History’s Greatest Hoax

Posted by on August 21, 2013

A Monday Morning Memo from The Wizard of Ads

Bill is a merchant, married to the woman who became pregnant when they were both eighteen. He lives an obscure life and dies at age fifty-two, having never learned to read or write.

Edward is a writer who calls himself, “The 17th Earl of Oxford.” He is an educated man with a passion for tennis and is well versed in the intrigues of politics. Ed writes deep and biting satire. His wit has a razor’s edge.

Orphaned at twelve, Edward is reared by a high ranking government official. At the age of twenty-one, Ed defies convention by marrying the official’s daughter. The hero of Edward’s next story also marries his guardian’s daughter.

Three years later, Edward is on a ship which is attacked and its passengers held for ransom. Likewise, the hero in Ed’s next story is captured by pirates and held for ransom.

Eight months after Edward leaves on a one year journey, his wife has a baby daughter. Upon his return, he falsely accuses his wife of infidelity and refuses to live with her. Five years later, Edward comes to his senses and his loving wife forgives him his ridiculous accusations. Several of Ed’s later stories feature a woman wrongfully accused of adultery, but in each story the woman forgives her husband.

During the five years Edward is separated from his wife, he has an affair with another woman and is physically attacked by one of her friends, resulting in a blood feud between the two families. This feud becomes the foundation for the biggest story Ed will ever write.

Learning of his intentions to publish, the government asks if they might read Ed’s stories before they go into print. This is important only because Edward really is the 17th Earl of Oxford and dozens of the characters in his stories are modeled after people still in government. Horrified by what might happen if the stories are published in Ed’s own name, the government offers him an amazing stipend for life if Ed will agree never to claim authorship of the work. Ed immediately agrees and chooses a name at random, never once suspecting it to be the name of an obscure and illiterate merchant on the other side of town.

Would Edward de Vere have accepted his government’s liberal pension and inserted a name other than his own had he known that future generations would believe an obscure and illiterate merchant to be the greatest author who ever lived? For Edward did not sign his work as “Bill,” but chose to use the more formal name of William. William Shakespeare.

Have a great week,

(but sign your own name to it.)

Roy H. Williams

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