“Happy Birthday to the Sonnets”

Today marks the 400th anniversary of the registration of SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS by publisher Thomas Thorpe; and the Shakespeare Oxford Society has issued a press release on the matter which we wholeheartedly endorse:

YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, NY – May 20, 2009 – The Shakespeare Oxford Society today marks the 400th anniversary of the May 20, 1609, entry in the Stationer’s Register in London of “a booke called Shakespeares sonnettes.” At some point after the registration – probably sometime that summer – a book bearing the title “SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS” was published.

Unlike Shakespeare’s previous books of poetry – Venus and Adonis in 1593 and The Rape of Lucrece in 1594 – the Sonnets were published without a dedication from the poet himself.  Instead, the 1609 Sonnets were published with a mysterious dedication over the initials  “T.T.” – presumed by scholars to be the publisher Thomas Thorpe.

The Shakespeare Oxford Society believes the totality of the evidence surrounding the publication of the Sonnets in 1609 suggests the poet – who employed the pen name “William Shakespeare” – was already dead at the time of publication.  Posthumous publication of the Sonnets would, of course, eliminate the orthodox authorship candidate from Stratford-upon-Avon and strengthen the claim that Edward de Vere, the 17th earl of Oxford (who died in 1604), was the true author of the Shakespeare works…

Traditional scholars have been unable to provide answers to basic questions, including how the Sonnets came to be published in the first place and whether “Shakespeare” authorized the publication.  Scholars have been baffled for centuries by the apparent absence of the poet in the publication and proof-reading process.

The 1609 volume does not include a dedication from the poet.  If the author of the Sonnets was alive in 1609, and if he authorized the publication, why didn’t he write a dedication to a volume of poetry that he believed would outlive monuments?

If these immortal poems had been pirated somehow and published unlawfully (as many scholars believe), why wouldn’t the famous playwright and poet – if indeed he was still alive at the time – publicly complain or otherwise assert his legal right to the poems?

The poet’s apparent absence from the publication lends support to the posthumous publication theory.

Following the publication of the Sonnets in 1609, William of Stratford makes no mention of the publication (or anything else vaguely literary for that matter) leading up to and even including his 1616 will.

The title of the book – SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS – is itself unusual for several reasons.

First, the name of the poet is hyphenated which could suggest it is a recognized pseudonym. Also, the title implies a kind of finality, suggesting that this collection is the be-all and the end-all of Shakespeare’s sonnet-writing career.  If “Shakespeare” was indeed still alive in 1609, why would the publisher suggest by this title that the poet would not be writing any more sonnets.  How would he know that, unless of course the poet was already deceased?

The reference to “our ever-living poet” in the publisher’s dedication affords strong evidence that the poet was already dead (i.e. immortal) when the Sonnets were published in 1609.  Several sonnets imply that the poet was anticipating his impending death and that he expected his name to be forgotten, or “buried” after his death.  This would make no sense if the poet’s real name was William Shakespeare, a name that was extremely famous in 1609.  For example, Sonnet 72 reads in part:

My name be buried where my body is,
And live no more to shame nor me nor you.
For I am shamed by that which I bring forth,
And so should you, to love things nothing worth.

THAT’S THE PRESS RELEASE (most of it) and we endorse it; but, as many readers of this blog are aware, we feel the importance of the Sonnets goes far beyond the argument that Will of Stratford was still alive and that “our ever-living poet” was Edward de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford.

The Tower of London: Where Southampton was Held Hostage to keep Oxford silent until the succession of James

The Tower of London: Where Southampton was Held Hostage to keep Oxford silent until the succession of James

We believe that Oxford actually wrote the Sonnets to preserve the truth that Henry Wriothesley, 3rd earl of Southampton was his son by Queen Elizabeth and deserved to succeed her on the throne.  We also believe that the Sonnets contain the answer to the authorship question itself, with the so-called Rival Poet being not any real individual, but, rather, Oxford’s public pen name “Shakespeare,” which he had used to support Southampton from behind the scenes.

Southampton in the Tower: 1601-1603

Southampton in the Tower: 1601-1603

We also believe the Sonnets tell the story of how Principal Secretary Robert Cecil held Southampton hostage in the Tower as a means of keeping Oxford silent until Cecil could put King James on the throne.

King James’  first official act, even before leaving Scotland, was on April 5, 1603, when he sent ahead the order for Southampton’s immediate freedom.  The earl walked out of prison on April 10, 1603, when Oxford exulted at the opening of Sonnet 107, in a single sweeping sentence of four lines, that his royal son had been liberated after having been “supposed as forfeit to a confined doom” in the Tower:

Not mine own fears nor the prophetic soul
Of the wide world dreaming on things to come
Can yet the lease of my true love control,
Supposed as forfeit to a confined doom.

Cheers from Hank

Published in: Uncategorized on May 20, 2009 at 3:55 pm  Comments (1)  

“The Living Record” – Chapter 32 – How a Powerful Sonnet can be reduced to the note on a Hallmark Card…

Within the one-hundred-sonnet center (27-126) of Oxford’s “monument” of verse, Sonnet 37 opens the second of ten chapters containing ten sonnets apiece.

Imagine, if you will, that it’s written by a father (Edward Earl of Oxford) to his beloved son (Henry Earl of Southampton), who is also his prince whom he regards as the rightful heir to Elizabeth on the throne — and who will go on trial tomorrow morning, 19 February 1601, for high treason and surely will be found guilty and sentenced to death.

(I’ve deliberately emphasized some of the words pointing in the direction of Southampton’s royal identity; and I’ve emphasized “all” identifying him by pointing to his motto One for All, All for One):

Sonnet 37

As a decrepit father takes delight
To see his active child do deeds of youth,
So I, made lame by Fortune’s dearest spite,
Take ALL my comfort of thy WORTH and truth.

For whether beauty, BIRTH, or wealth, or wit,
Or any of these ALL, or ALL, or more,
ENTITLED in thy parts do CROWNED SIT,
I make my love engrafted to this store:

So then I am not lame, poor, nor despised,
Whilst that this shadow doth such substance give
That I in thy abundance am sufficed,
And by a part of ALL thy GLORY live.

Look what is best, that best I wish in thee;
This wish I have, then ten times happy me.

These words are used in relation to kingship in the Shakespeare plays:

“Weigh you the WORTH and honor of a king” – Troilus & Cressida, 2.2

“Wrong not her BIRTH, she is of royal blood” – Richard III, 4.4.

ENTITLED: “Having as rightful claim to” – Katherine Duncan-Jones
“Will you show our TITLE to the crown?” – 3 Henry VI, 1.1

“There to be CROWNED England’s royal king” – 3 Henry VI, 2.6

“Long mayst thou live in Richard’s seat to SIT” – Richard II, 4.1

“And threat the GLORY of my precious crown” – Richard II, 3.3

Other words indicate Southampton’s royal blood: TRUTH, BEAUTY, WEALTH, WIT, STORE, SUBSTANCE, ABUNDANCE, BEST, HAPPY…

On the eve of Southampton’s trial at which Oxford must sit as senior judge, he uses this sonnet to defiantly “shout” the fact of their father-son relationship and the fact of his son’s royalty and right to the throne.   He writes it in blood, so to speak, from the terrible position of having been “lamed” or made ineffectual by Queen Elizabeth’s “dearest spite” — her most motherly malice toward the son who attempted a palace coup.

It’s difficult to figure how anyone reading Sonnet 37 as a “love poem” can explain the author’s intentions.  On a whim I picked up my copy of “No Fear Shakespeare” and, turning to Sonnet 37, found that the editors actually do say the poet is attributing “princely attributes” to the younger man; but they go on to explain that the poet is merely engaging in “this fantasy of mine” that enables him to “live off part of your [the younger man’s] glory.”

In other words, without the real-life context the “No Fear” editors are forced to reduce the powerful, painful lines of Sonnet 37 to the most trivial kind of theme — something to be found on a Hallmark card!

Well, here’s a good example of how “context” makes all the difference — in terms of knowing the identity of the author and the younger man, as well as the circumstances within which this intensely autobiographical sonnet was being written.

Editor Duncan-Jones adds that in her view the author actually “enjoys” what she translates as “the happiness of being well deceived” — as opposed to a father trying to keep from suffering an emotional breakdown over his royal son’s tragedy!

I think about how students are being taught to reduce these powerful, meaningful sonnets to such inconsequential, frivolous stuff … and it makes me kinda mad, you know?

Cheers from Hank

Published in: Uncategorized on May 17, 2009 at 7:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

“Shake-speare’s Treason” in Watertown MA

Our solo show SHAKE-SPEARE’S TREASON will hit the road again, this time to Watertown, Massachusetts, on Friday evening May 29, 2009 — as the prelude for what promises to be an exciting, informative event the next day.  Here’s the rundown as advertised:



First Parish of Watertown at Sunset

First Parish of Watertown at Sunset

Friday, May 29 & Saturday, May 30, 2009
Watertown Square, Massachusetts

Friday, May 29, at 7 p.m.

First Parish of Watertown, Unitarian Universalist, 35 Church Street

Hank Whittemore performs his acclaimed one-man show, Shake-speare’s Treason. Written by Hank Whittemore and Ted Story, and based on Whittemore’s book The Monument. A provocative interpretation of Shakespeare’s sonnets, Shake-speare’s Treason explores the love and betrayal, murder and mistaken identity behind these poems.  Directed by Ted Story.

Discussion and reception to follow the performance.  Suggested donation $10, Students Free Admission

Saturday, May 30, 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Watertown Free Public Library

Watertown Free Public Library

Watertown Free Public Library, 123 Main Street
Watertown Savings Bank Meeting Room, 1st floor

Alex McNeil, President of The Shakespeare Fellowship, will be Master of Ceremonies.  We are delighted to have Shakespeare Fellowship Trustee, Bonner Miller Cutting presenting ‘Shakespeare’s’ Will considered Too Curiously, and Mark Anderson, journalist and author of Shakespeare By Another Name, presenting Overjoyed, Over Him, Overbury: The New ‘Cobbe Portrait of Shakespeare’ and what it means for the authorship question.

We are also pleased to welcome Marie Merkel, poet, in her first Oxfordian presentation, Raising the Dead: Ben Jonson & The Tempest. Our final speaker is Bill Boyle, librarian, editor and long-time Oxfordian, who will reprise his presentation, Shakespeare and the Succession Crisis of the 1590s.

Watertown MA on the Map

Watertown MA on the Map

From Will’s “second-best bed” to Willobie’s censored “Avisa,” there will be much food for thought and inspiration for discussion. Whether you are already a lover of Shakespeare, or new to the works, please join us for a fascinating weekend event!

Admission Free and Open to the Public
RSVP by May 27 is recommended to ensure a space.

For program schedule and additional information, or to RSVP, please visit:
www.shakespearesymposium.org, or telephone: 617-955-3198

The Watertown Dam

The Watertown Dam

Published in: Uncategorized on May 15, 2009 at 6:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

“The Living Record” – Chapter 31 – “As a Decrepit Father…”

London was virtually an armed camp in the days after the rebellion of February 8, 1601, with the earls of Essex and Southampton in the Tower and about to go on trial eleven days later on February 19th…

In the private diary of his sonnets, Edward Earl of Oxford arranged the first ten entries beginning with Sonnet 27 to correspond with ten days concluding at Sonnet 36 on February 17th, when the two earls were formally indicted on charges that they had “conspired to depose and slay the Queen and subvert the government.”

So this first chapter of the 100-sonnet central sequence concludes with Oxford’s poignant statement to Southampton opening Sonnet 36:

Let me confess that we two must be twain,
Although our undivided loves are one…

Oxford is confessing, as directly as he can, that he and Southampton are “one” flesh and blood as father and son…

Southampton is identified in “one” from his earldom motto One for All, All for One…

(Oxford will write of himself and Southampton in Sonnet 42, “My friend and I are one,” indicating he will sacrifice his identity as father so the “one” son can hopefully escape execution.   In Sonnet 105 he will proclaim that all these sonnets are “to one, of one, still such, and ever so.”)

(He must simultaneously agree to never reveal his identity as “Shakespeare,” the pen name he used to publicly support Southampton.)

Sonnet 37 opens the second chapter; and Oxford uses the opening lines to make this father-son relationship even more clear:

As a decrepit father takes delight
To see his active child do deeds of youth,
So I, made lame by Fortune’s dearest spite,
Take all my comfort of thy worth and truth…

“A most poor man, made lame by Fortune’s blows” – King Lear Q1, 4.6.225

(In the private sonnets Fortune is Queen Elizabeth, who has made Oxford “lame” or powerless to help his son.)

“Warwick, my son, the comfort of my age” – 2 Henry VI, 1.1.189

Southampton’s worth is his royal blood inherited from Elizabeth…

Southampton’s truth is his blood relationship to Oxford, whose motto is Nothing Truer than Truth.

All these associations are packed into the opening of Sonnet 37 on February 18, 1601, the day before Oxford must serve as highest-ranking earl on the tribunal sitting in judgment of his son … when he will have to find him guilty and vote to condemn him to death … a meeting of “Shakespeare” and “the Fair Youth” in the most tragic circumstance of their lives … providing us, at long last, with the real-life context for these autobiographical sonnets that are nothing less than personal cries from the depths of a man’s soul…

Published in: Uncategorized on May 15, 2009 at 2:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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