(You can be sure that someone will put forward Edward de Vere's name as a likely candidate whenever the question of the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays is raised. Edward is mentioned in this context in Tony Thistlewood’s contemporary mystery novel, Stealing Tomorrow’s Thunder.)
Edward de Vere was first proposed as the Bard by a man called Looney - a name his critics thought was rather appropriate.
In 1920, John Thomas Looney (1870 – 1944), a schoolteacher from Gateshead, wrote a book entitled Shakespeare Identified in which he claimed that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, a highly educated poet and greatly travelled nobleman, was much more likely to have written the works usually attributed to William Shakespeare. By comparison, Shakespeare was a Warwickshire yokel who left school at age twelve, married at eighteen and then disappeared for seven or more years.
And many still think that Looney had a point.
Before you make up your mind, if you haven’t already done so, you should understand a few things about J. Thomas Looney. To start with, he was a Comtean – August Comte being the positivist philosopher who founded the Church of Humanity. The Positivists had their own calendar of thirteen months each one of which was named after a great figure in history. Among the thirteen Positivist’s months were Homer, Aristotle, Archimedes, Dante, Gutenberg and yes, you’ve got it, Shakespeare.
You can see their thinking, can’t you? It would be much better to name a month after someone with a bit of class, such as Edward de Vere, rather than a Warwickshire yokel, however brilliant; you do see that, don’t you? Fortunately, the Church of Humanity didn’t catch on and neither did the Positivist calendar.
So why did Looney pick Edward de Vere? Well, Edward was a poet who, like Shakespeare, wrote in blank verse, or iambic pentameter to give it its proper name. But so did everyone else at that time. That being the case, Looney’s argument on that point has never held much sway with academics.
The ill-fated Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, (executed 1547) first introduced blank verse into English literature over forty years before Shakespeare appeared on the scene. However, in fairness to Looney, it should be pointed out that Henry Howard was Edward de Vere’s uncle.
It is worth noting that only the blue-blooded characters in Shakespeare’s plays actually speak in blank verse; yokels, like the guards and gravediggers in Macbeth, speak in prose. With this in mind, it becomes debatable whether that particular dichotomy of language is more indicative of the writing of an earl or of someone less well-bred but more obsequious.
Looney and his supporters make many more claims that, they believe, strongly suggest that Edward de Vere was the true “Shakespeare”:
And so on… and so on…
The big stumbling block for Looney and his ilk, is that Edward de Vere died in 1604 whereas it is widely acknowledged that Shakespeare’s plays were still being written up to about 1613. Of course, Looney’s supporters dispute the dates on which the plays were allegedly first produced. Who knows, they may be right.
There is, however, one strange point* that cannot readily be explained away. It relates to the death of Queen Elizabeth I on 24th March 1603. Why didn’t the greatest poet in English literature ever put pen to paper to eulogise the Queen on that sad occasion? Surely, it would have been expected of him?
*(I don’t think Looney made this point, but the source eludes me so I apologise for not giving it the appropriate credit. TT)
Likewise, there was not a peep from the Bard on the coronation of King James I/VI in 1603, and yet William Shakespeare was at the height of his powers at that time. Perhaps he did write something and it was lost in the Great Fire of London in 1666, or when the Palace of Whitehall was destroyed by fire in 1698. Yet surely someone somewhere would have had a copy, or at least commented on it, if such a document ever existed. If William Shakespeare was the author, then this is inexplicable.
However, the very same point may be made about Edward de Vere because he didn’t die until June 1604. As there are many letters extant that he wrote to Robert Cecil about that time, he obviously wasn’t too ill to put pen – sorry – quill to paper.
The fact remains that none of Shakespeare’s plays was written after 1613, and yet William Shakespeare lived, apparently in rude health, until 1616. Maybe, if we do want an alternative to William as the author, we should be looking for someone who died in or around the year 1613.
One person immediately comes to mind: Edward’s widow, Elizabeth de Vere, Countess of Oxford. Perhaps they wrote the plays together, and she continued writing until she died in December 1612? Now there’s a thought!
Elizabeth’s will contains a fascinating clause where she leaves an unspecified amount “unto my dombe man yearelie duringe his life (blank) powndes”. What was that all about? Could it have been a payment to William Shakespeare to keep him quiet? And is it merely coincidence that William Shakespeare retired to Stratford-upon-Avon that very year?
However, there is one other highly plausible contender for author of the works usually attributed to William Shakespeare, and this one did die in 1613. Who? Ah, well, if you want to know that, and how Edward de Vere fits into the plot, you will have to read Tony Thistlewood’s contemporary mystery, Stealing Tomorrow's Thunder! And you can find where to buy this riveting novel by clicking here: Buying Books Online
Snapshot Bio of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford
Date of Birth:
Property:Hedingham Castle, Essex.
Click here to read the plot outline of Stealing Tomorrow's Thunder
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