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A comparison of Edward de Vere with “William Shakespeare”

by J. Thomas Looney

Some general and special characteristics of the author “Shake-speare” revealed in the poems and plays, as adduced by J. Thomas Looney in “Shakespeare” Identified in Edward de Vere, the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford, with a comparison of these characteristics to the matching characteristics of Edward de Vere 17th Earl of Oxford.

1) Mature man of recognized genius. A lyric poet of recognized talent.

Edward de Vere was praised by the author of the Arte of English Poesie (1589) “for Comedy and Enterlude”: by William Webbe, A Discourse of English Poetry (1586): “…the right honourable Earl of Oxford may challenge to himself the title of the most excellent among the rest”; and by Francis Meres, Palladis Tamia (1598): “The best for comedy among us be Edward Earl of Oxford,…(and others)”

2) Of pronounced and known literary taste.

Edward de Vere was the most prominent patron of writers in the 16th century. Among those literary figures who dedicated works to the Earl are Spenser, Robert Greene, Anthony Munday, John Lyly, Thomas Nashe, Arthur Golding, and many others. Oxford arranged for the publication of books by Thomas Bedingfield and Bartholomew Clarke and contributed dedicatory prefaces to each.

3) An enthusiast in the world of drama.

Oxford is known to have written, produced and acted in plays and masques. He was lease-holder of the BlackfriarsTheatre. He operated his own theatrical company, Oxford’s Boys, as well. In 1580 the Earl of Warwick’s company transferred to Lord Oxford’s service. John Lyly, at that time Oxford’s private secretary, was probably also appointed manager of the company. About 1600 the Earl of Oxford’s servants performed two plays. In 1602 the Earls of Oxford and Worcester amalgamated their companies and were licensed to play at the Boar’s Head.

4) Of superior education.

Edward de Vere graduated from Cambridge University at age 14, and was created master of arts at Oxford University at the age of 16. The following year he was admitted to Gray’s Inn to study law. An early account book (1569/70) shows Edward de Vere to be the possessor of a Geneva Bible, North’s Plutarch, plus works of Plato, Chaucer, and Tully.

5) Of probable Catholic leanings but touched with skepticism.

Oxford’s sympathies with Catholicism are reflected in his early dealings with Henry Howard and Charles Arundell. When he discovered that his two friends were traitors, Oxford exposed them to Queen Elizabeth. Any further association with Catholicism is not documented.

6) A man with feudal connections, a member of the higher aristocracy, and connected with Lancastrian supporters.

Edward de Vere was an heir to one of the oldest earldoms in England’s history, originating in the Norman Conquest. The de Veres historically were supporters of the Lancastrian faction in the Wars of the Roses.

7) An enthusiast for Italy.

Oxford travelled to Italy in the mid-1570s and even tried to make the trip surreptitiously when Queen Elizabeth intially denied him permission. It has recently been documented that the Earl built a house in Italy during his travels.

8) A follower of sport, including falconry.

Edward de Vere was quite accomplished in jousting and participated in tournaments. Some of his early verse has images drawn from falconry. His quarrel with Sir Philip Sidney over the rights to the tennis court is notorious.

9) Lover of music.

Composer John Farmer in his dedication of The First Set of English Madrigals (1599), says “that using this science [music] as a recreation your Lordship have overgone most of them that make it a profession.”

10) Improvident in money matters and contemptuous of thrift.

Oxford alienated many of his estates to his father-in-law, William Cecil, Lord Burghley, for which he has been criticized by historians.

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