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De Vere Authorship Argument

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The case for Edward De Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.

Many Oxfordians believe that the true author of Shakespeare’s plays was an aristocrat named Edward De Vere. The evidence for this comprehensive, ranging from Edward de Vere’s aristocratic knowledge of the upper classes through to his education and the structural similarities between his poetry and Shakespeare’s. As regards authorship of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets, it has been suggested that Edward wrote these under the pseudonym of Shakespeare, both to avoid breaking a voluntary convention against aristocrats publishing poetry and plays and to escape the consequences of the subject matter he was writing about. George Puttenham's 1589 book, The Arte of English Poesie explains this further.

Below are the major reasons Oxfordians claim Edward De Vere was well qualified to write 37 plays and 154 sonnets.

Edward De Vere and Elizabethan Theatre.

Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford is known to have composed, directed and acted in plays around the same time as Shakespeare. Like Shakespeare he was part of an acting troupe but unlike Shakespeare, Edward managed his acting troupe called "Oxford’s Boys". Furthermore, Edward De Vere was a leaseholder of the Blackfriars Theatre, a rival to The Globe.

Edward De Vere’s poetry and its similarities to Shakespeare.

Whilst most academics agree that Edward De Vere’s poetry was better than the Sir Francis Bacon’s (the other contender for replacing Shakespeare), few believe it is of a standard necessary to prove De Vere wrote the 154 sonnets claimed to have been authored by Shakespeare.

Similarities in Edward De Vere’s verse to Shakespeare’s suggest however that such a leap in poetry composing was possible. Specifically six-line pentameter stanzas in Venus and Adonis reoccur only in Edward de Vere’s early poems and yet are not repeated by other poets of Shakespeare’s time. Both Joseph Sobran and J. Thomas Looney have noted the close similarities in form between Edward De Vere’s work and that claimed to be Shakespeare’s.

Edward De Vere’s knowledge of Elizabethan Courts and his superior education.

It is recognized by Oxfordians and Stratfordians alike that writing about royal courts, Italy and law required a certain prerequisite level of education. Edward De Vere fits the bill here since he is known to have graduated from Cambridge University at age 14, becoming master of arts at age of 16. Furthermore in view of plays like The Merchant of Venice which discussed law, De Vere studied law at Gray's Inn. Account books clearly showed that Edward De Vere had an extensive library underlining his qualifications to write as knowledgeably as Shakespeare.

Underlining this argument is the fact that Venus and Adonis, derived from Ovid's Metamorphoses, could only have been possible with Arthur Golding’s translation of this work. Arthur Golding was Edward De Vere’s uncle and his translation was said to be dedicated to Edward De Vere.

To further prove that Edward De Vere was qualified to write settings ascribed to Shakespeare, Edward De Vere is known to have traveled to Italy in the 1570s, putting him in an ideal position to write knowledgeably about Venice (The Merchant of Venice / Othello).

Similarities between Edward’s life and the character Hamlet.

Similarities between Edward De Vere’s life and Hamlet suggest that Hamlet was almost an autobiographical play about the Earl’s life. Notably Polonius’ line of "young men falling out at tennis" is believed to refer autobiographically to Edward De Vere’s notorious tennis court squabble with Sidney. Notably Edward De Vere’s father-in-law, William Cecil, Lord Burghley is said to be have been parodied as the character Polonius. Only a person intimately knowledgeable of Lord Burghley’s life could parody this man convincingly in Hamlet.

Furthermore only Edward De Vere fits the historical assertion in sonnet 125 that Shakespeare "bore the canopy" over Queen Elizabeth in her victory celebration over the defeat of the Spanish Armada.

The parallels continue between Edward De Vere’s life and subject matter in Henry IV, Part One. It is known that in 1573 Edward De Vere and company did routinely play practical jokes on ill-fated travelers on the same stretch of road as Prince Hal does in the play.

The similarities between life and sonnets, continues as Edward De Vere’s poem "Anne Vavasor's Echo", composed for Anne Vavasor is likely to have been the elusive "dark lady" of the Shakespeare’s sonnets. Furthermore, Anne Vavasor’s Echo has more than a passing resemblance to the echo verses in Venus and Adonis.

Edward de Vere’s nickname resembles "Shakespeare".

At court, Edward De Vere was nicknamed "Spear-shaker" due to of his ability both at tournaments and because his coat of arms featured a lion brandishing a spear. Perhaps coincidentally, Edward De Vere lived in the same area as Shakespeare, his Bilton Hall home being the Avon River and the Forest of Arden on another.

Problems for Edward De Vere...

De Vere died too early to complete the later plays.

A large problem for Edward De Vere authoring Shakespeare’s work is the fact that he died in 1604. This was before roughly 12 plays ascribed to Shakespeare were composed. However even Sir Edmund K. Chambers, a noted Stratfordian, agrees that the standard dating of Shakespeare’s play is sketchy at best.

Tudor Aristocrats had no need to write under nom de plumes.

A standard line for why Edward De Vere used the nom de plume of Shakespeare was to avoid breaking an aristocratic convention not to write. Unfortunately we now know that aristocrats such as Edward De Vere did publish and without fear of breaking convention. It appears that this convention was weakly enforced and that aristocratic publishing was frowned upon rather than punished, this convention weakening entirely in Elizabethan times to which Edward De Vere belonged.

Recent studies.

The recent Shakespeare Clinic, under the direction of Robert Valenza and Ward Elliott (Claremont-McKenna College), found little match between Edward De Vere’s poetry and William Shakespeare's.

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