What about Oxford’s own scriptural interests? Surely somewhere in the plod and dribble of his writing—what Stritmatter calls “the breathtaking mellifluence of [his] early poems ... and the Ciceronian peal of his prose correspondence” (354)—he must have alluded to the Bible, all-pervasive in his culture? He did: but exceedingly rarely. Mad as he is, even Stritmatter can find only eight Bible references in de Vere's correspondence and poetry, three marked (he claims), and five unmarked, but “show[ing] manifest influence in Shakespeare.” (117) As ever, he’s exaggerating.

Let’s begin with the verses that he says are marked:

Psalm 61.3:


Actually, this isn’t marked, either in the Bible or the metrical psalms. Furthermore, the text that Stritmatter quotes:

“Thou hast bene my hope, and a strong towre for me against the enemie” (116, n105)

does not quite match the version in Oxford’s Bible1:

“For thou hast bene my hope, & a strong tower against the enemie”

Can it be that he never looked at it?

Even if the verse were marked, the echo that he finds in Oxford's “I hover hyghe and soare wher Hope doth tower” (May 34:12 23) is faulty. The Psalmist is speaking of God as a rock and refuge; Oxford likens himself to a hawk “wing’de with desyre.” “Tower” here is a verb: “To mount up, as a hawk, so as to be able to swoop down on the quarry” (OED). What he hopes for is to strike. Stritmatter seeks to pair this line of Oxford’s to Richard II 1.3 101-2, which alludes quite clearly to the psalm. When the Lord Marshal cries “God defend the right!” Bolingbroke responds: “Strong as a tower in hope, I cry amen.”


A note on discordance:

Whether through ignorance or policy, Stritmatter is apt to elide verses he can make no use of. Since Psalm 61.3 is marked in his copy, that must be Shakespeare’s source. But he could have taken his “strong tower” from the unmarked Proverbs 18.10:


Shaheen links both Richard II 1.3 101-2 and Richard III 5.3.12 (“the king's name is a tower of strength”) to both Psalm 61.3 and Proverbs 18.10; and 1 Henry VI 2.1.26-27 (“God is our fortress”) to both Proverbs 18.10 and 2 Samuel 22.3.


Here, Stritmatter grudgingly allows that “Shaheen also Proverbs 18.10” (452), but he isn’t always so obliging.

Titus 2.11


Lines 11-14 are marked by RNU:

“For the grace of God, that bringeth saluacion vnto all men, hathe appeared, And teacheth vs that we shulde denie vngoldines, and worldlie lustes ...” &c., &c.

The match is the commonplace “by the grace of God.” It appears 29 times in the Geneva Bible: 22 times in 21 verses, and 7 times in headnotes. Two are marked in the Folger Bible: Titus 2.11 and 2 Corinthians 9.14. Shakespeare uses it; so does everyone else. Relying on Fowler, Stritmatter says the phrase appears twice in De Vere's correspondence.

Actually three times, twice trivially, as one might say “knock wood”:

6 September 1596: “ sone as I come home by the grace of god I will send yt yow.”

11 May 1601: “... at my cominge to the Court, w{hi}ch I thinke shalbe to morow by the grace of God.”

The third time at least is less nugatory, in that it’s self-pitying:

January 1602: “I feare now to be left in medio rerum omnium certamine et discrimine. [“In the midst of all, embattled and in danger”] whiche yf yt soo faale owt, I shall beare yt by the grace of god, wythe an equall mynde, sythe tyme and experience have giuen me sufficient vnderstandinge of woorldlye frayelte.”

Even Stritmatter recognizes the ubiquity of “by the grace of god,” for he concedes: “because of its possibly generic nature this item has been omitted from the Diagnostics list.” (116, n106)


Revelation 22.13


“I am [Alpha] and [Omega], the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”

Stritmatter vouchsafes us only a cryptic footnote: “See Fowler 108. Fowler discovered — perhaps ‘predicted’ is a more apt term — this concurrency in the absence of the material documentation of the De Vere Bible.” (116, n107)

Yes, and—?

Anyone who troubles to exhume Shakespeare Revealed, and blow the dust off the covers, can find this passage of such mystic power that it can’t be spoken of. It appears a letter written on 31 October 1572: “At the very outset, the Earl’s words, ‘Your last letters which be the first I have received of your Lordship’s good opinion,’ introduce an adroit antithesis between ‘first’ and ‘last,’ one that goes back to ... Revelation (XXII,13)—” (Fowler, 108)

Oh dear. No wonder Stritmatter buried this.

“... and one used over ten times by Shakespeare.” The example Fowler gives, from Much Ado About Nothing I.i.92, inspires no confidence in his discrimination:

I see no such matter; there’s her cousin ....
exceeds her as much in beauty as the first of
May doth the last of December.

Neither this abomination, nor any of the other ten “first-last” antitheses listed by Fowler appears in Shaheen, for the excellent reason that they’re pathetic: “first / Or last, your fine Egyptian cookery / Shall have the fame. I have heard that Julius Caesar / Grew fat with feasting there.” The fool has simply trawled through a Shakespeare concordance, hauling up commonplaces. Far from being “an adroit antithesis,” the juxtaposition of antonyms like “first and last”—day and night, here and there, up and down, black and white—is as common as grass. A search for FIRST NEAR LAST in EEBO pulls up close to 50,000 hits.

What’s beautifully done in this verse is the antithesis of high and low: the mystical resonance of “I am α and ω” with the simplicity of “first and last.”2 God must have liked the effect, as he repeated it four times, with variations.

Revelation 1.8:ff


Revelation 1.11:


Revelation 21.6:


None of them are marked, though someone has re-inked the double “ll” in “well.” Revelation 22.11-12, and 14-15 have been noted by Red Number Underliner: only 13 is skipped. There’s a vague penciled X or plus-sign at the top of the chapter, but it’s too unfocused (and possibly too recent) to be determinative.


So far, zero for three.

Doesn’t mean strit. Roger can tap-dance like nobody’s business (116):

Of the eight Biblical references found in these [Oxford’s] writings three…are marked in the De Vere Bible.

Make that one.

The five other references ... are not marked. Thus, the patterned relation between the marked verses in the de Vere Bible and the Biblical references in the extant “de Vere Canon” is the same as that between the de Vere Bible and Shakespeare.

Wait. So he’s saying that:

Very few of the marked verses are alluded to in Oxford’s writing.

Very few of the marked verses are alluded to in Shakespeare’s writing.

Therefore, Oxford is Shakespeare?

Evidently, he can make all use of nothing.

In neither case do we find anything approaching a 100% correspondence.


On the contrary, both cases exhibit unmistakable reference to verses not marked in the de Vere Bible, as well as to marked ones. This would seem to provide certain verification of the impression given above on less definite grounds, such as the wear and correction patterns of the De Vere Bible, that the annotator took mental notice of many Bible verses not marked in this particular copy of his Geneva Bible. Therefore the so-called argument from negative evidence in this case hardly constitutes an argument at all.

I think he's saying that the non-existence of evidence is evidence. The pen that didn't mark in the night.

Last is first, down is up, and black’s white.

II Esdras 8.33-38

Of II Esdras 8.33-38—one of Stritmatter’s “five other references ... not marked,” he has nothing to say but “See Stritmatter 19983 for a more complete discussion of the influence of these verses on Oxford's prefatory poem in Cardanus Comforte (1573).” (116, n109)

That paper appeared in the house journal for his triumphalist cult. Among true believers, he waxes rhapsodic on Oxford’s poetastry:

The labouring man, that tilles the fertile soyle,
And reapes the harvest fruite, hath not in deede
The gaine but payne, and if for all hys toyle
He gets the strawe, the Lord wyll have the seede.

He smacks his lips over “the German literary scholar [identified elsewhere as an “author, journalist, and painter”4] Walter Klier, who remarks on the poem’s ‘Brechtian’ character. The poem, Klier argues, presciently foreshadows the Shakespearean leitmotif of de Vere’s later years, that the ‘fruit of his literary labors would be attributed to another, unworthy to harvest the crop.’”

Then, warming to his theme, Stritmatter writes “that de Vere’s lyric was inspired by a sequence of verses he found in the apocryphal book of II Esdras, 8:33,38, in his Geneva Bible seems so clear that to deny it would demand the revision of hundreds of far less obvious borrowings in most of the works of the period. Thus":

33 0 my people, heare my worde: make you ready to the battel, and in the troubles be even as strangers upon earth. 34 He that selleth, let him be as he yt sleepeth his way: & he that byeth, as one yt will lose.
35 Who so occupieth marchadise, as he that winneth not: and he that buyldeth, as he that shal not dwell therein:
36 He yt soweth, as one that shal not reape: he that cutteth the vine, as he that shal not gather the grape:

37 They that marry, as they that shal get no children: and they that mary not, so as the widdowes.
38 Therefore they that labour, labour in vaine.
(1570 Genevan translation)

What??? In the Folger Bible, those verses in II Esdras 8 (all of them marked) read:


We have entered the Twilight Zone.

Stritmatter even includes a photocopy of II Esdras 8.30-325 in his dissertation (237, Fig. 57), so he must have been on this very same page at some time. Apparently, he didn’t spot the vast discrepancy between his version of the text and what’s there. Even if he didn’t, he should at least have noticed that almost every verse—indeed, almost every word—in that chapter is underlined.

As well as apophenia, he has Oxfordian scotomas: blind spots.

And this is no single error but systemic: he refers to "II Esdras 8" throughout his dissertation.

I’ve tracked down the source of Stritmatter’s verses: they actually belong to 2 Esdras 16, which is entirely unmarked in Oxford’s Bible. Virgin text.


No matter: actually reading the verses would only spoil his interpretation, which has now reached an operatic pitch of bombast:

“Both Oxford’s theme, of the alienation of the laborer from the fruits of his or her labor, and some of the specific exempla illustrating it, such as the builder and the vineyard laborer, can be seen in the Esdras verse. Both texts belong to a genre of wisdom literature, a tradition of realist social criticism, conservative in its assumptions about human nature and yet also, simultaneously, critical of injustice. Neither text holds out any specific promise of Utopian redemption; instead, each articulates a critical vision that can become the inspiration for specific reforms aimed at ameliorating alienation produced by unjust social relations.”

That’s a pretty highfalutin conclusion to draw from:

For he that beates the bush the byrde not gets

But who sits still, and holdeth fast the nets.

They did it better on the music halls:

It’s the same the whole world over,
It's the poor what gets the blame,
It's the rich what gets the pleasure,Isn't it a blooming shame?

As an exegesis of Oxford’s feeble verses, this is ridiculous.

As a reading of Esdras, it’s utterly bizarre. Having treated these verses as Freudian inkblots, as free-form and free-floating solicitations of his Oxford fantasies, Stritmatter has utterly failed to notice what they’re all about: the Apocalypse.


It’s magnificent stuff, prophesying plague and famine, fire and the sword: this is not about “the alienation of the laborer,” but his annihilation, along with everyone else on earth; not man’s injustice but God’s righteous wrath. “There shalbe no man left to till the earth and to sowe it: the trees shal giue frute, but who shal gather them? for all places shalbe desolate.” There will be no harvest; there will be no children; there will be no world.

Matthew 7.3:


“And why seest thou the mote, that is in thy brothers eye, and perceiuest not the beame that is in thine owne eye?”

There can scarcely have been anyone in Shakespeare’s world (between infancy and dotage) who had not heard the Sermon on the Mount. It was in the air they breathed. There are thousands of allusions to this saying to be found on EEBO—and millions doubtless unrecorded. It was part of everyday speech. So it’s not amazing that Oxford alludes to it in a letter of September 1572: “And thinke yf the admiral in fraunce was a ey[e]sore or beame in the eyes of the papistes, that The lord tresorer of England is a bloke [=block, impediment] and a crosebare in ther way, whose remoue, they will neuer stikte to attempte, seinge they haue preuailed so well in others.”

As a reference, it’s superficial. Oxford’s picked up on “beame in the eyes.” “Hog-tied to the lexical level,”6 he’s failed to notice what the verse means. As the Geneva notes7: “He [Jesus] reproueth the hypocrisie of suche as winke at their owne horrible fautes, & yet are to curious to spie out the least faute in their brother.” What does Oxford mean by a “beame in the eyes of the papistes”? The Huguenot Admiral de Coligny was not an unacknowledged fault of the French papists, but their enemy: a stick in the eye. They wanted him removed. As they had ordered de Coligny’s assassination, so they wouldn’t shrink at taking Cecil out. The fickle-headed Oxford is free-associating here: he simply leaps from hindrance to hindrance, from “beame” to “crosebare.” Neither the lesson, “Ivdge not, that ye be not judged,” nor the rhetoric of contrasts—thy brother’s and thine own, seest and preceivest not, mote and beam—ever cross his mind.

It’s a match, but a shallow one.

The verse isn’t marked in his Bible.

Neither is Luke 6.41:


No mention of this verse in the text: its existence is buried deep in the appendices, inaccessible from Stritmatter’s website. It wouldn’t do to admit that the annotators twice failed to notice so clear a source.

Stritmatter notes triumphantly that Shakespeare alludes several times to Matthew 7.3—and why not? the Gospels underlie his culture—and pontificates:

“These considerations and examples go very far towards demonstrating the ad hoc and indeed dishonest character of the argument that ‘negative evidence’ weighs against the evidentiary relevance of the de Vere Bible.” (118)

“And why seest thou the mote, that is in thy brothers eye, and perceiuest not the beame that is in thine owne eye?”

Acts 9.5


Stritmatter writes: “Such knowledge of variant translations of the Bible is further confirmed by a passage from Edward de Vere’s Jan. 3 1576 letter from Sienna to Lord Burghley in which he remembers — and alters — Acts 9.5 in Italian: "I see it is but vain calcitrare contra li busi”/”l see it is but vain to kick against the Oxen.” (86)

He notes demurely that “I am indebted to Alan Nelson for first noting this significant discrepancy between the Biblical source text and de Vere’s usage.” (86, n74) He missed this? Oh dear. If this howler didn’t jump out at him, he has no business writing about the Bible at all.

Stritmatter is so taken with his point that he repeats it in a footnote:

“See Fowler 204, 223 Oxford's Jan. 3 1576 letter to Lord Burghley from Siena quotes with variation from an Italian translation of Acts 9.5, in which Jesus says to Saul on the road to Dasmascus that ‘it is hard for thee to kicke against prickes’ (Genevan 1576). Oxford has ‘I see it is but vain, calcitrare contra li busi’ — varying ‘pricks’ to ‘oxen’ in a pun on his own name. (116, n111)

Let’s begin with Roger’s mistakes in transcription: “Sienna” is an earth pigment; ”Siena” is the Italian city. Worse still, “busi” is not even Italian. Not at all. The proper word for “oxen” is “buoi.”

Evidently this mistranscription derives from Fowler. Mark Anderson also picks it up without a second thought: “De Vere’s letters reveal his familiarity with the Italian Bible, when he wrote to his guardian and father-in-law Lord Burghley that ‘I see it is but vain calcitrare contra li busi’—quoting an Italian translation of Acts 9:5.” (SBAN 383) On page 100, he even writes “calcitrare contra libusi.”

Clearly, not one of the three knows Italian, or has bothered to look at the original letter or an online dictionary—much less an Italian New Testament.

What Oxford actually wrote, in Nelson’s transcription, was “I see it is but vayne, calcitrare contra li buoi.” In modern Italian, that would be “calcitrar contro i buoi”: “to kick against the oxen.” “Li” is not now a definite article at all, but a pronoun meaning “them.” However, while cinquecento orthography was consistent, there were many dialects. I’ve found one or two 16th-century books that use “li buoi.” Though it claims to be translated “in lingua toscana”—the Florentine dialect was considered purest—one was published in Venice in 1565 and another in 1541. This may well be the Italian Oxford knew. “Ox” is “bue.” I suppose he uses the plural—the royal we—because he calls himself Oxenford. That isn’t a pun, by the way: just a translation of one syllable. A pun would be imbued with meaning.

How do you like them oxen?

The proverb actually appears twice in the Gospels, in Acts 9:5 and Acts 26:148—neither of which is marked in the Folger Bible. There’s no trace of Acts. 26.14 in Stritmatter’s text or appendices. He seems unaware of its existence. Has the man never heard of a concordance?


Just what “Italian translation of Acts 9.5” was Oxford quoting? All vernacular translations of the Bible there were banned as heretical from 1559 to 1757.9 Six of seven were tainted with Reformation theology.10 You could find them—you could find anything in Venice—but by the time of Oxford’s visit, the publishing of Italian Bibles had moved to Geneva. He may have gotten hold of the most popular version, the Antonio Brucioli translation11 first published in Venice in 1532—though it would have been damned hard, that book having been placed on the Index in 1555 and its author convicted for heresy and forced to recant. (Brucioli was nothing if not daring: back in 1522, he’d conspired to assassinate Cardinal Giulio Medici, about to be Pope Clement VII.) Perhaps the whiff of damnation attracted the bad boy? But why would someone toying with the Scarlet Woman trouble to read a Lutheran Bible in Italian?12

And if he did get hold of a translation, what would he have read?

Niccolò Malerbi’s 1471 translation, the earliest, is from the Vulgate. It omits this intrusive passage from Acts 9.5. In the 1490 edition I consulted, Acts 26.14 reads: “recalcitrare contra al stimolo.”

Brucioli worked, not from the Vulgate, but from the Hebrew and Greek13; he includes the ox-goad verse in both 9.5 and 26.14, as do many of his followers like Fra Santi Marmochino

Il Nuovo Testamento... tradotto in lingua Toscana per Antonio Brucioli (Venezia 1530) renders the two passages a little differently.

Acts 9:5: Io sono Giesu, il quale tu perseguiti. Dura cosa ti è resistere contro à gli stimoli..

Acts 26:14: Saul Saul, perche mi perseguiti i Egliti è dura cosa à repugnare à gli stimoli


After 1555, “resistere” and “repugnare” began to be replaced by “ricalcitrar” in both verses. ("Reclacitrant" comes from the same Latin etymon.) I think if Oxford were alluding to the Italian Bible, he would echoed it more closely. Perhaps he might have found “calcitrare contra lo stimolo” in a sermon or commentary, like this one:


But somehow I doubt he was reading Savonarola’s fiery sermons on Ezekiel. Oxford would not have made a bonfire of his vanities.

There’s a good chance that he might not have been quoting the scriptures directly at all. The saying "to kick against pricks" in reference to resisting a god was proverbial in the ancient world14, old when Jesus said it. Dionysus in Euripides’ The Bacchae says, “As a mortal I would sacrifice to the god rather than kick against the goads in anger.”15 Millennia after, “calcitrar[e] contra lo stimolo” is still proverbial in Italian. Given that Oxford alludes to an “englishe prouerd” [sic] just a few lines later, it’s quite likely he was making a stab at an Italian adage.

What is Oxford trying to say here? An ox-goad is a cattle-prod: a stick with a spike in it, used to spur reluctant beasts. The ox who kicks back at it will drive it deeper in his flesh. The marginal note in his Genevan Bible (at Acts 26.14) is clear about what Jesus meant: “That is, to resist God when he pricketh and soliciteth our consciences.”

The 1599 edition is even clearer: “This is a proverb which is spoken of them that through their own stubbornness hurt themselves.” An Italian commentator in 1596 writes16: “Ma s’egli è ostinato, maligno, & perverso non tralascia di sempre calcitrar contro lo stimolo, & di perseuerare nella sua opinione, obstinatione, malitia, & peruersità.” (“But if he is stubborn, evil, perverse and does not fail to always kick against the goad, & to persevere in his opinion, obstinacy, malice, & perversity....”)


Yet Oxford complains here that Burghley and the whole world are thwarting him: he want to go the way he wants to go: sell his land and spend the proceeds. He’s an ox, and proud of it. His letter mingles rebellion and self-pity, “Don't tread on me,” with “Guess I’ll go eat worms”:

In doinge thes thinges yowre lordshipe shall greatly plesure me. in not doinge them yow shall as muche hinder me. for allthough to depart withe land yowre Lordship hathe aduised the contrarie and that yowre Lordship for the good affection yow beare vnto me could wishe it otherwise, yet yow see, I haue non other remedie I haue no help but of myne owne, and mine is made to serue me, and myself not mine. whervpon till all suche incombrances be passed ouer and till I can better settell my self at home I haue determined to continue my trauell the whiche thinge in no wise I desire yowre Lordship to hinder. vnles yow wowld haue it thus Vt nulla sit inter nos amicitia. [“that there should be no loss of friendship between us”] for hauinge made an end of all hope to help my self by her Magesties seruice consideringe that my yowthe is obiected vnto me, and for eury step of myne, a bloke [=block, hindrance] is found to be layd in my way, I see it is but vayne, calcitrare contra li buoi.

To kick against the oxen? What? That’s inside out. He can’t be saying that it’s useless for Burghley to kick against the Oxenford: it’s li buoi who are being thwarted and denied and balked at every turn. Oxford is the one here who objects to being driven; Burghley, who drives. It must be the mutinous Oxford who kicks out against Burghley’s goad. (Does that make Burghley God? If Oxford truly knew the passages from Acts, he’d know that it's Jesus who's goading the unwilling Saul.) The more a goaded ox kicks, the more he is pricked. You might properly say that “it’s all in vain for the ox to kick.” That would make sense. But this? The more a chained dog lunges, the more he is choked. Would you say “it’s all in vain to lunge against the dog”?

I am not convinced that de Vere knows what he’s saying. I think that he’s throwing out a half-heard proverb here: he more or less gets the sound of it, but mangles the grammar. It’s what he does with legal Latin (“fyre facias” and “summum totale” come to mind). Like his acolyte, he loves to sound impressive, but hasn't the language or the understanding to carry it off.

Stritmatter thinks this line is witty.


Exodus 3.14:


“And God answered Moses, I AM THAT I AM.”

Roger falls down before the burning bush, enraptured: “What are we to make ... of the extraordinary and indeed disturbing fact that both ‘Shakespeare’ and Edward de Vere refer to themselves in the first person with the same words God addressed to Moses ... when asked to identify himself?” (226)

I should hope we make sense. The passages are not at all alike.

In one, an adolescent boy of 34 rages at restraint:

“I mean not to be yowre ward nor yowre chyld, I serve her magestie, and I am that I am, and by allyance neare to yowre lordship, but fre, and scorne to be offred that iniurie, to thinke I am so weake of gouernment as to be ruled by servants, or not able to gouerne my self.”

It’s petulant, undignified, and unimpressive. I’ve got news for you, duckie: grown-ups don’t need to say they are. And if you’re going to borrow God’s words, don’t muffle their majesty in splutter.

“Yf yowre Lordship take and follow this courcse, yow deceyve yowre self, and make me take an other course then yet I have not thought of.”

Translation: I’m going to go home and bite my pillow.

In the other, the poet’s persona coolly faces off his critics:

Tis better to be vile than vile esteemed,
When not to be, receiues reproach of being ...
For why should others' false adulterat eyes
Give salutation to my sportiue blood?
Or on my frailties why are frailer spies;
Which in their wils count bad what I think good?

Noe, I am that I am, and they that leuell
At my abuses reckon vp their owne,
I may be straight though they them-selves be beuel...

He does not claim divinity, only self-knowledge of his flaws: which others, not himself, dramatize. Yet there’s a whiff of the sulphurous about his semi-blasphemy. Self-sufficiency often marks his villains. “Let me be that I am,” says Don John; and the demi-devil of the histories echoes: “I am myself alone” (3H6 5.6.83) and “Richard loves Richard, that is I am I” (R3 5.3.183).

The sonneteer is more like Edmund, though he puts his blasphemy in the conditional: “I should / haue bin that I am, had the maidenlest Starre in the Firmament / twinkled on my bastardizing.”

We have heard the letter-writer elsewhere: “I AM THE GREAT AND POWERFUL Wizard of Oz.”

Rapt with his fantasy, Stritmatter goes on: “Apparently written in a white-hot blaze of rage, de Vere’s postscript angrily rebukes Burghley for employing his own servants to spy on him ...” (226-227)

What? This is confabulated. This is nothing here about spying, only resentment that his father-in-law should command Oxford’s servants—his property—as if they were his own. There are no secrets involved. “My lord, this other day yowre man stainner towld me that yow sent for Amis my man, and yf he wear absent that Lylle showld come vnto yow. I sent Amis for he was in ye way.”

But Oxfordians are obsessed with the idea of spying: if they can re-invent Burghley as Polonius, they feel, then Oxford would be Hamlet, who was Shakespeare. They cannot imagine a Shakespeare who wasn’t texting his life, minute for minute: Hamlet as a series of selfies. Some of the viler sort imagine that poor Brincknell was stabbed through an arras for spying. (What kind of secret service would employ an undercook, who has no business upstairs, and would announce his presence by a stench of grease?)

This obstinate fantasy warps Stritmatter’s reading of the sonnet: [it] “not only quotes the same striking line from the Bible, it actually appears to concern the same incident in the author's life.”

What incident? The sonnet-persona—who may or may not be some version of Shakespeare himself—isn’t speaking of one incident, but of an ongoing atmosphere of disapproval.

Conflating the poet with the Earl, Stritmatter imagines his chimera as “one of the self-consciously ‘great souled’” (227): utterly absurd. The letter-writer is a turkey-cock; the poet knows his frailties. But in Stritmatter’s eyes, they are one and godlike: “affirming that, like the almighty himself, ‘I am that I am, and they that level/At my abuses, reckon up their own.’” (228) This is a spectacular heresy—does Strit believe that God is a fornicator? That He is scorned by hypocrites?

One last error: “It should not be overlooked that these are the only known instances in Elizabethan texts in which a writer applies this audacious—blasphemous?—phrase [clause!] to himself.” (227)

Actually, they’re aren’t. In a dedicatory letter of The first part of the nature of a vvoman Fitly described in a Florentine historie. Composed by C.M. (London : Printed by Valentine Simmes, for Clement Knight, 1596), C. K. writes “To my very good friend Maister T. A. Gentleman of the middle Temple," and signs off: “I cease: being, I am that I am, and while l liue, wil liue, to loue you.”

In graver circumstances, two martyrs recorded in John Foxe’s Actes and monuments (1583) also speak those words.

Here is part of “The examination of Iohn Iackson, had before Doctor Cooke, the 11. day of March. An. 1556.”

I sayd: Christ had members here in yearth.

Who are they, quoth he?

They, quoth I, that are ruled by the worde of God.

You are a good fellow, quoth he.

 I am that I am quoth I.

Then he sayd to my keeper, haue him to prison agayne.

And, here, “The history and examinations of Robert Smith, constantly maynteining the trueth of Gods word, and suffering for the same in the moneth of August”:

Well frend, quoth one of my Lordes Chapleynes, you are no innocent, as it appeareth.

By the grace of God,  I am that I am: & this grace in me, I hope, is not in vayne.

Both take their words from 1 Corinthians 15:9-10, in which Paul speaks:


“For I am the least of the Apostles ... But by the grace of God, I am that I am: and this grace which is in me, was not in vaine.”

They do not arrogate godhead to themselves, but speak as unworthy vessels. They testify their faith as apostles.

So does John Donne, in “A sermon preached at the Earl of Bridgewaters house ... Novemb. 19. 1627,” in a staggering series of inversions, “In the presence of the whole Triumphant Church, of which, by him, by whom I am that I am, I hope to bee.”

There is no mention of this verse in Stritmatter’s thesis; I doubt he knows it exists. Shaheen cross-references Exodus 3.14 and 1 Corinthians 15.10 in his text, though only he lists only Corinthians in his Appendix.

Oxford and Shakespeare, the anonymous C. K., Jackson, Smith, and Donne have all chanced or chosen to allude to a universally known apothegm, twice uttered in the Gospels. Both verses are unmarked in this Geneva Bible.

Matthew 10.26:


“Feare them not therefore: for there is nothing couered, that shal not be disclosed, nor hid, that shal not be knowen.”

“So here it is at last, the distinguished thing.” We come to what Stritmatter thinks is the crowning allusion in the Oxford oeuvre: “thematically, ... certainly the most important Bible reference in de Vere's letters.” (116, n110) He has been hinting, page after page, about “The annotator's faith in the transcendent value of secret works” and “the secret works brought to light by providence cluster” (94). He envisions Oxford hugging his transcendent secret to himself, smug in the knowledge that one day everyone will know he was Shakespeare. He can leave that to Providence, without having to do anything, you know, unpleasant—like owning his work. He need not make himself "a motley to the view." A comfortable doctrine—and one that could not be further from Gospels.

Stritmatter writes:

“Like the clown Lavache. Shakespeare holds a prophetic view of the nature of speech — namely that the consequences of speech acts are not limited to their effects on proximal audiences. As de Vere writes in his 1602 Danvers Escheat letter, ‘finis coronat opus, and then everything will be laid open, every doubt resolved into a plain sense.’” (362-3)

That’s it? That string of banalities? Apparently so:

“The utterance is a prophecy about prophecies: ‘then.’ means in the end. This emphasis on final things is characteristic of Shakespeare’s prophetic mode.” (363)

Lavache is not the only fool here. As is his wont, Stritmatter has misread de Vere and radically misread the Gospels.

From his ecstatic rendering of the letter, one would think it was a meditation worthy of a metaphysical: Oxford on eschatology. No: like all of Oxford’s letters, it concerns his grievances. He wants a dead man’s forfeit lands, and no one—I’m looking at you, brother-in-law—is helping him in his pursuit. Nelson quotes Lawrence Stone, “‘After the Essex revolt there was a hectic rush for the spoils.’ Not least eager among the vulture crew was Oxford, who set his sights on the lands of Sir Charles Danvers, executed on 18 March [1601] (DNB).” The Earl’s letter to his brother-in-law, Sir Robert Cecil, begins:

It ys now almoste a yeare sythence by the promises of yowre helpe and assistance, when the Escheate of Dauers was found nothinge for her Magestye 26 shyllinges excepted, that I dyd vndertake to recover yt.

He complains of the “Iugges” and the lawyers who have thwarted him. Then he turns reproachfully on Cecil:

[This] trust of myne ... I feare may deceyve me. An other confidence I had in yowre selfe, in whome, wytheout offence lett me speake yt, I am to cast sume dout, by reasone, as in yowre last letters I founde a waveringe style muche differinge from yowre former assurances, I feare now to be left in medio rerum omnium certamine et discrimine [‘In the midst of all, embattled and in danger’]…

Can’t you hear the tiniest of violins?

…whiche yf yt soo faale owt, I shall beare yt by the grace of god, wythe an equall mynde, sythe tyme and experience have giuen me sufficient vnderstandinge of woorldlye frayelte.

Everyone—above all, his brother-in-law—has let him down; but look how nobly he is bearing up.

But I hoope better, thowghe I cast the woorste, how so ever for finis coronat opus [‘The end crowns the work’] and then every thynge wilbe layd open, every dout resolued into a playne sence.

By “every thynge,” he means the duplicity, perhaps reluctance (“waveringe style”) he sees in Robert’s letters; “every dout” is of his brother’s loyalty. Is he worthy of trust? Will he go on badgering the Queen for what the world owes Oxenford? Or is he backing off? “I ... crave this brotherly freendship, that as yow began yt for me ... so that yow will continue ... to end yt.” Such a small request: “only what I cowld recover in Wilshyre and Glocester shyres.” If it succeeds, the crown is Oxford’s. If it fails, he is the victim, and the fault is Cecil’s and the Queen’s:

I hoope her Magesty ... will not now drave [=draw] in the beames of her princlie grace to my discoragment and her owne detriment ... [I] hoop [=hope] the best of my friends, tyll otherwis I finde them.

It’s a masterpiece of passive aggression17, with just a hint of threat.

By his industry, Stritmatter contrives “of this nothinge [to] make sumthinge.” Blinded with worship, he imagines that “This emphasis on final things is characteristic of Shakespeare's prophetic mode.” (363) He decides that finis coronat opus, the Latin proverb used in de Vere's letter, “is very close in sense to the apocalyptic Bible verse Matthew 10.26...”

Having failed to notice the Apocalypse going on under his nose in 2 Esdras, he invents one here. In Matthew 10, as the headnote in the Folger Bible reads, “Christ sendeth out his Apostles to preache in Iudea. He gyveth them charge, teacheth them, and comforteth them against persecution.” The chapter is known as the Mission Discourse or the Little Commission.

“ ... another Shakespeare Diagnostic (#52) ...”

He means SD 51. Elsewhere (116, n110), he calls it “Shakespeare Diagnostic #41.” Did I say that he has trouble with numbers?

“...which declares that ‘there is nothing covered that shall not be disclosed, nor hid that shall not be known.’ Milward finds as many as five references to this verse in Shakespeare, among them Lear's striking oracular utterance: ‘Time shall unfold what pleated cunning hides’ (1.1.286).” (363)

“As many as five”? In Appendix A, Stritmatter claims 6 Shakespeare citations for this verse (Shaheen lists none), and says that it is marked in the Folger Bible (400). It isn’t.

Neither are the other three places where the verse appears.

Stritmatter seems unaware that his “apocalyptic” verse appears four times in three Gospels, with slight variations. Certainly, he mentions none of the others in his dissertation, just as he never mentions 1 Corinthians 15.10. Yet all was laid out for him: the Geneva was meant to be read by laymen, and the editors are scrupulous to cite parallels. Did Strit never wonder what all those citations in the margins were for? To do this:

To connect.

If he’d actually looked at Matthew 10.26, he would have seen the note: “Mar. 4,22 Lu. 8,17 and 12,2.”


And having spent a decade pretending to be studying Shakespeare’s Bible, he should have known that the Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—tell and retell the story of Jesus’ birth and ministry, death and resurrection. A studious Christian would consult all three in parallel, for “sommetime one writeth more largeli that which the other doth abridge.” (GNV, NT 2) The effect is of a stereopticon: the variations give depth to the picture.

In theology, these passages—Matthew 10.26-33 and Luke 12.2-12 (and sometimes Mark 4.22)—are known as the “Exhortation to Fearless Confession”: not of sin but of faith. Jesus tells his disciples to bear witness in the face of hostility and persecution: there are to be no closet Christians. Truth here is not the daughter of time, but “a light to be reueiled to the Gentiles.” (Luke 2.32, unmarked)

Matthew 10:

26 Feare them [your persecutors] not therefore: for there is nothing couered, that shal not be disclosed, nor hid, that shal not be knowen.

27 What I tel you in darkenes, that speake ye in light: and what ye heare in the eare, that preache ye on the houses.

The revelation is not to be then but now: the apostles are to proclaim the Word. They are to be willing to die for it. This verse was Latimer's response to his judges, at his sentence to the stake: “Well, there is nothinge hidde, but it shall bee opened.” He took this verse to the scaffold; Oxford couldn't take it to the stage.

The lesson to the Earl (had he read this passage) would have been: if you have truth to tell, tell it. Pay no heed to those people who would silence you by fear.

This is not a prophecy but a directive.

In the Gospels of Mark and Luke, the “nothing secret” verse follows one of the best-known parables in the New Testament: which illuminates it.

Mark 4:

21 Also he said vnto them, Is the candle light to be put vnder a busshel, or vnder the table, and not to be put on a candlesticke?

22 *f For there is nothing hid, that shal not be opened: neither is there a secret, but that it shal come to light.

Don’t hide your light under a bushel: if you write plays, own them. See them played publically. Hide nothing.


Verse 22 has a marginal note:

f We may not take occasion to do euil vnder colour to hide our doings: for all shal be disclosed at the length.

Latimer, who called these words "God's proverb," applied them to miscreants: "Work they never so privily, never so covertly, yet at the last day their doings shall be openly revealed ... till all the world shall see it, to their shame and confusion that are the doers of it." Cain, he said "thought he could have beguiled God too ... But at last he was confounded, and his murder brought to light; and now all the world readeth it in the bible."

John Donne wrote of Matthew 10.26: “Thou shalt bring every worke to Judgement, with every secret thing, and there is nothing covered that shall not bee revealed: But, O my God, there is another way of knowing my sins, which thou lovest better than any of these; To know them by my Confession.” (Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions. X)

Again, his reckoning is now, every time he is shriven.

Luke 8:

16 * No f man when he lighteth a candel, couvreth it vnder a vessel, nether putteth it vnder the table, but setteth it on a candlesticke, that they that entre in, may se the light.

17 For nothing is secret, that shal not be euident: nether any thing hid, that shal not be knowen, and come to light.

f Christ warneth his to do good wt their light wc they haue receiued, and to set it forthe before all mens faces.

And yet again: light is to be revealed, not concealed. This could not be more contrary to Stritmatter’s idea of “the transcendent value of secret works.” (94)

The second of Luke’s versions sets the lesson after a rebuke of hypocrisy; here, silence begins to look like dissimulation. The lesson is: testify. Don’t pretend not to be what you really are.

Luke 12

1 In the meane time, there gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, so that they trode one another: & he began to say vnto his disciples first, Take hede to your selues of the leauen of the Pharises, which is hypocrisie.

2 For there is nothing couered, that shal not be reueiled: neither hid, that shal not be knowen.

3 Wherefore whatsouer ye haue spoken in darknes, it shalbe heard in the light: and that which ye haue spoken in the ear in secret places, shal be preached on the houses.

The parable of the light is told twice more in the Gospels, in Matthew 5.15:

“Nether do men light a candel, and put it vnder a bushel, but on a candelsticke, & it giueth light vnto all that are in the house.”

And in Luke 11.33:

No man lighteth a candel, & putteth it in priuie place, nether vnder a busshel: but on a candlesticke, that thei which come in may se the light.18

When “folly and falshed [falsehood] prayeth apace,” wrote Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, “trouth vnder bushell is faine to crepe.” Christ says: unbushel it.

Here endeth the eighth lesson.


No man writeth a play, & putteth it into a deske, nether vnder a busshel: but on a publicke Stage, that thei which come in may se the Play.

Stritmatter’s eight  parallel verses  keywords Folger mark? Oxford allusion? Shaheen Play references
Psalm 61.3   “thou hast been my hope and a strong tower” no no 2 R3 5.3.12, R2 1.3.101–2
  Psalm 61, S&H    no no  
  2 Samuel 22.3 “God is my strength .. my high tower” no no 1 1H6 2.1.26–27
  Proverbs 18.10 “the name of the Lord is a strong tower” no no 3 1H6 2.1.26–27; R3 5.3.12; R2 1.3.101–2
Titus 2.11   “grace of god” yes (RNU) generic 1 Tro. 3.1.15
  Luke 2.40   no generic 1 2H6 1.2.72
  Acts 11.23   no generic 1 2H6 1.2.72
  Acts 13.43   no generic 1 2H6 1.2.72
  Acts 14.26   no generic 1 2H6 1.2.72
  Acts 15.40   no generic 1 2H6 1.2.72
  Acts 20.24   no generic 0  
  Romans 5.15   no generic 1 Tro. 3.1.15
  1 Corinthians 1.4   no generic 1 2H6 1.2.72
  1 Corinthians 3.10   no generic 1 2H6 1.2.72
  1 Corinthians 15.10   no generic 4 2H6 1.2.72; Oth. 1.1.65; 4.1.270; Tro. 3.1.15
  2 Corinthians 1.12   no generic 1 LLL 4.2.1–2
  2 Corinthians 6.1   no generic 1 Tro. 3.1.15
  2 Corinthians 8.1   no generic 0  
  2 Corinthians 9.14   yes (RNU) generic 0  
  Galatians 2.21   no generic 0  
  Ephesians 3.2   no generic 0  
  Ephesians 3.7   no generic 0  
  Colossians 1.6   no generic 0  
  Hebrews 12.15   no generic 0  
  1 Peter 4.10   no generic 1 Mac. 3.1.96–99
  1 Peter 5.12   no generic 0  
Revelation 22.13   “first ... last” no no 0  
  Revelation 1.8   no no 0  
  Revelation 1.11   no no 0  
  Revelation 21.6   “ll” re-inked no 0  
2 Esdras 16.33-38   “soweth ... shal not reape” “labour in vaine” no no 0 three references in book
Matthew 7.3-5   “mote .. beam” no yes (weak) 3 Ham. 1.1.112;Jn. 4.1.90–91 ; LLL 4.3.159-60
  Luke 6.41-2   no yes (weak) 3 Jn. 4.1.90–91; LLL 4.3.159–60; Ham. 1.1.112
Acts 9.5   “kicke against prickes” no proverbial? 0  
  Acts 26.4   no proverbial? 0  
Exodus 9.14   “I am that I am” no yes (weak) 0  
  1 Corinthians 15.10   no yes (weak) 4 2H6 1.2.72; Oth. 1.1.65; 4.1.270; Tro. 3.1.15
Matthew 10:26   “nouthing couered, that shal not be disclosed” no no 0  
  Mark 4:22   no no 0  
  Luke 8.17   no no 0  
  Luke 12.2   no no 0  
      3  4 32  


  1. Nor in the metrical psalms: “Thou art my hope, my fort, and tower”
  2. The Greek moves from simplest to more sonorous: the “A” and “O” are merely the first and letters of their alphabet; then come archi and telos, protos and eschatos, from which comes “eschatology.”
  5. Titled “II Esdras 8.31-32.” Stritmatter has trouble with numbers.
  7. At Luke 6.41.
  8. Acts 26.14 The words “durum est tibi contra stimulum calcitrare” originate from Acts 26.14. They are not “part of the original sacred text [of Acts 9.5] but rather a later explanatory gloss; for this reason the New Vulgate omits them”:
  9. P. 140:
  16. In a book that gives a marginal citation for every Biblical verse, there’s none here:
  17. Subtype: Discontented: “Grumbling, petty, testy, cranky, embittered, complaining, fretful, vexed, and moody”:
  18. Shaheen lists three of the “candle” verses (Mark 4.21, Luke 8.16, and Luke 11.33) as references for MM 1.1.32–33; Luke 8.16 again for MV 5.1.90–91; and Luke 12.1 for Cym. 3.4.61–62. None of these verses are marked in the Folger Bible.
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