“After the Rebellion” — Hank Whittemore at the Shakespearean Authorship Trust (S.A.T.) conference at Shakespeare’s Globe – November 2019

New Support for the Monument Theory of the Sonnets: Discovery of a Poem Begging Queen Elizabeth for Mercy: by the Earl of Southampton, while in the Tower during February-March 1601, when Facing Execution

New support for the Monument theory of the Sonnets has come from the discovery in the British Library of a 74-line poem by Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton, written in the Tower of London while he awaited execution for his role in the Essex rising of 8 February 1601.   In this unique scribal copy of a “verse letter,” Southampton pleads with Queen Elizabeth for mercy.

My thanks to the scholar Ricardo Mena for passing on this discovery, reported by Lara Crowley, Assistant Professor of English at Texas Tech University, in the winter 2011 edition of English Literary Renaissance.  The poem, entitled “The Earle of Southampton prisoner, and condemned. To Queen Elizabeth,” was found in BL Manuscript Stowe 962, which contains 254 miscellaneous folios prepared mainly in the 1620’s and 1630’s.

The “high level of accuracy” of attributions in the manuscript “enhances the likelihood” that the  ascription to Southampton “proves accurate as well,” Professor Crowley writes, adding that this “heartfelt” plea to Elizabeth points to a familiarity with “specific, intimate details” of the earl’s career and health and even writing style.  “Multiple references” identify Southampton as appealing to the Queen for a pardon.

The Monument theory holds that Edward de Vere the seventeenth Earl of Oxford arranged the Sonnets to record that he worked behind the scenes to save Southampton’s life and gain his freedom with a royal pardon.  The theory claims that part of the price Oxford paid, forced upon him by Secretary Robert Cecil, was the permanent destruction of his identity as author of the “Shakespeare” works (“My name be buried where my body is” – Sonnet 72).

Professor Crowley offers some speculations which, when viewing Oxford-Shakespeare as helping Southampton, are striking:

“It seems possible, even likely, that someone or something else influenced Elizabeth’s decision, making one wonder if, at his time of greatest need, Southampton – a ‘dere lover and cherisher’ of poets * – composed what could be his lone surviving poem … One possibility is that the poem was composed in 1601 to mollify the Queen, but by a more practiced poet who composed the verses for Southampton to offer Elizabeth as his own … Yet the notion that Shakespeare, or any other poet, provided Southampton with the poem proves improbable.  Access to the earl early in his imprisonment was restricted …”

[*Thomas Nashe, in his dedication of The Unfortunate Traveler, 1594, to Southampton]

The Monument theory is supported in a number of other ways; for one, we may now claim that all three earls – Oxford, Essex and Southampton – wrote verse in relation to this same situation of English political history:

Oxford: If he was the author of the Sonnets, then at the very least he wrote Sonnet 107 celebrating Southampton’s liberation by King James in April 1603, after the death of the Queen as “the mortal Moon” a few weeks earlier.

Essex: During his final four days in the Tower before he was executed on 25 February 1601, he wrote a 384-line poem to Elizabeth entitled The Passion of a Discontented Mind.

Southampton: Here we have Southampton, the fair youth of the Sonnets, also in the Tower with expectation of execution, writing a 74-line poem to the Queen in February or March 1601, pleading for her mercy and a pardon.

A remarkable aspect of Southampton’s verse epistle is how close he comes to a theme Oxford expressed in a letter to Cecil on 7 May 1603, alluding to a monarch’s ability to offer Christ-like mercy and forgiveness: “Nothing adorns a king more than justice, nor in anything doth a king more resemble God than in justice, which is the head of all virtue, and he that is endued therewith hath all the rest.”

More than two years earlier, Southampton wrote in his poem to Elizabeth from the Tower:

If faults were not, how could great Princes then

Approach so near God, in pardoning men?

Wisdom and valor, common men have known,

But only mercy is the Prince’s own.

Mercy’s an antidote to justice…

Southampton had been “supposed as forfeit to a confined doom,” as Oxford writes in Sonnet 107 of the Fair Youth Series; and in Sonnet 145 of the Dark Lady Series, as I see it, he describes Elizabeth’s decision to spare Southampton this way:

Straight in her heart did mercy come,

Chiding that tongue that ever sweet

Was used in giving gentle doom…

The phrase “Great Princes” used by Southampton also appears in Sonnet 25: “Great Princes’ favorites their fair leaves spread…”

At one point Southampton writes that “prisons are living men’s tombs” and that “there I am buried quick” – recalling Sonnet 31, which in the Monument theory corresponds to 12 February 1601:  “Thou art the grave where buried love doth live…”

He refers to himself as “dead in law,” reflecting his status in the Tower as “the late earl,” who has become legally dead.

He mentions his “legs’ strength decayed,” reflecting the fact that, while in the Tower at this early stage, he was suffering from a “quartern ague” that caused a dangerous “swelling in his legs and other parts,” as the Council reported to Sir John Peyton, Lieutenant of the Tower.

At one point near the end of the poem, he reveals his terror and dwindling hope for mercy:

Horror and fear, like cold in ice, dwell here;

And hope (like lightning) gone ere it appear…

Southampton uses many words in his poem that also appear in the Sonnets, among them the following forty-seven words:  Blood, Buried, Cancel, Cheeks, Chest, Condemned, Countenance, Crimes, Dear, Dead, Die, Eyes, Faults, Favor, Furrows, Grace, Grave, Grief, Groans, Ill, Lamed, Liberty, Light, Loss, Mercy, Offend, Offenses, Pardon, Parts, Power, Princes, Prison, Prisoners, Proceed, Rain, Religious, Sacred, Sorrow, Stain, Stone, Tears, Tombs, True, Vial, Worm, Worthy, Wrinkles.

A number of these words are related literally to Southampton’s situation: Condemned, Crimes, Faults, Liberty, Mercy, Offend, Offenses, Pardon, Prison, Prisoners – more evidence, in my view, that Oxford uses the same words in the Sonnets to refer to Southampton’s plight in the same circumstances.

There is much more about this discovery to be examined here, in future posts; but meanwhile, here is the text of Southampton’s poem, based on Professor Crowley’s transcription from secretary hand and put into (mostly) modern spelling/punctuation for readers of this blog:

The Earl of Southampton Prisoner, and Condemned, to Queen Elizabeth:

Not to live more at ease (Dear Prince) of thee

But with new merits, I beg liberty

To cancel old offenses; let grace so

(As oil all liquor else will overflow)

Swim above all my crimes.  In lawn, a stain

Well taken forth may be made serve again.

Perseverance in ill is all the ill.  The horses may,

That stumbled in the morn, go well all day.

If faults were not, how could great Princes then

Approach so near God, in pardoning me?

Wisdom and valor, common men have known,

But only mercy is the Prince’s own.

Mercy’s an antidote to justice, and will,

Like a true blood-stone, keep their bleeding still.

Where faults weigh down the scale, one grain of this

Will make it wise, until the beam it kiss.

Had I the leprosy of Naaman,

Your mercy hath the same effects as [the river] Jordan.

As surgeons cut and take from the sound part

That which is rotten, and beyond all art

Of healing, see (which time hath since revealed),

Limbs have been cut which might else have been healed.

While I yet breathe, and sense and motion have

(For this a prison differs from a grave),

Prisons are living men’s tombs, who there go

As one may, sith say the dead walk so.

There I am buried quick: hence one may draw

I am religious because dead in law.

One of the old Anchorites, by me may be expressed:

A vial hath more room laid in a chest:

Prisoners condemned, like fish within shells lie

Cleaving to walls, which when they’re opened, die:

So they, when taken forth, unless a pardon

(As a worm takes a bullet from a gun)

Take them from thence, and so deceive the sprights [spirits]

Of people, curious after rueful sights.

Sorrow, such ruins, as where a flood hath been

On all my parts afflicted, hath been seen:

My face which grief plowed, and mine eyes when they

Stand full like two nine-holes, where at boys play

And so their fires went out like Iron hot

And put into the forge, and then is not

And in the wrinkles of my cheeks, tears lie

Like furrows filled with rain, and no more dry:

Mine arms like hammers to an anvil go

Upon my breast: now lamed with beating so

Stand as clock-hammers, which strike once an hour

Without such intermission they want power.

I’ve left my going since my legs’ strength decayed

Like one, whose stock being spent give over trade.

And I with eating do no more ingross

Than one that plays small game after great loss

Is like to get his own: or then a pit

With shovels emptied, and hath spoons to fill it.

And so sleep visits me, when night’s half spent

As one, that means nothing but complement.

Horror and fear, like cold in ice, dwell here;

And hope (like lightning) gone ere it appear:

With less than half these miseries, a man

Might have twice shot the Straits of Magellan

Better go ten such voyages than once offend

The Majesty of a Prince, where all things end

And begin: why whose sacred prerogative

He as he list, we as we ought live.

All mankind lives to serve a few: the throne

(To which all bow) is sewed to by each one.

Life, which I now beg, wer’t to proceed

From else whoso’er, I’d first choose to bleed

But now, the cause, why life I do Implore

Is that I think you [Elizabeth] worthy to give more.

The light of your countenance, and that same

Morning of the Court favor, where at all aim,

Vouchsafe unto me, and be moved by my groans,

For my tears have already worn these stones.

[As mentioned, there’s more commentary on this to be posted here in the future.]

Part Two of Reason No. 35: The Unique “Centuries” of Sonnets by Watson (with Oxford’s help) and “Shakespeare”

(Click on for Larger View)

On the title page of Hekatompathia or Passionate Century of Love by Thomas Watson (1582), dedicated to Edward Earl of Oxford, the reader is informed about the architecture of the “century” of one-hundred sonnets:  “Divided into two parts: whereof, the first expresseth the Authours sufferance in Love: the latter, his long farewell to Love and all his tyrannie.”

The two parts have eighty and twenty sonnets respectively.  Part One comprises Sonnets 1 – 80 and Part Two comprises Sonnets 81 – 100:

1————————-80 81———100

When we get to Sonnet 80 at the end of the first part, we are told that the next verse, Sonnet 81, beginning the second part, is shaped “in the form of a pillar” that quite obviously makes it unique and gives it considerable importance:

Sonnet 81 of Watson's sequence, in the form of a pillar, starting Part Two (81-100); and Shakespeare's Sonnet 107 is also the eighty-first verse of his "century," starting Part Two (107-126)

“All such as are but of indifferent capacity, and have some skill in Arithmetic, by viewing this Sonnet following compiled by rule and number, into the form of a pillar, may soon judge how much art and study the Author hath bestowed in the same.”

While working on The Monument it became apparent that the one hundred and fifty-four verses of SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS (1609) contain the same architecture.  The first step is to remove the epilogue of the Bath sonnets, 153-154; and then separate the main body of one hundred and fifty-two sonnets by means of the two envoys, Sonnets 26 and 126.

The result is a central sequence of a hundred sonnets between two series of twenty-six:

1—–26 27—————————-126 127—–152

It came as a surprise to me, after completing The Monument, to find that Edgar I. Fripp in Shakespeare, Man and Artist of 1938 had already discovered the same hundred-sonnet sequence and even related it to Watson’s earlier sequence:

“Centuries or ‘hundreds’ of literary pieces were in fashion,” Fripp wrote, citing “hundreds” of songs, sonnets, prayers, sermons, hymns, flowers, emblems, medical facts and so on.  “The Hekotompathia or Passionate Century of Love by Thomas Watson, otherwise a century of passions, may have served as a model for Shakespeare’s century of sonnets,” he continued, adding, “Shakespeare’s Sonnets 27-126 are a century.”

But Fripp had seen no significance in Watson’s dedication to Oxford, who had helped with the manuscript; nor had he realized that Shakespeare’s century is itself divided into two parts, exactly as Watson’s century is divided, that is, Part One with eighty sonnets and Part Two with twenty:

Thomas Watson: 1———————————-80 81————-100

Shake-speare’s: 27——————————–106 107————126

Sonnet 107 is the eighty-first verse and the “pillar” that begins Part Two. 

And of course Sonnet 107 is both unique and important as the so-called “dating sonnet,” viewed by most critics as celebrating the release on April 10, 1603 of Henry Wriothesley Earl of Southampton after being “supposed as forfeit to a confined doom” in the Tower.  Sonnet 107 also refers to the death of Queen Elizabeth, the “mortal Moon,” a few weeks earlier on March 24, 1603, when King James VI of Scotland was quickly proclaimed King James I of England – without the civil war around succession that had been both predicted and feared.

As shown in The Monument, the eighty sonnets of Part One begin with Sonnet 27 upon Southampton’s arrest on the night of February 8, 1601 and continue until Sonnet 106 upon his final night in the Tower on April 9, 1603; and the twenty sonnets of Part Two begin with his liberation on April 10, 1603 and continue with one sonnet per day until Sonnet 125 upon the Queen’s funeral on April 28, 1603 followed by Sonnet 126, the envoy of farewell.

So it appears that Watson’s century of 1582 had “served as a model” for Shakespeare’s century even more closely than Edgar Fripp had known.  And given that Oxford had been so intimately involved in the Watson sequence, we might logically conclude that he repeated its structure in the Shakespeare sequence.

In other words, if “Shakespeare” was borrowing from Watson, as now seems clear, then the view here is that he was borrowing from himself!

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.

Here’s a “Smoking Gun” that brings together Edward de Vere (Oxford) and Henry Wriothesley (Southampton) in the Context of the 1601-1603 Aftermath of the Essex Rebellion

I’d like to present a document that brings together Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford and Henry Wriothesley  Earl of Southampton within the context of the Essex Rebellion of February 1601 and its aftermath until the death of Elizabeth and the succession of James in March 1603.  I consider it a “smoking gun” in terms of evidence of a relationship between them in connection with those events and that time period – supporting the context put forth and expanded within THE MONUMENT, my edition of the Sonnets (and its companion synopsis-volume SHAKESPEARE’S SON and HIS SONNETS, not to mention ANONYMOUS, the forthcoming movie from Roland Emmerich, due for general release October 28th.

The document is Anagrammata in Nomina Illustrissimorum Heroum (1603) By Francis Davison – published online by the Philological Museum by Dana F. Sutton.

The Anagrammata was a single-page broadsheet with anagrams & epigrams on the names of the following lords: Thomas Egerton, Charles Howard, Thomas Sackville, Chrarles Blunt, John Fortescue, Gilbert Talbot, Henry Percy, Edward de Vere and Henry Wriothesley.

The work was compiled partially during the time of Southampton’s imprisonment in the Tower [1601-1603] and completed after the queen’s death on March 24, 1603.  It was published later the same year. The anagrams/epigrams for Oxford and Southampton are presented ninth and tenth, respectively, as the final two lords.

“In general,” Professor Sutton writes, “the epigrams are fairly predictable exercises in courtly flattery.  A couple, however, may merit more consideration.  The one addressed to Oxford congratulates him on his non-involvement in the Essex Rebellion.  One wonders why Davison thought this necessary.  Even more curious is the one for Southampton, which explicitly states that he had been convicted of treason on false testimony inspired by envy.”


“Though by your zeal, Fortune, you keep perfidy’s murmurs and schemings at a distance, nonetheless I learn (at which my mind and ear quake) that our bodies have been deafened with respect to evil affairs. Indeed, I perceive men who come close to Catiline in deception, freeing other men’s fates by their death.”


“Justly you were able to pour forth this complaint from your mouth; your lot was harsh while a false accusation prevailed. “Lo, Theseus is guilty of nothing; here I fall by an unfair lot’s censure, betrayed by envy’s whim.” But now the complaint is to be altered, because of altered perils. Great man, do you take a fall with an innocent heart bearing witness?  Not at all.  The heir, wielding the scepter of rule conferred under Jove’s auspices, grants you to live free of this care.”

I submit that THE MONUMENT and its synopsis-book SHAKESPEARE’S SON AND HIS SONNETS contain the explanation that Professor Sutton is seeking.  No, it’s not “proof” of the Monument Theory of the Sonnets, but there’s no question that it brings Oxford and Southampton together in connection with the post-Essex Rebellion history.

THE MONUMENT attempts to demonstrate that the Sonnets tell the following story:  Upon the failure of the Essex Rebellion of February 8, 1601, followed by the sentencing of Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton to death for high treason, Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford made a bargain with Secretary Robert Cecil in order to save Southampton’s life.  Essex was executed six days after the trial.  Oxford’s aim was to spare Southampton from execution and gain the promise of his release upon the succession of King James of Scotland as King of England.  Once liberated, Southampton would regain all his lands and titles and receive a royal pardon, freeing him from the threat of being re-arrested for the same crime.  But the outcome of the deal depended on Cecil’s ability to bring James to the throne, so Oxford had no choice but to help him.  In effect, he was blackmailed.

One way Oxford may have helped is by becoming “40” in the secret correspondence between Cecil and James, behind Elizabeth’s back.  Also, shortly before the Queen’s death, he apparently acted to test Lord Lincoln’s loyalty to James.  In addition, having adopted the pen name “Shakespeare” in 1593, Oxford now agreed to take another step – to bury his identity in relation to Southampton after his death and for generations to come:  “I may nevermore acknowledge thee … My name be buried where my body is,” he testifies in Sonnets 36 and 72.

The Southampton Prince Tudor Theory is that, in addition, Oxford and Southampton agreed to bury their father-son relationship; and that Southampton agreed to forfeit any claim to the crown as the natural heir of Queen Elizabeth.   [Two Oxfordians who oppose the Southampton Prince Tudor Theory, Nina Green and Christopher Paul, are thanked by Dana Sutton for suggesting that the Philological Museum include Davison’s Anagrammata.]


Davison was the son of William Davison, whom Elizabeth had blamed for transmitting the warrant for execution of Mary Queen of Scots.  W. Davison and his family were ruined.  Upon the death of Secretary Francis Walsingham in 1590, Essex urged Elizabeth to name W. Davison to replace him.  The post was left vacant until 1596, when the queen gave it to Robert Cecil.

In a work in which every element has a potential or actual meaning beyond what is on the surface, Davison deliberately placed Edward de Vere and Henry Wriothesley one after the other.   As stated above, such placement lends support to the theory of THE MONUMENT that, as expressed in the Sonnets, Oxford and Southampton were linked together at this crucial time.


Catiline: Lucius Sergius Catilina (108 BC – 62 BC), known in English as Catiline, was a Roman politician of the 1st century BC who is best known for the Catiline conspiracy, an attempt to overthrow the Roman Republic, and in particular the power of the aristocratic Senate.  [The name of Catiline was invoked in relation to Essex and his supporters at the joint treason trial of him and Southampton on February 19, 1601.]

“Freeing Other Men’s Fates by Their Deaths” – the final words of the epigram to Oxford could refer to Essex as one who went to his death in order to give Southampton a chance to live; but this epigram is for Oxford and therefore, I submit, it more likely refers to the bargain Oxford made with Cecil to figuratively die, as in Sonnet 81: “I, once gone, to all the world must die.”


Theseus:  the mythical founder-king of Athens, son of Aethra, and fathered by Aegeus and Poseidon, both of whom Aethra had slept with in one night. Theseus was a founder-hero, like Perseus, Cadmus, or Heracles, all of whom battled and overcame foes that were identified with an archaic religious and social order.

“False Accusation … Betrayed by Envy’s Whim” – perhaps refers to Cecil betraying Southampton by falsely accusing him of trying to overthrow Elizabeth and kill her.

“The Heir, Wielding the Scepter of Rule” – appears to refer to King James, who ordered the release of Southampton; but, given the Prince Tudor Theory that Henry Wriothesley was the natural heir of Elizabeth and deserved to become King Henry IX, such language is certainly tantalizing and even, one might say, provocative.

“The Living Record” – The Execution of Southampton Draws Near – Sonnet 58 – “The Imprisoned Absence of Your Liberty” – Chapter Fifty-Three


Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (1550-1604)Sonnet 58
Imprisoned Absence
Your Self to Pardon
11 March 1601

Speaking as a “vassal” or subject of a king, Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford tells Southampton that the bargain being made for his life includes gaining a royal pardon for him.  He introduces the younger earl’s “charter” or royal privilege as so “strong” that he will be able to gain this “pardon” – the same “charter” of Sonnet 87, line 3, that will give him “releasing” from prison by King James.  As a practical matter, Southampton holds his fate in his own hands, since he must decide to give up any claim to the throne.  Has he agreed to this ransom for his life or is he resisting it?  Meanwhile the Queen is still (officially) in charge and Oxford continues to suffer the “hell” of “waiting” for her either to execute their son or spare him.

Sonnet 58

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

Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton (1573-1624) - Actual Birth Date 1574 - Unacknowledged Son of Oxford and Queen Elizabeth,

That God, who made me your “slave” or servant from the beginning, forbids or forbade; (“But God forbid that I should rejoice, but in the cross of our Lord” – Galatians, 6:14); an image of Oxford serving his son as one who serves a god, i.e., as “a God in love” of Sonnet 110, line 12 or as “the little Love-God” of Sonnet 154, line 1; FIRST = a term referring to a general period of time in the past, as in, “Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green” – Sonnet 104, line 8; SLAVE = servant; “a person who is absolutely subject to the will of another” – Schmidt; carried over from the previous verse: “Being your slave, what should I do but tend/ Upon the hours and times of your desire?” – Sonnet 57, lines 1-2

IN THOUGHT = have it in my mind, i.e., that I should think I can determine how you spend your time, or when I may visit according to your royal pleasure; CONTROL = have power over; i.e., God forbid I should have power over you, my prince; Southampton is a prince or king with all “in his controlling” in Sonnet 20, line 7; “Can yet the lease of my true love control” – Sonnet 107, line 3; “A true soul/ When most impeached stands least in thy control” – Sonnet 125, line 14, admitting that Southampton has lost all claim to be king or have control, just before Oxford ends his diary; PLEASURE = your Majesty’s pleasure or royal will; YOUR TIMES OF PLEASURE = the times when you command me (or allow me) to visit you in the Tower

Or to ask you to give me an accounting, by your royal hand, of how you spend your hours; AT YOUR HAND = at your royal command; “Yet shall you have all kindness at my hand” – King Lewis in Henry VI, 3.3.149; “And if thy poor devoted servant may but beg one favor at thy gracious hand” – Richard III, 1.2.210-211; as when Oxford writes of the Queen having refused to acknowledge their son as her natural heir by recording that the boy “Was sleepling by a Virgin hand disarmed” – Sonnet 154, line 8; “A dearer merit … have I deserved at Your Highness’ hands” – Richard II, 1.3.156-158

Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603)

TH’ACCOUNT OF HOURS = record of time with you; (also possibly a play on “ours,” referring to these sonnets as this “account of ours”); the “account” is also the “sum” or “store” or “treasure” or “Audit” of Southampton’s royal blood; CRAVE = beg, as to a king or superior; “Then I crave pardon of Your Majesty” – 3 Henry VI, 4.6.6-8; “Till time and vantage crave my company” – Northumberland in 2 Henry IV, 2.3.68

YOUR VASSAL = your servant; “That lift your vassal hands against my head and threat the glory of my precious crown” – Richard II, 3.3.89-90; “Your Majesty’s humblest vassal, Essex” – the Earl of Essex to Queen Elizabeth, 1600; “Lord of my love, to whom in vassalage” – Oxford to Southampton, Sonnet 26, line 1; BOUND = tied to; obliged; imprisoned; “My duty … is bound to your Lordship” – dedication of Lucrece to Southampton; STAY = wait upon; restrict; STAY YOUR LEISURE = wait until you have time to listen; wait upon your royal time; the time of which you may freely dispose; “I will attend upon your lordship’s leisure” – 1 Henry VI, 5.1.55; “the adverse winds, whose leisure I have stay’d” – King John, 2.1.57-58; “We will stay your leisure” – to Hotspur in 1 Henry IV, 1.3.254

OH = O = Oxford; ME = Oxford; LET ME SUFFER = allow me to suffer by making this sacrifice on your behalf, to save your life and gain your freedom with honor; “To weigh how once I suffered in your crime” – Sonnet 121, line 8; BEING AT YOUR BECK = I, being your servant and at your command; “Egypt, thou knewst too well my heart was to thy rudder tied by th’strings and thou shouldst tow me after.  O’er my spirit thy full supremacy thou knewst, and that thy beck might from the bidding of the gods command me” – Antony and Cleopatra, 3.11.56-61

Tower of London, where Southampton awaits execution

IMPRISONED = Southampton, imprisoned; ABSENCE OF YOUR LIBERTY = The “absence” of Southampton’s liberty is imprisoned within Oxford’s mind and heart; (it “also carries suggestions of ‘lack of the liberty of you,’ ‘lack of the privilege of unrestricted access to you” – Booth); “I cannot conceive in so short a time and in so small an absence how so great a change is happened to you” – Oxford to Robert Cecil, December 4, 1601; LIBERTY = Southampton’s freedom and even his life itself, the absence of which would mean his death (by execution); “Those pretty wrongs that liberty commits” – Sonnet 41, line 1; “Humbly complaining to her deity got my Lord Chamberlain his liberty” – Richard III, 1.1.76-77

“I am sorry to see you ta’an from liberty, to look on the business present.  ‘Tis His Highness’ pleasure you shall to th’Tower” – Henry VIII, 1.2.204-207

His liberty is full of threats to all.
Hamlet, 4.1.14

PATIENCE TAME = make my patience tame; cure my impatience; be tamed by patience; SUFFERANCE = subjugation; also, related to suffering or misery; BIDE = follow; CHECK = restriction or hindrance (from being able to see you)

ACCUSING = recalling the legal accusation of treason against Southampton; “Since that the truest issue of thy throne by his own interdiction stands accused” – Macbeth, 4.3.106-107; “Accuse me thus” – Sonnet 117, line 1, Oxford speaking after Southampton has been released and he, Oxford, has accepted all blame; INJURY = “injustice, wrong … offence … crime … anything contrary to a benefit … the wrong suffered by one” – Schmidt; “To bear love’s wrong than hate’s known injury” – Sonnet 40, line 12

BE WHERE YOU LIST = wherever you want to be; wherever you are or happen to be; YOUR CHARTER = your royal privilege; “What he sets before us … is not the powers of a peer, but those peculiar to a king: power to grant charters of privilege and letters patent, power to pardon crimes – in short, the exclusively royal prerogative” – Leslie Hotson, referring to the poet addressing a king; “Charter – privilege, acknowledged right – a standard, nearly atrophied, metaphor from the written document by which a privilege, right, or pardon was legally granted” – Booth; “The charter of thy worth gives thee releasing” – Sonnet 87, line 3, related to the same kingly rights that will spare Southampton from execution and finally give him “releasing” from the Tower; SO STRONG = so royal; accompanied by such royal power; “You break no privilege nor charter there” – Richard III, 2.4.54); CHARTER = “A written document delivered by the sovereign or legislature; granting privileges to, or recognizing rights of; granting pardon, to receive a pardon” – OED, citing “Maister John Hume had his charter and was pardoned by the King” (1480); and “a charter of pardon” (Francis Bacon, 1626); (therefore Oxford is saying that James of Scotland, once he ascends as King of England, will grant Southampton a pardon; which, in fact, he will do); “Is not his heir a well-deserving son?  Take Hereford’s rights away, and take from Time his charters and his customary rights” – Richard II, 2.1.194-196

YOU YOUR SELF = an emphasis on his royal identity; “This is I, Hamlet the Dane!” – Hamlet, 5.2.255-256; “But he that writes of you, if he can tell that you are you” – Sonnet 84, lines 7-8; PRIVILEGE YOUR TIME = related to the charter (or charter of privilege) of line 9; i.e., you are a king, so you may command yourself; “Such neighbor nearness to our sacred blood should nothing privilege him” – Richard II, 1.1.119-120

TO WHAT YOU WILL = according to what your Majesty desires, to what you command; to do the bidding of your royal will; TO YOU IT DOTH BELONG = the royal power belongs to you; BELONG = referring to what belongs to a king; “Disdaining duty that to us belongs” – Queen to King in 2 Henry VI, 3.1.17; “with all appertinents belonging to his honour” – Henry V, 2.2.87-88; “Doth not thy embassage belong to me” – the Queen in Richard II, 3.4.93

YOUR SELF TO PARDON = you, being a king, may pardon your royal self; (if and when Southampton’s life is spared, he will need a royal pardon or else he will remain at the monarch’s mercy; Oxford is working to gain promise of such a pardon from James, if it is arranged that he will succeed Elizabeth; CRIME = the treason of which you were convicted; “To weigh how once I suffered in your crime” – Sonnet 120, line 8

PARDON = “Say ‘pardon’, king … No word like ‘pardon’ for kings’ mouths so meet” – Richard II, 5.3.116, 118; “letters of the kings’ grace and pardon” – Henry VIII, 1.2.104; “your Grace’s pardon” – Richard II, 1.1.141); after releasing Southampton on April 10, 1603, King James will issue him a royal pardon, based on prior negotiations involving Oxford and Robert Cecil, by which Southampton agrees to give up any royal claim; at this point in time, of course, the condemned earl still hopes his mother the Queen might grant it to him: “O let her never suffer to be spilled the blood of him that desires to live but to do her service, nor lose the glory she shall gain in the world by pardoning one whose heart is without spot, though his cursed destiny hath made his acts to be condemned” – Southampton to the Council, after the trial (Stopes, 225); “A gracious king that pardons all offences” – Henry VIII, 2.2.66; “May one be pardoned and retain th’offence?” – Hamlet, 3.3.56; “You straight are on your knees for ‘Pardon, pardon!’ And I, unjustly too, must grant it to you” – Richard III, 2.2.125-126; “Subjects may challenge nothing of their sovereigns; but, if an humble prayer may prevail, then I crave pardon of Your Majesty” – 3 Henry VI, 4.6.6-8

Pardon me, God, I knew not what I did:
And pardon, father, for I knew not thee.
My tears shall wipe away these bloody marks
3 Henry VI, 2.5.69-71

“Thus in haste I crave Your Majesty’s pardon…”
– Oxford to Elizabeth, June 1599

I AM = “I am that I am” – Sonnet 121, line 9; (William or Will-I-Am or I-Am-Will); WAIT = wait upon, as a servant waits upon the presence of his king; “And’t please your grace, the two great cardinals wait in the presence” – Henry VIII, 3.1.16-17; Oxford must wait for the chance to visit him in the Tower; WAITING BE SO HELL = also the agonizing wait for the Queen to decide whether Southampton will live or die; “y’have passed a hell of Time,/ And I, a tyrant, have no leisure taken/ To weigh how once I suffered in your crime” – Sonnet 121, lines 6-8; WAITING = “your waiting vassals” – Richard III, 2.1.122; “waiting in the Court” – 1 Henry IV, 1.2.67

NOT BLAME YOUR PLEASURE = not blame your royal pleasure or will; “the pleasure of the fleeting year” – Sonnet 97, line 2, referring to the royal pleasure or will of Elizabeth, who has kept Southampton in the Tower at her pleasure; “But since she (nature, the Queen) pricked thee out for women’s (her own) pleasure” – Sonnet 20, line 13, referring to Elizabeth’s royal will; “Now the cause falling out to be good, and by course of law Her Majesty’s, it is justice that Her Majesty may bestow the same at her pleasure” – Oxford to Robert Cecil, December 4, 1601; BLAME = to blame for a crime or fault; to censure or find fault with; “Or will you blame and lay the fault on me?” – 1 Henry VI, 2.1.57; echoing the blame put upon Essex and Southampton at the trial; “I cannot blame thee … But yet be blamed” – Sonnet 40, lines 7-8

But who is this man???

Is he writing a sonnet? Thinking of a topic? Running out of ideas?

“Do Not So Much as My Poor Name Rehearse … My Name Be Buried” — An Answer to “Why” the Earl of Oxford Used the “Shakespeare” Pen Name

On one of our Internet-based forums discussing the theory that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford wrote the “Shakespeare” poems and plays, I recently found my thoughts pouring onto the paper about Oxford’s use of the pen name.  Here’s an edited version:

In my view we Oxfordians make a big mistake by trying to explain “Shakespeare” in conventional authorship terms, that is, by saying Oxford  used the pen name “because he was a nobleman who loved to write poems and plays, but, because it was a disgrace for a noble to take credit for such writing, he adopted a pen name.”

A Portrait of "The Two Henries" circa 1619 -- demonstrating the close tie between Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, and Henry de Vere, 18th Earl of Oxford, son of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

I think we Oxfordians also make a mistake saying Oxford used the pen name “because he had lampooned highly placed figures such as William Cecil, Lord Burghley, chief minister to Queen Elizabeth, and exposing his own identity meant exposing them as well.”

The story is much bigger than that.

The fact is Oxford had published songs or poems under his own name, publicly, in the collection Paradyse of Dainty Devices of 1576; and he had advertised his writing earlier in his prefaces to The Courtier of 1572 and Cardanus Comforte of 1573. He had used names of living or deceased persons and fictional names.  He had written anonymously, too.

He had done this through his most productive years in his twenties and thirties, and not until age forty-three in 1593 did he adopt the Shakespeare pen name.

I say we Oxfordians might acknowledge the obvious, that Edward de Vere’s s adoption of “Shakespeare” on Venus and Adonis in 1593 and Lucrece in 1594 was different than all the other cases.  In this instance he linked the pen name by dedication to a person, that is, to Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton.  It’s clear that in this case Oxford’s motive in using the pen name  “Shakespeare” was TO CALL ATTENTION TO THE EARL OF  SOUTHAMPTON PUBLICLY, which he did with dedications to him on those two sure-fire bestsellers.

The Earl of Oxford's initials E.O. are on the cover page of The Paradyse of Dainty Devices, 1576, with Edward de Vere's early poems and songs among the collection

We Oxfordians would do well to acknowledge that the case for Venus and Adonis and Lucrece as somehow “anti”-Southampton has NOT been made.  Those who have claimed that either the dedications or the poems carried negative intentions toward Southampton have FAILED TO MAKE THEIR CASE.  There is no evidence for that claim and all the evidence we do have is on the positive side.

Oxford used “Shakespeare” and the dedictions and the narrative poems to call attention to Southampton in a POSITIVE way.

After Burghley’s death in 1598, Oxford’s revisions of his own plays began to have the Shakespeare name on them as well; and there is some evidence that he used these plays to call positive attention to the Essex faction, of which Southampton was a leader.   On its face the conspirators of the 1601 Essex rebellion (and Southampton as leader of its planning) used Richard II by Shakespeare in a positively intentioned way against the power of Secretary Robert Cecil to control the coming succession.

It emerges, therefore, that Oxford’s writing life had two phases:

(1) during the 1560’s, 1570’s and 1580’s, he wrote under various names or anonymously in the service of England under Elizabeth, as court play producer and writer, as head of a team of writers, developing an English cultural identity, rousing unity in the face of threats from within and without; and

(2) from 1593, after Southampton had rejected a Cecil alliance through marriage, when Oxford supported him as “Shakespeare” and, therefore, TURNED AGAINST the Cecil-run government … and after Burghley’s death, with escalation of this struggle culminating in the utterly failed rebellion.

After the abortive revolt and during 1601-1603, it was Robert’s Cecil’s single minded, nerve-wracking task to engineer the succession of James without Elizabeth learning of the secret correspondence with that monarch.  Cecil could not afford any opposition, much less civil war.  If he failed in this endeavor he was a dead man.  He needed all the help and support he could get.

He killed Essex quickly, as his father had killed the Duke of Norfolk in 1572 and Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots in 1587, because these Catholic figures had stood in the way of the continuing Protestant reformation.  Cecil wrote a letter saying he probably could not avoid the Southampton execution — and I think this was part of his own setup for taking credit later on, as the man who got the Queen to spare Southampton’s life.  (In fact it was Cecil himself who decided Southampton should be spared, not because of affection or pity but so he could hold him hostage in the Tower until after King James was safely and securely on the throne.)

As the Oxfordian researcher Nina Green has suggested, Oxford may well have been “40” in the secret correspondence with James; and I recommend G. P. V. Akrigg’s book of James’ letters* including the one to “40”, promising to deal with him “secretly” and “honsestly” and only through Cecil.

*(The Letters of King James VI and I)

King James VI of Scotland & King James I of England

Both Cecil and James needed Oxford’s support, on various levels, and the perpetual confinement of Southampton — as the base commoner “Mr. Henry Wriothesley,” or “the late earl” in legal terms — was a way of securing Oxford’s agreement to help.

If we believe Oxford was Shakespeare, and if we believe he had told the truth publicly to Southampton that “the love I dedicate to your Lordship is without end,” and that “what I have to do is yours,” then we must conclude that Oxford did whatever he could do to ensure that, if he did help James become king and helped Cecil to regain his power, then Southampton would be released with a royal pardon and all his lands and titles restored.

Sir Robert Cecil, Principal Secretary to Elizabeth

These things did result and they have not been explained by conventional history.

But it’s explainable if all those remarkable rewards were in return for Southampton’s pledge to cause no trouble for a peaceful succession.  Oxford and Southampton both had potential disruptive moves to make, moves they did not make.  And they did not make such moves despite the fact that in no way did any of these English nobles really want James on their throne.   And in any case, legally he had no claim because he’d been born on foreign soil.

And it’s here that we have the Sonnets with Oxford’s expressions of fear for Southampton’s life, and his pledge that “my name be BURIED,” not just hidden behind a pen name, but really buried and that he would “die” not onlyphysically, which was a given, but die “to all the world,” that is, his identity would die and be buried.

In his place would be “Shakespeare” the pen name (the so-called Rival Poet) which was the “better spirit” that “doth use your name, and in the praise thereof makes me tongue-tied speaking of your fame.”

This is no routine anonymity as before, but, now, obliteration to “all the world” in terms of his writing and his positive intentions toward Southampton.  And in the sonnets he tells Southampton, “When I perhaps compounded am with clay, do not so much as my poor name rehearse.”

So if we choose to take him seriously as speaking to Southampton under these conditions, then here is the correct answer to the authorship question in terms of “why” — why his name was buried: because he had promised this self-obliteration in order to avoid another civil war in England, to bring about a peaceful succession, and to save the life and future of  Southampton.

All of which was accomplished.

“To all the world” meant to contemporary generations and the next two or three as well.  The sonnets become a “monument” for posterity.  All we need to do is read sonnets 55 and 81 for that theme.  And in 107, the climax of the story, he celebrates all these bittersweet results at once, ending with yet another pledge that this will be Southampton’s monument that will outlast all other kinds of tombs.  And even he, Oxford, “will live in this poor
rhyme,” that is, he will cheat death in the end through these sonnets.

So the Sonnets were not published to be sold, and not printed for commercial reasons.  They were printed in hopes that they would survive until some future time when “all the breathers of this world are dead.”  (81)

The Sonnets are nonfiction dressed as fiction — a statement I make for the Sonnets, uniquely so, NOT for all the other Shakespeare works — and I believe we Oxfordians would do well to emphasize that we do NOT contend that the plays are autobiographical in the strictest sense.  They are works of the imagination, fiction, with many autobiographical elements and, since this is a case of hidden authorship, Oxford undoubtedly inserted clues to his presence.

But as Scott Fitzgerald wrote that the rich are different than you and me, so we can say that the Sonnets are different than the poems and plays.  The Sonnets, unlike the plays of Hamlet and Othello, are written with the personal pronoun “I” in reference to the author himself.

Oxford’s agreement to bury his name and identity was different after the rebellion of 1601 than it had been in 1593 when he first used the Shakespeare pen name.   After 1601, he was pledging to take another huge step, not one he had committed to before:

“Was it his spirit, by spirits taught to write above a mortal pitch,” he asks about “Shakespeare” in Sonnet 86, “that struck me dead?”

He had agreed to be “tongue-tied” by “authority” or officialdom.  The government which he had worked so hard to help, even to the point of testifying against his Catholic cousins — that same government was the cause of his demise.  A terribly sad, ironic story — but a much more dynamic one, and a more accurate one, I contend, than the one we Oxfordians have been trying to communicate over the past ninety years.

I say it’s time to move the authorship debate forward by putting forth the far more powerful, and human, story that is both personal and political — necessarily political, given that our candidate for “Shakespeare” was in fact the Lord Great Chamberlain of England, highest-ranking earl of the realm and — despite his Hamlet-like eccentricities, his Shakespeare-like multiple personalities — an extraordinary figure at the very center of the Elizabethan royal court, within the context of the Anglo-Spanish War that officially spanned the two decades from 1584 to 1604, when England was always a nation struggling to survive as well as grow.

“I, My Sovereign, Watch the Clock for You” – The Living Record – Chapter 52 – The Execution of Southampton Draws Near

Sonnet 57
I, My Sovereign, Watch the Clock for You
10 March 1601

Crowds of London citizens have been gathering in the mornings for the expected execution of Southampton.  Meanwhile Oxford addresses his royal son directly as “my sovereign” and states his duty as his “slave” or “servant” (vassal in service to his Majesty the Prince) to “watch the clock for you.”  In the ending couplet, Oxford records the fact that the bargain for his son’s life will include his own obliteration from the official record as the author of the works attributed to Will Shakespeare.  Oxford’s popular pen name is his gift to Southampton, who therefore has both a “Will” and a royal will.

A beheading on Tower Hill

This sonnet begins the fourth chapter of ten sonnets apiece, a chapter ending with Sonnet 66, the fortieth sonnet on the fortieth day after the night of the Rebellion when Southampton was imprisoned.

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 any thing) he thinks no ill.

The Tower


SLAVE = servant to a prince or king, as in “your servant” in line 8 below; same as one who serves “in vassalage” as in “Lord of my love, to whom in vassalage/ Thy merit hath my duty strongly knit” – Sonnet 26, line 1; “Thou factious Duke of York, descend my throne, and kneel for grace and mercy at my feet: I am thy sovereign.” – 3 Henry VI, 1.1.74-76; “Be humble to us, call my sovereign yours, and do him homage as obedient subjects” – 1 Henry VI, 4.2.6-7; “Myself I throw, dread sovereign, at thy foot.  My life thou shalt command” – Richard II, 1.1.165-166

It is the curse of kings to be attended
By slaves that take their humours for a warrant
King John, 4.2.208-209

That God forbid, that made me first your slave
Sonnet 58, line 1

TEND = “That millions of strange shadows on you tend” – Sonnet 53, line 2; “Who didst thou leave to tend his Majesty?” – King John, 5.6.32; “The summer still doth tend upon my state” – Queen Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 3.1.147; “Where twice so many have a command to tend you” – to the King in King Lear, 2.2.453-454; “Tend me tonight” – Antony & Cleopatra, 4.2.24); “The which attending from the Court, I will take my leave of your Lordship” – Oxford to Burghley, July 1581

Dedication of "Lucrece" in 1594 to Southampton


HOURS AND TIMES = the time being reflected in these sonnets, related to the ever-waning life of Elizabeth; UPON THE HOURS AND TIMES OF YOUR DESIRE = the times chosen by your royal will; “When was the hour I ever contradicted your desire, or made it not mine too?” – Queen Katharine pleads with the king for mercy, Henry VIII, 2.4.26-27


PRECIOUS = royal; “Tend’ring the precious safety of my prince” – Richard II, 1.1.32; “Then can I drown an eye (unused to flow)/ For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night” – Sonnet 30, lines 5-6; TIME = repeated from the previous line, emphasizing the importance of this ongoing time, now leading to the possible execution of Southampton; ALL = Southampton, his motto One for All, All for One


SERVICES = duties in service to him as prince; (“my duteous service” – Richard III, 2.1.64; “A boon, my sovereign, for my service done” – Richard III, 2.1.96; “Commend my service to my sovereign” – Henry V, 4.6.23; “My gracious lord, I tender you my service” – Richard II, 2.3.41; “To faithful service of your Majesty” – Richard II, 3.3.118; “Then hear me, gracious sovereign, and you peers that owe yourselves, your lives and services, to this imperial throne” – Henry V, 1.2.33-35; “So service shall with steeled sinews toil, and labour shall refresh itself with hope to do Your Grace incessant services – Henry V, 2.2.36-39; “We shall present our services to a fine new prince” – The Winter’s Tale, 2.117; “Beseech your Highness, give us better credit; we have always truly served you, and beseech you so to esteem of us, and on our knees we beg, as recompense of our dear services” – The Winter’s Tale, 2.3.146-149, i.e., in service or slavery

And happily may your sweet self put on
The lineal state and glory of the land!
To whom, with all submission, on my knee
I do bequeath my faithful services
And true subjection everlastingly
King John, 5.7.101-105
(The Bastard to Prince Henry, son of now-deceased King John)

The White Tower - where Southampton is confined

“I serve Her Majesty” – Oxford to Burghley, October 30, 1584

TILL YOU REQUIRE = until you, my sovereign, command me; “The gods require our thanks” – Timon of Athens, 3.6.67-68


CHIDE = rebuke, scold, quarrel with; “A thing like death to chide away this shame” – Romeo and Juliet, 4.1.74; THE WORLD WITHOUT END HOUR = eternity; (“As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end” – Morning Prayer Service); END HOUR = perhaps a play on “endower” – i.e., Henry Wriothesley, if he is not the King, can no longer “endow” the Tudor dynasty; he was “the world’s fresh ornament” in Sonnet 1, line 9, but now “the world” will be “without” him as its “endower.”


MY SOVEREIGN = Oxford speaking to his royal son as his prince or king; “The purest spring is not so free from mud as I am clear from treason to my sovereign” – 2 Henry VI, 3.2; “Comfort, my sovereign!  Gracious Henry, comfort!” – 2 Henry VI, 3.2.37; “Good morrow to my sovereign King and Queen!” – Richard III, 2.1.47; “A boon, my sovereign, for my service done” – to the King in Richard III, 2.1.96; “My gracious sovereign, my most loving liege” – Richard II, 1.1.21; “The King, thy sovereign” – 1 Henry VI, 3.1.25; “Be humble to us, call my sovereign yours and do him homage as obedient subjects” – 1 Henry VI, 4.2.6-7

WATCH THE CLOCK FOR YOU = Remain vigilant while the time leads to the hour when you may be executed; keep recording this time in these verses; wait with mounting anxiety over your impending execution; “To play the watchman ever for thy sake” – Sonnet 61, line 12; “so vexed with watching and with tears” – Sonnet 148, line 10; “The special watchmen of our
English weal” – 1 Henry VI, 3.1.66; “For sleeping England long time have I watched” – Richard II, 2.1.77; “What watchful cares do interpose themselves betwixt your eyes and night?” – Julius Caesar, 2.1.98-99; stand guard for you and your blood; “To guard a title that was rich before” – King John, 4.2.10


BITTERNESS OF ABSENCE = the pain of your absence of liberty, of your absence from me, of your absence from the rest of England, being in the Tower; “Th’imprisoned absence of your liberty” – Sonnet 58, line 6; “O absence, what a torment” – Sonnet 39, line 9; “From you have I been absent” – Sonnet 98, line 1; “I will acquaintance strangle and look strange,/ Be absent from thy walks” – Sonnet 89, lines 8-9, referring to the “walks” he shared with
Southampton on the roof of his prison quarters within the Tower fortress; SOUR = hurtful

Dedication of "Venus and Adonis" in 1593 to Southampton, who is "the world's hopeful expectation," just as he is "the world's fresh ornament" in Sonnet 1


YOUR SERVANT = your Majesty’s loyal and faithful servant; “Servant in arms to Harry King of England” – 1 Henry VI, 4.2.4; “Fit counselor and servant for a prince” – Pericles, 1.2.63; “The same, my lord, and your poor servant ever” – Horatio to the Prince in Hamlet, 1.2.162


DARE = Oxford speaking of his need to remain silent or be charged with treason for proclaiming his son’s right to the throne; “Then may I dare to boast how I do love thee,/ Till then, not show my head where thou mayst prove me” – Sonnet 26, lines 13-14; JEALOUS = (“Vehement in feeling, as in wrath, desire, or devotion … Zealous or solicitous for the preservation or well-being of something possessed or esteemed; vigilant or careful in guarding” – OED); “I have been very jealous for the Lord God of Host” – Geneva Bible, 1560, 1 Kings 19.10


WHERE YOU MAY BE = within the Tower; YOUR AFFAIRS = you affairs of state; “What one has to do … business” – OED; “But what is your affair in Elsinore?” – Hamlet, 1.2.174; “So I thrive in my dangerous affairs” – the King in Richard III, 4.4.398; “To treat of high affairs touching that time” – King John, 1.1.101; to Queen Elizabeth: “To stand in thy affairs, fall by thy side” – Sonnet 151, line 12


SAD SLAVE = unhappy servant; SLAVE = “a person who is absolutely subject to the will of another” – Schmidt; repeated from line 1; NOUGHT = nothing; an image of Southampton as “none” (the opposite of “one”) and “nothing” or a “nobody” in the prison; Oxford must think of “nothing” and so he may think of his son, who is “nothing” in the eyes of authority


Except how happy you make those who are in your royal presence, i.e., those other criminals or traitors in the Tower; SAVE = except; WHERE YOU ARE = in the Tower; HAPPY = (“Health to my sovereign, and new happiness” – 2 Henry IV, 4.4.); THOSE = the other prisoners (and even the guards) in the Tower



TRUE = Oxford, his motto Nothing Truer than Truth; FOOL = Oxford had pictured himself as a Jester or “allowed fool” at Court (allowed by the Queen), who wrote “comedies” laced with political satire and appeared to make a fool of himself; IN LOVE = in service of the royal blood; YOUR WILL = your royal will, with a play on “Will” Shakespeare, the pseudonym Oxford created in order to publicly support his son


Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

HE = love, i.e., royal blood can do no ill; also Oxford, as loving father; NO ILL = as opposed to the “ill deeds” of the Rebellion, i.e., Southampton must repent (and forfeit the crown) and this act, with Oxford’s sacrifice of his own identity, will “ransom all ill deeds” – Sonnet 34, line 14; perhaps a play on “illegitimate”, i.e., Oxford still “thinks no ill” or thinks his son is not illegitimate; “If some suspect of ill masked not thy show” – Sonnet 70, line 13, referring to Southampton as a “suspect traitor” who has been convicted
and is now in the Tower facing execution

Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, in the Tower (8 Feb 1601 - 10 April 1603) - being held here until Robert Cecil engineers the succession of King James

“Let This Sad Interim like the Ocean be” – Pleading with Southampton to Remain Strong in the Tower – Chapter 51 of The Living Record

Sonnet 56
This Sad Interim
9 March 1601

Oxford records his deep sadness after meeting with Southampton in the Tower, when he had to inform his royal son of the bittersweet bargain with Robert Cecil (and the Queen) as the only way to gain a reprieve from his execution.  His reference to the Ocean (sea of royal blood) is an overt homage to Southampton as a prince or king. He urges Henry Wriothesley to go along with the bargain to save his life.

Hank Whittemore performing "Shake-speare's Treason," the one-man show dramatizing this true story told by Oxford in the Sonnets for posterity (photo by Bill Boyle)

Sweet love, renew thy force!  Be it not said
Thy edge should blunter be than appetite,
Which but today by feeding is allayed,
Tomorrow sharpened in his former might.

So love be thou, although today thou fill
Thy hungry eyes, even till they wink with fullness,
Tomorrow see again, and do not kill
The spirit of Love with a perpetual dullness.

Let this sad Interim like the Ocean be
Which parts the shore, where two contracted new
Come daily to the banks, that when they see
Return of love, more blest may be the view;

As call it winter, which being full of care,
Makes summer’s welcome thrice more wished, more rare.


SWEET LOVE = royal prince; royal son; “Good night, sweet prince” – Hamlet, 5.2.366; THY FORCE = your royal power and strength; validity, as in “our late edict shall strongly stand in force” – Love’s Labour’s Lost, 1.1.11; your will to live

A contemporary drawing of Essex being executed on February 25, 1601


EDGE = the cutting side of a blade, echoing the “edge” of the executioner’s axe; “But bears it out even to the edge of doom” – Sonnet 116, line 12; keenness, desire, royal will; “with spirit of honor edged more sharper than your swords” – Henry V, 3.5.38; APPETITE = your desire to live; i.e., Oxford is urging his son to go along with the bargain being made for his life, appealing to his desire to live and eventually be freed from prison


BY FEEDING = by being put out to pasture, so to speak; “Ere we will eat our meal in fear, and sleep in the affliction of these terrible dreams that shake us nightly” – Macbeth, 3.2.18-19; ALLAYED = postponed (with ALL = Southampton, his motto One for All, All for One)


TOMORROW = “Kind is my love today, tomorrow kind” – Sonnet 105, line 5; FORMER MIGHT = former royal power; “O’er-charged with burden of mine own love’s might” – Sonnet 23, line 8; “Thy pyramids built up with newer might” – Sonnet 123, line 2; “England shall give him office, honour, might” – 2 Henry IV, 4.5.129; “the might of it” – i.e., the might and power of the crown, 2 Henry IV, 4.5.173


SO LOVE BE THOU = so, royal son, be your royal self, since you are you; “This is I, Hamlet the Dane!” – Hamlet, 5.1.255; “But he that writes of you, if he can tell/ That you are you, so dignifies his story” – Sonnet 84, lines 7-8; act like the king you are, and go along with this decision to save your life; in giving up the throne, you help England avoid civil war, and you will gain your life and freedom

Queen Elizabeth I


HUNGRY EYES = royal eyes wanting to be who he is; WINK WITH FULLNESS = close or shut because of the power of the sun or royal light; echoing the “winking” of Southampton’s royal eyes or stars or suns;


TOMORROW SEE AGAIN = stay alive and use your kingly eyes once more; KILL = destroy; echoing the execution of Southampton, still a possibility, with Oxford urging his son to accept the terms of the “ransom” and, thereby, to save himself from being killed.


THE SPIRIT OF LOVE = the sacredness of your royal blood (which is the essential and vital part of you); “Th’expense of spirit in a waste of shame” – Sonnet 128, line 1, to Elizabeth, referring to her waste of Southampton’s “spirit of love” or royal blood; Essex in 1597 wrote to Elizabeth thanking her for her “sweet letters, indited by the Spirit of spirits”; PERPETUAL DULLNESS = eternal shame; perpetual confinement in the Tower; eternal death


THIS SAD INTERIM = this sorrowful time of your imprisonment (which hopefully is only temporary); OCEAN = kingly; royal blood“Here, then, we have Shakespeare typifying his Friend variously as a sun, a god, an ocean or a sea: three familiar metaphors which he and his contemporaries use to represent a sovereign prince or king” – Leslie Hotson, Mr. W. H., 1964
“Even to our Ocean, to our great King John” – King John, 5.4.57; “The tide of blood in me … shall mingle with the state of floods and flow henceforth in formal majesty” – 2 Henry IV, 5.2.129; “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; poets alluded to Elizabeth as “Cynthia, Queen of Seas and Lands” – Roy Strong, The Cult of Elizabeth, 52; “Thou art, quoth she, a sea, a sovereign king;/ And lo, there falls into thy boundless flood/ Black lust, dishonour, shame” – Lucrece, 652

The Tower: the official prison-fortress of the monarch


CONTRACTED NEW = come together again; “But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes” – Sonnet 1, line 5; Oxford and his royal son, envisioned as newly contracted


COME DAILY = like these verses written daily; echoing the “daily” or day-by-day experience of his son in prison; like the tide coming daily to the banks of these “pyramids” or sonnets, as in “No! Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change!  Thy pyramids built up with newer might/ To me are nothing novel, nothing strange” – Sonnet 123, lines 1-3; “Thus they do, sir;
they take the flow of the Nile by certain scales in the pyramid” – Antony and Cleopatra, 2.7.17-18


RETURN OF LOVE = return of royal blood; i.e., when Southampton finally emerges from the Tower, he will be alive and so will his great gift of “love” or royal blood still live; “So thy great gift, upon misprision growing,/ Comes home again, on better judgment making” – Sonnet 87, indicating “misprision” of treason as the new, lesser verdict that will allow Southampton to “come home again” as a free man; BLEST = full of Southampton’s royal and divine blessings; “the blessed sun of heaven” – Falstaff of Prince Hal in 1 Henry IV, 2.4.403


WINTER = the present time, early March of 1601; this miserable time of your imprisonment and possible death; “How like a Winter hath my absence been/ From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year” – Sonnet 97, lines 1-2, corresponding with February 8, 1602, and referring to her Majesty’s “pleasure” or command; and with “fleeting” meaning “imprisoned,” echoing the Fleet Prison; “Three winters cold … /Since first I saw you fresh” – Sonnet 104, lines 3-8, corresponding to February 8, 1603, the third winter of Southampton’s confinement; i.e., this entire time of your confinement is a winter; FULL OF CARE = full of Oxford’s care for him, to save his life; “Thou best of dearest, and mine only care” – Sonnet 48, line 7

The White Tower, where Southampton was imprisoned


SUMMER’S WELCOME = the welcoming of the golden time of the king, of Southampton as prince, his return to freedom; “Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s day … And Summer’s lease hath all too short a date … But thy eternal Summer shall not fade” – Sonnet 18, lines 1, 4, 9; THRICE = related to the Trinity and also to the previously potential royal family (which is no longer possible) of Elizabeth and Oxford and Southampton; MORE RARE = more royal; “Beauty, Truth, and Rarity,/ Grace in all simplicity” – the royal family of Elizabeth, Oxford and Southampton in The Phoenix and Turtle, 1601, 53-5, being written about now in early 1601

Emmerich and “Shake-speare” and Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford

Earlier this month Kellvin Chavez at LATINO REVIEW asked filmmaker Roland Emmerich to discuss his movie project ANONYMOUS (formerly SOUL OF THE AGE) about Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford as “William Shakespeare” and he replied:

“Well, for me there was an incredible script that I bought eight years ago.  It was called ‘Soul of the Age,’ which pretty much is the heart of the movie still.  It’s three characters. It’s like Ben Jonson, who was a playwright then.  William Shakespeare who was an actor.  It’s like the 17th Earl of Oxford who is the true author of all these plays.  We see how, through these three people, it happens that all of these plays get credited to Shakespeare.  I kind of found it as too much like ‘Amadeus’ to me.  It was about jealousy, about genius against end (sic?), so I proposed to make this a movie about political things, which is about succession.  Succession, the monarchy, was absolute monarchy, and the most important political thing was who would be the next King.  Then we incorporated that idea into that story line.  It has all the elements of a Shakespeare play.  It’s about Kings, Queens, and Princes.  It’s about illegitimate children, it’s about incest, it’s about all of these elements which Shakespeare plays have.  And it’s overall a tragedy.  That was the way and I’m really excited to make this movie.”

Last I heard, the cameras are expected to roll next March in Germany.  Oh, Roland, you may have been controversial before, but just wait!  As they say, you ain’t seen nuttin’ yet!  What will the Folger do?  How will the Stratford tourism industry react?  The Birthplace Trust!  How will teachers and professors handle the upcoming generation and its students who will be eager to investigate one of the great stories of history yet to be told?

I predict that once those floodgates open, there will be more material about this subject matter over the coming years, in print and on video or film, than on virtually any other topic.  Why?  Because much of the history of the modern world over the past four centuries will have to be re-written!  Just think, for example, of all the biographies of other figures — such as Ben Jonson or Philip Sidney  — that will have to be drastically revised to make room for the Earl of Oxford as the single greatest force behind the evolution of English literature and drama, not to mention the English language itself.

In the end, it’s not just the Literature and Drama departments that will need to change; even moreso, the History Department will be where the action is.

Onward with those floodgates!

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