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

One of the most compelling reasons to believe Edward de Vere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare” is the central role in the Shakespeare story played by Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton.

Henry Earl of Southampton in his teens, by Nicholas Hilliard

The grand entrance of “William Shakespeare” onto the published page took place in 1593, as the printed signature on the dedication to Southampton of Venus and Adonis, a 1200-line poem that the poet called “the first heir of my invention” in his dedication. The second appearance of “William Shakespeare” in print came a year later, with the publication of an 1800-line poem, Lucrece, again dedicated to Southampton.

The Lucrece dedication was an extraordinary declaration of personal commitment to the twenty-year-old earl:

“The love I dedicate to your Lordship is without end … What I have done is yours, what I have to do is yours, being part in all I have, devoted yours … Your Lordship’s in all duty, William Shakespeare.”

“There is no other dedication like this in Elizabethan literature,” Nichol Smith wrote in 1916, and because the great author never dedicated another work to anyone else, he uniquely linked himself to Southampton for all time.

Southampton at 22 in 1595

Most scholars agree that the Fair Youth of Shake-speares Sonnets, the sequence of 154 consecutively numbered poems printed in 1609, is also Southampton, even though he is not identified by name. Most further agree that, in the first seventeen sonnets, the poet is urging Southampton to beget a child to continue his bloodline – demanding it in a way that would ordinarily have been highly offensive: “Make thee another self, for love of me.”

“It is certain that the Earl of Southampton and the poet we know as Shakespeare were on intimate terms,” Charlton Ogburn Jr. wrote in 1984, “but Charlotte G. Stopes, Southampton’s pioneer biographer [1922] spent seven years or more combing the records of the Earl and his family without turning up a single indication that the fashionable young lord had ever had any contact with a Shakespeare, and for that reason deemed the great work of her life a failure.”

“Oxford was a nobleman of the same high rank as Southampton and just a generation older,” J. Thomas Looney wrote in 1920, adding that “the peculiar circumstances of the youth to whom the Sonnets were addressed were strikingly analogous to his own.”

William Cecil Lord Burghley, Master of the Royal Wards

  • De Vere became the first royal ward of Queen Elizabeth in 1562, under the guardianship of William Cecil (later Lord Burghley), and in 1571 he entered into an arranged marriage with the chief minister’s fifteen-year-old daughter, Anne Cecil.
  • Henry Wriothesley became the eighth and last child of state as a boy in 1581-82, also in the chief minister’s custody, and during 1590-91 he resisted intense pressure to enter into an arranged marriage with Cecil’s fifteen-year-old granddaughter, Elizabeth Vere.

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

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

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

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

Looney noted that both Oxford and Southampton “had been left orphans and royal wards at an early age, both had been brought up under the same guardian, both had the same kind of literary tastes and interests, and later the young man followed exactly the same course as the elder as a patron of literature and drama.”

The separate entries for Oxford and Southampton in the Dictionary of National Biography, written before the twentieth century, revealed that “in many of its leading features the life of the younger man is a reproduction of the life of the elder,” Looney noted, adding it was “difficult to resist the feeling that Wriothesley had made a hero of De Vere, and had attempted to model his life on that of his predecessor as royal ward.”

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

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

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

= Tradition has it that Shakespeare wrote Love’s Labour’s Lost in the early 1590s for Southampton to entertain college friends at his country house; but given the sophisticated wordplay of this court comedy and its intended aristocratic audience, it is difficult to see how Will of Stratford would or could have written it.

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

= After the failed Essex Rebellion in February 1601, Oxford sat as highest-ranking earl on the tribunal for the treason trial of Essex and Southampton.

= The peers had no choice but to render a unanimous guilty verdict; there is evidence that Oxford then worked behind the scenes to save Southampton’s life and gain his eventual liberation, as in Sonnet 35: “Thy adverse party is thy Advocate.”

= On the night of Oxford’s recorded death on 24 June 1604, agents of the Crown arrested Southampton and returned him to the Tower, where he was interrogated all night until his release the following day.

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

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

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

After Southampton was released on 10 April 1603, the poet “Shake-speare” wrote Sonnet 107 celebrating his liberation after being “supposed as forfeit to a confined doom,” that is, subjected to a sentence of life imprisonment.

The White Tower where Southampton was imprisoned

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

As part of Christmas and New Year’s celebrations surrounding the wedding of Philip Herbert, Earl of Montgomery and Oxford’s daughter Susan Vere in December of 1604, the Court of James held a veritable Shakespeare festival. In the days before and after the wedding, seven performances of the Bard’s plays were given. (The royal performances appear to be a memorial tribute to the playwright, rather than a tribute to a living author.) One performance was a revival of Love’s Labour’s Lost, for King James and Queen Anne, hosted by Southampton at his house in London.

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

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

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

More Evidence that the Southampton Tower Poem to Queen Elizabeth was Influenced by Manuscript Copies of the Sonnets…

The recently discovered 74-line poem written by Henry Wriothesley third earl of Southampton to Queen Elizabeth during February-March 1601, when he was in the Tower of London facing execution, has even more extensive and profound links to the Shakespeare sonnets than previously reported.

Southampton in the Tower 1601-1603

It should be noted up front that the Southampton poem (begging for the royal mercy) offers no proof that Edward de Vere earl of Oxford wrote the Sonnets; and neither does it prove that Southampton was the son of Oxford and Elizabeth.

On the other hand, it does provide convincing evidence that Sonnets 27 to 66 were written during the tense time between the younger earl’s imprisonment on February 8 until March 19, by which time the Queen (and Robert Cecil) agreed to spare his life while keeping him in perpetual confinement.  And that evidence, of course, further supports the view that Oxford wrote those sonnets to Southampton and that the central “story” he recorded involved events during the younger earl’s imprisonment.

The evidence makes it extremely likely that during those first forty days and nights Southampton had manuscripts copies of some or many of those forty sonnets with him in his Tower prison room.

Southampton uses more than twenty key words that appear no less than sixty times (in one form or another) within twenty-three of those sonnets, which consistently express the author’s grief and fear leading to Sonnet 66, wherein he lists reasons he’d prefer to die:  “Tired with all these, for restful death I cry.”

(Defenders of the Stratford man’s authorship have never found anything in his life that would prompt him to write such a virtual suicide note; but if we view Oxford as a father writing to his son – his royal son by the Queen – during these dark days, the words come alive with new meaning and power.)

Elizabeth the First (1533-1603)

Twenty-one key words used by Oxford in Sonnets 27-66 and by Southampton in the Tower Poem are:  blood, buried, cancel, crimes, dead, die, faults, grave, grief, groans, ill, liberty, loss, offences, pardon, power, prison, religious, sorrow, stain and tears.

An impressive list, I’d say – reflecting the fate that Southampton was facing and that Oxford must have dreaded.  Moreover it appears that Southampton was influenced not only by the words, but by some of the concepts, expressed in the sonnets.  For example, Oxford writes in Sonnet 30:

Then can I drown an eye (un-used to flow)

For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night

And in Sonnet 31:

Thou art the grave where buried love doth live

In the first two lines Oxford appears to be referring to Southampton (and perhaps Essex), who, in effect, is  a “dead man walking,” as the saying goes.  And Southampton writes in his poem to Elizabeth begging for her mercy:

 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… 

In an upcoming blog I’ll print out a near-complete list of lines from Shakespeare sonnets and from the Southampton poem that contain the same words in various forms.

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

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

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

Inside Traitors Gate at the Tower of London

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

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

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

HENRY EARL OF SOUTHAMPTON TO THE COUNCIL:

“My Lordes,

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

Another view inside Traitors Gate

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

The offender’s sorrow lends but weak relief

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

Excusing thy sins more than thy sins are – Sonnet 35

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

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

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

Heads of Traitors on Pikes at London Bridge by the Tower

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

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

The Gate

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

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

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

The Tower & Gate from the Thames

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

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

Prison my heart in thy steel bosom’s ward,

But then my friend’s heart let my poor heart bail;

Whoe’er keeps me, let my heart be his guard,

Thou canst not then use rigor in my jail — Oxford to the Queen in Sonnet 133

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

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

“H. WRIOTHESLEY.”

Sonnet 35

No more be grieved at that which thou hast done:

Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud,

Clouds and eclipses stain both Moon and Sunne,

And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud.

All men make faults, and even I in this,

Authorizing thy trespass with compare,

My self corrupting salving thy amiss,

Excusing thy sins more than thy sins are:

For to thy sensual fault I bring in sense,

Thy adverse party is thy Advocate,

And ‘gainst my self a lawful plea commence.

Such civil war is in my love and hate,

That I an accessory needs must be

To that sweet thief which sourly robs from me.

From THE MONUMENT:

THY ADVERSE PARTY IS THY ADVOCATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’re my prisoner, but

Your gaoler shall deliver the keys

That lock up your restraint.  For you, Posthumous,

So soon as I can win th’offended king,

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

If she dares trust me with her little babe,

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

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

I never did incense his Majesty

Against the Duke of Clarence, but have been

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

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

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


On “Anonymous” Panel with Roland Emmerich

Hank on the Panel with Roland Emmerich (to our left) after the “Anonymous” advance premier in Portland, Oregon:

 

Here’s a “Smoking Gun” that brings together Edward de Vere (Oxford) and Henry Wriothesley (Southampton) in the Context of the 1601-1603 Aftermath of the Essex Rebellion

I’d like to present a document that brings together Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford and Henry Wriothesley  Earl of Southampton within the context of the Essex Rebellion of February 1601 and its aftermath until the death of Elizabeth and the succession of James in March 1603.  I consider it a “smoking gun” in terms of evidence of a relationship between them in connection with those events and that time period – supporting the context put forth and expanded within THE MONUMENT, my edition of the Sonnets (and its companion synopsis-volume SHAKESPEARE’S SON and HIS SONNETS, not to mention ANONYMOUS, the forthcoming movie from Roland Emmerich, due for general release October 28th.

The document is Anagrammata in Nomina Illustrissimorum Heroum (1603) By Francis Davison – published online by the Philological Museum by Dana F. Sutton.

The Anagrammata was a single-page broadsheet with anagrams & epigrams on the names of the following lords: Thomas Egerton, Charles Howard, Thomas Sackville, Chrarles Blunt, John Fortescue, Gilbert Talbot, Henry Percy, Edward de Vere and Henry Wriothesley.

The work was compiled partially during the time of Southampton’s imprisonment in the Tower [1601-1603] and completed after the queen’s death on March 24, 1603.  It was published later the same year. The anagrams/epigrams for Oxford and Southampton are presented ninth and tenth, respectively, as the final two lords.

“In general,” Professor Sutton writes, “the epigrams are fairly predictable exercises in courtly flattery.  A couple, however, may merit more consideration.  The one addressed to Oxford congratulates him on his non-involvement in the Essex Rebellion.  One wonders why Davison thought this necessary.  Even more curious is the one for Southampton, which explicitly states that he had been convicted of treason on false testimony inspired by envy.”

EDWARD VERE by an anagram AURE SURDUS VIDEO (“DEAF IN MY EAR, I SEE”)

“Though by your zeal, Fortune, you keep perfidy’s murmurs and schemings at a distance, nonetheless I learn (at which my mind and ear quake) that our bodies have been deafened with respect to evil affairs. Indeed, I perceive men who come close to Catiline in deception, freeing other men’s fates by their death.”

HENRY WRIOTHESLEY  by an anagram THESEUS NIL REUS HIC RUO (“HERE I FALL, THESEUS, GUILTY OF NOTHING”)

“Justly you were able to pour forth this complaint from your mouth; your lot was harsh while a false accusation prevailed. “Lo, Theseus is guilty of nothing; here I fall by an unfair lot’s censure, betrayed by envy’s whim.” But now the complaint is to be altered, because of altered perils. Great man, do you take a fall with an innocent heart bearing witness?  Not at all.  The heir, wielding the scepter of rule conferred under Jove’s auspices, grants you to live free of this care.”

I submit that THE MONUMENT and its synopsis-book SHAKESPEARE’S SON AND HIS SONNETS contain the explanation that Professor Sutton is seeking.  No, it’s not “proof” of the Monument Theory of the Sonnets, but there’s no question that it brings Oxford and Southampton together in connection with the post-Essex Rebellion history.

THE MONUMENT attempts to demonstrate that the Sonnets tell the following story:  Upon the failure of the Essex Rebellion of February 8, 1601, followed by the sentencing of Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton to death for high treason, Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford made a bargain with Secretary Robert Cecil in order to save Southampton’s life.  Essex was executed six days after the trial.  Oxford’s aim was to spare Southampton from execution and gain the promise of his release upon the succession of King James of Scotland as King of England.  Once liberated, Southampton would regain all his lands and titles and receive a royal pardon, freeing him from the threat of being re-arrested for the same crime.  But the outcome of the deal depended on Cecil’s ability to bring James to the throne, so Oxford had no choice but to help him.  In effect, he was blackmailed.

One way Oxford may have helped is by becoming “40” in the secret correspondence between Cecil and James, behind Elizabeth’s back.  Also, shortly before the Queen’s death, he apparently acted to test Lord Lincoln’s loyalty to James.  In addition, having adopted the pen name “Shakespeare” in 1593, Oxford now agreed to take another step – to bury his identity in relation to Southampton after his death and for generations to come:  “I may nevermore acknowledge thee … My name be buried where my body is,” he testifies in Sonnets 36 and 72.

The Southampton Prince Tudor Theory is that, in addition, Oxford and Southampton agreed to bury their father-son relationship; and that Southampton agreed to forfeit any claim to the crown as the natural heir of Queen Elizabeth.   [Two Oxfordians who oppose the Southampton Prince Tudor Theory, Nina Green and Christopher Paul, are thanked by Dana Sutton for suggesting that the Philological Museum include Davison’s Anagrammata.]

OBSERVATIONS:

Davison was the son of William Davison, whom Elizabeth had blamed for transmitting the warrant for execution of Mary Queen of Scots.  W. Davison and his family were ruined.  Upon the death of Secretary Francis Walsingham in 1590, Essex urged Elizabeth to name W. Davison to replace him.  The post was left vacant until 1596, when the queen gave it to Robert Cecil.

In a work in which every element has a potential or actual meaning beyond what is on the surface, Davison deliberately placed Edward de Vere and Henry Wriothesley one after the other.   As stated above, such placement lends support to the theory of THE MONUMENT that, as expressed in the Sonnets, Oxford and Southampton were linked together at this crucial time.

OXFORD EPIGRAM:

Catiline: Lucius Sergius Catilina (108 BC – 62 BC), known in English as Catiline, was a Roman politician of the 1st century BC who is best known for the Catiline conspiracy, an attempt to overthrow the Roman Republic, and in particular the power of the aristocratic Senate.  [The name of Catiline was invoked in relation to Essex and his supporters at the joint treason trial of him and Southampton on February 19, 1601.]

“Freeing Other Men’s Fates by Their Deaths” – the final words of the epigram to Oxford could refer to Essex as one who went to his death in order to give Southampton a chance to live; but this epigram is for Oxford and therefore, I submit, it more likely refers to the bargain Oxford made with Cecil to figuratively die, as in Sonnet 81: “I, once gone, to all the world must die.”

SOUTHAMPTON EPIGRAM:

Theseus:  the mythical founder-king of Athens, son of Aethra, and fathered by Aegeus and Poseidon, both of whom Aethra had slept with in one night. Theseus was a founder-hero, like Perseus, Cadmus, or Heracles, all of whom battled and overcame foes that were identified with an archaic religious and social order.

“False Accusation … Betrayed by Envy’s Whim” – perhaps refers to Cecil betraying Southampton by falsely accusing him of trying to overthrow Elizabeth and kill her.

“The Heir, Wielding the Scepter of Rule” – appears to refer to King James, who ordered the release of Southampton; but, given the Prince Tudor Theory that Henry Wriothesley was the natural heir of Elizabeth and deserved to become King Henry IX, such language is certainly tantalizing and even, one might say, provocative.

Reason No. 19 to Believe Edward de Vere was “Shakespeare”: The Families of Hamlet and Oxford as Mirror Reflections

One of the most obvious links in the chain of evidence that connects Edward de Vere the seventeenth Earl of Oxford to “Shakespeare” is the similarity of Hamlet’s and Oxford’s family relationships.  In fact this reason to believe that Oxford wrote the play Hamlet, as well as all the other Shakespeare works, is so clear that I’ve kept putting it aside as being too obvious or too easy.   Well, I might as well get it over with, so here’s Reason No. 19 in all its simple clarity…

Queen Gertrude as played by Glenn Close

Queen Gertrude in the play is the mother of Prince Hamlet, while Queen Elizabeth in real life was the official mother of Lord Oxford.  [At age twelve in 1562 he became the first of eight royal wards during her reign.]

Polonius as played by Eric Porter

Lord Chamberlain Polonius is the chief adviser to Queen Gertrude, while William Cecil Lord Treasurer Burghley was the chief adviser to Queen Elizabeth.  [He held the post from the Queen’s accession in November 1558 until his death in August 1598, when his second son, Principal Secretary Robert Cecil, officially took over his father’s unique role behind the throne.]

Hamlet is engaged to young Ophelia, daughter of Polonius, while in real life Oxford became engaged to fifteen-year-old Anne Cecil, daughter of Burghley.   [Oxford and Anne were married in December 1571 when he was twenty-one and she had turned fifteen.]

Ophelia as played by Helena Bonham Carter

Ophelia’s older brother Laertes goes off to Paris, his behavior causing great distress for his father, Polonius, who recites those “precepts” to him as guidance, while in real life Anne Cecil’s eldest brother Thomas Cecil went off to Paris, his behavior causing great distress for his father, Burghley, who wrote him long letters full of wise “precepts” as guidance.  [In the final act of the play, in my view, Laertes becomes the second son, Robert Cecil.]

SEE MARK ALEXANDER’S “25 CONNECTIONS” RE: HAMLET & OXFORD (It’s a PDF download of Power Point)

THE LINE-UP (again):

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark – Oxford, Lord Great Chamberlain of England

Gertrude, Queen of Denmark – Elizabeth, Queen of England

Polonius, Chief Minister to Queen Gertrude – Burghley, Chief Minister to Queen Elizabeth

Ophelia, daughter of Polonius – Anne Cecil, daughter of Burghley

Laertes, son of Polonius – Thomas and Robert Cecil, sons of Burghley

And, for example:

Horatio Vere (1565-1635), cousin of Edward de Vere; with his brother Francis they were "The Fighting Veres"

Horatio, favorite friend of Hamlet – Horatio Vere, favorite cousin of Oxford

Francisco, a soldier – Francis Vere, soldier and cousin of Oxford

[Oh, yes – and Claudius, who has murdered Hamlet’s father and married his mother the Queen, appears to reflect Queen Elizabeth’s lover Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, whom Oxford may have suspected of having caused the death of his own father.]

So in this most autobiographical of Shakespeare’s plays, we find the protagonist in virtually the same web of family relationships at Court as that in which Edward de Vere is to be found in the contemporary history.  Traditional scholars may ask rhetorically, “Well, now, you’re not claiming this as proof that Oxford wrote Hamlet, are you?”

“No, of course not,” I might reply, “but doesn’t this give you a little queasy feeling in the gut?  I mean, don’t you have the slightest tremor of doubt that Will of Stratford could have or would have written such a play?  And do you think this mirror image of family relationships can be mere coincidence?”

James Shapiro argues in Contested Will [p. 177] that “such claims about representing on the public stage some of the most powerful figures in the realm betray a shallow grasp of Elizabethan dramatic censorship.”  J. Thomas Looney, who in 1920 first suggested Oxford as Shakespeare, “didn’t understand that Edmund Tilney, the Master of the Revels, whose job it was to read and approve all dramatic scripts before they were publicly performed, would have lost his job – and most likely his nose and ears, if not his head, had he approved a play that so transparently ridiculed privy councilors past and present,” Shapiro adds.

Well, in the play itself the author may have supplied one answer to that argument, when Polonius at the top of Act 3, Scene 4, speaking of Hamlet, tells Queen Gertrude: “He will come straight.  Look you lay home to him.  Tell him his pranks have been too broad to bear with, and that your Grace hath screened and stood between much heat and him.”  (My emphasis)

In other words, Polonius-Burghley reminds Gertrude-Elizabeth that Hamlet-Oxford has taken too many liberties, unbearably so, but nonetheless the Queen has protected him from “much heat” and/or reprisals by government officials [such as Tilney] as well as by his enemies at court.

Shapiro is right, however, in one respect: the playwright surely would have lost his head … if he had really been Shakspere of Stratford!

Lilian Winstanley in Hamlet and the Scottish Succession (1921) writes on p. 122 about Polonius-Burghley and the use of spies:

“Intercepted letters and the employment of spies were, then, a quite conspicuous and notorious part of Cecil’s statecraft, and they are certainly made especially characteristic of Shakespeare’s Polonius. Polonius intercepts the letters from Hamlet to his daughter; he appropriates Hamlet’s most intimate correspondence, carries it to the king, and discusses it without a moment’s shame or hesitation: he and the king play the eaves­dropper during Hamlet’s interview with Ophelia: he himself spies upon Hamlet’s interview with his mother. It is impossible not to see that these things are made both futile and hateful in Polonius, and they were precisely the things that were detested in Cecil….”

Quite a couple of families, eh?

“Shakespeare-Oxford” Books by Whittemore now on Kindle

I’m pleased to announce that the following books are now available on the KINDLE format — and  can be viewed for free at KINDLE FOR PC — a service from Amazon that I hadn’t known about until recently: THE MONUMENT ... SHAKESPEARE’S SON AND HIS SONNETS

… and SHAKE-SPEARE’S TREASON [script of the one-man show by me and Ted Story] …

A Flyer for the Show

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!

Those “Precepts” of Polonius and Burghley: Reason No. 14 Why the Earl of Oxford was the Man Who Wrote “Hamlet”

William Cecil Lord Burghley (1520-1598)

The way I see it, this one is a piece-a-cake.  Holler the word “precepts” to an Oxfordian and the odds, ten to one, are that you’ll get a quick reply about Polonius delivering “these few precepts” in Hamlet and how Edward de Vere the seventeenth Earl of Oxford would have known Lord Burghley’s real-life Certain Precepts, which were not printed until 1616, the year that William of Stratford died, and long after the play had been written.  Well, no, of course this is not proof that Oxford was “Shakespeare,” but, hey, it’s pretty cool…don’t’cha think?

Back in 1869, the scholar George French wrote Shakspeareana Genealogica in which he observed that in Hamlet the three characters of Lord Chamberlain Polonius, his son Laertes and his daughter Ophelia “are supposed to stand for Queen Elizabeth’s celebrated Lord High Treasurer Sir William Cecil, Lord Burghley, his second son Robert Cecil and his daughter Anne Cecil.”  In other words, in the days before the “authorship debate” got rolling, there wasn’t any question in people’s minds that Polonius = Burghley; those three characters were “supposed” or generally thought to be modeled on Burghley, Robert Cecil and Anne Cecil.

Edward de Vere the seventeenth Earl of Oxford became a royal ward of Elizabeth at age twelve in 1562, in the custody of her chief minister William Cecil, Lord Burghley; and in 1571, at twenty-one, he entered an arranged marriage with his guardian’s fifteen-year-old daughter Anne Cecil.

When Burghley knew that his son Robert Cecil was about to set out on his travels in 1584, the year when most Oxfordians believe Oxford wrote the first draft of Hamlet, he wrote out “certain precepts” for him as guides to behavior – “and in some of these,” French noted in the nineteenth century, “the identity of language with that of Polonius is so close that SHAKSPEARE [yes, spelled this way, and in caps] could not have hit upon it unless he had been acquainted with Burghley’s parental advice to Robert Cecil.”  

My reason number 14 for contending that Oxford was “Shakespeare” focuses on those “precepts” by Polonius and Burghley.   It would seem evident that the author of Hamlet needed to be familiar with Burghley’s maxims, the better to mirror them and satirize them at the same time!  He had to have heard them “firsthand” – at Cecil House, for example, where Edward de Vere had lived from age twelve to twenty-one.

The first quarto of "Hamlet" appeared in 1603; this is the second one, the "authentic" version, twice as long, published in 1604, the year of Oxford's death.

[Such was the argument made in 2007 during the annual Shakespeare Authorship Conference at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon by Michael Cecil, the eighteenth Baron Burghley, who is directly descended from William Cecil, the first Baron Burghley.]

In the decades after J. Thomas Looney put forth Oxford as “Shakespeare” in 1920, orthodox scholars began to back away from Polonius = Burghley.  They’ve even tried to suggest that the two sets of precepts are not necessarily very similar.   Humbug!!!

The best online analysis of the Polonius-Burghley link is from Mark Alexander in his Sourcetext site at:

http://www.sourcetext.com/sourcebook/essays/polonius/corambis.html

Following are some comparisons, with the line breaks removed from Polonius’ speech [which is printed below in full, as it appears in the play].   Not only are these specific pieces of advice very similar; also, there is an overall resemblance of tone.

POLONIUS:

Give thy thoughts no tongue, nor any unproportion’d thought his act … be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.

BURGLEY:

Be not scurrilous in conversation, or satirical in thy jests

POLONIUS:

Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel; but do not dull thy palm with entertainment of each new hatch’d unfledged comrade.

BURGHLEY:

Let thy kindred and allies be welcome to thy house and table.  Grace them with thy countenance … But shake off those glow-worms, I mean parasites and sycophants, who will feed and fawn upon thee in the summer of prosperity…

POLONIUS:

Neither a borrower nor a lender be; for loan oft loses both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

BURGHLEY:

Neither borrow of a neighbor or of a friend, but of a stranger, whose paying for it thou shalt hear no more of it … Trust not any man with thy life credit, or estate.

Lord Burghley and his son Robert Cecil (1563-1612)

Here is the speech of Polonius followed by the full text of Burghley’s ten precepts:

Hamlet, Act I, Scene 3

Polonius:

And these few precepts in thy memory

See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,

Nor any unproportioned thought his act.

Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.

Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,

Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;

But do not dull thy palm with entertainment

Of each new-hatch’d, unfledged comrade. Beware

Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,

Bear’t that the opposed may beware of thee.

Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;

Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.

Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,

But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;

For the apparel oft proclaims the man,

And they in France of the best rank and station

Are of a most select and generous chief in that.

Neither a borrower nor a lender be;

For loan oft loses both itself and friend,

And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

This above all: to thine ownself be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Polonius and Laertes

CERTAIN PRECEPTE FOR THE WELL ORDERING OF A MAN’S LIFE

Son Robert:

The virtuous inclinations of thy matchless mother, by whose tender and godly care thy infancy was governed, together with thy education under so zealous and excellent a tutor, puts me rather in assurance of the hope that thou are not ignorant of that summary bond which is only able to make thee happy as well in thy death as life–I mean the true knowledge and worship of thy Creator and Redeemer, without which all other things are vain and miserable. So that, thy youth being guided by so all sufficient a teacher, I make no doubt but he will furnish thy life both with divine and moral documents; yet that I may not cast off the care beseeming a parent towards his child, or that thou shouldst have cause to drive thy whole felicity and welfare rather from others than from whence thou receivedst thy birth and being, I think it fit and agreeable to the affection I bear to help thee with such advertisements and rules for the squaring of thy life as are gained rather by much experience than long reading, to the end that thou, entering into this exorbitant age, mayest be the better prepared to shun those cautelous courses whereinto this world and thy lack of experience may easily draw thee. And because I will not confound thy memory, I have reduced them into ten precepts and, next unto Moses’ tables, if thou do imprint them in thy mind, then shalt thou reap the benefit and I the contentment. And these are they.

1. When it shall please God to bring thee to man’s estate, use great providence and circumspection in the choice of thy wife, for from thence may spring all thy future good or ill; and it is an action like a strategem in war where man can err but once. If thy estate be good, match near home and at leisure; if weak, then far off and quickly. Inquire diligently of her disposition and how her parents have been inclined in their youth. Let her not be poor how generous soever, for a man can buy nothing in the market with gentility. Neither choose a base and uncomely creature altogether for wealth, for it will cause contempt in others and loathing in thee. Make not choice of a dwarf or a fool, for from the one thou mayest beget a race of pygmies, the other may be thy daily disgrace; for it will irk thee to have her talk, for then thou shalt find to thy great grief that there is nothing more fulsome than a she-fool. Touching the government of thy house, let thy hospitality be moderate and according to the measure of thine own estate, rather plentiful than sparing–but not too costly–for I never knew any grow poor by keeping an orderly table. But some consume themselves through secret vices and their hospitality must bear the blame. Banish swinish drunkards out of thy house, which is a vice that impairs health, consumes much, and makes no show, for I never knew any praise ascribed to a drunkard but the well-bearing of drink, which is a better commendation for a brewer’s horse or a drayman than for either gentleman or serving man. Beware that thou spend not above three of the four parts of thy revenue, nor about one-third part of that in thine house, for the other two parts will do no more than defray thy extraordinaries, which will always surmount thy ordinaries by much. For otherwise shalt thou live like a rich beggar in a continual want, and the needy man can never live happily nor contented, for then every least disaster makes him ready either to mortgage or to sell, and that gentleman which then sells an acre of land loses an ounce of credit, for gentility is nothing but ancient riches. So that if the foundations sink, the building must needs consequently fail.

2. Bring thy children up in learning and obedience yet without austerity; praise them openly; reprehend them secretly; give them good countenance and convenient maintenance according to thy ability; for otherwise thy life will seem their bondage, and then what portion thou shalt leave them at thy death they may thank death for it and not thee. And I am verily persuaded that the foolish cockering of some parents and the overstern carriage of others causeth more men and women to take evil courses than naturally their own vicious inclinations. Marry thy daughters in time, lest they marry themselves. Suffer not thy sons to pass the Alps, for they shall learn nothing but pride, blasphemy, and atheism. And if by travel they attain to some few broken languages, they will profit them no more than to have one meat served in divers dishes. Neither by my advice shalt thou train them up to wars, for he that eats up his rest only to live by that profession can hardly be an honest man or good Christian, for war is of itself unjust unless the good cause may make it just. Besides it is a science no longer in request than use, for “soldiers in peace are like chimneys in summer.”

3. Live not in the country without corn and cattle about thee, for he that must present his hand to the purse for every expense of household may be likened to him that keeps water in a sieve. And for that provision thou shalt need lay for to buy it at the best hand, for there may be a penny in four saved betwixt buying at thy need or when the market and seasons serve fittest for it. And be not willingly attended or served by kinsmen, friends, or men entreated to stay, for they will expect much and do little, neither by such as are amorous, for their heads are commonly intoxicated; keep rather too few than one too many; feed them well and pay them with the most, and then mayest thou boldly require service at their hands.

4. Let thy kindred and allies be welcome to thy table, grace them with thy countenance, and ever further them in all honest actions, for by that means thou shalt so double the bond of nature as thou shalt find them so many advocates to plead an apology for thee behind my back. But shake off these glowworms–I mean parasites and sycophants–who will feed and fawn upon thee in the summer of prosperity, but in any adverse storm they will shelter thee no more than an arbor in winter.

5. Beware of suretyship for thy best friend, for he which payeth another man’s debts seeks his own decay; but if thou canst not otherwise choose, then rather lend that money from thyself upon good bond though thou borrow it, so mayest thou pleasure thy friend and happily also secure thyself. Neither borrow money of a neighbor or friend but rather from a mere stranger, where paying for it thou mayest hear no more of it, for otherwise thou shalt eclipse thy credit, lose thy freedom, and yet pay to him as dear as to the other. In borrowing of money be ever precious of thy word, for he that cares to keep day of payment is lord commander many times in another man’s goods.

6. Undertake no suit against a poor man without receiving much wrong for therein making him thy competitor. Besides it is a base conquest to triumph where there is small resistance. Neither attempt law against any man before thou be fully resolved that thou hast the right on thy side, and then spare not for money nor pains, for a cause or two so being well followed and obtained may after free thee from suits a great part of thy life.

7. Be sure ever to keep some great man thy friend, but trouble him not for trifles, compliment him often, present him with many yet small gifts and of little charge, and if thou have cause to bestow any great gratuity let it then be some such thing as may be daily in sight, for otherwise in this ambitious age thou mayest remain like a hop without a pole, live in obscurity, and be made a football for every insulting companion to spurn at.

8. Towards thy superiors be humble yet generous; with thy equals familiar yet respective; towards inferiors show much humility and some familiarity, as to bow thy body, stretch forth thy hand, and to uncover thy head, and suchlike popular compliments. The first prepares a way to advancement; the second makes thee known for a man well-bred; the third gains a good report which once gotten may be safely kept, for high humilities take such root in the minds of the multitude as they are more easilier won by unprofitable courtesies than churlish benefits. Yet do I advise thee not to affect nor neglect popularity too much. Seek not to be E. and shun to be R. [Essex and Raleigh? -SFR]

9. Trust not any man too far with thy credit or estate, for it is a mere folly for a man to enthrall himself to his friend further than if just cause be offered he should not dare to become otherwise his enemy.

10. Be not scurrilous in conversation nor stoical in thy jests; the one may make thee unwelcome to all companies, the other pull on quarrels and yet the hatred of thy best friends. Jests when they savor too much of truth leave a bitterness in the mind of those that are touched. And although I have already pointed all this inclusive, yet I think it necessary to leave it thee as a caution, because I have seen many so prone to quip and gird as they would rather lose their friend than their jests, and if by chance their boiling brain yield a quaint scoff they will travail to be delivered of it as a woman with child. Those nimble apprehensions are but the froth of wit.

I have reprinted the above precepts from:

http://princehamlet.com/burghley.html

Reason No. 9 Why “Shakespeare” was Edward de Vere seventeenth Earl of Oxford: “I AM THAT I AM”:

“And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM’: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” — Exodus, 3.14

To my knowledge only two individuals during the Elizabethan age declared in writing, “I AM THAT I AM,” and apparently they did so within identical contexts: the author of Shakespeare’s sonnets and Edward de Vere, the seventeenth Earl of Oxford.

William Cecil Lord Burghley & His Mule

After composing a letter to his father-in-law William Cecil Lord Burghley on 30 October 1584, Edward de Vere signed off in his own hand.  Then he added a postscript bitterly protesting the chief minister’s attempts to use his own servants to spy on him.   He set forth the facts and continued (with my emphases):

“But I pray, my Lord, leave that course, for I mean not to be your ward nor your child.  I serve her Majesty, and I AM THAT I AM, and by alliance near to your Lordship, but free, and scorn to be offered that injury to think I am so weak of government as to be ruled by servants, or not able to govern myself.  If your Lordship take and follow this course, you deceive yourself, and make me take another course than yet I have not thought of.  Wherefore these shall be to desire your Lordship, if that I may make account of your friendship, that you will leave that course as hurtful to us both.”

(When Oxford warns, “If your Lordship take and follow this course, you … make me take another course than yet I have not thought of,” it appears that he anticipates King Lear’s outburst against his two selfish daughters, “I will do such things – what they are yet I know not; but they shall be the terrors of the earth.” – 2.4.280)

The other personal use of I AM THAT I AM occurs in Sonnet 121, which follows here with my emphases on SPIES as well as I AM THAT I AM; and can’t you feel the same mind at work?  The same protest … the same angry, accusing voice?

Sonnet 121

Tis better to be vile than vile esteemed,

When not to be receives reproach of being,

And the just pleasure lost, which is so deemed,

Not by our feeling, but by others’ seeing.

For why should others’ false adulterate eyes

Give salutation to my sportive blood?

Or on my frailties why are frailer SPIES,

Which in their wills count bad what I think good?

No, I AM THAT I AM, and they that level

At my abuses reckon up their own.

I may be straight though they themselves be bevel;

By their rank thoughts my deeds must not be shown;

Unless this general evil they maintain:

All men are bad and in their badness reign

Dissertation on Oxford’s Geneva Bible by Dr. Roger Stritmatter

God’s words to Moses “I AM THAT I AM” are in the Geneva Bible, a gilt-edged copy of which Edward de Vere had purchased in 1569/70 from William Seres, stationer; and thanks to the landmark studies by Dr. Roger Stritmatter of that same copy, held by the Folger Library in Washington, D.C., we can be sure that the earl was intimately acquainted with its passages.  To put it bluntly, both Oxford and “Shakespeare” were biblical experts – one more reason why, in our view, they were one and the same.

Referring to the likelihood that Oxford’s postscript and Sonnet 121 were written virtually at the same time in response to the same situation, Percy Allen wrote in 1930: “So forcible, individual, and wholly characteristic an expression … is a very strong piece of corroborative evidence.” *

Sonnet 121 is positioned within Sonnets 107 to 126 — a sequence which, as expressed in The Monument, uses one sonnet per day from Sonnet 107 (Southampton’s release from the Tower on 10 April 1603) to Sonnet 125 (Queen Elizabeth’s funeral on 28 April 1603) and Sonnet 126 (the “envoy” of farewell).  This sequence is a thundering “movement” concluding the fair youth series to/about Southampton, but in no way does it preclude Oxford having originally written Sonnet 121 at the time he wrote the 1584 postscript; the likelihood is that he pulled out this old verse to use in the final construction of his “monument” for Southampton.

Here is my take on Sonnet 121 as it appears in The Monument:

THE FINAL DAYS

FOUR DAYS TO THE QUEEN’S FUNERAL
Sonnet 121
24 April 1603

Oxford records his commitment to the truth rather than to false appearances.  He repeats the words of God to Moses in the Bible – I AM THAT I AM – in echo of a postscript to Lord
Burghley in 1584, when Southampton was ten years old:  “I serve her Majesty, and
I am that I am.”  In reality, as father to a rightful king, he should be Elizabeth’s consort on the throne and, therefore, a king or god on earth entitled to use God’s words of self-description. Oxford here recalls his own postscript, related to “spies” working for Burghley and poking into his personal affairs.  Nearing the end of his diary, he also sums up his own life to be preserved in this monument.

1 ‘TIS BETTER TO BE VILE THAN VILE ESTEEMED,

“It’s better to be vicious that to be thought vicious” – Tucker; VILE = wicked; criminal; in this case, treasonous; “That I was of a strange and vile nature” – Oxford, in a memo circa 1601-1602, Cecil Papers 146.19; Chiljan, 72; quoting false charges against him; ‘TIS BETTER, etc. = Oxford would rather have the genuine guilt for his son’s crime than merely to be deemed guilty without making any sacrifice for him; “This vile traitor, Somerset” – 1 Henry IV, 4.3.33; TO BE = echoing Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy, with “not to be” in line 2 below; indicating that he is undoubtedly revising Hamlet (Q2 of 1604) by now; ESTEEMED = deemed in the eyes of others, recalling the theme of Sonnet 29, line 14:  “Then I scorn to change my state with kings”

2 WHEN NOT TO BE RECEIVES REPROACH OF BEING,

WHEN NOT TO BE, etc. = when not actually wicked but blamed for being such; NOT TO BE = the other half of “To be or not to be,” the soliloquy of Hamlet, its full version to be published in the next year, 1604.

3 AND THE JUST PLEASURE LOST, WHICH IS SO DEEMED,

JUST = legal; the word “just” is on Oxford’s mind in this final Fair Youth sequence: “Just to the time, not with the time exchanged” – Sonnet 109, line 7; “And on the just proof surmise accumulate” – Sonnet 117, line 10; and it was on his mind near the end of the Dark Lady series, when Elizabeth was in her final eclipse: “Who taught me how to make me love thee more,/ The more I hear and see just cause of hate?” – Sonnet 150, lines 9-10; JUST PLEASURE = the happiness Oxford derives from having made a legal bargain for his son; also, for Southampton’s  “royal pleasure”; DEEMED = judged; “The Rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem/ For that sweet odor which doth in it live” – Sonnet 54, lines 3-4

4 NOT BY FEELING BUT BY OTHERS’ SEEING.

NOT, etc. = “Not in our opinion, but in the view of others” – Booth; Oxford and Southampton
do not agree with the loss of the throne, but that was arranged by others, i.e., Cecil and James; and the truth is that Southampton should have succeeded; OTHERS’ SEEING = the “others” see only the dark guilt of Southampton, and are unaware of or refuse to see (or take into account) his royal blood; in effect, they are blind and see only “darkness which the blind do see” – Sonnet 27, line 8

5 FOR WHY SHOULD OTHERS’ FALSE ADULTERATE EYES

FALSE = opposite of True, related to Oxford; also “false” related to treason as in “false traitor”; ADULTERATE = counterfeit; not truthful or real; FALSE ADULTERATE EYES = the false view of others that Southampton is a traitor; “I am thy King, and thou a false-heart traitor” – 2 Henry VI, 5.1.143; also, the false view that he is not a king by blood; “Why should false painting
imitate his cheek” – Sonnet 67, line 5; “Simply I credit her false-speaking tongue” – Sonnet 138, line 7, referring to Elizabeth; 6 GIVE SALUTATION TO MY SPORTIVE BLOOD?

SALUTATION = (“And in his private plot be we the first to salute our rightful sovereign with honor of his birthright to the crown” – 2 Henry VI, 2.2.5961; “Loud shouts and salutations from their mouths, even in the presence of the crowned king” – 1 Henry IV, 3.2.53-54); Oxford giving salutation to Southampton as a king; MY SPORTIVE BLOOD = i.e., Oxford’s reckless blood that is also part of Southampton’s reckless blood; echoing the royal blood of his son; “And that fresh
blood
which youngly thou bestow’st” – Sonnet 11, line 3

7 OR ON MY FRAILTIES WHY ARE FRAILER SPIES,

OR ON MY FRAILTIES, etc. = why do weaker people look on my weaknesses; “Frailty, thy  name is woman!” – Hamlet, 1.2.152, another indication that Oxford is revising that play at this time (see lines 1-2 and 8); FRAILER = lack of royal blood, i.e., less royal than my son, i.e., Robert Cecil, but even King James is less royal by blood than Southampton; SPIES = William and Robert Cecil both relied heavily on spies to assist them in running the government; recalling the spies Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, hired by Polonius-Burghley.

William Cecil Lord Burghley with his son and successor Robert Cecil, who both used networks of spies and informants

8 WHICH IN THEIR WILLS COUNT BAD WHAT I THINK GOOD?

WILLS = royal wills; the royal will of James; a play on “Will” Shakespeare; COUNT BAD WHAT I THINK GOOD = add up his royalty as nothing good or genuine = “To leave for nothing all thy sum of good” – Sonnet 109, line 12; “For there is nothing either good or bad but thinking
makes it so” – Hamlet, 2.2.250-251; COUNT = as in praying upon the Rosary beads: “Nothing, sweet boy, but yet like prayers divine,/ I must each day say o’er the very same,/ Counting no
old thing old, thou mine, I thine” – Sonnet 108, lines 5-7; referring to the accounting of Southampton’s royal blood; “What acceptable Audit can’st thou leave?” – Sonnet 4, line 12; “Her Audit (though delayed) answered must be,/ And her Quietus is to render thee” – Sonnet 126

9 NO, I AM THAT I AM, AND THEY THAT LEVEL

I AM THAT I AM = “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM” – Exodus, 3.14; I am myself alone – Richard in 3 Henry VI, 5.6.83; “you alone are you” and “you are you
– Oxford to Southampton, speaking to his royal son as king or god on earth, in Sonnet 84

"I serve her Majesty..."

“I serve Her Majesty, and I am that I am, and by alliance near to your Lordship, but free, and scorn to be offered that injury to think I am so weak of government as to be ruled by servants, or not able to govern myself.  If your Lordship take and follow this course, you deceive yourself, and make me take another course than yet I have not thought of.”

– Oxford writing to his father-in-law William Cecil Lord Burghley, the most powerful man in England, on October 30, 1584 – in a postscript in his own hand, when Southampton was ten years old and a ward of the Queen in Burghley’s custody.  Oxford was complaining about Burghley planting servants to spy on him (see “spies” in line 7 above); and in passing he angrily (and indirectly) reminded him that he, Oxford, was the father of a royal son and virtually a king entitled to be Elizabeth’s king-consort.

“Were I the Moor, I would not be Iago. In following him I follow but myself: Heaven is my judge, not I for love and duty but seeming so, for my peculiar end, for when my outward action doth demonstrate the native act and figure of my heart in complement extern, ‘tis not long after but I will wear my heart upon my sleeve for daws to peck at: I am not what I am” – Othello, 1.1.56-64

I am not as I seem to be,

For when I smile I am not glad:

A thrall although you count me free,

I, most in mirth, most pensive sad.

I smile to shade my bitter spite…

– Oxford poem, signed E. O. The Paradise of Dainty Devices, 1576

O that you were yourself, but love you are

No longer yours than you yourself here live

Sonnet 13, lines 1-2

(In the above lines, Oxford is reminding Southampton that he is no longer what he appears to be; i.e., he is a royal prince who cannot be himself in public)

This is I, Hamlet the Dane!

Hamlet, 5.2.255, the prince asserting his identity and independence

LEVEL = aim; “the direction in which a missive weapon is aimed” – Dowden; “The harlot king
is quite beyond mine arm, out of the blank and level of my brain” – The Winter’s Tale, 2.3.6

10 AT MY ABUSES RECKON UP THEIR OWN:

AT MY ABUSES, etc. = at my deceptions; “Is it some abuse?”– Hamlet, 4.7.49; RECKON UP THEIR OWN = add up their own lies; recalling “reckoning time” of Sonnet 115, line 5

11 I MAY BE STRAIGHT THOUGH THEY THEMSELVES BE
BEVEL.

BEVEL = heraldic for crooked; alluding to Oxford’s brother-in-law, the hunchbacked Robert Cecil, and his crooked physical figure

12 BY THEIR RANK THOUGHTS MY DEEDS MUST NOT BE
SHOWN,

RANK = despicable, foul, festering, large, grievous, bloated, serious, growing ever worse; “O, my offense is rank” – Hamlet, 3.3.36, King Claudius to himself; “Things rank and gross in nature possess it merely” – Hamlet, 1.2.136, the Prince, speaking of the world and specifically the state of
Denmark; the terrible, sinful thoughts of others who have deprived Southampton of his claim; but Oxford must stay silent; suggesting high rank or office; ranked in battle order

13 UNLESS THIS GENERAL EVIL THEY MAINTAIN:

UNLESS, etc. = unless they admit their evil openly and generally; unless they want to make the
following general argument:

14 ALL MEN ARE BAD AND IN THEIR BADNESS REIGN.

ALL = Southampton, One for All, All for OneALL MEN ARE BAD = Southampton is as “bad” or guilty as all men; but this is ironic, sarcastic; earlier, in the Dark Lady series, Oxford wrote to the still-living Elizabeth in desperate anger: “Now this ill-wresting world is grown so bad,/ Mad slanderers by mad ears believed be” – Sonnet 140, lines 11-12

Southampton commissioned this portrait of himself in the Tower after his release by King James in April 1603.

“Why, then, ‘tis none to you; for there is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so” – Hamlet, 2.2.250

AND IN THEIR BADNESS REIGN = and he “reigns” as King; (i.e., Oxford standing the whole
picture on its head, reverting back to line 1; so it’s better to be a real king, i.e., one with true rights, than just to be esteemed as one; and if his son is regarded as un-royal, then he should “reign” as king anyway); the new ruler is King James, along with Robert Cecil; and they are reigning over England in all their evil or badness; REIGN = the final word of the sonnet, emphasizing the true nature of the verse as political and related to the issue of whose reign  it should be.

“Save her alone, who yet on th’earth doth reign …” – Oxford poem, The Paradise of Dainty Devices, 1576, referring to Queen Elizabeth

* The Case for Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford as “Shakespeare” by Percy Allen, 1930

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