Oxford is a rattling good yarn, if questionable history. One shocker follows another, all composed in tight, footnoted prose. Mr. Streitz, Director of the Oxford Institute, has been pursuing the truth about William Shakespeare for some six years and here disgorges most of everything he has learned. As noted above, he posits one surprise after another. This reviewer couldn’t put the book down.
First he insists that the seventeenth Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere, was the Author and the barely educated, unsophisticated William Shakespeare only a convenient, contracted cover. Secondly he says that the thirteen year-old Elizabeth, soon to be the so-called Virgin Queen of England, was Oxford’s mother. (The 16th Earl conveniently died after the baby was christened.) Thomas Seymour, at the time husband of Katherine Parr, one of Henry VIII’s discards, supposedly fathered him.
Next, Elizabeth supposedly had four more children by Robert Dudley, later to be the Earl of Leicester. Two were boys, both raised as children of nobility. Elizabeth’s councilor ordered one, Essex, executed for treason. Then Streitz advances the theory that Elizabeth seduced her own son, Oxford, the Author, and had a fifth child. This child of incest became the Earl of Southampton, a protégé of Oxford’s, and close to the Author.
Are you dizzy yet? How about the fact that Southampton was also an ancestor of Princess Diana? Thus the two current Princes are descendents of Oxford, the real William Shakespeare.
If acknowledged to the English public, Oxford and each of the other three illegitimate but male Tudors would be preferable as the next king to the Scot son of the Catholic Bloody Mary. But Elizabeth dithered and died without changing the succession. After the coronation of James Stuart, the oldest son, Oxford, may have escaped to the Isle of Mann and continued his writing. Certainly, since Streitz gives Oxford credit for most of the Elizabethan and some post-Elizabethan canon, whether ever credited to Shakespeare or not, the Author needs every day beyond Oxford’s reputed death that the revisionist can give him.
This progression of hard-to swallow assertions is fiercely argued with the aid of quotes from ancient documents, impressive research, and textual interpretations of the Author’s words. Dignitaries, including Supreme Court justices, testify to the good sense of Oxford’s candidacy as the Author. A fine index and an impressive bibliography support the arguments. As one reads, Streitz carries one along.
Over four hundred years, the lack of newspapers, general illiteracy, and a fierce, feudal government that squashed gossip have rolled a hard to penetrate blanket over the events of the late sixteenth century. Will we ever know? Mr. Streitz hopes that at some time the Author’s original manuscripts will be found in some cobwebbed closet and, lo, the handwriting will be Oxford’s! Will a confession of Queen Elizabeth’s lust be found in Westminster Cathedral?
In the meantime, calumny flies. The Folger Shakespeare Library “has destroyed its reputation…” “Those in high academic positions have suppressed a full investigation…and slandered those who dissented…” In return, Harold Bloom, Shakespeare Professor at Yale is quoted as saying, “Oxfordians are the sub-literary equivalent of the sub-religious Scientologists. You don’t want to argue with them, as they are dogmatic and abusive.”
If you are not pre-committed to one side or the other, all this is fun. Recommended reading.