When the Paradigm Changes, So Too the Surrounding Concepts Must be Changed

Mark Anderson, author of Shakespeare by Another Name (2005) recently shared a statement about how difficult it can be to accept a new paradigm in place of one to which we have become attached.  Orthodox scholars face such difficulty when invited to consider that “Shakespeare” was not William of Stratford, but, rather, Edward de Vere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford.  Here is part of that passage from The Nature of Technology (2011) by W. Brian Arthur:

“Even if a novel principle [paradigm] is developed and does perform better than the old, adopting it may mean changing surrounding structures and organizations [my emphasis] … The old [paradigm] lives on because practitioners are  not comfortable with the vision — and promise — of the new. Origination is not just a new way of doing things, but a new way of seeing things.  And the new threatens to make the old expertise obsolete. Often, in fact, some version of the new principle [paradigm] has been already touted or already exists and has been dismissed by standard practitioners, not necessarily because of lack of imagination, but because it creates a cognitive dissonance, an emotional mismatch, between the potential of the new and the security of the old.”

An allegorical portrait of Elizabeth I painted after 1620

An allegorical portrait of Elizabeth I painted after 1620

Oxfordians view most “standard practitioners” of Shakespearean biography as unable to break from the “security” of the old Stratfordian paradigm. By the same token, however, many who accept Oxford as the true author still resist the need to change “surrounding structures” or concepts that need overturning. These include, for example, the traditional conceptions of the “Rival Poet” and “Dark Lady” of the Sonnets.

In the orthodox view, the Stratford fellow is recording (1) his painful defeat by a “rival” author who has stolen the affections of the younger man; and (2) his fury at the treachery of his own “dark” mistress for also stealing the affections of the younger man – who, for most Stratfordians and Oxfordians alike, is Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton.  Most of those who now view Edward de Vere as the author have yet to realize that these traditional concepts are not only incorrect but, I would argue, ridiculous.

THE RIVAL POET of Sonnets 78-86:

Under the old Stratfordian paradigm, this “rival” of the author must be a real person; however, the Oxfordian view presents a man leading a double life, so that the Earl’s “rival” must be his own pen name. Oxford introduced “Shakespeare” to the world as the printed signature on the dedications of Venus and Adonis (1593) and Lucrece (1594) to Southampton; and never again did he use that pen name to dedicate anything to anyone else, thereby uniquely linking the younger earl to “Shakespeare” and ensuring his immortality. But after the failed Essex Rebellion of February 8, 1601, to save Southampton from execution and gain his eventual release, Oxford agreed reluctantly to remain hidden behind the pen name.

Henry Wriothesley  3rd Earl of Southampton circa 1594

Henry Wriothesley
3rd Earl of Southampton
circa 1594

This is why Oxford writes to Southampton in Sonnet 81 that “Your name from hence immortal life shall have,/ Though I (once gone) to all the world must die.”  It is also why he refers in Sonnet 82 to “The dedicated words which writers use/ Of their fair subject, blessing every book” – the public dedications by “Shakespeare” to the “fair” young man, Southampton, blessing E. Ver’s books of narrative poems.

Now the pseudonym is being used by the government (i.e., by Secretary Robert Cecil) to “make me tongue-tied” (Sonnet 80) and has “struck me dead” (Sonnet 86) when it comes to writing publicly about Southampton. Most Oxfordians still automatically assume that the “rival poet” must be a flesh-and-blood individual (like Essex or Sir Walter Raleigh), even though, within the new authorship paradigm, it becomes obvious that his only “rival” is the “Shakespeare” pseudonym itself.  It is difficult for Oxfordians to accept this new (and far more logical) concept because, I suggest, it creates a “cognitive dissonance” between “the potential of the new and the security of the old.”

It turns out that the so-called “rival poet” (a made-up term not used in the Sonnets) never had anything to do with the great author’s feelings toward a real person.   Students in the future will look back at the traditional view and wonder how folks thought “Shakespeare” could have felt himself “struck dead” by any other living writer.

THE DARK LADY of Sonnets 127-152:

Under the old paradigm, this treacherous and deceitful woman must be some female toward whom Shakespeare was attracted yet from whom he was violently repulsed — or repulsed by his own sexual appetite for her.  This woman had to be, say, Emilia Lanier – or, in the Oxfordian view, she was Anne Vavasour or Elizabeth Trentham or – yes – that same Emilia Lanier.

Edward de Vere 17th Earl of Oxford

Edward de Vere
17th Earl of Oxford

But once Oxford is accepted as the author, the so-called Dark Lady can only be Queen Elizabeth I of England, who is only “dark” because of her negative imperial view of Southampton. In other words, the Earl is using this section of the Sonnets to record, for posterity, his final resentment and even hatred toward his sovereign Mistress, for failing to name the younger earl as her “successive heir” (Sonnet 127).

In that section are lines that Oxford could write only to the Queen and to no one else. He asks her rhetorically in Sonnet 149, for example: “What merit do I in myself respect,/ That is so proud thy service to despise,/ When all my best doth worship thy defect,/ Commanded by the motion of thine eyes?”

There was no other woman in whose “service” Oxford had labored. No other woman could have “commanded” him by “the motion” of her eyes.  This is language reserved for the monarch, as when he writes in King John about “the motion of a kingly eye.” (5.1.47)

Perhaps even more striking is the anger and pain that Oxford expresses, as when he winds up Sonnet 147 telling her: “Past cure I am, now Reason is past care,/ And frantic mad with ever-more unrest./ My thoughts and my discourse as madmen’s are,/ At random from the truth, vainly expressed./ For I have sworn thee fair, and thought thee bright,/ Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.”

Oxford could not address those lines to anyone but Elizabeth Tudor.  Given his stature as the highest-ranking earl of her royal court, there is no alternative but to realize that he is recording his feelings toward the Queen herself.

Even for most Oxfordians, a complete change of authorship paradigm will not be easy; and part of the difficulty will be to alter our view of the “surrounding structures” — such as those traditional concepts of the Rival Poet and the Dark Lady.

In terms of the overall paradigm of the Sonnets, the traditional view of these poems as “romantic” must be changed to “political” — and that will take some time.  For further explanations, see The Monument website.

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hello Hank,
    Re: The Dark Lady
    It’s interesting that the Moor of Venice and Aaron the Moor are counted black, as if black-skinned, yet the Dark Lady is thought black-hearted. Surely Othello is a mask for a ‘black’ nature (jealousy) too, regardless of his complexion; and likewise Aaron. Perhaps Sonnet 147 reads:

    “Past cure I am, now Rey’son is past care,
    And frantic mad with E.Ver-Mour unrest;”

    Again, it’s worth noting the homophonous Latin ‘furor’: ‘to counterfeit, personate’, and the barely distinguishable ‘furor’: ‘madness’. I can’t help thinking there’s a remarkable association between these two ideas and the story of de Vere. If he’s not a man of More and Ver identities, what’s it all about?

    • Wow, yet again. Thanks, Mike!


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