It’s best to read Part Nineteen first.

1593. In Rome.  The City of Marble. Harry Southampton, William Shakespeare and Thomas Nashe are on a whistle-stop tour of Europe.

57. (55)

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments

Of Princes shall out-live this powerful rime,

But you shall shine more bright in these contents

Than unswept stone, besmear’d with sluttish time.

Caesar Augustus famously found Rome brick but left it marble. Shakespeare asserts his verse will allow Harry to last longer than Rome’s marble or its gilt tombs of by-gone rulers now neglected and subject to the ravages of time.

When wasteful war shall Statues over-turn,

And broils root out the work of masonry,

Nor Mars his sword, nor war’s quick fire shall burn:

The living record of your memory.

Mars in the Forum Nerva, Rome.

Although warfare can destroy statues and buildings, neither Mars with his sword or fires produced by conflict will be able to destroy my vivid description of you as you lived.

‘Gainst death, and all-oblivious enmity

Shall you pace forth, your praise shall still find room,

Even in the eyes of all posterity

That wear this world out to the ending doom.

In the face of death and hostility – which cares for nobody and ensures that all things will be forgotten – you will walk out of my verse so people, in times to come, will still praise you until the world ends on the Day of Judgement.

So till the judgment that your self arise,

You live in this, and dwell in lovers’ eyes.

So till you yourself rise from your tomb on the Day of Judgement you will live in this poem – and in the eyes of the people in love who will read it.

‘Self’ can also mean ‘penis’ – [see Sonnet 2. (1)] so there is another coded reference to Harry’s erections. ‘Eyes’ can also mean genitals – [see Sonnet 8. (7)] so Shakespeare is implying that Harry will come to life in other people’s love-making.

58. (81)

Or I shall live your Epitaph to make,

Or you survive when I in earth am rotten,

From hence your memory death cannot take,

Although in me each part will be forgotten.

Whether I outlive you, and write the epitaph on your tomb, or if you outlive me, while my body rots in the grave, either way Death will not be able to make people forget you, even though every aspect of my own being will be forgotten.

Your name from hence immortal life shall have,

Though I (once gone) to all the world must die;

The earth can yield me but a common grave,

When you intombed in men’s eyes shall lie.

From this time forward, Shakespeare asserts, your name, Harry, will live for ever, even though when I myself die will die to the rest of the world. I will be buried as a commoner while you will be buried in the eyes of men.

Your monument shall be my gentle verse,

Which eyes not yet created shall ore-read;

And tongues to be, your being shall rehearse,

When all the breathers of this world are dead:

Shakespeare says that his verse which people who are not yet born will read, will be Harry’s monument: and tongues, which don’t at the moment exist will give life to your being by reciting my verse about you.

By describing his verse as ‘gentle’ Shakespeare also claims aristocratic status.

You still shall live (such virtue hath my Pen)

Where breath most breathes, even in the mouths of men.

Shakespeare says that his verse is so powerful it will bring Harry back to life in the mouths of men when they read aloud his verse. Their breath will breathe life into Harry.

The irony is, of course, that Shakespeare was to have a monument at Stratford-upon-Avon….


….while the only physical monument to Harry is as a twenty-one year old kneeling in prayer at the side of the Southampton family tomb at Titchfield.

Mary and Harry beneath the figure of their father Henry, the Second Earl of Southampton.

59. (122)

Shakespeare gave Harry a blank book to write down his thoughts when they set off for Europe. See Sonnet 53. (77)

Harry filled the book and gave it back to Shakespeare…

Thy gift, thy tables, are within my brain

Full character’d with lasting memory,

Which shall above that idle rank remain,

Beyond all date even to eternity:

Shakespeare claims that everything Harry wrote in his book filled with blank pages, Shakespeare has committed to memory. These ideas – which are far superior to Shakespeare’s own – will last for ever.

Or at the least, so long as brain and heart

Have faculty by nature to subsist

Till each to raz’d oblivion yield his part

Of thee, thy record never can be miss’d:

Well if not for ever, then as long as Shakespeare remains alive. Till the moment when death will erase all thoughts from Shakespeare’s mind, Shakespeare will never forget Harry’s ideas.

That poor retention could not so much hold,

Nor need I tallies thy dear love to score;

Therefore to give them from me was I bold,

To trust those tables that receive thee more.

Shakespeare argues  that a notebook could not hold as much information as Shakespeare’s own brain: nor does he need a ‘forget-me-not’ to remember Harry’s love. It was because of this that Shakespeare gave Harry’s book away putting more trust in the tables of Shakespeare’s own brain.

To keep an adjunct to remember thee

Were to import forgetfulness in me.

If Shakespeare had kept the book as a memento, it would imply that Shakespeare needs such a thing to keep Harry in mind.

So, Shakespeare has given Harry a book, Harry has filled it with his thoughts and returned it to him. Shakespeare has given it away (or lost it!) But instead of admitting error, Shakespeare goes into attack mode.  If he had kept the book it would imply that he needs it to remember Harry.

This Shakespeare in ‘Falstaff Mode’ – defending his actions in a preposterous way!

April, 1593

Shakespeare Harry and Southampton return to England with Antonio Perez on 18th April, 1593 in time for Easter.

Antonio Perez

Perez, a gay Spanish spy and double-dealer, former secretary to Philip II of Spain and model for Don Armado in the court revival of Love’s Labour’s Lost c. 1598, joins the Earl of Essex’s entourage.

(By 1598 Perez was out of favour with Queen Elizabeth and Sir Walter Raleigh, the original model for Armado, was in. So re-writes took place.)


Shakespeare immediately gets his publisher, Richard Field, to enter Venus and Adonis on the Stationer’s Register.

Shakespeare returns a changed man. Before 1593 not a single play had been set in Italy: now sixteen of them were to be based on Italian books – some of them – like the Titus Andronicus chapbook – only available in Rome…

Ten of the plays – over a quarter of the canon – were to be set in Italy or have scenes in Italy – and the works contain over 800 references to Italy.

Shakespeare turned The Taming of A Shrew into The Taming of a Shrew – and changed its setting from ancient Athens to ‘modern day’ Italy….

He turned the whole whistle-stop journey into the frantic movements of time and place in Two Gentlemen of Verona…

Shakespeare was to mention Rome over 400 times in his plays….

It was his spiritual home – both as an artist and as a Roman Catholic.

APRIL 1593.

60. (104)

Shakespeare was now back in his other spiritual home, Titchfield, and this sonnet celebrates the third anniversary of the day Shakespeare first met Harry in April 1590.

We learn from this sonnet that fell in love with Harry the first time he saw him, when first his ‘eye’ he ‘eyed’….

…..echoing Marlowe’s statement, which would appear again in As You Like It:

Whoever loved who loved not at first sight

Shakespeare at first controlled his passion – out of respect both for Harry and his mother.

To me fair friend you never can be old,

For as you were when first your eye I eyde,

Such seems your beauty still: three Winters cold

Have from the forests shook three summers’ pride,

Three beauteous springs to yellow Autumn turn’d,

In process of the seasons have I seen

Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burn’d,

Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green.

Shakespeare again claims that Harry will never be old because he looks exactly the same now as when Shakespeare first saw him three years ago.

‘When first your eye I eyde’ means (1) When our eyes met (2) When I saw your penis – and my own responded. ‘Eye’ can mean the genital area. See Sonnet 8. (7)

Three winters have passed since this meeting – robbing the summer leaves from the trees – and three springs have turned from green to yellow. The beautiful April scent of flowers has been burnt in the hot June sun – but Harry, unlike the plant world, has stayed green.

Ah yet doth beauty like a Dial hand,

Steal from his figure, and no pace perceiv’d,

So your sweet hew, which me thinks still doth stand,

Hath motion, and mine eye may be deceiv’d;

And yet beauty slowly ebbs away, like the dial hand of a clock, so slowly it cannot be seen. So Harry’s beauty which Shakespeare perceives as permanent is in reality changing and Shakespeare vision is faulty.

Shakespeare spells ‘hue’ as ‘hew’ – another play on Harry’s title, ‘Henry Wriothesley, Earl’ – as in Sonnet 19.20

For fear of which, hear this thou age unbred,

Ere you were born was beauty’s summer dead.

In anticipation of this truth Shakespeare addresses the ‘age unbred’ – which means (1) people not yet conceived and (2) the uncouth age that will follow this one as the race degenerates having known the perfection of Harry.

‘Ere you were born was beauty’s summer dead’ = (1) The perfection of beauty has been and gone and (2) Harry himself will one day die.


It’s best to read Part 18 first.

1593: THE WHISTLE-STOP TOUR OF EUROPE….The Low Counties, Spain and Italy.

It is the belief of The Shakespeare Code that Harry Southampton, William Shakespeare and Thomas Nashe, made a whistle-stop tour of Europe in 1593.

Prof. Roger Pryor also nominates 1593 as the year Shakespeare visited Italy.

The three men were appointed as spies by Harry’s great friend, Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex….

…..who had recently been appointed to the Privy Council and so could issue passports. English gentlemen and actors were often recruited as spies – and Essex wanted a spy system to rival Lord Burghley’s.

Information was power at Queen Elizabeth’s Court.

The Code believes that in Spain, Harry, Shakespeare and Nashe called on King Philip II at Madrid.

Harry’s maternal grandfather, Anthony Browne, Lord Montague….

…..had been Philip II’s Master of Horse and his Ambassador to Rome….

….and so was a close personal friend of Harry’s family.

Shakespeare saw two Titian paintings, owned and commissioned by the King…..

……Venus and Adonis….

…..and The Rape of Lucrece….

Shakespeare, when he was back in England, recreated these paintings in verse….

He even used the same colours in his poems as Titian had used on his canvases.

(See: Shakespeare in Italy)

But it was the depth of Titian’s psychology which transformed Shakespeare’s art.

Up to then, English theatre had been two-dimensional…

Shakespeare began, like Titian, to flesh the drama out…

These paintings inspired in Shakespeare a life-long fascination with ALL the plastic arts – and their relation to language and life.

54. (24)

Mine eye hath play’d the painter and hath steeld

Thy beauty’s form in table of my heart;

My body is the frame wherein ’tis held,

And perspective it is best Painter’s art.

Shakespeare claims that his eye has become like a painter painting Harry’s beautiful form in the book of his heart.

‘Eye’ could also suggest Shakespeare’s penis, becoming erect like a painter’s brush.

Shakespeare compares his body to the frame that holds a painting – gaining a new perspective on Harry’s beauty – and the art of perspective is one that Tudor artists cultivated.

Holbein’s ‘Ambassadors’ which includes a perspective skull that can only be seen by viewing the painting close up to its right side.

For through the Painter must you see his skill,

To find where your true Image pictur’d lies,

Which in my bosom’s shop is hanging still,

That hath his windows glazed with thine eyes:

Harry must look through Shakespeare’s eyes – like a perspective effect in a painting – to see the image of himself which is lying in Shakespeare’s bosom – waiting as if to be bought in a shop with glass windows that have been glazed by the power of the beams coming from Harry’s eyes.

[The Elizabethans thought that rays came FROM the eyes rather than TO the eyes.]

Now see what good-turns eyes for eyes have done:

Mine eyes have drawn thy shape, and thine for me

Are windows to my breast, where-through the Sun

Delights to peep, to gaze therein on thee.

Shakespeare’s eyes and Harry’s eyes help each other.

Shakespeare’s eyes have behaved like a painter, capturing Harry’s likeness – and by looking into the reflection of himself in Harry’s eyes they act as the windows to Shakespeare’s breast where Harry’s image resides.

The sun itself also likes to peep through the windows of Harry’s eyes to catch a glimpse of Harry’s image.

The implication is that the Sun shines from Harry himself – with a play on ‘Sun’ and ‘son’ that Shakespeare will develop in the Sonnets.

In Sonnet 25. (130) Shakespeare has declared that his mistress Amelia’s eyes are……

…….nothing like the Sun

…….but Harry’s eyes are the Sun itself.

Yet eyes this cunning want to grace their art:

They draw but what they see, know not the heart.

But eyes have their limitation: they can only see Harry’s outward form. They cannot appreciate nature of Harry’s ‘heart’ – his internal truth and worth.

Shakespeare, Southampton and Nashe then travelled round Italy, journeying from city to city by a network of canals….

(In those days you really could sail from Milan to Verona, as Valentine does in Two Gentlemen of Verona.)

Sometimes Shakespeare pretended to be the Earl of Southampton while the Earl pretended to be Shakespeare……..which inspired the plot of The Taming of the Shrew, when the aristocratic Lucentio changes clothes with his manservant Tranio….


Nashe draws on the same incident for his ‘novel’ based on the Italian trip – The Unfortunate Traveller – in which the Earl of Surrey changes clothes with his manservant Jack Wilton…..

……to take more liberty of behaviour’ in Italy, the land of ‘whoring’ and ‘sodomitry

Nashe dedicated the book to Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton (a dedication he was later forced to withdraw) as ‘a lover and cherisher’ ‘as well of the lovers of poets [Amelia Lanyer] as of poets themselves’ [Shakespeare].

This was a reference to the love triangle between Shakespeare, Harry and Amelia in 1591.  See Sonnets 37-47 (New Order).

The three men visited Naples,Verona, Padua, Bergamo, Venice and Mantua,

But the first and most significant place they visited, by sea from Barcelona, in absolute secrecy, was, of course….


The Eternal City…

Shakespeare was profoundly influenced by Rome’s ruins, which were still being excavated.….

In 1586, seven years earlier, Pope Sixtus V had re-sited an Egyptian obelisk in front of St. Peter’s in Rome – an operation which took six months and involved hundreds of men and horses…..

Eighty-three foot tall, this Obelisk had a profound importance for Catholics. It had been plundered from Egypt by Caligula and erected in the Circus……


According to Roman Catholic doctrine, this Obelisk was the last thing St. Peter saw before he was crucified upside down….

This was thought to have given the Obelisk miraculous powers: it was one of only two left standing in Rome.

The Pope moved the Obelisk – now a holy relic – to a position in front of the Basilica of St. Peter.

First, the Obelisk had to be taken down – then the bronze orb, rumoured to contain the ashes of Julius Caesar, removed from its summit.

55. (64)

When I have seen by time’s fell hand defaced

The rich-proud cost of outworn buried age;

When sometime lofty towers I see down rased,

And brass eternal slave to mortal rage;

Shakespeare talks about his feelings at looking at the ruins of Rome which are being excavated. He sees them as being vandalised by the ruthless hand of Father Time – ruins that once were stately and rich, now out of fashion and buried in the earth.

He refers to the obelisks, plundered from abroad, that now lie in ruins round Rome – and the bronze orb originally at the top of the ‘St. Peter’ obelisk which had been replaced with a Christian Cross and relics.

[The Elizabethans did not distinguish between brass and bronze].

The bronze orb was thought, erroneously, to contain the ashes of Julius Caesar (it was in fact empty when it was opened) and the ‘mortal rage’ is a Roman Catholic reference to the Protestant ‘Sack of Rome’ which occurred in 1527. The Lanquenets – Mercenary Soldiers of Charles V – slaughtered 147 of the Swiss Guard (who were defending Pope Clement VII) on the steps of St. Peter’s.

‘Blasphemous’ shots were fired at the orb on top and a lead bullet was imbedded in the metal.

By the time Shakespeare and Southampton visited in Rome the obelisk was a massive tourist attraction and holy relic…

When ships docked at Rome people RAN to see it….

When I have seen the hungry Ocean gain

Advantage on the Kingdom of the shore,

And the firm soil win of the wat’ry main,

Increasing store with loss, and loss with store.

Shakespeare describes how the ocean gains the territory of the shore – but then the shore gains that territory back – one’s loss is the other’s gain.

When I have seen such interchange of state,

Or state itself confounded to decay,

Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate:

That Time will come and take my love away.

The sight of the to and fro battle between the sea and the land……

……how ‘states’ are interchanged…..

(with ‘state=realm’ and ‘state=state of being” – an idea from Ovid who, in ‘The Metamorphoses’, is fascinated by the changing state of things)

…..teaches Shakespeare to ponder how Time will finally take Harry away from him.

Shakespeare has begun to intuit that there will be a huge rift of some sort between Harry and himself.

This thought is as a death which cannot choose

But weep to have, that which it fears to lose.

This idea is like a death blow to Shakespeare…..

 …..it makes him mourn over the inevitable loss of Harry…..

……in some way.

56. (65)

Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,

But sad mortality ore-sways their power,

How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,

Whose action is no stronger than a flower?

Shakespeare continues the theme of his previous Sonnet, that mortality and time can destroy the strongest things – as the ruins of Rome show.

He asks how beauty can resist this power – beauty that has no more strength than a flower.

Roses in Southampton town crest.

O how shall summer’s honey breath hold out,

Against the wrackful siege of batt’ring days,

When rocks impregnable are not so stout,

Nor gates of steel so strong but time decays?

Shakespeare compares Harry to a flower with ‘honey breath’ – suggesting the odour from a flower that attracts bees to the sweet smelling breath of his lover. 

(Again, he is comparing Harry favourably to Amelia whose breath ‘reeks’ from her – Sonnet 25. (130).

Shakespeare asks how Harry’s life – his breath – can stand a chance against the battering ram of Time when it pulverises rocks and gates of steel.

The gates of steel is another reference to Rome. Virgil refers to Juno opening the Gates of Iron to initiate war. In Virgil’s time, there were Gates of Iron, dedicated to Mars, in the middle of Rome which were opened to indicate that Rome was at war with another country.

[The Elizabethans did not differentiate between iron and steel.]

O fearful meditation, where, alack,

Shall time’s best Jewel from time’s chest lie hid?

Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back,

Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid?

Shakespeare is afraid to think these thoughts. Where can Harry – the most precious jewel that Time has created hide from Time’s chest – the coffin? Who can arrest the swift movement of Father Time? Or who can deny him his spoils of war – Harry’s beauty.

O none, unless this miracle have might,

That in black ink my love may still shine bright.

Shakespeare concludes that no-one can conquer time – unless his writing has miraculous powers and that in black ink Harry should, paradoxically, shine brightly.

This remark about ‘black ink’ is also a reference to Amelia, whose black skin was once worshipped by Shakespeare.


It’s best to read Part Seventeen first.

Early 1593. Titchfield. Before Shakespeare and Harry’s trip to Italy.

51. (106)

When in the Chronicle of wasted time

I see descriptions of the fairest wights,

And beauty making beautiful old rime,

In praise of Ladies dead, and lovely Knights;

Shakespeare – looking into books from the distant, long dead past – reads descriptions of attractive people: their beauty inspires poets to make their poems beautiful, praising dead damsels and handsome knights….

Then in the blazon of sweet beauty’s best,

Of hand, of foot, of lip, of eye, of brow,

I see their antique Pen would have express’t

Even such a beauty as you master now.

Then, dazzled by the features of the most beautiful of people – feet, lips, eyes and brows – these writers from olden times were writing about a beauty that Harry embodies in our own time.

So all their praises are but prophecies

Of this our time, all you prefiguring;

And for they look’d but with divining eyes,

They had not skill enough your worth to sing:

So their praise of contemporary beauties was in fact prophetic – prefiguring Harry. And although these writers could see into the future, they did have the skill to praise your value sufficiently.

[Renaissance writers often  said that Christ was pre-figured in Pagan writings. So Shakespeare is starting to draw on religious imagery to describe his love for Harry.]

For we which now behold these present days,

Have eyes to wonder, but lack tongues to praise.

‘As for us’, Shakespeare says, ‘we have the eyes to wonder at your beauty but not the skill to capture it.’

52. (60)

Another re-working of Ovid – from his Metamorphoses…

Shakespeare refers to the ambiguous nature of Time – it both gives and takes away. The idea of a battle between Old Father Time (with his scythe and hour glass) and Dame Nature later comes to a terrifying climax.

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,

So do our minutes hasten to their end,

Each changing place with that which goes before,

In sequent toil all forwards do contend.

In the same way that waves journey towards beaches and cease being waves, so do minutes destroy themselves, changing places with the minute before in an onward rush.

Nativity once in the main of light,

Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown’d,

Crooked eclipses ‘gainst his glory fight,

And time that gave doth now his gift confound.

A baby born into a world of light crawls to adulthood: but the moment he achieves it, fate conspires against him and Time that gave him life takes it away.

Time doth transfix  the flourish set on youth,

And delves the parallels in beauty’s brow,

Feeds on the rarities of nature’s truth,

And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow.

Father Time stabs the confident glory of youth, carves lines in the face of the most beautiful person and devours the most choice and rare people. Every single thing in creation is cut down by Time’s scythe.

And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand

Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.

However, Shakespeare hopes that there will be future times – and that his verse, praising Harry’s beauty and truth will survive despite the cruel actions of Time.

Many Elizabethans, including the Queen herself, thought that the times were so bad the end of the world must be coming. It was not for them a ‘Golden Age.’

53. (77)

Shakespeare, as Harry’s ‘tutor’, gives him a book with blank pages to record his thoughts on his journey to Europe. In the book they will have a life of their own…Shakespeare is offering Harry another way to fight mortality.

Thy glass will show thee how thy beauties wear,

Thy dial how thy precious minutes waste,

These vacant leaves thy mind’s imprint will bear,

And of this book, this learning mayst thou taste:

Your mirror, Harry, will show you how you are aging – your sundial how the valuable minutes are wasting away and the blank leaves of this book I giving to you will demonstrate this truth this:

The wrinkles which thy glass will truly show

Of mouthed graves will give thee memory;

Thou by thy dial’s shady stealth mayst know

Time’s thievish progress to eternity.

The wrinkles that appear in your face will remind you that a yawning grave awaits you, and the sundial’s shadow – as it slowly moves round the dial during the day – will teach you that Time steals all and leads on to oblivion.

Look what thy memory cannot contain

Commit to these waste blanks, and thou shalt find

Those children nurst, deliver’d from thy brain,

To take a new acquaintance of thy mind.

Shakespeare urges Harry to commit all those things he cannot remember to the book he is giving him like children he is nursing: they will acquire a new life.

These offices, so oft as thou wilt look,

Shall profit thee, and much inrich thy book.

These thoughts will be like church services which will do you good and make the book valuable.

As we shall see, Harry takes Shakespeare’s advice, fills the book with his thought and gives it to Shakespeare. Shakespeare then loses it!

These notebooks were also called tables – and Prince Hamlet possesses one.

Anthony May

My tables, meet it is I set it down. That one may smile and smile and be a villain.









It’s best to read Part Sixteen first.

1592. Harry’s affair with Amelia has made Shakespeare come to terms with how much he is in love with him. Shakespeare had wanted to keep the friendship a Platonic one because of Harry’s mother, the Second Countess of Southampton.

She wanted her son to marry Elizabeth de Vere – the granddaughter of Lord Burghley, Harry’s guardian. But in the following Sonnet, Shakespeare admits and celebrates his love for his ‘Lovey Boy’.

Xavier Samuel as Harry in ‘Anonymous’


48. (18)

Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And Summer’s lease hath all too short a date:

Shakespeare in this Sonnet is rejecting poetry itself – or, rather, conventional poetry. Other poets will compare their loves to ‘a summer’s day’ – but Harry is ‘more lovely and more temperate’ (‘moderate’) than that. In England even in May harsh winds can shakes the buds of the flowers and summer is so quickly over – like a short lease on a property.

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimm’d,

And every fair from fair some-time declines,

By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimm’d:

Sometimes the sun is too hot and often it is covered with clouds – and everything beautiful on a summer’s day will at some point lose its beauty – either by chance events or simply the unaided workings of nature.

[Note: Shakespeare does not put a comma between ‘changing course’ and ‘untrimm’d’. It is nature that is ‘untrimm’d’ – as in trimming sails to make a boat travel faster.]

But thy eternal Summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,

Nor shall death brag thou wandr’st in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:

But Harry will not be subject to this change – he will not fade as the summer flowers fade, nor will he lose his beauty. Nor will he even die. His summer will be eternal because Shakespeare is writing about him in verse.

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

This poem will survive as long as men are still alive to recite it or read it – and this will give you eternal life.

Shakespeare had hinted that he had this sort of power in the Birthday Sonnets – when he suggests that his verse was capable of making Harry immortal. But he quickly withdrew this idea. Now he relishes it – and makes the same claim to immortal fame that his hero, Ovid, did.

Shakespeare was now ‘out’ in his love for Harry – and that gave him great confidence and joy.

Now a barter between Shakespeare and Harry begins: Harry has the wealth and the money – but Shakespeare has the talent.

He can make Harry live for ever – which indeed he accomplished. We are still reading about someone who otherwise would be long forgotten.



Shakespeare was back at Titchfield for the start of the year – but not for long.

In March he was to travel with Harry Southampton and Thomas Nashe to the Low Countries, Spain and Italy.


The Earl of Essex became a member of Elizabeth’s Privy Council on 25th February, 1593……

…….this meant he had control of passports. Also, he wanted to build up a huge spy network in Europe so he would be first with the news at Court – and this would give him power over Lord Burghley….

Actors were often used as spies – and Christopher Marlowe had worked for the English Government in the Low Countries.

Shakespeare has many quotes in his plays from John Florio’s language manuals – so it was clear he was trying to learn Italian.

Harry spoke Italian like a native…


Rome was of overwhelming significance to Shakespeare – not only because it was where the Pope lived, but because it was the homeland of Ovid.

Ovid was one of the easiest Latin writers for an Englishman to read – and there were translations by Arthur Golding – and Marlowe himself….

Francis Meres was later to write in his Palladis Tamia…

As the soul of Euphorbus was thought to live in Pythagoras: so the sweet witty soul of Ovid lives in mellifluous and honey-tongued Shakespeare….

The influence of Ovid – particularly Ovid’s obsession with the workings of time – is clear in the sonnets Shakespeare wrote inspired by the trip to Rome…

49. (19) To Harry.

This sonnet is a re-working of Ovid’s famous ‘Tempus edax rerum’ – ‘Time is the eater of things…’

Devouring time blunt thou the Lion’s paws,

And make the earth devour her own sweet brood;

Pluck the keen teeth from the fierce Tiger’s jaws,

And burn the long-liv’d Phoenix in her blood;

Shakespeare encourages Time to blunt the claws of the lion, make the whole earth devour its creatures, pull out the teeth of the tiger and burn the immortal Phoenix bird in her own blood.

This is stanza is full of code. ‘Blunt’ is a reference to Charles Blount – later 8th Baron Mountjoy….

He was Penelope Rich’s lover and a close friend of Harry. He played Longaville in Love’s Labour’s Lost.

The ‘lion’ is a coded reference to Queen Elizabeth. She saw her father Henry VIII as a lion….

…..and herself as his whelp.

In her tomb at Westminster Abbey she is guarded by four lions at her head….

…and at her feet…..


The Phoenix is also a coded reference to Elizabeth. She saw herself as a Phoenix, pecking at her own breast to give hr blood to nourish her offspring – the English people.

Here is a detail of the Phoenix doing just this from one of her dresses.

Shakespeare and Harry were both ardent Roman Catholics who wanted Elizabeth either dis-empowered or dead.

Make glad and sorry seasons as thou fleet’st,

And do whate’er thou wilt, swift-footed time,

To the wide world and all her fading sweets:

Make Spring happy and Autumn sad as you fly away – and, speedy Time, do what you like to the whole world and its temporary beauties.

But I forbid thee one most heinous crime:

O carve not with thy hours my love’s fair brow,

Nor draw no lines there with thine antique pen;

Him in thy course untainted do allow

For beauty’s pattern to succeeding men.

But there’s one thing Shakespeare forbids Time to do: stamp lines on Harry’s forehead or paint wrinkles there. Time must not taint Harry’s good looks, so he can be a pattern of beauty to all the men who succeed him.

Yet do thy worst old Time despite thy wrong,

My love shall in my verse ever live young.

Shakespeare changes tack completely in the final couplet. He challenges Time to do his worst.

Shakespeare’s verse is so powerful Harry will stay young for ever.

The way the last line is written means that the stress is on the second syllable of ‘ever’ – isolating ‘ver’ – Latin for ‘Spring’.

50. (59)

The Elizabethans and the Jacobeans often viewed time as cyclical: that’s why historical plays were such a threat to Queen Elizabeth – they were talking about things that were happening ‘now’.

If there be nothing new, but that which is

Hath been before, how are our brains beguil’d,

Which labouring for invention bear amiss

The second burthen of a former child?

Shakespeare argues that if there is nothing new under the sun and everything in existence now has been in existence before, why are we so stupid as to bring to birth, badly, something that has lived at a previous time?

Oh that record could with a back-ward look,

Even of five hundred courses of the Sun,

Show me your image in some antique book,

Since mind at first in character was done,

That I might see what the old world could say,

To this composed wonder of your frame;

Whether we are mended, or wh’ere better they,

Or whether revolution be the same.

Shakespeare longs for the ability to look way back in time so see if Harry has ben described in an old book, written language had just been invented. Then he would be able to see how ancient writers described the proto-Harry, and whether they wrote better, or worse or in the same way that he does.

Oh sure I am the wits of former days

To subjects worse have given admiring praise.

Shakespeare suggests that the ancient writers have lavished praise on people (1) less beautiful than Harry or (2) worse behaved.

But ‘worse’ implies ‘even worse’ and so is a joke at Harry’s expense. Shakespeare’s relationship with Harry is now so strong that he can afford some banter.


It’s best to read Part Fifteen first.

1592. ON TOUR

Shakespeare is in such a state of agitation and despair at Harry’s liaison with Amelia that he departs on a tour with Lord Strange’s Men on 13th July, 1592 – a tour that takes in Bristol, Bath, Oxford, Coventry and Shrewsbury.

Tours give Shakespeare time to reflect on the situation – and the Sonnets become postcards that he can send back to Harry….

At this stage in his career, Shakespeare would not have had a horse to ride.

Like every other actor, he would have walked on foot from one town to the next.

44. (27) To Harry.

Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,

The dear respose for limbs with travail tir’d,

But then begins a journey in my head

To work my mind, when body’s work’s expir’d.

Exhausted with pushing the props and costume wagon and then performing, I rush to bed to rest my aching limbs: but I begin a journey all over again in my mind.

For then my thoughts (from far where I abide)

Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,

And keep my drooping eye-lids open wide,

Looking on darkness which the blind do see.

My thoughts make a religious pilgrimage from where I am – far away – to you. These keep my exhausted eyelids wide open to the darkness that blind people continually experience.

Harry has become like a holy icon to Shakespeare. Shakespeare will use a lot of Roman Catholic iconography in the Sonnets to describe his love for Harry – another ardent Roman Catholic.

Save that my soul’s imaginary sight

Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,

Which like a jewel (hung in ghastly night)

Makes black night beauteous, and her old face new.

Except that my imagination gives an image of you to  my sightless eyes – like a sparkling jewel hung in hideous night which makes the black night beautiful and her familiar face new to me.

‘Black’ now = ‘ugly’ because he has broken with the dark-skinned Amelia – whose dark skin he had previously adored.

Lo thus by day my limbs, by night my mind,

For thee, and for my self, no quiet find.

So my limbs by day and my mind at night find no rest – because of you and because of me.

45. (28) To Harry.

How can I then return in happy plight

That am debarr’d the benefit of rest?

When day’s oppression is not eas’d by night,

But day by night and night by day opprest.

So how can I return to you in a good condition when I am robbed of the benefits of resting? The arduous work of travelling and acting by day is given no respite at night – in fact the day is oppressed by night and night oppressed by day.

And each (though enemies to either’s reign)

Do in consent shake hands to torture me;

The one by toil, the other to complain

How far I toil, still farther off from thee.

Day and night are natural enemies – but they make an alliance to torment me: the day gives me work to do and the night to think about how far I am away from you (Harry).

I tell the Day to please him thou art bright,

And do’st him grace when clouds do blot the heaven:

So flatter I the swart complexion’d night,

When sparkling stars twire not thou gild’st th’even.

I get on the good side of day by telling him that you, Harry, are bright in the same way he is – and take over as a shining sun when the skies are cloudy. I also flatter the dark-skinned night: when there are no stars in the sky you turn the night to gold.

[‘Swart’ is a pejorative word: black is no longer beautiful to Shakespeare.]

But day doth daily draw my sorrows longer,

And night doth nightly make grief’s length seem stronger.

But the days draw out my sorrow I am not with you. And the night deepens this long sorrow.

46. (144)

Two loves I have of comfort and despair,

Which like two spirits do suggest me still:

The better angel is a man right fair,

The worser spirit a woman colour’d ill.

I have two beings whom I love: one brings me comfort, the other one despair. The better one is an angel – a truly handsome, fair-skinned man – Harry.

The other is a devil – a woman whose skin is dark.

[Shakespeare is becoming racist…]

To win me soon to hell my female evil

Tempteth my better angel from my side,

And would corrupt my saint to be a devil,

Wooing his purity with her foul pride.

The female devil [Amelia] wants to consign me to hell – and does so by tempting my angel [Harry] away from me. She wants to turn my saint into a devil and corrupts his purity [heterosexual at least!] with her vile lust.

And whether that my angel be turn’d fiend,

Suspect I may, yet not directly tell,

But being both from me, both to each friend,

I guess one angel in an other’s hell.

Whether my angel has become a devil, I can suspect but not be certain about. But as they are both away from me – and friends with each other – I guess that my angel is now in the other’s hell, i.e. Harry has inserted his penis into Amelia’s vagina.

Yet this shall I ne’er know but live in doubt,

Till my bad angel fire my good one out.

But I cannot be certain about this till Amelia fires Harry out of her hell i.e. gives him a dose of her venereal disease.

So the very blackness which Shakespeare has so admired in Amelia now becomes a symbol of her evil.

Sexual jealousy has twisted Shakespeare up – as it was later to twist up the noble Othello.

The Sonnets show that Shakespeare experienced every single emotion that his characters experience. Even in Lear the mad king equates the genital region of women with hell.


47. (42) To Harry.

This sonnet represents the turning point in Shakespeare’s emotional life…

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,

A loss in love that touches me more nearly.

Shakespeare states that the fact that Harry is having an affair with Amelia is not the main cause of his sorrow – though he loved Amelia passionately. It’s the fact that Amelia now possesses Harry – a loss in love that is more painful to him.

Shakespeare finally admits to himself that he is more in love with the boy than the girl.

Loving offenders, thus will I excuse yee:

Thou dost love her, because thou knowst I love her,

And for my sake even so doth she abuse me,

Suff’ring my friend for my sake to approve her;

Shakespeare finds a way of excusing the sexual behaviour of Harry and Amelia. He tells Harry that he is making love to Amelia because knows Shakespeare loves her. And it’s because of Shakespeare that Amelia, to abuse him further, allows Harry to ‘prove’ her – stamp her (as silver is marked) with his penis to show her worth.

If I lose thee, my loss is my love’s gain,

And losing her, my friend hath found that loss,

Both find each other and I lose both twain,

And both for my sake lay on me this cross.

Shakespeare tells Harry that if he loses him it will be Amelia’s gain – and though Shakespeare loses Amelia, Harry will find that loss. Harry and Amelia find each other and Shakespeare loses both of them – and so the two crucify him.

Catullus – the Latin poet Shakespeare knew well – claims he is crucified by his lover – Lesbia – whom he both hates and loves – and who lays him on a cross.

But here’s the joy: my friend and I are one.

Sweet flattery, then she loves but me alone.

Shakespeare converts the pain to joy by asserting that Harry and he are one person – a re-working of the Southampton family motto ‘Ung par tout’ = ‘All is one’. Consequently, Amelia is flattering Shakespeare: she loves him only.


Amelia became pregnant. On18th October, 1592, she is married off ‘for colour’ to ‘one of the Queen’s musicians, Alfonso Lanyer, at St. Botolph’s, Algate .

She was pregnant with what turned out to be a son – ‘Henry’ – whether named after Henry Wriothesley or Henry Carey, Lord Hundson, or both, we don’t know….She may not have either!

There is evidence that Southampton later tried to help Alfonso get the hay-weighing patent for the City – and Alfonso later went on the Islands Campaign with Southampton and Essex, hoping for a knighthood.

It meant that Harry was now available…

Shakespeare headed straight back to Titchfield…

….with a Sonnet heralding his return….

The greatest poem ever written…..

To be revealed in the next Post!!!





It’s best to read Part Fourteen First.

1592. Titchfield. Shakespeare has sent Harry to plead his love-suit with Amelia – and Amelia has taken the opportunity to seduce Harry.

39. (41) Shakespeare remonstrates with Harry.

Those pretty wrongs that liberty commits,

When I am some-time absent from thy heart,

Thy beauty, and thy years full well befits,

For still temptation follows where thou art.

Shakespeare says that when Harry’s love for Shakespeare – a Platonic one – does not fill his heart, he is tempted to find attractive sexual partners. This is completely natural because he is young and beautiful – temptation will follow him wherever he goes.

Gentle thou art, and therefore to be won,

Beauteous thou art, therefore to be assailed;

And when a woman woos, what woman’s son

Will sourly leave her till he have prevailed?

Harry is an aristocrat and so a great prize. He is also handsome – and so people will chase after him. And when its a woman who is doing the chasing, what self-respecting man will turn her down until he has had his way with her?

[Shakespeare has already written seventeen sonnets urging him to go to bed with women.]

Aye me, but yet thou mightst my seat forbear,

And chide thy beauty, and thy straying youth,

Who lead thee in their riot even there

Where thou art forst to break a two-fold truth:

Hers by thy beauty tempting her to thee,

Thine by thy beauty being false to me.

But Shakespeare begs Harry to draw the line at invading Shakespeare’s own ‘property’ – Amelia – and keep close control of his beauty and youth which prompt him to invade Shakespeare’s own land. If he doesn’t, it will result in two promises being broken because of Harry’s beauty:

(1) Amelia’s promise of fidelity to her keeper, Lord Hunsdon (who, after paying out £40 a year for her services, doesn’t want to catch venereal disease)

(2) Harry’s promise of friendship with Shakespeare.

40. (133) To Amelia.

Beshrew that heart that makes my heart to groan

For that deep wound it gives my friend and me;

Is’t not enough to torture me alone,

But slave to slavery my sweet’st friend must be?

Shakespeare curses Amelia’s heart because it makes his own heart groan – (1) in pain (2) in sexual desire – at the love-wound it has inflicted on Harry and himself. Isn’t it enough, Shakespeare asks, to torture me? Do you have to go on and enslave my friend?

Me from my self thy cruel eye hath taken,

And my next self thou harder hast ingrossed:

Of him, my self, and thee I am forsaken,

A torment thrice three-fold thus to be crossed:

Shakespeare says that Amelia’s cruel ‘eye’ – which also means her pudend – has stopped Shakespeare from being his true self. But Harry – so close to Shakespeare he calls him his ‘next self’ – has been gobbled up even more. Shakespeare has been deserted by Harry, Shakespeare’s own true nature, and Amelia – so his torment is tripled.

Prison my heart in thy steel bosom’s ward,

But then my friend’s heart let my poor heart bail,

Whoe’er keeps me, let my heart be his guard,

Thou canst not then use rigour in my Jail.

Shakespeare bargains with Amelia: he offers his heart as a ransom. Let it be locked up as a prisoner in Amelia’s bosom of steel: but let it act as bail for Harry whom my heart will guard. Amelia won’t then be able to tyrannise Harry as he will be in my prison.

And yet thou wilt, for I, being pent in thee,

Perforce am thine and all that is in me.

But you will. Because I will be prisoned by you, you control me and all that is in me – that is, Harry.


41. (40) To Harry.

Take all my loves, my love, yea take them all:

What hast thou then more than thou hadst before?

No love, my love, that thou mayst true love call,

All mine was thine, before thou hadst this more:

Shakespeare exhorts Harry to take all of his loves, including Amelia: but then asks him what he has gained by this. It isn’t a love that is true – Amelia is, after all, a courtesan, and everything that he had was Harry’s before he gained Amelia.

Shakespeare is also punning on ‘more’ and ‘moor’ – referring to  Amelia’s Moroccan, Sephardic roots.

Then if for my love, thou my love receivest,

I cannot blame thee, for my love thou usest.

But yet be blam’d, if thou this self deceivest

By wilful taste of what thy self refusest.

Then if you love Amelia because you love me, I cannot fault you for sleeping with her. But I will blame you if you deceive Amelia – who is a part of me – by perversely making love to someone whom you do not, in your inner being (‘self’ = ‘penis’) feel attracted to.

I do forgive thy robb’ry, gentle thief

Although thou steal thee all my poverty:

And yet love knows it is a greater grief

To bear love’s wrong, then hate’s known injury.

Shakespeare forgives Harry for stealing Amelia away from him – even though she is worthless. But it is much worse to be wronged by someone you love than to be hurt by someone who hates you.

Lascivious grace, in whom all ill well shows,

Kill me with spites, yet we must not be foes.

Harry is a mixture of licentiousness and kindness whose good looks mask his bad deeds. Shakespeare invites Harry to injure him – as long as they do not become enemies.

Shakespeare has started to notice that, although he is beautiful, Harry is capable of ugly behaviour. He has made sexual overtures to Shakespeare which Shakespeare has refused, in favour of a Platonic love. Harry takes his revenge by sleeping with Shakespeare’s ‘mistress’ in place of Shakespeare himself – going against his true nature.

42. (147)

To Amelia. The Plague is raging in London and Shakespeare’s passion for Amelia is like a plague fever – with Amelia herself the source of the disease.


My love is as a fever longing still,

For that which longer nurseth the disease,

Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill,

Th’uncertain sickly appetite to please:

My love for you, Amelia, is like a longing for something that makes me all the more ill. I’m like a sick man whose appetite is weak and who opts to eat the very thing that upsets him.

My reason, the Physician to my love,

Angry that his prescriptions are not kept,

Hath left me, and I desperate now approve

Desire is death, which Physick did except.

My reason is like a Doctor who is trying to cure my infatuation with you, who has become angry that I do not follow his prescriptions and has left me to my own devices. I now realise he was right and realise that my desire to make love to you – something which my doctor forbade – has a deadly result.

Past cure I am, now Reason is past care,

And frantic mad with ever-more unrest;

My thoughts and my discourse as madmen’s are,

At random from the truth vainly exprest:

Now Dr. Reason has abandoned me I cannot recover – and will go insane with anxiety. My thoughts and speech are like a madman’s – veering wildly from the truth and to no purpose whatsoever.

For I have sworn thee fair, and thought thee bright,

Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.

For I have thought you were fair – both in looks and character – and like a bright light when in fact you are ‘black as hell and dark as night’.

Black, for Shakespeare, is no longer beautiful.

43.  (129)

Shakespeare privately reflects on the destructive powers of lust….how it can drive a man mad.

Th’expense of Spirit in a waste of shame

Is lust in action, and till action, lust

Is perjur’d, murd’rous, bloody full of blame,

Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,

Enjoyed no sooner but despised straight,

Past reason hunted, and no sooner had

Past reason hated as a swallow’d bait,

On purpose laid to make the taker mad.

Orgasm and seminal emission in a woman of shameful morality (‘waste’ also =’waist’) is lust made a real – but till that moment, it is a turbulent activity in the mind which drives the man who experiences it to distraction. He goes to unreasonable lengths to achieve it, but the moment it is achieved, it is despised in an equally unreasonable way.

Mad in pursuit and in possession so,

Had, having, and in quest, to have extreme,

A bliss in proof and prov’d a very woe,

Before a joy propos’d behind a dream.

Shakespeare repeats the ideas in a fragmented language that imitates the workings of lust – pleasure followed by immediate pain.

All this the world well knows, yet none knows well

To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.

Shakespeare says the whole world knows the truth of what he is saying. But no man knows how to give up the ecstatic bliss of sex – however much it leads to horror and despair.



It’s best to read Part Thirteen first.

1592. Shakespeare continues his unsuccessful wooing of Amelia, with a mixture of insult, flattery and threat.

34. (149)

Canst thou O cruel, say I love thee not,

When I against my self with thee partake?

Do I not think on thee, when I forgot

Am of my self, all tyrant for thy sake?

Amelia has told Shakespeare that he does not love her – so Shakespeare is arguing that he does. He loves her so much he will take HER side against HIS. He argues that he thinks about Amelia even when Amelia isn’t thinking about him – and will attack himself to please her.

Who hateth thee that I do call my friend?

On whom frown’st thou that I do fawn upon?

Nay if thou lour’st on me do I not spend

Revenge upon my self with present moan?

No-one who hates Amelia is a friend of Shakespeare. And no-one whom Amelia hates gets Shakespeare’s devotion. And if Amelia scowls at Shakespeare, he ‘spends’ revenge upon himself which makes him moan. ‘Spend’ = ‘semen’ Shakespeare is saying that if he is getting no attention from Amelia, he must masturbate. Shakespeare has already used ‘spend’ as an image of masturbation in the Birthday Sonnets.

What merit do I in my self respect,

That is so proud thy service to despise,

When all my best doth worship thy defect,

Commanded by the motion of thine eyes.

What special qualities do I have that would make me too proud to be your slave? (‘pride’ also = ‘sexual arousal’.) All my best qualities worship your faults – commanded to do so by the movement of your eyes (‘eyes’ also = genitals – Amelia’s activity as a courtesan.)

But love, hate on, for now I know thy mind:

Those that can see, thou lov’st, and I am blind.

Shakespeare gives in and tells Amelia to go on hating him. Amelia only loves those who do not love her. Like Harry.

35. (139)

Amelia admits to Shakespeare she is in love with young Harry Southampton.

Shakespeare complains that she constantly turns her eyes away from him.

[When Amelia later wrote the satire Willobie his Avisa, she has her ‘avatar’, Avisa, constantly turns her eyes away from her suitors.]

O call not me to justify the wrong

That thy unkindness lays upon my heart;

Wound me not with thine eye but with thy tongue:

Use power with power, and slay me not by Art.

Shakespeare changes tack and asks Amelia NOT to expect him to justify her unkindness to himself. He asks her not to hurt him by the way she looks at him, but by speaking to him instead. He wants a straightforward confrontation with her – not an artful one.

Tell me thou lov’st else-where; but in my sight,

Dear heart, forbear to glance thine eye aside:

What need’st thou wound with cunning when thy might

Is more than my ore-prest defence can bide?

Shakespeare says that Amelia can tell him she loves Harry – but when they are together, Shakespeare asks her not to look away from him. She has no need to damage him with ploys as he has already been destroyed by her beauty like an invading army.

Let me excuse thee: ah my love well knows

Her pretty looks have been mine enemies,

And therefore from my face she turns my foes,

That they else-where might dart their injuries:

Shakespeare decides to invent an excuse for her cruelty. Amelia knows that her looks are Shakespeare’s enemies – so she pities Shakespeare and turns the hostile force of her eyes on others.

Yet do not so, but since I am near slain,

Kill me out-right with looks, and rid my pain.

But Shakespeare changes his mind – and urges her to turn her eyes on him and kill him since he is nearly dead. This would rid him of his pain.

‘Kill’ to the Elizabethans also meant orgasm. One way to put Shakespeare out of his misery is to sleep with him.

36. (140)

Be wise as thou art cruel, do not press

My tongue-tied patience with too much disdain:

Lest sorrow lend me words and words express,

The manner of my pity wanting pain.

Shakespeare tells Amelia that her wisdom ought to match the extremity of her cruelty. He warns her not to treat him too contemptuously – otherwise he might put into words his bad treatment from her for others to read.

If I might teach thee wit, better it were,

Though not to love, yet love to tell me so,

As testy sick– men when their deaths be near,

No news but health from their Physicians know.

Shakespeare offers to be her schoolmaster to teach her to act intelligently. Even if she doesn’t love him, she should tell him she does – just as doctors give bad-tempered patients who are dying a positive prognosis.

For if I should despair I should grow mad,

And in my madness might speak ill of thee;

Now this ill wresting world is grown so bad,

Mad slanderers by mad ears believed be.

Shakespeare warns Amelia that her treatment of him might drive him mad and, in his madness, malign her. The world is so corrupt that insane libellers are often believed by insane listeners.

That I may not be so, nor thou belied,

Bear thine eyes straight, though thy proud heart go wide.

To stop him from going mad – and stop him from spreading lies about Amelia, Shakespeare asks her to look at him, even if her thoughts are with other men.

A dark element enters the relationship here. Shakespeare is threatening to use all his skills as a writer to denigrate Amelia – as Amelia was later to do by writing a satire attacking Shakespeare and Harry (amongst others) – Willobie his Avisa.

37. (143)

The love triangle between Amelia, Harry and Shakespeare develops at Titchfield.

Lo as a careful huswife runs to catch,

One of her feathered creatures broke away,

Sets down her babe and makes all swift dispatch

In pursuit of the thing she would have stay:

Shakespeare compares Amelia to a housewife who is chasing after one of her chickens who has run away (Harry) and puts down her young child (Shakespeare) so she can run after it.

By describing the chicken as a ‘feathered creature’ she is also referring to Harry’s love of feathers on his helmet.


Whilst her neglected child holds her in chase,

Cries to catch her whose busy care is bent

To follow that which flies before her face,

Not prizing her poor infant’s discontent:

The toddler, Shakespeare, runs after her but all her (Amelia’s) attention is on the chicken (Harry) which wants to get away from her – so she doesn’t take any notice of her infant’s distress.

So runst thou after that which flies from thee,

Whilst I, thy babe, chase thee a far behind,

But if thou catch thy hope turn back to me

And play the mother’s part, kiss me, be kind.

It is now a full love triangle: Amelia is running after Harry, who wants to get away from her, while Shakespeare runs after Amelia who leaves him way behind. But Shakespeare offers a bargain. If Amelia manages to capture Harry will she then give attention back to Shakespeare and kiss him and make much of him the way a mother does to a baby.

So will I pray that thou mayst have thy Will,

If thou turn back and my loud crying still.

In doing so, Amelia will ‘have her Will’: she will have William Shakespeare – but also be able to express her own wish to make love to Harry. She will be able to stop Will from crying and revealing all his pain to the world.

38. (134) To Amelia.

Shakespeare – assuming that Harry – like the fleeing chicken – has no interest in Amelia – asks him, selfishly, to plead his love-suit to her on his behalf. Harry does so – and Amelia takes the opportunity to seduce him.

[Shakespeare was later to use this situation as a plot-line in Twlefth Night. Orsino sends his ‘page-boy’ Caesario to plead his love-cause to Olivia – but Olivia falls in love with the messenger.]

So now I have confest that he is thine,

And I my self am mortgag’d to thy will,

My self I’ll forfeit, so that other mine,

Thou wilt restore to be my comfort still:

Shakespeare has to admit that Harry has become the lover of Amelia and so is tied by bounds to Amelia’s ‘will’: (1) Power (2) Pudend. Shakespeare will give up all claims on Amelia, though, if Amelia will return Harry – his platonic love – to be his consolation.

But thou wilt not, nor he will not be free,

For thou art covetous, and he is kind;

He learn’d but surety-like to write for me,

Under that bond that him as fast doth bind.

But you won’t return Harry to me and he won’t be able to escape your clutches: for you really want him and he is both kindly and full of natural feelings. It was as though he went to a bank to act as surety for me on a loan, but found himself up to his neck in debt.

The statute of thy beauty thou wilt take,

Thou usurer, that putt’st forth all to use,

And sue a friend, came debtor for my sake,

So him I lose through my unkind abuse.

Amelia will act with all the power of her beauty. Shakespeare compares her to a money lender, mean in herself but who lends everything she has  i.e. gives sexual favours to all. She has put Harry massively in her debt when he came to her to fix a loan for Shakespeare. Shakespeare has lost his friend as the result of abusing him – making him the go between for himself and Amelia.

Him have I lost, thou hast both him and me;

He pays the whole, and yet am I not free.

Shakespeare admits that has lost the friendship with Harry – but Amelia has both men in thrall. Harry pays everything to Amelia – with ‘whole’ also suggesting ‘hole’ = pudenda. But even Shakespeare is not free: he is (1) Still in bondage to Amelia (2) Comes at a price. A hint at Shakespeare’s revenge.