Dedicated to the Proposition that Shakespeare Wrote Shakespeare.
The authors of the site are clearly very intelligent and knowledgeable about
their chosen subject. If de Vere is going to fail as the Poet/Dramatist
Shakespeare, then surely it will be here.
To be more precise than the Dedication, what they mean is not that
Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare, which is self evident to everyone. They mean
that the man from Stratford upon Avon (Shaxper) (and for identification we'll
call him that from now on) wrote the works attributed to Shakespeare, and this
is a different matter entirely. We have already found that Shaxper's own
attempts at signatures on legal documents prove him to be a near-illiterate and
incapable of writing one page of manuscript; certainly not over 30 plays and
many poems. This is discussed in some detail in chapter 5, and all the known
signatures are there provided. We can therefore dismiss as irrelevant such
Images of Shaxper
Shaxper's education and social background
Shaxper's Stratford friends
Shaxper's knowledge of Italy, the Classics, and the Law.
What we need to concentrate on are these sections:
How we know that (Shaxper) wrote Shakespeare
Critically examining Oxfordian claims
(Dating the works
Barksted and Shakespeare
Dating the Tempest
This section, Dating the Works, will be discussed in a separate later chapter on
The section "Were Shakespeare's plays written by an aristocrat?" is not
included for consideration because Shakespeare's sonnet 125 (chapters 19, 20)
says "I bore the canopy" which means he was an aristocrat in the Queen's
Now let's look at what the Web site has to tell us. First we should look at the
Introduction. An introduction sets the tone and lays out the ground for what
follows. Here are some excerpts from this one:
There exist sincere and intelligent people who believe there is strong evidence
that Edward de Vere, Seventeenth Earl of Oxford, was the author of these plays
and poems. Yet professional Shakespeare scholars - those whose job it is to
study, write, and teach about Shakespeare - generally find Oxfordian claims to
be groundless, often not even worth discussing...
Oxfordians are not taken seriously by the Shakespeare establishment because
(with few exceptions) they do not follow basic standards of scholarship, and the
"evidence" they present for their fantastic scenarios is either distorted, taken out
of context, or flat-out false....
Oxfordian books can be deceptively convincing to a reader who is unaware of
the relevant historical background and unused to the rhetorical tricks used by
Oxfordians. Our aim is to provide context where needed, expose misinformation
passed off by Oxfordians as fact, and in general show the non specialist reader
why professional Shakespeare scholars have so little regard for Oxfordian
Strangely, neither this introduction nor their dedication claim to present facts
to prove that Shaxper was the poet/dramatist Shakespeare. It may be that they
are well aware that there are no 'facts' to prove Shaxper was Shakespeare. If
there were, there would be no controversy. But having noted this, I suggest we
begin by looking at the article How we know that Shakespeare (Shaxper) wrote
Shakespeare (Shakespeare's literary output): the Historical Facts:
The first paragraph gives Shaxper's date of birth, parentage, and a few
sentences about John Shaxper, Williams' father. This is a very one-sided
laudatory summary. There is a more accurate account in my chapter 4.
The second paragraph has 7 sentences about William Shaxper. Here's how it
William Shakespeare married Ann Hathaway in November, 1582, and six
months later their daughter, Susanna, was born. Two other children were born,
the twins Hamnet and Judith, in February 1585. Sometime after this he joined a
troupe of players and made his way to London. As a member of London's
leading theater company, the Lord Chamberlain's Company, he wrote plays and
eventually became a sharer in the Globe theater...
To the best of my belief and knowledge 'he joined a troupe of players and
made his way to London' is an incorrect statement. There is no evidence that
he joined a group of players before appearing years later in London after
leaving Stratford at an unknown time. In fact some Stratfordians have
referred to the Lost Years in his life and there has even been conjecture that he
became a soldier, which might help account for his apparent familiarity in the
plays with battle scenes and modes of military engagement. To stay with facts,
we don't even know whether he was still in Stratford on Avon with his wife
when the twins were born in 1585. The first evidence of his being in London is
the record of payment for two performances by the newly formed Lord
Chamberlain's Men in March 1595; the payment was recorded as made to
William Kempe, William Shakespeare & Richard Burbage. But on this web
site, given as part of historical facts, we have an unsupported statement thrown
in as a fact along the way to painting a convincing picture of his progress into
the theatre world. This is not an encouraging beginning.
The web site continues:
1. The name "William Shakespeare" appears on the
plays and poems.
Here's a summary of what this section says
1a, In 1593 the narrative poem Venus and Adonis was published... signed
"William Shakespeare." The following year, The Rape of Lucrece was
published, also...signed by William Shakespeare.
1b. In 1601 the volume Loves Martyr by Robert Chester contained...(untitled in
the volume, but now known as "The Phoenix and the Turtle")...is signed
"William Shakespeare." ...
1c. In 1609 the volume Shake-speares Sonnets was published... clearly
attributed to "Shakespeare."
1d. Many plays were also attributed in print to William Shakespeare. Following
is a list of the plays first published in quarto up until the publication of the First
Folio, along with the dates of publication and the name of the author.
Titus Andronicus - Q1 1594, Q2 1600, Q3 1611, all with the author unnamed
Henry VI Part 2 - Q1 1594, Q2 1600, unnamed, Q3 1619 William Shakespeare,
Henry VI Part 3 - Q1 1595, Q2 1600, unnamed
Romeo and Juliet - Q1 1597, Q2 1599, Q3 1609, unnamed
Richard II - Q1 1597 unnamed; Q2 1598,Q3 1598, Q4 1608, Q5 1615 William
Richard III - Q1 1597 unnamed; Q2 1598 William Shake-speare, Q3 1602
William Shakespeare; Q4 1605, Q5 1612, Q6 1622, William Shake-speare
Love's Labor's Lost - Q1 1598 W. Shakespeare
Henry IV Part 1 - Q1 1598 unnamed; Q2 1599, Q3 1604, Q4 1608, Q5 1613, W.
Midsummer Night's Dream - Q1 1600, Q2 1619, William Shakespeare
Merchant of Venice - Q1 1600 William Shakespeare, Q2 1619 W.Shakespeare
Henry IV Part 2 - Q1 1600 William Shakespeare
Much Ado About Nothing - Q1 1600 William Shakespeare
Henry V - Q1 1600, Q2 1602, Q3 1619 unnamed
Merry Wives of Windsor - Q1 1602 William Shakespeare, Q2 W. Shakespeare
Hamlet - Q1 1603 William Shake-speare, Q2 William Shakespeare
King Lear - Q1 1608 M. William Shak-speare, Q2 1619 M. William
Pericles - Q1 1609, Q2 1609, Q 3 1611, William Shakespeare, Q4 1619 W.
Troilus and Cressida - Q1 1609 William Shakespeare
This play list is an excellent summary providing very useful information. Not
all the plays are included, and the web site doesn't tell us why this is so, except
for 4 plays mentioned in 1c below. Here are the omitted plays:
The Comedy of Errors
The Taming of the Shrew
The Two Gentlemen of Verona
As You Like It
All's Well That Ends Well
Measure for Measure
Timon of Athens
Anthony and Cleopatra
The Winter's Tale
That means 18 plays are identified as to authorship in the web site, but another
18 are not, before considering the play Henry 8.
In 1598 Palladis Tamia: Wits Treasury by Francis Meres was published. Meres
attributed twelve plays to Shakespeare, including four which were never
published in quarto: [Two] Gentlemen of Verona, [Comedy of] Errors, Love
Labors wonne, and King John. In addition he identified some of the plays that
were published anonymously before 1598 - Titus, Romeo and Juliet, and Henry
IV - as being written by Shakespeare. Sadly for Oxfordians he mentions Edward
Earl of Oxford as being a writer of comedy in the same paragraph as he does
I would like to comment on this.
On the late night of January 14-15 2002 I watched an interesting program
about the life and work of Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835 - 1910) on PBS
TV. He's better known as the writer Mark Twain. As it went along the
narrator shifted seamlessly between calling him first one name and then the
other. It seemed quite natural to do so, and I would probably not have noticed
it but for my present investigation into the Shakespeare identity problem. It
did not occur to me to list these occurrences until near the end of the program
when it was too late. But fortunately it was a two part show, and the following
night, January 15 - 16 I was ready with pen and paper and listed in separate
columns each time each name was used. My count came to
Samuel Clemens (or Clemens) 17
Mark Twain (or Twain) 31
Unfortunately this is not a perfect score as I was interrupted by a 'phone call
and lost almost 5 minutes near the end of the program. But I think the point
can be made that when talking about what Clemens did and wrote, his name
was used; when the action or writing mentioned had the name Mark Twain,
that was used. It may not have been as completely accurate as that, but such
seemed to be the case.
On this evidence alone I think we can say that Francis Meres, in a like capacity
to the PBS TV show in his own day, was (or his informant was) commenting on
the works using the name as the author identified himself for each work he
referred to. The result is that it really has no bearing on who Shakespeare was.
The web site authors state that it was only after about 1600 that playwrights
began to have their names appended to their plays. They say
Only about a third of all the plays printed in the 1590s named the author on the
title page, and a significant portion of these were the Shakespeare quartos late in
the decade... John Lyly had been one of the most popular playwrights of the
1580s, writing for the Children of Paul's yet six of his plays were published, in
ten different editions over a dozen years, before his name ever appeared on a title
page (in 1597 on The Woman in the Moon).
There is a difference though. We've found that Shakespeare was a nobleman.
I believe it's correct to say that none of the other playwrights at that time was
anything other than a commoner. Certainly, I think Greene, Lodge, Marlowe,
Lyly and Wilson, mentioned by the web site authors in this context, were not
noblemen. So the motivation may be a little different in Shakespeare's case. It
seems that for his own personal reasons he was building a separate persona for
his writing, now that it was becoming famous and sought-after, as he knew it
would. And that seems to be why he used this persona on more of his plays
than anyone else used their own names on their works. The printers would also
have found it advantageous. Shakespeare's works sold more copies. There
were apparently even spurious works printed with attribution to Shakespeare
just because his name had selling power.
1f. This paragraph refers to the First Folio, which we'll discuss in a later
chapter on that subject.
The next paragraph says that there is no evidence that William Shakespeare
was a pseudonym. However, this investigation has found as a fact that as
Shakespeare was a nobleman, and as there is no nobleman named
Shakespeare, the name has to be a pseudonym.
The web page authors conclude this section by saying
All the historical evidence ties William Shakespeare of Stratford to the plays
bearing his name, as we will now demonstrate.
Of course we can agree with them completely except for the two words 'of
Stratford' and we can look forward to their demonstration of proof with
Because we will have to refer frequently to the authors of the web page, for
brevity I propose from now on to refer to them as A, and because A is singular
but the authors are apparently plural, to avoid awkwardness for example we'll
state 'A says' rather than 'A say.'
A's section 2 is headed
2. William Shakespeare was an actor in the company
which performed the plays of William Shakespeare.
From 1594 on, the plays of William Shakespeare were performed exclusively by
the acting company variously known as the Lord Chamberlain's Men (1594-6),
1597-1603), Lord Hunsdon's Men (1596-97), and the King's Men (1603-42).
William Shakespeare was a prominent member of this acting company, as the
following evidence demonstrates.
2a. This recites the 15 March 1595 official entry re payment to Kempe,
Shakespeare and Burbage for 2 court performances. The entry is suspect, as
discussed in chapter 4. If genuine, it identifies William Shakespeare as a
member of the company, but not necessarily as an actor.
2b. Quotes the story of the John Manningham diary entry of March 1602
about Burbage to come to a female at night using the name Richard III but
Shakespeare got there first and sent a message to Burbage at the door that
William the Conqueror came before Richard III.
This is at the level of the poet/dramatist's common folk and clowns, not of
noblemen. If true it shows that someone called Shakespeare was a member of
the company, not necessarily an actor.
2c. On 19 May 1603 the Lord Chamberlain's Men were licensed as the King's
Men. The document lists "Lawrence Fletcher, William Shakespeare, Richard
Burbage, Augustyne Phillippes, Ion Heninges, Henrie Condell, William Sly,
Robert Armyn, Richard Cowly" ...
2d. The account of Sir George Home, Master of the Great Wardrobe, lists the
names of "Players" who were given four yards of red cloth apiece for the
investiture of King James in London on 15 March, 1604, "William Shakespeare,
Augustine Phillipps, Lawrence Fletcher, John Hemminges, Richard Burbidge,
William Sly, Robert Armyn, Henry Cundell, and Richard Cowley.
The authors think the placing of Shakespeare's name at the front indicates his
prominence. This is unlikely, as Burbage was an owner with his brother as well
as the leading actor, It's more likely that Shakespeare as the business man
went by himself to get the licence in 2c, and the cloth in 2d for all of them. That
would then be why his name is up front. This is very close to being an actor but
not quite there, but we agree he's a member of the company.
2e. The will of Augustine Phillips, 1605, bequeaths gold coins to 'my Fellowe
William Shakespeare, ...my Fellowe Henry Condell, ... my Fellowe Lawrence
Fletcher, ...my Fellowe Robert Armyne ...'.
Here's more confirming evidence that William Shakespeare is a member of the
company, but not proof he's an actor.
2f. The 1616 Folio of Ben Jonson's Works contains cast lists for his plays. The
cast list for Jonson's Every Man in His Humor, 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."
This must be random and not ranking, as Shakespeare would not be placed
before Burbage. Alternatively, it may be in order of appearance. To open the
play, Juniper the cobbler is found sitting in his shop singing at work,, Shaxper
would then be either that character, or Onion, who enters and tells him to stop
singing "a God's name." Onion doesn't even appear in the "Persons in the
2g. 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."
Although some question the veracity of Ben Jonson, I think there's sufficient
evidence here to show that Shaxper, was probably an actor, and is the person
referred to. It would not be de Vere as this rival playwright would not have, I
think, under any circumstance performed as a common player in Jonson's
plays. Nor, for the same reason, would Jonson, I suggest, have permitted
Shakespeare, the poet/dramatist and his hated rival, to act in one of his plays.
This would then mean that Jonson knew Shaxper as an actor/ sharer in the
Globe theatre company and nothing more. Certainly not as a playwright.
The next section (3) by A has the following heading
3. William Shakespeare the actor was William
Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon.
A's item 3d states
Shakespeare bought the Blackfriar's Gatehouse in London... on the deed dated
10 March 1613, John Hemmyng, gentleman... acted as trustee for the buyer,
"William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon." This property is disposed of in
...Shakespeare was also a sharer in the syndicate that owned the Globe theater.
There were three parties to the agreement. Nicholas Brend, who owned the
grounds upon which the Globe was built; Cuthbert and Richard Burbage, who
were responsible for half the lease; and five members of the Chamberlain's Men
- William Shakespeare, John Heminges, Augustine Philips, Thomas Pope, and
William Kempe - who were responsible for the other half of the lease. Each of
these men had a 1/10 share in the profits. The share dropped to 1/12 when Henry
Condell and William Sly joined in 1605-8, and dropped to 1/14 in 1611 when
Ostler came in.
I have no problem with the statement in heading 3 except to note that William
Shaxper of Stratford upon Avon was calling himself William Shakespeare later
in his life.
A's item 4 is headed
William Shakespeare the Globe-sharer was also
William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon.
I have no problem with the statement in heading 4, but note that Shaxper was
still being pronounced Shackspeare rather than Shakespeare in 1601 according
to item 4b below..
A's item 4b states
In a mortgage deed of trust dated 7 October 1601 by Nicholas Brend to John
Bodley, John Collet, and Matthew Browne, in which Bodley was given control of
the Globe playhouse, the Globe is described as being tenanted by "Richard
Burbadge and Willm Shackspeare gent."
A's item 5 is headed
5. William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon, the
actor and Globe-sharer, was the playwright and poet
This is where we part company. Our investigation has shown that Shaxper was
not, and could not have been, the poet/playwright Shakespeare. We will need to
consider carefully the evidence A provides to support this statement.
5a. 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...At one point Kempe says,
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 speech, and Burbage's rejoinder, were quoted and discussed in chapter 9
section 2, but here are a few additional comments.
Although A states the Parnassus play is a satire, it seems not to be realized
'Kempe's' speech here is in itself a satire, making a fool of the professional fool
for his ignorance, because
1. playing to a University audience at a university he says their playwrights
don't 'play well' when the opposite is true.
2. He shows ignorance of the Classics by inadvertently mixing them up.
3. He doesn't know his Shaxper from his Shakespeare
The last phrase in the last sentence seems to be the one implying that Shaxper
is Shakespeare, but no one today knows what it means. I say this with some
confidence as I've found different (Stratfordian) scholars have different
opinions as to whether a play of Shakespeare is being referred to, and if so, to
which one it refers.
There's something else to notice. 'Bewray' is an archaic word now, and meant
to reveal (usually inadvertently.) Credit now can have any one of four
1. a belief or trust
2. good reputation
3. trust in a person's ability to pay
4. sum of money or other resources at the disposal of a person held by, in
Elizabethan times, probably a goldsmith, or to one's account in the records of a
This is being said of Ben Jonson. To follow the meanings of the words they
seem to imply that somehow Shakespeare the dramatist has caused Jonson to
(unintentionally) disclose his belief or trust or good reputation or ability to
make good on his promises.
What's of interest here is the involvement of Jonson in the Shakespeare
identity problem. He's deeply involved in the First Folio (later). He's the only
one who has Shaxper listed as a cast member (twice), and somehow he's
involved here. There's something the university audience would have known
that 'Kempe' gets wrong that's lost to us now.
I suggest that this much used quotation is no proof of anything, least of all that
Shaxper was Shakespeare.
A continues with
5b. In 1610 John Davies of Hereford published a volume entitled The Scourge of
Folly, consisting mostly of poems to famous people and Davies's friends. One of
these poems was addressed to Shakespeare
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.
Terence was an ancient Roman playwright who came from humble origins, just
like Shakespeare. Davies's references to 'playing' parts 'in sport' refer to acting,
and his repeated references to 'kings' is a play on the name of the King's Men;
the only other poems in the volume that similarly play on 'king' are those to
Robert Armin and William Ostler, also members of the King's Men, and the
poem to Armin also refers to plying 'in sport.' Incidentally, this poem is
demonstrably not addressed to the Earl of Oxford in any kind of disguise, since it
is addressed in the present tense to a living person, and Oxford had been dead
for six years.
My comments are
1.Terence was born in Carthage, date unknown, but said to be about 185 B.C.
or 190 B.C.. This was after the end of the second Punic war between Rome and
Carthage, which ended with the defeat of Carthage and terms by Rome to
reduce the great power and strip the wealth from Carthage. Terence was born
before the third and final Punic war at the end of which the city of Carthage
was literally obliterated from the map by Rome. For details and dates see my
Edward Furlong web page: section Is Our Civilization Dying? chapter 7.
Terence was a slave of Senator Publius Trientius Lucanus, who, it is said,
educated him and later freed him. Terence then assumed the name
PubliusTerentium Afer, after his patron. His first play was produced in 166
B.C. apparently when he was 19 (24?). It was an immediate success. He soon
had friends in high places including General Scipio Africanus the Younger.
Terence adapted his 6 comedies from Greek models. His plays were
sophisticated, satirical, and subtle, with elegant Latin, unlike Plautus his
predecessor with his broad farce and colloquial Latin. Terence died in 159
B.C. on his way back from Greece where he had searched for more play
material. He was then apparently only about 26 (31?) years old. This does not
leave much room in his life for the education, literary output and fame he
achieved, coming from slavery as a beginning. My guess is that he was a
prisoner taken from a wealthy family in the wealthy city of Carthage. If I'm
right, and the evidence seems to support this view, then he was not "from
humble origins, just like Shakespeare (Shaxper)" as A says he was.
2. In the poem by Davies we have the usual problem with publications. A gives
the date of publication, 1610, and says it cannot be de Vere as it's in the
present tense. Actually, the reference in the first sentence is in the past tense. But Davies
certainly did not write all his poems within 5 minutes of publication. This one
could have been written years earlier, in 1603-4 when de Vere was still alive,
and James 1st was king. It might have been written even earlier, in the 1590s,
and the King references merely capitalized later for publication, to add the
extra pun on the King's Men theatre company and make the poem more
3. The poem seems relevant to de Vere, but not to Shaxper, who could not have
been a companion for a king. De Vere, with his reigning wit, and family name
related to truth, or honesty, not railing like an actor, was the one lining other
peoples' pockets through the printing and performances of his plays. The
beneficaries included Shaxper, so this reference is incorrect for him.
The whole poem, is, I suggest, at least inconclusive. Further, we don't know
how much Davies knew about the Shaxper/Shakespeare situation.
A continues with
In 1615 Edmund Howes published a list of 'Our moderne, and present excellent
Poets" in John Stow's Annales. He lists the poets "according to their priorities
(social rank) as neere I could," with Knights listed first, followed by gentlemen.
In the middle of the 27 listed, number 13 is 'M. Willi. Shakespeare gentleman.'
My comments are
1. Fortunately I was able to locate on the Web what appears to be the complete
list referred to by A. Here's the list said to be by Edmund Howes in 1615:
Our moderne, and present excellent poets which worthely florish in their owne
workes, and all of them in my owne knowledge lived together in this Queenes
raigne, according to their priorities as neere as I could, I have orderly set downe
(viz) George Gascoigne, Thomas Churchyard, Edward Dyer, Edmond Spencer,
Philip Sidney, John Harrington, Thomas Challoner, Frauncis Bacon, John
Davie, Iohn Lillie, George Chapman, W. Warner, Willi Shakespeare, Samuell
Daniell, Michaell Draiton, Christopher Marlo, Benjamine Johnson, Iohn
Marston, Abraham Frauncis, Frauncis Meers, Joshua Siluester, Thomas
Deckers, John Flecher, John Webster, Thomas Heywood, Thomas Middleton,
I believe this is the list referred to by A as it has 27 names and the 13th is
indeed Shakespeare. But whatever Howes meant by priorities it does not seem
to be social rank as there are, to the best of my knowledge, only 4 knights
listed, and not with knights first, as A says, but interspersed and not
recognized as such. They are Sir Edward Dyer, Sir Philip Sidney, Sir Francis
Bacon, and Sir John Davies (not to be confused with the John Davies of
Hereford discussed in 5b above). Another interesting omission is the class of
nobility, whether earls or barons. And the list is far from complete, for
example, an obvious omission being Sir Walter Ralegh.
Either the Web page has altered the list, or A has, because the Web page does
not list Shakespeare as A does.
2. Apparently there is another list, in a 1615 edition of John Stowe's Annales or
Chronicles. He published many works, and lived 1525-1605 so either his
Annals outlived him as a publication or he had a son by the same name. There
are many John Stowes down through the ages from then to the present. I have
only been able to obtain an excerpt from this list, said to contain 24 of
Our modern and excellent poets which worthely flourish in their own workes in
the Queen's reign...
"Edmund Spencer, Esq: Sir Philip Sidney, Knight; Sir Francis Bacon, Knight;
Maister George Chapman, Gentleman; Mr. William Shakespeare, Gentleman;
Michael Draiton, Esquire, and Mr. Benjamin Johnson, Gentleman.
The order is the same, but there are omissions in the sequence from the
I suggest all this is 'hearsay' evidence, and tells us nothing about who
Shakespeare was. I propose to set it aside as irrelevant.
A continues with 5d.
Some time between 1616 and 1623, William Basse wrote an elegy entitled "On
Mr. Wm. Shakespeare," in which he suggests that Shakespeare should have
been buried in Westminster Abbey next to Chaucer, Beaumont, and Spenser:
Renowned Spenser, lie a thought more nigh
To learned Chaucer, and rare Beaumont lie
A little nearer Spenser to make room
For Shakespeare in your threefold, fourfold tomb,
To lodge all four in one bed make a shift
Until Doomsday, for hardly will a fifth
Betwixt this day and that by fate be slain
For whom your curtains may be drawn again.
If your precedency in death doth bar
A fourth place in your sacred sepulcher,
Under this carved marble of thine own
Sleep rare tragedian Shakespeare, sleep alone,
Thy unmolested peace, unshared cave,
Possess as lord not tenant of thy grave,
That unto us and others it may be
Honor hereafter to be laid by thee.
This poem circulated very widely in manuscript, and it survives today in more
than two dozen copies. Several of them have the full title "On Mr. William
Shakespeare, he died in April 1616," which means they were unambiguously
referring to the Stratford William Shakespeare. In any case, the poem could not
be referring to the Earl of Oxford. It was written no earlier than 1616 (12 years
after Oxford's death) since it refers to the death of Beaumont, which happened
in March 1616 and it was certainly in existence by the time of the First Folio in
1623, since Ben Jonson's eulogy alludes directly to Basse's and responds to it.
My comments are:
1. The poem was not apparently printed until 1633. If the poem exists in
manuscript form with so many copies, is the writing the same hand on all the
copies? Further, is the addition of ",he died in April 1616" in the same
handwriting as the rest of the heading and poem? And why is it only on
'several' and not on all of them? This is inconclusive evidence as presented,
and further, it seems to me that Basse would not have put additional wording
on a few copies. I assume this addition was by someone other than Basse, that
there was probably more than one copyist, and only one added this particular
2. From another source I find it stated that the poem was written in 1622. If
this is correct, it means it's not related directly to the death of either Shaxper
or the poet/dramatist.
3. From a third source I learn that Basse was apparently a student at Oxford
when he wrote the poem, and that he was 'closely associated with Oxford's
daughters.' This makes sense and adds meaning to the poem's phrase 'possess
as lord not tenant' because as Viscount Bolbec he was a lord, although his more
senior title was as an earl. With the additional information we now have, I
think the tables are turned on A, and that the poem was probably saying that
de Vere who was apparently buried at Hackney should be buried in the Poet's
corner in the south transept of Westminster Abbey.
4. Ben Jonson referred to this poem in F1, and we'll come back to this in the
chapter on F1.
5e. Sometime before 1623, a monument was erected to William Shakespeare in
Stratford, depicting him as a writer. Anti-Stratfordians desperately try to
discredit this evidence by any means possible, but their efforts are misguided and
futile. (See The Stratford Monument, and 51-k below.) From the 1620s on the
monument was consistently seen as representing William Shakespeare, the
My comments are, first, there are some facts in this much disputed topic. They
1. There is presently existing a monument to William Shakespeare in Holy
Trinity Church, Stratford on Avon.
2. We have it on the authority of M. H. Spielmann "Shakespeare's
Portraiture" in Studies in the First Folio (Oxford University Press, 1924) that
there were "certain repairs made in 1748." Therefore, whatever monument
was there prior to 1748 is unknown to Stratfordians and Oxfordians alike.
3. Spielmann provides considerable detail on the history of 17th century tomb
makers, engravers and artists engaged in work relating to monuments to
deceased persons. However, he speaks of the "Shakespeare-haters" (Shaxper
dissenters) and denounces criticism of the authenticity of the existing Stratford
monument as "misconception." He is a biased scholar.
4. Spielmann produces convincing evidence that the plate showing the
monument published in Sir William Dugdale's Antiquities of Warwickshire in
1656 may be inaccurate as it was not of course photographed, but reproduced
from an artist's sketch(es). He provides numerous examples of errors in some
of Dugdale's other representations and 'facts' due to his reliance on
subordinates and apparently sub-contracted artists, as his output of
informational material was prodigious.
5. The main differences between the existing monument and Dugdale's
(a) what looks like a sack of something (which could be a sack of grain) shown
in front of the top-half figure has become what seems to be a cushion.
(b) what was a pair of arms and hands almost 'akimbo' holding firmly on to
the 'sack' has become spread hands resting on the 'cushion', the right hand
holding a quill pen, the left holding some distance away a piece of paper which
droops over the front of the 'cushion.'
(c) the face of a stern somewhat narrow faced man with a pointed full beard
and moustache has become a more benign, rounded faced man.
The differences in physiognomy are remarkable. The first looks like a grain
dealer you would not want to get into an argument with, the second, a
peaceable soul who might be almost anything in life.
My conclusions are
1. We just don't know what the original monument looked like.
2. I find a certain anomaly in the second benign representation. Why is this
man holding a pen and paper on a cushion? This is not how you write.
Something soft would be the worst possible material to write on, in fact almost
3. Spielmann thoughtfully provides two pictures of John Stow's Monument,
erected elsewhere. The photo shows a man at a desk looking downward,
leaning forward with a pen in his hand concentrating on writing. This is
immediately recognizable as a man used to writing, and/or in the act of writing.
The second picture for Stow is a much older engraving from a drawing and is
quite different. The man is not looking down but straight ahead, his arms and
hands are apart and he has no pen.
4. In the Shaxper monument I am suspicious of the 'cushion', if that's what it's
meant to represent. It may suggest a hold-over from a former somewhat
different representation as I don't think it fits.
5. We don't know who authorized and who paid for the Shaxper monument. It
seems to me unlikely that the wife, whose debt Shaxper left unpaid, and to
whom he left only his second best bed, would have arranged it. And his son in
law, Dr. Hall apparently merely left a laconic note in his records that his father
in law had died on Thursday.
From this evidence I deduce that there was probably some
change made to the original monument, even before the 1748 'repair.'
Whether it was genuine repair or tampering with the representation we just don't
know. I think the 'cushion' is an anomaly for the purported monument to a
writer. I suggest what we have here is inadmissible as evidence beyond a
reasonable doubt one way or the other as to Shaxper's being originally
represented as Shakespeare the poet.
A continues with 5f, 5g, 5h, and 5i. These all relate to the First Folio of 1623
which we'll investigate in a later chapter.
5j recites an anecdote from an anonymous volume published in 1630 entitled A
Banquet of Jeasts or Change of Cheare.
This jest implies that the writer had been in Stratford church, and that he
believed that the William Shakespeare born there was 'famous'; indeed not yet
15 years after Shakespeare's death, he was apparently the town's main claim to
fame. True, the writer does not explicitly say that Shakespeare was famous as a
poet, but it is difficult to see why a grain dealer would bring such fame to his
My thoughts on this are that we can prove Shaxper was a grain dealer, but we
can't prove he was a poet. Thinking he brought fame to this small
Warwickshire town is, I believe significant. In a town where half the aldermen
were illiterate doesn't only say little for the local school, it suggests the town
would have actively promoted Shaxper as Shakespeare for its own financial
benefit, which the town continues to do to this day in the 21st century.
5k recites a diary entry of a Lieutenant Hammond of September 9, 1634, when
travelling through Stratford upon Avon with his military company "...in the
Church in that Towne...a neat Monument of that famous English Poet, Mr.
William Shakespeare, who was borne heere...."
5l: In 1638 Sir William Davenant's Madagascar contained the following poem
"in Remembrance of Master William Shakespeare"
A quotes this in full and comments
'...Davenant specifically associates the poet Shakespeare with the Avon
river...This testimony deserves to be taken seriously, because significant evidence
indicates that William Shakespeare was a friend of the Davenant family. William
(1606-1668) used to hint that he was Shakespeare's bastard son, several
independent 17th-century sources report that Shakespeare used to stay at the
Davenants' tavern in Oxford on his journeys between Stratford and London...."
5m: The 1640 edition of Shakespeare's poems, published by John Benson,
contains a poem entitled 'An Elegie on the death of that famous Writer and
Actor, M. William Shakespeare.' The same volume contains William Basse's
poem from 5d above, entitled "on the death of Williamn (sic) Shakespeare, who
died in Aprill, Anno. Dom. 1616."
5n: 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 a
(sic) 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.
I have listed A's 5j to 5n without individual comment because all this is hearsay
evidence arising well after the publication of the First Folio. I believe it is
certainly fair to say that by then Shaxper was well on the way to being
established as Shakespeare. First I'd like to comment specifically regarding Sir
Richard Baker, and then conclude with a more general comment on the 5j to
Sir Richard Baker (1568-1644/5) entered Hart Hall, Oxford university, as a
commoner in 1584, He is said to have left without taking a degree, studied law
in London and afterwards travelled in Europe. In 1593 he was chosen member
of parliament for Arundel, and in 1594 received his MA. In 1597 he was
elected to parliament for East Grinstead. In 1603 he was knighted by James
1st. In 1620 he was high sheriff at Oxfordshire where he owned some
property. Soon afterwards he married the daughter of Sir George Mainwaring
of Shropshire. He assumed responsibility for some debts of his wife's family;
his Oxfordshire property was seized in 1625. My source for all this says 'Quite
penniless, he took refuge in the Fleet prison in 1635 and was still in confinement
when he died.'
The Fleet prison was a notorious debtor's prison, and the fact that he was
never released tells me that 'he took refuge' there is a euphuism for
imprisonment as a debtor. It was here that he spent his time mainly in writing.
Apart from his Chronicle, for which he is famous, all his writing was religious
except the Theatrum and a translation of discourses on Tacitus. The source's
conclusion regarding the Chronicle is "For many years the Chronicle was
extremely popular, but owing to numerous inaccuracies its historical value is
The statement by Baker, then, distils down to hearsay as we have no evidence
to show how he came by what he wrote concerning Shakespeare.
This concludes our review of A's evidence for Shaxper being Shakespeare,
which ends with 5n, Sir Richard Baker.
A provides a conclusion to this section
How do we know that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare? We know because the
historical record tell us so, strongly and unequivocally. The historical evidence
demonstrates that one and the same man, William Shakespeare of
Stratford-upon-Avon, was William Shakespeare the player, William Shakespeare
the Globe-sharer, and William Shakespeare the author of the plays and poems
that bear his name - and no person of the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras ever
doubted the attribution. No Elizabethan ever suggested that Shakespeare's plays
and poems were written by someone else, or that Shakespeare the player was not
Shakespeare the author, or that Shakespeare the Globe-sharer was not the
Shakespeare of Stratford. No contemporary of Shakespeare's ever suggested
that the name used by the player, the Globe-sharer, or the author was a
pseudonym, and none of the major alternative candidates - not Francis Bacon,
not the Earl of Oxford, not Christopher Marlowe - had any connection with
Shakespeare's acting company or with his friends and fellow actors.
Anti-Stratfordians must rely solely upon speculation about what they think the
'real' author should have been like, because they cannot produce one historical
fact to bolster their refusal to accept who that author actually was. No matter
how they try to ignore it or explain it away, the historical record -all of it -
establishes William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon as the author of the
works traditionally attributed to him.
It seems a shame to have to continue with one's own comments after this noble,
pejorative position statement but such must be the case.
My general comment on A's 5j to 5n is that it is not proof beyond a reasonable
doubt, and most of A's inspired conclusion is pure unsupportable personal
After 400 years of scholarship looking for it, no factual evidence has been
found to prove that Shaxper was the poet/dramatist. The attribution to
Shaxper is primarily based on certain words in the Introduction to the First
Folio (1623) plus hearsay and circumstantial evidence.
This lack of evidence for the identity of the poet/dramatist is not the result of a
plot or conspiracy. It was deliberate and intentional on the part of the
poet/dramatist himself. Sonnets 71 and 72 tell us that. They are both quoted in
full in Chapter 18, and I suggest you read both, but because the web is
infinitely expandable here are the relevant lines from sonnet 71, and this is
Shakespeare himself speaking:
No longer mourn for me
when I am dead....
Do not so much as my poor name rehearse,
But let your love even with my life decay;
Lest the wise world should look into your moan,
And mock you with me after I am gone.
The poet will of course die with his real name, and it seems the world is likely
to mock him in his real name after he is dead. That's if he should be
Shakespeare continues his post-mortem instructions in the next poem:
O! Lest the world should task you to recite
What merit lived in me, that you should love
After my death, - dear love, forget me quite,
For you in me can nothing worthy prove;
Unless you would devise some virtuous lie,
To do more for me than mine own desert,
And hang more praise upon deceased I
Than niggard truth would willingly impart:
O! lest your true love may seem false in this,
That you for love speak well of me untrue,
My name be buried where my body is,
And live no more to shame nor me nor you.
For I am sham'd by that which I bring forth,
And so should you, to love things nothing worth.
The name to be buried with his body is of course his real name, not his
pseudonym. And that's the poet/dramatist Shakespeare himself saying this. It's
Then in sonnet 76 he says
every word doth almost tell my name
Almost, but not quite. He is deliberately withholding it. And there is a very
good reason. Elsewhere in the sonnets (#121: chapter 19) he tells us why. He's
disgraced himself, he's 'vile esteemed.' Vile is a strong word; not dishonest, or
corrupt, or a murderer, or other criminal, but vile. So there's moral turpitude
involved. The poet/dramatist also says in effect, in sonnet 72, that he wants to
go to an unmarked grave, though his writing he knows perfectly well is
immortal, and he doesn't hesitate to say so. For example sonnet 55 begins:
Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rime; ,...
Shakespeare wants to efface his persona because of what he's done and has
become in his life, but he wants his work to stand by itself as immortal and be
unsullied. There's no conspiracy by others to hide him and substitute Shaxper.
The poet/dramatist did the hiding of his real person himself, deliberately and
intentionally, because of the shame and disgrace of his life as he had led it, and
the consequent disgrace to his family, This is what Shakespeare tells us, and I
believe him. Further, what Shakespeare says about himself fits perfectly with
the known circumstances of the life of Edward de Vere, and we have found it
fits no one else so closely.
If this is what happened we need next to ask the practical question how did the
plays of this dramatist find their way in a steady stream to the Globe Theatre
Company for public performance? First, now that we know they're all written
by a nobleman, we can reasonably surmise that all the plays originated as
productions at court. After enthusiastic reception there they would some time
later have been revised and adapted for the public stage. Why the Globe
theater company? The answer seems to be that as the plays were popular the
nobleman could probably have had his choice of theatre companies, but he
perhaps chose the Globe company because the leading tragic actor of the day
was an owner there; Richard Burbage. Further, the famous clown Kempe was
there, and the actor + musician Augustine Philips. A competent musician was
important for the performance of the numerous musical pieces with lyrics
woven into the various plays.
Because this nobleman had one of the best wits in England he must have found
it amusing as a by-product of his choice of theatre company that the Globe also
had a man called William Shaxper, a base born (lower class) provincial who
was working his way up to being a sharer (investor). Shaxper was a dealer in
malt, grain and stone. He would be a perfect conduit, and a dealer in plays,
between the author's executive secretary and the senior management of the
Globe (The Burbages, Richard and Cuthbert). Shaxper even changed his
name's pronunciation from Shaxper to Shakespeare. This provided a perfect
cover for the real author, the poet/dramatist. Little did this author think that
scholars for the next 400 years would believe that Shaxper actually wrote the
plays, which as the real author knew, was ludicrously impossible. But the
Stratfordians are so very nearly right. Their only real error is in saying
Shaxper was the author. Much of the rest of what they say is probably true.
As near to the facts as I can find them it seems to be that
1. William Shaxper, ambitious, quick witted, but lacking education, changed
the spelling and pronunciation of his name to Shakespeare after going to
London and joining the Globe theatre company where he eventually became a
2. He may well have had a hand in procuring the stream of plays from the
actual playwright to the Globe company. He was certainly in a position to do
so. And as a known dealer in many things, he may well have dealt in plays for
3. The playwright himself tells us in his own personal sonnets that his work is
immortal, but he will pass unnoticed to an obscure grave. And this is precisely
what happened. We don't know where his grave is.
4. Shaxper needed to do very little to inherit the mantle of the playwright. who,
as de Vere, died 12 years before Shaxper. Shaxper was already a part owner of
the company producing the plays, he was a minor actor there, he had virtually
the same name as the playwright had given himself, William Shakespeare. The
fact that Shaxper came to be known as the playwright virtually fell into his lap.
Anyone in the next generation would be almost bound to conclude that he was
5. How then do we know he wasn't, despite A's fine statement for the defence
of Shaxper? Two reasons. The words of the playwright that he 'bore the
canopy' which was impossible for Shaxper, plus the evidence of Shaxper's own
crude attempts just to write his own name on legal documents. These two
simple, plain, cardinal facts amid all the hypotheses and hearsay prove
conclusively that Shaxper was not and could not have been the poet dramatist
William Shakespeare. And that, I think, is why Shaxper has a 'cushion' under
his pen, which is separated from the paper, on his Stratford on Avon
monument. Who ever heard of a writer having a cushion under his pen? What
you need is a firm solid piece of material, in those days a wooden desk or table,
on which to write. The anomaly of the 'cushion' lends credence to the
suggestion of the monument's having been 'improved' to substitute a 'cushion'
for a sack of grain.
I suggest it is the intentional personal obscurity of de Vere in his later life, the
man who was Shakespeare, plus the ambition of Shaxper who had to do very
little to be thought to be the poet/dramatist, which has caused the general
public and even scholars to be misled for so many centuries. Interestingly, a
number of famous writers, including
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Walt Whitman, and
John Greenleaf Whittier
plus, on the production side,
Sir John Gielgud, and
have expressed disbelief that Shaxper was Shakespeare.
It transpires that their intuition is more reliable than scholarship.
Although in this chapter our quotations from Shakespeare's sonnets prove that
Shaxper could not have been Shakespeare, they don't necessarily establish that
de Vere was Shakespeare. In the next chapter, we'll begin reviewing the
sections of A's web page 'critically examining Oxfordian claims.'
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