On this day in 1550, Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford was born. He was an awful person. He wouldn’t accept that the first child of his marriage was his. He was pretty much the definition of a libertine. But he was a poet and playwright of some repute. You know, at that time, the rich didn’t have much to do with their time. Of course Edward spent through all of his fortune by the end of his life. And that is with the Queen giving me a thousand pounds per year in addition (an enormous amount of money). I could not possibly care less about this idiot, except for one thing.
A lot of people think he wrote the plays of William Shakespeare. In one way, who cares? I mean, we know almost nothing about Shakespeare anyway. So what does it matter? But it really bugs me that one of the main reasons that people think Edward wrote the plays is because Shakespeare’s plays supposedly show so much knowledge of the way that the aristocracy lived. But this is so ridiculous. I’m poor, but I have a damned good idea of how the rich live. And it isn’t just because of television. In Shakespeare’s time, the poor knew how the rich lived because they saw it — and their servants saw it up close and personal.
What’s more, this desire to find someone — Anyone! — but Shakespeare to have written the plays is based on the idea that the plays are so amazingly great that they couldn’t have just been written an ex-school teacher from the country. Well, I have news for you all. Although Shakespeare’s plays were well regarded during his life, they weren’t seen as any better than the plays of Marlowe or Jonson. And they were seen as inferior to the plays of people who came after. I’m a fan of Shakespeare, but he just wasn’t that great.
So people: get over it. If you want to think that someone else wrote Shakespeare’s plays, at least go with Marlowe. At least in that case you have royal spying and murder and faked deaths. It’s a lot more fun. The Edward de Vere narrative is just boring. But really, I think people get into the whole “who wrote Shakespeare” question because it relieves them of having to read the plays, which are by and large not all that great. So sure, I’d rather read “Shakespeare” Identified in Edward De Vere, Seventeenth Earl of Oxford than The Two Noble Kinsmen. But that doesn’t prove anything.
So happy birthday you great pretender, Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford!