…..by TRIXIE THE CAT
Brothers and Sisters of The Shakespeare Code,
The Dedication to the First Edition of Shakespeare’s Sonnets….
…..is one of the greatest literary mysteries of all time….
What does ‘only begetter’ mean?
Who is ‘Mr. W. H.’?
Why is ‘all happiness’ wished to him and by whom?
What ‘eternity’ did ‘our ever-living poet’ ‘promise’ to him?
Who is the ‘ever-living poet’?
Who is the ‘well-wishing adventurer’?
Who is ‘setting forth’ and why?
And who is T.T.?
YOUR CAT, TRIXIE, WORKING IN CLOSE COLLABORATION WITH THE AGENTS OF THE SHAKESPEARE CODE, HAS THE ANSWERS!!!
(NOTE: The Agents are currently in training for the Olympics – not for the events, which they will win with ease, but to find a way to the Stadia across grid-locked London.)
The last question – ‘Who is T.T.?’ – is the one that is most easily explained.
The Frontispiece to the Sonnets…
….states that the poems were printed by G. Eld for T.T.
Eld was the printer and ‘T. T.’ (Thomas Thorpe) was the publisher.
The ‘ever-living’ poet, The Code believes, is William Shakespeare…..
By 1609 Shakespeare was so famous the publisher did not have to use his Christian name on the Frontispiece….
And Shakespeare himself proclaims his immortality in his Sonnets….
In Sonnet 107 Shakespeare states that ‘spite of him’ [Time]…
I’ll live in this poor rhyme…
And he says of Sonnet 18….
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives life, and this gives life to thee…
But before Your Cat supplies the answers to the other, more complicated questions which the Dedication poses, she would like to draw the attention of all Brothers and Sisters to another Dedication….
…..also published by Thomas Thorpe two years earlier in 1607….
……Ben Jonson’s Dedication of his play Volpone to the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge…
To the most noble and most equal sisters
The two famous Universities
For their love and acceptance shewn to his poem in the presentation
The grateful acknowledger
Dedicates both him and himself.
In this Dedication, Jonson names the Dedicatees first – the ‘famous’ Universities of Oxford and Cambridge…..
Then he describes them….
the most equal sisters…
He then describes what they have done to merit a Dedication…..
For their love and acceptance shewn to his poem in the presentation
Then, as the Dedicator, he describes himself as….
the grateful acknowledger….
Put more plainly, the Dedication reads….
Ben Jonson, the grateful acknowledger, dedicates both him and himself to the two famous Universities for the love and acceptance shown to him and his poem.
The Code is of the belief that the Sonnets’ Dedication follows this formula…
Thomas Thorpe names the Dedicatee as Mr. W. H. and describes him as
the only begetter of these ensuing sonnets….
….and wishes him…
all happiness and that eternity promised by our ever-living poet….
Then as Dedicator, he describes himself as….
the well-wishing adventurer….
Put in a plainer way, Thorpe’s Dedication reads:
Thomas Thorpe, the Well-wishing Adventurer, in setting forth, wisheth to Mr. W. H., the only begetter of these sonnets, all happiness and that eternity promised by our ever-living poet…
To understand who ‘Mr. W. H.’ is we must first dispel a myth….
Charlotte Carmichael Stopes was an early feminist and the first woman to gain the equivalent of a degree in Scotland…
…..even though she was barred from attending lectures….
She married an artist ten years younger than herself and spent a late honeymoon, pregnant, paddling down the NileRiver in Egypt…
She was the mother of the visionary, birth control advocate, Marie Stopes…..
…..who to this day has a clinic named after her in Whitfield Street in London….
Charlotte was a great Shakespearean. She was also convinced (correctly in The Code’s view) that Henry Wriothesley, the third Earl of Southampton (a.k.a. Harry Southampton) was the ‘lovely boy’ of Shakespeare’s Sonnets…
However, Stopes, great woman that she was, had a romantic view of how the Sonnets came to be published….
She thought that Mary Southampton, the Third Earl of Southampton’s mother, was in possession of all Shakespeare’s Sonnets in manuscript….
When she died her third husband, William Harvey, a ‘family friend’, found them and published them because he did not want to…..
…see them die…
MUCH AS TRIXIE ADMIRES YOU…..
SHE KNOWS FOR CERTAIN THAT THIS CANNOT BE TRUE….
SHAKESPEARE PUBLISHED HIS SONNETS HIMSELF!!!
Thomas Heywood, a contemporary of Shakespeare…….
……..was a writer and playwright….
He wrote An Apology for Actors, published in 1612 and Dedicated it to…
….my good friends and fellows, the City Actors….
In a letter to one Nicholas Oake at the conclusion of the pamphlet, Heywood describes how William Shakespeare was….
….much offended with M. Jaggard (that altogether unknown to him), presumed to make so bold with his name.’
Jaggard (a publisher) had used Shakespeare’s name to promote a collection of poems called The Passionate Pilgrim without Shakespeare’s permission…..
Shakespeare, according to Heywood…
….to do himself right, hath since published them [the Sonnets] in his own name’.
…….writing c. 1614, also states….
The last we have are Sir William Alexander and Shakespeare, who have lately published their works….
But there are other flaws in Stopes’s argument……
William Harvey was NOT a ‘family friend’……
Harry Southampton hated his young step-father so much that the Earl of Essex had to intervene….
And there is no reason at all why Mary, Countess of Southampton (who left Titchfield in 1594 to live at Copped Hall in Essex) should have a complete collection of the Sonnets….
Most were love letters written to individuals (including Mary’s son, Henry Wriothesley) and often contain homosexual banter….
In Sonnet 49, for example, Shakespeare talks about his fears that his lover, no longer sexually excited by him, will cast…
his utmost sum….
And that his love….
Converted from the thing [penis] it was
Shall reasons find of settled gravity…..
And when Shakespeare is not writing homosexual banter in the Sonnets, he is writing heterosexual banter instead…
In Sonnet 135 he asks the Dark Lady, Emilia Bassano….
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?….
And even more graphically in Sonnet 151, Shakespeare describes how his ‘flesh’…
….rising at thy name doth point out thee
As his triumphant prize, proud of this pride:
He is contented thy poor drudge to be,
To stand in thy affairs, fall by thy side.
Mary Countess of Southampton, though a committed Catholic, was a broad-minded woman of the world….
But would Shakespeare really send her Sonnets like these?
Countess Mary would, though, have had a copy of the first seventeen sonnets; she had commissioned Shakespeare to write them for Harry’s seventeenth birthday……
……to try to get him interested in girls….
Lord Burghley at the time wanted Harry to marry his grand-daughter: but Harry was more interested in Shakespeare…..
Harry was 17 in 1590, two years after the Armada. We know from the anonymous satirical play Histrio-Mastix that theatre folk had become unfashionable during the invasion scare…..
…..they were thought of as effete and useless…..
So many playwrights sought work as tutors in great households….
Thomas Kyd, it seems, went to work for Lord Strange and Christopher Marlowe for Bess of Hardwick.
Shakespeare, The Code believes, went to work for the Countess of Southampton….
Sonnet 13 in the Birthday Sequence, refers to Harry’s dead father, the 2nd Earl….
You had a father, let your son say so…
And Sonnet 3 refers to Harry’s widowed mother, Mary….
Thou art they mother’s glass, and she in thee
Calls back the lovely April of her prime….
In later Sonnets, Shakespeare refers to the lovely boy’s feminine beauty….
In Sonnet 20 he describes how the boy has….
A woman’s face with nature’s own hand painted
…..and goes on to describe him as….
The master mistress of my passion…
This is certainly borne out by contemporary paintings of Harry Southampton….
So who is Mr. W. H.?
The Code believes that Mr. W.H. is none other than Harry (Henry Wriothesley) himself….
In a satirical attack on Harry in the anonymous Willobie his Avisa, published in 1594, there is a description of Shakespeare and Harry’s love-triangle with the Dark Lady, Emilia Bassano.
Shakespeare is described as W. S. An Old Player….
And Henry Wriothesley as Mr. W. H…..
He is even called….
He is also described as Italo-Hispalensis.
Italo-Hispalensis is a reference to the trip to Spain and Italy that Harry and Shakespeare made the year before (1593).
(See: Shakespeare in Italy.)
And in the satire, Mr. H. W. says to ‘Avisa’ (code for Emilia):
A thousand fewtures I have seen,
For traveller’s change and choice shall see,
In France, in Flanders and in Spain,
Yet none, nor none could conquer me:
Till now I saw this face of thine,
That makes my wittes are none of thine’
So, it is not a big jump from Mr. H. W. to Mr. W. H……
Indeed, in Sonnet 2o Shakespeare himself plays on the ‘H’ and ‘W’ of Henry Wriothesley when he writes….
A man in hew all Hews [Shakespeare’s punctuation and italics] in his controlling….
Hews is code for ‘Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton’…
But to make the identity of the Dedicatee even clearer, Thomas Thorpe describes Mr. H. W.’ as the ‘only begetter’ of the Sonnets.
Time and again in the Sonnets, Shakespeare names the lovely boy as the source of his inspiration….
And in Sonnet 78 he directly states….
Yet be most proud of that which I compile [the Sonnets]
Whose influence is thine and born of thee [Trixitalics]
In others’ works thou dost but mend the style,
And arts with they sweet graces graced be;
But thou art all my art, and dost advance,
As high as learning my rude ignorance…
Shakespeare’s art is ‘born’ of Harry – that is why Harry is the ‘only begetter’ of the Sonnets.
Shakespeare also promises ‘eternity’, i.e. immortality, to Harry in Sonnet after Sonnet, particularly in the famous Sonnet 18…
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day….
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee…
People in the past took this Sonnet to be addressed to a woman. Indeed, John Benson (in his 1640 edition of the Sonnets) changed all the ‘he’s’ to ‘she’s’ in an attempt to heterosexualise Shakespeare’s verse…
Benson’s edition was the only one known to the public till 1788, when the great Irish barrister, Edmond Malone………
……. produced his monumental edition of Shakespeare’s works….
Modern scholars now take the first one hundred and twenty-six Sonnets to be addressed to the lovely boy. The remaining twenty-eight are mostly addressed to women.
This means that the Sonnets are not listed in order of composition…
In fact (apart from the opening sequence) the only three sonnets that The Code can date with total certainty are:
1. Sonnet 107 which mentions the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603…..
The mortal moon hath her eclipse endured….
It also mentions the release, from the Tower of London, of Harry Southampton…..
Supposed as forfeit to a confined doom…
2. Sonnet 125 which refers to Shakespeare (as a liveried Groom of the Chamber) holding the canopy over King James at his coronation in 1604….
Were’t ought to me I bore the canopy….
This sonnet also refers to the execution of Essex after Queen Elizabeth’s withdrawal of his ‘farm’ on sweet wines….
….and his crime of bursting in to the Queen’s bedchamber before she had time to dress…
Have I not seen dwellers on form and favour
Lose all, and more [i.e. their heads] by paying too much rent, [too much sexual servicing]
For compound sweet [farm on sweet wines] forgoing simple savour,
Pitiful thrivers, in their gazing spent…
3. Sonnet 123 which refers to the coronation obelisks (‘pyramids’) set up in 1604….
Thy [Time’s] pyramids, built up with newer might,
To me are nothing novel, nothing strange;
They are but dressings of a former sight…
Why does Thorpe describe himself as ‘the well wishing adventurer’ who is ‘setting forth’?
All publishing ventures are a risk and publishing a book is very much like sending it on a journey….
Geoffrey Chaucer, in the epilogue to Troilus and Criseyde, writes….
‘Go, litel, bok’…..
…..in imitation of Ovid.
But in his Dedication Thorpe presents himself as going on the journey himself…
The answer, Your Cat believes, is to make another coded reference to the Earl of Southampton….
Southampton had been involved in the Virginia Company since 1605 and in 1609 became part of the Virginia Company Council….
The Company built a huge passenger ship which could hold 500-600 people for the purpose of emigrating to Jamestown in Virginia…
The Titanic of its time……
Which, also, almost sank….
…..and, in so doing, inspired the shipwreck scenes in The Tempest……
The ship was called the Sea Venture….
……or Sea Adventure….
Emigrants bound for Virginia were later described by Captain John Smith….
……of Pocahontas fame…..
….. as ‘Adventurers’….
The Sonnets were registered by Thorpe on 20th May 1609 and the Sea Venture left Plymouth on 2nd June, 1609….
So, by describing himself as ‘an adventurer setting forth’, Thorpe would compare his publishing adventure to this mass emigration by the Virginia Company to America…
….and by doing so would put his readers in mind of the Earl of Southampton…
But why does Thorpe write the Dedication rather than Shakespeare?
And why does Thorpe hope for ‘all happiness’ for Southampton and why does he wish him ‘well’?
The answer is irony. Not to say sarcasm…..
Thorpe knew full well that Southampton would be furious that his affair with Shakespeare was being made public….
So did Shakespeare, who would certainly have had a hand in the Dedication….
The Code firmly believes that Harry Southampton terminated his liaison with Shakespeare in 1605 when he finally produced a son.
And Shakespeare responded by wishing his former patron, not immortality now, but death….
In Sonnet 126 he writes….
Yet fear her [Time] O thou minion of her pleasure:
She may detain, but not still keep her treasure!
Her audit, though delayed, answered must be,
And her quietus is to render thee…..
(For a more detailed analysis of Sonnet 126 please see: Shakespeare, Love and Religion. Part Three.)
‘All Happiness’ was the last thing either Thorpe or Shakespeare wished on Harry.
Thorpe wanted a scandal to increase sales of Shakespeare’s Sonnets….
And Shakespeare wanted revenge…..
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