Friday, March 18, 2011

The Case Against Oxford as Shakespeare

Peter Farey's "The Wrong Candidate," "Oxfordians and the 1604 Question," and "Questions All Oxfordians Must Answer"; Daryl Pinksen on Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, as straw man and the weak case of de Vere as Shakespeare; Donna Murphy on the many problems with the Oxford theory; Isabel Gortázar's "Nor Oxford Either!"; and Sam Blumenfeld's disqualification of de Vere as Shakespeare.Emmerich shakespeare frontman


Coyote said...

You Marlovians are fiesty. Love it!

Nokodimis said...

Peter Farey's material is damning against the Oxford case.

Christine said...

Is there a supporter of deVere willing to respond????

ChicagoBenvolio said...

Oxfordians are happy with their anagrams.

Nokodimis said...

and tooting their own horns on

Jim said...

Christopher Marlowe used the word anagram: "Within this circle is Jehovah's name, Forward and backward anagrammatiz'd."

Thomas Nashe: "my Jacke Wilton to anagramatize the name of Wittenberge to one of the Universities of England."

Thomas Middleton: "Thou breedest crickets, I think, and that will serve for the anagram to a critic," a sample from crickets to critic.

Ben Jonson: "make Anagrams of our Names, and invite us to the Cockpit." "I have the phrases, man, and the anagrams, and the epitaphs, fitting the mystery of the noble science."

Jonson should know Shakespeare's secret the best, for he accessed the total 36 scripts, and wrote To the Reader, To the Memory.

They all knew anagram. It can be just the right tool to read Shakespeare, not just few lines, but from the beginning to the end.

Peter Farey said...

Unfortunately, far too many non-Stratfordians - of most persuasions - have found the lure of the hidden message concealed as an anagram too much to resist. Some Marlovians, such as William Honey and Roberta Ballantine, certainly did. In fact each of them came up with a complete anagram for the "Good Frend..." inscription on Shakespeare's grave. Both also claimed that the probability of being able to do so using all letters with none left over was so low as to make their solution undoubtedly right.

The weakness of this argument, however, is illustrated by the fact that their two answers were completely different. In reality, the number of possible solutions does increase with the length of the passage being anagrammatized, even though the effort needed to find any of them inevitably increases hugely!

There is nevertheless a role for the anagram as concealer of a hidden message. Both Galileo and Huygens apparently used them to be able to claim priority for discoveries they had made, whilst at the same time keeping quiet about what the actual solution was. In this case, however, it was necessary for the anagrammatist to be there to reveal the answer (or to have written it down elsewhere) in order for the true message to be understood. In the absence of this, anyone's guess is as good as any other.

An anagram is an unkeyed transposition cipher, which needs the creator to explain what he had in mind. In contrast, most transposition ciphers are keyed, and the trick in solving them must therefore be in finding not only what it really says, but precisely what the key is in solving it, and showing how improbable it is for that key to have occurred by chance.


isabel Gortazar said...

Well, folks, perhaps we should reconsider the contents of all works by Marlowe, Shakespeare Jonson, Nashe, Middleton and the rest of them, because for all we know, their works may have been written in anagrams, codes and ciphers, and it had never occurred to us to check!

Maybe there is a hidden and entirely unsuspected message in Volpone, and it has nothing to do with the funny play that we thought Jonson had written for our amusement.

Of course they all knew and possibly used anagrams sometimes; of course they all knew and possibly used various rhetorical devices sometimes; but it would take a complete lunatic to write 36 plays plus 154 sonnets in code, and moreover, a code based on a name, VERE, that apparently was not even his own.

Camila S. said...

A great compilation of evidence against DeVere.

Trudee said...

This is a very interesting website and Marlowe's case is very fascinating.

AMaxxCalBerk said...

the best authorship site on the web, no matter who the candidate. professionally done. unafraid. not afraid to be skeptical even when it concerns marlowe. well done!

DresdenDoll said...

So, wait a minute: Oxford published marginal poetry under his real name, but saves the genius stuff for a pseudonym?

Mikael said...

Sorry to disturb the party, but here you have your Oxfordian.

I would be most interested to learn how you Marlovians interpret the following from As You Like It:

PHEBE: Dead shepherd, now I find thy saw of might,
'Who ever lov'd that lov'd not at first sight?'

AYLI 3.5.81-82

I personally draw the following conclusions from these lines:

1) Shakespeare shows his admiration and friendship with Marlowe, clearly identifying and honouring him with the quote from Hero and Leander.

2) Shakespeare regards Marlowe as being dead, probably recently, and these lines are his homage to his dead colleague.

3) Shakespeare and Marlowe are two separate individuals, and one of them (Marlowe) dies before the other one (Shakespeare).

I would love to hear your view on this, which for the survival of your thesis has to be rather different from the one I have presented here.

Peter Farey said...

Hello Mikael, I wondered where you had got to.

Good question. However you seem to be making the assumption that a character in a Shakespeare play must necessarily be in some way reflecting the opinion of its author, which is of course demonstrably untrue. What we certainly cannot do is to rule out the possibility that he is having a joke at our expense (and what a great subject for today of all days)!

Of rather more significance, I would have thought, is that Touchstone's words "a great reckoning in a little room" are universally accepted as being a reference to Marlowe's death, even though there appears to have been considerable confusion about what actually happened at the time, and the word "reckoning" wouldn't be associated with it in the public's mind until 1925 at the earliest!

How would you explain Shakespeare having, as far as we know, been the only person who was aware of that very important but generally unknown snippet of information before that date? Any suggestion that Oxford must have been aware of it is simply wishful thinking, isn't it?


Peter Farey said...

Incidentally, Mikael, I think we now have a fairly clear idea of your modus operandi.

My essay on Thorpe's 'dedication' to the Sonnets was diverted by you into a discussion of the Rollett cipher, so that not a single post after yours was in any way relevant to what I had written.

Now you are trying to divert what should be a discussion of what we say are the major weaknesses in the Oxfordian argument into the trivial matter of a single quotation.

Nice try, but you've been rumbled. Please discuss the actual points being made here - we would love to hear what you have to say - or accept that most readers will realise that this is something which you (for whatever reason) are quite unwilling to do.

Peter Farey

isabel Gortazar said...

Hi Michael:
Hero and Leander was published in 1598.
AYLI was registered (and publication “staied”) in August 1600. As the title was not included in Meres’ list, it would be reasonable to suppose that the play was written late in 1598 or early in 1599.

Moreover, since one of its probable sources: “Sir Clyomon and Clamides” (Anon) was printed by Creede in 1599, the coincidence in dates suggests that both AYLI and H&L were "available" to the public within months of each other.

That being the case, my interpretation of the lines you quote is as follows:

PHEBE: Dead shepherd, now I find thy saw of might,
'Who ever lov'd that lov'd not at first sight?' AYLI 3.5.81-82

Phebe cannot be referring to her own shepherd, Silvius, who is very much alive. As you propose, she must be referring to a “dead shepherd” who is not a character in the play. Apart from other Marlovian "shepherds", there is the fact that in the earlier biographies, Tamerlane was described as a shepherd, which may, or may not, be a further clue.

What I read in these lines is that Kit Marlowe, when writing AYLI in 1598/99, is referring to himself, wishing to remind us of his poem, published at last, and to the fact that he is officially “dead”, even though Phebe seems to be talking to a "living" shepherd.

daver852 said...

Mikael, I find your interpretation of these lines baffling. There are many references to Marlowe in this play; this is only one of them. Consider the context of these lines:

Rosalind: Come, sister. Shepherdess, look on him better,
And be not proud; though all the world could see,
None could be so abused in sight as he.
Come, to our flock.

Phebe: Dead shepherd, now I find thy saw of might,
Who ever loved that loved not at first sight?

"None could be so abused in sight as he."

To me it makes much more sense to regard this passage as Marlowe refering to himself, in a sort of self-mocking way. His reputation is in tatters, and though he still lives, he is dead to the world.

Peter Farey said...

Isabel, there is certainly no question that the "dead shepherd" Phebe is addressing in absentia is Marlowe. The "saw" (a maxim or proverb) she quotes is from his Hero and Leander, as already noted, and probably even better known than that at the time was his poem The Passionate Shepherd To His Love, misquoted by Evans in the earlier Merry Wives of Windsor. Personally, I doubt whether the fact that she is still in the company of the shepherd Silvius really has anything to do with it. He is the last person on her mind at that moment!


Mikael said...

Hello Peter. I'm never far away, but I have a life to live, a family to nurture etc...

Of course, I do not hold the position that a character in Shakespeare has to reflect the opinion of the author, I am just presenting the most natural and probable reading of the passage. Of course it's open to discussion and that's why I ask of your view. I simply mean that if you put a famous quote (and this is the only case in Shakespeare?) from a contemporary in your text it means that you give some sort of focus to the other writer. In this case as I see it, we have a homage a to a dead colleague.

As I get it, you say this is some kind of joke from your hidden, exiled author; Marlowe is quoting himself, thereby giving himself a good laugh at our cost? So, if this was so funny for the surviving Marlowe to give a homage to the dead Marlowe, why is it only here? If he really wants to fool around with his audiences, why not doing it more consistent? Maybe he realized that it was not so funny after all? I don't say your view is impossible, just that it is artistically very unconvincing and sort of meaningless.

Also, I didn't know Marlowe was famed for his sense of humour at all? His surviving work is pretty cruel and violent stuff, isn't it?

In context with "the reckoning" (we still use this word in swedish but we spell it 'räkning') the significance of Marlowe's presence in the play is rising, I agree with you there. But I can't see how you possibly can explain this: Somewhere on the continent, in top secret, hidden to everyone and for all future, without a single rumour of him being alive, sits your man writing plays for the London stage. Someone in the very top of society must have risked his life to help him out (who and why?), and someone must have taken his fruits of labour over the channel to have them performed as entertainment for the London scene. Why did he write (he should have been pretty busy just to keep himself alive)? How did he survive without leaving a trace of his existance? Who paid him? Why is not the theme of Exile more prominent in Shakespeare? etc

And more specific, in this case; someone must have sent him (at risk of life I guess) a copy of the secret report, unknown to the public in the 1590's. Why would someone do that, and why does he make this obscure reference to it in the play? I mean, if he was alive and well, why take the risk to allude to a confidential paper that no one except the top five spies in the country would understand, a paper that had no relevance anyway since he was alive? Another inside (Marlowe-to-Marlowe) joke, I guess?

Mikael said...


A much more realistic view on this is that Marlowe (as all his contemporaries including Shakespeare was assured of), to begin with, was dead. Someone, namely the author called 'Shakespeare' not only knew Marlowe personally and revered him, he also had some confidential information about his death. How did he obtain that?

You write:

"Any suggestion that Oxford must have been aware of it is simply wishful thinking, isn't it?"

To put it mildly; I am (if that should be the case) certainly not the only one at his website suffering from 'wishful thinking'.

But actually that is not the case. After the death of Walsingham, the man in charge of secret affairs in England was Robert Cecil. And if there is one person we can think of with a possible access to Cecil it is certainly Edward de Vere, who was brought up together with him and who married his sister (cf the triangle Hamlet-Laertes-Ofelia). He functioned as Great Lord Chamberlain as a juror in trials and had certainly access to documents of the state. Also note that the talk of the 'reckoning' is put in the mouth of Touchstone, who, like de Vere in the 1590s, is a former courtier (as Jacques repeatedly tells us).

Which could lead us to the (for Oxfordians) hilarious meeting between Touchstone and country lad 'William', but no, let's save that.

So, my conclusion; your theory is not without its charms, but I have to agree with Dickens:

'Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.'

Sam Blumenfeld said...

The case against Oxford is very simple. He was not a literary genius. So he could not have written the masterpieces in the First Folio. Marlowe'a genius is proven by the plays he wrote before his untimely exit from the scene. Oxford was, at best, a dilettante, an amateur. Meres names no plays by Oxford. Also, Oxford was a patron of other writers. And why would Oxford mention Dido so frequently if he were the author? The scene in Hamlet where the players give the Dane a sample of their work is certainly Marlowe's clever way of promoting Dido, Queen of Carthage, a play that was caviar for the general.

Ros Barber said...


To answer one of your questions "Why is not the theme of exile more prominent in Shakespeare?". Clearly you are unaware of Jane Kingsley-Smith's excellent academic tome, "Shakespeare's Drama of Exile":

Kingsley-Smith is an orthodox Shakespearean scholar (she dismisses Marlovian theory as nonsense in a single sentence) yet she has nevertheless noticed that exile as a powerful theme throughout the the canon. Indeed, I wonder how familiar you truly are with Shakespeare's works if you unaware of the number of characters who are exiled in the plays.... including the one under discussion!

As James Joyce notes through his character Stephen Dedalus "The note of banishment, banishment from the heart, banishment from home, sounds uninterruptedly from The Two Gentlemen of Verona onward till Prospero breaks his staff, buries it certain fathoms in the earth and drowns his book."

As to the question of Marlowe and comedy, this is a common misapprehension which I have already answered on this blog, see
I'm guessing you're not all that familiar with the works of Marlowe either?

Your numerous other questions about the theory would be answered by reading other articles here and on the IMSS website:
Go and have a read if you are interested.

daver852 said...

This is a very minor objection, but one I find interesting. Edward de Vere always referred to himself as the "Earl of Oxenford," and signed his name "Edward Oxenford." But on those rare occasions when one of his ancestors appears as a character, or is mentioned in one of the plays, it is always as "Oxford." If de Vere wrote the plays, wouldn't he have used the version of his title that he preferred, and by which he was known?

Mikael said...


You take an opinion of your own ('He {Oxford} was not a literary genius) and then use it as a proof ('So he could not have written the masterpieces in the First Folio'). But your opinion was not shared by Oxford's contemporaries, even if the concept of 'genius' was yet to be invented.

At the beginning of the timescale we have the author of Art of English Poesie, who writes in 1589:

And in Her Maiesties time that now is, are sprong vp an other crew of Courtly makers Noble men and Gentlemen of Her Maiesties owne seruauntes, who haue written excellently well as it would appeare if their doings could be found out and made publicke with the rest, of which number is first that noble Gentleman Edward Earle of Oxford.

At the end of the era we have Henry Peacham, who in The Compleat Gentleman of 1622 lists Oxford first of all the great Elizabethan writers.

Inbetween we have all sorts of praise of his talents, including his tutors in his childhood and praise of his musical gifts from composer John Farmer:

'For without flattery be it spoke, those that know your Lordship know this, that using this science as a recreation, your Lordship have over-gone most of them that make it a profession.'

If 'genius' is what it takes to write the canon, then Oxford certainly had it. But of course, strictly speaking it is correct in some sense when you call him an amateur; he didn't (and couldn't) write for money. (But: the queen paid him 1000 pounds a year from 1586 on, although he never had any official duty. Many oxfordians take this annuity as a payment for production of propaganda material for the theatres (aka history plays like Henry V).)

Mikael said...


Thanks, this is exactly the kind of answer I was looking for. I will look into these things when time permit.

No, sorry I have not read much of Marlowe, and that's why I want to hear what you people are up to. I'm not english so it takes some time for me to digest these texts, and I'm not through with the canon yet (far from).

Interesting about Joyce, who lived a life in exile (and even wrote a play with the title). I hear you have had academic success with your work on Marlowe, which I congratulate. I have only read one dissertation in my life, Stritmatter's 'Edward de Vere's Geneva Bible', which is a great read. Have you read it?

As I said, I find that your theory has it charms, but I see two tough obstacles:

1. Marlowe's 'death', which has to be regarded as a real life death if you don't come up with some sensational new facts.

2. The massive circumstantial evidence for Oxford.


Peter Farey said...

Mikael wrote:

"I simply mean that if you put a famous quote (and this is the only case in Shakespeare?) from a contemporary in your text it means that you give some sort of focus to the other writer."

This is certainly not the only quotation from Marlowe. We also have Pistol's "pampered jades of Asia" speech, for example, as well as the "shallow rivers to whose falls" piece I mentioned earlier. The interesting question, however, is just why Marlowe is the only contemporary poet/dramatist whom Shakespeare quotes in this way. "Homage to a dead colleague" is of course the Stratfordian answer, being the best they can do, but we believe that someone finding himself in the intolerable position that Marlowe did would have found it quite impossible not to refer in some way to his earlier work. However, if you would like an example of his doing exactly what we are talking about in a play of his own before his supposed death, just look at the parody of his "Passionate Shepherd" poem in The Jew of Malta:

Where painted carpets o'er the meads are hurl'd,
And Bacchus' vineyards overspread the world;
Where woods and forests go in goodly green;
I'll be Adonis, thou shalt be Love's Queen;
The meads, the orchards, and the primrose-lanes,
Instead of sedge and reed, bear sugar-canes:
Thou in those groves, by Dis above,
Shalt live with me, and be my love.

Dis above? He's having fun.

"Someone in the very top of society must have risked his life to help him out (who and why?), and someone must have taken his fruits of labour over the channel to have them performed as entertainment for the London scene."

Although it is something about which Marlovians are divided, I believe that this was agreed at Privy Council level and with the Queen's tacit approval, so that no lives were put at risk by it. Nor do I think that he needed to remain in exile overseas for more than a couple of years, provided that he took care over his new identity when in England, and had a sufficiently altered appearance.

(continued below)

Peter Farey said...


"Why did he write (he should have been pretty busy just to keep himself alive)? How did he survive without leaving a trace of his existance? Who paid him?"

I wish we had some evidence giving us the answers to such questions. That we don't, of course, tells us nothing about the probability of such things happening. To come up with plausible answers is something which you can do just as easily as us.

"Why is not the theme of Exile more prominent in Shakespeare?"

Ros has already commented on this, but I think you might also find a quotation from Stephen Greenblatt's Will in the World (p.85) quite relevant. "Again and again in his plays, an unforeseen catastrophe ... suddenly turns what had seemed like happy progress, prosperity, smooth sailing into disaster, terror, and loss. The loss is obviously and immediately material, but it is also, and more crushingly, a loss of identity. To wind up on an unknown shore, without one’s friends, habitual associates, familiar network ... this catastrophe is often epitomized by the deliberate alteration or disappearance of the name and, with it, the alteration or disappearance of social status."

"someone must have sent him (at risk of life I guess) a copy of the secret report, unknown to the public in the 1590's. Why would someone do that, and why does he make this obscure reference to it in the play?"

Our theory is that Thomas Walsingham and the Coroner William Danby (among others) were behind the deception, and the evidence does point to Walsingham having also attended the inquest. That he knew the details of what was claimed to have happened is obvious, and that he remained in touch with Marlowe after the event also highly probable. Some people obtain pleasure from writing things the real meaning of which few if any others understand. It's what we Brits' love about irony.

"So, my conclusion; your theory is not without its charms, but I have to agree with Dickens: 'Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.'"

And our Marley's death was also pure fiction!


Daryl Pinksen said...

"Why is not the theme of exile more prominent in Shakespeare?"


I'll assume you're familiar with the scholarly commonplace that the theme of exile is on uncommon display throughout Shakespeare, (ex, "[Shakespeare's] plays are filled with images of loss, exile and self-division.” Ackroyd, 2005 p.118.)

If so, then what you meant to ask was, "The theme of exile is prominent in Shakespeare, but why isn't it even MORE prominent?"

I'm not sure how to answer that. It's like trying to answer the question, "Why is not the theme of slavery more prominent in Twain?" Or, "Why is not the theme of poverty more prominent in Dickens?"

Or were you in fact unaware that the theme of exile IS prominent in Shakespeare? Could you clarify how we are to interpret your question?



Mikael said...


Indeed a minor question, but the answer could, as you say, be of interest. I don't have an answer to this, maybe the question should be passed to the scholars, like Roger Stritmatter. I am sure he could give you a relevant answer. His study of de Vere's Geneva Bible, the result of which actually created a stir among stratfordians and persuaded some of them to the conclusion that Stratford-Will must have borrowed de Vere's bible and annotated it (this is no joke!) has a site of its own:

I am sure he will try to answer your question. But, as we all know, spelling was widely irregular in those days...

Ros Barber said...

Hi Mikael,
Yes, I have read some of Roger Strittmatter's work on de Vere's Geneva bible (visiting the website early on in my studies), but haven't had the time to go into it very deeply, as my own interest was elsewhere. But his PhD was a grand achievement; we non-Stratfordians carving a path in academia must at least credit each other with that!

On the question of Marlowe's death (which clearly is the one "fact" that would make all Marlovian theory ludicrous fantasy) I have something for you fairly soon in a most agreeable and digestible format (video) - so hang around here, or pop back soon.

daver852 said...

It's not a question of variable spelling, Mikael. Not only did de Vere style himself the "Earl of Oxenford," every author that I can find who dedicated a work to him calls him the "Earl of Oxenford," and not the "Earl of Oxford." As far as the praise of his contemporaries goes, what do you expect them to say about a powerful nobleman? De Vere's poetry is, for the most part, just plain bad. Today we call such praise "sucking up."

Anthony Kellett said...

Hi Daver,

Personally, (whilst I take your point) I think it is irrelevant whether contemporaries considered Oxford as good, bad or indifferent. We can sit here, some 400 years later, and compare the work.

The relative merits are subjective and, as such, irresolvable. However, one thing is certain; the person that wrote Oxford’s canon did not write the works of Shakespeare; irrespective of the esteem in which he was held.

Either way, this is a pointless discussion, in any event. No-one has even come close to offering any reasonable responses to Peter’s questions about Oxford. Those that claim Peter is manipulating maths and graphs are, sadly, just incapable of understanding the work (or blindly refuse to accept the obvious conclusions). Whilst unfortunate, I see no point in toiling to enlighten them. This is about trying to establish the author of these works; and Peter’s work rules out Oxford. Therefore, Oxford must be put aside and we should continue to do what we can, to reduce the possibilities further. I fully understand that people have their ‘favourites’, but the aim should be to discover the truth; not to convince others to believe our personal delusions or romanticised notions, however much we may wish they were true.

Mikael said...

daver and Anthony

One of the following excerpts is written by Shakespeare and the other by Oxford. Please tell me which is which (no google-cheating!) and please also tell me why, and which, one is superior to the other and why they have to be written by two different poets and why the possibility of one man writing both poems within a couple of decades is so unthinkable.

She is so hot because the meat is cold;
The meat is cold because you come not home;
You come not home because you have no stomach;
You have no stomach, having broke your fast;
But we that know what 'tis to fast and pray,
Are penitent for your default today.

What plague is greater than the grief of mind?
The grief of mind that eats in every vein;
In every vein that leaves such clots behind;
Such clots behind as breed such bitter pain;
So bitter pain that none shall ever find
What plague is greater than the grief of mind.