So, on Facebook, an old friend threw down the gauntlet on a subject that is near and dear to my heart and rather boring to most folks.
I quote his original post in full:
I now vent in the specific direction of “Oxfordians” who believe that William Shakespeare did not write his own poetry and plays: REALLY? Have you read Edward DeVere’s poetry? Have you studied anything about his personal narcissism? Have you asked yourself why such a vain man would put his own name to poetry that a sixth-grader might be ashamed to own – but Shakespeare’s name to the greatest English verse ever conceived? Have you wondered how a subpar writer who died in 1604 could’ve written plays credited to William Shakespeare that were written after that? Some dated as late as 1613????!?
This led to a lengthy and, to my mind, extremely pleasant exchange, other than the friend of my friend who referred to me as a “garrulous douchebag.” In this exchange, I pointed out that I fully believe that William Shakespeare wrote his own poetry and plays, but I believe William Shakespeare was a pseudonym, and not William Shaksper of Stratford, who usually gets the credit. I also addressed the dating of the plays, but the subject of DeVere’s supposedly low-quality poetry called to mind an excerpt from Charlton Ogburn’s “The Mysterious William Shakespeare: The Myth and the Reality,” which is a tome that many Oxfordians consider to be the gold standard of Oxfordianism. I had thought that the test he mentions on page 393 of that book would be somewhere online, but, alas, it is not.
So, being the garrulous douchebag that I am, I thought I ought to remedy that.
I now quote Ogburn at length from pages 393-393 of his book. His words are in blue. In this excerpt, Ogburn quotes a Dartmouth professor names Louis P. Bénézet, whose words are in green.
The reader who does not see signs of a common origin in the two sets of verses might test his ability to discriminate between the styles of Oxford and “Shake-speare” on a pot-pourri made up by Louis P. Bénézet of Dartmouth… Professor Bénézet writes:
This mixture contains seventy lines; there are six passages from the works of one author, seven from the other; no passage is longer than eight lines; none shorter than four.
It has been most interesting to see the Shakespeare scholars tackle this problem. I handed the book to a former college instructor in Elizabethan literature, now an editor for a well known publishing firm. He picked it up with an air which said: “This is going to be easy. Just watch me detect the true Shakespeare lines.” I had given him the number of lines in each selection, so it should have been doubly easy. He not only failed to pick the Shakespeare passages among the first forty lines; he exactly reversed them, attributing de Vere’s stanzas to Shakespeare and Shakespeare’s to de Vere…
An old friend of mine, who has been teaching English for forty years, took my booklet home and made an honest attempt, after careful reading and study, to pick out the Shakespeare passages. I met him afterwards, and he confessed that he had missed three of the first eight and was not sure enough to go on to the end.
But the most surprising test was an interview which I had, four years ago, with a famous professor of literature from one of the nation’s oldest and greatest universities, a man whose name is synonymous with literary knowledge and who is quoted from coast to coast [William Lyon Phelps of Yale].
I read him the pot-pourri. “What do you think of it?” I asked.
“It is beautiful,” he replied.
“Where do you place it?” I asked.
“Oh, it is Elizabethan,” was his answer.
“Did one man write all of it?” I persisted.
“Oh, unquestionably,” said he…
A prominent literary figure, a committed Stratfordian, to whom I submitted the test, would have nothing to do with it, calling it “dirty pool” and “a cheap lawyer’s trick.” Here it is:
[Stallion editorial note: I will now show you the trick in question, but I’ll do it in black text to make it easier to read, as well as numbering each line. See if you can tell which is which. Unfortunately, Ogburn never provided an “answer key,” so I had to Google all of them to find out for myself. All of DeVere’s poetry comes from his youth, so one would expect it to be less accomplished than what he later wrote as Shakespeare. At the same time, I think this amply illustrates the fact that DeVere’s supposedly shoddy poetry is only shoddy by reputation, not by empirical examination.]
- If care or skill could conquer vain desire,
- Or reason’s reins my strong affections stay;
- There should my sighs to quiet breast retire,
- And shun such sights as secret thoughts betray;
- Uncomely love, which now lurks in my breast
- Should cease, my grief by wisdom’s power oppressed.
- My reason, the physician to my love,
- Angry that his prescriptions are not kept,
- Hath left me, and I desperate now approve
- Desire is death, which physic did except.
- Past cure I am, now reason is past care,
- And frantic mad with evermore unrest.
- Fain would I sing but fury makes me fret,
- And rage hath sworn to seek revenge of wrong;
- My mazed mind in malice is so set,
- As death shall daunt my deadly dolours long;
- Patience perforce is such a pinching pain,
- As die I will or suffer wrong again.
- For if I should despair, I should go mad,
- And in my madness might speak ill of thee;
- Now this ill-wresting world is grown so bad,
- Mad slanderers by mad ears believed be.
- Love is a discord and a strange divorce
- Betwixt our sense and rest, by whose power,
- As mad with reason, we admit that force
- Which wit or labour never may endower.
- My thoughts and discourse as madmen’s are,
- As random from the truth vainly express’d;
- For I have sworn thee fair and thought thee bright
- Who art as black as hell and dark as night.
- Why should my heart think that a several plot
- Which my heart knows the wide world’s common place?
- Or mine eyes seeing this, say this is not,
- To put fair truth upon so foul a face?
- Who taught thee first to sigh, alas, my heart?
- Who taught thy tongue with woeful words of plaint?
- Who filled your eyes with tears of bitter smart?
- Who gave thee grief and made thy joys to faint?
- Who first did paint with colors pale thy face?
- Who first did break thy sleeps of quiet rest?
- Above the rest in court who gave thee grace?
- Who made thee strive in honor to be best?
- Who taught thee how to make me love thee more,
- The more I hear and see just cause of hate?
- O, though I love what others do abhor,
- With others thou shouldst not abhor my state.
- What worldly wight can hope for heavenly hire,
- When only sighs must make his secret moan?
- A silent suit doth seld to grace aspire,
- My hapless hay doth roll the restless stone.
- Yet Phoebe fair disdained the heavens above,
- To joy on earth her poor Endymion’s love.
- And shall I live on earth to be her thrall?
- And shall I live and serve her all in vain?
- And kiss the steps that she lets fall,
- And shall I pray the Gods to keep the pain
- From her that is so cruel still?
- No, no, on her work all your will.
- And let her feel the power of all your might,
- And let her have her most desire with speed,
- And let her pine away both day and night,
- And let her moan, and none lament her need;
- And let all those that shall her see,
- Despise her state and pity me.
- Let him have time to tear his curled hair,
- Let him have time against himself to rave,
- Let him have time of Time’s help to despair,
- Let him have time to live a loathed slave,
- Let him have time a beggar’s orts to crave,
- And time to see one that by alms doth live
- Disdain to him disdained scraps to give.
The answers are in white text below. Highlight to read.
So? How did you do? Let me know in the comments. Don’t cheat; that’s no fun.
Shakespeare wrote lines 7-12, 19-22, 27-34, 43-46, and 65-71
Edward de Vere, using his own name, wrote lines 1-6, 13-18, 23-26, 35-42, and 47-64.