Shakespeare--Who Was He? The Oxford Challenge to the Bard of Avon

By Richard F. Whalen | Go to book overview

Chapter Ten
Oxford Revealed in Shakespeare's
Plays

One day in May 1573 Lord Burghley received a letter complaining about an escapade of his twenty-three-year-old son-in-law, the seventeenth earl of Oxford. The letter was from two former servants of Oxford. They said they had been riding peaceably on the highway from Gravesend to Rochester when they were waylaid by three men who had lain hidden in a ditch. They identified the highwaymen as three of Oxford's men.

Shots were fired at close range, but no one was hit. The gunfire was so close, the letter said, that the saddle girth on one of the horses broke and the rider was thrown to the ground. The highwaymen then rode off toward London. "It pleased God to deliver us from that determined mischief," the victims told Burghley.

They went on to complain that the same men "beset our lodgings" in London and forced them to flee to Gravesend, where they still felt themselves to be in danger. They pleaded with Burghley to provide them with security from their attackers and from Oxford "as the procurer of that which is done."

Oxford may have been more than just the instigator. The victims mention his "raging demeanor," which suggests they saw him at the scene of the mischievous ambush. They do not accuse

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