The above picture is of Edward De Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. Mark Anderson makes a fascinating, stupendously controversial case in Shakespeare by Another Name that De Vere was in fact the “real” Shakespeare.
Notwithstanding the unresolved question of Shakespeare’s identity, he remains agelessly vital and so can help us on our journey. Suppose Shakesvere were sitting right beside you and you posed the following questions. How might he answer you?
I. Experiencing Laughing Heart
How can I quiet my heart?
I know myself know; and I feel within me a peace above all earthly dignities, a still and quiet conscience.
Henry VIII, Act 3, sc. 2
How to find my great power?
O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention, Henry V, Prologue
How to discover Beauty?
O, speak again, bright angel! For thou art
As glorious to this night, being o’er my head,
As is a wingèd messenger of heaven
Unto the white, upturnèd, wondering eyes
Of mortals that fall back to gaze on him
When he bestrides the lazy-puffing clouds
And sails upon the bosom of the air.
Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2
How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
Here will we sit and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears: soft stillness and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony.
Sit, Jessica. Look how the floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold:
There’s not the smallest orb which thou behold’st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins;
Such harmony is in immortal souls;
Spoken by Lorenzo, The Merchant of Venice, Act 5, Scene 1
How to learn Nature’s secret language?
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date
Shakespeare Sonnet 18
One touch of nature makes the whole world kin
Troilus and Cressida, Act 3, Scene 3
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.
I would not change it.
As You Like It Act 2, Scene 2
In nature’s infinite book of secrecy
A little I can read.
Anthony and Cleopatra, Act 1 Scene 1
II. Exploring Laughing Heart
How to discover my Muse in music?
If music be the food of love, play on Give me excess of it; that surfeiting, The appetite may sicken, and so die.”
Twelfth Night, Prologue
“The man that hath no music in himself, Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils; The motions of his spirit are dull as night, And his affections dark as Erebus. Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.”
Merchant of Venice Act 5 Scene 1
How to find the secret connections of everything with everything?
I this infer, That many things, having full referenceTo one consent, may work contrariously:As many arrows, loosed several ways,Come to one mark; as many ways meet in one town;As many fresh streams meet in one salt sea;As many lines close in the dial’s centre;So may a thousand actions, once afoot.End in one purpose, and be all well borneWithout defeat.
Henry V, Act 1 Scene 2
How can I build life force through love?
She loved me for the dangers I had passed,
And I loved her that she did pity them.
This only is the witchcraft I have used.
Othello Act 1 Scene 1
**Shakespeare–The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene I
The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest. It becomes
The thronèd monarch better than his crown.
His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings,
But mercy is above this sceptered sway.
It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings.
It is an attribute to God himself.
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice.