“My Grief Lies Onward … From Where Thou Art … Up-Locked … Imprisoned” – Sonnets 51, 52, 53 – The Living Record, Chapter 47

I include Shakespeare’s Sonnets 50-51-52 all at once because of their obvious relationship to each other, like successive chapters of a novel — as set forth in my edition of the sonnets THE MONUMENT and dramatized in the 90-minute solo show SHAKE-SPEARE’S TREASON.

THE PRISON YEARS
OXFORD VISITS SOUTHAMPTON IN PRISON
DAY TWENTY-FOUR IN THE TOWER

141-tower-of-london

Southampton was lodged in the White Tower (1601-1603)

Sonnet 50
My Grief Lies Onward
3 March 1601

Oxford rides away from the Tower of London and back to his home in Hackney, knowing he will grieve over Southampton’s execution or, even if he lives, over his loss of the throne.  His joy lies behind him, in past times, and literally in the prison.  In this sonnet Oxford describes his five-mile journey on horseback from the Tower and from a crucial visit with Southampton, to whom he would have explained the “league” or agreement to spare him from execution, requiring a forfeiture of any claim as King Henry IX.

How heavy do I journey on the way
When what I seek (my weary travel’s end)
Doth teach that ease and that repose to say,
“Thus far the miles are measured from thy friend.”

The beast that bears me, tired with my woe,
Plods duly on to bear that weight in me,
As if by some instinct the wretch did know
His rider loved not speed being made from thee:

The bloody spur cannot provoke him on
That sometimes anger thrusts into his hide,
Which heavily he answers with a groan,
More sharp to me than spurring to his side;

For that same groan doth put this in my mind:
My grief lies onward and my joy behind.

Heavy … Woe … Bloody … Groan … Groan … Grief – Anticipating the death of Southampton, his royal son, by bloody execution.  (Meanwhile the young earl is “supposed as forfeit to a confined doom” – Sonnet 107)

OXFORD RETURNS FROM THE PRISON
DAY TWENTY-FIVE IN THE TOWER

illus-323favoritetower

Oxford, as Lord Great Chamberlain, would have had access to Southampton in the Tower

Sonnet 51
From Where Thou Art
4 March 1601

Oxford again describes his return home, to King’s Place in Hackney, after visiting with Southampton in the Tower – undoubtedly to discuss details of the bargain he has been making for him, involving the “excuse” for his “offence” being argued on his behalf.

Thus can my love excuse the slow offence
Of my dull bearer, when from thee I speed:
From where thou art, why should I haste me thence?
Till I return, of posting is no need.

O what excuse will my poor beast then find,
When swift extremity can seem but slow?
Then should I spur, though mounted on the wind;
In winged speed no motion shall I know;

Then can no horse with my desire keep pace;
Therefore desire (of perfect’st love being made)
Shall neigh no dull flesh in his fiery race,
But love, for love, thus shall excuse my jade:

Since from thee going he went willful slow,
Towards thee I’ll run, and give him leave to go.

Offence … Excuse … Excuse – legal terms echoing Oxford’s attempts behind the scenes to act as Southampton’s legal counsel

TRIAL OF OTHER CONSPIRATORS
DAY TWENTY-SIX IN THE TOWER

Cecil,Robert(1ESalisbury)01

Robert Cecil would have wanted Oxford to visit Southampton, to persuade him to give up any royal claim in return for the promise of freedom once James of Scotland became King of England

Sonnet 52
“Up-Locked … Imprisoned”
5 March 1601

Oxford recalls his visit to Southampton in the Tower.

An Elizabethan Chronicle, March 5, 1601“Today Sir Christopher Blount, Sir Charles Danvers, Sir John Davis, Sir Gelly Merrick and Henry Cuffe were arraigned at Westminster for high treason before the commissioners … They pleaded not guilty to the indictment as a whole, and a substantial jury was impanelled which consisted of aldermen of London and other gentlemen of good credit.  They confessed indeed that it was their design to come to the Queen with so strong a force that they might not be resisted, and to require of her divers conditions and alterations of government; nevertheless they intended no personal harm to the Queen herself … When all the evidence was done, the jury went out to agree upon their verdict, which after half an hour’s time and more they brought in and found every man of the five prisoners severally guilty of high treason.”

The “up-locked” treasure is his son’s royal blood, imprisoned.

So am I as the rich, whose blessed key
Can bring him to his sweet up-locked treasure,
The which he will not every hour survey,
For blunting the fine point of seldom pleasure;

Therefore are feasts so solemn and so rare,
Since seldom coming in the long year set,
Like stones of worth they thinly placed are,
Or captain Jewels in the carcanet.

So is the time that keeps you as my chest,
Or as the wardrobe which the robe doth hide,
To make some special instant special blest
By new unfolding his imprisoned pride.

Blessed are you, whose worthiness gives scope,
Being had, to triumph; being lacked, to hope.

“Thus did I keep my person fresh and new,
My presence, like a robe pontifical,
Ne’er seen but wondered at, and so my state,
Seldom, but sumptuous, show’d like a feast,
And wan by rareness such solemnity
– The King in 1 Henry IV, 3.2.53-59

“Locked Up” – Southampton in the Tower – “The Living Record” – Chapter 45

Here is my entry for Sonnet 48 in THE MONUMENT:

DAY TWENTY-TWO IN THE TOWER
“Locked Up”
1 March 1601

THE MONUMENT by Hank Whittemore

THE MONUMENT by Hank Whittemore

While working to save his son’s life, Oxford is concerned that other conspirators inside the prison are urging his royal son (Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton) to further revolt before the Crown has a chance to execute him.

Sonnet 48

How careful was I, when I took my way,
Each trifle under truest bars to thrust,
That to my use it might unused stay
From hands of falsehood, in sure wards of trust?
But thou, to whom my jewels trifles are,
Most worthy comfort, now my greatest grief,
Thou best of dearest, and mine only care,
Art left the prey of every vulgar thief.
Thee have I not locked up in any chest,
Save where thou art not, though I feel thou art
Within the gentle closure of my breast,
From whence at pleasure thou mayst come and part;
And even thence thou wilt be stol’n, I fear;
For truth proves thievish for a prize so dear.

1 HOW CAREFUL WAS I WHEN I TOOK MY WAY,

CAREFUL = echoed by “care” in line 7; TOOK MY WAY = set out on the journey of my life; also, set out to write these sonnets to record my son’s royal progress in relation to the dwindling time of Elizabeth’s life; MY WAY =  “Were I a man, a duke, and next of blood, I would remove these tedious stumbling-blocks and smooth my way upon their headless necks” – 2 Henry VI, 1.2.63-65; “Torment myself to catch the English crown: And from that torment I will free myself, or hew my way out with a bloody axe” – 3 Henry VI, 3.2.179-181; “I am amazed, methinks, and lose my way among the thorns and dangers of this world” – King John, 4.3.140-141

2 EACH TRIFLE UNDER TRUEST BARS TO THRUST,

EACH TRIFLE = each piece of writing (precious jewels or rings or tokens of bond: “And sweetest, fairest, as I my poor self did exchange for you to your so infinite loss; so in our trifles I still win of you” – Cymbeline, 1.2.49-52); TRUEST = Oxford’s motto  (Nothing Truer than Truth); TRUEST BARS = (“most reliable locks or barricades” – Duncan-Jones); also, the image of the BARS or locks and barricades of the Tower, where Southampton is a prisoner; “Through a secret grate of iron bars in yonder Tower” – 1 Henry VI, 1.4.10-11; TO THRUST = the image of Oxford hiding his written work; also in these lines, Oxford may be referring to the care he took to keep his royal son hidden from view, protected from plots and so on.

3 THAT TO MY USE IT MIGHT UN-USED STAY

STAY = remain under lock and key; be kept away from; “where thou dost stay” – Sonnet 44, line 4; also suggesting the hope for a “stay of execution”; “Retreat is made and execution stay’d” – 2 Henry IV, 4.3.72

4 FROM HANDS OF FALSEHOOD, IN SURE WARDS OF TRUST?

FROM HANDS OF FALSEHOOD = away from those who are “untrue” or who do not wish the truth ever to be written; from thieves or other conspirators; also the hands or hand of Elizabeth, who is also Time; “And by their hands this grace of kings must die, if hell and treason hold their promises” – Henry V, 2.0.Chorus.28-29; “With time’s injurious hand crushed and o’erworn” – Sonnet 63, line 2; “When I have seen by time’s fell hand defaced” – Sonnet 64, line 1; “Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back?” – Sonnet 65, line 11; “And almost thence my nature is subdued,/ To what it works in, like the Dyer’s hand” – Sonnet 111, lines 6-7; “For since each hand hath put on Nature’s power” – Sonnet 127, line 5; “Was sleeping by a Virgin hand disarmed” – Sonnet 154, line 8, the latter in reference to Elizabeth, the so-called Virgin Queen, refusing to acknowledge her newborn son in 1574; FALSEHOOD = “The usual adverbs in legal records alongside the descriptions of particular treasons are ‘falsely’ and ‘traitorously’” – Bellamy, Tudor Law of Treason, p. 33; hands of falsehood = hands of traitors; WARDS = “Meaning ‘guards’ and used to describe places that can be locked for safekeeping; the range of its applications includes chests and prison cells” – Booth; “I am come to survey the Tower this day … where be these warders … Open the gates” – 1 Henry VI, 1.3.1-3; “prison … in which there are many confines, wards, and dungeons” – Hamlet, 2.2.260,262-263; prison guards; the “wards” of a lock; OF TRUST = of those who can be trusted

5 BUT THOU, TO WHOM MY JEWELS TRIFLES ARE,

BUT THOU = but you; TO WHOM = compared to whom; MY JEWELS = my writings, i.e., these private verses, which all involve Southampton, a prince who was “the world’s fresh ornament” in Sonnet 1 or the “jewel” whose life is being recorded here; “As for my sons, say I account of them as jewels” – Titus Andronicus, 3.1.198-199; “Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,/ Which like a jewel hung in ghastly night” – Sonnet 27, lines 10-11; “As on the finger of a throned Queen,/ The basest Jewel will be well esteemed” – Sonnet 96, lines 5-6

6 MOST WORTHY COMFORT, NOW MY GREATEST GRIEF,

MOST WORTHY = most royal or kingly; “a king of so much worth” – 1 Henry VI, 1.1. 7; “Most worthy brother England” – the King of France addressing Henry V of England, Henry V, 5.2.10; “That were I crown’d the most imperial monarch, thereof most worthy” – The Winter’s Tale, 4.4.374-375; “Most worthy prince” – Cymbeline, 5.5.359; COMFORT = “Warwick, my son, the comfort of my age” – 2 Henry VI, 1.1.189; “O my good lord, that comfort comes too late; ‘tis like a pardon after execution” – Henry VIII, 4.2.120-121; “As a decrepit father takes delight/ To see his active child do deeds of youth,/ So I, made lame by Fortune’s dearest spite,/ Take all my comfort of thy worth and truth” – Sonnet 37, lines 1-4; NOW MY GREATEST GRIEF = now you are the cause of the greatest grief in my life; “To me and to the state of my great grief let kings assemble; for my grief’s so great” – King John, 2.2.70-71; “Let every word weigh heavy of her worth that he does weigh too light: my greatest grief, though little do he feel it, set down sharply” – All’s Well That Ends Well, 3.4.31-33

This Sessions, to our great grief we pronounce     The Winter’s Tale, 3.2.
(The king opens the Sessions or Treason Trial)

7 THOU BEST OF DEAREST, AND MINE ONLY CARE,

THOU BEST OF DEAREST = you, most royal of most royal, dear son; “My dear dear lord … dear my liege” – Richard II, 1.1.176, 184); BEST = “Richard hath best deserv’d of all my sons” – 3 Henry VI, 1.1.18; DEAREST = “Thou would’st have left thy dearest heart-blood there, rather than made that savage duke thine heir, and disinherited thine only son” – 3 Henry VI, 1.1.229-231; “And take deep traitors for thy dearest friends” – Richard III, 1.3.224

Too familiar is my dear son with such sour company

Romeo and Juliet, 3.3.7-8

ONLY = the “one” of Southampton’s motto; supreme; he is the “onlie begetter” of the 1609 dedication of the Sonnets; he was the “only herald to the gaudy spring” of Sonnet 1

MINE ONLY = “Ah, no, no, no, it is mine only son!” – 3 Henry VI, 2.5.83; “His name is Lucentio and he is mine only son” – The Taming of the Shrew, 5.1.77-78

O me, O me!  My child, my only life

Romeo and Juliet, 4.5.19

MINE ONLY CARE = Southampton, my only concern; CARE = Bolinbroke: “Part of your cares you give me with your crown”; King Richard: “Your cares set up do not puck my cares down.  My care is loss of care, by old care done; your care is gain of care, by new care won.  The cares I give, I have, though given away, they ‘tend the crown, yet still with me they stay” – Richard II, 4.1.194-199

8 ART LEFT THE PREY OF EVERY VULGAR THIEF.

Are left in the Tower for every common thief to harm or steal; EVERY VULGAR THIEF = a passing glance at himself as E. Ver, Edward de Vere, who tries to steal looks at his son; every common or base criminal in the Tower with you, urging you to further rebellion

Southampton in the Tower

Southampton in the Tower

9 THEE I HAVE NOT LOCKED UP IN ANY CHEST,

LOCKED UP = It is not I who have locked you up in the Tower or anywhere else; “Lock up my doors” – The Merchant of Venice, 2.5.29; “You’re my prisoner, but your gaoler shall deliver the keys that lock up your restraint” – Cymbeline, 1.2.3-5

For treason is but trusted like the fox,
Who, never so tame, so cherished and locked up 1 Henry IV, 5.2.9-10

So am I as the rich whose blessed key
Can bring him to his sweet up-locked treasure     Sonnet 52, lines 1-2

CHEST = coffer for valuables or jewels; IN ANY CHEST = in any prison; “A jewel in a ten-times-barr’d-up chest is a bold spirit in a loyal breast” – Richard II, 1.1.180-181; (to Southampton in the Sonnets as “ornament” or “jewel” or royal prince who is imprisoned and whose truth is hidden: “So is the time that keeps you as my chest” – Sonnet 52, line 9; “Shall Time’s best jewel from Time’s chest lie hid?” – Sonnet 65, line 10); “I thought myself to commit an unpardonable error to have murdered the same in waste-bottoms of my chests” – Oxford’s Prefatory Letter to Cardanus’ Comfort, 1573

10 SAVE WHERE THOU ART NOT, THOUGH I FEEL THOU ART

Except where you are not, i.e., except outside the high fortress walls, where you are free (in my mind and heart, within my breast)

11 WITHIN THE GENTLE CLOSURE OF MY BREAST,

GENTLE = suited for royalty; tender; CLOSURE = enclosure; the only place I keep you; i.e., the more loving “closure” of his breast or heart, as opposed to the fortress walls of the Tower prison where Southampton is confined:

O Pomfret, Pomfret!  O thou bloody prison,
Fatal and ominous to noble peers!
Within the guilty closure of thy walls
Richard the Second here was hack’d to death!    Richard III, 3.3.9-12

To Elizabeth about their son, contrasting the gentleness of his “jail” with the harshness or rigor of her Tower: “Prison my heart in thy steel bosom’s ward,/ But then my friend’s heart let my poor heart bail;/ Who ere keeps me, let my heart be his guard,/ Thou canst not then use rigor in my jail” – Sonnet 133, lines 9-12

Queen Elizabeth I never lifted a finger to help Southampton, who remained in the Tower until she died and King James succeeded her

Queen Elizabeth I never lifted a finger to help Southampton, who remained in the Tower until she died and King James succeeded her

12 FROM WHENCE AT PLEASURE THOU MAYST COME AND PART.

AT PLEASURE = at Your Majesty’s pleasure; at his royal son’s command; “She flatly said whether it were mine or hers she would bestow it at her pleasure” – Oxford to Robert Cecil, October 20, 1595, in reference to the Queen; THOU MAYST COME AND PART = you may come and go

13 AND EVEN THENCE THOU WILT BE STOL’N, I FEAR,

Even then I fear you will be stolen from me; THOU WILT BE STOL’N, I FEAR = “Thou hast stol’n that which after some few hours were thine without offence” – the king to his royal son, referring to the crown, in 1 Henry IV, 4.5.101-102; “And buds of marjoram had stol’n thy hair” – Sonnet 99, line 7, playing on “heir”

14  FOR TRUTH PROVES THIEVISH FOR A PRIZE SO DEAR.

TRUTH = Oxford, Nothing Truer than Truth; “your true rights” – Sonnet 17, line 11; FOR TRUTH PROVES THIEVISH FOR A PRIZE SO DEAR = because the truth, that you are a prince, proves a prize for those “thieves” who want to rebel against the Crown and put you on the throne; for even I, Oxford, might become a thief to steal you, my dear son, who are so royal a prize; (“The prey entices the thief” – Tilley, P570, adapted in Venus and Adonis: “Rich preys make true men thieves” – line 724); Southampton, having a claim to the throne, is indeed “a prize so dear” or so royal, with “dear” as in “my dear royal son”; “If my dear love were but the child of state,/ It might for fortune’s bastard be un-fathered” – Sonnet 124, lines 1-2

A Bargain for Southampton’s Life – “The Living Record” – Chapter 44

Sonnet 47 – February 28, 1601

Three days after the execution of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, this sonnet resolves the struggle between Oxford’s eye (mind) and heart (emotions) described in the previous verse — the struggle between his duty to the state, having to vote for a guilty verdict against both Essex and Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton … and then to work behind the scenes for the latter, his son by the Queen, in order to hopefully save his life.

The Earl of Essex, beheaded at the Tower Green on February 25, 1601

The Earl of Essex, beheaded at the Tower Green on February 25, 1601

Oxford records that a “league” or bargain with Secretary Robert Cecil has been struck in order to spare Southampton from execution. The ransom price, however, will be Southampton’s relinquishment of any claim to the throne. Meanwhile Oxford writes to record again that the image of his imprisoned royal son is always with him:\

Betwixt mine eye and heart a league is took,

(“You peers, continue this united league” – Richard III, 2.1.2)

And each doth good turns now unto the other;

When that mine eye is famished for a look,
Or heart in love with sighs himself doth smother,
With my love’s picture then my eye doth feast,
And to the painted banquet bids my heart:
An other time mine eye is my heart’s guest,
And in his thoughts of love doth share a part.

(“The pleasure that some fathers feed upon is my strict fast – I mean my children’s looks, and therein fasting hast thou made me gaunt” – Richard II, 2.1.79-81;  “And so my state … show’d like a feast” – the king in 1 Henry IV, 3.2.53-59)

So either by thy picture or my love,
Thy self away, art present still with me:
For thou no further than my thoughts canst move,
And I am still with them, and they with thee;
Or if they sleep, thy picture in my sight
Awakes my heart to heart’s and eye’s delight.

Are these sonnets referring to Southampton being “away” in the Tower?  Look at these references:

“Things removed” – Sonnet 31, line 8
“O absence” – Sonnet 39, line 9
“When I am sometime absent from thy heart” – Sonnet 41, line 2
“Where thou art” – Sonnet 41, line 12
“Injurious distance” – Sonnet 44, line 1
“Where thou dost stay” – Sonnet 44, line 4
“Removed from thee” – Sonnet 44, line 6
“Present-absent” – Sonnet 45, line 4
“Where thou art” – Sonnet 51, line 3
“The bitterness of absence” – Sonnet 57, line 6
“Where you may be” – Sonnet 57, line 10
“Where you are” – Sonnet 57, line 12
“The imprisoned absence of your liberty” – Sonnet 58, line 6
“Where you list” – Sonnet 58, line 9
“Thou dost wake elsewhere” – Sonnet 61, line 12
“All away” – Sonnet 75, line 14
“Be absent from thy walks” – Sonnet 89, line 9
“How like a Winter hath my absence been/ From thee” – Sonnet 97, line 1
“This time removed” – Sonnet 97, line 5
“And thou away” – Sonnet 97, line 12
“You away” – Sonnet 98, line 13

King James VI of Scotland, for whom Robert Cecil is now working, behind Queen Elizabeth's back, in order to engineer his succession (with Southampton being held hostage in the Tower until James can be proclaimed King of England)

King James VI of Scotland, for whom Robert Cecil is now working, behind Queen Elizabeth's back, in order to engineer his succession (with Southampton being held hostage in the Tower until James can be proclaimed King of England)

To be continued…

“The Plea Bargain for Southampton’s Life” – The Living Record, Chapter 43

One of the big questions about the Shakespeare sonnets is whether they are arranged by the author to create an ongoing chronicle, in the form of a diary of private letters; and the resounding answer of the Monument Theory is … Yes!

A Contemporary Report of the Essex-Southampton trial, showing Edward de Vere as highest-ranking earl on the tribunal

A Contemporary Report of the Essex-Southampton trial, showing Edward de Vere as highest-ranking earl on the tribunal

My aim is to demonstrate this answer until, at some point, it becomes self-evident.

The first forty sonnets of the 100-sonnet central sequence are within four chapters of ten sonnets each, covering forty days from the night of the failed Essex Rebellion of February 8, 1601.  Oxford is writing to and about Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, who remains in his Tower prison room as a convicted traitor who is expected to die by execution:

THE CRIME – sonnets 27-36 – February 8 – 17, 1601

THE TRIAL – sonnets 37-46 –  February 18 – 27, 1601

THE PLEA  –  sonnets 47-56  – February 28 – March 9, 1601

REPRIEVE  – sonnets 57-66  – March 10 – 19, 1601

Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford

Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford

CHAPTER THREE – THE PLEA

(Oxford is trying to solidify a “league” or plea bargain with Secretary Robert Cecil on behalf of Southampton, his son by the Queen and her rightful successor by blood.  The prince is “locked up” in the Tower while Oxford is desperately putting forth “the lawful reasons” for the Queen to excuse her son and spare his life.  [His dealings are actually with Cecil, who needs to bring James of Scotland to the throne upon Elizabeth’s death; otherwise, he will lose all his power and most likely his life.] To that end Oxford visits the Tower and personally tries to persuade Southampton to forfeit any claim as Elizabeth’s natural heir.  Oxford’s “grief lies onward” as he rides away from “where thou art” in the prison, while “strange shadows on you tend” — the shadows of disgrace and coming death, during “this sad interim” between the tragedy of the rebellion and whatever the outcome will be.)

Son 47 – Feb 28 – “A League is Took”
Son 48 – Mar 1    – “Locked Up”
Son 49 – Mar 2  – “Lawful Reasons”
Son 50 – Mar 3  – “My Grief Lies Onward”
Son 51 – Mar 4  – “Where Thou Art”
Son 52 – Mar 5  – “Up-Locked”
Son 53 – Mar 6  – “Strange Shadows on You”
Son 54 – Mar 7  – “Sweet Deaths”
Son 55 – Mar 8  – “‘Gainst Death”
Son 56 – Mar 9  – “This Sad Interim”

Tower of London

Tower of London

Has anyone had any other plausible explanation for the torrent of legal terms and “dark” imagery in these sonnets, along with the author’s emotional turmoil and insistence that the beloved younger man is “away” and “locked up”?

The ten sonnets of this chapter are packed with such images and expressions:

“Thy self away … bars [locks, barricades] … my greatest grief … locked up … closure [walls] … to guard the lawful reasons on thy part … the strength of laws … I can allege no cause … tired with my woe … my grief lies onward and my joy behind … excuse … offence … where thou art … excuse … excuse … key … up-locked … imprisoned … millions of strange shadows on you tend … die to themselves … sweet deaths … death and all-oblivious enmity … the ending doom … the judgment … perpetual dullness … this sad interim …”

We’ll take up the story as it proceeds through Sonnets 47-56, with Oxford desperately seeking a [legal] remedy for 27-year-old Southampton before it’s too late.  These sonnets reflect the very real suspense that was building and building within 50-year-old Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, as he labored behind the scenes and set down this “living record” of his royal son for “the eyes of all posterity that wear this world out to the ending doom.”  [Sonnet 55, lines 11-12]

“And By Their Verdict” – The Living Record – Chapter 41

Excerpts from The Monument for Sonnets 43-44-45-46

Waiting for the execution of Essex and attempting to save Southampton’s life, the Earl of Oxford returns to the theme of the first of the prison verses, Sonnet 27, when his royal son appeared to him as “a jewel hung in ghastly night.”  In the daytime, he sees Southampton as “un-respected” (a convicted traitor in disgrace); at night, during sleep, he sees him in dreams as the true royal prince.  The “Summer’s Day” of Southampton’s royal blood has turned to darkness, shadow, and night; reality itself has been turned inside out.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

Sonnet 43 – “In Dead Night” – 24 Feb 1601

When I most wink, then do mine eyes best see;
For all the day they view things un-respected,
But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,
And darkly bright, are bright in dark directed.
Then thou whose shadow shadows doth make bright,
How would thy shadow’s form form happy show
To the clear day with thy much clearer light,
When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so?
How would (I say) mine eyes be blessed made
By looking on thee in the living day,
When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade
Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay?
All days are nights to see till I see thee,
And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.

The Tower of London

The Tower of London

The Execution of Essex – 25 Feb 1601

“The death of Essex left Sir Robert Cecil without a rival in the Court or cabinet, and he soon established himself as the all-powerful ruler of the realm.”  – Agnes Strickland, Elizabeth, 1906, p. 675

“The fall of Essex may be said to date the end of the reign of Elizabeth in regard to her activities and glories.  After that she was Queen only in name.  She listened to her councilors, signed her papers, and tried to retrench in expenditure; but her policy was dependent on the decisions of Sir Robert Cecil.”- Charlotte Stopes, The Life of Henry, Third Earl of Southampton, 1922, p. 243

Sonnet 44 – “Heavy Tears” – 25 Feb 1601

Essex is executed by beheading at the Tower of London.  Robert Cecil has gained all power to engineer the succession upon Elizabeth’s death; and Oxford will be forced to go through Cecil, his brother-in-law, to save Southampton’s life.  In the eighth line he makes an unmistakable reference to the Tower as “the place” – a common euphemism for the monarch’s fortress-like prison.  Alluding indirectly to the death of Essex’s mortal body (“the dull substance of my flesh”), Oxford refers to the first two of the four “elements” (earth, water, air, and fire) of life.  He writes of having to attend “time’s leisure” (the Queen’s pleasure or royal will) that will likely lead to Southampton’s death, and he records his funereal “moan” over this impending loss.  Oxford and Southampton share “heavy tears” and “woe” over the tragedy of this wrongful execution.

If the dull substance of my flesh were thought,
Injurious distance should not stop my way;
For then, despite of space, I would be brought
From limits far remote, where thou dost stay;
No matter then although my foot did stand
Upon the farthest earth removed from thee,
For nimble thought can jump both sea and land
As soon as think the place where he would be.
But ah, thought kills me, that I am not thought,
To leap large lengths of miles when thou art gone,
But that so much of earth and water wrought,
I must attend time’s leisure with my moan;
Receiving naughts by elements so slow
But heavy tears, badges of either’s woe.

“You both shall be led from hence to the place from whence you came” – the Lord High Steward, speaking to Southampton and Essex at the end of the trial on 19 Feb 1601

Robert Cecil

Robert Cecil

Sonnet 45 – “Thy Fair Health … Swift Messengers” – 26 Feb 1601

The Privy Council takes note of Southampton’s “long sickness, which he hath had before his trouble.”  His health is poor and he’s being treated both for a quartain ague and a swelling in his legs and other parts of his body. Messengers on horseback bring word to Oxford from the Tower that Southampton’s health has been stabilized.  Oxford rejoices, but then, sadly, sends them back to the Tower with more correspondence (perhaps some of these sonnets) for his imprisoned son.  (His “fair” health = his “royal” health.)

The other two, slight air, and purging fire,
Are both with thee, wherever I abide:
The first my thought, the other my desire,
These, present absent, with swift motion slide;
For when these quicker Elements are gone
In tender Embassy of love to thee,
My life being made of four, with two alone
Sinks down to death, oppressed with melancholy,
Until life’s composition be re-cured
By those swift messengers returned from thee
Who even but now come back again assured
Of thy fair health, recounting it to me.
This told, I joy; but then no longer glad,
I send them back again and straight grow sad.

Sonnet 46 – “By Their Verdict” – 27 Feb 1601

Oxford continues his daily sonnets by again pledging his devotion to Southampton, addressing him as his royal son.  In this verse, he recreates the entire experience on the “quest” (jury) at the trial, leading to the “verdict” of guilt by which Southampton continues to face execution.

Mine eye and heart are at a mortal war
How to divide the conquest of thy sight;
Mine eye, my heart thy picture’s sight would bar
My heart, mine eye the freedom of that right;
My heart doth plead that thou in him dost lie
(A closet never pierced with crystal eyes),
But the defendant doth that plea deny,
And says in him thy fair appearance lies.
To ‘cide this title is impanelled
A quest of thoughts, all tenants to the heart,
And by their verdict is determined
The clear eyes’ moiety, and thy dear heart’s part:
As thus, mine eyes’ due is thy outward part,
And my heart’s right, their inward love of heart.

Execution on Tower Hill

Execution on Tower Hill

So ends the second chapter:

CHAPTER ONE: THE CRIME: Sonnets 27-36    8 Feb – 17 Feb 1601

CHAPTER TWo: THE TRIAL: Sonnets 37-46   18 Feb – 27 Feb 1601

The sequence of 100 sonnets at the center of the monument is structured as a book of 10 chapters, each containing ten sonnets. Chapter Two – The Trial concludes, appropriately, with a trial whose jury members render “their verdict” as Oxford and the other peers on the tribunal had been forced to issue a guilty verdict against Essex and Southampton.

Pleading for Mercy – “The Living Record” – Chapter 40 – Southampton Writes to the Privy Council to Save His Life

Twenty-seven-year-old Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton wrote several letters to the Privy Council from the Tower of London soon after his trial of Feb. 19, 1601, when he was condemned to death as a traitor.

Southampton in the Tower, reduced from Lord to Commoner as "Mr. Henry Wriothesley" or in legal terms "the late earl"...

Southampton in the Tower, reduced from Lord to Commoner as "Mr. Henry Wriothesley" or in legal terms "the late earl"...

According to the Monument theory, Sonnets 27-66 cover this crucial time when fifty-year-old Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, after being forced to act as his son’s “adverse party” on the tribunal of peers sitting in judgment, was now acting behind the scenes as Southampton’s “advocate” or legal counsel trying to save his life.

“Thy adverse party is thy Advocate,” Oxford tells him in Sonnet 35, and Southampton is following his advice by saying he had not intended any treason and by begging for Her Majesty’s mercy.

There’s a remarkable correspondence between the legal terminology in Southampton’s letters to the Council and the words that Oxford uses in his private sonnets to Southampton:

“I beseech your Lordships be pleased to receive the petition of a poor condemned man,” Southampton writes, “who doth, with a lowly and penitent heart, confess his faults and acknowledge his offences to her Majesty.”

“Let me confess that we two must be twain” – Sonnet 36

“All men make faults” – Sonnet 35

“Th’offender’s sorrow lends but weak relief
To him that bears the strong offence’s cross.” – Sonnet 34

Hank performing "Shake-Speare's Treason"

Hank performing "Shake-Speare's Treason"

“What my fault hath been your Lordships know to the uttermost, wherein, howsoever I have offended in the letter of the law, your Lordships I think cannot but find, by the proceedings at my trial, that my heart was free from any premeditate treason against my sovereign, though my reason was corrupted by affection to my friend [Essex] (whom I thought honest) and I by that carried headlong to my ruin, without power to prevent it, who otherwise could never have been induced for any cause of mine own to have hazarded her Majesty’s displeasure but in a trifle: yet I can not despair of her favor, neither will it enter into my thought that she who hath been ever so renowned for her virtues, and especially for clemency, will not extend it to me, that do with so humble and grieved a spirit prostrate myself at her royal feet and crave her pardon.”

“To you it doth belong
Yourself to pardon of self-doing crime” – Sonnet 58
(Southampton has it in his power to agree to the bargain Oxford has made with Robert Cecil, requiring him to renounce any claim to the throne so he can gain a royal pardon)

“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, and whose life, if it please her to grant it, shall be eternally ready to be sacrificed to accomplish her least commandment.”

“When hours have drained his blood” – Sonnet 63

“My lords, there are divers amongst you to whom I owe particular obligation for your favors past, and to all I have ever performed that respect which was fit, which makes me bold in this manner to importune you, and let not my faults now make me seem more unworthy than I have been, but rather let the misery of my distressed estate move you to be a mean to her Majesty, to turn away her heavy indignation from me.  O let not her anger continue towards an humble and sorrowful man, for that alone hath more power to dead my spirits than any iron hath to kill my flesh.”

Kill me with spites” – Sonnet 40

“Ah, but thought kills me” – Sonnet 44

“My soul is heavy and troubled for my offences, and I shall soon grow to detest myself if her Majesty refuse to have compassion of me.

“But heavy tears, badges of either’s woe” – Sonnet 44

“The law hath hitherto had his proceedings, whereby her justice and my shame is sufficiently published; now is the time that mercy is to be showed.  O pray her then, I beseech your lordships, in my behalf to stay her hand, and stop the rigorous course of the law, and remember, as I know she will never forget, that it is more honor to a prince to pardon one penitent offender than with severity to punish many.

“Nor can thy shame give physic to my grief” – Sonnet 34

“Loving offenders, thus I will excuse thee” – Sonnet 42

“To conclude, I do humbly entreat your Lordships to sound mercy in her ears, that thereby her heart, which I know is apt to receive any impression of good, may be moved to pity me, that I may live to lose my life (as I have been ever willing and forward to venture it) in her service, as your lordships herein shall effect a work of charity, which is pleasing to God; preserve an honest man (howsoever now his faults have made him seem otherwise) to his country; win honor to yourselves, by favoring the distressed; and save the blood of one who will live and die her Majesty’s faithful and loyal subject.”

“But weep to have that which it fears to lose” – Sonnet 64

“Thus, recommending my self and my suit to your Lordships’ honorable considerations; beseeching God to move you to deal effectually for me, and to inspire her Majesty’s royal heart with the spirit of mercy and compassion towards me, I end, remaining,

“Your Lordships’ most humbly, of late Southampton, but now of all men most unhappy,

H. Wriothesley

(Charlotte Stopes, The Life of Henry, Third Earl of Southampton, 1922, pp 225-226; Salisbury Papers, vol. XI, p. 72; “after Feb. 19, 1601”)

“Lay On Me This Cross” – The Living Record – Chapter 39

Traditionally Sonnets 40, 41 & 42 have been viewed as the poet’s reaction to the youth’s betrayal of him by stealing his mistress.  The point  here, however, is that this perception represents only the surface, just one side of the “double image” created by Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford, who, in his real-life record running in parallel, is actually referring to Queen Elizabeth.  The time is February 1601 and she (because of the now all-powerful Secretary Robert Cecil) has  imprisoned their son, Henry Wriothesley Earl of Southampton, who has been convicted of high treason and sentenced to die.

At the high point of this sequence, near the end of Sonnet 42, he presents a vision of himself as Jesus bearing the Cross on Calvary — or perhaps as Simon of Cyrene being made to carry it for Him.

Both find each other, and I lose both twain,
And both for my sake lay on me this cross…

The traditional view inevitably leads to the question whether “Shakespeare” is really serious about this biblical image of himself and his suffering.  Given the imagined context (his young male lover in bed with his mistress), it seems way over the top.  Moreover the lines are followed by this couplet:

But here’s the joy, my friend and I are one;
Sweet flattery!  Then she loves but me alone.

Sounds like a joke, eh?  Katherine Duncan-Jones deserves credit for commenting candidly:

“The claim that the woman, in loving the youth, actually loves only the poet, is both logically and emotionally weak. First, the argument that love for one person is really love for another is inherently implausible; and secondly, the poet has made it quite clear in preceding lines of the sonnet that what he cares about is the young man’s defection, not the woman’s.”

Two of those preceding lines to Southampton, are:

That she hath thee is of my wailing chief,
As loss in love that touches me more nearly.

Within the real-life context that this is Southampton’s father writing of his son’s imprisonment and death sentence, the same words of suffering no longer appear “logically and emotionally weak,” but finally do make logical and emotional sense.

The actuality, I argue, is that this is Oxford’s record for posterity of how he chose to save Southampton’s life by (1) persuading him to give up any claim of succession and (2) sacrificing his own identity as the father of Southampton and as author of the immortal works printed under the “Shakespeare” pen name.

In Sonnet 44 he will refer to “heavy tears, badges of either’s woe” (yours and mine), more directly reflecting the context of Southampton’s imprisonment and the verdict of guilt.

In Sonnet 46 he will wrap up this “chapter” (37-46) with a stream of words reflecting the recent treason trial [at which Oxford served as highest-ranking earl on the tribunal and was forced to join the unanimous verdict of guilt for both Essex and Southampton:  (“plead … defendant … plea deny … impanelled … quest [jury] … verdict”).

Traditionally these words create a sustained metaphor.  Well, yes, but here again that’s just one half of the double image. The other half is a sustained personal and political reality.

Critiquing the Critique – 9

Arguing that most of Sonnets 27-126 contain “no evident connection” to the events of the Essex Rebellion of February 8, 1601 and, too, that some of the sonnets “manifestly cannot be about either,” Kositsky and Stritmatter continue:

“For example, Sonnets 71-74 are all meditations on the poet’s imminent death.  In these and other sonnets, the poet repeatedly emphasizes the fair youth’s surviving him, a curious emphasis indeed if the youth is living in the Tower  under a death sentence.”

A little earlier, in Sonnet 66, Oxford recorded his reaction to the decision in March 1601 to spare Southampton’s life, the price being his loss of any hope for the crown.  Now, however, the younger earl faces the prospect of spending his life in the Tower; and Sonnets 71-74 are arranged AFTER this reprieve, when Oxford’s fear that he might outlive his own son is replaced by the reality that he, a generation older, will most likely die first.  He also uses these same sonnets to record the necessary sacrifice his own identity, both as Southampton’s father and as author of the magnificent “Shakespeare” works, which he had dedicated to Southampton:

When I (perhaps) compounded am with clay,
Do not so much as my poor name rehearse.
Sonnet 71, lines 10-11

My name be buried where my body is,
And live no more to shame nor me nor you.
Sonnet 72, lines 11-12

Right here we have incontrovertible evidence that the poet of the Sonnets is deliberately predicting, and recording, his own obliteration upon his death.

“Furthermore, many sonnets in the hundred-sonnet sequence [27-126] address the youth as an object of consolation to whom the poet turns when distressed by other circumstances:

But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restored and sorrows end.
Sonnet 30, lines 13-14

“Why would the poet be consoled by, or find joy in, the idea of his beloved if that beloved is incarcerated?”

Would a suffering father not turn to his own son for consolation?  Regardless of the tragic situation for Southampton, he finds joy in the truth of him as a prince.

“This couplet and many others make no sense of the context as defined by Whittemore and Boyle.”

I say it’s the other way around: the context of THE MONUMENT allows that couplet and all the others to make sense for the first time!

“Both writers create the illusion of such a connection only through the adroit selection of certain words and phrases with no regard for their immediate or larger context as parts of sonnets or sonnet sequences.”

THE MONUMENT demonstrates in every line that the sonnets are written simultaneously on two entirely different levels of meaning, one fictional and universal or timeless, the other nonfictional and specific:

And keep invention in a noted weed,
That every word doth almost tell my name
Sonnet 76, lines 7-8

The first level is that of the “noted weed” or familiar costume of love poems; the second level is the true story being recorded.  Therefore he is ALMOST — i.e., not quite directly — revealing his own “name” or identity as well as the story.

“We have already considered Sonnet 27.  Let us now examine the evidence Whittemore presents for linking subsequent sonnets to Southampton’s imprisonment.  He states:

“Identifying with the younger earl’s plight, [the poet] records in 29 that he himself is ‘in disgrace with fortune (the Queen) and men’s eyes’ in the same way Southampton is suffering in the Tower.”

“However, a close reading of the sonnet shows that the poet is not in any way identifying with ‘the plight’ of the addressee, but talking of his own disgrace, which is again compensated for by his pleasant thoughts of the youth”:

Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
(Like to the lark at break of day arising)
From sullen earth sings hymns at heaven’s gate,
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings,
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
Sonnet 29, lines 9-14

But when these sonnets are viewed as chronological entries of a diary, they can be read IN RELATION TO EACH OTHER; and then it becomes obvious that Oxford is expressing a range of different and even contradictory emotions WITHIN THAT CONTEXT OR FRAMEWORK.

Yes, in Sonnet 29 he finally thinks of Southampton and gains comfort. He continues this theme until, in Sonnet 34, he turns to the matter of Southampton’s own guilt and disgrace as the ‘offender’ whose crime has affected Oxford’s own life; and here he makes it plain that it’s the son’s offense that produces his own wretchedness:

Nor can thy shame give physic to my grief’
Though thou repent, yet I have still the loss;
Th’offender’s sorry lends but weak relief
To him that bears the strong offence’s loss.
Sonnet 34, lines 9-12

And in the couplet that follows, Oxford once again finds comfort in his thoughts of Southampton:

Ah, but those tears are pearl which thy love sheeds,
And they are rich, and ransom all ill deeds.
Sonnet 34, lines 13-14

The basic situation is a familiar one: the father is made angry and distraught (and finds himself disgraced) by the “ill deeds” of his son, but he simultaneously still values the son and their relationship above all else.

This emotional conflict is expressed fully in the next verse, in which Oxford quite plainly identifies with Southampton’s plight:

Sonnet 35

No more be grieved at that which thou hast done:
Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud;
Clouds and eclipses stain both Moone and Sunne,
And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud.

All men make faults, and even I, in this,
Authorizing thy trespass with compare,
Myself corrupting, salving thy amiss,
Excusing their [thy] sins more than their [thy] sins are:

For to thy sensual fault I bring in sense;
Thy adverse party is thy Advocate,
And ‘gainst my self a lawful plea commence;
Such civil war is in my love and hate

That I an accessory needs must be
To that sweet thief which sourly robs from me.

So the comment about Sonnet 29 (“the poet is not in any way identifying with ‘the plight’ of the addressee, but talking of his own disgrace”) must be seen in relationship to the other “entries” of this diary; and in this case, just five sonnets later we come to Sonnet 35 and Oxford’s virtually total identification with Southampton’s plight.

“Whittemore’s evidence connecting Sonnet 30 to the Privy Council trial of Essex and Southampton is even less credible:

‘Oxford records in 30 that the Privy Council will summon him to the Sessions or Treason Trial of Essex and Southampton to sit as the highest ranking earl on the tribunal of peers who will judge them.’

“Here Whittemore mistakes a metaphorical use of the words sessions and summon for a literal one. The ‘sessions’ to which the poem refers are the poet’s own imaginative sessions of ‘sweet silent thought’ and the ‘summoning’ is not of the session, but of a ‘remembrance of things past.’ Although legal metaphors do permeate this sonnet (and many others), there is no mention here of a trial, except perhaps in the most oblique Proustian sense (i.e. a psychological ‘trial’ at which the writer is defendant, advocate, and judge).   Moreover, even if one understood ‘sessions’ and ‘summon’ to be literal rather than metaphorical, the direct link to the Southampton trial would still be un-established.  Although Whittemore does not acknowledge the fact, these terms apply to many different kinds of trials, not just capital crimes such as treason.”

On the most immediate level the legal terms “sessions” and “summon” in this sonnet are metaphorical – of course!   But when the same sonnet is viewed within the context that Oxford knows he will be summoned to the treason trial or “sessions” of Southampton as a peer sitting in judgment, the same words leap from the page with additional meaning and specific reference.

(“This sessions,” begins King Leontes in act 3, scene 2 of THE WINTER’S TALE, and he’s referring specifically to a treason trial.)

THE MONUMENT places Shakespeare’s Sonnets within a new context that yields a new perception of their meaning.  In 400 years no other suggested context has been able to make sense of the form and content of the entirety of the 154 sonnets; but it’s only by such means that these verses can begin to be understood.

“Compounding these implausibilities, Whittemore attempts to identify Southampton as one of the ‘precious friends hid in death’s dateless night.’ (30.6) As the ‘friends’ are described in the third person and the youth in the second person, this is clearly not a viable reading.”

Oxford uses the third person for Southampton (and his friends, if you will) in the main body of Sonnet 30 and then, only in the ending couplet, turns to address Southampton in the second person:

But if the while I think on thee, dear friend…

If the word “friends” is in the third person, can the poet be identifying Southampton?  Take the opening line of the Sonnets:

From fairest creatures we desire increase
Sonnet 1, line 1

The poet can be viewed as referring to all the fairest creatures of the world, but more specifically ALSO to the singular Fair Youth of the Sonnets as one of them.   (He’s the “fairest creature” or “most royal child.”)  This is the third person but, as the critique writers themselves know, Oxford is addressing just one person, Southampton — a point generally accepted.

“Additionally, the youth cannot be one of the ‘precious friends,’ as they are already dead.”

The opening lines of Sonnet 30 are:

When to the Sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste.

Then can I drown an eye (un-used to flow)
For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night…

Viewing Southampton as an accused traitor who will probably be executed, it would be difficult to describe him with more lyrical tenderness and sadness than to place him among “precious friends hid in death’s dateless night.”

Essex and Southampton are facing a joint trial — the two friends who, on instructions of Secretary Robert Cecil, will be found guilty by unanimous verdict and sentence to death.

“He [Southampton] is, instead, exactly as in Sonnet 29, providing solace for the poet’s ‘losses…and sorrows’ — acting, in other words, as a replacement for those already gone. When the poet calls the addressee ‘the grave where buried love doth live’ in Sonnet 31, his meaning is transparent and has nothing to do with the imprisonment or imminent execution of the addressee; rather, the youth has become the repository for the poet’s lost loves.  This reading is without ambiguity, for the poet continues:

THEIR images I loved I view in THEE,
And thou, ALL they, hast ALL the ALL of me.

Sonnet 31, lines 13-14 (emphases in first line added by the critique; in the second line by me)

In the final line of Sonnet 31, quoted above, Oxford is simply saying that his love for Southampton covers all those he has loved in his life and whom he carries within him.  (As Hamlet says to his friends, “Your loves, as mine to you.” – 1.2.273)  ALL his loves (and those he has loved) are within himself’; and, because Southampton claims ALL of Oxford’s love, Oxford and his loves are ALL within his son, echoing Southampton’s own motto “One for All, All for One”.

This meaning is somewhat similar to that of Oxford’s dedication of LUCRECE to Southampton:  “What I have done is yours, what I have to do is yours, being part in ALL I have, devoted yours.”  (emphasis added)


Legal Support for Elizabeth as Dark Lady

The Monument theory proposes that the so-called Dark Lady is none other than Queen Elizabeth, who kept the Earl of Southampton in the Tower for more than two years until she died on March 24, 1603 and King James set him free a few weeks later; and I’d like to share some new corroboration that I’ve recently found.

In August I obtained a rare book entitled Commentaries on the Law in Shakespeare: With Explanations of the Legal Terms Used in the Plays, Poems and Sonnets; and Discussions of the Criminal Types Presented, written by Edward Joseph White and published in 1911.   The entire text of the book is presented online by Google Books!

It’s a fascinating book in which White shares his massive, detailed evidence that Shakespeare was not only a legal expert but knew “more about criminology and criminal motives and instincts than any other known writer on the subject.”

On page 511 he takes up Sonnet 107 as corresponding to Southampton’s release from prison in the spring of 1603:

FORFEITURE OF LIMITED LEASE
Sonnet 107, lines 1-4:

Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul
Of the wide world dreaming on things to come,
Can yet the lease of my true love control,
Supposed as forfeit to a confined doom.

He comments:  “These lines clearly refer to a conditional or determinate lease of realty, which is a contract between the lessor and the lessee, for the possession of land, for a fixed or determinate period, for a certain consideration, to be void, or forfeited, on the breach of some certain condition. The Poet had considered his love, formerly possessed, forfeited and ended by Southampton’s confinement in the Tower, but on the death of Elizabeth, the supposedly forfeited lease or tenancy of his friend’s love becomes again a vitalized, live estate, subject to no limitations or forfeiture in law. (Emphasis added)

141-tower-of-london-q70-500x375

Then he moves to Sonnet 134 of the Dark Lady series:

FORFEITING MORTGAGED PROPERTY
Sonnet 134, lines 1-4

So, now I have confess’d that he is thine
And I am mortgaged to thy will,
Myself I’ll forfeit, so that other mine
Thou wilt restore to be my comfort still.

He comments: “This verse clearly refers to the confinement of Southampton in the Tower.” (Emphasis added)

Whether White realized it or not, his statement leads to the inescapable conclusion that the Poet is speaking to Queen Elizabeth, his sovereign Mistress, who is confining Southampton in her prison fortress, the Tower.

He continues:  “And the former verse [Sonnet 133] expresses the Poet’s desire to be permitted to go his bail, by substituting his own person for that of his friend, in jail.”

Sonnet 133, lines 9-12:

Prison my heart in thy steel bosom’s ward,
But then my friend’s heart let my poor heart bail;
Whoe’er keeps me, let my heart be his guard:
Thou canst not then use rigor in my jail.

Again it follows of necessity that the Poet is addressing the Queen, who is a “dark” lady only because of her negative attitude and actions toward Southampton.  The poet (whom I believe to be Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford) tells Elizabeth in Sonnet 131, line 13 that her darkness has nothing to do with physical appearance:

In nothing art thou black save in thy deeds

I hope to add White’s commentary in future editions of The Monument, which continues to draw new evidence in its support.

His rather complicated remarks (for a layman) on Sonnet 134 conclude:

“A mortgage is the temporary pledging of land in security for a debt due the mortgagee, by the mortgagor. The land itself, not being susceptible of a manual delivery, the mortgagee holds the mortgage as an evidence of his right to the land as security for his debt until it is paid. The only way to create a mortgage in early times was to give livery of seisin of the freehold estate, thus passing the estate to the mortgagee. On breach of the condition of the mortgage, to pay the debt the estate was forfeited and became the absolute property of the mortgagee. And the Poet here proffers to forfeit himself as security for his friend, recognizing that the condition of the obligation is broken.”

Critiquing the Critique – 8

The Kositsky-Stritmatter critique of the Monument theory of the Sonnets continues by acknowledging that “at least at the beginning of the final segment [107-126], Whittemore is fortunate enough to enjoy the authority of the many other scholars who date Sonnet 107 to spring 1603 and regard the phrase “the mortal moon hath her eclipse endured” to be an indication of Elizabeth I’s death on March 24. It is entirely plausible, therefore, that the line, “Supposed as forfeit to a confined doom” refers to Southampton’s imprisonment.”

Hooray.  I’m gratified that Lynne and Roger agree that I “enjoy the authority” of other scholars on the matter of Sonnet 107 — although, to tell the truth, I’ve never sought any such enjoyment.  I’m grateful that scholars since the mid-nineteenth century have dated 107 to spring 1603 and acknowledge my debt to them.

“But one sonnet does not a monument make, and the possible context of 107 presents another problem. If, as Whittemore contends, it is written to celebrate Southampton, it precedes a sonnet that seems likely to refer to his imprisonment or execution. In Sonnet 112 the poet speaks of the youth as one who is

‘so strongly in my purpose bred/
That all the world besides me thinks y’are dead.'”

(Sonnet 112.13-14)’

The above couplet expresses the terrible fact that Southampton’s claim to the throne will never exist in the eyes of the world (contemporary England, at least) except in Oxford’s own view.  Such is the consequence of the deal with Secretary Robert Cecil and King James that saved Southampton’s life and now has gained his freedom.

I might add that when Oxford wants to express something literally, such as his fear that Southampton may literally die, he seldom does so directly by using a word such as “die” or “dead.”  Earlier, for example, fearing that Southampton will soon have his head cut off, he expresses it this way in Sonnet 63:

For such a time do I now fortify,
Against confounding Age’s cruel knife,
That he shall never cut from memory
My sweet love’s beauty, though my lover’s life.

Sonnet 63, lines 9-12

By contrast, the couplet of Sonnet 112 would be far too direct or literal if used in relation to Southampton’s possible death.  Using the word “dead” would have been far beneath Oxford’s standards of poetical expression within the Sonnets of Shakespeare, which are intended for “eyes not yet created” (81) in posterity.

“To us,” K-S continue, “the ‘Essex rebellion’ reading of this couplet [of Sonnet 112] is plausible – although other interpretations also are.”

Well, I’m glad they think it’s plausible; and if so, why doesn’t this encourage them to open the doors of their minds some more?

“However, identifying the line as being about Southampton’s imprisonment under sentence of death has an unfortunate consequence for Whittemore’s ‘monument’ thesis.  If both 107 and 112 are about the Essex Rebellion, and if 107 truly marks Southampton’s release from the Tower, then it follows that the sonnets are not arranged in chronological order, a finding which undermines, if it does not destroy, Whittemore’s ‘monument.'”

This kind of circular argument is one reason I’ve not bothered to reply to their critique until now  — now that it’s possible to “blog” about it, piece by piece.  “Undermines, if it does not destroy” — oh, baloney.

“In fact, with the possible exception of 107, 112, and 124, a close reading of Sonnets 27-126 reveals no evident connection to the events of the rebellion and Southampton’s imprisonment…”

Such connections abound within the context of the contemporary history; and if we read the lines within that context, the same sonnets become powerful reactions to the imprisonment, trial, death sentence, the execution of Essex, the iminent death of Southampton, his reprieve from execution and so on.  Just for example:

Oxford, who sat on the tribunal at the trial and had to condemn Southampton to death, writes to him in Sonnet 35:  “Thy adverse party is thy Advocate [legal counsel].”

He writes in Sonnet 52 of “imprisoned pride” and in Sonnet 58 of the “imprisoned absence of your liberty,” adding to Southampton that “to you it doth belong yourself to pardon of self-doing crime.”

There are dozens of such allusions, but most do not reveal any “evident connection” to Southampton’s crime and imprisonment.  And while Oxford never uses the name “Essex” or the word “rebellion,“ in Sonnet 92 he does speak of  “thy revolt” and the list of legal terms along with words related to crime and prison is staggering.

Many of these sonnets are timeless and universal; but like Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” soliloquy, they need to be read or heard within the correct context.  Standing alone, without the context of ‘Hamlet, Prince of Denmark,’ that famous speech has no evident connection to any events of the play.  Without having the play in which it appears, we could never read that soliloquy and know who was speaking, much less what Hamlet’s circumstances were. The answer to the biographical and historical meaning of that soliloquy, and of the Sonnets, is context-context-context!

To be continued…

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