WHAT DID GEORGE PUTTENHAM REALLY SAY ABOUT OXFORD AND WHY
DOES IT MATTER?
This article is by A2. We've already looked at a previous article with a section on
Puttenham, also by A2 (chapter 28). Here he's saying (I'm quoting excerpts only)
One seeming problem with the Oxfordian story is that his name was never
attached to any of the works of Shakespeare. Oxfordians reply that he was a
courtier, and he therefore had to conceal his authorship.
My comment is that I don't agree with this alleged Oxfordian claim; for example,
Thomas Sackville at least co-wrote the published play Gorboduc, and wrote the
published Induction to A Mirror for Magistrates (2nd edition) (Chapter 22). He was
a cousin to Queen Elizabeth, and later became Lord Buckhurst and the Earl of
Dorset. For de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, poems published as by E. O. were not
exactly anonymous. However, A2 continues
They cite the 1589 work The Arte of English Poesie (generally and hereafter
attributed to George Puttenham):
I know very many notable gentlemen in the Court that have written commendably
and suppressed it agayne, or else sufred it to be publisht without their own names
to it of which number the first is that noble Gentleman Edward Earle of Oxford.
This is the way Puttenham is quoted in some of the most prominent Oxfordian
sources, including the sometimes droll but generally unreliable Frontline show,
"The Shakespeare Mystery." The problem with it is that it's a fake. ... The first part
of the quotation is taken from chapter 8 of the first book of The Arte of English
A2 quotes sufficiently to put the quotation into context
Now also of such among the nobilitie or gentrie as be very well seen in many
laudable sciences, and especially in making or Poesie, it is so come to passe that
they have no courage to write and if they have, yet are they loath to be known of
their skill. So as I know very many notable gentlemen in the Court that have
written commendably and suppressed it agayne, or els sufred it to be publisht
without their own names to it as it were a discredit for a gentleman, to seeme
learned, and to show himselfe amorous of any good Art.
A2 then continues
The second part of the passage occurs in chapter 31 of the first book of The Arte
of English Poesie:
And in her Majesties [i.e., Queen Elizabeth's] time that now is are sprong up an
other crew of Courtly makers Noble men and Gentlemen of her Majesties owne
servauntes, who have written excellently well as it would appeare if their doings
could be found out and made publicke with the rest, of which number is first that
noble Gentleman Edward Earle of oxford, Thomas Lord of Bukhurst, when he was
young, Henry Lord Paget, Sir Philip Sydney, Sir Walter Rawleigh, Master Edward
Dyar, Maister Fulke Grevell, Gascon, Britton, Turberville and a great many other
learned Gentlemen, whose names I do not omit for envie, but to avoyde
tediousnesse, and who have deserved no little commendation.
My comment, I've put a space between the two parts of the 'fake' quotation first
given above, so that you can see how they've been put together.
A2 then continues
The falsified sentence that Frontline has created from different chapters of
Puttenham is meant to persuade us that Puttenham knew that Oxford had secretly
written great literature but had had it published under another name. Frontline also
ignores the rest of the names after Oxford, thereby giving the impression that
Puttenham thought Oxford was unique in this respect. Had the Frontline people
actually read Puttenham, they would have seen that he says something very
different. Oxford's name and verse are known to Puttenham, and he is first on the
list of "the rest" - that is, of those whose poetry is known to him under their own
names. That Oxford is first on the list does not even mean that Puttenham thought
his verse was the finest among "the rest", he names poets in order of social rank...
However, A2 does not have it all his own way. On the Web I found:
Your criticism derives from an apparent misinterpretation of the three words - with
the rest. You are saying these words are referring to the list of "learned
Gentlemen" which immediately follows these three words. Whereas we believe the
words with the rest means "the rest" [of those who are publicly acknowledged
And therefore, we do not believe the compression of the two excerpts cited
changes the meaning of what was written in Puttenham's (actually Sir John
Lumley's) "Arte of English Poesie." Both say the same thing: there are noblemen
writing good works who don't dare put their names to it.
Frontline quoted the two excerpts, with the words used in the Frontline
documentary in italics, then continued:
Frontline considered using both excerpts but didn't because they are redundant.
To have included both would, if anything, have strengthened the evidence that
Lumley thought DeVere's name as poet and author was being suppressed.
I have quoted this controversy at some length because it seems to me to be a
good example of what I've called the literary minefield. This is what can happen
when one strays into what I would call hearsay type of evidence. I suggest the
small enclave of the Court, not the relatively ignorant general public, was the
arbiter for the poetry of the nobility.
All this seems to me to have little or no relevancy as to whether de Vere was
Shakespeare, and why he was, if he was.
SHAKESPEARE, OXFORD AND VERBAL PARALLELS
This is a diatribe by A1 against an article by Joseph Sobran 'Shakespeare
Revealed in Oxford's Poetry.' A1 says in part:
Sobran's astonishing naivete and ignorance of both Elizabethan poetry and
attribution studies would be amusing, were it not for the fact that many people are
likely to take this article seriously.... lists of parallels such as he provides have long
been looked at very skeptically in attribution studies, since writers in any era
consciously or unconsciously influence each other and draw on common
sources... Elizabethan...writers freely borrowed from each other... it is particularly
easy to find parallels in Shakespeare, simply because his canon is so enormous
A1 then chooses a poem by Sir Edward Dyer, 'one of Oxford's fellow court poets'
and proceeds to select parallels using a Shakespeare concordance. The poem
has 80 lines but A1 stopped at 12, having found so many parallels (more than a
dozen) ... 'which share at least one word'
Dyer: whose hope is vayne (2)
Shakespeare: so that all hope is vain (Cor.5.1.70)
Dyer: whose trust is all betrayed (20
Shakespeare: Trust nobody, for fear you be betrayed. (2Hy220.127.116.11)
My comment at this point is that I have picked these two examples from A1 as
those seeming (to me) the closest matches. Personally, I found them all rather
poor matches, and more mere generalizations of common speech in both cases
rather than parallels with each other. But A1 continues:
In fact I found Sobran's triumphant pronouncements about the amazing parallels
between Oxford and Shakespeare eerily familiar, because I had read almost the
same words before - in the writings of those who claim that Francis Bacon or
Christopher Marlowe wrote Shakespeare's plays.
A1 then has a paragraph citing evidence from Ward Elliott and Robert Valenza,
Donald Foster, and Alan Nelson all indicating Oxford's writings or vocabulary are
poor or no matches for those of Shakespeare.
The Elliott-Valenza evidence will be discussed later as there is an article by them
on their computer study results included as part of this Criticism series. Donald
Foster we have already met with SHAXICON (Chapter 27). This leaves Professor
Alan Nelson of Berkeley. He is a dedicated Anti Oxfordian with a substantial web
site presence. I found him quick to respond to emails with helpful information.
Search engines generally refer to his having on his site "all of Oxford's letters." A1
Alan Nelson has examined and transcribed all of Oxford's surviving letters and
memoranda, and he has found that Oxford's ideosyncracies of spelling and usage
bear no resemblance to the ideosyncracies which can be tentatively reconstructed
from the earliest texts of Shakespeare's works.
But Alan Nelson himself on the Net has posted a caveat saying specifically that
he does not promote the claim by some search engines that his web site contains
"all the letters" of Oxford.
Since there are apparently no manuscript copies of any of the works attributed to
Shakespeare, scholars are relying on printed versions, and these are variously
thought to have been prepared from 'foul copies' or actors recollections of the
parts they played, or scribes writing down what they could as the plays were being
performed, or at best, from manuscript copies of transcribed parts given to actors
to learn, which were then obtained by printers, and possibly in rare cases from the
author's original manuscripts. Knowing as we do that printers even varied spelling
to fit lines of print, and that there were many revisions to plays, sometimes to
refresh their topicality, and that various playwrights might have had a hand in
these revisions, I suggest it is a bold assertion indeed to say that
Oxford's idiosyncracies of spelling and usage bear no resemblance to the
idiosyncracies which can be tentatively reconstructed from the earliest texts of
There is a further problem with this line of research. Apparently no other dramatist
has left a voluminous record of private correspondence as has de Vere - not
because de Vere kept it, none of his exists either, but because he was the
son-in-law of Burghley, who caused to be built for himself a mansion large
enough to house the Queen's entire entourage when she visited him, plus
Burghley had at least a 2 room library for records as well as his personal quarters
and those for his own staff. We only have, it seems, de Vere's correspondence
to Burghley. As a result, there is no other dramatist for whom we can test the
accuracy of personal correspondence against printed works that have come down
to us. Ben Jonson's work is in a far inferior category, he is different from de Vere
in every conceivable way. But the likes of Greene, Marlowe, and Beaumont have
not apparently provided us with a comparable set of materials.
To return to A1's conclusion about Sobran's article:
Sobran provocatively writes "I challenge anyone to find so many close parallels of
phrase, image, rhythm. and thought between two poets in all literature."
A1 continues, in part,
Samuel Daniel has been recognized for the last 200 years as one of the most
pervasive influences on Shakespeare's writing, particularly in the Sonnets...
Shakespeare repeatedly appropriated Daniel's vocabulary, images, themes
(compare Shakespeare's Sonnets 1-18 with sonnets 33-40 of Daniel's Delia) and
even unusual grammatical constructions... (-uncommon outside Shakespeare and
Daniel). The parallels between ...Daniel and Shakespeare are much more
extensive than those Sobran notes between Oxford and Shakespeare and extend
far deeper than superficial verbal parallels.... All in all, Sobran's attempt to use
verbal parallels to 'prove' that Oxford was Shakespeare is an ill-conceived failure,
one which reveals more about Sobran's ignorance of Elizabethan poetry and
attribution methods than it does about Oxford or Shakespeare. Sobran's seriously
defective methodology could be used to 'prove' that virtually any Elizabethan poet
wrote Shakespeare's work. ...
On the face of it this damaging criticism seems to destroy Sobran's case. But does
it? To reduce A1's case to a bare minimum, what he says is that this method could
be used to 'prove' that virtually any Elizabethan poet wrote Shakespeare. So now
we have a situation that virtually any Elizabethan poet could have been
Shakespeare. Does this disprove de Vere as Shakespeare? Of course not. It
merely admits many more candidates. And these other candidates have then to
be eliminated one by one because they don't fit the profile of Shakespeare for
My conclusion: this does nothing to disprove de Vere as Shakespeare.
WAS THE EARL OF OXFORD THE TRUE SHAKESPEARE?
A COMPUTER AIDED ANALYSIS BY WARD ELLIOTT AND ROBERT VALENZA.
We'll call them E & V for brevity. They begin their article by saying:
For 3 years a Shakespeare Clinic of Claremont Colleges undergraduates has
been using computers to see which of 58 claimed 'true authors' of Shakespeare's
poems and plays actually matched Shakespeare's style. The focus in the Clinic's
final year was on 27 poet-claimants, [note 1] using both a new, modal test and a
battery of more conventional tests. None of the poets tested matched
Shakespeare. Walter Raleigh, the closest to Shakespeare by modal test, was 2.4
standard errors distant from Shakespeare's mean modal score, with not much
better than a two percent chance of common authorship... John Donne, the most
distant claimant, was 36.6 standard errors distant from Shakespeare. None of the
three 'leading' candidates with organised followings today - Francis Bacon,
Christopher Marlowe, and Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, came out
anywhere near Shakespeare. This paper concentrates on Oxford, the candidate
with the largest following, and the largest body of recent supporting literature...
Modal testing divides a text into blocks, counts for 52 keywords in each block
(middling common words such as 'about,' 'again,' 'ways,' and 'words', and
measures and ranks eigenvalues, or modes. Modes do not directly represent
keyword occurrences, instead they measure complex patterns of deviation from
a writer's normal rates of word frequency. They measure the way an author uses,
or avoids using, words together. In Shakespeare's poems, modal analysis has
revealed a few very strong, characteristic modes, quickly tailing off into many weak
modes. All 90 blocks of Shakespeare's poems, and a block or two of sonnets
taken from his plays, show the same characteristic pattern, while many blocks of
other authors do not. Thus, Shakespeare's lowest and 'best' modal score is minus
25.36; his highest and worst score is 187.65; his mean score is 56.23; his
standard deviation 40.09. Oxford's best, mean, and worst scores were 233.81;
356.94; and 490.47, respectively, all worse than Shakespeare's worst. Overall,
Oxford tested 18.37 standard errors distant from Shakespeare's mean, very
The Clinic also performed five more conventional tests on Oxford and 19 other
Elizabethan poets. These tests were hyphenated compound words (HCWs) and
relative clauses per thousand, grade-level of writing, as measured by word- and
sentence-length, and percentage of open- and feminine-ended lines.(In the phrase
'the evil that men do', that men do is a relative clause. An open line is a line not
ended by a piece of punctuation. A feminine ending ends a line on an unstressed
syllable, with a word such as 'gotten'.) In general, Shakespeare used compound
words and open and feminine endings more frequently than his contemporaries,
and relative clauses less frequently. We found Shakespeare's patterns to be
strikingly consistent, and often strikingly at variance with those of other Elizabethan
poets. Only two of our 75 conventional tests on (roughly) 3,000-word blocks of
Shakespeare fell outside Shakespeare's profile, while almost half of our 170
conventional tests on other poets fell outside the profile.
My comment here is why 75 conventional tests on Shakespeare and 170 on other
poets? How can the results be compared if the parameters are not the same?
There follows a series of relative numbers, and then this plain language text:
Oxford's poems have many more total relative clauses (TRCs) than
Shakespeare's, and many fewer HCWs and feminine endings. Shakespeare wrote
at the 11th grade level (GRL), Oxford at the 7th. Even ignoring feminine endings
tests as dubious, Oxford's poems fall outside Shakespeare's profile by four of the
None of the tests in Table 1 is perfect. Some tests have commonisation problems.
Texts vary, and many spelling and punctuation peculiarities are supplied by
editors, not authors. ... four tests - relative clauses, HCWs, grade-level and modal
tests - do not seem to suffer greatly either from time problems or from
commonisation problems. Oxford's poems fall outside the profile on all four.
Moreover, the line-ending trends in Shakespeare's plays, which make Oxford's
early poems only a dubious mismatch, still hurt his candidacy because, as the
plays are conventionally dated, the trends continued for years after Oxford's death
Our conclusion from the Clinic was that Shakespeare fit within a fairly narrow,
distinctive profile under our best tests. If his poems were written by a committee,
it was a remarkably consistent committee. ... If they were written by the Earl of
Oxford, he must, after taking the name of Shakespeare, have undergone several
stylistic changes of a type and magnitude unknown in Shakespeare's accepted
works. And, for both feminine endings and open lines, he must have somehow
found a way to carry on trends which are well known in Shakespeare's plays for
almost a decade after his own death. These are not easy assumptions to make.
We do not claim to have said the last word on this subject, nor to have solved the
Shakespeare authorship mystery. But, if it strains credulity to suppose that Will
Shakspere, the Stratford grain dealer, could have written Shakespeare's poems
and plays, it also strains credulity to suppose that people like Oxford, with entirely
different stylistic idiosyncracies from Shakespeare, could have been the true
authors of his poems and plays.
E & V's Note 1 lists the names of those tested. For some authors the selected
works tested are given. The names are Bacon, Barnes, Burton, Donne,Dyer,
Oxford, Queen Elizabeth, Marlowe, Daniel, Drayton, Griffin, Jonson, Lodge,
Sackville, Spenser, Mary Sidney, Alexander, Philip Sidney, Warner, Heywood,
Middleton, Barnefield, Essex, Greene, Nashe, Raleigh and Webster plus 8
non-claimants: Chapman, Fletcher, Herbert, Fulke Greville, Markham, Milton,
Mary Wroth, Willobie. This totals 35 of those they tested.
As to Spenser, E & V have this to say:
Spenser's Epigrams and Sonnets (1569) and his Amoretti (1595) match his
Shepherd's Calendar (1579) closely - though, for some reason, his Faerie Queene
tests very distant from the other four works mentioned.
My comments are :
1. Strangely, E & V do not mention the dates for the Faerie Queene, Spenser's
major work, by which he is remembered. His books 1-3 of that work were
published in 1590, which falls squarely within the other dates given for his work.
But yet it tests very distantly from his other work. How can this be? There is surely
no doubt in anyone's mind that Spenser himself wrote all these works. Was this
distance about the same as that between Oxford's (early) poems, and
Shakespeare's work? I think we have to conclude that the tests are themselves
inaccurate and their design needs substantial revision. Alternatively, it tells us that
such testing of distinguished authors' works is valueless.
2. I have no problem with the conventional dating for Shakespeare's work. This
only tells us when it is first known to have been acted or published, not when it
was written. If it was anything like Beethoven's work, (and Beethoven has been
called the Shakespeare of music), it was constantly revised and improved over
many years, and most of it probably originated much earlier. None of this can be
proved, but older plays with similar names are likely indications of the growth and
development of 'Shakespeare's ' work.
3. I would like to have seen the known poets/dramatists surrounding de Vere
during his lifetime included in the tests vs. Shakespeare's works. Why are there
no results for Thomas Churchyard, Anthony Munday, and John Lyly?
4. Although Jonson is poles apart from Shakespeare, as he had a controlling
influence over the 1623 First Folio, I believe the tests should not have included
only Jonson's Epigrams and The Forest. Surely Jonson's plays should have been
tested against his own poems, and against Oxford's poems and Shakespeare's
poems and plays. A great opportunity was, I believe, lost here, or if this was
done, the results should have been reported.
5. It was said Ralegh was the closest match to Shakespeare by modal test, being
2.4 standard errors distant, - with not much better than a 2% chance of common
authorship.. If the closest match had only a 2+% relationship then I think
there is something wrong with either the testing parameters or procedures. Shakespeare
in one form or another undoubtedly existed, we have the works handed down to
us to prove it, and for all their efforts, whoever he was, he has slipped through
their computer screens undetected.
When E & V have designed or utilized computer tests that identify all of Spenser's
works as by Spenser and no one else, and all of Jonson's work as by Jonson and
no one else, then I think we will have tests that will tell us more accurately whether
de Vere was Shakespeare. Even then there is a problem because all de Vere's
poems are early works and all Shakespeare's by a mature writer. As it is at
present, I think we have to say nothing here by E & V proves de Vere was not
Shakespeare because the tests are not sufficiently discriminating if they distance
Spenser's greatest work from Spenser's other works.
BARKSTED AND SHAKESPEARE
This article is by A2 and A1. Here's what they say, in part:
Oxfordians... argue that there is evidence that the author who wrote under the
name "William Shakespeare" died before the Shakespeare of Stratford. A key
piece of Oxfordian "evidence" is William Berksted's 1607 poem Mirrha, the Mother
of Adonis, in which Shakespeare is referred to in the past tense.
Sobran and other Oxfordians are making the simple but wrong assumption that
anyone who referred to Shakespeare in the past tense must have thought that
Shakespeare had already died. If it were true that Barksted had referred to
Shakespeare as being dead in 1607, this might be a point for Oxfordians, but it is
false. Indeed, Barksted's Mirrha is evidence not that Shakespeare had died, but
that some of his work had achieved the status of a classic even while he was alive.
A2 and A1 (hereafter, A) give a brief sketch of what is known of Barksted's life,
which is further condensed here. Born about 1589, a boy actor, he was only 18
when this poem was published. Barksted's poetry is heavily influenced by
Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis. He may have finished an incomplete play by
John Marston. He was arrested for being in 'a notorious bawdy house' in 1610. He
became an adult actor, in 1612 was sued by a former manager of the Whitefriars
theatre over some bonds he had signed, was arrested in 1617 for abusing a
constable and in 1638 was referred to as 'a late well known fine comedian.'
Of the 120 or so eight-line stanzas in Barksted's 'lengthy' poem only the last
stanza refers to Shakespeare. A says:
The poem may well seem confusing, especially since Barksted constantly switches
tenses and the original quarto lacks quotation marks or other means of indicating
when different characters are speaking.
Here's the last stanza in full, as quoted by A:
But stay my Muse in thine owne confines keepe,
& wage not warre with so deere lov'd a neighbor
But having sung thy day song, rest & sleepe
preserve thy small fame and his greater favor:
His song was worthie merrit (Shakespeare hee)
sung the faire blossome, thou the withered tree
Laurell is due to him, his art and wit
hath purchast it, Cypres thy brow will fit.
A then quotes Richard Barnfield, Thomas Nashe, Gabriel Harvey and Thomas
Edwards to show that contemporary references in the past tense exist for still
living poets. A then repeats the last six lines of Barksted's poem, inserting
explanatory references giving the full names as to which poet is meant by
Barksted. For our purposes B = Barksted and S = Shakespeare:
But having sung thy (B's muse's) day song,...
preserve thy (B's muse's) small fame and his (S's) greater favor;
His (S's) song (Venus and Adonis) ...
...thou (B's muse) the withered tree
Laurell is due to him (S), his(S's) art and wit
hath purchast it, Cypres thy (B's muse's) brow will fit.
The second point Sobran makes is that 'the cypress was a symbol of mourning;
is this stanza a salute to a poet whom Barksted expects his readers to understand
is deceased?' ...Sobran has simply misunderstood the lines...
and A impishly continues
Of course Sobran and other Oxfordians should be warned that Barksted's granting
the cypress to his own muse should not be taken as evidence that Barksted
himself was dead in 1607.
I think A has made his point, and the cypress reference is to Barksted's muse; 'will
fit' though, is referring to the future, as he's not dead yet, so their sly point about
Barksted not to be taken as dead in 1607 seems to me invalid.
As to A's first point, though they say Barksted constantly switches tenses they
don't give examples, and in the last stanza quoted the tenses seem clear enough.
The Barksted line
His song was worthie merrit (Shakespeare hee)
leaves open to doubt the question as to whether or not Shakespeare is dead. It
seems to me it revolves around the word 'song,' If that means Shakespeare's
'voice' as a poet, then Barksted is telling us he's dead. If 'song' means just the one
poem 'Venus and Adonis,' then it refers to that only as his 'song' that was already
sung. Therefore in my judgement we have inconclusive evidence here as to
whether Shakespeare was thought or known by Barksted to be dead by the time
of this 1607 publication. In the circumstances I consider it does not exclude de
Vere from being Shakespeare.
THE VERSE FORMS OF SHAKESPEARE AND OXFORD
This is by A2, and discusses the 'Shakespearean sonnet,' the Venus and Adonis
stanzas, other verse forms, and provides a conclusion. Here it is in full:
This survey certainly does not exhaust the catalogue of differences between the
two poets (for instance, while all of Oxford's poetry is iambic, some of
Shakespeare's songs are written in triple meter), but it should be sufficient to retire
any Oxfordian claim that the verse forms employed in Oxford's sixteen poems are
evidence that their author also wrote the works of Shakespeare. While it is true
that some of Oxford's poems are written in forms similar to those used on occasion
by Shakespeare, those forms were also used by a great many other poets of the
Oxfordians I have cited believe that the coincidence of Oxford's writing a
'Shakespearean' sonnet and four poems in the same stanza Shakespeare used
in Venus and Adonis should count as evidence that he was Shakespeare. Surely
by this kind of reasoning the fact that not one of Oxford's poems is in blank verse,
or in heroic couplets, or in rhyme royal, or in the 7-syllable line should count
against the Oxfordians. Indeed, there's little to suggest that Shakespeare was
even aware of Oxford's poetry, or that if he had been he would have been
influenced by it. Much of Oxford's poetry was written in a form and style that had
already become outmoded when Shakespeare wrote; almost all of Shakespeare's
verse is in forms unattempted by Oxford; where there is a coincidence of form, it
is just that - a coincidence. If he needed models, Shakespeare had available to
him a great many other poets whose works he would have found more copious,
more modern, and more congenial.
Since de Vere's '16 poems' are early works and his comedies have not survived,
at least, as generally attributed to him, I suggest this type of evidence is
meaningless, as all Shakespeare's work is, commencing with Venus and Adonis
published in 1593, the highly refined and polished work of an already mature poet.
FIRST HEIR OF MY INVENTION
This article is by A2. He says in part:
Shakespeare in his dedication of Venus and Adonis describes the work as the 'first
heir of my invention.' Antistratfordians of various stripes have claimed from that the
phrase somehow signifies that 'William Shakespeare" is not the actual name of
the author of Venus and Adonis but is something that the 'real author' made up or
...the language of Elizabethan dedications is very foreign to modern readers...
There are many examples of the metaphor of an author's works being referred to
as his 'children' especially in Elizabethan dedications.
I'll number A2's quotations for better reference:
1. Edmund Spenser's...The Shepheardes Calendar in 1579... was... prefaced with
Goe little booke thy selfe present,...
As child whose parent is unkent: (unknown)
(Signed) Immerito. (unworthy.)
2. Samuel Daniel in his Delia (1593);
Go, wailing verse! The infant of my love-
3. Barnabe Barnes' ...Parthenophil and Parthenophe (1593) was published without
its author's name and Barnes addresses his book thus:
Go bastard orphan! Pack thee hence!
4. The 'Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia'... first appeared in print in 1590, four
years after Sidney's death, though the work had circulated in manuscript. All
editions contain his dedication of the work to his sister, the Countess of Pembroke
For my part ... I could well find it in my heart to cast out in some desert of
forgetfulness this child which I am loth to father...
5. The second edition of Arcadia appeared in 1593 bearing an additional note to
the reader from Hugh Sanford who had helped edit the revised version
... as being child to such a father...
A2 then quotes
Shakespeare's dedication to Southampton of Venus and Adonis (excerpt only
...But if the first heir of my invention prove deformed, I shall be sorry it had so
noble a godfather....
Of A2's 5 examples, 3 refer to 'child,' plus 'infant' and 'orphan' these being other
forms of child. But Shakespeare refers to 'heir.' There is a difference. A child may
or may not be an heir. An heir may or may not be a child. A child is a young
human being of either sex, born or unborn, or a son or daughter of any age.
An heir is a person receiving or entitled to receive property or rank as a legal
successor of its former owner; or, figuratively, one to whom something is morally
due. Its usage includes:
heir at law
heir in tail
heir of the body (direct descendant)
I suggest Shakespeare was not on the same track as all the others in using heir
instead of their word child,or infant or bastard orphan. Shakespeare, as his
comedies were said to prove to us, as one of the best wits in England, whether or
not he was de Vere, knew precisely what he was doing, and with his legal
expertise therefore qualified 'heir' with 'of my invention.' So what Shakespeare is
saying here, I suggest, is that the poem is the first beneficiary or direct
descendant, or heir, of his 'invention.' Now we must find out what his 'invention'
It is ... easy to understand why people who don't think 'William Shakespeare' was
the real name of the author of Venus and Adonis would misinterpret the phrase
'first heir of my invention' to suggest that the real author 'invented' the name
William Shakespeare and thus that the poem is the product of the real author
under his 'invention': the pseudonym 'William Shakespeare.' This reading,
however, cannot stand up under scrutiny. I have looked, and I cannot find any
instance where 'invention' means 'pseudonym'; the OED (Oxford English
Dictionary in two or more volumes) itself provides no instances. When
Shakespeare elsewhere uses 'invention' in connection with literary production, the
word generally means 'imagination' or 'creativity' as in these instances:
I will prove those verses to be very unlearned, neither savoring of poetry, wit, nor
invention (LLL 4.2 157-59)
I'll give you a verse to this note, that I made yesterday in despite of my invention
(AYL 2.5 46-7)
Go, write in a martial hand, be curst and brief. It is no matter how witty, so it be
eloquent and full of invention (TN 3.2 42-44)
For who's so dumb that cannot write to thee
When thou thyself dost give invention light (Son 38 7-8)
A2 then quotes George Gascoigne in his 'Certain Notes of Instruction Concerning
the Making of Verse or Rhyme in English' (1575):
For it is not enough to roll in pleasant words, nor yet to thunder...by letter..., nor
yet to abound in apt vocables or epithets, unless the Invention have in it also
aliquid salis. By this aliquid salis, I mean some good and fine device, showing the
quick capacity of a writer: and where I say some good and fine invention, I mean
that I would have it both fine and good.
Gascoigne goes on to give examples of what he does and doesn't mean. This
amounts to saying, don't be trite, think of something new to say. I suggest all this
and the examples from Shakespeare (Loves Labours Lost, As You Like It, Twelfth
Night and the Sonnets) can be summarized by the one word 'creativity.' If you
haven't got something new to say, and a new way to say it, don't do it.
It's unfortunate that we have a third class poet chosen to tell us how to write
poetry. The Latin translates as 'aliquid' = 'something' and 'salis' = 'salt', so he
might have said 'some salt', or 'a pinch of salt' or some similar phrase. This was
written a few centuries before refrigeration, so salt as a preservative and
flavouring was essential.
A2 next quotes Sidney in his Defense of Poetry:
lifted up with the vigor of his own invention
Then A2 says
Here is the first sonnet of his Astrophil and Stella (excerpt only given here),
...Words come halting forth, wanting Invention's stay,
Invention Nature's child, ...
Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite,
"Fool," said my Muse to me, "look in thy heart and write."
A2 goes on to quote Puttenham; Spenser; even Alexander Pope, published in
1715; and then returns to his four quotations from Shakespeare and analyzes
each one as to context.
I think all this can be reduced to one word; 'originality.' So, 'originality' and
'creativity' seem to me to provide an adequate meaning of 'Invention' in an
Elizabethan literary context.
A2, returning to Shakespeare's use of 'first heir of my invention' concludes by
quoting more of Shakespeare's dedication to Venus and Adonis:
'if the first heir of my invention should prove deformed, I shall ...never after ear so
barren a land, for fear it yield me still so bad a harvest.'
In his penultimate paragraph A2 says:
If we try to read the dedication the way some antistratfordians prefer, we end up
in further nonsense because we have to consider the 'land' to be the alleged
pseudonym. If the antistratfordians were correct, the sense of the metaphor would
then be 'if the poem is not very good then I'll have to change my name once
again.' This presumes that the alleged real author believed that the quality of a
pseudonymous poem depends entirely on the pseudonym itself, and not on some
quality in the poet or the poem: that is, the antistratfordians' reading of 'invention'
as pseudonym requires them to believe that Shakespeare meant that if instead of
being by 'William Shakespeare' the poem had been published under the name
'Osgood Muldoon,' it might have been a much better poem.
This just won't do. First, we need to know what meaning the word 'ear' has in the
sentence. Today one might still hear the phrase 'an ear of corn' But in this
Elizabethan context we have 'ear' used as a verb - to 'ear' something. Apparently
it's the land that was 'eared' in the hope of a plentiful harvest of something. The
anticipated harvest would appear to be recognition for the poem, in modern terms,
a good approval rating, fame, and many book sales.
The poet has switched metaphors in the sentence; from the possibility of a
deformed heir to that of his 'sowing' resulting in a poor harvest. Both are
representations of the dread of a literary failure as the future for the poem.
If the heir is deformed it means the poem didn't come out right, like burning bread
in an oven. That is an error in production, it doesn't mean the ingredients were no
good. If his literary harvest is to be poor he traces it back to a barren land. The
barren land is parallel to poor ingredients. In this case it could mean either that
the poet would not write again about Venus, or, possibly, it means not write again
about classical mythology- a very popular subject among poets at that time.
The sense of the metaphor is that if the poem proves to be not very good the poet
will never again try to reap a literary harvest from such poor original material, or
weak creativity and lack of originality for fear he will get an equally poor result. It's
the original material, creativity and originality that the poet is concerned may be
lacking, not the attributable name of the poet.
However, since Shakespeare was an Elizabethan, and one of the best 'wits' of his
day, I suggest that, as was often the case then, he intended a double meaning or
pun or conceit here. If we pursue our legal metaphor a little further, invention can
not only mean something you devise, originate, produce or construct by original
thought but at law any new manufacture the subject of letters patent, and in the
case of intellectual property (such as a poem) the sole legal right to produce or
reproduce a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work. Copyright normally belongs
to the author of the work, or his HEIR or assignee.
I think we can derive three meanings, and Shakespeare probably intended two of
1. In a general sense as A2 indicates, it might be thought to mean the first child
of my creativity. Which, however, the length, structure, style, and polish of the
poem makes it obvious that it isn't. This is the work of a mature poet, already fully
accomplished. Further, the poet avoids 'child' as used by others, and substitutes
'heir' which is a more accurate and technical term. So this first meaning was not
2. The first legally protected intellectual property the poet has created. (Because
whoever he was, de Vere or Lord X, his previous anonymous work was
unprotected at law.)
3. The first creation using his new pseudonym.
I suggest that Shakespeare with his apparent legal knowledge intended at least
both the meanings in 2 & 3 just given.
WAS BURGHLEY CALLED 'POLUS'?
This article is by A2. His second paragraph states
As it happens there is no evidence that 'Polus" was Burghley's nickname ...an
Oxfordian myth that has been around for fifty years, and for fifty years Oxfordians
have repeated or even embellished this myth without checking its sources. ...This
essay will first go where no Oxfordian has gone before, to the actual source
material that is the basis for this myth...
The only evidence Oxfordians have ever offered for the existence of this supposed
nickname is that "Polus ' was, they say, repeatedly used by Gabriel Harvey in a
Latin tribute to Burghley that appeared in his Gratulationes Valdinenses ( we'll use
GV for brevity). In fact, however, Harvey NEVER uses the word 'polus' in any
poem in the Burghley section of GV, and while the word appears in other poems
in the volume, it is never used as Burghley's or anybody else's nickname...
The word 'polus' does appear twice in an epigram on Burghley by Pietro Bizarro
(translations are by Thomas Jameson from his 1938 edition of GV; I have put
forms of 'polus' and its English equivalents in boldface (here in capitals):
Et locus, st Tempus paret, et ipse POLUS (book 3, p.4. line 22)
And Space and Time, and even HEAVEN obey you
Cui Deus ex alto sic fauet ipse POLO (3.5.6)
Whom God himself thus favors from high HEAVEN
There is one instance where 'Polus' is a name, but it is not a nickname and does
not refer to Burghley. In Pietro Bizarro's epigram, Burghley is compared favorably
to earlier statesmen:
Cromwellus tibi dat palmam; dat Vintoniensis;
Dat Checus, et Smithus, Vuttoniusque tibi,
Quorsum ego Tomstallum,Morumue,POLUMUE recorder?
CAECILIO primas illeque, et ille refert. (3.4.11-14)
Cromwell cedes you the palm, Winchester cedes it to you,
Cheke cedes it, and Smith and Wooton entirely to you.
Why should I even speak of Tunstall, More, and POLE?
To CECIL one and all agree in giving first place.
A2 tells us that
catholic Cardinal Reginald Pole... had sided with the pope against Henry 8th,
and...was Archbishop of Canterbury during Mary's reign.
For more information on Cromwell, see Note 1 at the end of this chapter.
The word 'polus' also appears in sections of GV that are not devoted to Burghley.
Here is a line from an epigram Gabriel Harvey wrote about a portrait of the
Angeli erunt Angli: nostraque terra POLUS (1.12.32)
And English will be angels, our land the POLE!
A2 thinks 'heaven' would be a better translation than POLE here, but says
Jameson is 'constrained by his desire to rhyme.' A2 continues:
This is from a poem by Edward Grant on the bear in Leicester's emblem:
At Cynosura POLO splendet contermina summo (2.ii.13)
While Cynosura shines neighborly in the great POLE
Cynosura is the constellation Ursa Minor (which is close to the pole star).
A2 gives two more examples of the use of POLARIS with Cynosura (the Little Bear
constellation) for Leicester poems in GV. Then,
Oxfordians seem unaware that Harvey also used 'polus' once in his long poem on
Ipse POLUS caeptis aderit, ridebit et Aether (4.7.10)
HEAVEN itself will attend your adventures, and Aether will smile
1. The English word 'pole' comes from the Latin 'polus' which comes from the
Greek word 'polos' meaning pivot, or axis or sky.
2. Shakespeare generally follows his sources closely. Hamlet is said to first occur
in the 12th century Sistoria Danica by the chronicler Saxo Grammaticus. There
was a German version by Hans Sachs in 1558. But Shakespeare probably
obtained it from the 5th volume of Francis de Belleforest's Histoires Tragiques, a
French version, in 1570. This work also includes the history of Romeo and Juliet.
If Shakespeare was de Vere he would have had no trouble reading it in French.
Apparently there is no Polonius in Belleforest's story, where Hamlet kills an
unnamed councillor. If de Vere was Shakespeare he was present when Harvey
delivered his address to the Queen and Court. He also probably had a copy,
possibly given him by Harvey, of the printed GV. He could not use Polus for the
statesman who ran England for the Queen, but he could come close. Polonius is
close enough for everyone to know who it was, without breaking the rule against
portraying living persons in plays. If this assumption is correct, into the parts of
Hamlet and Polonius de Vere poured much of his hate/frustration/respect for
Burghley. Since de Vere had Burghley as his Ward Master for 8-9 years and was
required to marry his daughter, it's not surprising that Polonius is shown as a
garrulous spying old man. It all fits very well, and many lines and innuendoes
become understandable. Shakespeare (an aristocrat, whether or not he was de
Vere) was devastating in his sketches of his court contemporaries.
3. Roger Manners wrote to (his brother?) the Earl of Rutland in a letter of June 2,
1583 in part...
Her Majesty came yesterday to Greenwich from the Lord Treasurer's ...The day
she came away, which was yesterday, the Earl of Oxford came to her presence,
and after some bitter words and speeches, in the end all sins are forgiven, and he
may repair to the Court at his pleasure. Master Ralegh was a great mean herein,
whereat Pondus is angry for that he could not do so much.
It does not take a great stretch of imagination to decide who Pondus probably
was. Once you've seen a portrait of the mature Burghley, note the size and weight
of the man, and realize how much control he had to govern the country, and his
relationship to de Vere as his father in law, one has to wonder who else it could
be but Burghley. Our word 'ponderous' today gives us the picture.
4. It appears from A2's data that he is correct in saying that Harvey did not refer
to Burghley as 'Polus,' However, in the same volume of the GV devoted to
Burghley, another poet does say that Space and Time and even Heaven (Polus)
My conclusion is that none of this proves de Vere was not Shakespeare.
WHY I AM NOT AN OXFORDIAN.
This last article we'll review is by A1. I have included it to round off the Criticisms
section of this investigation, although it's not apparently listed as part of the
Shakespeare web page we began with. A1 aptly quotes T.S.Eliot:
I admit that my own experience, as a minor poet, may have jaundiced my outlook;
that I am used to having cosmic significances, which I never suspected, extracted
from my work (such as it is) by enthusiastic persons at a distance, and to being
informed that something which I meant seriously is 'vers de société'; and to having
my personal biography reconstructed from passages which I got out of books, or
which I invented out of nothing because they sounded well, and to having my
biography invariably ignored in what I did write from personal experience, so that
in consequence I am inclined to believe that people are mistaken about
Shakespeare just in proportion to the relative superiority of Shakespeare to
myself. (Selected Essays, 1917-1932).
I find it difficult to understand how A1 thinks this sentence from Eliot helps his
cause. It seems to me to be somewhat in opposition to it. A1 tells us:
I have tried in this article to explain major ways in which Oxfordian methods differ
from those used by literary scholars, using Ogburn's book as a case study.
(Charlton Ogburn: The Mysterious William Shakespeare.)... First of all, it may be
useful to give a summary of the reasons for the traditional attribution.
My comment: I have numbered these items and added my own evaluation in
1. All the external evidence says the plays and poems were written by William
Shakespeare. (This is an oversimplification. If that were all there was to it, I would
not be now writing my 29th chapter in my own investigation. The question is, who
was William Shakespeare.)
2. A man named William Shakespeare, from Stratford, was a member of the acting
company which put on the plays. (This is another oversimplification. I have shown
the evidence to be that the man in question called himself or was called by others
in his hometown variations of William Shaxper. The change to Shakespeare only
occurred after he had joined the Globe company in London.)
3. Heminges and Condell in the First Folio explicitly say that their 'friend and fellow'
Shakespeare was the author of the plays. ( We'll reserve judgement on this
pending a separate chapter to come on the First Folio.)
4. A monument to his memory was built in the Stratford church. (A1 means
Stratford on Avon church, and with that revision his statement is correct. But there
was another Stratford - Stratford atte Bow just north of London, of which Hackney
was an adjunct, where de Vere had his house. There is evidence to indicate he
was buried in a churchyard at Hackney.)
5.There was no other William Shakespeare living in London at the time. (More
precisely, no evidence has yet been found that there was another William
Shakespeare living in London at the time.)
6. There is no evidence that anyone else, including Oxford, was ever known as
"William Shakespeare." (More precisely, until William Shaxper of Stratford on
Avon went to London and changed the pronunciation and spelling of his name
there was no William Shakespeare that has been found since to have been living
in London or Stratford on Avon at that time and known as "William Shakespeare.")
7. Shakespeare of Stratford was consistently recognized as the author after his
death and throughout the seventeenth century. (More precisely, some time after
his death and for the rest of the 17th century.)
8. There were abundant resources in Elizabethan London for such a man to
absorb the knowledge displayed in the plays. (I disagree. 'For such a man' is
incorrect. There were resources if one became attached to a patron in the nobility,
as did Ben Jonson who in this way had access to a suitable library. Shakespeare
gives evidence of legal training, familiarity with the French language, about half
his plays are set in Italy, he has some knowledge of marine terminology and
seamanship and a remarkably wide vocabulary. He has knowledge of military
matters. He has easy familiarity with the lives, duties and relationships of the
ruling class, he has tolerant and amused sufferance of the lower classes,
generally objects of kindly derision in his plays. This was not within the reach of
the poorly educated Shaxper. 'Such a man" as the lowly Shaxper did not have
the necessary educational avenues open to him in Elizabethan England without
leaving a trace as to how he entered them.)
9. There is no documentary evidence to connect the seventeenth Earl of Oxford
with any of Shakespeare's plays or poems, despite the fact that Oxford's life is
quite well documented. (I consider this an incorrect statement. As we found in
some detail in Chapter 20, Shakespeare in his sonnets tells us he 'bore the
canopy.' His sonnets also tell us he was in disgrace, was homosexual, had a
black-haired mistress, became lame, wanted his name to die with his body. None
of these six distinguishing identifications are known to apply to Shaxper, who
therefore cannot be Shakespeare, and therefore William Shakespeare, with or
without the hyphenated form, is a pseudonym. Further, all six identifiers apply to
A1 tells us that
Ogburn asserts that the title "Shake-speares Sonnets" with the writer's name first,
is "a plain indication that the author was dead." He cites Greenes Groatsworth of
Wit as an example and even invokes the orthodox scholar Sidney Lee in support
of his claim...
There are dozens of examples of the name of living authors coming first in
This is A1 with the exaggerated claim that we've come to expect from him. He
cites Breton, Churchyard, Coryat and other works by Greene. That's 4 authors
and six+ works of the dozens he claims, and he's had to dredge up the obscure
author Coryat to provide even 4. But he has a point here, though not as strong in
evidence as he suggests. I think it leaves the Shake-speares Sonnets claim
inconclusive as to whether Shakespeare was dead when they were published.
A1 next says that
Ogburn makes a similarly false claim when he insists that those who occasionally
hyphenate Shakespeare's name in print 'can only have been showing that they
recognized Shakespeare as a pseudonym.'
A1 cites 5 examples of hyphenation of real names: