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  1. The only words we have in his hand are six crude signatures. They are all spelled differently, despite the fact that three of them appear on the same document (his will.)

  2. Although letters are rife in the plays of Shakespeare, there is no evidence that Shakspere of Stratford ever sent or received a letter.

  3. His parents, siblings, wife and children were all illiterate.

  4. There is no record that he was educated, either at the Stratford Grammar School or anywhere else.

  5. He left no books or manuscripts in his will, even though half the plays remained unpublished at his death.

  6. No one during his lifetime (1564-1616) so much as hinted that he was a poet or dramatist, far less acclaimed him as such.

  7. There are no specific records of him writing or appearing in any play for any acting company. His only possible links to the theatre are commercial.

  8. There is no evidence that he corresponded or met with any of the literary patrons of the time, nor did he dedicate a single play to them.

  9. Although the Shakespeare works were sometimes published illegally, Shakspere of Stratford neither protested nor made any move to protect his right in them – this despite the fact that Shake-speare's Sonnets, pirated in 1609, was a deeply personal and potentially incriminating work.

  10. In strong contrast to the fate of other writers of the time, his death in 1616 was met with complete silence.

  11. Much later, when a monument was erected to him in his native Stratford it depicted a simple tradesman holding a sack of grain.

  12. Nothing that is known about William Shakspere of Stratford in any way illuminates the works of Shakespeare. As Dr. W.H. Furness, editor of the Variorum Shakespeare, wrote in 1866: “I am one of the many who have never been able to bring the life of William Shakespeare [i.e. Shakspere] and the plays of Shakespeare within planetary distance of each other. Are there any two things in the world more incongruous?”






  1. He was educated by some of the finest minds in the land, including – from the age of four – the polymath and statesman Sir Thomas Smith.  Another tutor was Anglo-Saxon scholar Lawrence Nowell, who owned the only known copy of Beowulf.  Two of his uncles, Lord Sheffield and the Earl of Surrey, were brilliant poets; a third, Arthur Golding, was responsible for the translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses into rhyming fourteeners, a noted source of inspiration for Shakespeare.

  2. His interest in poetry and the drama was precocious.  The Earls of Oxford had kept troupes of players since 1492, and young Edward inherited his father's company at the age of twelve.  Many of his surviving poems – Shakespeare's lost juvenilia – seem to date from his early teens.  Some of these immature efforts, such as ‘Loss of Good Name’ (which he was stung into writing by a challenge to his legitimacy) are in effect dramatic monologues or soliloquies full of painful feeling of the type that Shakespeare would perfect in his mature dramas.

  3. The 70 or so letters of his that have come to light, though overwhelmingly about business and domestic affairs, furnish innumerable parallels of thought and diction to the Shakespeare works.  His one literary letter in English to survive, his 1573 preface to Thomas Bedingfield’s translation of Cardanus Comfort (‘Hamlet’s book’) already betrays his anxiety about concealed authorship.

  4. Though praised by both Meres and Puttenham as a comic playwright of excellence, no plays of Oxford’s survive under his own name.  It is known that he wrote and performed for the Court, and installed his secretary – fellow playwright John Lyly – as manager of the Blackfriars Theatre (on which he took out the lease).  Lyly, who stopped writing plays on leaving his master’s employ, also directed Oxford’s company of child actors.

  5. His 16-month tour of the Continent took him to all those cities in Italy with which Shakespeare evinces an easy familiarity, among them Padua, Milan, Verona, Mantua, Florence and Siena.  The one that made the deepest impression on him however was Venice, the commercial and cultural capital of Europe, where he is reported to have built a house.

  6. The Shakespeare plays not only tell Oxford's story, they seem to grow out of his experiences as from a rich soil, none more so than Hamlet, which is pure autobiography.  Oxford's father-in-law, Elizabeth's chief minister Lord Burghley, is the original of Polonius, his daughter Anne a much-abused Ophelia figure, while the Queen herself, on whom Gertrude is modeled, was a surrogate mother to Oxford from the age of twelve and later became his lover.

  7. The principal themes that marked Oxford's life are the very themes that dominate Shakespeare's work: his fall from grace (and subsequent obscurity), his banishment, his alienation as a courtier, his crisis of identity (caught between feudal aristocrat and artist), his remorse over his appalling treatment of his innocent wife, his mistrust of religious orthodoxy, and his deep concern over the succession to the throne.  The very fact that Oxford was completely lost to public consciousness until rediscovered in 1920 is an argument for his authorship, for in Sonnet 81 Shakespeare writes, "I once gone to all the world must die."

  8. From 1586 onwards Oxford received an annual stipend of £1,000 (approx. £150,000 in today's money) from the Queen.  It was paid through Walsingham's secret service fund at the time that Walshingham had responsibility for restructuring acting companies.  The Rev. John Ward, vicar of Stratford in the 1660s, wrote that Shakespeare in return for producing two plays a year had an allowance so large that he spent at the rate of £1,000 a year.

  9. As Lord Great Chamberlain Oxford helped to bear the canopy over the Queen at state occasions.  In Sonnet 125 Shakespeare writes: "Were't aught to me I bore the canopy,/ With my extern the outward honouring...?"  The title was frequently shortened to "Lord Chamberlain" as in the acting company "the Lord Chamberlain's Men" (Shakespeare's Company).

  10. Oxford was the preeminent literary patron of his time, and like Timon of Athens, kept open house for the artists of the day at his specially acquired London mansion Fisher's Folly.  Those who dedicated works to him include many writers described by orthodox scholars as crucial to Shakespeare's development, for instance John Lyly, Thomas Nashe, Anthony Munday, Robert Greene and Thomas Watson.  Many of them refer to Oxford's foremost place in English letters and the literary assistance they have received from him.  However, no one by the name of "Shakespeare" crosses Oxford’s path.

  11. When Oxford died in 1604 the flow of Shakespearean publications ceased.  But for a few isolated quartos that made their "scape" from certain "grand possessors" and that sensational act of piracy Shake-speares Sonnets (1609), nothing more appeared until the First Folio of 1623, despite the fact that William of Stratford was alive and well until 1616.

  12. The First Folio of Shakespeare's complete plays was an enterprise shepherded and sponsored by Oxford's family, in particular his daughter Susan Vere and her husband the Earl of Montgomery, who together with his brother the Earl of Pembroke made up "the incomparable pair of brethren" to whom the great work was dedicated.  In his prefatory eulogy Ben Jonson addressed Shakespeare as "thou Star of Poets".  The star was the badge of the Earls of Oxford.