generous patron and rubbed elbows with writers of all types, not just poets.

    What Buc didn’t say is that Oxford was a playwright or poet. Had he been, I’m sure he would have mentioned it, since he was very interested in plays and their attributions, as shown by several of his annotations.

  • malfolio

    “Name a playwright of the period who wrote plays about common people or tradesmen rather than the elite.”

    You named one in your first sentence.

  • headlight

    So when Buc says Oxford is “magnificent and very learned and religious,” he’s repeating what some other anonymous person or people told him.

    It really doesn’t sound like Buc knew Oxford personally at all, or perhaps he only knew him in the formal way that a court official would know a courtier (and by the time Buc was in court, Oxford wasn’t spending much time there as far as we know.) He is relying on the statements of others, and from the description of them as “grave and discreet and honourable persons” it sounds like they are his social superiors.

    The quote by Buc doesn’t amount to much – mere hearsay, and double or triple hearsay at that. Mix that up with social obligations, differences in rank, the tendency in Elizabethan and Jacobean times toward empty, flowery compliments to men of rank and the very general nature of the compliment. What does “very learned” mean? It could mean that Oxford dabbled in amateurish poetry that he shared with his friends at court, that he knew a lot about Italy and spoke Italian better than most of the other Earls at

    However, if you’re determined to give Oxford the benefit of the doubt in every instance, feel free to believe your feather on the scale outweighs the bricks of evidence on the other side. Shakespeare’s work isn’t being performed today because the writer was well educated – it is
    being performed because the poetry and drama moves people’s emotions in ways that many other playwrights’ words do not. It’s a gift.

  • Have you ever looked at what the Straight Dope site has to say about anti-Stratfordianism? They’ve dealt with every conspiracy theory under the sun and they’re currently all riled up again over something one of your colleagues has recently said.

    “General principle: nothing said by a conspiracy theorist is true. That holds for moon hoaxers and creationists and truthers and birthers. That is equally true for those who want to say that entire disciplines are too stupid to understand their own subjects, like the people who have their own relativity or insist that 0.99999~ /=1. There are not two sides to these arguments. There is reality and craziness.

    We’ve said this a thousand times in other threads, because they are all really the same thread. I’m sorry if this offends you but we are forced to repeat this because you refuse to acknowledge that the problem is not with individual facts but bad thinking. When scientists write books on evolution they do not take a chapter to specifically refute Duane Gish. Why not? Because they have an entire discipline with thousands of people in hundreds of different fields all adding to a body of consensus knowledge built over centuries. When professors write books on Shakespeare they do not take a chapter to specifically refute Alexander. Why not? Because they have an entire discipline with thousands of people in hundreds of different fields all adding to a body of consensus knowledge built over centuries. There is no other side.

    I’m sorry you can’t see this, but your skepticism is far more insulting to Shakespeare than our dismissal is insulting to you. People have expended a great deal of time and energy to show that the specifics of arguments are false and that the pattern of thinking is false yet none of it penetrates. If you don’t like being told you are no better than a birther, stop thinking like one.”

  • I remember Steve Steinburg demolishing Kinney and Craig in a debate on Amazon.

    The funniest thing I have read this year.

  • headlight,
    Did you read Nat’s reply? Buc’s “so worthy in every way as I have heard some grave and discreet and honourable persons … say.”

    Note “some grave and discreet and honourable persons … say.” i.e. Honest peeps. What motive would they have to lie?

  • Lu Ann Lewellen

    I did not mention Oxford. Before it became popular to dumb down the works and turn Shakespeare into a group the author was considered one of the best-educated men in England.

    The one clause out of context is from Nowell’s letter to Cecil in Latin (the pretense would seem to be from Nelson and his followers).

    According to Rebecca Brackman: “Some time in 1562 or 1563, Nowell was employed by Queen Elizabeth I’s secretary and one of the most powerful men in England, Sir William Cecil (later Lord Burghley), as a tutor to Cecil’s ward, Edward de Vere, the seventeenth earl of Oxford. Nowell lived in Cecil’s house from that time until 1567, even after his duties as a tutor were completed; Carl Berkhout speculates that Cecil employed him as a ‘scholarly factotum’”

    It appears Nowell didn’t exactly run screaming out the door.

    This is the whole letter from Nowell to Cecil (R.A. Skelton translation):

    Laurence Nowell on the mapping of England, in a letter to Sir William Cecil, 1563.

    “I observe, most honoured Sir, that above all other monuments of the noble arts you take especial pleasure in geographical maps and that you know how to make good use of them in your office to render unceasing service of all kinds to the state. Moreover, that those who have hitherto undertaken to describe the county (provinciam) of England have not in all respects satisfied you; nor certainly (let me speak frankly) have they deserved even moderate praise. And this is not to be wondered at, because without precise rule and without the support and judgment of any art, they have brought together in their maps certain imaginary locations and intervals of places, either by combining the reports of any others or by relying on the uncertain estimation of their own eyes. Wherefore, since I had no confidence in my own skill in work of this kind, albeit I thought myself fitted for many other offices, it has long been in my mind (as a means of serving my country in some fashion and of showing gratitude to you, to whom I owe so much) to offer my labour and industry in this business. I have refrained hitherto from doing so, by consideration of those who have, till now, applied themselves to this work, for I apprehended that, if I put my hand into the harvest of others, I should have the harmful reputation of ambition with you; but most of all your censure deterred me, and I feared, lest I seem to decline or neglect any task that you had laid upon me. For since I see that whatever is worthy has hitherto been published with so much daily expectation, and I understand my work to have been not long since necessary to the Earl of Oxford, I trust in your wonted goodness and kindness to me, and have not hesitated to communicate this my purpose to you. I await your judgment and authority in the matter; for I am most ready to perform (to the best of my power) whatsoever you shall command in this or other things. For if I am freely permitted to do what I have in mind, there is nothing in all the affairs of the state, so far as I know, which I could more rightly accomplish than this, or which I would desire to undertake and to complete with more goodwill. I hope indeed if your benevolence shines on me in this) to depict our country (regionem) both as a whole and in all its parts, and also the several counties (provincias) in such fashion that in this business no work hereafter will be a cause of greater labour or expense. It will stand in the royal records (if my hope does not fail) as a monument to your name not to be despised, which will endure, to the manifold use of those who come after you, so long as the empire and state of England shall last.

    Farewell. . .

    Laurence Nowell

    ‘To Sir william Cecil, knight

    The Queens Maties principal Secretarie’ ”

    There’s nothing there about the young Earl’s character or what sort of student he was.

    Nelson got a number of things wrong. E.g., there’s no evidence the undercook who was killed was the Thomas Brincknell who was married to Agnes Harris. See Nina Green’s site under Oxmyths for more.

  • Lu Ann Lewellen

    Hasn’t your friend figured out how to leave the group yet?

    I’m waiting for you to back up your claim of new members on Oxfraud FB. The latest is Jeff and he’s not that new.

  • Lu Ann Lewellen

    I remember Steve Steinburg demolishing Kinney and Craig in a debate on Amazon. I’ll have to look that up.

    I’m not sure what the Early Professional Theater would have to do with Lord Derby writing for the common players or Lord Oxford writing for the Queen and her Court but maybe I’ll check out Bruster or Tarlinskaja when I’ve finished Art Imitates Business by James Forse. (Good grief! My paperback is worth a small fortune on Amazon!) OTOH I may stay out of the loop and read books that are of interest to me.

    As you know Oxfordians tend to believe the works were written for the nobility and not the public theater which was pretty disreputable except, possibly, for Blackfriars. The records of performance are pretty scant and a few are questionable. But we’ve been over the Revels Accounts and Manningham’s Diary before, I’m sure.

  • Ishmael_X

    “Scholar” in this context means pupil, somebody who goes to school. What an extraordinary misunderstanding.

  • And would all participants in this thread who receive compensation in any form from the Disney-upon-Avon tourist industry please self identify, so that we can properly understand the source of the corruption that has so badly corroded the field of Shakespeare studies.

    No one can push a misguided, pusillanimous, vindictive, false imputation further than an Oxfordian can push it.

  • No one takes ‘Whimmy’ seriously.

  • You’re in the debate so there’s no excuse to be out of the loop when it comes to recent work that improves our understanding of who wrote what in the Early Professional Theatre. Especially since there’s now a lot of it about.

    The essays in ‘William Shakespeare & Others, The Collaborative Plays’, [Bate and Rasmussen] contain all you need. If you’re up for some advanced math, Craig and Kinney smother the life out of better alternative candidates than Oxford. Otherwise try anything recent from Bruster or Tarlinskaja.

  • So that makes him more like a professional playwright and less like a Belted Earl, doesn’t it?

  • Gabriel Harvey either changed his mind about Oxford or, more likely, said different things about him behind his back. Given that he told him to his face to ‘put away his feeble pen’, that ought to tell you something about about where the feelings in the later Speculum Tuscanismi came from. This is what Harvey really thought of Oxford – ‘no works but womanish’ would be a compliment in my household but that’s not how he intends it….

    Since Galatea came in, and Tuscanism gan usurp, Vanity above all: villainy next her, stateliness EmpressNo man but minion, stout, lout, plain, swain, quoth a Lording: No words but valorous, no works but womanish only. For life Magnificoes, not a beck but glorious in show, In deed most frivolous, not a look but Tuscanish always. His cringing side neck, eyes glancing, fisnamy smirking, With forefinger kiss, and brave embrace to the footward.

  • The measure of Oxfordians is that they don’t know how to measure anything.

    The important statistic here, and you should sit down with it in a darkened room for half an hour, is that apart from a couple of too-heavily invested individuals, no one in the Faculty gives a milligram of credence to your idea that Oxford wrote Shakespeare’s work.

    I’ll go further. I’ll Fedex you a ten foot bargepole. See if you can get a sane Faculty Prof to touch Oxford with it.

  • Jan Cole

    Although this is not the place for a discussion of Edward de Vere’s learning or his proficiency in Latin, it is important to know that ALL the sons of the nobility were encouraged to study. Two of several contemporary witnesses to de Vere’s learning are 1) Golding’s dedication of ‘The Histories of Trogus Pompeius’ (1564) to Oxford… “For it is not unknown to others, and I have had experience thereof myself, how earnest a desire your honour hath naturally graffed in you to read, peruse, and communicate with others as well the histories of ancient times, and things done long ago, as also of the present estate of things in our days, and that not without a certain pregnancy of wit and ripeness of understanding… Let these and other examples encourage your tender years … to proceed in learning and virtue . . .whereof, as your great forwardness giveth assured hope and expectation…”

    and 2) Gabriel Harvey’s acknowledgement in ‘Gratulationes Valdinensis’ (1578) delivered at Cambridge University: “Long since did Phoebus Apollo cultivate your mind with the arts. Your English verses have been widely sung, while your Latin Epistle [prefaced to Clerke’s translation of Castiglione’s ‘Courtier’] testifies how much you excel in letters…I have seen your many Latin things, and more in English are extant; of French and Italian muses, the manner of the people, their arts and laws, you have drunk deeply. Not for nothing was Sturmius* himself known to you, nor so many Frenchmen and polished Italians, nor Germans.”

    *Oxford visited Johannes Sturm [Sturmius] in Strasbourg in 1575. In 1550, Sturm had written to Roger Ascham in 1550 encouraging ALL the English nobility in learning:

    “I believe there was nothing in your letter untrue to the virtues and glories of a royal princess [Elizabeth]. What in our times can be more desirable than that the
    families of the rulers and the nobility bring forth talented people of both
    sexes who delight in learning, cultivate and pursue it, and achieve a full
    knowledge of literature, the arts, and the sciences? England is more blessed
    with this kind of good people than Germany, where there are very few amongst
    the nobility who think that distinction in literature befits their class. In
    your country nearly all of the nobility strive to become educated… Thus there
    is hope that the glory that once Italy always claimed as her own, and which
    later France and Germany as rivals tried to assume, England can now completely
    appropriate for herself. And may the kind of dwelling the masters of speaking
    and knowing once had in Athens and at Rome… be established for them now in
    England, so that your people who strive to imitate their virtues, may equal
    their glory and achievement.” In retrospect, this letter of Sturm’s was prophetic.

  • Nat Whilk

    Meanwhile Mr. Griffiths’ rebus has been rather lost in all this…

  • headlight

    Ah. So you’re citing hearsay evidence.

    We don’t know what Buc’s intentions were. As a commoner talking about an Earl, he was obliged to be deferential. So this may have been mere flattery. Do you believe, for instance, that the Brothers Herbert were “the most noble and incomparable pair of brethren,” or do you think perhaps that there may have been equally noble brethren who were actually comparable to them?

    Suppose Buc was actually giving his first-hand report on Oxford, though. How did Buc evaluate whether Oxford was 1) magnificent, 2) very learned and 3) religious? What qualified Buc to evaluate whether Oxford was learned or not — did he administer an exam? How did Buc determine whether Oxford was “magnificent?” As for religious, how can that be evaluated? Did Buc look into Oxford’s soul?

    If this is the ground of your argument that Oxford was well-read, you may want to find somewhere else to stand. Looks like quicksand.

  • Nat,
    “so worthy in every way as I have heard some grave and discreet and honourable persons … say.”

    So such honorable peeps actually weren’t and lied about de Vere?

    Your “No one thought the player-poet Shakespeare was a learned man until long long after his death.” Exactly. When bardolatry ruled.

  • headlight,
    My comment was in response to Nat’s “On what grounds do you argue that Oxford was well-read?”

  • Nat Whilk

    De mortuis nihil nisi bonum, and all that, but Buc’s words seem empty puffery: “For he was verily and truly noble and a most noble Vere.” And hearsay to boot: “so worthy in every way as I have heard some grave and discreet and honourable persons … say.” This isn’t acknowledgment—for that, you’d need backing—but unfounded assertion.

    No one thought the player-poet Shakespeare was a learned man until long long after his death, when his everyday world was history to be learned. Will of Stratford fits his profile perfectly.

  • headlight

    “And, my point is that someone acknowledged de Vere was a learned man. There is no such characterization of Will of Stratford by any contemporary.”

    Okay. So what? Your point is pointless.

  • The cipher contains every letter in ‘William’, ‘John’, and ‘Norton’. The
    letter at the top right is not E (as per Griffiths); it is L. The I
    (which Griffiths does not find) is the vertical line in the middle from
    the top to the top of the W-M combination.

  • Lu Ann Lewellen

    You might want to click on the 107 members link to see if I’m right. Anyone can do this.

    Of course the newer members could be invisible to the public, I suppose. Sorry if I tripped you up.

  • Nat Whilk

    Let’s look at the OED, shall we?


    1. a. One who is taught in a school; esp. a boy or girl attending an elementary school.

    That’s how Shakespeare uses the word in The Taming of the Shrew: “I am no breeching scholler in the schooles.” That is, I am not subject to a master who will birch me for my errors or my impudence.

    In Merry Wives of Windsor, Mistress Page calls William “a better scholler then I thought he was.”

    b. One who is receiving, or has received, his instruction or training from a particular master; a pupil (of a master).

    Antony & Cleopatra: “Thy Master dies thy Scholler; to do thus I learnt of thee.”

    Smith supervised Viscount Bulbeck’s childhood education under Thomas Fowle’s tutelage; therefore Bulbeck was his scholar.

    Nothing in Oxford’s letters or poetry reveals any great intellectual attainment or rhetorical gift, and his few phrases of Latin are distinctly dodgy.

  • headlight,
    Your “But could he actually have been asking Oxford about the play, and used Oxford’s supposed pseudonym to note the Earl’s answer?”

    Sorry, but that is not my argument. I have no problem that William of Stratford was involved in the theater. Nor any that Buc knew both Will of Stratford and de Vere.

    Sorry, but the fact that Buc asked Will of Stratford about a play doesn’t refute the Oxfordian theory. Buc’s question doesn’t prove Will of Stratford was a playwright; only that he was involved in the theater.

    And, my point is that someone acknowledged de Vere was a learned man. There is no such characterization of Will of Stratford by any contemporary.

  • calendar

    “On what grounds do you argue that Oxford was well-read?”

    ” “Mr. Secretary Smith will remember his old love towards the Earl when he was his scholar” (Nelson 115);” – William Cecil.

    Does fantasy fiction author, Ms Whilk not understand the meaning of the word “scholar?” She seems challenged by simple concepts, such as what a “scholar” is.

    And would all participants in this thread who receive compensation in any form from the Disney-upon-Avon tourist industry please self identify, so that we can properly understand the source of the corruption that has so badly corroded the field of Shakespeare studies.

  • Lu Ann Lewellen

    Oh, what a clever comeback! Do you mind if I frame it?

  • headlight

    Knit Witted —

    Why would there be such evidence?

    You can offer Buc’s statement to counter Nat Whilk’s evidence — the young Earl’s education is documented, but you could claim that Buc’s statement suggests he was more learned that the record suggests. Of course, the tradition of paying elaborate compliments to one’s social betters might cast doubt on the reliability of Buc’s words.

    But there is no reason to think that there should be extant evidence of Shakespeare receiving a similar compliment. He was a mere player, poet and playwright — a man who performed on stage and wrote plays for public consumption. Buc’s job was to censor Shakespeare’s works and as Master of Revels, would have been the appointed boss of the King’s Men.

    The real importance of Buc’s words are that it shows he personally knew Oxford. But it is also documented that he knew William Shakespeare. Buc asked Shakespeare if he knew the name of the author of an old play (Shakespeare didn’t). It would only make sense to ask him the question if Shakespeare was considered to be knowledgeable about theater and play authors — which he would be if he were a playwright, and a sharer in the King’s Men company.

    Buc could therefore distinguish between William Shakespeare and the Earl of Oxford — he knew them both. But could he actually have been asking Oxford about the play, and used Oxford’s supposed pseudonym to note the Earl’s answer?

    There is no reason to think so. First, Buc’s note referring to Shakespeare was made on the title page of the play in question — it wasn’t for public consumption and he would have no reason to think it would become public (and in fact, it remained hidden for over three centuries).

    Second, if Buc had asked Oxford, there’s no reason why he couldn’t have used his real name. He wasn’t asking about the authorship of the Shakespeare works. Any supposed prohibition on connecting the two would not be violated.

    Far from refuting the point about Oxford’s relatively shallow education, evidence from Sir George Buc strongly refutes Oxfordianism.

  • Nat Whilk

    Only a day ago on this very page, Mr. Waugh was claiming that Oxfordians “are superb scholars and brilliant researchers – and, I can further vouch, extremely agreeable, modest and delightful people.”

  • headlight

    If it weren’t for ad hominem attacks, Mr. Waugh wouldn’t have anything to say. Nobody takes anything Waugh says seriously, because he says so very little of substance.

  • Nat,
    Where is the evidence that William of Stratford was “a magnificent and a very learned and religious man” as Sir George Buc had characterized Oxford?

  • Alexander Waugh

    ‘Avon Lady’ On what grounds do you claim that ‘Pimping Billy’ was well read?

  • Alexander Waugh

    No one takes ‘Dimmy’ seriously.

  • Alexander Waugh

    Does ‘Pimping Billy’ have any record of any education? I think not.

  • Benjamin Hackman

    Hi Lu!

  • Nat Whilk

    On what grounds do you argue that Oxford was well-read? Yes, he owned books, and books were dedicated to him: that doesn’t mean that he was learned. His son-in-law Philip Herbert, one of the “incomparable brethren” to whom the First Folio was dedicated, cared for nothing but horses and dogs, dice and cards, and (to his credit) Van Dyck. Being made Chancellor of Oxford, he was mocked for his illiteracy.

    Indeed, the Earl of Oxford was one of the least educated of Cecil’s royal wards. Essex, Southampton, and the fifth Earl of Rutland all studied for a time at Cambridge. Oxford was sent up for a few months at the age of eight, as a formality. So was the unbookish Herbert, at the same age: neither on their merits. The only records of Edward de Vere’s time at Cambridge are repeated bills for broken window glass.

    Under Cecil’s supervision, the young earl studied Latin for only two hours a day, a quarter (or less) of what a boy in grammar school would do; more of his time was spent on French, penmanship, cosmography (the use of maps), and dancing. His formal education ended at thirteen, when his last tutor, Laurence Nowell, washed his hands of him. We have his resignation letter. By taking one clause out of context (“since I clearly see that my work for the Earl of Oxford cannot much longer be required”), the cultists can pretend that the pupil had outstripped his master. But the letter paints another picture. In the politest possible terms, Nowell fears that he might seem to be evading an unpleasant duty (“curam … detrectare”), but he is getting nowhere with the Earl, and there is more valuable work he might be doing.

    Privilege is not accomplishment. Any boy who had endured the rigors of a grammar school could wipe the floor with Edward Oxenford. And Shakespeare, having infinitely greater gifts, outshone him as the sun a rushlight.

  • Dingdong

    Dear Mr Griffiths,

    You write:
    Dear Mr. Griffiths,
    You wrote:
    “The Earl loathed and opposed his father-in-law Burghley, going so far as to commission John Lyly to write plays for performance at Court that were thinly veiled attacks on the Lord Treasurer’s policies. The loathing was mutual and, after the death of his beloved daughter Anne Oxford in 1588, Burghley would have nothing more to do with the Earl.”

    I disagree, partly at least. I don’t know — I apologize in advance should it prove to be the result of my ignorance or inattentive reading — of any of Lyly’s plays containing a slur or otherwise disparaging allusion to Lord Burghley, whereas his “Euphues and His England” contains a praise that can only be meant for Burghley:” This noble man I found so ready
    being but a straunger, to do me good, that neyther I ought to forget him,neyther cease to pray for him, that as he hath the wisdome of Nestor, so he may have the age, that having the policies of Ulysses, he may have his honor, worthye to lyve long, by whome so manye lyve in quiet, and not unworthy to be advaunced, by whose care so many have beene preferred./ Is not this a Glasse fayre Ladyes for all other countries to beholde.”

    William Lambarde, the antiquarian, in the epistle dedicatory of Archion to Sir Robert Cecil, called him “the very heir of that renowned Nestor, and only Atlas of the English country and commonwealth.” In an obituary a translator of a history of France called him “pater patriae and pillar of the state,” (John Strype, The Annals of Reformation, Oxford 1866, Vol. 4,2, p. 470). A similar praise of Burghley was uttered by Francis Bacon in the 1590s. Bacon calls Burghley “the Atlas of the commonwealth” in one letter and pater patriae in another (Conyers Read, Lord Burghley and Queen Elizabeth, New York, 1960, pp. 478-9). In an analogous wording another contemporary wrote: “This estate has depended on you a great while, as all the world doth judge and now are all men’s eyes, not being occupied any more on these lost lords [the French noblemen killed on St.Bartholomew’s Day], are as it were on a sudden bent on you as a singular hope and pillar whereto the religion has to lean.” The latter was Edward de Vere in a letter of September 1572 to his father-in-law.

    What seems clear is that the relationship deteriorated later. In his letter of 17/18 March 1575 from Paris Oxford insinuates that
    Burghley had one of his servants spying on him: “ I thank your Lordship I have received farther bills of credit, and letters of great courtesy from Mr Benedict Spinola. I am also beholding here unto Mr Reymondo, that has helped me greatly with a number of favors whom I shall desire your Lordship when you have leisure and occasion to give him thanks, for I know the greatest part of his friendship towards me has been in respect of your Lordship.” It seems pretty clear that Oxford insinuates that Burghley had instructed Mr Reymondo to stick to Oxford’s heels under the color of doing service to him, Oxford, but to the paramount purpose of reporting to Burghley on Oxford’s behavior. The situation resembles that between Laertes and Polonius in Hamlet,II.i. Polonius’ servant is Reynaldo. The two names are not only homophonic, they are
    also etymologically related. Both are of Germanic origin, “Reymondo” being composed of “ragin”, “counsel,” and “munt,” “protection,” “Reynaldo” of “ragin” and “waldan,” “administer”. Merely a coincidence?

    The relationship worsened between 1576 and 1584. Oxford’s
    letter to Burghley of 13 July 1576: “for always I have and will still prefer mine own content before others.” We may, and I think we should read it so, as “I will always act to my own contentment rather than to that of others’”. Now take Oxford’s letter of 30 October 1584: “My lord, this other day your man Stainner told me that you sent for Amis my man, and if he were absent that Lyly should come unto
    you. I sent Amis for he was in the way. And I think very strange that your Lordship should enter into that course towards me, whereby I must learn that I knew not before, both of your opinion and good will towards me. But I pray, my lord, leave that course, for I mean not to be your ward nor your child, I serve her majesty, and I am that I am, and by alliance near to your lordship, but free, and scorn to be offered that injury, to think I am so weak of government as to
    be ruled by servants, or not able to governe my self.”

    But what does Oxford mean by “for always I have and will still prefer mine own content before others” (13 July 1576)? Some citations
    from Norbert Elias, The Court Society, IMO the most comprehensive sociological analysis on status acquisition in court societies, may perhaps help. “In any ‘good society’, that is, any society tending to isolate and distinguish itself from the surrounding social field,
    for example aristocratic or patrician society, the distinctive membership of ‘good society’ is a foundation of personal identity of social existence… He belongs to the ‘good society’, no matter what his title, only as long as the others think him a member. Social opinion, in other words, has a quite different meaning and function than it has in a broad bourgeois society. It is the foundation of existence… The ‘opinion’ that others had of an individual, therefore, often decided by no other means than withdrawal of status, exclusion, boycott, ove life and death. The effect and reality possessed by the concerted of members was as immediate as this.” (94-5). Oxford’s answer is, well, in a sense Frank Sinatra’s “my way”, not the way others think my way ought to be. He answers (30 October 1584): “I am that I am”. And defies the iron law, unwritten
    but iron, of the aristocratic class in court society.

    And Shakespeare? Shakespeare takes the same stand in
    sonnet 121. “And the just pleasure lost, which is so deemed, / Not by our feeling, but by others’ seeing/…No, I am that I am…

    I’m not going to defend myself against the accusation of
    snobbery. I don’t need that. And if others need it for keeping intact their belief, I answer with Oxford: I am that I am. Maybe you no longer think it absolutely impossible that there could be some other good reasons, other than snobbery, not to subscribe to the traditional authorship attribution. And there are more good reasons, especially if one looks at the publication history of the plays and poems.

    As for John Lyly, Oxford’s letter of 30 October 1584 suggests
    to me that he might also have acted as a watch for Burghley. I repeat: I can find no attack on Burghley in any of his plays.

    I entirely disagree with you contention that “after the death of his beloved daughter Anne Oxford in 1588, Burghley would have nothing more to do with the Earl.” Oxford’s last known letter to Burghley was one day before the grant ofthe annuity of 1,000£ (25 June 1586). The next known letter was on:

    1590, 8 Sep. “I would have been with your
    Lordship before this, but that I have not had my health. Nevertheless Hamptone beinge returned from the Country, I have sent him to your Lordship, that he may advertise you of his proceeding there….

    1591, 18
    May: “My Lord, I do thank your Lordship for the punishment of Hampton whose evil dealings towards me, being put in trust with my causes in Law, I hope your Lordship will think them sufficient to to deserve your disgrace….”… The effect hereof is I would be glad to have an equal care with your Lordship over my children,… then, those lands which are in Essex as Hedingham, Brets and [that] the rest whatsoever… So shall my children be provided for, my self at length settled in quiet, and I hope youre lordship contented,
    remaining no cause for you to think me an evil father, nor any doubt in me, but that I may enjoy that friendship from your Lordship…”

    1591, 30
    June: “I do vnderstand by Mr Fortescue, your Lordship’s good disposition, and willingness to pleasure me, in this my cause…”

    Other letters to Burghley: 1593, 25 Oct; 1594, 7 July;

    Then to Robert Cecil on 20 October 1595, with a PS in which Oxford mentioned a letter received by Burghley: “As I was folding up this letter I received a very honorable answer from my Lord Treasurer My whole trust in this cause is in you two, my lord for that he is privy to the whole cause and handling thereof from time to time, and in
    you for that I assure myself in so just a matter you will not abandon me.“

    I can see no trace of hatred. After all, Oxford’s children were also the children of Burghley’s beloved daughter. Those letters were at any rate less hostile than those between 1575 and 1584.

    Re your identification of the Shakespeare portrait. I don’t feel myself competent enough to render a judgement, though I accept your insistence on the difference between the title-pages of 1597 and 1633. Here I feel that your opponents have failed to
    convincingly refute it. Having not enough competence, the most intelligent thing I can do is listening patiently. Listening is also an intelligent response, the more so if one has little to say. But a few commentators clearly seem to think that the less they have to say the more they must talk. With regard to them I paraphrase Shakespeare:

    And the just response lost, which is so deemed,
    Not by our reason, but by others’ screaming

  • Benjamin Hackman

    Doc Wags, You really are a nasty little man.

  • Lu Ann Lewellen

    One person out of 892 was added to ShakesVere without his consent? The horror! I hope he complained to whoever did it (that should be a matter of record).

    I haven’t seen anyone new at Oxfraud FB since Jeff joined and Steve before him. Steve’s not only an Oxfordian he’s an Oxfordian author.

    There were more “likes” on Dr. Stritmatter’s post on his full professorship than there are members in Oxfraud FB. Maybe you could try adding members without their consent.

  • sandralynnsparks

    “I should have known to make that clear in this of all weeks, when I’ve myself become the butt of sub-Tolkienian trolls.” That’s very enlightening, Mr. Griffiths. Is it our size, our looks, your guess about our intelligence, our – what? I am so eager to know how much you know about the scholars, the writers, the actors, the academics, and all those who have worked with Shakespeare’s works, history, and with related subjects in Elizabethan history and art, who find your “amazing discovery” a bit off track. Do tell.

  • Lu Ann Lewellen

    Please cite this recent scholarship. I’m out of the loop.

  • Lu Ann Lewellen

    How’s that ridicule working for you? Other than ShakesVereans have any new members joined Oxfraud FB lately?

  • Tom Reedy

    Believing in ridiculous theories is a right. Freedom of speech is a right. Being taken seriously isn’t. Nor is being sheltered from ridicule.

  • Self-deception is self-deception though never so old. Do you really think Oxford was being profound, there?

    I agree there is nothing crackpot about “thinking a well-traveled, well-read member of the nobility might have written under a pseudonym” and of course, some of them did.

    None of them – absolutely none – wrote for the early professional theatre under an allonym. Since no other successful playwrights have ever used an allonym, it would be just a bit crackpot to pick a very famous playwright who enjoyed a very long career and then try to argue that he worked all his life under an allonym. Especially without a smidgin of evidence or any coherent idea on how the mechanics of such an arrangement would work. You can’t prove he ever saw a play in the playhouse, much less wrote one.

    And to build a house of cards on that foundation – actually a couple of dozen houses of cards – well, it’s no wonder you’re hiding yourselves behind curtains, these days, only admitting people to the inner sanctum once they have passed your gullibility checks.

    Let me put you out of your misery. Recent scholarship has killed off the remote chance that the Earl of Oxford was ever involved in any professional theatre work. So there is no hope whatsoever of any English Department taking up Oxford’s candidature in the future.

    Never, never, never, never, never.

    He’s out.

  • Lu Ann Lewellen

    Inasmuch as you and your fellow Oxfraudians were copy&pasting and even taking screenshots of ShakesVerean posts during the public discussion about what to do about a Facebook group that seems dedicated to ridiculing our posts you should know why the group was closed to the public. Members of the public can still join and read the posts. Reposts are even permitted with permission of the member.

    Do you think you’re helping your credibility with posts like the above? There are several ShakesVere members here who can see what you’re doing. I’m sure others can too.

    I don’t think there’s anything “crackpot” about thinking a well-traveled, well-read member of the nobility might have written under a pseudonym. It’s not that a commoner couldn’t write plays and poems; it’s that a commoner probably didn’t write THOSE plays and poems.

    I think there’s hope for English departments. Truth is truth though never so old.

    Now, back to the regularly scheduled feeding frenzy.

  • The Shakespeare Authorship Question is anything but contentious. Apart from one or two now too heavily invested for retreat, there isn’t an English Professor on the planet who takes any part of it seriously.

    It has been inducted the Crackpot Theory Hall of Fame, so its members still have a few claims to be proud of, but even the Oxfordian flagship internet presence, the ShakesVere FB Group, has had to close its doors to public access.

    It simply couldn’t stand the heat and so got itself out of the kitchen.

  • I am delighted you find Oxfordians such personable and educated chaps. My own experience is different. In the current debate, for example, Alexander calls one of the main contributors “Dimmy” for no reason other than this person has occasionally turned Alexander inside out on matters of scholarship. It ties in with one of the Oxfordian High Priests, writing five or six posts below this one:

    What’s “silly” is Griffiths’ abysmal ignorance of the strong case that Edward de Vere wrote “Shake-Speare.”

    I find them to be mostly arrogant, condescending and unscholarly, congenitally unable to accept explicit evidence and opposed to any investigative process, such as computerised stylometry, which eliminates their candidate’s claims or highlights the absence of logic in many of their central premises.

    Do, by all means, continue to court and flatter them. When they realise you are serious about considering their ideas ridiculous they will turn on you like The Walking Dead. Including the justly chastened Dr Waugaman, who as you can probably guess, only ever opens his mouth to change feet.

  • Jan Cole

    Dear Mr Griffiths,

    Thank you for your kind comments in paragraphs three and four of your reply to Mr Waugh above pointing to the research and writing of ‘serious Oxfordians’. As you can see all too clearly on this comments stream, the Shakespeare authorship issue is very contentious, and it is to be thoroughly regretted by the fair- and open-minded that some people have used and abused these pages to bicker amongst themselves – such behaviour is out of place here and extremely disrespectful to you and ‘Country Life’.

    I would like to focus, if I may, on what you say in your main posting about the
    relationship between Lord Burghley and the Earl of Oxford – a relationship of
    guardian to ward and then of father to son-in-law that covered 36 years from
    1562 to 1598 when Burghley died. The relationship was difficult in the extreme
    between 1576 and 1583, but thereafter there is no evidence that I know of that
    shows Oxford was ‘hated and estranged’ by Burghley. Oxford did come to resent
    his father-in-law’s constant monitoring, spying and interference in his adult
    life and understandably expressed this to Burghley in a letter, pointing out
    that he was no longer Burghley’s ward. However, Oxford’s letters to Burghley (and to Robert Cecil) were always written with respect and employed the correct formalities, as befitting a member of the peerage addressing the Lord Treasurer.

    The last letter that survives from Oxford to Burghley is dated 8 September
    1597, just three months prior to Gerard’s dated preface to the ‘Herbal’. Oxford
    responds to a letter from Burghley with assent to the proposed marriage between
    his daughter, Bridget, and William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, so long as the
    young persons like each other. Burghley then appointed Thomas Owen MP to begin supervising the pre-nuptial financial contract (the marriage later fell
    through, Burghley died in 1598, and Bridget married Francis Norris in 1599).
    Unfortunately, we only have one side of their correspondence. Oxford’s letters
    are available online at Nina Green’s ‘The Oxford Authorship Site’.

    I rather suspect that your knowledge of Edward de Vere’s life has come from reading the biography of Alan Nelson, which was (he admitted himself) written with the intention of discrediting Oxford as a candidate for the Shakespeare authorship. That’s why he chose the negative title for his biography ‘Monstrous Adversary’. The letters Nelson cites speak for themselves and can be verified, but the biographer’s
    narrative is subjective and biased.

    With best wishes,

    Jan Cole

  • Tom Reedy

    Translation: there is no evidence of advanced education of Ben Jonson and John Webster.

    Thank you.

  • headlight

    The only evidence of Jonson’s education is that he acknowledged William Camden, the headmaster of the Westminster School, in one of his epigrams. Like other schools of the age (e.g. the Stratford Grammar School), there are no extant records of his attendance at the school.

    It is not clear how the step-son of a bricklayer could have been admitted to the Westminster School. Jonson never actually says that he attended the school — only that Camden is responsible for “all that [Jonson] knows.” But I think it’s likely that in fact he did attend the school.

    There’s no doubt that Jonson considered his education to have been superior to that Shakespeare received in Stratford — “small Latin and less Greek” — but unless you assume that Jonson was lying (in which case, provide evidence) he acknowledges that Shakespeare had an education that included instruction in Latin and Greek.

    Shakespeare had access to a free education at the Stratford Grammar School because of his father’s position in the town; that’s good evidence that he most likely did attend the school, just as Jonson’s acknowledgement of Camden (but not of Westminster) is good evidence that he most likely did attend Westminster.

    Please name a playwright of the period who wrote plays about common people or tradesmen rather than the elite. Oxfordians love to come up with rules about what a person like Shakespeare could or could not have written that don’t apply to other playwrights with a similar background.

  • Julie Bianchi

    Because I wouldn’t want to accidentally omit another comma and have you start digging another rabbit hole, Mr. Reedy, I think you and any other curious reader ought to find the answers for yourselves on Wikipedia regarding the education of the poets you mentioned. If you would like to delve
    more deeply into the content of the English educational system, I would suggest
    you peruse a Social Science and Humanities Index such as the one by H. W.
    Wilson and you will find a great number of books that explain the various curricula.

  • Tom Reedy

    Really? Please give us the evidence that Ben Jonson and John Webster had advanced educations. Also please throw in the evidence that those “respective schools” taught English history.

  • Julie Bianchi

    You fail to mention that in the case of the poets you cite there is evidence of their having had advanced education and therefore they would have had
    the opportunity to mingle with Elizabethan courtiers in their respective schools
    and would have had the education in English history and rhetoric that Latin
    grammar schools failed to deliver when the man from Stratford was a boy.

    If the man from Stratford were indeed the author of Shakespeare
    canon, then it is he who was the snob because he concentrated the tales he told in the realm of the privileged class with heroes and heroines from that class.

  • Tom Reedy

    > that the oldest surviving son and heir of a competent Warwickshire businessman no matter how innately brilliant or creative would have had no time or opportunity or reason in his youth to have cultivated the factual knowledge or gain the social experiences necessary to have composed the work by the time it first appeared in print.

    I find it amusing how Oxfordians insist that their anti-Stratfordian beliefs are not based on class and then they make a classist argument such as this, It’s almost as if they have different definitions for words like “snobbish” and “evidence” than the rest of us. Indeed using their special pleading against Shakespeare one might wonder how on earth middle-class boys such as Ben Jonson, step-son of a bricklayer, John Webster, son of a coach maker and blacksmith’s daughter, and Christopher Marlowe, son of a cobbler, ever got it into their heads that they could become poets and playwrights.

  • Alexander Waugh

    Dear Mr Griffiths, thank you for your conciliatory post toward the Oxfordians, many of whom, you rightly point out, are superb scholars and brilliant researchers – and, I can further vouch, extremely agreeable, modest and delightful people. I know a great many from all around the world and can honestly say that, to the best of my knowledge, not a single one is motivated by snobbery. That is a classic and, dare I say it, rather petulant Stratfordian slur. Class does not enter into the many arguments that support the Oxfordian case. Education, yes; foreign travel, yes; access to the Court; knowledge of foreign languages, hunting, hawking, medicine, heraldry, law etc etc – all these sorts of things are important, because it is very obvious that the playwright knew all about them and Stratfordians have, so far, singularly failed to come up with any plausible suggestion as to how their candidate acquired all the extraordinary knowledge, experience and education that the plays contain without leaving the sort of literary paper trail that every other writer of that period left. It is my own belief that the Stratfordian myth, which began as a joke that the Puritans didn’t get, has had a very malign influence on British education. Everything is lazily ascribed to ‘genius’ – if you have genius you can write like Shakespeare; if you don’t well don’t bother swatting at your lessons, because you don’t need an education to be a great writer. You can leave school at 13, skip university, take a job as a butchers boy, drift into acting and money-loaning in your mid-twenties and then just decide to be a writer from there. What sort of message is that to be giving our children? Ben Jonson was teased for having a step-father who was a bricklayer and yet no one at the time commented that the greatest plays and some of the best poems of their golden age were being written by a man whom no one knew, who had no record of education and yet somehow had access to the greatest libraries, from which he was permitted to glean enough knowledge to rewrite the whole of English history unnoticed by the entire English establishment. Whether or not you accept the nine or ten parallels that lead many to suppose that Burghley was lampooned as Polonius; you still need to explain why Shakspere failed to dedicate a single work to him, or leave any record of gratitude for the patronage and support you say he was given; why no jot of evidence from the vast Cecil archive to support his having met any of them, or any record from the countless scholars, supported by Burghley and his son-in-law, of ever having known a wholly exceptional fellow called ‘William Shakespeare’ working and writing in their midst? Why does Thomas Nashe that wicked, witty wasp, so observant of the literary scene, never mention the genius called ‘William Shakespeare’ the most popular playwright of his age, living and working at the very centre of London literary life? It may be unpalatable to you but Oxfordians can answer all these questions very easily – the Stratfordians have to struggle. Anyway, you wrote to me in peace and I would like to extend the same to you. I think your accurate identification of those four figures was an astounding piece of research and I look forward to reading your book which I bet contains a great many more facts about John Gerard than anyone in 400 years of maniacal digging has unearthed about the supposed literary career of Mr Shakspere of Stratford. With best and warmest wishes for the good fortune of your book, Alexander

  • Julie Bianchi

    As an Oxfordian, I too appreciate Dr. Griffiths’ apology to Alexander
    Waugh, but to characterize the our pro-de Vere argument as being one that a low-born person without a university education could not soar in Elizabeth’s reign sails far from the mark. Our point is that the work itself illustrates such a vast amount of knowledge in so many fields as well as intimate familiarity with the inner-circle gossip and intrigue of Elizabeth’s court, at a time when there was little social-mingling between the upper and lower classes, where grammar schools taught only Latin grammar and where the English spoken
    language was still so tribal that the Queen had to employ captains from each county to translate her military orders into the local vernacular, and at a time when a career in theater arts was codified as being beneath that of public prostitution; that the oldest surviving son and heir of a competent Warwickshire businessman no matter how innately brilliant or creative would have had no time or opportunity or reason in his youth to have cultivated the factual knowledge or gain the social experiences necessary to have composed the work by the time it first appeared in print.

    The reason so many Country Life readers are having difficulty believing that the figure in the Herball is Shakespeare is that Dr. Griffiths has tried to fit the Cinderella slipper of evidence on the wrong foot.

  • Ok, but the design to which you refer has no ‘N’, ‘O’, ‘R’, ‘E’ in it to be made sense of.

  • Julie Bianchi

    Dr. Alexander Marr of Cambridge has pointed out that the
    symbol many are discussing as a “printer’s mark” is actually a wool merchant’s
    mark, and points to the background of a circa 1560 painting the “Judde Memorial” as having a very similar design compared to the one decorating the plinth of the Shakespeare figure.

  • I want to begin by retracting my false accusation that Griffiths is ignorant about the Oxfordian theory that de Vere wrote Shake-Speare. His excellent reply to Alexander Waugh makes it clear that he knows far more about this theory than I realized.

    Are Griffiths and I now in total agreement? Of course not. But he offers Oxfordians a much more level playing field for discussion than do the typical Stratfordians, who find us beneath contempt. Their 100% certainty that their appealing authorship theory is correct creates a deadly circularity in their thinking and in their evaluation of contradictory evidence. Not really evaluation, actually. What they do is ignore contradictory evidence, since they are already 100% convinced a priori that there cannot possibly be any such contradictory evidence.

    This is where their slanderous ad hominems come in. Stratfordians have been devilishly successful in their smear campaign against authorship skeptics, painting all of us with a broad brush dipped in excrement. Our only possible motivation, according to them, is snobbism, a penchant for conspiracy theories, or some other unworthy motivation. They cannot conceive that we love the works of Shake-Speare just as much as they do. But we are not as wedded to their authorship attribution as they are.

    It does make a difference who wrote Shake-Speare. By the way, those of us who have looked at the evidence have noticed that Ben Jonson, who allegedly provides one of the “pillars” for Shakspere of Stratford, was a master of ambiguity. When he included the author’s name as one of the actors in the first performance of Seajanus (in his 1616 First Folio of his own work), he spelled it with a hyphen and two capital Ss. That’s more than just a wink. Few family names were spelled with hyphens in 1616. They didn’t become common until a 19th century English inheritance law allowed wealthy men without sons to leave their estate to their son-in-law, on condition that he add the father-in-law’s name to his own, with a hyphen.

    As to Griffiths’ other points, I would simply remind him that Shake-Speare was a master of complexity. No, it’s inconceivable that Shakspere of Stratford would have gotten away with spoofing Burghley, or gotten away with staging the deposition of a king, or repeatedly alluding to the Queen and other powerful court figures in his plays. Where do you think Richard III got his hunchback, when the historical record and his recently discovered skeleton show that he suffered from scoliosis, or lateral curvature of the spine, not kyphosis or hunchback?

    Who had a hunchback? Burghley’s son, Robert Cecil, of course. Yes, Roland Emmerich freely admitted that his film Anonymous took many liberties with the historical record. But he got the connection between Shake-Speare’s Richard III and Robert Cecil exactly right. If Shake-Speare got away with such assaults on powerful Elizabethans, it’s close to absolute proof that he could not possibly be the traditional author.

    Sorry for having become long-winded myself. Thanks again, Mr. Griffiths, for your reply.

    P.S. I’ve recently written a book chapter decrying income inequality, and pointing out that the documented record of Shakspere’s personal greed makes it unlikely he wrote the canon. My chapter also documents de Vere’s long record of personal generosity. I gather Disqus does not allow me to post a link to it, but the full text can readily be found on my Georgetown Faculty website.

  • The difficulties I have with Dr Griffith’s rebus explanation are several. First, its non-direct (even strained) use of Latin to try to make it work: the ‘4’ as ‘quattuor’ which needs to be abbreviated to ‘quat.’. Adding the ‘E’ then makes ‘quate’ which is ‘shake’. The need for abbreviation when other possibilities accrue (e.g. not abbreviating) immediately removes the advantage of directness from this solution. Also, to me, there is a very clear ‘N’ in this rebus. Why has it been omitted from consideration? The vertical rule through the ‘4’ makes, to Dr Griffith’s eye, a spear even though the triangular top is asymmetrical and the bottom of the ‘spear’ is curiously bent to the right. I would love to see this spear fly! The 4-with-vertical-rule appears in another mark such as that by William Middleton (Typographical Antiquities, 1749) albeit without the right oblique line descending from the top of the ‘4’, and presumably not intended to be part of a spear. Even if Dr Griffith’s explanation as ‘shake’ and ‘spear’ were the intended one, it is still possible that the rebus refers to Pallas Athena the spear shaker, Goddess of Wisdom. The generic figure on the plinth could simply be ‘wise’.

    I now suggest an alternative solution. Since the ‘4’-with-vertical-rule had previous use in printers’ marks (e.g. Julian Notary, William Middleton) then the most likely solution is that it IS a printers mark (this is not a new idea). We now make use of the ‘N’, ‘O’, ‘R’ and the three ‘XXX’ which, in keeping with the Roman theme, are ‘tens’ to make ‘NORtens’ (this IS a new idea). This is a credible solution since the 1633 edition credits the printers ‘Adam Islip, Joyce Norton, and Richard Whitaker’. William Norton had previously used a mark where the letters ‘nor’ were set on a barrel ‘tun’ to make ‘nortun’. The present case also splits off the letters ‘NOR’ from the rest of the name so there is consistency of design. Dr Griffiths has suggested (Country Life blog) that no printer could change his mark, and any symbol (e.g. ‘XXX’) that had been used by other printers had to retain their previous meaning. These are not necessary rules of rebus design. Some explanation is required for the ‘E’. I suggest that John Norton, who was the Queen’s printer [Henry Lemoine, ed., Typ. Ant, London, S. Fisher, (1797), p.75], was inserting a reference to Elizabeth, and I suggest that the oblique line descending to the right from the top of the ‘4’, as well as forming part of the ‘N’, is directing attention to that.

    I judge that this explanation is far less strained than that given by Dr Griffiths and avoids the assumption that a then relatively unknown Shakespeare was, in 1597, being afforded Roman God status on a plinth in a book on gardening!

  • Ishmael_X

    Why is the alleged spear head allowed to be so grossly asymmetrical? No one would make, or draw, a spear like that and I don’t see what constrains the designer to make it asymmetrical unless he is trying to make it look like a 4 which apparently he ex hypothesi isn’t.

  • Timothy Beck

    Where does the very clear ‘N’ fit in to your Latin ‘quartere’? It doesn’t, and for that reason you have been forced to tell people that the ‘N’ doesn’t really exist. I’d respect you more if you could admit that the above is a better solution than yours.

  • mark griffiths

    The point about the printer’s/stationer’s marks you mention, and all others I’ve seen, is that the 4 element at the top (be it the right or wrong way around) is always a 4, not a triangle as in the cipher on the 1597 title page of The Herball. I made that point clearly in the article – and seem to have been doing so ever since.

  • mark griffiths

    Please see the closing paragraphs of my letter to Alexander Waugh above. MG

  • mark griffiths

    Dear Mr Waugh

    I am mortified at the thought of having given you or any other serious Oxfordian personal offence. None is meant. I should have known to make that clear in this of all weeks, when I’ve myself become the butt of sub-Tolkienian trolls.

    I am convinced that William Shakespeare of Stratford wrote Shakespeare’s works. I also believe that the Oxford theory as widely and casually rehearsed is largely driven by snobbism – ‘What? The degree-less son of a provincial glover write Hamlet? Come off it.’ I find it telling, and profoundly dispiriting, that we’ve been hearing more of that kind of thing since the late 1990s, as state education and social mobility have declined – in other words, as it has seemed less likely that a new Shakespeare could grow up, strike out and get on. If you see me dismissing the Oxford theory as a snobbish delusion or as historically illiterate (in that low-born persons with no university education certainly did soar in Elizabeth’s reign), it’s this dismaying and burgeoning prejudice that I have in mind.

    I do not, however, dismiss the serious examination of the Oxford question for a moment. On the contrary, it has yielded some excellent research. I’ve plumped for my garden over the study this morning, so you’ll have to pardon my relying on memory, but I’d point to Jan Cole’s work on life at Cecil House (some of it published in the De Vere Society Newsletter), and to Eddi Jolly’s illuminating studies of Lord Burghley’s library, which show a remarkable correlation between the books it contained and Shakespeare’s sources.

    I’ll say something else, which will doubtless bring more trouble on my head: serious Oxfordians do things rather well. You’ve a relish for historical investigation, an acceptance of biographical and topical relevance, an open-mindedness about inter-disciplinary studies, and a curiosity about documents, records, artefacts, cryptology, and all manifestations of Elizabethan culture and politics. Shakespeare’s tragedy is that some – by no means all, but too many – of his academic supporters disdain such matters as irrelevant, presumptuous, old-fashioned, grunt work or, worse, done and dusted, conclusively resolved many years ago.

    For example, you’ve no difficulty in seeing how a single flower, Fritillaria meleagris, could lead into an entirely new field of inquiry. With the sole exception of Colin Burrow at All Souls, Shakespeare’s editors have failed even to spot the damned thing. ‘Why worry about its identification? It has to be an Anemone – Ovid said so. In any case, it’s just a flower, a footnote at best.’ No – it is a key to Shakespeare or, as you would have him, Oxford. Detail, properly diagnosed, is all.

    Before I go back to tying-in my roses, I should just mention Polonius. Some Oxfordians and that film Anonymous rely heavily on the idea that he’s a caricature of Burghley, Oxford’s hated father-in-law. I’ve interrogated this pretty hard over the past few years and have much material as a result, which will have to wait for my book. But I’ll say here that one has only to read his letters and Council contributions to know that, even at the end of his life, Burghley’s tone was clipped, pungent, urgent by the standards of most 16th Century statesmen. Visiting diplomats complained that this most intricate and subtle of men was shockingly blunt and brusque. Prolix,Polonian, he was not, or straying-witted.

    Some aspects of Polonius judged to be satirical or comic since the 18th Century were nothing of the kind in their day – the coining of sententiae, for example, or the handing of precepts from parent to child (cf the Countess in All’s Well That Ends Well – she does it, and no one thinks she’s a dementing old pedant, nor did early readers think that of Burghley and Raleigh when their precepts were published).

    The esteem and affection that Elizabeth felt for Burghley peaked in the years just before and after his death. Veneration of him continued under King James, not least because Sir Robert Cecil succeeded him as the monarch’s chief minister. As you Oxfordians know so well, people at this level of society knew how to crack a code, sift an allusion, smell a cleverly concealed rat. Had Polonius been remotely identifiable as Burghley, it would have brought Shakespeare’s – or Oxford’s – career to an abrupt and possibly bloody end.

    On those feasibility grounds alone, we can rule out the theory that Corambis, the alternative name of the Polonius character in the shoddy pirated First Quarto of Hamlet, was intended as a jibe at Burghley’s motto Cor unum, Via una (‘one heart, one way’). But you’d need a loose grasp of Latin to read Corambis as ‘two hearts’, as one or two early 20th century scholars tried to do, and an even looser one, and of botany too, to see Corambis as equating to crambe bis, i.e. reheated cabbage, a Roman figure of speech for windy and obnoxious verbosity.

    Being a bootleg edition, Hamlet Q1 is full of odd and misspelt names. Corambis is one of them. It ought to be Corambus, one of a loose bag of all-purpose names that Shakespeare resorted to on occasion. As such, a Corambus gets a name-check in All’s Well That Ends Well. In his Oxford edition of Hamlet, GR Hibbard brilliantly explained why Shakespeare needed to change Polonius (his original name for Denmark’s counsellor) to Corambis [sic = Corambus] for the performance at Oxford University on which Q1 was based.

    Far from a making a mockery of Burghley, Polonius by negative example illustrates everything he judged essential in the chief counsellor’s office – chiefly, that a prince must bring his counsellor into his complete confidence if the two are to operate successfully, or at all. For another iteration of this message, see the tract in which Sir Robert Cecil briefed James VI for occupying the English throne. Had Polonius been Burghley and Claudius told him all, Denmark would have survived. There’s reason to suspect that the very name Polonius may have been settling scores on behalf of the Cecils, who’d been affronted by a Polish ambassador and a treatise by a Pole on the counsellor’s art, both of them appallingly long-winded.

    Which is what I’m becoming. Ever yours, Mark Griffiths

  • What’s “silly” is Griffiths’ abysmal ignorance of the strong case that Edward de Vere wrote “Shake-Speare.” The many connections with Lord Burghley are powerful evidence in de Vere’s favor.

    I just saw a performance of the seldom performed First Quarto of Hamlet. “Polonius” is called “Corambis” in this earlier version. Why was the name changed? Because “Corambis” is a transparent allusion to Burghley, whose family motto was “cor unum, via una.” “Cor unum” is “one heart,” whereas “Corambis” alludes to duplicity (from the Latin “ambos” meaning both, so “two-hearted”). Even the First Folio version of Hamlet retains Polonius’ advice to Laertes, which has many parallels with Burghley’s letter of advice to one of his sons, published only after Hamlet was first published.

    Griffiths’ appalling ignorance about de Vere isn’t surprising, given the efforts of the Stratford tourist industry and their shills to defame de Vere and anyone who has the temerity to favor his authorship claim.

  • Zenocrate

    Thanks very much for this reply. I appreciate what you’ve related about the figure of Apollo and the laurel wreath (though still finding it difficult to see Shakespeare dressed as Apollo or in ancient garb this early in his career–the man in the Peacham drawing of course has early modern breeches on below, as do all the spear carriers and Aaron, and we do not have a specific date for the Peacham drawing).

    I am, however, still having some trouble following your very lengthy reasoning about the ear of maize/Zea. Please correct me if I have misunderstood, but your argument connecting the ear of maize in the 1597 Gerard titlepage to the TWO references to corn in Titus Andronicus (and you haven’t mentioned the first one, Chiron and Demetrius’s horrid rape reference in 2.1, “first thrash the corn, then burn the straw”), seems simply to state that the ear of corn has to be a reference to Titus because Gerard would want to see it that way.

    Is that really an argument? So the whole reason the ear of corn in the title page points to Shakespeare is because in your expertise reading Gerard, you *feel* that Gerard would *want* to read Marcus’s line as referring to maize/Zea, because he believed maize was Asiatic and Roman, and would have *felt* that maize ideally represented Marcus’s wish for healing the fractured empire? It’s a pretty, imaginative exercise, but it’s not an argument and it’s even too wildly associative for me (and I’ve made several arguments about philological associations being the backbone of early modern reading and writing processes).

    Given that Titus is a play that very much concerns itself with redefining notions of barbarousness by placing them closer to home (i.e. the Romans are as barbaric as the Goths), and exposing the traumatic representation of Roman antiquity handed to Renaissance schoolboys via Ovid and the brutal Latin grammar school curriculum (and here I’m thinking in particular of the work of Lynn Enterline, Heather James, and my own), I’m still having a bit of a difficult time reading Marcus’s bleak wish for a less fragmented and grotesque body public–clearly an image reflected in Lavinia’s rape and mutilation, given its connection to Chiron and Demetrius’s earlier speech– into an image of an ear of Indian corn, and this despite the play’s many references to barbarous foreigners.

    Are you suggesting that Gerard would have wished for an alternative Ovidian metamorphoses for Lavinia here in an ear of corn? Given that the play directly cites Ovid only to end in a bloodbath, as if to say “there are no metamorphoses here–no one will turn into birds, as men have proved themselves worse than beasts,” I’m having trouble seeing Marcus’s lines as anything other than an empty wish. I’m sorry, but it still seems quite far-fetched to me, and I say this as someone who, at first, was delighted to see your comment on the fritillary, given that I have written about the fritillary in V&A in my recent book.

    Also, I would like to see some clear evidence from you that “corn” was understood to mean maize (and not just in a general sense, i.e. as the American Indians’ main crop or “corn”) before 1607. We all know the OED can make mistakes–I and my colleagues have found numerous instances of earlier word usage than the OED reports, especially looking at earlier word lists, quadruple dictionaries and the MED. But as early as 1595? Please cite some sources, otherwise I won’t believe you. There is no indication that Marcus is talking about an ear of corn in 5.3–his “corn” (Lavinia/the body public and, indeed, Roman identity itself) has already been fragmented, mutilated, and dispersed. It is beyond repair, a metaphor for something that cannot be put back together again.

    Thanks again for responding to my questions. I do respect your scholarship in historical botany, and hope that you respect mine as well, despite your condescending tone at times, especially regarding my understanding of Titus Andronicus (FWIW, I am a tenured, published scholar of early modern literature–published by a reputable university presses–who teaches Shakespeare every semester at a flagship R1. And I teach Titus quite frequently, so I do like to think that I haven’t “failed” to understand that play, especially with reference to Ovid and Roman antiquity).

  • sandralynnsparks

    I agree. As an artist who has changed her mark throughout the years, and knows that a change of mark can help identify the period in which a crafted piece or printing is created, I am surprised he has missed this common practice.

  • sandralynnsparks

    And different artists at different times would render an image or costume of a man in the same way for what reason? How many different developments are you missing here? Quite a few. For example, large scale documentation of Roman archaeological features didn’t really begin to be available until the 17th century. Detailed prints of ancient costume in regards to statuary began to be more readily available at that time, and this progress shows in the 1636 frontispiece of the Gerarde. This is one of hundreds of things that would influence different artists to render images in different ways. Mr. Griffiths, you have used such a narrow point of view in under-developing your ideas, that you missed a good many things. You took on a bigger task than you could imagine or achieve.

    And by the way – art is not photography. Nothing is clear about art until you can compare it to the actual models. We can’t do that. Certainly not for Shakespeare.

  • Timothy Beck

    Mark Griffiths has opined (below) that because there is no precedent for a Norton mark like this one then it cannot be one. In other words, no printer can ever invent a new mark, which leads to the absurd conclusion that no printers marks exist. Also he claims the ‘XXX’ has to retain the meaning other printers had for it. That’s your own imposed restriction Mark, one which I imagine you hope was true. To be consistent, you’d have to claim that your vertical ‘spear’ formed from the ‘4’ was also a spear for Julian Notary, John Cawood, Hugh Singleton, and particularly William Middleton (source: Typographical Antiquities, 1749) which makes no sense.

    Daily Telegraph puzzlist Barry Clarke has tweeted that the ‘N’ ‘O’ ‘R’ are clear to see and below it are three Roman tens ‘XXX’ which makes ‘NORtens’ (there doesn’t even need to be a reference to William or John). In a previous Norton mark they also use the three letters ‘nor’ but on a barrel (representing ‘ton’, see to left of word ‘PRINTERS’ in Typ. Ant.). So the splitting off of the first three letters in ‘Norton’ does have a precedent in their marks. It’s a shorter construction than Mark’s Latin ‘4’ somehow manipulated into ‘shake’ and more credible than a then unknown Shakespeare appearing in a gardening book!

    However, all that needs to be shown is that there is a credible alternative explanation and since this makes use of the Roman connection by using ‘XXX’ and the Norton mark precedent by using ‘nor’, then it is. It’s now clear to see that the emperor depicted on the plinth has no clothes. I’m afraid a balanced view of reality has been sadly forsaken in the drive for publicity.

  • Alexander Waugh

    It dispiriting to see a man of Mr Griffith’s obvious intelligence being so offensive towards Oxfordians. They are supportive of his work and not (as he imputes) remotely snobbish. The Stratfordians (Sandra Sparks et al) have been exceedingly rude and patronizing toward him and his discoveries. But mud-slinging aside he should be pleased and grateful to those Oxfordians who have bolstered his arguments by showing that the figure he identifies as Shakespeare – with or without the cryptogram-printers’ mark beneath it – is unquestionably Shakespeare, for reasons that he himself had not fully recognized.

  • mark griffiths

    I like this explanation – very sharp. But it’s wrong. The inverted V at the base of the cipher was a common feature of printer’s and stationer’s marks. Rarely, it signified A; usually, it was just a 2-legged stand devoid of meaning. I’m attaching a good example, the mark of William Griffith of Fleet Street, publisher in 1565 of Gorboduc, the earliest-known English blank verse tragedy. You’ll see that his splendid rebus (a griffin with the flowers known as Williams in its beak) holds his formal device. It’s a typical sign of four with GR for Griffith midway up the stem and W for William overlaying the 2-legged stand. The Fourth Man’s cipher plays on devices such as these, maybe this very one.

    Now, the first name initial overlaying the 2-legged stand was so frequent a feature of these marks that I can’t see the Nortons using it to make a rebus – XXX- for ‘tens’, however clever. It wouldn’t have been sufficiently obvious or glorious (cf the genuine Norton identifiers, which I put on the Country Life website two days ago). It would have had too little recognition value to work successfully as a stationer’s identifier. As a rebus, it’s hardly as bold as William Norton’s actual ‘nor-tun’.

    In short, there’s a perfectly good explanation for the lower half of the Fourth Man’s cipher, supported by many known precedents: it’s just a typical sign-of-four stand (or, possibly, A), overlaid by its bearer’s first name initial W.

    In any case, the XXX/‘nor-tens’ proposal still doesn’t deal with the main
    objections to this cipher’s being the joint mark of William and John Norton. It
    doesn’t account for the E (or, as some would have it, L or £) at top right – how does that work in a cipher that’s supposed to say ‘William and John
    Norton’? This cipher contains no ‘I’ (=J), which it would need to do if it was to be a sign-of-four-type mark for John Norton. If you’re familiar with the engraver William Rogers’s lettering, you realise that what looks like N here is really nothing of the kind. Finally, as I’ve said before, William Norton played no part in the commissioning, development or production of The Herball,
    and he’d been dead four years when it was published; by then John Norton was well-established in his own business. Admittedly, Bonham (William’s son) invested in the book’s printing, a fact reflected in the colophon on the last page, but, by this time, he was using his own marks, none of which made reference to his father.

    Why, on the title page of his most important publication to date, would John have adopted a device of a kind that the Nortons never normally used, omitting his own initial from it, but giving prominence to William, a dead man who’d not been his partner or had anything to do with the book?

  • James Wallace

    Thanks for taking the trouble to reply, Mark. I’m taking my cue from the website of Dublin’s Edward Worth botany library. Perhaps they have got this wrong. I’ve contacted their librarian to ask for their source. I’ll pass on any reply.
    Whichever way round they go, I still think the two engravings are linked. You’re right to say it isn’t a slavish following, one of the other, far from it. It’s obvious that the engraver of one isn’t working directly from the other, but from a report of the figures involved. It’s just the similarity of the pattern – the two biblical figures above, the two classical botanists below – and those little details of spade, book, hat and armour that I’ve mentioned above that make me think the matrix of identification is the same. And surely it provides the simplest answer as to who the four men are supposed to represent?
    That said, I’m happy to see a double identification of Gerard as a jolly Adam, and by the same token his assumption also of the persona of Dioscorides. The fact that the fourth man holds the new non-medical plants of fritillary and maize need not invalidate him as a representation of Dioscorides – in fact, it seems to be a neat form of advertising (the real point of any book’s cover, after all): new and improved, the old authority brought bang up to date.
    The early modern theatre historians and Shakespeare experts that I’ve read on the subject all express admiration for the rest of your work, but just think that the Shakespeare identification is a step too far. Even the very best Shakespeare scholars have had their fingers burnt this way. Should by any chance that be the case here, you will be in very august company indeed.

  • mark griffiths

    See my response to Pamphilia above. I’ve examined many copies of Pemptades edn. 1 (including the copy Gerard used in writing his Herball) and I’ve not seen any with the title page above. They bear the Plantin dividers mark and no other image. I’ve only seen your title page in the 1616 2nd edition of Pemptades, and in Clusius 1601. Are you sure it goes back to 1583?

    Should it prove to be that old, should it prove to have influenced William Rogers, that still wouldn’t mean the 1597 title page of Gerard’s Herball follows it slavishly. You’ve only to use your eyes to see that it doesn’t.

  • mark griffiths

    The Fourth Man on the 1597 title page of Gerard’s Herball is not wearing the
    same clothing as the portrait of Dioscorides that appears on the title page of the 1633 edition. The latter is in plausible Roman dress. His cloak is
    correctly fastened with a brooch or clasp at the shoulder. By contrast, the
    Fourth Man wears a form of pseudo-classical dress, with a billowing bow on the shoulder. This, as we know from Henry Peacham’s drawing of Titus Andronicus in performance, closely resembles theatrical costume of the period. I should add that elsewhere William Rogers, engraver of the 1597 title page of Gerard’s Herball, depicted Roman military dress accurately.

    16th and 17th Century artists often dressed Apollo in some approximation to classical martial or hunting gear. For two very different examples, see the image of Apollo that is featured on the title page of Henry Lyte’s 1578 Niewe Herball (yes, I’m sorry – Apollo, and captioned as same, on the title page of an English botanical work that was produced by a client of Burghley’s and an associate of Gerard’s and in collaboration with Dodoens), and Gerrit van Honthorst’s group portrait The Four Eldest Children of the King and Queen of Bohemia (1631), where Prince Rupert, depicted as the god, wears
    paludamentum and laurel crown.

    As for those laurels, they were, by 1597, becoming well-established,
    indeed much-discussed, as a property primarily of Apollo and poetry. I’m well aware that military victors wore them; but Dioscorides was a surgeon not a fighter, and I have found no renaissance depiction of him in which he wears the bays. Nor have I found any that looks like the figure on the 1597 title page. Renaissance views of Dioscorides’ appearance were remarkably consensual and clear – he did not resemble the Fourth Man.

    You do not tackle some of the key points re Dioscorides that I made
    in the article posted yesterday. For example, why, if he’s meant to be
    identifiable as Dioscorides, is the Fourth Man not holding or stood beside
    medicinal plants? Why should the presence of Dioscorides on a title page from 1633 mean that he also has to be on a very different title page from 1597?

    In an earlier comment, you stated – wrongly – that ‘corn’ was not in currency as a term for Zea mays until long after The Herball. You also failed to understand why Zea mays would be appropriate as an allusion to Titus Andronicus.

    In The Herball (edn. 1), Gerard’s chapter on the plants that we would recognize as Zea mays, sweetcorn, maize, and their varieties, begins on p. 74. It’s headed ‘Of Turkie corne’. He goes on to call this species ‘Turkie corne’, ‘Corne of Asia’, and ‘Turkie Wheate’. Although, in describing them, he applies these names to different varieties, on page 77, he signifies that he regards these names as referring to the same species and implies they’re interchangeable: ‘In English it is called Turky corne and Turky
    wheate’. He goes on to say of this species: ‘We have as yet no certaine proofe or experience concerning the vertues of this kinde of Corne’. Of its
    distribution and origins he writes: ‘These kinds of Graine were first brought
    into Spaine, and then into other provinces of Europe, out of Asia which is in
    the Turkes Dominions, as also out of America and the Ilands adioyning from the east and west Indies, and Virginia or Norembega’.

    There can be no doubt that Gerard viewed this plant as a ‘kinde of Corne’ and believed, like other botanists of the period, that it hailed from both the Old World and the New. That this belief was incorrect (Zea is American) does not matter; what matters is that he held it. That’s why he thought Classical authors – Romans – knew and argued about it: ‘Turky wheat is called of some Frumentum Turcicum, and Milium Indicum. Strabo, Eratostenes, Onesicritus, Plinie and others, have contended about the name heereof’.

    Gerard believed Zea mays was a kind of corn that was known in the Roman Empire. He marvelled at the way in which its grains were so closely ranked in ears that were conspicuously grouped and protected ‘as if it were a certain sheath’ (p.74 – given his handwriting and the book’s rotten typesetters, ‘sheath’ here may be a typo for ‘sheaff’ or ‘sheaffe’, but that’s not critical to my case). As I say in the article, he grew it in Holborn and visitors to his garden could have seen its ears late in good summers, as occurred at the beginning of the 1590s.

    Although it may well have been the case, I’m not saying that this unusual sight (and Gerard’s marvelling at it) inspired Shakespeare to make Marcus Andronicus beseech the ‘sad-faced’ people of Rome: ‘O let me teach you how to knit again/ This scattered corn into one mutual sheaf.’

    What I am saying is that when, in helping Rogers to design the 1597 title page of The Herball, Gerard needed to think of a plant to epitomize Titus Andronicus, he thought of Zea, to him a Roman corn of impressive mutuality.

  • James Wallace

    I’ve posted this point on Mr Griffith’s previous article, but post it again here.

    All four men can be correctly identified from a another, labelled engraving linked to Gerard’s Herbal. They are Adam (top right), Solomon (top left), Theophrastus (bottom right) and Dioscorides (bottom left). I post the image below.

    The 1583 Antwerp Latin translation of Dodoens is the immediate source for The Herball, not the 1554 Dutch original.

    From the Edward Worth botany library’s website entry on Clusius, which also shows the title-frame of his 1601edition, later re-used for the 1616 edition of Dodoens –

    “This ornate title-frame depicts the biblical figures of Adam and Solomon (famous for naming plants), and, at their feet, the most famous ancient botanists: Theophrastus and Dioscorides… The title-frame had been bought by Plantin from the widow of the Antwerp printer Jan van Loe and had initially been used by Plantin for Rembert Dodoens’ Stirpium historiae pemptades sex, sive libri XXX published at Antwerp in 1583”

    Later used for Clusius (1601) and Dodoens again (1616), the 1601 image visibly uses the same pattern as William Rogers’ engraving for The Herball. So in Gerard the first man Adam holds a spade to delve with. Solomon is shown with clasped book in the top right of both. Each Theophrastus has a similar style hat. Dioscorides is a military botanist in both. They are different pictures by different artists, of course, but there are enough similarities to show they both follow the same scheme. This is the simplest identification of the four men. The near identical dress of Dioscorides in both the first and second edition of The Herball, with the second clearly labelled, confirms the identification.

    There need be no guessing games about any of the four.

  • A. Crampin

    Dr Griffiths admits “I was wrong back then” with respect to details about the history of the fritillary in England. Such frankness is refreshing and certainly promotes progress in research undertakings. Nevertheless he couples this with a priori rudeness and scorn for the advocates of Edward de Vere as his fourth man. In his haste to condemn, he truncated the arguments put forward by Oxfordian respondents to his article. The kernel of the argument was that the fritillary links the figure to Venus and Adonis and hence to Shakespeare, but there are references in contemporary writings that suggest “Adon” is used to refer to a disgraced earl and to the Earl of Oxford in particular. There are further possibilities linking “Turkie” names for the flower and for the corn to nicknames for the earl. When it comes to the rebus, Dr Griffiths is no stranger to “possibilities” which some would deem “mere”.

    Dr Griffiths says the figure is too young for the earl, but similarly the figure of Burghley is too robust for an ailing old man who would die the following year.

    Argument is one thing, but prejudice is another.

  • Zenocrate

    Laurel wreaths do not only indicate poets or Apollo. They also indicate victors in competitions and classical authorities. In early modern engravings, they could be worn by any classical textual authority. Indeed, early modern poets crowned with laurels was a relatively new invention (Petrarch depicting himself this way was considered quite radical). In ancient Rome, laurel wreaths were given to athletic victors, winners of poetry competitions, emperors, and of course military victors. All the Caesars are always depicted wreathed with laurel. By the early modern period, many textual authorities were depicted with laurel wreaths and not just poets–philosophers (Plato, Aristotle, Democritus), medical experts, historians, etc. So the idea that the laurel wreath on the character in Roman military dress indicates poetic mastery is really quite narrow-minded. Dioscorides was a Greek doctor who worked for the Roman army. It makes sense that an early modern engraver might depict him wearing a laurel wreath, although it is equally likely that the Roman gentleman depicted in the 1597 Herbal titlepage is some sort of general or emperor, given his breastplate and military dress (which, I should add, really does mimic the detail in the 1633 engraving of Dioscorides). If the Roman gentleman in the laurel wreath were a poet–Roman or early modern–he would not be in military dress. And of course, he looks nothing like Ovid, so he can’t be that. He has to be a general, an officer, or an emperor. Because why would Shakespeare dress up like a Roman general or emperor for a book on botany? Or AT ALL?

  • sandralynnsparks

    Mark, you aren’t going to get anywhere by continuing to do updates reiterating your points. You’ve already shown how faulty your reasoning is. As one of the people who put forth Dioscorides, I can tell you each of us had documented reasons for putting that idea forward. We were able to show those reasons. You had nothing to show for Shakespeare but an idea hanging on a fritillary and a variation on a common artisan’s mark. You live in a nation of avid gardeners with a long history of an interest in botany. That William Shakespeare also had such an interest is simply not enough. You took a gamble, and lost. Digging in will not change the results. But it is prime gardening season, I just came in from my own rose garden and the results are tangible and beautiful. Go back to what you really know. It’s worth it.

  • Timothy Beck

    Here’s the explanation posted by Telegraph puzzlist Barry Clarke on the Guardian blog.

    It seems that even though a credible alternative interpretation of the rebus is possible [Pallas Athena the spear shaker] when translated into ‘shake’ and ‘spear’ (bad news for Country Life) the most likely explanation (as several people have pointed out) is that it is a printer’s mark for William and John Norton. But where is Norton in this?
    Here’s my explanation. The letters ‘N’, ‘O’, and ‘R’ are clear to see but what about the Roman tens ‘XXX’ below that to make NORTENS! After all, the figure is dressed as a Roman. Also the bottom part clearly contains a W. Even though Dr Griffiths failed to find a Norton mark like this, this does not mean it cannot be one.