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Edward de Vere – the Earl who had revolutionized the world of stage

(1550 –1604)

 Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford was an English peer and courtier of the Elizabethan era. Although he had a reckless, unpredictable, and violent nature, reminding of the Hungarian Baron Bálint Balassi, that precluded him attaining any court or government responsibility and led to the ruination of his estate, he was noted in his own time as a patron of the arts, lyric poet, and playwright, and since the 1920s he has been the most popular alternative candidate proposed for the authorship of Shakespeare’s works. Oxford was the only son of John de Vere, 16th Earl of Oxford and Margery Golding. After the death of his father in 1562, he became a ward of Queen Elizabeth and received an excellent education in the household of her Principal Secretary, Sir William Cecil. He was a champion jouster, travelled widely throughout Italy and France, and is recorded by Stow as having introduced various Italian fashions to the English court. He served briefly in the Northern Rebellion (1569–1570), and in 1585 he joined the Earl of Essex in Flanders during the Anglo-Spanish War and commanded a cavalry company, but he quit the field before seeing action. Oxford was an important courtier poet and was praised as a playwright, although none of his plays has survived under his name. He was noted for his literary and theatrical patronage, and between 1564 and 1599 some 33 works were dedicated to him by authors including Arthur Golding, John Lyly, Robert Greene and Anthony Munday. From 1580 up to his death, Oxford was the patron of a company of players. In 1583 he bought the sublease of the first Blackfriars Theatre and gifted it to the poet-playwright Lyly, who operated it for a season under Oxford’s patronage. He was, in the words of Gordon Braden, ’famously improvident with his fortune and erratic in his behaviour.’A stream of dedications attests to Oxford’s intellectual reputation and his lifelong patronage of writers, musicians and actors. Stephen May terms Oxford ’a nobleman with extraordinary intellectual interests and commitments,’ whose biography exhibits a ’lifelong devotion to learning.’ Of the 33 works dedicated to him, 40 percent (13) were original or translated works of classical Greek and Latin literature, which May says suggest he was more sought out for patronage by literary writers – as opposed to religious or scientific writers – than other patrons of similar means. He also had a high reputation as a poet amongst his contemporaries, and his verses were published in several poetry miscellanies. Of his 16 canonical poems, his modern editor Steven May says that they are the ’output of a competent, fairly experimental poet working in the established modes of mid-century lyric verse.’ Contemporary critics such as Webbe and Puttenham praised his poetic ability, and the latter quoted his verses:


When wert thou borne desire?


In pompe and pryme of May,


By whom sweete boy wert thou begot?


By good conceit men say,


Tell me who was thy nurse?


Fresh youth in sugred ioy.


What was thy meate and dayly foode?


Sad sighes with great annoy.


What hadst thou then to drinke?


Vnfayned louers teares.


What cradle wert thou rocked in?


In hope deuoyde of feares.


In Shakespeare Identified, published in 1920, J. Thomas Looney, an English schoolteacher, proposed Oxford as a candidate for the authorship of Shakespeare’s works. His theory was based on perceived analogies between Oxford’s life and poetic techniques in Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets. It supplanted an earlier popular theory involving Francis Bacon. As for someone, whose alias had for centuries been known as William Shakespeare, it must be added, referring to William J. Long, the writer of a 1909 English Literature textbook, that neither him nor anybody else in his family had ever been well educated or literate, which can be irrefutably proved by a 1559 document signed as ’The marke + of John Shacksper. The marke + of Mary Shacksper,’ his two parents. The whole idea was excellently dramatized in the 2011 film, Anonymous, with Rhys Ifans, Jamie Campbell Bower and Luke Thomas Taylor superbly playing de Vere at different ages of his life.


Jacques’ sarcastic monologue from As You Like It, the most hilarious comedy ever written:




All the world’s a stage,


And all the men and women merely players;


They have their exits and their entrances,


And one man in his time plays many parts,


His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,


Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms. Then the whining schoolboy,


With his satchel and shining morning face, creeping like snail


Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,                                     


Sighing like a furnace, with a woeful ballad made to his mistress’ eyebrow.


Then a soldier, full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,


Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,


Seeking the bubble reputation even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,


In fair round belly with good capon lined,


With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,


Full of wise saws and modern instances;


And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts


Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,


With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;


His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide


For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,


Turning again toward childish treble, pipes


And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,


That ends this strange eventful history,


Is second childishness and mere oblivion,


Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.    


William Shakespeare




Színház az egész világ,


és színész benne minden férfi és nő:


fellép s lelép: s mindenkit sok szerep vár


életében, melynek hét felvonása


a hét kor. Első a kisded, aki


dajkája karján öklendezik és sír.


Aztán jön a pityergő, hajnalarcú,


táskás nebuló: csigamódra és


kelletlen mászik iskolába. Mint a


kemence, sóhajt a szerelmes, és


bús dalt zeng kedvese szemöldökéről.


Jön a párduc-szakállú katona:


cifra szitkok, kényes becsület és


robbanó düh: a buborék hírért


ágyúk torkába bú. És jön a bíró:


kappanon hízott kerek potroh és


szigorú szem és jól ápolt szakáll:


bölcseket mond, modern közhelyeket,


s így játssza szerepét. A hatodik kor


papucsos és cingár figura lesz:


orrán ókula, az övében erszény,


aszott combjain tágan lötyög a


jól vasalt dendi-nadrág: férfihangja


gyerekessé kezd visszavékonyodni,


sípol, fütyül. A végső jelenet,


mely e furcsa s gazdag mesét lezárja,


megint gyermekség, teljes feledés,


vak, sük et, buta megsemmisülés.


Lőrinc Szabó




Весь этот мир есть сцена,                                                                          
Мужщины, женщины привычные актеры в нем;
Кому-то выход, а кому уже исход,
И с каждой ролью новый поворот,
Семь действий здесь и каждое как год. Сначала млад,
Ревя и плача на руках у нянь.
ем школяр, стоня, с сумой,
ицом, блестящим поутру, улиткою ползя,
еохотно в бурсу. А там любовник,
Воздыхающий как печь, балладой грустною
ется низвлечь надменности бровей любимой. А за ним вояк,
Полон н
еведомых и непонятных клятв и с леопарда бородой,
евнивый честью, в схватке быстрой и крутой,
Сгорая р
епутацией пустой


Как порох в пушечном горниле. А вслед за ним судья,


Брюшком своим кружля и в чепчике с шелком,


Глазами строгими, подстриженной клинком бородкой,              
Былых сказаний он богат, да и советам новым рад;                                                                          


Он тоже роль играет как и все. Век шестой


Скользит, натягивая панталон,


Он в окулярах на носу, и с табакеркой на боку;
Штаны, что с юных лет хранил, как мир вокруг,


Теперь уж необъятны вдруг и голос некогда мужской,


Звучит наивно, как в детской, дрожа,


Свистя. Последняя из сцен,


Заканчивая странную историю взамен,


Второе детство и забвенья тень,


Слепой, беззубый взор, безвкусный перебор.


Vadim Vozdvizhensky




Le monde entier est un théâtre,


Et les hommes et les femmes ne sont que des acteurs;


Ils ont leurs entrées et leurs sorties,


Un homme, dans le cours de sa vie, joue différents rôles;


Et les actes de la pièce sont les sept âges. Dans le premier, c’est l’enfant,


Vagissant, bavant dans les bras de sa nourrice.


Ensuite l’écolier, toujours en pleurs, avec son frais visage


Du matin an son petit sac, rampe, comme le limaçon,


À contre-cœur, jusqu’à l’école. Puis vient l’amoureux,


Qui soupire comme une fournaise et chante une ballade plaintive


Qu’il a adressée au sourcil de sa maîtresse. Puis le soldat,


Prodigue de jurements étranges et barbu comme le léopard,


Jaloux sur le point d’honneur, emporté, toujours prêt à se quereller,


Cherchant la renommée,


Cette bulle de savon, jusque dans la bouche du canon. Après lui, c’est le Juge


Au ventre arrondi, garni d’un bon chapon,


L’œil sévère, la barbe taillée d’une forme grave;


Il abonde en vielles sentences, en maximes vulgaires;


Et c’est ainsi qu’il joue son rôle. Le sixième âge offre


Un maigre pantalon en pantoufles,


Avec des lunettes sur le nez et une poche de côté:


Les bas bien conservés de sa jeunesse se trouvent maintenant beaucoup trop vastes


Pour sa jambe ratatinée; sa voix, jadis forte et mâle,


Revient au fausset de l’enfance, et ne fait plus que siffler


D’un ton aigre et grêle. Enfin le septième et dernier âge


Vient unir cette histoire pleine d’étrange événements;


C’est la seconde enfance, état d’oubli profond


Où l’homme se trouve sans dents, sans yeux, sans goût, sans rien.


From Wikipedia




Compiled by Vadim Vozdvizhensky


a teacher of the English language


4 September 2012