a tale of the Shakespeare authorship
The Shakespeare Schemes is a tale of the Shakespeare authorship controversy. It offers an intriguing twist on how the humble player William Shakspere from Stratford became the acclaimed and celebrated playwright.
It is the tale of how Edmund Campion, outlawed Jesuit priest and one of the greatest minds of the age, returned to England in the summer of 1580, carrying with him the manuscripts of plays he had written – plays outwardly critical of the way England had abandoned the old Catholic religion and embraced the new Protestant faith. For Campion, this schism had split the country in two. To express this in his plays, he wrote of fractured relationships – father against son, mother against daughter, brother against brother. He wrote of separated twins, lost children, parents turned against their children – all the themes we recognise today in the plays of Shakespeare.
But from the moment he stepped ashore in London, disguised as a jewel merchant, Campion knew he was a marked man. He knew his works – the jewels he carried – would never be published under his name: keeping one step ahead of his pursuers, he visited Lancashire and preached secretly at the homes of powerful families who still clung to the old religion. And just before his arrest he left his works in the safe hands of two powerful Catholic sympathisers – Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, and William Stanley, the Earl of Derby.
As the political situation grew worse during the late 1580s, and the Puritan faction at court gained an ever tighter grip on the land, Edward de Vere knew he had to act. Having lost favour at court, he harboured a very dark personal reason to redress the balance, and resolved to bring Campion’s plays to the stage. It was a bold and dangerous move: to achieve it, he would have to hide the true authorship, and his own part in this scheme, behind a clever mask of anonymity. He chose the player William Shakspere to be that mask…
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