The Monument
Shakespeare's Sonnets

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Oxford is The Poet

Ashbourne PortraitEdward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (pictured on the left in the famous, greatly disputed "Ashbourne Portrait" of Shakespeare (representative views of this dispute can be found here, here, and here) was in the best position of anyone in England to have writen the Shakespeare Sonnets.

The known facts about his childhood, upbringing, education, and family all interconnect with the language and imagery of the Sonnets. More than any other person alive during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I and James I Oxford was on the scene of nearly all the key political events of the era, a patron and participant in the era's explosion of literature and learning, and -- most important of all -- a key figure in the development of the Elizabethan theatre.

Among the numerous key connnections are these:


Oxford was nephew to the late Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1517-1547), who (with Sir Thomas Wyatt) wrote the first English sonnets in the form to become known as the "Shakespearean" form.  


One of Oxford's uncles was Arthur Golding, translator of Ovid's "Metamorphoses" into the English version used by Shakespeare. 

Oxford wrote the first sonnet of the Elizabethan reign in the "Shakespearean" form -- entitled "Love Thy Choice," expressing devotion to Queen Elizabeth I


Oxford expressed themes of "constancy" and "truth" in his early sonnet that Shakespeare would express in the same words:

"In constant truth to bide so firm and sure" - Oxford sonnet to Queen Elizabeth

"Oaths of thy love, thy truth, thy constancy" - Sonnet 152 to the Dark Lady


Oxford was with Queen Elizabeth and her Court during her three-day visit in August 1574 to the City of Bath, the only royal visit of the reign, and Shakespeare reflected this visit in Sonnets 153-154, the epilogue of the sequence. 


Oxford shared some basic circumstances with Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton, whom most commentators have identified as the younger man addressed in the long opening series of Sonnets 1-126: 

* Marriage Proposal: Sonnets 1-17

Oxford was the prospective father-in-law in negotiations with William Cecil, Lord Burghley for seventeen-year-old Southampton to marry fifteen-year-old Elizabeth Vere (whose birth in 1575 caused Oxford to deny his paternity and separate from his marriage to Burghley's daughter); and most commentators have perceived Sonnets 1-17 as urging Southampton to accept that marriage proposal. 

* Royal Wards

Oxford was the first royal ward of Elizabeth raised in Cecil's custody and Southampton was the eighth and final "child of state" raised under Cecil's guardianship.   

* Cecil Pressure

Oxford was pressured into marrying Burghley's daughter in 1571, entering a Cecil family alliance; and Southampton was pressured to marry Burghley's granddaughter in 1590-1591, but he refused to enter a Cecil family alliance.

OXFORD'S LIFE IN THE SONNETS: Oxford sprinkled his fingerprints and footprints throughout the lines of Shakespeare's Sonnets:

Acting and the Stage: "As an imperfect actor on the stage" - Sonnet 23

Oxford patronized two acting companies, performed in "enterludes" at Court and was well known for his "comedies" or stage plays.

Alchemy: "Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy" - Sonnet 33

Oxford studied with astrologer Dr. John Dee, who experimented with alchemy, and both men invested in the Frobisher voyages.

Astronomy: "And yet methinks I have astronomy" - Sonnet 14

Oxford was well acquainted with the "astronomy" or astrology of Dr. Dee and was praised for his knowledge of the subject.

Bible: "No, I am that I am..." - Sonnet 121

Oxford wrote to Burghley using the same words in the same tone (the words of God to Moses in the Bible) to protest his spying on him.

Cup: "And to his palate doth prepare the cup" - Sonnet 114

Oxford's ceremonial role as Lord Great Chamberlain included bringing the "tasting cup" to the monarch.

Fancy Clothing: "Some in their garments, though new-fangled ill" - Sonnet 91

Oxford was the "Italianate Englishman" known (and mocked) for wearing new-fangled clothing from the Continent.

Five Hundred Years: "O that record could with a backward look,
Even of five hundred courses of the Sunne" - Sonnet 59

Oxford's earldom extended back five hundred years to the time of William the Conqueror. 

Flowers: "Of different flowers in odor and in hue" - Sonnet 98

Oxford was raised amid the great gardens of William Cecil, whose well-known gardner imported flowers that had never been seen in England -- accounting for Shakespeare's vast knowledge of flowers.   

Forty Winters: "When forty shall beseige thy brow" - Sonnet 2

Oxford was forty years old in 1590, when most commentators feel the opening sonnets were written.

Hawks: "Of more delight than hawks or horses be" - Sonnet 91

Oxford was a falconry expert who wrote youthful poetry comparing women to hawks "that fly from man to man." 

High Birth: "Thy love is better than high birth to me" - Sonnet 91

Oxford was hereditary Lord Great Chamberlain, highest-ranking earl of England by birth.

Horsemanship: "Then can no horse with my desire keep pace" - Sonnet 51

Oxford was an expert horseback rider and two-time champion of her Majesty's tiltyard. 

Hounds: "Some in their hawks and hounds" - Sonnet 91

Oxford was steeped from childhood in this favorite pastime of the nobility.

Jewelry:  "As on the finger of a a throned Queen, / The basest Jewel will be well esteemed" - Sonnet 96

Oxford gave the Queen "a fair jewel of gold" with diamonds in 1580.

Lameness:  "Speak of my lameness, and I straight will halt" - Sonnet 89

Oxford was lamed during a street fight with swords in 1582.

Legal Knowledge: "To guard the lawful reasons on thy part" - Sonnet 49

Oxford studied law at Gray's Inn and served as a judge at the treason trials of Norfolk, Mary Stuart and Essex.  His personal letters are filled with evidence of his intimate knowledge of the law.

Lute: "Mark how one string, sweet husband to another" - Sonnet 8

Oxford was an accomplished musician and wrote music for the lute.

Medicine: "Potions of Eisel 'gainst my strong infection" - Sonnet 111

Oxford's surgeon was Dr. George Baker, who dedicated three books to either the earl or his wife Anne Cecil.

Monument: "And thou in this shalt find thy monument" - Sonnet 107

Oxford wrote to Thomas Bedingfield in 1573 that "I shall erect you such a monument..."

Music: "Music to hear, why hear'st thou music sadly" - Sonnet 8

Oxford was patron of John Farmer, the musical composer, who dedicated two songbooks to him, praising his musical knowledge.

Name: "My name be buried where my body is" - Sonnet 72

Oxford wrote in his early poetry that "the only loss of my good name is of these griefs the ground."

Old Age: "But when my glass shows me myself indeed, / Beated and chopped with tanned antiquity" - Sonnet 62

Oxford was past age fifty in 1601, when Sonnet 62 was written (according to the new paradigm presented in THE MONUMENT by Hank Whittemore). 

Physical Skill: "Some glory in their birth, some in their skill" - Sonnet 91

Oxford challenged all comers in Palermo, Italy to combat with horses and weapons of any kind, but there were no takers.

Virginals: "Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds" - Sonnet 128

Oxford was an intimate favorite of the Queen, who frequently played on the virginals.

Water: "Myself bring water for my stain" - Sonnet 109

Oxford was "water-bearer to the monarch" at the Coronation of King James on July 25, 1603, in his capacity as Lord Great Chamberlain.

Wealth: "Some glory in their birth, some in their skill, / Some in their wealth..."

Oxford had inherited great wealth in the form of many estates, but he lost most of this wealth during his lifetime.