Sunday, October 16, 2011

Emmerich and the Case Against Oxford as Shakespeare

In light of Emmerich's Anonymous film, which promotes the theory that Edward de Vere (1550-1604), the seventeenth earl of Oxford, wrote the Shakespeare works, here is a compilation of some of our posts which rebut the Oxford theory.

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

Click here for the blog's home page and recent content.THE MARLOWE PAPERS


Anonymous said...

Also, looking into who the Earl was in my own time, I've come across this information on a lot of sites:

1920 - J. T. Looney, a Gateshead schoolmaster proposes Oxford as the author behind Shakespeare in his book Shakespeare Identified. His followers have modified the theory to put Oxford at the head of a group of brilliant courtiers who produced the plays as a committee.
1931 - Gilbert Slater argues forcefully for the Oxford committee in his book Seven Shakespeares.
Looney's argument, by his own account, originated out of a belief that The Merchant of Venice must have been written by a man who knew Italy and Italian life at first hand, which meant that it could not have been an actor from Stratford.
Looney then investigated Elizabethan literature for stylistic similarities with the works attributed to Shakespeare. He focused on Venus and Adonis. When he came across Oxford's poem at the start of Palgrave's Golden Treasury he was sure he had found his man.
Oxford's biography also fitted the bill, according to Looney. As a courtier he had the necessary intimate knowledge of the monarchy and nobility. His extensive travels had caused him to be mocked as an 'Italianate Englishman'. In 1598, Francis Meres named Oxford as 'The best for Comedy among us', which Looney asserted was evidence for Oxford having written plays - none of which exist under his name, perhaps because they were known under Shakespeare's name?

daver852 said...

It is absolutely inconceivable to me how anyone who has done even a cursory examination of the life of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, could believe he wrote the works of Shakespeare. All surviving evidence shows that he was a bad writer, and a rather nasty little twit of a man to boot. If you visit the various Oxfordian sites, you will find the most absurd ideas being bandied about - such as de Vere being Elizabeth's illegitimate son - and being taken seriously by at least some Oxfordians. I'm tempted to promulgate a theory that Marlowe not only wrote Shakespeare, but that he was also a time traveler and/or space alien who built the Pyramids and Stonehenge as well. Perhaps that would draw some Oxfordians into our fold.

Daryl Pinksen said...

It's difficult to reconcile the smashing success of the Oxfordian movement with the absence of literary evidence linking him to the works of Shakespeare. Marlowe, on the other hand, is well known as the progenitor of the Shakespeare style, and yet, even with all we now know of the circumstances surrounding Deptford, the Marlowe movement remains tiny by comparison.

I'm beginning to think that the explanation of Oxfordian success lies, paradoxically, in its appeal to the fantastic. The longer the books, the kookier the explanations, the more convoluted the theories, the more they seem to thrive. It's frustrating to watch, but fascinating nonetheless.

Let's be clear: There is only one alternative candidate for authorship of the works of Shakespeare that is based on literary scholarship, and that's Marlowe.

Peter Farey said...

You may well be right, Daryl. But as I see it, the problem with "all we now know of the circumstances surrounding Deptford" is that it takes too much effort for most people to understand it all. It is so easy to point out that all of the evidence tells us that Marlowe was dead before nearly all of the plays were written, and so hard to explain in equally simple terms why we don't accept this evidence. In that respect, it's not unlike the reason why so many Marlovians - whilst no doubt genuinely claiming to accept my interpretation of the Stratford monument poem - recommend that I don't try to explain it to anyone!

However, I also think that as long as we encourage our opponents to treat the "faked death" argument as just a response to a problem we face ("Oh well they would say that wouldn't they?") rather than being (as it certainly is) a major part of the case itself, we'll never get very far. This is why I'm so keen on as far as possible presenting our argument in the following order:

1) Why we claim that Marlowe's death was probably faked.
2) If it was, what reasons we have to believe that he continued writing as "Shakespeare".
3) Any other evidence there is to support this belief.

The trick must therefore be to present the "faked death" in a way which is both easy to follow and very convincing!


Sam Blumenfeld said...

There are several reasons why the Oxfordians have been successful. If you are a doubter and the Oxfordians get to you first, you will adopt their crazy scenario. Also, Oxfordians accept the notion that Marlowe was killed at Deptford and therefore could not have written the plays. I have been to Oxfordian meetings and they know nothing about Marlowe. Nor have they read his works. But what I tell Shakespeare fans is that they must read Marlowe before they read Shakespeare. Also, Oxfordians have created a very congenial atmosphere among themselves. A small clique at the center runs these meetings which behave like social clubs. The best way to get to them is to publish a short little book which promotes Marlowe and can be distributed at their meetings. Most of the members are elderly folk whose minds are not to be overly taxed with dissenting information. Anderson is young and energetic and uses powerpoint presentations to create more doubt about Shakespeare than assent about Oxford.

LucianoX said...

You guys are AWESOME!

"Anonymous" by David Denby, The New Yorker said...

Everything you need to know about "Anonymous," and Oxfordianism in general, can be found in this review of "Anonymous" in the New Yorker.

Peter Farey said...

I couldn't get that link to work, but this one did:


DresdenDoll said...

A great job undermining the Oxford theory. Marlowe is the only likely candidate. And he had a pretty darn good reason for fleeing: capital punishment! Duh! What would you do if you were him?

Maureen Duff said...

I agree. Where was Shakespeare in his "lost years" 1585 - 1592? It is hidden in plain sight. He was being Christopher Marlowe!

FXO'Toole said...

Thanks for sticking a spear into Emmerich's theory . . .excellent work!

Skylark said...

This is all fascinating material . . .

Sabine said...

I have to confess, the existence of this movie distresses me more than I thought it would. Pieces like that have the tendency to put ideas into people's heads for decades,or in some cases centuries to come.
"Amadeus", anyone? Many people, who saw the movie (and it's a darn good one), are firmly convinced, that Salieri was responsible for Mozart's premature death.
Shake-Speare/Marlowe himself single handedly destroyed the reputation of poor Richard "I'm determined to be a villain" III forever after(because it's such a darn good play), and everybody is convinced, he killed the princes in the tower.
Now Emmerich is not Milos Forman, and he is not exactly known for scientific accuracy; so I hope the movie won't make such a big impact.
But I can't help thinking, that the "Marlowe as Shakespeare" theme would have made much grander movie material.What a waste! I always hoped Johnny Depp might eventually win an Oscar for his outstanding performance in the movie "Soul of the Ages" as Christopher Marlowe.

Sabine said...

The other day I took part in a guided tour through the old German town Hameln (of the pied piper fame)with a bunch of theoretical physicists. The guide pointed out a relief at a house from 1589(the relief was as old as the house). He claimed, it depicted a motif from Shakespeare's piece "Rape of Lucretia". He was very astonished, when I pointed out, that this was not possible, since nothing whatsoever had been published under the name of "Shakespeare" before June of 1593. Of course everybody asked why I had memorized such an obscure date. I cautiously tried to introduce them to the authorship question and Marlowe as the likeliest candidate. They were mildly interested and listened politely. But as soon as I said: "Of course, Marlowe probably did not die May 1593 in a Deptford tavern; there's evidence, that his death was faked",they said:"Wait a sec, do you mean to say, Marlowe was dead, before Shakespeare's works were written?" The scientists immediately stopped listening, and it took only a few seconds and I heard "Occam's Razor" and "Conspiracy Theory", as I knew full well I would. There was no chance in hell to get across a few more rational arguments. If I had started to talk about anagrams and monument riddles, I would have made an even greater fool of myself in their eyes. So, Peter, you are absolutely right: It's almost impossible to present the case of "Marlowe as Shakespeare" in a casual fashion. It's too complicated to explain the fact of his faked death without going into the material deeply. It has to be done in a clear and carefully written thesis, which has been done by you and others. The big problem is to persuade people to give it a try and read it.That dayin Hameln I told the story of Galileo Galilei, who asked leading scientists of his day and age to take a look through his telescope before rejecting his theories about planetary movements. They refused and said,it did not make sense to take a look. If there were planets to be seen, it was, because Galilei had put tiny marbles into the telescope. The scientists in Hameln failed to see the significance of this story!

Isabel Gortazar said...

Has anybody from the Oxford camp explained so far how a bastard (even if allegedly a royal one), and therefore NOT a legit De Vere, got away with passing on to his own son one of the oldest earldoms in the Kingdom, without the De Vere family raising hell?

And, in such case, why would King James in 1604 bother to countenance such illegitimate claim?
Just a thought.

Peter Farey said...


Thanks, that's a nice story, and certainly reflects my own experience over the years, as recently as only yesterday in fact, when I went to see the first showing of Anonymous at our local cinema.

Among the 13-strong audience (!) were a couple of old acquaintances of mine, a former lady Mayor of our town, and her husband - a pretty good poet whose works I have performed quite often, when I was doing regular poetry readings at our local theatre. They thought that the film was "good fun", whereas I said I found it disappointing, not only in terms of historical accuracy, but also for what I thought was a pretty weak script, in some cases acted very badly.

Changing the subject, they wondered what I had being doing since giving up acting and poetry reading, and I confessed that quite a lot of my time nowadays was spent on the authorship question, although I didn't think the author was Oxford, as in the film, but Marlowe.

"Ah!" said my friend the poet, "so might your assessment of the film be a bit biased?". I assured him that it wasn't, that I would have been just as disappointed if they had used the Marlowe theory and treated it in the same way. "But didn't Marlowe die too early for him to have written the works?" he asked (no mug this!). "No," I said, knowing full well how weak it would sound, "the theory itself argues from the known facts that Marlowe's death was faked."

That look. The one to which I have become so accustomed. The one that says "Oh dear! And he always seemed such a sensible person until now". "Really?" they said, "How very interesting!". Then, having decided that our homes were in opposite directions, we parted.

Back to your post. I had a few very brief postings in Hameln during my national service in 1958. Unfortunately, I never discovered the "Lucrece" house. Aged 20 at that time my interest ran rather more to persuading the local Fräuleins that my A-level German made me a far better companion for the evening than any other British soldier in Germany!


tim.nash said...

The only success i've had is to sound dispassionate about the authorship question. To say that if you are interested, the most plausible alternative seems to be Marlowe. Of course the problem is that Marlowe is supposed to have died in 1593, but then Marlovians believe he faked his death to avoid being tortured before being hung, drawn and quartered.

As most would run too when faced with a very unpleasant death, it's a reasonable starting point that doesn't make you sound like a conspiracy theorist.

FightingIrishman68 said...


Sabine said...


I'm glad, you liked the story of my Hameln-experience.
So you were there after the war! Probably the Fräuleins were in better shape than the houses.They are beautifully restored nowadays. Since I live in Hannover, we go there quite often with visitors.

I'm almost glad to hear that the movie isn't particularly good; so it's impact should be limited, but it might raise the awareness of the Authorship Question, and we could use it as a conversation starter, even, if we risk getting "The Look", as you describe it so well.
By the way, the movie "Shakespeare in Love" didnt bother me half as much, because it was good fun and obviously not laying claims on historical accuracy. The scene, when Marlowe tells Shakespeare, that "Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter" is too cumbersome a title for a romantic tragedy, was almost worth the money, though, of course Rupert Everett (a great actor!) was much too old in comparison to Joseph Fiennes as Shakespeare.

Anthony Kellett said...

For Sabine and anyone else that is interested, I have a way of presenting the 'story' that seems to work for me; when I introduce people to the authorship question. I am not saying it is perfect (by any means) but I think 'Occam's Razor' should work for Marlovians; not against them.

Anyway, if you wish to receive it, I will post it to the International Marlowe-Shakespeare Society Google group on Monday; where anyone registered can read it (or receive it by email, if you so choose). You can register here: but you will need to do so before the posting, to receive the email version; as I believe that only occurs simultaneously.

Kindest regards,


Sabine said...

I will certainly read your post and I agree with you: Wielded correctly the razor should work in favour of the Marlovians. Their theory is really not that outrageous. All, they propose, is,- hold your breath- that a great poet and professional playwright created Shake-Speare's oevre; one, who had, unlike all the other candidates, a pretty sound reason, not to use his own name anymore.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for your contributions. I thought you might find this article by Daryl Pinksen interesting in light of your comments.


Sabine said...

Thanks a lot for the link; Daryl Pinksen sums up nicely the case of a blacklisted Hollywood writer during the McCarthy aera. I've read Daryl Pinksen's great book some time ago; and whenever I was involved in a discussion of the Shakespeare Authorship Question, I tried to tell that story,- if anybody was still listening, that, is- :))
Besides presenting good arguments, it is important, not to come across as too pushy and to keep it cool and rational.

Dr Roger Tallentire said...

Bloggers about the Emmerich film agree that a simpler case needs to be available to get the uninitiated to understand why Marlowe is the most likely Shakespeare. I ask these people to look at Shakespeared! (a kindle ebook at 5$) which presents such a view. It is not a purely Marlovian book in that it asks all sides to recognize Fletcher, Middleton, and others having known contributions to the canon.