Hamlet has often been thought to be autobiographical. Was Edward de Vere, then, Shakespeare? Confining ourselves just to Hamlet, we find more than a few additional parallels:
* Lord Burghley wrote out a set of precepts ("Towards thy superiors be humble yet generous; with thine equals familiar yet respective") strongly reminiscent of the advice Polonius gives to Laertes ("Be thou familiar but by no means vulgar...."). Burghley's precepts, intended for the use of his son Robert, were published in 1618. Hamlet first appeared in quarto in 1603. Edmund K. Chambers, one of the leading Shakespeare scholars of the twentieth century, offered the following explanation: "Conceivably Shakespeare knew a pocket manuscript."
* In Act II Polonius sends Reynaldo to spy on Laertes in Paris, possibly catching him "drinking, fencing, swearing, quarreling," or "falling out at tennis." In real life Burghley's older son, Thomas Cecil, did go to Paris, whence the well-informed Burghley somehow received information, through a secret channel, of Thomas's "inordinate love of...dice and cards." Oxford, incidentally, did have a real "falling out at tennis"—not a widely practiced sport in those days—with Sir Philip Sidney, the Earl of Leicester's nephew.
* Oxford and Hamlet are similar figures, courtiers and Renaissance men of varied accomplishments; both were scholars, athletes, and poets. Many critics have noted Hamlet's resemblance to Castiglione's beau ideal in The Courtier. At the age of twenty-one, Oxford wrote a Latin introduction to a translation of this book. Both Oxford and Hamlet were patrons of play-acting companies.
* In 1573 Oxford contributed a preface to an English translation of Cardanas Comfort, a book of consoling advice which the orthodox scholar Hardin Craig called Hamlet's book." The book includes passages from which Hamlet's soliloquy was surely taken ("What should we account of death to be resembled to anything better than sleep....We are assured not only to sleep, but also to die....").
* Oxford stabbed a servant of Burghley's (possibly another of Burghley's spies). Polonius is stabbed by Hamlet while spying on him.
* Hamlet's trusted friend is Horatio. Oxford's most trusted relative seems to have been Horace Vere, called Horatio in some documents (and so named by the Dictionary of National Biography).
* Oxford, like Hamlet, was captured by pirates en route to England; both participated in sea battles.
The parallels between Hamlet and Oxford, ignored by conventional scholarship, were first discovered by J. Thomas Looney (pronounced "LOE-ny," but the harm's been done), an English schoolmaster whose book "Shakespeare" Identified in Edward de Vere was published in 1920. If it is ever vindicated—as is still possible—it will far surpass Heinrich Schliemann's discovery of Troy in the annals of amateur scholarship. Among Looney's converts were Sigmund Freud and John Galsworthy, who said that Looney's book was "the best detective story I have ever read." Looney (who refused his publisher's understandable suggestion that he consider using a pseudonym) died in 1944, his theory widely ignored. After the prolonged controversy over the proposition that Francis Bacon was the real author of the Shakespeare canon, the proposal of yet another candidate seemed to be mere desperation. But Looney had found a candidate far more interesting, and plausible, than the Baconians or anyone else ever had.