“The Merchant of Venice” – Interlude – Reason No. 73 Why the Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare”

When the case for Edward de Vere as “Shakespeare” finally gains popular acceptance, not the least reason will be the overwhelming evidence that the author — no matter who he was — had travelled in Italy and even must have lived in Venice for a period of time.  Such was the experience of the twenty-five-year-old Earl of Oxford in 1575, when he was welcomed from place to place as an illustrious dignitary from the English royal court – a young, high-born nobleman absorbing this land and its people and the Italian renaissance.

venice_2304966bFollowing is a beautiful paragraph, written by Richard Paul Roe in The Shakespeare Guide to Italy (2011), in the first of his two chapters on The Merchant of Venice, speaking of “Shakespeare” regardless of the author’s specific identity:

“In the latter part of the sixteenth century, the gifted English playwright arrived in the beating heart of this Venetian empire: the legendary city of Venice.  He moved about noting its structured society, its centuries-old government of laws, its traditions, its culture, and its disciplines.  He carefully considered and investigated its engines of banking and commerce.  He explored its harbors and canals, and its streets and squares.  He saw the flash of its pageants, its parties and celebrations; and he looked deeply into the Venetian soul.  Then, with a skill that has never been equaled, he wrote a story that has a happy ending for all its characters save one, about whom a grief endures and always will: a deathless tragedy.”

There is so much fascinating material about The Merchant of Venice in relation to the life of Edward de Vere that, in the next and final part of this reason to believe he must have written the Shakespearean works, I’ll focus on just one item uncovered in recent years.  Meanwhile, if Roe’s description of the dramatist’s activities is at all accurate, how can the authorship continue to be attributed to William of Stratford?  The answer can only be that the change of certain fundamental beliefs is extremely difficult and requires time.

ghetto sign veniceFerdinand Magellan’s expedition circumnavigated the globe in 1519-1522, but, for up to a century afterward, universities continued to teach a flat earth.  And I am not the first to predict that future generations will look back at the Stratfordian tradition of Shakespearean authorship and wonder how it could have lasted so long.  They will also marvel that since Oxford’s identification by J.T. Looney in 1920 it took at least a century, and no doubt much longer, for his authorship to be generally recognized and accepted.  Certainly there will be many attempts – by historians, literary critics, psychologists and other kinds of experts – to explain this phenomenon.

“When you seek a new path to truth, you must expect to find it blocked by ‘expert’ opinion.” – Albert Joseph Guerard (1914-2000), Professor Emeritus of English, Stanford

“The Merchant of Venice” is Reason 73 to Conclude that Edward de Vere was Shakespeare – Part One

“For several years in succession I had been called upon to go through repeated courses of reading in one particular play of Shakespeare’s, namely The Merchant of Venice.  This long continued familiarity with the contents of one play induced a peculiar sense of intimacy with the mind and disposition of its author and his outlook upon life.  The personality which seemed to run through the pages of the drama I felt to be altogether out of relationship with what was taught of the reputed author and the ascertained facts of his career.”

First Quarto

First Quarto

So wrote British schoolmaster John Thomas Looney in his introduction to “Shakespeare” Identified in Edward de Vere, the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford (1920), explaining what led him to conduct a new investigation into the authorship of Shakespeare’s works.

“For example,” he continued, “the Stratford Shakspere was untraveled, having moved from his native place to London when a young man, and then as a successful middle-aged man of business he had returned to Stratford to attend to his lands and houses.  This particular play on the contrary bespeaks a writer who knew Italy at first hand and was touched with the life and spirit of the country.  Again the play suggested an author with no great respect for money and business methods, but rather one to whom material possessions would be in the nature of an encumbrance to be easily and lightly disposed of: at any rate one who was by no means of an acquisitive disposition.”

So it was The Merchant of Venice that inspired Looney’s search for “Shakespeare,” leading to the Oxfordian movement now approaching its centennial in less than seven years.  We have mentioned the similarities between Edward de Vere’s entrance “into bond” in 1578 with Michael Lok (or Lock) for 3,000 pounds and Antonio’s entrance “into bond” with Shylock for 3,000 ducats; now we begin Reason 73 why Oxford must have been “Shakespeare” by focusing on other aspects of the play itself.

“I am always inclined to believe, that Shakespeare has more allusions to particular facts and persons than his readers commonly suppose,” Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) commented in connection with The Merchant, adding, “Perhaps in the enumeration of Portia’s suitors there may be some covert allusion to those of Queen Elizabeth.”

Kate Dolan as Portia Painter, J.F. Millais 1829-1896

Kate Dolan as Portia
Painter, J.F. Millais

Dr. Johnson was speaking freely without worrying whether his perceptions fell in line within the context of the Stratford man’s life.  He noticed, for example, that Portia’s unflattering descriptions of her suitors reflect characteristics of Elizabeth’s actual suitors from different countries – including those of her main suitor, the Duke of Alencon, who visited England in 1579 and 1581, when Shakspere was only fifteen and seventeen.

Alencon was known as “Monsieur” at the English royal court; and Portia’s waiting-gentlewoman asks her:  “How say you by the French lord, Monsieur le Bon?”

The mocking reply by Portia may reflect what Oxford heard the Queen say privately about Alencon:

“God made him, and therefore let him pass for a man.  In truth, I know it is a sin to be a mocker, but he! Why, he hath a horse better than the Neapolitan’s, a better bad habit of frowning than the Count Palentine; he is every man in no man.  If a thrush sing, he falls straight a-cap’ring.  He will fence with his own shadow.  If I should marry him, I should marry twenty husbands.  If he would despise me, I would forgive him, for if he loves me to madness, I shall never requite him.”

In a diatribe against the stage called School of Abuse, published in 1579, Stephen Gosson reported he had seen a now-lost play about “the bloody minds of usurers” called The Jew, performed at the Bull inn-yard in preparation for presentation at Court; and Eva Turner Clark in 1931 suggested that The Jew was performed for the royal court at Whitehall Palace on 2 February 1580 as Portio and Demorantes, which, in turn, was the original version of The Merchant of Venice.

In the play attributed to Shakespeare the character Lancelot Gobbo, a clown and servant to Shylock, refers to “Scylla,” a sea-monster, and “Charybdis,” a violent whirlpool in the strait between Italy and Sicily – invoking the proverbial difficulty of avoiding one without falling prey to the other – what today we might refer to as being “caught between a rock and a hard place.”

“Truly then I fear you are damned both by father and mother,” Lancelot tells Shylock’s daughter, Jessica.  “Thus when I shun Scylla, your father, I fall into Charybdis, your mother.”

Remarkably enough it was on 24 February 1580, just three weeks after the Whitehall performance for her Majesty and the court, when the Queen referred to the same proverb to describe her dilemma in relation to the French match.  According to Mendoza, the Spanish ambassador, Elizabeth was in her chamber with William Cecil Lord Burghley and the Archbishop of York when she said:

“Here I am between Scylla and Charybdis.  Alencon has agreed to all the terms I sent him, and he is asking me to tell him when I wish him to come and marry me.  If I do not marry him, I know not whether he [and France] will remain friendly with me; and if I do I shall not be able to govern my country with the freedom and security I have hitherto enjoyed.  What shall I do?”

Had Elizabeth used the Scylla-Charybdis proverb during a conversation with Oxford?  Was the proverb still fresh in her mind after attending the recent court performance of Portio and Demorantes a.k.a. The Merchant of Venice?  Whatever the case, it turns out that the only use of this proverb within all of “Shakespeare’s” works – in a speech by Portia, who is clearly modeled on the Queen –appears to have originated at the same time, in the same context, as Elizabeth’s own historical use of it!

Portia expresses her dilemma, moreover, in virtually the same way that the Queen of England expressed her predicament; and she even invokes an image of Elizabeth’s father, Henry VIII, who left behind a “will” instructing that Elizabeth “shall not marry, nor take any person to be her husband, without the assent and consent of the Privy-Councilors and others…”

“O me,” Portia cries out in Act 1 Scene 2 of The Merchant, “the word ‘choose’!  I may neither choose whom I would, nor refuse whom I dislike; so is the will of a living daughter curbed by the will of a dead father.”   And later in the same scene she speaks literally as Elizabeth did:  “If I live to be as old as Sibylla, I will die as chaste as Diana, unless I be obtained by the manner of my father’s will.”

The motif of the three caskets comes from an old story, but in the play their contents correspond to the three crowns of England: silver for the French, gold for Irish and lead for the English kingdom – exactly as depicted at Elizabeth’s coronation.

Given such topical allusions to the great issue of the French match at the English royal court circa 1579, how can it still be maintained that it was even possible for William of Stratford to have written The Merchant of Venice?  In part two we’ll look at more remarkable aspects of this particular Reason to believe it was the Earl of Oxford who wrote the works attributed to Shakespeare.

“The Sonnets Stand There for Every One to Read…”

“The Sonnets stand there for every one to read, and no arguments could have the same value as an intimate knowledge of the poems themselves viewed in the light of the actual facts of the life and reputation of Edward de Vere.  Upon all who wish to arrive at the truth of the matter we urge the close and frequent reading of the Sonnets…

    J. Thomas Looney         1870 - 1944

J. Thomas Looney
1870 – 1944

“We are unable to place ourselves in the position of a reader who, with the facts concerning Oxford that we have submitted, can become conversant with these Sonnets without realizing that they reflect at once the soul and the circumstances of ‘the best of the courtier poets of the early days of Queen Elizabeth.'”

– John Thomas Looney, “Shakespeare” Identified in Edward de Vere, the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford (1920)

“‘Tis Thee (My Self) that for My Self I Praise” – Anticipating Southampton’s Execution for High Treason – Sonnet 62




Sonnet 62

‘Tis Thee (My Self)

15 March 1601

As the hour draws near for Southampton to be executed, Oxford records that his own self-love is based solely upon his love for his royal son.  In fact, these two loves are indistinguishable one from the other.  They are one and the same — “‘Tis thee (my self) that for my self I praise” — and therefore father and son share the same fate, whatever it may be.

1 – Sin of self-love possesseth all mine eye,

2 – And all my soul, and all my every part;

3 – And for this sin there is no remedy,

4 – It is so grounded inward in my heart.

5 – Methinks no face so gracious is as mine,

6 – No shape so true, no truth of such account,

7 – And for my self mine own worth do define,

8 – As I all other in all worths surmount.

9 – But when my glass shows me my self indeed

10 – Beated and chopped with tanned antiquity,

11 – Mine own self-love quite contrary I read;

12 – Self so self-loving were iniquity.

13 – ‘Tis thee (my self) that for my self I praise,

14 – Painting my age with beauty of thy days.


SIN = crime; (“Some sins do bear their privilege on earth, and so doth yours; your fault was not your folly” – the Bastard in King John, 1.1; “And water cannot wash away your sin” – Richard II, 4.1.242); SELF-LOVE = the crime of loving his own self, which is actually his royal son; (“For thee, and for my self” – Sonnet 27, line 14; “my friend and I are one” – Sonnet 42, line 13; and line 14 of this sonnet: “thee (my self)”); i.e., they are “one flesh” as father and son; therefore, in loving his son he is guilty of self-love; ALL = Southampton; Oxford’s sin is loving that “other self” that is his own son, and in continuing to recognize Southampton’s royal blood and his right to succeed Elizabeth  – a sin or treasonous crime, if he admitted it in public.

The Tower of London

The Tower of London


ALLALL = Southampton, his motto; MY SOUL = my heart, my spirit, my being, my essence; the immortal part of himself, which is now his royal son, for whom he is writing these sonnets to preserve his immortality; (Elizabeth has also been his soul, but she is depriving herself of her royal son’s ability to continue her lineage; and so, in the Dark Lady series, Oxford refers to the Queen’s “blind soul” in Sonnet 136, line 2, and addresses her as “Poor soul, the center of my sinful earth” – Sonnet 146, line 1; “the mortal Venus, the heart-blood of beauty, love’s visible soul” – Troilus and Cressida, 3.1.32-33; EVERY = E. Ver, Edward de Vere, Ever or Never; ALL MY EVERY PART = Oxford and Southampton joined by their father-son blood relationship (all-every) and now joined by this very language that Oxford has devised in order to express it; PART = “All his gracious parts … my boy, my Arthur, my fair son!” – of the prince in King John, 3.3.96,103; the line is reminiscent of Oxford’s public dedication of Lucrece (1594) as by “William Shakespeare” to Southampton: “What I have done is yours, what I have to do is yours, being part in all I have, devoted yours.”


REMEDY = (rhymes with “eye”); cure; medicine; physic; redress; a legal term echoing the trial of Essex and Southampton; NO REMEDY = no means of better satisfying, much less reversing, the judgment against his son: “To atone your fears with my more noble meaning, not a man shall pass his quarter or offend the stream of regular justice in your city’s bounds but shall be remedied to your public laws at heaviest answer.” – Timon of Athens, 5.4.58-63


SO GROUNDED INWARD = linked so closely, i.e., by blood, mine in his; MY HEART = Oxford’s heart is Southampton’s heart; “For all that beauty that doth cover thee/ Is but the seemly raiment of my heart/ … Presume not on thy heart when mine is slain,/ Thou gav’st me thine not to give back again” – Sonnet 22, lines 5-6, 13-14; “And my heart’s right thy inward love of heart” – Sonnet 46, line 14;  “Take heed (dear heart) of this large privilege” – Sonnet 95, line 13, referring to his royal son as “dear heart”; “No, let me be obsequious in thy heart” – Sonnet 125, line 9


GRACIOUS = filled with royal grace; “A gracious king that pardons all offences” – Henry VIII, 2.2.66; FACE = Oxford’s face reflects his son’s face; the “face-royal” or kingly visage (and the visage stamped on the coin of the realm called a royal: “And yet he will not stick to say his face is a face-royal.  God may finish it when He will, ‘tis not a hair amiss yet.  He may keep it sill at a face-royal, for a barber shall never earn sixpence out of it.  And yet he’ll be crowning as if he had writ man ever since his father was a bachelor.  He may keep his own grace, but he’s almost out of mine, I can assure him” – Falstaff speaking of Prince Hal in 2 Henry IV, 1.2.22-28


TRUETRUTH = Oxford, Nothing Truer than Truth; ACCOUNT = value; reckoning; computation; estimation; accounting;


AND FOR MY SELF, etc. = and for my self I define my own royalty, as father; MINE OWN WORTH = my own royal son, reflected in me; MINE OWN = “a son of mine own” – Oxford to Burghley, March 17, 1575; Sonnets 23, 39, 49, 61, 62, 72, 88, 107, 110; “Bless’d, and mine own” – Pericles, 5.3.48, Thaisa speaking of her daughter, Marina


ALL … ALL = Southampton, One for All, All for One; ALL WORTHS = all royal qualities related to my royal son; SURMOUNT = surpass


MY GLASS = my mirror and hourglass; INDEED = in truth


A clear statement of Oxford as much older and more mature than the traditional notion of the poet’s age; BEATED = beaten, i.e., by Elizabeth and Robert Cecil; CHOPPED = hacked; an image of Southampton’s head being hacked or chopped off, as Essex’s was; “He is a traitor; let him to the Tower, and chop away that factious pate of his” – 2 Henry VI, 5.1.134-135; (“chapped, chafed, roughened … dried up, fissured, cracked” – Crystal & Crystal); TANNED = weathered; also darkened, as by Elizabeth’s cloud or negative view, casting its shadow over Southampton and covering or obscuring his royal identity and disgracing him; ANTIQUITY = old age; Oxford will be fifty-one upon his next birthday, April 12, 1601, no longer young by Elizabethan standards; (see “antiquity” in another context in Sonnet 108, line 12: “But makes antiquity for aye his page”); also ancient date or time


MINE OWN SELF-LOVE QUITE CONTRARY = my own love of my self is quite the contrary; (“a son of mine own” – Oxford to Burghley, March 17, 1575); LOVE = royal blood; in this instance, of Southampton; and possessed indirectly by Oxford, as father, although he cannot claim paternity


This self-love would be a sin (but in the next line, he explains by saying that it’s you, my self, whom I am praising)…


It is you, who are my own self, whom I praise when I praise my self; i.e., in praising you I praise myself; (“’Tis thee, my alter ego, my second self, that I praise as if myself” – Dowden); PRAISE = pay homage to you as prince; write of you as prince and king in these sonnets.


Recording the time of my own life in the act of writing in these sonnets that are filled with your blood from Elizabeth; now “painting” or writing day-by-day since the Rebellion; chronicling “thy days” in this diary, on a daily basis, until you are either executed or spared; an image of Oxford writing these sonnets as a painter using “paint” — which is, in fact, his son’s royal blood; “A Woman’s face with nature’s own hand painted/ Hast thou” – Sonnet 20, to Southampton, referring to the image of his mother the Queen (who is both Woman and Nature in the sonnet), which is reflected in his face

“To Play the Watchman Ever for Thy Sake” – Sonnet 61 of the Living Record of Southampton




Sonnet 61

“To Play the Watchman Ever for Thy Sake”

14 March 1601

Oxford records his attempt to keep Southampton in his mind’s eye at all times, as events lead either to his son’s execution or to a reprieve.  His royal son must wake each new day “elsewhere” — in the Tower — and yet Oxford continues to “play the watchman” and stand guard to protect Henry Wriothesley’s life. 

1 – Is it thy will thy Image should keep open                   

2 – My heavy eyelids to the weary night?                        

3 – Dost thou desire my slumbers should be broken,

4 – While shadows like to thee do mock my sight?

5 – Is it thy spirit that thou send’s from thee

6 – So far from home into my deeds to pry.

7 – To find out shames and idle hours in me,                  

8 – The scope and tenure of thy jealousy?

9 – O no, thy love, though much, is not so great.

10 – It is my love that keeps mine eye awake,             

11 – Mine own true love that doth my rest defeat,

12 – To play the watchman ever for thy sake.              

13 – For thee watch I, whilst thou dost wake elsewhere,       

14 – From me far off, with others all too near.

Southampton in the   Tower 1601-1603

Southampton in the Tower 1601-1603


THY WILL = your royal will; is it your royal will that the image of you should keep open; IMAGE = your royal image; “if in the child the father’s image lies” – Lucrece, 1753; “our last king, whose image appeared to us” – Hamlet, 1.1.81


MY HEAVY EYELIDS = my weary, painful eyelids in the dark; “How heavy do I journey on the way” – Sonnet 50, line 1, Oxford recalling his sorrowful ride away from Southampton in the Tower, where he told his son of the bargain to save his life by giving up all claim to the throne; “And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,/ Looking on darkness which the blind do see” – Sonnet 27, lines 7-8; “And heavily from woe to woe” – Sonnet 30, line 10; “When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade/ Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay!” – Sonnet 43, lines 11-12; “But heavy tears, badges of either’s woe” – Sonnet 44, line 14

And find our griefs heavier than our offences” –  2 Henry IV, 4.1.69

“A heavy reckoning for you, sir” –  The Gaoler in Cymbeline, 5.4.157

WEARY = “Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed” – Sonnet 27, line 1, Oxford’s first response to the Rebellion, on the night of February 8, 1601, when Southampton was imprisoned with Essex in the Tower; “for to tell truth I am weary of an unsettled life, which is the very pestilence that happens unto courtiers that propound to themselves no end of their time therein bestowed” – Oxford to Burghley, May 18, 1591; NIGHT = opposite of the “day” of golden opportunity prior to the Rebellion

I still do toil and never am at rest,

Enjoying least when I do covet most;

With weary thoughts are my green years oppres’d

– Signed “Lo. Ox” in Harleian MS


DESIRE = royal command; “From fairest creatures we desire increase” – Sonnet 1, line 1, emphasizing the royal “we” of the monarch


SHADOWS LIKE TO THEE = the shadows that cover you,  showing your likeness; “Save that my soul’s imaginary sight/ Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,/ Which like a jewel hung in ghastly night,/ Makes black night beauteous and her old face new” – Sonnet 27, lines 9-12; “What is your substance, whereof are you made,/ That millions of strange shadows on you tend?/ Since every one hath, every one, one shade,/ And you, but one, can every shadow lend” – Sonnet 53, lines 1-4; MOCK MY SIGHT = mock my eyesight, taunting me with this inner vision of you


THY SPIRIT = your soul; your royal blood, which is spiritual; like a mystical vision; “and do not kill/ The spirit of love” – Sonnet 56, lines 7-8, i.e., the unseen essence of royal blood; “My spirit is thine, the better part of me” – Sonnet 74, line 8; SPIRIT = also Sonnets 80, 85, 86, 108, 129, 144; Essex wrote to Elizabeth in 1597 calling her “the Spirit of spirits” (Weir, 427); THAT THOU SEND’ST FROM THEE = Southampton sends his spirit and illuminates Oxford’s inner vision: “Save that my soul’s imaginary sight/ Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,/ Which like a jewel (hung in ghastly night)/ Makes black night beauteous, and her old face new” – Sonnet 27, lines 9-11

The Tower of London

The Tower of London


SO FAR FROM HOME = Southampton, in the Tower; INTO MY DEEDS TO PRY = to spy on my activities, carried out behind the scenes, on your behalf; “Or on my frailties why are frailer spies” – Sonnet 121, line 7; “Watch thou, and wake when others be asleep, to pry into the secrets of the state” – 2 Henry VI, 1.1.250-251


TO FIND OUT SHAMES = to learn the disgraces that I suffer, by taking responsibility for your disgrace; “If thy offences were upon record, would it not shame thee, in so fair a troop, to read a lecture of them?  If thou wouldst, there shouldst thou find one heinous article, containing the deposing of a king” – Richard II, 4.1.230-234); IDLE HOURS = time spent pleading for you in vain; “I … vow to take advantage of all idle hours, till I have honoured you with some graver labour” – dedication of Venus and Adonis in 1593 to the Earl of Southampton; “That never am less idle lo, than when I am alone” – Oxford poem, signed E.O., in The Paradise of Dainty Devices, 1576

Had he done so, himself had borne the crown,

Which waste of idle hours hath quite thrown down – Richard II, 3.4.65-66


SCOPE = “Three themes in one, which wondrous scope affords” – Sonnet 105, line 12; that to which the mind is directed; “shooting wide, do miss the marked scope” – Spenser, The Shepherd’s Calendar, November, 155; SCOPE AND TENURE = the purpose and “tenor” or meaning; Q has tenure, a common spelling of “tenor” at the time, but tenure is probably the intended word, as it relates to the “lease” of Southampton’s royal blood, i.e., tenure refers to the manner of holding lands and tenements, a subject with which Oxford was extremely familiar, having inherited no less than eighty-six estates; THY JEALOUSY = your curiosity; your apprehension; your state of being suspected as a traitor or being a “suspect traitor” in the eyes of the law; “Rumor is a pipe blown by surmises, jealousies, conjectures” – 2 Henry IV, Induction 16; concerned about; “So loving-jealous of his liberty” – Romeo and Juliet, 2.2.182


THY LOVE, THOUGH MUCH = your royal blood, though abundant; IS NOT SO GREAT = is not as great as it is within Oxford’s vision of him, as father


MY LOVE = my royal son; i.e., it is the fact that you are my royal son that keeps me from taking my own life, keeps me awake; AWAKE = in a state of vigilance; alert, alive, attentive, watchful; “It is not Agamemnon’s sleeping hour: that thou shalt know, Trojan, he is awake, he tells thee so himself” – Agamemnon in Troilus and Cressida, 1.3.252-254; “I offered to awaken his regard for his private friends” – Coriolanus, 5.1.23; “The law hath not been dead, though it hath slept … Now ‘tis awake” – Measure for Measure, 2.2.91-94; “Watch thou, and wake when others be asleep, to pry into the secrets of the state” – 2 Henry VI, 1.1.250-251


MINE OWN TRUE LOVE = my own true royal son; (“a son of mine own” – Oxford to Burghley, March 17, 1575; “Not mine own fears nor the prophetic soul/ Of the wide world dreaming on things to come/ Can yet the lease of my true love control” – Sonnet 107, lines 1-3); TRUE = Oxford, Nothing Truer than Truth; “you true rights” – Sonnet 17, line 11, to Southampton; MINE OWN: Sonnets 23, 39, 49, 61, 62, 72, 88, 107, 110; (“Rise, thou art my childMine own…” – Pericles, 5.1.213-214, the prince, realizing that Marina is his daughter); MY REST DEFEAT = destroy my inner peace; “His unkindness may defeat my life” – Othello, 4.2.150; “The dear repose for limbs with travail tired” – Sonnet 27, line 1; “That am debarred the benefit of rest” – Sonnet 28, line 2; “Now this ill-wresting world is grown so bad” – Sonnet 140, line 11, to Elizabeth in the Dark Lady series, with ill-wresting echoing ill-resting. s


TO PLAY THE WATCHMAN EVER = to constantly keep guard and protect; EVER = E. Ver, Edward de Vere; Oxford used “ever” in the same glancing way in his plays, such as these instances in Hamlet, Prince of Denmark:

Horatio: The same, my lord, and your poor servant ever.

Hamlet:  Sir, my good friend, I’ll change that name with you.  (1.2.162-163)

FOR THY SAKE = for your royal life here and now; for your eternal life, recorded in these sonnets filled with your royal blood


FOR THEE WATCH I = for you I keep watch; “Whilst I, my sovereign, watch the clock for you” – Sonnet 57, line 6; “Therefore I have entreated him along with us to watch the minutes of the night, that if again this apparition come, he may approve our eyes and speak to it” – Hamlet, 1.1.29-32; WHILST THOU DOST WAKE ELSEWHERE = while you – Southampton – exist in the Tower; WAKE = echoing the “wake” related to a funeral; “There is no doubt that the poor, especially in the more remote counties of England, continued the old custom of the wake, or nightly feasting before and after a funeral.  Shakespeare uses the word in connection with a night revel in Sonnet 61: ‘For thee watch I, whilst thou dost wake elsewhere.’” – Percy Macquoid in Shakespeare’s England, Vol. 2, 196, p. 151; Oxford knows Southampton is in the Tower, of course, but he cannot know exactly where or if, for example, Southampton has been taken to the Privy Council room in the Tower for questioning, to one of the torture rooms, or even to the place of execution; the situation is still volatile, with Cecil having the power of life or death and holding the threat  of legal execution over him; so the echo of a “wake” preceding a funeral is quite apt.


FROM ME FAR OFF = Southampton, far from him, behind the high fortress walls; WITH OTHERS ALL TOO NEAR = with guards and other prisoners alike; with some of the latter, arrested for the Rebellion, who may urge you to escape or to attempt another revolt; those so physically near you that, despite their wakefulness, they are blind and cannot protect you (or save your life); but Oxford as his father is “nearer” to him than they are, and he is helping him more than they can help; “You twain, of all the rest, are nearest to Warwick by blood and by alliance” – 3 Henry VI, 4.1.133-134; “as we be knit near in alliance” – Oxford to Robert Cecil, his brother-in-law, February 2, 1601; “Whereby none is nearer allied than myself” – Oxford to Robert Cecil in May 1601; ALL = Southampton

“I am but mad north-northwest” – Hamlet; “For the discovery of Cathay by the northwest … I will enter into bond” – Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford and Reason 72 Why He Was “Shakespeare”

“I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw.”  – Prince Hamlet

These lines operate on at least two levels:

On the surface Hamlet appears to be referring to an Elizabethan notion that melancholy grows worse when the wind comes out of the north; his madness worsens when the wind is northerly, but, when it’s southerly, he grows clear-headed and can tell one different thing from the other.

frobisher_routeOn another level the author, Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford, is referring to his own investment in the 1578 expedition by Martin Frobisher to discover the Northwest Passage to Cathay, or China – an act of financial madness ending in his loss of all three thousand pounds that he had put into it.

frobisher stampJust four days before the eleven Frobisher ships set forth, hoping to find “gold ore” as well as to establish a settlement on the Meta Incognita peninsula, Oxford dispatched a letter to “My Very Loving Friends,” the commissioners for the voyage:

“Understanding of the wise proceeding and orderly dealing for the continuing of the voyage for the discovery of Cathay by the northwest … as well for the great liking Her Majesty hath to have the same passage discovered … [I] offer unto you to be an adventurer therein for the sum of 1000 pounds or more, if you like to admit thereof; which sum or sums, upon your certificate of admittance, I will enter into bond … I bid you heartily farewell.  From the Court, the 21st of May 1578.  Your loving friend, Edward Oxenford.”

The earl’s share soon rose to three thousand pounds.  He entered into bond to buy the stock from Michael Lok (or Lock), a London merchant who also did business in the Mediterranean.  The two men may have met in Venice or Genoa, during Oxford’s 1575-76 travels in Italy.   Oxford became the largest investor – that is, the gambler with the most at stake.  The expedition resulted in no gold, however, so Oxford got no return at all – a staggering loss of three thousand pounds, the sum for which he was “in bond” to Lok, akin to the three thousand ducats for which Antonio in The Merchant of Venice is “in bond” to Shylock.

Al Pacino as Shylock

Al Pacino as Shylock

A mob of furious men attacked Michael Lok, with Frobisher himself calling him “a false accountant to the company, a cozener of my Lord of Oxford, no venturer at all in the voyages, a bankrupt knave.”  Convicted upon testimony that he had known beforehand that the ore was worthless, Lok wound up in the Fleet prison.

Added to Hamlet’s mention of “north-north-west” (for the Northwest Passage) are the repeated references in Merchant to “three thousand ducats” (echoing Oxford’s three thousand pounds) and the “bond” (echoing Oxford’s bond), not to mention the name “Shylock” and its similarity to the name of Michael Loc or Lock.

In Merchant the phrase “three thousand ducats” becomes a kind of insistent drumbeat, with the precise of three words uttered exactly a dozen times.  And the word “bond” is used thirty-nine times, with different meanings but forming another emphatic, persistent drumbeat:

“Three thousand ducats; I think I may take his bond … I’ll seal to such a bond … You shall not seal to such a bond for me … I do expect return of thrice three times the value of this bond … I will seal unto this bond … let him look to his bond … let him look to his bond … let him look to his bond … Sweet Bassanio, my ships have all miscarried, my creditors grow cruel [as did Oxford’s own creditors, as he descended into insolvency], my estate is very low, my bond to the Jew is forfeit …

“I’ll have my bond; speak not against my bond: I have sworn an oath that I will have my bond … I’ll have my bond … I’ll have my bond … I will have my bond … to have the due and forfeit of my bond … I would have my bond … I crave the law, the penalty and forfeit of my bond … “

Michael Lok “may or may not have been a Christianized Anglo Jew,” writes William Farina in De Vere as Shakespeare (2006).  “Add to this the prefix ‘Shy’ (one meaning of which is ‘disreputable’), and it would be an understatement to say that the (otherwise mysterious) origin of Shylock’s name is strongly suggested.”

On 2 February 1580, a little over a year after the fiasco of the third Frobisher voyage, The History of Portio and Demorantes was performed at Whitehall Palace by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, whose patron was Thomas Radcliffe, Earl of Sussex, under whom Oxford had served in 1570 in the successful (and brutal) campaign to defeat the Northern Rebellion of Catholic earls.   Sussex had been Oxford’s mentor and supporter at Court ever since; and in the view of Eva Turner Clark, Portio and Demorantes was the early version of Edward de Vere’s play The Merchant of Venice, to be attributed to Shakespeare two decades later in 1598.

Once Oxford is viewed as the author of Merchant, the character of Antonio may be viewed as standing in for Oxford himself; and, too, Portia quite distinctly becomes Queen Elizabeth – making it a pretty safe bet that “Portio” in Portio and Demorantes had been the early Portia-Elizabeth.  (It has also been suggested that “Demorantes” could have been a misspelling of “the merchants.”)

Antonio’s friends appear to voice the concerns and anxieties Oxford must have experienced while the ships were away and there was little to do but wait for the results:

“Believe me, sir, had I such venture forth,/ The better part of my affections would/ Be with my hopes abroad, I should be still/ Plucking the grass to know where sits the wind,/ Peering in maps for ports, and piers, and roads … My wind, cooling my broth,/ Would blow me to an ague [fever] when I thought/ What harm a wind too great might do at sea … ”

The orthodox dating of The Merchant of Venice has been roughly 1596, but all the major sources for the play were available by 1558, according to Joe Peel and Noemi Magri in Dating Shakespeare’s Plays (2010) edited by Kevin Gilvary.  And others connections to Oxford and Elizabeth and the doings at the English court are so strong that this play will become a separate “reason” to believe that Edward de Vere was the great author and, in 1593, adopted “Shakespeare” as a pen name.

Execution of Southampton Draws Nearer — “The Living Record” of Southampton, Continued — Sonnet 60

(Note:  This is a continuation of postings from “The Monument,” with excerpts of The Sonnets in numerical [and chronological] order with the first long series [1 to 126] focusing on the Earl of Southampton.  In due time the previous postings will be shifted into the new separate category [at right] entitled “The Living Record of Southampton.”)



Southampton Execution Draws Nearer 

Day Thirty-four in the Tower 

Sonnet 60

“Our Minutes Hasten to their End”

“Crooked Eclipses ‘Gainst His Glory Fight”

13 March 1601

Essex-Southampton supporters Gelly Merrick and Henry Cuffe were taken today to Tyburn, where they were put through the horrible ordeal of being hanged, drawn and quartered. Oxford uses the royal imagery of the Ocean or Sea to envision the “changing place” or alteration of monarchs upon the royal succession. He refers to the crooked figure of hunchbacked Secretary Robert Cecil in citing the “crooked eclipses” fighting to deprive Southampton of being “crowned” with “glory” as a king. Oxford braces himself for the moment Southampton will come under the “scythe” or blade of the executioner as well as the “cruel hand” of Elizabeth — reminiscent of when their newly born royal son had been “by a Virgin hand disarmed” as put in Sonnet 154 of the Bath prologue.

1 – Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,

2 – So do our minutes hasten to their end,                

3 – Each changing place with that which goes before,

4 – In sequent toil all forwards do contend.

5 – Nativity, once in the main of light,

6 – Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crowned,

7 – Crooked eclipses ‘gainst his glory fight,

8 – And time that gave doth now his gift confound.

9 – Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth,

10 – And delves the parallels in beauty’s brow,

11 – Feeds on the rarities of nature’s truth,    

12 – And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow.

13 – And yet to time in hope my verse shall stand,

14 – Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.

“At the gallows Cuffe declared that he hoped for salvation in the atonement of his Savior’s blood … and asking pardon of God and the Queen, he was despatched by the executioner.  After him Sir Gelly Merrick suffered in the same way … and intreated those noblemen who stood by to intercede with the Queen that there might not be any further proceedings against such as had unwarily espoused this unhappy cause.”- An Elizabethan Chronicle

“As every wave drives others forth, and that comes behind/ Both thrusteth and is thrust himself; even so the time by kind/ Do fly and follow both at once and evermore renew”Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” as translated by Oxford’s uncle Arthur Golding


WAVES = related to the “ocean” of royal blood; (“’Thou art,’ quoth she, ‘a sea, a sovereign king, and lo there falls into thy boundless flood black lust, dishonor, shame, misgoverning, who seek to stain the ocean of thy blood.’ – Lucrece, 652-654); image of King James succeeding Elizabeth


OUR MINUTES = the time we have left, the actual minutes racing onward; HASTEN = “How like a Winter hath my absence been/ From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year” – Sonnet 97, lines 1-2; “And all in war with Time for love of you” – Sonnet 15, line 13; THEIR END = the end of these minutes, ending your life or ending Elizabeth’s reign; the end of this diary, which is leading to the time of royal succession, when the fate of the Tudor dynasty will be determined; “Thy end is Truth’s and Beauty’s doom and date” – Sonnet 14, line 14


CHANGING PLACE = succeeding to the throne, replacing one monarch with another; the succession that will inevitably come, just as the tide inevitably rolls in; “And says that once more I shall interchange my waned state for Henry’s regal crown” – 3 Henry VI, 4.7.3-4; “Arise, and take place by us” – the King in Henry VIII, 1.2.13; “I fear there will a worse come in his place” – of Caesar in Julius Caesar, 3.2.112; “That then I scorn to change my state with Kings” – Sonnet 29, line 14; also echoing his royal son as a “changeling” who had been “placed” in the Southampton household, changing places with another boy; “placed it safely, the changeling never known” – Hamlet, 5.2.53; “Even so have places oftentimes exchanged their estate” – Ovid’s Metamorphoses of 1567, Book XV, 287, the translation attributed to Oxford’s uncle Arthur Golding

CHANGING = the change from one royal decree to another; “shifting change” – Sonnet 20, line 4, referring to Elizabeth’s change of attitude, the breaking of her vows; “Where wasteful time debateth with decay, /To change your day of youth to sullied night” – Sonnet 15, lines 11-12; exchanging, substituting; anticipating the death of Elizabeth, the downfall of his son, Southampton, as king and the accession of James; “the state government was changed from kings to consuls” – the “Argument” of Lucrece; ““When I have seen such interchange of state” – Sonnet 64, line 9; “Creep in ‘twixt vows, and change decrees of Kings” – Sonnet 115, line 6; “And lean-looked prophets whisper fearful change … These signs foretell the death or fall of kings” – Richard II, 2.4.11-15; “Comets, importing change of time and state” – 1 Henry VI, 1.1.2; “Why is my verse so barren of new pride,/ So far from variation or quick change” – Sonnet 76, lines 1-2; “And in this change is my invention spent” – Sonnet 105, line 11; “Just to the time, not with the time exchanged” – Sonnet 109, line 7, referring to the change from the time of Elizabeth to the time of James; “No!  Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change!” – Sonnet 123, line 1

PLACE = echoing the “place” where Southampton is, i.e., the Tower: “As soon as think the place where he would be” – Sonnet 44, line 8; his “place” on the throne, as he tells Elizabeth: “Thy black is fairest in my judgment’s place” – Sonnet 131, line 12; “Finding yourself desired of such a person whose credit with the judge, or own great place, could fetch your brother from the manacles of the all-binding law” – Measure for Measure, 2.4.91-94


SEQUENT = “following, successive, consequent” – Schmidt; “Not merely successive, but in close succession” – Tucker; “Of six preceding ancestors, that gem conferred by testament to th’sequent issue” – All’s Well That Ends Well, 5.3.196-197; in sequence or royal succession; (“How art thou a king but by fair sequence and succession” – Richard II, 2.1.199); these private sonnets are numbered sequentially, reflecting the days that contain the onrushing hours and minutes leading to the succession; more immediately, leading to the still possible execution of Southampton

Then, good prince,

No longer session hold upon my shame,

But let my trial be mine own confession.

Immediate sentence, then, and sequent death

Is all the grace I beg.  — Measure for Measure, 5.1.367-371

TOIL = labor, struggle; ALL = Southampton; ALL FORWARDS DO CONTEND = all new princes contend for the throne; “Time’s glory is to calm contending kings” – Lucrece, 939; “let his grace go forward” – Henry VIII, 3.2.281; “Friends that have been thus forward in my right” – Titus Andronicus, 1.1.59; “The forward violet thus did I chide” – Sonnet 99, line 1, referring to his royal son as flower; “When a man’s verses cannot be understood, nor a man’s good wit seconded with the forward child, understanding, it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room” – As You Like It, 3.3.11-14; CONTEND = to strive; to quarrel, combat, fight, make war ; vie with; “For never two such kingdoms did contend without much fall of blood, whose guiltless drops are every one a woe” – Henry V, 1.2.24-26; “The red rose and the white are on his face, the fatal colours of our striving houses … If you contend, a thousand lives must wither” – 3 Henry VI, 2.5.97-102


NATIVITY = birth; the royal birth of Southampton (“the little Love-God” of Sonnet 154), echoing the Nativity of Christ; “To whom the heavens in thy nativity adjudged an olive branch and laurel crown” – 3 Henry VI, 4.6.33-34; “a god on earth thou art” – to Bolinbroke as King in Richard II, 5.3.134; ONCE = during his golden time up through the year 1600, prior to the Rebellion; echoing “one” for Southampton, One for All, All for One; similar to “first” as in “Even as when first I hallowed thy fair name” – Sonnet 108, line 8, carrying forward the Christ theme; MAIN = full might; the principal point; the ocean itself, the great (royal) sea: “When I have seen the hungry Ocean gain/ Advantage on the kingdom of the shore,/ And the firm soil win of the watery main” – Sonnet 64, lines 5-7; “But since your worth, wide as the Ocean is/ … On your broad main doth willfully appear” – Sonnet 80, lines 5, 8; “A substitute shines brightly as a king until a king be by, and then his state empties itself, as doth an inland brook into the main of waters” – The Merchant of Venice, 5.1.94-97; “by commission and main power” – Henry VIII, 2.2.7; IN THE MAIN OF LIGHT = filled with royal blood; (“the sun, suggested by main of light, of which it is the literal inhabitant” – Booth); echoing the birth of “my Sunne” recalled in Sonnet 33: “Full many a glorious morning have I seen/ Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye,/ Kissing with golden face the meadows green,/ Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy/ … Even so my Sunne one early morn did shine” – Sonnet 33, lines 1-4, 9; also indicating (in the next lines) that such glory (on earth) is no longer his; “When thou thyself dost give invention light” – Sonnet 38, line 8; “the entrance of a child into the world at birth is an entrance into the main or ocean of light” – Dowden, offering (without intending to) more evidence of Oxford writing as father to son; LIGHT = Oxford is attempting to shine the light of his son’s royalty into the darkness of his disgrace and loss of the throne; “to lend the world his light” – Venus to Adonis in Venus and Adonis, dedicated to Southampton, 1593, line 756; Southampton, godlike, is a royal star or sun, lending light to the world; he is also a jewel, emitting light, as do his eyes; “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light” – Genesis, 1.3; “In him was life; and the life was the light of men” – Gospel of John, 1.4; “Dark’ning thy power to lend base subjects light” – Sonnet 100, line 4, Oxford speaking of the power of his Muse to restore light to his royal son branded as a “base” criminal or traitor; “Lo, in the Orient when the gracious light/ Lifts up his burning head” – Sonnet 7, lines 1-2; “thy much clearer light” – Sonnet 43, line 7; “those suns of glory, those two lights of men” – Henry VIII, 1.1.6, referring to men as “suns” of light; “Yet looks he like a king; behold, his eye, as bright as is the eagle’s, lightens forth controlling majesty” – Richard II, 3.3.68-71; “That in black ink my love may still shine bright” – Sonnet 65, line 14

“I have engaged myself so far in Her Majesty’s service to bring the truth to light” – Oxford to Burghley, June 13, 1595


CRAWLS TO MATURITY = Southampton, gaining full maturity; WHEREWITH BEING CROWNED = Whereupon, just when he should be crowned as king; “wherein I do not doubt she is crowned with glory” – Oxford to Robert Cecil, April 25/27, 1603, speaking of the deceased Elizabeth just before her funeral; (“Add an immortal title to your crown” – Richard II, 1.1.24; “Make claim and title to the crown” – Henry V, 1.2.68); “Incertainties now crown themselves assured” – Sonnet 107, line 7, after Elizabeth’s death, when James is proclaimed King of England


CROOKED ECLIPSES= Evil eclipses of the sun; the Queen’s (and Robert Cecil’s) malignant eclipse of the royal son, whose brightness can no longer be seen; CROOKED = Cecil as hunchback or “crook-back”; (“malignant, perverse, contrary, devious” – Crystal & Crystal); “By what by-paths and indirect crooked ways I met this crown” – 2 Henry IV, 4.5.184; (“If crooked fortune had not thwarted me” – Deut. 32.5); ECLIPSES = “The mortal Moone hath her eclipse endured” – Sonnet 107, referring to Elizabeth, whose royal lineage as a sun had been eclipsed by her death; “Clouds and eclipses stain both Moone and Sunne” – Sonnet 35, line 3, referring to the stain of treason that now eclipses the blood of both Elizabeth, the Moon, and her son

(“Note that ‘E C L I’ begins the word ‘ECLIPSE,’ and those four letters are in ‘CECIL.’  [And ‘CECIL’ contains only those four letters.]  Also, there’s really no such thing as a ‘crooked eclipse,’ so perhaps he’s punning on ‘Crooked ECLIpses’ = CECIL” – Alex McNeil, ed.)

‘GAINST HIS GLORY = against the glory of his kingship; “The king will in his glory hide thy shame” – Edward III, 2.1.399; “and although it hath pleased God after an earthly kingdom to take her up into a more permanent and heavenly state, wherein I do not doubt she is crowned with glory” – Oxford to Robert Cecil, April 25/27, 1603, about Elizabeth on the eve of her funeral; “For princes are a model which heaven likes to itself: as jewels lose their glory if neglected, so princes their renown if not respected” – Pericles, 2.2.10-13; “Even in the height and pride of all his glory” – Pericles, 2.4.6; “See, see, King Richard doth himself appear, as doth the blushing discontented sun from out the fiery portal of the East, when he perceives the envious clouds are bent to dim his glory and to stain the track of his bright passage to the occident” – Richard II, 3.3.62-67; “And threat the glory of my precious crown” – Richard II, 3.3.90; “That plotted thus our glory’s overthrow” – 1 Henry VI, 1.1.24


TIME THAT GAVE = time related to the life of Elizabeth, who gave birth to him; HIS GIFT = his inheritance of royal blood; his gift of royal life from Elizabeth; “So thy great gift, upon misprision growing” – Sonnet 87, line 11; DOTH NOW HIS GIFT CONFOUND = now destroys his gift of royalty and his claim to the throne; CONFOUND = to mingle, perplex, confuse, amaze, destroy, ruin, make away with, waste, wear away; i.e., the waste of time and royal life being recorded in this diary as “the Chronicle of wasted time” – Sonnet 106, line 1; “Against confounding age’s cruel knife” – Sonnet 63, line 10, referring to the executioner’s axe; “For never-resting time leads Summer on/ To hideous winter and confounds him there” – Sonnet 5, lines 5-6; “Or state itself confounded to decay” – Sonnet 64, line 10; “In other accents do this praise confound” – Sonnet 69, line 7


TIME = repeated from the previous line; TRANSFIX = destroy; “pierce [or chip] through” – Tucker; echoing the piercing of the executioner’s axe; THE FLOURISH SET ON YOUTH = the flourishing royal blood and claim that Southampton had possessed until the day of the Rebellion; “Then music is even as the flourish when true subjects bow to a new-crowned monarch” – The Merchant of Venice, 3.2.49-50


PARALLELS IN BEAUTY’S BROW = wrinkles, signs of age, in Southampton’s brow, which reflects his “beauty” or blood from Elizabeth and its advancement toward death, i.e., toward execution, lack of succession; also the brow of Beauty herself, Elizabeth; Southampton had been born “with all triumphant splendor on my brow” – Sonnet 33, line 10


FEEDS ON = eats up, devours; RARITIES = royal aspects; “Beauty, Truth, and Rarity” – The Phoenix and Turtle, 1601, line 53, signifying Elizabeth, Oxford, and Southampton; “With April’s first-born flowers, and all things rare” – Sonnet 21, line 7, referring to Southampton as flower of the Tudor Rose

NATURE’S TRUTH = Elizabeth’s true son by Oxford, who is Nothing Truer than Truth; “His head by nature framed to wear a crown” – 3 Henry VI, 4.6.72


NOTHING = Southampton as a nobody, the opposite of “one” of his motto One for All, All for One; NOTHING STANDS = none of Southampton’s glory can withstand the ravages of real time; “Let this pernicious hour stand aye accursed in the calendar” – Macbeth, 4.1.133-134; “When peers thus knit, a kingdom ever stands” – Pericles, 2.4.58; SCYTHE = the blade of time, also the sharp blade of the executioner’s axe (“And nothing ‘gainst Time’s scythe can make defence” – Sonnet 12, line 13)


Nonetheless these sonnets, written according to time, hopefully will withstand – or stand against – all this destruction of his son; HOPE = “They call him Troilus, and on him erect a second hope” – Troilus and Cressida, 108-109; STAND = in counterpoint to “stands” of line 12 above; “if ought in me/ Worthy persusal stand against thy sight” – Sonnet 38, lines 5-6; “And the blots of Nature’s hand/ Shall not in their issue stand” – A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 5.1.403-404


PRAISING THY WORTH = recording your royalty; CRUEL HAND = the cruel hand of Time is the same as Elizabeth’s cruel hand, since Time represents her life; Southampton as an infant had been “by a Virgin hand disarmed” – Sonnet 154, line 8; “And shall I pray the gods to keep the pain from her, that is so cruel still … O cruel hap and hard estate … Whom I might well condemn, to be a cruel judge” – lines from three different Oxford poems, printed in The Paradise of Dainty Devices, 1576, each signed E. O.

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