Modern-day earl says Bard faked it

April 22, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

by Joe Crocetta / staff photographer

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Charles Vere

Did he or didn't he, that is the question.

Did William Shakespeare, perhaps the world's most famous writer, pen the 37 plays that bear his name?

Or did he have a ghostwriter?

Lord Charles Vere, the Earl of Burford, says the latter is true and that the ghostwriter was one of Vere's ancestors, Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford.

Vere is touring America. He's spoken before more than 200 audiences at such places as Harvard and Yale, among other universities. He's appeared on television talk shows like William F. Buckley's "Firing Line."


Vere spoke to Peggy Russo's Shakespeare class Tuesday at the the Penn State Mont Alto campus and will speak again at 7 p.m. today at a public forum in the campus' multipurpose room.

Vere said there is no way that Shakespeare, who was born in 1550 in Stratford-on-Avon of illiterate parents, could have written the works attributed to him.

"Shakespeare's wife and children were illiterate, too," Vere said.

He said Shakespeare did not come to London, the seat of culture and learning in England in the 16th century, until he was 26.

"He arrived in London with a different dialect. He couldn't even speak the language," Vere said.

"There is no record of any early works that he had written. The first time his name was used as a dramatist was 1598," he said.

Shakespeare is credited with writing 37 plays, many of which center on the courts of England and the lives that revolved around them - nothing that an illiterate peasant whose village was a four-day ride from London could have written about, Vere said.

"It seems impossible that he can be the author," Vere said.

"He wrote nothing for the first 26 years of his life, had no apprenticeship, then suddenly shows up in London with incredible plays," Vere said.

Vere said his ancestor, on the other hand:

Graduated from Oxford and Cambridge universities.

Was a noted writer of his time.

Had intimate knowledge of the issues of state.

Was a court poet.

Was publicly lauded by Queen Elizabeth I.

Was well-versed in languages, including Italian literature of the day that was alluded to in some of the plays.

Edward de Vere's own character and career mirror those of Hamlet, the most autobiographical character in any of Shakespeare's plays, Vere said.

Vere was brought to Penn State by David H. Goldenberg, chief executive officer of the campus. Goldenberg met Vere when they were students at Oxford.

"He's researched this better than anyone I know," Goldenberg said.

"It's a question that has been around for more than 100 years. Now he's bringing his case to the United States hoping to change some attitudes," Goldenberg said.

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