I love a mystery. Maybe it was all those Nancy Drew books that I read as a kid. My penchant for all things mysterious evolved into the exploration of more than one (dare I say?) conspiracy theory. The Romanovs, JFK’s assassination, Area 51, Amelia Earhart . . . . No subject was too arcane. To a conspiracy theorist such as me, the deflection of a commonly held notion onto a member of nobility or royalty was nothing new. After all, I had read the theories that Hans Christian Andersen’s tales were written by a Danish royal, and that Jack the Ripper was really Queen Victoria’s grandson, Prince “Eddy.” As an English major I had heard brief, casual mentions of Sir Francis Bacon and Elizabeth I as possible authorship candidates, but to my recollection, none of my professors ever went beyond the boilerplate facts associated with the commoner from Stratford.
So imagine my excitement when PBS’s Frontline presented The Shakespeare Mystery, an hour-long investigation into the life of the putative author, and one that introduced a nobleman as an alternate candidate: Edward de Vere. Whether it was through divine intervention or my own presence of mind, I had popped a video tape into the VCR that evening in order to capture the program. I spent the ensuing days and weeks re-viewing it and making trips to the local library where I checked out (literally) Richard F. Whalen’s Shakespeare: Who Was He? The Oxford Challenge to the Bard of Avon and Charlton Ogburn’s The Mysterious William Shakespeare. While the former laid out, logically and succinctly, the basic arguments for Oxford, the latter served to flesh him out, adding depth and detail. To my mind, Oxford was indeed Shakespeare.
A watershed year in my life as an Oxfordian was 2005, in which I read Mark Anderson’s Shakespeare by Another Name. Rightfully called the “Oxfordian Bible,” my copy was loaned out to a few friends whom I considered (very accurately, I might add) ripe for conversion. My joining the Shakespeare Oxford Society afforded me the opportunity to attend several conferences where I met the movers and shakers of the Oxfordian cause, and whose publications presented a wealth of new scholarship. Two articles in particular made quite an impression: Shakespeare in Stratford and London: Ten Eyewitnesses Who Saw Nothing by Ramon Jiménez and Richard Desper’s Allusions to Edmund Campion in Twelfth Night.
In May of 2007 I made my allegiance official by signing the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt as an Oxfordian by adding: In Vere Veritas.
But the entity that had the greatest impact on me as an Oxfordian is Facebook. Ben August’s seminal authorship group Edward de Vere, and now Mark Anderson’s ShakesVere, became the virtual playing/battle fields not only for us Oxfordians, but for the curious, the orthodox, and everyone in between. It was here that I realized the vast scope of the SAQ and the passion which the subject elicits from Shakespeare lovers all over the world.
–Ann M. Zakelj
“How I Became an Oxfordian” is edited by Bob Meyers. You may submit your essay on this topic (500 words or less in an editable format such as MS Word), along with a digital photo of yourself, to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also include a sentence about yourself (e.g., “John J. Smith is a businessman in San Francisco.”).
Next week’s essay is by Mark Alexander.
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