Sonnet 107 and comments

The blog Deconstructing Sonnet 107 has created a stream of comments. Because succeeding blogs tend to make it difficult to locate, I’ve moved the discussion to this page, making it easier for commentators and readers to find. My original blog comes first, followed by comments ordered chronologically, with the most recent at the end.


My friend Hank Whittemore, with whom I differ on several key points, has asked about my take on the problematic Sonnet 107.

Over the four centuries that English speakers have been discussing Shakespeare, there have been many battles over the Sonnets, who they were written for, when they were written, and whether or not they were about something real or were just a literary exercise.  Although beautiful and important, I’ve tended to steer clear of discussing them partly because they’re so short on facts that nothing can be proven and, largely for that reason, because they’ve given rise to so many bizarre interpretations.

Then in 1999 I found myself preparing for an SOS Society conference where theSonnets were a focal point, so I devoted several weeks to reading everything I could find on the subject going back to the 19th century. (An article I wrote later expanding on that lecture, The Story of the Sonnets, provides a good deal more detail for those who are interested.  There’s also a  Sonnets bibliography with comments on the books I found of most interest.)

Traditions of sonnet cycles

Some years ago I got into a fight with the usual coneheads on Hardy Cook’s listserv,  who eagerly pounced on my statement that the best writing comes from experience,  from enduring the emotions and insights that come from Life itself.  Isn’t this what Keats means with “truth is beauty, beauty truth, that is all ye know and all ye need to know”?  Keats was speaking to fellow artists and philosophers, of course––who else bothers about the relationship between Truth and Beauty?  Certainly not the coneheads that were dominating SHAKSPER.

Believing that most if not all the plays (the good ones) were written out of Oxford’s own experiences and emotions, of course I believe that the Sonnetswere as well; that is, they were written at a time when he was going through experiences like those described in the Sonnets. That others in like case over the centuries have found solace in Shakespeare’s Sonnets attests to their power, a power that comes from how accurately, and with a thousand subtle details, they describe experiences common to many readers, which is, of course, why they’ve remained in print for centuries, and why we need to look to common experiences for reasons why he wrote them.

It was Petrarch who introduced sonnets to the West.  My guess is that like other sweets: stringed instruments, perfume, sugar, and Courtly Love, they originated in Persia (Iran), migrating to Italy via the cultural transfer from the Middle East to Venice in the 14th century.  Traditionally a sonnet cycle is a narrative of sorts, describing day by day, hour by hour, verse by verse, the progress of a passion from its dizzying enception to its final spasm.  We call these sonnets love poemsin English, but the term the Elizabethans preferred was passion.

Love is too limiting a term for an experience that contains so many feelings, some anything but sweet––loneliness, loss, jealousy, envy, hurt feelings, remorse, disgust, even hate.  Poems written after the things they describe are over differ from those written as they happen.  Sonnet cycles, when they are genuine, are like raw footage, unedited, pungent, detailed, revealing themes through a process of repetition and insight  that’s closer to life itself than the reflection of life we call memoirs.

It’s part of the tradition of the sonnet cycle that the poet doesn’t reveal the true identity of the beloved.  An offshoot of the Courtly Love tradition, Petrarchan sonnets echo the yearning of a chivalrous knight for the beautiful but chaste wife of his lord.  Bound to him by oaths of fealty, this Courtly Love trope adds a further bond between lord and vassal, whose sacred passion for the lady can never fade because it’s never fulfilled; (the role the Virgin Queen demanded from her favorites).  Such poems are proofs of that love (“oblations, poor but free”), but only the lady herself is to know who is meant by “Stella,” or “Diana,” or “Phillis,” or “Caelica.”  For the Poet to let slip anything that reveals the source of his passion is to betray his Muse, another kind of romantic pose, but still one of great artistic authority by Oxford’s time.

And because, as a narrative in verse, a sonnet cycle is meant to follow such a passion as it unfolds, I believe that, following Oxford’s death, those published his sonnets saw to it that (for the most part) they were published in the order he intended.  Whoever had control of Oxford’s literary estate would have had great respect for it as literature.  Notions that when he died he was careless about leaving his papers where just anyone, including family members who cared more about their image than they did literature, might have gotten hold of them, shows a lack of understanding of how great artists feel about their work.  Having promised that he was going to leave a portrait of the Fair Youth for posterity to admire, he would certainly not have played fast and loose with their vehicle.  Whoever got his papers also got strict instructions on what to do with them.  This is simply common sense.

Oxford may have given up on Southampton himself (all passions must come to some kind of end), but he would never have given up on the poems that his love for him brought forth.  As he says in his farewell Sonnet, #126, Nature who has been so kind to Southampton, allowing him to keep his good looks well into his maturity, will have to cash him in sooner or later: “She may detain, but still not keep her treasure;/ Her audit, though delayed, answered must be,/ And her quietus is to render thee.”  In time the Fair Youth will cease to be both a youth and fair, but, as their author well knows, if properly published, the love poems he inspired will never lose either their beauty or their truth.

A great deal has been made of the fact that Shakespeare’s muse was a boy, not a lady.  To the shame-based society that the Reformation made of the English, that’s been an awful shocker.  However, if we pay attention to the poems it seems clear that the Poet’s desire is less sexual than emotional, the desire of a man for a son (Oxford was without an heir when he began writing them), and most important to an artist, for a muse whose charisma is potent enough to inspire his art.  Unfulfilled desire is the force that keeps it going.  It’s the number one Rule of Romance: fulfill the desire and the magic ends.  The question here being, desire for what?  My answer: a son-in-law whom he could love as though he were his own and, not least, a theater patron with solid credit.

Dating the sonnets

Back in 1999, I spent a good deal of time back seeking genuine scholarship on the dating of the Sonnets. I finally found it in a book titled Elizabethan Sonnet Themes and the Dating of Shakespeare’s Sonnets (AMS 1962, 1973). The author, Claes Schaar (writing for a Danish press, and so less constrained by hometown anxieties over identities), sticks strictly to the protocols of literary dating.  Basing his conclusions on the work of two scholars, one a German (pub 1884), the other an American (pub 1916) who apparently had no knowledge of his German predecessor (190).  Since these groundbreakers there have been others, all with similar results.

Ignoring the Stratford biography or any consideration of who the principles might have been, by comparing the language to that of Venus and Adonis andLucrece, the only works by Shakespeare whose dates are solid, they place most or all of the Sonnets somewhere in the early 1590s: “. . . the vast majority of the sonnets we have examined seem thus to have been written between 1591-92 and 1594-95” (Shaar 185).  Their findings are corroborated by other scholars replicating their efforts, one being G.P.V. Akrigg, Southampton’s biographer, who gives an impressive list of scholars who agree that their language also places them close to the Folio versions of Love’s Labour’s Lost and Romeo and Juliet, which have been dated, by topical references and by language similarities to the two dated narrative poems, in the early 1590s (203).

Sonnet 107

All of this is by way of introducing Sonnet 107, which, although not considered one of his greatest, has probably caused the most discussion since it alone seems bent on revealing everything that he was so careful to hide in the other 125.  Not only does it go out of its way to identify the Fair Youth as the Earl of Southampton and to locate him, and by extension the surrounding sonnets, to 1603 when he was released from the Tower by King James, it’s also written in a different style.

As Schaar explains, most of the sonnets were written close in time, one after another.  Schaar et al see two bursts: 1591-92, and 1594-95.   These dates fit perfectly with what we know of Southampton, who really was a boy, that is, a teenager, in the early 1590s.  This scenario fits the first 17, the so-called marriage or procreation sonnets, with a known event, Burghley’s effort to get Southampton married to Oxford’s daughter, Elizabeth Vere.  In fact, the entire cycle fits perfectly with the biographies of Oxford (the Poet), Southampton (the Fair Youth), Essex (the Rival Poet) and Emilia Bassano (the Dark Lady).

All but a very few of the sonnets, including those that come just before and just after 107, are end-stopped throughout, that is, the expression of each thought is compressed into a phrase that pauses at the end of a line.  There are a very few (I counted four) in which enjambment  carries the thought  over from the first to the second line, though the basic iambic rhythm remains.  This style is one of the things that places the Sonnets early in Shakespeare’s career, as later he became much more relaxed about meter and enjambment.

But in 107 the opening expression ranges across not just two, or even three, but the entire first four lines!  Most unusually, the iambic rhythm is gone from those lines!  It’s a good strong poem, but located as it is surrounded by sonnets of a diffrent style, it sounds like someone else wrote it.  Frankly, it sounds like John Donne.  I’m not saying he wrote it, but that’s who it sounds like. So there are two big things that make this poem stand out in contrast to the rest of the sonnets, a violation of the tradition of secrecy, and also of a pattern adhered to throughout the entire rest of the cycle.

Cherchez le editor

My guess is that whoever published the poems inserted 107 for the very reason that it’s assumed such importance today, because it identifies the Fair Youth and it also locates the cycle at a particular point in time.  Since the author took obvious pains not to identify persons or events, this would have to have been done by the editor who prepared them for publication, and who probably was in harmony with the publisher.

I can’t say for certain who might have been Oxford’s literary executor, but a very good candidate would be William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, who, by 1603, when Oxford was approaching the end of his life, was better-situated than anyone else to protect the poet’s valuable papers from those who might be anxious to see them disappear.  And who better to prepare them for the press than Pembroke’s own mother, Mary Sidney, who was probably already preparing another elegant edition of her brother’s works.  This scenario also helps to identify the Sonnets’ dedicatee, the mysterious “Master W.H.”

Why would the Pembrokes wish to make clear what Shakespeare had left ambiguous?

I can’t answer that, but I can point to something similar that occured in 1598 with the third edition of Philip Sidney’s The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, edited and published by Mary, in which she included his sonnet cycle of the 1580s,Astrophil and Stella. She also included, for the first time, a sonnet that hadn’t been in any previous edition or in any of the manuscript versions that predated their publication in print back in 1591.  This sonnet, numbered 37, is the one that identifies Stella as Penelope Devereux.

It’s often assumed that #37 was left out of the cycle at first because it identified Stella, though that doesn’t explain why it then became necessary to make the identification.  True, by 1598 Penelope, though married, was openly living with her lover, Sir Charles Blount, Ld Mountjoy, so by then she had little reputation left to lose.  Even so, why stir the pot?  Could it be to direct suspicion away from Mary, who was suffering from the ususal rumors that followed women of celebrity, in her case that she and Philip had been lovers, that Stella was Mary, and that her brother was her son’s true father (Aubrey, Brief Lives, 140)?

That Mary (and her sons) might want to direct suspicion away from herself as the object of what could be seen as a shameful incestuous passion on Philip’s part would be altogether understandable, or that Penelope Devereux, already into her scandalous relationship with Mountjoy, would be willing to let her name be used to protect Mary  (Sidney makes it clear that the lust was all on his side, that Stella remained pure) is not only the stuff of romance, it’s the stuff of real life, that is, the real lives of romantic poets, who tend to take big emotional risks, much as astronauts, firemen and bullfighters take physical risks.

There was a close bond between the Devereux siblings and the Sidneys.  Philip and Mary were the children of Mary Dudley, sister of the Earl of Leicester.  Throughout the years while Leicester was hoping to marry Queen Elizabeth, Philip played the role of his uncle’s heir.  When Leicester finally gave up and married Lettice Knollys, widow of the 2nd Earl of Essex and mother of Robert and Penelope, Philip was forced to pass on the role of his uncle’s heir to Robert Devereux,Leicester’s new stepson.  As Philip lay dying of wounds in 1586 (suffered under his uncle’s command), he honored this rather mystical bond by ceremoniously handing on his sword to Essex, a bond that Essex then honored by marrying Philip’s widow.  (It was this sort of chivalrous behavior that made his friends love Essex.)  This bond between Essex and the saintly Philip then extended to their sisters, Mary Sidney and Penelope Devereux.

Why Oxford wrote the Sonnets

There was nothing improper about the way it started.  A marriage deal was in the works to unite his daughter and Burghley’s ward, the young Earl of Southampton, so the first 17 sonnets were written in the kind of passionate terms that fathers of marriagable daughters did back then.  (See Burghley’s wooing of the saintly Philip in letters to Sir Henry Sidney.)  Not every father could put such sentiments into verse, but as with all such social conventions, those who could certainly would.  So that’s all that was at stake with the first group, known as the marriage or procreation sonnets, in which he simply urges the youth to marry, coyly playing on his teenage narcissism.  That there were 17 in the first group suggests that they were nicely copied and bound as a gift for Southampton on his 17th birthday, Oct. 6, 1590.

With the 18th sonnet the tone changes abruptly.  What was fatherly affection fast becomes something much more personal and intimate.  So what happened?

When Oxford met Southampton, probably after the gift of the sonnets brought them together, he was at what may have been the lowest point in his life.  Now in his 40s, suddenly feeling “beated and chopped with tanned antiquity,” the boy must have represented all the things that he felt he’d lost or never had: his own vanishing youth, the son and heir he never had, the beloved friend he lost “in death’s dark night” when Rutland died in 1587, and not least, the angel he so desperately needed to continue to stage plays.

To the 17-year-old youth, Oxford may have seemed what he too had lost or maybe never had, a loving father, and one besides with the kind of access to backstage at the theater that teenagers dream of.  Teenagers need love and will respond to it wherever they find it.  Had this occured when Oxford was not at such loose ends the moment might have passed, but things being what they were, it threw him for a loop, as they say, and as was his habit, he turned for solace to pen and ink.

My guess is that at some point, for Oxford the passion became less about Southampton and more about the poetry.  My God, this was it!  This was what he’d been striving for!  This was what Sidney meant so long ago when he began his own sonnet cycle by quoting his Muse: “Fool, look in thy heart and write!”  The exhilaration, the loneliness, the jealousy, the empty hours, all were grist for his poet’s mill.  The original emotion became less important than how to express it.

The passion passed, as all things must, but like a beautiful shell on a beach after a great wave rushes back to sea, it left something precious in its wake, the language of Shakespeare.  For it was in the crucible of his love for Southampton and the combined happiness and pain it brought him, that he found the voice he’d been seeking through all the years of translating and listening and experimenting, the language we speak today, the language of modern English.


A different take on Sonnet 107 can be found in an article by Eric Miller, a poet and independent scholar from California, published in The Oxfordian, vol 9, 2005.


Chris Kaiser // February 1, 2010 at 4:24 pm |

Hi Stephanie, thanks for including Eric Miller’s essay, which seems to make much sense to me.


Eric Miller // February 3, 2010 at 8:02 pm |

Hi Stephanie and Readers,

Thanks for including reference to my own “take” on Sonnet 107 at the end of yours—showing that you can be generous and tolerant of other points of view. This I know as it is to you I owe thanks for serving as editor and publisher of my own “Dating Sonnet 107” – which is at extreme odds with yours. Certainly, two views can hardly be further apart—unless it be my own and your friend’s Hank Whittemore’s. I hope Hank chimes in.

Though your article is entitled “Deconstructing Sonnet 107”, you deal very little with that subject. From my point of view you, and most all commentators on the subject of the Sonnets in general and 107, in particular, assume orthodoxy inherited from the Stratfordians which I find peculiarly lacking in critical thinking or proof. The authorities you adduce to buttress your remarks are all dyed-in-the-wool Stratfordians “scholars” who make (or made) their living by pretending to a knowledge they do not possess, but in accordance with the orthodoxy of their guilds.

For instance, there is no evidence, at all, that any Sonnet was written to or about Southampton. That is a fact. Moreover it is a fact, that there is no evidence that “the” Fair Youth was a single person instead of a number of homoerotic young boys that Oxford had an attraction to over a period of decades. This point was recently conceded to by Stephan Greenblatt in his Will in the World (2004). You state “Ignoring the Stratford biography or any consideration of who the principals might have been. . . the only dates that are solid, they [the Orthodoxy] place most all of the Sonnets somewhere in the early 1990’s. . .” And you continue with the comment that “Their findings [the Stratfordians] are corroborated by other scholars [also Stratfordians] replicating their efforts. . .”

You then go on to opine, finally, about 107, that it “Not only goes out of its way to identify the Fair Youth as the Earl of Southampton, who really was a boy, that is, a teenager, in the early 1590’s.” You have, with that remark, only confirmed a previous conviction inherited (at quite a late date, I might add) from Stratfordians and totally lacking evidence. In law the statement itself would not be admissible as it lacks “a foundation in fact.”

I’ll stop. You get the gist. I have read the Sonnets, over the last 50 years, probably a hundred times. And I can confirm, by the way, that you make some good remarks about the way a lot of sonnets are written by Sonneteers. And thanks to your reader who commended my efforts through your referral.


hopkinshughes // February 4, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Responding to Eric Miller:

Let’s not throw the baby out with the Stratford bath, Eric. Orthodox Shakespeareans and Stratfordians are not ipso facto one and the same. Without the work of scores of orthodox scholars, authorship scholars would have little to work with. Where would we be without E.K. Chambers, T.W. Baldwin, Caroline Spurgeon, Lily B. Campbell, and so many others? Not all orthodox scholars allow the Stratford story to affect their conclusions and some of those who do have done useful work that’s easily separated from a Stratford interpretation.

As I tried to make clear, I go by the Shaar book not only for his impressively detailed scholarship, but also because neither he nor those he cited were using the Stratford story as a frame of reference. If you read the book you would see this. The evidence they offer for the dating is totally unconnected to the Stratford story, and it’s totally convincing, to me at least. Had the dating suggested someone other than Southampton, my scenario would have been altered to fit what I saw as facts that can’t be ignored. “If this be error and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved.”

As for Southampton as the Fair Youth, I have to say, as I do whenever challenged on something I claim as fact, if not Southampton, then who? I agree with Southampton as the Fair Youth because so many facts that we have about Oxford fit perfectly with this identification. That Oxford had a daughter whom his father-in-law was trying to get married to Southampton is one of those sets of likelihoods that when connected end by validating each other. Facts, real facts, don’t stand alone. If a fact is missing for some reason, we are perfectly justified in assuming it’s true if it fits neatly with those facts we have.

When you claim a series of lovers you are posing an anomaly in a tradition that Shakespeare, like Tasso, Sidney and all the great sonneteers, followed, which was to document a particular passion from start to finish. Oxford did publish a number of other sonnets, which we can be sure were not all written about the same person, or about a particular sequence of events and feelings with that person, for had they been they would have been published in the traditional way as a cycle.

So, as you see, much argument over the Sonnets. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be seen as a part of the true story. What it does mean is that, because they are so lacking in self-evident facts, they can’t be used as a bearing wall for a particular theory, even my own.


Ren Draya // February 4, 2010 at 2:30 pm

A wonderful, thorough, thought-provoking analysis. Brava–and thank you.


Eric Miller // February 6, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Responding to hopkinshughes

I agree with at least part of your last statement, i.e., that whatever arguments over the Sonnets doesn’t mean that the Sonnets themselves can’t be seen as a true story. I believe the Sonnets can be seen as a true story–much of it, if not most of it. But, I don’t think we have the same “true story” in mind.

I am certainly motivated by what you say endorsing Shaar’s book. You are correct that I have not read that book and shall soon remedy that oversight. I’ve read so many on this subject, but, granted not that and so I will definitely do so. If I am convinced that Shaar’s book has convinced me of your point of view I’ll let you know.


Hank Whittemore // February 16, 2010 at 11:52 am

Dear Stephanie –

Thanks for writing up this informative blog entry about the Shakespeare sonnets and Sonnet 107 in particular. As usual you’ve provided your readers with important information and insights. Yes, we differ on key points, but I’m glad to see several areas where we’ve come to the same conclusion. Let me first list them:

We agree that most of the Shakespeare works come from Oxford’s own experiences and emotions. Not to say the plays are “autobiographical” in the strict sense, but that, as you say, the emotions and insights come from the circumstances, relationships and events of his particular life, along with other elements ranging from the classics to flights of pure fancy.

Perhaps we agree that the sonnets represent his most directly autobiographical writings under the Shakespeare name, in that he uses “I” presumably to speak for himself about the specific circumstances and events in which he was involved, with specific individuals being addressed and described.

We agree that Edward de Vere 17th earl of Oxford is the author.

We agree that Henry Wriothesley 3rd earl of Southampton is the younger man known to us traditionally as the friend or fair youth.

We agree that the sonnets were published in the order that Oxford intended. You feel it’s the case “for the most part” while I feel the arrangement is exactly what he intended.

It seems clear, you say, that “the Poet’s desire is less sexual than emotional, the desire of a man for a son,” and I agree but for different reasons. I think we can temporarily leave aside our different views of the relationship between Oxford (b. 1550) and Southampton
(b. 1573) and continue to explore Sonnet 107 together.

SONNETS 1-17: 1590
We agree that Oxford wrote the first seventeen sonnets to urge Southampton into a marriage with his daughter Elizabeth Vere, granddaughter of Southampton’s guardian William Cecil Lord Burghley.

SONNET 107: 1603
We agree – and most scholars have felt the same – that Sonnet 107 is referring to the release of Southampton from the Tower by King James on April 10, 1603 – after two years and two months in the prison.

These are some of the places where we agree, even though we differ greatly about what was actually going on. I’m intrigued by certain statements you make:

You ask aloud what desire [motive] could have kept Oxford writing to Southampton: “My answer,” you write, is “a simpatico-son-in-law and a theater patron with solid credit.”

Well, I disagree – and I’d ask you how you explain the urgency and stridency of those first seventeen sonnets to the seventeen-year-old earl. The lecturing tone, the paternal tone, the desperation – “Make thee another self for love of me” – would seem equivalent to the proverbial smashing of a gnat with a sledgehammer. Also, in my view the idea that Oxford wrote any of these intensely felt sonnets in order to gain patronage for his writing, is simply not credible. I feel it cheapens Oxford’s character not to mention the sonnets themselves.

To me it’s ironic, Stephanie, that you land on this climactic verse only to decide that it’s really not so good and even that it “sounds like someone else wrote it.” I don’t think most sonnet experts would agree with that. Robert Giroux, for example, felt that the first four lines are by a mature poet at the very top of his game. Here again, my feeling is that this is a way for you to avoid coming to terms with the circumstances behind the writing.

Let me ask some questions:

Do you really feel Oxford did not write Sonnet 107? If so, we should stop this discussion right away. (That’s a joke, but it does have some truth in it, eh?)

If Oxford exulted that Southampton had been “supposed as forfeit to a confined doom” but now the “mortal Moon” is dead and “my love looks fresh” (out of the Tower, for one thing), don’t you think he would have written a sonnet in reaction to Southampton’s tragic involvement in the Essex Rebellion?

If he writes about the younger earl’s liberation of 1603, wouldn’t he have written about his arrest and incarceration in 1601?

Do you think any of the sonnets placed earlier than 107 are about Southampton’s imprisonment?

Do you think Oxford abandoned Southampton (in terms of writing to him) all during his prison time, only to wax eloquent over his release?

Why, in Sonnet 107, while expressing joy over Southampton’s freedom, would Oxford directly mention Elizabeth – the Moon – and refer to her indirectly as a tyrant? Many scholars feel the couplet refers to the late queen as a tyrant:

And thou in this shalt find thy monument,
When tyrants’ crests and tombs of brass are spent.

Why would Oxford promise Southampton a monument (“in this” or in this sonnet or these sonnets) and, in the same breath, refer to the crests and tombs of kings?

The final line appears to refer to the great brass tomb of Henry VII, grandfather of Elizabeth and founder of the Tudor dynasty, and she is being laid to rest temporarily in the shadow of that tomb. What is the connection between Southampton and Elizabeth that would cause Oxford to write these bitter lines?

I’m no expert on stylistics and various attempts to date the sonnets or any other writings of that era, but I do know that I’m skeptical in many areas. For example, it’s assumed that if Oxford wrote a play in 1593 and then wrote a sonnet with similar words or stylistic and rhetorical elements, he must have written the sonnet around the same time period. I say this is not very scientific and has very little validity if any. But that’s another discussion.

I’ll stop here for now. Thanks for the discussion.


hopkinshughes // February 18, 2010 at 1:51 pm


Of course we agree on many things, the earth is round, etc., but with regard to interpreting the Sonnets, it’s what we don’t agree on that matters. In your response to Eric Miller you state that your theory “answers all the questions.” In fact it doesn’t answer the number one question: why he wrote the sonnets in the first place. Your hypothesis, if I understand it correctly, is that he wrote them out of sorrow that he could do nothing to help his son, Southampton, achieve his rightful place, namely the throne of England, an hypothesis necessarily based on another hypothesis, that Elizabeth had sex with Oxford, neither of them with any support that I can see (after years of research) from history, psychology, or literature.

To be blunt, without Oxford’s sperm getting together with Elizabeth’s egg there’s no Prince Tudor and therefore no reason to write 126 poems on the subject. No research has ever turned up any evidence that such an event (sperm meets egg) ever took place. In fact, as I detail in several pages here, all the evidence is of a woman who did not dare, for many, many perfectly understandable reasons, to have sex with anyone, including the man she was most in love with in her “hot youth,” Robert Dudley. No sex = no Prince Tudor; no Prince Tudor = no need for any scenario that sees the sonnets as based on dynastic politics.

If you have any interest in dealing with the reasons why she could not possibly have allowed a pregnancy to take place, I’ve gone into some detail on several pages, beginning with “This Queen hates marriage.”

As for where Sonnet 107 fits into the picture, quite honestly I don’t know. I offered some thoughts, but as I’ve said over and over, for me the Sonnets are simply too devoid of solid fact and too succeptible to fantasizing to use as a starting point for a reasonable scenario. I seek a scenario for the entire period, not just the Essex rebellion, which as far as I can see hardly needs an explanation beyond what history provides. There are plenty of reasons why Essex behaved as he did without adding this into the equation. It’s not necessary and there’s no evidence for it. But even if there were some validity to it, it’s simply not possible unless Elizabeth had sex with Oxford. If you have proof that she did, let’s have it. If not, what’s the point of taking it any further?


Eric Miller // February 16, 2010 at 1:38 pm

I read Hank’s remarks and as he seems to be asking questions only of Stephanie, I’ll not comment on that. I would note, however, for the record, so to speak, the following:

Hank’s half-serious (or more?) remark that if you didn’t believe Oxford wrote Sonnet 107, that’s the end of the discussion. Unless I am mistaken, what I know of Hanks’ book, The Monument, his monument (to my view a “house of cards,) collapses at the first shiver of the still air–any doubt whatsoever about Hank’s incredible assumption built on assumption–all assumptions of course confirming his “monumental” work.

Typical of Hank’s “style of reasoning” is that each of his assumptions “proves” his other assumptions–whereas there are no facts for his needed 107 Sonnet linkpin. But since Hank “rewrites” the Sonnets to his satisfaction, that’s no problem to him–but the end of the discussion to anyone who doubts his bizzare “paradigm facts.”

No wonder he doesn’t even mention my comments–which certainly opens a Pandora’s box as to at least a slight “doubt” as to the provenance of Sonnet 107.


Hank Whittemore // February 16, 2010 at 2:26 pm

I hadn’t read Eric’s comment before writing my initial reply to Stephanie. One thing at a time seems best. I’ll read it soon, Eric, but let me react here to your comment above.

First, my assumption of Sonnet 107 as written by Oxford in reaction to Southampton’s liberation in spring 1603 — you’re right, an assumption, or hypothesis, built upon a variety of evidence linking the sonnets to Southampton. His motto is spread throughout the fair youth verses 1-126; the marriage sonnets fit the Burghley proposal for Southampton to marry Elizabeth Vere; the link between Sonnet 26 and other sonnets to the dedication of “Lucrece” to Southampton; and yes, the strong support for the 1603 dating of Sonnet 107 in connectioin with Southampton. Have you read Kerrigan’s analysis of this verse in favor of the 1603 dating? Have you seen Blakemore’s assertion that Kerrigan’s take might as well be Q.E.D.?

But still, yes, an assumption or hypothesis. That is where you begin on the path to a theory. A good theory is built upon many assumptions or hypotheses, one upon another, and yes, it could be a house of cards that comes crashing down. That would be true of any other theory, its precarious nature. In the case of the Monument theory it has not collapsed; it has yielded genuine information about the history and the history, in turn, has informed the sonnets. It answers all the questions. Ask a question about the sonents and you will receive an answer — try it — and these answers all fit together in harmony, one reinforcing the other.

I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “proof” or “proves” in my attempts to describe the Monument theory. I don’t claim proof, though it’s tempting. I do claim the development of a comprehensive theory. I do claim, importantly, a coherent explanation for everything in the sonnets.

My joke about ending the discussion of why Oxford wrote Sonnet 107 was based on the fact that, if Stephanie denies that Oxford wrote it in the first place, what are we supposed to talk about?

Now, Eric, I’ll read your comment. Have patience, sir. I do not claim to be right or to have proof and I do not mean to downgrade your work. I present my theory, you present yours, and we’ll see if anybody out there listens to either of us.


Hank Whittemore // February 18, 2010 at 10:56 pm

Stephanie –

First of all it does matter that we agree on many things, including that Oxford was the author of the Shakespeare works — something that has not yet been proved as fact. Ninety-nine percent of the world, probably 99.9 percent, disagrees with our position on the authorship. So the fact that we agree on it is significant.

Second, you say the Monument theory doesn’t answer why Oxford wrote the sonnets. Well, it appears to me that you haven’t paid close attention to my work and have decided to comment on it based only on your opinion that there was no Tudor prince. Yet so far I’ve not mentioned that subject in my reply to your blog about Sonnet 107. I asked you several substantive questions and you chose to avoid answering any of them.

My position is that Oxford wrote the Sonnets as an attempt to leave behind, for posterity, the truth about why he had to bury his own name behind the pen name or mask of Shakespeare. Not only why he adopted the pen name in 1593, but why he agree to have his authorship identity hidden from his own contemporary world and for at least the next few or several generations. The sonnets are filled with indications that this is the subject matter. And the vehicle by which he hopes to send this message to posterity is the “monument” of the sonnets, which he mentions in Sonnets 81 and 107 as well as indicates in 18 and 55 and elsewhere. “My name be buried where my body is” – Sonnet 72. And so on.

And yes, the Monument theory has an answer for any question about the sonnets you could ask. You may disagree with any given answer, but the theory does supply it, and it supplies each answer in complete harmony with (and support of) all the others.

The Monument theory offers a great many insights and observations about the Sonnets that do not require discussion of a Prince Tudor; that is simply one explanation of why Oxford would want to build a monument for “eyes not yet created” (81) or “even in the eyes of all posterity” (55). I believe the royal theme is the best one, but many other elements of the Monument theory are of great value in and of themselves. I think you haven’t looked at any of them, and if you did, it seems you’ve gotten stuck on being against the Prince Tudor explanation to the extent that you “see no point in going any further.”

You’re taking your marbles and going home?

Let me take just one insight that presented itself in my work — the identity of the so-called Rival Poet. Traditional thinking has been that in fact the “rival” is a real-life individual, a contemporary writer (whom you think is Essex). That image is so strongly ingrained that it comes as a shock and a joke to be told that the “rival” is in fact Oxford’s own pen name, Shakespeare, which he had attached to Southampton publicly by the two dedications to him. It may take a very long time for some or most Oxfordians to see the logic of it — even when J. Thomas Looney, identifying Oxford in 1920, declared without doubt that Oxford refers to his pen name on the dedications in writing in Sonnet 82 the lines:

The dedicated words which writers use
Of their fair subject, blessing every book.

Meanwhile I want to express my admiration for Eric Miller’s work. I disagree with his conclusions, but I do think it’s very good works on different levels. I encourage people to read Eric’s work and judge for themselves.

Eric cites seven potentially topical references in Sonnet 107. Here they are, with my answers:
1. prophecies mocked – prophecies of Southampton in prison for life, prophecies of civil war around succession
2. confined doom – Southampton’s imprisonment
3. mortal moon eclipsed – Elizabeth’s mortal body has succumbed, but her eternal self as divine monarch has endured
4. sad augurs – those who predicted civil war
5. olives of endless age – glancing at the olive branches strewn before James, who comes to the throne in peace
6. balmy time – the “balm” of annointed kings, a balmy time indeed
7. ? (I don’t see this one)

“It’s true that Sonnet 107 fits better with the events of 1603 than with most other scenarios,” Eric Miller writes, but then he makes a mighty effort to go against this fit.

The “sad augurs” who “mock their own presage” were those who predicted chaos and civil war; and in fact the poetical sentence continues until “peace proclaims Olives of endless age.” How could it be clearer? The death of the Queen’s mortal body did not usher in a time of civil chaos and fighting; it resulted in peace.

Nonetheless I’ll continue to study Eric’s suggested 1583 date — not because I agree with it, but because he had carried out some genuine scholarship that is inherently valuable. And my Monument theory does allow for the possibility, even probability, that some of the sonnets were written initially at an early date and then finally revised in 1603-04,as Katherine Duncan-Jones suggests.

I’m choosing not to respond to your most recent comment, Eric. I disagree with your description of my work,but you’re certainly entitled to express it.


hopkinshughes // February 19, 2010 at 7:19 am


If you can’t get the door open, what does it matter what’s in the house?

It’s true that for many years I haven’t paid close attention, not only to your work, but to anything that’s based on Elizabeth giving birth to illegitimate children. There may be value in what you write, but because it’s based on an historical and psychological impossibility it’s not only not going to advance the argument for Oxford’s authorship, if it gets too much publicity it’s going to torpedo it.

We need the English academics to get interested in the authorship question. Why? Because they have the resources to go to the source, the PRO and the household archives that Stratfordians have been combing for centuries. If Oxford wrote the Shakespeare canon, there’s bound to be evidence that we don’t have the time or the resources to access. And it is the historians we need to get interested, because this is far more an issue of history than it is of literature. The English Departments really don’t give a hoot who wrote Shakespeare; all they care about is the text. Once the historians have revamped the biography, the English departments will simply adopt it as though there was never a problem.

If the History Departments get the idea that the Oxfordian thesis is based on the notion that the great English Queen was a trollop, they will throw the baby out with the bath quicker than you can say Jack Robinson (no pun intended). Right now my only hope is that they’ll have sense enough to regard anything based on the Sonnets as nothing more than the kind of fantasizing that Shakespeare buffs have been doing for centuries. Is that what you want?

I can only say that I wish like anything that you, and many others, would use your talent and energy to back a scenario that can further the effort to get the historians involved instead of this thing that can only backfire on all of us.

If you want to have a genuine discussion, read what I’ve written about Elizabeth, and then explain how someone in her political position, with her emotional baggage, with not only her power but her very life at stake, would run the risk of getting pregnant. Once you’ve explained that I’ll be more than willing to move on to other issues.


Bob Prechter // February 28, 2010 at 4:42 pm


A question re the following: I have no case to make about sonnet dating, but I’m not sure about the methodology of your cited experts. How can scholars date the Sonnets with only 2 publications from a single time (1593-4) against which to compare them? Wouldn’t they need an author’s publications from 1570, 1580 and 1600 (and 1610, if he had any) against which to compare the language to find subtle differences in the author’s compositions? The same goes for LLL and R&J. If the author’s language didn’t change much over ten years, they could be a decade off. Some Oxfordians think that LLL and R&J began much earlier than the early 1590s. These sonnet daters are relying on Stratfordian dating, which could be off again by ten years. I don’t see, then, how their conclusions are valid, much less definitive.

Bob Prechter

From the post: “Ignoring the Stratford biography or any consideration of who the principles might have been, by comparing the language to that of Venus and Adonis and Lucrece, the only works by Shakespeare whose dates are solid, they place most or all of the Sonnets somewhere in the early 1590s: “. . . the vast majority of the sonnets we have examined seem thus to have been written between 1591-92 and 1594-95” (Shaar 185). Their findings are corroborated by other scholars replicating their efforts, one being G.P.V. Akrigg, Southampton’s biographer, who gives an impressive list of scholars who agree that their language also places them close to the Folio versions of Love’s Labour’s Lost and Romeo and Juliet, which have been dated, by topical references and by language similarities to the two dated narrative poems, in the early 1590s (203).”


hopkinshughes // March 1, 2010 at 5:30 am

Bob, this gets into details that are best sorted out by reading Schaar. If you would do that I would be delighted to go through it myself again and discuss it here, but it’s too detailed to condense. Briefly, as you surely know, there simply isn’t anything by Shakespeare that can be absolutely dated to any other time period. Many factors suggest that Shakespeare’s style developed and changed over time, but without firm dates of course this remains in the realm of conjecture, along with 99 percent of everything else we discuss. What is convincing to me is that the study has been replicated more than once, once by a scholar unaware that it had been done by someone else who got very similar results, and that it was done without reference to the Stratford biography.


Hank Whittemore // March 1, 2010 at 10:23 am

Katherine Duncan-Jones wrote in the 1997 Arden edition of the Sonnets which she edited:

“Recent stylometric studies … point to 1603-4 as a plausible time for the composition or completion of most of the ‘fair youth’ sonnets after 1-17…” (p. 10)

“Like internal evidence, external reference points to 1603-4 as initiating an intense period of writing (and perhaps revising)…” (p 28)

I have found that sonnets 107-126 carry a very large number of links with the 1604 text of “Hamlet” as though the author had both texts side by side at that point — and Oxford’s recorded death on June 24, 1604 fits the idea that he labored virtually up to the end of his life.

My take is that sonnets 1-26 were written during the 1590’s and that 153 was written in the 1570’s, perhaps with 154, although the latter appears to be more mature. Sonnts 27-126 may have had earlier drafts, in other contexts, but ultimately written/revised to fit within the time frame of 1601-1603. The dark lady sonnets 138 and 144 appeared in Passionate Pilgrim in 1599 but were revised for the 1609 quarto; the other dark lady sonnets between 127 and 152, in my view, were written and/or revised to correspond with the time frame between the rebellion of Feb 8, 1601 and very soon after the queen’s death on March 24, 1603.

In the fair youth sonnets, 105 would mark the queen’s death and 106 would mark the final night Southampton spent in prison – April 9, 1603. No 106 starts out “When in the Chronicle of wasted time,” clearly marking the end of a sequence, and placed right before the triumphant 107 announcing Southampton’s liberation after having been “supposed as forfeit to a confined doom.”

Stylistic studies are not to be taken as gospel, to understate the case. Oxford used the same terminology as a young man that we find in the sonnets long afterward. The lines grow in maturity, but, for example, by the 1570’s he is writing “In constant truth to bide so firm and sure” (in a sonnet about the Queen) and in sonnet 152 ending the dark lady series we find, “Thy love, thy truth, thy constancy.”

Sounds to me as though he kept building upon the same themes throughout his life.


Hopkinshughes // March 1, 2010


Again, where is the evidence that Elizabeth had sex with Oxford?  You spin a lovely tale, but until you prove that Southampton was Oxford’s son by Elizabeth, that’s all it is.  It’s as though you had made a beautiful table, decorated with carvings, where every decoration fit every other decoration, yet when we point out that it has no legs so it can’t function as it’s meant to, as a table, you bring the discussion back to the decorations.  Is or is not your thesis based on the idea that the Queen had sex with Oxford?  If not, then explain what does support it.  If so, then give us the evidence that she was so careless of her power, her health, and her reputation that she’d allow herself such license?

And until you explain how this extreme alteration of English History is going to be accepted by mainstream historians, how can you expect those of us who want to see the Authorship Question accepted by the Academy to take this idea seriously?


(From here we go to current comments, again, in chronological order, most recent last.)

15 thoughts on “Sonnet 107 and comments

  1. Sid Lubow responding to Dating sonnet 107 By Eric Miller, The Oxfordian, Vol. IX, 2006

    Not mine owne feares, nor the prophetick soule,
    Of the wide world, dreaming on things to come,
    Can yet the lease of my true love controule,
    Supposde as forfeit to a confin’d doome.
    The mortall Moone hath her eclipse indur’de,
    And the sad Augurs mock their owne presage;
    Incertenties now crowne them-selves assur’de,
    And peace proclaimes Olives of endlesse age.
    Now with the drops of this most balmie time,
    My love lookes fresh, and death to me subscribes,
    Since spight of him Ile live in this poore rime,
    While he insults ore dull and speachlesse tribes.
    And thou in this shalt finde thy monument,
    When tyrants crests and tombs of brasse are spent.

    Eric Miller writes that there are seven of potentially topical references; But lists 6 in order:

    1) prophecies of things to come, feared and then mocked;
    2) a confin’d doom (a state of imprisonment);
    3) the Mortal Moon’s eclipse;
    4) sad augers (learned soothsayers);
    5) Olives of endless age (the initiation of a time of peace);
    6) a balmy (healing and/or mild, fragrant) time.
    So far, no one of the dozens of theorists have based a case for a particular date or interpretation on more than two or three out of the six. Although it’s likely that some are related, others will not fit together in anyone of the leading dating scenarios. The true scenario will show all six of these motifs woven seamlessly together to tell a believable story.”

    Oxfordian Hank Whittemore, sees himself, like his predecessors, as the great discoverer of truth, for him Sonnet 107 goes even further, becoming the pivotal point of a “monumental” reconstruction of English history: Once the intended picture is seen, the reader experiences a total paradigm shift that’s truly remarkable . . . . Shakespeare has been viewed as writing about a “love triangle” in the 1590s involving Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton as the Fair Youth and a mysterious Dark Lady; but in fact the central story takes place during 1601-03, when Southampton was confined for treason in the Tower of London. The Dark Lady turns out to be Queen Elizabeth I of England, who was “stealing” Southampton by keeping him in her prison. A key is Sonnet 107, known as the “dating” verse for celebrating Southampton’s release by King James in 1603, shortly after the Queen’s death. Now, instead of an anomaly, this powerful sonnet becomes the high point of a continuous chronicle.

    And a key word is “Time,” which translates into the diary’s very real timeline . . . . This is a brand-new picture of the most intensely sustained poetical sequence the world has known. Replacing the old one, it opens a new era of Shakespeare research and study, bringing the literature and the history into alignment. (1) But no more than his predecessors has Whittemore been able to weave all six of Shakespeare’s topical references in 107 into his scenario. Since he sees the sonnet as pivotal, as its “high point,” until he can show that all six of these topical references combine to tell the same story, the “continuous chronicle” of his 900-page revision of history will go the way of its predecessors.”

    A “confin’d doome,” Miller asks,”What does Shakespeare mean when he says that neither his own fears, nor the prophecy, can control the lease of his “true love”? And who is it that is suffering from “a confined doom”?”

    If all Shakespeare authorship candidates were alive to answer what they meant by, not just one sonnet, 107, they might point to all that they had written in the entire sequence, published in 1609. All, no doubt, if we were they, would insist that we start at the beginning of the Sonnet story. It might surprise readers that they might point to the back-story that somehow was printed in the back of the publication. It told the woeful tale of a “fickle maid” who cried bitter tears in “A Lover’s Complaint.”

    Apropos to that tale, in the 1573 publication, A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres, on page 163, there is a poem that reads:

    A loving Lady being wounded in the spring time, and now galded eftsones with the remembrance of the spring, doth therfore thus bewayle.

    THis tenth of March when Aries receyv’d,
    Dame Phoebus rayes, into his horned head:
    And I my selfe, by learned lore perceyv’d,
    That Ver approcht, and frostie wynter fled.
    I crost the Thames, to take the cherefull ayre,
    In open feeldes, the weather was so fayre.

    And as I rowed, fast by the further shore,
    I heard a voyce, which seemed to lament:
    Wherat I stay’d, and by a stately dore,
    I left my Boate, and up on land I went,
    Till at the last by lasting payne I found,
    The wofull wight, which made this dolefull sound.

    The poem consisting of 9 stanzas, the eighth stanza reads:

    This sayed: she cast a glance and spied my face,
    By sight wherof, Lord how she chaunged hew?
    So that for shame, I turned backe a pace
    And to my home, my selfe in hast I drew;
    And as I could hir woofull wordes reherse,
    I set them downe in this waymenting verse.

    and closes with:

    Now Ladies you, that know by whom I sing,
    And feele the wynter, of such frozen wylls:
    Of curtesie, yet cause this noble spring,
    To send his sunne, above the highest hilles:
    And so to shyne, uppon hir fading sprayes,
    Which now in woe, do wyther thus alwayes.
    Spreta tamen vivunt. (“The disdained will yet live” per Charlton Ogburn)*

    Ben Jonson in his encomium of 1623 to Shakespeare, having read the 1573 poem, wrote :

    Sweet Swan of Avon ! what a sight it were
    To see thee in our waters yet appear,
    And make those flights upon the banks of Thames,

    should be confirmation enough that in the Spring 1573, Ver approached a crying woman who was recognized, and in shame, left and went “home.” It should be noted that the third Earl of Southampton was not born until October 1573.

    I am sure Hank can devise a scenario that depicts the “fickle maid” (Elizabeth I) being one month pregnant. The very reason that the “noble spring”Ver came ashore and left in shame. Talk about dating the story of the woeful maid in a publication that appeared to be the back-story of the Sonnets. I consider it to be the Sonnets prologue because the last words of the poem led me into the masterpieces, (pun intended) written by a young Shakespeare, equivalent to The Master of Ballantrae, the teen-ager of ALC.

    His analysis of Sonnet 107 and others would need a complete revision not to mention the fact that he could not know the sex of the unborn child in the Spring of 1573. It would be interesting to hear Hank’s views on that problem. He has already told me that Queen Elizabeth was the “fickle maid” of ALC, a poem he neglected to discuss in his book.

    To get back to S. 107, there is a tendency for scholars to analyze a sonnet without telling us what the story is all about at that sonnet point. For instance, at sonnet 107, the Bard has told us two-thirds of the story, without mentioning the back-story, ALC.

    The similarity of the story of the poem quoted above is so striking that it might very well have been written in 1537 or earlier. How can the Bard or anyone write or know future ‘history’? According to scholars, the “mortal Moon” refers to Queen Elizabeth I. They fail to recognize the ‘eclipse’ metaphor Shakespeare had used earlier in sonnet 35.3, “Clouds and eclipses staine both Moon and Sun.” What has the Bard told us at that point of the sonnets story? That connection is overlooked by both Miller and Hank, possibly because they failed to recognize the story of the sonnets that I maintain began with the back-story, ALC, which I consider also to be the Prologue of the Sonnets.

    The Bard was telling us his version of the Narcissus tale of Ovid’s Metamorphoses III, with himself, the NEW Narcissus. Scholars know that Narcissus was the son of Cephisus, the river god. The noble child of Liriope, the naiad who wandered in his stream, who bore the river god’s child. The child who, at sixteen, was punished by the goddess of revenge, Nemesis, for his sin of self-love. She made the handsome lad fall in love with his own Image. Narcissus understood it was himself, but received no response from the “lovely” Image, That unusual and cruel punishment was fatal to the lad. He was adored by all the girls who prepared his cremation with great dignity. Nothing was found after his cremation except a “yellow floure with milke white leaves new sprong upon the ground.” Jonathan Bate, who wrote “Shakespeare’s Ovid” for the Paul Dry edition of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, recognized Narcissus in the first Shakespeare sonnet and in sonnet 5.10, but never made the story connection. Furthermore, he never recognized who the fickle Maid was, and proceeded to remove ALC from the canon. Brian Vickers appears never to have understood the poetry either, and insulted both the Bard and John Davies of Hereford, I need only comment that most readers who claim to know poetry or any work of fiction as the Sonnets or the plays, do not need a computer to analyze a story. Especially the stanza wherein the injured, tearful, sorrowful woman in ALC, speaks frankly…

    Father,’ she says, ‘though in me you behold
    The injury of many a blasting hour,
    Let it not tell your judgment I am old;
    Not age, but sorrow, over me hath power:
    I might as yet have been a spreading flower,
    Fresh to myself, If I had self-applied
    Love to myself and to no love beside.

    The Dame knows who she has “disdainfully abjected” (page 166 “Flowres”) She knows with whom she has been living, the NEW self-lover himself, Narcissus. She is the Muse of Tragedy, ‘daintily’ named many times in “Flowres”, (deere Dame), i.e. godDess, page 162, and in the sonnets, as “that Muse” of sonnet 21.1, who re-entered the Sonnets at that point after crying her eyes out for love of the handsome teen-ager, who “suited” her, whose…

    Small show of man was yet upon his chin;
    His phoenix down began but to appear
    Like unshorn velvet on that termless skin

    Once one knows the story of the sonnets, the authorship mystery becomes very clear, and ‘cleaner’. When Alan Nelson, reads necromancy into the character of Edward de Vere, as the earl’s enemies did, one might consider Ovid’s Pygmalion, a necromancer as well. That never occurred to George Bernard Shaw or Leslie Howard, an Oxfordian, who played him in the movie, Pygmalion. It is interesting that Shaw felt he had to use that name in his title for fear that the connection might go unrecognized. Which is why the Bard’s sonnet version of Ovid’s tale, failed to be understood. But relating the mythical plot of the sonnets to events, “revision of history” will not stand up, as Mr. Miller said.

    To continue with the sonnet story, the Muse has cried her eyes out and returned to the Bard’s home after telling her story to the ‘town crier’, the shepherd, which annoyed the Bard. She has a trick or two to get some sort of revenge for having being dumped by the Bard. She writes him the letter of sonnet 26, and tells him, “Lord of my love,” that she hopes “some good conceit” will be bestowed. She came to the conceited mortal in answer to his suit, in her own apparel, and was seduced by the “fiend” and is possibly in trouble… (Hank, please note…)

    For, lo, his passion, but an art of craft,
    Even there resolved my reason into tears;
    There my white stole of chastity I daff’d,
    Shook off my sober guards and civil fears;
    Appear to him, as he to me appears,
    All melting; though our drops this difference bore,
    His poison’d me, and mine did him restore.

    ‘In him a plenitude of subtle matter”….

    Speaking of subtle matters and dainty devices, deriving and derivatives, read further of them in hundreth “Flowres” in 1573 — if that doesn’t speak of Narcissus, nothing will, “thou hast thy will,” “thou hast thy will”, twice on page 287, that came before sonnet 135’s. “thou hast thy Will.” Will, Will, Willl, Will, Will, in 1609, 36 years later. In ALC the Bard bragged to the Muse that he made many aristocratic women very happy, sexually, and left some very pregnant and their husbands cuckolded. I doubt that the commoner Shakespeare would admit that he wrote the sonnets or ALC, after reading in ALC that he received family jewels from those aristocratic women for his love. He never did admit that he wrote the Sonnets or ALC.

    In concluding her letter of sonnet 26 she wittily, tells him that she is quitting her job, the “duty” she took on when he asked her to be his Muse, to inspire him, with her ‘respiration’ into his “spongy lungs….

    Till whatsoever star that guides my moving (A ‘Moon’ goes around its star, as the earth does)
    Points on me graciously with fair aspect
    And puts apparel on my tatter’d loving,
    To show me worthy of thy sweet respect:
    Then may I dare to boast how I do love thee;
    Till then not show my head where thou mayst prove me.

    Now that is exactly what she plans to do in this early sonnet, that she will attempt to cure his “sin of self-love.” She, magically, shows him his head on her own neck in sonnet 131.11, “One on another’s neck” that he thinks is not so beautiful any more. As a matter of fact, he thinks it is “slander.” The same word he would use to berate anyone who misreads his poetry. Attested to by the Muse, The Passionate Pilgrim the traveler from Paradise, Melpomene, who has now to answer her boss, Apollo, or Phoebus, the god of the Sun and poetry, for her troubling condition.

    But to get back to sonnet 107. When the spiteful Muse left Will, she knew that the doppelgänger, the alter ego in the mirror, was her rival. She decided to use her magic by wooing her rival away from Will in sonnet 41.7.

    And when a woman woos, what woman’s son,
    Will sourly leave her till he have prevailed.” (Note, some scholars change ‘he’ to ‘she’.)

    It is in “sourly” bad taste, indeed, for a man to un-gentlemanly turn down a wooing woman. The alter ego therefore ends up as her thrall, and leaves the mirror. When he is no longer seen by Will after returning from the “journey” of sonnet 27, {just after Will read her letter) and several sonnets later he becomes very unhappy and vows to win back his love, blaming himself for leaving his alter ego alone. The one he called his “Sunne,” cleverly, in sonnet 35.3. The son he desired in sonnet 10’s couplet, and born in the couplet of the beautiful sonnet 18. It is quite obvious to me why the 17th Earl of Oxford waited until the 18th Sonnet’s couplet for his child to be born.

    S 10 couplet
    Make thee another self, for love of me,
    That beauty still may live in thine or thee.

    S 18 couplet
    So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
    So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

    Sonnets 11 and 22 need to be studied intently to understand how the Bard created his alter ego.

    S 11
    As fast as thou shalt wane, so fast thou growest
    In one of thine, from that which thou departest;
    And that fresh blood which youngly thou bestowest
    Thou mayst call thine when thou from youth convertest.
    or S 22 “How can I then be elder than thou art?” That is the question.

    The man with “a woman’s face, the master-mistress of his passion, “a false borrow’d face,” S. 127.6, feminine enough to fool the bard when he sees his own on the neck of the Muse in S 131.11.

    A man in hue, all Hews in his controlling.”
    The same double–named alter ego, in Latin, the other I,
    “Single nature’s double name
    Neither two nor one was called.” in lines 39-40 of The Phoenix and Turtle.

    As should be obvious now, the new Narcissus knew he was “doomed” to die when Narcissus mother asked the “Prophet sage…if the childe would live to be many yeares of age: Made answere: Yea full long, so that him selfe he doe not know. (431-433 Met. III) That explains number (1) of the above “prophecies of things to come, . . . And the sad Augurs mock their owne presage;” The soothsayers.

    The Phoenix and Turtle’s lovebirds, described in the poem, head off into immortality, to be reborn every 500 years, since Ovid’s Phoenix. Counting from the first century zero AD, 500, 1000, E of O’s 1500, to our 2000. “And thou treble-dated Crow,” (the old “Crow” of the Sonnets) who mourned Will at the lovebirds’ funereal wake, “either” lovebird “was the other’s mine.” in The Phoenix & Turtle and the sonnets 134.3 “other mine,” They were finally re-united in death, and peacefully,”concordant” —”Olives of endless age.” Indeed, A “confin’d doome”(?) that Eric Miller asked about is simply what appeared in sonnet 5.10, “A liquid prisoner pent in walls of glass,” that even Jonathan Bate knew was Narcissus, the Bard, “confin’d” (pent and speechless) in the Bard’s mirror.

    As to number (3) the mortal Moon’s eclipse, she is the dark lady of the sonnets, the Muse of Tragedy, the “fickle Muse” the old Crow of sonnet 70.1-2

    “The ornament of beauty is suspect, A Crow that flies in heaven’s sweetest air”… the dark lady in her sea-cole robe, (“Now sitt thee down, Melpomene. / Wrapt in a sea-cole robe, page 1843, Black like mineral coal, The Riverside Shakespeare) that has nothing whatever to do with Queen Elizabeth I.

    As for number “(5) Olives of endless age (the initiation of a time of peace);” and number “(6) a balmy (healing and/or mild, fragrant) time.” The remainder of sonnet 70 will explain the symbols of peace, olives, and “concordant” as well as in Phoenix & Turtle, lines 45-46, where the lovebirds, the “twain” became “one” again.

    The Muse knew of Will’s passionate affairs with many women. The Bard has been very careful about that with others who have not “heard where his plants in others’ orchards grew.” (ALC 171) Melpomene, (of Oxford’s Song: The Forsaken Man) told us of his love affairs, through that gossiping old man, that Will was a target of “envy,” “that he did in the general bosom reign of young, of old, and sexes both enchanted.” (ALC 127-8) Yet he suspected that slanderers cannot be stopped, but if they were, the whole world would be indebted in gratitude. As a matter of fact if there were no suspicions of any kind to mar a person’s reputation, that itself would be a debt owed to “kingdoms” of admirers, he spoke about in sonnet 70.

    The Muse has ‘cured’ his self-loving “blindness” (S 152.11) and he made peace with her for wooing away his love. But being doomed, the funeral takes place nevertheless.

    Stephanie mentioned John Keats in her response to Hank. Keats might have also wondered what The Phoenix and Turtle was all about, in his Ode on a Grecian Urn, possibly referring “to this urn,” and “married Chastity,” or “Truth and Beauty” in which Keats might have asked himself, “What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?” He finally concluded, with just a hint of frustration, that “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,— that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

    But, you see, one needs to understand the Sonnets so that one may put all of Eric Miller’s six references into a seamless whole. (Eric, you told us above, when you started, that there were seven, but you listed only six. I would love to know the other one so that I might learn more.)

    *A note from Derran Charlton: on Phaeton, a proud owner of a precious gift… “Incidentally, a few years ago, when I was last in Savannah, I was kindly given Charlton Ogburn`s own copy of A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres (first-edition) which had previously belonged to his Mother, Dorothy. The book contains upwards of 400 prompting annotations in Charlton`s holograph. Charlton translated Spraeta tamen vivunt as “The disdained will yet live”.

    Sid Lubow

  2. Two quick textual points.
    One, nobody seems to have suggested the possibility that the “love” and the “true love” are not the same person. I would tentatively suggest that the “love” could be someone to whom the poet owed the obligation of love, whereas the “true love” could be the genuine object of his love, albeit not necessarily the romantic kind. Even more tentatively, Queen Elizabeth as the “love”, Mary of Scotland the “true love”.
    Which ties in somewhat with point two. I assume that it is the “true love” who is forfeit to a confined doom, i.e. incarceration of some kind.
    But is not a key point the word “supposed”, which implies to me that the supposition turned out to be erroneous? The poet believed that the “true love” would indeed continue to live, albeit under constraint, but things didn’t turn out that way. Which implies that the sonnet was composed shortly after the execution of Mary. It is assumed that Vere was not one of those who subscribed to her death sentence, so the language of the sonnet is cunningly reversed: the poet did not subscribe to her death, but on the contrary death subscribes to him.

  3. Sid Lubow responding to Mike Markus
    Dating sonnet 107
    By Eric Miller, The Oxfordian, Vol. IX, 2006

    Sonnet 107
    Not mine owne feares, nor the prophetick soule,
    Of the wide world, dreaming on things to come,
    Can yet the lease of my true love controule,
    Supposde as forfeit to a confin’d doome.
    The mortall Moone hath her eclipse indur’de,
    And the sad Augurs mock their owne presage;
    Incertenties now crowne them-selves assur’de,
    And peace proclaimes Olives of endlesse age.
    Now with the drops of this most balmie time,
    My love lookes fresh, and death to me subscribes,
    Since spight of him Ile live in this poore rime,
    While he insults ore dull and speachlesse tribes.
    And thou in this shalt finde thy monument,
    When tyrants crests and tombs of brasse are spent

    Eric Miller writes of topical references;
    and lists 6 in order:

    1) prophecies of things to come, feared and then mocked;
    2) a confin’d doom (a state of imprisonment);
    3) the Mortal Moon’s eclipse;
    4) sad augers (learned soothsayers);
    5) Olives of endless age (the initiation of a time of peace);
    6) a balmy (healing and/or mild, fragrant) time. So far, no one of the
    dozens of theorists have based a case for a particular date or
    interpretation on more than two or three out of the six. Although
    it’s likely that some are related, others will not fit together in any
    one of the leading dating scenarios. The true scenario will show
    all six of these motifs woven seamlessly together to tell a believable

    A true scenario, the last of Eric’s references, was what, in my opinion, I
    presented that showed all six of these motifs were woven seamlessly together that told a believable story. That the sonnets were not based on historical facts. I suggested that Shakespeare took as his theme, the fable of Ovid’s Narcissus.

    (1)The prophecy of things to come told to his mother that he might not live a long life, which turned out to be true, and then “mocked,” or shall we say “imitated” or “mimicked” by Shakespeare.
    (2)The reflection in the Bard’s glass, as if it were the perfect pool to which Narcissus was sent to see his Image, summed up by the Bard in line 5.10.
    “A liquid prisoner pent in walls of glass,” “Eric’s, “a confin’d doome.”

    (3) ) the Mortal Moon’s eclipse; Her disappearance by the message, S 26, she left the Bard saying she was leaving, wittily saying she would “not show my head.” The “mortal Moone,” the Muse, came between the love of himself, the reflection in his mirror and spitefully, wooed the alter ego away. S 41.7. The very reason why the Bard could not see him or the Muse, and felt his “out-cast state” in S 29.2 by both his loves. He finally realized that his real love was wooed away, that “Cloudes and eclipses staine both Moone and Sunne,” in S 35.3.

    (4) sad augers (learned soothsayers); had predicted his death in the previous reference, the doom he suffered when his love did not respond. Indeed, Narcissus felt betrayed because the two had given each other their hearts, S 22, and if there was one thing that Narcissus knew or felt secure with, was that in self-loving he was not likely to be rejected, or as he put it in sonnet 25’s couplet,

    Then happy I that love and am beloved,
    Where I may not remove, nor be removed.

    5) Olives of endless age (the initiation of a time of peace); the symbol
    of concordance in the funeral of the two lovebirds, in The Phoenix and
    Turtle, where the “twain” became “one” again.

    6) a balmy (healing and/or mild, fragrant) time.

    The Muse admitted she loved him in sonnet 145, despite her spite and vengeful state, a typical reaction to a seduction and being dumped by a “fiend.” Yes, she re-entered the sonnets full of hate for the self-lover, as testified to by those five ‘O’s in the closing stanza of ALC, which scream out “Oxford.”

    I pointed out that the Muse did a very clever thing, (of which the Bard must have been proud) to show the new Narcissus’ face on the neck of the woman he grew to hate for stealing away his true love, which he thought “slander,” his face no longer as “lovely” as he once thought, yet appearing appearing on “that Muse.” A cure which was successful as admitted to in S. 152.11-12 wherein the Muse…

    To enlighten thee gave eyes to blindness
    Or made them swear against the thing they see.

    Freudian psychoanalytic medicine, I would say, way, way before his time.

    The lovers reconciled but the Bard’s doom was foretold and mimicked by Shakespeare. That was the meaning of The Phoenix and Turtle, where the “twain” became “one” again, by hitching a ride with the Phoenix into immortality.

    Now, Mike, to get to your interpretation, one I don’t think Eric or I could agree with since you make no attempt to answer Eric’s references. Suggesting that the Bard’s, “love,” as you assert “even more tentatively,” was “Queen Elizabeth,” needs much more sonnet support, than by just asserting that Mary of Scotland was his “true love.”

    At this point in the story, can you find where it has been said in the sonnets that Queen Elizabeth or Mary of Scotland had anything romantic or otherwise to do with the Bard, or, indeed, love of any woman, other than the fickle Moone?

    Shakespeare wrote about women who were false, in sonnet 21, saying;

    “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
    With shifting change as is false women’s fashion.

    His true love, was he, himself, to him not a false one. The lesson “that Muse” learned by her copious tears in the poem I referred to on page 163,
    in Spring, dated the tenth of March, 1573, in A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres before the Gregorian calendar when, in 1593, the Pope removed ten days.

    It is extremely important to look at two sonnets, 41 and 42, with a fresh eye to really understand them. The Bard is talking to himself, and to his alter ego in the glass, about the Muse, (the “her’ and “she”) that he explains in S 42, after the Muse in S 41 has stolen his true love away…

    That thou hast her it is not all my grief,
    And yet it may be said I lov’d her dearly
    That she hath thee is of my wailing chief

    Seducing “that Muse” certainly did cost him, “dearly,” but the Bard is toying with us, and being sophisticated, he plays the sophist and chides us, with,

    But here’s the joy, my friend and I are one,
    Sweet flattery, then she loves but me alone.

    I hope you grasp that, the words, “my friend” being the alter ego, the Bard is telling the Muse, “If you love him, and he’s the Image of me, then you love me alone.” That is narcissism with an elbow in the ribs.

    For me the mystery of the Sonnets is gone, it is history! Friends, I hope you all agree.

    As you can see, Mike, none of this can apply to reality, Mary of Scotland or Queen Elizabeth or the Third Earl of Southampton. But they are poetic masterpieces that earned Shakespeare / Oxford immortality.

    A word to Hank. Since I maintain that the subject was narcissism, I have no problem in writing of any sonnet without mentioning the names of Queen Elizabeth, Southampton, the trial, Oxford, Narcissus or even Shakespeare. As a matter of fact, I have done that, just to convince a guy like Dave Kathman that knowing the sonnets is the key to knowing who really wrote them. The subject matter, the story of a teen-age rake in A Lover’s Complaint, who seduced women, rich enough, to give him diamonds and family jewels was not a subject the commoner would brag about if he liked to remain alive. Come to think about it, neither would Oxford do any such bragging unless he wanted to be made a head shorter. Despite the sonnets, masterpieces, he never did see them printed in his lifetime — unless he did have them printed privately, calligraphically, and kept them hidden in that book held by the man in the Ashbourne portrait. Why? That is the question.

    Would an extremely talented poet/playwright, have realized that real fame would only come after death. Meritum petere, grave, the signature used in many poems in A Hundred Sundrie Flowres, that the Friedmans, in their book, The Shakespearean Ciphers Examined, told us it meant, “To seek reward is a serious matter.” They overlooked that the word ‘grave’, after the comma, meant just that, “To seek reward is a serious matter of the grave.” Accented further by the addition of French acute and grave accents on pages 174 and 175, where both appear. Meritum petere, gravé on one, and Meritum petere gravè on the other.

    Only the man who had to use a pseudonym wrote that. And in 1573, the Stratford man was only nine-years-old.

    Ben Jonson, in his encomium to Shakespeare in 1623, left a bit of a doubt in my opinion, which Shakespeare he was talking about, when he wrote;

    And though thou hadst small Latin and less Greek
    From thence to honour thee, I would not seek

    Sid Lubow

  4. Why wasn’t Henry Wriothesley named explicitly in the published Sonnets? How could the promised eternal fame the Sonnets author indicated he intended for the recipient–the young man–ever be made good without naming that person directly and unambiguously?

    1. Yes, it is absurd. The sentiment was ancient, poets going back to the Greeks promised the subject of their love poems eternal fame, which was of course true. Nobody gets remembered unless somebody describes what they are or did in memorable terms. But in this instance, where he dared not use his subject’s name, it does sound ridiculous. Maybe at the time people were aware of word of mouth who the Fair Youth was. Maybe that’s all the poet cared about. But as things played out, the world has taken particular notice of Southampton, once it became established that it was he.

  5. “Notions that when he died he was careless about leaving his papers where just anyone, including family members who cared more about their image than they did literature, might have gotten hold of them, shows a lack of understanding of how great artists feel about their work. Having promised that he was going to leave a portrait of the Fair Youth for posterity to admire, he would certainly not have played fast and loose with their vehicle. Whoever got his papers also got strict instructions on what to do with them. This is simply common sense.”

    In this case, we have to assume that, in _not_ clearly and expressly naming the person to whom he’d promised eternal fame and glory through the lasting power of his sonnets, this was De Vere’s own wishes carried out? It staggers belief. Also, it appears that you’ve read (and recommend, as do I) R.J.C. Wait’s “Background” where I think he makes a convincing case for a reordering of the conventionally accepted order of the sonnets. Everyone who cares about such issues should read Wait’s book before concluding that the sonnets as published are in either the forms or the order that the author should have wanted to see them appear in a published collection. Many other unresolved matters are equally bizarre according to the view that the author’s own wishes reflect what we’re given as the various publications in their forms, places and timing (other than, of course, things which appeared in print during De Vere’s life).

    What about the possibility that, in the published sonnets, we have far less than the entirety that had been written (and, I assume, sent to their addressees in piecemeal form as they were produced).

    1. That there were more sonnets than were published is of course a possibility. Almost anything is a possibility with the sonnets, which is why I refer to them only as adjuncts to those areas of Oxford’s life that are provably solid. The place to begin is with the man and his life story, the works themselves can only be placed properly and understood in terms of their reflections of his life and experiences. Of all of his works, the Sonnets are the most ambiguous, in what they say, what they don’t say, and how they got published. Those who begin their inquiry with the Sonnets invariably end up in the weeds. The Sonnets are the last thing to be fitted into the scenario, not the first.

  6. “Maybe at the time people were aware of word of mouth who the Fair Youth was. Maybe that’s all the poet cared about.”
    I don’t doubt that for a moment–as long as we intend by “people” the rather closed circle of the royal Court and EDV’s the close friends and family. The wider world–that very wide world that the author clearly indicates he means to inform of the beauty, grace and wonder of his beloved friend, of course, should have never been within earshot of the word-of-mouth. So I don’t believe that such a rationale makes any sense for _us_ as contenders of EDV’s authorship.

    “But as things played out, the world has taken particular notice of Southampton, once it became established that it was he”

    ?? How “established”? Many accept that the object of the sonnets (those referring to the object of affection) was Wriothesley but many, including the so-called experts either have other candidates or withold judgment. This, again, seems to me a world away from the author’s clearly expressed intentions. We can easily accept that the sonnets’ object-eddressee was incredibly well-known–a person who in our time should be described as a “superstar”–but that alone would not ensure that his fame then would persist down, not just across centuries, but, as Shakepeare put it, as long as men live and breathe, read and write. I think common sense demands we find better explanations and, as advocates of EDV’s role, our better judgments makes that incumbent on us to face in a way that he “Flatland”-ers (which essay I much enjoyed!, by the way) don’t feel obliged to face.

    1. Again, in my view, arguments arising from the Sonnets are a waste of time. Once we understand the author’s life we will have some hope of arriving at a secure conjecture. Meanwhile I regard them as gorgeous poetry stemming from a genuine passion for two people, a youth and a woman. What exactly that passion was all about depends on a number of things about which we still know very little. For me the poems are enough. I love the poems but am much more interested in the plays, as with them there is hope of understanding when and how they came to be written.

  7. Just a brief comment inspired by a recent re-reading here.

    I suspect that the word “endur’ede” was a copyist of compositor’s error.

    “Enduring an eclipse” as a metaphor for Elizabeth’s death didn’t make any more sense in 1603 than it does today. I suspect that the intended word was “incur’ed” (or “encur’ed)– and that a check of S’ s texts would show similar usages of it.

    “The mortall Moone hath her eclipse encur’ed,
    And the sad Augurs mock their owne presage …”


    1. If the eclipse was about the fact that she survived her 63rd year in 1596, supposed to be a year of mortal danger, then endured makes sense.

      1. Aha! Point taken. Thank you for that clarification. (I just read your (longer) essay on the sonnets. A fine piece of exposition. I especially found fascinating information you provided on Emilia Bassano Lanier.) And I’m on next to John Rollett’s “Secrets of the Dedication.” Your researches and writings here are a public service.

  8. You’re welcome of course. What I’d really intended to mention earlier and forgot to is that, just before reading this article on the sonnets–and after it, John M. Rollett’s fascinating article on the “Secrets of the Dedication to Shakespeare’s Sonnets,” I’d read with _great_ pleasure and interest your 62-page article on Robert Greene, King of the Paper Stage. That work of scholarship and research–and just plain ingenious figuring-stuff-out!–places you, in my opinion, among that very rare set of people who have produced genuinely original and important work in this field. You really have to rank among the best of these–and I envy you this place. Clearly,, you deserve it and I don’t doubt that it shall be a lasting honor to you.

    I intend to methodically read all of your long articles one by one and note and look into the references you present in them for my further reading–as a priority of my study in these topics.

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