There are books by academics that support the thesis offered here by expanding upon the dots that I am making such an effort to connect. As accredited members of the Academy, their contributions cannot easily be dismissed as the ridiculous notions of cranks and outsiders. Because in these works they focus on aspects of history or psychology that don’t require alignment with the Stratford timetable, they are able to deal honestly directly with the facts before them. Each of the following books or articles provides information and insights that lend solid support to some part of my scenario that otherwise would have to be termed “purely conjectural.”
How Oxford “got away” with the “conspiracy” to hide his identity?
John Mullan, 2009: Anonymity: A Secret History of English Literature (Faber and Faber). Professor of English at University College London and columnist with The Guardian, Mullan gives a close look at the uses of anonymity and pseudonymity by English writers from Shakespeare’s time to the present. Though he ignores Shakespeare and his colleagues (apart from a brief mention of Spenser’s use of “Immerito”), this close and well-written look at the peak eras in English literature ever since provides important and well-researched support for our theory that the name Shakespeare was a pseudonym used by a gifted Elizabethan courtier playwright. (Yes, it was taken from a real person, but the name itself functions as a pseudonym, no matter how he got it.) In response to those critics who question how a phony “Shakespeare” could have gotten away with such a “conspiracy,” Mullan shows how easily users of pseudonyms have in fact “gotten away with it,” over and over.
By showing how more than one member of a particular coterie would use anonymity for particular publications, Mullan, will he nill he, supports my view that Shakespeare was not the only pseudonym used by writers in his time. And by showing how the immediate and intense responses by readers of these later writers responded to their various anonymous and pseudonymous publications, he provides evidence that supports my view that, far from first appearing in the mid-19th century, the quality that made Venus and Adonis a super hit not only explains, but requires that the Authorship Question actually arose with that first appearance of the till then unknown pun-name Shakespeare, that it did not leave a record for reasons explained by the politics of the time, and that it was the primary factor in the various moves over time by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, the King’s Men, and their patrons to keep their playwright’s true identity a secret.
That Robert Greene and John Lyly were pre-Shakespeare pseudonyms used by Oxford to publish his early works:
Penny McCarthy, 2006: Pseudonymous Shakespeare: rioting language in the Sidney circle (Ashgate). While some academics have gotten hold of at least one body part of the fabled elephant, McCarthy, who holds a research fellowship at Glasgow University, has gotten hold of two or three. It’s obvious that she has an unusually good ear for an academic, as shown by the fact that she can hear the similarities that connect the works attributed to John Lyly, Robert Greene, and William Shakespeare, similarities that most academics miss, ignore, or (stupidly) ascribe to one or the other’s plagiarism. Though rejecting Oxford, she actually admits to sensing an “unseen presence” lurking in the literary shadows.
In writing about the use of pseudonyms, McCarthy’s also got it right about secret subtexts, right about the use of puns, right about authors being referred to in print by the names of their most popular protagonists (Lyly as Euphues, Spenser as Colin Clout), right about the earlier dating of Shakespeare’s works, and right about the late romances (they were early, not late). She’s wrong about the depth of anti-Tudor sentiment (the dissidents are always the noisy ones that get noticed) and also about the purposeful promotion of Leicester (I don’t see it).
In creating scenarios out of such slim pickins, we all have to fill in the empty places in our tapestries with guesswork, but that William was adopted by the Sidneys is taking it to the point of absurdity. Nevertheless, her efforts to create a scenario that includes the other writers of the period, however misdirected, does show that McCarthy sees the need for looking beyond the limitations of what facts we have.
The impossibility that William of Stratford could have been Shakespeare
Katherine Duncan-Jones, 2001: Ungentle Shakespeare: Scenes from his life (Thompson Learning). Tutorial Fellow in English at Somerville College, Oxford, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, Duncan-Jones is one of the leading lights of Shakespeare orthodoxy. In telling the harsh truth about William of Stratford she solidifies the argument that such a man simply could not have produced the world’s greatest works of literary art.
Ellen Winner, 1996: Gifted Children: Myths and Realities (Basic Books). Professor of Psychology at Boston College, Winner describes what she and others involved in what’s known as the Psychology of Creativity have discovered through clinical studies of gifted children and the biographies of geniuses. The recipe for what she terms “a creator,” one who excels at a level where, as an adult, he will permanently “alter his domain,” strengthens both our dismissal of William of Stratford and our trust in the Earl of Oxford. William, what we know of him, shows none of the requirements, while Oxford shows all of them.
T.W. Baldwin, 1944; William Shakespeare’s Small Latine & and Lesse Greeke. Vol 2: Appendix I: “Runaway Shakespere.” In the immense 2-volume tome for which he is best known, Thomas W. Baldwin, Professor of English at the University of Illinois from 1925 to 1958, attempts to justify the claims that William of Stratford could have acquired all the education Shakespeare needed from the Stratford grammar school. Although he does provide an immense amount of useful detail about the Reformation education system established throughout England during the Elizabethan era, his achievement with regard to William’s education is moot since there’s no evidence that William actually attended the school.
However, towards the end of the second volume, the professor turns his perceptive eye on the primary Shakespeare creation myth, effectively consigning it to the dustbin of literary history. Finally free perhaps to exercise a sarcastic wit that would have been counterproductive in his effort to see William properly educated, Baldwin reveals how the story of how William’s London theater career began when he ran away from Stratford to escape being charged with poaching deer and/or rabbits became a myth that developed over time to fill a vacuum. Luckily this delightful essay is accessible online.
That Oxford was responsible for creating the London Stage:
Dame Francis Yates, 1969: Theater of the World (Chicago: U Chicago Press). A highly respected British historian (as witness her title), who taught at the Warburg Insititute of the University of London for 20 years, Yates provides solid evidence that the planning behind the round theaters first built by James Burbage came from someone who was well-acquainted with the designs for such theaters by the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius. Yates’s scenario, that because we know that John Dee’s library contained Vitruvius’s book, we can assume that Burbage was friends with Dee, seems a bit far-fetched, particularly when compared with the fact that the Earl of Oxford––“best known for comedy”––was raised with Vitruvius’s book, which is listed in his tutor’s library inventory of 1566 (35). Added to this is the fact that Burbage’s Theatre was built within weeks of Oxford’s return from Italy, where he would have seen the experiments by Andreas Palladio with building round wooden Vitruvian theatres preliminary to the round stone theater he would soon be building in Siena, the Teatro Olympico.
That Marlowe was assassinated, not for spying or complaining about the tavern bill, but for writing anti-establishment plays:
Charles Nicholl, 1992: The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe (London: Jonathon Cape) Although Nicholl, award-winning historian educated at King’s College Cambridge, backs away from the most obvious interpretation of his own evidence (absurdly accusing the Earl of Essex––maybe because Essex has no living descendents to defend his honor?), he provides 90 percent of what’s required to prove that Christopher Marlowe and his patron Lord Strange were murdered by government agents acting under orders. Nicholl subscribes to the (unsupported) standard view that Marlowe’s murder had something to do with the spying that he’s been (falsely) accused of ever since, yet the evidence he provides goes a long way towards placing Marlowe’s death, and that of his patron Lord Strange, within the context of a pogrom launched by the Cecils in the early 1590s against the writing community known loosely as the University Wits, sparing only their relatives, Francis Bacon (Nashe) and the Earl of Oxford (Greene and Shakespeare).
That “Thomas of Woodstock” is Shakespeare’s prequel to Richard II:
Michael Egan, 2006: The Tragedy of Richard II: A Newly Authenticated Play by William Shakespeare (Edwin Mellon Press). Former Scholar in Residence at BYU Hawaii, Egan got his doctorate at Cambridge where he edited the Cambridge Review. While writing his voluminous 4-volume elucidation of the theory that Thomas of Woodstock was Shakespeare’s original first in a 2-part series on Richard II, he realized that Shakespeare (the Poet) was writing much too well and too early for the Stratford biography. Although there is no hint of the authorship issue in the book, evidence in such quantity and detail can’t be denied. However, with a monolith like the Shakespeare Establishment, it can be ignored and its author shunned, as Egan’s experience testifies. Pursuing the path to which his research led him, Dr. Egan is currently editing The Oxfordian, the leading print journal of authorship studies.
That the repressive nature of the English Reformation is the great overarching cause why so many Elizabethan writers found it necessary to hide their identities:
Alison Shell, 2006: Catholicism, Controversy and the English Literary Imagination, 1558-1660 (Cambridge U Press). By showing how the Elizabethan regime treated Catholic writers, most notably the imprisonment, torture and execution of poet Robert Southwell, Dr. Shell, professor of English at University College London, provides the kind of documentation on the nature of the regime’s battle to control what did and didn’t get published, and its treatment of writers like Southwell, Campion and Marlowe who refused to conform, that can easily be extended to cover the publication of the kind of passionate poetry and sexy story-telling that was abhored by Reformation censors. This factor is absolutely necessary if we’re ever to understand and accept why the most important Elizabethan writers hid their identities.
That Francis Walsingham was the true patron of the Queen’s Men and of the University Wits who provided them with plays:
Scott McMillin and Sally-Beth MacLean, 1998: The Queen’s Men and their Plays, 1583-1603: (Cambridge: Cambridge U Press). This in-depth examination of England’s first Royal Theater company by McMillin (former professor of English at Cornell University) and MacLean (professor of English at the University of Toronto) supplies the only published support (that I know of) for my contention that it was Sir Francis Walsingham who was the true patron of the Queen’s Men, and by extention, that he was also the patron of the group that provided them with their scripts, the group known to literary historians as the University Wits. Their evidence that it was for the Queen’s Men that Shakespeare wrote the first versions of his history plays, suggests to M&M that, despite the absence of his name on any record, Shakespeare simply must have been a member of the company (xx), supports my view that, while living at Fisher’s Folly, the same period that the company was active, Oxford wrote these plays for Walsingham and Tarleton (their lead actor) and that “University Wits” is simply the historians name for the group of writers that surrounded him at Fisher’s Folly during that same period, some of whom (also wrote for the Queen’s Men.
That Queen Elizabeth’s sexual restaint was a major (and necessary) factor in maintaining her status for forty years as a woman in power:
Carole Levin, Hanah Betts, Marcy North, Mary Villeponteaux, et al, 1998. Dissing Elizabeth: Negative Representations of Gloriana. (Ed. Julia M. Walker. Durham NC: Duke U Press).
This collection of essays on the Queen’s bad press is interesting, but has little new to offer, either in terms of material or evaluation. This is hardly surprising, considering how long Elizabeth has been under observation, and how her reputation has seesawed from one extreme to another. I think we can trust these, mostly female, English profs, to tell the truth should one or another have turned up anything new about her sex life, usually the topic of most interest where a woman is concerned. But we’ve had our sexual revolution, so I don’t think we’ll be dealing with Victorian caution anymore. These days the only sinful subject in English Departments these days is anything that connects the Earl of Oxford with the birth of the commercial Press and London Stage.
For those fascinated by the idea that Elizabeth was not the virgin she, and history, claim, that she (stupidly) had illegitimate children, there will be a few new tid bits to add to your collection. Of course it’s of no use to point out that these represent a small percentage of what remains in the record that’s offensive, and that there’s still no way to prove the virginity of a woman, any woman, particularly one who’s been dead for over 400 years. I know you won’t mind the lack of facts, having lived with the same lack for, what, over a century now? It’s wonderful how the mere idea is enough to keep you going.
For the rest of us, we can only feel admiration for one who stuck to her post, and her “virtue,” for seventy years, surviving not only several attempts on her life, but a constant battering of attempts on her honor (see the longer review). Most interesting to women must be how in the face of terrible stress and danger, she did it her way!––enjoying the mating game, using her femininity (she was no beauty), her sense of style and good taste in entertainment to dazzle Europe for at least two decades while keeping a corps of good-looking men hanging on her every word. The final decade, when her charms had faded, the men who genuinely desired her had aged or died, and the magic was gone, she managed to hang on until the King of Scotland, the son of the lovely Queen she had been forced to have beheaded, was old enough to handle the job of guiding the nation. Pretty smooth, I’d say.
It can take some fortitude to plow through the turgid convolutions that’s the current style amongst English Lit profs, the need to add every possible reference, and the often total lack of any real effort to evaluate the material. But because academic writers have access to original documents, now and then something will turn up that makes it worth the effort. The best of these essays is the clear and easily understood “Spenser’s Amazon Queen, by Mary Villeponteaux, an English professor at Georgia Southern University, in which she identifies the various figures that represent Elizabeth in The Faerie Queene. For those who are interested in the psychology of Elizabeth, this is a byway worth following.
The final word comes from Carole Levin, who wrote the lead article: “We shall never have a merry world while the Queene liveth: Gender, Monarchy, and the Power of Seditious Words”:
As a woman ruling alone, Elizabeth represented deeply felt concerns about rule, stability,women’s roles, and sexuality. We can hardly be surprised that Elizabeth, the unmarried queen, was so attacked. (91)
Frederick Chamberlain, 1921. The Private Character of Queen Elizabeth (London: Bodley Head). Annoyed by the tendency to accept some of the negative views of Queen Elizabeth that have been perpetuated over the centuries by historians, chiefly by Papists (recusant Catholic writers) who saw her as the anti-Christ, and so were eager to slander her as a witch and a whore, willing to attribute any sort of sexual abberation to her. This perhaps as a reaction to the fact that the Reformation of which she was the leading representative thoughout 16th-century Europe, was known to have errupted largely in response to the licentious and corrupt nature of many Catholic institutions.
Chamberlain took it on himself to investigate some of the more eggregious assertions. Here we see most clearly the background to the issues of why she never married, what efffect her health had on her decisions, and the kinds of rumors that beset her throughout her life, beginning in her infancy and continuing through until her death. The mere fact that she managed to die peacefully in office after one of the more notably successful reigns in English history suggests a leader with a profound understanding of what it took to survive, including remaining single and making her virginity, i.e., her inviolability, a symbol of the inviolability of the British Isle, and the keystone of her power.
One thought on “Expanding the dots”
The Teatro Olimpico is in Vicenza.
When I was staying with my father we saw an early Mozart opera there.
Nothing beats actually going to a place
for thoroughness of research…
Just look at all those plays De Vere set in Italy!