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Monday, May 21, 2018

Dating Edward de Vere's Sonnet 110.

Traditional Shakespeare scholars have long agreed that Sonnet 110 refers to The Bard’s sense of shame at being a playwright.  How this shame could possibly be the reaction of a glover’s son from a small provincial town has left them more divided.  One popular line of conjecture as to why he might feel this way regardless of his plebian origins was that a man of such genius as the playwright would have felt a natural nobility every bit as inherent as hereditary nobility.  So then, it is not so confusing as it might seem to find such a genius expressing the mores of the English upper classes.

Another popular line has been to claim that players were considered below the dignity of even glovers and other such tradesmen.  Another line claims that he was ashamed of being associated with the theater compared to being the highest of literary types, a poet.  He sorely felt the demands on his time by the theater which took him away from his true love and high calling.  Another less common line claims that the theater life was fraught with every kind of sin and the poet was shamed before God.

Since there has been an authorship debate traditional scholarship has reconfigured itself foremost to refuse to report (much less credit) any finding or professional opinion that might open the door to an alternative author to the Stratford man.  No explanation which provides the opposition the least potential ground to stand upon will be advanced or credited regardless how legitimate it is by the rules of “pre-Authorship” traditional scholarship.  

This being the case, a close corollary to the “man of such genius” line of explanation has come to monopolize the field.  Any and all inconsistencies in the traditional model that fly in the face of reason are declared the result of the Stratford man's astonishing genius.  Genius, we learn, cancels all the normal rules of human behavior, identity and cause-and-effect.  No other explanation is welcome or accepted.  As with all such matters, then, the matter of sonnet 110 is perfectly resolved.  Shakespeare wrote from the perspective of a member of the English upper classes because he was a genius, not because he could ever possibly be an actual member of the upper classes.  He existed outside of all rules.

In my own Edward de Vere was Shakespeare: at long last the proof I dated a number of the sonnets of Shakespeare to the known events of De Vere’s life.  Sonnet 110 I assigned to 1598.  Those who knew that De Vere had written “Venus and Adonis” (likely including the Queen) had not known that the penname “Shakespeare” belonged to anything but the poems  “V&A” and “The Rape of Lucrece”.  The first they knew of the name being associated with popular plays was when they read Francis Meres’s popular Palladis Tamia, Wits Treasury (1598).  Suddenly Edward found himself outed with those at Court who knew his association with the poems.  Among the results were several sonnets including 110.

251.  No one at Court could have missed that, for over a decade, plays were somehow being written that depicted certain secrets at Court.  No one now could miss that many (and, by implication, all) of those plays had been the work of Shake-speare.   It is not difficult to assign a confessional sonnet, here, addressed to the Queen.

Alas ‘tis true, I have gone here and there,
And made my selfe a motley to the view,
Gor’d mine own thoughts, sold cheap what is most deare,
Made old offences of affections new.
Most true it is, that I have lookt on truth
Asconce and strangely: But by all above,
These blenches gave my heart an other youth,
And worse essaies prov’d thee my best of love.
Now all is done, save what shall have no end,
Mine appetite I never more will grinde
On newer proofe, to trie an older friend,
A God in love, to whom I am confin’d.
Then give me welcome, next my heaven the best,
Even to thy pure and most most loving brest.[1]

If this wasn’t uncomfortable enough, quarto editions began being issued with the name William Shake-speare on the title pages.  Quartos not all of which he or the Chamberlain’s Men had sold the rights to.

Shake-speare the poet was now Shake-speare writer for the common stage.  Those who knew he was The Bard, but only knew him as the poet, now knew that he was the person who had written the plays, many of which indeed border on libel in certain scenes.[2]

So then, the lines from Sonnet 76 would have to have been written before 1598.  They serve as context:

Why write I still all one, euer the same,
And keepe inuention in a noted weed,
That euery word doth almost tel my name,
Shewing their birth, and where they did proceed?[3]

There is no need for the ridiculous claim that the William Shaksper, of Stratford upon Avon, wrote them from out of a powerful feeling of the natural nobility of his genius.  The lines were written by an Earl earlier versions of whose plays had already long been performed at Court.  As Meres informed his readers: “so the best for Comedy amongst vs bee Edward, Earle of Oxforde,…”[4]

[1] Alden, Raymond Macdonald.  THE SONNETS OF SHAKESPEARE.  From the Quarto of 1609 with variorum readings and commentary. The Riverside Press Cambridge, 1916.  No. 110, 257.
[2] Purdy, Gilbert Wesley. Edward de Vere was Shakespeare: at long last the proof. Richmond, VA.: The Virtual Vanaprastha, 2013. 251.
[3] Ibid., No. 76, 187.
[4] Meres, Francis. Palladis Tamia (1598).  ELIZABETHAN CRITICAL ESSAYS, Volume 2. Ed. G. Gregory Smith. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1904. 308-324 @320.

  • Edward de Vere in Palermo in the final analysis.  January 29, 2018.  “In Naples he is tortured for 7 months upon suspicion of being an English spy.  Upon his release, he is informed by the Italians and Spaniards that England has lost its battle with the Spanish Armada and the Queen been taken prisoner.  The year, then, is 1588, and is confirmed by the fact that he arrives back in England in May of 1589.”
  • Shakespeare's Apricocks.  February 21, 2017.  "While he may never have been a gardener, he does seem more than superficially knowledgeable about the gardens of his day.  One detail of such matters that he got wrong, however, is as much to the point as any."
  • Sir Anthony Bacon: a Life in the Shadows. January 25, 2016.  "Somehow Sir Anthony had the habit of ingratiating himself in circles of the highest historical interest and most questionable mores."
  • Check out the English Renaissance Article Index for many more articles and reviews about this fascinating time and about the Shakespeare Authorship Question.


Benjamin Hackman said...

Gilbert, could you provide cites for 2 or 3 traditional scholars who read S110 they way you claim?

Gilbert Wesley Purdy said...


Gilbert Wesley Purdy said...

My apology, Ben. I misunderstood your request. I haven't much time but I suggest starting with the notes to 110 in Alden's Variorum edition of the Sonnets. I've run them down to their original publications for context (and similar statements from other experts). As for the "man of genius" thing, I did not say that was used only regarding the sonnets. I said that it was a product of the Stratfordian position pretty much throughout. Read any Stratfordian, for beginners, about how Shaksper could have had so little education yet know the languages in which the sources were written, etc. Check out the most recent two debates (Bate-Waugh and Allan-Barber) and you will hear plenty of covering the difficult issues with Shaksper's genius that made all possible.