The Controversy

THE SHAKESPEARE AUTHORSHIP QUESTION

Western culture is at the brink of realizing its supreme poet and playwright used the pen-name, William Shakespeare. But he was not the wool-broker from Stratford England, William Shakspere, who could not write.

We cannot span the gap between a stingy businessman’s life and Western civilization’s prodigal Poet and Seer. The earliest scholars suspected collaborative or group authorship, Then over time various names arose--authors who might have been as educated, eloquent, well-traveled, as knowing of court custom, sport, politics, and war, as the great works suggest. Bacon, Marlowe, Dyer, Derby, Mary Sidney—none seemed to fit the distinct lyrical rhetoric of heroic Honor, infused with universal insight and sympathy.

One thing great creative minds have always known: the Stratford Shakspere biography is not an artist’s life. Emerson, Whitman, Hawthorne, Clemens, Freud, James, Galsworthy said so, and numerous modern doubters agree—actors Charles Chaplin, Orson Welles, John Guilgud, Mark Rylance, Derek Jacobi, Vanessa Redgrave, Jeremy Irons, Michael York; and Supreme Court Justices Powell, Blackmun, Brennan, Stevens, Scalia, and O’Connor.

The trusted tradition is that Shakspere the businessman got rich quick in London writing plays, then went home at forty and died quietly twelve years later. But the factual record lends that story no support. Shakspere never manifested as a writer to his family, neighbors, town, shire, or capital city. He left no books, papers, letters, Bible, manuscripts, drafts, plays, poems, pens, inkpots, desks, tables, shelves, bookcases, musical instruments, provision for his daughters’ and grand-child’s education, or any other sign of a cultivated mind or deed. His literary record consists of six attempts to sign his name, none successful or even spelled ‘Shakespeare’. Alive never lauded, dead he went unmourned.

So it defies the rules of evidence and logic to believe Shakspere wrote the Shakespeare poems and plays—each courtly, aristocratic, learned, linguistically vast, and classically grounded. But once we learn from scholarship that “Shakespeare” was the secretive pen-name of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, the rebellious Renaissance nobleman who modernized the English language, then the Stratford-Shakespeare narrative falls away. The accumulated circumstantial, biographical, and textual parallels between Oxford and “Shakespeare”—including that his pen-name derived from legendary jousting exploits earlier in his life—comprise the biographical continuity of a genius to replace tradition’s contradictory just-so story.

From the youthful Comedy of Errors to the aged King Lear, but especially in the tragically autobiographical Hamlet, we can follow Oxford’s childhood, lineage, privilege, enormous learning, his philosophy, natural imagery, Italian travels, and bitter outcast state. For Edward de Vere 17th Earl of Oxford, suffered being the Artist-Seer of his age. This is the archetypal paradigm that underlies the canon called “Shakespeare”. The tale our culture has yet to tell is how Elizabeth and James made it necessary state policy to counterfeit Oxford’s art. Pseudonyms, compelled concealment, secret royal grants, deception in publishing, writing the creator of England’s foundation Myth out of his legacy and posterity—are previously disjointed fragments of History. We will not get “Shakespeare” right unless Elizabeth’s Gloriana is righted too, as the early English State that dealt brutally and falsely with the power of her literary prince’s artistic Truth.

William Ray
Willits California