Towering Defiance of Time and the Official Record: “Thy Registers and Thee I Both Defy!”

The real story of the Shakespeare sonnets is that of one man howling in defiance of obliteration — the burial of his truth, the blotting out of his identity.  The man is Edward, Earl of Oxford, raging against the agents of his destruction and promising to overcome them by preserving the truth in this “monument” of verse for posterity.

Your monument shall be my gentle verse,
Which eyes not yet created shall o’er-read,
And tongues to be your being shall rehearse,
When all the breathers of this world are dead.
You still shall live! – such virtue hath my pen –
Where breath most breathes, even in the mouths of men – 81

Speaking of defiance -- Oxford used this "crown signature" from 1569 until the Queen died in 1603 and James succeeded her, when he ceased to use it.

In a real way Oxford becomes a Christ figure who, in the course of the sequence, undergoes death and resurrection:

The offender’s sorrow lends but weak relief
To him that bears the strong offence’s loss [cross] – 34

[Henry, Earl of Southampton’s sorrow for his role in the Essex Rebellion offers little relief to Oxford, who has agreed to suffer the consequences for him.]

And both for my sake lay on me this cross – 42

[Both Southampton and Queen Elizabeth, who holds him in her Tower prison, are causing Oxford to suffer]

Of him, myself, and thee, I am forsaken,
A torment thrice threefold thus to be crossed – 133

[They comprise a royal, dynastic family triangle; because Southampton has committed treason, all three of them are doomed.]

The 1609 dedication of the Sonnets (the inscription on the Monument) to "Mr. W. H." - a reversal of Lord Henry Wriothesley, reflecting his lowly status as "Mr." while in the Tower - from "our ever-living (deceased) poet" -

Oxford is volunteering to take on the burden of the guilt:

So shall those blots that do with me remain
Without thy help be borne by me alone – 36

If my slight Muse do please these curious days,
The pain be mine, but thine shall be the praise – 38

[All praise will go to Southampton while Oxford disappears from view.]

To play the watchman ever for thy sake – 61

[He will save Southampton’s life and secure his freedom.]

And art made tongue-tied by authority – 66

[Oxford’s ability to speak directly through these private sonnets has been nullified by official decree; his art has been “tongue-tied” or silenced by the crown, in the person of Sir Robert Cecil, who now runs the Elizabethan government in its final years heading to an uncertain succession.

[He is using a special language, however, allowing him to speak here indirectly.  (“That every word doth almost tell my name” – 76) In effect, his words carry a double image, simultaneously conveying two (or more) meanings.]

He is fading away:

When I, perhaps, compounded am with clay,
Do not such much as my poor name rehearse,
But let your love even with my life decay – 71

After my death, love, forget me quite…
My name be buried where my body is – 72

My spirit is thine, the better part of me – 74

Your name from hence immortal life shall have,
Though I, once gone, to all the world must die – 81

The 1594 dedication of "Lucrece" to Southampton -- by "Shakespeare" the pen name and so-called rival poet of the sonnets...

The agent of Oxford’s obliteration is his own pen name, “William Shakespeare,” which he had used to dedicate his first works, Venus and Adonis of 1593 and Lucrece of 1594, to Southampton [the only one to whom “Shakespeare” dedicated anything]; and now that mask is being glued to Oxford’s face:

Was it his [“Shakespeare’s”] spirit by spirits taught to write
Above a mortal pitch that struck me [Oxford] dead? – 86

The more that “Shakespeare” is seen to be praising Southampton, the less visible Oxford becomes:

When your [Southampton’s] countenance filled up his line,
Then lacked I matter, that enfeebled mine – 86

After Southampton’s liberation by King James on April 10, 1603, a climactic event celebrated by Sonnet 107, his defiance grows into a roar by an amazing compression of words, a literary feat that may well have no equal.  I would urge all to read over the final Sonnets of the “fair youth” sequence from 107 to 126.  Let’s just close with Sonnet 123, in which Edward de Vere tells Time itself, “Thy registers and thee I both defy!” — that is, he defies the official history to be written by the winners [Cecil]; he defies it and will be “true” [indicating his own identity, through his motto Nothing Truer Than Truth] despite all that has crushed him:

No!  Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change,
Thy pyramids built up with newer might
To me are nothing novel, nothing strange,
They are but dressings of a former sight:
Our dates are brief, and therefore we admire
What thou dost foist upon us that is old,
And rather make them borne to our desire
Then think that we before have heard them told:
Thy registers and thee I both defy,
Not wond’ring at the present, nor the past,
For thy records and what we see doth lie,
Made more or less by thy continual haste.
This I do vow, and this shall ever be,
I will be true despite thy scythe and thee.

The day is coming sooner than later when students will be given the opportunity to appreciate the greatness of these sonnets.  Within the traditional paradigm there has been no possibility for such appreciation; the best that can be taught is the value of the poet’s rhetorical skills, as he puts forth his universal themes, while the severe limitations of Stratfordian authorship dictate that the genuine human drama remains unseen.

Well, it will be seen!  And then there will be new life in the classroom, new excitement in the lecture hall, and a kind of Shakespearean renaissance — as we crawl out of the long dark tunnel of tradition into the bright light of truth.

“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…”)

“Contested Jim” — Shapiro in New York for “Contested Will”

James Shapiro spoke to an audience at the 92nd Street Y in New York City on Sunday, May 2, 2010, about his book Contested Will and his argument that those of us who question the attribution of the “Shakespeare” works to William of Stratford are, well, not quite right in the head.

Hank Whittemore and James Shapiro, author of "Contested Will," at the 92nd Street Y in New York

Jim Shapiro is a likeable guy even as he wields the ol’ blade, with a smile, to cut us into pieces — his victims including Henry James, Mark Twain, Orson Wells, Sigmund Freud, Charlie Chaplin, Helen Keller, and dozens of other whackos who believe that a writer writes from his own mind and heart, so that knowing about his life can help us understand the meaning of his work.

I attended with Ted Story, co-writer and director of my performance in the one-man show Shake-speare’s Treason.  I performed it in November 2008 at the Globe in London, where Shapiro was in the audience.  At the time he was still researching his book, wherein he gets to the pivotal point of his argument on page 264, by bringing up my book The Monument, which demonstrates that the Sonnets of 1609 contain a real-life personal and political story, linked with real events of contemporary English history leading to the death of Queen Elizabeth I on March 24, 1603 and the succession of James VI of Scotland as King James I of England.

Hank Whittemore with James Shapiro, who signed a copy of his book

Here is Shapiro’s pivotal point:

“The more that Shakespeare scholars encourage autobiographical readings of the plays and poems, the more they legitimate assumptions that underlie the claims of all those who dismiss the idea that Shakespeare wrote the plays.  And every step scholars have taken toward such readings has encouraged their adversaries to make even speculative claims. The recent publication of Hank Whittemore’s Oxfordian reading of the Sonnets, The Monument, offers a glimpse of  where things may be heading. Even other Oxfordians (as William Boyle, editor of Shakespeare Matters, put it when news of Whittemore’s book first circulated) saw that they were ‘undoubtedly journeying into new territory,’ one that was both ‘controversial—and risky.’  The Sonnets  could now be read not as primarily fictional creations but as  ‘documentary evidence every bit as important and potent as any letters, any or anything to be found in the Calendar of State Papers.  In fact, in some instances the Sonnets provide historical information that exists nowhere else.'”

My colleague Bill Boyle had it right – the amazing revelation about the Sonnets is that they were written to preserve an important story for those of us living in posterity.  In a nutshell, the winners of the political struggle to control the royal succession also got to control the official record and, therefore, the writing of the history – “History is written by the winners,” as George Orwell put it in 1944 – but Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford, before his death in June 1604, completed the “monument” of the private Sonnets to preserve the truth for “eyes not yet created” in the distant future:

Your monument shall be my gentle verse,
Which eyes not yet created shall o’er-read.

Sonnet 81

And one big aspect of this truth involved the burial of the “name” or identity of the real author of the poems and plays and sonnets:

My name be buried where my body is
Sonnet 72

Try showing up at the Y and telling THAT to the group!

But try to keep telling students of this generation, and of those to come, that only the greatest writer of them all cannot be found in his work, and that we don’t need to know the man to understand his writings!

Here’s a secret:  Oxford poured his life into every corner of it!

Oh – on page 269, Shapiro writes, “Those who believe that Elizabethan plays were autobiographical ought to be able to show that contemporaries were on the lookout for confessional allusions.”  Well, the family of chief minister Polonius, which includes his daughter Ophelia and her suitor Hamlet, is a mirror image of the family of chief minister William Cecil, Lord Burghley, which includes his daughter Anne Cecil and her husband Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, who, by means of confessional allusions in the play ‘Hamlet,’  gave us an intimate portrait of his life within that family and his emotional reactions to it.

Cheers from Hank

(Photos by Ted Story)

Contesting “Contested Will” – Part One

James Shapiro reaches the climax of his new book Contested Will in the epilogue, where – lo! – he recounts attending my performance of Shake-speare’s Treason (based on The Monument) in November of 2008 at the Globe playhouse in London.

His point, by page 267, is that it’s simply wrong to try to learn anything of substance about the man who was William Shakespeare, either from the documents about his life in Stratford and London or from his poems, plays and sonnets.  All is speculation, virtually all of it off the mark.

The first and foremost culprits are not those who dare to doubt that Will of Stratford was “Shakespeare,” but, rather, traditional Stratfordians, who have attempted to fashion flesh-and-blood portraits of the Bard by linking aspects of his recorded life to elements of his work and vice versa.

This practice has resulted in puffed-up fictions posing as biographies; these scholars should stop doing it, not only because they keep serving up baloney but also because they encourage anti-Stratfordians to keep doing the same thing for their own candidates, such as Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.

And since the Oxfordians have so much more biographical evidence from which to pick and choose, they will keep on winning.  Even now, with the coming of Roland Emmerich’s feature film Anonymous about Oxford as Shakespeare (with Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Elizabeth), due out in 2011, the tide of public acceptance may even turn in their favor!

Queen Elizabeth I and Vanessa Redgrave

Shapiro’s solution is extraordinary and courageous and perhaps, in the long run, even foolish:  Let us have no more biographies of Shakespeare!  No more attempts to look in the plays and poems and sonnets to find any reflections of his real life!   Let us stop thinking entirely of Shakespeare the man, before it’s too late!

Such is the problem when you start with the wrong man in the first place!

He criticizes Stephen Greenblatt of Harvard for giving his “seal of approval” for the autobiographical approach with his bestselling Will in the World. Others have erred this way as well, he goes on, admitting that even “I flinch when I think of my own trespasses in classrooms and in print, despite my best efforts to steer clear of biographical speculation.”

Shapiro writes:

“The more that Shakespeare scholars encourage autobiographical readings of the plays and poems, the more they legitimate assumptions that underlie the claims of all those who dismiss the idea that Shakespeare wrote the plays.  And every step scholars have taken toward embracing such readings has encouraged their adversaries to make even more speculative claims.  The recent publication of Hank Whittemore’s Oxfordian reading of the Sonnets, The Monument, offers a glimpse of where things may be heading…

“In November 2008, I joined ninety or so people gathered at London’s Globe Theatre to hear Whittemore share his work.  It turned out to be an elegant revival of the Prince Tudor theory….”

Here he offers a concise (and accurate) summary of the story of the Sonnets as set forth in The Monument and dramatized in Shake-speare’s Treason, which I performed at the Globe at the invitation of the Shakespearean Authorship Trust led by the brilliant actor Mark Rylance, who had been the Globe’s artistic director for a decade.

“It was a spellbinding performance,” Shapiro writes, “as perfect a marriage of conspiratorial history and autobiographical analysis as one could imagine.”

Conspiratorial?  You mean the way President Kennedy privately hosted Marilyn Monroe in the swimming pool of the White House and no agent, no aide, no one at all, ever told about it?  Hmmm, just think of all the people who had to be “in on it” and who had to “agree to be silent.”  Hmmm.

In both the book and the show (co-written with director Ted Story), I simply put together the heretofore separate tracks of the literature and the history.  I show how the central 100-verse sequence of the Sonnets fits within the context of the Essex Rebellion of 1601 and its aftermath, that is, with the ordeal of the Earl of Southampton in the Tower until the death of Queen Elizabeth and the accession of James.  There’s no need to alter either the sonnets or the recorded events of contemporary history; instead, they are brought together in this framework for the first time, where they fit without any trouble, yielding a third dimension – the true story of why Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford agreed to the obliteration of his identity as Shakespeare even after his death, as he states:

My name be buried where my body is – Sonnet 72

I, once gone, to all the world must die – Sonnet 81

What bothers Shapiro most may be that Oxfordians – in this case, specifically The Monument & Shake-speare’s Treason – unfold a better story than even the most fantasy-driven biographies of the Stratfordians:

“If the enthusiastic response of the audience that evening was any indication, Oxfordian concerns about the riskiness of Whittemore’s approach were misplaced.  I looked around the room and saw the same kind of people – middle-aged, sensibly dressed, middle-class – who regularly attend lectures about Shakespeare, nodding their heads in agreement and laughing aloud at the funny parts.  I found it all both impressive and demoralizing…”

Does he sound a tad defeated here?  Well, not yet.  At this stopping point, I’ll let him have the last word:

“I found it all both impressive and demoralizing, a vision of a world in which a collective comfort with conspiracy theory, spurious history, and construing fiction as autobiographical fact had passed a new threshold.”

Well, that’s one way to put it!

In Part Two we dig a little deeper…

In Light of the News about President Harding, a Reprint of “DNA Testing – Bring It On!”

president's daughterIn light of the big news about DNA confirming that President Harding was the father of a “love child,” reported first by the New York Times this morning, I am reprinting (see below) a blog entry posted here more than five years ago.

DNA TESTING – BRING IT ON (April 17, 2010)

I hereby put forth my public appeal for DNA testing to determine once and for all whether a “Prince Tudor” existed during the reign of Elizabeth Tudor, the First Elizabeth (1533-1603) of England.  Was Henry Wriothesley Earl of Southampton her son and heir to the throne?

Henry Wriothesley 3rd Earl of Southampton – In the Tower of London (1601-1603) – Was he the future Henry IX of England?

We now have Charles Beauclerk’s magnificent book Shakespeare’s Lost Kingdom, which further explores the idea that Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford was the son of Princess Elizabeth and Thomas Seymour, born in 1548, and that Henry Wriothesley Earl of Southampton was born in 1574 of mother-son incest, i.e., that Oxford and Elizabeth were his parents.  Paul Streitz writes of this “double Prince Tudor theory” in his book Oxford: Son of Queen Elizabeth I , and Beauclerk delivers a magnificent portrait of Edward de Vere’s identity crisis as it relates to his deeply divided life and authorship of the Shakespeare works.

My book The Monument demonstrates how Oxford wrote the Sonnets as a record of the truth for posterity that Southampton (the “fair youth”) was his son by the Queen and deserved to succeed her as King Henry IX of England.  (I don’t rule out the theory that Oxford himself was the Queen’s son, but do not use it to interpret the Sonnets; after all, I have enough on my plate!)

So bring it on — DNA testing for all this.  Is it possible to test the Southampton PT theory, i.e., to determine whether he was the son of Elizabeth?  Can DNA testing rule it out?

Anyone who might have answers is welcome to use the “comments” option below.  I’ll post your contributions here in the main blog section, if warranted.

Oh — Roland Emmerich’s movie Anonymous, starring Vanessa Redgrave as the Queen and due out next year, reportedly will contain that “double” PT theory as part of its story line, so the call for DNA testing may become much louder.  I hereby register my fervent support for such testing.

By the way, I’m halfway through reading James Shapiro’s book Contested Will, making fun of all us anti-Stratfordians.  I’ll wait to comment until I’m done reading, except to say that the book has nothing to do with genuine interest in the English renaissance that created “Shakespeare” — the great surge of literature and drama that occurred in Elizabeth’s reign during the 1560’s, 1570’s and 1580’s before the first [miraculous] appearance of the “Shakespeare” name in 1593.

It seems to me that those who applaud Shapiro’s attempts at mockery have no real interest in learning such genuine history leading to Shakespeare — real history that includes the Earl of Oxford as a central figure of this renaissance, a poet-dramatist and patron of writers and actors who was vitally connected to each of Shakespeare’s contemporary sources.  If you’re really interested in Shakespeare the man and artist, you have to study Oxford’s life and work, regardless of whether you accept that he himself was the great author.

Oh – I should mention that Shapiro quotes me inaccurately.  He quotes me as saying the works of Shakespeare are nonfiction dressed as fiction.  No, I said that about the Sonnets, not about all the other works.  The Sonnets are different.  They’re personal.  In the Sonnets the author uses the personal pronoun “I” to speak in his own voice, tell his own story.   And we Oxfordians do NOT believe that the works are “autobiographical,” but, rather, that Oxford drew upon many sources including aspects of his own life — in other words, they are works of the imagination based on life itself.  There’s a big difference between that and strict autobiography; and Shapiro, by stating that we think the works are autobiographical,  is setting up a straw man to knock down.

Shakespeare Authorship “Conspiracy” Theory – Not!

I don’t like being lumped into the category of “conspiracy theorist,” no sir, not at all!  There’s too much cheap name-calling these days, eh?

Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford was summoned as a judge to the 1601 trial of Essex and Southampton -- the same Southampton to whom "Shakespeare" had pledged his "love ... without end."

It’s true that for twenty-three years I’ve been studying the life of Edward de Vere 17th earl of Oxford (1550-1604) as the author of the “Shakespeare” works, but I never considered myself a “conspiracy nut” in any way.

First of all I notice that it’s an opinion apparently held by a lot of otherwise rational, fair individuals.  “Hey, you don’t think Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare?  You must be one of those conspiracy minded whackos!” I’ve seen this opinion expressed so often in so many books and blogs and it’s been repeated so often that it must be true, right?

No.  I speak here for myself – not in this case.  I’m usually turned off by statements about darkly held secrets and little men in closed rooms pulling the strings of events around the world – conspiracies to make the world think one thing while something else entirely is going on.  I’m not interested in that stuff.

But I can see why the Shakespeare authorship issue has been lumped into the category of a “conspiracy theory” – because, as I’ve heard over and over, it’s virtually impossible to believe that any such hoax could have been perpetrated by so many folks (who had to be involved) without anyone blowing the whistle or leaving behind at least some shred of evidence.  And that’s right, there is no “direct” evidence that Oxford wrote the poems, plays and sonnets attributed to William Shakspere of Stratford upon Avon.

Well, I agree that there must have been a whole bunch of folks in the England of Elizabeth and James who knew the truth of the matter.  Most of them would have been members of the Court.  But did it have to be a “conspiracy” among them all?  No.  The silence would have continued in the same way there was silence about FDR’s illness, about JFK’s affair with Marilyn Monroe, about John Edwards’ affair that resulted in a child, and so on.  How many people on the “outside” knew about the “other life” of Tiger Woods before the truth came out?

We tend to forget that England under Elizabeth was an absolute monarchy with the government having total power of censorship and suppression, imprisonment and torture, even death.  There were spies, or informers, everywhere.  Some were double and triple agents.  The Secret Service was expanding throughout the theatrical world as well as elsewhere.  It was impossible to know whom to trust.

But even more importantly, the question of authorship and authorial identity was simply not asked in those days.  Today, for example, we have some very well-known directors who write their own screenplays – auteurs, if you will.  Woody Allen would be one of them.  But otherwise, out of the last ten or twenty movies you’ve seen, how many of the screenwriters’ names do you know?  We remember the names of the stars, often the names of the directors – but the writers of the movies?  The point is, most of the time we just don’t even think about it, much less care.

But in the Shakespeare case, there’s another point that is seldom if ever mentioned.  The whole theory that Oxford wrote the plays is based on a unique chronology of events starting with the fact that he wrote the earliest versions in the two or three decades prior to the sudden emergence of “Shakespeare” (the printed name) in 1593.  During the 1560’s, 1570’s and 1580’s, the nobleman Edward de Vere was furiously writing poetry and plays while running two play companies, producing plays at Court and Blackfriars and sending troupes to the countryside – all while heading up a kind of “college of writers” that included the likes of Lyly and Nashe and Greene and Munday, and Peele and Lodge and Watson, all of whom dedicated their work to Oxford and all of whom are credited in history with having influenced “Shakespeare,” who supposedly borrowed their stuff and even stole it.

In his early twenties Oxford performed most of these tasks right out in the open, although he wrote plays anonymously (even though listed as “best for comedy” by 1586).  At age twenty-five he went over to France and Germany and Italy, spending a year with his home base in Venice, and upon his return he brought plays to Court with French and Italian settings.  He became known as “best for comedy” because his earliest writings were hilarious satires of current events played before the Queen and her Court and the ambassadors of the world.  He was a one-man band, in a way, producing the equivalent of Saturday Night Live and Comedy Central and CNN combined.

And here’s the kicker – when Oxford adopted the pen name “Shakespeare” in 1593, he himself dropped from the Court and from public view.  So now there was a pen name but no actual “body” to go with it!  There was no one around (not even Shakspere of Stratford) trying to claim the works of Shakespeare.  It was a pen name, a printed name, on paper.  And who was this Shakespeare?  Could anyone say they really knew?

Whatever conspiracy existed, it was not the pervasive silence about the real identity of Shakespeare.  That just existed.  Even today the orthodox scholars will tell you that the Queen’s Men in the 1580’s played no less than six plays that “Shakespeare” would take and “rewrite” to turn them into his own!  (Of course the “real” Shakespeare was the one who wrote those earlier works; he would later borrow from himself!)  Back then, when the pen name emerged in the 1590’s, did members of the public know whether
“Shakespeare” had written those plays performed in the 1580’s?  Well, they didn’t know then and the scholars don’t know now – although common sense would tell you that Oxford had spent most of his forty-three years by 1593 having labored mightily to become the greatest writer of the English language.

There are, in fact, other aspects to the Shakespeare authorship issue, and they do involve the politics of the day.  But that’s for another blog.  The reason for this blog, at the moment, is more personal – to share a little of the experience of someone who came into the authorship adventure without ever having heard of any kind of “conspiracy” to cover up the truth.

I had acted in a production of Hamlet at the University of Notre Dame and had fallen in love, so to speak, with the prince.  Afterward I spent years reciting Hamlet’s soliloquies.  I loved his character — an endless reservoir of human emotions in there.

And then one day, reading about the Earl of Oxford, I was amazed to learn there had been a real-live Elizabethan, some fifteen years older than “Shakespeare” but living at the same time, who had a life very much like that of Hamlet!

Oxford had been stopped by pirates in the Channel and had talked his way out of a jam pretty much the same way Hamlet did; Oxford brought plays to Court the way Hamlet did; Oxford had married chief minister Burghley’s daughter, reflecting Hamlet’s relationship with Ophelia, daughter of chief minister Polonius; Horatio is Hamlet’s great friend; Horatio Vere was Oxford’s famous military cousin; Horatio and Francisco are on watch in the play; Horatio and his brother Francis were  “the fighting Veres” and Oxford’s  close cousins.

Mark Rylance as Hamlet

Oxford had been sent into wardship – like Bertram!  Oxford had studied astrology and white magic with Dr. John Dee – shades of Prospero! Oxford had fought duels in the street with one faction vs. another – shades of the street-fighting in Romeo and Juliet!  Oxford had accused his wife of infidelity – like Othello!

How is it, I wondered, that my teachers and professors had never mentioned this Hamlet-like nobleman who was connected in some way with virtually all the forerunners of the phenomenon of “Shakespeare”?  Even if it could be shown that Edward de Vere could not have written the Bard’s works, why would we fail to look at his life?

I think the reason for the academy’s failure to study Edward de Vere is that he threatened the cherished belief in the Stratford biography.  He had been hidden from the official record of history until 1920, when J. T. Looney pointed to him as “Shakespeare” – so his entrance onto the record came burdened with the baggage of the authorship issue.  To be interested in Edward Earl of Oxford was to be a kind of traitor.  It suggested that you just might be questioning the traditional image!

Otherwise I see no good explanation for shunning this real-life figure who, like Hamlet, put on “an antic disposition” at Court – in Oxford’s case, acting as the Italianate Englishman, among other roles.

In answer to the critics who shout “conspiracy theory” at us, I’d like to mention that, in the closed society of Elizabeth’s kingdom, writers left clues to the truth all over the place.  They slipped in all kinds of hints while giving themselves “deniability” – Hey, this is just a poem – this is just a play – it’s harmless! – and of course I didn’t intend to say anything off-limits.

For some reason, Oxford’s authorship was off-limits.  It appears, however, that he left behind a veritable self-portrait in Hamlet and other works of literature.

I say to hell with worrying about conspiracy theories.  Something happened more than four centuries ago that official history has covered up.  I say to the critics — Rather than sling such worthless slogans at well-meaning, intelligent folks who love to learn new things about both history and literature, either demonstrate your curiosity or just admit that you don’t give a damn about this fascinating subject matter!

The Oxford Movie is on its way…

Here is my response to some great comments by Lee Crammond:

Hi Lee — First, again, congratulations on your findings about the two public dedications to Southampton, the means by which Oxford brought “Shakespeare” onto the printed page and into the world’s history.

[SEE BELOW]

When the paradigm of authorship finally shifts, your unique observations will be acknowledged by all — in the category of “Why didn’t I see (or say) that?”

On the movie “Anonymous” [see the Shakespeare Oxford Society – SOS – Blog for updated casting news] —

I know that Roland Emmerich had a copy of The Monument early on, in the fall of 2005, the year it was published; and that fall I did have a lunch meeting with him in London.  We did not discuss any details of his then-developing script, other than the context of the Rebellion of 1601 and Southampton’s confinement in the Tower for 26 months until the Queen’s death and the proclamation of James of Scotland as King James I of England.  And Robert Cecil’s key role in this history, which began with a performance of “Richard II” at the Globe, showing an English monarch handing over his crown — something being suggested for Elizabeth, who would say, it is reported, “I am Richard II, know ye not that!”

I expect in most movies to find some major distortions of history.  I don’t know how it will turn out but I am hoping nonetheless that the movie calls attention to the topic itself.  I’m hoping it will help open up the authorship topic for discussion.  I’m hoping for a lot — Emmerich’s intentions are good — but it’s not up to me.

There is great irony in the practical suggestion that Edward de Vere is recognized as Shakespeare and then the PT (Prince Tudor) theory (of Southampton as son of Oxford and Elizabeth) brought in as sequel.  The irony in my view is that it’s precisely the lack of Oxfordian acknowledgment of PT — or of Oxford’s political motives, even — that is preventing more swift acceptance of Oxford’s authorship.  He had the means, he had the opportunity — but what’s the MOTIVE for adopting such a warrior-like pen name and then allowing his identity to be obliterated.  The jury needs a motive to convict him not only of writing the works but of disappearing so completely.

The sonnets as a whole, as a sequence that was constructed at the far end of the story, supply the motive.  The subject matter is the author’s disappearance — “My name be buried where my body is.” (71)  The subject is also the pen name — the name “Shakespeare” was the force that rendered him speechless — “Was it his spirit by spirits taught to wright above a mortal pitch that struck me dead?” (86)

If there was a Prince Tudor who deserved the throne, and Robert Cecil was guiding James to the throne knowing that success made the difference for himself of life and death, and James knew the truth would destroy his peaceful succession and throw the country into the very civil war that it feared — would this not be a motive for silence?

The Oxfordian movement has been in existence for 90 years.  It’s growing and I do hope the paradigm can change under any circumstances.  I do think that it’s the History department where the change will occur more readily, since those folks have far less to lose.  It’s the English department that has rolled out miles and miles of sheer baloney and whole careers and reputations have been built on it.  What a mountain of b.s. will come tumbling down!

Ask those who profess to love Will of Stratford if they are at all interested in the two or three decades that led up to his entrance in 1593 and 1594 via those dedications.  Ask if they are eager to learn about Shakespeare’s predecessors, nearly all of whom worked directly with Edward de Vere, dedicating their efforts to him and testifying that he was not only their patron but their leader.  Ask if they are interested in the foreground of Shakespeare.  One in ten might have studied this history.  The others, who profess to have such love for Stratford Will, have no real interest whatsoever.  I believe this is another strong route to the paradigm change — studying, for example, how the Queen’s Men of the 1580’s produced no less than six plays that “Shakespeare” had either written himself or [not!] stole from later.  Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth – The Troublesome Reign of King John — and so on! — all written by the true “Shakespeare” in those years before he adopted that warrior-like pen name for reasons in the 1590’s that were, yes — political — that is, here was Oxford’s way of supporting Southampton in the power struggle against William and Robert Cecil to determine who would control the succession upon Elizabeth’s death.

That’s what any movie about Oxford as “Shakespeare” might be called – A MATTER OF SUCCESSION

All best,
Hank

On Saturday, January 16, 2010 at 9:36 am Lee Cramond Said:

Hi Hank,

Are you aware that Edward de Vere quite probably left a remarkable clue to his identity as the author of both Venus & Adonis and Lucrece, hidden in their dedications? One that lies in plain sight once you know where to look?

In V & A his name appears in lower case but in Lucrece, as if to re-assert his authorship he has shown his name beginning with a capital V. The two dedication references (in the bodies of text) are in the 2nd last line in V & A and the 4th last line in Lucrece. In fact, this latter reference could even plausibly be read as a mission statement…’Vere my worth greater, my duty would show greater’,…

Dedication of "Venus and Adonis" to Southampton - 1593

Knowing de Vere’s fascination with punning on his name, could this not be a valid reading of the text? It is unprovable of course, but it would amount to two more pieces of circumstantial evidence for de Vere.
I cannot find any references to this interpretation anywhere on the web, but I’m sure someone must have noticed it before.
Your thoughts on this theory are appreciated.

Regards, Lee

Dedication of "Lucrece" to Southampton - 1594

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

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

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

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

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

The story is much bigger than that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*(The Letters of King James VI and I)

King James VI of Scotland & King James I of England

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

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

Sir Robert Cecil, Principal Secretary to Elizabeth

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of which was accomplished.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAY THIRTY-ONE FOR SOUTHAMPTON IN THE TOWER
THE TIME OF HIS EXECUTION IS ALMOST UPON US
Sonnet 57
I, My Sovereign, Watch the Clock for You
10 March 1601

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

A beheading on Tower Hill

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

Being your slave, what should I do but tend
Upon the hours and times of your desire?
I have no precious time at all to spend,
Nor services to do till you require.

Nor dare I chide the world-without-end hour
Whilst I (my sovereign) watch the clock for you,
Nor think the bitterness of absence sour,
When you have bid your servant once adieu.

Nor dare I question with my jealous thought
Where you may be, or your affairs suppose,
But like a sad slave stay and think of nought
Save where you are how happy you make those.

So true a fool is love that in your Will
(Though you do any thing) he thinks no ill.

The Tower

1 BEING YOUR SLAVE, WHAT SHOULD I DO BUT TEND

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

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

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

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

Dedication of "Lucrece" in 1594 to Southampton

2 UPON THE HOURS AND TIMES OF YOUR DESIRE?

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

3 I HAVE NO PRECIOUS TIME AT ALL TO SPEND,

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

4 NOR SERVICES TO DO TILL YOU REQUIRE.

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

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

The White Tower - where Southampton is confined

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

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

5 NOR DARE I CHIDE THE WORLD WITHOUT END HOUR

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

6 WHILST I (MY SOVEREIGN) WATCH THE CLOCK FOR YOU.

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

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

7 NOR THINK THE BITTERNESS OF ABSENCE SOUR,

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

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

8 WHEN YOU HAVE BID YOUR SERVANT ONCE ADIEU.

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

9 NOR DARE I QUESTION WITH MY JEALOUS THOUGHT

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

10 WHERE YOU MAY BE, OR YOUR AFFAIRS SUPPOSE,

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

11 BUT LIKE A SAD SLAVE STAY AND THINK OF NOUGHT

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

12 SAVE WHERE YOU ARE HOW HAPPY YOU MAKE THOSE.

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

Elizabeth

13  SO TRUE A FOOL IS LOVE THAT IN YOUR WILL

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

14 (THOUGH YOU DO ANY THING) HE THINKS NO ILL.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

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

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

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