“To the Onlie Begetter of These Insuing Sonnets, Mr. W. H.”

My colleagues engaged in the Shakespeare authorship question have been discussing the cryptic dedication of the Sonnets.  The search continues for hidden meanings, anagrams, secret codes, etc., and I’ve no doubt that such information exists.  The design of the dedication has three inverted pyramids; each word is followed by a dot or period — indicating, it would seem, the presence of partially hidden information.

The dedication of SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS

Here’s how the dedication reads on the surface:

To the only begetter of these ensuing sonnets, Mr W H:

“All happiness and that eternity promised by our ever-living poet,” wisheth the Well-Wishing Adventurer in setting forth.

(The Well-Wishing Adventurer, who is now setting forth, addresses the only begetter of these sonnets, Mr. W.H., wishing him all happiness and that immortality our deceased immortal poet promised him.)

THE ONLIE BEGETTER =MR. W.H.

OUR EVER-LIVING POET = THE WELL-WISHING ADVENTURER

THE ONLIE BEGETTER = Mr. W. H. (Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton) the only one who inspires and “gives birth to” these sonnets, all 154 of them:  “Yet be most proud of that which I compile,/ Whose influence is thine, and borne of thee” – Sonnet 78; “Since all alike my songs and praises be/ To one, of one, still such, and ever so” – Sonnet 105

[Even the so-called Dark Lady sonnets 127-152 and the Bath sonnets 153-154 are “begotten” or inspired by Southampton; and the verses, although written by Edward de Vere, Seventeenth Earl of Oxford, are therefore Southampton’s offspring:  “Those children nursed, delivered from thy brain” – Sonnet 77]

And “the onlie begetter” could not fail to recall “the onlie begotten son” of the New Testament: “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotton Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” – Gospel of John, 1.18

From the Elizabethan Book of Common Prayer, in the Communion Service, as reprinted in The Amazing Web Site of Shakespeare’s Sonnets:

“I BELIEVE in one God, the father almighty maker of heaven and earthe, and of all thynges visible and invisible: And in one Lorde Jesu Christe, the onely begotten sonne of GOD, begotten of his father before al worldes, god of God, lyghte of lyghte, verye God of verye God, gotten, not made, beynge of one substance wyth the father, by whome all thinges were made…”

Oxford, father of Southampton, his royal son by Queen Elizabeth, writes to him in Sonnet 53: “What is your substance, whereof are you made…”

[The basic connection between the Book of Common Prayer and Sonnet 53 was put forth by the author/editor of The Amazing Web Site of Shakespeare’s Sonnets]

MR. W.H. = This is the onlie begetter of the sonnets, Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, his title “Lord” reversed to “Mr.” and his intitials “H.W.” reversed to “W.H.” — reflecting the reversal of his title and status while in the Tower during 1601-1603.   He had been found guilty of high treason and sentenced to be executed, but his life was spared and he remained in prison as the base commoner “Mr. Henry Wriothesley” or “the late earl” in the eyes of the law — that is, he was legally dead.

Eighty consecutively numbered sonnets, from 27 to 106 – more than half the full sequence — cover the time Southampton spent in the Tower from the night of the failed Essex Rebellion on February 8, 1601 to his final night as a prisoner on April 9, 1603.  The reversals of his initials and title point us toward that central story within “these ensuing sonnets.”

The dedication of "Lucrece" to Southampton in 1594, ending with the words "all happinesse"

ALL HAPPINESSE: These are the final two words in the body of the previous dedication by “William Shakespeare” to Southampton, that of Lucrece in 1594:

“Were my worth greater my duty would show greater; meantime, as it is, it is bound to your Lordship, to whom I wish long life, still lengthened by ALL HAPPINESSE.”

THAT ETERNITIE PROMISED = the eternity promised to Southampton by the author, Lord Oxford, his father: “Your name from hence immortal life shall have” – Sonnet 81; and so on.

OUR EVER-LIVING POET = Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford (1550-1604), whose signature word was EVER for “E.Ver”.  In 1609 he is “ever-living” or deceased.   “That ever-living man of memory, Henry the Fifth” – 1 Henry VI, 4.3; but he would have crafted the dedication before he died.

THE WELL-WISHING ADVENTURER: This is also Oxford, who in the 1570’s had been an “adventurer” or investor in the Frobisher voyages to find a Northwest Passage to the Orient.

(But the son followed the father in many respects; and now in 1609 the Earl of Southampton is a leading “adventurer” or investor in the Virginia Company’s voyages to the New World; but even while in the Tower, in 1602, he had helped to finance the Gosnold Voyage resulting in the original naming of Cape Cod and the discovery of Martha’s Vineyard, and much more.)

SETTNG FORTH: Oxford is “setting forth” the truth of Southampton as a king or “god on earth” in these sonnets.   “I here pronounce this workmanship is such/ As that no pen can set it forth too much” – Ignoto, undoubtedly Oxford himself, in The Faerie Queene by Spenser, 1590.

Oxford must have composed and arranged the dedication of the Sonnets himself (without the “T.T.” referring to Thomas Thorpe, the publisher) prior to his death on June 24, 1604, when he was also “setting forth” from this world.

Here is part of the Discussion of “onlie begetter” in The Amazing Web Site of Shakespeare’s Sonnets:

“Other commentators have preferred to interpret ‘begetter’ as ‘the one who obtained the manuscript for me’. If, as has been suggested frequently, this book is a pirated and unauthorised printing of the sonnets, it seems unlikely that Thorpe would choose to trumpet the fact to the world and praise the one who had stolen the manuscript. The entire credit of the book and its salesworthiness depended on people believing that it was genuine Shakespeare. To give the game away that it was a stolen copy and not necessarily even by Shakespeare would have undermined its potential attraction to readers, not to mention the damage it might do to Thorpe himself as a publisher. Would he really wish to have portrayed himself as a purloiner of other men’s works?

“The word ‘begetter’ is not used by Shakespeare either in the plays or poems. However he does use ‘beget’ (23 times), ‘begets’ (7 times) and ‘begotten’ (4 times), either with literal meanings of ‘to father, to create, to procreate.’, or in a metaphoric sense. He does not use it to signify ‘to procure’. The absence of the word ‘begetter’ in the corpus could signify that Shakespeare did not have a hand in writing this dedication (it is signed by Thomas Thorpe). However that does not show that he thereby disapproved of it. Probably he enjoyed its puzzling ambiguity and was quite happy to have it attached to the poems, as it hid the dedicatee’s name from all those who were not already in the secret, and left open the possibility that all might be revealed in time.”

It’s time to drop the idea that “the onlie begetter” was the “procurer” of the Sonnets for the publisher!  And it’s also time to embrace the religious quality of these verses, within which Oxford portrays himself and his royal son, Southampton, as of “one substance”:

Let me confess that we two must be twain,
Although our undivided loves are one
Sonnet 36

And these words from a father to his son who should be king:

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

So then I am not lame, poor, 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.
Sonnet 37

But here’s the joy: my friend and I are one.
Sonnet 42

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