J T Looney
Not all that propitious a choice as an apostle, let alone a Messiah—devout when young—Looney lost his orthodox faith and became caught up in a short-lived sect called the Church of Humanity. The Church embraced positivism and the work of man. In particular, the positivist pilgrims were attracted to work of Shakespeare. Looney himself funded a bust of the Bard for the Church's place of worship. A disenchantment with Looney's object of worship took place during the First World War. He became perplexed by the lack of positivism in Shakespeare's private life. Instead of turning to another object, Chaucer or Milton for example, Looney became fixated on the idea that Shakespeare might have been someone else. Like all founding conspiracy theorists, having stepped through The Looking Glass, he soon found his man and his man was unique. Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, 1st of that name.
He published Shakespeare Identified in 1920.
In his book, Looney rehashed all the Baconian argument that had survived the purges of the 1890s. He 'deduced' from the plays that Shakespeare was a courtier, superbly educated, trained in the law, travelled to Italy and so on. He claimed that events in the plays, when tied to corresponding events in the life of De Vere, constituted proof of his theory. He 'deduced' in other words, that the writer of the plays was a perfect match for De Vere.
So acute were Looney's analytical skills in tying De Vere's style to Will's that he failed to spot that seven of the poems on which he was basing his case were not written by De Vere at all. He detected 'terse genius' in a long and rambling piece of Oxford's prose and a 'wealth of figurative language' in a piece that contained no figures of speech.
His book, intended to start a revolution, in 100 years of mostly intemperate debate, has failed to spark a single accurate shot.
Written after The Earl of Oxford died
The Earl died in 1604. Yet Macbeth is a Jacobean play, through and through. It celebrates the accession of James VI & I, and his descent through a true line of Scottish kings, foreseen to “stretch out to the crack of doom.” In the vision summoned by the witches to appall Macbeth, the distant heirs of Banquo carry “treble scepters”: emblems of the kingship of England, Ireland, and Scotland. Elizabeth I did not rule Scotland; her rival Mary, James’s mother did. He sought the union of his realms.
Macbeth alludes to the policies and slogans of his reign: Concord, Peace, and Unity. Malcolm feigningly protests that he would “pour the sweet milk of concord into hell, /Uproar the universal peace, confound / All unity on earth.”It plays to his obsession with witches, the subject of his book Daemonologie (1597).witches
And above all, it speaks to a king and country still shivering from a near-apocalypse. Had it come off, the Gunpowder Plot of November 1605 would have killed not only the King, but most of his succession; his Privy Council; the House of Lords, with the highest judges of the realm, its prelates, and its aristocracy, along with the members of the House of Commons. (That quantity of powder would probably have burned much of London to the ground as well.)
A medal struck in 1605 commemorates the king’s escape. It shows a serpent lurking among lilies and roses, with the legend, Detectus qui latuit (that which was hidden is disclosed). As Lady Macbeth says to her husband, “Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under’t.”
It's three years since the British Library attributed to Shakespeare three pages of the unproduced manuscript Sir Thomas More, effectively ending the Shakespeare Authorship Question.
There really is no doubt about Hand D or that it belonged to Shakespeare of Stratford.
Hand D belongs to one of six different individuals, five authors and one scribe, who contributed to the manuscript of Sir Thomas More. Today, aside from anti-Stratfordians, scholars who do not accept Hand D as genuinely Shakespeare's can be numbered on the fingers of one hand. The different strands of proof, forensic, orthographic and documentary, when taken together, are conclusive.
The passage, which addresses human rights and who has them, has become one Shakespeare's most popular in these trying times. There are three very different versions below.
Six witnessed signatures remain. What can really be told from the signatures Will left behind? Since they are from the same hand, can they be tied to Hand D? Sir Edward Maunde Thompson (pictured here), one of the 20th century's foremost palaeographers, examined the signatures, preparing an analysis for Oxford University Press to honour the tercentenary in 1916. He examined the signatures compared to the Hand D manuscript. While having no doubts himself that the pages were written by the signatory , he managed to communicate some doubt to others—scepticism which has lingered long. Recent scholarship has overcome this hesitation, however. Three other professional paleographers have conducted analysis of the signatures and Hand D. They all agree with Maunde Thompson.
"In my examination of the hands of many writers I found twelve who linked h and a with those faddish bulbous spurs, but I found no writer who even once produced that link with the sharp point closing the circle and forming an a with a long, flat bottom. I have seen such an h-a link only in Shakespeare's signature to the Belott-Mountjoy deposition (5 A) and in Hand D."
Not everyone who accepts Hand D as Shakespeare's agrees with the analysis of the signatures. Doubters, Oxfordians and a few academics are looking for 100% certainty from Thompson's handwriting comparison.
Why? The witnessed signatures are unquestionably those of Will Shakespeare and the owner of Hand D is unquestionably that of an Elizabethan playwright who is really good at his job. When we eliminate playwrights whose handwriting is known to be different, the number of candidates for Hand D sinks to a single handful. When you read The Stranger's Case speech, so good it has acquired a title, there's only one name left on the list.
When other factors are taken into account, there is no doubt left. And without doubt, there is no authorship question.
A modest courtier poet—no more
The most authorative work on Oxford and his contemporaries at the court of Elizabeth is The Elizabethan Courtier Poets by Professor Steven May, one of the very few people qualified to call himself an expert in the field. His verdict underlines the difference between those who write about the real Oxford, searching for the truth with respect for the evidence, and those who write about imaginary Oxford without the slightest respect for the evidence in order to make a name for themselves and part Shakespeare from the credit for his work.
If you look hard at anything written by Oxford, you can see that no germ of the writer we know as Shakespeare is in his work. As Professor May says;
"As I worked on my edition of the Earl of Oxford's poetry during the 1970s, I hoped, as I still do, that I might find some connection between De Vere's work and the writings, any writing, of William Shakespeare. Unfortunately, I discovered instead a gulf between the two poets' styles that rules out any direct ties between their output. I looked further into De Vere's life as I prepared my book, The Elizabethan Courtier Poets. The facts of his biography and career at court made any connection with Shakespeare or his writings even less likely. I regret these enforced conclusions, however, because no one has more to gain than I from discovery of persuasive evidence linking Shakespeare's works with Oxford. That discovery would catapult me from my obscure role as a professor of English at Georgetown College to the exalted status of a pioneering editor of the poems of "Shakespeare.
Ironically, Oxford's verse does not feature in the many versions of The Oxford Book of English Verse. Only three of the Earl's poems appear in E K Chambers' The Oxford Book of Sixteenth Century Verse. This lack of notice has made some Oxfordians keen to attribute other, better work to Oxford. Some have gone so far as to credit De Vere with authorship of everything of significance written in his lifetime; books of prose criticism, the Marprelate Tracts, and even The King James Bible. One Oxfordian Professor infamously detected Shakespearean qualities 'apparent to anyone widely and closely read in the canon' in a poem he was keen to attribute to Oxford. When asked to point out these qualities, he could not provide a single example. https://oxfraud.com/100-Dyer-consequences
In truth, Oxford's poetry is separated from Shakespeare's by the widest of gulfs.
Theatres Oxford never saw
Although he was never a professional playwright, it's not quite true that Oxford has no connection to professional theatre. In addition to patronising two groups of players, one an adult group, the other a children's group, the Earl was a one-time lease holder of a theatre in Blackfriars. Oxford's theatre connections are a poison chalice for Oxfordians. The more they make of them in their attempts to polish the earl's playwrighting connections, the less explicable becomes the fact that all Shakespeare's plays are connected to other groups and other theatres. Patronising two companies yet, anonymously, turning a third company into the most renowned and successful in history, all without connections, profit or credit is inexplicable behaviour on the part of the penniless Earl.
Although Oxfordians desperately try to confuse the two, the Earl's Blackfriars was not the same Blackfriars theatre the King's Men used from 1608, four years after The Earl died. Oxford's name went on an earlier Blackfriars theatre lease in 1583 as part of a series of sub-lets designed to prevent the building's owner repossessing it.
Shakespeare's Blackfriars, sumptuously recreated next to The Globe, was small, expensive, intimate and candlelit. Plays written for smaller audiences, new stage effects and music suited to the small intimate space, cannot have been written by the Earl, dead years before its first première.
Oxfordians and literacy
Oxfordians, in their attempts to de-educate Shakespeare, like to argue that he was illiterate. They claim his family were illiterate. It's impossible to understand why. His father was Mayor of Stratford, entitled to send his son to the Grammar School visible from both his childhood home and the house he bought for himself as an adult. All anti-Shakespeareans want Shakespeare's daughters to be illiterate. They want his father to be illiterate. Many of them want the whole town of Stratford-upon-Avon to be illiterate. Shakespeare's father John, a man who applied to the College of Heralds for a coat of arms, once served as Mayor. If a man in the town's highest office couldn't read, why should anyone else? No one bothers to explain how a Town Council could work with illiterate councillors. Mere detail.
Sounds like nonsense? It is. That's his daughter's writing. It's Susanna Hall 's signature in the picture. Before you say anything, find yourself a Rotring calligraphic pen with a broad italic nib and see how much practice it takes to produce anything like the elegance of Susanna's shapely obliques.
“Witty above her sex, but that’s not all, Wise to salvation was good Mistris Hall,
The Stranger's Case
In 2017 British Library unequivocally attributed the Hand D additions to Sir Thomas More, one of its surviving manuscripts, as the work of William Shakespeare, written in his own hand. Even hardened Oxfordians accept that if this is true, the Shakespeare Authorship Question is over. If the handwriting of the three pages matches the signatures on Shakespeare's Will, there's no room for doubt. Chagrined Oxfordians have been quick to try and degrade the content. A leading Looney fan went so far as to call it "drivel". Another claimed that Oxford dictated it to a secretary who had very similar handwriting to Shakespeare's.
Is this an aristocrat whose most famous social comment was "mine is made to serve me" talking directly to us across the centuries? I think not. This is a great dramatist at the top of his game. Ian McKellen has done half a dozen versions.