Who Really Wrote Shakespeare's Plays Edward De Vere Part 1

About the controversy over who really wrote Shakespeare's plays, supporters and arguments for Edward de Vere.

WHO REALLY WROTE SHAKESPEARE'S PLAYS?

EDWARD DE VERE, 17TH EARL OF OXFORD (1550-1604)

Supporters: In 1920 J. Thomas Looney, an English schoolmaster, announced his discovery that Oxford was the sole author of the Shakespearean works. Looney's Shakespeare Identified, in its initial presumption that Shakespeare himself could not have written the plays and poems, compared references in the plays with known incidents in Oxford's life and concluded that the parallels were too close for coincidence.

The Oxford theory soon became modified into a "groupist" viewpoint, in which Oxford himself still played the main, though not the exclusive, role. Instead of sole author, he was viewed as the director of a group of brilliant collaborators who jointly wrote the plays. Delia Bacon had included him in her syndicate of hidden authors, but Oxford's leadership of an Elizabethan "writers" association" was most forcefully urged by Prof. Gilbert Slater in Seven Shakespeares (1931). Slater's group included the Earl of Derby, Francis Bacon, Sir Walter Raleigh, the Earl of Rutland, Christopher Marlowe, and the Countess of Pembroke as collaborators. Subsequent support of this view included Percy Allen's mediumistic accounts in 1947 and Montagu Douglas's Lord Oxford and the Shakespeare Group (1952). Charlton and Dorothy Ogburn's This Star of England (1952) made a 1,297-page case for Oxford as the victim of "the most amazing literary hoax of all time." In contrast to the Baconians, the Oxfordians have few harsh epithets to hurl. Oxford has largely replaced Bacon as chief contender in America.

Who Was Oxford? While non of his plays have survived, Edward de Vere was a recognized playwright--according to a contemporary account, one of the best. Something of a prodigy, he had entered Cambridge as a student at eight, fought against the Spanish Armada, became a lawyer and courtier, was intimate with monarchs and nobles, and traveled to Italy. He managed two acting companies and published both poetry and plays under his own name before elevation to the Oxford title. Various biographers have described Oxford as a hot-tempered youth, a spendthrift, and a philanderer "specializing in the queen's maids-of-honour." Historian John Aubrey explained Oxford's long absence from England as the result of "an unfortunate flatulence in the presence of the queen."

Arguments For: After years of teaching The Merchant of Venice, J. T. Looney became convinced that its author's knowledge of Italy could have come only from firsthand experience. Oxford had been lampooned as an Italianate Englishman, and Looney's search of Elizabethan writers with styles similar to the Shakespearean works revealed remarkable metrical similarities in Oxford's poetry. Subsequent study of his life produced many analogies--especially between the names of Oxford's relatives and names used in the plays.

Some Oxfordians maintain that the Shakespearean plays were actually written between 1576 and 1590, much earlier than the generally accepted dates, and that they originally appeared under different titles. This explains how the body of work was completed prior to Oxford's death in 1604. Oxfordians established the earlier dates by using historical references in the plays. Factors such as the mention of an eclipse or a political event provide important evidence for dating the plays; since Oxford was older than most of the other "contenders," the earlier dating system points to his probable authorship.

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