Lessons from a Seminar

by Charles Boyle

This Los Angeles World Congress is the fourth Shakespeare Association of America conference I have attended. As a member I have delivered seminar papers at the previous two. Last year’s was on the role of the courtier fool Touchstone in As You Like It. Later I learned that members of my seminar had met beforehand and agreed among themselves to ignore anything I said.

My seminar topics this year revolved around the 16th century theatre world. My paper described a production of Twelfth Night from an Elizabethan point of view, seeing it as a political satire of her Court, with the Queen as Olivia and Sir Christopher Hatton sketched in the character of Malvolio. I interpreted some of the more obscure jests along these lines, looking for the original laugh. In the process I suggested the Fool, like Hamlet, was the central character (though often dismissed as if peripheral, which only captures half his meaning). Perhaps he had been modeled on Oxford? That was as far as I went. I didn’t bring up authorship directly but I did emphasize the play’s political and personal reality. But with Stratfordians you generally find that not only won’t they talk about the author as real, they won’t talk about what he was writing about as real either.

The paper I was assigned for special review also concerned the Fool in Twelfth Night. It suggested that the Fool was not so much the creation of Shakespeare as it was the witty actor who must have played him, Robert Armin. In this gregarious and likeable paper I saw everything that infuriated me about Stratfordianism. Of course I understood his problem. Robert Armin is a more real and interesting person to him than the author. But still, the casual assassination permitted the “one opinion is as good as another” courtesy, which allows them to whittle away at this poor author, making him ever more insignificant and irrelevant to his own genius. And who can explain “genius” anyway? Why try? In seminar after seminar I’ve sat through endless, circling talk that never made a point that had the courage of conviction.
So when I was called upon to respond to this other paper I was angry. I didn’t act angry but anger was driving me. I knew I couldn’t discuss authorship directly. Experience has taught me that if you do everyone groans and throws up their collective hands. So I went on and on about reality without coming to my real point until an eminent Stratfordian professor in the audience started yelling that I was boring, boring! and talking to scholars like they were fools and that I should just shut up! I protested I had only one more thing to add anyway, which was true enough, but pointless. The chair of the seminar asked me to stop and, half out of spite, I never said another word.

Yet I went over and over the uproar for two days afterwards, trying to figure some tactful way to have made my major point -human identity matters- without giving offence. But each strategy I devised felt like defeat.

Later at one of the conference functions I was speaking with another eminent Stratfordian professor. We acknowledged a personal liking for each other and a mutual regard for our love of Shakespeare.

He mentioned the awful reports he had heard of my seminar. I told him I truly regretted what had happened. He shook his head sadly and told me I had burned a lot of bridges there. I was genuinely taken aback. Bridges? I was unaware I had any bridges. Except for him, mum’s been the word to me. I mentioned the plan last year to ignore me. He seemed to be aware of it and nodded with grave concern.

So what was to be done? We agreed the Authorship Question mattered and that indeed there was a tangible truth involved. Some real individual actually sat down and wrote these lines. In the simple question of who he was one of us was right and the other wrong. I remembered a question put to Norrie Epstein, author of The Friendly Shakespeare, at the 1993 Boston SOS Conference. She had expressed ambivalence about the traditional attribution but also a deep personal and professional respect for the orthodox professors who had been her friends and mentors. She would not attack their conclusions. Someone finally asked her what piece of evidence would ever convince the Stratfordian establishment they were wrong. She answered that she didn’t think there was any evidence that could convince them. That it wasn’t a matter of evidence but of faith. They Believed. Case closed. You were better off trying to talk the Pope out of the Virgin Birth.

I asked my friend if he thought what she said was true. He smiled and nodded in a serious but friendly manner. Yes, he said, probably it was. He particularly liked the religious metaphor. We were like two churches. His candor made a strong impact. Suddenly I realized I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life arguing with Stratfordians.

Most of what I know about Shakespeare I learned from Stratfordians. They’ve done some of the best work and still do. It’s just that lacking a real author in the flesh and blood sense – who ever gave a tinker’s damn about the Stratford man? – they have no unifying authorial voice to test their theories against. Authorship itself has become just another theory. Which isn’t right. I’m a reality, you’re a reality. Let Shakespeare be a reality too.

Stratfordians are intelligent and informed. But this case represents a kind of blindness they’ve been talked into by their priesthood. Why make yourself crazy banging your head against it? At this point I’d rather learn more about Shakespeare’s motives, about the life of Oxford and the true history of Tudor England, the age that set the stage for the world we live in now.

No, I don’t want to argue anymore (though I know I will). I would rather talk Shakespeare with the professors and Oxford with those who haven’t fallen in love with Shakespeare yet. It would even be fun to build a movement so prosperous and powerful it made the Oxford story famous throughout the world – and then let the world decide.

The Battle over Funeral Elegy

Does The Emperor Have Any Clothes Yet?
Stephanie Caruana

This article first appeared in the Spring 1996 Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter.

The battle over the Funeral Elegy by W.S.(1613) rages on in the pages of the London Times Literary Supplement.

Professor Stanley Wells of the University of Birmingham began the round by rejecting the identification of W.S. as William Shakespeare (TLS 1/26/96,p.28). He pointed out that it would have been unlikely for Shakespeare to focus his attention on writing and publishing an elegy for William Peter since his own brother Gilbert died and was buried in Stratford only nine days after Peter’s death.

Wells’ other objections focus on the poor quality of the Elegy itself, which “seems not so much bad as tedious in a very unShakespearian way.” He noted the generalized, nonspecific praises heaped on the murdered man, and the mistakes W.S. made about details of Peter’s life. He questioned the value of Foster’s computerized measurements of word usage, and the way computer programs are currently touted as superior to human literary perception. He ended by saying he would “continue to harbor a suspicion that W.S. was…perhaps a curate with literary aspirations, who had little personal knowledge of William Peter but was commissioned by Peter’s family to memorialize him in an effort to minimize the unpleasant, if not disreputable circumstances of his death.”

Professor Richard Abrams of the University of Southern Maine, Donald Foster’s champion in the current drive to canonize the Elegy, sees the Elegy as a statistically unimpeachable example of “Shakespeare’s late style” (TLS,2/9/96,p.25-6). By this he means Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen –two plays which have traditionally been dogged with doubts and questions regarding their own authorship.

He responded to what many see as an inexplicable error with regard to the duration of William Peter’s marriage (three years in reality, as opposed to “nine of years…in his bed” (Elegy 511-2)) with an unsubstantiated tale of a nine-year affair with a mistress while Peter was a student at Oxford. He lauded W.S. for displaying “considerable daring in affording pride of place to the ‘other woman’ as the most deeply aggrieved of Peter’s mourners.” He concluded by attempting to connect Prospero’s abjuration of magic in The Tempest with W.S.’s “plain style.” Brian Vickers, an editor of Shakespearean books, took up the cudgel (oops! baton) with “Whose Thumbprints? — A more plausible author for ‘A Funeral Elegy.’” (TLS,3/8/96,p.16-18). He argued against Foster’s “too great reliance on computerized stylometrics,” because “depending…on an atomistic notion of style, [use of computer programs] has produced bewilderingly conflicting results.”

Vickers delivered a crushing blow to the significance of Foster’s study of Jacobean poets whose initials were ‘W.S.’ He cited John Horden, to the effect that a pair of authorial initials may be false, or reversed, or may represent the last letters of a name, and supplied instances for each case. He brought up “the power of negative instances (it takes only one black swan to falsify the proposition that all swans are white.)”

He pointed out “the overt piety of several passages, quite unlike anything in Shakespeare.” Finally he proposed another candidate for author: Simon Wastell, who was headmaster of a school at Northampton. Foster had tentatively identified Wastell as the author of The Muses Thankfulness, A Funeral Elegy for Robert, Baron Spencer (1627), in which he “plagiarized a whole series of funeral elegies, including W.S.’s on William Peter, Samuel Daniel’s elegy for the Earl of Devonshire (1606), Tourneur’s for Lord Oxford (1609), and John Webster’s for Prince Henry (1613).”

The elegy to Spencer was 614 lines long, compared to Peter’s 578-line elegy. This similarity in length, combined with a curious sameness and flatness of content, and the speed with which the Peter elegy was ground out (nineteen days from Peter’s death to publisher’s registration) suggests to Vickers that both elegies “belong to the traditional genre of eulogistic or epidictic rhetoric…offered as…consolations for the surviving family and friends.” After making a good case for Wastell, but perhaps inadvertently throwing the barn door wide open to rival claimants with any set of initials, Vickers concluded: “…no kudos attaches to identifying an obscure [headmaster] with the authorship of anything, while identifying Shakespeare’s hand would be the great prize. I regret that Foster’s well-considered avoidance of an absolute claim for Shakespeare’s authorship has been overwhelmed by Richard Abrams’s enthusiastic but indiscriminate advocacy.”

Richard Abrams’ response (3/22/96) seemed patterned after second-rate college debaters everywhere. He accused his opponent of “errors, misrepresentations and inconsistencies,” hurled a few insults, and claimed victory. He hinted darkly of new, still unrevealed, and “more compelling reasons to accept the Elegy as Shakespeare’s….Until the new evidence is before him, Vickers should probably try to keep his foot out of his mouth.”

Foster made his own short but vicious riposte (TLS,3/29/96, p.17). He accused Vickers of “advanc[ing] his case with an inattention to facts that would not be tolerated in an undergraduate student.” He then quoted lines from:

-an elegy by Michael Drayton
-a 1627 elegy by Wastell (?) stolen from Drayton’s elegy (and from all the other elegy writers on the block), and
-some lines from W.S’s elegy that are supposed to show W.S.’s vast superiority.

OK folks, here’s a snap quiz I have prepared (kind of like a Benezet test): I will quote lines from the three elegies Foster quotes above, but I won’t tell you which elegy they are from. You be the judge of their relative quality, and whether or not they come from the same collective elegy cookie-cutter:

Canst thou depart and be forgotten so,

As if thou hadst not been at all? O no,

But in despite of death the world shall see

That Muse which much graced was by thee.

Can black Oblivion utterly out-brave

And set thee up above thy silent grave?

When those weak houses of our brittle flesh

Shall ruin’d be by death, our grace and strength,

Youth, memory and shape that made us fresh

Cast down, and utterly decay’d at length;

When all shall turn to dust from whence we came

And we low-level’d in a narrow grave,

What can we leave behind us but a name?


Foster stated, “In its prosody, diction, syntax and thought, Wastell’s original work is as unlike A Funeral Elegy as can be.” Like Abrams, he referred to unrevealed “new evidence” which has shifted the balance of evidence decisively. He talked of “the recent groundswell of support for a Shakespearean attribution… [and] emerging consensus that Shakespeare wrote this strange and challenging poem.” But like a harbinger of more grief to come, on the same page was a letter from Katherine Duncan-Jones, of Somerville College, Oxford, stating her belief that this “dreary poem” was probably written by some member of the Devonshire gentry. She proposed William Strode or one of Thomas Stukeley’s many brothers.

Brian Vickers returned for a final mop-up on 4/12/96. He commiserated with Foster and Abrams: “It is not surprising that they are upset, given that they have wagered their whole professional reputation on the claims for Shakespeare’s authorship, and stand to lose a lot once it is generally discredited.” But he added, “In fact they are guilty not only of arrogance but of pervasive dishonesty.” He detailed Foster’s methods of tiptoeing through the computer data, discarding any tests that disproved his thesis.

Shakespeare’s Language and Funeral Elegy

Of ‘Em’s ‘n Thems’
Do these two words reveal an important clue in the Elegy debate?
Stephanie Caruana, Copyright 1996

This article first appeared in the Summer 1996 Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter.

When I first became aware of the use of the word “‘em” (meaning “them”) in certain of the “Shakespeare” plays, I had a visceral reaction–as to the sound of a knife scraping across a plate. Had my literary hero, so precise in his poetry and prose structure, so abundant and flowing in his gorgeous vocabulary, really chosen to express himself in what seemed like gratuitous “up-to-the-minute” Jacobean slang? To me it felt like discovering “Hey, cool, man! Check it out! Bitchin’!” in the middle of a T.S. Eliot poem. It is not that there is anything inherently wrong with these words and phrases. It’s just that they seem to belong to a different stratum of expression, even a different world view, or to reflect the language and usage of a different time–perhaps the world of TV sitcoms where writers often use words like “cool,” “smokin,” “bitchin” or whatever to indicate that their characters are “with it.”

My first impression was that “‘em” was Jacobean slang which came into general or faddish use after 1604. However the OED states that “‘em” is an old form derived from the now obsolete pronoun “hem,” and more commonly used in north midland (i.e., S. Yorkshire) dialects. Could “‘em” and “them” have a “vector” quality? I explored the matter through the Harvard Shakespeare Concordance, and found a significant evolution in the usage of these two words in the Shakespeare plays and major poems.

In the Sonnets, Venus and Adonis, Rape of Lucrece, and 15 of the 37 plays in the First Folio, the word “‘em” does not appear at all. The word “them” does–ranging in frequency from 17 to 70 occurrences. It seemed apparent that in his earlier works, “Shakespeare” was not in the habit of using the word “‘em” for “them” when writing poetry or dramatic dialogue. As the table shows, the incidence then slowly increases. As I looked at the plays with a small sprinkling of “‘em’s,” it seemed to me that the entity I like to think of as “Shakespeare” occasionally chose to use the contraction “‘em” rather than “them” when he was writing regional dialect or a song, the slang of a somewhat crude or common person, or for some other special use, being fully aware of the vastly different effect on the ear. But “‘em” is rarely or never used in the precisely written language which makes up most of the dialogue in most of the plays.

For this reason I therefore decided that up to 6 occurrences of “‘em” in a work was not especially significant. Using 6 occurrences as a cutoff point, there are then only 6 works that have a significant occurrence of “‘em” in them. The following table, developed by counting the occurrence of the two words, gets interesting I believe at the bottom.

Play/Poem   	        	Them      `Em         Ratio,

Sonnets 17 0 -
Venus & Adonis 27 0 -
Rape of Lucrece 27 0 -
MND 27 0 -
R2 31 0 -
ERR 32 0 -
JN 37 0 -
LLL 39 0 -
MM 40 0 -
MV 42 0 -
TRO 43 0 -
OTH 45 0 -
2H4 50 0 -
ROM 52 0 -
ADO 53 0 -
3H6 60 0 -
R3 65 0 -
1H4 70 0 -
2H6 86 1 86:1
H5 81 1 81:1
HAM 71 1 71:1
PER 43 1 43:1
SHR 38 1 38:1
AYL 35 1 35:1
CYM 71 2 35:1
WIV 47 2 24:1
1H6 42 2 21:1
ANT 53 3 18:1
TGV 46 3 16:1
TN 25 4 6:1
MAC 50 5 10:1
AWW 50 5 10:1
WT 61 6 10:1
JC 58 6 10:1
LEAR 45 9 5:1
COR 217 15 14:1
TMP 43 17 2.5:1
TIM 66 21 3:1
TNK 31 55 1:1.6
H8 25 65 1:2.7
The most striking thing about this table is the clear increase in the incidence of “‘em’s” in the plays toward the bottom.

With regard to the last 6 plays, I think each should be looked at separately, because each may reflect a different history.

In Lear, for instance, we may be looking at an admixture of scenes, or rewrites, added at a later date by someone else to Oxford’s original play.

Coriolanus seems to stand out oddly because of its sheer number of “them’s”–2 1/2 times as many as the play with the second greatest number of “them’s”–together with its liberal sprinkling of “‘em’s.” This play is rarely performed, and rarely quoted. Nothing in its lines seems to have lodged as permanently in the minds of readers/hearers, as have quotes from R&J, Hamlet, Macbeth, etc. Perhaps this is another “ringer’–a non-Shakespearean play added to the Folio–written by ??? Timon‘s ratio of “them’s” to “‘em’s” (3:1) is distinctly different, and it could easily be a hybrid of some sort.

In Tempest, the them:’em ratio has shrunk to 2-1/2:1. I believe that the original version was written by Oxford (before 1604, and possibly as early as the 1580′s), and that the Folio version was substantially cut and rewritten by someone else in 1610-11, perhaps to make room for the Masque and add a few topical references to the 1609-10 Bermuda/Virginia shipwreck and colonial happenings. These updates would make the old play more interesting to King james and the rest of the audience when this version was presented in 1611. My tentative nominee for this rewrite job is Ben Jonson. Fortunately for us, whoever did the rewrite kept most of the original material. If it was Jonson, sheer pride may have caused him to place The Tempest in the #1 lead-off position in the Folio. Also I wonder whether Susan de Vere might not have been one of the Masquers in her father’s play.

With TNK, the “‘em’s” are more numerous than the “them’s” for the first time. The ratio is 1:1.6. Although this play is indexed in the Harvard Concordance as though it were established as a play by Shakespeare, I think it fails the”‘em-them” test because it was written by someone else altogether, Webster perhaps, who was a Shakespeare wannabee, but not a Shakespeare.

Speaking only for myself, I believe that most if not all of Henry VIII was not written by “Shakespeare.” There is a notable lack of “quotable” stuff in it. “‘Em’s” now outnumber “them’s” by 2.7:1. It seems likely to me that this play was written by someone to whom “‘em” came more naturally to mind than “them” while writing basic dialogue, and that this someone was not “Shakespeare” (Oxford.) Why should it be Shakespeare? Old age has its problems, but I can’t think of any reason for a writer/poet to suddenly lose his gracefulness of expression and go from hummingbird to Goodyear blimp in this way. I have no idea who to nominate as author of this play. To be more specific: I consulted the Concordance with regard to “‘em’s” vs. “them’s” in Henry VIII. In only 3 scenes, 1:01, 1:02 and 5:01, do the “them’s” have it. In 6 scenes (and the Epilogue), “‘em’s” prevail: 1:03, 1:04, 2:01, 3:01, 5:02, 5:13. The other scenes are either too close to call or do not have enough items to be meaningful.

I personally don’t care that much about Henry VIII, but it and TNK are routinely cited as representing “Shakespeare’s later style.” Right now they are providing Donald Foster and Richard Abrams with their primary ammunition in their determined efforts to have the dogsbody Funeral Elegy declared by professorial fiat to be “by Wm Shaksper.”

To quote Richard Abrams: “…W.S.’s rare-word vocabulary exactly matches what we should expect of a Shakespearian text written in 1611-12….of all Shakespearian dramatic texts, the Elegy (1612) finds its highest correlation with Shakespeare’s portion of Henry VIII (1612/13), followed by The Two Noble Kinsmen (1613). (TLS 2/9/96 p.26).

The editor who has declared himself willing to go out on this creaky limb is none other than Berkeley/Harvard’s Stephen Greenblatt! (The argument is currently raging–sedately enough–in the pages of the London TLS.) The presence of H8 and TNK in the Concordance certainly skews results of statistical analysis. Would they were gone!

Interview with Charlton Ogburn

This interview with Charlton Ogburn, conducted by Dr. Sheila Tombe, first appeared in Apostrophe (Spring/Summer 1996); it is reprinted with permission. Submissions to the journal may be made year-round in manuscript form only, to the following address: Sheila Tombe, Editor. Apostrophe, USC Beaufort, 801 Carteret St., Beaufort, SC, 29902 Phone: (803)521-4158; Fax: (803)522-9733; email: IBFRT56@VM.SC.EDU

APOSTROPHE: Does it matter [who wrote the plays]?

OGBURN: If it doesn’t matter who wrote the plays of Shakespeare then it doesn’t matter who wrote anything. All literary biography then is a waste of time. Furthermore, I think one can’t read the plays of Shakespeare without a sense of tremendous indebtedness to the author. You want to see credit given where credit is due, and the plays take on a more intimate meaning and deeper meaning when you see what lay behind them, your eyes are opened and you see things in them that you never saw before; and, I think they gain in richness and in the hold they have on us. I think the question of who Shakespeare was has presented us with the greatest mystery story in the arts, and who is immune to a mystery story?

APOSTROPHE: Exactly…and what I’ve found most interesting is your description of Edward— Oxford—in this pamphlet [The Man Who Was Shakespeare]. What an exciting, interesting man he must have been. What an incredible, adventurous, romantic swashbuckling life he must have had— OGBURN: —He combined all sort of qualities. . . His was a compelling personality and the further you get into it the greater the hold he has on you.

APOSTROPHE: Now, there is a period of time at the end of his life when no-one seems to know what he was doing?

OGBURN: No, we don’t. I’m afraid the major part of the trouble is that just about the most powerful men in England at the time were William Cecil Lord Burghley and his son, Lord Robert Cecil. They had control of the records and they simply did not want this story to be known. It is amazing that we have been able to find out as much as we have. Of course, all of us hope that once opinion in academia has settled in favor of the Earl of Oxford all kinds of funds for research will be opened up and there will be all kinds of interest in going though the records of Elizabethan England: I think there are any number that haven’t been explored by those who are looking out for what we would be looking out for, and I think a good deal more is going to be found out about him.

APOSTROPHE: A good part of the question is knowing what to look for…?

OGBURN: What to look for. Exactly.

APOSTROPHE: You said that the Cecils deliberately were trying to keep this quiet—

OGBURN: —I’m sure the Cecils were keeping the record quiet.

APOSTROPHE: How do you know this ?

OGBURN: We don’t know it, but if we try to piece together the most logical story we can we find (to our satisfaction) that Edward De Vere was writing plays we know as Shakespeare’s from the late 70’s on. These were produced anonymously, no author named in connection with them until 14 had appeared by 1598. That was the year in which William Cecil Lord Burghley died. I think that he and the powers that be, especially Queen Elizabeth—this is the only thing that makes sense to me—got together and decided that it must not be known who the author of these plays was. Burghley above all did not wish it to be known because his daughter had married De Vere and had four children by him, and he didn’t want his grandchildren to be tainted by the déclassé undertakings of his prodigal son-in-law Edward. He did not want a son-in-law of his to be known as a man of theater, one who consorted with actors and so forth. He surely did not want to be recognized as Polonious; but, despite all his efforts, everyone recognizes him as Polonious. Queen Elizabeth did not want to be known as Queen Gertrude; she didn’t want the Earl of Leceister to be known as Claudius and, since writers write about what they know, there were others around them who had suggested characters in the plays and surely did not wish to be recognized in them. So I think the decision was made at that time that these plays were going to have to be ascribed to this mysterious William Shakespeare who had signed the dedication to Venus Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. And why Edward De Vere picked that name I’m not sure—nobody’s sure—we think the fact that Pallas Athena, the patron goddess of the city of Athens, the birthplace of the theater, was known as hasti vibrans, the “spear-shaker” had something to do with it. In any case they were going to ascribe the plays to William Shakespeare and from then on the plays came out as his, for the first time.

But who was William Shakespeare? There had to be someone to fill the role. William Shakspere of Stratford-on-Avon was as little likely to have written the plays as anybody else, but he had some advantages. Besides the similarity of names, he was illiterate, so he couldn’t write anything that would be altogether out of keeping with quality of the plays, and he could be bribed and hustled back to Stratford. I think that Nicholas Rowe, the first biographer of Shakespeare, was right when he said in 1709 that the Earl of Southampton paid William Shakespeare 1000 pounds to make a purchase he’d a mind to—thus accounting for Shakspere’s sudden wealth. So that was the way the authorship was framed. I don’t see any other explanation. Why was an author never named until 1598? Why thereafter did the plays come out as by William Shakespeare? Why is it that for the next 25 years the only way we know that Shakspere of Stratford was identified as the poet-dramatist is because a few persons wrote scorning him as such? Why is it that he was not established as the author until he seemed to be identified as such by the ambiguities of the inscription on the monument in the church in Stratford and of the first collection of Shakespeare’s plays in the First Folio of 1623?

APOSTROPHE: What about the fact that Francis Meres, at the time, had openly referred to the Earl of Oxford as a playwright in the same sentence [he had mentioned] Shakespeare?

OGBURN: Yes, he did. Oxford was too well known to have written plays to be left out. In a section on those best for comedy, which included Shakespeare, Meres listed Oxford first, as his rank required. What is striking is that in Meres’s ranking of the playwrights, in 1598, Shakespeare was named as a playwright for the first time that we know of, and was called by Meres the best of the English for both comedy and tragedy, with six plays in each category listed to his credit.

APOSTROPHE: So Oxford was well known as a dramatist?

OGBURN: Yes, he was. But his name had never been connected with Shakespeare’s plays. But it was obviously bruited about that he wrote those plays.

APOSTROPHE: It is a fact that a lot of your research is based on speculation—

OGBURN: —Unavoidable if you are going to try to address yourself to authorship at all. If you are going to have William Shakspere of Stratford as the author, it has to be based on even less solid information. It has to be based on the ambiguities of the First Folio, the ambiguities of the Stratford monument. To me, it is inconceivable that Shakespeare’s contemporaries would have devised the inscription they did for the monument if the man being honored by it were the greatest author that England had produced. Nowhere in the English inscription did it say that he was a playwright or poet at all—only that he had writ with wit. The only indication that he was a poet was the reference in the Latin inscription to “Arte Maronem”, which a lot of Stratfordians would have never known— most Americans today wouldn’t have the faintest idea—what “Arte Maronem” means. I among them, if I hadn’t been told. (Editor’s note: “A Virgil in Respect of Art.” Ovid would seem to be more appropriate.)

APOSTROPHE: In 1987, you attended a debate at the American University in Washington….

OGBURN: … [before] three Justices of the Supreme Court. The lawyer that represented the Stratford man was an outright liar, I called him one in writing to the President of American University, where he was a teacher. The man who represented Oxford was a Stratfordian, basically. Chief Justice was Justice Brennan. He surprised his two colleagues by saying at the beginning the burden of the proof was on the Oxfordians. Since it was impossible to make our case in the time available, it didn’t go very well for us, although both Blackmun and Stevens made observations that were quite comforting to us and discomforting to the Stratfordians. Since then both have come around to our side, which is very nice. Justice Blackmun has come out and stated that he does not believe that the Stratford man was the author and that he believes that Oxford was. Justice Stevens gave a brilliant talk [on the authorship] which was subsequently published in the Pennsylvania Law Review and it was clear from what he wrote that he thinks very little of the case for the Stratfordian and finds the case for Oxford very strong. So we are well content with the way that came out.

APOSTROPHE: But you must have been disappointed at the time.

OGBURN: Yes, we were.

APOSTROPHE: Do you think the tide of opinion is turning?

OGBURN: Oh certainly, oh definitely. At the same time there was an article in the New Yorker that came out largely in our favor….

APOSTROPHE:…although it does say that there is actually no evidence possible available to back the argument….

OGBURN: We are convinced the evidence is very effectively on our side. James Lardner wrote the article in the New Yorker.

APOSTROPHE: It seems to me (and I think I know what your answer is going to be already), but it seems to me that the plays were written by someone who lived and worked in the theater–whose life was in the theater?

OGBURN: I wouldn’t say his life was in the theatre–he obviously had a great deal of life outside the theatre where most of the material comes from. But it was someone who certainly knew the theatre. Oxford had two troupes of actors; he was a playwright himself. I think he was an habitué of the theatre, which was so held against him by his father-in-law William Cecil. But the Stratford man never had any connection with the theatre, I’m sure of that. They say he was an actor. Baloney. He wasn’t an actor; he couldn’t have read the parts and memorized them—

APOSTROPHE: —It’s easy to learn things by ear–many musicians learn by ear….

OGBURN: …You try learning some of these speeches by ear–it’s hard enough learning when you have the text in front of you.

APOSTROPHE: And yet [Shakespeare is] listed as being on cast lists at the time—listed as being an actor—

OGBURN: Yes, Shakespeare is there, there is no doubt, but not the Stratford man. There is no evidence that he ever had any connection with the theatre. There is no question that the man we know as Shakespeare went on the stage. The only evidence we have, the one piece of evidence we have that shows Shakespeare on the stage, that shows what kind of an actor he was is in a poem of 1610 addressed to “Will Shake-speare” by John Davies, in which the poet said:

Hadst thou not played some kingly parts in sport

Thou hadst been a companion for a king

And been a king among the meaner sort.

That’s all we know about a Shakespeare on the stage, absolutely everything. And what does it tell us? It tells us that it could not possibly have been the Stratford man, who never could have been a companion for a king in any circumstances. And nobody has ever maintained that he could play kingly parts and these in sport. If you listen to his admirers, they tell you that he was a professional actor.

APOSTROPHE: So who is the William Shakespeare listed?

OGBURN: Where?

APOSTROPHE: Here in the list of Globe players… John Underwood, Augustine Phillips, Richard Burbage, Thomas….

OGBURN: That’s right. There were two lists of actors drawn up when King James came to the throne. William Shakespeare was in both. But there is not the slightest indication of who he was. I think William Shakespeare was too well known an actor to leave him out, but I don’t think for moment that he was the Stratford man. I see no reason to believe that he could have been. The Stratford man had nothing of the stage about him. He was commercially minded; as James Joyce said, he was a “maltster and money lender.” Nothing of the record in Stratford has the slightest indication that he had any connection with the stage—that he was that kind of man—you know what actors tend to be, he was not that way at all. Nobody ever saw him on the stage. Shakespeare was listed as an actor in 1592 or 1594 by the Countess of Southampton together with Burbage and Kemp, as having received payments for performances at Court. She was trying to make up a deficiency in the accounts of her late husband, the Treasurer of the Chamber, in response to an angry demand by the Queen.

As I say, I have no doubt that Oxford did appear on stage under his pseudonym. He couldn’t resist it. He took kingly parts in sport and he lost caste by doing it. When Ben Jonson brought out his collected plays in 1616 he listed William Shakespeare in the cast of two of them— not saying what parts he played. But Ben Johnson was playing a devious game, at the behest, I have no doubt, of the powers that be, and he was doing so in the most skillful manner. While seeming to cast the mantle of authorship onto the Stratford man, he took back with his left hand what he gave with his right. He’s been fooling a lot of people–until today. I think he would have been amazed that he got away with this.

APOSTROPHE: Now the conspiracy perhaps, the cover up–it has been cited as a conspiracy theory and there is some controversy—

OGBURN: —this is not a conspiracy theory—this is not a conspiracy theory when you have a centralized, authoritarian government, as you had in Elizabethan England, you don’t need a conspiracy; you have an imperative from on high and everybody is obedient to it. Take Stalin’s Russia: it wasn’t a conspiracy that carried out Stalin’s will, it was Stalin’s ukase: you’re going to do this or if you don’t, you’re going to suffer. That’s the way it was under Elizabeth. To have concealed the Stratford man’s authorship would indeed have taken a conspiracy. I mean, there was no question about the other playwrights at the time.

APOSTROPHE: Well, Ben Jonson for example, there are questions about his education; I mean we know he finished grammar school—

OGBURN: —He was very well educated—

APOSTROPHE: —And then worked as a bricklayer—

OGBURN: —Briefly, at his step-father’s trade. But he attended Westminster and studied under William Camden. He was a Latin scholar; Shakspere of Stratford clearly had no education at all, couldn’t write his name. He couldn’t have possibly gone through the career ascribed to him as England’s greatest writer and left nothing in his writing but six execrable signatures—all in the last six years of his life, three of them on his will. It’s inconceivable. If he’d been the author—the circumstances were extremely propitious for the saving of his manuscripts. Beginning in 1597, he had the second finest house in Stratford, that remained in his family through his grand-daughter’s time. Certainly the house would have contained things he wrote: but nothing. Not a thing. W.W. Gregg, compiling the holographs of writers of Shakespeare’s century, had 35 dramatists’ holographs, and those of 42 poets: but nothing of Shakespeare’s. This just doesn’t make sense if the Stratford man was who we have been told he was. It is just inconceivable.

APOSTROPHE: So are there, extant, manuscripts of Ben Jonson, or Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Kyd?

OGBURN: Sure, holographs of those, yes. They’re all in W. W. Gregg.

APOSTROPHE: What about any speculation that the plays were originally crafted by Oxford and then put to work in the theatre by the theatre company themselves? [I.e. by Shakespeare?]

OGBURN: I don’t think that anybody would have had the nerve to dicker with a play of Oxford’s; what has happened unfortunately, the major tragedy of English literature, is that our texts are not taken from the author’s manuscripts but from parts that were written for the actors and copied by pirates, published by pirates. We haven’t got the authentic texts of any of the plays, oh, I don’t know, maybe a few. But most of them were taken from pirating companies and we don’t know exactly what Shakespeare wrote. The editors of the First Folio said the plays were published according to the true original copies. We know today this is nonsense. I have a facsimile of the First Folio brought out by Yale University Press, prepared by Charles Tyler Prouty, who points out that some of the texts in the First Folio are not as authentic as some of the quarto’s that preceded them. Of course, I nurse the theory that the manuscripts are still to be found. I cannot believe that these manuscripts have disappeared to the last page and nothing the Stratfordian professors have to say will show that they were. They have no reason to show that all of these manuscripts have disappeared. The conventional explanation is that they disappeared in the burning of the Globe Theatre in 1613, or something like that. This is nonsense. Particularly since we know from the preface to the first printing of Troilus and Cressida of 1609 that the manuscripts were held by the grand possessors. These are obviously members of the nobility. So what happened to the manuscripts and why did they all disappear to the last page? Shakespeare’s and Shakespeare’s alone, except for Robert Greene’s? Why? Back in the early 1960’s an explanation suddenly dawned on me. You compare that with the inscription on the Stratford monument. What are they driving at?

Stay passenger….Why goest thou by so fast?

Read if thou canst whom envious death had plast

With in this monument Shakespeare.

Now we now that Shakspere’s body is not in this monument. It is entombed under the floor at some remove. No body is in the monument—it wouldn’t hold a body. Why are they talking about a body? What do they mean “Read if thou canst?” What’s to prevent the passer-by from reading? Unless he’s illiterate, in which case he couldn’t read what the inscription is telling him. Bear in mind that the manuscripts weren’t available to the editor of the First Folio in 1623. And recall that the monument had already been erected, as we know from its being referred to in the Folio The manuscripts were a hot property, giving away Shakespeare’s identity, but were much too valuable to destroy. Is it not imaginable that the inscription on the monument is saying, “You know Shakespeare’s body cannot be in the monument, but how about the body of his works? Can’t you read?” There are two things I chiefly hold very strongly against the orthodox Shakespearean scholars: One is that they will not concede that there is one single weakness in their theory; they will not concede that we have a single authentic point to make. This is outrageous and they will be held up to scorn in times to come for this dishonest obscurantism. The other is that they will not comment on the theory that I put forward in an article in Harpers in June 1972 that The London Daily Telegraph thought well enough to run a page on six months later exploring the practicalities of looking into the monument. Not one orthodox academician will come out and say, “I don’t think there is anything in this, but it does make some kind of sense.” If there is one chance in twenty that Shakespeare’s manuscripts are to be found there, surely, it is worth a few hundred pounds—and that is what a mason in Stratford said it would cost—surely, it is worth a few hundred pounds to open up the monument and look in there and see. Not one of them will concede that there is enough irregularity in the attribution of Shakespeare’s plays to make this worthwhile. I think that they are absolute intellectual criminals that they will not do this. I can’t say that the manuscripts are in there, but I do say that there is one chance in twenty that they are there. There is no reason not to look. But oh-no! oh-no! That would concede to something fishy.

APOSTROPHE: So what makes you angriest about the academicians is their definite stand against your—

OGBURN: —They would rather risk having the manuscripts—the priceless manuscripts—rot than concede that there is anything doubtful about their theories. I think this is absolutely inexcusable. I myself think that if I had to stake my life on whether the manuscripts are there, I would probably say no, I don’t think that they are. That would just be too good to be true. But I do think that they were at one time put there. And I know that this is no excuse whatsoever for not looking. After this theory [and a similar one by John Louther] was made public, Levi Fox, head of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, reported to the press that burglars had broken into the church, had forced open the monument and found nothing there. I know that this was fabrication. If that monument had been opened by burglars, it would have been one of the biggest stories in England: the press would have been called in, photographs would have been taken. None of that had been done. None. The whole thing is just appalling.

APOSTROPHE: It seems to me that what is most appalling about it is the complete lack of evidence on either side….

OGBURN: There’s not complete lack of evidence on either side. There is plenty of evidence on our side.

APOSTROPHE: There’s plenty of wonderful speculation….

OGBURN: —There is plenty of evidence, too—

APOSTROPHE: I would love to think something as romantic as the notion that the Earl of Oxford wrote these plays, and relish your idea that this story would make a good movie with Mel Gibson in the lead; Oxford was such a well-rounded adventurer who, as Boyle said in the moot-court debate in 1987, “denies the paternity of his own son, openly lives with his mistress, is put in the Tower for fathering a child by her, is reputed to be in the company of lewd persons, sells off most of his estates, has running battles in the streets”(The New Yorker, 11 April 1988, p.102); not forgetting his putting on a robbery in jest, or traveling on the continent: where did he find the time to write the plays?

OGBURN: Well, that is a good question. He was a man of leisure which the Stratford man was not. He spent the latter part of his life as a withdrawn man and that is when he found the time to write the plays.

APOSTROPHE: As did Shakespeare? [Withdraw at the end of his life]

OGBURN: Yes, you mean as did the Stratford man? The Stratford man was busy as a business man, in Stratford. The plays had come out long before he went back to Stratford. According to the holy text he went there back in 1611 or 12 and didn’t write another word. Here you have the greatest writer that ever was and he goes back to his native town and never writes another word. I never heard of anything so preposterous.

[Mrs. Ogburn: Charlton is almost 85, and he’s still writing...]

APOSTROPHE:…Let me ask you, sir: how would you want people to know you–as the scholar who puts forward this theory of the Stratford man–the Earl of Oxford—or as the author in his own right, the author of The Mauraders?

OGBURN: As an author in his own right who was very interested– very deeply interested, in a number of fields, this being one of them.

APOSTROPHE: Does it make you angry that people want to focus attention this issue, rather than on your other work ?

OGBURN: No, my other work gets considerable attention and it’s had very comforting praise. I am quite content with that.

APOSTROPHE: You are extremely well read and a literate, intelligent man, and yet you have your theories categorized by Schoenbaum as 1) rubbish and 2) lunatic rubbish. How do you react?

OGBURN: I react violently. I just think that someday the Stratfordians are going to look like utter dupes and I am content with that. I think that the human race, at least our society, has a lot to learn from this story: the way the story of the authorship has been handled is extremely revealing of human nature and I hope the lesson will be pondered in years to come. I think it tells us so much about the power of dogma and the power of the accepted view. I mean what goes in academia is what is academically correct and that is all that counts. That is what you hear and that’s what you are taught. I think it is a terrible shame.

[Mrs. Ogburn: When Charlton’s book came out in 1984, I told him to expect a lot of hostile reaction. Since then—over 10 years—either by mail or by telephone, he has been hearing from readers all around the United States and even abroad. He has not had any flack yet. Everyone who writes says that before they read the book they were convinced of the Stratford man, but after reading his book, they have been converted. It is very gratifying to know that those who have read this book carefully, with an open mind, think that he’s got something here.]

APOSTROPHE: Four hundred years from now, what will people think?

OGBURN: I’d say ten years from now–twenty at the most—the Oxford case will be accepted. It’s mainly a case of getting rid of the senior generation of scholars, who are not going to give an inch. They would destroy their reputations. They would look like fools to have sworn by the fantasy of the Bard of Avon.

The Tempest and the Bermuda Shipwreck of 1609

Peter Moore

This article first appeared in the Summer 1996 Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter.

This article glances briefly at the question of whether The Tempest is based on the 1609 Bermuda wreck. The method of Stratfordians, beginning with Louis Wright, who bank on The Tempest to refute the Oxford theory is to ignore all other shipwreck literature, and then to dredge through the 114 pages of William Strachey’s and Silvester Jourdain’s pamphlets (in Wright’s 1964 A Voyage to Virginia in 1609) looking for parallels. Naturally they can find some, but Stratfordians who were unconcerned with Oxford were not particularly impressed with the results. Edmund Chambers’ Encyclopedia Britannica article on Shakespeare ignores Strachey’s letter and says of Jourdain’s:


this or some other contemporary narrative of Virginian colonization probably furnished the hint of the plot.

Kenneth Muir’s The Sources of Shakespeare’s Plays (1978) thinks the Bermuda pamphlets are probable sources for The Tempest, adding:


The extent of the verbal echoes of [the Bermuda] pamphlets has, I think, been exaggerated. There is hardly a shipwreck in history or fiction which does not mention splitting, in which the ship is not lightened of its cargo, in which the passengers do not give themselves up for lost, in which north winds are not sharp, and in which no one gets to shore by clinging to wreckage. (280)

Not exactly ringing endorsements.
Muir continues by remarking that Strachey’s account is influenced by St. Paul’s shipwreck and by Erasmus’ colloquy. St. Paul’s account of his wreck at Malta, Acts of the Apostles 27-28:12, takes up less than two pages in either the Geneva or King James Bible, in contrast to the 114 pages of the two Bermuda pamphlets. In those two pages we find the following parallels to The Tempest:

1.   A voyage to Italy within the Mediterranean.
2.   Discord among the participants; the crew against the passengers.
3.   The ship driven by a 'tempest'.
4.   Loss of hope.
5.   An angel visits the ship; compare to Ariel.
6.   Desperate maneuvers to avoid the lee shore of an unknown island.
7.   Detailed description of nautical techniques.
8.   The ship runs aground and splits.
9.   Passengers and crew swim ashore on loose or broken timbers;
	compare to Stephano coming ashore on a butt of sack.
10.  The island has barbarous inhabitants; compare to Caliban.
11.  Supernatural involvement.
12.  A seeming miracle; St. Paul immune to snakebite.
13.  A safe trip to Italy after a stay on the island.

Another Stratfordian remarked that The Tempest‘s description of St. Elmo’s fire appears to be drawn from Hakluyt. But let us first compare Strachey and Shakespeare on this matter:


an apparition of a little, round light, like a faint star, trembling and streaming along with a sparkling blaze, half the height upon the main mast and shooting sometimes from shroud to shroud, ‘tempting to settle, as it were, upon any of the four shrouds. And for three or four hours together, or rather more, half the night, it kept with us, running sometimes along the main yard to the very end and then returning; (Strachey, p.12 in Wright)

…now on the beak,

Now in the waist, the deck, in every cabin,

I flam’d amazement: sometime I’d divide,

And burn in many places; on the topmast,

The yards and boresprit, would I flame distinctly,

Then meet and join. (Tempest, I.ii.196-201)


If you gaze at these two passages long enough, you can certainly mesmerize yourself into believing that the one borrows from the other, just as a sentry at night will see a bush move if he stares at it continually. Consequently recruits are taught that they must keep their eyes moving, which is also a good rule for those investigating Shakespeare’s sources. We will now compare Strachey’s account to two from Richard Hakluyt’s The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries, Volume III (London, 1600; Glasgow, 1904, Vol. IX; my emphases), which volume also contains Henry May’s account of the last voyage of the ‘Edward Bonaventure’.


And straightway we saw upon the shrouds of the Trinity as it were a candle, which of itself shined, and gave a light, … it was the light of Saint Elmo which appeared on the shrouds, (Account of Francis de Ulloa, p. 405 in original ed.; p. 228 in 1904 reprint.)


in the night, there came upon the top of our mainyard and main mast, a certain little light, much like unto the light of a little candle, which the Spaniards called the Cuerpo santo, and said it was St. Elmo, … This light continued aboard our ship about three hours, flying from mast to mast, and from top to top: and sometime it would be in two or three places at once. (Account of Robert Tomson, 450; 345.)


an apparition of a little, round light, like a faint star, trembling and streaming along with a sparkling blaze, half the height upon the main mast and shooting sometimes from shroud to shroud, ‘tempting to settle, as it were, upon any of the four shrouds. And for three or four hours together, or rather more, half the night, it kept with us, running sometimes along the main yard to the very end and then returning; (Strachey)


It is readily seen that Strachey uses the very words of de Ulloa and Tomson; the only words Shakespeare shares with Strachey are ‘and’, ‘sometime’, ‘the’, and ‘then’. Any argument that Shakespeare borrowed from Strachey is, all the more strongly, an argument that Strachey borrowed from Hakluyt, whose book was easily available to Shakespeare. A balanced view of all suggested sources for the shipwreck in The Tempest leads to the conclusion that Shakespeare used no identified source. Wright and others who look only at the Bermuda pamphlets are like recruits on guard duty staring at a bush.


The Dates of Shakespeare’s Plays

by Peter R. Moore

This article first appeared in the Fall 1991 Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter

The first serious effort to date the plays was that of Edmond Malone in 1778, who wrote that “the plays which Shakespeare produced before the year 1600 are known, and are 17 or 18 in number. The rest of his dramas, we may conclude, were composed between that year and the time of his retiring to the country,” which Malone put around 1610 (Malone’s Shakespeare Third Variorum Edition, 1821, AMS reprint 1966, Vol.ll, p.291). Malone’s dates were adjusted a bit in the 19th century, and then, in the early decades of the 20th century, Sir Edmund Chambers reviewed all of the evidence and produced his scheme that it is “a hypothesis which…is consistent…with the known events of Shakespeare’s life” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1964, Vol.20, p.446). He also wrote in Vol. l of his William Shakespeare that “There is much of conjecture, even as regards the order, and still more as regards the ascription [of plays] to particular years” (p.269), and that the order of the plays had to be “fitted…into the time allowed by the span of Shakespeare’s dramatic career” (p.253), and that his scheme was partly arranged to provide a fairly even flow of production” across the presumed working years of the Stratfordian (p.269). In short, both Malone and Chambers clearly stated that their schemes were based on the assumption that they must start around 1590 and end around 1610-13. Therefore the argument that the dates of the plays eliminates Oxford is completely circular, hence invalid. The Stratfordian dating scheme does not support the Stratfordian authorship theory; it is the other way around.

Chambers’ dates are demonstrably and improbably late. It is rare to be able to pin a Shakespeare play firmly to a four or five year period. More common is the case of King John which was penned somewhere during the bracket of 1587 to 1598. And yet Chambers puts twenty-seven of Shakespeare’s thirty-eight plays within one or two years of the latest possible date. I could observe intuitively that such an outcome is extremely unlikely, but, as amateur statistics have become fashionable, I propose to employ a commonplace statistical tool, the Chi-square test. Of Shakespeare’s thirty-eight plays, four have no usable latest plausible date (AII’s Well, Coriolanus, Timon, and Kinsmen), which leaves thirty-four. I will assume that each play was written during a five year window (which is generous), and that any given play has an equal probability of being written in any one of the five given years. We want to know the likelihood that as many as twenty-seven out of thirty-four plays would fall in the last two years of their respective spans. The Chi-square statistic calculates as 22.005, with one degree of freedom, so the probability of Edmund Chambers’ outcome resulting from random chance is about 1 in 600,000. This states mathematically what important scholars have been saying since 1923 –Chambers’ dates are too late. But no one save Andrew Cairncross had the nerve to do more than tinker lightly with Chambers. The reason for this leaving undone that which ought to have been done is not that it would take ”between a quarter and a half century” as E.A.J. Honigmann asserts in Shakespeare’s Impact on his Contemporariess (p.55); the job could be done in a year or two. The trouble is that the plays would drift backward into the zone of the Earl of Oxford and away from Stratford. Another factor is that an honest dating scheme would simply list the best estimate of the order in which the plays were written, based solely on stylistic grounds, and then list the dating evidence on each play. Any attempt to ascribe each play to a one or two year period is mere guesswork and gives a spurious appearance of precision.

We will now look at Kenneth Muir’s The Sources of Shakespeare’s Plays (1978). Any work on this subject involves much personal judgment and is always subject to change, but Muir’s book has considerable authority owing to its recency, its author’s eminence and judiciousness, and the considerable post-World War II scholarship on this topic. I went through Prof. Muir’s book and listed works that he states to be either certain or probable sources for Shakespeare’s plays (ignoring ‘possibles’ and ‘analogues’); the list has 112 titles. I then looked up the year of publication of each of the 112 titles and recast my list in chronological order of composition. The results are as follows:

Dates # of Titles
Pre -1500 13
1501-1560 13
1561-1565 3
1566-1570 6
1571-1576 3
1576-1580 12
1581-1585 8
1586-1590 12
1591-1595 21
1596-1600 11
1601-1604 5
1605-1611 5

The five titles appearing after the Earl of Oxford’s death are Camden’s Remaines, Daniel’s Arcadia Reformed, Jourdain’s Discovery of the Bermudas, Strachey’s True Declaration, and Speed’s History of Great Britain. The only one of these that Muir calls a certain source is Speed’s 1611 work, but Speed was used in a portion of Henry VIII that Muir and most other authorities attribute to John Fletcher, so it drops out of the picture. Muir calls Camden the probable source of the parable of the belly in Coriolanus, but Chambers and others say that Shakespeare’s source for this oft told parable was Plutarch. Muir has Daniel’s work as the probable source of an item in Macbeth, but Muir also gives an earlier alternative source, not to mention the fact that Macbeth was altered by another hand after Shakespeare wrote it. We are now down to Jourdain’s and Strachey’s 1610 Bermuda shipwreck pamphlets, which Muir calls probable sources for the The Tempest, to which I will return shortly.

In short, according to Kenneth Muir, Shakespeare read deeply in works published in the 1570′s, 80′s, and 90′s, but seemed to lose interest in works written after the death of Oxford in 1604.

In Shakespeare’s Impact, Prof. Honigmann analyzed and faulted a number of underlying assumptions of the Chambers dating scheme, but he didn’t go far enough. The orthodox ‘late start, late finish’ dating of Shakespeare’s plays rests on several atrocious academic errors, of which I will give two examples.

It is the grossest sort of beginner’s error to examine Shakespeare out of context, to say, for example, that Shakespeare hated lawyers because he wrote “first. . . let’s kill all the lawyers,” without considering that these words are spoken by a villain. But the ‘out of context’ fallacy is the only way to prop up the pathetic theory that The Tempest can be firmly tied to the 1610 Bermuda shipwreck pamphlets, as if they were the only such literature in existence. Examination of Hakluyt’s accounts of the voyages of Francisco de Ulloa, Robert Tomson, or James Lancaster yields far more parallels (of language, incident, locale, and plot) to The Tempest than do the Bermuda pamphlets. Further, de Ulloa and Tomson have descriptions of St. Elmo’s fire that are far closer to Strachey’s Bermuda pamphlet than the latter is to Shakespeare. (See The Tempest and the Bermuda Shipwreck of 1609 article in this Ever Reader)

The Tempest has no known source; it borrows form Florio’s Montaigne and a performance was recorded in 1611, and that is about all we know of its date. Chambers was well aware of this when he wrote his famous Britannica article on Shakespeare, saying that Jourdain’s pamphlet “or some other contemporary narrative of Virginian colonization probably furnished the hint of the plot” (my emphasis). Another orthodox fallacy is the hidden assumption that Shakespeare borrowed from everyone, but no one borrowed from him. Pericles has two passages that are nearly identical to two in John Day’s Law Tricks, which was written in 1604. Orthodox scholars invariably say that Shakespeare was the borrower, without considering the obvious alternative. But Day was an extremely imitative writer who borrowed from Sidney, Spenser, Shakespeare, Jonson, and others, and Law Tricks is full of scraps and plot devices taken from at least a half dozen of Shakespeare’s plays (Hamlet, Merry Wives, Much Ado, Julius Caesar, Measure, 2 Henry IV, and Richard II) and also from Jonson’s The Case is Altered.

The overwhelming presumption must be that Law Tricks borrows from Pericles, and therefore the latter existed by 1604. Whenever one leans on evidence purporting to show that some of Shakespeare’s plays were written after Oxford’s death, the evidence crumbles. The ‘late start, late finish’ theory on Shakespeare’s dates is a rotten edifice founded on circular reasoning, spurious precision, shaky assumptions, selective use of evidence, and willful ignorance of context.

A Matter of Small Consequence:

Shakespeare Authorship Web Page Gets Mud on Authorship Controversy

By Dr. Roger Stritmatter

One healthy sign of the growing impact of Oxfordian studies, both within the humanities in higher education and the broader Anglo-American intelligentsia, is the recently established “Shakespeare Authorship Page” (SAP), founded by David Kathman and Terry Ross, to combat Oxfordians in cyberspace. Mark Anderson (Valley Advocate, April 1996) recently characterized the authorship controversy as “a form of erudite mud wrestling”, and for those who like to get wet and slosh around in the muck, Kathman and Ross will be inviting all comers. But instead of putting the best Stratfordian foot forward, the SAP page actually documents that these two authorship newcomers can’t pass their own test for scholarly accuracy — a test which Ross trumpets as providing decisive proof of Oxfordian dependency on “phony evidence” without which “nothing is left of Oxfordianism.” This startling statement is provoked by the handling of a pair of related quotations from the anonymous Elizabethan work of literary criticism, The Arte of English Poesie (1589) in recent treatments of the authorship controversy.

Often ascribed to Richard or George Puttenham, attributed by B.M. Ward (1928) to Oxford’s friend and confidante John Lumley, and more recently by Purdue scholar Andrew Hannas to Thomas Sackville, the anonymous Arte is the most sophisticated work of literary criticism of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. The two disputed quotations are as follows:

I know very many noble Gentlemen in the court that have written commendably well and suppressed it agayne, or else suffered it to be publisht without their own names to it: as if it were a discredit for a Gentlemen to seem learned, and to shew him selfe amorous of any good art (Book I, Of Poets and Poesie: Chapter 8, emphasis added).

Somewhat later in chapter 31 of the Booke I, the author makes the following intriguing repetition, with variation, of the first quote, this time naming some of the authors whose works have been published under false names or suppressed:

And in her maiesties time that now is are sprong up an other crew of Courtly makers Noble men and Gentlemen of her Maiesties own servaunts, who have written excellently well as it would appeare if their doings could be found out and made publicke with the rest, of which number is first that noble Gentleman, Edward Earle of Oxford. Thomas Lord Buckhurst, when he was young, Henry Lord Paget, Sir Phillip Sidney, Sir Walter Rawleigh, Master Edward Dyer, Maister Fulke Greville, Gascon, Britton, Turberville, and many other learned Gentlemen, whose names I do not omit for envie, but to avoyde tediousness …(Book I, Chapter 31, emphasis added).

The recent handling of these two quotes in the 1989 Frontline documentary on Oxford and on the SOS Home Page has provoked the intemperate on-line attack on “Oxfordians” to which the present article responds. On Frontline, when producer and narrator Al Austin is seen reading the quotes from The Arte, they are conflated; that is, the reference to Oxford in the second quote is attached directly to the first so that the result reads “[Oxford was one of those] who suffered his work to be publisht without [his] own name to it.” A variation of this quote with the same implication also appeared in the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section of the SOS Web Page.

For their part, Frontline has responded to Ross’s accusation of misuse of quotation, and to avoid the need to waste further precious space defending “Oxfordians” against specious accusations, the SOS Home Page has been altered to more completely represent the original content and context of the quotations. However, Mr. Ross is splitting proverbial hairs in his critique of what may at worst be termed a minor error in representational judgement which (contrary to Mr. Ross’s repeated claims) is neither typical of Oxfordian treatment of the quotation in question nor, in itself, a significant issue in the authorship controversy. Yet, based on this trifling methodological objection, Ross unashamedly attempts to indict “Oxfordian research” in toto of deliberate and willful misrepresentation of facts in general. Indeed, Ross subtitles his web article on this matter “And Why It Matters?” The answer, opines Ross, that it matters because the case in question is a typical instance of Oxfordian manufacture of “phony evidence” a “carelessness which seems to be a part of [their] methodology,” and similar allegations. In the history of the Shakespeare authorship controversy according to Terry Ross, “Oxfordians have concocted out of these isolated references [in The Arte of English Poesie] an entire romance in which Oxford, fearing that his works will prove dangerous, invents a pseudonym ‘William Shakespeare’ to protect himself.”

Of course, however, the Oxfordians never did any such thing. Indeed, Mr. Ross has invented his Oxfordian straw men out of the shreds and patches of the Frontline show and the SOS Web page, apparently without bothering to turn the pages of a single standard reference on the subject. If he had done his homework before posting his conclusions for the edification of several million web browsers, Mr. Ross would have learned that none of the following Oxfordian authorities cite the disputed quotations in the manner he alleges: Looney, “Shakespeare” Identified (1920); Barrell, Shakespeare’s Own Secret Drama, The Shakespeare Fellowship Newsletter (Dec. 1941); Amphlett, Who Was Shakespeare? (1955);Clarke, Hidden Allusions (1974 ed.); Charlton Ogburn Jr, The Mysterious William Shakespeare (1984), Whalen, Shakespeare: Who Was He? (1992), Klier, Dass Shakespeare Komplott (1993), or even Bethell’s brief summary of the Oxfordian position in The Atlantic Monthly (Oct. 1991) or Justice Stevens’ Shakespeare Canon of Statutory Construction (University of Pennsylvania Law Review, April 1992). None of these sources conflate the two quotes in the manner done on Frontline. And yet, declares Terry Ross, “this is the way Puttenham is usually cited by Oxfordians.”

Whether Mr. Ross actually did fail to consult these authoritative and standard Oxfordian sources, or merely found it expedient to suppress the truth in constructing his Oxfordian “straw man” out of a single “mistake” found in two recent sources remains unclear. All too evidently, Ross has set out to “debunk” the case for Oxford’s authorship of the “Shakespeare” canon rather than debate it, and his handling of the quotations from The Arte is a clear indication of a willful intent to mislead where rational argument fails to sustain Stratfordian presumption. How could any self-respecting scholar write “this is the way Puttenham is usually cited by Oxfordians” while knowing that none of the above sources do cite the quotation as he claims?

The Shakespeare Canon of Statutory Construction

When Justice Stevens, in his Shakespeare Canon of Statutory Construction warns that authorship students should be on guard against “comments manufactured by staff members who were unable to persuade legislators to conform the statutory text to their client’s interests (Stevens, 1992: 1374), he has in mind Msrs. Ross and Kathman’s web page. To understand just how these two newcomers to the authorship debate have been led astray by their own contempt for their opponents, we should return to the original fount of the Oxfordian theory, J. Thomas Looney’s “Shakespeare” Identified (1920), Looney asserted that the authorship question …is not, strictly speaking, a literary problem –but a historical one (Looney, Miller ed. 1975, p. 71: emphasis added)…

…It is in the nature of historical inquiry that when a theory that we have formed from a consideration of certain facts, leads us to suppose that certain other facts will exist, the later discovery that these facts are actually in accordance with our inference becomes a much stronger confirmation of our theory than if we had known these additional facts at the outset. The manner, therefore, in which facts and ideas have been arrived at becomes in itself an important element in the evidence… (Looney Miller ed., p. 5: emphasis added)

In keeping with this principle about corroboratory facts which may exist, but which can only be discovered and brought to light pursuant to a theory’s original articulation, the full relevance of The Arte to de Vere’s alleged authorship of the Shakespeare canon was not set forth until 1941 (twenty-one years after Looney’s book was published) by his able colleague, Charles Wisner Barrell! In his Shakespeare Fellowship Newsletter article (Shakespeare’s Own Secret Drama), Barrell first brought forward both quotations from The Arte, along with quotes from Meres’s Palladis Tamia (1598), Webbe’s Discourse of Englishe Poetry (1586), Henry Peacham’s The Compleat Gentleman (1622) and Robert Greene’s Farewell to Folly (1591). Based on the evidence of these publications, Barrell argued…

These statements undoubtably provide the best contemporary explanation of a further significant circumstance with respect to Lord Oxford’s fitness for the role of the real “William Shakespeare”. For while it is undeniably true that the literary peer was looked upon by many as the leading Elizabethan poet and dramatist of his day, no volume of verse, and not so much as a single line of dramatic writing bearing his name, title or initials has ever been discovered (Barrell: 1941. p.5).

Therefore, concluded Barrell, these testimonies could only mean one thing:

“if Oxford’s serious literary work survives, it does so under a name other than his own” (ibid, p.5).

Thus Barrell advanced the argument of Oxford’s 16th century reputation as a covert writer for the first time in the history of the authorship controversy. In doing so, he provided a new corroboratory dimension to the case for Oxford’s authorship –but in keeping with Looney’s original provision about the corroboratory significance of evidence discovered pursuant to his original investigation, it must be clearly kept on record that the case originally depended on materials of an entirely different nature and character. Mr. Ross’s attempt to falsify this reality while delivering a gratuitous lecture on methods to the Oxfordians would be laughable were it not also such a tragic verification of the fundamentally ideological character of the Stratfordian premise. To Mr. Ross, “without the phony quotation in Puttenham, there is absolutely no case for Oxford.” But since the case never did, and never will, depend on the “Puttenham quote”, all Ross has done is to expose the rotteness at the core of Stratford for all to see.

Love’s Labours Refound

Now, let us also examine why, contrary to Mr. Ross, the conflation of the two quotations, even if a doubtful move rhetorically, does not, in point of fact, alter their essential meaning. The original reference to The Arte on the SOS Hompage’s FAQ (now amended to avoid any ambiguities) stated that

The anonymous Arte of Englishe Poesie (1589) writes that Oxford was among several gentlemen at Elizabeth’s court who “suffered [works] to be published without their own names to it.”

Like any aspiring spin doctor, Mr. Ross knows when to apply a strict constructionist argument and when to play fast and loose with relevant contextual evidence to defend a tired instutional patron (after all, there’s no conclusive evidence that cigarettes cause lung cancer, is there?). Accordingly Ross rejoins that “Oxford’s name does not even appear in the chapter quoted here.” My, my…not even in the chapter! Aren’t the Oxfordians sneaky, deceitful, and “unscholarly”?

Well, no, not really. On the contrary, it is a reasonable conclusion (as Barrell first considered 55 years ago) that those individuals who are first said (without being named) to have “suffered works to be publisht without their own names to it” are the same persons later described –and now named– who have “written excellently well, as it would appear if their doings could be found out and made publicke with the rest”. What is the difference, after all, between “suffering” a work to be “publisht without [one's ] own name to it” and writing “excellently well….if [one's] doings could be found out and made public with all the rest”? They are, obviously, parallel constructions; one passage names the persons (or some of them, at least); the other does not. The quotations appear in different short sections (not, strictly speaking, really “chapters”), of the same Book of a work of criticism which is itself, let’s not forget, anonymous. Indeed, so close is the intimacy in form and meaning between the two passages that the esteemed bibliographer Edward Arber, editor of the Transcript of the Stationer’s Register and other primary research tools in Renaissance literature and historiography, in his introductory essay (p. 5) to the 1869 edition of The Arte of English Poesie, places them alongside one another as correlative expressions of the anonymous author’s “chiding” criticism of the condition of author’s in and about Elizabeth’s court –thus becoming the first “Oxfordian” to sense a connection between the two passages.

Of course, Mr. Ross will have none of this. He goes so far, in fact, as to place a peculiar spin on the meaning of the author’s phrase “if their doings could be found out and made public with the rest, of which number is first that noble gentleman Edward, Earl of Oxford….” According to Terry Ross, Oxford is first on a list of “those whose poetry is known under their own names” — not the first of those who have written excellently well “as it would appear if their doings could be found out”. It is true that the syntactical antecedent of the phrase “of which number” can be either “the rest” (Ross’s reading) or “those “who have written excellently well as it would appeare if their doings could be found out” (the so-called “Oxfordian” reading).

And the grammatical ambiguity is compounded by the curious textual matter of the period following Oxford’s name, which appears to be misplaced (since it turns the subsequent sentence into a fragment without a main verb). But that is very far from justifying the scornful tone of Mr. Ross’s sarcastic substitution of an ad hominum (“if Oxfordians would actually read Puttenham, they would see that he says something very different”) for a reasoned defense of why his reading is better than the other. On the face of it, either reading is possible.

Note: Andy Hannas’ article’s ‘The Rest’ is Silence focuses exclusively on this issue of how to read “with the rest”.

Canons of Criticism

In choosing between the two alternative readings of “with the rest” we might wish to consult the advice of Justice John Paul Steven’s second canon, to “read the whole statute. ” This means, if you can’t determine the best meaning of a given expression from the local context, you must widen the range of reference. The meaning of “the whole Statute” is –as Supreme Court Justices are wont to be about such matters–intentionally vague. One discovers its boundaries not by theoretical fiat, but in relation to the problem at hand, widening the search by degrees. In our case, the first option is to read the entire Arte of English Poesie, to see if we can discover other passages which inflect the probable interpretation of the disputed section. The most obvious choice, to which further validating context might be supplied from a thorough consideration of the rhetorical and material aspects of the book, is of course the previously mentioned passage of Book I, Chapter 8 in which the author acknowledges knowing “very many notable gentlemen that have written commendably well and suppressed it agayne, or else suffered it to be publisht without their own names to it” (37). Whatever the reasons for these actions –and Mr. Ross would have us believe that these shy poets were merely doing their best to avoid appearing as common “nerds” in a court without any respect for culture– the passage underscores that the political pitfalls of authorship is at the heart of The Arte of English Poesie. Only one material point distinguishes Ross’s interpretative position from that of the Oxfordians whom he assails for writing things they did not write about a book written by an anonymous writer: The Oxfordians have alleged that the author of The Arte names the writers who suppressed or published with pseudonyms. Mr. Ross says that he does not. From the Oxfordian point of view, the distinction is far less consequential than Mr. Ross assumes; in fact, I would argue that it verges on the immaterial: if the author did intend to name Oxford as one of those “very many” writers who published works under names other than their own, then that is a minor point in favor of the Oxfordian Paradigm. If, instead, Mr. Ross is correct that the writer merely intends to emphasize by repetition the significant role of anonymous or pseudonymous publication in shaping the literary culture of late Tudor culture, then that is, actually, a far more telling and significant corroboration of Looney’s initial insight, since it suggests that the scenario envisioned by the Oxfordians may have been followed by more than one Elizabethan courtier and may indeed have been a common strategy for avoiding direct confrontation with censoring authorities.

That de Vere’s works were among those “suppressed” during the decade of the 1580′s we have secure testimony from a source independent of The Arte: as Ogburn (386; 633) and other Oxfordian scholars have pointed out, the Desiderata Curiousa records Francis Peck’s intent to publish “a pleasant conceit of Vere, Earl of Oxford, discontented at the rising of a mean gentleman in the English Court, circa. 1580.” As Ogburn observes, the “mean gentleman” must have been Christopher Hatton, and the “device” a comedy not unlike Twelfth Night, which pummels De Vere’s enemy Hatton in the character of Olivia’s vain and bumbling steward (Hatton was the captain of Elizabeth’s guard), Malvolio. It is hardly beside the point, then, that both the author of The Arte (1589) and Francis Meres (1598) report Oxford’s excellence as a writer of comedies — none of which, notwithstanding Terry Ross’s attempts to wriggle out of the implication, have come down to us under his name.

Context the Magic Key to Faithful Interpretation

That Mr. Ross appears entirely incapable of comprehending such textual and contextual matters does not bode well for the continued involved of SAP in an authorship dialogue which is rapidly approaching lift off for a theoretical stratosphere beyond Stratford.

Mr. Ross is a consistent and habitual violator of several of Justice Steven’s canons. In fact, he seems not to have read anything on the authorship controversy beyond the SOS Home Page and the Frontline documentary. He routinely makes allegations unsupported by factual evidence or reason –and when the factual evidence is available for contrast, it often fails to support his allegations. While offering his own flawed, or at best plausible but largely irrelevant interpretations of The Arte of English Poesie he has an irritating habit of lecturing the Oxfordians to abide standards of accuracy which he consistently violates. Sadly, then, there’s nothing new in what Ross and his partner David Kathman are doing. Like their mentors, but with less grace and honesty, they seek to prevail by disparaging the Oxfordians with things they have not written while ignoring the things that they have written.

When O.J. Campbell at last reviewed the 1st edition of Shakespeare Identified (Harper’s Magazine, July 1940), Looney accused him of setting forth the case…

…so flimsily, even grotesquely, that hardly anyone but an imbecile would believe in it if it rested on nothing more substantial…This is the kind of argumentation one associates with political manuevering rather than a serious quest for the truth on great issues and it makes one suspect that [Campbell] is not very easy in his own mind about the case.” (Looney, Shakespeare Fellowship Newsletter, Dec. 1940)(emphasis added)

The Spanish Philosopher Santayana used to define fanaticism as “redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten where you are going.” The Shakespeare Authorship Page, authored by Terry Ross and David Kathman, is an illustration of how far Stratfordians have come since 1948.

The Rest’ is Not Silence:

On Grammar and Oxford in The Art of English Poesie
by Andrew Hannas

This communication responds to the article, “What Did George Puttenham Really Say About Oxford And Why It Matters”, appearing on the Shakespeare Authorship Page web site, in which the author offers an interpretation of a passage in The Arte of English Poesie (London, 1589, anonymous though often attributed to a Puttenham, Richard or George) that would have the poetical writings of the Earl of Oxford, together with several other courtiers, known and made public, thus obviating his need for, or presumed practice of, using pseudonyms or living covers, and by extension demolishing the general notion that “William Shakespeare” was a pen-name, perhaps with a living frontman with a similar name. The passage at issue reads as follows:

And in her Maiesties time that now is are sprong up an other crew of Courtly makers Noble men and Gentlemen of her Maiesties owne servaunts, who have written excellently well as it would appear if their doings could be foundout and made publicke with the rest, of which number is first that noble Gentleman Edward Earle of Oxford. Thomas Lord of Bukhurst, when he was young, Henry Lord Paget, Sir Philip Sydney, Sir Walter Rawleigh, Master Edward Dyar, Maister Fulke Grevell, Gascon, Britton, Turberuille and a great many other learned Gentlemen, whose names I do not omit for envie, but to avoyde tediousneffe, and who have deserved no little commendation.[Book I, Chapter 31, p. 49]

Of this passage the author, Terry Ross, writes, “Oxford’s name and verse are known to Puttenham, and he is first on the list of ‘the rest’—that is, of those whose poetry is known to him under their own names.” In other words, Ross interprets “the rest” from the passage to refer to the subsequent set of names, names whose poetic works have been “made publicke” ["publicke"in the more narrow sense of being published or 'in print']. If this interpretation were correct, then “an other crew of Courtly makers… ” logically MUST be a different set of names—not just a set of writers who haven’t gone public with their works but a set of “Noblemen and Gentlemen …who have written excellently well”, a set of names the Arte’s author leaves unnamed even though he ostensibly knows of their works! In 1589, just who could be in such a set? Ross does not clarify the logical difficulties his interpretation of “the rest” creates.

Turning to the list of names themselves, in fairness it must be conceded that the status of their works is a mixed bag with respect to going into print, and no one would dispute that several poems by Edward DeVere had been printed before 1589 (but none since 1576, and no dramatic work). Such concession notwithstanding, Ross’s interpretation of “the rest” encounters one enormous problem of literary history—the fact that NONE of Philip Sidney’s poetry was published when he was alive. He died in October of 1586, and even by 1589 none of his poetical work had been printed (the Arcadia with its poetical experiments, 1590; Astrophel and Stella, 1591, etc). Obviously, for the author of Chapter 31 to name Sidney, he must be aware of Sidney’s poetry—but this knowledge by no means implies that Sidney ever intended his own poetry to be made public over his own name, while he was living. Likewise, in 1589 none of Walter Raleigh’s works had been printed (that we know of over his name) save one commendatory poem to Gascoigne’s Steele Glasse, 1576; with Buckhurst, nothing (that we know of over his name) since some Latin verses prefacing Bartholomew Clerke’s Latin Courtier, 1571/2 (also prefaced by Oxford, a boldness by both Buckhurst and Oxford that was breaking the mold of courtly silence which theArte laments). Buckhurst, incidentally, was addressed as late as 1602 by Thomas Campion “as to the noblest iudge of Poesy”, high praise for someone whose public poesy (that we know of over his name) had ended some thirty years earlier. To my knowledge, nothing by Greville was in print by 1589; as for Gascoigne and Turberville, again, 1576 seems to be the year of their swan song inprint, during their lifetimes. So, curiously, 1576 seems to be the latest year for anyone on the list in Chapter 31 being newly in print (though I’m not sure of Dyer at this writing): what seems to emerge from the comments in the passage is that by the time of the writing of Chapter 31, which has to fall between Raleigh’s knighting, 1584, and 1589, courtly poetry, in whatever genre—lyric, eclogue, drama, even translation—certainly was alive but had not seen the light of day in print for many a year, over the names of their genuine authors, while they were alive.

Thus, both grammatically and in a wider literary historical context, I have to disagree with Ross’s interpretaion of “the rest”. It makes little if any logical, and dubious if any historical, sense to separate the “Courtly makers” from the subsequent list of names, especially as those names as given fit precisely into the social categories the former group advertises, and moreover as their collective output of poetry in print (that we know of over their own names)appears to be nil over the 1576–1589 interval. The ‘solution’? As Arthur Golding, Edward De Vere’s uncle and tutor in the 1560s, commented on Ovidian allegory, one must see what has come before and after the passage to understand the passage. And in fairness I must say that I’m in sympathy with Ross in grappling with “the rest”, but had he gone back and forth just a few lines from the passage at issue, I think “the rest” could be understood much better in its admittedly difficult context than his interpretation so quickly proffers. Chapter 31 is about naming names of English poets “to th’ intent chiefly that their names should not be defrauded of such honour as seemeth due to them for having by their studies so much beautified our English tong …”. A sort of pantheon of names follows—Chaucer, Gower, Lydgate, Skelton, Wyatt, Surrey, Vaux, Sterneholde, Heywood, Ferrys. Then comes the sentence preceding the passage at issue:

In Queenes Maries time florished above any other Doctout Phaer one that was well learned & excellently well translated into English verse Heroicall certaine bookes of Virgils Aeneidos. Since him followed Maister Arthure Golding, who with no lesse commendation turned into English meetre the Metamorphosis of Ouide, and that other Doctour [Twinne], who made the supplement to those bookes of Virgils Aeneidos, which Maister Phaer left undone. And in her Maiesties time that now is are sprong up ….” [etc.].

After the passage at issue, the train of thought continues:

But of them all particularly this is myne opinion, that Chaucer, with Gower, Lidgat and Harding for their antiquitie oughte to have the first place, and Chaucer as the most renowmed [sic] of them all, for the much learning appeareth to be in him aboue any of the rest.”

And the train of laudatory thought continues, circling back to the names of Buckhurst, Oxford, Sidney (unpublished!), et al., before a splendid superlative to the Queen, who “exceedeth all the rest” with her pen [probably not mere flattery, in my view]. I would venture that the key to the context of “the rest” in the passage at issue is found in the phrases “But of them all” and “aboue any of the rest” in the sentence that follows the passage. That is, when these three lengthy sentences are read as an entirety, “the rest” in the passage at issue refers NOT to the subsequent names of “Courtly makers” but to the earlier pantheon of known poets in print [though bear in mind that the poems of Surrey, Oxford's uncle, weren't printed while Surrey was alive ...].

A paraphrase might go thusly:

‘In earlier days these writers’ poetry found their way into print, and now we have many in our own Queen’s time whose poetry would be much admired if the extent of their works could be known and put into print as with those poets I have just named ["made publicke with the rest"], poets from Chaucer up through Golding and Phaer-Twinne, translators of Ovid and Vergil. And here are the NAMES of the poets [Oxford, Buckhurst, Sidney, et al.] of our Queen’s time who deserve such favorable comparison “with the rest” [the Chaucer et al. list] But still, “of them all” [Chaucer through the Oxford- Sidney list], I would give highest honours to Chaucer because of the learning in his works that seems better than any of all of the aforementioned names ["aboue any of the rest"], and special merit to the other poets in their respective genres.’

In the logic of this analysis, there are two sets of poets, the set of “the rest”, the poets from Chaucer through Phaer-Twinne, and the new set of “Courtly makers”, which includes Oxford, Buckhurst, Sidney, Raleigh, and lesser luminaries of the court circle. Subsuming both sets of names is the phrase “But of them all” which can only be interpreted to include ALL of the previously mentioned names, from Chaucer to Oxford et al. Such meaning is reinforced by the phrase “aboue any of the rest”, which again is a way of grouping the COMPLETE sets of aforementioned names, the Chaucer-Phaer set and the Oxford-Sidney set. In the set-logic of the author of Chapter 31, “the rest” is a way of tying together aforementioned names, not of introducing new ones. Lest one doubt this recapitulative use of “the rest”, here is the final sentence of Chapter 31:

But last in recitall and first in degree is the Queene our soveraigne Lady, whose learned, delicate, noble Muse, easily surmounteth all the rest that have written before her time or since [i.e, since her rule], for sence, sweetnesse and subtillitie, be it in Ode, Elegie, Epigram, or any other kinde of poeme Heroick or Lyricke, wherein it shall please her Maiestie to employ her penne, euen by as much oddes as her owne excellent estate and degree exceedeth all the rest of her most humble vassalls.

Here the set-logic of the first “all the rest” groups ALL the previous poets and puts the Queen atop them all in ability, and the last “all the rest” puts her above all the populace, completing the progressively inclusive sense of “the rest” in Chapter 31. Yet, beyond the grammatical or literary dimensions, Ross’s misinterpretation of Chapter 31 fails to appreciate the crucial bibliographic status of that chapter, and indeed of the entire Arte itself. By best estimates Chapter 31 was a last minute addition or ‘insertion’ to the Arte, first registered in November, 1588, but transferred and re-registered in April of 1589, to be printed (by the neophyte Richard Field) later in that year—but not with the standard dedicatory letter over an author’s name. Instead, the Arte came out anonymously, prefaced by a woodcut of the Queen followed by a cryptically outlandish cover letter announcing the work’s anonymity to none other than that great patron of poetry, William Cecil, signed by “R. F. Printer”. From its very outset The Arte of English Poesie announces its own theme of authorial anonymity, if not of duplicity. The text we see in The Arte may in fact span some twenty years (1569–89) of composition; if done by one ‘Puttenham’, this reader can humbly assert that this Puttenham produced (without any track-record of poetic talent, and dead in 1590, despite the 1600 date in MLA bibliographies) a virtuoso performance not even approached by Sidney or any other apologist for poetry of the era. Without question The Arte is a product of one or more close insiders, not of an onlooker, with respect not only to Court poetics but also to Court politics about those poetics. Chapter 31, as a late insertion, with its naming of names, very well could have have prompted the anonymity of publication that is a major lament in the Arte itself. In naming Oxford, Buckhurst, Sidney, Chapter 31 may have triggered the very authorial reticence it hoped to alleviate. The Arte is a ‘performative text’—doing what its words say—and in this instance perhaps undoing itself by erasing its author(s) in greater service to poetics.