Shakespeare Solved ®

Shakespeare Solved ® is a forthcoming series of novels that covers the Bard's entire life and work.

These novels solve the mysteries surrounding Shakespeare by transporting us back in time, to walk in his shoes, and see his world through his eyes.

Only when we see Shakespeare in his original historical context can we understand what his plays and poems really mean.

This blog explains some of my ideas and discoveries, to prepare for this series of novels.

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Shakespeare & Edward III

Did Shakespeare write the Edward III play?

King Edward III

Many think that he did not, and there are some who are convinced that he did.

You can read more about this controversy here on Wikipedia:

I have been reading the play again and I found something rather interesting. I can’t conclude that Shakespeare did write this play but I have found something that strongly supports that possiblity.

Shakespeare’s history plays, like Henry V and the Henry VI trilogy for example, are not always based on fact or history. Shakespeare didn’t let history get in the way of a good story.

There are some unhistorical things in the Edward III play.

The Earl of Salisbury

For example, the Earl of Salisbury character is partially based on another man, and the real Earl was dead when much of the play’s events take place.

So why did the playwright do this? Was it just out of convenience, or was there another reason?

The Earl of Warwick

Also, the Earl of Warwick character appears in the play as the Countess of Salisbury’s father — even though the real Earl of Warwick was not her father!

In one of the sources for this play, William Painter’s Palace of Pleasure, the same mistake is made.

But is it a mistake, or was there another reason why the Edward III playwright would change history, and twist the facts?

I have a theory.

The Edward III play was printed in 1596, so it was probably written in the early 1590s.

One of the biggest questions in Queen Elizabeth I’s court during the 1590s was the question of who would become the Earl Marshal of England — the highest ranking army officer. 

The last Earl Marshal had died in 1590, and from that moment it was not clear who would hold this office. It went unfilled until 1597.

The man who was most clearly qualified for the office, and who argued and begged for it was Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex.


Essex commanded the Queen’s forces in France in 1591, Cadiz in 1596 and finally in 1597 he was made Earl Marshal, the same year he lead forces to the Azores.

I have written very often here on this blog about the relationship between Essex and Shakespeare, and the fact that Shakespeare wrote many of his plays for and about Essex. 

The most obvious reference to Essex is in the Henry V play, where Shakespeare’s Chorus speaks about Essex as the “general of our gracious empress” “from Ireland coming” “bringing rebellion broached on his sword.”

Shakespeare was comparing King Henry V to Essex who was commanding the largest army to put down a rebellion by the Irish.


So, if Essex had wanted the office of Earl Marshal from 1590, and Shakespeare had a habit of writing plays to support Essex’s ambition, then it would make a lot of sense to include some reference to the office of Earl Marshal in a play in the period from 1590 to 1597.

Well, when you look at the Earls of Salisbury and Warwick you can see that both men were Earl Marshals of England — or just Marshalls as they were known back in the 14th Century.

And both the Earl of Salisbury and the Earl of Warwick were Essex’s ancestors.

So, did Essex commission Shakespeare (or another playwright) to write this Edward III play to celebrate the proud military history of his ancestors in order to persuade Queen Elizabeth to make him Earl Marshal?

I don’t know. But I have yet to read or find a better explanation for why this play was written.

Did Shakespeare write this play?

It is very possible.

If you take the time to read the play for yourself, and I highly recommend it, when you get to Act II, you may find it hard to imagine that anyone other than Shakespeare could have written such dialogue.



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