In the summer of 1974 a nationally syndicated columnist, Sydney J. Harris, published a piece in the Detroit Free Press called, “Some Knotty Questions for Shakespeare Fans,” in which he posed 20 questions about the man from Stratford that the “experts” could not answer. That was my introduction to the problem. Those 20 questions still stand unanswered satisfactorily. More could now be added. Any one of these questions might be dismissed as an anomaly—even any five. But when one encounters more than two score significant problems, any reasonable person (or one without a vested interest) begins to re-examine the basic premise.
Sometime later I encountered Charlton Ogburn’s fascinating book, The Mysterious William Shakespeare. Though some of it has been surpassed by recent research, it still stands as a primer on the subject. I now teach a class on the subject at the University of New Mexico and I always encourage everyone to read ALL sides of the argument. One will find, I think, as I did, that Academia’s response is on the whole dismissive and full of ad hominem pejoratives, rarely even addressing the major problems. I have found the non-Stratfordians, generally speaking, to be genuine researchers attempting to ascertain just what the facts really are.
Personally, I don’t care what turns out to be the truth; I just want to know what it is for a fact. The traditional Shakespeare biography is a great story. A kid from the boondocks shows up in London and makes good—a classic story everyone can appreciate. But it doesn’t hold up under examination. As author of the works of Shake-speare, Francis Bacon was a reasonable early guess (and may have had something to do with the publishing of the First Folio). Christopher Marlowe is at least a plausible candidate. But I’ve heard no credible evidence, even circumstantial, in favor of either. For Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, however, there is a mountain of circumstantial evidence. I have yet to see anything that disqualifies him (Francis Meres’ listing both Shakespeare and de Vere both, as authors, demonstrates only the prevalence of pseudonyms in that era, and no play can be cited to have been written after his death). He fits the profile of the author perfectly.
As one of the most literate and educated people of his day, a man known to write excellent plays and poems under a pseudonym (often Will or Willie) and known to have staged plays for Queen Elizabeth, De Vere stands as the only logical candidate to account for the exceptional breadth of knowledge demonstrated in the plays and poems. I greatly look forward to the research that continues to be done on this fascinating problem, the ultimate British mystery.
— Daniel Steven Crafts
“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: email@example.com. Also include a sentence about yourself (e.g., “John J. Smith is a businessman in San Francisco.”)
SOF memberships for 2018 are now available on our membership page.