"THE MAN WHO INVENTED SHAKESPEARE" by Kurt Kreiler (2009)
Kreiler, Kurt: Der Mann, der Shakespeare erfand. Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. Franfurt/Main 2009
Besides The Man who invented Shakespeare, the author has published two more works in this context:
The Adventures of Master F. I. (1573), „the first English novel“ with an annexe of 48 poems. In his elaborate and very detailed afterword Kreiler brings about a presumptive evidence for the authorship of the Earl of Oxford and at the same time identifies an early work of Shakespeare. - The Shakespeare Songs. A collection of all Shakespeare songs, introduced and commented.
Kreiler, Kurt (ed.): Fortunatus im Unglück. Die Aventiuren des Master F.I. Von Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. Frankfurt/Main (Insel Verlag) 2006
Kreiler, Kurt (ed.): William Shakespeare. Die Lieder und Gedichte aus den Stücken. (Insel Verlag) Berlin 2011
The Poet and his Double. Kurt Kreiler's brilliantly written book is food for thought. (DER SPIEGEL, 16-11-2009)
By Urs Jenny.
Was William Shakespeare simply the marionette of an aristocratic poet who wished to remain anonymous? A German author speaks out for “the other Shakespeare” and puts wind in the sails of an old theory.
When Will Shakspere died at the age of 52 in the small town of Stratford-upon-Avon in 1616, he was a rich man. He had earned his fortune over a period of twenty years in London, two days journey from Stratford-upon-Avon, where his wife and children lived.
The actor's last will and testament is an fine example of precision. He determines who gets what, down to the last fruit bowl. On reaching the end of the precise inventory of his worldly goods the reader is surprised by one omission. There is no mention of anything that might bring the man into connection with the profession of author. No manuscripts, no reference books, no documents of registration of his works- nothing. There are records of his activities as an actor and theatre manager to be found in London, but no mention of his having written anything.
We know that the son of a glove maker may well have visited the local grammar school where he learned Latin but there is no record of any higher education.
At the age of 18 he married Anne Hathaway who gave birth to twins six months later.
We ask ourselves, what miracle occurred to give this young man the ability to write works of literary genius, where did the knowledge of the English language come from from whence the knowledge of law, of Spanish, of French, of modern colloquial Italian, of Greek, of courtly etiquette, even of medicine?
After hundreds of years of blind belief in the actor from Stratford's authorship of the Shakespearian works, doubts began to arise in the minds of Shakespeare biographers. Some of the first doubts were raised by Mark Twain over a hundred years ago.
At last a true academic, both thorough, in his research, and professional in his approach has turned his attention to the subject. Now even German readers have full availability to the facts on “The Shakespeare Case”.
Kurt Kreiler, Doctor of philology presents the biography of Edward de Vere 17th Earl of Oxford (1550-1604), the man who many academics believe to be the true author of the Shakespearian works. At the beginning of his investigations Kreiler said that if he found just one irrefutable piece of evidence against the Earl's authorship then he would abandon the project. Such evidence was not to be found.
It seemed logical to search for the real author among the ranks of the aristocracy. Not only were they the only people who had access to the necessary education, they also had every reason to keep their authorship secret. Though it was acceptable for an aristocrat to write poems for his close circle of friends or even to write a play for performance at court, it was unthinkable for them to be involved with such riff raff that attended public places of entertainment such as “The Globe Theatre”. Court etiquette was very strict.
One of Kreiler's many convincing arguments is that Shakespeare's “Italian” plays (The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing, etc.) must have been staged before 1588. The invasion of the Spanish Armada in this year created a huge aversion to anything foreign or catholic. At this point in time the actor from Stratford was just 24 years old, too young and inexperienced to have written such a body of work.
There is one thing of which we can be certain: Edward de Vere did receive the very best possible education for that period of time. An education in keeping with the knowledge that we find in the Shakespearian works. The young Earl's father died when he was twelve, he became a ward of Court and went to live with his foster father Lord Burghley, Queen Elizabeth's closest and most valued advisor. The best minds in England were employed for the education of Lord Burghley's wards, among other, Arthur Golding, the translator of such Roman classics as “Metamorphoses” from Ovid (a work often quoted by Shakespeare).
Edward de Vere's education didn't just consist of literature, languages and sciences, aristocratic sports were also featured on the curriculum. When Edward became of age in 1571 the Queen hosted a tournament that lasted for several days in his honour, in which he excelled particularly in the joust, both with lance and spear. At the end of the year he married Lord Burghley's fifteen year old daughter (Westminster Abbey, of course) and the Queen laid on the wedding banquette in her castle.
Along with the title 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere also inherited a good deal of property and land, but he also inherited enormous debts. For the next 30 years, hid private correspondence was full of references to lands that had to be sold in order to make ends meet. Edward de Vere's duties as the Lord Great Chamberlain were purely ceremonial, (he carried the sword of state for the Queen at official ceremonies). In 1586 the Queen granted him an income of ₤1,000 per annum, without any apparent reason- other than as payment for outstanding literary services to the court.
Various literary activities of the Earl are known and documented; English and Latin introductions to philosophical works, contributions to various anthologies, under divers pseudonyms.
Allocating the individual works to their respective authors is often a question of “literary instinct”, as in the alleged De Vere poems that we see in “Romeo and Juliet” or “The Merchant of Venice”.
Parallel to the years of research into the lives of the actor from Stratford and Edward de Vere, Kreiler also excelled as a translator of Oxford’s works. Backed by astute arguments, he lays claim to the classification of a hitherto little known work, published anonymously in 1573, with the central figure “Fortunatus Infoelix”, as being a Shakespearian work.
At the age of 24 Edward de Vere takes off to see the world and broaden hid horizons. After a couple of months as a guest of the French court he travels through Italy for fourteen months. Six months after his departure, his wife gives birth to a daughter; suspecting infidelity, he leaves his wife, without making any sort of public proclamation.
After his return to England he didn't seem to be able to put a foot wrong. His plays were performed at court, Kreiler believes by professional actors; in 1578 the Queen made him the present of Castle Rysing; in January 1581; after a resplendent tournament, the Queen kissed him on the mouth, a sign that he was a royal favourite.
Two months later Edward de Vere's bubble bursts. One of the Virgin Queen's virgin ladies-of-waiting bears him a son! The Queen is beside herself with rage. The adulterous pair is imprisoned in the tower of London for months, after which Edward de Vere is banned from court for a further two years. He is only granted an audience with the Queen after he is officially re-united with his wife. Perhaps this very punishment caused him to mature to a great artist.
Kreiler postulates the theory that Edward de Vere chose the name Shake-speare, partly because of his success, with this weapon, at tournaments and partly because of his chosen patron Pallas Athene, the guardian of the truth, who came to the world without parents, bearing a spear.
A series of sonnets was written in 1592 (published in 1609) wherein the elderly poet praises the youth and beauty of an unknown young man. Both Stratfordians and Oxfordians are agreed that the young man in question was Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton (1573-1624). Here again, the Oxfordonians present the most convincing arguments. At that time Lord Burghly had determined that Henry Wriothesely should be betrothed to Edward de Vere's daughter. Without any consideration for Wriothesley's wishes, Burgley aranged for him to marry Oxford's daughter, Burghley's granddaughter, Elizabeth de Vere. When the time came to marry, Wriothesley chose to pay the huge fine of ₤5,000 rather than lead Elizabeth to the alter. Oxford wrote the first 17 sonnets, to make him change his mind - but to no avail.
Oxford had always wanted to serve the Queen with some sort of heroic deed on the battle field, but that wasn't to be. Perhaps because Elizabeth placed more importance on a good court play-write than on another war hero. The aristocratic poet, married for the second time in 1591, having lost his first wife in 1588. His second marriage brought him a son and heir, but he just didn't seem to be cut out for a normal, stable married life.
As of 1594 “The Lord Chamberlain's Men” performed the plays of William Shakespeare for the Court and for the “Globe”.
One of the members of this playing company was a certain William Shakspere. When the “Globe” on the southern banks of the Thames was opened, Shakspere took over a part ownership. In those days the name of an author was never mentioned, not even by the censorship authorities. From this we can safely delude that most of the plays in the Globe's repertoire was written by Edward de Vere.
In 1603, Elizabeth dies and James I, the son of the executed Maria Stuart, is crowned King of England. He shares Elizabeth's love for the theatre, so much so that he has the actors from the Globe perform at court eight times in a row during the winter of 1603. He gives the company permission to call themselves “The King's Men” and he restores Waltham Forest, King's house and the houses at Havering to Oxford. A month after receiving Waltham Forest, Edward de Vere dies. As of the death of Edward de Vere a series of good quartos under the name “William Shakespeare” comes to an end - an important argument for the Oxfords.
Without a doubt, Kurt Kreiler's brilliantly written book is food for thought. The debate considering the authorship of the Shakespearian works will go on. Perhaps the man from Stratford still holds the key to success. We know so little about him that we wouldn't put anything past him.