The author “William Shakespeare” is woven through my family history. My future mom and dad acted together in an outdoor college production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1956, during a long-ago West Texas summer. My mom’s baby sister played the fairy Mustardseed. My aunt, then 7, not only learned her own lines, she memorized the entire play and prompted the older kids when they forgot theirs! My maternal grandfather loved to quote Shakespeare at every opportunity.
Fast-forward 43 years to a summer in Ontario, Canada: Mom and I took one of my nephews, then 11, to the Stratford Festival. His mom worried he’d be bored and drive us crazy. But just as I had fallen in love with Shakespeare as a teenager, I was thrilled to see this author connect with another kid half a world and four centuries away. My nephew loved the fight scenes in Henry IV and laughed his head off through yet another Midsummer Night’s Dream.
I recall as a child hearing the idea that Francis Bacon wrote the works attributed to Shakespeare. But I never heard of Edward de Vere (the 17th Earl of Oxford) until a U.S. News & World Report cover story on the “Mysteries of History” (July 24, 2000). That article mentioned Roger Stritmatter’s research connecting marked passages in Vere’s Geneva Bible with the works of Shakespeare. For me, this was that “Aha!” moment many of us have experienced as Oxfordians. Both my parents are scientists and trained me to always pay attention to factual data and logic. The Geneva Bible parallels struck me as too strong to be coincidental, and thus powerful evidence that Vere might well be the author.
Over the next decade I read more, and finally attended my first authorship conference in October 2012. My elder sister joined me in signing the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt, along with my Indian-born husband, whose own mother fell in love with Shakespeare as a student in India half a century ago. This poet, like Puck, has truly “put a girdle round the earth”! (Midsummer is notable for its several references to India.) Meanwhile, much to my surprise, my mom revealed she had been an Oxfordian all along!
So here I am today, deeply involved in the SOF and working on a book about early authorship doubts. (For a preview, see my talk in Chicago on October 14, 2017.) The more I read and study, the more powerful the case for Oxford seems. Just consider, for example, the connections between de Vere’s documented travels and the Italian settings of so many plays, explored in Richard Paul Roe’s book and Cheryl Eagan-Donovan’s magnificent documentary.
My family’s love affair with Shakespeare continues. I’ve gotten my dad, still actively learning at age 80, interested in the authorship question. And I have a niece, 13, now discovering one of humanity’s greatest artists for herself. As Bobby Kennedy suggested in his most memorable speech, every ripple helps build a wave that will overcome entrenched false orthodoxies of the past.
— Bryan H. Wildenthal
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