Shakespeare was a story-teller. Most of his stories already existed before he retold them, whether as folklore, history, or current events, but he put them into a context his audience could understand. We can’t be sure that Shakespeare’s Richard II or Richard III are “true,” but while the real Richards are no more than bones somewhere, Shakespeare’s are living presences in our minds, shedding light (if his alone) on the times when they lived. The facts that we have about Shakespeare and his fellows are too few and too cold to live in our minds and hearts as a story. This is simply my own frail effort to do the same thing for them that he did for the kings and queens of history, bring them to life.
Almost every literary work of the imagination published during the English Literary Renaissance was preceded by a disclaimer, usually that the author had no intention of ever publishing it, that it was stolen from his papers while he was out of town, that it’s of no value anyway, being simply a childish “toy” tossed off for the entertainment of his friends, and so forth. I too have a disclaimer, that what follows is not history, or biography, or 100 percent true, or better than anything anyone else has offered. It is simply a story. It’s true to me. That’s all I can say.
When you start to think, “oh this is too far out, this violates everything I’ve ever read about Shakespeare,” or Oxford, or Bacon, or Marlowe;“this is impossible!”; please remember that all I’m doing is telling a story, based on facts, however few, and on real people about whom we know very little. Still, facts are facts and people from whatever time in history do tend to behave in certain ways. Artists are a particular kind of people who tend to behave in somewhat different ways than non-artists. How they behave that’s different is part of this story.
It’s a nice story in that it covers all the bases, all I think are important anyway. And there’s no harm in it. Burghley gets his due, Elizabeth and James gets their due. Robert Cecil and Henry Howard get their due. The writers all get their due, the real ones anyway. Their stand-ins get their due as well, for without them we would not have these great works of art.
I offer this story not in hopes that it will actually remove the Stratford myth, which, bad as it is, has probably become too much of a monolith to alter, but so that, for those who love Art and so find the Stratford version of Shakespeare too dull or empty to accept, there will be something sensible with which to replace it. That they and we will always be in the minority is probably the case, but the world being what it is, truth is often in the minority.
This starts where every good story starts, with a unique truth. By now we have more than enough facts to prove that Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, was the real voice behind the Shakespeare pen. What’s missing is a story that ties the facts together, that brings them to life. Bad as the Stratford story may be, at least it’s a story. Humans need stories. Without them, history is nothing but a heap of unrelated facts. Until readers have a story that both appeals and makes sense, our facts, however many, will remain unexplored by all but the few who can see that there is a story there, if only someone would tell it.
This may not be the story, that is, the true story, accurate in every detail, but that’s simply not possible at this point in time. Perhaps other very different stories could be told; I don’t know what they are or may be; this is the one that seems true to me. I don’t claim that this is the only possible story, only that consistently it takes into account what facts we have. What I offer here is a stripped down version, but about every crucial point there’s more than enough supportive information available here or elsewhere on the internet for those who wish to pursue it.
This scenario may not be true in a strictly scientific sense, but it’s true enough, and as the old saying has it, “enough is as good as a feast.”