Cordelia’s Undersong: An Oxfordian Riddle

Posted By on March 19, 2011

This is a riddle. Gather and surmise; the questions are at the end. Here’s the text:

Lear. [to Regan] To thee and thine hereditary ever
Remain this ample third of our fair kingdom;
No less in space, validity, and pleasure,
Than that conferr’d on Goneril. Now, our joy,
Although the last, not least; to whose young love
The vines of France and milk of Burgundy
Strive to be interess’d; what can you say to draw
A third more opulent than your sisters? Speak.

Cor. Nothing, my lord.

Lear. Nothing?

Cor. Nothing.

Lear. Nothing will come of nothing: speak again.

Cor. Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave
My heart into my mouth: I love your majesty
According to my bond; nor more nor less.

Lear. How, how, Cordelia! mend your speech a little,
Lest it may mar your fortunes.

Cor. Good my lord,
You have begot me, bred me, loved me: I
Return those duties back as are right fit,
Obey you, love you, and most honour you.
Why have my sisters husbands, if they say
They love you all? Haply, when I shall wed,
That lord whose hand must take my plight shall carry
Half my love with him, half my care and duty:
Sure, I shall never marry like my sisters,
To love my father all.

Lear. But goes thy heart with this?

Cor. Ay, good my lord.

Lear. So young, and so untender?

Cor. So young, my lord, and true.

Lear. Let it be so; thy truth, then, be thy dower…


And here’s the riddle: How does this literary duet provide internal linguistic evidence for the Earl of Oxford’s authorship of Lear?

I will personally ensure (and insure!) that the first person to post a comment with a clearly worded valid solution to this question will receive a free year’s subscription to Shakespeare Matters and a free copy of the second issue of Brief Chronicles.


1) Submission must be posted as a comment.

2) It must clearly identify the relevant intertextuality and explain its relevance to the Lear passage.

3) Current SM subscribers are not eligible. Knitwitted is not eligible. If I already know you on a first name basis, you are not eligible either. Sorry. This is a challenge for newbies, former wallflowers, and adventurous Stratfordians who have learned something more than Oxford’s date of death and are willing to start looking at the evidence, even if they aren’t fully convinced.

4) New rule: 3/26/11. It has been brought to my attention (again) that the internet is a haven for persons who use pseudonymous opportunity for insincere and sometimes deceitful purposes. To be awarded the prize the user must, of course, provide proof of his or her identity.

About the author

Roger Stritmatter is a native liberal humorist who lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Contrary to rumor, he does not live on North Avenue. He does, however, work on North Avenue. A pacifist by inclination, one of his heroes is John Brown. But he thinks that Fredrick Douglass, another of his heroes, made the right decision. Stritmatter's primary areas of interest include the nature of paradigm shifts, the history of ideas, forensic literary studies, MS studies, renaissance literature, and the history of the Shakespearean question, the latter a field in which he has published extensively.


13 Responses to “Cordelia’s Undersong: An Oxfordian Riddle”

  1. Bacchus says:

    Hey, no fair. This had eluded everyone for four hundred years until W.H. (not Mr W. H.) provided the answer. Give the punters a clue or two.

  2. Rogala says:


    Does it have anything with de Vere dividing his own estates (Hackney, etc.) between his three daughters while he was still alive…just as Lear did ??

  3. Rogala says:

    Well, those look like fairly major clues. I know de Vere’s family motto is “Vero Nihil Verius” which roughly translates to “Nothing Truer Than Truth”.

    I therefore surmise that you are referring to the dialogue between Cordelia and Lear which uses all these words being the connection. Nothing…then truth be thy dower..

    • Roger Stritmatter says:


      Well done, you’re almost there! Can you trace through the passage in greater detail. Imagine that you are writing for a very skeptical reader and see if you can convince him/her (give yourself a few more sentences and go through the passage more leisurely, pointing out all the relevant pieces and see if you can get even closer to the de Vere motto)?

  4. Rogala says:

    …and that line be echoed in a poem presented to de Vere’s youngest daughter Susan regarding her own inheritance being “nothing…and yet more precious than gold”. I don’t remember any other details about this, but I read about a while back and I think that is what the riddle is all about.

    Close ??

  5. Tom Weedy says:

    I think Rogala has the answer. It is in Brief Chronicles vol 2 page 150.
    A couplet of Oxford’s daughter Susan:
    “Nothing’s your lott… more precious than gold”,
    very similar to Cordelia’s response to her father.

    • Roger Stritmatter says:

      Hi Tom,

      I think Rogala’s first answer is better, but you make an excellent point about the relevance of that couplet as well. It strikes me that the very *best* answer would combine reference to both the motto *and* the couplet, huh? 🙂

  6. Rogala says:

    Hmmmm….I am thinking about it now…

  7. knitwitted says:

    I have again been mostly disappointed that I have again been mostly topically and maliciously banned due to no course of any kind action on my part. I have presented my sweet rebuttal to your said assinine banality, here so others may see just why I have been mistakenly banned as a not-at-all knitwit.

  8. knitwitted says:

    Wot?! How dare you threaten my expertise regarding link syntax! I’ll have you note I have been messing up links long before I posted myself here. I was merely following your selflessly chosen Text Box with its linkage button unclearly marked in some sort of Russian higherglyphics. Well my goodness! I knew Georgia had moved to Russia but now Maryland??

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