During the last
several decades, there has been growing controversy concerning authorship
of the plays attributed to William Shakespeare.
This controversy has led
to the calling of conventions, the establishment of international organizations,
a television special, and even a mock trial before three justices of the
U.S. Supreme Court (where Shakespeare retained his position). In 1988,
Jeffrey Archer hosted a debate among leading Elizabethan scholars at Oxford
University (again with Will coming out on top).
All this activity is mostly
centered upon the contrasting views of the "Stratfordians," who support
Shakespeare, and the "Oxfordians," who support Edward DeVere.
DeVere was the 17th Earl
of Oxford, the premiere Peer of the Realm, hereditary Lord Great Chamberlain,
courtier and favorite of Queen Elizabeth I, a poet, playwright, composer,
champion jouster, a European traveler, soldier, diplomat, patron of his
own company of actor/players, and patron of a salon of poets and playwrights
whose proteges included John Lyly, Anthony Munday, Thomas Nashe, Robert
Greene, Christopher Marlowe and others.
How could a rustic — the
Oxfordians maintain — with little or no education, with no world ties or
knowledge of the royal court, have possibly written these plays, almost
all of which deal with kings, princes, the aristocracy, with foreign lands
and historical figures, and which include an amazing comprehension of geography,
botany, the law and foreign languages?
There is no record that Shakespeare
attended even the local grammar school of Stratford; the only proof that
he, at an early age, could even write are several signatures, all spelled
differently and nearly illegible.
So? Who wrote the plays?
Oxford’s Will takes no "one-or-the-other"
stance, but advances an intriguing "what if?" — that Will Shakespeare and
the Earl of Oxford were, through circumstances, put under the same roof.
This "what if?" arises from
History’s fact of Oxford’s exile from the Court and Shakespeare’s years-long
disappearance from London — both at nearly the same time.
would seem to be the result of personal problems. He had impregnated, then
married, a woman eight years older than himself; he was arrested for poaching,
and sought after for debts ( a most heinous crime in his day). His father,
as a minor local official, was known to the Earl of Oxford. Why then would
not Shakespeare flee to the protection of such a powerful man as the Earl
of Oxford, even if the man was at the time an exile, a not uncommon situation
in Elizabethan times, and for a man of Oxford’s prominence, usually a sentence
short of duration?
These two men form a relationship
of convenience — with no one but each other, they become each other’s necessity
. . . then friend . . . then alter ego — the elder regaling the promising
younger with tales of high diplomacy and low court scandal, or murder foul
and fair, and philandering on the grandest scale. The younger soaks up
these tales as though a sponge for the writing down of them.
This play speculates that
Oxford was Shakespeare’s major experience and influence, the source of
"a lifetime of knowledge" that would enable a rustic merchant’s son to
write what most believe he wrote. That knowledge had to be found somewhere
beyond the limits of the small village of Stratford, and outside the backstages
of London theatres.
So maybe — just maybe — it
was both these men who are responsible for the world’s most famous English
Oxford’s Will is about people’s
needs, one person for another, and the human frailties that interfere.
It is also bawdy, with no though to offend.
Remember, our ancestors four
hundred years ago were not offended.
Read the Glendale