Oxford’s Torment: The Latest Chapter in the Shakespeare Mystery

Posted By on March 5, 2014

Guest post by Greg Swann

The enduring mystery of William Shakespeare, poet and playwright, has become a little less mysterious.

It may be that we can never fully plumb the genius of our ever-living Bard, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t muck around in the basement. You never know what you’ll find down there.

Witness: We now have in our possession the long hypothesized ‘lost works’ of Edward de Vere, Seventeenth Earl of Oxford. Oxford has been regarded by heretics and assorted lunatics as the true author of the works of Shakespeare.

This myth can finally be laid to rest.

Marvel at the genius of Shakespeare! Defenders of the Swan of Avon have always been hard put to explain how a glove-maker’s son from a provincial back-water – a man who may not even have known how to read – could have written the sublime corpus we know as The Works of William Shakespeare. What life experiences led the glove-maker’s son to his subject matter? What intensive education lent him his deep erudition? How can the paired and parallel sonnet cycles be reconciled with his seemingly mundane life history?

Literary scholars almost always attempt to excavate the details of an author’s life to inform the reading of his works.

Almost always.

With Shakespeare we have forborne to do this. Embarrassingly, the life of our immortal poet is… embarrassing. Taking account of every factual evidence we have of his comings and goings, he seems to have been an ignorant, rough-hewn knave. Not Iago, surely, but not Jack Falstaff either. Not a Pistol, to be sure, but not that far from Nym.

If the details of Shakespeare’s life lend us any clues to the quality of his literary output, we should excavate at once in search of misspelled dirty jokes and forged invoices. Wisely, orthodox Shakespearean scholars have elected to conjecture that Shakespeare is the one exception to their theory, the only serious writer in the Western canon who was able to keep his life experiences out of his work.

But the advent of the Oxfordian claim has only made matters more difficult. For while Shakespeare’s work does not parallel the events of his own life, education, upbringing and presumed concerns, it does – again embarrassingly – match Oxford’s life point for point.

The Oxfordians seek to argue that this is evidence that Oxford wrote the works, not Shakespeare. But this is demonstrated to be absurd by the long-standing and indisputable precept that anything that challenges orthodox Shakespearean scholarship is absurd.

Taking account that we know almost nothing of how Shakespeare spent his days, there is nothing to stop us from positing that he spent a great deal of his time in research. Positing, which is not – emphatically not – making things up, is again a long-standing precept of Shakespearean scholarship. Since we already have the Bard researching in a general way everything he would have known if he were the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford, it takes only one posit more to close the gap entirely on the Oxfordians.


We need only posit that Shakespeare spent some particularly huge amount of time researching Edward de Vere himself!

This must be so, since there is no other non-heretical way to explain the inexplicable parallels between Shakespeare’s works and Oxford’s life. How did Hamlet come to be captured and held for ransom by pirates, just as was done to de Vere? Research. How could Shakespeare set so many works in Italy, when it was de Vere who had toured that peninsula? Research. How came Shakespeare to know so much of the law, which Oxford had studied? Research. How could the Bard write characters who are clearly parodies of Oxford’s friends and relatives?


How was he able to do all this research without leaving any evidence of ever having owned – nor even having read – a book?


But there is more.

William Shakespeare is commonly regarded as the proof of the democratic premise, a man who rose from the mud to a place of highest esteem. Such was his craft, such was his genius, that none of his works celebrate the virtues of common people. To the contrary, ordinary people in Shakespeare are either thieves, comic figures or repugnant social climbers. Courtiers fare no better in the end, but they are better presented. It must be that the Bard was seeking to disguise himself as a nobleman disguised as a commoner.

This conjecture would also explain why a cipher of democracy would write so many plays buttressing the claim of Elizabeth I to the throne of England. This is the kind of toadying we would expect from a fawning courtier, a true son of the nobility, so it must be that Shakespeare’s curious patriotism was of a piece with his disguise.

And how all of this must have infuriated Oxford! For the very apogee of Shakespeare’s research came about when he began to write hectoring, presumptuous love poems to Edward de Vere’s secret homosexual lover, Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton. These sweet sonnets, whispered by lovers down unto our day, read as though they were written by Oxford himself. What a triumph for Shakespeare!

But Shakespeare’s magnificent research skills took him one step further still. By methods about which we can only posit conjectures, Shakespeare managed to cajole Oxford into using – in his own correspondence and anonymous and pseudonymous plays and poetry – phrases and turns of phrase which later turn up in their refined and beautified form in the immortal works of the immortal Bard. Shakespeare caused de Vere to use locutions that did not appear in public until long after the Earl’s death in 1604.


The Oxfordians are quick to seize upon this, of course, but we ought not listen to them. Instead we must answer them with our usual fusillades of blistering flatulence, adhering to the long-standing and indisputable precept that anything said by Shakespearean heretics is not only wrong, ipso facto and Q.E.D., but necessarily evil.

But they do ask a dangerous question: “If Oxford was such a well-known anonymous or pseudonymous author, where are his works?”

And this is a question we can answer at last!

Using the time-tested methods of posit and conjecture, we have recovered the ‘lost works’ of Edward de Vere, Seventeenth Earl of Oxford. More tangible evidence will be presented when suitable facsimiles can be prepared, but for now we can discuss these works at least in summary.

And they are remarkable!

Not only do the works of Shakespeare curiously parallel the life of Oxford, but the lost works of Oxford seem to parallel the life of Shakespeare!

Consider as an example the plot of “Love’s Labour’s Foundlings”: A churlish boy impregnates the neighbor’s spinster daughter – a chary maid who was prodigal enough once she unmasked her posited beauty to the moon. The two are married hastily, and they are in rapid succession blessed with a daughter and then twins, a boy and a girl. Then the churlish boy, by now a churlish man, vanishes from their lives, leaving them to starve.

Or take note of “The Merchant of Stratford,” which concerns the banal and ultimately pointless machinations of a greasy-fingered burgher who cheats his neighbors and defaults on his tax debt. He ends his life more beast than man, spacious in the possession of dirt, and no one laments or even notices his passing.

There are others, including a play that pre-figures modern literary issues: At a legal deposition, a man presumed to have a fine education and a prodigious memory is able to remember nothing. And there is a Lear-like tragedy about a man who tries to divide his worldly goods among his heirs. In the end, though, he is frustrated, first by his monolithic ignorance and then by his unreasoning greed. He is buried under a piece of vile doggerel that is his life’s one literary accomplishment.

As we can easily see, the matter is now settled to the satisfaction of all who dare not whisper a word of dissatisfaction. Shakespeare wrote poems and plays that parallel the life of Oxford, and for his vengeance Oxford wrote plays that parallel the life of Shakespeare. What could be clearer?

Without doubt the Oxfordians will raise some new hue and cry, claiming perhaps that the newly-discovered plays of Oxford are forgeries. But it is a long-standing and indisputable precept that forgeries that support the positions of orthodox Shakespearean scholars are, by virtue of their high office, inherently and automatically genuine.

So much for that.

At bottom, there can be no doubt that the argument that Edward de Vere, Seventeenth Earl of Oxford, is the author of the works attributed to Shakespeare is entirely plausible. That is why it is false. The claim that William Shaxsper of Stratford-Upon-Avon, to all evidences an illiterate, is the true creator of those works is not just implausible but preposterous. Therefore it is true.

Shakespeare tormented poor Oxford for the entire lifetime of that tormented lord. It is the solemn duty of all responsible Shakespearean scholars to continue the torment of Oxford and his champions even to the edge of doom.


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