It’s best to read ‘A Lover’s Complaint (I)’ Part 42  first

A Lover’s Complaint (continued)

The young woman – who represents the younger Shakespeare – explains to the ‘reverend man that grazed his cattle nigh’ – who represents the older Shakespeare, examining his younger self.

‘But, woe is me! too early I attended
A youthful suit–it was to gain my grace
Of one by nature’s outwards so commended,
That maidens’ eyes stuck over all his face:
Love lack’d a dwelling, and made him her place;
And when in his fair parts she did abide,
She was new lodged and newly deified.

‘Grace’ = ‘sexual favours’.

The young woman confesses she was far too young when she was wooed by a young man who wanted to go to bed with her – a youth so handsome that every woman’s gaze was fixed on him. Love needed somewhere to live – so chose the young man as her habitation and so Love became all the more powerful as a Goddess.

This echoes Shakespeare’s Sonnets about Harry.

Sonnet 19. (20):

A man in hew all Hews in his controlling,

Which steals men’s eyes and women’s souls amazeth.

[Hews is a coded reference to Harry’s initials and his title: Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton]

It is also reminiscent of Shakespeare’s description of Harry in Sonnet 114 (93) when he talks about Love dwelling in Harry’s face.

‘But heaven in thy creation did decree/That in thy face sweet love should ever dwell’.

‘His browny locks did hang in crooked curls;
And every light occasion of the wind
Upon his lips their silken parcels hurls.
What’s sweet to do, to do will aptly find:
Each eye that saw him did enchant the mind,
For on his visage was in little drawn
What largeness thinks in Paradise was sawn.

‘Sawn’ = ‘seen’.

His long brown hair would be blown onto his lips by the wind – and everyone who saw him was enchanted by him: his face seemed Paradise in miniature.

This is very similar to the description of the beautiful young knight, Musidorus, in Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia:

‘His fair auburn hair which he ware at great length and gave at that time a delightful show with being stirred up and down with the breath of a gentle wind’.

Harry hero-worshipped Sidney and based his own appearance on the two handsome young princes in ‘Arcadia’.

Also, in All’s Well that Ends Well, Helena – who also represents Shakespeare’s younger self – talks of Bertram’s/Harry’s ‘curls’.


‘Small show of man was yet upon his chin;
His phoenix down began but to appear
Like unshorn velvet on that termless skin
Whose bare out-bragg’d the web it seem’d to wear:
Yet show’d his visage by that cost more dear;
And nice affections wavering stood in doubt
If best were as it was, or best without.

He only had a tiny show of facial hair – and the woman/Shakespeare compares it to phoenix-feathers. 

Note: Shakespeare has already likened Harry to the fabulous Phoenix Bird in The Phoenix and the Turtle.

The bareness of his chin highlighted the stubble – and people argued as to which was more attractive – the young man with hair or without.

Harry also was famous, in his youth, for his small show of facial hair:

Between 22nd – 28th September, 1592, Queen Elizabeth visited Oxford with Harry in attendance. John Sanford afterwards wrote of him in Latin: ‘There was present no one more comely, no young man more outstanding in learning , although his mouth scarcely yet blooms with tender down’.

‘His qualities were beauteous as his form,
For maiden-tongued he was, and thereof free;
Yet, if men moved him, was he such a storm
As oft ‘twixt March and April is to see,
When winds breathe sweet, untidy though they be.
His rudeness so with his authoriz’d youth
Did livery falseness in a pride of truth.

‘Free’ = ‘generous’. ‘Authoriz’d’ = ‘granted allowances’. [The stress should be on ‘thor’]. ‘Livery’ = ‘dress up’.

He was as morally beautiful (or seemed to be) as he was physically beautiful for he had the pure, soft speech of a girl – and was generous and liberal. But he could get angry with people – but it was like the ‘rough winds’ of early spring and, consequently, still sweet. However, what he was doing was masking his deceitfulness with a show of truth.

These are similar to Shakespeare’s observations of Harry. In Sonnet 75. (70) Shakespeare writes:

If some suspect of ill maskt not thy show,/Then thou alone kingdoms of hearts should’st owe.

And in Sonnet 114 (93) Shakespeare writes:

But heaven in thy creation did decree/That in they face sweet love should ever dwell/What ere thy thoughts, or thy heart’s workings be/Thy looks should nothing thence, but sweetness tell.’

‘Well could he ride, and often men would say
‘That horse his mettle from his rider takes:
Proud of subjection, noble by the sway,
What rounds, what bounds, what course, what stop
he makes!’
And controversy hence a question takes,
Whether the horse by him became his deed,
Or he his manage by the well-doing steed.

He was a great horseman. Some people say the horse takes its qualities from the horseman – others that the horseman takes his qualities from the horse.

‘But quickly on this side the verdict went:
His real habitude gave life and grace
To appertainings and to ornament,
Accomplish’d in himself, not in his case:
All aids, themselves made fairer by their place,
Came for additions; yet their purposed trim
Pieced not his grace, but were all graced by him.

‘Appertainings’ = ‘belongings’. ‘Case’ = ‘outward clothing’. ‘Trim’ = ‘trappings’.

But all were finally of the opinion that it was the young man’s inner qualities that made him attractive, not his outward dress. External ornamentations helped, but they took their beauty from the young man rather than gave it to him.

‘So on the tip of his subduing tongue
All kinds of arguments and question deep,
All replication prompt, and reason strong,
For his advantage still did wake and sleep:
To make the weeper laugh, the laugher weep,
He had the dialect and different skill,
Catching all passions in his craft of will:

So his conversation was skilfully manipulative. He could argue any case and tailored his conversations to the needs of his hearers. So he managed to master people of every sort of persuasion by his cunning arts.

This is reminiscent of Harry’s manipulative behaviour in his love-triangle with Shakespeare and Amelia Bassano – the Dark Lady’ of the Sonnets. Harry wanted Shakespeare to be his lover – but Harry wanted to be loyal to Harry’s mother – Mary Second, Countess of Southampton….


(1) She was Shakespeare’s employer and

(2) Shakespeare’s brief had been to ‘heterosexualise’ Harry with the seventeen ‘Birthday Sonnets’

See: The Birthday Sonnets.

To gain Shakespeare’s love, Harry seduced Amelia when Shakespeare asked Harry to plead his love cause with her.

At this stage, Harry was not interested in women at all!

Shakespeare refers to this in Sonnet 41 (40) when he criticises Harry for stealing his mistress:

But yet be blam’d, if thou this self deceivest

By wilful taste of what they self refusest

‘Self’ here, as we have seen, can = ‘penis’. Shakespeare is indicating that by bedding Amelia, Harry is going against his natural gay instincts. he is being emotionally manipulative – just as the male lover in A Lover’s Complaint is.

‘That he did in the general bosom reign
Of young, of old; and sexes both enchanted,
To dwell with him in thoughts, or to remain
In personal duty, following where he haunted:
Consents bewitch’d, ere he desire, have granted;
And dialogued for him what he would say,
Ask’d their own wills, and made their wills obey.

Everyone was in love with him no matter what their ages. He enchanted both sexes: they thought about him or LITERALLY followed him about. People submitted to him sexually before he even asked them to go to bed with him. They anticipated what he would say – and said it themselves – and forced their genitals (‘their wills’) to comply with what he wanted.

This is very similar to Shakespeare’s description of Harry in Sonnet 19. (20)

‘Which steals men’s eyes and women’s soul amazeth’.

Also in Sonnet 117 (57) Shakespeare describes Harry in exactly the same tones as the besotted people described in this stanza:

Being your slave, what should I do but tend

Upon the hours, and times of your desire?

I have no precious time at all to spend,

Nor services to do, till you require.

Nor dare I chide the world without end hour

Whilst I (my sovereign) watch the clock for you,

Nor think the bitterness of absence sour

When you have bid your servant once adieu.

Nor dare I question with my jealous thought,

Where you may be, or your affairs suppose,

But, like a sad slave, stay and think of nought

Save, where you are, how happy you make those.

So true a fool is love, that in your Will,

(Though you do any thing) he thinks no ill.


A Lover’s Complaint continued.

‘Many there were that did his picture get,
To serve their eyes, and in it put their mind;
Like fools that in th’ imagination set
The goodly objects which abroad they find
Of lands and mansions, theirs in thought assign’d;
And labouring in moe pleasures to bestow them
Than the true gouty landlord which doth owe them:

‘Moe’ = ‘more’.

Many people had miniatures and portraits of the young man to (1) Please their sight (2) Masturbate over. ‘Eyes’ can = ‘testicles’. Or please their minds, thinking about the young man in his absence.

These people are like idiots who see gardens and stately homes and imagine they own them and work, in their imagination to improve them more than the true gout-ridden owners.

Shakespeare here is describing himself!

We know from Sonnet 103 (46) that Harry gave Shakespeare a miniature of himself that Shakespeare took on tour with him.

Shakespeare also thought he ‘owned’ his lover, Harry and sought to improve his character – much more than Harry himself – who had suffered from ‘swelling in the legs’ in his imprisonment in the Tower and so was ‘gouty’.

‘So many have, that never touch’d his hand,
Sweetly supposed them mistress of his heart.
My woeful self, that did in freedom stand,
And was my own fee-simple, not in part,
What with his art in youth, and youth in art,
Threw my affections in his charmed power,
Reserved the stalk and gave him all my flower.

‘Fee-simple’ = ‘my absolute possession’ – a legal term about land.

Many people, who never even touched the young man, thought he was in love with them. I, who was completely free and my own mistress, because of his manipulation (1) As a young man and (2) As one who was only beginning to be a manipulator, succumbed to his magic and gave him my virginity.

Shakespeare is here talking openly about his relation ship with Harry. He his ‘freedom’ when he first met Harry. He had started to forge a career in the theatre – howbeit poorly paid and tough – by leading Lord Strange’s Company in Lancashire. But he was enchanted by Harry – and allowed him to dominate him emotionally and physically. He allowed himself to be the passive partner in the relationship in every sense of the word. The image of the ‘flower’ being taken suggests that Shakespeare could be the passive partner in the relationship.

This idea is confirmed by Sonnet 106 (50):

My grief lies onwards and my joy behind

And Sonnet 70 (31):

And they, all they, hast all the all of me

And Sonnet 43 (129)

Before a joy propos’d, behind a dream.

To read ‘A Lover’s Complaint (III), Part 44, please click: HERE





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.


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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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

















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



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


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


It’s best to read ‘Grief and Melancholy’ Part 36 first.



1596 was a difficult year for Shakespeare. Lord Hunsdon died on 22nd July and the role of Lord Chamberlain passed to Lord Cobham – the sworn enemy of the Earl of Essex and Harry.

The Chamberlain’s Men, in which Shakespeare had bought a share, became Lord Hunsdon’s Men, taking their name from Hunsdon’s son, George Carey, who inherited the title.

Carey, a bon viveur who lived n ear to Harry on the Isle of Wight was to become the model for Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night…

 See: Toby Belch as George Lord Hunsdon.

The actors were playing at the new Swan Theatre, owned by Francis Langley in the Paris Gardens….

Swan Theatre. An early version of ‘Twelfth Night’ seems to have been in progress – and an earlier version of ‘Hamlet’ played there with Shakespeare as the ghost.

Shakespeare’s son Hamnet died a couple of weeks later and was buried on August 11 and Shakespeare with reacted with grief, melancholy and, it seems, violence.

Leslie Hotson – the brilliant Canadian literary historian and sleuth…….


…….discovered that at in November 1596 Shakespeare was up before the magistrates and bound over to keep the peace.

In November, 1596, William Wayte petitioned ‘ob metum mortis’ (for fear of death) in a suit for sureties of the peace against William Shakespeare, Francis Langley, Dorothy Soer, wife of John Soer and Anne Lee. Shakespeare also figures in a retaliatory law-suit on the side of Langley.

We don’t know for certain who the women were, but there were most likely prostitutes and Langley, who owned the Swan Theatre and tenements in the area was a known crook and moneylender

Shakespeare, in mixing with low life and prostitutes in the Paris Gardens, was behaving exactly like his new creation, Falstaff…..

Because of the ‘shame’ of Shakespeare’s Court Appearance, Harry dropped Shakespeare for a bit.

Shakespeare feared that this rejection might one day become a permanent one – as it is for Falstaff….

136. (36)

Let me confess that we two must be twain

Although our undivided loves are one:

So shall those blots that do with me remain,

Without thy help, by me be borne alone.

I have to acknowledge that we have to live apart till the scandal of my court appearance blows over – although we still love one another as though we were one person.

So all the shame will be borne by me, without any help from you.

In our two loves there is but one respect,

Though in our lives a separable spite,

Which though it alter not love’s sole effect,

Yet doth it steal sweet hours from love’s delight.

Though we are two separate men, we are lovers and look at life the same way – even if circumstances at the moment force us to be apart. This won’t interfere with our love for each other, but it steals time away from us which we could have enjoyed together.

I may not ever-more acknowledge thee,

Lest my bewailed guilt should do thee shame,

Nor thou with public kindness honour me,

Unless thou take that honour from thy name:

I cannot acknowledge you as my provider and patron because my appearance in the Magistrates’ Court would bring shame to your family name. And you can’t show me favour in public without detracting from the family honour.

But do not so; I love thee in such sort

As thou being mine, mine is thy good report.

Don’t honour me publicly. I love you in such a way that you are in fact myself – and I can take honour in your honour.

Shakespeare is again playing on the Wriothesley Family – ‘Ung Par Tout’ – ‘All in/for One.’

137. (29)

When in disgrace with Fortune and men’s eyes

I all alone beweep my out-cast state,

And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,

And look upon my self and curse my fate;

When things are going badly for me – and men (1) Look down at me (2) Don’t fancy me. [‘Eyes’ can = ‘Genitals] I cry in solitude about my ‘out-cast state’.

‘Out-cast state’ means (1) My status as an actor (2) My status as a gay/bisexual man (3) My status as one who is shunned because of his appearance in the dock where he has been bound over ‘to keep the peace’ (4) My status as a gay man who is not attractive to other gay men.

I appeal to heaven about my misfortunes – but heaven doesn’t respond. So I look upon ‘my self’ [= (1) Literal self – as in a mirror (2) My penis] and curse ‘my fate’ = (1) My destiny as a man from a poor background (2) My destiny as a gay man (3) A criminal who has been ‘bound over’.

Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,

Featur’d like him, like him with friends possesst,

Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope,

With what I most enjoy contented least.

I wish I could be like someone who has more hope in life’s outcome than I have, more handsome than I am, with more friends than I have, more talented than I am or more far-seeing and free-er than I am…

Yet in these thoughts my self almost despising,

Haply I think on thee, and then my state,

(Like to the Lark at break of day arising)

From sullen earth sings hymns at Heaven’s gate;

Yet thinking in this way and despising ‘my self’ [=(1) Literally ‘myself’ and (2) ‘My self’ – ‘my penis’] by chance the thought of you comes into my mind, at which point ‘my state’ [= (1)  ‘How I am’ and (2) ‘Whether my penis is erect or flaccid’] like to the lark ascending soars upwards to heaven and sings at the Gates of Heaven.

Means: (1) The state of my earth-bound  spirit soars to a state of ecstasy from the earth like a rising bird and (2) My flaccid penis rises to its fully erect state and experiences the ecstasy of orgasm. A ‘morning erection’.

For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings

That then I scorn to change my state with Kings.

For when, Harry, I recall your love then I am richer than a King.

138. (88)

When thou shalt be dispos’d to set me light,

And place my merit in the eye of scorn,

Upon thy side, against myself I’ll fight,

And prove thee virtuous, though thou art forsworn:

When you are in the mood to despise me and think all of my worth simply worthless, I’ll take up the position you have adopted against myself and prove you are truthful, even though you lie.

With mine own weakness being best acquainted,

Upon thy part I can set down a story

Of faults conceal’d, wherein I am attainted:

That thou in losing me shalt win much glory:

I know my faults better than anybody does and I can argue on your part about flaws in my character that nobody knows about that ‘attaint’ me [= (1) Smear me and (2) Take away all my titles.]

Note: Harry was later attainted by Queen Elizabeth after the rebellion against her in 1603. He became Mr. Henry Wriothesley.

By being shot of me you will win much praise, Harry!

These four lines demonstrate Shakespeare’s ‘weakness. because they all have ‘feminine endings’.

And I by this will be a gainer too;

For bending all my loving thoughts on thee,

The injuries that to my self I do,

Doing thee vantage, double-vantage me.

It will be to my advantage as well. For, as I think of nothing or nobody but you, by exposing my faults to the world, I increase your prestige – and your prestige is my prestige.

Such is my love, to thee I so belong,

That for thy right, my self will bear all wrong.

For I love you so much, Harry, that my ‘self’ will take all the blame [i.e. (1) ‘My self’ = ‘Literally myself’ and (2) = ‘My penis’] I will take the blame for being gay and shield you from all criticism.

139. (89)

Say that thou didst forsake me for some fault,

And I will comment upon that offence;

Speak of my lameness, and I straight will halt,

Against thy reasons making no defence.

If you were to get rid of me for some flaw in my character, I would immediately corroborate your judgement. If you were to accuse me of ‘lameness’, [i.e. (1) Literally being disabled or (2) Writing ‘lame’, inadequate verse] I would immediately become ‘lame’, making no defence of myself against your accusations.

Thou canst not (love) disgrace me half so ill

To set a form upon desired change,

As I’ll my self disgrace, knowing thy will,

I will acquaintance strangle and look strange,

Harry, you cannot disgrace me by banishing me as much as I’ll disgrace myself by banishing myself, knowing that’s what you want. I will crush my friendship with you and behave as though I don’t know you….

Be absent from thy walks and in my tongue

Thy sweet beloved name no more shall dwell

Lest I (too much profane) should do it wrong,

And haply of our old acquaintance tell.

I won’t go anywhere near where you frequent and I won’t even mention your name in case I speak about our erstwhile friendship – and so bring profanity to your Godhead.

For thee, against my self I’ll vow debate:

For I must nere love him whom thou dost hate.

I’ll promise I’ll attack myself – because I cannot love someone whom you hate.

140. (90)

Then hate me when thou wilt, if ever, now,

Now, while the world is bent my deeds to cross;

Join with the spite of fortune, make me bow,

And do not drop in for an after loss:

If you are going to hate me then hate me now when the whole world is against me after my court appearance. Join in with my detractors – but don’t come along with criticism after the event.

Ah do not, when my heart hath ‘scapt this sorrow,

Come in the rearward of a conquer’d woe;

Give not a windy night a rainy morrow,

To linger out a purpos’d over-throw.

Don’t – after I’ve got over the trauma of my court appearance – attack me after I have recovered. After a night of heavy winds don’t come in with a rainy morning to destroy me with a delayed assault.

If thou wilt leave me, do not leave me last,

When other petty griefs have done their spite,

But in the onset come, so shall I taste

At first the very worst of fortune’s might.

If you intend to drop me don’t do so after other antagonists have done their worse: but attack me along with them so that I’ll know the very worst that Fate has to offer.

And other strains of woe, which now seem woe,

Compar’d with loss of thee, will not seem so.

In that case my other problems will seem minor compared with the loss of you.

141. (111)

O for my sake do you with fortune chide,

The guilty goddess of my harmful deeds,

That did not better for my life provide

Then public means which public manners breeds.

Why don’t you, yourself, Harry, attack Dame Fortune, the Goddess who is responsible for my violence and court appearance, who did not provide me with an income apart from the one I make from the public – which means my behaviour is inevitably plebeian.

Shakespeare here is taking a dig at Harry for not providing him with more money so he could retire from the stage.

Thence comes it that my name receives a brand,

And almost thence my nature is subdu’d

To what it works in like the Dyer’s hand;

Pity me then, and wish I were renew’d,

It’s because of this that I have been branded, in the public eye, as a criminal and my nature is contaminated by the theatre in the same way that the hands of a man who dyes clothes is stained by the dye he works with. Pity me then, and wish I could be born again to my correct status in life.

Whilst like a willing patient I will drink

Potions of Eisel ‘gainst my strong infection;

No bitterness that I will bitter think,

Nor double penance to correct correction.

For my part I am prepared to drink your corrective medicine and not think it bitter – nor will I baulk at a double punishment.

Pity me then dear friend, and I assure ye,

E’en that your pity is enough to cure me.

Just pity my situation, Harry, and that pity alone will cure me.

142. (112)

Your love and pity doth th’impression fill,

Which vulgar scandal stampt upon my brow,

For what care I who calls me well or ill,

So you ore-greene my bad, my good allow?

Your love and pity for me fill up the hole on my forehead the branding iron gave when I appeared in court and caused a scandal. Why should I care what people think about me if you ‘ore-greene’ my badness and acknowledge my good points.

‘Ore-greene’ means to (1) Cover over my badness with a green carpet of sweet-smelling herbs (2) Think of my sins as nothing compared to Robert Greene – a writer who was a drunk and philanderer who collaborated with Shakespeare at Titchfield in the early 1590s.

There is a joking reference to Greene – who Nashe claimed had written the ‘upstart crow’ attack on Shakespeare – in Love’s Labour’s Lost:

‘Greene is indeed the colour of lovers’.

You are my All the world, and I must strive

To know my shames and praises from your tongue;

None else to me, nor I to none alive,

That my steel’d sense or changes right or wrong.

You are everything to me and I must learn to judge myself with your judgements. I don’t care about anyone else – nor do they care for me – but I will change in whatever way you, Harry, want me to.

In so profound Abysm I throw all care

Of others’ voices, that my Adder’s sense

To critic and to flatterer stopped are;

Mark how with my neglect I do dispense:

I throw all other people’s criticism of me into a bottomless pit – so my ears – like adder’s ears – are deaf to praise and blame: see how I ignore them!

Note: The adder was thought to have a sense of hearing but could block up its ears if it wanted to.

You are so strongly in my purpose bred

That all the world besides me thinks are dead.

You are so instinctively my mentor that I think everyone else in the world is dead.

To read ‘Love and Rebellion’, Part 38, click: HERE






It’s best to read ‘Shakespeare’s Gay Infidelity’ Part 35 first.


Shakespeare discovers that Harry has fallen in love with Elizabeth Vernon…

…..a poor cousin of the Earl of Essex.

Shakespeare’s reaction is ambivalent. He wants Harry to have a son – and has written a Sonnet Sequence to persuade him to do so.

But like Mercutio’s reaction to Romeo’s love for Juliet, Shakespeare has been massively disturbed by the liaison.

However, he realises that his spiritual love for Harry will never diminish – and writes this Sonnet to express this love.

126. (116)

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments: love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove.

Harry, you may be planning to marry Elizabeth Vernon, but we have our own marriage – a spiritual one – that no-one can object to or destroy. My love wouldn’t be love at all if it changed just because you have changed. Or if I removed my love for you just because you have removed it from me.

O no, it is an ever fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wand’ring bark,

Whose worth’s unknown, although his higth be taken.

My love is an eternal marker which ships use to guide them to land and which cannot be destroyed by stormy weather. It is also the Pole Star which guides ships at sea, whose value cannot be calculated but whose position in the sky can be.

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle’s compass come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom:

Love isn’t a jester at the beck and call of Father Time – though Time cuts down young beauty with his scythe. Love does not alter with the brevity of Time: rather it lasts beyond Time till the Day of Judgement itself.

If this be error and upon me prov’d,

I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

If I’m making a mistake in saying this then I never wrote a line of verse – and no man in all history has ever fallen in love.

Clearly Shakespeare has written verse – in particular this Sonnet to Harry – and so he obliquely claims that what he says is completely true.


Shakespeare’s son, Hamnet, died at the age of eleven and was buried in Stratford-upon-Avon on 11th August, 1596.

He was a twin – his sister was called Judith – and he probably died of bubonic plague and would have been buried instantly.

Shakespeare turns Harry into his surrogate son – and his mind dwells on death and melancholy.

127. (37)

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.

As an infirm old father takes pleasure in seeing his son engage in youthful, athletic activities, so I – having suffered the worst that fate can do to a man – to have his son taken away from him by death – I now take delight, Harry, in your moral worth and honesty.

Hamnet was Shakespeare’s only son. Now Shakespeare turns Harry into his surrogate son.

For whether beauty, birth, or wealth, or wit,

Or any of these all, or all, or more

Intitled in thy parts do crowned sit,

I make my love engrafted, to this store:

I do not know which is your crowning glory – your good looks, your aristocratic birth, your wealth or your intelligence – perhaps it’s one of these, or all of them or others that I don’t know about – whatever the truth, I intend to join with these qualities for all time, the way we graft one plant onto another.

So then I am not lame, poor, nor despis’d,

Whilst that this shadow doth such substance give

That I in thy abundance am suffic’d,

And by a part of all thy glory live:

This stops me being wounded by the grief for my son, or impoverished or unappreciated while this imaginary act gives such substantial benefits. I am nurtured by the multiplicity of your gifts – and bask in your glory.

Look what is best, that best I wish in thee;

This wish I have, then ten times happy me.

Whatever is best, I wish it for you. As it belongs to you – and you belong to me – I am overwhelmed with happiness.

128. (32)

If thou survive my well contented day,

When that churl death my bones with dust shall cover

And shalt by fortune once more re-survey

These poor rude lines of thy deceased Lover:

If you survive me – when Father Time comes for me, eager for his prey, and Death covers my body with dust – and you happen by chance to look at these lines of verse I – your dead lover – have written for you….

Compare them with the bett’ring of the time,

And though they be out-stript by every pen,

Reserve them for my love, not for their rhyme,

Exceeded by the height of happier men.

See how they stand in comparison with more recent, better, verse – and though they will be outclassed by every poet then writing, keep them not because of their rhyme – which will be exceeded by men who are ‘happier’ than I am – but as a memento of me.

‘Happy’ = (1) Cheerful and (2) Lucky. The death of Hamnet was an unlucky stroke of fortune that robbed Shakespeare of his joy.

Oh then vouchsafe me but this loving thought:

Had my friend’s Muse grown with this growing age,

A dearer birth than this his love had brought

To march in ranks of better equipage;

But give me the benefit of this thought: if my ‘Muse’ (my poetic invention) had improved with the times, it might have produced a more worthy poem than this is – and kept up with the march of poetic progress.

But since he died and Poets better prove,

Theirs for their style I’ll read, his for his love’.

But since I’ll be dead and poets better, read other poets for their style – but mine for my love for you.

129. (71)

No longer mourn for me when I am dead

Than you shall hear the surly sullen bell

Give warning to the world that I am fled

From this vile world with vilest worms to dwell:

Shakespeare tells Harry not to mourn for him longer than his passing bell tolls – and tells the world that Shakespeare is leaving this ‘vile’ world to live with ‘vilest worms’ in the earth.

Although we describe the Elizabethan Age as ‘Golden’ this is not the way the Elizabethans saw it. Many thought the world could not get any worse and was fast heading towards its end.

Nay if you read this line, remember not

The hand that writ it, for I love you so

That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot,

If thinking on me then should make you woe.

If you read this poem don’t remember the man who wrote it. Because I love you so much, I would prefer you to forget all about me rather than be sad at my death.

O if (I say) you look upon this verse,

When I (perhaps) compounded am with clay,

Do not so much as my poor name rehearse,

But let your love e’en with my life decay:

If you read this poem when I am mixed up with the clay in the earth, do not even say my name, but let your love for me rot along with my body.

Lest the wise world should look into your moan,

And mock you with me after I am gone.

Otherwise the clever-clever world will see you sighing with grief and make fun of you for having loved me.

130. (72)

O lest the world should task you to recite

What merit liv’d in me that you should love,

After my death (dear love) forget me quite,

For you in me can nothing worthy prove;

In case people ask you, after I am dead, what you saw in me, forget me completely – as I have nothing in myself of any worth.

Unless you would devise some virtuous lie

To do more for me than mine own desert,

And hang more praise upon deceased I

Than niggard truth would willingly impart:

Unless you make up white lies about me, pretending I was more valuable than I actually am and adorn me with more praise than bare Truth would allow.

‘I’ can also = ‘eye’ which can = ‘genitals’. Shakespeare is saying that Harry might exaggerate the ‘quality’ of Shakespeare’s penis.

O lest your true love may seem false in this,

That you for love speak well of me untrue,

My name be buried where my body is,

And live no more to shame nor me, nor you.

To prevent people thinking that your love for me causes you to make fake claims about my worth, (I am a truly flawed character) let my reputation be buried in the grave with my body and not live on to shame the two of us.

For I am sham’d by that which I bring forth,

And so should you, to love things nothing worth.

I am ashamed of what I produce – and so should you be, to love things that are worthless.

Shakespeare here is talking about (1) His plays and poems when they are read and produced and (2) His penis (‘thing’) which he produces when he and Harry make love.

131. (63)

Against my love shall be as I am now

With time’s injurious hand crusht and ore-worn,

When hours have drain’d his blood and fill’d his brow

With lines and wrinkles……

Preparing for the time, Harry, when you look like me, worn and defeated by time, when the hours have drained the blood away from your cheeks and stamped wrinkles and lines all over your brow…

…..when his youthful morn

Hath travail’d on to Age’s steepy night,

And all those beauties whereof now he’s King

Are vanishing, or vanisht out of sight,

Stealing away the treasure of his Spring.

When your youthful morning has transformed, with the workings of time, into ‘steepy night’.

‘Steepy night’ means (1) Night which engulfs you, the way rushes are ‘steeped’ in water to soften them. (2) Night which is steep and hard to climb (because one is older and frailer).

Shakespeare warns that all those beauties of intellect and body, which Harry owns like a King, will be vanishing – or will have vanished completely, stealing with them the treasures of his ‘spring’ – his youth.

For such a time do I now fortify

Against confounding Age’s cruel knife,

That he shall never cut from memory

My sweet love’s beauty, though my lover’s life.

In making preparations for this coming time, against obliterating Age’s savage ‘knife’, Shakespeare asserts that this scythe will never be able to cut the memory of Harry’s beauty away, even though it will kill Harry himself.

His beauty shall in these black lines be seen,

And they shall live, and he in them, still green.

Harry’s beauty will be seen in these lines of black ink – lines which shall continue to exist – and Harry will continue to exist in them, ‘still green’ = (1) Still fresh and young (2) Naïve and ignorant.

Cleopatra talks about her ‘salad days’ when she was ‘green in judgement.’

Helen Mirren as Cleopatra

132. (73)

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.

Shakespeare says if he were to compare the progress to his life to the progress of the year, he is in the autumn period when the leaves are falling from the trees. There are few leaves, if any, and those that are left are yellow.

The bare branches of the trees are compared to the ruined choirs of the dissolved monasteries and chapels – and the birds that have deserted the trees are like the choirboys who once sang in the choir-stalls.

The leaves falling from the trees is an image of Shakespeare’s hair falling from his head. His baldness was often attacked in satires about him.

Shakespeare was still in his thirties when he wrote this Sonnet, but he had prematurely aged touring with Lord Strange’s company in the 1980’s….

…and when Amelia Bassano had attacked him in Willobie his Avisa in 1594, she had described him as ‘W.S. An Old Player’.

In me thou see’st the twi-light of such day

As after Sun-set fadeth in the West,

Which by and by black night doth take away,

Death’s second self that seals up all in rest.

Shakespeare says that if he were to compare himself to the progress of a day, he would be twilight when the sun is setting in the west and night – a metaphor for death which envelopes everything – steals the sun from the sky.

In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,

That on the ashes of his youth doth lie

As the death bed, whereon it must expire,

Consum’d with that which it was nourisht by.

Shakespeare compares himself to the dying embers of a fire with the ashes representing his burnt out youth, lying on its death-bed, destroyed by the very thing that gave it life.

This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,

To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.

You can see this Harry, which should make you love me the more because you will be obliged to leave me – my dead body – before very long.

133. (74)

But be contented when that fell arrest

Without all bail shall carry me away,

My life hath in this line some interest,

Which for memorial still with thee shall stay.

But be satisfied when that terrible arrest by death will carry me off, these lines of poetry might remain to remind you of me.

When thou reviewest this, thou dost review

The very part was consecrate to thee;

The earth can have but earth, which is his due,

My spirit is thine, the better part of me.

When you look at this sonnet, you look at the part of me that was dedicated to you. The earth can only have my body – but you have the better part of myself – my spirit.

So then thou hast but lost the dregs of life,

The prey of worms, my body being dead;

The coward conquest of a wretch’s knife,

Too base of thee to be remembered.

So you will have only lost the basest part of my life, destined to be eaten by worms – my body – mown down by the all-powerful scythe of the cowardly Father Time – too unimportant to be remembered by you.

The worth of that is that which it contains,

And that is this, and this with thee remains.

The only thing valuable about my body is what is inside it – and that is this poem which stays with you after I am dead.

134. (62)

Sin of self-love possesseth all mine eye,

And all my soul, and all my every part;

And for this sin there is no remedy,

It is so grounded inward in my heart.

I am guilty of the sin of loving myself – my eyes and my soul and every part of me. And this sin cannot be remedied because it is so innate.

Me thinks no face so gracious is as mine,

No shape so true, no truth of such account,

And for myself mine own worth do define,

As I all other in all worths surmount.

I think I have the most handsome face in the world, my physique is perfect – and there is no other perfection like mine. And I define my own worth in such a way that it outstrips all others.

‘Face’ can = ‘genital area’ and ‘shape’ can = ‘penis’.

But when my glass shows me my self indeed

Beated and chopt with tann’d antiquity,

Mine own self love quite contrary I read:

Self, so self loving, were iniquity.

But when my mirror shows me what I really look like – old, sunburnt and raddled – I come to a different evaluation of my self-love: to love myself, looking as I do, would be a crime.

Note: ‘Self’ can = ‘Penis.’

‘Tis thee (my self) that for my self I praise,

Painting my age with beauty of thy days.

It is you Harry, my true self, which I am praising – putting the make-up of your youthful beauty on my old wrinkled face.

135. (22)

My glass shall not persuade me I am old

So long as youth and thou are of one date;

But when in thee time’s furrows I behold

Then look I death my days should expiate.

I will take no notice of what my mirror tells me – that I am old – so long as you, Harry, stay young. But the moment I see that your brow is lined, then I know I will die soon.

For all that beauty that doth cover thee

Is but the seemly raiment of my heart

Which in thy breast doth live, as thine in me,

How can I then be elder than thou art?

All the beauty of your body is really just a covering for my heart – which is lodged in your bosom as yours is in mine. So how can I then be older than you?

O therefore love, be of thyself so wary

As I not for my self, but for thee will,

Bearing thy heart which I will keep so chary

As tender nurse her babe from faring ill.

So, Harry, look after yourself – as I will look after myself – not for my own sake but for yours – and I’ll look after your heart the way a loving nurse looks after a child.

Presume not on thy heart when mine is slain:

Thou gav’st me thine not to give back again.

And don’t think you will get your heart back when I die. You gave your heart to me on the understanding that it would never be returned.

To read ‘Scandal – Shakespeare in Court’, Part 37, click: HERE