Edward de Vere: The Real Greatest Writer of the English Language

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Edward de Vere: The Real Greatest Writer of the English Language
Time shall unfold what plighted cunning hides:

Who cover faults, at last shame them derides

- King Lear.
The Shakespeare authorship debate has been questioned since the mid 19th century. It is a theory that has been put forward by many, challenging that William Shakespeare (see figure 1) may not be the bard that truly wrote all 37 plays and 154 sonnets supposedly authored by him. Numerous speculations and candidates have been suggested as the true authors; these include Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, William Stanley, Ben Jonson, Thomas Middleton, Sir Walter Raleigh, Mary Sidney Herbert, even Queen Elizabeth I. However the two most probable contenders of the authorship remain to be William Shakespeare himself and Edward De Vere (see figure 2). De Vere was the 17th Earl of Oxford, and since the 1920’s been the most favored anti-Stratfordian nominee proposed. If what Oxfordians believe is true, then as a society we have been denied the truth since the Elizabethan Era. There is substantial evidence to prove that De Vere is the true Bard and deny William Shakespeare the write to the title of the Greatest Writer of the English Language.

Discovery of the Oxford Theory:

The Oxfordian Theory was first established by an English school teacher named John Thomas Looney. Looney wrote a book entitled ‘Shakespeare Identified’ (see figure 3), which claims that Edward De Vere was the true author of Shakespeare’s works. He also proposes that Shakespeare’s education and literacy were not of the standard of that of a successful writer. The teacher has since been supported by many, and has lead to numerous books confirming the Oxfordian Theory. For example, Joseph Sobran’s book ‘Alias Shakespeare: Solving the Greatest Literary Mystery of All Time’. who puts forward parallel’s between De Vere and the characters of the plays and sonnets.

Education and Illiteracy:

William Shakespeare was not part of the Aristocracy, and it is doubtful that as a child he received a level of education high enough to produce the plays of the standard that he did and that contained knowledge of the royal courts and how they worked. Furthermore there are no specific records relating to education or his attendance at school for William Shakespeare. It is also known that Shakespeare’s own father was illiterate as well as his daughter Judith. Confirming Judith Quincey’s illiteracy, for her marriage certificate the priest wrote her name for her having her only initial it (see figure 4). This speculates Shakespeare’s ability to write and provide information on the stories and historical events that occurred in his plays.

Therefore, it is more likely for someone to write these plays if they were highly educated and new the workings and histories of the royal court. A person who grew up in a family line of Earls and Countess. Someone who received education in the household of none other than the Principal Secretary of the Queen Elizabeth I (see figure 5) herself and who graduated from Cambridge University at the age of 14. Someone who studied law and own an extensive library. Someone like Edward De Vere.

Parallels Between De Vere’s life and Shakespeare’s Plays:

William Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets contain many similarities to Edward De Vere’s biography and his own poems. Within the 37 plays of Shakespeare, there are a profound amount of correspondences that occur between the characters of the plays and sonnets to the people of De Vere’s life. Hamlet, for example, is an autobiographical character of Edward De Vere himself - Close studies have discovered that when De Vere’s father died his mother married to his father’s rival similar to Hamlet’s storyline. Furthermore, Edward De Vere’s own father-in-law, William Cecil, is said to be parodied in Hamlet as Polonius - in the play Hamlet calls Polonius ‘a tedious old fool’.

The events of Shakespeare’s play can also be related to the events of De Vere’s life. An example of this is in the play Henry IV, which has a section with Prince Hal playing practical jokes on unlucky travelers on the same road that De Vere and his friends did routinely. Also De Vere’s secret meetings with Anne Vavasour resulted in many street fights between De Vere’s men and the Knyvet clan - similar to the street fights between the Montagues and the Capulets in Romeo and Juliet. Another event includes the marriage of his sister, Mary De Vere (known for her high temper and snarky attitude), to Peregrine Bertie (a hard talking and renown drinker. Whose relationship has been supposedly ridiculed in Taming of the Shrew and Twelfth Night.


Moreover, It has been proven that Edward De Vere has travelled around Italy during the 1570s.He had lived there and taken a year long tour of Italy. It is from there that he would have gained the knowledge about the scenery and ways of living in foreign countries. Furthermore, creating a strong setting for plays such as The Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet, and Othello.

De Vere’s Bible

Roger Stritmatter conducted a study in the late 1990s on the notes found in De Vere’s Geneva Bible. Stritmatter discovered that the passages pointed out had been referenced in Shakespeare’s plays either as quotes, themes, or allusions. He found about 260 marked passages relating to the plays and sonnets.

De Vere’s Family Connections to People Involved in Shakespeare’s Works

  • Lord Burghley (William Cecil) was his father-in-law - who is said to have the character of Polonius from Hamlet based upon him.

  • His daughter was engaged to the Earl of Southampton, Henry Wriothesley - the inspiration for the ‘Fair Youth’ within the Sonnets.

  • His uncle was Arthur Golding - the Ovid translator

  • His other uncle was Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey - the inventor of the Shakespearian sonnet form.

  • The Earl of Southampton, Montgomery, and Pembroke - All received dedications from Shakespeare’s works, proposed to his three daughters.

Arguments Against Other Candidates:

Francis Bacon-

  • He had no time to write plays.

  • His own writings had a lower standard than Shakespeare’s works.

  • He did not understand legal concepts well enough.

Christopher Marlowe-

  • He died in 1593 - all the plays were wrote and published after his death.

  • He had little in common with William Shakespeare.

William Stanley-

  • There are only two documents that make his claim to the title of the authorship and they are weak and irrelevant.

  • Also he lived past the date of Shakespeare’s death and the publishing of the First Folio.

Other Facts:

  • Edward De Vere was a lease holder to the Blackfriars Theatre - a rival to the Globe Theatre (see figure 6).

  • Many believe that De Vere hired Shakespeare to take credit for his work due to the fact that as part of the Aristocracy he would be looked down upon for writing.

  • Others believe that De Vere took on the name William Shakespeare as a pen name.

  • There was a movie created to support the Orford Theory, called Anonymous (see figure 7).

In Conclusion, in answer to the Shakespeare Authorship Question I believe that Edward De Vere is the obvious true author. The substantial evidence proving his higher education level and connections of similarities in events and people in his life and the plays and sonnets. Moreover, I believe that William Shakespeare was not the true author of his works due to his illiteracy and low education. Additionally, I am convinced that all other candidates for this debate have been proven to not be involved in the authorship. Furthermore, if I were to investigate the Oxfordian Theory more extensively, I would find out more reasons as to why De Vere had Shakespeare to credit for his work. I would also investigate more into Shakespeare and De Vere’s relationships with the Queen and the histories.


>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_de_Vere,_17th_Earl_of_Oxford< (20 May 2012)

>http://www.william-shakespeare.org.uk/< (20 May 2012)

>http://shakespeareauthorship.com/< (27 May 2012)

>http://www.bardweb.net/debates.html< (28 May 2012)

>http://www.absoluteshakespeare.com< (28 May 2012)

>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxfordian_theory_of_Shakespeare_authorship< (1 June 2012)

>http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/436467/Edward-de-Vere-17th-earl-of-Oxford< (3 June 2012)

>http://www.shakespeare-oxford.com/?p=10< (3 June 2012)

>http://www.luminarium.org/renlit/devere.htm< (3 June 2012)

>http://www.shakespearefellowship.org/etexts/si/00.htm< (3 June 2012)

>http://www.biography.com/people/edward-de-vere-38777< (3 June 2012)

Looney, J. T. (1920). Shakespeare Identified. London: Stokes Co.

Sobran M. J. (1997). Alias Shakespeare: Solving the Greatest Literary Mystery of All Time. America: Free Press.

Anonymous. DVD. Directed by Roland Emmerich. 28 October 2011: Columbia Pictures.

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