Monday, April 12, 2004

Let's straighten something out. Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, was not reponsible for the works of William Shakespeare. He didn't write so much as a word of the Bard. The movement which has emerged to put forward his candidacy for the authorship is an intellectual cult. it's full of well meaning folk with just enough perspicacity to realise that something is very wrong with the orthodox position, but not enough clear-sightedness to see that the Oxford theory is utterly untenable. His dates are, for a start, all wrong. It's not just a question of his dying too early to have written many of the plays; the entire trajectory of the appearance of the Elizabethan theatre is utterly incongruent with his biography. Macbeth was written after the Gunpowder plot of 1605; the Tempest after the Strachey letter of 1609 and Henry VIII after Bacon's fall from grace in 1621. All objections to the contrary from Oxfordians are wishful sloppy thinking. Everything about the Oxford case crumbles to the touch: the 1000 pound annual bequest given to the Earl by the Queen is clearly stated as being for the relief of his estate after he blew the family fortune; the coat of arms allegedly used by DeVere with the "shaken spear" was actually not used by his family during his lifetime, and in any case features a broken spear, not shaken; everything is twisted, stretched, papered-over. There are some incidents from the Earl's life in the plays; they are biography, not autobiography. On this small misunderstanding, what edifices of error have been built. The entire debate is framed as William from Stratford against DeVere, and both sides wonder why they are unable to deliver the knock-out blow. Meanwhile, both the orthodox and the oxfordian resolutely refuse to perform due diligence on the case for Bacon. All assume that someone, somewhere has provided the definitive case against Bacon as Shakespeare. In fact, no one has. John Michell, sadly, in his popular book Who Wrote Shakespeare? dismisses Bacons candidacy on the basis that he never visitted Italy. In fact, contemporary documentary evidence attests to at least two trips there made by Francis Bacon.

Bacon is Shakespeare. The evidence is overwhelming: Northumberland. Promus. Parallels. Testimony of contemporaries. There is no counter-argument which stands up to scrutiny. Thus the orthodox and the oxfordians simply ignore the Baconians, as best they can. Meanwhile, the Oxfordians continue to look for the "smoking gun", which they freely admit is yet to be found. The reason it has not been found is that it does not exist; there is no smoking gun because Oxford did not write the Works; no, not even so much as a single word.