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  • Kristin Bundesen, PhD

Agnostic amongst Oxfordians

Next up: "Oxford’s women" paper to be delivered at the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship Conference, September 22-25, Ashland Oregon.

I am a strong supporter of the 'Authorship' question as a line of enquiry. I hold a lifetime membership in the Shakespeare Authorship Trust in the UK and as such, do not believe the man from Stratford wrote the works attributed to Shakespeare. There are over 80 candidates put forth as possible authors, or co-authors, or partial authors of the works attributed to Shakespeare. Currently, Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (1550-1604) is most favored.

I, however, am agnostic. I haven't officially declared for a specific candidate as The Author, or perhaps the authors, but I am intrigued by the possibilities the question opens up. including Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke as an author. Imagine the quaking of the patriarchy if a woman wrote Shakespeare! Ivy tower foundations would crack and crumble around the world. It's tantalizing.

As an agnostic, I am willing to entertain multiple possibilities. So when I was approached last year by the Shakespeare Oxford Coalition about the possibility of presenting something from a female perspective at the first in-person conference post-lockdown, I was intrigued. Women whose lives intersected with that of Edward de Vere include, but are not limited to, Mildred Cooke Cecil, one of the most educated women of the Elizabethan era, her daughter Ann Cecil, who married the earl, Anne Vavasour, a maid of honor at Queen Elizabeth's court who bore a child by the earl, Elizabeth Trentham, the earl's 2nd wife, the earl's daughters, and of course Queen Elizabeth as Oxford was a courtier.

Dates on calendar are closer than they appear. The clock is ticking down and I am in the process of writing up my presentation. Here's the abstract.

A playwright draws on what they’ve read, their imagination, and their experiences. As readers or audience members, we delight in the resulting synthesis that becomes the play. Every playwright’s experience includes those people he or she has met, loved, reviled, or accepted. Casual relationships as well as passionate ones inform an author’s work in obvious, but also in subtle ways. Any biographical study of an author should place him in context not only for the appropriate time period but for the people who influenced his or her life. In the case of the Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, this must include the women in his life. The Shakespearian canon includes multiple female characters in pivotal roles driving the plot in unexpected ways or bringing a moral perspective to the work. How might this be reflected in Oxford’s personal life? This consideration of Oxford’s women includes some of the women who may have influenced the author and left their echoes in the plays attributed to Shakespeare.

Unfortunately, I will be delivering the paper via pre-recorded zoom as unexpected familial commitments interfere with the conference schedule. If you are intrigued by the Authorship question and you are eager to travel, you may enjoy the conference, and the nearby wineries! The conference will be available for live streaming.


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