Of the hundreds, perhaps thousands of books that I’ve read on this and related subjects over the years, these are the ones that I’ve relied on the most and/or quoted on the blog, here classified under: Dictionaries, Books, Oxford’s Life, and Articles. As I add pages and blogs I’ll continue to add to this list. For online sources, see Links.
Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. (1882, ed. John Bartlett). 15th edition. Ed. Emily Morison Beck. Boston: Little Brown, 1980. Source of information on number of Shakespeare quotes as compared with other sources.
Encyclopedia of Concert Music. Ed. David Ewen. New York: Hill & Wang, 1959. Shows how much and what concert music has been inspired by Shakespeare.
Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. 2nd Edition (1941). London: OUP, 1953. Shows vast amount of Shakespeare quotations as compared with other sources.
Oxford English Dictionary (OED). So far the best source of information on the dates of first use of terms (with the understanding that the OED has missed quite a few).
Aubrey, John. Brief Lives. (1982). Ed. Richard Barber. Bury St. Edmonds: Boydell, 1998. A modern English version of the famous 17th-century gossip.
Baldwin, T.W. Literary Forensics (Shakespeare’s style, word studies), Stage history, English political history, English social history, provenance of the plays,
Baldwin, T.W. Shakespeare’s Small Latin and Lesse Greek. Everything you ever wanted to know about the Erasmus curriculum, and much you probably don’t care to, but nothing that would convince you that Shakespeare learned all he needed at the Stratford grammar school. No doubt he could have, but there’s no evidence that he did, and quite a lot to suggest that he didn’t. Most important to our scenario, is Baldwin’s convincing deconstruction of the earliest origin myths: William as poacher (2.681-89). Online.
Bentley, Gerald Eades. The Profession of Dramatist in Shakespeare’s Time, 1590-1642. Princeton: PUP, 1971. Provides some interesting facts about those playwrights he regards as professionals, though as he explains in his early chapters, distinguishing between amateurs and professionals from the period is next to impossible. He goes into illuminating detail on the low opinion in which the commercial stage was held c.1590-1623, as much by the men who wrote for it as by its enemies. Most important, his complaints of his colleagues’ tendency to judge the Shakespeare period by their own time are as true now as when he wrote.
Bentley, Gerald Eades. The Profession of Player in Shakespeare’s Time, 1590-1642. Princeton: PUP, 1983.Bevington, David, ed. The Spanish Tragedy. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1996. Immerse yourself in early Shakespeare and the more likely of the apocrypha, then read this play. How could it be anyone but Shakespeare?
Bevington, David. Tudor Politics: A Critical Approach to Topical Meaning. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968. A respected orthodox scholar deals relatively straightforwardly with a topic that many Stratfordians avoid.
Bloom, Harold. Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. Riverhead, 1999. Amazon blurb: “‘Personality, in our sense, is a Shakespearean invention, and is not only Shakespeare’s greatest originality but also the authentic cause of his perpetual pervasiveness.’ So Harold Bloom opines in his outrageously ambitious Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. This is a titanic claim. But then this is a titanic book, wrought by a latter-day critical colossus––and before Bloom is done with us, he has made us wonder whether his vision of Shakespeare’s influence on the whole of our lives might not be simply the sober truth. Shakespeare is a feast of arguments and insights, written with engaging frankness and affecting immediacy. Bloom ranges through the Bard’s plays in the probable order of their composition, relating play to play and character to character, maintaining all the while a shrewd grasp of Shakespeare’s own burgeoning sensibility.”
Boas, Frederick S. Shakespeare and the Universities. (1923). New York: Blom, 1971. A respected Shakespearean details the attitudes of Cambridge and Oxford universities towards Shakespeare over the years, for centuries nothing but dismissal and disdain, first of his works, now of his identity, in which they’ve been followed ever since by universities around the world.
Breight, Curtis. Surveillance, Militarism and Drama in the Elizabethan Era. (1958). New York: St. Martin’s, 1996. Important information on matters that most historians overlook or gloss over. A somewhat belligerent attitude can be forgiven as Breight provides more than enough documentation to back his report on the dark side of Elizabethan politics.
Brooke, Tucker. Tudor Drama: A History of National English Drama to the Retirement of Shakespeare. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1911. Online: books.google.com.
Bullough, Geoffrey, ed. Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare. 8 vols. London: Routledge, 1960. An absolute necessity for studying Shakespeare’s sources, Bullough includes some entire texts, some extracts. Because he follows the Stratford chronology, he includes some texts that are obviously too late, but these provide evidence of later writers who used Shakespeare as their source. Along with the sources Bullough also provides good information on the provenance of the plays, first mention, first publication, etc.
Burke, Victoria E. and Jonathon Gibson. Early modern women’s manuscript writing. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2004.
Cairncross, A.S. The Problem of Hamlet: a Solution. London: Macmillan, 1936. One of the earliest, perhaps the earliest, to offer evidence and a good argument that the so-called Ur-Hamlet, a creation to deal with the awkward evidence that Shakespeare was writing much earlier than the Stratford bio allows, was written by none other than Shakespeare.
Campbell, Lily B. Shakespeare’s Histories: Mirrors of Elizabethan Policy. (1947, 1963). London: Methuen, 1964. Absolutely the best book on the subject.
Cantor, Paul A. Shakespeare’s Rome: Republic and Empire. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1976. Having studied the matter, concludes that Shakespeare was highly educated in Latin and Roman history.
Carter, Thomas. Shakespeare, Puritan and Recusant. Edinburgh: Oliphant, 1898. This examination of the evidence that John Shakspere was a recusant is persuasive of Carter’s thesis that Shakspere’s troubles came from the fact that he was a dissident Protestant, not a Catholic. The word recusant could mean either.
Case, R.H. ed. Introduction to Antony and Cleopatra. (1906). Ed. M.R. Ridley. The Arden Shakespeare. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1956.
Chamberlin, Frederick Carleton. The Private Character of Queen Elizabeth. London: Lane, 1921. Weary of the hype on Elizabeth’s purported promiscuity, Carleton looks closely at the record. Online at books.google.com.
Chambers, E.K.C. The Elizabethan Stage. 4 vols. The Shakespeare scholar’s bible. It’s information and insights have been added to and updated in minor ways over the years, but it still provides 90 percent of the history of the period and all the broad strokes of biography and basic thinking of the Stratford biography. It is so comprehensive that it also provides much of the evidence against the Stratford biography. Like so many who have followed in his footsteps, Edmund Kerchever Chambers was a scholar, not an artist, and so cannot see the picture he assembled from an artist’s point of view. He was also, like most of the early great Shakespeareans, an independent scholar, not an academic.
Churton-Collins, John. Studies in Shakespeare. Westminster: Constable, 1904. One of the first to comment at length on Shakespeare’s knowledge of ancient Latin and Greek sources, marshalling “many new arguments in favour of the extended hypothesis that the poet was not merely a fair Latin scholar, but that his knowledge of the classics both of Greece and Rome was remarkably extensive” (vi). A graduate of Balliol College, Oxford, and a professor and lecturer at Birmingham University, he states, “for many years the Greek dramatists and Shakespeare have been my intimate companions,” and the instances he notes are simply what he has collected in his reading. He admits that he is not the first to see Shakespeare’s knowledge, but the first to go into some detail since “the object of this paper was to establish a probability that reminiscences, more or less unconsciously perhaps, of classical reading not in English translations but in Latin and possibly in Greek were constantly occurring to Shakespeare’s memory . . . . And cumulately, they are remarkable; for, . . . so far from exhausting what I have collected I have chosen only such as are typical of whole groups” (vii). Online: books.google.com.
Clark, Eva Turner. Hidden Allusions in Shakespeare’s Plays (1931). Ed. Ruth Loyd Miller. Reprint. Jennings, LA: Minos Publishing,1974. Turner was one of the first Americans to interpret Shakespeare through what was known then of the life of Edward de Vere. Although her knowledge of the French Court tends to skew her interpretations in that direction, her insights connecting the titles of early plays in the Court Calendar to later works by Shakespeare have been invaluable in constructing an hypothetical date range for the creation of Shakespeare’s works. Available through Miller website.
Carpenter, Edward, ed. A House of Kings. (1966). London: Black, 1992. Important information about the history of Westminster Abbey.
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. Coleridge on Shakespeare: The text of the Lectures of 1811-1812. Ed. R.A. Foakes. Charlottesville: U Virginia P, 1971.
Creighton, Charles, Dr. A History of Epidemics in Britain. Cambridge: CUP, 1891.
Crompton, Louis. Byron and Greek Love: Homophobia in 19th-Century England. London: Faber, 1985. By showing its (long-hidden) effect on Byron’s life, this biography by an English professor at the University of Nebraska goes into detail on the extremes to which the homophobia that first took hold in England during the Elizabethan Reformation continued to escalate until its horrific culmination in the 19th century. Most important may be the chapters on Jeremy Bentham, possibly the first genuine advocate for tolerence for homosexuals as simply men and women born with a different sexual bias.
Cunningham, Peter. Handbook of London, Past and Present. London: John Muray, 1850.
Davidson, Peter, ed. The First Quarto of King Richard III. Cambridge; CUP 1996. Useful for comparing with the First Folio version.
Dewar, Mary, ed. De Republica Anglorum: by Sir Thomas Smith. Cambridge: CUP, 2009. Written in 1562-5 when he was Queen Elizabeth’s ambassador to France, Smith’s intention was to describe English social institutions, judicial system and governmental procedures for the benefit of foreigners, explaining in what way the English system “differs from the others.” A major historical reference into the government, traditions and customs of Elizabethan England, Dewar’s edition endeavors to establish the original text as written in the 1560s, minus the heavy amending hand of the 1583 editor, and clearing up confusion over crossovers between Smith’s text and that of William Harrison’s Description of England.
Dewar, Mary. Sir Thomas Smith: A Tudor Intellectual in Office. London: Athlone, 1964. This delightful biography is a first class introduction to a fascinating manwho might well have been forgotten were it not for her work, which includes several important articles in academic journals that establish his authorship of important Reformation documents. A Tudor Humanist in Office would have been a more accurate title, for although Smith was an intellectual, it is his humanism that most influenced English history. Surely Oxford’s surrogate father, much of what we can guess about Oxford is based on what we know about Smith, which, thanks to Dewar, his earlier biographer, John Strype, and his own voluminous correspondence, is sufficient.
Dewar, Mary. “The Memorandum ‘For the Understanding of the Exchange’: It’s Authorship and Dating.” Economic History Review. New Series, 17.3 (1965): 476-487. Offers evidence of Sir Thomas Smith’s authorship.
Dewar, Mary. “The Authorship of the ‘Discourse of the Commonweal.’” Economic History Review. 2nd ser., (1966): 19:2: 388-400. Offers evidence of Sir Thomas Smith’s authorship.
Digges, Sir Dudley. The Compleat Ambassador. London: Thomas Newcomb, 1655. Digges reproduced some of the letters exchanged between ambassadors and Privy Councillors Smith, Walsingham, Burghley, Leicester and others during the period when there was much discussion of a possible marriage between Elizabeth and the French prince. This important document gives readers a feeling for the nature of these men and their relationships with each other that goes well beyond what we get from history books. Unfortunately, not yet online except to subscribers. I read it at the British Library.
Duchane, Sangeet. The Little Book of Freemasonry. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2004. A simple account, straightforward and without the hocus pocus or dubious history of so many others. Surely there are still secrets, known only to the initiates to the highest levels, or at least, one hopes so. How awful to think that all has been revealed. Or has it, and we’re just too dumb to get it?
Drury, Paul with Richard Simpson. Hill Hall: a singular House devised by a Tudor intellectual. London: Society of Antiquaries, 2009. A whopping 2-volume examination of this interesting house , its history, grounds, and creator. Filled with illustrations, photographs, and maps in color and black and white. It adds a great deal to our knowledge of Sir Thomas Smith and the dates when he acquired and renovated Hill Hall. Following his big move back to his home county, Essex, in 1557-8, it would remain in the Smith family until the 19th century. Beautifully preserved for posterity by the English Heritage Society, it’s the only place where de Vere lived that’s still standing, although the version that remains today is not the one that he lived in, but the grander house that Smith created later, after Edward was gone. Even so, according to Drury, Smith rebuilt on much the same plan as his earlier house.
Duncan-Jones, Katherine. Ungentle Shakespeare. London: Arden, 2001.
Edwards, Philip, ed. The Spanish Tragedy. The Revels Plays. (1959). Manchester: Manchester UP, 1986.
Egan, Michael. The Tragedy of Richard II Part One: A Newly Authenticated Play by Shakespeare. 4 vols. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 2006. English professor and present editor of The Oxfordian, Egan makes an unassailable case for the anonymous play Thomas of Woodstock as Shakespeare’s Richard II Part One. Although it’s not his intention to deal with the authorship question, Egan’s rock solid evidence adds a broad stroke to the picture of Shakespeare as writing well before the Stratford biography permits.
Emmison, F.G. Elizabethan Life: Essex Gentry’s Wills. ERO publication 71. Chelmsford: Essex County Council, 1971. Very useful for scholars searching for particular individuals thought to be from Essex during the period in question
Erickson, Carolly. The First Elizabeth. New York: Summit, 1983. One of the better researched and more thoughtful biographies of Queen Elizabeth.
Foxe, John. Book of Martyrs. (1563). Miles J. Stanford. Ed. William Byron Forbush. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1967. Contains excerpts from the book that defined the cruelties of the Marian regime. Includes many important biographies of important figures during Oxford’s childhood. Makes clear the dangers of the time and how necessary it would have been to keep the sole heir to the Oxford earldom somewhere safe.
Gair, Reavely. The Children of Paul’s: the story of a theater company, 1553-1608. Cambridge: CUP, 1982. The authoritative work on Paul’s Boys.
Golding, Arthur. The XV Bookes of P. Ouidius Naso, entyluled Metramorphosis. 1567. London: Centaur, 1961. Shakespeare’s primary source. Online.
Golding, Louis Thorn. An Elizabethan Puritan, Arthur Golding. Freeport, New York: Smith, 1937. Arthur Golding offers what evidence there is for the life of his ancestor, Arthur Golding, Oxford’s uncle and author of Shakespeare’s primary source for plots.
Graves, Robert. The White Goddess: A Hisorical Grammar of Poetic Myth. (1948). New York: Noonday, 1978. When it comes to poetry and poets, it’s always worth reading the opinions of real poets. Focusing on the relationship between the poet and his muse, Graves thoughts on the effect of Celtic mythology on the literature of England make the best background to understanding the power of Queen Elizabeth’s image on her people through his depiction of the White Goddess of British and Irish folklore.
Green, Martin. Wriothesley’s Roses. Clevedon Books. Baltimore: 1993. Much information on the Southamptons, plus a thoroughly convincing case for the origin of the name Wriothesley and its pronunciation as Rosely. Green argues that Southampton’s grandfather, Sir Thomas Writh, created the name by combining his own name with the word rose. Having been raised from gentry to the peerage by Henry VII, the name was a bow to the Tudor Rose, the emblem chosen by Henry VII to represent his house in which the white rose of York was combined with the red rose of Lancaster. The Elizabethans were tolerant of names pronounced differently than spelled, such asMannering for Mainwaring, Chumley for Chomondely, and Sellinger for St. Leger. They were as thirsty for impressive sounding names as for elaborate titles, geneologies and crests. Most who knew Southampton would have known his name by hearing it spoken, not from reading it, while those who read it may not have heard it spoken, and so pronounced it, and passed it on, as “Rizley.”
Green, Martin. The Labyrinth of Shakespeare’s Sonnets: An Examination of Sexual Elements in Shakespeare’s Language. London: Skilton, 1974. A detailed look at the meaning of words used by Shakespeare, particularly those with sexual connotations, at the sexual imagery in the Sonnets and in Elizabethan works in general, at sexual attitudes, knowledge, diseases, and jargon. Also contains a facsimile of the Sonnets in an appendix.
Green, Nina. “Who Was Arthur Brooke: Author of The Tragical Historye of Romeus and Juliett?” The Oxfordian 3 (2000) : 59-70. Oxfordian scholar Green gives important biographical information on Arthur Brooke, strengthening the likelihood that Brooke was a member of the Cecil House coterie during Oxford’s youthful years at Cecil House in Westminster.
Greenwood, Sir George. The Shakespeare Problem Restated. London: Bodley Head, 1908. The first convincing work urging the impossibility of William of Stratford as author of the works of Shakespeare, largely because of his mysterious knowledge of the Law. Online.
Grillo, Ernesto. Shakespeare and Italy. New York: Haskell, 1973. Makes the case that Shakespeare knew Italy too well not to have been there in person.
Guy, John. The True Life of Mary Stuart Queen of Scots. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004. A Scot himself, Guy writes the most trustworthy account of the life of this tragic queen, one that sees the role of her English enemies in their true light. No one should write of the murder of Darnley, her marriage to Bothwell, or the manner in which she was trapped into betraying herself by Cecil and Walsingham, without reading this book,
Hammond, Antony, ed. King Richard III. Arden (1981). Walton on Thames: Nelson, 1999. The introduction is a study in Early Modern obscurantismo.
Handover, P.M. The Second Cecil. The Rise to Power (1563-1604) of Sir Robert Cecil, later first Earl of Salisbury. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1959. The only biography I’ve found on Cecil alone. Unfortunately it ends shortly after Cecil acquired his power under James. Handover claims that this was because the archives at Hatfield House that dealt with this era hadn’t yet been catalogued. That was a long time ago.
Halpert, Herbert and G.M. Story, eds. Christmas Mumming in Newfoundland: Essays in Anthropology, Folklore, and History. Toronto: U Toronto Press, 1969. Absolutely essential for any student of Northern European holiday traditions.
Hammer, Paul E.J. The Polarisation of Elizabethan Politics: The Political Career of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, 1585-1597. Cambridge: CUP, 1999. The importance of the information provided challenges the reader to go beyond the limitations of Hammer’s tiresome and needlessly repetitive style (were the redundancies removed, the book would probably be half its present length). A bias for Essex is understandable, as is the effort to refrain from demonizing the Cecils (though why he chooses to demonize Raleigh is less clear). Nevertheless, this remains the cornerstone for present studies of the 1590s, including as it does, references to so many other important works on the period. That he ends before the breakdown c.1598-1601 is fortunate, as Hammer is clearly not qualified to go beyond the politics to the psychological issues that led to Essex’s tragic downfall.
Hannay, Margaret P. Philip’s Phoenix: Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke. New York: OUP, 1990. The best and most thorough biography of Mary Sidney. Although it doesn’t “stoop” to dealing with matters that can’t be proven, the structure of Mary’s life is so well defined, that the bits that are missing are fairly obvious. Hannay plus the connections between Mary’s life and the works of John Webster should be sufficient to alert any open-minded reader to her important role in the English Literary Renaissance.
Harrison, G.B. Robert Devereux: Earl of Essex. New York: Henry Holt, 1937. As good as any biography of Essex.
Hexter, H.J. Reappraisals in History: New Views on History and Society in Early Modern Europe. Chicago: Chicago UP, 1979. Wonderful stuff by a brilliant historian. Would all history was this witty and well-written. This with Lawrence Stone and R.B. McFarlane are almost all that is needed to get the proper perspective on the period and its great differences from our own.
Highet, Gilbert. The Classical Tradition: Greek and Roman Influences on Western Literature. 1949. An excellent source for the big picture. Helps related important works found in Smith’s and Burghley’s library with T.W. Baldwin’s curriculum and Shakespeare’s reading. As the author of the Wikipedia blurb put it, through Highet it’s “possible to discover in the past a great humanizing river of learning which connected the present to the Biblical and especially the Greek and Roman civilizations, and through his marvelously evocative, graceful prose to make one feel at home in that flow of past lives, and to long for it.” Online (limited pages).
Hill, Berkeley and Arthur Cooper. Syphilis and Local Contagious Disorders. Philadelphia: Henry Lea, 1869. Necessary for understanding Elizabeth’s fear of pregnancy. Online.
Hoby, Thomas, trans. The Courtier. by Baldassare Castigliano. Useful in two ways: 1) the best way of understanding what were the standards of behavior for a courtier at 16th century Continental courts, and 2) it gives us an example of the excrable style of English writing during the period when Oxford was just beginning to write. Since Hoby was William Cecil’s brother-in-law, this would surely have been the style most admired at Cecil House during Oxford’s teenaged years, one he probably detested from the start.
Holmes, Martin. Elizabethan London. London: Cassell, 1969. A brief history of various aspects of life in 16th-century London, plus some nice photos, maps and other illustrations
Hume, Martin. The Great Lord Burghley; A Study in Elizabethan Statecraft. (1898). New York: Haskell House, 1968. In many ways a more balanced view of the great Lord Treasurer than those by Conyers Read. Includes some interesting details left out (ignored?) by Read.
Hutton, Ronald. The Rise and Fall of Merry England: The Ritual Year: 1400-1700. Oxford: OUP, 1994. Very dry, lots of statistics, no feeling for how changes came about, but still (sadly) the best I could find on this all-important material. Not exactly in tune with the “merry old” subject. Online (limited pages).
Jamison, Kay Redfield. Touched With Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament. Free press, 1993. A detailed look at the lives of the great poets, suggesting that their inspiration was closely allied with symptoms of Manic Depressive Disease, aka Bipolar Disorder. Together with Ellen Winner’s book, Gifted Children , in which the concentration is on a wide variety of characteristics, we find ample material for a trustworthy sketch of what must have been the great artist’s basic nature.
Jenkins, Elizabeth. Elizabeth the Great. New York: Time, Inc. 1958. In many ways the best biography of Elizabeth. Not so stuffed with facts as some others, but warmer and more blessed with human understanding.
Johnson, A.F. The King’s Printers, 1660-1742. The Library series 5, III (1948): 33-38.
Joseph, Sister Miriam. Shakespeare’s Use of the Arts of Language. New York: Hafner, 1966. One of the best on his use of imagery.
Kennedy, Judith M. ed. Barnabe Googe: Eclogues, Epitaphs and Sonnets. Toronto: Toronto UP, 1989. Important information about the poet and translator and other members of the Cecil House coterie when the teenaged Oxford was living in Westminster.
Kinney, Arthur. Titled Elizabethans: a Directory of Elizabethan State and Church Officers and Knights, with Peers of England, Scotland, and Ireland, 1558-1603. Hamden CT: Archon, 1973. My chief source for names and dates of office-holders.
Kinsey, Alfred E. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 1998. The classic clinical study of female sexuality. For those who prefer fact to fantasy when dealing with Queen Elizabeth. Online.
Kornstein, Daniel. Kill All the Lawyers? Princeton: PUP, 1994. This book by a practicing lawyer, detailing Shakespeare’s use of legal history from dead-letter statutes in Measure for Measure to executive pardons in Richard II, is a must have for anyone researching Shakespeare’s knowledge of the Law. After this there should be no argument for his legal expertise. Online (limited pages).
Lewis, C.S. English Literature in the Sixteenth Century excluding Drama. Oxford: Clarendon, 1944. Important literary criticism. Source of the term “drab era” for the dismal period prior to Sidney, Marlowe, and Shakespeare.
Looney, J. Thomas. Shakespeare Identified as Edward de Vere, Seventeenth Earl of Oxford. (1920). ed. Ruth Loyd Miller. vol. 1. Port Washington: Kennikat, 1975. The book that identified Oxford as Shakespeare, and in many ways still the best, certainly in terms of viewing the Authorship Question as a great literary mystery.
McFarlane, K.B. The Nobility of Later Medieval England. Oxford: Clarendon, 1973. Fact based account by an historian who spent his career examining the papers of the English nobility from 1290 to 1536. Concise, well-written, and extremely useful for understanding the nature of the nobility and gentry and their relationship during the period we study, for although things were changing, much was still the same as it had been in the period McFarlane studied, one the people of Oxford’s time looked back to, sometimes as the good old days, sometimes as a time of outworn practices that needed changing.
May, Stephen ed. The Elizabethan Courtier Poets. Pegasus, 1999. A necessity for anyone delving into the realities of the Elizabethan passion for verse. Contains what May feels are the complete poetic works of everyone at Court who wrote poetry during Oxford’s time.
Muir, Kenneth A. The Sources of Shakespeare’s Plays. 1977. An honest scholar who doesn’t back away from evidence. Amazon.com blurb: “This book ascertains what sources Shakespeare used for the plots of his plays and discusses the use he made of them; and secondly illustrates how his general reading is woven into the texture of his work. Few Elizabethan dramatists took such pains as Shakespeare in the collection of source-material. Frequently the sources were apparently incompatible, but Shakespeare’s ability to combine a chronicle play, one or two prose chronicles, two poems and a pastoral romance without any sense of incongruity, was masterly.”
Nicholl, Charles. The Reckoning. New York: Harcourt, 1992. The most informative book on Christopher Marlowe’s death. Also the most irritating, with it’s constant harping on how easily poets can be turned into spies; sheer and utter nonsense, conjured up to cover Nicholl’s astonishing inability (or refusal) to parse the evidence he himself has uncovered.
Machyn, Henry. The Diary of Henry Machyn, Citizen and Merchant Taylor of London: 1550-1563. Ed. John Gough Nichols. (1848). New York: AMS, 1968. Details on Elizabethan life noted by one of London’s chief undertakers. Online.
Nichols, John Gough. “Some Additions to the Biographies of Sir John Cheke and Sir Thomas Smith.” Archaeologia. London: The Societies of Antiquaries. 31 March, 1859. Some important details on their lives.
O’Day, Rosemary. The Longman Companion to The Tudor Age. London: Longmans, 1995. Good resource for dates, chronologies, etc.
Prescott, Hilda. Mary Tudor: The Spanish Tudor. (1940). London: Orion, 2003. A solid, detailed biography of that poor victim of her position and her sex,“Bloody Mary.”
Price, Diana. Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography: New Evidence of an Authorship Problem. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2001. For those who need to go beyond the obvious evidence of the six shaky signatures, this is the most detailed and thoroughly convincing collection of evidence that William of Stratford could not possible have written the Shakespeare canon. Its only fault is Price’s conviction that William was a genuine actor and a successful broker of plays, for which there is no evidence.
Proust, Marcel. Remembrance of Things Past. Trans. C.K. Scott Moncrief and Terence Kilmartin. Vol I. New York: Vintage, 1982.
Prouty, C.T. George Gascoigne; Elizabethan Courtier, Soldier, and Poet. New York: Columbia UP, 1942. A straightforward biography.
Read, Conyers. Mr. Secretary Cecil and Queen Elizabeth. New York: Knopf, 1955. Takes Cecil from youth to the accession of Elizabeth.
Read, Conyers. Lord Burghley and Queen Elizabeth. New York: Knopf, 1960. Important, but tainted by Read’s obvious need to stay within cultural expectations. Requires additional reading by historians less dazzled by Cecil’s importance, or perhaps the importance of the Cecil family today.
Read, Conyers. Mr. Secretary Walsingham and the Policy of Queen Elizabeth. 3 vols. Archon, 1967. Necessary reading for the background to the 1580s. Interestingly, Read pays no attention at all to Walsingham’s connection to the literary community, passing over his involvement in the creation of the Queen’s Men as a negligible anomaly. Either Walsingham was careful to leave no paper trail, or equally likely, the Cecils got rid of it following his death.
Read, Conyers. “William Cecil and Elizabethan Public Relations.” Elizabethan Government and Society. Eds S.T. Bindoff et al. London: Athlone, 1961. Evidence of Cecil’s propagandizing.
Ringler, William. Stephen Gosson: A Biographical and Critical Study. Princeton: PUP, 1942. Important details on one of the first writers involved with the Fisher’s Folly group, and subsequently dumped, possibly before he wrote his blast at his colleagues, or perhaps not until after. That it was Thomas Lodge who responded to his diatribe helps to place Lodge in the Folly group early on.
Rowse, A.L. The Poems of Shakespeare’s Dark Lady: Salve Deus Rex Judeorum by Emilia Lanier. Presents Rowse’s evidence for Emilia Bassano as the Dark Lady of the Sonnets. Utterly convincing. Those who don’t like the idea cavil at the fact that Rowse misread the word “brave” for “brown,” a minor misstep that has nothing whatsoever to do with the weight of the evidence he offers.
Sams, Eric. Shakespeare’s Edmund Ironside: The Lost Play. Aldershot, Hants: Wildwood, 1986. Another book by an honest scholar who, rather than back off or attempt to square the circle, tells it like he sees it come what may. And what may was the contempt and derision of his colleagues who continue to ignore the evidence he provides of a Shakespeare too young to fit the Stratford profile.
Schoenbaum, Sam. William Shakespeare, A Documentary Life. New York, OUP, 1975. The most useful source of facts on William of Stratford. Schoenbaum is so certain of William’s authenticity that he doesn’t hesitate to tell all (well, almost all). In fact, his dodges and euphemisms can be entertaining.
Scoufos, Alice-Lyle. Shakespeare’s Topological Satire. Despite its pompous title, this is a work of masterful literary forensics in which is revealed the background to the identity of Falstaff, the reason why he was first named “Oldcastle,” and the fascinating reasons why the name had to be changed, a bit of history that shines a light on the tough going the Lord Chamberlain’s Men were faced with after losing their protector and patron, Lord Hunsdon, in 1596.
Seward, Desmond. The Hundred Years War: The English in France, 1337-1453. New York: Penguin, 1976. A modern Cambridge historian details England’s military glory during the period Shakespeare dramatized to rouse English pride in preparing for war with Spain.
Shaar, Claes. Elizabethan Sonnet Themes. (1962). New York: AMS, 1973. The most detailed account of efforts by scholars over the years to arrive at the most accurate dates possible for Shake-speare’s Sonnets, efforts based solely on comparisons of language and themes with his other plays and other poems, without any consideration of the Stratford biography. It is objective, thorough, and utterly convincing––which is doubtless why it’s so rarely cited.
Shaheen, Naseeb. Biblical References in Shakespeare’s Plays. (1931). Cranbury, NJ: Assoc. UP, 1999. Important insights by an orthodox scholar.
Shell, Alison. Catholicism, Controversy, and the English Literary Imagination. Cambridge: CUP 1999. Shell is one of the younger literary historians bringing a fresh look at authorship questions of the Elizabethan and Jacobean period, in her case the suppressed poetry and other works by writers like Edmund Campion, Robert Southwell, and Richard Crashaw. Despite some heavy going through the requisite profspeak (dehistoricization?), her work gives hope that such efforts by younger scholars, particularly women, will eventually penetrate through to the suppression of other matters, such as the authorship of the works of Shakespeare, Spenser, Nashe and Webster.
Sisson, Charles J. Thomas Lodge and Other Elizabethans. (1933). New York: Octagon, 1966. A chapter each on five lesser figures of the 1580s, the period that saw the birth of the London commercial stage and press. Sisson wrote the chapter on Thomas Lodge, Mark Eccles one each on Barnabe Barnes and Sir George Buc, and Deborah Jones one each on John Lyly and Lodowick Bryskett (friend in Ireland of the real Edmund Spenser and brother of the Thomas Bryskett who occupied chambers in the same complex as the Blackfriars Theater). An important book for anyone researching the origins of the English Literary Renaissance.
Skidmore, Chris. Edward VI: The Lost King of England. London: St. Martin’s, 2007. A good account by an historian of the brief reign of the sad little king. Online (limited pages).
Slater, Philip E. The Glory of Hera: Greek Mythology and the Greek Family. Boston: Beacon Press, 1968. Slater’s title is ironic, for his book would be much better titled: The Wrath of Hera. Slater examines the role of the feminine in ancient Greek society, with its focus on male dominance in every arena, including intimate sexual relationships and ironically––or not, as he sees it––the predominance of female goddesses and protagonists in their literature. At the heart of the matter is male anxiety over their exclusion of the feminine, as exemplified by Hera’s jealousy and vindictiveness and their fear of the Eumenides, the tri-partite Great Goddess turned Furies. He extends his analysis to an enlightening look at the nature of middle class western society today.
Sobran, Joseph. Alias William Shakespeare. The best case so far for the first 126 Sonnets as love poems written by Oxford to the Earl of Southampton. Acknowledges sexually suggestive language, though fails to make the case that the poet and his patron were actually intimate. First of all, who cares? Second, what lover wastes his time writing when he could be . . . . er, ahem.
Somerset, Anne. Elizabeth I. New York: St. Martin’s, 1991. Very long and very dry.
Somerset, Anne. Ladies in Waiting: From the Tudors to the Present Day. London: Weidenfeld, 1984. Interesting mostly as 16th-century Court gossip.
Smith, Irwin. Shakespeare’s Blackfriars Playhouse. New York: NYUP, 1964. Extremely detailed examination of every aspect of the Blackfriars property. Source for important insights into the relationships of Oxford, Lord Hunsdon, and the Cobhams as background to otherwise confusing developments in the ongoing history of the London Stage.
Spurgeon, Carolyn. Shakespeare’s Imagery. The most important book on this important subject, its value lying largely in Spurgeon’s insights into how Shakespeare’s mind worked. Its immense value for Oxfordians lies in her pinpointing of his ongoing interest in particular themes and his use of recurrent image clusters and how these connect with what we know of Oxford’s life and story. Online.
Stone, Lawrence. The Family, Sex, and Marriage in England, 1500-1800. New York: Harper & Row, 1977. Absolutely the primary text for a conjectural social structure for what is missing from the historical record. The best antidote for the “presentism” (the inability to imagine how things may have been different from what they are today) that contaminates so much current thinking about the past.
Stone, Lawrence. The Crisis of the Aristocracy: 1558-1641. 1965. Much interesting material on the financial and social constraints that hit the aristocracy during the period in question. Oxford was certainly not alone in having a tough time with the situation he was handed at age 21, and not alone in coming close to losing everything, although why Stone singled him out as he did is a good question (Oxford can be seen as the favorite scapegoat of the English historian). Without any indication of how Oxford was supposed to have frittered away his estates (no building of great houses, no known investment in business than a single failed nautical venture), what on earth did he do with all that money? Maybe create the London commercial Stage?
Stopes, Charlotte C. Burbage and Shakespeare’s Stage. New York: Haskell, 1970. Filled with important facts and information about the first non-temporary round wooden theater in London, and perhaps in all of Europe, its builders and location.
Stow, John. Survey of London. (1598). London: J.M. Dent, 1929. The classic on London during Oxford’s time, filled with important information on who lived where and when with comments on the important buildings and sites. Stow was contemporary with Oxford, and so must have known him as a fellow antiquary and as a patron of the theater, though probably not as its premiere playwright.
Stritmatter, Roger. The Marginalia of Edward de Vere’s Geneva Bible: Providential Discovery, Literary Reasoning, and Historical Consequence. Northampton, MA: Oxenford Press, 1993. The ground-breaking disseration that connects the underlinings, and the notes and drawings in the margins of Oxford’s Geneva Bible with those chapters of the Bible that Shakespeare featured in his works.
Strype, John. The Life of the Learned Sir Thomas Smith Kt., Doctor of the Civil Law, Principal Secretary of State to King Edward the Sixth and Queen Elizabeth.. (1698). New York: Burt Franklin Reprint, 1974. Although Mary Dewar’s book is more useful (for one thing, it has an index), Strype’s shows how very important Smith was in his own time. Contains several of Smith’s shorter works along with a published version of his 1566 library list. Online.
Strype, John. The Life and Acts of Matthew Parker, the First Archbishop of Canterbury in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth. Oxford: Clarendon, 1821. 4 vols. Important information about Parker, Cecil, and their milieu, in which Oxford was included for several years while in his early teens at Cecil House. Online.
Thomson, Loyd. Syphilis. Philadelphia: Lea and Febiger, 1920. Important (modern) information on the disease. So much has been done to cure “the pox” since the discovery of penicillin that there’s little of interest on it today. Online.
Turvey, Roger, ed. Sir James Perrot: The Life, Deedes and Death of Sir John Perrott knight’ by Sir James Perrot. between 1614 and the early 1620s. (1728). New York: Mellen, 2002. A fuller account of the man that everyone––including Perrot himself––believed to be the bastard son of Henry VIII and the Queen’s half-brother. This work, which I was lucky to find in print at the British Library, enabled me to decide in the affirmative that Perrot was the original model for Sirs Toby Belch and John Falstaff. (The original manuscript is housed in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.)
Vickers, Brian. Francis Bacon: A Critical Edition of the Major Works. Oxford: OUP, 1996. A collection of Bacon’s works in English, with a short, thoughtful biography by a respected scholar.
Vickers, Brian. Shakespeare, Co-author. Oxford: OUP, 2002. Far and away the best book I’ve read so far on the forensics of literary attribution. Although still too steeped in traditional Shakespeare scholarship to see past Stratford, Vickers’s ear and intelligence demonstrate the kind of tools that can be brought to this study by someone with his training . We can only imagine what the results would be, for him and for us, were he to open his mental door to our evidence. As Vickers so thoroughly proves, writers do reveal their identities through their styles when examined with processes developed by generations of word-study scholars. With these tools we have far more solid means of identifying Elizabethan authors than the often misleading names on title pages, because we will be able to discern differences between voices based on something more solid than tradition, printers’ lies, or our own subjective responses. Whether this will work with Shakespeare, however, is another matter. As a supreme creator of individual voices, one determined (as a matter of life or death) to hide his identity, he may continue to slip through any and all nets.
Williams, Neville. Thomas Howard: Fourth Duke of Norfolk. New York: Dutton, 1964. Important for what it tells us of the political dangers to the Oxford earldom during the period of Oxford’s birth and early childhood.
Wilson, Ian. Shakespeare: The Evidence. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1993. Wilson’s book was particularly good at a certain stage in my thinking since it helped to confirm some of my still uncertain conjectures while suggesting or strengthening others. If one other (intelligent, rational) researcher sees it your way, it’s most heartening.) He agrees that Emilia Bassano was the Dark Lady of the Sonnets. He provides the letter from George Carey to his wife that their brother-in-law, Lord Strange, was murdered, not by any witch or Catholic plot, but by poison. It may be from Wilson that I first got the idea (it was so long ago I can’t remember whether it was his suggestion or that he confirmed what I’d come to on my own) that Shakespeare wrote Taming of the Shrew for the wedding of Lord Strange and Alice Spencer (170); in any case, we agree.
Wilson, William. Shakespeare and Astrology: From a Student’s Point of View. Boston: Occult, 1903. A short look at Shakespeare’s knowledge of astrology by an astrologer.
Waller, Gary. Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke: A Critical Study of her Writings and Literary Milieu. Salzburg: University of Salzburg, 1979. Goes more deeply than Hannay into Mary’s style, her obsession with her brother, and the emotional background to her works.
Winner, Ellen. The Gifted Child: Myths and Realities. New York: Basic Books, 1993. There are several books that pertain to the authorship issue written by clinical psychologists who belong to the fairly recent branch known as the Psychology of Creativity. These include books and articles by its founder, Dean Keith Simonton, most notably Origins of Genius (New York; OUP, 1999). However, Prof. Winner’s is the one that deals most directly with the childhood of geniuses like Michaelangelo and Picasso, who she terms “creators.” For us, Winner’s most useful material is her outline for what would have been the necessary childhood for an artist like Shakespeare. There is simply no arguing with her intelligent, thorough, and convincing study. Interestingly, she never mentions him, no doubt because the Stratford biography falls so peculiarly outside the norm.
Wraight, A.D. In Search of Christopher Marlowe. New York: Vanguard, 1965. Wraight’s suggestion that Shake-scene in Greene’s Groatsworth was the actor Edward Alleyn provided the crucial link connecting Marlowe and Alleyn with the Fisher’s Folly group and launched the investigation into a possible connection between the dates of Marlowe’s absences from Cambridge and the theater seasons of 1584 through ’86. This provided the necessary alternative to the standard interpretation of the Cambridge dons suspicion that Marlowe was a Catholic and that the Privy Council’s letter about his service to Her Majesty referred to spying for Walsingham. Yes, he was doing secret work for Walsingham, but for a far more exacting enterprise, the scrivenry at Fisher’s Folly that was providing plays for the Queen’s Men.
Wynham-Lewis, D.B. Ronsard. London: Sheed and Ward, 1944. This biography of Shakespeare’s French counterpart demonstrates the kind of biography we would expect for the great national English poet of (almost) the same period: born to a courtier, raised at Court, close friend of King Henri III, steeped in Greek and Greek literature, organizer of the Pleiade, the group of poets whose goal was to create a French vernacular literature, etc.
Yates, Frances. Theatre of the World. Chicago: U Chicago Press, 1969. Yates’s interest in occult studies of the period led her to Dee’s library and to the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius,enabling her to connect the first successful commercial theaters in London with the round theaters designed by Vitruvius in ancient Rome. It is also interesting that the academics continue to ignore her, preferring to conjure up a connection between these unique structures and the totally different theater inns that were their predecessors.
Anderson, Mark. Shakespeare by Another Name. New York: Penguin-Gotham, 2005. The most recent and therefore most up-to-date biography of Oxford, a necessity for anyone researching Oxford’s life, always keeping in mind, however, that the truth remains a work in progress.
Anderson, Verily. The Veres of Castle Hedingham. Lavenham, Suffolk: Dalton, 1993. A sort of gossip’s history of the Vere family through the centuries. Sometimes faulted by scholars for its lack of solid references, it remains invaluable as a source for what is believed to be true about the Veres family by its living members and its ancient and present neighbors in Essex and Suffolk, where the author had many friendships and associations to draw upon. This sort of history is always important, and thought qualified, should never be dismissed or ignored.
Fowler, William Plumer. Shakespeare Revealed in Oxford’s Letters. A fascinating examination of the crossovers between Shakespeare’s style and the style of Edward de Vere’s letters to his in-laws. Although some of his attributions may be commonplaces, there is a great deal here to work with. It was Fowler’s book that we used to create the CD in which Derek Jacobi read the letters.
Looney, J.T. Shakespeare Identified in Edward de Vere, Seventeenth Earl of Oxford. (1920). 2 vols. Port Washington, NY: Kennikat, 1975. Ed. Ruth Loyd Miller. The original book by the British schoolteacher that finally put the finger on the true author, and still one of the best works of literary forensics ever written. Well-written and engaging, although it’s lacking much evidence turned up later by Miller, the Ogburns, Bowen, Barrell, and Anderson, in my view it’s still the best introduction to the Oxfordian thesis. This edition also contains a selection of Oxford’s poems.
May, Steven W. The Elizabethan Courtier Poets. Ashville, NC: Pegasus, 1999. Not a biography, but the poetry that Stratfordian May regards as inarguably Oxford’s, along with a few that he feels might be. Most important to our thesis are his statements regarding Oxford’s ability and the unique nature of his poetry, a view that May seems to have backed away from later, perhaps to retain his status with the Academy.
Miller, Ruth Loyd. Shakespeare Identified (see above). Editor Miller contributes her views on Oxford’s biography in a series of interjections into the material she published in 1974. Despite the hodge podge manner in which it’s presented (and the nearly incomprehensible format of the index), the information compiled by Ruth Miller over many years of independent research remains a necessity for anyone researching the Oxfordian thesis.
Miller, Ruth Loyd, ed. A Hundredth Sundry Flowres. Port Washington, NY: Kennikat, 1975. Contains the original 1573 text of the anthology of poetry and tales that would be republished in 1575, during Oxford’s year abroad, as solely the work of George Gascoigne in the version by B.M. Ward. Includes much history on its authorship, and on the controversy surrounding it that continues to this day. A necessity for anyone researching Oxford’s early voice.
Nelson, Alan H. Monstrous Adversary: An anti-Oxfordian, paleographer Nelson has taken it on himself to destroy Oxford with facts, but lo and behold, the material he presents does nothing to negate and everything to support his authorship of Shakespeare. Of course it’s necessary to ignore the (often absurdly) negative opinions with which he adorns it, but that’s easy enough. His book continues to provide a great deal of important documentary evidence in the still handy format of a real book on paper with substantial margins for taking notes. Online (limited pages).
Ogburn, Charlton. The Mysterious William Shakespeare: The Myth and the Reality. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1984. Most readers who’ve been turned on to the Oxfordian thesis over the past three decades have come to it through reading this book by Ogburn Jr., published in hardback by a prestigious mainstream publisher. Though Ogburn makes a good case for Oxford and with many important insights, it may be better saved for later in the adventure, since it’s very long and prolix, and the first half is dedicated to destroying the opposition, not always the best introduction to an issue. Those out to point need to find further confirmation of some of Ogburn’s statements (true for all of us, however). Also, I take exception to Ogburn’s notion that Oxford’s shape-shifting was forced on him by the Cecils, not, as I believe, a ruse he adopted quite willingly early on to protect his privacy and to give him the freedom to write as he pleased. Rather than “poor Oxford,”––boo hoo, sniff, sniff,––I see him as supremely successful in eluding those who were out to put a stop to what turned out to be the grand purpose of his life.
Ward. B.M. The Seventeenth Earl of Oxford, 1550-1604. London: John Murray, 1928. Though lacking in detail, Ward remains the best biography in many respects, among them a resistance to making unsupported claims. Unfortunately it’s been long out of print, but remains available in a photocopy through the Miller website.
Altrocchi, Paul. “Searching for the Oxfordian Smoking Gun in Elizabethan Letters.” The Oxfordian V8 2005, 110-123. A letter from Cecil to the Countess of Rutland reveals where Oxford was located during the winter months of 1564-65.
Aune, M.G. “The Uses of Richard III: From Robert Cecil to Richard Nixon.” Shakespeare Bulletin 24.3 (2006): 23-47
Bowen, Gwynneth. “Worcester’s, Oxford’s, and the Admirals.” Shakespeare Authorship Review. #29 Summer (1974): 1-10. Online. All of Bowen’s articles are important for our study.
Cerasano, S.P. “Edward Alleyn’s early years: his life and family.” Notes & Queries, 232 (1987), 237–43. Extremely important information by a professor at Colgate on Robert Greene’s “Shake-scene.”
Cerasano, S.P. “Edward Alleyn’s ‘retirement’; 1597–1600.” Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England, 10 (1998), 98–112. More important information on the actor who helped Christopher Marlowe take London by storm in 1587.
Cerasano, S.P. “Tamburlaine and Edward Alleyn’s ring.” Shakespeare Survey, 47 (1994), 171–9. More important information on Alleyn.
Hotine, Margaret. “Richard III and Macbeth – Studies in Tudor Tyranny?” Notes and Queries. December (1991): 480-86.
Hurstfield, Joel. “Lord Burghley as Master of the Court of Wards, 1561-1598.” London: THRS, 1947. Hard evidence of Burghley’s source of wealth via the “gifts” he got from persons eager to acquire wealthy and influential wards.
May, Steven W. “The Myth of ‘the Stigma of Print.” Perhaps because he didn’t take it seriously so he failed to do the necessary research, Prof. May either does not grasp or ignores what many scholars of the period understand was a reality for 16th-century courtier poets. Thus, in a pattern we find occurs all too frequently in academia, in a sort of intellectual version of “Monkey in the Middle” or “Keepaway,” May’s opinion is cited whenever it suits some Stratfordian’s purpose to belittle or deny the very real “stigma of print.” Online.