“Shake-Speare’s Treason” — Full Performance Now on YouTube and Soon Available on DVD

A full viewing of SHAKE-SPEARE’S TREASON — written by Hank Whittemore & director Ted Story, and based on Hank’s book on Shakespeare’s sonnets THE MONUMENT — is now available on YouTube. The live performance was videotaped in July 2014 at Hudson House restaurant in Nyack, New York. A DVD version will soon be available at Amazon and elsewhere.

Special Performance of Hank Whittemore’s One-Man Show “Shake-speare’s Treason” set for Videotaping with Live Audience on June 1st at the Hudson House in Nyack

Scan TREASON flyer _3 This One
(CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGE VIEW OF FLYER)

The show is based on Hank’s book The Monument — a complete edition of the Sonnets — and dramatizes the “living record” that the author intended to preserve within this “monument” of verse for posterity.

cov-monument_72dpi

Check out “The Monument” website and also a site that was originally put up in for the show, which Hank performed more recently at Rockland Community College in Suffern, NY.

Performed at venues across the U.S. and in England at Shakespeare’s Globe and Cambridge University.

“A ripping tale of murder, treason, hangings, bastardy, love, betrayal and danger … and one of those Big Thoughts that, if you embrace it, seems to clear up a lot of mystery.” – Bill Varble, The Mail Tribune, Medford Oregon (where Hank performed the show on the campus of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival)

hank-whittemore-411

“I don’t quite know how to articulate just how inspiring your presentation was. You altered my whole perception of Shakespeare … It’s such a wonderful puzzle that challenges not only how we approach Shakespeare’s work, but theatre and history in general … You reminded us of just how important it is to consider the whole picture … The story you told onstage captivated me till the very end, at which I stood up immediately to honor your remarkable performance.” – Excerpts of letters from students at Flathead Valley Community College, Kalispell, Montana

“Shake-Speare’s Treason” – Special Free Performance at Rockland Community College on April 24

We’re looking forward to a special performance of SHAKE-SPEARE’S TREASON, the 90-minute one-man show, presented by Ramapo-Rockland Community College’s Performing Arts Department and the Rockland Shakespeare Company.

The event at the Cultural Arts Theater on the RCC campus is free and open to the public.

I’ll be performing the show at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, April 24, with a Q&A session to follow.  

Here’s the text of an RCC announcement online:

Ramapo – Rockland Community College’s Performing Arts Department and the Rockland Shakespeare Company present a special free performance of SHAKE-SPEARE’s TREASON, at RCC on Tuesday, April 24:
Tuesday, Apr 24, 2012
11:00 am to 1:30 pm
Rockland Community College
Cultural Arts Theater
SHAKE-SPEARE’S TREASON is an exciting 400 year-old mystery story. The dramatic re-telling of Shakespeare’s sonnets is written and performed by master storyteller Hank Whittemore as a gripping saga of murder, mistaken identity, hanging, treason, bastard royalty, love and betrayal. Directed by Ted Story, the show masterfully combines history and literature, offering insights into Shakespeare and life during the Elizabethan Age.

Hank Whittemore performing "Shake-Speare's Treason"

A Q&A session follows the performance, and Whittemore will also be available to sign copies of his books. The event is free and open to the public and funded in part by a grant from the RCC Foundation.
Hank Whittemore
Whittemore began acting professionally after high school, appearing Off-Broadway in “THIS SIDE OF PARADISE” directed by Herbert Berghof and on Broadway in “TAKE HER, SHE’S MINE,” with Art Carney. He performed with Helen Hayes in “THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH”, and appeared in “TOYS IN THE ATTIC” with Terry Davis. Other career paths have included newspaper reporter and radio news director before he began writing. Among his eleven published books are, The Super Cops, later made into a movie starring Ron Leibman, directed by Gordon Parks.
His non-fiction publications include a biography of labor leader Mike Quill, a reporter’s journey into African-American politics, a true story about Watergate, and an account of a remarkable counterfeiting case in London. He has also written CNN: The Inside, about the birth of Ted Turner’s all-news network; So That Others May Live, about a woman’s work with search-and-rescue dogs; and Your Future Self, a look at the inner universe of molecular medicine. Whittemore has also written many scripts for television documentaries such as “THE BODY HUMAN” (CBS), and “THE AMERICAN SPORTSMAN” (ABC), winning two Emmy awards along the way. He has written more than a hundred articles for PARADE magazine, and the recipient of an award from the Little Theatre of Alexandria National One-Act Playwriting Contest.
For more information about this performance, please contact Chris Plummer at 845-574-4380. RCC offers several degrees and courses in the Performing Arts.

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

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

Southampton in the Tower

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

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

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

Southampton to Queen Elizabeth:

While I yet breath and sense and motion have

(For this a prison differs from a grave),

Prisons are living men’s tombs, who there go

As one may sith say the dead walk so.

There am I buried quick: hence one may draw

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

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

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

Sonnet 31

Thy bosom is endeared with all hearts,

Which I by lacking have supposed dead;

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

And all those friends which I thought buried.

How many a holy and obsequious tear

Hath dear religious love stolen from mine eye,

As interest of the dead, which now appear

But things removed that hidden in thee lie.

Thou art the grave where buried love doth live,

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

Who all their parts of me to thee did give;

That due of many now is thine alone.

Their images I loved I view in thee,

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

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

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

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

Roland Emmerich Demolishes the Stratford Guy

Oh, this is a good one.  Ten Reasons Why the Stratford Man Did Not Write the Works of Shakespeare.  Congratulations to Roland Emmerich and all who put it together:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sponsored/entertainment/anonymous-movie/8811547/Roland-Emmerich-examines-the-arguments.html

 

Published in: Uncategorized on October 11, 2011 at 6:27 pm  Comments (5)  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Reason No. 21 to Believe Oxford = “Shakespeare” – All That Suspicion and Jealousy!

When first learning about Edward de Vere and his relationship to “Shakespeare,” I was startled to see a letter written by his wife Anne Cecil in December 1581.  Oxford had flown into a rage over Court gossip in 1576 that he was not the father of the baby girl (Elizabeth Vere) to whom she had given birth the previous year when he was in Italy.  Besieged by doubts, and furious that the scandal had become “the fable of the world,” he separated from her and refused to acknowledge the child.

Othello and Desdemona

Now, five years later, they had begun to communicate again; and Anne wrote to him from the Westminster home of her father William Cecil Lord Burghley, pleading:

“My Lord – In what misery I may account myself to be, that neither can see any end thereof nor yet any hope to diminish it – and now of late having had some hope in my own conceit that your Lordship would have renewed some part of your favor that you began to show me this summer…”

I paused and wondered:  What does this remind me of?  Where did I hear something like this before?

“Now after long silence of hearing anything from you, at the length I am informed – but how truly I know not, and yet how uncomfortably I do not seek it – that your Lordship is entered into misliking of me without any cause in deed or thought.” 

The first quarto of "Othello" - 1622, one year before the First Folio of plays appeared

Well, yes, of course … Desdemona, wife of Othello…

“And therefore, my good Lord, I beseech you in the name of God, which knoweth all my thoughts and love towards you, let me know the truth of your meaning towards me, upon what cause you are moved to continue me in this misery, and what you would have me do in my power to recover your constant favor, so as your Lordship may not be led still to detain me in calamity without some probable cause, whereof, I appeal to God, I am utterly innocent.”

I had played the part of Cassio way back in college, but now the final scenes came back to me with sudden vividness … the way Desdemona was so baffled by Othello’s suspicions and accusations … how she begged him to reveal the torturous contents of his mind … how she was so helpless, in the face of his blind rage … how she was left to merely plead her innocence… plaintively telling Iago, the very manipulator who had roused Othello’s jealousy in the first place:

“Alas, Iago, what shall I do to win my lord again?  Good friend, go to him; for, by this light of heaven, I know not how I lost him.  Here I kneel: If e’er my will did trespass ‘gainst his love either in discourse of thought or actual deed … comfort forswear me!  Unkindness may do much, and his unkindness may defeat my life, but never taint my love.”

Yes, I thought … Anne Cecil could have been saying the same words…

If Oxford was Shakespeare, I mused, then Anne’s statement “I am utterly innocent” from the depths of her heart echoes in the play when, after Othello strangles Desdemona to death, Iago’s wife Emilia shouts at him: “Nay, lay thee down and roar, for thou hast killed the sweetest innocent that e’er did lift up eye!”  And later, when Iago stabs Emilia, she cries to  Othello again before dying: “Moor, she was chaste!  She loved thee, cruel Moor!”

Suspicion and jealousy run through other Shakespearean plays such as Much Ado About Nothing and The Winter’s Tale.  Hamlet turns on his fiancé Ophelia, distrusting her and complaining that “the power of beauty will sooner transform honesty from what it is to a bawd than the force of honesty can translate beauty into his likeness.”  The prince is coming unglued, with young Ophelia crying out, “O what a noble mind is here o’erthrown!”

“Good my Lord,” Anne Cecil wrote to Edward de Vere again in December 1581, “assure yourself it is you whom only I love and fear, and so am desirous above all the world to please you…”

She died less than seven years later, at the much-too-young age of thirty-one, having suffered emotional strains that we can only imagine.  Oxford had had his complaints about Anne acting too much on her father’s side, much as Hamlet reacts to Ophelia’s spying on him for her father; but on the other side of the coin, he may well have blamed himself for his wife’s early death.  Once the earl is viewed at the great author, he may be seen drawing upon these upheavals in his own life, including his remorse, for his portrayals of Desdemona’s plight and Ophelia’s madness followed by her apparent suicide.

Ophelia as played by Helena Bonham-Carter in the Franco Zeffirelli film of "Hamlet" in 1990

When Hamlet sees her brother Laertes leap into her grave, he holds nothing back:  “What is he whose grief bears such an emphasis?  Whose phrase of sorrow conjures the wand’ring stars and makes them stand like wonder-wounded hearers?  This is I, Hamlet the Dane!”  He leaps into the grave with Laertes; and after they nearly fight: “I loved Ophelia!  Forty thousand brothers could not, with all their quantity of love, make up my sum!”

The prince’s grief and anger, his mixture of rage and guilt, are all palpable as he challenges Laertes: “What wilt thou do for her? … Woo’t weep?  Woo’t fight?  Woo’t fast?  Woo’t tear thyself?  Woo’t drink up eisell?  Eat a crocodile?  I’ll do’t!  Dost thou come here to whine?  To outface me with leaping in her grave? … Nay … I’ll rant as well as thou!”

During the final scene of that long-ago college production of Othello, I never failed to experience a wave of gut-wrenching emotion as the Moor begs for any crumbs of sympathy or empathy before taking his own life:

“Soft you; a word or two before you go.  I have done the state some service, and they know’t – no more of that,” he says, and we might well hear Oxford himself, speaking of his own service to the state as a playwright and patron of writers as well as acting companies that performed around the countryside to rouse national unity against the coming Spanish invasion by armada – which England survived in the summer of 1588, just a few months after Anne Cecil’s death.

“I pray you,” Othello continues, “in your letters, when you shall these unlucky deeds relate, speak of me as I am, nothing extenuate, nor set down aught in malice.  Then must you speak of one that loved not wisely but too well; of one not easily jealous but, being wrought, perplexed in the extreme; of one whose hand, like the base Indian, threw a pearl away richer than all his tribe; of one whose subdued eyes, albeit unused to the melting mood*, drop tears as fast as the Arabian trees their medicinable gum…”

I believe we are listening to Edward de Vere expressing his own measureless sorrow over the wreckages of his past – another reason to believe he was the man “Shakespeare” who had written The Tragedy of Othello printed for the first time in 1622.

 * “One whose subdued eyes, unused to the melting mood” is echoed when Oxford speaks personally in Sonnet 30:  “Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow…”

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.

“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

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

%d bloggers like this: