Burghley had seen Lord Oxford raise dead kings in the playhouses along the Thames, sending shivers of awe from the nobles to the ground-lings. But until that very moment, he had never imagined that Oxford’s theatrical bent could prove politically advantageous. The Queen needed her subjects’ support and Parliament had to act quickly to levy higher taxes and call men to arms. Perhaps the nation’s historical struggles against her enemies, set on stage in the context of Good versus Evil, would stir his countrymen.
Not since Virgil had written the Aeneid to promote ancient Rome’s military agenda had anyone used propaganda on such a scale. Only Lord Oxford was capable of forging his words into a battle cry that would arouse the masses to defend their nation at all costs.
But beyond the erratic side of Oxford’s nature was the problem of his authorship. If the commoners discovered (or even suspected) that they were being manipulated by a member of the aristocracy, Burghley feared they would turn against the Queen and destroy England from within.
The public playhouses were becoming increasingly popular. This meant that Lord Oxford would need a pen name to perform his service to the state. He would also need a front man to stand in for him. The commoners would be pleased that the compelling new playwright had spontaneously sprung up from among their numbers. The impostor himself would have to be modest and responsible, a relative stranger to London’s social sphere, and perhaps a graduate of one of the new country schools, someone who could deliver the plays to the censor and to the playhouses without raising suspicion.
Burghley pondered how to pay for this undertaking, having seen Lord Oxford spend large sums of his own income producing plays for the Queen. He decided that a stipend of one thousand pounds a year would underwrite expenses, and that it must be kept completely off the record as far as the Exchequer was concerned. More writers, scribes and actors could be employed to expedite the propaganda plays and all would be managed by the impostor under the masterful literary guidance of Lord Oxford.
Grinning with satisfaction, Lord Burghley gathered up his papers, meticulously checking to see that none lay about for curious eyes. He placed the journals in the vault behind the tapestry. He blew out the candles and went to his bedchamber.
He would present his plan to the Queen in the morning.
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