“Form is the Shape of the Content” — Ben Shahn

“The Shape of Content”(Charles Eliot Norton Lectures, 1956-57) by artist Ben Shahn was an important book in my life — if only because I took away just one little piece of wisdom, the answer to the question, What is form?  The form of something is, to put it simply, the shape of its content.  And the example I recall is … a tree … an individual tree … different from any other tree, taking the form of its own special, inner content … and what I took away was to not worry about the outer form of what I am writing, but, instead, to let the subject matter — the content — take its unique shape and become whatever it wants and demands to become.

So I have decided to get another copy of the book and will report back from its pages.  Meanwhile, one of the customers who reviewed it on Amazon has generously given us this excerpt … some of Shahn’s advice to artists on their education:ben-shahn

“Attend a university if you possibly can. There is no content of knowledge that is not pertinent to the work you will want to do. But before you attend a university work at something for a while. Do anything. Get a job in a potato field; or work as a grease-monkey in an auto repair shop. But if you do work in a field do not fail to observe the look and the feel of earth and of all things that you handle — yes, even potatoes! Or, in the auto shop, the smell of oil and grease and burning rubber. Paint of course, but if you have to lay aside painting for a time, continue to draw. Listen well to all conversations and be instructed by them and take all seriousness seriously. Never look down upon anything or anyone as not worthy of notice. In college or out of college, read. And form opinions! Read Sophocles and Euripides and Dante and Proust. Read everything that you can find about art except the reviews. Read the Bible; read Hume; read Pogo. Read all kinds of poetry and know many poets and many artists. Go to an art school, or two, or three, or take art courses at night if necessary. And paint and paint and draw and draw. Know all that you can, both curricular and non-curricular — mathematics and physics and economics, logic and particularly history. Know at least two languages besides your own, but anyway, know French. Look at pictures and more pictures. Look at every kind of visual symbol, every kind of emblem; do not spurn signboards of furniture drawings of this style of art or that style of art. Do not be afraid to like paintings honestly or to dislike them honestly, but if you do dislike them retain an open mind. Do not dismiss any school of art, not the Pre-Raphaelites nor the Hudson River School nor the German Genre painters. Talk and talk and sit at cafés, and listen to everything, to Brahms, to Brubeck, to the Italian hour on the radio. Listen to preachers in small town churches and in big city churches. Listen to politicians in New England town meetings and to rabble-rousers in Alabama. Even draw them. And remember that you are trying to learn to think what you want to think, that you are trying to co-ordinate mind and hand and eye. Go to all sorts of museums and galleries and to the studios of artists. Go to Paris and Madrid and Rome and Ravenna and Padua. Stand alone in Sainte Chapelle, in the Sistine Chapel, in the Church of the Carmine in Florence. Draw and draw and paint and learn to work in many media; try lithography and aquatint and silk-screen. Know all that you can about art, and by all means have opinions. Never be afraid to become embroiled in art or life or politics; never be afraid to learn to draw or paint better than you already do; and never be afraid to undertake any kind of art at all, however exalted or however common, but do it with distinction.”

“Hidden in Plain Sight” by Peter Rush – Shedding More Light on the Sonnets

HPS FRONT COVERIt never occurred to me that anyone would undertake to write an entire book devoted to describing and deepening an understanding of my own work, but Peter Rush has done just that with Hidden in Plain Sight: The True History Revealed in Shake-speares Sonnets (from Real Deal Publications – edited by Alex McNeil, with publishing assistance from William Boyle) now available on Amazon.com.

Peter and I met online back in 1999, when I first put up some information about a possible discovery about the 154 sonnets of the 1609 sequence, which was suppressed upon printing and remained underground for more than a century. It took me six years to work my way through the Sonnets according to this new “paradigm” that involved the language, form and content of the sequence; and the results in 2005 became The Monument: “Shake-speares” Sonnets by Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.

Having kept in touch since then, Peter Rush began writing his own book – presenting the same description of the Sonnets, but from a different angle and with a new approach. In addition, he includes a running comparison with the commentaries of four “orthodox” editors, who, unhappily, are tied down by the bankrupt Stratfordian mythology; and he shows how they are consistently unable to make sense of the Sonnets, regardless of their expertise as scholars.

In this book you’ll find much new and brilliant work – powerful stuff, making not only an important complement to The Monument but also contributing a ton of original insights.  I’ll have more to report on this book as we go along; for now, I must say that Hidden in Plain Sight has reinforced my conviction that The Sonnets will be viewed one day as Oxford’s ultimate masterwork … a “message in a bottle” to preserve the true history for “eyes not yet created” (you and me) in the future.

Oh – once more, here’s the Cast of Characters in the Sonnets; as the author tells us:

Fair, kind, and true, is all my argument,

Fair, kind, and true, varying to other words,

And in this change is my invention spent,

Three themes in one, which wondrous scope affords.

Fair, kind, and true, have often lived alone,

Which three, till now, never kept seat in one.

(Seat = Throne of England)

Friend or Fair Youth – Southampton

Mistress or Dark Lady – Queen Elizabeth

Author – Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford

And:

Rival Poet – Oxford’s Pen Name “Shakespeare”

Hidden in Plain Sight is a lucid, penetrating analysis of one of the most difficult-to-understand pieces of literature in the world: Shakespeare’s sonnets.  Rush articulately, coherently and believably summarizes the evidence that the Sonnets not only identify the true author of Shakespeare’s plays and poetry but also reveal hitherto unknown, astonishing details of the decline and fall of the Tudor Era.” – Dr. Paul Altrocchi, researcher and author (most recently of Fraught With Hazard, a novel of the Spanish Armada).

The Friend or Fair Youth

The “Friend” or Fair Youth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth I The Phoenix Portrait circa 1575

The “Mistress” or Dark Lady

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Author

The Author

 

 

A Paper on the “Rival Poet” of the Sonnets as Oxford’s Pen Name or Persona: “Shakespeare”

Following is the text of a 4,000-word paper on “The Rival Poet” of the Sonnets, which I delivered at the Shakespeare Authorship Studies Conference last week at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon — the point being that the Earl of Oxford’s own rival in relation to Southampton was “Shakespeare,” his own pen name or persona:

I realize the phrase “paradigm shift” is a cliché – but the fact is that we are involved in what Looney in 1920 called a difficult, but necessary, “mental revolution”.   Part of it is a rejection of the Stratford conception, but the real fun begins with a compelling replacement.  Oxford is such a good fit that we keep finding new evidence in support, and new explanations for things that have been problematic.

 Edward de Vere 17th Earl of Oxford

Edward de Vere
17th Earl of Oxford

The works themselves never change; what does change, through an Oxfordian lens, is our perception of them – and often the picture is turned upside down in quite unexpected ways.With Oxford as the model, it’s as if a light is turned on, and we’re exploring in ways that can’t even occur to someone still looking from the same old angle.  It’s as if we’re putting on new eyeglasses that allow us to “see” differently.

So we face the need for many other mental revolutions, spinning off from the main one.  And in the process, we still have to shake off some of that old baggage, in the form of deeply ingrained assumptions, based on the old model.  But it’s not easy.  It’s our nature to hold on to previous assumptions and viewpoints and beliefs as long as possible.   Which brings me to my topic – the so-called Rival Poet series of the Sonnets – generally viewed as numbers 78 to 86.

The Stratfordian model forced us to see this series in just one way – namely that other writers or poets, but mainly one particular poet who towers above all the others, is stealing the attentions and affections of the fair youth.  When Looney expressed his agreement that the younger man was the Earl of Southampton, he quoted from the rival series itself – from Sonnet 81, about “your name” achieving immortal life – and from what he called the companion sonnet, 82, in which Oxford refers to his own “dedicated words” or public dedications to Southampton.

Southampton in the   Tower 1601-1603

Southampton in the Tower 1601-1603

Stratfordians have postulated many rivals – Barnes, Chapman, Chaucer, Daniel, Davies, Davison, Drayton, Florio, Golding, Greene, Griffin, Harvey, Jonson, Kyd, Lyly, Markham, Marlowe, Martston, Nashe, Peele, Spenser, the Italian Tasso, Watson.  Oxfordians have come up with some overlaps, such as Chapman and Marlowe … but adding the likes of Raleigh and the Earl of Essex.  The senior Ogburns thought it was both Chapman and Marlowe.  Ogburn Jr. took no position.  He referred to the rival as “one other poet, whose identity I must leave to the contention of more confident minds.”  The late Peter Moore made a well-researched and detailed case for Essex.

Unfortunately, as the Stratfordians have taught us, all the best scholarship in the world is of utterly no help if our basic premises are incorrect.

Using the Stratfordian model, the rival must be some other individual who wrote poetry and who publicly used Southampton’s name:

“Knowing a better spirit doth use your name” – 80

My argument here is that the Oxfordian model opens the way to an entirely new way of looking at the same series – a view of the rival as NONE of those individuals and who is not actually a person but, instead, a persona.   In this paper I hope to show that the rival series contains Oxford’s own testimony about the authorship – a grand, poetic, profoundly emotional statement of his dying to the world, and also of his resurrection as a spirit breathing life into the poetical and dramatic luminary known as Shakespeare.

Dedication of "Venus and Adonis" - 1593 - CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VIEW

Dedication of “Venus and Adonis” to Southampton – 1593

The Stratfordian view gave no reason to look for any kind of authorship statement anywhere, much less in the so-called rival series.   The Stratfordian view precluded any authorship question or solution.  But Oxfordians contend precisely that Oxford has split himself into two separate entities – on the one hand, he’s Edward de Vere, writing privately in the sonnets; on the other hand, he’s “Shakespeare,” the name on the page and the mythic figure of a Super Poet shaking the spear of his pen.

At the outset we picture Oxford living a double life.  We picture the blotting-out or expunging of his true identity and its replacement by a rival identity.  We were led to take it for granted that the rival must be some real individual; but from Looney onward we have understood Oxford as having created his own rival – initially in the form of a pen name or pseudonym, which then takes the form of a supposedly real character or player on the world stage.

A good question is: If not for the Stratfordian baggage, would we have postulated a rival in the first place?  I think we would have known automatically that Oxford is referring to his alter ego … the other aspect of himself … whom he had named William Shakespeare.  It’s “Shakespeare” who signs the dedications to Southampton that continue to appear in new editions.  It’s “Shakespeare” who gets all the credit.

But there’s much more to it than that.  The clear testimony of the sonnets is that Oxford is fading away … becoming invisible.  And that he is making a Christ-like sacrifice to redeem Southampton’s sins or crimes, by taking them upon his own shoulders – offering his own identity as ransom, so the younger man may survive and live for as long as men can breathe or eyes can see.

So shall those blots that do with me remain

Without thy help be borne by me alone. (36)

To guard the lawful reasons on thy part (49)

I (my sovereign) watch the clock for you (57)

In Sonnets 78 to 86 he’s talking about other writers who have dedicated works to Southampton, and praised him, but he means writers in general, whereas he is also and primarily speaking of his own invention or creation, which he inhabits as a spirit.  By the end of this series, he will consider himself dead to the world and his ghost, his spirit, now lives within the assumed persona of Shakespeare.  He leads up to the sequence by making clear that his coming death to the world revolves around Henry Wriothesley – his need to help and protect him.  He’s not dying in a vacuum, but in relation to Southampton:

When I perhaps compounded am with clay,

Do not so much as my poor name rehearse. – 71

After my death, dear love, forget me quite. -72

My name be buried where my body is,

And live no more to shame nor me nor you. – 72

Each line of Oxford’s obliteration is linked to concern for Southampton.

The rival series begins with 78:

As EVERY Alien pen hath got my use,

And under thee their posey doth disperse – 78

“Every Alien Pen” refers to other poets, but it’s mainly E. Ver’s pen name, Shakespeare, which is alien — not his real identity.

But now my gracious numbers are decayed,

And my sick Muse doth give an other place – 79

“I yield to Shakespeare …  I step aside and let him take my place, as I decay and disappear.”

O how I faint when I of you do write,

Knowing a better spirit doth use your name,

And in the praise thereof spends all his might

To make me tongue-tied speaking of your fame – 80

This is not hyperbole.  His fainting is an act of losing consciousness or the ability to speak or write.   He also faints by feinting, or deceiving – like the feint of a skilled fencer – by assuming an appearance or making a feint to conceal his real identity.  He faints by becoming weaker, feebler … less visible.  But in the first line of Sonnet 80 Oxford is crying out to say, directly:  “I am the one who is writing to you and using your name.  “I am fainting in the process because, while I write of you, I am vanishing into the confines of my creation or invention.  I am undergoing a metamorphosis.   I am doing this to myself, feeding my spirit to Shakespeare, so the more I write through him, the more I lose my identity … and the faster I die to the world.  It is through my own spirit that Shakespeare uses your name, and it’s because of his power – ironically the power I give to him — that I am tongue-tied, silent, and no longer able to write publicly about you.”

To make me tongue-tied speaking of your fame – 80

And art made tongue-tied by authority – 66

And strength by limping sway disabled – 66

Back in Sonnet 66, his art was made tongue-tied “by authority.”  And that’s very specific – he or his art is censored, suppressed; and the force keeping him silent is authority or officialdom, the government.  (In King John he writes “Your sovereign greatness and authority,” speaking of the monarch.)  So “Shakespeare” the pen name is the agent of authority.

And here the door starts opening to a larger and more important story than merely Oxford disappearing for no reason.  The government – in the person of the limping, swaying Robert Cecil – is using Oxford’s own persona of Shakespeare as a weapon against him.  Oxford’s own better spirit is making him tongue-tied when it comes to “speaking of your fame” – which again refers to the dedications by Shakespeare, included in every new edition of the narrative poems.  “Shakespeare” is the agent of Oxford’s death “to all the world” and “Shakespeare” is also the agent of Southampton’s eternal life.

My saucy bark, inferior far to his,

On your broad main doth willfully appear – 80

Steven Booth writes that willfully “may have been chosen for its pun on the poet’s name: the saucy bark is full of Will.”  I would suggest it’s a pun on the poet’s pen name.

Now in 81 come two famous lines for Oxfordians – because they really sum up the authorship question and provide the answer:

Your name from hence immortal life shall have

Though I (once gone) to all the world must die – 81

Given the argument here, it’s no accident – no coincidence – that these lines of 81 appear in the so-called rival sequence.  Southampton’s name from this time forward, from here on, will achieve immortal life, but not necessarily because of these sonnets.  (His name never appears directly in the sonnets — although it appears indirectly, such as the constant plays  upon his motto ‘One for All, All for One”.)  From now on, because of “Shakespeare,” Southampton’s name will achieve immortal life; and also because of “Shakespeare,” my identity will disappear from the world.  And it’s in the very next sonnet where we find Oxford referring to his own public dedications to Southampton:

I grant thou wert not married to my Muse,

And therefore mayst without attaint o’erlook

The dedicated words which writers use

Of their fair subject, blessing every book – 82

(The dedications which I write through Shakespeare/ About the fair youth, Southampton, consecrating E.Ver’s books of Venus and Adonis and Lucrece)

"Lucrece" dedication to Southampton - 1594

“Lucrece” dedication to Southampton – 1594

Later in this very same sonnet, number 82, is a remarkable pair of lines from Oxford’s private self, as if still insisting upon his own identity before it disappears:

Thou truly fair wert truly sympathized

In true-plain words by thy true-telling friend. – 82

And he’s confirming that the “fair subject” of the dedications is Southampton, whom he now calls “truly fair.”  Oxford is “dumb” or silent, unable to speak in public, and as “mute,” which is quite the same, unable to speak.

Which shall be most my glory, being dumb,

For I impair not beauty, being mute – 83

There lives more life in one of your fair eyes

Than both your poets can in praise devise.- 83

(Both Oxford and “Shakespeare”)

 Let him but copy what in you is writ,

Not making worse what nature made so clear,

And such a counterpart shall fame his wit,

Making his style admired everywhere – 84

So here we have Oxford giving instructions to his alter-ego:  “Hold the mirror up to Southampton’s nature and you will be admired everywhere.”

My tongue-tied Muse…

Then others, for the breath of words respect,

Me for my dumb thoughts, speaking in effect – 85

Here again, he and his Muse are tongue-tied while others can speak out:  “Respect me for my silent thoughts and for my actions in your behalf.”

The final verse of the series is Sonnet 86, which by itself tells the story:

Was it the proud full sail of his great verse,

Bound for the prize of (all too precious) you,

That did my ripe thoughts in my brain inhearse,

Making their tomb the womb wherein they grew?- 86

There is only one super poet who can force Oxford’s thoughts into a tomb in his brain, which is also the tomb of these sonnets – as in 17, “Heaven knows it is but as a tomb which hides your life and shows not half your parts” – and the womb of these sonnets wherein Southampton can grow – as in 115, “To give full life to that which still doth grow.”

 Was it his spirit, by spirits taught to write

Above a mortal pitch, that struck me dead?

No, neither he, nor his compeers by night

Giving him aid, my verse astonished. – 86

 It is Oxford’s own spirit, or spirits, teaching his public persona to write with the power of Shakespeare.  No other writer, past or present, has struck Oxford dead – but there it is, this is the last sonnet of the sequence.  Oxford – in terms of his identity – has been killed.

 He, nor that affable familiar ghost

Which nightly gulls him with intelligence,

As victors of my silence cannot boast;

I was not sick of any fear from thence. – 86

The affable familiar ghost – as opposed to an alien ghost – is once again Oxford’s own spirit, which nightly or secretly crams Shakespeare with his substance … or literally with intelligence, that is, secret information that Oxford is inserting within the lines of his plays.  To “gull” is to cram full, but also to play a trick on … and of course “Shakespeare” the pen name or persona is totally dependent upon Oxford and therefore unaware of what mischief his spirit is up to.

But when your countenance filled up his line,

Then lacked I matter, that enfeebled mine.

And this final couplet is another direct statement of the authorship problem – As Shakespeare rises in connection with Southampton, so Oxford fades away – as Touchstone in As You Like It tells William the country fellow: “Drink, being poured out of a cup into a glass, by filling the one doth empty the other.”

The so-called rival series is the equivalent of a “movement” of a musical composition, a symphony.  It’s a separate piece within a larger structure.  Its message can be expressed in a line or two, but Oxford wants a string or sequence of lines.  The sequence is one long continuous wail of eloquent mourning.  But in fact the actual mourning begins much earlier, with many of the preceding sonnets, which are preoccupied with dying.

Death is necessary if there is going to be a Resurrection.  So there is a religious, spiritual aspect, mirroring the sacrifice of Christ.  In fact it goes all the way back to Sonnet 27 where Southampton is “a jewel hung in ghastly night” – the image of a man in prison awaiting execution or, if you will, of a man hanging from the cross.   In Christian terms there is a father and a son who are separate individuals and yet they are also inseparable.  He writes in number 27: “For thee, and for myself, no quiet find.”  And in 42: “My friend and I are one.”

There is a long, long preparation for the so-called rival series – These are genuinely religious … spiritual …. And devastating … This is heavy, profound, sorrowful and deeply emotional – what we might expect from a man sacrificing his identity.

Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee (27)

Clouds do blot the heaven (28)

Look upon myself and curse my fate (29)

Precious friends hid in death’s dateless night (30)

How many a holy and obsequious tear

Hath dear religious love stolen from mine eye …

Thou art the grave where buried love doth live (31)

When that churl death my bones with dust shall cover (32)

Anon permit the basest clouds to ride

With ugly rack on his celestial face … (33)

Though thou repent, yet I have still the loss;

The offender’s sorrow lends but weak relief

To him that bears the strong offence’s cross  (34)

So shall those blots that do with me remain

Without thy help, by me be borne alone (36)

Lay on me this cross (42)

To guard the lawful reasons on thy part (49)

‘Gainst death and all oblivious enmity

Shall you pace forth …

So till the judgment that yourself arise (55)

I (my sovereign) watch the clock for you (57)

Nativity, once in the main of light,

Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crowned,

Crooked eclipses ‘gainst his glory fight (60)

To play the watchman ever for thy sake (61)

O fearful meditation!  (65)

For restful death I cry … (66)

In him those holy antique hours are seen (68)

All tongues, the voice of souls, give thee that due (69)

No longer mourn for me when I am dead (71)

In me thou seest the twilight of such day,

As after Sun-set fadeth in the West (73)

When that fell arrest

Without all bail shall carry me away (74)

Why is my verse so barren of new pride  (76)

And here, finally, his verse is like a barren womb, empty of child.

And now we have Sonnet 77, which has been seen as a dedicatory verse – with Oxford speaking at first of “this book” and then, to Southampton at the end, calling it “thy book.”

This is the real opening of the so-called rival series – ten consecutive sonnets from 77 to 86:

And of this book this learning mayst thou taste…

These offices, so oft as thou wilt look,

Shall profit thee, and much enrich thy book. (77)

 Yet be most proud of that which I compile,

Whose influence is thine, and born of thee  (78)

 And in 78, even while “every alien pen hath got my use,” he nonetheless tells Southampton to be “most proud” of these sonnets which he is compiling – or arranging, and he identifies them as having been influenced or inspired by Southampton, and “born” of him, thereby identifying Henry Wriothesley as the “only begetter” of the sonnets, Mr. W.H., the commoner in prison, referred to in the dedication.

 Meanwhile the nautical imagery began earlier, for example:

When I have seen the hungry ocean gain

Advantage on the kingdom of the shore

When I have seen such interchange of state

Or state itself confounded to decay…    (64)

“’Ocean’ or ‘sea’ as a figure for ‘king’ is often found in Shakespeare and his fellow-writers.”  (Leslie Hotson)

The hungry Ocean indicates the royal blood of King James advancing upon England, the kingdom of the shore, and the coming of the inevitable interchange of state or royal succession.

But since your worth (wide as the Ocean is)

The humble as the proudest sail doth bear… (80)

The nautical imagery is based now on Southampton’s worth as wide as the Ocean, referring to his royal worth.  Southampton’s ocean of blood, his kingly identity, holds up all boats.

I came to this view of the so-called rival by a long indirect route — hypothesizing that the fair youth sonnets ARE in chronological order, and that they lead up to, and away from, Sonnet 107, when Southampton is released from the Tower in April 1603 after being “supposed as forfeit to a confined doom.”  That’s a very serious sonnet.  It has to do not only with Southampton but with the death of Elizabeth, the succession of James and the end of the Tudor dynasty.  If the other sonnets have no relationship to that political subject matter, then Sonnet 107 is one huge anomaly.

A simple question became obvious: Given that Shakespeare is a master storyteller, and given that the high point of this story is Southampton getting OUT of the Tower, it stands to reason that he must have marked the time when Southampton went IN to the Tower back in February of 1601.  Otherwise there’s no story at all, no suspense, and his liberation from prison comes out of the blue, apropos of nothing.  I came to Sonnet 27 as marking that time with Southampton in the Tower expecting execution and pictured as a Jewel hung in ghastly night.  I tracked sonnets reflecting those crucial days after the failed Essex rebellion until the moment of Southampton’s reprieve from execution in March 1601.  And in that context it appears that Oxford had made a “deal” involving a complete severance of the relationship between himself and Southampton:

I may not evermore acknowledge thee (36)

This is a crucial part of the story of Oxford sacrificing himself for Southampton, his dying to the world and his undergoing a resurrection as Shakespeare

In Sonnet 84 of the rival series, Oxford refers to Southampton being in confinement and immured within the walls of the prison:

“That you alone are you, in whose confine immured is the store” (84)

 The idea of having or lacking PRIDE is important.  So at the very end of the previous 10-sonnet sequence, number 76, his private verse was “barren” of such pride:

“Why is my verse so barren of new pride?” (76)

By the end of the rival series, with Sonnet 86, “Shakespeare” has inherited that pride – with the “proud full sail of his great verse” riding on that great ocean of Southampton’s identity as a king.

 “Was it the proud full sail of his great verse?” (86)

 Oxford’s own private verse is like a barren womb, but now Shakespeare’s public verse is fully pregnant.  The end of one chapter was a death; the end of the rival chapter is new life.  And Shakespeare is full-bellied riding on the sea of Southampton’s tide of kingship:

“Why is my verse so barren of new pride?” – 76

“Was it the proud full sail of his great verse” – 86

“The sails conceive, and grow big-bellied with the wanton wind”  (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

The Prince (now King): “The tide of blood in me … shall mingle with the state of floods and flow henceforth in formal majesty” (2 Henry IV)

And after the rival series ends with Sonnet 86, the very first word of Sonnet 87 is “farewell”:

Farwell, thou art too dear for my possessing …

My bonds in thee are all determinate (87)

Our connection to each other is hereby severed.  The deal is done.

Adopting the pen name in 1593 had been Oxford’s means of supporting Southampton through his creation of Shakespeare; but now in 1601, to save Southampton’s life and gain his eventual freedom, he agreed to make it permanent.  From now on, even after his death, the rest is silence.

The enormity of Oxford’s sacrifice – completely severing his relationship with Southampton, losing his identity as the great writer – the dashing of his hopes involving succession to Elizabeth and the future of England – his death to the world and resurrection as Shakespeare to save Southampton and redeem his sins and ensure his life in posterity – the enormity of this sacrifice demands a use of words that, in most any other scenario, would seem to be sheer hyperbole, nothing more than “a poet’s rage and stretched meter of an antique song.”

 “My gracious numbers are decayed … my sick muse … O how I faint …. Being wracked, I am a worthless boat … the earth can yield me but a common grave … most my glory, being dumb … being mute … my tongue-tied muse … my dumb thoughts.”

This is, in fact, a poet’s rage – but my argument here is that, when it’s viewed within the right context, as part of the correctly perceived picture, the rage is no longer fatuous or “over the top”; instead, it’s honest and real and so, too, are the words expressing it.

For the rival poet series, it’s time for a mental revolution.

 

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