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Season Info

Oxford's Will
By Jerry Fey


Barbara Beckley, Bonita Friedericy,
Charles Thomas Murphy, and Gil Johnson


Director
Producer
Scenic Designer
Lighting Designer
Composer
Costume Designer
Technical Director
Assistant Director
 

Jules Aaron
Barbara Beckley
Susan Gratch
J. Kent Inasy
Chuck Estes
Ted C. Giammona
Hap Lawrence
Richard Pedersen

CAST (in order of appearance):

Sylvia
Samuel
Edward DeVere, 17th Earl of Oxford
Will
Baroness Henriette Von Schlaffenberg
 
Bonita Friedericy
John Kennedy
Charles Thomas Murphy
Gil Johnson
Barbara Beckley
 

Setting: Hedingham Castle, England, circa 1588

ACT I 

Late Morning

ACT II 

That evening, and the next morning.
 


SHAKESPEARE & THE EARL

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. For years.

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.

Shakespeare’s disappearance 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 authorship.

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.
 

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