The Launch of the “Shakespeare” Pen Name (Who Knew What & When?) and Its Aftermath

Following is a talk I gave to the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship Conference on 17 October 2019 at the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, CT:

Part One

Samuel Clemens drew upon a wealth of personal experience in his work; and in his later years, he made the remark: “I could never tell a lie that anybody would doubt, nor a truth that anybody would believe.” Imagine old Sam on his porch out there and Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, laughing along with him. And Oxford reminding him what Touchstone said in As You Like It: “The truest poetry is the most feigning” – in other words, pretending — telling truth by allegory and a “second intention.” Both men knew that more truth can be told and believed when dressed as fiction, whether it’s Huckleberry Finn or Hamlet. And, of course, both men wrote under pen names.

(Dedication of “Venus and Adonis” in 1593 to Southampton with first printing of the Shakespeare name)

I want to talk first about the launch of the pen name “Shakespeare” in 1593, on the dedication of Venus and Adonis to Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton, asking, “Who Knew What and When?” – or – “What Did They Know and When Did They Know It?”  The question is posed in relation to five individuals.

Queen Elizabeth – Did her Majesty see the letter to her from early reader William Reynolds, saying she was the subject of a crude parody in the character of Venus? Did she know who had written this scandalous, instant bestseller?  If she did know, when did she know it?

William Cecil Lord Burghley – Reynolds also wrote to the chief minister, saying he was offended by this portrait of Elizabeth as a “lusty old” queen. Meanwhile, Burghley was Southampton’s legal guardian and still pressuring him to marry his granddaughter, Elizabeth Vere (who may or may not have been the natural daughter of Edward de Vere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford). Therefore anything involving Southampton would be of great interest to Burghley and his rapidly rising son Robert Cecil.

After the death in 1590 of Francis Walsingham, head of the secret service, William and Robert Cecil had taken over the crown’s network of spies and informants. They made it their business to know everything; and now they were gearing up for the inevitable power struggle to control the succession upon Elizabeth’s death.

The queen refused to name her successor, even though she was turning sixty and could die any moment. The Cecils were preparing for the fight with Robert Devereuex, second Earl of Essex, with whom Southampton was closely allied. Could they allow this “Shakespeare” to dedicate to Southampton such a popular, scandalous work and not know the author?  What did Burghley know and when did he know it?

Henry Wriothesley Lord Southampton, nineteen, whom we can imagine arriving at the royal court, where folks had their copies of Venus and Adonis with its dedication to him. Might they be curious about “William Shakespeare”? And about his relationship to Southampton? What did the earl know and when did he know it?

John Whitgift, Archbishop of Canterbury, who issued the publishing license in his own hand. He had a large staff for that purpose and normally delegated readings of manuscripts and signings-off on licenses, but now he took it upon himself. This strict archbishop was in charge of all government censorship. Why would he give his personal approval of such salacious poetry? Why would he allow this possibly dangerous political allegory into the market? Would he have done so without prior authorization from the queen and Burghley?

Whitgift had been appointed archbishop in 1583 and had gained her Majesty’s full trust and admiration. In 1586 he was given the authority to peruse and license all manuscripts and the power to destroy the press of any printer. He suppressed the Puritans so harshly that in 1588 they began to publish pamphlets against him, led by a writer using the pen name “Martin Marprelate” (who was “marring the prelates”). The archbishop responded with a ruthless campaign of retaliation, using pamphlets turned out by members of Oxford’s writing circle such as Tom Nashe and John Lyly.  Apparently, the earl himself wrote against “Marprelate” under the pen name “Pasquil Cavaliero.” (One pen name battling another!)

At the end of the 1590s, the archbishop will issue a decree ordering the burning of a long list of books, among them several based on works of Ovid. The condemned books will be publicly burned in the infamous Bishops’ Bonfire of 1599, but none will include works attributed to “Shakespeare” — not even Venus and Adonis or Lucrece, both based on Ovid.  (“Shakespeare” never got into trouble for his writing.) Now in 1593, Whitgift personally authorizes Venus and Adonis for publication by Field.

Richard Field, Publisher-Printer, who entered Venus and Adonis at the Stationer’s Register in April 1593.

“The Arte of English Poesie” – 1589

Field will print Love’s Martyr in 1601 with The Phoenix and Turtle as by “William Shake-speare” — hyphenated, as if to confirm that it’s a pen name. (Presumably he was the son of Henry Field, a tanner in Stratford-upon-Avon; but modern researchers are finding it difficult to verify that presumption.) Regardless of his background, by age seventeen in 1579 he was in London. He apprenticed for several years under the esteemed printer and French refugee Thomas Vautrollier, who died in 1587. A year later Field married Vautrollier’s widow and, at twenty-six, he took over the publishing business.

He was a dedicated Protestant, committed to the policies of Queen Elizabeth.  It’s been said Field was “Burghley’s publisher.” Later he would issue Protestant books in Spanish, for sale in Catholic Spain, under “Ricardo del Campo” – another pen name.

In 1589 Field published The Arte of English Poesie, by a deeply knowledgeable writer choosing not to identify himself. Along with Richard Waugaman and others, I hold the view that The Arte was written (wholly or in part) by Oxford, whose own verse is cited for description and instruction, not to mention that he himself is fulsomely praised as chief poet of the Elizabethan court.

The anonymous author of The Arte addresses his entire tract to Elizabeth – with distinct echoes of Oxford’s own praise of the queen in his elegant Courtier preface of 1572. The invisible author also uses the kind of alliteration Oxford so enjoyed; for example, he tells her Majesty:

“You, Madam, my most Honored and Gracious, if I should seem to offer you this my desire for a discipline and not a delight … By your princely purse, favours and countenance, making in manner what ye list, the poor man rich, the lewd well learned, the coward courageous, and the vile both noble and valiant: then for imitation no less, your person as a most cunning counterfeit lively representing Venus…”

(Here is Richard Field, who will publish Venus and Adonis four years later, issuing an anonymous book in which the author likens Queen Elizabeth to Venus.)

“Venus and Adonis” by Titian, the painting that “Shakespeare” must have seen in Venice (showing Adonis wearing his bonnet)

There is strong evidence that Oxford wrote the first version of Venus and Adonis in the latter 1570s after returning from Italy, where he had made his home base in Venice. For example, the poem contains a lifelike portrait-in-words of Venus trying to seduce young Adonis, who, significantly, is wearing his bonnet. Without question this section of the narrative poem is a vivid description of the painting in Venice at Titian’s own house, which Oxford must have visited (as most traveling nobles did) – because in that house was Titian’s only painting of Venus and Adonis (among his many others of the same subject) in which the young god is wearing his bonnet.

It may also be that Oxford was creating an allegory of his own experience as a young man pursued by Elizabeth. Adonis is killed by the spear of a wild boar — perhaps the same boar of Oxford’s earldom, as though his own identity is officially killed by the spear of “Shakespeare,” his new pen name. From the blood of Adonis, a purple flower springs up, and Venus tells it: “Thou art next of blood and ‘tis thy right.” Then the lustful goddess flies off to Paphus, the city in Cyprus sacred to Venus, to hide from the world. Her silver doves are mounted through the empty skies, pulling her light chariot and “holding their course to Paphus, where their Queen means to immure herself and not be seen.”

Oxford had an extensive personal history of publicly likening Queen Elizabeth to Venus. In Euphues and his England, the novel of 1580 dedicated to the earl, she is portrayed as both the Queen of Love and Beauty and the Queen of Chastity: “Oh, fortunate England that hath such a Queen! … adorned with singular beauty and chastity, excelling in the one Venus, in the other Vesta ….”  — the sexual goddess and the virginal goddess, both at once.

In the Paradise of Dainty Devices (1576), the scholar Steven May writes, Oxford definitely likens Elizabeth to Venus: “But who can leave to look on Venus’ face?” the poet asks, referring to “her alone, who yet on th’earth doth reign.”

In the final chapter of Arte, the author apologizes to the queen for this “tedious trifle” and fears she will think of him as “the Philosopher in Plato who failed to occupy his brain in matters of more consequence than poetry,” adding, “But when I consider how everything hath his estimation by opportunity, and that it was but the study of my younger years in which vanity reigned…”

(“When I consider how everything” will be echoed in sonnet 15, which begins, “When I consider everything…”)

The anonymous author tells Elizabeth that “experience” has taught him that “many times idleness is less harmful than profitable occupation.” He refers sarcastically, sounding like Hamlet, to “these great aspiring minds and ambitious heads of the world seriously searching to deal in matters of state” who become “so busy and earnest that they were better be occupied and peradventure altogether idle.”

(Who else would dare to write that description to her Majesty about members of her own government? Oxford had written similar thoughts in his own poetry such as, “Than never am less idle, lo, than when I am alone.” At the same time, he pledges his “service” to her, according to his “loyal and good intent always endeavoring to do your Majesty the best and greatest of those services I can.” Oxford always talks about serving the queen, as he wrote to Burghley, “I serve her Majesty, and I am that I am.”)

Richard Field publishes this work of 1589, written by an anonymous author sounding much like Oxford, and containing some of the earl’s own work, praising him to the skies – and then Field dedicates it to Burghley. “This book,” he tells the most powerful man in England, “coming to my hands with his bare title, without any Author’s name or any other ordinary address, I doubted how well it might become me to make you a present thereof.”

He was surprised and mystified to see this manuscript just flying over the transom into his hands; however, seeing that the book is written to “our Sovereign lady the Queen, for her recreation and service,” Field publishes the work and even dedicates it to Burghley. In his dedication, he also sounds as if Oxford helped him, as when he writes alliteratively of “your Lordship being learned and a lover of learning … and myself a printer always ready and desirous to be at your Honorable commandment.”

Four years later Field publishes Venus and Adonis dedicated to Southampton, whom Burghley, with the queen’s blessing, hopes to gather into his own family. Even orthodox commentators recognize that the high quality of the printing suggests Shakespeare’s direct involvement, as Frank Halliday writes in A Shakespeare Companion: “The two early poems, Venus and Adonis and Lucrece, both carefully printed by Field, are probably the only works the publication of which Shakespeare personally supervised.” (Imagine the Earl of Oxford working side by side with Richard Field at his shop in Blackfriars, to fine-tune the printing!) Now the manuscript goes to Whitgift, chief censor for everything published in England, and he signs off in his own hand – a fact that Field quickly advertises in the Stationers Register.

The question is posed in relation to Publisher Richard Field, Archbishop John Whitgift, Queen Elizabeth, Lord Burghley and the Earl of Southampton: Who knew what and when? What did they know and when did they know it?

My answer is that they all knew about the launch of Oxford’s new pen name and knew it before this work was published. They each knew who “Shakespeare” was and they allowed the earl to publish it and dedicate it to Southampton. The very individuals who were most closely involved, with the most at stake, and could make such decisions, must have worked directly, or indirectly, with each other – and with the author himself – to launch the famous pen name.

Part Two 

There is another dimension to the pseudonym that I would like to describe. It begins back in 1583, when Protestant England and Catholic Spain were definitely at war; and gearing up to defend against this mighty enemy was the queen’s great Puritan spymaster, Francis Walsingham, who quickly organized a new company of players. The Puritans generally hated the public theater, but Walsingham knew its value in terms of propaganda.

Early version of Shakespeare’s play of King John, performed by the Queen’s Men in the 1580s

The new company, approved by Burghley and patronized by Elizabeth, was called the Queen’s Men. It was comprised of two separate troupes touring the country to rouse patriotic fervor and unity. All existing companies – including Oxford’s — contributed their best actors – and de Vere collected his expanding group of writers at a mansion in London (nicknamed Fisher’s Folly) for scribes such as Nashe, Lyly, Watson, Greene, Munday, Churchyard, Lodge and many others.

(Imagine Michelangelo’s studio filled with artists working together under a single guiding hand.)

In the 1580s these writers turned out dozens, even hundreds of history plays. Among them were Oxford’s own early versions of Shakespeare histories, anonymous plays such as The Troublesome Reign of King John, The True Tragedy of Richard Third, The True Chronicle History of King Leir and The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth, the latter containing the entire framework for Henry Fourth Parts One and Two and Henry the Fifth as by Shakespeare.

Their weapons were not swords or guns or ships, but words, giving birth to an inspiring new English language and vision of national identity – a powerful weapon that de Vere was creating and guiding as well as helping to finance. And in 1586 the queen rewarded him with an extraordinary annual allowance of a thousand pounds, paid according to the same formula used to finance Walsingham for his wartime secret service. When the Spanish invasion by Armada arrived in 1588, volunteers from all parts of England responded – Protestants, Puritans, Catholics, speaking different dialects and often needing to be translated, all joining in the face of a common enemy.

Once the Great Enterprise of King Philip had been turned back, however, that same government had no more use for the writers. Having harnessed their talent and work to touch the minds and hearts of the queen’s subjects, the government now became wary of them, perhaps afraid of their freedom of expression and power to influence her Majesty’s subjects.

After defeating the enemy without, the government now focused upon its real or potential enemies within. The end game of internal power struggles was just beginning. Who would gain control of the inevitable succession to Elizabeth? Oxford had been the central sun from which the writers had drawn their light, and around which they had revolved; but now he was deliberately squeezed with old debts and could no longer support them, so they began to fly out of orbit and disappear.

By 1590, the year Walsingham died, Oxford’s secretary and stage manager John Lyly was out of a job; in 1591, Thomas Lodge escaped poverty by sailing to South America; in September 1592, Thomas Watson died and so did Robert Greene (if, in fact, Greene was a real person and not another pen name); on 30 May 1593, Christopher Marlowe was stabbed to death; later that year, Thomas Kyd was tortured on the rack, leading to his death.

Lyly, Lodge, Watson, Greene, Marlowe, Kyd: all gone. They disappeared in a kind of bloodbath, into a metaphorical graveyard of writers; and Oxford himself disappeared. He withdrew from court and vanished from London. He remarried (his first wife, Anne Cecil, had died in 1588) and became something of a recluse at Hackney – undoubtedly revising his previous plays.

As far as the general public knew, Oxford no longer existed; some people even thought he was dead; but in the spring of 1593, just when Marlowe was being murdered, something else was afoot. From below the graveyard of writers, without any paper trail or personal history, the heretofore unknown “William Shakespeare” – a disembodied pen name — suddenly rose in defiance, shaking the spear of his pen and asserting his power in the Latin epigraph from Ovid on the title page of Venus and Adonis, translated as: “Let the mob admire base things! May Golden Apollo serve me full goblets from the Castilian Spring!” Who is this Shakespeare?  And which side is he on?

The sudden appearance of this name was not on the title page, but, rather, inside the book, and linked (directly, and uniquely) to nineteen-year-old Southampton. And in the very next year, 1594, the poet made himself even clearer, dedicating Lucrece to Southampton: “The love I dedicate to your Lordship is without end … What I have done is yours, what I have to do is yours, being all I have, devoted yours.” All that the pen name has is a multitude of written works to be published under that name – the two poems, plus any other writings that will use “Shakespeare” in the future.

The 1594 dedication of “Lucrece” to Southampton — by “Shakespeare” 

A metamorphosis has taken place. In this second dedication, the pen name is speaking for itself and not, in the first place, for the Earl of Oxford, who has disappeared; the pen name is saying to young Lord Southampton: “ALL I HAVE – ANYTHING WRITTEN UNDER THIS NAME — IS NOW AND FOREVER DEVOTED TO YOU. THEY ARE YOURS, TO DO WITH WHAT YOU WILL.” It is all “YOURS … YOURS … YOURS.”

The disembodied pen name has declared itself on the side of the young nobility, in favor of the Essex faction of which Southampton is a prominent member. Soon that young earl firmly and finally rejects Burghley’s marriage plans for him. Essex has been in secret communication with James in Scotland – pledging his support for the King, in return for the promise of James’ help against Burghley and his son Robert Cecil.

So long as Elizabeth remains alive, she can still name her successor; meanwhile, a main goal of Essex and Southampton is to keep the Cecils from assuming even more power after she dies. We are now in the very short period spanning 1595 to 1600 – six years – in which the great issuance of Shakespeare plays occurs: earlier plays that are now revised for the printing press and the public playhouse.

Robert Cecil becomes Principle Secretary in 1596; in the following year, he tries to have all public playhouses shut down and nearly succeeds; in fact, he does succeed in destroying the Swan Playhouse as a venue for plays.

And upon the death of his father, Burghley, in August 1598, Secretary Cecil begins to gain the full trust of Her Majesty and the power to control her mind, emotions and decisions. Now the gloves come off and “Shakespeare” suddenly – for the first time — makes its appearance on printed plays. Over the next three years comes the historic rush of quartos. In 1598 and 1599, four plays are printed with “Shake-speare” hyphenated, emphasizing it’s a pen name: Love’s Labour’s Lost, Richard III, Richard II and 1 Henry IV. The playwright had “newly corrected” two of these plays, quite obviously having written them their first versions much earlier.

Four more plays are published in 1600, all using the pen name without any hyphen: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 2 Henry IV, The Merchant of Venice and Much Ado About Nothing. And three others also appear in that time frame, but still anonymous: Romeo and Juliet, 3 Henry VI, and Henry V.  Many of these plays – especially the histories – deal with issues of kingship, of what kind of monarch should or should not rule, the right and wrong ways to choose a successor, the consequences of deposing a rightful king. These issues are swirling on and off the stage, in allegory and in real life, all around the aging queen, who refuses to make a choice while she still has the strength to do so.

Edward, Earl of Oxford was summoned as a judge to the 1601 trial of Essex and Southampton — the same Southampton to whom “Shakespeare” had pledged his “love … without end.”

Southampton takes charge of planning an assault on Whitehall Palace, aiming to remove Cecil and confront Elizabeth without interference. If they gain entrance to her presence, they will beg the queen to fulfill her responsibility by choosing a successor.

Members of the Essex faction meet with the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, Shakespeare’s company, paying the actors to give a special performance of Richard II at their own playhouse, the Globe, on Sunday 7 February 1601. Southampton is in charge of the Shakespeare plays and, most likely, he himself pays for the performance – with its deposition scene of King Richard handing over his crown to Bolinbroke, who becomes Henry IV.

(The play is instructional. It’s also a cautionary tale: Richard is murdered in prison by Pierce of Exton, who mistakenly believes he’s carrying out the king’s wishes.)

Cecil uses this performance to summon Essex that night and trigger the chaotic events of the following day. By midnight of the Eighth of February, Essex and Southampton are both arrested and taken by river through Traitors Gate into the Tower, facing charges of high treason and almost certain execution. Of course, this play of royal history is another allegory, and Elizabeth will famously cry out six months later, “I am Richard the Second, know ye not that?”

So long as Southampton is in the prison, there will be no authorized printings of new Shakespeare plays. In effect, the pen name goes silent. The actors of Shakespeare’s company are summoned for questioning, but never the author … but why not? Well, he can’t be summoned, can he?  He has no flesh and blood, because “Shakespeare” — after all – is but a pen name.

Postscript

While Southampton languishes in prison, another metamorphosis takes place, as recorded by Oxford in the Sonnets. First, his disappearance: “My name be buried where my body is” (72); and “I, once gone, to all the world must die” (81). Then his sacrifice to the pen name, in a sequence that traditional critics call the Rival Poet series. The true “rival,” however, is not a flesh-and-blood person; rather, it is Oxford’s own pseudonym on the printed page.

Oxford understood that “Shakespeare” would remain attached to Southampton, even as he himself, the true author, faded from the world’s view. The Sonnets would be suppressed upon their publication in 1609, and the quarto would remain underground for more than a century until it reappeared in 1711, like a message in a bottle, carrying Oxford’s true account for posterity.  The story — of how Oxford sacrificed himself to save Southampton’s life and gain his freedom — remains within the “monument” of the Sonnets:

“Your monument shall be my gentle verse,/ Which eyes not yet created shall o’er-read” (81); “And thou in this shalt find thy monument,/ When tyrants’ crests and tombs of brass are spent” (107).

 

 

 

Edward de Vere: The Fabric of His Life in the Sonnets: Reposting No. 29 of 100 Reasons Why the Earl of Oxford was Shake-speare

Edward de Vere was in the best position of anyone in England to be the author of the sequence of 154 consecutively numbered sonnets published in 1609 as Shake-speares Sonnets. The known facts about Oxford’s childhood, upbringing, education, and family all interconnect with the sonnets’ language and imagery.

Oxford was nephew to Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1517-1547), who, with Sir Thomas Wyatt, wrote the first English sonnets in the form to be used later by Shakespeare. Oxford himself wrote an early sonnet in that form; entitled Love Thy Choice, it expressed his devotion to Queen Elizabeth with the same themes of “constancy” and “truth” that “Shakespeare” would express in the same words:

“In constant truth to bide so firm and sure” – Oxford’s sonnet to Queen Elizabeth

“Oaths of thy love, thy truth, thy constancy” – Sonnet 152 to the “Dark Lady”

The Shakespeare sonnets are plainly autobiographical, the author using the personal pronoun “I” to refer to himself, telling his own story in his own voice; so it’s only natural that he expresses himself with references to the life he experienced since childhood.   Much of that experience is captured in Sonnet 91:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some glory in their birth, some in their skill,
Some in their wealth, some in their body’s force,
Some in their garments, though new-fangled ill,
Some in their Hawks and Hounds, some in their Horse…

Oxford was born into England’s highest-ranking earldom, inheriting vast wealth in the form of many estates.  He was a skilled horseman and champion of two great jousting tournaments at the Whitehall tiltyard.  He was the “Italianate Englishman” who wore new-fangled clothing from the Continent.  An expert falconer, he wrote poetry comparing women to hawks “that fly from man to man.”

And every humor hath his adjunct pleasure,
Wherein it finds a joy above the rest,
But these particulars are not my measure,
All these I better in one general best.
Thy love is better than high birth to me …

Only someone who already had high birth, and was willing to give it up, could make such a declaration to another nobleman of high birth and make it meaningful; if written to the Earl of Southampton by a man who was not high-born, the statement would be an insulting joke.

Richer than wealth, prouder than garments’ cost,
Of more delight than Hawks or Hounds be,
And having thee, of all men’s pride I boast.
Wretched in this alone, that thou mayst take
All this away, and me most wretched make.

Woodcut of Elizabethan astronomy or astrology

Oxford also left his footprints throughout:

(2) “When forty winters shall besiege thy brow” – He was forty in 1590, when most commentators feel the opening sonnets were written.

(8) “Music to hear, why hear’st thou music sadly … Mark how one string, sweet husband to another” – He was an accomplished musician, writing for the lute, and patronized the composer John Farmer, who dedicated two songbooks to him, praising his musical knowledge and skill.

(14) “And yet methinks I have astronomy” – He was well acquainted with the “astronomy,” or astrology, of Dr. John Dee and was praised for his knowledge of the subject.

(23) “As an imperfect actor on the stage” – He patronized two acting companies, performed in “enterludes” at court and was well known for his “comedies” or stage plays.

(33) “Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy” – He studied with Dee, who experimented with alchemy, and both men invested in the Frobisher voyages.

Elizabeth woodcut of distillation by “alchemy” to find the imagined “elixir” to prolong life”

(49) “To guard the lawful reasons on thy part” – He studied law at Gray’s Inn and served as a judge at the treason trials of Norfolk and Mary Stuart and later at the treason trial of Essex and Southampton; his personal letters are filled with intimate knowledge of the law.

(59) “O that record could with a backward look,/ Even of five hundred courses of the Sunne”  – His earldom extended back 500 years to the time of William the Conqueror.

(72) “My name be buried where my body is” – In his early poetry he wrote, “The only loss of my good name is of these griefs the ground.”

(89) “Speak of my lameness, and I straight will halt” – He was lamed by a sword during a street fight in 1582.

Queen Elizabeth – the Armada Portrait, 1588 – she loved those jewels!

(96) “As on the finger of a a throned Queen, / The basest Jewel will be well esteemed” – He gave the Queen “a fair jewel of gold” with diamonds in 1580.

(98) “Of different flowers in odor and in hue” – He was raised amid the great gardens of William Cecil, who imported flowers never seen in England, something that accounts for Shakespeare’s vast knowledge of plants.

(107) “And thou in this shalt find thy monument” – He wrote to Thomas Bedingfield in 1573 that “I shall erect you such a monument…”

(109) “Myself bring water for my stain” – He was “water-bearer to the monarch” at the coronation of James on 25 July 1603, in his capacity as Lord Great Chamberlain.

Title page of The New Jewell of Health (1576) by Dr. George Baker, dedicated to Oxford’s wife Anne Cecil, Countess of Oxford

(111) “Potions of Eisel ‘gainst my strong infection” – His surgeon was Dr. George Baker, who dedicated three books to the earl or his wife.

(114) “And to his palate doth prepare the cup” – His ceremonial role as Lord Great Chamberlain included bringing the “tasting cup” to the monarch.

(116) “O no, it is an ever-fixed mark/ That looks on tempests and his never shaken … If this be error and upon me proved,/ I never writ nor no man ever loved” – He wrote: “Who was the first that gave the wound whose fear I wear for ever?  Vere.” (Emphasis added)

(121) “No, I am that I am…” –  He wrote to Burghley using the same words in the same tone (the words of God to Moses in the Bible) to protest his spying on him.

(125) “Were’t aught to me I bore the canopy” – He was reported to have been one of the six nobles bearing a “golden canopy” over the queen in the procession on 24 November 1588 celebrating England’s recent victory over the Spanish Armada. (But Sonnet 125, I believe, refers to the canopy held over Elizabeth’s effigy and coffin in the funeral procession on 28 April 1603.)

(128) “Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds”– He was an intimate favorite of the queen, who frequently played music on the virginals.

Courtiers of Queen Elizabeth – entertaining her with lute

(153) “I sick withal the help of bath desired” – He accompanied Elizabeth and her court during her three-day visit in August 1574 to the City of Bath, the only royal visit to that city; and “Shakespeare” is said to write about this visit in the so-called Bath Sonnets 153-154.

The Sonnets of Shakespeare amount to the autobiographical diary of de Vere. The allusions to his life as a high-born nobleman and courtier, appearing throughout the sequence, come forth naturally and spontaneously. In effect, he left his signature for all to see.

[This post, with significant help from editor Alex McNeil, is now Reason 52 in 100 Reasons Shake-speare was the Earl of Oxford.]

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

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

Henry Earl of Southampton in his teens, by Nicholas Hilliard

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

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

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

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

Southampton at 22 in 1595

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

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

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

William Cecil Lord Burghley, Master of the Royal Wards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The White Tower where Southampton was imprisoned

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

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

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

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

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

The Earl of Southampton Described as a “Prince of Illustrious Lineage” after the Queen’s Visit to Oxford University in 1592

In 1999 the British scientist and Shakespeare authorship scholar John M. Rollet, who died in 2015, reported evidence that Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton (1573-1624) was regarded at court as the son of Queen Elizabeth. Among this evidence is a narrative poem in Latin, commemorating her Majesty’s weeklong visit during September 1592 to Oxford University, in which Southampton is called Dynasta – defined in the sixteenth century as a hereditary prince or ruler of great power, which would make him the queen’s successor by blood and heir to the Tudor dynasty.

Henry Wriothesley
Third Earl Southampton

Apollinis et Musarum Eukita Eidyllia or Worshipful Idylls of Apollo and the Muses, was written by John Sanford (1565-1629), chaplain of Magdalene College. Published in twenty-four pages on 10 October 1592 by Joseph Barnes, the university’s printer, the two-part poem primarily focuses on the nobles of her Majesty’s retinue who attended a banquet at the college in their honor.

“Apollo and the Muses, exiled from Greece, make their way to Oxford, encounter the Queen, and each Muse offers a prayer for the welfare of her realm,” Dana F. Sutton writes about the first part of the poem. The second part, a description of the Magdalene banquet, is filled with the flattery to which Elizabethan courtiers were accustomed; and after fulsomely praising Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex (1566-1601), Sanford abruptly offers an exceptional description of Southampton:

Post hunc insequitur clara de stirpe Dynasta.

Lure suo dives quem South-Hamptonia magnum

Vendicat heroem…

Rollet found these lines “truly astonishing … I could hardly believe my eyes when I read them and tried to make sense of what they meant … It is the word ‘Dynasta’ which is so astonishing, because its meaning is precise: a lord inheriting great power, a prince, a ruler …

“It is a rare word in Latin, and is taken over directly from the Greek. Its root is the same as that of ‘dynastic’ and means ‘possessing power’ or “great power.’ The only rulers or princes ‘possessing great power’ in Tudor England were the Tudors, culminating in Elizabeth. To call Southampton ‘Dynasta’ – or in modern English, a ‘Dynast’ – can properly mean only one thing: that he was held to be in the line of succession of the Tudor dynasty.”

Charlotte Stopes translated the lines in 1922 as “After him [Essex] followed a Prince of a distinguished race, whom, rich in her right, Southampton blazons as a great hero.”

Rollet consulted with experts before arriving at a more specific version: “After him there follows a hereditary Prince of illustrious lineage, whom as a great hero the rich House of Southampton lawfully lays claim to as one of its own.”

If Henry were the natural son of the second Earl of Southampton and his countess, Rollet writes, there would have been no need for the House of Southampton to legally claim him; but if he were the natural son of Queen Elizabeth and yet had been effectively adopted and accepted by the second Earl, he would be simultaneously a Tudor prince and the lawful third Earl of Southampton.

“The writer of the verses chose a rare word to convey his precise meaning,” Rollet concludes, “and he would only have felt safe in doing so if it was widely believed among well-placed people that Southampton was indeed the Queen’s son.” He notes that the poem was an official publication of the university, with its coat of arms on the title page; therefore its authorities had “approved this graceful reference to Southampton’s supposed status” and it “would be expected to bring credit to the university if he ever ascended the throne.”

Within the poem a recurrent theme is the prospect of Elizabeth’s death. (She had just entered her sixtieth year.) “Late may the gray hairs sprinkle her temples, the wrinkles of years wither her brow, or a staff support her limbs broken by old age,” a Greek god declares. “Have no anxiety, sovereign, a sure place [after death] is readied for you,” another tells her, adding, “Yet I shall pray that you be late in coming into this kingdom [of heaven].”

During the early 1590s, there was increasing anxiety over the prospect of Elizabeth dying without a designated successor. This growing worry seems part of Sanford’s description of her visit and may explain his bold description of Southampton as a Tudor heir whose presence would resolve the looming crisis.

NOTES

John M. Rollet first presented “Was Southampton regarded as the Son of the Queen?” at the 1999 Shakespeare Oxford Conference in Boston. After adding to the paper twice, he included his findings in William Stanley as Shakespeare: Evidence of Authorship by the Sixth Earl of Derby (MacFarland, 2015). Sanford’s lines comprise one of three strands of evidence showing “beyond a reasonable doubt that Southampton was regarded in the early 1590s as having a status appropriate to a son of the Queen.”

Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton was officially born on 6 October 1573. At age eight he became the eighth and final royal ward of Elizabeth in the custody of William Cecil Lord Burghley. (Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, had become the first royal ward in 1562 at age twelve.) When Wriothesley turned sixteen in 1589, he came under pressure to agree to an arranged marriage with Elizabeth Vere, Burghley’s granddaughter.

(Oxford had succumbed to similar pressure from Cecil by marrying his daughter, Anne Cecil, in December 1571. After Elizabeth Vere was born in 1575, he denied his paternity and separated from his wife until late 1581, after which they had two more daughters. Anne died in June 1588.)

Modern Biographies of Southampton:

Charlotte Stopes: The Life of Henry, Third Earl of Southampton, 1922

A.L. Rowse: Shakespeare’s Southampton, 1965

G.P.V. Akrigg: Shakespeare and the Earl of Southampton, 1968

The Queen’s Visit to Oxford during 22-28 September 1592 was the second and final one. (The first occurred in 1566, when de Vere had received his MA at sixteen.) Southampton had been incorporated MA in August before the royal visit and was among the noblemen accompanying her. “By now,” Akrigg writes, the young earl “was spending a good part of his time in attendance at the Court.”

The Full Text of Apollonis et Musarum Eukita Eidyllia or The Idylls of Apollo and the Muses on the Most Auspicious and Welcome Arrival of Queen Elizabeth is online in the original Latin and an English translation by Dana F. Sutton at The Philological Museum.

Translations of the Lines Describing Southampton vary according to authors, presented here with the “Dynasta” versions in bold italics:

Stopes: “After him followed a Prince of a distinguished race, whom (rich in her right) Southampton blazons as a great hero. No youth there present was more beautiful or more brilliant in the learned arts than this young prince of Hampshire, although his face was yet scarcely adorned by a tender down.”

(Stopes mistakenly attributed the poem to Philip Stringer, a Cambridge man who attended Burghey during the queen’s visit to Oxford and wrote his own Latin account of the event, which survives in manuscript and is presented by John Nichols in The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth, Volume 3, 1823.)

Rowse: He entirely ignores the Latin lines with “Dynasta” and simply reports, “Southampton is singled out for the characteristics by which Shakespeare describes him: his physical beauty and the cheeks hardly yet adorned with down.” (Only Rowse would know why he ignored the most striking part of Sanford’s description of Henry Wriothesley.)

Akrigg: “After him there follows a lord of lofty line whom rich Southampton claims in his own right as a great hero. There was present no one more comely, no young man more outstanding in learning, although his mouth scarcely yet blooms with tender down.”

Sutton: “After him follows a magnate of high degree, a man whom by right Southampton claims as her great lord. No gentleman more comely was present, no youth more distinguished in the arts, though the down scarce grows on his gentle face.” [Magnate – a person of great influence or importance or standing.]

It should be noted that Rollet translated “Dynasta” as it would have been understood during the Elizabethan age, when Latin was commonly written and spoken at the universities, and not as scholars of the twentieth century would translate the word.

Rollet’s Evidence that Southampton was regarded as the son of the queen also includes (1) a letter from Philip Gawdy in May 1593 indicating that Southampton was expected to be made a Knight of the Garter, at an age when only the monarch’s kinsmen had previously been elected; and (2) a English poem in 1593 by George Peele, indicating that Southampton at nineteen shared immortality with the queen, indicating “a very special relationship to her indeed.” [The poem has a short Latin ending with “Stirps generosa rosa” or “The offspring of the [Tudor] rose is noble.”

Note: From what I can tell, Rollet continued to believe (based on the Sonnets) that Edward de Vere and Queen Elizabeth were the natural parents of Southampton; however, he was careful to present his evidence “as an uncommitted investigator,” as he writes on p. 66 of his book about William Stanley as Shakespeare.

… “The World’s Hopeful Expectation” … “The Hope and Expectation of Thy Time” … “The Expectation of the World”

“When Parliament convened in February 1593, the queen was fifty-nine years old, her age intensifying public concern over that ‘uncertain certainty,’ the as-yet-unsettled succession on her death … Despite, or rather because of, the decisive importance of this question, it remained largely invisible on the landscape of public discourse. Elizabeth’s government was determined to see that this preoccupation had no outlet. Public discussion of the succession was forbidden, declared treason by parliamentary statute … The aim of the Crown’s policy was wholly to remove the question of royal lineage from discussion by subjects…” – Robert Lane, The University of North Carolina Press *

Henry Wriothesley
3rd Earl of Southampton

Such was the situation in 1593 when “William Shakespeare” appeared for the first time as the printed signature on the dedication of Venus and Adonis to Henry Wriothesely, Earl of Southampton, to whom he wrote:

“I leave it to your Honourable survey, and your Honour to your heart’s content, which I wish may always answer your own wish, and the world’s hopeful expectation.” **

The same poet would use a variation of “the world’s hopeful expectation” in his play of royal history Henry IV, Part 1, when the King chastises his wayward son, Prince Hal, for wasting his gift of blood and failing to prepare for his kingship:

The hope and expectation of thy time is ruined, and the soul of every man prophetically do forethink thy fall.” (3.2.36-38]

By pointing to “the world’s hopeful expectation” for Henry Wriothesley, the poet was consciously and deliberately proclaiming him as the long-hoped-for successor to Elizabeth, who was adamant in refusing to name anyone to follow her on the throne. “Shakespeare” had carefully selected those words, both to address the young earl directly and to publicly advertise this solution to the nation’s crisis. He was voicing his own hope for Southampton to be named the future Henry IX of England.

Robert Lane observes that a major weapon against the Crown’s suppression of public discussion was the power wielded by Elizabethan writers. Plays, for example, “provided a forum for examination of the issue in a manner sufficiently oblique to avoid government retaliation.” Lane then proceeds to focus on how Shakespeare in his history play King John “thoroughly, almost systematically” engages “the specific issues entailed in the succession crisis of the 1590s.”

Yes — and this same “Shakespeare” – Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford – was so concerned about the crisis that he used the launch of his new pen name to voice his own “hopeful expectation” for Southampton as a prince. Here was Oxford’s answer to avoiding civil war over the crown; to preventing a foreigner from gaining the throne; and to finally ending the inherent danger to England caused by the Virgin Queen’s silence.

In Part 2 of Henry IV, after Prince Hal becomes King Henry V, he admits the public had viewed him as a wastrel unworthy of the Crown; but now he vows to wipe away that negative “expectation of the world” and fulfill his destiny as a great monarch:

My father is gone wild into his grave,

For in his tomb lie my affections,

And with his spirit sadly I survive

To mock the expectation of the world,

To frustrate prophecies and to raze out

Rotten opinion, who hath writ me down

After my seeming. The tide of blood in me

Hath proudly flowed in vanity till now.

Now doth it turn and ebb back to the sea,

Where it shall mingle with the state of floods

And flow henceforth in formal majesty. (5.2.123-133)

In my view, Oxford dearly hoped that in the future Henry Wriothesley would use similar words, expressing similar sentiments, about “the tide of blood” that flowed in him.

///

x “‘The sequence of posterity’: Shakespeare’s King John and the Succession Controversy” by Robert Lane, The University of North Carolina Press, 1995

xx My emphases

“Proving His Beauty by Succession” – Queen Elizabeth in the Sonnets (Continued)…

Queen Elizabeth appears throughout SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS of 1609.  Edward de Vere, the seventeenth Earl of Oxford, employs a conventional form of romantic poetry to preserve for posterity a real-life story that is not at all romantic but political.  In this slice of contemporary history within the Elizabethan poetry, otherwise unavailable to future historians,  Oxford reveals the reasons behind his obliteration as the author of the Shakespearean works – not just the reasons for his use of the pen name, which began in 1593, but also the why’s and how’s of his subsequent and enduring erasure from the official record.

ElizaTriumphansWmRogers1589Compressed

This is the thirteenth item on our expanding list of ways in which the queen appears as the woman (or dark lady) of the Sonnets.

“History is written by the winners,” George Orwell wrote; and Oxford in Sonnet 123 yells at “Time,” that is, at the official record being written by those who engineered the royal succession after Elizabeth’s death in 1603: “Thy registers and thee I both defy … For thy records and what we see doth lie…”  He knew the false history written by the winners of the political power struggle would become a widely accepted lie, a myth, so he constructed a “monument” of verse containing the truth for future generations: “And thou in this shalt find thy monument, When tyrants’ crests and tombs of brass are spent.” (Sonnet 107)

(When J.T. Looney “identified” the author in 1920 as the Lord Great Chamberlain of England, he was standing the Stratfordian fairy tale on its head. The true story is just the opposite of the popular legend that is still being celebrated.  It resides not in Anne Hathaway’s cottage but, rather, at the Royal Court of Elizabethan England — thinly disguised as the Royal Court of Denmark, where Prince Hamlet fights until his dying breath and begs his friend to tell the world what really happened:  “O God, Horatio, what a wounded name, things standing thus unknown shall live behind me! If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart, absent thee from felicity awhile, and in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain, to tell my story.”)

Now we focus on line 12 of Sonnet 2: “Proving his beauty by succession thine.”   De Vere was fully aware of the reverberations of succession.  He was inserting a political bombshell within the landscape of what may appear to be a bisexual triangle — concealing yet revealing his dangerous subject matter within the “noted weed” (Sonnet 76) or familiar costume of the poetry of love.

There’s an interesting angle on that line of Sonnet 2 in a 2015 book by the late John M. Rollett: William Stanley as Shakespeare: Evidence of Authorship by the Sixth Earl of Derby, which I highly recommend (despite our different candidates for “Shakespeare”).  When John and I spent a day together at the British Library in September 2000, we shared our mutual conviction that words and phrases throughout the Sonnets are intentionally royal and dynastic.

The poet tells the younger man in Sonnet 2 (which I believe was written circa 1591*) that his use of “beauty” will be praised if he has a “fair child,” thereby “Proving his beauty by succession thine.” This line, Rollet writes, is “introducing what seems to be the main theme of these ‘dynastic’ sonnets, that of ‘succession.’ It is interesting to learn,” he continues, “that this sonnet was the one most frequently copied out into common-place books in the thirty years following publication [in 1609].”

No less than eleven manuscript versions of Sonnet 2 have been found, “suggesting that it had a particular appeal or significance for readers at the time,” Rollet writes, adding that in those three decades after 1609 the Stuart kings James I and Charles I “had proved themselves lamentably inferior to the Tudors as rulers, and maybe people were speculating on how things might have turned out differently.” **

As mentioned before in this series, the phrase “beauty’s Rose”*** at the outset of Sonnet 1 amounts to an announcement that the overall theme of the forthcoming sequence is a plea for the preservation and continuance of Elizabeth’s dynasty of the Tudor Rose: “From fairest creatures we desire increase, That thereby beauty’s Rose might never die.”

And so that theme continues in Sonnet 2, with “beauty” signifying not only Elizabeth herself, but, as well, her Tudor blood within her own successor, who will pass on the “warm blood” of the final line to his own child:

1 When forty Winters shall besiege thy brow,

2 And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,

3 Thy youth’s proud livery, so gazed on now,

4 Will be a tottered weed of small worth held:

5 Then being asked where all thy beauty lies,

6 Where all the treasure of thy lusty days,

7 To say within thine own deep sunken eyes

8 Were an all-eating shame, and thriftless praise.        

9 How much more praise deserved thy beauty’s use,

10 If thou couldst answer, ‘This fair child of mine

11 Shall sum my count, and make my old excuse,

12 Proving his beauty by succession thine.

13 This were to be new made when thou art old

14 And see thy blood warm when thou feel’st it cold.

+   The Monument sets forth a structural design opening with twenty-six sonnets (1 – 26) corresponding to the years 1591-1600.  (The first seventeen also correspond, numerically, with the first seventeen years in the life of Henry Wriothseley, third Earl of Southampton, up to 1591; the next nine correspond with the years 1592-1600, making a total of twenty-six.) The Monument explains the real-life story of the Sonnets in terms of three individuals: the author (Oxford), the fair youth (Southampton) and Elizabeth (the dark lady), with Oxford’s pen name (“Shakespeare”) mistaken by tradition for a so-called rival poet.

++ Some of the early sonnets (1-26) may have begun circulating in manuscript during the 1590s. (Francis Meres in 1598 wrote of the author’s “sugared sonnets among his private friends.”)  The remaining 100 sonnets of the fair youth series (nos. 27-126) correspond with the years 1601-1603 and were not circulated in manuscript; they, along with the rest of the quarto, remained underground until 1711.  [However, a bogus edition in 1640, thoroughly mangling the 1609 quarto, represents an extension of the 1623 Folio effort to obscure the true story.  And this version is another source of some manuscript versions, which have many variations from the authentic text of 1609.]

+++ “Rose” is both capitalized and italicized in the 1609 quarto.

The list to date, compiled by sonnet number:

In the Fair Youth series:

1 – Sonnet 1: “Beauty’s Rose” – the Queen’s dynasty of the Tudor Rose

2 – Sonnet 2: “Proving his beauty by succession” — the succession to Elizabeth 

3 – Sonnet 19: “The Phoenix” – the Queen’s emblem

4 – Sonnet 25: “The Marigold” – the Queen’s flower

5 – Sonnet 76: “Ever the Same” – the Queen’s motto in English

6  – Sonnet 107: “the Mortal Moon” – Queen Elizabeth as Diana, the chaste moon goddess

7 – Sonnet 125: “Were’t Ought to Me I Bore the Canopy” – Elizabeth’s funeral

In the Dark Lady series:

8 – Sonnet 128: “Those Jacks that Nimble Leap” – recalling the Queen at her virginals

9 – Sonnet 131: “Commanded by the Motion of Thine Eyes” – to a monarch

10 – Sonnet 151: “I Rise and Fall” – the courtier as sexual slave to his Queen

11 – Sonnet 152: “Thy love, thy truth, thy constancy” – Echo of Oxford’s sonnet to Elizabeth

The Bath Epilogue:

12 – Sonnet 153: “Against Strange Maladies a Sovereign Cure” – the Queen’s touch

13 – Sonnet 154: “Sleeping by a Virgin Hand Disarmed” – the Virgin Queen

 

DNA Confirms President Harding’s Love Child — Reprinting a Blog Post about DNA and Prince Tudor

president's daughter

Nan Britton, mistress of the 29th president, with daughter Elizabeth Ann Britton (1931)

Nan Britton, mistress of the 29th president, with daughter Elizabeth Ann Britton (1931)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When the Paradigm Changes, So Too the Surrounding Concepts Must be Changed

Mark Anderson, author of Shakespeare by Another Name (2005) recently shared a statement about how difficult it can be to accept a new paradigm in place of one to which we have become attached.  Orthodox scholars face such difficulty when invited to consider that “Shakespeare” was not William of Stratford, but, rather, Edward de Vere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford.  Here is part of that passage from The Nature of Technology (2011) by W. Brian Arthur:

“Even if a novel principle [paradigm] is developed and does perform better than the old, adopting it may mean changing surrounding structures and organizations [my emphasis] … The old [paradigm] lives on because practitioners are  not comfortable with the vision — and promise — of the new. Origination is not just a new way of doing things, but a new way of seeing things.  And the new threatens to make the old expertise obsolete. Often, in fact, some version of the new principle [paradigm] has been already touted or already exists and has been dismissed by standard practitioners, not necessarily because of lack of imagination, but because it creates a cognitive dissonance, an emotional mismatch, between the potential of the new and the security of the old.”

An allegorical portrait of Elizabeth I painted after 1620

An allegorical portrait of Elizabeth I painted after 1620

Oxfordians view most “standard practitioners” of Shakespearean biography as unable to break from the “security” of the old Stratfordian paradigm. By the same token, however, many who accept Oxford as the true author still resist the need to change “surrounding structures” or concepts that need overturning. These include, for example, the traditional conceptions of the “Rival Poet” and “Dark Lady” of the Sonnets.

In the orthodox view, the Stratford fellow is recording (1) his painful defeat by a “rival” author who has stolen the affections of the younger man; and (2) his fury at the treachery of his own “dark” mistress for also stealing the affections of the younger man – who, for most Stratfordians and Oxfordians alike, is Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton.  Most of those who now view Edward de Vere as the author have yet to realize that these traditional concepts are not only incorrect but, I would argue, ridiculous.

THE RIVAL POET of Sonnets 78-86:

Under the old Stratfordian paradigm, this “rival” of the author must be a real person; however, the Oxfordian view presents a man leading a double life, so that the Earl’s “rival” must be his own pen name. Oxford introduced “Shakespeare” to the world as the printed signature on the dedications of Venus and Adonis (1593) and Lucrece (1594) to Southampton; and never again did he use that pen name to dedicate anything to anyone else, thereby uniquely linking the younger earl to “Shakespeare” and ensuring his immortality. But after the failed Essex Rebellion of February 8, 1601, to save Southampton from execution and gain his eventual release, Oxford agreed reluctantly to remain hidden behind the pen name.

Henry Wriothesley  3rd Earl of Southampton circa 1594

Henry Wriothesley
3rd Earl of Southampton
circa 1594

This is why Oxford writes to Southampton in Sonnet 81 that “Your name from hence immortal life shall have,/ Though I (once gone) to all the world must die.”  It is also why he refers in Sonnet 82 to “The dedicated words which writers use/ Of their fair subject, blessing every book” – the public dedications by “Shakespeare” to the “fair” young man, Southampton, blessing E. Ver’s books of narrative poems.

Now the pseudonym is being used by the government (i.e., by Secretary Robert Cecil) to “make me tongue-tied” (Sonnet 80) and has “struck me dead” (Sonnet 86) when it comes to writing publicly about Southampton. Most Oxfordians still automatically assume that the “rival poet” must be a flesh-and-blood individual (like Essex or Sir Walter Raleigh), even though, within the new authorship paradigm, it becomes obvious that his only “rival” is the “Shakespeare” pseudonym itself.  It is difficult for Oxfordians to accept this new (and far more logical) concept because, I suggest, it creates a “cognitive dissonance” between “the potential of the new and the security of the old.”

It turns out that the so-called “rival poet” (a made-up term not used in the Sonnets) never had anything to do with the great author’s feelings toward a real person.   Students in the future will look back at the traditional view and wonder how folks thought “Shakespeare” could have felt himself “struck dead” by any other living writer.

THE DARK LADY of Sonnets 127-152:

Under the old paradigm, this treacherous and deceitful woman must be some female toward whom Shakespeare was attracted yet from whom he was violently repulsed — or repulsed by his own sexual appetite for her.  This woman had to be, say, Emilia Lanier – or, in the Oxfordian view, she was Anne Vavasour or Elizabeth Trentham or – yes – that same Emilia Lanier.

Edward de Vere 17th Earl of Oxford

Edward de Vere
17th Earl of Oxford

But once Oxford is accepted as the author, the so-called Dark Lady can only be Queen Elizabeth I of England, who is only “dark” because of her negative imperial view of Southampton. In other words, the Earl is using this section of the Sonnets to record, for posterity, his final resentment and even hatred toward his sovereign Mistress, for failing to name the younger earl as her “successive heir” (Sonnet 127).

In that section are lines that Oxford could write only to the Queen and to no one else. He asks her rhetorically in Sonnet 149, for example: “What merit do I in myself respect,/ That is so proud thy service to despise,/ When all my best doth worship thy defect,/ Commanded by the motion of thine eyes?”

There was no other woman in whose “service” Oxford had labored. No other woman could have “commanded” him by “the motion” of her eyes.  This is language reserved for the monarch, as when he writes in King John about “the motion of a kingly eye.” (5.1.47)

Perhaps even more striking is the anger and pain that Oxford expresses, as when he winds up Sonnet 147 telling her: “Past cure I am, now Reason is past care,/ And frantic mad with ever-more unrest./ My thoughts and my discourse as madmen’s are,/ At random from the truth, vainly expressed./ For I have sworn thee fair, and thought thee bright,/ Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.”

Oxford could not address those lines to anyone but Elizabeth Tudor.  Given his stature as the highest-ranking earl of her royal court, there is no alternative but to realize that he is recording his feelings toward the Queen herself.

Even for most Oxfordians, a complete change of authorship paradigm will not be easy; and part of the difficulty will be to alter our view of the “surrounding structures” — such as those traditional concepts of the Rival Poet and the Dark Lady.

In terms of the overall paradigm of the Sonnets, the traditional view of these poems as “romantic” must be changed to “political” — and that will take some time.  For further explanations, see The Monument website.

“Shakespeare” the Pen Name was Political!

During the first forty years of his life, Edward de Vere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford wrote highly successful “comedies” staged at the Elizabethan royal court.  He wrote elegant prose as well as poetry and, too, helped save the Blackfriars playhouse while actively patronizing play companies and writers.  Only after turning forty-three in 1593 did he adopt “Shakespeare” — a pen name to which, via the dedications of Venus and Adonis and Lucrece, he deliberately and boldly linked nineteen-year-old Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton.

Dedication of "Venus and Adonis" in 1593 to Southampton with first printing of the Shakespeare name

Dedication of “Venus and Adonis” in 1593 to Southampton with first printing of the Shakespeare name

Southampton is the only individual to whom “Shakespeare” dedicated his work.

This is the starting point for any theory that Oxford deliberately used “William Shakespeare” as the printed signature to those dedications.  It means the Earl got along for more than four decades writing anonymously or under fictional names or the names of real individuals.  Then, in the early 1590s, just when the power struggle over control of the succession to Elizabeth on the English throne had begun in earnest, and when Southampton was coming of age at court, Oxford used this military-sounding name to conjure the image of a poet shaking the spear of his pen on the dedicatee’s behalf.

In the first dedication he referred to “the world’s hopeful expectation” for Southampton, echoing the king’s image of his son Prince Hal in 1 Henry IV (3.2.36) as “the hope and expectation of thy time” — that is, as the future Henry the Fifth of England.

In the second dedication he issued an extraordinary pledge to Southampton:  “What I have done is yours, what I have to do is yours, being part in all I have, devoted yours.”

Here is the big dividing line for Oxfordians who wish to persuade others that Edward de Vere wrote the Shakespeare works:

Why did he use this particular pen name?

Why did he choose to adopt it on his published poems?

Why did he link it to Henry Wriothesley?

Why did he introduce the pen name in 1593 and not before?

What did he mean when he wrote that “what I have to do is yours”?

"Lucrece" Dedication 1594

“Lucrece” Dedication
1594

Was he publicly thanking the younger Earl for his financial help?  (No.)

Was he making this public proclamation to a real or prospective lover?  (No.)

There is only one correct answer — not to mention the only one that will enable Oxford’s proponents to persuade the world that he was the author.

The answer involves politics, policy and power, within the historical context of 1593 and the contemporary history that led to the succession of a foreigner, King James of Scotland, in the same way that Fortinbras of Norway arrives to claim the throne of Denmark in place of the true prince.

Oxford’s intentions were political.  He was publicly taking Southampton’s side in the deadly political end game of the Tudor dynasty.  He was putting the weight and influence of his writings as “Shakespeare” behind Southampton and his political goals … to avoid for England the tragic ending that he rendered in Hamlet.

He would continue to use “Shakespeare” in Southampton’s support until February 7, 1601, when conspirators of the coming Essex Rebellion, led by Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex and Southampton, enlisted the Lord Chamberlain’s men to play Richard II at the Globe.  Whatever the Essex camp hoped to gain by this special performance of a play dramatizing the deposition of a king, clearly their motive was political and clearly “Shakespeare” was involved.

“I am Richard the Second,” the Queen reportedly said six months after the failed Rebellion of February 8, 1601 had led to the destruction and execution of Essex and to Southampton’s death sentence followed by perpetual imprisonment.

The reason why Oxford’s authorship had to be covered up in the decades that followed?  The answer is that those in power feared that Southampton’s claim as Henry IX of England would be revealed, leading to a rising against James followed by civil war.

“Shakespeare” was political.

The Rival Poet of the Sonnets is “William Shakespeare” or “Shake-speare” the Pen Name

Many of my Oxfordian colleagues do not (yet) agree with the following little essay, reprinted from my website for The Monument: “Shake-speare’s Sonnets” by Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford … but I persist:

MONUMENT coverA startling discovery made possible by the Monument solution to the Sonnets is that Edward de Vere’s own pseudonym “Shake-speare” was the so-called Rival Poet of Sonnets 77-86, written while the Earl of Southampton languished as a convicted traitor in the Tower of London.

This idea — that the pen name “Shake-speare” was the Rival Poet — has been the most difficult aspect of The Monument solution to the Sonnets for many to accept. Yet, if one can step back for a moment and consider the larger picture of the Shakespeare authorship debate itself, it becomes clear why this idea makes perfect sense:

The authorship debate, at its core, posits that some unknown poet of the Elizabethan era chose to publish under a pen name while concealing his own name. Thus this assumed identity of “Shake-speare” is, in fact, an alter-ego of some sort — a natural, logical extension of the true author’s own identity.

[The name was hyphenated on many play quartos; more importantly, it was hyphenated for the printings of “The Phoenix and Turtle” (1601) and the title page of “SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS” as well as for printed signature on the narrative poem “A Lover’s Complaint” in the same quarto (1609).]

More importantly the pen name is in fact his “rival” (a word the poet never uses, in any case), since the verse published under the rival name “Shake-speare” will live forever, along with the Fair Youth (“You still shall live, such virtue hath my pen” – 81), while the Poet’s own name will be buried (“My name be buried where my body is” – 72).

This is just one more example of how The Monument addresses — and answers — just about every single question about the Sonnets raised over several centuries of criticism and commentary.

"Venus and Adonis" Dedication - 1593

“Venus and Adonis” Dedication – 1593

 

Oxford had first linked Southampton to “Shakespeare” in his very first published work, Venus and Adonis. Employing “the dedicated words which writers use of their fair subject, blessing every book,” as he wrote in Sonnet 82, he wrote dedications in both Venus and Adonis (1593) and The Rape of Lucrece (1594), which forever linked Southampton to “Shakespeare,” and which continue to provide the primary evidence that Southampton is the Fair Youth of the Sonnets.

During his 1601-1603 imprisonment, Southampton was a “dead man” in the eyes of the law (referred to as “the late earl”) and, therefore, no poets were publicly praising him then.  Oxford’s only “rival” was his own pen name, the “better spirit” known as William Shakespeare, whose dedications to Southampton were continuing to appear in new editions of the two narrative poems:

VENUS AND ADONIS – 1593

TO THE RIGHT HONORABLE Henry Wriothesley, Earle of Southampton, And Baron of Titchfield

Right Honourable,

I know not how I shall offend in dedicating my unpolished lines to your Lordship, nor how the world will censure me for choosing so strong a prop to support so weak a burden.  Only, if your Honour seem but pleased, I account my self highly praised, and vow to take advantage of all idle hours, till I have honoured you with some graver labour.  But if the first heir of my invention prove deformed, I shall be sorry it had so noble a godfather: and never after ear so barren a land, for fear it yield me still so bad a harvest.  I leave it to your Honourable survey, and your Honour to your heart’s content, which I wish may always answer your own wish, and the world’s hopeful expectation.

Your Honors in all duty, William Shakespeare

"Lucrece" Dedication 1594

“Lucrece” Dedication
1594

LUCRECE [THE RAPE OF LUCRECE] – 1594

TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE Henry Wriothesley, Earle of Southampton, And Baron of Titchfield

The love I dedicate to your Lordship is without end, whereof this Pamphlet without beginning is but a superfluous Moity.  The warrant I have of your Honourable disposition, not the worth of my untutored Lines, makes it assured of acceptance.  What I have done is yours, what I have to do is yours, being part in all I have, devoted yours.  Were my worth   greater, my duty would show greater; meantime, as it is, it is bound to your Lordship: To whom I wish long life still lengthened with all happiness.

Your Lordship’s in all duty, William Shakespeare

Sonnets 77-86 comprise one of the ten “chapters” of exactly ten sonnets apiece within the 100-sonnet center of the monument.  Each of the ten sequences is similar to a “movement” or self-contained section of music within a larger composition – the way liturgical works from the 14th century onward have often consisted of many movements, each intended to be performed at a different place of worship.  [And Oxford may well have had this spiritual or religious aspect in mind when constructing the “movements” of sonnets within his “monument” of verse.]

In the traditional view of the sonnets as written by William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon, there was no possible way to perceive the “rival” of Sonnets 77-86 other than as an unnamed real-life individual who was successfully competing for the Fair Youth’s [Southampton’s] affections.  Naturally enough many Oxfordians have adopted the same perception, sending them off on a similar fruitless hunt for the Rival Poet – the Earl of Essex, Sir Walter Raleigh, George Chapman, Christopher Marlowe and so on.

Once Oxford is accepted as the author, however, the whole “movement” or chapter begins to make perfect sense: Edward de Vere is using these sonnets as a way of confirming that in fact he buried his identity behind the mask of the poet “Shakespeare” linked to Southampton.

The previous “movement” of ten sonnets [67-76] expressed the death of Oxford’s “name” or identity:

Do not so much as my poor name rehearse [71)

My name be buried where my body is [72]

Oxford’s own spirit is transferred to Southampton:

My spirit is thine, the better part of me [74]

He disappears from sight, but nonetheless he “almost” reveals his “name” or identity in “every word” of these sonnets:

Why write I still all one, ever the same, And keep invention in a noted weed, That every word doth almost tell my name…(Sonnet 76)

Following this spiritual death or obliteration is Oxford’s resurrection as “Shakespeare.”  Here is an overview of the so-called Rival Poet sequence:

Sonnet 77 – Oxford dedicates “this book” to Southampton: “And of this book this learning mayst thou taste.”  He tells the younger earl that the sonnets themselves will become his own “children nursed, delivered from thy brain,” since they are “the living record of your memory” [55] and therefore, in that sense, they are alive.  In effect Southampton gave birth to these verses, so he is “the onlie begetter” of them as the Dedication of the Sonnets indicates.  “This book” now becomes “thy book” as Oxford concludes in the couplet:

These offices, so oft as thou wilt look,

Shall profit thee, and much enrich thy book.

Sonnet 78 – Oxford begins by addressing Southampton this way:

So oft have I invoked thee for my Muse,

And found such fair assistance in my verse,

As every Alien pen hath got my use,

And under thee their poesy disperse.

Southampton has been Oxford’s muse or inspiration; the younger earl has given “fair” assistance as the so-called Fair Youth [“From fairest creatures we desire increase” – Sonnet 1, where he also uses the plural to refer to a single individual]; “every Alien pen” is Oxford’s poetical way of identifying his “Shakespeare” pseudonym (“E. Ver’s pen name, which is alien or different than his real name”); and it has been used “under thee” or under Southampton name as the printed signature to the public dedications of “poesy” or published narrative poems.

A few lines later Oxford tells Southampton directly that he is the sole inspirer or “onlie begetter” of the Sonnets, i.e., the one who gave birth to them:

Yet be most proud of that which I compile,

Whose influence is thine, and borne of thee…

Sonnet 79 – Oxford writes that “an other” [another poet, “Shakespeare”] has taken his place, as he tells Southampton:

Whilst I alone did call upon thy aid,

My verse alone had all thy gentle grace,

But now my gracious numbers are decayed,

And my sick Muse doth give an other place.

Sonnet 80 – The pen name “Shakespeare” is the “better spirit” who can praise Southampton publicly while Oxford must be silent:

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.

Sonnet 81 – This is one of the towering verses in which Oxford expresses his commitment to making Southampton immortal (“Your monument shall be my gentle verse/ Which eyes not yet created shall o’er-read”); and the following statement actually sums up the entire authorship issue, which is tied directly to Southampton:

Your name from hence immortal life shall have

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

Southampton’s own “name” will be immortal because “Shakespeare” publicly dedicated his work to him; for that alone he will live forever; but Oxford himself, meanwhile, must “die” or disappear “to all the world.”  [Clearly he is not speaking of his literal death, but, rather, of the obliteration of his identity.]

Sonnet 82 – And now comes a direct reference to the “dedicated words” or dedications by “Shakespeare” 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.

Dedicated Words = dedications of Venus and Adonis & Lucrece Writers = the writer known as “Shakespeare” Fair Subject = the Fair Youth, Southampton Every Book = E. Ver’s or Edward de Vere’s books of those two poems

Sonnet 83 – Oxford refers to “Shakespeare” in public and to himself in these private verses; “both” are Southampton’s poets:

There lives more life in one of your fair eyes

Than both your Poets can in praise devise.

Sonnet 84 – “And such a counterpart shall fame his wit,” Oxford writes, with Oxford now referring to his pen name “Shakespeare” as “such a counterpart” or copy of himself.  [This is actually a legal term; that is, a counterpart is a duplicate or copy of an indenture; and the latter is a sealed agreement, often binding one person to the service of another, i.e., binding “Shakespeare” to Southampton’s service].

Sonnet 85 – Oxford refers to the silence imposed upon him by his secret agreement with Robert Cecil, who in 1601 has already entered into a “secret (and treasonous) correspondence” with King James in Scotland, working to prepare his way to the throne upon Elizabeth’s death.  Oxford has agreed give up his identity as “Shakespeare” and remain “tongue-tied” as a result, as he writes to Southampton:

My tongue-tied Muse in manners hold her still,

While comments of your praise, richly compiled,

Reserve their Character with golden quill,

And precious phrase by all the Muses filed.

I think good thoughts, whilst other write good words…

“Other” was apparently an accepted plural form, but here it refers again to Oxford’s pen name, the “other” (or rival) poet; and it seems obvious that he intended us to read it as singular, since by contrast he uses “others” in the ending couplet:

Then others for the breath of words respect,

Me for my dumb thoughts, speaking in effect.

Sonnet 86 – These magnificent lines bring the chapter to its end:

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?

[The pen name “Shakespeare” has buried Oxford’s thoughts within his own brain; but from this “tomb” has come the “womb” of these sonnets, growing Southampton into “the living record” of him for posterity.]

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.

[Was it “Shakespeare’s” power, which is above any height that any mere mortals have reached, that obliterated my identity?  No!  Neither he – my public pen name – nor my spirit during these nights of disgrace, giving “Shakespeare” my assistance, have stunned my verse into privacy.]

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.

[Neither “Shakespeare” nor that friendly servant, my spirit that secretly crams him with information, can boast that they have caused my silence; no, I was not afraid of those things.]

But when your countenance filled up his line,

Then lacked I matter, that enfeebled mine.

[To Southampton: But when your person filled up “Shakespeare’s” lines in public, then I lost power and substance – that weakened my voice and drove me to use these private sonnets.]

After viewing this great “movement” of ten sonnets through this lens, it would seem not only difficult but impossible to make sense of them as written about any real “rival” for Southampton rather than Oxford’s own pen name that he himself had linked to the younger earl.

In effect, to save him Oxford had allowed the mask of “Shakespeare” to be glued to his face, smothering him.

%d bloggers like this: