Second Edition (Revised Text) of “Hidden in Plain Sight” by Peter Rush

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A brilliant & cogent exploration of THE MONUMENT by Hank Whittemore

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“The Two Most Noble Henries” – Henry de Vere & Henry Wriothesley – No. 89 of 100 Reasons why the 17th Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare”

"The Portraicture of the right honorable Lords, the two most noble HENRIES revived the Earles of Oxford (left) and Southampton (right)" -  circa 1624

“The Portraicture of the right honorable Lords, the two most noble HENRIES revived the Earles of Oxford and Southampton” –
circa 1624

“There were some gallant spirits that aimed at the Public Liberty more than their own interest … among which the principal were Henry, Earl of Oxford, Henry, Earl of Southampton … and divers others, that supported the old English honor and would not let it fall to the ground.” – Arthur Wilson, History of Great Britain (1653), p. 161, referring to the earls’ opposition to the policies of King James in 1621

Venus and Adonis was recorded in the Stationer’s Register on April 18, 1593 and published soon after. No author’s name appeared on the title-page, but the dedication was signed “William Shakespeare” – the first appearance of that name in print.

"Venus and Adonis" Dedication - 1593

“Venus and Adonis” Dedication – 1593

The epistle was addressed to nineteen-year-old Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton, to whom the poet bequeathed Lucrece the following year. Never again would this author dedicate anything to anyone else, thereby uniquely linking Southampton to “Shakespeare” for all time. In fact the poet was so confident of his ability to grant the young earl enduring fame (while paradoxically being certain his own identity would never be known) that he would tell him in Sonnet 81:

Your name from hence immortal life shall have,
Though I (once gone) to all the world must die.

On February 24, 1593, less than two months before the registry of Venus and Adonis, a son was born to Edward de Vere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford, forty-three, and his second wife Elizabeth Trentham, about thirty, a former Maid of Honor to Queen Elizabeth. The two had married in 1591 and had moved to the village of Stoke-Newington, just north of Shoreditch and the Curtain and Theater playhouses.

The boy, destined to become the eighteenth Earl of Oxford, was brought to the Parish Church on March 31, 1593 and christened Henry de Vere – not Edward, after his father, nor any of the great first names in the Vere lineage (such as John or Robert) all the way back to 1141, when Aubrey de Vere was created the first Earl of Oxford.

"Lucrece" Dedication 1594

“Lucrece” Dedication

“It is curious that the name ‘Henry’ is unique in the de Vere, Cecil and Trentham families,” B.M. Ward commented in 1928. “There must have been some reason for his being given this name, but if so I have been unable to discover it.”

During this time Henry Wriothesley was being sought by William Cecil Lord Burghley for the hand of Oxford’s eldest daughter, Lady Elizabeth Vere. Oxford had become a royal ward in Burgley’s household in 1562; Southampton had followed in 1581; and now on April 18, 1593, little more than two weeks after the christening of Oxford’s male heir as Henry de Vere, the yet-unknown “Shakespeare” was dedicating “the first heir of my invention” to Henry Wriothesley.

“The metaphor of ‘the first heir’ would seem to echo the recent birth of Oxford’s only son and heir to his earldom,” J. Thomas Looney noted in 1920, “and as ‘Shakespeare’ speaks of Southampton as the ‘godfather’ of ‘the first heir of my invention,’ it would certainly be interesting to know whether Henry Wriothesley was godfather to Oxford’s heir, Henry de Vere.”

In the dedication of Lucrece in 1594, the author made a unique public promise to Southampton, indicating a close and caring relationship with its own past, coupled with an extraordinary vision of future commitment:

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

Henry Wriothesley Earl of Southampton

Henry Wriothesley
Earl of Southampton

Given that Henry Wriothesley is the only individual to whom “Shakespeare” is known to have written any letters of any kind, he must be the central contemporary individual within the biography of Shakespeare the poet and dramatist. (This is especially so if Southampton is the younger man or “fair youth” of the Sonnets.) The problem, however, is that scholars have never discovered any trace of a relationship between Southampton and William Shaksper of Stratford-upon-Avon, not even any evidence that they knew each other.

But if the poet was Edward de Vere, dedicating his first published work under the newly invented pen name “Shakespeare” to Henry Wriothesley, then his promise that “what I have to do is yours” demands a look into the future for evidence of continuing linkage.

Among the possible evidence is the performance of Richard II as by “Shakespeare” on the eve of the Essex Rebellion on February 8, 1601 led by Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex along with Southampton. If Oxford was the dramatist, had he given permission to use his play for such a dangerous and possibly treasonous motive? Had he given his approval personally to Southampton, to help him? These are among the many questions for which history has no answers.

Looney pointed to a “spontaneous affinity of Oxford with the younger Earls of Essex and Southampton, all three of whom, having been royal wards under the guardianship of Burghley, were most hostile to the Cecil influence at Court.” By the same token, many scholars have noted evidence in the “Shakespeare” plays that the author was sympathetic to the Essex faction – which makes sense if Oxford and “Shakespeare” were one and the same.

Notice of the trial of Essex and Southampton  1600 old style 1601 new Oxford as highest ranking peer on tribunal

Notice of the trial of Essex and Southampton
1600 old style 1601 new
Oxford as highest ranking peer on tribunal

[Oxford was summoned from retirement to act as the senior of twenty-five noblemen on the tribunal at the joint treason trial of Essex and Southampton on February 19, 1601. The peers had no choice but to render a unanimous guilty verdict and to sentence both earls to death. It was “the veriest travesty of a trial,” Ward comments. Essex was beheaded six days later, but Southampton was spared; and after more than two years in prison, he was quickly released by the newly proclaimed King James. CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VIEW.]

Oxford is recorded as having died at fifty-four on June 24, 1604. That night agents of the Crown arrived at Southampton’s house in London, confiscating his papers and bringing him (and others who had supported Essex) back to the Tower, where he was interrogated before being released the next day. Whether the two events (Oxford’s death and Southampton’s arrest) were related remains a matter of conjecture.

In January 1605, Southampton hosted a performance of Love’s Labours Lost for Queen Anne. The earl apparently had not forgotten how, in the early 1590s, he and his university friends had enjoyed private performances of the play.

In the latter years of James both Henry Wriothesley and Henry de Vere became increasingly opposed to the King’s favorite George Villiers, first Duke of Buckingham, and the projected Spanish match between the King’s son Prince Charles and Maria Ana of Spain – fearing that Spain would grow even stronger to the point of conquering England and turning it back into a repressive Catholic country.

Henry Wriothesley 3rd Earl of Southampton

Henry Wriothesley
3rd Earl of Southampton

On March 14, 1621, Henry Wriothesley, forty-eight, got into a sharp altercation with Buckingham in the House of Peers; that June he was confined (in the Dean of Westminster’s house and later in his own seat of Tichfield) on charges of “mischievous intrigues” with members of the Commons; and in July of the same year, Henry de Vere, twenty-eight, spent a few weeks in the Tower for expressing his anger toward the prospective Spanish match. Henry Wriothesley was set free on the first of September.

Then on April 20, 1622, after railing against Buckingham again, Henry de Vere was arrested for the second time and confined in the Tower for twenty months until December 1623 – just when the First Folio of Shakespeare plays became available for purchase.

[Whatever might have been the relationship between the imprisonment of Oxford and the publishing of the Folio is unclear; my own feeling is that the printing may well have been spurred by the prospect of Spanish control and the destruction of the Shakespeare plays, especially the eighteen yet to be printed. The Spanish marriage had collapsed in October 1623; but any opinions about whether the Folio printing was triggered by the prospect of the match, and/or the imprisonment of the eighteenth Earl of Oxford are welcome.]

Henry de Vere 18th Earl of Oxford

Henry de Vere
18th Earl of Oxford

When Henry de Vere volunteered for military service to the Protestant cause in the Low Countries in June 1624, as the colonel of a regiment of foot soldiers, he put forward a “claim of precedency” over his fellow colonel of another regiment, Henry Wriothesley. Eventually the Council of War struck a bargain between the two, with Oxford entitled to precedency in civil capacities and Southampton, “in respect of his former commands in the wars,” retaining precedence over military matters.

[The colonels of the other two regiments were Robert Devereux, third Earl of Essex, the son of Southampton’s great friend Essex, who was executed for the 1601 rebellion; and Robert Bertie, Lord Willoughby, son of Edward de Vere’s sister Mary Vere and his brother-in-law Peregrine Bertie, Lord Willoughby.]

“There seems to have been no ill will between Southampton and Oxford,” writes A.L. Rowse in his biography Shakespeare’s Southampton. “They were both imbued with conviction and fighting for a cause for which they had long fought politically. It was now a question of carrying their convictions into action, sacrificing their lives.”

Southampton and his elder son James (born in 1605) sailed for Holland in August 1624; in November, the earl’s regiment in its winter quarters at Roosendaal was afflicted by fever. Father and son both caught the contagion; the son died on November 5, 1624; and Southampton, having recovered, began the long sad journey with his son’s body back to England. Five days later, however, Southampton himself died at Bergen-op-Zoom at fifty-one. [A contemporary report was that agents of Buckingham had poisoned him to death.]

King James died on March 25, 1625 and Henry de Vere, eighteenth Earl of Oxford died at The Hague on July 25 that year, after receiving a shot wound on his left arm.

But why, after all, might the “Two Henries” be another reason to conclude that Edward de Vere was the real author of the Shakespeare works? Well, to begin with, in this story there is not a trace of the grain dealer and moneylender from Stratford; he is nowhere to be found. More important, however, is the obviously central role in the authorship story played by Henry Wriothesley, who went on to embody the spirit of the “Shakespeare” and the Elizabethan age – the great spirit of creative energy, of literature and drama, of romance and adventure, of invention and exploration, of curiosity and experimentation, of the Renaissance itself.

And, too, Southampton had become a kind of father figure to the sons of Oxford and Essex and Willoughby – the new generation of those “gallant spirits that aimed at the Public Liberty more than their own interest” and who “supported the old English honor and would not let it fall to the ground.”

How these men must have shared a love for “Shakespeare” and his stirring words! How they must have loved speeches such as the one spoken by the Bastard at the close of King John:

This England never did, nor never shall,
Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror
But when it first did help to wound itself.
Now these her princes are come home again,
Come the three corners of the world in arms,
And we shall shock them. Nought shall make us rue
If England to itself do rest but true!

two henries - 1


Oxfordian researcher and author Robert Brazil wrote the following on this topic in his book The True Story of the Shake-speare Publications: Edward de Vere and the Shakespeare Printers:

“In the 1600s Oxford’s son Henry became a very close friend to Henry Wriothesley. They shared a passion for politics, theater, and military adventure. The image of the Two Henries, which dates from 1624 or later, shows the earls of Oxford and Southampton riding horseback together in their co-command of the 6000 English troops in Holland that had joined with the Dutch forces in countering the continued attacks by Spain. The picture serves as a reminder that a close relationship between the Vere family and Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, lasted for decades, and that Southampton CAN be linked historically to the author Shake-speare, provided that said author was really Edward de Vere.”

“And Your True Rights Be Termed a Poet’s Rage…”

Here’s the Front Cover, Back Cover and Table of Contents for an important new book just published (For a larger view, click on each image):

A Poet's Rage - 3

A Poet's Rage - 2A Poet's Rage Contents

“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.

Some of the Evidence that Oxford Sent Copies of His Sonnets to Southampton in the Tower — And that They Influenced Southampton in Writing His Poem to Queen Elizabeth

Continuing our discussion of the poem entitled The Earl of Southampton Prisoner, and Condemned, to Queen Elizabeth, written by Southampton in his Tower of London prison room during February-March 1601…

Inside Traitors Gate, where Southampton and Essex were brought by boat around midnight into the Tower of London, on the night of February 8, 1601

In the 74-line poem he begged the Queen for mercy, which was granted in the third week of March 1601; and as suggested in The Monument, the forty Shakespeare sonnets 27 to 66 were written in correspondence with the forty days and nights of that tense time.

Was Oxford sending copies of individual sonnets to Southampton?  Because he was the highest-ranking earl of the realm, or for other reasons, was he able to have manuscript copies delivered to the younger earl in the Tower?

(In Sonnet 45 he writes of “those swift messengers returned from thee/ Who even now come back again assured of thy fair health, recounting it to me.”  Southampton was ill in the Tower at that time, with painful swellings in his legs; and in his poem to the Queen he refers to “my legs’ strength decayed.”)

The Tower of London

It would seem that Southampton was influenced by these specific sonnets, given that he used key words (in one form or another) to be found in that same forty-sonnet sequence.  Here is a partial list of such correspondences:


Sonnet 63: When hours have drained his blood

Southampton:  Like a true blood-stone, keep their bleeding still


Sonnet 31: Thou art the grave where buried love doth live

Southampton: There I am buried quick…


Sonnet 30: And weep afresh love’s long-since cancelled woe

Southampton: To cancel old offenses…


Sonnet 58: Yourself to pardon of self-doing crime

Southampton: Swim above all my crimes


Sonnet 31: As interest of the dead

Southampton: As one may, sith say the dead walk so


Sonnet 54: Die to themselves.  Sweet Roses do not so…

Southampton: Cleaving to walls, which when they’re opened, die


Sonnet 35: All men make faults

Southampton: Where faults weigh down the scale…


Sonnet 31: Thou art the grave where buried love doth live

Southampton: (For this a prison differs from a grave.)


Sonnet 34: Nor can thy shame give physic to my grief

Southampton: My face which grief plowed…


Sonnet 50: For that same groan doth put this in my mind

Southampton: Vouchsafe unto me, and be moved by my groans


Sonnet 34: And they are rich, and rich, and ransom all ill deeds

Southampton: Perseverance in ill is all the ill


Sonnet 58: Th’imprisond absence of your liberty

Southampton: But with new merits, I beg liberty


Sonnet 34: Though thou repent, yet I have still the loss

Southampton: Than one that plays small game after great loss


Sonnet 34: To him that bears the strong offense’s cross

Southampton: To cancel old offenses


Sonnet 58: Yourself to pardon of self-doing crime

Southampton: So they, when taken forth, unless a pardon


Sonnet 65: But sad mortality o’ersways their power

Southampton: Without such intermission they want power


Sonnet 52: By new unfolding his imprisoned pride

Southampton: Prisons are living men’s tombs…


Sonnet 34: Th’offender’s sorrow lends but weak relief

Southampton:  Sorrow, such ruins, as where a flood hath been


Sonnet 33: Suns of the world may stain, when heaven’s sun staineth

Southampton: In lawn, a stain/ Well taken forth may be made serve again


Sonnet 34: Ah, but those tears are pearl which thy love sheeds

Southampton: For my tears have already worn these stones

So much of our ability to understand the Sonnets and to feel their emotional weight depends upon the context in which they are viewed.  Are they homosexual love poems within a bisexual love triangle?  Or are they private, highly sensitive messages, in poetical form, written during a time of tremendous grief and danger?

The former view has no documentary record to support it, while the latter view (expressed on this blog site) has an underpinning of contemporary history supporting it at every twist and turn: the failed Essex rebellion of Feb 8, the trial on Feb 19, the execution of Essex on Feb 25, the trial of other conspirators on March 5, the execution of two men on March 13, the execution of two more men on March 18 and so on.

Now the Southampton Tower Poem places yet another historical and biographical fact in evidence.

More Evidence that the Southampton Tower Poem to Queen Elizabeth was Influenced by Manuscript Copies of the Sonnets…

The recently discovered 74-line poem written by Henry Wriothesley third earl of Southampton to Queen Elizabeth during February-March 1601, when he was in the Tower of London facing execution, has even more extensive and profound links to the Shakespeare sonnets than previously reported.

Southampton in the Tower 1601-1603

It should be noted up front that the Southampton poem (begging for the royal mercy) offers no proof that Edward de Vere earl of Oxford wrote the Sonnets; and neither does it prove that Southampton was the son of Oxford and Elizabeth.

On the other hand, it does provide convincing evidence that Sonnets 27 to 66 were written during the tense time between the younger earl’s imprisonment on February 8 until March 19, by which time the Queen (and Robert Cecil) agreed to spare his life while keeping him in perpetual confinement.  And that evidence, of course, further supports the view that Oxford wrote those sonnets to Southampton and that the central “story” he recorded involved events during the younger earl’s imprisonment.

The evidence makes it extremely likely that during those first forty days and nights Southampton had manuscripts copies of some or many of those forty sonnets with him in his Tower prison room.

Southampton uses more than twenty key words that appear no less than sixty times (in one form or another) within twenty-three of those sonnets, which consistently express the author’s grief and fear leading to Sonnet 66, wherein he lists reasons he’d prefer to die:  “Tired with all these, for restful death I cry.”

(Defenders of the Stratford man’s authorship have never found anything in his life that would prompt him to write such a virtual suicide note; but if we view Oxford as a father writing to his son – his royal son by the Queen – during these dark days, the words come alive with new meaning and power.)

Elizabeth the First (1533-1603)

Twenty-one key words used by Oxford in Sonnets 27-66 and by Southampton in the Tower Poem are:  blood, buried, cancel, crimes, dead, die, faults, grave, grief, groans, ill, liberty, loss, offences, pardon, power, prison, religious, sorrow, stain and tears.

An impressive list, I’d say – reflecting the fate that Southampton was facing and that Oxford must have dreaded.  Moreover it appears that Southampton was influenced not only by the words, but by some of the concepts, expressed in the sonnets.  For example, Oxford writes in Sonnet 30:

Then can I drown an eye (un-used to flow)

For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night

And in Sonnet 31:

Thou art the grave where buried love doth live

In the first two lines Oxford appears to be referring to Southampton (and perhaps Essex), who, in effect, is  a “dead man walking,” as the saying goes.  And Southampton writes in his poem to Elizabeth begging for her mercy:

 While I yet breathe, and sense and motion have

(For this a prison differs from a grave),

Prisons are living men’s tombs, who there go

As one may, sith say the dead walk so.

There I am buried quick… 

In an upcoming blog I’ll print out a near-complete list of lines from Shakespeare sonnets and from the Southampton poem that contain the same words in various forms.

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

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

Southampton in the Tower

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

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

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

Southampton to Queen Elizabeth:

While I yet breath and sense and motion have

(For this a prison differs from a grave),

Prisons are living men’s tombs, who there go

As one may sith say the dead walk so.

There am I buried quick: hence one may draw

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

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

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

Sonnet 31

Thy bosom is endeared with all hearts,

Which I by lacking have supposed dead;

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

And all those friends which I thought buried.

How many a holy and obsequious tear

Hath dear religious love stolen from mine eye,

As interest of the dead, which now appear

But things removed that hidden in thee lie.

Thou art the grave where buried love doth live,

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

Who all their parts of me to thee did give;

That due of many now is thine alone.

Their images I loved I view in thee,

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

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

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

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

Southampton to the Council, written from the Tower: “…my harte was free from any premeditate treason against my souerayne”

[Note: See Bill Boyle’s blog post on the Southampton Tower Poem at his Shakespeare Adventure site]

Below is one of the two letters that Henry Wriothesley the third Earl of Southampton wrote to the Privy Council soon after his trial on 19 February 1601, while in the Tower of London awaiting execution.

Inside Traitors Gate at the Tower of London

My view is that Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford revealed his role behind the scenes in Sonnet 35, writing to Southampton: “Thy adverse party is thy Advocate” or “I was your ‘adverse party’ at the trial, being forced to vote with all the other peers on the tribunal to condemn you to death; but I am also your Advocate, your legal defender, trying to save you.”  [See Sonnet 35 below]

Oxford’s help behind the scenes appears to have included advising Southampton on what to write to the Council and Robert Cecil.  Possibly the individual sonnets were one means by which he conveyed information to him in the Tower.  And quite possibly he helped him with the recently discovered poem entitled The Earle of Southampton prisoner, and condemned. to Queen Elizabeth. 

In her article on Wriothesley’s poem in the 2011 English Literary Renaissance, Lara M. Crowley recalls that while awaiting execution Southampton wrote at least two letters to the Council as well as a separate confession and a letter to Robert Cecil.  His writings from this period “reflect a desperate and (quite rightly) frightened penitent.  Surely these anxious outpourings were fueled by the executions of Essex and fellow conspirators and by the persistent whispers surrounding Southampton’s impending doom.”  And she notes the “cumulative connections” between the earl’s prison writings and his poem to the Queen.


“My Lordes,

“I beseech your Lordships bee pleased to receaue the petition of a poore condemned man, who doth, with a lowly and penitent hart, confess his faults and acknoledge his offences to her Maiestie.  Remember, I pray your Lordships, that the longest lyuer amongest men hath but a short time of continewance, and that there is none so iust vppon earth but hath a greater account to make to our creator for his sinnes then any offender haue in this world.  Beleeue that God is better pleased with those that are the instrumentes of mercy then with such as are the persuaders of severe iustice, and forgett not that hee hath promised mercy to the mercifull.” 

Another view inside Traitors Gate

Though thou repent, yet I have still the loss – Sonnet 34

The offender’s sorrow lends but weak relief

To him that bears the strong offence’s cross – Sonnet 34

Excusing thy sins more than thy sins are – Sonnet 35

“What my fawte [fault] hath been your Lordships know to the vttermost, wherein, howsoeuer I have offended in the letter of the law, your Lordships I thinke cannot but find, by the proceedings att my triall, that my harte was free from any premeditate treason against my souerayne…”

[We pause here to consider that Southampton, writing to the Council, refers to the Queen as “my sovereign.”  Oxford uses the phrase “my sovereign” in the plays of Shakespeare thirty-four times, in each case when a character is speaking to or about a monarch.  The phrase occurs in the plays of English history 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV, Henry V, 1 Henry VI, 2 Henry VI, 3 Henry VI, Henry VIII, Richard II and Richard III.  It also occurs in The Winter’s Tale as “my sovereign mistress.”

[Oxford-Shakespeare uses it elsewhere just once, in Sonnet 57:  “I (my sovereign) watch the clock for you.”

Heads of Traitors on Pikes at London Bridge by the Tower

[With Southampton referring to the Queen as “my sovereign” and Oxford using that phrase consistently in the history plays in reference to a King, without ever using it within any other context, is there any possibility that he or any other poet could call the Earl of Southampton “my sovereign” within a romantic context?  I think not!  But if Oxford is writing this sonnet to Southampton, he would call him “my sovereign” only if he really believes him to be his prince.]

“…though my reason was corrupted by affection to my friend [Essex] (whom I thought honest) and I by that caried headlonge to my mine, without power to preuent it, who otherwise could neuer haue been induced for any cawse of mine owne to haue hazarded her Maiesties displeasure but in a trifle : yet can I not dispayre of her fauor, nether will it enter into my thought that shee who hath been euer so renowned for her uertues, and especially for clemency, will not extend it to mee, that doe with so humble and greeued [grieved] a spirit prostrate my self att her pardoninge one whose harte is without spott, though his cursed destiny hath made his actes to bee condemned, and whose life, if it please her to graunte it, shallbe eternally redy to bee royall feete and craue her pardon. O lett her neuer sufer to bee spiled the bloud of him that desiers to live but to doe her sendee [service?] , nor loose the glory shee shall gaine in the world bysacrifised to accomplish her least comandement.”

The Gate

No more be grieved at that which thou hast done – Sonnet 35

To you it doth belong/ Your self to pardon of self-doing crime – Sonnet 58

“My lords, there are diuers amongest you to whom I owe particular obligation for your fauors past, and to all I haue euer performed that respect which was fitt, which makes me bould in this manner to importune you, and lett not my faultes now make me seem more vnworthy then I haue been, but rather lett the misery of my distressed estate moue you to bee a mean to her Maiestie, to turne away her heauy indignation from mee. O lett not her anger continew towardes an humble and sorrowfull man, for that alone hath more power to dead my spirites [spirits] then any iron hath to kill my flesh.

The Tower & Gate from the Thames

“My sowle is heauy and trobled for my offences, and I shall soon grow to detest my self if her Maiestie refuse to haue compassion of mee.  The law hath hetherto had his proceedinge, wherby her Justice and my shame is sufficiently published; now is the time that mercy is to be shewed.  O pray her then, I beseech your lordships, in my behalf to stay her hand, and stopp the rigorus course of the law, and remember, as I know shee will neuer forgett, that it is more honor to a prince to pardon one penitent offender, then with severity to punish mayny.”

Nor can thy shame give physic to my grief – Sonnet 34

Prison my heart in thy steel bosom’s ward,

But then my friend’s heart let my poor heart bail;

Whoe’er keeps me, let my heart be his guard,

Thou canst not then use rigor in my jail — Oxford to the Queen in Sonnet 133

“To conclude, I doe humbly entreate your Lordships to sound mercy in her eares, that therby her harte, which I know is apt to receaue any impression of good, may be moued to pity mee, that I may Hue to loose my life (as I have been euer willing and forward to venture it) in her service, as yourlordships herein shall effect a worke of charity, which is pleasinge to God; preserue an honest-harted man (howsoeuer now his fautes haue made him seem otherwise) to his contry; winn honor to yourselues, by fauoringe the distressed; and saue the bloud of one who will live and dy her Maiesties faythfull and loyall subiect.

“Thus, recommendinge my self and my sute to your Lordships’ honorable considerations; beseechinge God to moue you to deale effectually for mee, and to inspire her Maiesties royall harte with the spirite of mercy and compassion towardes mee, I end, remayninge, Your Lordships most humbly, of late Southampton, but now of all men most vnhappy,


Sonnet 35

No more be grieved at that which thou hast done:

Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud,

Clouds and eclipses stain both Moon and Sunne,

And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud.

All men make faults, and even I in this,

Authorizing thy trespass with compare,

My self corrupting salving thy amiss,

Excusing thy sins more than thy sins are:

For to thy sensual fault I bring in sense,

Thy adverse party is thy Advocate,

And ‘gainst my self a lawful plea commence.

Such civil war is in my love and hate,

That I an accessory needs must be

To that sweet thief which sourly robs from me.



THY ADVERSE PARTY = Oxford, who will sit on the tribunal at the trial and be forced to render a guilty verdict against his son; “He speaks against me on the adverse side” – Measure for Measure, 4.6.6; PARTY = side in a legal case; -plaintiff or defendant; “But dare maintain the party of the truth” – 1 Henry VI, 2.4.32; “To fight on Edward’s party for the crown” – Richard III, 1.3.138 (on his side); “My prayers on the adverse party fight” – Richard III, 4.4.191; “Thy son is banished upon good advice, whereto thy tongue a party-verdict gave: why at our justice seem’st thou then to lour?” – Richard II, 1.3.233-235 (part of the verdict); “Upon the right and party of her son” – King John, 1.1.34 (on his behalf); to Elizabeth: “And play the mother’s part” – Sonnet 143, line 12

My prayers on the adverse party fight – Richard III, 4.4.191

Besides, the King’s name is a tower of strength,

Which they upon the adverse faction want – Richard III, 5.3.12-13

“I have hitherto passed the pikes of so many adversaries” -Oxford to Robert Cecil,Oct 7, 1601

 “I am very glad if it so prove, for I have need of so many good friends as I can get, and if I could I would seek all the adversaries I have in this cause to make them my friends” – Oxford to Robert Cecil, December 4, 1601

THY ADVOCATE = your defender.  (“Your legal opponent is also your legal defender” – Duncan-Jones); Oxford is telling his son that, at the trial, he will have no choice but to render a vote of guilty; he is therefore an adverse party, but in his heart and behind the scenes he is acting as his son’s advocate; ADVOCATE = “One whose profession it is to plead the cause of any one in a court of justice; a counsellor or counsel … One who pleads, intercedes, or speaks for, or in behalf of, another; a pleader, intercessor, defender … Specially, applied to Christ as the Intercessor for sinners” – OED, the latter adding to suggestions in the Sonnets that Oxford is acting as a Christ figure, sacrificing himself in order to redeem the sins of Southampton

You’re my prisoner, but

Your gaoler shall deliver the keys

That lock up your restraint.  For you, Posthumous,

So soon as I can win th’offended king,

I will be known your advocate – Cymbeline, 1.2.3-7

If she dares trust me with her little babe,

I’ll show’t the King, and undertake to be

Her advocate to th’ loud’st – Winter’s Tale, 2.237-39

I never did incense his Majesty

Against the Duke of Clarence, but have been

An earnest advocate to plead for him  – Richard III, 1.3.85-87

“We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” – Biblical

King’s Advocate: “The principal law-officer of the Crown inScotland, answering to the Attorney-General in England” – OED

Post No. 2 on the Southampton Tower Poem and How It Sheds Light on the Double Image of the Sonnets

The discovery that the Earl of Southampton wrote a “verse letter” to Queen Elizabeth from the Tower, after being convicted of treason on 19 February 1601 and sentenced to death, sheds light on various aspects of the Monument theory of Shakespeare’s sonnets — perhaps the most important aspect being a view of the Sonnets as a genuine historical document in the same way that the Southampton Tower Poem is not only a literary work, but, simultaneously, part of the contemporary biographical record.

A Famous Double-Image: every line drawn in service of both the Old Hag and the Young Woman

Within this view is the idea that Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford created the Sonnets to contain a DOUBLE IMAGE: on the one hand, the individual sonnets are romantic love poems; on the other hand, Oxford was recording high-stakes events (for posterity) by means of addressing Southampton (the fair youth) and Elizabeth (the dark lady) in a series of thinly disguised “verse-letters” such as the one Southampton wrote to the Queen.  Equally important is that both Oxford and Southampton were writing within the same real-life context of time and circumstance: the plight of the younger earl in the Tower, where he suffered the “disgrace” and “shame” of a traitor who initially faced execution and then lifelong imprisonment as a dead man in the eyes of the law.

[The Shakespeare verses arranged to correspond with the 1601-1603 context are the Fair Youth Sonnets 27-126 and the Dark Lady Sonnets 127-152]

A Woman's Face - or Flowers & Butterfly

This method of writing on two levels at once is similar to the art of double-image drawing.  Take, for example, the familiar picture that depicts both an Old Hag and a Young Woman.  Whether we see one or the other image depends on our prior assumptions — basically, what we’ve been told about the picture before viewing it.  If we’ve been told it’s a picture of the Old Hag, that is the image we’ll see; and we’ll go right on seeing her forever, unless our perspective changes.  Meanwhile, of course, the Young Woman is also right there in front of us.

The picture itself never changes; that always stays the same.  What can change, however, is the perspective of an individual viewer.  When we look at the drawing from a different angle, based on new information, the Old Hag suddenly disappears and the Young Woman replaces her — as if by magic.

The trick of double-image drawing is that the artist uses every line in service of both images at once; and Oxford reveals in Sonnet 76 that he’s doing the same thing, except that instead of every line he’s using “every word” to create his double image:

Why write I still all one, ever the same,

And keep invention in a noted weed,   

That every word doth almost tell my name…

A Sax Player & a Woman's Face

A major difference between the Southampton Tower Poem and the Shakespeare sonnets is that we already know the real-life “context” of the former.  We know a lot about who, where, what, when and even how and why.  In the case of the Sonnets, however, we were never given the real-life context; in fact, scholars have been saddled with the wrong author!   Therefore the very same words (related to the law, crime, prison, etc.) in the lines of the Sonnets have been overlooked or dismissed as metaphorical and no more.

Some significant words in the Southampton poem that are also used in the Sonnets include: Blood, Buried, Cancel, Condemned, Crimes, Dead, Die, Faults, Favor, Grave, Grief, Ill, Liberty, Loss, Mercy, Offenses, Pardon, Power, Princes, Prison, Sorrow, Stain, Tears, Tombs. In Southampton’s poem these words fit snugly into the real-life context of his death sentence and, therefore, their meaning is literal and even obvious to us.  But the very same words in the Sonnets, viewed within the context of romantic love poems, tend to be ignored:

Sonnet 63: When hours have drained his blood

Sonnet 31: Thou art the grave where buried love doth live

Sonnet 30: And weep afresh love’s long-since cancelled woe

Sonnet 99: The Lily I condemned for thy hand

Sonnet 120: To weigh how once I suffered in your crime

Sonnet 68: Before the golden tresses of the dead

Sonnet 68: When beauty lived and died as flowers do now

Sonnet 35: All men make faults

Queen Elizabeth suffering her Final Torments

Sonnet 28: And night doth nightly make grief’s length seem stronger

Sonnet 34: And they are rich, and ransom all ill deeds

Sonnet 58: The imprisoned absence of your liberty

Sonnet 34: Though thou repent, yet I have still the loss

Sonnet 145: Straight in her heart did mercy come

Sonnet 34: The offender’s sorrow lends but weak relief/ to him that bears the strong offense’s cross.

Sonnet 58: To you it doth belong/ yourself to pardon of self-doing crime

Sonnet 94: They that have power to hurt, and will do none

Sonnet 133: Prison my heart in thy steel bosom’s ward/ but then my friend’s heart let my poor heart bail

Sonnet 28: But day doth daily draw my sorrows longer

Sonnet 33: Clouds and eclipses stain both Moon and Sunne

Sonnet 34: Ah, but those tears are pearl which thy love sheeds

Sonnet 83: When others would give life and bring a tomb

To repeat my view as expressed in The Monument: Oxford’s writing of the Sonnets uses a double image, which, on a level that usually goes uncrecognized, is equivalent to Southampton’s use of poetry for political pleading.

Try this one!

The Sonnets also contain a “double image” in terms of authorship.  On the one hand, Oxford himself is the speaker; on the other hand, readers holding the traditional or orthodox viewpoint are under the impression that “Shakespeare” is the speaker.  Oxford reveals this double-image of authorship, speaking of both himself and his pen name in Sonnet 83:

There lives more life in one of your fair eyes

Than both your poets can in praise devise.

(In the traditional view, the two poets must be Shakespeare and some “rival” such as Raleigh or Chapman or Essex.  I must report that even most Oxfordians remain trapped within this context of the double-image of authorship; that is, they view the speaker as Oxford in relation to a real-life “rival poet” rather than to his pen name “Shakespeare.”  The actual double-image of authorship, with Oxford-“Shakespeare” as the two poets, is still difficult for many Oxfordians to see.  In my opinion, of course!)

I’ll be following up with more posts covering other aspects of this remarkable discovery, including the overwhelming evidence that the attribution to Southampton is correct.  As stated in the first blog post on the Southampton Tower Poem, it was found by Lara Crowley, assistant professor of English at Texas Tech University, and reported (with text of the poem) in the Winter 2011 edition of English Literary Renaissance.  Professor Crowley’s article includes her transcription of the text discovered in the miscellany Manuscript Stowe 962 in the British Library.  The poem is not in Southampton’s handwriting, but apparently it was copied from the original or as he dictated it in his Tower prison room.

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