|Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (Part 6)|
We have seen that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, was a pretty poor specimen of a human being. Thomas A. Pendleton, in his review of Alan H. Nelson's "Monstrous Adversary: The Life of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford," sums it up nicely: "The inferences about Oxford's character are appalling. He was irresponsible, arrogant, breathtakingly self-centered, often violent, callously cruel to his wife, neglectful of his children, and it seems clear a sexual predator upon teen-aged boys." Well, none of us is perfect.
It hardly seems credible that a twit like Oxford would be capable of writing the works of Shakespeare, just on the basis of character alone. But there are other reasons, apart from character issues and the appalling lack of talent displayed in Oxford's surviving writings, that argue against Oxford as a candidate for authorship of Shakespeare's works. We'll look at just a few of them.
One of the major problems with Oxford as a legitimate candidate is the undisputable fact that the Earl of Oxford died on June 24, 1604. This is before almost one-third of the plays appearing in the First Folio appear to have been written. Oxfordians have come up with all sorts of explanations for this apparent discrepancy. It is true that the plays are notoriously difficult to date, and that many of the plays may have been altered after their composition. But if we accept that the plays were all written before 1604, then we run into all sorts of stylistic problems. See Peter Farey's essay, "Oxfordians and the 1604 Question" for a detailed analysis of this:
Furthermore, Oxford is known to have been seriously ill for many years prior to his death. It is unlikely he was doing much of anything after 1600, which makes the dates even more of a problem.
One thing I have always found curious is that de Vere did not refer to himself as the "Earl of Oxford," but as the "Earl of Oxenford." See:
Why this was I have no idea. But in Shakespeare, Oxford is always "Oxford," not "Oxenford." For that matter, there is precious little mention of the previous Earls of Oxford in any of Shakespeare's plays. The Earl of Oxford appears as a character only in "Henry VI Part 3," and "Richard III." One would think that someone as vain and proud of his lineage as Eddie de Vere would have put in a good word for his ancestors whenever possible.
One especially notable ommission is in "Henry V." Richard de Vere, the 11th Earl of Oxford, played an important part in Henry's French campaign, and commanded the bowmen at Agincourt. But he doesn't appear in "Henry V" at all. In an early, anonymous play, "The Famous Victories of Henry V," Oxford is one of the main characters. One of my ancestors, Thomas de Strickland, was one of Henry V's standard bearers at Agincourt (carrying the Banner of St. George), and if I wrote a play about that battle, you can bet Tom would be in the thick of it, rallying the troops and bashing Frenchmen left and right. But Richard de Vere doesn't even merit a cameo in "Henry V." How come?
These are just a few of the reasons that could be presented against Oxford as a candidate, but it is not the purpose of this blog to go into detail and present refined, scholarly arguments. I try to keep things simple, and (as far as possible) short, so that even those with no prior knowledge of the subject can understand the issues. I welcome questions, comments and general abuse from both Stratfordians and Oxfordians - and anyone else for that matter. To sum up, I think that Oxford is even less a viable candidate for the authorship than the Stratford man.
Reply #141. Mar 19 13, 10:29 AM
|Some time ago I mentioned that many people believe that Marlowe spent some time in Spain, and may have been involved in the writing or translation of "Don Quixote." Today I would like to offer my explanation of why Marlowe might well have been sent to Spain on behalf of the English intelligence network.|
In his essay, "John Matthew alias Christopher Marlowe," Peter Farey writes:
"On 30 May 1599, six years after the apparent death of Christopher Marlowe, a man presented himself for admission to St. Alban’s, the English college at Valladolid in Spain. In the college register—the Liber Alumnorum—he is identified as Jo(hann)es Matheus (John Matthew), but in the right margin is written al(ias) Christopherus Marlerus (Christopher Marler—or Marlowe?). Although not all of those who believe Marlowe to have survived 1593 take this to be the same man, there are several who do."
Mr. Farey does not believe that John Matthew was Christopher Marlowe, but another distinguished scholar, Isabel Gortazar, does. So I had to ask myself: if John Matthew was Christopher Marlowe, what was he doing in Spain, and Valladolid in particular? After a little research, I came up with a possible explanation.
From 1594 to 1603, England was involved in what is known as the "Nine Years War" with Ireland. The war was not going well for England in 1599. On August 14, 1598 the Irish, under Hugh O'Neill and Red Hugh O'Donnell, had destroyed an English army at the Battle of the Yellow Ford. In 1599, they defeated the Earl of Essex, and forced him to sign a humiliating truce. The Irish looked to Spain for assistance in their struggle against the English, and it makes sense that the English government would want agents in Spain to monitor the situation.
What interests me, however, is one specific incident. One of the two greatest Irish leaders was a man named Aodh Ruadh O Domhnaill, known in English as Hugh Roe O'Donnell, or "Red Hugh." After a combined Irish/Spanish army was defeated at the Battle of Kinsale in January, 1602, O'Donnell traveled to Spain to seek additional aid from Philip III. On September 10, 1602, O'Donnell fell ill and died at Simancas Castle, only a few miles from Valladolid.
At the time, it was widely believed that O'Donnell had been poisoned by a man named James Blake, a fellow Irishman who was actually a double agent acting for the English. Could Marlowe have been involved in this plot? If Matthew was Marlowe, he was certainly in the right place at the right time!
Furthermore, the Irish rebellion had been crushed by March 30, 1603 when Hugh O'Neill surrendered to the English general Lord Mountjoy. Spain and England signed the Treaty of London in August, 1604, ending the Anglo-Spanish War. These dates seem to tally fairly well with what we know of John Matthew's movements. He returned to England in the Spring of 1603. If Marlowe was in Spain to keep tabs on Spanish involvement in the Irish war, his presence would no longer be needed there after March, 1603 when the rebels had surrendered and peace negotiations were underway.
All of this is just speculation, and Mr. Farey presents some fairly convincing arguments that Matthew was NOT Marlowe. Ms. Gortazar, on the other hand, presents some very good reasons of her own why Matthew probably WAS Marlowe. So the issue of whether the English student John Matthew was actually Christopher Marlowe remains unresolved, but it is a very interesting topic, and one which may yield even more information at some future date.
Reply #142. Mar 29 13, 11:15 AM
|A Hint of Marlowe's Authorship in "Cymbeline?"|
I have just finished watching "Cymbeline," which I believe is a better play than critics give it credit for being. One argument we Marlovians give for Marlowe's authorship is the remarkable number of "Shakespeare's" plays in which one of the main characters is thought to be dead, but later is found to be alive. In this case, it is Imogen, the heroine who is unjustly accused of adultery.
My attention was caught by a scene in Act V, where Posthumous is awaiting execution and talking to his jailer:
First Gaoler: A heavy reckoning for you, sir. But the comfort is, you shall be called to no more payments, fear no more tavern bills . . . your neck, sir, is pen, book and counters; so the acquittance follows . . . you must either be directed by some that take upon them to know, or do take upon yourself that which I am sure you do not know, or jump the after inquiry on your own peril: and how
you shall speed in your journey's end, I think you'll
never return to tell one.
Postumous: I tell thee, fellow, there are none want eyes to direct them the way I am going, but such as wink and
will not use them.
Curious that the word "reckoning" should appear here. That was the wording used to describe the bill at the Widow Bull's house in Marlowe's inquest (it also appears in "As You Like It," and several other plays). And Posthumous' reply that "there are none want eyes to direct them . . .but such as wink and will not use them," seems to me to be Marlowe's way of saying he has left hints of his authorship scattered throughout all the plays, and only those who "wink," i.e., shut their eyes can fail to see them.
Reply #143. Apr 02 13, 8:36 AM
|Three Versions of a Passage From "Hamlet"|
After he had been accused of heresy, and arrested on the orders of the Privy Council, the man who represented the most danger to Marlowe was John Whitgift, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Although he was of relatively humble origins, Whitgift lived more like a Renaissance prince than a pious churchman. He was the object of ridicule in a series of pamphlets written under the pseudonym of "Martin Marprelate," now believed to have been written by the Welsh puritan, John Penry. Whitgift had a particular distaste for the Puritans, but did not tolerate nonconformism in any form. He was responsible for the imprisonment and execution of many dissenting clergymen; moreover, he had immense influence with Queen Elizabeth.
Lord Burghley could probably have convinced the other members of the Privy Council that the charges against Marlowe were nonsense, but Whitgift was unlikely to dismiss accusations of heresy and blasphemy lightly. Nor was Burghley likely to prevail against Whitgift, if the matter was a religious one. There is evidence that he had attempted to arrange a pardon, or at least a stay of execution, for two Puritan ministers, Henry Barrowe and John Greenwood, but both were hanged on April 6, 1593.
Alex Jack, in his book, "Hamlet: Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare," has noted one speech by the ghost of Hamlet's father in Act I, Scene V that appears to refer to Whitgift - and does not show him in a favorable light.
What is significant about the speech is how it changed during the various printings of the play. In the Quarto 1, published in 1603, it is as follows (I've updated the spelling):
Ghost: Yea he, that incestuous wretch, won to his will
O wicked will and gifts! that have the power
So to seduce my most seeming virtuous Queen,
But virtue, as it never will be moved,
Though Lewdness court it in the shape of heaven
Note how the wording changes in Quarto 2, published shortly after Whitgift's death in 1604:
Ghost: Aye, that incestuous, that adulterate beast,
With witchcraft of his wits, with traitorous gifts,
O wicked wit, and gifts that have the power
So to seduce; won to his shameful lust
The will of my most seeming virtuous Queen,
O Hamlet, what falling off was there
And, finally, the First Folio version of the same speech:
Ghost: Aye, that incestuous, that adulterate Beast,
With witchcraft of his wits, hath Traitorous gifts.
Oh wicked Wit, and Gifts, that have the power
So to seduce! Won to this shameful Lust
The will of my most seeming virtuous Queen:
Oh Hamlet, what a falling off was there,
It is difficult to believe that these changes were not deliberately made as an insult to the now-deceased Whitgift, especially when one considers that there are two puns upon his name in this brief passage, and the second is even capitalized for emphasis. There's no evidence that the Stratford man ever fell afoul of Archbishop Whitgift, so there is no reason for him to make these changes, but if he were the cause of Marlowe's banishment, then our poet would have had ample reason to refer to him as "wicked Whitgift."
If you would like to read Mr. Jack's book, you can find it here:
Reply #144. Apr 13 13, 12:15 PM
|Today is the 397th anniversary of the Stratford man's death. As previously mentioned, William Shakespeare's death went completely unnoticed outside his hometown of Stratford. It is also the probable 449th anniversary of his birth, although that is less certain. |
No one knows what killed William Shakespeare; the story that he died after a drinking bout with Michael Drayton and Ben Jonson is almost certainly a myth. One historian has speculated that he died of a stroke; there was a plague of typhus in Stratford in 1616, so that may have been the cause of his early demise. It would be interesting if the authorities allowed his remains to be exhumed and examined, but that seems ublikely.
Reply #146. Apr 23 13, 5:36 AM
|Today I listened in on a "webinar." It was a debate between Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells, authors of a new book called "Shakespeare Beyond Doubt," and Dr. Ros Barber, author of "The Marlowe Papers." It was interesting, but also disappointing. Wells and Edmondson came across as a couple of pompous old asses, and just about refused to engage in any meaningful discussion. They trotted out the same old, stale and discredited Stratfordian arguments - well, what else could they do? - and were very patronizing towards Dr. Barber, who was too nice and polite for her own good. She did, however, get in a few good points, to which they had difficulty responding. I haven't read "Shakespeare Beyond Doubt," and probably won't, unless I can find it in the remainder bin for $1, since it seems it has nothing whatsoever new to offer. It is amazing how many academics make a nice living rehashing the same lies, half-truths, platitudes and anectdotes about the Stratford man ad nauseum; Professor Wells has already written eight books about Shakespeare, two of which I have read, without gaining a great deal of admiration for his scholarly talents.|
Actually, I was surprised that Wells and Edmondson agreed to a debate at all; Stratfordians rarely come out on top in these things. As soon as people learn a few of the basic facts about the authorship controversy, they start asking very inconvenient questions. Here's a brief video, "Why Was I Never Told This?" that does a pretty good job of explaining why there shuold at least be a real discussion of the authorship controversy:
Reply #147. Apr 26 13, 2:13 PM
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