Edward de VERE: Letter to the Editor, 1609

Plaintext, Letter regarding Troilus and Cressida, 1609:

Shx letter, 1609, Plaintext, JPEG

Fig. 1

Shx letter, 1609, DEVERE, JPEG

Shx. letter, 1609, Raw Pr., JPEG

Fig. 2               (Feb. 24, 2013)  

The above letter was purportedly written in 1609.  Edward de Vere is reported to have died in 1604.

Shx Letter, 1609, #1, #2, JPEG

Figures 3 and 4

   The 1609 letter above carries the attribution of William Shakespeare.  Addressed to the “Eternall Reader”, the letter follows upon one of the most oft quoted phrases cited to support Edward de Vere as (at the very least) a contributor, if the not the main writer, of the Shakespeare canon.  It states at the outset that William Shakespeare is the writer of the letter, and presents an epithet identifying who he is:  “A never writer to an ever reader.”

   Several features, assuming the letter is Shakespeare’s, make it problematic, even in the absence of an ‘authorship question’; namely, and foremost is the ‘feel’ and ‘tone’, of contempt and distain for the real addressees (secondarily and incidentally to the reading audience), pointing a finger instead at the censors, “the grand possessors”, who have (in Shakespeare’s opinion) too much power, and that when he (Shakespeare) dies, and his comedies are “out of sale”, they will “scramble” to get their hands on them, then set up a “new English Inquisition.”  Then says this:  “Take this for a warning.”

   Strong words from a writer without a title, such as “Duke”, “Earle”, or “Lord”.  Ben Jonson spent time in prison, as did other writers, for saying less.  Others had their hands cut off.  The contents of the 1609 letter could easily be considered treasonous.  The letter is not anonymous.  Shakespeare identifies himself.  An accusation of treason brought death.  Not the death given to nobility (hanging), but to be brought before the audience while executioners cut out his entrails, cast them to the ground, and burned them while he was still alive.  Who would take this kind of chance?  Who had the protection of the highest powers in England?

  The tone is clearly one of entitlement and arrogance.  Shakespeare praises his own work as being on an equal footing with the best comedies of Terence or Plautus; ridicules the intelligence of the censors, the “grand possessors”, who have brains that “grind” rather than think; and, as critics, they are merely “heavy-witted wordlings, as were never capable of the witte of a Commedie.”  This could be said today.

   The most striking feature of the 1609 letter is its tone.  The most protected writer in Elizabethan England, and arguably in Jacaobean England as well, was Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.  The tone is clearly identifiable in his letters to William Cecil, Lord Burghley, written some thirty-five years before.    (Feb.25, 2013)

   But the letter has the date:  1609 . . . 

II.XXVI.MMXIII

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