Assessment of Edward de Vere’s Genevan Bible

Posted By on December 7, 2012

by Knitwitted

Per Naseeb Shaheen *Biblical References in Shakespeare’s Plays* (1999, 2011) pp. 38-39:

“The vast majority of Shakespeare’s biblical references cannot be traced to any one version, since the many Tudor Bibles are often too similar to be differentiated. But of the more than 1,040 biblical references that are listed in this volume (excluding some 120 references to the Psalms…), there are approximately 80 instances in which Shakespeare is closer to one version, or to several related versions, than to others.

“Shakespeare’s references are often closer to the Geneva Bible than to any other version…. There are approximately thirty passages in the thirty-eight plays in this volume in which Shakespeare clearly refers to the Geneva Bible, besides several other passages in which he seems closer to that version than to others.”

pp. 39-40: Ten passages in which Shakespeare clearly refers to the Geneva Bible:

1. Twelfth Night 2.5.188 Joshua 10.24
2. As You Like It 1.1.37-38 Luke 15.15-16
3. Richard II 1.1.174-75 Jeremiah 13.23
4. 2 Henry IV 2.4.57-59 Romans 15. 1
5. Hamlet 3.3.80 Ezekiel 16.49
6. The Two Noble Kinsmen 1.1.158-59 Ezekiel 16.49
7. Julius Caesar 4.3.86 Romans 15.1
8. Othello 2.3.296-97 Ephesians 4.27
9. Othello 4.2.59-61 Proverbs 5.15-18
10. Cymbeline 3.3.91-92 Joshua 10.24

p. 40: Other passages in which Shakespeare seems closer to the Geneva Bible:

11. Merchant of Venice 4.1.376-77 Ecclus. 34.23
12. All’s Well That Ends Well 4.5.42-43 Ephesians 6.12
13. 1 Henry IV 4.2.34-35 Luke 15.15-16
14. 1 Henry VI 2.1.26 II Samuel 22.2-3
Genevan Psalms 31.3, 18.2
15. 2 Henry IV 4.2.27 Romans 10.2
16. Henry V 4.7.61-62 Judith 9.7
17. Timon of Athens 4.3.173 Luke 6.26
18. Hamlet 5.2.219-20 Matthew 10.29
19. Hamlet 3.1.77-79 Job 10.21-22, 16.22, 7.9-10
20. Hamlet 5.1.229-30 I Cor. 15.52
I Thess. 4.16
21. Coriolanus 5.4.23-24 Isaiah 57.15, 66.1
22. Coriolanus 5.4.49-50 Daniel 3.5,7
23. Othello 5.2.348 Tomson N.T. bound with Geneva O.T. (1587) — NOT RELEVANT as de Vere Bible O.T. (1568)
24. King Lear 3.4.102-3 Hebrews 2.6
25. Titus Andronicus 4.2.98 Acts 23.3
Matthew 23.27
26. The Winter’s Tale 4.4.444-46 Ecclus. 42.16
27. The Winter’s Tale 4.4.478 Jeremiah 6.22
28. Cymbeline 4.2.260-61 I Corinthians 3.8
29. Cymbeline 5.4.182-84 Job 16.22
30. The Winter’s Tale 4.4.721-22
(See Shaheen, p. 42)
Genesis 25.27

Of the above thirty Shakespearean passages, it should be noted number 23 is not relevant to the 1568 printing of the O.T. of the de Vere Bible. Of the remaining 29 passages, only two (nos. 5 & 6 above) referenced at Ezekiel 16.49 are marked in the de Vere Bible.

p. 42: “Finally, there are many passages throughout Shakespeare’s plays in which Shakespeare is least like the Geneva Bible and closer to the other versions of his day.” Shaheen then proceeds to list several examples.

p. 44: “[A]lthough the Geneva Bible may have been the version that Shakespeare knew best and which he seems to refer to most often, the influence of other versions is clearly evident, and no one version can be called ‘Shakespeare’s Bible.’”

It must be concluded the marked passages in the de Vere Bible were not used as a workbook to write the Shakespeare plays, but rather for de Vere’s personal benefit. Based on Dr. Stritmatter’s interpretation of the marked passages and his control data sets of other writers’ usage of the Bible in their works (i.e. Bacon, Spenser, Marlowe, as well as Montaigne and Rabelais), I suggest the overlap between the marked passages in the de Vere Bible and their occurrence in the Shakespeare canon is remarkably significant. I propose a look into other annotated Bibles of the same time period would greatly further define the remarkability of such an overlap.

Accordingly, Dr. Stritmatter’s assessment of his own findings per the Introduction to his dissertation should be found accurate: (p.11) the Bible supplies “researchers with a revealing look into the devotional practices which sustained the annotator’s creative life and bring to bear for the first time a cornucopia of hitherto unnoticed confirmatory evidence supporting the Oxfordian thesis.” (p.12) “Quantitative arguments play a role, but only one role, in the arguments which follow.”

I further suggest previous criticisms of Dr. Stritmatter’s research have been in error as such criticisms were based upon the assumption the de Vere Bible was a template for the writing of the Shakespeare plays and that a near 100% correlation between the two works would be expected if this was indeed “Shakespeare’s Bible”. Critics also incorrectly assumed the Geneva Bible was the only Bible Shakespeare referred to (Shakespeare also referred to the Bishops, Great Bible, Tomson N.T.). These posted internet criticisms, which have neither been peer-reviewed nor written from an independent view-point, have indeed misrepresented the purpose of Dr. Stritmatter’s research and should be ignored by researchers. Dr. Stritmatter’s research stands as a valuable contribution to the Oxfordian theory.

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2 Responses to “Assessment of Edward de Vere’s Genevan Bible”

  1. […] per my recent essay “Assessment of Edward de Vere’s Genevan Bible,” I argued that de Vere’s Geneva Bible was not used as a workbook to write the plays based upon […]

    • Roger Stritmatter says:

      Yes, absolutely correct, Knitwitted. This is a spurious and facile assumption, what Francis Bacon used to call one of the “idols of the theatre.” Anyone who has studied the the patterns in the bible carefully can see that although many marked passages incidentally appear in Shakespeare, the original markings themselves were made as a kind of “spiritual autobiography” — since so many of its themes, such as God’s mercy towards widows and orphans, the strong emphasis on charity and the anxiety of a wealthy Christian, can also be documented in de Vere’s life.

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