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













It’s best to read ‘Fear of Rejection’ Part 34 first.

End of 1595/6.

A bombshell.

Someone reports to Harry that Shakespeare has had an affair with a young lower class man while on tour in 1595.

Shakespeare tries to justify himself in the way Falstaff would have done….

……..had he been in the same situation…….

119. (120)

That you were once unkind be-friends me now,

And for that sorrow, which I then did feel,

Needs must I under my transgression bow,

Unless my Nerves were brass or hammered steel:

That you, Harry, once behaved with cruelty to me – by being unfaithful – proves, in fact, to be an act of kindness on your part. The sadness I experienced in the past I now inflict on you – unless I was completely insensible at the time and made of steel or brass.

For if you were by my unkindness shaken

As I by yours, y’have past a hell of Time,

And I a tyrant have no leisure taken

To weigh how once I suffered in your crime.

For if my infidelity caused you to suffer in the same way that your infidelity caused me to suffer then you have been in Hell and I, the tyrant who caused you this pain, didn’t pause to consider how much I suffered when you did the same to me.

O that our night of woe might have remember’d

My deepest sense, how hard true sorrow hits,

And soon to you, as you to me then tender’d

The humble salve which wounded bosoms fits!

When we had our confrontation and argument I wish I could have recalled how painful your infidelity was to me and did what you did then: offer you the everyday balm for a wounded heart in the way that you offered it to me.

The ‘humble salve’ means (1) Harry’s tears (2) Harry’s love-making: his semen becomes like an ointment to heal Shakespeare’s hurt.

But that your trespass now becomes a fee,

Mine ransoms yours, and yours must ransom me.

Your infidelity now transforms itself into a payment. My sin now acts as a ransom for yours and frees it – and your sin does the same to mine.

120. (121)

A Gay Lib Sonnet – ‘Glad to be Gay’.

‘Tis better to be vile than vile esteemed,

When not to be, receives reproach of being,

And the just pleasure lost, which is so deemed

Not by our feeling, but by others’ seeing.

It’s better to behave badly than to be thought of as bad,( i.e. gay) when you are accused of being bad even if you are not! And refrain from what is a perfectly fine sexual pleasure (homosexual love)  which is condemned, not in our own minds, but the minds of others.

For why should others‘ false adulterate eyes

Give salutation to my sportive blood?

Or on my frailties why are frailer spies

Which in their wills count bad what I think good?

For why should other people look and comment on my rampant libido? ‘Adulterate eyes’ =  (1) ‘Men who, though they condemn my gay activity, commit heterosexual adultery themselves’ and (2) ‘Contaminated testicles’ = men with venereal disease. Why do men spy on my sexual peccadilloes when they are guilty of heterosexual misdemeanours themselves – men whose penises (‘wills’) condemn as bad what my penis thinks is good i.e. gay love-making.

There is also a play on William Shakespeare’s name.

No, I am that I am, and they that level

At my abuses reckon up their own;

I may be straight, though they them-selves be bevel:

By their rank thoughts my deeds must not be shown.

No. I am what I am – a gay man. And those who condemn me name their own sins. I could well be the one who is ‘straight’ and the men who condemn me bent (‘bevel’): I mustn’t be judged by their corrupted minds.

‘I am that I am’ is a reference to what God said to Moses when he asked God his name (‘Ego sum qui sum’ in the Vulgate translation. ‘I am that I am in the Geneva and King James Bible.)

Shakespeare often employs religious imagery in his celebration of gay sex. This time he even quotes God Himself!

Unless this general evil they maintain:

All men are bad and in their badness reign.

Unless the people who condemn me think all men are bad – contaminated by original sin.

121. (109)

O never say that I was false of heart,

Though absence seem’d my flame to qualify;

As easy might I from my self depart

As from my soul which in thy breast doth lie:

Shakespeare asks Harry never to accuse him of being untrue – though by being apart from him Shakespeare seemed to be less passionate in his love. He claims that it would be easier for him to part from himself than from  Harry – where Shakespeare’s heart lies.

That is my home of love. If I have rang’d,

Like him that travels I return again,

Just to the time, not with the time exchang’d,

So that myself bring water for my stain.

You, Harry, are where my love has its true home – and if I have had an affair with somebody else, I have been like a traveller who journeys, then returns to his home, bending to the circumstance, not changing with it – and bring my tears to wash away the stain of my infidelity.

Never believe, though in my nature reign’d,

All frailties that besiege all kinds of blood,

That it could so preposterously be stain’d,

To leave for nothing all thy sum of good:

Even if my nature were completely overwhelmed with every sin that every kind of man commits, never think for a moment I could be so flawed in my judgement I would leave  all your abundant goodness for a young man of no worth all.

‘Nothing’ can = ‘no thing’ = ‘no penis’. ‘Sum’ can equal ‘semen’ – drawing on the comparison of seminal fluid with money. See Sonnet 5. (4)

For nothing this wide Universe I call,

Save thou, my Rose: in it thou art my all.

Shakespeare says that the whole universe has no worth at compared to the worth of Harry – Shakespeare’s ‘Rose’. (The capitalisation is Shakespeare’s)

Shakespeare refers to Harry as ‘beauty’s Rose’ [Shakespeare’s capitalisation and italics] in Sonnet 2. (1) – a reference to the Southampton rose…

…..and to the way Harry’s family spelt  and pronounced ”Wriothesley’ – ‘Ryosely’. [See Titchfield Parish Register].

122. (110)

Alas ’tis true, I have gone here and there,

And made my self a motley to the view;

Gor’d mine own thoughts, sold cheap what is most dear,

Made old offences of affections new.

I have been playing ‘away from home’ on tour – and have made a fool of myself – like a fool in his multi-coloured clothes. I have betrayed my conscience with penetrative anal sex and made my body, which should be reserved for you alone, available to anyone. I have committed old sins with new partners.

‘Goring’ = ‘gay, penetrative sex’ is used in Venus and Adonis. The boar attempts to ‘kiss’ the beautiful Adonis – and in doing see gores him to death in the groin. ‘Death’ in Shakespeare can = ‘orgasm’.

‘Tis true, ’tis true; thus was Adonis slain:
He ran upon the boar with his sharp spear,
Who did not whet his teeth at him again,
But by a kiss thought to persuade him there;
And nuzzling in his flank, the loving swine
Sheathed unaware the tusk in his soft groin.

Most true it is, that I have lookt on truth

Askance and strangely: but by all above,

These blenches gave my heart an other youth,

And worse essays prov’d thee my best of love.

The fact is, Harry, I lied to you. But these ‘sidelong glances’ (‘blenches’) (1) Made me young again (2) Gave me another young man, like yourself, as my sexual partner. And by testing out an inferior young man, it has made me realise that you are the best.

Now all is done, have what shall have no end:

Mine appetite I never more will grind

On newer proof, to try an older friend,

A God in love, to whom I am confin’d.

Now my affair is over have the thing that shall never end – my love for you. I will not try to sharpen my sexual appetite on a new friend – like sharpening a knife –  which tries the patience of my older friend, you Harry – ‘A God in love’ = (1) A Love God and (2) My supreme lover to whom I am bound to in adoration….

Then give me welcome, next my heaven the best,

Even to thy pure and most most loving breast.

Then please welcome me back home, you, who are the next best thing to heaven itself – even to your ‘pure’ breast  = (1) Morally upright (2) Virginally chaste. And ‘most most loving breast’ = (1) Repetition of ‘most’ to emphasise the abundance of Harry’s love (2) A cheeky reference to Harry’s own promiscuity – Harry loves ‘most’ young men.

123. (117)

Accuse me thus, that I have scanted all,

Wherein I should your great deserts repay;

Forgot upon your dearest love to call,

Whereto all bonds do tie me day by day;

Shakespeare says it is right for Harry to accuse him of neglecting to pay him all that is due to him – both as Shakespeare’s lover AND financial patron – and has neglected to give Harry the love that he owes him as his slave.

That I have frequent been with unknown minds,

And given to time your own dear purchas’d right;

That I have hoisted sail to all the winds

Which should transport me farthest from your sight.

Shakespeare also invites Harry to attack him for having sex with common place, lower class young men and wasting the time that Harry has paid for with his gift of £1,000. Shakespeare says he has hoisted his sails to the winds that will take him far from Harry.

Here Shakespeare picks up the image of himself as a little boat in Sonnet 90. (80) – from the section of Sonnets about the Rival poets.

The hoisting sail imagery is also likened to the erection of the penis in Sonnet 95. (86)

Book both my wilfulness and errors down,

And on just proof surmise, accumulate;

Bring me within the level of your frown,

But shoot not at me in your waken’d hate:

Shakespeare asks Harry to carefully note his ‘wilfulness’ [= ‘sexual exploits’ playing on ‘Will’ = (1) Shakespeare’s penis and (2) Shakespeare’s name] and his ‘errors’ = sins, mistakes and imperfections, moral and physical.

Shakespeare asks Harry to aim at him with his frown – but not to aim at him with a cross-bow to kill him out of hate.

Since my appeal says I did strive to prove

The constancy and virtue of your love.

Shakespeare says his defence in court would be that Shakespeare behaved badly to test the strength and truthfulness of Harry’s love for him.

124. (118)

Like as to make our appetite more keen

With eager compounds we our palate urge,

As to prevent our maladies unseen

We sicken to shun sickness when we purge.

In order to increase our appetite for food, we eat bitter, strong herbs to stimulate our taste buds and sometimes we take purgatives to prevent future diseases from taking hold of us.

A ‘compound’ was a prescription of several herbs rather than a single herb – a ‘simple’. Compounds were becoming fashionable in Shakespeare’s day and Shakespeare was critical of them. See Sonnet 85. (76)

Even so, being full of your nere cloying sweetness,

To bitter sauces did I frame my feeding;

And, sick of wel-fare, found a kind of meetness

To be diseas’d ere that there was true needing.

That’s why Shakespeare – because he was full of the sweet taste of Harry which nearly sickened him – ate sauces with a bitter taste – because ‘sick’ [= tired] of being well, it was appropriate that Shakespeare made himself sick before the real sickness occurs i.e. being sick of Harry himself.

‘Nere’ could also mean ‘never’ – and Shakespeare leaves it to Harry to chose which meaning he would prefer!

Thus policy in love, t’anticipate

The ills that were not grew to faults assured,

And brought to medicine a healthful state

Which, rank of goodness, would by ill be cured;

So Shakespeare’s plan – to anticipate problems in love before they occurred – actually created problems and made a healthy state of love become ill. Shakespeare had tried to cure an over-profusion of goodness by a dose of badness.

But thence I learn and find the lesson true:

Drugs poison him that so fell sick of you.

But Shakespeare says he has learnt from experience that the drugs he took to cure him of his love-sickness have poisoned him.

i.e. Promiscuous sex with lower class men has proved disastrous to Shakespeare’s love-affair with Harry.

125. (119)

What potions have I drunk of Siren tears

Distill’d from Limbecks foul as hell within,

Applying fears to hopes, and hopes to fears,

Still losing when I saw myself to win?

Shakespeare – looking back on his gay affair with remorse – claims that he was seduced by a magical potion distilled Satanically from the tears of mermaids. The affair has filled him with fear swinging to hope and hope swinging to fear.

Note: It is not the sirens tears that are evil: it is the way they are processed by Satanic alchemy.

The mermaid was a very positive image to Shakespeare as it represented the late, Roman Catholic, Mary Queen of Scots who was often likened to a mermaid.

What wretched errors hath my heart committed,

Whilst it hath thought itself so blessed never?

How have mine eyes out of their Spheres been fitted,

In the distraction of this madding fever?

Shakespeare wonders at how many mistakes his heart has made at the very time he thought it was blessed (1) With good fortune and (2) The approval of Heaven. Shakespeare claims that his very eyes have left their sockets in his insane passion for a young man.

O benefit of ill, now I find true

That better is by evil still made better;

And ruin’d love when it is built anew,

Grows fairer than at first, more strong, far greater.

Shakespeare finds that bad experiences bring their benefits. Good things, like Harry, are actually strengthened in their goodness by bad things – and the love that has been ruined by Shakespeare’s infidelity grows even stronger when it is rebuilt.

So I return rebukt to my content,

And gain by ills thrice more than I have spent.

So, Shakespeare says, having been rebuked for my infidelity I return to Harry, the man who makes me happy. And so I gain three times more than I have lost by my unfaithfulness.

Henry Wriothesley on the Southampton tomb at St. Peter’s,Titchfield. (1594)Photo: Ross Underwood.


To read ‘Reconciliation, Grief and Melancholy’, Part 36, click: HERE






It’s best to read ‘Shakespeare on Tour Again’ Part 33 first.

In August 1595 the theatres in London re-opened in London and Shakespeare returned from his tour.

Harry was at Court and was becoming more heterosexual…..

….or bisexual rather.

He was secretly courting Elizabeth Vernon……..

…..a poor cousin of his friend, the Earl of Essex.

Shakespeare realised something was going on and feared rejection.

He had been the recipient of £1,000 from Harry when he came of age the year before (1594) – but this made him dependent on Harry. He had been bought and felt he was Harry’s ‘slave’.


105. (91)

Some glory in their birth, some in their skill,

Some in their wealth, some in their body’s force,

Some in their garments though new-fangled ill,

Some in their Hawks and Hounds, some in their Horse,

Some take delight in being highly born, some in their talent, some in their riches, some in their muscle-power, some in their clothes – even though they follow the latest hideous fashion – some in hunting with hawks or hounds, some in the horse they ride…

And every humour hath his adjunct pleasure,

Wherein it finds a joy above the rest;

But these particulars are not my measure,

All these I better in one general best.

Every man has a constitution that draws him to one particular thing or another – but none of the above pleasures apply to me. I have something that surpasses them all.

Thy love is better than high birth to me,

Richer than wealth, prouder than garments’ costs,

Of more delight than Hawks and Horses be,

And having thee, of all men’s pride I boast,

Harry, your love is more valuable to me than aristocratic birth, wealth, expensive clothes, hawking or riding to hounds. Because I have you as a lover, I have the pride men take in themselves, their possession and their activities all wrapped up in one thing – yourself.

‘All men’s pride’ also has a sexual connotation. ‘Pride’ = ‘sexual arousal’ – so Shakespeare is obliquely stating that all men love Harry.

c.f. Sonnet: 19. (20) in which Shakespeare says Harry ‘steals all men’s eyes.’.

Wretched in this alone: that thou mayst take,

All this away, and me most wretched make.

The only thing that makes me miserable is the thought that you might one day reject me – and that would make me even more miserable.

Shakespeare then rallies – and challenges Harry to leave him.

106. (92)

But do thy worst to steal thy self away,

For term of life thou art assured mine,

And life no longer than thy love will stay,

For it depends upon that love of thine.

But DO reject me! You will be my lover for all of my life! Because if you leave me, I will instantly die!

Then need I not to fear the worst of wrongs,

When in the least of them my life hath end;

I see a better state to me belongs

Than that, which on thy humour doth depend.

I don’t have to fear the worst thing you could do to me since the smallest slight will kill me. I would be better off dead (and in heaven) rather than be dependent on your whims and your character.

Thou canst not vex me with inconstant mind,

Since that my life on thy revolt doth lie.

Oh what a happy title do I find,

Happy to have thy love, happy to die!

You can’t upset me with your fickleness because, if you leave me, I will die instantly. I am in a very fortunate state. Your love pleases me – and so would death, because I’d go to Heaven.

But what’s so blessed fair that fears no blot?

Thou mayst be false, and yet I know it not.

But what state is so happy and beautiful that it doesn’t fear something will go wrong? You might have already been unfaithful to me and I not know about it.

Shakespeare divines that something is up at Court……

But he determines to carry on as though Harry is still faithful to him.

107. (93)

So shall I live, supposing thou art true,

Like a deceived husband; so love’s face

May still seem love to me, though alter’d new,

Thy looks with me, thy heart in other place.

I have decided to carry on as though you were faithful to me – like a husband whose wife is deceiving him – so that ‘love’s face’  [(1) Love’s appearance (2) The genital area] will still seem loving, though it has changed, and you look at me even if you are thinking about somebody else.

Shakespeare is talking about having sex with Harry while Harry is wishing it were somebody else…..

Also Shakespeare takes the masculine role of the husband in this Sonnet – and Harry the female role.

For there can live no hatred in thine eye,

Therefore in that I cannot know thy change;

In many’s looks, the false heart’s history

Is writ in moods, and frowns, and wrinkles strange;

Shakespeare says he cannot tell from Harry’s face what has been going on. His eyes are too beautiful to let hatred appear in them. In many other people, infidelity will show in the face, in the shape of strange contortions and lines….

But heaven in thy creation did decree

That in thy face sweet love should ever dwell,

What ere thy thoughts, or thy heart’s workings be,

Thy looks should nothing thence, but sweetness tell.

But Heaven created Harry differently. Love will always reside in Harry’s face no matter what he is thinking about or feeling – he will always look like sweetness itself.

How like Eve’s apple doth thy beauty grow,

If thy sweet virtue answer not thy show!

But Shakespeare ends with a warning. Harry’s beauty will be like Eve’s apple, that looked attractive but brought death and catastrophe into Eden, if Harry’s character does not match his looks.

Shakespeare then prepares for the moment when Harry might reject him….

108. (49)

Against that time (if ever that time come)

When I shall see thee frown on my defects,

When as thy love hath cast his utmost sum,

Call’d to that audit by advis’d respects;

Shakespeare, in preparation for the time when Harry, finally aware of Shakespeare’s faults, frowns on them and when Harry throws his last penny at Shakespeare, advised to do so by older and wiser men….

‘The utmost sum’ is a reference to the huge sum of money that Harry gave Shakespeare in 1594 – and continues to give him now.

The ‘utmost sum’ can also = ‘last seminal emission’ in making love to Shakespeare for the final time.

Against that time when thou shalt strangely pass,

And scarcely greet me with that sun thine eye,

When love, converted from the thing it was

Shall reasons find of settl’d gravity;

Anticipating the moment when Harry treats Shakespeare as a stranger and does not look at him as they pass each other – and love converts into something else and the two men treat each other with a distant formality…

‘Eye’ can = ‘genitals’ and ‘thing’ can = ‘penis’. So ‘Love converted from the thing it was’ can = ‘the erection of our penises in love making’ . And the ‘settled gravity’ can = ‘flaccid penises after love-making’.

Against that time do I insconce me here

Within the knowledge of mine own desert,

And this my hand, against my self uprear,

To guard the lawful reasons on thy part:

Shakespeare imprisons himself in the cell of his knowledge of his own worthlessness. And testifies to his unworthiness by (1) Raising his hand to make a vow on the Bible against himself (2) Attacking himself physically in an act of suicide (3) Masturbating to get used to the idea that Harry will desert him as a sexual partner.

‘Self’ can = ‘penis’.

To leave poor me thou hast the strength of laws,

Since why to love, I can allege no cause.

Harry has a very good legal reason to desert Shakespeare because Shakespeare cannot think of any reason for Shakespeare to love him.

109. (56)

Harry, in his pursuit of Elizabeth Vernon, is losing sexual interest in Shakespeare.

Sweet love renew thy force: be it not said

Thy edge should blunter be than appetite,

Which but to-day by feeding is allay’d,

To-morrow sharpen’d in his former might.

Shakespeare is asking Harry to refrain from sex while he is away from Shakespeare so that his sexual energy can be renewed. He is worried that Harry’s appetite for sex has become weaker than his appetite for food – which is assuaged by eating but returns with full force the next day.

So love be thou: although to-day thou fill

Thy hungry eyes even till they wink with fulness,

To-morrow see again, and do not kill

The spirit of Love with a perpetual dullness.

Be the same: your ‘eyes’ (can = genitals) are satiated – so much so that they want to sleep. But tomorrow make them open again, i.e. become sexually hungry – and do not kill my love for you by never being sexually excited and active. ‘Dullness’= ‘limpness’.

Let this sad Intrim like the Ocean be

Which parts the shore, where two contracted new,

Come daily to the banks, that when they see

Return of love, more blest may be the view.

Let this time of sexual abstinence be like a tidal river that parts two ‘engaged’ lovers on either bank – who can only gaze at each other when the tide is in – but then finally make love to each other when the river is crossed – like Hero and Leander in Christopher Marlowe’s poem….

As call it Winter, which being full of care,

Makes Summer’s welcome thrice more wish’d, more rare.

Or call this sexual abstinence a winter which makes the return of summer (sexual activity) all the more valuable.


Harry was always a poor time-keeper – but, pre-occupied with Elizabeth Vernon, he has stood Shakespeare up. Shakespeare’s response is bitterly ironic.

Shakespeare is, however, Harry’s ‘slave’ because he has accepted the £1,000 gift from him in 1594.

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.

Shakespeare is treated by Harry as a slave – to be at Harry’s beck and call and always in attendance. Harry treats Shakespeare as though he has nothing important to do – or any duties to fulfil – except tend to Harry’s needs.

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.

Shakespeare says he is so subservient to Harry that he cannot even curse the time he wastes, watching the clock as he waits for Harry. Nor is he allowed to find Harry’s absence ‘sour’ when Harry has said ‘Goodbye’ to his servant.

‘World without end’ is a quote from Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer:

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost.As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.

The implication is that Harry has taken on the status of a God.

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.

Shakespeare claims that, as a slave, he is not even able to think where Harry is or what he is doing, but simply think how happy Harry must be making those he is with.

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

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

Love is a ‘true fool’ = (1.) A complete fool (2.) A faithful fool. Because in Harry’s ‘Will’ = (1) Will Shakespeare (2) Harry’s wilfulness (3) Harry’s penis – though Harry ‘do any thing’ = (1) Commit any action or (2) Make love to any set of genitals – he thinks there can be no ‘ill’ = (1) Moral ill (2) Venereal disease.

111. (58)

That God forbid, that made me first your slave,

I should in thought control your times of pleasure,

Or at your hand th’account of hours to crave,

Being your vassal bound to stay your leisure.

Cupid by Cranach, 1530

May the God of Love, Cupid, that first turned me into your slave, forbid me control your times of fun even in my thoughts – or even dare to ask you to tell me what you have been doing in your absence: I am your vassal and so my whole job is to wait till you summon me.

Note: In Sonnet 25. (154) Don Armado – in the cancelled Sonnet from Love’s Labour’s Lost – refers to Cupid as ‘the little Love-God’.

Oh let me suffer (being at your beck)

Th’imprison’d absence of your liberty,

As my job is to be at your beck and call, it is right that I should suffer for your liberty, which keeps me in prison waiting for you.

And patience tame, to sufferance bide each check,

Without accusing you of injury.

Shakespeare asks Cupid to convert any protest he might want to make to submissive patience – and not blame Cupid for causing any harm to Shakespeare.

Be where you list, your charter is so strong

That you your self may privilege your time

To what you will; to you it doth belong

Your self to pardon of self-doing crime.

Go wherever you like, Harry, your power over me is so strong that you can do whatever you like. You have the power to pardon ‘self-doing crime’ i.e. (1) Crimes you commit yourself (2) Any sexual misdemeanours. ‘Self’ can = ‘Harry’s penis.’

I am to wait, though waiting so be hell,

Not blame your pleasure be it ill or well.

Shakespeare’s duty is to ‘wait’ on Harry i.e. (1) Hang around for Harry (2) Serve Harry as a waiter. He is in no position to condemn Harry’s pleasure, whether it is innocent or harmful.

To read ‘Shakespeare’s Gay Infidelity’. Part 35, click: HERE




It’s best to read ‘Shakespeare’s Walk Out’ Part 31 first.

Amelia has been cast as Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and, when she meets up again with Shakespeare, wants to have a full-blown affair with him.

She has been dropped by Harry when she became pregnant – and a loveless marriage has been arranged for her with the ‘minstrel’ Alphonse Lanier.

He has squandered what money and jewels she possessed- and Amelia, with a two year old son, Henry, to look after, needs love.

Shakespeare is still is still besotted with Amelia physically, but is wary of being hurt by her again….

97. (151)

Love is too young to know what conscience is,

Yet who knows not conscience is born of love?

Then gentle cheater urge not my amiss,

Lest guilty of my faults thy sweet self prove.

Cupid is too young to have ‘conscience’, which means (1) Moral sense and (2) Knowledge of the female organ.

[‘Con’ was pronounced ‘Cun’.]

Shakespeare asks Amelia – who would be cheating on her new husband – not to encourage him to betray his wife, Anne, lest Amelia become guilty of the same sin herself –  infidelity to Shakespeare.

For, thou betraying me, I do betray

My nobler part to my gross body’s treason;

My soul doth tell my body that he may,

Triumph in love, flesh stays no farther reason,

Because, Shakespeare says, if you betray my trust in you by going off with someone else, I will in turn have betrayed my soul which tells my body it may throw itself into a passionate, physical affair with you. And, believe me, my body needs no persuasion to do this….

But rising at thy name, doth point out thee,

As his triumphant prize, proud of this pride;

He is contented thy poor drudge to be

To stand in thy affairs, fall by thy side.

Shakespeare claims he has an erection just thinking of Amelia’s name – and his aroused penis points at Amelia’s body, claiming it as his prize.

His penis is also prepared to be Amelia’s slave as well as her master – to stand up for her and die in her service…..

…..i.e. enter her pudend, achieve orgasm and fall flaccid.

No want of conscience hold it that I call,

Her love, for whose dear love I rise and fall.

So it cannot be because of a lack of ‘conscience’ [i.e., (1) Lack of moral sense or (2) Lack of carnal knowledge]that Shakespeare calls Amelia his ‘love’. Because of his love for Amelia, Shakespeare, paradoxically, rises and fall at the same time.

This means: (1) He becomes erect and makes love to Amelia, but afterwards his penis resumes its  normal, flaccid state.

(2) He is elevated to the position of masterful lover, but falls morally because he is being unfaithful to his wife.

Anne Hathaway

Amelia has promised to be faithful to Shakespeare this time round – but Shakespeare realises that this is all a game – a game, however, which he is happy, for the moment, to play.

98. (138)

When my love swears that she is made of truth,

I do believe her though I know she lies,

That she might think me some untutor’d youth,

Unlearned in the world’s false subtleties.

Shakespeare says that when Amelia promises she will be faithful to Shakespeare, he knows from experience that she is lying; but he believes her in the hope that Amelia will think he is a naïve young man who doesn’t know how the world wags.

‘Made’ can = ‘maid’ – ‘a virgin’ – quite a playful description of an ex-courtesan.

Shakespeare was thirty in 1594: but the hard life of touring with Lord Strange’s company had prematurely aged him, as we know from Sonnet 131. (73)

Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,

Although she knows my days are past the best,

Simply I credit her false-speaking tongue;

On both sides thus is simple truth suppresst.

Thinking ‘vainly’ [(1) In vain (2) With vanity] that Amelia believes he is a young man, although she knows Shakespeare is past his best – Shakespeare ‘simply’ believes Amelia’s lies – ‘simply’ = (1) Straightforwardly and (2) Stupidly. This way ‘simple’ truth is denied i.e. (1) The plain truth and (2) The stupid truth.

If lies make you happy, then the truth is stupid.

But wherefore says she not she is unjust?

And wherefore say not I that I am old?

O love’s best habit is in seeming trust,

And age in love, loves not t’have years told.

But why doesn’t Amelia admit the truth about herself? That she can never be faithful to one man? And why doesn’t Shakespeare – who was prematurely bald – admit that he is old?

Shakespeare’s answer is that best ‘habit’ (garment) love can wear is to seem to trust the other person – and when a lover is older, he doesn’t want to be reminded of the fact.

‘Told’ can also = ‘tolled’ – the ringing of a bell to mark the passage of time and the progress towards death.

Therefore I lie with her, and she with me,

And in our faults by lies we flatter’d be.

So Shakespeare and Amelia ‘lie’ with each other [= (1) Tell lies and (2) Make love to each other] and so flatter each other’s shortcomings – Amelia’s promiscuity and Shakespeare’s age.

This arrangement cannot last. Shakespeare discovers Amelia has been unfaithful to him and writes to her…

  1. (152)

In loving thee thou know’st I am forsworn,

But thou art twice forsworn to me love swearing,

In act thy bed-vow broke and new faith torn,

In vowing new hate after new love bearing.

Shakespeare tells Amelia that by loving her he is breaking his wedding vow to his wife, Anne. But Amelia is breaking two vows by swearing love to Shakespeare: (1) Her wedding vow to Alphonso Lanyer that she would love him and be faithful to him, and (2) Her new Christian faith – the religion to which she has converted from Judaism.

She now hates her husband (‘new hate’) after swearing to love him (‘new love’) in a Christian church.

Amelia’s conversion wasn’t simply for convenience. She became a genuine convert having dreamt the line ‘Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum’ – ‘Hail God, King of the Jews’.  Amelia went on to write at length about her conversion to Christianity.

See: How Shakespeare’s Dark Lady found God.

But why of two oaths’ breach do I accuse thee,

When I break twenty? I am perjur’d most,

For all my vows are oaths but to misuse thee,

And all my honest faith in thee is lost.

But Shakespeare says he is in no position to condemn Amelia for breaking two vows when he himself has broken twenty. For his vows of love have completely misrepresented Amelia – and all the faith he had in her has been lost.

For I have sworn deep oaths of thy deep kindness,

Oaths of thy love, thy truth, thy constancy,

And, to enlighten thee, gave eyes to blindness,

Or made them swear against the thing they see.

Shakespeare has sworn, to himself and to others, that Amelia is kind, loving, true and constant. In order to make her seem a creature of light, he has made his ‘eyes’ blind – or if not blind, they have denied the reality of the ‘thing’ they see.

‘Eyes’ can = ‘testicles’ and ‘thing’ can = ‘pudend’.

Shakespeare’s physical attraction to Amelia has blinded his true judgement of her worth. 

For I have sworn thee fair: more perjur’d eye,

To swear against the truth so foul a lie.

Shakespeare has sworn that Amelia is ‘fair’ [(1) Honourable and (2) Beautiful] and so his ‘eye’ is perjured: ‘eye’ = (1) Literal eye that sees (2) Shakespeare’s penis – which is unfaithful to Anne (3) Shakespeare’s ‘I’ – his spiritual sense of himself.

This was a complete denial of the truth.

Amelia is, in fact, ‘foul’.

Shakespeare’s affair with Amelia has come to an end.

Amelia got her revenge by writing an anonymous satire later that year (1594) about the men in her life, including Lord Hunsdon, her keeper…..

Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon.

….and Harry (H.W.)…..

Henry Wriothesley on the Southampton tomb at St. Peter’s,Titchfield. (1594)Photo: Ross Underwood.

……and Shakespeare, (‘W.S. An Old Player’)

Willobie his Avisa – published in 1594 – even has verbal echoes of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in which Amelia played Hermia.

See:‘Willobie his Avisa Decoded.


To read ‘Shakespeare on Tour Again’, Part 33, click: HERE





It’s best to read ‘Marlowe’s Ghost’ Part 30 first.

1594 Titchfield

Harry Southampton’s adoption of George Chapman as his poet and lover was finally too much for Shakespeare.

He walked out of Titchfield and walked out of his job. This Sonnet is his abrasive resignation letter.


Farewell! Thou art too dear for my possessing,

And like enough thou know’st thy estimate;

The Charter of thy worth gives thee releasing,

My bonds in thee are all determinate.

Shakespeare tells Harry that he is too ‘dear’ for Shakespeare to own. ‘Dear’ = (1) Loved and (2) Expensive – fi

This is another attack on Chapman – ‘Chapman’ = ‘Merchant’. According to Shakespeare, Chapman ‘merchandises’ his love for Harry as though it were a commodity. See Sonnet 82. (102).

Shakespeare had also attacked Chapman by satirising him as the lisping, fawning effeminate, Boyet, in Love’s Labour’s Lost……

…….whom the Princess of France rebukes….

Good Lord Boyet, my beauty, though but mean,

Needs not the painted flourish of your praise:

Beauty is bought by judgement of the eye,

Not utter’d by base sale of chapmen’s tongues.

Shakespeare believes that Chapman cheapens love by treating it as a commodity that can be praised, bought and sold – as a merchant (‘Chapman’) does.

Shakespeare, in the Sonnets,  equates Chapman’s love with merchandising, and in this Sonnet tells Harry that Harry is fully aware of his own value – and it’s this value that gives Harry every reason to break off his affair with Shakespeare.

For how do I hold thee but by thy granting,

And for that riches where is my deserving?

The cause of this fair gift in me is wanting,

And so my patent back again is swerving.

Shakespeare says he is totally subject to Harry’s power: he can only ‘possess’ Harry as a lover if Harry agrees – and what does Shakespeare possess – physically and financially – that deserves Harry’s love and patronage? Shakespeare lacks the qualities that would justify Harry’s gift of himself and so Shakespeare’s special privilege has come to an end.

‘Riches’ is another oblique reference to Lady Penelope Rich.

Thy self thou gav’st, thy own worth then not knowing,

Or me to whom thou gav’st it, else mistaking,

So thy great gift upon misprision growing,

Comes home again, on better judgement making.

When Harry ‘gave’ himself to Shakespeare – sexually as well as emotionally – Harry was unaware of his own value: either that, or he mistook who or what Shakespeare was. So Harry takes back the great gift of himself as he starts to despise Shakespeare (‘misprision’ =’ contempt or scorn’, 1592) and can see what the true situation is.

Thus have I had thee as a dream doth flatter:

In sleep a King, but waking no such matter.

Shakespeare compares his relationship with Harry to a wish-fulfilling dream in which he believes he is a king – but wakes to find he is a pauper.

Shakespeare cast himself as Lord Berowne in Love’s Labour’s Lost – playing opposite Harry as the King of Navarre.

‘Berowne’ is a re-working of ‘Browne’ – the Countess of Southampton’s family name.  But this was play-acting. Shakespeare has to face the fact that he is now back as a penniless, lower-class man.

This is the similar to the situation Christopher Sly finds himself in in The Taming of the Shrew. He is a tinker, who gets drunk then awakes to find himself treated like a Lord…

Shakespeare has been treated as a King by Harry – but it has all been a dream  in the same way that Sly has been tricked.

Shakespeare had been working on The Taming of the Shrew – reworked from an older play The Taming of a Shrew which is set in Ancient Athens – after his return from Italy in 1593.

This Sonnet is full of ‘feminine ending’ – a double syllable at the end of each line. Katharine Duncan-Jones suggests that repeated ‘ing’ sound = ‘Ingle’ – ‘passive young homosexual’, (1592). So this is a coded attack on Harry’s sexuality – and his affair with the older Chapman.

Walking out is a massively bold step for Shakespeare at a time when, if you had no money, you starved…..

……as Robert Greene did when he walked out of Titchfield in 1592.

Robert Greene, writing in his shroud.

But, as one door closes, another opens….

Harry was to come of age in 1594 – so his mother, Mary Southampton, who had a fractious relationship with her son, had to get out of Titchfield. 

She married an old family friend and old lover of Queen Elizabeth, Sir Thomas Heneage…..

……and moved to the Savoy Palace in London….

…. Copt Hall in Essex….


Mary commissioned Shakespeare to write A Midsummer Night’s Dream to celebrate her marriage to Sir Thomas – a play which celebrated the topography of Copped Hall the way Love’s Labour’s Lost celebrated Place House and grounds at Titchfield.

After Amelia had fallen pregnant in 1592, she had been married off, ‘for colour’, to the ‘minstrel’ Alphonse Lanyer. ‘Minstrel’ was code for ‘homosexual. The couple had been married at St. Botolph’s Aldgate on 18th October, 1592.

Amelia had played the dark-skinned, coquettish Rosaline in Love’s Labour’s Lost…….

……which Mary Southampton had commissioned. Amelia got on well with aristocratic women – and so Mary asked Shakespeare to write a part for Amelia in the new play.

Amelia played the dark skinned Hermia…

A modern day Hermia…


In the course of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Lysander addresses Hermia as an ‘Ethiope’ and a ‘tawny tartar.’ Penelope Rich…….

……. played the long-legged Helena – teaming up again with Amelia. In Love’s Labour’s Lost Lady Penelope had played the Princess of France.

Amelia was in a very different frame of mind from the ‘love-triangle year’, 1592, when she played ‘prick-teasing’ games with Shakespeare and never went to bed with him.

We know from her astrological consultation with Simon Forman three years later (1597) that her husband, Alphonse, ‘dealt hardly with her’ and quickly squandered the money from the jewels that her keeper, old Lord Hunsdon, had given her.

Amelia was now lonely and vulnerable and when she met up with Shakespeare again at Copped Hall she wanted a full love affair with him…..

To read ‘The Return of the Dark Lady’, Part 32, click: HERE


It’s best to read ‘The Rival Poet (III) Part 29 first.

1594. Titchfield.

91. (82)

I grant thou wert not married to my Muse,

And therefore mayst without attaint ore-look

The dedicated words which writers use

Of their fair subject, blessing every book.

Shakespeare admits that Harry was not married to Shakespeare’s Muse and so without condemnation can read the Dedications other writers use about their handsome subject – Harry – whose presence blesses any book he is mentioned in.

Thou art as fair in knowledge as in hew,

Finding thy worth a limit past my praise,

And therefore art inforc’d to seek anew,

Some fresher stamp of the time bettering days.

You, Harry, are as beautiful in knowledge as you are in looks and consider your worth far greater than the praise my verse bestows upon it…..

‘Hew’ = anagram for ‘Henry Wriothesley, Earl,’ and is spelt and used that that way also in Sonnets 19.(20) – when it is printed  Hews = Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton. ‘Hew’ – as opposed to ‘hue’ also appears in Sonnets 60. (140), 62. (98), 145. (67) and twice in The Lover’s Complaint where the psychotic seducer is indentified with Harry.

Shakespeare says that Harry has no choice but to seek a new, printed book representing the ‘time-bettering days’ = (1) days in which everything, including writing, is improving (2) time-serving days, when everyone is on the make, including Chapman.

And do so love; yet when they have devis’d

What strained touches Rhetorick can lend,

Thou, truly fair, wert truly sympathiz’d,

In true plain words, by thy true telling friend.

Shakespeare encourages Harry to read books other poets have dedicated to him: but Harry will find their language strained and artificial compared to Shakespeare, who empathises with Harry completely and uses natural, truthful language to describe Harry’s natural, truthful beauty.

And their gross painting might be better us’d

Where cheeks need blood: in thee it is abus’d.

Shakespeare compares Chapman’s praise of Harry to putting make-up on Harry’s cheeks – an insult to Harry’s full-blooded complexion.

It is also another oblique attack on Chapman, who wrote sycophantic verse praising Queen Elizabeth, whose cheeks, by this stage, were so sunken she stuffed them with cloth.

Shakespeare here is following the teachings of Robert Crowley, the Rector of St. Giles, Cripplegate…..

St. Giles’, Cripplegate. Victorian painting.

…..who took the young Shakespeare under his wing and taught him to despise artifice in dress and make-up and artifice in language.

92. (83)

I never saw that you did painting need,

And therefore to your fair no painting set;

I found (or thought I found) you did exceed

That barren tender of a Poet’s debt.

Shakespeare claims that he never thought that Harry’s beauty needed artificial improvement – in verse or make-up – and so never ‘painted’ him in words or colours.

Shakespeare thought Harry was a cut above paying a poet to praise him with hollow, bought words.

And therefore have I slept in your report,

That you, your self being extant, well might show

How far a modern quill doth come too short,

Speaking of worth, what worth in you doth grow.

That’s why, Shakespeare says, he hasn’t been writing about Harry of late (having been busy with Lucrece) so that Harry, still being alive, can show how much his ‘worth’ – moral and physical –  exceeds all modern descriptions of it – worth that is still in the process of developing.

This silence for my sin you did impute,

Which shall be most my glory being dumb;

For I impair not beauty being mute,

When others would give life, and bring a tomb.

So what Harry interprets as sinful (Shakespeare’s silence) Shakespeare himself thinks of as his glory: at least by staying quiet, he hasn’t marred Harry’s beauty the way Chapman has – who kills Harry off with bad writing.

There lives more life in one of your fair eyes,

Than both your Poets can in praise devise.

Shakespeare says there is more vitality in one of Harry’s eyes than both Chapman and Shakespeare, working in collaboration, could capture.

‘Eye’ also can = ‘testicle’. Both poets were having an affair with Harry.

For ‘eye’=’testicle’ see especially Sonnet 8. (7)

93. (84)

Who is it that says most, which can say more,

Then this rich praise, that you alone, are you,

In whose confine immured is the store

Which should example where your equal grew.

Shakespeare asks who can say more than ‘Harry is Harry’ – which is hugely rich praise in itself.

Nature is locked up in you – nature which ought to be producing your equal but cannot. You are unique.

Lean penury within that Pen doth dwell,

That to his subject lends not some small glory;

But he that writes of you, if he can tell

That you are you, so dignifies his story.

A writer is utterly mean who does not give a glory of some sort to you: but if a writer can express that ‘you are you’ that alone makes his verse worth while.

Let him but copy what in you is writ,

Not making worse what nature made so clear,

And such a counter-part shall fame his wit,

Making his style admired every where.

If a writer can simply copy what occurs in you naturally – not marring the clear lines that nature has set down – his intelligence and talent  will become world-famous and his writing style praised wherever he goes.

You to your beauteous blessings add a curse,

Being fond on praise, which makes your praises worse.

But Harry – in the midst of his advantages – is cursed. He loves being praised – and so inspires rubbish verse like Chapman’s.

94. (85)

My tongue-tied Muse in manners holds her still,

While comments of your praise, richly compil’d,

Reserve their Character with golden quill,

And precious phrase by all the Muses fil’d.

Out of good ‘manners’ my inarticulate Muse remains inactive while Chapman praises you with a rich vocabulary and golden style of writing, refined by all the other nine Muses.

‘Manners’ is a coded reference to  Roger Manners, Fifth Earl of Rutland…..

…..and ‘richly’ to Lady Penelope Rich…….

Both these aristocrats performed in the original production of Love’s labour’s Lost at Titchfield in 1592.

See: Aristocratic Actors

Also: Penelope Rich plays the Princess of France.

I think good thoughts whilst other write good words,

And like unlettered clerk still cry ‘Amen’

To every Hymn that able spirit affords,

In polisht form of well refined pen.

Shakespeare claims that he thinks good thoughts while ‘spirit’ Chapman writes articulate verse and, like an illiterate cleric, Shakespeare cries ‘Amen’  at the end of every polished and refined hymn to Harry which Chapman composes.

‘Hymn’ is a reference to the sycophantic poem Chapman wrote  in praise of Queen Elizabeth, Hymnus in Cynthiam, which was published in 1594.

Hearing you prais’d, I say ‘Tis so, tis true’,

And to the most of praise add some-thing more;

But that is in my thought, whose love to you

(Though words come hind-most) holds his rank before;

Shakespeare listens to Chapman’s praise and affirms it – but adds something more: his thoughts of love for Harry – which is greater than any words can be.

Then others, for the breath of words respect,

Me for my dumb thoughts, speaking in effect.

Shakespeare says that Harry should respect Chapman for his ‘breath of words’ (words that are just breath) but he should also respect Shakespeare for his loving thoughts which are not expressed in words but in actions.

95. (86)

Was it the proud full sail of his great verse,

Bound for the prize of (all too precious) you,

That did my ripe thoughts in my brain inhearse,

Making their tomb the womb wherein they grew?

Shakespeare asks whether he was intimidated by the thought that Chapman’s ‘great’ verse was heading towards Harry – and this is what made his ideas – ripe and ready to be converted into verse – die within his brain, converting what gave them birth – his brain – into their tomb.

‘The proud full sail of his great verse’ suggests, also, Chapman’s sexual excitement at ‘wooing’ Harry. (‘Proud’ can = ‘erect’).

Shakespeare is suggesting Chapman is approaching Harry as a sexual predator and that Harry is his ‘prize’.

Also, ‘sail’=’sale’ – another play on Chapman as Merchant.

Was it his spirit, by spirits taught to write,

Above a mortal pitch, that struck me dead?

No, neither he, nor his compeers by night

Giving him aid, my verse astonished.

Shakespeare asks if it was the ‘spirit’ of Chapman – taught to write by spirits of the dead, like Homer, that Chapman summons up – that had killed him. But he rejects the idea – also that it was Chapman’s ‘compeers by night giving him aid’ that stifled Shakespeare’s writing.

The ‘compeers by night’ were the loose collection of free-thinkers – Matthew Roydon, the mathematician, Ferdinando Lord Strange…

…the ‘Wizard Earl’, 9th Earl of Northumberland…….

…..and George Carey (later 2nd Lord Hunsdon)….

…..all dedicatees of Chapman’s The Shadow of Night – and sent up by Shakespeare as ‘the school of night’ in Love’s Labour’s Lost.

‘School’ has an additional association with gambling (‘bank and school’ ) and the men loved to gamble late into the night.

‘Compeers’ = ‘Chapman’s equals’. But some were literal Peers as well!

‘Aid’ also means the material aid the men gave Chapman – whose inheritance as youngest son had been £100 and two silver spoons.

He, nor that affable familiar ghost

Which nightly gulls him with intelligence,

As victors of my silence cannot boast,

I was not sick of any fear from thence.

Neither Chapman nor that friendly, genial ghost who comes to Chapman each night and bamboozles him with his ‘intelligence’ are not the reason for Shakespeare’s poetic silence: neither Chapman nor the ghost scared him.

The ghost is of Christopher Marlowe…..

…….Shakespeare’s friend and lover who had died the year before. The ‘intelligence’ is (1) Marlowe’s own native wit and (2) a reference to the spying activities Marlowe had undertaken for the State in the Lowlands – rather in the way that Shakespeare and Harry had spied for the Earl of Essex in Europe in 1593.

Marlowe had died the year before (1593) before completing his poem Hero and Leander. Chapman claimed that Marlowe came to him to dictate the second half of the poem which was published four years later in 1598.

But when your countenance fill’d up his line,

Then lackt I matter, that infeebl’d mine.

Shakespeare says it was the beauty of Harry’s face that Chapman described – not the verse itself – that caused Shakespeare to lose poetic heart.

To read ‘Shakespeare’s Walk Out’, Part 31, click: HERE


It’s best to read ‘The Rival Poet (II)’ Part 28 first.

1594: Titchfield.

87. (38)

How can my Muse want subject to invent

While thou dost breathe that pour’st into my verse

Thine own sweet argument, too excellent

For every vulgar paper to rehearse:

Shakespeare claims that his Muse has no excuse for her lack of invention, having Harry as her subject – a subject too good for common or garden poets like George Chapman.

Oh give thy self the thanks, if aught in me,

Worthy perusal stand against thy sight;

For who’s so dumb that cannot write to thee,

When thou thy self dost give invention light?

Shakespeare says that it is Harry who is to be praised if Shakespeare produces poetry that’s any good….

There is also gay banter with the line – ‘If aught in me,/Worthy perusal stand against thy sight’. Shakespeare is referring to the massive sexual excitement Harry arouses in him with his beauty.

Shakespeare equates poetic invention with his erections. He uses ‘stand’ = ‘erection’ in Sonnet 96. (151).

Be thou the tenth Muse, ten times more in worth

Then those old nine which rimers invocate;

And he that calls on thee, let him bring forth

Eternal numbers to out-live long date.

Shakespeare urges Harry to be the tenth Muse – the other nine are women! – worth ten times more than the other Muses which writers invoke.

Shakespeare challenges people, like Chapman, who invoke Harry, to produce poetry that will last for ever.

If my slight Muse do please these curious days,

The pain be mine, but thine shall be the praise.

Shakespeare says that if his own Muse – much less powerful than the Harry Muse – can win approval in these days of fastidious taste, the labour of writing will be Shakespeare’s, but the praise will all be Harry’s.

Shakespeare is casting himself as Harry’s ‘spin-doctor.’ Harry will soon be powerful politically and will benefit from Shakespeare’s praise.

88. (78)

So oft have I invok’d thee for my Muse,

And found such fair assistance in my verse,

As every Alien pen hath got my use,

And under thee their poesy disperse.

Shakespeare claims that he has written so often about Harry and found ‘assistance’ from him (that is (1) inspiration and (2) financial support) that every ‘Alien’ writer has imitated Shakespeare and distributes his own verse ‘under’ Harry.

‘Alien’ refers to Chapman (1) As a stranger (2) A writer of foreign work. 

Chapman was famous in his own day for his translations of Homer – and was later to be praised by John Keats…..

…… in his poem: ‘On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer’ when he talks about Homer’s poetic voice sounding ‘loud and clear’ in Chapman’s translation.

‘Alien pen’ can also mean ‘strange penis’ and ‘use’ of Harry can also = sexual relationship’. Shakespeare uses ‘use’ in this way in Sonnet 19.20: ‘Thine be my love and they love’s use their [women’s] treasure.’

‘Under thee’ – this means (1) In Harry’s name as Chapman’s patron and (2) Under Harry as his passive sexual partner.

Thine eyes, that taught the dumb on high to sing,

And heavy ignorance aloft to fly,

Have added feathers to the learned’s wing,

And given grace a double Majesty.

Shakespeare claims that, before encountering Harry’s eyes, he was mute and weighed down with illiteracy – but Harry’s eyes have taught him to ‘sing’ – write verse – and ‘fly’ – escape his lack of education.

‘Eyes’ can also = ‘testicles’ – see especially Sonnet 8. (7). So Shakespeare is again equating his production of verse with his erections – ‘flying aloft’.

Harry’s eyes, Shakespeare argues, have also inspired Chapman – but all Harry has done, by becoming his patron, is to give extra feathers to Chapman’s wings, which were already in existence, and a grace in writing to an established poet who already had it.

Yet be most proud of that which I compile,

Whose influence is thine and born of thee;

In others’ works thou dost but mend the style,

And Arts with thy sweet graces graced be:

Shakespeare says that Harry should be more proud of what Shakespeare writes than Chapman does: Harry has not only influenced Shakespeare’s verse, he has actually created it. With Chapman, Harry’s qualities simply improve an already existing style, and embellish an art that is already in existence.

But thou art all my art, and dost advance

As high as learning my rude ignorance.

Shakespeare claims that any talent he has comes solely from Harry – and that it is Harry who converts him from being an illiterate into being a scholar.

Shakespeare is not only praising the character of Harry who inspires him – but the material benefits he gains from being part of Harry’s – and his mother’s – entourage.

Clearly Chapman was having an affair with Harry. Patron’s expected their protegees to go to bed with them.

89. (79)

Whilst I alone did call upon thy aid,

My verse alone had all thy gentle grace;

But now my gracious numbers are decay’d,

And my sick Muse doth give an other place.

Shakespeare is no longer the sole recipient of Harry’s ‘aid’, which is (1) The inspiration derived from Harry’s personality and (2) The financial assistance Harry provides.

[Chapman was notoriously hard up and constantly needed new patrons.]

While Shakespeare was the sole recipient of Harry’s ‘aid’, his verse was unique in being full of Harry’s graciousness. But now – because this source is shared with Chapman (and consequently polluted by him) Shakespeare’s verse has rotted and his Muse sickened because she has been forced to take second place to Chapman’s Muse.

I grant (sweet love) thy lovely argument

Deserves the travail of a worthier pen,

Yet what of thee thy Poet doth invent,

He robs thee of, and pays it thee again.

Shakespeare admits that his ‘sweet love’ deserves the services of a more talented writer – but insists that what Chapman writes about Harry, he has just stolen from Harry and given back to him.

He lends thee virtue, and he stole that word,

From thy behaviour; beauty doth he give

And found it in thy cheek: he can afford

No praise to thee, but what in thee doth live.

Chapman simply lends Harry his virtue, having first stolen it from Harry’s conduct: he gives Harry beauty, but he found it in Harry’s face in the first place. Chapman cannot give Harry any praise except what he observes in Harry in the way he lives his life.

Then thank him not for that which he doth say,

Since what he owes thee, thou thy self dost pay.

Shakespeare says that Harry should not thank Chapman for his for his flattery because what Chapman ‘owes’ Harry – Harry has to ‘pay’ him for. ‘Owes’ = (1) His inspiration from Harry and (2) The money he gets from him. Harry ‘pays’ Chapman by giving back to Chapman (1) the qualities he possesses and (2) money for his verse.

90. (80)

Oh how I faint when I of you do write,

Knowing a better spirit doth use your name,

And in the praise thereof spends all his might,

To make me tongue-tied speaking of your fame.

Shakespeare claims that he loses heart when he writes about Harry knowing that a better ‘spirit’ has Harry as a patron whom he writes about.

Shakespeare uses the word ‘spirit’ because Chapman claimed to be a medium who could summon up the spirits of the dead. In Love’s Labour’s Lost Boyet – Shakespeare’s satire on Chapman – says to the Princess in his opening line:

‘Now Madam, summon up your dearest spirits’.

In his poem in praise of Queen Elizabeth – Hymnus in Cynthiam – Chapman had suggested that the Queen herself was an enchantress, in control of spirits…

She is the great enchantresse that commands
Spirits of euery region, seas, and lands

In the play the Princess of France (Queen Elizabeth)……

….. puts Boyet’s flattery down by saying:

‘Beauty is bought by judgement of the eye [‘eye’ can also = ‘penis’]

Not utter’d by base sale of chapmen’s tongues.’

Here ‘chapmen’= ‘Chapman’!


Chapman claimed to have summoned up the spirit of Homer in Hitchin…….

……. and that the spirit of the dead Kit Marlowe visited him at night……

….. and helped him to complete the second half of Hero and Leander which Marlowe had left unfinished at his death.


But since your worth (wide as the Ocean is)

The humble as the proudest sail doth bear,

My saucy bark (inferior far to his)

On your broad main doth wilfully appear.

But since Harry’s worth is as wide as the ocean, it can allow the humblest as well as the grandest sail boat can keep afloat.

‘Proud’ can = ‘erect’ – so Shakespeare is comparing Chapman’s mast to an erect penis.

So Shakespeare’s cocky little boat – not in Chapman’s league – can ride on the ocean of Harry which is fathomless – in terms of (1) Moral worth and (2) Money.

Shakespeare’s boat appears ‘wilfully’ a reference to (1) Shakespeare’s name and (2) His erection at the thought of Harry – again not in Chapman’s league with his ‘proudest sail’.

Your shallowest help will hold me up a float,

Whilst he upon your soundless deep doth ride,

Or (being wrack’t) I am a worthless boat,

He of tall building and of goodly pride.

Shakespeare says that Harry’s ‘shallowest help’ will keep his little boat afloat: this means (1) Shakespeare’s little boat will not displace much water and (2) The tiniest amounts of Harry’s money will keep Shakespeare going.

If the two ships are wrecked, Harry will lose nothing because Shakespeare is like a worthless boat – but Chapman is a high-maintenance vessel, full of itself. 

Then if he thrive and I be cast away,

The worst was this, my love was my decay.

Shakespeare says if Chapman wins the battle for Harry’s patronage the worst thing can be said of Shakespeare is that ‘his love was his decay’ – i.e. (1) It was because Shakespeare loved Harry so much that he came a-cropper or (2) Harry was the cause of his ruin.

To read ‘Marlowe’s Ghost’, Part 30, click: HERE






It’s best to read ‘The Rival Poet (I) Part 27 first.

1594. Titchfield.

83. (103)

Alack what poverty my Muse brings forth,

That having such a scope to show her pride,

The argument all bare is of more worth

Then when it hath my added praise beside.

Shakespeare admits his Muse is totally inadequate given what its subject is – Harry. Just this theme itself – with no embellishement – is worth more than Shakespeare can add to it.

Oh blame me not if I no more can write!

Look in your glass and there appears a face

That over-goes my blunt invention quite,

Dulling my lines, and doing me disgrace.

But don’t blame me, Shakespeare argues, if I cannot write about you any more. Look in a mirror and there is a face – (1) a literal face and (2)  Harry’s genitals – which cannot be described with my dull talent – which makes my lines of verse boring and brings me disgrace.

Sonnets in which ‘face’ can = ‘genitals’ see Sonnets 4.(3), 32. (130), 33.(137), 37. (147).

Were it not sinful, then, striving to mend,

To mar the subject that before was well?

For to no other pass my verses tend

Then of your graces and your gifts to tell.

Isn’t it wrong to try to improve a subject that was fine in the first place – and in so doing spoil it? My verse has no other purpose than to praise your moral and physical beauty.

And more, much more, than in my verse can sit

Your own glass shows you, when you look in it.

And your mirror will praise you much, much more, when you gaze at it, than my verse ever can.

Shakespeare often uses ‘blunt’ in his Sonnets and Complaint six times. ‘Blunt’ can have a literal meaning – but it can also suggest (1) an un-erect penis that is not ‘sharpened’ like an erect one (2) Charles Blount (pronounced ‘Blunt’ who in 1594 was made 6th Baron Mountjoy.

Charles Blount was part of the Essex/Southampton entourage. He was the lover of Penelope Rich – the sister of the Earl of Essex. Shakespeare plays on Blount’s name in Love’s Labour’s Lost….

See: ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost Revisited. 3. Aristocratic Actors.’

Shakespeare also plays with the words ‘rich’ and ‘manners’ in the Sonnets – after Penelope Rich and Roger Manners, 5th Earl of Rutland – who is also mentioned in Love’s Labour’s Lost.’

Shakespeare is clearly starting to be irritated by Harry’s insistence that all his poetry should be devoted to himself! He has not welcomed Shakespeare’s move into new territory with Lucrece.

The end couplet really has a sting to it:

And more, much more, than in my verse can sit

Your own glass shows you, when you look in it.

What Shakespeare is implying is that Harry, when he looks into a mirror, admires himself in a way that Shakespeare cannot possibly equal.

But Shakespeare needs Harry and loves him. He relies on the fact that Harry, intellectually, is a beat or two behind…..

84. (105)

Let not my love be call’d Idolat’ry,

Nor my beloved as an Idol show,

Since all alike my songs and praises be,

To one, of one, still such, and ever so.

Queen Elizabeth’s conversion of England from Roman Catholicism to Calvinist Protestantism was firmly established by 1594. Anyone found to possess a statue of the Virgin Mary……

…..or items for ‘massing’, would be thrown into jail. If they were a priest their fate would be far worse…

The Southampton family at Titchfield had a private chapel where the old Latin Mass would have been celebrated in secret – while in public they would have attended St. Peter’s Church where the ‘new’ English Communion Service would have been held.

In 1594 Mary Southampton commissioned the tomb for the Southampton family there…..

Shakespeare and Harry clung on to the Old Faith – and Shakespeare incorporated its imagery into their gay love. Sonnet 70. (31) talks about Shakespeare’s ‘dear religious love’.

In this Sonnet, Shakespeare says his worship of Harry might well be mistaken for the ‘idolatry’ – and Harry himself taken for a religious ‘idol’ – especially as his praise for Harry is ‘all alike’ – ‘To one, of one, still such and ever so.’ This echoes the phrasing of the Book of Common Prayer, describing the Holy Trinity – ‘the Three-in-One’: ‘Such as the father is, such is the son and such is the Holy Ghost.’

It also echoes the Southampton family motto: ‘Ung part tout’ – ‘One for All’ or ‘All is one’ – which is also used in Sonnets 9. (8), 26.(135), 40.(133), 47.(42), 70.(31).

Kind is my love to-day, to-morrow kind,

Still constant in a wondrous excellence;

Therefore my verse to constancy confin’d,

One thing expressing, leaves out difference.

Shakespeare’s love for Harry is natural and faithful – both now and in the future – so it’s no surprise that his verse, like his love, all has a similar theme, expressing ‘one thing’ – (1) Harry and (2) Harry’s penis.

Fair, kind, and true, is all my argument,

Fair, kind, and true, varying to other words,

And in this change is my invention spent.

Three themes in one, which wondrous scope affords.

Shakespeare writes constantly about Harry’s three great qualities – his fairness, his kindness and his truth – and by describing ‘Three themes in one’ again compares Harry to the Holy Trinity.

Fair, kind, and true, have often liv’d alone,

Which three till now, never kept seat in one.

Shakespeare said that you could find one person who was handsome, one that gentle and one that was faithful – but till the birth of Harry, all three qualities never existed in one individual.

Again, the Southampton family motto – ‘Ung Par Tout’ – ‘All in One’ is evoked.

Shakespeare, in this Sonnet, risks blasphemy in the eyes of the Protestants (and possibly the Catholics!) so it would have to be kept secret – shown, if at all, only to Shakespeare and Harry’s ‘private friends’.

Thus, the lack of variation in the theme of Shakespeare’s Sonnets is converted by Shakespeare into a proof of his love for Harry…..

85. (76)

Why is my verse so barren of new pride?

So far from variation or quick change?

Why with the time do I not glance aside

To new-found methods, and to compounds strange?

Shakespeare gives more reasons to justify the ‘monotony’ of his verse. It is ‘barren’ like an infertile woman and lacking ‘pride’ – the sexual force that produces erections. He asks why he doesn’t adopt the new fashions – as in herbalism, where herbalists, instead of prescribing one herb for a complaint, had started to prescribe several herbs (‘compounds’).

Why write I still all one, ever the same,

And keep invention in a noted weed,

That every word doth almost tell my name,

Showing their birth, and where they did proceed?

Echoing ‘Ung par tout’ – ‘all one’ – Shakespeare says he confines his verse to one form for which he is well-known, the Sonnet form (derived from Sir Philip Sidney) – in the way a man will be known for the clothes he wears – ‘noted weed’.

Shakespeare’s verse is an aspect of Shakespeare the man – and his style is known to everyone.

O know sweet love, I always write of you,

And you and love are still my argument:

So all my best is dressing old words new,

Spending again what is already spent:

Shakespeare says that his verse is always about Harry – and Shakespeare’s love for him. So Shakespeare task is to find new forms for old words – like dressing them up in new clothes – and producing new verse daily – in the way he continues to ejaculate when he has already ejaculated before.

‘Spend’ can = ‘ejaculate’.  See Sonnets 5. (4), 10.(9), 34. (149)

For as the Sun is daily new and old,

So is my love still telling what is told.

Shakespeare compares his production of love verse for Harry to the natural daily process of the sun rising and setting – which can also have a sexual suggestion to Shakespeare.

See Sonnet 8. (7)

86. (21)

So is it not with me as with that Muse,

Stirr’d by a painted beauty to his verse,

Who heaven itself for ornament doth use,

And every fair with his fair doth rehearse,

The ‘Muse’ here changes sex from female to male and becomes George Chapman!

Shakespeare says he is not like Chapman who has been inspired by a miniature of Harry to write his flattering verse.

Chapman uses heaven, a holy place, for its decorative vale – ‘ornament’ – and uses everything beautiful in the world to compare with ‘his fair’ Harry.

Chapman, in Shakespeare’s eyes, is now audaciously claiming Harry as his own.

Making a couplement of proud compare

With Sun and Moon, with earth and sea’s rich gems:

With April’s first born flowers and all things rare,

That heaven’s air in this huge rondure hems.

Chapman compare Harry grandiosely with the sun and the moon, the gems in the earth and the sea, the first flowers of spring and everything precious ‘that heaven’s air in this huge rondure hems’ – meaning (1) that this huge rondure hem in heaven’s air or (2) that heaven’s air hems in this huge rondure’.

Shakespeare here is parodying Chapman’s inflated, ambiguous language.

O let me true in love but truly write,

And then believe me: my love is as fair

As any mother’s child, though not so bright

As those gold candles fixt in heaven’s air:

Shakespeare says because his love for Harry is sincere, so is the language in which he writes to him. He claims that Harry is as beautiful as any person ever born to any mother – but not as ‘bright as those gold candles fixt in heaven’s air’ i.e., in simple language, stars. Shakespeare here is attacking the artificiality of Chapman’s language – and so questioning its sincerity.

Let them say more that like of hear-say well,

I will not praise that purpose not to sell.

Shakespeare urges Chapman to continue, if he wants, with second-hand ideas: Shakespeare will not praise Harry the way Chapman does, like a merchant talking up the goods he wants to sell.

Here Shakespeare, with ‘purpose not to sell’, plays again on Chapman’s name = merchant. See Sonnet 82. (102).

To read ‘The Rival Poet (III), Part 29, click: HERE