(Note: It’s best to read ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ Revisited, Part One first)
In the time of Queen Elizabeth I, every Earl would have his entourage…..
They would dress in his livery…….
……board and eat in his house…..
….. accompany him when he travelled….
……and identify with his interests….
This is shown most graphically at the start of Romeo and Juliet when the Montague and Capulet entourages bait each other in the streets of Verona….
Shakespeare, The Shakespeare Code argues, was part of the Earl of Southampton’s entourage…..
(as he later became a liveried member of King James’s entourage, as a Groom of the Chamber).
In the 1590’s he worked as a ‘fac totum’ for the Southampton family…..
…..secretary, tutor, schoolmaster, entertainer and…..
….generally nice fellow to have around.
Earls would befriend other Earls…..
…and their entourages would merge….
Harry Southampton had a natural friend in Sir Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex….
Both men had lost their fathers in childhood……
…..and both had been wards of William Cecil, Lord Burghley…….
Essex had been born in 1565, and so was eight years older than Harry…..
At the first performance of Love’s Labour’s Lost at Titchfield in 1592, Essex would have been 28 years old….
…..and Harry nineteen…
(He had been desperate to follow his hero, Essex, to the Siege of Rouen, but he was deemed too young to fight in a war.)
Another close friend of Southampton and Essex was Roger Manners, 5th Earl of Rutland…..
……who was also a ward of Burghley’s…..
He was three years younger than Southampton, so would have been sixteen at the premiere of Love’s Labour’s Lost.
(Harry had gone back to Cambridge University to visit Manners in June, 1591, after he himself had graduated.)
Another nobleman who became a friend of Essex and Southampton was Sir Charles Blount (pronounced ‘Blunt’)
….who later, unexpectedly, became 8th Baron Mountjoy….
He was a couple of years older than Essex…….
……and the two men had originally been rivals for the attention of Queen Elizabeth…..
Both wore the Queen’s white….
…and both had fought a duel……
(Blount had been given a favour by Elizabeth…..
…an enamelled chess queen)
After this both men became close friends….
…..and formed a political alliance which lasted up to Essex’s execution in 1601.
Essex, Southampton, Blount and Manners were massively influenced as a group by the chivalric philosophy of Sir Philip Sidney….
….who had given up his water to a wounded soldier at Zutphen even though he was dying himself…..
…..and who was obsessed with achieving fame….
He also gave his sword to Essex…..
….indicating that Essex was his spiritual heir.
Essex in turn had secretly married his widow, Frances…..
……who became bosom friends with Essex’s sister….
……the beautiful Penelope Rich…..
…….an accomplished singer and dancer – famous for her golden hair and black eyes.
Penelope had married, against her will, Robert Rich, 3rd Baron Rich of Lees Hall in Essex….
– a man who was literally ‘rich’.
Penelope’s father, Sir Walter Devereux, First Earl of Essex……..
……. had wanted her to marry Sir Philip Sidney…….
…….and the bisexual Sidney had been in love with her…..
When he was dying, he reportedly told the preacher George Gifford of …..
…..a vanity in which he had taken much delight of which he must now rid himself, naming Lady Rich……
She had certainly been the muse of Sir Philip: he had written a whole Sonnet sequence about her – and to her – entitled Astrophel and Stella –
….or the Lover of the Star and the Star Herself…..
…..which had been published in a pirated edition in 1591 – the year before Love’s Labour’s Lost – with a forward by Thomas Nashe…
This edition was recalled – and it was only in 1598 that the full sonnet sequence was published by Sidney’s sister, the Countess of Pembroke.
It was in this edition that Sonnet 37 was first printed, which openly played on Penelope’s married name of….
My mouth doth water, and my breast doth swell,
My tongue doth itch, my thoughts in labor be;
Listen then, lordings, with good ear to me,
For of my life I must a riddle tell.
Towards Aurora’s court [Essex – in the East] a nymph doth dwell,
Rich in all beauties which man’s eye can see;
Beauties so far from reach of words, that we
Abase her praise, saying she doth excel;
Rich in the treasure of deserved renown;
Rich in the riches of a royal heart;
Rich in those gifts which give the eternal crown;
Who though most rich in these, and every part
Which make the patents of true worldly bliss,
Hath no misfortune, but that Rich she is.
…..and Sidney attacks Robert Rich even more openly in Sonnet 24…
Rich fools there be whose base and filthy heart
Lies hatching still the goods wherein they flow:
And damning their own selves to Tantal’s smart,
Wealth breeding want, more blest more wretched grow.
Yet to those fools heav’n such wit doth impart
As what their hands do hold, their heads do know,
And knowing love, and loving, lay apart,
As sacred things, far from all danger’s show.
But that rich fool who by blind Fortune’s lot
The richest gem of love and life enjoys,
And can with foul abuse such beauties blot;
Let him, depriv’d of sweet but unfelt joys,
(Exil’d for aye from those high treasures, which
He knows not) grow in only folly rich.
By 1590 Penelope had become the mistress of Charles Blount…
On 17th November of that year (Tournament Day which celebrated Queen Elizabeth’s Accession) Sir Charles Blount wore Penelope Rich’s colours openly.
George Peele, also punning on ‘Rich’ wrote:
Comes Sir Charles Blount…
Rich in his colours, richer in his thoughts,
Rich in his fortune, honour, arms and art.
The Elizabethans loved this word-play on people’s names – and Shakespeare was no exception…..
In his Sonnets – which were originally intended for distribution only among his……
…..Shakespeare also plays on the surnames of this coterie…..
Rich, Manners and Blount…..
Sometimes he uses the names singly…..
…..as in Sonnet 97….
……The teeming autumn big with rich increase…..
……a reference to Penelope Rich’s habit of often falling pregnant….
(She had just given birth to Blount’s daughter in March, 1592…..
…..just a couple of months before the production of Love’s Labour’s Lost…..)
Shakespeare also makes reference to Roger Manners’s hero-worship of Harry Southampton in Sonnet 39…..
O how thy worth with manners may I sing…..
Shakespeare makes a particular point with this code, though, by sometimes coupling TWO coterie names together….
Sonnet 85 begins……
My tongue-tied muse in manners holds her still,
While comments of your praise, richly compiled….
…..and Sonnet 52…..
So am I as the rich, whose blessed key
Can bring him to his sweet up-locked treasure,
The which he will not every hour survey,
For blunting the fine point of seldom pleasure.
In Love’s Labour’s Found Stewart Trotter suggested that the ‘shadowy lords’ in the play were played by Southampton’s friends.
TO FIND OUT WHO THEY WERE, CLICK: HERE!