Highly unlikely! We’ve just passed one of the two major turning points of the ancient festal year, June 24th, Midsummer’s Day. The modern world pays little attention to this annual event, but that was not the case in Shakespeare’s day, as we see from the title of one of his most festal plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. As with several of the ancient festal holidays, the solemn, or sacred, aspect of this annually-recurring moment (the summer solstice) was traditionally preceded by a day, or in this case a night, of merry-making. How likely is it that the death of the greatest literary artist ever produced by the West occurred on this of all days?
Just as the ancients assigned its opposite, the 24th of December, to the eve of the birth of Christ, they assigned June 24th to the birth of his cousin, John the Baptist. Whatever may have been the true role played by John in the advent of the Christian Messiah (something that has caused a good deal of controversy and will probably never be settled), there’s no doubt that he was a hugely important figure in his time and for centuries afterwards. Da Vinci for instance is thought to have been a member of an underground society dedicated to his worship, which has been connected by modern mythologists with the Greek god Dionysos, whose power was dramatized by Euripides in 405 BC in The Bachae. The Templars, whose beliefs, acquired from Arab mystics during the Crusades, survived annihilation in the 13th century to resurface four centuries later as Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry, held John as their patron saint. The first English Masonic Grand Lodge was formed on June 24, 1717. Rosicrucians trace their English roots to Francis Bacon, whose candidacy as Shakespeare owed a good deal to the hints they found in Shakespeare’s works of similar beliefs. In particular Sonnet 125 reflects the language and images of a Masonic ceremony.
One of the problems with both the Stratford myth and the attempts by Oxfordians to displace it is that everyone seems to forget that with Shakespeare we’re dealing with a genius! The Stratfordians have tied him down, like Gulliver, to a level equal to their own: a hack who sold his craft for money, a plagiarizer of lesser writers who began by revising the works of earlier unknowns. Oxfordians, not much better, remain tied to their argument with the Stratfordians, unable to let go of what bits and pieces were bequeathed us by the Cecils and the historians who clung to the paper trail they so artfully manipulated, so that, using our native common sense together with a broader historical background, one that surpasses what the Cecils could control, allows us to see him for who he really was. The fact that that he, and only he, could possibly have done what the orthodox have assigned to dozens of other writers, innovators, patrons, publishers, theater builders and managers, many of them nothing more than figments of their own seriously limited imaginations.
As one of the greatest dramatists of all time, as well as greatest of historians and philosophers, Death stalked almost everything Shakespeare wrote, just as it stalked everyone in his audiences, from courtiers to printers’ devils. All of his tragedies and many of his dramas deal in one way or another with death, with its role in life, and––most subtly due to the religious constraints of his time––with what comes after. As for his own death, the deaths of geniuses are almost as significant as their lives. Did Jesus just happen to fulfill the prophesy of Isaiah by coming to Jerusalem when he did? Lord Byron, whose life so closely parallels that of Edward de Vere (pron. d’Vayer), certainly orchestrated his own death as a call to arms to the intelligensia of Europe to free Greece, ancient parent of the English culture, from centuries of Turkish tyranny.
None of this would matter had there been sufficient evidence that de Vere actually died on the date that history assigns him. That he happened to die on a day central to the worship of John the Baptist, aka Dionysos, god of merry-making, whose festal date was the occasion for most of the ancient Greek dramas that we see as fundamental to our theater today; this would simply be a coincidence, however astonishing. But evidence is lacking! What there is is only what could easily have been patched together by family members and patrons in high places, out to give him a few years of peace and privacy, safe from those who wanted to kill both him and his great work, so that he could finish what we know as the Shakespeare canon, foundation of the language we speak and all the great works of literature that have followed.
These two pieces of the Shakespeare puzzle: the anomaly of his death and the nature of the date he supposedly died, taken together, were a trumpet call to examine the possibility that, like Byron, knowing his mortality was nigh, he chose to die in his own way and in his own time. Added along the way have been other puzzle pieces, the strange behavior of Robert Cecil as soon as the word went out that Oxford was dead, arresting Southampton (the Fair Youth of the Sonnets) on June 25th so that he could examine his papers in case he was holding some of the plays; the plot of Measure for Measure, performed the night of Oxford’s daughter’s marriage to the Earl of Montgomery (one of the patrons who had secured his safety), in which Duke Vincentio, the “duke of dark corners,” retires from his official duties in exactly the same way we’re suggesting that Shakespeare retired from his, in the only way he could; and finally the fact that one of his ancestors, an Earl of Oxford, had “died to the world” in a way that was no longer available to de Vere, by joining a monastery. And there are a number of other, if lesser, puzzle pieces that fit with this scenario that otherwise have no place and must be left aside.
Why do I call him Shakespeare and not de Vere? Because Shakespeare is not just a pseudonym, purchased by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men from William of Stratford so that the plays could be published. Shakespeare the playwright is a being with his own history, an entity as real as Dionysos was to the Greeks or John the Baptist to da Vinci, or Jesus to Christians today. Half human (de Vere), half fiction, Shakespeare (the Poet) had, and still has, a life of his own. He is an immortal that, if anything, was for his creator more like one of the personalities that manifests in people with multiple personality disorder. When de Vere took up his pen, the “spear” that he “shook” in defense of merry-making and platonic love, he was, while engaged in the pursuit of the dramatic truth that he shared with his admired forbears, Euripides, Plautus, and Terence, another, and better, being.
This is the epiphany, the satori, the ecstasy that draws all artists. Scorning the banal cruelties and mediocrities of ordinary life, this is the “zone” (or “vein” as the Elizabethans termed it) that, when an artists achieves it, however briefly, makes worthwhile all the suffering they cause, not only to themselves, but to those who love and protect them. Anyone who has ever been patron or handmaiden to a gifted artist will understand what I’m talking about. As the American poet Edward Arlington Robinson wrote in Eros Turannos:
Meanwhile we do no harm; for theyThat with a god have striven,Not hearing much of what we say,Take what the god has given;Though like waves breaking it may be,Or like a changed familiar tree,Or like a stairway to the seaWhere down the blind are driven.
15 thoughts on “Did Shakespeare die on the 24th of June?”
Christopher Paul’s article is itself a book, full of insights and discoveries that should disturb and provoke historians (but won’t, for reasons much too familiar), in healthy ways; he presents us with a central mystery, about Oxford’s presumed death (or playwright’s late-in-life forest writer’s retreat), which truly is compatible with Measure for Measure’s “Duke of dark corners,” and may connect somehow with other puzzles: the 1608-9 escape of the secretive Sonnets from privacy into print, for instance.
A theme of Shake-Speare’s is the difference between a person’s inner being and external seeming. This discrepancy, between the outward appearance (or behavior) and the inward reality, is better known and understood by the person experiencing that inner life, but never perfectly. Elizabethan superstition enters the problem: Could a man of great inner worth become transformed into an evildoer by gradual changes of behavior? For that matter, were actors transformed or denatured by their work for the stage?
The reason I bring this up: Oxford asserts in one sonnet that he has become a “motley to the view,” presumably by slipping onto the stage and assuming roles beneath his social dignity. If the Earl slunk away to the Forest of Waltham, for example, into hiding (the occasional St. John’s revels aside), this might be the obverse condition of the actor: from the all-too-obvious “character” to the state of Vanishing Man, from Something to Nothing. Is he living out his disgrace. Living up to it, or beyond it? Is he thinking about suicide, the ultimate act of non-seeming and non-being? Is he preserving his all-important works? Passing his reduced earldom, together with his forest keeperships, intact, but in hugger-mugger, to his heirs?
Paul’s article, which delves into the surviving documents, presents credible explanations of the facts contained in them, and also of the many questions they raise, coming from an era of skullduggery, and politics conducted as war to the knife: no Egyptian pharaoh was as eager to raze the name of a predecessor from his tombstone as were Elizabethan politicians to expunge an earl from history. Paul’s clear writing style and organized presentation allow us to feel like eavesdroppers tantalizingly close to the keyhole, hearing the whispers that might help solve the mystery.
Thanks, Tom. Yes, many things came about in 1608 and ’09 that suggest that the author was no longer around to protest or control what his Company did. I believe it was not until then that other hands began to appear in the plays, brought on board by the King’s Men to revise for a Jacobean audience, early plays that the author disdained as not worth updating.
Yes, he was preserving his works, of course. Had he himself not felt their worth, he had a huge audience, missing from orthodox history but plain enough in the record if one knows what to look for, who would have been extremely anxious that the plays be saved. This was an educated audience. They knew the value of their Prosper-O.
As for suicide, that’s only a word for a situation in which everyone facing death finds themselves: how much control can they have over the inevitable? ( It’s absurd that people who are clearly sane still have no legal right to die any way they choose.) But that his immediate goal in dying to the world was to commit suicide is most unlikely. He knew his favorite daughter’s wedding was coming up, to the patron he knew had the power and the will to protect him from his enemies. All artists know the importance of a steady diet of privacy, peace and quiet, particularly writers. That, and security from whatever his evil brother-in-law might be plotting, were his motives.
As for politicians “expunging him” from history, they would not have done so to just any earl. He had made deadly fun of them, capturing them at their worst like flies in amber. Like Malvolio, they had their revenge. As for “nothing,” he occasionally punned on the O of Oxford as zero, or nothing. Unable to use his name in the usual way, he used it in another.
“Did Jesus just happen to fulfill the prophesy of Isaiah by coming to Jerusalem when he did?”
No. Matthew back fitted the story. He so bungled the Hebrew he has Jesus riding both a donkey AND a colt (like a stunt rider)m at the same time. The event does not match up with the verse in Isaiah, and the palms don’t grow that time of year.
Maybe Jesus came to Jerusalem but how he did is most likely myth. Most of the NT is myth. That’s how they processed. Its very hard to get any sense of real narrative history from it. No Dec 25th BD, no Bethlehem birth, etc.
Could be, but it hardly matters whether it was Jesus himself who planned his entry into Jerusalem or his later biographers. The point is still the same. History requires of heroes a dramatic and significant death, whether he creates it himself, it’s brought to him by Fate, or it’s concocted later by his followers.
Especially in the Hellenized world of martyred heroes.
Thank you, as always, for your work in making sense of the jumble that is the authorship problem. My question: When do you think the name “Shakespeare” was purchased? It was first used in 1593, but the Lord Chamberlain’s Men came into existence in 1594.
Chris, the name came to Oxford in 1593 through the printer that published his Venus and Adonis, Richard Field. William was Field’s neighbor in his hometown of Stratford. Oxford had killed off his pen-name of a decade, Robert Greene, in Groatsworth a few months earlier, and so was without one. He used William’s name again in 1594 on The Rape of Lucrece. Neither of these were placed on the title page, where the author’s name went by long tradition, but followed the dedications to Southampton on the following page. Southampton had probably paid the costs of publishing both poems since this was a low point in Oxford’s finances. Apparently his new wife was not interested in helping him get these poems published.
Thus by 1594, when the Lord Chamberlain’s Men was formed by Hunsdon, the Company would have been aware of the name, whose it was, how Oxford got it, etc., but the fact that they published so many plays, then and for the next four years, without using it shows that they were not all in agreement, either about that particular name, or perhaps any name. The question had undoubtedly already been asked about the plays Oxford wrote before the Company was formed, as some were being performed by the Queen’s Men and Lord Strange’s Men, but the situation had not yet reached a level where a solution was required until the performance of Richard III during the Parliament of 1597, and the publication of the play, again without an author’s name, that same year. It must have been the uproar over the obvious intention to equate the portrayal of Richard III with the newly appointed Robert Cecil as Secretary of State, that drove them finally to put the (hyphenated!) name on Richard III and Richard II in 1598.
Because the name appears as a payee for the Company on a Court warrant in 1595 along with Richard Burbage and Will Kempe, it’s obvious that there was a plan to use it, perhaps from the beginning. Why then did it not appear for another three years? The likelihood again is that not everyone in the Company was willing to take that risk. Many things could have gone wrong. Could they count on William to keep his mouth shut?
What seems most likely, given the gaping gulf that is the history of this moment in time, is that John Hemmings, who must have been a brilliant administrator, could see the necessity of it, and so had made arrangements with William (and Oxford) at some point in 1595, but was not free to act on it until 1598. Perhaps Hunsdon was against it, or old Burbage, but by the time the actors were forced to use it, both of these elders were dead, and those who were left found themselves locked in deadly combat with the Cecil faction. And so a second edition was published with William’s name, and from then on, everyone, including Robert Cecil, was stuck with it.
Lacking evidence, we have no choice but to rely on educated guesswork. Perhaps someday a genuine historian will be able to research these points in the PRO and BL. Until then, we must do the best we can with common sense and what evidence there is.
Thanks for your answer. As Oxfordians know, there are many seemingly smoking guns that would deflate the puffery of anyone else but Stratfordians. In line with Oxford taking William’s name, how do Stratfordians explain that William was never once arrested or detained for his plays or poems, some of which were highly inflammatory — when other writers of the day had been arrested, detained, and harassed for their writings?
That’s easy. They ignore it.
Stephanie, You wrote:
” . . Oxfordians . . remain tied to their argument with the Stratfordians, unable to let go of what bits and pieces were bequeathed us . .”
You then reveal your own ties in your reply to Chris
” . . . the name [William Shakespeare] came to Oxford in 1593 through the printer that published his Venus and Adonis, Richard Field. William was Field’s neighbor in his hometown of Stratford . . .”
The core point about the name “Will Shake-speare” is (as you say later) that it announces the poet’s intention to “shake a spear”. Although you don’t see that “the spear” is that of the poet’s goddess, his Pallas Athena, patron of the arts, all-seeing governor of the city, the passionate virgin, who loved men but would never let them touch her. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athena). More importantly you miss the multiple puns on each syllable of the name. The poet himself makes numerous puns on “Will” in Sonnets 135 and 136. ‘Shake’ and ‘spear’ are each as punnable. Taken together in the name, he and his intimates had a punning ball. In Elizabethan word-;play, that name is close to perfection. This means it was devised long before the Stratford man was located, and that the yeoman was selected almost entirely for his name. (He had, of course, to be agreeable to being paid, etc.).
>. Oxford had killed off his pen-name of a decade, Robert Greene
He always had plentry of pen-names.
> Southampton had probably paid the costs of publishing both poems since this was a low point in Oxford’s finances.
Oxford had £1,000 a year pension from 1586 — more than enough for any publishing, and probably more than Southampton who paid the £5,000 fine to Burghley in 1594 for refusing to marry Oxford’s daughter, Elizabeth.
> ” Thus by 1594, when the Lord Chamberlain’s Men was formed by Hunsdon, the Company would have been aware of the name, whose it was, how Oxford got it, etc., but the fact that they published so many plays, then and for the next four years . . ”
This is Stratfordian mythos. Did any theatre company ever publish any plays? Also, I doubt if more than two or three in the Company knew whose name it was; and they would have been bound to secrecy.
>” . ., without using it shows that they were not all in agreement, either about that particular name, or perhaps any name. ”
The deal with the Stratford man was not completed until 1597 (when he was paid). He also needed to be ‘a gent’ which was probably not finalised until after William Camden was appointed Clarenceux King of Arms on 23 October 1597 (even if the grant was back-dated to 1596).
> ” . . . It must have been the uproar over the obvious intention to equate the portrayal of Richard III with the newly appointed Robert Cecil as Secretary of State . . ”
Uproar tends to get into the historical record. But there is no mention of it. IMO Richard III was written in the 1570s when Cecil was a child.
> ” . . that drove them finally to put the (hyphenated!) name on Richard III and Richard II in 1598. . . ”
Your logic here escapes me. Those in power knew who the author was. The hyphen emphasised the pseudonymity of the name, for those with eyes to see it. The decision-makers must have been sure that few outside their tight circle had such eyes.
> ” . . .John Hemmings, who must have been a brilliant administrator, could see the necessity of it, and so had made arrangements with William (and Oxford) at some point in 1595, but was not free to act on it until 1598. Perhaps Hunsdon was against it, or old Burbage, but by the time the actors were forced to use it, both of these elders were dead, and those who were left found themselves locked in deadly combat with the Cecil faction. And so a second edition was published with William’s name, and so from then on, everyone, including Robert Cecil, was stuck with it. . .”
IMHO you’re looking in the worng corner for a shady conspiracy . . and completely ignoring the wishes of the only person who really mattered — the monarch. She knew all that was going on in this matter, and sanctioned every item of significance. Why do you (and most Oxfordians) so forget her role? I suggest it can only be a hang-over from Stratfordianism.
Paul: One of the reasons that I prefer to use words like academic and orthodox is that there is a distinction between those who from the very beginning of Shakespeare studies have worked with or around the Stratford party line and those who promote it in opposition to those of us who question it. There’s a big difference between the scholars who simply leave it on the table and work around it as best they can, and those who actively promote it. Not everyone who has added to our knowledge of the plays and the period can be called a Stratfordian. Half of them did their work before they were even aware that there was a question.
I don’t know who first saw the connection between William of Stratford and Richard Field, but I do know that it was made by the time Ogburn published, where the AQ was first opened to me, and that it was while researching the creation of the first Blackfriars theater that I saw that Oxford, who, while working with the boys at the school to produce comedies for the Court in the late 1570s and 80s, would surely have been in contact with Field whose printshop lay just steps from the school. So if I was tied to anyone in this matter it was to Ogburn and the publishers of the maps I’ve used ever since my first trip to London in 1999.
I agree that there are many puns to be found in the name William Shakespeare, and that as a cover name it was “close to perfection.” However, that certainly does NOT mean that it was “devised long before the Stratford man was located.” Yes, it was fabulous serendipity that Oxford, through Field, found a man with such a punnable name, but it’s not nearly so utterly fantastic as to imagine that the name came first, and that someone with exactly that name was found later. This is simply common sense.
Oxford did not have “plenty of pen names” when he was looking for a way to get Venus and Adonis published. In the early 90s he was in serious trouble with everyone. He no longer had the cash or the credit to pay the actors, musicians, printers, etc., who had been depending on him for a decade, while his friends, former schoolmates, and patrons, those who had helped in the past, were afraid to help him any longer for fear of attracting the wrath of his powerful enemies. This is the reason for the passionate tone of the dedications to Southampton, a feeling all can understand who finally find someone willing to help when no one else will. And just because Burghley charged Southampton £5000 doesn’t mean he paid, nor is it a solid enough fact on which to build a theory. In 1593 Southampton was still underage, but because he stood to inherit a vast estate, moneylenders would have been happy to lend him as much as he wanted.
We don’t know how Oxford was getting that £1000 annuity. For one thing it was paid to him on a quarterly basis. For another, by 1593 he was tied to the Trentham family, who may well have been given charge by the Queen of anything that came from her. There’s no sign that the Trenthams were interested in assisting Oxford with theatrical or publishing projects.
That it was the acting companies who owned the plays, not their authors, is a fact that has nothing to do with the authorship question.
There are many reasons, some of them outlined here on pages and blogs, why the reaction of the lawyers and parliamentarians, in London in 1596-97 for the Queen’s ninth parliament, to the image of Richard Burbage playing Richard III as though he were Robert Cecil, would not have reached the public considering that the Cecils were masters of the publishing industry from the late 1590s to Robert’s death in 1612. The outpouring of nasty limericks that followed his death proves, as has been proven by at least three published academics, that their authors had Shakespeare’s Richard III in mind.
As for the Queen, the idea that she had any control over what got produced for the London Stage is belied by every bit of evidence we have. All she knew, all she wanted to know, was that something enjoyable would be ready to entertain her Court by the end of December every year, preferably something romantic and witty, preferably played by the little boys. The only time we see her getting involved in what was produced at Court is when something went wrong. Every comment she ever made on the subject reveals her ignorance of what was being produced for the other audiences in London.
Stephanie, You wrote:
> Not everyone who has added to our knowledge of the plays and the period can be called a Stratfordian. Half of them did their work before they were even aware that there was a question.
Nearly all of us were once Strats, as has been all ‘scholarship’ since 1593. Their work has been about as useful as that of astronomers or geologists who accepted Genesis as the basis of their thinking. Oxfordians need to re-think everything.
> ” . . .Yes, it was fabulous serendipity that Oxford, through Field, found a man with such a punnable name, but it’s not nearly so utterly fantastic as to imagine that the name came first, and that someone with exactly that name was found later . . ”
The Schacksper / Shagsber / Shaxpere name was not rare, and in selecting his pseudonym the poet needed one that could pass. That’s all. When he and his associates noticed that some “early scholars” were claiming to know the man personally, they set out to find a person with that name who was agreeable to being paid. They probably did not need to look far. It is not common sense to rely on ‘fabulous serendipity’.
> ” . . .This is the reason for the passionate tone of the dedications to Southampton, a feeling all can understand who finally find someone willing to help when no one else will.”
The overblown tone was largely a parody of how a country gent would address a noble.
> ” . . In 1593 Southampton was still underage, but because he stood to inherit a vast estate, moneylenders would have been happy to lend him as much as he wanted.
The DNB states that the wealth of the 2nd Earl on his death (in 1581) was approximately £2000 – £3000 — from his will. Such ‘wealth’ was probably much reduced by 1594.
> ” . . That it was the acting companies who owned the plays, not their authors, is a fact that has nothing to do with the authorship question. . .”
I need evidence before I accept “facts”. I have not seen any. No play was published ” . . for X Company . . “. And since editions of the canon formed the great bulk of printed plays, this issue is crucial to the authorship. There is no way any company owned or controlled any of Shake-speare’s works.
> ” . . .As for the Queen, the idea that she had any control over what got produced for the London Stage . . ”
What the scholars imagine was produced for the London stage has as much to do with reality as the list of animals in Noah’s Ark. Some companies had astonishing material, written for an earlier generation of courtiers, but far above the heads of average audiences. They performed some of it occasionally. And other writers tried to emulate those works. But what the companies did the rest of the time is anyone’s guess.
> “. . . All she knew, all she wanted to know, was that something enjoyable would be ready to entertain her Court by the end of December every year, preferably something romantic and witty, preferably played by the little boys. . . ”
Shakespeare was a literary genius, and (almost necessarily) immensely precocious. The scale of his talent was manifest from before he was ten, around the time she ascended the throne. Given his status, she would have been told. But she would have seen it herself anyway. The rest of the story follows — you can fill it in yourself. He could not have existed as a literary artist without her inspiration and her protection. Being what they were, he went too far, (and was allowed to go too far in terms of political wisdom) in portraying court life. The Queen is present in numerous works — as Cleopatra, Gertrude, the Lady Olivia, Titania, Volumnia, the Lady Portia (in MoV), etc. She saw every part of it. The cover-up was designed to hide all this from the world. It worked only too well.
> ” . . Every comment she ever made on the subject reveals her ignorance of what was being produced for the other audiences in London. . .”
Indeed. Did Queen Victoria appreciate the music-halls? Does the present one watch the Jeremy Kyle Show? The Stratfordian notion that great art was financed from the pockets of the common people must be seen for the nonsense that it is. She — and state money and state policy — were behind the cover-up at every stage. That’s one reason it had to continue under James, and then Charles. I don’t know how else you can envisage it.
Paul: Of course we need to rethink everything, including how we use terminology. I reject the use of the term Stratfordian for anyone other than those whose entire effort is to defend the Stratford biography (such as Terry Ross, Tom Reedy, Gary Taylor, Stanley Wells, etc.). Scholars like Scott McMillin or Andrew Gurr who have contributed so much to our knowledge of the period do not deserve to be called Stratfordians. Another reason for avoiding this term has to do with allowing Stratford to diminish in people’s minds. Every time a person hears it it reinforces its importance in that person’s mind. It’s time it was reduced to its proper level as no more than the source of the name used to published the great man’s plays.
Among the many things that must be “rethought” is the Authorship Question itself, which, from 25 years of studying the history of the period, I see as the authorship of almost every work of the imagination written during the period, not all of it by Oxford, or labelled Shakespeare. Not until the Authorship Question means ALL the works of the late 16th to early 17th century will we have the truth about him and the other poets and playwrights. He was not the only one to use standins, and his story is enmeshed with those of his fellow writers and their patrons to an extent that no one yet has begun to pursue.
Why choose a poorly-supported scenario for the use of the name William Shakespeare when a perfectly solid explanation––Oxford to Richard Field to Henry Field to John Shakspere to William––is available? A thousand details support it, while none but Harvey’s Latin speech at Audley End supports (weakly) the notion that the name came before the standin? Since we must rely to such a large extent on conjecture, why purposely choose something weak over something strong?
I thoroughly disagree that the dedications to V&A and Lucrece were formulaic parodies. That they were framed as a humble suitor to a great patron, of course, but that’s the only similarity. Show me another from that period that has such feeling, or as with Lucrece, real passion.
To a money-lender of the 16th century, £3000 was certainly sufficient to lend money to a 16 or 17-year-old peer, knowing that it would have to be repaid, with interest, in 5 or 6 years. We have evidence of Southampton’s fascination with the stage, and plenty of evidence of such practices by money-lenders at that time.
As for evidence that the acting companies owned the plays, not the authors, this is to be found in every major work on the Early Modern stage, from E.K. Chambers to Andrew Gurr and E.A.J. Honigman. It’s true that, as Gurr admits in one place, Shakespeare appears to be an anomaly, and yes, this is crucial to our thesis that he was no ordinary playwright, and to my thesis, that it was Oxford who (with the help of patrons) created the London Stage, but the fact remains that during the period in question, plays were sold by the playwright to the company for anything from £6 to £10, which then owned it, registered it with the Stationers and published it or not as they saw fit. You can argue exception on this point with Chambers et al, but not with me.
Of course there were plays that never got acknowledged or published. The phenomenon we call the London Stage has more to do with the creation and destruction of theaters than with play titles.
Of course the Queen was aware of Oxford’s talent, and yes, she was probably the major reason why he continued to create plays for the Court (and by extension, the London Stage), even when he no longer wanted to, but this does not mean that she had any idea of what was produced for his other two audiences, the public, and the lawyers and parliamentarians of the West End.
She didn’t know, and what’s most likely, she didn’t want to know, since the last thing she wanted was something that would force her to put a stop to her winter “solace.” Oxford’s privy council patrons would have been afraid of her reaction, and everyone else would have been afraid for themselves, since her distaste for hearing bad news and her furious reactions were well known to her courtiers. Since there were no newspapers then, there was no other way for her to find out. Elizabeth was well aware of the syndrome that prevents truths from getting through to persons in power, as is shown by the eyes and ears on one of her most famous portraits, her nicknames for her favorites, her “eyes” and her “lids,” and any number of other indications that this was one of her constant concerns.
Queen Victoria certainly read the papers. She also attended the theater on occasion, which Elizabeth did not. Due to fears for her life, Elizabeth’s expeditions outside the walls of her palaces were carefully arranged for her protection. So there could not have been a surprise visit, and even if there had, the players were always prepared to rearrange bits of text that might get them in trouble had agents of their enemies been seen entering.
There is no evidence that Elizabeth ever funded any of the entertainments provided for her by her councillors, primarily by the Lord Chamberlain. The only thing she herself patronized was the music that attended every event of the day and night. It’s to the patrons that we must look for the funding that brought Shakespeare’s comedies to life at Court during the winter holidays, primarily to the Lord Chamberlain who founded the company for which everything was written that bore Shakespeare’s name, Henry Hunsdon. It’s to him, and to the sharers, chiefly John Hemmings, that we must look for the initial coverup, covered here in the pages on Robert Cecil and Richard III.
Elizabeth patronized Oxford only by loving his work and making it possible for him to continue to produce it. She did not pay for it, she let others do that for her, and she exacted a price in that she would not give him any of the things he asked for that threatened to take him away from her Court, which would have meant that she had to get through a winter season without the kind of plays that touched her at the level of her own lofty intellect, education and sense of humor.
I can see by your comments that you haven’t read much of what I’ve provided here in the pages you see listed under the headings in the menu, in which I address in detail all the issues you mention. However, I do appreciate the little time you’ve given it so far.
Stephanie, You wrote:
> ” . . I reject the use of the term Stratfordian for anyone other than those whose entire effort is to defend the Stratford biography (such as Terry Ross, Tom Reedy . .”
Simply call those “militant Stratfordians” as against “non-militant Stratfordians”. Like almost every school-child, I was one of the latter, . When I first saw a copy of Charlon Ogburn’s book in a friend’s house, I sounded off — in typical un-informed Stratfordian style (e.g. Stanley-Wells). Luckily I borrowed the book and was rapidly ‘converted’.
> ” . . Why choose a poorly-supported scenario for the use of the name William Shakespeare when a perfectly solid explanation––Oxford to Richard Field . .”
They are not alternatives. We all have to face the question: “Why did Oxford pick the Stratford man for his stand-in?” No one doubts that he may well have known of him (through Field), but that’s not an answer. He may well have known of thousands of people. So, firstly, you have not provided an answer. Secondly, you have to invoke “..fabulous serendipity..”.. My scenario eliminates that, _and_ sets out an answer. He was the first (or the most convenient) person to fit the existing pseudonym “Will Shake-speare”. His total lack of other redeeming qualitiies was exactly what the poet (and his master/mistress) wanted. He would do as a (cocooned) stand-in until everyone involved was dead. Then anyone who took a serious look at the man and the records would realise the absurdity of his ‘authorship’. He was meant only to satisfy fools and then only for a few decades. He was, in effect, a ‘random yokel’ but with one sole quality: his name.
> ” . .I thoroughly disagree that the dedications to V&A and Lucrece were formulaic parodies. That they were framed as a humble suitor to a great patron, of course, but that’s the only similarity. Show me another from that period that has such feeling, or as with Lucrece, real passion.”
No one could fake sincerity better than our poet.
> ” . .To a money-lender of the 16th century, £3000 was certainly sufficient to lend money to a 16 or 17-year-old peer, knowing that it would have to be repaid, with interest, in 5 or 6 years. . . ”
Southampton was also coming into a debt of £5,000 on reaching 21. No one would lend him money without an assurance from Burghley that this debt had been wiped. That would hardly be forthcoming.
> ” . .but this does not mean that she had any idea of what was produced for his other two audiences, the public, and the lawyers and parliamentarians of the West End.”
I see this as a hang-over from Stratfordianism. I don’t think he had any interest in either audience — except as tiny parts of ‘posterity’. He was not out to ‘please the masses’ in any respect at all.
> “I can see by your comments that you haven’t read much of what I’ve provided here ”
You write much sound and interesting stuff, but I disagree with some of it. It’s just that I have not expressed my opinions here.
Paul: In my view, to call scholars like E.K. Chambers or Edmond Malone “non-militant Stratfordians” is not only awkward, it’s anti-historic. Would you call George Washington a (modern) Democrat or Alexander Hamilton a (modern) Republican? It also makes the authorship issue about nothing but Shakespeare’s identity, which I reject, since studies of the history of the period show me that the identity issue is tightly interwound with the history of the period and affects the identity of ALL Elizabethan authors of imaginative literature. When scholars begin to look at the identity issue in relation to the politics of the period we’ll begin to see some movement. Stuck as it is now on the micro-level of pro- or anti-Stratford, it simply continues to go in circles, and will continue to do so until its relevance to the broader issue of the Elizabethan version of the Calvinist Reformation is taken into account.
I agree with everything you say about William’s role in the authorship, except the notion that the name came first. To me this is utterly bizarre. Not only is this putting the chicken before the egg, it’s putting the chicken pot pie before the chicken.
That “no one could fake sincerity better” than Shakespeare is an oxymoron. No one can fake sincerity––only the heart speaks true. It’s the powerful sincerity that has won the world to his plots, his beautiful language a secondary factor. That he was able to do this is because he always built his stories on his own situation at the time. Romeo is Romeo and Benedick Benedick because Oxford was in love with Ann Vavasor. Lear is Lear because Oxford was furious with how he was being treated by his two older daughters. Richard III is evil incarnate because Robert Cecil was trying to destroy Oxford’s great creation, the London Stage. We can actually begin to successfully date the first versions of the plays (and even some later versions) by connecting the main plots with events in Oxford’s life. Of course it’s because he was telling the truth (as he saw it) about his fellow aristocrats and privy council officials that his identity had to be hidden.
So far as I know, the Southampton debt relies on a single comment by a contemporary. Every important fact has to be solidified by at least one or two bits of third party evidence, or it cannot be used as a support for further argument. If Stone in Crisis of the Aristocracy shows from his research that Southampton did fork over £5000 to Burghley at some point, I missed it. So far the much more important fact is that in 1593 the teenaged Southampton was seen by the world as the heir to a peer’s fortune, which meant that no matter how much he owed, once he turned 21 he could not be denied credit, no matter how bad a risk he may have seemed. That was the law.
I reject the tendency to see the history of the Elizabethan era as some sort of “hangover from Stratfordianism.” Once again, this puts the issue of the poet’s identity at the center, rather than a result, which it surely was, of the political temper of the times.
I’m honored to hear that you’ve read more than just a blog or two, but again, I can see by your comments that you haven’t read, or perhaps fully grasped, the scenario that leads from Oxford’s return from Italy in 1576 to the publication of Richard III in 1598, the first to bear William’s name as author. If you had, you would surely have made some reference to it. I know that a blog is not a book, but I’ve done my best to add links along the way, and there are a few readers who do seem to have grasped the full arc of the argument.