Was Shakespeare a Fraud? The Oxfordian Theory

This post is sponsored by Anonymous.

Scholars and intellectuals have argued the subject for centuries. Was William Shakespeare, the man from Stratford-upon-Avon, the “true” writer who penned the scope of work attributed to him? Or, was the name “Shakespeare” merely a cloaked facade to shield the identity of the works' authentic author? Have we all been “played”?

Those who believe William Shakespeare did not pen the work are called Anti-Stratfordians; these scholars believe that Shakespeare's “life doesn't link up to his work.” They hold that only an aristocrat would have been able to pen such articulate and elevated prose.

Anti-Stratfordian scholars that hold to the “Oxfordian Theory of Shakespeare Authorship” believe that we've been “played” by a very talented, stealth Elizabethan courtier named Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. These specific scholars call themselves “Oxfordians.”

Oxfordians maintain that Edward de Vere's biographical life matches that of the author of Shakespeare's canon (at least more so than the biography of William Shakespeare of Stratford).

“The reason there's been so much doubt about Shakespeare is this man of Stratford with the name Shakespeare – his life doesn't link up to his work…there's nothing in his life that reminds you of his work or vice versa,” says Joseph Sobran, author of the book Alias Shakespeare. Sobran argues that “whoever wrote Shakepeare's sonnets seemed to be an aristocrat…Shakepeare's plays often involved political intrigue; Oxford served for a time in the court of Queen Elizabeth. Other coincidences abound.
“Why is Shakespeare the only great author whose authorship has been questioned by other great authors” such as Mark Twain and Walt Whitman?”

There are several important pieces of evidence that validate the Oxfordian theory. Here are four of them:

(1) Oxfordians believe there is considerable circumstantial biographical evidence, “including Oxford's connections to the Elizabethan theatre and poetry scene, the participation of his family in the printing and publication of the First Folio, his relationship with the Earl of Southhampton, as well as a number of specific circumstances from Oxford's life that Oxfordians believe are depicted in the plays themselves.”

(2) Edward de Vere,the 17th Earl of Oxford has been noted as a poet/playwright in several documents as a poet and playwright. “The anonymous 1589 Arte of English Poesie contains a chapter describing the practice of concealed publication by court figures, which includes a passage listing Oxford as the finest writer of comedy. Francis Mere's 1598 Palladis Tamia, which refers to him as Earle of Oxenford, lists him among the “best for comedy.” Henry Peacham's 1622 The Compleat Gentleman omits Shakespeare's name and praises Oxford as one of the leading poets of the Elizabethan era.”

(3) Oxford's biographies parallel the plots of Shakespeare's plays. “Most notable among these are similarities between Oxford's biography and the actions depicted in Hamlet, The Merchant of Venice, and The Taming of the Shrew, all of which contain a number of local details that, Oxfordians believe, could only have been obtained by personal experiences.”

(4) “Oxford was born in 1550, and was between 40 and 53 years old when he presumably wrote the sonnets. Shakespeare of Stratford was born in 1564. Even though the average life expectancy of Elizabethans was short, being between 26 and 39 was not considered old. In spite of this, age and growing older are recurring themes in the Sonnets.”

Are the Oxfordians right? And if so, who was the Earl of Oxford, and what did he really mean in the scope of Elizabethan England? Filmmaker Roland Emmerich explores the life of Edward de Vere and the Shakespeare authorship debate in his new political thriller Anonymous.

Set in the political snake-pit of Elizabethan England, Anonymous speculates on an issue that has for centuries intrigued academics and brilliant minds ranging from Mark Twain and Charles Dickens to Henry James and Sigmund Freud. Experts have debated, books have been written, and scholars have devoted their lives to protecting or debunking theories surrounding the authorship of the most renowned works in English literature. Anonymous poses one possible answer, focusing on a time when cloak-and-dagger political intrigue, illicit romances in the Royal Court, and the schemes of greedy nobles hungry for the power of the throne were exposed in the most unlikely of places: the London stage. Anonymous opens in theaters October 28, 2011.

– Sobran,Joseph. Alias Shakespeare. Free Press, 1997.
– I-Chin Tu, Janet. “Alas! Poor Shakespeare: Society Debates Authorship.” Seattle Times.
– Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved October 1, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxfordian_theory_of_Shakespeare_authorship

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