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It’s best to read Part 41 – Shakespeare’s Poison Pen first.

The volume of Shakespeare’s Sonnets concludes with an eleven page poem entitled A Lover’s Complaint.

To understand the meaning and significance of this poem, we must examine what happened after Shakespeare sent his ‘poison pen’ Sonnet 153 (126) to Harry Southampton in 1605.

Harry’s rejection of his lover, Shakespeare, led to rage and despair. To madness even.

Shakespeare had lost his own son, Hamnet, in 1596 – now, nearly a decade later, he had lost his surrogate son, Harry.

[See Sonnet 132 (37) in which he describes the death of Hamnet as ‘fortune’s dearest spite’ and adopts Harry as a replacement son.]

On top of this, Amelia Lanyer – the ‘Dark Lady’ of the sonnets – kept re-printing her satire against Shakespeare and Harry  – Wiollobie his Avisa – which kept Shakespeare’s ‘friendship’ with Harry alive in the public mind.

She had satirised how W.S. ‘An Old Player’ had attempted to seduce her in the figure of her persona ‘Avisa’- but had been rebutted.

‘Old Player’ refers 

(1) To the fact that, even though he was only in his 30s when he had his ‘liaison’ with Amelia, his baldness had made him look like an old man, and

(2) He was vastly experienced in love-making – with a suggestion also he was bisexual.

Amelia/Avisa also claims a  preposterous inadequate, Henrico Willebego ( also referred to as H.W. = Henry Wriothesley) had been rebutted in the same way.

Also ‘Willebego’ = ‘Williebegging’ (1) Begging for Will (2) Begging for Shakespeare’s penis.

H.W. is also described as ‘Italo-Hispalensis’ – in reference to Harry and Shakespeare’s ‘secret’ journey to Spain and Italy in 1593.

See: Shakespeare in Italy.

All of Shakespeare’s dark passion erupted in his brutal masterpiece King Lear – which deals with rejection, female cruelty and the death of children.

Shakespeare even changed the happy ending of the old play to have Cordelia die and be carried dead in the arms of her father. Shakespeare was finally facing the death of his son.

And in Shakespeare’s original ending, the old King wills himself to death – in the way Shakespeare has wished for ‘restful death’ in Sonnet 127 (37)

See: Shakespeare’s Original Ending to ‘King Lear’.

But there were compensations. On 3rd March 1606, William Davenant, Shakespeare’s illegitimate son…..

……was baptised. And on 5th June 1607, his daughter. Susanna, married the doctor John Hall – a man Shakespeare liked and often travelled to London with.

On top of that, the couple presented him with a granddaughter, Elizabeth, who was baptised on 21st Feb. 1608, and who was to be a beneficiary from Shakespeare’s will.

Shakespeare moved out of his mad, despairing phase – but still wanted revenge on his past lovers. He had even waited fifteen years to get his revenge on Sir Thomas Lucy for whipping him for poaching his deer.

By 1609, Harry had become an establishment figure – and was heading a venture in the Americas. Now was the time to attack him and publish the Sonnets.

There would be a double effect. Harry would be embarrassed – and the greatness of Shakespeare’s private poetry revealed. 

But Shakespeare also feels the need to objectify his experience: to look at the fatal love triangle, in which he became entangled, from the outside. 

How could he have possibly fallen in love with Amelia, an ambitious, promiscuous courtesan who treated him with nothing but contempt and Harry, a borderline psychopath and ingrate?

Shakespeare starts his self-examination by re-writing Love’s Labour’s Won as All’s Well that Ends Well – turning Bertram into a selfish, obnoxious young man and himself into a woman –  Helena – who adores Bertram, in spite of the facts.

See: Why did Shakespeare write ‘All’s Well that Ends Well’?

Shakespeare does the same sort of thing with A Lover’s Complaint – a longish poem which concludes his Sonnet Sequence. In this, Shakespeare splits himself in two – as his older self, an experienced man who has seen life and his younger self, a young woman who has been jilted by her lover. It is her ‘Complaint’ that is the basis for the story.

A Lover’s Complaint

FROM off a hill whose concave womb reworded
A plaintful story from a sistering vale,
My spirits to attend this double voice accorded,
And down I laid to list the sad-tuned tale;
Ere long espied a fickle maid full pale,
Tearing of papers, breaking rings a-twain,
Storming her world with sorrow’s wind and rain.

‘Plaintful’ = ‘full of complints. ‘Fickle’ = ‘changeable’.

An older man (Shakespeare 1) hears the echo of the voice of a young distraught woman (Shakespeare 2) tearing up papers and destroying love-rings. Shakespeare must have been tempted to tear up his compromising love sonnets himself: they revealed him to be gay (at a time when ‘buggery’ still carried the death penalty) and adulterous

Upon her head a platted hive of straw,
Which fortified her visage from the sun,
Whereon the thought might think sometime it saw
The carcass of beauty spent and done:
Time had not scythed all that youth begun,
Nor youth all quit; but, spite of heaven’s fell rage,
Some beauty peep’d through lattice of sear’d age.

‘Hive’ = ‘hat’.

She wears a straw hat to shield her face from the sun – and on her face could be detected some vestiges of beauty saved from the ravages of time. Shakespeare, too, claims in Sonnet 132 (73) that he has pre-maturely aged.

Oft did she heave her napkin to her eyne,
Which on it had conceited characters,
Laundering the silken figures in the brine
That season’d woe had pelleted in tears,
And often reading what contents it bears;
As often shrieking undistinguish’d woe,
In clamours of all size, both high and low.

She had a handkerchief with embroidered words and figures with which she dabbed her eyes and which her tears drowned. She would look at the symbols on her handkerchief and cry out in misery.

This is a picture of Shakespeare’s grief at being rejected by Harry.

Sometimes her levell’d eyes their carriage ride,
As they did battery to the spheres [planets] intend;
Sometime diverted their poor balls are tied
To the orbed earth; sometimes they do extend
Their view right on; anon their gazes lend
To every place at once, and, nowhere fix’d,
The mind and sight distractedly commix’d.

‘Levell’d eyes’ = ‘aimed like a gun’.

Sometimes she looks up to the sky, sometimes down to the earth and sometimes all over the place – such was her disturbed state of mind.

This echoes the frantic state of mind in which Shakespeare wrote King Lear.

Her hair, nor loose nor tied in formal plat,
Proclaim’d in her a careless hand of pride
For some, untuck’d, descended her sheaved hat,
Hanging her pale and pined cheek beside;
Some in her threaden fillet [ribbon] still did bide,
And true to bondage would not break from thence,
Though slackly braided in loose negligence.

She wears her hair half up and half down and her tresses sometimes cascade down her cheek with an art that conceals art.

This ‘artfulness’ with her hair is very like Harry’s own obsession with his own hair. Shakespeare begins to fuse himself and his old lover. These references multiply as the poem progresses – and echo the theme that Harry and he are the same person – a theme which runs right through the Sonnets – and takes its origin from the Southampton family crest – ‘Ung par tout’ = ‘all for one’ or ‘all is one’.

[See Sonnets 9 (8), 47 (42), 70 (31), 84 (105), 108 (39) and 136 (36).]

A thousand favours from a maund she drew
Of amber, crystal, and of beaded jet,
Which one by one she in a river threw,
Upon whose weeping margent she was set;
Like usury, applying wet to wet,
Or monarch’s hands that let not bounty fall
Where want cries some, but where excess begs all.

‘Favours’ = ‘love gifts’. ‘Maund’ = ‘pallet’. ‘Margent’ = ‘bank’. ‘Usury’ = ‘money-lending’

The woman throws her love-gifts into the river which she weeps into – the way money-lenders lend money to those who are already rich and the way Kings give money to people already rich rather than to beggars who need it.

This is reminiscent of King Lear who says:

Take physic, pomp

Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel

That thou may’st shake the superflux to them

And show the heavens more just.

The young woman is throwing the valuable gifts she has received from her lover into the river. Shakespeare also received valuable gifts from Harry – jewels, horses and a gift of £1,000 – at least £500,000 in today’s money.

[Note: Shakespeare mentions his jewels in Sonnet 105 (48) and his horse in the Touring Sonnets – see: Part 33. Shakespeare on Tour Again.]

Of folded schedules had she many a one,
Which she perused, sigh’d, tore, and gave the flood;
Crack’d many a ring of posied gold and bone
Bidding them find their sepulchres in mud;
Found yet moe letters sadly penn’d in blood,
With sleided silk feat and affectedly
Enswathed,  and seal’d to curious secrecy.

‘Schedules’ = ‘papers’. ‘Moe’ = ‘more’. ‘Sleided’ = ‘cut’. ‘Enswathed’ = ‘cunningly warpped up’. ‘Sealed to curious secrecy’ = ‘to keep their contents from prying eyes’.

The woman tears up letters which she has received and throws them into the river. She destroys her rings – but then finds letters penned in blood which have been ingeniously wrapped in strips of silk so they cannot be opened and read by strangers.

This gives us insight into how Shakespeare sent his secret, erotic, sonnets to Harry – when he was away from him – in a way that kept them private. Shakespeare might also have written some of them in his own blood – especially Sonnet 126 (116) in which he tells Harry he will love him for ever:

If this be error and upon me prov’d

I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

Shakespeare must also have been tempted to destroy the incriminating sonnets he himself had written.

These often bathed she in her fluxive eyes,
And often kiss’d, and often ‘gan to tear:
Cried ‘O false blood, thou register of lies,
What unapproved witness dost thou bear!
Ink would have seem’d more black and damned here!’
This said, in top of rage the lines she rents,
Big discontent so breaking their contents.

‘Fluxive’ = ‘flowing’.

She often bathed the papers in her tears, sometimes kissing them and sometimes tearing them to pieces. She accused them of being full of lies, and the blood, with which they are written, bearing false witness. Black ink, suggesting damnation, would have been more appropriate.

Shakespeare here is admitting his ambivalence in his feelings to Harry – hatred mixed with love.

A reverend man that grazed his cattle nigh–
Sometime a blusterer, that the ruffle knew
Of court, of city, and had let go by
The swiftest hours, observed as they flew
Towards this afflicted fancy fastly drew,
And, privileged by age, desires to know
In brief the grounds and motives of her woe.

‘Blusterer’ = ‘boaster’. Thomas Nashe – in his satires against Shakespeare – often portrays him as arrogant and over-wheening – especially when he was touring with Lord Strange’s company.

‘Ruffle’ = ”quarelling’. ‘Fastly’ = ‘quickly’.

The older figure of the listener – who has experienced the hustle and bustle of life in the court and the city and observed and experienced ‘life in the fast lane’ – quickly approaches the woman to hear her story.

Old Shakespeare lends a sympathetic ear to Young Shakespeare.

So slides he down upon his grained bat,
And comely-distant sits he by her side;
When he again desires her, being sat,
Her grievance with his hearing to divide:
If that from him there may be aught applied
Which may her suffering ecstasy assuage,
‘Tis promised in the charity of age.

‘Ecstasy’ = ‘madness’.

He sits at an appropriate distance from the young woman and invites her to share her story with him in the hopes he can relieve her madness – something the older people can do to younger people.

Shakespeare here is trying to acknowledge and understand his own madness when Harry rejected him.

‘Father,’ she says, ‘though in me you behold
The injury of many a blasting hour,
Let it not tell your judgment I am old;
Not age, but sorrow, over me hath power:
I might as yet have been a spreading flower,
Fresh to myself, If I had self-applied
Love to myself and to no love beside.

The young woman tells the old man that she may look old but that she is in fact young. It is sorrow that has pre-maturely aged her – a sorrow she could have avoided if she had kept her love for herself and not given it to somebody else.

This is reminiscent of Sonnet 78 (94):

The summer’s flower is to the summer sweet

Though to itself it only live and die

But if that flower with base infection meet

The basest weed outbraves his dignity.’

Shakespeare is blaming his pre-mature aging on the stress of his affair with Harry. He refers to his hair falling out in Sonnet 132 (73), likening himself to a tree which has lost its leaves…

That time of year thou mayst in me behold

When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang

Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,

Bare ruin’d choirs where late the sweet birds sang.

‘A Lover’s Complaint (II) will follow shortly.


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Please Note: Part 33 – which deals with William Shakespeare’s Sonnets written on the 1595 tour of The Chamberlain’s Men – is being re-issued with the addition of 7 Sonnets.

The reason for this revision will be given in detail in a subsequent post.

It’s best to read ‘The Return of the Dark Lady’ Part 32 first.

Harry Southampton came of age on 6th October 1594 – and took charge of his own finances.

He paid his guardian Lord Burghley a £5,000 fine because he refused to marry Burghley’s grand-daughter, Elizabeth de Vere….

 And, according to William Davenant, Shakespeare’s natural son…….

……gave Shakespeare a gift of £1,000.

Harry – impressed with the huge popular success of his mother’s commission, A Midsummer Night’s Dream….

…..and the succes d’estime of The Rape of Lucrece which Shakespeare dedicated to him…..

Titian’s ‘Rape of Lucrece’ which The Shakespeare Code believes inspired Shakespeare’s poem. The use of colours is identical. See ‘Shakespeare in Italy’.

…….drops George Chapman as his lover and protegee…..

….and re-instates Shakespeare.

Shakespeare uses part of this money  to buy a share in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men – and on 15th March, 1595, goes with Burbage and Kempe go to Whitehall to be paid for their Christmas performances in 1594….

….one of which was The Dream…..

Mickey Rooney as Puck.

There were riots in London in June, 1595. Martial law was imposed and the theatres were shut. Shakespeare was forced to tour with his new company to Ipswich and Cambridge…..

Harry gave Shakespeare a miniature of himself…..


……as a keepsake.

And Shakespeare resumed his affair with Harry.  But after Harry’s earlier infidelity – and flirtation with Chapman, the relationship was never to be as ecstatic as it was before.

ON TOUR. 1595.

100. (43)

When most I wink then do mine eyes best see,

For all the day they view things unrespected;

But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,

And darkly bright, are bright in dark directed.

When I have my eyes shut tight, my eyes see best. All day long, on tour, they have to look at things they don’t value: but when I’m asleep and dreaming, they look at you, Harry. My eyes are both dark and bright – and they become bright in the darkness of night when they are led to the image of you.

We can see from the Chandos Portrait of Shakespeare, which Davenant possessed, that Shakespeare’s eyes were indeed ‘darkly bright’ – dark and bright.

Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright,

How would thy shadow’s form form happy show,

To the clear day with thy much clearer light,

When to un-seeing eyes thy shade shines so?

You, Harry, whose image brightens the shadows of night – how would you yourself – the source of your image (‘shadow’) – create a joyous spectacle in bright daylight with your own light, clearer than day itself, when your image manages to dazzle my eyes that are blind in the dark.

How would (I say) mine eyes be blessed made

By looking on thee in the living day,

When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade

Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay?

My eyes would be truly blessed by looking at you in broad daylight when in the dead of night your beautiful but not fully-formed image rests on my unseeing eyes when I am deeply asleep.

All days are nights to see till I see thee,

And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.

Day is as dark as night to me till I see you at night – and then night becomes like day.


If the dull substance of my flesh were thought,

Injurious distance should not stop my way,

For then despite of space I would be brought

From limits far remote, where thou dost stay.

If my solid flesh were thought instead, then the harmful distance between us would not stop me from coming to you: for it would not matter how far away I was, I could come to wherever you are.

No matter then although my foot did stand

Upon the farthest earth remov’d from thee,

For nimble thought can jump both sea and land,

As soon as think the place where he would be.

Even if I were in the remotest part of the earth it wouldn’t matter because quick thought can leap over sea and land and be with you as soon as I think of you.

But ah, thought kills me that I am not thought

To leap large lengths of miles when thou art gone,

But that so much of earth and water wrought,

I must attend time’s leisure with my moan.

But the thought that I am not composed of thought – which would allow me to leap over all the miles to you when you are absent –  is a thought that kills me. I am composed of the heavy elements of earth and water (as opposed to fire and air) so I am bound to the confines of time in my misery.

Receiving naught by elements so slow

But heavy tears, badges of either’s woe.

Earth and water are elements that are so weighty and slow-moving that they can only produce  tears – tokens of our joint misery at being parted from each other.

102. (45)

The other two, slight air and purging fire,

Are both with thee, wherever I abide;

The first my thought, the other my desire,

These present absent with swift motion slide.

The remaining two elements of which I am composed – weightless air and purifying fire – are always with you, wherever I am. Air is my thought about you and my fire is my sexual passion for you – they move quickly – ‘present’ with you, but ‘absent’ from me.

For when these quicker Elements are gone

In tender Embassy of love to thee,

My life being made of four, with two alone,

Sinks down to death, oppresst with melancholy,

So when the lively elements of air and fire are gone to tender my love in homage to you, I am left with heavy earth and water which make me earthbound and sad.

Until life’s composition be recurred,

By those swift messengers return’d from thee,

Who even but now come back again assured

Of thy fair health, recounting it to me.

Until I am restored to the full four elements, when fire and air are sent swiftly back to me, assuring me that all is well with you.

This told, I joy; but then no longer glad,

I send them back again and straight grow sad.

Knowing you are in good health, I am full of happiness. But I am obliged to return them to you, and immediately feel sad.

103. (46)

Mine eye and heart are at a mortal war,

How to divide the conquest of thy sight;

Mine eye, my heart thy picture’s sight would bar,

My heart, mine eye the freedom of that right.

My eye and my heart are engaged in a deadly war about how to divide the spoils of the miniature of you which you gave me.

My eye wants to stop your heart from looking at you – and my heart your eye.

My heart doth plead that thou in him dost lie,

(A closet never pierst with crystal eyes)

But the defendant doth that plea deny,

And says in him thy fair appearance lies.

My heart pleads in evidence that you, Harry, reside in my heart, a private room never broken open by the eye with its cutting crystal edge: but the defendant, my eye, refutes that argument and says that you, Harry, reside more in your reflection in his eye.

To ‘cide this title is impanelled,

A quest of thoughts, all tenants to the heart,

And by their verdict is determined

The clear eye’s moiety, and the dear heart’s part.

To judge this case a jury of thoughts are summoned, all dependent on the heart – and their judgement will determine the case for the eye – full of clarity – and the case for the heart – full of devotion.

As thus, mine eye’s due is thy outward part,

And my heart’s right, thy inward love of heart.

My eyes case rets on your appearance: my heart’s case on your inner love.

104. (47)

Betwixt mine eye and heart a league is took,

And each doth good turns now unto the other;

When that mine eye is famisht for a look,

Or heart in love with sighs himself doth smother,

My eye and heart have come to an agreement – and now they are working as a team. When my eye is starved of your sight or my heart is suffocated with sighing for you….

With my love’s picture then my eye doth feast,

And to the painted banquet bids my heart;

An other time mine eye is my heart’s guest,

And in his thoughts of love doth share a part.

Then my eye feasts on the sight of your miniature and invites my heart to the banquet. At other times, my eye is the guest of my heart and shares my hearts thoughts of love for you.

So either by thy picture or my love,

Thy self away, art present still with me,

For thou not farther than my thoughts canst move,

And I am still with them, and they with thee.

So either by means of my miniature of you – or my love for you – you are with me even if you are absent from me: because you cannot move further away from me than my thoughts of you: I am with them and they are with you.

Or if they sleep, thy picture in my sight

Awakes my heart, to heart’s and eye’s delight.

And if I do stop thinking about you, your miniature acts as prompt to arouse my thoughts of you and my love for you.

105. (48)

How careful was I when I took my way,

Each trifle under truest bars to thrust,

That to my use it might un-used stay

From hands of falsehood, in sure wards of trust;

When I left to go on tour I made certain that even my least valuable possessions were safely locked away – so they might be kept for my own personal uses and not be vulnerable to people I do not trust – locked up with keys that I DO trust.

But thou, to whom my jewels trifles are,

Most worthy comfort, now my greatest grief,

Thou best of dearest, and mine only care,

Art left the prey of every vulgar thief.

But you Harry, compared to whom even my jewels are of no consequence, who in the past has been my moral comfort – but now, because of your infidelity, has become my greatest source of anxiety, who are the most valued of all those I hold dear, and the only person (1) about whom I care and (2) causes me worry – because of their propensity to be unfaithful – I have left vulnerable to be snapped up by every ‘vulgar thief’ = (1) every common thief and (2) every lower class thief – e.g. male prostitutes.

Thee have I not lockt up in any chest,

Save where thou art not, though I feel thou art,

Within the gentle closure of my breast

From whence at pleasure thou mayst come and part;

I haven’t locked you up in any chest Harry – except the chest of my bosom – where, though I know you are not literally there, it seems to me that you are metaphorically there, where you can come and go as you please.

And even thence thou wilt be stol’n I fear,

For truth proves thievish for a prize so dear.

But even in my chest you will not be safe from theft.  For you are so valuable that Truth itself would become a thief in order to obtain you.

Note: Clearly at this stage of his career, Shakespeare was rich enough to possess jewels – either a gift from Harry or bought with the £1,000 that Harry had given him.

106. (50)

How heavy do I journey on the way,

When what I seek (my weary travel’s end)

Doth teach that ease and that repose to say:

‘Thus far the miles are measur’d from thy friend.’

How slowly and sadly I ride when, the very thing I seek – rest and repose after a hard day’s travelling – reminds me how far I have travelled from my friend.

The beast that bears me, tired with my woe,

Plods dully on, to bear that weight in me,

As if by some instinct the wretch did know

His rider lov’d not speed being made from thee:

The horse, who seems to empathise with my sorrow is reduced to a dull, plodding pace, because of the weight of my sadness, as though the horse instinctively knows that I don’t like speed – at least when I’m speeding away from you.

Shakespeare is now rich enough to ride on a horse when he tours.

The bloody spur cannot provoke him on,

That some-times anger thrusts into his hide,

Which heavily he answers with a groan,

More sharp to me than spurring to his side,

Sometimes I get angry with the slowness of the horse and thrust my spurs so sharply into him that he bleeds. This sometimes causes him to give a groan – which I feel more keenly than he does my spur.

For that same groan doth put this in my mind:

My grief lies onward and my joy behind.

The reason for this is the groan of the horse echoes my own realisation that the only thing in front of me is sadness and all my joy lies (1) in the place I have left you and (2) when I engage in anal sex with you.

‘Joy’ also introduces a coded reference to Charles Blount……

…..who, on the sudden death of his brother, had become 8th Baron Mountjoy on 27th June, 1594. He was also High Steward of Portsmouth – just a few miles away from Harry Southampton’s favourite country residence, Place House in Titchfield.

This code is picked up in the next two sonnets 107 and 108 (old order numbers are 51 and 52). Sonnet 106 was originally Sonnet 50 – so Shakespeare intended them in sequence.

107. (51)

Thus can my love excuse the slow offence

Of my dull bearer, when from thee I speed,

From where thou art, why should I haste me thence,

Till I return of posting is no need.

This way I can excuse the slowness of my horse: why should I travel quickly when my journey takes me away from you? There is no need of speed till I make my return journey to you.

O what excuse will my poor beast then find,

When swift extremity can seem but slow?

Then should I spur, though mounted on the wind,

In winged speed no motion shall I know;

What excuse will my horse dream up in those circumstances, when even the fastest gallop will seem slow? In returning to you I would use my spur even if I was riding on the wind: then I will be moving at such speed it will seem as if I am not moving at all.

Note: ‘Mounted’ introduces the next coded reference to Charles Blount, 8th Baron Mountjoy.

Then can no horse with my desire keep pace;

Therefore desire (of perfect’st love being made)

Shall neigh no dull flesh in his fiery race,

But love, for love, thus shall excuse my jade:

In these circumstances, no horse alive will travel as fast as I’d want him to travel – so my desire for you Harry, made up of my complete love for you, will not tolerate the physical limitations of a horse in his gallop towards you. But my love for you will make me pardon my horse.

Since from thee going, he went wilfull slow,

Towards thee I’ll run, and give him leave to go.

Since my horse purposely went slowly when he carried me away from you, I myself will run towards you – and give my horse his freedom to run at whatever rate pleases him.

108. (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.

So I am similar to a man of wealth whose hallowed key can unlock the sweetness of his treasures to him.  He doesn’t look at his treasures every hour of the day because it would spoil the treat of looking at them every so often.

Note: Shakespeare here completes his coded reference to Charles Blount, 8th Lord Mountjoy. He uses the word ‘rich‘ – a reference to Penelope Rich…..

…..who played the Princess of France in Love’s Labour’s Lost, where Shakespeare plays on the word ‘rich’ six times in the final scene in the play….

Beginning with the Princess of France’s first line:

‘Dear friends, we shall be rich ere we depart…’

Penelope Rich also played Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Shakespeare also uses the word ‘blunting’ to refer to Charles Blount: ‘Blount’ was – and is – pronounced ‘Blunt’.

Blount played Longaville in Love’s Labour’s Lost. Maria in the play describes him as having…

‘A sharp wit matched with too blunt a will’.

Therefore are feasts so solemn and so rare,

Since seldom coming in that long year set;

Like stones of worth they thinly placed are,

Or captain Jewels in the carcanet.

It is for this reason that religious feasts in the church are so significant and valued as they come so rarely within the church year. Like valuable jewels they are spread out over caskets – leading and setting off the less valuable stones.

So is the time that keeps you as my chest,

Or as the ward-robe which the robe doth hide,

To make some special instant special blest,

By new unfolding his imprison’d pride.

Similar to this is the time when I am separated from you by touring, when you become like a chest or a wardrobe that hides clothes from me – but which can sometimes open and give me delight.

Blessed are you whose worthiness gives scope,

Being had to triumph, being lackt to hope.

You are special and blessed by God: I triumph when I am with you – and am full of hope tom see you again when I’m not.

109. (39)

Oh how thy worth with manners may I sing,

When thou art all the better part of me?

What can mine own praise to mine own self bring,

And what is’t but mine own when I praise thee?

How can I write about your worthiness when you are all that is best in me myself? How can I praise myself – for that is what I do when I praise you.

With ‘manners’ we have another coded reference to the Southampton circle of friends: Roger Manners, the 5th Earl of Rutland….

…who was a close younger friend of Harry.

He played Dumaine in Love’s Labour’s Lost at the age of sixteen – and there are constant references to his youth and beardless state.

Dumaine himself plays upon the Rutland family name when he talks about ‘the grosser manner of the world’s delight’ – and in a three speech exchange between Costard and Berowne, the word ‘manner’ is used seven times.

Even for this, let us divided live,

And our dear love lose name of single one,

That by this separation I may give

That due to thee which thou deserv’st alone:

For this reason – that we are the same – let us live for a time apart: that way I can praise you as something separate from me.

‘Name of single one’ recalls the Southampton family motto: ‘Ung par tout’ = ‘All for one’ or ‘all is one’.

Oh absence, what a torment wouldst thou prove,

Were it not thy sour leisure gave sweet leave

To entertain the time with thoughts of love,

Which time and thoughts so sweetly dost deceive.

Being away from you, Harry, would be torture if it didn’t also give me the free time – however distasteful I find it – to think about my love for you which sweetens both time itself and my mental pre-occupations.

And that thou teachest how to make one twain

By praising him here who doth hence remain.

Harry’s absence teaches Shakespeare how to make one thing into two by praising Harry and making him present in verse – whereas he is in fact somewhere else.

110. (75)

So are you to my thoughts as food to life,

Or as sweet season’d showers are to the ground:

And for the peace of you I hold such strife

As ‘twixt a miser and his wealth is found.

You are as essential to my thoughts as food is to living or showers of rain are to the earth. And for the ‘peace of you’ = (1) The deep tranquility I find in your presence and (2) A bit of you – with implications of Harry’s penis.

Now proud as an enjoyer, and anon

Doubting the filching age will steal his treasure;

Now counting best to be with you alone,

Then better’d that the world may see my pleasure;

Pleased to enjoy your company, but worried that you will be stolen from me by these thieving times, sometimes thinking that it’s best to be alone with you and at other times wanting to show you off to the world.

Some-time all full with feasting on your sight,

And by and by clean starved for a look,

Possessing or pursuing no delight

Save what is had, or must from you be took.

Sometimes I make such a feast of you that I am completely satiated: at other times I scarcely get a look from you. I have no joy – obtained or sought after – but I only what I possess or take from you.

Thus do I pine and surfeit day by day,

Or gluttoning on all, or all away.

In this way I either starve with hunger or make a pig of myself: I either gobble you all up – or you are completely absent from me.

111. (61)

Is it thy will thy Image should keep open

My heavy eyelids to the weary night?

Dost thou desire my slumbers should be broken,

While shadows like to thee do mock my sight?

Is it your ‘will’ = (1) wish or (2) penis or (3) the nature of your William Shakespeare, that keeps me awake when I am exhausted? Is it your wish to wake me up when images of you appear before my eyes?

Is it thy spirit that thou send’st from thee

So far from home into my deeds to pry,

To find out shames and idle hours in me,

The scope and tenure of thy Jealousy?

Do you send your spirit so far away from our home to spy on me – to find out about any shameful behaviour or laziness on my part – because you are jealous of me?

O no, thy love though much, is not so great;

It is my love that keeps mine eye awake,

Mine own true love that doth my rest defeat,

To play the watch-man ever for thy sake.

No: you love me a lot, but not enough to make you jealous. It is my love for you that keeps me awake – my own, faithful love of you that stops me getting to sleep. I cast myself in the role of night-watchman.

For thee watch I, whilst thou dost wake elsewhere,

From me far off, with others all too near.

I keep watch over you – awake somewhere else in the night – far off from me but close up to someone else.

To read ‘Fear of Rejection’, Part 34, click: HERE

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An important Statement from Trixie the Cat!

Yes, Brothers and Sisters of The Shakespeare Code!

Our Posts have been read…….

In 200 Countries of the World!!!

And The Code is fast approaching it’s 300,000th View!

All those Countries are listed below….

Yours will be among them!

See how many like-minded souls live where you live…..

And honour William Shakespeare the way you do……


A Copy of the Soane Museum Bust of Shakespeare – in the West London Gardens of The Shakespeare Code.

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God Bless America!

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It’s best to read ‘The Washed Out Coronation’  Part 40 first.

Harry did NOT become the favourite of King James. He had aged in the Tower – and the King preferred younger men.

Even at the Coronation itself, the Venetian Ambassador reported how the young Earl of Pembroke’s had kissed the King full on his lips. The Ambassador had made a mistake, though, it was Pembroke’s nineteen year old brother, Philip who had done this – but the Earl was vying with him for James’s favour as well.

Harry, pushed from the centre of power – and not trusted by the Secretary of State Robert Cecil…..


 …….started to become bitterly homophobic.

There is a two year Sonnet silence from Shakespeare…….

……then matters come to a head on St. David’s Day, 4th March, 1605…….

Elizabeth Vernon finally produces a son for Harry who was christened in the Chapel at Greenwich on 24th March. King James was in attendance as the boy’s Godfather.

Shakespeare, it seems, was not.

As we know from his Sonnets (and some of his plays) Shakespeare was terrified of rejection by Harry.

Now it happened. Harry wanted his son to be a brave, masculine soldier….

So his father’s gay past had to be denied….

And Shakespeare, the player, had to go.

Shakespeare responded by writing Harry the most poisonous poem of all time…..

153. (126) . Shortly after March 1605…

O thou my lovely Boy who in thy power

Dost hold time’s fickle glass, his sickle’s hour:

Who hast by waning grown, and therein show’st

Thy lover’s withering, as thy sweet self grow’st;

My ‘lovely boy’ who seems to have complete control of Father Time’s capricious hour-glass and his ‘sickle’s hour’ – the hour of death when his scythe cut’s life away – who has performed the miracle of growing bigger by diminishing (‘waning’ like the Moon).

i.e., he has produced a son, the way Shakespeare urged him to do in Sonnet 11. (12) where he uses the same ‘waning’ imagery.

‘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’

Who by doing this has caused his lover (i.e., me) to wilt while his baby boy grows…..

‘Self’ can mean child – as it does in Sonnet 10. (11)

‘Make thee another self for love of me

That beauty may still live in thine and thee’.

And Shakespeare also uses the phrase ‘sweet self’ to mean Harry’s baby in Sonnet 4. (5):

‘For having traffic with thyself alone’ (i.e. by masturbating and not having sexual intercourse)

‘Thou of thyself they sweet self dost deceive’. (i.e. you deprive yourself the joy of having a sweet baby boy).

The printing of Sonnet 153. (126) Contains an error in the second line:

Cambridge Editors have amended this line to:

‘Dost hold time’s fickle glass, his sickle hour’.

While an Oxford Editor amends it to:

‘Dost hold time’s fickle glass, his fickle hour’.

It is much more likely that the comma after ‘sickle’ – which makes no sense – was actually intended to be an apostrophe followed by ‘s’ – hence The Shakespeare Code’s emendation to ‘sickle’s hour’ – the hour of the sickle, the hour of death.

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 minuit kill.

If Dame Nature – who is the supreme controlling mistress of decay – keeps you forcibly young as you age – by preserving your ‘loveliness’ and giving you a son – her motive for doing this is to humiliate Father Time and kill the grim midnight hour.

This is reminiscent of Venus holding back Adonis from the boar-hunt in Venus and Adonis……

Yet fear her, O thou minion of her pleasure;

She may detain, but not still keep her treasure!

Her Audit (though delayed) answer’d must be,

And her Quietus is to render thee.

But be frightened of your mistress – you plaything of her lust – just as Essex had been Queen Elizabeth’s! She can hold on to her goods – but can’t keep them. Her Final Demands from Father Time must be honoured – and her settlement of the bill is to ‘render’ you = (1) Give you back (2) Break you down in the ground, like rotten meat.

This Sonnet is NOT a Sonnet. It is only ten lines long – and where there should be a clinching couplet Shakespeare has put two pairs of brackets.

See above.

He is destroying his relationship with Harry and destroying the form of the Sonnet at the same time.

The brackets look like the yawning grave waiting for Harry – beautiful as he might look now.

So, having promised Harry eternal life through his poetry, Shakespeare now promises him death and decay.

He wants his lover dead.

When Shakespeare described Harry two years earlier as a ‘sweet boy’ in Sonnet 149. (108) he truly meant it….

Now ‘lovely boy’ is intended by Shakespeare to be sarcastic and contemptuous…..

His rage – and despair – was to continue for the next four years.

To read ‘The Lover’s Complaint (I), Part 42, click: HERE
















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It’s best to read ‘The Gay Wooing Portrait’ Part 39 first.


James was crowned the King of England (as well as Scotland) on 25th July 1603. A plague was raging, the rain gushed down, high winds blew down the few ornamentations and the King was reluctant to appear in public.

As a member of the King’s Men, Shakespeare was a Groom of the Chamber. This meant he wore red livery and, on one occasion at least, served with his company at the King’s Table.

Shakespeare held the canopy over the King in his procession to the Abbey – and with his theatre company helped construct pasteboard obelisks (which were known as ‘pyramids’) to line the route.

A trio of Sonnets, addressed to Time.

150. (123)

No! Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change:

Thy pyramids built up with newer might

To me are nothing novel, nothing strange,

They are but dressings of a former sight;

Shakespeare says that with a new King everything has changed – but he won’t change in his love for Harry. The pasteboard obelisks, dedicated to Time, are built up with a different sort of ingenuity from the original ones of stone – but they are nothing strange to him. He has seen obelisks before in his journey to Rome with Harry in 1593 – especially the one newly erected in front of St. Peter’s – the last sight St. Peter was said to have seen before he was crucified.

Our dates are brief and therefore we admire

What thou dost foist upon us that is old,

And rather make them born to our desire,

Than think that we before have heard them told.

Because we are only alive for a short time, we admire things that Time foists on us – supposedly from the past – and think we have invented them ourselves, rather than copied them from experience.

Thy registers and thee I both defy,

Not wond’ring at the present, nor the past,

For thy records, and what we see doth lie,

Made more or less by thy continual haste:

Time, I defy you and all of your manifestations and will not be taken in either by your present or your past – for all historical records and what we see around us are lies – things are increased or decrease by you at random because you are always in a rush.

This I do vow and this shall ever be:

I will be true despite thy scythe and thee.

I make this eternal vow. I will be faithful to Harry, despite Father Time’s scythe – which cuts all things down – and his grim nature. nature.

151. (125)

The Venetian Ambassador described how the King arrived under a canopy supported by four rods with silver bells hanging from them, borne by men in the King’s red livery.

Were’t aught to me I bore the canopy,

With my extern the outward honouring,

Or laid great bases for eternity,

Which proves more short than waste or ruining?

Do I care that I had the honour of holding the canopy over King James – the external part of me honouring the outward appearance of things? Or set up what were meant to be obelisks representing eternity but which blew away in the wind?

Have I not seen dwellers on form and favour

Lose all, and more, by paying too much rent

For compound sweet, forgoing simple savour,

Pitiful thrivers in their gazing spent.

Have I not seen your friend, the Earl of Essex, who lived on outward appearances – seeming to be in love with Queen Elizabeth – lose everything – including his head – by paying too much ‘rent’ to the Queen.

‘Rent’ is a reference (1) To the farm on sweet wines which the Queen gave to Essex for his livelihood, and then took away after his return from the Irish Campaign (2) The semen he expended on being the Queen’s lover.

People like Essex were ‘successful’ – but all the same to be pitied – destroyed by their ‘gazing’.

‘Gazing’ refers to the moment when Essex burst into the Queen’s bedroom on his return from Ireland before she had put on her wig and make-up.

Still from Benjamin Britten’s opera ‘Gloriana’.


No, let me be obsequious in thy heart,

And take thou my oblation, poor but free,

Which is not mixt with seconds, knows no art,

But mutual render, only me for thee.

No, I have no wish to be a favourite of King James as Essex was to Elizabeth. Let me honour you in my heart and take my offering of verse – of poor quality but free from any political flattery – which is not mixed up with inferior things and is not artful and insincere – but we give love to each other mutually – I give you myself and you give me yourself.

‘Obsequious’ is reminiscent of ‘obsequy’ – a prayer used in the funeral service. This is an echo of Shakespeare’s love poem to Harry, The Phoenix and the Turtle – ‘Keep the obsequy so strict.’ – and the mention of ‘obsequious tears which Shakespeare sheds for dead gay lovers in Sonnet  70. (31)

Favourites of Kings and Queens are ‘obsequious’ in another way. They creep around in order to stay in favour.

‘Oblation’ = ‘offering or gift’ and is used in the Book of Common Prayer referring to Christ:

who made there,
by his one oblation
of himself once offered,
a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice,
oblation and satisfaction
for the sins of the whole world

Shakespeare often employs religious imagery in describing his love for Harry.

‘Mutual’ is also reminiscent of The Phoenix and the Turtle: ‘Phoenix [Harry] and the Turtle [Dove = Shakespeare] fled/In a mutual flame from thence.’

Hence, thou suborn’d Informer, a true soul

When most impeacht, stands least in thy control.

Go away Time – you false witness – who the more you try to control a loyal lover by aging him, the more free he will be.

153. (124)

If my dear love were but the child of state

It might for fortune’s bastard be unfather’d,

As subject to time’s love, or to time’s hate,

Weeds among weeds, or flowers with flowers gather’d.

If my love for you, Harry, was the product of circumstance it might be disavowed if those circumstances changed – vulnerable to the caprices of Time – regarded as worthless or lovely – but subject, in either case, to the destruction of death.

No, it was builded far from accident;

It suffers not in smiling pomp, nor falls

Under the blow of thralled discontent,

Whereto th’ inviting time our fashion calls:

My love for you was created far away from circumstance: it cannot be hurt by the tyrant with false smiles or damaged by imprisonment as your two years in the Tower demonstrates – when there is every temptation to change with the times and the fashions.

It fears not policy that Heretic,

Which works on leases of short number’d hours,

But all alone stands hugely politic,

That it nor grows with heat, nor drowns with show’rs.

My love for you, Harry, isn’t afraid of short-lived political expediency but stands huge and wise, just like the holy obelisk in Rome: it is an eternal thing which doesn’t increase with flattery (‘heat’) or diminish with discouragement (‘showers’)

To this I witness call the fools of time,

Which die for goodness, who have lived for crime.

To bear witness, Harry, I call on the ‘fools of time’ whose goodness is the reason for their death and whose one crime is to be alive.’

The ‘fools of time’ are the Roman Catholic martyrs, slaughtered by Queen Elizabeth – especially Ernest Gennings – hanged drawn and quartered on 10th December, 1591,outside the London home of the Southampton family in Holborn.

He was made to wear a jester’s outfit as he was paraded through the streets.

To read ‘Shakespeare’s Poison Pen Letter’, Part 41, click here: HERE



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It’s best to read ‘Love and Rellion’ Part 38 first.

Queen Elizabeth died on 24th March, 1603.

Robert Carey, the late Lord Hunsdon’s youngest son, had informed King James VI of Scotland that Elizabeth’s death was imminent – and told him not to leave Edinburgh. When Elizabeth died, Lady Scrope, Carey’s sister,dropped a sapphire ring down to him from Elizabeth’s window – and he galloped through the night with the news – falling off his horse and gashing his head in the process.

When James VI of Scotland also became James I of England, everything turned round.

Because both the Earl of Essex and Harry had rebelled against Elizabeth to ensure that James succeeded to the throne, they now were treated as heroes – even though Essex was dead.

Shakespeare, on hearing the news of the Queen’s death, galloped down from Scotland and visited Harry in the Tower where he was still imprisoned for treason and waiting for the King’s Pardon.

Harry, along with many others, including Shakespeare, thought that he would become the King’s English lover – and so commissioned a ‘wooing portrait’ to send to the new King.

This portrait was a rushed job – between the 24th March and the beginning of April – and did its best to flatter the sitter.

His head is uncovered because (1) He is in the ‘presence’ of James (2) His hair is down on his shoulders as this was an act of bridal submission, just as in his wife’s bridal painting.

Harry is extending his left hand to the King – again in an act of bridal submission. It is in a sling, to show that he has not yet fully recovered from his illnesses in the Tower – and there are red beads on his wrist, a ‘cure’ at the time for rheumatism.

Harry had suffered from ‘the quatern ague’ in the Tower and ‘swelling in his legs and other parts’. The Lieutenant of the Tower had moved Harry to more salubrious rooms in the Tower – but had thought that Harry would die.

Harry’s coat of arms on his Bible shows that the painting was executed after his title was restored to him by Parliament on 26th March – and the date of the painting is April 1603. The exact date is not painted in, but was intended to be the date of his release from the Tower by James. The painting also has the exact date of his incarceration – 8th February, 1600.

For more details about the painting, please see: The Earl of Southampton and Trixie the Cat.

Shakespeare wrote two Sonnets to accompany the portrait – and they are addressed directly to his friend, King James. They were written in great speed at the end of March/beginning of April, 1603.

146. (67)

Ah wherefore with infection should he live

And with his presence grace impiety,

That sin by him advantage should achieve

And lace itself with his society?

Why should Harry still be locked up in the Tower of London, living with ‘infection’ = (1) The literal infection of the Tower with its vermin. (That’s one of the reasons why Harry has a cat!) (2) The moral infection of being imprisoned with criminals. (3) The infection of his own illness – his arm is still in a sling.

And why should he give the grace of his being to sinful fellow convicts and allow them to hobnob with him as equals?

The ‘lace’ image ties in with the bows, representing the flag of Scotland, that are laced into Harry’s gloves…

Why should false painting imitate his cheek

And steal dead seeming of his living hew?

Why should poor beauty indirectly seek

Roses of shadow, since his Rose is true?

Why should this artificial representation of Harry try to imitate the rosiness of his cheek and deaden the vibrant life of his ‘hew’. [‘Hew’ = (1) ‘Hue’ (2) Acrostic for ‘Henry Wriothesley Earl’. This ‘hew’ coded reference is also employed in Sonnets 60. (104) 62. (98) and 91. (82). In Sonnet 19. (20) it is written Hews and is code for ‘Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton’.

Why should beauty seek out artificial roses in a painting while Harry’s ‘Rose’ is a genuine living one.

‘Rose’ = (1) The rose colour in Harry’s cheek….

…..(2) A reference to the way the Wriothesleys spelt and pronounced their name – ‘Ryosely’.

Shakespeare calls Harry ‘my Rose’ in Sonnet 121. (109)

Why should he live, now nature bankrupt is,

Beggar’d of blood to blush through lively veins?

For she hath no exchequer now but his,

And priv’d of many, lives upon his gains.

Shakespeare claims that Nature’s blood has been stolen away from her and no longer pumps through the veins of the living….

This is a reference to the beheading of the Earl of Essex two years earlier…

……Harry is now the only source of blood and bankrupt Dame Nature has to live on his supplies since Queen Elizabeth had deprived her of so many lives by executing her subjects……

[‘priv’d’ is a change from the Quarto’s ‘proud’ – a change suggested by John Kerrigan]

In the painting, Harry is wearing black to suggest mourning for Essex and the dark ring he is wearing could be a memorial ring for Essex.  Also a pane in the window of Harry’s room is smashed, suggesting Essex’s life cut short.

O him she stores, to show what wealth she had

In days long since, before these last so bad.

Nature keeps Harry in store to show the world how many handsome young aristocrats she had before Elizabeth killed them.

In Shakespeare’s mind, the last days of the Old Queen’s reign were bad indeed.

A dislike – hatred even – of Elizabeth runs through the Sonnets.

147. (68)

This is a companion piece to the sonnet above. Shakespeare evokes a simpler former age before the artifices of make-up and wigs (made up of the hair of the dead) became the rage.

Thus is his cheek the map of days out-worn

When beauty liv’d and died as flowers do now;

Before these bastard signs of fair were born,

Or durst inhabit on a living brow;

Harry reminds us of how natural beauty used to be – like a flower that lived and died. Before wigs – the ‘bastard signs of fair’ – came into existence – and put dead hair on living heads. Harry’s flowing locks in the paining are clearly his own.

The ‘bastard’ signs = (1) Wigs have no true lineage – they are like children born out of wedlock (2) Wigs were favoured by Queen Elizabeth – and Catholics regarded her as a ‘bastard’ because they did not recognise Henry VIII’s divorce of Katherine of Aragon…..

Catherine of Aragon

…… nor his marriage to Anne Boleyn.

A number of hard-line Catholics thought that Anne was in fact the King’s illegitimate daughter.

Before the golden tresses of the dead,

The right of sepulchres, were shorn away,

To live a second life on second head

Ere beauty’s dead fleece made another gay;

Harry’s natural beauty reminds Shakespeare of the time before golden locks, instead of being left, rightly, on a corpse, were cut away to be made into wigs – making people happy although they were wearing a dead person’s hair.

This was very much the teaching of Shakespeare’s ‘mentor’ – Robert Crowley – the balladeer and Rector of St. Giles, Cripplegate.

In him those holy antique hours are seen,

Without all ornament, itself and true,

Making no summer of an other’s greene,

Robbing no old to dress his beauty new;

In Harry Shakespeare is reminded of what the past used to be like, without any artifice – ‘holy’ ‘itself and true’ because England was still a Roman Catholic Country. Harry would never plunder a corpse to make its ‘springtime’ (‘greene’) adorn his summer – or rob people who are ‘old’ to make his own beauty ‘new’ again.

As Queen Elizabeth had done with her many red wigs.

And him as for a map doth Nature store,

To show false Art what beauty was of yore.

Nature treats Harry as a guide to what the world was like before the reign of Elizabeth – when England was still a Roman Catholic country.

By repeating the ‘map’ idea of Harry in the final couplet, Shakespeare shows signs of haste in completing the Sonnet.

On 5th April, 1603, King James responds to the painting and the Sonnets by writing to the Privy Council about Southampton:

Although we are now resolved, as well in regard of the great and honest affection borne unto us by the Earl of Southampton as in respect of his good parts enabling him for the service of us, and the state, to extend our grace and favour towards him….we have thought meet to give you notice of our pleasure….which is only this : Because the place is unwholesome and dolorous to him to whose body and mind we would give present comfort, intending unto him much further grace and favour, we have written to the Lieutenant of the Tower to deliver him out of prison presently to go to any such place as he shall choose in or near our city of London, there to carry himself in such quiet and honest form as we know he will think meet in his own discretion, until the body of our state, now assembled, shall come unto us, at which time we are pleased he shall also come to our presence, for that as it is on us that his only hope dependeth, so we will reserve those works of further favours until the time he be-holdeth our own eyes, whereof as we know the comfort will be great unto him so it will be contentment to us to have opportunity to declare our estimation of him…

The painting and the Sonnets had certainly had the required effect on the King.

9th April, 1603. King James’s letter arrives and Harry is released from the Tower. Shakespeare has a pair of Sonnets ready to celebrate the event.

148. (107) 1603

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 predictions of everybody about the future can stop the release from the Tower of my lover – who everyone thought would die in prison.

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 – whom Sir Walter Raleigh compared to Cynthia, the Moon-Goddess – has proved to be a human being after all – has died – and those who predicted strife and civil war at her death have been proved wrong. Anxieties have given way to confidence and the peace that greeted the accession of King James promise peace for all time.

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 accession of James has been like a healing balm both to England and to Harry and to Shakespeare himself. Harry, who has been sick in the Tower, now looks young and well and death now bows down to me since I will live in this verse while death conquers whole swathes of people who have no culture.

And thou in this shalt find thy monument,

When tyrants’ crests and tombs of brass are spent.

And this poem, Harry, will be your monument – when the crests and brass tombs of tyrants like Elizabeth will be in ruins.

‘Crests’ is a coded dig at Elizabeth. She once described her self as ‘cloven and not crested.’ Here Shakespeare gives her a crest and turns her into a man – a rumour about Elizabeth that had circulated for years.

But even her honorary penis will crumble into dust.

149. (108)

What’s in the brain that Ink may character,

Which hath not figur’d to thee my true spirit?

What’s new to speak, what now to register,

That may express my love, or thy dear merit?

What thought can I have and translate into verse that I haven’t used before to reveal my inmost feelings about you, Harry. What new statement can I make to you? What now should I write that can express my love for you or your valuable worth?

Nothing sweet boy, but yet like prayers divine

I must each day say ore the very same,

Counting no old thing old, thou mine, I thine,

Even as when first I hallowed thy fair name.

There isn’t anything, ‘sweet boy’ but I must repeat the same thing, the way we say our prayers each day.

I don’t regard any old ‘thing’ as old, you are mine and I am yours even when I honoured your name the way I honour God in the Lord’s Prayer – ‘Hallowed be thy name’.

Shakespeare calls Harry ‘sweet boy’ – even though in 1603 he was thirty. Harry still seems a ‘sweet boy’ to Shakespeare – the sixteen year old boy he first clapped eyes on in 1590 – even though he has aged in the Tower.

The ‘old thing’ is Shakespeare’s usual play on ‘thing’ = ‘penis’. Because the two men are one ‘Ung par tout’ – even Shakespeare’s ‘old penis will seem new, because Southampton is the younger man with the younger penis. Shakespeare was pushing forty when he wrote this Sonnet.

Shakespeare often uses religious language and imagery to express his love for Harry.

So that eternal love in love’s fresh case,

Weighs not the dust and injury of age;

Nor gives to necessary wrinkles place,

But makes antiquity for aye his page:

Because Shakespeare’s love for Harry will last to eternity it will always seem fresh and new and is impervious to the ageing process. Nor does eternal love take notice of inevitable wrinkles but turns Old Father Time into an obedient page-boy, attending on it.

Finding the first conceit of love there bred,

Where time and outward form would show it dead.

Eternal love makes me look at you and your body in the same way it did when you were young – though if I took regard notice the aging process and what you look like on the outside now – these first rapturous feelings would have died.

Shakespeare is acknowledging the loss of looks that Harry has suffered locked up in the Tower.

To read ‘The Washed Out Coronation’, Part 40, click: HERE


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It’s best to read ‘Scandal, Shakespeare in Court’ Part 37 first.


On 17th March, 1597: Sir George Carey, second Lord Hunsdon, became the new Lord Chamberlain – so Lord Hunsdon’s Men became the Lord Chamberlain’s Men again and the actors had more security.

On 4th May, 1597, Shakespeare bought New Place – reputedly the second largest house in Stratford – five gables, ten fireplaces and a frontage of over 60 feet with two barns, two gardens and two orchards.

But politics made life for Shakespeare more unsettled. The Earl of Essex and Harry were planning a rebellion against Queen Elizabeth to ensure that the Succession fell to King James.

Shakespeare initially went along with this as James was Pro-Catholic (seemingly) and Pro-Gay. Christopher Marlowe had even planned to go to King James’s Court in Edinburgh.


After a stormy wooing, Harry secretly married Elizabeth Vernon in August, 1598 and Shakespeare wrote As You Like It as a celebration in the same way he had written A Midsummer Night’s Dream to celebrate the wedding of his mother.

The performance of the play – which included Harry’s friends in the cast, was held at Lees Priory in Essex…..

….the home of Penelope Rich.

He also wrote a Sonnet in celebration of his continuing and growing love for Harry – and uses the image of a baby.

Elizabeth Vernon was pregnant at the time of her marriage…

Elizabeth Vernon with her hair down for her wedding day.

Shakespeare and Harry had found a way of keeping their love for each other intact even though Harry had married Elizabeth and man and wife had a very close and loving relationship.

143. (115)

Those lines that I before have writ do lie,

Even those that said I could not love you dearer;

Yet then my judgment knew no reason why

My most full flame should afterwards burn clearer.

Shakespeare claims that all his poetry up to this point has been lies: he said before that he could not love Harry more than he did – but has found, over time, that he can. The flame of love has burnt brighter.

But reckoning time, whose million’d accidents

Creep in ‘twixt vows and change decrees of Kings,

Tan sacred beauty, blunt the sharp’st intents,

Divert strong minds to th’course of alt’ring things:

But Time, as Ovid often observed, is all powerful: it makes people break their vows and Kings change their laws, it can spoil beauty and wear down the keenest resolutions and make strong-willed people change their plans.

‘Blunt’ is an oblique reference to Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy, who was part of the planned rebellion against Elizabeth and the lover of Penelope Rich.

Alas why, fearing of time’s tyranny,

Might I not then say: ‘Now I love you best’,

When I was certain ore in-certainty,

Crowning the present, doubting of the rest:

Shakespeare argues that he was justified in making his statement all those years ago – that he could not love Harry any more. Time is all-powerful and the only thing he could be certain of was the present. Everything else would have been mere speculation.

Love is a Babe, then might I not say so

To give full growth to that which still doth grow.

Love – in the form of Cupid – is after all a baby – and I could be forgiven for saying it was fully grown when it was still, in fact growing.

Cupid by Cranach, 1530


Essex and Harry go over to Ireland to quell the Irish Rebellion – and the plan is to then join with the army of King James and dethrone Queen Elizabeth.

To that end Shakespeare writes Henry V – which is a coded celebration of Essex who is mentioned in the play – and Shakespeare himself goes to Scotland to convince James to invade England.

To do this he produces Macbeth at King James’s Court.

See: Shakespeare in Scotland.

However, the Irish campaign is catastrophic – and Essex even has a secret meeting with the Irish Rebel Chief, the Tyrone.

Essex abandons his post and travels back to England to explain matters to the Queen.  The Queen has Essex put under house arrest. Half of the Essex entourage want to go with the rebellion – but the other half, including Shakespeare, do not.

Shakespeare writes Julius Caesar to warn Essex and Harry about the dangers of rebellion – and writes a Sonnet to Harry which describes the plight of Essex.


144. (25)

Let those who are in favour with their stars

Of public honour and proud titles boast,

Whilst I whom fortune of such triumph bars

Unlookt for joy in that I honour most.

Shakespeare leaves fame and titles to people whose lives have been blest with the good fortune of birth and money.  Shakespeare is from the yeoman class – and so barred from high office. But he finds unexpected joy in honouring Harry.

Great Princes’ favourites, their fair leaves spread

But as the Marigold at the sun’s eye,

And in them-selves their pride lies buried,

For at a frown they in their glory die.

The favourites of great King’s and Queens [‘Prince’ could mean ‘Queen’ and Elizabeth often referred to herself as a ‘Prince’] are like marigold flowers with their leaves stretched out to the sun….but when the sun withdraws its beams, the flowers close up and die with all their ‘pride’ buried inside them.

Pot Marigold

This is a reference to the sexual liaison between Essex and the much older Queen. Their sex life had been a sado-masochistic struggle for mastery – and by bursting into the Queen’s bedroom unannounced – before the Queen had time to put on wig or make-up – Essex had violated his close relationship with the Queen and their affair was over. Marigold was the colour Essex’s armour…

‘Pride’ = (1) ‘Self-Worth and (2) ‘Sexual power’. This idea is reminiscent of Sonnet 78. (94) which uses the image of the flower living and dying to itself as an image of masturbation.

The painful warrior famoused for fight,

After a thousand victories once foil’d,

Is from the book of honour razed quite,

And all the rest forgot for which he toil’d:

The warrior who is ‘painful’ [= (1) Taking pains or (2) Suffering wounds] and celebrated for his warfare, just has to fail on one mission and all he has achieved before counts for nothing. He is no longer famous.

This is an exact description of Essex who distinguished himself on the Cadiz and Islands Campaigns –

Essex at Cadiz.

…….but failed in Ireland.

Then happy I that love and am belov’d

Where I may not remove, nor be remov’d.

Shakespeare is ‘happy’ [= (1) Joyful or (2) Lucky] because he loves Harry and is loved in return by him. Shakespeare loves a person from who he can never remove his love and who, in turn, can never remove his love from Shakespeare.

To Shakespeare’s horror, members of the Essex/Southampton entourage stage Richard II at the Globe on the eve of the rebellion – so Shakespeare has to flee back to Scotland.

The rebellion against Elizabeth goes hopelessly wrong. Essex is beheaded on 25th February,1601 and Harry committed to the Tower, sentenced to death.

Sonnet 145. (66) is Shakespeare’s reaction to these events.

These ideas will find their way into Hamlet’s ‘To be or not to be’ speech.


145. (66)

Tired with all these, for restful death I cry:

As to behold desert a beggar born,

And needy Nothing trimm’d in jollity,

And purest faith unhappily foresworn

I yearn for death – ‘to die, to sleep’ for the following reasons.

When I see: (1) A man born into poverty who stays there and whom everyone disdains. (2) Social butterflies, who have no financial cares at all, dressed up in fine clothes and with no social conscience. (3) Everyone deserting Roman Catholicism – the ‘pure’ faith which goes back to Christ and the Apostolic Succession.

And gilded honour shamefully misplast,

And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,

And right perfection wrongfully disgrac’d,

And strength by limping sway disabled,

When I see: (4) Harry, the most noble of men, thrown like a common prisoner into the Tower of London. (5) A Queen who demeans the Virgin Mary by claiming that she is the Virgin Queen though in fact she is a whore. (6) An honourable man like Essex disgraced by having his head chopped off. (7) Strong young men dominated by those so weak or old they have to walk with sticks. [Both the Queen and Sir Walter Raleigh both walked with limps]

And art made tongue-tied by authority,

And folly (Doctor-like) controlling skill,

And simple-Truth miscall’d Simplicity,

And captive-good attending Captain ill.

When I see: (8) My plays, and those of my colleagues, controlled by the censor. (9) Stupid people being in charge of clever and talented people. (9) Plain-speaking people dismissed as stupid. (10) Harry imprisoned and guarded by ill-intentioned men.

Tir’d with all these, from these would I be gone,

Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.

Sick of all these things I want to kill myself: but if I were to do so, I would leave Harry alone – as a prisoner in the Tower.

[Hamlet’s reason for not killing himself is the worry about what will happen to him after death]

Shakespeare also writes The Phoenix and the Turtle [Dove] about his love as a commoner (dove) for Harry (the fabulous phoenix). The poem plays on ‘Ung par tout’ motto of the Southampton family – ‘all for/in one’ – and shows how the two birds become one in the flames of death and passion.

There are no published works by Shakespeare – or mention of him at all – for two years.

He was in Scotland, making an alliance with King James…..

To read ‘The Gay Wooing Portrait’, Part 39, click: HERE


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