Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship Research and Discussion of the Shakespeare Authorship Question Sat, 06 Feb 2016 18:49:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 SOF to Sponsor Summer Seminar in Ashland this August Sat, 06 Feb 2016 16:00:21 +0000 Following the success of the 2015 Authorship Conference, the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship will for the first time sponsor a summer seminar in authorship studies at the Hannon Library in Ashland, Oregon from August 1-5, 2016. The seminar is designed to focus on the Shakespeare plays in production at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) this season, including Timon of Athens (8/2), The Winter’s Tale (8/3), Hamlet (8/4) and Twelfth Night (8/5). Discounted group tickets have been reserved for all of these shows for seminar participants and guests.

Rotunda of the Hannon Library of Southern Oregon University

Rotunda of the Hannon Library of Southern Oregon University

The 2016 SOF summer seminar will be taught by two of our finest Shakespeare authorship champions, Professor Michael Delahoyde of Washington State University and Professor Roger Stritmatter of Coppin State University. Dr. Delahoyde graduated from Vassar College, earned his graduate degrees at the University of Michigan, focusing on Chaucer in his Ph.D. dissertation, and has taught Shakespeare and interdisciplinary humanities courses for 23 years. He currently serves as managing editor of Brief Chronicles. This past year he and his colleague, Coleen Moriarty, made an Oxfordian discovery in the archives of northern Italy, which will be presented during the summer seminar.

Dr. Stritmatter holds a Master’s Degree in Anthropology from the New School for Social Research and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Massachusetts. His 2001 dissertation, The Marginal Annotations of Edward de Vere’s Geneva Bible, was nominated for the Bernheimer Award. Dr. Stritmatter has published in academic and popular contexts, including Notes and Queries and Review of English Studies, and is co-author of On the Date, Sources and Design of Shakespeare’s The Tempest (2013). He is the former editor of Shakespeare Matters, and currently serves as general editor of Brief Chronicles.

The seminar will include an opening reception on the evening of the 1st, followed by daily sessions at the Hannon Library of Southern Oregon University. The Margery Bailey Collection of Hannon Library contains over 7,000 Shakespeare titles, including numerous early Folio editions. Local transfers between the library and OSF theatres will be provided by the seminar organizers.

The Winter's Tale at Oregon Shakespeare Festival will be a part of the summer seminar

The Winter’s Tale at Oregon Shakespeare Festival will be a part of the summer seminar program.

Registration and discounted OSF theatre ticket packages for the 4-day program will soon be available on the SOF website. The seminar registration fee will be $250 and includes the opening reception and deli lunches during the 4-day program at Hannon Library. The 4-play ticket package for seminar participants and guests will be $250 each. Individual play tickets may also be purchased for $70 each.  A minimum of 10 participants in the SOF summer seminar will be required to secure the discounted OSF group theatre ticket order. Group order theatre tickets for all four plays are guaranteed for the first 15 seminar registrants.

For further information on the 2016 SOF summer seminar in Ashland and to secure advanced registration, contact Earl Showerman at For information on accommodations in Ashland, select the “Plan Your Trip” tab on the menu bar of the OSF website at:

[posted February 6, 2016] ]]>
Oxfordians rebut Shapiro’s “Year of Lear” Thu, 04 Feb 2016 20:30:54 +0000 Contested Year, a response by anti-Stratfordians to James Shapiro’s The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606, is now available for pre-order on Amazon and will be released as a Kindle e-book on February 9, 2016. Shapiro’s book claims that Shakespeare wrote, not only King Lear, but also Macbeth and Antony & Cleopatra in 1606. Although Shapiro does not explore the authorship question in his book, it is obvious that his argument is an attempt to undermine the Oxfordian theory by alleging that these three major plays could not have been written until after Oxford’s death in 1604.

"Contested Year" is now available on Amazon

“Contested Year” is now available on Amazon

The Kindle response, whose full title is Contested Year: Errors, Omissions and Unsupported Statements in James Shapiro’s “The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606,” is edited by Mark Anderson, Alexander Waugh, and Alex McNeil. Additional contributors include John Shahan, Katherine Chiljan, Richard Malim, Roger Stritmatter, John D. Lavendoski, Earl Showerman, Wally Hurst, Tom Regnier, Steve Steinburg, Jan Cole, Michael Delahoyde, C.V. Berney, Robert Detobel, Lynne Kositsky, and Christopher Carolan. The cover design is by Jennifer Newton.

Contested Year addresses Shapiro’s book by systematically quoting from Shapiro’s text and then pointing out the flaws in his arguments. As the Amazon website explains:

Contested Year rebuts fallacies and clarifies misunderstandings while highlighting Shapiro’s inaccuracies of dating, his sloppy confusion of sources, his muddle of historical events, his topographical gaffes, his mix-up of British titles, his errors over names, his genealogical howlers and his flagrant mistakes concerning language, court custom and the historical connections between key figures in his story. Contested Year fills the vacuum left by Shapiro’s myopic and controversial insistence that 1606 was the year in which Shakespeare wrote King Lear by introducing a cornucopia of important evidence (omitted from his book) that undermines his thesis.

The Contested Year e-book is priced at only $0.99, allowing it to sell widely, and the proceeds will be divided equally among the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship, the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition, and the DeVere Society. Reserve your copy by clicking here and have it sent to you automatically on February 9.

[posted February 4, 2016]


2016 Annual Conference to be Held in the Boston Area Thu, 04 Feb 2016 17:59:02 +0000 BostonThe Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship announces the 2016 Annual Conference, to be held from Thursday, November 3 to Sunday, November 6, 2016 at the Boston Marriott Newton, located at 2345 Commonwealth Ave, Newton, MA 02466.

Considering that our favorite authorship candidate is the 17th Earl of Oxford, it is appropriate that we will be holding our 2016 Annual Conference at the same hotel where we held the Conference 17 years ago in 1999 (although the hotel has been remodeled since then).

A limited number of guest rooms have been arranged at a conference rate of $139 per night (single or double), plus applicable taxes. This rate is available beginning on Wednesday, November 2. This guest rate will include free overnight parking at the hotel as well as free Internet access. Reservations for these rooms are now being accepted.

You may make your reservation by calling 800-228-9290 or 617-969-1000 and mentioning the SOF Fall Conference or online by following this link:

Attempts will be made to add more rooms to the conference block if more are needed, but this is subject to hotel room availability. So if you are unable to secure a room when you call the hotel you may want to try again at a later date. When we are able to secure more rooms, we will inform our email list.

Conference registrants may want (or need) to stay in other nearby hotels. There are several hotels in Waltham, MA (about 10 minutes away) along I-95 and in Natick and Framingham, MA along I-90. Note that free parking at the Boston Marriott Newton has been arranged for conference attendees who are staying elsewhere.

The conference registration fee for the 2016 Conference will be $225 for SOF members and $250 for non-members. You may now register online.

Proposals for papers are now being accepted and details of the Conference program and agenda will be announced when they are available.

Please plan on attending what I am sure will be a very exciting and informative event.

— Richard Joyrich, SOF Conference Committee Chair

Margrethe Jolly: Memorial Reconstruction, Juliet, and the Grafter Wed, 03 Feb 2016 16:00:57 +0000 Margrethe (“Eddi”) Jolly, PhD’s presentation, ‘Juliet and the Grafter’ given at the SOF conference in Ashland, Oregon in September 2015 is now available on the SOF YouTube Channel. As Dr. Jolly described her presentation:

Magrethe ("Eddi") Jolly, PhD

Margrethe (“Eddi”) Jolly, PhD

‘Juliet and the Grafter’ reports on part of an investigation into the relationship of the first two quartos of Romeo and Juliet, dated 1597 and 1599 respectively. The popularity of the play hasn’t resulted in as much research upon it as, say, Hamlet, but the two plays have much in common. Tycho Mommsen paired them together in 1857, and since then many scholars have seen the first quarto of each as ‘bad’ or ‘piratical’, and the result of (communal) memorial reconstruction (by actors). The latter is a hypothesis which has gained a significant number of adherents among the major Shakespearean scholars of the last 150 years. It leads to the belief that Shakespeare’s ‘genuine’ and ‘authentic’ text is the second quarto of Romeo and Juliet and that the first quarto is a ‘bad’ quarto, a ‘spurious’ reconstruction from memory, possibly by the actors who played Romeo and Paris. The idea that the first quarto might be a first draft is rejected firmly by one scholar, who declares that ‘all those theories which … have contributed to the conception of Shakespeare as an artist much given to the revision of his own past work are quite without evidence or plausibility’.

A three way comparison between the underlying French source of Hamlet and the first two quartos of that play provided an external reference point for indications of which quarto came first. This text-based evidence indicates clearly that the first quarto of Hamlet is closer to the source than the second quarto is. It also shows that the first quarto has almost double the echoes of the source that the second quarto has. The comparison supports the view held particularly by early reviewers that the first quarto was a ‘first sketch’. In contrast, the second quarto draws away from the source, and from the first quarto. It appears that the second quarto is substantially revised, and that the playwright was not afraid of a bit of hard graft to ensure his play achieved the effect he wanted on stage.

What would another three way comparison show, this time between the first two quartos of Romeo and Juliet, and their source, Arthur Brooke’s Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet? Might there be any justification for the note on the title page of the second quarto, ‘Newly corrected, augmented, and amended’? ‘Juliet and the Grafter’ delves into Brooke’s presentation of Juliet and her transformation in the plays, with a sideways glance at the most memorable images of the play. It also notes that the second quarto isn’t exactly error-free. The paper concludes with considering what these findings suggest about the playwright, his writing habits, and the relationship of the two quartos; could we see the first quarto as an example of ‘juvenilia’? And what does this new three way comparison suggest about the hypothesis of memorial reconstruction?


Margrethe Jolly, PhD — a lecturer in English literature and language turned independent researcher — took her first degree at Southampton University and her second at Brunel. She has been exploring issues relating to the Shakespeare canon where there has been scholarly debate, such as the value of Francis Meres’ testimony in Palladis Tamia. Her principal focus has been on Hamlet: ‘Hamlet and the French Connection’ (Parergon, 2012), and The First Two Quartos of Hamlet: A New View of the Origins and Relationship of the Texts (2014) resulted from her doctoral thesis. These texts argue that the original responses to Hamlet, that the first quarto was the anterior text, are right, and that the date of the play needs reconsideration. Her current research is on the hypothesis of memorial reconstruction and the alleged ‘bad’ quartos.

Other conference videos are available at the SOF Conference Videos page. You can support the SOF’s goal of making more of these videos available to the general public by joining the SOF or renewing your membership for 2016.

[Article posted February 3, 2016.] ]]>
Heward Wilkinson: How I Became an Oxfordian Tue, 02 Feb 2016 17:00:10 +0000 I was born at the end of the European War in 1945, into an English literary family with connections to the Bloomsbury Set. I studied English at school, early aware of Shakespeare; I reached him by way of Middleton Murry’s Keats and Shakespeare (1925). Murry took for granted that, except by inference, we had no access to Shakespeare the man, using Keats, for whom we have a great deal, as a proxy:

Dr. Heward Wilkinson is a London Psychotherapist, Author, and Oxfordian who speaks regularly at De Vere Society and SOF Conferences, and has contributed papers to Brief Chronicles.

Dr. Heward Wilkinson is a London Psychotherapist, Author, and Oxfordian who speaks regularly at De Vere Society and SOF Conferences, and has contributed papers to Brief Chronicles.

“I saw that my one chance of making intelligible these slowly formed convictions of mine concerning Shakespeare was to use the greatest of his successors, John Keats, as though he were a mediator between the normal consciousness of men and the pure poetic consciousness in which form alone Shakespeare remains to us.” [my italics] (Murry, 1925, p. 4)

This also leads him, via the works, to say:

“He lost grip of his own art under the stress of suffering that appears to have come to him through such a passion as Keats’. . . . This baptism into the giant agony of the world caused Shakespeare also to utter himself in a handful of scarcely endurable sonnets.” (Murry, 1925, p. 214)

Murry, then, did not go down the Art for Art’s Sake route, but he recognised there was a hiatus; to fill it, he used Keats as proxy.

From early youth I took that hiatus for granted. I had read Hugh Trevor-Roper’s paper expressing guarded scepticism about our knowledge of the author, at the 400th centenary of the Stratford man’s birth in 1964. I formed a myth, on the basis of the elusiveness of our relevant knowledge of him, in which he, like Jesus Christ, was one of the great mystery figures, and an exception to the rule, which otherwise I accepted, that there should be an intelligible, though complex, relation, between works, and the authorial biography.

I dismissed the idea that either Bacon or Marlowe could have been the author of these works; neither of them had remotely the kind of mind which was manifest in them. As I moved towards becoming a psychotherapist, I knew Freud thought some aristocrat was the author, but that was in a footnote, and it did not activate the impulse to pursue. This state of affairs continued until 1989, when, in a bookshop in Wakefield (England), I stumbled on Ogburn’s book The Mystery of William Shakespeare! And now I read, in the blurb: “Sigmund Freud wrote, ‘The man of Stratford seems to have nothing at all to justify his claims, whereas Oxford has almost everything.’” I dipped into the book, bought it at once, and the crystallisation occurred almost instantaneously. My ‘mystery figure’ went — with a certain nostalgia — out of the window, replaced by someone whose life fitted the works, as Lord Byron’s fits his. The old mystery was replaced by a new one, that of the pseudonym. And I have been wrestling with that, and with the subtle relationship between this life and the works, ever since.

— Heward Wilkinson

“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: Also include a sentence about yourself (e.g., “John J. Smith is a businessman in San Francisco.”).

Next week’s essay is by Jonathan Dixon.

You can join the SOF or renew your membership for 2016 at our membership page.

Elke Brackmann: How I Became an Oxfordian Tue, 26 Jan 2016 17:00:22 +0000 Obediently and happily I followed the pattern of understanding the Bard’s life at my University of Innsbruck in the seventies. Absorbing everything that led to a more profound understanding of his works, I was mildly disappointed to learn all about his Ann Hathaway, his kids (one of them named Hamnet), his being an actor, and, as the reader might expect, his second-best bed. Not to forget his lack of geographical knowledge, but being a genius he was forgiven. No open questions, nothing. The lecturer was asleep and so was I.


Elke Brackmann has been a grammar school teacher for English and German in Innsbruck and Wuppertal for years and repeatedly performed Shakespeare plays with her students.

True, I was equally disappointed during my two pilgrimages (yes, I admit it) to Stratford. My feelings and utter gratitude for his works outshone my deeper instincts when reading “Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbear . . . .” The lines definitely lacked the spirit, elegance and philosophical depths I was used to, I felt, but bought a photograph of it anyway as a memory. Acting (lay theatre group), teaching and directing Shakespeare occupied me for some decades. It was my husband who, in 2007, thought he had found something that might interest me: An essay by Hanno Wember.[1] It was written matter-of-factly and puzzled me; should the question really be worth it? In addition a certain Walter Klier, whom I had known as a writer and fellow student, caught my attention.[2]  I ordered the book second hand. My husband was now bombarded with facts.

But I needed time to say good-bye to my old convictions – I had to digest everything slowly. Half a year later I felt the need to write a review for Klier. I contacted Hanno Wember as well and then Robert Detobel[3] came in, phoning me after reading my review. His single-mindedness, cautious way of doing research and strong desire of fighting for the truth inspired me.[4] Being a true Oxfordian, he is not easily led away by speculation. I am now working on a project with him called “A Biographical Approach to the Sonnets.”

Like generations of teachers I willingly accepted the notion that Shakespeare’s biography was irrelevant. In retrospect I am amazed at my gullibility. His immense knowledge acquired en passant, his death being unnoticed, his sonnets mirroring real experiences, the parallels between his life and his dramas – way beyond “Hamnet” as a parallel to Hamlet – how might this be overlooked?

Encountering Shakespeare’s works first made me enter a new world; nearly 30 years later another new world opened for me. Taboos prevented Oxford from publishing under his own name; taboos prevent academia from researching decently. New Shakespeare, new perspectives, new insights. What an enrichment again.

— Elke Brackmann

[1] Auf der Suche nach der Biografie von Shakespeare, in DieDrei, Juli 2007, pp. 57-62.

[2] Walter Klier: Der Fall Shakespeare, Verlag Uwe Laugwitz, Buchholz in der Nordheide 2004.

[3] Robert Detobel: Wie aus Shaxsper Shakespeare wurde, Verlag Uwe Laugwitz, Buchholz in der Nordheide 2005.

[4] Robert Detobel: Will – Wunsch und Wirklichkeit. James Shapiros Contested Will. Verlag Uwe Laugwitz, Buchholz in der Nordheide 2010.

“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: Also include a sentence about yourself (e.g., “John J. Smith is a businessman in San Francisco.”).

Next week’s essay is by Heward Wilkinson.

You can join the SOF or renew your membership for 2016 at our membership page.

SI-100 — James Warren research project Thu, 21 Jan 2016 16:25:45 +0000

James Warren continues to examine impact of
“Shakespeare” Identified

SI-100 Committee member James Warren continues to lead the preliminary work to develop and organize materials for a book on the impact that“Shakespeare” Identified has had on Shakespeare studies and the wider literary world over the past 100 years. A tentative title is John Thomas Looney and “Shakespeare” Identified: The 100th anniversary of the book that is revolutionizing Shakespeare Studies. The focus will be on how “Shakespeare” Identified made its way in the world and how it changed and is changing the way we look at Shakespeare and his works.
The book will include sections on Looney and how he came to write this book, plus personal descriptions of how his book affected specific individuals. For example, Esther Singleton described the deep effect it had on her, and Sigmund Freud wrote about his reaction to the book. Warren is looking for other reactions to include. In addition, the book will examine how Stratfordians have responded to“Shakespeare Identified.” This might be a short chapter, since to our knowledge no one in academia has made a serious effort to refute the ideas in “Shakespeare” Identified.

Appendices will include the full texts of all of the articles Looney published on the authorship question (10 so far), all of his letters that can be located (15 so far, see below), and full texts of many reviews of and articles about Looney’s books and ideas. About a dozen reviews appeared in 1920 and 1921, soon after the book was published, but there probably are more, and James will try to track them down in the next two years.

List of known letters of J. T. Looney

Fifteen letters to or from J. Thomas Looney have been found. If you know about or have located additional letters, please contact James Warren at

  1. Letter to Gillett Burgess (4 July 1920)
  2. Letter to George G. Greenwood (6 April 1921)
  3. Letter to George G. Greenwood (5 March 1922)
  4. Letter to George G. Greenwood (14 March 1922)
  5. Letter to Eva Turner Clark (26 June 1926)
  6. Letter to Gillett Burgess (22 June 1927)
  7. Letter to Eva Turner Clark (10 August 1928)
  8. Letter to the editor of The Shakespeare Pictorial re death of George Greenwood (February 1929)
  9. Letter to Carolyn Wells (6 December 1932)
  10. Letter to Joan V. Robinson (3 September 1933)
  11. Letter to Charles Wisner Barrell (6 June 1937)
  12. Letter to Will D. Howe (2 June 1938)
  13. Letter to Sigmund Freud (15 July 1938)
  14. Letter to Eva Turner Clark (10 Nov. 1939)
  15. Letter to Charles Wisner Barrell (15 May 1942)
William Ray: How I Became an Oxfordian Tue, 19 Jan 2016 17:00:00 +0000 In the October 1991 issue of The Atlantic was an exchange between Tom Bethell and Irvin Matus about the author of the Shakespeare works. I read those pages with interest. Neither was a scholar. Strangely, there were no professors engaged in the debate, as though that was beneath their intellectual time and trouble. Re-reading the articles now, my impression is how quaint were their choice of materials. Matus made several statements that have lasted through the decades, forming a catechism as automatic and with as little support as when he wrote them. “An ample supply of references to Shakespeare as a player and playwright establish his position in the acting company (that) was under the patronage of the Lord Chamberlain and, from May of 1603 onward, of King James I.”


William Ray has written about Oxfordian subjects as an independent scholar since 2006. His essays are on

Bethell entertained the idea that the Stratford man was a front or blind for the secretive author––Edward de Vere. Neither considered that the always correctly spelled “Shakespeare” in various official records was a calculated plant by either the de Vere contingent or the ruling Cecils, aiming to plan up a past for a fictitious cipher after the works mysteriously ceased.

What struck me was the description of de Vere. He fit all the expected attributes of the prodigiously talented and skilled “Shakespeare” author. Writing genius does not come out of nowhere but is the product of devotion and time. There was little about such a genesis––until I read Charlton Ogburn’s The Mysterious William Shakespeare a few years later. There it appeared that the young noble lost his father, possibly to murder by a rival earl, that his mother married indecently soon after, that he was uprooted and sent to London as a ward of the officious First Secretary Cecil, that Cecil married him off to his own socially lesser daughter, and that Leicester, the elder Vere’s arch-enemy, employed the twelve year old earl’s new step-father as his lieutenant while taking over the House of Oxford’s ancestral lands. This was the a priori setting of Hamlet. Writing the play might have been the mature Edward de Vere’s revenge, a claim to honor lost when a child.

At this point I could see the strands connecting an artistic soul to his works. He probably wanted blood and plenty of it. But that was not to be if he were to survive in an aristocratic elite of psychopaths. The sublimations of art would have to do.

A few years later I ordered a little known book, worn and derelict, from Inter-Library Loan. In a few nights I read J. Thomas Looney’s “Shakespeare” Identified in Edward de Vere, Seventeenth Earl of Oxford.  Much rang true and led seamlessly to a hoax about the paradigmatic author of Western literature and his times. I took up the Oxfordian banner to help discard the fable being offered even now to minds young and old as an ersatz version of History, one which had almost erased the foundational artist of his country for reasons of State.

–William Ray

J. Thomas Looney’s “Shakespeare” Identified is available as a free download at Internet Archive.

“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: Also include a sentence about yourself (e.g., “John J. Smith is a businessman in San Francisco.”).

Next week’s essay is by Elke Brackmann.

You can join the SOF or renew your membership for 2016 at our membership page.

Ros Barber: “The Value of Uncertainty” Fri, 15 Jan 2016 17:00:14 +0000 Ros Barber is author of Shakespeare: the Evidence

Ros Barber is author of Shakespeare: the Evidence

Ros Barber, Ph.D.’s presentation at the 2015 SOF conference in Ashland, “The Value of Uncertainty,” is now accessible on the SOF YouTube Channel. Barber stated of her presentation:

Stratfordians are certain that William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon wrote the works attributed to him. Most non-Stratfordians are equally certain that he didn’t. This paper will explore the benefits of uncertainty. Uncertainty not only allows us to be collegial, reducing the likelihood of stressful and energy-sapping personal battles, but by opening our minds to evidence and counter-arguments which undermine our position it allows us to discard weak arguments and concentrate on those which extend and deepen the challenge to orthodox thinking. Perhaps counter-intuitively, uncertainty also offers non-Stratfordians the possibility of gaining academic legitimacy for the Shakespeare authorship question.  Using concrete examples of arguments and counter-arguments derived from researching and writing Shakespeare: The Evidence, this paper will demonstrate why the apparently ‘weak’ position of uncertainty is actually the strongest, most beneficial position a non-Stratfordian can adopt.

Ros Barber, PhD is a Lecturer in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London, and author of the award-winning verse novel, The Marlowe Papers (2012), Shakespeare: The Evidence (2013), and Devotion (2015).  She is the editor and co-author of 30-Second Shakespeare (2015). Her most recent publications include two articles in Notes & Queries* and she has a forthcoming article in a special ‘Shakespeare’ edition of the Journal of Early Modern Studies.  She is director of research of the Shakespearean Authorship Trust (London).

* “Shakespeare’s ‘Honey-stalks” N&Q 2015 62/1 92-93 and “Bardolph and PoinsN&Q 2015 62/1 104-107.

You can see the video of Ros Barber’s presentation here. Other conference videos are also available at the SOF’s conference videos page, and more will be added in the near future.

[posted January 15, 2016] ]]>
Julie Bianchi: How I Became an Oxfordian Tue, 12 Jan 2016 17:00:51 +0000 When I was a teenager growing up in Northern California at the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, Shakespeare was Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey in velvet clothing stroking each other and panting poetic dialogue in amber-tinged moonlight. The author was relatable: his star-crossed lovers could have been my peers, and it seemed obvious to me that anyone who’d ever been in love and had half an imagination could have dreamed up the plot. Fortunately my 9th grade English teacher, Mrs. Carol Graves, had let our class know that the identity of the author of Romeo and Juliet was sometimes disputed. That other individuals with more record of having lived a writer’s life had been suggested as having been the true author; such as Francis Bacon and Mary Sidney. Because there was so little surviving factual evidence, she informed us that the biography she was required to teach was mostly surmised. The expression on her face as she continued her lecture was as desolate as her surname.


Julie Sandys Bianchi is retired and living in Nashville.

I went on to study drama in college in San Francisco and remember at some point in a roundtable discussion grappling with the arbitrary, unconscionable actions of King Lear. Having been raised in a loving family I could not understand how any father could have been so cruel to his demonstrably true-hearted daughter! I finally decided that Lear simply had to have been drunk to have engaged in such wrong-headed behavior. Dramaturgy draws creative people who wear their hearts on their sleeves and from the stressful lability required of the craft they can emotionally disintegrate away from the stage. As a sheltered girl from a middle-class home I was sometimes shocked to watch my theater colleagues raging in their alcoholic or drug-induced stupors. But as time went on I was even more disturbed to see some of these magnificent artists succumbing to clinical depression—and those that didn’t succeed in ending their lives doing their best to make life miserable for themselves and everyone around them.

About half a century later, with decades of working in regional and educational theater as an actress, stage technician, technical director and production designer, in 1999 I happened to read a Panel discussion in Harper’s Magazine, “The Ghost of Shakespeare.” Of the panelists, Mark Anderson’s words in particular resonated with me and I was prompted to read his “Shakespeare” by Another Name.  Learning about the biography of de Vere was like a truth portal drawing open a fogbank in a cheesy science fiction movie. The Shakespeare canon, with all its quirky, often unknowable allusions suddenly made more sense to me. And Lear. Wow, to me he was no longer a raging alcoholic but a terribly depressed human being. The words were no longer those of a carefree wordsmith dancing a merry branle with a lusty barmaid, but those of a deep, brooding thinker; a person whose privileged life was complicated and problematic; a troubled soul falling backwards over the brink into the darkness.

–Julie Bianchi

“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: Also include a sentence about yourself (e.g., “John J. Smith is a businessman in San Francisco.”).

Next week’s essay is by William Ray.

You can join the SOF or renew your membership for 2016 at our membership page.



John Varady: How I Became an Oxfordian Tue, 05 Jan 2016 17:00:29 +0000 Soon after reading Julius Caesar in Junior High school I became a ‘Bardolator.’ Later, while taking Latin, I immersed myself in the history of late Republican Rome. Shakespeare’s knowledge of the period amazed me, especially when I learned how little formal education he had had.

John Varady

John C. Varady, PhD, is a retired biostatistician.

I continued reading and, ideally, watching his plays throughout my academic and professional careers. I learned that alternative authors were bruited about, especially Francis Bacon. In early adulthood my literary interests shifted to Loren Eiseley, whose monograph on Bacon, The Man Who Saw Through Time, profoundly impressed me. The work was of particular interest to me because I was scientifically inclined with a special interest in the history and philosophy of science. Given my knowledge of the Canon and of Bacon, there was no way I could square Bacon’s sensibilities and world view with what I perceived to be the that of ‘Shakespeare.’ In my mind, the attribution of Shakespeare’s work to Bacon was ridiculous. I thus dismissed the idea and agreed that doubters must be kooks.

Later I visited Stratford and, of course, took the Grand Tour. I was dumbfounded by the absence of books in “Shakespeare’s” lodgings. How could anyone with a third grade education obtain the encyclopedian knowledge displayed in the Canon without a love of reading and learning? When I enquired as to where all the books were, my docent quickly changed the subject. My interest piqued, I asked why Dr. Hall, the poet’s physician son-in-law, had omitted his very famous father-in-law from his detailed account of well known people from Stratford. Again, silence followed by a return to comments on the wainscoting. My disquietude increased.

Several years later my epiphany occurred. I was in Bethesda for a vitally important meeting and, to assuage my considerable anxiety the evening prior, wandered into a large bookstore. There I came upon a copy of The Mysterious William Shakespeare, and began idly thumbing through the pages. It was all there!! An authorial candidate who possessed all the necessary education and experiences I felt Shakespeare had to possess and which Mr. Shagspur so clearly lacked. After finishing it back home in California, I did something I had never done before nor have done since: I called Charlton Ogburn and thanked him for changing and enriching my life.

There followed memorable years of excellent Shakespeare Oxfordian Society and Concordia conferences, books by Diana Price and Mark Anderson, Roger Stritmatter’s dissertation on Oxford’s Geneva Bible and his paper with Lynne Kositsky on the Bermuda shipwreck which dismantled the idea that it was referred to in, and thus dated, The Tempest. And so much more brilliant Oxfordian research, much still in progress.

Finally, Oxford as Shakespeare resolved the dissonance I felt between the Canon’s often autumnal tones and those of the exuberant Spenglerian Spring England was then enjoying. For deVere the season was conflicted. The world of feudal England in which his family had long been major players was dissolving into the mercantilism of Burleigh and the Stratford grain speculator. Oxford was Brutus, as Brutus was Republican Rome — both their worlds fading as they both knew all too well. Robinson Jeffers observed that during the process of cultural decline, “One desires to gather the insights of the age’s summit against future loss, against the narrowing mind, and the tyrants, the pedants, the mystagogues.” Oxford, as Janus, did all that, while opening England to her glorious future.

–John Varady

“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: Also include a sentence about yourself (e.g., “John J. Smith is a businessman in San Francisco.”).

Next week’s essay is by Julie Bianchi.

You can join the SOF or renew your membership for 2016 at our membership page.

Theresa Lauricella: How I Became an Oxfordian Tue, 29 Dec 2015 19:00:14 +0000 When I was ten, my father purchased a set of classics bound in rich green leather with gold leaf edges. The volumes included works by Voltaire, Cervantes, Twain, and many others. Shakespeare’s works, in four volumes, were included too. As a youth, these books were bound intellectualism and I was a sponge.

Theresa Lauricella is Associate Professor of Theatre at Clark State Community College in Springfield, Ohio.

Theresa Lauricella is Associate Professor of Theatre at Clark State Community College in Springfield, Ohio.

Thus, I leafed through Romeo and Juliet, but failed to understand the beginning scene of dispute between the Capulets and Montagues. Eventually, I reached for the volume of sonnets and poems that seemed more approachable, but again, I failed to understand what I was reading. In frustration, I skipped to the back of the volume and found The Phoenix and the Turtle. This was perfect for my youthful brain. I read it. And I read it again and again until it became memorized. My brain exploded with questions: Why is the writer talking about birds? Whose funeral is this? What does “truth and beauty buried be” mean? I knew that this poem most certainly had to be about Queen Elizabeth I. But how?

A year later, I chose The Phoenix and the Turtle for a sixth grade assignment. My dad took me to the library and together we read books about Queen Elizabeth and Shakespeare. Fortunately, my father, a manufacturing worker and history buff, helped me comprehend the research. Shakespeare’s biography, however, was a complete letdown to me. How could every book say the same exact story about the man who penned some of the most mouthwatering phrases I had ever heard?

After I became a theatre professor, I struggled teaching Elizabethan theatre and Shakespeare’s contribution.  I had heard about the Authorship Question, but who was I to challenge a literary legend in leather bound volumes? Then, a student in my Theatre History course, Tim, asked if he could research the Authorship Debate. He seemed hesitant, nervous even, that I might deny him an opportunity to research the Authorship. I encouraged him; to me, having a student wanting to deliberately research is a prized moment.

Tim visited me one afternoon excited about discovering the book “Shakespeare” by Another Name by Mark Anderson. In my hands was information I had wished for for twenty-three years. Within Mr. Anderson’s pages, I was meeting, for the first time, the writer of The Phoenix and the Turtle; how he displayed his love for his Queen and, perhaps, lamented her death in eulogy. It was a stunning moment; I believe I cried. I felt again the fervor of scholarship I had when I was eleven and I think I still hold that same excitement today reading about Edward de Vere.

Since Tim introduced me to the 17th Earl of Oxford, I now include a lesson about the Authorship Debate in my Theatre Appreciation course. Students are intrigued by the debate and, best of all, appreciate Shakespeare’s works in a new light.

— Theresa Lauricella

“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: Also include a sentence about yourself (e.g., “John J. Smith is a businessman in San Francisco.”).

Next week’s essay is by John Varady.

You can join the SOF or renew your membership for 2016 at our membership page.