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William Shakeshafte and the 1581 Will of Alexander Hoghton

 An enduring challenge for the many creative and imaginatively inspired biographers of William of Stratford is to account for the yawning gaps in his life and times, often referred to as “The Lost Years”. One of the most conspicuous of these gaps occurs between the years 1577 and 1582 after it is conjectured he would have left the Stratford Grammar School and before he married Anne Hathaway. Modern scholars have suggested that a clue to William’s whereabouts during this time can be found in the 1581 will of Catholic nobleman Sir Alexander Hoghton. The will names two trustees, eleven annuitants headed by the two names of William Shakeshafte and Fulke Gyllom, in addition to the names of nineteen other servants. Critics have conjectured that William Shakeshafte may be none other than William Shakespeare himself, due to a long-standing story that he was once a schoolmaster in the country and proven links between the Hoghton and Shakespeare families. It was common practice in Elizabethan times for the same surname to be spelt in a number of ways, Shakespeare variants from the times including Shakspere, Shaxherd, Shakstaff and Shakesmore. (Honigmann p. 84)

Legal experts, adopting standard interpretations of wills of the time, agree that the first two named annuitants, Shakeshafte and Gyllom were most likely the oldest, perhaps aged in their thirties or forties, or the longest-serving annuitants. If this was the case it is unlikely that William of Stratford at age seventeen years can be identified as the Shakeshafte mentioned in the will. Alexander Hoghton also bequeathed his musical instruments and “all manner of play clothes” to his brother Thomas on the proviso that:

if he will not keep and maintain players, then it is my mind and will
that Sir Thomas Hesketh knight [of Rufford] shall have the same
instruments and play clothes. And I most heartily require the said
Sir Thomas to be friendly unto Fulk Gillom and William Shakeshafte
now dwelling with me and either to take them unto his service or
else to help them to some good master. (Honigmann, p. 85)

Scholars such as Hildegard Hammelschmidt-Hummel and Carol Curt Enos have written about the recusant practice of describing Catholic priests and their vestments as players/actors and their play clothes, and musical instruments as possibly referring to the accoutrements used during Mass and other church rituals. In the Shakespeare Encyclopedia Enos notes that “the will appears to be a way of framing the activities and livelihood of priests who were of course in constant danger of being apprehended and put to death” (p.201). The Jesuits of the 1580-81 mission quite often used aliases, each choosing a number of similar sounding surnames belonging to relatives and/or Catholic friends and actors, the Gillom and Gyllom of the will being a possible example of this practice.

If we accept the theories that the eleven annuitants were Catholic missionary priests and that the two senior legatees were of mature age, the logical deduction is that Shakeshafte and Gyllom would have been the aliases of the two senior priests of the Catholic mission, i.e. Edmund Campion and Robert Persons. Therefore, William Shakeshafte could quite possibly have been an alias used by Campion and the variant Shakespeare chosen as his nom de plume.

It could be argued that the dating of the will in August a month after Campion’s capture refutes this interpretation. However Elizabethan wills were often drawn up earlier and postdated and it is possible that Hoghton had not given up hope that Campion might escape or be acquitted and be in need of financial or other material assistance.


Ben Jonson ’s “Smalle Latin and Lesse Greek”

 Ben Jonson ’s eulogy to Shakespeare in the First Folio has long puzzled critics with its ambiguous and contradictory praise of the great author. Two lines which seem particularly cryptic throw doubt on the assumption that Shakespeare must have had considerable classical knowledge.

And though thou hadst small Latin and less Greek,
From thence to honour thee I would not seek...

 If we assume William of Stratford’s education was limited to the Grammar School curriculum it is understandable that his grasp of the classics was somewhat limited. Most commentators, however, argue that Shakespeare must have been a very accomplished classical scholar to be able to read various source books of his plays only available in the original languages, and adapt these sources for his own specific literary requirements.

If Edmund Campion was Shakespeare, Jonson’s lines may be read as an ironic commentary on the ridiculous charges made by the crown after the conferences in the Tower. Apparently certain of the crown’s prosecutors, men by the surnames of Nowell, Humphrey and Day, all stated that Campion could not read Greek, when all who knew him at Oxford, or were aware of his reputation as a scholar, would have realized such a statement was ludicrous. (Kilroy p. 116)


Shakespeare’s Irish References

 Although there is no evidence that William of Stratford ever travelled to Ireland he seems to allude with some familiarity to that country in lines in a number of his plays. Peter Milward (1976, p.44) notes that traces of Campion’s literary influence are to be found in Henry VIII and Hamlet and attributes this phenomenon to Shakespeare’s knowledge of Campion’s History of Ireland as it was incorporated into Holinshed’s Chronicles.

This could quite well be the case but there is one line in Shakespeare’s work (As You Like It 5.2.120) which is so intimate that it seems it could only be written by someone personally acquainted with the Emerald Isle i.e.

‘ T is like the howling of Irish wolves against the moon.

Edmund Campion lived and travelled in Ireland for a period of approximately two years. His hopes of helping to establish Trinity College were thwarted but he did manage to write his History of Ireland in a period of six weeks at the end of his stay.


The 1566 Oxford Play: Palamon and Arcite or The Two Noble Kinsmen?

 The Two Noble Kinsmen (TNK) which is not included in the First Folio is one of the more controversial and puzzling of the plays which have been attributed to Shakespeare. In fact it is widely agreed that only the first and fifth acts were penned by Shakespeare, and the subplot and majority of the play was composed by John Fletcher. This would explain the omission of the play from the Folio and the placement of Fletcher’s name above Shakespeare’s on the title page of a 1634 edition of the play. Scholars suspect the play must have been Shakespeare’s final dramatic effort because a morris dance in the Fletcher section was copied directly from a masque by Francis Beaumont acted before King James in 1613. The inferior quality of TNK when compared to what are considered Shakespeare’s masterpieces and earlier works still puzzles many critics, including Harold Bloom who sees in this final play an abandonment by Shakespeare of his art. The puzzle is solved, however, if it can be proved that The Two Noble Kinsmen is one of the great playwrights earliest attempts at drama and not a collaborative effort at all.

In her article titled Palamon and Arcite, Katherine Chiljan outlines an intriguing solution to the puzzle. She lists three plays which were produced during the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods based on Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale (p.1). These were the play described above attributed to Shakespeare and Fletcher- The Two Noble Kinsmen- printed

in1634, a play by the name Palamon and Arcite performed four times at the Rose Theatre in 1594, and an earlier play by the name of Palamon and Arcite which was performed at Oxford University in 1566 during the famous visit by Queen Elizabeth. Chiljan suggests that all three plays were in fact one and the same. If this is indeed the case it would exclude William of Stratford, born in 1564, from the authorship. Chiljan cites a line in the Shakespeare/Fletcher play by Palamon as evidence of the connection between the 1566 play and The Two Noble Kinsmen (5.4.44)

Can that be,
When Venus, I have said, is false?

Strangely if one studies the rest of the play there are no lines which could be construed as Palamon accusing the Goddess of falsity but there is contemporary evidence that he did in the 1566 version. A spectator at the Oxford revels describes how Palamon, “having failed of every hope...casts reproaches upon Venus, saying that he had served her from infancy and that now she had neither desire nor power to help him.” (ibid. p.2) The absence of this detail in the later play and subsequent lack of continuity suggests that perhaps Fletcher’s section replaced a middle section originally written by Shakespeare which had been lost or censored. Chiljan has found echoes of another speech by Palamon in a 1606 publication by Barnaby Barnes, which therefore dates TNK prior to the generally accepted date circa 1613, and posits whether it was the one performed at the Rose in 1594.

Another interesting link between the 1566 play and TNK can be identified in the following lines from the latter’s prologue:

If this play do not keep
A little dull time from us, we perceive
Our losses fall so thick, we must
Needs leave.

 What were these losses alluded to in the play’s prologue and therefore probably assumed by the writer and company to be familiar to the audience? No suggestions have been offered for performances of TNK but one can be put forward for the 1566 performance at Oxford. As the audience crowded into Christ Church Hall to watch the play performed for the Queen a staircase collapsed and three people were killed and many others injured. Our spectator quoted above, John Bereblock of Exeter College, describes the event: This untoward happening, although touching everyone with

sadness, could by no means destroy the enjoyment of the occasion.
Accordingly, taught by the misfortune of the others to be more
careful, all turn again to the play. (Chiljan, p.3)

Master Richard Edwards is traditionally considered the author of the 1566 play but a number of interesting details throw doubt on this attribution. Edward’s previous play titled Damon and Pithias shared similar thematic concerns with the friendship between two young men from Ancient Greece but was considered by spectators to be considerably inferior to Palamon and Arcite. Accepting this was the case scholars are mystified as to why there is evidence of a revival performance of the less worthy play in 1568 and why editions were later printed in 1571 and 1582 but no printed edition of the superior play survives. The evidence in the prologue points to Palamon and Arcite being a new play:

New plays and Maidenheads are near akin

Edward’s biographer Leicester Bradner wonders how his subject could have found the time to pen a new drama when he was so busy organizing the entertainment for the Queen’s visit in the months leading up to the event. The above quote could imply it was the dramatist’s first effort but Edwards had already been writing plays for at least five years.

A quote from the prologue of TNK defies the conclusion that the play was a collaborative effort. These lines muse on Chaucer’s reaction if the play is poorly received:

Chaucer of all admired.....
And make him cry from underground, Oh fan me
From the witless chaff of such a writer
That blasts my bays....

It appears there was a single writer of the play which is supported by a later observation by Leonard Digges in 1640 that all Shakespeare “doth write is pure his own”. (ibid., p.1)

The only explanation that ties all these pieces together is Chiljan’s conclusion that the play Palamon and Arcite performed at Oxford in 1566 was one and the same with Shakespeare’s The Two Noble Kinsman. William of Stratford aged two years in 1566 could not have been the author. John Fletcher must also be excluded from the authorship though it is likely he filled out the middle section of TNK with a noticeably inferior subplot some time during the early 1600’s.

Who was the single dramatist who penned one of Shakespeare’s earliest plays in 1566?

Could it have been the 26 year old Oxford scholar Edmund Campion lauded at the time as one of the university’s leading writers and orators. In addition to speaking and debating in front of the Queen did Campion also compose the play that was to be the main event and showcase of her visit?

Echo of Campion’s Trial Speech in The Winter’s Tale

 Peter Milward states that it has been conjectured that the character Hermione echoes part of Campion’s defense speech in the following words in The Winter’s Tale:

Since what I am to say must be but that
Which contradicts my accusation and
The testimony on my part no other
But what comes from myself, it shall scarce boot me
To say ‘Not guilty’. (4.3..2)

It could well be that William of Stratford had read the transcripts of the trial and adapted Campion’s words for his play. It could also be the case that Campion penned the words first in his play and later adapted them as relevant to his own personal situation at the trial.


Shakespeare , St Etheldreda’s and The Phoenix and the Turtle

In a pamphlet titled Shakespeare and St Etheldreda’s Ely Place Peter Bridgeman addresses “a number of links between the world’s greatest poet and an inconspicuous church hidden away behind Holborn Circus” (p.1)

St. Etheldreda or St. Audrey as she is more commonly known died of a tumour in her neck in Ely in 679 AD. The tumour was a symptom of the plague which devastated the monastic community she had established. Bridgeman notes that Etheldreda “attributed the neck tumour to divine punishment for her youthful fondness for costly necklaces”.

The following line in The Winter’s Tale (4.4.241) refers to the saint, tawdry being a corruption of St Audrey:

Come you promised me a tawdry-lace and a pair of sweet gloves

 Bridgeman identifies the reference as being to the lace necklaces which were sold at the annual St. Audrey’s fairs and were particularly popular during medieval times as a cure for illnesses of the throat and neck.

Another reference to St Etheldreda’s and the Palace , home to the London bishops of Ely, can be found in Richard III (3.4. 31-33):

My lord of Ely, when I was last in Holborn,
I saw good strawberries in your garden there.
I do beseech you send for some of them.

When Richard III was supposedly written in 1591 the See of Ely had been vacant since 1580 when Queen Elizabeth had a disagreement with the Anglican bishop Richard Cox who had refused to grant the palace to one of the Queen’s favourites, Christopher Hatton.

A nearby property, Southampton House, was owned by Campion’s friend Henry Wriothesly, the second Earl of Southampton, and was a London centre for Catholic culture. One of Southampton’s employees was Swithun Wells, tutor to the Earl’s son who was also named Henry and was to become the third Earl. Swithun Wells is one of the Catholic martyrs commemorated in the lines of statues along the interior walls of St. Etheldreda’s. Another of these martyrs, Mistress Anne Line, is thought by many to be, along with her husband, the subject of Shakespeare’s mysterious metaphysical poem The Phoenix and the Turtle.

It is my belief that the subjects of this poem who “lived in married chastity”, could quite well be St. Etheldreda herself and one of her husbands. The first husband, Tondbert, King of South Gyrwe, granted his wife the Ely estate and allowed her to live as a nun during the three years they were married. After the death of Tondbert, Etheldreda was married again to the young Egfrith who also permitted his wife to live a life of chastity and who worshipped her saintliness and assisted her in her good works. After twelve years Egfrith, now King of Northumbria, demanded his conjugal rights but Etheldreda was determined to live a celibate life, fled her home and relocated to her lands at Ely where she established a monastic community. According to the legend:

On the first day of her flight, Etheldreda was all but overtaken
by her husband. She arrived at a headland, Colbert’s Head, jutting
into the sea, and her pious intention was protected by the tide, which
at once rose to an unusual height around the rock, making the place
inaccessible to her pursuers. Egfrith resolved to wait till the ebbing
waters should leave the path open to him, but instead of going down
in a few hours, the waters remained at high tide for seven days. The
baffled pursuer then realised that a power greater than his had taken
Etheldreda, and her vow, under his protection. So he gave up the idea
of compelling her to come back to him and returned home.

Born and raised in London during the Catholic reign of Queen Mary, Edmund Campion would have been very familiar with St Etheldreda’s church, Ely Place and the story and cult of St. Etheldreda. As mentioned earlier, it is possible that Shakespeare’s epic poems were dedicated to the second Earl of Southampton not the third, and owing to the close association of the second Earl with Ely Place it is possible The Phoenix and the Turtle was also penned by Campion with the intention of dedicating it to his friend the second Earl.


 Whose Hand in Sir Thomas More?

 Ironically the chief prosecution witness at Campion’s trial, Anthony Munday has been posited as the author/one of the multiple authors of the pro-Catholic play Sir Thomas More, and his handwriting identified as one of several in a surviving manuscript copy of the play. Others believe the play is one of the Shakespeare apocrypha and that a couple of extant pages of the original play are written in the hand (Hand D) of the bard himself. It does not seem logical that Munday could be the author of a play that is so sympathetic to the eponymous Catholic hero and to John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, both of whom were executed for their refusal to recognize the spiritual supremacy of Henry VIII. However, it is possible that Munday copied the play for the Catholic movement sometime prior to 1581 when he was working as an agent provocateur amongst the English Catholics in Rome. Recusant manuscripts were kept in circulation in this manner i.e. the meticulous copying by hand of Catholic literature which was then distributed amongst the faithful.

Thomas Merriam (2005, p.2) notes how in the 1999 Revels edition of the play:

Vittorio Gabrieli has expressed admiration for the skill with which

the author(s) of Sir Thomas More utilized the play’s sources, some

of which were circulated privately among recusants in manuscript.

Several of the play’s references to this literature are matters of minute

detail. I have argued that, had he obtained them through confiscation

as Gabrieli and Melchiori surmise, Munday would not have sufficiently

immersed himself in these sources to pick up and transcribe their minutiae.

This begs the question of who could have so immersed himself in the play’s sources other than one of the Catholic recusants. Recent evidence has been mounting that the family of William of Stratford was Catholic and recusant, but would this busy actor and theatre entrepreneur have had the time and motivation to immerse himself so totally in recusant manuscripts and sufficient literary talent to transcribe their minutiae into the Sir Thomas More Play? Edmund Campion, however, would have most likely studied the manuscripts assiduously and his literary ability is unquestioned. A Jesuit play of the same name has been traced to the English College in Rome. If Campion did indeed write the play during the 1570’s, this would explain how Munday could have had access to it and been willing to copy it before he began his own aggressive anti-Catholic literary career post 1581.











A Reference to Campion in Twelfth Night and the Connection to Shakespeare’s Sonnet 121.


In Act IV Scene II of Twelfth Night the clown refers to Campion as follows:


...for as the old hermit of Prague, that never saw pen and ink,

very wittily said to a niece of King Gorboduc, ‘that that is is’;

so I, being Master parson, am Master parson; for what is ‘that’

but ‘that’ and ‘is’ but ‘is’ ?


C. Richard Desper identifies the niece of King Gorboduc as no other than Queen Elizabeth I due to her relation to her father’s brother King Arthur. The clown’s lines seem to be referring to how Campion was refused the use of pen and ink at his trial but was able to speak eloquently on the religious imperative of giving his first allegiance to God. Desper also notes the similarity of the line attributed to the hermit ‘that that is is’ to the line “I am that I am” which appears in Shakespeare’s Sonnet no. 121, a poem which Desper considers is about a good man unjustly perceived as an evil person.” The above lines also seem to refer to Campion’s fellow missionary Robert Persons and his directory The Spiritual Exercises which outlines practical ways to demonstrate one’s first allegiance to God.

Could this speech of the clown have been inserted at a later date in Campion’s play to give a cryptic clue as to the real identity of the author of Shakespeare’s dramas and sonnets? Is it acknowledging that Campion wrote the lines about his devotion to God in the sonnet in addition to speaking them at the trial in the Tower?


Sonnet 121.


‘T is better to be vile than vile esteem’d

When not to be receives reproach of being;

And the just pleasure lost, which is so deem’d

Not by our feeling, but by others’ seeing:

For why should others’ false adulterate eyes

Give salutation to my sportive blood?

Or on my frailties why are frailer spies,

Which in their wills count bad what I think good?

No I am that I am, and they that level

At my abuses reckon up their own:

I may be straight, though they themselves be bevel;

By their rank thoughts my deeds must not be shown;

Unless this general evil they maintain,

All men are bad and in their badness reign.



The Sea Coast of Bohemia



Throughout the centuries of Shakespeare scholarship many critics have postulated that the dramatist must have travelled to the continent because his knowledge of the languages, manners and geography of Europe, especially Italy is so detailed and intimate in nature. Stratfordian scholars, finding no evidence that William of Stratford ever left the shores of England, have surmised that this comprehensive knowledge was acquired in conversations with travellers, merchants and sailors or overheard in the noisy taverns and streets of London. They like to cite Shakespeare’s mention of the coast of Bohemia in The Winter’s Tale as proof positive that he had no first hand experience of European shores. Our contemporary understanding is that Bohemia comprised the lands of the present day Czech Republic and Slovakia and was also therefore a landlocked country in Shakespeare’s time. However, the dramatist’s mention of a coastline of Bohemia actually displays what could be a knowledge of Bohemian history and geography far superior to today’s Shakespearean scholars and indeed to the majority of Elizabethan writers, travellers, sailors and merchants.


During the reign of King Ottakar II the Bohemian empire stretched as far as the Adriatic Sea. Brenda James (2005, p.1) observes how “the documented life of the King of Bohemia during this expansion of his empire ran a course strangely parallel to that of Polixenes, the Bohemian King in Shakespeare’s play”. James notes linguistic, historical, mythological and literary references in The Winter’s Tale which identify characters and settings with the story of King Ottakar.


The privately educated Ben Jonson was known to have scoffed at Shakespeare’s ‘Coast of Bohemia’, another instance in his mixed catalogue of admiration and scorn for the great author. Oxford graduate Robert Greene, however, seems to credit the accuracy of Shakespeare’s knowledge in his novel Pandosto by also describing the kingdom of Bohemia as extending to the shores of the Adriatic. ( James, p.3) An interesting fact about the Bohemia of Shakespeare’s time was the phenomenon of the spring floods which saw the Danube regularly overflowing its banks “joining the rise of the Elbe and creating a veritable sea around the area, a ‘sea’ in which the smaller vessels of the 16 th century have occasionally been wrecked”. (ibid.)


If one was to consider then the true identity of the author of The Winter’s Tale one would begin by seeking an Oxford graduate with historical knowledge of the Bohemia of the thirteenth century, an Englishman who may have travelled to Bohemia and personally experienced the inland sea created by the flooding of the Danube. The name of Edmund Campion would surely loom large in a list of possible candidates able to supply the intricate plot details of The Winter’s Tale. Campion’s reputation as the outstanding Oxford scholar of his time, his travels in Bohemia and his seven year tenure at the Jesuit University in Prague eminently qualify him as a serious candidate for the authorship of the play.




Additional Bibliography (Coincidence or Clue)


Books and Articles:


Bearman , Robert . “Was William Shakespeare ‘ William Shakeshafte’ Revisited”. Shakespeare Quarterly 53 (2002): 83-94


Bloom , Harold . (1998). Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. London: Fourth Estate.


Honigmann , Ernst . “The Shakespeare/Shakeshafte Question, Continued.” Shakespeare Quarterly 54 (2002): 83-86


Kilroy , Gerard . (2005) . Edmund Campion: Memory and Transcription. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Limited.


Milward , Peter . (1973). Shakespeare’s Religious Background. London: Sidgwick & Jackson.




Bridgeman , Peter . (2004). Shakespeare and St Etheldreda’s Ely Place. Retrieved 12/05/2006 from


Chiljan , Katherine . (1999). Palamon and Arcite. Retrieved 25/04/2006 from


Curt-Enos , Carol . (2006). The Shakespeare Encyclopedia. Retrieved 15/03/2007 from


Desper, C. Richard. Allusions to Edmund Campion in Twelfth Night. Retrieved 12/02/2005 from



James , Brenda . (2005). The Coast of Bohemia. Retrieved 16/10/2006 from


Merriam , Thomas . Campion’s Accuser and “ Sir Thomas More”. Retrieved 7/12/2005 from



St. Etheldreda . Retrieved 28/03/2007 from


The Mulberry Tree: Shakespeare appears to be very familiar with the mulberry and uses the tree as an image in plays such as Coriolanus and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. One wonders how such an exotic and rare specimen, introduced to England by Queen Elizabeth or James I depending on which story is to be believed, would find its way into the imagery of the rustic bard Shakspere writing in London surrounded by the dirt and grime of city streets. Later, when he retired to Stratford, he is rumoured to have planted a specimen which was later chopped down by a subsequent owner of “ New Place”.

Catholic scholars have noted that Campion had a presentiment of his martyrdom which occurred in the guise of a vision he saw while living at Brunn, wherein the Virgin Mary appeared to him in an old mulberry tree in the monastery garden. [42]

It is easy to imagine Campion observing the growth habit of the tree in the monastery garden, basking in its shade, eating its fruits and it seems natural that such a familiar object of his everyday life would find itself represented in his creative work.

De Anima: In discussions of Shakespeare’s thought it has been noted that he was influenced by the writings of Aristotle and St. Augustine, especially their treatises on De Anima, the nature of the human soul. [43] The concept finds its way into such plays as Twelfth Night, Hamlet and Troilus and Cressida. Campion was so interested in this topic he actually wrote a poem on the subject in Latin called De Anima.

An old proverb?: Campion and Shakespeare were the first Englishmen to put down in writing a proverb about taking eggs for money. In The Winter’s Tale Act I Scene ii, Leontes asks Mamillius the question “My honest friend, will you take eggs for money?”. In his History of IrelandCampion has the Earl of Kildare exhorting “He is no more to blame than his brother Ossory, who (not withstanding his high promises) is glad to take eggs for his money” . One wonders whether this proverb was commonly known.

If not, Shakespeare may have appropriated it from Campion’s History or it could have been one of Campion’s idiosyncratic phrases that he made use of in prose and drama.

The 1598 Quarto: This edition of Love’s Labours Lost carries the words “newly corrected and augmented by W. Shakspere.”[44] Is it not strange that this first known book to appear with the dramatist’s name attributes a W. Shakspere with the correction and augmentation of the play not its authorship? Why is his name spelt this way unlike the more familiar Shakespeare which is the spelling used in the printing of the poems?

Perhaps because the poems were printed in their original form and there was no need to draw attention to the fact that they were tampered with by somebody other than the author.

Campion the Poet:

A number of Campion’s contemporaries praised his abilities as a writer and poet in language that evokes the words used by others at the time to describe the nature and achievements of Shakespeare. In the Concertatio Ecclesiae (1583) a Latin sentence proclaims of Campion that “you were the leader of the flock; the rest of the crowd gave first place and the palm to you”. [45]. Sir John Harington remarked, in 1602 that “Campion the daungerous Jesuit spoke eloquentlie in prose and sweetly in verse”.[46]. Sir Phillip Sidney, Robert Persons, Richard Bristow and Thomas Stalpeton commented on his status as the “observed of all observers”. Gerard Kilroy presciently remarks that “we may have some of his poetry and prose without knowing it”. [47]

The Peacham Document: This document portrays a scene from Titus Andronicus drawn by a Henry Peacham who appears to have been in the audience of a performance of the play. In recent times it has been concluded that the scene depicted is evidence that an earlier version of the play existed and that the drawing on the document was made by Reverend Henry Peacham, not his son. A Latin abbreviation on the document has been interpreted as giving the date of the drawing as 1574 or 1575, thereby making it impossible for William of Stratford to be the original author unless this rustic genius was so brilliant he wrote the play aged ten or eleven. [48]

Two Earls called Henry: The second Earl of Southhampton was also named Henry Wriothesley. It is possible this second Earl, a Catholic dissident, was the dedicatee of Shakespeare’s early poems not his son. Campion would have known this Henry from St. John’s College at Oxford and sympathized with his plight when he was incarcerated in the tower. He died, strangely enough, in 1581 the year of Campion’s execution.

The Missing Link: Over the years critics have noted that the only character Shakespeare had not attempted to portray was that of the missionary priest . In his recently published imagined biography of Shakespeare, Will in the World, New Historian Stephen Greenblatt follows this trend in finding it noteworthy that among the vast array of human types that Shakespeare drew – prostitutes and sorcerers, pickpockets and Egyptian Queens - the only one of which he never attempted a sympathetic portrait is the saint fanatic, the visionary religious. [49] Could the reason be that Campion himself was the prototype for the English missionary priest and thus had no precedence to draw upon when peopling his plays? Perhaps this character was too close to home and he didn’t have the necessary objectivity or the desire to peer too closely into his own heart and mind.

Spenser’s Aetion: In his poem Colin Clout Spenser talks of England’s great poets finishing with this stanza:

And there, though last not least, is Aetion

A gentler shepherd may nowhere be found

Whose muse, full of high thought’s invention

Doth like himself heroically sound.

Critics have wondered whether this penultimate poet described by Spenser was no other than Shakespeare. Derbyites have tried to claim it as a reference to their candidate. If Spenser was indeed alluding to Shakespeare who else but Campion, whose name so closely resembles the word champion, could “like himself heroically sound”?

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