“This Sad Interim” – Sonnet 56 – The Living Record of Southampton as His Execution Nears

Southampton, a Convicted Traitor in the Tower of London, held hostage untill after the death of Queen Elizabeth on March 24, 1603 and the official proclamation by the English nobility of James of Scotland as King of England

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

Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford (1550-1604) records his deep sadness after meeting with Henry Wriothseley, Earl of Southampton in the Tower, when he had to inform his royal son of the bittersweet bargain with Robert Cecil (1663-1612) as the only way to gain a reprieve from his execution.  His reference to the Ocean (the sea of royal blood) is an overt homage to Southampton (1573-1624)*  as a prince or king.  He urges Henry Wriothesley to go along with the bargain to save his life.
(* Officially his birth date is October 6, 1573, but the Sonnets indicate he was born in May or early June 1574.)

Sonnet 56

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

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

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

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

I have thought to include my “translation” of this sonnet from THE MONUMENT.   Call it a paraphrase, if you want.  The point is not at all to take away from the many other meanings, reverberations, allusions and uses of rhetoric.  The translation represents an attempt to suggest one side of a double image — the important side, which has been overlooked for centuries, because we have been directed (programmed, accustomed) to seeing only the side that appears to be strictly the poetry of love and no more.

Translation – Sonnet 56

Royal son, regain your power!  Be it not said
That you should be less strong than my purpose,
Which is but allayed today by my will
But tomorrow return to your former strength!

So, royal son, be the same.  While today you
Bring yourself back to physical health,
Tomorrow be a royal prince again.  Do not kill
The essence of your blood with imprisonment.

Let this sad time [in prison] be like royal waters
Separating a king from his subjects, but
Brings them together again, so when all see
The return of royal blood, it will be seen freshly.

Call this a dark time, which filled with royalty,
Makes your golden time thrice more desired and rare.

1 SWEET LOVE, RENEW THY FORCE!  BE IT NOT SAID
SWEET LOVE = royal prince; royal son; “Good night, sweet prince” – Hamlet, 5.2.366; THY FORCE = your royal power and strength; validity, as in “our late edict shall strongly stand in force” – Love’s Labour’s Lost, 1.1.11; your will to live

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

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

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

Secretary Robert Cecil is holding Southampton, the rightful Prince and Heir, in the Tower -- while he carries on a dangerous correspondence with King James of Scotland, secretly engineering his succession behind Elizabeth's back

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

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

7 TOMORROW SEE AGAIN, AND DO NOT KILL
TOMORROW SEE AGAIN = stay alive and use your kingly eyes once more; KILL = destroy; echoing the execution of Southampton, still a possibility, with Oxford urging his son to accept the terms of the “ransom” and, thereby, to save himself from being killed.

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

9 LET THIS SAD IN’T’RIM LIKE THE OCEAN BE
THIS SAD INTERIM = this sorrowful time of your imprisonment (which hopefully is only temporary); OCEAN = kingly; royal blood

“Here, then, we have Shakespeare typifying his Friend variously as a sun, a god, an ocean or a sea: three familiar metaphors which he and his contemporaries use to represent a sovereign prince or king” – Leslie Hotson, Mr. W. H., 1965

“Even to our Ocean, to our great King John” – King John, 5.4.57; “The tide of blood in me … shall mingle with the state of floods and flow henceforth in formal majesty” – 2 Henry IV, 5.2.129; “A substitute shines brightly as a king, until a king be by, and then his state empties itself, as doth an inland brook into the main of waters” – Merchant of Venice, 5.1.94-97; poets alluded to Elizabeth as “Cynthia, Queen of Seas and Lands” – Roy Strong, The Cult of Elizabeth, 52; “Thou art, quoth she, a sea, a sovereign king;/ And lo, there falls into thy boundless flood/ Black lust, dishonour, shame” – Lucrece, line 652

King James I of England

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

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

12 RETURN OF LOVE, MORE BLEST MAY BE THE VIEW!
RETURN OF LOVE = return of royal blood; i.e., when Southampton finally emerges from the Tower, he will be alive and so will his “love” or royal blood still live; BLEST = full of Southampton’s royal and divine blessings; “the blessed sun of heaven” – Falstaff of Prince Hal in 1 Henry IV, 2.4.403

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sonnet 58

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

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

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

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

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

Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603)

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

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

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

Tower of London, where Southampton awaits execution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But who is this man???

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

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

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

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

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

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

The story is much bigger than that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*(The Letters of King James VI and I)

King James VI of Scotland & King James I of England

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

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

Sir Robert Cecil, Principal Secretary to Elizabeth

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of which was accomplished.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 THY EDGE SHOULD BLUNTER BE THAN APPETITE,

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

3 WHICH BUT TODAY BY FEEDING IS ALLAYED,

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

4 TOMORROW SHARP’NED IN HIS FORMER MIGHT.

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

5 SO LOVE BE THOU, ALTHOUGH TODAY THOU FILL

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

Queen Elizabeth I

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

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

7 TOMORROW SEE AGAIN, AND DO NOT KILL

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

8 THE SPIRIT OF LOVE WITH A PERPETUAL DULLNESS.

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

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

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

The Tower: the official prison-fortress of the monarch

10 WHICH PARTS THE SHORE, WHERE TWO CONTRACTED NEW

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

11 COME DAILY TO THE BANKS, THAT WHEN THEY SEE

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

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

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

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

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

The White Tower, where Southampton was imprisoned

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

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

“Strange Shadows on You Tend” – Sonnet 53 – The Living Record – Chapter 48

DAY TWENTY-SEVEN: SOUTHAMPTON IN THE TOWER
Sonnet 53
Strange Shadows On You Tend
6 March 1601

Now, with Essex dead and the other conspirators also condemned, time grows short for Southampton’s fate to be decided.  The great shadow of Elizabeth Regina’s imperial frown, the “region cloud” of Sonnet 33, spreads over Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton in the Tower.  The tone of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford is of increasing worry even as he writes in praise of his son, whom he likens to Adonis of “Venus and Adonis,” the 1593 poem dedicated to him by “Shakespeare.”

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

What is your substance, whereof are you made,
That millions of strange shadows on you tend?
Since every one hath, every one, one shade,

And you, but one, can every shadow lend.
Describe Adonis and the counterfeit
Is poorly imitated after you;
On Helen’s cheek all art of beauty set,
And you in Grecian tires are painted new.

Speak of the spring and foison of the year,
The one doth shadow of your beauty show,
The other as your bounty doth appear,
And you in every blessed shape we know.

In all external grace you have some part,
But you like none, none you, for constant heart.

(Following is an edited “short” version of the treatment of Sonnet 53 in my edition THE MONUMENT):

The Tower of London, where Southampton was held captive until James of Scotland became King James I of England

1 WHAT IS YOUR SUBSTANCE, WHEREOF ARE YOU MADE,
YOUR SUBSTANCE = your inner reality, i.e., your royal blood; “No, no, I am but a shadow of myself: you are deceived, my substance is not here” – 1 Henry VI, 2.3.49-50;

2 THAT MILLIONS OF STRANGE SHADOWS ON YOU TEND?
MILLIONS = countless; expressing, by exaggeration, the outrageousness of the “stain” or “disgrace” that has covered his royal son; SHADOWS = the darkness cast by the Queen’s dark cloud or negative view; (“But the world is so cunning, as of a shadow they can make a substance, and of a likelihood a truth” – Oxford to Burghley, July 1581); “Which, being but the shadow of your son, becomes a sun and makes your son a shadow” – King John, 2.1.499-500; TEND = “attend” or wait upon him as those who attend upon a king; “They ‘tend the crown” – Richard II, 4.1.199; echoing the “tender” (or offer) for acceptance by which Oxford has offered to pay “ransom” for his son’s life.

Title Page of "Venus and Adonis" (1593), by which "Shakespeare" entered the stage of history by his dedication to Southampton inside the book

3 SINCE EVERY ONE HATH, EVERY ONE, ONE SHADE,
EVERY = E. Ver, Edward de Vere; ONE = Southampton, his motto One for All, All for One; EVERY ONE = father and son together; EVERY ONE, ONE SHADE = you and I suffer together under the shadow that is cast over you; Note: “one” occurs six times in this sonnet, “every” occurs three times, “none” twice.

4 AND YOU, BUT ONE, CAN EVERY SHADOW LEND.
AND YOU, BUT ONE = and you, Southampton; ““Since all alike my songs and praises be/ To one, of one, still such, and ever so” – Sonnet 105, lines 3-4; EVERY = E. Ver; “But Henry now shall wear the English crown and be true King indeed; thou but the shadow” – 3 Henry VI, 4.3.49-50

5 DESCRIBE ADONIS AND THE COUNTERFEIT
ADONIS: the young god of Venus and Adonis, i.e., Oxford is referring to his own narrative poem  that he dedicated (as “William Shakespeare”) to Southampton in 1593; Adonis (symbol of male beauty) was once Oxford’s self-portrait (based on the Queen’s attempts to seduce him as a young man in 1571-73, if not earlier); but now Henry Wriothesley is the young Adonis in relation to his mother, Elizabeth, who remains Venus, goddess of Love and Beauty; COUNTERFEIT = likeness; that which is made in imitation of him; portrait of him; “But who can leave to look on Venus’ face … These virtues rare, eche gods did yield a mate./ Save her alone, who yet on th’earth doth reign,/ Whose beauty’s string no god can well distrain” – Oxford poem, published in 1576, writing of Elizabeth, who “doth reign” on earth as Beauty

6 IS POORLY IMITATED AFTER YOU:
POORLY IMITATED = inadequately portraying you

7 ON HELEN’S CHEEK ALL ART OF BEAUTY SET,

Southampton in the Tower (with his cat)

HELEN’S CHEEK = Elizabeth, pictured as Helen of Troy, most beautiful of women; “Within this there is a red/ Exceeds the damask rose;/ Which in her cheeks is spread,/ Whence every favor grows” – Oxford poem in The Phoenix Nest, 1593, writing of Elizabeth; ALL = Southampton; OF BEAUTY SET = expressing your “beauty” or blood from Elizabeth;“What thing doth please thee most?/ To gaze on beauty still” – Oxford poem, part of which appeared in The Arte of English Poesie, 1589

8 AND YOU IN GRECIAN TIRES ARE PAINTED NEW:
GRECIAN TIRES = Greek headdresses or attire; PAINTED NEW = recreated (given new birth) in these private sonnets

9 SPEAK OF THE SPRING AND FOISON OF THE YEAR,
SPRING = time of royal hope; Ver; FOISON = abundant royal blood, kingly bounty

10 THE ONE DOTH SHADOW OF YOUR BEAUTY SHOW,
ONE = Southampton, his motto; SHADOW OF YOUR BEAUTY = the ghostlike appearance of your royal blood from the Queen

11 THE OTHER AS YOUR BOUNTY DOTH APPEAR,
YOUR BOUNTY = your royal bounty; “I thank thee, King, for thy great bounty” – Richard II, 4.1.300; “

12 AND YOU IN EVERY BLESSED SHAPE WE KNOW.
EVERY = E. Ver, Edward de Vere; BLESSED = divine, sacred, godlike, royal; “Look down, you gods, and on this couple drop a blessed crown” – The Tempest, 5.1.201-202;  “A God in love” – Sonnet 110, line 12; “Likely in time to bless a regal throne” – 3 Henry VI, 4.6.74;

Secretary Robert Cecil, who agreed to spare Southampton and release him with a royal pardon -- once James was securely on the throne and he, Cecil, retained his power; the price, for Oxford, was loss of his son's crown and loss of his identity as "Shakespeare"

13 IN ALL EXTERNAL GRACE YOU HAVE SOME PART,
ALL = Southampton, One for All, All for One; EXTERNAL GRACE = show of royalty; “The king is full of grace and fair regard … this grace of kings” – Henry V, 1.1.22, 2 Prologue. 28;

14 BUT YOU LIKE NONE, NONE YOU, FOR CONSTANT HEART.
NONE = opposite of “one” for Southampton; LIKE NONE = like no other; NONE YOU = none like you; also, you are now a nobody; CONSTANT HEART = eternal royal power, with a heart that pumps your royal blood; always noble and royal; “our friends are true and constant” – 1 Henry IV, 2.3.17; “Crowned with faith and constant loyalty … constant in spirit, not swerving with the blood” – Henry V, 2.2., 5, 133; “Therefore my verse to constancy confined,/ One thing expressing, leaves out difference” – Sonnet 105, lines 5-8; “In constant truth to bide so firm and sure” – Oxford’s sonnet in “Shakespearean” form, to Queen Elizabeth, early 1570s

As you can see, Oxford does not use a “code” or any other kind of obscure language.  The words related to royalty and kingship are drawn from his own plays of English royal history, plays issued under the “Shakespeare” name; seeing them clearly in these lines is a matter of perception; and once you see them, you know that their presence in the Sonnets cannot be accidental.

“My Grief Lies Onward … From Where Thou Art … Up-Locked … Imprisoned” – Sonnets 51, 52, 53 – The Living Record, Chapter 47

I include Shakespeare’s Sonnets 50-51-52 all at once because of their obvious relationship to each other, like successive chapters of a novel — as set forth in my edition of the sonnets THE MONUMENT and dramatized in the 90-minute solo show SHAKE-SPEARE’S TREASON.

THE PRISON YEARS
OXFORD VISITS SOUTHAMPTON IN PRISON
DAY TWENTY-FOUR IN THE TOWER

141-tower-of-london

Southampton was lodged in the White Tower (1601-1603)

Sonnet 50
My Grief Lies Onward
3 March 1601

Oxford rides away from the Tower of London and back to his home in Hackney, knowing he will grieve over Southampton’s execution or, even if he lives, over his loss of the throne.  His joy lies behind him, in past times, and literally in the prison.  In this sonnet Oxford describes his five-mile journey on horseback from the Tower and from a crucial visit with Southampton, to whom he would have explained the “league” or agreement to spare him from execution, requiring a forfeiture of any claim as King Henry IX.

How heavy do I journey on the way
When what I seek (my weary travel’s end)
Doth teach that ease and that repose to say,
“Thus far the miles are measured from thy friend.”

The beast that bears me, tired with my woe,
Plods duly on to bear that weight in me,
As if by some instinct the wretch did know
His rider loved not speed being made from thee:

The bloody spur cannot provoke him on
That sometimes anger thrusts into his hide,
Which heavily he answers with a groan,
More sharp to me than spurring to his side;

For that same groan doth put this in my mind:
My grief lies onward and my joy behind.

Heavy … Woe … Bloody … Groan … Groan … Grief – Anticipating the death of Southampton, his royal son, by bloody execution.  (Meanwhile the young earl is “supposed as forfeit to a confined doom” – Sonnet 107)

OXFORD RETURNS FROM THE PRISON
DAY TWENTY-FIVE IN THE TOWER

illus-323favoritetower

Oxford, as Lord Great Chamberlain, would have had access to Southampton in the Tower

Sonnet 51
From Where Thou Art
4 March 1601

Oxford again describes his return home, to King’s Place in Hackney, after visiting with Southampton in the Tower – undoubtedly to discuss details of the bargain he has been making for him, involving the “excuse” for his “offence” being argued on his behalf.

Thus can my love excuse the slow offence
Of my dull bearer, when from thee I speed:
From where thou art, why should I haste me thence?
Till I return, of posting is no need.

O what excuse will my poor beast then find,
When swift extremity can seem but slow?
Then should I spur, though mounted on the wind;
In winged speed no motion shall I know;

Then can no horse with my desire keep pace;
Therefore desire (of perfect’st love being made)
Shall neigh no dull flesh in his fiery race,
But love, for love, thus shall excuse my jade:

Since from thee going he went willful slow,
Towards thee I’ll run, and give him leave to go.

Offence … Excuse … Excuse – legal terms echoing Oxford’s attempts behind the scenes to act as Southampton’s legal counsel

TRIAL OF OTHER CONSPIRATORS
DAY TWENTY-SIX IN THE TOWER

Cecil,Robert(1ESalisbury)01

Robert Cecil would have wanted Oxford to visit Southampton, to persuade him to give up any royal claim in return for the promise of freedom once James of Scotland became King of England

Sonnet 52
“Up-Locked … Imprisoned”
5 March 1601

Oxford recalls his visit to Southampton in the Tower.

An Elizabethan Chronicle, March 5, 1601“Today Sir Christopher Blount, Sir Charles Danvers, Sir John Davis, Sir Gelly Merrick and Henry Cuffe were arraigned at Westminster for high treason before the commissioners … They pleaded not guilty to the indictment as a whole, and a substantial jury was impanelled which consisted of aldermen of London and other gentlemen of good credit.  They confessed indeed that it was their design to come to the Queen with so strong a force that they might not be resisted, and to require of her divers conditions and alterations of government; nevertheless they intended no personal harm to the Queen herself … When all the evidence was done, the jury went out to agree upon their verdict, which after half an hour’s time and more they brought in and found every man of the five prisoners severally guilty of high treason.”

The “up-locked” treasure is his son’s royal blood, imprisoned.

So am I as the rich, whose blessed key
Can bring him to his sweet up-locked treasure,
The which he will not every hour survey,
For blunting the fine point of seldom pleasure;

Therefore are feasts so solemn and so rare,
Since seldom coming in the long year set,
Like stones of worth they thinly placed are,
Or captain Jewels in the carcanet.

So is the time that keeps you as my chest,
Or as the wardrobe which the robe doth hide,
To make some special instant special blest
By new unfolding his imprisoned pride.

Blessed are you, whose worthiness gives scope,
Being had, to triumph; being lacked, to hope.

“Thus did I keep my person fresh and new,
My presence, like a robe pontifical,
Ne’er seen but wondered at, and so my state,
Seldom, but sumptuous, show’d like a feast,
And wan by rareness such solemnity
– The King in 1 Henry IV, 3.2.53-59

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

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

SOUTHAMPTON IN THE TOWER

DAY TWENTY-THREE

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

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

Sonnet 49

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

1 AGAINST THAT TIME (IF EVER THAT TIME COME)

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

2 WHEN I SHALL SEE THEE FROWN ON MY DEFECTS,

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

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

3 WHEN AS THY LOVE HATH CAST HIS UTMOST SUM,

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

4 CALLED TO THAT AUDIT BY ADVISED RESPECTS;

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

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

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

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

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

5 AGAINST THAT TIME WHEN THOU SHALT STRANGELY PASS

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

6 AND SCARCELY GREET ME WITH THAT SUNNE THINE EYE,

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

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

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

7 WHEN LOVE CONVERTED FROM THE THING IT WAS

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

8 SHALL REASONS FIND OF SETTLED GRAVITY;

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

9 AGAINST THAT TIME DO I ENSCONCE ME HERE

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

10 WITHIN THE KNOWLEDGE OF MINE OWN DESERT,

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

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

11 AND THIS MY HAND AGAINST MYSELF UPREAR

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

12 TO GUARD THE LAWFUL REASONS ON THY PART.

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

lElizabeth_I old black and white

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

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

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

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

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

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

14 SINCE WHY TO LOVE I CAN ALLEGE NO CAUSE.

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

“Shake-Speare’s Treason” at Shakespeare Authorship Conference in Houston

We look forward to presenting the one-man show SHAKE-SPEARE’S TREASON during the Joint Conference of the Shakespeare Fellowship and the Shakespeare Oxford Society to be held November 5-8 in Houston, Texas. The 90-minute solo show is performed by Hank Whittemore, co-writer with Ted Story, who directed it.

Picture 17.jpg - Cover from Lori

“Riveting, inspiring, entertaining … amazing and thought-provoking … The words of the Sonnets finally make sense and the story is more personal and exciting than I ever imagined!”

– Students of Flathead Valley Community College, Montana, in a letter following Hank’s performance in March 2008.  (We look forward to returning for two more performances in March 2010!)

“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, Medford Mail Tribune, Oregon

We also look forward to experiencing two different solo performances by Keir Cutler of MontrealTeaching Shakespeare and Is Shakespeare Dead?

keir cutler

"Shakespeare" and Keir Cutler

Teaching Shakespeare is a parody of a college Shakespeare class, and a portrait of a frustrated actor turned frustrated professor struggling to keep his teaching position, despite terrible student evaluations.

twain3Is Shakespeare Dead? is a monologue adaptation of Mark Twain’s hilarious 1909 debunking of the myth that William Shakespeare wrote the works of Shakespeare. Listing the handful of established facts of Shakespeare’s life, Twain ridicules the fantasy that an uneducated youth could have wandered into London and, with virtually none of the necessary skills, became the greatest author in English literature.

Current details of the conference are posted at the Shakespeare Oxford Society blog hosted by Linda Theil.


A Bargain for Southampton’s Life – “The Living Record” – Chapter 44

Sonnet 47 – February 28, 1601

Three days after the execution of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, this sonnet resolves the struggle between Oxford’s eye (mind) and heart (emotions) described in the previous verse — the struggle between his duty to the state, having to vote for a guilty verdict against both Essex and Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton … and then to work behind the scenes for the latter, his son by the Queen, in order to hopefully save his life.

The Earl of Essex, beheaded at the Tower Green on February 25, 1601

The Earl of Essex, beheaded at the Tower Green on February 25, 1601

Oxford records that a “league” or bargain with Secretary Robert Cecil has been struck in order to spare Southampton from execution. The ransom price, however, will be Southampton’s relinquishment of any claim to the throne. Meanwhile Oxford writes to record again that the image of his imprisoned royal son is always with him:\

Betwixt mine eye and heart a league is took,

(“You peers, continue this united league” – Richard III, 2.1.2)

And each doth good turns now unto the other;

When that mine eye is famished for a look,
Or heart in love with sighs himself doth smother,
With my love’s picture then my eye doth feast,
And to the painted banquet bids my heart:
An other time mine eye is my heart’s guest,
And in his thoughts of love doth share a part.

(“The pleasure that some fathers feed upon is my strict fast – I mean my children’s looks, and therein fasting hast thou made me gaunt” – Richard II, 2.1.79-81;  “And so my state … show’d like a feast” – the king in 1 Henry IV, 3.2.53-59)

So either by thy picture or my love,
Thy self away, art present still with me:
For thou no further than my thoughts canst move,
And I am still with them, and they with thee;
Or if they sleep, thy picture in my sight
Awakes my heart to heart’s and eye’s delight.

Are these sonnets referring to Southampton being “away” in the Tower?  Look at these references:

“Things removed” – Sonnet 31, line 8
“O absence” – Sonnet 39, line 9
“When I am sometime absent from thy heart” – Sonnet 41, line 2
“Where thou art” – Sonnet 41, line 12
“Injurious distance” – Sonnet 44, line 1
“Where thou dost stay” – Sonnet 44, line 4
“Removed from thee” – Sonnet 44, line 6
“Present-absent” – Sonnet 45, line 4
“Where thou art” – Sonnet 51, line 3
“The bitterness of absence” – Sonnet 57, line 6
“Where you may be” – Sonnet 57, line 10
“Where you are” – Sonnet 57, line 12
“The imprisoned absence of your liberty” – Sonnet 58, line 6
“Where you list” – Sonnet 58, line 9
“Thou dost wake elsewhere” – Sonnet 61, line 12
“All away” – Sonnet 75, line 14
“Be absent from thy walks” – Sonnet 89, line 9
“How like a Winter hath my absence been/ From thee” – Sonnet 97, line 1
“This time removed” – Sonnet 97, line 5
“And thou away” – Sonnet 97, line 12
“You away” – Sonnet 98, line 13

King James VI of Scotland, for whom Robert Cecil is now working, behind Queen Elizabeth's back, in order to engineer his succession (with Southampton being held hostage in the Tower until James can be proclaimed King of England)

King James VI of Scotland, for whom Robert Cecil is now working, behind Queen Elizabeth's back, in order to engineer his succession (with Southampton being held hostage in the Tower until James can be proclaimed King of England)

To be continued…

“The Plea Bargain for Southampton’s Life” – The Living Record, Chapter 43

One of the big questions about the Shakespeare sonnets is whether they are arranged by the author to create an ongoing chronicle, in the form of a diary of private letters; and the resounding answer of the Monument Theory is … Yes!

A Contemporary Report of the Essex-Southampton trial, showing Edward de Vere as highest-ranking earl on the tribunal

A Contemporary Report of the Essex-Southampton trial, showing Edward de Vere as highest-ranking earl on the tribunal

My aim is to demonstrate this answer until, at some point, it becomes self-evident.

The first forty sonnets of the 100-sonnet central sequence are within four chapters of ten sonnets each, covering forty days from the night of the failed Essex Rebellion of February 8, 1601.  Oxford is writing to and about Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, who remains in his Tower prison room as a convicted traitor who is expected to die by execution:

THE CRIME – sonnets 27-36 – February 8 – 17, 1601

THE TRIAL – sonnets 37-46 –  February 18 – 27, 1601

THE PLEA  –  sonnets 47-56  – February 28 – March 9, 1601

REPRIEVE  – sonnets 57-66  – March 10 – 19, 1601

Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford

Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford

CHAPTER THREE – THE PLEA

(Oxford is trying to solidify a “league” or plea bargain with Secretary Robert Cecil on behalf of Southampton, his son by the Queen and her rightful successor by blood.  The prince is “locked up” in the Tower while Oxford is desperately putting forth “the lawful reasons” for the Queen to excuse her son and spare his life.  [His dealings are actually with Cecil, who needs to bring James of Scotland to the throne upon Elizabeth’s death; otherwise, he will lose all his power and most likely his life.] To that end Oxford visits the Tower and personally tries to persuade Southampton to forfeit any claim as Elizabeth’s natural heir.  Oxford’s “grief lies onward” as he rides away from “where thou art” in the prison, while “strange shadows on you tend” — the shadows of disgrace and coming death, during “this sad interim” between the tragedy of the rebellion and whatever the outcome will be.)

Son 47 – Feb 28 – “A League is Took”
Son 48 – Mar 1    – “Locked Up”
Son 49 – Mar 2  – “Lawful Reasons”
Son 50 – Mar 3  – “My Grief Lies Onward”
Son 51 – Mar 4  – “Where Thou Art”
Son 52 – Mar 5  – “Up-Locked”
Son 53 – Mar 6  – “Strange Shadows on You”
Son 54 – Mar 7  – “Sweet Deaths”
Son 55 – Mar 8  – “‘Gainst Death”
Son 56 – Mar 9  – “This Sad Interim”

Tower of London

Tower of London

Has anyone had any other plausible explanation for the torrent of legal terms and “dark” imagery in these sonnets, along with the author’s emotional turmoil and insistence that the beloved younger man is “away” and “locked up”?

The ten sonnets of this chapter are packed with such images and expressions:

“Thy self away … bars [locks, barricades] … my greatest grief … locked up … closure [walls] … to guard the lawful reasons on thy part … the strength of laws … I can allege no cause … tired with my woe … my grief lies onward and my joy behind … excuse … offence … where thou art … excuse … excuse … key … up-locked … imprisoned … millions of strange shadows on you tend … die to themselves … sweet deaths … death and all-oblivious enmity … the ending doom … the judgment … perpetual dullness … this sad interim …”

We’ll take up the story as it proceeds through Sonnets 47-56, with Oxford desperately seeking a [legal] remedy for 27-year-old Southampton before it’s too late.  These sonnets reflect the very real suspense that was building and building within 50-year-old Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, as he labored behind the scenes and set down this “living record” of his royal son for “the eyes of all posterity that wear this world out to the ending doom.”  [Sonnet 55, lines 11-12]

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