In my novel, The Cottage, the hero, Jack Duncan, discovers, at the risk of his neck, that there is nothing the Stratfordian scholars won’t do to preserve the lies about William Shakespeare. They have staked their careers and reputations on, in effect, a dwarf winning the high jump and they’ll toss him over the bar if they have to. But none of their tricks are sleazier, or, alas, more effective, than their claims that as long as we have the plays and poems, it doesn’t really matter who wrote them. “Who cares?” You’re supposed to not care that these de facto censors are denying the greates author who ever lived his place in immortality. Never mind that they’re cheating everyone who is taught distorted and incomplete meanings of the works in order to prop up their discredited myth.
If you buy their ignorance-is-bliss argument, here is a book that should change your mind…and give you a lot of pleasure in the process: The Secret Love Story in Shakespeare’s Sonnets, by Helen Heightsman Gordon.
The reader dsicovers in crystal clear commentary and historical support that the sonnets are not just hypothetical, fanciful, semi-understandable little love poems to no one in particular. They are the real thing about real people, two of whom are “Shakespeare” himself and the most intriguing monarch in England’s history– tales of a very sexual, and evidently productive, love affair between Shakespeare and the “virgin queen,” told with all the lust and angst of a Bronte’ novel, with the added benefit of their being real.
In Sonnet 57 Shakespeare seemingly has the gall to gently scold the queen for her fickleness and promiscuity.
Here it is, followed by Ms. Gordon’s paraphrase:
Being your slave, what should I do but tend upon the hours and times of your desire? I have no precious time at all to spend; nor services to do, till you require.
Nor dare I chide the world-without-end hour, whilst I, my sovereign, watch the clock for you, nor think the bitterness of absence sour when you have bid your servant once adieu;
Nor dare I question with my jealous thought, where you may be, or your affairs suppose, but, like a sad slave, stay and think of nought save where you are, how happy would make those.
So true a fool is love, that in your will, though you do anything; he thinks no ill.
“Being your slave, I must wait for your command to wait upon you. My time has no value except when serving you, so I have nothing to do but wait patiently until you require my services. Nor can I become bitter at your absence, once you have told me to leave you. Nor dare I feel jealousy, wondering where you are, or with whom, but like a sad slave, wait, and think of nothing except how happy you make those who are where you are, enjoying your company. My true love and loyalty make a fool of me, because I cannot think ill of you no matter what you do.”
Even among those scholars who believe that Edward DeVere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford, was the real Shakespeare, their decoding of the Sonnets vary. Hank Whittemore’s Monument, notably, argues brilliantly that most of them are a chronicle of Oxford’s efforts to save his (and the Queen’s) son, the Earl of Southhampton, from execution over Southhampton’s part is the Essex Rebellion. (Whittemore’s book is discussed in a separate blog). Those differences only prove that there is still a great deal of mystery about all of these people and lots of fun to be had trying to unravel it all. Important fun. The scholars who have vested interests in the Stratford Man’s case do not want you to have that fun; they would like you not to worry about hidden meanings in the Sonnets, because however the differences in the decoding are resolved they will show that Shakespeare was writing about the Queen of England–the “VIRGIN Queen”– in such intimate terms that if he were a bumpkin from the sticks he would have had to write the last hundred-and-forty or so minus his head.
Ignore the “experts’” efforts to steer you away from Ms. Gordon’s fine book. Have some fun. Read that puppy!