Doesn’t the image of the Queen in V&A contradict your description of her as unwilling to give herself physically to a man? – Howard Schumann

Schumann:  Doesn’t the image of the Queen in Venus and Adonis as a lovesick sexually aroused seducer who protests that she doesn’t have wrinkles and still has soft plump flesh and “marrow burning” contradict your description of her as being unwilling or unable to give of herself physically to a man?

Hughes:  Where have I ever said that the image of Venus in Venus and Adonis was based on Elizabeth?

As Claes Shaar makes so very clear, this poem was written at the same time that Oxford was writing sonnets to the Dark Lady, who, as I’ve gone into detail to explain, was the poet and musician Emilia Bassano.  The style is Shakespeare’s, which means the poem was written in his forties when Queen Elizabeth was in her sixties, hardly a figure of passionate  desire.  As others have pointed out, the scenario is similar to the moment in the Sonnets scenario where the Fair Youth is seduced by the Dark Lady, an event noted in both the sequences to the Youth and the Lady.  That the Poet was a bystander is emphasized by how he dwells on the fact that Adonis was killed by a boar, Oxford’s totem.  The boar was jealous, not enough to kill his patron, but enough to suggest it in a poem.

If Oxford did perhaps intend that the Queen see the poem as a reference to something that happened between them many years earlier when he was at the Adonis stage and she was still capable of playing the marriage card for all it was worth, the comparison to the Goddess of Love was surely meant to be flattering, with him taking the blame on himself for the fact that nothing happened!   Like Oxford at seventeen, Adonis was more interested in his horse, so Venus, like the Queen, went off in a huff of doves.

PT enthusiasts take notice: nothing happened!  

17 responses to “Doesn’t the image of the Queen in V&A contradict your description of her as unwilling to give herself physically to a man? – Howard Schumann

  1. Howard Schumann

    I understand what you are saying, I have no firm opinion on this and just looking for information.

    I do notice that the poem, in line 175, calls Venus a love sick queen. She is called a queen twice more in the poem, even though she was supposed to be a goddess. It seems the poem isn’t about a goddess, but a sexually aroused queen. Further, she’s an older woman who protests that she doesn’t have wrinkles. This does not seem to fit the profile of Emilia Bassano.

    It would seem to me that if Venus represented someone other than the Queen, there would have been no compelling reason why de Vere would have had to publish it under a pseudonym.

    If it was the Queen, however, everyone would know at once who Venus and Adonis were, and probably what the incident related to.

    Also, with all due respect, I cannot see this poem as being flattering to the Queen.

  2. Why on earth would Oxford write this way about a woman in her sixties?

  3. Howard Schumann

    I’m not really sure. This is just speculation but perhaps it related to an earlier incident, maybe in 1576 after Oxford returned home from Italy.

    Faced with intimations of infidelity, he might have looked to the Queen for solace. At that time, Oxford would have been 26 and the Queen 43.

  4. Intimations of infidelity? Solace? On his wife’s account? After the way he’d been tom-catting around? What kind of lily-livered hypocrite would behave like that?

    And anyway, why on earth would he care to write a long involved poem about something that happened twenty years earlier? What would be the point?

    As for the Queen, if ever she did let down her guard, it would have been when she was in her late twenties with the man she was in love with then, Robert Dudley. As you know, if you’ve read any of the Queen’s serious biographers, or even the pages I have here on the blog, for any number of reasons that was something she simply could not do.

    Sure, Elizabeth could have been in love with Oxford when he was young and she was in her forties. That’s not impossible, if you take being in love to mean feeling a strong attraction to someone. But being in love and having sex are not the same thing.

    Again, please note the outcome of Venus and Adonis. She wants it; he doesn’t, and NOTHING HAPPENS! :>)

  5. I don’t know enough about V&A to comment about that, but I would like to set you straight about “Intimations of infidelity? Solace? On his wife’s account? After the way he’d been tom-catting around? What kind of lily-livered hypocrite would behave like that?”. By happenstance I’ve known at least a couple married men with precisely that attitude: their own “tom-catting” is perfectly acceptable….and these guys have constructed very clever and, to them at least, convincing justifications for their illogic, you can probably accurately guess what these justifications are….but if their wives indulged in such behavior divorce would quickly follow. If I know for a fact about two guys holding that attitude, I’m sure there are more….

  6. Sorry, I wasn’t clear. My sarcasm wasn’t directed at the idea that Oxford was guilty of the double standard. No doubt he was and, as many of his works reveal, would come to regret it. It’s the idea that, considering his own numerous romantic adventures in Italy and even before (if we take The Adventures of Master F.I.” his personal experience), that, after being apprised of the rumor about his wife, he’d turn to Queen Elizabeth for “solace.”

    That Oxford would seek “solace” in the arms of the woman who, basically, robbed him of his patrimony and who did her best to run his life, denying him everything he ever asked for, causes me to seek solace in unlovely sarcasm. If Elizabeth was hot for Oxford, you can bet your bottom dollar he was NOT hot for her. And to suggest that he pandered himself for some reason is to suggest that he was a lily-livered, hypocritical masochist, which nothing in his known biography supports.

    My guess is that once having experienced sex with the married ladies at Court, with expensive prostitutes, and with the courtesans of Italy, he found sex based on nothing but physical attraction rather empty; that it wasn’t until he fell in love with Ann Vavasor in his late twenties that he realized what the Courtly Love poets meant in extolling sexual desire (not sex itself) as a path to enlightenment. Mind you, that’s just a guess, something I’d never dream of trying to use as the basis for a complicated Theory of Everything.

  7. Howard Schumann

    Ms. Hughes – this is what I had in mind and I don’t think the idea is as outrageous as you make it sound.

    Oxford, on returning from Italy, was completely devastated and in a state of suppressed rage. He walked past the welcoming Burghleys at the dockside when he disembarked at London, and apparently went directly to the Queen at Court.

    Queen Elizabeth may have been moved by this tale of suspected infidelity and was not clear about what to do about it since his marriage was forced on him by Burghley with the Queen’s assistance. To judge by the Venus poem (if it indeed refers to the Queen), Elizabeth was more than touched, she was sexually aroused.

  8. Howard, if this version of the story pleases you, you’re welcome to it. It makes Oxford out to be a fool, and the Queen out to be the diametric opposite to everything that has ever been written both by and about her.

    And where did you get the idea that Oxford went to the Queen as soon as he landed in Dover? Mark Anderson quotes a statement by Burghley who reports that his son Thomas told him that Oxford went first to his own lodgings, then to the house of Edward Yorke, brother of Rowland (SBAN 114). What evidence do you have that we should ignore the testimony of Thomas Cecil and Ld Burghley as reported by Mark Anderson and Alan Nelson?

    We’re looking for the truth, or, if that’s not available, then for something that at least makes sense, not only in terms of the psychology of the personalities involved, but more widely something that reflects the background of the repressions of the English Reformation. Let’s stick as best we can to a possible reality, and leave the fairy tales for those who, like Henry Ford, think “history is bunk.”

  9. Howard Schumann

    Ms. Hughes – I have come to deeply admire and respect your views and have gained immensely from your website. I think we are all searching for the truth and whether one’s analysis is closer to reality or is “sheer fantasy”, I trust will eventually be determined.

    I am mainly looking at it from the point of view of what seems to be implied in Venus and Adonis. That is all I have to say on this subject.

  10. Basing a theory of everything on a work of poetic art is putting the cart before the horse. That’s okay, so long as the next move is to look at the relevant history. How many times does a genuine researcher do this and come up empty, before finding something that actually seems––seems being the operative word––to work? Only with ideas based on the Queen having sex with Oxford is this important step considered unnecessary. Now why do you suppose that is?

    If you respect my views as you say, you would either take seriously what I say in my pages on Queen Elizabeth, or you would continue to follow the trail on your own, reading the books I reference, and perhaps reading others you find on your own. At that point, your “analysis” might carry some weight.

  11. All oxfordian evidences I have read point to what Mr. Shumann is saying.

    I’ll quote what the last book I have just read (wrote by Mr. Anderson) says:

    “‘Venus and Adonis’ (…) was (…) de Vere’s warning to Southampton: Queen Elisabeth is a seductress. (…) One Londoner, a street-corner ranter named William Reynolds, wrote a letter to Burghley in the summer of 1593 that spelled out the terms of ‘Venus and Adonis’ in plain and graphic Elizabethan English:

    ‘Also within these few days, there is another book made of Venus and Adonis, wherein the queen represents the person of Venus-which queen is in great love (forsooth) with Adonis. And [she] greatly desires to kiss him. And she woos him most entirely, telling him [that] although she be old, yet she is lusty fresh and moist and full of love and life. (I believe a good deal more than bushelful.) And she can trip it as lightly as a fairy nymph upon the sands. And her footsteps not seen. And much ado with red and white.’

    Anderson, Mark, “Shakespeare by another name”, Gottam Books, 2005, page 269 and 529 for the source of that contemporary opinion of V&A.

    The myth of the Virgin Queen was a myth nobody in those times believed in. There are ample evidences on this issue, starting from his Lolita times with Thomas Seymour in 1948.

    I do not desire the incest theory here, but the strange behaviour of his Edward de Vere’s mother. She just didn’t care for him or what could happen to him in London with the Cecils. Compare that with the bastardy issue brought by his step-sister Katherine.

    Elisabeth herself told, at least, once, that Edward de Vere was a bastard (Anderson, page 24). I wonder how could she know that. I just have not started to read Mr. Charles Beauclerk book, but Mr. Whittemore says it contains powerful insights…

  12. All evidences I have read point to what Mr. Shumann is saying. I’ll quote what the last book I have just read (wrote by Mark Anderson) says: “‘Venus and Adonis’ (…) was (…) de Vere’s warning to Southampton: Queen Elisabeth is a seductress. (…) One Londoner, a street-corner ranter named William Reynolds, wrote a letter to Burghley in the summer of 1593 that spelled out the terms of ‘Venus and Adonis’ in plain and graphic Elizabethan English:

    Also within these few days, there is another book made of Venus and Adonis, wherein the queen represents the person of Venus-which queen is in great love (forsooth) with Adonis. And [she] greatly desires to kiss him. And she woos him most entirely, telling him [that] although she be old, yet she is lusty fresh and moist and full of love and life. (I believe a good deal more than bushelful.) And she can trip it as lightly as a fairy nymph upon the sands. And her footsteps not seen. And much ado with red and white.

    (Anderson 269, 529)

    The myth of the Virgin Queen was a myth nobody in those times believed in. There are ample evidences on this issue, starting from his “Lolita” phase with Thomas Seymour in 1548. I do not desire any incest theory mixed with Shake-speare, but the strange behaviour of his mother, Margery Golding, her unconcern for his boy in London, with the Cecils, de Vere’s ignorance or pity for his death in 1568, etc. Compare that with the bastardy issue brought by his step-sister Katherine. Elisabeth herself told, at least, once, that Edward de Vere was a bastard (Anderson, 24). I wonder how could she know that. I just have not started to read Mr. Charles Beauclerk book, but Mr. Whittemore says it contains powerful insights.

  13. I spent 15 years researching the Incest theory and never found a single bit of real evidence to support it. Where an unmarried woman is in power, there will always be rumors about her sex life, and where she is feared or hated, as are all persons in power, the line of first attack will always be her sexuality. Elizabeth lived with this kind of rumor from earliest childhood, first about her mother, whose execution, based on such rumors, were the only way the King would rid himself of the wives he got tired of, then about herself. Far from the sexual monster the Incest group promotes, Elizabeth’s hellish childhood and teen years caused her to become about as uptight and sexually repressed as a woman can get. Sure she enjoyed flirting, who doesn’t?––but flirting doesn’t get you pregnant. Sadly the enthusiasm so many Oxfordians have for this misreading of the issues surrounding the succession damages our efforts to get historians to take Oxford’s authorship seriously. It’s what in politics they call a “poison pill.”

    Oxford’s mother remarried rapidly after the death of his father because that’s what everyone did in the 16th century. Only women who were independently wealthy were able to stay single. (If you want to read a real history book on this subject, read Lawrence Stone’s The Family, Sex and Marriage in England, 1500-1800.) Oxford’s mother’s letters about him to Cecil show her deep love and concern for her son. Shakespeare’s complaint about Gertrude’s rapid remarriage in Hamlet was based originally on Elizabeth’s seeming cold response to the death of his mentor, the Earl of Sussex, and even more to his fury at her treatment of himself following the birth of his son by Ann Vavasor.

    Much has been made of Oxford’s half sister’s claim that he was illegitimate, but bastardy was such a commonplace issue then that as a vulnerable teenager, he was probably the only one to take it seriously. Being illegitimate wasn’t the shame then that it became following the Reformation. It was chiefly a problem of inheritance. Shakespeare jokes about bastardy, as did everyone then, including the Queen herself, who was certainly one of those most effected by such rumors. Two of her most prestigious courtiers were widely believed, probably with good reason, to be her half-brothers, Henry VIII’s sons by various mistresses. As the wills of so many men show, fathers usually did what they could to take care of their illegitimate children. Oxford did the right thing by his son by Ann Vavasor, who became a valued soldier and scholar. Oxford’s tutor, Sir Thomas Smith, did the same for his son.

    Read my pages on Elizabeth. If you’re still tempted to follow the Pied Pipers of Incest, you’ll have to discuss the issue with them. As far as I’m concerned it’s a dead end and a sad waste of time and energy. Truth is always more interesting than fairy tales.

  14. When I heard the PT Theory part II (as Wiki call it) I laughed.
    But then I studied Whittemore’s Shake-speares Sonnets and many more books and articles until I just started saying: it could be. Of course, it adds nothing to the authorship question, but it puts de Vere’s mind in another level of anguish, love, and hate. I, as well as you, think that the incest part is the shameful part of all oxfordians, anyway, and it can only be handled with care.

  15. It shouldn’t be handled at all because it isn’t true. The life of Elizabeth I is one of the most thoroughly documented of that era. Not one of her many biographers has ever stated as a documented fact that she had sex with her courtiers. Had she done so there’s nothing on earth that would have prevented one of the Catholic ambassadors from telling the folks back home who feared and hated her, and certainly nothing today that would prevent researchers from telling the world. They talk about rumors, of course, because rumors followed her just as they do any unmarried female with power, but they don’t confirm them because they can’t.

    Oxfordians have also claimed that Oxford was a drunk, others that he had syphilis. Had he been a drunk, a syphilitic, or the product and perpetrator of the kind of incest they describe he would simply not have been able to achieve the literary glory of Shakespeare. Do some reading about the long-term psychological effects that what these Oxfordians are promoting does to the people who actually suffer such things. Attributing Oxford’s angst to incest is just one more of the ways in which non-artists strive to fill in what they’re missing due to lack of understanding of what makes an artist, a real artist, tick.

    Not only isn’t the Incest theory not the truth about either Oxford or Elizabeth, it ignores the truth about the the English Reformation. The Reformation was the most sexually repressive era in England’s history, in the history of all of Europe. In England it left its mark on the culture to this very day. Calvin’s message that sex is sin and sin is eternal damnation turned what was once the “merry” English into one of the most shame-based cultures in the world.

    And that’s a damned shame.

  16. The other day I read, again, Spencer’s “Tears of the Muses” reference to “Willy” and his retirement in “idle cell.” I remember the reading of “The Puritan” I did days before. In there you have a character called “Captain Idle” who was imprisioned. In one of the Scenes there is this title: “Idle Cell.” I was wondering why Spencer called “Willy”, Edward de Vere (as anyone can guess by reading Spencer’s “The Shepheard’s Calendar”), to be in “idle cell”. The link to “The Puritan” is manifest. What do you think about this?

    • I can’t comment because I haven’t read The Puritan (which I know better by the title, The Widow of Watling Street). Sorry to say there are dozens of Jacobean plays that I haven’t read, and which no doubt have much light to shed on the authorship question.

      Just off the top of my head I don’t think that “idle cell” is enough to connect a character in a play from 1607 (when Oxford was either dead or living happily in self exile in the Forest of Waltham polishing his masterpieces), with something written by Spenser back in 1591. Also, “idle cell” has nothing to do with jail. It refers to the cell of a monk who has left society to perfect himself with study and prayer. The Protestants regarded such a life as “idle” in that it brought no tangible benefit to the community.

      That Oxford wrote the play himself is doubtful since it was written for the “little eyasses” at Blackfriars, the ones Hamlet condemns, while its style has caused scholars to attribute it to Middleton.

      It’s not a good idea to offer ideas before spending years studying the texts involved, the history and politics of the period, the history of the theater, the lives of the other great romantic poets, and a great many plays, and read them in a spirit of disinterested inquiry. Not only does this give us the backgound to discard ideas that have no foundation, it also protects us against the ideas of those who don’t do this kind of disinterested research.

      An idea requires years of consideration before openly advocating it, for as soon as we begin promoting an idea we are all too likely to begin interpreting everything we read in its light, ignoring anything that argues against it.

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