“Shaking Spears At Ignorance”

I decided to compile this essay to commemorate two occasions in English literary history, firstly the 400th anniversary of the publication of the “Shakespeare Folio” of 1623 and the annual celebration of England’s patron saint, St. George, the 23rd of April. But in essence this essay is in effect a resume of most of the articles I have written with regard to Shakespeare Authorship. In my previous essay “Shakespeare’s Mysterious Metamorphosis” I highlighted the obvious connections with regard to the Roman poet Ovid and Shakespeare’s folio of plays and poetry and further how Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford could very easily be the author or collaborator with other poets/playwrights from the time. I also highlighted how conventional literary academics from the time such as Alexander Pope, John Milton and David Garrick some 100-200 years later did not conceive there to be any such connection and failed to link a translation of “Ovid’s Metamorphoses” by Sir Arthur Golding to his esteemed nephew Edward de Vere was remarkably incompetent by any standard. The reason being that they had vested interests in concealing the true identity of the author, Alexander Pope for example was anxious to publish the second Folio Edition of Shakespeare plays, benefitting from it both financially and professionally. Or, was this oversight deliberately engineered and intended to throw a veil of secrecy over the authorship of Shakespeare? I mentioned that Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” was a keystone literary source for Shakespeare’s poetry and plays, for example the erotic and evocative poem “Venus & Adonis” (published 1593) and the “Rape of Lucrece” (published 1594) reputedly by William Shakespeare is dealt with by Ovid in Book Ten (See “Shakespeare’s Poetry”). Had they done so then they would have found and put together the other missing pieces of the jigsaw in the “Shakespeare Authorship Debate” and arrived at the same conclusion as the academic J.T. Looney (“Shakespeare Identified”) who in the 1920’s collated enough evidence to say that William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon could not have had the means, motivation, education or facility to write the superlative poems and plays ascribed to the pseudonymous “William Shakespeare”. When Queen Elizabeth 1st died after a reign of forty-four years and James 1st acceded to the English throne Edward de Vere was nearing the end of his career and moreover the end of his illustrious and controversial life. For reasons that should become clear in the course of this essay the Earl was obliged to remain anonymous in return for the life of his illegitimate son, Henry Wriostheley, the Earl of Southampton who was imprisoned in the Tower for his involvement in the Essex Rebellion of 1600. The Earl of Essex was found guilty of treason and was himself facing a verdict of execution and the Earl of Southampton was facing a similar fate. But his father the 17th Earl of Oxford pleaded for his life to the Privy Council and Queen Elizabeth which was granted only on the condition that the Earl of Oxford should renounce all connection or affiliation to the works falsely attributed to the pseudonymous “William Shakespeare” henceforth and for all time to come. Edward de Vere died in 1604 shortly after attending the coronation of King James 1st as Lord Great Chamberlain and very little was heard or reported about him subsequently and neither was his death eulogised or commemorated for some very obvious reasons which I will attempt to discuss further in this essay. Since conventional biographers of William Shakespeare’s life record his death as being the 23rd April 1616 scholars remained convinced that he was therefore still able to write plays when Edward de Vere was long since dead (1604), so were all the authorship doubts resolved?

A stained-glass reproduction featuring St. George slaying the Dragon

Unfortunately not, the Pembroke circle headed by Mary Sidney (whose brother Sir Phillip Sidney had been a sworn enemy of Edward de Vere) would ensure that the Earl’s promise to renounce his literary legacy would stand and they made sure that generations to come would be under the false impression that a rural farmer’s boy would be acclaimed an illustrious poet and playwright and the generations to come would be totally oblivious to the identity of the real author, Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. However, the Earl was an expert linguist and cryptographer and in his manuscripts he left many clues that would associate the works of “William Shakespeare” to himself personally. One clue in particular was unearthed by Alexander Waugh and is found in the Sonnets Dedication of 1609 (See “Shakespeare’s Codename” or “The Sonnets Dedication”). For some time after his death a small coterie of writers, poets and playwrights like Ben Jonson, Leonard Digges, and George Withers knew there was something ‘fishy’ going on with the authorities and other aristocratic persons anxious to eliminate any connection between the Earl of Oxford before the 1623 Folio was printed. While alive the Earl was extremely vociferous through his “Shakespearean” plays and poetry against the status quo and by all accounts something of a trouble-maker. Whatever evidence remained to link the Earl to Shakespeare authorship they meticulously destroyed and the only piece that was subsequently found, purely by chance really was the “Northumberland Manuscript” which was used by a scribe employed by Sir Francis Bacon who was made responsible for collating the Earl’s foul papers, manuscripts, notes and diaries. When a faithful reproduction of a play or poem had been made the originals were subsequently destroyed for all time. One wonders how much the Folger Shakespeare Library would have paid to own just one original “Shakespeare” manuscript.

Shakespeare’s First Folio, containing the playwright’s 36 plays and dating from 1623, is seen in an undated photo before going up for an auction where it is expected to fetch between 4 and 6 million dollars, in New York City, U.S.

As previously mentioned in another essay, “Shakespeare’s Literary Sources” I list the huge number of literary sources that the author “Shakespeare” would have read or studied to enable him to write the entire canon as well as the poems ascribed to Shakespeare. The alarming absence of any original literary material, notebooks, diaries, letters or other manuscripts ascribed as possessions to William Shakspere of Stratford has been a bone of contention for many Stratfordian academics. It would be fair to say that when the Stratford actor died he possessed no extensive library of books, indeed not even a bible was mentioned in his last will and testament. Since the authorship debate took hold by the 1950’s many more actors, literary celebrities, statesmen and commentators have cast doubt over the Stratford actor’s status as a “literary figure”. Moreover, other candidates for authorship have been suggested (eg: Christopher Marlowe, the Earl of Derby, and Sir Francis Bacon) although Edward de Vere’s case is by far the strongest if we take note of the “Correct Dating of Shakespeare’s Plays”. In an article entitled “Sir Francis Bacon Versus Edward de Vere” I have attempted a forensic comparative analysis of these two men who both had a career which involved a proximity to the Elizabethan court, to literature, poetry and the writing of plays. However, I subsequently discovered there was a “Secret Masonic Connection” between them that would have been hidden at the time and for many years to come by classical scholars and academics. This in part explained the wall of secrecy, the concocted denial of authorship to an aristocrat, and other inconsistencies such as how does a playwright write so accurately about Italian Culture when he never visited or travelled abroad?

Characters from the Italian Commedia d’elle Arte

I have dealt with this glaring anomaly in “A Stratfordian Homunculus Forged & Distilled From Italian Comedy” because Edward de Vere actually spent a year in Italy and even took part in a staged and recorded Commedia d’elle Arte event there. Then we have to account for the fact that the Stratford man, Will Shakspere made only ‘six shaky signatures’ in his entire life and with these convinced conventional academics that he was a signature poet and playwright? To date no evidence of original manuscripts has confirmed the Stratford actor’s status or education as a prolific literary figure, indeed it is doubted whether he could in fact read and write, his entire family and previous generations were recorded as totally illiterate. In contrast it would appear that Edward de Vere was from birth a prodigious polymath, and an erudite and accomplished scholar having been brought up as a ward to William Cecil, then Lord Burghley who was in effect second-in-command to Queen Elizabeth 1st. Oxford at a young age greatly impressed his tutors, too numerous to mention all of them at this juncture but among them were Roger Ascham (Minister for Education), Dr. John Dee (Queen’s Astrologer), Sir Thomas Smith and of course Sir Arthur Golding, translator and statesman. In July 1578 Gabriel Harvey recognised Oxford as a prolific poet and one “whose countenance shakes spears”. Over thirty Elizabethan authors dedicated their books to the Earl of Oxford for example on the 23rd December 1578 Geoffrey Gates dedicated his book “Defense of Military Profession” to the Earl of Oxford. In 1579 Anthony Munday dedicated his “Mirror of Mutability” to the Earl of Oxford. Furthermore, in April 1580, Edward de Vere had taken over the Earl of Warwick‘s acting company. Nicknamed “The Turk” by Queen Elizabeth he was for a brief period a favourite at court and noted for his love of sartorial fashions, sporting activity, writing plays and poetry, dancing, fencing and musical composition. He was once complemented on his musical ability and knowledge as being superior to his tutors and contemporaries. Then Anthony Munday went on to publish “Zelato” with a dedication to the Earl of Oxford. (See “Books Dedicated to Edward de Vere”). Towards the middle part of his career in the theatre Queen Elizabeth 1st awarded the Earl of Oxford an annuity of £1,000 pounds to anonymously generate plays and poetry about England’s glorious historical past which led to the early histories, then comedies and tragedies ascribed to Shakespeare. The Queen readily understood the Earl’s reluctance, given his high status and family reputation, to have his real name on Shakespeare authorship and approved the use of his “theatrical mask” William Shakspere of Stratford. What I also noted having studied and thoroughly researched the Shakespeare Authorship Controversy for some thirty years is Shakespeare’s extraordinary height, depth and breadth of knowledge.

An artist’s impression of the Battle of Thermopylae

As already mentioned the list of subjects referred to in the plays and poetry amounts to someone having access to a library of some 3,000 rare and specialised books and since there were no public libraries in Shakespeare’s time then where did the bucolic Will Shakspere obtain such a great number of books? Furthermore, with the absence of any evidence of his primary or secondary education how could he have coined so many new English words (a total of 1,700) and phrases some of which are still in use today? There are also over 170 new words coined in the French language alone, a language solely employed by aristocrats and the legal profession in England. For some unknown reason “William Shakespeare” omits to give any reference or mention his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon or even Warwickshire which is remarkable. It is also quite clear that the author of the history plays had some support or bias towards the Lancastrian cause, had personal experience of the royal courts of France, Italy and Denmark, who was fond of hunting, had some sporting ability, had a personal interest in sea-faring, mythology, heraldry, aristocratic genealogy, astronomy, cosmology, Neo-Platonic philosophy, and many other subjects too numerous to mention here. Above all his style and technique of poetry requires someone who has been acquainted and classically educated to a very high degree, both linguistically and poetically, the kind of education that could only be made available to someone who attended a university or one of the legal Inns of Court where drama, the law and history were taught and practised. And yet despite all these discrepancies we are expected to accept without question that William Shakspere, without a university or college education, no apprenticeship or financial patronage was able to write and compose such eloquent poetry and verse. The languages that appear occasionally in Shakespeare’s plays are Latin, French, Spanish, Italian, German and Dutch so where and how did the “mono-lingual Shakspere” become acquainted or educated with those languages? No other playwright or poet from the Elizabethan era, where so much emphasis was placed on a valued education, whether that was at school, college, the Inns of Court or university had such a dire level of formative education than the “Stratford Shakespeare”. I decided to catalogue an historical timeline of events that occurred to “Edward de Vere and William Shakspere” and it clearly illustrates that Edward de Vere’s life resonates more closely to the plays and poetry than does the life and times of William Shakspere of Stratford.

In comparison with Edward de Vere, William Shakspere’s social life appears rather mundane and to all intents does not in any sense reflect the life of a bohemian poet or playwright. He appears more interested in acquiring property by fair means or foul, lending small amounts of money and then harassing his borrowers who had defaulted on their loans, selling building materials, and finally as a landlord farmer with agricultural land tenanted by his relatives and friends. His father, John Shakspere was for some time an ale-taster, presumably a tenant farmer, then a bailiff and an alderman although quite illiterate and usually signed his name with an ‘X’. His close friends appear to be equally capable of deceiving the authorities and assisting his financial schemes to enclose portions of common land at Welcombe. The result of which several disputes arose in which the opponents to the scheme were killed and injured. Other vocations or professions ascribed to Shakespeare were that he worked as a butcher’s apprentice, a glover and ‘wool-brogger’, a term used to describe a wool merchant, but he was also fined for hoarding grain during a dearth in Stratford for purely financial gain. Soon after acquiring his “Coat of Arms” he was involved in a street brawl in London and was bound over to keep the peace on forfeit of a surety. One of his ancestors was actually hanged three generations before for highway robbery. As a result Shakespeare academics were anxious to construct a “Viable Biography of William Shakspeare” to fill the enormous vacuum of what was actually known about the bucolic William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon. But all that they could come up with is a number of theories, suppositions and conjectures that for example he worked as a school teacher in Lancashire (a false supposition), that as a boy he poached deer from the nearby Charlecote estate or that his first job at the London theatres was looking after the horses for visitors while working as an apprentice poet and playwright.

A composite portrait of Queen Elizabeth and her sexual assailant Thomas Seymour

A study of Shakespeare’s Sonnets suggests someone who had an extra-marital affair so again academics had to survey the details of Shakspere’s life in order to link him to an Oxford landlady, Jeanne Davenant and an illegitimate son, William Davenant who later became a poet and playwright. Later on some academics coined the term “Dark Lady & the Rival Poet” to define the identity of the woman concerned and the poet who eventually betrayed him in a ménage a trois. To substantiate any connection with a patron they turned to the “Dedication in the Sonnets” to explain the many references to “A Fair Youth” who Shakespeare implored to marry and procreate. No one in William Shakspere’s own family appears to correspond to a “Fair Youth” who was implored to marry.

Stratfordian academics then had to redress the vacuum of evidence about Shakspere as a playwright which led to the “Lost Years Debate”, that they hoped would address or explain a mundane life. Finally, even a ground penetrating radar test conducted on Shakespeare’s tomb soon after the discovery of Richard IIIrd’s body in a car park in Leicester revealed nothing but dust and rubble! So, where were the actual remains of Shakespeare’s body and how did it mysteriously disappear? So, we have no manuscripts, no library, no evidence of an education, no musical instruments, no overseas travel, no proof of linguistic accomplishment and no physical body and yet the legend or myth of William Shakespeare (Dick Whittington & William Shakspere) persists merely in the “Anglo-Saxon imagination” regardless of how little evidence there is to perpetuate or substantiate it. To me personally this is a tragedy of enormous proportions to British History or Literature and like the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship and the esteemed De Vere Society I have attempted to redress the poverty of truth about the “Soul of the Age”, “Star of Poets” and “Swan of Avon”, the pseudonymous and anonymous William Shakespeare.

The “Masonic Twins”, the heavenly and earthly incarnations of Castor & Pollux

I have consequently explored the numerous portraits presumed to be of “William Shakespeare” in an essay entitled “The Many Faces of Shakespeare”. It seems the same pattern of misinformation, idle supposition and misconception can be found today among numerous articles which assert that a man with an earring, a lace collar, dressed in doublet and hose and a sword was “William Shakespeare”. However, Ben Jonson’s poem alongside an engraved portrait of “Shakespeare” in the 1623 Folio is clearly saying that we should not look at this artist’s facsimile of Shakespeare but instead to read his book for a “truer likeness” of the playwright and poet. And yet when we read his Folio of plays we are obliged to observe a natural literary genius and superlative polymath who could only have been a nobleman or someone extremely close to the Elizabethan court. Following on from the Essex Rebellion in February 7th 1601 whereby the Earl of Essex was later arrested, tried and found guilty of treason and sedition, and Shakespeare’s patron, Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton, being implicated in the Catholic plot, was imprisoned in the Tower awaiting a similar fate, no more of Shakespeare’s plays were printed or published in England. For some unknown reason the Earl of Southampton was not executed like Essex but later pardoned and then released. His aristocratic title and estates were subsequently restored to him when James 1st had acceded to the throne. The entire volume of Shakespeare’s Sonnets were eventually published in 1609 and dedicated again to Henry Wriothesley, together with the Earls of Pembroke and Montgomery. To appreciate or understand what events and circumstances led to this sudden and abrupt end to his career and why he was not celebrated or eulogised later after his death in 1616 we need to examine what was happening earlier in dramatic and political circles. That is “The War of the Theatres” and the denunciation of the “Euphuist Movement” by Gabriel Harvey and Thomas Dekker in London. It was time to draw a definitive line between the forty four year reign of the “Virgin Queen” with all its astounding indiscretions and the forthcoming reign of James 1st, which in itself was in any sense a panacea for the ignominious past (See “The Gunpowder Plot of 1605”.

In a previous article entitled “Shakespeare’s Nemesis” I explained why the Blackfriar’s Theatre was shut down and in the Oxfordian Review, volume 21, Dr. Luke Prodromou, a Shakespeare scholar (University of Thessaloniki & Birmingham Institute) points out that there is little evidence of the whereabouts of “William Shakespeare” whenever something really important is happening in the literary and political arena in London. If we take the years 1588 (the year of the Spanish Armada) through to 1595, that year being the first time he is mentioned in the accounts compiled by Elizabeth Russell, the Dowager Countess of Southampton as receiving payment with Will Kempe for performances before the Queen. No other biographical mention of Shakespeare appears until the death of his son, Hamnet in 1596 although presumably he had to have been working on his two volumes of poetry, “The Rape of Lucrece” (published in May 1594) signed simply W.S. and dedicated to Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton and in April 1593 he had published “Venus & Adonis” again dedicated to the 3rd Earl of Southampton, Henry Wriothesley. There is no record of any association or meeting with William Shakspere and Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton and no evidence of the Earl actually financing Shakspere. So what was “Shakespeare” doing when the poet and playwright, Sir Christopher Marlowe was assassinated in a tavern brawl by Ingram Frazier in March 1593? (See “Who Killed Christopher Marlowe?”). This has to be a grand “game-changer” for budding dramatists, poets and playwrights in the Elizabethan era. Shakespeare did not comment directly on Marlowe’s death but presumably wrote “The Merchant of Venice” and “The Tempest” in response to Marlowe’s criticism of usury, magic and alchemy (Jew of Malta & Dr. Faustus). Those changing the “rules” (redacting or censoring plays) were of course the Privy Council, the Master of the Revels, the Lord Chamberlain and the son of Lord Burghley, Robert Cecil who was involved in preparing a smooth path for the succession of the Crown, since Queen Elizabeth, now in her sixties was likely to pass away without actually naming a successor. This was often the subject of dramatic speculation within numerous plays in the London theatres and usually led to riots and disturbances. Why she failed to name a successor after 44 years as the Queen of England is a curious mystery and the subject of perhaps another, future article?

Title page for Marlowe’s “Dr. Faustus”

The other major white-wash of English history is the now much disputed Elizabethan propaganda of the “Virgin Queen”, Elizabeth 1st and her numerous sub-rosa love affairs, (Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford and possibly Sir Christopher Hatton) her concealed pregnancies as a result and the inevitable consequences which naturally had to be air-brushed out of English history. Not many people readily accept that the Shakespeare play “The Taming of a Shrew” was secretly alluding to Queen Elizabeth’s unmarried status as well as her virago tendencies. The idea of a woman who was by her irascible and stubborn nature unable to find a suitable husband is not entirely new and a very popular and entertaining subject in Elizabethan times. In other words, in Elizabethan England women were expected to marry and produce offspring, purely for the delight and status of their men folk. However, this Italian story of a virago woman has its origins in Aristo‘s I “Suppositi” (1474-1533) which the poet and courtier, George Gascoigne had translated. For this reason and many others many people think that Gascoigne was the real author of Shakespeare’s plays. There is a quarto text entitled The Taming of a Shrew which might have been a source for revision by Shakespeare himself.

A scene from Shakespeare’s “Taming of a Shrew”

The theme of a shrewish woman unable to marry persisted in Elizabethan times, partly because Queen Elizabeth 1st herself cleverly adopted that enigmatic and cool persona. Plays of this sort became a focus of political debate because they clearly contained allusions to the time. During her most eligible period Elizabeth was wooed by many prospective suitors including: Sir Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, Sir Walter Raleigh, Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, the French Duke of Alençon, Sir Christopher Hatton, The Earl of Essex, King Henri Navarre of France, and many more perhaps. But in the end none of them succeeded. Her early sexual abuses at the age of sixteen in the hands of Sir Thomas Seymour had educated her to respond coolly to the advances of men and to understand their underlying motivations and expectations. She saw parallels in Shakespeare’s poem “The Rape of Lucrece” to her own treatment by Thomas Seymour. In his book “The Mystery of William Shakespeare” Charlton Ogburn suggests that a clandestine affair took place between her and the Earl of Oxford and that this encounter was the inspiration for the poem “Venus & Adonis”. This would have portrayed Elizabeth herself as lustful and predatory especially towards younger courtiers. However, Elizabeth understood and presumed that marriage would severely undermine her supreme authority and role as Queen, and that any clandestine sexual scandal might equally do the same. Fortunately, her ministers both Sir Francis Walsingham and William Cecil (Lord Burghley) saw to it that sexual scandal did not arise or attach itself in any way to the Queen. Despite their efforts British diplomats abroad had difficulty convincing other nations that the Queen’s Court was anything but a hotbed of incest, controversy and vice. It was highly unlikely therefore that she would seriously consider any marriage proposal during her early reign when she had styled and promoted herself as the “Mother of the Nation”. What kind of mother she was in real life is not documented because conventional historians assume she was a ‘celibate’ for the entirety of her life and reign.

William Shakspere depicted as an “Upstart Crow” by fellow playwright Richard Greene

Towards the end of her tragic and mysterious life Queen Elizabeth became increasingly ill and depressed partly because of old age and possibly because she used a lead compound (known as “spirits of Saturn”, or Venetian Ceruse) as a make-up to hide her bad complexion caused by smallpox which would have gradually poisoned her. Despite the fact that she refused to give permission for a post mortem her servants noted that all her teeth had fallen out, her hair was fragile and her face extremely emaciated. Confined to Richmond Palace, she was unable to stand and spent hours in bed as the poison and old age finally wreaked havoc on her health. Still she remained indecisive, stubborn and vain to the end and failed to name her successor, except perhaps with a gesture of her hand when asked if she had any objection to James VIth of Scotland acceding to the throne of England. After her death she was laid in a lead coffin for 14 days, her lady in waiting, Mary Southwell recorded that prior to royal burial her body actually exploded in the coffin giving off noxious vapours. The truth again however is that there were many more contenders to the throne of England, among them the changeling offspring from numerous affairs such as Sir Francis Bacon or Henry Wriothesley as well as those close to the genealogical line of royal accession like the Earl of Derby, William Stanley to name just a few.

The links to my current publications, on the Shakespeare Authorship Controversy; “Shakespeare’s Qaballah” and an anthology of poetry “Parthenogenesis” are as follows:


Website: www.qudosacademy.org

Published by Leonidas Kazantheos

In the early part of my career I have worked extensively in media, the arts and theatre as an innovator and environmental conservationist and much later took on a role as an investigative journalist and commentator on the Shakespeare Authorship Controversy.

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