April 23, the 400th commemoration of the death of William Shakespeare, was a moment decorated by choruses declaring, “No, it wasn’t Will who wrote all that amazing stuff!” It was one — or two — or many other, candidates, dreamers say. Not Will.
There emerged a number of candidates for the English language’s king scribbler. Most popular with those who shun Will Shakespeare is an unlikely guy with money problems flourishing the bouncy moniker of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.
Grandly known by rigid fans, the Oxfordian Theory of Shakespearian Authorship emerges.
A scholarly-seeming assertion. And wrong by several years. To say nothing of a world-full of misplaced money management. Also, the Earl kneeled over in 1604. Shakespeare didn’t put down his pen until 1616, age 52. Still young for a wordslinger even at that time.
Contemporary critics praised De Vere-Oxford as a poet and playwright. Example: William Webbe named Oxford as “the most excellent” of Queen Elizabeth’s courtier poets. Such critics said that “highest praise” should be given to Oxford and Richard Edwardes for “Comedy and Enterlude.” Francis Meres’ Palladis Tamia (1598) names Oxford the first of 17 playwrights who were “the best for comedy amongst us.” And Oxford appears first on a list of seven Elizabethan courtly poets “who honoured Poesie with their pens and practice” in a 1622 doctrine, “The Compleat Gentleman.”
“So he that takes the path to pen the book\ Reaps not the gifts of goodly golden muse;\ But those gain that, who on the work will look,\ And from the sour the sweet by skill doth choose,\ For he that beats the bush the bird not gets, But who sits still and holdeth fast the nets.”
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