The Earl of Oxford in “The Arte of English Poesie” of 1589 — Reason No. 15 Why He Became “Shakespeare” in 1593

Number 15 on this list — as it steadily builds to 100 reasons to believe the Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare” — involves his prominent place in an anonymous work The Arte of English Poesie, published in 1589 and regarded as the central text of Elizabethan courtly politics.

"The Arte of English Poesie" - 1589

Oxford’s position in the world of letters had already been stated unequivocally in 1586, when William Webbe declared in A Discourse of English Poetry:

“I may not omit the deserved commendations of many honourable and noble Lords and Gentlemen in Her Majesty’s Court, which, in the rare devices of poetry have been, and yet are, most skillful; among whom the Right Honourable Earl of Oxford may challenge to himself the title of the most excellent among the rest.”  [Emphasis is mine]

Now in 1589, three years later, The Arte of English Poesie by an unnamed author is published by Richard Field, who will soon issue Venus and Adonis of 1593 and Lucrece of 1594, both dedicated by “William Shakespeare” to Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton – the first and only times this previously unknown poet will dedicate any literary or dramatic work to anyone.

Modern scholars have attributed The Arte to George Puttenham, although others believe the author was Oxford’s friend John, Lord Lumley, but last year Richard M. Waugaman set forth a case for Oxford’s own authorship instead.  [See Brief Chronicles, the online journal of the Shakespeare Fellowship, and Waugaman’s own online site The Oxfreudian.]

Partly the book may represent Oxford’s “eloquent pleading for the Queen’s commission for his writing the pro-Tudor ‘Shakespeare’ history plays,” Waugaman suggests, noting it “champions the persuasive power of poesy historical, while emphasizing that it [poetry or drama] is all the more instructive if it is not slavishly factual.”

The Arte is dedicated to Oxford’s father-in-law [and former guardian] William Cecil Lord Burghley, but it’s actually addressed to Elizabeth herself.  It emphasizes the importance of deception, disguise and anonymity.  The unnamed author says that many members of the nobility or gentry “have no courage to write & if they have, yet are they loath to be a known of their skill,” and continues:

“So as I know very many notable Gentlemen in the Court that have written commendably, and suppressed it again, or else suffered it to be published without their own names to it: as if it were a discredit for a Gentleman to seem learned and to show himself amorous of any good Art.”   [My emphasis]

A page from "The Arte" showing the Elizabethans' interest in structure, form, shape, architectural form and so on

Later he begins to use names:

“And in her Majesty’s time that now is are sprung up another crew of Courtly makers, Noble men and Gentlemen of her Majesty’s own servants, who have written excellently well as it would appear if their doings could be found out and made public with the rest, of which number is first that noble Gentleman Edward Earle of Oxford, Thomas Lord of Bukhurst, when he was young, Henry Lord Paget, Sir Philip Sidney, Sir Walter Raleigh, Master Edward Dyer, Master Fulke Greville, Gascoigne, Britton, Turberville and a great many other learned Gentlemen, whose names I do not omit for envy, but to avoid tediousness, and who have deserved no little commendation.”  [My emphasis]

Does Oxford head the above list because, as Webbe had announced in no uncertain language, he’s the best writer?  Or is he listed first because of his nobleman’s rank?  Our brethren on the Stratfordian side prefer the latter interpretation, and I won’t argue here except to note that the author surely knew he was putting a spotlight on Oxford’s literary work.

Moreover, on the very next page the anonymous author of The Arte names just a few playwrights: “For Tragedy Lord Buckhurst and Master Edward Ferrys do deserve the highest praise: the Earl of Oxford and Master Edwards of Her Majesty’s Chapel for Comedy and Enterlude.”  [My emphasis]

Edwards had been in charge of the Children of the Chapel from 1561 until he died in 1566, a period when Oxford [age eleven to sixteen] was studying with private tutors and receiving honorary degrees from Cambridge and Oxford.  Edwards is credited with writing two plays:  Damon and Pithias, the first English “tragical comedy,” set in the court of Dionysius and performed for Elizabeth’s court in 1565; and Palamon and Arcyte, a “lost” play based on Chaucer’s A Knight’s Tale [and regarded as a possible source for The Two Noble Kinsman attributed to Shakespeare and Fletcher], performed for the Queen at Oxford in 1566.

I believe young Edward de Vere must have written, or at least co-written, those two plays credited to Richard Edwards.  A decade later in 1576 several poems by Oxford [signed with his initials E.O.] appeared in The Paradise of Dainty Devices, an anthology that claims Edwards had compiled it before his death in 1566 – in which case, if true, it’s possible that Oxford’s poems were written no later than his sixteenth year [although he surely could have added to them any time up to 1576, since the likelihood is that Oxford himself caused the anthology to be published].

The Paradise became hugely popular, going into ten editions over the next three decades.
An excerpt of one of Oxford’s poems was reprinted in The Arte of English Poesie of 1589, wherein the anonymous author wrote:
“Edward Earl of Oxford, a most noble and learned gentleman, made in this figure of response an emblem of Desire, otherwise called Cupid, which for excellency and wit I set down some of the verses, for example.”
The excerpt follows:

When wert thou born desire?

In pomp and prime of May,

By whom sweet boy wert thou begot?

By good conceit men say,

Tell me who was thy nurse?

Fresh youth in sugared joy.

What was thy meat and daily food?

Sad sighes with great annoy.

What hadst thou then to drink?

Unfeigned lovers tears.

What cradle wert thou rocked in?

In hope devoid of fears.

What was this poem really about?  Well, The Arte elsewhere speaks of a poet as a “dissembler” who “by reason of a secret intent not appearing by the words, as when we go about the bush, and will not in one or a few words express that thing which we desire to have known, but do choose rather to do it by many words.”

He offers the following example of four lines referring to Queen Elizabeth – not by name, but in words that “any simple judgment might easily perceive” it to be her:

Elizabeth I of England

When Princes serve, and Realms obey,

And greatest of Britain kings begot:

She came abroad even yesterday,

When such as saw her knew her not.

“And the rest followeth, meaning her Majesty’s person, which we would seem to hide leaving her name unspoken, to the intent the reader should guess at it: nevertheless upon the matter did so manifestly disclose it, as any simple judgment might easily perceive by whom it was meant, that is by Lady Elizabeth, Queen of England and daughter to King Henry the Eighth, and therein resteth the dissimulation.”  [My emphasis]

In this same year of 1589 Richard Field would also publish the second edition of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, credited in 1567 to Oxford’s uncle Arthur Golding but more likely translated with youthful zest by the young earl himself.   Here at the end of the tumultuous decade of the 1580’s, Oxford was about to leave public life and become something of a recluse.

Now in 1589, was he using the press of Richard Field to make a final appearance as an identified poet?  Was he withdrawing from the world while preparing to use the same publisher to reappear as “Shakespeare” just four years later, in 1593?

Titian’s Painting of “Venus and Adonis” – Reason No. 13 Why Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare”

"Venus and Adonis" by Titian, the painting that "Shakespeare" must have seen in Venice

VENUS AND ADONIS

By William Shakespeare

He sees her coming and begins to glow…

And with his bonnet hides his angry brow…

For all askance he holds her in his eye

Now was she just before him as he sat,

And like a lowly lover down she kneels…

O what a war of looks was then between them!

"Great Oxford," the collection of essays from the De Vere Society, with its cover in reference to Dr. Noemi Magri's article about the Titian painting

Her eyes petitioners to his eyes suing,

His eyes saw her eyes as they had not seen them;

Her eyes wooed still, his eyes disdained the wooing;

And all this dumb play had his acts made plain…

Some time her arms infold him like a band.

She would, he will not in her arms be bound…

For shame, he cries, let go and let me go.

Lines 337-342; 225-6; 349-350; 355-360; 379

(My emphases in italics)

The author of Venus and Adonis by “William Shakespeare” (1593) describes a painting by Tiziano Vecellio, or Titian, in which Adonis wears a bonnet or cap.

This was the only Titian painting with that detail and, during Shakespeare’s time, it could have been seen only at Titian’s home in Venice. 

William of Stratford had never left England, but Edward de Vere the 17th Earl of Oxford had traveled throughout Italy during 1575-1576 (at age twenty-five), making his home base in Venice, where Titian worked until his death on August 27, 1576.

I continue to be struck by the simplicity and clarity of this piece of factual evidence presented in an article by the brilliant scholar Dr. Noemi Magri in Great Oxford: Essays on the Life and Works of Edward de Vere (2004), a collection of papers from the De Vere Society in England.

Tizanio Vecellio, known as Titian (1488?-1576), whose home in Venice was a mecca for princes, ambassadors, cardinals, artists and literary men

In her essay, entitled The Influence of Italian Renaissance Art on Shakespeare’s Works; Titian’s Barberini Painting: the Pictorial Source of “Venus and Adonis,” Dr. Magri writes that Titian made many replicas of his work and that Shakespeare based his poem on the only autographed replica in which Adonis wears a bonnet or hat:

“Titian’s painting was his source of inspiration, the thing that stimulated him to write a poem about this subject though he also had a thorough knowledge of Ovid … Shakespeare describes the painting in detail: he portrays the painting in words and the description is too faithful to ascribe it to mere coincidence…

“It is evident that Shakespeare’s Adonis is wearing a hat, a bonnet.  The mention of the bonnet is not coincidental.  This is the detail here taken as evidence of the pictorial source.”

With one fair hand she heaveth up his hat – line 351

Bonnet nor veil henceforth no creature wear – line 1081

And therefore would he put his bonnet on – line 1087

Princes, cardinals, ambassadors and the like, as well as top literary figures, “never failed to pay Titian a visit” when they came to Venice, Dr. Magri notes.   His home was a kind of cultural center and such notables felt they could not leave without going to see the man who was the greatest painter of sixteenth-century Venice and, too, the first to have a mainly international clientele.  To be received into his house was an honor that brought them high prestige.

A drawing of Titian's house in Venice by Joseph Cadorin (1833) -- in Canciano S. Biri

“Considering de Vere’s desire for learning and his love for Italian culture, he must have felt the wish to meet him and admire his collection,” writes Dr. Magri.

(She provides evidence to confirm that the autographed copy with Adonis wearing a hat, now held in the National Gallery of Palazzo Barberini in Rome, was in fact at Titian’s house during the same time Oxford was in Venice.)

Anyone who studies even a little of Oxford’s life will conclude that he could not have failed to pay such a visit.

In the lines above, Shakespeare writes that Adonis looks at Venus all askance, which, Dr. Magri observes, “is a faithful and precise description of Adonis’ posture in the painting.”  Moreover their glances are “the central motif of the painting” and Shakespeare “has retained the dramatic pictorial element” in his description of their eyes such as “Her eyes petitioners to his eyes suing,” etc.

Also Shakespeare’s reference to all this dumb play is an accurate description: the play they have performed “is a dumb one since their words are not to be heard.”  The two protagonists, Venus and Adonis, “are not acting on a stage: they are painted on the canvas.”

Another by Titian -- without the hat

Dr. Magri even notes how Venus, reacting angrily to Adonis’s resistance, bursts out a clear reference to the painted image of him:

Fie, lifeless picture, cold and senseless stone

Well-painted idol...

So that’s Reason No. 13 why I believe Oxford was “Shakespeare.”   Oxford was there, in Venice, and so was Titian and the painting with the bonnet, or hat, that “Shakespeare” describes in Venus and Adonis.

We welcome any Stratfordian to comment and present us with a counterargument.

Reason No. 11 (Part Three of Three) of 100 Reasons Why I Believe Oxford was “Shakespeare” — More on Oxford’s Public Letter for “Hamlet’s Book”

“I thought myself to commit an unpardonable error, to have murdered the same in the waste bottoms of my chests … further considering so little a trifle cannot procure so great a breach of our amity … and when you examine yourself what doth avail a mass of gold to be continually imprisoned in your bags, and never to be employed to your use … What do they avail, if you do not participate them to others … So you being sick of too much doubt in your own proceedings, through which infirmity you are desirous to bury and insevill your works in the grave of oblivion … “ – Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, in his prefatory letter to Thomas Bedingfield’s translation of Cardanus Comforte in 1573 from Italian into English.

Girolamo Cardano (1501-1576) the Italian philosopher and author of "Cardanus Comforte," was still alive when Oxford was in Italy during 1575-1576

The 23-year-old earl created an elaborate “excuse” for publishing the work despite his friend’s wish that he refrain from doing so.  This apology or justification was not meant to be taken seriously by the readers; rather it was a literary device that Oxford used to create an elaborate, lofty, amusing piece of writing while introducing Cardano’s work that has come to be known as the book Hamlet carries with him and reads on stage.

What Oxford produced was a piece of Elizabethan prose that Percy Allen described in the 1930’s as “one of the most gracious that even those days of exquisite writing have bequeathed to us, from the hand of a great nobleman … with its friendship that never condescends, its intimacy that is never familiar, its persuasive logic, its harmonious rhythms, its gentle and compelling charm.”  [The Life Story of Edward de Vere as “William Shakespeare” – 1932]

Here is surely the same voice we hear in the Prince of Denmark’s words, Allen noted.  Here is prose that sounds like Hamlet’s speech to the common players who arrive at the palace.  As Delia Bacon had put it in the 19th century, the author of the play must have been quite like “the subtle Hamlet of the university, the courtly Hamlet, ‘the glass of fashion and the mold of form’” – a description that perfectly fits Lord Oxford in the early 1570’s, when he was in the highest royal favor at the Court of Elizabeth.  [The Philosophy of the Plays of Shakspere Unfolded – 1857]

Oxford and “Shakespeare” both argue that the possessor of a talent has a duty to use it, that anyone with a virtue has a responsibility to share it with others rather than hoard it for himself alone.  The earl writes that if he had failed to publish Bedingfield’s translation he would have murdered the same in the waste bottoms of my chests.”  By contrast his act of causing the work to be published is but a “trifle” to be overcome; and from “Shakespeare” we shall hear the same words within the context of the same theme in the sonnets to Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton:

So the time that keeps you as my chest – Sonnet 52

Shall time’s best jewel from time’s chest lie hid? – Sonnet 65

But thou, to whom my jewels trifles are – Sonnet 48

But beauty’s waste hath in the world an end,

And kept unused the user so destroys it;

No love toward others in that bosom sits

That on himself such murderous shame commits.  – Sonnet 9

Oxford rhetorically asks his friend to consider how it avails “a mass of gold to be continually imprisoned in your bags and never to be employed to your use?”  What good are Bedingfield’s studies if he chooses to “not participate them to others”?  Why would he want to “bury” his works “in the grave of oblivion?”

By new unfolding his imprisoned pride – Sonnet 52

Th’imprisoned absence of your liberty – Sonnet 58

Thou that art now the world’s fresh ornament [“time’s best jewel”]

And only herald to the gaudy spring,

Within thine own bud buriest thy content,

And, tender churl, mak’st waste in niggarding.

Pity the world!  Or else this glutton be:

To eat the world’s due, by the grave and thee – Sonnet 1

In Venus and Adonis of 1593, the goddess Venus lectures young Adonis on the same theme using the same words:

What is thy body but a swallowing grave,

Seeming to bury that posterity

Which by the rights of time thou needs must have,

If thou destroy them not in dark obscurityVenus and Adonis, lines 757-762

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

The Tudor Rose - "That which we call a Rose by any other name would smell as sweet" - Juliet

Oxford enlarges upon his theme:

“What doth avail the tree unless it yield fruit to another … What doth avail the Rose unless another took pleasure in the smell … Why should this Rose be better esteemed than that Rose, unless in pleasantness of smell it far surpassed the other Rose?  And so it is in all other things as well as in man.  Why should this man be more esteemed than that man, but for his virtue through which every man desireth to be accounted of?  Then you amongst men I do not doubt but will aspire to follow that virtuous path, to illuster yourself with the ornaments of virtue…” 

And Shakespeare more than two decades later:

What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet

Romeo and Juliet, 2.2.

But flowers distilled, though they with winter meet,

Lose but their show; their substance still smells sweet.

– Sonnet 5

O how much more doth beauty beauteous seem

By that sweet ornament which truth doth give!

The Rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem

For that sweet odor which doth in it live.

The Canker-blooms have full as deep a dye

As the perfumed tincture of the Roses

But for their virtue only is their show,

They live unwoo’d, and unrespected fade,

Die to themselves.  Sweet Roses do not so:

Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odors made.  – Sonnet 54

Oxford writes:

“ … wherein I may seem to you to play the part of the cunning and expert mediciner or Physician, who, though his patient in the extremity of his burning Fever, is desirous of cold liquor or drink to qualify his sore thirst, or rather kill his languishing body …”

And Shakespeare uses the same image:

My love is as a fever longing still

For that which longer nurseth the disease,

Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill,

The uncertain sickly appetite to please:

My reason, the Physician to my love…” – Sonnet 147

And finally, to choose among many such examples, Oxford anticipates one of Shakespeare’s major themes in the Sonnets printed in 1609, the power of his pen to create a “monument” for posterity:

“Again we see if our friends be dead, we cannot show or declare our affection more then by erecting them of Tombs: Whereby when they be dead in deed, yet make we them live as it were again through their monument, but with me behold it happeneth far better, for in your life time I shall erect you such a monument, that as I say in your lifetime you shall see how noble a shadow of your virtuous life shall hereafter remain when you are dead and gone.  And in your life time again I say, I shall give you that monument and remembrance of your life…”

Not marble nor the gilded monuments

Of Princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme,

But you shall shine more bright in these contents

Than unswept stone, besmeared with sluttish time.

When wasteful war shall Statues overturn

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!  – Sonnet 55

Oxford and Elizabeth -- the Lord Great Chamberlain of England, carrying the Sword of State, with Queen Elizabeth the First

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.

– Sonnet 81

And thou in this shalt find thy monument,

When tyrants’ crests and tombs of brass are spent – Sonnet 107

So that’s it for No. 11 of 100 reasons why I believe Oxford wrote the works attributed to Shakespeare.

But I’m just warming up, so stay tuned!

(Significant work on Oxford’s public letter to Bedingfield has been done by many Oxfordians including, for example, Gwynneth Bowen in the Shakespearean Authorship Review [England] of spring 1967, reprinted online in Mark Alexander’s Shakespeare Authorship Sourcebook and also in So Richly Spun: Volume 5 of Building the Case for Edward de Vere as Shakespeare , edited by Dr. Paul Altrocchi and yours truly.  Also, as mentioned previously, Joseph Sobran included an essay on the letter in an appendix to his book Alias Shakespeare in 1997.)

Reason No. 11 (Part One) Why Oxford was “Shakespeare”: His Prefatory Letter for “Cardanus’ Comforte” is … Shakespearean!

When J. Thomas Looney hypothesized that Edward de Vere the seventeenth Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare,” he came upon Oxford’s prefatory letter for Thomas Beddingfield’s translation of Cardanus Comforte published in 1573 when Oxford was twenty-three (reprinted in 1576); and one can only imagine Looney’s amazement upon finding such self-evident support for his thesis.  Here is a letter that we might well expect to find from “Shakespeare” as a young man…

"CARDANUS Comforte, translated And Published by commaundement of the right Honourable the Earle of Oxenforde."

Looney wrote in “Shakespeare” Identified (1920) that Oxford’s letter “gives us a glimpse into the nature of the man himself as he was in these early years.  Whatever may have been the pose he thought fit to adopt in dealing with some of the men about Elizabeth’s court, this letter bears ample testimony to the generosity and largeness of his disposition, the clearness and sobriety of his judgment, and the essential manliness of his actions and bearing towards literary men whom he considered worthy of encouragement…

“As a letter it is, of course, prose, but it is the prose of a genuine poet: its terse ingenuity, wealth of figurative speech, and even its musical quality…”

Oxford had taken the court by storm; an expert in horsemanship, he was the new champion of the Whitehall tiltyard; and already he had risen to the heights of the royal favor, amid gossip that he and the queen were lovers despite his marriage to Lord Burghley’s daughter Anne Cecil. In addition, breaking with tradition as he had done with sponsorship of The Courtier by Castiglione, the young earl was clearly England’s great champion of literature and the Italian renaissance.

John Thomas Looney (1870-1944)

Looney’s parting word on the Cardanus preface was a plea to his readers to “familiarize themselves thoroughly with the diction of this letter” and then “read the dedication of Venus and Adonis” to Southampton printed in 1593. “So similar is the style that it is hardly necessary to make any allowance for the [twenty] intervening years.”

An Oxfordian who picked up on the latter theme was Joseph Sobran (1946-2010), who, in the appendix section of Alias Shakespeare (1997), offered perceptive observations such as:

“This document unmistakably prefigures the Southampton poems of Shakespeare: the Sonnets, Venus and Adonis, and The Rape of Lucrece. Written when Oxford was only twenty-three, the letter anticipates these poems in spirit, theme, image, and other details. Like those poems, it borrows, for figurative use, the languages of law, commerce, horticulture, and medicine. It speaks of publication as a duty and of literary works as tombs and monuments to their authors. It has echoes in the plays, and the points of resemblance to the Southampton poems are especially notable…

"Alias, Shakespeare" (1997) by Joseph Sobran

“Oxford’s letter is Shakespearean in a wider respect too: in its overwhelming warmth and generosity, verging on excess, yet controlled by a pleasant irony. He loves to praise, but he avoids the risk of fulsomeness by disguising praise as admiring accusation. ‘For shame!’ he says: ‘You want to hoard your own excellence, deny your virtue to the world!’  This is exactly the rhetorical strategy of Sonnets 1 through 17, using much the same language and many of the same images…”

We’ll continue in the next blog post with Part Two of Reason No. 11, but meanwhile here is Oxford’s letter in 1573 to Bedingfield in full, followed by the dedication of Venus and Adonis in 1593 to Henry Wriothesley, third earl of Southampton:

“To my loving friend Thomas Bedingfield Esquire, one of Her Majesty’s gentlemen pensioners.

“After I had perused your letters, good Master Bedingfield, finding in them your request far differing from the desert of your labor, I could not choose but greatly doubt whether it were better for me to yield you your desire, or execute mine own intention towards the publishing of your book. For I do confess the affections that I have always borne towards you could move me not a little. But when I had thoroughly considered in my mind of sundry and divers arguments, whether it were best to obey mine affections or the merits of your studies, at the length I determined it better to deny your unlawful request than to grant or condescend to the concealment of so worthy a work. Whereby as you have been profited in the translating, so many may reap knowledge by the reading of the same, that shall comfort the afflicted, confirm the doubtful, encourage the coward, and lift up the base-minded man, to achieve to any true sum or grade of virtue, whereto ought only the noble thoughts of men to be inclined.

“And because next to the sacred letters of divinity, nothing doth persuade the same more than philosophy, of which your book is plentifully stored, I thought myself to commit an unpardonable error, to have murdered the same in the waste bottoms of my chests and better I thought it were to displease one than to displease many: further considering so little a trifle cannot procure so great a breach of our amity, as may not with a little persuasion of reason be repaired again. And herein I am forced like a good and politic captain oftentimes to spoil and burn the corn of his own country lest his enemies thereof do take advantage. For rather than so many of your countrymen should be deluded through my sinister means of your industry in studies (whereof you are bound in conscience to yield them an account) I am content to make spoil and havoc of your request, and that, that might have wrought greatly in me in this former respect, utterly to be of no effect or operation: and when you examine yourself what doth avail a mass of gold to be continually imprisoned in your bags, and never to be employed to your use? I do not doubt even so you think of your studies and delightful Muses. What do they avail, if you do not participate them to others? Wherefore we have this Latin proverb: Scire tuum nihil est, nisi te scire hoc sciat alter. What doth avail the tree unless it yield fruit unto another? What doth avail the vine unless another delighteth in the grape? What doth avail the rose unless another took pleasure in the smell?  Why should this tree be accounted better than that tree, but for the goodness of his fruit? Why should this vine be better than that vine, unless it brought forth a better grape than the other? Why should this rose be better esteemed than that rose, unless in pleasantness of smell it far surpassed the other rose?

“And so it is in all other things as well as in man. Why should this man be more esteemed than that man, but for his virtue, through which every man desireth to be accounted of?  Then you amongst men I do not doubt, but will aspire to follow that virtuous path, to illuster yourself with the ornament of virtue.  And in mine opinion as it beautifieth a fair woman to be decked with pearls and precious stones, so much more it ornifieth a gentleman to be furnished in mind with glittering virtues.

“Wherefore considering the small harm I do to you, the great good I do to others, I prefer mine own intention to discover your volume before your request to secret the same; wherein I may seem to you to play the part of the cunning and expert mediciner or physician, who, although his patient in the extremity of his burning fever is desirous of cold liquor or drink to qualify his sore thirst, or rather kill his languishing body, yet for the danger he doth evidently know by his science to ensue, denieth him the same. So you being sick of too much doubt in your own proceedings, through which infirmity you are desirous to bury and insevill your works in the grave of oblivion, yet I, knowing the discommodities that shall redound to yourself thereby (and which is more, unto your countrymen) as one that is willing to salve so great an inconvenience, am nothing dainty to deny your request.

“Again, we see if our friends be dead, we cannot show or declare our affection more than by erecting them of tombs; whereby when they be dead indeed, yet make we them live as it were again through their monument; but with me, behold, it happeneth far better, for in your lifetime I shall erect you such a monument, that as I say [in] your lifetime you shall see how noble a shadow of your virtuous life shall hereafter remain when you are dead and gone. And in your lifetime, again I say, I shall give you that monument and remembrance of your life, whereby I may declare my good will, though with your ill will as yet that I do bear you in your life.

“Thus earnestly desiring you in this one request of mine (as I would yield to you in a great many) not to repugn the setting-forth of your own proper studies, I bid you farewell. From my new country muses at Wivenghole, wishing you as you have begun, to proceed in these virtuous actions. For when all things shall else forsake us, virtue yet will ever abide with us, and when our bodies fall into the bowels of the earth, yet that shall mount with our minds into the highest heavens.

“By your loving and assured friend, E. Oxenford”

DEDICATION OF “VENUS AND ADONIS” – 1593:

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

“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”

Towering Defiance of Time and the Official Record: “Thy Registers and Thee I Both Defy!”

The real story of the Shakespeare sonnets is that of one man howling in defiance of obliteration — the burial of his truth, the blotting out of his identity.  The man is Edward, Earl of Oxford, raging against the agents of his destruction and promising to overcome them by preserving the truth in this “monument” of verse for posterity.

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 – 81

Speaking of defiance -- Oxford used this "crown signature" from 1569 until the Queen died in 1603 and James succeeded her, when he ceased to use it.

In a real way Oxford becomes a Christ figure who, in the course of the sequence, undergoes death and resurrection:

The offender’s sorrow lends but weak relief
To him that bears the strong offence’s loss [cross] – 34

[Henry, Earl of Southampton’s sorrow for his role in the Essex Rebellion offers little relief to Oxford, who has agreed to suffer the consequences for him.]

And both for my sake lay on me this cross – 42

[Both Southampton and Queen Elizabeth, who holds him in her Tower prison, are causing Oxford to suffer]

Of him, myself, and thee, I am forsaken,
A torment thrice threefold thus to be crossed – 133

[They comprise a royal, dynastic family triangle; because Southampton has committed treason, all three of them are doomed.]

The 1609 dedication of the Sonnets (the inscription on the Monument) to "Mr. W. H." - a reversal of Lord Henry Wriothesley, reflecting his lowly status as "Mr." while in the Tower - from "our ever-living (deceased) poet" -

Oxford is volunteering to take on the burden of the guilt:

So shall those blots that do with me remain
Without thy help be borne by me alone – 36

If my slight Muse do please these curious days,
The pain be mine, but thine shall be the praise – 38

[All praise will go to Southampton while Oxford disappears from view.]

To play the watchman ever for thy sake – 61

[He will save Southampton’s life and secure his freedom.]

And art made tongue-tied by authority – 66

[Oxford’s ability to speak directly through these private sonnets has been nullified by official decree; his art has been “tongue-tied” or silenced by the crown, in the person of Sir Robert Cecil, who now runs the Elizabethan government in its final years heading to an uncertain succession.

[He is using a special language, however, allowing him to speak here indirectly.  (“That every word doth almost tell my name” – 76) In effect, his words carry a double image, simultaneously conveying two (or more) meanings.]

He is fading away:

When I, perhaps, compounded am with clay,
Do not such much as my poor name rehearse,
But let your love even with my life decay – 71

After my death, love, forget me quite…
My name be buried where my body is – 72

My spirit is thine, the better part of me – 74

Your name from hence immortal life shall have,
Though I, once gone, to all the world must die – 81

The 1594 dedication of "Lucrece" to Southampton -- by "Shakespeare" the pen name and so-called rival poet of the sonnets...

The agent of Oxford’s obliteration is his own pen name, “William Shakespeare,” which he had used to dedicate his first works, Venus and Adonis of 1593 and Lucrece of 1594, to Southampton [the only one to whom “Shakespeare” dedicated anything]; and now that mask is being glued to Oxford’s face:

Was it his [“Shakespeare’s”] spirit by spirits taught to write
Above a mortal pitch that struck me [Oxford] dead? – 86

The more that “Shakespeare” is seen to be praising Southampton, the less visible Oxford becomes:

When your [Southampton’s] countenance filled up his line,
Then lacked I matter, that enfeebled mine – 86

After Southampton’s liberation by King James on April 10, 1603, a climactic event celebrated by Sonnet 107, his defiance grows into a roar by an amazing compression of words, a literary feat that may well have no equal.  I would urge all to read over the final Sonnets of the “fair youth” sequence from 107 to 126.  Let’s just close with Sonnet 123, in which Edward de Vere tells Time itself, “Thy registers and thee I both defy!” — that is, he defies the official history to be written by the winners [Cecil]; he defies it and will be “true” [indicating his own identity, through his motto Nothing Truer Than Truth] despite all that has crushed him:

No!  Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change,
Thy pyramids built up with newer might
To me are nothing novel, nothing strange,
They are but dressings of a former sight:
Our dates are brief, and therefore we admire
What thou dost foist upon us that is old,
And rather make them borne to our desire
Then think that we before have heard them told:
Thy registers and thee I both defy,
Not wond’ring at the present, nor the past,
For thy records and what we see doth lie,
Made more or less by thy continual haste.
This I do vow, and this shall ever be,
I will be true despite thy scythe and thee.

The day is coming sooner than later when students will be given the opportunity to appreciate the greatness of these sonnets.  Within the traditional paradigm there has been no possibility for such appreciation; the best that can be taught is the value of the poet’s rhetorical skills, as he puts forth his universal themes, while the severe limitations of Stratfordian authorship dictate that the genuine human drama remains unseen.

Well, it will be seen!  And then there will be new life in the classroom, new excitement in the lecture hall, and a kind of Shakespearean renaissance — as we crawl out of the long dark tunnel of tradition into the bright light of truth.

The Oxford Movie is on its way…

Here is my response to some great comments by Lee Crammond:

Hi Lee — First, again, congratulations on your findings about the two public dedications to Southampton, the means by which Oxford brought “Shakespeare” onto the printed page and into the world’s history.

[SEE BELOW]

When the paradigm of authorship finally shifts, your unique observations will be acknowledged by all — in the category of “Why didn’t I see (or say) that?”

On the movie “Anonymous” [see the Shakespeare Oxford Society – SOS – Blog for updated casting news] —

I know that Roland Emmerich had a copy of The Monument early on, in the fall of 2005, the year it was published; and that fall I did have a lunch meeting with him in London.  We did not discuss any details of his then-developing script, other than the context of the Rebellion of 1601 and Southampton’s confinement in the Tower for 26 months until the Queen’s death and the proclamation of James of Scotland as King James I of England.  And Robert Cecil’s key role in this history, which began with a performance of “Richard II” at the Globe, showing an English monarch handing over his crown — something being suggested for Elizabeth, who would say, it is reported, “I am Richard II, know ye not that!”

I expect in most movies to find some major distortions of history.  I don’t know how it will turn out but I am hoping nonetheless that the movie calls attention to the topic itself.  I’m hoping it will help open up the authorship topic for discussion.  I’m hoping for a lot — Emmerich’s intentions are good — but it’s not up to me.

There is great irony in the practical suggestion that Edward de Vere is recognized as Shakespeare and then the PT (Prince Tudor) theory (of Southampton as son of Oxford and Elizabeth) brought in as sequel.  The irony in my view is that it’s precisely the lack of Oxfordian acknowledgment of PT — or of Oxford’s political motives, even — that is preventing more swift acceptance of Oxford’s authorship.  He had the means, he had the opportunity — but what’s the MOTIVE for adopting such a warrior-like pen name and then allowing his identity to be obliterated.  The jury needs a motive to convict him not only of writing the works but of disappearing so completely.

The sonnets as a whole, as a sequence that was constructed at the far end of the story, supply the motive.  The subject matter is the author’s disappearance — “My name be buried where my body is.” (71)  The subject is also the pen name — the name “Shakespeare” was the force that rendered him speechless — “Was it his spirit by spirits taught to wright above a mortal pitch that struck me dead?” (86)

If there was a Prince Tudor who deserved the throne, and Robert Cecil was guiding James to the throne knowing that success made the difference for himself of life and death, and James knew the truth would destroy his peaceful succession and throw the country into the very civil war that it feared — would this not be a motive for silence?

The Oxfordian movement has been in existence for 90 years.  It’s growing and I do hope the paradigm can change under any circumstances.  I do think that it’s the History department where the change will occur more readily, since those folks have far less to lose.  It’s the English department that has rolled out miles and miles of sheer baloney and whole careers and reputations have been built on it.  What a mountain of b.s. will come tumbling down!

Ask those who profess to love Will of Stratford if they are at all interested in the two or three decades that led up to his entrance in 1593 and 1594 via those dedications.  Ask if they are eager to learn about Shakespeare’s predecessors, nearly all of whom worked directly with Edward de Vere, dedicating their efforts to him and testifying that he was not only their patron but their leader.  Ask if they are interested in the foreground of Shakespeare.  One in ten might have studied this history.  The others, who profess to have such love for Stratford Will, have no real interest whatsoever.  I believe this is another strong route to the paradigm change — studying, for example, how the Queen’s Men of the 1580’s produced no less than six plays that “Shakespeare” had either written himself or [not!] stole from later.  Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth – The Troublesome Reign of King John — and so on! — all written by the true “Shakespeare” in those years before he adopted that warrior-like pen name for reasons in the 1590’s that were, yes — political — that is, here was Oxford’s way of supporting Southampton in the power struggle against William and Robert Cecil to determine who would control the succession upon Elizabeth’s death.

That’s what any movie about Oxford as “Shakespeare” might be called – A MATTER OF SUCCESSION

All best,
Hank

On Saturday, January 16, 2010 at 9:36 am Lee Cramond Said:

Hi Hank,

Are you aware that Edward de Vere quite probably left a remarkable clue to his identity as the author of both Venus & Adonis and Lucrece, hidden in their dedications? One that lies in plain sight once you know where to look?

In V & A his name appears in lower case but in Lucrece, as if to re-assert his authorship he has shown his name beginning with a capital V. The two dedication references (in the bodies of text) are in the 2nd last line in V & A and the 4th last line in Lucrece. In fact, this latter reference could even plausibly be read as a mission statement…’Vere my worth greater, my duty would show greater’,…

Dedication of "Venus and Adonis" to Southampton - 1593

Knowing de Vere’s fascination with punning on his name, could this not be a valid reading of the text? It is unprovable of course, but it would amount to two more pieces of circumstantial evidence for de Vere.
I cannot find any references to this interpretation anywhere on the web, but I’m sure someone must have noticed it before.
Your thoughts on this theory are appreciated.

Regards, Lee

Dedication of "Lucrece" to Southampton - 1594

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

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

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

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Southampton in the Tower (with his cat)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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