“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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