Queen Elizabeth was Likened to Venus at Court on January 1, 1584 — in “Campaspe” — Attributed to John Lyly, the Earl of Oxford’s Secretary and Stage Manager


Venus and Adonis was published in 1593, marking the first appearance of “William Shakespeare,” and we might ask whether the upper-class readers, not to mention Queen Elizabeth’s nobles and courtiers, might have been tempted to view the goddess Venus as representing Her Majesty – or, perhaps more dangerously, whether Elizabeth might have viewed herself in this portrait of Venus by the heretofore unknown poet.


Less than ten years earlier, Elizabeth was addressed from the stage at court and likened to Venus. Here is the opening footnote by Joseph Quincy Adams in 1924 for Campaspe: Played Before the Queen’s Majesty on New Year’s Day [1584] at Night by Her Majesty’s Children and the Children of Paul’s:

“John Lyly, who had attained great fame by his two novels, Euphues the Anatomy of Wit, 1578, and Euphues and his England, 1580, was presented by the Earl of Oxford in the summer of 1583 with the lease of Blackfriars Hall, where the royal boy-choristers and the singing children of St. Paul’s Cathedral were accustomed to present their plays – mainly designed for Court performance – before the general public. At once Lyly set himself to the task of writing plays, and within a few weeks had Campaspe ready for the stage.”

Whoa! Let us pause, just a moment, to realize that Lyly could not have penned Campaspe in two months, much less two weeks, and that it’s far more reasonable to conclude that his employer, 33-year-old Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, had written the play himself. We may never know the exact nature of their “working relationship,” but the fact is that Lyly never wrote a single play either before or after his employment by Oxford.

The play (set in Athens) had two Epilogues, one for the “Blacke-Fryers” audience (attending dress rehearsals) and the other, more important one, for the Queen and members of the Court. The latter epilogue, delivered by one of the children or perhaps by many or even all of them, was spoken directly to Elizabeth:

“We cannot tell whether we are fallen among Diomedes’ birds or his horses; the one received some men with sweet notes, the other bit at men with sharp teeth. But, as Homer’s gods conveyed them into clouds whom they would have kept from curses, and as Venus, lest Adonis should be pricked with the stings of adders, covered his face with the wings of swans; so we hope, being shielded with your Highness’ countenance…”

Elizabeth attending a play at the royal court

Elizabeth attending a play at the royal court

Queen Elizabeth was the “divinely ordained monarch” — up there among the gods, a goddess; and in the Epilogue for Campaspe, performed at Court on the night of January 1, 1584, she was openly associated with Venus, the goddess of love and beauty. We might ask how she could not have seen herself in the portrait of Venus by “Shakespeare” in 1593, less than a decade later…


“We cannot tell whether we are fallen among Diomedes’ birds or his horses; the one received some men with sweet notes, the other bit at men with sharp teeth. But, as Homer’s gods conveyed them into clouds whom they would have kept from curses, and as Venus, lest Adonis should be pricked with the stings of adders, covered his face with the wings of swans; so we hope, being shielded with your Highness’ countenance, we shall, though near the neighing, yet not feel the kicking of those jades, and receive, though no praise (which we cannot deserve) yet a pardon – which, in all humility, we desire.

“As yet we cannot tell what we should term our labors, iron or bullion; only it belongeth to your Majesty to make them fit either for the forge, or the mint, currant by the stamp, or counterfeit by the anvil. For, as nothing is to be called ‘white’ unless it had been named ‘white’ by the first creator, so can there be nothing thought good in the opinion of others unless it be christened ‘good’ by the judgment of yourself. For ourselves again, we are those torches – wax, – of which, being in your Highness’ hands, you may make doves or vultures, roses or nettles, laurel for a garland or elder for a disgrace [Judas was supposed to have hanged himself on an elder tree].”

“A Father to His Secret Bastard Son .. The Poet’s Mistress Being Obviously the Boy’s Mother” — Charles Wisner Barrell, 1942

As readers of THE MONUMENT know, in my view there can be no doubt that the so-called Dark Lady of the Sonnets is Queen Elizabeth herself; and, in turn, that Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford is creating this “monument” of verse to preserve the truth that Henry Wriothesley Earl of Southampton was his son by the Queen and, therefore, deserved to succeed her on the throne as King Henry IX of England.

By the early 1940s, the brilliant researcher Charles Wisner Barrell concluded that Anne Vavasour, who gave birth in 1581 to Oxford’s illegitimate son named Edward Vere, was the Dark Lady – a mistaken view that forced him to believe, incorrectly – that TWO younger men are being addressed in the Shakespeare sonnets: Lord Southampton and the illegitimate son of Anne Vavasour.


Ironically, however, these incorrect conclusions enabled Barrell to recognize some fundamental truths about the relationships in the Sonnets. Barrell concludes, for example, that Oxford and the Dark Lady are the father and mother of the young man “whose ‘face fills up the lines’ of at least forty-two of the poems.” The latter “is specifically described over and over again as bearing the closest possible relationship to the writer of the Sonnets, both physically and spiritually,” Barrell wrote, citing lines of Sonnet 22 by way of example:

For all that beauty that doth cover thee
Is but the seemly raiment of my heart,
Which in thy breast doth live, as thine in me:
How can I then be elder than thou art?
O, therefore, love, by of thyself so wary
As I, not for myself, but for thee will;
Bearing thy heart, which I will keep so chary
As tender nurse her babe from fairing ill.

Barrell goes on to say that although the poet and this younger man “bear a ‘single name’ and share an ‘undivided love’ – THE POET’S MISTRESS BEING OBVIOUSLY THE BOY’S MOTHER – there is between them a ‘separable spite.’ Their relationship must be kept secret to avoid a public scandal!”


Of course the real reason, according to the evidence in The Monument, is that Queen Elizabeth has refused to acknowledge Southampton as her son and heir. She has forced him to suffer “a bastard shame,” as Oxford writes in Sonnet 127, at the start of the Dark Lady series. Nonetheless Barrell was able to cite Sonnet 36, for example, to demonstrate the father-son relationship:

Let me confess that we two must be twain,
Although our undivided loves are one…
I may not evermore acknowledge thee,
Lest my bewailed guilt should do thee shame,

Nor thou with public kindness honor me,
Unless thou take that honor from thy name:
But do not so; I love thee in such sort,
As thou being mine, mine is thy good report.

“It would be difficult to find clearer expression of a heartbroken father’s renunciation of the open pride of parenthood in a charming and worth son born out of wedlock!” Barrell wrote, using the exclamation point as emphasis. He also cites Sonnet 39:

O how thy worth with manners may I sing,
When thou art all the better part of me?
What can mine own praise to mine own self bring?
And what is’t but mine own when I praise thee?

Even for this let us divided live,
And our dear love lose name of single one,
That by this separation I may give
That due to thee which thou deserves alone.

“It is surely one of the most amazing anomalies of English literature that this realistic acknowledgment of a father’s relationship to his bastard son was not sensed by the earliest students of Shakespeare’s autobiographical poems,” Barrell wrote, calling this father-son relationship “one of the most dramatic and magnificently written personal tragedies in all literary history.”

I wish Barrell could have discovered for himself the far greater tragedy, in Oxford’s eyes, that his son by the so-called Virgin Queen was “in sleep a King, but waking no such matter,” as he describes him in the final line of Sonnet 87.

The point here, however, is that even Charles Barrell, who was unable to realize that Elizabeth is the Dark Lady of the Sonnets and the Mother of Southampton, the Fair Youth, could see plainly that the crucial relationship expressed in the sonnets was that of a father and his beloved son whom he could not name.

(“Shake-Speare’s” Own Secret Drama; Part 2: by Charles Barrell; American Shakespeare Fellowship News-Letter, Volume 3, no. 2, February 1942; the five-part series reprinted in Building the Case for Edward de Vere as Shakespeare, Volume 2, “Nothing Truer than Truth,” Paul Hemenway Altrocchi and Hank Whittemore, 2009.)

“Prince Tudor” Theory Began in 1932…

From Percy Allen, in The Life Story of Edward de Vere as “William Shakespeare” – 1932:


“Ever since beginning an intensive study of the Life of Edward de Vere as ‘Shakespeare,’ it has been more and more insistently borne in upon me that, if we could fully understand them, Oxford’s personal relations with Queen Elizabeth would provide the clue to a complete understanding of his life, and particularly to his mysterious withdrawal from court in 1589, the secret of which, as Lucio phrases it in Measure for Measure, must be ‘locked between teeth and lips.’

“The references in the plays and poems, to love affairs between de Vere and Elizabeth are many; but they are self-contradictory, and difficult wholly to reconcile with one another.

“First of all, there is The Two Gentlemen of Verona, obviously dealing with incidents closely following upon Oxford’s return from Italy in 1576, and dramatizing himself as Valentine and Silvia as Queen Elizabeth…

Click for Larger Image

Click for Larger Image

Speed: You never saw her since she was deformed.
Valentine: How long hath she been deformed?
Speed: Ever since you loved her.

[Valentine refers to “her passing deformity.”]

“…and what other conclusion is possible than this – that Silvia-Elizabeth’s ‘passing deformity,’ or, in other words, maternity, was the work of Edward de Vere.”

“…it seems to me possible that the Earl’s withdrawal from court in 1589 – evidently done, as the plays conclusively show, at the Queen’s request, and for some profoundly secret reason – must have been due, in part at least, to some change in his relations to her…”

“When all is so contradictory, so dependent upon circumstance, and upon the variable moods of two notoriously fickle and capricious creatures, it is impossible to form any precise or definite conclusions upon this delicate matter; but I have, I hope, set down enough here to justify my innate conviction, that de Vere’s relations with Queen Elizabeth – could they be sufficiently known – would completely solve the mystery that still hangs about ‘Shakespeare’s’ paradoxical and enigmatic career.”

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