CRITICISMS PART 3
'CRITICALLY EXAMINING OXFORDIAN CLAIMS'
The heading is taken from A's site referred to in Chapter 26. In 2001 this
section of A's web page was divided into 9 numbered parts:
1. Initial Response
2. Alleged Parallels between the Plays and Oxford's Life
3. Biographical Information: Shakespeare vs. his Contemporaries
4. Oxford's Letters
5. Oxford's Bible
6. Stylometry and the Shakespeare Clinic
8. Response to Criticisms on Stylometry
9. Further Response: Shakespeare's Acting Career.
However, in June 2002 the web page URL given in Chapter 26 for this site was
no longer accessible. A much altered site was found at Google: "shakespeare
identity problem" - Stratfordians - #1.
There, the same heading existed: "Critically Examining Oxfordian Claims" It
now read as follows:
OXFORD THE POET
Oxford's Literary Reputation
Puttenham on Oxford
Shakespeare Oxford and Verbal Parallels
Was the Earl of Oxford the True Shakespeare
The verse forms of Shakespeare and Oxford.
First heir of my invention
The question Marks in the 1640 Poems
Burghley as "Polus"
Faced with this divergence, the best plan seems to be to consider the numbered
sections first, and then continue with the newer unnumbered sections where
there is no overlap in content.
Since apparently I can no longer access the earlier numbered list, regrettably I
cannot discuss items 6 and 8 on that list, as I did not download them at the
time. I can only conclude that I reviewed them and decided they were not
relevant to our purposes here. However, this leaves a total of 15 articles to
consider. If de Vere isn't Shakespeare, there should be incontrovertible proof
This is the heading for the first section. It's more a memo than an essay, and
refers to an Oxfordian article. Here I've provided excerpts only from A's
I don't have the time right now to go through refuting it point by point (though
may be I will when I have time), so, for now I'll just make a few comments
1. The Stratford man's... name was "William Shakespeare"... In London his
name was spelled "Shakespeare" over 90 percent of the time ... True he signed
his name "Shakspere" but there's nothing unusual about that. Christopher
Marlowe signed his name Marley.... calling the man "William Shaksper" and
implying that that was the name he went by is a gross perversion of the facts.
Shaxper, as I call him, had the first part of his name pronounced "Shack" until
he went to London and then he changed it to "Shake" and "per" to "peare."
So, basically A is correct when he says 'in London his name was spelled
"Shakespeare' over 90% of the time." The problem is that A seems to want to
shift the London spelling and pronunciation back into Shaxper's early years in
Stratford, which, as I showed in chapter 4, particularly in Note A to that
chapter, is incorrect. A's claim about the 'gross perversion of the facts' does
not apply to Shaxper's early life in Stratford on Avon. To my mind the
interesting question unanswered by anyone is: why did Shaxper do this? We
just don't know whether he co-operated with the real author in this, or took
advantage of the author's situation which was trying to distance his private life
from his writings.
2. We get the usual assertion that nobody referred to the identity of the author
"Shakespeare"; well, of course they did, but Oxfordians dismiss all those
references as ironic, or part of the conspiracy, or any of a number of things..
Unfortunately none of 'all those references' are identified here.
Then A says
3. Similarly we get the claim that 'nobody we know of ever corresponded with
Shaksper(sic),' when in fact we do have a letter to Shakespeare by Richard
Quiney. That's more than we have for most of his contemporaries.
The Quiney letter was put into chronological context in Note B to chapter 4.
This shows us that it's part of a sequence of events around 1598 all linking
Shaxper to various commodity dealings in the Stratford area. The Quiney
letter is one of three involving potential money lending by Shaxper. It seems
incongruous for an author: normally throughout history we find artists,
writers, composers, in need of money and asking for it, not lending it out,
possibly for profit.
A says (the Oxfordian)
4. ... claims that Hamlet is "essentially Edward de Vere's autobiography"... to
which I have two responses. First of all, the story of Hamlet was as old as the
hills ...Second, this play has been claimed as the life story of most Elizabethan
noblemen and in many cases the correspondences are closer than they are with
Oxford. The Earl of Essex and King James are the two best examples I know
Is A suggesting that Essex or King James actually wrote Hamlet? If not, what's
the point of the reference? Probably the Oxfordian was merely lifting the
Stratfordian scholarship claim sometimes made that in the character of
Hamlet Shakespeare was being more autobiographical than with any other
character in his plays; and then the Oxfordian applied this therefore to his
candidate for Shakespeare.
My thoughts about possible parallels in the play Hamlet are more modest: I
suspect that Ophelia came from Anne Cecil; and Horatio from Horatio Vere,
de Vere's cousin, a soldier, and one of the 'fighting Veres'; possibly Polonius
from Burghley; and Gertrude from de Vere's own mother, with her hasty
re-marriage after the death of her husband the 16th Earl.
My general conclusion is that none of this disqualifies de Vere as Shakespeare.
What we are looking for is positive evidence disproving de Vere as the
ALLEGED PARALLELS BETWEEN THE PLAYS AND OXFORD'S LIFE
It's fortunate that I began this investigation with the simple premise that as
Shakespeare's enviable reputation during his lifetime was apparently based
primarily on his two major poems, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of
Lucrece, it would be best to begin with Shakespeare's poetry. 27 chapters later
we have yet to discuss the plays. It's fortunate because the personal poems, in
particular the sonnets, tell us much about the man 'Shakespeare' and his life,
but the plays are a literary minefield because no one really knows how much
they are drawn from imagination and how much from personal life experience.
I suggest that's why there has been such unending controversy which is
unlikely to be settled soon.
Of course, once one has immersed oneself in a study of de Vere's personal life,
his literary accomplishments, early prestige, and his personal failures and
disgraces, it is all too easy to see immediately close parallels between his life
and the plays. For example, in Much Ado About Nothing the hero, in a violent
outburst denounces his bride-to-be at the very moment of the union in the
marriage ceremony. The father of the bride, speaking in advance of the hero's
"I do" to say it for him is typical of what one knows about Burghley, who I
suggest foisted his own daughter on de Vere in marriage. The interference by
the bride's father in the play brings an avalanche of fury by the bridegroom,
and the marriage ceremony ends in pandemonium. Later the charges of
infidelity against the bride are found to be false. This parallels de Vere's
experience of alleged infidelity by his wife, Anne Cecil, with her first child said
not to be his, born during de Vere's absence in Europe. There are so many
parallels with de Vere's life in this play it would be tedious to recite them all.
Beatrice reflects Anne Vavasour, Benedict is another part of de Vere's life,
and so on. Why I call it a literary minefield is because no one can prove any of
it, for or against.
King Lear had 3 daughters and gave his kingdom to two of them, but these two
elder daughters didn't thank him for it. They complained at the riotous
behaviour of his 100 knights, and eventually he was reduced to himself, his
'Fool' and one other. De Vere having given his patrimony in large part to his 3
daughters was reduced to 4 retainers with one a 'tumbling boy.' Only the
youngest daughter, Cordelia, was sympathetic and tried to help Lear, though
he had taken away her inheritance. The parallel with de Vere's behaviour with
his own 3 daughters is too obvious to need repeating. And Susan, his youngest,
was the one involved in the 1623 edition of the First Folio of Shakespeare's
What A has given us here is another memo or brief article of less than two
pages of print. He repeats in more detail his alleged parallels between the lives
of Essex and King James to Hamlet, and goes on to mention Essex in Love's
Labour's Lost, 1 Henry 6, Henry 5, Merchant of Venice, and Troilus and
Cressida. He then provides evidence that John Manningham, Spenser, Nashe,
and Greene, all commoners, were sniping at Burghley, so "why couldn't
Shakespeare (Shaxper), who as a member of the Chamberlain's Men often
played at Court, where he undoubtedly had access to the latest gossip?"
No doubt Shaxper did have access to Court gossip, but this is irrelevant as
Shaxper was not Shakespeare (chapter 3), nor were Essex or King James
Shakespeare, as we said in commenting on the previous article.
None of this disproves de Vere as Shakespeare.
BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION: SHAKESPEARE vs. HIS
Here A discusses the lack of evidence for Marlowe. No manuscripts of the
plays and poems we know are his. No letters written by him or to him. No
examples of his handwriting at all except a signature as a witness to a will in
Canterbury in 1585 when he was 21 years old, spelled "Christopher Marley."
Next A discusses the lack of evidence for the education of the playwrights John
Webster and John Fletcher, among others. For Shakespeare (Shaxper) the
evidence is much better.
It's true that Shakespeare's name appeared on a couple of plays (The London
Prodigal and A Yorkshire Tragedy) which are universally agreed not to be his,
because they are markedly inferior to his work and do not appear in the First
Folio; that just means that his name was a selling point, and does not affect the
fact that the publishers of these plays were asserting that he wrote them.
Of course, there's the First Folio, ... the monument to Shakespeare ... numerous
references to William Shakespeare during his lifetime ... The Parnassus Plays,
John Davies' epigram. Edmund Howes ...list...
These last three items were discussed in chapter 26.
The evidence for the existence of Shaxper and the fact that he began calling
himself William Shakespeare when in London is irrelevant, as we know from
statements by the poet/dramatist himself (e.g. sonnet 125) that Shaxper could not have been
Once again none of this disproves de Vere as Shakespeare.
At last we have something directly relating to de Vere. A's first paragraph
states in part :
Now, I'm certainly not going to deny that Edward de Vere could be an articulate
man when he wanted to be, or that he had some talent as a poet. But the same is
true of many other Elizabethan courtiers ... When I read Oxford's letters
alongside other letters written by and to people associated with the Elizabethan
Court, I am not all that impressed. Oxford was certainly capable of a well-turned
phrase, but he was also capable of tediousness...
I'm inclined to agree with A here, except that I would substitute 'some' for
'many' courtiers. In chapter 20 we went meticulously through the list of
Elizabethan officials close to the Queen who might have carried the canopy.
Next we compiled a list of those included in the Oxford University Press
anthology of Elizabethan poets who were among the higher members of the
Court entourage. This narrowed the list to 6 finalists for Shakespeare. All
failed in one respect or another, except de Vere. And none of what A has to say
here excludes de Vere as Shakespeare.
As for the supposed "parallels" between Oxford's letters and Shakespeare's
work, ... Shakespeare's works are so vast and cover such a wide range of
situations that you can find Shakespearean parallels in virtually anything written
I agree with A in this statement of his.
A's next paragraph discusses the Quiney letter to Shaxper asking him for a
loan, and not referring to him as a writer. A continues
If they (Oxfordians) can rationalize away the First Folio, the monument, the
Parnassus plays, Ben Jonson's testimony, and all the other evidence, one letter
would be no problem; they'd just say it was a forgery, or that is was really
addressed to Oxford, or something.
We can see from this that the Quiney letter has put A on the defensive. That's
because as A well knows, the Quiney letter is not the only extant evidence that
Shaxper was probably in the habit of, if not the business of, loaning money out,
apparently at interest. Why this has perturbed A is because, as he also knows,
such conduct is rare, if not unique, among writers. Writers are frequently
seriously or desperately in need of money, including borrowing it. That, as it
happens, was the situation of de Vere, and the reason for his tedious and
'begging' letters to Burghley.
In the next paragraph A continues:
But what gets me is the standard Oxfordian show of horror at the content of this
letter, and at William Shakespeare's (Shaxper's) financial dealings in general,
when in fact Oxford's letters do not paint any more flattering a picture ... Most of
Oxford's letters which have survived are from the 1590s and early 1600s, ... All
these dozens of letters give no indication that Oxford was writing plays or poetry;
rather, they give the impression of a very bored, aging nobleman, fretting about
getting back into the Queen's favour and constantly pestering Lord Burghley,
and after his death his son Robert Cecil, for something to do. Could he please be
appointed President of Wales (1601) ... Governor of the Isle of Jersey (1600) ...
stewardship of the Forest of Essex (1595) ... much of Oxford's correspondence
involves proposed money making schemes, in 1594-5 he appears from his
correspondence to have became obsessed with the idea of farming the Queen's
tin monopolies ... fully 18 ...are devoted to explaining in detail how he could
improve the Queen's revenues from tin if given the chance ...the word 'tin' does
not appear once in Shakespeare's works...
Again, what A says is mostly true. But he has no justification for saying de
Vere's unsuccessful efforts "give the impression of a very bored, aging
nobleman..." What they do show us, I suggest, is typical of writers, who are
notoriously unversed in financial matters. I believe the truth in de Vere's case
is that he saw very profitable monopolies being handed to others at Court, and
wanted one of these sinecures for the money it provided. But the Queen and
her ministers would not budge. De Vere got his annual stipend by quarterly
instalments and his foolish request to commute this non-accountable life
income for £5,000 cash was appropriately ignored. Clearly, he was not
financially responsible enough to handle a monopoly, even as a sinecure.
This conduct by de Vere is in direct contrast to that of Shaxper, who was
apparently loaning out money as a business for profit, once he obtained some
capital, which we showed in chapter 4 he could not have done by selling all
Shakespeare's plays and poems, had he been that writer. While Shaxper was
augmenting his fortune in business deals, de Vere was desperately trying to get
a sinecure to supplement his thriftless spending habits. De Vere's basic
argument was: I spent my fortune trying to be a good courtier, and now
shouldn't the Queen recompense me for all I spent for the Court. But the
people who got the monopolies (like Ralegh) did a great deal more for the
Queen than that. If de Vere was Shakespeare, the Queen thought, and quite
rightly, that the equivalent of about $3 million Cdn.. a year in our money for
life paid quarterly with no accounting due, and no questions asked, was quite
enough. King James continued the payments and arranged for him to get back
the family Forest in Essex, with coveted recognition as a Privy Councillor, these last two being awards which the Queen had not allowed him.
Why did the Queen, and then James, continue the substantial annual payments
to de Vere during his lifetime? Sir Francis Walsingham spent most of his life
as the head of the Queen's equivalent of the modern US CIA, but apparently
consumed his own fortune in the process and died a poor man. Another
devoted minister to the Queen, Sir Christopher Hatton, doesn't seem to have
fared much better. Why then the large annual payments to de Vere? He must
have done more than just been a 'very bored aging nobleman' to have this
income from the monarchs. It's never been discovered what he did to deserve
it. We came across a tantalizing clue in a de Vere letter to Burghley saying that
he and the Queen were being impeded in his 'office' but he doesn't say what the
'office' was. With the thrifty, parsimonious Queen, he must have been doing
something to deserve it. The apparent ostracism and falling out of the favour
he once had with the Queen may be explicable because she was a religious
person, and would have disapproved of his having become a homosexual.
Although no one knows the true facts here, my suggestions at least provide a
viable explanation; but "a very bored ageing nobleman" does not.
I conclude that there is nothing here to prove that de Vere was not
Shakespeare. In fact, A himself starts his last sentence by saying
"Note that I am not saying that any of this PROVES anything..."
And with that statement by A, I agree.
Before commenting on this section, let me say that I have always been a
voracious reader, particularly of non-fiction, commencing with both my
parents' and grandparents' libraries, my own purchases, and, more recently,
on the Net. As I moved through various stages in life I regularly drew vertical
pencil lines on the pages beside print that interested me, or at the time that I
thought was important. I also noted at the back of each book, and later in life
on attached sheets, page number and a brief reference on one line or less, to
content of interest. Why I'm detailing all this is because when I have returned
to a book for some purpose after many years absence from it I have found that
what interested me later had been of little or no interest earlier in my life and
so was not marked when first read.
This has happened so often that I conclude a writer's markings in a book don't
tell us much, as they probably only refer to a limited time in his life when the
work was first read or read for one specific purpose. In my case, if the later
attached sheets which I used as an updated reference guide were lost, the
evidence remaining in the book itself would be factually incorrect as to my
interest in that particular book. Further, I happen to have 3 quite different
editions of the King James Version of the complete Bible, plus ten different
translations of the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Old Testament or
Torah). That's because I made a special study of them when I did two 2 hour
radio documentaries for CBC. The use I made of these Bibles then was quite
different from the use I made in earlier years when for 3 months I studied
intensively the 4 Gospels, reading and researching only the words in my edition
with red lettering for supposed words of Jesus himself. I might add that the
conclusions I came to as a result of this study were not the same as those of
various biographers of Jesus.
With all this now said, let's see what Stratfordian A has to say about "de
This is a Geneva Bible... which apparently belonged to Edward de Vere at one
point. It contains handwritten notations... Having... prepared a complete list of
the annotations I can report that ... there is no correlation between the
annotations and the pattern of Biblical use in Shakespeare's work, and any
overlap between the marked verses and those used by Shakespeare appears to be
A then describes the binding of this Bible and continues
Since these are all prominent elements of Edward de Vere's coat of arms, we can
reasonably conclude that this Bible was bound for him...The Old Testament is
dated 1570, the New Testament is dated 1568 and the Psalter and Prayer Book is
dated 1569. The much-vaunted annotations are of several types. (For
convenience, I will refer to a single 'annotator,' even though the annotations
may well be by more than one person). In some 30 places the annotator has
written something in the margin in a neat italic hand, though in many cases the
writing has been partially cut away, probably when the book was ... being
rebacked ... Most of these are single words, such as 'sinne,' 'poore,' usurie, or
'mercy,' though there are a few longer phrases, such as 'giue vnto the poore' at
Proverbs 3:10. The bulk of the annotations, however, consist of markings on
specific verses or marginal notes; the great majority of these marked verses have
to do with usury, the poor, or sins of the flesh. ...In about fifteen places, the
annotator has drawn a flower in the margin; in a similar number of places, the
annotator has drawn a pointing hand. All but two of these pointing hands are in
the Psalter, ... at the beginnings of various metrical psalms, ...The annotator was
very busy, ... marking 135 verses in 1 Samuel, ...71 in 2 Samuel, and 61 in 1
Kings, plus many marginal notes in all 3 books. Yet according to Naseeb
Shaheen's work, Shakespeare didn't make particularly much use of those books,
he made much heavier use of Genesis, Job, Psalms, Isaiah, all four Gospels, and
Revelation, among others. The annotator was for some reason drawn to the
Apocrypha, marking 96 verses in Ecclesiasticus (used only moderately by
Shakespeare), 64 verses in 2 Maccabees, 60 in 2 Esdras, 35 in Wisdom, 20 in
Tobit, and 11 in Baruch ( all virtually ignored by Shakespeare.) Several of the
annotator's other favourite books were also seldom used by Shakespeare, such as
2 Corinthians (37 verses marked) Hosea (26 verses) and Jeremiah (13 verses) ,,,
most of the books Shakespeare drew on most heavily ... were hardly touched at
all by the annotator. Shakespeare drew very heavily on all four Gospels,
especially Matthew (arguably his most-used book), but the annotator has left the
Gospels almost alone: 23 verses marked in Matthew, 2 in Luke, 1 in Mark, and
none in John unless one counts the pencil crosses at the beginning of John 5,6,
and 17.) Shakespeare also draws very heavily on Genesis, Proverbs, and Acts, in
each of which the annotator has marked only one verse. To be fair, there are a
few books - notably Deuteronomy, Isaiah, and Revelation, which both the
annotator and Shakespeare seem to have been fond of, ... in general the
annotations of this Bible and Shakespeare appear to have had very different
I think we must congratulate A for some diligent work here. In a wider context
we found in chapter 6 that de Vere while on the Continent in 1575-6 and
before tragic circumstances arose, sent his wife Anne Cecil a Greek Testament
on which he had inscribed a poem in Latin. This Bible seems to be lost. De
Vere himself could have read, and probably did read the Bible in Greek and
Latin. I don't know whether the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate Bible
texts were available in his day, but I would imagine they were. Something else
that seems quite obvious bothers me. Apart from A's comment "one could
argue about whether the handwriting of the written annotations is Oxford's but
this is largely a moot point" I did not find a reference to anyone's having
checked the handwritings of the annotations - said to possibly be two -
against the many extant letters of Edward de Vere, Do the annotations indicate
identical authorship? Those in a position to know the answer appear not to
have passed this information on to us, or if they have, A has not relayed it.
Further, we don't know that the Geneva Bible was annotated by Edward de
Vere. It would have to have been done later than 1568-1570, but might have
been done by Elizabeth Trentham (hence the flowers?) or her son Henry. the
18th earl. Have the annotations been checked against the correspondence of
either of them?
This looks like nothing more than a random overlap of two fairly large sets.
There are roughly 1000 verses marked in the de Vere Bible, and based on my
estimates from the lists in Naseeb Shaheen's books, Shakespeare alluded to at
least 2000 Bible verses in his work. Roughly 80 of the marked verses have
parallels to Shakespeare which are noted by the leading Bible - Shakespeare
scholars, Shaheen and Richmond Noble. ... only about 10 percent of
Shakespeare's Biblical allusions are marked in the Bible, and only about 20
percent of the verses marked in the Bible are alluded to in Shakespeare
A then has a paragraph about Bacon, which is of no interest to us, and
in sum, the value of this Bible as 'evidence' for Oxford's authorship of
Shakespeare's works is very slight. While it almost certainly belonged to Oxford
and at least some of the markings are very likely his, the pattern of marked
verses is very different from Shakespeare's pattern of Biblical use, and the
overlap between the marked verses and those used by Shakespeare is not
significantly more than we would expect by chance.
I don't dispute the conclusion reached by A based on his work and the evidence
available to him, although we must remember he is a staunch Stratfordian and
this entire study of his is an intended refutation of the work of an Oxfordian on
the same Geneva Bible who concluded there are significant parallels. My own
conclusion is that we have imperfect evidence here. Are the annotations in the
same hand as de Vere's letters? Whether they are or not, why not say so, as the
evidence from both sources is extant. Next, we must remember that if it's
Edward de Vere making the notations, he seems to have had at least 3 different
readings of the material: two in different phases of his writing style, and
another in pencil. We must also suspect he had other Bibles, probably in Greek
and Latin. Finally, was it de Vere himself or another member of his immediate
family or someone further removed on whom the title devolved later, who
made the notations? I would like to see this evidence first hand before coming
to a firmer conclusion. I'm not sure the fullest and best use has been made of it,
from what I've read. Meanwhile, I suggest the evidence as given to us
certainly does not make de Vere a 'shoo-in" for Shakespeare, but neither,
particularly based on my own personal experience, does it eliminate him as
Shakespeare. For these reasons, I consider the evidence as given is
SHAKESPEARE'S (SHAXPER'S) ACTING CAREER
A states (in part):
...the Jonson Folio was not entered in the Stationers Register... the cast lists in
the Jonson First Folio were the first to be printed in the entire Elizabethan
theatre; no actor appeared in a printed cast list before 1616.
As we saw in Chapter 26 William Shakespeare is listed 1st in the 1598 list and
5th in the 1603 list, this being another convergence of Shaxper and Jonson. Why
did Jonson include a cast list if no one else did? Why did it list Shakespeare as
first. And why is this First Folio of Jonson missing from the Stationers
Register? No one knows the answers.
A lists the evidence for Shaxper's acting career. We've previously come across
this in Chapters 4, 9 and 26. Most of this short article is a record of a
cross-fire between A and an Oxfordian. A admits that in E .K . Chambers'
'exhaustive compilation of acting records in 'The Elizabethan Stage V.2.'
Shaxper has two lines, including two question marks. Burbage gets 3 pages
plus 4 lines. But A states that Thomas Heywood was an actor for over 20 years,
longer than Shaxper, yet he gets a line and a half in the Actor's Section; that's
because he was better known as a playwright and his two page bio. can be
found under Playwrights ... the William Shakespeare bio is in the Playwrights
A quotes the Oxfordian who quotes Shakespeare in Sonnet 110
Alas, 'tis true, I have gone here and there
And made myself a motley to the view,
Gored mine own thoughts, sold cheap what is most dear...
The Oxfordian is quoted as commenting
..which could be interpreted as saying that the author had appeared on the stage,
and, like a true feudal aristocrat, had shamed himself by doing something so
A then comments
So you're actually suggesting that Oxford had an acting career spanning some
20 years, presumably as a member of the Chamberlain's King's Men, despite the
complete lack of external evidence for such a thing...
A then quotes the Oxfordian again
Pretty flimsy conjecture, I admit, but no shakier than postulating an extensive
acting career for someone who left just one acting record while he lived.
I'd say your entire case, particularly the attempt to explain away William
Shakespeare's acting career, is pretty flimsy. No, make that very flimsy.
Coming as I do from the discipline of dealing with the factual world of
business, what I find remarkable in these exchanges, and there's much more
I've omitted, is that facts, hypotheses and circumstantial evidence are all
thrown into the mix as though they were of equal significance. If we confine
ourselves to the facts, we have
1. "I bore the canopy" according to Shakespeare himself in Sonnet 125. This,
as a fact, means he had to have been an aristocrat close to the Queen.
2. The only printed evidence for Shaxper as an actor comes from Ben Jonson,
whose publication was not entered in the Stationers Register. There can only
be speculation as to why not, as we don't know.
3. Shakespeare's Sonnet 110, if taken at face value by this "true telling" poet
(Sonnet 82) means that the aristocrat/playwright had "gone here and there"
making himself "a motley to the view." This might be figurative or factual. If,
and only if, it's factual, motley, an adjective or a noun, means
1. diversified in colour
2. of varied character
3. an incongruous mixture
None of these meanings fit well with the sense of the Sonnet. But there's a 4th,
older meaning more appropriate to usage by an Elizabethan:
a jester's particoloured dress. And to wear motley means to play the fool.
A jester was a professional maker of amusement. maintained in a Court or a
noble household. During Elizabeth's reign this became transferred to the
theatres as well for general public entertainment.
I suggest that the aristocratic Shakespeare played the clever and highly
amusing part of Dogberry in Much Ado, and this conforms with what we know
of young de Vere as the 'madcap earl.' Personally I doubt that he acted on the
public stage, or if so, only most infrequently, although he had good opportunity
since at one period in his life he leased the Blackfriars theatre. But I think it
probable that he acted in performances of his own plays at Court, including
those put on by the professional actors from the Globe Company.
This article is about Shaxper's acting career. Whether he was an actor or not,
or how much of an actor he was, and whether de Vere was or was not involved
in acting, we know that Shaxper was not Shakespeare (chapter 3, chapter 20),
and we know that Shaxper was a sharer at the Globe for a number of years.
We can leave it at that, and none of this Shaxper 'evidence' affects the case for
de Vere as Shakespeare.
I think we have to take Shaxicon seriously. The reasons are that Professor
Donald W. Foster of Vassar who has developed its use was apparently
successful in identifying a living Anonymous author. Then there's his work on
"A Funeral Elegy for Master William Peter by W.S.", published by Thomas
Thorpe in 1612. Although Elizabethan works published as by 'W.S.' are not
always today considered to be genuine Shakespeare, and although this Funeral
Elegy is not in the established Shakespeare canonical literature, I believe
internal evidence indicates it was written by the poet/dramatist Shakespeare
and that therefore Don Foster was correct in identifying it by his methods as a
work by Shakespeare. I also think Thomas Thorpe probably acquired it at the
same time as the Sonnets (published by him in 1609) but had no topical reason
to publish an Elegy at that time. However, in 1612 the well publicized untimely
death of a young William Peter enabled Thorpe to publish it by putting Peter's
name at the front, writing his own prose dedication (which I judge certainly not
to be by Shakespeare) and market it quickly as a topical item.
Clues are sprinkled throughout the 578 line poem, and one of them commences
at line 509:
... So specially his friends, in soft compassion
Do feel the greatest loss they could have had.
Amongst them all, she who those nine of years
Liv'd fellow to his counsels and his bed
Hath the most share in loss: for I in hers
Feel what distemperature this chance hath bred.
The chaste embracements of conjugal love...
This poet in his usual way is quite specific. There are at least 4 clues here:
1. The Elegy is for a man
2. The man was happily married; the husband and wife loved one another
3. They had been married for 9 years
4. The spouse was able to be a contributor in the man's discussions about his
work, possibly in the legal profession.
This information alone excludes William Peter, who had apparently been
married only 3 years. It tells us the Funeral Elegy had nothing to do with
Peter, except for Thomas Thorpe's purposes. From internal evidence of the
poet's writing about himself in this poem, I conclude it was written probably in
the early 1590s. To my mind the problem is not who wrote it, but who it is
written about. Who is the Funeral Elegy for? Tempting as it is, I must not
diverge from my present investigation here, which is to determine whether
criticisms of de Vere as Shakespeare are valid. Certainly it seems to me the
Elegy is neutral as to whether or not de Vere wrote it. So, back to Shaxicon.
According to Professor Foster (details in Note 1) and A (details in Note 2) the
procedure using SHAXICON, a computer software program designed for use
in literary analysis, was:
1. Catalogue all the words which occur 12 times or less in all Shakespeare's
generally accredited plays
2. Index these words
(1) by play
(2) by character speaking them.
I thought it important to know whether the computer study took all the plays
from one or more of the other playwrights contemporary with Shakespeare
and applied the same tests to see if they had the same shifts in vocabulary at
about the same time. In other words, was there a control group?
To answer this and other questions I attempted to follow up by finding on the
Web the example of Romeo and Juliet cited by A (see end of Note 2), but was
unsuccessful. However, I did find "Shaxicon '95 by Donald Foster, Vassar
College." We need to be sure we understand what is being done by Donald
Foster. What he says in his article on SHAXICON is summarized in Note 1.
What follows here are some quotations from his article and my comments.
Donald Foster's article has a section headed
MOST PROBABLE SHAKESPEARE ROLES, BASED ON THE POET'S
PERSISTENT AND MEASURABLE RECALL OF PARTICULAR
under this heading there are 40 items. Let's just take one to look at in more
HAM: Ghost, 1 Player, Mess-Gent, of 4.5 (and perhaps also role in the
Mousetrap, most probably Lucianus). In F1 Hamlet, the Mess-Gent role is partly
folded into Horatio; but given Shakespeare's persistent recall of the role even
after 1601, it seems likely that the F1 variant in this instance represents a
casting-change made later than the bulk of Shakespeare's F1 revisions.
Apparently what is meant here are the revisions by Shakespeare's F1 editors,
principally, it seems, Ben Jonson. Shakespeare had been dead 7 years or 19
years, depending on whether you think he was Shaxper or de Vere. But, more
important, to review the Ghost part in the play Hamlet, what I did was, first,
to note all the activity of the Ghost in the play, as follows
Act 1, scene 1.
The Ghost enters and exits, no words said.
The Ghost re-enters and exits, no words said.
Act 1, scene 4
The Ghost enters,
The Ghost beckons Hamlet
The Ghost and Hamlet both exit
No words are spoken by the Ghost in this scene.
Act 1 scene 5
Here are almost all the lines spoken by the Ghost. I have included partial lines
and single words as full lines.
1+3+2+1+15+1+2+10+50 (exit) (later: 'below') +1+1+1+1
The total is 89 lines.
Act 3 scene 4
Enter Ghost, speaks 6 lines. Exit Ghost.
This gives the Ghost a grand total of 95 partial or full lines in the play.
Next, I listed all the lines in the entire play, which I found to be as follows:
Taken from a Warwick edition, editor E. K. Chambers.
This tells us that the Ghost had only 2.4% of the lines in Hamlet. But in the
SHAXICON program not all the words spoken by the Ghost are taken into
account, only the 'rare' words, that is, by definition, those used 12 times or less
in the entire works of Shakespeare. With only 95 lines to work with, of which 4
are single words only (the repeated word 'swear' said off stage), this suggests
the number of 'rare' words must be very small, and a microscopic percentage
of the entire words in Hamlet, since if every word in the 95 lines were included,
it would only amount to about 2.4% of the lines in the play. That's assuming
that the repetitious words in the entire play are in about the same overall
frequency as in the 95 lines. It would have been very helpful in evaluating the
results if Donald Foster had at least given us the precise numbers for one of his
40 examples. Perhaps there were only 2 'rare' words in the Ghost's part in
Hamlet, perhaps 5, I doubt very much there were 10 or more. We just don't
know, which is frustrating.
Now let's look at the part of Adam in As You Like It, apparently the only other
specific character in a Shakespearean play said to have been acted by Shaxper.
Here's what SHAXICON shows for Adam:
AYL. Adam, adding old Corin the Shepherd in two revivals of AYL.
In the play, Oliver, Jacques, and Orlando are the sons of Sir Roland de Boys.
Adam is a servant to Oliver. Adam himself in a speech tells us he is almost
fourscore years, that is, almost 80 years old. Oliver, his master, calls him a
"good old man."
The 5 act play has 22 scenes. Here is Adam's contribution to the play:
My copy of the play being unavailable, I downloaded it from the Web, and so
cannot say which edition it is. Further, the lines are not numbered, but I
believe my total is reasonably accurate.
Now, why would the very small number of 'rare-words' only, culled from the
95 lines spoken by the Ghost in Hamlet, and from the 67 lines spoken by Adam
in As You Like It, have a significant effect on the vocabulary of the playwright
as he's writing subsequent plays? Is this what we would expect from the
greatest playwright the world has ever known? I don't know the total number
of lines in As You Like it, but to judge from the many lengthy speeches by the
major characters in the play, I would think it's not very different from the
numbers for Hamlet. If so, the rare-words culled from a 1.7% proportion of
the play spoken by a bit player must surely be few indeed. These two parts,
the Ghost and Adam, are the only parts specifically referred to apparently in
the 17th century, as relating to Shaxper's acting. All the other 38 roles,
apparently listed by SHAXICON, are suppositions, extrapolated by the
computer software as parts having influence on subsequent playwriting.
Professor Donald Foster says
SHAXICON electronically maps Shakespeare's language so that we can now
usually tell which texts influence which other texts and when. ...
What SHAXICON demonstrates is that the rare-words in Shakespearean texts
are not randomly distributed either diachronically or synchronically but are
Diachronic refers to the historical development of a language. The opposite is
synchronic, describing a language as it exists at one point in time. Mnemonic is
of, or designed to aid, the memory. To rephrase the quoted sentence in words I
can better understand:
What Shaxicon demonstrates is that rare-words in Shakespearean texts are not
randomly distributed either by historical development or all at the same time,
but are structured by design to aid the memory.
To put this in more manageable English, perhaps what is meant here is that
the rare-words in Shakespeare's work are not randomly distributed either
developing over time, or appearing all at once, but their occurrence is related
to the playwright's memory.
Don Foster says
Shakespeare's active lexicon as a writer was systematically influenced by his
reading, and by his apparent activities as a stage-player. When writing,
Shakespeare was measurably influenced by plays then in production, and by
particular stage-roles most of all.
Don Foster then says in effect that while writing plays, Shakespeare
disproportionately uses the rare-words of completed plays being performed on
stage at the time of his writing a new play, and continues:
and from these plays he always registers disproportionate lexical recall (as a
writer) of just one role (or two or three smaller roles), and these remembered
roles, it can now be shown, are most probably those that Shakespeare himself
drilled in stage performance.
So Foster is saying there are two factors, Shakespeare's reading, and his
"apparent activities as a stage player."
This first factor presents no problem. What it's saying in effect is that we can
form a good impression of Shakespeare's reading of books because the
vocabulary effect shows up in plays written (or revised) after the book was
read. This makes good sense. It is often said by scholars that Shakespeare kept
very close to the story line in his sources, and when these presumed sources are
printed in the appendices to the plays, we can see that this is true. We can have
no problem with that evidence, and its effect on the candidacy of de Vere as
Shakespeare is neutral.
The second factor is of much more significance. It's said that it relates to
Shakespeare the playwright's "apparent activities as a stage player." We can
note, though, that although the wording quoted says "just one role (or two or
three smaller roles)" the single role, presumably therefore a major role, is not
further referred to, and the rest of the evidence provided seems related to bit
parts only. This is important to us, because one writer wrote, of Shaxper,
(quoted in chapter 4) that the greatest part that Shaxper ever played was the
Ghost in Hamlet. This is a very small part. If major roles come into
SHAXICON's results, then the evidence that Shakespeare's 'memory' relates
to his "apparent activities as a stage player" rules out Shaxper as
Shakespeare because there is no evidence that he ever rose above being a bit
part actor. To the best of my knowledge no one has ever provided evidence
that Shaxper played major roles in any of Shakespeare's plays. So either
SHAXICON has concentrated on minor roles only, and not major roles, or,
Shaxper is not the playwright because minor roles are the only ones that
Shaxper might have played.
As a matter of common sense I can understand that major roles vocabulary
might have an effect on subsequent plays, but I find it very difficult to accept
that the vocabulary in one, two, or even three bit parts would have a
measurable effect on subsequent play writing. Because that's what we're
talking about here. Vocabulary shifts, as I understand it. And what are the
situations in which the 'rare' words occur? if they're rare, why can't we have a
list of them? How many words are there altogether classified as 'rare?' It
seems to me if the playwright is moving from comedy to history to tragedy and
then to romance, the 'rare' words in one setting may become more normal and
appropriate in another. A complicating factor here is the effect of subsequent
revision(s) of texts.
Another factor is the use of words in everyday speech. Words go in and out of
favour. Words change their meaning. The words 'cool' and 'neat' now in
general use don't mean what they did 30 years ago. About 2 generations ago
'viable' and 'synergy' became 'buzz' words in business, which word 'buzz' itself
is a changed-meaning word. Have these factors been taken into account if such
mundane words as 'family' and 'real' are 'rare?' We just don't know from the
information provided to us.
Another problem I have is that it all appears to fit so well
1. To "conform, for the most part with the orthodox dating of the plays" (A)
2. That "in each play there is one role (or in many cases two or more smaller
roles) which disproportionately affects the vocabulary of all later plays" (A).
3. With the parts in the plays that 'Shakespeare' is supposed to have played
"Shakespeare himself drilled in performance" (D.F.).
Much of the difficulty for me with (1.) is that the 'orthodox dating' has been
laboriously pieced together from fragmentary and sometimes somewhat
conflicting evidence, and the result has been acknowledged as far from certain,
while (2.) And (3.) seem to follow on in part related to that imperfect starting
The more I consider this evidence, and the more I search for additional
information as to precise 'rare-words' and numbers involved, the more I am
doubtful as to whether the program is telling us anything about the play acting
activity of the playwright. We already know that the playwright isn't Shaxper,
so the attribution if any by SHAXICON to Shaxper has to be some kind of
mis-interpretation of the data. The evidence that Shaxper could not be
Shakespeare comes from the poet Shakespeare himself (for example at the
beginning of Sonnet 125). Further, it seems unlikely that de Vere was
Shakespeare the poet of Venus and Adonis, the Rape of Lucrece and other
poems, as well as the Sonnets, and that Shaxper was the playwright. But for
Shaxper to be the playwright is also impossible, as he lacked the necessary
writing skills, So it would mean that de Vere was the poet and a Mr X was the
playwright. A Mr. X who acted bit parts only in his own plays.
It seems to me that if the interpretation of SHAXICON's results is right, then
either de Vere was the poet and a Mr. X the playwright acted in 40 or so bit
parts in his own plays and allowed those parts to unduly affect his subsequent
authorship, or there is some other reason why there's a progressive affinity
between bit parts and subsequent play writing which is not the acting of bit
parts. What this other reason might be I have at present no idea as I have
insufficient data on which to form an opinion. Personally, I believe there's
some flaw in logic here, but I don't have enough information to try to ferret out
what it is.
I have sent an email to Professor Foster and await his response, which I'll post
to end this chapter.
There's another different type of complicating factor. A states (as quoted in
Note 2) that:
We know from the cast lists in the Ben Jonson First Folio that William
Shakespeare acted in Jonson's Every Man in his Humour (1598) and ... the rare-
word patterns indicate that the author of Shakespeare's plays acted in ... the
roles of Old Kno'well (Every Man In) and... (Coincidentally, tradition... first
recorded by Thomas Davies in 1785 - says that Shakespeare plays Old Kno'well
in Jonson's Every Man In.)
I've followed the same procedure with this play of Jonson's as with Hamlet
and the Ghost and As You Like It and Adam, and, to summarize the results
without the details, here's what I found:
Old Kno'well (Knowell, an Old Gentleman, in my copy), appears extensively
in Act 1 scene 1, (144 lines); also in 2.3. (100); 3.3. (5); 4.4. (19); 4.8 (23); and
5.1 (14). This gives a total of 305 lines for Knowell. The play by my count has
3,074 lines, which gives Knowell 9.92% of the total lines in the play. I would
say that this character has a major role in the play. This I suggest is quite
different acting from the minor roles in Shakespeare's plays. There is much
more responsibility here to carry the play, particularly as Knowell has 144 of
218 lines in the first scene. If Shakespeare performed this part in 1598 it puts
him in a different category of actors, not just a bit part actor it seems to me. It
moves him closer to being a playwright because he would at least have learned
to read well, if not to write, although historically good actors are not
There's also the conflict of 3rd party evidence. If Thomas Davies writing in
1785, 187 years after the event, is the first to record that Shaxper acted this
part, presumably it would have been his greatest part, while the other 3rd party
evidence we have, published by Nicholas Rowe in 1709 (111 years after the
event) (referred to in Chapter 4) said the Ghost in Hamlet was his greatest
role. The problem here is how much reliance we can place on a statement made
187 years after the event, and contradicting another statement made 111 years
after the event. (How much do you know about your ancestors living 187 years ago?) Not all evidence is of the same worth. There are different
levels of value in evidence. Hearsay is clearly not valuable. Fact, where
obtainable, is. Circumstantial evidence is admissible, but usually requires
several components of it to fit togther. To conclude the matter for the present,
I think we have to reserve judgement, pending further more factual
information than this rather remote hearsay evidence.
We are then left with the evidence from SHAXICON. Here I must repeat my
earlier conclusion that Jonson was a younger man than Shakespeare, a rival
and at least at one time an enemy according to what E. K. Chambers indicates
(Chapter 26). Jonson would not be likely to allow this competing playwright to
play any role, and certainly not a significant role, in any of his plays.
When we look at Shaxper's activities, another puzzling matter is that for the
year 1598 he was listed as William Shakespeare cast in a major role in Every
Man in His Humour, but that same year, 1598, William Shaxper of Stratford
on Avon was dealing with Richard Quiney and his request for a loan of £30
and other similar letters; he was paid for a load of stone in Stratford on Avon;
he was recorded as the 3rd largest hoarder of grain (corn) in Warwickshire
(where a shortage arose due to a drought). We cannot assume different men
here, because Shaxper's will (chapter 5) ties the acting world to his world in
Stratford on Avon.
I regard the SHAXICON work as the first serious challenge to de Vere as
Shakespeare. If Donald Foster's interpretation of the evidence is completely
correct, it means that the playwright Shakespeare's vocabulary in writing was
consistently and significantly affected by the vocabulary in the minor roles in
plays being performed at the time, and the logical explanation for that effect is
that the playwright was himself also occupied as an actor of these minor parts
at the time of his writing later plays.
This concludes the review of the 7 available numbered "Criticisms of
Oxfordian Claims." The results are:
1. No detrimental effect to de Vere's candidacy as Shakespeare
2. No detrimental effect
3. No detrimental effect
4. No detrimental effect
6. SHAXICON - possible detrimental effect, more information required.
7. No detrimental effect.
In the next chapter we'll review the remaining unnumbered articles under
their headings OXFORD THE POET and OXFORDIAN MYTHS.
Here's part of what Professor Donald Foster has to say about SHAXICON in
an article on the Web:
First, what is it? SHAXICON is a lexical database that indexes all of the words
that appear in the canonical plays 12 times or less, including a line-citation and
speaking character for each occurrence of each word. (These are called "rare
words," though they are not rare in any absolute sense- "family [n.]" and "real
[ad.]" are rare words in Shakespeare.) All rare-word variants are indexed as
well, including the entire "bad" quartos of H5, 2H6, 3H6, Ham, Shr, and Wiv,
also the nondramatic works, canonical and otherwise (Ven, Luc, PP, PhT, Son,
LC, FE, the Will, "Shall I die," et. al.); the additions to Mucedorus and The
Spanish Tragedy, the Prologue to Merry Devil of Edmonton, all of Edward III
and Sir Thomas More (hands S and D); Ben Jonson's Every Man in His
Humour (both Q1 and F1) and Sejanus (F1); and more; but these other texts
have no effect on the 12-occurrence cutoff that sets the parameters for
SHAXICON's lexical universe.
What SHAXICON demonstrates is that the rare-words in Shakespearean texts
are not randomly distributed either diachronically or synchronically, but are
"mnemonically structured." Shakespeare's active lexicon as a writer was
systematically influenced by his reading, and by his apparent activities as a
stage- player. When writing, Shakespeare was measurably influenced by plays
then in production, and by particular stage-roles most of all. Most significant is
that, while writing, he disproportionately "remembers" the rare-word lexicon of
plays concurrently "in repertory"; and from these plays he always registers
disproportionate lexical recall (as a writer) of just one role (or two or three
smaller roles); and these remembered roles, it can now be shown, are most
probably those that Shakespeare himself drilled in stage performance.
SHAXICON electronically maps Shakespeare's language so that we can now
usually tell which texts influence which other texts, and when. Moreover, when
collated with the OED or with early modern texts in a normalized
machine-readable format, SHAXICON provides an incomplete record of
Shakespeare's apparent reading. The main value of this resource has less to do
with biographical novelties, however, than with problems of textual transmission,
dating, probable authorship of revisions, early stage history, and the like. And
because SHAXICON is a closed system, human bias in measuring lexical
influence of this sort is effectively eliminated. The evidentiary value of supposed
"verbal parallels" is no longer a matter of private intuition or subjective
judgement, but quantifiable, using a stable lexical index (and measurable against
a virtually limitless cross-sample of machine-readable texts.)
Omitting what Donald Foster says about problems and solutions, next is
The following list represents a corrected catalogue of those roles that
Shakespeare is most likely to have acted. These assignments vary somewhat in
statistical significance, depending on sample size, etc. .... here follows a list of
Shakespeare's most likely stage-roles, as statistically derived. Keep in mind that
this catalogue cannot be proven to represent historical actuality. SHAXICON
handily selects Adam of AYL and the Ghost of Ham as probable Shakespeare
roles, both of which are supported by hearsay evidence from the 17th century;
the remaining roles find no external historical confirmation (although Davies
mentions that Shakespeare played some kings, and SHAXICON indicates that
Shakespeare played king-roles in AWW, 1H4, 2H4, HAM, LLL, PER, and
probably MAC). Having studied the evidence from every conceivable angle, I'd
say that the assignments below are good bets, even despite the lack of archival
evidence to back them up, for the disproportion in Shakespeare's persistent
recall of these roles is quite striking relative to other roles in the corresponding
A begins his article by saying:
Now, I'd like to discuss Don Foster's SHAXICON database, which is currently
being prepared for publication, hopefully in 1996. Ward Elliot's study provides
negative evidence; it indicates that none of the claimants tested wrote the works
of Shakespeare. Foster's study, though, provides positive evidence of a new and
ingenious kind; he has been able to show that the person who wrote the plays
almost certainly acted in them, or at the very least, this person memorized one
role (or several smaller roles) in each play. He has done this by cataloguing all
the "rare words" in Shakespeare (those which occur 12 times or fewer in the
canonical plays), indexed not only by the play they appear in, but by the
character who speaks them. In each play there is one role (or in many cases two
or more smaller roles) which disproportionately affects the vocabulary of all
later plays, in that the words spoken by that character consistently occur in later
plays more often than we would expect by chance; this is the role that
Shakespeare memorized for performance. For example, take Hamlet. Using
SHAXICON, you can go through each of the other plays one by one, in each
case making a list of the rare words which occur both in that play and in
Hamlet. In the plays written earlier than Hamlet, the shared rare words are
divided proportionally among all the characters; that is, if a character speaks 5
percent of the words in Hamlet, he will also speak roughly 5 percent of the rare
words shared by the two plays. In the plays written after Hamlet, though, the
shared rare words are disproportionately concentrated in the roles of the Ghost
and the First Player; the words spoken by these two characters were much more
in the forefront of Shakespeare's mind when he was writing the later plays. This
works remarkably well all across the canon; the rare-word patterns consistently
pick out the same role(s) in each play as the one Shakespeare memorized. ... The
two roles which seventeenth century theatre gossip said Shakespeare played in
his own plays - the Ghost in Hamlet and Adam in As you Like It - are both
identified by the rare-word patterns as Shakespeare's roles. ...There is
considerably more to SHAXICON than I've indicated here, but I've given the
most important points. ...
A's second paragraph includes the following:
You take a play, say Hamlet. One by one, you compare it to each of the other
plays in the canon according to Foster's shared rare word tests. Roughly
speaking, the other plays will divide into two groups. In the first group, the
shared rare words will be divided proportionally among the characters in
Hamlet. Lo and behold, this group consists of the plays which, according to the
traditional chronology, were written before Hamlet. In the second group, the
shared rare words are disproportionately concentrated in the roles of the Ghost
and the Player King. Lo and behold, these are the plays which according to the
standard chronology were written after Hamlet. ...
A continues with an example from 1 Henry 4 and concludes this paragraph by
It doesn't matter whether we know ahead of time whether 1 Henry 4 or Hamlet
was written first - the pattern of rare words tells us by itself. The above is
oversimplified, of course, but I hope it makes it clear what the study really does,
and that it does not rely on knowing the order of the plays ahead of time.
In his final paragraph A says in part:
...we know from the cast lists in the Ben Jonson First Folio that William
Shakespeare acted in Jonson's Every Man in His Humour (1598) and Sejanus
(1603). Don Foster has entered these two plays in the SHAXICON database, and
the rare-word patterns indicate that the author of Shakespeare's plays acted in
both of them, in the roles of Old Kno'well (Every Man In) and Macro and
Sabinius (Sejanus). (Coincidentally, tradition -- first recorded by Thomas Davies
in 1785 -- says that Shakespeare played Old Kno'well in Jonson's Every Man
In). Furthermore, we have documentary evidence that Every Man In was
performed in 1598 and 1604, and words from this play come pouring into the
Shakespeare plays which, according to the standard chronology, were written in
1598 and 1604; similarly, we know that Sejanus was acted in 1603, and words
from this play appear disproportionately in Shakespeare's plays, which,
according to the standard chronology, were written around then. In fact,
wherever we have documentation of a performance of a Shakespeare play during
his lifetime, SHAXICON indicates that the play in question was being performed
in the appropriate year. For a detailed explanation of the use of SHAXICON for
dating plays and identifying sources, see the essay on Romeo and Juliet on Don
Foster's web page.
Back to Index Page