The World’s Press is full of the news that, on 23rd April this year, Simon Andrew Stirling will publish a new biography of Sir William Davenant….
…..entitled Shakespeare’s Bastard…..
That William Shakespeare was Davenant’s biological father is not exactly news: it was first mentiond by John Aubrey who was born ten years after Shakespeare’s death…..
Aubrey spoke to Davenant’s brother, Robert, and even attended William Davenant’s funeral, remarking on how fine his walnut tree coffin was.
….when he [Davenant] was pleasant over a glass of wine with his most intimate friends, e.g. Sam Butler (author of Hudibras, etc.) – say that it seemed to that he wrote with the very spirit that Shakespeare [wrote], and seemed contented enough to be thought his son: he would tell them the story as above, in which way his mother had a very light report…
But, even so, the crowd-catching title of the book, Shakespeare’s Bastard, is misleading….
It suggests heartlessness where there was, in fact, wisdom, humanity and warmth.
John Davenant, William’s legal father, was a London vintner and admirer of plays – and of Shakespeare’s work in particular.
According to Aubrey he was a…..
….very grave and discreet citizen….
…..who married Jennet Shepherd….
…..a very beautiful woman, and of very good wit, and of conversation extremely agreeable.
But the two of them could not produce children strong enough to survive.
Six of them died in a row.
So, when they moved to Oxford in 1601 to run ‘The Tavern’ – a winehouse – they came to an arrangement with Shakespeare…..
…..whose only son, Hamnet, had died five years earlier.
Every spring/summer Shakespeare would travel to Stratford-upon-Avon to stay with his family – and pass through Oxford on his way.
On these occasions he became a guest of the Davenant family……
…..and would sleep with Jennet in the famous painted room…
….with the full consent and blessing of the husband.
That way both men could enjoy being father to a son – or even sons and daughters….
Dates corroborate this story…..
Jane Davenant was conceived around May 1601 – after the execution of the Earl of Essex on 25th February when Shakespeare needed to get out of town….
(His play, Richard II, had been performed on the eve of the ill-fated rebellion against Queen Elizabeth….)
Robert was then conceived around June of 1602, Alice around April 1604 (in the new reign of James I and VI)….
….. and William Davenant around June in 1605.
(John and Nicholas were born in 1607 and 1611 and Elizabeth sometime between 1607-11. Even after he had ‘retired’ to Stratford-upon-Avon Shakespeare often visited London.)
Robert, who became a chaplain, told Aubrey that Shakespeare had….
……given him a hundred kisses…..
…….when he visited him as a boy in Oxford.
Shakespeare became Godfather to William…..
Indeed there was a story that one day young William, who was dashing through the streets of Oxford, was stopped by the Master of New College who asked him why he was running so fast.
‘To greet my Godfather’ said William.
‘Do not take the name of the Lord they God in vain’ replied the Master…..
William possessed the Chandos portrait of Shakespeare….
….and the terracotta Shakespeare bust that is now in the Garrick Club in London….
He also had special knowledge of Shakespeare that Nicholas Rowe utilised in his 1709 Some Account of the Life of Mr. William Shakespear:
There is one instance so singular in magnificence of this patron of Shakespeare’s [Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton] that had I not been assured that the story was handed down by Sir William D’Avenant, who was probably very well acquainted with his affairs, I should not have ventured to inserted, that my Lord Southampton, at one time, gave him a thousand pounds, to enable him to go through with a purchase which he had a mind to.
Simon Andrew Stirling will no doubt add fresh research to these stories when his biography is published…..
…..and he is undoubtedly right that people, wanting Shakespeare to be divine, have suppressed the evidence that he had a surrogate family…..
…..in the same way they have suppressed the evidence that he was a bisexual Roman Catholic.
Mr Stirling also asserts that Shakespeare’s Sonnet 126 was NOT written – as most scholars believe – to his patron and lover, Henry Wriothesley, the Third Earl of Southampton….
HE BELIEVES IT WAS ADDRESSED TO THE BABY WILLIAM DAVENANT INSTEAD…..
……AND HERE THE SHAKESPEARE CODE AND MR STIRLING SERIOUSLY PART COMPANY!!!
Here is a facsimile of the ‘Sonnet’ which, at twelve lines long……
…..and, written in rhyming couplets, is not a sonnet at all.
It concludes with a pair of brackets where the final couplet should have been….
Here is a copy of the original printing:
According to the Deccan Herald:
Sonnet 126 has often been suggested to be a homo-erotic poem.
The mistaken gay theme may be explained because the poem comes at the end of a sequence known as the ‘Fair Youth’ sonnets which are understood by scholars to refer to a homosexual passion between Shakespeare and the Earl of Southampton.
Stirling notes that the pair appeared to have gone their separate ways in 1594.
We shall have to wait for the publication of the book to learn what evidence Mr. Stirling has for this last statement.
It’s true that George Chapman……
……whom The Shakespeare Code believes to be the ‘Rival Poet of the Sonnets’…..
[See: ‘The Rival Poet Revealed.’]
……and whom Shakespeare satirises as the mincing, lisping Boyet in Love’s Labour’s Lost…..
……published his The Shadow of Night in 1594……
……and that Southampton, to Shakespeare’s horror, toyed briefly with the idea of becoming Chapman’s Patron rather than Shakespeare’s.
But opposed to this evidence is the loving, passionate dedication that Shakespeare wrote to Southampton on the publication of Lucrece in 1594:
The love I dedicate to your lordship is without end; whereof this pamphlet, without beginning, is but a superfluous moiety. The warrant I have of your honourable disposition, not the worth of my untutored lines, makes it assured of acceptance. What I have done is yours; what I have to do is yours; being part in all I have, devoted yours. Were my worth greater, my duty would show greater; meantime, as it is, it is bound to your lordship, to whom I wish long life, still lengthened with all happiness.
Your lordship’s in all duty, WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE.
Also Shakespeare produced A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the marriage of the Earl of Southampton’s mother, Countess Mary….
…. to Sir Thomas Heneage in 1594.
Southampton came of age that year – so would be in a position to give the £1,000 gift Davenant mentions.
We know that Shakespeare is listed as one of the ‘sharers’ in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men early in the following year, 1595 – so a partnership in the company could well have been……
…… the purchase [Shakespeare] had a mind to.
From the Sonnets, we know that Shakespeare and Southampton, like all lovers, had ups and down in their relationship; but they were still very much together in 1603 and 1604.
Sonnet 107 celebrates Queen Elizabeth’s death in March 1603, James VI of Scotland’s succession to the throne of England and the Earl of Southampton’s release from the Tower on April 5th….
Southampton had been imprisoned for his part in the Earl of Essex’s rebellion against Elizabeth…..
Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul
Of the wide world, dreaming on things to come,
Can yet the lease of my true love control,
Suppos’d as forfeit to a confin’d doom.
Neither my own anxieties – nor the prophesies of the world in general – can control the lease of life granted to my true love – the Earl of Southampton – who everyone thought would die in the Tower of London.
The mortal Moon hath her eclipse indur’d,
And the sad Augurs mock their own presage;
Incertainties now crown them-selves assur’d,
And peace proclaims Olives of endless age.
Queen Elizabeth has died – and those people who predicted civil war at her decease find they were completely wrong. With the coronation of King James VI and I all uncertainty is gone and we can look forward to eternal peace – now that the King has ended hostilities with Spain.
[Note: The Moon – cold and chaste – was a symbol of Queen Elizabeth. Pearls were used to present Elizabeth as Cynthia, the goddess of the Moon – and in her famous ‘Rainbow Portrait’ she is depicted with a crescent-moon jewel in her head piece.
Sir Walter Raleigh promoted the cult of Elizabeth as Moon Goddess with a poem he wrote during the late 1580s, The Ocean’s Love to Cynthia, in which Elizabeth is compared to the Moon. Sir Walter was often depicted with a giant pearl in his ear……
…..to demonstrate his loyalty to Elizabeth.]
Now with the drops of this most balmy time,
My love looks fresh and death to me subscribes,
Since spite of him I’ll live in this poor rime,
While he insults ore dull and speechless tribes;
The Coronation Oil – and the happiness that the new reign has brought – has revived my lover, Southampton, who lay sick in prison – and Death becomes my servant since I’ll live forever in this sonnet while he triumphs over people less brilliant or articulate than me.
And thou in this shalt find thy monument,
When tyrants’ crests and tombs of brass are spent.
And you, Harry, will find your monument in this sonnet while the Tudor coat of arms and brass tombs of tyrants like Elizabeth rot away.
[Note: The mention of ‘crest’ recalls Queen Elizabeth’s remark: ‘Were I crested and not cloven’ i.e. ‘If I had a penis rather than a vagina.’ Shakespeare is implying that Elizabeth was so unnatural she had a penis of her own. Shakespeare hated Elizabeth because of her persecution of Roman Catholics and his family and friends.]
Shakespeare is still close enough to call Southampton….
……my true love…..
…..and Sonnets 125, 123 and 124 refer to James’s Coronation in 1603 – when Shakespeare, as a Groom of the Chamber, held a canopy over James during the service – and to the State Opening of Parliament in 1604 when the processional route was lined with ‘pyramids’ – obelisks…
IN THESE THREE SONNETS (OF 1603 AND 1604) SHAKESPEARE CONTINUES TO DECLARE HIS LOVE FOR SOUTHAMPTON!!!
The Deccan Herald continues:
Three of the sonnets are known to have been written in 1603 and 1604, by which time Southampton was heading into his thirties.
Coming so soon after two sonnets composed in 1604,” Stirling writes, “it would be rash to presume that the ‘lovely Boy’ of Sonnet 126 was the mature Earl of Southampton. The poem appears to have been written to a very young child whose birth caused his mother’s full-moon belly to wane.’
The Shakespeare Code’s believes that it would be….
…..NOT to assume that Sonnet 126 addressed to Southampton…..
…..WHEN THE OTHER ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-FIVE ARE!!!
The phrase ‘lovely Boy’ is INTENDED to be insulting to ‘the mature’ Southampton…..
….. for reasons The Code will now reveal.
The Sonnet IS about a baby…
BUT NOT THE BABY MR. STIRLING TAKES IT TO BE!!!
SONNET 126 DECODED.
To understand the language and thought of Sonnet 126 we have to study the language and thought of the ‘Birthday Sonnets’……
……the seventeen poems at the start of the sonnet sequence that Shakespeare wrote to celebrate the seventeenth birthday of the Earl of Southampton.
These were a commission in 1590 from Countess Mary to persuade her gay, wayward son, Harry……
…..to marry Elizabeth De Vere, Lord Burghley’s grand-daughter.
The Countess of Southampton was a widow and Lord Burghley was her son’s guardian.
He had the authority to dictate who her son was to marry: if he didn’t, the Southampton family faced a colossal £5,000 fine….
In these seventeen sonnets Shakespeare outlines the advantages Harry will gain if he marries Elizabeth….
…..and the disadvantages if he doesn’t!!!
In the second sonnet Shakespeare tells Harry if he has a son, he will be able to regenerate, through him, the physical decay old age will inevitably bring:
When forty Winters shall besiege thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,
Thy youth’s proud livery so gaz’d on now,
Will be a tatter’d weed of small worth held:
When you get to the age of fifty seven and have lines and wrinkles on your forehead and your face, your youthful beauty – which looks like the dazzling colours of the livery that servants of great Lords wear….
…will look like a tatty old coat that nobody wants….
[Note: Queen Elizabeth I was 57 years old in the year of the ‘Birthday Sonnets’, 1590.
Shakespeare is making an oblique coded attack on her loss of physical beauty.]
Then being askt, where all thy beauty lies,
Where all the treasure of thy lusty days;
To say within thine own deep sunken eyes,
Were an all-eating shame, and thriftless praise.
Then if anyone asks you where your beauty has fled to – and what you did with all the semen you produced in your randy youth to reply – ‘It’s all in my shrivelled testicles’ would be an agonising embarrassment and a pointless excuse.
[Note: the vocabulary of the face is often used by Shakespeare to represent the genital area – nose, beard eyes, etc.]
How much more praise deserv’d thy beauty’s use,
If thou couldst answer ‘This fair child of mine
Shall sum my count, and make my old excuse’,
Proving his beauty by succession thine.
If you were to make use of your good looks you would earn much more praise if you then said: ‘My beautiful son shows you how dishy I once was – and makes up for my being old now.
This were to be new made when thou art old,
And see thy blood warm when thou feel’st it cold.
In Sonnet 4, Shakespeare then reprimands Harry for masturbating instead of making love to a woman.
Unthrifty loveliness, why dost thou spend,
Upon thy self thy beauty’s legacy?
Nature’s bequest gives nothing but doth lend,
And being frank, she lends to those are free….
Why are you such a spendthrift with your semen? Why do you ejaculate all over yourself the fluids you are meant to give to others? Nature doesn’t actually GIVE you anything – she just lends it in the belief you will pass it on. Being generous herself, she gives to those who are generous in turn.
[Note: Shakespeare often uses money – and all its associations – as a code for semen.]
Then beauteous niggard, why dost thou abuse,
The bounteous largesse given thee to give?
Profitless usurer, why dost thou use
So great a sum of sums yet can’st not live?
Beautiful but miserly, why do you abuse the magnificent penis you were meant to share with others? You are like a money-lender who makes no profit – who spends huge amounts of money but doesn’t have any left to live on. You come many times, but have no baby to show for it.
For having traffic with thy self alone,
Thou of thy self thy sweet self dost deceive,
Because you spend your time masturbating all on your own, you cheat yourself of the lovely baby you could produce if you went to bed with a woman.
[Note: ‘Sweet self’ – is a coded phrase for Southampton’s baby boy.]
In Sonnet 10, Shakespeare also goes on to use the word ‘self’ to mean a baby:
Make me another self for love of me
That beauty may still live in thine and thee.
In Sonnet 11 he introduces two more code words he will pick up again in Sonnet 126:‘wane’ and ‘grow’.
As fast as thou shalt wane, so fast thou grow’st
In one of thine, from that which thou departests.
And that fresh blood which youngly thou bestow’st
Thou may call thine, when thou from youth convertest.
As fast as you shall diminish with age, as fast you will grow in the shape of your son in whom you have imbued your characteristics: and that fresh life you bestowed on him when you were young, you can claim as your own when you are old
[Note: Shakespeare is asserting that by having a son Harry can ‘wane’ like the Moon (i.e. grow older and feebler) but ‘grow‘ at the same time (as his son grows older and stronger).
Shakespeare also launches another oblique attack in this sonnet on the childless Queen Elizabeth: ‘Let those whom nature hath not made for store,/Harsh, featureless and rude, barrenly perish.]
In Sonnet 13 Shakespeare talks about the ‘sweet issue’ that Harry will leave behind him if he has a son:
When your sweet issue your sweet form should bear.
Harry, of course, ignored Shakespeare’s advice to get married…….
……and so the Southampton family had to pay Burghley his £5,000 fine.
A painful love-triangle then arose at Titchfield in the Plague Year of 1592…..
…..between Shakespeare, Harry and the Dark Lady of the Sonnets – the musician and courtesan Amelia Bassano…
This culminated in a full-blown gay love affair between Shakespeare and Harry which lasted over a decade…
There were infidelities on both sides, but Harry meant everything to Shakespeare….
When Shakespeare lost Hamnet in 1596, Harry even became his surrogate son…..
As a decrepit father takes delight
To see his active child do deeds of youth,
So I, made lame by Fortune’s dearest spite,
Take all my comfort of thy worth and truth. (Sonnet 37)
However, eight years after the Birthday Sonnets, Harry finally fell in love with a woman…
One of Queen Elizabeth’s Ladies-in-Waiting…..
….the beautiful, if unstable, Elizabeth Vernon…..
She fell pregnant, so Harry married her in secret.
The Queen was furious. She clapped Elizabeth into jail and Harry fled, for a time to France….
[Note: There is a local tradition in Titchfield that Romeo and Juliet was based on Harry’s courtship of Elizabeth Vernon and The Code believes Shakespeare also dramatized himself in the character of Romeo’s ambivalent friend, Mercutio, who loves Romeo and is disturbed by his love for Juliet….
At one point in the play Shakespeare makes another coded attack on Queen Elizabeth. He has Romeo say:
But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou her maid art far more fair than she:
Be not her maid, since she is envious;
Her vestal livery is but sick and green
And none but fools do wear it; cast it off.]
Harry and Elizabeth’s marriage proved a very loving one….
Shakespeare was initially conflicted about the change this marriage would make to his relationship with Southampton….
But in Sonnet 116 Shakespeare comes to the realisation that he has his own spiritual ‘marriage’ with Southampton…
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
And that he will never withdraw his love for Southampton, even if Southampton withdraws his….
…love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove….
In the event, Southampton’s marriage with Elizabeth was initially open enough to include Shakespeare…
Indeed, when Harry joined Essex’s military campaign in Ireland in 1599, he seems to have started a gay affair with someone completely different….
[ Note: On 13th February, 1601 William Reynolds (probably brother of Essex’s secretary, Edward Reynolds) wrote that he ‘marvelled what had become of Piers Edmonds, the Earl of Essex’s man, born in the Strand near me, who had many preferements by the Earl. His villainy I have often complained of. He was Corporal General of the Horse in Ireland under the Earl of Southampton. He ate and drank at his table and lay in his tent. The Earl of Southampton gave him a horse which Edmunds refused a hundred marks for him, the Earl of Southampton would cole and huge [embrace and hug] him in his arms and play wantonly with him’.]
The Irish campaign went disastrously wrong, Essex and Southampton returned to England and finally rebelled against Elizabeth.
She executed Essex in 1601 and imprisoned Southampton, for life, in the Tower.
Shakespeare thought he would never see Southampton again – and wrote a beautiful farewell to him – The Phoenix and the Turtle – in which an exotic Phoenix Bird (Southampton) and a common Turtle Dove (Shakespeare) – are consumed in a mutual flame of love….
However, two years later Queen Elizabeth was dead….
And Shakespeare was re-united with his lover.
People thought that Harry would become the King James’s ‘favourite’….
……as did Harry himself…..
…..but James preferred younger men……
…….like Robert Carr….
……and the two years of sickness in the Tower had taken their toll on Harry’s looks……
Pushed from the centre of gay power, Harry started to become homophobic…….
But the crunch really came in March 1605.
Elizabeth Southampton gave birth to a baby boy.
She had already given birth to two girls….
But a boy was different.
Now Southampton had an heir for his title….
…and a son, James, he could impress with his manly, soldierly qualities…..
Shakespeare, the player, had to go.
Rejection by Harry was something Shakespeare had long been terrified of.
He refers to its possibility again and again in the sonnets….
[See especially Sonnets 36, 48, 49, 57, 58, 61, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92 and 93.]
And it even enters his plays when Prince Harry, at his coronation, rejects his old drinking friend, John Falstaff….
Now it was happening for in reality…
Bereft of the love of his life…..
…..his real son AND his surrogate one….
Shakespeare suffered a complete breakdown….
…….which culminated in his dark, despairing masterpiece, King Lear….
And the truly Satanic Sonnet 126….
O thou my lovely Boy, who in thy power
Dost hold time’s fickle glass, his sickle hour,
Who hast by waning grown and therein showst
They lover’s withering as thy sweet self grow’st…
My beautiful boy who holds under his own control the sickle and hour glass – the aging processes – of Father Time himself, who, paradoxically, by growing older and feebler, actually grows younger and stronger and who causes your lover – me – to shrivel with neglect while your baby boy flourishes with your love….
[Note: Shakespeare insults the Earl of Southampton – who was thirty two in 1605 – by calling him ‘my lovely Boy’. He also insults him in a companion ‘Farewell’ Sonnet 87 in which he writes: ‘Farewell, thou art too dear for my possessing’ as though Southampton were a male prostitute too expensive for Shakespeare to hire. He also insults Southampton in the Dedication to the Sonnets themselves: he calls him ‘Mr. W.H” – ‘Mr. Wriothesley, Henry’, reminding him of his days in the Tower when he had lost his title.
Shakespeare also uses the code words ‘wane’ and ‘grow ‘ to mean ‘grow old’ and ‘grow young’ just as he does in Sonnet 11 and ‘sweet self’ to mean Southampton’s baby boy – just as he does in Sonnet 4.]
If Nature (sovereign mistress over wrack)
As thou goest onwards still will pluck thee back,
She keeps thee to this purpose, that her skill
May time disgrace, and wretched minutes kill.
If Dame Nature – who has control over the process of decay – keeps you preternaturally young by pulling you back from the natural process of aging – she does so for one reason alone: to show her power over Father Time and time itself.
Yet fear her, O thou minion of her pleasure:
She may detain, but not still keep her treasure!
But you should be terrified of her – you underling who exist simply for Dame Nature’s twisted enjoyment. She may hold up your demise – but cannot control it – like a woman who is holding a precious jewel that is not hers to keep.
[Note: ‘Minion of her pleasure’ suggests one of Queen Elizabeth’s favourites – like Essex: mere toy boys who will be given up when their time comes…]
Her audit, though delayed, answered must be,
And her quietus is to render thee
Nature can delay paying Time’s bill – but paid, it must be. And the only way to settle it is to give you up to death.
[‘Render’ – as well as meaning ‘to give up’ – can also mean ‘break down’ – as one breaks down meat to extract the fat.The brackets at the end of the poem, which indicate where the final couplet should be, also symbolise the gaping grave, waiting to destroy Southampton’s body.]
Shakespeare has promised immortality to Southampton through his verse……
Now he uses it to wish death upon him….
It is the poison pen letter of all time…..
So how Simon Andrew Stirling can interpret Sonnet 126 as Shakespeare’s peon to his new-born son, William Davenant, is…..
……UTTERLY AND COMPLETELY BEYOND BELIEF!!!
To read ‘The Dedication to Shakespeare’s Sonnets Decoded’, click: HERE
To read ‘Why did Shakespeare write The Sonnets?’, click: HERE
To read ‘Trixie the Cat’s Guide to the Sonnets. (1) Background Jottings, click: HERE
To read ‘Trixie the Cat’s Guide to the Sonnets. (2) The Birthday Sonnets, click: HERE
To read ‘Trixie the Cat’s Guide to the Sonnets. (3) Was Christopher Marlowe the Rival Poet?, click: HERE.
To read ‘Trixie the Cat’s Guide to the Sonnets (4) The Rival Poet Revealed!’, click: HERE.
To read ‘Amazing New Light on Sonnet 86’, click: HERE.
To read ‘Shakespeare’s ‘Bath Sonnets’ Decoded’, click: HERE.