“The Living Record” – 9

Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford (1550-1604) was in the best position of anyone in England to write the Shakespeare Sonnets:

Oxford’s uncle was the late Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1517-1547), who (with Sir Thomas Wyatt) wrote the first English sonnets in the form to become known as the “Shakespearean” form.

Another of Oxford’s uncles was Arthur Golding, credited with translating Ovid’s  “Metamorphoses” into the English version of 1567 used by Shakespeare.

Oxford at 23 in 1573 wrote the first sonnet of the Elizabethan reign in the “Shakespearean” form — entitled “Love Thy Choice,” expressing devotion to Queen Elizabeth I

Oxford expressed themes of “constancy” and “truth” in his early sonnet that Shakespeare would express in the same words:

“In constant truth to bide so firm and sure” – Oxford sonnet to Queen
“Oaths of thy love, thy truth, thy constancy” – Sonnet 152 to Dark Lady

Oxford was with Queen Elizabeth and her Court during her three-day visit in August 1574 to the City of Bath, the only visit of the reign, and Shakespeare reflected this visit in the Bath verses, Sonnets 153-154.

Oxford shared some basic circumstances with Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton, whom most commentators have identified as the younger man addressed in the long opening series of Sonnets 1-126:

Oxford in the early 1590’s was the prospective father-in-law in negotiations with William Cecil, Lord Burghley for seventeen-year-old Southampton to marry fifteen-year-old Elizabeth Vere (whose birth in 1575 caused Oxford to deny his paternity and separate from his marriage to Burghley’s daughter Anne Cecil); and most commentators have perceived Sonnets 1-17 as urging Southampton to accept that marriage proposal.

Oxford was the first royal ward of Elizabeth raised in Cecil’s custody and Southampton was the eighth and final “child of state” raised under Cecil’s guardianship.

Oxford was pressured into marrying Burghley’s daughter in 1571, entering a Cecil family alliance; and a generation later Southampton was pressured to marry Burghley’s granddaughter in 1590-1591, but he refused to enter a Cecil family alliance.

Oxford’s footprints leave a trail throughout the lines of Shakespeare’s Sonnets:

ACTING & THE STAGE: “As an imperfect actor on the stage” – Sonnet 23
Oxford patronized two acting companies, performed in “interludes” at Court and was well known for his “comedies” or stage plays.

ALCHEMY: “Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy” – Sonnet 33
Oxford studied with astrologer Dr. John Dee, who experimented with alchemy, and both men  invested in the Frobisher voyages. (Dee was probably a model for Prospero in The Tempest.)

ASTRONOMY: “And yet methinks I have astronomy” – Sonnet 14
Oxford was well acquainted with the “astronomy” or astrology of Dr. Dee and was praised for  his knowledge of the subject.

BIBLE: “No, I am that I am…” – Sonnet 121
Oxford wrote to Burghley using the same words in the same tone (the words of God to Moses in  the Bible) to protest his spying on him.

CUP: “And to his palate doth prepare the cup” – Sonnet 114
Oxford’s ceremonial role as Lord Great Chamberlain included bringing the “tasting cup” to  the monarch.

CLOTHES: “Some in their garments, though new-fangled ill” – Sonnet 91
Oxford was the “Italianate Englishman” known (and mocked) for wearing new-fangled clothing  from the Continent.

FIVE CENTURIES: “O that record could with a backward look,
Even of five hundred courses of the Sunne”
– Sonnet 59
Oxford’s earldom extended back five hundred years to the time of William the Conqueror.

FLOWERS: “Of different flowers in odor and in hue” – Sonnet 98
Oxford was raised amid the great gardens of William Cecil, whose well-known gardener imported  flowers that had never been seen in England — accounting for Shakespeare’s vast knowledge  of flowers.

Forty WINTERS: “When forty winters shall beseige thy brow” – Sonnet 2
Oxford was forty years old in 1590, when most commentators feel the opening sonnets were  written.

HAWKS: “Of more delight than hawks or horses be” – Sonnet 91
Oxford was a falconry expert who wrote youthful poetry comparing women to hawks “that fly  from man to man.”

HIGH BIRTH: “Thy love is better than high birth to me” – Sonnet 91
Oxford was hereditary Lord Great Chamberlain, highest-ranking earl of England by birth.

HORSEMANSHIP: “Then can no horse with my desire keep pace” – Sonnet 51
Oxford was an expert horseback rider and two-time champion of her Majesty’s tiltyard.

HOUNDS: “Some in their hawks and hounds” – Sonnet 91
Oxford was steeped from childhood in this favorite pastime of the nobility.

JEWELRY:  “As on the finger of a a throned Queen,
The basest Jewel will be well esteemed”
– Sonnet 96
Oxford gave the Queen “a fair jewel of gold” with diamonds in 1580.

LAMENESS:  “Speak of my lameness, and I straight will halt” – Sonnet 89
Oxford was lamed during a street fight with swords in 1582.

LEGAL KNOWLEDGE: “To guard the lawful reasons on thy part” – Sonnet 49
Oxford studied law at Gray’s Inn and served as a judge at the treason trials of Norfolk,  Mary Stuart and Essex.  His personal letters are filled with evidence of his intimate knowledge of the law.

LUTE: “Mark how one string, sweet husband to another” – Sonnet 8
Oxford was an accomplished musician and wrote music for the lute.

MEDICINE: “Potions of Eisel ‘gainst my strong infection” – Sonnet 111
Oxford’s surgeon was Dr. George Baker, who dedicated three books to either the earl or his  wife Anne Cecil.

MONUMENT: “And thou in this shalt find thy monument” – Sonnet 107
Oxford wrote to Thomas Bedingfield in 1573 that “I shall erect you such a monument…”

MUSIC: “Music to hear, why hear’st thou music sadly” – Sonnet 8
Oxford was patron of John Farmer, the musical composer, who dedicated two songbooks to him,  praising his musical knowledge.

NAME: “My name be buried where my body is” – Sonnet 72
Oxford wrote in his early poetry that “the only loss of my good name is of these griefs the  ground.”

PHYSICAL SKILL: “Some glory in their birth, some in their skill” – Sonnet 91
Oxford challenged all comers in Palermo, Italy to combat with horses and weapons of any kind, but there were no takers.

VIRGINALS: “Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds” – Sonnet 128
Oxford was an intimate favorite of the Queen, who frequently played on the virginals.

WATER: “Myself bring water for my stain” – Sonnet 109
Oxford was “water-bearer to the monarch” at the Coronation of King James on July 25, 1603, in his capacity as Lord Great Chamberlain.

WEALTH: “Some glory in their birth, some in their skill,
Some in their wealth…”

Oxford had inherited great wealth in the form of many estates, but he lost most of this wealth during his lifetime.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it’s exactly the kind of linkage to the poet’s life that we should expect to find in such emotionally charged, intensely personal and autobiographical writing…

Published in: Uncategorized on December 23, 2008 at 2:58 pm  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hank,

    I have been enjoying reading this blog. Thanks so much and happy holidaze.


    • Thanks to you, too, Eddy. And chime in any time! Have fun and a great new year. Hank

  2. Excellent points. You may want to check out my narrative poem on the authorship question entitled “The Man Who Wrote Shakespeare” at http://www.empirecontact.com/narrative/devere.html

    • Hey, Michael, thanks for telling us about it. Wonderful! I enjoyed your perceptive view of “Venus and Adonis” and “Lucrece” as by Edward Earl of Oxford in relation to Queen Elizabeth. Also – I agree with your praise for “The Mysterious William Shakespeare” (1984; 1992) by Charlton Ogburn Jr. , and would add that “This Star of England” (1950) by his parents, Dorothy and Charlton Sr., is in my view the greatest single Oxfordian work after “‘Shakespeare’ Identified” by J. Thomas Looney in 1920. Thanks again and happy new year – Hank

  3. You’re right it is exactly the kind of linkage to the author and not one of your chosen words couldn’t be attributed to the stratford man.

    Let’s start with the acting and the theatre. No matter which way you twist and turn you cannot deny his involvement with it over a twenty-five year period.

    I find your position untenable and fantastical, although i do appreciate the amount of work you’ve put into it. I wish I’d known of your performance at the Globe.

    all the best,

    in the name of Will,

    W. Sutton

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