It is wonderful that the body of King Richard III has been discovered in a car-park in Leicester…..

richard III in car park

…..and it is wonderful that he has been received into Leicester Cathedral…..

richard III coffin

But the media is full of ‘experts’ opining that William Shakespeare’s play is a piece of pro-Queen Elizabeth Tudor propaganda….

It is the firm belief of The Shakespeare Code that William Shakespeare’s play, Richard III, is….




He had murdered his young wife Amy Robsart in order to make himself available to the Queen…..

He had used poison to eliminate his rivals, love potions to seduce and women, and practised the darkest of arts under a cloak of piety.

Never having uttered a prayer in his life, he was the self-style leader of the Puritan movement in England.

Catholics, who all hated him, compared him to Richard III…

Leicester was known as ‘The Bear’……

King Richard…….

…..was known as ‘The Boar’. 

At one point, the print compositor of an early edition of the play mixed the two nicknames up….

Elizabeth’s henchmen were so horrified by Shakespeare’s play they produced their own version  – which is wildly pro-Elizabeth – and which was performed by the State funded, sycophantic Queen’s Men.

Brothers and Sisters of The Code are invited to examine the evidence for the theory in a seven part series: ‘Richard III Decoded’.

To read Part One, ‘All the Queen’s Men’, please click: HERE

To read Part Two, Elizabeth and the Bear, please click: HERE

To read Part Three, The Boar and The Bear, please click: HERE

To read Part Four, The Bear and The Honey, please click: HERE

To read Part Five, The Queen’s Men Revisited, please click: HERE

To read A Synopsis, please click: HERE

To read Richard III and War, please click: HERE

Clare E. Shepherd writes:

What a wonderful exposition of the truth about Richard III. Thank you for such a well reasoned argument and for making it available.

Thank YOU Clare for writing in such an encouraging way….

  (It’s best to read Parts ONE, TWO and THREE first)


Actresses were performing in London much earlier than people realise….

In 1611, Thomas Coryat…..

thomas coryate

…… published his Coryat’s Crudities……

coryat's crudities

……his account of his travels walking through Europe.

His description of Venice is fascinating:

I was at one of their playhouses where I saw a Comedy acted. The house is very beggarly and base in comparison of our stately Playhouses in England: neither can their actors compare with us for apparel, shows and music. Here I observed certain things that I never saw before. For I saw women act, a thing that I never saw before, though I have heard that it hath been sometimes used in London, and they performed it with as good a grace, action, gesture and whatsoever convenient for a player, as ever I saw any masculine Actor.

So – in Shakespeare’s lifetime – actresses could be found in London as well as Europe.

Also, in the reign of King James, the position of women at the Court was very different from the time of Queen Elizabeth…..

Elizabeth could not bear competition from pretty, witty women.

She wanted to be the centre of interest for her courtiers – so banned any rivals.

These banished women…….

…..like Mary Browne, the Countess of Southampton……

Mary Browne


…….at Titchfield…..

How 'Place House' (Titchfield Abbey re-built) looked in Shakespeare's time.

….and Mary Herbert, the Countess of Pembroke….

NPG 5994; Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke by Nicholas Hilliard

…..at Wilton…..

wilton house

 ……formed their own rival courts on their country estates……

The Countess of Pembroke was Protestant and the Countess of Southampton Roman Catholic…….

……but they were united in one thing….


….Mary Herbert because of the Queen’s political castration of her brother, Sir Philip Sidney…

sidney sir philip hand on hip in white

……and her contempt for his Code of Chivalry….

….and Mary Browne because of the Queen’s treatment of her fellow Catholics and friends…

….one of whom, Swithun Wells….

swithin wells


…..now Saint Swithun…..

…..Elizabeth had hanged outside Mary Browne’s London home in December, 1591….

…..only months before Love’s Labour’s Lost was performed.

Wilton was only thirty miles away from Titchfield – and the women shared ‘human resources’….

Poets like William Shakespeare…..

shakespeare 1588


…..and scholars like John Florio….


It is The Code’s belief that the two Mary’s mounted productions – both independently and jointly – which could rival the entertainments Queen Elizabeth staged at Court…..

…..entertainments which were often coded satires on Elizabeth’s character, actions and thought.

Mary Browne was a widow and so independent….

…..and though Mary Herbert’s acting company……

Pembroke’s Men

…..functioned under the name of her husband, Henry Herbert, Second Earl of Pembroke….

henry herbert second earl of Pembroke

…..Pembroke himself was too ill in the 1590’s to take any active role…

So Mary Herbert was, in practice, independent as well.

We also know from the will of Simon Jewel, an actor, that the Countess of Pembroke acted as a hands-on, financial patron.

On 19th August, 1592, Jewel signed his Last Will and Testament which stated :

…..my share of such money as shall be given by my lady Pembroke or her means I will shall be distributed and paid towards my burial and other charges by Mr. Scott and the said Mr. Smithe.

William Shakespeare dedicated his Venus and Adonis and Lucrece to Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton: but when these narrative poems were first published (1593 and 1594) Southampton had not come of age…..

….and his mother, notoriously, kept a tight hold on the family purse-strings…..

So it was Mary Browne who acted as Shakespeare’s financial patron…..

……who commissioned Shakespeare’s first seventeen sonnets…..

(See: The Birthday Sonnets.)

……and, indeed, Love’s Labour’s Lost itself.

But when King James came to the throne…….

james illustration

…..his wife, Anne of Denmark….

anne of denmark

….wanted to CELEBRATE the talent and beauty of aristocratic women…..

 ….especially, it was rumoured, those who were Roman Catholic….

….or had Papist sympathies. 

So she invited them to act in Court Masques…..

…..and commissioned Ben Jonson…….

ben jonson colour

…..to produce The Masque of Blackness…….

…..with elaborate designs by Inigo Jones….

inigo jones

 ……in which women……

……the Queen included……

……played and danced the parts of dark-skinned nymphs.

The masque was performed on Twelfth Night in 1605 and the cast included Queen Anne herself, the Countess of Bedford, Lady Herbert, the Countess of Derby, the Countess of Suffolk, Lady Bevill, Lady Effingham, Lady Elizabeth Howard, Lady Susan Vere, Lady Mary Wroth, Lady Walsingham…..

……and, most important for us, the beautiful Lady Penelope Rich……

penelope rich

…… who played the part of Ocyte….

penelope rich masque

[Penelope had almost been converted to Roman Catholicism in 1594 by the Jesuit Priest John Gerard – but had been persuaded not to go over to Rome by her lover, Charles Blount…..

Charles Blount Lord Mountjoyu

….. by then 8th Baron Mountjoy….

……who in youth had himself been ‘addicted to’ the Old Faith]

Even before the reign of James, women acted in private…..

…..and sometimes not so private……


As we have seen, the servant of Thomas Wriothesley, First Earl of Southampton….

thomas above clear (2)

….wrote to his master in 1538……

…..in the reign of King Henry VIII….

henry viii drawing

…… that Wriothesley’s wife, Countess Jane….

jane w 2

….also handleth the country gentlemen, the farmers and their wives to your great worship and every night is as merry as can be with Christmas plays and masques with Anthony Gedge and other of your servants…

Also, when Queen Elizabeth visited Mary Browne’s father, Anthony Browne, Lord Montague….

Montague, Lord


……at Cowdray in 1591 on one of her progresses, Lady Montague…..

…..as it were weeping in her [Elizabeth’s] bosom…

……exclaimed, in a well-scripted response…….

…Oh happy time! Oh joyful day!

The next day, when Elizabeth was about to shoot rounded-up deer at point blank range, a….


…..handed her a crossbow and sang….

….a sweet song…..

Even more extraordinary was the Elvetham Progress later in the year given by Edward Seymour, First Lord Hertford….

Edward Seymour Lord Hertford

Her Majesty was no sooner ready, and at her gallery window looking into the garden, but there began three cornets to play certain fantastic dances, at the measure whereof the Fairy Queen came into the garden, dancing with her maids about her. She brought with her a garland, made in the form of an imperial crown; [which] within the sight of Her Majesty she fixed upon a silver staff, and, sticking the staff into the ground, spake as followeth:

I that abide in places underground,

Aureola, the Queen of Fairy land,

That every night in rings of painted flowers

Turn round and carol out Elisa’s name:

Hearing that Nereus and the Sylvan Gods

Have lately welcomed your Imperial grace,

Opened the earth with this enchanting wand,

To do my duty to your Majesty,

And humbly to salute you with this chaplet,

Given me by Auberon the Fairy King.

Bright shining Phoebe [Elizabeth] that in human shape

Hid’st heaven’s perfection, vouchsafe t’accept it:

And I Aureola, beloved in heaven,

(For amorous stars fall nightly in my lap)

Will cause the heavens enlarge thy golden days

And cut them short that envy at thy praise….

Clearly we are only a breath away from A Midsummer Night’s Dream……

…..indeed, this section of the Progress Entertainment could well have been written by Shakespeare himself.

 If Aureola could be played by a woman in private performance, why not Titania?

Anita Louise as Titania.

Anita Louise as Titania.

And if Titania, why not the women in Love’s Labour’s Lost?



penelope rich lambeth 2



As we have seen in PART TWO of this series, Shakespeare, like many other writers, played on Penelope’s married name……


…in his Sonnets.

The Shakespeare Code is of the belief that……


The Princess of France opens the last scene of the play with the statement….

Sweet hearts we shall be rich ere we depart…

….and the reason she shall be rich before she leaves Navarre is…….


The word ‘Rich’ – in all its forms – is used another SEVEN TIMES in the final scene of the play.


All hail, the richest beauties on the earth!–


Beauties no richer than rich taffeta.

(1, 2 and 3)


We number nothing that we spend for you:

Our duty is so rich, so infinite,

That we may do it still without accompt.



……….. your capacity

Is of that nature that to your huge store

Wise things seem foolish and rich things but poor.


This proves you wise and rich, for in my eye,–

(5 and 6)


Prepare, I say. I thank you, gracious lords,

For all your fair endeavors; and entreat,

Out of a new-sad soul, that you vouchsafe

In your rich wisdom to excuse or hide

The liberal opposition of our spirits,

If over-boldly we have borne ourselves


The King of Navarre – played by the Earl of Southampton……



– refers to Penelope Rich’s stunning red hair, which looks like the sun in the sky……

And beauty’s crest becomes the heavens well….

(c) Lambeth Palace; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

 And Berowne makes a reference to Penelope’s hair when he says that…..

….red, that would avoid dispraise,

Paints itself black, to imitate her [Rosaline’s] brow…..

Queen Elizabeth also had red hair…..

elizabeth red

……and the character of the Princess of France in the play was….


 …….to the character of Queen Elizabeth…..


….to the character of Penelope Rich…

……..as we shall see in our next GAME-CHANGING Post…..


Those who wish to read…..


 …..Stewart Trotter’s thrilling adaptation of The Famous Victories of Henry V and Shakespeare and Nashe’s Henry IV Parts One and Two and Henry V…



Brothers and Sisters of The Shakespeare  Code


Kevin Fraser…..

kevin fraser

…..who runs the WORLD FAMOUS Titchfield Festival Theatre…


….commissioned The Code’s Chief Agent,

Stewart Trotter

to write

The Making of a King

…..a play about how the dissolute Prince Harry of history….

…transformed into the heroic Henry V!!!

Stewart has just completed and delivered the script!!!

Kevin had this to say about it…..

I love The Making of a King. It has all the elements we need for a great play. It reads well and I’m sure we can get it cast. In think it’s great…..

And this is what Stewart has to say about it:

The Making of a King is based on four plays – the anonymous Elizabethan play ‘The Famous Victories of Henry V’ and William Shakespeare’s ‘Henry IV Parts One and Two’ and ‘King Henry V’.‘The Famous Victories of Henry V’ was performed by the Queen’s Players – a group set up by Queen Elizabeth I and her spymaster, Francis Walsingham, to disseminate Tudor propaganda. No-one knows who wrote the play but it is clear Shakespeare saw it and may even have worked on it with Thomas Kyd.

When Shakespeare re-wrote old plays, he always enriched their language and deepened their characterisation – but he often destroyed their structure. ‘The Famous Victories of Henry V’ deals with the transformation of dissolute Prince Harry to heroic King Henry V in a single play. By stretching the story over three plays, Shakespeare is in danger of blurring this theme.

So, ‘The Making of the King’ tries to restore the original play’s clarity of structure with the complexity of Shakespeare’s genius. It offers an explanation for Prince Harry’s affection for Sir John Falstaff: Harry believes his father, King Henry IV, loves his younger brother, Prince John, more than he loves him – so he craves a surrogate father.

All the plays show how war can test, deepen or break the bonds between men. But where Shakespeare’s play differs from the Queen’s Men version is its ambivalence towards Kingship. To be a good King, Hal has to become a bad friend – and few will forgive him for his rejection of Falstaff. ‘The Making of a King’ focuses on the strain of leadership – particularly in battle – and the play asks the same question that the King finally asks himself…..

…..‘Is Power worth it?’.

The play will be performed in Titchfield’s Great Barn….

barn interior

….which  was built just a few years before Agincourt….

old barn titchfield

….from 24th June to 4th July, 2015…..

[Note: The Great Barn is also used for Wedding Celebrations……


– and is proud to announce it will soon play host to it’s first Gay Wedding.  This is particularly appropriate as it was in Titchfield that William Shakespeare….

shakespeare 1588

…..began his fifteen year love affair with Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton and Baron of Titchfield….]

tomb henry wriothesley

See: Just how Gay was the Third Earl of Southampton?

The part of Sir John Falstaff…….

falstaff beaming

…. will be played by Kevin Fraser…..

…..who will also direct the play…..

….and the Chorus will be played by Stewart Trotter…..

lear flowers large

……seen here as King Lear in last year’s Titchfield Shakespeare Festival production……

But the casting of the mega part……

……Prince Hal/King Henry…..

olivier 3

……..described as……

……the best part for a young actor that has ever been written

…..will be announced nearer the date!!!

Meanwhile, for those who would like a sneak preview, the whole play is available on….

…. The Making of  a King Page……

….. on the bar of The Shakespeare Code website…..

…on the Home Page…


Let’s all hotpaw it down to Hampshire in June!!!!




‘Bye, now

Paw-Print smallest

 (It’s best to read Parts ONE  and TWO first)

Background Note

Polonius in Hamlet tells the Prince that when he was at university he played the part of Julius Caesar and……

……was accounted a good actor…..

It was fashionable for young aristocrats to perform at University…..

It taught them how to speak in public and hold themselves well.

The antiquarian John Leland…….

john leland

….. describes how Harry Southampton’s grandfather, Sir Thomas Wriothesley’s……

thomas above clear (2)

……beauty so shone upon [his] brow, [his] head of golden hair so glistened, the light of [his] keen mind was so effulgent, and [his] winning virtue so adorned [him], that, one amongst many, [he was] seen to be a pattern for all…..

[Ung par tout – tout par ung – or une part tout –  One for all, all for one – was the Wriothesley family motto……….

tomb coat of arms

……which Shakespeare also played on in his verse]..

Titchfield itself was home to theatrical activity. An old map shows ‘The Playhouse Room’ at Place House and Jane Southampton……..

jane w 2

- Harry’s grandmother –  was described by one of her servants as….

….merry as can be with Christmas plays and masques….

Nicholas Udall……..

udall nicholas

 ……..the schoolmaster and playwright – stayed at Titchfield in the 1540’s and had a church benefice on the nearby Isle of Wight. He might well have written Ralph Roister Doister - one of the first English comedies – for the Titchfield schoolboys to perform.

So, an aristocratic cast would have been totally at home at Titchfield……




Charles Blount Lord Mountjoyu


When, the Princess asks for a description of Longaville, Maria says….

I know him, madam: at a marriage-feast,

Between Lord Perigort and the beauteous heir

Of Jaques Falconbridge, solemnized

In Normandy, saw I this Longaville:

A man of sovereign parts he is esteem’d;

Well fitted in arts, glorious in arms:

Nothing becomes him ill that he would well.

The only soil of his fair virtue’s gloss,

If virtue’s gloss will stain with any soil,

Is a sharp wit matched with too blunt a will;

Whose edge hath power to cut, whose will still wills

It should none spare that come within his power.

‘Blunt’ is a coded reference to Sir Charles Blount – and the description Maria gives of Longaville tallies exactly with description of Blount by his secretary, Fynes Morrison…..

fynes moryson

His behaviour was courtly, grave and exceeding comely. He loved private retiredness, good fare and some few friends. He delighted in study, in gardens, a house richly furnished, and delectable rooms of retreat; in riding on a pad to take the air; in playing at shovel-board or at cards; in reading play-books for recreation; and especially in fishing and fish-ponds…

And Longaville/Blount, the lover of Penelope Rich, says..

I am resolved; ’tis but a three years’ fast:

The mind shall banquet, though the body pine:

Fat paunches have lean pates, and dainty bits

Make rich the ribs, but bankrupt quite the wits.

When Longaville/Blount dresses up as a Russian – and, because the girls are masked, woos Katharine instead of Maria….

……Kartharine, playing on ‘ville’ and ‘veal’, says……

Veal, quoth the Dutchman. Is not ‘veal’ a calf?

‘Dutchman’ is a coded reference to Blount’s army service service in the Low Countries. He was at Zutphen and the Earl of Leicester knighted him before he returned to England in 1587.

At the end of the play, Longaville/Blount says to Maria…

I’ll stay with patience; but the time is long……

……..and Maria says..

The liker you; few taller are so young.

This is a play on Longaville/Blount’s height: Maria is equating ‘long’ with ‘tall’………

……and Fynes Morison describes Blount himself as……….

of stature tall and of very comely proportion


Manners, Roger 5th Earl of Rutland


Dumaine, when agreeing to take a vow of study and celibacy with Navarre, identifies himself as Roger Manners, 5th Earl of Rutland…

He says…..

My loving lord, Dumain is mortified:

The grosser manner of these world’s delights

He throws upon the gross world’s baser slaves:

To love, to wealth, to pomp, I pine and die;

With all these living in philosophy.

Roger Manners was only sixteen and still at Cambridge at the time of the play’s first production (Whitsun, 1592) and Katharine’s description of Dumaine fits Manners precisely:

The young Dumain, a well-accomplished youth,

Of all that virtue love for virtue loved:

Most power to do most harm, least knowing ill;

For he hath wit to make an ill shape good,

And shape to win grace though he had no wit.

And later in the play, Katharine makes reference to the fact that Dumaine/Manners has not yet started to shave!


But what to me, my love? but what to me? A wife?


A beard, fair health, and honesty;
With three-fold love I wish you all these three.


O, shall I say, I thank you, gentle wife?


Not so, my lord; a twelvemonth and a day
I’ll mark no words that smooth-faced wooers say:
Come when the king doth to my lady come;
Then, if I have much love, I’ll give you some.

And the play itself plays obsessively with the word ‘manner’….


The matter is to me, sir, as concerning Jaquenetta. The manner of it is, I was taken with the manner.


In what manner?


In manner and form following, sir; all those three: I was seen with her in the manor-house, sitting with her upon the form, and taken following her into the park; which, put together, is in manner and form following. Now, sir, for the manner,–it is the manner of a man to speak to a woman: for the form,– in some form.


tomb henry wriothesley


As The Code has shown, this character was a compliment to Mary Southampton’s cousin, Ferdinando, Lord Strange…..

ferdinando, lord strange

……..and to Henri, King of Navarre…..

henri of navarre


…….with whom Southampton’s great friend, Robert Devereux, the  2nd Earl of Essex……

Essex in gold armour marigold

……..had fought at the siege of Rouen.

Harry Southampton, who was deemed too young to fight on this campaign, would have loved to be associated with Navarre….

Southampton in armour

Love’s Labour’s Lost was commissioned by Harry Southampton’s mother, Mary….

Mary Browne

…….as a continuation of the theme of Shakespeare’s first seventeen sonnets……

…..which Mary had also commissioned for her son’s seventeenth birthday…..

(See: Trixie the Cat’s Guide to the Birthday Sonnets.)


Harry Southampton’s Guardian, William Cecil, Lord Burghley……

Burghley with wand of office

……wanted Harry to marry his granddaughter, Elizabeth de Vere…..

 lady elizabeth de vere

…..but Harry, at this stage of his life, was more interested in men….


……and enjoyed cross-dressing…..

Indeed, the great American Shakespearean scholar, Martin Green, has shown in his Wriothesley’s Roses how the Earl of Essex and many of his entourage were bisexual: Roger Manners, who played Dumaine, seems never to have consummated his marriage to Elizabeth, the daughter of Sir Philip Sidney….

sidney in garden……who himself was certainly gay-friendly and might have been gay himself.

So Mary Southampton asked Shakespeare to write a play in which her son could play a part in which he gives up exclusively male friendship when he falls in love with a women….

Shakespeare also takes the opportunity of praising ‘matchless Navarre’s’ beauty  – as he has praised Harry Southampton’s in the Sonnets……

….and Boyet even gives a coded description of the King’s erection on seeing the Princess of France….

(In Shakespeare, the vocabulary of the face often suggests the genitals as well)


Why, all his behaviours did make their retire
To the court of his eye, peeping thorough desire:
His heart, like an agate, with your print impress’d,
Proud with his form, in his eye pride express’d:
His tongue, all impatient to speak and not see,
Did stumble with haste in his eyesight to be;
All senses to that sense did make their repair,
To feel only looking on fairest of fair:
Methought all his senses were lock’d in his eye,
As jewels in crystal for some prince to buy;
Who, tendering their own worth from where they were glass’d,
Did point you to buy them, along as you pass’d:
His face’s own margent did quote such amazes
That all eyes saw his eyes enchanted with gazes.
I’ll give you Aquitaine and all that is his,
An you give him for my sake but one loving kiss.

Both Mary and Shakespeare clearly hoped that some of Navarre’s heterosexuality would rub off on Shakespeare….

But what if a handsome young actor were playing the Princess of France?

We know from the Sonnets that Harry had a taste for lower class young men…..

So wouldn’t it be counterproductive to put him in a play in which he falls in love with a young man in drag?

The answer is ‘No’ – for one simple reason……














(Note: It’s best to read ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ Revisited, Part One first)

In the time of Queen Elizabeth I, every Earl would have his entourage…..

They would dress in his livery…….

entourage in garden (2)

……board and eat in his house…..

….. accompany him when he travelled….

entourage on boat (2)

……and identify with his interests….

entourage on steps

This is shown most graphically at the start of Romeo and Juliet when the Montague and Capulet entourages bait each other in the streets of Verona….

thumbs (2)

Shakespeare, The Shakespeare Code argues, was part of the Earl of Southampton’s entourage…..

(as he later became a liveried member of King James’s entourage, as a Groom of the Chamber).

In the 1590’s he worked as a ‘fac totum’ for the Southampton family…..

…..secretary, tutor, schoolmaster, entertainer and…..

….generally nice fellow to have around.

Earls would befriend other Earls…..

…and their entourages would merge….

Harry Southampton had a natural friend in Sir Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex….

essex young beardeless

Both men had lost their fathers in childhood……

…..and both had been wards of William Cecil, Lord Burghley…….

burghley on donkey 001


Essex had been born in 1565, and so was eight years older than Harry…..

At the first performance of Love’s Labour’s Lost at Titchfield in 1592, Essex would have been 28 years old….

…..and Harry nineteen…

(He had been desperate to follow his hero, Essex, to the Siege of Rouen, but he was deemed too young to fight in a war.)

Another close friend of Southampton and Essex was Roger Manners, 5th Earl of Rutland…..

roger manners fifth earl of rutland

……who was also a ward of Burghley’s…..

He was three years younger than Southampton, so would have been sixteen at the premiere of Love’s Labour’s Lost.

(Harry had gone back to Cambridge University to visit Manners in June, 1591, after he himself had graduated.)

Another nobleman who became a friend of Essex and Southampton was Sir Charles Blount (pronounced ‘Blunt’)

….who later, unexpectedly, became 8th Baron Mountjoy….

Charles Blount Lord Mountjoyu

He was a couple of years older than Essex…….

……and the two men had originally been rivals for the attention of Queen Elizabeth…..

Both wore the Queen’s white….

essex in white

…and both had fought a duel……

(Blount had been given a favour by Elizabeth…..

…an enamelled chess queen)

After this both men became close friends….

…..and formed a political alliance which lasted up to Essex’s execution in 1601.

Essex, Southampton, Blount and Manners were massively influenced as a group by the chivalric philosophy of Sir Philip Sidney….

sidney sir philip hand on hip in white

….who had given up his water to a wounded soldier at Zutphen even though he was dying himself…..

sidney zutphen

…..and who was obsessed with achieving fame….


A motto in the top right hand corner reads 'Caetera Fama'

A motto in the top right hand corner reads ‘Caetera Fama’

He also gave his sword to Essex…..

….indicating that Essex was his spiritual heir.

Essex in turn had secretly married his widow, Frances…..

frances walsingham

……who became bosom friends with Essex’s sister….

……the beautiful Penelope Rich…..

penelope rich

…….an accomplished singer and dancer – famous for her golden hair and black eyes.

Penelope had married, against her will, Robert Rich, 3rd Baron Rich of Lees Hall in Essex….

robert rich 2

- a man who was literally ‘rich’.

Penelope’s father, Sir Walter Devereux, First Earl of Essex……..

walter devereux

……. had wanted her to marry Sir Philip Sidney…….

…….and the bisexual Sidney had been in love with her…..

When he was dying, he reportedly told the preacher George Gifford of …..

…..a vanity in which he had taken much delight of which he must now rid himself, naming Lady Rich……

She had certainly been the muse of Sir Philip: he had written a whole Sonnet sequence about her – and to her – entitled Astrophel and Stella -

 ….or the Lover of the Star and the Star Herself…..

…..which had been published in a pirated edition in 1591 – the year before Love’s Labour’s Lost - with a forward by Thomas Nashe…

This edition was recalled – and it was only in 1598 that the full sonnet sequence was published by Sidney’s sister, the Countess of Pembroke.

It was in this edition that Sonnet 37 was first printed, which openly played on Penelope’s married name of….


 My mouth doth water, and my breast doth swell,

My tongue doth itch, my thoughts in labor be;

Listen then, lordings, with good ear to me,

For of my life I must a riddle tell.

Towards Aurora’s court [Essex – in the East] a nymph doth dwell,

Rich in all beauties which man’s eye can see;

Beauties so far from reach of words, that we

Abase her praise, saying she doth excel;

Rich in the treasure of deserved renown;

Rich in the riches of a royal heart;

Rich in those gifts which give the eternal crown;

Who though most rich in these, and every part

Which make the patents of true worldly bliss,

Hath no misfortune, but that Rich she is.

…..and Sidney attacks Robert Rich even more openly in Sonnet 24…

Rich fools there be whose base and filthy heart

Lies hatching still the goods wherein they flow:

And damning their own selves to Tantal’s smart,

Wealth breeding want, more blest more wretched grow.

Yet to those fools heav’n such wit doth impart

As what their hands do hold, their heads do know,

And knowing love, and loving, lay apart,

As sacred things, far from all danger’s show.

But that rich fool who by blind Fortune’s lot

The richest gem of love and life enjoys,

And can with foul abuse such beauties blot;

Let him, depriv’d of sweet but unfelt joys,

(Exil’d for aye from those high treasures, which

He knows not) grow in only folly rich.

By 1590 Penelope had become the mistress of Charles Blount…

On 17th November of that year (Tournament Day which celebrated Queen Elizabeth’s Accession) Sir Charles Blount wore Penelope Rich’s colours openly.

George Peele, also punning on ‘Rich’ wrote:

Comes Sir Charles Blount…

Rich in his colours, richer in his thoughts,

Rich in his fortune, honour, arms and art.

The Elizabethans loved this word-play on people’s names – and Shakespeare was no exception…..

In his Sonnets – which were originally intended for distribution only among his……

……private friends….

…..Shakespeare also plays on the surnames of this coterie…..

Rich, Manners and Blount…..

Sometimes he uses the names singly…..

…..as in Sonnet 97….

……The teeming autumn big with rich increase…..

……a reference to Penelope Rich’s habit of often falling pregnant….

(She had just given birth to Blount’s daughter in March, 1592…..

…..just a couple of months before the production of Love’s Labour’s Lost…..)

Shakespeare also makes reference to Roger Manners’s hero-worship of Harry Southampton in Sonnet 39…..

O how thy worth with manners may I sing…..

Shakespeare makes a particular point with this code, though, by sometimes coupling TWO coterie names together….

Sonnet 85 begins……

My tongue-tied muse in manners holds her still,

While comments of your praise, richly compiled….

…..and Sonnet 52…..

So am I as the rich, whose blessed key

Can bring him to his sweet up-locked treasure,

The which he will not every hour survey,

For blunting the fine point of seldom pleasure.

In Love’s Labour’s Found Stewart Trotter suggested that the ‘shadowy lords’ in the play were played by Southampton’s friends.



Here it is, Brothers and Sisters of The Shakespeare Code!!!






…where William Shakespeare….

shakespeare 1588

 …..was employed in 1590 by Mary,  2nd Countess of Southampton…..

Mary Browne

….as fac totum, entertainer, poet, secretary, schoolmaster….

…and tutor and friend to her gay, wayward teenage son,

Henry Wriothesley (pronounced ‘Ryosley’)

Third Earl of Southampton….

…and Baron of Titchfield…

tomb henry wriothesley

……and where Shakespeare fell in love  with Aemilia Bassano….


….The Third Earl…







Also see:



Just How Gay was the Third Earl of Southampton?

Paw-Print smallest‘Bye, now…


Brothers and Sisters of the Shakespeare Code……

At a meeting of the august Hampshire Writers’ Society in December last year (2014)….

…the Titchfield Festival Theatre Company performed an extract from Stewart Trotter’s play….


Here is the HIGHLY LITERATE report from the Society itself….

The evening began with Her Grace Queen Elizabeth 1 (Barbara Large, most elegantly attired) greeting her subjects. Her first assignment was to welcome the Titchfield Festival Theatre Group, under the stewardship of their chairman and artistic director, Kevin Fraser……

…..who were to perform part of a new play ‘Our Cousin Will’ by Stewart Trotter.

Kevin then introduced the troupe, the performances that they carry out, and posited Titchfield as the location where Shakespeare wrote the play ‘Love Labour’s Lost’. Stewart Trotter gave a brief outline as to why it was thought that Shakespeare could have spent a period in Titchfield as a teacher.

Several scenes from the play were performed, and this involved the Lady Mary, the mother of the Earl of Southampton, engaging Will Shakespeare to teach her son Harry the art of writing sonnets, which she hopes will turn his attentions to women; instead of his dressing like one.

Will endeavours to do this, although his efforts with Harry appear futile. Will is then drawn to Aemilia; however, she resists his advances with a curt “Get lost, Baldy!” Will is then involved in an affair with Harry himself, much to Lady Mary’s disquiet. However, Will and she are eventually reconciled; and Harry’s own situation is accepted. The dialogue was witty, lively, and the performances of the actors were highly amusing.

Here then is the twenty minute extract the Titchfield Festival Players performed…..

WILLIAM BEESTON (the narrator)

falstaff beaming

Disaster struck the acting profession. The Spanish Armada attacked England. Actors were despised. The public wanted ‘real men’. Playwrights pulled strings to get teaching jobs. Will, aged by touring and with his hair starting to fall out, pulled Papist strings….

(Enter MARY, COUNTESS OF SOUTHAMPTON, early middle aged and beautiful…..

Mary Browne

She shows the OLDER SHAKESPEARE a painting of the 2nd Earl of Southampton, which is presumed to be out front. SHAKESPEARE, at this stage of his life, is still thin)


And this, Master Shakespeare, is my late husband, the second Earl of Southampton.

full face second earl of southampton (2)

If you are to become tutor to my son, you must be aware of the facts, however painful. The second Earl was a fine Catholic: he fought to bring the Blessed Mary Queen of Scots to the English throne.

NPG 1766,Mary, Queen of Scots,by Unknown artist

(MARY and SHAKESPEARE cross themselves) He was imprisoned in the Tower and nearly lost his head. However, as a husband he was….unappreciative. He accused me, quite insanely, of falling in love with a common person…(Looking SHAKESPEARE, discreetly, up and down)…I can see you’ll be needing some new clothes…….And an allowance

shakespeare 1588

(Recovering herself – she is clearly taken with SHAKESPEARE) My husband snatched my young son, Harry, away. He turned his manservant into his wife and left him everything. I overturned the will, of course, but could not overturn the damage done to Harry….

(BEESTON holds up a painting of Henry Wriothesley in drag which MARY and SHAKESPEARE look at)


As you can see, he loves dressing up as a girl. Other than that, has no interest in women whatsoever. This, Master Shakespeare, is where you come in. (SHAKESPEARE looks startled) You are a married man with children. I want you to get Harry excited by the idea of fatherhood. Unless he marries, the Southampton line will die out…Soon it will be Harry’s seventeenth birthday… I want you to write seventeen sonnets to show him the joys of the opposite sex. I want you to ‘turn the vessel round’ as it were….Wait here….(MARY exits)


(To himself) Sonnets? Aaaagh! (MARY re-enters)

MARY (announcing)

Master Shakespeare, my son, Henry Wriothesley, the third Earl of Southampton and Baron of Titchfield….[‘Wriothesley’ is pronounced ‘Ryosely’]

(SHAKESPEARE kneels as HARRY enters to trumpets and drums. HARRY, a handsome young man with shoulder length hair, offers SHAKESPEARE his ring to kiss. SHAKESPEARE does so, then looks up into HARRY’S face)

tomb henry wriothesley


(in all innocence) I’m sure you two will get on like a house on fire….



Harry turned seventeen….And read the seventeen Sonnets Shakespeare had written for him…

(Enter HARRY with SHAKESPEARE following behind, quill and paper in hand)


(Brandishing the seventeen pieces of paper)  Master Shakespeare, these Sonnets are an utter failure…(SHAKESPEARE looks crestfallen)  I still don’t like girls!

(SHAKESPEARE rallies: it’s not his writing that is being attacked after all)


Even though you look like one?


Are you being offensive?


No. It’s the theme of this new sonnet I’m writing about you….

(SHAKESPEARE sits and writes. HARRY hates not being looked at, so he reads aloud from his Birthday Sonnets, gesturing with his hand as he recites)


Unthrifty loveliness, why dost thou spend

Upon thyself thy beauty’s legacy….

(HARRY’S hand-gestures turn into a suggestion of masturbation)

Does that mean what I think it means? (SHAKESPEARE continues to write, not looking at him) And what about…..

No love towards other in that bosom sits

That on himself such murderous shame commits…

(Looks down at his codpiece)

Master Shakespeare, are you implying that I am a…(He is about to say ‘wanker’)


(cutting him off) Sir! I have nothing but the highest respect for you…(hesitates)…love, even….

HARRY (brightening)

You do praise my beauty….


And continue to do so in this…..


Let’s hear it then!  (He lies back, anticipating flattery like a warm bath)


It’s not finished….


(Suggestively) Perhaps I can give you some ideas….


(Pretending not to pick up the implication, reading from his Sonnet)

A woman’s face with nature’s own hand painted

Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion….

(HARRY shows interest)

A woman’s gentle heart but not acquainted

With shifting change as is false women’s fashion….

An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling….

(HARRY can contain himself no longer)


See! You don’t like girls either!


(Ploughing on)

Gilding the object where-upon it gazeth,

A man in hew, all hews in his controlling

Which steals men’s eyes…


(Excited) Ha!


….and women’s souls amazeth……

(HARRY, disappointed, groans)

And for a woman wast thou first created

Till Nature as she wrought thee, fell a-doting….

(SHAKESPEARE is unconsciously beginning to find HARRY attractive)


Go on….


That’s as far as I’ve got, sir….


Would you like me to finish the Sonnet for you, Master Will….


The greatness of your words, sir, would utterly eclipse my own…I shall finish the sonnet in my own spare time.

(SHAKESPEARE folds the paper and starts to put it away)


(Suddenly imperious) Finish it NOW! HERE! (For a moment we should  think that SHAKESPEARE is about to tell HARRY where to go. But HARRY, sensing this, immediately lightens his tone and starts to flirt) As Master-Mistress of your passion, I command you!

(SHAKESPEARE seems to comply. He scribbles a few lines…then hands them to HARRY)


Till Nature as she wrought thee fell-adoting….

And by addition me of thee defeated

By adding one THING to my purpose nothing….

(HARRY looks down at his cod-piece again)

Master Shakespeare, does this also mean what I think it means….?

Your conclusion, please…..

(SHAKESPEARE scribbles again – and hands him the sheet)


But since she prick’d thee out for women’s pleasure


Is this a poetic way of telling me to get stuffed?


No, sir. It’s a poetic way of telling you to stuff women…

(MARY SOUTHAMPTON enters, looking white and shaken and near to fainting. SHAKESPEARE sees her and kneels. Alarmed)



(HARRY looks round and bows stiffly)


I have some dreadful news….(SHAKESPEARE rushes to her and leads her to a chair) The Moon intends to beam over Titchfield….(Blank incomprehension from the men) Queen Elizabeth is coming to stay!

old elizabeth

 (HARRY and SHAKESPEARE look aghast. BEESTON claps. All exit)


…………And stay she did. With all her court. And with all her soldiers. She had a beautiful musician with her….the dark-skinned Aemelia Bassano…

rosaline nina 1.

(Enter AEMELIA, with  black, wiry hair. She sits and plays a lute)

…mistress to the Queen’s randy old cousin, Lord Hunsdon.

hunsdon raffish

He paid her £40 a year for her services…

(To BEESTON, £40 a year is a fantastic sum…SHAKESPEARE enters and gazes at AEMELIA)

Will wanted to find out if £40 gave Hunsdon exclusive rights.

(BEESTON opens First Folio and reads…)

SHAKESPEARE (approaching AEMELIA, who continues to play)

berowne rosaline 1

Did not I dance with you in London once?

AEMELIA (a cockney girl)

Did I not dance with you in London once?


I know you did.


How needless was it then to ask the question.!


You must not be so quick.


Tis long of you to spur me with such questions.


Your wit’s too hot, it speeds too fast, ‘twill tire.


Not till it leave the rider in the mire.


What time of day?


The hour that fools should ask.

(She puts down her lute and puts on a mask)


Now fair befall (sees AEMELIA’S mask) your mask.


Fair fall the face it covers.


And send you many lovers.


Amen, so you be none….


(After a pause, in which he can’t think of anything to say) Nay then will I be gone.

(SHAKESPEARE exits – then AEMELIA, with another infatuated man to add to her list, exits as well)

BEESTON (looking up from First Folio)

Shakespeare was ’ooked… (Looks back at book)

SHAKESPEARE (re-entering with parchment and pen)

berowne soliloquy

O! And I forsooth in love!

I that have been love’s whip!

A very beadle to a humorous sigh: a critic,

Nay, a night-watch constable,

A domineering pedant o’er the boy…

What I love? I sue? I seek a wife?

A woman that is like a German clock,

Still a re-pairing, ever out of frame,

And never going aright, being a watch:

But being watch’d that it may still go right.

A whitely wanton with a velvet brow

With two pitch balls stuck in her face for eyes,

Aye, and by heaven, one that will do the deed,

Though Argus were her Eunuch and her guard…

(BEESTON closes book with a bang)


The Plague was raging in London, so Aemelia stayed on at Titchfield. Will started writing sonnets to her instead of Harry…

(SHAKESPEARE sits and writes. HARRY approaches him quietly from behind and peers over his shoulder. SHAKESPEARE senses he is there and looks round.  He quickly turns the page over so that HARRY cannot read it)


It’s another Sonnet, Will.  I saw it. (Sitting) Read it to me. (Anticipating SHAKESPEARE’s excuse) I don’t care if it’s not finished….


(Reddening, reads) My (hesitates) master’s eyes are….nothing like the sun….

(HARRY looks startled)

Coral is far more red than his lips red,

If snow be white, why then his breasts are dun;

(Trailing off) If hairs be wires, black wires grown on his head…..


(In a fury) Breasts? Black wires? (Snatching sonnet from SHAKESPEARE) HER breasts! HER head! (AEMELIA enters) Will, you’re not writing to me – you’re writing to that dreadful….(SHAKESPEARE indicates to HARRY that AEMELIA has entered. HARRY turns to look at her)


(Curtsying beautifully) Good day, m’Lord….

(HARRY bows stiffly and exits. AEMELIA crosses and gazes rapturously after HARRY, glancing surreptitiously back at SHAKESPEARE to make sure he’s noticing)


Aemelia liked to play hard to get….


(Turning AEMELIA around) Tell me thou lov’st elsewhere; but in my sight

Dear heart, forbear to glance thy eye aside…

What need’st thou wound with cunning, when thy might

Is more than my o’er pressed defence can hide….

(Looking into AEMELIA’S eyes) Thine eyes I love, and they, as pitying me,

Knowing thy heart torments me with disdain,

Have put on black, and loving mourners be,

Looking with pretty ruth upon my pain…..

 (SHAKESPEARE starts to hug AEMELIA closely.)

Will’t thou, whose will is large and spacious

Not once vouchsafe to hide my will in thine?

(He holds her even closer)

Shall will in others seem right gracious

And in my will no fair acceptance shine…..

(AEMELIA breaks away…SHAKESPEARE pursues her)

He rises at thy name and points 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…..

(He pulls AEMELIA to him and tries to make love to her. AEMELIA pushes him away…)


Get lost, baldy!

(AEMELIA runs off.  SHAKESPEARE, recovering, muses to himself…)


Then will I swear beauty herself is black

And all they foul that her complexion lack…..




Will asked Harry to plead his love-suit with Aemelia. Now Harry wanted to hurt Will in any way he could. And, for Aemelia, a rich, handsome, young aristocrat, however gay, was better than an aging playwright. So, to Will’s horror, Harry started an affair with Aemelia….


(Entering and sitting) Two loves I have of comfort and despair

Which like two spirits do suggest me still:

The better angel is a man right fair…..

(Enter HARRY – stands near to SHAKESPEARE)

The worser spirit, a woman coloured ill.

(Enter AEMELIA, standing some distance away from SHAKESPEARE)

To win me soon to hell my female evil

Tempteth my better angel from my side….

(AEMELIA approaches HARRY and kisses him. She then takes him away from SHAKESPEARE’S side)

And would corrupt my saint to be a devil,

Wooing his purity with her foul pride…

(AEMELIA starts to make violent and graphic love to HARRY…They exit)

And whether that my angel be turned fiend

Suspect I may, yet not directly tell;

But being both from me both to each friend….

I guess one angel in another’s….

(SHAKESPEARE, overcome with sexual jealousy, cannot finish what he was to say. He exits)


Will left Titchfield and went on tour again. He had to admit that the loss of Harry meant more to him than the loss of Aemelia….



That thou ha’st her it is not all my grief

And yet it may be said I loved her dearly…

That she hath thee is of my wailing chief

A loss in love that touches me more nearly….


Will, finally, told Harry that he loved him…


(Writing. Music beneath.) Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

(He looks up – and we can see he is thinking ‘No!’)

Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May

And winter’s lease hath all too short a date….

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines…

And often is his gold complexion dimm’d,

And every fair, from fair, sometime declines,

By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimm’d….

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest….

Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou growest….

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this, (holding up the Sonnet)

…and this gives life to thee….


Aemelia became pregnant and was married off ‘for colour’. Will returned to Titchfield and Harry….

(Music continues. HARRY enters.  SHAKESPEARE enters and kneels in front of him, but HARRY raises SHAKESPEARE to his feet and embraces him. NASHE enters and sees this. SHAKESPEARE and HARRY walk off)

There was a problem in all this for Will and Harry….(COUNTESS MARY  enters)

Mother Mary! (MARY sits and does needlework) Will wasn’t exactly fulfilling his job description…

(NASHE crosses over to MARY, bows, kneels to her) Nashe felt obliged to tell Mary what he had seen. (NASHE whispers in MARY’s ear. MARY looks horrified. NASHE whispers again) And one or two things that he hadn’t. (MARY looks even more horrified. NASHE exits) Mary summoned Will….

(SHAKESPEARE enters and kneels in front of MARY. BEESTON opens First Folio)


 Do you love my son?


Your pardon noble mistress?


Love you my son?


Do you not love him, madam?


Go not about. My love hath in’t a bond,

Whereof the world takes note. Come, come, disclose

The state of your affection, for your passions

Have to the full appeach’d.


Then I confess

Here on my knees, before high heaven and you,

That before you, and next unto high heaven,

I love your son. My dearest madam,

Let not your hate encounter with my love,

For loving where you do….


Will then reminded Mary that, when she was younger, she herself had been in love with someone she shouldn’t have been….


…..but if yourself

Whose aged honour cites a virtuous youth,

Did ever in so true a flame of liking,

Wish chastely and love dearly, that your Diane

Was both herself and love – o then give pity

To him whose state is such that cannot choose….

(A pause. MARY reddens, then raises SHAKESPEARE to his feet and kisses him on the cheek. She is accepting him into the family)


Our Cousin Will….

 (End of Extract)




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