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The Unbroken Line: Oxford, Acting Companies and the Phenomenon of Shakespeare

By Hank Whittemore

Outline of a paper presented at the SOS/SF 2013 Joint Conference in Toronto


First … a prologue  

The year is 1912 … eight years before “Shakespeare” identified

Charles William Wallace – 1912

Professor Charles William Wallace of the University of Nebraska publishes “the evolution of the English drama up to Shakespeare,” based on original records.

He writes about the private Blackfriars theater:

“during 1583 to ‘84, there were suits, contentions, and petitions enough to break any theater …  And the earl of Oxford, himself celebrated in his day as a dramatist, came to the rescue of Blackfriars.

“Oxford, noted alike as a swaggerer, roisterer, brawler, coxcomb, musician, poet, Maecenas, was also the devoted patron of John Lyly, whose ‘Euphues’ novels had made a stir in all England…”

So Oxford purchased the Blackfriars lease “and after a while he made a present of it to Lyly, who then began presenting plays at court with the earl of Oxford’s servants – opening a period that “outwardly marks a change in the drama that has struck all historians as remarkable.”

“The plays at the Blackfriars mark a new era in the form of the English drama,” Wallace writes. “They are the first modern five-act plays ever known to have been performed before a public audience in an English theater…

“The semi-official character of the Blackfriars, with the queen’s sanctioned use of her own choir-boys as actors, the privacy, the naturally select character of the audience, the traditions of the court –

“And last but not least, the financial support and patronage of the queen’s admired friend, the earl of Oxford, who took some pride in literary achievement, all conduced to the earlier development there of conscious dramatic art…

“the first modern dramatists … the beginning of the English drama as we now know it.”

I’d say that in 1912 professor Wallace was already identifying Shakespeare – the great author as young man.

But he was also staring at an even larger story – a hidden theatrical history – and what follows is my version, along with supporting evidence.

Three companies: 1572 – 1603

Once again the protagonist is Edward de Vere … and my overall theme is that he carried out his development as a dramatist with careful planning and support – political, financial, material and artistic –

And that regardless of the companies under his own name, Oxford was the unseen driving force behind the three most important acting troupes in three successive decades, from the 1570’s through the eighties and nineties until the end of Elizabeth’s reign.

= the chamberlain’s men under Thomas Radcliffe, third earl of Sussex, from 1572 until his death in ‘83;

= Elizabeth’s company, the queen’s men, patronized by the monarch, from 1583 to ‘94; and

= the chamberlain’s men, Shakespeare’s company, under Henry Carey, first lord Hunsdon, and then his son George Carey, second Hunsdon, from ‘94 to 1603.

These companies form a through-line for the growth and development of Edward de Vere as the dramatist Shakespeare.

Themes

Some themes:

One= in the time of Elizabeth – basically a war time – theater was equivalent to mass media.  During any coup attempt, there’s invariably a struggle for control of the radio and tv – and for the Elizabethan government it was crucial to control the theatre as much as possible;

Behind the scenes is a fierce struggle between Robert Cecil and the earl of Oxford for control over not only the play companies and play houses and publishers, but, also, for control over the “Shakespeare” pen name, if not now then in the future.

Two =  all the patrons of these companies – Sussex, Hunsdon, Charles Howard, lord Effingham,  and even Edmund Tilney, master of the revels and chief censor, were all related to each other and to the queen; and all were close to William Cecil lord Burghley, secretary Walsingham and, yes, lord Oxford;

Three = the successive companies under Sussex, the queen and the Hunsdon’s functioned as deliberate vehicles for the production, development and publication of stage works by Oxford;

Four = during the 1590’s up to 1603, there are just two instances of “Shakespeare” in connection with the chamberlain’s men – first as a payee-shareholder in ‘95 and, second, as a shareholder of the lease of land in ‘99 for the Globe – and, i suggest that in these documents the “Shakespeare” name actually refers to Oxford.

We must keep in mind that “Shakespeare” and “Shaksper” are two separate entities.

Five = the government portrayal of “Shakespeare” the author as an actor – not even as the Stratford man, but as an actor — began only after the succession of James, when the Chamberlain’s Men had become the King’s Men.

Meanwhile the records show Shaksper of Stratford lending money, applying for a family coat of arms, disappearing from officials and evading taxes, buying property — but there is no record of that man as a member of the chamberlain’s men or of the king’s men – not as an actor, not as a financier-businessman, not as anything.

The first slight pointing to Shaksper of Stratford occurs in the 1623 folio, seven years after his death – which had occurred in total silence — and all the history written later by traditional biographers has relied upon “back-filling” or “looking backward and filling in” what they think or want the reality to have been.

[I submit that one of most misleading and damaging aspects of the movie “anonymous” was portraying Shaksper as an actor and contemporary front man for the author.]

So we have three acts.

 (1) Chamberlain’s:  1572 – 1583 

And act one – the chamberlain’s men under Thomas radcliffe, lord Sussex – who brought plays to court often with the help of Charles Howard lord Effingham, and even back then from Henry Carey lord Hunsdon.

Both Sussex and Effingham were highly trusted by the queen; and both were family.

Sussex was a grandchild of Thomas Howard, second duke of Norfolk; his aunt was Elizabeth Boylen, mother of Anne Boleyn, mother of queen Elizabeth.

Charles Howard was the queen’s first cousin once removed

Henry Carey was Charles Howard’s father-in-law.

Henry Carey was the son of Anne Boleyn’s older sister, Mary Boleyn, so he was directly the queen’s first cousin.

But Mary Boleyn had also been the king’s mistress, and today many scholars agree that Henry Carey’s father was not William Carey but, rather, Henry the Eighth.

So it’s quite likely that the future patron of Shakespeare’s company was Queen Elizabeth’s half brother.

Sussex and Howard were great friends and supporters of the queen and also Oxford, for whom both were father figures.

1576

Oxford returned from Italy in 1576, bringing back the spirit of the renaissance and the Italian settings for his plays.

That year the first successful public playhouse, the theater, was built at Shoreditch by James Burbage – whose son Richard, born in Shoreditch, was then a boy, already acting on his father’s stage.

Plays at court 1576-1583

Oxford plunged into a time of amazing creative engery, writing plays for the queen and court.

Eva Turner Clark suggests that “The history of error” 1577 was the early “Comedy of errors.” 

In that year Charles Howard brought chamberlain Sussex’s men to perform “The history of a solitary knight” – perhaps the early “Timon of Athens.”

And many more apparently early versions of Shakespearean plays:

Titus, Pericles, The shrew, Cymbeline, Two gentlemen, Merchant of Venice

And in ‘78 “The history of the rape of the second Helen” at Richmond  – perhaps the early “All’s well,” recorded as “very well furnished in this office with many things for them” – and such help with props and stage furniture and costumes is a frequent notation in the record of this period.

Oxford in his early thirties was apparently writing nonstop.

It must have been incredibly motivating to know the queen had an insatiable need to have new plays.

And if you think about it, Oxford would not have left everything up to chance.

He would have determined – if he could – which actors would perform his next play.

He would have known its production needs.

He’d want to make sure his stage works received the best possible treatment at court.  And imagine him watching Elizabeth’s reactions – like Hamlet at the court of Denmark.

government support: 1576-1583

It would apear that the government – Burghley, Walsingham, Tilney, Sussex and Effingham were helping Oxford realize his creative goals and thereby please the queen.

The number of these plays, their frequency and heavy scheduling all add up to a plAnned, organized, collaborative operation.

MacCaffrey = Oxford English dictionary online and Streitberger in the review of English studies

But there’s a stunning apparent contradiction of historical views on Sussex:

Wallace MacCaffrey writes that “Sussex patronized a company of players, but showed no interest in their productions.”

By contrast, W.R. Streitberger writes that “Burghley was certaintly an important figure in reforming the revels office, but Sussex took a leading role and the queen’s revels were transformed.”

He observes a remarkable increase under Sussex in performances by adult companies at court – from less than one each year to more than six per year.

Earl of Sussex

“A change of this magnitude,” Streitberger writes, “could not have occurred without the approval of the queen, whose personality dominated every aspect of her court.”

“part of the explanation for the new interest in adult companies,” he continues, “may well be the broad appeal of their material and the developing sophistication of their plays.”

And this would resolve the seeming contradiction:

Sussex was very much involved in making sure the queen had plays to attend, but he had no interest in the particulars of the productions because that role was being filled by Oxford, who was supplying the new, more sophisticated writing, perhaps instructing the players, maybe acting with them.

Burghley, Walsingham, Tilney and Sussex were streamlining the revels office to make it more cost effective — but, at the same time, court productions were becoming more elaborate and more expensive.

How could that be?

The logical answer is that Oxford – the man who was most interested, who had the most at stake — Oxford the playwright was using his own money for the productions – props and scenery,  costumes – and sure enough, between 1576 and ’84, he engaged in forty-seven sales of land, thirteen in 1580 alone.

 (2) queen’s: 1583 – 1594

Act two – the queen’s men

Sussex died in June ‘83 and as war with spain was becoming official, Mr. Spymaster Walsingham directed the master of the revels to create a new company for the queen.

So Tilney drew twelve of the best actors from all the different troupes to create the largest and most talented playing company that England had ever seen.

Walsingham was a Puritan and he, too, had no interest in plays – but actors in London and on tour were useful as informants – and plays, the mass media — could generate a spirit of unity in the face of the coming invasion.

The queen’s company was government-sponsored and now the patron was Elizabeth herself — and she, too, had no interest in the productions – not until she was seated right up front.

Initially Oxford helped out by lending John Lyly as stage manager – in effect, directing the queen’s men through his own secretary.

In the next two years the queen’s men gave thirteen performances at court and in fact it was the only company to appear at court.

Queen’s men plays: 1580s

The queen’s men produced several history plays that went on tour, all anonymous and virtual templates for future royal histories to be credited to Shakespeare.

= famous victories of Henry the fifth was template for Henry the fourth parts one and two and Henry fifth

= Troublesome reign of king John, true tragedy of Richard third and True chronicle history of king leir

These plays of the queen’s men became plays by Shakespeare.

And more – Taming of a shrew, early version of Hamlet and so on…

Orthodox scholars desperately try to adjust the Stratford biography to fit this history.

The queen’s men book – Scott McMillan & Sally MacLean

Mcmillan and maclean state directly that “one way Shakespeare dealt with the queen’s men was by rewriting a sizeable portion of their repertory.”

They go on that “Shakespeare knew the plays of this company better than those of any company but his own” – suggesting he may have begun his career with the queen’s men in the 1580’s.

I’d say that’s a pretty good example of groping in the dark.

It’s also part of the new, developing Stratfordian biography, in response to the case for Oxford.

Walsingham

It was wartime and Walsingham was getting increases of secret service allowance and the queen, prompted by Burghley and Walsingham, finally granted Oxford’s allowance of an annual thousand pounds.

The history plays were performed by two separate troupes around the countryside – and these did help unify the nation in defeating the armada in 1588.

McMillan and Maclean write that “William Cecil controlled the stage for propagandistic purposes  … the queen’s men were formed to spread protestant and royalist propaganda through a divided realm … the English history play came to prominence through this motive … it is possible to think that the queen’s men invented the English history play.”

I’d say the inventor was Oxford, the guiding hand and chief dramatist of the queen’s men – who would go on to revise his own work for the stage and for readers of dramatic literature.

The queen’s men played at court for the last time in 1594.

Chamberlain’s: 1594 – 1603

Act three – lord chamberlain’s men under Henry Carey lord Hunsdon, established in 1594 – the crucial year when the struggle to control the succession to Elizabeth began in earnest.

In the interim period between 1589 and ’93-‘94, Oxford contributed plays to different companies under different patrons – Pembroke, Strange, Derby, fourth earl Sussex, Hunsdon – and even then Richard Burbage was acting in anonymous plays to be credited later to Shakespeare – - Henry Sixth part two and Richard Third, among others.

But in 1593, when Oxford adopted the pen name “Shakespeare” on “Venus and Adonis” he had made a deliberate decision.

He’s 43, now – no longer at court, remarried, with a male heir born in ‘93 – and he has all this work from the previous two decades, much of it undergoing revision.

How will he get these plays out to the public stage in the best way?  How will he get them published the best way?  How will he control which ones get performed, which get printed, in what order and so on?

What actors will perform them? What influence can he exert on the performances?  How, once again, can he see that his plays get the best productions?

He can’t leave all that to chance.   He needs a plan.  He needs a single company – a Shakespeare company – one group of actors performing his plays.  And he needs a playhouse … a Shakespeare playhouse –

The Swan

And he must have been thinking of the Swan, capacity three thousand, where some of his plays were already being performed … but soon enough the performance there of the “Isle of dogs” will give secretary Robert Cecil an excuse to put the swan out of business for plays.

Oxford needs a clear plan, with a company and a playhouse, and he needs a single partner — to whom he can entrust the plays texts and with whom he can communicate — a single partner to protect his noble identity in return for some of the greatest plays and acting roles ever created.

The evidence suggests that this single partner was a family – the family of James Burbage, builder of the playhouse called the theatre in Shoreditch, just beyond the northern boundary of London – where it was quickly joined by the Curtain.

The family had three members — James Burbage and his two sons – Cuthbert on the business side and Richard on the stage.

Richard Burbage

In 1593 Richard Burbage joined the Chamberlain’s Men under the patronage of 73-year-old Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon; and Burbage became its lead actor, performing at his father’s theater.

Not so coincidently, in just a few years the earl of Oxford will move to Hackney next to Shoreditch in close proximity to the theatre and the curtain.

Oxford and James Burbage must have known each other for at least twenty years.  And just as Oxford had used the Blackfriars as an indoor playhouse in the 1580s, Burbage would aim to use it in the 1590’s.

E.K. Chambers writes that by 1594 “in some way all the books for Shakespeare’s earlier plays, including any which had been performed by other companies, seem to have passed into the hands of the chamberlain’s.”

Imagine that — all the still-anonymous Shakespearean play texts by Oxford were voluntarily surrendered by the other troupes and handed over to the new chamberlain’s men.

All the other acting troupes voluntarily give up their pre-Shakespearean plays … just fork ‘em over.  Someone has some mighty powerful influence to make these proud companies give up their best plays to the new competition.

Peter Ackroyd tries to explain by writing that they may have taken plays written by unnamed others, such as early Hamlet and Leir, and given them to Shakespeare for re-shaping and re-writing!

Sure!

James Burbage was the impressario who would direct the company’s business activities until his death in ‘97.

 “DBA – doing business as”

The core members in ‘94 are shareholders – and I submit Oxford became one of them and was dba – “doing business as” – William Shakespeare, his new pen name.

Exward de Vere had previously been a shareholder in other ventures  – for example, frobisher expeditions.

It was okay for a nobleman to be a shareholder.  It meant ownership, such as owning land and collecting rent, or having some monopoly for income.

Now chambers also notes that by 1593 we have already seen the names of all the actors who will join the new company.  But there’s a problem. “There is one conspicuous chamberlain’s man,” he writes, “who is not discoverable” anywhere, through the year 1593.

Chambers is mystified.  Shaksper of Stratford must be around, right?  Isn’t he the “shake-scene” of Greene’s Groatsworth in ‘92?  Wasn’t his play Henry the Sixth part two performed that year?  Well, yes, but our man is missing from all recent history and in particular from the new company.

Chambers writes that Mr. Shaksper – quote – “may have stood aside altogether” during this period “and devoted himself to poetry, and perhaps, although this is very conjecural,” he goes on, perhaps he had gone off “to travel abroad.”

No comment.

Court accounts: 15 march 1595

The new chamberlain’s men perform at court for the first time in december 1594 with apparently two plays for Elizabeth at court – and the first record appears the following march, when the three leading shareholders are joint payees for those performances.

The shareholding payees are the famous actor Richard Burbage, the popular comedian Will Kempe, and guess who, the new bestselling poet William Shakespeare!

All of a sudden, with the first mention of him as part of the company, “Shakespeare” is right up there with the two top guys.

Charlton Ogburn Junior comments:

“if we take ‘Shakespeare’ to be the Stratford man it is an astonishing entry, for it would show that, as far as any intervening records go, Shakspere had in a bound gone from his native village to a position on the stage that Burbage and Kempe had taken years of work to achieve!”

Well, that record is indeed vital to the Stratford case … on the strength of that record alone, Shakspere is made a leading member of the lord chamberlain’s company from 1594 onward.

But as mentioned I believe the “Shakespeare” on this document of three payees is Oxford doing business under his new pen name.

Shakespeare will never again be recorded as a payee.  We will never have an official record of him acting with the chamberlain’s men or with any other company, and we’ll never see him getting paid for acting or writing or anything else.

Of course, the business records of the company are completely missing.  Henslowe never mentions him in his diary and the chamberlain’s men have no such surviving diary.

Brend inquisition 17 May 1599

Up to the succession of James there will be only one other record of Shakespeare in connection with the chamberlain’s – those documents relating to the ground lease of the Globe in 1599.  Shakespeare is listed as one of the shareholders leasing the property where they intend to build the new playhouse.  Again, I suggest, it was Oxford doing business under that name.

As Hamlet exults to Horatio, after his play has caught the conscience of the king:  “might this get me a fellowship in a cry of players?”

And Horatio quips, “half a share“ with Hamlet countering, “a whole one, I.”

I think Oxford is telling posterity that he did have a share in a cry or company of players.  He may have lost any control over his personal destiny, but it appears that during his lifetime he maintained very much control over his destiny as William Shakespeare.

And so we can understand ian wilson in “Shakespeare: the evidence” writing that, quote, “Henry Carey, the lord chamberlain Hunsdon, appears to have taken little interest in his company’s productions or day-to-day affairs.”

Sounds familiar!

Blackfriars

In 1596 Henry Carey dies at 76 and Shakespeare’s company continues under the nominal patronage of his son George Carey.

Now with the land lease for the theatre about to expire after 21 years, the owner has refused to renew it – so James Burbage signs a deed of purchase for Blackfriars – the same place Oxford and Lyly had used – with rebuilding plans for a new, all-weather playhouse catering to a more sophisticated audience — in that fashionable district — for Oxford’s increasingly sophisticated plays.

That November the Blackfriars residents address a formal petition to the privy council, protesting against allowing the new indoor playhouse in their neighborhood.  And of all things George Carey, one of those residents, signs the peititon against it!

Chambers is again mystified, writing, quote, “it is odd to find George Carey lord Hunsdon a signer of the petition, since one would have supposed that he could influence James Burbage through his son Richard, who was one of the players under his own patronage.”

The obvious answer is that George Carey has no personal or meaningful contact with the actors under his name.

At this point and for a dozen years to come, the dream of Shakespeare’s company having a theatrical home at Blackfriars has come to nothing.

The new chamberlain, lord Cobham, dies in ’97 and the title passes to George Carey, so the actors are again the lord chamberlain’s men.

James Burbage also dies and the ground-lease for his original playhouse, the theatre, expries — so the chamberlain’s men move to the nearby curtain in Shoreditch, with Oxford close by in Hackney.

Robert Cecil

In 1596 Robert Cecil had become principal secretary, head of the council, and one of his chief aims – following Burghley, his father – is to take as much control of the theater as possible – in this case, a rapidly expanding public theater.

In addition he needs to control Oxford, who has begun to use his anonymous Shakespeare plays to deal with the looming crisis of succession.

Cecil needs to have some control, or potential control, over the pen name Shakespeare.

From the secretary’s vantage point, the contemporary allusions and political content in these plays must not be traced back to Exward de Vere and the royal court.

And there’s a man in London named William Shaksper, who comes from catholic Warwickshire — a moneylender and shady businessman, who desperately wants to raise his family’s status.

Shaksper has some business dealings with Francis Langley, owner and builder of the swan.  These guys are involved in a fight with judge Gardner, who basically works for Cecil and trying to cause trouble for the Swan.  Langley is also a moneylender, a creditor who gives credit and collects the debts at interest.

And I suggest that with Cecil’s intervention, the herald’s office grants Shaksper’s family a coat of arms.

New Place, Stratford upon Avon

And Shaksper, without realizing the extent of Cecil’s interest, is enabled in May of 1597 to buy new place back in his hometown in Stratford – a large structure that looks like a roominghouse for travelers and therefore perfect as a listening post for Catholic activities in that region.

Shaksper’s information is worth payments … And he may be needed in the future … after all, he has a potentially useful last name.

Later in ‘97 Cecil arranges “the isle of dogs” scandal to not only shut down Langley’s Swan for plays but also to send Ben Jonson to prison with the spy named poley, who will enlist his services for the secretary.  And Ben is thereby released.

Shaksper will get cash … Jonson will get credit.

Of course, in the long term, Shaksper will get more credit after his death than even Cecil could have predicted.

Play printings

William Cecil dies in august ‘98 and now Oxford gets set to unleash a flood of printed plays under the Shakespeare name for the first time.  In some cases, as on this title page of the 1598 quarto of Richard second, the name is provocatively hyphenated.

That … is a pen name.

My take is that Oxford meets in some private room with his former brother in law and informs him that the pen name is going to be printed on plays.

Despite his power to stop him, Cecil doesn’t want trouble.  Instead he would demand the creation of some lasting public pronouncement making it very clear that Oxford and Shakespeare are two separate persons, two different playwrights.

And Oxford agrees — so we have the inserted material in palladis tamia that fall, listing both Oxford and Shakespeare as best for comedy.

Robert Armin – jester

In late 1599 the chamberlain’s men transfer to the Globe.  And by now the great clown Robert Armin has replaced will Kempe and will play Oxford’s more sophisticated jesters such as Feste and Touchstone –

It was Bronson Feldman who discovered in 1947 that Armin at the time called himself the servant of his lord and master at Hackney – not mentioning Oxford by name, but nonetheless identifying him.

So Armin was spending time at Oxford’s household at King’s Place where the earl could coach him, much as Hamlet warned the players to not let their clowns speak more than was set down for them.

Robert Cecil

To repeat, my view is that the two key players behind the scenes are Oxford and Robert Cecil … that the Stratford man’s story during the 1590’s involves Cecil’s attempts to control the public theatre –

Limiting the companies to two … the chamberlain’s and the admiral’s (that’s Henry Carey and Charles Howard, both members of the privy council run by Cecil himself.) …. Limiting the playhouses to two … and gaining some control, at some point, over the identity of Oxford’s pen name “Shakespeare” – and possibly even using the warm body, Shaksper, if necessary.

It will not be necessary during Shaksper’s lifetime.

Essex rebellion & trial

All through its existence in the Elizabethan reign, the chamberlain’s men remain free of any of the normal troubles from the government – until, that is, their performance of a play at the Globe, about the deposing of Richard second on the eve of the failed Essex rebellion in February 1601.

The actors are called in, questioned, and dismissed.  The author is never called, never even mentioned.

Thomas Looney writes, quote, “Southampton was imprisoned, and all publication of proper literary versions of the plays stopped immediately … it looks as if, at that time, the complete issue of the plays had been decided upon and begun, and that Wriothesley’s imprisonment had interfered with the plans.”

Well, the power struggle is over — and the triumphant Robert Cecil – the chess player always looking ahead with his eye on the prize – is now out for blood and vengeance – and my take is that he forces Oxford into a deal that includes the suspension of all publications of still-unpublished Shakespeare plays — until – maybe – some future time.

The only exception will be a full, authorized printing of Hamlet, which Oxford must have either demanded or just put through and damn the torpedoes.

Any attempt to publicly portray the writer Shakespeare as an actor begins only after dies in march 1603 and James is king.

In May ‘03 “Shakespeare” – the name – is listed as a leading member of the king’s men.

Wilton House

I suggest in this pivotal year Oxford inserts scene one of act five in “as you like it” with William the country fellow and touchstone – the jester, played by Robert Armin and representing Oxford himself – for the performance at wilton house in december 1603 –

And that while this is obviously an announcement to court insiders that some country fellow is going to be credited in the future as the great writer, it’s also a comic, embittered, allegorical and capsulized version of Shakspere’s London history – from his arrival in 1589 at 25, the age he gives himself – until he is told this very year, 1603, to get lost – leave London, go back to Stratford.

Soon after Exward de Vere’s recorded death in 1604, and after the publication of the 1604 quarto of Hamlet, the company – now the king’s men – begins to have trouble with the authorities for the first time.  And 1604 is also when scholars speculate that “Shakespeare” gave up acting and left town.

A never writer to an ever reader: news

The king’s men continue as Shakespeare’s sole company under the royal patronage.  Oxford must have given power over his manuscripts to both the company and a group of grand possessors (including Pembroke) who will determine their long-term fate.

We can only wonder how far into the future he could see – and what he thought would happen to his work.

In 1616 Ben Jonson will further advance the obliteration of Oxford by publishing his folio and listing “Shakespeare” at the head of two casts that had performed two of Ben’s own plays way back in 1598 and 1603.

It might have been Oxford acting in those plays, but not Shaksper.

In his 1616 folio, published just months after Shaksper’s death, Jonson will not mention Shakespeare as a writer – furthering the image of the great author as a common player.

And in 1623, again with Jonson in the lead, Shakespeare the playwright will be listed in the first folio of plays once again as an actor — and only then will there be the first suggestion to look for him ninety miles away in Stratford.

Three companies: 1572 – 1603

So we have three companies – spanning three decades, the spine of Oxford’s adult career as a playwright – making it possible for him to reach the heights of theatrical achievement.

And for a brief epilogue let’s hear again from Charles Wallace.

It’s about Oxford and the early Blackfriars, but i think it also captures the overall theme of this talk.

“No art makes its own environment, but is the creature of it,” the professor writes in 1912, adding, “The first demand of the ideal is a soil to grow in.”

I think the evidence shows that Oxford worked to create the soil in which his art was able to grow – and as Wallace tries to express, he needed help.

The Globe

“Without all external enabling means,” he writes, “the English drama could not have evolved into an art… first the impulse, then the action, then the craving auditor, the audience, then the time and place and all together, finally, the dramatist – and a form of dramatic art was evolv ed … the history of this art not only shows its dependence upon the physical, but also upon conditions of the theater and the spirit of his times that touched his inner life and called him forth.

Oxford

“scarcely one, not even Shakespeare, would have found his genius otherwise.”

 

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