New Book One

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Byblis turning into a fountain. From Ovid's Metamorphoses.

She figures in the argument about whether Golding or Oxford (or both) translated the work into English.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1884.
Supposed portrait of William Shakespeare (left)
and Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (right)
Stratford Grammar School (The King's New School) 1553
The Old Fox

From a painting by Frank Wooton
From the Jacket:

Robin Fox turns his analytic eye on the Shakespeare authorship issue, and asks and answers some stark questions both classic and original. He attacks some shibboleths on both sides of the debate, and comes to his own conclusions.

• Why did Hamlet delay?
• What was the crime of Oedipus?
• Why did Malcolm get cold feet?
• Was there a plan to educate England under the Tudors?
• Why do Henrys IV, V, VI and VIII get plays and not Henry VII?
• What were the Grammar Schools? Were they good?
• What was the education of royalty? How did it differ?
• Could only a grammar school boy have written the plays?
• What is going on in the Latin Lesson? Who was the teacher?
• Who really translated Ovid? Golding or his nephew?
• What were the Petty Schools? What was a Pedant?
• Why did pronunciation matter? Who would have cared?
• What did the Earl of Leicester want with the Black Book?
• Why did the Earl of Oxford sue his steward?
• Who was the model for Timon of Athens?
• Where do Robin Hood and Will Scarlet come in?
• What does Timon owe to Oedipus?
• What does Shakespeare owe to evolution?

The jacket cover is a painting by Thomas Couture (1857) of Timon of Athens in the wilderness, confronting the whores Timandra and Phrynia and the two banditti. Timon is a central figure in the argument about the authorship.

Below is a review that appeared on by the well-known children's author Alan Venable

5.0 out of 5 stars Shakespeare and Oxford's education and fortune September 25, 2012

By Alan Venable

I'm one of those with a serious armchair interest in the Oxford Shakespeare argument, and I appreciate books like this one from a thorough-going academic who's willing to sweat the details. I've read most of the basic books on the subject (Looney, much of Ogburn, Anderson, etc., which are the places to start if you're new to this subject. (The most fun to start with is of course Mark Twain's short "Is Shakesepeare Really Dead?" The best new book is far and away is the late Richard Roe's book on Shakespeare in Italy). This short book by Fox helped my understanding in two major ways.

First, its thorough chapter on Tudor schools gave me a clearer perspective on the fairly certain education of Oxford and the possible education of Stratford Shakespeare. The book does not fly off (as some others do) into arguments that Stratford Shakespeare's education was bad, but rather argues on the evidence that it could have been quite good if he did go to the Stratford grammar school. But from there Fox goes on to explore how Oxford's was also certainly basically a grammar-school-textbook-based early education--hugely enriched. I hope the book will steer other Oxford proponents likewise away from trying to say that Stratford Shakespeare was all but illiterate. Fox ties this argument into how pedants and apparent schoolmasters are caricatured in the plays in ways that are more consistent with the Oxford perspective than the Stratford one.

Second, I greatly appreciated Fox's careful discussion of Oxford's fortune and why it disappeared, in the context of a major social/political shift that took off with Henry VII and that led to the draining on not only the Oxford fortune but of other noble wealth in land. Fox doesn't say that Oxford was smart about his money (far from it) but he shows how his wardship allowed the crown and people around him to hack away huge amounts of what he had--which was probably much less than appears at first glance. Fox also shows how Oxford's behaviors with money were not so different from how other young nobles behaved in similar circumstances at the time. Fox ties this aspect of Oxford's life also closely with the plays, especially Timon of Athens.

There's lots more in the book, and lots of good leads for still further reading.

Don't be turned off by the opening pages, in which Fox should be clearer about what were only his early thoughts when discovering Shakespeare as a boy and what were his later, more mature conclusions. Also don't be turned off by the early Freudian Oedipal stuff. The book gets more and more useful and engaging after chapter 1; and, overall, the many ways that Fox connects the book to his own life experiences (in an English grammar school, for one) enrich the rest of the book.



Please note on pages 108-9 in the first printing I have "Speke" where it should be "Cheke." I don't know how this happened. I must have been thinking of (also John) Speke who went with Richard Burton to find the source of the Nile. These were men who were heroes of my youth.  Age brings memory problems and strange concatenations of people and events  that have their own perverse subconscious  logic.  Oh well.  One should at some point  quit, I suppose: but how does one do that?

A second printing has corrected this and other - usually minor  -errors.