Charged in 1616 by the Earls of Pembroke and Montgomery to edit a folio of Shakespeare plays, writer Ben Jonson races against time to find the missing manuscripts by seeking out his former nemesis in Stratford. Can William Shaxper's deathbed confession reveal the mysteries of the Shakespeare authorship that could threaten the throne of King James I?
Today, tourists can still visit Hedingham Castle, the birthplace and ancestral home of the 17th Earl of Oxford, a literary courtier-poet who wrote masques for Queen Elizabeth I. I have been to Hedingham twice, and have enjoyed its beauty. Many believe that Oxford wrote under the pen name Shake-Speare, which is the central storyline of my novel. Is it a coincidence that Oxford's warlike countenance on the tiltyard was said to "shake spears"? Nowadays, Hedingham Castle is a beautiful location for weddings and jousting tournaments - but not at the same time! Still, my coupling here of these strange bedfellows is an ironic nuance that Shakespeare himself would have enjoyed.
I am always struck by how actors perform their roles onstage and bring them to life in unique and subtle ways. Subtext is everything! Interpretation of the poetic antique words of Shakespeare can be particularly challenging if actors don't understand the nuance of meaning. This is where research comes in. Actors know that while the times have changed, human nature has not.The turbulent emotions in the Shakespeare plays still grab audiences and suspend them between the evil and the honorable, holding them in a chasm of discomfort and forcing them to think.
I wrote my first story when I was five or six years old. The family Studebaker had broken down and we had to walk home across a seemingly endless field of the world's tallest grass. I was enthralled by the sheer drama of pushing my way through while watching mom's annoyance with dad, who managed to lead us home with his usual calm resolve. Having few written words in my possession back then, I wrote my story in a childish scrawl and read it to others. They liked it! This first taste of creative feedback set me on my early path as a writer.
My favorite novelists are Jane Austen and Harper Lee. Both wrote about different aspects of matters of the heart. Both delved into their characters and left lots of complexities for readers to discuss. While Austen wrote of the social, legal and romantic problems of women in 18th century England, Lee wrote of racism and hatred in 20th century America. Characters drawn by both authors deal with issues of social inequity and unfairness that compel characters on their courses of action. Characters spar with the pretense of love and the dreadful absence of it.
If you think we live in a seething bowl of controversy today, Elizabethan England was a stewing cauldron of religious and political controversy. Hands and tongues were lopped off for offending the government. An English nobleman of ancient lineage couldn't be known to write controverial plays for the public, and so a cunning front man emerged from among his distant kinsman to play that part. These were dangerous roles for both men to play in dangerous times. Read my novel to see how they pulled off this centuries-long literary ruse.
When I was a young child, my grandmother showed me the beautiful and intimate value of stories by reading to me and reciting poems she had memorized in elocution classes. My father sang me stories. My mother spoke of family history. A flowering field of images blossomed in my mind. Science has shown that multi-sensory images actually light up the brain when stories are read aloud. Readers become writers. So, what did Shake-Speare read? The answer depends on who you believe he actually was!
In my novel, William Shaxper of Stratford gets his own prologue as does the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere. Each prologue illustrates the contrasting natures of both men years before they formed their intricate literary partnership, a well-crafted symbiosis that preserved a literary mystery which endures to this day.
Many layers of secrecy cloak the true identity of Shakespeare, a mystery that has endured for hundreds of years. Background reserach for my novel shows modern corporate interests promoting the Stratfordian author, who during the Elizabethan age began his career as a front man by masking the identity of his noble literary kinsman, the 17th Earl of Oxford. My historical novel reveals their intimate and symbiotic partnership in creating a ruse that worked so well, it continues to this day.
Since childhood, I've always enjoyed reading biographies and historical fiction because the stories were about real people in real situations, often having to overcome obstacles to achieve their goals. It was an honor to write such a novel and receive critical acclaim and an award for my book's literary quality. Wrting about Shakespeare has been controversial for hundreds of years, but controversy is a product of human inquiry, resulting in the electricity of thought.
A love for words, action and emotion meet in the aspects of the Shake-Speare plays and go well beyond the challenges of the authorship debate. Fans of Shakespeare, whether they are Stratfordian traditionalists or Oxfordian researchers, all share a deep passion for theater, poetry and the canon itself - the same passion that drove me to write my novel.
At the end of our days, Regret stabs at our hearts like knives. We move towards uncertain destinies with stories still inside us that remain untold. That is what intrigued me about the 17th Earl of Oxford's identity as Shake-Speare, forced by political and social circumstances to write under what would become the world's most famous pen name. His story intertwines with his cousin William Shaxper of Stratford, who delivered plays to the Stationers' Register as Oxford's front man. The death of Queen Elizabeth I deals a final blow to the world's most secret literary partnership.
In writing the book burning scene, I knew that believers in the Stratfordian myth of the Shakespeare authorship would like to see all research indicating other possible authors tossed into a roaring fire. Too late for that! Research into Shakespeare's literary style and biographical connections to his work have been ongoing for generations, pouring cold water on the closed-minded. Still, nothing beats the well told story of Will Shaxper and his distant cousin, the noble Earl of Oxford, as they forge the world's most mysterious literary partnership at a time when conspirarcy, book burnings and censorship are part of Elizabethan life.
When I learned from my research that Lord Oxford's Men was an active troupe of players while Will Shaxper was still a teenager, a chapter emerged where Will's father, disgraced Stratford alderman John Shaxper, turned to drinking to hide his humilation. Young Will saw that the London playhouses were a business opportunity in the then-new Elizabethan mass media. He recognized that this was the life for him - as a businessman, not a writer. When Will died, he left no books and his family was illiterate, and yet he owned stock in the Globe Theater and left rings to his business partners. Apparently, it was all strictly businss.
Writing an historical novel is like solving a complex jigsaw puzzle. You must turn over all the pieces to see what you have, and decide how they fit together to form the finished product. When you know your characters extremely well, it will seem as if their thoughts and actions assemble the puzzle for you! Today's brief excerpt gives an insight into Lord Oxford's mind as he carries the burden of a bizarre family secret that emerges between the lines in Shake-Speare's "Hamlet."
Researching and writing my award-winning novel about the Shake-Speare authorship took 20 years. I read hundreds of biographical sources about Edward de Vere (the 17th Earl of Oxford), Will Shaxper of Stratford, Ben Jonson, Queen Elizabeth I, Lord Burghley and the nature of their interactions so that I could breathe new life into them and engage today's modern readers. Lots of interesting scenes were left on the cutting room floor. The result is an Elizabethan page turner with a fast paced, gripping plot. And judging from the reviews, of "Shakespeare's Changeling" my efforts were enormously successful!
Extensive research was required to delve into the lives of literary Lord Oxford (Shake-Speare), Queen Elizabeth I, Will Shaxper, Ben Jonson and others. Because they were real people, I owed them honest portrayals based on the variety of historic sources I read that documented their thoughts and actions. By stepping back and allowing the characters to speak and interact, events took the shape of an exciting page-turner. The characters became so real to me, I felt as if I could meet them on the street! As I contemplate the sequel, the characters have returned, and they've brought along their friends...and a few enemies, too.
The action in "Hamlet" unfolds on Christmas Eve as seen in the play's opening lines. If anyone ever lived in a dramatically dysfunctional family, it was Hamlet! His own mother stood by his father's murder and married the killer. Denmark's chief advisor and the entire court knew about the affair and covered it up all along. Ophelia cowered under the grasp of her abusive father for years, and he suddenly forces her to betray Hamlet's trust. So much of "Hamlet" unfolds in the real life story of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, who many of us believe was Shake-Speare. Read my novel and see the strange relationships stand and unfold themselves.
The controversy continues to this day, even in award winning historical fiction - attacks from the orthodox infrastructure aimed at those who would know more about Shake-Speare, as the name was originally published. The late Charlton Ogburn proposed a family connection between the 17th Earl of Oxford and Shaxper's Ardens of Wilmcote through Oxford's grandmother. This would have contributed to the most secret and unbreakable collaboration of two kinsmen in pulling off the greatest literary conspiracy and cover-up of all time. But it's only one of many such secrets.
First, learn all about the time period and the setting of your historical novel and walk around in it. Then ask yourself whether Human Nature has changed with Time, or whether Time has changed Human Nature. Be bold enough to go against type and challenge reader assumptions. Feel the physical action of your story as if you are performing it on stage. Understand the opposing points of view of your characters to build conflct and move the storyline forward. Create empathy with your characters, and turn up the heat on them as the stakes rise. Finally, step back and let your characters interact, and you will find they have written your story for you!
Families go to great lengths to hide scandalous behavior. Lord Burghley, Queen Elizabeth's chief advisor, must have been fooling himself to think that by marrying his daughter to Lord Oxford, his outspoken royal ward, the young man would adopt some sense of decorum. But Oxford wouldn't be silenced. He was known in his time as a playwright, but his noble name could not be directly connected with a base pursuit like the playhouses. Family pride is only one reason Oxford was forced to write under the pen name Shake-Speare. Lord Burghley was a serious politician who had no taste for scandal.
Look at the First Folio of 1623 in its original or facsimile form. Note the cartoonish face of the author, the bizarre dedicatory poem by Ben Jonson, the unabashed sales pitch of Hemminge and Condell, the out-of-order page numbersing and gaps where an author's name is listed. This is NOT representative of the fine work of Elizabethan book publishers, who took great pride in their work. In books of the time, author engravings were always respectfully drawn, and books did not emerge in such a slapdsh fashion with so many peculiarities. But there's good reason for this, and you can read about it in my award winning novel.
Queen Elizabeth I enjoyed a number of love affairs with her courtiers even into her later years, and her lovers usually found career advancement in her bed. Lord Oxford was no exception. He had been her favorite in the 1570s when he was in his 20s, until he, like many others, was set aside. What would you do, if your true loves were writing and acting, and you could receive tacet permission to use a pen name and present plays in public while the Queen deliberately looked the other way?
William Byrd (1540-1623), was organist of the Chapel Royal in 1572 for Queen Elizabeth I. He is known as one of the greatest composers of the English Renaissance. Byrd composed "The Earl of Oxford's March." My favorite version is on a Dorian recording called "Shakespeare's Music", which features a lively, string interpretation. Other versions can be found on youtube. Documents at the time show that Lord Oxford was known as a musiciian, poet, scholar and author in his day.
To write "Shakespeare's Changeling", I researched each of the historical characters and walked around in their shoes, making connections between their personalities and the actual historical events they devised. The absolute power of monarchs and dictators to spin facts in their favor or make them disappear entirely is breathtakingly shocking! This is especially true even in the conspiracy to hide the real identity of Shakespeare for political, social and religious reasons. As cover-ups happen today, so they happened during Queen Elizabeth I's lifetime, death and the reign of King James I. Political skullduggery prevails.
Historians have recorded that Queen Elizabeth I met death standing up. Strapped to her bed, she sucked her fingers and roamed in and out of awareness. Only Sir Robert Cecil waited beside her, lest in her confusion she proclaimed her secret son as her successor. There should be no witnesses to that shocking secret revelation, since a man no less than Shake-Speare was involved! Bolstered by Queen's feverish murmurings that "no rascal would sit upon the throne," Cecil could justify his desire that King James of Scotland would rule, and there would be no witnesses to contradict him.
Shaxper died celebrating his April 23 birthday. Legend says that Ben Jonson and Michael Drayton got him drunk in a constant hail of celebratory birthday toasts. Well, why not? In his drunken stupor, Shaxper overheard his comrades talking about the desecration of Lord Oxford's grave, suspecting it had happened because he had been identified as Shake-Speare. To prevent further desecration, Oxford's remains were quietly moved and interred under the floor of the De Vere tomb in Westminster Abbey marked only by the words "A Body Lies Here." Shaxper awoke in a panic, and penned the infamous curse that protects his grave to this day.
How would the world be different if Queen Elizabeth I of England had given birth to a son? After all, she had many lovers, each one working to seize her throne by marriage. Upon her death, her secret son would have become king. But that son, who had no idea of his royal birth, led a rebellion against his own mother with his friend, the Earl of Essex, her lover. The throne he could have had by right was lost by his ignorance and arrogance. But who was the father of this secret son, and why did his last will and testament vanish from history, when wills of noblemen were matters of legal record? How were Lord Oxford and the Earl of Southampton involved with Shakespeare?
When I wrote this novel, I read and studied - in depth! - the lives of Lord Oxford, Will Shaxper, Queen Elizabeth I, Lord Burghley, Sir Robert Cecil and many others. These were real people who interacted with each other in enduring political and personal scandals, clandestine love affairs, family secrets, religious wars, the martyrdom of writers, and more. The many layers of secrecy cloaking the Shakespeare authorship unfolds as a mystery that many traditional "scholars" have yet to explore.
Characterization plays an important role in writing an award winning historical novel. An author must carefully research the person she writing about, and remain faithful to what was actually known about him or her. She must remember that historical settings may change with time, but human nature in terms of honesty or deceipt, good or evil, love or hate, has basically remained unchanged. Historical characters interact against the backdrop of their times as real human beings would act today.
"The Famous Victories of Henry V" is an Elizabethan play written by an anonymous author. In 1584, Lord Oxford's Men, a troupe of players, traveled to Stratford and presented the play in Will Shaxper's hometown. Shaxper had seen it on a trip to London and had been impressed with how well audiences had been informed and entertained in this new form of mass communication - the Elizabethan playhouse! Bursting at the seams to advance himself, when he learns of the connection between his Arden side of the family and the Earls of Oxford, he begins his climb to the top by posing as the playwright to protect his noble kinsman's authorship.
Here are a few reasons why court poet Lord Oxford, born among the Elizabethan rich and famous, was forced to write under a pseudonym. He was recognized in his time as the best writer of comedies and interludes, but public talk of such work was forbidden. Beyond being the patron of a cry of players, writing for the playhouses was deemed debasing of his rank. He scandalized real, recognizable people he knew as characters in his plays, and many of the plots were based on actual events of his life. And there's more. As for his pseudonym, he was a four time jousting tournament champion of whom it was said at the time that "his countenance shakes spears."
On writing dialogue for historical characters, George Bernard Shaw once said that he preferred not to write what he thought the characters had said, but rather, what he thought they would have said if they had known what they were really doing. Retrospect and the judgment of history conspire to allow us to speculate on a character's thoughts, emotions and deeds. A writer builds well-constructed scenes that show characters involved in the roles they played as history unfolded. As you read this novel, step into the shoes of Lord Oxford, William Shaxper, Queen Elizabeth I, Ben Jonson and others so that you can imagine how you would have performed had you been that person.
Whole careers are based on the fanciful notion that the world's greatest English plays were written by a man from Stratford who simply listened to the stories of others, wrote them down and made them immortal. There's no evidence he ever attended his local school, and no evidence of any childhood literary practice on his part. "Scholars" claim that Will Shaxper was Shake-Speare, and yet he owned no books when he died. Did this literary genius spring full grown from the head of Ovid, or was he a changeling cloaking the identity of the real author?
Lord Oxford was a known writer in his time ("if his doings could be made public") who wrote under the pen name Shake-Speare. Will Shaxper of Stratford was his distant cousin, 14 years younger, who longed to escape the dust of his home town and work in London's newest form of mass media - the playhouses. So Will became a relentless promoter when the playwagons of Lord Oxford's Men rolled into town to perform "The Famous Victories Of Henry V."
With Lord Oxford murdered, Will Shaxper naively prepared to announce the truth about his role as scribe in the Shakespeare authorship. But when cannon fire accidentally burned the Globe Theater to the ground during a performance of "All Is True", he narrowly escaped his own death. Did the truth lie buried in the ashes of the theater, and was a larger government conspiracy afoot?
On Midsummer Night, June 24, 1604, Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, secretly known as Shake-Speare, was murdered, That's the story I tell in my novel, based on a series of actual events. What do you think of the fact that Oxford's second wife stipulated that upon her death, she wished to be buried beside her husband in the church yard at Hackney? But Percival Golding, Oxford's cousin, stated that Oxford was buried in Westminster Abbey. Which is it? Is it one of the unmarked graves under the floor in the De Vere family tomb in the Abbey? Was Shake-speare's death politically movitaved?
During his days as Lord Oxford's scribe, Will Shaxper had watched Countess Elizabeth from afar and had fallen in love with her. But alas, she was his master's wife, a lady far above his station and it was unspeakable, even with his new found wealth. He had never told her the truth about the fateful night of her husband's murder - would he do so now that she had summoned him to her bedside?
That is the question! There's no evidence that Will Shaxper of Stratford ever attended school - that's pure mythology. But we do know that his wife and children could not read, and that he left no books (valuable items!) in his will. Honestly, now - what kind of a writer does that? Most likely, Shaxper was front man for his cousin, Edward DeVere, 17th Earl of Oxford - a poet, courtier, playhouse owner, theatrical company owner, soldier, scholar, writer of court masques, musician and favorite of Queen Elizabeth I - all of this known in his time. So, what do you think? Should we live with the mythology of Shaxper, or finally recognize the truth about the Shake-speare authorship?
"Shakespeare's Changeling" is a title with many meanings. The ongoing mystery of the authorship is 400 years old. Layers of secrecy, including those imposed by the "Virgin Queen" and her advisor Lord Burghley (Lord Oxford's father-in-law) have twisted like thorny vines around Shake-speare's true identity. One thorny vine is the secret of the royal heir, the changeling boy whose very existence threatens the throne of King James I.
Pinch is one of only two fictional characters in my novel - a convenient device for presenting the true story of the 16th Earl of Oxford's in-house company of players. Fact: Edward, 17th Earl of Oxford, grew up among those players. He is known to have written and performed court masques for Queen Elizabeth I, and also served as the patron of several acting companies. Where was Shaxper at the time? He was a youth, selling grain in Stratford! But when the Elizabethan playhouses became mass media outlets, he went to London to serve as front man for his cousin Oxford, who wrote under the pen name Shake-Speare. But first, he had to learn all he could about him . . .
Does this strange epitaph explain why the mortal remains of "Shakespeare" have never been buried in Westminster Abbey at Poet's Corner, where so many of England's famous authors rest? Or is the noble "Shakespeare" buried in an unmarked grave under the floor in the DeVere tomb to prevent desecration of his remains? Read the award-winning novel that exhumes the truth about the world's most enduring literary masquerade.
Not long ago, books banned in Boston sold extremely well. There was always something "they" didn't want you to know. My novel dares to fly in the face of orthodox Stratfordian "scholars" who want to deal a death blow to the real Shake-Speare because their PhDs depend on it. You don't need a PhD to know that a great writer wrote the famous plays, and that he would have needed the education, time, motive and opportunity to do so. Call me an elitist (they do!) but education matters, especially to the very PhDs who accuse Oxfordians of being elitists! There's more truth in my award-winning novel than in the myth of Shaxper of Stratford. Read my book. Learn something. And be entertained.
Ben Jonson and his Elizabethan literary cronies had nothing nice to say about Shaxper, the front man who delivered Shake-Speare plays to the Stationer's Register. No one in Stratford - not even Shaxper's son-in-law Dr. Hall - ever acknowledged the grain merchant's authorship, and yet he played a crucial role as the True Author's very silent and inscrutable partner. It was risky business back then, being a writer in Elizabethan England, even for the rich and famous.
Traditional Shakespearean "scholars" would like you to believe that the man from Stratford was a playwright, but in my novel, he's a very creative businessman glomming onto the new technology - theater - the Elizabethan form of mass communication. "The Famous Victories iof Henry V" really was performed in Stratford by Lord Oxford's Men in 1584 and predated Shakespeare's "Henry V". How could this be!? Find out what the orthdodox Stratfordians don't want you to know about the real Shakespeare!
April 12 is the birthday of Edward DeVere, 17th Earl of Oxford (1550-1604). He was recognized in books of his day as a writer, scholar, poet and maker of court masques. His pen name, Shake-Speare, first appeared with a hyphen, and there is extensive literary evidence to support his authorship of the Shakespeare canon than there is for Will Shaxper of Stratford. Want to know more? Read my award winning novel!
In his Last Will, Shaxper of Stratford left his second best bed to his wife. But where were his books? If he really was "Shake-Speare", why did he leave no books to anyone - or even mention any - in his Last Will? He disowned his daughter Judith with the stroke of a pen - perhaps that was the unkindest cut of all. The rings left to Hemminge and Condell were gifts from a fellow businessman and shareholder in The Globe, not keepsakes bequeathed by a famous playwright. The Last Will of Will Shaxper raises more questions than it answers. Still. Even to this day.
How can deception lead to an honorable future? It's easy, if you're Will Shaxper of Stratford and your noble kinsman, Lord Oxford, hires you to pose as the playwright Shake-speare to cover his work as a propagandist. After all, it wouldn't do for the history plays to be seen as the work of an illustrious literary nobleman. This is merely one layer of the authorship deception that has lasted for over 400 years. There are others! Read about them in my award winning historical novel.
During his lifetime, Edward DeVere, 17th Earl of Oxford, was recognized in several books of his day as a scholar, poet and maker of court masques. But no one in Stratford, not even his own physician son-in-law, knew William Shaxper as a writer of anything except grain receipts. A distant but loyal kinship helped them perpetrate the stunning authorship mystery that has endured for more than 400 years. Read how they did it!
Why are the pages numbered wrong in Shakespeare's original First Folio? Why is Ben Jonson's dedicatory poem part insult, part honor? Why is a cartoon image used to represent the author? The fact is that Renaissance publishers cared about quality. They numbered pages correctly. They proofread and used good engravings to honor their authors. Then why so many seeming blunders in the First Folio? Answers to these and other questions about the authorship unfold in my Chaucer award-winning novel, "Shakespeare's Changeling." Be informed and entertained! Read it.
Legend has it that Ben Jonson and Michael Drayton got Will Shaxper drunk on his birthday - and inadvertantly killed him! Jonson's ulterior motive was to locate the missing Shake-Speare manuscripts, but he acted against the medical advice of Shaxper's physician and son-in-law, Dr. John Hall. The doctor never once mentioned his "famous" author/father-in-law in his diaries, but he did write about Drayton as the most famous celebrity client he had. I lived with all of these characters for several years while I wrote my novel. Each one emerged independently and revealed the best and worst of human nature.
After Shakespeare's First Folio was published, the original handwritten manuscripts disappeared. Perhaps they were simply discarded. Perhaps they were consumed by the fire that ravaged Ben Jonson's home a month before publication. Jonson had edited the First Folio at the behest of his patrons, and implied in his published tribute that the true author bore no connection whatsoever to the cartoon image that has since become a literary company logo.
When Will Shaxper of Stratford died in 1616, his son-in-law Dr. Hall made no mention of his being a writer. Shaxper owned no books, which for a writer in any age is unheard of. He was remembered among his Stratford neighbors as a grain merchant, never as a writer who made his fortune in London.
King James I discovered that the Virgin Queen had a secret son who would have been heir to her throne - but if her son was unaware of his true identity, he could never claim it. The secret changeling was revealed in "Shake-speare's" last will, and King James was compelled to destroy it. Sad. If only Lord Oxford, that playwright "Shake-speare", hadn't been so hellbent on revenge against his royal paramour.
With Lord Oxford dead, Shaxper's livelihood vanished. There would be no more Shakespeare plays...unless he gathered up the dead man's unfinished manuscripts and passed them off as his own.
"Richard II", with the king's deposition scene added in, was presented at the Globe to incite the Essex Rebellion and eject aging Queen Elizabeth I from the throne. While the rebellion failed, Southampton and Essex were imprisoned in the Tower for leading it. Shaxper went into hiding because of the incendiary play, but he was just an impostor. Where was the real author?
As a novelist, I enjoyed writing a non-existent headsman into a draft of Shakespeare's "Henry VIII" for this chapter because there is no such character in the play! But for social climbing Shaxper of Stratford, such a part would have been a terrific opportunity. Having fooled Shakespearean "scholars" for the past several centuries and to this very day, Shaxper cannot escape his notoriety as an impostor forever.
Prime source Elizabethan literary history reflects that Ben Jonson and other writers and critics knew that Will Shaxper of Stratford wasn't a poet or a playwright. At the time of his death, no one in Stratford, not even his own son-in-law Dr. Hall, eulogized the "hometown boy made good." As the true poet/playwright's front man, Shaxper hated being ridiculed. It was time to fight back.
The works of Shake-Speare did not develop in isolation. The real author was well educated, fluent in 5 langugaes and lived among the politically well connected. Taking advantage of his family's distant connection to the DeVere earls of Oxford and seeking advancement for himself, Shaxper of Stratford decides to learn as much about his noble kinsman's connection to the Elizabethan playhouses as possible. After all, it's the best way for him to rise in the world.
Political dirty tricks happen everyday. They also happened in Elizabethan England. Sir William Cecil nullified his royal ward's arranged match so that he could marry his daughter Anne to a highly lineaged earl. Cecil was elevated to the title of Lord Burghley to equate his rank to his new son-in-law, Edward De Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, who had a dark secret. He was a writer of note in his time, and therefore a dangerous man, meant to be silenced. But the truth will out, unless you have a damned good stand-in.
Sir Robert Cecil effectively chose the successor to Queen Elizabeth I, being the only one in the room when she mumbled her final request. The 14 other possible successors to the throne never stood a chance - even her secret son never knew the true nature of his parentage.
Sending away all witnesses to the Virgin Queen's death made things simple for Robert Cecil. He officially reported that she had whispered the name of James I as her successor. But was he telling the truth? What royal secret did Shakespeare know, and who was he protecting by maintaining his silence? Ah, yes. Such is the stuff historical fiction is made on.
I based my novel on many historical facts. Among these is that there is no concrete evidence that Will Shaxper of Stratford ever created the plays attributed to him as Shakespeare. But Lord Oxford's Men, the literary earl's renowned company of players, actually visited Stratford. A keen businessman, Shaxper recognized England's biggest opportunity when he saw it! Eager to leave his hardscrabble life behind, he left his family and moved to London, working his way into the theater business - with a little help from his distant kinsman, the theatrical impresario, Lord Oxford.
There is no safety in being a writer in Elizabethan England. Speaking the truth to power often proves deadly. While multiple layers of royal deception protect the Earl of Oxford and his Shake-speare pseudonym, on what protection can his frontman, Will Shaxper, depend?
Pinch was jester to the 16th Lord Oxford, an Elizabethan nobleman whose son Edward was drawn to the resident company of actors his father maintained at Hedingham Castle. Having befallen hard times, Pinch has some choice secrets to reveal about young Oxford's penchant for acting and playwriting.
Ben Jonson never did like William Shaxper of Stratford; the way the opportunist had posed as a playwright for so long, he had actually come to believe it! But maybe, as a 10% shareholder in The Globe, the old scribe might just know where to find the missing Shake-speare plays. Rumors of his approaching death had not been exaggerated, though. Would Jonson solve the mystery in time to compile the commemorative First Folio his noble patrons longed to publish?
Censorship began at home where Lord Burghley was concerned. His son-in-law Lord Oxford was a scholarly firebrand too volatile to remain silent in the wake of insult and perjury. When Burghley's daughter Anne, suffering from an incurable madness, accuses her father of incest, her husband Oxford threatens to reveal the truth in a play called "Hamlet."
Being an impostor yields Will Shaxper more than he bargained for when he poses as his famous literary cousin. Has he been cozened by Lord Oxford, the playwright using the pen name Shake-speare, whose clandestine identity is now being revealed in published books of the day? Even the Queen's favorite isn't immune from the final censorship of the noose or the ax.
Publisher Richard Field knew his boyhood friend William Shaxper of Stratford hadn't written the lascivious poem "Venus and Adonis", and he questioned him about it, just as some scholars today still question its authorship.
You are a writer with something to hide, and no royal edict will protect you. A new king sits on the throne who will not show you the same love the late lamented Queen bestowed on her favorite courtier playwright. Now your literary master is dead, and so is your career. As his front man, you've purloined his papers and have returned home to hide them, hoping to cash in on them one day and claim them as your own. After all, you posed as the famous playwright for so long, everyone believed that you were. And you were so convincing, you even began to believe it yourself.
My distant kinsman was Rod Serling, creator of "The Twilight Zone", although sadly, we never had the chance to meet. Shaxper, however, uses his distant family connection after his mother reveals that she is related through the Ardens of Wilmcote to Lord Oxford's grandmother, Elizabeth Trussel. This binds the two men in a dangerous conspiracy so effective, it has cloaked the true authorship for more than 400 years. Cousin Serling wrote a satire about television writing called "The Bard" in which Shakespeare is conjured from the dead to help a 1960s hack writer impress and sell his tasteless scripts to the sponsors.
...or so thinks the Earl of Essex in 1601. Along with his friend Southampton and the famous playwright's front man, Shaxper of Stratford, "Richard II" is performed, touching off the Essex Rebellion and infuriating the Queen, who orders the arrest of all conspirators, including the players. Shaxper runs for his life. Ironically, all Southampton had to do was wait to be king, unaware about the secret of his royal parentage and the real Shake-speare's role in it.
Will Shaxper is pursued through the fogbound streets of London by a hired assassin. Why is posing as a writer in Elizabethan England so hazardous to one's health?
Anne Boleyn was executed by King Henry VIII, thus depriving his then 3 year old daughter Elizabeth of her mother. How did this tragic event drive Elizabeth's life before and after she became queen? Is a woman's physical appearance key to her power, or have times changed? Both Queen Elizabeth I and Edward de Vere, the man who wrote under the Shake-speare pseudonym, had been children bereft of their mothers. Hence the dark mother/son relationship portrayed by Shakespeare in "Hamlet." It's astonishingly biographical.
Was Queen Elizabeth I forced to play "the woman card" while surrounded by enemies who posed as her friends?
Shakespeare's skull is missing! So reports the BBC after a recent scan of his grave at Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon. Was Shaxper's corpse desecrated by excessive bard worshippers-turned-grave-robbers? In this excerpt, as he lies on his deathbed, that's exactly what William Shaxper is terrified of.
Imagine that you're 12 and are convinced that your father was murdered. You are horrified when your mother hastily remarries his murderer. You're quickly packed off to London to become a royal ward. Your guardian is the Queen's chief advisor, William Cecil, who through legal means voids your dead father's match for you and instead, marries you to his own daughter so that your title and riches can be his! And after the marriage is finally consummated, you learn that she bore another man's child while you were in Italy! You cast her off as an adulteress, only to forgive her as death renders her spirit clean. These are real events in the life of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, whom many believe is Shakespeare.
Will Shaxper of Stratford died on April 23, 1616 - and yet the mythology of his authorship lives on! Most of the "facts" about his life and supposed authorship of the Shakespeare plays are historical fiction themselves. There is no proof that Shaxper ever attended his local school - no evidence of his honing his literary skills - no record of his library or ownership of books of any kind - no record of travel to Italy, or of his having met the Queen, or of his ever having gone to war. But Lord Oxford did all those things and more. Hey! Don't you have to know HOW to do something in order to be able to DO it?
While on a business trip to London, adolescent Will Shaxper evades his puritanical father and runs off to see his first play at The Curtain. "The Famous Victories of Henry V" is unlike anything he has ever seen in his small, bucolic village of Stratford.
The Earls of Pembroke and Montgomery command their servant Ben Jonson to edit Shakespeare's First Folio. But most of the plays are lost. Will Shaxper of Stratford offer his deathbed confession, or will he take his secrets to the grave?
What kind of a man steals his Master's work, only to rescue and preserve it? Read about the authorship conspiracy that has endured for over 400 years!
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