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:


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


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.

More of the Earl of Oxford’s Poetry to Queen Elizabeth – Part 2 of 2


An allegorical portrait of Elizabeth I painted after 1620

An allegorical portrait of Elizabeth I painted after 1620

The evidence is overwhelming that Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford used most if not all of his early signed poetry to express his feelings about Queen Elizabeth and his relationship to her.  For example, in one of his signed poems in The Paradise of Dainty Devices of 1576 (“I am not as I seem to be”), he strikes a note that will turn up again and again in the so-called Dark Lady sonnets — which, I suggest, are also to and/or about that contradictory female monarch to whom he was utterly devoted but, in the end, to whom he bitterly complained in Sonnet 152 with his final words:

And all my honest faith in thee is lost.

For I have sworn deep oaths of thy deep kindness,

Oaths of thy love, thy truth, thy constancy,

And to enlighten thee gave eyes to blindness,

Or made them swear against the thing they see.

For I have sworn thee fair: more perjured eye,

To swear against the truth so foul a lie.

In his final words to the Queen, having lost “all my honest faith” in her promises to him, Oxford complains about being forced to “swear against the truth” by swearing “so foul a lie” for her sake – to pretend to see and think and feel in one way while seeing and thinking and feeling in the opposite way. Given that his own motto was “Nothing Truer than Truth,” and that in the Sonnets he is represented as Truth, he is clearly recording (not long before Elizabeth’s death on March 24, 1603) that because of her he has sworn against himself – a terribly tragic view of his own life.  (See The Monument, my edition of the Sonnets, for a full treatment of Elizabeth as so-called Dark Lady.)

The very first line of Oxford’s youthful poem (i.e., first published before 1576, when he was twenty-six) – “I am not as I seem to be/ For when I smile, I am not glad” – is an early expression of the emotional double-bind in which Elizabeth had forced him to exist.

I am not as I seem to be,

For when I smile I am not glad;

A thrall, although you count me free,

I, most in mirth, most pensive sad.

I smile to shade my bitter spite…

He is a “thrall” – a subject in bondage to her Majesty, as when he complains in Sonnet 149 of being “Commanded by the motion of thine eyes” (a power over him of which only his sovereign Mistress was capable); and in Sonnet 154, the second and final verse of the Bath epilogue about a much earlier time (August 1574), he calls himself “my Mistress’ thrall.”

In that same youthful poem to/about the Queen is a more potent foreshadowing of his much-later Dark Lady sonnets to Elizabeth:

O cruel hap and hard estate,

That forceth me to love my foe…

The Dark Lady sonnets are filled with the same theme – that because she holds such power over him and because he owes her his unquestioning service, he is forced to remain loyal to her and obey her commands, even though she has become his “foe” or enemy. Because of his “love” for her, as the servant of his sovereign, he is forced to act against his own interests. He opens Sonnet 149 with this theme, speaking to Elizabeth and saying, in effect, that he is so devoted to her that he joins with her against himself:

Canst thou, O cruel, say I love thee not

When I against myself with thee partake?

In an earlier time, by at least 1573, Oxford had written a sonnet to the Queen in the so-called “Shakespearean” sonnet form, asking himself rhetorical questions all pointing to her:

Who taught thee first to sigh, alas, my heart?

Above the rest in Court who gave thee grace?

Who made thee strive in honor to be best?

In constant truth to bide so firm and sure,

To scorn the world regarding but thy friends?

In Sonnet 150 to Elizabeth, however, near the end of her life, he roared back by turning those lines inside-out:

Who taught thee how to make me love thee more,

The more I hear and see just cause of hate?

In another early poem by Oxford published in Paradise of 1576, the seeds of agony to be expressed much later in the Dark Lady sonnets are all too apparent:

She is my joy, she is my care and woe;

She is my pain, she is my ease therefore;

She is my death, she is my life also,

She is my salve, she is my wounded sore:

In fine, she hath the hand and knife,

That may both save and end my life.

And shall I live on earth to be her thrall’

[Again he’s the “thrall” of the Queen, held in servitude to her; italics here and below are my emphases]

And shall I live and serve her all in vain?

The answer, years later, will be yes – yes, it was all in vain to think that, by continuing to serve her (and to lie for her), she would come to her senses and acknowledge Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton, as her son and successive heir to the throne.  (Whether, in the end, Oxford expected that he himself could be acknowledged as Southampton’s natural father is another matter.)

I am not as I seem to be,

For when I smile I am not glad;

A thrall, although you count me free,

I, most in mirth, most pensive sad.

I smile to shade my bitter spite

As Hannibal that saw in sight
His country soil with Carthage town,

By Roman force defaced down.

And Caesar that presented was,

With noble Pompey’s princely head;

As ’twere some judge to rule the case,

A flood of tears he seemed to shed;
Although indeed it sprung of joy;

Yet others thought it was annoy.

Thus contraries be used I find,

Of wise to cloak the covert mind

I, Hannibal that smile for grief;

And let you Csesar’s tears suffice;
The one that laughs at his mischief;

The other all for joy that cries.

I smile to see me scorned so,

You weep for joy to see me woe;

And I, a heart by Love slain dead,

Present in place of Pompey s head.

O cruel hap and hard estate,

That forceth me to love my foe;

Accursed be so foul a fate,

My choice for to prefix it so.

So long to fight with secret sore

And find no secret salve therefore;
Some purge their pain by plaint I find,

But I in vain do breathe my wind.



The trickling tears that fall along my cheeks,

The secret sighs that show my inward grief,

The present pains perforce that Love aye seeks,

Bid me renew my cares without relief;

In woeful song, in dole display,

My pensive heart for to betray.


Betray thy grief, thy woeful heart with speed;

Resign thy voice to her that caused thee woe;

With irksome cries, bewail thy late done deed,

For she thou lov’st is sure thy mortal foe;

And help for thee there is none sure,

But still in pain thou must endure.


The stricken deer hath help to heal his wound,

The haggard hawk with toil is made full tame;

The strongest tower, the cannon lays on ground,

The wisest wit that ever had the fame,

Was thrall to Love by Cupid’s slights;

Then weigh my cause with equal wights.


She is my joy, she is my care and woe;

She is my pain, she is my ease therefore;

She is my death, she is my life also,

She is my salve, she is my wounded sore:

In fine, she hath the hand and knife,

That may both save and end my life.

x – (See Note below on his use of “anaphora”)


And shall I live on earth to be her thrall’?

And shall I live and serve her all in vain?

And kiss the steps that she lets fall,

And shall I pray the Gods to keep the pain

From her that is so cruel still?

No, no, on her work all your will.


And let her feel the power of all your might,

And let her have her most desire with speed,

And let her pine away both day and night,

And let her moan, and none lament her need;

And let all those that shall her see,

Despise her state and pity me.


x – It was Stephanie Caruana and Elisabeth Sears who alerted me in their 99-page pamphlet Oxford’s Revenge (1989), still an important work for Shakespeare authorship studies, about Edward de Vere’s early use of “anaphora” – the repetition of a word or words at the beginning of two or more successive lines, as exhibited in the poem above – and, of course, his use of “anaphora” within the works attributed to Shakespeare, such as Sonnet 66, which itself expresses his inability to speak his mind openly and honestly (“tongue-tied by authority … simple Truth miscalled Simplicity”):

Tired with all these, for restful death I cry:

As to behold desert a beggar born,

And needy Nothing trimmed in jollity,

And purest faith unhappily forsworn,

And gilded honor shamefully misplaced,

And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,

And right perfection wrongfully disgraced,

And strength by limping sway disabled,

And art made tongue-tied by authority,

And Folly (Doctor-like) controlling skill,

And simple Truth miscalled Simplicity,

And captive-good attending Captain ill.

Tired with all these, from these would I be gone,

Save that to die, I leave my love alone.

(He would kill himself, except that he would be leaving Southampton, his beloved son, “alone” in the Tower.)

The Darkness of the Dark Lady is Metaphorical: “THEREFORE My Mistress’ Eyes are Raven Black”

The darkness of the Dark Lady in the Shakespeare sonnets has nothing to do with her physical coloring — nothing to do with her hair or eyes or skin. It’s a metaphor! The so-called Dark Lady series begins with Sonnet 127, in which the operative word is THEREFORE” in line 9 – as in “Therefore my Mistress’ eyes are Raven black,/ Her eyes so suited, and they mourners seem …” The failed Essex Rebellion of 8 February 1601 has just taken place and Southampton is now confined in the Tower, the bird of which is the Raven.

Elizabeth I by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger 1595

Elizabeth I by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger 1595

The woman, Queen Elizabeth, is pictured attending a funeral – not literally, of course. It’s figurative! It’s the funeral of any hope for the perpetuation of the Tudor dynasty — the same funeral depicted by the Earl of Oxford in “The Phoenix and Turtle,” to be published later in the same year as by “William Shake-speare” (yes, hyphenated). The blackness and darkness are metaphorical! And such is the case all through the Dark Lady series (127-152). Here are notes from The Monument for the opening sonnet:

Sonnet 127
Beauty’s Successive Heir
8 February 1601

This opening sonnet to and about Queen Elizabeth is the start of the separate Dark Lady series, running in parallel with the Fair Youth series from 1601 to 1603. Two verses of this series, Sonnets 138 and 144, were first published in 1599; but Oxford has inserted them with slight but significant revisions into this sequence. The result is a series of twenty-six sonnets (127-152) matching the twenty-six sonnets of the opening series (1-26), each flanking the series of exactly one hundred verses (Sonnets 27-126) forming the center of the one hundred and fifty-two sonnet structure. Sonnet 127 corresponds in time to Sonnet 27 – the night of Southampton’s revolt and imprisonment on February 8, 1601 – both introducing “black” into their respective sequences.

In the past the royal son was “fair” but now he is “black” with disgrace, although he remains the Queen’s “successive heir” to the throne. Elizabeth’s imperial viewpoint determines everything. At a glance, she can turn him from “fair” (royal) to “black” (disgraced). She continues to slander her own “beauty” or royal blood, which is possessed by her son, by viewing him with “a bastard shame” or consigning him to the status of a royal bastard.

Sonnet 127

1- In the old age black was not counted fair,
2- Or if it were it bore not beauty’s name:
3- But now is black beauty’s successive heir,
4- And Beauty slandered by a bastard shame,
5- For since each hand hath put on Nature’s power,
6- Fairing the foul with Art’s false borrowed face,
7- Sweet beauty hath no name, no holy bow’r,
8- But is profaned, if not lives in disgrace.
9- Therefore my Mistress’ eyes are Raven black,
10 Her eyes so suited, and they mourners seem,
11 At such who not born fair no beauty lack,
12 Sland’ring Creation with a fasle esteem.
13 Yet so they mourn becoming of their woe,
14 That every tongue says beauty should look so.

OLD AGE = former times; as in Sonnets 1 – 26 up to the year 1600, before the Essex Rebellion, after which everything changed; OLD = “Wherefore, not as a stranger but in the old style” – Oxford to Robert Cecil, May (?) 1601; “For truth is truth, though never so old” – Oxford to Robert Cecil, May 7, 1603; “That I might see what the old world could say” – Sonnet 59, line 9; “O him she stores, to show what wealth she had/ In days long since, before these last so bad” – Sonnet 67, lines 13-14, “Robbing no old to dress his beauty new” – Sonnet 68, line 12; “For as the Sun is daily new and old,/ So is my love still telling what is told” – Sonnet 76, lines 13-14; “Counting no old thing old, thou mine, I thine” – Sonnet 108, line 7; AGE = “A generation of men, a particular period of time; the period of life at which a person has arrived; a stage of life” – Schmidt; “Had my friend’s Muse grown with this growing age” – Sonnet 32, line 10; “The rich proud cost of outworn buried age” – Sonnet 64, line 2; “Doubting the filching age will steal his treasure” – Sonnet 75, line 6; “For fear of which, hear this, thou age unbred” – Sonnet 104, line 13; “And peace proclaims Olives of endless age” – Sonnet 107, line 8; “The age is grown so picked that the toe of the peasant comes so near the heel of the courtier he galls his kibe” – Hamlet, 5.1.138-140


BLACK = Southampton, in disgrace for treason; “It will help me nothing to plead mine innocence, for that dye is on me which makes my whitest part black” – Henry VIII, 1.1.208-209; also, as royal bastard; “A joyless, dismal, black and sorrowful issue” – Titus Andronicus, 4.2.68-73; COUNTED FAIR = accounted (i.e., his “fair” or royal blood as Elizabeth’s “treasure”) or acknowledged as royal; “From fairest creatures we desire increase” – Sonnet 1, line 1

Or even if he was accounted as royal (by me), he did not bear Elizabeth’s name (Tudor); BORE = heraldic, i.e., Southampton never bore his mother’s coat-of-arms; also related to his birth as a bastard; (“Before these bastard signs of fair were borne” – Sonnet 68, line 3); BEAUTY’S NAME = Elizabeth’s name, Tudor; i.e., he was never known as Prince Henry Tudor; (“That thereby beauty’s Rose might never die” – Sonnet 1, line 2)

But now Southampton is Elizabeth’s immediate heir to the throne; BLACK = Southampton; BEAUTY’S = Elizabeth’s; SUCCESSIVE HEIR = one who deserves to succeed by virtue of inheritance; rightful claimant to a title; “Yet, by reputing of his high descent, as next the King he was successive heir” – 2 Henry VI, 3.148-49 (the only other Shakespeare usage of the phrase); “Plead my successive title with your swords; I am his first-born son that was the last that wore the diadem of Rome: then let my father’s honor live in me, nor wrong mine age with this indignity” – Titus Andronicus, 1.1.4-8; “To God, my king, and my succeeding issue” – Richard II, 1.3.20; “rightful heir to the crown” – 2 Henry VI, 1.3.26; “But as successively from blood to blood, your right of birth” – Richard III, 3.7.134-135; “O now let Richmond and Elizabeth, the true succeeders of each royal House, by God’s fair ordinance conjoin together, and let their heirs, God, if Thy will be so, enrich the time to come with smooth-faced peace” – Richard III, 5.5.29-33; “Richer than that which four successive kings in Denmark’s crown have worn” – Hamlet, 5.2.273-274; “No son of mine succeeding” – Macbeth, 3.1.63; “They labored to plant the rightful heir” – 1 Henry VI, 2.5.80

Southampton in the Tower of London 1601-1603

Southampton in the Tower of London 1601-1603

BEAUTY = Elizabeth; also, her blood that Southampton possesses by inheritance of it as a “natural issue of her Majesty’s body”; SLANDERED = brought into “discredit, disgrace, or disrepute” – OED; “But once he slandered me with bastardy” – King John, 1.l.74; “With the attainder of his slanderous lips” – Richard II, 4.1.24; SLANDERED BY A BASTARD SHAME = shame or disgrace because of royal-bastard status; (“Thy issue blurred with needless bastardy” – Lucrece, 522; also “slander” as “to charge with, accuse of, a crime or offence” = OED., citing Scotland Council of 1579: “Persons slandered or suspect of treason”); same as “The region cloud hath masked him from me now” – Sonnet 33, line 12, i.e., Elizabeth Regina’s dark cloud of shame has covered and hidden her son; “For slander’s mark was ever yet the fair,/ The ornament of beauty is suspect,/ A crow that flies in heaven’s sweetest air” – Sonnet 70, lines 2-4; “this slander of his blood” – Richard II, 1.1.113; “And that he is a bastard, not thy son” – Richard II, 5.2.106; “Out, insolent! Thy bastard shall be king … My boy a bastard!” – King John, 2.1.122-129)

“I am a bastard, too: I love bastards. I am bastard begot, bastard instructed, bastard in mind, bastard in valour, in everything illegitimate. One bear will not bite another, and where should one bastard? Take heed: the quarrel’s most ominous to us – if the son of a whore fight for a whore, he tempts judgment. Farewell, bastard” – Troilus & Cressida, 5.7.18-32

HAND = the powerful hand of Elizabeth, the absolute monarch; “Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown, and put a barren scepter in my gripe, thence to be wrenched by an un-lineal hand, no son of mine succeeding” – Macbeth, 3.1.59-63; “I’ll claim that promise at your Grace’s hand” – to the King in Richard III, 3.1.197; EACH HAND = others who have sought Elizabeth’s favor; both of the Queen’s royal hands; “If Heaven will take the present at our hands” – the King in Richard III, 1.1.120; “A Woman’s face with nature’s own hand painted/ Hast thou, the Master Mistress of my passion” – Sonnet 20, lines 1-2; Southampton at birth was “sleeping by a Virgin hand disarmed” – Sonnet 154, line 8; “From hands of falsehood” – Sonnet 48, line 4; “With time’s injurious hand crushed and o’er-worn” – Sonnet 63, line 2; “Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back?” – Sonnet 65, line 11; PUT ON = assumed the royal power of the monarch and acted with that power; “For he was likely, had he been put on, to have proved most royal” – Horatio, saying that Prince Hamlet would have been a superb king, in Hamlet, 5.2.404-405; “deaths put on by cunning and forced causes” – Hamlet, 5.2.394; NATURE’S POWER = Elizabeth’s royal power as absolute monarch, whose imperial viewpoint can turn fair to black or vice versa; “O Thou my lovely Boy, who in thy power … If Nature, sovereign mistress over wrack” – Sonnet 126, lines 1, 5

Robert Cecil was holding Southampton in the Tower until the Queen died and King James succeeded her, thereby keeping his own power behind the throne

Robert Cecil was holding Southampton in the Tower until the Queen died and King James succeeded her, thereby keeping his own power behind the throne

Giving royal favor to foul persons by her false estimation; turning truth into falsity; “To make me give the lie to my true sight/ And swear that brightness doth not grace the day?/ Whence hast thou this becoming of things ill” – Sonnet 150, lines 3-4

BEAUTY HATH NO NAME = Southampton’s royal blood from his mother, Elizabeth, is not acknowledged; NO HOLY BOW’R = no sacrosanct dwelling place, i.e., no right to sit on the throne as a god on earth

Instead she is profaned, because our son is now disgraced and imprisoned because of his role in the Rebellion; (Booth refers to “false identities that pass for real and real ones that seem false”); Southampton’s real identity as royal prince is hidden, so it seems false; PROFANED = defiled, usurped; “Question your royal thoughts, make the case yours, be now the father, and propose a son, hear your own dignity profaned” – Chief Justice to the newly crowned King Henry Fifth in 2 Henry IV, 5.3.91-93; IF NOT = or even; LIVES IN DISGRACE = lives in disgrace as a prisoner in the Tower of London

Ravens at the Tower of London

Ravens at the Tower of London

THEREFORE = “Therefore” is the key word, i.e., the Queen’s eyes are not black in color, but rather reflect her dark point of view as absolute monarch; “therefore” the viewpoint of Elizabeth, my sovereign mistress, is black; ARE RAVEN BLACK = they are “therefore” black, because the Queen’s own viewpoint, casting its shadow, has turned Southampton from fair to black; her negative attitude has turned her into the so-called Dark Lady; “By heaven, thy love is black as ebony … O paradox! Black is the badge of hell” – the king in Love’s Labour’s Lost, 4.3.243, 250; RAVEN = “Legend has it that should the ravens ever leave the Tower of London the White Tower will crumble and a great disaster shall befall England. For many centuries ravens have been known to be residents of the Tower of London” –; (Southampton is in the White Tower); “For he’s disposed as the hateful raven … For he’s inclined as is the ravenous wolf” – 2 Henry VI, 3.1.76-78; “Come, the croaking raven doth bellow for revenge” – Hamlet, 3.2.255-256; MISTRESS: “To be her mistress’ mistress? The queen’s queen?” – Henry VIII, 3.2.95; same as the sovereign mistress, Elizabeth, of “my mistress’ eye” in Sonnet 153, line 14, and “my mistress’ thrall” of Sonnet 154, line 12; “I cannot but find a great grief in myself to remember the Mistress we have lost” – Oxford to Robert Cecil, April 25/27, 1603, referring to the Queen on the eve of her funeral

MOURNERS = at a funeral, as in The Phoenix and the Turtle (published this year, 1601); the funeral of their son, Southampton, if he is executed; and the funeral of Oxford’s and Elizabeth’s royal hopes for him to succeed to the throne: “Thy end is Truth’s (Oxford’s) and Beauty’s (Elizabeth’s) doom and date” – Sonnet 14, line 14; dovetailing with Sonnet 31, line 5: “How many a holy and obsequious tear/ Hath religious love stolen from mine eye.”

AT SUCH = at her royal son; NOT BORN FAIR = not born with acknowledged royal blood; NO BEAUTY LACK = but still lacks none of his royal blood from “beauty” or Elizabeth

SLAND’RING = Disgracing your own child and accusing him of treason; echoing “beauty slandered with a bastard shame” of line 4; (“For slander’s mark was ever yet the fair” – Sonnet 70, line 2; CREATION = created being, child; “From fairest creatures we desire increase” – Sonnet 1, line 1; “But heaven in thy creation did decree” – Sonnet 93, line 9, Oxford to Southampton about Elizabeth (heaven), who gave birth to him; FALSE ESTEEM = false view or estimation of him; (“false women’s fashion” – Sonnet 20, line 4, about Elizabeth); esteeming her son as a “false traitor” as in “To warn false traitors from the like attempts” – Richard III, 3.5.48

So Elizabeth’s eyes mourn for her son and for the fate of her royal blood that he possesses; and therefore they are “black” in these verses of the Sonnets; WOE = (“O that our night of woe might have rememb’red/ My deepest sense, how hard true sorrow hits” – Sonnet 120, lines 9-10)

EVERY = Edward de Vere, E. Ver, Ever or Never; EVERY TONGUE = the voices of others, alluding to “my tongue” or “my voice”; “And art made tongue-tied by authority” – Sonnet 66, line 9; SAYS BEAUTY SHOULD LOOK SO = says that Elizabeth (or more specifically, her blood within Southampton) appears to be in such disgrace

“To Play the Watchman Ever for Thy Sake” – Sonnet 61 of the Living Record of Southampton




Sonnet 61

“To Play the Watchman Ever for Thy Sake”

14 March 1601

Oxford records his attempt to keep Southampton in his mind’s eye at all times, as events lead either to his son’s execution or to a reprieve.  His royal son must wake each new day “elsewhere” — in the Tower — and yet Oxford continues to “play the watchman” and stand guard to protect Henry Wriothesley’s life. 

1 – Is it thy will thy Image should keep open                   

2 – My heavy eyelids to the weary night?                        

3 – Dost thou desire my slumbers should be broken,

4 – While shadows like to thee do mock my sight?

5 – Is it thy spirit that thou send’s from thee

6 – So far from home into my deeds to pry.

7 – To find out shames and idle hours in me,                  

8 – The scope and tenure of thy jealousy?

9 – O no, thy love, though much, is not so great.

10 – It is my love that keeps mine eye awake,             

11 – Mine own true love that doth my rest defeat,

12 – To play the watchman ever for thy sake.              

13 – For thee watch I, whilst thou dost wake elsewhere,       

14 – From me far off, with others all too near.

Southampton in the   Tower 1601-1603

Southampton in the Tower 1601-1603


THY WILL = your royal will; is it your royal will that the image of you should keep open; IMAGE = your royal image; “if in the child the father’s image lies” – Lucrece, 1753; “our last king, whose image appeared to us” – Hamlet, 1.1.81


MY HEAVY EYELIDS = my weary, painful eyelids in the dark; “How heavy do I journey on the way” – Sonnet 50, line 1, Oxford recalling his sorrowful ride away from Southampton in the Tower, where he told his son of the bargain to save his life by giving up all claim to the throne; “And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,/ Looking on darkness which the blind do see” – Sonnet 27, lines 7-8; “And heavily from woe to woe” – Sonnet 30, line 10; “When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade/ Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay!” – Sonnet 43, lines 11-12; “But heavy tears, badges of either’s woe” – Sonnet 44, line 14

And find our griefs heavier than our offences” –  2 Henry IV, 4.1.69

“A heavy reckoning for you, sir” –  The Gaoler in Cymbeline, 5.4.157

WEARY = “Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed” – Sonnet 27, line 1, Oxford’s first response to the Rebellion, on the night of February 8, 1601, when Southampton was imprisoned with Essex in the Tower; “for to tell truth I am weary of an unsettled life, which is the very pestilence that happens unto courtiers that propound to themselves no end of their time therein bestowed” – Oxford to Burghley, May 18, 1591; NIGHT = opposite of the “day” of golden opportunity prior to the Rebellion

I still do toil and never am at rest,

Enjoying least when I do covet most;

With weary thoughts are my green years oppres’d

– Signed “Lo. Ox” in Harleian MS


DESIRE = royal command; “From fairest creatures we desire increase” – Sonnet 1, line 1, emphasizing the royal “we” of the monarch


SHADOWS LIKE TO THEE = the shadows that cover you,  showing your likeness; “Save that my soul’s imaginary sight/ Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,/ Which like a jewel hung in ghastly night,/ Makes black night beauteous and her old face new” – Sonnet 27, lines 9-12; “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” – Sonnet 53, lines 1-4; MOCK MY SIGHT = mock my eyesight, taunting me with this inner vision of you


THY SPIRIT = your soul; your royal blood, which is spiritual; like a mystical vision; “and do not kill/ The spirit of love” – Sonnet 56, lines 7-8, i.e., the unseen essence of royal blood; “My spirit is thine, the better part of me” – Sonnet 74, line 8; SPIRIT = also Sonnets 80, 85, 86, 108, 129, 144; Essex wrote to Elizabeth in 1597 calling her “the Spirit of spirits” (Weir, 427); THAT THOU SEND’ST FROM THEE = Southampton sends his spirit and illuminates Oxford’s inner vision: “Save that my soul’s imaginary sight/ Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,/ Which like a jewel (hung in ghastly night)/ Makes black night beauteous, and her old face new” – Sonnet 27, lines 9-11

The Tower of London

The Tower of London


SO FAR FROM HOME = Southampton, in the Tower; INTO MY DEEDS TO PRY = to spy on my activities, carried out behind the scenes, on your behalf; “Or on my frailties why are frailer spies” – Sonnet 121, line 7; “Watch thou, and wake when others be asleep, to pry into the secrets of the state” – 2 Henry VI, 1.1.250-251


TO FIND OUT SHAMES = to learn the disgraces that I suffer, by taking responsibility for your disgrace; “If thy offences were upon record, would it not shame thee, in so fair a troop, to read a lecture of them?  If thou wouldst, there shouldst thou find one heinous article, containing the deposing of a king” – Richard II, 4.1.230-234); IDLE HOURS = time spent pleading for you in vain; “I … vow to take advantage of all idle hours, till I have honoured you with some graver labour” – dedication of Venus and Adonis in 1593 to the Earl of Southampton; “That never am less idle lo, than when I am alone” – Oxford poem, signed E.O., in The Paradise of Dainty Devices, 1576

Had he done so, himself had borne the crown,

Which waste of idle hours hath quite thrown down – Richard II, 3.4.65-66


SCOPE = “Three themes in one, which wondrous scope affords” – Sonnet 105, line 12; that to which the mind is directed; “shooting wide, do miss the marked scope” – Spenser, The Shepherd’s Calendar, November, 155; SCOPE AND TENURE = the purpose and “tenor” or meaning; Q has tenure, a common spelling of “tenor” at the time, but tenure is probably the intended word, as it relates to the “lease” of Southampton’s royal blood, i.e., tenure refers to the manner of holding lands and tenements, a subject with which Oxford was extremely familiar, having inherited no less than eighty-six estates; THY JEALOUSY = your curiosity; your apprehension; your state of being suspected as a traitor or being a “suspect traitor” in the eyes of the law; “Rumor is a pipe blown by surmises, jealousies, conjectures” – 2 Henry IV, Induction 16; concerned about; “So loving-jealous of his liberty” – Romeo and Juliet, 2.2.182


THY LOVE, THOUGH MUCH = your royal blood, though abundant; IS NOT SO GREAT = is not as great as it is within Oxford’s vision of him, as father


MY LOVE = my royal son; i.e., it is the fact that you are my royal son that keeps me from taking my own life, keeps me awake; AWAKE = in a state of vigilance; alert, alive, attentive, watchful; “It is not Agamemnon’s sleeping hour: that thou shalt know, Trojan, he is awake, he tells thee so himself” – Agamemnon in Troilus and Cressida, 1.3.252-254; “I offered to awaken his regard for his private friends” – Coriolanus, 5.1.23; “The law hath not been dead, though it hath slept … Now ‘tis awake” – Measure for Measure, 2.2.91-94; “Watch thou, and wake when others be asleep, to pry into the secrets of the state” – 2 Henry VI, 1.1.250-251


MINE OWN TRUE LOVE = my own true royal son; (“a son of mine own” – Oxford to Burghley, March 17, 1575; “Not mine own fears nor the prophetic soul/ Of the wide world dreaming on things to come/ Can yet the lease of my true love control” – Sonnet 107, lines 1-3); TRUE = Oxford, Nothing Truer than Truth; “you true rights” – Sonnet 17, line 11, to Southampton; MINE OWN: Sonnets 23, 39, 49, 61, 62, 72, 88, 107, 110; (“Rise, thou art my childMine own…” – Pericles, 5.1.213-214, the prince, realizing that Marina is his daughter); MY REST DEFEAT = destroy my inner peace; “His unkindness may defeat my life” – Othello, 4.2.150; “The dear repose for limbs with travail tired” – Sonnet 27, line 1; “That am debarred the benefit of rest” – Sonnet 28, line 2; “Now this ill-wresting world is grown so bad” – Sonnet 140, line 11, to Elizabeth in the Dark Lady series, with ill-wresting echoing ill-resting. s


TO PLAY THE WATCHMAN EVER = to constantly keep guard and protect; EVER = E. Ver, Edward de Vere; Oxford used “ever” in the same glancing way in his plays, such as these instances in Hamlet, Prince of Denmark:

Horatio: The same, my lord, and your poor servant ever.

Hamlet:  Sir, my good friend, I’ll change that name with you.  (1.2.162-163)

FOR THY SAKE = for your royal life here and now; for your eternal life, recorded in these sonnets filled with your royal blood


FOR THEE WATCH I = for you I keep watch; “Whilst I, my sovereign, watch the clock for you” – Sonnet 57, line 6; “Therefore I have entreated him along with us to watch the minutes of the night, that if again this apparition come, he may approve our eyes and speak to it” – Hamlet, 1.1.29-32; WHILST THOU DOST WAKE ELSEWHERE = while you – Southampton – exist in the Tower; WAKE = echoing the “wake” related to a funeral; “There is no doubt that the poor, especially in the more remote counties of England, continued the old custom of the wake, or nightly feasting before and after a funeral.  Shakespeare uses the word in connection with a night revel in Sonnet 61: ‘For thee watch I, whilst thou dost wake elsewhere.’” – Percy Macquoid in Shakespeare’s England, Vol. 2, 196, p. 151; Oxford knows Southampton is in the Tower, of course, but he cannot know exactly where or if, for example, Southampton has been taken to the Privy Council room in the Tower for questioning, to one of the torture rooms, or even to the place of execution; the situation is still volatile, with Cecil having the power of life or death and holding the threat  of legal execution over him; so the echo of a “wake” preceding a funeral is quite apt.


FROM ME FAR OFF = Southampton, far from him, behind the high fortress walls; WITH OTHERS ALL TOO NEAR = with guards and other prisoners alike; with some of the latter, arrested for the Rebellion, who may urge you to escape or to attempt another revolt; those so physically near you that, despite their wakefulness, they are blind and cannot protect you (or save your life); but Oxford as his father is “nearer” to him than they are, and he is helping him more than they can help; “You twain, of all the rest, are nearest to Warwick by blood and by alliance” – 3 Henry VI, 4.1.133-134; “as we be knit near in alliance” – Oxford to Robert Cecil, his brother-in-law, February 2, 1601; “Whereby none is nearer allied than myself” – Oxford to Robert Cecil in May 1601; ALL = Southampton

Execution of Southampton Draws Nearer — “The Living Record” of Southampton, Continued — Sonnet 60

(Note:  This is a continuation of postings from “The Monument,” with excerpts of The Sonnets in numerical [and chronological] order with the first long series [1 to 126] focusing on the Earl of Southampton.  In due time the previous postings will be shifted into the new separate category [at right] entitled “The Living Record of Southampton.”)



Southampton Execution Draws Nearer 

Day Thirty-four in the Tower 

Sonnet 60

“Our Minutes Hasten to their End”

“Crooked Eclipses ‘Gainst His Glory Fight”

13 March 1601

Essex-Southampton supporters Gelly Merrick and Henry Cuffe were taken today to Tyburn, where they were put through the horrible ordeal of being hanged, drawn and quartered. Oxford uses the royal imagery of the Ocean or Sea to envision the “changing place” or alteration of monarchs upon the royal succession. He refers to the crooked figure of hunchbacked Secretary Robert Cecil in citing the “crooked eclipses” fighting to deprive Southampton of being “crowned” with “glory” as a king. Oxford braces himself for the moment Southampton will come under the “scythe” or blade of the executioner as well as the “cruel hand” of Elizabeth — reminiscent of when their newly born royal son had been “by a Virgin hand disarmed” as put in Sonnet 154 of the Bath prologue.

1 – Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,

2 – So do our minutes hasten to their end,                

3 – Each changing place with that which goes before,

4 – In sequent toil all forwards do contend.

5 – Nativity, once in the main of light,

6 – Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crowned,

7 – Crooked eclipses ‘gainst his glory fight,

8 – And time that gave doth now his gift confound.

9 – Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth,

10 – And delves the parallels in beauty’s brow,

11 – Feeds on the rarities of nature’s truth,    

12 – And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow.

13 – And yet to time in hope my verse shall stand,

14 – Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.

“At the gallows Cuffe declared that he hoped for salvation in the atonement of his Savior’s blood … and asking pardon of God and the Queen, he was despatched by the executioner.  After him Sir Gelly Merrick suffered in the same way … and intreated those noblemen who stood by to intercede with the Queen that there might not be any further proceedings against such as had unwarily espoused this unhappy cause.”- An Elizabethan Chronicle

“As every wave drives others forth, and that comes behind/ Both thrusteth and is thrust himself; even so the time by kind/ Do fly and follow both at once and evermore renew”Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” as translated by Oxford’s uncle Arthur Golding


WAVES = related to the “ocean” of royal blood; (“’Thou art,’ quoth she, ‘a sea, a sovereign king, and lo there falls into thy boundless flood black lust, dishonor, shame, misgoverning, who seek to stain the ocean of thy blood.’ – Lucrece, 652-654); image of King James succeeding Elizabeth


OUR MINUTES = the time we have left, the actual minutes racing onward; HASTEN = “How like a Winter hath my absence been/ From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year” – Sonnet 97, lines 1-2; “And all in war with Time for love of you” – Sonnet 15, line 13; THEIR END = the end of these minutes, ending your life or ending Elizabeth’s reign; the end of this diary, which is leading to the time of royal succession, when the fate of the Tudor dynasty will be determined; “Thy end is Truth’s and Beauty’s doom and date” – Sonnet 14, line 14


CHANGING PLACE = succeeding to the throne, replacing one monarch with another; the succession that will inevitably come, just as the tide inevitably rolls in; “And says that once more I shall interchange my waned state for Henry’s regal crown” – 3 Henry VI, 4.7.3-4; “Arise, and take place by us” – the King in Henry VIII, 1.2.13; “I fear there will a worse come in his place” – of Caesar in Julius Caesar, 3.2.112; “That then I scorn to change my state with Kings” – Sonnet 29, line 14; also echoing his royal son as a “changeling” who had been “placed” in the Southampton household, changing places with another boy; “placed it safely, the changeling never known” – Hamlet, 5.2.53; “Even so have places oftentimes exchanged their estate” – Ovid’s Metamorphoses of 1567, Book XV, 287, the translation attributed to Oxford’s uncle Arthur Golding

CHANGING = the change from one royal decree to another; “shifting change” – Sonnet 20, line 4, referring to Elizabeth’s change of attitude, the breaking of her vows; “Where wasteful time debateth with decay, /To change your day of youth to sullied night” – Sonnet 15, lines 11-12; exchanging, substituting; anticipating the death of Elizabeth, the downfall of his son, Southampton, as king and the accession of James; “the state government was changed from kings to consuls” – the “Argument” of Lucrece; ““When I have seen such interchange of state” – Sonnet 64, line 9; “Creep in ‘twixt vows, and change decrees of Kings” – Sonnet 115, line 6; “And lean-looked prophets whisper fearful change … These signs foretell the death or fall of kings” – Richard II, 2.4.11-15; “Comets, importing change of time and state” – 1 Henry VI, 1.1.2; “Why is my verse so barren of new pride,/ So far from variation or quick change” – Sonnet 76, lines 1-2; “And in this change is my invention spent” – Sonnet 105, line 11; “Just to the time, not with the time exchanged” – Sonnet 109, line 7, referring to the change from the time of Elizabeth to the time of James; “No!  Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change!” – Sonnet 123, line 1

PLACE = echoing the “place” where Southampton is, i.e., the Tower: “As soon as think the place where he would be” – Sonnet 44, line 8; his “place” on the throne, as he tells Elizabeth: “Thy black is fairest in my judgment’s place” – Sonnet 131, line 12; “Finding yourself desired of such a person whose credit with the judge, or own great place, could fetch your brother from the manacles of the all-binding law” – Measure for Measure, 2.4.91-94


SEQUENT = “following, successive, consequent” – Schmidt; “Not merely successive, but in close succession” – Tucker; “Of six preceding ancestors, that gem conferred by testament to th’sequent issue” – All’s Well That Ends Well, 5.3.196-197; in sequence or royal succession; (“How art thou a king but by fair sequence and succession” – Richard II, 2.1.199); these private sonnets are numbered sequentially, reflecting the days that contain the onrushing hours and minutes leading to the succession; more immediately, leading to the still possible execution of Southampton

Then, good prince,

No longer session hold upon my shame,

But let my trial be mine own confession.

Immediate sentence, then, and sequent death

Is all the grace I beg.  — Measure for Measure, 5.1.367-371

TOIL = labor, struggle; ALL = Southampton; ALL FORWARDS DO CONTEND = all new princes contend for the throne; “Time’s glory is to calm contending kings” – Lucrece, 939; “let his grace go forward” – Henry VIII, 3.2.281; “Friends that have been thus forward in my right” – Titus Andronicus, 1.1.59; “The forward violet thus did I chide” – Sonnet 99, line 1, referring to his royal son as flower; “When a man’s verses cannot be understood, nor a man’s good wit seconded with the forward child, understanding, it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room” – As You Like It, 3.3.11-14; CONTEND = to strive; to quarrel, combat, fight, make war ; vie with; “For never two such kingdoms did contend without much fall of blood, whose guiltless drops are every one a woe” – Henry V, 1.2.24-26; “The red rose and the white are on his face, the fatal colours of our striving houses … If you contend, a thousand lives must wither” – 3 Henry VI, 2.5.97-102


NATIVITY = birth; the royal birth of Southampton (“the little Love-God” of Sonnet 154), echoing the Nativity of Christ; “To whom the heavens in thy nativity adjudged an olive branch and laurel crown” – 3 Henry VI, 4.6.33-34; “a god on earth thou art” – to Bolinbroke as King in Richard II, 5.3.134; ONCE = during his golden time up through the year 1600, prior to the Rebellion; echoing “one” for Southampton, One for All, All for One; similar to “first” as in “Even as when first I hallowed thy fair name” – Sonnet 108, line 8, carrying forward the Christ theme; MAIN = full might; the principal point; the ocean itself, the great (royal) sea: “When I have seen the hungry Ocean gain/ Advantage on the kingdom of the shore,/ And the firm soil win of the watery main” – Sonnet 64, lines 5-7; “But since your worth, wide as the Ocean is/ … On your broad main doth willfully appear” – Sonnet 80, lines 5, 8; “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; “by commission and main power” – Henry VIII, 2.2.7; IN THE MAIN OF LIGHT = filled with royal blood; (“the sun, suggested by main of light, of which it is the literal inhabitant” – Booth); echoing the birth of “my Sunne” recalled in Sonnet 33: “Full many a glorious morning have I seen/ Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye,/ Kissing with golden face the meadows green,/ Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy/ … Even so my Sunne one early morn did shine” – Sonnet 33, lines 1-4, 9; also indicating (in the next lines) that such glory (on earth) is no longer his; “When thou thyself dost give invention light” – Sonnet 38, line 8; “the entrance of a child into the world at birth is an entrance into the main or ocean of light” – Dowden, offering (without intending to) more evidence of Oxford writing as father to son; LIGHT = Oxford is attempting to shine the light of his son’s royalty into the darkness of his disgrace and loss of the throne; “to lend the world his light” – Venus to Adonis in Venus and Adonis, dedicated to Southampton, 1593, line 756; Southampton, godlike, is a royal star or sun, lending light to the world; he is also a jewel, emitting light, as do his eyes; “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light” – Genesis, 1.3; “In him was life; and the life was the light of men” – Gospel of John, 1.4; “Dark’ning thy power to lend base subjects light” – Sonnet 100, line 4, Oxford speaking of the power of his Muse to restore light to his royal son branded as a “base” criminal or traitor; “Lo, in the Orient when the gracious light/ Lifts up his burning head” – Sonnet 7, lines 1-2; “thy much clearer light” – Sonnet 43, line 7; “those suns of glory, those two lights of men” – Henry VIII, 1.1.6, referring to men as “suns” of light; “Yet looks he like a king; behold, his eye, as bright as is the eagle’s, lightens forth controlling majesty” – Richard II, 3.3.68-71; “That in black ink my love may still shine bright” – Sonnet 65, line 14

“I have engaged myself so far in Her Majesty’s service to bring the truth to light” – Oxford to Burghley, June 13, 1595


CRAWLS TO MATURITY = Southampton, gaining full maturity; WHEREWITH BEING CROWNED = Whereupon, just when he should be crowned as king; “wherein I do not doubt she is crowned with glory” – Oxford to Robert Cecil, April 25/27, 1603, speaking of the deceased Elizabeth just before her funeral; (“Add an immortal title to your crown” – Richard II, 1.1.24; “Make claim and title to the crown” – Henry V, 1.2.68); “Incertainties now crown themselves assured” – Sonnet 107, line 7, after Elizabeth’s death, when James is proclaimed King of England


CROOKED ECLIPSES= Evil eclipses of the sun; the Queen’s (and Robert Cecil’s) malignant eclipse of the royal son, whose brightness can no longer be seen; CROOKED = Cecil as hunchback or “crook-back”; (“malignant, perverse, contrary, devious” – Crystal & Crystal); “By what by-paths and indirect crooked ways I met this crown” – 2 Henry IV, 4.5.184; (“If crooked fortune had not thwarted me” – Deut. 32.5); ECLIPSES = “The mortal Moone hath her eclipse endured” – Sonnet 107, referring to Elizabeth, whose royal lineage as a sun had been eclipsed by her death; “Clouds and eclipses stain both Moone and Sunne” – Sonnet 35, line 3, referring to the stain of treason that now eclipses the blood of both Elizabeth, the Moon, and her son

(“Note that ‘E C L I’ begins the word ‘ECLIPSE,’ and those four letters are in ‘CECIL.’  [And ‘CECIL’ contains only those four letters.]  Also, there’s really no such thing as a ‘crooked eclipse,’ so perhaps he’s punning on ‘Crooked ECLIpses’ = CECIL” – Alex McNeil, ed.)

‘GAINST HIS GLORY = against the glory of his kingship; “The king will in his glory hide thy shame” – Edward III, 2.1.399; “and although it hath pleased God after an earthly kingdom to take her up into a more permanent and heavenly state, wherein I do not doubt she is crowned with glory” – Oxford to Robert Cecil, April 25/27, 1603, about Elizabeth on the eve of her funeral; “For princes are a model which heaven likes to itself: as jewels lose their glory if neglected, so princes their renown if not respected” – Pericles, 2.2.10-13; “Even in the height and pride of all his glory” – Pericles, 2.4.6; “See, see, King Richard doth himself appear, as doth the blushing discontented sun from out the fiery portal of the East, when he perceives the envious clouds are bent to dim his glory and to stain the track of his bright passage to the occident” – Richard II, 3.3.62-67; “And threat the glory of my precious crown” – Richard II, 3.3.90; “That plotted thus our glory’s overthrow” – 1 Henry VI, 1.1.24


TIME THAT GAVE = time related to the life of Elizabeth, who gave birth to him; HIS GIFT = his inheritance of royal blood; his gift of royal life from Elizabeth; “So thy great gift, upon misprision growing” – Sonnet 87, line 11; DOTH NOW HIS GIFT CONFOUND = now destroys his gift of royalty and his claim to the throne; CONFOUND = to mingle, perplex, confuse, amaze, destroy, ruin, make away with, waste, wear away; i.e., the waste of time and royal life being recorded in this diary as “the Chronicle of wasted time” – Sonnet 106, line 1; “Against confounding age’s cruel knife” – Sonnet 63, line 10, referring to the executioner’s axe; “For never-resting time leads Summer on/ To hideous winter and confounds him there” – Sonnet 5, lines 5-6; “Or state itself confounded to decay” – Sonnet 64, line 10; “In other accents do this praise confound” – Sonnet 69, line 7


TIME = repeated from the previous line; TRANSFIX = destroy; “pierce [or chip] through” – Tucker; echoing the piercing of the executioner’s axe; THE FLOURISH SET ON YOUTH = the flourishing royal blood and claim that Southampton had possessed until the day of the Rebellion; “Then music is even as the flourish when true subjects bow to a new-crowned monarch” – The Merchant of Venice, 3.2.49-50


PARALLELS IN BEAUTY’S BROW = wrinkles, signs of age, in Southampton’s brow, which reflects his “beauty” or blood from Elizabeth and its advancement toward death, i.e., toward execution, lack of succession; also the brow of Beauty herself, Elizabeth; Southampton had been born “with all triumphant splendor on my brow” – Sonnet 33, line 10


FEEDS ON = eats up, devours; RARITIES = royal aspects; “Beauty, Truth, and Rarity” – The Phoenix and Turtle, 1601, line 53, signifying Elizabeth, Oxford, and Southampton; “With April’s first-born flowers, and all things rare” – Sonnet 21, line 7, referring to Southampton as flower of the Tudor Rose

NATURE’S TRUTH = Elizabeth’s true son by Oxford, who is Nothing Truer than Truth; “His head by nature framed to wear a crown” – 3 Henry VI, 4.6.72


NOTHING = Southampton as a nobody, the opposite of “one” of his motto One for All, All for One; NOTHING STANDS = none of Southampton’s glory can withstand the ravages of real time; “Let this pernicious hour stand aye accursed in the calendar” – Macbeth, 4.1.133-134; “When peers thus knit, a kingdom ever stands” – Pericles, 2.4.58; SCYTHE = the blade of time, also the sharp blade of the executioner’s axe (“And nothing ‘gainst Time’s scythe can make defence” – Sonnet 12, line 13)


Nonetheless these sonnets, written according to time, hopefully will withstand – or stand against – all this destruction of his son; HOPE = “They call him Troilus, and on him erect a second hope” – Troilus and Cressida, 108-109; STAND = in counterpoint to “stands” of line 12 above; “if ought in me/ Worthy persusal stand against thy sight” – Sonnet 38, lines 5-6; “And the blots of Nature’s hand/ Shall not in their issue stand” – A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 5.1.403-404


PRAISING THY WORTH = recording your royalty; CRUEL HAND = the cruel hand of Time is the same as Elizabeth’s cruel hand, since Time represents her life; Southampton as an infant had been “by a Virgin hand disarmed” – Sonnet 154, line 8; “And shall I pray the gods to keep the pain from her, that is so cruel still … O cruel hap and hard estate … Whom I might well condemn, to be a cruel judge” – lines from three different Oxford poems, printed in The Paradise of Dainty Devices, 1576, each signed E. O.

SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS – The Two Separate Title-Pages

The book entitled “SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS, Never before Imprinted,” published in 1609, had two simultaneous printings with separate title-pages: one set of copies to be sold by John Wright at Christ Church gate, the other to be sold by William Aspley (at the sign of the Parrot).  Recently I opened the edition by Tucker Brooke (1936) and found the two title-pages together.  It’s not often, if ever, that they’re viewed together, so I thought to share this (Click on the image for a large view):

Two sonnet covers

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

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

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

 Edward de Vere 17th Earl of Oxford

Edward de Vere
17th Earl of Oxford

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

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

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

Southampton in the   Tower 1601-1603

Southampton in the Tower 1601-1603

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dedication of “Venus and Adonis” to Southampton – 1593

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

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

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

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

So shall those blots that do with me remain

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

To guard the lawful reasons on thy part (49)

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

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

When I perhaps compounded am with clay,

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

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

My name be buried where my body is,

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

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

The rival series begins with 78:

As EVERY Alien pen hath got my use,

And under thee their posey doth disperse – 78

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

But now my gracious numbers are decayed,

And my sick Muse doth give an other place – 79

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

O how I faint when I of you do write,

Knowing a better spirit doth use your name,

And in the praise thereof spends all his might

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

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

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

And art made tongue-tied by authority – 66

And strength by limping sway disabled – 66

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

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

My saucy bark, inferior far to his,

On your broad main doth willfully appear – 80

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

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

Your name from hence immortal life shall have

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

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

I grant thou wert not married to my Muse,

And therefore mayst without attaint o’erlook

The dedicated words which writers use

Of their fair subject, blessing every book – 82

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

"Lucrece" dedication to Southampton - 1594

“Lucrece” dedication to Southampton – 1594

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

Thou truly fair wert truly sympathized

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

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

Which shall be most my glory, being dumb,

For I impair not beauty, being mute – 83

There lives more life in one of your fair eyes

Than both your poets can in praise devise.- 83

(Both Oxford and “Shakespeare”)

 Let him but copy what in you is writ,

Not making worse what nature made so clear,

And such a counterpart shall fame his wit,

Making his style admired everywhere – 84

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

My tongue-tied Muse…

Then others, for the breath of words respect,

Me for my dumb thoughts, speaking in effect – 85

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

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

Was it the proud full sail of his great verse,

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

That did my ripe thoughts in my brain inhearse,

Making their tomb the womb wherein they grew?- 86

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

 Was it his spirit, by spirits taught to write

Above a mortal pitch, that struck me dead?

No, neither he, nor his compeers by night

Giving him aid, my verse astonished. – 86

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

 He, nor that affable familiar ghost

Which nightly gulls him with intelligence,

As victors of my silence cannot boast;

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

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

But when your countenance filled up his line,

Then lacked I matter, that enfeebled mine.

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

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

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

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

Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee (27)

Clouds do blot the heaven (28)

Look upon myself and curse my fate (29)

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

How many a holy and obsequious tear

Hath dear religious love stolen from mine eye …

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

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

Anon permit the basest clouds to ride

With ugly rack on his celestial face … (33)

Though thou repent, yet I have still the loss;

The offender’s sorrow lends but weak relief

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

So shall those blots that do with me remain

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

Lay on me this cross (42)

To guard the lawful reasons on thy part (49)

‘Gainst death and all oblivious enmity

Shall you pace forth …

So till the judgment that yourself arise (55)

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

Nativity, once in the main of light,

Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crowned,

Crooked eclipses ‘gainst his glory fight (60)

To play the watchman ever for thy sake (61)

O fearful meditation!  (65)

For restful death I cry … (66)

In him those holy antique hours are seen (68)

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

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

In me thou seest the twilight of such day,

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

When that fell arrest

Without all bail shall carry me away (74)

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

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

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

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

And of this book this learning mayst thou taste…

These offices, so oft as thou wilt look,

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

 Yet be most proud of that which I compile,

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

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

 Meanwhile the nautical imagery began earlier, for example:

When I have seen the hungry ocean gain

Advantage on the kingdom of the shore

When I have seen such interchange of state

Or state itself confounded to decay…    (64)

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

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

But since your worth (wide as the Ocean is)

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

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

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

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

I may not evermore acknowledge thee (36)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Farwell, thou art too dear for my possessing …

My bonds in thee are all determinate (87)

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

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

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

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

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

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


A Further Comment on Oxford’s Choice of Poetry (the Sonnets) to Carry His Message to Readers in the Future

Here is an additional comment related to the previous blog post about David Gontar’s insight, in his new book Hamlet Made Simple,  into the reason for the existence of the Sonnets:

In that post I failed to emphasize Professor Gontar’s statement, “By electing to employ the medium of poetry, which well the poet knew would be perused by later generations, strata of broader significance were entailed.”   Within this statement is perhaps the best answer to the question, “Why did Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford use poetry (sonnets) as a means of preserving a true story for posterity?”

Southampton in the Tower(8 Feb 1601 - 10 April 1603)

Southampton in the Tower
(8 Feb 1601 – 10 April 1603)

The answer is that, if his truth were to have any chance of surviving, it would need to be conveyed within the most deeply felt lines of which Oxford was capable of producing.  He knew the power of poetry, of great poetry, and knew it has the potential to live forever; and it does seem that he believed he was achieving such poetical heights, as when he wrote the following sonnet — which, I contend, could be written only to a prince:

Sonnet 55

Not marble nor the gilded monuments

Of Princes shall out-live this powerful rhyme,

But you shall shine more bright in these contents

Than unswept stone besmeared with sluttish time.

When wasteful war shall Statues over-turn,    

And broils root out the work of masonry,

Nor Mars his sword nor war’s quick fire shall burn

The living record of your memory.

‘Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity

Shall you pace forth!  Your praise shall still find room

Even in the eyes of all posterity

That wear this world out to the ending doom.

So, till the judgment that your self arise,

You live in this, and dwell in lovers’ eyes.

In the act of communicating this promise to Henry Wriothesley Earl of Southampton, during the younger man’s first forty days (February-March 1601) in the Tower of London, the Earl of Oxford, father of Southampton, was also revealing his intentions to those of us who might read those lines in the future.  He made the same promise to Southampton in Sonnet 81:

Your monument shall be my gentle verse,

Which eyes not yet created shall o’er-read,

And tongues to be your being shall rehearse,

When all the breathers of this world are dead.

You still shall live (such virtue hath my pen!)

Where breath most breathes, even in the mouths of men.

Come to think of it, the above lines express the reason for the existence of this blog site.

The Shakespeare Dedications and the Daughters of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford — a “Family Affair”: No. 57 of 100 Reasons Why Edward de Vere was the Great Author

Only three men received dedications of Shakespeare works and each man was engaged to one of the Earl of Oxford’s three daughters.

Elizabeth de Vere (1575-1627) was engaged to Southampton but married William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby

Henry Wriothesley Earl of Southampton, to whom Venus and Adonis (1593) and Lucrece (1594) were dedicated, was then engaged to Oxford’s eldest daughter Elizabeth de Vere.

He refused to marry her despite pressure from William Cecil Lord Burghley, the girl’s grandfather and his guardian.  Elizabeth de Vere married William Stanley Earl of Derby at Greenwich Palace on January 26, 1595, when A Midsummer Night’s Dream was performed for guests.

The only other “Shakespeare” work directly dedicated to anyone was the First Folio in 1623, with thirty-six plays in over nine hundred pages, offered to “the most noble and incomparable paire of brethren”– William Herbert Earl of Pembroke and his brother Philip Herbert Earl of Montgomery.

William Herbert, third Earl of Pembroke (1580-1630)

Pembroke  had been engaged in 1597 to Oxford’s second daughter Bridget de Vere.

Montgomery married Oxford’s youngest daughter Susan de Vere in 1604.

The Folio of 1623 appeared nineteen years after Oxford’s death and seven years after the death of William Shakspere in Stratford-on-Avon.  The front matter, supervised by Ben Jonson (who also wrote the main introductory epistles), never explicitly identified the Warwickshire man; instead it contained a reference to “sweet Swan of Avon” and a mention of “thy Stratford moniment,” leaving it to people in the future to conclude that Shakspere was the great author and to build an entirely fictional “biography” based on that conclusion.

Philip Herbert the first Earl of Montgomery (1584-1650) at age 25 in 1609

Oxfordian researcher Ruth Loyd Miller (1922-2005) called the Shakespeare folio “a family affair” that began with the marriage of Susan de Vere and Philip Herbert during the 1604-05 Christmas-New Year season, six months following Oxford’s death on June 24, 1604.  Court festivities for the wedding included performances of seven “Shakespeare” plays – an unspoken tribute to the absent author.

The first two plays were “The Moor of Venice” (Othello) and The Merry Wives of Windsor.  Two more were performed, before and after the main event:

December 26: Measure for Measure

December 27: Wedding of Susan de Vere and Philip Herbert

December 28: The Comedy of Errors

In January the performances continued with Love’s Labour’s Lost, hosted by Southampton, followed by Henry the Fifth and The Merchant of Venice, the latter presented twice.

Susan de Vere dancing in Ben Jonson’s “Masque of Blackness” on January 6, 1605 at Whitehall in the Old Banqueting House

In addition there was Masque of Blackness by Jonson at Whitehall Palace; and the performers included the bride and groom, Susan and Philip; Elizabeth de Vere and her husband Derby; and Bridget de Vere’s former fiancé William Herbert Earl of Pembroke.

“This was the beginning of a long and intimate association between the daughters of the Earl of Oxford and their families, and Ben Jonson, climaxed in 1623 with the publication of the First Folio,” Ruth Miller wrote.  Jonson would remain “particularly close” to Susan de Vere and the Herbert brothers, Pembroke and Montgomery, with Pembroke bestowing on Jonson twenty pounds at the beginning of every new year “with which to purchase books.”

It was also the start of “an active, determined and intense campaign by Pembroke for the position of Lord Chamberlain of the Royal Household,” Miller continued, noting the position “had purview over the office and properties of the Revels Office” and those of the Lord Chamberlain’s Company, which had become the King’s Men.

In 1616 Ben Jonson published a folio of his own works (the first of its kind in England), listing Shakespeare as having acted in two of his plays, Every Man in His Humour of 1598 and Sejanus of 1603 (without mentioning the Bard as a writer!).

Ben Jonson’s 1616 Folio of his Collected Works

Jonson’s costly folio was dedicated to Pembroke, his patron, who may have financed it.  Pembroke arranged at that time for Jonson to receive a pension of one hundred marks a year.  Jonson’s folio was issued just a few months after the death of Shakspere of Stratford in April 1616 – an event that occurred without any public comment.  Jonson’s identification of Shakespeare an actor would be repeated in the Folio of 1623.

In 1621 Pembroke temporarily increased Jonson’s pension to two hundred pounds.  Having become the Chamberlain, now “all he wanted to do was retain” his position, Miller wrote, “and under no conditions was he willing to accept more lucrative posts unless he might leave his place to his brother Montgomery.”  Obviously Pembroke was fiercely committed to publishing Shakespeare’s plays in folio.

(It may be that Pembroke was simply determined to preserve the great plays before they could be lost or destroyed.  But Katherine Chiljan suggests in Shakespeare Suppressed (2011) that Pembroke may have wanted to obscure the Bard’s connection to Southampton, whose identity as the son of Oxford and Queen Elizabeth posed a potential threat to King James and, in turn, endangered Pembroke’s own wealth and political power that came from the Stuart monarch.  In fact the First Folio in 1623 emphasized the great author as an actor, far from the nobility, and it contained none of the Shakespeare poems or sonnets and no mention of Southampton at all.)

Number 57 of 100 reasons why Oxford was the great author is simply that the Shakespeare dedications all lead back to Edward de Vere and his daughters and other relatives.  To repeat Ruth Miller’s phrase, what we have here is “a family affair.”

The Royal Family Triangle: Part Two – No. 53 of 100 Reasons why the Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare”

When Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford appeared as “the Knight of the Tree of the Sunne” for the January 1581 tournament at the Whitehall Tiltyard, and his Page delivered a “Sweet Speech” or “Oration” to Queen Elizabeth, he was declaring his undying loyalty to Her Majesty and her Tudor dynasty.

The Sweet Speech spoken by Oxford’s page to Queen Elizabeth in 1581 was included in this book printed in 1592 [the name of Edw (sic) Spenser as translator of the Greek dialogue is, to me, a mystery] – Note the image of the Phoenix

He vowed to “incorporate his heart into that Tree,” the Page announced, referring to “the sole Arabian tree” or dynastic seat of Elizabeth the Phoenix.  The tableau of Queen, Knight and Boy was that of a family triangle representing Elizabeth, Oxford and their unacknowledged Royal Son – the latter being seven-year-old Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton, who would arrive in London at the end of 1581 to take up residence at Cecil House as a royal ward.

Some two decades later, Southampton was imprisoned as a traitor in the Tower of London on the night of 8 February 1601 for his role in the abortive Essex Rebellion that day.  Now with Secretary Robert Cecil in complete control over Southampton’s fate, Oxford composed The Phoenix and Turtle, a funeral dirge lamenting the end of the Tudor dynasty, published that year.  And here again he served up an image of the same family triangle, now as Beauty (Elizabeth), Truth (Oxford) and Rarity (Southampton), united by their “grace” or royal blood but now turned to ashes:

Beauty, truth and rarity

Grace in all simplicity

Here enclosed in cinders lie

The Phoenix emblem worn by Queen Elizabeth

The dynastic hopes of Elizabeth (Phoenix) are dead; and Oxford’s (Turtle-Dove’s) loyal heart, which he had incorporated into the Phoenix’ Nest (the Queen’s Dynastic Seat), lies forever in the cinders with her:

Death is now the phoenix’ nest

And the turtle’s loyal breast

To eternity doth rest

Oxford had considered himself married to the so-called Virgin Queen, but they would leave behind no record of their union and no descendants to be recognized by future generations:

Leaving no posterity

‘Twas not their infirmity

It was married chastity

Truth may seem, but cannot be

Beauty brag, but ‘tis not she:

Truth and Beauty buried be.

I am grateful to the Shakespeare scholar Charles F. Herberger, Ph.D., retired Professor Emeritus of Nasson College, Maine, for his endorsement of The Monument, my edition of the Shakespeare sonnets – which, he writes, “has so convincingly shown that Southampton was the son of Queen Elizabeth by Oxford, and a presumptive heir to the throne, that it invites taking a renewed look at The Phoenix and Turtle.”

“There can be no doubt that Oxford knew the significance of the Phoenix as a symbol of an era of time governed by the sun,” Professor Herberger writes, “for this meaning is clearly set forth in Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Book 15, lines 391-410).  That Oxford knew Ovid’s Metamorphoses and possibly was its translator rather than Arthur Golding is well known.

“If Southampton was secretly the son born to Elizabeth and Oxford in June (the month of the sun at solstice and apogee) of 1574,” he continues, “Oxford’s assumed title as Knight of the Tree of the Sunne might well have been an intended play on the word ‘son’ that only he and the Queen would understand.

“What is important is the full significance of the myth of the Phoenix.  In essence it symbolizes renewal or rebirth in a period of time.  If the Tudor dynasty which Queen Elizabeth embodies is to survive her death, it must be renewed by an heir.  If she is the Phoenix and the Tree of its rebirth, her ‘Sunne’ or rather ‘son’ must carry on the Tudor dynasty.”

A theme of The Monument is that Oxford agreed to a deal with Robert Cecil to forgo any claim by Southampton to succession to the throne, in exchange for Southampton’s life and Oxford’s own pledge to remain forever hidden behind the pseudonym “William Shakespeare,” which he had adopted in connection with Southampton, as a means of public support: “What I have done is yours, what I have to do is yours,” he wrote under the Shakespeare name in the 1594 dedication to him of Lucrece, “being part in all I have, devoted yours.”

“In 1601 the Queen, Oxford and the heir, Southampton, were still alive but the Tudor dynasty was doomed,” Professor Herberger writes,” and so also was Oxford’s public recognition as Shakespeare.”

According to The Monument the actual death of Queen Elizabeth on March 24, 1603 is recorded by Oxford in Sonnet 105, where he once again mourns the loss of the same family triangle, which has never held the same “seat” or dynastic throne in the person of the “one” royal son or heir:

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

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

And in this change is my invention spent,

Three themes in one, which wondrous scope affords.

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

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

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