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Twenty Poems of Edward de Vere Echo in the Works of Shakespeare

presented by the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship

The SOF is proud to unveil this major new presentation,1 the first in decades, of early poems by Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (1550–1604), the Elizabethan nobleman thought by many to be the mind behind the mask of the greatest works of English literature, the plays and poems attributed to “William Shakespeare.”

This presentation reveals hundreds of parallels between de Vere’s poems and the works of Shakespeare. The twenty poems included, with annotations detailing the Shakespearean parallels, may be accessed at the links below. See also the Note on Sources, Titles, and Presentation of Parallels. The Introduction below places these poems in context as the juvenilia of Shakespeare. This presentation is based upon work by past and present members of the SOF. Click here for a paginated pdf version of the entire presentation.

  1. “The Labouring Man That Tills the Fertile Soil”
  2. “Even as the Wax Doth Melt”
  3. “Forsaken Man”
  4. “The Loss of My Good Name”
  5. “I Am Not as I Seem to Be”
  6. “If Care or Skill Could Conquer Vain Desire”
  7. “What Wonders Love Hath Wrought”
  8. “The Lively Lark Stretched Forth Her Wing”
  9. “The Trickling Tears That Fall Along My Cheeks”
  10. “Fain Would I Sing But Fury Makes Me Fret”
  11. “When Wert Thou Born, Desire?”
  12. “Winged With Desire”
  13. “Love Compared to a Tennis-Play”
  14. “These Beauties Make Me Die”
  15. “Who Taught Thee First to Sigh?”
  16. “Were I a King”
  17. “Sitting Alone Upon My Thought” (The Echo Verses)
  18. “My Mind to Me a Kingdom Is”
  19. “If Women Could Be Fair and Yet Not Fond”
  20. “Cupid’s Bow”


Introduction: Oxford’s Poems and the Authorship Question


De Vere: leading courtier poet

One objection to the Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship—often voiced by defenders of the orthodox view that the author was William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon (1564–1616)—has been that de Vere was allegedly a mediocre or even “bad” poet. It has been claimed that his few surviving early lyrics fail to show the promise, originality, sophistication, or literary polish of the mature works of Shakespeare. We test that theory against the poems themselves by exploring the frequency and detailed specificity of their echoes in the later Shakespearean works. The evidence supports two related conclusions:

(1) The argument that de Vere’s early poetry was “bad” stands in defiance of the views of his own contemporaries and can only reflect a lack of familiarity with his importance in the development of the early Elizabethan lyric voice.

(2) The argument that de Vere cannot have been Shakespeare because he was allegedly a bad poet is turned on its head by a careful study of the two bodies of work. The echoes explored here prove that Shakespeare habitually reverted to imagery, ideas, figurative language, and diction pioneered in de Vere’s early lyrics. Either Shakespeare was inordinately fond of and influenced by them—or the same man wrote both in two different phases of literary development.

We do not explore the complex and hotly disputed issues of computer-assisted “stylometrics” or forensic linguistics.2 Instead, more humbly, we merely collate the parallel phraseology, ideas, and figurative devices common to both Oxford’s early lyrics and the published Shakespearean works.

We suspect many readers will want to jump right into the poems themselves (see links above). Each poem is followed by an analysis of parallels between de Vere’s text, shown in bolded red, and passages in Shakespeare’s works. You may be stunned by the sheer weight of the evidence presented by all these echoes and parallels. They may be explored in any order and may perhaps only be fully appreciated as a whole. But just as one example, consider the remarkable thematic and verbal convergences leaping out from Poem No. 4. For a few more examples providing a preliminary taste, see No. 2 (lines 16-18), No. 9 (lines 34-36), and No. 17 (lines 1-4 & 9, and 7-10 & 15).

The remainder of this Introduction is divided into five additional sections. You may read the poems first or the Introduction first, or go back and forth between the two as your interests lead you. As with the poems above, all parts of the Introduction are conveniently linked as follows. The next section discusses Oxford’s Known Poetry as Juvenilia, followed by Oxford’s Early Poetry in Elizabethan Literary History, Selection of PoemsEvaluating the Poetic Parallels, and the Conclusion. See also Note on Sources, Titles, and Presentation of Parallels, Key to Abbreviations, and Bibliography of Works Cited.

Continue to the next section of the Introduction or go directly to Poem No. 1.

Oxford’s motto: “Nothing Is Truer Than Truth”

1 Copyright © 2018 by the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship (SOF). All rights reserved. The image of the blue boar and motto incorporates elements from an illustration copyright © 1975 by The Estate of Ruth Loyd Miller; all rights reserved; used by permission. Permission is hereby granted for limited copying and distribution of this presentation, only for nonprofit educational purposes and only of the original unaltered pdf version (in whole or in part, but including at a minimum the first two pages). When citing this presentation, please cite to the paginated pdf version as: Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship, Twenty Poems of Edward de Vere Echo in the Works of Shakespeare (2018) (https://shakespeareoxfordfellowship.org/twenty-poems-de-vere). The SOF welcomes constructive comments, questions, and corrections, which may be submitted by email (info@shakespeareoxfordfellowship.org). The SOF does not necessarily endorse all specific views expressed herein. Such views may reflect only those of the various individual scholars, past and present, whose work has informed this presentation.

2 Elliott & Valenza (e.g., 2004 and 2010) have argued that stylometric comparisons of the text of Oxford’s known poems with the text of the Shakespeare canon rule out Oxford as author of the latter. Such arguments have met with powerful rebuttals, e.g., Shahan & Whalen—in part because the known Oxfordian text is merely a fraction of his juvenilia and thus does not seem an adequate comparison sample for stylometric purposes—but the issue is beyond the scope of this study. We do venture to suggest that the present study’s apparent conflict with such stylometric claims may confirm what should not really be surprising: that a computer is still not as good as a human being at reading poetry. For a more promising, linguistic-based approach to determining authorship, see, e.g., Chaski (2005) or Argamon et al. (2010).

[posted June 22, 2018]
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