Oxfordian theory

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For the purposes of this article the term "Shakespeare" is used to mean the poet and playwright who wrote the plays and poems in question; and the term "Shakespeare of Stratford" is used to mean the William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon to whom authorship is generally credited. However, Oxfordians such as Charlton Ogburn point out that the Stratford resident left only six signatures from the last four years of his life, none of which was spelled "Shakespeare." Ogburn and others use the preferred spelling from the signatures, "Shakspere," to disambiguate the living person from the author's pen name "William Shakespeare." [1]

The Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship holds that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (1550–1604), wrote the plays and poems traditionally attributed to William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon. Although the traditional attribution to the Stratfordian still has strong support among scholars and academics, there is increased interest in various authorship theories.[2] Since the 1920s, Oxford has been the most widely accepted anti-Stratfordian candidate.[3][4][5]

Oxfordians point to the acclaim of Oxford's contemporaries regarding his talent as a poet and a playwright, his reputation as a concealed poet, and his personal connections to London theatre and the contemporary playwrights of Shakespeare's day. They also note his long term relationships with Queen Elizabeth I and the Earl of Southampton, his knowledge of Court life, his extensive and multilingual education, his academic and cultural achievements, and his wide-ranging travels through France and Italy to what would later become the locations of many of Shakespeare's plays.

The case for Oxford's authorship is also based on perceived similarities between Oxford's biography and events in Shakespeare's plays, sonnets and longer poems; parallels of language, idiom, and thought between Oxford's personal letters and the Shakespearean canon;[6] and underlined passages in Oxford's personal bible, which Oxfordians believe correspond to quotations in Shakespeare's plays.[7] Confronting the issue of Oxford's death in 1604, Oxfordian researchers cite examples they say imply the writer known as "Shakespeare" or "Shake-speare" died before 1609, and point to 1604 as the year regular publication of "new" or "augmented" Shakespeare plays stopped.


Oxfordian researchers also believe the term "Swan of Avon" can be interpreted in numerous ways. According to the DeVere Society of England, the term would be applicable to the silent front man of a hidden author, as the distinguishing characteristic of the common swan was its silence — hence its name 'Mute Swan'.[8] Also, Charles Wisner Barrell published an extensive report establishing numerous ties between Oxford, the river Avon, and the Avon Valley, where Oxford once owned an estate.[9]

Authorship researcher Mark Anderson believes "Greene's Groatsworth of Wit" implied Shakespeare of Stratford was being given credit for the work of other writers, and that Davies' mention of "our English Terence" was a mixed reference, as many contemporary Elizabethan scholars considered Terence merely a servant/actor who was being used as a front man by several aristocratic playwrights.[10] Anti-Stratfordians also assert Shakespeare's grave monument was clearly altered sometime after the mid-17th century, as Sir William Dugdale's 1656 engraving of the original simply portrays a man holding a wool sack.[11]

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