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The Earl of Oxford and Shakespeare's Authorship

With Alan Nelson

Are there any factual objections to the belief that the Earl of Oxford wrote the work attributed to Shakespeare?


Nelson: Arguments tying Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, to Shakespeare fly in the face of fact and logic. Oxford was a poet, but the poetry of his adult years is so unlike Shakespeare, and so devoid of literary genius, that even his supporters dismiss it as his 'juvenilia'. Oxford patronized his own playing company from 1580 to 1602. If he wrote plays for the professional stage— and there is no evidence that he did—he would not have written for a rival company. Oxford reportedly wrote comedies—all lost—but no histories or tragedies. 

He devoted his last years not to his literary legacy, but to tin-mining in Cornwall. His death in 1604 occurred much too early for Macbeth, King Lear, Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest. While Oxford led a life of dramatic incident, his mindless slaughter of a hapless undercook, and his verbal abuse of his wife in the closing months of her fifth pregnancy, contradict Shakespearean sympathy for servants and women. The conspiracy theory which makes Oxford the son of Princess Elizabeth, and the father-by-incest of the Earl of Southampton, invokes an English court and culture unknown to history or historians.

Alan Nelson

Alan Nelson

Alan H. Nelson is Professor Emeritus in the Department of English at the University of California, Berkeley; his books include Monstrous Adversary: The Life of Edward de Vere, Seventeenth Earl of Oxford (Liverpool University Press, 2003).

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