Reason No. 26 to Believe that Oxford was “Shakespeare”: L’Envoy to “Narcissus” by Thomas Edwards in 1595

Reason No. 26 adding to the circumstantial evidence that Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare” involves a strange little poem published in London…

The 1882 Roxburghe Club limited edition of "Cephalus and Procris" and "Narcissus" (1595)

More than two decades ago I was in the microfilm room at a college library looking through a thick volume printed for the Roxburghe Club of London in 1882.  The volume featured an Elizabethan book of two narrative poems, Cephalus and Procris and Narcissus, translated from Ovid by the otherwise unknown Thomas Edwards.  It was registered in 1593 and printed in 1595, just after “Shakespeare” made his debut on the dedications of Venus and Adonis of 1593 and Lucrece of 1594 to the Earl of Southampton.

Attached to Narcissus was an “envoy” or postscript in several stanzas of verse, identifying major poets by characters in their works: “Collyn Clout” for Spenser; “Rosamond” for Daniel; “Leander” for Marlowe; and “Adon”  [Adonis of “Venus and Adonis”] signifying Shakespeare.

This was followed immediately atop the next page, as “L’Envoy” continued, by reference to a poet “in purple robes distained … whose power floweth far” with his “bewitching pen” and “golden art” that should make him “the only object and the star” of England’s writers.

So who was this poet said to be the best of all?

I turned to the Appendix to see what various scholars had to say – and to my surprise, one identified “the star” as Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford while another said “the star” must be a further description of Shakespeare…

Leaning back at the microfilm machine, I mused: If these two scholars of the late nineteenth century had been in the same room, one identifying Oxford and the other pointing to Shakespeare, wouldn’t it have occurred to them that maybe they were both talking about the same man?  If so, they’d have solved the authorship question then and there!

Here in modernized English is the stanza praising Shakespeare as “Adon” followed by the stanzas praising the poet who “should have been … the only object and the star”:

Adon deafly masking through

Stately troupes rich conceited,

Showed he well deserved to,

Love’s delight on him to gaze,

And had not love herself entreated,

Other nymphs had sent him bays.

Blackfriars Playhouse: Oxford acquired the sublease and transferred it to John Lyly, his secretary and stage manager

Eke in purple robes distained,

Amidst the Center of this clime,

I have heard say doth remain

One whose power floweth far,

That should have been of our rhyme

The only object and the star.

Blackfriars Playhouse

Well could his bewitching pen

Done the Muses’ objects to us;

Although he differs much from men

Tilting under Frieries,

Yet his golden art might woo us

To have honored him with bays.

[The stanza about “Adon” and the two stanzas to “one whose power floweth far” both end with “bays” – perhaps intended as a way for readers to link all three stanzas praising a single poet.]

In the Appendix notes, Roxburghe Club editor W.E. Buckley reported how one scholar identified Oxford and the other pointed to Shakespeare:

Edward Dowden (1843-1913)

“If ‘purple robes’ may mean a Nobleman’s robes, it gives some colour to the conjecture of Professor [Edward] Dowden, that Vere, Earl of Oxford, may have been intended, ‘as his reputation stood high as a Poet and Patron of Poets …

“Dr. B. Nicholson is of opinion that these two stanza must be connected with the preceding one in which Adon, that is, Shakspere, is described.”

Buckley noted that The Arte of English Poesie had named Oxford “first among the crew of courtly makers” and that Edmund Spenser had written a dedicatory sonnet to the earl in The Faire Queen of 1590 “in which he speaks of ‘the love that thou didst bear To th’Heliconian Nymphs, and they to thee.’  His ‘power flowed far’ as he was Lord High Chamberlain of England.  He had contributed to The Paradise of Dainty Devices, signing E.O. or E. Ox. [1576] and to The Phoenix Nest in 1593.  One of his poems is a vision of a Fair Maid (‘clad all in color of a Nun and covered with a Vail’) who complains of love and gets Echo answers of ‘Vere.’  In another (referred to by Edwards?), Oxford represents himself as ‘wearing black and tawny’ and [having] ‘no bays’ …”

[Prior to John Thomas Looney’s identification of Edward de Vere as “Shakespeare” in 1920, orthodox scholars felt free to mention him in a positive light without worrying about giving any ground to Oxfordians in the authorship debate; that is, they tended to be honest and straightforward – unlike much of what we see today!]

And here in the midst of these notes came another surprise from Editor Buckley, referring to the English literary antiquary Thomas Coxeter (1689-1747): “He [Oxford] was said by Coxeter to have translated Ovid, which would connect him with Narcissus, but no one has ever seen his Ovid.”

[We might wonder which Ovid works Oxford was “said to have translated,” given that his maternal uncle Arthur Golding is credited with the 1567 Latin-to-English translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses that became Shakespeare’s most beloved classical source.)

The street fighting in "Romeo and Juliet" is a mirror image of the "tilting" at Blackfriars involving Oxford's men

An important contribution to work on the Narcissus L’Envoy was done by Dr. Roger Stritmatter in an article printed in the Fall 2006 (70) issue of Cahiers Elisabethains, a leading French journal of Elizabethan studies, and reprinted in the Winter 2007 edition of Shakespeare Matters, the newsletter of The Shakespeare Fellowship, under the title “Tilting Under Frieries”: Narcissus (1595) and the Affair at Blackfriars.

Stritmatter introduced new evidence that “allows definitive identification of the phrase ‘tilting under Frieries’ as reference to a notorious series of Blackfriars street fights (1582-85) involving Oxford’s retainers.”  The fighting, in which Oxford was wounded and lamed for life, “left an indelible impression in the popular imagination of the era,” he writes, citing a series of documents (transcribed by Alan Nelson  for his Oxford biography Monstrous Adversary) confirming that Oxford’s men in spring 1582 were definitely “tilting under frieries” at Blackfriars.

“The significance of this finding, identifying Oxford as the poet with the ‘bewitching pen’ who ‘should have been’ – but cannot be – the ‘only object and the star’ of the chorus of the Elizabethan poets, should not be underestimated,” Stritmatter observes.

“Without doubt, the 1582-83 Oxford-Knyvet affair at Blackfriars was the most striking instance of ’tilting under Frieries’ during the thirty-seven years of Elizabeth’s reign that informed the imagery and diction of Edwardes’ enigmatic poem.  Before the fray had ended, a literary peer of the realm had been lamed for life, and followers of both factions wounded or killed.  The concealed poet of ‘bewitching pen’ and ‘golden art’ – whose men were in 1582 notoriously ’tilting under frieries’ – is none other than the still controversial Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (1550-1604).”

Anti-Stratfordians Strike Back: Michael York and the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition Launch Big Counter-Offensive against the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Michael York

Los Angeles, CA, Nov. 21, 2011 – Amidst all the controversy surrounding Sony Pictures’ recently-released feature film Anonymous, actor and author Michael York, O.B.E., launched a powerful, multi-pronged counter-offensive against the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT) in Stratford-upon-Avon, and its “60 Minutes with Shakespeare” authorship campaign, initiated in response to the film.

Michael York in his breakthrough film role as Tybalt in "Romeo and Juliet" - 1968

York also announced a monumental breakthrough in the Shakespeare Authorship Controversy — detailed evidence that William Shakespeare traveled all over Italy. The problem for orthodox Shakespeare scholars is that the Stratford man never left England.

During a briefing at the LA Press Club’s Steve Allen Theater in Hollywood, Michael York, Hilary Roe Metternich, daughter of the man who discovered the new evidence, and John M. Shahan, Chairman & CEO of the California-based Shakespeare Authorship Coalition (SAC), lambasted the SBT for its Orwellian attacks against doubters and for the inferior scholarship in its “60 Minutes with Shakespeare” website, which features 60 prominent SBT supporters, each giving a 60-second audio-recorded response to one of 60 questions posed by the SBT.

John Shahan, chairman of the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition, with the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt

Michael York, in language echoing that which brought down Senator Joseph McCarthy, castigated Stanley Wells, Honorary President of the SBT, and Paul Edmondson, Head of Learning and Research at the SBT, for suggesting that the authorship controversy is merely another “conspiracy theory,” and for labeling all doubters as “anti-Shakespeareans.”

“Have you no sense of decency sirs, at long last?  Have you left no sense of decency?”* York asked.

“Or, as Shakespeare put it in Hamlet, ‘O shame! where is thy blush?’” he added.

“Doubters are not ‘anti-Shakespeare,’” York insisted, “but your behaviour is most un-Shakespearean.”

Stanley Wells, chairman of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT), with the Cobbe Portrait of -- Shakespeare???

SAC Chairman John Shahan announced that a coalition of a dozen authorship organizations, based in the U.S., U.K. and Germany, has rebutted each point in the SBT “60 Minutes.” The rebuttal document, titled Exposing An Industry in Denial: Authorship Doubters Respond To “60 Minutes with Shakespeare.”

“The SBT made a mistake in coming down from their ivory tower to attack us,” Shahan said. “This rebuttal document makes it clear that the best of our scholars are far superior to theirs.”

Shahan issued a challenge to the SBT to write a single definitive declaration of the reasons why they claim there is “no room for doubt” about the identity of William Shakespeare and post it along with the names of those who have endorsed it.  He noted that the SAC wrote and posted a definitive statement of its position, the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt About the Identity of William Shakespeare, in 2007; and it has now been signed by over 2,200 people — over 800 with advanced degrees, and nearly 400 current or former college faculty members.

"The Shakespeare Guide to Italy" by Richard Paul Roe

Hilary Roe Metternich announced the discovery of strong new evidence in the controversy, contained in the just-released book, The Shakespeare Guide to Italy: Retracting the Bard’s Unknown Travels, by Richard Paul Roe (HarperPerennial). Ms. Metternich, daughter of the author, a prominent Pasadena attorney who died late last year, said that her father had spent over 20 years searching in Italy, his only guide being the texts of Shakespeare’s 10 “Italian plays” — those set roughly in his own time (not counting the three plays set in ancient Rome).

“The clues were right there in the plays,” Metternich said. “My father found the locations of nearly every scene in all 10 plays, locations missed by orthodox scholars for over 400 years.  His great chronicle of travel, analysis and discovery paints with amazing clarity a picture of what the author ‘Shakespeare,’ whoever he was, witnessed before writing his Italian Plays.”

In 1954 Sen. Joseph McCarthy made accusations against the U.S. Army, whose attorney Joseph Welch responded, "Have you no sense of decency?"

*Question put to Senator Joseph McCarthy on June 9, 1954, at theArmy-McCarthy hearings.


U.S. Army Attorney Joseph Welch versus Senator Joseph McCarthy – 1954

Part One of a New Educational Documentary “The Real Edward de Vere”

Here from The Shakespeare Channel is Part One of The Real Edward de Vere, described as “an amateur documentary about the life of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, made for educational purposes.

The first part, running 11 and 1/2 minutes, is “Childhood and Youth” — written by Mark Garcia and edited by Brian Lake — filmed in various locations in England, including  Oxford’s childhood home of Castle Hedingham in Essex, with plenty of interesting images.

“The Fable of O” – Written by Edward de Vere, the Future Earl of Oxford at Age 10 in 1560?

This is the frontispiece of a book published anonymously in 1560, when Edward de Vere, the future Earl of Oxford, was ten years old.  Had he written it?  Had he created this work as a boy?

The Fable of O - 1560 - The original frontispiece had borders filled in with rude woodcuts, undoubtedly an expensive private project

The full title is THE FABLE OF Ovid treating of Narcissus, translated out of Latin into English Metre, with a moral ther(e)unto, very pleasante to re(a)de.  [Note: CLICK ON IMAGES FOR LARGER VIEWS]

Two years later, at age twelve upon his father’s death, Oxford would become a royal ward of Queen Elizabeth living at Cecil House in London — where a famous translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses (containing the Narcissus tale), from Latin into English, would be carried out.  This work would be attributed to Oxford’s maternal uncle, Arthur Golding, the puritanical scholar who also lived there during part of that time; and decades later it would become known as Shakespeare’s favorite classical source.

"The 15 Books of P. Ovidius Naso, entitled Metamorphosis, translated out of Latin into English meeter, by Arthur Golding, Gentleman" - 1567

Did the teenage Edward de Vere actually compose the youthful, spirited, sensual translation of the fifteen books that comprise Ovid’s Metamorphoses as by Golding, published partially in 1565 and fully in 1567?

And as preparation, had he already been copying and translating Ovid’s stories from childhood?  If so, perhaps he worked upon various English versions Ovid’s stories, including this translation of Narcissus, and had it printed in 1560 at age ten as a limited edition – not with his name on it, but with a title page bearing a top line reading The Fable of O … as a little private joke … indicating The Fable of Oxford.

[In a letter to Lord Burghley in 1576 at age twenty-six, Oxford would refer to gossip about his wife being unfaithful as “the fable of the world.”]

In the “Moralization of the Fable” that follows the translation, the same writer refers to “youthful years,” perhaps referring to his own young age:

A careles lyfe thus led in youthfull yeares

A wilfull waye be seemeth well to take;

So this same witte as wilde desire him stirs

Unconstantely, for luste and pleasures sake;

From this to that his vaine inventions wake

A restless time in nedless worke doth spende,

Till that hereof he findes the foolish ende.

I recommend the edition by John Frederick Nims (1913-1999), which was reprinted by Paul Dry Books in 2000 with an essay by Jonathan Bate, who writes of the “Golding” work:

“It is certainly the most famous translation of Ovid into English.  It was the English Ovid from the time of its publication in 1567 until about a decade after the death of Shakespeare in 1616 – the Ovid, that is, for all who read him in English during the greatest period of our literature.  And in its racy verve, its quirks and oddities, its rugged English gusto, it is still more enjoyable, more plain fun to read, than any other Metamorphoses in English.”

Sounds to me like the rugged boyish gusto of the spirited young Shakespeare himself…

[To find the original text of The Fable of O, see W.E. Buckley (Ed); Cephalus and Procris; Narcissus; Roxburghe Club; 1882]

Reason No. 25 to Believe that Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford was Shakespeare: His Grant of a Thousand Pounds Per Year

English ships battle Spain's Armada - 1588

On June 26, 1586, when England was officially at war with Spain and bracing for King Philip’s invasion by armada, Queen Elizabeth signed a warrant granting Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford an extraordinary allowance of a thousand pounds per year.  The grant was to be paid to him by the Exchequer, according to the same formula used for payments to Secretary Francis Walsingham and his wartime secret service, that is, to be made in quarterly installments with no accounting required.

Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603)

At this time the English government desperately needed all available cash for military defense, to secure Elizabeth’s safety and the survival of her realm; and Walsingham required a constant flow of cash to pay foreign and domestic spies for his network of espionage.  Back in 1582 the Queen had given him 750 pounds; in 1586 she raised it to two thousand pounds; but that would be the limit for her spymaster — even during 1588, the year of England’s surprising victory over the Armada.

Sir Francis Walsingham (1532-1590)

So why would Elizabeth — known for being a most parsimonious (some would say miserly) monarch — choose to support a “spendthrift” nobleman who had “wasted” the vast bulk of his great inheritance?  And why would she authorize such a large annual pension to be paid to him right now, of all times, at this most perilous moment for the nation?

Oxford’s grant apparently went unnoticed by historians until two years after John Thomas Looney published “Shakespeare” Identified in Edward de Vere the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford in 1920.  Inspired to conduct further research, B. M. Ward discovered Elizabeth’s signature on the Privy Seal Warrant and then looked at surviving records for all other salaries and annuities paid from the Exchequer during her reign.  Aside from sums paid to James of Scotland for political reasons, he found, the grant to Oxford was larger than any other except for the annual 1,200 pounds to the Master of the Posts for the expenses of that office.

As Ward noted in his 1928 documentary biography The Seventeenth Earl of Oxford, there’s no hint as to the purpose of the grant, except that it was “to be continued unto him during Our pleasure, or until such time as he shall be by us otherwise provided for to be in some manner relieved, at what time our pleasure is that this payment of one thousand pounds yearly to our said cousin in manner above specified shall cease.”  The warrant also stated that the Exchequer was not to call upon Oxford to render any account of its expenditure, as in the case of secret service money.

Blackfriars Playhouse - In the 1580's Oxford gave the lease of it to John Lyly

Edward de Vere at age thirty-six was in fact broke and needed “to be in some manner relieved,” but the circumstantial evidence clearly suggests he had been working with Secretary Walsingham (and his father-in-law, William Cecil Lord Burghley) to serve the government’s interests.  The evidence points to him playing a multi-faceted role behind the scenes that included, but was not limited to, the issuance of his own “comedies” for the stage – as the anonymous writer of The Arte of English Poesie would write in 1589: “For tragedy Lord Buckhurst and Master Edward Ferrys do deserve the highest praise: the Earl of Oxford and Master Edwards of Her Majesty’s Chapel for Comedy and Enterlude.”

Oxford actively patronized two acting companies performing at the private Blackfriars Playhouse and at the royal court.  He patronized and/or employed many literary men for whom he provided working space, inspiration, guidance and freedom from the wartime suppression of written words and speech.  Some of the writers in his service, such as Anthony Munday and Thomas Watson, operated as Secret Service agents (as did Christopher Marlowe) while using their artistic activities as public cover; and others working under his wing included Robert Greene, John Lyly and Thomas Lodge, to name just a few more.

It was Walsingham himself who had initiated formation of Queen Elizabeth’s Men in 1583.  (He had received his first regular allowance for espionage after years of financing it from his own pocket, just as Oxford had been financing acting companies, writers and musicians with his personal funds.) The Secretary ordered the twelve best actors from existing companies to be transferred into the new Queen’s Men.  Then in January 1584 Oxford’s adult company performed at Court with his secretary Lyly as payee; and in March that year Oxford’s company performed with the Queen’s players at Court, again with Lyly handling the business side.

So the two acting companies had been amalgamated, with Oxford’s secretary apparently serving as business agent, stage manager and rehearsal coach.   In other words, soon after the head of the Secret Service had spawned Her Majesty’s own acting group, Edward de Vere rushed to contribute in various ways to its success.  Meanwhile, the plots of several royal history plays performed in the 1580’s by the Queen’s Men – including The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth, The Troublesome Reign of King John and The True Tragedy of Richard III – would appear in the 1590’s and later as virtually the same plots of plays attributed to Shakespeare.

The anonymous play The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth was performed by the Queen's Men in the 1580's

“The formation of the Queen’s Men in 1583 should be regarded particularly in connection with the intelligence system,” Scott McMillin and Sally-Beth MacLean write in The Queen’s Men and Their Plays.  “The point is not that the Queen’s Men were spies, but that traveling players wearing the Queen’s livery would have been useful to Walsingham – perhaps for occasionally bearing messages to the right persons, more obviously for showing that the central government was attending to the nation through its licensed travelers.”

With at least two companies always on tour, the Queen’s Men performed plays that would rouse patriotic fervor and encourage unity among Protestants and Catholics in the face of the coming Spanish invasion.  (To call this “propaganda” would be true, but not the whole of it.)  And I suggest, first of all, that Oxford had spent much of his fortune on helping to bring the European Renaissance to England – on his travels in 1575-1576 through France, Germany and Italy; and on his employment of various artists who would create the great surge of English literature and drama in the 1580’s, leading to “Shakespeare” in the following decade.

In a real sense Edward de Vere was a leader (or the leader) in creating a new English language, culture and national identity — weapons as important as ships and guns in building up England’s ability to withstand attack.  And we could not expect to find these matters written down in the Queen’s Privy Seal Warrant authorizing his grant.

Six decades later, the Rev. John Ward, vicar of Stratford Parish in Warwickshire, recorded local rumors in his diary (1661-1663) that “Shakespeare” had “supplied the stage with two plays every year and for that had an allowance so large that he spent at the rate of a thousand pounds a year.”

The Armada Battle

In fact Oxford received his annual thousand pounds during the rest of the Anglo-Spanish War, from 1586 through the death of Elizabeth in 1603 and the succession of King James, until his own death in 1604.  That amounts to a total of eighteen years; and, of course, eighteen years times two plays per year equals thirty-six plays, the number of them published in the First Folio of Shakespeare in 1623.  Coincidence?

The Relevance of the Shakespeare Authorship Question — Viewed in Relation to Biographies of Dickens: “There were two people in him, he told me…”

What’s the need for knowing more about the author of the Shakespeare works?

Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

Well, in today’s issue of the New York Times Book Review (November 6, 2011), there’s a critical survey of two new biographies of Charles Dickens, who has been called the most central and yet the most eccentric literary figure of his age; and the reviewer, David Gates, quotes from a letter by Fyodor Dostovyevsky written some years after meeting Dickens in 1862:

“He told me that all the good, simple people in his novels … are what he wanted to have been, and his villains were what he was (or rather, what he found in himself), his cruelty, his attacks of causeless enmity towards those who were helpless and looked to him for comfort, his shrinking from those whom he ought to love …

A picture of Dickens at age 18

“There were two people in him, he told me: one who feels as he ought to feel and one who feels the opposite.  ‘From the one who feels the opposite I make my evil characters, from the one who feels as a man ought to feel, I try to live my life.’”

As Gates observes, this confession by Dickens is amazing, but only “because it’s the image-conscious Dickens himself coming out and saying what anybody familiar with his work and his life has always intuited.”

Charles Dickens - a complicated man

Reading certain works such as Hamlet, King LearOthello and the Sonnets, we have intuited some of the author’s inner conflicts (realizing it or not); and while it’s difficult, nay, impossible to learn any of the causes from what’s known about Will of Stratford’s life, there’s plenty in the life of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford to help explain – and better understand – the writings of Shakespeare.

Edwin Forrest (1806-1872) as King Lear

This is just one more example, among uncounted others, of why we keep hungering for biographies of authors – in this case, Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin (Penguin) and Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist by Robert Doughlas-Fairhurst.

The first biography of Dickens appeared two years after he died in 1872, at 58, “and its successors keep coming,” Gates writes, adding, “The Dickens biographies published just in the past 25 years make an impressive stack.  Given his uncanny genius and the vivid complexity of his life, that’s not a complaint.”

Right.  And one day, I predict, we’ll be saying the same thing about biographies of Edward de Vere.

Sonnet 145 as in “The Monument” .. No … “Hate Away” ain’t “Hathaway” … NO way!

Sonnet 145 contains the famous line “I hate from hate away she threw,” which some Stratfodians view as an allusion by William Shakspere of Stratford to his wife Anne Hathaway.  Here’s from Wikipedia:

“The words ‘hate away’ may be a pun (in Elizabethan pronunciation) on ‘Hathaway’. It has also been suggested that the next words, ‘And saved my life’, would have been indistinguishable in pronunciation from ‘Anne saved my life.’  The sonnet differs from all the others in the length of the lines.  Its fairly simple language and syntax have led to suggestions that it was written much earlier than the other, more mature, sonnets.”

Anne Hathaway's cottage in Stratford upon Avon

Well, I disagree.  In my view the “Hathaway” interpretation is beyond laughable.  [And don’t those same scholars scoff whenever Oxfordians suggest possible word-clues pointing to Edward de Vere?  Isn’t this a case of changing the rules to suit the player?]  I believe Sonnet 145 has been entirely misunderstood, and, as a result, grossly underrated — by all traditional scholars and even by many or most Oxfordians.  When Shakespeare does something different, or unusual, be on the alert.  Rather than cast it aside as “written much earlier” and less mature, be open to the possibility that it’s quite the opposite.  In this case, what appears to be a misshapen sonnet (or just a “pretty little love song,” as Paul McCartney might say) is in my view actually a verse carrying enormous emotional power — akin to the explosive feelings that lay beneath The Phoenix and Turtle of 1601, a tightly compressed poem written in reaction to Southampton’s imprisonment because of the failed Essex Rebellion.

Here below is what I included in The Monument:



 Sonnet 145

 “Straight In Her Heart Did Mercy Come”

 “And Saved My Life”

 19 March 1601

This verse corresponds in time to Sonnet 66 of the Fair Youth series to Southampton, when Oxford reacts to Elizabeth’s order to spare the life of Henry Wriothesley by recording a virtual suicide note, filled with relief and sorrow.  Here he responds to the Queen’s act of mercy with a show of gratitude for sparing their royal son from execution.  He breaks with his usual sonnet form, employing eight rather than ten beats per line.  Just as Sonnet 66 is different from all other verses, the form of this verse marks it also as special.  Throughout Oxford speaks in both his own and his son’s voice, i.e., speaking as one.[“But here’s the joy, my friend and I are one” – Sonnet 42]  “Straight in her heart did mercy come,” he reports, adding that Elizabeth “saved my life.” 

 Sonnet 145

Those lips that Love’s own hand did make

Breathed forth the sound that said, “I hate,”

To me that languished for her sake.

But when she saw my woeful state,

Straight in her heart did mercy come,

Chiding that tongue that ever sweet

Was used in giving gentle doom:

And taught it thus anew to greet:

“I hate” she altered with an end

That followed it as gentle day

Doth follow night, who like a fiend

From heaven to hell is flown away.

“I hate” from hate away she threw,

And saved my life, saying, “Not you.”

Note: The story that’s “below the surface” is being preserved for posterity, for readers of the future, like us; but in no way does this preclude or nullify all the other various interpretations to be found “on” the surface.   As usual, there are multiple meanings and allusions to be found and savored.  The follow “translation” (not really a paraphrase) therefore can be regarded as but an attempt to comprehend the all-important meaning below the line.


Elizabeth’s command by her royal authority

Was that our son should be executed,

Telling me, who feared for his death by her,

But when she saw my/his woeful state,

Straight in her heart she found mercy,

Rebuking her own command that royally

Was used in ordering his royal death:

And instructed her own decree to change:

“He must die” she changed, with a result

That followed as a royal golden time

Follows royal death, which like a fiend

Was overturned fromElizabethto hell.

“He must die” she removed from herself,

And saved my/his life, saying, “Not him!”

Sonnet 145

“My lords, I must say for my part as I have said before, that since the ignorance of the law hath made me incur the danger of the law, I humbly submit myself to her Majesty’s mercy … I pray you truly to inform the Queen of my penitence, and be a means for me to her Majesty to grant me her gracious pardon.  I know I have offended her; yet if it please her to be merciful unto me, I may, by my future service, deserve my life.” – Southampton at the Trial on February 19, 1601


THOSE LIPS = Elizabeth’s voice, her decree; “And mercy then will breathe within your lips” – Measure for Measure, 2.2.78; LOVE = royal blood; LOVE’S OWN HAND = the Queen’s power; the Queen’s own hand also created “love” within her son, Southampton, who was “the little Love-God” of Sonnet 154, line 1; the boy (“Cupid” of Sonnet 153, line 1) was given “A Woman’s face with nature’s own hand painted” – Sonnet 20, line 1, i.e., he had Elizabeth’s face because she was his natural mother who gave birth to him; and Southampton as an infant was “sleeping by a Virgin hand disarmed” – Sonnet 154, line 8; “A heavy sentence … at your Highness’ hands” – Richard II, 1.3.154-158

For love is worse than hate, and eke more harm hath done,

Record I take of those that read ofParis, Priam’s son.

Finis.  E. O. (Earl of Oxford, Paradise of Dainty Devices, 1576)


BREATHED FORTH THE SOUND = decreed that Southampton should follow Essex to his execution; “And mercy then will breathe within your lips” – Measure for Measure, 2.2.78; “Or let the church, our mother, breathe her curse, a mother’s curse, on her revolting son” – King John, 3.1.182-183; “By all the blood that every fury breathed” – King John, 5.2.127; “Norfolk, for thee remains a heavier doom, which I with some unwillingness pronounce … The hopeless word of ‘never to return’ breathe I against thee, upon pain of life” – the King in Richard II, 1.3.148-153, followed by: “A heavy sentence, my most sovereign liege, and all unlook’d for from your Highness’ mouth” – Richard II, 1.3.154-155

Come hither, Harry, sit by my bed,

And hear, I think, the very latest counsel

That ever I shall breathe.

2 Henry IV, 4.5.181-183, the King to his son

 “I HATE” = Elizabeth’s initial reaction to the Rebellion, determining to execute Southampton; also, her refusal to acknowledge their son’s “love” or royal blood, turning it into its opposite, “hate”; Southampton also  expressed his “hate” toward Oxford, for his bargain requiring him to give up any claim to the crown: “For thee against my self I’ll vow debate,/ For I must ne’er love him whom thou dost hate” – Sonnet 89, lines 13-14; “Then hate me when thou wilt, if ever, now” – Sonnet 90, line 1, referring also to Southampton’s threat to break out of the Tower and lead another Rebellion against Robert Cecil and the Queen

Besides, our nearness to the king in love

Is near the hate of those love not the king

Richard II, 2.2.126-127

The King: Rivers and Hastings, take each other’s hand;

Dissemble not your hatred: swear your love.

Rivers: By heaven, my soul is purged from grudging hate,

And with my hand I seal my true heart’s love

Buckingham: Whenever Buckingham doth turn his hate

Upon your Grace, but with all duteous love

Doth cherish you and yours, God punish me

With hate in those where I expect most love.

Richard III, 2.1.9-35


TO ME = to Oxford, who stands in for Southampton, since he and his son are one and the same; therefore, the Queen uttered this decree to Southampton; THAT LANGUISHED FOR HER SAKE = who has been languishing in the Tower, in expectation of being executed according to the Queen’ imperial will; HER SAKE = the Queen’s pleasure


But when Elizabeth realized our woeful state; i.e., the ruined royal state of my son, and therefore my own state; WOEFUL = “heavy tears, badges of either’s woe” – Sonnet 44, line 14; “To weigh how once I suffered in your crime./ O that our night of woe might have rememb’red/ My deepest sense, how hard true sorrow hits” – Sonnet 120, lines 8-10; STATE = his situation, but actually his son’s royal state; “When in disgrace with Fortune and men’s eyes,/ I all alone beweep my outcast state” – Sonnet 29, line 1-2; “How many gazers mightst thou lead away,/ If thou wouldst use the strength of all thy state” – Sonnet 96, lines 11-12


Elizabeth found mercy in her heart, the source of her royal blood; MERCY = the same “mercy” fromElizabeth for whichSouthampton pleaded at the trial:

“My lords, I must say for my part as I have said before, that since the ignorance of the law hath made me incur the danger of the law, I humbly submit myself to her Majesty’s mercy …  I pray you truly to inform the Queen of my penitence, and be a means for me to her Majesty to grant me her gracious pardon.  I know I have offended her; yet if it please her to be merciful unto me, I may, by my future service, deserve my life.  I have been brought up under Her Majesty.  I have spent the best part of my patrimony in Her Majesty’s service, with frequent danger of my life, as your Lordships well know…  But since I am found guilty by the law, I do submit myself to death, yet not despairing of Her Majesty’s mercy.  For I know she is merciful, and if she please to extend mercy to me, I shall with all humility receive it.” -Southampton,February 19, 1601, at the Trial

Unto the sovereign mercy of the King

Richard II, 2.3.156

And mercy then will breathe within your lips

Measure for Measure, 2.2.78

Wilt thou draw near the nature of the gods?

Draw near them then in being merciful.

Sweet mercy is nobility’s true badge:

Thrice noble Titus, spare my first-born son.

Titus Andronicus, 1.1.120-123

Cambridge:  I do confess my fault

And do submit me to your highness’ mercy.

Grey, Scoop: To which we all appeal.

King Henry:  The mercy that was quick in us but late

By your own counsel is suppressed and killed:

You must not dare, for shame, to talk of mercy

Henry V, 2.2.77-81, the King to nobles turned traitors

The quality of mercy is not strained,

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest,

It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes,

‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest, it becomes

The throned monarch better than his crown.

His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,

The attribute to awe and majesty,

Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings.

But mercy is above this sceptred sway,

It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,

It is an attribute to God himself;

An earthly power doth then show like God’s

When mercy seasons justice.

The Merchant of Venice, 4.1.182-195

Nothing adorns a King more than justice, nor in anything doth a King more resemble God than in justice, which is the head of all virtue, and he that is endued therewith hath all the rest.

– Oxford to Robert Cecil, May 7, 1603

Not the King’s crown, nor the deputed sword,

The marshal’s truncheon, nor the judge’s robe,

Become them with one half so good a grace

As mercy does.

Measure for Measure, 2.2.60-63


CHIDING THAT TONGUE = rebuking her own previous command; EVER = Ever = Edward de Vere, Ever or Never; SWEET = royal, with sovereign power


Had sentenced Southampton to be executed; has nevertheless confined him in the Tower for a term of life; GENTLE = royal; “The quality of mercy is not strained, it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven” – The Merchant of Venice, 4.1.182-183; DOOM = sentence or judgment; “Thy end is Truth’s and Beauty’s doom and date” – Sonnet 14, line 14; “Supposed as forfeit to a confined doom” – Sonnet 107, line 4, i.e., the expected fate of Southampton; “Norfolk, for thee remains a heavier doom, which I with some unwillingness pronounce.  The sly slow hours shall not determinate the dateless limit of thy dear exile” – Richard II, 1.3.148-151


And instructed her own decree to change; THUS = in the following way; TO GREET: to address, i.e., the Queen addressing Southampton and, therefore, addressing Oxford; the King of England “greets” the King of France: “…and thus he greets your Majesty: He wills you, in the name of God Almighty” – Henry V, 2.4.76-77


She changed her order for Southampton’s execution; HATE = the opposite of expressing or showing love for her son; ALTERED = the same as Oxford reports in the Fair Youth series: “But reckoning time, whose millioned accidents/ Creep in twixt vows, and change decrees of Kings,/ Tan sacred beauty, blunt the shap’st intents,/ Divert strong minds to th’course of alt’ring things” – Sonnet 115, lines 5-8, immediately followed by: “Let me not to the marriage of true minds/ Admit impediments.  Love is not love/ Which alters when it alteration finds” – Sonnet 116, lines 1-3, in this case referring to the alteration of succession to the throne from Southampton to someone else, i.e., to King James; AN END = a purpose and/or a result


THAT FOLLOWED IT = that replaced it; GENTLE = royal; DAY = royalty; “Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s day?” – Sonnet 18, line 1; “Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day” – Sonnet 34, line 1


Replaces the death of Southampton’s royalty; NIGHT = (“like a jewel hung in ghastly night/ Makes black night beauteous” – Sonnet 27, lines 11-12; “And night doth nightly make grief’s length seem stronger” – Sonnet 28, line 14; “For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night” – Sonnet 30, line 6)


FROM HEAVEN = from Elizabeth, his mother; (It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven” – The Merchant of Venice, 4.1.182); TO HELL = to the various stages of hell (loss of royal claim) he has endured, from bastardy to prison to conviction of treason to sentence of death; IS FLOWN AWAY = is overturned; i.e., one decree has been replaced by the other; literally, the dark night of Southampton’s possible execution has fled


Elizabethremoved her previous command from its source, i.e., from “hate” or lack of care for her own royal blood in her son…


AND SAVED MY LIFE = and sparedSouthampton’s life from the executioner’s axe, thereby savingOxford’s life as well

 In fine, she hath both the hand and knife,

That may both save and end my life.

Finis.  E. O. (Earl of Oxford, Paradise of Dainty Devices, 1576)

“I know I have offended her; yet if it please her to be merciful unto me, I may, by my future service, deserve my life.”

– Southamptonat the Trial

SAYING, “NOT YOU” = saying to Southampton, “I executed Essex and other conspirators, but not you”; YOU = “But he that writes of you, if he can tell/ That you are you, so dignifies his story./ Let him but copy what in you is writ” – Sonnet 84, lines 7-9

Reason Number 24 of 100 Why Edward de Vere was “Shakespeare” – His & the Bard’s Deep Knowledge of Italy

For anyone interested in Shakespeare, and particularly the study of Shakespearean authorship, this coming Tuesday, November 8, 2011, is a landmark on the calendar.  That’s the official publication date of a book that could – and should – break down the rigid walls of Stratfordian tradition as more and more people demand some better explanations.

"The Shakespeare Guide to Italy" by Richard Paul Roe

This potential bombshell is The Shakespeare Guide to Italy: Retracing the Bard’s Unknown Travels, by Richard Paul “Dick” Roe, who died December 1, 2010 in Pasadena at eighty-eight, having spent the last quarter-century of his life traveling the length and breadth of Italy on what the publisher, HarperCollins, aptly describes as “a literary quest of unparalleled significance.”

“If you take a map of Italy and grab ten push pins and put them in ten cities, that’s essentially Shakespeare’s Italy,” said Mark Anderson, author of Shakespeare by Another Name, in a BBC interview, adding, “That to me is quite a remarkable happenstance.”

And now, in honor of the imminent release of Dick Roe’s masterwork, it’s also the twenty-fourth reason on this list to believe that the Earl of Oxford wrote the Shakespeare works.

When Edward de Vere traveled through Italy at age twenty-five during 1575, he and his retinue skirted Spanish-controlled Milan before navigating by canal and a network of rivers on a 120-mile journey to Verona.  His travels took him to Padua, Venice, Mantua, Pisa, Florence, Siena, Naples, Florence, Messina, Palermo and elsewhere, making his home base in Venice.

Aside from three stage works set in ancient Rome (Corianlanus, Titus Andronicus and Julius Caesar), ten of Shakespeare’s fictional plays are set in Italy – Romeo and Juliet, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Taming of the Shrew, The Merchant of Venice, Othello (Act One), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (adduced), All’s Well That Ends Well (also France), Much Ado About Nothing, The Winter’s Tale and The Tempest (which opens aboard a ship in the Mediterranean between North Africa and Italy).

Verona, Italy

On the other hand, only one play of fiction (The Merry Wives of Windsor) is set in England … an astounding ten-to-one ratio!  Why?  The only logical answer, I submit, is that “Shakespeare” (whoever he was!) must have fallen in love with Italy.  And I’d think it would be pretty hard to fall in love with a country without ever visiting it!

Oxfordians have often said that Edward de Vere “brought the European Renaissance back to England” when he returned in 1576 after fifteen months of travel through France, Germany and, most extensively, Italy.  He became the quintessential “Italianate Englishman” wearing “new-fangled” clothes* of the latest styles.


He brought richly embroidered, perfumed gloves for Queen Elizabeth, who delighted in them, and such gloves became all the rage among the great ladies of the time.  And, for example, he brought back his perfumed leather jerkin (a close-fitting, sleeveless jacket) and “sweet bags” with costly washes and perfumes.

Soon enough John Lyly, who was Oxford’s personal secretary and stage manager, issued two novels about an Italian traveler – Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit (1578) and Euphues and his England (1580), the latter dedicated to Edward de Vere, who apparently supervised the writing of both books.  Together they are said to comprise “the first English novel” and, yes, in the following decade the great author “Shakespeare” would demonstrate Lyly’s influence upon some of his plays.

"Shakespeare" demonstrates knowledge of the Italian comedy form known as "Commedia Dell'Arte" -- Edward de Vere must have attended shows of the "Commedia" during his time in Venice

“There is a secret Italy hidden in the plays of Shakespeare,” Roe begins the Introduction of his ground-breaking book.   “It is an ingeniously-described Italy that has neither been recognized, nor even suspected – not in four hundred years – save by a curious few.  It is exact; it is detailed; and it is brilliant.”

The descriptions to be found in the Italian plays are in “challenging detail” and “nearly all their locations” can be found to this day.  Whoever wrote them “had a personal interest in that country equal to the interest in his own.”  The places and things in Italy to which Shakespeare alludes or which he describes “reveal themselves to be singularly unique to that one country.”  His familiarity with Italy’s sites and sights – “specific details, history, geography, unique cultural aspects, places and things, practices and propensities” and so on – “is, quite simply, astonishing.”

Roe never mentions Oxford or any other Shakespearean candidate; instead he takes us right away to Verona, the setting for Romeo and Juliet, and recounts making one trip to search for – sycamore!  That’s right, he went to find sycamore trees, and they would have to be located in one specific spot — “just outside the western wall” as “remnants of a grove that had flourished in that one place for centuries.”

A canal in Italy

The trees are described in the very opening scene –

Where, underneath the grove of sycamore

That westward rooteth from the city’s side…

There are no sycamore trees in any of the known source materials for the play; and “no one has ever thought that the English genius who wrote the play could have been telling the truth: that there were such trees, growing exactly where he said in Verona.”

So our intrepid detective-explorer arrives in the old city of Verona: “My driver took me across the city, then to its edge on the Viale Cristoforo Colombo.  Turning south onto the Viale Colonnello Galliano, he began to slow.  This was the boulevard where, long before and rushing to the airport at Milan, I had glimpsed trees, but had no idea what kind.”

His car creeps along the Viale and then comes to a halt.  Are there sycamores at the very same spot where “Shakespeare” said they were?  Did this playwright, who is said to be ignorant of Italy, know this “unnoted and unimportant but literal truth” about Verona?  Had he deliberately “dropped an odd little stone about a real grove of trees into the pool of his powerful drama”?

I’m sure you know the answer …

Dick Roe took this photograph outside the Porta Palio, one of Verona's three western gates; and yes, sycamore trees

* “New-fangled” clothing:

Some glory in their birth, some in their skill,

Some in their wealth, some in their body’s force,

Some in their garments though new-fangled ill … Sonnet 91

“Shakespeare’s Guide to Italy” has a dozen chapters, each with more amazing personal discoveries proving that the great author had to have been there:

1 – Romeo and Juliet – “Devoted Love in Verona”

2 – The Two Gentlemen of Verona – part one – “Sailing to Milan”

3 – The Two Gentlemen of Verona – part two – “Milan: Arrivals and Departures”

4 – The Taming of the Shrew – “Pisa to Padua”

5 – The Merchant of Venice – part one – “Venice: the City and the Empire”

6 – The Merchant of Venice – part two – “Venice: Trouble and Trial”

7 – Othello – “Strangers and Streets, Swords and Shoes”

8 – A Midsummer Night’s Dream – “Midsummer in Sabbioneta”

9 – All’s Well That Ends Well – “France and Florence”

10 – Much Ado About Nothing – “Misfortune in Messina”

11 – The Winter’s Tale – “A Cruel Notion Resolved”

12 – The Tempest – “Island of Wind and Fire”

Professor Helen Gordon Cites “Six Lies” of James Shapiro in the New York Times

Following is a letter to the New York Times, replying to Professor James Shapiro of Columbia University, from Helen Heightsman Gordon, M.A., Ed. D., an English professor emeritus of Bakersfield College, California, and author of The Secret Love Story in Shakespeare’s Sonnets [2008].

Dear NY Times:

If you fact-checked the column by James Shapiro (Oct 17) you would do your readers a great favor.  Here are some of the lies in that column that any responsible reporter would have questioned:

Lie #1- The lesson plans by Sony Pictures are being distributed to literature and history teachers “in the hope of convincing them that Shakespeare was a fraud.”  

Not true.  These plans are being provided to teachers to inform them about the authorship controversy, which has been subject to much censorship in the academic world, and to encourage students to think for themselves on this controversial issue.

Lie #2 – J. Thomas Looney [pronounced LONE-ee] “loathed democracy and modernity” and argued that “only a worldly nobleman could have created such works of genius.” 

Not true.  Looney was a schoolmaster who was dissatisfied with teaching the traditional biography of Shakespeare, who argued that the Bard’s marvelous works revealed characteristics that we would expect to find in the author. These traits included a superior education, knowledge of several languages, familiarity with European courts and powerful aristocrats, some ambivalence about women, and so forth.

Shapiro’s ad hominem attack attempts to paint this sincere, dedicated teacher as a snob.  That oft-repeated accusation has been decisively refuted by many brilliant non-snobs who question whether the Stratford businessman had the background necessary to have produced works of such profound knowledge and literary talent as Shakespeare produced.

Lie #3“Promoters of de Vere’s cause have a lot of evidence to explain away, including testimony of contemporary writers, court records and much else that confirms that Shakespeare wrote the works attributed to him.” 

Not true. These supposed records either refer to non-literary court records about the Stratford man’s legal problems or they refer to the author by his pen name, “William Shakespeare” — like saying “Mark Twain wrote Mark Twain‘s work.”  They do not in any way “confirm” that the Stratford resident is the same person as the author.

The writings of William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon: six known signatures

Lie #4 “Not a shred of documentary evidence has ever been found that connects de Vere to any of the plays or poems.” 

This one is REALLY a whopper!  Demonstrably untrue.  Many scholars have provided documentary evidence of de Vere’s writing talent in letters and published poetry.  There is also printed evidence that he was regarded by his peers as being a talented playwright and poet.  Many scholars have provided evidence that de Vere had the background necessary to write the plays, including ability to read classic Greek and Latin works that had not been translated into English, evidence of travel through Italy in places accurately described in the plays, and so forth.

Researchers are somewhat frustrated by the fact that de Vere’s malicious father-in-law suppressed or destroyed evidence that might have proved one way or the other that he wrote the plays and the sonnets.  Ironically, it is the Stratford-worshippers who have never produced one single piece of writing in Shakespeare’s hand, and no documentary proof that Mr. Shakspere (that’s how he spelled his own name) attended the Stratford Grammar School (those records have been destroyed).

Lie #5“The greatest obstacle facing de Vere’s supporters is that he died in 1604, before ten or so of Shakespeare’s plays were written.” 

This might be convincing if it were true.  The truth is that nobody knows when the plays were written.  We only know when they were performed and when they were published (sometimes in pirated quartos as “anonymous” work).  Dr. Shapiro cannot explain why Mr. Shaxpere (another way that he spelled his name) did not edit his own plays for publication during his years of retirement, if indeed he were the same person as the famous author.

The First Folio was not printed until 1623, long after Mr. Shagspere’s death (another way that he spelled his name).  And the Sonnets were published in 1609, while Mr. Shakspere was alive, yet the Dedication refers to the author as “ever-living” — which means that the author is dead, but his works are still immortal.

Lie #6“Later de Vere advocates . . . claimed that de Vere was Elizabeth’s illegitimate son and therefore the rightful heir to the English throne.” 

There are only two strong advocates [Paul Streitz and Charles Beauclerk – HW] for the “incest theory,” and the movie does not give this theory any credence (the subject is mentioned and then dismissed as a lie).  On the other hand, there is considerable evidence that Elizabeth had a love affair with Edward de Vere, and at least one noted historian reports a rumor that they had a love-child who was being raised as the Third Earl of Southampton.

Those Oxfordians who find that to be a credible scenario would consider Southampton the possible heir to the throne.  The first seventeen sonnets are addressed to the “Fair Youth” that a consensus of Shakespeare scholars believe to be Henry Wriothesley, the Third Earl of Southampton.   That makes a lot of sense when you read those sonnets as being from a loving father to the son that he cannot acknowledge, as he says in Sonnet 36:

I may not evermore acknowledge thee

Lest my bewailed guilt should do thee shame,

Nor you with public kindness honor me,

Unless thou tak’st that honor from thy name.

So let us indeed stop telling lies to school children.  Let’s give them the facts — all the facts, not just those carefully selected by the traditionalists who have maintained a taboo over the subject of the authorship for decades.  Students can learn to think for themselves, and Roland Emmerich will give them much more to think about than Dr. Shapiro has done.

[Thanks to Helen Gordon for permission to reprint — with a few copy edits by me]

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