The Oxfordian hypothesis accepts the historical documents which establish that William Shakespeare of Stratford upon Avon was an actor, a sharer in the Lord Chamberlain's Men and the King's Men, and a shareholder in the Globe and Blackfriars theatres, and that he was becoming accepted as an author by the time of Palladis Tamia (1598) and the Parnassus plays of 1598-1601, but posits that internal evidence in the Shakespeare canon establishes that Edward De Vere (1550-1604), 17th Earl of Oxford, wrote the Shakespeare canon, and that from the publication of Greene's Groatsworth of Wit in 1592, Shakespeare of Stratford was Oxford's front man for the purpose of getting Oxford's plays into the public theatres.
Oxford was known in his own time as a scholar, linguist, accomplished poet, playwright and musician, and the patron of acting companies, Oxford's Men and Oxford's Boys. Two dozen literary works were dedicated to him. His contemporary literary reputation thus suggests that he wrote much more than the few extant poems which bear his name. In addition to the Shakespeare canon, some of the anonymous and pseudonymous Elizabethan works which may have been written by Oxford are presented here in modern spelling versions.
The creative impulse led Oxford in perilous directions, including political comment of various kinds, and modelling certain characters on well known personages at court who would have been angered at the comparison (particularly the influential and dangerous Earl of Leicester). This would have been a powerful motive for concealing his authorship. Moreover from 1576 on, Oxford's personal life was in disarray. On his return to England from his tour of France, Germany and Italy in April 1576, he lost credit at court by refusing to live with his wife, Anne Cecil, unjustly suspecting her of adultery, and while separated from her had an affair with one of the Queen's gentlewomen, Anne Vavasour. When Anne Vavasour gave birth to a son in 1581, the Queen banished Oxford from court for two years, and during that time he was seriously injured, and perhaps permanently lamed, by Anne Vavasour's kinsman. In order to gain the Queen's permission to return to court he was forced to take back his wife Anne Cecil in 1583, although the marriage continued to be an unhappy one. In the meantime, for reasons explained in detail in The Fall of the House of Oxford, his financial situation had seriously deteriorated. He was no longer a wealthy nobleman, and by 1587 the lands he had sold to others were being extended upon by the Queen for his failure to pay the enormous debt levied against him by the Queen through the Court of Wards. In 1588 Anne Cecil died, and Oxford essentially lost the support of the Cecils, along with custody of his three daughters. Many of these events in Oxford's life are echoed in the plays and poems of the Shakespeare canon. However the embarrassment and shame occasioned by them must have weighed very heavily upon him, and the last thing he would have desired was to attract further attention to his ‘disgrace’ by being known as a writer for the public theatres, which were until very late in the Queen's reign held in considerable disrepute, despite the patronage of the acting companies by noblemen who were for the most part patrons in name only. When Oxford remarried in 1592, he had even more reason to keep this side of his life out of the public eye, and thus conceived the idea of enlisting the actor William Shakespeare of Stratford upon Avon as his front man:
Your name from hence immortal life shall have, Though I, once gone, to all the world must die.
The Documents page of this website includes transcripts and translations of hundreds of documents related to Oxford's life and the life of his front man, the actor William Shakespeare of Stratford upon Avon.
The Oxford Authorship Site is the property of Nina Green, who can be contacted at devere[at]telus[dot]net.
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