The Forward to Volume I of “Building the Case for Edward de Vere as Shakespeare”

Here is the brief forward to VOLUME I of BUILDING THE CASE FOR EDWARD DE VERE AS SHAKESPEARE, our series of books preserving authorship research for current scholars, students and general readers as well as those of future generations.  The first volume is entitled THE GREAT SHAKESPEARE HOAX:  After Unmasking the Fraudulent Pretender, Search for the True Genius Begins.

(In the near future I’ll also put up the longer INTRODUCTION to VOLUME I.)


No matter what we have been taught in school, the actual identity of William Shakespeare represents the longest-lasting literary mystery in the Western World. The supposed authorship of Shakespeare’s great plays and poetry by William Shaksper of Stratford-on-Avon is a four-hundred-year-old hoax, still actively perpetrated today.

The original fraud was accomplished in the late 1500s and early 1600s for reasons of greed and power by the two leading politicians and greatest scoundrels in England: William Cecil and his son, Robert. The Royal Court and many others knew who the real author was but, over time, that number inevitably attenuated. A generation later, few knew who the real Shakespeare was — and they remained silent. The hoax had succeeded.

For one-hundred-and-fifty years the secret lay dormant. Beginning in the 1850’s, however, increasing numbers of Shakespeare buffs found it impossible to match the life history of Shaksper of Stratford—the uneducated and untraveled butcher’s apprentice and real estate investor— with the great plays. With no relevant background whatsoever, how could he portray England’s nobility and Royal Court with such intimate firsthand knowledge and insight? Did he even know how to read and write? He never owned a book, wrote a letter, or left any kind of paper trail. Without an education, how could he display such a thorough knowledge of classical Latin and Greek? How could someone who never departed the shores of England set plays and scenes so convincingly in Italy without a single error in language, culture, or geography?  Is “genius” a believable explanation for such profound dissonance and disharmony between an author and his works?

In the past century, skepticism concerning the Stratford Man’s supposed authorship has steadily grown. At the same time, powerful circumstantial evidence has been building in favor of Edward de Vere, Seventeenth Earl of Oxford, as the true writing-genius who was forced by the two Cecils to write under a pen name. Those who believe in the Earl of Oxford’s authorship are called “Oxfordians.” Those who still believe in the orthodox candidate, William Shaksper of Stratford—firmly backed by most professors of English—are called “Stratfordians.” The vigorous debate between Stratfordians and Oxfordians has persisted for ninety years and represents a classic, dramatic example of Conventional Wisdom backed by tradition and dogma doing battle with contrarian Newthink, validated by steadily accumulating research data.

Most of the early literature pointing to Edward de Vere as the mystery-genius appeared in obscure newsletters, magazines and now out-of-print books. Some of this initial research work is of elegant quality and only recently emerged from years of storage by two of England’s authorship groups, the De Vere Society and the Shakespeare Authorship Trust.  When, in 2006, Professor William Leahy of Brunel University organized the first graduate
degree program in the world on Shakespeare Authorship Studies, both societies permanently loaned their books and papers to the English Department of Brunel, located in Uxbridge, a suburb of London.

Through the courtesy of Kevin Gilvary, President of the De Vere Society, Charles Beauclerk and other members of the Board of Trustees of the Shakespeare Authorship Trust, and Dr. Leahy the Editors were able to peruse and copy this vitally important early Shakespeare authorship material. Thus these difficult-to-find articles and book excerpts now become readily available in the first five volumes of this book series entitled Building the Case for Edward de Vere as Shakespeare.

Editor Paul Hemenway Altrocchi has a unique credential for this book series, being the longest-duration Oxfordian in the world—more than sixty years. Educated at Harvard University and Harvard Medical School, he trained in Neurology at the New York Neurological Institute of Columbia University, did research at the National Institute of Neurological Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, and was on the full-time faculty of Stanford Medical School before ending his career in private practice.  Since retirement in 1998, he has spent most of his time researching the candidacy of Edward de Vere as Shakespeare, publishing twenty-three scholarly papers and a book entitled Most Greatly Lived, A Biographical Novel of Edward de Vere, Seventeenth Earl of Oxford, Whose Pen Name was William Shakespeare.

Editor Hank Whittemore is a professional author of ten books and hundreds of magazine articles, an actor and playwright, and an Oxfordian for a quarter of a century. He has written more than two dozen articles on the Shakespeare authorship question from an Oxfordian perspective. After ten years of research, in 2005 he published his major scholarly contribution entitled The Monument, an eight-hundred page opus analyzing every line and every word of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, providing powerful new evidence that Edward de Vere was William Shakespeare.

Editors Altrocchi and Whittemore visualize at least twenty volumes in this Shakespeare authorship book series. Later volumes will feature original research contributions by the finest Oxfordian scholars in the United States and England.

Published in: Uncategorized on June 30, 2009 at 5:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Volume I: “Building the Case for Edward de Vere as Shakespeare” – Contents

Here’s a look at the Table of Contents for Volume 1 of the first five volumes of BUILDING THE CASE FOR EDWARD DE VERE AS SHAKESPEARE: A Series of Volumes Devoted to Shakespeare Authorship Research

– Series Editors: Paul Hemenway Altrocchi & Hank Whittemore

iUniverse, 2009

After Unmasking the Fraudulent Pretender,
Search for the True Genius Begins



Part 1: Growing Disbelief in The Stratford Man as Shakespeare

2. Elsie Greenwood: Obituary of G. G. Greenwood (1859-1928)
3. George Greenwood, 1916: Is There a Shakespeare Problem?
4. George Greenwood, 1916: Professor Dryasdust and “Genius”
5. George Greenwood, 1916: The Portraits of Shakespeare
6. George Greenwood, 1916: Shakespeare as a Lawyer
7. George Greenwood, 1921: Ben Jonson and Shakespeare
8. George Greenwood, 1925: The Stratford Bust and the Droeshout

Part 2: The Breadth of Shakespeare’s Knowledge

2. James Harting, 1864: Ornithology of Shakespeare
3. Archibald Geikie, 1916: The Birds of Shakespeare
4. William Theobald, 1909: The Classical Element in the Shakespeare Plays
5. Cumberland Clark, 1922: Astronomy in the Poets
6. St. Clair Thomson, 1916: Shakespeare and Medicine
7. Eva Turner Clark, 1931: Singleton’s The Shakespeare Garden
8. C. Clark, 1929: Shakespeare and Science, including Astronomy
9. Richard Noble, 1935: Shakespeare’s Biblical Knowledge

Part 3: The Case for Francis Bacon

2. H. Crouch Batchelor, 1912: Advice to English Schoolboys
3. Georges Connes, 1927: The Shakespeare Mystery
4. J. Churton Collins, 1904: Studies in Shakespeare
5. Roderick Eagle, 1930: Shakespeare, New Views for Old
6. Harold Bayley, 1902: The Tragedy of Sir Francis Bacon
7. George Bompas, 1902: The Problem of Shakespeare Plays
8. Elizabeth Wells Gallup, 1910: The Bi-lateral Cypher of Sir Francis Bacon
9. John H. Stotsenburg, 1904: An Impartial Study of the Shakespeare Title
10. Granville Cuningham, 1911: Bacon’s Secret Disclosed in Contemporary Books
11. Gilbert Slater, 1931: Seven Shakespeares

Part 4:  Edward deVere Bursts Out of Anonymity

2. V. A. Demant, 1962: Obituary of J. Thomas Looney
3. J. Thomas Looney, 1920: “Shakespeare” Identified in Edward de Vere, the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford

Part 5:  A Sudden Eruption of Oxfordian Giants

2. Marjorie Bowen, 1933: Introduction to Percy Allen’s The Plays of Shakespeare and Chapman in Relation to French History
3. Obituary of Hubert Henry Holland (1873-1957)
4. Hubert H. Holland, 1923: Shakespeare Through Oxford Glasses
5. Phyllis Carrington, 1962: Obituary of Bernard Rowland Ward (1863-1933)
6. Colonel B. R. Ward, 1923: The Mystery of Mr. W. H
7. Obituary of Bernard Mordaunt Ward (1893-1943)
8. B. M. Ward, 1928: The Seventeenth Earl of Oxford
9. Obituary of Mrs. Eva Turner Clark (1871-1947)
10. Eva Turner Clark, 1931: Hidden Allusions in Shakespeare’s Plays
11. Rev. Gerald Rendall, 1930: Shakespeare Sonnets
12. T. L. Adamson, 1959: Obituary of Percy Allen (1875-1959)
13. Percy Allen, 1933: The Plays of Shakespeare and Chapman in Relation to French History
14. Percy AlIen, 1930: The Case for Edward de Vere, Seventeenth Earl of Oxford as “Shakespeare”
15. Percy Allen, 1931: The Oxford-Shakespeare Case Corroborated
16. F. Lingard Ranson, 1940: Death of Ernest Allen (1875-1940)
17. Percy Allen and Ernest Allen, 1933: Lord Oxford and “Shakespeare”: A Reply to John Drinkwater



One of the newly published volumes of "Building the Case for Edward de Vere as Shakespeare"

Published in: Uncategorized on June 29, 2009 at 6:36 pm  Comments (2)  
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“Building The Case for Edward de Vere as Shakespeare”

Well, folks, Dr. Paul Altrocchi and I are launching the first volumes of research & writing —



Check it out at iUniverse or over at….

We have five volumes coming out, each with over 400 pages of past articles … and that’s just the beginning!

Cheers from Hank – and oh, by the way, congratulations to Malvolio for the great work on his blog. I highly recommend it!

Published in: Uncategorized on June 25, 2009 at 12:31 pm  Comments (2)  

“The Living Record” – Chapter 35 – “Take All My Loves”

The three sonnets numbered 40-41-42 have been viewed by most scholars as from the author to the younger man regarding the latter’s betrayal of him by engaging in a sexual affair with his, the poet’s, mistress.  Within this context, however, there is no way to identify any real-life individuals who might be involved.

Within the traditional view we cannot even know the identity of the author, much less the identities of the so-called Fair Youth and Dark Lady of the Shakespeare sonnets.   We have made-up nicknames for characters of our imagination, and that includes the poet known as Shakespeare!.

If we take the traditional view of a “love triangle,” we can forget any genuine autobiographical context; we can forget any biographical or historical information that is true.  Within the context of a “love triangle,” there’s not a scrap of evidence linking these sonnets to anything real; and because scholars have been stuck with imaginary characters in imaginary circumstances, we should not be surprised to hear them say, “Well, this is poetry, so we should just stop trying to find any connections to the poet’s life.”

Helen Vendler, author of "The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets"

Helen Vendler, author of "The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets"

Such is the view of Helen Vendler in her introduction to The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, referring to statements by Eve Sedgwick:  “It is perhaps a tribute to Shakespeare’s ‘reality-effect’ that ‘one most wishes the Sonnets were a novel,’ but it does no good to act as if these lyrics were either a novel or a documentary of a lived life.”

Well, Ms. Vendler, it must be very pleasant to stay up there in the ethereal world of rhetorical devices and literature for its own sake (and sure, we can all learn from such study), but these sonnets are personal cries from the depths of a man’s soul, and they spring from very specific human experiences!

But it’s even more than that; the Sonnets of Shakespeare are unique, written for a unique purpose.  The poet himself tells us he is trying to create “the living record” (55) of the younger man and to preserve it in a “monument” (81, 107) for “eyes not yet created” in posterity; and, Ms. Vendler, he is not doing this so the professors of Harvard can tell us otherwise and reduce these painful truths to a series of esoteric literary games!

No!  These sonnets are connected to specific events in the poet’s life in direct reaction to the unfolding of England’s contemporary royal history; and if you get the author wrong, you get the whole thing wrong.  If we start with nothing we can go nowhere.

Here is the first of these three sonnets:

Sonnet 40

Take all my loves, my love, yea, take them all,
What hast thou then more than thou hadst before?
No love, my love, that thou mayst true love call;
All mine was thine, before thou hadst this more.

Then if for my love thou my love receivest,
I cannot blame thee, for my love thou usest;
But yet be blamed, if thou thyself deceivest
By willful taste of what thyself refusest.

I do forgive thy robbery, gentle thief,
Although thou steal thee all my poverty;
And yet love knows it is a greater grief
To bear love’s wrong, than hate’s known injury.

Lascivious grace, in whom all ill well shows,
Kill me with spites; yet we must not be foes.

My description of this poem in THE MONUMENT is based on viewing the author as 50-year-old Edward de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford writing to his unacknowledged son by Queen Elizabeth, 27-year-old Henry Wriothesley, 3rd earl of Southampton, who has been imprisoned as a traitor in the Tower; and it goes like this:

February 21, 1601: Anticipating Southampton’s execution, Oxford forgives him for having forfeited all hope of gaining the throne by committing treason.  That possibility of succession is gone; now, to gain his royal son’s life and freedom and honor, they must not acknowledge their father-son relationship; but at the same time, nothing can sever their true tie to each other.

Oxford uses “my loves” not in reference to any persons but to his love as a father for his son.  Also he’s referring to the “love” or royal blood that his son has “stolen” from both Elizabeth and him by committing treason.  The phrase itself is a common one:

“Your loves,” Hamlet says to his friends, “as mine to you.”

The Queen herself had “several loves” under different names, such as Venus and Diana and Astraea and so on.  Later in 1601 she will address the Commons and refer to “the largeness of your good loves and loyalties unto your sovereign.”

We’ll address all three sonnets, arguing they reflect not a “love triangle,” but, rather, the “family triangle” of Oxford, Elizabeth and their son, Southampton.  Within this context of England’s history near the end of the Elizabethan reign, as the moment of her death and the succession drew near, the real story comes alive amid specific events on the calendar of recorded history.

Meanwhile here are some of my line notes in THE MONUMENT:

A Beheading on Tower Hill

A Beheading on Tower Hill


TAKE = steal, take back, accept; ALL = Southampton, One for All, All for One; MY LOVES = all the kinds of love I have for you; all whom I love, i.e., Elizabeth and Southampton himself

TAKE ALL MY LOVES = speaking to Southampton, referring to all his own “loves” toward him as father to royal son; also referring to the royal blood that Southampton has stolen from Elizabeth and himself, in terms of succession to the throne; “We shall not spend a large expense of time, before we reckon with your several loves” – Macbeth, 5.9.27; “You are the most immediate to our throne, and with no less nobility of love than that which dearest father bears his son do I impart to you” – Hamlet, 1.2.109-112; “Your loves, as mine to you” – Hamlet, 1.2.254;

LOVES: Elizabeth was said to have “several loves” under different names, such as Gloriana, Cynthia, Diana, Venus, Astraea, etc.; “All by several names to express several loves: yet all those names make but one celestial body, as all those loves meet to create but one soul” – Dekker, Old Fortunatus, 1599

“As I have good cause, so do I give you all my hearty thanks for the good zeal and loving care you seem to have, as well towards me as to the whole state of your country” — Elizabeth to a Parliament delegation, 1559

“It manifesteth the largeness of your good loves and loyalties unto your sovereign.” — Elizabeth to the Commons, November 30, 1601

“Therefore ‘tis not amiss we tender our loves to him” — Timon of Athens, 5.1.11-12

MY LOVE = my royal son; ALL = Southampton [ his motto “One for All, All for One”]


Since you already had this royal blood, what more of it do you have than before?


The answer is that Southampton has no more royal blood, or none that he may announce, than he had before; here Oxford uses “love” in both primary ways at once: first as royal blood itself, then as his royal son; NO LOVE = no (more) royal blood; (“And lastly, he protested for his own part, what he had done in the business was merely for the love he bore to the Earl of Southampton” – examination of Charles Danvers, read aloud at the trial; “that what for the old love I have borne you” – Oxford to Robert Cecil, May 1601); “I do truly love you & therefore wish that every man should love you, which love in these troublesome discontented times is sooner won by clemency than severity” – Thomas Arundell, brother-in-law of Southampton, writing to Robert Cecil during this time; a treacherous letter urging Southampton’s execution so that he, Arundell, might receive certain lands – Akrigg, 129; MY LOVE = (addressing him as) my royal son; TRUE = Oxford, Nothing Truer than Truth; TRUE LOVE = true royal blood; i.e., you have no more true royal blood than you had before you stole it from us; (“your true rights” – Sonnet 17, line 11); “Your Truer Lover” = Ben Jonson signing a letter  to Camden


ALL = Southampton, One for All, All for One; ALL MINE WAS THINE = all that I had, which was you, was already yours; MINE = “a son of mine own” – Oxford to Burghley, March 17, 1575; ALL MINE = my son, Southampton, who is “all one”; BEFORE THOU HADST THIS MORE = before you took more of it


Then if you receive my gift of your royal blood, in these sonnets, for yourself


BLAME = echoing the charge of treason; “To you it doth belong/ Yourself to pardon of self-doing crime;/ I am to wait, though waiting be so hell,/ Not blame your pleasure, be it ill or well” – Sonnet 58, lines 11-14, referring to his son’s royal pleasure or will; “That thou art blamed shall not be thy defect,/ For slander’s mark was ever yet the fair;/ The ornament of beauty is suspect” – Sonnet 70, lines 1-3, referring to him as a prince of Elizabeth who is a “suspect traitor”; “O blame me not if I no more can write!” – Sonnet 103, line 5, after he himself has assumed all blame for the crime; FOR MY LOVE THOU USEST = because you are using this blood; “So prosper I, as I swear perfect love … And I, as I love Hastings with my heart” – Richard III, 2.1.16-17


BUT YET BE BLAMED = but nevertheless, you are to be blamed (especially if you deceive yourself); “The King – the King’s to blame!” – Hamlet, 5.2.328

THIS (THY) SELF = Q has “this” self, usually emended to “thy” self; thy royal self; “Make thee another self for love of me” – Sonnet 10, line 13, i.e., beget an heir of your royal self; “Make war upon themselves, brother to brother, blood to blood, self against self” – Richard III, 2.4.62-63; “Her ashes new create another heir as great in admiration as her self” – Henry VIII, 5.4.41-42, Cranmer predicting Elizabeth will have an heir to her throne; “His royal self in judgment comes to hear” – Henry VIII, 5.2.154


BY WILLFUL TASTE = by tasting your blood willfully, i.e., by the use of your royal will; (“willful” = “sensual” as in “thy sensual fault” of Sonnet 35, line 9); by willfully refusing to take the blame; OF WHAT THYSELF REFUSEST = of that same royal blood you have forfeited by your crime; of the crime itself; i.e., Southampton must accept blame for his treason so that he will be able to accept the bargain for his life, which will mean the extinction of hope for succession to the throne; Oxford is forcing him into this deal to save his life


I DO FORGIVE THY ROBBERY = I forgive you for committing treason and thereby stealing your royal blood and claim to the succession; by his crime, robbing both England and Oxford;  “to pardon absolutely” – Schmidt; i.e., it is Oxford who is attempting to gain promise of a royal pardon for his son; “Forget, forgive, conclude and be agreed” – Richard II, 1.1.156; “Forgive me, country, and sweet countrymen!” – 1 Henry VI, 3.3.81; GENTLE THIEF = royal thief; (“Such civil war is in my love and hate,/ That I an accessory needs must be/ To that sweet thief which sourly robs from me” – Sonnet 35, lines 12-14


ALL = Southampton, One for All, All for One; THOU STEAL THEE ALL MY POVERTY = you are stealing what I lack, which is you and your royal claim to the throne


LOVE KNOWS = royal blood understands; (the common phrase “Lord knows” or “God knows”); GRIEF = (“The only loss of my good name is of these griefs the ground” – Oxford poem in Paradise of Dainty Devices, 1576)


TO BEAR = bearing the Cross; also, child-bearing, father to son; LOVE’S WRONG = the injury done to royal blood; LOVE/HATE = “For love is worse than hate” – Oxford poem in Paradise of Dainty Devices, 1576

Whenever Buckingham doth turn his hate
Upon your Grace, but with all duteous love…    Richard III, 2.1.32-33

Made peace enmity, fair love of hate,
Between these swelling wrong-incensed peers     Richard III, 2.1.51-52

Besides, our nearness to the king in love
Is near the hate of those love not the king         Richard II, 2.2. 126-127

More grief to hide than hate to utter love Hamlet, 2.1.119

INJURY = injustice, wrong, offence, insult, crime; “My lord, you do me shameful injury, falsely (treasonously) to draw me in these vile suspects” – Richard III, 1.3.88-89; “Report thy parentage.  I think thou said’st thou hadst been toss’d from wrong to injury, and that thou thought’st thy griefs might equal mine, if both were open’d” – Prince Pericles to his daughter Marina, Pericles, 5.1.130-133; “The injury of tongues in courts and kingdoms” – The Winter’s Tale, 1.2.338; “Or do your honor injury” – Cymbeline, 2.4.80

“O let me suffer, being at your beck,/ Th’imprisoned absence of your liberty,/ And patience tame to suff’rance bide each check, /Without accusing you of injury” – Sonnet 58, lines 5-8


LASCIVIOUS = (“modified in any case by grace, the word is milder than it might appear … in Elizabethan England, it could mean ‘wanton, sportive’” – Kerrigan; LASCIVIOUS GRACE = addressing Your Grace, the king, as one who acted impulsively and irrationally; (“Above the rest in Court who gave thee grace?” – Oxford sonnet to Elizabeth, written in the early 1570s); ALL = Southampton; ALL ILL = Oxford address his son as Lascivious Grace, in whom “all ill” or his acts of treason nonetheless appear (in Oxford’s view) to be “well” or royal; “Ah, but those tears are pearl which thy love sheeds,/ And they are rich, and ransom all ill deeds” – Sonnet 34, lines 13-14


KILL ME WITH SPITES = confound my purpose with the Queen’s “spite” or malice toward you and me; if Southampton is executed, Oxford will be “killed” as well, since his son is “all the better part of me” (Sonnet 39, line 2); “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” – Sonnet 37, lines 1-4; “The time is out of joint.  O cursed spite, that ever I was born to set it right” –Hamlet, 1.5.196-197; YET WE MUST NOT BE FOES = yet as father and son we are together and must not be enemies

Published in: Uncategorized on June 20, 2009 at 3:59 am  Leave a Comment  

“The Living Record” – Chapter 34 – “Thou art All the Better Part of Me … Mine Own Self”

Here is the introduction to Sonnet 39 in my edition THE MONUMENT:

Fifty-year-old Edward de Vere, earl of Oxford records his father-son relationship with Henry Wriothesley, earl of Southampton as clearly as he can in this diary [February 20, 1601], writing that the younger earl is “all the better part of me” and, in fact, that 27-year-old Southampton is “mine own self.” Nevertheless they must remain “divided” and “lose name of single one” because of Oxford’s bargaining to save his son’s life – a deal that requires total “separation” of them in public.  Meanwhile they remain physically separated [Southampton is in the Tower, having been tried, convicted of high treason and sentenced to be executed]; but Oxford enjoys the presence of his royal son in his mind and heart and in these private sonnets.

I urge you to try reading it in the context of a father writing to his son and royal prince, under these terrible circumstances:

Sonnet 39

O how thy worth with manners may I sing,
When thou art all the better part of me?
What can mine own praise to mine own self bring,
And what is’t but mine own, when I praise thee?
Even for this, let us divided live,
And our dear love lose name of single one,
That by this separation I may give
That due to thee which thou deserv’st alone.
Oh absence, what a torment wouldst thou prove,
Were it not thy sour leisure gave sweet leave
To entertain the time with thoughts of love,
Which time and thoughts so sweetly dost deceive,
And that thou teachest how to make one twain
By praising him here who dost hence remain.   (Emphases added)

When Oxford was in Paris at age 25 in March 1575, he wrote to Lord Burghley, his father-in-law and Queen Elizabeth’s chief minister, that he hoped the child his wife was carrying would be “a son of mine own” — a distinct phrase, often used by Shakespeare for one’s child — and here we have “mine own praise to mine own self” who is the “better part” of him.

“Thou hast lived to kill a son of mine” – 3 Henry VI, 5.6.36

“To mine own children” – The Taming of the Shrew, 1.1.99

If he please
To give me conquered Egypt for my son,
He gives me so much of mine own as I
Will kneel to him with thanks
Antony and Cleopatra, 5.2.18-21

More later!  Cheers from Hank

Published in: Uncategorized on June 15, 2009 at 2:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Just One Sonnet Unlocks the True Story…

The real-life story of the Sonnets has always been “hiding in plain sight,” as they say, in the form of Sonnet 107, which most scholars believe to be expressing the author’s exhilaration over King James’ release of Henry Lord Southampton on April 10, 1603 from the Tower of London, after he had spent twenty-six months in the prison and had been “supposed as forfeit to a confined doom.”

The Fair Youth: in real life, Henry Lord Southampton, shown here in the Tower 1601-1603

The Fair Youth Henry Lord Southampton, shown here in the Tower 1601-1603

Queen Elizabeth I, who died on March 24, 1603, when Southampton was still in the Tower and King James of Scotland succeeded her

The Dark Lady Elizabeth I, who died on March 24, 1603, when James of Scotland succeeded her

The poet refers to the death of Elizabeth (“the mortal Moon”) and to the accession of King James, who is now on his way to London amid “Olives” of “peace” as opposed to civil war around the throne.  “My love looks fresh,” he writes of Southampton, who is still “the world’s fresh ornament” as he had been in Sonnet 1; and the author records this in his “monument” of the Sonnets so it may exist for the eyes of posterity.

Sonnet 107

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.
The mortal Moone hath her eclipse endured,
And the sad Augurs mock their own presage,
Incertainties now crown themselves assured,
And peace proclaims Olives of endless age.
Now with the drops of this most balmy time
My love looks fresh, and death to me subscribes,
Since spite of him I’ll live in this poor rhyme,
While he insults o’er dull and speechless tribes.
And thou in this shalt find thy monument,
When tyrants’ crests and tombs of brass are spent

And the Author, please…

Edward de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford, who died a year later on June 24, 1604, who had adopted the pen name "Shakespeare" as a means of publicly supporting Southampton in the struggle to control the royal succession...

Edward de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford, who had adopted the pen name "Shakespeare" to publicly support Southampton in the struggle to control the royal succession...

Sonnet 107 is the bittersweet climax of the real-life story that unfolded behind the scenes from the night of Feb 8, 1601, when Southampton was imprisoned, until his release twenty-six months later on April 10, 1603.

Here is an extraordinary chorus of critics all identifying Sonnet 107 in this context — without, of course, realizing the full scope of what their conclusion means:

1848: Unidentified researcher “J. R.” first assigns Sonnet 107 to 1603.

Gerald Massey, 1866: “We may rest assured that (the Poet of the Sonnets) was one of the first to greet his ‘dear boy,’ over whose errors he had grieved … He had loved him as a father loves a son; he had warned him, and prayed for him, and fought in soul against ‘Fortune’ on his behalf, and he now welcomed him from the gloom of a prison on his way to a palace and the smile of a monarch.”

“Sonnet 107 will show us that, in spite of the dramatic method adopted by Shakespeare in writing of the Earl, he did find a call for secure congratulation when James had restored the Earl to his liberty.  There can be no mistake, doubt, or misgiving here!  This sonnet contains evidence beyond question – proof positive and unimpeachable – that the man addressed by Shakespeare in his personal sonnets has been condemned in the first instance to death, and afterwards to imprisonment for life, and escaped his doom through the death of the Queen.

“It tells us that the Poet had been filled with fears for the fate of his friend, and that his instinct, as well as the presentiment of the world in general, had foreshadowed the worst for the Earl, as it dreamed on things to come.  He sadly feared the life of his friend – the Poet’s lease of his true love – was forfeited, if not to immediate death, to a ‘confined doom,’ or a definite, a life-long imprisonment.  The painful uncertainty is over now.  The Queen is dead – the ‘Mortal Moon hath her eclipse endured.’  Cynthia was one of Elizabeth’s most popular poetical names…

“Those who had prophesied the worst can now laugh at their own fears and mock their unfulfilled preictions.  The new King calls the Earl from a prison to a seat of honor … Our Poet evidently hopes that the Earl’s life will share in this new dawn of gladness and promised peace of the nation.  He can exult over death this time.  It is his turn to triumph now.  And his friend shall find a monument in his verse which shall exist when the crests of tyrants have crumbled and their brass-mounted tombs have passed from sight … The sonnet carries double.  It blends the Poet’s private feeling for his friend with the public fear for the death of the Queen.  The ‘Augurs’ had contemplated that event with mournful forebodings, and prophesied changes and disasters … But it has passed over happily for the nation as joyfully for the Poet.”

– Shakespeare’s Sonnets Never Before Interpreted, pp 79 and 311-313

Sidney Lee, 1898: “Sonnet 107 … makes references that cannot be mistaken to three events that took place in 1603 – to Queen Elizabeth’s death, to the accession of James I, and to the release of the Earl of Southampton, who had been in prison since he was convicted in 1601 of complicity in the rebellion of the Earl of Essex … Elizabeth’s crown had been passed, without civil war, to the Scottish King, and thus the revolution that had been foretold as the inevitable consequence of Elizabeth’s demise was happily averted …

“There was hardly a verse-writer who mourned her loss that did not typify it, moreover, as the eclipse of a heavenly body … At the same time James was constantly said to have entered on his inheritance ‘not with an olive branch in his hand, but with a whole forest of olives round about him, for he brought not peace to this kingdom alone’ but to all Europe …

“‘The drops of this most balmy time,’ in this same sonnet, 107, is an echo of another current strain of fancy.  James came to England in a springtide of rarely rivaled clemency, which was reckoned of the happiest augury … One source of grief alone was acknowledged: Southampton was still a prisoner in the Tower, ‘supposed as forfeit to a confined doom.’  All men, wrote Manningham, the diarist, on the day following the Queen’s death, wished him liberty.  The wish was fulfilled quickly.  On April 10, 1603, his prison gates were opened by ‘a warrant from the king’ … It is improbable that Shakespeare remained silent.  ‘My love looks fresh,’ he wrote, in the concluding lines of Sonnet 107, and he repeated the conventional promise that he had so often made before, that his friend should live in his ‘poor rhyme,’ ‘when tyrants’ crests and tombs of brass are spent.’”

A Life of William Shakespeare, pp. 147-150

Garrett Mattingly, 1933: “Critics have generally agreed that, of all of Shakespeare’s sonnets, 107 offers the most hope for dating by internal evidence.  Since Massey first argued the point in 1866 a number of distinguished scholars … have supported the view that this sonnet refers to the death of Queen Elizabeth and the accession of James I… That Elizabeth is meant by ‘the mortal moon’ there can be no reasonable doubt.  All her life she had been Cynthia … In a general way it has always been clear that the events of the spring of 1603 do satisfy the conditions … The further such an inquiry is pushed, the more striking becomes the evidence that the second quatrain of the sonnet expresses exactly the state of mind of most of Shakespeare’s contemporaries … and the stronger becomes the conviction that, of all the public events of Shakespeare’s lifetime, these are the most likely to find an echo in the sonnets.

“To the average Elizabethan Englishman, at least, the greatest crisis of Elizabeth’s reign was that which marked its close.  To him, the certainty and security of the succession to the throne came first … No one had forgotten the Wars of the Roses, and the corollary of a disputed succession was civil war … A dread of civil war explains more than half of England’s loyalty to the Tudors.  And, as the century drew to a close, men perceived that the last of the Tudors would die without issue, and nothing settled … But James was a foreigner, and lawyers were found to argue that if birth in a foreign kingdom and status as the subject of a foreign crown could bar claimants from the inheritance of land in England (as under the law it did), then surely such birth barred succession to the throne…

“(The) real danger of a disputed succession … was widely appreciated and formed the basis of the gloomiest prophecies.  Shakespeare could not have been ignorant of it or indifferent to it.  His plays … do show a keen interest in dynastic questions … Indeed, few people either in England or in Scotland expected James to accede peaceably … It is rather to the peaceable union with the enemy, Scotland, and to the apparently permanent relief from danger of civil war that the phrase ‘olives of endless age’ is to be applied; but James’s accession extinguished the last sparks of trouble in Ireland, and peace with Spain, too, was seen in the offing.  Hostilities with Spain were suspended on James I’s accession, for he held that, as in his capacity of King of Scotland he was not at war with that power, he could not be at war with her as King of England…

“The more one closely examines the events of the spring of 1603, as they were seen by Shakespeare’s contemporaries, the more consistent do they appear with the language of Sonnet 107, even in its slightest details, and the more likely does it seem that these events would have impressed the poet deeply enough to find a record in the sonnets.  Nor do the allusions in the sonnet seem appropriate to any other sequence of public events during Shakespeare’s lifetime.”

PLMA, XLVIII, 1933, pp. 705-721

Alfred Harbage, 1950: “All that we know certainly of Sonnets 107, 123 and 124 is that they were published in 1609 …Their style – by which is meant here their music and the condensation and integration of their language – suggests to me that they were written late rather than early in Shakespeare’s career … The early months of 1603 were among the blackest in English history: there was fear of Tyrone in Ireland, and of masterless men and malcontents in England: the Queen was dying and her successor unnamed; forty thousand Catholics were said to be ready to rise in arms if the successor should be James … Then, as if by miracle, the crisis passed, and James ascended the English throne in an almost hysterical outburst of national joy … the astrological and historical background of 1603 was appropriate for the allusions in Sonnet 107 … If we can speak of such a thing as a season of imagery, this was the season of heavenly bodies, setting, rising, eclipsed, etc., and the season of olives of endless age.

“The moon had always been Elizabeth’s symbol.  She had been Cynthia herself, or, as in Shakespeare, Cynthia’s ‘imperial vot’ress.’  In the elegiac chorus of 1603, she is Luna, Delia, Cynthia, Phoebe, Belphoebe (all the moon), or else the setting sun … In the presence of Death, Elizabeth qualified poetically as a tyrant … (Shakespeare’s) voice is missing among the poetic eulogists of Elizabeth and James in the ‘Wonderful Year’ (1603).  The tone (of Sonnets 107, 123 and 124) … suggests to me a man quite willing to ‘sit out’ the public excitements over a change in administration.”

Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol.1, no. 2, April 1950, 57-63

G. P. V. Akrigg, 1968: “H. C. Beeching … declared ‘the only sonnet that can be dated with absolute certainty from internal evidence (107) belongs to 1603.’  Dover Wilson … has continued to recognize that Sonnet 107 dates from 1603 … Re-reading Sonnet 107 in another connection … I had a sudden complete conviction that the sonnet belonged to 1603, almost as if it had the date visibly branded upon it … This is what Shakespeare had to say to Southampton upon his release from imprisonment:

“I myself in my fears had thought, like everybody else, that the future held nothing for you beyond continued confinement in the Tower.  But now Queen Elizabeth, so often likened to Cynthia, the virgin goddess of the moon, has finally been eclipsed by death.  Since she had no acknowledged heir, pessimists had feared that her passing would bring a disastrous civil war, but now even they mock their earlier dismal prophecy.  With the peaceful accession of King James, feelings of uncertainty give way to feelings of security.  Our new King, dedicated to peace, brings us an unending era of peace and prosperity.  The refreshing showers of this pleasant spring give new vigor to my love for you.  Poor though my verse may be, it forces death to submit to me.  I shall attain a literary immortality denied to the inarticulate masses.  And this poetry of mine will provide you with a monument which will keep you remembered when elaborate tombs, like that to be raised for our late tyrannic Queen, have disappeared.”

Shakespeare and the Earl of Southampton, pp 254-255

Robert Giroux, 1982: “This sonnet (107) could not have been written before 24 March 1603, the date of Queen Elizabeth’s death, for a good reason: the word ‘tyrant’ was risky to put on paper at any time during her reign, and mortally dangerous if coupled with a reference to her.  It is generally agreed that ‘mortal Moon’ refers to Elizabeth … (‘Men must endure their going hence, even as their coming hither.  Ripeness is all” – King Lear, 5.2.9-11) Men must endure their deaths, even as their births; ripeness is all there is.  ‘Endure’ can of course mean survive, but the O. E. D. also defines it as ‘to suffer without resistance, to submit to, to undergo,’ and that is how Shakespeare uses the word in both places.  By ‘the mortal Moon hath her eclipse endured,’ Shakespeare means that, as a mortal, the Queen has undergone death.  ‘Her eclipse’ instead of ‘an eclipse … further emphasizes a permanent rather than a temporary state…

“There is nothing anywhere else in the sonnets like the mastery and freedom of the first quatrain (of 107) … This single sentence, one marvelous breath, could only have been written by a poet in the fullness of his powers … Other historical allusions in this sonnet place the poem solidly in 1603 … At Southampton’s trial, it had been remarked how youthful he still looked.  On his release from the Tower in April 1603, he was in his twenty-ninth year (‘my love looks fresh’ – line 9)”

The Story of Q, pp. 191-198

John Kerrigan, 1986: “[In Sonnet 107] the present events are realized so vividly that they can be read as topical allusions … (Any) dating of the poet’s change of heart can be linked to the public events described in lines 5-9, as either written at the time or, less likely, retrospectively set in that context.  And this means that, if the allusions are unlocked, they probably date the poem, and certainly set a terminus a quo for its composition…

“A considerable outburst of anxious astrology and prediction … preceded the Queen’s death.  As her health worsened and the political picture remained obscure, foreboding grew.  Much was at stake.  Elizabeth had announced no successor, and both Catholics and Puritans feared the accession of a ruler less sympathetic to their religious liberty than the moderate Protestant Queen had been.  More than a dozen claimants maintained their right to the throne … and the people anticipated either invasion from abroad or civil strife of the kind which laid the country waste during the Wars of the Roses, before Tudor settlement…

“In the light of the secondary sense of My love looks fresh it is remarkable that one of the first acts of the newly-crowned King [well before the coronation] was to release the Earl of Southampton, often thought the addressee of Sonnets 1-126, from the prison in which he had languished ever since his participation in the ill-fated Essex Rebellion of 1601.  If Wriothesley was indeed, to some emotional extent, the you and thou and love of 1-126, both he and the poet’s affection for him would have been refreshed and renewed by the events of 1603… On the basis of allusions, in short, 1603 seems the obvious date – with all which that implies for the dating of the sequence …”

–   The Sonnets and A Lover’s Complaint, Penguin, pp. 313-320

G. Blakemore Evans, 1996: “The majority of recent critics strongly favours 1603 as the most likely date.  Indeed, the case for 1603 (or a little later) is so brilliantly presented by Kerrigan that one is dangerously tempted to cry ‘Q. E. D.’” – The Sonnets, pp. 216-217

Published in: Uncategorized on June 4, 2009 at 9:07 pm  Comments (1)  

The Living Record – Chapter 33 – “The Pain Be Mine…”

Edward de Vere Lord Oxford, nearly 51, presides on February 19, 1601 in the lofty gloom of Westminster Hall as highest-ranking earl on the tribunal of 25 peers sitting in judgment of Robert Devereux Lord Essex, 34, and Henry Wriothesley Lord Southampton, 26, on trial for high treason for the abortive Essex Rebellion eleven days earlier.

Along with the others, Oxford has no choice but to render the inevitable verdict of guilt (dictated by Secretary Robert Cecil, now in complete control of the government), thereby sending both earls back to the Tower to await their imminent executions.

Oxford has condemned Southampton, his unacknowledged royal son by the Queen, to virtually certain death.

Following is his immediate reaction to the trial and its outcome – in number 38 of the Shakespeare sonnets, arranged as one sonnet per day from number 27 on the night of the rising on February 8th up to now.  Note how the father writes to praise his son as a prince, holding back his emotions until the very last line, where he finally expresses the terrible “pain” within his heart and beneath his words:

Sonnet 38
(19 February 1601)

How can my Muse want subject to invent
While thou dost breathe, that pour’st into my verse
Thine own sweet argument, too excellent
For every vulgar paper to rehearse?

Oh give thyself the thanks, if ought in me
Worthy perusal stand against thy sight:
For who’s so dumb, that cannot write to thee,
When thou thyself dost give invention light?

Be thou the tenth Muse, ten times more in worth
Than those old nine which rhymers invocate;
And he that calls on thee, let him bring forth
Eternal numbers to outlive long date.

If my slight Muse do please these curious days,
The pain be mine, but thine shall be the praise.

(Italics added)

We’ll get back to this sonnet in the next chapter; for now I’d like to call attention to the words I’ve highlighted:

VERSE = These sonnets, i.e., all 154 of them as consecutively numbered

ARGUMENT = Topic and theme, i.e., Southampton, his royal blood and the coming succession to Elizabeth on the throne

INVENTION = method of writing, i.e., using words to convey two separate stories simultaneously, one fiction and the other nonfiction

I think it’s significant that at upon the tragic events of the trial on this day, Oxford uses these three crucially important words, which will reappear in 76, explaining his invented method of double-image writing, and in 105, upon Elizabeth’s death in 1603.  Both sonnets are addressed to his royal son:

Sonnet 76

Why is my verse so barren of new pride?
So far from variation or quick change?
Why with the time do I not glance aside
To new-found methods, and to compounds strange?

Why write I still all one, ever the same,
And keep invention in a noted weed,
That every word doth almost tell my name,
Showing their birth, and where they did proceed?

O know, sweet love, I always write of you,
And you and love are still my argument:
So all my best is dressing old words new,
Spending again what is already spent:

For as the Sun is daily new and old,
So is my love still telling what is told.

Sonnet 105

(Demonstrating the “method” described in 76)

Let not my love be called Idolatry,
Nor my beloved as an Idol show,
Since all alike my songs and praises be,
To one, of one, still such, and ever so.

Kind is my love today, tomorrow kind,
Still constant in a wondrous excellence;
Therefore my verse to constancy confined,
One thing expressing, leaves out difference.

Fair, kind, and true, is all my argument,
Fair, kind, and true, varying to other words,
And in this change is my invention spent,
Three themes in one, which wondrous scope affords.

Fair, kind, and true, have often lived alone,
Which three, till now, never kept seat in one.

Well, here we have the author himself explaining what he’s up to in this personal record for posterity…

Cheers from Hank

Published in: Uncategorized on June 2, 2009 at 12:02 am  Comments (2)  

Oxford’s Youthful Poetry: How Good (or Bad)?

The following comment about the poetry of Edward de Vere, earl of Oxford comes from Patricia A. McKnight, and I repeat it here because it’s such an important aspect of the authorship debate:

“I refer you to C. Spurgeon’s authoritative research, published in Shakespeare’s Imagery.   She compares the images used by a number of Elizabethan authors — including Marlowe and Ben Jonson — and Edward de Vere — to the images which are most prevalent in Shakespeare’s plays.  She points out that the poems attributed to de Vere are vastly inferior to those of Wm. Shakespeare. She definitively defeats the laughable idea that de Vere could have written Shakespeare’s sonnets or plays.”

Pretty strong, eh?  Well, those of us who conclude that Oxford used the pen name “William Shakespeare” had better answer this one — well, I believe we already have done so, but obviously the matter needs wider attention and debate, and we should be open to all points of view, the better to weigh them.

I encourage all reading this to contribute your own comments, on any side of the matter.

Here’s the preliminary and all-too-brief answer I offered Ms. McKnight:

“Thanks for this comment. I certainly do know of the Spurgeon book and agree that it’s highly regarded. I promise to read through it again and give a response. There are some Oxfordian responses generally — his poetry is youthful stuff, published when he was 26 but written much earlier, even in his teens; his poems were written as songs; and finally, here is that long foreground missing from Stratfordian biography, i.e., the apprenticeship work.

“I will give you some examples of how Oxford’s poetry foreshadows the later Shakespeare work — use of the same words, use of similar clusters of words; use of the same themes, etc.

“But I would rather you cite some examples of what you mean and, too, I’d rather be fully open to what you have concluded with obvious sincerity, which I respect.

“Here is one Oxford poem (actually song lyric), which you probably know:

If women could be fair and yet not fond
[song lyrics]

If women could be fair and yet not fond,
Or that their love were firm not fickle, still,
I would not marvel that they make men bond,
By service long to purchase their good will;
But when I see how frail those creatures are,
I muse that men forget themselves so far.

To mark the choice they make, and how they change,
How oft from Phoebus do they flee to Pan,
Unsettled still like haggards wild they range,
These gentle birds that fly from man to man;
Who would not scorn and shake them from the fist
And let them fly fair fools which way they list.

Yet for disport we fawn and flatter both,
To pass the time when nothing else can please,
And train them to our lure with subtle oath,
Till, weary of their wiles, ourselves we ease;
And then we say when we their fancy try,
To play with fools, O what a fool was I.

Finis. Earle of Oxenforde.

This is where I ended my commentary.  Here’s a remark about Oxford as lyric poet made by J. Thomas Looney in his groundbreaking book “Shakespeare” Identified in Edward de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford, published in 1920:

“What distinguishes Oxford’s work from contemporary verse is its strength, reality, and true refinement.  When Philip Sidney learnt to ‘look into his heart and write,’ he only showed that he had at last learnt a lesson that his rival [Oxford] had been teaching him.  The reader may or may not be able to agree with the ideas and sentiments expressed by Oxford, but he will be unable to deny that every line written by the poet is a direct and real expression of himself in terms at once forceful and choice and no mere reflection of some fashionable pose.  Even in these early years he was the pioneer of realism in English poetry.”

Wow!  Is he right?  Is he wrong?  There’s more to talk about here.  Again I encourage contributions as we delve into Ms. McKnight’s comment, including Shakespeare’s Imagery.

Published in: Uncategorized on June 1, 2009 at 1:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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