Towering Defiance of Time and the Official Record: “Thy Registers and Thee I Both Defy!”

The real story of the Shakespeare sonnets is that of one man howling in defiance of obliteration — the burial of his truth, the blotting out of his identity.  The man is Edward, Earl of Oxford, raging against the agents of his destruction and promising to overcome them by preserving the truth in this “monument” of verse for posterity.

Your monument shall be my gentle verse,
Which eyes not yet created shall o’er-read,
And tongues to be your being shall rehearse,
When all the breathers of this world are dead.
You still shall live! – such virtue hath my pen –
Where breath most breathes, even in the mouths of men – 81

Speaking of defiance -- Oxford used this "crown signature" from 1569 until the Queen died in 1603 and James succeeded her, when he ceased to use it.

In a real way Oxford becomes a Christ figure who, in the course of the sequence, undergoes death and resurrection:

The offender’s sorrow lends but weak relief
To him that bears the strong offence’s loss [cross] – 34

[Henry, Earl of Southampton’s sorrow for his role in the Essex Rebellion offers little relief to Oxford, who has agreed to suffer the consequences for him.]

And both for my sake lay on me this cross – 42

[Both Southampton and Queen Elizabeth, who holds him in her Tower prison, are causing Oxford to suffer]

Of him, myself, and thee, I am forsaken,
A torment thrice threefold thus to be crossed – 133

[They comprise a royal, dynastic family triangle; because Southampton has committed treason, all three of them are doomed.]

The 1609 dedication of the Sonnets (the inscription on the Monument) to "Mr. W. H." - a reversal of Lord Henry Wriothesley, reflecting his lowly status as "Mr." while in the Tower - from "our ever-living (deceased) poet" -

Oxford is volunteering to take on the burden of the guilt:

So shall those blots that do with me remain
Without thy help be borne by me alone – 36

If my slight Muse do please these curious days,
The pain be mine, but thine shall be the praise – 38

[All praise will go to Southampton while Oxford disappears from view.]

To play the watchman ever for thy sake – 61

[He will save Southampton’s life and secure his freedom.]

And art made tongue-tied by authority – 66

[Oxford’s ability to speak directly through these private sonnets has been nullified by official decree; his art has been “tongue-tied” or silenced by the crown, in the person of Sir Robert Cecil, who now runs the Elizabethan government in its final years heading to an uncertain succession.

[He is using a special language, however, allowing him to speak here indirectly.  (“That every word doth almost tell my name” – 76) In effect, his words carry a double image, simultaneously conveying two (or more) meanings.]

He is fading away:

When I, perhaps, compounded am with clay,
Do not such much as my poor name rehearse,
But let your love even with my life decay – 71

After my death, love, forget me quite…
My name be buried where my body is – 72

My spirit is thine, the better part of me – 74

Your name from hence immortal life shall have,
Though I, once gone, to all the world must die – 81

The 1594 dedication of "Lucrece" to Southampton -- by "Shakespeare" the pen name and so-called rival poet of the sonnets...

The agent of Oxford’s obliteration is his own pen name, “William Shakespeare,” which he had used to dedicate his first works, Venus and Adonis of 1593 and Lucrece of 1594, to Southampton [the only one to whom “Shakespeare” dedicated anything]; and now that mask is being glued to Oxford’s face:

Was it his [“Shakespeare’s”] spirit by spirits taught to write
Above a mortal pitch that struck me [Oxford] dead? – 86

The more that “Shakespeare” is seen to be praising Southampton, the less visible Oxford becomes:

When your [Southampton’s] countenance filled up his line,
Then lacked I matter, that enfeebled mine – 86

After Southampton’s liberation by King James on April 10, 1603, a climactic event celebrated by Sonnet 107, his defiance grows into a roar by an amazing compression of words, a literary feat that may well have no equal.  I would urge all to read over the final Sonnets of the “fair youth” sequence from 107 to 126.  Let’s just close with Sonnet 123, in which Edward de Vere tells Time itself, “Thy registers and thee I both defy!” — that is, he defies the official history to be written by the winners [Cecil]; he defies it and will be “true” [indicating his own identity, through his motto Nothing Truer Than Truth] despite all that has crushed him:

No!  Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change,
Thy pyramids built up with newer might
To me are nothing novel, nothing strange,
They are but dressings of a former sight:
Our dates are brief, and therefore we admire
What thou dost foist upon us that is old,
And rather make them borne to our desire
Then think that we before have heard them told:
Thy registers and thee I both defy,
Not wond’ring at the present, nor the past,
For thy records and what we see doth lie,
Made more or less by thy continual haste.
This I do vow, and this shall ever be,
I will be true despite thy scythe and thee.

The day is coming sooner than later when students will be given the opportunity to appreciate the greatness of these sonnets.  Within the traditional paradigm there has been no possibility for such appreciation; the best that can be taught is the value of the poet’s rhetorical skills, as he puts forth his universal themes, while the severe limitations of Stratfordian authorship dictate that the genuine human drama remains unseen.

Well, it will be seen!  And then there will be new life in the classroom, new excitement in the lecture hall, and a kind of Shakespearean renaissance — as we crawl out of the long dark tunnel of tradition into the bright light of truth.

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi Hank,

    I so disagree with you it boggles the mind. What on earth are the severe limitations of Stratfordianism? Other than your disbelief that the biography as we know it shows the true author.

    Your fervent desire for the real human drama to be unveiled is irrelevant to the fact that the entire scope of human drama is already available in the plays and poems. Even if your wishful thinking and severe re-writing of Elizabethan history is accepted, I’ll argue it will make no difference whatsoever.

    I read these poems as great already. How much greater can they get? The plays amaze me already. How can they get more amazing? Is your enjoyment of them that much greater and amazing because you believe Oxenforde wrote them?

    I do hope one day to see your show and debate with you personally your findings.

    yours in the name of Will,

    • Hi WS,

      Thanks very much for the comment — I mean it, because this question “what does it matter” will be debated for a long time to come. I think it will be debated more in relation to the plays, however, since the relationship between the author and each particular work will vary. Even so, I agree with you that I certainly appreciated Hamlet and Othello, to name two, without ever knowing about Edward de Vere. But the Sonnets are different, if you think about the possibility that they were private and personal. The sonnets 107 to 126 are seldom if ever read or studied, except for 116 (“Let me not to the marriage of true minds”), but even when they are studied it’s impossible to appreciate them fully if they are viewed apart from the underlying reality.

      So the sonnets are different. Let’s say you get a letter in the mail and it says, “I hate you” or “I love you” or “Meet me at noon tomorrow at the usual place,” but the letter is unsigned and you have no idea who wrote it. Surely it would make a big difference to you. If the sonnets are autobiographical, then knowing the correct author is crucial. The limitations of Stratfordianism in the case of the sonnets would cover the gamut; let’s start for example with the relationship between the author and the younger man. With Will of Stratford as author the possibilities are limited to “writer to patron” or “friend to friend” or “lover to lover” or any combination. If it turns out that Edward de Vere wrote the sonnets, then you do have the possibility of father to son. That limitation would be lifted. (Not to mention the possibility of father to royal son by the queen.)

      The limitations run very deep in a variety of ways for all the works. Will of Stratford could not have read certain texts in their original languages, so (for example) the scholar is limited by that and cannot even look for the Greek sources in Shakespeare — which my colleague Earl Showerman has been discovering to a huge degree. He did not travel to Italy, as Oxford did, so we are limited by Will to “making mistakes” about Italy when, in fact, the information about Italy in the plays is much, much greater than it has been possible to discover.

      I have no more time right now but will try to deal with it more in the blog and mention your comments specifically, WS, because it’s so very important. Does it help to realize that Polonius, the king’s chief minister, and his daughter Ophelia are drawn from Oxford’s father in law William Cecil Lord Burghley, the queen’s chief minister, and his daughter Anne, wife of Oxford? Does it add to our appreciation to know that Oxford, like Hamlet, brought plays to court to catch the conscience of the queen? Let the debate go on!

      In relation to the sonnets, however, surely you can see that it’s helpful, even essential, to learn what was at stake for the author — if he was writing about real circumstances and events. Is he railing at Time over what? Is it hyperbole, or fatuous, to write about “truth’s and beauty’s doom and date” or is he rather talking about something much more real and important and personal than the (impossible) death of universal concepts?

      Thanks again for the comment. As you can see, by no means do I dismiss it…
      Cheers from Hank

  2. Thank you for your brilliant article. It is a breath of fresh air after being clobbered on one blog after another. I hope the day “that is coming soon” will be in my lifetime because my celebration would be as great as the Egyptians when Mubarak steps down. I am so tired of responding to all the distortions on one blog after another –

    “We know more about Shakespeare than any other writer of the period, evidence is abundant, Oxford could not have written the works because he died too soon”, etc. It goes on and one and the most frustrating part is that any counter argument you make is dismissed without any thoughtful consideration. Oh, well, Stephanie Hopkins Hughes tells us not to argue with Stratfordian’s.

    • Much appreciated — the tide will turn, as they say. I had meant to mention the curious irony that literary biography is so very much valued in terms of helping to further appreciate the authors’ works — with the only exception being the greatest writer of them all! Surely something ain’t right with that…

      And keep up your own good work!

  3. I disagree with the first opinion completely.

    Only after you have seen the man behind the mask, can you realize the full scope of the works. Hamlet, then, will not be a fantastical character created to amuse the readers and make them have some fun. Truth is the main element of the sense of beauty for an artist. If you consider Shakspere to be the author and then read the author’s treatment of Shylock, you’ll be reading an author that is an hypocrite.

    Consider Lorca, the Spanish poet and dramaturg. Only if you know his “truth”, the truth he is expressing when he writes in favor of freedom and passion, will you know where his force lies. The fact that he was a homosexual in an heterosexual world is the truth where you start understanding him.

    In the case of Edward de Vere, you will only appreciate Shake-speare when you have understood what truth was he telling when writing. You hear him suffering, really and truly, when you read Hamlet, Jaques, Touchstone, Lear or Othello.

    Beauty is truth, and truth beauty, so said Keats.

    • Well said, my friend. Over the years many people have said to me, “Well, who cares? What does it really matter who wrote the Shakespeare works?” And these are not frivolous questions. Well, when the tide does turn, with professors and students and new scholars looking over this terrain as if for the first time, it will matter a whole lot and in ways that we can’t even predict. Whole histories and most biographies from the 16th and early 17th centuries will have to be revised — that eccentric earl happened to be the author known as “Shakespeare,” so many events involving Oxford will need to be viewed through a brand new lens, yielding brand new pictures of what was really going on. And of course the plays will continue to astonish as new “authorship” material is brought into the equation. Talk about opening up new jobs, new career paths!

      We might also ask why the academic leaders feel it’s so important to keep believing in William of Stratford as the author of the Shakespeare works. Why does it matter so much to them?

      Cheers from Hank

  4. Specially in Shake-speare, to whom “truth” was such a key word.

    As well as its correspondences, “verity” and “virtue”. That is, “honor”.

    He was the poet who fought against puritanism and that new order of capitalism where Shakspere belonged. Shake-speare is shaking his spear against all those machievellian Shylocks that did not know what “truth”, “virtue” or “honor” meant unless there was some profit to be gained by them.

    The system, our system nowadays, capitalism, is not going to give away his idol of the tribe easily. As Shake-speare said:

    Truth is truth to the end of reckoning.–Measure for Measure

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