I am disappointed that PAW saw fit to publish two letters — those of Professor Barkan and of Ms. Johnson-Haddad ’80 (Inbox, September issue) — that insultingly dismiss the enormous and growing body of evidence demonstrating that Will Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon could not have written the works of the man we call “Shakespeare,” and that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford (1550-1604) must have. I would be happy to loan these letter writers 30 or more highly researched books on the subject, so that they may debate the matter with representatives of the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship in the U.K. or the U.S. Virtually all the books on this fascinating subject have been written after the Supreme Court mock trial in 1987.

The Oxford/Shakespeare research builds upon the intuitive conclusion reached by Freud, Mark Twain, Henry James, Orson Wells, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, and many others, that Oxford was Shakespeare. Consider the works of just three scholars: Roger Stritmatter’s 589 page book, Edward de Vere’s Geneva Bible, which documents the hundreds of connections between the works of Shakespeare and the marginalia of the Geneva Bible (now in the Folger Shakespeare Library) owned and annotated by Edward de Vere (2001); Hank Whittemore’s accessible 100 Reasons Shake-spear was the Earl of Oxford (2016); and the lawyer Richard Paul Roe’s The Shakespeare Guide to Italy (2012) — a literary quest of unparalleled significance. In addition to three stage works set in ancient Rome, 10 of Shakespeare’s fictional plays are set in whole or in part in Italy. Only one play of fiction, The Merry Wives of Windsor, is set in England. Roe spent the last quarter-century of his life traveling the length and breadth of Italy examining in detail de Vere’s travels throughout Italy. Roe visited the places referred to with great specificity in the plays and ties them to the places which de Vere and his retinue visited, as noted in de Vere’s diaries. One example of many: There is a reference in Romeo and Juliet to a grove of sycamore just outside the western wall of Verona. Roe located the sycamores at the very same spot where Shakespeare (de Vere) said they were. 

Shakespeare is the greatest writer in the history of Western civilization that we know of. The Oxfords were the most aristocratic family in England other than the monarchy. The precocious de Vere had access to the best library and tutors in England, and was a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I. The plays could only have been written by an aristocrat who was intimately familiar with the Elizabethan court and one who was versed in the law (de Vere studied at Gray’s Inn and served on juries), medicine, gardening, seamanship (de Vere had his own fleet), warfare (de Vere fought against the Northern Rebellion), horsemanship and jousting (of which de Vere was a champion), music (The Earl of Oxford’s Musicians), falconry, heraldry, and other aristocratic activities. The Shakespeare canon refers to works not yet published in English, but which de Vere, who knew Latin, Greek, and French, had translated. We know a great deal about Edward de Vere the 17th Earl of Oxford, a most eccentric individual whose life in Elizabethan England transcends fiction. Take heed of even dipping a toe in this most fascinating mystery of the man behind the mask of Shakes-peare, for you may be swept away.