What’s In A Name?

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Here’s what I mean when I use certain names or terms. You can also read this new sonnet (#155).

  • Shakespeare or the author, or capitalised as Author: Used in contexts where my personal identity as the creator of ‘the works of Shakespeare’ (the canon or corpus) is irrelevant. Authorship-neutral writers often use one of these terms to mean the fellow who wrote the words, whoever he is. At times it’s easier to stick with what’s familiar. As the name is generally employed today, however, Shakespeare is a cultural construct, a cartoon, a meme– though many don’t know it or won’t admit it.
  • Shake-Speare or SHAKE-SPEARE: My pseudonym, the name I use when I write about myself as the author. This is how it’s supposed to be spelled, with a hyphen. Shakespeare didn’t become the incorrect default until long after my death.
  • Willy, Shakspere, Shaksper, Shaxper, Shax, Poet-Ape, or (thanks to Jeff) Shaggy: The front, the myth, the straw man, the convenient untruth. The parsimonious plaintiff of doubtful literacy from Stratford-upon-Avon. The Merchant of Warwickshire. My legacy’s usurper. Neither Shakespeare nor Shake-Speare. As to the actual spelling of his surname, your guess is as good as his.
  • The Shakespeare Industry, or Orthodoxy, or Stratford: the boards of tourism, companies, experts (soi-disant), foundations, graduate students, libraries, merchants, museums, professors (tenured, adjunct, or emeritus), publishers, towns, trusts, university departments, writers, et cetera, whose financial prosperity and professional standing are wholly bounden unto the Gospel of Willy. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT) in Stratford is the Orthodox Church’s curia. The Folger Shakespeare Library (FSL) in Washington DC is the base of its American mission.
  • It took the Vatican 359 years to admit that Copernicus and Galileo were correct, that geocentrism was false doctrine. Williocentrism has now passed 400. Rome learned, and so too shall Stratford. At the length, truth will out.
  • Stratfordians can be referred to as being from Warwickshire, no matter where they reside.
  • References to (the) Bard mean Willy. That’s his handle, not mine. Stratfordians are Bardologists or Bardolators, their bad religion Bardolatry.
  • I call the works my plays, my sonnets, my poems, whatever applies. I wrote them, now I can claim them.

About my title. I’m not a stickler for protocol these days, except when I need to pull rank on someone to make a point. But since I am occasionally asked about this:

Geneva Bible back cover medallionThe Earl of Oxford is formally addressed as Lord Oxford. Servants and other regular folks call me my lord –never sir– and refer to me as his lordship. Only baronets and knights, ranking below the peerage, are called sir.

Notwithstanding this blog’s nameToo many Oxfords online already. I opted for clarity over protocol. and my Twitter ID, as Earl I don’t ordinarily use my family surname de Vere, nor is Lord ever paired with Edward. My wife and friends may call me Edward or Ned in private conversation, but in public they too use Lord Oxford, my lord, or his lordship.

A peer’s title substitutes for his surname, so I sign my letters Edward Oxford or simply Oxford. Back in my time it was spelled Oxenford, but Oxford is correct now. Most peers can be designated by their title alone: Oxford, Norfolk, Sussex, etc. There’s only one of each at a time, so it’s obvious who is meant.

These forms of address also apply to marquesses, viscounts, and barons, but not dukes. Dukes have their own forms, as do monarchs.