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.]

Some Reactions to the Debate in London

A couple of early reactions to the Debate in London yesterday:

From the BBC – DIRECTOR EMMERICH DEFENDS SHAKESPEARE AUTHORSHIP FILM

And this one is from THE AUSTRALIAN – Full Story at This Link

Oldest literary conspiracy theory trotted out again

A HOLLYWOOD film that claims William Shakespeare was an illiterate buffoon who passed off a nobleman’s plays as his own got off to a wobbly start at the Hay Festival in Wales when actor Ralph Fiennes described the premise as a “dead-end argument”.

Roland Emmerich, one of Hollywood’s most successful directors, presented clips of his film Anonymous to the public for the first time at the festival and answered questions about why he chose to portray the Edward de Vere, the 17th earl of Oxford as the true author of the plays.

But Fiennes, who has not seen the film, says he is puzzled by the obsession with giving credit to other authors. “Instinctively, I don’t buy it,” he says.

Fiennes, who was at the festival to talk about his forthcoming film adaptation of Coriolanus, says: “People say, ‘How could he have known about Italy and how could he have so much [knowledge],’ and I’m puzzled because he went to a grammar school, which were very good schools, and why couldn’t a unique individual be able to imagine and encompass a massive range of linguistic expression?  (Full Story at Link Above)

==

I remember having the same reaction that Fiennes expresses.  I put a lot of stock on good ol’ imagination, and still do — but when I dug a little deeper and discovered how much knowledge — and specific knowledge — gets into the plays, poems and sonnets, well, it boggles the mind and calls for some reassessment.  If you go to a good library and find the Shakespeare section, my goodness it seems there’s an entire book (or two or more) devoted exclusively to Shakespeare’s handling of every single subject such as law, heraldry, music, kingship, flowers, hunting, war, ships, Italy, France, the classics, astronomy, horsemanship, fashions, the bible — I mean, we are not talking just about some “good” or even “great” author but about some kind of amazing giant of whom there may have been no equal in all the rest of history before or since.

Investigation is required — or the result, which I have seen over and over, is what you might call “the dumbing down” of Shakespeare; that is, attempts to reduce him down to more normal size, so he can fit the framework of traditional biography.  I am not speaking of him as a god or a miracle, but, rather, a rare human being who must have had not only “nature” on his side but “nurture” as well — and this is also not about snobbery, please, and not even about who “could” have written these masterpieces but who “did” write them.

Reassessment … Investigation!

“Anonymous” the Movie to Focus on the End Game of Elizabethan Politics, the Essex Rebellion and the Succession to Queen Elizabeth

Well, it’s good to see the trailer for Anonymous, due in September from Roland Emmerich, about Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford as Shakespeare; and in the view from this corner, it’s great to see that the film will apparently focus on the “end game” of political power struggles leading to the Essex Rebellion in February of 1601, the imprisonment of co-leaders Essex and Southampton, the execution of Essex and the succession to Elizabeth in March of 1603.

These, after all, were not only the Earl of Oxford’s concerns but those dramatized by “Shakespeare” in his plays of English royal history, which mirrored contemporary issues and helped to prepare citizens for the inevitable changes that would follow the Queen’s death.  Such is the concern of the Sonnets, as expressed in The Monument, which sets forth the political “story” recorded by Oxford using the language and form of the poetry of love.

Because of a single movie, this generation of students will be the first to learn there’s even a question about the authorship of the Shakespeare works – a fact which, I’d say, boggles the mind.

“Shakespeare’s Son and His Sonnets” – An Amazon Review

I’d like to share an Amazon customer review of Shakespeare’s Son and His Sonnets by my friend and colleague Peter Rush, as a way of publicly thanking him for the rave, which now follows:

In 2005 the author, Hank Whittemore, published his “monumental”, and I would say definitive, study of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, entitled The Monument.  Its 900+ pages is an extended tour de force, and represents, in my opinion, and the opinion of a growing number of others, scholars and “lay” persons alike, the heretofore missing “smoking gun” that not only explains, fully and totally, the entire cycle of 154 sonnets, down to every word in every line in every sonnet, but resolves, definitively, with no room for an alternate explanation, the “Shakespeare authorship” debate, in favor of Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford.

The present volume is the author’s teaser, intended to reveal the core of his analysis and argument, in a very readable, relatively abbreviated format, that will by virtue of a more affordable price and much shorter format, reach a much broader and more general audience.

It is to be hoped that, teased by this volume, many will recognize the need to acquire The Monument itself in order to fully appreciate, at a much deeper, far more satisfying level, dozens and dozens of sonnets they have probably never read before, and which, had they read them, they would have found them incomprehensible, but which they will now find become transparent as to meaning, which will open up the ability to appreciate the astounding poetry, rich beyond compare.

I could attempt to provide some of the actual evidence for Whittemore’s thesis in this review, but I could only begin to scratch the surface, and I couldn’t do it as well as it is done in this volume. This volume can be read in one sitting, and does the job extremely well.  I do commend people to read my review of The Monument in Aug. 2005,  the first review that comes up, for some more information on Whittemore’s revolutionary discovery.

What I do want to say is that Whittemore has identified that not only a few sonnets, as some others have correctly determined, but every single sonnet, is about the 3rd Earl of Southampton, Queen Elizabeth, and/or Oxford himself, which has importance for one reason only — that Southampton was Oxford’s unacknowledged son by Elizabeth, thus of royal blood, a potential successor to Elizabeth, requiring only that she recognize him as her bastard
son for him to become king on her death. Don’t freak out, if this is the first time you’ve heard this thesis. Trust me, when you read this book, you will see hundreds of references in the sonnets that only make sense if this hypothesis is correct. Please don’t prejudge the argument without reading the evidence for yourself.

What I can confirm is that no other attempt to explain the entire sonnet cycle by any other researcher (and only a few have even attempted to analyze all 154 in detail and as a unified corpus), comes remotely close to explaining every sonnet, much less every word and every line in every sonnet. Absent Whittemore’s brilliant analysis, the sonnets at best remain an enigmatic exercise by an acknowledged genius that continues to elude intelligible explication. Anyone with any interest in Shakespeare, the sonnets, and/or the authorship debate, must read this book.

What you will find here is a wealth of different types of evidence that matches the sonnets, one by one, to historical events in Southampton’s life through his release from imprisonment in 1603. The first 17 are entreaties to marry (anyone) in order to procreate, in order to carry on the royal line. Sonnets 27-106 start on the day Southampton was arrested for teason on Feb. 8, 1601, and end the day before he was released. 107-126 cover the days to the burial of Queen Elizabeth. 127-152 are a reprise of the imprisonment period, more briefly, focusing more on Oxford’s anger at Queen Elizabeth, the “dark lady.”

Whittemore convincingly shows who the “rival poet” is, and by establishing that Southampton was his own son, obviously solves the riddle of how/why these poems could be putative love poems to–another man!

What distinguishes The Monument from this volume is that, in addition to providing even more detail along the lines of what this book contains, The Monument provides 14-line translations of every sonnet, rendering the underlying meaning clear, and then providing, in 1-3 pages each, detailed analysis of every line, and many words and phrases, for every sonnet, and showing how the same words or concepts also have appeared in one or more plays.  One needs to read The Monument to really appreciate every sonnet. But the present volume is a wonderful introduction to the thesis, and permits understanding many of the more crucial sonnets.

The Shakespeare authorship debate is in as full a swing as it has ever been. Finally, a number of leading Stratfordians have realized that ignoring the Oxfordian argument wasn’t working for them, and they have decided they need to fight back with books of their own on the authorship debate, websites, etc.

James Shapiro signs my copy of "Contested Will" for me after giving a talk in New York City.

James Shapiro’s “Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare” is just the latest book I believe to be entered in the lists (a wretched, pathetic attempt, in my opinion), and there are a number of extensive websites. In several of these, the Stratfordian side has finally attempted (I think futilely) to actually mention the arguments from the Oxfordian side, and attempt to refute them.  I mention this because, despite being available for the past five years, I have been unable to track down a single attempt by any Stratfordian to tackle Whittemore’s thesis.

I believe this fact (unless I’ve missed some analysis somewhere) is extremely telling.  Given the slowly gathering recognition by more and more people that Whittemore has found the key to both the sonnets and to the authorship issue, it seems pretty certain that had the Stratfordian side any serious argument with which to debunk Whittemore’s thesis (other than prima facie “the thesis that Southampton is QE’s son is impossible”), we would have seen it by now. Their silence speaks volumes in favor of the power of his thesis and
likelihood that Whittemore has, indeed, solved this mystery. I can only imagine that they pray every night that most people will never be able to “get over” their aversion to believing that Southampton could be QE’s bastard son by Oxford, and hence never have to confront Whittemore’s thesis on the evidence itself. If so, I believe they will find themselves sadly mistaken.

In the interests of full disclosure, I want to make known that I have become a personal friend of the author, having read an early draft of his thesis in 2000 on a listserve, when I first contacted him, and have followed his progress from tantalizing hypothesis to confirmed theory ever since. I don’t believe this taints my review. I was intrigued by his early hypothesis, and totally convinced by The Monument, his completed thesis. The present volume is wholly derivative from that 2005 book.

I also want to note a criticism of the way the book was put together, which doesn’t negatively impact the thesis, but does cry out for improvement in a second edition.  The volume reads like a compilation of three or four essays that might have been written separately and then just published together (but I don’t believet his was the case).  Transitions between some of these sections are lacking, and the effect leads to occasional repetition of points already made in an earlier section, and some jumping around of the subject matter.

Thanks to Peter Rush — and Cheers from Hank

“The Second Burden of a Former Child” – Sonnet 59 of The Living Record of Henry Earl of Southampton

THE PRISON YEARS
DAY THIRTY-THREE IN THE TOWER

EXECUTION DRAWS NEARER

Sonnet 59
Labouring for Invention
The Second Burden of a Former Child

12 March 1601

While waiting for Elizabeth [actually Robert Cecil] to make her decision about the fate of their royal son [or waiting for him to agree to give up his claim to the throne], Oxford continues to record the days of Southampton’s life in this diary.  He refers to his “invention” of the Sonnets – an “invention” he introduced when publicly dedicating Venus and Adonis to him as “the first heir of my invention” or his invented name “William Shakespeare.”  Now that same “invention” has been extended to his method of communicating to posterity through the poetry of the Sonnets; and he is “laboring for invention” by giving his son rebirth in this womb or “living record” of the private verses.  His diary is itself the “second burthen” (new burden of childbirth or re-creation) of a “former child,” i.e., of a son who was once his but who was taken from him by the Queen and never acknowledged as the rightful heir to the throne.

1- If there be nothing new, but that which is
2- Hath been before, how are our brains beguiled,
3- Which, lab’ring for invention, bear amiss
4- The second burthen of a former child!

5- Oh that record could with a backward look,
6- Even of five hundred courses of the Sunne,
7 – Show me your image in some antique book,
8 – Since mind at first in character was done,

9 – That I might see what the old world could say
10 – To this composed wonder of your frame;
11 – Whether we are mended, or where better they
12 – Or whether revolution be the same.

13 – Oh sure I am the wits of former days
14 – To subjects worse have given admiring praise.

1 IF THERE BEEN NOTHING NEW BUT THAT WHICH IS
Proverbial and biblical; “if there is nothing new under the sun,” echoing the royal sun; i.e., there is nothing new under the royal son; “For as the Sun is daily new and old,/ So is my love still telling what is told” – Sonnet 76, lines 13-14

2 HATH BEEN BEFORE, HOW ARE OUR BRAINS BEGUILED,
BEGUILED = cheated; “Thou dost beguile the world” – Sonnet 3, line 4

3 WHICH, LABORING FOR INVENTION, BEAR AMISS
LABORING FOR INVENTION
= The image of Oxford’s brain giving birth or rebirth to his son in these sonnets, using his “invention” explained in Sonnet 76 and demonstrated in Sonnet 105.

“Only, if your Honour seem but pleased, I account myself highly praised; and vow to take advantage of all idle hours, till I have honoured you with some graver labour.  But if the first heir of my invention prove deformed, I shall be sorry it had so noble a godfather, and never after ear so barren a land, for fear it shall yield me still so bad a harvest” – Dedication of Venus and Adonis to Southampton, 1593

“My very good Lord.  I have labored so much as I could possibly to advance Her Majesty’s customs of tin” – Oxford to Burghley, April 9, 1595

BEAR = give birth to; bear the burden of; BEAR AMISS = bear a son consigned by the Queen to the status of a royal bastard; “suggests ‘miscarry’” – Booth; “Myself corrupting salving thy amiss” – Sonnet 35, line 7, referring to his son’s role in the Rebellion

4 THE SECOND BURTHEN OF A FORMER CHILD!
BURTHEN
= burden; SECOND BURTHEN OF A FORMER CHILD = the second birth of you, and responsibility for you, in this secret diary; (“give birth a second time to a child that lived before” – Booth, citing the “primary” sense); Oxford is using the Sonnets in order to give “rebirth” to his son and to grow him in the “womb” of his diary written according to the dwindling time of the life of his mother the Queen; he is replacing Elizabeth’s womb with this one; “My first burthen, coming before his time, must needs be a blind whelp, the second brought forth after his time must needs be a monster, the one I sent to a noble man to nurse, who with great love brought him up, for a year” – John Lyly, 1580, dedicating Euphues his England to Oxford

FORMER CHILD = “But out alack, he was but one hour mine,/ The region cloud hath masked him from me now” – Sonnet 33, lines 11-12; to Southampton, referring to these private verses: “Commit to these waste blanks, and thou shalt find/ Those children nursed, delivered from thy brain” – Sonnet 77, lines 10-11

5 OH THAT RECORD COULD WITH A BACKWARD LOOK,
RECORD
= the true record of your life in the Sonnets (oh, that it could look all the way back in time); “The living record of your memory” – Sonnet 55, line 8, referring to the record of his son’s life in these verses; “For thy records, and what we see, doth lie” – Sonnet 123, line 11, referring to the records of Time, i.e., historical records, that fail to tell the truth

6 EVEN OF FIVE HUNDRED COURSES OF THE SUNNE,
FIVE HUNDRED COURSES OF THE SUN
= referring to the five hundred years of the Oxford earldom, when his official blood lineage began in England; the royal past of England from 1066; THE SUNNE = linking his royal son to the blood lineage of past kings; “Even so my Sunne one early morn did shine” – Sonnet 33, line 9; “Making a couplement of proud compare/ With Sunne and Moone” – Sonnet 21, lines 5-6, i.e., Southampton and Elizabeth; “And scarcely greet me with that sunne, thine eye” – Sonnet 49, line 6; “Clouds and eclipses stain both Moone and Sunne” – Sonnet 35, line 3, i.e., both mother and son; “And crooked eclipses ‘gainst his glory fight” – Sonnet 60, line 7; “The mortal Moone hath her eclipse endured” – Sonnet 107, line 5; “My Mistress’ eyes are nothing like the Sunne” – Sonnet 130, line 1; “And truly not the morning Sun of Heaven/ Better becomes the gray cheeks of the East” – Sonnet 132, line 5

7 SHOW ME YOUR IMAGE IN SOME ANTIQUE BOOK,
Giving evidence of you in some old account or written account of the past; YOUR IMAGE = your royal image; “The image of the King … your most royal image” – 2 Henry IV, 5.3.79, 89

8 SINCE MIND AT FIRST IN CHARACTER WAS DONE:
MIND = the mind of humankind; IN CHARACTER = in the form of written words on the page; “What’s in the brain that Ink may character,/ Which hath not figur’d to thee my true spirit?” – Sonnet 108, lines 1-2, to Southampton; DONE = expressed, written down

9 THAT I MIGHT SEE WHAT THE OLD WORLD COULD SAY
THE OLD WORLD
= the realm of old England, in history

10 TO THIS COMPOSED WONDER OF YOUR FRAME:
To these sonnets, in which I compose the “wonder” or royal blood of you; “His head by nature framed to wear a crown” – 3 Henry VI, 4.6.72; WONDER = miracle; “won” playing on “one” for Southampton, as in the “wondrous excellence” and “wondrous scope” of Sonnet 105, marking Elizabeth’s death, followed by their amazement and marveling at the fact of Southampton’s forthcoming release amid the accession of James: “For we which now behold these present days,/ Have eyes to wonder, but lack tongues to praise” – Sonnet 106, lines 13-14

11 WHETHER WE ARE MENDED, OR WHERE BETTER THEY,
Whether we have done you more justice and where they would have written a better account of your life; WE = the royal “we” used in the opening of the diary: “From fairest creatures we desire increase” – Sonnet 1, line 1

12 OR WHETHER REVOLUTION BE THE SAME.
REVOLUTION
= the cycle of the sun and planets; echoing the Rebellion or revolt; “For as the Sun is daily new and old,/ So is my love still telling what is told” – Sonnet 76, lines 13-14; THE SAME = without change; echoing Elizabeth’s motto Semper Eadem or Ever the Same, inserted as “Why write I still all one, ever the same” of Sonnet 76, line 5

13 OH SURE I AM THE WITS OF FORMER DAYS
OH = O = Oxford; I AM = “I am that I am” – Sonnet 121, line 9; THE WITS = the wise writers or contemporary historians (of the past); ironically in the 1580s Oxford was leader of a group of writers known later as the University Wits, who have been regarded as the immediate “forerunners” or “predecessors” of Shakespeare

14 TO SUBJECTS WORSE HAVE GIVEN ADMIRING PRAISE.
SUBJECTS
= topics; servants of the monarch; TO SUBJECTS WORSE = to lesser subjects of a monarch; i.e., Southampton is a subject of the Queen; in the eyes of the law he is a traitor, but other “subjects” praised by writers have been much worse

(It is interesting that this particular sonnet is placed in correspondence with the 33rd day of Southampton’s imprisonment, given that it reflects the age of Christ at His death on the Cross.  Sonnet 59 alludes to Southampton’s birth in 1574  along with Sonnet 33: “Even so my Sunne one early morn did shine…”)

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

DAY THIRTY-TWO IN THE TOWER
EXECUTION OF SOUTHAMPTON DRAWS NEAR

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

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

Sonnet 58

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

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

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

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

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

Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603)

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

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

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

Tower of London, where Southampton awaits execution

6TH’IMPRISONED ABSENCE OF YOUR LIBERTY,
IMPRISONED = Southampton, imprisoned; ABSENCE OF YOUR LIBERTY = The “absence” of Southampton’s liberty is imprisoned within Oxford’s mind and heart; (it “also carries suggestions of ‘lack of the liberty of you,’ ‘lack of the privilege of unrestricted access to you” – Booth); “I cannot conceive in so short a time and in so small an absence how so great a change is happened to you” – Oxford to Robert Cecil, December 4, 1601; LIBERTY = Southampton’s freedom and even his life itself, the absence of which would mean his death (by execution); “Those pretty wrongs that liberty commits” – Sonnet 41, line 1; “Humbly complaining to her deity got my Lord Chamberlain his liberty” – Richard III, 1.1.76-77

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

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

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

8 WITHOUT ACCUSING YOU OF INJURY.
ACCUSING = recalling the legal accusation of treason against Southampton; “Since that the truest issue of thy throne by his own interdiction stands accused” – Macbeth, 4.3.106-107; “Accuse me thus” – Sonnet 117, line 1, Oxford speaking after Southampton has been released and he, Oxford, has accepted all blame; INJURY = “injustice, wrong … offence … crime … anything contrary to a benefit … the wrong suffered by one” – Schmidt; “To bear love’s wrong than hate’s known injury” – Sonnet 40, line 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But who is this man???

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

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

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

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

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

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

The story is much bigger than that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*(The Letters of King James VI and I)

King James VI of Scotland & King James I of England

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

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

Sir Robert Cecil, Principal Secretary to Elizabeth

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of which was accomplished.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE PRISON YEARS
DAY THIRTY IN THE TOWER
Sonnet 56
This Sad Interim
9 March 1601

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 SWEET LOVE, RENEW THY FORCE!  BE IT NOT SAID

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

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

2 THY EDGE SHOULD BLUNTER BE THAN APPETITE,

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

3 WHICH BUT TODAY BY FEEDING IS ALLAYED,

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

4 TOMORROW SHARP’NED IN HIS FORMER MIGHT.

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

5 SO LOVE BE THOU, ALTHOUGH TODAY THOU FILL

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

Queen Elizabeth I

6 THY HUNGRY EYES, EVEN TILL THEY WINK WITH FULLNESS.

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

7 TOMORROW SEE AGAIN, AND DO NOT KILL

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

8 THE SPIRIT OF LOVE WITH A PERPETUAL DULLNESS.

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

9 LET THIS SAD IN’T’RIM LIKE THE OCEAN BE

THIS SAD INTERIM = this sorrowful time of your imprisonment (which hopefully is only temporary); OCEAN = kingly; royal blood“Here, then, we have Shakespeare typifying his Friend variously as a sun, a god, an ocean or a sea: three familiar metaphors which he and his contemporaries use to represent a sovereign prince or king” – Leslie Hotson, Mr. W. H., 1964
“Even to our Ocean, to our great King John” – King John, 5.4.57; “The tide of blood in me … shall mingle with the state of floods and flow henceforth in formal majesty” – 2 Henry IV, 5.2.129; “A substitute shines brightly as a king, until a king be by, and then his state empties itself, as doth an inland brook into the main of waters” – The Merchant of Venice, 5.1.94-97; poets alluded to Elizabeth as “Cynthia, Queen of Seas and Lands” – Roy Strong, The Cult of Elizabeth, 52; “Thou art, quoth she, a sea, a sovereign king;/ And lo, there falls into thy boundless flood/ Black lust, dishonour, shame” – Lucrece, 652

The Tower: the official prison-fortress of the monarch

10 WHICH PARTS THE SHORE, WHERE TWO CONTRACTED NEW

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

11 COME DAILY TO THE BANKS, THAT WHEN THEY SEE

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

12 RETURN OF LOVE, MORE BLEST MAY BE THE VIEW!

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

13 AS CALL IT WINTER, WHICH BEING FULL OF CARE,

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

The White Tower, where Southampton was imprisoned

14 MAKES SUMMER’S WELCOME THRICE MORE WISHED, MORE RARE.

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

“To Guard the Lawful Reasons” – The Living Record – Chapter 46

Here’s my treatment of Sonnet 49 in The Monument:

SOUTHAMPTON IN THE TOWER

DAY TWENTY-THREE

Sonnet 49
To Guard the Lawful Reasons on Thy Part
2 March 1601

Having made a bargain with [Robert] Cecil for the life of Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton, Oxford knows his royal son will “frown on my defects” for also being forced to forfeit any claim to the throne.  Their public separation as father and son now has “the strength of laws” – at least, it will have such strength if and when Elizabeth is persuaded to spare her son from execution.

Sonnet 49

Against that time (if ever that time come)
When I shall see thee frown on my defects,
When as thy love hath cast his utmost sum,
Called to that audit by advised respects;
Against that time when thou shalt strangely pass,
And scarcely greet me with that sunne thine eye;
When love converted from the thing it was
Shall reasons find of settled gravity;
Against that time do I ensconce me here,
Within the knowledge of mine own desert,
And this my hand against myself uprear,
To guard the lawful reasons on thy part:
To leave poor me, thou hast the strength of laws,
Since why to love, I can allege no cause.

1 AGAINST THAT TIME (IF EVER THAT TIME COME)

AGAINST THAT TIME = in anticipation of; fortifying for; EVER = E. Ver, Edward de Vere

2 WHEN I SHALL SEE THEE FROWN ON MY DEFECTS,

FROWN = the royal frown of his son, a prince; “Great Princes’ favorites their fair leaves spread,/ But as the Marigold at the sun’s eye,/ And in themselves their pride lies buried,/ For at a frown they in their glory die” – Sonnet 25, lines 5-8

MY DEFECTS = my inability to have made you king; defection from my purpose for you; (“The king … made a defect from his purpose” – OED, 1540; the word “defect” was “used like Latin defectus to mean ‘eclipse,’ ‘failure (of a heavenly body) to shine” – Booth); “That thou art blamed shall not be thy defect” – Sonnet 70, line 1, to his son; “When all my best doth worship thy defect,/ Commanded by the motion of thine eyes” – Sonnet 149, lines 11-12, to Queen Elizabeth, who commands with her imperial eyes or viewpoint and condemns with her frown; “Our will became the servant to defect” – Macbeth, 2.1.18

3 WHEN AS THY LOVE HATH CAST HIS UTMOST SUM,

THY LOVE = your royal blood; HATH CAST HIS UTMOST SUM = has reached its final accounting, with the determination as to whether you are to be a King of England; “has closed his account and cast up the sum total” – Dowden; “Profitless usurer, why dost thou use/ So great a sum of sums yet canst not live?” – Sonnet 4, lines 7-8, i.e., his abundant royal blood and right to claim to the throne; “To leave for nothing all thy sum of good” – Sonnet 109, line 12

4 CALLED TO THAT AUDIT BY ADVISED RESPECTS;

AUDIT = final accounting; “Then how when nature calls thee to be gone,/ What acceptable Audit canst thou leave?” – Sonnet 4, lines 11-12; “Her Audit (though delayed) answered must be,/ And her Quietus is to render thee” – Sonnet 126, lines 11-12

ADVISED RESPECTS = “Marks of deference for high rank” – Booth, citing Willen & Reed; “Deliberate, well-considered reasons” – Dowden;

The King:
And on the winking of authority
To understand a law, to know the meaning
Of dangerous majesty, when perchance it frowns
More upon humour than advised respect.

Hubert:
Here is your hand and seal for what I did.

The King:
O, when the last accompt ‘twixt heaven and earth
Is to be made, then shall this hand and seal
Witness against us to damnation!
King John, 4.2.211-218

5 AGAINST THAT TIME WHEN THOU SHALT STRANGELY PASS

AGAINST THAT TIME = (see line 1 above); STRANGELY PASS = walk by without acknowledging me, i.e., specifically without acknowledging me as your father; go past me as a stranger; (“I will acquaintance strangle and look strange” – Sonnet 89)

6 AND SCARCELY GREET ME WITH THAT SUNNE THINE EYE,

THAT SUNNE THINE EYE = that royal eye of yours, which is a star or sun; (“Seek the King.  That sun, I pray, may never set” – Henry VIII, 3.2.414); “Full many a glorious morning have I seen/ Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye” – Sonnet 33, lines 1-2, when Oxford goes on to describe the birth of his royal son: “Even so my Sunne one early morn did shine” – line 9; “Lo in the Orient when the gracious light/ Lifts up his burning head, each under eye/ Doth homage to his new-appearing sight,/ Serving with looks his sacred majesty” – Sonnet 6, lines 1-4; “For as the Sun is daily new and old,/ So is my love still telling what is told” – Sonnet 76, lines 13-14, linking his royal son with “the sun” and “my love”; “Making a couplement of proud compare/ With Sunne and Moon” – Sonnet 21, lines 5-6, speaking of Southampton, the royal son, and Elizabeth, goddess of the Moon, as son and mother;  “And truly not the morning Sun of Heaven” – Sonnet 132, line 5; “Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud,/ Clouds and eclipses stain both Moone and Sunne” – Sonnet 35, lines 2-3; i.e., Elizabeth and her royal son (whose eye is a sun) are being eclipsed in terms of the inability of their Tudor Rose blood to continue on the throne: “Crooked eclipses ‘gainst his glory fight” – Sonnet 60, line 7; glancing at the hunched or crooked back of Robert Cecil, who has “eclipsed his glory.”

73332~Portrait-of-Sir-Robert-Cecil-1st-Viscount-Cranborne-and-1st-Earl-of-Salisbury-Posters

Robert Cecil had orchestrated the trial of Essex and Southampton, a travesty of justice that led to a unanimous verdict of guilt - high treason - and a sentence of death "at her Majesty's pleasure"

7 WHEN LOVE CONVERTED FROM THE THING IT WAS

LOVE = your royal blood; when royal blood, transformed from its golden time of hope for your succession to the throne; CONVERTED = a nod to Ver, E. Ver (“conVerted”) and as the “gaudy spring” (“Ver” in French) of Sonnet 1; turned away from, as the sun might turn from the planets and no longer shine

8 SHALL REASONS FIND OF SETTLED GRAVITY;

REASONS = echoing legal arguments; related to equity, fairness, justice; (see line 12); SETTLED GRAVITY = sober judgment; related to the grave; when your royal blood is converted from its right to the throne, for legal reasons that are agreed upon by those in power, with my help and consent

9 AGAINST THAT TIME DO I ENSCONCE ME HERE

AGAINST THAT TIME = (the third usage in this verse); ENSCONCE ME = fortify myself, as you are ensconced within the fortress of the Tower; “protect or cover as with a sconce or fort” – Dyce, cited by Dowden

10 WITHIN THE KNOWLEDGE OF MINE OWN DESERT,

Within the knowledge of the truth, i.e., of my fatherhood of you; knowing what I deserve as the father of a king; MINE OWN = related to his own son; “a son of mine own” – Oxford to Burghley, March 17, 1575; Sonnets 23, 39, 49, 61, 62, 72, 88, 107, 110; DESERT = “Who will believe my verse in time to come/ If it were filled with your most high deserts?” – Sonnet 17, line 1-2; in this case Oxford’s desert is his fatherhood, which he has only within his “knowledge” of it, but not in reality.

MINE OWN:
I am Launcelot, your boy that was, your son that is, your child that shall be…I’ll be sworn if thou be Launcelot, thou art mine own flesh and blood
Merchant of Venice, 2.2.80-88

11 AND THIS MY HAND AGAINST MYSELF UPREAR

And for this I raise up my hand in court to testify against myself; go against my own guilty verdict at the trial; but more importantly, according to the bargain to save Southampton’s life, his willingness to raise his hand as witness to the lie that must be perpetrated, i.e., to pretend that Southampton should not be king; (by the same token, Oxford’s son must be a “suborned informer” against his own truth: “Hence, thou suborned Informer, a true soul/ When most impeached stands least in thy control” – Sonnet 125, lines 13-14, the final words to Southampton before the farewell envoy of Sonnet 126, ending the dynastic diary); HAND = “If this right hand would buy but two hours’ life” – 3 Henry VI, 2.6.80; “Or what strong hand can hold his (Time’s) swift book back” – Sonnet 65, the final verse before word arrives that Southampton’s life has been spared

12 TO GUARD THE LAWFUL REASONS ON THY PART.

To protect the legal reasons being put forth in order to save your life (the forthcoming answer is “misprision” of treason, Sonnet 87, line 11); GUARD = echoing the prison guards at the Tower; “To guard a title that was rich before” – King John, 4.2.10; “Ay, wherefore else guard we his royal tent but to defend his person from night-foes?” – 3 Henry VI, 4.3.21-22

lElizabeth_I old black and white

Queen Elizabeth I had been trapped by her own image as the Virgin Queen

LAWFUL = “Let it be lawful” – King John, 3.1.112; “Edward’s son, the first-begotten, and the lawful heir of Edward king” – 1 Henry VI, 2.5.64-66; “And ‘gainst myself a lawful plea commence” – Sonnet 35, line 11; “lawful = rightful, legitimate” – Schmidt; “lays most lawful claim to this fair island and the territories” – King John, 1.1.9-10; “That thou hast underwrought his lawful king, cut off the sequence of posterity” – King John, 2.1.95-96

REASONS = playing off “reasons” in line 8; “And yet his trespass, in our common reason … is not, almost, a fault” – Othello, 3.3.64-66; ON THY PART = on your side, legally, to save you from the consequences of your treason, trespass, fault

13 TO LEAVE POOR ME THOU HAST THE STRENGTH OF LAWS,

TO LEAVE POOR ME = to separate from me as my son, leaving me empty; “Suppose by right and equity thou be king, think’st thou that I will leave my kingly throne, wherein my grandsire and my father sat?” – 1 Henry VI, 1.1.127-129

THOU HAST THE STRENGTH OF LAWS = you have a legal basis upon which to be saved, but that bargain forces you to abandon your claim to the throne; STRENGTH = royal power, Elizabeth’s and your own; “If thou wouldst use the strength of all thy state” – Sonnet 96, line 12; strength of legal argument on your behalf; “And strength by limping sway disabled” – Sonnet 66, line 8, referring to the limping, swaying Robert Cecil, Secretary of State, who disabled Southampton’s royal power; “In the very refuse of thy deeds/ There is such strength and warranties of skill” – Sonnet 150, lines 6-7, to Elizabeth as absolute monarch with royal power and authority

14 SINCE WHY TO LOVE I CAN ALLEGE NO CAUSE.

Since I cannot testify to why I love you; because I cannot reveal you are my son by the Queen; ALLEGE = echoing the allegations at the trial; CAUSE = motive, i.e., as your father (“allege” and “cause” are both legal terms; a “cause” is an adequate ground for action, as in “upon good cause shown to the court” – Tucker); “The cause of this fair gift in me is wanting,/ And so my patent back again is swerving” – Sonnet 87, lines 7-8; “The more I hear and see just cause of hate” – Sonnet 150, line 10

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

Here is my entry for Sonnet 48 in THE MONUMENT:

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

THE MONUMENT by Hank Whittemore

THE MONUMENT by Hank Whittemore

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

Sonnet 48

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

1 HOW CAREFUL WAS I WHEN I TOOK MY WAY,

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

2 EACH TRIFLE UNDER TRUEST BARS TO THRUST,

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

3 THAT TO MY USE IT MIGHT UN-USED STAY

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

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

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

5 BUT THOU, TO WHOM MY JEWELS TRIFLES ARE,

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

6 MOST WORTHY COMFORT, NOW MY GREATEST GRIEF,

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

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

7 THOU BEST OF DEAREST, AND MINE ONLY CARE,

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

Too familiar is my dear son with such sour company

Romeo and Juliet, 3.3.7-8

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

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

O me, O me!  My child, my only life

Romeo and Juliet, 4.5.19

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

8 ART LEFT THE PREY OF EVERY VULGAR THIEF.

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

Southampton in the Tower

Southampton in the Tower

9 THEE I HAVE NOT LOCKED UP IN ANY CHEST,

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

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

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

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

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

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

11 WITHIN THE GENTLE CLOSURE OF MY BREAST,

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

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

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

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

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

12 FROM WHENCE AT PLEASURE THOU MAYST COME AND PART.

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

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

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

14  FOR TRUTH PROVES THIEVISH FOR A PRIZE SO DEAR.

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

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: