On Plato’s Cave, Edward de Vere and Vaccination
Many, many years ago I was assailed by someone who assured me Shakespeare hadn't written those words. The argument was weak, citing Bacon or Marlowe. 'Have you read Bacon or Marlowe?' I asked. 'I have. They did not write those works by Shakespeare.' And I didn't pursue it further, beyond the 'simple/simplistic' biographies by Margaret Atwood and Bill Bryson. Also, the false flag claims by a kooky Canadian women in the 1800s didn't help convince me of another authorship.
Thank you, Unbekoming, for putting this great argument and history. I loved it. I didn't care too much who wrote these great works of literature, which I consider to be the greatest example of Taoist writing on the planet, because they are great. However, the history you supplied gives the stories a richness and context and depth. Hmmmm. Buddhist concept of interdependence arising: life doesn't come out of of nothing, it is co-existent with life.
Again, this was a wonderful read. And to have yet another rock hard ideological belief exploded out of my system. All lies are unbecoming and create heaviness in our souls. You have helped me lighten mine quite a lot, actually. I'm laughing at this. With covid total freedom from all masks of delusion seem to be happening. What next? Germ theory? Flat earth? Techtonic plate theory? Quantum mechanics as bullshit theory, per Clif High in a recent podcast. https://clifhigh.substack.com/p/math-and-psyops#details
Amazing time to be alive, and to meet the amazing people who are living it instead of having chosen to be zombies
A Gideon Bible! That's remarkable. Did de Vere get it in a motel room in Italy?
Thanks again for posting more Liam Scheff. I enjoyed the film Anonymous, very well done and bought the story to my attention. Reading this makes it even clearer. It adds to the list of plandemic, vaccines, moon landings, world wars, 9/11 and all the other official stories we've been led to believe that just don't hold up to scrutiny.
And still, regardless of their authorship, how lucky we are to have 'Shakespeare's' works!
Great article Frank. Thankyou.
" Of all of the wonders I have but heard it seems to me most strange that men should fear. Given that death, a necessary end will come when it will come." Such a great mantra!
Fear is the first enemy of a man of knowledge - Don Juan Matus - the teachings of Don Juan, by Carlos Castaneda.
Thank you for introducing us to Liam Scheff's work. I found this link that is also very informative. https://iccinvestigation.wordpress.com/author/willdraw/ I am very saddened to learn of Liam's death by suicide in 2017.
What a fantastic article!!!!
I love this idea....I will get the book (probably more than one).
I have always heard that Shakespeare wasn't really Shakespeare, and what is written makes so
much more sense...thank you!
My highschool English teacher alluded to the idea that Shakespeare wasn't exactly Bill, pointed to Marlow but that was as much time as could be spared for the conversation. But she did plant the seed of doubt, often the best we can do in the system of systems that we live in. Good teacher.
Oxford, as you know, published under his own name. C.S. Lewis, in his 700-page survey of non-dramatic English literature in the 16th century, disposes of Oxford in a single sentence (kind of like the Earth entry in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). What does he say? “Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, shows, here and there, a faint talent, but is for the most part undistinguished and verbose.” De Vere wasn’t within a million miles of Shakespeare on his best day. You say he wrote in his own name until he started writing as Shakespeare, but the fact is he just didn’t publish enough for a claim like that to mean anything.
We have a bunch of letters Oxford wrote late in life, when Shakespeare was hitting his heights in the 1590s and early 1600s. Unfortunately the links to the original letters at Kathman’s website are broken. That is a pity, because the letters reveal a boring, greedy, rather stupid man. Kathman’s discussion of the letters is below.
So what happened to Oxford the polymath, the universal genius? He doesn’t exist, outside the pages of Oxfordian books. The guy with the “undistinguished and verbose” poetry, the guy begging for a tin concession at the end of his life? That’s the real Oxford.
A few side notes. If you’re going to continue writing stuff like this, you don’t want people to laugh at you. 1. You refer to Oxford’s Gideon Bible. You mean his Geneva Bible. The Gideons are the guys who put Bibles in motels around the world. (Also, Oxford’s alleged Bible is another red herring – see Kathman for details.) 2. You refer to Shakespeare’s two epic poems. You mean Venus & Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. Those aren’t epic poems. Examples of epic poems would be the Iliad, the Aeneid, and Paradise Lost – long, serious poems about “heroic” subjects – the Trojan War, the founding of Rome, and the revolt of the angels and the fall of man, respectively. V&A is about 1200 lines, while the Iliad is about 16,000 – big difference. I think the technical term for V&A and Lucrece is epyllia (singular epyllion), but you can just call them narrative poems.
* * *
Since you want to discuss conspiracy theories generally, some closing thoughts. The Shakespeare Conspiracy, pretending for the moment that it existed, has no political valence today. It’s easy to see why Authority might want you to believe that JFK was killed by a lone nut and not by a high-level conspiracy, that AIDS/COVID didn’t come from a lab, and that mRNA vaccines are good for you. But there is no reason for Authority to care who wrote Shakespeare’s plays and poems. In your telling the authorship conspiracy started because the plays were romans a clef about Elizabeth’s court and the true author would have gotten in trouble had his identity become known. It continued for centuries after all that became irrelevant because for some reason everyone who knew the truth died without troubling to set the record straight, so the lie continued to pass for truth out of sheer inertia. De Vere’s candidacy has reactionary implications if any: only a rich privileged nobleman would have the education and life experiences necessary to write the plays, not some clod from the sticks.
In an attempt to give the authorship question significance, you say “children are lied to on a daily basis. They are told that some boob magically became the most important genius or any other, not by working or studying or living or trying or striving or learning – but by pure genius.” Well, sorry, but no one thinks that except you. People who think that Shakespeare was the true author believe that after becoming an actor, he gradually began writing in collaboration with others, and then he progressed from apprentice stuff like TGOV (which would be completely forgotten today if Shakespeare hadn’t written it) and collaborative work like the Henry VI plays, then up to the tremendous histrionics of Richard III to the much subtler poetry of Richard II to the brilliant creation of Falstaff in Henry IV up to the transcendent genius of Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, and King Lear. It didn’t just happen; it was the product of decades of hard work and, yes, genius. All writers know that writing is hard work, be they grammar school students or post-docs. In his tribute to Shakespeare in the First Folio, Jonson writes, “Who casts to write a living line, must sweat,/(Such as thine are) and strike the second heat/Upon the Muses anvile; turne the same/(And himself with it) that he thinkes to frame;/Or for the laurell, he may gaine a scorne,/For a good Poet’s made, as well as borne.” Just so. Shakespeare made himself Shakespeare through arduous toil, and no one believes otherwise.
May as well take up actors…you consider it so disgraceful a profession that saying you were an actor was like admitting you’d done porn in college. Wrong. When Shakespeare’s colleague Richard Burbage died “the citizens of London grieved with an extravagance that surpassed their official mourning for the death of Queen Anne some eleven days earlier.” https://www.jstor.org/stable/24303970 (And if you’re thinking, “Aha, they weren’t that upset about Shakespeare!” well, what can I say. Even today people mourn movie stars, not scriptwriters.) William Herbert, the Earl of Pembroke and one of the dedicatees of the First Folio, wrote to a friend that he couldn’t stand the thought of going to a play “so soon after the loss of my old acquaintance, Burbage.”
You say “whoever wrote the plays got Italy of the era entirely right (and hold that thought).” Yes, hold tight. Did you know that Verona was a seaport and you got from Verona to Milan by sea? Well, that’s what Shakespeare thought, at least at the time that he wrote Two Gentleman of Verona. Nor is that all that’s wrong with the play, if you're manning the "Shakespeare knew Italy" barricade. An outlaw swears by the "bare scalp of Robin Hood's fat friar" -- I can't imagine too many condottieri were in the habit of doing that. The servants Launce and Speed go to an alehouse in Milan where five pence will buy five thousand welcomes -- does that seem Italian to you? Most of the character names are not particularly Italian. Shakespeare thinks Milan is ruled by an emperor rather than a duke and that Verona is ruled by a duke rather than by Venice. In real life there are mountains to the north of Milan and Mantua is to the south, but in the play the Duke/Emperor orders a rendezvous "Upon the rising of the mountain-foot /That leads toward Mantua" to catch Eglamour and Sylvia. "Don" is used as an honorific, which makes lots of sense if you suppose an apprentice playwright with a limited education is using a Spanish source but transposing the story to modern "Italy" to satisfy popular taste. But it makes no sense if you suppose the playwright is a high-ranking noble steeped in Italian ways.
TGOV was very early, of course, and Shakespeare got better at Italy. But he never stopped making mistakes about the place. Even at the end of his career, in The Tempest, the geography of Milan described as Prospero and Miranda are being hurried out of the city into exile is impossible to square with reality, unless you imagine that Milan’s geography is like London’s, in which case it works fine.
You ask where Shakespeare got his kings and nobles. The answer is, he got them from popular histories and chronicles, the same place where his contemporary playwrights (who, like him, were all commoners) got their kings and nobles. Here’s a quotation from Holinshed’s Chronicles that I happen to have handy.
'It fortuned as Makbeth and Banquho iournied towards Fores, where the king then laie, they went sporting by the waie togither without other companie, saue onelie themselues, passing thorough the woods and fields, when suddenlie in the middest of a laund, there met them thrée women in strange and wild apparell, resembling creatures of elder world, whome when they attentiuelie beheld, woondering much at the sight, the first of them spake and said; "All haile Makbeth, thane of Glammis" (for he had latelie entered into that dignitie and office by the death of his father Sinell.) The second of them said; "Haile Makbeth thane of Cawder." But the third said; "All haile Makbeth that héerafter shalt be king of Scotland."'
There’s a passage from Anthony and Cleopatra that follows Thomas North’s translation of Plutarch’s description of Cleopatra’s barge so slavishly that certain weak-minded persons have argued that North was the “true” Shakespeare. And Shakespeare was no more noted for his knowledge of the upper classes than he was recognized as a master of the classics. John Dryden wrote in the 1600s that Beaumont and Fletcher were much better than Shakespeare and Jonson at rendering gentlemen, because B&F had spent more time in good society.
You write that “Military, legal, scientific, and literary historians who study the works of Shakespeare agree that whoever wrote them understood at the highest level the advanced disciplines of his age.” Yeah, no. If I were to pick the topics about which Shakespeare knew the least, I’d probably go with geography, history (except for the chronicles) and military matters. Jonson mocked him for giving Bohemia a seacoast; I bet it would have been funny to see how far away Shakespeare thought Sicily was. He thought the oracle at Delphi was an island. He thinks nothing of having ancient Athens be ruled by a duke. Troilus and Cressida is about the Trojan War, but the leading characters are all medieval knights and ladies, and Hector quotes Aristotle, who lived a thousand years after Hector, had Hector actually existed. Shakespeare talks a lot about artillery in King John, but cannon didn’t yet exist in Europe in King John’s time. Shakespeare seems more or less innocent of the details of military rank. I fail to discern any strategic brilliance in his handling of war. In his battle-scenes, men rush on stage, declaim, and rush off again, as they did in the battle-scenes of his contemporaries.
Turning to the law: I’m a lawyer, and I can tell you with confidence that nothing like the trial scene in The Merchant of Venice ever happened in the history of jurisprudence. As drama it’s tremendous; as law it’s just silly. I have a book from two other lawyers, Paul Clarkson and Clyde Warren, The Law of Property in Shakespeare and the Elizabethan Drama (1942). They conclude, and illustrate with copious examples from Shakespeare and his contemporaries, that Shakespeare’s use of terminology from property law in his plays and poems was, in frequency and accuracy, average for his time. His metaphors drawn from the law were often quite vivid, but that’s because he was a great writer, not because he was a legal wiz. Shakespeare, compared to modern writers, makes pretty heavy use of metaphors drawn from the law; but so do his contemporaries, also non-lawyers.
On to Stratford. You think it was a filthy ignorant backwater, but it wasn’t. It had a nice grammar school staffed with masters hired from Oxford or Cambridge. We have a letter from an eleven-year-old Stratfordian, Richard Quiney, Jr., to his father in 1598. It’s in Latin. How good were your Latin letters when you were eleven? We have no attendance records for the school before 1700, but presumably the school wasn’t paying the masters to do nothing. Shakespeare, as the son of an alderman, was entitled to attend for free. You list John Shakespeare as a butcher. He was a glover and an alderman, and for a time mayor of Stratford. He then appears to have fallen on hard times before getting bailed out by his son, who was quite well-off by the late 1590s.
What did they study at the grammar school? Latin, Latin, and more Latin. A little Greek. What authors? Ovid, Plutarch, Cato, Terence. I had to smile when you expressed astonishment that Ovid turns up in Shakespeare’s work so much. Of course he does! Ovid is one of the backbones of a grammar school curriculum. Trying to draw a connection between Shakespeare’s work and de Vere on the basis of Ovid is like saying, “this kid writes about Star Wars all the time, he must have grown up in George Lucas’s house.” Incidentally, there’s an old book by T.W. Baldwin available on the internet archive about the likely content of grammar instruction in the Stratford school. https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.3734/page/n685/mode/2up It ties a number of passages from schoolboy passages of Ovid to passages from the plays.
Was Shakespeare some kind of master of the classics, then? By no means! Andrew Lang wrote a nice little book on Shakespeare authorship over 100 years ago. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/5127/5127-h/5127-h.htm Unlike me, and I suspect you, he studied Latin in school. He found errors in Shakespeare’s Latin as revealed by the plays that he, Lang, never would have made. Shakespeare was a brilliant writer, but no scholar. Hence in Jonson’s tribute to Shakespeare there’s the famous reference to Shakespeare’s “small Latine and less Greeke” which T.W. Baldwin later took for the title of his own study.
Jonson’s line is consistent with a lot of contemporary and subsequent commentary on Shakespeare -- that he was natural, untutored, uneducated. An early sample of this is (probably) Francis Beaumont’s lines written to Jonson (probably) around 1608:
. . . here I would let slip
(If I had any in me) scholarship,
And from all Learning keep these lines as clear
as Shakespeares best are, which our heirs shall hear,
Preachers apt to their auditors to show
how far sometimes a mortal man may go
by the dim light of Nature
For the balance of the 17th century, it was standard to compare “natural” Shakespeare and “learned” Jonson. I could fill pages with quotes of that kind. And so could you, if you ploughed through this allusion book. https://archive.org/details/shakspereallusio02ingluoft Of course, this is inconsistent with authorship theories, which claim that the plays and poems betray far too much learning for a grammar school boy to have written them. But no one in Shakespeare’s time or long after he was dead thought of him or his work as learned.
Your reference to Shakespeare’s alleged thick Warwickshire accent, a staple of Oxfordian pseudo-biography, made me smile again. I knew a man, a theater manager as it happens, in London. Although he hadn’t attended university, he spoke some of the most beautiful English I have ever heard. I met his mom and siblings once, and they had cockney accents so thick I could barely understand them at all. I imagine Shakespeare had his Warwickshire accent under control. He was a successful actor in London, after all.
You have a theory: the true author of Shakespeare’s plays was Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. He had to conceal his identity because his plays contained truthful accounts of events in Elizabeth’s court. In particular, Lord Burghley, Elizabeth’s chief minister and de Vere’s father-in-law, was mocked in the character of Polonius, the garrulous old fool in Hamlet. As his front man, de Vere chose William Shakespeare, a London actor.
This theory makes no sense. First, the plays were subject to censorship before they could be played or printed. Topical references in plays could be, and were, removed. But it could have been much worse than that. Lord Burghley was the most powerful man in England. He died in 1598, probably before Hamlet was staged, but his son Robert took his place as Elizabeth’s chief minister. If Burghley had been written into Hamlet as Polonius, Robert could have gone to William Shakespeare and threatened “to have a tooth torn out, a finger, nose or an ear cut off, or simply [have him] be locked in the Tower of London and executed.”
And what do you suppose William Shakespeare would have done then?
Here’s a high-level overview of your authorship problem. There are a bunch of plays and poems published during Shakespeare’s lifetime with his name on them. In fact he is the most published playwright, by far, in the 1590s and 1600s. His long narrative poems Venus & Adonis and Rape of Lucrece also do very well. There are a bunch of references to him, admiring or envious, as an author of plays and poems. Excerpts from his work get republished in popular anthologies under his name. Some of the references to him seem to point more or less clearly to an author who is a non-university educated actor in a prominent troupe. There’s a collection of 36 plays published seven years after Shakespeare died identifying him as the author. The collection contains a preface and a dedication by two of his comrades from the troupe. The dedication is addressed to William and Philip Herbert, two prominent nobles closely involved in the theater, and notes that they had honored both the plays and the author, when he was alive. It’s also got a great tribute poem from Shakespeare’s chief rival among London playwrights, Ben Jonson. Also, there’s a fancy monument in Stratford put up shortly after Shakespeare’s death.
That’s what Shakespeare’s got. And everybody else has…nothing. No attributions, no praise, no anthologies, no collections, no admiring poems, no monuments. Nothing, nada, zip. What authorship enthusiasts have to offer is: read Hamlet or Sonnet 125 or whatever the way I want you to and you’ll see that Shakespeare the provincial boob couldn’t possibly have written it. And also my reading will prove to you that Edward de Vere or the Earl of Derby or Sir Francis Bacon or whoever definitely did write it. And also please buy my theory as to why the true authorship was concealed for 200 plus years and nevertheless, I’ve figured out who the real author is.
This approach will never succeed. Scholars are never going to throw up their hands and say, “yes, there’s evidence for Shakespeare, and no evidence for your guy, but your reading of Hamlet is really good, so we’re going to ignore the evidence and go with your guy.” Authorship skeptics are putting up Nothing against Something. Something beats Nothing every time.
It’s not impossible that authorship skeptics could come up with Something. If it could be proved, for example, that Shakespeare couldn’t have written the plays – he was illiterate, say, or he couldn’t speak English, or that he died before they were written – that would definitely be Something. But that proof is never going to be forthcoming. Or if there was a manuscript in de Vere’s or Bacon’s handwriting, obviously that would be Something. Unlike proving Shakespeare illiterate, a manuscript turning up is not impossible, but it has never happened, and it seems extremely likely that it never will. So authorship theories are going to stay on the fringe.
That said, a lot of the things that you imagine support your theory are false. Let’s go through them. For the will and the spelling of Shakespeare’s name, I’ll refer you to David Kathman, who put together a very fine website on Shakespearean authorship in solid antique 1990s internet style.
On the will, he notes that lots of people besides Shakespeare who very clearly had books nevertheless didn’t mention them in their wills, and plenty of playwrights failed to mention manuscripts. I’ll add that I own thousands of books, and they’re very dear to me, but I don’t say a word about them in my will. You say that Shakespeare dictated the will to his attorney, but that’s poppycock. I’m a lawyer, and most of the verbiage in that will seems clearly drawn from legal forms of the period. I’ve read other wills from back then and they don’t read very differently.
On the spelling of Shakespeare’s name: Kathman, bless his soul, lists every spelling for Shakespeare’s entire life. You should definitely check out his site for details, but the highlights are: (i) Shakespeare, the way we spell it today, was the most common spelling of his name, both in London and Stratford, and in literary and non-literary contexts; and (ii) the occasional hyphenations mean nothing, and definitely don’t indicate the presence of a pseudonym.
I’ll add that arguments founded on spelling ca. 1600 are a waste of time; it was wholly irregular. As Kathman notes, we have one signature from Christopher Marlow; he spells his surname “Marley.”
Thank you for sharing the fascinating insights into Shakespeare - a welcome departure from Covid news. It reminds me of how enjoyable and engaging reading was before we were all forced to spend our spare time researching vaccines, reading clinical trials and navigating tyrannical mandates.
It's great that you're bringing Liam's work to a wider audience.
I 𝒍𝒐𝒗𝒆𝒅 this. Thank you!
As I read this, it occurred to me that Einstein's reputation as a genius could bear the same kind of scrutiny.
Of course, that 𝒐𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒓 story mentioned toward the end tolerates no scrutiny whatsoever 𝒂𝒕 𝒂𝒍𝒍 by anyone. 𝑬𝒗𝒆𝒓. It's official. That settles it, and if anyone dares hang a question mark on any aspect of it, prepare for at a minimum vitriolic assault, accusations, ostracism -- and at worst, depending on the gulag one lives in, jail time.
Now. Isn't. 𝑻𝒉𝒂𝒕. Just. So. 𝑺𝒑𝒆𝒄𝒊𝒂𝒍?