Edward De Vere: The Real William Shakespeare
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Edward De Vere: The Real William Shakespeare

Most assume William Shakespeare was from Stratford Upon Avon, but they are unaware of the discrepancies that lie in that assumption.

Mark Twain, one of the most celebrated American authors, once said "Isn't it odd, when you think of it, that you may list all the celebrated Englishmen, Irishmen and Scotchmen of modern times, clear back to the first Tudors - a list containing 500 names, shall we say - and you can go to the histories, biographies and encyclopedias and learn the particulars about every one of them. Every one of them except one - the most famous, the most renowned - by far the most illustrious of them all - Shakespeare"! What most people are not aware of is that nobody is sure who he actually was. Most assume that the man from Stratford-upon-Avon was the author of the works accredited to William Shakespeare, but numerous discrepancies exist in this idea. How would he have gotten the education needed to write these works? How would he have had the experiences needed to write these works? Why is the life he led so different from the life he wrote about? The man from Stratford could not have been the author of the works accredited to William Shakespeare, but rather, the author was Edward de Vere, the 17th earl of Oxford. 

There are certain possibilities that would solve some of the above discrepancies. Some say that even though the Stratford man received at most, a grammar school education , he could have been a genius. "There are certain things that defy rational explanation," says Samuel Schoenbaum, "There is something incomprehensible about genius. Shakespeare was superhuman." Again, it is possible, but not probable, that he could have been born with an aptitude for the manipulation of language. There was also a period of time in the Stratford man's life called the lost years. It is not known what he did during this time, but it is possible, but not probable, that he gained the experiences he would have needed to write these works then. As for the differences between the life he lived, and the one he wrote about, he could have been an extraordinary liar.

Unlike the assumptions supporting the Stratford man, it is known for a fact that de Vere was brilliant. He had earned two master's degrees before turning seventeen. In those times, it was rare for people to earn one master's degree in their life, let alone two at such a young age! This shows that de Vere was exceptionally smart. In addition to that, several poems by de Vere were found to have a striking similarity to the works accredited to Shakespeare. On the other hand, there is no proof the Stratford man could write his own name. The only known examples of his writing are six signatures, each spelled differently than the others. It is not so much the lack of evidence, but that each of the six signatures were spelled differently, that shows how much more likely it is that de Vere was the Author. An author as brilliant as the one who wrote the works accredited to William Shakespeare would be the type of person that shows above average intelligence, not one who cannot spell his name consistently.

On top of the discrepancies in education, there lay many in experience. It is argued that the Stratford man would have needed experience in the military, law, and Italian culture to have written his plays. It is unlikely that the Stratford man would have ever been able to gain all these experiences as records show that he would have started playwriting at the age of twenty five. Even in those seven years known as the lost years, during which there are no records of his actions, it is unlikely that he would have been able to do and learn so much, as he was neither well educated, rich, nor a nobleman. Edward de Vere was all three and more. De Vere helped battle the Spanish armada with his own ship. He would have needed skill and knowledge of military tactics and procedures to be able to confront a force as mighty as the Spanish armada. During this time he was captured by pirates and forced to kill a man. He also traveled across Europe, crossing England, France, and Italy. Knowledge of foreign culture and geography, especially that of Italy, was something the author of the Shakespeare works must have had. Naturally, de Vere was very involved in politics and law due to his rank as a nobleman. He had close ties to the Queen and inside information of the courts. These are the experiences one would need to accumulate in order to write plays rich in foreign geography, military and politics, such as Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, or Antony and Cleopatra.

It was these political affiliations that would have forced de Vere to use a pseudonym instead of using his real name. Playwriting was considered beneath the dignity of nobility. It was the equivalent of a governor working as a comedian. It would have been shameful. In addition to that, his political ties would have prevented him from using his real name. He had inside information of the courts, and therefore could not use his real name. Most of all, along with bringing shame upon himself, he would have brought shame upon the Queen, and other noblemen, if it were known that he wrote satire. Naturally, it would be embarrassing, as entertaining the middle and lower class "peasants" was not considered an appropriate lifestyle for a nobleman with such strong connections to the Queen.

Although the act of writing the plays and sonnets did not fit the lifestyle of a nobleman, the words written in the plays did. Many of the plays accredited to William Shakespeare, such as Romeo and Juliet, show that the author was intelligent, well read and progressive. These are the kinds of qualities that a nobleman such as de Vere would be expected to have. The Stratford man on the other hand, was the exact opposite. There are documents that show that he had sued people on numerous occasions for amounts as low as two shillings. Only a cheap and miserly man would sue for amounts that low when he was fairly well to do. He is also known to have hoarded grain during a famine. Again, that shows a miserly nature, as well as little care for society. What is the most shocking, however, is the fact that his wife and children were most probably illiterate. The Stratford man did not even find the English language important enough to teach to his own family. Edward de Vere on the other hand, donated generously to writers and musicians. His donations were large enough that it required the sale of parts of his ancestral property! The fact that he would sell off his own property to give to writers and musicians not only indicates his generosity, but his appreciation for the arts as well. It is far more likely that a man like de Vere, who had shown such appreciation for the arts, wrote the works accredited to a man with a 70,000 word vocabulary, than the Stratford man, who didn't give any importance to the English language.

"The star-crossed lovers still die, there will always be something rotten in the state of Denmark, no matter who wrote the plays. So why all the fuss?" asks Jumana Farouky of Time Magazine. Many say that the issue of who wrote these plays is irrelevant because no matter who wrote the plays, the words inside them are the same. However, most of the pro-Stratfordian and anti-Stratfordian experts disagree. "Our interpretation of Shakespeare's works would be entirely different if we knew who wrote them," says Bill Rubinstein, a University of Wales professor. The interpretation of many of Shakespeare's plays and sonnets are still under dispute, and the beliefs and possible motives of the author are vital to understanding the Shakespeare works. The issue of who wrote the works accredited to William Shakespeare could completely change the way we look at his works.

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