Edward de Vere was the Lord Great Chamberlain and the seventeenth Earl of Oxford. He was raised as a Royal Ward and from a very young age was educated in the sports and arts of nobility. Although disgraceful for a nobleman to waste time writing frivolous plays, Oxford as a young man wrote and staged the entertainment for the court. As an adult, he became engrossed in theatrical performances and frittered away his fortunes in support of several writers and actors (Friedman 13). During this time, De Vere also began writing several poems and plays. Much like Samuel Clemens, who wrote under the name of Mark Twain, Oxford adopted the pseudonym Shakespeare. Soon after plays appeared under the name of "Shakespeare," poems by de Vere ceased (Russell 5). Coincidently, the coat of arms of Lord Bulbeck, a third title of Edward de Vere, is a lion shaking a spear (Ogburn 10). De Vere was also known by the people as the "spear-shaker" because of excellence at the tilts and at jousting (Russell 5).
Many believe this pen name was for protection. Many of the plays said to have been written by Shakespeare explicitly describe the corruption in court politics and contain "thinly veiled satires and parodies of politicians and courtiers." In addition, public theatres such as the Globe were laced with prostitutes, drunkards and criminals and because of the scoundrel audiences, playwrights were held in low esteem. Moreover, many scholars believe de Vere's reasons for his pseudonym may be linked to the homoerotic threads in many of the Shakespearean sonnets and de Vere's possible homosexual affair with his son-in-law. Using his identity would have been a dangerous game when such affairs were a high crime (Satchell 71).
There are many allusions in Shakespeare's plays which de Vere would have been particularly familiar with. As a child, de Vere was tutored by Arthur Golding, the translator of Metamorphoses. This literary work was alluded to several times in Shakespearean plays. De Vere also studied law and traveled across the continent, spending a great deal of time in Italy (Tweedale 12). Many references to Italian art and architecture are also alluded to in Shakespeare's plays. William Shakespeare of Stratford, however, never left England (Friedman 10).
The author of the Shakespearean plays had to possess a rare knowledge in several disciplines including physical sciences, medicine, he law, astronomy, and the Bible. Shakes of Stratford received no formal education with the exception of grammar school through the equivalent of third grade. De Vere, however, was taught by only the best tutors (Satchell 71). The Shakespearean plays were also written by one who has had interaction with the aristocracy and understood the workings of royalty from the inside out (Friedman 10). Although there is no evidence that Shakespeare moved freely about this society, de Vere was regarded as a "brilliant ornament of Elizabeth's court" (Sachmartino 13) and as such would have understood what it as like to live in the aristocracy.
De Vere's very life is in many ways represented in the plays attributed to Shakespeare of Stratford. For example, in the play Hamlet, de Vere describes many...