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BA or no BA?

Oxfordians are wont to insist that the plays show evidence of a first rate university education. They were even once inclined to argue that the plays were written in 'the idiom of Cambridge University'. When someone (a Cambridge graduate, as it happens) asked for examples of this idiom and help identifying it, they were greeted with complete silence. 

However, we are as sure as we can be that Will Shakespeare didn’t go to university, so if it can be proved that the plays could not have been written by anyone without a degree, this would disqualify the man from Stratford.

It would also disqualify Oxford. 

Newtons Bridge Queens College

Newton's Bridge at Queen's College.
The story goes that Sir Isaac Newton built it entirely without nuts and bolts, like a life-size wooden jigsaw. Intrigued academics disassembled it to see how he had managed it in the early 20C.Not only could they not understand how Newton had constructed it, but they were forced to admit defeat and reassemble it using the modern nuts and bolts you can now see holding its sections together. Like stories of Oxford's undergraduate education, however, it's all complete nonsense.The new nuts and bolts were simply required to make it safe. Health & Safety, eh?

As a child of eight he boarded at Queens College, Cambridge for a few months with his tutor but that was more for the bursar's enrichment than his own: a form of patronage. I'm sure the fellows dined very well when he was in attendance. But the only record of his sojourn in college is a series of bills for smashed windows.

After that, he was taught at home. His timetable exists: he had two hours a day of Latin lessons. Two. One must make room for more aristocratic pursuits, like dancing and fencing.

In Elizabethan grammar schools, the boys worked from 6 am to 5 pm in summer—with a noonday break—and from 7 am to 4 pm in winter; they read, wrote, and spoke nothing but Latin in school.

And it showed. At eleven years old, a Stratford boy, the son of Will Shakespeare’s friend Richard Quiney, could write a letter to his dad in good Latin, playing neatly on a quote from Cicero. His father, of course, could read it. Any literate Elizabethan could (and did) quote easily and aptly from the classics: Oxford never.

De Vere’s last recorded tutor quit when the boy was thirteen. Lawrence Nowell’s assessment of his wayward pupil—“I clearly see that my work for the Earl of Oxford cannot be much longer required”—has a long descent in pedagogy. "Nothing more to teach him" is a well-known diplomatic fiction for “your kid is unteachable”.

Oxford’s degrees from Oxford and Cambridge were mere decorative fictions. They were given out to all of the Queen's noble entourage as souvenirs of her visits. No academic work was required. Oxford didn’t have a university education. The level of his education is entirely consistent with the dull, prosiac writing he left behind. The truth is, however, that education is yet another Oxfordian obssession which is not germane to the authorship debate.

If dramatists of Shakespeare’s stature could be produced through education, there would be more than one.

And there isn’t. 

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