Oxford vs. Stratford

The plays of William Shakespeare are rich in learning and wit. Their author took plots from Chaucer, from works of Roman and English history and from Italian, French and Latin sources that had not yet been translated into English. They display a comprehensive knowledge of law, medicine, astronomy, music, of Italian and French customs and topography, a love of the English language and an eagerness to improve the human condition through wisdom and learning.

They caricature distinguished courtiers such as Lord Burghley (Polonius), Robert Cecil (Richard III) and Christopher Hatton (Malvolio) and are predominantly concerned with kings, courts and the nobility. Looking at the documentary record dating from the lifetime of each – Edward de Vere (1550-1604) and William of Stratford (1564-1616) – the following observations are gleaned. 

From a literate, theatre-loving family

Yes

No

Record of early education

Yes

No

Attendance at University

Yes

No

Studied Law

Yes

No

Praised for love of learning

Yes

No

Spoke the French and Italian languages

Yes

No

Owned French and Italian books

Yes

No

Owned English books

Yes

No

Read, spoke and wrote Latin

Yes

No

Known for his love of music

Yes

No

Known for interest in astronomy

Yes

No

Knowledge of Italy

Yes

No

Praised for knowledge of foreign arts

Yes

No

Owned books on medicine

Yes

No

Loved Chaucer and owned his works

Yes

No

Known for love of history

Yes

No

Owned history books

Yes

No

Known for love of English literature

Yes

No

Reformer of the English language

Yes

No

Known to other playwrights

Yes

No

Known to other poets

Yes

No

Known to scholars

Yes

No

Known to Queen Elizabeth I

Yes

No

Known to distinguished courtiers

Yes

No

Could write in Italic hand

Yes

No

Had a sense of humour

Yes

No

Praised for his wit

Yes

No

Educated his children

Yes

No

Connected to public and Court theatre

Yes

Yes

Worked with actors

Yes

Yes

Taught others to recite lines

Yes

No

Connected to a grammar school

Yes

No

Prodigious writer and improviser of verse

Yes

No

Wished to improve the life of others through books of wisdom and learning

Yes

No

On these facts alone the candidacy of William of Stratford as the author of Shakespeare’s plays is a non-starter, while Edward de Vere, whose plays are said by orthodox commentators to be entirely lost, fits the profile of the missing poet ‘Shakespeare’ like a glove. The first complete folio edition of Shakespeare’s works was published in 1623 and dedicated to Edward de Vere’s son-in- law, the Earl of Montgomery. Neither William of Stratford nor any of his family or friends ever claimed that he was a poet, dramatist or writer of any kind.