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.



It’s best to read Part Twelve first.

1592. Titchfield. Amelia is still playing hard to get – and Shakespeare becomes more and more frantic and insulting.

29. (150)

Oh from what power hast thou this powerful might,

With insufficiency my heart to sway,

To make me give the lie to my true sight,

And swear that brightness doth not grace the day?

Shakespeare wonders how it is that the morally bankrupt Amelia has such power over his emotions and causes him to see things erroneously – to the extent of denying that the day is light.

Whence hast thou this becoming of things ill,

That in the very refuse of thy deeds,

There is such strength and warrantise of skill,

That in my mind thy worst all best exceeds?

Shakespeare asks how it is that Amelia can make bad things seem good. Even in her squalid actions there is such power and cleverness that, even at her worst, Amelia is is more attractive than good people like his wife, Anne Hathaway.


Who taught thee how to make me love thee more,

The more I hear and see just cause of hate?

Oh though I love what others do abhor,

With others thou shouldst not abhor my state.

Shakespeare wonders who taught Amelia to make him love her all the more when the evidence is there to make him hate her. Shakespeare loves Amelia whom other people detest – but that does not mean that Amelia should detest him the way others detest (1) his infatuation with her (2) his bisexuality (3) his low status as an actor and writer.

In Sonnet 136. (29) Shakespeare refers to his ‘outcast state’ – both as an actor and as a gay man.

If thy unworthiness rais’d love in me,

More worthy I to be belov’d of thee.

If it is Amelia’s worthlessness that gives Shakespeare erections, then there is all the more reason for Amelia to love the worthless Shakespeare in turn.

30. (142)

And so she will be the more blessed!]

Love is my sin, and thy dear virtue hate,

Hate of my sin, grounded on sinful loving;

O but with mine, compare thou thine own state,

And thou shalt find it merits not reproving;

Shakespeare says that being in love with Amelia is a sin because he is a married man. Consequently her hatred for him is, in fact, a virtue. Amelia’s hates his sin – but is herself coming from a background of ‘sinful loving’ as she is a courtesan. Shakespeare asks her to compare the sinfulness of his life with her own: she will then find that his sin does not merit her reproof.


Or if it do, not from those lips of thine,

That have profan’d their scarlet ornaments,

And seal’d false bonds of love as oft as mine,

Robb’d others’ beds’ revenues of their rents.

Or if it does merit reproof, it’s certainly not from her. Her red lips are like the red seals on documents which, instead of asserting truth, assert lies – as Shakespeare himself has done – and stolen the ‘rents’ due to other people. ‘Rents’ = ‘semen’ – another reference to Shakespeare’s bisexuality as well as Amelia’s professional promiscuity.

Be it lawful I love thee as thou lov’st those

Whom thine eyes woo as mine importune thee;

Root pity in thy heart, that, when it grows,

Thy pity may deserve to pitied be.

Shakespeare hopes that it is as excusable for him to love Amelia in the same way as she loves all the men she eyes up. He also hopes that pity for him will fill her heart and she in turn will deserve to be pitied by others.

If thou dost seek to have what thou dost hide,

By self example may’st thou be denied.

Because she is denying Shakespeare what she seeks from others, perhaps others will do the same to her – and deny her what she herself is after.

Shakespeare’s love for Amelia has become tortured and complex – and so the language he uses becomes tortured and complex as well.

31. (148)

O me! What eyes hath love put in my head,

Which have no correspondence with true sight?

Or if they have, where is my judgment fled,

That censures falsely what they see aright?

Shakespeare believes that love has put new eyes in his head which change the true appearance of everything. Or, if they do see correctly, where then has his sense of judgement gone which makes him ‘see’ things differently from other people?

If that be fair whereon my false eyes dote,

What means the world to say it is not so?

If it be not, then love doth well denote,

Love’s eye is not so true as all men’s no.

Shakespeare asks if the woman he dotes on seems beautiful to him, why don’t other people share his judgement? If they are right, it proves that love’s ‘eye’/’Aye'[Yes] is not so accurate as the ‘no’ the rest of the world gives.

How can it? O how can love’s eye be true,

That is so vext with watching and with tears?

No marvel then, though I mistake my view,

The sun it self sees not, till heaven clears.

But how can Shakespeare’s eyes discern the truth when they are exhausted with watching Amelia and weeping about her actions? It’s not surprising that Shakespeare sees wrongly: even the Sun itself cannot see till the clouds clear away.

O cunning love, with tears thou keepst me blind,

Lest eyes well seeing thy foul faults should find.

Shakespeare comes to the conclusion that it is all a cunning ploy by love: love keeps him blind so he can’t see all the ‘foul faults’ in Amelia.

32. (131)

Thou art as tyrannous, so as thou art,

As those whose beauties proudly make them cruel;

For well thou know’st to my dear doting heart

Thou art the fairest and most precious Jewel.

Amelia is as tyrannical as truly beautiful women are because she knows that, in Shakespeare’s mind, she is like a dazzling jewel.

Yet in good faith some say that thee behold,

Thy face hath not the power to make love groan;

To say they err, I dare not be so bold,

Although I swear it to my self alone.

But the truth is that some people say your face is not beautiful enough to make men groan with love – and I am not brave enough to say they are wrong, although privately I believe that to be the case.

And to be sure that is not false I swear

A thousand groans but thinking on thy face;

One on another’s neck do witness bear

Thy black is fairest in my judgment’s place.

And I am telling the truth – thousands of groans come tumbling out of me, tripping each other up, when I picture your face.

In nothing art thou black save in thy deeds,

And thence this slander as I think proceeds.

The only ‘black’ thing about you is your actions – and that’s the reason why people doubt your physical beauty.

33. (137)

Thou blind fool love, what dost thou to mine eyes,

That they behold and see not what they see?

They know what beauty is, see where it lies,

Yet what the best is, take the worst to be.

Shakespeare claims that love is doing strange things to his eyes: he is simply not seeing properly. He knows what beauty is – but sees the most beautiful women as the worst looking.

If eyes corrupt by over-partial looks,

Be anchor’d in the bay where all men ride,

Why of eyes’ falsehood hast thou forged hooks,

Whereto the judgment of my heart is tied?

Shakespeare claims that his eyes have been distorted by looking over-fondly at Amelia – and by ‘eyes’ he means his genitals as well – that are now anchored in a bay open to all shipping, i.e. Amelia’s pudend as a prostitute. Shakespeare wants to know why love has also fixed fishing hooks to his false-seeing eyes which have ensnared his judgement.

Why should my heart think that a several plot

Which my heart knows the wide world’s common place?

Or mine eyes seeing this, say this is not

To put fair truth upon so foul a face?

Shakespeare wonders why his heart deludes him into thinking that Amelia is private ground when in fact in fact she is common ground, open to all. Or if his eyes see this, why does he deny it, and pretends that her ‘face’ – which means her pudend as well – is filled with beautiful truth?

In things right true my heart and eyes have err’d,

And to this false plague are they now transferr’d.

Shakespeare, by saying ‘in things right true’, also refers to his wife, Anne’s, faithful genitals – from which he has strayed and is now transferring his love to the lying sickness that is Amelia.

The Plague was raging in London when he wrote this.


It’s best to read Part Eleven first.


25. (130)

My Mistress’ eyes are nothing like the Sun;

Coral is far more red, then her lips red.

If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun:

If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.

Shakespeare changes tack. In a Sonnet 23 (Old 132) he has compared Amelia’s eyes to the sun in the morning: now she says her eyes do not resemble the sun at all. Coral is far redder than her lips – and her breasts are not snow-coloured – they are more a dull brown – and her hair resembles black wires. Amelia was mixed race.

I have seen Roses damaskt, red and white,

But no such Roses see I in her cheeks,

And in some perfumes is there more delight,

Than in the breath that from my Mistress reeks.

Shakespeare says he has seen roses with a variegated white and red colour – but Amelia’s cheeks do not resemble them. Her face was dark-coloured. Also perfume is far more attractive than the breath that reeks from her lips.

I love to hear her speak, yet well I know

That Music hath a far more pleasing sound:

I grant I never saw a goddess go;

My Mistress when she walks treads on the ground.

Shakespeare adores to hear Amelia speak – but knows full well that music sounds better. He admits that he has never seen a Goddess walk – but Amelia, far more substantial than a Goddess, walks firmly on the ground.

And yet by heaven I think my love as rare,

As any she beli’d with false compare.

In the final couplet, Shakespeare turns the whole argument around. It is not Amelia he is attacking, but poets who use untrue clichés about their loved ones – and ornate and far-fetched imagery. We can see Rector Robert Crowley’s influence here.

Shakespeare is trying to seduce Amelia by insulting her, making her laugh, then leaping at her – exactly as Berowne tries to seduce the dark-skinned Rosaline in Love’s Labour’s Lost.


Shakespeare wrote the play at Mary Southampton’s request: she wanted to ‘heterosexualise’ her son and the whole play is in praise of the love of women – as the Birthday Sonnets are. But Shakespeare hi-jacks the project – and writes a whole play to seduce Amelia – who played Rosaline in the first private performance in the grounds of Place House, Titchfield, in 1592.

Edmund Ironside was also produced around this time – another collaboration between Shakespeare and Tom Nashe. It has a good part for Amelia – Stich’s wife. Edricus says of her:

Thee old hag, witch, quean, slut, drab, whore and thief

How should I know thee, black Egyptian?’

In Sonnet 25.(Old 130) Shakespeare is again challenging Christopher Marlowe’s Hero and Leander:

Many would praise the sweet smell as she passed,

When ’twas the odour which her breath forth cast;

And there for honey bees have sought in vain,

And, beat from thence, have lighted there again.

26. (135)

Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy Will

And Will to boot, and Will in over-plus,

More then enough am I that vex thee still,

To thy sweet will making addition thus:

Shakespeare says that other women may have exactly what they want – but Amelia must make do with Will. Will = Shakespeare’s name or Shakespeare’s penis – his ‘willy’ – or both. In addition she has more than the usual amount of Will – suggesting Shakespeare’s erection at the thought of Amelia. Amelia also has a ‘sweeter will’ of her own – her own wilfulness and her own pudend. ‘Will’ could mean the female genitals as well – which Shakespeare longs to make an addition to – by penetrating her.

Wilt thou whose will is large and spacious,

Not once vouchsafe to hide my will in thine?

Shall will in others seem right gracious,

And in my will no fair acceptance shine?

Shakespeare states that Amelia has a large pudend – but she refuses to let Shakespeare’s penis inside it. Other people’s penises are attractive – but not his.

The sea all water, yet receives rain still,

And in abundance addeth to his store,

So thou, being rich in Will add to thy Will

One will of mine to make thy large Will more.

The sea goes on accepting all the rain that falls in it – and so, though you have many penises at your disposal, accept mine and make your pudend even larger.

Let no unkind, no fair beseechers kill;

Think all but one, and me in that one Will

Do not refuse any well-intentioned wooers with an act of unkindness. Think all your wooers as one wooer – and that one wooer as me.

‘Think all but one’ is a play on the Southampton family motto: ‘Ung par tout’: ‘All for one’ or ‘All is one’.

Shakespeare is making reference in this Sonnet to Amelia’s status as a courtesan. Her lover, the old Lord Hunsdon, had been with her at Cowdry and Titchfield on the Queen’s progress.

Hunsdon and Amelia were probably put up at Whitely Lodge – at a discreet distance from Place House. That’s why Rosaline is described as ‘a whitely wanton’ in Love’s Labour’s Lost even though she has a dark skin.

But the important information from the Sonnet is that Amelia has NOT given in to Shakespeare.

We know in her dealings with the astrologer, Simon Forman……

…..that she was a prick-tease. She would allow Forman to kiss her all over – but would not finally ‘halek’.

Both this sonnet and the following could have been two very cheeky pieces of ‘performance art’.

27. (136)

If thy soul check thee that I come so near,

Swear to thy blind soul that I was thy Will,

And will thy soul knows is admitted there;

Thus far for love, my love-suit sweet fulfil.

If your conscience chides because I approach you so intimately, swear to your conscience – which is unable to see – that my genitals are your genitals – and conscience knows that every woman must have her pudend. Go at least as far as that in granting my love-suit to you.

Will will fulfil the treasure of thy love,

I fill it full with wills, and my will one.

In things of great receipt with ease we prove,

Among a number one is reckon’d none.

Shakespeare says that he will add to the rich store of Amelia’s pudend – fill it full of penises – and his penis is a solitary one.  Big ‘things’ [pudends] are easy to negotiate – and with so many penises one penis is neglible.

Then in the number let me pass untold,

Though in thy store’s account I one must be,

For nothing hold me, so it please thee hold

That nothing me, a some-thing sweet to thee.

Shakespeare is saying that in the vast throng of Amelia’s clients he will hardly be noticed – although his actual payment for her services must be noted. He asks to have sex with her free of charge – for nothing – as he himself is a nothing, though perhaps something to her.

Lord Hunsdon paid £40 a year for Amelia’s services – £40,000 in today’s money.

Make but my name thy love, and love that still,

And then thou lov’st me for my name is Will.

Shakespeare is asking Amelia to love his name his love – and as his name is Will, it means his penis.

‘FOR MY NAME IS WILL’ – not Edward de Vere or anyone else.


…….with a little help from his friends….


28. (141)

In faith I do not love thee with mine eyes,

For they in thee a thousand errors note,

But ’tis my heart that loves what they despise,

Who in despite of view is pleas’d to dote.

Unsuccessful in his wooing of Amelia, Shakespeare changes tack. He now says that he no longer finds her beautiful – in fact, he can detect many blemishes. It is is his heart, not his eyes, that prompts him to love Amelia – and make him besotted with her.

Nor are mine ears with thy tongue’s tune delighted,

Nor tender feeling to base touches prone,

Nor taste, nor smell, desire to be invited

To any sensual feast with thee alone:

He now claims that her voice is not attractive to him nor is his higher sensibility vulnerable to vulgar gropes. Neither his senses of taste or smell compel him to an intimate session with Amelia.

But my five wits nor my five senses can

Dissuade one foolish heart from serving thee,

Who leaves unsway’d the likeness of a man,

Thy proud heart’s slave and vassal wretch to be:

But neither his intelligence or his senses can persuade his heart to stop loving Amelia, which leaps out of his body – which is left uncontrolled – to be Amelia’s slave and servant.

Only my plague thus far I count my gain,

That she that makes me sin, awards me pain.

The only benefit from this love-sickness is that Amelia, who makes him, as a Catholic married man, sin in his thoughts awards him as a penance the pain of rejection.



It’s best to read Part Ten  first.


The part of the dark-skinned Rosaline in Love’s Labour’s Lost was played in private performance in Titchfield by the beautiful, dark-skinned Amelia Basanno who had been part of Queen Elizabeth’s entourage.

Rosaline’s ‘blackness’ – as well as her coquettishness – is a big feature in the play.

Berowne/Shakespeare falls in love with her looks…..

At first sight

..as his intimate friend Christopher Marlowe…….

……..had taught him to do in his poem Hero and Leander….

Whoever loved who loved not at first sight.

Shakespeare quotes this line in As You Like It.

But the other lords – who have also fallen for the other women in the Princess of France’s entourage ‘at first sight’ – take blackness to be a sign of ugliness.

Shakespeare – in falling in love with a black woman – is even more daring in his sexual tastes than gay Kit Marlowe!

In Hero and Leander Kit also wrote:

So lovely fair was Hero, Venus’ nun,

As Nature wept, thinking she was undone,

Because she took more from her than she left,

And of such wondrous beauty her bereft.

Therefore, in sign her treasure suffered wrack,

Since Hero’s time hath half the world been black.

Marlowe is saying that Hero stole so much beauty from Nature that half the world was left ugly and black…

Aristocratic Elizabethan women thought that a suntan was ugly and wore face masks when they rode on horseback. Only women who worked for a living had brown skins.

But for Shakespeare – as Berowne in the play….


FERDINAND (to Berowne)

By heaven, thy love is black as ebony.


Is ebony like her? O wood divine!
A wife of such wood were felicity.
O, who can give an oath? where is a book?
That I may swear beauty doth beauty lack,
If that she learn not of her eye to look:
No face is fair that is not full so black.


O paradox! Black is the badge of hell,
The hue of dungeons and the school of night;
And beauty’s crest becomes the heavens well.


Devils soonest tempt, resembling spirits of light.

Berowne goes on to argue that Rosaline’s brows are black because they are in mourning for the fact that make-up, hair-colouring and wigs now give women a false attraction:

O, if in black my lady’s brows be deck’d,
It mourns that painting and usurping hair
Should ravish doters with a false aspect;
And therefore is she born to make black fair.

Berowne even argues that she has made black so fashionable that even a natural, ruddy complexion looks false and women paint their brows black to look like Rosaline:

Her favour turns the fashion of the days,
For native blood is counted painting now;
And therefore red, that would avoid dispraise,
Paints itself black, to imitate her brow.


To look like her are chimney-sweepers black.


And since her time are colliers counted bright.


And Ethiopes of their sweet complexion crack.


Dark needs no candles now, for dark is light.


Your mistresses dare never come in rain,
For fear their colours should be wash’d away.


‘Twere good, yours did; for, sir, to tell you plain,
I’ll find a fairer face not wash’d to-day.


I’ll prove her fair, or talk till doomsday here.


No devil will fright thee then so much as she.


I never knew man hold vile stuff so dear.


Look, here’s thy love: my foot and her face see.

Berowne’s ideas also follow the argument of Robert Crowley – the Rector of St. Giles, Cripplegate – who had a huge influence on Shakespeare.

Sir Thomas Lucy, who had harassed Shakespeare and his family at Stratford-upon-Avon because they were Catholics – worshipped at St. Giles when he was in London.

Shakespeare had sought him out as a protector when he fled to London – and Crowley had taken the eighteen year old under his wing.

Crowley hated all artifice in life – in language and in fashion. Crowley – a radical balladeer as well as a priest – hated elaborate clothes, make-up, wigs and hair-colouring in women

Let thine apparel be honest;

Be not decked past thy degree

Neither let thou thine head be dressed

Otherwise than beseemeth thee.

Let thine hair bear the same colour

That nature gave it to endure;

Lay it not out as doeth a whore

That would men’s fanatasies allure.

Paint not thy face in any wise

But make thy manners for to shine

And thou shalt please all such men’s eyes

As do to Godliness incline.

Also, by attacking make-up and wigs, Shakespeare is launching an indirect attack on Queen Elizabeth – who wore a bright red wig and made up her face with egg-white, white lead, borax and alum.

Shakespeare uses all these ideas in his Sonnets to Amelia. For him there is no division between art and life. Sonnet 22 was probably sent to Amelia by a messenger – or left for her to ‘find’ – in the way the Lords in Love’s Labour’s Lost send their sonnets to their mistresses

22. (127)

In the old age black was not counted fair,

Or if it were it bore not beauty’s name:

But now is black beauty’s successive heir

And Beauty slander’d with a bastard shame:

In previous times a black colouring was not considered attractive – and even if it was, it wasn’t described as beautiful. But now black is seen as their natural heir to beauty – and beauty does not inherit the title because it is a bastard. Shakespeare goes on to explain this statement.

For since each hand hath put on Nature’s power,

Fairing the foul with Art’s false borrow’d face,

Sweet beauty hath no name, no holy bower

But is profan’d, if not lives in disgrace.

Women have taken over from Nature – making ugly features seem attractive with make-up. So what was considered beautiful before – a white skin and red lips – has been desecrated and profaned by artificiality.

Therefore my Mistress’ eyes are Raven black,

Her eyes so suited, and they mourners seem,

At such who, not born fair, no beauty lack,

Sland’ring Creation with a false esteem.

Amelia’s eyes are black like a raven’s wing because they are in mourning at the behaviour of unattractive women who make themselves attractive with make-up and so betray nature by making men fancy them.

Yet so they mourn, becoming of their woe,

That every tongue says beauty should look so.

But Amelia’s eyes look so attractive in mourning that everyone agrees that BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL!!!

23. (132)

This sonnet was sent to Amelia – or read aloud to her. It addresses Amelia directly.

Clearly Shakespeare’s first wooing sonnet to Amelia has failed completely.  She treats him with contempt as she’s after young Harry.

Thine eyes I love, and they as pitying me,

Knowing thy heart torment me with disdain,

Have put on black, and loving mourners be,

Looking with pretty ruth upon my pain.

Shakespeare says he loves Amelia’s eyes who have dressed in black mourning because they pity Shakespeare, though her heart despises him.

And truly not the morning Sun of Heaven

Better becomes the grey cheeks of th’ East,

Nor that full Star that ushers in the Even

Doth half that glory to the sober West

As those two morning eyes become thy face:

Shakespeare plays on ‘mourning’ and ‘morning’. For him neither the morning sun, which brightens up the dull, dawn clouds or the evening star which adds glory to the staid light in the west at sunset are as beautiful as Amelia’s two black eyes seen in the morning.

O let it then as well beseem thy heart

To mourn for me since mourning doth thee grace,

And suit thy pity like in every part.

Shakespeare asks Amelia’s heart to pity him as her eyes do because mourning becomes her and every part of Amelia should pity Shakespeare equally.

Then will I swear beauty herself is black,

And all they foul that thy complexion lack.

If Amelia does so, Shakespeare promises he will declare that BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL – and all those women without black skins ugly.

24. (128)

Amelia was a musician and singer – and played the clavichord.

Her whole family were the Queen’s Musicians – first brought over to England from Venice through the good offices of Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton….

Photo by Ross Underwood.

……during the reign of Henry VIII.

In addition, Amelia had been brought up by aristocratic women when her mother had died – so her skills would have been developed.

How oft when thou my music, music play’st,

Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds

With thy sweet fingers when thou gently swayst

The wiry concord that mine ear confounds,

Do I envy those Jacks that nimble leap

To kiss the tender inward of thy hand,

Whilst my poor lips which should that harvest reap,

At the wood’s boldness by thee blushing stand.

Shakespeare says that Amelia herself is like a piece of music and when she plays the clavichord itself and coaxes the wires into a harmony that tricks and engages Shakespeare’s ears in a delightful way, he envies the keys of the instrument which seem to jump up to kiss her hands while his lips, that should be kissing Amelia’s hands instead, are embarrassed by their sexy boldness.

To be so tickled, they would change their state

And situation with those dancing chips,

Ore whom thy fingers walk with gentle gait,

Making dead wood more blest than living lips.

If Shakespeare’s lips could be touched and fondled in the same way, he would willing turn them into keys which, though they are ‘dead wood’ are more blessed by Amelia as her fingers walk over them than Shakespeare’s living lips.

Since saucy Jacks so happy are in this,

Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss.

Since the impertinent keys of the clavichord are happy enough with the situation, she should give her fingers to them to kiss and her lips to Shakespeare.

Lips would also suggest Amelia’s labia. Labia, after all, is Latin for ‘lips’.



It’s best to read Part Nine first.

1591. The Royal Progress.

Queen Elizabeth visited Titchfield and Cowdray in the autumn of 1591 as part of her progress. In her retinue was the Bassano family – dark-skinned Sephardic musicians. These included the mixed-race Amelia. She was the beautiful young mistress of old Lord Hundson – a cousin of the Queen.


Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon.

Elizabeth shot deer from standings at both Cowdray and Titchfield and this became one of the central events in the ‘romantic satire’ Love’s Labour’s Lost which Mary Southampton commissioned from Shakespeare in another attempt to turn son Harry straight.

Amelia stayed on at Titchfield after the Progress as the Plague was raging in London – and she had set her cap at young Lord Harry.

Shakespeare fell in love with her and cast her in the play as the dark-skinned wanton, Rosalind.

He cast himself as her lover, Lord Berowne – a play on Mary Southampton’s family name, Browne.

[1592: Shakespeare – in collaboration – writes Sir Thomas More, Edmund Ironside, Arden of Faversham, Love’s Labour’s Lost]


Love’s Labour’s Lost was given a private performance in the grounds of Place House in Titchfield by a cast of aristocratic amateurs – including women – and Shakespeare’s professional colleagues at Whitsun (14th May) 1592.

The aristocrats included Penelope Rich…..

….famous for her blonde hair and black eyes…

….hair which is mentioned in the play as being like ‘the heavens’.

….who played the Princess of France….

She had been the muse of Sir Philip Sidney in his sonnet sequence – Astrophil and Stella – and he had played upon her name ‘Rich’. Shakespeare does the same in the play – and then in his own Sonnets.

Shakespeare even lifted the form of the ‘Shakespearean Sonnet’ form from Sir Philip in his Arcadia.

Penelope’s sister, Dorothy,was also cast as Maria in the play….

She had acted with her sister at Wilton.

Katharine was played by Frances Devereux, the Earl of Essex’s wife who had originally been married to Sir Philip Sidney. Frances, like Katherine in the play, had a sister who died.

Unfortunately the text of Love’s Labour’s Lost is corrupt at times, so we cannot tell which female character dresses in white. But Frances Devereux was often painted in white……

…..and white was the colour of her husband, Robert Devereux, the 2nd Earl of Essex and great friend of Harry Southampton…

These three women were inseparable – and Antonio Perez – a gay Spaniard who was part of the 2nd Earl of Essex’s entourage – called them:

Three sisters and goddesses.

Penelope Rich’s lover, Charles Blount [pronounced ‘Blunt’]…..later Baron Mountjoy…


……played Lord Longaville…..

Fynes Morrison – a contemporary – said he was ‘of stature tall’ – and as well as ‘long’ in the name, the character is described by Maria as ‘tall’.

Morrison also said that Blount:

chose to be drawn with a trowel in his hand and this motto: Ad raedificandam antiquam domum – to build the Ancient House. For this noble and ancient Barony was decayed.

This imagery of re-building a house is used earlier in Sonnets 11 [Old 10] and 14 [Old 13] as an image for Harry having a son – and so ‘re-building’ his body.

Blount was a close friend of Southampton and Shakespeare was referring to this painting in his Sonnets.

He uses the word ‘Blunt’ in the play to describe Longaville….

..and the word ‘Blunt’ in the Sonnets.

Roger Manners, 5th Earl of Rutland, Southampton’s friend, played Dumaine.

Dumaine quotes the word ‘manner’ of  himself in the play and as we shall see, Shakespeare uses ‘manners’ as a coded reference to to the Earl of Rutland in the Sonnets.

Dumaine is the youngest of the wooers – so much so that he doesn’t yet have a beard. In 1592, the Earl of Rutland was sixteen.

Harry himself ……

….played Ferdinando, King of Navarre…..

….a tribute to Ferdinando, Lord Strange, with whose company Shakespeare had begun his acting career and who was a friend of the Southamptons….

…..and Henri, King of Navarre, with whom the Earl of Essex had just fought the Siege of Rouen.


The tiny, beardless Nashe played the part of Moth, ‘the well-educated infant’ in the show who is pageboy to the tight-fisted Spaniard, Don Armado….

– a satire on Sir Walter Raleigh….

……who was the enemy of Southampton and Essex.

Armado, though a Spaniard, breaks into broad Devonshire in the course of the play.

[Note: The version of Love’s Labour’s Lost that has come down to us is a re-write for Elizabeth’s Court in 1599. Raleigh was back in favour then – so the Braggart is turned into a satire on Perez whom Elizabeth despised.]


20. (153) 21. (154)

These two sonnets, the final sonnets in the original published order, are not autobiographical at all. They were intended for the character of Armado .

When he falls in love with the wench, Jaquenetta, he declares:

Assist me, some extemporal god of rhyme,
for I am sure I shall turn sonnet. Devise, wit;
write, pen; for I am for whole volumes in folio!

During the preparation for the production, word came that Raleigh had impregnated Bess Throckmorton – so the plot had to be changed. (Originally Armado was going to catch venereal disease from Jaquenetta and be rejected by her.)

These are two variations on the sonnet Armado never delivered….

It describes the origins of the famous thermal waters of Bath…..

…….a favourite haunt of Raleigh and his crony the ‘Wizard Earl’ – Henry Percy, Ninth Earl of Northumberland……

Northumberland was in Bath in June and October, 1590 – and for three weeks in April, 1591, with a retinue of 25, including Raleigh….

Bath was famous for its cure of venereal disease and was only hours away from Raleigh’s home, Sherborne.

To this day, the waters rise up already heated by geothermal means. To the Celts and Romans this was a phenomenon of mystery – and involved the intervention of a God or Goddess…

Sulis to the Celts……..

….and Minerva to the Romans.


Shakespeare – in the character of Armado – offers his own explanation.

20. (153)

Cupid laid by his brand and fell a sleep:

A maid of Dyan’s this advantage found,

And his love-kindling fire did quickly steep

In a cold valley-fountain of that ground:

Cupid, putting down his fire-brand which causes people to fall in love, fell asleep – and a nymph in attendance to Diana – Goddess of the chase and chastity – found it and plunged it into a cold fountain.

Which borrow’d from this holy fire of love,

A dateless lively heat still to indure,

And grew a seething bath which yet men prove

Against strange maladies a sovereign cure:

The waters took on seething heat from this holy fire which lasts till this day as a cure for exotic illnesses (1) Love (2) Venereal disease.

But at my mistress’ eye Love’s brand new fired,

The boy for trial needs would touch my breast;

I sick withal the help of bath desired,

And thither hied, a sad distemper’d guest.

But at my mistress’s (1) eyes (2) pudenda, the dowsed brand sprung to life again – and to try out its potency Cupid plunged it into my breast and it made me (1) Sick with love (2) Sick with venereal disease.

I needed to go to Bath for its waters (1) To relieve the heat of my love (2) To find a cure for my venereal disease.

But found no cure; the bath for my help lies,

Where Cupid got new fire: my mistress’ eye.

But the waters of Bath did not provide relief. The relief to my love-sickness can only be found at its source – my mistress’s (1) Eye. (2) Pudend.

21. (154)

The little Love-God lying once a sleep,

Laid by his side his heart inflaming brand,

Whilst many Nymphs that vow’d chaste life to keep,

Came tripping by, but in her maiden hand,

The fairest votary took up that fire,

Which many Legions of true hearts had warm’d;

And so the General of hot desire,

Was sleeping by a Virgin hand disarm’d.

A repeat of the above story – except a troop of nymphs dedicated to chaste life troop by – the most beautiful of which picks up the torch which had caused many to fall in love. So the all-powerful Love God, Cupid, was dis-empowered by a virgin.

This brand she quenched in a cool Well by,

Which from love’s fire took heat perpetual,

Growing a bath and healthful remedy

For men diseas’d; but I my Mistress’ thrall,

Came there for cure, and this by that I prove:

Love’s fire heats water, water cools not love.

The nymph cools the brand in a well that again takes on an eternal heat which cures men (1) Of their love (2) Of their disease. But I was so under the power and control of my mistress that I found that the fire of love can heat water but water cannot cool the ardour of love.

‘Love’s fire heats water’ is a direct did at Sir Walter Raleigh. With his West Country accent, he pronounced ‘Walter’ as ‘Water’ – causing Queen Elizabeth to say:

I thirst for Water’.

When the sonnets were published in 1609, Raleigh was out of favour with King James and imprisoned in the Tower. He was again a safe target for Shakespeare to attack.to attack.