A Triangular Halo for William Shakespeare
It can be seen in this late 15th century painting of ‘God the Father’ by Antoniazzo Romano that the conventional Christian halo has been replaced by a triangular one, representing the holy trinity – The Father the Son and the Holy Ghost.
Call-me-naïve, if it’s your will – but to my mind what is possibly a greater work of renaissance art, highly complex in construction and undeniably the work of a genius is William Shakespeare’s dedication to his sonnets, a work also based on the geometry of the triangle, although in its case the triangle represents ‘The Tudor-Trinity’ whose protagonists are the fair youth, the dark lady, and the author, a trinity described by Shake-speare in his invention (Sonnet 105) as ‘three themes in one.’
The sonnets are Shake-speare’s pre-eminent work – Opus No. 1, marked by tradition at their outset with the invocation of the nine muses (expressed in the following diagram by the vertices of three triangles.) Our star of poets ‘tongue-tied by authority’(S66) found through necessity, he needed to create what he called his ‘invention’ (S76) (his own idiosyncratic language) which he used as camouflage from behind which he expressed a true story, often termed the greatest love in literature, his love for the fair youth.
The following diagram expresses how the author anticipated his readership visualizing his sonnet’s dedication. The numbers represent the sum of lines of text, numbers which also represent the author.
Although absolutely ingenious, the sonnet’s dedication could in some ways be considered subterfuge, because the most critical information the author is hoping to transmit to us, we only discover when we have untangled what has long been kept a secret – the fact that this dedication is encrypted. Immediately though the author shows us his great cunning in the biblical allusion which the first line represents. ‘To the only begetter,’ words originating as ‘One Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten son of God.’ This allusion is particularly pertinent because not only does it attract us to the idea of ‘an only son’ but because our author also sees his son as having the celestial visage of a deity, believing he is divinely ordained (S154) ‘A little love God’ with golden hue, that illuminates all before him, who (S33) ‘flatters mountain tops with sovereign eye’, ‘kissing with golden face the meadows green’ while ‘gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy.’
The Eccentric Facade of the Sonnet’s Dedication.
Endorsed by the publisher Thomas Thorpe.
– A true copy from the original –
Having seen a good number of Elizabethan and Jacobean literary dedications I am obliged to say that there are no others quite like this – its format is unique. Which does prompt the question why?
If we look a little closer, we see that every word is divided by a full-stop, the reason being that the author wishes us to count the words – which amount to thirty.
The irregularities in spelling are another intriguing facet; these though are not eccentricities, but quite deliberate, for without these unorthodox spellings the cipher would not work. Though some would have us believe differently a polymath like Shake-speare didn’t use various permutations when spelling his own name, although in the sonnet’s dedication where there appears to be random spellings of the words ‘onlie, insuing, eternitie and happinesse,’ they are in fact spelt this way for good reason, not just to create curiosity.
Validation of the Dedication to Henry Wriothesley.
We can validate the fact that the sonnets are dedicated to Henry Wriothesley because of information contained within the dedication, a truth confirmed because this fact is ‘three times’ endorsed.
The first endorsement is quite simply found. If one counts the amount of letters in the dedication the sum total equals 144. If we then move to line 144 of Shakespeare’s poem ‘The Rape of Lucrece’ we find Henry Wriothesley’s motto ‘One for all, all for one’ embedded within the line ‘That one for all or all for one we gage.’
The second endorsement is expressed within the phrase ‘The only begetter of these insuing sonnets Mr. W. H.’ These initials being Henry Wriothesley’s reversed – while there are good reasons why this transposition was necessary, which I shall come to later.
The third endorsement is found within an encryption of the dedication, making it more complicated than the previous two – though shortly I shall describe it in detail. Meanwhile it should not be forgotten that both of Shakespeare’s long narrative poems ‘Venus & Adonis’ 1593 and ‘The Rape of Lucrece’ published the following year – were both dedicated to Wriothesley, so including the sonnets we have a total of ‘three works’ dedicated to him.
The Geometry of the Dedication.
In terms of graphics – the author requires us to see the dedication as three inverted triangles, or three upside-down pyramid if you like (as already seen in the illustration above.)
The top triangle composed of 6 lines, the middle triangle composed of 2 lines & the bottom triangle composed of 4 lines. Please now retain this 6 – 2 – 4 code in your mind – while I continue.
As I have said there are a total of 30 words – divided by a line of two, therefore using basic mathematics, divide 30 x 2 = 15.
This next part is quite fun – for which you will need a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. I believe you will find it quite rewarding if you concede to this request, for not only is it an interesting exercise but it will also help you begin to understand the almost otherworldly intelligence behind the cipher, although the section I am interested in sharing with you is only the tip of the iceberg.
Now write out every letter within the dedication in lines of 15, each letter falling beneath the one in the row above until you have completed a grid of six rows then you can stop. If you have completed the task correctly in the seventh vertical line from the second letter down you will read the name HENRY.
If you now complete the same task as you did before but this time creating a grid of 18 rows while exhausting all the letters, in a combination of letters, in three different vertical rows you will be able to read the dedicatee’s surname. Starting in the second vertical row the bottom two letters read – WR – then in the eleventh row three spaces from the bottom begin the letters – IOTH – then in the previous row reading from the top are the concluding letters – ESLEY – spelling in full the name WRIOTHESLEY.
As has already been stated Shake-speare’s two previous long narrative poems were both dedicated to Wriothesley so it should come as little surprise to learn that the mysterious dedicatee ‘Mr. W.H.’ of Shake-speare’s third and final dedication is also Henry Wriothesley.
Many commentators have mentioned that Shake-speare would not have dedicated his Sonnets to a lord by calling him Mr. but there is a good reason for this. Naturally during the major construction of the sonnets Henry Wriothesley maintained his title as the 3rd Earl of Southampton but at their completion became plain ‘Mr.’ because he had been found guilty of treason by the crown (in respect of the part he played in the Essex rebellion) and upon the verdict all his titles and lands were forfeited, confiscated by the crown at a time he became officially known as ‘the late earl.’
Therefore it can be seen that everything our author was personally responsible for publishing, was dedicated to Henry Wriothesley thereby illustrating his great importance, which leads me on to a pronouncement, a gesture unfamiliar to my normal sense of humility, which is this:
If you do not know who Henry Wriothesley is – then you do not know who William Shake-speare is!
– The Importance of Mottos in Shake-speare –
As already seen, the most important people to Shakes-speare can be identified within his literature by their mottos. The character Polonius ‘The unseen good old man’ who is slain behind the Arras in Hamlet, is a parody of Lord Burghley, Queen Elizabeth’s first minister. We know this because in the first quarto of the play this character is called ‘Corambis’ a name derived from Burley’s motto ‘Cor unam via una’ which translates to ‘One heart one way.’ but corrupted by our author to ‘Corambis’ meaning ‘Two Hearted!’ Something that was seen by the authorities as an unnecessary defamation of character, predictably causing the censors to flex their muscles, while in the process rather spoiling our author’s fun, because the name ‘Corambis’ was ‘corrected’ before the second quarto was printed – when it became Polonius.
Lord Burghley riding a mule, beneath the coat of arms
inscribed on the tree his motto Cor unam via una.
– The Tudor-Trinity – their motto’s –
Now here’s a tasty morsel! Because if we look at line five of (S76) we get two mottos side by side – just as if they were kith and kin.
Why write I still all one, ever the same.
Here we have Elizabeth’s motto (Semper Eadem) ‘ever the same’ immediately preceded by Wriothesley’s motto, here contracted to ‘all one.’ Now if you think this is farfetched – it isn’t. Henry Wriothesley’s motto ‘One for all, all for one’ in many guises pervades the sonnets, here are some of the variations the author uses, ‘All in one,’ ‘One of one,’ ‘All the all,’ ‘All or all.’
The fourth line that follows, from one of Shake-speare’s most harmonious sonnets illustrates this point.
Mark how one string, sweet husband to another,
Strikes each in each by mutual ordering,
Resembling sire and child and happy mother,
Who, all in one, one pleasing note doth sing.
I fervently believe that here the author refers to himself as the sire and that the child is Wriothesley and the ‘happy mother’ our virgin Queen Elizabeth I. Therefore our Tudor-Trinity can be seen concisely as ‘Father, Prince, Queen.’ According to Charles Beauclerk writer of Shakespeare’s Lost Kingdom, ‘happy’ in this sense ‘designates the special grace and felicity that attends the possession of royal blood,’ which also nicely explains the meaning of the words ‘all happinesse’ in the third line of the sonnets dedication. If we now return to the dedication using our 6 – 2 – 4 code while taking heed of the full stops, selecting words 6 – 2 – 4 in sequence (which literally means isolating words 6 – 8 – 12 – 18 & 20) we find the first part of an encrypted message, reading ‘These Sonnets All By Ever’ (These sonnets all by E. Ver) The name E.Ver being an abbreviation for Edward de Vere the 17th Earl of Oxford the ‘true author’ of the works whose name is also represented by the code 6 – 2 – 4 these being the amount of letters in the name – Edward de Vere.
Sometime following his ‘grand tour’ of Europe in 1575/76 Edward de Vere chose the witty name William Shake-speare as his pen-name, it relating to the Greek goddess Pallas Athena goddess of War and wisdom, literature, drama and poetry. The name Shake-speare simply refers to her birth, for myth informs us that she was born in warlike mode from the forehead of Zeus, bedecked in golden armour and shaking a spear – which is why the pseudo-name Shake-speare is a perfect witticism for a playwright and poet. The hyphen that divides the name ‘Shake-speare’ found on the title page of the sonnets is how the author intended it to be written, thereby accentuating the idea of a man shaking his spear at the world, while also stressing the fact that this name is part of ‘his invention.’
– The De Vere Double ‘ V V ‘ Insignia –
We have already seen our author’s fondness for contractions, the de Vere double ‘ V V ‘ insignia is a further representation of this tendency by our author, it represents the de Vere family motto ‘Vero Nihil Verius’ which translates to ‘Nothing truer than truth.’ While it is not surprising the word ‘true’ is the word he uses most frequently to identify himself, a tendency elaborated upon in the following sonnet.
What strained touches rhetoric can lend,
Thou, truly fair, wert truly sympathized,
In true plain words by a true-telling friend.
Here within two lines our author manages to use derivations of the word ‘true’ four times!
The de Vere family crest is the blue boar (an animal intimately associated with Shake-speare – the beast that deprived Adonis of his breath) which can be seen below surmounting the de Vere coat of arms. Generations of de Vere knights on top of their helmets wore coronets surmounted by blue boars; such an example once belonging to the 13th Earl of Oxford can be seen in The Bargello Museum Florence.
This may be a slightly fanciful notion, but if we consider the Bath sonnets 153 & 154 they being epigrams – as separate entities – to the main body of work. Then the dead centre of the remaining 152 sonnets is line 7 of sonnet 76, which reads: ‘That every word doth almost tell my name.’ Now obviously I don’t personally waste any time wondering what that name is, because I know full well! It is a name found easily by looking at the following illustration which is the dedication to Venus & Adonis.
Firstly it is interestingly that both these ‘dedication’ pages are signed William Shakespeare and on both occasions the ‘W’ used for William is a conventional one. While on both occasions our author choses the double ‘ V V ‘ insignia for VVriothesley’s name – thereby associating him with the house of de Vere.
In the dedication to Venus & Adonis it is noticeable in the first line by the acute w’s in the words ‘know’ & ‘how’ that conventional w’s are available to the compositor, while in the penultimate line, that begins ‘may always answer your own wish’ double u’s with decorative swashes are preferred. The purpose of this preference is that within the word ‘answere’ we can more easily see the name ‘Vere’.
For those of you I hear scoffing – well! You may be interested to know that in the dedication to ‘Lucrece’ we have exactly the same thing going on, where four lines from its conclusion we again find the name ‘Vere’.
There is of course no way on earth that on two occasions in such prominent positions the name ‘Vere’ could appear coincidentally. It has been put there purposefully at the command of our author, to let us know who the true author of these works is.
Confirming my beliefs about the double V V insignia, in a letter printed in a pamphlet published by John Lyly (Edward de Vere’s private secretary) we see Oxford sign himself off ‘Yours at an hours warning – Double V.’
Not surprisingly with his name being E.Vere he also had a penchant for words that incorporate it, such as never, ever and every, the most famous expression of this being the prologue to Troilus and Cressida which begins ‘A Never Writer to an Ever Reader, News.’ Words that couldn’t possibly have a simpler translation, ‘An E Vere writer to an E Vere reader.’ Here follows a further illustration of this tendency.
O no, it is an ever-fixèd mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken,
It is the star to every wand’ring bark……
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
There is a precedent for the manner in which ‘Oxford’ expresses himself here, in one of his earlier works the ‘Echo Verses’ while verifying the fact that what we see above is not mere coincidence.
Quite conveniently Oxford’s surname is a marsupial of the word ‘verses’ which is how the first syllable should be pronounced, to rhyme with hair, dare, fair etc. Equally they are called the ‘Echo Verses’ because the last word in every line is repeated with the rhyming word Vere, here follows an extract.
Oh Heavens! Who was the first that bred in me this fever ? Vere
Who was the first that gave the wound whose fear I wear for ever ? Vere
What tyrant, Cupid, to my harm usurps thy golden quiver ? Vere
What wight first caught this heart and can from bondage it deliver ? Vere
In the following sonnet extract I have selected, the first line seems to challenge the very notion that his royal son could be composed of the same elements as mere mortals and where the words ‘every-one’ represent the father-son nexus, words written at a time Wriothesley was incarcerated in the tower.
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.
Most of you will be familiar with the notion that when Elizabeth’s brow was anointed at her coronation by the Archbishop of Canterbury she became God’s representative on earth and that any issue from her body would also carry this holy glory. So if you have ever wondered why our great author’s works are prepossessed with thoughts regarding the succession of the monarchy this knowledge may help bring some rationale to those thoughts.
Following Henry Wriothesley’s birth, naturally such thoughts constantly preoccupied Oxford, but while on the one hand he felt great pride in his paternity, on the other he felt great guilt being unable to legitimize his princely son, a situation day by day that became increasingly hopeless as the petty pace of life distanced Elizabeth from Oxford and Wriothesley. As a coping mechanism for the inadequacy he felt at this rejection he began to heap all his aspirations, hopes and affections on his son, with what were the beginnings of a passionate devotion – a love that gradually blossomed into something very close to, if not, obsession.
My thoughts about Shake-speare’s two previous dedications to Venus & Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece are that they both display an almost unnatural level of reverence to the dedicatee (Henry Wriothesley) but as one considers the possibilities of this father/prince relationship these sentiments seem less idiosyncratic, although this reverential acclaim remains ubiquitous throughout the sonnets. Though while searching for concise words adequately describing this love, I find myself deficient, because the true nature of their relationship surely is incomprehensible to any outsider, all I can safely say is – that the tender sentiments expressed in the sonnets have certainly kindled the world’s imagination.
Who will believe my verse in time to come
If it were filled with your most high deserts?……
If I could write the beauty of your eyes
And in fresh numbers number all your graces,
The age to come would say, ‘This poet lies:
Such heavenly touches ne’er touched earthly faces.’
So should my papers, yellowed with their age,
Be scorned like old men of less truth than tongue,
And your true rights be termed a poet’s rage,
And stretchèd meter of an antique song.
Sometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines
And often is his gold complexion dimmed.
(Even the sun is eclipsed by the radiance of Wriothesley)
(S19) Talking of swift footed time:-
O, carve not with thy hours my love’s fair brow,
Nor draw no lines there with thine antique pen.
Him in thy course untainted do allow,
For beauty’s pattern to succeeding men:
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth.
A man in hue, all hues in his controlling,
Which steals men’s eyes and women’s souls amazeth.
For whether beauty, birth or wealth or wit.
Or any of these all or all or more,
Entitled in thy parts do crownèd sit,
I make my love engrafted to this store.
Thus have I had thee as a dream doth flatter,
In sleep a king, but waking no such matter.
(S98) Tudor Colours:-
Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion of the rose.
They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
(S99) Of royal (purple) blood:-
The forward violet thus did I chide:
Sweet thief, whence didst thou steel thy sweet that smells
If not from my love’s breath? The purple pride
Which on thy soft cheek for complexion dwells
In my love’s veins thou has too grossly dyed.
Such cherubins as your sweet self resemble.
A god in love, to whom I am confined.
There was only one person in Elizabethan England that
commissioned more portraits of themselves than
Henry Wriothesley – and that was Queen Elizabeth herself.
– The Fair Youth –
(Illustrated above) Shake-speare’s ‘Fair youth’ Henry Wriothesley as a somewhat narcissistic teenager. He has plucked eyebrows possibly in imitation of his mother who was known to pluck hers, along with her hairline to increase the dimension of her forehead; his also appears to be rather high so he possibly copied her in that as well. He also wears a coral coloured earing in the shape of an ‘O’ tied in a love knot, his hand upon his lustrous-locks which he liked to wear long as he considered his hair a badge of honour.
Oxford far from turning a blind eye to these vanities describes his androgynous son most skillfully in sonnet twenty, while he may well have been referring to Elizabeth when using the word ‘nature’ as in her lifetime she was often associated with it. There can though be no doubt, that although Wriothesley is fair (in terms of beauty not colouring) his equipment in fact is male, for the third line states he is without ‘quaint’ while confirming in the penultimate line ‘Nature pricked the out for woman’s pleasure.’ But be mindful, in Shake-speare’s time the word ‘passion’ had a more religious connotation than today.
A woman’s face with nature’s own hand painted
Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion,
A woman’s gentle heart, but not acquainted
While shifting change as is false woman’s fashion,
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth:
A man in hue, all hues in his controlling,
Which steals men’s eyes and woman’s souls amazeth,
And for a woman wert thou first created,
Till nature as she wrought thee fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
But since she pricked thee out for woman’s pleasure,
Mine be thy love and thy love’s use their treasure.
One of the reasons for this article has been to elaborate upon our author’s sensitivity to words in the form of various contractions. This we see most profoundly in Sonnet 20 when looking at the original 1609 version (a facsimile below) where the word Hews (spelled hues today) in line seven is a contraction of the name Henry Wriothesley – but because of his royal DNA it is both italicised and capitalised, the only word in the sonnet highlighted in this way.
There are two sonnets (above all others) fundamentally sexual in content (S20 & S151) which to my mind show where our author’s sexual preferences lay – they lay in the rather rude symbolism suggested in (S151). Whereas lines eleven and twelve in the above sonnet say to me that by nature’s addition of one thing (a prick) that this is very much just an appendage, something of no consequence to our author, for in respect of the fair youth he is ultimately ambivalent to all these sexual matters as the ‘passion’ he has for him is felt in his soul – not in his loins; because the ‘eternal summer’ of love that Wriothesley is subjected to is not of mortal composition, but ethereal, valiant, virtuous, spiritual, transcending all base earthly constraints.
A little History.
In the early spring of 1574 the fact that Oxford was married to Lord Burghley’s daughter was a big problem that stood in the way of Elizabeth and Oxford’s intended betrothal. At this time it is known that on three separate occasions Elizabeth and Oxford together visited the Archbishop of Canterbury to seek his guidance, on two occasions they visited him at Lambeth Palace and on a further occasion they even went as far as the Old Palace Croydon to see him there.
It is said that Wriothesley was possibly born at Havering Park (Havering-atte-Bower) a place special to Elizabeth and Oxford where they were known to have met for hunting and romantic trysts. Sometime later following Wriothesley’s birth they met again at Greenwich where it is believed the Queen most probably influenced by Burghley reneged on her promises to Oxford regarding their future and that of their princely son. Being a great poet of course also comes with a large amount of baggage – the fact that just like Prince Hamlet – Oxford’s father had been murdered didn’t really help, nor did the fact that at that time the great majority of his estates had been appropriated by the state, many of these ending up in the hands of his nemesis the Earl of Leicester, add to this the fact that the most common word used by his contemporaries to describe him was fickle and what you had was a powder-keg waiting to explode, which is exactly what happened, with Oxford using words that no man should use in front of a woman – let alone a Queen. Following this gross exchange Oxford swiftly mounted his steed and fled for his life not looking back until he reached Flanders.
– Edward de Vere the 17th Earl of Oxford –
The ‘Wellbeck Portrait’ 1575 – Painted in Paris by an
unknown artist. The National Portrait Gallery London
Luckily for him Elizabeth took a conciliatory attitude to this debacle and sent one of his literary cronies Thomas Bedingfield to bring him home stressing there would be no punitive action taken by her.
The Queen only went to the city of Bath once during her reign – the same year Wriothesley was born. He was born in May and she arrived there for a three day stay on August 21st 1574 (the anniversary of Wriothesley’s conception) quite naturally she was accompanied by a massive entourage, composed of hundreds of wagon’s, within which where secreted both wet-nurse and infant child.
Following her travails of love with its soothing hot mineral waters Bath turned out to be an appropriate destination for Elizabeth, but it is worth remembering what a long and exhausting journey it would have been for Oxford returning from Brussels, his emotions peppered with buckshot while no doubt feeling some trepidation about how he would be received by his mistress. Now listen to how this exact scenario is described using four of the most important lines in all Shake-speare – lines important because in the first instance they describe Bath not as something you immerse yourself in – but as a place you go to, represented by the words ‘And thither hied.’ The OED definition; ‘And went quickly to that place.’
I, sick withal, the help of bath desired,
And thither hied, a sad distempered guest,
But found no cure; the bath for my help lies,
Where cupid got new fire my mistress eyes.
Fed up with everything (under duress)
I went to Bath – an emotional wreck
Seeking salvation for my loving soul
In the unfathomable depths of Elizabeth’s eyes.
‘The Ermine Portrait’ of Queen Elizabeth I, attributed
to Nicholas Hilliard, Hatfield House – Hertfordshire.
One thing that must be remembered at all times while reading the sonnets is that from the authorities perspective they were subversive and treasonous. Therefore for every libel perceived against the Crown, from the author’s point of view there had to be an alternative interpretation. This is why they seem so complex to the casual observer and why T.S. Eliot said in 1927 that they were written by a foreign man in a foreign tongue, never to be translated.
Furthermore there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that having dedicated his first two published poems Venus and Adonis and Lucrece both to Henry Wriothesley our author would have been told in no uncertain terms by the authorities that a third dedication to Wriothesley would be met with extremely serious consequences, which is part of the reason Shake-speare’s sonnets are dedicated to ‘Mr W.H.’ How convenient then that Oxford and the ‘incomparable pair of brethren’ to whom the first folio was dedicated, were intimately associated with one another. Philip Herbert Earl of Montgomery married Oxford’s daughter Susan while his brother William the 3rd Earl of Pembroke was engaged to another of Oxford’s daughters Bridget in the year 1597. Consequently if the authorities had caught Oxford with these subversive works, to save his life he could have responded by saying that the sonnets were dedicated to his close friend William Herbert, ‘Mr W.H.’
Now as we further consider the history of our Tudor-Trinity, it is worth paying attention to the words of (S33) with its sun (son) pun, note how it says ‘my sun’ and not ‘the sun’ and two lines later ‘he was’ and not ‘it was.’ The first quatrain is not included for although very beautiful it is simply a eulogy by a besotted father to the golden love-god – Henry Wriothesley.
Anon permit the basest clouds to ride
With ugly rack on his celestial face,
And from the forlorn world his visage hide,
Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace;
Even so my sun one early morn did shine,
With all-triumphant splendour on my brow;
But out, alack, he was but one hour mine,
The region cloud hath masked him from me now,
Yet him for this my love no whit distaineth;
Suns of the world may stain when heaven’s sun staineth
This is how I see it
Soon the repressive ogre of Tudor England
Casts its dark shadow upon our princes heavenly features,
Denying his existence to the populace.
While her majesty surreptitiously travels to Bath (as if nothing had happened)
A proud father triumphs in the presence of a new born son,
A fleeting pleasure lasting just one hour,
Before obscurity is fashioned by Elizabeth Regina’s frown,
And though the sun stains western sky’s at sunset,
Royal sons are more permanently stained by the stigma of bastardy.
‘And the imperial votaress passed on – in maiden meditation, fancy free.’ (A Midsummer Night’s Dream.)
Now to consider the first four lines of Shake-speare’s first sonnet (S1) remembering that the word ‘rose’ (ever sacred to Venus) was highlighted in the original as it is below, while throughout the sonnets, it is worth being aware that the words ‘fair’ or ‘fairest’ may be an allusion to a princely or regal state, something noticeable in the very last sonnet within the phrase ‘The fairest votary.’
From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby Beauty’s Rose might never die,
But as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir might bear his memory:
In the beginning, procreation is on the mind of our sonneteer, which he bangs on about sonnet after sonnet for quite a while (actually for seventeen sonnets.) His favorite word for describing Elizabeth is ‘Beauty,’ his second being ‘Mistress’ while ‘Nature’ is another, though there is little surprise the sonnets open with a reference to Wriothesley who Oxford saw dynastically through rose coloured spectacles as both England’s Tudor Rose or alternatively as Beauties’ Rose. The word Rose is significant because the name Wriothesley obviously spoken with a silent ‘W’ is actually pronounced ‘rose-ley,’ while the word rose can also be seen as a contraction, or more correctly (a marsupial) of the surname Wriothesley.
In respect of this floral iconography there is a relevant antecedent to it, with a Meleagris Lily (snake’s-head fritillary) representing a miraculous birth, a flowering which appears at the climax of Venus & Adonis a story that is an allegory for the love affair between Elizabeth and Oxford with the flower representing Wriothesley’s birth.
Venus lamenting Adonis (line 1177)
“Poor flower – this was thy father’s guise.”
While considering this story it is important to remember that Elizabeth was seventeen years older than Oxford, a fact he didn’t want to go amiss on the battlefields of literature. Therefore unlike Ovid, with an innovation to convention Shake-speare unfolds his tale of Venus as the older experienced lover who relentlessly pursues the youth Adonis, an age differential elaborated upon in verse eighty-eight of the poem where it can be seen that at this stage of these loving-shenanigans Adonis remains ‘un-plucked’ because he says, “seek not to know me.”
‘Fair queen,’ quoth he, ‘if any love you owe me,
Measure my strangeness with my unripe years,
Before I know myself, seek not to know me.
No fisher but the ungrown fry forebears:
The mellow plum doth fall, the green sticks fast,
Or being early plucked is sour to taste.
Our youth not persuaded by the wiles of love is more persuaded by the heroism of hunting the wild boar – a beast which towards the conclusion of the poem, charges him, depriving him of his sweet breath, it is therefore his own courage that ultimately destroys him.
By this, the boy that by her side lay killed
Was melted like a vapour from her sight,
And in his blood that on the ground lay spilled
A purple flower sprung up, chequered with white,
Resembling well his pale cheeks and the blood
Which in round drops upon their whiteness stood.
She bows her head, the new sprung flower to smell,
Comparing it to her Adonis’ breath,
And says within her bosom it shall dwell,
Since he himself is reft from her by death,
She crops the stalk and in the breach appears
Green dropping sap, which she compares to tears
‘Poor flower,’ quoth she, ‘this was thy father’s guise,
Sweet issue of a more sweet-smelling sire,
For every little grief to wet his eyes,
To grow unto himself was his desire,
And so ‘tis thine: but know, it is as good
To wither in my breast as in his blood.
‘Here was thy father’s bed, here in my breast,
Thou art the next of blood, and ‘tis thy right.
Lo, in this hollow cradle take thy rest,
My throbbing heart shall rock thee day and night.
There shall not be one minute in an hour
Wherein I will not kiss my sweet love’s flower.’
Thus weary of the world, away she hies
And yokes her silver doves, by whose swift aid
Their mistress, mounted, through the empty skies
In her light chariot quickly is conveyed,
Holding their course to Paphos, where their queen
Means to immure herself and not be seen.
Interestingly the ancient bath houses at the sanctuary of Paphos in Cyprus are in the ‘west,’ where a Queen after giving birth could immure herself (hide away) and not be seen. These two stories of Venus & Adonis and Elizabeth & Oxford are so deeply intertwined and have received so much scholarly debate I shall spend little further time examining them. Suffice to say that although Wriothesley is the flower cradled between the goddesses breasts, one can’t help but note the apt use of the word ‘wither’ which in light of history turns out to be rather prophetic, because the words ‘Thou art the next of blood, and ‘tis thy right’ obviously pertain to the succession.
Now let us look a little closer at this royal flower.
‘And in his blood that on the ground lay spilled
A purple flower sprung up chequered with white.’
This flower held proudly by Adonis was first recorded in literature by John Gerard in his groundbreaking book The Herbal, originally published in 1597 a book intriguingly considered a primary source for Shake-speare’s extensive botanical knowledge, while equally interesting is the fact that its foreword was written by the Earl of Oxford’s personal physician Dr. George Baker. Still even more interesting is the front-piece engraving which illustrates four people, the author John Gerard, Flemish botanist Rembert Dodoens, Lord Burghley and the Earl of Oxford who (above) is adorned in the theatrical guise of Adonis. We know this figure is the poet Adonis because he wears a wreath of bays on his head, while in his left hand he carries a husk of corn symbolising Ceres the corn Goddess. In book X of Ovid’s Metamorphoses King Cinyras and his daughter Myrra were found in an incestuous encounter, which resulted in the birth of Adonis. We also know he is Adonis because above his head he holds a Meleagris Lily the precise same flower described in Shake-speare’s poem Venus & Adonis.
‘A purple flower sprung up chequered with white,’ but how do we know Adonis and the Earl of Oxford are one and the same?
– Oxford at Cecil House –
Child of Letters – Man of Letters, Oxford was both, his education began at the age of four but never really stopped – an education a grateful world has become a beneficiary of, defined by an erudition that leaps from every page of Shake-speare into our laps, so what I want to look at more carefully is his relationship with what has been described as a humanist-salon the place where from the age of twelve the second phase of his education began, Cecil-House.
If one examines the front-piece engraving from the 1597 edition of The Herbal (below), then to the right of where it says ‘Imprinted at London by John Norton’ there can be seen the image of Adonis. Below this centrally there is a cartouche within which there is an image of the garden at Cecil House, the building itself identifiable because it was known to be four stories high with turrets at each corner. B.M.Ward Oxford’s first biographer said that Burghley liked to ‘Imbue his son’s and the royal wards under his charge with his own keenness of horticulture.’
As Oxford was born into the most distinguished earldom in England it was hardly surprising that he developed a keen interest in ancient history, an interest that naturally went hand in hand with literature.
One of the great attractions for Oxford at Cecil House would of course have been the library, though he had been particularly fortunate that even before his arrival at the Inns of Courts and Oxbridge that he had been introduced to two of the greatest libraries in England. Sir Thomas Smith who was Oxford’s senior tutor for eight years before he arrived at Cecil House had a vast library with volumes in many languages, including Italian, Latin, Greek, French and English etc. all languages that Oxford studied and became fluent in. While an ancillary fact worth bearing in mind is that in the year 1582 the university library at Cambridge had a total of 451 manuscripts and books, whereas it is believed that Burghley’s library at Cecil house had over 1700 volumes.
As it transpired two books in particular in Cecil’s library would have considerable influence on both Oxford’s travels and his career, the first of these in Latin was Homer’s Odyssey; the other in Italian was Virgil’s The Aeneid.
J.A. van Dorsten discussing the intellectual climate at Cecil House said that as a meeting place for the learned it had no parallel in early Elizabethan England. Its tutor’s naturally were of the very highest caliber. Laurence Nowell the Anglo-Saxon scholar and antiquarian was one of these, while his name today is associated with the “Nowell Codex” as in the same year 1563 (the year in which he was known to be instructing Oxford) he signed his name within this volume of manuscripts containing the only known copy of Beowulf.
Let me quote from Mark Anderson’s Book Shakespeare by another name, ‘Beowulf was as inaccessible as the crown jewels to anyone outside Cecil House’ ………. ‘Beowulf and the original Hamlet myth (Amleth) are cousins from the same family of Scandinavian folklore. Shake-speare uses both as sources for Hamlet. Once Hamlet kills his uncle Claudius, Shake-speare stops following ‘Amleth’ and starts following Beowulf. It is Beowulf who fights the mortal duel with poison and sword; it is Beowulf who turns to his loyal comrade (Wiglaf in Beowulf; Horatio in Hamlet) to recite a dying appeal to carry his name and cause forward; and it is Beowulf that carries on after its hero’s death to dramatize a succession struggle for the throne bought on by an invading foreign nation.’
Although consensus of opinion is a great rarity in respect of the Shakespeare authorship debate, there is general agreement of our author’s greatest non biblical influence – the Roman poet Ovid.
Arthur Golding who was Oxford’s maternal uncle and a known employee of Cecil’s, worked as a tutor to Oxford at Cecil House, while it is believed simultaneously translating Ovid’s Metamorphoses from the Latin. Now, whether it represents some aggrandizement of thought or not, the idea has been advocated by a number of people that Oxford was doing a bit more than studying under Golding and that he was actively engaged with the translation itself. The finished article is very well thought of in literary circles, the poet Ezra Pound announcing it to be ‘the most beautiful book in the English language.’ As Anderson says ‘Shake-speare quotes from every one of the Metamorphoses fifteen books, and there is hardly a single Shake-speare play or poem that does not owe character, language, or plot to Ovidian mythology.’
Also worth a mention is the fact that in 1564 Golding dedicated his translation of Justin’s Abridgement of the Histories of Trogus Pompeius to his nephew, the first of 28 books dedicated to Oxford during his lifetime. The relevant question that immediately springs to mind in respect of this fact is – how many books in Stratford-William’s lifetime were dedicated to him; anyone know the answer to that?
On the 5th August 1564 Oxford received from the Queen at St John’s College Cambridge a Bachelor of Arts degree, while two years later in a similar ceremony this time at Oxford he received from Elizabeth an M.A. degree. As no formal Elizabethan education was really complete without a degree in law, Oxford in February 1567 matriculated at Gray’s Inn, and as these Inns of Court were less than a mile from Cecil House Oxford retained his lodgings while he studied there.
In respect of the previously mentioned, John Gerard’s Herbal, the theory has been expressed that as languages were one of the subjects that Oxford excelled in, that he had helped Gerard with translations from the Latin and Greek, which is why he appears as Adonis in the front-piece engraving of the 1597 edition. Out of respect for Oxford and by way of a thank you, the mask of Adonis that Oxford inhabits is Gerard’s way of including him in ‘the credits,’ in appreciation of his involved with the compilation of the book.
– The Darling Buds of May –
Returning to our Rose Wriothesley it is surely worth mentioning how often he is referred to as ‘bud’ as in ‘The darling buds of May,’ because that is exactly what he was ‘A darling bud of May,’ his true birthday being the 20th May 1574 a date Shake-speare ensured was commemorated by the announcement of the publication of his sonnets in the stationer’s register, a posthumous event that took place on that very day – the 20th May 1609.
Now to justify the said date (the 20th May as Wriothesley’s birthday) as collaborative evidence I cite our author’s love of irony, because in the merry month of May in the year 1573 (at a time Elizabeth & Oxford were very close) three of his men, John Hannam, Denny the Frenchman and Danny Wilkins at a place called ‘Gads Hill’ between Gravesend and Rochester in the county of Kent robbed two of Lord Burghley’s men. Now do we think our national playwright would let this spectacle of insubordinate behavior – this cache of theatrical material go to waste – without sharing it with the wider world? Thereby forsaking an incident in which highwaymen discharged their muskets at the Lord Treasure’s men – of course not!
So in the early scenes of Henry IV, Part I, we have a retelling of this amusing tale where Falstaff, Bardolph and Peto rob two employees of the crown on their way to Canterbury and eventually are indicted for it, a robbery described as taking place on the ’20th May’ last past, in the fourteenth year of the reign of our sovereign Lord king Henry IV. Now as remarked upon by the writer Richard Malim in his book The Earl of Oxford and the Making of Shakespeare, there was no 20th May in the fourteenth year of Henry IV’s reign because he died on March 20, 1413. The irony here is that although the Tudor-state liked to cast a blind eye towards the 20th May, it didn’t stop our wily poet alluding to Wriothesley’s birthday in this celebratory manner in one of his earliest history plays.
When wert thou born, Desire?
In pride and pomp of May.
By whom, sweet boy, wert thou begot
By fond conceit men say. ( E.O.)
Let me now proceed by saying a few words about the much maligned Edward de Vere who wasn’t just any old Earl but ‘Lord Great Chamberlain’ the highest ranking Earl in the kingdom, whose ceremonial duties included not only being canopy bearer, but also water bearer to the monarch.
(S125) Were’t aught to me I bore the canopy.
(S109) So that myself bring water for my stain.
Beyond these duties according to Encyclopedia Britannica the De Vere family were further honoured being titled ‘Everys’ a courtesy which gave them the right at a banquet to wash the monarch’s hands before and after a feast, a privilege Oxford is known to have carried out at the coronation of James I. While from the familiar guise of poetry (the noted weed) – secrets slowly revealed themselves.
Why write I still all one, ever the same,
And keep invention in a noted weed,
That ‘every’ word doth almost tell my name,
Showing their birth and where they did proceed?
Here again we see our Tudor-Trinity but if this is written by Stratford-William how can the words “every word doth almost tell my name” possibly make sense? But as we now know better, being written by Oxford, ‘every’ word makes perfect sense, by not only describing himself as an ‘Every’ but also by invoking his favorite subject the succession of the monarchy ‘showing their birth and where they did proceed or more ominously in Wriothesley’s case, the place he failed to proceed to – the throne!
Shakespeare’s sonnet 105 is possibly the most obsessional of all and it can easily be seen how ‘experts’ can be lulled into believing that its major theme is about the Holy Trinity when of course it is about the Tudor-Trinity. This fact is irrefutable to my mind because in the fourth line we have a contraction of Henry Writhoseley’s moto, in this case the words ‘one of one.’ Obsession can also be seen in the repetition of detail because ‘all alike’ line three, and ‘one thing’ line eight are also Wriothesley references. These misapprehensions often made by academia are understandable partially because of the first two lines which do not relate to a conventional Godhead but underline the vaulted status conferred by our author on Wriothesley – an infatuation that he seems to be feeling self-conscious about, although, while being a true renaissance man he is not only poetical but also musical, a fact that can be substantiated because we know from (S128) that he wrote music Queen Elizabeth played. While it should not be forgotten that the literal meaning of the word sonnet is ‘little-song’ so no doubt he wrote songs for Wriothesley too, while praises to him are exactly what the sonnets are.
Let not my love be called idolatry,
Nor my belovèd as an idol show,
Since all alike my songs and praises be
To one, of one, still such and ever so,
Kind is my love today, tomorrow kind,
Still constant in a wondrous excellence,
Therefore my verse to constancy confined,
One thing expressing, leaves out difference,
‘Fair, kind and true’ is all my argument,
‘Fair, kind and true’ varying to other words,
And in this change is my invention spent,
Three themes in one , which wondrous scope affords.
Fair, kind and true have often lived alone,
Which three till now never kept seat in one.
Here our author seeks to bludgeon us into submission with repetition of the same ‘theme’ expressed in ‘The Bath Sonnets’ and ‘The Phoenix and the Turtle’ although in this particular instance Elizabeth and Wriothesley become interchangeable. The ‘fair’ youth switches to ‘kind’ before becoming ‘constant’ an attribute normally attached to Elizabeth, while she is seen to be ‘fair’ once more. In my eyes there is a romanticism in the way our author sees the Tudor-Trinity for although the Queen has clearly wronged him, he is prepared to ‘leave out’ these ‘differences’ so in Heaven and on Earth they appear as constant, wondrous spirits. Where this sonnet proves itself to be a revelation though, is of course in what I have already been discussing, the fact that ‘Fair, kind and true’ are individuals, who are ‘all my argument’ while in Oxford’s invention they ‘vary’ (metamorphose) to other words. Lamentably though, through our author’s eyes ‘they have often lived alone,’ and ‘never kept seat in one’ (shared the throne together).
This cosy dream of Oxford’s of sharing the throne with Elizabeth and Wriothesley was of course in reality impossible, what with Lord Burghley being Elizabeth’s chief advisor and with Burghley already having presented Oxford a £15,000 dowry to marry his daughter. One of course cannot say to what degree Oxford may have been motivated by upward-mobility, but it could be seen as ironic, having spent the majority of his life dreaming of Wrothesley as King Henry IX, if ultimately it is he that posterity honours with a halo, be it triangular or not – though lamentably I must say this does seem a long way off.
Now, revisiting our sonnets once again we can see how they are an amalgam of three fundamental parts. Part one comprising 1 – 126 known as ‘The Fair Youth’ series, part two comprising 127 – 152 known as ‘The Dark Lady’ series, and part three 153 – 154 known as the ‘Bath Sonnets.’ Where confusion reigns is that although for the greater part ‘The Dark Lady’ series represents the Queen she is only viewed this way because of her tenebrous attitude towards the fair youth.
Now very briefly I shall return to our triangular halo – because another reason it is apposite is because the sonnet structure itself also takes the form of a triangle.
1 ———————————————————- 126
The Fair Youth Series
The Dark Lady Series
153 – 154
Princess Elizabeth whose hair when queen created
sunbeams so beguiling our poet was prepared to die!
The colours of the marigold were an allusion to Elisabeth’s hair and her flower the marigold was commented upon by Oxford’s secretary John Lyly who said “She useth the marigold for her flower, which at the rising of the sunne openeth his leaves, and at the setting shutteth them.” It was therefore ultimately Elizabeth’s gloomy negative attitude to Wriothesley that saw her incriminated by Shake-speare as the dark lady – she was after all a mother who saw her own son committed to the tower, an act provoking Oxford to describe him as ‘a Jewell hung in ghastly night.’ (S27)
As for Elizabeth’s Father he was renowned for his Phoebus complexion something that both she and her half-sister Mary inherited from him, while it is worth remembering that Elizabeth’s mother Ann Boleyn had very dark hair. Little wonder then that Henry Wriothesley relished the inheritance of auburn hair, something in his day he was famous for, wearing it nearly down to his waist as a badge of honour for all to see.
Colour co-ordinated Henry VIII, Princess Elizabeth’s Father.
(S25) (The Earls Essex & Southampton)
Great princes’ favorites their fair leaves spread
But as the marigold at the sun’s eye,
And in themselves their pride lies burièd,
For at a ‘frown’ they in their glory die.
As the writer Hank Whittemore says in his immense work ‘The Monument‘ Her Majesty’s imperial viewpoint determined everything; her favour was a beacon of light upon her subjects, while her ‘frown’ was a dark cloud casting it’s a shadow upon the world. ‘The Dark Lady’ series itself starts sermon like as if invoking a new testament, a new order, speaking of a world that was formerly fair – but latterly racked with darkness.
In the old age black was not counted fair
Or if it were, it bore not beauty’s name
But now is black beauty’ successive heir
And beauty slandered by a bastard shame.
In times past, black was not considered fair (Royal)
Or if it were, it bore not Elizabeth’s name of Tudor
But now as he (Wriothesley) is her successive heir
By association she is slandered by his illegitimacy.
In nothing art thou black save in thy deeds.
Then will I swear beauty herself is black.
– The Bath Sonnets –
(S153) Lines 1 – 14.
Cupid laid by his brand and fell asleep,
(S154) Lines 15 – 28
The little Love-God lying once asleep
To clarify what I meant when I said at the beginning of this article that Shake-speare’s sonnets were his opus No.1, what I believe is that if he were told he could save only one work for posterity – this would be the one he would save, regarding it as his most important in terms of what he wanted the world to know about his life and time on earth. One can then deduce how important the Bath sonnets are, being epigrams to his most important work. An importance underlined as fundamentally the same story is told in both sonnets, its purpose presumably to provoke us to more serious contemplation.
Leonardo da Vinci said “The joy of understanding – that is the most noble of pleasures.” Therefore to find the bath sonnets pleasurable it is no good approaching them with a sense of traditional dogma because you will be puzzled by them and find them disappointing in comparison to what has preceded. The template for these epigrams by Marianus Scholasticus is an ancient Greek verse, its subject matter a perfect foil for the story Oxford wanted to tell of events that took place in the spar city of Bath, verse he considered an appropriate vehicle for transporting the emotional maelstrom that infected his head in the summer of 1574.
My love is as a fever, longing still
For that which longer nurseth the disease,
Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill ……….
Past cure I am, now reason is past care
My thoughts and my discourse as madmen’s are ……….
Quite understandably (as he had suffered so) Oxford didn’t want those events relating to the summer of 1574 to pass by as if nothing of any consequence had happened, therefore he considered The Bath Sonnets a fitting finale, a sting in the tale perhaps, composed of words ultimately to be published beyond the grave, words the Elizabethan state would have condemned as heresy, words cleverly wrought within the framework of myth – thereby offering himself some indemnity from prosecution.
Firstly I shall take an overall look at this mythological allegory.
Cupid a little Love-God born of desire is a love-child but also a deity, so his brand burns with a holy fire of love. While he sleeps, the fairest votary with her maiden hand takes advantage and plunges his love-kindling brand into the cold valley-fountain, creating an eternally heated spring.
While our love-stricken poet seeking salvation muses upon the effects of these seething waters, though finds no cure, until he glances at his mistress, when loves brand is re-ignited as he finds himself immersed in her eyes – bathing in the very place Cupid first found desire.
Now I shall look at these sonnets through the eyes of our Tudor-trinity.
Cupid/desire – represents the Love-God Wriothesley. Elizabeth is portrayed as a maid of Dyans (the goddess of chastity) while the malcontented lover is a characterization of Oxford. The Nymphs represent Elizabeth’s ladies-in-waiting. As the city of Bath is mentioned four times we know that’s where these events take place.
Oxford-speak: He defines this in (S76 & S105) as ‘his invention’ prevalent in the Bath sonnets and what determines that they relate to real people and are not pure fiction.
It is not too large a leap of the imagination to realize that in (line 8) the words ‘sovereign cure’ must surely relate to a monarch, especially as two further references to the queen follow in (lines 19 & 22) of course it is ambivalent language (as all the sonnet’s are.) As we have seen in (S147) once again our poet casts himself as a victim of love, for although it appears a known practice men will experience seething waters as a hopeful cure for ‘strange maladies,’ he finds himself a pawn in the process of love, because the moment he catches his mistress’ eye, new-fired desire triumphantly points him towards his prize, so to his torment he endures love as an inescapable disease, at the mercy of a voracious she-wolf.
(Line 10) begins with the words ‘The boy for trial’ which of course is exactly how Oxford perceived the situation of his infant son, although he may wishfully have thought of him as a prince in waiting, his future was in fact completely uncertain with Oxford having no say whatsoever about his upbringing, his guardianship, or his education. The little Love-God was therefore in reality a bastard infant prisoner, a boy for trial, who lamentably would find his future decided behind closed doors.
Oxford whose input into the English language was extraordinary, was well ahead of his time using the term Love-God in (line 15) it being so similar to the term love-child, while simultaneously referring to his son who in ‘his invention’ he frequently describes as either prince, monarch, king or alternatively as divine, deity or God. While in (line 19) we find the idiom ‘The fairest votary’ tantalisingly close to the ‘The imperial votaress’ of ‘A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream,’ which was known as far-back as Jacobean times to be an allusion to Elizabeth I. Three lines later in (line 22) there miraculously appears a virgin hand, of course another reference to Elizabeth. While a heavy-hearted Oxford describes himself in (line 26) as ‘my Mistresses thrall’ words which harshly translate ‘to my mistresses’ slave,’ someone to whom he infers elsewhere in the sonnets that he has to provide sexual services for. Dutiful deeds described in (S151) as ‘my gross body’s treason.’
(S149) Canst thou, O cruel, say I love thee not,
When I against myself with thee partake?
(S151) But rising at thy name …………
…….. contented thy poor drudge to be
To stand in thy affairs, fall by thy side ……….
Her ‘love’ for whose dear love I rise and fall.
Trying therefore to seek the overall meaning of The Bath Sonnets I would say this; Oxford while fleeing for his life had travelled to the continent in an illegal act (because somebody of his position needed a license to do so.) His return from Brussels to Bath was therefore effectively by royal command, a journey during which he prayed Elizabeth would have a change of heart about their future, because his words record that he considered her as “vowing new hate after new love bearing” while in the process breaking two oaths she had made him, and in response to these ‘perjuries’ he cried out “all my honest faith in thee is lost!”(S152) Therefore he hoped for redemption while anticipating ‘a sovereign cure’ though ultimately no lasting cure was found, although he did witness a great love towards his son (by many legions of true hearts) though his dreams and his son’s destiny were literally quenched by Elizabeth, when as ‘the general of hot desire’ he was ‘by a virgin hand disarmed.’
– A Metaphysical Poem –
Existentialism rocked-up along time after the Earl of Oxford but what he thought was – there is no time like the present, before writing these lines.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time; when all our yesterdays have lighted fools their
Way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more; it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury – signifying nothing.
It was also a long time after Oxford graced the world before Samuel Johnson coined the phrase ‘metaphysical poets’ nevertheless our author uninhibitedly wrote.
Let the bird of loudest lay
On the sole Arabian tree
Herald sad and trumpet be,
To whose sound chaste wings obey.
The major drawback with these words was of course that nobody understood what the fuck they meant! While this misery was compounded because once having read them, one couldn’t then unread them, they then became an earwig in our heads.
Even before the number became unlucky, Oxford posted humanity thirteen obscure and possibly indecipherable envelope verses, but naturally there was method in his hubble-bubble madness. He wanted us scratching our heads, analyzing, struggling and pontificating over these conceit’s – his purpose, to focus our minds so we would more readily absorb the information contained within the more important second section – known as the Threnos, words which reveal the conundrum at the center of his life, but mercifully in the final verse of the first section known affectionately as the ‘session’ we find ourselves reunited with our sentimental, romantic poet.
To the Phoenix and the dove
Co-Supremes and stars of love.
Leonardo wrote ‘What is fair in men doesn’t last, old age creeps up on you, nothing’s more fleeting than the years of a man’s life.’ But in respect of the fair-youth, Oxford has proved the first part of this statement to be untrue, because the sonnets as a monument are the living record of Wriothesley’s memory, posterity therefore conceives the fair-youth as immortal – precisely as Oxford intended.
I am not necessarily suggesting that Oxford read Leonardo’s words though at the age of fifty and being infirm he was certainly aware that anything that needed to be said – needed to be said soon. He was also following the Essex Rebellion mindful of the Queen’s low self-esteem, having been in her company when Robert Devereux (the Earl of Essex) was executed. As the story goes the Queen (trying desperately hard to occupy herself) took to the virginals beginning to play, an action provoking Oxford’s wit, for he turned to Sir Walter Raleigh and whispered “When jacks start up heads go down.”
In more youthful days, days of heady romance Elizabeth had played music Oxford had composed, a fact confirmed in (sonnet 128) where he even mentions the word ‘jacks.’
Do I envy those jacks that nimble leap
To kiss the tender inward of thy hand,
Whilst my poor lips, which should that harvest reap,
At the wood’s boldness by thee blushing stand.
These then were the circumstances that led Oxford to this esoteric prophesy – first published in Robert Chester’s Loves Martyr in 1601. They are words that speak of familiar protagonists, our Tudor-Trinity.
– The Phoenix and the Turtle –
Beauty, Truth, and Rarity,
Grace in all simplicity,
Here enclosed in cinders lie.
Death is now the Phoenix nest,
And the Turtles loyal breast,
To eternity doth rest.
Leaving no posterity,
Twas not their infirmity,
It was married Chastity.
Truth may seem, but cannot be,
Beauty brag, but tis not she,
Truth and Beauty buried be.
To this urn let those repair,
That are either true or fair,
For these dead Birds, sigh a prayer.
In the poem ‘The Phoenix and the Turtle’ the Queen is represented as the Phoenix who in life she was often identified with, since a parliamentarian in the 1571 parliament had honoured her by saying that ”God had graced England with a blessed bird – a rare phoenix.” While Oxford is represented by the turtle – which he likened himself to because the Turtledove was believed to mate for life and he liked to see himself as her most dedicated follower. These last five verses are brief, enigmatic and beautiful, while in stark-naked language wistfully describing the fall of an epoch – along with Oxford’s dynastic dreams. While seeking an overall meaning of the threnos I would say this – that the Queen is seen not to die in isolation, because her death is a common death to the Tudor-Trinity. While as a lament it represents both prophesy and allegory, ‘a lament in which Oxford finds himself the victim of a catastrophe in a tragedy.’ Hardly surprising then that he was irresistibly attracted to the word ‘threnos’ because this description of the central narrative of his life, which he seems obsessional about transcribing – precisely defines what the word means.
A facsimile of ‘Loves Martyr Anno 1601’
Notice, how in the first line of the above illustration the words ‘Beautie, Truth, and Raritie,’ are capitalised, this is because they represent individuals, something replicated again by the words ‘Truth and Beautie’ in line twelve, by the same token the word ‘Chastitie’ in line nine represents the Queen, while in the last line the word ‘Birds’ represents all three of them.
At first sight the word ‘Rarity’ (for Wriothesley) seems a strange fit, but here is the OED definition; ‘a rare thing especially one having particular value.’ Now, in verse eight of the ‘Session’ we find the words, ‘Twixt this turtle and his queen’ therefore we know Elizabeth and the phoenix to be one and the same, while not forgetting as previously mentioned that ‘God had graced England with a blessed bird, ‘a rare phoenix’, the very reason Oxford uses the word ‘rarity’ in the first line, because it expresses a correlation between Elizabeth and Wriothesley.
The first verse of the threnos evokes a sense of contentment, even salvation, because ultimately in the simplicity of death the Tudor-Trinity are united as one.
The second verse starts ‘Death is now the phoenix nest,’ words obviously a metaphor for the Tudor dynasty, which also means Oxford’s dreams have gone up in smoke, although again this inevitability is understandably greeted with a level of calm acceptance. Though what is germane is that although the first verse cites three people, crucially the second verse cites only two, Elizabeth & Oxford, the two names that are italicised and it is they (in the next line) who ‘allegedly’ have left no posterity.
In verse three it is possible to detect a sub-strata of disappointment as the core of the poem begins to reveal itself, although as a recipe it is served with an ample portion of irony, because as we know Elizabeth & Oxford did in fact produce an heir; they could get on with it (rumpy-pumpy) they were not at this time infirm; although the official Tudor dictate preferred to proffer the virtues of virginity – while the Queen of course was married to her country – married yet chaste (married chastity.)
‘Truth may seem but cannot be.’
Verse four almost brings a tear to my eye because it is so laden with pathos, these are some of the saddest words in all Shake-speare because the first word ‘Truth’ is an allusion to Oxford’s life, one in which he anticipated sharing a throne with a queen. A life in which it appeared through a romantic-liaison with a Queen he had fathered a prince. A life in which he considered himself responsible for some of the greatest literature known to mankind, but one where he knew the state would do everything in their power to make sure the name ‘Edward de Vere’ would never be attached to his work.
‘Beauty brag but ‘tis not she.’
Naturally one askes what is beauty bragging about? Easy! She is bragging about married-chastity. Now if you have your doubts, consider this, apart from Elizabeth in a Tudor context who else are these words applicable to? So gathering my thoughts, what I believe Oxford is saying is that in the eyes of the world, they have left no posterity, a situation not bought about by their infirmity, but by a Queen who brags about being chaste, when she is not.
Verse five could be seen as just a nod to tradition, conveying itself as a dirge, while equally it could define the word enigmatic because its meaning makes more sense if those returning to the urn are already deceased when they do so, which of course they are, because birds fly as one imagines spirits do, while it is worth remembering that Prospero referred to Ariel as ‘my bird.’ The last verse may then be seen in a more sentimental way with Oxford & Wriothesley attentive with their obsequies to their Queen.
It is hardly surprising Oxford was attracted to the dramatic device he employs in this work when he reduces from the four lines of the ‘session’ to the three of ‘threnos’ a structure naturally more appropriate as an epitaph for a trinity.
In the last line as all of England prays and sighs, an echo of these dead birds gurgling in their own saliva can be heard, for this is the death rattle of the Tudor dynasty and while Oxford thought love would conquer all – truth remains incarcerated in the bowels of the earth, as time temporarily becomes the victor.
England’s greatest Queen is gone – England’s greatest poet is gone – England’s forgotten prince is gone, while today they are remembered as Elizabeth the Virgin Queen and as the bard from Stratford-upon-Avon whose ‘patron’ was Henry Wriothesley 3rd Earl of Southampton. It is bewildering to me that with all this evidence to the contrary, England can’t bring itself to embrace the dawn of a new age. Myth is more attractive than fact, while cuckolded citizens are subjected by orthodoxies, a malaise summerised by Napoleon when he said “What is history but a fable agreed upon,” while it seems to me this realm of England is tempered with an ‘antic disposition’ from which I find little comfort in the words of John of Gaunt.
“England that was wont to conquer others
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.”
Often random is the sequence of topics covered in this article by me, although the fact that ‘The Phoenix and the Turtle’ sequentially follow ‘The Bath sonnets’ is not, because as you are aware the content of these two somewhat incestuous works are brother and sister to one another. The Bath Sonnets show us the consequences of LOVE while the Phoenix and the Turtle show us the consequences of LIFE.
Eventually (amongst my musings) I shall come to a short section about Oxford’s early poetry where I shall highlight his poem ‘Queen of Every Grace’ which is a window into the souls of our two renaissance lovers. Thus we shall find the thread that represents the beginning of Oxford’s adult life which continues with ‘The Bath Sonnets’ and concludes with ‘The Phoenix and the Turtle.’
This chronological thread of life we can therefore classify in three separate parts as, the romantic-poet, the heartbroken-father and the grieving-subject.
– The Smoking Gun of Rebellion –
What comes around goes around – whether true or false, Robert Devereux the Earl of Essex and Henry Wriothesley were in England feted as great princes (S25). In one another’s company they were as thick as thieves, before in Ireland becoming brothers in arms. There also came and went a time, when they were ‘great favorites’ of Her Majesty, before (the Essex rebellion) when they became singularly united partners in crime. But as blood is thicker than water and even though it was rumoured that Essex was Elizabeth’s lover, as a consequence of their joint action as leaders of a so called ‘rebellion’ it was Essex alone that lost his head (literally). Wriothesley meanwhile, being a man created more equal than others, was committed to the tower with an executioners axe hung over his head, until the Queen in an act of maternal compassion commuted his sentence to life, ‘three winters cold’ was in part the reality that Wriothesley suffered in the tower.
(S104) Three winters cold …….. Since first I saw you fresh.
Straight in her heart did mercy come …..
And saved my life, saying ‘not you’
Here we see that Oxford considers his life and Wriothesley’s as indivisible, a father and son without spiritual impediments, blessed by a ‘marriage of true minds.’ (S116) But the power that drove the Essex rebellion was not primarily caused by animosity towards the Queen, but the Machiavellian, incestuous power behind the throne that by some had been mockingly called ‘Regnum Cecilianum.’
Oxford knew the Cecil’s like the back of his hand and it was at Cecil house where he first came to know Burghley’s younger son Robert who was born in the year 1563.
Roberts’s early life had been very cruel to him for as an infant he was dropped by his nurse, an accident that had the consequence of stunting his growth and leaving him hunched-backed, so he limped as an adult and swayed when he walked – a fact referenced by our good author.
(S66) And strength by limping sway disablèd.
Oxford’s beginnings were altogether more fortunate. He was born Viscount Bolbec an eldest son into the de Vere family the longest and most illustrious line of nobles in England, who in earlier medieval times had been known as the second richest family in England. Earl-John, Oxford’s father was known to have owned across England & Ireland over three hundred castles, manors, farms and estates. The king of England Edward VI whom Oxford was named after, marked the occasion of his birth by sending the gift of a silver-gilt baptismal cup to his christening.
(S91) Thy love is better than high birth to me.
What is so very pertinent about this sonnet (S91) is that its epi-center is the line ‘Thy love is better than high birth to me,’ it is its raison d’être – its entire structure is orientated around this one line. Henry Wriothesley’s love is worth more than our poet’s high birth to him. An analogy would see our aristocrat dancing ‘round a May-pole, full of the joys of spring, though without any sexual metaphor, for here love is ‘richer than wealth’ with our Lord Great Chamberlain’s ‘passion’ represented by platonic love, not carnal love. Thus the inescapable conclusion that one must derive, is that the person who wrote this sonnet was neither plebeian, nor one who plays at common sports, but one completely au fait with the aristocratic pursuits of hawks and horses and hounds – in a nutshell our great author was a nobleman.
O, that record could with a backward look,
Even of five hundred courses of the sun.
Oxford who was sixteen years old in the year 1566 was proud of the fact that he could trace his family heritage back five hundred years to 1066 when Albric de Vere arrived in England as part of the entourage of the waring ‘William Conqueror.’
– The lame Author –
Now, while trying in the year 1575 to put loves wounds behind him Oxford began his grand-tour of Europe, though fresh wounds would shortly appear – but this time physical, for while in a Venetian galley somewhere between Venice and Ragusa (Dubrovnik) he had an accident badly injuring his leg, an injury to which he sustained further damage in the year 1582 while engaged on a number of occasions in street fights between his men and Sir Thomas Knyvet’s men. In a letter written by Nicholas Faunt to Antony Bacon describing the Knyvet and Oxford duels he wrote ‘Both men were hurt, but my Lord of Oxford more dangerously.’ What Thomas was so enraged about was that Oxford had planted his seed in the fertile garden of his niece (a maid of honour to the queen) to which there was a subsequently flowering in the queen’s chambers – extra botanical activity’s that when they came to the Queen’s ear were the cause of a mighty ruckus, swiftly followed by both Oxford and his lover Anne Vavasour being committed to the tower. Now, paying the tower a visit wasn’t exactly on a courtiers list of things to do, but it was almost as if ones CV wasn’t absolutely complete until you had been there. Elizabeth had been there – Oxford went there and Wriothesley took his turn too. These people may have been musically gifted but there were times when the great symphony of their lives was characterised by three bars in a door, with the bright and optimistic sound of a Tudor-triangle – far beyond their reach.
Three years before William Cecil’s demise, the point at which his son Robert took over his mantel as chief minister, Oxford wrote to him in a letter dated 25th march 1595 :-
‘When your lordship shall have best time and leisure if I may know it, I will attend your lordship as well as a lame man may at your house.’
(S89) Say that thou didst forsake me for some fault
And I will comment on that offence,
Speak of my lameness and I straight will halt,
Against thy reasons making no defense.
(S37) As a decrepit father takes delight
To see his active child do deeds of youth,
So I, made lame by Fortune’s dearest spite,
Take all my comfort of thy worth and truth,
For whether beauty, birth or wealth or wit,
Or any of these all or all or more,
Entitled in thy parts do crownèd sit,
I make my love engrafted to this store:
So then I am not lame, poor, nor despised,
Whilst that this shadow doth such substance give
That I in thy abundance am sufficed
And by a part of all thy glory live,
Look what is best, that best I wish in thee,
This wish I have; then ten times happy me.
– A Double Wish –
Here in the last two lines we have a device that I shall call a ‘double wish’ our author uses it in several places, not least in the concluding lines of the sonnet’s dedication, its purpose is to draw our attention to the fact that there are two people vying for one name – the name William Shake-speare.
‘Wishing the well Wishing adventurer in setting forth,’ (lines 8, 9 & 10 from the sonnets dedication.)
Death is approaching and desperation is setting in, our mighty Lord Oxford is beginning to see clearly that in respect of his life’s works that eternity will not associate his name with the Shake-speare cannon, he will be leaving behind things standing thus unknown.
(S72) My name be buried where my body is.
– To Have is to Have –
Having read of Stratford-William’s association with Francis Langley in the illuminating article ‘The Real William Shakespeare’ by Alan Robinson, the modern day description I would attach to him would be ‘wide-boy,’ for it can be seen that in an anti-social and immoral manner how ruthlessly entrepreneurial he was. For although his adversary Oxford liked to portray him as a bit thick, he was wise enough to see that in respect of his writing and association with the theater, that Oxford was severely handicapped by his nobility (as such activities were not seen as worthy or righteous pursuits for an aristocrat) a situation Stratford-William was adventurous enough to take advantage of.
Now, amongst the multiplicity of characters in Shakespeare’s plays, to my knowledge there are only two Williams, brothers-in-farce they could be labeled. First there is the Latin student in the Merry Wives of Windsor who is a bit slow on the up-take, and secondly a country-clown who lays claim to the hand of Audrey in As You Like It who is just a bit slow. This similarity between these two William’s I find mirrored in my ‘double wish,’ but where one character turns out to be true and the other false, something I shall elaborate on further.
As parts for actors these two William parts, have a telling common denominator, the fact that neither role bears any real significance to the general narrative of their respective stories. Now, what I have deduced from these two stooges, in these two stories, is that although everything may be likable and merry upon the stage – in the wider world deceit and oppression rule, for whether prosecuted by the state or the individual – these Tudor cameos illustrate that identity theft is no modern concept.
‘False William’ informs us that he was born in the Forest of Arden which in the 16th century was slap-bang on the doorstep of Stratford-upon-Avon and due to the fact that he wouldn’t be able to remember a longer one, he has a very small part. His purpose in the major scheme of things is to be a whipping-boy, a part thoroughly deserved due to his nasty habit of appropriating the works of our great author and others in the name of financial gain. A practice referenced by Ben Jonson in his censure of Stratford-William in the sonnet ‘On Poet-Ape’ where he leaves no doubt who he is referring to as he remarks upon the fact (in line three) that when not an actor he is a broker, before finally mentioning he is ‘fleecing people’ perhaps by taking the wool-pack from his lap and holding it over people’s eyes!
Poor Poet-Ape, that would be thought our chief
Whose works are e’en the frippery of wit,
From brokage is become so bold a thief,
As we, the robb’d, leave rage, and pity it.
At first he makes low shifts, would pick and glean,
Buy the reversion of old plays; now grown
To a little wealth, and credit in the scene,
He takes up all, makes each man’s wit his own:
And, told of this, he slights it. Tut, such crimes
The sluggish gaping auditor devours;
He marks not whose ‘twas first; and after-times
May judge it to be his, as well as ours.
Fool! As if half eyes will not know a fleece
From locks of wool, or shreds from the whole piece?
In the dialogue from As You Like It that follows, Touchstone (a court jester or fool) represents our author and as the writer Sabrina Feldman elucidates, ‘A touchstone’s purpose is to test the purity of precious metals, and the character Touchstone plays a similar role in the play by exposing what is valuable and false in the people around him.’ When he says in the second line “We shall be flouting, we cannot hold” my interpretation is ‘ We shall be mocking, expressing contempt, for how could we not?’
TOUCHSTONE. It is meat and drink to me to see a clown. By my troth, we that have good wits have much to answer for; we shall be flouting. We cannot hold.
WILLIAM. Good ev’n Audrey.
AUDRY. God ye good ev’n, William.
WILLIAM. And good ev’n to you , sir.
TOUCHSTONE. Good ev’n, gentle friend. Cover thy head, cover thy head; nay, prithee be cover’d. How old are you, friend?
WILLIAM. Five and twenty, sir.
TOUCHSTONE. A ripe age. Is thy name William?
WILLIAM. William, sir.
TOUCHSTONE. A fair name. Wast born i’ the forest here?
WILLIAM. Ay, sir, I thank God.
TOUCHSTONE. “Thank God” – a good answer. Art rich?
WILLIAM. Faith, sir, so so.
TOUCHSTONE. “So so,” is good, very good, very excellent good; and yet it is not, it is but so so. Art thou wise?
WILLIAM. Ay, sir, I have a pretty wit.
TOUCHSTONE. Why, thou say’st well. I do now remember a saying, “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.
When Touchstone says “Good ev’n gentle friend” he alludes to the fact that Stratford-William was by then in possession of a coat of arms (believing himself to be a gentleman) although not completely in touch with social etiquette, as he removes his hat before a fool. But the pleasant fool (Touch) shortly turns tail giving him a piece of his mind.
TOUCHSTONE. Do you love this maid?
WILLIAM. I Do, Sir.
TOUCHSTONE. Give me your hand. Art thou learned?
WILLIAM. No, sir.
TOUCHSTONE. Then learn this of me: To have is to have. For it is a figure of rhetoric that drink, being pour’d out of a cup into a glass, by filling the one doth empty the other. For all you writers do consent that ipse is he. Now, you are not ipse – for I am he.
Ipse in Latin means ‘he himself.’ So what our author is saying to Stratford-William is ‘You are not the author William Shake-speare because I am he.’
To comprehend fully this rhetoric one needs to study Plato’s Symposium, where the transference of knowledge from one person to another is described, whereby sitting beside someone with greater knowledge, it might flow like water from a cup that was full to one that was empty. What our author is saying is – think not that by nefarious skullduggery, through your association with my name that you will be able to drink in the river of my genius – for you won’t!
It is said that there is no smoking-gun in the authorship debate, but to my mind there is here a veritable whiff of smoldering gunpowder, and thanks to the good work of the writer Mark Anderson I am able to pass on to you the Italian translation of ‘To have is to have,’ (Avere è avere) – A Vere is a Vere.
– An Eternally Ticking Anachronism –
The winter season for plays annually presented to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth lasted beyond Christmas and came to an abrupt halt on Shrove Tuesday when court revels were terminated by lent. As an epilogue to a performance of As You Like It believed to have been performed on the 20th February 1599 there forth-came a poem written by our illustrious court poet dedicated to the monarch.
To The Queen.
As the dial hand tells o’er
The same hours it had before,
Still beginning in the ending,
Circular account still lending,
So, most mighty Queen we pray,
Like the dial day by day
You may lead the seasons on,
Making new when old are gone,
That the babe which now is young
And hath yet no use of tongue
Many a Shrovetide here may bow
To that empress I do now,
That the children of these lords,
Sitting at your council boards,
May be grave and agèd seen
Of her that was their fathers’ queen.
Once I wish this wish again,
Heaven subscribe it with ‘Amen’.
Again in the penultimate line we have a ‘double wish,’ which can be seen as ‘a true wish’ and ‘a false wish’. The first representing the Author of the Shake-speare canon (Oxford) and the second a blaggard and an imposter (Stratford-William) The word ‘wi-sh’ obviously representing a contraction of the name William Shake-speare.
Having dealt with ‘False William’ I shall try and explain as simply as I possibly can how ‘True William’ (who although a little reticent as a Latin scholar) nevertheless helps point us towards the name ‘Edward’ the authentic author, an exercise somewhat protracted as not only does it include the plays The Merry Wives but also Titus Andronicus and Henry IV Part One.
Firstly, I need to invoke the first page of William Lily’s Latin Grammar, a school textbook printed in 1534 and alternatively known as ‘The Old Eton Book of Grammar’ or more commonly ‘The Accidence‘ a work known to all Elizabethan schoolboys.
As the print is rather difficult to read in the above Illustration, I have transcribed the most important sections line by line, although it is far from a precise copy, it may still be of some help, the fifth line from the bottom reads Edwardus, is my proper name.
A Noune abjective is that cannot stand by himself, but requi =
reth to be joined with another word; as Bonus, Good. Pulcher,
Faire. And it is beclined either with three terminations: as Bo =
nus, Bona, Bonum: or else with three articles: as hic haec, and
Hoc, felix, Happy. Hic Haec Levis, & hoc Leue, light.
A Noune substantive either is proper to the thing that it be =
tokeneth: as Eduardus, is my proper name, or else is common
to more: as Homo, is a common name to all men.
– Numbers of Nounes –
In Nounes be two numbers, the singular, and the plurall. The
Singular number speaketh of one: as Lapis, a stone.
If we now turn our attention to scene two, act IV of Titus Andronicus and tune in to a conversation between two soldiers, Chiron and Demetrious – we hear the latter read from a scroll two lines from the Grammar.
” Integer vitae, scelerisque purus / Non eget Mauri jaculis, nec arcu.”
To which Chiron Responds:
“O, tis a verse in Horace, I know it well, I read it in the grammar long ago”
So what we perceive (quite incredibly) are two soldiers in Shake-speare’s classical Roman play referencing an Elizabethan book on grammar! Now, if you are not already aware of this fact, there are no mistakes in Shake-speare, although this does have to be seen as one of the greatest anachronisms in literature – but one with a very precise purpose. To draw our attention to the first page of William Lily’s Latin Grammar which incorporates the line ‘Edwardus is my proper name.’ Now if you are thinking that the directions to this sentence are a bit random, we then need to drop in and take a look at the first scene of act IV of The Merry Wives where Sir Hugh Evans asks the student William, ‘Some questions in his ‘accidence.’ (the Grammar)
Evans. What is Lapis, William?
Will. A stone.
Evans. And what is ‘a stone’ William?
Will. A pebble.
Evans. No, it is Lapis. I pray you remember in your prain.
Evans. What is ‘fair’ William?
Here we find the Latin words ‘Lapis’ and ‘Pulchar’ our author intending these words on the first page of the Grammar to act as two arrows both pointing inwards, towards the line that appears between them which is ‘Edwardus is my proper name.’
In the play Henry IV Part 1 there is yet a further allusion, found in the first scene of act II in an exchange of dialogue between ‘Gadshill’ and the ‘Chamberlain’ at an inn in Rochester.
Gads. We steal as in a castle, cocksure; we have the receipt
of fernseed, we walk invisible.
Cham. Nay, by my faith, I think we are more beholding to the
night than to fernseed for your walking invisible.
Gads. Give me thy hand. Thou shall have a share in our purchase,
as I am a true man.
Cham. Nay, rather let me have it as you are a false thief.
Gads. Go to, Homo is a common name to all men.
Bid the ostler bring my gelding out of the stable,
Farewell you muddy knave.
To the educated Elizabethan William Lily’s Latin Grammar was particularly well known and the line Homo is a common name to all men would have been highly memorable – as used in the sentence that distinguishes between proper and common nouns.
A Noune substantive either is proper to the thing that it betokeneth, as Edwardus is
my proper name, or else is common to more, as Homo is a common name to all men.
A lucid summary of this scene by the writer Nina Green at The Oxford Authorship Site appears most intuitive: Gadshill’s cryptic reference to ‘walking invisible’ also assumes significance; as the true author of the Shakespeare plays, Oxford does ‘walk invisible.’ Similarly, the references to ‘a true man’ are significant in relation to Oxford’s surname Vere, and his motto Vero Nihil Verius (Nothing truer than Vere) There is certainly a hint in these lines that the authorship of the plays has been stolen from a ‘true man’ named Edward, who ‘walks invisible.’
– Truth and Ideology –
To find Henry Wriothesley’s true birthday I have had to don my deerstalker, while four hundred years after Edward de Vere’s death, although he is most certainly buried in Westminster Abbey, to the greater populace he still remains invisible. Let me therefor reiterate the words of the Nobel prize winner for literature in 2017 Kasuo Ishiguro, who spoke after receiving news of his victory second hand, of some of the major themes he had tackled in his work, particularly about history, how countries and nations and communities remember their past and how very often they like to bury uncomfortable memories.
My reading of this is that when truth and ideology conflict, truth generally takes a bit of a battering.
A fact encapsulated by Oxford when in a letter written to Robert Cecil dated 7th May 1603 he illustrated his great wisdom by saying, ‘But I hope truth is subject to no prescription, for truth is truth though never so old, and time cannot make that false which once was true.’
Returning to the sonnets, the only part of the dedication not so far mentioned by me is the line ‘And that eternity promised by our ever living poet.’ In respect of ‘our ever living poet’ this does suggest that the poet is already deceased, which at the time the sonnets were published Oxford was, as he died in 1604 and they weren’t published until 1609 when Wriothesley would have been thirty five years old.
Edward de Vere was an extremely proud man and his pledge of eternity expressed by the theme of eternal love in the sonnets is indelibly etched within the pantheon of literature, so as long as men can breathe, and eyes can see, his words will continue to express his deep felt love for the fair youth as embodied within the structure of this monument, built with words, formed by the virtue of his pen.
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, your praise shall still find room
Even in the eyes of all posterity
That wear this world out to the ending doom.
So, till the judgement that yourself arise,
You live in this, and dwell in lovers’ eyes.
One wonders, if in the penultimate line our author could preferentially have used the word accede in place of arise, as the word ‘day’ as in judgement-day is conspicuous by its absence. Naturally all this is just supposition, because for those of us that live hundreds of years after the sonnets were written, understanding them is only ever going to be partially achievable. To my mind though what is patently obvious, is how desperately hard our author tries to let us know who he is, and who his great love is – through relentlessly insinuation and inference, it is almost as if he is pleading with us, so we also might see that his son has been touched by God and consequently royal, a fact I find conclusive evidence for in the penultimate sonnet of the fair youth series.
(S125) No, let me be obsequious in thy heart,
And take thou my oblation, poor but free.
The words in the first line may mean ‘to serve is to adore’ where ‘oblation’ refers to the gift of the sonnets to the fair youth, which has a single meaning – a gift to a God.
– Oxford’s Poetry –
Before I depart this article, I crave your patience a little further with a point I consider profound about Oxford’s poetry, because his poetry (using the word in its wider sense) I see as being synonymous with the flowering of English literature (because he was at its helm) when this flowering occurred in late Elizabethan times, beginning in the mid 1580’s and continuing through the 90’s.
My thoughts are that the great majority of poetry we have that is either signed by Oxford or attributed to him, was written before 1575 at a time today often referred to as the drab period, written before he left England upon his grand tour, although from the content of some of these verses the very last thing his life seems to have been was drab!
A number of these poems appeared in a publication known as ‘The Paradise of Dainty Devices.’ Some signed ‘E.O.’ others with the antiquated ‘Earle of Oxenforde’ signature. Following this, a period of self-effacement began where Oxford wrote using a variety of nom de plumes until eventually settling on the alias ‘William Shake-speare’ which I have a sneaky suspicion coincided with the granting of ‘a suit’ Oxford had before the Queen, that came to fruition on 26th June 1586 which amounted to an income of £1000 per annum, to benefit him for his entire lifetime, remuneration which did not have to be accounted for.
A thousand kisses buys my heart from me,
And pay them at thy leisure, one by one.
(Venus & Adonis)
Now when fuddy-duddy-academia refers to Edward de Vere’s poetry as terrible, what they are in fact referring to is the immature poetry of William Shake-speare (a foible therefor with a beautiful irony) because not surprisingly in their genesis these poems absolutely reek of youthful zeal and vaunting romance. Many of these immature verses being lyrics for songs, while some poems written by a young nobleman with a lovelorn heart were for the delectation of an experienced Queen, someone not entirely opposed to a bit of flattery, a statement I propose to back-up with a further example illustrating this needy personality of hers.
In 1569 Elizabeth took delivery of a painting attributed (among others) to Joris Hoefnagel its subject an allegory of the judgement of Paris, with herself playing the part of Paris while holding a scepter and an orb in place of the golden apple. It was a painting she absolutely loved! Considering it the glass of fashion – as it showed her ‘confounding’ or eclipsing the three Goddesses, Juno, Pallas and Venus.
What is both commendable and fascinating is that the Earl of Oxford found time to reference this painting in the second verse of his poem ‘Reason and affection’ thereby showing a domestic link between the Royal household and himself, while of particular interest is the fact that he was known to have been staying in Windsor in the year this picture was delivered there.
But who can leave to look on Venus’ face,
Or yieldeth not to Juno’s high estate?
What wit so wise as gives not Pallas place?
These virtues rare each God did yield a mate,
Save her alone who yet on earth doth reign,
Whose beauty’s string no gods can well distrain?
If there remains in you some fragment of doubt that this poem relates to our virgin Queen, then let me test you with another of a similar early date, which shall be known as ‘Queen of Every Grace’ written in devotion of Elizabeth our Marigold queen, ‘whose hairs are all sunbeams’ (verse four).
What cunning can express
The favour of her face ?
To whom in this distress,
I do appeal for grace.
A thousand Cupid’s fly
About her gentle eye.
From which each throws a dart,
That kindleth soft sweet fire
Within my sighing heart,
Possessèd by desire.
No sweeter life I try,
Than in her love to die.
The lily in the field,
That glories in his white,
For pureness now must yield,
And render up his right;
Heaven pictured in her face,
Doth promise joy and grace.
Fair Cynthia’s silver light,
That beats on running streams,
Compares not with her white,
Whose hairs are all sun-beams,
So bright my Nymph doth shine,
As day unto my eyne.
With this there is a red,
Exceeds the Damask-Rose;
Which in her cheeks is spread,
Whence every favour grows.
In sky there is no star,
But she surmounts it far.
When Phoebus from the bed
Of Thetis doth arise,
The morning blushing red,
In fair carnation wise;
He shows in my Nymph’s face,
As Queen of every grace.
This pleasant lily white,
This taint of roseate red;
This Cynthia’s silver light,
This sweet fair Dea spread;
These sunbeams in mine eye,
These beauties make me die:
Nothing could be clearer; this verse was written by our Elizabethan poet while trying to procure himself a Shakespearian Queen. The line ‘for pureness now must yield’ perhaps suggesting foreplay to seduction, while within its language, there is neither shortage of Tudor mythology, nor lack of devotion.
Concentrating on the last verse, the first two lines relate to purity and complexion but also represent the Households of Lancaster & York – the colours of the Tudor rose. Whereas the middle two lines containing the words Cynthia and Dea refer to the moon goddess who Elizabeth was often associated with. In the last two lines as a result of all this desire the Queen’s flower opens its petals – radiating sunbeams, which cause such ecstasy, our poet finds himself unequivocally prepared to meet his maker.
Is the poem Shakespearian?
From line five ‘A thousand Cupids fly, about her gentle eye, from which each throws a dart, that kindleth soft sweet fire.’ Here there is a similarity to line 196 of Venus & Adonis, ‘Thine eye darts forth the fire that burneth me,’ but closer matches exist with the following lines:-
(S153) And his love-kindling fire did quickly steep.
(S98) Nor did I wonder at the Lily’s white, nor praise the deep vermilion of the rose.
Naturally you will have noticed the anaphora in every line of the last verse. Is this also close to Shake-speare I hear you ask? Reasonably close I would say – a device often employed by him, here is a well-known example: ‘This blessed plot – This Earth – This Realm – This England.’
Now, for any of you wishing to gain a better understanding of the hundreds of similarities between the poetry of Oxford and Shake-speare, I would suggest you try and catch-up with a revealing article written by Joseph Sobran entitled ‘Shakespeare’ Revealed in Oxford’s Poetry,’ to be found in a book entitled Great Oxford which is a compilation of various Oxfordian essays edited by Richard Malim.
– Oxford at Westminster –
Arthur Golding, Oxford’s uncle the afore mentioned tutor and translator of Ovid’s Metamorphoses had a son named Percival Golding, who’s claim to fame is that he will go down in history as being responsible for something known as ‘The Percival Golding Manuscript,’ here summarized.
Edward de Vere, only son of John, borne the twelfthe day of April Anno 1550
Earle of Oxenforde, High Chamberlayne, Lord Bolebec, Sandford & Badlesmere,
Styard of the forest in Essex, and of the privy councsill to the King Majestie that
now is. Of whom I will only speak what all mens voices confirme: He was a man
In minde and body absolutely accomplished with honourable endowments.
He died at his house at Hackney in the month of June Anno 1604 and lieth
buryed at Westminster.
This statement that Oxford lies buried at Westminster has recently been endorsed by the findings of the insuppressible force that is Alexander Waugh in consequence of which I find myself unable to sign off without mention of these brilliant discoveries, particularly as they relate to yet further analysis of the Sonnets dedication and title page. Mr. Waugh has discovered that beyond the fifteen and eighteen line grids first discovered by John M. Rollett which revealed that Mr W. H. to whom the sonnets were dedicated was in fact Henry Wriothesley, that by using the same system but in a nineteen line grid information is revealed telling us where Edward de Vere is buried and that by further deciphering of an encryption of the title page of the sonnets, the precise spot where he is buried is revealed.
If you are not yet familiar with these revelations I suggest you take a look at the Shakespeare Authorship Trust lectures, which in two parts feature Alexander Waugh and can be found on You Tube under; SAT conference 2016 & 2017 entitled ‘Grave Problem’ 1 & 2. The second of these in particular is not only highly educational but also absolutely fascinating, although I would say both are essential viewing.
– Tragedy Precedes Tempest –
Now things take a turn for the worse as I find myself slowly consumed by grumbles. With one in particular appertaining to those people who think The Tempest was written in the period 1610/11 – quite simply it wasn’t! If not before, it was definitely played at court on Shrove Monday 1605 when it was entitled ‘A Tragedy of the Spanish Maze‘ it was itemized on Court records on a list provided by ‘The Office of the Revels’ along with a further seven plays by Shakespeare and two by Ben Jonson. Scheduled to take place between two performances of The Merchant of Venice before King James I and played by His Majesties players, the first of these performances taking place on Shrove Sunday the 10th Feb 1605 although the second performance scheduled for Shrove Tuesday was cancelled.
Beneath is a facsimile from ‘the accounts of the office of the revels’ for the year 1605 itemizing three plays by ‘Shaxberd’ from a total of eleven intended to be played.
A point particularly relevant here is that any play scheduled to be performed before the reigning monarch at Shrovetide is no ordinary play, and certainly not a play that is going to be lost to the annals of time, which of course it hasn’t been, nor is it the first Shakespearean play ever to have undergone an evolution of title, as many of the plays we know today had earlier origins, while others did not reached their mature splendor without the indignity of rewrites.
There is sufficient evidence on the internet proving that The Spanish Maze & The Tempest are the same play so I will not re-cover that ground, suffice to say that 16th Century history considered, a play with the name ‘Spanish’ in its title might have been more alluring than one without. While the Italian City-States mentioned in the play ‘Naples & Milan’ were of course at that time under Spanish control, while the word ‘maze’ was often on the lips of those hapless penitents who spell-bound wandered disorientated around that magical labyrinth of an island.
Gonzalo. “By’r lakin, I can go no further, sir;
My old bones ache. Here’s a maze trod indeed” ……….
Alonso. “This is as strange a maze as e’er men trod.”
What is significant about the structure of the play is that although the first scene is about a tempest the rest of the play is almost exclusively about a maze. Let me quote from Roger A. Stritmatter & Lynne Kositsky’s scholarly book On the Date, Sources and Design of Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
Throughout the play the characters wander, in the mode of the Christian pilgrim,
Through a disorienting labyrinth which induces in them the various altered states
Of consciousness characteristic of the contemplative penitent treading a maze…..
Treading the labyrinth was traditional at lent, when the Christian penitent followed
‘The way’ and this practice of using the labyrinth as a contemplative device,
Originated in very ancient times.
By the 15th century walking the labyrinth had replaced the Easter pilgrimage to
Palestine for Christians unable to undertake the hazards and hardships of the
Actual journey. The famous labyrinth at Chartres, originally constructed in the
13th century even became known as the ‘chemin de Jerusalem.’
Arriving at the cathedral, the pilgrim entered the labyrinth and traced the route
To the center rosette, pausing to pray at each one of the fourteen labyrs, or
Turning points …..
Reaching the center symbolised remission from sin, release from purgatory and
This Pattern of peripatetic salvation, so familiar from the popular iconography of
Lent, is duplicated in The Tempest.
What is outlined above we see played out in the last act when Prospero draws these penitents into his magic-circle as if it were a rosette at the heart of a liturgical maze. Here the magus finally forgives those who have wronged him for as he says “the rarer action is in virtue not in vengeance,” before the story moves towards talk of a return to Milan.
It is therefore my belief that having taken a consensus of the travels of both Ulysses and Aeneas that our author was prompted during his grand tour of 1575 to travel in their wake where amongst his journeys he embarked upon a circumnavigation of the island of Sicily.
To help collaborate this theory I can tell you that Oxford was in Palermo in the summer of that year, when perhaps to impress the acting viceroy he organised an impromptu tournament, while mindful of the motto Tendit in ardua virtus (Valor proceeds to arduous undertakings) he mounted his horse ‘Oltramarine’ challenging all manner of persons, with weapons of choice, to a duel in defense of his prince her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth I – although apparently, none were so brave as to take up his challenge.
It is also worth reminding ourselves at this point that the setting for Much Ado about Nothing was the moated citadel of Messina and that two characters in The Winter’s Tale – Cleomenes and Dion from their departure point of Palermo completed a circumnavigation of Sicily during their quest to consult the oracle at Delphi – interestingly described in the play as a journey taking exactly twenty-three days – well now! Isn’t it incredible the information one can pick up in a spit and sawdust pub on the banks of old father Thames!
To justify my conjecture that in literary terms The Tempest has historical roots I cite the fact that King Alonso and his retinue were traveling an almost identical route to the one traveled by Aeneas in the Aeneid. Alonso was traveling from the bay of Tunis to Naples just as Aeneas had done fifteen hundred years previously. Whenever possible in these early times ships would always travel on coastal routes even though the length of the journey was often greatly increased by doing so. The distance from Palermo to Naples is nearly two hundred miles as the albatross flies but with safety being the main concern ‘costeggiare’ (hugging the coast) would have been the way they proceeded. Literature therefore informs us that both Alonso and Aeneas found themselves sailing eastwards along the northern shores of Sicily, both heading for the Italian peninsula. King Alonso was returning home following the wedding of his daughter princess Claribel to the King of Tunis while Aeneas (in a much earlier era) found himself wandered the Mediterranean for six years trying to find his way to become the first founder of the city of Rome, situations where both characters got themselves in trouble because this was a notoriously windy corner of the world – a place where the tempestuous God Aeolus ruled.
In The Judgement of Paris Venus the mother of Aeneas was deemed to be more beautiful than Pallas Athene and Juno, something that Juno being the queen of the gods – found she couldn’t readily come to terms with – in fact she was quite literally enraged with jealousy and determined to do anything within her power to keep Aeneas from finding his way to Italy. Juno railed.
“I am the queen of the gods, the sister of Jupiter and his wife, and I have waged war
All these years against a whole race of men!” “Is there no one left who worships the
Godhead of Juno?” “Will there be no one in the future to pray to me and lay offerings
At my altar?”
These were the thoughts that came to the goddess as Aeneas approached the Island of Vulcano the most southerly and most active of the Aeolian Islands where somewhere in a vast cavern Aeolus kept in subjugation the brawling winds and howling storms, chained and bridled in their prison. Juno cried out again.
“I come to you, Aeolus, because the father of the gods and the king of men has given
You the power to calm the waves of the sea or raise them by your winds.” “A race of
Men hateful to me is sailing the Tyrrhenian sea carrying Ilium (Troy) to Italy.”
“Whip up your winds overwhelm their ships and sink them, drive their fleets in all
Directions and scatter their bodies over the sea.”
“My duty is to carry out your orders; it is thanks to you that I rule this little kingdom
And enjoy this scepter and the blessing of Jupiter.” “Through you I have a couch to
Lie on at the feast of the gods and my power over cloud and storm comes from you.”
At these words he struck the side of the hollow mountain with the butt of his spear and a terrible tempest began to blow over earth and sea. It was therefore in exactly the same place that both Aeneas and Alonso experienced a terrifying tempest, so with plagiarism to the fore (often our author’s best friend) he simply substituted the roles of Juno and Aeolus for Prospero and Ariel.
“Come unto these yellow sands” was exactly what the Earl of Oxford did in the summer of 1575 when he arrived on the Island of Vulcano – although the colour of these sands is not the same as found on British beaches but a saturated vivid yellow colour because of their sulphurous composition. Whereas any surprise he might have felt at the unusual ‘Music’ of its landscape, with its heaving, groaning, cracking, sighing and drumming, would have been mitigated, because he had already read a description of it in Virgil’s Aeneid.
Close by that side of Sicily where lies Aeolian Lipare there rises high an island steep
With smoking rocks. Beneath it a den with caves of Etna, hollowed out by forges of
The Cyclops, roars; and pounding strokes echo, groaning, on those anvils; bars of
Chalyb steel hiss through the caverns; Fire pants in those furnaces; the house of
Vulcan; and the land’s name, Vulcano.
The Lord of fire from heaven’s height descended here.
Of course the smell of horse-piss and rotten eggs might have held our Lordship’s nostrils in great indignation. While it is worth mentioning that at the time of Oxford’s visit the island was still uninhibited, so, he most probably was fortunate enough to find the filthy pool in which Stephano & Trinculo lost their bottles in pristine condition, meaning it had a ‘mantled’ surface, a phenomenon due to volcanic activity that caused dry particles of Sulphur to descend and settle on its surface. Let me remind you of Shake-speare’s words.
Prospero. “Say again, where didst thou leave these varlets?”
“I told you, sir, they were red-hot with drinking, so full of valour that they smote the
Air for breathing in their faces, beat the ground for kissing of their feet, yet always
Bending towards their project.” “Then I beat my tabor at which like unbacked colts
They pricked their ears, advanced their eyelids, lifted up their noses as they smelt
Music; so I charmed their ears that calf-like they my lowing followed, through
Toothed briars, sharp furzes, pricking gorse and thorns, which entered their frail
Shins.” “At last I left them in the filthy-mantled pool beyond your cell, there dancing
Up to th’ chins, that the foul lake o’er stunk their feet.”
From these words of Ariel, “through toothed briars, sharp furzes, pricking gorse and thorns,” the flora and fauna of Vulcano begins to emerge. Caliban in act 1 scene 2 says, “When first you got here, you bought me water with berries in it.” A retired American Lawyer called Richard Paul Roe suggests in his beautiful and informative book The Shakespeare Guide to Italy that these berries may well have been ‘Mulberries’ because there is still today an area on the Island known as ‘La Contrada del Gelso’ (The Mulberry District) and he concludes his chapter on The Tempest by saying.
No other place in the world possesses the unique combination of features
Described in ‘The Tempest’ and found together on the Island of Vulcano:
Yellow sands, hot mud pools, volcanoes, springs, fumaroles, Sulphur and
Acrid stink, pines, oaks, lings, Spanish broom, cliffs, caves, grottoes,
Mulberries, hedgehogs and scamels (Godwits.) Indeed everything mentioned
By the characters in the play is readily seen, touched, felt – and smelled –
By a visit to this one magical Island off the coast of Sicily today.
While the enchantment of Vulcano which appears to cease the souls of all its visitors – could not be more eloquently described than by Caliban’s famous words.
“The isle is full of noises, sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.”
“Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments will hum about mine ears; and
Sometimes voices, that if I then had waked after long sleep, will make me
Sleep again; and then in dreaming, the clouds methought, would open and
Show riches ready to drop upon me, that when I waked I cried to dream again.”
To summarize, it is my belief that while on his ‘Grand Tour’ the Earl of Oxford travelled the short distance from the northern shores of Sicily to the Island of Vulcano the most southerly of the Aeolian Islands. There his ship could possibly have moored in what today is called ‘The Grotta del Cavallo’ a place referred to in The Tempest as ‘The Deep Nook.’ Let me quote some more of Ariel’s words.
“Safely in harbour is the King’s ship, in the deep nook where once thou called’st
me up at midnight to fetch dew from the still-vexed Bermoothes; there she’s hid.”
Here I must apologize because I have to have another little grumble, as in my own copy of the play (by a renowned publisher) somebody with more arrogance than good sense has seen fit to alter the words of our great playwright so it reads ‘to fetch dew from the still-vexed Bermudas.’ The relevant point with this little bit of Shakespearian wit is that ‘still-vexed’ relates to Bermoothes, but not to the islands of Bermuda. Still-vexed means a place vexed with stills – as in illegal stills, and where in the 16th century would such a place be found, yes exactly, in the city where the play was first performed! In a seedy run down red-lit area nestling roughly between The Strand, Clément’s Inn and Chancery Lane – known then as the Bermoothes, where if one had a mind to ‘dew’ could be collected in a flash by a spirit in the wee-hours of the morning. This disreputable area was well known to Oxford because ‘the wards of court’ who studied at Cecil House (itself situated on the Strand) had often been warned about transgressing into it, especially late at night.
Now, bearing in mind it was over four hundred years ago that Oxford visited the island of Vulcano and the fact that 75% of the Earths volcanic activity is submarine, Miranda’s first lines in the play do seem to suggest volcanic activity.
“If by your art, my dearest father, you have put the wild waters in this roar, allay them,
the sky, it seems, would poor down stinking pitch but that the sea, mounting to th’
Welkin’s cheek, dashes the fire out.”
While a few pages further on with Ariel’s words Oxford again appears to be tipping his hat to Virgil’s
“Then meet and join Jove’s lightning, the precursors’ o’th dreadful thunderclaps, more
Momentary and sight-outrunning were not; the fire and cracks of sulphurous roaring.
The most mighty Neptune seem to besiege and make his bold waves tremble, yea, his
Dread trident shake.”
A more certain reference from the Aeneid is found when Miranda first spies Ferdinand.
“I might call him a thing divine, for nothing natural I ever saw so noble.”
To which Ferdinand replied
“Most sure the goddess – on whom these airs attend!”…………
‘O dea certe’ (thou who are surely a goddess) are the words spoken by Aeneas in the Aeneid to his mother, to which Venus replies “Nay, I claim not such worship.”
One therefor sees the ever present influence of the Aeneid on The Tempest.
– Our English Ovid –
Having already stressed the importance of the ‘Bath Sonnets’ they being the culmination of the last body of work that Shake-speare was responsible for publishing, it is easy to consider them (although perhaps not literally) as the last words he wrote, a final bookend to his personally published work. Therefore to find the opposing bookend we must look at his first published work ‘Venus & Adonis’ where on the title page it has a quote in Latin from Ovid’s Amores Book I Elegy XV, a work in which poetry appears omnipotent.
‘Let the mob admire base things,
While golden Apollo brings me cups
Overflowing from the Castilian spring.’
These words then must have struck a chord with our author because they are effectively the first words he ever published, so they must have been of some considerable significance to him, while the question arises, are they more likely to represent the views of a glover’s son or an aristocrat?
It is of course pagan language – within which I fear some supremacy of thought, a tendency that falls into line with our author’s old fashioned views, while it should not be forgotten that Walt Whitman described “Shake-speare as incarnate, uncompromising feudalism in literature.”
“When beggars die there are no comets seen the
Heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.”
(Henry V) Following Agincourt.
“So do or vulgar drench their peasant limbs in blood of princes.”
Of course it was a different age, but nevertheless even in death one sees that there is not the slightest glimmer of egalitarianism in Shake-speare.
With another classic quote Charlie Chaplin managed to summarize the above quotations and others, when he said, “Shake-speare had an aristocratic attitude,” words I felt enraptured with when first I read them. Though as I more calmly scrutinize Ovid’s elegies concerning his poetic prowess I see he reveals some objectives.
‘My aim is glory that shall not perish, so that in every time and every place I may be celebrated throughout the world.’ These are words I feel our English-Ovid would not quibble over, while he concluded like this. ‘So, when the funeral pyre leads me to my rest, I shall live on and the better part of me triumph over death.’ Again I cannot see our English poet taking issue here, but more likely these words held considerable sway over his thinking. For surely Oxford was not fixated on distancing himself from how the multitude like to squander their time, but what I believe he was passionately interest in was aligning himself with the Gods. Remember, De Vere saw Elizabeth as the Goddess Venus and himself as Adonis and the issue of their love – also as a god. Therefore what I think this inaugural quote represents is a belief-system where our star of poets ranks himself not with the grounded but with the vaulted, thereby foretelling his own immortality – cradled in a heaven of eternal inspiration, in this respect he is completely at one with Ovid, who got himself in an awful lot of trouble by saying things like “The poets alone are immortal.”
As mortals though, we all have our shortcomings even Oxford brilliant with languages, history and literature had his failings. Though he was born into one of the richest families in England his life was beset with financial problems (which to be fair were not entirely of his own making) although here I must add, as a young man he was a known spendthrift. The resulting hardships he experienced were probably the practical reasons he stayed in touch with his in-laws throughout his life, when in reality they often didn’t see eye to eye, where politically they found themselves entrenched in opposing camps. Even with the not inconsiderable £1000 per annum he received from the state, he still found, to the very end of his days, he constantly needed to petition them for help.
Now diverting somewhat – something further I find interesting is that quite naturally a logo can be invented – but a symbol cannot. A symbol is blessed by eternal recognition, like a phoenix through its ashes reborn, a resurrection perhaps seen as a harbinger to greater fulfillment, where the mythical bird remains aloof, detached, seemingly not having to truckle with the seamier sides of procreation, for a phoenix has a vail of virginity enshrouding it. Although once again approaching death, being beyond the reach of mortals, it sits in its nest high upon a tree rarely reflecting upon its successes, but morose, with talon in beak as if trying to eke-out the comforts afforded to earthlings, it mopes for days on end, not eating, but dwelling upon a lifetimes enslavement to vanities, while awash with guilt – it suffers in silence low thoughts about highland sins – wishing in its next incarnation to be blessed with greater conviction and fortitude, while hope upon hope that to be seen to die a virgin would be a panacea for all ills, and that history might judge kindly.
It may not seem that I have judged ‘Good Queen Bess’ kindly, but I believe history has judged her so, exceedingly – with the same gusto it has judged Edward de Vere unkindly, a man confined to obscurity because it is the winners that have written history, while they have noted Elizabeth down with such epithets as ‘Gloriana’ & ‘The Virgin Queen,’ although to my mind in matters of love, an apt description of her is that she was very much her father’s daughter. Though I doubt without the political nous and guile of the Cecil’s, with their almost psychopathic will to succeed (and protect the crown) that she would have had the same great success she had.
So shall thou feed on death, that feeds on men,
And death once dead, there’s no more dying then.
Finally on the 24th March 1603 Elizabeth went to meet her maker, and in line with her notorious indecision no successor to the throne was nominated, a personality trait our poet couldn’t help but mock in lines of Venus and Adonis.
A thousand spleens bear her a thousand ways,
She treads the path that she untreads again;
Her more than haste is mated with delays
Like the proceedings of a drunken brain,
Full of respects, yet naught at all respecting
In hand with all things, naught at all effecting.
Verse that instantly invokes to my mind Shake-speare’s best known sonnet in which he refers to Elizabeth as ‘nature.’
And every fair from fair sometimes declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed:
One month later on April 25th 1603 Oxford wrote to Robert Cecil seeking clarification in respect of the protocol to be observed when from north of the border the new King James arrived in England.
This letter summarized below, states in the first paragraph (which I have not included) ‘for reasons of my infirmity I cannot come amongst you so often as I wish’ before in the third paragraph writing of the recently departed Queen, ‘In this common shipwreck mine is above all the rest,’ presumably meaning for some reason or other that his loss was greater than anyone else’s. Now, as Robert Cecil made it his business to know everything that needed to be known, I have no doubt he knew precisely what Oxford meant by this, it is only the remainder of us left wondering, although, I must say the complete Prince Tudor Theory does offer up intriguing possibilities about Oxford’s own paternity.
That such a great, great man, should feel in the last year of his life ‘his cause unsatisfied’ is deeply troubling, we know he would have been some great military leader, had he had his way, but his literary genius and the acknowledgement of his great intellect by her majesty precluded him from such heroism, a statement I shall substantiate by revealing a few lines from the letters of introduction that Queen Elizabeth personally signed to various European heads of state before Oxford left on his grand tour, the letters dated: Hampton Court 25th January 1575 / In the 17th year of our reign E.R.
An illustrious and highly accomplished young man, our beloved cousin Edward de
Vere seeks to travel overseas to gain knowledge and understanding of the ways of
Men in foreign lands.
We sincerely request when he comes into any kingdom, territory land or jurisdiction
Of yours he will be treated with all kindness for our sake, and therefore be welcomed
So we may see your friendship towards us reflected in your treatment of this most
Noble Earl (our kinsman, who we recommend not in the usual way, but in all sincerity,
On account of his outstanding intellect and virtue.)
When this young nobleman shows himself worthy of your kindness, by virtue of his
Manners, we too, as a sign of things great and small, shall never forget to repay you
Generously and by any means, when the time and occasion may arise …………..
It therefore falls on us who can see the light to stand together defiant, while academia squirm, upon the memory of our good Earl, until humanity concedes to the reality that the monument to William Shake-speare in Westminster Abbey truly represents – The 17th Earl of Oxford – Edward de Vere – the world’s pre-eminent literary giant.
I shall leave you now to reflect upon the guts of this moving letter, with one caveat, search your souls, putting partisan rivalries aside and ask this question – are these the words of William Shake-speare?
Sir Robert Cecil.
I cannot but find a great grief in myself to remember the mistress which we have lost,
Under whom both you and myself from our greenest years have been in a manner
Bought up; and although it has pleased God after an earthly kingdom to take her up
Into a more permanent and heavenly state, wherein I do not doubt but she is crowned
With glory, and to give us a prince wise, learned, and enriched with all virtues, yet the
Long time which we spent in her service, we cannot look for so much left of our days
As to bestow upon another, neither the long acquaintance and kind familiarities
Wherewith she did use us, we are not ever to expect from another prince, as denied
By the infirmity of age and common course of reason.
In this common shipwreck, mine is above all the rest, who least regarded, though
Often comforted of all her followers, she hath left me to try my fortune among the
Alterations of time and chance, either without sail, whereby to take advantage of any
Prosperous gale, or with anchor to ride till the storm be overpast.
There is nothing therefor left to my comfort but the excellent virtues and deep wisdom
Wherewith God hath endued our new Master and Sovereign Lord, who doth come
Amongst us not as a stranger but as a natural prince, succeeding by right of blood and
Inheritance, not as a conqueror, but as the true shepherd of Christ’s flock to cherish
And comfort them.
Your assured friend and unfortunate brother-in-law.
Philip Cooper fecit: 12th April 2018.