The Earl of Southampton: Re-posting No. 28 of 100 Reasons Why Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford

One of the most compelling reasons to believe Edward de Vere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare” is the central role in the Shakespeare story played by Henry Wriothesley, 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, a 1200-line poem that the poet called “the first heir of my invention” in his dedication. The second appearance of “William Shakespeare” in print came a year later, with the publication of an 1800-line poem, Lucrece, again dedicated to Southampton.

The Lucrece dedication was an extraordinary declaration of personal commitment to the twenty-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 himself to Southampton for all time.

Southampton at 22 in 1595

Most scholars agree that the Fair Youth of Shake-speares Sonnets, the sequence of 154 consecutively numbered poems printed in 1609, is also Southampton, even though he is not identified by name. Most further agree that, in the first seventeen sonnets, the poet is 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.”

“It is certain that the Earl of Southampton and the poet we know as Shakespeare were on intimate terms,” Charlton Ogburn Jr. wrote in 1984, “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

  • De Vere became the first royal ward of Queen Elizabeth 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 child of state as a boy in 1581-82, also in the chief minister’s custody, and during 1590-91 he resisted intense pressure to enter into an arranged marriage with Cecil’s fifteen-year-old granddaughter, Elizabeth Vere.

The young lady was also Oxford’s daughter, making the elder earl, in fact, the prospective father-in-law. Scholars generally agree that in the seventeen “procreation” sonnets Shakespeare’s tone sounds much like that of a prospective father-in-law or father urging Southampton to accept Burghley’s choice of a wife for him, although the poet never identifies or describes any specific young woman.

Lady Elizabeth Vere, who married William Stanley Earl of Derby in 1595

J. Dover Wilson writes in 1964: “What man in the whole world, except a father or a potential father-in-law, cares whether any other man gets married?”

Obviously, de Vere and Wriothesley both had an extremely important personal stake in the outcome of this marriage proposal coming from the most powerful man in England, who must have had the full blessing of his sovereign Mistress.

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.”

A Notice of the Essex-Southampton Trial of Feb. 19, 1600 (1601) with Edward de Vere given prominence as a judge on the tribunal

By the time Southampton came to court at age sixteen or seventeen, Oxford had removed himself from active attendance. It seems that the two shared some kind of hidden story that tied them together:

= As royal wards, both Oxford and Southampton had Queen Elizabeth as their official mother. Even though their respective biological mothers were alive when their fathers died, under English law they became wards of the state, and the queen became their mother in a legal sense.

= Tradition has it that Shakespeare wrote Love’s Labour’s Lost in the early 1590s 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.

= Oxford in the early 1590s was Southampton’s prospective father-in-law.

= After the failed Essex Rebellion in February 1601, Oxford sat 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; 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.”

= On the night of Oxford’s recorded death on 24 June 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 Wriothesley and Henry de Vere, eighteenth Earl of Oxford (born in February 1593 to Oxford and his second wife, Elizabeth Trentham) became close friends during the reign of James; the earls were known as the “Two Henries.” As members of the House of Lords, they often took sides against the king and were imprisoned for doing so.

On the eve of the failed rebellion led by Essex and Southampton in 1601, some of the conspirators engaged the Lord Chamberlain’s Company to perform Shakespeare’s royal history play Richard II at the Globe; many historians assume, perhaps correctly, that Southampton himself secured permission from “Shakespeare” to use the play with its scene of the deposing of the king. On the other hand, it is possible that Robert Cecil himself arranged for it, so he could then summon Essex to court and trigger the rebellion, which had actually been scheduled for a week later.

Once the rebellion failed and Southampton was imprisoned in the Tower on that night of 8 February 1601, all authorized printings of heretofore unpublished Shakespeare plays abruptly ceased for several years.

After Southampton was released on 10 April 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 sentence of life imprisonment.

The White Tower where Southampton was imprisoned

Upon Oxford’s death in virtual obscurity, recorded as occurring on 24 June 1604, a complete text of Hamlet was published.

As part of Christmas and New Year’s celebrations surrounding 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. In the days before and after the wedding, seven performances of the Bard’s plays were given. (The royal performances appear to be a memorial tribute to the playwright, rather than a tribute to a living author.) One performance was a revival of Love’s Labour’s Lost, for King James and Queen Anne, hosted by Southampton at his house in London.

After Hamlet in 1604 all publications again ceased, for four years. (King Lear was printed in 1608; Troilus and Cressida was issued in two editions during 1608-09; and Pericles appeared in 1609.) Then the silence resumed, for thirteen more years, until a quarto of Othello appeared in 1622; and finally the First Folio of thirty-six Shakespeare plays was published in 1623. Fully half of these stage works were printed for the first time; the folio included none of the Shakespeare poetry, nor any mention of Southampton or the Sonnets.

The connections between Oxford and Southampton are numerous and significant; the link between the two earls is crucial for the quest to determine the real Shakespeare.

[This post is now Reason 53 of 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford, edited by Alex McNeil with editorial assistance from Brian Bechtold.]

Queen Elizabeth as the Dark Lady: “Do I envy those Jacks that nimble leap to kiss the tender inward of thy hand”

“Prominent among these favorites was Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford … He was an agile and energetic dancer, the ideal partner for the queen, and he had a refined ear for music and was a dexterous performer on the virginals.” – Carolly Erickson, “The First Elizabeth” (1983)

How oft, when thou my music music play’st

Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds

With thy sweet fingers when thou gently sway’st

The wiry concord that mine ear confounds,

Do I envy those Jacks that nimble leap           

To kiss the tender inward of thy hand…

(Emphasis added)

Queen Elizabeth's Virginal

So begins Sonnet 128, the second verse of the Dark Lady series (127-152); and with Oxford viewed as the author, it is plainly about Elizabeth I, who was fond of playing on her virginals – a musical instrument of the harpsichord family, with “jacks” or wooden shafts that rest on the ends of the keys. The presumption here is that Oxford, an expert musician, composed pieces that he and the queen would play together:

Oxford had been jealous of Sir Walter Raleigh, a “jack” who had leaped into the court’s attention in 1580, when he went to Ireland to help suppress an uprising. He soon became a favorite of the queen, and in 1587 he was knighted and appointed Captain of the Queen’s Guard.  Later he helped the government bring Essex to his tragic ending upon the failure of the Essex Rebellion and was said to gloat at the time of the earl’s execution.

“When the news was officially announced that the tragedy was over, there was a dead silence in the Privy Chamber, but the queen continued to play, and the Earl of Oxford, casting a significant glance at Raleigh, observed, as if in reference to the effect of Her Majesty’s fingers on the instrument, which was a sort of open spinet, ‘When Jacks start up, then heads go down.’ Everyone understood the bitter pun contained in this allusion.” – Agnes Strickland, “The Life of Queen Elizabeth” (1910), p. 674, citing “Fragmenta Regalia: Observations on the late Q. Elizabeth, her times and favorites,” Sir Robert Naughton (1641)

[The Monument views the chronological arrangement of the Dark Lady series as beginning with Sonnet 127 on the night of the Rebellion on February 8, 1601; in this context, Sonnet 128 would follow upon the execution of Essex a little more than two weeks later on February 25, 1601.  The placement is a perfect fit within that context of the contemporary history.]

The lines about “those Jacks that nimble leap/ To kiss the tender inward of thy hand” recall a letter from Essex to Elizabeth in 1597: “And so wishing Your Majesty to be Mistress of all that you wish most, I humbly kiss your fair hands.”

Sir Walter Raleigh

Sir Walter Raleigh

Francis Bacon apparently recalled the same incident with the virginals (or perhaps one that occurred much earlier) in “Apophthegemes New and Old” (1625): “When Queen Elizabeth had advanced Raleigh, she was one day playing on the virginals, and my Lord of Oxford, & another Noble-man, stood by. It fell out so that the Ledge, before the Jacks, was taken away, so the Jacks were seen [i.e., making them visible]; My Lord of Oxford and the other Noble-man smiled, and a little whispered.  The Queen marked it, and would needs know what the matter was?  My Lord of Oxford answered that they smiled to see that ‘when Jacks went up, Heads went down.’”

The actual occasion of the incident matters little in terms of its placement in the Dark Lady series or its relationship to Sonnet 128. The point is that there is, in fact, documentary evidence that the Queen and Oxford were together while she played on the virginals and he came up with his now-famous, spontaneous quip about the leaping jacks being like Raleigh, an upstart “jack” at the royal court.  To express his bitterness at Raleigh in relation to the execution of Essex, there was no better allusion than this one.  [In addition, all recollections of the quip have the same rather obvious allusion to an execution-by-beheading.]

Sonnet 128

How oft, when thou my music music play’st

Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds

With thy sweet fingers when thou gently sway’st

The wiry concord that mine ear confounds,

Do I envy those Jacks that nimble leap

To kiss the tender inward of thy hand…

Whilst my poor lips, which should that harvest reap,

At the wood’s boldness by thee blushing stand.

To be so tickled they would change their state

And situation with those dancing chips,

O’er whom thy fingers walk with gentle gait,

Making dead wood more blest than living lips.

Since saucy Jacks so happy are in this,

Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss.

The list of ways in which Queen Elizabeth permeates the Sonnets of Shakespeare continues to grow:

1 – Sonnet 76: “Ever the Same” – the Queen’s motto in English

2 – Sonnet 25: “The Marigold” – the Queen’s flower

3 – Sonnet 131: “Commanded by the Motion of Thine Eyes” – to a monarch

4 – Sonnet 1: “Beauty’s Rose” – the Queen’s dynasty of the Tudor Rose

5 – Sonnet 107: “the Mortal Moon” – Queen Elizabeth as Diana, the chaste moon goddess

6 – Sonnet 19: “The Phoenix” – the Queen’s emblem

7 – Sonnet 151: “I Rise and Fall” – the courtier as sexual slave to his Queen

8 – Sonnet 128: “Those Jacks that Nimble Leap” – recalling the Queen at her virginals

“The Two Most Noble Henries” – Henry de Vere & Henry Wriothesley – No. 89 of 100 Reasons why the 17th Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare”

"The Portraicture of the right honorable Lords, the two most noble HENRIES revived the Earles of Oxford (left) and Southampton (right)" -  circa 1624

“The Portraicture of the right honorable Lords, the two most noble HENRIES revived the Earles of Oxford and Southampton” –
circa 1624

“There were some gallant spirits that aimed at the Public Liberty more than their own interest … among which the principal were Henry, Earl of Oxford, Henry, Earl of Southampton … and divers others, that supported the old English honor and would not let it fall to the ground.” – Arthur Wilson, History of Great Britain (1653), p. 161, referring to the earls’ opposition to the policies of King James in 1621

Venus and Adonis was recorded in the Stationer’s Register on April 18, 1593 and published soon after. No author’s name appeared on the title-page, but the dedication was signed “William Shakespeare” – the first appearance of that name in print.

"Venus and Adonis" Dedication - 1593

“Venus and Adonis” Dedication – 1593

The epistle was addressed to nineteen-year-old Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton, to whom the poet bequeathed Lucrece the following year. Never again would this author dedicate anything to anyone else, thereby uniquely linking Southampton to “Shakespeare” for all time. In fact the poet was so confident of his ability to grant the young earl enduring fame (while paradoxically being certain his own identity would never be known) that he would tell him in Sonnet 81:

Your name from hence immortal life shall have,
Though I (once gone) to all the world must die.

On February 24, 1593, less than two months before the registry of Venus and Adonis, a son was born to Edward de Vere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford, forty-three, and his second wife Elizabeth Trentham, about thirty, a former Maid of Honor to Queen Elizabeth. The two had married in 1591 and had moved to the village of Stoke-Newington, just north of Shoreditch and the Curtain and Theater playhouses.

The boy, destined to become the eighteenth Earl of Oxford, was brought to the Parish Church on March 31, 1593 and christened Henry de Vere – not Edward, after his father, nor any of the great first names in the Vere lineage (such as John or Robert) all the way back to 1141, when Aubrey de Vere was created the first Earl of Oxford.

"Lucrece" Dedication 1594

“Lucrece” Dedication
1594

“It is curious that the name ‘Henry’ is unique in the de Vere, Cecil and Trentham families,” B.M. Ward commented in 1928. “There must have been some reason for his being given this name, but if so I have been unable to discover it.”

During this time Henry Wriothesley was being sought by William Cecil Lord Burghley for the hand of Oxford’s eldest daughter, Lady Elizabeth Vere. Oxford had become a royal ward in Burgley’s household in 1562; Southampton had followed in 1581; and now on April 18, 1593, little more than two weeks after the christening of Oxford’s male heir as Henry de Vere, the yet-unknown “Shakespeare” was dedicating “the first heir of my invention” to Henry Wriothesley.

“The metaphor of ‘the first heir’ would seem to echo the recent birth of Oxford’s only son and heir to his earldom,” J. Thomas Looney noted in 1920, “and as ‘Shakespeare’ speaks of Southampton as the ‘godfather’ of ‘the first heir of my invention,’ it would certainly be interesting to know whether Henry Wriothesley was godfather to Oxford’s heir, Henry de Vere.”

In the dedication of Lucrece in 1594, the author made a unique public promise to Southampton, indicating a close and caring relationship with its own past, coupled with an extraordinary vision of future commitment:

“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.”

Henry Wriothesley Earl of Southampton

Henry Wriothesley
Earl of Southampton

Given that Henry Wriothesley is the only individual to whom “Shakespeare” is known to have written any letters of any kind, he must be the central contemporary individual within the biography of Shakespeare the poet and dramatist. (This is especially so if Southampton is the younger man or “fair youth” of the Sonnets.) The problem, however, is that scholars have never discovered any trace of a relationship between Southampton and William Shaksper of Stratford-upon-Avon, not even any evidence that they knew each other.

But if the poet was Edward de Vere, dedicating his first published work under the newly invented pen name “Shakespeare” to Henry Wriothesley, then his promise that “what I have to do is yours” demands a look into the future for evidence of continuing linkage.

Among the possible evidence is the performance of Richard II as by “Shakespeare” on the eve of the Essex Rebellion on February 8, 1601 led by Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex along with Southampton. If Oxford was the dramatist, had he given permission to use his play for such a dangerous and possibly treasonous motive? Had he given his approval personally to Southampton, to help him? These are among the many questions for which history has no answers.

Looney pointed to a “spontaneous affinity of Oxford with the younger Earls of Essex and Southampton, all three of whom, having been royal wards under the guardianship of Burghley, were most hostile to the Cecil influence at Court.” By the same token, many scholars have noted evidence in the “Shakespeare” plays that the author was sympathetic to the Essex faction – which makes sense if Oxford and “Shakespeare” were one and the same.

Notice of the trial of Essex and Southampton  1600 old style 1601 new Oxford as highest ranking peer on tribunal

Notice of the trial of Essex and Southampton
1600 old style 1601 new
Oxford as highest ranking peer on tribunal

[Oxford was summoned from retirement to act as the senior of twenty-five noblemen on the tribunal at the joint treason trial of Essex and Southampton on February 19, 1601. The peers had no choice but to render a unanimous guilty verdict and to sentence both earls to death. It was “the veriest travesty of a trial,” Ward comments. Essex was beheaded six days later, but Southampton was spared; and after more than two years in prison, he was quickly released by the newly proclaimed King James. CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VIEW.]

Oxford is recorded as having died at fifty-four on June 24, 1604. That night agents of the Crown arrived at Southampton’s house in London, confiscating his papers and bringing him (and others who had supported Essex) back to the Tower, where he was interrogated before being released the next day. Whether the two events (Oxford’s death and Southampton’s arrest) were related remains a matter of conjecture.

In January 1605, Southampton hosted a performance of Love’s Labours Lost for Queen Anne. The earl apparently had not forgotten how, in the early 1590s, he and his university friends had enjoyed private performances of the play.

In the latter years of James both Henry Wriothesley and Henry de Vere became increasingly opposed to the King’s favorite George Villiers, first Duke of Buckingham, and the projected Spanish match between the King’s son Prince Charles and Maria Ana of Spain – fearing that Spain would grow even stronger to the point of conquering England and turning it back into a repressive Catholic country.

Henry Wriothesley 3rd Earl of Southampton

Henry Wriothesley
3rd Earl of Southampton

On March 14, 1621, Henry Wriothesley, forty-eight, got into a sharp altercation with Buckingham in the House of Peers; that June he was confined (in the Dean of Westminster’s house and later in his own seat of Tichfield) on charges of “mischievous intrigues” with members of the Commons; and in July of the same year, Henry de Vere, twenty-eight, spent a few weeks in the Tower for expressing his anger toward the prospective Spanish match. Henry Wriothesley was set free on the first of September.

Then on April 20, 1622, after railing against Buckingham again, Henry de Vere was arrested for the second time and confined in the Tower for twenty months until December 1623 – just when the First Folio of Shakespeare plays became available for purchase.

[Whatever might have been the relationship between the imprisonment of Oxford and the publishing of the Folio is unclear; my own feeling is that the printing may well have been spurred by the prospect of Spanish control and the destruction of the Shakespeare plays, especially the eighteen yet to be printed. The Spanish marriage had collapsed in October 1623; but any opinions about whether the Folio printing was triggered by the prospect of the match, and/or the imprisonment of the eighteenth Earl of Oxford are welcome.]

Henry de Vere 18th Earl of Oxford

Henry de Vere
18th Earl of Oxford

When Henry de Vere volunteered for military service to the Protestant cause in the Low Countries in June 1624, as the colonel of a regiment of foot soldiers, he put forward a “claim of precedency” over his fellow colonel of another regiment, Henry Wriothesley. Eventually the Council of War struck a bargain between the two, with Oxford entitled to precedency in civil capacities and Southampton, “in respect of his former commands in the wars,” retaining precedence over military matters.

[The colonels of the other two regiments were Robert Devereux, third Earl of Essex, the son of Southampton’s great friend Essex, who was executed for the 1601 rebellion; and Robert Bertie, Lord Willoughby, son of Edward de Vere’s sister Mary Vere and his brother-in-law Peregrine Bertie, Lord Willoughby.]

“There seems to have been no ill will between Southampton and Oxford,” writes A.L. Rowse in his biography Shakespeare’s Southampton. “They were both imbued with conviction and fighting for a cause for which they had long fought politically. It was now a question of carrying their convictions into action, sacrificing their lives.”

Southampton and his elder son James (born in 1605) sailed for Holland in August 1624; in November, the earl’s regiment in its winter quarters at Roosendaal was afflicted by fever. Father and son both caught the contagion; the son died on November 5, 1624; and Southampton, having recovered, began the long sad journey with his son’s body back to England. Five days later, however, Southampton himself died at Bergen-op-Zoom at fifty-one. [A contemporary report was that agents of Buckingham had poisoned him to death.]

King James died on March 25, 1625 and Henry de Vere, eighteenth Earl of Oxford died at The Hague on July 25 that year, after receiving a shot wound on his left arm.

But why, after all, might the “Two Henries” be another reason to conclude that Edward de Vere was the real author of the Shakespeare works? Well, to begin with, in this story there is not a trace of the grain dealer and moneylender from Stratford; he is nowhere to be found. More important, however, is the obviously central role in the authorship story played by Henry Wriothesley, who went on to embody the spirit of the “Shakespeare” and the Elizabethan age – the great spirit of creative energy, of literature and drama, of romance and adventure, of invention and exploration, of curiosity and experimentation, of the Renaissance itself.

And, too, Southampton had become a kind of father figure to the sons of Oxford and Essex and Willoughby – the new generation of those “gallant spirits that aimed at the Public Liberty more than their own interest” and who “supported the old English honor and would not let it fall to the ground.”

How these men must have shared a love for “Shakespeare” and his stirring words! How they must have loved speeches such as the one spoken by the Bastard at the close of King John:

This England never did, nor never shall,
Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror
But when it first did help to wound itself.
Now these her princes are come home again,
Come the three corners of the world in arms,
And we shall shock them. Nought shall make us rue
If England to itself do rest but true!

two henries - 1

POSTSCRIPT

Oxfordian researcher and author Robert Brazil wrote the following on this topic in his book The True Story of the Shake-speare Publications: Edward de Vere and the Shakespeare Printers:

“In the 1600s Oxford’s son Henry became a very close friend to Henry Wriothesley. They shared a passion for politics, theater, and military adventure. The image of the Two Henries, which dates from 1624 or later, shows the earls of Oxford and Southampton riding horseback together in their co-command of the 6000 English troops in Holland that had joined with the Dutch forces in countering the continued attacks by Spain. The picture serves as a reminder that a close relationship between the Vere family and Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, lasted for decades, and that Southampton CAN be linked historically to the author Shake-speare, provided that said author was really Edward de Vere.”

A Paper on the “Rival Poet” of the Sonnets as Oxford’s Pen Name or Persona: “Shakespeare”

Following is the text of a 4,000-word paper on “The Rival Poet” of the Sonnets, which I delivered at the Shakespeare Authorship Studies Conference last week at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon — the point being that the Earl of Oxford’s own rival in relation to Southampton was “Shakespeare,” his own pen name or persona:

I realize the phrase “paradigm shift” is a cliché – but the fact is that we are involved in what Looney in 1920 called a difficult, but necessary, “mental revolution”.   Part of it is a rejection of the Stratford conception, but the real fun begins with a compelling replacement.  Oxford is such a good fit that we keep finding new evidence in support, and new explanations for things that have been problematic.

 Edward de Vere 17th Earl of Oxford

Edward de Vere
17th Earl of Oxford

The works themselves never change; what does change, through an Oxfordian lens, is our perception of them – and often the picture is turned upside down in quite unexpected ways.With Oxford as the model, it’s as if a light is turned on, and we’re exploring in ways that can’t even occur to someone still looking from the same old angle.  It’s as if we’re putting on new eyeglasses that allow us to “see” differently.

So we face the need for many other mental revolutions, spinning off from the main one.  And in the process, we still have to shake off some of that old baggage, in the form of deeply ingrained assumptions, based on the old model.  But it’s not easy.  It’s our nature to hold on to previous assumptions and viewpoints and beliefs as long as possible.   Which brings me to my topic – the so-called Rival Poet series of the Sonnets – generally viewed as numbers 78 to 86.

The Stratfordian model forced us to see this series in just one way – namely that other writers or poets, but mainly one particular poet who towers above all the others, is stealing the attentions and affections of the fair youth.  When Looney expressed his agreement that the younger man was the Earl of Southampton, he quoted from the rival series itself – from Sonnet 81, about “your name” achieving immortal life – and from what he called the companion sonnet, 82, in which Oxford refers to his own “dedicated words” or public dedications to Southampton.

Southampton in the   Tower 1601-1603

Southampton in the Tower 1601-1603

Stratfordians have postulated many rivals – Barnes, Chapman, Chaucer, Daniel, Davies, Davison, Drayton, Florio, Golding, Greene, Griffin, Harvey, Jonson, Kyd, Lyly, Markham, Marlowe, Martston, Nashe, Peele, Spenser, the Italian Tasso, Watson.  Oxfordians have come up with some overlaps, such as Chapman and Marlowe … but adding the likes of Raleigh and the Earl of Essex.  The senior Ogburns thought it was both Chapman and Marlowe.  Ogburn Jr. took no position.  He referred to the rival as “one other poet, whose identity I must leave to the contention of more confident minds.”  The late Peter Moore made a well-researched and detailed case for Essex.

Unfortunately, as the Stratfordians have taught us, all the best scholarship in the world is of utterly no help if our basic premises are incorrect.

Using the Stratfordian model, the rival must be some other individual who wrote poetry and who publicly used Southampton’s name:

“Knowing a better spirit doth use your name” – 80

My argument here is that the Oxfordian model opens the way to an entirely new way of looking at the same series – a view of the rival as NONE of those individuals and who is not actually a person but, instead, a persona.   In this paper I hope to show that the rival series contains Oxford’s own testimony about the authorship – a grand, poetic, profoundly emotional statement of his dying to the world, and also of his resurrection as a spirit breathing life into the poetical and dramatic luminary known as Shakespeare.

Dedication of "Venus and Adonis" - 1593 - CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VIEW

Dedication of “Venus and Adonis” to Southampton – 1593

The Stratfordian view gave no reason to look for any kind of authorship statement anywhere, much less in the so-called rival series.   The Stratfordian view precluded any authorship question or solution.  But Oxfordians contend precisely that Oxford has split himself into two separate entities – on the one hand, he’s Edward de Vere, writing privately in the sonnets; on the other hand, he’s “Shakespeare,” the name on the page and the mythic figure of a Super Poet shaking the spear of his pen.

At the outset we picture Oxford living a double life.  We picture the blotting-out or expunging of his true identity and its replacement by a rival identity.  We were led to take it for granted that the rival must be some real individual; but from Looney onward we have understood Oxford as having created his own rival – initially in the form of a pen name or pseudonym, which then takes the form of a supposedly real character or player on the world stage.

A good question is: If not for the Stratfordian baggage, would we have postulated a rival in the first place?  I think we would have known automatically that Oxford is referring to his alter ego … the other aspect of himself … whom he had named William Shakespeare.  It’s “Shakespeare” who signs the dedications to Southampton that continue to appear in new editions.  It’s “Shakespeare” who gets all the credit.

But there’s much more to it than that.  The clear testimony of the sonnets is that Oxford is fading away … becoming invisible.  And that he is making a Christ-like sacrifice to redeem Southampton’s sins or crimes, by taking them upon his own shoulders – offering his own identity as ransom, so the younger man may survive and live for as long as men can breathe or eyes can see.

So shall those blots that do with me remain

Without thy help be borne by me alone. (36)

To guard the lawful reasons on thy part (49)

I (my sovereign) watch the clock for you (57)

In Sonnets 78 to 86 he’s talking about other writers who have dedicated works to Southampton, and praised him, but he means writers in general, whereas he is also and primarily speaking of his own invention or creation, which he inhabits as a spirit.  By the end of this series, he will consider himself dead to the world and his ghost, his spirit, now lives within the assumed persona of Shakespeare.  He leads up to the sequence by making clear that his coming death to the world revolves around Henry Wriothesley – his need to help and protect him.  He’s not dying in a vacuum, but in relation to Southampton:

When I perhaps compounded am with clay,

Do not so much as my poor name rehearse. – 71

After my death, dear love, forget me quite. -72

My name be buried where my body is,

And live no more to shame nor me nor you. – 72

Each line of Oxford’s obliteration is linked to concern for Southampton.

The rival series begins with 78:

As EVERY Alien pen hath got my use,

And under thee their posey doth disperse – 78

“Every Alien Pen” refers to other poets, but it’s mainly E. Ver’s pen name, Shakespeare, which is alien — not his real identity.

But now my gracious numbers are decayed,

And my sick Muse doth give an other place – 79

“I yield to Shakespeare …  I step aside and let him take my place, as I decay and disappear.”

O how I faint when I of you do write,

Knowing a better spirit doth use your name,

And in the praise thereof spends all his might

To make me tongue-tied speaking of your fame – 80

This is not hyperbole.  His fainting is an act of losing consciousness or the ability to speak or write.   He also faints by feinting, or deceiving – like the feint of a skilled fencer – by assuming an appearance or making a feint to conceal his real identity.  He faints by becoming weaker, feebler … less visible.  But in the first line of Sonnet 80 Oxford is crying out to say, directly:  “I am the one who is writing to you and using your name.  “I am fainting in the process because, while I write of you, I am vanishing into the confines of my creation or invention.  I am undergoing a metamorphosis.   I am doing this to myself, feeding my spirit to Shakespeare, so the more I write through him, the more I lose my identity … and the faster I die to the world.  It is through my own spirit that Shakespeare uses your name, and it’s because of his power – ironically the power I give to him — that I am tongue-tied, silent, and no longer able to write publicly about you.”

To make me tongue-tied speaking of your fame – 80

And art made tongue-tied by authority – 66

And strength by limping sway disabled – 66

Back in Sonnet 66, his art was made tongue-tied “by authority.”  And that’s very specific – he or his art is censored, suppressed; and the force keeping him silent is authority or officialdom, the government.  (In King John he writes “Your sovereign greatness and authority,” speaking of the monarch.)  So “Shakespeare” the pen name is the agent of authority.

And here the door starts opening to a larger and more important story than merely Oxford disappearing for no reason.  The government – in the person of the limping, swaying Robert Cecil – is using Oxford’s own persona of Shakespeare as a weapon against him.  Oxford’s own better spirit is making him tongue-tied when it comes to “speaking of your fame” – which again refers to the dedications by Shakespeare, included in every new edition of the narrative poems.  “Shakespeare” is the agent of Oxford’s death “to all the world” and “Shakespeare” is also the agent of Southampton’s eternal life.

My saucy bark, inferior far to his,

On your broad main doth willfully appear – 80

Steven Booth writes that willfully “may have been chosen for its pun on the poet’s name: the saucy bark is full of Will.”  I would suggest it’s a pun on the poet’s pen name.

Now in 81 come two famous lines for Oxfordians – because they really sum up the authorship question and provide the answer:

Your name from hence immortal life shall have

Though I (once gone) to all the world must die – 81

Given the argument here, it’s no accident – no coincidence – that these lines of 81 appear in the so-called rival sequence.  Southampton’s name from this time forward, from here on, will achieve immortal life, but not necessarily because of these sonnets.  (His name never appears directly in the sonnets — although it appears indirectly, such as the constant plays  upon his motto ‘One for All, All for One”.)  From now on, because of “Shakespeare,” Southampton’s name will achieve immortal life; and also because of “Shakespeare,” my identity will disappear from the world.  And it’s in the very next sonnet where we find Oxford referring to his own public dedications to Southampton:

I grant thou wert not married to my Muse,

And therefore mayst without attaint o’erlook

The dedicated words which writers use

Of their fair subject, blessing every book – 82

(The dedications which I write through Shakespeare/ About the fair youth, Southampton, consecrating E.Ver’s books of Venus and Adonis and Lucrece)

"Lucrece" dedication to Southampton - 1594

“Lucrece” dedication to Southampton – 1594

Later in this very same sonnet, number 82, is a remarkable pair of lines from Oxford’s private self, as if still insisting upon his own identity before it disappears:

Thou truly fair wert truly sympathized

In true-plain words by thy true-telling friend. – 82

And he’s confirming that the “fair subject” of the dedications is Southampton, whom he now calls “truly fair.”  Oxford is “dumb” or silent, unable to speak in public, and as “mute,” which is quite the same, unable to speak.

Which shall be most my glory, being dumb,

For I impair not beauty, being mute – 83

There lives more life in one of your fair eyes

Than both your poets can in praise devise.- 83

(Both Oxford and “Shakespeare”)

 Let him but copy what in you is writ,

Not making worse what nature made so clear,

And such a counterpart shall fame his wit,

Making his style admired everywhere – 84

So here we have Oxford giving instructions to his alter-ego:  “Hold the mirror up to Southampton’s nature and you will be admired everywhere.”

My tongue-tied Muse…

Then others, for the breath of words respect,

Me for my dumb thoughts, speaking in effect – 85

Here again, he and his Muse are tongue-tied while others can speak out:  “Respect me for my silent thoughts and for my actions in your behalf.”

The final verse of the series is Sonnet 86, which by itself tells the story:

Was it the proud full sail of his great verse,

Bound for the prize of (all too precious) you,

That did my ripe thoughts in my brain inhearse,

Making their tomb the womb wherein they grew?- 86

There is only one super poet who can force Oxford’s thoughts into a tomb in his brain, which is also the tomb of these sonnets – as in 17, “Heaven knows it is but as a tomb which hides your life and shows not half your parts” – and the womb of these sonnets wherein Southampton can grow – as in 115, “To give full life to that which still doth grow.”

 Was it his spirit, by spirits taught to write

Above a mortal pitch, that struck me dead?

No, neither he, nor his compeers by night

Giving him aid, my verse astonished. – 86

 It is Oxford’s own spirit, or spirits, teaching his public persona to write with the power of Shakespeare.  No other writer, past or present, has struck Oxford dead – but there it is, this is the last sonnet of the sequence.  Oxford – in terms of his identity – has been killed.

 He, nor that affable familiar ghost

Which nightly gulls him with intelligence,

As victors of my silence cannot boast;

I was not sick of any fear from thence. – 86

The affable familiar ghost – as opposed to an alien ghost – is once again Oxford’s own spirit, which nightly or secretly crams Shakespeare with his substance … or literally with intelligence, that is, secret information that Oxford is inserting within the lines of his plays.  To “gull” is to cram full, but also to play a trick on … and of course “Shakespeare” the pen name or persona is totally dependent upon Oxford and therefore unaware of what mischief his spirit is up to.

But when your countenance filled up his line,

Then lacked I matter, that enfeebled mine.

And this final couplet is another direct statement of the authorship problem – As Shakespeare rises in connection with Southampton, so Oxford fades away – as Touchstone in As You Like It tells William the country fellow: “Drink, being poured out of a cup into a glass, by filling the one doth empty the other.”

The so-called rival series is the equivalent of a “movement” of a musical composition, a symphony.  It’s a separate piece within a larger structure.  Its message can be expressed in a line or two, but Oxford wants a string or sequence of lines.  The sequence is one long continuous wail of eloquent mourning.  But in fact the actual mourning begins much earlier, with many of the preceding sonnets, which are preoccupied with dying.

Death is necessary if there is going to be a Resurrection.  So there is a religious, spiritual aspect, mirroring the sacrifice of Christ.  In fact it goes all the way back to Sonnet 27 where Southampton is “a jewel hung in ghastly night” – the image of a man in prison awaiting execution or, if you will, of a man hanging from the cross.   In Christian terms there is a father and a son who are separate individuals and yet they are also inseparable.  He writes in number 27: “For thee, and for myself, no quiet find.”  And in 42: “My friend and I are one.”

There is a long, long preparation for the so-called rival series – These are genuinely religious … spiritual …. And devastating … This is heavy, profound, sorrowful and deeply emotional – what we might expect from a man sacrificing his identity.

Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee (27)

Clouds do blot the heaven (28)

Look upon myself and curse my fate (29)

Precious friends hid in death’s dateless night (30)

How many a holy and obsequious tear

Hath dear religious love stolen from mine eye …

Thou art the grave where buried love doth live (31)

When that churl death my bones with dust shall cover (32)

Anon permit the basest clouds to ride

With ugly rack on his celestial face … (33)

Though thou repent, yet I have still the loss;

The offender’s sorrow lends but weak relief

To him that bears the strong offence’s cross  (34)

So shall those blots that do with me remain

Without thy help, by me be borne alone (36)

Lay on me this cross (42)

To guard the lawful reasons on thy part (49)

‘Gainst death and all oblivious enmity

Shall you pace forth …

So till the judgment that yourself arise (55)

I (my sovereign) watch the clock for you (57)

Nativity, once in the main of light,

Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crowned,

Crooked eclipses ‘gainst his glory fight (60)

To play the watchman ever for thy sake (61)

O fearful meditation!  (65)

For restful death I cry … (66)

In him those holy antique hours are seen (68)

All tongues, the voice of souls, give thee that due (69)

No longer mourn for me when I am dead (71)

In me thou seest the twilight of such day,

As after Sun-set fadeth in the West (73)

When that fell arrest

Without all bail shall carry me away (74)

Why is my verse so barren of new pride  (76)

And here, finally, his verse is like a barren womb, empty of child.

And now we have Sonnet 77, which has been seen as a dedicatory verse – with Oxford speaking at first of “this book” and then, to Southampton at the end, calling it “thy book.”

This is the real opening of the so-called rival series – ten consecutive sonnets from 77 to 86:

And of this book this learning mayst thou taste…

These offices, so oft as thou wilt look,

Shall profit thee, and much enrich thy book. (77)

 Yet be most proud of that which I compile,

Whose influence is thine, and born of thee  (78)

 And in 78, even while “every alien pen hath got my use,” he nonetheless tells Southampton to be “most proud” of these sonnets which he is compiling – or arranging, and he identifies them as having been influenced or inspired by Southampton, and “born” of him, thereby identifying Henry Wriothesley as the “only begetter” of the sonnets, Mr. W.H., the commoner in prison, referred to in the dedication.

 Meanwhile the nautical imagery began earlier, for example:

When I have seen the hungry ocean gain

Advantage on the kingdom of the shore

When I have seen such interchange of state

Or state itself confounded to decay…    (64)

“’Ocean’ or ‘sea’ as a figure for ‘king’ is often found in Shakespeare and his fellow-writers.”  (Leslie Hotson)

The hungry Ocean indicates the royal blood of King James advancing upon England, the kingdom of the shore, and the coming of the inevitable interchange of state or royal succession.

But since your worth (wide as the Ocean is)

The humble as the proudest sail doth bear… (80)

The nautical imagery is based now on Southampton’s worth as wide as the Ocean, referring to his royal worth.  Southampton’s ocean of blood, his kingly identity, holds up all boats.

I came to this view of the so-called rival by a long indirect route — hypothesizing that the fair youth sonnets ARE in chronological order, and that they lead up to, and away from, Sonnet 107, when Southampton is released from the Tower in April 1603 after being “supposed as forfeit to a confined doom.”  That’s a very serious sonnet.  It has to do not only with Southampton but with the death of Elizabeth, the succession of James and the end of the Tudor dynasty.  If the other sonnets have no relationship to that political subject matter, then Sonnet 107 is one huge anomaly.

A simple question became obvious: Given that Shakespeare is a master storyteller, and given that the high point of this story is Southampton getting OUT of the Tower, it stands to reason that he must have marked the time when Southampton went IN to the Tower back in February of 1601.  Otherwise there’s no story at all, no suspense, and his liberation from prison comes out of the blue, apropos of nothing.  I came to Sonnet 27 as marking that time with Southampton in the Tower expecting execution and pictured as a Jewel hung in ghastly night.  I tracked sonnets reflecting those crucial days after the failed Essex rebellion until the moment of Southampton’s reprieve from execution in March 1601.  And in that context it appears that Oxford had made a “deal” involving a complete severance of the relationship between himself and Southampton:

I may not evermore acknowledge thee (36)

This is a crucial part of the story of Oxford sacrificing himself for Southampton, his dying to the world and his undergoing a resurrection as Shakespeare

In Sonnet 84 of the rival series, Oxford refers to Southampton being in confinement and immured within the walls of the prison:

“That you alone are you, in whose confine immured is the store” (84)

 The idea of having or lacking PRIDE is important.  So at the very end of the previous 10-sonnet sequence, number 76, his private verse was “barren” of such pride:

“Why is my verse so barren of new pride?” (76)

By the end of the rival series, with Sonnet 86, “Shakespeare” has inherited that pride – with the “proud full sail of his great verse” riding on that great ocean of Southampton’s identity as a king.

 “Was it the proud full sail of his great verse?” (86)

 Oxford’s own private verse is like a barren womb, but now Shakespeare’s public verse is fully pregnant.  The end of one chapter was a death; the end of the rival chapter is new life.  And Shakespeare is full-bellied riding on the sea of Southampton’s tide of kingship:

“Why is my verse so barren of new pride?” – 76

“Was it the proud full sail of his great verse” – 86

“The sails conceive, and grow big-bellied with the wanton wind”  (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

The Prince (now King): “The tide of blood in me … shall mingle with the state of floods and flow henceforth in formal majesty” (2 Henry IV)

And after the rival series ends with Sonnet 86, the very first word of Sonnet 87 is “farewell”:

Farwell, thou art too dear for my possessing …

My bonds in thee are all determinate (87)

Our connection to each other is hereby severed.  The deal is done.

Adopting the pen name in 1593 had been Oxford’s means of supporting Southampton through his creation of Shakespeare; but now in 1601, to save Southampton’s life and gain his eventual freedom, he agreed to make it permanent.  From now on, even after his death, the rest is silence.

The enormity of Oxford’s sacrifice – completely severing his relationship with Southampton, losing his identity as the great writer – the dashing of his hopes involving succession to Elizabeth and the future of England – his death to the world and resurrection as Shakespeare to save Southampton and redeem his sins and ensure his life in posterity – the enormity of this sacrifice demands a use of words that, in most any other scenario, would seem to be sheer hyperbole, nothing more than “a poet’s rage and stretched meter of an antique song.”

 “My gracious numbers are decayed … my sick muse … O how I faint …. Being wracked, I am a worthless boat … the earth can yield me but a common grave … most my glory, being dumb … being mute … my tongue-tied muse … my dumb thoughts.”

This is, in fact, a poet’s rage – but my argument here is that, when it’s viewed within the right context, as part of the correctly perceived picture, the rage is no longer fatuous or “over the top”; instead, it’s honest and real and so, too, are the words expressing it.

For the rival poet series, it’s time for a mental revolution.

 

“Last Will. & Testament” to be Launched in the United Kingdom

First Folio Pictures has announced that the Shakespeare authorship documentary Last Will. & Testament is scheduled to air in the United Kingdom on Saturday 21 April 2012 at 8:00pm on Sky Arts 2 HD.  Congratulations, folks!  Special hoorays for producer-directors Lisa Wilson and Laura Wilson Matthias … and Aaron Boyd!

Here’s some of the promotional copy:

Was Will Shakspere, the grain dealer from Stratford, really the literary icon we celebrate today?

The traditional story of a Stratford merchant writing for the London stage has held sway for centuries, but questions over the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays and poems have persisted. 

Why is there no definitive evidence of authorship that dates from his lifetime? And why are there discrepancies between the alleged author’s life and the content of his work? 

Writers and critics, actors and scholars, including Mark Twain, Sigmund Freud, Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, Leslie Howard, and Derek Jacobi, have struggled to reconcile England’s ‘Star of Poets’ with the glove maker’s son from Stratford. 

In Last Will. & Testament Sir Derek Jacobi leads a host of actors, academics and historians on a hunt for the truth: who was William Shakespeare?

Time’s glory is to calm contending kings,

To unmask falsehood and bring truth to light.

– William Shakespeare

The Rape of Lucrece 

Act One explores the orthodox story of William “Shakspere” of Stratford and the long-standing views held by academia.

Act Two is a testament to an alternative Shakespeare – one presented to the world in the literary works themselves and in the testimony of his most insightful doubters.

Act Three weaves together the major historical events of the late Tudor era, including the crisis of succession and the Essex revolt.

Contributors

Sir Derek Jacobi, Actor
Charles Beauclerk, Author of Shakespeare’s Lost Kingdom
Prof. Roger Stritmatter, PhD, Coppin State University
Vanessa Redgrave, Actor
Prof. Jonathan Bate, CBE, Oxford University
Prof. Stanley Wells, CBE, Honorary President of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
Diana Price, Author of Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography: New Evidence of an Authorship Problem
Assoc. Prof. Michael Delahoyde, Washington State University
Dr William Leahy, Brunel University
Prof. Daniel Wright, Director – Shakespeare Authorship Research Centre, Concordia University
Mark Rylance, Actor
Bill Boyle, librarian at New England Shakespeare Oxford Library
Jon Culverhouse, Curator of Collections & Conservation at Burghley House
G. J. Meyer, Author of The Tudors
Michael Cecil, 8th Marquess of Exeter (descendant of Elizabethan statesman William Cecil, Lord Burghley)
Hank Whittemore, Author of The Monument – a 900-page edition of Shakespeare’s sonnets

Striking New Evidence in the Southampton Tower Poem in Support of “The Monument”

The other night I was re-reading the recently discovered poem The Earle of Southampton prisoner, and condemned, to Queen Elizabeth, written by the earl in February or March 1601, while he was in the Tower as a condemned man awaiting execution; and unexpectedly several lines of the poem seemed to leap out, reminding me of a passage in Sonnet 31 of the Shakespeare sequence of 1609.  A comparison reveals that Southampton, in his “verse-letter” to her Majesty pleading for mercy, expresses virtually the same idea in the same language, as if he had Sonnet 31 with him in his prison room and was being influenced by it.

Southampton in the Tower

In my view this similarity provides additional support for the Monument theory, which holds that the Earl of Oxford used the Sonnets as a “chronicle” of Southampton’s ordeal in confinement.  This proposed diary of “verse letters” to Southampton in the Tower begins with Sonnet 27 upon the failed Essex Rebellion on February 8, 1601 and concludes with Sonnet 106 (which refers to “the Chronicle of wasted time”) on April 9, 1603, the night before the younger earl was liberated by King James from being “supposed as forfeit to a confined doom” (Sonnet 107).

In the Monument view Sonnet 31 corresponds with the fifth day of Southampton’s imprisonment, when it was already clear (to Oxford, at least) that both Essex and Southampton would be convicted of high treason and sentenced to death.   Two week later Oxford writes in Sonnet 45 of “those swift messengers returned from thee/ Who even now come back again assured/ Of thy fair health, recounting it to me” – referring not only to the leg ailment suffered by Southampton, who cites it in his poem to the Queen, but apparently to Oxford’s use of “messengers” riding to and from the Tower with (I suggest) copies of individual sonnets for him.

Here in modern English are the specific lines of Southampton’s poem that seemed to cry for attention, with certain key words emphasized:

Southampton to Queen Elizabeth:

While I yet breath 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 am I buried quick: hence one may draw

I am religious [reverent; faithful] because dead in law.

The idea expressed above by Southampton is that prisons are different from graves because prisons contain men who are still alive whereas graves contain those who are dead.  On the other hand, he writes, prisons are the graves or tombs for the walking or living dead – for those who, like Southampton himself, are condemned to death by law (and  who, therefore, might as well be dead).

Here is Oxford’s verse-letter to Southampton, also with certain key words emphasized:

Sonnet 31

Thy bosom is endeared with all hearts,

Which I by lacking have supposed dead;

And there reigns love and all love’s loving parts,

And all those friends which I thought buried.

How many a holy and obsequious tear

Hath dear religious love stolen from mine eye,

As interest of the dead, which now appear

But things removed that hidden in thee lie.

Thou art the grave where buried love doth live,

Hung with the trophies [memorials on graves] of my lovers gone,

Who all their parts of me to thee did give;

That due of many now is thine alone.

Their images I loved I view in thee,

And thou, all they, hast all the all of me.

Oxford’s idea in Sonnet 31 above is similar to Southampton’s theme, except he pictures the imprisoned younger earl himself as the grave.  Southampton is the living grave that contains his own “love” or the most important aspect or quality of his person.

The ideas are similar but different; many of the words are the same: grave, dead, buried, religious, living/live, tombs/trophies and so on – more evidence that Sonnet 31 is concerned with the same individual (Southampton) in relation to the same “dark lady” (Elizabeth) in the same situation (in the Tower, facing death) in the same time period (February-March 1601).

I offer it as striking new testimony that the Monument theory of the Sonnets is correct.

Southampton to the Council, written from the Tower: “…my harte was free from any premeditate treason against my souerayne”

[Note: See Bill Boyle’s blog post on the Southampton Tower Poem at his Shakespeare Adventure site]

Below is one of the two letters that Henry Wriothesley the third Earl of Southampton wrote to the Privy Council soon after his trial on 19 February 1601, while in the Tower of London awaiting execution.

Inside Traitors Gate at the Tower of London

My view is that Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford revealed his role behind the scenes in Sonnet 35, writing to Southampton: “Thy adverse party is thy Advocate” or “I was your ‘adverse party’ at the trial, being forced to vote with all the other peers on the tribunal to condemn you to death; but I am also your Advocate, your legal defender, trying to save you.”  [See Sonnet 35 below]

Oxford’s help behind the scenes appears to have included advising Southampton on what to write to the Council and Robert Cecil.  Possibly the individual sonnets were one means by which he conveyed information to him in the Tower.  And quite possibly he helped him with the recently discovered poem entitled The Earle of Southampton prisoner, and condemned. to Queen Elizabeth. 

In her article on Wriothesley’s poem in the 2011 English Literary Renaissance, Lara M. Crowley recalls that while awaiting execution Southampton wrote at least two letters to the Council as well as a separate confession and a letter to Robert Cecil.  His writings from this period “reflect a desperate and (quite rightly) frightened penitent.  Surely these anxious outpourings were fueled by the executions of Essex and fellow conspirators and by the persistent whispers surrounding Southampton’s impending doom.”  And she notes the “cumulative connections” between the earl’s prison writings and his poem to the Queen.

HENRY EARL OF SOUTHAMPTON TO THE COUNCIL:

“My Lordes,

“I beseech your Lordships bee pleased to receaue the petition of a poore condemned man, who doth, with a lowly and penitent hart, confess his faults and acknoledge his offences to her Maiestie.  Remember, I pray your Lordships, that the longest lyuer amongest men hath but a short time of continewance, and that there is none so iust vppon earth but hath a greater account to make to our creator for his sinnes then any offender haue in this world.  Beleeue that God is better pleased with those that are the instrumentes of mercy then with such as are the persuaders of severe iustice, and forgett not that hee hath promised mercy to the mercifull.” 

Another view inside Traitors Gate

Though thou repent, yet I have still the loss – Sonnet 34

The offender’s sorrow lends but weak relief

To him that bears the strong offence’s cross – Sonnet 34

Excusing thy sins more than thy sins are – Sonnet 35

“What my fawte [fault] hath been your Lordships know to the vttermost, wherein, howsoeuer I have offended in the letter of the law, your Lordships I thinke cannot but find, by the proceedings att my triall, that my harte was free from any premeditate treason against my souerayne…”

[We pause here to consider that Southampton, writing to the Council, refers to the Queen as “my sovereign.”  Oxford uses the phrase “my sovereign” in the plays of Shakespeare thirty-four times, in each case when a character is speaking to or about a monarch.  The phrase occurs in the plays of English history 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV, Henry V, 1 Henry VI, 2 Henry VI, 3 Henry VI, Henry VIII, Richard II and Richard III.  It also occurs in The Winter’s Tale as “my sovereign mistress.”

[Oxford-Shakespeare uses it elsewhere just once, in Sonnet 57:  “I (my sovereign) watch the clock for you.”

Heads of Traitors on Pikes at London Bridge by the Tower

[With Southampton referring to the Queen as “my sovereign” and Oxford using that phrase consistently in the history plays in reference to a King, without ever using it within any other context, is there any possibility that he or any other poet could call the Earl of Southampton “my sovereign” within a romantic context?  I think not!  But if Oxford is writing this sonnet to Southampton, he would call him “my sovereign” only if he really believes him to be his prince.]

“…though my reason was corrupted by affection to my friend [Essex] (whom I thought honest) and I by that caried headlonge to my mine, without power to preuent it, who otherwise could neuer haue been induced for any cawse of mine owne to haue hazarded her Maiesties displeasure but in a trifle : yet can I not dispayre of her fauor, nether will it enter into my thought that shee who hath been euer so renowned for her uertues, and especially for clemency, will not extend it to mee, that doe with so humble and greeued [grieved] a spirit prostrate my self att her pardoninge one whose harte is without spott, though his cursed destiny hath made his actes to bee condemned, and whose life, if it please her to graunte it, shallbe eternally redy to bee royall feete and craue her pardon. O lett her neuer sufer to bee spiled the bloud of him that desiers to live but to doe her sendee [service?] , nor loose the glory shee shall gaine in the world bysacrifised to accomplish her least comandement.”

The Gate

No more be grieved at that which thou hast done – Sonnet 35

To you it doth belong/ Your self to pardon of self-doing crime – Sonnet 58

“My lords, there are diuers amongest you to whom I owe particular obligation for your fauors past, and to all I haue euer performed that respect which was fitt, which makes me bould in this manner to importune you, and lett not my faultes now make me seem more vnworthy then I haue been, but rather lett the misery of my distressed estate moue you to bee a mean to her Maiestie, to turne away her heauy indignation from mee. O lett not her anger continew towardes an humble and sorrowfull man, for that alone hath more power to dead my spirites [spirits] then any iron hath to kill my flesh.

The Tower & Gate from the Thames

“My sowle is heauy and trobled for my offences, and I shall soon grow to detest my self if her Maiestie refuse to haue compassion of mee.  The law hath hetherto had his proceedinge, wherby her Justice and my shame is sufficiently published; now is the time that mercy is to be shewed.  O pray her then, I beseech your lordships, in my behalf to stay her hand, and stopp the rigorus course of the law, and remember, as I know shee will neuer forgett, that it is more honor to a prince to pardon one penitent offender, then with severity to punish mayny.”

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

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 — Oxford to the Queen in Sonnet 133

“To conclude, I doe humbly entreate your Lordships to sound mercy in her eares, that therby her harte, which I know is apt to receaue any impression of good, may be moued to pity mee, that I may Hue to loose my life (as I have been euer willing and forward to venture it) in her service, as yourlordships herein shall effect a worke of charity, which is pleasinge to God; preserue an honest-harted man (howsoeuer now his fautes haue made him seem otherwise) to his contry; winn honor to yourselues, by fauoringe the distressed; and saue the bloud of one who will live and dy her Maiesties faythfull and loyall subiect.

“Thus, recommendinge my self and my sute to your Lordships’ honorable considerations; beseechinge God to moue you to deale effectually for mee, and to inspire her Maiesties royall harte with the spirite of mercy and compassion towardes mee, I end, remayninge, Your Lordships most humbly, of late Southampton, but now of all men most vnhappy,

“H. WRIOTHESLEY.”

Sonnet 35

No more be grieved at that which thou hast done:

Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud,

Clouds and eclipses stain both Moon and Sunne,

And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud.

All men make faults, and even I in this,

Authorizing thy trespass with compare,

My self corrupting salving thy amiss,

Excusing thy sins more than 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.

From THE MONUMENT:

THY ADVERSE PARTY IS THY ADVOCATE

THY ADVERSE PARTY = Oxford, who will sit on the tribunal at the trial and be forced to render a guilty verdict against his son; “He speaks against me on the adverse side” – Measure for Measure, 4.6.6; PARTY = side in a legal case; -plaintiff or defendant; “But dare maintain the party of the truth” – 1 Henry VI, 2.4.32; “To fight on Edward’s party for the crown” – Richard III, 1.3.138 (on his side); “My prayers on the adverse party fight” – Richard III, 4.4.191; “Thy son is banished upon good advice, whereto thy tongue a party-verdict gave: why at our justice seem’st thou then to lour?” – Richard II, 1.3.233-235 (part of the verdict); “Upon the right and party of her son” – King John, 1.1.34 (on his behalf); to Elizabeth: “And play the mother’s part” – Sonnet 143, line 12

My prayers on the adverse party fight – Richard III, 4.4.191

Besides, the King’s name is a tower of strength,

Which they upon the adverse faction want – Richard III, 5.3.12-13

“I have hitherto passed the pikes of so many adversaries” -Oxford to Robert Cecil,Oct 7, 1601

 “I am very glad if it so prove, for I have need of so many good friends as I can get, and if I could I would seek all the adversaries I have in this cause to make them my friends” – Oxford to Robert Cecil, December 4, 1601

THY ADVOCATE = your defender.  (“Your legal opponent is also your legal defender” – Duncan-Jones); Oxford is telling his son that, at the trial, he will have no choice but to render a vote of guilty; he is therefore an adverse party, but in his heart and behind the scenes he is acting as his son’s advocate; ADVOCATE = “One whose profession it is to plead the cause of any one in a court of justice; a counsellor or counsel … One who pleads, intercedes, or speaks for, or in behalf of, another; a pleader, intercessor, defender … Specially, applied to Christ as the Intercessor for sinners” – OED, the latter adding to suggestions in the Sonnets that Oxford is acting as a Christ figure, sacrificing himself in order to redeem the sins of Southampton

You’re my prisoner, but

Your gaoler shall deliver the keys

That lock up your restraint.  For you, Posthumous,

So soon as I can win th’offended king,

I will be known your advocate – Cymbeline, 1.2.3-7

If she dares trust me with her little babe,

I’ll show’t the King, and undertake to be

Her advocate to th’ loud’st – Winter’s Tale, 2.237-39

I never did incense his Majesty

Against the Duke of Clarence, but have been

An earnest advocate to plead for him  – Richard III, 1.3.85-87

“We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” – Biblical

King’s Advocate: “The principal law-officer of the Crown inScotland, answering to the Attorney-General in England” – OED


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.]

The So-Called “Rival Poet” of the Sonnets is NOT A REAL PERSON….

A section of the Shakespeare sonnets (78 to 86) has been known traditionally as the Rival Poet Series.  Stratfordians and anti-Stratfordians alike, including most Oxfordians, still assume that this figure must be a real individual such as George Chapman or Walter Raleigh or Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex.  Well, I suggest this demonstrates yet again the power of a prior assumption or a long-held belief that is taken for granted and never questioned.

The Dedication of "Lucrece" - 1594 - CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VIEW

The idea of the Rival Poet is that another writer has competed with the author successfully for the affections of the younger man known as the Fair Youth –  identified as Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton (1573-1624), to whom “William Shakespeare” dedicated his first printed works, Venus and Adonis of 1593 and Lucrece of 1594, pledging: “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.”

Never again would the great author dedicate anything to anyone else, ensuring that the names of Southampton and Shakespeare would be linked exclusively and forever.  In Sonnet 82 of the Rival Poet series, the author points directly to his public epistles to Southampton, referring to:

The dedicated words which writers use

Of their fair subject, blessing every book

Under the belief that William Shakspere of Stratford was the author,  it’s a given that the Rival Poet must be a real human being.  But once Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford is postulated as the author known as “Shakespeare,” it’s not only possible but inevitable that the Rival Poet is none other than his pen name or public persona, which is getting all the attention as the writer linked to Southampton.

As mentioned above, most of my own colleagues, while convinced that Edward de Vere was the great author, still assume that the Rival Poet is a real person.  [The latest candidate of choice is the Earl of Essex.]  Yet the case for Oxford is based on the premise that in fact he’s living with a split personality!  This is seen clearly in the personal sonnets, where he himself is PRIVATELY writing to Southampton while his alter ego “Shakespeare” is PUBLICLY addressing him (in the dedications still being printed in new editions of the narrative poems).

Dedication of "Venus and Adonis" - 1593

I wish my Oxfordian colleagues could entertain the thought that the “authorship question” is answered right there in the Sonnets — which Edward de Vere wrote and later compiled as a “monument” to preserve for posterity his own testimony about why and how he chose to obliterate his identity behind the “Shakespeare” mask.  What he describes in the Sonnets is NOT merely the adoption of the pen name in the early 1590’s, in which case he could have expected to be revealed posthumously, but, rather, his decision to sacrifice his identity after his death:

“My name be buried where my body is,” he writes in Sonnet 72, leading up to the “rival” series.

Oxford, addressing Southampton in Sonnet 80, offers a capsule answer to the authorship question:

O how I faint when I of you do write,

Knowing a better spirit doth use your name,

And in the praise thereof spends all his might

To make me tongue-tied speaking of your name.

The pen name “Shakespeare” is the rival who can praise Henry Wriothesley in public, while Edward de Vere must remain “tongue-tied” or silent.  (In Sonnet 66 he complains that his “art” or ability to communicate has been “tongue-tied by authority” or by official policy.)

"Knowing a better spirit doth use your name"

Would the Earl of Oxford, Lord Great Chamberlain of England and highest-ranking earl of the realm, ever, under any circumstances, call anyone else, including Chapman or Raleigh or Essex (whom he really disliked), a “better spirit”?  I think not!

“Shakespeare” is the better spirit… 

In Sonnet 81 he offers an even more direct answer, telling Southampton:

Your name from hence immortal life shall have

Though I (once gone) to all the world must die

Could that be any clearer?  He correctly predicts that Southampton will be remembered because of the Shakespeare connection; and then he says directly that, after his death, he will have to “die” all over again “to all the world”which can only mean that he anticipates his own obliteration as “Shakespeare,” who publicly devoted his labors to Southampton.

By what logic, and for what reason, would the traditional Shakespeare write such words?

This is just one piece of the puzzle among others needed to create the full picture.  I’ll be back with more such pieces, as set forth in The Monument … in Shakespeare’s Son and His Sonnets … and in Twelve Years in the Life of Shakespeare.

Happy New Year 2012 from “The Monument” and “Shakesepeare’s Son and His Sonnets”

"The Monument" at Amazon.com

Happy New Year!  Thanks to all readers of this blog and to all who join us in the effort to break down the walls of denial about the true Shakespeare.  We are pleased to report that The Monument: “Shake-speare’s Sonnets” by Edward de Vere 17th Earl of Oxford is entering its eighth year of publication and continues as strongly as ever to communicate with readers in the U.S. and around the world.

"The Monument" on Kindle

And we are especially pleased to be reaching new readers of The Monument on Kindle, which includes the entire book of 900+ pages in its original format.  The same is true for our “overview” or “synopsis” version entitled Shake-Speare’s Son and His Sonnetsa title that indicates, in no uncertain terms, where we stand on the most controversial issue in the Oxfordian community — Prince Tudor!

"Shakespeare's Son and His Sonnets" at Amazon.com

Here’s a quick response I gave this morning to a reader of this blog who, in the comments section, asked about the Shakespeare Authorship Question as a conspiracy theory.  I told it as I see it:

“The traditional belief that ‘Shakespeare’ was a man from Stratford upon Avon is a powerful myth, which for many makes it difficult if not impossible to look at the facts clearly and without the tremendous pull of prior assumptions. A common attack on those who search for the truth is that they must be “snobs” who feel a commoner could not have written the great poems and plays; but the real snobs are those in academia who continue to ridicule and scoff as well as attack. If there is a conspiracy theory afoot, it’s the conspiracy of powerful entities such as the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the British tourism industry based on Stratford, along with the world of academia that includes educational institutions, academic credentials, peer-review publishing, teaching tools, textbook companies, the publishing and entertainment worlds — all working together to help each other continue making profits and staying in business. A lot is at stake. Follow the money.

“In the history itself, in my view, the only explanation for an attempt to deceive is that there existed a Prince Tudor — a possible heir by blood to the throne of England in succession to Elizabeth Tudor, the First Elizabeth and legendary Virgin Queen — who, if ‘Shakespeare’ was telling the truth in the Sonnets, was the son of Elizabeth and Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, raised as Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton, to whom ‘Shakespeare’ dedicated his work and for whom he created the Sonnets as a means of preserving the truth for posterity. It’s all right in front of us, just like so many other things in our lives that are standing in plain sight but go unacknowledged…”

I would add that there’s no other credible explanation for long-term concealment of the true author of the greatest works written in the English language or possibly in any language.  The works attributed to “Shakespeare” — the plays, yes, but especially the poems and sonnets — are the living containers of true history; and if the Earl of Oxford had been revealed as the author, it would not have taken long for the existence of a Prince Tudor — a Tudor heir — to become known and to ignite a new civil war around the throne.  There could have been no higher stakes for those in power and, too, for the stability of a nation.

Once again — Happy New Year to all!

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