Henry Neville

Henry NevilleWho?

A recent entry in the field and an altogether trickier contestant, Henry Neville was a close associate of the Earl of Southampton and was incarcerated after the Essex rebellion along with the Earl. Rather nattily, he manages to be related to both Richard III and Stratford upon Avon through an Arden connection.

The arguments for his candidacy will seem familiar to any experienced authorship debater. Shakespeare was the producer, Neville was the writer. There are cyphers involved, many of the reasons for disqualifying Will are identical and much of the profiling evidence is very similar.

Nevilleans (there aren't many yet and they didn't choose this name - I did) simply accept much of the argument used to disqualify Oxford. In fact, they say the same things as Shakespeareans in pretty much all matters of hard evidence.

They follow the Oxford Companion to Shakespeare in all things relating to the dating of the plays, especially the conventional date of 1610 for The Tempest with its links to Strachey's work The True Reportory of the Wrack and Redemption of Sir Thomas Gates. Disarmingly, they not only accept Hand D as Shakespeare's, which is further than a lot of Shakespeareans are willing to go, they insist on compatibility with Hand D as an essential requirement for any candidate.

The first in a series of books setting out Neville's claim.

They broadly accept the conclusions of stylistic analysis and vocabulary assessment, all of which, they claim, support Neville rather than disqualify him.

Finally, they strenuously defend all the evidence of the dedications and eulogies.

They do, of course, add new evidence of their own which points in slightly different directions. The case also leans more heavily, as do they all, on suggestive detail than matters of strict fact.  

However, he's featured here because, if you take Looney's original premise at face value and follow his reasoning looking for a candidate from scratch, fitting the profile he built for Will, filling in the gaps satifactorily, it has to be admitted that Neville is a much better fit than Oxford. While I have no doubt that Oxfordians are not about to change horses now, I 'm pretty sure sure Thomas J Looney could have been persuaded.

Professors of English are involved. More books and websites are rumoured to be in preparation.

Can't wait…

 

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Comments (23)

  • anon

    <p class="p1"> I am grateful for your relatively sympathetic posting about Sir Henry Neville, and I completely agree with your excellent postings about Oxford, who obviously wasn't Shakespeare.
    <p class="p1">However, I think you don't present the main bases for the case for Neville entirely accurately. It is entirely different from the case for Oxford made by Looney- he inferred the alleged characteristics of the real author from Shakespeare's texts, but did this in a way which clearly favoured Oxford. We do not do anything like this.
    <p class="p1">We have begun by completely accepting the orthodox chronology of the plays, with their very clear evolutionary trajectory and the great break around 1601, and point out that this simply cannot be meshed in with the known life of Shakespeare. Nothing happened to him in or around 1601 to account for his writing Hamlet and the other great Tragedies, which is one reason why all biographies of Shakes are so unsatisfactory - there is no mesh between his life and his alleged writiings.
    <p class="p1">We then looked for someone, otherwise plausible, whose life fitted and had explanatory power. As explained at length in the book I co-authored, Neville's life always fits in a remarkable way. We have also accumulated an enormous amount of direct evidence. This has been done in only ten years or so by a handful of researchers, although our numbers are growing!
    <p class="p1">Another point, about Shakespeare: he was not simply a famous author, but probably the most intensively studied human being in history. Every scrap of paper from his time has been read for something -anything - about his life- but nothing is ever found - nothing. Nothing of the slightest importance about Shakespeare has been found since 1910, with the possible exception of the Lancashire "Shakeschafte" reference in a will. Isn't this rather strange, if he was a famous author in his own lifetime?
    <p class="p1">Bill Rubinstein

    Jan 24, 2013
  • alfa-16's picture

    My own view, Bill, is that there is enough. Enough of what? Well, enough of whatever you want. There's enough contemporary reference, enough surviving documents, enough conclusive attribution and enough evidence of who he was and where he came from in what he wrote. The last category is high on the list of evidence that is unacceptable to Oxfordians but for me, it's the strongest and what we'll be looking at most closely on the site in the future, rather than going round the same old houses, endlessly.

    Jan 24, 2013
  • Hairy_Lime's picture

    "Nothing happened to [Shakespeare] in or around 1601 to account for his writing Hamlet and the other great Tragedies..." How do you know? Even if you accept the highly doubtful view that a change in style has to result from a change in one's personal life - and I reject the notion - how do you know what might have happened in Shakespeare's life that triggered that change?

    Jan 25, 2013
  • alfa-16's picture

    <p>I think, given Will&#39;s Spielberg-like success, that you should always try to explain changes in the nature of the drama by looking first for changes in what the audience wanted. If the audience were tiring of frothy comedy and developing a taste for more serious drama, Will would respond. This is a bit of killer for dramatic changes in the dates of the plays as you can&#39;t move demographics around in the same way as you can move the work of a single author.</p>

    Jan 25, 2013
  • anon

    What do you think happened to Shakespeare around 1601 to totally alter the nature of his writings? Biographers have offered two theories- that he was affected by the death of his son or by the death of his father. Both are highly implausible. His son died in 1595 (1596?), years before, and in between he wrote the Falstaff plays. He was 37 when his father died in 1601.

    There is no evidence that he was close to his father- he did not, obviously, follow his father's occupation; he left Stratford as soon as he could; he notably did not erect any monument or memorial to him, either then or later when he was wealthy. Of course, a writer doesn't need a personal reason to change directions, but just plug in Neville: he went overnight, in 1600, from being Ambassador to France and a rising Court figure to being a convicted traitor, rotting in the Tower (but not in "close confinement") with Southampton until he paid off an enormous fine, and still danger of being executed. (Both men were freed on the same day in 1603 by King James).  Many critics have suggested that Hamlet was "about" the Essex rebellion, which seems clear. Isn't this a lot more likely than Shakespeare's father?

    There are a number of other points which might be made about Shakespeare. I don't think many Stratfordians realize how unlikely it is that Shakespeare did what he is supposed to have done. As an actor, he had to learn his lines for several plays a week, performing them almost every afternoon in an outdoor theatre (till 1609) in English weather in front of an audience in part of drunken louts- that is when he wasn't on tour in the provinces or performing at court. In addition he maintained two households, three days' travel time apart, with business interests in both, presumably shlepping back and forth on Elizabethan roads several times a year. He was also one of the sharers in his Company, and was a theatre manager.

    In addition to all this, he is supposed to have written 37 plays in 25 years, all of which required research in sources in many languages. This beggars belief- it is probably impossible, and no one in his right mind would try it once he had an income. Notably, there isn't a single famous playwright, then or now, who was both an actor and a playwright at the same time (Haywood was the only exception I could find) for most of their careers. Secondly, Stanley Wells has recently conceded that Shakespeare must have known Greek- he must have learned it at that wondrous institution, Stratford Grammar School. I also asked on an Oxfordian site if Oxford knew Greek, but haven't received a straight answer. Neville certainly knew Greek- without any fear of contradiction. Keep an open mind!

    Jan 25, 2013
  • Hairy_Lime's picture

    Hamlet "about" the Essex rebellion?  Saxo Grammaticus was tremendously forsighted!  Or to put it another way, Hamlet is "about" Shakespeare telling a really ripping tale in a very dramatic way.  If Hamlet were "about" the Essex rising it would have lasted on stage about as long as Essex did.

     

    Nothing had to happen to Shakespeare to alter the course of his writing.  As alfa notes, what the butts in the seats wanted is usually sufficient explanation.  If you are inclined to the whole "art" bit, the decision to stretch out and try something newer and more intense suffices. 

     

    But here is my point: we are told, endlessly, that we know so very little about Shakespeare's life - who he drank with, who his friends and associates were, who he slept with - which is, as it happens true.  But people like you simply decide that, because we know nothing about what he did, he did not do anything.  That is at best unintentionally elitist; it assumes because the lives of the middle class were not documented, they did not exist.  It assumes that only the type of experience only given to the elite can change a person's outlook.  For all you know a million and a half different things could have happened in Shakespeare's life to explain the darkening of his work, anything from a financial reverse to the death of a friend to being betrayed by a lover, to getting the clap, to just plain aging and looking at the end of life.  The number of things that could lead to a sea change (Tempest!) in a man's outlook is limited only by your imagination.

     

    Anyway, while we know Shakespeare acted with the King's Men, how much he acted and how they divvied up his work load is shielded from the prying of modern eyes.  It is sufficient to note that Shakespeare was not even particularly prolific.  Heywood - or Middleton, damn my memory - had a hand in 200 plays during the time Shakespeare wrote.

     

    Sam Shepard.  You are welcome.

     

    Yes, I realize most of the people at the Globe stood rather than sat.  "Butts in seats" is not meant literally.

    Jan 26, 2013
  • anon

    It is striking that Shakespeare did not appear to want to "put bums on seats," and appeared to operate autonomously. The best example of this is Falstaff, his most popular character. Shakespeare, of course, marginalized him in IVH2 and then cruelly killed him off in H5. Why on earth didn't he, and his company, milk him in six more plays to pack the theatre?

    Were plays like Measure For Measure or Cymbeline really more likely to draw the crowds? I'm pretty sure I know why-he was ostracized when Neville was appointed Ambassador to France in 1598-9, and, even anonymously, no longer wanted to depict buffoons, rather like Prince Hal when he became king. At the end of Henry V, as I remember, the author says that in six months he would be in France- which was true. 

    Jan 26, 2013
  • alfa-16's picture

    It's more than possible Falstaff was simply the start of an audience behaviour that has lasted to this day and he went the way of Indiana Jones or Jurassic Park. Three and out. Along with Will Kemp who played him. You can have too much of a good thing.

    Jan 26, 2013
  • anon

    The Bond films have been running for fifty years. I suppose it depends on how good the scriptwriter is! Another point of importance is the Strachey Letter, which is universally seen as one of the main bases of The Tempest, of course (except by Oxfordians, who of course have to deny any link).

    The Letter, not published until 1625, was privately circulated to Directors of the London Virginia Company. Shakespeare was obviously not a Director, and was not among the c.570 men who had paid twelve pounds to buy a share in the Company- one can find a complete list online, I seem to remember. If he had had any traceable connection with the Company, this would be common knowledge .He was also apparently  living in Stratford, not London. So how did he read the Letter? And presumably copy enough out to use in a play? And why? You tell me. All sorts of obviously implausible(preposterous?) theories have been put forward, none of which are supported by any evidence whatever.

    In contrast, Neville was a Director of the Company (so was Southampton) and was the brother-in-law of its managing director. 

    Jan 27, 2013
  • culfy's picture

    "Were plays like Measure For Measure or Cymbeline really more likely to draw the crowdsare of Stratford wrote the works of William Shakespeare. " Why not? I know that some of the assumed morality in Measure for Measure can make a modern audience wince, and it is not among the first rung of Shakespeare comedies...but the play still contains marvellous moments of theatre...take any of the Isabella/Angelo duologues or the final Act...as well as some excellent knockabout comedy.

    Jan 27, 2013
  • alfa-16's picture

    Measure for Measure has alway been a favourite of mine since a production at the Liverpool Everyman in the 70's. Pete Postlethwaite played the priest and burst into Angelo's cell on a scooter with 'Jesus Saves' in flashing lights on the front. He then did the 'Be absolute for death' speech as if he was a hot gospeller addressing a full football stadium and had the audience begging for mercy . . .

    Jan 27, 2013
  • Hairy_Lime's picture

    Well, Falstaff was all wrong for the tone of Henry V anyway.  That was a promise Shakespeare could never keep. 

     

    Kemp left in 1599 and was replaced by Armin who was, by all reports, not fit to fill Falstaff's doublet.  (And I mean that literally.) My handy dandy Shakespeare collection dates Merry Wives of Windsor to the same time.  The change in clowns meant a huge change in the way the clown parts were written.  Which come to think could also go a long way to explaining why Shakespeare's plays went dark about that time.

    Jan 30, 2013
  • anon

    Finding links between Shakespeare's life and the evolution of his plays is precisely what all of his zillions of biographers try to do. The problem is they really can't find any. The theories that the central break in his writings around 1601 was linked to either the death of his son or his father were first put decades ago, by writers who of course believed he wrote the works attributed to him. There is a consensus that his writings show a clear evolutionary pattern, with his post-1601 plays different from those before. I agree. As to the other point, I doubt if any modern writer worked under the conditions Shakespeare was supposed to have endured as an actor and theatre manager, and with two homes days' travel apart. He must have gone back and forth to Stratford on horseback, or in some primitive cart, over the roads of 1600. Enjoy. It is also striking that virtually none of the famous playwrights of his time was an actor, except maybe at the beginning of their careers, but managed to know how to write a play. I agree that Measure For Measure is an excellent play, although its themes, of forgiveness, etc.,are quite unusual. The gap between his last previous play (probably Othello) and MFM, which was apparently premiered in December 1604, is the longest among his works. If Neville was the real author, this makes perfect sense- he was released from the Tower (along with Southampton) in March 1604, and had a trillion things to do, including seeing his kids for the first time since 1598, and getting elected to Parliament again. The themes of MFM also seem appropriate to his situation.  Also, the watermarks on the ms. of Sir Thomas More, with Hand D, allegedly by Shakespeare, can be dated to 1603. But take heed: all of the other writers whose handwriting can be traced worked for the Lord Admiral's Men, the rival company to the Lord Chamberlain's/'King's Men for which Shakespeare certainly worked. Did Shakespeare really write for a rival company? If Hand D was by Neville, he may have had a temporary falling out with his old company, or "warming up" after his break by writing a short passage.

    Jan 30, 2013
  • culfy's picture

    "Biographers have offered two theories- that he was affected by the death of his son or by the death of his father. Both are highly implausible. His son died in 1595 (1596?), years before, and in between he wrote the Falstaff plays. He was 37 when his father died in 1601." Sorry, but I really do have to have to address this. As Alfa and Richard Nathan know, I am a 'failed writer' (with one short story to my name) but that short story was inspired by an incident that happened to me over 30 years ago. The idea that the chronological account of a writer's life can be overlaid over his style seems to presuppose that Shakespeare would really experience the death of his father or his son and then immediately say (in the words of Monty Python) "You know I think there's a play there. Get t'agent on t'phone". As Wordsworth said, poetry is 'emotion recollected in tranquility' and it may have taken Shakespeare five years to get the death of his son enough to start addressing notions of mortality in Hamlet...and writing the Falstaff plays may have been a necessary distraction. Speculation of course, but no more speculative than just assuming that a writer's work must map one for one onto their life. And as for Shakespeare's supposedly unrealistic prolific nature....in 56 years Alan Ayckbourn has written over 70 ORIGINAL works, most of which he has directed himself as well as directing at least two more different plays a year at his own theatre.

    Jan 28, 2013
  • anon

    Alan Ayckbourn gave up acting in the mid-1960s because "it was more trouble than it was worth." (See his wikipedia entry.) He has been a full-time writer and director, but not an actor, for 45 years or so. Shakespeare apparently remained an actor until the early 1600s or later, and was known as an actor.

    Jan 30, 2013
  • culfy's picture

    Not sure whether you're agreeing or disagreeing with me. Acting is hard work, directing is either harder since you have to be on top of not only the play, but also the lighting, sound, design etc. Yet Ayckbourn managed to do all this, run his theatre and produce at least one work a year for a long period of time.

    Jan 30, 2013
  • anon

    What Shakespeare is supposed to have done is a lot harder- a lot harder- than what Ayckbourne did, given the differences in living conditions between 1600 and 1970. Ayckbourne pointedly quit acting when he became a playwright/director because it was too hard, and I'll bet didn't ride on horseback (or walk) between London and provincial towns, sleep on straw in some inn, or freeze his arse off on an outdoors stage day after day. Shakespeare was alleged to have done this until at least 1604. And also to have written Hamlet and Henry IV etc. His rate of production in the first half of his career, when he was riding on horseback in English weather, on Elizabethan roads, on provincial tours and when going home to Stratford, was supposed to be two plays a year. When he probably lived mainly in Stratford, he dropped off to one play a year.

    What he supposedly did is as if someone working in a Ford factory now was promoted to manager, but still insisted on working nightshifts on the assembly line because he liked it. Sure. As an actor, Shakespeare may have put up with this until he had more money, but how likely is it that he also wrote dozens of masterpiece plays at the same time? Plays which were all based on learned sources often in several languages, not written off the top of his head? Isn't it obvious that there were two different men, the actor and the author? Not Oxford, who is simply absurd as an authorship candidate- his dates are all wrong, etc.- for the reasons set out on this site, but someone whose life can be meshed in with the chronology of the plays and how they evolve?

    Feb 04, 2013
  • Hairy_Lime's picture

    And Neville, diplomat, member of parlaiment, owner of a cannon factory in addition to all the normal pursuits of the life of a noble, had tons of free time?

    Feb 05, 2013
  • anon

    Neville was only a diplomat for two years- he had no other diplomatic experience, and had time on his hands in Paris when he was Ambassador in 1599-1600. In those days Parliament met in all for no more than a month a year- it was not a full time job like now. Neville was primarily a landowner in Berkshire and Sussex and had a house in London.

    His mother was the niece of Sir Thomas Gresham, and he may have had mercantile interests. He had plenty of free time, and may well have written Shakespeare's works because he was bored- as well, of course, because he liked to write

    Feb 05, 2013
  • anon

    Apart from the evidence provided on Dr Casson's site, there is a particularly remarkable item about Neville as Shakespeare which readers will want to know about. In the March 2006 issue of Notes and Queries (probably available online) there is a brief article by a Dr Fred Shurink of the University of Newcastle (UK) about a previously unnoticed early reference to Shakespeare. He points out that the third (1628) edition of a Manual of Rhetoric, published in Greek by Revd. Thomas Vicars (1589-1638) added this to a passage in the earlier editions of this work on famous English poets. Translated, it says:"To these I believe should be added the famous poet who takes his name from 'shaking' and 'spear,' (and) John Davies, and my pious and learned namesake John Vicars." Shurink doesn't comment on the startling nature of this reference- here is someone writing only five years after the First Folio who apparently thought that William Shakespeare was a pseudonym, 200 years before anyone else.  Shurink's article was discussed on an Oxfordian website. I then pointed out that Vicars was Sir Henry Neville's son-in-law, having married his daughter Anne a few years earlier- he was then preumably let in on the family secret!

    Anyone wanting more information about the case for Sir Henry Neville as Shakespeare should go to Dr John Casson's website,www.creativepsychotherapy.info  Dr Casson is a psychotherapist and also an outstanding pro-Neville researcher. Go to "My Shakespeare-Neville research" on the left. The second half of this informative page links to many detailed articles Dr Casson has written with real evidence- real evidence, not Oxfordian wishful thinking- backing up the Neville theory- for instance, the use of unique and rare words in Shakespeare's works in the letters and memoranda written by Neville, often on virtually the same day. I am sure that reading this will open many eyes. The case for Neville is categorically stronger than the case for Oxford (which is manifest nonsense) or any other candidate.

    Feb 04, 2013
  • anon

    An interesting point on the workload  Reform. You say:

    I don't think many Stratfordians realize how unlikely it is that Shakespeare did what he is supposed to have done. As an actor, he had to learn his lines for several plays a week, performing them almost every afternoon in an outdoor theatre (till 1609) in English weather

    We can actually be completely certain that Shakespeare (and every other actor in the public theatres) was not learning lines for several plays a week and performing every afternoon in London in the period from 1603 up to 1609.

    London was hit by a series of plague epidemics in early Jacobin times. King James delayed his entry into London in 1603 because of the outbreak. As a public health measure all places of mass entertainment (Bear baiting and theatres amongst them) were shut down. We are talking about closure for years at a time, not a few weeks. The 1608-09 closure was for about 14 months if I recall rightly.

    I believe there are studies showing that other dramatists and actors had to get alternative employment in this period.  

    Shakespeare did of course have a relatively safe haven at Stratford and with theatrical appearances limited to court and other command performances (unless he went on tour in the country) had some extra time to write new plays free of repertory company deadlines. Is it not possible that the extra time to polish up his work had an impact on the content and quality of the results?

    By the way, this also represents a 'big break' approximating to the 1601 watershead that Neville advocates find so important as evidence for the Neville candidacy.

    (added 15.22hrs 2 April 2013)

    The theatre closures were actually:
    May 1603 to April 1604
    May 1604 to September 1604
    October 1605 to December 1605
    July 1606 to April 1608
    July 1608 to February 1610

    So rather longer that my first memory.  See the chapter 'The Myth of Shakespeare's Retirement' in Jonathan Bate 'The Soul Of The Age; the life mind and world of William Shakespeare. (Bate 2008 pp354-355)

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Apr 02, 2013
  • alfa-16's picture

    Apologies for the late welcome, Luddington. Please accept 10 brownie points for getting the comment editor to work first time. I agree that the output argument doesn't yield very much. Will was positively lackadaisical compared to his Spanish contemporary, Lope de Vega. He doesn't appear to be any more hardworking than his contemporary English competitors or even modern playwrights in residence like Willy Russell or Alan Bleasdale in their days at The Everyman.

    Apr 04, 2013
  • anon

    As a poet might remark  ὁ δὲ ἀνεξέταστος βίος οὐ βιωτὸς ἀνθρώπῳ

    One of the sad things about the 'authorship debates' is the need some commentators show to belittle the man from Stratford.

    What do you think happened to Shakespeare around 1601 to totally alter the nature of his writings? Biographers have offered two theories- that he was affected by the death of his son or by the death of his father. Both are highly implausible. His son died in 1595 (1596?), years before, and in between he wrote the Falstaff plays. He was 37 when his father died in 1601.

    There is no evidence that he was close to his father- he did not, obviously, follow his father's occupation; he left Stratford as soon as he could; he notably did not erect any monument or memorial to him, either then or later when he was wealthy.  
    (Posted by Reform, 25 Jan 2013)

    I suppose if you don't think the man was some kind of poet, he must have been a cold and calculating creature of this kind.

    Lets see about Shakespeare:

    He saw his fathers furtune decline from that of a leading and prosperous citizen of Stratford. (leave aside speculation about recusancy for the purposes of this argument). Shakespeare had limited prospects in Stratford to recoup the family position.

    He marries at 18, thus making it impossible to enter his father's trade as an apprentice (all apprentices to established crafts had to be unmarried, by law). 

    He leaves home in Stratford to make a living in a relatively unregulated economic niche. He participates in lawsuites during the 1580's trying to recoup some of his parent's economic losses.

    He helps revive his father's claim to 'gentleman' status and to get a coat of arms granted. John Shakespeare gets confirmation of this award 'for himself and his posterity' in October 1596, after his (John's) only grandson Hamnet dies in August 1596.

    His father dies in 1601 making William male  head of the Stratford Shakespeare 'clan'. Shakespeare continues to put time and effort into building up his family position in that town.

    His younger brother Edmund dies in 1607 aged 27, childless

    His mother Mary (Arden) died in 1608

    His younger brother Gilbert dies in 1612 aged 46, childless

    His younger brother Richard dies in 1613 aged 39, childless

    Can I suggest a thread here? His memorial for his father was to try to restore the family honour and name - a very strong emotional spur in a status-obsessed society. But even as he had worldly success, life continued to slam down hammer blows. The honour of a coat of arms, but receeding posterity to pass this on to. And the family sadnesses... Dust and ashes amidst the small triumphs of this world.

    A poet is perhaps likely to  reflect on this, and the nature of his writing change.

    Other things of course happened around 1601 to give Shakespeare wider perspectives. Starting with a new generation of competitors. A subject for other posts perhaps... Oh and a change in political regime in 1603 ... even ordinary subjects had a view on that.

    (My little Latin and less Greek still allows me to pick up references such as the remark ascribed to Socrates     ὁ δὲ ἀνεξέταστος βίος οὐ βιωτὸς ἀνθρώπῳ     A life unexamined is no life for a man. )

    Apr 08, 2013