A Resolution to the Shakespeare Authorship Problem
By Timothy Spearman
This paper was originally inspired by a discovery the author had made concerning a similarity in the likenesses of the subject featured in the portrait of William Shakespeare by John Taylor and that of Edward de Vere by Marcus Gheeraedts. The conjecture of the author of this paper is that the subject featured in the Taylor portrait of Shakespeare is the same man shown in the Gheeraedts portrait only advanced in age by some fifteen years and therefore with a receding hairline resulting from middle age. The hypothesis is that, having lost caste in the Elizabethan Court for writing subversive plays that failed to meet their sole objective of serving the propaganda aims of the Court in addition to causing other scandals, including an affair with the Queen’s handmaiden, Anne Vavasor, Edward de Vere, the seventeenth Earl of Oxford became increasingly defiant of the establishment, adopting a bohemian lifestyle and dress, growing what was left of his hair long, allowing his courtier goatee and mustache to grow into a full but scruffy beard, while sporting an earring and commoner’s dress.Further study resulted in the discovery that the author was a Freemason initiated into the Higher Degrees of Freemasonry and a British intelligence operative under the cover of a diplomat, who visited the courts of Europe on several occasions. The life of privilege led by Edward de Vere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford, so dwarfed the life of the mediocrity from Stratford-upon-Avon as to eliminate him altogether from the authorship candidacy. Why, thought the author of this paper, would the Stratford man so clearly support the ideology of caste and privilege, as evidenced by his early plays in particular, when such an ideology disqualified him from upward social mobility? In addition, it did not make any sense whatsoever that he had such a breadth of knowledge gleaned from having participated in aristocratic sports, while studying jurisprudence, medicine, and several languages, in addition to traveling widely, when none of these privileges would be open to the commoner from Stratford.The author of this paper therefore thought to shake his spear at the ignorance of a naïve world blinded by four hundred years of incalculable oversight. The author hopes the findings here presented will sufficiently shake a spear at the serpent of ignorance that he might seek safe haven in the same hole he crawled out of. We also hope, but by no means hold our breath, that the academic world that has been so spitefully unkind to our person will offer a warmer reception to this our “spear-shaking” than it has in the past.It is also hoped that those who gaze upon the countenance of Edward de Vere will have the vision to see the resemblance in the two portraits this study has herein brought to the world’s attention. What’s in a name? In the name “William Shakespeare”, there is a great deal. One would assume then that, as a name of great import, the author would at least endeavor to adopt a uniform spelling of his name and a uniform signature to go with it. Yet, of the six signatures found attached to documents ascribed to the man from Stratford, each displays a different spelling and style of handwriting. Why would this be when literate men of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries developed personalized signatures just as people do today? As evidenced by the signatures extant, the man from Stratford whose name was most commonly spelled Shakspere seems not to have developed a consistent signature.1 Baptized Gulielmus Shakespere, he would go on to be known in other documents by William Shaxpere, William Shackespere, Willelmus Shackspere, William Shackspere, William Shakespeare of orthodox spelling, William Shackspeare, Willelmus Shakespeare, Willelmum Shakespeare, Willielmi Shakespeare, Willelmus Shackspere, Willelmus Shakspeare, Wyllyam Shaxpere, Mr. Shakespere, etc. These names appear on records ascribed to the man known by the name most commonly spelled William Shakspere from Stratford-Upon-Avon. It makes no sense whatsoever that a man of such importance would not endeavor to standardize the spelling of his name as well as his own signature for simple purposes of identification if nothing else. Indeed, the fact that there seems to have been no effort on the part of the Stratford man to do so is where a good part of the confusion rests and has contributed in no small degree to the authorship problem itself.Some of the scholars who examined these records initially decided that some of these documents belong in the biography of some other man of that name. Scholar Sydney Lee, for example, concluded Anne Whately became engaged to another of the numerous “Shakespeares” who then abounded in the diocese of Worcester. Then, in two articles entitled “Other William Shakespeares,” Charles William Wallace established that one of the documents pertaining to malt sales should be reassigned to a man other than the Stratford man.2 So the already scant record on the Stratford man, a record showing no evidence of any literary life, may be reduced still further by the fact that many of the “Shakespeares” referred to under different spellings in diverse documents may in fact be different men.The question that immediately springs to mind is why is the record so blank on William Shakspere of Stratford? Why is there such abject poverty in terms of documentation, including written records, letters, manuscript materials, etc.? Bear in mind that the question is asked of the man deemed to be the greatest author of English letters. How can this be, when significantly more documentation has been found on contemporaries of lesser note such as Ben Jonson and Michael Drayton? Michael Drayton, a much less revered contemporary and fellow poet from the same town, has exactly the kind of documentation associated with him one would expect to find in the great bard’s record, including letters, direct references to works, a brief description of his physical appearance, evidence of revision and polishing of his works, evidence of attending educational institutions, etc. Why the comparative destitution in the Stratford man’s record? And why is there no surviving evidence that these two famous poets from the same town had known each other or even met?3We might just as well ask: What’s in a face? The sheer abundance of disparate visages appearing in engravings and paintings of the bard indicate that hardly anyone seems to have had a clear impression of what the man actually looked like. In the opinion of the author of this paper, there is only one true likeness of the author of the plays and sonnets, and that is the portrait of Shakespeare painted by John Taylor circa 1610. While the painting by Taylor has been given the date 1610, this date must be erroneous since the subject of the painting, Edward de Vere, died in 1604. While many will be surprised by this claim, since the Stratford man is known to have died in 1616, I contend that it is not the Stratford man who is the subject of the Taylor portrait.The subject is indeed the man posterity knows as William Shakespeare, but that man is not from Stratford-Upon-Avon, nor was his real name William Shakespeare. The portrait is in fact a likeness of Edward de Vere, the seventeenth Earl of Oxford, who wrote the plays under the pen name, William Shakespeare. The man shown in the Taylor portrait bears a striking resemblance to a well-known portrait of Edward de Vere painted by the Dutch painter Marcus Gheeraedts. An approximate date for the Gheeraedts’ portrait is given as 1586. The marked difference of course is the fact that the man appearing in the Taylor portrait is bald, while the portrait of de Vere shows a man with a full head of hair.The reason for this is that the subject in the Taylor portrait is some fifteen years older and has gone bald with advancing years, while the de Vere portrait depicts the same man in his prime and with a full head of hair. The subject featured in the Taylor portrait is in fact the same man shown in the de Vere portrait only fourteen to fifteen years older, since the de Vere portrait shows the same man at approximately 36 years of age, since an approximate date of 1586 has been given to the painting. The author of this paper believes the Taylor portrait depicts de Vere at approximately fifty years of age, four years before his death in 1604. The dating of the Taylor portrait would, therefore, have to be reassigned to circa 1600, ten years earlier than that assigned by orthodoxy. Included in this paper is a composite photo comparison of the subjects featured in the two paintings. Both the aging process and unkempt appearance is eliminated in the painting of the bard with the aid of Photoshop, restoring his full head of hair, while eliminating his earring and long hair. Before and after photo analysis reveals that the middle-aged bard bears a striking resemblance to Edward de Vere featured at the age of 36, suggesting that Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, is the bard writing under the pen name William Shakespeare. (See the accompanying composite portrait comparisons of before and after likenesses).The authorship controversy has not been helped by the fact that irresponsible researchers have deliberately misled lay people and scholars alike by making grossly erroneous claims. Perhaps the best example of this is Gareth and Barbara Lloyd Evans’s grievously errant contention in their Companion to Shakespeare:
We no more about the life of Shakespeare, both in
terms of facts and of rational conclusions that they
suggest, than of any other Elizabethan dramatist…
Documents relating to Shakespeare’s activities,
including letters to him and material relating to
his family, are extant in quantity in the Shakespeare
Centre records office at Stratford upon Avon.4
Note that the Evans’s tell us that there are many “letters” extant to Shakespeare, that is “letters” in the plural, misleadingly implying that there are many such letters extant. The truth is, however, that there is only one letter on record addressed to William Shakspere, the man from Stratford, and it was never delivered.5 How can so-called scholars mislead the public so irresponsibly? No wonder the authorship question has never been adequately resolved. With such gross distortions of the actual facts, many of the misinformed are discouraged from even embarking on the quest for the true author due to the erroneous weight of evidence tilting the balancing scales in favor of orthodoxy.The surname “Shakespeare,” it should be noted, appears as the hyphenated name, “Shake-speare,” in the dedications to Venus and Adonis and Lucrece. Of the thirty editions of the Shakespeare plays published before the First Folio of 1623, in which authorial attribution was given, the name appeared hyphenated in fifteen of these cases. This suggests that the name is of the order of a sobriquet or nom de plume. The only legitimate case for hyphenating an Anglo-Saxon name would be in the case of two noble families brought together through the bonds of marriage and who wished to retain their family peerage mutually by preserving both names in a hyphenated surname, but in such cases, the family name appearing after the hyphen would be capitalized. The “speare” in “Shake-speare” is most definitely not capitalized, leaving little doubt that it is pseudonymous.6What’s in such a name? If a dramatist were to assign himself a pen name, would it not be apropos to take on a name that canonized him as a dramatist in some kind of homage to his art form? True, he would be under no obligation or compunction to do so. Still, it would be no less fitting. This being the case, it will constitute no shock to learn that the name “Shake-speare” or “Shakespeare” is derived from Pallas Athena, patron goddess of the Greek theater in Athens, who was nicknamed “Hasti-Vibrans” in Latin, meaning the “Spear-shaker”. The reason assigned to the sobriquet for both the goddess and the bard is that Pallas was known for shaking her spear at the serpent of ignorance and vice.7 In Greek mythology, Pallas Athena was the goddess of wisdom, philosophy, poetry, and the fine arts. Her original name was Pallas…from palein, meaning ‘shake’. Athens, the home of Greek drama, was under the guardianship of Pallas, the spear-shaker. The phrase, “The spear of Pallas shake,” can be read in a line of verse from a collection of Shakespeare’s poems of 1640.8Pallas always shook her spear at ignorance, which is what the poet himself is doing, shaking his spear at the ignorant mass of humanity for believing the ridiculous ruse that an ignorant rustic from the country could be a claimant to the throne of the immortal bard, this a mere stand-in, substitute, or understudy brought in to play the part of the bard so that the true author could remain behind the scenes hidden from view. Pallas Athena also wore the “helmet of invisibility,” which rendered her invisible each time she drew the visor down over her face.The bard is, therefore, wearing Pallas’s helmet of invisibility, as his true identity is concealed behind a mask or visor. Ben Jonson recognized the true significance of the sobriquet when he wrote of Shakespeare’s “true-filled lines,” that “In each of which, he seems to shake a lance, /As brandished in the eyes of ignorance.”9 How did Jonson know about the Pallas Athena connection unless he was in on the plot? Gabriel Harvey, a fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge, in an address to the queen during one of her visits to the university, paid tribute to Oxford as a prolific poet, and one whose “countenance shakes spears.”10 Why the strange reference to the Shakespeare-Pallas Athena sobriquet once again?
Why was the Bard so inspired by Pallas Athena that he chose to adopt her nickname? From whence did this influence arise? It is known that, while studying law at Gray’s Inn, the young Francis Bacon formed there a secret literary society called “The Honourable Order of the Knights of the Helmet”. The “Helmet of the Order” was of course the helmet of Pallas Athena, the helmet that occulted her and rendered her invisible. She was Francis Bacon’s patron goddess since his early experience with the French Academie on the Continent whose patron was Pallas Minerva, the same goddess under her Roman designation.The candidate for initiation within the order swore allegiance to Pallas Athena and to uphold her ideals, banishing the serpent of ignorance to the remotest corners of the civilized world in order to spawn an age of enlightenment and a literary renaissance capable of enlightening the world. The initiate would then kiss the helmet, after which it was placed on his head. Just as the Helmet of Pallas was said to make the wearer invisible, so the initiate would become an invisible of Bacon’s invisible college or mystery school and secret literary society. In his right hand simultaneously was placed the spear of Pallas, which he was sworn to shake with valor at all the serpents of ignorance and vice to be found in the world.11 The author of the Shakespeare plays, who the author of this paper believes was Edward de Vere, would have worn the helmet of one of Bacon’s ‘invisibles’ within the Order and would have been sworn to write in secrecy. Given the political import of many of the plays including, Hamlet, Othello, and Macbeth, the author would have been forced to write under a pen name and to conceal his authorship. The Shakespeare Sonnets would also have to have been written under a pseudonym since they contained the story of the author’s invisible or secret life.The visor of invisibility Pallas Athena drew down over her helmet to render herself invisible makes sense of an otherwise obscure scene from Act V, scene I of Henry the Fourth, Part Two, in which Davy speaks of one William Visor to his master Justice Shallow, a name of obvious allegorical import, “I beseech you, sir, to countenance William Visor of Woncot…” (Henry IV, Part II in Shakespeare’s Complete Works, Collins Classics, V.I, ll.38, 39) To this entreaty, Shallow replies, “There is many complaints, Davy, against that Visor. That Visor is an arrant knave, on my knowledge.” (V.I.ll.40-42) “Woncot” is a probable allusion to Wincot. Wincot is where Will Shakspere’s uncle and aunt lived and is clearly a name of Warwickshire designation.The gratuitous exchange has no relevance to the play and makes no sense at all unless it is to point to Will Shakspere of Stratford as the “visor” of Pallas Athena’s helmet behind which the true author of the plays may remain obscured.12 In other words, Will Shakspere from Stratford is the front man behind which the true author, Edward de Vere, can conceal his identity as the bard out of political and social necessity. To substantiate the point, the Earl of Oxford’s wife died in 1612. In her will, she stipulated that a certain sum be laid aside as a provision “to my dombe man.” Was this the continuance of an allowance to be paid to the Stratford man, Will Shakesper, to continue in his capacity as the front man?13 He certainly was mute in terms of composition and functioned as a kind of “dummy” of the real bard, a mere stand-in or double.Alfred Dodd believes that Bacon wrote under many masks including, Thomas Nashe, Thomas Watson, Robert Greene, and John Lyly. In fact, amazingly, if it can be believed, Dodd claims that even Edmund Spenser was a mask employed by Bacon to conceal his authorship. According to Dodd, it was in July 1580 that a clerk, who worked for the Earl of Leicester, named Edmund Spenser, left to take up a job in Ireland. Before he left, Francis paid him for the use of his name in the publication of certain writings.14 According to Dodd, John Lyly is just one of the masks under which Francis Bacon wrote secretly.Using the initials I.L., since the author of John Lyly’s work often signed himself Ihon Lillie, the author wrote a commemorative poem about Edward de Vere. It must be remembered that it was common practice in the age of Elizabeth for authors to suppress their names and substitute initials or a pen name.15 This probably resulted from the fact that Elizabeth had enforced such strict censorship laws and mete out such severe penalties on violators. The author of the poem here in question attributes the valor Edward de Vere exhibited in the naval battle against the Spanish Armada to the inspiration provided by his patron goddess, Pallas, whom he refers to by name:
De Vere, whose fame and loyalty hath pierced
The Tuscan clime, and through the Belgike lands
By winged Fame for valour is rehearsed,
Like warlike Mars upon the hatches stands,
His tusked Boar ’gan foam for inward ire,
While Pallas filled his breast with warlike fire.16
It seems rather odd that Pallas Athena, patron goddess of the Greek theater in Athens and goddess of wisdom sprung from the brow of Zeus, should be placed on board Edward de Vere’s ship at the time of battle. One could imagine the goddess of war or some other goddess being at his beck. Why of all goddesses it should be the goddess of the Greek theater inspiring him in time of battle is extremely odd, unless of course Lyly, or Bacon, if indeed Lyly was a Baconian mask, knew Pallas was de Vere’s patron goddess. If de Vere’s patron goddess was Pallas Athena, then it would not be surprising for him to borrow her attributes, since it was custom for noblemen to employ pen names to conceal their authorship at this time anyway. It must be remembered that the nobility seldom attached their names to works of poetry and especially dramatic works, as it was considered beneath their dignity to publish lines of verse or plays.Why would Edward de Vere employ a pen name? Recourse to pen names and anonymous authorship by men of noble rank is not unique to Elizabethan England. Precisely the same practice was employed by the nobility in diverse cultural milieu. In Korea, for example, two classical operatic works were composed anonymously by persons of the noble class, Shimjong Jeon and Chung-hyang Jeon, and for precisely the same reasons.Gentleman of rank in the Choson Dynasty were forbidden to attach their names to dramatic works and works of poetry. It will come as no surprise then that the same practice was adhered to in another feudal society halfway around the world at the time of Queen Elizabeth. Any nobleman writing poetry for publication or dramatic works for the theater would have lost caste immediately.The threat of losing caste was so real for the author of the Shakespeare plays that it is even alluded to in a poem by John Davies, a contemporary, appearing in the Stationer’s register of 1610. What becomes abundantly clear is that the entire poem is written in the past tense, which suggests that its import is addressed to a poet already dead. Edward de Vere was of course already dead in 1610. He is known to have died in 1604 in fact. Will Shakspere of Stratford, however, would not be referred to in the past tense in 1610, as he still had six more years of life to live. The other thing to notice about the Davies’ poem is the fact that the Will. Shakespeare referred to is most definitely of the noble class, which the Stratford man was most definitely not, and has lost his noble rank as a consequence of his having performed in his own plays, a definite no-no for a nobleman:
To our English Terence, Master Will. Shake-speare.
Some say (good Will) which I, in sport, do sing,
Hadst thou not played some Kingly parts in sport,
Thou hadst been a companion for a King;
And been a King among the meaner sort.
Some others rail; but, rail as they think fit,
Thou hast no railing, but, a reigning Wit:
And honestly thou sowst, which they do reap;
So, to increase their stock which they do keep.17
The import of the poem is that “Shake-speare”, the name once again appearing hyphenated, indicating it is pseudonymous, is a nobleman who lost rank by performing on the stage. So addicted was he to the stage that he would take to the stage secretly under his pen name, but was probably recognized by the Queen’s omniscient ‘Gestapo’ or secret service and reported.“Thou would have been a companion for a King,” is an allusion to his status as an earl. The title “count”, being equivalent to “earl” in the English caste system, is in fact designated as a “companion to the King” in terms of peerage. “And been a King among the meaner sort” refers to the fact that de Vere had played kingly parts for the theater, which would in fact be seen as “a meaner sort of King”, since the theater was considered low and common.There is in fact a well-known portrait of Edward de Vere extant showing him in costume as King Henry. The last two lines of the poem indicate that the bard labors without gain, since others profit from his work. The implication seems to be that certain individuals reap the benefits of his work and keep the profits for themselves. At the same time that a nobleman who has lost caste is implied, so an allusion is also made to the man from Stratford known as Will Shakspere. The clue for this occurs in the allusion to “our English Terence”.The English Terence refers to the Roman poet Terence, a slave who became a free man and a well-known poet. The man summoned from Stratford to act as the front man and to double as the bard, in order that the true author could conceal his authorship of the plays is here implied.18
To corroborate the above account, where a tribute is given to an author already dead, when the man from Stratford is still living, we have the first edition of the sonnets published in 1609 under the title, Shake-speares Sonnets. Once more the name appears hyphenated implying a pen name, but there is something else this time. This kind of locution is usually reserved for one who is already dead. The byline should read, “By William Shake-speare” for a living author. Then, there is the text of the dedication, which refers to “our ever-living poet.” Implying once again that the author is no longer living. “Ever-living” is used in memorials to signal the fact that someone dead lives on in the memory of the living.19
Is the Elizabethan social ethos and the question of caste the only issue? Are there other reasons for adopting a pen name? The author of this paper would like to suggest that there is. Edward de Vere would have a rather good reason for adopting a code name were he a spy or agent of the British Crown. And the evidence strongly supports the fact that he was. The most convincing piece of evidence for his status as a secret agent can be found in a Privy Seal Warrant issued by the Queen on June 26, 1586. The warrant calls for a grant to be issued to the Earl to the tune of 1,000 pounds a year, a sizeable sum equivalent in today’s terms to three times the Prime Minister’s salary. The reason for the grant is not given, but what is abundantly clear is that the Queen issues instructions at the end of the letter that no accounting for the expenditure is required by the Exchequer, standard practice in the case of secret service money:
Elizabeth, etc., to the Treasurer and Chamberlains
of our Exchequer, Greeting. We will and command
you of Our treasure being and remaining from time
to time within the receipt of Our exchequer, to
deliver and pay, or cause to be delivered and paid,
unto Our right trusty and well beloved Cousin the
Earl of Oxford or to his assigns sufficiently
Authorized by him, the sum of One Thousand
Pounds good and lawful money of England. The
same to be yearly delivered and paid unto Our
said Cousin at four times of the year by even
portions: and so to be continued unto him during
Our pleasure, or until such time as he shall be by
Us otherwise provided for to be in some manner
relieved; at what time Our pleasure is that this
payment of One Thousand Pounds yearly to our
said Cousin in manner above specified shall cease.
And for the same or any part thereof, Our further
will and commandment is that neither the said Earl
nor his assigns nor his or their executors nor any
of them shall by way of account, imprest, or any
other way whatsoever be charged towards Us,
our heirs or successors. And these shall be your
sufficient warrant and discharge in that behalf.20
What the last two sentences mean is that no accounting of expenditures implied by the grant are to be required by the Exchequer, which is tantamount to saying that the transaction is secret and classified.
The scholar B.M. Ward claims that this is the usual formula followed in the case of secret service money. The Earl had no known office other than his place on the Privy Council, so there is no good reason for the payment in terms of official function or capacity. There is no evidence of any official assignment calling for such an annuity. The Earl never left the country following the issuing of the grant which he received beginning in 1586 when he was 36 until the time of his death in 1604 at the age of 54.21
For so large an amount to be paid out of the secret service fund, it had to have been used for purposes of state, Dorothy and Charlton Ogburn arguing that it was used for England’s first Ministry of Propaganda. The purpose of the propaganda ministry would be to educate the English people, most of whom could not read, through a medium of education analogous to today’s Hollywood, opening their eyes to the world around them, while acquainting them with a revisionist history that would have them bursting with pride.
And while the state was busily taking charge of the theater for purposes of state propaganda, it was simultaneously clamping down on the printing presses, the Queen authorizing Archbishop Whitgit and the Privy Council to draft legislation to strictly regulate them. A Star Chamber decree was duly authorized on June 23, 1586 calling for stricter governance over the printing press, with a list of pains and penalties for violations of the censorship laws. No publication could be released without first receiving approval from the Archbishop of London.
The success of the Queen’s Propaganda Ministry cannot be underestimated for its power to instruct the uneducated masses on their history, enlightening them on their place, and furnishing them with so thorough a knowledge of rewards and punishments they would have known what would invite praise and censure. A more vivid description of the state propaganda apparatus the theater guilds served could not be found than Thomas Heywood’s aptly named Apology for Actors, which is none other than an apology for the theater arts being held subordinate to the state to which the performers themselves had been held ransom:
Plays have made the ignorant more apprehensive,
taught the unlearned the knowledge of many
famous histories, instructed such as cannot read
in the discovery of all our English chronicles;
and what men have you now of that weak
capacity that cannot discourse of any notable
thing recorded even from William the Conqueror,
nay from the landing of Brute, until this day?
Being possessed of their use, for or because
plays are writ with this aim, and carried with
this method, to teach their subjects obedience to
their king, to show people the untimely ends of
such as have moved tumults, commotions, and
insurrections, to present them with the
flourishing estate of such as live in obedience,
exhorting them to allegiance, dehorting them
from all traitorous and felonious stratagems.22
Is it mere coincidence that history plays remained in vogue from 1586 until the conclusion of the Anglo-Spanish war? Chronicle plays were very popular, the pseudonymous author Shakespeare, Marlowe, and others writing several, many of which were original, but some of which Oxford apparently permitted his apprentices to revise and reshape. At the cessation of the war, the demand for such plays from the state and the appetite for them from a people weary of war dried up. Considering how scarce money was at the time, and how careful the Queen had to be with funds in providing for the war effort, it is clear that, if not the Queen, the state apparatus, had to be sufficiently pleased with the propaganda produced for the Elizabethan stage to maintain Lord Oxford’s annuity until the time of his death.
Why would the Earl receive such an annuity? If he is not being paid for his official duties, what is the reason for so exorbitant a salary? Is he being paid for covert operations of some kind? Once again, the evidence would support such a hypothesis. Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson both faced prosecution for libelous and blasphemous allusions made in their plays, great risks for commoners to take without protection from higher personages, institutions or organizations. In May 1593, the Star Chamber prosecuted Christopher Marlowe for “lewd libels” and “blasphemes”. Certain papers of Thomas Kyd were found keeping company with Marlowe’s manuscripts. Testifying under duress on the rack, Kyd protested that, “My first acquaintance with this Marlowe rose upon his bearing name to serve my Lord, although his Lordship never knew his service, but in writing for his players.” It is one of the most tantalizing mysteries in the Marlovian biography question that Kyd omits to identify the mysterious lord of whose household he had been a member for nearly six years.
Six years places Kyd in the services of the mysterious lord back to the end of 1587, from his time of arrest in 1593. The Spanish Tragedy attributed to Kyd on the strength of a single reference is assigned by scholar Edmund Gosse to the period 1584 to 1586. Researcher E. T. Clark believes that the mysterious lord under whose supervision Kyd worked for six years, and for whose players Marlowe wrote, was none other than Lord Oxford. It is more likely to have been Sir Francis Bacon, since the author of this paper believes that both Kyd and Oxford were working under Bacon as ‘invisibles’ in his secret literary societies, which in essence were employed as compartments within the state propaganda apparatus.
The period of Kyd’s employment nevertheless coincides with the period in which Oxford’s annuity of 1,000 pounds commences.23 It also happens to coincide with King Philip II of Spain’s rage over the manner in which he was portrayed on the Elizabethan stage. The Venetian ambassador of Spain even reported on King Philip’s complaints concerning the Elizabethan stage to the Signory:
But what has enraged him much more than
all else, and has caused him to show a
resentment such as he has never displayed
in all his life, is the account of the
masquerades an comedies which the Queen
of England orders to be acted at his expense.24
What King Philip’s complaint, as related by the Spanish ambassador, makes explicit is the fact that the plays had some effect in rousing a reaction from the foreign courts. It is at this time that we begin to hear about the so-called “university wits”. Researcher E. T. Clark believes that Oxford’s apprentices turned out dozens of plays under his supervision, including chronicle plays, revenge plays, Senecan plays, most of them conceived to sustain the people’s morale during wartime. Since his early twenties, Oxford had served as a patron for other writers, so it was easy for him to slip into his new role as the master of young propaganda initiates.25 Clark maintains that Oxford turned to recent graduates of Cambridge and Oxford, and even to those at the point of graduating, who showed promise as writers, to assist in the task of writing state propaganda for the stage. Clark also contends that it was Oxford who discovered Marlowe’s dramatic gifts, encouraging him to write Tamburlaineto portray as a ruthless conqueror the personage of King Philip.27
According to the great Baconian scholar, Alfred Dodd, in 1579 and by 1580, Sir Francis Bacon had founded the secret literary societies Fra Rosi Cross and The Honourable Knights of the Helmet, the latter named in honor of his patron goddess Pallas Athena who always whore the ‘helmet of invisibility’.
This was all part of Bacon’s effort to achieve “The Universal Reformation” or English Renaissance in literature. Fra Rosi Cross and The Honourable Knights of the Helmet were invisible colleges or mystery schools, whose initiates wore Pallas Athena’s helmet of invisibility and were known as ‘invisibles’. The founding of these societies began at Gray’s Inn law school, the Grand Patriarchs of the orders being Bacon’s personal friends such as Gabriel Harvey, his old literary professor, and Fulke Greville, a well-known poet. Bacon’s cousin, Sir Philip Sydney, and Sydney’s sister, Lady Mary, Countess of Pembroke, would also be on the planning committee. And according to Alfred Dodd, “He would have the warm support of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, also a poet.”28 Was Oxford a poet or a concealed poet, one of the invisibles? Dodd has provided strong evidence that Oxford and Bacon were associates and that he was even in on the planning of these invisible literary societies? Was he also a member? It is very likely. He was referred to as a poet and playwright and yet he stopped writing poetry at least under his own name at a very young age, while strangely none of his plays survive under his own name.
Kid, Jonson, Marlowe, Lord Oxford as Shakespeare and others were working together as a syndicate of writers under the patronage of Sir Francis Bacon, whose source of funding came from the Queen, which is one explanation for the great flowering that occurred in Elizabethan drama and the unity of style found among the major playwrights of the time. Similarities found between the Shakespearean and Marlovian works, which have hitherto been explained away by charges of plagiarism and even the speculation that Marlowe was covertly writing the Shakespeare plays following a staged death in a tavern brawl, can now find a more logical explanation. What is more likely is that the similarities in styles found among the playwrights resulted from them working closely together as part of the same secret literary society and propaganda ministry, writing and sometimes sharing plays to meet deadlines assigned to them either by Bacon’s propaganda ministry or the Court. Similarities found between Shakespeare’s early historical dramas and Marlowe’s Edward the Second, published in 1594 as Marlowe’s, which orthodoxy acknowledges as proof of the greater author’s debt to the lesser, can instead be explained by the reverse scenario, in which Marlowe, as a initiated member of Fra Rosi Cross, is apprenticing under de Vere, the author known to posterity as William Shakespeare. What is more likely than Shakespeare being the plagiarist of the inferior dramatist’s work is that de Vere turned one of his own early plays over in draft form to his apprentice Marlowe to complete, perhaps in order to meet some pressing deadline assigned by their patron Sir Francis Bacon or the court.29
Othello would have been one of the plays that caused King Philip such strong offense. “Moor” was a racial slur for Spaniard at this time, and as the murderer of Brabanto’s daughter, Othello would have seen himself reflected in the Moor, since he was rumored to have arranged the murders of his third wife, Elizabeth of Valois and the Princess of Eboli, claimed to have been his mistress. With the production of Marlowe’s Tamburlaine probably launched a year later in 1587, Philip probably would have been further slighted. Envisioning himself as the master of land and sea, Tamburlaine boasts:
Even from Persepolis to Mexico
And thence unto the Straits of Jubalter,
Where they shall meet and join their force in one,
Keeping in awe the Bay of Portingale,
And all the ocean by the British shore;
And by this means I’ll win the world at last.30
Small wonder that the Spanish King would be so put out by the way he was represented on the Elizabethan stage. Why it should come as any surprise to anyone that the plays should be used for state propaganda is truly amazing. We have to remember that a feudal system existed at this time in which each lord served an overlord. No man was free.
To exhibit the kind of genius shown by Edward de Vere would have been more of a curse than a blessing. His talents would have been most certainly seized upon and used on behalf of the Queen, the Court and the state. Why should it be any surprise that Jonson, Marlowe, and the man posterity knows as Shakespeare were writing state propaganda on behalf of the crown? Is not the same the case today with Hollywood writers turning out state propaganda on behalf of the American government? Just as the English nobility are depicted as the bastion of heroism in the Shakespeare plays, so is the American hero a star shining with unrivalled brilliance in the firmament, witness Air Force One or Impact, both of which feature hero presidents. Examine any of the films starring Clint Eastwood, Sylvester Stalone, Harrison Ford, and innumerable others in which the American maverick is the model hero. Just as the author of the Shakespeare plays shows the English aristocracy as a caste that will set the nation to rights even when “the times are out of joint,” so now is the American elite seen as the bastion of righteousness which will set to rights even the most corrupt and untoward of governments, witness Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, JFK, All the President’s Men, and Amistad to name but a few.
How would Lord Oxford have been selected for such an assignment? We have established that he worked for the British secret service. But can we establish under whose command he was assigned? We do know that Sir Francis Bacon and his brother Anthony were the founders of the British secret service. We know that both Francis Bacon and Edward de Vere studied law at Gray’s Inn, one of the Inns of Court. We also know that Love’s Labor’s Lost and A Comedy of Errors were performed there for the first time at the Hall of Gray’s, the dining hall of the Inn of Court in 1594.31 What is certain beyond doubt is that Will Shakspere of Stratford-Upon-Avon did not and could not have studied at Gray’s Inn even if he wanted to because he was not of the noble class. It is even claimed that Bacon delighted in the theater and even performed masks himself, which he staged at Gray’s Inn. Could this have been under the inspiration of the Earl of Oxford?
Could it be that having witnessed the poetic gifts of the dramatist for himself, Bacon later thought to put them to good use for the sake of nation building? While Freemason scholars and other researchers have long promoted Bacon as the author of the Shakespeare plays, surviving titles of plays known to be Baconian resemble the titles of none of the Shakespeare plays:
The Birth of Merlin, 1589,
The Misfortunes of Arthur, 1587,
The Lord Mayor’s Pagaent, 29th
of October, 1591,
A Conference of Pleasure, 1592,
The Order of the Helmet or the Prince
of Purpool, 1594-5,
The Device of the Indian Prince, 159532
These titles dated within the same time frame in which the Shakespeare plays were being performed, often under the same titles in which they appear in the Folio, lack the sophistication and playfulness of the Shakespeare titles. And in the Device of the Indian Prince, a sonnet of Bacon’s preserved from the play shows that his verse falls fall short of the grace of the Bard:
Seated between the Old World and the New,
A land there is no other Land may touch,
Where reigns a Queen in Peace and Honour true,
Stories or Fables do describe no such.
Never did Atlas such a Burden bear,
As she in holding up the World Oppressed;
Supplying with her virtue everywhere
Weakness of Friends, Errors of Servants best.
No Nation breeds a warmer Blood for War,
And yet she calms them by Her Majesty;
No Age hath ever Wits refined so far,
And yet she calms them by her Policy;
To Her THY SON must make his SACRIFICE
If he will have the morning of his Eyes.33
Anyone who thinks that this is up to Shakespearean standard is either tone deaf, blind or lacking in aesthetic taste because this is simply bad verse and could not possibly be written by the same hand that penned the immortal lines written by the Bard. A great deal of similarity, however, has been found between Oxford’s early verse, penned under his own name, and Shakespeare’s. The Benezet test devised by Professor Louis P. Benezet is a good example of how many of the stylistic devices and language used by de Vere is identical to that of Shakespeare. The Benezet test, which juxtaposes de Vere’s early lines of verse with Shakespeare’s, has defied the efforts of numerous scholars to identify which lines are Oxford’s and which Shakespeare’s.34 Other clandestine operations were going on at this time.
Why is a propaganda ministry run by the secret service outside the realm of possibility? Not only was the English language canonized at this time, but the greatest literary works in the language were also being undertaken. Not only that, but the knowledge and wisdom of the classical writers, the histories of great nations, and practically everything else worth knowing from foreign countries was imported into the English language at this time. Books were printed and published on every art and science imaginable. In addition, the names on the title pages of these works are totally unknown. It is bewildering that so many men could be put to work on one arcane subject for the task of translating one book and one book only and to then disappear into the same obscure cloud from which they sprang.35 This suggests that they were under hire of the intelligence service just as readers and researchers are called in by the CIA today. It suggests a large clandestine operation designed to plunder the coveted secrets of the Continent as part of an orchestrated effort to import the Renaissance from the Continent. Revealingly, many of the books published during the period 1576 to 1598 are dedicated to the Queen, the Earl of Leicester, and Lord Burghley. Leicester was the Queen’s lover and Burghley, the Queen’s Chancellor.
Together they constituted the most powerful triumvirate in the country. Bacon’s intelligence service would naturally depend on funding from these personages in return for which the commissioned volumes would be dedicated to the benefactors.36 What is even more revealing from the intelligence service end of things is that Bacon oversaw the writing of many books in this period. He even supervised the printing process using his own wooden blocks, many of his own design, and each book under his direction was marked with such blocks, suggesting that he himself was acting as the national censor, ensuring on behalf of the Crown that every book published was politically correct.37
What is certain is that de Vere had the intelligence-gathering skills required for the job. He had visited the foreign courts, where he had been dispatched as a diplomat. What is said of Bertram inAll’s Well That Ends Well, where he is told, “You have sold your own lands to see other lands,” could equally be said of the Earl, who did appeal to Lord Burghley in a letter to do the very same by agreeing to pay for his expenses abroad. Oxford traveled widely on the Continent.38 He is known to have visited France and Italy with certainty.
The fact that he was granted official permission to travel in 1575 implies that he was both eminent and trusted, since it was difficult at this time for anyone to get permission to travel. The fact that his visit to the Continent was given the official seal of approval and that he was permitted to travel widely to Paris, Strasburg, Padua, Venice, Florence, and Sicily suggests that he was on official business probably on behalf of the Crown and that it constituted a diplomatic mission. The fact that he was recalled in 1576 pushes the case for a diplomat on official business, since his itinerary was being monitored and his person was valued enough to be dispatched and recalled.39 He was even known as the Italianate Englishman due to his tendency to wear the fashion of Renaissance Italy in the Court. He was also strongly influenced by Ovid, Particularly Ovid’s Metamorphosis, and was even referred to as the English Ovid. Oxford did travel in Italy extensively. He traveled with a retinue, according to Lord Burghley of eight people, including two gentlemen, two grooms, one payend (a dispursor of funds), a harbinger (someone who goes ahead to make arrangements), a housekeeper, and a trencherman (a cook).
The author of the Shakespeare plays was clearly well acquainted with Italy and its cities. Professor Ernesto Grillo notes that Italy herself is mentioned some 800 times in the plays, while her cities are mentioned severally, Rome 400 times, Venice 52, Naples 34, Milan 25, Florence 23, Padua 22, And Veronas 20. Genoa, Mantua, Pisa, Ferrera and other cities are also mentioned frequently.40 In addition, it is evident that the avant-garde Italianate theatrical form, commedia dell’arte is particularly in evidence in plays like Love’s Labour’s Lost. It was a form of comedy in which the plot was written out, but the dialogue improvised on the stage. George Lyman Kittredge holds the opinion that Shakespeare’s precise descriptions of scenes, laws, and customs spring from firsthand experience.41
In addition, there is the massive influence Italian and Roman authors exerted on the bard.Measure for Measure is influenced by the sixteenth century writer Giovambattista Cinzio; The Merchant of Venice is inspired by Il Pecorone of Florentino, 1588; A Midsummer Night’s Dreammust credit Ovid’s Metamorphosis as its muse. (And let us not forget that Oxford worked on the translation of Ovid’s Metamorphosis personally with his uncle Arthur Golding when still a boy);Much Ado About Nothing owes a debt to Matteo Bandello, a fifteen century writer of novellas or tales; The Taming of the Shrew is based on Arioto’s I Suppositi; and the basic plot of All’s Well That Ends Well is drawn from the ninth novella of the third day of Boccaccio’s Decameron.42 Then there is the fact that Shakespeare has borrowed so many loan words from the Latin.
Alfred Hart credits Shakespeare with employing a vocabulary of 17,677 words, twice that of Milton and two and a half times that of Marlowe. So dexterous was he with words that he was able to employ 7,200 words, more than occur in the King James’ version of the Bible. Lewis Theobold credits him with the massive suffusion of Latin words into English. So immense was the rhetoric of the Italian Renaissance that it amazes even modern researchers, and so great a master was Shakespeare of this rhetoric that he introduced the vocabulary and syntax of the Italian Renaissance to England. Even the sonnets are modeled on the Petrarchan form. In fact, Shakespeare can be credited with single-handedly bringing the Italian Renaissance to England.43
How could the Stratford man have gained so much firsthand knowledge about the Continent, particularly Italy? It was difficult even for nobles to travel at this time. A nobleman required special permission from the Queen to travel at a time when Protestant England was under siege by the Continent. The Throckmorton Plot to unseat the Queen and the northern uprising prove that England was under great peril and in constant danger of plots hatched by France and Spain. Under siege as she was, Elizabethan England had a moratorium on travel as strict as that of Soviet era Russia or North Korea today. It is unlikely Shakespeare would have ever been granted such permission to travel, and there is certainly no evidence from any of the documented record that he ever was.
It seems likely then that the author of the Shakespeare plays, which the author of this paper believes to be Edward de Vere, was dispatched to the Continent on an intelligence-gathering mission to the foreign courts and returned to England to dramatize what he had learned abroad. As part of the propaganda network operating under Sir Francis Bacon, founder and head of British intelligence, Oxford would have acted as a patron to the other writers employed by the propaganda syndicate, turning out plays with his apprentices that would have inspired great revelry at the revels. No Elizabethan scholar has ever pointed out the formulaic nature of the Elizabethan theater with its tendency toward histories, comedies and tragedies among the various dramatists.
It is as if they were all part of the same dramatic school. Even the titles of the plays among the various Elizabethan authors resemble each other, the Jonson play titled, Every Man Out of His Humor, resembling vintage Shakespeare. As propaganda, the history plays seem conceived to bring into relief the heroic exploits of the English nobility to cultivate a feeling of national identity and pride in the patriotic playhouse. The comedies, on the other hand, were designed to lampoon and satirize the foreign courts, particularly that of France and to paint then in a disparaging light, highlighting their decadence and dissolute ways.
Tragedies like Othello, Marlowe’s Tamburlaine, and Titus Andronicus, as already revealed, are designed to make foreign monarchs like Philip II of Spain look like homicidal maniacs. Then, there are the tragedies closer to home like Hamlet, which seem not to have the foreign court as its target, but the Elizabethan Court itself. This accounts for why a pen name was required.
Had Philip and other foreign monarchs been able to identify Oxford with the authorship of the very plays that so maligned them, the playwright would have made himself all too vulnerable to political assassination. Closer to home, the identification of the author as a man of Court would have exposed to public ridicule the high-ranking officials around him that are the targets of his plays, rendering him too vulnerable to political dangers including assassination. But even more serious is the issue of the plays and the sonnets, if read as Oxford’s, exposing the true nature of his relationship with the Queen, a problem which the establishment sought to remedy through damage control. Suppression of the author’s true identity was the means.44 Another motive for a British intelligence agent operating as a propagandist adopting a pen name is that he would make himself immune to both prosecution and persecution precisely because, if he were publicly censured, reprimanded and punished for any of his literary works, it would expose the very figures who wished themselves not to be identified with the brutes and monsters of his plays. What is evident beyond doubt is that the author of the Shakespeare plays is not only of the noble class, but subscribes to an ideology embracing peerage, caste, privilege and the entire edifice of feudal England.
It makes no sense whatsoever that a commoner from the country seeking a higher status and class position would subscribe to an ideology that would conspire to keep him in the mud. This safely eliminates the Stratford man from the authorship candidacy, since he would have no good reason to promote an ideology that would disqualify him from obtaining either respect or rank within his society. In Troilus and Cressida, there is an unmistakable appeal on the part of the dramatist to the need to maintain a caste system and its hierarchies of privileges, ranks and degrees. There are repeated references to the occult beliefs of Freemasonry. Allusions to ‘degree’ and its importance are repeated several times.
What must be stated here is that Freemasonry, which was based on the Egyptian mystery school tradition, was designed specifically to reinforce, safeguard and protect the aristocratic bloodlines in Europe just as the Egyptian mystery schools had formerly done in Egypt. Only aristocrats could belong to Freemasonry and they would be initiated into its higher degrees in order to protect the aristocratic bloodlines as part of an orchestrated effort to maintain their hegemony, privilege and purity. To the author of the Shakespeare plays, obedience to rank and degree was so natural that it made appeal to the order of nature itself. Freemasonry, to which the Earl of Oxford belonged, as most nobles of rank would, had a vested interest in promoting its ideology as a higher initiate, which he does through the personage of Ulysses:
The heavens themselves, the planets, and this center
Observe degree, priority, and place,
Insisture, course, proportion, season, form,
Office, and custom, in all line of order:
And therefore is the glorious planet Sol
In noble eminence enthron’d and spher’d
Amidst the other.
Troilus and Cressida, Act I.iii.ll.85-91
To understand these lines and their significance requires some rudimentary knowledge of Freemasonry. Sol is Latin for ‘sun’. The Sol Invictus religion was the religion of classical Rome and was a sun-worshipping cult. The Freemasonry secret society fraternity is pagan and is a sun-worshipping cult, exalting the sun as its highest principle.
The Sun is the king of the planets, so it may be said the King as the sovereign of the nation is the Sun or the sun god, and as such is no less than God in glory. High aristocratic caste is indistinguishable from high degree in Freemasonry, since only those initiates with the most royal blood and highest noble peerage would be able to rise to the highest degrees.
A higher-degree Freemason would certainly have the bloodline of kings. The ideology embraced by the fraternity was that caste had to be maintained, that bloodline could not be compromised or like metal it would suffer debasement. Shakespeare writes that degree and rank must be adhered to lest, as Ulysses maintains, disease and disorder reign: “O! when degree is shak’d,/ Which is the ladder to all high designs,/ The enterprise is sick….” I.ii.ll.101-103
In a poem from his youth called, Labour and Its Reward, Oxford, crediting himself as the author, writes, “The Mason poor that builds the lordly halls/ Dwells not in them: they are for high degree….”45 Oxford is referring to the system of initiation in Freemasonry based on degree, which assigns privilege to those of higher degree, those of more noble blood, who are initiated into the higher initiatory levels of the fraternity.
What is clear throughout the poem is that Oxford is lamenting the fact that there are many initiates of higher degree who outrank him. As a Mason, not only is he honor bound to maintain the secrets of the order, having taken a pledge to do so, but must also comply with what higher initiates within the order demand of him. I think it not at all far-fetched to suppose that Oxford has been required by his membership within Fra Rosi Cross, Freemasonry, and the British Secret Service, all founded by Sir Francis Bacon, to write secretly as an ‘invisible’ for purposes of personal safety as well as national security. The fact that Oxford as an author regrets the anonymity he must maintain is clear in two lines appearing near the end of the poem: “So he that takes the pain to pen the book/ Reaps not the gifts of goodly golden muse….”46 While being a higher degree initiate of Freemasonry, Oxford would have been surpassed in rank and degree by Bacon, who would have been a 33rd Degree Freemason and Master of the Order, and would have required the lower degree initiate to write anonymously as an agent of British intelligence, initiate of Freemasonry, Fra Rosi Cross, and courtier. While Bacon was over ten years younger than Oxford, he surpassed him in rank because his royal blood granted him higher peerage. Amazingly, according to Alfred Dodd, Bacon was not a commoner, but the secret son of Queen Elizabeth I and prince of the realm.47 Far from being the Virgin Queen known to posterity, Dodd and other researchers believe her to have had at least two children, including the Earl of Essex. His patriotic duty would have required him to be a spiritual martyr in the cause of nation building. He would not be entitled to enjoying the fruits of his labor.
He would be writing clandestinely as an intelligence man, dispatched on espionage missions to the Continent under the protection of diplomatic immunity, while covertly gathering intelligence on the royal courts of other lands, and then returning to England to dramatize what he had learned abroad as part of a state propaganda operation. He would also appropriate what had become institutions in Italy, including the Petrarchan Sonnet, the masterpieces of Ovid, Plutarch and others, superceding them in mastery and genius, exacting a cultural coup on the Continent that would leave England sitting prettiest, while holding the coveted prize of the greatest writer in European history, and what would be even worse medicine for the Europeans to bear, that this peerless writer was a commoner from the country.
The strongest evidence that the author’s works were not under his control and had been suppressed by a secret fraternity can be found in the preface to the first edition of Troilus and Cressida in 1609, appearing five years after the official date of Oxford’s death. The First Folio of Shakespeare’s works did not appear until 1623, some nineteen years after the Earl of Oxford’s death and seven years after the Stratford man’s death, suggesting that the bard did not exercise control over his own work. Having escaped the covetous hands of those who suppressed the other plays, Troilus and Cressida was somehow printed and distributed. The dedication is provocative because it gestures to the fact that the author and his works are intended for the highborn. It begins with the heading, “From a never writer to an ever reader. Newes.” This is highly suggestive, since it points to the fact that the author may never be acknowledged, since he is “a never writer, but that his work is addressed to “an ever reader,” an E. Ver reader perhaps hinted at by cryptic heading. The author of the dedication then writes, “Eternal reader, you have here a new play, never staled with the stage, never clap-clawed with the palms of the vulgar.” Does this sound like a dedication to a commoner from Stratford? If anything, it sounds like a nobleman praising the work of another nobleman, whose newly published work has managed to escape the hands of the vulgar commoners who have failed to exhibit it at the theater. It goes on to praise the author, while never referring once to Shakespeare, the author credited with the play by posterity. The dedication further alleges that, were the names of the comedies changed to commodities,
…you should see all those grand censors that
now style them such vanities flock to them for
the main grace of their gravities: especially
the author’s comedies, that are so framed to
the life, that they serve for the most common
commentaries of all the actions of our lives,
showing such a dexterity of wit, that those
most displeased with plays are pleased with
(Troilus and Cressida, Preface)
The dedication then ends with a reference to the “grand possessors,” which Stratfordians, those who believe the bard to be Will Shakspere from Stratford-Upon-Avon, naively believe refers to an acting company that has seized control of his plays. The reason this claim is naive is because “grand possessors” implies a body of individuals of noble rank and of considerable authority. Since we are on the subject of commodities, the author of this paper has put his money on it being the Freemasons, the Fra Rosi Cross fraternity, or some body within British intelligence service itself here referred to:
And believe this, that when he is gone, and his
comedies out of sale, you will scramble for
them, and set up a new English Inquisition.
Take this for a warning, and at the pleasure
of your peril’s loss, for not being sullied with
the smoky breath of the multitude; but thank
fortune for the ’scape it hath made amongst
you. Since by the grand possessors’ wills I
believe you should have prayed for them
rather than been prayed.
(Troilus and Cressida, Preface)
It is clear that the plays are in the clutches of unrevealed hands, “grand possessors” as they are called. By “grand possessors,” Stratfordians somehow have arrived at the amazing conclusion that an acting company is involved. Why the word “grand” then? “Grand” would hardly be a fitting word to apply to an acting company composed of common players.
What is far more likely is that Sir Francis Bacon’s intelligence service, Fra Rosi Cross secret literary society, or Freemasonry are implied. In his seminal biography on Sir Francis Bacon, Alfred Dodd, addressing the issue of the Shakespeare manuscripts, claims that the manuscripts were filed away for safekeeping with the “grand possessors,” who, according to the Preface of Troilus and Cressida of 1609 kept them in safe custody for the author.48 The Preface to Troilus and Cressida makes it abundantly clear that the plays are in the protective custody of the grand possessors.
The author of the Preface even suggests that Troilus and Cressida has been wrested away from the grand possessors against their wills, bidding the reader to, ‘…thank fortune for the ’scape it hath made amongst you. Since by the grand possessors’ wills I believe you should have prayed for them rather than been prayed.’ This suggests that the grand possessors exercise control over the plays and that their fate is subject to their wills. Granted, this could be with the author’s approval, but the opening lines suggest that the preface is partly written to the author himself in the form of a eulogy as in the words, “…for it is a birth of your brain that never undertook anything comical vainly.” (Troilus and Cressida, Preface) Note that the past form ‘undertook’ is used, implying that the products that are the birth of the author’s brain are in the past. Why not ‘undertake’, if in 1609, the author is still active and writing? The reasonable explanation for this is that the author was dead by this time and his work was now in the custody of a group of individuals functioning as executors and guardians of the deceased’s manuscripts. Since Edward de Vere is believed to have officially died in 1604, this could account for why the manuscripts are no longer in the author’s possession of under his control.
It was probably considered expedient by the Freemason fraternity to hold off on the release of the plays until after all the figures in the Elizabethan Court and English establishment alluded to or lampooned in the plays were dead. It is also probable that even an influential organization like Freemasonry could only suppress the true authorship through a generational delay, in which the release of the plays would be delayed by a span of some twenty years, by such time that the true bard, along with his political opponents, would have been forgotten. Since the hierarchy of the intelligence services is based on the initiatory degrees of Freemasonry, it is reasonable to suppose that those most highly placed in both command structures would be in many instances the same men. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to surmise that the Masons and the Elizabethan intelligence service were connected, since both Speculative Freemasonry and the British intelligence service were founded by Sir Francis Bacon and his brother Anthony, so that many of the same vanguard could be found in both fraternities. According to a contact in U.S. Naval Intelligence, higher ranking officers in the military and intelligence command structure of the United States are often either Freemasons or Rosicrucians. The same is the case for the British intelligence services.
Since Bacon is responsible for founding Fra Rosi Cross, Speculative Freemasonry in its modern form, and the British intelligence service, it is not difficult to give credit where credit is due. As a fraternity wielding great influence, Freemasonry would have been able to disseminate misinformation through the education system, easy enough to orchestrate since the university degree system is based on the first three degrees of Freemasonry, Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason, and could therefore control which theses on the bard would obtain Ph.D.s and which would not. This means that the organization controls who gains privilege within the university establishment. The release of disinformation and the control over information are then exercised by a steering committee that functions like the Invisible College Bacon refers to in The New Atlantis, dictating what the official view on the bard is going to be. What the preface to Troilus and Cressida appears to be saying is that the dramatist’s plays are held by members of a secret fraternity of noble peerage, such as Fra Rosi Cross or the Masons and that this play was somehow rescued from their control. This eliminates Bacon as the author. Why? Because if he were the founder and director of the secret societies in addition to the British intelligence service, how could the plays be wrested from his control?
It is self-evident that Bacon’s secret societies Fra Rosi Cross, later the Rosicrucians, and Freemasonry are behind the Stratford authorship ruse. They needed a front man to conceal the authorship of the ‘invisible’ who wrote the Shakespeare works. The Stratford man was selected as the commoner front man who would take credit for the works. This, in part, served to empower the lower classes by granting enormous dignity to a man from the lower ranks of society. This mission was part of Bacon’s secret enterprise. There is no way that Bacon could be the author of the plays. The Preface to Troilus and Cressida disqualifies him as the author. The power he wielded as the founder of Speculative Freemasonry and Fra Rosi Cross meant that he would exercise absolute control over his own plays.
Yet the Preface to Troilus and Cressida makes it explicit that the grand possessors have wrested the plays out of the dramatist’s control and that they are subjected to their will not the author’s. The plays cannot be Bacon’s, since Bacon was the head of all the fraternities implied by the “grand possessors” including, The Honourable Order of the Knights of the Helmet, Fra Rosi Cross, Speculative Freemasonry and British intelligence. How could the plays possibly be prized from his hands? Not only is Bacon the founder of the British Secret Service, he is the founder of the Freemason and Rosicrucian societies in their modern form. He is even responsible for the Thirty-three Degree system of initiation employed by the Freemason Craft today around the world.49 How could the plays be exercised from the control of a man who headed all the organizations who could have qualified for the designation “grand possessors”? Obviously, Bacon and one of his secret fraternities exercised control over the plays and not the author.
The author is clearly someone other than Bacon, an ‘invisible’ who worked under his authority and did not exercise control over his own plays. Edward de Vere is the only man other than Bacon whose life, peerage, education and craftsmanship could have qualified him for the role of Shakespeare. It is probably Oxford who had the plays wrested from his control.
What is clear from the record is that Ben Jonson has had a hand in the publication of the First Folio of plays. This we know because of his dedication, which appears in the Folio itself. Documented proof also exists that Sir Francis Bacon has had a hand in the Shakespeare plays at least at the planning level, since the Northumberland manuscript displays his name, along with the name William Shakespeare as well as the titles of several of the plays. What the author of this paper suspects is that the Shakespeare manuscripts were in the hands of a body referred to in the dedication to Troilus and Cressida as the “grand possessors” to which Jonson and Bacon belonged. It is Charlton and Dorothy Ogburn who have helped enlighten us on the identify of the “grand possessors” in their classic This Star of England. In 1615, the Earl of Pembroke became the Lord Chamberlain. It would therefore be with his approval that Ben Jonson would be nominated for the office of Master of the Revels. And it was at the Lord Chamberlain’s behest that Jonson was awarded a pension of 100 marks a year.
It the year 1621, Pembroke increased Jonson’s salary temporarily to 200 pounds a year. It will be remembered that the First Folio of the Shakespeare plays came out in 1623. We know that Jonson had a hand in the editing of the plays because we have all read his dedication to the Shakespeare works. Is it such wild speculation to suppose that he might be receiving a stipend from the Lord Chamberlain for his work on the Shakespeare manuscripts?
Not only was Ben Jonson on close terms with Lord Pembroke, he was on intimate terms with Lady Mary Pembroke as well. The “Incomparable Paire of Brethren” to whom the First Folio was dedicated, were the Countess of Pembroke’s two sons, William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, and Philip Herbert, Earl of Montgommery. Philip Herbert had married Edward de Vere’s daughter, Susan. A confederacy or fraternity involving all these people had already formed when Oxford was still alive. The Ogburn’s research has determined that the Countess of Pembroke, her two sons, the Earls of Pembroke and Montgommery, the Earl of Southampton, who some affirm to be Oxford’s illegitimate son, Sackville, Neville and others, all intimately connected with the Earl of Oxford, constituted the Virginia Company.50 Considering that the Virginia Company was under Charter of King James to develop the lands and resources of the colony of Virginia and whatever other territory in the New World it could lay its hands on, we can assume it was directly connected with Sir Francis Bacon’s ambitions in the American colonies as outlined in The New Atlantis.
There is ample evidence that Bacon had a hand in the plays. Baconian ciphers found in the plays and the Northumberland manuscript certainly link him to their production. It is probable that, as head of British intelligence and founder of Speculative Freemasonry and at least two secret literary societies, he would have advised Oxford on what themes, coded messages and other devices to include in the plays.
Bacon was in fact a cousin of the Cecil’s and thus a family relation of Lord Oxford. It is probable that they met when Oxford was but a child. Their intimacy would have only grown during their attendance at Gray’s Inn law school, where they both purportedly wrote and produced revels for the stage. While approximately a decade younger than Oxford, Bacon wielded great influence at Gray’s Inn, where many of the revels were performed, and was even installed there as dean for several years. Jonson was also closely connected with Bacon. There is ample evidence within the Jonson and Shakespeare canons to prove that Jonson and the author of the Shakespeare plays were both initiated Masons. This will be explored later in the paper.
Jonson paid Bacon the highest tribute in 1619, giving him the title “Dominus Verulamis” for his persuasive power, eloquence, and graces in delivering fine speeches. According to a noted source at the time identified as Judge Webb, Bacon was closely associated with Jonson long before he was created Lord St. Albans. He even engaged Jonson to compose a masque for the Christmas celebrations in 1617. Jonson would even go on to write a panegyric on Bacon on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday in 1621.
What is revealing is that, though Bacon would have been intimately familiar with his family relation, Lord Oxford, he never mentions him throughout the seven volumes of the Letters and Life of Francis Bacon, except once, and that in the formal list of peers who sat as Commissioners in the trial of Essex and Southampton. The author of this paper fully agrees with the Ogburns that Bacon and Jonson and the Freemason fraternity are responsible for orchestrating the hoax that has concealed the true authorship of the Shakespeare plays.51 Implicating Bacon and Jonson in the greatest literary hoax in history without implicating the Freemasons would be absurd, since the two men could not have acted alone and required the mobilization of a clandestine organization fully supportive of their scheme, and to which they both belonged, to successfully pull off one of the greatest orchestrated deceptions in world history.
In commemoration of the Freemason-led deception, a Freemasonic ceremony was held in July 1929 to lay the Foundation Stone of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon, a fully laid on Masonic ritual conducted by Lord Amptill, pro-Grand Master of the United Lodge of England, in which he employed an old Egyptian stone maul used at Sakkhara four thousand years ago. Six hundred Masons were in attendance in full Masonic costume. 52
The author of this paper believes that the Earl of Oxford, the pseudonymous author of the Shakespeare plays, was martyred by the Masons as part of a Masonic ritual murder known as “The Killing of the King”. The sacrifice of authorship in art can be conceived as a reenactment of Jesus martyrdom as a kind of “passion play”, since it is the mystery and passion of the author’s sheer obscurity that peeks our curiosity and whets our appetite for discovery. It is a god-like enterprise retold in the Shakespearean Sonnets over and over again, the sacrifice that is to be answered at another time, the glory that is to spring from the silence at some future time. That the world will all at once see it, and wonder why they did not see it before is an event only a breath away.53 This explains the significance of the Freemasons using the stone maul from Sakkhara to lay the Foundation Stone of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre. A stone maul was used in the murder of Hiram Abif, who Freemason lore tells us was the architect of King Solomon’s Temple, the Master Mason and guardian of the secrets of the Third Degree of Freemasonry.
The author of the Shakespeare plays actually foretells his own end in The Tempest. The scene in which the three ruffians, Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo plan to set upon Prospero and steal his books is in fact a reenactment of the murder of Hiram Abif from Freemasonic lore. The modus operandi Caliban outlines is drawn directly from the legend:
Why, as I told thee, ’tis a custom with him
I’ th’ afternoon to sleep: there thou mayst brain him
Having first seized his books; or with a log
Batter his skull, or paunch him with a stake,
Or cut his wezand with thy knife. Remember
First to possess his books; for without them
He’s but a sot, as I am, nor hath not
One spirit to command: they all do hate him
As rootedly as I. Burn but his books.
The Tempest, III.ii.ll.87-95
The name Prospero stands for the author and is probably to be taken as a play on the word ‘prosper’. Thus we have “Pro-Spear-O”, denoting ‘hope’ or ‘affirmation’, denoting the ‘spear’ of Shakespeare and the ‘spear’ Pallas Athena shakes at ignorance. At the same time, Prospero represents the Master Mason, Hiram Abif, while Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo represent the “Three Juwes” of Masonic legend, Jubila, Jubilum and Jubilo who conspired to steal the secrets of the Master Mason, Hiram Abif, at the Temple. The account of the fate that met Hiram Abif at the Temple is given in the Masonic Rite of the Third Degree:
His devotions being ended, he prepared to retire
by the south gate, where he was accosted by
the first of these ruffians, who, for want of a
better weapon, had armed himself with a plumb
rule, and in a threatening manner demanded of
our Master…the genuine secrets of Osiris,
warning him that death would be the consequence
of his refusal; but true to his obligation he replied
that those secrets were known to but three in
the world and that without the consent of the
other two, he neither could, nor would divulge
This answer not proving satisfactory, the
Ruffian aimed a violent blow at out Master’s
forehead, but startled by the firmness of his
demeanour, it only glanced down the right
temple. Yet with sufficient force to cause him
to reel and sink to the ground on his left knee.
Recovering himself from this situation, he
rushed to the west gate where he stood
opposed by the second ruffian, to whom he
replied as before, yet with undiminished
firmness when the ruffian, who was armed
with a level struck a violent blow on the left
temple which brought him to the ground on
his right knee.
Finding all chances of escape in both
these quarters cut off, our Master staggered,
faint and bleeding, to the east gate where
the third ruffian was posted and who, on
receiving a similar reply to his insolent
demand…struck him a violent blow full in
the center of the forehead with a heavy
stone maul, which laid him lifeless at his
The intended murder of Prospero is planned by three ruffians, representing the Three Juwes of Masonic lore, who intended to kill him with blows to the head with a wooden instrument, representing the maul of Masonic legend. The mischief they intend is to follow the stealing of Prospero’s books, which are symbolic of the secrets of the Master Mason. The murder was to take place at noon at the entrance to Prospero’s cell, the cell representing the Masonic Temple. The time of noonday is significant as it is the highpoint of the sun, which is of great ritual significance in the “Killing of the King” rites, since Osiris, the king, is the sun, and Horus, his son, is the son of Osiris, the sun god. 55
If the man posterity knows as Shakespeare was subject to a political assassination, would it not account for the disparate accounts concerning the cause of death, the absence of a will, a grave and other anomalies related to so great a personage? Would it not also provide an additional motive for concealing the true authorship of the greatest literary personality in history? Would not such a revelation be shaking a spear at the serpent of vice known as the British establishment, including the British Royal Family, government, intelligence service, educational establishment and Freemason network?
Further evidence from The Tempest confirms its status as a Masonic play. The strange appearance of the Widow Dido in The Tempest offers yet another reference to Hiram Abif, this time as the son of a widow:
Hiram, the widow’s son,
Sent to King Solomon,
The Great Keystone;
On it appears the name,
Which raises high the fame
Of all, to whom the same
Is truly known. 56
In certain Masonic ceremonies, i.e. the Third Degree, there is a substitution of Hiram Abif for the initiated candidate. The passage quoted from The Tempest refers to Hiram as the “widow’s son”. Masons even refer to themselves as “son’s of the widow” or “the widow’s sons”. The reason for this is that the expression has an intimate connection with the building of Solomon’s Temple and its architect. In the First Book of Kings, vii. 13 the following words appear: “And King Solomon sent and fetched Hiram of Tyre, a widow’s son of the tribe of Naphtali.” Hiram is therefore referred to as a widow’s son.
The Masons are referring back to this “widow’s son” of Biblical import in their rituals and ceremonies.57
There is ample evidence that the plays contain Hermetic and Ancient Mystery sources of Rosicrucian and Masonic origin. The Sonnets are pregnant with fertility god imagery of rebirth and revelation.58 References to Freemasonry abound in the Shakespeare plays. This is no surprise since the author is an initiate of Bacon’s Speculative Freemason fraternity and Bacon is responsible for founding all thirty-three degrees of Freemasonry, which are mini-dramas in themselves, the Third Degree on which the plot of The Tempest is based being but one. Just to prove the case that the plays were written by a high initiate of Freemasonry, a list of references is here made that the reader may judge for himself. There is a reference to Masonic apparel, accessories and symbols in The Merry Wives of Windsor consisting of the garter, and the compass in a ring. The garter is worn by Masons, while a square and compass are featured in a Masonic ring worn on the finger.
There is a reference to a young Masonic initiate in Much Ado About Nothing: “Is there no young squarer that will make a voyage with him to the devil?” (I.i.ll.69, 70) A reference to a candidate being initiated into the rites of the Third Degree in The Tempest with the following expressions employed by Caliban over the course of Act IV: “Be patient…I’ll bring thee…Hoodwink this…speak softly…This is the Mouth of THE CELL…No more…ENTER.” (IV) There is an allusion to the Worshipful Master in The Taming of the Shrew: “What! My old Worshipful Master.” (V.i.l.55) Then there is the Masonic ritual letter code referred to in Richard III: “And from the Cross Row plucks the letter G.” The Cross Row refers to the Rosy Cross of the Rosicrucians also known to Masons, and the letter ‘G’ so sacred to Masons refers to the Grand Geometrician or God, who is responsible for all sacred geometry, Temple design and architecture.59
From the evidence provided in the dedication to Troilus and Cressida, we already know that “grand possessors” have dispossessed the author of his books. Are these the ruffians he refers to inThe Tempest? We should note that the author’s primary concern in The Tempest is the issue of dispossession. Many scholars are in agreement that The Tempest is the last of the author’s plays. Not only does the author break his wand at the end of the play, but he sets the nature spirit that has been his muse, Ariel, free.60 Does this not signify that the master Prospero has hung up his hat? There is no question that he sees his artistic days as being at an end, Prospero’s epilogue seeming more like his final curtain call and last farewell:
Now my charms are all o’erthrown,
And what strength I have’s mine own,
Which is most faint: now, ’tis true,
I must be here confined by you,
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got,
And pardon’d the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell…
(The Tempest, Epilogue)
First, the author addresses his waning artistic powers, which are nearly at an end. Then Prospero says, in what appears to be the author’s final address to the King, only fitting since the play is probably being staged for King James, “now, ’t is true,/I must be here confined by you,/ Or sent to Naples.” The choice has probably already been given to Oxford by King James either to be imprisoned in the Tower or sent into exile perhaps to Italy, where he is known to have cottaged in his younger days.
He then entreats the King not to exile him, since he has got back his dukedom. This corresponds to Oxford receiving back some of the landholdings the Queen had earlier confiscated and awarded to Leicester and others as patronage favors. He then indicates that it is under the king’s curse or “spell” that he is able to continue living on this bare island, that island possibly being the Isle of Man, where Oxford is rumored to have been sent into exile, an island that would of course have been barren. He then goes on to appeal to the King for clemency or mercy:
But release me from your bands
With the help of your good hands:
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please.
(The Tempest, Epilogue)
In the above lines, Oxford seems to be appealing to the King for forgiveness, hoping that, if his play pleases, the King might see fit to release him from confinement on the island and fill his sails with his command that he might return to England, since the entire play was conceived to please the King and win his approval. He then complains of the despair from which he suffers that only prayer can deliver him from. He then appeals to the King to act according to the Golden Rule, forgiving him his trespasses, as he would have others forgive his:
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so, that it assaults
Mercy itself, and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon’d be,
Let your indulgence set me free.
(The Tempest, Epilogue)
Oxford concludes by appealing to the King to free him at his pleasure. Now compare Prospero’s epilogue with a story pertaining to Oxford related by Peter Sammartino in The Man Who Was William Shakespeare. The story goes that King James I was suspicious of Oxford because of the loyalty he had demonstrated to a protestant queen. James I knew of Oxford’s opposition to the former Scottish king being on the throne. He was reluctant to assassinate Oxford however, as he feared rebellion. He resolved instead on confining Oxford to the Tower of London.
It was at this time that Oxford’s sin-in-law, the Earl of Derby, suggested a compromise to King James. Since Oxford was the principle writer in all England, he should be permitted to live. Derby proposed that he be removed from the public arena so that he no longer posed a threat to the King. The King then gave Oxford a choice: oblivion or death. Oxford naturally would have chosen oblivion. This would have eliminated him as a political threat, for without the Earl in Court wielding his pen, no one could have discerned the message he imparted through the lines of his plays. It was at this time that he was pronounced officially death. This is said to have occurred at the official date of his death in 1604.
Oxford was then allegedly sent to the Isle of Man, which interestingly belonged to the Derby family. There he is said to have spent the rest of his life in isolation attended to by only one servant who brought him logs for the fire as well as food and water, another striking parallel to The Tempest, as Caliban is employed in the same daily tasks as the servant of Prospero. Oxford is said to have continued writing and revising his plays until his actual death in 1611.61 What is interesting about this story is that it seems to corroborate Prospero’s accounting of events in The Tempest’s epilogue and is therefore worth including in the body of this paper as a footnote. What happened at the hour of Oxford’s official death in 1604 is highly suspicious.
The events have been recorded in G.P.V. Akrigg’s Shakespeare and the Earl of Southampton. The events are of so extraordinary a nature that it raises suspicions about the allegation that Southampton, the “Fair Youth” referred to on the Sonnets, was in fact the illegitimate child of Oxford and a claimant to the throne. In fact, Oxfordian scholar Paul Streitz has proposed that Edward de Vere was actually Edward-Tudor-Seymour, the illegitimate son of Queen Elizabeth I, conceived through an elicit affair between a sixteen-year-old Princess Elizabeth and her stepfather Thomas Seymour.62 The reason events of that day seem to confirm this is that Southampton was arrested on June 24, 1604, the day of Oxford’s death, when a seeming panic erupted in King James’s Court. What this suggests is that the Earl of Southampton may have been perceived as a threat due to the fact that he himself may have been a claimant to the throne.
The king may have been concerned that, with Southampton’s father, Oxford, removed from the political landscape, Southampton may have developed an appetite for the throne. The king immediately ordered his heir to the throne to confine himself to chambers and called upon the protection of his loyal Scots guards. Southampton and other associates of the Earl of Oxford were arrested and taken to the Tower for questioning. Their personal papers and documents were also seized and examined, presumably for evidence of treasonous plotting.
The very next day they were set free. Despite the uproar over the incident, the authorities loyal to the king kept silent, no official explanation ever being offered, while details pertaining to the incident were suppressed. This finding was reported by Oxfordian Randall Barron to the Shakespeare Oxford Society Newsletter in the Fall, 1993 edition. Barron’s conclusion is that, among the papers and documents that were probably seized on the occasion would be Oxford’s own, since they were probably perceived as a national security threat.63
The register of Church of St. Augustine in Hackney tells us that Oxford died of the plague: “Edward de Vere, Erle of Oxenford, was buried the 6th day of July, anno 1604.” In the margin of the same page in the church register is the annotation “The plague.” He is supposed to have been interred here, yet no grave marker has ever been found. The Tudor church was destroyed in 1798, and the ancient gravestones, defaced by time, have been stacked against the church wall.64 The chances of ever finding evidence of his interment at Hackney parish church are exceedingly low. Regarding the Earl’s interment, Lady Oxford’s will attests to the fact that her husband was buried in the churchyard of Hackney parish church, as she stipulated in the passage from her will below that she wished to be laid there with her husband:
…in the Church of Hackney, within the county
Middlesex, as near unto the body of my late
dear and noble lord and husband as may be;
only I will that there be in the said Church
erected for us a tomb fitting our degree.65
Yet directly contradicting this is the testimony of Oxford’s first cousin, Arthur Golding’s son, who wrote of Oxford’s interment: “I will only speak what all men’s voices confirm: he was a man in mind and body absolutely accomplished with honorable endowments; he died at his house in Hackney in the month of June Anno 1604 and leith buried at Westminster.”65 Some researchers have accounted for this with the explanation that the Earl’s body was at some point exhumed for reburial at Westminster Abbey. When he allegedly died of the plague in 1604, and was purportedly buried in the churchyard at Hackney parish church, there was no memorial and he left no will.67 Is it not strange that one of the most legendary nobles in English history should receive no tribute and leave no will? This suggests that he died in disgrace or that his death deliberately received as little attention as possible. Can one conclude otherwise than that the circumstances of his life and death being deliberately suppressed? Even the stories related to his death are inconsistent. There is even a rumor that he survived beyond his official death in 1604 to live for an additional seven years in exile on the Isle of Mersea. True, this story might be of the same category of stories that attend the lives of larger-than-life figures such as Marlowe, Jim Morrison, and Elvis, all of whom have had mysterious circumstances attached to their deaths, but could it just be that the very mystery surrounding their deaths is due to something macabre and untoward? Could the riddle of de Vere’s death point to a yet unsolved homicide?
There are haunting examples of foreshadowing in the Shakespeare plays, in which the author seems to prophecy his own death and interment. While such references abound, this paper will examine two in which the characters in question are clearly identified with our Lord and author of the plays, they being King Henry V and Romeo. In Henry V, for instance, the king is haunted by the fear that he will be left without a tomb or grave, in which he sees it as his curse to be punished by not receiving a proper Christian burial should he fail in his campaigns in France:
Or there we’ll sit,
Ruling, in large and ample empery,
O’er France, and all her almost kingly dukedoms,
Or lay these bones in an unworthy urn,
Tombless, with no remembrance over them:
Either our history shall, with full mouth,
Speak freely of out acts; or else our grave,
Like Turkish mute, shall have a tongueless mouth,
Not worshipped with a waxen epitaph.
(Henry V, I.ii.ll.233-241.)
Square the above passage with the problem attending the mystery over Oxford’s interment. Where exactly is one of the greatest nobleman in England’s history buried or is he buried at all? Was it perhaps a Masonic punishment for those who betrayed the Order not to receive a proper burial and was that the fate he was threatened with, a prophecy that was eventually fulfilled? As for the speculation that the Earl may have been murdered by the Masons or indeed by King James’ henchmen, a fate he seems to fear and point to in play after play, we have the bone-chilling presentiment of Romeo preceding the mask, in which in an aside to the audience, he prophesies his own death.
I fear, too early; for my mind misgives
Some consequence yet hanging in the stars
Shall bitterly begin his fearful date
With this night’s revels and expire the term
Of a despised life, closed in my breast,
By some vile forfeit of untimely death.
(Romeo and Juliet, I.iv.ll.104-111)
The fact that the prophecy is uttered as an aside to the audience indicates that its relevancy is not so much related to Romeo’s imminent appearance at the ball, but is in fact meant to be taken in a context outside the play, as an aside. As is so often the case in Shakespeare, there is a double import to the character’s speech. While Romeo prophecies that some dark fate will begin to work its poison that night at the masked ball, which will end in his untimely death, so the author also had a predilection about his own death, the reference to “this night’s revels” as much applying to the author’s opening night at the theater as to the ball Romeo plans to attend, in which his highly charged ‘political’ play The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet will be staged for the first time. The implication is that the dark fate of untimely death and political assassination will begin its slow advance that night at the theater. The play Romeo and Juliet was most assuredly political. For those unversed in the background to the play, Oxford was imprisoned for a brief period for his affair with Anne Vavasor, one of the Queen’s handmaidens. Anne’s uncle challenged Oxford to a duel, which left them both wounded. Street battles between the Vavasor clan and Oxford and his acting troupe from Blackfriar’s Theatre took place over several months, providing the inspiration for the Montagues and the Capulets.68 Oxford took revenge in the balcony scene of Romeo and Juliet by having at the Queen:
But soft! What light from yonder window breaks?
It is the East and Juliet is the sun!
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick with grief
That thou her maid art far more fair than she,
Be not her maid, since she is envious.
Her vestal livery is but sick and green,
And none but fools do wear it. Cast it off.
(Romeo and Juliet, II.ii.ll.1-9)
The references here are unmistakable. The Queen was often referred to by the appellations Diana or Cynthia meaning ‘the moon’. The Tudor livery worn by all servants to the Queen was green and white’.69 There is no mistaking the fact that Juliet is here being referred to as the Queen’s maidservant. It is clear in Romeo’s speech that both the Queen and his lover Anne Vavasor, the Queen’s maidservant, are implied. The speech is undeniably to be taken as a snub at the Queen’s vanity in probable revenge on Romeo-Oxford’s part for the wounds of love caused him by the fair Rosaline, a character in which the Queen is also implied. This provides one more reason for the necessity of a pen name. Having been made to look foolish to her Court by Oxford’s portrayal of her in his play, she can hardly turn around and punish him for such an offense, since she would only make more of a spectacle of herself in the eyes of her courtiers. She is therefore compelled to pocket the insult. As a consequence of his shift from continental targets to targets closer to home, Oxford would of course have placed himself in far graver political danger. This latter fact accounts for the forlornness of Romeo’s prophecy.
On the occasion of Oxford’s ‘official’ death in 1604, the bard appears to have left no will. It is impossible to fathom why a man of his importance would have no concern for what became of his personal property and effects following his death.70 It is claimed that Oxford, probably in weakened health, succumbed to the plague. This claim is highly suspect. Breakouts of the plague usually occurred in London in the summer as the result of drinking water being contaminated by human and animal waste. The poet lived well north of the city in Hackney, where vulnerability to the plague would have been exceptional. Deaths resulting from the plague among the aristocracy were extremely rare.
71 Motives for murder or exile of a potential heir to the throne would be strong. And there is ample evidence that Oxford was the Queen’s son, the strongest of which is the signature Oxford used to sign all his personal letters up to the time of King James’s succession. The signature consisted of an overarching crown above his name and seven slash marks beneath his name. Had he succeeded Elizabeth on the throne of England, he would have been Edward VII. This practice of adorning his signature with a crown and seven slashes ceased following the Queen’s death and burial. Oxford’s Tudor signature appears in a letter to Robert Cecil dated April 25, 1603. Queen Elizabeth was interred at Westminster on April 28, 1603. In a letter to Robert Cecil following her burial, Oxford suddenly drops the practice. No other signatures extant following that date contain the marks denoting his divine right to Tudor succession because he would not be King.72 There is considerable circumstantial evidence that Oxford may have been murdered or exiled. It is interesting to note that his ‘official’ death or disappearance occurred only a year after the Queen’s death. Without the protection of the Tudor Queen, he may have found himself in an increasingly vulnerable position politically and socially. In addition, the Shakespeare canon provides strong evidence the author is the Queen’s son. As discovered by Alfred Dodd, the author’s sonnet-diary appears to contain an appeal to the Queen to acknowledge the author as her son and his right to succeed her.73 The appeal could not be more pointed in sonnet thirteen: “You had a father; let your son say so.” (13.14) Or the warning given in sonnet fourteen more explicit: “Or else of thee this I prognosticate,-/Thy end is truth’s and beauty’s doom and date.” (14.13-14) Given that Elizabeth was famed for her beauty and given that Oxford was officially of the line of de Vere or the House of Vere, the words ‘truth’ and ‘beauty’ appear to refer to their respective lines of heredity as Queen and son, since the name Vere is implied by the word ‘truth’. Further evidence for the author’s link to the Tudor line can be found in the oft quoted line by Juliet:
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called,
Retain the dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. (II.ii.ll. 43-47)
The reference to the ‘rose’ is a veiled reference to the Tudor rose. Thus, the bard’s lineage would have the same pedigree whether or not he bore the name associated with the Tudor line. His pedigree would therefore remain sweet scented no matter what name he bore. The prince is of the sweet Tudor rose lineage whatever name he goes by. The prince will thus retain the peerage and perfection of his birth even without the title associated with the Tudor royal bloodline, the Rosy Cross.
As the author of this paper, I hesitated before releasing my findings to the world. I even contacted some Baconian scholars to test my findings out on them, including the composite portrait analysis. While I met with a courteous reception, the Baconian scholars dismissed my findings. I believe that our vision is always attenuated by a certain amount of bias. I have endeavored to overcome my bias by being as objective as possible about the authorship problem. I respect the Baconian position a great deal, but given the weight of evidence supporting my view of the authorship, I have come down on the side of the Oxfordians. This was a painful and tortured position to arrive at. My investigation into the authorship question will continue. I have no wish to mislead the world. Great circumspection and vigilance are required in order to give Shakespeare and the authorship problem a proper burial. 2004 will be the fourth centenary of the Earl of Oxford’s ‘official’ death. The author of this paper intends to celebrate the occasion in style, commemorating his death by deifying him among the pantheon of literary gods as the author of the greatest works in the world canon and holding a celebration to mark the occasion on the 6th of June.
1 Diana Price, Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography: New Evidence of an Authorship
Problem. London: Greenwood Press, 2001, 125.
2 Diana Price, 19.
3 Rolland DeVere, A Student’s Guide to the Shakespeare Mystery. Hunting Valley, OH:
The U of School P, 1993, 12, 13.
4 Diana Price, 11.
5 Diana Price, 11.
6 Charlton Ogburn Jr. The Mysterious William Shakespeare: The Myth and the Reality.
McCeal, VA: EPM Publications, Inc., 98.
7 Charlton Ogburn Jr., 26.
8 Charlton Ogburn Jr., 97.
9 Charlton Ogburn Jr., 234.
10 Peter Sammartino, The Man Who Was William Shakespeare. New York: Cornwall
Books, 1990, 52.
11 Alfred Dodd, Francis Bacon’s Personal Life-Story: The Age of Elizabeth (Vol. 1).
Rider & Co., 1949, 131.
12 Charlton Ogburn Jr., The Mysterious Wm. S., 747.
13 Peter Sammartino, The Man Who Was William Shakespeare, 60.
14 Alfred Dodd, Francis Bacon’s Personal Life-Story: The Age of Elizabeth (Vol. 1), 137.
15 William T. Smedley, The Mystery of Sir Francis Bacon, Mila, MT: Kessinger
Publishing, Reprint, Originally Published in 1910, 102.
16 Anonymous poem attributed to John Lyly quoted in Charlton Ogburn Jr.’s The
Mysterious Wm. S., 705.
17 John Davies’s poem quoted in Charlton Ogburn Jr.’s The Mysterious Wm. S., 104.
18 John Davies’s poem quoted in Charlton Ogburn Jr.’s The Mysterious Wm. S., 104.
19 Richard F. Whalen, Shakespeare: Who Was He? The Oxford Challenge to the Bard of
Avon, Westport CT: Praeger Publishers, 1994, 26, 27.
20 The Queen’s Privy Seal Warrant quoted in Charlton Ogburn Jr., The Mysterious
Wm. S., 688.
21 Charlton Ogburn Jr., The Mysterious Wm. S., 688, 689.
22 Thomas Heywood’s Apology for Actors quoted in Dorothy and Charlton Ogburn Sr.,
This Star of England. New York: Coward McCann, Inc., 1852, 710.
23 Charlton Ogburn Jr., The Mysterious William Shakespeare, 694.
24 Venetian Ambassador of Spain’s Report to Philip II quoted in Charlton Ogburn Jr.’s
The Mysterious Wm. S., 692.
25 Dorothy and Charlton Ogburn Sr., This Star of England, 711.
27 Charlton Ogburn Jr., The Mysterious Wm. S., p.694.
28 Alfred Dodd, Francis Bacon’s Personal Life-Story: The Age of Elizabeth (Vol. 1), 130.
29 Charlton Ogburn Jr., The Mysterious Wm. S., 694, 695.
30 Marlowe’s Tamburlaine quoted in The Mysterious Wm. S., 693.
31 Charlton Ogburn Jr. The Mysterious Wm. S., 453.
32 Alfred Dodd, Francis Bacon’s Personal Life-Story: The Age of Elizabeth (Vol. 1), 154.
33 Francis Bacon sonnet from The Device of the Indian Prince quoted from Alfred
Dodd’s Francis Bacon’s Personal Life-Story: The Age of Elizabeth (Vol. 1), 158.
34 Richard F. Whalen, 143-145.
35 William T. Smedley, 98.
36 William T. Smedley, 98.
37 William T. Smedley, 109.
38 Peter Sammartino, The Man Who Was William Shakespeare, 88, 89.
39 John Mitchel. Who Wrote Shakespeare? London: Thames and Hudson, 1996, 161.
40 Peter Sammartino, 90.
41 Peter Sammartino, 88.
42 Peter Sammartino, 89.
43 Charlton Ogburn Jr., The Mysterious Wm. S., 291, 292.
44 Charlton Ogburn Jr., The Man Who Was William Shakespeare: A Summary of the Case
Unfolded in the Mysterious William Shakespeare, Delaphane, VA: EPM Publications, Inc.,
45 Edward de Vere, “Labour and Its Reward” in The Poems of Edward de Vere,
46 Edward de Vere, “Labour and Its Reward”.
47 Alfred Dodd, Francis Bacon’s Personal Life-Story: The Age of Elizabeth (Vol.1), 80, 81.
48 Alfred Dodd, 161.
49 Alfred Dodd, 62.
50 Dorothy and Charlton Ogburn Sr., 1208, 1209.
51 Dorothy and Charlton Ogburn Sr.. 1210, 1211.
52 Peter Dawkins, Shakespeare and Freemasonry, 1997, from
53 W.F.C. Wigston, Bacon, Shakespeare and the Rosicrucians. London: Redway, 1888,
54 Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas, The Hiram Key. London: Arrow Books, Ltd.,
55 Peter Dawkins, Shakespeare and Freemasonry.
56 Lines from “The Tempest” quoted in W.F.C. Wigston’s Bacon, Shakespeare and the
57 W.F.C. Wigston, 134, 135.
58 W.F. C. Wigston, 134, 135.
59 Peter Dawkins, Shakespeare and Freemasonry.
60 W.F.C. Wigston, 174.
61 Peter Sammartino, 11, 12.
62 Paul Streitz, Oxford: Son of Queen Elizabeth I. Darien, CT: Oxford Institute Press,
63 John Mitchel, 174, 175.
64 Charlton Ogburn Jr. The Mysterious Wm. S., 765.
65 Dorothy and Charlton Ogburn Sr., 1198.
66 Charlton Ogburn Jr. The Mysterious Wm. S., 43.
67 John Mitchel, 162.
68 Charlton Ogburn Jr. The Mysterious Wm. S., 656, 657.
69 Charlton Ogburn Jr., 656.
70 Paul Streitz, 138.
71 Paul Streitz, 158.
72 Paul Streitz, 157.
73 Alfred Dodd, 120.
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