On Plato’s Cave, Edward de Vere and Vaccination
This isn’t really about Shakespeare, although it is, sort of.
It’s about a communication strategy to the middle.
We have been broadly split into 3 groups.
1. The asleep, the believers, the TV watchers, and readers of the Fact Checkers. Nothing we say to them can get through. A lost cause unfortunately.
2. The awake, those that will not take the injections anymore, that have lost trust in government, The Science™ and authority. The dissidents. The depopulation hypothesis does nothing for this crowd besides rile them up even more. You are preaching to the choir. There is no return on investment here.
3. So, we are left with the large valuable middle, they don't quite know what to think anymore, they sort of know they have been lied to, are not quite sure how, have had their trust in authority damaged but not destroyed, and they are curious and looking for a message and messenger they can trust and follow out of Plato's Cave. These are our target audience, and they need to be won over one by one.
It was Robert Kennedy Jr. via The Real Anthony Fauci that pointed me to Celia Farber and Liam Scheff (only via a couple of mentions that I didn’t really notice at the time). I paid attention to Celia, and found her on Substack, but it was she that pointed me back to Liam. So, I now had two trusted sources pointing towards Liam.
Which got me to his only non-fiction book, Official Stories.
So far, I have highlighted 3 chapters from Liam’s book on the following subjects:
And for my sins I have bought many copies of his book to hand out, and hopefully encouraged a few others to do the same.
In the book Liam covers 10 subjects. In my view 7 are dangerous subjects and 3 are safe.
The dangerous subjects include JFK, 911, HIV/AIDS, and they are dangerous because those in the middle are conditioned to recoil from any suggestion that the known story (the official story) is not the true story. The middle doesn’t have time for tin foil theorists after all.
Which leaves us with 3 safe subjects that are electric universe, tectonic plates and Shakespeare.
They are safe because, for the middle, discovering that lightning might have a very different explanation, or that tectonic plate theory might not be all that it’s cracked up to be are “interesting” rather than “threatening”.
But of the 10 subjects in Liam’s book, only one really matters. That of vaccination.
All 10 chapters are about the same thing, that of power’s incentive, and ability, to manufacture ignorance. Power maintains power by creating an alternate reality conducive to maintaining that power.
But honestly, what does it matter if someone knows where the bullets that killed JFK came from? Or whether they know anything about building no. 7?
Only one thing truly matters; are you going to inject that beautifully perfect newborn with a chemical cocktail? That single decision could determine the rest of many lives, least of which is the baby’s.
So, we have 2 subjects out of the 10.
One matters more than all the others: Vaccination.
One is the safest of all the others: Shakespeare.
Until very recently I, like you I suspect, thought that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare. Why wouldn’t I, Hollywood told me repeatedly after all.
If you want to help someone you care about wake up from 200 years of finely tuned vaccine propaganda and manufactured ignorance, you cannot approach the subject head on, but you can approach it sideways through Shakespeare.
You can gift someone Official Stories and invite them to read chapter 7 (Shakespeare) and they are now very likely to find their way to chapter 5 (Vaccination).
If they do, either by themselves or with a bit of nudging from you “did you read any of the other chapters?” then you can point them to the last 21 minutes of Vaxxed 2, and then honestly your work is done.
I’m not sure if Liam actually understood the genius of what he did with his book. I believe it is the only book ever written that indirectly, via “safe” subjects, helps someone “wake themself up” to that that really matters.
With eternal gratitude to Liam Scheff.
Official Stories – Chapter 7
Shake-Speare, not Shakespeare
The Oﬃcial Story: One man, William Shakespeare, a businessman, part-time actor and occasional theater manager, from the rural English town of Stratford-upon- Avon, also wrote the greatest works of prose in the English language.
The Lone Gunman:
A book of poems published in 1609, before his death in 1616. But his plays were published only after his death as one body of work in 1623. The name appearing on that folio is “William Shakespeare,” but the name on the poems and other works is hyphenated - “William Shake-Speare.” His signature appears on only six surviving documents, but with signiﬁcant variation in spelling.
The Magic Bullet:
Genius, pure and unadulterated. Sure, he was a nobody from nowhere, but that's just how genius works. He was touched by a divine spark and even if his life does not relate to his work, genius makes it so and is inexplicable.
In the case of Shakespeare, the oﬃcial story is, to quote Mark Twain, mostly plaster, hung over a few bones. Even the mainstream admits there is very little written about the man called Will Shakspeare, Shakspe or Shakspēr (as he variously signed his name). This, to them, is not a problem to be solved, but a distraction to be ignored, in favor of admiring the works.
But ignoring their ignoring, let's ask, what do we know about him from historical records? There is no record of his birth; the oﬃcial date is a best guess. He was a butcher's son from a rural town. He did marry a local woman, Anne Hathaway. They had three children, one died. He was an actor and businessman. He never left England and only traveled the 100 miles from his town of Stratford to London. There are minor notices of his work as an actor and as a businessman.
Beyond this rudimentary information, there is not much else on record; no schooling, no military service and no advanced education. There is nothing written about his life. And not because people weren't writing then. So, what do we know and how do we know it?
The most important source of information about the man called Will Shaksper is a document he signed, which he dictated to his attorney. It relates directly to him, his major possessions, interests and relationships, as it sums up his entire life. It is his last will and testament. In the will he enumerates his belongings, carefully.
He was one of the wealthier men in his small town. He owned lands and properties, he had bought a share in two theaters. In addition to real estate, he had rings, a silver bowl and some furniture and he divided it all very neatly. He left his most important possessions - his books and manuscripts for his great works to…well, ﬁrst, let's admit that he might have been ungenerous in this regard. He left no books to his two daughters, or his granddaughter. Which seems awfully stingy. But, taking a deeper look, why would he have? They couldn't read or write. His children and grandchild, like his parents, were illiterate. Which surprises a lot of people.
He bequeathed his great manuscripts for the 37 (or more) plays, 150 sonnets and 2 epic poems to...no one. Because he did not have a single manuscript, not one play, not even a piece of paper with a sketch or outline for a poem. No library ﬁlled with research materials - not one book of any kind. Nowhere in his possession was anything relating to the works of Shakespeare. Which might surprise you. It did me. But that's the reality.
When he died, there was no state funeral. No one from the royal court came to pay their regards, no special mention was made in London in the papers or among fellow poets. And all of that is on the record.
Let's Put On A Show
Here is the mystery: how did the greatest writer of the English language, who employed more than 31,000 words in his combined works, manage to create the “works of Shakespeare” without keeping any of them around? Without a rough draft? A collection of source material? Or, even a “to do” list? “To do: write great play, epic poem and then 36 more.”
“Note to self from the desk of Will Shaksper. Idea for play: two teenagers - Italian, from, oh, I don't know. I've never been to Italy. No matter! Two young Italians fall in love. Their families hate each other, so the kids, oh...something happens. Come back to it. Make it poetically dazzling, but tragic!”
“Idea for play: a teenaged prince from…somewhere dark. Norway. No. Denmark! Yes! Well, maybe. I've never been there, but, no matter! The prince loses father to… clumsiness. No. Murder! Yes, murder. And he's got a girlfriend. She's really needy. He's just not that into her. And…something happens. Come back to it. Make it tragic but brilliant!!”
No, not even a napkin with some hastily-written song lyrics. Despite an exhaustive hunt for the manuscripts in his town, in London and everywhere in between, they have not been found to exist.
Which leads the oﬃcial storytellers to this bit of thinking: He must have been a genius and he must have learned it all in school. And never forgotten a lick. And went on to great individual studies and just thrown every book away as soon as he was done with it. Same with his writings. Read it, wrote it, burned it, buried it or lost it. Don't need it! Genius!
In 1909, Mark Twain summed up the problems with the life of the man in a bit of true satire called “Is Shakespeare Dead,” which I can only recommend as required reading. I'll paraphrase.
The man called Shakespeare was born near or around April 23, 1564 in a back-water rural town called Stratford- upon-Avon. It was not known for anything and was not a center of anything, least of all learning, as most of the inhabitants, on record, could not sign their names. It was what you'd expect of a rural town of poor farmers in 1500s England. Cows, pigs, sheep and chickens. Or, I take it back; it was well-known as a center for sheep slaughtering.
He would have had the strong rural accent of Warwickshire, which would have marked him throughout his life, unless he worked very hard to correct it to a more sophisticated London accent.
His father was a butcher and it is assumed that young Will slaughtered calves. Assumed but not known, because there is no record of it. There is no record of him going to school or working or doing anything, until he was 18, when he took out a marriage license to marry Anne Whately. On the next day, he took out a license to marry Anne Hathaway. (Maybe he had trouble with spelling.)
She was eight years older than he was, bore him 3 children, whom he did not teach to read or write. His ﬁrst daughter arrived six months after the wedding, which just goes to show you that love and marriage really do go together like a horse and carriage.
He spent most of the next two decades away from his family, in London. He appeared as an actor in some plays, then as a theater manager. He bought a property in Stratford, but remained in London. He once played in a cast that performed for the Queen. Which must have been a grand occasion. But apparently not something he felt compelled to write about, anywhere.
From about 1597 to 1610, he is listed as an actor and theater manager. At the same time, his name, spelled in a variety of ways, but never as we spell it today, becomes associated with various plays now ascribed to “Shakespeare.” Some of these plays were performed under other names, as well - stolen - without protest from the actor.
After this period in London, during which he apparently abandoned his family, he returned to Stratford, where he ﬁnished his life as a pecuniary businessman. His wife had to borrow forty-one shillings during his long absence; Will Shaksper refused to pay it back. There is a record of small legal suits; he sued and was sued by locals for reimbursement of small loans. That was his business: money-lending, buying and selling properties and apparently, grain.
He wrote a will, signing it in three places. Twice as Shakspere and once as Shakspeare. These are among six surviving signatures which account for the entirety of work penned by his hand. The signatures are diverse in form and almost always spell the name diﬀerently. “Shakp, Shakspē, Shakspēr, Shakspere.”
And then he died, having accounted for and divided all of his belongings: his properties, rings, a sword, a gilded silver bowl and his “second best bed,” which he left to his wife. (Was she his second best wife? He was gone a long time.) He never paid her debt, by the way.
And in the one four-line poem he probably could have spoken, if not written, which is inscribed on his tomb, he warned grave-robbers that they would be cursed if they moved his bones. Which seems a little trite, coming from the man who wrote the works of Shakespeare.
The counterargument. This is not the man who wrote the plays, poems and sonnets. The author was someone far more interesting, whose biography tells us about the works of Shakespeare. Someone with the learning, wit, intellect, legal, military and courtly experience, travel history, grasp of languages living and dead; someone with court access, unparalleled education and an acute knowledge of suﬀering.
The question arises, why didn't this genius write the plays in his own name?
Answer: because he didn't want to be dead.
Freedom From Speech
In 1597, the poet and playwright Ben Johnson was arrested for sedition for writing a play in which the Queen and other royals were mocked. He was imprisoned and charged with lewd and mutinous behavior. The play was destroyed.
In 1593, the poet and playwright Christopher Marlowe, considered the most inﬂuential on the works of Shakespeare, was arrested for blasphemy, for writing a manuscript containing “vile and heretical concepts.” He was said to be executed, stabbed to death by government agents. Clearly, freedom of speech was not a popular concept. In fact, England still doesn't protect free speech as we say we do here.
England was not a democracy, it was a kingdom ruled by one person: a powerful, occasionally volatile, paranoid, ﬁckle, warrior queen. Elizabeth, a complex character, calculating, self-sacriﬁcing, murdering. She was the daughter of what we'd regard as a serial murderer. Henry, her father, had her mother's head cut oﬀ with an axe; she was one of two wives he killed. (He had six in total, though some weren't legal marriages.) Which is to say, members of the Elizabethan royal court were aware that their lives depended on the whim of a monarch. No, they did not criticize the Queen.
The royal court was full of intrigue - and spies. Spain, France and England were in a constant tango of treachery. (Yes, I said “tango of treachery.” I'm allowed a little campy alliteration.) Traitors to the kingdom who leaked information or who were perceived as a destabilizing inﬂuence were brought up on exaggerated charges. Secret inquisitions were conducted; conspirators were imprisoned for life. Tell a tale out of school to the wrong person and you could get a tooth torn out, a ﬁnger, nose or an ear cut oﬀ, or simply be locked in the Tower of London and executed. Though paranoia ran high, conspiracy was a real danger to those in power.
The Elizabethan court was ﬁlled with practiced smiles hiding serpent's teeth. Elizabeth fought wars and executed even her own cousin Mary to keep herself in power. She made a public stance of being a “virgin” all her life to keep groping men oﬀ her throne. It was as seedy, dishonest and treacherous an age as, well, it's just like now. But smellier.
What Is In A Name?
The works of “Shakespeare” were most often published under the name “Shake-Speare.” Why hyphenate a name and spell it diﬀerently? At the time, a name so obviously playing on words was understood to be a pseudonym - which carried a deeper meaning. That is, to make a show of a name was common practice if the name was not real.
But what does the name mean? Literally, it is someone who shakes a spear; who is skilled with a sword or spear.
But the name also refers to the patron saint or God who is identiﬁed as a spear-shaker. That is Athena, daughter of Zeus, Goddess of wisdom. And if that seems a little archaic or speciﬁc, well, hold that thought.
So, if the man with illiterate parents, children and grandchild, possessing no books and no education didn't write the plays, then who did?
First, let's grant that Shaksper was an actor and a businessman. Being an actor then wasn't what it is now. Don't think of Cary Grant. Think of Carrot Top. You're regarded as a jester, a fool, a buﬀoon. You get up and scream and bellow and belch and simulate screwing and farting and so on, before a crowd of semi-drunken yelling yahoos. You interact with the crowd throughout - it's not a quiet process. It's not digniﬁed. It's rabble. It's low-class. You don't get any credit for being an actor. It's not like saying “I'm George Clooney and everybody loves me.” It's like saying, “Back in college I did some amateur porn.”
So, he was a buﬀoon, a part-time actor, a businessman and moneylender and maybe just the right kind of guy to perform the part of playwright for a guild of writers who had a lot to say about the Elizabethan court - but couldn't.
The Major Candidates
This isn't new. It's been a ﬁst-ﬁght behind the high school bleachers for 160 years. More, really, because the notion that “our Shakespeare is a fraud” was written even during his lifetime. A number of prominent thinkers and writers have been proposed as the writer of the works: Francis Bacon, Hebert Spenser and Christopher Marlowe, among others.
Francis Bacon was a writer and a philosopher of science. He wasn't the writer Shakespeare was. He is remembered for trying to refrigerate a chicken in the snow, which brought on pneumonia, which killed him. That's short shrift, because he was an intelligent philosopher. But that's how he died.
Another candidate, Christopher Marlowe, is a better ﬁt. He was a playwright, a contemporary of Shakespeare's and inﬂuential on the works. He was supposedly killed in 1593, which puts him out of the running for most of Shakespeare's plays. But there is a controversy because some people like him for the authorship; so the theory goes like this:
Christopher was permitted - by the Queen, who loved theater - to leave England, if he never spoke a word of it. He escaped to Italy, where he wrote, in correspondence with multiple writers and editors, the works of Shakespeare. Why Italy? Because Italy is the locale for more of Shakespeare's non-history plays than any other place - 13 - and whoever wrote the plays got the Italy of the era entirely right (and hold that thought).
Both of these men were bright and talented and you can make arguments for them, but they don't have the thing that makes the other guy the most compelling - the biography.
How I Discovered Edward de Vere
When I was writing a series called “The AIDS Debate” for a newspaper in Boston, I was interviewed by a radio station in the college town of Amherst, Mass. The guy interviewing me was really sharp and seemed to understand the issue. I talked with him oﬀ-air and he said that he'd been following the AIDS debacle for some time. He asked me if I'd ever heard of the Shakespeare controversy. I said, “Shakespeare controversy?”
He said, “Yeah, that's what I'm doing now. You should look it up - I'm working on a book.”
I said, “That's new to me.” And I more or less forgot about it, because life got busy (see Chapter 6 on HIV and the Incarnation Children’s Center).
In 2007, I was coming back from a trip from Asia - Japan and China. I was with my best friend; walking around the library in her home town on the East Coast, I spied the binding of an audiobook - “Shakespeare by Another Name.” I started listening to it. It was very well-written. The thoughts being expressed were complex, but lucid, the language was sophisticated, but comprehensible. The story was wild.
I said, Gosh, this sounds a lot like what that guy Mark was telling me about years ago, during the interview. I looked at the binding and as I read, “by Mark,” I ﬁnished the byline myself, “Anderson.” The very smart guy who interviewed me.
I ordered the book and spent the next weeks immersing myself in this incredible argument.
I can't say enough good things about the book; it is beautifully written, expertly crafted, so carefully and fully researched, it should be taught in every school, in every history and English class, as an antidote to the mindfarts they push into our little hungry heads.
The argument goes like this: Edward de Vere was the 17th Earl of Oxford. He was an aristocrat, a member of the Elizabethan court. His father was the 16th Earl of Oxford, an inﬂuential, wealthy man. The Earl put on theatrical productions for the court in a group called “Oxford's Men.” Young Edward grew up with poetry, literature and theater, in the presence of actors and of recreations of English history, performed for the aristocracy - and for the Queen, who he knew well.
Plays were comedies, tragedies and dramas. The comedies amused. The tragedies brought tears. The dramas tended to be historical - plays about former kings and what we'd call their administrations - their courts. These histories weren't being told as entertainment; they were propaganda. How better to get you to love the current king or queen, than to show you how brave, noble and honorable, “for the people” and England were their ancestors? Besides distracting the poor with japes, jokes and sex-scenes, this propaganda is what theater was for.
Edward's father died when he was 12. He became a ward of the royal court, which meant he would be raised and educated in the house of a high-ranking oﬃcial - the State Treasurer and advisor to the Queen. Edward was a favorite of the Queen from childhood, a relationship that lasted, to his beneﬁt and detriment, his whole life. He was educated at the highest levels of learning and trained in everything: law, science, Latin, Greek, foreign languages, courtly behavior, politics and athletic and martial skills (where he excelled in lance and spear). He was a precocious, gifted, superlative student, earning multiple advanced degrees.
Young Edward was tutored through his early years by a man called Sir Thomas Smith. Smith was one of the most learned men of his age, holding a library of hundreds of books, in original languages (this when books were extremely valuable). He was an historian, the top scholar in medicine, law and government and a speaker of at least six European languages. Edward spent his childhood studying with Smith and his other tutors. After his father died, his studies increased and compounded and became the center of his world.
At the age of 12 and stretching into adulthood, Edward's upbringing was handed to Sir Robert Cecil, Lord Burghley. Burghley was also an extremely learned man, possessing one of the great libraries of Europe. But he was not a kind, supportive loving father. He was an invasive, argumentative, domineering pain; a busybody and a nag. He meddled in the aﬀairs of everyone around him. He imposed his moral guidance wherever he went. When his own son went away to school, Burghley hired spies to report on his activities.
Burghley even wrote his “precepts” in a book, which he imposed on those close to him. “Be not scurrilous in conversation or satirical in thy jests; Neither borrow of a neighbor or of a friend; Trust not any man with thy life credit or estate.”
Young Edward would have heard these to his anguish growing up, been made to memorize them and probably been given the book as a gift to haunt him all his days.
Lord Burghley wasn't just a pain, he was a famous and powerful pain. He was Queen Elizabeth's most important and trusted advisor throughout her entire long life. As a result, he and his personality were well-known in England and even overseas; he is well-recorded in the histories of the period. And he was mocked. His character was written into at least one play during his lifetime. A play called “Hamlet.”
Many of the oﬃcial storytellers agree that it is Lord Burghley who is lampooned in the character called “Polonius” in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. And Polonius, who appears in Hamlet, speaks Burghley's bits of advice: “Brevity is the soul of wit; Neither a borrower nor a lender be; Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.” Polonius also hires a spy to follow his son and report on his activities, as Burghley did in real life.
Edward lived in the Burghley house and was made by some means - whether youthful love or an internal blackmail - to marry his keeper's daughter when she was ﬁfteen. It wasn't an unhappy marriage; it was a miserable, psychologically-excruciating, haunted marriage. Edward gained Burghley and Polonius not just as an overbearing, nagging teacher, but as a father-in-law. Which might explain two things.
In Hamlet, Polonius has a daughter. In the story she is Hamlet's girlfriend. It is a miserable relationship. She is mentally ill to the point of tortured incoherence and drives him to pain and distraction. And he drives her back, to suicide. Which might have been bleakly cathartic for the author, if he was married miserably to the real thing.
In a moment of rage, Hamlet accidentally kills Polonius, his would-be father-in-law. Which might have felt happily cathartic for the author, if he had been imprisoned by the real thing. If Edward de Vere wrote Hamlet, then Hamlet makes sense as the story of a life. In the story of an angst- ridden orphaned noble, you ﬁnd the biography of young Edward.
But what did Will Shaksper know of court intrigue? Of dead fathers and ﬁckle queens? Of meddling fathers-in-law, who are also advisors to the Queen? Polonius was that too. In the play, he is the royal advisor, as Burghley was in real life.
And there are more overlaps, from play to play. And we'll get to some of them. But ﬁrst, let's talk about language.
There are three languages on obvious display in the works of Shakespeare. One, Elizabethan English. Two, a scene in perfect French (in Henry V). And three, the thousand plus words and phrases that Shakespeare invented or used for the ﬁrst time in print by combining and re-arranging words, turning nouns into verbs into adjectives and by sheer invention: fashionable, sanctimonious, eyeball, lackluster, jaded, gloomy, gossip, buzzer, puking, radiance, rant, remorseless, savagery, scuﬄe, submerge, swagger, zany; forgone conclusion, in a pickle, wild goose chase, one fell swoop. And Names: Olivia, Miranda, Jessica, Cordelia, Narissa and Titania.
But there are two more languages, at least, which the works rely upon. One is Latin and the other Italian.
Edward studied Latin and Greek from a young age. This included reading the works of the Roman masters: Plutarch, Livy, Suetonius and Ovid and the Greek masterpieces, the Iliad and Odyssey. In his tenth year of Latin (and pause to consider that for a moment), he studied with his uncle (his mother's brother), Sir Arthur Golding. Golding was a master of languages and the master translator of his age. During Edward's studies, Golding was working on a translation of Ovid's masterpiece, “The Metamorphoses.”
And what book is featured the most in Shakespeare? It is the Roman book of poetical histories of the Gods: “The Metamorphoses.” Written in 6 AD and ﬁlled with tales of sex, betrayal and supernatural powers, interwoven with passages of Roman history, it forms the basis for much of our Western mythology. But it was more than just that. The “Ovid” that appears in Shakespeare is a speciﬁc translation, Sir Arthur Golding's - Edward's uncle's translation.
On his father's side, Edward had as an uncle Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey. Howard is credited with inventing the form of poetry that is today synonymous with the works of Shakespeare: the fourteen-line form called the sonnet.
And, one more time for the bleachers. His uncles and tutors were the originators of the form and the content, of a great deal of what would become Shakespeare.
The Good Book
What book appears second-most in Shakespeare? The Gideon Bible. It happens that Edward had a Gideon Bible, which survives to this day. In his Bible, there are over 1,000 underlined passages and hand-written notes. Over 200 of them appear directly in the works of Shakespeare.
And that's pretty good, as evidence goes. On the other hand, Will Shaksper didn't own any books at all. But, we must remember, genius needs no explanation.
Junior Year Abroad
The works of Shakespeare feature extensive travel and are set throughout Europe; ancient Rome to 1500s Italy; England, both medieval and contemporary to the writer, as well as voyages to tropical islands and to Denmark.
Will Shaksper never got too far away from home, just the 100 miles to London, but Edward did. He left England at 25 and went on a year-and-four-month tour of greater Europe; France, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy, where he settled in for a year. His biographers wrote that while in Italy he spent thousands of pounds and “wallowed in sexual infamy.” He moved around various cities in Northern Italy with Venice as a home base. He learned Italian; at least, the servant he hired in Italy and brought back to England attested to his master's ﬂuency.
What did Edward see there? Theater, plays, writing, customs, cities, romance; he lived. He got away from Polonius, or Burghley, and his unhappy marriage. He must have reveled in the theater, which was diﬀerent than that of England. It was called the commedia dell'arte, a comedy of misdirection and misunderstanding, with a standard formula. Like television or cinema today, dramas and comedies have structured conﬂicts, set-ups and pay-oﬀs, which makes them easier for viewers to follow. Whatever Edward saw rubbed oﬀ. Shakespearean scholars agree that some of the comedies are built around the commedia dell'arte.
Edward never made it to Rome, but he did live and travel in the North - Venice, Verona, Padua, Lombardy and Florence - which is precisely where Shakespeare's Italian plays are set. The only Rome that appears in Shakespeare is that of Plutarch - the ancient Rome of Julius Caesar, which is found in studies of Latin. Edward was immersed in that Rome his entire childhood. It’s there you ﬁnd histories of Julius Caesar, Mark Anthony and Cleopatra - who all appear in the works of Shakespeare.
Of course, Edward didn't live in Stratford, slaughtering calves. Which is funny, because for all of the Italy, England, France and Denmark that appear in the plays, Stratford, the actor's hometown, never comes up once. Not even a passing mention. And what about Denmark? Edward never voyaged there, but he had a brother-in-law who was an ambassador to Denmark, who visited the royal court at Elsinore and met two courtiers named Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern. Who just happen to show up in Shakespeare's Hamlet. (To be or not to be?)
Historians and scholars of Shakespeare will tell you that the Italian plays read like a travelogue - that whoever wrote them knew the region and described them in a detail reserved for locals. The plays speak with a local twang; they know the vernacular. He knew the towns by reputation, including their politics, police forces - and food. There are references to wedding customs, particular meals to serve for holidays and events, and the best travel routes and short-cuts between towns. Whoever wrote the works knew the lay of the land in Northern Italy.
He also picked up an entire play from the Italian - Othello. It came from an Italian play that had never been performed in England, but Edward could have seen it in Italy. He could have at least seen the manuscript and translated it, because there was no published translation into English of the Italian play during his lifetime.
The Othello story tells another piece of Edward's life. When he was in Italy, he abandoned his wife, Burghley's daughter, because he feared, perhaps rightly, that the child she bore after he left for Europe wasn't his. Betrayal and abandonment by women was a running theme in his life and it shows up in the plays. Many of Shakespeare's female characters are accused of wrong-doing, some are later revealed to be innocent; some are not.
Edward did return to his wife after he got himself into boiling water with one of the Queen's ladies-in-waiting. The Queen’s ladies were supposed to be virgins. Edward took care of that for one of them, who bore him a child. The Queen rebuﬀed her once-favorite and he was banned from court for years.
Violent street battles ensued as a result between the girl's uncle (and his men) and Edward's. Like in Romeo and Juliet, there was blood spilt in the street. Two deaths and several injuries resulted, including Edward, who was wounded dueling with the girl's uncle. It's just another bit of biography from Edward de Vere that shows up in Shakespeare.
The works of Shakespeare are ﬁlled with writing that reveals advanced training in, well, everything de Vere studied. And Edward de Vere studied law, literature, ancient languages, astronomy, botany, medicine and the sciences of his age, at what we'd consider an advanced university level. He trained in riding, hunting, swordsmanship, arts and music. When he was a teen, he served on a military campaign for the Earl of Sussex, and learned seamanship and military rigor. On the other hand, Will Shaksper of Stratford is reckoned to have held horses for money while waiting for acting gigs. But reckoned, because there is no record.
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. That's some trick to do while feeding carrots to ponies.
On his way back from his long holiday in Europe, Edward's ship was commandeered by pirates. He was robbed, stripped of his belongings and dumped on the English shore.
On shore, he encountered a small army under the direction of a European prince. Edward was embarrassed before him, having been robbed and humiliated, on his way back to the life of trauma he had ﬂed. This is a very particular story and according to Mark Anderson it appears nowhere in the historical record of the day, except in Edward's life. But the same story, note for note, appears in Hamlet.
When Hamlet is en route (to what is supposed to be his death, accompanied by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern), his ship is seized by pirates, he is stripped of his belongings and dumped on the shore, where he encounters a prince and his men and regalia. Hamlet is overwhelmed by angst seeing before him what is supposed to be his life, but isn't.
It's a hard bit of biography to invent, but he didn't have to. He lived it. And we read it in Shakespeare.
Edward de Vere was a brilliant troubled youth grown into a brilliant unhappy man, unhappily married, with no support for his secret writings. He had three daughters to support. The title he inherited gave him money, but also debt. His title gave him the duty of holding the sword of state in parades. And of course, granted court access and proximity to the Queen. He was favored by her from his youth (except when she was furious with him for screwing one of her virgin personal assistants). He was in charge of theatrical productions, as his father had been; he wrote plays and poems. None of the plays survive. But it is interesting that he stopped publishing any writing as Edward de Vere precisely when the ﬁrst works attributed to “Shake-speare” were played in the theater.
But for all his royal connections, the debt he inherited (and accumulated) overwhelmed his earnings. In order not to lose it all to collectors, he had to sell much of his property and divide what titles and money remained among his three daughters.
Which is a particular kind of story. When Will Shaksper died, he was wealthy. When Edward de Vere died, he was broke. Which is the story of King Lear. An old man divides his failing kingdom among his three grasping daughters - and chooses the wrong ones to value and reward.
And that's how it goes from Edward de Vere to Shakespeare. Bits of history line up from one to the other, again and again. It's a fascinating mirror. It allowed me, personally, to penetrate the works as a whole, as a living piece of a real person for the ﬁrst time. It made them human-scaled and accessible, where they had previously been stunning and remarkable, but disconnected. There is something of biography that always appears in your life's work. There is something missing from an understanding of an artist's work, if you don't know something of their life story.
Edward de Vere died young at 54 years of age; he died before the plays of “Shakespeare” were published. But so did Will Shaksper. It's not much of an argument for or against either. In either case, someone near-and-dear collected and published the works for him. Someone like Ben Jonson or the intimates of de Vere. Somebody he trusted, who knew his secret; someone in his guild.
A guild? Yes, it is my opinion that the works of Shakespeare don't belong to one person; 37 plays and counting. Writers collaborate. Especially after making their grand statements, their singular “great works,” when the ego's need to be recognized diminishes and it's easier and more fruitful, to work together.
And he didn't write them all. Many of the lesser plays were updates or expansions of existing plays: “King John” had been around forever. “Much Ado about Nothing” was in large part commedia dell'arte. “Othello” was from an Italian work. Some of the histories had been banging around for a long time and received touch-ups or re-workings by de Vere or his small guild.
But whether he was the mastermind and central motor of all of it or the organizer of a guild and singular playwright of the major plays, I like him for it. I like the arguments for de Vere. I am intrigued by the idea that Christopher Marlowe ﬂed to Italy and shared his life there with England via playwriting. But de Vere was in Italy. And Marlowe, well, was dead.
The mysteries don't all unfold. Edward de Vere died before the performance of his last plays. Historians playing the oﬃcial story for Will Shaksper like to make long, acrimonious historical analysis of astronomical events that seem to occur in the later plays, written after de Vere's death. Which doesn't prove that Will Shaksper suddenly learned to write, developed a genius grasp of every art of his age and coined more words in English than any other playwright. It only means that the mysteries don't all unfold. It is a mystery, after all.
Whoever did it, whoever ﬁnished the writing or handled the publishing, whether it was Ben Jonson or an unknown supporter or group of supporters - they kept the secret.
But give me a break. The businessman from Stratford wasn't the writer. Because the heirs of “Will Shaksper” were given nothing. Will Shakspere did not leave his children the rights to the works. He left some furniture, property and jewelry. Which should seem strange to just about everyone.
When Edward was 26, he was addressed at court before the Queen by another courtier, with the following words:
“Thine eyes ﬂash ﬁre. Thy countenance shakes spears! Thy splendid fame great earl, demands...the services of a poet possessing lofty eloquence...Mars will obey thee, Pallas striking her shield with her spear-shaft will attend thee.”
Oh, and Edward de Vere had a family crest that he inherited at birth, before becoming an Earl. The crest featured a totem he was identiﬁed by. A lion, brandishing - shaking - a spear.
Chew on that, oﬃcial story.
Gifted, Hard-Working and Pained
If you're wondering why this matters, I'll give you my argument. It matters because children are lied to on a daily basis. They are told that some boob magically became the most important genius of his age and any other, not by working or by studying or living or trying or striving or learning - but by pure genius. He didn't need the time to write, nor the means, nor the paper, books, nor God forbid, discipline. No, it was just a big cosmic “whoops!”
And so, we're telling children, in essence - don't worry about it. You'll never get there. Don't try too hard, because really, genius is inexplicable. Shakespeare? Just a Genius. Like Mozart or Beethoven.
But stop right there. Mozart and Beethoven were extremely gifted, but they were schooled, nearly tortured with learning, from their near-infancy, made to repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat - and repeat their lessons for their demanding and punitive fathers. They were trotted around Europe to every court and competition; they were musicians in the public record from childhood. Yes, they were gifted; that's where it starts. But that gift was developed, extraordinarily, by practice and study of all that had come before. Of all of the musical arts of their age, of every instrument, of every form, of every bit of composition that existed. It wasn't bestowed upon them fully-formed. They learned.
They sweat blood for their work. And all of that is held in the historical record. There are biographies, stories, notes and records of their interactions and relationships; of bills, paid and unpaid; of their success, failure, love and heartbreak. Because they actually lived and created the work that is attributed to them.
Unlike Shakespeare. Who was a front for a man who could not show his face.
Work is Biography
History is not what we're taught in school. Most of history is a record of oﬃcial stories, written to protect those who had the ability to author or manage the authorship of what made it into the oﬃcial record.
The oﬃcial version of Shakespeare robs people of understanding and investing in their own lives; from valuing their own experience; from listening to their secret desires, cause and purpose. If the greatest genius of history is totally inexplicable in terms of human psychology, behavior and relationships, then what's the point of caring about the works? They don't have anything to do with us.
On the other hand, the works of Shakespeare become of a piece when seen through the eyes of Edward de Vere. The history unfolds into the stories; the stories reﬂect the history. We see an entire era illuminated. The Elizabethan sun shines for the ﬁrst time when we see it, read it and know it through the eyes, ears and spoken by the lips of its writer.
The philosopher said, “know thyself.” If that path interests you, I hope you'll want to know the story of Shakespeare. Try “Anonymous Shake-Speare,” by Kurt Kreiler, or the ﬁlm “Anonymous” (which takes immense liberty with Elizabeth's relationships, but is a terriﬁcally made and performed ﬁlm). And please do read Mark Anderson's book, “Shakespeare by Another Name.” It's available in print, audio and ebooks. It's the best I know on the subject.
Search Terms: Shakespeare and (signatures, will and testament, wife, daughters, grain merchant, illiterate), Edward de Vere and (Shakespeare, Burghley, Ovid, Bible, Hamlet, Italy, Elizabeth, Wriothesley, juvenilia)
“Will in the World” (an imagined “history” of William Shakespeare) by Stephen Greenblatt, who like Scott McCrea and Jonathan Bate, likens Shakespeare authorship investigators to "holocaust deniers."
Is Shakespeare Dead? (Twain)
Shakespeare by Another Name (Anderson)
Anonymous (Kurt Kreiler)
The Shakespeare Mystery (PBS) Much Ado About Something (PBS)
Anonymous (movie, Roland Emmerich, 2011)
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