Reason 94 to Believe that Edward de Vere the Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare” — Acknowledged Sources of the Plays Include the Works of Many of the Writers under His Patronage and Guidance

“Men can always be blind to a thing, so long as it’s big enough” – Chesterton

The bottom line of this post is that many of Shakespeare’s immediate or contemporary “predecessors,” cited by scholars over the generations as providing source materials for the great author, in fact gained their subject matter and learned their skills from Edward de Vere. As we look through various editions of the Shakespeare works, there emerges (seemingly from between the lines) a clear pattern of Oxford’s silent but hugely influential presence – like some towering and pervasive ghostly figure who has gone virtually unnoticed, simply because no one has been looking for him. So let us begin again…

Reader's Encyclopedia of  Shakespeare - edited  by O. J. Campbell

Reader’s Encyclopedia of Shakespeare – edited
by O. J. Campbell — one of the best books on the bard

A powerful reason why Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare” is that the identified sources for many of the comedies include literary or dramatic work by writers who worked under his patronage and guidance. Based primarily on two major reference works – The Reader’s Encyclopedia of Shakespeare edited by Oscar Campbell and Dating Shakespeare’s Plays edited by Kevin Gilvary, here are ten such plays in alphabetical order:

As You Like It – The direct and primary source is Rosalynde, Euphues’ Golden Legacy, a prose romance by Thomas Lodge, written by 1587. Lodge followed the euphuistic literary movement (aimed at refining and enriching the English language) of which Oxford was the leader. The earl’s secretary John Lyly had published two Euphues novels in 1579-1580; and As You Like It contains several thematic links with Lyly’s court plays such as Sappho and Phao, Galathea and The Woman in the Moon. In addition the play James IV by Robert Greene, another writer in Oxford’s orbit, contains forerunners of As You Like It’s feminine characters and is also notable for using the similar setting of rural England.

Indispensable for all kinds of solid information

Indispensable for all kinds of solid information

The Comedy of Errors – Once again, writings attributed to Oxford’s personal secretary Lyly are identified as sources used by the Shakespearean dramatist. “The rhetorical features of the comedy betray the influence of John Lyly that was strong during the formative years of Shakespeare’s art,” Campbell writes.

Love’s Labour’s Lost – This play contains “many features of the euphuistic style made fashionable by the publication of John Lyly’s Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit,” Derran Charlton and Kevin Gilvary report. H.R. Woudhuysen observes that parts of the play are “reminiscent of the court comedies and the prose romances of John Lyly,” who dedicated Euphues his England (1580) to Edward de Vere.

The Merchant of Venice – Considered a likely source is Zelauto, the Fountain of Fame (1580) by another of Oxford’s secretaries, Anthony Munday, who dedicated it to the earl. Details of plot, character and language in Munday’s work are paralleled in the Shakespearean play – including the usurer’s daughter and her marriage, as well as the two ladies who disguise themselves as lawyers. And it appears that Portia’s speech about the “quality of mercy” was influenced by the judge’s pleas for mercy in the same work by Munday, who referred to himself in the dedication as “Servant to the Right Honourable the Earl of Oxenford.”

The Merry Wives of Windsor – According to Philip Johnson, the treatment of Falstaff by the ‘fairies’ in the final scene appears to parallel the episode of Lyly’s play Endimion in which the soldier Corsites is pinched by fairies. Johnson also notes that some influence on Falstaff “may have been derived” from the character of Captain Crackstone in Munday’s Fedele and Fortunio (1585), a translation from Luigi Pasqualigo.

Geoffrey Bullough's multi-volume series on the sources -- a great library resource

Geoffrey Bullough’s multi-volume series on the sources — a great library resource

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – H.F. Brooks and C.L. Barber agree that this play also reflects the court dramas attributed to Lyly, who also acted as Oxford’s stage manager for plays performed at Blackfriars and the royal court. Geoffrey Bullough believes that Lyly’s play Endimion influenced the Shakespearean play. H.F. Brooks and Nevill Coghill have observed that the dramatic structure of the Dream by Shakespeare is similar to a combination of leading features in Munday’s play John a Kent and John a Cumber.

Much Ado About Nothing – The English source of this Shakespearean play appears to be Fedele and Fortunio (1585) by Oxford’s secretary Munday, who would have adapted it from an Italian play, Il Fedele, written in 1579.

The Tempest – The play Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay (c. 1591) by Oxford’s protégé Robert Greene “bears some primitive and remote resemblance to The Tempest,” Campbell writes, “and is one of the earliest examples of the successful interweaving of a subplot with the main story.” In addition, Greene’s play The History of Orlando Furioso (1594) drew from Ariosto’s work of that name (1516); and in their game-changing book On the Date, Sources and Design of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest (2013), Roger Stritmatter and Lynne Kositsky show how that Italian epic poem is itself an important source of this Shakespearean play (and of Much Ado, for example).

The Two Gentlemen of Verona – Geoffrey Bullough notes some common techniques in Two Gentlemen and the comedies and romances of Lyly; and he believes that Lyly’s novel Euphues, The Anatomy of Wit (1579), inspired (and perhaps dictated to him) by Oxford, his employer, comes closest to this Shakespearean work. “Shakespeare’s debt appears in the courtly atmosphere of Lyly’s romance plays,” Noemi Magri writes; and C. Leech, editor of the Arden edition of Two Gentlemen, notes “many incidental echoings” of Lyly and that the Launce-Speed dialogue in Act Three, Scene One contains a major “crib” from Lyly’s romantic comedy Midas, played in 1591 by the Paul’s Boys for Elizabeth at court.

All the Varioriums of all the plays, poems and sonnets are gold mines of info!

All the Varioriums of all the plays, poems and sonnets are gold mines of info!

(The title of Two Gentlemen is suggestive of Munday’s play Fidelio and Fortunio, the Deceits in Love Discoursed in a Comedy of Two Italian Gentlemen. R. Hosley, an editor of Munday’s work, suggests that Fidelio and Fortunio was acted before the Queen by Oxford’s company of child actors called Oxford’s Boys.)

The Winter’s Tale – Campbell writes, “The source of the main plot is Robert Greene’s novel Pandosto, or the Triumph of Time,” printed in 1588. The Shakespearean play carries over all the characters in Pondosto except one (Mopsa)! “There has been considerable disagreement among scholars as to the relationship of Greene and Shakespeare,” Campbell observes. “If, as many scholars have believed, Shakespeare began his career by revising other men’s plays, then it is probable that some of these plays were at least partly Greene’s.”

(Some Oxfordians – notably Stephanie Hughes and Nina Green – have set forth impressive arguments that “Robert Greene” was but an early pen name used by Oxford before “killing him off” in 1592, prior to adopting the “Shakespeare” pseudonym. In any case, one of Greene’s earliest books – Card of Fancy, printed in 1584 – was dedicated to Oxford as “a worthy favourer and fosterer of learning” who had “forced many through your excellent virtues to offer the first-fruits of their study at the shrine of your Lordship’s courtesy.”)

Oxfordian editions of the plays are coming forth... (See Amazon.com)

Oxfordian editions of the plays are coming forth…
(See Amazon.com)

Meanwhile The Winter’s Tale owes much to the use of Greek Romances. In that regard, two contemporary writers linked to Oxford contributed suggested sources: Angel Day, who published an English translation of Daphnis and Chloe in 1587; and Thomas Underdowne, who translated Heliodorus’ Aethiopica in 1569, when he dedicated it to nineteen-year-old Oxford, writing of the earl’s “haughty courage joined with great skill, such sufficiency in learning, so good nature and common sense” among other virtues. Eddi Jolly, noting the influence of Aethiopica upon The Winter’s Tale, observes that “the entire moving force is a king’s jealousy.”

Another Oxfordian edition -- with more sources than orthodox editions have acknowledged

Another Oxfordian edition — with more sources than orthodox editions have acknowledged

This rundown is about as brief and compact as I could make it; however, I cannot resist citing one of my favorite influences upon “Shakespeare” by a writer working under Oxford’s patronage: The sequence of 100 consecutively numbered sonnets or “passions” entitled Hekatompathia, or the Passionate Century of Love by Thomas Watson, who dedicated it to Oxford in 1582, thanking the earl for having “perused” the work in manuscript. (Oxfordians have suggested that Oxford wrote the prose “headers” or brief scholarly notes for each of Watson’s sonnets; and, too, they have suggested that Edward de Vere wrote the entire “century” or 100-sonnet sequence himself.) The point here is that, when I set forth the 100-verse sequence of Sonnets 27 to 126 as the centerpiece of SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS of 1609, in my edition The Monument, citing Watson’s sequence as a precedent, it was unknown to me that someone else had already made the same observation nearly seventy years earlier!

It was Edgar Fripp, an orthodox scholar, in his work Shakespeare, Man and Artist of 1938, who wrote: “Centuries or ‘hundreds’ of literary pieces were in fashion – of Songs, Sonnets, Prayers, Sermons, Hymns, Sentences, ‘Flowers,’ ‘Points of Husbandry,’ Emblems, Medical Observations, or what not … The Hekatompathia or Passionate Century of Love by Thomas Watson, otherwise a Century of Passions, may have served as a model for Shakespeare’s Century of Sonnets … Shakespeare’s Sonnets 27-126 are a Century.”

hek TP WEB4

(Moreover it was suggested in The Monument that Shakespeare’s “century” of 1609 is divided into two parts: Part One, the eighty sonnets 27-106 and Part Two, the twenty sonnets 107-126; and Watson’s sequence of 1582 is also divided into two parts, in the same way, as Part One, Sonnets 1-80 and Part Two, Sonnets 81-100. I suggest that Oxford structured the Shakespearean sonnet sequence in direct reflection of the Watson sequence, in order to steer us back to Passionate Century , where we would find him!)

In addition to the Arden, Riverside, Penguin and other editions of the Works, here are just some of the other books that include Shakespeare sources:

This book represents  the most significant example of what results when the orthodox version of Shakesepeare's sources is examined from a fresh perspective!

This book represents the most significant example of what results when the orthodox version of Shakesepeare’s sources is examined from a fresh perspective!

Anderson, Mark, “Shakespeare” by Another Name, 2005

Bullough, Geoffrey, Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, 1958

Chambers, E.K., The Elizabethan Stage, 1923

Clark, Eva Turner, Hidden Allusions in Shakespeare’s Plays, 1931; reprint 1974

Another Bombshell — The New Book on ‘The Tempest’ by Stritmatter and Kositsky Demolishes the Old Stratfordian Arguments

A copy of the long-awaited new work by Roger A. Stritmatter and Lynne Kositsky — On the Date, Sources and Design of Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ – recently arrived and, as we anticipated, it’s another blockbuster bombshell of evidence and cogent argument by which the foundations of traditional Shakespearean biography are destined to be torn asunder. Put it up on your shelf alongside The Shakespeare Guide to Italy by the late Richard Paul Roe and you will have ten times the information needed to know for certain that William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon was not the great poet-dramatist.
Tempest Book

The wildly incorrect dating of The Tempest to 1611 is among the foremost arguments that Stratfordians use against Edward de Vere the seventeenth Earl of Oxford as the author, given his recorded death of 24 June 1604. This line of attack involves much sneering, ridiculing and joking about how Oxford must have written this play from the grave. Well, let’s get this work from Stritmatter and Kositsky into every high school, every college and university, and see if the teachers and professors (of English, Drama and History) can deal with it fairly and even … hopefully … expand their perspectives to allow for a shift of view … to be able to change their minds.

In their introduction the authors write with the calm, inner confidence of explorers who have traveled throughout this territory and know every inch of its landscape:

“This book challenges a longstanding and deeply ingrained belief in Shakespearean studies that The Tempest – long supposed to be Shakespeare’s last play – was not written until 1611. In the course of investigating this proposition, which has not received the critical inquiry it deserves, a number of subsidiary and closely related interpretative puzzles come sharply into focus. These include the play’s sources of New World imagery; its festival symbolism and structure; its relationship to William Strachey’s True Repertory account of the 1609 Bermuda wreck of the Sea Venture (not published until 1625); and ultimately the tangled history of how and why scholars have for so long misunderstood these matters … Our book hopes to explore new vistas in Tempest scholarship… ”

William S. Niederkorn, formerly an editor at The New York Times and now writing criticism for The Brooklyn Rail, has contributed a fine introduction — although I must add that “Prospero’s exit” is, in my view, a late addition to the play by Oxford, written between 1601 and 1603, when he had agreed to an obliteration of his identity as Shakespeare. (See editor Bill Boyle’s take on it in A Poet’s Rage, his new collection of Oxfordian essays, where he compares Prospero’s epilogue with Sonnet 120.) Meanwhile we can certainly agree with Niederkorn that the reverberations from this Stritmatter-Kositsky book “should be seismic for Shakespeare scholars.”

(And on a more personal level, I would like to congratulate Roger and Lynne for their determination and hard work over the past several years, enabling them to produce a landmark publication. Bravo!)

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)


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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