No. 30 of 100 Reasons why Oxford was “Shakespeare” — His Letters Contain Thousands of Correspondences to Thoughts and Phrases in the Poems and Plays Part One

William Plumer Fowler was president of the solidly orthodox Shakespeare Club of Boston in 1960 when it “came as a shock to me, after over half a century spent in the mistaken traditional belief, to at last realize that the true author was not the Stratfordian William Shakespeare, but someone else.”

After assuming the presidency of the Club for the second time in 1972, he spent an additional year of investigation before finally becoming “convinced beyond any doubt” that Edward de Vere the seventeenth Earl of Oxford had written the great works.

Another dozen years later, on Christmas eve of 1984 at his home in New Hampshire, he completed the preface for his 900-page masterwork Shakespeare Revealed in Oxford’s Letters.   Fowler had chosen thirty-seven of some fifty letters, written by the earl between 1563 and 1603, to demonstrate how they contain “consistent correspondences (averaging over two to a line) in nearly every phrase to the thought and phraseology of Shakespeare’s plays and poems.”

Part of an autograph letter from Oxford to Robert Cecil (his "Brother" or former brother-in-law) in July 1600

“The letters “speak for themselves,” Fowler writes, adding they “offer convincing documentary evidence of their being those of the true poet Shakespeare, as distinct from the Stratford William Shaksper of similar name.  They are far more than just Oxford’s letters,” he concluded. “They are Shakespeare’s.”

Among the thousands of correspondences is a statement from Oxford to William Cecil Lord Burghley in July 1581, after his release from the Tower following some dramatic events: after accusing his Catholic cousins Henry Howard and Charles Arundel of engaging in treasonable correspondence with Spain, they retaliated with vicious counter-charges.  They also revealed his affair with Anne Vavasour, a Queen’s Maid of Honor, who gave birth to his illegitimate infant son (Edward Vere).  She and the baby, as well as Oxford, were summarily committed to the Tower for two months.

“But the world is so cunning,” he wrote to Burghley, “as of a shadow they can make a substance, and of a likelihood a truth.”

Plato's Cave - where shadows, projected on a wall, are mistaken for substance and truth

“This shadow-substance antithesis harks back to Plato’s Socratic dialogue in the Seventh book of The Republic,” Fowler writes, “about the shadows cast by a candle in a cave, and is a favorite of Shakespeare’s, unfolded again and again, in the repeated portrayal of what Dr. Herbert R. Coursen Jr. terms ‘Shakespeare’s great theme – the discrepancy between appearance and reality’.”

In Richard II, for example, Bushy tries to calm the Queen’s anxiety over Richard’s departure for Ireland: “Each substance of a grief hath twenty shadows, which show like grief itself, but are not so … So your sweet Majesty, looking awry upon your lord’s departure, finds shapes of grief more than himself to wail, which, look’d on as it is, is naught but shadows of what it is not.” (2.2.14-23)

The metaphor is intensified after Richard surrenders his crown to Bolingbroke:

Bolingbroke: “The shadow of your sorrow hath destroyed the shadow of your face.”
King Richard: “Say that again. The shadow of my sorrow! Ha! Let’s see. ‘Tis very true, my grief lies all within. And these external manners of laments are merely shadows to the unseen grief that swells with silence in the tortured soul. There lies the substance…

“So then I am not lame, poor, nor despised/ Whilst that this shadow doth such substance give,” the author writes in Sonnet 37, and he begins number 53: “What is your substance, whereof are you made,/ That millions of strange shadows on you tend?”

Oxford’s statement that “the world is so cunning as of a shadow they can make a substance and of a likelihood a truth” appears in reverse order in The Merchant of Venice when Bassanio talks about “the seeming truth which cunning times put on to entrap the wisest” (3.2.100) — and in The Phoenix and Turtle, simply put: “Truth may seem, but cannot be.”

Oxford wrote to Robert Cecil on May 7, 1603, some six weeks after the death of Queen Elizabeth, and at one point he echoed his motto Vero Nihil Verius (“Nothing Truer than Truth”) in this striking passage:  “But I hope truth is subject to no prescription, for truth is truth though never so old, and time cannot make that false which was once true.

These ringing words “are mirrored many times by the dramatist Shakespeare,” Fowler writes, “most notably in Measure for Measure (5.1.45) where the entire thought is duplicated by Isabella: “For truth is truth to the end of reckoning.” And in Troilus and Cressida (3.2.106), to name just one other example: “What truth can speak truest, not truer than Troilus.”

He wrote in that same letter to Cecil, “Nothing adorns a king more than Justice, nor in anything doth a king more resemble God than in justice,” and Fowler observes: “Here we have a fine variant of Portia’s immortal words in The Merchant of Venice (4.1.188-196) but with the emphasis placed on ‘Justice’ itself,” rather than on Mercy, of which Portia states: ‘It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,/ It is an attribute to God himself,/ And earthly power doth then show likest God’s/ When mercy seasons justice.'”

Oxford's father-in-law William Cecil Lord Burghley, the most powerful man in England, on his mule

Edward de Vere was only twenty-two in 1572 when the Massacre of St. Bartholomew in France shocked the Elizabethan Court as tens of thousands of Huguenots (Protestants) were slain.  In an emotional letter he told Burghley:

“This estate hath depended on you a great while as all the world doth judge” – a statement, Fowler notes, “anticipating with arresting closeness both Shakespeare’s words and thought” in two scenes of Hamlet:

(1) Laertes, warning his sister Ophelia against getting too involved with Prince Hamlet because of his high position, tells her: “He may not, as unvalued persons do, carve for himself, for on his choice depends the safety and health of this whole state.” (1.3.20)

(2) King Claudius gives Rosencrantz and Guildenstern their commission to escort Hamlet to England, telling them, “The terms of our estate may not endure hazard so near us,” and Rosencrantz remarks: “The single and peculiar life is bound … to keep itself from noyance; but much more that spirit upon whose weal depends and rests and lives of many.”

We’ll continue later with Part Two of Reason No. 30…

“Why Do You Think the Dark Lady is Queen Elizabeth?” – Answer to a Reader

A reader, John, asks: “Why do you think the Dark Lady was Queen Elizabeth?” –– and because this question is so crucial to the perspective of this blog, my answer is posted here in the window of the regular blog:

It begins with the change of focus, of paradigm, caused by viewing “Shakespeare” as Oxford rather than as William of Stratford.  In the traditional view, the Sonnets tell a “love story” that’s either platonic or sexually active.  “Love story” is the only possibility open to the traditional authorship, if one accepts that the poet of the sonnets is recording events involving real individuals in real circumstances of his life.  In this perspective the dark lady of Sonnets 127-152 cannot be the Queen; our perceptions are limited by our prior assumptions.

In the traditional Stratfordian view the triangular love relationship is based, however, on no biographical or historical evidence that makes sense of the Sonnets as recording a real-life story. No amount of contortions can help, which is the main reason why the whole thing has been such a mystery — the true story has been a mystery because, within the paradigm of the orthodox author, there’s no story in the first place – it doesn’t even exist!

A portrait of Elizabeth I from the Metropolitan Museum of Art -- not quite the way she usually appears

Once Oxford is suggested as the author, however, new possibilities become apparent. Much of his early poetry, perhaps all of it, is about Elizabeth.  His letters are filled with her presence.  He was a nobleman of her Court and she was his chief focus as a courtier and servant of the state.  And that applies to Southampton as well.  It does not apply at all within the old paradigm, but when Oxford is seen as the author we must face the reality that his whole world has revolved around this remarkable female monarch.

Coat of Arms of England with Elizabeth's motto "Semper Eadem" - Ever the Same

Postulating Oxford as the author, I see the line in Sonnet 76, “Why write I still all one, ever the same” as not only the reflection of Southampton’s motto “One for all, all for one,” but also as indicating Elizabeth’s motto “Semper Eadem” or “Ever the Same,” which is exactly how she wrote it in English. This is something Edward de Vere knew and could never forget; he could not write “ever the same” and fail to realize he was identifying the Queen in that line as a prime subject of these sonnets. It was deliberate on his part.  And we can read him stating that he writes always about just one topic, which is always the same – Southampton and Elizabeth.

Oxford's lover Anne Vavasour, a Maid of Honor to the Queen who gave birth to his illegitimate son (Edward Veer) in March 1581

A big trouble is that many Oxfordians, even most, have accepted a change of authorship paradigm without accepting various other changes that flow from it.  I suppose we could come up with many analogies for this situation.  Imagine, for example, switching the scene from New York to Chicago and yet still trying to hold onto the Empire State Building.  That’s what so many of my colleagues seem to have done – they’ve switched the author from William of Stratford to the Earl of Oxford, yet are still trying to view the Sonnets as recording a love story involving some “mistress” or dark lady – of which the candidates have ranged from Anne Vavasour to Emilia Bassano Lanier to Oxford’s second wife, Elizabeth Trentham.

We could deal with each of those candidates, but I’d prefer not to waste time (here and now) on that negative task; but I challenge any Oxfordian to match up a real-life story involving any of these or other “dark lady” candidates with the sonnets themselves, fully and coherently.  

All attempts to match up real-life circumstances and events with some such love story are doomed to failure, if only because there’s no biographical or historical evidence to support those attempts.  The timing, the opportunities, all must be stretched and twisted, but even then without success.  Another reason they don’t match up is simply that the language, thoughts and themes of the so-called dark lady sonnets make no sense in the “love story” paradigm. Those Oxfordians who remain even partially stuck in the orthodox viewpoint are doomed to make crucial errors of interpretation; there’s no way around it – as the saying goes, the shoe won’t fit.

The emperor in his new clothes -- not!

It’s like the story of the emperor wearing no clothes – being unable to see and/or admit something that’s right in front of us.

A big clue to Elizabeth being the dark lady is Sonnet 25, in lines that include the Marigold, one of the Queen’s flowers.

[John Lyly, in Euphues his England (1580), dedicated to Oxford, wrote of Queen Elizabeth: “She useth the marigold for her flower, which at the rising of the sunne openeth his leaves, and at the setting shutteth them, referring all her actions and endeavors to Him that ruleth the sunne.”]

English-garden yellow marigold flowers in bloom

In Sonnet 25 she is indisputably the one to whom Oxford refers as “Great Princes” – and she has the ability with a “frown” to turn the world from light to dark; in an instant, she can turn her “favorites” such as Essex and Southampton from bright to black:

Great Princes’ favorites their fair leaves spread,
But as the Marigold at the sun’s eye,
And in themselves their pride lies buried,
For at a frown they in their glory die.

The Sonnets begin with reference to “beauty’s Rose” (1), the very phrase used by John Davies for Elizabeth and/or her Tudor Rose dynasty; they refer to her as “the mortal Moon” (107); and if one is willing to “see” what is there on the printed page, the Queen is all over the place – the dark lady whose point of view makes all the difference.

Queen Elizabeth I of England, flanked by Tudor Roses and Eglantine - 1588

In Sonnet 149 of the dark lady series, Oxford writes to her that he is “Commanded by the motion of thine eyes” – and, for him, this can only refer to the commanding eyes of his monarch. No other woman could ever command him by the motion of her eyes. In King John the King is told: “Be great in act, as you have been in thought; let not the world see fear and mistrust govern the motion of a kingly eye.” (5.1.45-47)

On its face, if you really think about it, the author of the Sonnets cannot be ranting and raving about a mistress because he can’t stand the color of her hair or eyes or skin. The lines would then be hyperbolic in the extreme: “For I have sworn thee fair, and thought thee bright,/ Who art black as hell, as dark as night” (147) – a statement that simply cannot refer to the woman’s physical coloring.

The dark lady is “dark” not because of her coloring, but, rather, because of her imperial viewpoint – and this is reinforced tremendously once one perceives that Sonnets 27 to 106 and 127 to 152 correspond with the time (1601-1603) that Southampton spent in the Tower as a prisoner condemned as a traitor. In that circumstance, the Queen’s view of him is indeed “black as hell, as dark as night.”

The dark lady series opens with 127, and we have to get to line 9 to read, “THEREFORE my mistress’ eyes are raven black,/ Her eyes so suited, and they mourners seem,/ At such who, not born fair, no beauty lack,/ Sland’ring Creation with a false esteem.” This is a direct statement from the author that the blackness of his mistress’ eyes is a metaphor.

[And here are those “eyes” again, i.e., that imperial viewpoint, which can slander “creation” or a child who was “not born fair” (not counted as royal) but “no beauty lack” (yet lacks no royal blood from Beauty, the Queen) — an interpretation that’s valid regardless of the so-called Prince Tudor theory of Southampton as the natural son of Oxford and Elizabeth.]

I think it’s fascinating, how we tend to hold onto the old ways of seeing things, even after having made a tremendous (and even courageous) shift of perspective by accepting the possibility of Oxford as Shakespeare. (I must follow-up this little essay with similar thoughts about the so-called rival poet, whom many or most Oxfordians continue to view as a real individual rather than as Oxford’s pen name “Shakespeare”.)  The old habits of old paradigms die hard.

The Fabric of His Life Woven through the Sonnets – Reason No. 29 of 100 Why Oxford was “Shakespeare”

Edward de Vere was in the best position of anyone in England to have written the Shakespeare sonnet sequence.  The known facts about the Earl of Oxford’s childhood, upbringing, education, and family all interconnect with their language and imagery.  Reason No. 29 of 100 to believe he was “Shakespeare” is the evidence in the Sonnets.

Oxford was nephew to the late Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1517-1547), who (with Sir Thomas Wyatt) wrote the first English sonnets in the form to be used later by Shakespeare.  And he himself wrote an early sonnet of the Elizabethan reign in that same form; entitled Love Thy Choice, it expressed his devotion to Queen Elizabeth with the same themes of “constancy” and “truth” that “Shakespeare” would express in the same words:

“In constant truth to bide so firm and sure” – Oxford’s early sonnet to Queen Elizabeth

“Oaths of thy love, thy truth, thy constancy – Shakespeare’s sonnet 152 to “the Dark Lady” [Elizabeth]

The Shakespeare sonnets are plainly autobiographical, the author using the personal pronoun “I” to refer to himself, telling his own story in his own voice, so it’s only natural that he expresses himself with reference points from the life he experienced from childhood (at Castle Hedingham in Essex) onward.   Much of that life-experience is captured in a single sonnet:

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,
Some in their Hawks and Hounds, some in their Horse…

(Oxford was born into the highest-ranking earldom, inheriting vast wealth in the form of many estates.  He was a skilled horseman and champion of two great jousting tournaments at the Whitehall tiltyard.  He was the “Italianate Englishman” who wore new-fangled clothing from the Continent.  An expert falconer, he wrote poetry comparing women to hawks “that fly from man to man.”)

And every humor hath his adjunct pleasure,
Wherein it finds a joy above the rest,
But these particulars are not my measure,
All these I better in one general best.
Thy love is better than high birth to me …

(Only someone who already had high birth, and who was willing to give it up, could make such a declaration to another nobleman of high birth and make it meaningful; if written to the Earl of Southampton by a man who possessed no high birth in the first place, the statement would be an insulting joke.)

Richer than wealth, prouder than garments’ cost,
Of more delight than Hawks or Hounds be,
And having thee, of all men’s pride I boast.
Wretched in this alone, that thou mayst take
All this away, and me most wretched make.

Woodcut of Elizabethan astronomy or astrology

Oxford left his footprints throughout the 154-sonnet sequence:

(2) “When forty winters shall beseige thy brow” – He was forty in 1590, when most commentators feel the opening sonnets were written.

(8) Music to hear, why hear’st thou music sadly … Mark how one string, sweet husband to another” – He was an accomplished musician, writing for the lute; and he patronized the composer John Farmer, who dedicated two songbooks to him, praising his musical knowledge and skill.

(14) “And yet methinks I have astronomy – He was well acquainted with the “astronomy” or astrology of Dr. Dee and was praised for his knowledge of the subject.

(23) “As an imperfect actor on the stage – He patronized two acting companies, performed in “enterludes” at Court and was well known for his “comedies” or stage plays.

(33) “Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy” – He studied with astrologer Dr. John Dee, who experimented with alchemy, and both men invested in the Frobisher voyages.

Elizabeth woodcut of distillation by "alchemy" to find the imagined "elixir" to prolong life"

(49) “To guard the lawful reasons on thy part” – Oxford studied law at Gray’s Inn and served as a judge at the treason trials of Norfolk and Mary Stuart as well as the trial of Essex and Southampton; his personal letters are filled with evidence of his intimate knowledge of the law.

(59) “O that record could with a backward look,/ Even of five hundred courses of the Sunne”  – His earldom extended back 500 years to the time of William the Conqueror.

(72) My name be buried where my body is” – In his early poetry he wrote, “The only loss of my good name is of these griefs the ground.”

(89) “Speak of my lameness, and I straight will halt” – He was lamed during a street fight with swords in 1582.

Queen Elizabeth - the Armada Portrait, 1588 - she loved those jewels!

(96) “As on the finger of a a throned Queen, / The basest Jewel will be well esteemed” – He gave the Queen “a fair jewel of gold” with diamonds in 1580.

(98) “Of different flowers in odor and in hue” – He was raised amid the great gardens of William Cecil, whose gardner imported flowers never seen in England — accounting for Shakespeare’s vast knowledge of flowers.

(107) “And thou in this shalt find thy monument” – He wrote to Thomas Bedingfield in 1573 that “I shall erect you such a monument…”

(109) “Myself bring water for my stain” – He was “water-bearer to the monarch” at the Coronation of King James on July 25, 1603, in his capacity as Lord Great Chamberlain.

Title page of The New Jewell of Health (1576) by Dr. George Baker, dedicated to Oxford's wife Anne Cecil, Countess of Oxford

(111) Potions of Eisel ‘gainst my strong infection” – Oxford’s surgeon was Dr. George Baker, who dedicated three books to either the earl or his wife Anne Cecil.

(114) “And to his palate doth prepare the cup – His ceremonial role as Lord Great Chamberlain included bringing the “tasting cup” to the monarch.

(121) “No, I am that I am…” –  He wrote to William Cecil Lord Burghley using the same words in the same tone (the words of God to Moses in the Bible) to protest his spying on him.

(128) “Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds– Oxford was an intimate favorite of the Queen, who frequently played on the virginals.

Courtiers of Queen Elizabeth - entertaining her with lute

(153) “I sick withal the help of bath desired” – He accompanied Elizabeth and her Court during her three-day visit in August 1574 to the City of Bath, the only royal visit of the reign; and “Shakespeare” is said to write about this visit in the so-called Bath Sonnets 153-54.

The items above amount to superficial stuff compared to extraordinary story Oxford recorded and preserved within his “monument” of verse for posterity. While writing these deeply personal sonnets, however, he could not help but draw instinctively and spontaneously upon the externals of his life as he had lived it.

Oh, I almost forgot — here in the Sonnets, as elsewhere, the author used “ever” (and “never”) as signature words:

(116) “O no, it is an ever-fixed mark/ That looks on tempests and his never shaken … If this be error and upon me proved,/ I never writ nor no man ever loved” – In one of his early poems he wrote: “Who was the first that gave the wound whose fear I wear for ever?  Vere.”

The Oxfordian Researcher Gwynneth Bowen and Her Recognition of Royal Words in the Sonnets

Below are excerpts from an article Shakespeare to his Sovereign by the late Gwynneth Bowen, first published in 1960 by the Shakespearean Authorship Review (England) and reprinted online in Mark Alexander’s incomparable website the Shakespeare Authorship Sourcebook.

Ms. Bowen believed that Edward de Vere  Earl of Oxford wrote under the pen name “William Shakespeare,” but she disagreed with the so-called Prince Tudor theory that Oxford and Queen Elizabeth were the natural parents of Henry Wriothesley Earl of Southampton.  In her view, therefore, Oxford could not be addressing Southampton in the Sonnets as his royal son and prince who deserves to become King Henry IX of England.

Southampton in the Tower 1601-1603

Nonetheless Ms. Bowen was not one to ignore evidence.  She could see that Oxford is in fact addressing the recipient as royal.

Her article begins by citing Louis P. Benezet’s suggestion that Oxford addressed a number of the Shakespeare sonnets to Queen Elizabeth.  Then she notes that Dr. Benezet had failed to include numbers 57 and 58 as among them.  In his view, Oxford was addressing 57 and 58 to his lover Anne Vavasour, who gave birth to his illegitimate son Edward Vere in March 1580.

And she continues (with my emphasis in italics):

“For the orthodox, the sonnets must all, and always, be highly metaphorical, but for those of us who believe that they were written by a nobleman, it is sometimes difficult to say where literalism ends and metaphor begins. I would like to point out, however, that these two sonnets in particular are couched in terms which are either appropriate to a reigning monarch alone, or, in some instances, take on a different meaning when associated with royalty.”

Ms. Bowen reprints the two sonnets (emphasizing key words) before providing a glossary:

Sonnet 57

Being your slave what should I do but tend
Upon the hours and times of your desire?
I have no precious time at all to spend;
Nor services to do till you require.
Nor dare I chide the world without end hour,
Whilst I (my sovereign) watch the clock for you
Nor think the bitterness of absence sour,
When you have bid your servant once adieu,
Nor dare I question with my jealous thought,
Where you may be, or your affairs suppose,
But like a sad slave stay and think of nought
Save where you are, how happy you make those.
So true a fool is love, that in your Will
(Though you do anything), he thinks no ill.

Sonnet 58

That God forbid, that made me first your slave,
I should in thought control your times of pleasure,
Or at your hand th’account of hours to crave,
Being your vassal bound to stay your leisure.
Oh let me suffer (being at your beck)
Th’imprison’d absence of your liberty,
And patience tame, to sufferance bide each check,
Without accusing you of injury.
Be where you list, your charter is so strong,
That you yourself may privilege your time
To what you will, to you it doth belong,
Yourself to pardon of self-doing crime.
I am to wait, though waiting so be hell,
Not blame your pleasure be it ill or well.

Here are excerpts from her glossary, created with assistance from the New English Dictionary, showing that all these words are related t:

The Tower

Desire: A wish as expressed or stated in words.

Sovereign: No gloss needed.

Will: The royal will.

Control: To check or verify, and hence to regulate (payments, receipts or accounts generally): by comparison with counter-roll or duplicate register.

(Controller): A household officer whose duty was primarily to check expenditure, and so to manage in general, a steward. Now chiefly used in the household of the sovereign.

Pleasure: The condition or fact of being pleased or satisfied, the negation of which is displeasure; satisfaction, approval (rare).  [As in “His Majesty’s pleasure – HW]

Vassal: [No gloss needed].

Liberty: Exemption or release from captivity, bondage or slavery. A privilege or exceptional right granted to it subject by the sovereign power.

Charter: A written document given by the sovereign or legislature. “Charters are donations from the sovereign; and not laws, but exemption from law” Hobbes Leviathan 1651.

Privilege: To authorize, licence (what is otherwise forbidden or wrong); to(verb) justify, excuse … the privilege, the royal prerogative.

Pardon: To remit the penalty of (an offence); to pass over (an offence or offender) without punishment or blame; to forgive.  Pardon is a more formal term than forgive, being that used in legal language; also often in theology. (1535-6. Act 27 Henry VIII: “No person shall have any power … to pardon or remitte any tresons … or any kyndes of felonyes whatsoever they be . . . but the Kinges Highnesse . . . shall have the whole and sole power and auctoritie [authority] thereof.”)

Pleasure: (with possessive pronoun or substantive in possessive relation). How one is pleased or wills in reference to any action contemplated; that which is agreeable to one’s will, desire, choice. [With special reference to the royalpleasure, as in the legal sentence of detention “during Her Majesty’s pleasure”.]

“The above interpretation of particular words affects the meaning of the two sonnets as a whole,” Ms. Bowen writes.  “They are not love poems in the ordinary sense at all and the words pleasure and desire have no sensual implication…”

Citing the line “The imprison’d absence of your liberty,” she observes that “liberty belonged to the Queen—to grant or to withhold,” adding, “If addressed to Anne Vavasour, or, for that matter, the Fair Youth, these two sonnets are degradingly servile, but from an Elizabethan nobleman to his Queen, in the circumstances described, they are matter-of-fact, dignified, and daring in their rebuke.”

Ms. Bowen deserves credit for refusing to ignore the clearly “royal” meaning of various key words in the Sonnets.  The evidence provided in The Monument, however, is that there is no need to turn the “fair youth” into the female sovereign; rather, the evidence shows that these same “royal” words are written in connection with Southampton, during his imprisonment in the Tower for his role in the failed Essex Rebellion of 8 February 1601.  Once that time frame and historical circumstance are accepted, Ms. Bowen’s own understanding of the words makes it impossible to avoid concluding that Sonnets 57 and 58 are addressed to Southampton as a Tudor prince being held hostage (by Secretary Robert Cecil) until the Queen dies and King James succeeds her.

Reason No. 28 of 100 to Believe that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare”: the Crucial Role Played by Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd Earl of Southampton, Dedicatee of Shakespeare’s Poetry and Fair Youth of his Sonnets

One of the most important reasons to believe Edward de Vere the seventeenth Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare” – number 28 on this list – is the central role played by Henry Wriothesley the third Earl of Southampton.

Henry Earl of Southampton in his teens, by Nicholas Hilliard

The grand entrance of “William Shakespeare” onto the published page took place in 1593 as the printed signature on the dedication to Southampton of Venus and Adonis as “the first heir of my invention,”  followed a year later by the dedication to him of Lucrece in 1594, with an extraordinary declaration of personal commitment to the 20-year-old earl:

“The love I dedicate to your Lordship is without end … What I have done is yours, what I have to do is yours, being part in all I have, devoted yours … Your Lordship’s in all duty, William Shakespeare.”

“There is no other dedication like this in Elizabethan literature,” Nichol Smith wrote in 1916, and because the great author never dedicated another work to anyone else, he uniquely linked Southampton to “Shakespeare” from then to now.

Southampton at 22 in 1595

Most scholars agree that “Shakespeare,” in the first seventeen of the 154 consecutively numbered sonnets printed in 1609, was privately urging Southampton to beget a child to continue his bloodline – demanding it in a way that would ordinarily have been highly offensive: “Make thee another self, for love of me.”

[As most readers of this blog are aware, I believe the language, tone and statements in the Sonnets make clear beyond a reasonable doubt that the elder poet, Oxford, was writing to Southampton as father to son – and, too, as father to a royal son who deserved to succeed his mother, Queen Elizabeth, on the throne as King Henry IX of England.  For the purposes of this post, however, all we need show is that Oxford is the most likely man who publicly pledged his devotion to Southampton.]

The trouble for traditional scholars is that there’s not a scrap of documentary evidence that “Shakespeare” and Henry Wriothesley had even met each other, much less that they might have had any kind of personal relationship allowing the author to command a high-ranking peer of the realm to “make thee another self, for love of me”!

“It is certain that the Earl of Southampton and the poet we know as Shakespeare were on intimate terms,” Charlton Ogburn Jr. wrote in The Mysterious William Shakespeare [1584], “but Charlotte G. Stopes, Southampton’s pioneer biographer [1922] spent seven years or more combing the records of the Earl and his family without turning up a single indication that the fashionable young lord had ever had any contact with a Shakespeare, and for that reason deemed the great work of her life a failure.”

“Oxford was a nobleman of the same high rank as Southampton and just a generation older,” J. Thomas Looney wrote in 1920, adding that “the peculiar circumstances of the youth to whom the Sonnets were addressed were strikingly analogous to his own.”

William Cecil Lord Burghley, Master of the Royal Wards

  • Edward de Vere became the first royal ward of Elizabeth at age twelve in 1562, under the guardianship of William Cecil (later Lord Burghley), and in 1571 he entered into an arranged marriage with the chief minister’s fifteen-year-old daughter, Anne Cecil.
  • Henry Wriothesley became the eighth and last such child of state as a boy in 1581, also in the chief minister’s custody, and during 1590-91 he resisted unusual pressure to enter into an arranged marriage with Burghley’s fifteen-year-old granddaughter, Elizabeth Vere.

The young lady was also Oxford’s daughter (of record), making him in fact the prospective father-in-law; and scholars generally agree that in the “procreation” sonnets Shakespeare sounds very much like a prospective father-in-law (or father) urging Southampton to accept Burghley’s choice of a wife for him.

Lady Elizabeth Vere, who married William Stanley Earl of Derby in 1595

At the outset, therefore, Edward de Vere and Henry Wriothesley were brought together by this particular marriage proposal coming from the most powerful man in England with the full blessing of his sovereign mistress.  And regardless of how either Oxford or Southampton truly felt about it, they both had an extremely important personal stake in the outcome.

Looney noted that both Oxford and Southampton “had been left orphans and royal wards at an early age, both had been brought up under the same guardian, both had the same kind of literary tastes and interests, and later the young man followed exactly the same course as the elder as a patron of literature and drama.”

The separate entries for Oxford and Southampton in the Dictionary of National Biography, written before the twentieth century, revealed that “in many of its leading features the life of the younger man is a reproduction of the life of the elder,” Looney noted, adding it was “difficult to resist the feeling that Wriothesley had made a hero of De Vere, and had attempted to model his life on that of his predecessor as royal ward.”

If Oxford was writing the private sonnets to Southampton, and I have no doubt of it, then we should not expect to find the two of them publicly spending much time together or even any time at all.  Oxford tells Southampton in Sonnet 36, for example, “I may not evermore acknowledge thee;” in Sonnet 71 he instructs him, “Do not so much as my poor name rehearse;” and in Sonnet 89 he vows: “I will acquaintance strangle and look strange, Be absent from thy walks, and in my tongue Thy sweet beloved name no more shall dwell…”

A Notice of the Essex-Southampton Trial of Feb. 19, 1600 (1601) with Edward de Vere given prominence as a judge on the tribunal

[Once Southampton came to Court at age sixteen or seventeen, Oxford removed himself from active attendance.  The two shared an important secret, a hidden story, that tied them together; and they evidently needed to stay apart, at least in public.]

Some of the historical facts are:

  •    As royal wards, both Oxford and Southampton had Queen Elizabeth as their official mother, in addition to serving her as loyal subjects.
  •    Oxford in the early 1590’s was Southampton’s prospective father-in-law.
  •    After the failed Essex Rebellion in February 1601, Oxford came forth to sit as highest-ranking earl on the tribunal for the treason trial of Essex and Southampton.
  •    The peers had no choice but to render a unanimous guilty verdict; but there is evidence that Oxford then worked behind the scenes to save Southampton’s life and gain his eventual liberation, as in Sonnet 35: “Thy adverse party is thy Advocate.”
  • Southampton in the Tower (Feb 8, 1601 - April 10, 1603)

  • On the night of Oxford’s reported death on June 24, 1604, agents of the Crown arrested Southampton and returned him to the Tower, where he was interrogated all night until his release the following day.
  • Henry de Vere, 18th earl of Oxford, and Henry Wriothesley, 3rd earl of Southampton - circa 1619

  • Henry Wriothesley Earl of Southampton and Henry de Vere, the eighteenth Earl of Oxford+ became close friends during the reign of James; the earls were known as the “Two Henries.”  They were Parliament men who often took sides against the king and were imprisoned for it.

(Henry de Vere was born to Edward de Vere and his second wife Elizabeth Trentham in February 1593)

And there are other kinds of evidence for us to mull:

Tradition has it that Shakespeare wrote Love’s Labour’s Lost in the early 1590’s for Southampton to entertain college friends at his country house; but given the sophisticated wordplay of this court comedy and its intended aristocratic audience, it is difficult to see how Will of Stratford would or could have written it.

On the eve of the Essex Rebellion led by the Earls of Essex and Southampton, some of the conspirators engaged the Lord Chamberlain’s Company to perform Shakespeare’s play Richard II at the Globe; and a number of historians assume, perhaps correctly, that Southampton himself got permission from “Shakespeare” to use the play with its (as yet unpublished) scene of the deposing of the king.

Once the so-called rebellion failed and Southampton was imprisoned in the Tower on that night of February 8, 1601, all authorized printings of heretofore unpublished Shakespeare plays abruptly ceased.

After Southampton was released on April 10, 1603, the poet “Shake-speare” wrote Sonnet 107 celebrating his liberation after being “supposed as forfeit to a confined doom,” that is, subjected to a “doom” or sentence of imprisonment for life.

The White Tower where Southampton was imprisoned

When Oxford reportedly died in June 1604, a complete text of Hamlet was published; and then all such authorized publications again ceased for the next nineteen years until the First Folio of Shakespeare plays in 1623.

For the wedding of Philip Herbert, Earl of Montgomery and Oxford’s daughter Susan Vere in December of 1604, the Court of James held a veritable Shakespeare festival with seven performances of the Bard’s plays running into January 1605.  [If Edward de Vere had been the real author, and again I have no doubt that he was, the royal performances were a memorial tribute to him.] One of the festival’s stagings for King James and Queen Anne, with the Court, was a revival of Love’s Labour’s Lost, hosted by Southampton at his house in London.

The Information Generation

The Information Generation.

Published in: Uncategorized on December 8, 2011 at 1:05 am  Leave a Comment  

No. 27 of 100 Reasons to Believe Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare”: the Powerful Link in the Person of Anthony Munday

No. 27 of 100 reasons to believe that Edward de Vere was “Shakespeare” focuses upon Anthony Munday (1553-1633), the actor-printer-writer-translator and anti-Catholic spy who signed himself “Servant to the Right Honourable  the Earl of Oxenford.”  We begin with information from The Reader’s Encyclopedia of Shakespeare (1966), edited by Oscar James Campbell:

Facsimile of a manuscript page of "Sir Thomas More" -- original draft by Anthony Munday -- showing "Hand D" thought to be an addition by Shakespeare

Shakespeare contributed an addition to the play Sir Thomas More (1592), the first draft of which had been written by Anthony Munday.

Shakespeare found incidents and ideas for A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1594) from the play John a Kent by Anthony Munday.

Shakespeare wrote parts of  The Merchant of Venice (1596) by drawing upon the long prose romance Zelanto, or The Fountain of Fame by Anthony Munday.

Shakespeare got his general plot outline for Much Ado About Nothing (1598) from Fedele and Fortunio, an Italian play adapted by Anthony Munday.

Shakespeare received inspiration for the idyllic green world of the forest in As You Like It (1599) from a play about Robin Hood by Anthony Munday.

In the traditional view it appears that during the 1590’s the Bard grabbed stuff from Munday whenever he wanted … but the reality, I suggest, was the other way around.  Munday was one of many writers who, in the 1570’s and 1580’s, served as secretaries to Oxford and benefited from his reckless generosity (with money, work space, inspiration and instruction) as they developed the English renaissance of literature and drama.  And I suggest that in the next decade Oxford adopted “Shakespeare” as a pen name on works containing those same ideas, plots and characters that he himself had originated and had shared with Munday and other writers under his wing.

In the Print Shop

The son of a London draper, Munday had been an actor, most likely in Oxford’s boy company and then in his adult troupe.  In 1576 he became an apprentice to John Allde, the stationer, whose son, Edward Allde, would later print several Shakespeare quartos.

Two years later Munday journeyed to Rome “to see strange countries and learn foreign languages,” but it seems he was also “a spy sent to report on the English Jesuit College in Rome.”

He returned to England by 1579, when he “may have become an actor again, with the Earl of Oxford’s company,” and that year he published The Mirror of Mutability, dedicating it to his patron and even including the following poem to him:

E xcept I should in friendship seem ingrate,
D enying duty, whereto I am bound;
W ith letting slip your Honour’s worthy state,
A t all assays, which I have noble found.
R ight well I might refrain to handle pen:
D enouncing aye the company of men
D own, dire despair, let courage come in place,
E xalt his fame whom Honour doth embrace
V irtue hath aye adorn’d your valiant heart,
E xampl’d by your deeds of lasting fame:
R egarding such as take God Mars his part
E ach where by proof, in honour and in name.

Munday referred to Oxford’s “courteous and gentle perusing” of his writings.  As B.M. Ward noted, Oxford was “no ordinary patron” since he was “willing to give both his time and attention to manuscripts submitted to him, and could be relied on to make suggestions and offer advice.”

Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford

Also in his dedication Munday told Oxford that he “looked forward to “the day when as conquerors we may peacefully resume our delightful literary discussions” — a reference to “the rivalry between the Euphuists and the Romanticists,” Ward noted, adding it showed how Munday and his fellows “were all looking to their leader in this literary warfare.”

Philip Sidney

Oxford and his Euphuists aimed to refine and enrich the English language, believing in the magic of words and the power of imagery, while Philip Sidney and the Romanticists wanted to retell old stories of knighthood to make them more accessible.

[But I believe that Munday also meant they’d be “conquerors” in a political-religious sense; see Hess statements below.]

In 1580 Munday dedicated his novel Zelauto, The Fountain of Fame to Oxford, praising “the rare virtues of your noble mind” and declaring that “among all the brave books which have been bestowed [upon you], these my little labours contain so much faithful zeal to your welfare as [all] others whatsoever.”  He also wrote that the book was “Given for a friendly entertainment to Euphues” – revealing, in effect, that the character of Euphues stood for Oxford himself.

Munday's tract "A Discoverie of Edmund Campion..."

Munday was one of the chief witnesses against Edmund Campion, the Jesuit priest who was hanged, drawn and quartered on December 1, 1581; and part of his savage tract A Discoverie of Edmund Campion and his Confederates was read aloud from the scaffold at Tyburn.  His political services against Catholics were rewarded in 1584, when he received the post of Messenger to Her Majesty’s Chamber.

In his 1588 dedication of Palmerin d’Olivia, Pt. 2, a translation, Munday spoke of Oxford’s “special knowledge” of foreign languages and referred to his master’s “precious virtues, which makes him generally beloved” and of “mine own duty, which nothing but death can discharge.”  [Only the 1616 reprint containing this information is extant.]

Oxford died in 1604, but Munday would never forget his master; in 1619 he dedicated all three parts of a new edition of his Primaleon of Greece to Henry de Vere, the eighteenth Earl of Oxford, and spoke of “having served that noble Earl your father of famous and desertful memory” and of “your honourable father’s matchless virtues.”

In my view the Oxford-Munday relationship to “Shakespeare” is a powerful reason to conclude that Edward de Vere was the greatest writer of the English language.  But there’s much more…

I feel strongly that Ron Hess in his trilogy The Dark Side of Shakespeare (the first two books issued in 2002 and 2003) has pieced together an extraordinarily complex but convincing argument that Anthony Munday was the “Publishing Shepherd” of what Hess calls the “Shakespeare Enterprise” — a matter upon which he expands in the planned third volume.  [See his website here.]

Volume II of the Ron Hess trilogy

In the first place I agree with Hess that Oxford himself had sent Munday to spy on Catholics in Rome.  I think that Edward de Vere had a working relationship with his father-in-law William Cecil Lord Burghley, Queen Elizabeth’s chief minister, and spymaster Francis Walsingham, in a role that Hess describes this way:

“In my opinion Oxford’s ‘office’ was to worm his way into the confidence of Catholic nobles ‘of the blood royal,’ foreign and domestic, some of them his close relatives … to determine if plotting against the realm was afoot, and then to gather evidence to be used in their undoing” – which, of course, was what happened when Oxford in December1580 accused his erstwhile associates Henry Howard and Charles Arundel of treasonous activities against the Queen and State (which were inextricable).

In an appendix of Volume II, Hess promises that his next book will deal even more thoroughly with Anthony Munday’s publishing history, so that “it becomes clear Munday’s publication projects go ‘hand-in-glove’ alongside of many Shakespeare projects.”  He will “strongly suggest if not prove that Munday essentially shepherded Oxford and Shakespeare-related projects to their known conclusions all the way from 1577 or 78 until well after Munday’s 1633 death.”

Munday lived to age eighty and “stayed incredibly active right up to the end,” Hess writes, “apparently participating in major Shakespeare-related projects all the way through the 1619 beginnings of the F1 project [First Folio], the printing of F1 itself in 1623, and then the preparation for and printing of F2 in 1632; plus, a few of his unfinished projects appeared years and decades after his death, generating Shakespeare- and Oxford-related works well into the second half of the 17th century…”

Noting that Munday was “a unique man who walked loudly, wrote with a big stick, and yet followed his master in moving like a ghost,” Hess cites Munday’s translation of Palladine of England as an attempt to identify Oxford as “Spear-shaker.”  Given that Edward de Vere had fashioned himself before the Queen as “the Knight of the Tree of the Sunne” [see also Barrell on this], Hess asks rhetorically of Munday and his role:

“Then who might have fancied himself to be the squire of such a ‘Paladin of England’?  What heroic things might have such a squire attempted?  What might he have done within his master’s lifetime to assure the praise he believed his master deserved?  What might he have done to secure such praise after his master’s death?”

I recommend a look at the work Ron Hess has already done  — and for more in-depth answers … stay tuned!

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