The Monument
Shakespeare's Sonnets

The Story:

The Players:

The 1609 Quarto:

About the Monument:

Further Reading:

Book Orders/Contact:


How the The Monument
Changes the Paradigm

The Monument explanation of the Shake-speares Sonnets (as presented in The Monument by Hank Whittemore) directly challenges the traditional way of viewing the poems, calling into question the most basic assumptions about them. On the surface the Sonnets record the author’s involvement with a young nobleman (his “friend” the Fair Youth) and a treacherous woman (his “mistress” the Dark Lady). This basic picture never changes; what does change is our perception of it.   

A fundamental assumption about the the Sonnets has always been that they are strictly love poems, recording the author’s involvement in a bisexual love triangle; the fair youth and the dark lady both betray him and cause him tremendous grief. This traditional biographical paradigm -- within which the poems have always been interpreted -- has in fact blinded commentators to other possibilities

The Monument perspective, however, presents a wholly different paradigm, changing our perception of the subject matter from love and sex and romance to politics and royal succession – specifically the power struggles during Southampton’s imprisonment of two years and two months in 1601-1603, leading to the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth and the maneuvering by Robert Cecil to ensure that King James of Scotland would succeed her on the English throne.   

This story is recorded within a 100-sonnet central sequence of an elegant "monument" of verse for Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton, to whom "Shakespeare" dedicated his works. The main story begins on the night of the Essex Rebellion of February 8, 1601 and it concludes with Elizabeth's funeral on April 28, 1603, when King James of Scotland became King James I of England and the Tudor dynasty officially ended.    Southampton in Tower

The Sonnets record that Southampton was held hostage in the Tower until Principal Secretary Robert Cecil engineered the succession of James without him ...

"I, my sovereign, watch the clock for you ... And all those beauties whereof now he's King are vanishing, or vanished out of sight ... Thus have I had thee as a dream doth flatter: In sleep a King, but waking no such matter."

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (1550-1604) was forced by Cecil to vote to condemn Essex and Southampton to death. Oxford recorded his painful ordeal by writing to the younger earl:

Though thou repent, yet I have still the loss.
The offender's sorrow lends but weak relief
To him that bears the strong offence's cross.
(Sonnet 34)

The winners wrote the official history. Oxford (the Poet) agreed to bury the truth about his relationship to Southampton (the Fair Youth) and to the Queen (The Dark Lady), but he did then come up with a brilliant idea to preserve that truth for posterity, despite Cecil and despite the unholy bargain he had to strike with him: the 1609 quarto of Shake-speares Sonnets.

It is at this point that the Monument solution to the Sonnets (that the actual historical context is the Essex Rebellion) must take into account the "Prince Tudor" theory, i.e. that the relationship of the Poet and the Fair Youth is father-son, and that the son has royal blood from his mother (The Dark Lady, the "Virgin" Queen Elizabeth). This potent situation touched on the Crown, the Church of England and the State, and had to be suppressed at all costs.

Once one sees Oxford as the father of Southampton, it becomes clear that he had adopted the pen name "Shake-speare" in 1593 to publicly support him in the Succession Crisis of the 1590s. In the Sonnets Oxford records the sacrifice of his own identity to save Southampton from execution and gain his freedom. With Cecil retaining his power behind the throne, the new monarch released Southampton from his "confined doom" in the Tower:

Not mine own fears nor the prophetic soul
Of the wide world dreaming on things to come
Can yet the lease of my true love control,
Supposed as forfeit to a confined doom.
(Sonnet 107)

Southampton, of course, had to give up any claim to the throne, but Oxford compiled "the living record" of him preserved in the "monument" of Shake-speares Sonnets:

Your name from hence immortal life shall have,
Though I, once gone, to all the world must die...
Your monument shall be my gentle verse,
Which eyes not yet created shall o'er-read."
(Sonnet 81)

Southampton had arranged for Richard II (and its deposition scene) to be staged at the Globe, to rouse support for removing Cecil from his control over Elizabeth. The revolt collapsed by nightfall, when Southampton and Essex were placed in the Tower facing virtually certain execution. Oxford shared in the disgrace and blame:

All men make faults, and even I in this,
Authorizing thy trespass with compare... (Sonnet 35)

But then, having fulfilled his duty at the trial to sentence him to death, he turned around and saved him ("thy adverse party is thy Advocate," Sonnet 35) by sacrificing himself.

The verses of Shake-speares Sonnets record all this drama for posterity, for "eyes not yet created." The Monument solution to the Sonnets shows how the Sonnets contain both the true history of one of the most important events in Elizabethan history (the Essex Rebellion) and "the living record" of one of the key players in that event -- an unacknowledged prince with "true rights" to succeed Queen Elizabeth I. It is a story for the ages.